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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Politics of Fear; Interview With Texas Congressman Ron Paul; Lockerbie Terrorist Released

Aired August 20, 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, we begin with breaking news and explosive allegations, new allegations that the top members of the Bush administration tried to use the fear of terrorism for politics to win a close presidential election.

Now, what makes the allegation so stunning is that they're being made by a former top member of the Bush administration, none other than Tom Ridge, then secretary of homeland security. He resigned just after the 2004 election, that decision, he now says, motivated in part by what he says happened four days before Americans narrowly reelected George W. Bush against John Kerry, a Cabinet meeting at which he says other top officials pressed him to raise the nation's color-coded alert level.

He writes about it in a new memoir out next month, but obtained tonight by 360.

Ed Henry has the breaking news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Friday before the 2004 election, only two or three points separated Democrat John Kerry from President Bush. Suddenly, a twist. Osama bin Laden released a shocking new videotape. And it played nonstop on the Arab language network Al-Jazeera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2004)

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: The next morning, just 72 hours before the polls opened, the president's top security advisers, including Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft, huddled for an urgent meeting to decide whether to raise the color-coded threat level from yellow to orange.

Then Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge reveals in an explosive new book, "A vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion ensued. Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld."

He goes on: "There was absolutely no support for that position within our department, none. I wondered, is this about security or politics? Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president's approval ratings in the days after the raising of the threat level."

The Bush campaign was already pushing the envelope on frightening voters. Listen to then Vice President Cheney just 10 days before the bin Laden tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 19, 2004)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But the ultimate threat is the possibility of their succeeding and getting, say, a biological agent or a nuclear weapon, smuggling it into the United States, into one of our own cities, and raising the specter of -- of being able to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: In the summer of 2004, just a few days after the Democratic National Convention, the White House had raised the threat level, drawing charges of political manipulation that were sharply denied by Bush officials, like Ridge, at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2004)

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: But now, at that tense meeting the weekend before the election, Ridge writes that it -- quote -- "seemed possible to me and to others around the table that something could be afoot, other than simple concern about the country's safety."

In the end, however, the threat level was not raised, after Ridge claims he and others pulled Rumsfeld and Ashcroft -- quote -- "back from the brink." But Ridge says the episode left him disillusioned. He writes: "I knew I had to follow through on my plans to leave the federal government." He tendered his resignation within a month of the election.

He concluded, "I considered that episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington's recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility, and security."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Ed Henry joins us.

Now, Ed, certainly, at the time, there were a lot of people who raised their eyebrows when these threat levels were raised, saying that, look, that politics is at play here. But to have Tom Ridge, the head of Homeland Security, making these allegations is stunning.

HENRY: That is what is so explosive.

Now, we have to point out, he's always been a moderate Republican, never been sort of a Bush stalwart. Nevertheless, he was somebody with a seat at the table, a key seat. He was the very first homeland security secretary in this nation's history. And for him to come forward now, this is obviously going to be potentially very damaging to President Bush's legacy.

And I remember covering that campaign. Security was at the top of the list of the issues that the Bush campaign kept pushing over and over again. I remember one rally in particular where Vice President Cheney said that he basically thought John Kerry was a good guy, but he worried that we're going to get hit again if -- if he gets elected, that there would be a nation terror attack.

And this is just a few years after 9/11. Obviously, terror attacks very much -- a lot of people were worried about that at the time. So, it was a big stew of angst in the country at that time -- Anderson.

COOPER: And when -- the time they raised the threat level after the Democratic Convention, I mean, that was basically just days after the Democratic Convention. John Kerry was on an upswing. And it effectively stopped his momentum.

HENRY: It certainly suggested at the time that that was one factor that slowed the momentum.

Specifically, they raised the threat level at that time on banks and financial institutions, not the entire country, like airports, et cetera. Nevertheless, as Tom Ridge himself writes in the book, there was evidence suggesting that that type of -- of episode did stunt Kerry's momentum.

And Ridge also suggested, when you look at the exit polls from the 2004 election, anybody who voted on security, they picked Bush by a wide margin over Kerry. But, of course, what the Bush allies are going to point out is, in the end, despite what Tom Ridge thought was going on in that meeting, in the end, right before the election, they did not raise the threat level. And that's very important to underline.

COOPER: Well, we look at all sides here on this program. So, Ed, stay right there.

More on the "Raw Politics" now with Frances Townsend, a homeland security adviser to President Bush, now a CNN national security contributor, also political contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.

Frances, what do you make of this? You were in that meeting that Tom Ridge was talking about. Did you feel there was pressure, political pressure?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Anderson, I chaired the meeting. I called it. It was not just Ashcroft and Ridge and Rumsfeld. There were other members of the national security team, there including the secretary of state, Colin Powell at the time, Bob Mueller of the CIA, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center.

What you want in those circumstances for -- is for all those security officials to come together and to -- to have a debate, to have a discussion. That's exactly what happened. People had views on both sides of that. Tom Ridge was not the only one at that meeting.

