Return to Transcripts main page


Republican Presidential Race Heating Up; Syria's Lies

Aired February 21, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a new video from inside Syria, video that shows you exactly what the Syrian regime is lying about when they say they only are attacking armed gangs and terrorists.

Now, there's a lot of news that happened in Syria today. More than 100 people died, say activists. But this video, this one video simply shows you what happened to one child.

Now, if it's too much for you to look at, you don't have to look at the video. You can simply listen to the sound.

The boy's name is Adnan (ph). He's 2 years old and he and his father were hit by shrapnel in their apartment. The video was taken in a makeshift hospital nearby.

Reporter Marie Colvin was there. We'll talk to her in a moment. That's Adnan's grandmother. She was working in the makeshift hospital, shocked to suddenly see her grandchild.

"My dear grandchild," she's saying, "where were you? My beloved, oh dear God."

Adnan is badly wounded in the side of his chest. You can see him still struggling to breathe. Now, we're not going to show you the actual wounds on his body. They are open holes. His lips are pale from lack of oxygen. The medic you see tries CPR but at some point it becomes clear nothing can be done to save this little boy's life.

Now in a real hospital, it might be different. But not here, though, not in the city of Homs. All anyone can do is wait for this little boy to die.

Afterwards, all his father can do is hold his dead child. Drowned out by the sound of nearby shelling, the father is saying, "my baby, I will avenge your death." He's asking, "What did you do? Who did you hurt? What did this little one do?"

Now we debated whether or not to show you this video. We admit, it is sickening to watch and there's no denying that. Yet that is just what the Assad regime is doing, flat-out denying it, denying it that artillery crews are pounding civilian neighborhoods in that city and leveling apartment building until the improvised hospitals and makeshift morgues fill up with men and women and children like that little boy, Adnan, which is why we are showing you his death tonight and telling his story tonight so that the people who erased his life cannot also erase the truth. As we said, a reporter was in the room when the child died. Marie Colvin of the "Sunday Times of London" who joins us now from Homs.

I mean, Marie, to be in that room, this young baby passing, we've seen many children killed in this conflict, but just -- I mean, to be there, what was that like?

MARIE COLVIN, "THE SUNDAY TIMES": Well, it's a very chaotic room. But the baby's death was just heartbreaking, possibly because he was so quiet.

One of the first shocks, of course, was that the grandmother had been helping, completely coincidentally helping in the emergency room and just started shouting, that's my grandson. Where did you find him? And then the doctor said there's nothing we could do. And we just watched this little boy, you know, his little tummy, heaving and heaving as he tried to breathe.

It was horrific. Just -- I mean, my heart broke.

COOPER: Do we know how the child died? How he was wounded?

COLVIN: We know -- there's been constant shelling in the city. So, Anderson, I have to say, it's just one of many stories. His house was hit by a shell. He -- another member of his family -- it's chaos here. So another member of his family arrived later but after he had died. And said the house had been -- the second floor had been hit. This little boy obviously was just one piece of shrapnel that caught him right in the chest.

COOPER: You know there are some who are going to see those images and say we shouldn't show those images, that it's too much. And you know we discuss this all the time. Why is it important, do you think, to see these images? Why is it important for you to be there?

Right now you may be one of the only Western journalists in Homs. Our team has just left.

COLVIN: Yes. I mean, I had a discussion with your people, Anderson. I feel very strongly that they should be shown. Something like that, I think, is actually stronger for an audience -- you know, for someone who is not here, for an audience for which the conflict, any conflict is very far away. But that's the reality. These are 28,000 civilians, men, women and children, hiding, being shelled defenseless.

That little baby is just one of -- one of two children who died today, one of children being injured every day. That baby probably will move more people to think, what is going on and why is no one stopping this murder in Homs that is happening every day?

COOPER: The regime in Syria claims that they're not hitting civilians, that there is no armed conflict, that there is no war inside Syria, that they're basically just going after terrorist gangs.

COLVIN: Every civilian house on this street has been hit. We're talking about -- this is a very kind of poor popular neighborhood. The top floor of the building I'm in has been hit, in fact, totally destroyed. There are no military targets here. There is the Free Syrian Army. Heavily outnumbered and out-gunned. They have only Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades.

But they don't have a base. There are more young men being killed. And you see a lot of teenaged young men, but they're going out to try to just help get the wounded to some kind of medical treatment. So there -- it's just -- it's a complete and utter lie that they're only going after terrorists.

There are rockets, shells -- tank shells, anti-aircraft being fired in parallel lines into the city. The Syrian army is basically shelling the city of cold, starving civilians.

