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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Birthers and President Obama; President Obama Makes Supreme Court Pick; BP's Failures
Aired May 10, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: The birthers are not going away, not the Army doctor who is disobeying orders because he doubts the president's citizenship, not the state legislators who are trying to pass laws to prove it.
So, the question tonight is, why do they believe the president isn't American? What is different about this president? "Keeping Them Honest," I will ask the Army doctor who is now facing court- martial.
Also tonight, President Obama's Supreme Court pick, a top legal scholar, but no experience as a judge. Conservative commentators are already picking her apart. But is she likely to pass without any problems? Top court watcher Jeffrey Toobin joins us.
And later: "Crime & Punishment," a story, it's -- you're not going to believe this, burglary caught on camera. The victims? Some of Hollywood's biggest Hollywood names, Orlando Bloom, even Lindsay Lohan. Some of the alleged crooks, well, teenagers, and among them, a reality show wannabe -- a bizarre tale that could only happen in Hollywood.
But, first up tonight, "Keeping Them Honest": the birther movement. Despite being largely disproven by the facts, it is back, in fact, never really went away. Arizona legislators recently tried and failed to pass a measure there demanding the president produce his birth certificate if he runs for reelection.
And, in five other states right now, there is similar legislation pending. Let me show you over here at the wall, some of the legislation in at least one state. This is from New Hampshire. This is the New Hampshire House Bill 1245. It says, "Names of the candidates shall not appear on the candidate unless the secretary of state has received certified copies of the birth certificates of the candidates."
Now, according to a recent "Washington Post"/ABC News poll -- take a look at this -- 20 percent, or one in five surveyed, either say for sure or would say if he had to choose that President Obama was born elsewhere.
And now the birther moment is coalescing around this man right here, Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Lakin. He is a decorated Army doctor, an 18-year veteran facing court-martial for disobeying orders to ship out for another tour of duty in Afghanistan. Now, he says the orders are illegal because he claims that President Obama, the commander in chief, has not proven that he was born in this country.
Now on Friday, we invited Lieutenant Colonel Lakin to be on the broadcast. We thought it would be interesting to hear his perspective. His attorney insisted on joining him. We agreed.
His attorney, by the way, is being paid for by this organization, a group called American -- the American Patriot Foundation. This is their Web site. You can see right here -- it is interesting -- they're actually asking for donations for the legal defense fund for Lieutenant Colonel Lakin. Over here, you can see that they say they think that this thing is going to cost more than $500,000. It seems pretty pricey.
But they're basically fund-raising off him.
Now, as I mentioned, Lakin faces court-martial for knowingly disobeying the lawful orders of his superiors. And, now, supporters hope that, during the trial, Lakin's attorneys will be able to subpoena the White House for the president's birth certificate.
The president is not mentioned in the charges, however, against Lakin. And, according to a number of experts in military justice, he is not even really relevant to the case, because, under military law, the prosecution will likely only have to show that the chain of command is legitimate, not the commander in chief, meaning Lieutenant Colonel Lakin stands a good chance of conviction and dismissal from the service.
We wanted to hear from Lakin himself, but, as you will see in our interview from Friday, he is a man of few words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Colonel, you say you're -- you're refusing your orders because -- quote -- "There is significant evidence or unanswered speculation that Mr. Obama is not eligible to be president."
You said that in a -- in a note to General Casey.
Now, ignoring the idea that you actually cited speculation as a justification for your decision, but to say there's significant evidence that the president was not born in America is just false.
I mean, you're -- you're an honorable guy. You've served your country incredibly well. You're a doctor. Do you honestly believe President Obama was not born in Hawaii?
PAUL JENSEN, ATTORNEY FOR LIEUTENANT COLONEL TERRENCE LAKIN: Well, Anderson, let me answer as his lawyer. You know...
COOPER: Well, no, no, no.
COOPER: Excuse me.
COOPER: Wait. This is a doctor...
COOPER: Wait. Excuse me. This is a doctor. This is a man who served his country for 18 years. I think he can answer a question by himself.
JENSEN: I think that the lawyer should protect the client from incriminating himself.
You say it's false. You're not prosecuting this case.
COOPER: OK, Lieutenant Colonel, if you call up the state of Hawaii and you ask for a birth certificate, you're sent a certificate of live birth. That is the official document.
And the president has...
JENSEN: That is not correct.
COOPER: And the president ...
JENSEN: That is absolutely not correct.
COOPER: And the president has released -- and the -- the president has released that certificate of live birth -- there it is.
Two newspapers, in 1961, had birth announcements provided by the state of Hawaii Health Department. The Republican governor of Hawaii sent someone to personally view the birth certificate at the Department of Health, and says it's there.
JENSEN: You know, that's not...
COOPER: Again, can the colonel not talk for himself? The guy's an adult.
JENSEN: You said that that's a birth certificate, Mr. Cooper. Now, you want to tell the truth to your viewers.
COOPER: According to the state of Hawaii...
JENSEN: That's not a birth certificate.
JENSEN: That's an abstract, a computer-generated abstract.