COOPER: Well, do you think Rumsfeld and Ashcroft were motivated by politics or concerns over -- over getting their president reelected?

TOWNSEND: No. In fact, politics were never discussed. It never came up.

And, in fact, the discussion I recall John Ashcroft pointing to was the transcripts of, not just the bin Laden tape, but a tape had also come out this -- of those days of Adam Gadahn, an American member of al Qaeda, who threatened to have the streets of the United States run with blood.

And, so, I recall John Ashcroft actually quoting from the transcripts and the intelligence that we had at the time.

COOPER: Paul, what do you make of this?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I -- first off, I wasn't there. Fran was. And I have great respect for her.

At the same time, as you point out, this is not hearsay. This is a first-person eyewitness account from a loyal member of the Bush Cabinet, who says that political pressure was brought to bear on him. So, the second thing you do -- you consider the source -- the second thing is, you look at the context.

As Ed Henry pointed out, they raised the threat level three days after the Democratic Convention. And, when they did, at the time, senior law enforcement officials were telling "The Washington Post" that there was nothing new here and that they could not understand why the Bush administration was raising the threat level.

You look at the fact that Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, had a strategy memo, a political strategy memo, that had been leaked. The first three words on that, his political strategy was focus on war.

You look at the fact that President Bush scheduled the vote for the war itself three weeks to the day before the 2002 midterm. So, just again and again and again, the Bush administration did politicize national security. So, it makes you think that maybe Governor Ridge has the better of the argument here.

COOPER: Frances, why was that threat level raised just days after the Democratic Convention? TOWNSEND: Well, that was based on the information, the specific threat information, that had only recently been found regarding the plans and plots against the financial institutions.

They had been very detailed. In fact, some in the intelligence community advised us that they were the most detailed operational plans they had ever uncovered.

COOPER: But it was very old material, wasn't it?

TOWNSEND: It was old material. But it had -- the reason it...

COOPER: Like three years old.

TOWNSEND: But the reason it had come up then was, it had only recently been found and come to the attention of -- of policy and law enforcement officials.

And -- and Tom Ridge could have and should have, arguably, talked about the date of the material when he made the announcement.

COOPER: I want to play -- I want to read another section from -- from Tom Ridge's book about -- about the timing of the bin Laden tapes.

He says: "The timing of the tape may have been a surprise. The content was not. Within the department, no one felt it necessary to consider additional security measures or to call the Homeland Security Council into session."

Osama bin Laden had released many tapes before. What made this one so special that Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft wanted to raise the -- the threat level, Frances?

TOWNSEND: It really was -- I mean, you have to look at the context of this. You look at, in August and September, you had the financial district threat. You then had the bin Laden tape. You then had the Adam Gadahn tape.

And this entire intelligence picture, brought together, there was great concern at the time that this was an increasing indication that we were going to have a threat.

There was nothing wrong. Anderson, when you get this sort of intelligence, what you really want to encourage are the -- the security officials to have this kind of a debate. That's what happened. I think they came to the right conclusion, and the president and the country got the best possible advice. That is, we didn't raise it.

COOPER: Paul, raising a threat level after the Democratic Convention based on three-year-old material and then considering to raise it down the road right before the election, you think it smells fishy?

BEGALA: It does. And then, again, add to it -- I mean, I can go on and on, other examples. The Department of Homeland Security itself was politicized, was used by the Republicans to track down Democratic members of the Texas legislature when they walked out of the legislature trying to block a Tom DeLay redistricting deal. That's not Homeland Security. That's raw politics.

Paul O'Neill, who was on the National Security Council, was the secretary of the treasury in the first Bush term, told the journalist Ron Suskind that the difference between his time in the Ford administration and the his time in the Bush administration was -- and then -- let me quote it to you -- was that "Our group in the Ford days was mostly about evidence and analysis. And Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Karen Hughes and that gang seemed to be mostly about politics. It is a huge distinction," O'Neill said.

So, again and again, we have eyewitnesses and we have objective evidence that national security was politicized by the Bush/Cheney administration.

COOPER: Frances, in the...

TOWNSEND: You know...

COOPER: Frances, in the -- in the book, Tom Ridge says that you asked had him to put language in a speech basically linking Homeland Security with events overseas -- mainly, I guess he was talking about events in Iraq -- which he said he was reluctant to do, but did.

TOWNSEND: First of all, what the book actually says is that he got a call from the White House.

I will tell you, Anderson, Tom Ridge frequently gave speeches that I didn't see until they were in the press. This -- how did I get this one? Tom Ridge actually had his staff send his -- a draft of his speech to me and asked me to please circulate it in the White House among White House staff for comment.

I did exactly as Tom Ridge asked. And, as a result of that, I returned the comments to him that he had asked for. Now, what he chose to use was up to him. It was his press conference and his press statement. I merely did what he asked me to do, and that was get him the comments from White House staff.

COOPER: We will have to leave it there.

Ed Henry, Paul Begala, Fran Townsend, appreciate the discussion. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, was it politics, real security concerns, or both? Let's us know what do you think. Join the live chat under way right now at AC360.com.

