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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Egypt Standoff; Husband of Gabrielle Giffords Headed to Space
Aired February 7, 2011 - 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: Good evening, everyone. We are devoting the entire hour tonight to what's happening there, to what's happening right now in Egypt, because it is a matter of life and death.
This is what Liberation Square looks like tonight, anti-Mubarak protesters still occupying it. Surrounded by soldiers, they are refusing to leave. They're standing their ground.
Now, in some ways, it's more dangerous right now for those protesters, more dangerous because as the reporters leave and the world turns its attention elsewhere, they become more vulnerable, more easy to arrest, more easy to torture, more easy to kill.
In a few moments, we're going to show you a full video of a single peaceful protester being shot to death before your eyes. He wasn't hurling any rocks. He wasn't holding a gun. That man standing in the streets in a few seconds will be dead. Egyptian police shot him dead.
Nearly 300 people have been killed in the last 14 days, according to Human Rights Watch, most of them not videotaped, their deaths not recorded. And according to "The Wall Street Journal," nearly 1,300 people have been injured. They're citing figures from the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
Some of those 1,300 people have been released, but others still held, and we don't know where and we don't know what's being done to them. According to several "New York Times" personnel who were held by the secret police a few days ago, they could hear captured Egyptians being beaten, tortured, crying out in pain.
That is the truth of the Mubarak regime. They have blood on their hands. And the question tonight, are they really going to change for themselves?
You are going to hear from our reporters on the ground in a moment, also in Washington, and we will talk to Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition figure. But we begin as always tonight "Keeping Them Honest." And tonight we begin by focusing on the lies the Egyptian government continues to tell.
Now, I know lies is a strong word; it's one we rarely use. We have talked about different facts, but we can't think of another word right now to describe what the Egyptian government has been saying, because what they have been saying is the direct opposite of what they have been doing. The lies go back years, decades, of course. But we want to just focus on some of the ones we have heard in the last few days.
The new vice president of Egypt, this man, Omar Suleiman, has for years been Mubarak's closest henchman, running his intelligence service. Now, he says his government has accepted many of the protesters' complaints. He says they're reaching out to opposition leaders.
But while he was saying that, literally, while his lips were moving and saying those things on Egyptian television and on ABC News, his secret police were still arresting opposition figures. Thugs burst into the offices of human rights organizations, trashing the places, arresting a number of human rights monitors.
And there's been absolutely no transparency about what the Egyptian government is doing right now, other than a few awkward photo-ops on Egyptian government-controlled television. The Egyptian government has denied any involvement in these kind of attacks by mobs on peaceful demonstrators and reporters. They say they have no idea how these things happened.
But the Egyptian military stood there and let it happen. I saw that with my own eyes. We all saw that. And when they realized the protesters could not be beaten back by mobs and reporters would continue working, the military suddenly stepped in. And with a few rolls of concertina wire and a few shots in the air, they suddenly were able to keep the mobs at bay.
The Egyptian government says the military didn't want to choose sides, but the truth is, they did choose sides. They searched peaceful demonstrators entering Liberation Square for days, but made no efforts to search or calm pro-Mubarak mobs as they descended on Liberation Square.
Even while the government was insisting that journalists were welcome to report freely in Egypt, at the end of last week, we have now learned that from the International Committee to Protect Journalists 26 journalists have been detained since the end of last week, since Friday, 71 since the protests began, and those are just the ones they could count.
So how can a regime that's operated under emergency powers for 30 years be expected to suddenly transition to democracy and act with transparency? Those emergency powers allow the Egyptian government to arrest anyone they want at any time.
Take a look at what happened when Candy Crowley pressed Egypt's prime minister about this yesterday on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Prime Minister, our reporters on the scene in Cairo tell us that while you negotiate about a democratic process, there are still arrests of local and international human rights activists, as well as journalists. Why are you arresting them?
AHMED SHAFIQ, EGYPTIAN PRIME MINISTER: No, no, I didn't understand you. I didn't understand you.
CROWLEY: We are told that you are arresting human rights activists and journalists. Why?
SHAFIQ: No. I don't hear well. I don't hear well now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Suddenly sound problems developed. He couldn't hear. A few moments later, Candy tried again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Let me ask you by arrests by the military police. Why are they arresting...
SHAFIQ: About what?
CROWLEY: About the detention of human rights activists. Why are you detaining them?
Frankly speaking, if there is some problem, it's not intended at all, my dear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: "It's not intended at all, my dear," that was his answer, finally.
This is a police state. Some estimates say there are more than 1.5 million people employed at the feared Interior Ministry, secret police, thugs, informers. The man who oversaw the intelligence services is now the vice president of Egypt.