COOPER: Thank you for using the word "lie." And I think a lot of people would want to thank you because it's a word we'd often hear, it's not often used, but it's the truth in this case. I mean, the Syrian regime, their representatives have continued to lie. they have lied on this program to us directly.

Marie, I mean, you have covered a lot of conflicts over a long time. How does this compare?

COLVIN: This is the worst, Anderson, for many reasons. The last one -- I mean, I think the last time we talked when I was in Misrata. It's partly personal safety, I guess, there's nowhere to run. The Syrian army is holding the perimeter. And there's just far more ordinance being poured into this city and no way of predicting where it's going to land.

Plus, there's a lot of snipers on the high building surrounding the Baba Amr neighborhood. You can sort of figure out where a sniper is but you can't figure out where -- you know, where a shell is going to land. And just the terror of the people and, you know, the helplessness of these families hiding on the first floor. Just -- all they can do is hope it doesn't hit them. That's very, very difficult to watch.

COOPER: And in terms of supplies, medicine, food?

COLVIN: Running low. Medicine, there is -- there's essentially almost none. The only painkillers at the hospital are paracetamol and ibuprofen, you know, just kind of normal painkillers we would use for a cold or something or headache. There's operations going on with just that as anesthetics because the hospitals here -- anyone who's shot or has a shrapnel wound is arrested or disappeared so there's fears they're being killed. Anyone badly wounded is smuggled across to Lebanon.

There's -- I mean, they don't even have rubber gloves. The rubber gloves that the doctors -- they're not even doctors, that the medical staff is wearing, the rubber gloves are ripped. One doctor, one dentist and a vet treating the wounded. I mean, that's the kind of medical care there is.

COOPER: Marie Colvin, I know it's impossible to stay safe, but please try. Thank you for talking to us.

COLVIN: Thanks very much, Anderson.

COOPER: I want to bring in Professor Fouad Ajami, senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He just returned last night from Turkey where he met with Syrian opposition leaders there.

You know, you see this video and, you know, every day we say 100 people died today and 30 people died today, and you become kind of numb to it, it just sounds like numbers. Something like this shows you the reality of life for people in Homs right now.

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, that's exactly right. And the numbness is a friend of the dictator, it's a friend of the criminal, it's a friend of these killer regimes.

And this really has become -- I mean, we've watched Homs and you've done Homs with justice. This is now basically Sarajevo on the Orontes River. We are watching the death of a city.

And the world is standing by and as you said, I was in Turkey spending sometime with these exiled Syrian leaders. I mean, the best of the best including, actually, I have to say, the secretary general of the Muslim Brothers of Syria, and a number of doctors, a number of academics and so on. And they are watching with puzzlement and wonder at the indifference of the world. They wonder about Washington, they wonder about President Obama. They wonder about the futility of diplomacy.

And so this coming Friday, the so-called Friends of Syria, this group of nations that are trying to figure out what to do, are meeting in Tunis, they're meeting in Tunisia. But the Friends of Syria are not doing much. But the friends of the Syrian regime are doing a lot.


AJAMI: Hezbollah, Iran, Russia. They seem more committed but the democracies seem very passive.

COOPER: I mean, I have worked in Sarajevo during the war there in the early '90s. And I mean, for years, people there would come up to you on the street and say -- I mean, after a while people became annoyed at reporters who are there because, saying to me, like, how many more deaths do you need to show in order for somebody to do something.

AJAMI: Well, you're so right on this. In fact, on the Sarajevo calendar, this is early. The Sarajevo calendar took 30 months for the powers of the world to come to the rescue of the Bosnians. And guess what? We discovered that really the Serb killers had no assets whatsoever. We discovered it was all a bluff. Now here in Homs, in Syria, we are really now just about closing in nearly on a year, so if we are to wait by the Sarajevo calendar, we still have some 18 more months of bloodshed.

COOPER: We've heard from some in the military in the United States who've said, , look, we don't really have a full picture of who the opposition is inside Syria, there's reports of possible al Qaeda involvement in some of these suicide attacks that we've seen lately. So the idea of arming the opposition may not be an option.

AJAMI: Well, this is the case for abdication, it's to say, we don't know really what's out there. But I will tell you what's out there, for example, one example is worth reciting. There's a sheik of a city in Syria, a very crucial city, Baniyas, which was the second scene of the rebellion in Syria. I met with him in -- on the outskirts of Istanbul. And what we get from these people is the fact that this is a rebellion of young protesters, this particular sheik, this particular cleric was actually led into the protest and into the rebellion by young people who came to him and said we are being killed, we're being slaughtered, our future is being lost. We call on you to do your duty as a man of religion.

