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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Senior U.S. Envoy to Meet with Iranians for Nuclear Talks; McCain and Obama Square Off; The Politics of the Economy; TSA Witchhunt; Fugitive Athlete

Aired July 15, 2008 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have "Breaking News" tonight in the high stakes showdown between America and Iran over Iran's nuclear program.
An administration source telling CNN the White House is going to send a high-level envoy to a meeting this weekend in Geneva between European diplomats and the top Iranian nuclear negotiator. Now this appears to be a major departure for the Bush administration but not apparently a breakthrough.

We've also learned that the envoy, Undersecretary of State William Burns, will not negotiate, instead he'll state the administration's view that negotiations can only begin once Iran stops enriching uranium. Given the record in the run-up to the war in Iraq, it could be seen as either a first step towards diplomacy or perhaps one of the last steps before military action.

Here to talk about the possibilities, CNN's Candy Crowley, senior political analyst David Gergen, Gloria Borger and Reza Aslan, Author of "No God but God" he joins us by phone.

Reza, Burns is not going to quote, "Negotiate with Iranians nor hold separate meetings." What is the White House hoping to accomplish here?

REZA ASLAN, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Well, I think we've heard this kind of message from the U.S. before. To be frank, I think that the United States is very much interested in trying as hard as it can to reach out to the Iranians to maintain some kind of diplomatic ties, to continue to speak and talk about these issues as they keep getting hotter and hotter and whether we can really believe that the story that this is going to be basically a tongue lashing from the United States or not.

This is still pretty good news. I think the administration feels emboldened by the successes that it got in doing the same kind of process with North Korea.

COOPER: David, what do you make of this? I mean how -- does this surprise you? "The Washington Post" is describing this as a significant departure from Bush administration policies. Is this is White House flip-flop?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a significant break with past administration policy, Anderson. For those of us who believe that this ought to be happening, it's welcome. It's essentially what the administration has contended all along is it would not negotiate with Iran until and unless Iran dropped and suspended its nuclear enrichment program.

And Barack Obama has been arguing all along we should have direct diplomacy with no preconditions. The administration said no, no, no, that's a terrible idea. Here they're going to go to Geneva, the number three man out of the State Department, very good diplomat, to engage in conversations with the Iranians without meeting the preconditions. So it is a break from past policy.

I think the argument that they think that they've succeeded to a degree in North Korea because of this. It's also true that Iran has been sending out conflicting signals. On the one hand, we've had these recent military exercises, the missiles, and the U.S. and Israelis both flexing their muscles.

On the other hand, Iran has also sent some signals that perhaps it's willing to be in a concessionary place. So I think they're probably probing that. But I must tell you it's a big break with past policy.

COOPER: I mean Gloria, it's interesting for an administration which says, "Look we don't negotiate." Makes fun of those who say we should negotiate. And yet in North Korea and now it seems at least in this case this weekend in Iran, they're coming pretty close.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think this is significant as David was saying. And just to pick up on David's point, I think one of the reasons that they may be doing this is that they do think that there's a possibility of some kind of resolution here.

There are reports out tonight of these conflicting signals being sent by the Iranians. And if that's the case, maybe the United States believes that they can actually change their minds on this enriching of uranium and whether there's an opportunity there, I think they probably want to take it and grab it.

COOPER: Candy, how does all this play out on the campaign trail?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it bolsters Obama's position that we ought to be holding direct talks. Now obviously, he's talked about him having talks between the president and Ahmadinejad or whoever happens to be in power in Iran. So this is slightly less than that. But it certainly is approaching that.

So this certainly will bolster, I think, the Obama contention that the U.S. has done too much saber rattling and not enough talking. And this appears to be at least walking away from what had been a very stiff policy from the Bush administration, which was they were not going to hold these talks until they stopped enriching uranium.

And in fact, that hasn't happened and they're going to be sitting at the table, even if they don't negotiate, which apparently Burns will not. COOPER: What does it mean for John McCain, Gloria? Because I mean, he has sort of mocked Obama for talking about some sort of negotiations on a presidential level.

In fairness to McCain, he's also said look, there are plenty of channels for communication with Iran short of that and maybe in his world view this delegation fits into one of those avenues of communication. We haven't heard a comment from him.

BORGER: Right. We have not yet heard a comment from McCain. But it will be interesting to see how he plays it.

One thing I should note though tonight, a senior administration official is telling the "Washington Post" that this is a one-time deal, Anderson; that this does not signal that they're ready to sit down in any series of negotiations.

That Burns is going to show up, he's going to listen, he's going to make his case. But they're saying this is a one-time deal. So we'll have to see whether that turns out to be the case.

