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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Terror on the Tracks; Why Mumbai?; Lethal Weapons?; Levees Ready?; Building Collapse: Suicide Attempt?; Escape from the Secret State
Aired July 11, 2006 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: ... 464 known injured. But according to the Red Cross, bodies are still being pulled out of wreckage.
So far there is no claim of responsibility, but officials suspect a pair of extremist Islamic groups with roots in the Kashmir border dispute between India and Pakistan and connections with al Qaeda.
This time the killers targeted Mumbai, colossal city, India's financial and media capital.
Alex Perry of "TIME" magazine is there. We spoke by phone earlier.
COOPER: Alex, at this point what do you know about these blasts?
ALEX PERRY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: What we know is it was a very well coordinated attack. Seven blasts within minutes of each other, 11 minutes I think. And all along the same railway track, which is a main artery through Bombay, the western railway line. 6.5 million people take this line every day to get to work. The railways are the main commuter artery for Bombay. And these attacks brought the whole network to a standstill. Basically, the idea was to shut down Bombay. And that succeeded. The railways are put out of commission. Everyone went onto the roads and there was gridlock.
COOPER: Do we know what form the explosions took? I mean, were the bombs placed onboard these trains? Was it suicide bombs? Is it known at this point?
PERRY: Don't know what kind of explosions yet. What we do know is that these bombs were placed in the first-class compartments of all seven carriages. But it was high explosives. Essentially the timing, the attacks were about timing and to cause maximum carnage. This was peak rush hour. Each one of these carriages would have been carrying maybe 400 or 500 people stuffed to three times capacity with people hanging out of the doors and sitting on the roof. The idea was bloodshed.
COOPER: How far apart in terms of distance were these explosions?
PERRY: Not far at all. Some of them, you know, a matter of a kilometer away. They form a complete string through the middle of Bombay, if you look at the map, crippling the line from one end to the other over about 30 kilometers.
COOPER: I know you have a lot of contacts with Indian intelligence. Who are they talking about at this point as possible suspects?
PERRY: No one's going to point fingers publicly at the moment because India and Pakistan are 18 months or two and a half years into a peace process that is going OK.
But privately no one has any doubts really that it's a combination of groups. There's a Pakistani based group called the LT that fights the militancy in Kashmir and also carries out a regular bombing campaign in India. And that group is said to be working with a group called SIMI, which is a radical student movement.
COOPER: This group, LET, this group SIMI, do they normally claim responsibility for attacks?
PERRY: Almost never. And that's, you know, part of the strategy, you know. Terror is about frightening people. And you know, what's more frightening than when you don't know who your enemy is.
COOPER: And is it working? Are people scared now?
PERRY: It does work, yes. It does. Bombay has an incredible capacity to pick itself up and get on with life. It's the financial, the business center. But more than that, it's the entrepreneurial center of India. It's where everybody goes to get ahead.
But there's no doubt that this -- what it really does is push people back into their communities. It strengthens the divide between Muslims and Hindus. You know, people will be wary. Muslims certainly will be wary stepping outside their areas. Hindus will be wary of their Muslim colleagues at work, and so on. It, you know, it puts concrete in that divide.
COOPER: And that, of course, is part of the objective of any form of terrorism anywhere.
Alex Perry, appreciate you joining us on what's been a very busy day for you.
COOPER: More now on how this all played out and continues to unfold.
For that, here's CNN's Seth Doane.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SETH DOANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For terrorists anywhere, a crowd is a prime target. And here in India's financial capital Mumbai, the evening rush hour commuter trains provide massive crowds.
Of the seven or eight bombs choreographed to detonate in the space of 11 minutes up and down the railway line, some exploded here in the first-class cabins.
Look at how those explosions twisted and shredded the steel. Now you understand why so many people were killed and with that deadly force, you can imagine how many more might have died here today.
A reporter with CNN's sister broadcaster in India, IBN, was onboard one of those train cars.
JENCY JACOB, CNN-IBN REPORTER (voice over): I saw that the first-class compartment was totally ripped apart and people were hanging from the train. There were some people were thrown out from the train and they were lying on the tracks, bleeding completely.
DOANE: To make matters worse, this is the monsoon season in India. The heavy rains fell throughout the night, making the rescue work that much more difficult. We don't know yet who carried out the attacks. But suspicions instantly focused on an Islamic fundamentalist group, fighting to get India to relinquish control of Kashmir. But whoever it is, perhaps the stunning surprise attack against civilians here today carried a message heard around the world.
And here at a train station 275 miles from Mumbai, thousands of commuters, fully aware of the carnage, are waiting anxiously for the trains to started running again.