And even the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who's been in exile for a very long time, talks about a pluralist society. But if you want to -- if you choose abdication, then you can always say, we don't know what these -- what these oppositionists are really made of. We know what they are. They're ordinary Syrians caught in this struggle against a tyrannical regime.

COOPER: But there are some who's even when they hear -- you say the Muslim Brotherhood will say, well, look, we saw that in Egypt of, you know, English speaking revolutionaries talking about democracy and then lo and behold, the Muslim Brotherhood gains power and there's a Salafist group that gains power. Syria is a very complex mix.

AJAMI: Yes. Absolutely. And in fact, when you take a look at the Syrian tragedy, the Syrian people are not helped by the examples of what happened in Iraq, by the example of what happened in Egypt, though I think it really isn't as bleak in Egypt as we like to think, by the example of what happened in Libya.

And we do have -- we do have an argument in Washington, actually, made by our president, either boots on the ground, that's the way I would describe it, or head in the sand. We either have a full scale invasion or we simply do nothing.

There's a lot we can do. The Turks are standing by. The Arabs would finance a campaign in Syria. But it requires American leadership. This is what it requires. And I think President Obama has been very clear he does not intend to do much about Syria. He may be dragged into it. He may be dragged into it. The slaughter may drag him into it, so we better choose our own timing and our own means rather than waiting for the calamities to make -- to make our decisions.

COOPER: There have been some -- Bob Baer on this program last night talked about the possibility of some sort of safe haven area in the north that Turkey would oversee because the Turkish military has the capabilities of doing something like that.

AJAMI: Absolutely. And that's why -- by the way, Anderson, that's why the Syrian regime has not been brutal in Aleppo because Aleppo is very close to Turkey and the Turks have always been invested in Aleppo culturally and economically. And the Syrian regime is keen not to offend the Turks or to bring them into the fight. The Turks could do a lot for Homs and the Kurds could -- the Turks could do enormous amount of good for the Syrians.

But they need again a green light from the United States, where we are once again in that land where we say America is the indispensable nation. If we don't do it, it won't get done.

COOPER: There are so many countries around there with different interests inside Syria and willing to send weapons inside Syria, I mean, this could become a larger more -- even complex configuration.

AJAMI: Absolutely. The borders of Syria have also been used as a kind of alibi for inaction. But I would contend that the borders of Syria, the fact that Iraq is there, the fact that Lebanon is there, the Jordan is there, the Turkey is there, that Israel is on the border, that actually makes the case for doing something drastic about Syria. We have to step in and help them less Syria become radicalized.

Believe me, the pattern is clear. We can come in early and we can rescue the Syrians. We can rescue the liberals and embolden them. We can -- we can safe-keep them or we can leave to it chaos and I think we'll have an uglier Syria and a more radical Syria.

And we will pay a price for this. And this is what strategy is all about. We can say Syria doesn't matter. But this is what our leaders owe us, they need to tell us what the consequences are. And so when you have someone like General Dempsey, our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what he does is he in fact tells Bashar, hey, we're not coming. I mean, it's a favor we don't owe the dictator. We don't need to tell him we're not coming. He's already surmised that.

COOPER: Fouad Ajami, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

AJAMI: Thank you.

COOPER: Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+, you can add us to your circles, or follow me on Twitter. We're talking about this already on Twitter right now, @AndersonCooper is the address.

Up next, we got a preview tomorrow night's CNN Republican debate, big stakes for Mitt Romney, for Rick Santorum, also Newt Gingrich. New polling tonight -- also Ron Paul. New polling tonight and new comfort for Romney. We'll talk about it with Cornell Belcher and Rich Galen.

Also tonight, how can a judge take a little girl from her adopted parents even though the parents did nothing wrong? 360 investigates a federal law that's landed a 2-year-old in the middle of a custody battle and put her in the care of a man she's never met before -- a lot of different sides to this.

We'll explore them ahead.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight less than 24 hours away from the CNN Republican debate that many are calling make-or-break. It takes place tomorrow night in Mesa, Arizona, six days before the Arizona and Michigan primaries.

Newt Gingrich is obviously trying to regain his conservative street cred and his debating mojo. Mitt Romney, who says he loves cars, has a bumpy road ahead of him in Michigan and in Arizona. A new CNN/ORC polling shows Rick Santorum, who hadn't even planned to contesting the state, now within four points of Governor Romney.

Let's talk about it with Democratic strategist and Obama 2012 pollster Cornell Belcher. Also GOP strategist, Rich Galen.

