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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Obama-Cheney Terror Showdown; Interview With Liz Cheney

Aired May 21, 2009 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the unprecedented face-off between a sitting president and a former vice president, President Obama vs. Dick Cheney.

Today, Mr. Cheney rewrote the rules of polite politics, some might say, slamming President Obama over national security, pulling no punches, at times practically mocking the commander in chief.

And President Obama came out swinging just as hard. In back-to- back speeches, the two men laid out two starkly different views of national security, Mr. Obama defending his anti-terrorism policies just a day after the Senate refused to fund his plans to close Guantanamo Bay, two speeches delivered just blocks apart, but coming from parallel universes.

Tonight, a daughter's take on her father's smackdown of President Obama. Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is here with us.

We will talk to her in a moment.

But, first, here's Candy Crowley with the "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all for being here.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the present colliding with the past, a crosstown exchange which needs little narrative.

Closing down Guantanamo Bay prison:

OBAMA: We're cleaning up something that is, quite simply, a mess, a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my administration is forced to deal with on a constant, almost daily, basis.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The administration has found that it's easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo, but it's tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America's national security.

CROWLEY: Harsh interrogation techniques, banned by the Obama administration as ineffective and counter to American values: OBAMA: Those who argued for these tactics were on the wrong side of the debate and the wrong side of history. That's why we must leave these methods where they belong, in the past. They are not who we are, and they are not America.

CROWLEY: Those would be the same tactics the former vice president says were used as a last resort on a handful of high-value detainees, yielding information that saved thousands of lives.

D. CHENEY: What's more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness.

CROWLEY: The poetic president vs. the prosaic former vice president, serious men with serious differences, both willing to take it to the mat.

It's rare to see a sitting president go after his predecessors with such force. Standing at the cavernous National Archives housing the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, he virtually accused the Bush administration of abandoning American values.

OBAMA: All too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight, that, all too often, our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and power principles, too often, we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford.

CROWLEY: While several former officials have criticized sitting administrations, this former started earlier than most, and excels in verbal slice and dice.

D. CHENEY: In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists. I might add that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about values.

CROWLEY: This was not a tale of two cities. It was a tale of two universes.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: President Obama spoke for about 50 minutes today. Dick Cheney took a jab at him for being long-winded. Mr. Cheney himself spoke for about 36 minutes. Both speeches were important. And we think you should hear more of them, extended clips.

First, President Obama:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I know some have argued that brutal methods like water- boarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As commander-in-chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation.

Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo, likely, created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained. So the record is clear. Rather than keeping us safer, the president at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It success back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries.

By any measure, the cost of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who embrace a view that can be summarized in two words -- anything goes. Their arguments suggest that the ends of fighting terrorism can be used to justify any means and that the president should have blanket authority to do whatever he wants, provided it is a president with whom they agree.

I can stand here today as president of the United States and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture and that we will vigorously protect our people while forge a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Make no mistake. If we fail to turn the page on the approach that was taken over the past several years, then I will not be able to say that as president.

And if we cannot stand for our core values, then we are not keeping faith with the documents that are enshrined in this hall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was President Obama referring to the U.S. Constitution and other historic documents stored at the National Archives, which is where he gave his speech.

Across town, at the American Enterprise Institute, former Vice President Dick Cheney described a much different national security landscape.

Here's more of his speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. CHENEY: Here is the great dividing line in our current debate over national security. You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event, coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort. I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program.

The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do.

The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work, proud of the results, because they prevented the violent death of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people.

We know the difference in this country between justice and vengeance.

Intelligence officers were not trying to get terrorists to confess to past killings; they were trying to prevent future killings. From the beginning of the program, there was only one focused and all- important purpose: We sought -- and we, in fact, obtained -- specific information on terrorist plans.

Those are the basic facts on enhanced interrogation. And to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims.

In the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half-exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States. You must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States.

Triangulation is a political strategy, not a national security strategy. When just a single clue that goes unlearned or one lead that goes unpursued can bring on catastrophe, it's no time for splitting differences. There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people hang in the balance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Former Vice President Cheney speaking earlier today.

You can watch both speeches in full on our Web site at AC360.com. And that's where you can also join the live chat happening now, at AC360.com.

Two speeches about your safety, tell us which one spoke to you.

Just ahead, Liz Cheney joins us. The daughter of the former vice president served in the State Department during the Bush administration, her father's speech today obviously both personal and political for her.

Also ahead tonight, from terror and Gitmo, the economy, and the meltdown in Pakistan, we're looking at the extreme challenges facing President Obama in his second 100 days. Christiane Amanpour, Michael Ware, Fareed Zakaria, and David Gergen join us for that. Plus, inside an alleged terror plot foiled here just last night in New York, an undercover sting straight out of "The Sopranos," except investigators say the bad guys wanted to do jihad and were targeting a Jewish synagogue and community center.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Most former vice presidents walk off the public stage quietly, at least for a while, but not Dick Cheney. His tough talk seems to be working for him. His approval rating, now 37 percent, has jumped eight points since leaving office in January. President Bush's approval rating has risen six points, to 41 percent, from 35.