It's not intended at all? Thursday, while the Egyptian government was talking about reaching out to opposition figures, nine young dissidents had a meeting with opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei. That evening, all nine were rounded up and detained.
I spoke with Mr. ElBaradei earlier today.
COOPER: Dr. ElBaradei, should people believe anything that the Mubarak regime is saying publicly? Because it seems to me, over the last several days, they have made a number of public statements that, when you actually look at their actions and what they're doing behind the scenes show those statements to be false. They say they're for press freedom and, yet, clearly there was an orchestrated campaign to attack the media.
They say they had no control over the people attacking the pro- Mubarak -- the anti-Mubarak demonstrators in the square, and yet as soon as there was too much international attention, those attacks stopped. So, should people believe this regime?
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATE: Anderson, I don't think they have an iota of credibility right now.
And they're -- what they say is one thing; what they do is completely the other. They have attacked foreign journalists. They have detained young demonstrators. I give you just one perfect example. People last Thursday came from -- from the Tahrir Square to meet with me. And these were cardiologists, lawyers, engineers.
Nine of them got detained the same day the vice president was saying that they were releasing all the demonstrators. They were kept for a couple days. They were blindfolded. And I had to make that public everywhere, kicking and scream, if you like, until they got released yesterday.
So, there is nothing they are doing that's lending them any sense of credibility. And you can't really make the transition through the outgoing regime, through a regime that is basically adopting a military approach to democracy. What we need is right now to have a national coalition government that takes over, that is representative of that peaceful revolution, and they are the one who should make the change.
COOPER: Even though now, there seems to be more security on the ground for the -- for the anti-Mubarak protesters in the square, it seems to me that could change on a moment's notice.
I mean, we have seen the military come and go for reasons that are completely unknown to anybody other than the military and the Mubarak regime. And if those protesters were to leave the square, they could be picked off one by one over time by the secret police who we know routinely torture and have all sorts of extrajudicial and illegal detentions.
ELBARADEI: Correct. And all the guys young and old are aware of that. They are -- there is no way that they are leaving the square.
The army tried a couple times to try to go through them through tanks, but they made a human shield. Nobody is going to leave the square, Anderson. I can tell you that.
COOPER: Dr. ElBaradei, I appreciate your time.
ELBARADEI: Thank you very much, Anderson.
COOPER: Mohamed ElBaradei, I talked to him earlier.
With us now from Cairo, CNN's Ben Wedeman and Ivan Watson on the ground. And joining me here now, Professor Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Fouad, have you heard -- it seems to me we are just hearing lies from the Egyptian government? You have Suleiman going on television saying we're transitioning to democracy, and, at the same time, their thugs are arresting people still?
FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: We should be under no illusions about Omar Suleiman. He's Mubarak's Mubarak. He's an inside man.
And what they done is they have put forward Omar Suleiman as the front of the regime because they basically -- the man of the regime, the leader of the regime is such an anathema to the crowd and such an anathema to the protesters.
This is an authoritarian state. It's been an authoritarian state. That's the only game it knows. And when an American envoy, Ambassador Frank Wisner, goes to Egypt and says that Mubarak should be given the right to write his own legacy, to determine his own legacy, this is the legacy of this regime, this is what this regime knows.
And we have ridden this roller coaster, a dose of repression and a dose of negotiations, one face of the regime one day, and another face of the regime the next day.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Ben, in terms of the intelligence services, in terms of the secret police, they are all still there, correct? I mean, there's not any talk about eliminating them or lifting the state of emergency which allows them to arrest people whenever they want?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly there's no talk, Anderson, from the side of the government, although, obviously, that is -- those are some of the demands being put forth by the protesters.
But, in fact, the regime, as opposed to President Mubarak, is still very much in place. In fact, I spoke to one analyst here in Cairo. He said, effectively, we have already entered the post-Mubarak era, that Omar Suleiman is the strongman. He's in control of the apparatus of the state, whether that be the police, the intelligence services, and the army, that really the only thing that is changing is Mubarak is being gradually phased out of the picture, gradually stripped of his real presidential executive powers. And we just have a new strongman in his place -- Anderson.
COOPER: And, Ivan, the situation in the square is what now?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the interesting change that we have seen is that, whereas before, all of these demonstrators were preparing for battle against the pro-Mubarak as they call them thugs, now they have shifted their tactics and they're focusing on this potentially much more deadly threat, which is the military itself.
And you see columns of Egyptian soldiers in full riot gear periodically marching in front of the barricades, a definite show of force. The demonstrators are sitting not behind the barricades, hiding from rocks. Now they're in front of them, as we speak, sitting cross-legged in front of campfires huddled in the cold. They form this human chain, knowing that they are going to lay their lives out there if the soldiers try to come in and break down their barricades.