Up next: A mass murderer gets a hero's welcome. Have you seen this? One of the Pan Am 103 bombers just got out of a prison. A man who murdered more than 270 -- murdered 270 people gets a hero's welcome, returning home in Libya. We will show you what President Obama has to say about it. And we will talk to a victim of the bombing's brother.

More breaking news also tonight, charges in the death of this woman, a model, her body stuffed into a suitcase -- police have a suspect now, a former reality show contestant, Ryan Jenkins. But they say he's now on the run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT HASMAN, DATED MURDER VICTIM: Ryan Jenkins is an animal. What he has done to Jasmine is unspeakable. It's just not right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, a story that's simply hard to believe, a hero's welcome for a killer, a man who murdered 189 Americans, 270 people in all.

The Libyan terrorist convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 landed to cheers and hugs in Libya today. There he is. He planted the bomb that ripped apart the 747 over the skies of Lockerbie, Scotland. The Scottish released him today because he's allegedly dying of cancer. They showed him mercy, they said. President Obama called it a mistake.

He's allegedly dying of cancer. President Obama called it a mistake. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We thought it was a mistake. We're now in contact with the Libyan government and want to make sure that if, in fact, this transfer has taken place, that he is not welcomed back in some way, but instead should be under house arrest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, President Obama hoped Libya wouldn't welcome him back in some way. They certainly did, as you saw. With open arms, they welcomed him back. How could this happen?

Randi Kaye has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It had the look of a true presidential send-off, but that's no president. That's convicted terrorist Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi climbing aboard his flight to freedom.

His victims' families prayed this day would never come. Al- Megrahi was convicted of murder for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. It was a cold December night in 1988. All 259 people on board were killed. Eleven more died on the ground.

It took authorities 11 years to find and arrest him for the bombing, another two years to convict him and sentence him to life. Now he's free, free to return home to Libya to die from prostate cancer. Scotland's justice secretary calls it a compassionate release.

KENNY MACASKILL, SCOTTISH JUSTICE SECRETARY: He was justly convicted, but we're allowing him some mercy to return home to die.

KAYE: Al-Megrahi may have just three months to live. But those whose families were torn apart question why a man who killed so many would be allowed to die comfortably at home surrounded by family.

BERT AMMERMAN, BROTHER OF PAN AM FLIGHT 103 BOMBING VICTIM: Where's the compassionate release for my brother or the -- or the families of these victims? There is no compassion and release for us. And we're talking about an individual that massacred 270. So, he can go home and have his family surround him? We didn't have that opportunity.

SUSAN COHEN, MOTHER OF PAN AM FLIGHT 103 BOMBING VICTIM: He is not going to get forgiveness from me. And, as far as I am concerned, he should die in prison and his soul rot in hell.

KAYE: At his trial, prosecutors said he was a Libyan intelligence officer, though he insisted he was an airline executive.

(on camera): Al-Megrahi was added to the FBI's most-wanted list after a shopkeeper in Malta identified him as the man who bought the clothing that was found inside the suitcase that held the bomb. Libya eventually turned him over. Another suspect was also tried, but acquitted. Now, that shopkeeper's evidence was later questioned, as was some of the forensic evidence that led to his conviction.

Al-Megrahi always maintained his innocence, never apologized. Tonight, al-Megrahi arrived on Libyan soil to a hero's welcome. Thousands greeted his plane and danced in the street.

He recently dropped a second appeal, paving the way for his compassionate release. Back in Scotland, al-Megrahi's lawyer read a statement on his behalf.

TONY KELLY, LAWYER FOR ABDEL BASSET ALI AL-MEGRAHI: To those victims' relatives who can bear to hear me -- to hear me say this, they continue to have my sincere sympathy for their unimaginable loss that they have suffered.

KAYE: Al-Megrahi said, after his horrible ordeal, perhaps his only true liberation will be death.

For those who blame him, death can't come soon enough.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, they call it compassionate release.

The mother of a 20-year-old woman who died on Pan Am Flight 103 called the decision to free al-Megrahi appalling.

As for the terrorist, he had his lawyer do the talking. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY; I have been faced with an appalling choice, to just die in prison, in the hope that my name is cleared posthumously, or to return home still carrying the weight of the guilty verdict which will now never be lifted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Brian Flynn's brother, John Patrick, known as J.P., also perished on Flight 103. He was 21 years old. He says releasing al- Megrahi dishonors all the Lockerbie victims.

Brian Flynn joins us now.

When you see those -- those pictures of him landing in Libya to essentially a hero's welcome, an organized welcome...

BRIAN FLYNN, OF PAN AM FLIGHT 103 BOMBING VICTIM: Right.

COOPER: ... what goes through your mind?

FLYNN: Well, this is the nightmare.

We met with Justice MacAskill. And we said to him...

COOPER: In Scotland.

FLYNN: Yes.

