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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Polygamist Leader Waives Extradition to Utah; President Bush Defends Iraq War; Tropical Storm Ernesto Threatens East Coast; Interview With Former Hostage Olaf Wiig

Aired August 31, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Tonight, Tropical Storm Ernesto is gathering strength, about to make landfall. We will take you there.

And the president and the war -- the White House trying another way to link the war in Iraq to the war in -- war on terror.


ANNOUNCER: Front-line fighting -- as U.S. troops search for al Qaeda, tonight, tough fighting and a tragic ending.

Epic struggle? President Bush likens the war in Iraq to the battle against Nazis and fascism. Can the new tack build support for a war the majority of Americans no longer support?

And hostage freed -- kidnapped by Palestinian militants, a cameraman talks about his days in captivity and if he ever thought he would make it out alive.

OLAF WIIG, FORMER HOSTAGE: We are summoned into this room, where there's -- where there's a guy sitting there with two Kalashnikovs against the wall behind you, and -- and a saber on the floor. And you just think, you know, this is -- this is the end.


ANNOUNCER: Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Reporting live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York City, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us tonight.

We begin with the developing story, the new threat from nature, Tropical Storm Ernesto. We thought it was going to fizzle out. Right now, it has regained strength and is barreling up the East Coast. Want to show you some pictures, looking at the pictures from Wilmington, North Carolina, Ernesto now packing winds of 70 miles per hour, just four miles less than a Category 1 hurricane. It is expected to make landfall near the north South Carolina border tonight, some time within the next half-hour.

Let's get the latest on the weather from meteorologist Jacqui Jeras at the CNN Weather Center.

Jacqui, where is the storm?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the storm is just offshore right now, in fact, like you said, less than half-an-hour.

We are going to put a track on it and give you more specifics on that, but nearly a hurricane. It has been lashing North Korea all afternoon, all evening. Look at those winds and incredible amounts of rainfall. In fact, a half-a-foot has been recorded in a few locations.

Let's go ahead and show you the radar picture and give you a good idea of who is being affected by this storm. It's covering much of the coastal areas of South and North Carolina, both. I will zoom in and we will show you where the center of circulation is, right around this area, just offshore, right about in there.

I'm going to put a distance track on this. It's moving about 18 miles per hour. So, if we track it towards the coast, we think it's going to be happening maybe 30, 40 minutes from this time.

So, the worst of the conditions are already arriving onshore. We're getting sustained tropical-storm-force winds. And look at these outer bands that have been hitting towards the Wilmington area, extending on up towards Jacksonville, into Greenville. And we're very concerned about each of these feeder bands, as they make their way on shore, because we have had a little bit of rotation associated with them.

A tornado watch has been issued. We had a warning earlier this evening for the town of Stacy, tornado actually reported there, but no damage was done. So, that was some good news there.

But keep in mind that will be an ongoing threat. And you are not going to be able to see them. It's dark out, not to mention that they are going to be wrapped in the rain.

The forecast path is showing it, after it makes landfall, moving up through North Carolina, then on up through the mid-Atlantic states. And that will continue to bring in some unbelievable amounts of rainfall.

I want to show you some rainfall amounts that we have already seen for tonight. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, about 6.5 inches of rain. Wilmington, record rainfall for you, about 6.5 as well. And Charleston, South Carolina, coming in about 2.5 inches of rain.

Now, what can we expect down the line for rainfall? Those of you that live up in Washington, D.C., into Pittsburgh, Charleston, Cleveland, even, need to worry about what's going to happen here with Ernesto.

All of the white area that you see here, that's three or more inches of rain. Major river flooding can be expected across Eastern parts of North Carolina. Raleigh is in on the action. The red areas, that's more than two inches of rainfall for Norfolk, up towards Baltimore. Even Philadelphia should pick up a good inch or so of rain, a major flood event. This is going to be lasting right through the weekend -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, bad news, that. Jacqui, thanks very much.

We are going to have a live report from the scene just shortly. We will continue to track Ernesto.

Now, though, we turn to the latest on Warren Jeffs. In Nevada today, the polygamist leader, a self-described prophet, made his first court appearance since his capture three days ago.

Now, the extradition hearing, it was quick. Jeffs, who wanted -- was wanted in two states, of course, on charges that could put him in prison for life. He appeared today without an attorney. Jeffs has a reputation for exercising absolute authority within his sect. Today, in court, he was the one answering the judge.

CNN's Ted Rowlands reports.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Under heavy security, polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was brought into a Las Vegas courtroom. He was shackled and wore blue jail-issued clothing. Appearing meek and, at times, confused, Jeffs politely answered questions from the judge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you Warren Jeffs?