Dick Cheney's daughter Liz served in the State Department during Bush administration, has been an outspoken defender of her father's record as vice president. She joins us now.

Thanks for being here.

LIZ CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Great to be here. Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Is it -- is it appropriate for your father to be so out in front right now so soon after leaving office, essentially mocking the sitting president of the United States?

L. CHENEY: Well, he's not mocking the sitting president. But I think that...

COOPER: Well, saying he's pandering to Europe?

L. CHENEY: He is pandering to Europe.

I mean, I think that -- that, you know, there's sort of a level of political nicety that's important to observe, except in certain circumstances. And one of those circumstances is where the national security of the nation is at risk, as my father feels strongly that it is.

I don't think he planned to be doing this, you know, when they left office in January. But I think, as it became clear that President Obama was not only going to be stopping some of these policies, that he was going to be doing things like releasing the -- the techniques themselves, so that the terrorists could now train to them, that he was suggesting that perhaps we would even be prosecuting former members of the Bush administration, I think my dad began to feel very strongly that somebody needed to speak out, that this needed to be a full airing of views, and not a one-sided mischaracterization of the last eight years.

COOPER: But these -- you know, these are techniques which have been around. I mean, the Nazis used them. The -- the Khmer Rouge used them. The -- the North Koreans used them. So, it's not as if terrorists were unfamiliar with these techniques, if they wanted to train for them. And I'm not sure you really can train for torture or -- or enhanced interrogation.

L. CHENEY: Well, I think, first of all -- yes, I mean, I would question the premise there.

I think that you have got to look at the legal memos, actually, which now you can do. The legal memos are very clear. And this was a -- a very carefully designed program, and it was a program that the CIA designed, that they had the lawyers look at to make sure that the line that divided sort of rough treatment from torture wouldn't be crossed.

But the important point here, though, there's a big difference between a terrorist sort of Googling, you know, techniques that might be used and a terrorist who can now pull up these memos and actually see, OK, well, they're going to be able to do this, you know, to me for this many minutes, but I know they won't cross that line.

What the president has done is ensure that no future president can use any of these techniques. So, that's a big step. And that's a step that I think really does endanger the country.

And, frankly, if the president himself in the future is faced with a ticking-time-bomb scenario, it's not clear to me, you know, what exactly he will do, even though he's reserved to himself the right to take action like these techniques.

COOPER: Is it appropriate, though, for your father, who has had access to high-level intelligence for -- for eight years, to be very publicly waving a flag, saying, we're much weaker now than ever before? Isn't that, in fact, emboldening our enemies? Couldn't you make that argument?

L. CHENEY: I think that it is a moral obligation to stand up and say, wait a second. You know, when you...

COOPER: But you can write letters. You can -- you can have meetings with the president. He could have a meeting with the president and say very firmly, "This is what I believe," and the president would either listen to him or not.

But to stand up publicly and -- if...

Well,. Yes. No, absolutely.

COOPER: If a Democrat was doing this in a Republican administration, wouldn't be the Republicans be saying, this is traitorous?

L. CHENEY: I don't think -- I don't think -- no. And I don't think that our political system was designed so that, when a party takes power, immediately, the opponents are silenced. I don't think that's healthy for the political system. I think that may, in fact, have been what the Obama administration was anticipating or was hoping for, that they could tell the American people: Trust us. We know what's best, and these tactics didn't work.

But I think that, in fact, what's happened is, my dad has stood up and said: Wait a minute. If you're going to be the transparency president, and if you're going to libel the brave men and women who conducted this program, and if you're going to release information that helps the terrorists, at least you ought to release the information that tells the American people what we learned from this program.

COOPER: Your father said today -- and you have said it in the past -- and your father repeated it today -- he's said it a lot -- that -- that, basically, what happened in Abu Ghraib was an isolated incident. He -- he termed them sadistic prison guards.

Isn't that -- goes against the evidence, that, basically, there was a line between what happened in Guantanamo Bay and what happened in Bagram Air Base and what happened later on in Abu Ghraib?

L. CHENEY: No, I think that's just absolutely wrong, Anderson.

I mean, I think, first of all, the enhanced interrogation program, which the president has now stopped, was a program that was run by the Central Intelligence Agency, designed by the CIA, approved by everybody in the administration. And...

COOPER: So, you're saying there's no connection between all these?

L. CHENEY: No, absolutely. There's no connection.

COOPER: Isn't that -- but that goes against...

L. CHENEY: No. There's...

COOPER: That goes against what the Schlesinger report says.

L. CHENEY: For you to assert -- for you to assert...

COOPER: It's not -- it's not me. It's what the Schlesinger report, which was an independent report by a Republican...

