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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Suspect Charged With Murder in Holocaust Museum Shooting; Palin-Letterman Showdown

Aired June 11, 2009 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: the charges, potentially capital charges, against James von Brunn, the horrifying entries from notes found in his car and everything else we are learning about the seconds of terror at Washington's Holocaust Museum and the heroic guard who gave his life to save others.

Also tonight, the latest on a race to find answers in waters miles deep -- the remarkable and almost impossible recovery mission in search of Air France's 447 black boxes.

And, later, a stretch of highway where cops have pulled people over and taken their money -- now, the money is supposed to be used for law enforcement purposes. But 360's Gary Tuchman found out that some of it went to send law officers and their spouses to Hawaii. And the judge? Well, they all say it's perfectly legal. We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- all that and more in the hour ahead.

But we begin with the latest on James von Brunn, a new picture of him, this, a mug shot from an arrest in 2007 for failure to appear in court.

No appearance today -- he's in critical condition with a gunshot wound. But he was charged in first-degree murder in the shooting death of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns -- prosecutors not yet saying whether they will seek the death penalty.

They do tell us they found a hate-filled note in his car, calling President Obama a tool of Jew owners, saying the Holocaust is a lie, and declaring -- quote -- "You want my weapons, this is how you will get them" -- his words.

Tonight, how his alleged deeds fit a pattern and a growing threat of lone wolves turning rage into action.

Here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the first pictures inside the Holocaust Memorial Museum since the shooting. It remains closed, the flags lowered for slain security officer Stephen Johns.

The gunman, shot by other guards, remains in critical condition. But James von Brunn has been charged with murder. And federal agents are considering hate crime charges as well. JOSEPH PERSICHINI, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: And he is known as an anti-Semite and a white supremacist who had had an established Web site that espoused hatred against African- Americans, Jewish, and others.

FOREMAN: Criminologists are already comparing von Brunn to so- called lone wolf domestic terrorists, like Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph, the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and Oklahoma City's Timothy McVeigh, all violent men whose anger was fueled by radical ideologies.

But that's not much help for law enforcement.

Fran Townsend is a former White House homeland security adviser.

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Ninety-nine percent of the people who engage in hateful speech never do anything about it. And, so, what you're really -- it's the needle- in-the-haystack problem. How do you identify that fraction of 1 percent that, for some sort of set of circumstances, tip from hateful speech to -- to doing violent acts?

FOREMAN: Investigators say von Brunn left a broad trail, a notebook in his car filled with bitter words against Jews and President Obama, a long arrest record, trouble with shopkeepers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He got very angry.

FOREMAN: Even this woman, who says she divorced him 30 years ago over his anti-Semitic views, and has a message for him now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm terribly sorry that you killed the young man.

FOREMAN (on camera): But hate crime watchdogs warn that many more lone wolves might be at a boiling point, fed by furious postings on the Internet about the economy, the first black president, gay marriage, and immigration.

(voice-over): It's just a theory, but they point to shootings of that abortion doctor and those Army recruiters. Police say those, too, were the work of angry men who struck without warning and who acted alone.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, let's dig deeper now on these lone wolves and the groups that they sometimes join to find kinship and hate.

Today, the FBI asked for your help. If you have ever had any dealings with James von Brunn, they want to hear from you.

The man who did the asking also had this to say about hate groups.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERSICHINI: It is very important that we send a message that this country does not authorize or approve of any act that's attached to hatred in America.

This is not what this country stands for. And we will do everything possible, not only to stop Mr. von Brunn, but the other Mr. von Brunns that are around here in this nation today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And they are out there.

This man in this video did his part. That is David Gletty -- the video from a white supremacist Web site outing him as an FBI operative.

From 2003 to 2007, he infiltrated Nazi and skinhead groups. He got to know the foot soldiers and elders and crossed paths with James von Brunn.

He joins us now, along with Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in America.

Mark, from what we now know, it appears that James von Brunn acted alone. Does -- does he fit the lone wolf mold, in your view? Because he did, you know, have groups that he associated with online.

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Yes. I think, from the evidence so far, it's pretty clear that he did act as a lone wolf, at least, as I say, from what we know.

Although he kind of associated with many people in groups, and he certainly knew many of the leaders in the movement, as far as we know, he really was not a joiner. He very rarely was actually a member of a group. But, in any event, yes, it does seem like the evidence suggests that he acted alone. I certainly can't see any suggestion to the contrary out there.

COOPER: And, David, these lone wolves can come from any political background. As we saw, the -- the -- the soldier was in Arkansas on June 1, on Monday, shot to death, another soldier wounded, by a man who was a recent Muslim convert.

But -- but these lone wolves, the term itself basically comes from right-wing extremist groups from the '80s, doesn't it?

DAVID GLETTY, INFILTRATED HATE GROUPS FOR FBI: Yes, sir.

And what I witnessed working undercover for the FBI, that I ran into lone wolf, say, splinter cells, where you have groups of two, three people.