Cornell, you look at the Arizona poll today, Romney has got a four-point edge. That's a statistical tie with Santorum. Does that surprise you?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, it doesn't surprise me because I think you're seeing a pattern here develop. And actually, when you get inside the CNN/"TIME"/ORC poll, it actually sort of explains to some of our viewers, you know, what's going on at the micro-political level. I think sometimes our viewers see what's happening in politics and they scratch their head and say, why are they doing that? What's going on?

But when you look at sort of internally, the born-again -- sort of the religious gap here with the born-agains breaking 9.4 for Santorum. However, Romney running away with the non-born-agains and the problem for Santorum is that he's really splitting the born again vote right now with Newt Gingrich getting 21 percent of the born again vote so he's really got to drive that very religious vote that you see.

So a lot of times when we see this, sort of why is Rick Santorum moving so hard on religion right now, I think from a micro-political standpoint, you understand that when you get inside the numbers, that he has to coalesce and own this very born again vote. Because if he does that, it becomes very problematic for Mitt Romney.

COOPER: Rich, it does seem in Michigan, his numbers -- Romney is kind of starting to rise again, that maybe Santorum has sort of plateaued. But in Arizona, I mean, he wasn't even planning contesting that state.

RICH GALEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as Cornell was just saying, when you look at what we call the cross-tabs, the other place, Cornell, where there's a fairly dramatic gap and one of the few in this poll -- they're very close in almost every cross-tab -- is in the non -- now, you talked about the non-born-again.

But the Tea Party neutral or opposed Republicans, Romney has a very low -- about a 15- point lead there, so, again, it's not just that Santorum needs to -- needs to swing to his base, he needs to get them to swing back to him, too.

In Michigan, Anderson, this -- Santorum has gone from about plus 12 or 15 to the RealClearPolitics average for the two polls that have been released in the -- four polls in the last 72 hours is about 1. 5 percentage points. So these things are very close. But as we all know, you don't have to win an election a week ahead of the election, you've got to win it on Election Day.

COOPER: Cornell, in terms of President Obama's fund-raising goes, his own super PAC raised -- or the super PAC that supports him raised less than $59,000 last month. That was before he sort of reversed himself and said, you know -- said it was going to send out surrogates to go and help raise money for the super PAC. $50,000 of that was from a single donor. How big a cause for concern is that?


BELCHER: Well, you know, I think -- I talk about on this show, I think sort of the decision to allow this sort of unfiltered money in the system is dangerous to democracy, where you have these large donors can just write big checks. Clearly Democrats are behind here because we had a distaste for this. But at the same time, we realize that we cannot unilaterally disarm and allow Republicans to own this and own all the money. I think in the end the Republicans are raising more money and those super PACs was quite frankly, you know, Rich and his friends are getting their arms twisted, you know, probably almost daily from fund-raisers there because their -- because their contest is so contested right now.

So to a certain extent, Democrats haven't started to do that yet because we haven't had to do that. I have got a feeling that we're going to be able to raise money through our super PACs. But more importantly when I look at sort of the average donation to the Obama campaign and look at sort of the success the Obama campaign is having fund-raising in average donations, the Obama campaign is, what, less than 60 bucks. It's a nice contrast when you see the sort of that small donor average American donation to the campaign vs., you know, these $5 million checks that are being written to these super PACs which I think are just ridiculous.

COOPER: Rich --

GALEN: Yes, before --

COOPER: Rich, do you have any doubt that the Kraken is about to be released and some $5 million checks are going to be written for the Democrats?


I was just going to say, before Republicans do the Ren and Stimpy dance of joy, they ought to look at the fact that the -- that the super PACs -- the Obama's campaign did not -- did not ask for or want super PAC money until about three or four weeks ago so they haven't really ramped up to that yet. But there'll be people. The Hollywood crowd is always there. You know they're good for whatever, however how many millions they'll write for. And frankly, it's easy for them -- easier for them as it is for other big donors to write one single check and get it out of the way than it is to have to bundle a bunch of $2500 checks from all their friends.

COOPER: Are you guys as interested in this debate tomorrow night as I am? I think it's going to be fascinating.



BELCHER: I'm on CNN where I'm supposed to say yes.

COOPER: Well, you're not? You're done with debates? You're tired of them?

BELCHER: Actually I think -- I think sort of -- people have sort of made their decisions about -- with all these debates. I think the danger is for -- I think Santorum can sort of coalesce that religious right base. He has that sort of gain. You know, Romney has to try to again sort of get in the way of him coalescing that debate -- in the debate.

I think the interesting about the base is that Gingrich has sort of fallen back and it will be interesting, if I'm at the Gingrich camp, I'm saying to my candidate, you've got to get back in this and you've got to sort of hit a home run.

