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Colorado Shooting: Warning Ignored?; Battle for Syria; Bachmann Cashes In

Aired August 1, 2012 - 22:00   ET


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

And we begin tonight with breaking news in the Colorado tragedy that raises some very troubling questions. Was somebody in a position to sound a clear warning about the alleged shooter, somebody with both the expertise and the duty to see trouble coming? And did that somebody drop the ball?

Twelve people died, we know, in the shooting that's at the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado. Dozens more were wounded. The question is, could all of that have been prevented? We have some very big questions tonight, some new information tonight.

John Ferrugia is an investigative reporter for CNN Denver affiliate KMGH. He joins us now with the latest.

John, give us a timeline here. We've learned some information about the alleged shooter. It concerns his psychiatrist actually had about him.

JOHN FERRUGIA, KMGH REPORTER: Well, Anderson, in the first 10 days of June, a number of things were going on. I will give you a timeline here, kind of set the scene.

On June 7, the suspect in these shootings was to take an oral exam. He's in the Ph.D. program, the neuroscience program of the University of Colorado. He took this oral exam as a preliminary oral exam and he didn't do well on it at all. Secondly, he had to find a mentor to continue in this neuroscience program. We're told it's unclear if he could find a mentor.

On the 7, on June 7, the same day that he basically failed that test, he went out in the afternoon and he bought an AR-15 assault rifle. It was in that afternoon that we know that he certainly -- or around that period, he was certainly talking to his psychiatrist who was Dr. Lynn Fenton. Now we don't know what those conversations were, but we know during that period, which seemed to be a very high stressed period for him, something that he said to his psychiatrist caused her to contact the University of Colorado threat assessment team.

Now that threat assessment team was formed in part with her help and she's on that team. So she's a member, she helped form the team, she contacted several of her colleagues on that team. We don't know what she told him. We don't know what triggered her to call them, but they decided after a day or so not to convene. And the reason was is because three days after he failed that test and bought that AR-15, on the 10th of June, he dropped out of school.

They then thought, the team thought, we're told by our sources, the team thought they had no jurisdiction, they had no control over him so there was nothing that they could do vis-a-vis this concern that she had.

Again, we don't know what the concern was. What we do know is, is that no one -- through our sources and through our reporting, we have been told, no one contacted the Aurora Police Department with any of these concerns.

COOPER: So that's -- I mean that's really interesting. And this is all new information that we're really just learning now. So certainly whatever he had said, allegedly said to his psychiatrist raised enough red flags that she became concerned, contacted other members of this threat assessment team but because he dropped out of the program, you're saying, they never formally intervened or formally got together to discuss him?

FERRUGIA: That's correct. Our reporting, though our sources, says that essentially in the process of considering what, you know, Dr. Fenton was telling them, at that point, during that period of time, he dropped out of school. They then thought well, we -- you know, we can't really -- he's not a student anymore. We're the threat assessment team for the University of Colorado, there's not much we can do. We either don't have jurisdiction or we -- you know, what do we know. He's not -- he's not coming here anymore.

As a matter of fact, two days later after the 10th, his access card was cut off. He couldn't -- he couldn't come back to the campus and get into any labs or area where he working.

But, Anderson, be clear on this. We don't know what was said so we don't know the level of threat or the level of concern. And was that level to the level that would have been necessarily reportable to the police? As you know across the country, there are obviously different rules and -- been reportable to police.

COOPER: Right.

FERRUGIA: As you know, across the country, there -- you know, there are obviously different rules in different states. But if you're -- if you're here, and this is where we need to be to report to police, we don't know if that call to the threat assessment team might have been here, about something down here.

COOPER: Right.

FERRUGIA: We don't have any idea about that. So we -- we can't really say whether she mishandled it or she handled it properly.

COOPER: Right. John, let me ask you, and we may not know this information. If we don't, then we can move on. But do we know -- was she actually seeing him as a patient, or just in a classroom setting? And if she was seeing him as a patient, do we know for how long?

FERRUGIA: Well, at this point our reporting tells us that she has been seeing him for several weeks as a patient, and that's also born out by court documents, public court documents that we found. Now on her Web site, on her resume page, we see that she routinely handles between 10 to 15 patients of her own at C.U. So he may have very well been one of those patients.

We don't know how long he'd been going to see her. What we know is, is that it was certainly several weeks. And it was in this period, the first 10 days of June, is when she finally got this kind of inkling --

COOPER: Right.

FERRUGIA: -- that something might be -- might be a problem.

