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Seized at Sea; Insurgents to Allies; Gaming the Race

Aired March 29, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: ... Persian Gulf. Fifteen British sailors and royal marines in captivity. Pressure growing on Tehran, but also on Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Today, Iran took the crisis to another level. Now, it is Prime Minister Blair's turn, but what will he do?

Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is live in London.

Nic, what's the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the heat was turned up on the British today when the Iranians released what they said was a second letter from the only female being held, Faye Turney.

This letter, saying that they had unfortunately strayed into Iranian waters, that ratcheting up the language she purportedly used in her first letter, saying that apparently they had gone into Iranian waters. She also went on to address in this letter to British members of parliament, isn't it time that British troops pulled out of Iraq?

British Prime Minister Tony Blair hadn't seen this second letter when he was talking with the media earlier today, but he said the Iranians at this time really only have one option, and that's to hand these sailors and marines back immediately.

COOPER: Nic, a new day's about to begin in the U.K. What's the reaction been like there to all of these developments? I imagine this story is, you know, number one.

ROBERTSON: You know, it was number one yesterday. And What we heard from Tony Blair was quite interesting. He was talking about step by step diplomacy. And I think that's reflected in some of the newspapers today. Another turn of the screw, really referring to this -- the female sailor and a second letter from her, more pressure put on her.

But we're not seeing a lot of this on the front pages of the other newspapers. And what the prime minister and what British officials are doing at the moment is really, it seems to play this down to a degree here.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he's not going to -- he's not looking for confrontation on this. Confrontation won't help the situation. He's talking about continually applying pressure step by step.

And the British had a disappointment yesterday. At the U.N. they wanted a strongly worded statement demanding from the U.N., unanimously demanding that these sailors and Marines are released immediately. The Russians blocked that. The British ended up with a weakened statement, saying there are grave concerns and that this should be resolved soon with the release of the prisoners. But it's not what the British were looking for. They're looking a little isolated on this at the moment -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, it also seems like -- we've heard from senior U.S. officials that they've told CNN that Britain's asking the U.S. not to get too involved in the crisis.

Is there the feeling throughout Britain that the U.S. really could do more to hurt than to help?

ROBERTSON: You know, it's fascinating, I was watching a debate on one of the British main TV channels here tonight and it involved politicians of all stripes, ethnic leaders, religious leaders. And they all were of one opinion that they feel that U.S. troops and sailors in the gulf right now should not get involved in this situation. They think that would escalate it. This seems to be an echo of what the prime minister is saying.

But as an indication here that perhaps the Iranians are managing to drive a wedge between the British and the Americans, because that's -- it appears is what they're trying to do. This second letter today, supposedly coming from the female sailor, supposedly questioning when British troops should be pulled out of Iraq. This fact that the British don't want American help seems to show the Iranians here, perhaps -- perhaps they're making some ground on this.

COOPER: All right. Nic Robertson, appreciate it. Thanks for the latest.

Less than a week in captivity for the Brits. Already the details make you queasy. The apparently staged video, the letters, the demands. Imagine all of that -- only for more than a year.

Retired Air Force Colonel David Roeder spent 444 days in Iranian hands after radical students took over the U.S. Embassy back in 1979. He joins us now.

David, thanks.

You know, when you look at this video that we're showing of the British sailors and the marines, what goes through your mind?

COL. DAVID ROEDER, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Well, first of all, I think it's very clear that they've singled her out for pressure. Who knows if behind the cameras there isn't a gun being held at the head of another sailor or a royal Marine. A code of conduct, of course, I'm sure the British have one, as we do.

She's being leaned on very, very, very hard. The parading of them in blindfolds and the nice little communal dinner, that's all deja vu all over again as far as Yogi Berra said, as far as we're concerned.

COOPER: Those first couple of days for you, what were they like? I mean, it's got to be such an incredible -- it's got to be so scary and such an adjustment?

ROEDER: Well, the first couple of days for us, of course, we were dealing with an entire embassy. We spent an awful lot of time blindfolded and tied to chairs while they were organizing themselves.

You know, how do you feed over a hundred people? Which we started out of course with more than the 52 that ended up.

It was a scary time. Everybody is confused. You feel like you're being used as a pawn.