So to me, in this debate, the pressure isn't so much on Santorum and Romney as it is on Newt because he's got to have a big play to get back in this thing.

COOPER: Right. And Santorum certainly wants nothing more than to keep Gingrich out of this thing.

We've got to leave it there. We're tied in time.

Rich Galen, I appreciate you being on. Cornell Belcher as well.

A reminder, watch tomorrow night's big debate, moderated by John King, 8:00 Eastern time, followed by a special edition of 360 right after the debate.

Coming up tonight, "Crime & Punishment": A man accused of killing his wife just 11 days after he married her, is he a honeymoon killer or was it a tragic scuba diving accident? The trial started in Alabama -- details coming up.

And Dominique Strauss-Kahn, remember him? He's being held for questioning about an alleged prostitution ring in France -- details ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight: A man is on trial in Alabama accused of killing his new bride on their honeymoon. Now trial has been a long time coming.

Tina Watson drowned in 2003 while scuba diving with her husband, Gabe, just 11 days after they got married. Now in the nine years since then, prosecutors say her husband has changed his story several times about exactly what happened under water.

Gary Tuchman reports.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a horrifying scene. In the circle, this picture shows Tina Watson, an Alabama newlywed who drowned while scuba diving on her honeymoon near Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Her husband, Gabe Watson, is accused of killing her for $210,000 in insurance money. He's on trial now in Alabama.

Here's the opinion of the first prosecution witness, an Australian police detective.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were grounds to investigate on a criminal basis as opposed to an accidental death.

TUCHMAN: It happened in 2003. Gabe Watson, who is now remarried, is accused of turning off his first wife's air supply under water and then bear-hugging her to make sure she died.

Taking the stand, Tina Watson's maid of honor.

AMANDA PHILLIPS, FRIEND OF TINA WATSON: She was my absolute best friend in the world. She was probably -- she was like a sibling to me.

TUCHMAN: Amanda Phillips says Gabe Watson said wildly inappropriate things to her while viewing Tina Watson's body at the funeral.

PHILLIPS: I said, "She looks very pretty in that outfit."

And he said, "Well, at least her breasts are perky."

TUCHMAN: Amanda Phillips paraphrased something she says Gabe Watson said to her about Tina and insurance.

PHILLIPS: For $10 more, Tina could have that a $1 million life insurance policy. And it's a good thing we didn't do that, because otherwise, I'd be in Australia in an Australian jail right now on involuntary manslaughter charges.

TUCHMAN: As it turns out, Gabe Watson did go to jail after pleading guilty to negligent manslaughter in Australia, serving 18 months after originally being charged with murder.

He's always claimed it was an accident but acknowledges he didn't do enough to save his wife. But when he came back to the U.S. and a whole different legal system, he faced this murder charge, which could put him in prison for life.

Tommy Thomas is Tina's father.

TOMMY THOMAS, TINA'S FATHER: The one thing that we're focused on is justice by her and for her. And until that day comes, until he actually faces the evidence for the first time in a criminal trial before a jury, there could be no rest or no peace for anyone in our family.

TUCHMAN: His ex-son-in-law is now before that jury. And a police statement Watson made in Australia was played to the jurors with the murder defendant listening.

GABE WATSON, ON TRIAL FOR WIFE'S MURDER: Going through my heart, but I just remember thinking I can chase her down to the bottom, get down to the bottom and either dump her weights, let her -- dump everything, let her rocket to the top, 'cause at that point I knew something's going on.

TUCHMAN: Gabe Watson says he wanted to seek help at the top of the water, that his wife had too much weight in her dive gear. But a dive master who was on the same trip doesn't buy Gabe Watson's explanation.

KEN SNYDER, DIVE MASTER: It wasn't a plausible story. It didn't make sense. Bells were going off in my head.

TUCHMAN: The defense attorney asked another man in the scuba outing a question regarding diver two, who was Gabe Watson, and diver one, Tina Watson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever see diver two and diver -- approach diver one and turn her air off?


TUCHMAN: Gabe Watson's defense teams hopes that creates reasonable doubt about the guilt of a man already convicted once in connection with the tragic death of his wife.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: That trial's been a long time coming. We'll continue to follow it.

Just ahead tonight, a federal law designed to preserve Native American families is at the center of a very emotional legal battle over a 2-year-old girl too young to know why her life has suddenly been turned upside down. We're going to have that story ahead. But first, let's check in with Susan Hendricks. She's got a "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.


Iran is warning that it will strike perceived enemies before they attack if it feels its national interests are threatened. The combative talk comes less than a week after Iran's president boasted about nuclear advances by Iranian scientists. A team of United Nations nuclear inspectors has just left Iran after being barred from visiting a key atomic site.

