Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Osama bin Laden's New Threat; Environmental Armageddon in Gulf Coast?; Broken Promises For Katrina Survivors

Aired January 19, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
With the devastation and dislocation of Hurricane Katrina all around us, still, you can add something else to the mix tonight, a new threat of destruction from Osama bin Laden.


ANNOUNCER: After a year's silence, Osama bin Laden is back. In a new audiotape, he issues his strongest threat ever, promising terror in the U.S.


OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): It's only a question of time. They are under way and you will hear about them soon.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with Osama bin Laden.

After Katrina, New Orleans pumped out billions of gallons of oily, watery sludge. And that brought predictions of an environmental Armageddon in Gulf waters. So, what happened?

And Katrina promises -- Anderson asks, if the local government requested 16,000 trailers for residents who lost their homes, why have only 1,000 been delivered? We're "Keeping Them Honest." 360 gets some answer from Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco.


ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360.

Live from the Gulf Coast, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Good evening again.

We begin tonight with a tape, with the voice of Osama bin Laden and his promise of new attacks on the United States. Having gone 13 months without a word, members of the intelligence community were beginning to wonder was he dead or no longer able to get his message out. Sadly, no such luck. He is, said one official -- quote -- "back in the game." But it is no game. As always, the tape which aired today on Al- Jazeera raises more questions than it answers. It may also say a lot about the state of al Qaeda and our preparation for whatever is in store. We're going to get into all of it in a moment with CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, CNN security analyst Clark Kent Ervin, and CNN's terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, who wrote the book on Osama bin Laden.

But, first, Nic Robertson sets the stage.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The latest tape breaks a silence of more than a year. Al Qaeda's leader making it clear he's not only alive but ready to attack inside America.


BIN LADEN (through translator): It's only a matter of time. They are in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete.


ROBERTSON: In the week bin Laden's deputy and other top lieutenants were targeted in U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan, he appears to be striking back.


BIN LADEN (through translator): This message to you is about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I shouldn't be discussing this subject because it's a done deal as far as we're concerned. Our situation is getting better while your situation is getting worse.


ROBERTSON: This message to America is bin Laden's most explicit threat of an attack ever. And he claims that if Islamic terrorists can attack in London and Madrid, then they can outsmart American security.

But, said, bin Laden, he wanted to offer Americans a truce of sorts, get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we won't attack. It's the same sort of offer made to and rejected by European countries after the Madrid train bombing in 2004.


BIN LADEN (through translator): We do not mind offering a long- term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to. Both parties of the truce will enjoy security and stability and security to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan which were destroyed by war. There is no shame in this solution.


ROBERTSON: Only small outtakes of his long audio message were aired on the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera. But a part transcribed on their Web site gives the best clue to when bin Laden recorded it.

Bin Laden apparently referenced a British tabloid article alleging President Bush joked with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about attacking Al-Jazeera TV. That seems to date the recording to December last year or later.


ROBERTSON: And December of that time was exactly when the debate was heating up in the U.S. over whether or not to pull the troops out of Iraq. It seems bin Laden was studying the politics here, waiting for a weak moment in public opinion for him to record it.

When he released that message, it seems to be timed to trying to dominate the news again, after all that negative publicity about his deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahri, possibly being killed in an airstrike last week -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, Nic, let's talk about past tapes. I mean, he's threatening new attacks. Has the timing of his threats in past been linked to attacks by al Qaeda?

ROBERTSON: He has threatened an attack -- attacks before, and they have been carried out. He offered a truce to European nations in April 2004. He offered that truce, telling them to get their troops out of Iraq.

About a year-and-a-half later, Britain still had its troops in Iraq. That's when the train -- that's when al Qaeda attacked the underground rail network in London. So, yes, they carried them out. But there have been far more threats than there have been attacks carried out -- Anderson.

Nic, stay with us.

Joining the discussion is Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, currently CNN security analyst, and Peter Bergen, our terrorism analyst, most recently the author of "The Osama Bin Laden I Know," an extraordinarily researched book about -- an oral history, really, by those who know Osama bin Laden.

Peter, I want to start off with you.

Some experts believe it's a victory in itself that bin Laden was able to record and release the tape. How do you see it?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, yes. I think the most important message of the tape is, I'm alive and well.

And, as Nic pointed out, they had had this sort of public- relations disaster last Friday, where a number of important al Qaeda leaders were killed. And they may have had this tape on the shelf ready to go, or maybe it's just a coincidence it came out now.

But certainly the main message of the tape is, al Qaeda's leadership remains in the game, is alive, is still giving broad strategic guidance to jihadists around the world.

COOPER: Clark Kent Ervin, what's most important about this tape to you?

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the fact that he was really fairly specific. He said not only that he has a threat against the United States. He's said that before.