L. CHENEY: No. But the Schlesinger report did not say that Abu Ghraib was U.S. policy.

COOPER: Well, no, the Schlesinger said what -- what...

L. CHENEY: And Abu Ghraib...

COOPER: And I have it right here.

It says, "Although specifically limited by the secretary of defense to Guantanamo and requiring his personal approval, given in only two cases, the augmented interrogation techniques for Guantanamo migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq, where they were neither limited, nor safeguarded."

L. CHENEY: OK, but that's not talking about Abu Ghraib.

And what we have seen at Abu Ghraib and the photos that we saw out of Abu Ghraib were clearly about crimes.

COOPER: It is talking about Abu Ghraib. It's saying -- it's strategy, these techniques -- the guy who ran Gitmo was sent over to Iraq later on, because they felt these were efficient techniques. He moved over to Gitmo. And then you have Abu Ghraib.

L. CHENEY: Yes, but, Anderson -- Anderson, you are completely rewriting history to say that there was a connection...

COOPER: I'm not. This is the Schlesinger report.

L. CHENEY: Well, no, but you are misinterpreting the Schlesinger report.

To say that there -- there somehow was a connection between the commander of Guantanamo and what happened at Abu Ghraib, that -- that is a complete disservice to him. What happened at Abu Ghraib was a crime. And happened at Abu Ghraib had absolutely nothing to do with the enhanced interrogation program, about which we have been having a national debate, that saved American lives.

So, it...

COOPER: So, one of the techniques, none of the things -- the pictures that we saw at Abu Ghraib, none of that was done at any of these other facilities?

L. CHENEY: Well, I wasn't at those other facilities. I do know what happened at Abu Ghraib was a crime and that the people there have been prosecuted.

The question that you should -- no, but, Anderson, the question that you should be asking...

COOPER: Well, 20 people -- but 100 people have died in U.S. custody, 20 of...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... ruled a homicide.

L. CHENEY: Anderson, the question you should be asking is, when a terrorist has information about an attack on the United States, as we saw in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example, is it the obligation of the president to, within the law, be able to get that information and save American lives?

And I think the vast majority of Americans believe it is.

COOPER: But...

(CROSSTALK)

L. CHENEY: Or is it the case, as President Obama has said, that we won't enlist any of these techniques; what we will do is, we allow the terrorists to lawyer up, and we will simply ask them nicely for information?

Now, that puts you in a position where you are sacrificing American lives because you are concerned about the rough treatment of terrorists. And that's not where the majority of the American people are. And I don't believe that that is fulfilling a president's duty to defend the nation.

COOPER: But that ticking-time-bomb scenario, which is often used, there's -- there's really very little -- little evidence -- maybe it's happened on one or two occasions, but there are...

(CROSSTALK)

L. CHENEY: Well, wouldn't it be nice to know that, though, Anderson? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to know specifically what we learned?

COOPER: I'm not saying -- I understand your position of wanting these things to be released, absolutely.

L. CHENEY: And I don't think that you can have this discussion...

COOPER: I think that's a very valid argument.

L. CHENEY: ... without saying, you know -- you know, you assert this, and I assert this, and the president asserts something.

But the president won't let the American people see. He was in the National Archives today, which is the building where these memos are housed. He could have walked up the stairs to the second floor of that building, and, with his pen, signed a declassification order, and those memos would be here tonight, so you and I could actually have a discussion about what we learned from the program.

But we're prevented from doing that because he is suppressing those memos.

COOPER: Well, I understand that. And I think you make a valid point on that.

Your father says that he is -- is speaking out for national security. And I think there's no reason not to believe that he firmly believes this and you firmly believe this.

But he is also -- and some in the Obama administration have made this argument today -- he's essentially defending policies which the Bush administration itself stepped away from, I mean, the Bush administration moved away from, after 2003, 2004, into 2005. L. CHENEY: No. that's...

COOPER: He's also defending policies which the Supreme Court, a Republican-dominated Supreme Court, repeatedly, or a pretty evenly split Supreme Court, repeatedly have rejected. And, so, isn't...

L. CHENEY: That's also wrong. No, I disagree with you, Anderson.

COOPER: ... in fact, he actually defending, then, his legacy more than national security, because...

L. CHENEY: No, that's -- that's not fair.

Look, in the case of the Supreme Court, you know, what happened was, the Bush administration worked very hard, after Supreme Court decisions which I happen to think were wrong in a number of instances, but worked very hard to make sure that things like the military commissions program were consistent with the law of the land. So, in fact, the programs that we were running at the end of the administration were consistent with those decisions.

With respect to enhanced interrogation, the fact that it stopped after a certain point proves the point that it was used on hardened terrorists, it was used at a time in our nation's history when we had very little information about al Qaeda and when we, in fact, needed that information.

And I would, you know, refer you to George Tenet on this...

COOPER: Right.