(BEGIN BREAKING NEWS)
DOANE (on camera): OK. And it is just past 8:35 local time here in Mumbai, the morning after these blasts, after this terrorist attack. And the big question through the night has been, how will this city fare today.
And what I'm seeing initially here, while it's too early to tell the true impact today, is quite a very different story. I'm seeing some young kids walking past me dressed up in school uniforms. It appears that they're going to school. But on another side of me, I'm seeing people with pictures looking for loved ones, standing in front of a hospital -- Anderson.
COOPER: Seth, how do people go about finding their loves ones? I mean, is there a central location or is it basically just kind of wandering from hospital to hospital?
DOANE: Unfortunately, the stories we've heard have been those of wandering from hospital to hospital. I earlier met a man outside sobbing, crying. I went up to him and asked him what was wrong. He had just found his son in the morgue here, which is right next to the hospital behind me. He said he had been searching all night long, hoping that his son was in one of these hospitals. He ended up with the worst possible news, finding him, identifying his body in the morgue -- Anderson.
COOPER: And from all reports still the Red Cross says still pulling bodies out of the wreckage.
Seth, appreciate your reporting on this. Thank you.
(END BREAKING NEWS) The question still to be answered tonight, who might have done this? As you've been hearing, the leading suspects are two groups with roots in the border dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Though, of course, early suspicions can be wrong. No one has claimed credit.
In any event, the two suspected groups are Islamic and violent and have a relationship with al Qaeda, something we talked about earlier tonight with CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen.
COOPER: Who are the likely groups? No one has claimed credit at this point.
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: No one has claimed credit and we don't know, obviously, who's behind this. But I mean the universal suspects we are seeing on the wires, Indian officials, American officials, people talking to CNN, identify two groups.
One is called Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. It's the largest Kashmiri militant group. This is a group which actually has a very public presence in Pakistan. The kind of nonmilitary side of the group has 2,200 offices around the country. They have a yearly gathering which attracts hundreds of thousands of people. This is a very large organization.
Then there is a much smaller group called Jaish Mohammed, the army of the Prophet Mohammed, which is very much just simply a terrorist group, maybe 200 or 300 members. This was the group that was instrumental in kidnapping and killing Journalist Danny Pearl. It has close ties to al Qaeda.
And these are the two main suspects that are being basically bruited right now.
COOPER: And what do they want? I mean, is this all linked to Kashmir wanting Kashmir to become independent, Kashmir, a predominantly a Muslim region?
BERGEN: They want Kashmir -- they want the Indians out of Kashmir basically. And they -- we've seen in recent months and recent years the beginnings of some agreements between the Indians and Pakistanis, not necessarily peace over Kashmir, but certainly sort of a bit of a onton (ph) cordial where there's now flights between India and Pakistan, the bus trips, the cricket matches, the small things, confidence-building measures.
And these attacks are designed to basically destroy those first little steps that Pakistan and India were making to have a slightly warmer relationship.
COOPER: There are, I think, about a million Muslims living in Mumbai. And I guess that plays a part in this. Terrorist groups want, in effect, those Muslims to be attacked by Hindu nationalists in the wake of a bombing like this because that really just furthers the sectarian differences.
BERGEN: No doubt. And one of the kind of great unsung stories, I think, you know. One of the largest Muslim countries in the world, of course, is India with 120 million Muslims. And they have been pretty much, they haven't really caught this al Qaeda ideological virus. We haven't seen the kinds of things that we've seen in Indonesia in recent years or the kinds of things we see constantly in Pakistan.
And, you know, this kind of attack is designed, I think, to create more tension and to perhaps radicalize the Muslim population once they're attacked.
COOPER: So what about these group's connections to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden? What has he said about India?
BERGEN: You know, I don't think -- strangely, he hasn't said a huge amount about India. Certainly, the Kashmiri issue is something that preoccupies the kind of Jihadis in Pakistan. And they are quite closely tied in with al Qaeda. But it's not something he's said a lot about.
Certainly the Kashmir issue is a core grievance and also a training ground for these militants and is one of the, I think, central issues if we could have peace in Kashmir, that would be a very important thing for taking some of the steam out of this intense anger that the militants have.
COOPER: I must say seven coordinated bombings, some people say eight, one a couple wire services reporting eight. There was one bomb that was diffused at another station, but at least seven bombings in the space of about 11 minutes, that's tricky to pull off.
BERGEN: Yes, this is not, you know, just a bunch of people who got together on the Internet and did this. It seems to me that these people must have had training, just as we now look at the London bombing attack more and more like an al Qaeda operation.
Two of these guys behind the attack, training in Pakistan doing suicide videotapes. I'm sure that this kind of attack that we saw in Bombay today and in Mumbai is not something that was the work of people who didn't have fairly large infrastructure behind them.