They say they're there to stop the tanks. They're afraid that the military could be used against them to try to break this whole thing, their whole revolution, kill it. And they have a real good point. As you point out, a lot of these detentions, Anderson, we're finding out are being conducted by the military police, plainclothed military police.
The military that is supposed to be neutral in this political crisis, they are the ones who have been detaining journalists, the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch activists as well as a number of Egyptian activists in the raid of couple of days ago that took place. They are the ones that are carrying out a lot of these detentions right now.
COOPER: So, Fouad, all this talk about the military not taking sides, that's just again not true.
AJAMI: Well, we really don't know what's happening inside the Egyptian military, and I don't think we will for a long time. This is the -- again, this is best described as the black box of this regime.
COOPER: Are these protesters right to hold on to the square? Because it seems to me, if they do leave and the world turns away -- because as soon as they leave that square, most of the world's attention is going to turn away. They can be picked off one by one.
AJAMI: Right. The protesters have now entered the most dangerous phase of this California. They are known to the Secret Services. They have bet it all, and if indeed this regime survives, if this regime truly in a way deludes us that it has changed, it has reformed, it has amended its ways, most of these protesters, the leaders of these protesters are in great, great dangers.
I have been talking to several Egyptian intellectuals. This is now the most dangerous phase. For those who dared stand up to the regime, they surprised themselves, they surprised the regime, and the regime is not yet spent. And we don't really know. There's a heavy dosage of repression if need be that could be applied to this conflict.
And as you said, as the world turns its attention, as people leave, as the story becomes somewhat tedious and somewhat familiar...
COOPER: As the pictures aren't as dramatic...
AJAMI: Absolutely. This is exactly what Mubarak bet on all along. This is the ultimate gray man strategy. This is his procedure.
COOPER: Ben, is that what you hear from the protesters as well? How concerned are they? Do they feel that this is an extraordinarily dangerous time?
WEDEMAN: Well, the mood in this square is incredibly buoyant, despite these concerns. And they concerned about how long they can keep this up.
But there's a very important development that's happened in the last few hours. Wael Ghonim, this Google executive who was detained by the intelligence here on the 28th, was released. He came out and he did an interview on Dream TV, which is a private Egyptian satellite channel.
It was an incredibly emotional interview, where he slammed the government for accusing the people in the square of being foreign agents, of basically essentially being mercenaries on behalf of foreign forces. And...
COOPER: Yes, Ben, I want to play for our viewers some of that interview, and then have you comment about what the people are telling you about it. Let's just play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAEL GHONIM, GOOGLE (through translator): Oh, I'm not a hero. I slept for 12 days. The heroes were in the streets. The heroes are the ones that went to the demonstrations. The heroes are the ones that went sacrificed their lives. The heroes are the ones that were beaten. And the heroes are the ones that were arrested and exposed to dangers. I wasn't a hero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Ben, what kind of reaction is that getting?
WEDEMAN: Incredible reaction. It's really earthshaking, the sort of jolt it sent through Egyptians. And a lot of Egyptians who were sitting on the sidelines sort of undecided about how to act, I'm hearing a lot of people who have not been to Tahrir plan to go to Tahrir tomorrow. Many of the staff of Cairo University say they're going to Tahrir tomorrow.
So, this has really reinvigorated the anti-Mubarak movement. They have really a figure who has come out and spoken emotionally and convincingly about his convictions, his belief that what he's doing is for the good of Egypt, because, Anderson, what we have heard so far from the government media is just really a pack of sort of scandalous allegations against the protesters, that they are agents of Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the United States, a rather bizarre combination of supporters, you have to admit.
And what -- he sort of swiped those away. And what we're seeing is a gradual sort of backlash against the official media that's been running this smear campaign. He really bit back at them, and I think we may see a difference as a result of his interview.
COOPER: So there are more people, Fouad, who could still come to the square and we're in a critical juncture?
AJAMI: Look, we go back to something you said a couple of days ago from Cairo about people conquering fear. And I think...
COOPER: Fear has been defeated. That's what a lot the protesters are saying, that there's no turning back.
AJAMI: Absolutely. The old Egypt is defeated. The old system of submission to the pharaoh, submission to the state, fear of the rulers, fear of the secret police.
COOPER: But the state is not giving up. The secret police are not giving up. They're out there. They're waiting. And they're -- I mean, they're ready to hold on to power.
AJAMI: Because that's exactly the counter-revolution. The people you have seen, the people who just want to bid farewell to the past and to the corruption of the past and to the tyranny of the past have made their stand.
But the counter-revolution has not yet been spent. These people own a country, the senior officer of the Mubarak people, Omar Suleiman, and the people around him. And what they do is, they do these cosmetic reforms. Someone leaves the National Democratic Party. Then you put up someone who is a reformer.