French police investigating an alleged prostitution ring that may have been operating out of two French hotels are holding Dominique Strauss-Kahn to question him again tonight. The former chief of the International Monetary Fund has not been arrested or charged in the case.

And Russian scientists said they have grown a flowering plant from material extracted from seeds buried under the Siberian permafrost 30,000 years ago.

And check this out: first, it was President Obama singing a little Al Green. Now he's trading verses with B.B. King.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (singing): Come on. Baby, don't you want to go.

B.B. KING, MUSICIAN (singing): Ain't no place like sweet home Chicago


HENDRICKS: All right. He has talent. Good choice of tunes there, right? President Obama, B.B. King along with Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, the best of the best honoring the blues in the East Room of the White House in recognition of Black History Month. Pretty amazing.

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Still ahead, a heart-wrenching custody battle over a 2- year-old girl is raising questions about a federal law passed back in the '70s to preserve Native American families. That's the girl right there.

Also ahead tonight, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making big headlines at the G-20 group photo shoot. Did she miss a memo or was she being punked? Well, more on the incident ahead.


COOPER: Up close tonight, a little girl too young to understand the legal battle over her future. Now, her name is Veronica. She's 2 years old. She calls the man and woman in that picture Mommy and Daddy. She's been with them since she was born and is too young to understand why she was taken away from them this past New Year's Eve, too young to know that they had no choice, that a judge ordered them to hand her over to a man she'd never met, the man who is her biological father.

Veronica's also too young to understand the federal law that's changed her life profoundly and possibly forever. Here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Her first name is Veronica. Her last name is, well, complicated. At just 2 years old, this little girl from Charleston, South Carolina, is caught up in one of the strangest adoption cases we've ever heard.

Her story begins in 2009, when Veronica's biological parents, who weren't married, put her up for adoption.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to be an engineer when you grow up?


KAYE: That's when Matt and Melanie Capobianco entered the picture. They tried to have their own children, but in vitro fertilization failed them, so an adoption attorney connected them with Veronica's biological mom, who told them the father, Dusten Brown, a U.S. soldier from Oklahoma, wanted to waive his parental rights.

Veronica was born in September in Oklahoma, and from that moment, the Capobiancos were a part of Veronica's life.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO, FIGHTING FOR CUSTODY OF VERONICA: We were at the birth in the delivery room. Matt cut her umbilical cord. She's never not been with us.

Mommy hold you?

KAYE: The Capobiancos were thrilled to have their new baby girl. They took her straight from the hospital to their house in Charleston and were in the process of finalizing the adoption.

Four months after they brought Veronica home, Dusten Brown signed a waiver, saying he would not contest the adoption. But two weeks later, Brown decided he wanted his daughter back and filed for paternity and custody.

Jessica Munday is a friend of the Capobiancos.

JESSICA MUNDAY, FRIEND OF CAPOBIANCOS: It wasn't until this child was four months old that he decides he wants to be a part of her life, with no regard to the birth mother, her decision, the pregnancy, the family that's taking care of his child, and to just come and say, "I've changed my mind." This doesn't -- it shouldn't work that way. KAYE: South Carolina law says a father is stripped of his paternity rights if he hasn't provided pre-birth support or taken steps to be a father shortly after birth.

But in this case, state law was trumped by a little-known federal law from 1978, called the Indian Child Welfare Act. You see, Brown is a member of the Cherokee nation, which means Veronica is part Cherokee, too. So before the Capobiancos could finalize Veronica's adoption, a family court judge ruled in favor of Veronica's biological father, ordering the Capobiancos to hand her over.

(on camera) The law is designed to protect the interests of Indian children and to keep Indian children with Indian family members. Congress took action after a 1976 study showed about thirty percent of Indian children were being removed from their homes and, of those, about 90 percent of them were being placed with non-Indian families.

(voice-over) The attorney general for the Cherokee nation told us the law is working.

(on camera) One of the original authors of the Indian Child Welfare Act said that his intent with this law is not to take adoptive children away from loving homes. How would you like to respond to that?

TODD HEMBREE, CHEROKEE NATION ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's not anyone's ever intent to rip a child away from a loving home. But we want to make sure those loving homes have the opportunity to be Indian homes first. And you look at the welfare of the child and, if at all possible, we want that child to be raised in a traditional Indian family.

KAYE (voice-over): That logic is lost on Veronica's adoptive parents.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO: This law has been used unjustly, to the detriment.

MATT CAPOBIANCO, FIGHTING FOR VERONICA'S CUSTODY: The Indian Child Welfare Act is destroying families like ours.