These kids have got nothing to do with how their country acts or how -- what their orders are. And of course, Iran -- we are not -- Anderson, we are not completely without responsibility here.

The Iranians, when we were released in 1981 on President Reagan's inauguration day that was the last time that I think our U.S. government paid much attention to Iran.

So for 25 or 26 years from now -- now, they've been free to do just about anything they wanted. The U.S. government paid $7.9 billion for our release and that went right up to the last half day that -- until the release actually took place. They have paid nothing in tribute, nothing in treasure ever since then.

In fact the United States Department of State and Department of Justice entered U.S. federal court when we tried to sue under the 1996 anti-terrorism act and defended Iran against us.

This is -- this is the same thing all over again. They got away with it once, why not try it again?

COOPER: Did they lean on you when you were in captivity? I mean, did they pressure you? Did they threaten you?

ROEDER: They threatened -- most of the attention was directed at the senior political officers, those that they considered to be CIA and the senior military.

We got a lot of the attention. I was -- I was threatened. I was beaten, but I was not alone. I would not cooperate. And I stuck to the U.S. code of conduct as my resistance plan and it worked.

COOPER: Hmm. David Roeder, appreciate your perspective. Thank you, sir.

ROEDER: Thank you. Nice to be with you.

COOPER: The 15 British sailors and Marines were seized by Iran's Islamic revolutionary guard corps. Here's the raw data on that. In Persian, the corps is better known as the Pasdaran. It was formed following Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. And they have their own air force, their own ground, as well as naval forces. There are reportedly 100,000 men on land; 20,000 others at sea who are known for the guerrilla operations. They've been linked to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and several Shia militias in Iraq.

In Iraq today, bloody chaos. Bombs killed at least 76 people in Baghdad; 43 in Diyala Province; 25 bodies were found, all of them riddled with bullets; some showing signs of torture.

In all today, upwards of 160 men, women and children lost their lives. That kind of carnage is making some Iraqis reconsider who their friends are.

In al-Anbar province, for instance, a number of Sunni tribes have actually started aligning themselves with American forces. That's the good news.

It's not quite all, though. There's also another side to the story, as CNN's Michael Ware found out when he spent time with fighters that some are now calling America's assassins.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He looks like an insurgent. He's actually a U.S. ally. The new face of America's fight against al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda slaughtered our sheikhs, our children, he says, and we will terminate them. By "we," he means men like these in Iraq's western Anbar Province manning this checkpoint which, though unofficial, is supported by the U.S. military.

The men drawn from tribes or their umbrella network, the Anbar salvation council. The tribes have split their forces. Some to the police who, in turn, tribal chants before operations, while others are kept as private paramilitaries, hit squads, assault teams, sanctioned by the Iraqi government. Their loyalty remaining with their sheikhs, all of which suits an America desperate to crush al Qaeda.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCES IN IRAQ: Beyond Baghdad, moreover, a number of tribes in Anbar Province have in recent months finally said enough and begun to link arms against extremist operatives who have kill their sheikhs and sought to poison their young people's minds.

WARE: Here in Anbar Province, America cannot defeat al Qaeda with the troops it has. So it's turned to the tribes, Baathist and nationalist insurgents of the salvation council. Virtually contracting out parts of the battle against al Qaeda to tribal fighters. The deal is simple. America gives local leaders free reign as long as they root out and kill al Qaeda.

Iraqis like villager Abu Miriam (ph) have tired of al Qaeda. He says his people began fighting U.S. forces, but foreigners infiltrated their ranks.

If you talk against them, they let you go at first. Then come back and behead you later, he says.

These tensions provoked the tribe's salvation council to work alongside U.S. Marines and soldiers.

Its members carry weapons, launch operations against targets they select, make arrests and conduct interrogations. All with American acquiescence.

In a September 2006 U.S. intelligence briefing, it appeared the tribes had been given a license to kill.

"(The tribes) effectively sought out and killed, on a repeated basis, elements infiltrating from Syria as well as local elements trying to re-establish." A U.S. official said. Asked if this was really an assassination program backed by U.S. forces, Zalmay Khalilzad answered...

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: We lose no sleep over the struggle against al Qaeda and the killing of al Qaeda people.

WARE: The salvation council says the U.S. has given them rifle ammunition, a claim the U.S. military does not dispute. And the Iraqi government giving them 30 vehicles.