According to the state of Hawaii, the certificate of live birth -- and I'm quoting from the State of Hawaii Health Department -- the certificate of live birth is the standard form acceptable by federal agencies.
So, are you saying, Colonel -- but you're not actually saying anything, but I would appreciate it if you actually would, and not hide behind your attorney -- are you actually saying that all soldiers who currently serve who are from Hawaii should be suspect, because that's what they provide?
LT. COL. TERRENCE LAKIN, CHALLENGES OBAMA'S BIRTH CERTIFICATE: This is a -- this is a constitutional matter. And the truth matters. And...
COOPER: Well, and answers matter. Can you answer my question?
Should all soldiers who are from Hawaii and who have given certificate of live births as their proof of citizenship, should they all be suspect now?
LAKIN: This isn't a matter about all soldiers. This is a matter about...
COOPER: Well, you're saying the president...
LAKIN: ... that are -- require -- that require a natural-born citizen.
COOPER: You've take countless orders in your -- in your -- in your laudable service over the years. Have you ever asked for any superior's birth certificate?
JENSEN: You know, that -- that really is -- begs the question...
COOPER: Well, no, no, sir, please let your client answer.
You served under General Casey. Where was he born?
JENSEN: I'm the lawyer, and I'm going to tell you, Mr. Cooper, the issue isn't about where General Casey was born, where Mr...
COOPER: Well, he doesn't know, because you've never asked the question, because you just assume that they're Americans.
JENSEN: That's not the issue. He's -- he doesn't have to be a natural-born citizen to be the chief of staff of the Army.
COOPER: Actually, to serve in the United States Army, your -- according to your own document, citizenship papers have to be brought to bear.
JENSEN: That's not the issue. To serve as president of the United States...
COOPER: Yes, in your own -- in your own letter to...
JENSEN: Mr. -- Mr. Cooper, please.
COOPER: Colonel, in your own letter...
JENSEN: To serve as president of the United States...
COOPER: ... to General Casey, you have said that you have to provide your birth certificate. All soldiers have to do this.
JENSEN: Mr. Cooper, you're afraid of letting us answer. Are you afraid of letting me answer?
COOPER: I'm -- no. I would like your client to answer.
JENSEN: The issue under the United States Constitution is whether the president is eligible to hold the office.
That determine -- is determined by whether he's 35 years old and a natural-born citizen. Those are not requirements for the chief of staff of the Army, sir.
And what Colonel Lakin has said is that there's mounting evidence that he is not, and the original birth certificate has not been released.
COOPER: Right. OK. But, again, there's not mounting evidence. And he has taken...
JENSEN: Well, so you say.
COOPER: Well, excuse me. Let me -- let me respond.
He has taken orders for years from people, probably thousands of orders, countless orders. He has never questioned the legitimacy of the people he has taken orders from, General Casey. He -- but he doesn't know where General Casey is born from. For all he knows, General Casey could be a foreign-born, a -- not an American citizen.
JENSEN: Mr. Cooper, if you've done your research, you know that, in the state of Hawaii, there's a statute that allows anyone born outside the state of Hawaii, including in a foreign country, to obtain a Hawaiian birth certificate at any age by going back and filling out a form.
COOPER: Right. And if you had done your research, you would know that, on the certificate of live birth, it would indicate that the person was born in another country. It would say they were born in another country. It would not...
JENSEN: That's not correct. That's not correct.
COOPER: Well, that is correct. That is the facts.
JENSEN: I beg your pardon.
Under Hawaiian statute 338-17.8, there's nothing that says that in the statute.
JENSEN: You point it out to me if I'm wrong.
COOPER: In your complaint to General Casey, Colonel, you say -- quote -- that you're not seeking any "grandstanding or publicity for this action."
How can you seriously say that? I mean, you -- you put out a YouTube video with your -- talking, frankly, more than you've talked here tonight. You have this group paying all your legal fees, the American Patriot Foundation Legal Defense Fund. They have provided the attorney who's sitting next to you. And they're fund-raising based on you. They're raising money using you.
LAKIN: I attempted all avenues I could over a year ago.
I submitted an Article 138, which is the only way that I could research how to -- how to address this issue, asking and begging my leadership for guidance in how to -- how to address this issue. And the answers that I got were not forthcoming.
JENSEN: Now, Mr. -- Mr. Cooper, you...
COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel, let me...
JENSEN: The standard is not satisfying you. The standard is satisfying the Constitution.
COOPER: You seem like a -- Lieutenant Colonel, you seem like a really honorable man.
COOPER: Sir, let me -- excuse me. I'm addressing your client.
Lieutenant Colonel, you seem like an incredibly honorable man who's obviously served his country. You're a doctor. You're an educated man.
Why is it this issue? I mean, of all the orders you've taken, of all the people you've served under, why this, why now? What is it that -- that has got you so, you know, sticking on this issue? LAKIN: It's a fundamental of the Constitution, and my oath of office is to the Constitution. And I believe we need truth on this matter.