And we said, the nightmare is that you let him go, and you do it out of compassion, and he goes home, and he's a hero. And he never asked for forgiveness. He never said that he did it. We have got this man who says that he's innocent, but I don't know about you, but if I only had a few months to live, I would want to try to clear my name and my legacy.

And I think, by withdrawing his appeal -- he withdrew his appeal -- it says that -- it -- it reinforces that he is guilty. But there's no remorse there.

COOPER: Right.

FLYNN: And we're showing him mercy. It's absurd.

COOPER: And -- and he -- I mean, he's the only one who's ever faced any form of justice in this case.

FLYNN: Right. One of the things that has always bothered us...

COOPER: I mean, he can't -- he did not act alone, clearly.

FLYNN: No. And, in the verdict, they said he was acting for Libyan intelligence.

So, this is a case where Libya paid one of its agents to blow up an American plane in Scotland. So, the Scottish people were attacked by Libya. So, their response is, 20 years later, hey, let's send him back home, to Libya, to the same government. Gadhafi is the same guy. Nothing's changed.

COOPER: Right. It is interesting, because, in the -- in the -- in the geopolitical world, people talk about kind of the new Libya. I mean, Gadhafi is still in charge. What's new is, you know, their oil money and they say they have renounced terrorism. But not much has really changed in Libya.

FLYNN: No. It still has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Women are treated horribly in Libya. It is still a terrible place.

And -- and what -- what's amazing to me is that, can you imagine, 20 years after September 11, and say one of the -- the hijackers lived. Would we ever send that hijacker back to bin Laden? Because that's exactly what we have just done. And we can't imagine it, but maybe that's a scary thought and that's something we should take away from this, that you just can't forget.

COOPER: I -- I hate to have even this guy's name mentioned and remembered, because, in -- when the books of history are written, his name should not be remembered. The names of those who died should be remembered.

Your -- your brother was 21 years old.

FLYNN: Right.

COOPER: Tell us about him.

FLYNN: Yes. He was -- he was a great guy, the perfect older brother, in the sense that he kicked my ass when I needed it. And he also...

COOPER: You were a year younger.

FLYNN: Yes. I was a year-and-a-half younger than him -- but encouraged me when I need it. So, he was a great guy.

And, you know, I make the statement that he was always the type of guy you knew that would have made a difference. And he never had the chance to. And he also didn't have a chance to die with his family. I mean, this guy gets to go home and die with the family.

And the funny thing, the justice minister, you had him on before. All right, he wanted to show mercy. And it was this big self- aggrandizement, this statement that he made tonight. And the people of Scotland aren't for this. I read a survey on my way here that 90 percent of the Scottish people think he should have served out the sentence in Scotland.

And, more importantly, 60 people a year die in Scottish prisons of natural causes. He's not going to around handing, oh, here, why don't you go home, too? But the one mass murderer, he gets to go home.

COOPER: It's -- it's stunning.

Did you know this was -- I mean, you -- you had -- you had talked with him in advance. You had tried to stop this.

FLYNN: Right.

COOPER: But did you know, in the final analysis, this was going to happen today?

FLYNN: We had a sense that it might.

And it was almost -- last night, it occurred to me that this is the nightmare scenario, because, for 20 years, we tried to get Libya -- we tried to get regime change in Libya. We tried to do everything we could to fight state-sponsored terrorism, not just the one guy. But, hey, we got one guy. There was some sense of meaning and victory in that.

And now the one guy is sent home...

COOPER: Right.

FLYNN: ... and, you know, because he's supposedly dying of cancer, although that doesn't appear to be conclusive either.

COOPER: All right.

Well, Brian, I -- I'm sorry we met under these circumstances, but I appreciate you being on.

FLYNN: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks a lot, Brian Flynn.

Brian Flynn has blogged about his experiences. You can find the blog at AC360.com. I urge you to go there. It makes for very powerful reading.

No shortage of outrage and heartache, and not for the dying bomber -- the question is, how unprecedented is this and how common is compassionate release here in America? We will talk to legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

And, later, a 360 exclusive: The mothers of three young American hikers who are now being held inside Iran are speaking out tonight, telling why their kids are not spies and didn't mean to enter Iran in the first place. They haven't heard from their kids in weeks. Their emotional plea -- when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, you saw what the Pan Am mass murderer did to lives and families here in Scotland and around the world.

You heard from a victim's brother, who says that releasing him, albeit a supposedly dying man, dishonors those lives.

Let's dig deeper now with senior CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So, I mean, this convicted murderer responsible for the deaths of 270 people, 189 or so Americans, is released. Did it surprise you? I mean, it's been in news reports, but -- but it's more common, I guess, over there than it is here.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: It is.

You know, we are now, in the American system, have lots of sentences, life without parole, 150-year Bernie Madoff-style sentences. A lot of people die in prison here. It is not unprecedented to have compassionate release, but it is very, very rare here.

It's more common in England. But, as Brian pointed out, there are a lot of people who die in prison there. I think there's a lot of politics going on here.

COOPER: In what way politics?