COOPER: That's Mubarak's party.
AJAMI: Exactly. Then you put up someone who is a reformer. (INAUDIBLE) takes over from someone else.
So, in fact, the fight is still on. And the fight -- and this regime hasn't yet understood its moral defeat. This is really -- it will have to somehow try to make up for its moral defeat, for its cultural defeat, with simply the force of arms.
COOPER: Professor Ajami, appreciate you being on, Ben Wedeman as well, Ivan Watson. Stay safe.
And, again, just to viewers, I know the pictures are not as dramatic as they were a few days ago. But that doesn't matter. What is happening is still as dramatic. What is happening is still as important. And as you heard Professor Ajami saying, it may be more dangerous right now than it was when Molotov cocktails were being hurled in front of the world's media.
We cannot turn away from what is happening now. The battle continues. The fight rages. Raw brutality without any explanation, we got an example of it, Egyptian police gunning down a protester captured on camera. A lot of people killed, their stories not told. Their stories will never the told. The pictures will not be seen. This is one person being killed. Tonight, we investigate this video now seen around the world. We're going to take you to the spot where it happened to tell you what we have learned about it.
Also, has the Obama administration had a consistent message on Egypt? Do they have one now? We will take a look at that.
But, first, let's check in with Isha Sesay, who is following some other stories tonight -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anderson. Good to have you back, Anderson.
WikiLeaks Julian Assange was back in a London courtroom today, this time for an extradition hearing. When we come back, I will explain why his lawyers are arguing Assange is at risk of execution if he's extradited to Sweden.
COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of what is happening in Egypt right now.
A lot of people have died who did not need to die. And, as you've just heard, this may be the most dangerous phase for those anti-Mubarak protesters. And it's very possible more people are going to die in the hours and the days and the weeks ahead.
A lot of people have simply disappeared, have been taken into custody, and we don't know about their whereabouts. We don't know what's happening to them.
I want to show you some video of one person. We know what happened to this person, because this person was shot to death by Egyptian authorities. And it was videotaped, and that videotape was put online.
We asked Nic Robertson to go and investigate what we could learn about the incident around this. This is just one person's story. Again, so many people have died and disappeared, and their stories may never be told. But this is one person's story.
We want to warn you the video is disturbing to see. We're not going to show you the actual moment this person was killed, but we will show you the moments before and the immediate moments afterward.
Nic Robertson reports.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It is 2: 28 in the afternoon January 28. This man is walking to his death. The video went viral, but we wanted to know more. Who was he and who recorded his last moments? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were like, what the hell is he doing? He shouldn't be doing this, because the situation doesn't look that good.
ROBERTSON: Speaking out for the first time, two young women who videoed the killing. They're afraid to be identified.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did nothing. He was -- he had nothing. He was like, I have nothing in my hands.
ROBERTSON (on camera): He had nothing in his hands?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And he was doing that in the video.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even he didn't have stones or something like the other protesters. So, it was not a -- he was not a threat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is when they started shooting the tear...
ROBERTSON: Ah, the tear gas.
(voice-over): They show me photographs they took from the same balcony.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see here an injured man.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were like putting him on a lowering -- or on a truck to take him to hospital.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): In the hour before the man is shot, the streets around their building become a battleground, rock-throwing protesters facing off with police.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These were the police.
ROBERTSON (on camera): And here you can -- we have got riot shields, batons here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's here throwing the rocks that the protesters are throwing at...
ROBERTSON: Yes, as he is bending -- the policeman here is bending down to pick up a rock.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROBERTSON: And that's a policeman with a tear gas...
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The situation deteriorates. Police arrive with rifles.
(on camera): No, that's a proper gun.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I think it's a proper gun.
ROBERTSON: It is a proper gun, yes, a rifle. And he's pointing it at the protesters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Not long after, the man begins his walk up the street.
(on camera): What it appears on the videotape is that he's standing on one corner, and the gunmen are literally just across the road.
Is that what -- that's what...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROBERTSON: So they were just, what, a few yards away from him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, not that far, a few yards.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They -- the man shot him first, but it didn't get through -- through him. But the second one, I think he -- he zoomed in his face because he was like standing like that. And...
ROBERTSON: So the man who shot him took very careful aim?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes. I'm sure.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): When we go to the same street corner today, it's still tense, so we use a tiny camera.
(on camera): This is where the man was standing when he was shot. The gunman was just across...
(voice-over): Our hidden camera breaks up as I count the paces across the road.
(on camera): Seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, oh, about 12 paces away, about 12 yards away. He had a clear line of sight, an unobstructed view of his target just over there.