If you remember the Madrid attack, Anderson, there was something like 29 people charged in that attack, maybe even up to 100 people that the Spanish identified. So, you have to the training, you have to have the infrastructure to pull something off. This is not a sort of Timothy McVeigh thing.
COOPER: It would be also interesting to see -- I mean, I talked to some people who said that in the past in bombings in India, whoever is behind them has not claimed credit. It will be interesting to see -- al Qaeda certainly does seem to claim credit for an awful lot of things -- whether some tape emerges in the next days or weeks which references this attack.
BERGEN: Indeed. I mean, in fact, that's a very good point. I think we can almost expect that.
COOPER: And yet, it's interesting that these home grown groups or the groups in the past, at least, who have had bombings in India have not claimed credit.
One person just suggested to me that's because they -- it kind of adds to the fear. The idea that no one really knows who did it. It just sort of makes people even more worried.
BERGEN: Well, certainly, you know, you may recall there was a fairly spectacular attack on the Indian parliament about three or four months after the 9/11 attacks. A group of militants stormed the building, they killed a lot of people. They didn't really get inside the building. That was an attack certainly carried out by Kashmiri militant groups. I don't recall any one of those groups necessarily taking credit for it. But I think that it's regarded as being a sort of Jaish Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba operation, just as this was.
COOPER: Well that was CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen.
In Iraq, sectarian violence is boiling over. A new wave of attacks and an explosion at one of the few supposedly safe spots in Baghdad, as if there were any. The details on that, coming up.
Plus, as we get deeper into hurricane season, questions remain about the newly repaired levees in New Orleans. Will they be able to withstand another powerful storm? A new report from the Army Corps of Engineers sheds some light on all of that. We'll tell you about it.
And jumping into the record books, one military man's amazing feat over and over again. And the good cause it's for, when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We condemn thoroughly this terrible terrorist incident. We have great sympathy for and send condolences to the families of those who were killed and to those who have been injured. We will stand with India on the war on terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaking about today's attack on commuter trains in Mumbai, India.
No doubt countless people in Mumbai are tonight asking the shortest, but perhaps the biggest question often posed by those in a community struck hard by terrorism. Why? Why them? Why now? Why the trains? Why that city?
The answers, though, well they're not that difficult to find. Thriving cities like New York, London, even Mumbai are sadly, very tempting places for terrorists to strike.
COOPER (voice-over): Mumbai knows terror. Even before these bombings, it has seen hundreds of deaths in terrorist attacks. In 1993, more than 250 people were killed in a series of explosions blamed on Muslim groups with ties to Pakistani militants. One prominent target, the stock exchange.
In 2003, an attack on a commuter train killed 10. And later that same year, two taxis exploded at a tourist attraction in the city. 16 million people live in Mumbai, making it an enticing target for Islamic militants who want India out of Kashmir.
Once known for its grinding poverty. Over the past two decades, Mumbai has become India's most cosmopolitan city, home to its fast growing stock market, multinational companies and India's movie industry. Mumbai now has a thriving middle class and millions of them crowd onto commuter trains every day.
NEIL LIVINGSTONE, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Mumbai is the engine of the Indian economic miracle today. And you know, the early reports, saying that many people called up the injured in the trains and called for help on their cell phones. Well, that's a far cry from the India of 20 years ago.
COOPER: By striking here, terrorists hope to strike a blow at the commercial heartbeat of one of the world's most dynamic economies.
Hours after the attack, Indian companies that trade in New York were sharply lower.
If this was the work of Islamic extremists, and most analysts believe it was, there's another seemingly perverse reason to attack Mumbai. It's home to more than a million Muslims. Attacking here makes a backlash from hard line Hindu groups more likely and ignites sectarian hatreds.
RAM RAMGOPAL: Mumbai has had a history of religious tensions, certainly going back to 1992. But those are the sorts of incidents that can lead to a flare-up. And now, for instance, there was a lot of anger among the commuters.
COOPER: The bombers may also have been looking well beyond Mumbai too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ultimately the terrorists do want to create problems, the social problems and the economic problems. And, of course, they want the attention of the international community, as well. Let's not forget that the G8 summit is convening towards the end of the week.
COOPER: Should such a coordinated and high profile attack on India's biggest city stoke tensions between Hindus and Muslims and between India and Pakistan, the terrorists will have found their real target.
COOPER (on camera): With me now is Suketa Mehta a fiction writer and journalist who was raised in Mumbai and here in New York. His first book, "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found," was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. We appreciate you joining us, Mr. Mehta. Thanks very much.
SUKETA MEHTA, AUTHOR, "MAXIMUM CITY": Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Why Mumbai, Bombay? Why attack there?
