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CAMPBELL BROWN

Criminal Investigation Launched Into Gulf Disaster; Israel Under Fire

Aired June 1, 2010 - 20:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And hi, everybody. Campbell is off tonight. I'm John Roberts.

Day 43 of the disaster in the Gulf, and, tonight, six weeks after the Deepwater Horizon blew up, BP clearly in the sights of the Obama administration. The president says, we will bring those responsible to justice. Attorney General Eric Holder says he is launching a criminal investigation. And Admiral Thad Allen, the government's point man in the Gulf, says that he will handle briefs from now on, cutting out BP.

So, has the White House let the company run the show for too long? And with all this coming in the first day of hurricane season, could things be about to get even worse in the Gulf? I will ask Admiral Allen about that.

Also tonight, Israel under fire around the globe for the deadly high seas raid on Monday on a ship carrying aid to Gaza. We will try to get some answers on just what happened and why nine people died.

And later, the story that nobody in Washington saw coming: Al and Tipper Gore splitting up after 40 years of marriage. Is happily ever after just too much to ask in politics?

But we begin tonight with our number-one story. Today, it began washing up in Mississippi and Alabama. But the effects of the spill are reaching all the way to Washington tonight, where the Obama administration is putting out the message that the president is not just frustrated by the spill; he is enraged.

Listen to this exchange from today's White House press briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: You've said earlier that the president is enraged. Is he enraged at BP specifically?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he's enraged at -- at the -- the time that it's taken, yes. I think he's been enraged over the course of this, as I have discussed, about the fact that, when you're told something is fail-safe and it clearly isn't, that that -- that's the cause for quite a bit of frustration.

QUESTION: Have we really seen rage from the president on this?

I think most people would say no.

GIBBS: I have seen rage from him, Chip. I have.

He said -- he has been in a whole bunch of different meetings -- clenched jaw, even in the midst of these briefings, saying everything has to be done -- I think this was an anecdote shared last week -- "to plug the damn hole."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: So are the efforts to "plug the damn hole" now being staged from the Oval Office?

CNN's David Mattingly reports now from New Orleans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): BP robots prepare a cap to sit on top of the leaking pipe. The idea is to siphon the escaping oil to a ship on the surface and take control of the damaged well, all this while the Obama administration takes control of the microphone.

ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: We need to be communicating with the American people through my voice as the national incident commander. And I think that is the way we ought to be communicating.

MATTINGLY: Senior administration officials tell CNN BP is now shut out of public briefings because of a lack of transparency. One official said the decision was made after BP tried to downplay the possibility that the spewing oil could turn into a gusher, blowing out 20 percent more during the latest move to cap the well.

But a top BP executive says the two had been working well together.

DOUG SUTTLES, COO, GLOBAL EXPLORATION, BP: The government clearly presses us very hard to make sure we're responding as quickly as we can, we're moving things forward, we're applying all of the resources we need to apply. But I would stress that, at the working level, those differences are usually quite small. And, in fact, I'm pretty pleased with the effort so far.

MATTINGLY: But joint press conferences with BP and the Coast Guard that have become a familiar source of bad news in this disaster are no more. Today, the Obama administration set the tone for BP accountability on two fronts, the president himself launching a special commission probe aimed at preventing future such spills.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they deliver.

MATTINGLY: And just hours later, Attorney General Eric Holder launches a criminal investigation into the spill. A statement from BP reads, "BP will cooperate with any inquiry the Department of Justice will undertake, just as we are doing in response to the other inquiries that are already ongoing."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And now federal officials, John, giving us information to tell -- trying to let us down easy in case this next plan doesn't work, already giving us an idea that we might be looking at a very long and oily summer in the Gulf, as this top hat is not going to be perfect. There is oil going to be leaking out every single day. The question remains how much.

ROBERTS: And how long will it be leaking out as well?

David Mattingly for us -- thanks so much, David.

A short time ago, I spoke with President Obama's point man in the government spill response, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Admiral Thad Allen, thanks much for joining us today. I know how busy you are.

You said earlier today that we may be dealing with this until August, and that you needed to be more forthcoming with people about that. Can you clarify? To what degree might we be dealing with this until August?

ALLEN: Well, John, I want everybody to understand, while we're trying a series of interventions here first to try and cap the well -- and that hasn't been successful -- and then first to contain the oil in the well -- everybody needs to understand that the permanent fix is going to be drilling the relief well, and that won't happen until some time in August.

Now, in the meantime, we should not accept anything less than everything we can do to either contain the oil and make sure that it doesn't get into the environment. To that end, we shifted to a second plan, and BP right now is attempting to cut the riser pipe with what they call a shear cut. And that will be followed with a second cut with a diamond wire saw to try and cut it close as we can to the lower marine rise unit, and then put a cap over it and recover the well to the -- the oil to the surface.