L. CHENEY: ... who said that we learned more from this program, in terms of preventing attacks and saving American lives, than, you know, the entire CIA and FBI and NSC combined.

COOPER: But more than 100 people are known to have died in U.S. custody. I think about 20 of those have been ruled a homicide.

I mean, if -- if these were just tightly-controlled things, how come so many people are being murdered in U.S. custody?

L. CHENEY: Well, Anderson, I think that your question is highly irresponsible. And I think that you're...

COOPER: Why?

L. CHENEY: Because you are conflating things that aren't conflated.

COOPER: What...

L. CHENEY: When somebody dies or is murdered in U.S. custody, then we are a great nation, and we take the people who are responsible, and we put them on trial, as you have seen happen a number of times now throughout the last eight years. That is not the enhanced interrogation program. And to somehow suggest that those two things are the same, I think, willfully conflates something, and -- and ends up in a situation where we are not able to sort of take a truthful look at the last eight years as we go forward, because we are muddying the waters about what really happened in the last eight years.

COOPER: Do you personally have any reservations about what may have gone on with these enhanced interrogation techniques, as you call them, under CIA control, or in Abu Ghraib, or in Bagram, or in Guantanamo? I mean, do you have -- do you have any doubts at all? Because your father seems, very clearly, to have no doubts.

L. CHENEY: Look, of course -- of course, as my father made clear today, what happened at Abu Ghraib shouldn't have happened. Nobody is defending what happened at Abu Ghraib.

I have no doubts at all, no reservations and no regrets. And, in fact, I feel that we all owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women at the CIA who carried out this program. I think there are American lives alive today because of that program.

And I think that it is the height of irresponsibility for the president to release those techniques, so that, you know, the terrorists can train to them, and now we have our hands tied. Every future president's hand will be tied and will not be able to use those techniques, if necessary.

COOPER: Well, it's an interesting discussion. I really appreciate you coming on and talking about it.

L. CHENEY: Thank you.

COOPER: All right.

L. CHENEY: I appreciate being here.

COOPER: Thanks very much.

L. CHENEY: Thanks.

COOPER: Just ahead: much more of today's major war of words.

Each one says the other's policies have made the world a more dangerous place. Who -- who do you agree with? We will talk to some guests. David Gergen joins us ahead.

Also tonight, we're learning new chilling facts about four men arrested yesterday in a terror plot sting -- who investigators say the men wanted to kill and why, and how they busted the plot wide open before anyone was hurt.

Plus, more of my interview with the master of all interviews, Larry King -- his new autobiography filled with moments most of us can only sort of dream about, like this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You write, "She lifted her foot toward my crotch and was starting to play around."

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": She was.

COOPER: What? That was too -- that was too forward for you? It was too much.

KING: Oh, yes.

COOPER: Yes.

KING: I have got to be -- I -- it's my ball game.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: So to speak.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Keep it up, Anderson.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Obama used his national security speech to defend his plans to close Guantanamo Bay, while blasting the Bush administration for creating the mess -- his words -- in the first place.

He also said he realized a fierce political fight is looming.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now, as our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult. These are issues that are fodder for 30-second commercials. You can almost picture the direct mail pieces that emerge from many who vote on this issue designed to frighten the population. I get it.

But if we continue it make decisions within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: President Obama also pointed out that more than 500 detainees were released from Guantanamo on the Bush administration's watch, before he took office.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, in turn, calling President Obama's policies "recklessness cloaked in righteousness."

Joining me now, senior political analyst David Gergen, and Mark Danner, who writes about foreign affairs and national and is the author of "Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror."

David, first, your thoughts on Vice President Cheney's speech.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first, Anderson, I must say, I am among those who think it's healthy for Vice President Cheney to raise his voice and have a vigorous national debate.

You know, too often, the -- the Republicans have been name- calling against each other. It's good to have a debate about these issues. And Liz Cheney certainly argued the case very vigorously with you in that -- in that exchange, I thought, which -- which was helpful.

But it's still fundamentally true that, in this last election, Americans heard both sides of this argument about the past, and they came down fairly decisively on President Obama's side. They voted for a man who said he was going to close down Guantanamo and stop water- boarding and doing these other things.

I think the country has spoken to this issue. What is far more interesting now is what we do in the future about these detainees. And, on that one, I think President Obama made some progress today with his speech, especially among Senate Democrats.

In the last few hours, Senator Reid, the -- as -- as well as his lieutenants, Senators Schumer and Durbin, have both indicated a softening of their view about -- about Guantanamo and letting these -- President Obama go forward with his plan on the detainees, which is quite a sophisticated plan.

COOPER: Mark, you have written extensively about the detainee issue, about these interrogation techniques. What did you think of what Vice President Cheney said today, about what Liz Cheney said tonight?