MEHTA: Well, it is the financial capital of a country which has been touted as the world's next leading economic super power. So Bombay has been attacked before on this basis that it is -- it symbolizes what is best about India and India's dynamic new economy. It's also the country's most welcoming city. It adds about a million people a year, different type of population that is 22 million in great...
COOPER: Which is an extraordinarily large city, bigger than Australia. I mean, all the people in Australia could fit in Bombay.
MEHTA: Exactly. It's bigger than the population of Australia. So it really is a city that symbolizes the possibilities of India, that is it is Democratic.
COOPER: It's also -- having seen violence before. And you've interviewed for your books, for your writing, you have interviewed some of the bombers, some of the police who investigated the crimes in the past. I mean, what is the motivation for some of the past bombings?
MEHTA: Well, in 1993, which was the last biggest series of bombings ever, and 257 people died. Those were in retaliation for the anti-Muslim pilgrims of a few months before that. And they were organized by the Bombay underworld. These bombings did not follow any kind of ethnic writing. I think that they were -- the bombs were planted in the hope that riots might follow these bombings.
COOPER: To spark rioting.
MEHTA: That's right. But Bombay has changed in these last 10 years. There was a catastrophic flooding last year, 37 inches of rain fell in one day. But Bombay did not fall apart. I mean, people came out and formed human chains and helped people that were caught in the floods. And the same thing is happening right now in Bombay. COOPER: So you don't think that there will be rioting in the wake of these? Because, I mean, you know, when you talk about Bombay, it reminds me a lot of what people used to say about Sarajevo before the war. You know, this cosmopolitan city, there might be sectarian strife elsewhere, but it was always looked at, you know, different ethnic groups lived in that city. It sounds very much like Bombay, and yet, we saw Sarajevo fall apart into sectarian violence.
MEHTA: That's right. Well, Bombay has always symbolized the cosmopolitan ideal of India. I mean, here is a country which is 82 percent Hindu, but it put a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prime minister, a Muslim president and an Italian Catholic widow of leader of the governing coalition.
COOPER: It's remarkable.
MEHTA: And the same thing is sort of mirrored in Bombay. There are people from all religions that participate actively in the city's civic life.
In 1992, and 1993, however, that compact fell apart. And there was large scale rioting which shut down the city. Now, it could repeat, but I somehow doubt it because I think that Bombayites have learned lessons from the past. And I do not think that they will actually be blaming Muslims in the city for what has happened. I think the perception is this has been done by outsiders.
COOPER: And it's the third largest Muslim country in the world, which people don't really think about, when you think about Muslim countries. run the in the world. And yet, traditionally, it has not had -- I mean Peter Bergen, our terrorism analyst, earlier was saying it hasn't really caught the al Qaeda virus that has infected other parts of the world. Why do you think that is?
MEHTA: Well Indian Muslims haven't been radicalized in the way that Muslims in some other countries have. And this is because they work it with their feet.
In 1947, the subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan. And a lot of Indian Muslims left for Pakistan. But until recently, there was still more Muslims in India than in Pakistan.
COOPER: And they chose to stay there.
MEHTA: They chose to stay. They voted with their feet and by and large, there are patriotic law abiding minority. And they recognize that their lives on the whole are better in India than in Pakistan. They don't have to live under a military dictatorship. And even though economically, they remain among the lower income groups. India's richest man, for example, a man named Azim Premji. He's a computer magnate, he's Muslim.
COOPER: Well, let's hope that that is enough to see people through these next days ahead in the wake of this bombings.
Suketo Mehta, appreciate you joining us. The book is "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found," a remarkable work. Thank you.
MEHTA: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: We're going to have a lot more as we come up.
Mumbai, as we've said, or Bombay, in many ways thoroughly modern, even booming. It is also where the divide between rich and poor runs deep, as we've been talking about. Here's the raw data.
In 2003, there was just one public hospital for more than 7 million people in the city's northern slums.
At least one-third of the population lacks clean drinking water.
Two million people do not have access to a toilet.
Here in the U.S., along the Gulf Coast, those FEMA trailers that we've been talking about so much the last several months are causing more worries. In just a moment, we'll tell you how they could be a huge problem if another storm hits.
First, Erica Hill from "HEADLINE NEWS" has some of the other stories we're following -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a wave of sectarian violence today in Iraq has killed about 60 people. The deadliest attack happened across the street from Baghdad's heavily guarded green zone. Two suicide bombers set off explosives near a restaurant popular with police, killing up to 16 people. The latest attacks follow weekend sectarian violence that killed 62 people.
At Guantanamo Bay, protection for detainees. The White House announcing today all detainees in U.S. military custody are to be granted protections spelled out by Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. Now, the White House had previously said the U.S. was not required to give such protection since it does not classify the detainees as prisoners of war.
