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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Presidential Politics; Iraq Endgame; Who is al-Sadr?; Surviving Extremes; Poison Plot; Pretext for War?; Details on Iraq Study Group Report

Aired December 5, 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: Well, it goes without saying, Iraq is a mess today. The man who is about to become the next secretary of defense did something nearly unimaginable within the president's inner circle. He said so publicly.
ANNOUNCER: War plan. On a day of car bombs and more carnage in Iraq, Rumsfeld's likely replacement delivers a stunning message to his White House boss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gates, do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Dead or alive. New clues in the search for a missing man. Lost for days, his wife and children survive. If you were stranded in the snow, would you know what to do?

And poison plot. Who killed the former spy? From London to Moscow, the hunt for the killer intensifies. From the Kremlin, a warning for the U.K.

Across the country and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Now, here is Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Good evening, again. We begin this hour with a man now all but certain to get the kind of job you'd think nobody would want. Tomorrow, the Senate is expected first to debate, then possibly vote to confirm Robert Gates as the new secretary of defense.

At the same, the Iraq Study Group will be releasing its report. And if recent history is anything to go by, several American troops may get killed in Iraq, along with perhaps five or six dozen Iraqis just in Baghdad alone. It is a daunting challenge for the secretary- to-be.

Today, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he was blunt. We are not winning, he said. Later though, he said this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I certainly stand by my statement this morning that I agreed with General Pace that we are not winning, but we are not losing. But I want to make clear that that pertains to the situation in Iraq as a whole. Our military forces win the battles that they fight.

It seems to me that the United States is going to have to have some presence in Iraq for a long time. The Iraqi forces clearly have no logistical capability of their own. They have no air power of their own.

In my view, all options are on the table in terms of how we address this problem in Iraq. In terms of how we can be more successful and how we can at some point begin to drawdown our forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, members of the committee must have liked what they heard. They approved his nomination 21 to 0. In a moment, what he'll be facing.

We begin, however, with CNN's Dana Bash on the other reason that people were watching the hearing so closely today. And those two words -- presidential politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hillary Clinton arrived a few minutes early. Just enough time to survey the stage, assess the moment.

John McCain chatted up a colleague while awaiting his cue. The subplot of the day's drama lost on no one. The Iraq war will play big in the 2008 campaign, and this hearing for our new defense secretary was a place for presidential hopefuls to lay down markers.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: ... we are not winning the war in Iraq. Is that correct?

GATES: That is my view. Yes, sir.

MCCAIN: And therefore, the status quo is not acceptable.

GATES: That is correct, sir.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It is quite frustrating to many of us to see the mistakes that have been made and to wonder whether there is any change that will be pursued by the president.

GATES: This process is going to proceed with considerable urgency.

BASH: Clinton and McCain are the marquee names, but hardly the only potential presidential candidates here.

Senator Evan Bayh arrived late, just back from Iowa, the state with the first presidential contest. He mentioned Robert Gates was just in Iowa, too. A playful reminder, perhaps, Clinton and McCain weren't the only '08 contenders in the room.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: You keep a schedule like that, you're going to start tongues to wagging, so just a -- just a word of friendly advice.

BASH: Even as Bayh sat in the hearing room, he took a step closer to running for president, aides announcing he'd set up a committee to raise money.

No fewer than nine senators are mulling a White House run. And long-time Senate observers, like former GOP Aide Bob Stevenson say every day here will be like a straw poll.

BOB STEVENSON, FORMER SENATE AIDE: The sheer number of candidates who are running from the Senate, something we have never seen before. And they're going to be able to use the Senate, the committees and the Senate floor as a platform from which to launch their candidacies.

BASH: That's exactly what the maneuvering here looked like. McCain, trying to protect his right flank by making the case, he saw problems in Iraq from the beginning.

MCCAIN: Do you agree that at the time of the invasion we didn't have sufficient troops to control the country in hindsight?

GATES: There clearly were insufficient troops in Iraq after the initial invasion.

BASH: Clinton voted for the Iraq mission. And her greatest '08 weakness could be the anti-war left, though she questioned the president and vice president's competence and even their patriotism.

CLINTON: Are they patriotic?

GATES: Absolutely.

CLINTON: Do they care about our men and women in uniform?

GATES: Absolutely.

BASH (on camera): No matter how displeased they are with the Bush Iraq policy, all 2008 hopefuls, Republicans and Democrats, are looking for a policy shift that can make the war at least a bit less politically divisive and complicated as the primary contests draw closer.

Dana Bash, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as you just heard, Robert Gates' most recent job has been president of Texas A & M University, but his ties to Washington run deep. Here's the raw data. The 63-year-old defense secretary nominee was born in Kansas, joined the CIA back in 1966. He served as CIA director from '91 to '93. President Reagan nominated him for the top CIA job in 1987, but Gage withdrew amid the Iran Contra controversy.