MARK DANNER, AUTHOR, "TORTURE AND TRUTH: AMERICA, ABU GHRAIB, AND THE WAR ON TERROR": Well, I think this is an extension of what President Obama has referred to as the politics of fear.

Both Cheneys made very serious charges about President Obama, basically saying, explicitly, that he was endangering the country, that he endangered the country, as -- as Liz Cheney said, by putting out these memos, which is a complete canard.

These techniques have been public not simply since the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, as -- as you pointed out, Anderson, but since 2005, when ABC News did an extensive report that specifically described all these techniques.

So, the idea that this was a great secret and now terrorists can train to them is completely and manifestly untrue. And, as a charge, it is a kind of ruthless politics of national security, of the sort that we have seen Republicans seize on since about four months after 9/11, when Karl Rove basically told the Republican National Committee, look, this is an issue we can win on.

This was January 2002. And you see a kind of reclaiming of this ground, or an attempt to reclaim this ground, from the two Cheneys. And I think the Republican Party in general doesn't want to go in this direction, but they're being, in effect, dragged along, kicking and screaming, by the ubiquitous voice of the former vice president.

I don't think it's good for the country. But I agree with David Gergen that it's at least interesting to see a public debate and to see President Obama come up and, in a prepared speech -- and I thought a very elegant speech -- try to take on these matters and build a consensus for a sustainable policy. And I emphasize sustainable. He wants something that we won't fight about, that can be submitted to the rule of law, that the Supreme Court will not throw out, that can last over the length of the so-called war on terror.

COOPER: David...

DANNER: And I...

COOPER: David, was -- I mean, were the Bush policies sustainable? Because, I mean, that's what President Obama is saying, that he inherited this mess.

And if -- you know, I was trying to look -- I have been doing research today, trying to look at what the end game was for some of these detainees under the Bush policies. And it just seems like it was kind of indefinite detention.

GERGEN: I think that President Obama was right. It was not sustainable. In fact, it was already starting to break apart.

The Supreme Court, as -- as Liz Cheney, who disagreed with the Supreme Court, had to recognize, they had spoken out against some of this. And I think that President Obama is moving in a -- toward a much more sustainable system.

And to echo one thing that Mark said, what's -- what's been -- what impressed me today about the Obama speech was that he made it very clear that he doesn't want to be the sole judge, as president, of how these detainees are treated and how future detainees are treated. He wants a system which brings in the Congress and the courts, as watchdogs of the watchers, in effect.

And I think those -- and I think bringing this in -- within the checks-and-balances system, bringing it back to constitutional values, was a valuable step forward for the president today in impressing people that this is a well-thought through -- more well-thought- through than he's been given credit for approach to how to deal with an extremely complex issue.

COOPER: Mark, I want to ask you about where the truth lies in this question of the migration of these interrogation techniques. Both Cheneys making the point today, the former vice president earlier today, Liz Cheney tonight on the program, essentially saying Abu Ghraib was an anomaly, it was a couple of bad apples. And all these, you know, any crimes that were committed have been investigated. People have been prosecuted.

Was there -- is there a connection between Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and some of these CIA enhanced interrogation techniques?

DANNER: Absolutely. There's no question about it. And there's a wealth of documentary evidence in the public realm now that proves it. And there's no question there was some sadism at Abu Ghraib.

But essentially Liz Cheney and the former vice president were making the old "few bad apples" argument that the Bush administration originally greeted the appearance of these photographs from Abu Ghraib with: "This is just a few bad apples. They're sadists. We're going to prosecute them."

In fact, many of the activities pictured were put in place because military intelligence officers had urged MPs to keep these prisoners awake. These were various ways that they were meant to keep them awake.

And those techniques migrated, as you pointed out -- former Secretary of Defense Schlessinger said in his report, migrated from Guantanamo to Bagram to Abu Ghraib and Iraq. So you know, the idea that this is a few bad apples and this was just a crime and you shouldn't conflate it is just completely wrong. As is, by the way, the notion that these techniques were legal, which the vice president repeatedly said and his daughter repeatedly said and the former president has repeatedly said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which is the legally-constituted body to examine POWs and examine their treatment has declared, unequivocally, that these activities, quote, "constituted torture" and, quote, "constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

So the idea -- there's a well-known political technique. You simply keep repeating the same thing, and people will believe it. But in fact, there was a realm of facts out there that completely undermines these arguments.

I'd like to make a final point here, which is that the president's speech today was very impressive. And I'm glad you have it up on your Web site. And I hope viewers will watch it in its entirety and the former vice president's, as well.

But there were a number of elements in it that should give people cause -- pause, and people should debate. One of them is the notion of prolonged detention, this idea that some of these prisoners in Guantanamo were going to keep in detention for five, ten years, more than that. Americans should be debating this. It has not happened before. I salute President Obama that he's trying to put it on a legal footing under observation of the courts and with Congress. But still, it's something that should be debated. It's a perilous step for the United States to take. Perhaps necessary, but a perilous step.