ERVIN: But he said that plans were under way. And he also used the phrase, in the heartland of America. And that suggests that the attack might take place in the middle of the country. Of course, attacks in the place have taken place in New York, in Washington. There have been threats against the West Coast, but no specific intelligence indicating threats against the middle of the country. So, that was rather interesting and unusual.

COOPER: And, Nic Robertson, I find it fascinating that he has access somehow to British tabloids, probably on the Internet. He's got Internet -- if he's got Internet access, I mean, where can he be? He's clearly not hiding in some cave without access to technology.

ROBERTSON: You know, the interesting thing about this strike last week in Pakistan, it wasn't that remote. It was in a village, a town, if you will, of 25,000 people connected by hard-paved roads to the rest of Pakistan.

It appears that al Qaeda, at times, the leadership might even be hiding close to some of Pakistan's big cities. So, if that was the case, pretty easy to get supplied with that kind of information -- Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, I'm also fascinated by the -- by what you just said about the possibility that -- that he records these tape, and then they just hold them and -- and kind of release them for maximum public-relations values. Do they have, like, P.R. people sitting around, discussing when they should release these things?

BERGEN: Well, they have long had a media arm called Al-Sahab, which means "The Clouds" in Arabic, that first started producing videotapes back in the summer of 2001.

And, in fact, as you may remember, the last videotape from bin Laden was released prior -- you know, to really interfere with the U.S. presidential election. It aired five days before the presidential election, on the 29th of October, 2004. So, yes, they do have a media strategy. Yes, they have reacted to events, to news, in the past, and put their spin on it and put their message out.

COOPER: Clark Kent Ervin, should the -- should the threat level be raised?

ERVIN: Well, it's always difficult to make that judgment.

On the one hand, there are certainly -- there's an indication now that we're under a very, very serious threat. On the other hand, it costs a lot of money. There's a question as to how long the threat level should be raised. My inclination would be to raise the level. As we know, in Los Angeles, actions have been taken. And it will be very interesting to see what the Department of Homeland Security does and decides in that regard in the next day or so.

COOPER: Gentlemen, stay with us. And we are going to have more on Osama bin Laden coming up. He's one of the FBI's 10 most wanted. And, right after 9/11, he was President Bush's top target. Remember this?


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said wanted, dead or alive.


COOPER: Well, bin Laden is still out there. We're no longer hearing statements like that from the president. Coming up, the White House response today and how the dialogue has changed.

Plus, here in Louisiana, folks are still waiting for Hurricane Katrina relief, still waiting. Why is it taking so long? Well, we will try to get some answers from a number of officials, including Governor Kathleen Blanco, when 360 continues.


COOPER: Welcome back to a special edition of 360.

In a moment, we will have the latest on the new terror threats from Osama bin Laden, and we will hear the White House reaction.

But, first, the ship you're looking at is the Scotia Prince. It is docked here just off the port in Saint Bernard Parish. There are about 800, 850 or so, residents of Saint Bernard Parish who have been living on board this ship, the ship which we are broadcasting to you tonight from.

These are some of the volunteers from Catholic Charities, who are also staying on the ship, who been helping people try to rebuild their lives. There's so much work still to be done here in Saint Bernard Parish, and so much controversy over trailers. There's not enough places for people to live. There are some 70,000 people that used to live in Saint Bernard Parish. There's only about 5,000 of them here now. And only about 1,000, or 1,100, trailers have been delivered.

They're waiting for -- for thousands of more trailers. The question is, why haven't they come? We will try to get to the bottom of that tonight when we talk to Louisiana's governor in a moment. We also want to tell you why New Orleans may be at an even greater risk for another massive hurricane. It has a lot to do with the marshland that surrounds the city and protects it. At least that's what it's supposed to do.

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano joins me with more -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Anderson, we're at the bow of the Scotia Prince, which is pointing upstream on that mighty Mississippi, which, at one point, was -- has been feeding the marshlands and the wetlands of southeast Louisiana for hundreds, thousands of years, constantly replenishing those marshes, those wetlands, which act not only as an estuary for much of the seafood around here, but also as a protection barrier for this city that we know that sits underneath the water.

Well, since we have built up the canals and levees of these rivers, those wetlands have been depleted, to the extent, at least across much of -- all of the south Louisiana, looking at a football field of depleted marshland every 38 minutes.

And when Katrina came through, we lost as much marshland during that one day as we did for an entire year. We talked with officials today. We will do it again tomorrow. Later on, in this broadcast, Anderson, we will talk about the possible solutions to the problems and maybe save this city from another disastrous hurricane in the years to come -- back to you.

COOPER: Rob, thanks. That's later on 360.

Let's go back to Osama bin Laden now and his new message. Tonight, there were no immediate plans to raise the nation's terror alert level. You heard one of the guests thinks he should -- thinks it should be raised. But U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI plan to send out a bulletin to state and local law enforcement urging vigilance, in the wake of the new tape.

Now, in his latest message, bin Laden accuses Bush of lying and misleading the American people. The president, in turn, said nothing today. He was giving a speech in Virginia when the news broke and didn't hear about the tape until afterwards.