COOPER: John, stick around. I want to bring in practicing psychiatrist, host of HLN's "Dr. Drew," Drew Pinsky, also Brett Sokolow. He's the executive director of the National Behavioral Intervention Team that developed the Threat Assessment Program for universities after the Virginia Tech shooting. He joins us now by phone.

Mr. Sokolow, give us your take on what we've just now learned. The limited information that we have.


Well, based on what I'm hearing so far and the reading I'm seeing on the coverage, it seems like there was an appropriate flow of information going on within the university that, if Holmes was concerning to Dr. Fenton, who was his treating psychiatrist, that she communicate that information to the behavioral intervention team on campus.

Now, we've already talked about there's a threshold for when a psychiatrist can reveal that information. But information flows both ways with this team. Maybe that someone brought information to the team about Holmes and depends on who's on the team they consulted about it, or maybe the extension brought information to the team about Holmes, which would then imply that there was a special threatening behavior that was imminent and that she felt the need to alert the team to that.

COOPER: Dr. Drew, what do you make of this? Because the question I have is what responsibility does a school or school officials or school psychiatrist have if a student has actually left the school. Is there anything they can really do?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: The psychiatrist -- again, to reframe your intro to myself, I'm a physician, addictionologist, but the psychiatrists themselves would have obligation to follow through in referral. They or he or she would absolutely have to continue seeing this patient until that care was terminated or transferred to somebody else.

But, as you see here very clearly, this patient did not reach the threshold for a 72-hour hold, where people are an imminent threat to themselves or other. Or for her to violate his HIPAA laws to contact police because of a belief that there was imminent danger. She did do the very appropriate thing of calling the threat assessment team.

The question then becomes, though, each and every threat assessment team at every university has to make their own guidelines, at least by my understanding on how they function, based on their own ethical, legal obligations of that particular community.

COOPER: And, I mean, obviously doctors walk a fine line here in terms of patient confidentiality. I mean, you're saying Dr. Drew, a doctor could put a 72-hour hold on a patient if they feel they are an immediate danger?

PINSKY: Yes, she would have an absolute obligation to do that. I can pretty much guarantee you that there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that should have happened. Or something called a Tarasoff where people are ruminating after specific harm to specific people where you notified people that that's a potential in the future to protect themselves.

But the fact is, she did what was appropriate within that community, which was to notify threat assessment.

COOPER: Mr. Sokolow, I was interested to read -- I think I read in "USA Today" just a short time ago that as many as 80 percent of colleges now in the United States in the wake of Virginia Tech have threat assessment teams. Is it really that widespread?

SOKOLOW: Oh, it absolutely is, Anderson. It became very clear after the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois that there was one mechanism which was really was the most effective preventive, and that was to bring a team together which would help to assess these risks.

So, every person who's threatened you to this kind of violence almost always engages in what's called leakage, which is, you know, dropping of crumbs before they act. They give clues. And so in any is college community, we pick up on these clues, we pass them along to the team. The team does an accurate assessment and then takes appropriate action. So that's a model that's becoming incredibly common place.

COOPER: Dr. Drew, is a psychiatrist -- if a patient is a college student, are they -- do they have any obligation or ability to tell that person's parents? Or because the person is over the age of 18, are they not allowed to?

PINSKY: Again, this depends on the level of threat, the level of imminent harm. The -- and it depends on the institution. Some institutions, the HIPAA laws that the rest of us are protected by aren't as stringently applied. There are other laws applied that pertain a so-called student records. So they're actually very complicated -- at least from my perspective as someone who doesn't work in that every day, looking at it from the outside in, it looks terribly complicated to navigate through that system. And each system is different.

COOPER: John, in terms of -- and again we -- we may not know this in terms of the reporting, is this the same psychiatrist that the suspect allegedly sent a notebook or a packet to with some disturbing details in it?

FERRUGIA: Yes, that's correct. That is the same package that police recovered. It was sent to Dr. Fenton. One thing I wanted to -- wanted to add here about something we don't know, Anderson. I think it's very important that we mention this. We don't know if -- even though on one side that the threat assessment team didn't follow through or didn't meet and think it could.

On the other side we really don't know what happened with Dr. Fenton and the suspect. Did she meet with him after he left the school on a private basis? Did she refer him to some other psychiatrist as one of your guests just said? Might have done that. We -- those are things we don't know. So it's very difficult to make an assessment as to whether, you know, exactly -- you know, to say that she handled this correctly or not. She may have handled it very correctly. We simply don't have those answers.