ROWLANDS: Jeffs, who didn't have an attorney for the short hearing, stood and listened, as the judge explained that he was wanted in both Utah and Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you understand everything I just explained?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. What would you like to do?

JEFFS: Go ahead and be extradited is fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to waive your rights in regards to extradition and go back as -- as quickly as they can have the -- as they can come pick you up?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. ROWLANDS: Jeffs will be transported to Utah, where he faces two counts of being an accomplice to rape. Prosecutors there say they are ready for him.

RYAN SHAUM, UTAH PROSECUTOR: We have an opportunity now to present our case. We have an opportunity to go forward with the evidence that we believe we have.

ROWLANDS: Jeffs had one unidentified supporter in the courtroom, this man. After the hearing, he was followed by a crowd of journalists, but had nothing to say as he left the courthouse.

Warren Jeffs is believed to have as many as 10,000 loyal followers across the Western United States, Canada, and Mexico. Many of them live in the Colorado City-Hildale area, which is very close to where Jeffs will be held in Utah.

GARY ENGELS, MOHAVE COUNTY, ARIZONA, INVESTIGATOR: I think the community there, you know, the ones that are his loyal followers, are going to stay loyal to him. And they're going to support him. And they will provide him with any amount of money or anything else he needs.

ROWLANDS: Flora Jessop, a former member of the FLDS, says she's concerned about Jeffs' followers and what they may do, with their prophet in jail.

FLORA JESSOP, FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS MEMBER: They're going to look at him as a martyr, as he's been the one that's wronged. I -- as a child, I was taught -- and they're still teaching these children that law enforcement is our worst enemy, and that the streets would run red with the blood of our enemies.

ROWLANDS: So far, though, there has been little reaction from the secretive communities where, until now, Jeffs has held almost complete authority.


COOPER: Ted, what kind of time is Warren Jeffs facing, I mean, if he's convicted on the charges that he -- he's currently facing?

ROWLANDS: Well, each charge carries a maximum sentence, with a conviction, of five years to life in prison.

The problem for -- for prosecutors may be that conviction. This is a tough one, because Jeffs is accused of being an accomplice to rape. And, today, in Saint George, Utah, prosecutors admitted that they have never actually prosecuted anybody under this statute. So, they clearly have their work cut out. And they're just beginning this road.

COOPER: They're also keeping their cards pretty close to their vest. We don't really know what they have on him, correct?

ROWLANDS: No. They -- they -- they clearly are keeping it close to the vest. He's not accused of raping anybody. But they did say that he's an accomplice, ordering one of the members of his church to have sex with a girl between the ages of 14 to 18.

COOPER: All right, Ted, appreciate it. Thanks.

Warren Jeffs has been on the run, of course, now for more than a year, before he was caught on Monday. He was a fugitive long before the FBI put him on the most wanted list. How he managed to allude capture for so long is unclear at this point. We know he was caught with some $50,000 in that vehicle.

The FBI has long been on the trail of a sophisticated system of channeling money to the FLDS.

CNN's Randi Kaye is on the money trail.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a distance, this Nevada construction site looks ordinary. But law enforcement says, it's hardly what you imagine. They believe this site may be the beginning of a money trail that funnels millions of dollars to polygamist Warren Jeffs.

GARY ENGELS, MOHAVE COUNTY, ARIZONA, INVESTIGATOR: He's probably bringing in close to $2 million a month.

KAYE: If true, that would be $24 million a year. How does it work? Carolyn Blakemore Jessop, a former member of Jeffs' church, says, Jeffs orders men from the sect to work for construction companies owned by FLDS church leaders. But those men don't see a penny.

CAROLYN BLAKEMORE JESSOP, FORMER FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS MEMBER: And these specific companies that he would -- he would assign them to work for very often just didn't give them a paycheck. They didn't give them anything at all.

KAYE: And where did the money go instead of in workers' pocket.

BLAKEMORE JESSOP: It went to Warren.

KAYE (voice-over): Jessop says her son was assigned a construction job when he was just 12, and never got paid. Instead, families donated 100 percent of their earnings to Jeffs. That put them on welfare -- money out of your pocket -- while Jeffs got rich.

(on camera): We're in the car about an hour north of Las Vegas, in Mesquite, Nevada. And, like the investigators, we are trying to follow the money. We are heading to a construction site where some members of the church work to see what they have to say about where the money is going.

(voice-over): Immediately, we spot men who, like members of the sect, are dressed from their necks to their ankles, despite the searing heat. (on camera): I'm Randi Kaye with CNN. Are -- are you affiliated at all with -- with Warren Jeffs and the FLDS church?

We try again.

Are you a follower of Warren Jeffs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have anything to say.

KAYE: Are you affiliated at all with the -- with the FLDS church?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have anything to say. We're just..