ROBERTS: Admiral, it's possible that if you cut that pinched-off riser -- it's believed that the pinch in that riser may be stemming the flow somewhat -- that the flow will actually increase. What do you know about that, and is the risk worth the potential benefit?

ALLEN: Our estimate is that it could potentially increase the flow during that period of time until the cap gets put on of about 20 percent.

We understand that, and we have a -- what I would call a dispersant plan and a hydrocarbon management plan to use undersea dispersants during that period. But there is a period of increased flow while we put the cap on. ROBERTS: You say until the cap is put on. Everything that we have seen BP try to do to stem the flow of oil from this well to one degree or another has failed. If this cap fails -- and I know that they have a backup to the cap -- what is the potential that this could actually make things worse, instead of better?

ALLEN: Well, I think it has the potential to do some good, because, if we get a clean cut, we will actually put a rubber seal around it. It won't be a perfect seal, if you put two pipes together and bolted them, but it will be much better than what -- the riser insertion tube tool that we were using before.

ROBERTS: You know, the White House seemed to be quite skeptical of BP during the briefing today. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said he doesn't believe that BP has been completely forthcoming with the potential rate of increase once that riser is cut, also suggesting, another administration official, that the reason why you're not doing these joint briefings anymore is because BP hasn't been completely forthcoming, and that government officials don't want to be standing side by side with them if they're not fully telling the truth.

ALLEN: The real reason to do this, John, was to get me out, so the American public can see what we're doing out here.

I do a lot of traveling throughout the week. And rather than having a brief from a command post or a staged setup with the cameras, I think it's good for the American people to know where we're at and what we're doing. And that's the real thrust of doing the press briefings where I'm at.

ROBERTS: Robert Gibbs was asked earlier today if he trusted BP. He skirted it and didn't really answer the question. So, Admiral, could I ask you, do you trust BP?

ALLEN: Well, you can use the classic Reagan line of trust but verify.

But the fact of the matter is, they have a responsibility and we have to be relentless in our oversight. And we have been. And I don't hesitate from calling Tony Hayward up, bringing tough issues to him, and demanding compliance. And I do that.

ROBERTS: As you know, Admiral, Attorney General Eric Holder has launched a criminal investigation into this explosion and the oil spill. Have you seen anything in the 43 days that you have been watching this that would suggest any hint of criminality?

ALLEN: Well, I think we need to understand what happened before the accident, what happened after it, and the details associated with that. That's the subject of a Marine board of investigation that has been convened jointly by the Department of Interior and Homeland Security, with the Coast Guard holding the process down here in New Orleans.

We need to find out exactly what the facts are, and the facts will take us to where we need to go. ROBERTS: And, of course, Admiral, today is -- it's a rather auspicious occasion. It's the beginning of hurricane season.

How concerned are you that, particularly with the season that NOAA says is going to be very active, that a hurricane hits that area either while there is still a lot of oil on the surface of the Gulf or maybe before this well has been killed?

ALLEN: John, I think we have to be very concerned, for a couple of reasons.

We haven't capped the well. We're only attempting to contain it right now. So, that means we're going to be pumping oil to the surface, and then flaring off the gas and actually producing the oil and shipping it ashore.

And if we have to stop doing that, that means that oil has to go somewhere, or it will build up pressure in the wellbore, which causes -- could cause damage and even further leakage. So, we have a contingency plan prepared on how we will deal with that, but we're also directing that BP bring in stronger vessels that can withstand heavier weather.

And we have a contingency plan on how that would be broke off and what we can do. But it's going to be -- it's going to be touch and go through the hurricane season, John.

ROBERTS: Yes, I will tell you, a lot of fingers crossed that this capping situation works in the next couple or three days.

Admiral Thad Allen, thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it, sir.

ALLEN: Thank you, John.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And could the fight to stop this disaster soon turn from difficult to nearly impossible? This is day one of hurricane season, as we said. And meteorologists do not have any good news. I will talk to an expert about this new time bomb just as soon as we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Tonight, new fears that the manmade disaster in the Gulf could soon be compounded by a natural one. Why? Because tonight marks the start of hurricane season, always cause for fear in the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Katrina, of course, still fresh in everyone's mind, even though it was five years ago.

That storm back in 2005 showed just how vulnerable those coastal communities really are. And while that's the storm that we all remember, it's merely one of several hurricanes and tropical storms that have hit the Gulf Coast every year since then. And this year, the national hurricane season is predicting up to 23 named storms. As many as 14 could become hurricanes and seven of those could be major. But even if only one of those hurricanes takes aim at the Gulf, it could up-end the whole battle to contain the growing oil spill. The nightmare scenario, a filthy cocktail of oil and water spread in all directions across the Gulf and on to the shoreline of several states.