In Louisiana, the rebuilding effort gets more help from the federal government. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will put $4.2 billion into a program to help Louisiana residents rebuild or sell houses ruined by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida will receive a billion dollars for their hurricane related housing needs. But the federal government says they can apply for more.
And in Twin Falls, Idaho, a new parachuting record. This past weekend, Air National Guard Captain Dan Schilling jumped 201 times from the Perrine Bridge over a span of about 21 hours. Now, it's a new world record in the daredevil sport known as base jumping. Schilling's a veteran of the ill-fated raid in Somalia, depicted in the film, "Blackhawk Down." He said this weekend's stunt, though, was his most daunting challenge yet.
And Anderson, he apparently did it to raise money for a scholarship fund for kids, I think of special ops soldiers. COOPER: Wow. Well, it's a good cause, but I don't know. A. strange way to do it, I guess.
HILL: Yes, I'm with you. Great cause, but I don't think I'd be up for the jumping.
COOPER: Not really. Erica, thanks.
Well, a new headache for Katrina survivors who received FEMA trailers. They can't get FEMA to take them away. And in other parts of New Orleans, people still need more trailers in the lower Ninth Ward. There's fear that if another hurricane hits, some of these trailers could be sliced and diced into lethal projectiles.
We're keeping them honest, ahead.
Plus, their home is in ashes. So is their marriage. The latest on the divorcing doctor, his ex-wife and the explosion that brought down their house, when 360 continues.
A whole new chapter tonight in the odyssey of FEMA trailers for victims of Katrina. For months we've been reporting on snags and foul ups in getting temporary shelter to Katrina survivors. Tonight, a shift in focus. Some folks who received trailers now say they've got a real problem with the trailers and the clock is ticking.
CNN's Susan Roesgen, tonight, keeping them honest.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Danielle Leonard steps out her front door every day, this is the view.
DANIELLE LEONARD, HOMEOWNER: Right smack there.
ROESGEN: Danielle waited three months to get this FEMA trailer, and she's been waiting two months now to get rid of it.
LEONARD: It's still there. And we're stuck with it until they decide to come and pick it up.
ROESGEN: Danielle is one of about 3,000 people across Louisiana who have repaired their hurricane damaged homes and are waiting for FEMA to remove the white elephant in the front yard. And it isn't just to improve the scenery.
Wind tests like this one at Texas Tech show what can happen when pieces of debris fly around in hurricane strength winds. That frightens a lot of people because FEMA trailers are not built to withstand a hurricane and could be blown right into the homes they sit in front of.
JAIMIE BERGERON, HOMEOWNER: I mean, every day, you know, I turn the corner and I say God, please let it be gone. Please let it be gone.
ROESGEN: Jaimie Bergeron says she started calling FEMA in March when her house was fixed up, terrified that if this trailer is still here in the next big storm, there's nowhere else for it to go, but on her house.
BERGERON: If it falls over, it's going to fall on the porch. And it doesn't even have to get blown away. It just even has to tilt and get blown down.
ROESGEN: Worried homeowners say they can't reach FEMA, but their fear and frustration is getting through.
GIL JAMIESON, FEMA: First of all, we're sorry about that.
ROESGEN: FEMA Deputy Director for Gulf Coast Recovery Gil Jamieson admits that FEMA is slow. And he says an even bigger problem for FEMA than getting trailers like this one taken away is that more than 9,000 people in Louisiana are still waiting to get one.
JAMIESON: The system that's currently in place to deal with that call once it comes in isn't very well organized, quite frankly.
ROESGEN: Jamieson says FEMA has hired new local contractors to try to speed things up. In the meantime, while the sticker says OK to ship, many homeowners say if only someone would.
COOPER: Susan joins us now. 9,000 people still waiting for trailers. I know a lot of them in the lower Ninth Ward and elsewhere. Can they take the trailers from the people who don't want them anymore and just give them to the people who need them?
ROESGEN (on camera): Well, that's sort of the plan. Not directly, not like the trailer behind me. You couldn't just move this empty trailer and give it to someone else her in the city that needs it. But the plan would be, Anderson, to have FEMA refurbish these trailers and then give them to people who need them.
But actually, Gil Jamieson, the manager of FEMA that I spoke to there in that report said what FEMA would prefer to do is give people who are still waiting for a trailer, a brand new one. He says that would be nicer for them after this long wait than one that's been refurbished.
ROESGEN: I got to say, I got to applaud the man you talked to, Gil Jamieson for at least just saying, you know what, it's not as fast as it could be and I'm sorry about it, and he wishes things were better. I mean, it's nice to hear an official from such a large bureaucracy saying you know what, it's not as good as it could be and we're trying to make it better. That's rare.