COOPER: Right. And that's an important thing to point out, and the very fact that she raised red flags and called other threat assessment members, that's certainly at least a good indication of taking the right steps. And I think Dr. Drew agrees with that.

I appreciate all of you joining us. John Ferrugia, appreciate your reporting. Brett Sokolow and Dr. Drew Pinsky, thank you so much.

Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. Let me know you think about these latest developments.

We have also more breaking news tonight out of Syria, disturbing new evidence that the uprising, well, it has entered a whole new phase where revenge, not just liberation, is a goal, and also breaking news about the role the U.S. may now be playing in the effort to topple Assad.


COOPER: More breaking news tonight -- late word that President Obama has secretly authorized American covert support for the Syrian effort to depose dictator Bashar al-Assad. Two U.S. officials tell us the president has signed what's called an intelligence finding laying things out.

When he signed that is not known, nor do we know the exact contents. We do know that it gives the CIA and other American agencies permission to provide covert support to oust Assad. The dictator has not been seen in public for weeks. Today he put out a written statement, again blaming his year and a half war on -- quote -- "the criminal terrorist gangs." That's the phrase he's been using justifying destroying cities.

Take a look at Aleppo today under intense bombardment.

This kind of war on cities all across Syria and its populations have now taken an estimated 17,000 to 20,000 lives, mostly civilian. Many of them children. Some of the children tortured to death by the regime, their bodies then returned to their families often as a warning.

Now, all that killing later, opposition fighters are said to be gaining ground in some places, battling government forces across Syria. And in some locations holding their own, even making headway. But this is not entirely a war of liberation. It is also in places and at times becoming a war of vengeance.

I want to show you one such moment. A warning, it is not easy to watch. It shows a summary execution of Assad loyalists apparently conducted by members of a pro-opposition mob. Now if you'd prefer to turn away, we're going to show it to you for about 15 seconds. Take a look.

An act of retribution, it seems, and it may not be the last one. Whoever comes out on top and whatever impact outside support for the opposition may have.

Let's dig deeper now with two people who've gotten an extensive experience dealing with presidential intelligence findings, former CIA officer Bob Baer, and Fran Townsend, homeland security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.

How big a deal is this? Again, we don't know when this was signed. How big a deal is this and what do you think it means?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, look, we should assume, where we have foreign policy challenges around the world, this is what we have an intelligence community to do, right? To go in clandestinely, to support American policy around the world. And so I -- it shouldn't be surprising.

Here's my problem with it. You talk about 17,000 to 20,000 deaths in Syria. The longer you wait to act, and you've pointed out we don't know when it was signed. The longer we wait to act, the more radicalized the Syrian population becomes. They've been tortured, they've been abused by their own -- by their own leader, and they feel abandoned. And so you lead the way for the sorts of feelings of vengeance, al Qaeda to come in...

COOPER: Right, extremist groups.

TOWNSEND: -- and exploit them. That's exactly right.

COOPER: And we've already seen and increasing reports of -- "The New York Times" just had it the other day -- about al Qaeda or jihadist groups. I just talked to a reporter who was kidnapped by a jihadist group. TOWNSEND: That's right. And so I must tell you, good, if it is true that this has been signed and officials have told people here at CNN is, that's great. But it's a little and it's late. And we need to do more. Whatever we're doing, we need to do much more to bring this to an end. The conclusion to this is a transition.

COOPER: Bob, do you think this will make a noticeable difference in what the opposition is able to accomplish against the regime? Or -- I mean, is lethal support needed? And is that the kind of thing this finding would have?

ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, for a start, more money is going to go to the opposition. The fighters, they're out of money. They've been complaining today. They're not getting enough medicine. They're not getting enough weapons, enough ammunition. They simply need more funding. They're not getting enough from the Gulf or from Turkey or anywhere else.

Ultimately, if this gets very bad -- and by the way, I completely agree with Fran, the longer we let this go on, the more likely we're going to have al Qaeda on the ground responding, gathering supporters. But what they need right now is surface-to-air-missiles and anti-tank weapons. They have to stop this army, they have to stop the bombardments.

And I -- you know, one day, if it gets really bad, and it could be very soon, we're going to have to switch this to a lethal finding or actually get the United States military to start supplying these people.

COOPER: It's interesting, Bob, and you've been a case officer on the ground in a lot of dangerous places. But there are those who say well, look, look, al Qaeda is involved here or jihadist groups, people from Chechnya or Bangladesh or Libya or going there on what they call a jihad. You see that as a result of not having it more international -- intervention earlier on?