With me now to talk about the threat is Don Van Nieuwenhuise. He's a geologist at the University of Houston.

Don, good to see you tonight.

You know well these hurricanes can be such capricious characters. There is really just no way to predict what could possibly happen. But what does the best science tell us about how a hurricane could impact operations not only to try to cap this well, but with the oil on top of the water?

DON VAN NIEUWENHUISE, GEOLOGIST: Well, in general, the oil on top of the water would particularly affect the reflectivity of the heat and also some of the evaporation.

And in general it probably won't hurt it too much. The problem with a hurricane, though, is that it could cause a significant amount of oil dispersion, and the storm surge could push that oil on to shore. And one of the things I haven't heard anyone mention is that, actually, if you had a series of hurricanes that tracked into the Gulf of Mexico pretty much on the same track towards the state of Texas, you could have a -- what we call a longshore current develop, which actually would push any of the oil along the coastline further and further to the west.

Likewise, if we had hurricanes turn around about entering around near the Mississippi Delta, and they turned towards Florida, they could alternately push the oil that is along the coastline towards the east, which, again, would not be a good thing.

ROBERTS: Right. We have heard that there are some potential scenarios where a hurricane might actually be beneficial in breaking up an oil spill? How would that work?

VAN NIEUWENHUISE: Well, actually, it would.

You know, the natural processes in the marine environment do biodegrade oil, and it happens all the time. And we do have natural seeps in the ocean. And there are bacteria in the ocean all around the world that actually digest oil.

And when you break up the oil or disperse it better, it increases the surface area. It makes a lot more smaller drops and therefore more bacteria can act upon those drops. So, when you break up the oil, you actually increase the surface area and the ability for bacteria to actually biodegrade it.

ROBERTS: As we mentioned at the top of this, Don, NOAA's forecast is for a very active hurricane season. And we remember back to 2005 and what that was like, with Hurricane Katrina coming in, Hurricane Rita almost right after that.

But, as we saw with that graphic that we began this segment with, even in very quiet or relatively quiet years, there can still be a lot of storm activity in the Gulf.

VAN NIEUWENHUISE: Oh, absolutely.

The Gulf is normally where we get most of the storm activity, no matter what the number count is. And, again, even small tropical storms, if they came in series towards Texas or in particular headed towards Florida, in other words, they entered the Gulf and went up towards the Mississippi Delta and turned to the east towards Florida, that could be very disastrous along the coastline, particularly the upper Florida coast and Mississippi and Alabama.

ROBERTS: When people talk about this, Don, they say, what if another Katrina were to hit or what if another Opal were to hit? Is that the big concern, a monster hurricane, or, as you said, could a series of small storms do just as much, if not more damage?

VAN NIEUWENHUISE: A number of smaller storms, I think, could probably do more damage. And, of course, we have never actually had any test of this sort of a spill of this magnitude. We have seen smaller spills dispersed quite effectively.

But this has gotten to be a rather large spill, as everyone knows. And there is a lot more oil out there than we have ever seen actually dispersed before. So, it's kind of a -- it will be new experiment for everyone to see what will happen.

But, again, the power of a hurricane is tremendous. It could disperse this to the point where it will put oil and tar in places where you wouldn't want to see it. But if it breaks it up and reduces the concentrations in any one place, it actually could be a beneficial effect.

ROBERTS: All right, probably, though, overwhelm the sand berms that officials in Louisiana are trying to build.

Don Van Nieuwenhuise, good to talk to you tonight. Thanks so much.

VAN NIEUWENHUISE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: And, tonight, there is also growing concern that people working to clean up the oil spill are getting sick. The family of one of those workers is speaking about their fear in an exclusive interview with CNN.

And new details on Israel's attack on a flotilla of ships bringing aid supplies to Gaza -- what really happen aid board that ship? Still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Despite the massive response to the oil spill disaster, there is also a kind of cone of silence across the Gulf Coast. Nine fishermen have been hospitalized and others say they have become ill after working on the oily waters.

But, so far, none has spoken publicly, and neither have their wives, at least until now.

Tonight, CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen with one wife who is breaking the silence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Late one night at the end of April, Kindra Arnesen's husband, David, was out shrimping on his boat, seven other shrimping boats around him.

KINDRA ARNESEN, AILING FISHERMAN'S WIFE: I received several phone calls from him. "This one is hanging over the boat throwing up. This one says he's dizzy and he's feeling faint." That's abnormal for our guys. This is a bunch of tough, hard-core fisherman.

COHEN (on camera): How did he say he was feeling?

ARNESEN: Nauseous and a really bad headache.

COHEN (voice-over): Men sick on eight boats, she says not a coincidence.

(on camera): He told you he could smell the oil?

ARNESEN: It was really strong. He said that, it was so strong, that they could almost taste it.