His father, Thomas Gates, served as defense secretary under President Dwight Eisenhower.

Now, at age 63, Mr. Gates was gray enough, but barely old enough to be on the ISG. And believe me, I know the feeling. All of his former colleagues are old Washington pros. Some are even veterans of past blue ribbon panels.

CNN's Joe Johns, now with a quick who's who on a very distinguished group.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the record, the main thing the Iraq Study Group was supposed to do was give a fresh assessment of the situation, though the people doing the assessing are sort of a government service dream team.

There are five Democrats and five Republicans in the group. Mostly lawyers. The co-chairs are two pillars of the Washington establishment.

Republican James Baker, distinguished former secretary of state, who helped build the coalition for the first Gulf war.

Baker's counterpart, the Democrat, Lee Hamilton, is known as a good talker, consensus builder, former chairman of the House Committee on International Relations.

Both have done this kind of thing before.

Hamilton co-chaired the 9/11 Commission.

The just plain members of the group are anything but just plain, starting, of course, with the ultimate swing vote of modern jurisprudence, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

There's a top Reagan era Republican law enforcer, former Attorney General Edwin Meese.

Lawrence Eagleburger, like Baker, is another former secretary of state.

There are three Clinton veterans, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, and former Adviser Vernon Jordan.

The group is rounded out with a pair of former Senators, Democrat Charles Robb of Virginia, and Republican Allen Simpson of Wyoming.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I'll speak with both James Baker and Lee Hamilton tomorrow on 360. I'll be in Washington for the release of the study group's report.

More now from two advisers to the panel -- Steven Cook, for the Counsel on Foreign Relations; and James Jay Carafano, the Heritage Foundation. Joining us as well tonight, CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

Steven, lets start off with you. You were one of the advisers who briefed the Iraq group on regional strategies, which includes dealing with Iran and with Syria. Can they be brought in, in a positive way?

STEVEN COOK, Iraq STUDY GROUP ADVISER: Well, I think at this point where we are in Iraq, they really -- we have no choice, but to engage with the Syrians or the Iranians. But we should be clear- headed about what this entails and what the price the Syrians and the Iranians are going to exact for their cooperation.

It is not at all clear that either the Syrians or the Iranians have an interest in helping us to stabilize Iraq. The Iranians find large numbers of U.S. forces on either of their borders. To have us bogged down in a situation in Iraq where we're occupied, means that we won't be able to pay much attention to what they are doing.

They'll likely, in turn for their cooperation, want us to drop our demand that they stop enriching uranium.

For the Syrians' perspective, they want us to deflect attention away from the international tribunal investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A number of senior Syrian officials have been implicated in that assassination.

COOPER: Colonel Carafano, should the U.S. be talking to Iran and to Syria? We've done it in the past in different situations?

JAMES JAY CARAFANO, Iraq STUDY GROUP ADVISER: Well, I think Steven's assessment is spot on. There's nothing wrong with talking to Iran and Syria, but expecting to get great gains out of this, I think is very unrealistic.

And I've got to say, this is the one part of the report that I am most troubled by and I think that it is the most...

COOK: I agree.

CARAFANO: But having said that, I think the bulk of the report is a really solid clear right assessment of the problem, and a good set of practical recommendations. And I think that the study group did a really terrific job in really putting together what I really think is a bi-partisan set of problem solutions that Democrats and Republicans, the administration and their critics can embrace. It is first-class work. COOPER: John King, clearly, politically, this group has wanted to have consensus, so they have come up with something which kind of will probably not offend Republicans or offend Democrats. Will it actually please anybody in particular? Will the White House even listen to it?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question the White House will listen to it. It will give the president political cover if he wants to make a significant change, if he wanted, for example, to have high level talks with Syria or Iran. Maybe just once, one of the criticisms of the administration is that the president has been too inflexible, too closed, if you will, to outside ideas. So, in a way, he could call the bluff of Iran and Syria, have one high-level meeting, but not pay the price that both Steven and Jim just talked about, and that is the price the president is simply not prepared to pay.

So, the president will listen seriously. Most believe, though, he will cherry pick from the report, accept the recommendations that he thinks will help him, at least in the short-term, and ignore those that he thinks run too counter to the administration approach.

COOPER: Well, Steven, Colonel Carafano earlier was saying, look, it's up to the Iraqis, the U.S. can't, you know, force them to do it, they've got to do it on their own. Why not just have the Iraqis be the ones talking to Iran and Syria? Why does the U.S. have to be the one to do it?