And a perfect example is, two years ago, two of the guys I had arrested -- are in prison now for 10 years -- they conspired and they brought me into their plan. And I was able to get them on recording devices. And that's what ultimately put them in prison. Their plan was to go around, rob drug dealers at gunpoint dressed as law enforcement officers.

And because of my work, they are arrested; they're in prison now. Their names are Tom Rock, John -- I'm sorry -- John Rock, Tom Martin. They were members of the Confederate Hammerskins here in the state of Florida.

COOPER: So, what's, Mark, the goal of a lone wolf? I mean, is it -- is it martyrdom? Are they -- are they trying to start a race war?

POTOK: You know, really what the whole lone wolf theory about is the idea of not getting caught. You know, fundamentally, what happened was, there was a very important trial, the so-called sedition trial in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the '80s of most of the leaders of the radical right at the time.

Essentially, the government theory was a giant conspiracy. The government lost on all counts in that trial, but that trial really set the stage up for the thinkers of the radical right, and, in particular, one man, Louis Beam, to come up with the theory of leaderless resistance.

And that idea was to limit resistance to very small cells, so, no more than six men in cells. And the idea was that these cells would act on their own entirely, without any outside direction, the theory being that, that that way, if law enforcement busted into one of these cells, the most people who would go down would be five or six, as opposed to bringing an entire structure down.

So, you know, lone wolves are kind of an offshoot of the leaderless resistance idea. Lone wolves, as you mentioned, are very much like Eric Robert Rudolph, the Olympic and abortion clinic bomber, McVeigh, people who acted either all -- completely on their own or with the assistance just of one or two people.

COOPER: And, David, because of success of people like you, who have been able to infiltrate some of these larger groups, I guess these -- these lone wolves are kind of breaking away, thinking that they won't be able to be infiltrated with just themselves or one or two other people.

Do you think, David, that the racist movement in the United States has become energized because of the election of President Obama, or is that too much of a stretch?

GLETTY: That's not a stretch at all.

Like I said before, we need to take this serious. These guys are using -- using that as a recruiting tactic, President Obama being elected. And what Mr. von Brunn did, they're using that as a recruiting tool to poison the young minds of our young people in society.

They get these young people that are on the outskirts of society, bring them in, show them their way of thinking, brainwash them, you say, and they go out and do their bidding.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there.

David Gletty, good to have you again, Mark Potok, as well. Thank you for your expertise, both of you. Appreciate it.

GLETTY: Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Given how much we have all heard -- given how much we have all heard already about the suspect and his ugly views, we want to take you a moment to tell you a bit about the man who truly deserves to be remembered tonight, Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, who died doing what he and his fellow officers had long trained to do at the museum that has always been a prime target.

They called him a gentle giant. He stood 6'6''. Ironically, sadly, so courteous to others, one of his last acts was to hold the door open, so that the elderly man who would shoot him could come inside.

Stephen Johns loved the Redskins. He loved his 11-year-old son, Stephen Jr., who says his dad was a pretty great guy -- a pretty great guy.

Let's hope that, in history -- the name of von Brunn will not go down in history. Let's hope the name of Mr. Johns will.

Nearly 1,000 hate groups across the country, some may be operating where you live. You can go to AC360.com. You will find a map locating every active hate group from Hawaii to Maine.

You can also join the live chat while you're there, AC360.com. Talk to other viewers who are the program right now.

Up next, meet a man who spent 15 years spewing Nazi skinhead hate. Learn how a few words from a little boy helped him leave that life behind.

Also tonight, getting ready to go where no life can survive and most submarines are crushed like beer cans, all of it in search of black boxes and answers from Air France 447 and some new information about whether the plane really did break up in the air.

And "Keeping Them Honest" in the town where cops pulled people over, took their cash, and used it on a trip to Hawaii. They say it's legal. Others say it's a ripoff. We have got the facts. You can decide for yourself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're talking about the tragedy at Washington's Holocaust Museum -- a vigil there this afternoon, people stopping to remember the fallen guard who saved a lot of lives when he and other guards made sure the man with a rifle didn't get past them. They prayed, lit candles, generally did what they can to demonstrate tolerance in the face of intolerance.

Meantime, on white supremacist Web sites, the crime is being celebrated.

Our next guest tonight knows both sides of the fence. T.J. Leyden was a neo-Nazi skinhead for years. He now runs StrHATE Talk Consulting, which combats bigotry through education.

T.J., you were in the racist movement for 15 years, until, one day, your son said something. What -- what happened?

T.J. LEYDEN, CO-FOUNDER, STRHATE TALK CONSULTING: Well, me and my youngest son were watching a show on Nickelodeon called "Gullah Gullah Island."

And my 3-year-old came out in the living room and turned it off, turned to me and scolded me, and said, "Daddy, we don't watch shows with niggers in this house."