TOOBIN: Well, Libya was the al Qaeda of the '80s. They were the outcast nation. Remember, Ronald Reagan...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: We -- we tried to overthrow them...

TOOBIN: We tried.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... for -- for years under the Reagan administration.

TOOBIN: And Reagan called Gadhafi wacky, famously.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And now Libya has been welcomed back, by no less than George W. Bush. They have a lot of oil. They have a lot of ties to Italy, to Europe. And...

COOPER: So, a lot of folks want to curry favor with Libya now? TOOBIN: This is a real way to curry favor. I mean, you see how important this was to Libya, how many thousands of people were in the streets. It's nauseating to watch. But it's the reality. And...

COOPER: It wasn't just that they like came out to greet him. I mean, they were wearing the same T-shirts. They were clearly a group rallied to go out there.

TOOBIN: Not for him, but for his act, for what he did. And that's what's so disgusting about it.

But that's what you get when you release someone like that. And, you know, it is true compassionate release is something that you can understand, because, you know, there -- there -- there is something decent about letting people die with their family, but only if the motives are right. And I think the motives here are really questionable.

COOPER: And a lot of family members even question whether or not he really is dying.

TOOBIN: Well, we will find out.

COOPER: Yes, we will. Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.

Still ahead: breaking news, a major development in that case of a murdered swimsuit model.

First, Erica Hill has a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Afghanistan's presidential election is being caused a success, despite deadly attacks across the country.

Twenty-six people were killed on election day violence. Election officials, though, say nearly 95 percent of the polling stations opened and that voting hours in some areas were actually extended, so those waiting in long lines could cast their ballots. The initial results are expected in a few days. Final results, though, will not be certified until some time in mid-September.

We do want to let you know, too, that, starting September 7, it is a very special week of coverage here on A.C. 360. Anderson, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Peter Bergen, and Michael Ware will all be in Afghanistan, reporting live from the battle zone. Again, that's starting September 7 for the full week.

Senator Edward Kennedy wants officials in Massachusetts to make it easier for his Senate seat to be temporarily filled if it becomes vacant. He asked for that change in a letter today. Massachusetts changed its succession -- succession law in 2004 to require a special election to fill any vacancy. Kennedy is battling brain cancer.

Wal-Mart is recalling about 1.5 million DVD players made in China because they may burst into flames. The company received 12 complaints of Durabrand DVD players overheating. Five of those actually ended up causing a five. No injuries, luckily, have been reported.

And a South African track star is so fast, people are wondering if she is really a he. Eighteen-year-old Caster Semenya won the women's world 1,800 meters title over the weekend, just hours after the Amateur Athletics Federation asked her to undergo gender testing to prove she's in fact a female.

Her father told a South African newspaper -- quote -- "She's my little girl. I raised her, and I have never doubted her gender" -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's a fascinating story. And, I mean, we -- we were watching this in the office today. And a lot of people were saying, well, you know, how hard is it to determine this? And -- and Olympic -- the officials at this racetrack are saying it will take weeks to determine.

HILL: It is amazing. And it's not the first time something like this has come into question when it involves a major athlete.

It's interesting. If you go back in history, there are actually a number of cases.

COOPER: Right.

HILL: Some, they didn't actually figure out until after a person had passed, but -- but wild to think about.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... they did an autopsy on one person, which is...

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: ... amazing.

All right, we will continue to follow that.

Up next: President Obama tries to retake the initiative on the health care fight. Mr. Obama said today he guarantees reform will pass. But are the Democrats going to have to go it alone? We are going to ask a man who wanted to be president. Texas Congressman Ron Paul joins us.

Also ahead, breaking news: a former reality show contestant on the run, now wanted for the murder of this young woman -- a new twist in the case of the murdered swimsuit model whose body was found inside a suitcase.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Obama is trying to regain momentum on health- care reform, fighting back today by pitching reform on conservative talk radio. He sat down with host Michael Smerconish and answered questions from listeners. The president even went so far as promising a caller health-care reform would pass. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I guarantee it, Joe, we are going to get health-care reform done. And I know that there are a lot of people out there who have been hand wringing, and folks in the press are following every little twist and turn of the legislative process. You know, passing a big bill like this is always messy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The radio offensive comes one day after the president appealed to faith-based groups and criticized all the false information being spread by reform opponents.

We talked about the president's moves with former Republican presidential candidate and congressman, Ron Paul, earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congressman Paul, thanks for being with us. I want to play you something that President Obama said today on Michael Smerconish's radio show. Listen.

OBAMA: I would love to have more Republicans engaged and involved in this process. I think early on, a decision was made by the Republican leadership that said, "Look, let's not give him a victory. Maybe we can have a replay of 1993-94 when Clinton came in. He failed on health care, and then we won in the midterm elections and got the majority."

COOPER: Is that what's happening? Are Republican leaders obstructing health-care reform in order to make political gains?

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: I think he's giving the Republicans too much credit. I don't think we're that well organized. I think if, you know, orders came from the top down and said, "We're all going to oppose it," I don't think it would happen.