COHEN: But BP and EPA have been monitoring this air. And they say, it's safe. Don't worry.

ARNESEN: If the air is just fine, all of the sudden, everybody is sick? Come on.

COHEN: You don't believe it.

ARNESEN: I don't believe them.

COHEN (voice-over): She says, until this day, her husband was completely healthy, but he has been sick ever since.

ARNESEN: It is a nasty cough. I literally woke him up over and over again.

COHEN (on camera): And have you ever seen him like this...

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: ... breath?

ARNESEN: Never. Never.

COHEN: He doesn't have asthma or anything like that?

ARNESEN: Nothing, no breathing problems ever, nothing.

COHEN (voice-over): BP's top executive has suggested spoiled food could have made the fishermen ill. But a public health official contacted by CNN considered that highly unlikely in light of their symptoms.

(on camera): Now, Kindra, I got to tell you, you're talking about this. You're the only one I found who is. People are mighty quiet around here.

ARNESEN: They're terrified.

COHEN: Why are they terrified?

ARNESEN: It's BP. You're messing with the king. That's what I have been told. Kindra, you're not scared? You're messing with the king.

COHEN: So why aren't you scared?

ARNESEN: I am.

COHEN (voice-over): The shrimping waters have since been closed down because of the oil, and Kindra's husband has signed a contract to work with BP. It includes a provision that prohibits him from talking publicly about his work.

(on camera): So, your husband signed a gag order back in April, and then...

ARNESEN: May 24...

COHEN: May 24...

(CROSSTALK)

ARNESEN: ... is when...

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: Right, they revoked the gag order. So, why won't he talk?

ARNESEN: Still scared.

COHEN: But what is he scared of?

ARNESEN: Losing his job.

COHEN: Are you scared of BP?

ARNESEN: Am I scared of BP? Our financial situation lay within the palm of their hand.

COHEN (voice-over): So, why is she talking when so many others have been silent?

ARNESEN: It starts with one, anything. Anything that ever starts, starts with one. And if I have to be the one, then I have to be the one.

COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Venice, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And with me now is the mayor of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, Tim Kerner.

Tim, we should point out that your 19-year-old son is helping to participate in the cleanup operations. Are you concerned about his health?

TIM KERNER, MAYOR OF JEAN LAFITTE, LOUISIANA: Yes, I'm concerned about his health and everybody else out there. He made a decision that he wanted to come home and actually help with the cleanup. He worked right after Katrina with me and he wanted now to come and -- come home and help with the cleanup.

And -- and so, yes, I'm concerned. But, you know, it's a deal where I'm sending 100 boats out and a lot of fishermen out there. And I think it's just a situation where me and my son really want to be involved, just like everybody else, to try to protect that -- that community.

ROBERTS: I'm sure it's a time when everybody certainly wants to pitch in. But have your son or any of the other people who work on those 100 boats, as you mentioned, complain at all of symptoms from working out there on the waters with all that oil around them?

KERNER: Not that I know of.

But you got to realize, we are doing a second line of defense. So, we are not out in the Gulf of Mexico. We are a second line of defense. We are about 20 minutes south of Grand Isle Pass. So, we're in inland waters right now.

Now, we got people coming in to teach a hazmat class this week. And so I'm going to make sure that my fishermen are involved in that class, and so in the near future when the oil starts coming in and it gets a little thicker, I want them to have the proper gear.

ROBERTS: All right. What's your sense so far of the efforts to try to keep the water out of those back -- back bays?

KERNER: Well, I will tell you this.

My -- my fishermen are doing so -- I'm so proud of them, that they had a guy working for VRC (ph) that is actually working -- VRC (ph), a contractor for BP, that said he has been around oil spills and worked them for 30 years and that my fishermen are the hardest workers and more dedicated people than he has ever seen before in his entire life. ROBERTS: I should say, keep the oil out of those back bays, not the water. You want the water in there, not the oil.

Hey, hurricane season begins today. It's the 1st of June, NOAA predicting a very active hurricane season. What are your worst fears here? Everybody remembers 2005, how bad that was for the Gulf Coast. And that was with no oil in the Gulf.

KERNER: Well, that -- that said, you know, we got -- like I said, we have got fishermen putting up boom. And they're doing a good job keeping the oil out.

But I will tell you this, man. They're fighting for their livelihood and they're fighting to protect that marsh. But I will tell you this. If the hurricane -- if we get a hurricane from anywhere from the mouth of the river to the west of us, we're going to experience flooding, and we will have oil our community. We will not only lose the shrimp, the marine life, the marsh, but we're also going to lose our community.

ROBERTS: Yes. You know, to have a hurricane in the Gulf, it's probably more likely than not.

So, at some point, I think chances are this summer into fall, there is going to be a storm in the Gulf. You are just -- you're just kind of sitting back crossing your fingers that it doesn't hit those sensitive areas that you just told us about?