And my initial impression was, I was kind of happy, because -- being a racist. But then I started thinking about where his life was going to end up 15 years down the line. And that wasn't a very pretty sight.

COOPER: How are your kids now?

LEYDEN: My oldest just graduated high school. I have got five boys total. But none of my children are racist in any way.

COOPER: As a former skinhead, when you hear about something like the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, I mean, what -- what goes through your mind?

LEYDEN: Just that they're still alive and well, and that the propaganda will be pushed even stronger now, because he will be held as a martyr in -- inside the white supremacy movement.

COOPER: Because, publicly, some of these groups will say, well, look, an act like that doesn't really accomplish much. But you say, privately, they say something else.

LEYDEN: Well, yes. I mean, publicly, they will be like, oh, he didn't accomplish much. He killed one for -- you know, one for one. We lost one soldier for the loss of one gentleman. That's the way they are going to put it.

But, behind the scenes, they will be praising him and they will be telling all the younger kids that, hey, you -- you need to be like him.

COOPER: What do you think it was that -- I mean, what -- what first got you involved in this movement?

LEYDEN: Well, what got me involved in the movement was friends who were getting involved. My friends were going -- my parents were going through a very messy divorce. And I was just kind of lost. And this group found me. And I swallowed up all their rhetoric.

COOPER: And -- and, I mean, the turning point, which you talked about, your son, how hard is it, though, changing that mind frame? I mean, if you have been living in this for 15 years, I imagine -- just, overnight, you just changed your mind?

LEYDEN: It wasn't an epiphany. It took me 18 months of going through a lot of different things, talking to people of different races, different religions, different cultural backgrounds. It took a long time.

And, once I left the racist movement, one of the things that kind of helped me out was, I went to work for this Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

COOPER: And you now work with groups. You're focused on educating people about hate and bigotry.

People like James von Brunn, though, I mean, can they really be reasoned with?

LEYDEN: Guys like him, no, they're not going to be reasoned with. They're lifelong racists and -- and everything of that nature.

My main focus is, I do a lot of colleges, junior highs, high schools, law enforcement groups. And my main focus is educating them to where they can catch the kids before they become like James.

COOPER: And that -- so, for you, that's the key, trying to catch the next generation?

LEYDEN: Yes. I try to catch the next generation.

Luckily, in the 12 years I have been speaking out about the white supremacist movement, I have gotten 58 people out of the racist movement.

COOPER: Well, T.J. Leyden, I appreciate your work and I appreciate you being on to talk about it tonight. Thank you.

LEYDEN: Thank you.

COOPER: We are going to dig deeper on hate in America tomorrow in a 360 special: "American Radical: The Lone Wolves." What makes James Von Brunn tick? More insight tomorrow on the program.

Still ahead tonight: Reverend Jeremiah Wright is back in the spotlight. He says he hasn't talked to President Obama. And his reason why has him in hot water.

Plus, new details on the investigation into the Crash of Air France Flight 447 -- what officials say could prove the plane broke up in the air.

And Sarah Palin vs. David Letterman, round two -- the joke that led her to call him a pervert coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Still ahead: deep sea detectives. We're going to take you inside the difficult search for the flight data recorders from Air France Flight 447.

First, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we begin with the "Raw Politics" -- President Obama defending his idea for a government- sponsored health insurance plan at a town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, today. The president says the country must tackle health care reform to fix the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In all these reforms, our goal is simple: the highest-quality health care at the lowest possible cost.

Let me repeat what I said before. We want to fix what's broken, build on what works. As Congress moves forward on health care legislation in the coming weeks, there are going to be different ideas and disagreements about how to achieve this goal. And I welcome all ideas.

We have got to have a good debate. What I will not welcome, what I will not accept, is endless delay or denial that reform needs to happen.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: The World Health Organization declaring swine flu is now a global pandemic -- it is the first pandemic declared in 41 years. The WHO is asking drugmakers to now speed up production of a vaccine.

Iranians go to the polls on Friday to decide to reelect President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or one of his opponents. He is facing tough opposition from a reformist candidate whose rallies this week have attracted the largest crowds since the Islamic Revolution.

A heartbreaking mistake -- demolition crews tearing down a home near Atlanta that had been in the family for more than 50 years. The house wasn't even scheduled for demolition. The GPS coordinates apparently led the company to the wrong address. One family member compared losing the home to a death -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. That's just terrible.

Coming up next -- Erica, this story is just unbelievable -- we're going to take you to a stretch of Texas highway where cops have pulled people over and taken their cash right then and there. And it turns out they have used some of that money for all-expense-paid trips to Hawaii. The question is, is it legal? Gary Tuchman tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight, a massive drug tunnel just discovered on the U.S.- Mexico border -- it's one of the most elaborate tunnel border agents have seen. We have got the pictures to show you.

And President Obama's famous former pastor making headlines again -- wait until you hear his explanation of why he hasn't spoken with President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: This next report takes us back to the heart of Texas, where Gary Tuchman has found another county awash in both cash and allegations of corruption.