COOK: Well, certainly, the Iraqis are already taking those steps. But clearly, the United States, as actively engaged as we are in the situation in Iraq, needs to reach out to the neighbors, because they are involved in making our lives as miserable as possible.

The Iranians, as I said before, are interested in keeping us bogged down because we have large numbers of troops on either side of their border. We're going to have to talk to them and see what their interests are and if there is any point of commonality and common interest there. I am doubtful however.

CARAFANO: Another point is, the closer we move to the Iranians and the Syrians, both of which are predominantly Shia, and the predominant population in Iraq is Shia, that threatens to push the Sunnis further and further away and actually threatens to accelerate the sectarian violence that's going on now.

COOPER: Well, it also threatens to bring in Saudi Arabia to support the Sunnis inside Iraq.

CARAFANO: Well, yes, but the other thing, I think, is the Gulf Coast countries and Saudi Arabia, you know, at least publicly, they're not going to want to stand up and go toe-to-toe and have huge disagreement with the Iranians. I think every -- the Iranians are feeling empowered at this point and everybody else, I think, is a little -- because what's the alternative? They'd be closer to the United States? That doesn't help the...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Steven, though, what happens, Steven, if U.S. withdraws to some level and just decides, you know what, let these guys fight it out. The Shias launch all-out attacks on the Sunnis. Does then Saudi Arabia step in and you get a regional conflict?

COOK: Well, I think that that's precisely the scenario that people are worried about. And in fact, in the "Washington Post," a few days ago, someone who is supposedly close to the Saudi government said that if in fact the United States withdraws, the Saudis would step up their support for the Sunni insurgents in terms of monies and guns.

That seems to me to be a fight that the Iranians are willing to have. So what you will is a protracted conflict fought by proxies in Iraq. This is certainly not a situation where we would want to leave Iraq in this area where it could spin instability to the rest of the region.

CARAFANO: I think Steven is exactly right. How we transition responsibility of the Iraqis is absolutely critical. If we don't get it right, we will make things worse, not better.

KING: And Anderson, both Steve and Jim have talked about the price to be paid to Syrians or the Iranians if the administration wanted to engage. There'd be a price to pay the Saudis as well. And the administration wants more help dealing with the Sunnis, but there's a price there as well. The Saudis want much more aggressive action dealing with the Israeli Palestinian conflict, including direct U.S. pressure on the Israeli government to make concessions. That is another price the administration has been unwilling to pay.

COOPER: And I know there are a lot of people around the country right now listening to you guys and saying -- kind of shaking their heads and saying, you know, we have been talking about the Iraqis must stand up. We've been talking about transitioning stuff to the Iraqis for years now. It hasn't happened. A lot of people doubt it can happen or why should it happen now? We'll talk about that when we come back.

A big concern in Iraq, of course, is the role of Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He has the biggest militia, a massive following, more than 2 million people. Tonight, a look at his new target, his biggest one yet, and why it could lead to even more chaos.

Plus, rescuers desperately searching for a missing father in Oregon as the rest of his family tell an incredible story. How this mother kept her two little kids alive.

Also, another search tonight from London to Moscow for clues. Authorities trying to find out who poisoned that former KGB spy. We'll have the latest on the investigation when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: One of Iraq's most powerful Shia leaders, Abdul-Aziz al- Hakim, has been making the rounds in Washington over the past couple of days. Al-Hakim arrived at the White House this afternoon, where he had lunch with Vice President Dick Cheney. Yesterday, you will remember, he met with President Bush. His political faction enjoys relatively good relations with Washington; however, that faction also has a powerful and growing opponent led by a man few in Washington want to see get any stronger. We're talking about Muqtada al-Sadr.

With that, here's CNN's Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When this man, firebrand Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, speaks, everyone listens. He has the biggest, most volatile private army in Iraq, the Mehdi militia. In fact, if you go on the streets of Baghdad's sprawling slum Sadr City, home to more than 2 million impoverished Shia, Sadr's gunmen control the tight grid of garbage- strewn streets.

When U.S. troops arrive, they melt away, warned by lookouts -- often kids.

The U.S. military estimates Sadr's army at 7,000, but intelligence experts in the region say it's probably double that -- 14,000. The Mehdi militia is the sharp tip of Sadr's power. His support comes from the slums. Millions of Shias pull the educated, mainly young. Look to him to lead them. When he calls, they all come out.

He has more of the populous following than Iraq's other Shia leader, the reclusive Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Though Nouri al-Maliki is prime minister, you can say Sadr is kingmaker. Thirty of Iraq's parliamentarians and six of its government ministers are loyal to Sadr. Without him, al-Maliki would have little, if any power.