KERNER: That's why it's nonsense for the federal government to be playing around with Corps of Engineers and going through all these environmental studies to dredge.

What could be worse than oil coming into your community and destroying the marine life, the wetlands, making -- going into your house and destroying your residence? I mean, what could be worse?

If you dredge and you block off those passes, you are actually going to stop the -- the oil from coming in. You're going to bring back the coastal restoration projects. You know, the coasts will -- I mean, the marshland will come back. And it's a buffer zone for hurricanes. That's major things that's pros. I can't think of any cons.

ROBERTS: Yes. But -- but, realistically speaking, Tim, if you build up those berms, as you were talking about -- that's the dredging operations, building up berms between those barrier islands to protect them from -- protect the marshlands in behind from anything that might come in from the Gulf -- we have seen powerful hurricanes cut barrier islands in half. You really think those berms are going to hold up to a hurricane?

KERNER: Well, let me tell you, what's the alternative? You could put barges. Barges are not going to hold up anything. The oil will come under the barges. The barges will break up.

The only -- the only thing that may work is dredging and building banks up on that coastline. Other than that, if somebody comes up with an alternative that will help my community and the rest of the communities along the coast, hey, guess what? We will jump on it tomorrow. But I don't know of any.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Tim Kerner, the mayor of Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, good to talk to you tonight, sir. Best of luck with your efforts in trying to keep the oil out of those marshes.

KERNER: All right, thank you for having me.

ROBERTS: All right. You bet.

Coming up: a lot more on the oil disaster in the Gulf.

Also, new details tonight on the brutal weekend attack on an aid flotilla headed for Gaza. Israeli soldiers insist they were ambushed. And now official says they have proof. What really happened? That story coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Our number one international story tonight, Israel's raid on an aid flotilla headed for the Gaza Strip, a raid that killed at least nine people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office says hundreds of foreigners who were taken into custody will be release and deported within 48 hours. But the controversy over the incident is far from over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anger across the world today against Israel's attack on an aid flotilla trying to break its blockade of Gaza.

Israel says the flotilla challenged the blockade of Gaza. And when Israeli commandos boarded the vessels, they were attacked by activists.

At the moment I saw people holding knives who were approaching me and attempting to stab me. I took off my weapon and shot one bullet.

But some passengers insisted Israelis were the aggressors, needlessly attacking a convoy on a peaceful mission to deliver humanitarian aid.

HANIN ZOABI, ISRAELI CABINET MEMBER: There was no weapon (ph). Not -- nothing at all. And there were just about 30 or 40 journalists, mainly the journalists. Most of the people were scared, were afraid because of the shooting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: With at least nine passengers dead, Turkey, one of the sponsors of the flotilla today, accused Israel today of carrying out a, quote, "bloody massacre." At least two Israeli soldiers involved in the attack insist the so-called humanitarians were more like a lynch mob. The question is can Israel back up its claims?

Joining us now is the Israeli Minister of Public Affairs, Yuli Edelstein. Good to talk to you tonight.

YULI EDELSTEIN, ISRAELI MINISTER OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Good evening.

ROBERTS: So, Israel insists that its soldiers were attacked and responded appropriately. And certainly when we look at that video, that night scope video, somebody is getting the tar beaten out of them. We see one soldier apparently being thrown overboard right there as well. But then, the activists claim the fact that Israeli soldiers rappelled down to the ship and had some sort of weapon with them, I think they were paint ball guns that they were holding out, but also had side arms. That was an attack. So who did attack first?

EDELSTEIN: Well, first of all, the facts are that there were six ships. Five out of six, I mean there were five and still no one got a hero's welcome there. But the level of violence was such that soldiers could perform their mission without, definitely without shooting the firearms, without any extra violence on their side.

At the sixth ship, apparently, there was a very well-trained group of people. They are definitely not peace activists. They were a gang carrying axes, knives, baseball bats, and so on. Some of them apparently guns because one of the soldiers was wounded with a gun that is not an Israeli IDF gun. So the soldiers were brutally attacked. We saw the pictures. The whole world sees the pictures. They had to react. The soldiers felt an immediate danger.

ROBERTS: Well, let's talk about this weapon. Was that a weapon for personal protection? Was it a weapon that was part of a smuggling operation? What do you think it was?

EDELSTEIN: I think -- I don't know what kind of protection, who to protect themselves from. But it was not about smuggling in weapons, though we do have proof that there were weapons on some of the ships. I think that the idea of the Hamas supporters was to really show that they are able to break the siege, to break the blockade and to bring things in without being inspected by the Israelis.

ROBERTS: So what was the intelligence that was used to plan this operation? And what evidence was there that there was any reason to go on board the ships? And could you have used some other method to intercept these ships, maybe, you know, stringing nets to foul up the propellers as opposed to rappelling down on to the deck, which prompted this confrontation on this one particular ship?