KAYE: Can I ask...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just doing work here.

KAYE: Is any of the money from here or all of the money here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have anything to say.

KAYE: Do you donate any of it to the -- to the church, to Warren Jeffs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have anything to say.

KAYE (voice-over): In minutes, the supervisor arrives.

(on camera): We're with CNN, and we're -- we're doing a story here on -- we're following the money on Warren Jeffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I realize that.

KAYE: Do you know who these guys all work for, who contracts them out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. They're working for a Prism or Paragon.

KAYE (voice-over): Prism and Paragon, just two of the many companies investigators and Carolyn Jessop say are owned by Jeffs' church members.

CNN has also learned, Dagrow Truss, and one of its owners, Guy Allred, who investigators say is a sect member, is of interest to them.

We tried to talk with him at his company headquarters in Nevada, and asked about his brother David, who bought property used by church members.

(on camera): I was told neither one of them would be willing to talk with me, and that we should take our cameras and go, which is what we're doing now.

We made calls to both Prism contractors and Paragon contractors. The man who answered the phone at Prism, as soon as we identified ourselves as CNN, told us, "No comment."

We left several messages at Paragon. They have not returned our calls.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Salt Lake City, Utah.


COOPER: Well, in a moment, after the break, we are going to have an exclusive interview with Warren Jeffs' sister, find out how -- what she thinks of what her brother is up to now. She left the FLDS sect, had to kidnap some of her own children.

We will also have more on Tropical Storm Ernesto. It could make landfall within the hour, could be at hurricane strength by then. That's a live picture right now from North Carolina. We will -- we will have a live report.

Also tonight: the war in Iraq and the political landscape -- President Bush laying out a strong argument today -- The question is, will the voters remember this one? -- trying to link Iraq to the war on terror. Will it work? We will look at the latest strategy -- when we come back.


COOPER: Well, for months now, we have been trying to understand what goes on inside Warren Jeffs' secret sect,the FLDS.

Our next two guests know firsthand.

Elaine is Warren Jeffs' sister. She escaped from the FLDS when she was 41 years old, kidnapping some of her very own kids. Filmmaker Laurie Allen grew up in a different polygamist sect, made a documentary about polygamy called "Banking on Heaven."

I spoke with them yesterday. Here's part two of my exclusive interview.


COOPER: Why did you decide to make this documentary, because, Laurie, you know there are those who say, look, look, why focus on -- on the FLDS? Why focus on polygamy in America? It's not that widespread? Sure, maybe there -- there are a couple thousand people, but what's the big deal?

LAURIE ALLEN, FILMMAKER: Well, the big deal is the fact that they are multiplying at five to seven times faster than the national average.

And, in 70 years, in Colorado City, at their current rate of growth, there is going to be over three million people. And the FLDS only represent probably, roughly, around 10 percent of the polygamists in the Southwestern United States. So, those numbers are staggering. COOPER: I want to play a clip from your documentary, "Banking on Heaven," in which we -- we hear Warren Jeffs. We -- we hear his voice.

Let -- let's play that.


W. JEFFS: Some of you will get good jobs. You will earn a lot of money. There is the test. Will you love your money or your fun and game more than heavenly father? Or will you earn money, use only what you need, and give all you can to the prophet?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will never forget. We just fought all the time. I didn't see the logicalness in him turning his money in, while his family was starving.


COOPER: So, money -- it's basically tithing, they would say, but it's essentially turning over as much money as possible to Warren Jeffs; is that correct?

ALLEN: Well, these people are born and bred, Anderson, to do exactly what they are told. They're taught -- told what to think, what to wear.

Every part of their life is controlled by these leaders. And these are corrupt men, whether they know it or not, whether they believe in what they are doing or not. They are all victims of mind control, including Warren Jeffs. These people are in their seventh generation of this systematic abuse and mind control.

COOPER: Elaine, you were born into this. Your -- your father became the leader of the FLDS. How did you get out?



E. JEFFS: I just wangled my way out.

I was -- I was luckier than most. I -- I was able to work outside of the cult. I had the opportunity to see other things that other people did, and have that comparison. I mean, the comparison is what is really important.

COOPER: It has got to be so hard, though, to -- to -- to leave all of this behind -- I mean, you had nine children -- to -- to -- to know you might not be able to see them again.

E. JEFFS: Two of them are still there in Colorado City, with 17 of my grandchildren.

COOPER: And do you talk to them? Do you see them?

E. JEFFS: Yes. I'm able to talk to them occasionally.

But after Warren took over -- or even just shortly before he did, they were told not to -- not to visit with me. And I -- the last time I tried to visit with them, go into Colorado City, was in February. And they asked me not to come to town.