The money, more than $1 million last year, was seized from drivers who were pulled over by cops. And there are allegations that some of those drivers were innocent. So, what's happening to all that money?

Well, that's where so many people -- that's why so many people are steamed.

Gary Tuchman tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The dusty roads here in Texas Hill Country have been a gold mine for police and prosecutors. But some defense attorneys call it the best little ripoff in Texas.

RICHARD ELLISON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It makes Texans look like buffoons, and it makes it look like all of our judges and police officers are crooks down here.

TUCHMAN: In Texas and other states, cops can pull over drivers suspected of serious crimes and they can actually seize their cash and valuables. Four times, the former DA spent tens of thousands of it for all-expense-paid trips to Hawaii for himself, some of his staff, and spouses.

(on camera): Do you think it was OK to spend that money to go to Hawaii?

RON SUTTON, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Absolutely.

TUCHMAN: Why do you think that?

SUTTON: Well, it's part of the United States, the last time I checked. And we have conference all over the other states. What's the difference in Hawaii?

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The organizers of the annual trip to this resort in Oahu invite spouses, sweeties, friends. The trip does include 10 hours of law seminars, 10 hours out of an entire week. The rest of the time is for sun, golf, and luaus. The price? Four thousand bucks a couple. Steep, but not when it's paid for by public money made back home on the highway.

Ron Sutton was the district attorney here for 32 years. He didn't run again this fall, but he is still working part-time in the DA's office.

TUCHMAN (on camera): But could you understand, sir, how it kind of looks bad to people that they're going to Hawaii...

(CROSSTALK)

SUTTON: Only to those people who are jealous because they haven't been to Hawaii.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The money used by the former DA came from the Texas forfeiture law. District attorneys offices get a cut of the seizure money and are allowed to use the cash for -- quote -- "official purposes," which the former DA says is:

SUTTON: Anything used in connection with promoting and functioning of the office for training. It could be anything.

JOHN WHITMIRE, TEXAS STATE SENATOR: It's outrageous.

TUCHMAN: Texas State Senator John Whitmire says the forfeiture law often leads to corruption.

WHITMIRE: The law that I am going to change is so general, that they -- they can literally get away with stealing, in my mind.

TUCHMAN: The purpose of forfeitures is to strip real criminals of ill-gotten gains, although, in Texas, there have been many accusations that innocent people, often minorities, are targeted and pulled over.

Deputies told this man he was driving too long in the passing lane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Step out. You're acting funny. I don't -- I don't like it.

TUCHMAN: It got violent. The driver, a Latino and a U.S. Navy veteran, was charged with endangering police. After his lawyer got his hands on this video, charges were dropped.

GUY JAMES GRAY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It was a -- I think a -- probably a classic profile stop.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This is the Kimble County seat of Junction, Texas. There are only 4,400 people who live in this entire county. This is Main Street. You can see, it's a quiet, sleepy place. But the sheriff's department deputies here are very active and busy. Getting forfeiture money is a very important industry here.

(voice-over): How important? The sheriff's office keeps more than an average of $1 million annually in forfeitures.

The former DA says he had more than $1 million in his account when he lost office. He says, Hawaii wasn't a vacation, but a way to learn and get legal credits. But, beyond paying for airfares and hotel rooms, there's spending money for the group. Here's a check, paid to cash, for $6,000 to cover the week.

(on camera): Why do you guys need $6,000?

SUTTON: Well, you go to Hawaii, and you will see why. A hamburger and a drink is $20.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But what really got our attention was this. The former DA says that, one year, he took this man to Hawaii, Emil Prohl. He's the judge who hears forfeiture cases.

(on camera): Well, wouldn't it have been better to say, "Judge, you can't come with us to Hawaii because we're using forfeiture money"?

SUTTON: Well, that issue has never come up until right now.

TUCHMAN: OK. So, what's your answer?

SUTTON: The answer is, I don't see anything wrong with it. It's help educating the judge.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And what about this? Our search through the public records shows checks written directly to the judge. Here's one for $3,000, $4,000, $4,500.

(on camera): Why were checks written directly to the judge from the forfeiture account?

SUTTON: To cover his expenses in conferences.

TUCHMAN: Can you see how taxpayers might say, you know, a little more documentation would be nice here?

SUTTON: Well, in retrospect, maybe so. But I know I did nothing wrong. My conscience is clear.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We asked for an interview with the judge, but were told he did not want to talk. But we needed his side of the story. So, we caught with him outside the courthouse to ask about his Hawaii trip.

JUDGE EMIL KARL PROHL, 198TH DISTRICT COURT: You know, I'm really not able to comment on that at this point. I appreciate your interest. At some point, I hope I can. But, at this point, I can't. And I -- I appreciate your (INAUDIBLE)

TUCHMAN (on camera): How come you can't comment about it?