Sadr is also part futile lord. He is accused of assassinating his religious rivals and stirring his militia to rampage. His violence did not begin until July 2003, when the U.S.'s Chief in Iraq Paul Bremmer appointed Iraq's first governing council. Sadr didn't make the cut, and since then has demanded America must get out.

When U.S. troops were preoccupied with fighting in Fallujah two years ago, Sadr saw an opportunity and unleashed his militiamen in the south. They took control of several cities. Eventually they backed off.

But soon after, Sadr was back at it. A year into the war, his militia took over a holy shrine. U.S. special forces were deployed to kill him. The operation was called off when Sadr backed down. That's been his tactic. Ratchet up the tension and then let it cool off.

Now, he's going after his biggest target yet, a power play, with his deputies threatening to bring down the prime minister's government. What holds U.S. forces back from taking Sadr down now is concern that wouldn't stop the bloodshed and chaos, because some of Sadr's commanders are running renegade operations.

Sadr's father, a powerful Ayatollah, was murdered by Saddam Hussein. Recently, the son's supporters reenacted the assassination of the father. The goal was to raise Sadr's standing even higher, compare him to his beloved and martyred father.

(On camera): Sadr has always been a spoiler in Iraq's politics. His endgame appears to be to have him as Iraq's top Shia cleric and a country run on an Iranian style theocracy. The risks he takes to achieve it, define his leadership, often appearing reckless, always with a veiled threat of violence not far away.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining me again, our round table on Iraq. Steven Cook, with the Council on Foreign Relations; Retired Lieutenant Colonel James Carafano, and now -- who's now with the Heritage Foundation, excuse me. And CNN's Chief National Correspondent John King.

Colonel, how -- what do you do about Muqtada al-Sadr and these other militias? I mean, we keep saying, well, look, you know, the prime minister needs to rein them in. How does he go about doing that?

CARAFANO: Well, you know, first of all, we need to make clear that, you know, al-Sadr doesn't have all the cards. First of all, 14,000 men in a country of 25 million isn't near as impressive as you might think.

Sadr is very good at starting violence. He's not very good at stopping it. He's already lost control that some of his militias have gone renegade. And that's -- that's impacted his leadership. And the problem is, is now that there is enormous Sunni reprisals, and he can't protect the people against the Sunni reprisals. And that's hurt him as well. And he's even complained that the United States isn't protecting the people good enough.

So Sadr's got, you know, he can start problems, but he has a very difficult time controlling things. And I think you have to use these things against him.

The right answer, of course, is we should have never let the militias get established to begin with, but now they are a fact of life. So first thing that happens is they've got to come under government control and government direction. And then gradually they have to be weaned away and demobilized and reintegrated. The answer is long-term process, lots of sound politics on the part of the Iraqi government, the watchful eye of the United States there so that these guys think they can't steal a march on everybody else, and the money to do this.

COOPER: But Steven, isn't there motivation for Iraqi government officials to have these militias around? I mean, if the U.S. is in the process of drawing down or withdrawing, don't you want to have these powerful militias around when it all hits the fan?

COOK: Of course, of course. In fact, you want to have those militias around right now while the violence is taking on a logic of its own. So, in addition, the fact of the matter is, is that Nouri al-Maliki is dependent on Muqtada al-Sadr for political support.

As Nic Robertson pointed out, 30 members of the Iraqi legislature are followers of Sadr. He has six ministers in the cabinet. If he were to bolt, Nouri al-Maliki would be in a serious, serious political jeopardy. That's the fundamental problem that we have politically right now.

Nouri al-Maliki is dependent upon militias, and a militia leader that many U.S. military officers would like to kill.

COOPER: John King, the Bush administration -- or people publicly are saying look, the Bush administration needs to put the pressure on al-Maliki to, you know, stand up the forces quicker, to reign in the militias. Is that message being sent? I mean, when we saw the president in Amman, Jordan, publicly at least, it seemed like it was al-Maliki kind of giving him, telling him what he needed, rather than the other way around. Privately, is there -- I mean, is there some harden up of diplomacy going on?

KING: Well, it is the message being sent, Anderson. But there's also a great deal of frustration that Maliki, in his early days did not do enough to put on notice the militias, saying these are the rules, this is how it has to be. And now, as Nic Robertson noted, the administration would accept the view that al-Maliki is not willing and most likely not able to do much about it.

So there's a political problem in Iraq. And the administration also thinks the political debate here in the United States contributes to it because if these militias think the United States is going to start leaving soon, then they are going to continue to fight for political advantage for every last piece of turf, leverage, etc., they can get in Iraq for when the United States is gone.

That is one of the reasons the president has been frustrated with all the debate about troop withdrawals. He would like to tell these militias we are staying, we're not going anywhere. Cut a political deal because there will not be a military solution from your end either.