Even so, the president these days doesn't often call out bin Laden by name, though he still finds a way to respond to his threats.

CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash takes a look at the shifting dialogue between the president and the terrorists.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush would not respond to questions about Osama bin Laden's reemergence, leaving that to his spokesman.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: We do not negotiate with terrorists.


BIN LADEN (through translator): The majority of people want him to pull troops out of our land.


BASH: But bin Laden's direct references to Mr. Bush and his political situation is just the latest in a long distance debate running more than four years now.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: They both are very involved in this ongoing discussion with each other. Even where there are six- and 12-month delays in the back and forth.

BUSH: There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said wanted, dead or alive.

BASH: Days after September 11, cowboy talk to challenge bin Laden, too blunt, Mr. Bush later admitted.

BUSH: The war against terror is bigger than any single individual.

BASH: Then as months went by without capturing enemy number one, the president stopped talking about him and downplayed his importance.

BUSH: Oh, I know the news media likes to say, where is Osama bin Laden? He's not the issue.

BASH: But knowing his symbolic power, bin Laden made sure he was the issue, popping up right before Election Day.


BIN LADEN (through translator): Bush is confusing you.


BUSH: Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country. Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: This Third World War is raging in Iraq.

BASH: Last year the president shifted again, talking unprompted about bin Laden to help justify the Iraq war.

BUSH: Here are the words of Osama bin Laden: This Third World War Is raging in Iraq.

BASH: Even mocking him as a hypocritical son of privilege, duping the less fortunate into becoming suicide bombers.

BUSH: He assures them that his -- that this is the road to paradise, though he never offers to go along for the ride.

BASH: But much to Mr. Bush's chagrin, every word from bin Laden sends a message on a raw subject for Americans.

O'HANLON: He's taunting the president and reminding the world that he's gotten away for four-and-a-half years now.

BASH (on camera): While that taunting may sting a bit here, bin Laden's reemergence could give the administration new ammunition for their case that the terror threat is still very real and their controversial spying program should continue.

Dana Bash, CNN, the White House.


COOPER: Joining me now once again in Washington, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, and CNN security analyst Clark Kent Ervin.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining me again.

Peter, bin Laden made his most specific threat against the United States. How seriously should the U.S. take it right now?

BERGEN: Well, you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to know that al Qaeda's planning attacks against the United States. This is hardly new. So, I think this is sort of hyperventilation on bin Laden's part.

Al Qaeda, the organization, has been damaged in the post-9/11 period. Certainly, they can pull off stuff in London, as we saw in July 2005. But I don't think we have seen evidence of American sleeper cells. Most of the terrorism cases in this country, in the United States, have been about material support for terrorism, which is a -- a rather vague crime that has little to do with actually planning real terrorist acts.

And, so, one of the great unsung stories post-9/11 is how the American Muslim community has really rejected -- rejected the al Qaeda ideology. And that's not true in Europe, where it remains pretty strong.

COOPER: Nic, why do you think it has been so long since we last heard from bin Laden?

ROBERTSON: It's not clear. Perhaps he's been trying to hide and keep a low profile, because he's afraid that every time he releases an audiotape or a videotape -- and there have been 19 such releases since September the 11th -- that he could tip off the CIA or Pakistani intelligence as to where he is.

He has left his deputy to -- to put out those messages. It's really interesting, though, that he has chosen this particular time, when he thinks President Bush's popularity is down, to come out at that time and essentially kick President Bush when he's down. I think that's very interesting that he's chosen this moment, after a whole year.

COOPER: Clark, do you think the United States has gotten complaisant?

ERVIN: There's no question about that. There have been a number of measures, for example, that the Department of Homeland Security has taken recently, doing away with the 30-minute rule, where you have to be seated for the first 30 minutes of a flight as you depart Washington, the last 30 minutes of a flight as you approach Washington, the lifting of the ban on small knives and small tools.

All of this suggests a pre-9/11 mentality, when, in fact, we see today from this tape that bin Laden remains intent on attacking the homeland.

COOPER: Peter, you have sat down with bin Laden. You have met the guy, one of the few people who has. What's he like?

BERGEN: He's a very serious, not very humorous, rather intelligent, well-informed guy, who carries himself like a cleric and not like a sort of flame-throwing revolutionary.

But the -- the thing you really take away is that he seems deadly serious. The people around him treat him as sort of a god. When we met with him, in '97, it wasn't really quite clear how he was going to attack the United States from sitting in a mud hut in the middle of the night in Afghanistan. But, of course, we found out on 9/11 that this -- this organization was capable of such attacks.

COOPER: Nic, you know, we have all seen those videos back from when Peter did that interview of -- of bin Laden traveling in a big group, with lots of mass bodyguards. Do you think he still has such a big entourage?