BAER: Well, with the way I look at it is that Islam is a default. When things get really bad and people get hungry and desperate, they turn to the Koran. It's not their first choice. But the longer it goes on just like in Somalia, or even Chechnya, they'll go from a secular opposition to a religious opposition. And you know, let's say another year, we're going to see al Qaeda all over the place.

Al Qaeda is just an idea. It's not an actual military force. It's going to becoming in and people are going to be turned the most extreme forms of Islam, especially if they feel abandoned.

COOPER: Fran, under what -- do you agree with that? That this is a result of not -- of being abandoned? TOWNSEND: And I think you have to understand whether it's the Palestinian people, when a government, when an institution or international institutions fail a population and they are desperate and abused and tortured, they will turn to whoever can provide them weapons, food. And if that's al Qaeda, that's who they'll turn to if they're on the ground. COOPER: It's interesting, Bob, because when I was -- I was on the border, the Turkish-Syrian border, I don't know, a month or so ago, or maybe longer. And the members of the Free Syrian Army, the folks who are actually fighting, who I was talking to, you know, they kept saying, we keep hearing about communication equipment coming from the U.S., we keep hearing about money and arms coming from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but we're not seeing it on the ground.

I just talked to Ivan Watson who has seen, you know, evolved tactics, who has seen some better armaments, though still relatively small scale weaponry on the part of the opposition, but it's interesting to me that even now, they're still short of ammunition, short of weapons and short of medical equipment.

BAER: Well, I think everybody was just sort of hoping that Bashar al-Assad would fall on his on way, that there would be a coup d'etat. That there would be an easy solution to this. I don't think as a failure of imagination that this could turn into a full blown civil war and that we would have to come down on one side very -- very quickly which we didn't do. So yes, we're coming -- Anderson, we're coming late to the game.

TOWNSEND: And Anderson, I think it's -- I think it's worth noting here. You know, if we're only going to rely on covert action and clandestine activity of the intelligence community, we're not going to win this. This really requires us to be willing to stand up and use all instruments and national power. We're using treasury sanctions? That's good. We may now, as we find out today, be using clandestine activity, that's good.

But some of this really means you have to be willing to stand up and have the courage of your convictions and lead. Right? You've got to pull together the resources of the Arab governments who are willing to contribute. If Turkey is willing to be useful on -- and help form the refugee issue. You have to really be willing to stand up with a strategic plan and pull the international community together. And that's what's been lacking.

COOPER: Bob, you know, everyone knows, horrible things happen in war on all sides. When you see that video of what appears to be a rebel group, opposition members lining up, what they say are regime supporters or regime soldiers, or Shabiha, against a wall and shooting them, you know, unarmed, hands tied behind their back. What do you make of it? And how do you see that?

BAER: Anderson, this is a sectarian conflict. If Bashar al- Assad falls, if the Alawites are forced out of Damascus, we're going to be in a position that we need to defend them because it will be a Rwanda-like situation where these groups are uncontrollable right now, will turn on this minority community. And we don't want to see that either. We're not taking sides in a civil war. We're just trying to stop the violence. And so it doesn't surprise me at all and it could get a lot worse and I think it will.

COOPER: Bob Baer, appreciate your expertise. And Fran Townsend, as well, thank you very much -- difficult times. We're following other news tonight as well, including the fund- raising haul that Michele Bachmann is touting. She's raised more than $1 million last month. The question is, has she made some of that money on the controversy over her comments about Huma Abedin and others and alleged infiltration by radical jihadists into the U.S. government?

We're "Keeping Them Honest." Our political panel joins us ahead.


COOPER: An amazing story from Virginia -- a young woman saves her father's life by lifting a car off him.

We have details when we continue.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's reelection campaign is touting the fact they raised more than $1 million during the first 25 days of July.

Yesterday, Bachmann tweeted: "I'm so thankful for my generous and faithful supporters. We just raised more than $1 million in less than a month."

It is an impressive amount, to be sure. The question is, does it also say something about how -- what politics have become? During those same 25 days, Bachmann and four other Republican members of Congress were alleging that members of a radical jihadist group were infiltrating the United States government. They specifically named an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin.

And we've reported on this a lot over the last two weeks. We've invited Miss Bachmann to come on the program half a dozen times including tonight to provide proof, real evidence of these supposed ties to jihadist groups but the congresswoman refused. She did, however, find time to talk to others about Huma Abedin, this from "Glenn Beck."