(voice-over): What the women's cell phone camera doesn't show so well is the crowd cheering him on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The protesters got encouraged, because he was standing right there, and they didn't do anything, the -- the police. So, they were encouraged. So, they were about to go there to him and protest. And that's why they shot him.
ROBERTSON: They tell me they hold President Mubarak and the police responsible. They want justice for the man whose name they still don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel sympathy to him, his family. I don't know. I just feel like I need to get back his rights. That's it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like for his rights to get back. For him and his family, you know? He deserves it. He did nothing for it. It's so unfair.
ROBERTSON: The neighbor videoed the body being carried away by other protesters. In the chaos, no record of where he went.
COOPER: And this occurred in Alexandria.
Nic, for our viewers who are watching who don't understand the power that secret police in Egypt have, just explain a little bit about who these people are. I know there were uniformed police in that picture. But secret police are the most feared in Egypt. And, I mean, they can -- they don't show I.D. They can just take you and people disappear, and that still happens.
ROBERTSON: And we found symptoms of it today, when we went into that apartment to visit those two young ladies. There were people coming up and asking our driver who were we, where we were going, and they just hang around on the street corners and they oversee everything that goes on.
There are so many of them, that they're the eyes and ears for the regime. It knows what's going on almost at any place at any given time, because there's so many, and then they call other people in and then you get trouble. And that was the experience that we had on the street corner this morning visiting those young women, and that's the experience that Egyptians have all day every day, Anderson.
COOPER: So someone can be shot dead on the streets in Alexandria in this case or in Cairo or elsewhere in Egypt and -- or they can be taken by the secret police and simply disappear?
ROBERTSON: And the family will have little recourse to getting them out. It can take days, weeks, sometimes even longer. People have been beaten in there. People indeed have even -- have been killed as well.
And when they have been released, their cases of abuse have been documented and highlighted by international humanitarian organizations and by journalists. In fact, some of those beaten and injured in the past have been journalists. But it hasn't made a dent on the regime's attitude. They continue to operate this way. Intimidation is the easiest way to keep the population down. It's been working for them until now -- Anderson.
COOPER: And no change in that. Vice President Suleiman had talked, said he saw no reason to lift the emergency powers that have been in place since Hosni Mubarak took power 30 years ago, emergency powers that allow secret police to do virtually whatever they want.
Nic Robertson reporting from Alexandria, continue to stay safe.
Coming up next, the politics of protest in Egypt and the role the United States is playing -- what the White House is now saying about the situation and how that message has been changing over the last several days.
And later, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, getting ready to command a space shuttle mission. We have details about why he decided to go ahead with the mission.
COOPER: Welcome back to continuing coverage of what is happening in Cairo.
And if you missed the top of the program, Dr. Ajami said something very important from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He said this may be the most dangerous time for the anti-Mubarak protesters who have paid for that square, for Liberation Square, paid for it with their blood and the blood of their colleagues and friends and are holding onto it tonight at this hour.
But the fear that they have is that the world is going to stop paying attention, as so many reporters are leaving, myself included, and that people are just going to forget about what's going on there.
But this is an extraordinarily dangerous time.
Today the Obama administration called on Egypt's government to be more inclusive in its negotiations with opposition groups. At the top of the program, we told you how Mohammed ElBaradei met with young members of the opposition movement, nine of them. They were arrested right after he met -- after he met them.
The State Department said the talks are not broad-based enough and that people it defines as major figures in society need to be invited to the table. ElBaradei wasn't invited; nor were others.
As we've been talking about, the Egyptian regime continues to say one thing publicly but do another thing publicly. Secret police are still there. They have the power. There's no change on that in sight. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that while monumental changes have already occurred in Egypt, more action needs to be taken by the government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Egyptian people will evaluate where we are -- where we are in terms of the steps that are being taken in order to see the words that are spoken about meaningful change actually result in some concrete actions. I think that's what people are looking for. Words are not enough. It's -- it is actions toward a meaningful change that the Egyptian people are most looking for. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And again, it bears repeating. As we said at the top of this program, there have been a lot of words from the Egyptian government. A lot of them have been lies based on their actions.
There was some confusion over the weekend about when the administration wants President Mubarak to actually step aside. The confusion came from Frank Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt who last week delivered a message from Obama to Mubarak. On Saturday, Wisner said that Mubarak, quote, "must stay in office, at least for now, in order to help bring about a smooth transition.
The administration quickly backed away from that statement, saying that Wisner was speaking for himself. Robert Gibbs said today that the Egyptian people will decide when Mubarak goes.
David Gergen is a CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser to Republican and Democratic presidents. And Jill Dougherty is CNN's foreign affairs correspondent.