COOPER: When we have heard from polygamist wives, current polygamist wives, they say it's a great -- it's a great way to live; they have no problems; they love the -- the other wives.

In your documentary, you sort of hear a different side of what of -- what it's like to be a so-called plural wife.

Let -- let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can't be angry at your husband or your sister wives, because then you are showing weakness.

You can't be jealous. Boy, if you are jealous, that's the first thing they nail you with, because you are being un-Godlike, because you're being -- you know, you have given into the devil. So, you can't be jealous.

And, if you're happy, they wonder what you're up to. So, they take everything natural out of you. And, pretty soon, you just -- they are walking around like zombies.


COOPER: Laurie, you were in a -- a polygamist marriage. Is that accurate?

ALLEN: Yes, it is, Anderson.

These people don't have any concept of what a -- freedom even is. In other words, they are told what to do. They are told what to think. These are not consenting adults. I mean, even if you are 50 years old, you are not a consenting adult, because you never had an education. You have exposure to the outside world. You have never been able to choose or decide anything, really, for yourselves.

COOPER: Elaine, do you worry that, now that Warren Jeffs is in custody, that authorities will just sort of say, OK, that's it, you know, game over; there is no more -- nothing -- nothing more we need to do; the -- the problem has been solved?

E. JEFFS: I -- I don't know what's going to happen.

I'm -- I'm hoping that he doesn't have a chance to lead that community anymore. But I also don't believe that anything's going to change very much. It's all going to go on and on, because this is a very, very deep belief system.

COOPER: We appreciate you talking about it. Laurie Allen, thank you.

And, Elaine Jeffs, as well, thank you very much.

ALLEN: Thank you.

E. JEFFS: Thank you.

ALLEN: Thank you very much.


COOPER: Well, we continue track Tropical Storm Ernesto.

In a moment, it is about to come ashore, nearly at hurricane strength. There's a live picture from the North Carolina coast. We will take you there.

Plus, President Bush is on the road again, talking about Iraq. Coming up, his new strategy, the question is, is anyone buying it?

And a terrifying ordeal that could have cost him his life, so, why isn't he angry at the Palestinians who kidnapped him? My interview with freelance cameraman Olaf Wiig, just back from Gaza.


COOPER: More now the developing story we have been following tonight, Tropical Storm Ernesto dousing the Carolina coast at this hour, dumping as much as eight inches of rain along a swathe of land that saw terrible flooding during Hurricane Floyd, back in 1999. Those are some of the images we have seen today.

So far, Ernesto is staying just under hurricane strength, is on course to make landfall near the North-South Carolina border.

Let's check in with Dan Bowens of affiliate WRAL in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.

Dan, how is it?

DAN BOWENS, WRAL REPORTER: Well, Anderson, we're in Ocean Isle Beach, Brunswick County, North Carolina. This area has been under a state of emergency since about 1:00 this afternoon.

But, really, it wasn't until about an hour, an hour and 10 minutes ago, that some of the weather began to pick up. We got caught in one of the swales here, wind gusts about 40 miles per hour.

At this point, forecasters are predicting that Ernesto is going to pass south of us on its way to Wilmington. Initially, this storm was supposed to make landfall here in Brunswick County. But they have changed that forecast.

But we are still feeling some of the strong effects this evening. At the hotel where we are staying, some of the plastic siding on the wall is beginning to peel off.

And, just a few minutes ago, I spoke with the emergency manager here in Brunswick County. He told me that there are several power lines down, and there are some lights out in the area. The fire department has responded to that. But they are having to respond slowly and very carefully, because of all the water in the roadways at this point.

A big concern here, and a big concern in most coastal communities, is beach erosion. This seven-mile island on the eastern tip has seen its fair share of beach erosion. And there is a large concern here tonight. Over the years, with some of the hurricanes in the past, 1996, Hurricane Fran, some of these hurricanes, there has been a large amount of beach erosion. And the water has eaten away at some of the streets, and even some of the houses have begun to sink into the roadway.

So, with this storm, they are hoping that there won't be too much damage at that point. There was a man -- there was a volunteer evacuation order issued earlier this evening. But, so far, the two shelters that are open, we're told, have had fairly light attendance. A lot of people here are fairly used to these tropical systems, and they say they are going to ride it out -- Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Dan, how fast is this -- is this storm moving? Do we know?

BOWENS: This storm is moving fairly quickly.

There was a front that was keeping it -- was keeping it to our south earlier. But, as it has begun to move up, it has begun to move up fairly quickly. And it's on its way (AUDIO GAP) And, like I said earlier, initially, it was supposed to make landfall here. But now it looks like it's going pass to our south and our southeast on its way toward Wilmington.

COOPER: Dan Bowens reporting -- appreciate it, Dan. Thank you very much.