The salvation council doesn't hide its insurgent past.

Most of us carried weapons against the occupiers at the beginning, says the sheikh. Then we dropped them and started a dialogue. But that doesn't mean we accept the occupation.

Al Qaeda has hit back at the tribes, hard, sending chlorine bombs, car bombs and suicide bombers and explosive chest vests against their leaders.

Asked what would become of him if al Qaeda knew he was talking, Abu Miriam (ph) replied, I will be killed. In fact, slaughtered. Slaughtered with a knife.


COOPER: Michael, this seems to be just the kind of thing that I remember you talking about years ago that the U.S. wanted to be able to achieve. What kind of numbers are we talking about? Do we know? I mean, how successful is this?

WARE (on camera): It's very hard to tell, to give a sense of numbers. I mean, this is obviously a closely guarded secret. The tribes, it's in their interest to inflate their numbers. It's also in the U.S. military's interest for the tribes to be seen as more powerful than they really are.

Don't forget, U.S. Marines intelligence only last year said that al Qaeda in fact dominated the social fabric of that entire province. So it's going to take something to rest that back. And it's far too early to tell if it's working. But at the end of the day, this is how America is going to get its troops out of this country. America cannot win. So this part of the political solution we hear the generals talking about, cutting deals with people like these Baathist insurgents and ultimately people like Iran and the groups that Iran supports.

COOPER: And just so everyone's clear, what these Baathists insurgents have against al Qaeda is what? That they don't like the tactics, they feel too many of their sheikhs were getting killed?

WARE: Well, these Baathist insurgents were saying back in 2003, before they even began working with al Qaeda, they said, why are we on opposite sides of this fight? We were allies in the 1980s against Iran. We both continued to still oppose Iran. Under Saddam, we never let al Qaeda in. We don't share their Islamic agenda.

And for us, this is a global fight. We have more in common than we have that divides us. Indeed, the Baathists were saying back then, they're prepared to host U.S. bases. Yet back then the ideology from the Bush administration was that these fellows have no place in a new Democratic Iraq. Well, we still don't have a Democratic Iraq, and these fellows are still out there.

COOPER: Michael Ware, appreciate the reporting. Thanks Michael.

Closer to home, dozens of tornadoes in four states, bringing damage and death. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): As close as you can get and still live to tell about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Joe, what do we got? Can we get closer to this thing?

COOPER: Stories of survival, loss and picking up the pieces as tornado country braces for more.

Also ahead, a Jewish billionaire mayor, a conservative Christian senator turned TV star. Two candidates who could make the race for the White House a little more interesting. Will they run? Do they have a chance? Ahead on 360.


COOPER (on camera): Tack a look at that. Imagine seeing that coming your way. That tornado touched down near Oklahoma City late this afternoon, critically injuring two people. It struck less than 24 hours after dozen of twisters swept through tornado alley, killing at least four people. Some had no warning at all.

More on the story now from CNN's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a massive stove pipe tornado on the ground.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Storm chasers spotted the tornado in Beaver County, Oklahoma. It was 7:30 last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd say it's probably right now 200 yards to 300 yards at the base. Again, we're seeing multiple vortex tornadoes. Now, what that means is it's multiple, small tornadoes wrapped into one column of air.

TUCHMAN: A couple died there, when their home, like so many others, was blown apart. The massive twister was one of at least 65 that cut a path from the Rocky Mountains through the plains yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God. How's it looking?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's turning into a violent tornado. Violent.

TUCHMAN: At 7:50 p.m., that violent tornado killed an oil worker near Amarillo, Texas. He tried to ride out the storm in his trailer. In some places the tornado struck almost without warning.

REUBEN PARKER, JR., SHERIFF BEARVER CO. OK.: We seen it coming. We started trying to contact all the people down this road by telephone through the sheriff's office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then this red car was over an old garage. I had...

TUCHMAN: Just before 8:00 p.m., another twister hit Holly, Colorado, killing a young woman. At least Nine others were badly hurt in this storm that officials say also killed dozens of cattle, downed power lines and damaged countless home.

There are reports, sirens, that should have warned residents of oncoming storms never went off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard this loud noise. And we thought it was a train, but then they started breaking windows and stuff. And then we came over here after a little while. And we heard a -- some weird noise like, "help! Help!" and there were some kid -- a kid and a wife -- A kid and my friend's wife stuck in that tree and now we an do it much better than calling 911.