COOPER: James Carafano?

CARAFANO: And the only solution over the long term is an Iraqi military force that responds to the government and that is credible. At the end of the day, that's better than a militia. Militia don't have logistics. These guys fade away. They don't have the discipline. So if you have the military forces, they may not be the best in the world, but as long as they're better than the militias and dependable and respond to the government, eventually the government can wean control away from the militias and get the militias under control. COOK: I think Jim's exactly right there, but I think the problem is, is that at the moment when there is an incentive to have militias, what we are doing through our training program is essentially training the militia members in those types of things that they lack right now.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Ominous. Steven Cook, appreciate it. Colonel Carafano, John King, as well. Thanks guys. Appreciate it.

In Oregon, new clues in the search for a missing man. His family was rescued after days stranded in the snow. Now, it is a race against time to find a husband and a father. That's next.

And later, hunting for a spy killer, the latest on the mystery and rising tensions that are being created between Russia and Britain, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Picture of the Kim family. The last time the two little girls were with their father, he was heading out of the car for help, taking two lighters with him and nothing else.

Tonight, the children and their mother are recovering from an ordeal that left them stranded for days in the Oregon snow.

While we hear their survival story, they're still waiting for a husband and a father to come home.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is live in Merlin, Oregon, where the search continues.

Thelma, are they still searching at this hour tonight?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, all today they had 100 search and rescue teams out here, combing a five-mile area. But we're talking about a very deep gorge, a very dangerous area. And so when the sun went down, authorities had to call off the search. They said it is just far too treacherous to send crews out there. There are steep drops. They had to call it off, Anderson.

COOPER: Police have now spoken to Kati Kim. What happened? What has she told them?

GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, the big question was how the family ended up on this desolate stretch of road on their way down to the Oregon coast in the first place. And they have had a chance to talk with Kati Kim at least twice since her rescue. She told them that she had -- they had a planned route. They were going to take the major highway down to the coast where they were scheduled to stay at a resort.

What happened, though, is they passed that turn off. Once they passed the turnoff, once they realized it, they pulled out a map book. They took a look at that map, and they decided that there was now an alternate route of that country road that would take them down to the coast.

Unfortunately, this is a route that is not well traveled in the winter. It is covered with snow. Very popular in the summer. Very, very dangerous in the winter. That's the road they ended up taking.

COOPER: And they sat in that car for like nine days before Mr. Kim decided to go for help. How did -- I mean, they had children in the car. How did she feed her kids? I mean, how did she -- how did they survive?

GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, that's what is so incredible, and especially for those of us who have parents, is a worst case scenario to be stuck in a car in the freezing cold with very little provisions. They had crackers, they had some baby food. The parents decided to save those provisions for the children.

Kati Kim told the nursing staff that she breastfed both of her children, a 4-year-old and a 7-month-old, to try to keep them alive. They provided the food, the crackers to the children. They, the parents, ended up eating berries. They weren't even sure if the berries were poisonous at the time that they were eating them, but that's what they did to be able to help their kids.

COOPER: Well, the search, I guess, will continue at first light. Let's hope they find Mr. Kim.

Thelma, thanks.

Here to discuss the search for Kim and the tips to survive being stranded in snow, is James Vlahos, contributing editor to "National Geographic Adventure" magazine.

James, thanks for being with us.

I guess, the first rule is don't leave the car.

JAMES VLAHOS, "NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ADVENTURE" MAGAZINE: That is the rule. And even though it's conventional wisdom, it is the correct wisdom, especially in winter. You're in an environment where the moment you leave, your chances of survival, unfortunately, go way down. A car is really -- it's got a lot of things going for it. It keeps you away from the snow, it keeps you away from the water, it keeps you away from the wind. There is fuel, there are tires to burn. There are a lot of resources that they could avail themselves to there, and they did. And it was the place to be really.

COOPER: And I mean, they were very creative in surviving. They did burn tires. They melted snow for drinking water.

VLAHOS: They did. I think there is a temptation, obviously in a survival situation, you're going to panic, you're worried about your life and you start thinking about all of the things you don't have. I don't have a gortex jacket, I don't have a walkie-talkie, or whatever it is.

What they seemed to have done very well is assessed what things they did have and that they could use to help them survive. And it's good to know that food really is not your most important thing at all when it comes to a survival situation.

COOPER: Water?

VLAHOS: Even water is secondary to shelter. Shelter comes before almost anything. The ability...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: As long as you stay dry?

VLAHOS: You talk to search and rescue professionals and you say, how many people have you found that have died of thirst? How many people have you found that have died of hunger? The number is very, very low. How many people have died of exposure? That number is very high. How many people have died from injuries they have incurred while trying to find their way to rescue? So just to have a place where you can be sheltered and warm, you've got a lot of the survival battle covered.