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: She is the chief aide for the -- to the secretary of state. And we quoted from a document and this has been well reported all across Arab media that her -- her late father who is now deceased was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Her brother was a part of Muslim Brotherhood and her mother was a part of what's called the Muslim Sisterhood.

What we did is ask, did the federal government look into her family associations before she got a high-level security?


COOPER: Senator John McCain blasted Bachmann and her fellow lawmakers calling their claims unwarranted, unfounded. Other Republicans have condemned the allegations as well.

But, "Keeping Them Honest," you have to wonder if Bachmann relishes all this heat, seeks it, in fact, so she can raise money off of it. Whether the claims she makes are factual or not, does not really matter?

See, this isn't the only time controversy seemed to help her raise money. Back in November of 2010 on this program, Bachmann made this claim.


BACHMANN: We know that just within a day or so, the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him. He'll be renting out over 870 rooms in India and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.

It's a very small example, Anderson.

COOPER: No one really knows the cost because, for security reasons, they don't disclose the cost. So this idea that it's, you know, $200 million or whatever is simply made up.

BACHMANN: Well, these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press.


COOPER: OK. I don't want to replay this, but she said those are the numbers coming out in the press. It turns out the press she was talking about, the original source for that $200 million figure, was an Indian news report which cited an anonymous source, allegedly a local Indian provincial official. So how would a local Indian provisional official, anonymous, know President Obama's trip was costing? Impossible.

During that same quarter, Bachmann raised nearly $4 million, a near record for her.

Joining us now, senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and political reporter, Alex Seitz-Wald.

So Dana, you've reported a number of times on the show that the reason Congresswoman Bachmann wasn't backing down on her Muslim Brotherhood claims was because she was sure to raise a lot of money from it. You've even had members of her own party tell you this. And lo and behold, her campaign announces she's raised a staggering million dollars last month.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Her campaign wants to make sure we know a million dollars in 25 days. That's what one of her campaign aides gave me only yesterday.

But look, you're right. A top House Republican, I should say, told me just this week that -- in a very candid way, Anderson, that if your network, meaning CNN, goes after someone in their party, meaning the Republican Party, it only helps when it comes to fundraising, and that was especially true, according to this top Republican, for Michele Bachmann. Every time the media attacks her, she does better.

Now, of course, we should make clear that this show has not attacked Michele Bachmann, but that is definitely the way it is perceived and that it is telegraphed to some of the very important areas where she fundraises.

Now, we should probably ask the question whether or not all this money is really necessary, whether or not she's really in trouble in her re-election bid. You know, by all accounts, not really. I talked to one Democrat who was monitoring this who said that the Democrats did a poll that shows that she actually is only about five points ahead of her Democratic challenger, Jim Graves, and he is somebody who has a lot of money. He's independently wealthy. He could spend a lot of money there. But by and large, it does not look like she's in very, very serious trouble.

COOPER: Alex, it's interesting because the Congresswoman's fundraising prowess is legendary on Capitol Hill. You say it's also an important kind of currency in Congress. Explain that.

ALEX SEITZ-WALD, SALON.COM POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. That's right. It's win-win for her. Even if she loses on the policy, which is seems like she's going to on this, she can still win on the politics, both in terms of fundraising for her reelection bid and internally, within the House Republican Caucus.

It's kind of a dirty secret how important fundraising is on Capitol Hill, but a lot of members who retire will say that this is the reason why they left, because it's so important that they raise money in order to get plum committee assignments, to get good leadership positions, to be well placed within the caucus.

So what Bachmann can do is raise a lot of money and then turn around and give it to other Republicans. She gave over 60,000 in the 2010 election cycle to other Republican lawmakers, which curries favor. She can appear at their fundraisers, and all this helps her insulate herself and, you know, moves her up on the ranks. And this is maybe how she got the position on the intelligence committee in the first place, considering that she doesn't really have any foreign policy experience to speak of.

COOPER: So she's actually using some of the money that she raises to just give to other people, other members of Congress, for whatever reason?

SEITZ-WALD: That's right, yes. It's very common. Almost every member of Congress has what's called a leadership pack and they use that to collect their own money and then redistribute it to other members. So this can, you know, build ties, build relationships.

And it's really interesting that in 2011, after the Republicans came in, Bachmann asked to be put on the intelligence committee. She has no foreign-policy experience and never served on a foreign policy committee, and Speaker Boehner granted that request.