Coming up, we will have the "Shot of the Day" in a moment.

But, first, Erica Hill from Headline News has a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) is up for Iran to comply with U.N. demands that it suspend its nuclear program. Iran has shown no sign of doing that and has yet to verify its program is peaceful, the U.N. Security Council said today, as the deadline to comply with its demands or to face economic sanctions -- U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, says meetings will be held in the coming days to discuss possible sanctions.

At Miami International Airport this afternoon, a jet arriving from Charlotte, North Carolina, was evacuated, after a fire broke out in its left wheel well during landing. Firefighters used foam to quickly put out the blaze, which was ignited by two blown tires. All 113 passengers and five crew got off the plane using the emergency slides. No one was hurt.

It may be tough to believe, but today marks the ninth anniversary of Princess Diana's death. Her admirers marked the day by leaving flowers at the gates of Diana's former home, London's Kensington Palace. Diana was just 36 when she, her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and their driver were killed in a car crash in Paris.

And no more screaming in captivity. Norwegian police have found Edvard Munch's masterpiece, "The Scream," and "Madonna," two years after gunmen stole the paintings from an Oslo museum. Police say they were recovered in an operation in Oslo. No ransom was paid. Police don't believe the paintings were heavily damaged, but, Anderson, they are going to let the art experts be the final word on that.

COOPER: As they should.

HILL: Mmm-hmm.

COOPER: Time for "The Shot" now. Have you seen "The Shot"?

HILL: No, I haven't seen it yet.

COOPER: All right.

This one comes from Yankee Stadium today -- Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland standing next to the umpires. See, he has got his hat off, because "God Bless America" is playing.


COOPER: He's next to the umps, though, because he was in the middle of a scuffle with them, and then -- after he had been ejected from the baseball game. Leyland stopped the argument to respect the patriotic moment -- then, boom.

HILL: Back to the fight.

COOPER: There he goes, as soon as the song was over.

HILL: Hey.


COOPER: That's right, goes back to yelling at the ump.

What's more American than that, huh?

HILL: It is -- it is lovely to see him just, you know, put it aside for a moment, respect the...

COOPER: Exactly.

HILL: ... respect the song, and then go back.


COOPER: ... boom, right back into it.

HILL: I like it.

COOPER: Excellent.

HILL: There's a New Yorker for you.


COOPER: Erica, thanks.

HILL: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, President Bush compares the war in Iraq to the fight against fascism. It is the new talking points and strategy from the White House, linking the war to the war on terror. The question is, is anyone buying it?

Plus, he was kidnapped in Gaza, didn't know if he would ever see his family again. Now a freelance cameraman is free and safe. And he says he's not angry at his captors -- my interview with him and his wife when 360 returns.


COOPER: The war in Iraq has lasted three years and five months now, almost as long as America's military participation in World War II. Today President Bush drew a direct line between who we were fighting then and who our troops are fighting now. The question is, are Americans buying the comparison?

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux reports.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a familiar strategy. When faced with public discontent over the Iraq war, an election on the horizon, launch a new P.R. blitz.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror and that depends on victory in Iraq. So the United States of America will not leave until victory is achieved.

MALVEAUX: Some of those words we've heard before. But now the president is testing out new themes on doubtful Americans who increasingly believe the war in Iraq is a distraction to the overall war on terror.

BUSH: You've seen this kind of enemy before. They are successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th Century

MALVEAUX: The president signaling to voters, this is a crucial moment in global history and not just a distant skirmish.

ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: This is more of the president's use of rhetoric is more a kind of political shorthand for reaching out to American voters in the coming November elections, to speak to them in that is what will be understandable, that will generate support for the White House.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush also framed the war in Iraq in terms that would generate support from veterans and older Americans, people who are more likely to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

BUSH: Victory in Iraq will be difficult and it will require more sacrifice. The fighting there can be as fierce as it was at Omaha Beach or Guadalcanal. And victory is as important as it was in those earlier battles.

MALVEAUX: With the five-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks days away, and the midterm elections less than two months later, the stakes are that much higher for Mr. Bush and his party, as he tries to tie the war in Iraq to Americans' personal safety.

BUSH: We can decide to stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq and other parts of the world, but they will not decide to stop fighting us.


COOPER: Here to talk about the administration's strategy, Suzanne Malveaux joins us, along with CNN's Candy Crowley and John Roberts.

John, let's start off with you. What is the administration trying to accomplish here?

MALVEAUX: What they're trying to do, Anderson, is really kind of paint a picture for Americans here. They are arguing that the stakes are high, and they want people to know that. They want to say that it is beyond -- beyond Iraq, that it's more this kind of global war on terror. That if things don't work well in Iraq, essentially they are going to fail throughout the rest of these hot spot regions. That's the first thing.