CROWLEY: Yes, I mean Anderson, I think just sort of picking up on that, this is more signal than substance, I think. But it is a huge signal. I agree with David. I think it's a breakthrough. And in diplomacy, signals are important and this is a major one.

COOPER: David, how do you see it playing out?

GERGEN: Anderson, I think it undercuts John McCain's argument about not sitting down with Iran, being very tough on them, treating them almost like a war-time adversary. And I do think it strengthens Obama's case that more contact would be desirable. I mean it's really hard.

This is an issue of course that came between Hillary Clinton and Obama during the campaign. And then when she beat up on him on this issue. But here now this Cold War administration this very hard-line administration is doing it.

Can I suggest one other element that may be in this picture as well? The various military exercises over the last few weeks have really rattled the financial markets some and have been -- those tensions on the military side have been listed as one of the causes for rising oil prices.

So I would think that an administration which is becoming increasingly sensitive on the economic front, when the things are so fragile now on the economic front, would also be thinking, you know, if we have some conversation with the Iranians, it may help to moderate oil prices, maybe we can get this thing calmed down.

COOPER: Reza, who in -- in Iran is the one who makes decisions on the nuclear program? And we all look at Ahmadinejad as the president. Is he the real power though behind the throne?

ASLAN: No. Absolutely not, of course all the major decisions, whether it involves foreign or domestic policy in Iran is made by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Al-Khomeini -- Khamenei I'm sorry. And more importantly, he has a number of quite sophisticated, very intelligent diplomats that work around him.

Ali Akbar Velayati his Foreign Affairs manager, Manuchehr Mottaki and as David said not too long ago, it's very true that the messages that we've heard from some of the people around the supreme leader has been a little bit softer than what we've been hearing from the president and his men.

I will say one thing that I think is important to understand, though. This is a huge move. I think it's very important that the United States is willing to sit down with the Iranians to at least discuss this topic. But it's a very complicated diplomatic struggle.

And there is just simply no way that I can envision this administration pulling off any kind of diplomatic victory here in the few months that it has left. If for no other reason, then I think the Iranians truly feel as though they're holding all the cards right now.

They're in a very comfortable place and that if push comes to shove, they can afford to wait around until Bush is gone and whether it's McCain or Obama, I think they feel like well, perhaps maybe we can get a better deal with the next administration.

COOPER: We'll see what happens. The meeting takes place this weekend. Reza Aslan, thanks for joining us on the phone.

We're going to have more with the rest of our panel in just a moment. Looking at Barack Obama and John McCain squaring off on Iraq and Afghanistan today, Peter Bergen is going to join us live as well from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Also blogging throughout the hour. Join the conversation, go to our new Website, I'm about to log on.

Also tonight, some startling new figures on your chances of being on the federal terrorism watch list and what you can do about it when you fly.

Plus, a bigger concern, revelations of how few air marshals are up there with you, with all of us when we fly and what the Feds tried to do to the people who actually blew the whistle. We're "Keeping them Honest."

Later, new developments in the case of the basketball player and student studying in America who authorities say beat a fellow student into a coma, and then somehow fled the country. You won't believe what he's up to now. "Crime and Punishment" later on "360."


COOPER: The presidential candidates squaring off today on the two issues Americans say they care the most about: the economy and America's two wars. Now on the wars, John McCain is playing to his strengths, according to new polling. And Barack Obama is playing catch-up. More on the polls shortly. But this isn't just a question of public opinion; it's a debate over the facts. And there the candidates differ sharply.

We'll bring you each side in-depth tonight, so you can make up your own mind.

Here's how Senator Obama made his case tonight on "Larry King Live."


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I am absolutely convinced that strategically it is time for us to bring this war to an end. And we can bring our combat troops out over the course of 16 months, which would mean that we would have gotten our combat troops out two years from now, seven years from the time that the war began.

I've also said we'll leave a residual force there to engage in counterterrorism activities inside of Iraq, as well as to protect our bases and our diplomats and civilian workers there. But this gives us ample time to wind this thing down in a way that allows us to support what's happening in Afghanistan and relieves the extraordinary stresses that have been placed on military families.


COOPER: Well, Obama wants to send two more combat brigades to Afghanistan. He says, McCain today, said he wants to send three.

We're going to lay out the facts on the ground there in a moment live from Kabul right after CNN's Candy Crowley delivers the "Raw Politics."


CROWLEY: It is one of the brightest lines along the "Campaign Trail." The candidate who thinks the Iraq war is a distraction from every threat the U.S. faces.

OBAMA: It should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain, the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was.