ROESGEN: Oh, I agree, Anderson. It was wonderful to hear him say, you know, we're sorry for that. You don't hear that that often. But to hear FEMA say, look, we're working on it. We acknowledge that there have been a lot of complaints and we're trying to do better next year -- this year. So I think that was good to hear.
COOPER: They take a lot of knocks, it's good to give them some credit when they deserve it.
Appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much.
This discussion might have been irrelevant if New Orleans levee system had withstood, of course, the surge of Katrina when it hit. As we approach peek of this hurricane season, there is both relief and anxiety about the levees next time.
CNN's Sean Callebs has that story.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) reporter: Ten months, and more than $1 billion later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says New Orleans is now actually safer than it was before Katrina struck.
But that's not nearly good enough for people still cleaning up from one of the nation's worst ever disasters. In fact, Congress ordered the Corps of Engineers to develop a plan, detailing what improvements would be needed to protect New Orleans from the most powerful hurricane, a Category 5. The Corps says it needs more time to do that job properly.
AL NAOMI, ARMY CORPS PROJECT MANAGER: You just don't go around deciding you're going to spend billions of dollars just at the drop of a hat.
CALLEBS: Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is critical of the corps's work, accusing it of dragging its heels and watering down its recommendations to save money.
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: You know, the corps should not be in the business of trying to second-guess cost. That's Congress's role. The corps should do what Congress directed them to do. Give us the best science, give us the plans, give us the designs for Category Five levee protection.
BETH DOFNY, HOMEOWNER: But all of my walls were plaster walls.
CALLEBS: Beth Dofny calls this her funky lake wood home. It was devastated by eight feet of flood water. Her 15-year-old son, Jacques, and a friend are gutting the house.
(On camera): How hard was it just to find contractors?
Dofny says she's fed up with the corps and is rebuilding her home even though the Corps of Engineers' most recent work offers no solid proposals for keeping storm waters from again flooding the area.
DOFNY: They need to have a plan. They need to say this is what we are going to do to build the system that is needed to make this city work. CALLEBS (voice-over): Al Naomi is the corps project engineer. He knows he's a lightning rod for residents who want the city instantly safer.
NAOMI: No, I understand why people lash out. I get frustrated myself. I mean, you know, this is not an easy process.
CALLEBS: The corps admits it's short on specifics and that left a lot of critical questions about restoring wetlands and rebuilding levees unanswered.
NAOIMI: How high do we build it? Where do we put it? How much is it going to cost? What are the impacts? We don't have answers to any of those questions right now. You cannot get answers to those complex questions in just six months of effort.
CALLEBS: So any serious discussion of Category 5 protection is still a year and a half away, according to the Corps of Engineers. What that means is not one, but two more hurricane seasons without improvements.
DOFNY: And I always knew that we were below sea level.
CALLEBS (on camera): Beth Dofny says, like everyone else, she still wonders should she have stayed or moved.
DOFNY: Every night you go to bed thinking, did I make the right decision?
CALLEBS (voice-over): It might be years before she knows.
Sean Callebs, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: Well, coming up from gold digger to rubble digger. That is the e-mail message a doctor sent his ex-wife just before a building at the center of their divorce went up in flames. Tonight the bizarre case gets even stranger.
Also tonight, inside North Korea and its prison of nightmares. The horrific stories from four defectors. One of them says he became a cannibal to survive. You have to hear these stories, when 360 continues.
COOPER: Well, divorce, of course, can get ugly. But we never heard of one ever ending in a ball of fire until this.
The building collapse here in New York may have been part of a doctor's strategy to get back at his ex-wife. At least that's what an e-mail suggests. And while the doctor now lies in a hospital bed, investigators want to ask him about the explosion that made him first the victim and now a suspect.
CNN's Allan Chernoff has the latest.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just hours before Dr. Nicholas Bartha was found alone in the smoldering rubble of a townhouse that was his home, office and prized possession, he had sent a rambling e-mail to his wife saying, "I always told you, I will leave the house only if I am dead. You ridiculed me. You should have taken it seriously."
Now, new evidence the doctor may have carried out his threat. While sifting through the remains, fire department inspectors discovered the building's natural gas line had been reconfigured.
LOUIS GARCIA, FDNY CHIEF FIRE MARSHALL: It was tampered before the meters with a T connection and an open hose that came off that T connection.
CHERNOFF: A connection allowing gas to pour into the house.
GARCIA: By turning that valve on, turning it on, you would have a free flow of gas into the basement, flooding the basement.
CHERNOFF: Master Plumber Al Disalvo says there's no good reason to make such a connection.
AL DISALVO: Putting a T onto your gas main, this is not the typical simple task.
CHERNOFF (on camera): This is not the typical, simple task...
DISALVO: It's not typical, it's not simple, and it's not legal. No Ts before a gas meter.