COOPER: Dana, it seems that Congresswoman Bachmann did sort of become this Congressional juggernaut in a very short amount of time. How did that happen?

BASH: What's that old phrase, if you see a stampede coming, jump in front and pretend it's a parade? I mean, that's effectively what Michele Bachmann did with the whole Tea Party movement. It was actually quite brilliant politically and strategically.

A couple of years ago when the Tea Party movement was really, really gaining steam, she started what she called the Tea Party Caucus here in Congress. I'm not really sure if they met even once. Maybe a couple of times.

She was the go-to person for this movement which really was incredibly popular, particularly two years ago. That is how she became such a super star. And she became a darling of the movement. There's no question about it.

But, you know, it has changed a little bit, particularly because of this controversy. I was just talking to a top Republican leadership aide this week, who gave me a quote that I had to pass on, who said, "Loving her is no longer a litmus test for your conservative credentials."

And that really, I think, does sum up the way things may have changed for her because of this controversy.

One other thing I just want to add. You were talking about her position on the intelligence committee. My understanding from my reporting is that she ran when the Republicans took the majority, ran for a leadership spot.

There was no way the leadership was going to give it to her but they wanted to make sheer she had a consolation prize because she has so much support out there, legitimate support among so-called Tea Party supporters. And that's why she got it.

COOPER: Interesting. Dana Bash, appreciate it.

Alex Seitz-Wald, I appreciate it, as well. Thank you.

Let's get some other updates on stories we're following. Isha is here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNNI ANCHOR: Anderson, the Agriculture Department has declared disaster zones in more than 200 additional counties in 12 states because of the ongoing drought. More than half of all U.S. counties now have that designation, and the USDA says food prices could rise as much as 4.5 percent because of crop damage linked to the drought.

A 22-year-old woman in Virginia is being credited with saving her father's life by lifting a car off of him and giving him CPR. The father was working on a car in his garage when the jack slipped, and he was pinned underneath. Local news reports say he had several broken ribs and other fractures.

Award-winning writer Gore Vidal has died due to complications from pneumonia. Vidal wrote dozens of novels, two Broadway plays and hundreds of essays. Gore Vidal was 86 years old.

And Anderson, the first U.S. franchise to open in Libya is Cinnabon. The cinnamon roll seller seen in malls and airports throughout the United States has opened a shop in downtown Tripoli. The company has plans for 10 more locations in Libya over the next four years, one exec saying they were in all the major countries in the Middle East, and they said this makes sense.

COOPER: It's going to grind Libya to a halt, because every time a pass a Cinnabon in the airport, I can't -- I literally have to just stop and sit there and smell it.

SESAY: Which is funny, because there's so many other things that you don't like.

COOPER: Well, I try not to eat them, because I feel bad after eating them. But they're -- I mean, they're so yummy. But I try not to. Anyway.

SESAY: You and I will go together on our road trip, which we talked about last night, and we will eat Cinnabons.

COOPER: I'm looking forward to this road trip, Isha.

All right. Tonight a Buddhist retreat cofounded by a couple -- going to show you them in a second -- is facing some troubling questions after a former member was found dead in the desert after being expelled. His family calls the group a cult. Details ahead.


COOPER: They had it all, it seemed. Billionaires who lived in a big mansion. They also were addicted to drugs. One of them died. The other prevented the burial and headed to court today. A "360 Follow" up ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight a mysterious death in the desert in Arizona is raising some troubling questions about a group that calls itself a Buddhist retreat.

Ian Thorson's family may never exactly know how he spent the final months of his life. What they do know is he wasn't entirely alone. His wife was with him. They'd apparently had a falling-out with the retreat and been banished. Miguel Marquez investigates.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They wanted enlightenment. To get it, they would spent three years, three months, and three days meditating in the Arizona desert. This from their retreat video.

LAMA CHRISTIE MCNALLY, STUDENT: We're going to be there for three years working very hard to change the world, and we need a lot of love and support.

MARQUEZ: Christie McNally was the cofounder of the so-called Diamond Mountain University in the southern Arizona desert where nearly 40 committed Buddhists paid thousands of dollars to build their own accommodations.

MCNALLY: We also need a little bit of financial support, to tell you the truth.

MARQUEZ: Support that would allow those in the retreat to, as they call it, explore the inner space of the mind without worries about food, water or other necessities. With McNally, her husband and yoga partner, Ian Thorson. They co-authored a book together on yoga.