COOPER: And today those caught in the path of these deadly storms can only look at what they've spent a lifetime building and lost in a few terrible moments.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Wow. Terrible.

Ahead on 360, the White House and Democrats fighting on two fronts over U.S. troops in Iraq and the fate of the attorney general. Raw politics is next.

Plus, he plays a district attorney on television. In real life he's a former senator. And now he's a dark horse in the presidential race. Will he run? And what if he does, next on 360.


COOPER: Well, tonight, there's growing speculation that another Republican may soon jump into the presidential race. And some believe that if he does, he just might upstage his competition.

Millions of Americans already let him into their living rooms every week.

Here's CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Get out your dance card. Ten Republican presidential candidates may not be the end of it. Pencil in a "Law and Order" candidate, seriously.

FRED THOMPSON, "LAW AND ORDER": A situation like this, not much upside.

CROWLEY: He's not a candidate yet, but Fred Thompson is leaning forward with each conversation, says supporter Bill Frist, who pushes Thompson on his Web site and speaks with him frequently.

Ditto the head of Draft Fred Thompson.

REP. ZACH WAMP (R), TENNESSEE: And I think this is a serious, serious potential campaign. I think it's going to build tremendous momentum. You know, personally, I'd be surprised if he doesn't run.

CROWLEY: Just the mention he might get into the race put Thompson third in the latest Gallup poll of Republicans. Thompson benefits from name recognition and the fact nobody in the field has wowed Republicans enough to push everyone else out of the race.

Conservative Republicans, the ones who make up the bulk of the primary vote, have not found Mr. Right. Giuliani, off the reservation on social issues. McCain, unpredictable. Romney, flip-flops.

WAMP: I think Fred Thompson's going to be the safest candidate that we put out there in terms of the average Republican saying, I believe in him and I think he should be our president. CROWLEY: Thompson has solid, conservative credentials. But yesterday James Dobson, probably the leading political voice of evangelicals, praised Thompson's pro-family record and then dropped this one, "I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression.

Dobson rewrote the record today, saying he meant that Thompson had not clearly communicated his faith.

Thompson's political credentials are not as strong as others in the race. He is a lawyer, turned actor, turned Senator, turned actor again. It may work for him.

WAMP: By October, people are going to be really tired of all the candidates from both sides of the aisle, and the election is next year. So, I think you need somebody who's got the light touch and is very comfortable in front of a camera. Obviously Fred Thompson is. He does it for a living.

CROWLEY: Certainly, actor turned governor turned President Ronald Reagan proved one thing...


CROWLEY: It helps if you can deliver a line, whether you're in the running or the movies. This one, "In the Line of Fire."

THOMPSON: You're overreacting again...

CROWLEY: As they say in showbiz, stay tuned.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Fred Thompson isn't the only question mark in the race, of course. There's talk that Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, may be considering a White House run. If he does, that would add even more drama to the mix.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): First, Senator Clinton kicked off the campaign. Then, former Mayor Giuliani jumped in. And now comes buzz that the current mayor may hit the trail, too.

That's got another former New York City top official excited.

ED KOCH (D), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: Wouldn't it be wonderful to see three New Yorkers running for president?

FOREMAN: It's enough to make even political pros giddy. As polls show public faith in all politicians plummeting, Michael Bloomberg is riding a wave of popular support. Crossing political, racial, ethnic, and class lines.

CROWED: We want mike.

FOREMAN: He is a straight-talking, Jewish billionaire who rides the subway, barely pausing for the cameras that chase it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're annoying everybody else on the subway.

FOREMAN: And he takes his issues head on. The economy, public service, security.

BLOOMBERG: Al Qaeda wins if we close our ports...

FOREMAN: He was a Democrat, is a Republican, and talks like an Independent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning's dialogue, I think, was open and honest and blunt, just the way it should be.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think he's naturally a partisan of either stripe. I mean, he's not a hard- core Democrat or a hard-core Republican. He's a very rich guy who knows how to get things done. He's a bit of a problem solver. In fact, he's a very serious problem solver.

FOREMAN: Other maverick billionaires, such as Ross Perot and Steve Forbes have run with some success. And like them, political analysts say Bloomberg could use his $5 billion fortune to avoid the nasty business of fundraising.