CROWLEY: The candidate who says winning in Iraq is central to meeting the threats the U.S. faces.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan.

CROWLEY: A long distance debate over the U.S. future in Iraq and beyond comes as Barack Obama prepares for an expected trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. Offering McCain an assist from the Oval Office, President Bush suggested that Obama listen to military leaders on the ground there.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a temptation to let the politics at home get in the way with the considered judgment of the commanders.

CROWLEY: New numbers suggest Obama needs to power up his foreign policy pitch. An ABC/Washington Post poll found 72 percent of Americans think John McCain would be a good commander-in-chief for the military; 48 percent said that of Obama. An advantage McCain presses early and often.

MCCAIN: I know how to win wars.

CROWLEY: Also troubling for Obama, a vast majority of Americans are against the war, but McCain has a slight edge when respondents were asked who do they trust more to handle Iraq.

OBAMA: George Bush and John McCain don't have a strategy for success in Iraq; they have a strategy for staying in Iraq. They say we couldn't leave when violence was up. And they now say that we can't leave when violence is down.

CROWLEY: The increase in U.S. troops that led to a decrease in the violence in Iraq has altered campaign dynamics. It gives McCain running room on an issue where he has mostly played defense. He notes Obama's opposition to the surge.

MCCAIN: Today we know he was wrong. The surge has succeeded.

CROWLEY: Obama now concedes some surge success and is trying to turn the discussion elsewhere.

OBAMA: The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan where terrorists train and insurgents strike in Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary and as president, I will not.

CROWLEY: The message, Barack Obama is willing to use U.S. military muscle. McCain argues Pakistan an ally in the war on terror, is not the place.

MCCAIN: In trying to sound tough, he's made it harder for the people whose support we most need to provide it. I won't bluster and I won't make idle threats.

CROWLEY: The problem for McCain is that while he polls well as a potential commander-in-chief, polls also show the economy remains issue number one and there Obama scores higher.


COOPER: "Digging Deeper" now is Candy Crowley, and senior political analysts David Gergen, Gloria Borger, and in Kabul CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, author of the "Osama Bin Laden: I know," thanks all for being with us. David, overwhelmingly we saw on Candy's piece more Americans think McCain would be the better commander-in-chief. Is it possible for Obama to narrow that gap?

GERGEN: It's possible to narrow the gap and perhaps neutralize it. I think he'll have a very hard time, in fact, I think it's almost impossible to beat him as more qualified for commander-in-chief.

And if you look at just the issues of Iraq and Afghanistan, John McCain made some very strong arguments today as he has been in the past. He was a man who saw the need for the surge. It was very unpopular. He stood up against a lot of criticism. The surge worked.

Now he wants to bring this not only more troops, and a surge to Afghanistan, but he wants to change the strategy as well to bring a Petreaus-like strategy working with civilians and military there. Those are two powerful arguments.

What I think Senator Obama did today, which helped him, but I think he has a long way to go, is to broaden the picture as Candy just reported, to enlarge the focus to say, well look, we're disagreeing about tactics, but the larger issue, what's the national strategy, what's America's strategy for going forward?

And on that, McCain and Bush were wrong; it was a bad strategy to go into Iraq to start with. And he's making this very interesting argument today. And that is -- this war is costing us $10 billion a month in Iraq. Think if we used a lot of that money to help people with their foreclosures. 7,000 Americans a day are facing foreclosures as we just heard on Larry King.

That's a good and interesting argument for him to start closing the gap to bring the American economy into the national security conversation.

COOPER: Gloria, do you think he's trying to do that because he feels, you know, you know I mean he was against the surge publicly, they apparently re-edited their Website to take away some of the criticism of the surge that previously was on the Website. Is turning to the economy the way to kind of change the subject?

BORGER: I think that's exactly what they're trying to do. And I was talking to some Democrats today to ask about this commander-in-chief poll and their response to me Anderson, was interesting, they said look, 48 percent, that's not bad for a Democrat.

We'll take that, because if you combine that with the advantage the Democrats have on the economy as Obama's trying to do as David just said, then they said that's going to give us our margin of victory. So they said there are a lot of Democrats who would have been happy with 48 percent.

COOPER: Candy, I want to play more from some of the things of both Obama and McCain said today. Basically Obama taking the task -- was taken to task for giving an Iraq speech before his trip to Iraq. Let's play that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Senator Obama is departing soon on a trip abroad that will include a fact-finding mission to Iraq and Afghanistan. And I note that he's speaking today about his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan before he's even left; before he's talked to general Petreaus; before he's seen the progress in Iraq; and before he has set foot in Afghanistan for the first time.