Secondly, they're trying to get this message out to as many people as possible, but particularly those who will be sympathetic to their message. That would be older Americans, veterans, people who are more likely to vote come those midterm elections in November. And also, more likely to vote Republican.

COOPERS: John, also, I mean, is part of this an effort by the administration to in some ways distance or immunize the president from what happens on the ground in Iraq?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know if that's the case, Anderson. The big question facing the president right now, I think, in terms of this new offensive, this new P.R. offensive. Is anybody listening anymore? Republicans I talked to back in the late spring said we wish he would have done this a long time ago. That's when he launched second offensive on Iraq, and it didn't really do a whole lot.

So now they believe that, by and large, that people have already made up their minds about the war in Iraq, that they're not prepared to listen to anybody, try to put a positive spin on it.

So the question is, is the president out of time here, and are people even paying any attention?

COOPER: Candy, what about this? Democrats seem to be certainly hoping the midterm elections are a referendum on the president. In the Republicans' best scenario, what are midterm elections a referendum on?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Republicans' best case scenario, these are individual races and not a nationalized race, because the president's unpopular, the war in Iraq is unpopular.

And once it becomes a nationalized race, which many people -- in fact, most people believe it already is, Republicans get the short stick on that. If they can somehow make this individual races, about what's wrong in a district or what's wrong in a state, Republicans think they can do better.

Having said that, if the territory that they have to play on is a national territory, then you will hear a lot about the war on terrorism, because when you look at the statistics over the last six months -- and John's right, they have been pretty steady -- the president's weakest point is the war in Iraq. But his strongest point -- and that's a relative term -- is the war on terror. So you will hear Republicans trying to shift from Iraq to the war on terror.

COOPER: So it does immunize the president? I mean, if things continue to go bad, Candy, on the battlefield in Iraq, the impact of this is less on the president if suddenly Iraq is linked to the war on terror?

CROWLEY: Well, you know, the president doesn't need to be immunized, because he's not running for election. The only thing that is going to help this president is a change on the ground in Iraq, vis-a-vis the poll numbers on Iraq.

I don't think he's trying to immunize himself so much as get other people to go along with this.

COOPER: Suzanne, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are basically comparing critics of the war to World War II appeasers from the Nazi era. The president doesn't say this. Why? Is this just sort of the president trying to stay above the fray?

MALVEAUX: You know, Anderson, it's really kind of a typical good cop/bad cop scenario that you're seeing here. It is very typical that Vice President Cheney is the one who's going to come out with the more controversial biting statements. Rumsfeld, as well.

And President Bush can appear a little bit above it all, above the politics saying this is not about a politics. But you can be sure that, with just months away from those midterm elections, everything is political here, including what the president says.

But he can go ahead and say, well, look, I don't question your patriotism here. I question the wisdom of your statements and your commitment to the war on terror. That is what he is hoping to really address with the American people, is to make the case that the Democrats aren't committed to protecting the American people.

It's a strategy that has worked in past. It's far from clear whether it's going to work this time around.

COOPER: And John, this appeasement language, I mean, you know, whether or not it's true, it certainly puts the Democrats on the defensive and I guess in that way is successful.

ROBERTS: Well, it can be. It depends on how the Democrats respond to it. I mean, nobody from the Democratic side is saying let's give Iraq to al Qaeda in hopes that they leave us alone, as they did, you know, with Czechoslovakia and Hitler prior to World War II.

But the Democrats definitely do find themselves on the defensive again, now that Rumsfeld and Cheney in particular are out there, painting them as soft on terror, saying that they want to appease the terrorists.

They've got to prove that they're not going soft on terror. And so it may not be enough for them just to stand on the sidelines and watch this midterm election try to turn into a referendum on the president. Because in fact, they may -- the Republicans may be somewhat successful in turning this into a referendum on the Democrats, as well.

COOPER: Candy, who is the president trying to speak to on these trips? I mean, just the Republican base?

CROWLEY: Well, it's the base, largely of what you might call soft Republicans. It's like any election, Anderson, and particularly midterms.

This is about who turns out. And the White House is very aware, Republicans are very aware, that there are discouraged Republicans that might not show up. So this is definitely aimed at the base to get them stirred up and want to go out, but it's also aimed at those soft Republicans and those kind of independents that lean Republican, to say remember what this is about. Remember 9/11. These two are connected. So that's the main audience.

COOPER: Candy, John, Suzanne, thank you.

Despite the uptick in violence in recent days in Iraq, the number of violent deaths actually dropped in August. Here's the raw data. According to Iraq's Health Ministry, at least 973 terrorists, Iraqi troops and civilians were killed this month. That is a huge drop from the 3,500 deaths reported in July.