But there is partisan squabbling going on, but it's on both sides. So I can't see where one side is more partisan than the other. You know, people don't agree with one side. They say, "Oh, you're overly strong partisan," vice versa. And so I don't put a lot of stock in those type of arguments.

COOPER: What do you think is going to happen if the White House and congressional Democrats try to go it alone, try to -- try to just ram through some sort of a bill?

PAUL: I think -- I think they'll pass something, but I don't think they will. I think they'll modify their tone a little bit. They won't try to go for the whole basket. They probably won't want to have a single payer. And they're going to get something.

And that's the way we've been doing it for 35, 40 years. We've had incrementalism. This really started as early as the '50s but really in the '70s. And even under -- you know, once you get the conservative end, we're not supposed to believe in expanding the government role. But where was prescription drug program passed in under the Republicans?

So something will be passed. But I don't think Obama's going to get everything. There's too much anger. And they're angry, and they're convinced that the government can't produce. All these promises, they just don't believe the promises.

So that's why I think they're going to back off, take what they can get, and a few Republicans will join them. That will be my prediction. But I really don't know for sure, obviously.

COOPER: So what do you want? You're not for, obviously, government involvement in health care. But is it realistic to expect private industry to take care of, you know, the 46 million or so Americans who don't have insurance?

PAUL: Well, under today's circumstances with our tax code, it makes it very difficult. You have to remember that, out of that 46 million who don't have insurance, they include a lot of illegal aliens in there, too. So that complicates the matter. And some of them aren't necessarily in need of it.

I even have some people in my family, they don't have it.

But people -- people have accepted the notion that medical care cannot be delivered any other way than through government. And I just don't happen to believe that, because governments generally aren't very efficient in what they do.

COOPER: Finally, has the dialogue, the debate, at least some of what we're seeing at these town-hall meetings, people comparing President Obama to Nazi, is that productive? When you see these images and you hear the people yelling, what do you think?

PAUL: Well, I think it's very unproductive. I think it's very destructive. And you know me well enough that I was never supportive of much of what George Bush did. And I really didn't like his foreign policy.

But generally speaking, whenever I wrote, if you look at all my speeches, I hardly ever, I probably never, bring up partisan politics when I'm on the House floor or talk about President Bush -- President Bush or Obama this or Obama that. So no, I don't think it's productive at all.

I believe you have to deal in ideas. Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have bad consequences, and good ideas have good consequences. And that's what I deal with. I'd just as soon avoid the partisan bickering.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, I appreciate your time, sir.

PAUL: Than you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We're going to take an in-depth look at health-care reform tomorrow night, beyond the shouting. Take a look at what reform actually is, what it means to you. Health care, President Obama's extreme challenge and yours. It's a special tomorrow night, starting at 10 p.m. Eastern.

So do you think President Obama is going to get a health-care plan passed? Let us know what you think, a live chat at AC360.com.

Have you heard about the three young American hikers, now being held somewhere in Iran? No one knows exactly where. And now their moms are pleading for help. It's an emotional interview you'll only see here.

Also ahead, breaking news. A swimsuit model found dead in a suitcase. That's her. A former reality show contestant is now a suspect on the run. Police want your help in finding him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A 360 exclusive: three moms with a simple plea: "Let our kids go." Sara Shourd, and Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer -- you see them there, one by one -- they've been detained inside Iran since the 31st of July, when news reports say they accidentally crossed an unmarked border into Iran while hiking the mountains of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. The Iranian government is now holding them but has neither charged them with a crime, nor allowed them to talk to their families.

Tonight their moms are speaking out, Nora, Laura and Cindy. We spoke earlier.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Have any of you been able to speak to your kids since they were taken?

LAURA FATTAL, MOTHER OF JOSHUA: No. This is day 21. We got a phone call from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on July 31. And we have not heard from our children from the 31st of July till now.

COOPER: Does -- does anyone know where they're being held?

CINDY HICKEY, MOTHER OF SHANE: No. We have not gained -- the counselor asked us but we haven't gotten any information, other than that they're being detained in Iran.

COOPER: It's tough, because there's no diplomatic representation of the U.S. inside Iran. So how are -- are you getting cooperation from the State Department?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The State Department has been really, really helpful. But they have to go through the Swiss protectorate to speak to the Iranian officials.

COOPER: Nora, you got an e-mail from your daughter, Sara.

NORA SHOURD, MOTHER OF SARA: I did.

COOPER: And you have it there. What did she say?

SHOURD: Well, I'll read it to you.

COOPER: This is the last e-mail you got from her.

SHOURD: This is the last e-mail. It was a couple of days before she went missing. She said -- this is to me -- "Hey sweetness, so we're traveling. Actually we're in northern Iraq. It's totally safe. The Kurds in this area have been pro-American since 1991. No single American has ever been hurt on Kurdish territory. So don't worry. Tonight we're going camping. I love you. There were fireworks in the streets of Salmaniya (ph) last night. They had their first democratic elections. I miss you and love you tons. Your Life Bean (ph)." That's her nickname.

COOPER: Her nickname is Bean?