EDELSTEIN: John, we were not looking for specific evidence about one of these ships. There is a blockade on the Gaza Strip. No one is enjoying it. But in order to protect our citizens, and I would say the Palestinians themselves, we have to inspect and control things going in into Gaza. Unfortunately, the immediate past history teaches us when there is no control, Hamas gets weapons and ammunition and shoots. ROBERTS: But Mr. Minister, was there a different way to stop these ships than to do what we're seeing here with the soldiers rappelling down from a helicopter?

EDELSTEIN: I don't -- I mean there are definitely different violent ways. I mean, we could not send one single soldier and God forbid just torpedo the ship, so anything of the kind.

ROBERTS: No, no, no, I mean --

EDELSTEIN: Israel never does these things.

ROBERTS: Could you again have strong nets to foul the propellers, use your ships to keep them to go some other way?

EDELSTEIN: Well, probably an idea is right now thoroughly checked and what exactly happened. We definitely express sorrow about the loss of anything of life. I mean, the lives of people who definitely were there for the purpose of provocation and are definitely not the peace activists. They are Hamas supporters which is very different. But we are trying to make sure that next time when an attempt of that kind happens, we will seriously prepare ourselves for trying to stop all these ships without using unnecessary force.

ROBERTS: Because they say they're going to do it again. Some of these --

EDELSTEIN: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Some of these activists have gone on Twitter and said we will not stop, we will go again.

EDELSTEIN: We heard --

ROBERTS: So what will the response be next time?

EDELSTEIN: The response once again, the response is very clear. The policy hasn't changed. We have nothing to apologize for. There is blockade.

ROBERTS: Will you rappel down on to the ships? Or will you use it --

EDELSTEIN: Oh, I can't go into describing the specific methods. We'll do everything in our power -- by the way, we did this time everything in our power to be nonviolent. We offered the Turkish government to transfer all the goods into the Gaza Strip after the inspection.

By the way, John, as we speak, the goods are already in the Gaza Strip, transferred by the Israelis. The same offer came from Egypt.

ROBERTS: Right.

EDELSTEIN: The organizers said loud and clear they are not interested in humanitarian aid. ROBERTS: Right.

EDELSTEIN: They're interested in bringing the message of breaking the siege.

ROBERTS: But at the same time nine people are dead and a lot of questions being asked. Yuli Edelstein, good to talk to you tonight.

EDELSTEIN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Thanks for coming in.

ROBERTS: Still ahead, a lot more on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, including new developments concerning that damaged riser that BP was trying to cut in the latest effort to plug this leak.

And one of America's most celebrated political couples suddenly calls it quits. What went wrong in the storybook marriage of Al and Tipper Gore?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Still ahead, Al and Tipper Gore separating after 40 years. Their stunning e-mail announcement to their friends, not each other, and an insider's look at why they split. But first, Joe Johns has got a look at some of the other stories that we're following tonight.

Joe, as if there could be anything else.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, John. Breaking news now from the Gulf of Mexico where we have been following the newest effort to stop the oil spill. This is brand-new video of a remote-controlled submarine successfully cutting into the oil well's riser pipe this evening. As expected, this means a new flow of oil is gushing. You heard retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen just minutes ago telling us it could increase that flow by 20 percent, but this could, could be a significant turning point in eventually stopping that leak for good.

In other news, Al Qaeda says its number three man is dead, described by a U.S. official as Al Qaeda's CEO, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid also known as Sheikh al-Masri, was a chief conduit to Osama bin Laden and the head of terrorist activities in Afghanistan. While there is no word yet on the circumstances of his death, Al Qaeda Web sites say his wife and other relatives were also killed.

And the Army psychiatrist accused of the massacre at Fort Hood made his first court appearance today. Nidal Hasan, the suspect accused of killing 13 people was brought into court in a wheelchair. Hasan was paralyzed after being shot by Fort Hood police officers. His lawyers want a delay in the case and Hasan is back in jail tonight -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Joe Johns for us tonight. Joe, thanks so much. We've got much more on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico coming up. The sickening oil spill is spreading, so is the anger and frustration. Wait until you hear what Mary Matalin and Roland Martin have to say about it. And the stunning news about Tipper and Al Gore, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: There is no end to the outrage over the nation's worst oil spill. Forty-three days and counting, after several failed attempts to plug the leak. And our Mary Matalin and Roland Martin have some very specific thoughts on the disaster in the gulf.

Guys, take it away.