CHERNOFF: So, in fact, Disalvo says it would be far easier for someone trying to cause an explosion simply to open the gas connection to the stove.
DISALVO: You wanted to create a situation, you'd literally just take a pair of channel locks, you loosen this gas connector like so and you'll have a free flow of gas.
CHERNOFF: Boom, just like that?
DISALVO: Boom, just like that.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Bartha and his wife, Cordula had been locked in a contentious divorce. A New York Appeals Court had ruled Cordula deserved millions, including part of the building valued at more than $5 million. The court ordered the doctor to sell it, which his former divorce lawyer says Dr. Bartha couldn't bear to do.
IRA GARR, DR. BARTHA'S FORMER ATTORNEY: The house represented to him the American dream. This is what I spent 40 years working for. This is where I want to live, this is where I want to die. CHERNOFF: In fact, Cordula Bartha said in divorce papers that Nicholas had vowed he would never leave, never give up the building. He has said many times that he intends to die in my house. And investigators say evidence suggests Dr. Nicholas Bartha planned to end his life in the rubble.
RAY KELLY, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK POLICE: We haven't made a final determination, but it's a reasonable investigative position to go forward with.
CHERNOFF: No one was killed in the explosion, but four pedestrians and 10 firefighters were injured. Investigators want to question Dr. Bartha, but he remains in critical condition with burns over much of his body.
Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Dr. Bartha, of course, is not talking because of his condition. His medical partner is. Dr. Paul Mantia was walking to their office inside that building just moments before it exploded. I spoke to him earlier.
COOPER: You opened this office in 2001.
DR. PAUL MANTIA, DR. BARTHA'S MEDICAL PARTNER: January, yes.
COOPER: And you'd known him for a long time.
MANTIA: Known him from 19-- yes, 10 years.
COOPER: Right. How did the divorce affect him?
MANTIA: Well, his wife and his family moved out -- his wife and two daughters moved out in October of 2001. And he was -- it was -- he was silent. I mean, he didn't talk about it. He just said they left. He became angry and he became at times, you know, just didn't want to discuss it. So I never really discussed it with him.
COOPER: I talked to his former lawyer yesterday, who said...
MANTIA: Oh, Ira?
COOPER: Yes. Who said that the building really represented sort of his life to him, that it was really sort of his vision of the American dream, that he'd come here, you know from Romania, really worked all his life. As you said, he was a workaholic. And that building was everything to him.
MANTIA: That's really his main asset. He put everything into it. He worked hard to pay the mortgage and maintained it himself.
COOPER: You went to see him yesterday. What kind of condition was he in?
MANTIA: They wouldn't let me in to see him. I could only see him from outside the room beyond the curtain. I saw his legs. I recognized his big legs, from outside the room, but I could hardly see him. And they were working on him.
COOPER: I mean, there are now stories, rumors that he hung swastikas in his home to aggravate his wife. I mean, does any of this make sense to you?
MANTIA: Well, let me -- I mean, he loved politics. He always talked about politics and he hated the communists more than Reagan hated the communists. But if you're asking me about -- he never talked about Nazis. He never talked about -- I never saw a swastika. He never mentioned Hitler to me. But he loved Reagan. He was happy Bush was reelected and reelected. He didn't -- I think he was just a conservative. I consider him a strong conservative.
COOPER: You saw the fire, what was done, and now the stories of the divorce. I mean, can you reconcile the man you knew...
MANTIA: With now.
COOPER: With now?
MANTIA: Well, I can only say that his life was there and his home. He loved living in his home. He told me years ago, I expect, he said, Mantia, don't talk to me about retirement. He expected to work until he was 80, and he would be living upstairs and working in the office and working in emergency. It was his life.
COOPER: I mean, I can't imagine what you've been going through and all those who knew him and his family.
MANTIA: Oh, It's unbelievable.
COOPER: Yes. And I do appreciate you coming in and talking about your friend and your partner. Thank you very much.
MANTIA: Oh, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Cooper.
COOPER: All right. I wish you well.
MANTIA: Thank you, oh, likewise.
COOPER: Well, still to come tonight, it is almost beyond belief. People tortured, starved, brainwashed. Refugees from North Korea whose only crime was to want food and freedom. They relive the terror of Kim Jong-il. Their voices rarely heard, when 360 continues.
COOPER: While North Korea plays war games with the world, its leader Kim Jong-il continues to rule over subjects with absolute power and absolute cruelty. We know of only a handful of people who escaped his secret Stalin estate. And tonight you're going to hear from four of them, in their own words, describing, well, a world of pure evil and unimaginable suffering.
With a CNN exclusive, here's Jason Carroll.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They hide fair faces for fear their families back in North Korea will be imprisoned or worse if their identities are revealed.