COOPER: But -- but, I mean, what's wrong with a certificate of live birth, in your opinion? What's wrong -- I mean, how do you explain a newspaper in 19 -- two newspapers in 1961 announcing the birth of Barack Obama in Hawaii, which is not something his parents did or his grandparents did? Those are based on health records sent by the Health Department, as it does for every person born in Hawaii. And -- and everyone gets a newspaper announcement.
JENSEN: Mr. Cooper, that's simply not correct.
And the -- and the issue is, instead, why hasn't the president released the original birth certificate, if one exists? This could be over tonight -- tonight. Release the birth certificate, if it exists, signed by the doctor in 1961.
JENSEN: It's in the state of Hawaii's records, if it was in existence.
COOPER: All right. I'm just going to read you a quote from Janice Okubo from the Department of Health: "Our certificate of live birth is the standard form, which was modeled after national standards that are acceptable by federal agencies and organizations."
JENSEN: But it is not the only form. It is not the only form.
COOPER: The governor of Hawaii, a Republican, has said -- and I quote -- "I had my health doctor, who is a physician by background, go personally view the birth certificate in the birth records of the Department of Health, and we issued a news release."
JENSEN: And she is not going to be testifying at the court- martial.
COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel...
JENSEN: This is a criminal case. The president should release the original birth certificate, and this will be over tonight.
These other documents and testimony are not admissible and will not be admitted in court. The issue is...
COOPER: Paul Jensen, I appreciate you being on the program tonight.
Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Lakin, I appreciate it, as well. Thank you, sir.
JENSEN: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, let us know what you think about that. You can join the live chat at AC360.com.
We're going to continue the conversation on birthers and also President Obama's Supreme Court nominee with blogger Erick Erickson, Roland Martin, and Jeffrey Toobin. Join us for that.
Later, it starts like the all-American story, until the all- American boy joins al Qaeda -- how it happened. And why are more Americans becoming radicalized?
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COOPER: We're talking about the birthers, who have not gone away, despite an awful lot of evidence from nonpartisan sources that there is simply nothing to the story, no "there" there. We also want to talk about electing, President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court. She's his solicitor general.
So, joining me now to discuss the "Raw Politics" of both, CNN contributors Erick Erickson of RedState.com, and Roland Martin, definitely not of RedState.com, also...
COOPER: ... senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
So, Roland, if there is -- just to play devil's advocate here on the birther's argument, if there is a hard copy long-form birth certificate in the records department of Hawaii that the -- the governor, the Republican governor, of Hawaii has said she sent her physician to see, why not release that?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Because they still won't be satisfied. We heard the same birther...
COOPER: They say they will be. They say, look, we see that, and -- and this thing goes away.
MARTIN: You know what? But, actually, they haven't been, because, in the last year-and-a-half, I have heard birthers say, oh, they fabricated the long-form. They fabricated the live birth certificate.
I mean, these folks will not believe anything. And, so, all you're simply doing is lending legitimacy to their nonsense.
COOPER: It is interesting, Erick. And you're conservative, because you have actually come out pretty strongly against the birthers.
ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Right.
COOPER: You say they don't represent the movement.
I have got -- received a lot of e-mails, vitriolic e-mails over the last couple days from birthers.
ERICKSON: You and me both.
COOPER: Yes -- well, who basically are -- seem to kind of change the game mid-stride. I mean, they say, well, look, even if there is a birth certificate, because Barack Obama had a father born in Kenya, and has therefore only had one parent who is an American, under this philosopher who the founding fathers listened to...
COOPER: ... that is not the definition of a natural-born citizen...
COOPER: ... whereas, in truth, anyone who is born in America, even if their parents aren't citizens, is a citizen.
You know, John McCain, who wasn't born in this country, but born of two American citizens, is an American citizen. Mitt Romney's father had the same issue, and he was an American citizen.
These people are masters of moving the goalposts. If Jesus Christ were to come back tomorrow surrounded by angels and say that Barack Obama is a citizen, they would say, it is probably the Antichrist. Let's stick around and wait for the real Jesus to come.
COOPER: So -- so, what do you think is behind -- I mean, what is behind the belief? What is -- what is the motivation?
ERICKSON: You know, there are some people, I think, who just can't fathom some things in life. Life has dealt them a raw turn or something. And, so, they come up with elaborate conspiracy theories.
We see this across American politics, regardless of ideology. And I think this is one of those cases.
COOPER: Jeff, what are the odds of Lieutenant Colonel Lakin actually getting anywhere with his defense?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Remember the old Elvis Costello song "Less Than Zero"? I would say that's what his chances are here in this -- in this whole enterprise. I mean, look...
COOPER: And, I mean, I -- it is sad. I mean, this is a guy who has given 18 years of service, you know, apparently served honorably, was a doctor, and then seems to be tossing out his career for this. There are principled stands you can take. This doesn't seem to be one of them.
TOOBIN: You know, in your interview, you kept saying what an honorable man he is.
You know, as they say at the Supreme Court, I think I dissent. These people are bigots. They're racists. They're freaks. They're lunatics. These are not rational players in American politics. These people are not part of the American political system.