OBAMA: Well, I mean, Senator McCain obviously is involved in a political campaign. I understand that. You know, when I said that I was going to be talking to the commanders and we would be refining our plans, he suggested that somehow we had changed our mind. Where Senator McCain I think is confused is the difference between tactics and strategy.


COOPER: Candy, they also argued over the impact of the surge. I just want to play those two bites as well.


MCCAIN: I called for a comprehensive new strategy, a surge of troops and counter-insurgency to win the war. Senator Obama disagreed. He opposed the surge, predicted it would increase sectarian violence and called for our troops to retreat as quickly as possible. Today, we know he was wrong. The surge has succeeded.

OBAMA: For weeks now, Senator McCain has argued that the gains of the surge mean that I should change my commitment to end the war. But this argument misconstrues what is necessary to succeed in Iraq. And stubbornly ignores the facts of the broader strategic picture that we face.


COOPER: Does Obama, Candy, face a difficult challenge in trying to respond to clear successes that have occurred on the ground in Iraq?

CROWLEY: Well, sure, because it feeds into McCain's main point. Really the bedrock of McCain's campaign is, "I get this. I knew what to do. You cannot worry about gas prices if you were worried about terrorism coming to the U.S." So what McCain is banking on is that the biggest home and hearth issue is national security.

So he's arguing look, I'm the guy that made the call here. Barack Obama got it wrong, because as you know, Obama's been talking about, "Well I have the judgment to be against the war." So they are competing messages clearly. There's a big difference between these two men.

But obviously the success of the surge, as David noted, certainly helps John McCain and highlights what he believes is his strengths.

COOPER: Peter, you were just in Iraq, you're in Kabul, Afghanistan right now. McCain says because of the surge, Al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run. Is he right and does that and how big an impact is that in terms of overall violence?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I actually think both the Democrats and the Republicans have been overemphasizing the surge. If it was just about the surge, the violence would be back up again because the surge is over. There are some underlying factors that are much more important in Iraq in my view.

One -- the fact that Al Qaeda in Iraq, they basically scored a series of own goals by its Taliban-style tactics, producing this wave of revulsion against and amongst the Sunnis. Now we put up a 100,000 Sunni militia on the American payroll, people who used to be shooting at the United States who are now on our payroll.

We also see the Prime Minister Maliki, no one could say a good thing about him a year and a half ago in Washington. Turning out to be a somewhat effective leader going into Basra, taking out the Shia militias there, going into Sadr City, taking out the Shia militias there.

We've also seen the Iraqi army which, Anderson, is really much larger than the Afghan army and much more effective in a country which is smaller and with a smaller population.

So there were some underlying factors that actually suggest that long- term success in Iraq is plausible. It's possible the surge, of course, was one aspect of it. But to say that the surge caused all these changes is I think simply very simplistic essentially.

COOPER: Well, Peter, you said something chilling last night, which is that terrorists who in the past were -- would have -- or young Jihadists who in the past would have gone to Iraq are now heading just to Pakistan and then to Afghanistan?

BERGEN: Yes. According to U.S. officials I spoke to in Iraq. Iraq is such an inhospitable place, if you're a foreign fighter; the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq was about 120 a month. It's now down to something like 25 a month. And of course, those are mostly suicide attackers.

These guys, instead of going to Iraq, are going to Afghanistan where they see -- feel -- over the Pakistan border -- where they feel they can have more impact. It's a better jihad. It's more popular in a sense. Al Qaeda isn't discredited in quite the same way that it has been discredited in Iraq, Anderson.

COOPER: David, in the latest CNN poll of polls, Obama has widened his lead; he's now six percentage points ahead of John McCain, 47 percent to 41 percent; 12 percent unsure. As long as the debate is on foreign policy, can Obama maintain that lead? Or does his victory require a broadening of the conversation as you indicated to linking at least foreign policy in some cases to the economy?

GERGEN: Well, I think two things, Anderson. In the near term, Obama is giving some speeches and most importantly he's making this foreign trip and not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but very importantly in Europe. And it's likely there -- if they've done this properly -- that he'll be greeted with considerable enthusiasm in some of the European capitals and you'll see big crowds in the streets.

If that's the case, that will send a message back to the United States that this would be a good thing. So I think that will help him. But the economy is so weak right now. It's just inevitable the economy is going to come back and flood this. It's flooding everything else.

COOPER: We're going have to leave it there.

GERGEN: That will help Obama.

COOPER: David Gergen, Peter Bergen, Candy Crowley, Gloria Borger, thanks. A rock of vital issues as you saw in Candy's report.