SHOURD: Bean.

COOPER: She calls you "sweetness"?

SHOURD: Well, she calls me a lot of things.

COOPER: When you got that e-mail, did, you know -- obviously, you must have been concerned for her being in Iraq?

SHOURD: Well, you know, this -- this settled any concerns I would have. And again, Sara's in the same category as these other guys. She's a strong woman. She doesn't take risks. She's a really good traveler. She's traveled a lot of places around the world.

And, you know, I feel totally confident that she's with Shane, too. Because Shane is also, you know, very, very protective of her and responsible of anyone he travels with. So, no, I wasn't worried about that. No.

COOPER: Because I guess some people will probably hear this and hear that these American kids were hiking in northern Iraq, and they'll say, you know, how could you have let them do that or wasn't it foolish of them?

HICKEY: I actually thought, you know, I've been thinking about this. And I'm a hiker. And I spent time with Shane when he was in Yemen. And I was set to go in December to visit Shane and Sara in Damascus. And it would have been very like us to travel to a hiking trail. And I wouldn't have hesitated to go on this trip with him.

COOPER: This is obviously seen around the world on CNN International. If by any chance someone is listening, Iranian officials or even your kids, is there something you want to say?

FATTAL: We hope and believe that the Iranian authorities will recognize that it was by accident that the -- our kids entered Iran. We're assuming that -- we're not assuming. We know they had no intention of going to Iran. That was absolutely never an intention.

COOPER: Is there something you'd want to say?

HICKEY: Just, again, that we'd like our children returned safely and quickly. Consular access is certainly our next wish. And that I believe, too, that there, you know, is a great possibility that they crossed a border that was not well marked.

COOPER: And Nora, if Sara's listening, what would you want to say to her?

SHOURD: Oh, my goodness. So much. You know, mostly, I hope the Iranian officials will be considerate, compassionate towards them when they understand who they are. And that they were just innocent and just traveling.

FATTAL: These are very responsible young people.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

SHOURD: Thank you.

FATTAL: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: As always, there's more on the hikers at AC360.com, including a link to a Web site that's been started by their families.

Next on the program, searching for a reality show contestant wanted for murder. He's charged with killing this young woman, his former wife, a swimsuit model, Jasmine Fiore. Tonight, gruesome new details about the killing. The latest on the manhunt, coming up.

Also tonight, a big heist at a huge department store. Thieves raided JCPenney and make off with a million bucks in jewelry and other loot. And the crime is caught on camera. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, a major new development in the case of a murdered swimsuit model we first told you about last night. This is the victim, Jasmine Fiore. Her body was found stuffed into a suitcase. Authorities from California believe she was strangled to death. Tonight, they say this man did it. He's the model's ex- husband. He was also a contestant on a reality television show. And right now, police are looking for him.

Erica Hill has the latest on the "Crime & Punishment" and the search for this accused killer.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, tonight police believe that Ryan Jenkins may have actually fled to his native Canada on foot. And they're warning he may be armed and dangerous. Buena Park, California, police issuing a warrant for his arrest in the murder of his ex-wife, Jasmine Fiore, today. And they also recommended $10 million bail. They offered some gruesome new details, as well, today about the state of Fiore's body when it was found early Saturday morning, stuffed into a small suitcase.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. STEVE HOLLIDAY, BUENA PARK POLICE: Your question was about mutilation? Yes. We're prepared to answer this question at this time. The fingers and teeth were removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: When asked if this was supposed to make it more difficult to identify the victim, the lieutenant replied, quote, "It can be inferred that way," Anderson.

COOPER: Are police now positive that this guy is in Canada? And if so, what does that mean for the arrest warrant?

HILL: They're not 100 percent positive, but they're pretty sure. And the reason why is that his car -- remember, there were two cars we talked about last night that they were looking for. Well, working on a tip, officers in Blaine, Washington, which is in far northern Washington, recovered Jenkins' black BMW SUV last night. It had a boat trailer attached and that a boat owned by Jenkins was later found in Port Roberts, Washington.

We've got a map, just to give you an idea of this area. In Port Roberts, the only way you can get to land is actually by going into Canada. It sort of juts out. It's where that dot is. It just kind of juts out. And the border basically goes right across it.

So to get to anywhere, you would just walk straight across and technically be in Canada. Authorities believe that is likely what happened, but they can't say for sure tonight. But that's the assumption they're going on.

In terms of an arrest in Canada, Buena police -- Buena Park police today did say they've already started the paperwork to send to Canada, so that if he's found there, they can issue their own arrest warrant. There is an extradition treaty between the two countries. They weren't getting specific about when or how that might happen, because of course, he hasn't even been found yet.

COOPER: Right. And I saw at least one relative spoke at the press conference.

HILL: It was actually a friend of the family, a gentleman named Steve Hasman. He said he has also dated Jasmine Fiore for a couple of years. He did speak out briefly today. You can understand why other people didn't -- you may have seen the woman get very upset when the lieutenant was talking about the condition of the woman's body. That was her mother, so understandably upset there. Especially because the lieutenant said that they were just given these details today. So it's still sinking in for the family.