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John, we wish you'd come down here, and we're welcoming everybody to come down and help us fight this fight. Here's what I want to talk about, Roland. First, do no harm. We've all been talking about the fishermen and tourism and the jobs that will be lost off of this spill.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATALIN: But little reported on has been the president's knee- jerk shutting down exploratory wells, 33 of them with unclear guidance which will make tens of thousands of job loss turn into hundreds of thousands of jobs lost. He is going to decimate the entire coast. And this is after his own SWAT team of inspectors came down and cleared all those rigs.

Stop, stop the madness. Hurry up and get the berms done and that permitting done, and stop all this crazy knee-jerk policy making.

MARTIN: So the question that I think also comes up is if you're talking about, you know, do we have the capability to protect the ocean if there is another spill. And so I don't know if that's one of the reasons why you sort of have this shutdown, if you will. But I do believe we have to, you know, look at that as a real issue, Mary, because if we don't, then are we setting ourselves up for another problem down the road?

MATALIN: He shut down Alaska. He shut down Virginia. This is a political sop to the enviros (ph). And he did it in such a way that's absolutely confusion. They don't know to shut everything down. Is it shut down for six months? It was a political --

MARTIN: Right.

MATALIN: -- gesture and it did not have to do with the cleanup ability.

MARTIN: Well -- and let's be honest. If this happened in Virginia, we're going to see the same we're actually we're seeing right now in Louisiana. So I think some folks are skittish, if you will, is part of the reason here. Now, Mary, also speaking of being skittish, a lot of people are criticizing President Barack Obama for his even-tempered, some say lack of empathy for what's happening in Louisiana. A few years ago, Peter Roussel, who's the assistant press secretary for Vice President George H.W. Bush, once told me the one thing people most love about you is the one thing they'll likely most not like about you. And I think with President Barack Obama, people love the Mr. Cool demeanor. I think in this case it's hurting him because they want to see the passion we saw earlier in Governor Bobby Jindal.

MATALIN: Your strength is your curse. They need to flip his curse back into a strength. It is true that that intellectual coolness does not feel anybody's pain, but he could use that capacity to teach people how important the coast is to the entire United States. This is not fishermen and tourists. This is 30 percent of our energy, 40 percent of our fish and marine life. It's everything that the whole country is going to be -- is depending on. And this crushing of the jobs, increasing unemployment.

MARTIN: Right.

MATALIN: Raising energy costs and all that stuff teach everybody why we need to rebuild the coast. This isn't just about oil.

MARTIN: Well, I'll tell you, Mary. This is not a guy who likes to show emotion. I've talked to the White House on other issues. They say look, he is simply not going to do it. But I do think you're right. The president has the ability, again, to make it perfectly clear how important it is to our economy, to our well-being, to the environment. And so I think his advisers, frankly, should be pushing him in this regard. Oh, yes, being Mr. Cool and Mr. Detached does not serve well when people are looking for immediate results.

MATALIN: He ought to hire you, Roland. God, miss this segment but you go in there and tell him.

MARTIN: Look, I don't know if they can afford me. But hey, that's the way it goes.

All right, Mary. I couldn't have so much fun with you every single night. John, back to you.

ROBERTS: All right. Roland Martin, Mary Matalin, thanks so much.

Coming up, the stunning breakup that no one saw coming. Well, except for them. High school sweethearts Al and Tipper Gore announced they are separating. What happened to that storybook romance? And the kiss?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Well, the story that people are buzzing about tonight, the queen of all media and the duchess of York. Sarah Ferguson sat down with Oprah Winfrey today and answered the question on everybody's mind, when you offered to sell access to your ex-husband Prince Andrew, what were you thinking?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH FERGUSON, DUCHESS OF YORK: I think it clearly I had been too much to drink.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: What had you been drinking?

FERGUSON: Wine, I think. I don't know. I don't remember. It's really painful. So I can't really remember whether it was orange juice or wine, you know.

WINFREY: Why did you do that? Were you that desperate?

FERGUSON: I think I was so out of control with desperation with the point where I had reached no return. Andrew is a man that has always taken a very matter of fact look at everything. He reached out with understanding, which makes it much worse for me.

WINFREY: Really?

FERGUSON: Yes, because he is such a good man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Well, Prince Andrew has denied knowing anything about the scandal. Andrew and Sarah separated in 1992. They were divorced four years later, but they still live under the same roof.

Well, speaking of fairy tales gone wrong, remember this? Oh, that kiss. You remember it, right? Al and Tipper Gore at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. The picture of marital bliss, or was it just a little uncomfortable to watch?

Well, now, alas, the fires that stoked that kiss have gone out. Today, the Gores announced they're separating after 40 years of marriage. Their split shocked friends and stunned the political world where their romance was the stuff of legend.

Joining us now former Gore campaign adviser Doug Hattaway. He's in Boston for us tonight. And Mark Halperin, "Time" magazine's senior political analyst.