Polls say the economy even bigger, voters strapped for cash and worried. Everyone's worried. We'll take a look at "Your Money, Your Vote," next.



OBAMA: It is a huge disaster. We've got 7,000 foreclosures a day. If we had implemented some simple reforms around Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, if we had had some serious efforts to curb predatory lending, a lot of these problems that we've seen could have been prevented.


COOPER: That was Senator Barack Obama tonight on "Larry King Live" talking about the mortgage crisis that has sent shockwaves already through the battered economy.

Today, government officials outlined the rescue plans for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In the meantime General Motors announced massive job cuts. The dollar fell to a new low, against the euro. The DOW closed below 11,000 for the first time in two years. And Fed chairman Ben Bernanke warned Congress there are worse days ahead. Nothing here to celebrate.

And that could give Senator Obama an edge in November.

Tonight, in "Your Money, Your Vote," "The Politics of the ailing Economy." Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Faced with job cuts in Detroit, fear about banks and continuing pain at the pump, Republicans are scrambling. President Bush talking about expanding oil production, shoring up financial institutions, easing consumer worries.

BUSH: I think the system basically is sound, I truly do. FOREMAN: But with the White House up for grabs this fall and a chance to take even more seats in Congress, Democrats are hitting back.

REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: It's crystal clear that this administration's economic policies are demonstrably, evidently not working. And have not worked for average working men and women.


FOREMAN: Democrats are reminding voters of the prosperity under the last Democratic president. And pointing out that some Republican- backed solutions, like protecting the solvency of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are just temporary measures.

Christian Weller is with the liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress.

CHRISTIAN WELLER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Largely the Democrats have been making the argument that things have been going off the wrong track for quite some time, that we need change in economic policy. Not just to address the short-term crisis but also the longer term problems, that debt build-up, the lack of labor market growth, the failing manufacturing sector. And so on and so forth.

REP. ADAM PUTNAM, REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE CHAIRMAN: There are no excuses and no escapegoats left.

FOREMAN: Some Republicans of course say Democrats are to blame for cynically failing to support Republican economic reforms. And if the DEMS get more power they say, watch out.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: The House will come to order!

EAMON JAVERS, THE POLITICO: Right. Republicans say that the Democrats would be dangerous for the economy because they would increase taxes, which would provide a drag to the economy. But generally speaking, a bad economy is bad for the people in power because voters blame it on the guy in the White House, no matter what the rhetoric is.

FOREMAN: The nation's economy is so enormous and so deeply tied to global markets now neither party can change its course very fast, no matter what they try. But polls suggest most voters believe Democrat Barack Obama will at least point the ship in the right direction.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Up next, our first look ever at interrogators at Guantanamo doing their work, in this case on a 16-year-old.

Later, "Keeping them Honest." How the Feds may be failing to keep you safe when you fly and how some believe they're going to almost any lengths to intimidate anyone who speaks out about it. Details ahead when "360" Continues.


COOPER: Before we get to Erica Hill with some of the other headlines tonight, we want to update you on our breaking story.

CNN learning that the White House is sending a top American State Department envoy to sit down with Iranian diplomats in nuclear talks this weekend in Geneva. Some crucial footnotes, though. The envoy will not -- repeat not -- be there to negotiate. Instead, he'll simply state that actual talks can't begin with the U.S. until Iran stops enriching uranium.

Stay tuned on that.

Now Erica Hill joins us with a "360 bulletin." Welcome back Erica.


And we begin with this first look that you mentioned before the break, a first look at the interrogation of a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. The captive here is a 16-year-old Canadian picked up in Afghanistan in 2002. He's accused of killing an American soldier. On this tape, he sobs uncontrollably and removes his shirt to show wounds he says he received during torture.

In court today, a Marine charged with killing his Army wife. Twenty- four-year-old Holley Wimunc was the mother of two, and she was a nurse at Ft. Bragg. She is the second female Ft. Bragg soldier whose death is considered a homicide.

And road rage in Portland, Oregon, where a 21-year-old man is now charged with chasing down a cyclist and speeding off with the cyclist hanging onto the hood. Actually, some very serious charges he's facing. Officers say the driver was under the influence at the time. He was apparently angry about some remarks the cyclist yelled at him. Amazingly, Anderson, the cyclist wasn't hurt.

COOPER: So wait. He hit the cyclist, and that's how the cyclist got on his hood?

HILL: Well, they say that he chased him down. The cyclist says he was just telling him to slow down. There's some talk that perhaps some profanity was involved. So police say he chased the cyclist down and then he ended up, as you can see there -- someone had a video camera, turned it over to police -- on the hood.

COOPER: It's a safe bet that profanity was involved.