Plus, the U.S. military reports the murder rate in Baghdad dropped 46 percent from July to August.

But the number of American casualties has climbed. At least 63 U.S. troops died in August, compared to 43 in July. The U.S. death toll in Iraq is 2,640.

In the Middle East, a fight to survive. Two journalists kidnapped and eventually freed after two weeks. One of them tonight shares what he faced, how just one sip of water and a few minutes without the handcuffs made a huge difference in facing death threats.

And the story of six lives uprooted by a man who said he was a prophet and that they were sinners. What really motivated Warren Jeffs' tyranny, and will his young outcasts be vindicated?

All that ahead on 360.


COOPER: Well, Iraq is not the only violent place these days for reporters. Gaza has seen a number of kidnappings. None, though, have lasted as long as the kidnapping of a FOX News reporter and his freelance photographer.

This past Sunday, they were released unharmed after two weeks in captivity, and now they're sharing the gruesome details of their ordeal. In a moment, my interview with photographer Olaf Wiig and his wife.

First, how the kidnapping unfolded.


OLAF WIIG, FOX NEWS PHOTOGRAPHER: If you could apply any political pressure, local government here in Gaza and the West Bank, that would be much appreciated by both Steve and myself.

COOPER (voice-over): Nine days after he was captured, photojournalist Olaf Wiig made a desperate plea for his life. On Monday, August 14, Olaf was working in Gaza City with FOX News correspondent Steve Centanni, reporting on the ongoing violence in the region, when his worst fears were realized.

Two trucks blocked their van, clearly marked TV, and masked men abducted them, forcing them from their vehicle and into the unknown. They were held for two terrifying weeks by a group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades.

The Palestinian president and prime minister pleaded for their safe return, as did Olaf's wife, TV journalist Anita McNaught. ANITA MCNAUGHT, OLAF WIIG'S WIFE: I do not question that you who are holding them have suffered greatly, as everyone in Gaza, in the Palestinian territories is suffering. But these two men are not responsible for the injustices that you speak of. And they should not be punished for them.

COOPER: On August 23, the two men, exhausted but alive, issued their own appeal. Their captors demanded that all Muslim prisoners be released from U.S. jails.

But just three days later, there was another video, showing Olaf and Steve, saying they'd converted to Islam. And within two hours, they were free.

Olaf said his conversion came at the point of a gun. He told of the rough conditions of his captivity but admonished fellow journalists not to let his experience keep them from covering the story.

WIIG: And that would be a great tragedy for the people of Palestine and especially to the people of Gaza.


COOPER: Well, I talked to photographer Olaf Wiig and his wife, Anita McNaught, who worked -- tirelessly to get him release. And I asked -- began the interview by asking him what happened the day he was kidnapped.


WIIG: We were just driving down the street, and the car that was in front of us was moving slowly. And we were wondering what's going on. And then, you know, literally within seconds, that -- leapt out of their car and run back towards ours with Kalashnikov rifles and pistols.

And -- and I really didn't have time to react, apart from being horrified as I saw Steve, my colleague, being dragged out of the car with a pistol to his head.

COOPER: So you were blindfold. You really had no sense of where you are and then they handcuffed you?

WIIG: Yes. Yes. So we were handcuffed and bundled into this car, taken to this parking garage and then just held there until darkness fell.

COOPER: You got the call, Anita. Your first response was, I got to go to Gaza?

MCNAUGHT: yes. Absolutely, because I felt, because I knew that I could be more use there. Because I knew the territory, because I knew the politics, because I knew some of the main players in the political scene.

COOPER: But you knew your husband had just been kidnapped in Gaza. Weren't you scared to go there?

MCNAUGHT: No. No, I was more scared about not playing a constructive role in getting him back. I took a view very early on that it was a -- it was a misjudged kidnapping. That I simply couldn't figure how these guys really could be any use at all.

COOPER: AT once point you were brought into a room, just taken away from Steve, brought into a room, and there is a guy basically sitting in the shadows.

WIIG: Yes. What I was asked when I first went in there, was what my understanding of Islam was and what did I know about Jesus, you know, who was Jesus? Who was Mohammed? And so, you know, at this point it was, you know, a theological discussion, and so that was fine.

COOPER: Surreal.

WIIG: And just as -- just as I leave, I get to go up and leave, and the discussion takes a nasty turn when our man in the shadows suddenly says, "So what about Steve Centanni? We believes he's a very dangerous man, that he works for the CIA and the FBI and that he's here to inform and tell the IBF what, you know, where are the leaders" and, you know, making all of these irrational accusations.

COOPER: Did you believe that they were going to kill him?

WIIG: I sincerely believed at that point that he was in very grave danger.

COOPER: You can talk about the psychology of what happens when you're kidnapped, the Stockholm Syndrome. It's very real.