PROHL: There -- there's just issues. I mean, I have got forfeiture cases still pending. And I can't -- I can't... TUCHMAN: And that's why talking to you about this, because you hear the forfeiture cases, but that's the issue.

PROHL: I understand. And we're dealing with that issue.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): There is a new DA in Texas Hill Country. He says there will be no more trips to Hawaii.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, Gary, let me just get -- a couple questions. Let me just get this straight, though. The judge who's hearing the forfeiture case is getting cash money from the forfeiture cases?

TUCHMAN: Right. He's gotten expenses for at least one Hawaii trip, and he's also gotten cash money to -- according to the old district attorney, to attend conferences. But it's not really well- documented.

COOPER: To say the least. And the state senator told you that he wants to toughen the forfeiture law. What's the situation with that? Is -- is that happening?

TUCHMAN: Well, we have done three stories now on these forfeiture laws in Texas. Since we started doing these stories, the state senate voted unanimously for tougher laws. A house committee voted unanimously for tougher laws.

It's expected the governor would sign the bill. But then the full house dithered and dathered, never got around to it. The legislative session ended last week. And here's the kicker. Texas only meets, its legislature, every two years. So, a new law now can't be passed until 2011.

COOPER: And, just in case viewers think, oh, I saw this story already -- you did this a couple of weeks ago -- this is an entirely different town than the other place where they were taking money from drivers, and -- and not giving it back, when those drivers turned out to be innocent of anything.

TUCHMAN: Well, let's make it clear. There's a lot of counties in Texas where there are no allegations whatsoever.

But we have found so far at least three where there are substantial allegations of alleged improprieties involving this forfeiture account.

COOPER: Are you a little nervous driving through some of these counties in Texas, Gary? I hope you have people with you.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN: I will tell you that Texas, I believe, Anderson, is the friendliest state in the United States.

COOPER: No doubt about it. TUCHMAN: And nothing against New Jerseyans, where I'm from, but Texas is friendly.

And even the people who we are doing these stories about have been very friendly to us, I must say.

COOPER: Well, very friendly.

But -- but -- but, you know, it's the people in Texas who are outraged about this probably more than anybody, because, you know, this -- this affects them. They're the ones driving these roads all the time.

Anyway, we want to hear -- we're going to continue to follow this story in Texas. We have also been getting e-mails from people, saying, look, this happens around the country. This isn't something that's just particular to Texas. This happens in other small towns, as well."

Let us know. Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. If you have examples of this happening in places where you live, let us know. We'll try to investigate.

Just ahead, the high-tech, high stakes race to find Air France's Flight 447's flight data recorder. A search deep below the ocean's surface, in pitch blackness. And new information about whether the plane really did break up in midair. Some new evidence on that.

Also tonight, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright sets off a new firestorm. What did President Obama's former pastor say this time? We'll tell you that.

And the escalating war of words between Sarah Palin and David Letterman. Round two. Did the late-night comedian cross the line with a joke about Palin's daughter? Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A Brazilian ship recovered three more victims from the crash of Air France Flight 447. In the 11 days since the crash, 44 people have been found. Some of the bodies were found more than 50 miles apart. And new information that the names of those victims and their seat assignments could help prove that the jet did break up in midair.

The real key to learning what went wrong is finding the airliner's flight data recorder, a search that could not be any more difficult.

Here's Tom Foreman with the "360 Follow-up."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, before recovery teams can find the flight data recorder, which really is no bigger than a shoebox, just like this, a needle in a hay stack, for sure. First, they must find the right haystack, meaning they must find the debris field in the bottom of the ocean, like the ones they've already found on the surface.

And based upon the plane's path and the fact that they don't really know where it went down, an expert at the Wood's Hull Oceanographic Institution drew up this possible search area, which is about 300 square miles, and each of these areas inside of it, he said, will take about a day for anyone to search, using even the very best equipment.

Why is that? Well, look at the ocean floor in this area. This crashed on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an undersea mountain range as big as the Rockies filled with strong currents and earthquakes and submerged volcanoes. This is a graphic depiction, because you can't see it. It's pitch dark, can run more than two miles deep, deep enough to easily crush the toughest military submarine out there.

So the submarine that they have working the scene and the ships that they have there are going to be towing sonar devices that are deep-diving that scan the bottom for dense, metallic formations. And that's tough, because the ocean floor here is covered with dense volcanic rocks filled with natural metals, and most of them are magnetic.

But let's just say that this French team somehow manages to actually find a debris field on the bottom. It's one of the best teams in the world. It very well might. Then they will drop underwater listening devices to locate that pinging sound, the acoustic signal from the data recorder. That could help them narrow the search to about a football-field-sized area.

And only then can they bring in robotic ships and deep-diving submarines, hoping that they can be turned loose in the painstaking final search with the hope that maybe, as they move all this debris aside, they might finally coming up with what they're looking for, the holy grail, that flight data recorder -- Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Tom, that's incredible when you see just the valleys and the mountains under water. So much happening under water we just don't know about.