ROBERTSON: He's -- he's unlikely to have too many people around him, because he doesn't want to give away who may be hiding in the house.

But he's likely to have a group of bodyguards around him, who, like him, will probably fight it out, if they can, perhaps even to the death -- Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, how significant do you think it is that this tape was released shortly after this attack on the border with Pakistan?

BERGEN: I think it is significant, because, clearly they were feeling the heat, literally and metaphorically, and they needed to put something out there. Unless it's a coincidence, they needed to put something out there to say, we're in the game.

COOPER: Clark, where do you think the U.S. is most vulnerable?

ERVIN: Well, it's really hard to say.

If I had to pick one area, I would probably say in the area of port security. You know, we inspect only about 6 percent of incoming cargo ships. To be fair, it's impossible to inspect all of them. But we're relying on intelligence as to which cargo to inspect. And that regime, that security regime, is only as good as our intelligence. And it's pretty clear that our intelligence is not as good as it should be.

COOPER: Clark Kent Ervin, appreciate you joining us, Nic Robertson as well.

And, Peter Bergen, always good to talk to you.

Thanks, guys.

Here in the Gulf, too many of the stories of Hurricane Katrina had unhappy endings. Shocking to say, there are thousands of stories that still don't have endings at all, unhappy or otherwise, for example, the search for the many still listed as missing. That's next on 360.

And FEMA made a lot of promises in the Gulf to those who survived the storms and floods, among them, that there would be trailers for them to live in. So, where are the trailers now?

From New Orleans and around the world, you're watching a special edition of 360.


COOPER: And we are live on the Scotia Prince ship, off Saint Bernard Parish here in -- in Louisiana, where about 850 residents and volunteers are living and have been living for many months now. There are just not enough trailers, and there are very few homes. There's really a handful of homes left in Saint Bernard Parish.

Turning now to the story that is right in front of and all around us, the fate of the Gulf Coast and its people -- let us say first that it is an awful thing to have to visit the grave of a loved one who died in the chaos of Hurricane Katrina. But there may be something worse even than that: not having a grave to visit because the one you have lost is unaccounted for, missing, in other words. And thousands still are.

CNN's Susan Roesgen reports.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For weeks, search teams went into the hardest-hit areas. And when they couldn't find bodies, they sent in cadaver dogs. Since the hurricane, more than 1,000 bodies have been recovered in Louisiana, yet, nearly 3,000 people still are unaccounted for, people like Viola (ph) Eaton.

(on camera): This is the block that Viola (ph) Eaton used to call home. Somewhere in here was her house. But now, almost five months after a wall of water flattened this neighborhood, Viola (ph) Eaton is still among the missing.

SUSIE EATON, MOTHER MISSING: Not knowing is the thing that -- it's really mind bothering, not knowing. I need closure.

ROESGEN (voice-over): Susie Eaton says she needs answers. Louisiana's medical examiner, Dr. Louis Cataldie, does, too. He's asking that search teams be sent back to look again for hurricane victims, focusing on about 400 specific addresses where people are listed as missing.

DR. LOUIS CATALDIE, LOUISIANA EMERGENCY RESPONSE MEDICAL DIRECTOR: You can go into a house, and -- and furniture is piled on top of furniture, and there's sludge in these houses. And you may have thought that you -- indeed, you cleared a house, and, in reality, it was not cleared. So, you have got to go back and take another look.

ROESGEN: When we told Dr. Cataldie about Susie Eaton's mother, Viola (ph), he took notes and promised to help her. With a sample of Susie Eaton's DNA, he may be able to identify one of the bodies at the state morgue that have baffled him for weeks.

CATALDIE: I have got about 75 people right now who I have absolutely no clue who they are, I mean, none.

ROESGEN: Cataldie and others believe that most of the people on the missing list have already been found alive, but their families have forgotten to take their names off the list -- not Susie Eaton.

Dr. Cataldie would like to put her mind at rest.

(on camera): Why not just say, we are never going to be able to find these people?

CATALDIE: Would you want me to give up on your mother? And I don't want you to give up on mine.


ROESGEN: And the New Orleans Police Department agrees with that. A police spokesman told me today, Anderson, that they're ready to go back in, have the search teams go back in, and check any address that might be worth a second look.

COOPER: Oh, it's been one of the frustrating things, as you know, Susan, for a lot of people here.

The official searches by the state stopped October 3. And, since then, dozens of bodies are still being found in these homes. It is -- it is just -- it is unbelievable to imagine that there are still people out there in that rubble somewhere, and that they're -- they're -- they still need to be looked for.

Susan, appreciate the report. Thank you.

Much more ahead on the recovery efforts in the Gulf, starting with a simple question central to many lives here: Where are the trailers that FEMA promised more than four months ago? Why are so many Katrina refugees still waiting?