Got to -- what happened? You know, here's the question we have to ask. Here's the e-mail blast that went out today. They sent this out to all their friends. Quote, "We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate. This is very much a mutual and mutually supported decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration." Goes on to say that, "We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further."

Mark Halperin, I'm sure you will. What do you think happened?

MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I talked to a number of people. I don't think we know. I don't know of anybody who knows what happened. People are surprised, even people who have been in regular touch with them over the years. They have very different aspirations about their lives and how to spend their time. They have going back, she never wanted him to run for public office. And she was reluctantly brought on to the public stage. He has kept out, even at the end of elected office, a huge travel schedule, a huge national profile. Clearly their daily lives were not compatible.

ROBERTS: Doug, was this a surprise to you? I remember, you know, how many -- what did we spend, 18 months together on the 2000 campaign on the road --

DOUG HATTAWAY, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Yes.

ROBERTS: -- following these two? I remember that night on the Mississippi River on a riverboat where Al threw a little birthday party for Tipper.

HATTAWAY: Right. Yes, you could really -- I think back to those days, I think most people I've heard from today are absolutely surprised and sad about it. And people are remembering those days because you could really see the spark between them. A very genuine, happy, loving couple. And I remember the stories about Tipper not wanting to go into the presidential campaign. But when she was in it, she was in it. She was very supportive.

I remember through the recount when I was their spokesman, a very stressful time.

ROBERTS: Yes.

HATTAWAY: And it was clear their relationship was very strong in getting them through a very stressful time for themselves and the country. So I was surprised as anyone else. But people's lives change. Their paths diverge. And you just have to take their statement for what it says.

ROBERTS: Yes, you know, if we could, let's rerun that video of the kiss from the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles, because this really was a defining moment in their relationship.

Mark Halperin, this thing lingered on and on and on. But maybe some people have suggested it was the stress of the 2000 campaign, the recount and him inevitably losing the presidency that may have begun to shatter their relationship.

HALPERIN: Well, they've dealt with other stresses, including some with their children. You know, that kiss revealed for a lot of people the quote/unquote private Al and Tipper, just as Al Gore on the public stage people often have said he's different in private, which is true than he was on the public stage as an elected official, a candidate. That kiss really illustrated for what a lot of very few people in the country have seen, the three of us have seen, which is in private they seem to be very passionate --

ROBERTS: Yes.

HALPERIN: -- very attached to each other and that was one time when they displayed it for the world, not pleasing everyone.

ROBERTS: And I remember that night, again, to go back to it, Doug, that night on the riverboat where in the course of Tipper's birthday party, the vice president had three or four pops, I guess we could say, and got loosened up a little bit and gave a midnight speech with a voice that was hoarse from the campaign that was the best that I've ever seen him give. And I thought to myself, wow --

HATTAWAY: Yes.

ROBERTS: -- where's Al Gore, the stiff candidate? This guy is for real.

HATTAWAY: I always thought he was a better campaigner when they were out there together. She really -- first of all, you could see that spark. It's very real. And I think that was something people saw as very refreshing and genuine. And she brought out a spontaneity and a sense of humor that always wasn't so apparent when he was giving speeches. And I don't know. I've worked with a lot of political couples over the years. And frankly I'm surprised that any of them stay together given the pressures on these relationships.

ROBERTS: Yes. Well, how ironic is it, Mark, that they're splitting but the Clintons are still together?

HALPERIN: Well, particularly because the Gores, both Gores felt like the Clintons marriage hurt him and hurt his chances to win the White House. I just want to say, of course, it's very sad because not just for them, obviously, but the country. Whether you like the Gores politically or not, they were an iconic couple for a long time in our public life.

ROBERTS: Guys, we've got to run. Thanks so much, Doug Hattaway, Mark Halperin, as always.

Lady Gaga sits down with Larry King in just a few minutes time. But up next, tonight's "Punch Line," and it's all about oil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE JAY LENO SHOW": The well is leaking 210,000 gallons of oil a day without any end in sight. Given how bad an ecological disaster this is, today the volcano in Iceland told BP oil, you win. We can't compete with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: The late night comedians all took a long holiday weekend, but they left a bounty of slick humor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Apparently Kevin Costner invested more than $24 million to develop a centrifuge that he says can separate the oil from the water, which would be great. But didn't he already spend $175 million on "Waterworld," and didn't that -- he loves throwing money into the ocean.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": The president of BP said that cleaning up the Gulf Coast oil spill is like doing open heart surgery at 5,000 feet in the dark with robot- controlled submarines. Hey, thanks for such a relatable example.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE JAY LENO SHOW": Now, they sent specialists down there to start a controlled fire on the ocean to burn the oil off which they say is helping. That's when you know things are bad, when the ocean on fire is an improvement. Oh look, it's getting better. The ocean is on fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: And that's going to do it for us. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

"LARRY KING LIVE" with Lady Gaga starts right now.