COOPER: It's of concern certainly to a lot of civil libertarians.

DANNER: Absolutely.

COOPER: Again, you can hear both speeches at AC360.com. Mark Danner, appreciate you changing your plans and being with us tonight.

And David Gergen, as well, thank you.

Coming up, new details on the alleged New York City terror plot: who the suspects are and what investigators say they hoped to bring down with a surface-to-air missile system.

Also two wars, a broken economy, historic plans the president says can't wait. Just some of the extreme challenges facing the Obama administration in his second 100 days. We have an AC 360 special tonight at 11 p.m. Eastern with David Gergen, Christiane Amanpour, Fareed Zakaria, Michael Ware, a host of others. A fascinating discussion. That starts in about 25 minutes from now.

And a New Zealand couple is on the run after a bank mistakenly deposits millions in their bank account. Bet you'd like that to happen to you. The search for the accidental millionaires when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Still ahead, a terror plot foiled. Four men now in custody. How the sting played out just last night in New York. First Erica Hill has a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, breaking news tonight. Senior White House officials say troubled automaker General Motors is likely to be sent into bankruptcy. This could happen as early as next week.

Under this plan, GM would receive just shy of $30 billion in additional federal loans as it seeks to restructure and emerge as a global competitor. Now, officials are stressing, however, the president has yet to make a final decision on the bankruptcy plan.

There is also a major food recall to tell you about tonight. Nearly 96,000 pounds of potentially contaminated ground beef. Illnesses linked to the potentially deadly E. coli bacteria have been reported in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. That beef is from Illinois meat producer Valley Meats and all recalled products were produced on March 10, but they are packaged under a variety of labels.

For a link to the full recall list, logon to our Web site at AC360.com. AIG chairman and CEO Edward Liddy plans to step down as soon as his replacement can be found. He took over the troubled insurance company in September.

And an international manhunt is under way for a New Zealand couple who fled after a bank mistakenly paid them $6 million when they applied for a loan of just $6,000. Police say the bank has now recovered part of that money, a sign that the couple may not have been able to access the full amount.

And some big kudos. Anderson and the rest of the "Planet in Peril" team being honored tonight for the documentaries, all honored here in New York tonight with this year's Global Conservation Hero Award. You can read a little bit more about why the team was picked, and quite a team it is. You see Anderson, Sanjay and Lisa on screen, but a lot goes into that also behind the scenes.

So all that on AC360.com. You can learn why "Planet in Peril" was chosen for this prestigious award.

COOPER: Thank you very much, Erica. Appreciate it. Blushing a little under the heavy makeup.

A reminder: you can join the live chat. This is what I look like when I blush. I'm that pale. You can join the live chat happening now at AC360.com.

Up next, an alleged terror plot foiled in New York. What investigators say the suspects were planning to do. Scary stuff, coming up.

Also, a problem on a plane that could have led to disaster, but a sharp-eyed off-duty U.S. Air Force sergeant was paying attention. Now some are calling him a hero.

And Larry King, funny and unforgettable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You write about going out with Katie Couric a couple years ago in Washington. And you say, and I quote, page 127, "She invited me back to her apartment, and I remember thinking, 'This could be good. This could be good.'" How did that work out?

KING: Wonderful time. It worked out terribly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We'll tell you why. That's just for starters. We'll have more of my fun interview with the master of the mike, ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We have new details tonight on the alleged terror plot to destroy synagogues and military planes in New York. The federal complaint says the four suspects hoped to be martyrs and were on a collision to commit what they called jihad.

Prosecutors say the men didn't just want to kill. They were prepared to kill, purchasing what they thought were explosives and a surface-to-air missile system.

Randi Kaye has the latest in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): United in their alleged hatred for Americans, authorities say these men wanted to do jihad. The alleged ringleader, James Cromitie, a 44-year-old U.S. citizen who served time for selling drugs.

The New York Bureau of Prisons told us he first registered as a Baptist but later said he was Muslim. For nearly a year, officials say Cromitie and the others have been plotting to shoot down a U.S. military plane at a National Guard air base in Newburgh, New York, and blow up a synagogue and Jewish center in the Bronx, using a surface- to-air guided missile system, an IED, containing over 30 pounds of C4 military-grade explosives.

(on camera) This is one of the alleged targets, the Riverdale Temple, just a few blocks away from the Riverdale Jewish Center, also believed to be a target. Police say the men were going to plant bombs in cars and park them outside both buildings. The criminal complaint says the men were going to use cell phones to remotely detonate them.

(voice-over) What the men did not know was that they were dealing with an FBI informant and that he was supplying them with fake bombs and missiles not capable of firing.

Investigators say Cromitie told the informant he was upset so many Muslims were being killed in Afghanistan by U.S. military and discussed targets in New York. Court papers show, referring to the World Trade Center, he said, "The best target was hit already," adding, "I would like to get a synagogue."