Another question as well, why is the cleanup and rebuilding taking so long? We will ask Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco about the progress in New Orleans, the progress that has been made, and the progress still being waited for. It's all part of "Keeping Them Honest," coming up on 360.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Some people got lost in the flood. Some people got away all right. The river has busted through clear down to Plaquemines. Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. We are live just off St. Bernard Parish. You're looking at the ship we're broadcasting from, the Scotia Prince. There are about more than 800 people who have been living on this ship for many months because there is no place else for them to go. There are not enough trailers in St. Bernard Parish, their homes have been destroyed. New Orleans is about 13 miles west of us. It is just one of many such boats that have become temporary homes for those whose houses were swept away. Nearly five months after Katrina thousands of people are still waiting for the trailers that FEMA promised them. Here in St. Bernard Parish before Katrina there were some 70,000 people living in this area... that number has shrunk to about 5,000. The question people here want answered here is where are the trailers?


COOPER (voice-over): In St. Bernard Parish small orange flags are everywhere, planted by FEMA in front of homes where trailers for families should go. After four months, however, these symbols of hope have become flags of frustration. The promised trailers have yet to appear.

COOPER (on-camera): FEMA says -- they say, look, it's not FEMA's fault. It's the fault of the parishes. They're not preparing the sites; they don't have the sites ready. You say that's a lie?


COOPER: That's Larry Ingargiola, director of homeland security and emergency operations for St. Bernard Parish. An elected official, he's fed up with FEMA.

INGARGIOLA: What's going on? Have they forgotten us? Do they think we're playing down here? My people are desperate.

COOPER: FEMA is delivering trailers to St. Bernard Parish. Today one arrived at the home of school teacher Ramona Williamson. What does it feel like to finally get a trailer?

RAMONA WILLIAMSON, ST. BERNARD PARISH RESIDENT: Oh, it's wonderful. It really is wonderful. COOPER: Ramona Williamson applied to FEMA less than one week after hurricane Katrina hit. She wanted a trailer and she needed it badly, her home has been destroyed. Four months later she checked back with FEMA to find out why no trailer had shown up. She found out she wasn't even in their system, her paperwork had been lost.

So far FEMA has delivered about 1100 trailers in St. Bernard Parish. Ingargiola says 16,000 had been requested.

INGARGIOLA : Guys, we need help. We're almost a third world country right now. Look at our neighborhoods. Look at our houses. How do you think our people feel?

COOPER: Ingargiola feels especially frustrated because St. Bernard Parish officials got tired of waiting for FEMA and ordered thousands of trailers on their own. The trailers are here but can't be hooked up because the Parish can't pay the bill. And these trailers are actually cheaper than FEMA trailers?

INGARGIOLA: At least $2500 a piece cheaper.

COOPER: Each trailer is $2500 cheaper.

INGARGIOLA: Cheaper than FEMA trailers.

COOPER: But still FEMA won't pay for them.

INGARGIOLA: That's right.

COOPER: What has FEMA told you about this?

INGARGIOLA: They're looking into it.

COOPER: The trailers the Parish ordered from a private company are just sitting empty on the side of the road. They've been here so long the tires are getting flat.

INGARGIOLA: We got 6500 trailers, 6500 families in St. Bernard Parish that I could put on their driveway right now that has gas, water and electricity.

COOPER: So why won't FEMA pay for those trailers?

INGARGIOLA: We're trying to find out that question.

COOPER: It's interesting, around here FEMA has become a --

INGARGIOLA: It's a four-letter word.

COOPER: Yeah, it is.

INGARGIOLA: But they got to start thinking about this box that they put themselves in. If we're going to get anything accomplished down here, you can't follow those rules that were written 10, 20 years ago.


COOPER (on-camera): We made a promise months ago to keep the gulf coast on our radar and to keep them honest... officials here for the statements they've made. So we asked FEMA today to explain why all these people are still waiting nearly five months later for the trailers they were promised.

Here is what FEMA told us, "There are always two sides to every story. While we have placed more than 65,000 trailers in Louisiana alone, city or parish ordinances state approvals and layers of local politics remain the primary roadblock in placing additional trailers so that victims of Katrina can be as close to home as they would like. Until officials waive many of the rules impeding FEMA, the agency has no authority to hook up trailers. We can, however, provide rental assistance to families who don't want to wait any longer, as we've done for nearly 700,000 families along the gulf coast."

As we've said, this cruise ship "The Scotia Prince" is home now to between 800 and 850 Katrina survivors. It was home for a time to Henry "Junior" Rodriguez, he's the president of St. Bernard Parish, he no longer lives here, he's moved into a trailer, not a FEMA trailer, a trailer he paid for himself.


Now look at this video shot back in November. Mr. Rodriguez has been overseeing the destruction of homes here. This was a trailer destroyed by Katrina. He says its work FEMA should be doing, just FEMA, not he and the other workers here. He joins us now.


Appreciate you being with us. You've heard FEMA's statement that it is basically you guys, it is local officials, it is state red tape that's holding up these trailers.