HILL: Good chance, yes.

COOPER: Here's tonight's "Beat 360" photo. No profanity here. Dr. Ruth, looking every inch the sex expert she is, attending Broadway Barks, an annual event held stage actors helping find homes for abandoned pets.

Here's the caption from our staff winner, Kathleen: "Old tricks, new dog." Not sure what it means. I'll have to think about that one.

HILL: I thought it was...

COOPER: If you think you can do better -- there's a double entendre in there somewhere -- you can go to our new Web site,, click on the "Beat 360" link. Send us your entry. Double entendres welcome. We'll announce the winner at the end of the program. And, hey, the winner gets a T-shirt.

HILL: Yes, the t-shirt is still here.

COOPER: Up next, he is a former air marshal and a father of four who ended up on the terror watch list. He's not the only one they're watching.

Also ahead, a college basketball player turned fugitive. He's on the run, and one of his fellow students is fighting for his life. "Crime & Punishment" when 360 continues.


COOPER: The next time you head to the airport, along with the delays and the stress, you may have a new problem to worry about: your name. It might actually be on a terror watch list. If it is, you're going to have a lot of company.

In a new report, the ACLU says that a million people are on the FBI's list of potential threats; a million people. Among the many names, this guy, Drew Griffin, of CNN Special Investigations Unit. How he got there on that list may actually surprise you. We'll tell you about it. We'll also show you how to find out if you're on the list.

First, though, what happened when someone blew the whistle? What your government did instead of working harder to keep us all safe. "Keeping Them Honest" tonight. Here's what Drew uncovered.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The story stung the Air Marshal Program and the Transportation Security Administration. Federal air marshals telling CNN the air marshal service is so thin, only 1 percent of domestic flights have agents onboard.

Kip Hawley, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, quickly went to Congress and said CNN was wrong.


GRIFFIN: Behind the scenes, the TSA launched an investigation to find out where our information was coming from. The TSA went so far as to track down a soldier in Iraq, peer into his personal e-mail, then call him just days after he returned from duty.

Who was it that was calling and asking about it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a special agent. Greg Neeter (ph) was his name, with the TSA office of investigations or something.

GRIFFIN: Jeff Denning (ph) is hardly a terrorist. He's a father of four, soon to be five children. He's a former decorated Dallas cop, a member of the Dallas SWAT Team and, from 2004 through 2007, a federal air marshal.

JEFF DENNING, FORMER AIR MARSHAL: And I joined Air Marshals because I wanted to help in the global war on terror.

GRIFFIN: He spent three years in the service, leaving the agency on good terms but disgusted with how it was run. Last year, just as he was getting his own security business started, his country called him again.

DENNING: I got involuntarily mobilized with the Army reserves.

GRIFFIN: While serving in Iraq clearing bombs from roadsides, he got an e-mail from an old friend in the Air Marshal Service, this e-mail asking anyone with information about troubles in the Federal Air Marshal Program to contact CNN.

Jeff Denning never talked to CNN for that first report. But he did forward the e-mail. Little did he know that TSA was watching.

DENNING: In Iraq, there were a lot of uncomfortable circumstances and dangerous things. And never, Drew, have I been so scared of when the federal government called me on my home phone and said, "I want to know about your personal e-mail accounts and what you have been sending."

GRIFFIN: Don't think it could happen? A Transportation Security Administration just confirmed to CNN that it is true. According to this statement, the TSA is investigating possible unauthorized release of sensitive and classified information to the news media.

DENNING: They're contacting me on my personal -- about my personal e- mail, that I apparently forwarded an e-mail to other people's personal e-mail accounts? It's outlandish.

GRIFFIN: The TSA denies it looked into personal e-mail accounts, but said that all e-mails sent to government employees on a government system are always eligible to be read and reviewed as is outlined on every computer in TSA, including the FAMs (ph) and apparently including soldiers in Iraq.

And apparently, despite all its snooping, the TSA still hasn't found the source of this original e-mail. Guess what? We did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The e-mail that I sent asked colleague Air Marshals of mine to contact CNN.

GRIFFIN: He is an air marshal disgruntled with the agency and hoping some media tension would change things. He says the usual channels inside government have led to retaliation and little action, which is why he wants his identity protected. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only option we had left was to contact the media. And that is the reason why I sent the e-mail out to my air marshal colleagues, telling them that CNN would -- is willing to expose the corruption publicly.

GRIFFIN: Jeff Denning (ph) was not one of the air marshals who came forward, but he is coming forward now, hoping the TSA will stop looking into his e-mail and start looking for real threats to the nation's security.