COOPER: And when you look at the pictures of this family, you know, just imagine them sitting in this car for nine days. They did stay with the car for a long period of time. I guess at some point if you feel like help isn't coming, you have to make that terrible decision, do I go out.

VLAHOS: You do. The hardest decision to make, and it's something that if you talk to the professionals or read the books, you're never going to see a great discussion of when is it time to go hike out, because everybody says stay still. There is a time when you have to make that decision.

There is an infamous case of the hiker who is in the Adirondacks, and he waited 55 days. And he has a journal that chronicles this everyday, I wonder if help is going to come for me today. It never came and he died. The way you make this decision is, you ask yourself, does anybody out there have any idea at all where I am. If you think somebody knows, hey, we left Roseburg, we're supposed to be heading for the Coast, that gives searchers an area to look within, then you stay put. If you really think that nobody knows, that's when it might be time to get out on your own.

COOPER: The day James Kim left, he had two lighters, he had sneakers, he had two pairs of pants, a heavy sweater. He's left one pair of pants. We don't know if that's a marker on a trail. What are his chances?

VLAHOS: There are many, many cases in the annals of survival where people have made it through horrific things. They've spent days, weeks in the wilderness, they've had no food, they've had no shelter and they've made it out. So there is always a chance. The chance is not good. It's winter, it's cold. His last known whereabouts are near a river, and that suggests the possibility of contact with the water. If you get wet in the winter, your chances...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: He left a road too, and that's a mistake. You should always try to stay on a road?

VLAHOS: Stick -- if you have a road, absolutely stick to it. Roads lead to places. If you don't have a road, if you have a river, stick to a river. The last thing you want to be doing is to sort of blunder just through the trees, whether you think you have a shortcut or not.

COOPER: The search continues at first light.

James, appreciate you joining us. James Vlahos, thanks very much.

VLAHOS: You're welcome.

COOPER: Overseas, the mystery over a dead former spy is deepening. Retracing the likely murder trial and running into roadblocks. We'll have the latest on the case.

And drawing a link between the poison plot and a mass bombing that some say the Russian president has something to hide. That story is coming up on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's the spy thriller with a cold war chill. A former Russian secret agent is dead, poisoned by a radioactive substance.

Alexander Litvinenko, of course, died in London. But the search for the killer and motive is unfolding now in Moscow, where British detectives, hoping to talk to a couple of people, are running into a new kind of iron curtain.

CNN's David Mattingly has the latest.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Scotland Yard detectives arrived in Russia, the Russians laid down the own law, no one will be questioned in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, except by a Russian prosecutor. If arrests are necessary, if the case goes to trial, it will all be handled in Russian courts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If they want to arrest them, it would be impossible. They are citizens of Russia and the Russian constitution makes that impossible.

MATTINGLY: British authorities haven't responded publicly to those demands, but there are at least two men they want to question. Former KGB Agent Andrei Lugovoi, who met Litvinenko at the Millennium Hotel the day he was apparently poisoned. And Mikhail Trepashkin, Litvinenko's former counterintelligence colleague. He once warned the ex-spy of a plot to kill him.

(On camera): He wants to talk to British investigators, but he is in prison, convicted of exposing state secrets, and off limits to British authorities.

(Voice-over): But the Russian prosecutor general says that could change, only if evidence can be found supporting Trepashkin's claims.

(On camera): Is this investigation over?

WILL GEDDES, SECURITY EXPERT: This investigation, I think, is fundamentally over. If it is being reclaimed both judicially and also on an investigative level by the Russians. And it also draws some very curious speculation as to what kind of involvement was perhaps behind it.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But in London, the investigation is far from over. Reconstructing the possible murder trail continues to generate reports of locations being search and checked for radiation, including the British Embassy in Moscow, a London office building and two London hotels.

And the political repercussions of the murder continue to ripple throughout Europe. Italy's foreign minister met with Vladimir Putin, asking the Russian president to assist British police with their investigation. While pledging cooperation and flatly denying involvement in the crime, Russian leaders appear uncomfortable with the scrutiny, claiming that political pressure in the case could weaken relations with Britain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: David joins us now from London tonight.

David, this doesn't bode well for British investigators.

MATTINGLY: That's right. It is entirely up to Russians right now whether or not this investigation succeeds. The British detectives are now working inside a system that they have absolutely no control over -- Anderson.

COOPER: As we saw in Saudi Arabia after the Khobar Tower bombings, that is not a good situation to be in. David Mattingly, thanks.

Litvinenko blamed his death on the Russian president. He also held him responsible for a national tragedy, bombings that left some 300 people dead. We will give you details behind the accusation.