KAYE: This past New Year's Eve, after two years with the little girl they'd hoped to call their own, Matt and Melanie Capobianco handed Veronica over to her biological father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think this is in her best interests?


KAYE (on camera): That night was the first time Veronica had met her biological father. Friends of the Capobiancos had hoped that Veronica's dad would stay in South Carolina a few days and get to know his little girl. But instead, that night he drove her here to his house in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, about 1,200 miles away from the only home she'd ever known. MATT CAPOBIANCO: I mean, she's a 2-year-old girl that got shoved in a truck and driven to Oklahoma with strangers.

KAYE (voice-over): We tried to ask Dusten Brown why he wanted his daughter back, but he didn't answer the door. And now that the Capobiancos are appealing the ruling, everyone involved is forbidden from discussing the case with the media.

Veronica's future now rests with the South Carolina Supreme Court, which is considering the Capobiancos' appeal. Until the court rules, the Capobiancos will hang onto Veronica's last words, from their only phone call with her since she left.

MELANIE CAPOBIANCO: She said, "Hi, Mommy. Hi, Daddy." She sounded really excited to hear us. And she said, "I love you, I love you" numerous times.

KAYE: One family in pieces, another trying to make itself whole.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Bartlesville, Oklahoma.


COOPER: It's a really tough case, as Randi said. South Carolina Supreme Court is reviewing the case. Disability rights attorney and children's advocate Areva Martin joins us now.

So does this come down to federal law? The Child Welfare Act preempting state law?

AREVA MARTIN, CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE: You know, Anderson, very difficult heart-wrenching story as I'm watching it.

But yes, our Constitution says that if there's a state law that is in conflict with federal law, federal law preempts it.

But that's not the end of the story here. You know, there's a real question about whether this law, the intent of the law was meant for children like Veronica.

You know, we know that this is about preserving Native-American culture and keeping Native-American children in their communities, but this child has never lived on a reservation. She's never been a part of a Native-American unit or family.

This is a child that was born to a mom who said, "I can't support her. The dad is not helping me. I don't have any other alternatives but to give this child up for adoption."

The adoptive parents go through the vetting process. You know, they adopt this child, and then she's just stripped away. I don't think that's the intent of this law.

COOPER: The fact that the biological dad didn't provide pre- birth support to the daughter, which is part of the South Carolina law, and that he signed a waiver saying he wouldn't contest the adoption, that doesn't have any effect on this case?

MARTIN: I think it's going to have a tremendous effect on the case. And I hope the South Carolina Supreme Court looks to Kansas, because the Kansas Supreme Court, in about 1982 or so, had to address a very similar case. And they found an exception to that federal law, and they said that law was intended for children who are already living on Indian reservations part of Native American families. And in those cases, no, we want those children to be adopted, if possible, by other Native Americans.

But when you have a case of a non-Native American mom, you have a child that's not lived on a reservation, that has not been a part of a Native-American culture. In Kansas, they said this law doesn't apply. And they allowed the adoptive parents to keep the child. So there's some hope for the adoptive parents in this case, I believe.

COOPER: In this case, is the law considering the best interests of the child here? Does that play a role?

MARTIN: You know, Anderson, that's always the question in these tough custody cases, you know, what is in the best interests of the child? And we can all imagine that putting this child in the car and driving her 1,200 miles away from the only family that she's known couldn't be in the best interests of the child.

So I hope the -- you know, the South Carolina Supreme Court again looks to that Kansas case, looks at the best interests of this child, and tries to fashion a remedy so that both the biological dad, to the extent now he has come forward -- we can't ignore him. He does have -- you know, obviously, based on this federal law, some role to play in this child's life.

But also look at those first two years which are critical, and look at what the adoptive parents have done to raise this child, and try to fashion a remedy so that both of these sets of parents are involved in the child's life.

COOPER: So that could be an option, some sort of middle ground where both sets get some sort of involvement?

MARTIN: Absolutely. We see that all the time. When parents split up and there's a child involved or children involved, the courts look to see, "How can we keep both of these sets of parents involved? Does it mean visitation rights? Does it mean summers in one home and, you know, winters in another place?

It's all about, you know, where is the most stable environment for this child? And I can't imagine that the court's not going to consider the loving home that was provided to this child in the first two years of her life.

COOPER: Such a tough case. Areva Martin, I appreciate it. Thanks.

MARTIN: Thanks, Anderson. Always a pleasure. COOPER: Up next, hundreds of people in Afghanistan expressing outrage outside a NATO base. We'll see what caused their anger and why NATO's commander issued an apology.