And I think any effort to mollify them will simply lead to more questions. For example, let's just mention that the Honolulu newspaper announced his birth the day after he was born.
COOPER: Two of them did, actually, yes.
TOOBIN: Two of them did. So, was that planted years later, so he could run for president? I mean, let's not just -- let's not dignify these with any...
ERICKSON: They actually have a theory on that one.
TOOBIN: Oh, what is the theory on that one?
ERICKSON: Well, that he was actually born in Kenya and, due to the time change, that it was actually put in the newspaper the day he was born. That's actually -- legitimately, that is their argument. You can't rationalize with these people.
COOPER: All right.
MARTIN: That's right. You can't.
COOPER: Let's turn to something that's going to have more impact on more people's lives, Elena Kagan nominated to the Supreme Court.
Roland, are you disappointed with President Obama's pick? Because some on the left are saying that she is, in some ways, too conservative.
MARTIN: Well, and what you find here is, is that Republicans -- any time there is a Republican president, they are going to appoint a strong conservative. Yet, Democrats always seem to be afraid of appointing a strong liberal, so they would rather appoint someone who is a centrist, who can sort of work both sides, if you will.
And, so, I have talked to... (CROSSTALK)
COOPER: But, Roland, I mean, conservatives are saying, look, she is a strong liberal; she's an activist, you know...
MARTIN: Well, I -- well, first -- well, first of all, they will call Arlen Specter a strong liberal, even though he was one of theirs. But the point there is...
ERICKSON: He is still a liberal.
MARTIN: ... many folks -- you're hearing on the left who are saying, she is not as strong a liberal as they would have liked to.
But, again, she is in an -- she is in an interesting spot here, because Republicans are saying, well, we like her. Let's hear more from her. The left is saying, well, we don't -- quite sure, but we also like her.
And, so, for the president, they're, frankly, in a very good position, because you really don't have any hardened voices on either side.
COOPER: Erick, there's a lot of hardened voices certainly on radio, on conservative radio, talking about her. What's your take on her?
ERICKSON: Well, you know, she -- she did write her thesis in college on socialism and how she lamented the death of the activist left and hoped it would come back, and wrote in the '80s that she was of the left.
But, you know, I'm a little disappointed that Barack Obama didn't pick someone who wore a bow tie. With John Paul Stevens gone, it is the last of the bow ties on the Supreme Court.
ERICKSON: But, bigger -- and I think this is going to be her Achilles' heel -- with John Paul Stevens retiring and Elena -- the Elena Kagan pick, there are no more members of the Supreme Court who are veterans of the U.S. military, which I think could turn into a big deal, particularly given some of the issues that may come up in the next few years with the Supreme Court. You may...
ERICKSON: ... conservatives play that.
COOPER: Well, of course, questions about her take on don't ask, don't tell and also recruiting at Harvard.
Jeff, you know her personally. Tell me about her.
TOOBIN: We're law school classmates.
I think you saw a good -- a good example of Elena Kagan in action today. She is self-confident. She's funny. She is very intelligent and gets along with people. I think one of the reasons she got ahead of the other candidates is that she has a reputation of bringing people of diverse political viewpoints together.
Over 10, 20, 30 years on the Supreme Court, that's going to be a very important skill, not so much now, because I think most of the justices there are very set in their ways. But you can be influential.
COOPER: But the knock on her, though, Jeff, as you know, is that there's not a big paper trail on her, which probably would help her in the confirmation process, but that she hasn't really had to make decisions, that she hasn't been a judge, and, so, therefore she's been able to kind of do what, frankly, then Senator, or even before, Barack Obama did, of kind of walk a middle road.
TOOBIN: Well, and I think she is very much an Obama Democrat. She is no radical.
She is in the center of the party. But I think we have to remember the history here. In 1954, when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education, eight of the nine justices had never been judges before. Earl Warren was governor of California. Hugo Black was a senator. People had different backgrounds.
Only in 2005 did all nine justices become former federal appeals court judges. Obama believes in diversity in all things, including background.
COOPER: Do you think -- did you think she will get the nomination -- I mean, do you think she will get it?
TOOBIN: You know, when you hear Orrin Hatch, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, prominent Republicans, today almost endorsing her, but certainly not coming out against her, that was a very possible positive sign for her nomination.
MARTIN: Hey, and, Anderson, isn't it fortunate also -- Erick talked about the bow tie of John Paul Stevens.
We now -- if she is confirmed, you will have basically an Ivy League Supreme Court, folks who all went to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, or whatever.
ERICKSON: You will.
MARTIN: And, so, you know, Stevens went to the University of Chicago and law school at Northwestern. And so it would be nice, frankly, to have points of views who simply didn't go to these East Coast schools who -- that -- that, frankly, doesn't represent the same views of other folks across the country. So, it would be great to see people from different parts of America, vs. Ivy League institutions.
TOOBIN: That's a weird -- that's a weird fact. Roland is exactly right about this, seven products of Harvard Law School -- six of Harvard Law School, six -- three of Yale, that's just not right.
TOOBIN: It's no reason to vote against her, but it's just odd.
ERICKSON: Anderson, one more quick point, after this weekend in Utah, seeing incumbent Senator Bob Bennett defeated, let's not underestimate the willingness of some of the long-term Republicans to actually fight, if only because they're now scared of their base.
COOPER: Hmm. Interesting.
All right, we have got to leave it there.
Erick Erickson, Roland Martin, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.
MARTIN: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next: We have not forgotten the Gulf Coast -- why BP's plan for stopping the oil leak failed, what they are trying next, why a lot of people have very little faith in the effort. Historian and BP critic Douglas Brinkley joins us ahead.
Later: a story from the intersection of Hollywood and crime. Watch the stars' homes getting ripped off. See the wannabe stars facing charges. Bizarre.
Hooray for Hollywood.
COOPER: The environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico getting worse. More than three million gallons of oil have poured into an oil rig exploded back on April 20.
Now, BP, who leased and operated the rig, said today it has spent $350 million so far in cleanup and other costs tied to the spill. Again and again, engineers have tried to shut off the gushing oil. Nothing has worked. The latest attempt on Friday, they lowered that giant four-story container over the leak to try to cap it, but ice- like crystals apparently doomed the effort.
Tom Foreman joins us to explain that and the next plans to contain the oil disaster.
Tom, what do you know?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll tell you, Anderson, remember, this is happening in a very deep, dark and cold place, well below freezing, depending on how you look at it under this pressure.
So, tiny crystals of ice and gas called methane hydrate have been rising with the oil all along since the spill began. And here's what happened. When this dome was dropped, these tiny crystals started clinging to each other and to the sides of the dome inside. And, gradually, they just built up so much that they clogged the entire nozzle here, so that the oil could not be funneled out to the surface.
So, the question, obviously, that you would ask is, what are they? Well, this is what they are. A thousand feet or more beneath the ocean's surface, molecules of water freeze like little cages -- that's them out in red -- around each molecule of methane, creating this weird sort of slush called fire ice.
And why do they call it that? Well, because, look. You actually can set this ablaze. The gas burns as the ice melts and releases it. That, Anderson, is the culprit that is stopping up this funnel from stopping this leak in the bottom of the ocean.
COOPER: So, I understand they -- they have considered using a smaller dome. How would that be any better?
FOREMAN: Well, that's an interesting question. The reason it would be better, perhaps, a researcher from the Colorado Schools of Mines tells me, it might allow them to focus a heat source right around here to prevent those crystals from connecting and clogging the spout.
But fire ice is really a tricky thing. Vast beds of this stuff on the ocean floor can become highly volatile if either the pressure or the temperature equation is upset, reverting to pure gas all at once, and erupting up toward the surface.
That means, for instance, if you had a ship right up here, you could have the gas coming up like this. And if it went to the top and was ignited, you could have a massive explosion up here.
But there is another possibility, and that could even be worse. This is one of the theories of what happened in the original rig explosion, that they had a methane explosion like this. But, just as bad, the surface could also become, as this gas was released, an unstable mass of water mixed with bubbles of gas.
And it could become so unstable -- no kidding -- that a ship like this could simply be unable to float and be swallowed by the sea. Some scientists genuinely think this could be an explanation for those supposedly mysterious ship disappearance -- disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle -- Anderson.
COOPER: So, there is another option we're hearing about called a junk shot. What is that?
FOREMAN: Yes, the junk shot is the last possible option we're talking about here.
To put it in really simple terms, what they're talking about doing is injecting some shredded rope, rubber, and other material into piping all around the wellhead at the bottom down there, hoping to dam it up. It is possible that the oil is coming out underneath that water that -- with more than 2,000 pounds of pressure, enough to lift a Mini Cooper. So, putting a cork into that could be very tough -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Tom, appreciate it.
The oil slick has wiped out huge chunks of the Gulf Coast fishing industry. It is threatening a hundred miles -- hundreds of miles of beaches, marshlands, wildlife sanctuaries.
Douglas Brinkley is not only a presidential historian. He's also passionate about the environment. One of his many books is about President Roosevelt's creating the national parks and wildlife refuges. Now, he is right now writing a book about saving Alaska's wilderness, where BP wants to drill.
I want to dig deeper with Douglas Brinkley.
Doug, I know you -- you continue to follow this story closely, as we do. Were you surprised at all that the containment dome didn't work?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, I wasn't.
In fact, even on your show last week, I said, BP is winging it. What their plan really is to drill a relief well. They're saying it could take three months. People I talk to in the oil industry, top people in the oil industry, say it could take as long as five months to do it.
So, what they're trying to do now is anything to just try something. You just gave the junk shot. They're calling it now, you know, the top hat or the little hat. And they're throwing all these terms as a deflection from their culpability in -- in their lax environmental standards they had, which has led to this worst environmental disaster in American history.
COOPER: And I want to give our viewers just some context, kind of a look at just how big a spill we're talking about.