IAN THORSON, CO-FOUNDER: Once we do this kind of yoga together, then the next day when we try to do, like, a series alone, it's really, really lonely.

MCNALLY: It's lonely.

MARQUEZ (on camera): The bliss was not to last. A year and a half into the retreat, both McNally and Thorson would be expelled. Then, they seemingly disappeared. Three months later, 38-year-old Thorson would be dead, Christie McNally at his side.

SGT. DAVID NOLAND, COCHISE COUNTY, ARIZONA, SHERIFF'S OFFICE: She was completely hysterical. According to her, she needs -- she needed to stay with him for that -- for a three-day period to help his spirit to heaven.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Thorson died just a few miles from the retreat. He and McNally had made the fatal decision to continue it on their own, roughing it in the Arizona desert in the middle of winter on a nearby mountainside.

NOLAND: I wouldn't call it a cave. It was big boulders were, you know, stacked.

MARQUEZ (on camera): But the pair had help. Someone was bringing them food and water from the base of the mountain. They had to come down and come back up in order to get it. At some point they became too weak and too sick to actually do that. The coroner's report said that Thorson died of dehydration and starvation.

(voice-over) Despite their bad decision to rough it, Thorson's mother doesn't blame either her son or his wife. She puts the blame squarely on this man, Michael Roach, seen here in the retreat video.

MICHAEL ROACH, RETREAT CO-FOUNDER: What you're seeing here is the final party to celebrate.

MARQUEZ: Cofounder of Diamond Mountain with McNally. He goes by Geshe Michael, the honorary title of a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Thorson's mother accuses Roach of running a cult and says the three- year retreat was just another step in establishing control over her son, Ian.

VICTORIA THORSON, IAN THORSON'S MOTHER: He changed radically, and that over a long -- over a period of time. It doesn't happen overnight.

MARQUEZ: But there is more to the story. Before it was Christie and Ian, it was Christie and Michael. That's right: Michael Roach and McNally had done a three-year retreat starting in 1999, living in a yurt in the same Arizona desert, never more than 15 feet apart. Their relationship was frowned upon by Tibetan Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama, who disapproved of Roach wearing monastic robes indicating celibacy while apparently in a sexual relationship. They even made a series of videos about their spiritual partnership.

(on camera) The problem began in February, a little more than a year into the retreat. McNally gave a lecture indicating Ian had been violent toward her and she had accidentally stabbed him while practicing martial arts. Reason enough, Ian's mother contends, for Roach to expel Christie and her son.

(voice-over) Days later, McNally received a letter from Michael Roach and the retreat's board of directors, demanding to know details. She refused. In a rambling 31-page letter, titled "A Shift in the Matrix," she says she was treated with disrespect, calling the board's letter "disturbing" and "a gross breach of the retreat." The dispute appears to have led to the couple's expulsion from the retreat.

In his own open letter, Michael Roach said Ian had been cut three times, one which was deep enough to threaten vital organs. But the coroner's report only mentions a scar across Thorson's right shoulder.

THORSON: He expelled the couple for whatever reasons. You can -- I don't think it's possible to justify something like that.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Expelled them and never informed the family, she says. Both Ian and Christie emerging from more than a year in the solitude of the retreat would have been in a delicate frame of mind.

No charges were ever filed, and Arizona authorities consider the case closed. Michael Roach continues to run Diamond Mountain, traveling and spreading the gospel of Buddhism in business. He refused our every attempt to talk to him on camera.

(voice-over) Last April, Ian Thorson was cremated in Arizona. What started as a journey to enlightenment ended with his death and many unanswered questions.


COOPER: It's such a bizarre tail. Miguel, I mean, if Ian Thorson's family is convinced it was a cult, did they try to do anything to get him out of it? MARQUEZ: They did, indeed. In the late '90s, and early 2000, they actually brought in experts. They brought him out to Long Island near where they live. They tried to basically mount an intervention to get him out of it. There was one scene where he became so upset and agitated in the car, he jumped out of a moving car and went running away from the family while in flip-flops, essentially. They had to go chasing him down.

They tried everything that they could, they said, to try to get him away from Michael Roach, away from what they considered a cult and never could -- Anderson.

COOPER: We'll continue following it. Miguel, appreciate it.

Elsewhere a deadly Ebola outbreak is spreading as health teams on the ground rush to try to deal with the contagious disease. Details ahead.


SESAY: Anderson will be back in a moment. Here's a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

The death toll in the Uganda Ebola outbreak has climbed to 16. There are also three dozen suspected cases. Health officials are urging people not to gather in large groups, in hopes of stopping the spread of the highly contagious virus.