These four set foot on American soil just two months ago. They are among a handful of the first North Korean refugees officially recognized by the U.S. State Department. One refugee, a soldier with the North Korean army, fled the country with his little sister. Another a school teacher, and the fourth a factory worker.
For the first time on television they've agreed to tell us stories of life in their isolated homeland, one of torture, starvation and hopelessness.
JOE NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE (through translator): In other countries, criminals are people who commit murder, people who steal. But in North Korea, the criminals are people who are hungry and left the country or people who sought freedom and left the country.
CARROLL: Joe was 31. Like these other refugees, at one point he escaped North Korea into China, but was caught, repatriated, and tortured in a place in the north he calls the prison of nightmares.
JOE (through translator): There is a stick that thick and that large and they will place that between your calves and your thighs and make you knee down that way. They will bind with rope your legs together. After that, I couldn't walk for two days because my legs were so numb and I thought I was paralyzed.
CARROLL: Joe's sister, Chan mi (ph) is 20. She says many in her country risk leaving, rather than face starvation.
CHAN MI (ph) (through translator): I would go to the mountains and strip the bark off trees and boil that and eat it.
CARROLL: Naomi, who is 33, says her family ate grass.
NAOMI (through translator): We would collect dried grass from the mountains and put it in the bathtub to wet it again. And we would make a powder out of that and make noodles out of it.
CARROLL: Food was so scarce, Joe says some in his village, including himself, resorted to eating human remains.
JOE (through translator): They would make, its called sundei (ph), it's a Korean food. It's like a sausage filled with noodles. They would make that with human intestines and I actually bought that and ate that. CARROLL: Hanna, who is 36, says she was kidnapped, sold to a Chinese man, and was forced to leave her daughter behind.
(On camera): You must miss her very, very much.
HANNA, NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE (through translator): Every time I sit down to eat, my heart breaks. I feel like I'm sinning. My daughter is suffering back home, and she has no mother. And I'm here living so comfortably.
CARROLL: They all feel guilty for having to leave loved ones behind. They also feel hatred toward their former Leader Kim Jong-il.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Even if I just think of Kim Jong-il, I want to carry a bomb and ignite it when I'm near him.
CARROLL: Before arriving in the United States, their only knowledge of the outside world came from North Korean government TV.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Whenever they picture America, they picture Americans preparing for war. And there's also a television program that essentially just says bad things about Americans.
CARROLL: They're adjusting to living in the United States. It's hard for them to believe they're in a country where people of different cultures and ways of life live freely.
JOE, (through translator): Now that we are here and we see America, we see that it is a country that focuses on the person and that allows for human rights.
CARROLL: But they still worry for their families back home, living in a forsaken world filled with fear.
Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.
COOPER: It is hard to imagine. Coming up, business headlines. We'll be right back.
COOPER: None other than Erica Hill joins us now with some of the business stories we're following -- Erica.
HILL: Anderson, investors sparked a rally on Wall Street today after tumbling as much as 75 points. The Dow managed to make at least a partial U-turn, closing up more than 31. The NASDAQ gained nearly 12, while the S&P added more than five points. Driving those declines earlier in the day, weak second quarter earnings from the world's biggest aluminum maker Alcoa and a profit warning from Lucent Technologies. Over at the White House, numbers crunched and the outcome is a new estimate showing the federal budget deficit is $296 billion. That's $127 billion less than anticipated. President Bush calls it proof his tax cuts are working. His critics, though, say the longer term budget outlook is still bleak.
The U.S. and Russia are close to a deal that would have Russia join the 149 nation World Trade Organization. Russia is hoping the pact may be finalized Friday before it hosts this weekend's group of 8 economic summit. Moscow has been negotiating entry into the WTO since the early 90s.
And an Internet entrepreneur gets his wish. Blogger Kyle McDonald has traded in his big red paper clip for a house, sort of. For the past year, he kept trading up from the paperclip, eventually dealing with snow globes and much more. Well, tomorrow he gets what he really wants, the keys to a three-bedroom home provided by the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan -- Anderson.
COOPER: I don't understand that at all, but I'm just going to let it go.
HILL: It worked out well for him. There you go.
COOPER: OK. Thanks.
Just let it go.
Tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," wrongfully convicted, imprisoned for 22 years. After DNA testing cleared his name, a free man now faces a very changed world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like stepping into a commercial. Or a movie because from what I see out here now is what I've been seeing on TV for 22 years. People walking down the street, talking on cell phones and, I couldn't imagine it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What's it like to lose two decades? Find out tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00 a.m., Eastern.
We'll have more of 360 in a moment.
COOPER: "LARRY KING" is next. His guest, a father of murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
For us all, good night. And I'll see you tomorrow.
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