(on camera) Last night authorities say the men planted one of the fake IEDs in a car outside the temple. And two of the bombs they thought were real outside the Jewish center. Officers didn't wait long to swoop in, break the windows of the suspects' SUV, and grab them.

(voice-over) This cell-phone video captured the arrest. Along with Cromitie, two other American citizens were arrested: David Williams, also Muslim, and Onta Williams. The fourth suspect, Laguerre Payen, is a Haitian immigrant who's been convicted of attempted assault.

The assistant imam at this mosque where Payen prays says he converted to Islam in prison and has distorted Islamic beliefs. He says Payen was living on food stamps. This is the same mosque, he says, where Cromitie sometimes prays.

HAMIN RASHADA, ASSISTANT IMAM, MASID AL IKIHAS: If this person had these kinds of thoughts, this person is not a part of our community.

KAYE: The men are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles. They have not yet entered a plea, and CNN's calls to attorneys were not returned.

James Cromitie's sister told reporters she hasn't spoken with her brother in two years. She said she thought he was working at Wal- Mart.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Coming up, a 13-year-old boy with cancer is still on the run. Tonight, his father begs for him to come home. You'll hear from the desperate dad, coming up.

And an American Airlines pilot about to fly from London to Chicago failed a breathalyzer test. We have the incredible details on that.

And last night I sat down with Larry King. We talked about life and love and everything in between.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So you write that during the O.J. Simpson trial, you dated a jury consultant from the defense team and a publicist for the prosecution.

KING: Those were the wildest days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Tonight more of my candid conversation with Larry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, more with Larry King. I interviewed the broadcasting giant yesterday. Larry has a new autobiography out called "A Remarkable Journey." It's simply one of a kind, as I found out firsthand. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Was it hard to write? Because you get very personal in this book about the struggles you've been through, marriages you've been through.

KING: I dealt with a great -- Cal Fussman wrote it with me. He writes for "Esquire." And working with him made it a lot better, because he would ask me things that I wasn't thinking about, and I got to expand on them.

Yes, to write about my father's death.

COOPER: He died when you were 9, right?

KING: I was 9 1/2. And it changed my life. You lost a sibling...

COOPER: Yes, when I was 10.

KING: I think that's the worst age to lose a...

COOPER: It changes your entire life. I always thought it sort of reset the clock to, like, the year zero, and that's where a new life began.

KING: A new life began. I was a good student. I became a bad student. The day he died, there were police in front of the house to tell my mother. A lot of cops knew him. And I was carrying nine books home from the library.

And the cop ran down the stairs. And he was the one that told me my father died. And all the books spilled. I don't know where they went. And I lost interest in reading, school. I was angry. I thought he left me.

COOPER: Do you think you're a completely different person because of that?

KING: Completely. The one thing -- he gave me a lot. He gave me love and affection, but then he went away. And it got me really into fear of betrayal. And loyalty became my number one factor in life.

COOPER: As a dad now of young kids, I mean, is that something you must think about, you must worry about?

KING: a lot. I try not to bring it to them although the 10- year-old will ask me, how are you feeling today? Don't travel so much. Watch what you -- oh. Like he wants to be a ballplayer. And he'll say to me, "Are you going to -- are you going to make it to see me play..."

COOPER: Oh.

KING: "... for college or the Dodgers? Are you going to be all right?"

"Yes."

"You've got to take care of yourself."

The 8-year-old will be 9 on Friday. He sort of thinks about it, but the 10-year-old really thinks about it.

COOPER: There's a writer -- I forgot who it was who said, I think -- who wrote, "A fatherless child thinks all things possible, and nothing is safe." I think that's kind of true.

KING: What a great line.

COOPER: Yes, yes. In the book you write a lot about -- you're very up-front about the marriages. You probably had more than the national average. I think it's fair to say.

KING: you know, I don't really regret it, Anderson.

COOPER: Do you love being in love?

KING: Oh, I love being in love. In retrospect, I only loved three. The current, of course, and two previous. Beyond that, I think it was just -- I never lived with anyone. I don't even -- think I spent the night over at anyone's house.

COOPER: Really?

KING: Yes, I was -- I was raised, you like someone, you got married.

COOPER: Right.

KING: My friends went into service. One of them was annulled. I don't -- I don't have any regrets. Some great kids were brought out of them.

COOPER: You write in the book about meeting your son, Larry Jr., for the first time in his 30s.

KING: He's over here now, yes. He was on with us. That was extraordinary. Let me tell you. To sort of know I had a child. Probably I did. But I wasn't sure. And then to get the realization that I did. And then he turns out to be one of the great people -- one of the great people I know.

COOPER: A couple little-known things about Larry King, that you write in the book, page 151, you don't believe in God or heaven.

KING: No. I lost religion. Maybe it had to do with my father's death. I was bar mitzvahed. But -- and I've interviewed so many religious leaders. I respect them. I have a very good friend who was really nice to me, Billy Graham. I just can't buy the concept, that leap of faith.