And will the killer ever be caught? We'll have more insight from Security Expert Will Geddes, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It was a dying declaration. From his deathbed, a former spy blames his killing on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Alexander Litvinenko supposedly says, quote, "May God forgive you for what you've done, not only to me, but to beloved Russia and its people." It was a shocking accusation, one that involved not just the taking of a life, but a massive act of terror. CNN's Ryan Chilcote has the back story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One after another, from provincial towns to Russia's capital, the apartment buildings came down. A two-month string of bombings in 1999 leaving more than 300 dead.

Vladimir Putin, then prime minister, blamed Chechen rebels and quickly sent troops into the breakaway territory.

But was it all built on a lie? Worse, were the bombings themselves the work of Putin's forces? In other words, a pretext for war. Former Russian spy turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko spelled out those allegations in his book, "Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within."

ANDREI NEKRASOV, FILMMAKER: According to Alexander Litvinenko, and some others, the Chechens had no motive at the time to provoke Russia, to attack Chechnya this way.

CHILCOTE: Andrei Nekrasov, friend and maker of the documentary, "Disbelief," became suspicious, too, especially after he met this man, Mikhail Trepashkin, another former KGB operative turned dissident, turned lawyer for some of the victims' families.

But five days after Nekrasov interviewed him, Trepashkin was jailed, eventually convicted of revealing state's secrets.

NEKRASOV: The allegations that he may have been made in the bombings in Moscow in 1999, questions the very legitimacy of the present regime in Russia. So anyone who sort of keeps at repeating those allegations, and continues to try to investigate them, to come up with new evidence is certainly -- runs a very, very serious risk.

CHILCOTE: In letters obtained by CNN, said to have been sent from his Siberian jail cell, Trepashkin says he warned Litvinenko he was on an FSB hit list. He also says he has information for Scotland Yard detectives now in Russia about Litvinenko's death. But prison officials say they won't let them talk to him.

Russian authorities have denied any role in Litvinenko's death. As for the allegations in his book...

I don't even want to comment on such idiocy, says Russia's attorney general. I didn't read Litvinenko's book and I don't see any need to.

(On camera): One of the bombings happened here. Almost 100 people, men, women and children, were killed. This church was built as a memorial to the dead. And the three apartment buildings behind it stand in the very spot where the bombed apartment building stood.

(Voice-over): Many people who live in the new apartment buildings tell me they don't know enough to have an opinion. This man said he doesn't buy Litvinenko's allegations and suggested he's a hired gun paid by the West.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He should believe so because he is belongs to the people who strained against the Kremlin and against Putin. But you could expect anything else from him? He must say something against the Kremlin. Otherwise he cannot be a political refugee.

CHILCOTE: Nekrasov admits investigators may never get to bottom of this mystery, especially with one less person around to challenge the Russian government's official story.

Ryan Chilcote, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, it's safe to say plenty of conspiracy theories about this killing, and each one may lead to a dead end. A look at why his case may never get unsolved, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, we have the victim, Alexander Litvinenko. We have a poison plot, and a pool of potential suspects. But even the best people from Scotland Yard on the case, bringing a spy killer to justice may be mission impossible.

More perspective tonight from Security Expert Will Geddes, who joins us now live from London.

Will, first of all, British investigators have arrived in Moscow. How do they even begin to try to solve this thing?

GEDDES: Well, it's going to be exceptionally difficult, Anderson, and it's going to be down to the Kremlin, the FSB and the SBR, the security services, in how they are going to help them in obtaining the information that they need to go into -- to carry out this investigation.

COOPER: It doesn't seem, though -- I mean, the Kremlin is talking, you know, saying they are going to help in the investigation, but they already seem to be setting up a lot of roadblocks.

GEDDES: Yes, indeed. And again, as this trail sort of runs across the various different groups that could be connected to this, it's going to be interesting because there's going to be a certain amount of dirty washing, so to speak, that's going to need to be done in public. And that might be potentially embarrassing for Russia.

COOPER: You have these two Russian subjects who met with Alexander Litvinenko, who are back in Moscow. Clearly, British authorities would like to speak to them. How key do you think they are to the case?

GEDDES: Well, I think anybody who is connected to this case in whatever capacity is going to be interesting, and certainly going to provide those little jigsaw pieces of information that are going to help the investigative team try and determine over and beyond any fingerprint analysis that the scientists can draw from the polonium substances and traces that they found already, in trying to find out where this originated from and who is possibly behind it.

COOPER: There is now an indication that some radioactive material or some indication of radioactive material was found at a British stadium. How confident are the police that they at least even have the timeline of when Alexander Litvinenko was infected with this radiation? November 1st was the day of the lunch, the day he fell ill. But there may be some indication this could have happened even way before that.