Well, the search for Flight 447's flight data recorder continues. French and Brazilian investigators are trying to piece together the clues that they do already have.

You can go to AC360.com right now to read a full report of what we know so far about the investigation.

Still ahead tonight, a major discovery along the U.S./Mexico border, an underground drug smuggling tunnel, one of the most sophisticated Border Patrol agents have ever seen.

Plus, new controversy surrounding Rev. Jeremiah Wright. What he said about President Obama that has him in hot water tonight. And Sarah Palin versus David Letterman. A new joke sparks a new war of words. Did Letterman cross the line? You can decide for yourself, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So we challenged you on our Web site to guess what was David Gergen's first concert. Our viewers all week long have been letting us know what their first concert was. The answer on that for David Gergen is coming up. You're never going to believe it.

But first, Erica Hill has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, the CEO of Bank of America testified on Capitol Hill today. The Federal Reserve threatened his job and others if the bank backed out of its promise to buy Merrill Lynch last fall.

One lawmaker fired back at Ken Lewis, calling the deal a, quote, "shotgun wedding with a $20 billion dowry." That's how much the merger costs U.s. taxpayers.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright, President Obama's controversial former pastor, clarified some remarks from a recent interview. At the time he blamed them, quote, "them Jews" for keeping him from talking to the president.

But today Reverend Wright said he didn't mean all Jews, simply Zionists. The White House declining to comment on Wright's remarks.

Along the U.S.-Mexico border, authorities have found a massive underground drug-smuggling tunnel. It covers more than 80 feet. It's reinforced with 2x4 beams. Border agents got a tip on the construction and when they showed up, they arrested two people cutting a hole through the wall of a building.

A lighter note. One more note on President Obama's town-hall meeting today in Green Bay. A very memorable day for a certain fourth grader. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm fortunate enough to be here with my 10- year-old daughter who is missing her last day of school for this. I hope she doesn't get in trouble.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, no. Do you need me to write a note?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take you up on that, actually, Mr. President.

OBAMA: I'm serious. What's your daughter's name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her name -- her name is Kennedy. OBAMA: Kennedy. All right. That's a cool name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: And the note read, "To Kennedy's teacher, please excuse Kennedy's absence. She's with me. Signed by the president, Barack Obama."

Not bad. I think she's going to be OK.

COOPER: I think she is. That's quite a note. I hope they framed that one.

HILL: I think they will.

COOPER: Yes, she will.

Now a 360 follow-up. Erica, we talked about this last night, a feud between Sarah Palin and David Letterman apparently heating up. Earlier this week, Palin called Letterman, quote, "pathetic" when he made her the subject of his "top ten" list.

Now there's a new war or words over a joke the late-night host made about Palin's daughter. And even Letterman says he know regrets.

So did Letterman cross the line or is Palin's family fair game? Jessica Yellin reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the David Letterman joke that started the firestorm.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, CBS'S "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game. During the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

YELLIN: Governor Sarah Palin and her husband, who attended a New York Yankees game this weekend as part of a visit to New York, immediately blasted the late-night talk show host. The governor called his comments disgusting, saying, "Acceptance of inappropriate sexual comments about an underage girl who could be anyone's daughter contributes to the atrociously high rate of sexual exploitation of minors by older men."

On Wednesday night, the talk show host acknowledged he went too far.

LETTERMAN: Were the jokes in question in questionable taste? Of course they were. Do I regret having told them? Well, I think probably I do.

YELLIN: The governor's husband, Todd Palin, also ripped into Letterman, saying, quote, "Jokes about raping my 14-year-old are despicable." But the comedian insists he wasn't joking about underage Willow, who accompanied her parents on their trip to Yankee Stadium. Instead, Letterman says the joke was about the Palins' oldest daughter, Bristol, who had a baby out of wedlock last year.

LETTERMAN: I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl. I mean, look at my record. It has never happened. I don't think it's funny.

YELLIN: In a radio interview with conservative host John Zeigler, Palin also sarcastically went after Letterman for another joke he made about her own shopping trip to Bloomingdale's to update her, quote, "slutty" look.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: That's pathetic, good old Letterman.

YELLIN (on camera): Letterman invited the Palins to come on his show and clear the air. But a spokesperson for the governor declined that offer, saying they have no intention of, quote, giving him a ratings boost by appearing on the show.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: All right. Well, Erica, time for our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers. Try not to offend anybody in this segment. A chance to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the picture than we put on our blog every day.

So let's take a look at the picture. Two meerkats emerge from a tunnel leading to their heated burrow at a zoo in Australia.

The staff winner tonight is Brooke. His caption: "Anderson Cooper and Erica Hill emerge from their offices pre-show and without make-up."

HILL: It's really been nice knowing you. I've enjoyed working with you, and I'm sorry that you have to leave.