This is what it would look like if the spill area was over Manhattan. And then we also have what it would look like if it was over San Francisco.
The head of BP told NPR today that it -- that it could see weeks, if not months, before the well is shut. So, even now, I mean, knowing what we know, there -- we really have no idea how bad this is going to get.
And Tony Hayward, the CEO who you just mentioned of BP, has been disingenuous from day one. I'm going to be stunned if he survives
COOPER: You think he should step down?
BRINKLEY: I do think he should step down. He has not treated the public properly. The -- just the dropping of dispersants on the Gulf of Mexico, a dumping of chemicals nonstop. How would they like it if it was dumped in -- outside of London or in Kent where he lives?
There's been no sensitivity to the matter at all. It's constantly moving the marker one step forward and hoping that the media or the American people will somehow get bored with this. We can't get bored when the oil spill is continuing and there's no real plan to cap this thing except on drill a relief well. The rest of them are "hail Mary" passes. Let's hope one works, but it's all very much a long shot.
COOPER: It's interesting, though. I mean, you know, David Axelrod today told Wolf Blitzer that the president is still open to expanding offshore oil drilling. Did that surprise you?
BRINKLEY: It did surprise me. And we'll see how that plays out. I think we need something like a 9/11 Commission right now. We need a BP spill commission. Watch the clips tomorrow of what's going to go on, on Capitol Hill.
And then the third thing to watch is the finger pointing going on between Halliburton, Transocean, BP. They're each blaming each other.
Bottom line, BP is responsible. They chose the drill. They chose how to drill the well. And I don't think that they've been a good corporate citizen. Not just for offshore oil but for any corporation. A company that powerful to be constantly offering misinformation to the American people that they have, I think it's been a very sorry for a company like that to be behaving the way they have.
COOPER: Doug Brinkley, I appreciate your time. Thanks.
Coming up, from an altar boy to an American al Qaeda. A young man from suburban New York became a terrorist. It's an astonishing story and cautionary tale ahead.
And later, they were not obsessed with celebrities in just the usual way. They actually stole from them. And now one of the so- called "Bling Ring" burglars is paying the price. Our "Crime & Punishment" report coming up.
COOPER: Still ahead, a young American's disturbing journey from all-American altar boy to al Qaeda. Where did the path to an alleged plot to blow up New York's Penn Station begin? That story is ahead.
But first, an update on some of the other stories we're following. Joe Johns has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, stocks soared today. The Dow shot up 405 points after European officials approved a nearly $1 trillion rescue plan to keep Greece and other troubled nations solvent. The NASDAQ rallied 109 points. The S&P 49 points.
A severe weather system spawned multiple tornadoes over the Central Plains Monday night, killing at least three people and injuring dozens. In Norman, Oklahoma, that twister overturned cars, downed trees, blew apart several mobile homes. Nearly 28,000 homes are without power in the metropolitan Oklahoma City area alone.
A Canadian man says all he got from Delta after the airline lost his dog Paco is an apology and a $200 flight credit. Paco's owner says he put his pet in a carrier with two lots for a flight from Mexico City to Detroit. The dog never arrived. The airline says Paco escaped, and his carrier and ran away.
And isn't that awful? I mean, that's the worst possible situation there. Your poor dog disappears on you.
All right. Ahead on 360, remembering the one and only Lena Horne. From her voice and beauty to how she championed civil rights, we'll look back on her extraordinary life. That is coming up.
Also tonight, caught on tape and now copping a plea. A reality TV star -- although I use that word "star" reservedly, owns up to being part of a group that robbed the homes of other stars and celebrities. The story of the so-called "Bling Ring" ahead.
COOPER: We all know that the alleged Times Square bomber was born in Pakistan but became an American citizen. But increasingly, it seems more Americans are becoming radicalized.
That brings us to our 360 special investigation tonight, about how an all-American kid became an al Qaeda terrorist. Now, he was born in the suburbs of New York. And as you'll see tonight, this former altar boy planned an attack on U.S. soil that could have caused massive casualties.
And until now his story has never been reported. The attacks on the U.S. he helped al Qaeda plan have never been disclosed.
CNN international correspondent Nic Robertson spent months working on the report. Here's the first part of his special investigation.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Penn Station in the heart of New York. At peak rush, more than 60,000 people churn through here every hour. Sixty thousand every hour.
For al Qaeda, Penn Station and the potential for a mass killing is a prized but daunting target. But then it seemed they got lucky.
That's when this man, a young American, who grew up only 50 miles from here, made his way to Pakistan to offer his help. He is Bryant Neal Vinas, and this is how a quiet, studious middle-class kid suddenly transformed into a dangerous enemy of the state.
MITCH SILBER, NYPD: Brian Neal Vinas is almost a poster child for the process, the unremarkable nature of the people who might go through this process, and the danger that presents.
ROBERTSON (on camera): I've spent the better part of a year here in the U.S. and in Europe, unraveling how and why Bryant Neal Vinas went from Catholic to Muslim, from U.S. Army recruit to jihadist, from Long Island to Lahore.