Also, Hillary Clinton's all smiles at a meeting foreign minister in New Mexico. Something's not quite right in the photograph. Let's see if you can figure out what it is. Back in a moment.


COOPER: Coming up "The RidicuList." But first, Susan Hendricks is back with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

HENDRICKS: Anderson, anger in Afghanistan. Hundreds of people gathered outside Bagram Air Base to protest the burning of Islamic religious materials including copies of the Quran. One military official said some of the materials contained extremist information, but NATO's commander said it should not have been burned.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton posed for a photo with her counterparts at the G-20 meeting of foreign ministers in Mexico. So why is everyone wearing a white shirt except Hillary Clinton? Looks like it was just a coincidence. The State Department says it wasn't aware of any specific dress code for the photo, just all smiles.

European financial officials have signed off on a second bailout plan for Greece. The rescue package is worth 130 billion euros. No funds will be released until a debt reduction agreement is in place.

And as the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaches in April, a lunch menu from the first-class dining room -- there it is -- is up for auction. It was the lunch menu on the final day of the voyage before the ship sank. The menu features grilled mutton chops and Norwegian anchovies. Reuters reports the auction could bring in more than $150,000.

COOPER: Wow. That's cool. I wonder how they -- it was rescued. I guess somebody brought it out with them.

HENDRICKS: I know, $150,000.

COOPER: All right, Susan. Thanks.

Time now for our "Beat 360" winner. It's our daily challenge to viewers, a chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the photo we put on the blog every day.

Tonight's picture: competitors flip their pancakes during the annual Washington National Cathedral Pancake Race. The event celebrates the British tradition of Pancake Day, as Mardi Gras is known in the U.K.

Our staff winner tonight is Ella. Her caption: "Flip-flopping in Washington takes on a whole new meaning."

(SOUND EFFECT: GROANS) COOPER: Our viewer winner is Tracey with the caption, "Stay behind the yellow tape, sir. These are presidential pancakes."


COOPER: Tracey, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

Coming up, what kind of a world do we live in where we don't take someone's word for it that they don't have butt implants, and they have to go on TV to prove it? "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for the "RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding Coco's doubters. Now, for those of you who don't do a lot of compulsive shame-based TV watching at all hours of the day and night, allow me to introduce you to Coco. She's the wife of actor and rapper Ice T, and they star together in a reality called "Ice Loves Coco." And my God does Ice love Coco.

Apparently, when it comes to Coco, there's been an ongoing national dialogue to which I have not been privy, a coast-to-coast debate about her butt.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doctor Ordon is going to be doing an ultrasound to see if there are any implants.

ANDREW ORDON, M.D. That's right, Travis. We're going to answer this question and set the record straight once and for all.


COOPER: That's right, Travis. On the show "The Doctors," Coco got an ultrasound on her butt.


ORDON: I'm going to do an enhanced Doppler here, too, that shows vascularity, to see if anything has been injected in here.


COOPER: Where is that man's right hand?

Enhanced Doppler? Look, I don't pretend to understand what vascularity is, but I always thought Doppler was, like, a weather thing. In any event, the verdict, please.


ORDON: Coco's buttocks are 100 percent real!

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: My God. Whew! That is right, Travis. Citizens of America, rest easy tonight; the buttocks are real. I repeat, Coco's buttocks are real, no implants.


COCO: I wanted to be that skinny girl. So that's why I got the boobs. Yes, I had them enhanced when I was 18 years old.


COOPER: Say what? All right. So maybe she has some implants but not butt implants. That's the point we're getting at here.

I hate to say it, when it comes to proving the veracity of her posterior, Coco is a little behind.


COOPER: The pioneering Ms. Kim Kardashian actually blazed that particular trail when she got her butt x-rayed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No implant. This is all Kim.

KIM KARDASHIAN, REALITY TV STAR: I am so glad that I did this x- ray. The whole world is doubting me. This x-ray is, like, the best thing I could have done.


COOPER: Was the whole world really all that concerned about this issue? That seems like it might be hyperbole. The whole world, I think, has more important things to think about, after all, like whether Courtney Stodden has had breast implants. It turns out she doesn't. We always knew that, of course, because of this.


COURTNEY STODDEN, WIFE OF DOUG HUTCHISON: My breasts are real. Everything about me is real. My hair is real. My teeth are real. My eyelashes are real. My breasts are totally real.


COOPER: She said it twice, so it's really true.

So much trouble, all the ultrasounds and the x-rays, when all it really takes is a black-and-white YouTube video and a little repetition to set the record straight.

Or here's an alternative. How about everyone just mind his or her own beeswax? As the old seeing goes, never explain your butt cheeks. Your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe it.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.