HENRY "JUNIOR" RODRIGUEZ, ST. BERNARD PARISH PRESIDENT: FEMA's a damn lie. They can't tell the truth.

COOPER: Absolutely that there's --

RODRIGUEZ: We have no restrictions in St. Bernard Parish. I can't speak about any other parish. We have no restrictions, we have everything .

COOPER: They say there are problems with the local energy company, that the sites, that the state has to approve the sites.

RODRIGUEZ: That's bull --

COOPER: We're on the air, sir.

RODRIGUEZ: Everything is just like FEMA. They don't know what the truth is. They can't say the truth.

COOPER: So do you think the problem with them is that they're just slow?

RODRIGUEZ: They're not slow. They're confused. They're overwhelmed. They're caught in their own red tape. I mean, something is wrong with this picture. Can you imagine there's not enough trailers to go around, channel 6 has something on TV tonight that Congress was notified about the fact that it would be three years before they could manufacture enough trailers in the United States to take care of the city of New Orleans and the gulf coast. We identified 6,000 trailers.

COOPER: In St. Bernard parish, you ordered them, you got them.

RODRIGUEZ: This was four months ago. There's a savings of 2500 to $3,000 per trailer. $3,000 times six, they could save $18 million. Something's wrong with an agency that won't save $18 million. And you are going to tell me that they're going to blame St. Bernard?

COOPER: All those trailers are just sitting there. I saw a couple hundred of them today. What has FEMA told you about why they can't pay for those trailers? Because you guys don't have the money to pay for them, you ordered the trailers, you got the trailers here. You need FEMA to pay for them?

RODRIGUEZ: That's exactly right. Every time we talk to them, it's always, depending highly upon who you talk to, you talk to one person, you get one answer, you talk to another one, you get another answer.

COOPER: I've heard a lot of officials say that part of the problem is that FEMA officials are in here for two weeks and then they're rotated out. So you're always dealing with kind of new officials.

RODRIGUEZ: That's exactly correct. But I'm concerned about the problem. I mean, you know, we knew back before -- this is four months ago, man. You know, this is not yesterday.

COOPER: Have you been able to sit down with them in a room and just work all this out? I mean it seems like they're saying you guys are lying. You're saying they're lying. Can you all get in a room and just try to work it out?

RODRIGUEZ: We have tried to do that. We'll sit in a room with you. You can bring your cameras. And I can guarantee you... you won't find where St. Bernard Parish has thrown any roadblocks anywhere. We have no inspections we have no permitting process. We've told them whatever it takes. We need 10,000 trailers minimum in this parish by February 28th. This boat is going to leave. They've got 800 people on this boat. What are we going to do with these people when they leave? We got a tent city out there that has 400 and something people from St. Bernard. And they can't get us the trailers. It's not yesterday. This is four months, man.

COOPER: I hear you.

RODRIGUEZ: And you're going to tell me that you are going to believe what FEMA is telling you. I'll sell you the Brooklyn Bridge tomorrow, brother and I'll throw in this boat for another one.

COOPER: I appreciate you joining us tonight to give your side. We asked FEMA to come on the program tonight. They declined. They gave us that statement. Of course, the offer always stands again. I appreciate your being here.

RODRIGUEZ: I would appreciate one thing, I'll tell what I'd ask for. There needs to be an investigation into this situation in St. Bernard Parish because there's something wrong down here. The U.S. Attorney needs to come down to St. Bernard or the attorney general of the state of Louisiana. They need to investigate this. Because when you don't want to save $18 million, brother, you got a problem.

COOPER: Appreciate you being with us Mr. Rodriguez. Thanks very much. President of St. Bernard Parish.

Again, more questions ahead on 360, all part of "Keeping Them Honest." Nearly $70 billion earmarked for relief efforts. Why is it taking so long to fix things here in the gulf and what is it going to take to get things moving? Coming up we'll talk to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco.

Plus one family's battle to rebuild... these live pictures from Waveland, Mississippi gives you a sense of what we mean. Take a look at that. It is all about red tape over there, insurance rules and the definition of damage. In the meantime, home is a tiny trailer in Waveland. That is coming up.

And a special program note, we want to remind you Dr. Sanjay Gupta wants to hear from you. You got a medical question? Want to know what's fact or fiction, we'll report on some of your questions next week. Email us by logging onto "" please put ask Dr. Gupta on the subject line.

We begin with breaking news right now. The Associated Press is reporting a fire has erupted in an underground coal mine in southern West Virginia. Emergency officials tell the Associated Press that two workers were unaccounted for. The mine is four hours away from the Sago Mine near the Kentucky border. We're monitoring the story and are going to bring you any developments as warranted throughout this hour, throughout the next two hours.

We aren't of course the only ones wondering why help is taking so long to come to the people in the gulf. A bipartisan group of senators visited the region this week, came to the conclusion so many others have, the recovery has slowed to a crawl. One senator described what he saw like this, "It's almost like a bomb went off and that's nearly five months after the storm."