(voice-over) Bryant grew up on this street in a middle-class neighborhood on Long Island. His parents are Latino immigrants. Neither would go on camera with CNN, but a neighbor, Rita Desroche, says as a boy, Bryant was like part of her family.
RITA DESROCHE, NEIGHBOR: He could come here any time, and he was welcomed.
ROBERTSON: Rita's son Carvin knew him best.
CARVIN DESROCHE, CHILDHOOD FRIEND: When we were younger, we used to go in the pool a lot. He was respectful. He would make sure that he wouldn't break any sort of rules in the house.
ROBERTSON (on camera): There was nothing remarkable about Bryant's early childhood. His teachers remember him as being a good student, quiet and shy. He loved baseball and swimming. On Sundays, he was an altar boy. His father, devoutly Catholic. But when he was 14 years old, it all came crashing down.
(voice-over) Bryant's world, shattered by his father leaving his mother. His mother talked about it off camera with CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: There were tears and temper tantrums. Bryant started quarrelling with his sister, being disrespectful towards his mother. He refused to accept his parents' separation.
NICHOLSON: Soon, Bryant left his mother's home. The boy was adrift. He stayed with the Desroches a few weeks until he went to live with his father. It was about that time Bryant made a new best friend, Alex Acevado.
(on camera) Where did you meet him?
ALEX ACEVADO, FRIEND: I met him in high school. Longwood High School. From there we just hanged out. We clicked, you know, like regular buddies.
RICHARDSON (voice-over): Although they were best buddies, they were different. Alex liked partying. Bryant was clean cut.
ACEVADO: Never had a beer with him. Nothing. He was a straight edge. He was passionate about school. He did his homework on time. He liked school. He liked going to school. He wanted to finish school and go to college.
RICHARDSON (on camera): He sounds like a regular middle-class kid.
ACEVADO: Yes, he is. He's just dedicated. He's very dedicated. And he's focused. Very focused. To me he's very goal oriented.
RICHARDSON (voice-over): Bryant was 18 on September 11, 2001, 9/11. The terrorist act inspired one of Bryant's friends to join the Marines. Another one joined the Army. And two joined the Coast Guard. Bryant wanted in, too.
(on camera) What was he talking to you about, what he wanted to do with his life?
ACEVADO: He just said he wanted to go into the military you know, and just come out and just live happy.
RICHARDSON: And join the Army.
ACEVADO: And join the Army.
RICHARDSON: Did he say why he wanted to join the Army?
ACEVADO: No, not at all. He just felt proud. He just wanted to join the Army.
RICHARDSON (voice-over): In March 2002, Bryant enlists. According to military records CNN obtained, he signed up for the infantry but after three weeks is discharged. Bryant's family says he was discharged due to his asthma.
ACEVADO: He said it was too difficult on him.
RICHARDSON (on camera): Boot camp.
ACEVADO: Yes. Too difficult, he said.
RICHARDSON (voice-over): Bryant was 19, aimless, alienated from his parents.
ACEVADO: So the relationship between him and his family was just -- they just crumbled. They shattered in pieces. And he started a new life with his friends.
RICHARDSON: Bryant was drawn to Alex's brother Victor, an aspiring pro boxer and a new convert to Islam.
ACEVADO: He asked, "What is the Koran?" And my brother explained to him what it was, and he handed him the Koran.
RICHARDSON (on camera): And how long did it take him to read it?
ACEVADO: Not long. Because he took every minute, every second reading that book.
RICHARDSON (voice-over): It's as if he's been searching for a new identity. And now it's taking shape. But it would soon jag wildly in another direction. Of course, no one could have guessed Bryant's journey would lead him to Afghanistan and a plan to help al Qaeda strike back home in New York.
COOPER: That's tomorrow, part two of "American al Qaeda: The Path to Jihad Against America."
Now in his early 20s, Bryant Neal Vinas' views grow increasingly radical. In time it would lead him to al Qaeda and the plot to strike here in the heart of New York. That is tomorrow on 360.
You can join the live chat. Let us know what you think at AC360.com.
Coming up, the floods in Tennessee are over but the rebuilding continues/ Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and others coming together to raise money for the relief effort. We have details on that ahead.
Also the group of thieves who were stealing from the stars in Hollywood. Were they actually after the money, or were they themselves trying to become famous? We'll have the story next on 360.
COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, stealing from the stars. It could be the title of a new reality show. But cops say that was the crime spree mission behind the Bling Ring, the name given to a group of young suspects who burglarized the home of Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, to name a few. Today one of the alleged Bling Ring members faced a judge.
Ted Rowlands reports.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is 18-year- old Alexis Neiers. This morning she was sentenced to six months in county jail after pleading "no contest" to one felony burglary charge. She already has her own cable TV show, and this is a moment she'll no doubt be talking about on it.
She's going to jail for her role as a member of the Bling Ring, a group of partying suburban L.A. kids that police say stole cash, jewelry, and clothing worth millions from the homes of a long list of Hollywood celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, and Orlando Bloom.