COOPER: Yes. Yes, it's unfortunate, he -- but you know, we wish him best in whatever he...

HILL: We do.

COOPER: Wherever he's able to find work. Our viewer winner...

HILL: But by the way, no letter of recommendation from Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I'll write a letter. He won't be able to see it before I send it, though.

Our viewer winner is Hope. Her caption: "What is she talking about? I can't see Russia."

(SOUND EFFECT: DRUM BEAT)

HILL: Very nice.

COOPER: I see. All right. Hope, congratulations. Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

Coming up next, she's one of America's best and brightest. She's been accepted to the nation's top graduate schools. There's just one problem. Nancy's not American. So she can't go -- get the loans that she needs to. So should laws be changed to help promising immigrants like Nancy fulfill their dreams? Weigh in, ahead.

And a 360 follow on the hunt for the million-dollar mattress we told you about last night. CNN's Ben Wedeman went to the dump to report on the mystery. Wait until you see how it ended.

And we're learning new details tonight about the white supremacists charged with murder. James Van Brunn's ex-wife speaks out and fills in some of the details about this man's hate-filled life. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A young woman here in Los Angeles will graduate this weekend from UCLA. Nancy is an excellent student, has been accepted into programs at prestigious graduate schools, but she can't afford to go. She can't apply for financial aid, because she was not born in this country.

It's a side of the immigration battle that we don't normally see. And Nancy isn't the only promising student caught in the middle.

"Uncovering America" tonight, here's Thelma Gutierrez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 22 Nancy is modest but just so impressive. No doubt one of the best and brightest from this year's class of college graduates.

(on camera) How are you doing in school? Do you get good grades?

NANCY, UNDOCUMENTED STUDENT: I think so.

GUTIERREZ: What did you get in writing?

NANCY: I got an "A."

GUTIERREZ: Race and Gender?

NANCY: An "a."

GUTIERREZ: What was your GPA here?

NANCY: That would be, like, a 3.8.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Nancy wants to get a doctorate in education. She wants to teach. Elite grad schools want her.

NANCY: "Dear Nancy, congratulations. I'm pleased to inform you that you've been admitted into the Harvard graduate school of education."

This one's from Brown University. This one's from Columbia University.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): It seems as though you're going to have a fantastic future. The world is your oyster, isn't it?

NANCY: Right. It looks like that from the surface.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): But digging deeper Nancy is trapped. She grew up completely unaware of a secret. She's in the country illegally.

Because of her immigration status, Nancy doesn't qualify for financial aid or any other government assistance. Unlike her peers, she can't work legally, so Nancy tutors and baby-sits for cash to pay her tuition at UCLA. But Harvard at $50,000 a year is out of the question.

NANCY: Thank you.

GUTIERREZ: And so are student loans.

(on camera) You can't afford to go?

NANCY: No. I can't afford $50,000.

GUTIERREZ: How about your mother? Can she help?

NANCY: My mom doesn't make enough for her to pay my education.

GUTIERREZ: What does your mother do?

NANCY: She's a nanny.

GUTIERREZ: When Nancy was a child, her mother applied for legal status for both of them. After several years her mom was approved, but because of an attorney's error, Nancy was not. Her mother re- applied. But because the process takes so long, Nancy turned 21 and was no longer eligible.

(on camera) When did you find out that you were not American?

NANCY: My senior year in high school. I wanted to get my driver's license. I was talking to my mom. And at first she was kind of hesitant to tell me. My life really flipped upside down.

GUTIERREZ: Were you angry at your mother?

NANCY: I was. I was angry at my mother. I was angry at the immigration system.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Two point five million kids are in this legal limbo, afraid of being deported.

Nancy took us to UCLA to meet her classmates. All great students and yet none of them can drive or even get on a plane, because they cannot get a driver's license.

(on camera) How many mathematicians. Engineers. Law students.

(voice-over) Through no fault of their own these academic stars find themselves in the white-hot center of the immigration debate. They all share the same last hope, it's called the federal DREAM Act. If passed, it would create a path to legalization for college students.

Nancy's mentor, Professor Paz Oliverez, says they deserve a chance.

PAZ OLIVEREZ, PROFESSOR: These aren't students who just want a free ride. In many cases, they really want to give back to this country.

LUPE MORENO, CALIFORNIA COALITION FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: I have no compassion for them.

GUTIERREZ: Lupe Moreno is with the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, a group that calls immigrants who are not citizens invaders. She calls the DREAM Act ridiculous and a waste of taxpayer money.

MORENO: Your DREAM Act is our children's nightmare. It's our nightmare. You have broken the law. Your family has broken the law. And you need to go address that with your country.

NANCY: I've never been to Mexico. I don't know Mexico. I think home is here.

GUTIERREZ: So where is home for these academic stars, these future leaders? The law is the law. But it's a fair question. Do we want to turn our backs on the best and the brightest?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So what happens now to Nancy? Is she going to go to graduate school?