(on camera): He would eventually have to face questions about foreign policy, his own experience, and of course the war. No one knows how he would handle that.

(voice-over): But he could join the race very late as an Independent, after the parties have beaten each other up and he could at least start with a fresh message.

KOCH: No ties with any special interests. I am, as everybody knows, totally independent and I'm going to do everything on the merits. And that hasn't been seen for a long time, if ever. And that would be the strength of his campaign.

FOREMAN: Bloomberg's office says, while this is very flattering, he is not running for president. Of course, they all say that.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, election day is, of course, 20 month away still. It is not too early to talk about what all this speculation means.

Joining me now is Republican Strategist Karen Hanretty.

Karen, good to have you with us. What do you think about Michael Bloomberg as a possible candidate?

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's hard to take him too seriously. I don't think he would run on a Republican ticket, obviously. I mean, there's talk about him running as an independent. I think the real concern -- you know, I would have immediately for him is, he doesn't have a lot of charisma as a candidate.

You know, Ross Perot was this interesting, quirky guy who really stood out. He was the master. He had, you know, this schtick with his spreadsheets and his pie charts. I don't know that Bloomberg really has a schtick about him to really set him about.

COOPER: Maybe his lack of schtick is his schtick?

HANRETTY: Well, maybe. I mean, I look at Bloomberg and I want to know, you know, when's the last time you were west of the Mississippi, but Los Angeles doesn't count. You know, if you're going to campaign throughout America, you need to actually be in America.

Talking to real people outside of New York, outside of the East Coast, maybe he does. That's not really the persona he gives off.

COOPER: Well, certainly, someone who is known around the United States, largely because he's on TV and on a wildly popular show, "Law and Order," is Fred Thompson. And the fact -- the very speculation that he could join the race has put him third among Republican candidates in some polls ahead of Mitt Romney, according at least to the latest Gallup poll.

You think the buzz on Thompson is what, less about him and more about the state of the party?

HANRETTY: I think -- I think Fred Thompson's supporting the polls right now is a real negative for Mitt Romney because the people who really support Fred Thompson -- and I'm out there talking to activists around the country who are really interested in having him run because they don't quite buy in to Mitt Romney. And we really -- I mean, this is a man who's been in the campaign. He's been out there. He really can't break double digits in any of the polling.

Although he has a great deal of money -- Phil Gramm had a lot of money when he ran for president as well.

They don't like John McCain for whatever reason. They personally, they hold a real grudge against him. Most of these conservatives have therefore held their nose and decided OK, Rudy Giuliani, we're pragmatists, Rudy Giuliani is the guy who can win.

But I think if Fred Thompson got into this campaign he would really threaten Mitt Romney. In fact, I can see a couple scenarios. I can see a scenario where he could actually take some support, he could maybe get a couple of Romney supporters and donors to flip their allegiances in his favor. That would really make news. The other thing is Fred Thompson has a very close relationship with John McCain. I'm not sure that he would necessarily challenge McCain in a primary. But if he seriously does consider it, it makes me wonder if McCain is really going to play out this primary campaign. It's really fascinating to watch Fred Thompson right now. And here's candidate with great strengths on national security.

I think there's a lot about him that the media, perhaps, don't know, that a lot of Republicans don't know. This is a man who helped usher in the confirmation of Justice John Roberts.

He's a man who sits on the International Security Advisory Board. He reports to the secretary of state on emerging threats. He's a visiting fellow for the American Enterprise Institute. A very conservative-leaning think tank on national security issues. I think he'd have a lot of credibility if in fact he got into the race.

COOPER: We'll watch. It's going to be a fascinating race. Karen Hanretty, appreciate your perspective, thanks. Republican strategist.

One other note on Rudy Giuliani. Some breaking news that might have some bearing on the race. Tomorrow's "New York Times" is reporting that Giuliani was briefed about Bernard Kerik's relationship with a company suspected of having mob ties.

Now this took place, "The Times" is reporting, before Giuliani named Kerik New York police commissioner. Last year Mayor Giuliani told a grand jury investigating Kerik that he had no recollection of the briefing.

Stay tuned. Likely to be a big story tomorrow.