(on camera) Orlando Bloom's and the other celebrity victims' home are here in the Hollywood hills. According to police, the kids in the Bling Ring would wait until the celebrities were out of town and then use maps on the Internet to case the homes before they showed up to steal.
(voice-over) Surveillance video from Bloom's home shows the suspects walking backwards, hiding their faces from the security cam. Here they are outside the home of Audrina Patridge. Police say for nine months, from December 2008 until August of 2009, the burglary ring hit 11 different celebrity homes, which at the time created a stir in Hollywood.
AUDRINA PATRIDGE, ACTRESS: Hopefully we catch them and get our stuff back. They took all the same stuff, you know? All the girl stuff. Jewelry and clothes and everything.
ROWLANDS: Paris Hilton was the first victim. Police say members of the Bling Ring broke into her house more than five times using a key they found under a doormat.
They stole an estimated $2 million worth of property. Police say before they were caught, the thieves kept and even wore a lot of the things they stole, which is now helping prosecutors.
When 19-year-old Nick Prugo was arrested, he was wearing this shirt stolen from Orlando Bloom. Police say 19-year-old Courtney Ames actually showed up to her arraignment wearing this necklace, stolen from Lindsay Lohan.
And police say alleged ringleader Rachel Lee is wearing a necklace stolen from Rachel Bilson in this photo posted on a social networking site.
Outside Lindsay Lohan's former home that was burglarized in the Hollywood Hills, L.A. police detective Brett Goodkins says the motive of the Bling Ring was to make money.
BRETT GOODKINS, L.A. POLICE DETECTIVE: Is there some aspect of this, they targeted them because of a fascination with celebrity, and there is absolutely that. This wasn't a scavenger hunt of young crazy kids just trying to get close to celebrity and this was the best way they could do it.
ROWLANDS: But now the burglars are becoming famous. They've been interviewed by television shows and celebrity gossip sites like TMZ. Alexis Neiers has her own reality show on the E! network. The absurdity of it all is summed up in this clip of her calling a reporter who wrote about her appearing in court.
ALEXIS NEIERS, REALITY TV STAR: I'm going to let you know how disappointed I am in your story. There's many things that I read in here that were false. Like you saying that I wore six-inch Lubathon (ph) heels to court with my tweed skirt when I wore four-inch little brown B.B. shoes.
ROWLANDS: Neiers will be wearing prison clothes starting in late June when she begins to serve her six-month sentence. Pugo, Ames, Lee and two other alleged members of the Bling Ring have pleaded not guilty. They're scheduled to be in court for a preliminary hearing later this month. CNN, Los Angeles.
COOPER: She seems like a charming young lady, doesn't she?
Several Web sites show not only where celebrities live but provide multiple images of their homes, including where entrances to the homes and fences are. Some celebrities have tried to have the information removed from the Web sites, but most of the time they are unsuccessful because it's legal to publish it.
Coming up, "Playboy" is rolling out a new Web site, one they call safe for work. So what exactly are they going to show? And will that really fly with your boss? More on that ahead.
And also Betty White has been on TV more than 60 years. She knocked it out of the park on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend. We'll show you some of her performance, ahead.
COOPER: All right. Let's get a quick update on some of the other stories we're following. Joe Johns back with a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOHNS: Anderson, legendary singer, danger, actress and civil rights activist Lena Horne has died. She joined MGM studios in '42, becoming the first African-American to sign a long-term movie contract with a major Hollywood studio. "Stormy Weather" became her signature song.
Lena Horne was 92.
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, seen here with Anderson in Nashville last Thursday, are uniting with other country stars to assist the victims of the devastating floods that killed dozens in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The benefit will be held June 22 at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
And reading "Playboy" on your office computer without getting into trouble. How's that going to happen? The men's entertainment Web site is rolling out a work-friendly site that targets office workers who browse the Internet. It won't feature any nudity, though. And I wonder if they're going to edit out the raunchy jokes, Anderson?
COOPER: We'll see about that.
All right, Joe. For tonight's "Shot," it got kind of raunchy this weekend. Betty White was on "Saturday Night Live," and she was amazing. She was really good. The whole -- actually, it was a great episode. I just want to show you some of the stuff she said in her monologue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: People say, "But Betty, Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends." Well, at my age if I want to connect with old friends, I need a Ouija board.
Needless to say, we didn't have Facebook when I was growing up. We had phone books. But you wouldn't waste an afternoon on it. Yes, we had poking, but it wasn't something you did on a computer. It was something you did on a hay ride. Under a blanket. Oh, sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She just gets better and better. She's got a great sense of timing.
Do you know that, according to IMDb, she first appeared on film in 1945?
COOPER: She's won six Emmys over a 65-year career in entertainment. So congratulations.
JOHNS: She's a legend.
COOPER: Seems like a really nice lady. I've never met her, but she seems great.
All right, Joe. Thanks very much. Tonight a lot more coming up at the top of the hour, including the Army officer disobeying orders because he's a birther who doubts President Obama is a legitimate commander in chief.