GUTIERREZ: You know, Anderson, Nancy says that she thought about it for a long time. I mean, Harvard, UCLA, great schools. She feels that she's going to be able to come up with the money somehow to go to UCLA. But the truth is that even if she does get the Ph.D. at some point, there isn't a school, there isn't a university who will hire her because she's undocumented. And so their only hope is for the DREAM Act to pass.

COOPER: All right. Thelma Gutierrez, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Still ahead, a veteran CNN world reporter who's used to talking his way out of dicey situations meets his match at a garbage dump. What was Ben Wedeman trying to dig up and why did he get kicked out? That ahead.

Also, new and chilling details about James Von Brunn's hate- filled writings and what they say about a growing threat, lone wolves turning rage into terror.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All week we've been taking a stroll down Memory Lane and remembering our first concert experiences. I'm still not sure if mine was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five or Elvis Costello.

Erica, of course, saw Peter, Paul and Mary with Steve, otherwise known as her dad.

HILL: Don't -- stop making fun of Peter, Paul and Mary.

COOPER: I'm not making fun of Peter, Paul and Mary. I just -- I thought it was funny that at first you thought it was Janet Jackson and then, you know -- then it was Peter, Paul and Mary. It's like, you know...

HILL: The first one I went to by myself was Rhythm Nation 1814, which I did when I won tickets on the radio.

COOPER: OK.

HILL: But we digress.

COOPER: Is it Rhythm Nation 1814?

HILL: Yes, that was a tour for Janet. It was the album. I know what I wore. Come on.

COOPER: What did you wear?

HILL: It's too long to tell you. But it was a fantastic outfit. Trust me. Junior high. I remember.

COOPER: I'm sure you put a lot of thought into it. Some of you shared your experiences on our blog and even guessed what David Gergen's first concert was.

Not -- yes.

HILL: Not only do we have the answer to that question for you, but we also have some tidbits from a few of our regular contributors who reacted.

Jeff Toobin -- get this -- he went to a Chicago concert at Madison Square Garden. "At the end of the concert, everyone lit matches and held them in the air. I thought this was evidence that this was the greatest concert ever. I didn't realize this was done at every concert all the time." COOPER: That's funny. Lisa Bloom's first concert was the Eagles, Hollywood, 1979. Quote, "Under a hazy pot cloud wafting over the amphitheatre, lighters before cell phones dotted the darkness, peaceful, easy feeling, dude."

HILL: Yes, man.

COOPER: I doubt she remembers that.

HILL: Aha. And last but not least, the Gergen-ator, who told us, "That was a long time ago, maybe the late '50s. And I can't remember whether it was -- get this -- Perry Como or Bo Diddley or whether I was wearing white shoes or a bomber jacket."

COOPER: Wow.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: I'm going to -- in my mind I'm going to say it's Bo Diddley.

HILL: Yes, I see him there in his bomber jacket.

COOPER: Absolutely.

If you want to see if anyone guessed correctly or share your first concert, go to our Web site: AC360.com. We'd love to hear from you.

Still ahead tonight, "The Shot." It's also a "360 Follow," Erica. It doesn't happen every day.

Last night, we told you about one family's desperate search for a million-dollar mattress at a Tel Aviv dump, stuffed with the life savings of a woman whose daughter surprised her with a new mattress, not knowing the old one was a treasure chest, had a million dollars hidden away in it.

The story is getting a lot of attention.

Ben Wedeman, a veteran reporter, has been in all kinds of war zones and dicey situations, one of the best reporters around. Decided to check it out for us. He was expecting a walk in the park. He got a surprise. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A mountain of garbage. Keep on rolling. Here comes a guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

WEDEMAN: So what's he saying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I don't speak Hebrew. Come on. Just let us... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

WEDEMAN: Basically we've been told we're not allowed to be here. Honestly, given other things we shoot, all the things we do, I think it's most ironic that in a garbage dump...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Wow.

HILL: It is a little ironic, Ben meeting his match there.

COOPER: Man, everything is an argument, you know.

HILL: It is.

COOPER: And Ben, by the way, is fluent in Arabic. I guess he doesn't speak Hebrew yet. But he's probably learning that, as well.

HILL: I'm sure he knows more Hebrew than he lets on.

COOPER: Probably so.

HILL: Ben Wedeman is a smart guy.

COOPER: I guess he met his match there at the garbage dump. But we still don't know about the mattress. So...

HILL: As far as I know it still hasn't been found. It was interesting that they didn't want him to film. Because we were talking last night about the fact that some of the dumps had brought in extra security for the people who are trying to, maybe not help, but profit themselves.

I guess the search for the mattress goes on. You can see all the most recent shots are at our Web site, AC360.com. Lot of stuff there.

Up next, new details about the lone wolf behind the terror in Washington's Holocaust Museum and the victim, the security guard and father who died a hero. More details about his life.

"360" continues after a break.