Coming up tonight, growing pressure on attorney Alberto Gonzales to step down. Also a new push from Congress for the president to pull troops out of Iraq. Raw politics is next. Plus this:

A grandmother becomes the victim of a brutal regime. She says she was beaten by the police. The president says it's their right.


ROBERT MUGABE, PRESIDENT OF ZIMBABWE: The police have right and right to bash to bash them. They will get arrested and get bashed by the police.


COOPER: Inside a capital in chaos. A story the government didn't want our cameras to see.

Plus -- a heartbreaking mystery. One neighborhood, three babies abandoned, all with something in common -- their mother. Who is she? And why did she do it? The investigation ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: The president and Democrats are fight two wars tonight, with the one over Iraq and the battle over the attorney general. CNN's Joe Johns has our raw politics segment tonight.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Call it a throw-down on Capitol Hill today.


JOHNS (voice-over): Less than 24 hours after both sides of the aisle yucked it up with the president and Karl Rove at the Radio and TV Correspondents dinner Democrats in Senate were throwing long, hard punches at the administration.

As expected the Democratic leadership pushed through its Iraq funding bill with strings attached, imposing a time line for withdrawing troops. Besides 10s of billions of dollars for the military, the bill is loaded up with extras including $40 million for Christmas trees. The president has promised a veto.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: We've got commanders making tough decisions on the ground. We expect there to be no strings on our commanders. And that we expect the Congress to be wise about how they spend the people's money.

JOHNS: In the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats turned up the heat on Alberto Gonzales, using one of his lieutenants as a star witness. Kyle Sampson, the attorney general's former chief of staff, contradicted the assertion that his old boss didn't have a whole lot to do with firings of eight U.S. prosecutors last year.

KYLE SAMPSON, FORMER GONZALES CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't think the attorney generals statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate.

JOHNS: Gonzales has said he was not involved in deliberations over which United States attorneys should resign. Democrat Charles Schumer called Sampson's testimony another blow to the embattled attorney general.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NY: The credibility of the attorney general on this issue has been more or less shattered by what happened -- what happened in that hearing room.

JOHNS: In the race for president, the spouse and the White House factor is getting some play. In an interview with "20/20," Rudy Giuliani says if he's elected he would be open to letting his wife attend Cabinet meetings. It wouldn't exactly be precedent setting. Bill and Hillary Clinton have already been there and done that.

And while on the subject, how about a former president as the first first husband? A "USA Today" poll says 70 percent of Americans think the former president would do more good than harm to his wife's campaign. (on camera): And that's raw politics. Anderson?


COOPER: And just ahead -- a country in crisis. A leader with no remorse and a grandmother who is lucky to be alive.

Plus, in just two years, three babies abandoned the birth in the same neighborhood. Even more shocking is who police say did it. The tragic twist next on 360.


COOPER: It's the kind of community where everyone seems to know each other. And tonight they're all trying to make sense of something that makes no sense. Why a mother would abandon her newborn children again and again and again. CNN's Dan Simon reports.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A casket carrying a newborn baby, she was abandoned at birth. When the baby was discovered here in the small town of Orosi, California last December, people who live here were stunned. Not just because she was dumped but because it was the third time in two years a baby had been abandoned here, all in the same neighborhood.

(on camera): What makes this story even more astounding is that all three babies were found within 100 yards of one another. The first one found on a bench in front of that yellow house, the second in the bed of a pickup truck underneath the tree over there and the third one found in the bed of a pickup truck in the driveway of that corner house.

MARELY PENA, OROSI RESIDENT: If you are going to leave them here, leave them at the doorstep and ring the doorbell, do something. Break my window, I don't care just as long as I know she's there. Windows's replaceable, a life isn't.

SIMON: The first two babies found here, a boy and a girl, survived and were taken to the hospital and released to county care. They'll soon have a chance to be adopted. The third baby was found dead.

PENA: And the truck was actually sitting right here.

SIMON: Marely Pena discovered the infant naked, covered only by a hooded sweatshirt.

PENA: It kind of looked like a doll, it did. But after we, I kind of touched her head, that's when I knew, OK, this is not a doll, this is a real baby.

SIMON: That baby and the two others still had their umbilical cords attached. But there was even more they had in common. (on camera): The babies were all Hispanic in appearance and of course they were all abandoned in the same neighborhood. So acting on a hunch, authorities conducted a DNA test. The results showed all throw babies had the same biological mother. That means the same woman gave birth to three babies in less than three years.