WIIG: Very real. And it's incredible. You know, I was sitting there because I was aware of it, having studied psychology at the university. Thinking, this is -- this is incredible how quickly this takes over you.

You know, you're in terrible pain because you're tied up in one position. And it's the sort of little incremental improvements in your -- in, you know, your physical state that...

COOPER: So they loosen the bonds and you're grateful?

WIIG: Loosen the bonds or give you a drink of water. And these are things that you've been so desperate for for the previous hours that you're incredibly grateful that finally you can move your hands or you can sit up or you've had a drink of water.

COOPER: When you got the call that they've been released, or you -- how did you find out? Where were you exactly when you heard?

MCNAUGHT: We'd actually just dealt with that morning the release of a second video. And I had decided to make a brief statement in response to it, saying, "Enough already. Send these boys home; they're no use to you." And we just wrapped that press conference; effectively, it was. And they said, "They're here. They're here." You can barely believe it. You know, so, I don't know. I don't actually remember. I got up and I ran. He was running, too. In the opposite direction.

COOPER: You couldn't believe it, either.

WIIG: I never believed that it would be that simple. I thought there would be some sort of complex handover of us to an intermediary and then to on to somebody else.

And you know, we were in the back of this car, held down in the back of the car. And I felt the car reverse. And one of our captors just said, "Olaf, yalla (ph), go."

And I looked up and saw the front gates of the beach hotel that we've been staying in and I didn't need to be told twice. I jumped out of the car and ran.

COOPER: I'm so glad you're here and so glad you're safe and sound, and it's great to meet you.

WIIG: Thank you very much.


COOPER: A remarkable story. We've been tracking Tropical Storm Ernesto all night. It is moving in on the Carolinas, winds now just below hurricane strength. For the latest, I'll let's check in with meteorologist Jacqui Jeras at the CNN weather center -- Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: it's getting very close to landfall right now near Cape Fear in North Carolina, just to the south of the Wilmington area.

Let's go ahead and show you the radar. And look at the storm. If there were an eye wall on this, if this were a hurricane, the edge of that is what's pushing on shore at this time. And it's bringing in some incredible wind gusts. We just got word from the National Hurricane Center, that Wrightsville Beach, which is just east of Wilmington on the shore there, recently reported a sustained wind at 55 miles per hour and gusts up to 67 miles per hour.

Here you can see the center of rotation there is where that leading edge would be. So if we had an eye wall on this thing, that would be making landfall into the center right into this location right now.

I want to get a few wind icons on here, and these are just some estimates of what the winds are doing, sustained winds, not to mention some of the gusts. And of course, they're going to be stronger as we head into those thunderstorm bands.

There you can see some of the teens, some of the 20s, getting close to 30 and a few of those locations up towards the Wilmington area. We'll take you out and show you the feeder bands, because this has been kind of an ongoing problem through the night, as well.

We had a report of a tornado touching down in Cartier County, Morehead City. A roof was taken off of a house there, because of the tornado that just touched down.

And there you can see those feeder bands, and these will be the main areas where we will be concerned about the threat of tornados. There is a watch which is in effect across the area, as well.

We did get the 11 p.m. advisory just in, Anderson, and no change other than just being closer to the shore. Still 70 mile per hour winds, that we're still expecting landfall here in the next couple of minutes and big flood maker into the mid-Atlantic this weekend. Not good for the holiday.

COOPER: Miserable weekend. Yes. Jacqui, thanks.

Young men, some even boys banished from their own families, the so-called lost boys, exiled from their homes by Warren Jeffs. Now that he's in custody you're going to hear their stories, and their stories are also being heard in court. We'll tell you why.

One woman's trip back to the closed community she fled years ago. We follow a former child bride on a search for her family hidden away in Warren Jeffs' secret world, in this hour of 360.


COOPER: Thanks for joining us for the second hour of 360.

Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs' long flight from the law is over, but his court battles are just beginning.


ANNOUNCER: He promised to lead the faithful to heaven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you Warren Jeffs?


ANNOUNCER: Now, he may spend the rest of his life behind bars. In court for the first time, the polygamist leader makes his case.

A town and sect that worships Warren Jeffs. She broke free from his grip. Now she's going back and urging others to get out before it's too late.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was taught, and they're still teaching these children that law enforcement is our worst enemy and that the streets would run red with the blood of our enemies.

ANNOUNCER: And deadline and defiance. Iran ignores an ultimatum. Now the ball is back in the U.N.'s court, but is the U.N. ready to play hard ball?

Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Reporting live from New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us. Today, the world got to see and hear polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, the first time in more than a year. The captive fugitive, who's wanted in two states now, appeared at his extradition hearing before a Nevada judge.