COOPER: So Drew, the TSA said that your story was without merit, no basis in fact. So why is there this apparent witch hunt to find out who sent this e-mail?

GRIFFIN: Anderson, two reasons. No. 1, I think we were right, and that was an embarrassment to the TSA to have that figure out there. The other one comes from the air marshals themselves. They said there was a real effort in the Federal Air Marshal Service to keep anybody from talking. That's why they're trying to find out who is talking and maybe, perhaps, put the heat on them.

That comes from the air marshals who tell us today, Anderson, these problems persist. They're just not covering the flights.

COOPER: And Drew, I think I know the answer to this question, but I've got to ask it. How did you get on the terrorism watch list?

GRIFFIN: Maybe you know the answer. I'm told by the TSA I'm not even on that watch list, Anderson. Even though every time I go to the airport now, I get -- I have to show my I.D. and prove to the airline I'm flying that my name is not the name of the terrorist, apparently, who shares the same name with me.

COOPER: And is that a new development? I mean, basically...

GRIFFIN: That started just about a month after our series of critical reports on the Federal Air Marshals, Anderson, which we did...

COOPER: Wait a minute. So a month after you aired this report about the TSA, you are now routinely stopped by the TSA at airports you go to?

GRIFFIN: Every trip, every trip.


GRIFFIN: And you know as well as I know, we fly a lot. I'm a platinum member on Delta and a member of just about every airline's frequent flyer club.

COOPER: Wow. Drew Griffin, "Keeping Them Honest." Drew, thank you.

Up next, "Crime & Punishment." A college bar fight ends with one student near death and a star athlete on the run. The case has the attention of the State Department and tonight, a new twist.

Plus, the Charles Manson follower who showed no mercy to actress Sharon Tate. She's now asking for mercy from the parole board. Should they let her out? What do you think? Their decision ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, a man who allegedly beat a fellow college student into a coma is a fugitive from justice, even though authorities know exactly where he is.

The suspect surrendered his passport, but a Serbian diplomat gave him a new one, enabling -- which enabled him to fly back to Serbia, where according to local media reports he just signed a contract to play for a basketball team. So he's free, his alleged victim is fighting for his life.

It's a story that's reached the highest levels of the American government, the State Department and one that has two families giving two very different accounts of what happened and why.

With tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report, here's CNN's Jason Carroll.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What started as a college bar fight in upstate New York ended with Serbian basketball player Miladin Kovacevic wanted by Interpol and Bryan Steinhauer, a fellow Binghamton University student, fighting to stay alive.

RICHARD STEINHAUER, FATHER OF BRYAN: It all started with every parent's nightmare phone call, at 2 in the morning from a hospital emergency room that your son is there, he's in critical condition.

CARROLL: Parents of both students spoke exclusively to CNN about their ordeal.

BRANKA KOVACEVIC, MOTHER OF MILADIN (through translator): The situation was not even in our worst dreams.

CARROLL: Binghamton police say the trouble started when Steinhauer tried to dance with one of Kovacevic's friends, a young woman. Kovacevic's parents say a fight erupted, and their son defended himself.

PETAR KOVACEVIC, FATHER: In that moment, he was hit twice in the head. He turned, and in the moment, pushed the attacker, who fell. He does not remember what happened next.

CARROLL: Witnesses say Kovacevic, who is 6'9", 280 pounds, and his two friends brutally beat Steinhauer, who is 5'9", 130 pounds.

MARLENE STEINHAUER, MOTHER OF BRYAN: Three people, it wasn't a fight; it was an assault. R. STEINHAUER: When somebody is helpless on the ground, there's no such thing at self-defense anymore. When someone is being stomped and kicked while on the ground, that's beyond anything.

CARROLL: Police arrested Kovacevic and his friends, charging them with gang assault. Kovacevic pled not guilty. He surrendered his passport.

But his parents worried he would not get a fair trial, so they posted $100,000 bail and, with the help of a Serbian diplomatic official in New York, Kovacevic was given a new passport. He escaped and returned to Serbia.

B. KOVACEVIC (through translator): My son is not running away from justice. He's running away from injustice.

IRWIN ROCHMAN, ATTORNEY: That's not the way it works. He doesn't get to decide, and he doesn't get to decide by fleeing the country and committing another criminal act.

CARROLL: The U.S. State Department is now working to get Kovacevic extradited.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: This is a painful episode for all involved, and we want to do our part to see that it's resolved as quickly as possible.

CARROLL: Ultimately, Steinhauer's parents say their priority is helping their son, who remains in a coma.

R. STEINHAUER: It's been total hell, wondering first, if he's going to live, is he going to come out of the coma, what's he going to be like when he comes out of the coma.