DNA testing uncovered the same for two of the babies as well. Investigators have yet to develop leads for either parents. This week the Orosi community buried the baby girl in a small cemetery. The tiny casket and burial plot, all donated. It was a way of saying, we know you didn't have a real family, but we still care.

(voice-over): The baby was also given a name, Angelita De Orosi which in Spanish means "Orosi's Little Angel." Dan Simon, CNN, Orosi, California.


COOPER: Next on 360, a grandmother stands up for what she believes in. For that she was brutally beaten by the police and a dictator said she deserved it. The story when 360 continues.


COOPER: The deepening crisis in Zimbabwe was the focus of a special summit today in Tanzania. But it didn't play out like many westerners would have liked.

Instead of reprimand, Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe got a vote of confidence from other African leaders. A violent crackdown on opponents has put his regime under growing international pressure. CNN's Jeff Koinage has witnessed a lot in the years he has been covering Africa but what happened in Zimbabwe this month was as tough as it comes, especially considering what Zimbabwe once was. Take a look.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how the regime of one of Africa's most ruthless dictators treats its opposition when it tries to hold a rally. This is what life is like in today's Zimbabwe.

It happened two weeks ago at what was supposed to be a peaceful prayer vigil in the country's capital Harare. The police responded this way -- savagely beating one man to death and battering scores more.

Sixty-four year-old mother of two and grandmother of 10, Sekai Holland says she lucky to be alive.

SEKAI HOLLAND, VICTIM: And the men came in hit my left leg, left side of my body, left arm. They were breaking those.

KOINANGE: She's one of the founders of the country's opposition movement, and on that fateful Sunday had gone to the local police station to inquire about her injured colleagues. She ended up being badly beaten.

S. HOLLAND: That's broken, yes, really broken. And they put some pins in and things - Jim, can you open the leg? And the leg also was broken.

KOINANGE: Broken, Sekai Holland says, by Zimbabwe's notorious secret police.

(on camera): And for two days you didn't realize you had broken ...

S. HOLLAND: No, I did. They forced me to walk on it. They forced me to walk on it. Jumping off the truck, jumping on the truck, going up the truck, they forced me.

KOINANGE: My goodness.


KOINANGE (voice-over): Her husband, Jim, is an I.T. specialist and a native of Australia. He had been on a business trip outside the country and when he heard his wife was among the victims, he quickly rushed back.

JIM HOLLAND, SEKAI HOLLAND'S HUSBAND: As you can imagine I was absolutely horrified that they would do this to -- I mean to anyone, let alone a 64-year-old grandmother. I was utterly appalled.

KOINANGE: Two days into her ordeal, and with no access to a doctor, Sekai Holland and her colleagues were finally taken to court for allegedly inciting violence. Her feet were swollen and sore, she says.

S. HOLLAND: Because I couldn't walk. They didn't believe that or if they did they just wanted to do more punishment. They pushed me off the truck and I fell on my face.

KOINANGE: The judge immediately ordered the injured to be taken to hospital. And this is how Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe responded to the ensuing international outcry that followed the beatings of Sekai Holland and her colleagues.

MUGABE: The police have the right, and the right to bash, to bash them. They will get arrested and get bashed by the police.

KOINANGE: It's hard to imagine how Robert Mugabe went from hero to zero in less than three decades. Hard to imagine, because he was the man known as the liberation hero who led his nation to independence in 1980, inheriting an agriculturally rich land that was known as Southern Africa's breadbasket.

In a sense, he's thrown away that inheritance. In 2000, he ordered the invasion of white owned commercial farms and those farmers who didn't get killed or injured fled the country in droves. Mugabe also clamped down on just about everything and everyone he felt was a threat, from lawyers to doctors, teachers and even the churches. And, when that wasn't enough he even went after the media, expelling all western broadcasters from reporting within Zimbabwe.

MACHIVENYIKA MAPURANGA, ZIMBABWEAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: We do not allow enemy agencies like CNN and the BBC to report on Zimbabwe.

KOINANGE: Zimbabweans have been fleeing their country across the border into South Africa in large numbers. More than 100,000 the last few weeks alone. Some legally, many illegally.