A "360 Follow." Billionaire heir Hans Kristian Rausing has pleaded guilty to preventing the lawful and decent burial of his wife, Ava. According to news reports, she likely died in April, but her body wasn't found in their London mansion until last month, after Mr. Rausing was stopped by police on suspicion of driving under the influence. On the driving offense, Rausing also pleaded guilty. He was ordered to enter a drug rehab program. The couple fought drug addiction for years.

U.S. stocks fell after the Federal Reserve said it wouldn't change its policies right now, even though new data suggests the U.S. economy is slowing. The Dow sank 37 points; the NASDAQ lost 19, while the S&P shed four points.

And a badminton scandal at the London Olympic Games. Eight female players were disqualified. They're accused of playing to lose so they could face easier opponents in future matches. China says it respects the decision while the players from Indonesia and South Korea are appealing the decision -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

Coming up, she's back. Big news, big news for the modern-day Grace Kelly. Not really. Or perhaps Gidget in a G-string. Anyway, big news for Courtney Stodden and all who follow her. "The RidicuList" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Time for "The RidicuList." And tonight, there is joy throughout the land, because it has finally happened, people. We are go for launch of what is bound to be the best reality show ever.

That is right. Our favorite teen bride, Twitter poet and ambassador of love, Courtney Stodden, is doing a freaking reality show.

A quick refresher: with the blessing of her parents, Courtney at age 16 married 51-year-old character actor Dough Hutchison, who was on "The X-Files" and "Lost," but Doug isn't the star here. Courtney is clearly the star.

Ever since she erupted into our consciousness, like Mount Vesuvius itself, we have been waiting for this day. She tweets, and I quote, "FYI, Stoddenista's" -- and yes, there's some rather egregious apostrophe abuse going on there, but we're going to overlook that -- "will be MIA for about three weeks. Packing up and heading out to shoot a reality show," exclamation mark. "Love you all, XXX, God bless. Courtney."

Speaking of triple "X," remember the time that Courtney made that video about vegetarianism? It was so pornographic, we had to blur the veggies.


STODDEN: I grabbed these veggies. But then I turned around, and these were calling to me for some reason. They're sexy, aren't they?


COOPER: Memories.

See, we are super excited about Courtney's reality show, because we have a pretty good idea what it's going to look like. The details of the show, they're being kept secret. But for instance, we already know what her typical day is like.


STODDEN: A typical day for me is crazy, let me tell you. I get up out of bed and sexiest outfit you've ever seen. My hair is done, my makeup is done.


COOPER: And maybe the reality show will have singing and pink dogs and boats.


STODDEN (SINGING): Don't put it on me, girl. Don't put it on me, girl, no. Don't put it on me, girl. D-d-d-d-d-don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: We didn't actually show you the pink dog, but there was a little dog that had been dyed pink in there.

So she says she's taping the show for the next three weeks or so. Unfortunately, no holidays fall within that time frame, because as you may remember, Courtney pulls out all the stops for holidays. Like when she went to the pumpkin patch last Halloween.


COOPER: According to Radar Online, some parents who took their kids to said pumpkin patch were not in the Halloween spirit, and for whatever reason, thought Courtney and Doug's PDA was just inappropriate. The Halloween Scrooges also reportedly took issue with the way Courtney was dressed, so after multiple complaints she got thrown out.

Now, leaving poor Courtney -- she had no other choice but to walk her festive stripper boots right out of there and show off her pumpkins on the side of the road. There are other photos, yes, but we can't put them on TV. Let's just say they show a little too much crack-o-lantern.


COOPER: Yes, we've done about, I don't know, 50 "RidicuLists" on Courtney Stodden. This is not going to be the last one.

There is one thing, though, that's for certain about Courtney's reality show. No matter what, it is going to be 100 percent real.


STODDEN: 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 that twice.

I would have to say that the main reason that I personally am looking forward to the reality show is because maybe, just maybe, it will give us new insight into the enigma, really, that is Courtney Stodden: her goals, her aspirations, and yes, maybe even an answer to the question that has plagued us for more than a year now: what in the name of all that is holy is she doing with her face in this clip?


DOUG HUTCHINSON, ACTOR: People are welcome to their opinions. That's what the world is about. If they -- if they need to feel this way, that's theirs to hold. Not ours.


COOPER: Congratulations on the reality show. Courtney, we will definitely, definitely be watching. No doubt about that.

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