Joining me now from Baton Rouge is Louisiana's governor Kathleen Blanco. Governor, appreciate you being on the program. Here in St. Bernard Parish it seems the only thing everyone can agree on is that they're not enough trailers. FEMA's blaming the state red tape, blaming local ordinances, local officials are blaming FEMA saying they're just too slow and they're lying. Is there anything that can be done to get these sides together so the thousands of people that need trailers can get them?

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO, (D) LOUISIANA: Anderson, at first, let me thank you so much for being in Louisiana again and keeping our situation before the eye of the American public. We really need to let the people know that our problem is going to take a while to really resolve. But let me address, first of all the problem in St. Bernard Parish.

Junior Rodriguez is exactly right. At the outset, FEMA said they could not produce a lot of trailers. He did identify some reasonably priced trailers. And he's been caught up in red tape the whole time. We have been working to try to break that red tape. And it's really time that FEMA just goes ahead and gives them the money for it and let the people get in those trailers. It's pretty sad. We've had these frustrations day in and day out. The housing situation is critical.

Part of the problem I think is that FEMA has changed housing people every three or four weeks. And everybody has a new set of rules. So we -- I brought this to Secretary Chertoff's attention time and again. We're trying to get it stabilized. We also have to work on permanent housing at the same time. We know we need our work force in there. Some people can get their houses fixed, but, Anderson, we've got a huge problem in Louisiana.

Insurance companies are not pay paying homeowners insurance. These are hard working American people who have done everything right. They had their job, they paid their bills they paid their taxes. They did everything right. Now they don't have the capacity to get back into their homes.

COOPER: I know you mediated on this kind of situation in the past here in Louisiana. Is there anything that can be done just on the situation here in St. Bernard Parish? I mean we have FEMA people swearing that the local officials here are lying. And obviously local officials here saying it is FEMA who's lying. Is there any way to just get them to sit down in a room and just... I mean it seems like a simple thing.

FEMA is saying well no, it's all this red tape on the state and the local part. And the local officials are saying there is no red tape. That would seem to be an easy solution or something that's very provable. No?

BLANCO: Well I've done it in other areas and it looks like I'm going to have to do it for St. Bernard Parish, too. I've had my people trying to work through the details, trying to break through the red tape. When it gets -- it appears that we cannot break that impasse. But, you know, I'm going to continue working with Junior Rodriguez and the people of St. Bernard Parish to make it happen there.

I did sit with the mayor of New Orleans and some of the council members to try to solve some of the problems there. They had a little bit more red tape than St. Bernard Parish. St. Bernard Parish does not present the red tape. It is just the matter of can FEMA get through their own bureaucracy to get this approved? And apparently it's caught somewhere in Washington.

COOPER: Yeah, it's just so frustrating. Yesterday former FEMA director Michael Brown finally admitted he made post-Katrina mistakes and particularly said "I should have demanded the military sooner. I think it's important to realize that all of us made mistakes. After a while you get a different perspective." When you heard those comment, what did you think?

BLANCO: Well, I'm grateful that Michael Brown finally set the record straight. I knew on Saturday before the storm and it's in all the documentation that I presented to Congress that this category 5 was going to out match any of Louisiana's resources, all of our resources. And I started asking for help before the storm occurred.

It was Saturday after the storm before the troops rolled in from the federal side. But I still have to thank all the governors who sent the National Guard because we actually pulled everything together on our own. You know, I didn't know exactly what was going on at the time. It was very frustrating asking for help.

It's kind of like the FEMA situation now with the trailers. But now I understand that even Michael Brown did not understand the full magnitude of what we were dealing with. And that's the regrettable part. I think that's why help came so slowly.

COOPER: I got to ask you one more question. Michael Brown says with hindsight, he's had some time to think about it. He says he made a mistake. You've had time to think about it. Is there something now a specific thing that you point to, that you yourself wish you'd done differently? I know you said in general there were mistakes made and you say you take responsibility. But, specifically, is there anything now you've isolated?

BLANCO: Well, you know, we were working to save lives. I can't think of one more thing, we would have done to save lives in those hard days. And, you know, how do you break through -- how do you scream louder? Maybe I could have screamed louder. I was working every angle I could.

I mean I talked to every person in power including the President. You know, begging for help. And I still think that they were keying probably on Michael Brown now that he's kind of come forward with the answers. And apparently he didn't understand the magnitude of what we were dealing with, nor the kind of help that I knew we need.

COOPER: Well Governor Blanco, if you're able to get some St. Bernard Parish officials in a room with FEMA officials, if you want some cameras there, we'd love to be there and be a fly on the wall for that. We appreciate you being on the program. Thanks for being with us.

BLANCO: Thank you. We can do that Anderson.