(on camera): How easy it is for Zimbabweans to cross over illegally into South Africa? Well, it's pretty simple. There are basically three fences that separate the two countries. I am right now in Zimbabwe, and about to cross over back into South Africa. Someone has used a pair of pliers to cut through fence number one walk through a few meters into no man's land. This is an electrified fence here. Someone has cut through this fence as well.

And there's 225 kilometers or 150 miles of border line between South Africa and Zimbabwe, some patrolled by border guards. Obviously they can't patrol the whole 225 kilometers.

This is fence number three, already been cut. I cross over and I'm already in South Africa.

(voice-over): What Zimbabweans are leading behind is a country that seems to be spiraling out of control. Inflation us the highest in the world, more than 1700 percent. Eight out of 10 Zimbabweans are out of work. And life expectancy is one of the lowest in the world, a mere 37 years old.

The country that was once known as southern Africa's breadbasket is now, according to experts, just another African basket case.

Governments around the world condemn the 83-year-old Mugabe. He shrugs it off.

MUGABE: Nothing frightens me. I'm being frightened by who? Little fellows like Bush and Blair.

KOINANGE: In the meantime, 64-year-old grandmother Sekai Holland has been evacuated to a hospital in neighboring South Africa, suffering from multiple fractures.

S. HOLLAND: I really have a very strong sense that if we didn't die there, we're going to die the next day or the day after, because it was brutal. It was primitive. And it was really, really meant to break us physically and in our spirits.

KOINANGE: Her bashing, as the government calls it, has not led the opposition movement to back down.

And so you have a determined dictator and what seems to be his equally determined opponents. In this country whose name literally translates into "house of stone", each side calculating the other will crumble first. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Jeff, it's remarkable that Mugabe got a vote of confidence today from other African leaders. What does that translate to back in Zimbabwe?

KOINANGE (on camera): Well, Anderson, depending on what side of the divide you are in Zimbabwe you're either very elated order disappointed. In the short term that means that inflation will continue to rise, probably 4,000 percent according to experts by the end of the year and more and more Zimbabweans will be fleeing the country, seeking sanctuary elsewhere in the region, Anderson.

COOPER: It also says a lot about the governments in the region as well. Jeff Koinage, thanks. Appreciate the reporting.

Up next, making a run for the border. Ten feet underground. See where officials found some new tunnels connecting the U.S. and Mexico, next on 360.


COOPER: Eye opening new developments in the battle on the border. Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin. Erica?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, two new tunnels have been found along the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego. Customs officials say each tunnel was about three feet wide, three feet high, less than 10 feet underground, they are about 44 yards apart near the Otai-Mesa (ph) border crossing. The tunnels were discovered yesterday in a joint effort by U.S. and Mexican authorities.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Congress and the White House should explore ways to close the military prison in Guantanamo Bay without releasing its most dangerous detainees. Democrats and President Bush have said they'd like to close the camp but at least one senior Republican lawmaker is warning against importing terror suspects into prisons in the U.S.

President Bush and Congress awarded the Tuskegee airmen one of the nation's highest honors today. The legendary black aviators, most of whom are now in their 80s, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for fighting for their country even as they faced bigotry at home.

And running a marathon hard enough, by try doing it 210 miles above the earth, that is exactly what astronaut Suni Williams is planning. She is registered for next month's Boston marathon. But since she's going to be stuck on the International Space Station, she's going to run the race on a treadmill. She'll be tethered to the track so she doesn't float away.

I mean, I don't know. You know, it's impressive to qualify for Boston, it's very difficult to do and I know why you'd want to run it. But personally I think I'd rather run it in Boston than space, but that's just me. COOPER: Yes, well, gosh. I don't know how that will work, but we'll see. There will probably be video.

HILL: I think there will be video. We can all look for it on, I believe it's April 16th, Patriots' Day in Massachusetts.

COOPER: There you go. All right. Thanks, Erica.

HILL: Thanks.

COOPER: Tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING, you got debt? Paying late on one credit card could raise the interest rates on all your credit cards. Can you do anything about it? You can find out tomorrow on AMERICAN MORNING beginning at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. If I knew I would tell you right now but we'll have to watch.

LARRY KING is coming up next. Thanks for watching tonight. I'll see you tomorrow.


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