David, what do you make of the Obama administration's policy right now? There has been a lot of back and forth on it.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, at first they were very surprised and, I think, they were wobbly. They weren't quite sure how to handle this.
And then they seemed to move, after Mubarak said, "Look, I'm not going to be standing for re-election," they seemed to issue a statement that supported the demonstrators. On its face, I thought it was an ambiguous statement, but it was interpreted by the White House, accepted by the demonstrators as a strong pro-demonstrator statement.
And then, of course, the Egyptian government got angry. And they got a lot of messages from other nations like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, saying, "Wait a minute. Don't walk away from Mubarak so fast." And in the last few days, they have been much more -- instead of emphasizing speed, they've been emphasizing an orderly transition.
Now, Anderson, all of us are glad you're back, and I'm really glad you're keeping attention on this. And after watching your show tonight, I think anybody would be naturally sort of, wait a minute, isn't this administration, isn't the Obama administration being way too cautious in light of all this lying, this repression, this brutality? Why aren't they on the rooftops denouncing and demanding Mubarak go right away, this brutal regime?
And I would just urge a little caution on that point. First of all, you know, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton I think have strong credentials as caring about human rights. They're as horrified by what you've been reporting tonight as you are and all the rest of us are.
And yet they get a lot of other information about what might happen, and they're taking this I think with -- their caution in this, I think, with -- I think their caution in this, their wariness, is -- they deserve the benefit of the doubt in my view right now, Because they're dealing with a situation that is quite volatile. It could go a lot of different ways.
So I would just urge that even though this is horrifying, they deserve some benefit of the doubt for the next few days.
COOPER: Well, clearly, Jill, American interests are not necessarily the same as the interests of the Egyptian people. America has national security interests that may not be in sync. It sounded like the State Department took a more critical tone on the opposition negotiations with the regime today. Didn't they?
DOUGHERTY: Basically, they're critical of Vice President Suleiman, saying that this is -- these talks are going, and they've been saying that's a good idea. That's wonderful. Keep going. But today, it was anew tone with P.J. Crowley said they're not inclusive enough. There are some people who should be included in that.
And he actually said that the opposition should test the government for seriousness, is it serious enough? And that they were going to be watching this.
I think, Anderson, there's one fear that they have here. In a repressive regime, when it begins to fall, there are still ways that people can game the system. And there is a lot at stake. There are a lot of people with huge amounts of money and huge amounts of power. And so they can talk a good game, but are they actually going to do something? That's the worry about it in this period where the opposition hasn't really coalesced.
DOUGHERTY: So that's one of the dangers.
COOPER: And obviously, big concerns of a group like the Muslim Brotherhood, which has organized and has an organization on the ground, even though it's been outlawed, is in a more advanced state of organization than -- they're really aren't other democratic institutions, and therefore, in a vacuum they might be able to rise. And that is obviously a concern to a lot of folks.
But it's also interesting? Some of the opposition figures like ElBaradei, even though, you know, they may personally not like Omar Suleiman or fear his involvement, even they are saying he needs to have a role in the government. He should be one of three people leading the country. There should be a military role, as well.
So even opposition figures are saying, "Look, the military has to be involved here, and members of the former regime likely have to be involved, as well, in any kind of transition."
GERGEN: ElBaradei, I think, Mr. ElBaradei I admire him for what he did with the International Atomic Emergency Agency. And I think he's -- I think he's right about that. I do hope the time comes, Anderson, when he can sit down with Suleiman. There was -- there have been reports out that the government tried to get him to come in and talk, and he said, "I'm not talking until Mubarak goes." And I do think the opposition has to be willing to sit down and talk, too, even as the United States puts enormous pressure on the government behind the scenes to call off this repression and respect human rights.
I think they need to be very tough about that. But I would just urge you that, in their public statements, I think they ought to be fairly cautious and quiet and not, you know. We better have an a reaffirmation ultimately that this is going to be a democratic and free regime. How we get there is extraordinarily difficult.
COOPER: Yes. David Gergen, Jill Dougherty, I appreciate both your perspectives. Tonight we're following some other stories. Isha Sesay has the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, protests today outside a hearing in Arizona on controversial legislation aimed at illegal immigrants. Two separate bills would deny U.S. citizenship to children born to parents who are in this country illegally. Supporters say their ultimate goal is to challenge the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born on American soil. They want the Supreme Court to reexamine that amendment.
In London today, an extradition hearing was held for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Sweden wants to question him about sexual abuse allegations. But Assange's lawyers are arguing that Sweden could turn him over to the United States, where he could face possible espionage charges and the risk of execution for leaking thousands of U.S. government documents.
Astronaut Mark Kelly resumed training at NASA today, preparing to command the Shuttle Endeavor's April flight. He decided to go forward with the mission because his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and seriously wounded in Tucson, is making substantial progress in her recovery. Kelly tweeted this training photo today, and he deliberately posted it upside down.
And Anderson, if you watched the Super Bowl last night, you are part of history. Nielsen research says 111 million viewers tuned in, making it the most watched television program ever in the U.S. The old record holder was last year's Super Bowl game. A lot of people to watch the Black Eyed Peas and Christina Aguilera, and very quickly forget those performances.
COOPER: Yes, I heard -- I didn't actually watch that. I have a headache, so I haven't been watching stuff. But Isha, we'll check in with you momentarily.
Just ahead, we're going to talk to one of the young protestors in Cairo's Liberation Square. You may recognize him. He's an actor who was in the acclaimed movie "The Kite Runner."
Also, we'll update the case of two American hikers detained in Iran for 18 months, charged with espionage. The trial is now underway.
COOPER: I want to introduce you to one of the protestors who have been set up in Liberation Square for several days. His name is Khalid Abdalla. He's an actor of Egyptian heritage. He starred in the critically acclaimed movie, "The Kite Runner" in 2007. Take a look.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: We should go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: I have to look at one more thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: Better to forget.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: I don't want to forget any more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Abdalla has been making a movie in Cairo for the last few years. He's been in the middle of the protests since the end of January. He says he's seen it all in Liberation Square, including a battle -- the battle on Wednesday. But that it's important for him to continue to be there. I spoke to him a short time ago via Skype.
COOPER: Khalid, let me start by asking how are you and how are the other protesters holding up?
KHALID ABDALLA, PROTESTOR: I'm well. And I think the process is holding up very well. The last couple of days, really, people have managed, I think, on both sides to kind of catch their breath.
And the movement certainly has lots of strength in it. And something very interesting that's been happening over the last couple days, is that people from outside the square, who have never been before and some of whom have been moved by Hosni Mubarak's speech, have now started to come to the square for the first time.
COOPER: Since I've been back, I've had people ask me, why -- you know, they proved their point. Why don't they leave the square? And I've tried to explain, and I'd like you to talk to this a little more, if you think this is true. The protesters I talked to before I left were very concerned, literally for their lives if they left that square. Yes, they were under attack while they were in the square. But their concern was, if they leave the square and world attention goes away, that the secret police, the intelligence apparatus is still in place, still taking people, and could pick them off one by one when they return to their homes.
ABDALLA: Yes, I know, absolutely. Tahrir is the symbol of the -- of this movement, of this revolution, and people feel that keeping it is extremely important.
They're also aware, exactly as you say, that if they leave without their demands being met, there is a very high chance of their being -- of their being taken by the secret police, of their being, you know, a whole series of -- of their being a period of revenge.
COOPER: Also, the vice president now of the country, first vice president that Mubarak has had, has not lifted the state of emergency that has been in effect for the entire time that Mubarak has been in office. And the vice president himself was head of the secret -- of the intelligence division. So...
ABDALLA: Yes, I mean -- there's no doubt about it. He's personally responsible. Him and the prime minister are personally responsible for what happened last Wednesday.
I mean, it's a complete joke really, that while they were saying that they're interested in, you know, changing the country and doing all of those things, they were preparing -- I mean, almost as the speeches were being spoken, they were preparing to round people up, to attack them and kill them. And indeed I saw some of those people killed myself. I mean, I saw a guy who took a bullet to his head, had his brain seeping through his forehead.
The people in the square will not forget what has happened, because it will be a disaster for this country if Hosni Mubarak was removed and someone just came in his place but the police state and all of the tools of the state remained as they were.
COOPER: Besides the fact that they have tortured and continued to -- and arrested people without any justification, I think what's important to call this what it is. These people are lying. These people in power in Egypt are lying.
On the one hand they're saying the journalists are welcome. On the other hand they're rounding them up. They're beating them. They're -- they're holding them.
On the one hand, they're saying, "We're not controlling these mobs that are attacking peaceful demonstrators." On the other hand, as soon as they want it to stop, it stops. They're saying, "Well, we didn't -- what can we do to stop these attacks?" As soon as they wanted to, they sent in military who put up some barbed wire. And lo and behold, it all stopped. So the idea that they weren't in control of this and calling the shots, to me just seems blatantly a lie. ABDALLA: It's a complete lie. I mean, and one of the advances, one of the good things that's coming out of the length of time people that are being -- that people are staying in Medina Tahrir, is that those lies are having time to be revealed while we're still there, which means our popular movement can grow.
I mean, some of the lies reached the level of grotesquerie. I mean, one of the -- I mean, this one's almost a joke. You know, in one of the papers for the republic, they even got the -- where they had a picture of Medina Tahrir in their paper, and underneath it, wrote that the people in the square were protesters supporting Mubarak. I mean, it's to the point of -- it's to the point of absolute ridiculousness.
COOPER: Khalid, you're a famous actor in Egypt. You've been in movies that have been seen around the world. You have a vested interest in, frankly, maintaining the order. You have a good career; you have a good life. You're able to travel.
Do you worry about talking like you have been about being in with the protesters? Do you worry that, as the world attention moves on somewhere else and these people stay in power, whether or not Mubarak's in front of the cameras or not, that you could be targeted?
ABDALLA: Well, I -- I don't care. I mean, I know why I'm here, and I know why I want to be here. And I mean, I come from -- I come from three generations that have been fighting for social reform and fiscal freedoms in this country. So I mean, I feel to a certain extent, there's a responsibility to my family to be here.
I also know that I'm here in a just cause. And here we have the discourse of democracy, of freedom, of social justice, of political reform being changed in the Middle East for all of us, and I'm extremely proud to be here for those reasons.
COOPER: Khalid Abdalla, I appreciate you being with us. Stay safe, and we'll check back in with you.
ABDALLA: Thank you very much.
COOPER: When we come back, the trials of two American hikers jailed in Iran. The trial has begun. It's now on hold. We're going to have the latest details from the courtroom and when it's going to continue.
Also tonight, something to make you smile, at least at the end of this very difficult day. An airline's impromptu in-flight entertainment lands on tonight's "RidicuList." We'll tell you why ahead.
COOPER: Let's check in with Isha for another "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha. SESAY: Anderson, the families of two American hikers charged with espionage in Iran said today both men were able to make lengthy statements about their innocence on day one of their trial. Yesterday's proceedings were closed to the press and public. The trial is expected to resume in the next few weeks.
A major makeover for AOL, which is buying "the Huffington Post" for $315 million, 300 million of it in cash, about half of AOL's total cash on hand.
And meet Jonathan Patrick Rozzi, who weighed in at -- brace yourselves -- 13 pounds 2 ounces when he came into the world four days ago. His mom delivered him -- and I hesitate to say this out loud -- naturally...
SESAY: ... after just four hours of labor and ten minutes of pushing.
SESAY: Give that woman a medal. Give her chocolate. Give her something apart from just a 13-pound baby.
COOPER: Wow! Well, congratulations. We're glad everybody is healthy and doing OK.
Wanted time for tonight's "RidicuList" to give you something to smile about at the end of this very difficult today. Tonight, we're adding a new name, Grammy-nominated rapper B.O.B.
Now, I'm no expert on B.O.B.'s oeuvre, and I have nothing against him personally. I'm sure he's very talented. The reason we're putting him on "The RidicuList" tonight is because of his latest choice of venue, a Delta flight to Los Angeles. He actually made a flight attendant introduce him, took over the intercom. He did an impromptu performance for the captive audience in the cabin.
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(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: WTF, B.O.B.
Now, I'm all for in-flight entertainment as long as -- here's the key -- it's optional. See, right now, for instance, Delta is showing "The Bounty Hunter" on some flights, and if you want, you can pay for the headphones and you can watch the movie. Although frankly, I don't recommend it.
Again, "The Bounty Hunter" is optional. Key point: Jennifer Aniston -- Jennifer Aniston, whom I love, isn't actually walking up the aisle, waking people up to shout romantic comedy in their faces. What's even worse is not just professional rappers who love to hear themselves these days on planes. There's also professional flight attendants like this guy from Southwest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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COOPER: My head is pounding.
Now, I know it's sort of cute, maybe for a second. You notice how everyone now on a plane cannot resist the intercom? They sing; they rhyme; they tell jokes; they have cutesy stories. I don't want to hear it. I'm paying to get from point A to point B. And the way I see it is, I'm paying for quiet.
I love pilots and respect them enormously. But I want them to fly the plane. I don't need to hear every detail about every mile of the route and the wind speed and the air temperature of Des Moines. I don't drone on and on about the difficulties of my job to them. I don't go to the cockpit and tell them about how difficult my day was or how difficult my next few hours are going to be. I wish they wouldn't either, unless, of course, there are snakes on the plane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR: Enough is enough. I have had it with these (EXPLETIVE DELETED) snakes on this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) plane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: If there are snakes on the plane, you can totally wake me up, pilot. Let's cool it with the nonstop chatter, though.
And B.O.B., I'm sending out the S.O.S. for unnecessary rapping at 30,000 feet. You are hereby cleared for landing on tonight's "RidicuList."
Serious stuff ahead, starting with the very latest from Cairo, where protestors still occupying Liberation Square. And they say the danger for them is growing.