Hasman was pleading with friends and family of Jenkins not to help him. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE HASMAN, FRIEND OF JASMINE FIORE: Ryan Jenkins is an animal. What he has done to Jasmine is unspeakable. It's just not right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Unbelievable.

HILL: It is. It's just wild.

There was also some question about motive.

COOPER: Right.

HILL: And they were saying, you know, it was obvious that they can't answer right now, because it's an ongoing investigation and they weren't going to speculate on it. I thought it was interesting, though. Earlier tonight, Larry King had some folks on about this, including Pat Brown, who's a criminal profiler that I know you've spoken with, as well.

And Larry asked her specifically, from everything that she's heard what do those details tell her about the crime? Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: If he did this -- commit this kind of crime, he is a psychopath; he's a very, very cold-blooded psychopath.

But at that moment, when they go on to leave and walk out of his life, he was enraged by that. And this is not a crime of passion. It was a crime that you would commit if the circumstances are right. The circumstances were right for Jenkins, so he offed the girl. And then he just had to clean up the mess afterwards and probably thought he could get away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Again Ryan Jenkins tonight, it was a warrant for his arrest in the murder of Jasmine Fiore. An international manhunt, Anderson. And again, they do stress that if you see him, they believe he could be armed and dangerous, so to use caution and just call authorities.

COOPER: Any local authorities will do. All right, Erica. Thanks.

Coming up next on 360, Milwaukee's mayor, he's nursing his injuries. He was hit on the head with a metal pipe, as you probably know, after trying to assist a woman who was shouting for help. Wait until you hear what his accused attacker allegedly told the police. That's coming up.

And then the "Shot," the big love-in between a dog and a television anchor. Enjoy the pet segments on local news. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "The Shot" is coming up. A news cast that literally went to the dogs. But first, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: My favorite kind of news cast.

Anderson, a record 9.24 percent of Americans are at least 30 days behind on their mortgage payments. That's according to a new report from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Now add to that loans that are already in foreclosure, and more than 13 percent of mortgages are now in trouble.

A controversial new drug law now in effect in Mexico. It actually decriminalizes possession of small amounts for so-called personal use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD and methamphetamines. People found with these small amounts won't face any criminal charges. If they are caught for a third time, though, they'll be required to complete a treatment program.

Police in Louisiana hoping surveillance video can help them catch the men who stole more than $1 million in jewelry and other goods from a JCPenney score late Saturday night. The robbers are suspected in a series of similar thefts across the country.

And a "360 Follow" tonight: prosecutors formally charging a Milwaukee man with attacking the city's mayor. Police say Anthony Peters admitted he, quote, "freaked out" and repeatedly beat Mayor Tom Barrett over the head with a tire iron and crowbar.

The attack happened just after the mayor had left the Wisconsin State Fair with his family on Saturday night. Peter said he was having an argument with the grandmother of his 1-year-old daughter and attacked the mayor when he tried to help her -- Anderson.

COOPER: Freaked out. Hmm.

Coming up, breaking news, former homeland security director Tom Ridge saying that top Bush administration officials tried to use the fear of terrorism for politics, to win a close presidential election. The explosive allegations at the top of the hour.

And first, something to make you smile, the "Shot of the Day." An affectionate dog and a news anchor who doesn't seem to mind a little slobber. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: For tonight's "Shot," Erica, a dog, a news anchor and a whole lot of love going on. Check out what happened on one Canadian newscast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Ginger. Hi, Ginger. Ginger just loves people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love Ginger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, Ginger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have any make-up left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Aw.

HILL: Oh, Ginger.

COOPER: I love those dogs. The dog, as you know, was Ginger. For some reason she just could not stop. Neither of these dogs, apparently, could stop slobbering over their humans.

HILL: If you want a loving dog, Ginger's your girl.

COOPER: Right, yes. Actually -- and actually, Ginger is still available. If you like her, she can be yours. She looks like a wonderful dog.

HILL: She probably is lovely.

COOPER: Not all features between reporter and animal go so well. You all remember this?

HILL: Yes, ow.

COOPER: It's the expression afterward that's so good. Can we see that again?

HILL: It is pretty good.

COOPER: I don't know if we can redo that, but it's really good.

HILL: Trying to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Part of their sentence, a couple is going to have to come...

(CAT HOWLING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's my favorite, is when she looks back up at the camera.

HILL: I can't believe you people are making me do this.

COOPER: That's right, exactly. She looks so betrayed, too. You know?

HILL: She did.

COOPER: All right. Coming up at the top of the hour, the serious stuff. Breaking news, unbelievable allegations. President Bush's top homeland security official saying top members of the Bush administration tried to use the fear of terrorism to try to win the 2004 presidential election. Perhaps not so unbelievable after all, depending on who you talk to. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight we begin with breaking news and explosive allegations. New allegations that the top members of the Bush administration tried to use the fear of terrorism for politics to win a close presidential election.