CARROLL: Serbia's foreign minister says his country will cooperate with the United States, but it's unclear if that means extraditing the suspect. That's because Serbian officials say their law does not compel them to extradite fugitives to the U.S.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


COOPER: We'll keep following it.

Up next, mercy for a killer. A member of the Manson family asking to get out of prison because she's dying.

And caught on tape, a bank crash that has nothing to do with the economy, next.


COOPER: And Erica Hill joins us again with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Erica. HILL: Anderson, the California Parole Board has rejected the plea of a former Manson family member who's dying of brain cancer. Sixty- year-old Susan Atkins requested a compassionate release, sometimes granted to inmates who have less than six months to live. Atkins and four others were convicted in the 1969 killings of actress Sharon Tate and four others.

Rage over the IndyMac bank failure boiling over today at a Los Angeles area branch office. Police actually had to be called in when customers squared off over who should be allowed in first to pull their money out.

And in East Texas, a bank crash of a different sort. Watch this, the pickup pulls up to the drive-by window, perhaps did not read the clearance sign. It's towing a trailer, as you can see there. It clips the canopy, brought the whole thing crashing down.


HILL: I guess that's why they post the clearance.

COOPER: I always wondered what would happen if you don't make it and clear it.

HILL: Now we know.

COOPER: Well, thankfully, no one was hurt in that.

It's time now for our "Beat 360" winner, and no one was hurt in choosing the winner. It's our daily challenge to viewers.

HILL: Not always the case.

COOPER: A chance -- that's right. A lot of hurt feelings. A chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption to the picture we post on our blog every day. So that's how it works.

Tonight's picture, Dr. Ruth, the sex expert, attending Broadway Barks, an annual event, apparently, held by stage actors, helping find homes for abandoned pets; certainly a good cause.

Our staff winner tonight is Kathleen. Her caption: "Old tricks, new dog."

Not sure what it means.

HILL: Maybe if you -- maybe if you said it with an accent.

COOPER: Maybe. Yes. Our viewer winner is Cathy from Canada. Her caption: "When your sex -- when your sex life has gone to the dogs, call Dr. Ruth."

HILL: All right.

Honestly, I think it was a tough one today. Everybody was a little leery, too, on the staff of being too... COOPER: You don't want to go too far.

HILL: ... inappropriate, shall we say.

COOPER: Sure. You don't want to go too far. And it's Dr. Ruth. Who doesn't love Dr. Ruth?

Cathy, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on its way.

You can also check out the other entries that we received on the blog. You can play along tomorrow,

HILL: That is a lovely, lovely piece of clothing.

COOPER: It sure is.

"The Shot" is next. They call him the turtle man and trust me, he is well worth the wait. Yes.

HILL: Poor turtle.



COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." And wow, what a "Shot" it is tonight. As far as hobbies go, here's one you don't see every day.




COOPER: Meet Ernie Brown Jr., the YouTube sensation better known as Turtle Man. With his shrill rebel yell, the Kentuckian dives into swamps and ponds, snaring snapping turtles with his bare hands. He's been doing it since he was 8. He says he's been bitten at least 17 times.

As for those missing teeth of his, wasn't from a turtle.


ERNIE BROWN JR., TURTLE MAN: I try not to smile because I got my teeth knocked out by a chain saw.


HILL: And Chain Saw is not the name of the pet turtle.

COOPER: Now, I don't know how he got his teeth even close to a chain saw, not sure about that. There's a lot we don't know about Turtle Man. We do know that chain saws and teeth don't mix.

Turtle Man cooks and eats these reptiles, in case you're wondering. And he tosses them around an awful lot. He says they provide seven different kinds of meat. He calls it snap-a-licious. When he's done for the day, here's what Turtle Man does.


BROWN: But it just isn't for football. Gatorade is for the Turtle Man.


HILL: I think they're really excited about that, Gatorade.

COOPER: Gatorade, I think they smell a sponsorship.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: They smell something.

HILL: You know what I smell?


HILL: I feel really bad for the poor turtles.

COOPER: Well...

HILL: I'm sorry. I know I'm supposed to be laughing along...


HILL: ... with the rebel yell and the chain saw teeth and -- but look at the poor turtles. They're just being thrown around. What did they do?

COOPER: And then they get eaten. So yes.

HILL: Exactly.

COOPER: Yes. Well...

HILL: So they snap. Maybe he should stay out of the water. Sorry, Turtle Man.

COOPER: Life is -- life is tough for turtles sometimes.

That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching.

Larry King starts right now. I'll see you tomorrow night.