GEDDES: Well, yes, indeed. And this is what is most interesting and also what is going to make this case particularly complex. There are so many different players now that are emerging as individuals connected, and not any with the key individuals that we have already mentioned, but also other companies, other organizations and especially security consultants, another company last night was revealed certainly here in London as being investigated for traces of polonium. So, again, looking at the timelines, looking at the various individuals. Was this maybe a mass operation or was it one specific individual that is now contaminated across a number of others?

COOPER: Alexander Litvinenko, I have talked to his friends, who said he felt safe in London and maybe let down his guard. Does it surprise you that this could happen in London?

GEDDES: No, it doesn't surprise me, Anderson. And it wouldn't surprise me at all in terms that there is a very strong oligarch community and high profile, high net worth individuals from Russia who actually use London as a base of operations, if you like, not only for their investments back in Russia, but also across continental Europe. So it's not entirely surprising that a lot of intelligence operations are always ongoing, both commercially and also governmentally.

COOPER: Will Geddes, we appreciate your expertise. Thanks for joining us, Will.

We're going to have more of 360 in a moment. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN BREAKING NEWS)

COOPER: And we have some breaking news to bring to you, a CNN exclusive. Our first true look at the Iraq Study Group report. It is due out tomorrow.

CNN's Ed Henry has gotten some information about it.

Ed, what do you know?

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this evening one source close to the Iraq Study Group who has had access to this report, pieces of it. We have gotten an early look. This is obviously the highly anticipated report that will be coming out in full tomorrow.

And some interesting excerpts pouring out in terms of what's in this report. One that I'll point out is, this is characterized to me that the Baker-Hamilton report says -- has no timetable, as we have been reporting, for withdrawing U.S. troops, which will be a disappointment to some people who have been pressing this group to have a timetable. No timetable from the excerpts of this report that I've seen so far. But it does stress that Iraqis have to take on a larger share of the military role, and that the quote, "primary mission of U.S. forces should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army."

That would square with some of the least that we've been getting over the course of the last week, that would say that the U.S. has to move out of combat role and be more of a supporting role.

Also, it says that it's clear the Iraqi government will need U.S. assistance for some time to come, yet the U.S., quote, "must not make open-ended commitments to keep large numbers of U.S. troops there in Iraq." So it's prodding the Bush administration to not have an open- ended commitment. But again, not a lot of specifics on actually how to carry that out just yet.

Now, another interesting part, I think, is that we had heard that this report would call for the U.S. having direct talks with Syria and other neighbors of Iraq, and that seems to be confirmed here.

Also, because the report is pressing that the U.S. cannot, quote, "achieve its goals in the Mideast, unless it deals with the Israeli- Arab conflict and regional instability. This report, calling for a quote, "renewed and sustained commitment to a comprehensive peace plan on all fronts, talking to Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians and Syria." So really, wrapping it in a broader conflict -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, from what you are hearing, no actual timetable, but a sense that somehow transitioning from -- to a support role from a combat role?

HENRY: Absolutely. And also, what's very interesting is that this report seems to be somewhat pessimistic about the will of the American people right now, concern being expressed by the Baker- Hamilton Commission about how long the American people will support this, saying that quote, "what we recommend demands a tremendous amount of political will and cooperation between the executive and legislative branch of the government. Success depends on unity of the American people in a time of political polarization," and it adds that foreign policy is doomed to failure, as is any action in Iraq if not supported by a broad sustained consensus.

Obviously, coming out of the mid-term elections where we saw a deep division over the war in Iraq. What I've seen so far from this report suggests that the Baker-Hamilton Commission on a bipartisan basis has real concern about the polarization in the United States right now and whether the political will to really carry out this mission will be there -- Anderson.

COOPER: Let's bring in also to this conversation John King, who's joining us on the phone, chief national correspondent.

John, you have heard what Ed is reporting. Is there that political will to, to allow this process to go forward or is there this overwhelming desire to get the troops out and get them home quick?

KING (on the phone): Well, that is, Anderson, the burden that is on the president now, but also equally or perhaps not quite equally, because it is the president's foreign policy, but also a burden on the Democrats as well. And what the commission is trying to suggest and what Ed read from the executive summary there is consistent with most of what we have seen reported based on the leaks, but now you will have this in hard print before the president, before the Congress and before the American people. And essentially, what the commission is saying is Mr. President, if you want to sustain the war in Iraq, if you want to get to a path to what you consider victory, you have to bring the Democrats and the country into bargain. The question is, is he willing to make enough concessions to get the Democrats to sign on to another two years and more of significant troop commitment...

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