COOPER: So when you die, that's it, you think?

KING: I think. I can't make the leap. I hope they're right.

COOPER: Don't you want to hedge your bets a little bit?

KING: I hope -- I hedge my bets. I try to be moral. I try to -- but like my wife fervently believes: "Oh, we're going to be together." Based on what evidence? I don't see it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Wow, Larry King.

Coming up next, an incredible story. How one passenger on a plane may have saved 300 lives.

Plus, two wars, a broken economy and plans that President Obama says simply cannot wait. "Extreme Challenges," an "AC 360" special with Michael Ware and Christiane Amanpour and David Gergen, is coming up next about nine minutes from now. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're following several other stories for you tonight. Erica Hill joins us with another 360 bulletin -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, a new warrant arrest issued for the Minnesota mom who fled with her 13-year-old son who's battling cancer. The warrant gives other states the power to detain Colleen Hauser and son Daniel if they are found.

The two skipped a court hearing on Tuesday where a judge was going to order Daniel to undergo chemotherapy treatment against the family's wishes. Today Daniel's father made a public plea to his wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY HAUSER, FATHER OF CANCER PATIENT: If you're out there, please bring Danny home so that we can decide as a family what Danny's treatment should be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: In California, a former NFL linebacker and his ex- girlfriend charged with killing her wealthy boyfriend nearly 15 years ago. Authorities say that Nanette Packard McNeill persuaded Eric Naposki to shoot and kill the victim for his cash and other assets.

Naposki played for both the Colts and the Patriots in the late 1980s.

American Airlines says one of its pilots failed a breathalyzer test at London's Heathrow Airport. The flight to Chicago was delayed until another pilot could be found.

And this U.S. Air Force sergeant may have helped save more than 300 lives on a flight From Chicago to Japan. When looking out his window he noticed a fuel leak. He captured it on video; the airlines were alerted. The airline says the flight crew was already aware of the situation. That flight was diverted, Anderson, to San Francisco.

COOPER: Wow. Scary stuff.

Coming up, we've got a lot more ahead. CNN's groundbreaking "Planet in Peril" series -- well, actually, no. We're not going to do that. What we going to do? We're going to do "The Shot" next. How about that? A capital idea. Congress turns to a speed reader to help moves things along, and it worked. We're going to show you how that happened.

And at the top of the hour, a 360 special, "Extreme Challenges: The Next 100 days." From the war in Afghanistan to the battle to save the economy, we'll take a close look at the tough road ahead facing President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right, Erica. Tonight's "Shot" takes us to Capitol Hill, where a speed reader today showed lawmakers how to get bills passed and work done. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: The rules required that the amendment be read. The clerk will read the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Why can't Congress always use speed readers who would make it much more fun and fast? We need our own speed reader. And guess what? We got one. Herb Malkner (ph) is the owner of Mountain Auctioneers, and he's here to offer his lightning-fast interpretation of President Obama's national security speech today.

Herb, take it away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you all for being here. I want to just acknowledge the presence of my outstanding cabinet and my advisers, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of (UNINTELLIGIBLE), with the Department of Homeland Security, attorney Eric Holder, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Jim Jones, acting governor of the United States, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Plus, I want to also thank several members of the House who have great interest in cogent matters. I want to talk Congressman Reid, Congressman Ginter, Congressman Kean (ph), as well as Congressman Thompson, for being here today. Thank you so much. It's an extraordinary (UNINTELLIGIBLE) historic and economic crisis. We're fighting two wars and trillions in challenges. We live in the 21st century. There is no shortage of work.

COOPER: Herb, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Nice job. Does your mouth -- do you need water?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm great. Thank you.

COOPER: We'll try to get you some.

Thanks for coming in, herb. You can see all the most recent "Shots," tonight's "Beat 360" on our Web site, AC360.com. Coming up the top of the hour, two wars, a broken economy. And historic plans the president says just cannot wait. Our special report, "Extreme Challenges: The Next 100 Days" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome to "Extreme Challenges: The Next 100 Days." Just like the first 100 days, President Obama has more on his agenda, more items affecting more people than most presidents handle their entire time in office.

He's facing an upturn in violence as he tries to pull American forces out of Iraq. While in Afghanistan, where he's sending more troops, the Taliban grows stronger and the Afghan government grows weaker.

And in neighboring Pakistan with more radicals per square mile than just about any place on earth, Taliban fighters do battle not far from the capital with Pakistan's nuclear arsenal potentially up for grabs.

Back home two of the big three carmakers are reeling. And even though the economy is no longer in freefall, thousands of jobs still vanishing every day. Meantime, Washington beginning to do something about health care, millions of uninsured Americans in need, trillions of dollars of health care spending in the balance. All of it on President Obama's plate and on ours in this 360 special "Extreme Challenges: The Next 100 Days."

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