COOPER: Alright, we'll be there. Alright, we're going to have much more from the gulf and more on Osama bin Laden's latest message. But first Erica Hill from "HEADLINE NEWS" joins us with some of the other stories we're following right now. Hey Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Hey Anderson, a heartfelt appeal today from the mother of a kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll. Her mom Mary Beth Carroll talking about her daughter's respect for the Iraqi people and also saying she hoped her kidnappers would show Jill the same respect in return. Mrs. Carroll also told CNN "If they're looking for somebody who is an enemy of Iraq, Jill is just the opposite." Jill Carroll was kidnapped on July 7th in Baghdad.

In Washington three democratic senators today saying separately they plan to vote against Judge Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts are concerned Judge Alito would not provide an effective check on what they consider to be the president's bid for extended power. Given the republican majority of the Senate however, Judge Alito still seems pretty certain to be confirmed.

And you are looking at the fastest spacecraft ever launched. There it goes. NASA's unmanned New Horizons is on its way to Pluto, the solar system's last unexplored planet. Now this is a three billion mile trip. Even at a speed of 36,000 miles per hour, which by the way is a little more than 30 times faster than a speeding bullet, the trip is still going to take almost ten years.

And finally tonight, a little unwanted bounty in Japan, actually a lot of it... slimy jellyfish. They weigh as much as sumo wrestlers, are wreaking havoc of the country's fishing industry. Filling nets and killing any fish that manage to squeeze in. One man described the giant jellies as aliens. Apparently, though, they're not poisonous to the fishermen, but they have to hack them up to get them out of the nets.

COOPER: I can't - I have never seen a jellyfish that big and to think that there are like a bunch of them. I thought that was just like some freak jellyfish. But it sounds like there are a lot of them.

HILL: There are a ton... in fact there was a conference in Tokyo today where they were supposed to talk about putting some things in place so they could actually forecast when the next big wave of giant sumo-wrestler sized jellyfish would be coming.

COOPER: Gosh. Alright Erica, bizarre. Thanks very much.

They are the marshlands that protect New Orleans... thankfully no jellyfish there, or at least not those big ones. But the problem is the marshlands are sinking fast. With the wetlands disappearing, New Orleans may be exposed to an even more danger from another storm.

And later, the future of New Orleans... You don't need a crystal ball to know it's going to be a different place than it is now. But how much will the city change? We'll take a look forward when this special edition of 360 from Louisiana continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back. We're live on the "Scotia Prince" a ship which is home to about 800 to 850 survivors of Katrina. People who have no where else to go, no homes to go to and as we talked about in this hour, no trailers to go to either. The marshes that surround New Orleans can't stop a hurricane, but they do act as sort of a speed bump of sorts. They soften the blow by reducing the storm's power. Well Katrina and Rita pounded the marshes, weakening them even more and turning the city's first line of defense into a welcome mat for the next big hurricane. CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano spent some time in the wetlands and joins me now. Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi Anderson you know when we talk about the marshes and the wetlands politically or environmentally, it is not a very sexy topic. But for here in southern Louisiana, especially southeast Louisiana it's crucially important. It does a couple of things. One it acts as the nursery or estuary for the fishing industry here, especially shrimp and crabs.

The crabbing industry here, 40% of the crabs produced in the U.S. are caught and produced right here in Louisiana. 80% of the shrimp caught in the U.S. are produced or caught right here in Louisiana. And the other issue is the barrier, a buffer for storm surge, for hurricanes like Katrina and Rita. Those wetlands act to break those waves, to spread out that storm surge before it can do the damage that it did. Especially on the east side of New Orleans.

What has happened since, say, 1927 when they began to channel the Mississippi for shipping purposes, well since they started to do that, the natural replenishing of these marshlands has pretty much ended and we're losing marshlands to the extent of what we said earlier in the hour, a football field every 38 minutes just because of the channeling and the locks and the levees of southeast Mississippi.

Now hurricanes have been around for thousands of years. You know there have been hurricanes like Katrina and Rita that have rolled through here, but those marshlands have been able to replenish themselves naturally. So what's the fix? Well there's talk of a $40 to $50 billion plan to make diversions or basically outlets from some of the Mississippi to let the marshes replenish itself with fresh water and some of that silt from the muddy Mississippi. We'll see if that plan comes to fruition.

It would also help Anderson the fishing industry like we said. In the last couple of days we spent some time with fishermen. That industry is all but crippled. Later on in this hour, we'll talk about where that industry is and what it needs to do to get back on track. That's later next hour. Back to you.

COOPER: Alright Rob thanks very much. I want to thank our international viewers for watching. For the rest of our audience, picture this, 4 1/2 months later, no cleanup, no rebuilding and not a dime from the insurance company. It's not a sob story for too many people, it's reality not only here in Louisiana, we're talking about Mississippi as well.

Also tonight bin Laden's latest tape offering a truce but promising an attack. What does it say about the state of Al Qaeda and the war on terror. From the gulf and around the world, you're watching "360."



© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines