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Iran's Nuclear Program Gathering Speed?; Plane Slams Into IRS Building in Texas

Aired February 18, 2010 - 22:00   ET



Tonight, breaking news: two bodies found in a charred office building in Austin, Texas -- new details coming to light about the man who started that deadly inferno by flying his plane right into the building today, his rage against the government, and whether anyone saw this tragedy coming.

Also tonight, chilling news about Iran. A new report suggesting the country's nuclear program is anything but peaceful and it's gathering speed.

And, later, only here on CNN, a U.S. officer betrayed by Afghan locals under his own command, Taliban spies leaking vital information and putting Americans at risk. Tonight, you're going to be stunned to learn about a NATO rule about how to deal with those spies that some say is costing American lives -- the CNN special investigation in this hour.

Perhaps the most intriguing story tonight, the latest on the -- on that international hit team caught on numerous security cameras on their way to killing a Hamas terror leader in Dubai -- some of that video raising all kinds of questions about who sent them and was it a sloppy operation, getting so quickly named and seen on so many surveillance cameras?

For instance, take a look at one of the team members, a bald guy. A surveillance camera captures him going into a men's room. He's in there for a few minutes. And, then, a short time later, he comes out wearing a wig and a disguise, again, the cameras rolling, as they are throughout the hotel where the hit took place.

Dubai's government blaming the Israeli Mossad. And it's causing a big backlash today in a lot of countries. We're going to have details ahead, Joe Johns digging on those questions and more. He joins us shortly.

First up, though, the breaking news: Austin, Texas, a small plane loaded with fuel slamming into a local IRS office building full of federal offices. The initial fear, of course, was terrorism, the reality, more homegrown, but no less troubling.

An angry man apparently arguing with his wife then burns down his house, gets in his plane, takes off on a murder-suicide mission against the government that he blames, basically, for ruining his -- ruining his life.

His name is Joseph Stack, 53 years old. That's the picture of him. He left a long diatribe online railing against the IRS, writing -- quote -- "Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different. Take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

One person in the office building died, apparently along with Stack. Two others were badly hurt.

The question, as always, is why.

David Mattingly is live in Stack's neighborhood, talking to anyone who knew him, anyone who might have a clue to his behavior.

David, I just want to...

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, what we're finding out from people...

COOPER: Go ahead.

MATTINGLY: I'm sorry, Anderson.

What we're finding out from people here who knew him was that this was not the man that they knew, someone that they thought would never, ever do any sort of act of violence.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): A tormented rant posted online, and his deadly actions speaking volumes. Joe Stack seems the picture of rage and vindictiveness, nothing at all like the man some remember tonight as outgoing, friendly, and not the least bit violent.

(on camera): At any time, did he ever seem like he had any kind of a temper, that he might have been angry at anybody?

RIC FURLEY, FORMER BANDMATE OF JOSEPH ANDREW STACK: Not to my knowledge, I mean, not at all. I had -- never saw that side of him. He was a very laid-back, affable, friendly, warm guy. You know, at the end of rehearsal, we would always hug each other goodbye. He's just a really friendly guy. This is completely unexpected.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Ric Furley knew Stack for two years, not as an uptight software engineer, but as an easygoing musician. The two shared the stage playing rockabilly in a band Austin. Stack played bass guitar.

(on camera): What was your reaction when you heard about it?

FURLEY: I kind of freaked out. And...

MATTINGLY: And you thought you knew him well.

(CROSSTALK) FURLEY: I did not think -- well, I did think I knew him well. But -- and I -- it never occurred to me that something -- he would be capable of something like this.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And that seems like the Joe Stack others remembered when he worked on the West Coast. David Page was the mechanic who serviced Stack's private plane. Stack would fly frequently to jobs in Silicon Valley from his home in Linden, California.

DAVID PAGE, MECHANIC FOR JOSEPH ANDREW STACK: He was just a hardworking guy., self-employed. I think he pretty much -- his life was work. He enjoyed doing what he did. He liked flying his airplane. He was a very accomplished pilot.

It is hard to believe. I can't imagine he would take out his frustrations in that sort of way.


MATTINGLY: And, Anderson, we're hearing tonight the Austin police have been looking into the possibility that there was some sort of domestic dispute going on in the home last night. They say they looked into this. They found out that there was no 911 call. Police were not called to the house. And they have no further comment on that.

I did speak to one neighbor who called the 911 call -- put in the 911 call this morning when he saw the house on fire. And he said he was outside when the wife and her daughter arrived at the scene, very shocked and very surprised and very upset to see their house engulfed in flames. So, they were not here as this house apparently was set on fire -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, basically, I mean, he set the house on fire -- we now know there was nobody inside -- the wife and daughter were not inside -- and then just went directly to the airfield?

MATTINGLY: That's what we're hearing, that he set the house on fire, went, got into his plane, didn't file a flight plan, according to the FAA.

He just flew the plane out and went straight for that building where the IRS had their offices and crashed the plane into that building. He had a very clear plan in mind. Looking at what he left online, he was a man who was tormented, very angry, with a long- running dispute with the IRS, but none -- none of his friends that we have talked to have seen this in him. They are completely shocked that he would do any sort of act of violence.

COOPER: And, again, the breaking news tonight, authorities having now finished search of the building, and confirmed that they have found two bodies inside that building, though they haven't identified them.

David, I also want to bring in an expert now in stopping this sort of thing, if that's even possible.

With us on the phone now is national security contributor and former White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend.

Fran, so far, people say they knew this guy, called his friendly, warm. Every time somebody does something like this, their friends always describe them as friendly and warm. So, it's become a cliche at this point. But, on something like this, I guess there's not much of a way to stop it.


You know, pilots go through an annual physical. I'm sure that what you're going to find is federal authorities are going to see if there was any indication at the time he had his last physical, if he gave -- you know, that he was alienated or angry, whether or not, if that didn't come up in his physical, whether the pilots should be screened for that.

But, you know, people get up and take off on these small planes every day all day. Most of them land safely, without any incident at all. The thing that's so disturbing, I think, to people in this case, even when there are accidents -- you know, we remember Cory Lidle, the New York Yankees pitcher who flew accidentally into a building in New York, or the kid in Tampa who committed suicide by flying a small plane in -- they don't pick the building they are going to fly into.

That's what makes this so disturbing, so reminiscent of 9/11, is, he had a very clear target. He got up in that plane and he put that plane into a particular building on purpose. And that's really disturbing. I think investigators are going to want to focus on, why was that? Why the IRS?

COOPER: Well, certainly, if his online diatribe is any indication, I mean, it becomes pretty clear he had a long history of problems with the IRS.

And in one part of the note I want to read, he writes: "Nothing changes unless there is a body count, unless it is in the interest of the wealthy -- of the wealthy sows at the government trough. In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is cheap."

David, David Mattingly, do we know when he wrote this diatribe online?

MATTINGLY: He had been working on it, from what we have been able to understand -- we had someone at CNN who knows a lot about these things look into the Web site and look at how often he had been going on there. He's been working on this for the past couple of days. He had gone into that document multiple times in the last 24 hours.

It is something that he was not doing impulsively. It looks like it's something he thought through, something that he had been working on very diligently here at his home. COOPER: I should say, I misread that.

It was: "Nothing changes unless there is a body count, unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough, in a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom."

I also want to read this other part.

He says: "The law 'requires' a signature on the bottom of a tax filing, yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing. If that's not 'duress,' than what is? If this is not a measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is."

I mean, Fran, is this -- is this terrorism? I mean, people say terrorism is -- you know, is theater, and has an intent, a message to send. Certainly, he is trying to send a message. He has a particular grievance, but no known or likely link with some larger group.


And I think, Anderson, it becomes a matter of semantics. I do think people are going to say it is terrorism. He had an ideology. He had a political dogma and point to make. He used violence to further that political agenda, and was willing to kill himself and innocents to do it.

And, so, in that sense, yes, it is terrorism.


TOWNSEND: And, certainly, if you're inside a building and see a plane coming at you, you are terrified.

And, so, it's not part of a larger group, but it does have all the feeling and all the indications of terrorism.

COOPER: So, is this -- I mean, would he be considered a lone wolf? You know, the government put out that report a while back that caused some controversy about lone wolves. Would he fit into that -- that profile, even though he's not part of some group, for all we know?

TOWNSEND: I do think -- yes, I do think he falls into the category of a lone wolf.

You have heard lots of terrorism experts talk about how difficult it is to identify them. We're learning that he was working on this sort of thing for days. We're going to have to understand, if he was working on it for days and it was posted on the Internet, what are the kinds of things we can do to be able to pull that out and see that before he actually acts, so that you can try and prevent it?

But it's very difficult, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, he's -- right. He's not -- he doesn't appear to be like a Ted Kaczynski, who is living in a cabin somewhere in Montana, you know, growing out his hair.


COOPER: You know, he was in a band in -- in Austin, Texas, and his friends are saying he wasn't ranting against the government constantly.

If you read his diatribe, it is very Ted Kaczynski-like, and it is clearly something he was obsessed with or passionate about for a long, long time.

So, again, a lot of unanswered questions.

Fran Townsend, appreciate you calling in, and David Mattingly as well.

Let us know what you think about all this at the site. There's a live chat going on right now.

Coming up next: Iran's president says his country's a nuclear state, but is not working on nuclear weapons. But, tonight, new evidence suggests that he is lying, and lying in a big and very scary way.

And, later, the hit on that Hamas killer, how did it end up in the spotlight? The Israelis are being accused of it. The question tonight, is it really their style to do almost all of it in broad daylight, with cameras rolling, or did they just make a bad mistake and plan it badly?

We will talk about that ahead.


COOPER: Well, new signs tonight that a nightmare scenario for America and the Middle East may be drawing closer. The nightmare, of course, is a nuclear-armed Iran. And though this may sound familiar, you have not heard these details before.

CNN has obtained a draft copy of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog's upcoming report on Iran's nuclear program. It cast more doubt on claims by Iran's president, who recently bragged that his country is now a nuclear state, but a peaceful one, only enriching uranium for power plants and hospitals.

Well, the report shows otherwise. That and other developments and the speed at which they are unfolding prompting a senior administration official to tell one reporter today it almost suggests the Iranian military is inviting a confrontation.

In a moment, we're going to explore what can be done about it with Fareed Zakaria.

But, first, Tom Foreman with details from the actual report -- Tom. TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we have heard alarms about Iran and its nuclear weapons in the past, but this is different. This is the sharpest warning yet that Iran may be hiding parts of its nuke program from inspectors. They may be working on detonation devices and closing in on a nuclear warhead.

Iran has always said their nuclear program is solely for generating power and for medical purposes. But the focus of this is the Natanz enrichment plant, which you can look out here in these satellite images and it doesn't look like much, just a bunch of dirt out here.

But I want to slide back over time. We know what's under this dirt from earlier satellite images. As we slide back, you see there is a great buried complex under here of facilities for working on nuclear material.

The nightmare theory, according to nuclear analysts, the Iranians, who are steadily producing more enriched uranium, at some point might push international inspectors out, and, before the international community can effectively react, they would produce weapons-grade uranium and use it to build a warhead at some secret location.

How quickly could they do that? The Institute for Science and International Security says, in a breakout scenario, using low- enriched uranium, Natanz could currently produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a weapon in six months or less, stunning numbers, although a senior administration official says technical problems are slowing down the process. It could take much longer -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, what -- what could Iranians do with a weapon like that?

FOREMAN: Oh, they could do a lot, Anderson.

The simple truth is, the focus is on their liquid-fueled -- I want to pull it out here and show you this -- the focus is on their liquid-fueled Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of about 800 to 1,200 miles, depending on how it's been configured.

Watch it as it launches right here. Here's the thing. If you have this rocket working, the range of it goes all the way out here to much of Europe, over here to Israel, and certainly -- look at this -- to many U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It would be a fairly low-tech nuke and a small one, because the Shahab-3 can't carry too much weight, but it could be big enough to produce a nuclear blast more than two miles in diameter, Anderson.

COOPER: And what are the possibilities for deterrents? I mean, there's obviously military reaction or some sort of sanctions.

FOREMAN: Well, sure, there's always talk about some kind of economic sanctions. There's certainly hopes that there might be turmoil in Iran that would produce a positive change in the government there.

But I want you to look at this. This is one of the big things that the Pentagon has right now, if you start talking about this theoretically, the idea of a military response, if this happened, by Israel, the U.S. or an international coalition.

This is a new weapon the Pentagon has. It's a super bomb called a massive ordnance penetrator, 20 feet long, 30,000 pounds. This was made specifically to penetrate and destroy buried facilities like Natanz.

But military analysts say, here is the problem. Iran has a lot of different targets potentially associated with its nuclear program, and there may be, as we mentioned earlier, hidden ones, secret ones. So, even if the outside world wants to do something about this, which target would they strike, Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, it's scary stuff.

Tom, thanks.


COOPER: Let's dig deeper now with Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," which is on CNN on Sundays.

How significant is this, Fareed? I mean, it seems very serious.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is, Anderson. It's a big deal, because there has always been the feeling -- and I think justifiably -- that we didn't really know whether Iran was planning a nuclear capability or a nuclear weapons capability.

COOPER: Well, they're also not prone -- the IAEA is not prone to exaggeration, really. I mean, they're pretty conservative generally in their pronouncements.

ZAKARIA: Institutionally, they're not prone to overstatement.

I think what it is, is a pattern of duplicity, of hiding stuff on the part of the Iranian government that gives rise to the suspicion.

COOPER: In terms of what we can do about it, I mean, the various options, of course, military option, it's not like striking Iran's nuclear facilities is all that easy. I mean, they're -- they're pretty hardened targets. They're spread out. It's not like Israel striking Iraq, you know, long ago.

ZAKARIA: You're talking about multiple targets, often in mountains, buried deep, hardened.

And the crucial issue is, of course, that you will only delay the program. You would not be able to really destroy it. There is not one single program that you destroy. And then there's, of course, the political effects of that strike. What does it do in terms of strengthening the regime, rallying the country around it? What will the regime do in terms of asymmetrical strikes against our soldiers in Afghanistan, in Iran, Hezbollah?

You know, they have many, many tools at their disposal. How will it radicalize the region? So, it's a very, very big move. No matter what, we have to remember we would be talking about a preemptive invasion of a sovereign country, on the basis of some intelligence data.

I think we have to live with the reality that we are going to have to come up with a containment strategy of Iran, put it in a box, and keep it in a box.

COOPER: Is that a box in which they have a nuclear weapon? Is that tolerable?

ZAKARIA: You know, there's something very important that's happened in Iran that we need to kind of take account of, which is the mullahs seem to have lost power to the military, to the -- what are called the Revolutionary Guard, this kind of elite, ideologically elite, military.


COOPER: Right. There essentially had been a coup, I mean, a lot of people will say, over the last year, since the election.

ZAKARIA: Precisely. Hillary Clinton actually made this point publicly. Some of us have been making it for months now.

But it's important to understand what that means. Generally speaking, when you ask people, why can you not deter the Iranians, they will say, because they have a different and irrational calculus. It's a religiously motivated regime.

Well, it's turning into a pretty classic military dictatorship. Now, that's a terrible thing for the Iranian people, but it does mean these guys are pretty rational, calculating guys, who want to stay in power.

The one thing we know about military dictatorships is that they tend to have very simple calculations about their own regime's survival and their own survival. That would suggest, frankly, that they are more easily deterrable than a kind of group of mullahs who is ascribing to some jihadist ideology.

COOPER: Interesting.

Fareed, thanks for being on the show -- Fareed Zakaria.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, the reception that Dick Cheney got when he stepped back into the national political stage today, but also why he's sharing it with the Tea Party movement. Later, everyone's talking about the tape, and the story's getting stranger and stranger, the killing of a Hamas arms dealer, almost all of it, except for the hit itself, caught on tape -- why Israel is taking heat for it. And there are some who are wondering, was this the hit team that couldn't hit straight? How did this all end up in the spotlight?

Details ahead.


COOPER: Two words tonight for anyone who doesn't think the Republicans smell blood in the water this election year.

Dick Cheney, after keeping a very low profile during the final year of the Bush administration, he got a hero's welcome at the Conservative Political Action Committee convention in Washington, standing ovations for him.

But this year's CPAC convention is different, after the rise of the Tea Party movement, Tea Party candidates trying to knock off some big-name Republicans this primary season who they don't consider conservative enough.

Candy Crowley, host of "STATE OF THE UNION," has tonight's "Raw Politics."


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If there was a moment that captured the feel of this annual meeting of conservatives, it was this blast from the past who rocked the house with a surprise visit and his crystal ball.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sky's the limit here. I think 2010 is going to be a phenomenal year for the conservative cause.


CHENEY: And I think Barack Obama is a one-term president.


CROWLEY: It's a pretty ambitious forecast that ignores current conditions on the ground, a battle royal inside the Republican Party.


CROWLEY: This 39-year-old Cuban-American is the "it" boy of this year's conservative conference, Republican senatorial hopeful Marco Rubio, the keynoter and a Tea Party fave -- or, as they say in some conservative circles, a real Republican.

MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: America already has a Democrat Party. It doesn't need two Democrat parties. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: Rubio has a good chance of defeating his more moderate Republican opponent, Governor Charlie Crist, in Florida's Senate primary.

Rubio began to get traction when he caught the ear of Senator Jim DeMint, another Tea Party hero, who is dispensing cash and advice to Republicans of a certain sort. He is an unabashed purist.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: As some of you know, I have been criticized by some of my Republican colleagues for saying I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who believe in the principles of freedom than 60 who don't believe in anything.


CROWLEY: Much of the energy inside politics for the past six months has come from the Tea Party movement, but it lacks the structure that can be provided by the Republican Party. The question is whether Tea Party activists and the Republican Party can find a comfortable place together. Can this marriage survive?

RUBIO: We hope the Republican Party is the home of that movement, and that's what we're -- we're working towards making sure that that is.

CROWLEY: In fact, most Republicans, moderates and conservatives say there's one thing that will supersede ideological problems inside party factions: winning.

Look who also showed up at CPAC.

SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: And I'm the newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts.


CROWLEY: Scott Brown is a moderate Republican, pro-choice, pro- same-sex civil unions. He got a hero's welcome by conservatives. There is nothing quite so unifying as victory.


COOPER: Well, Candy, what are the dangers in a race like Rubio and Crist in Florida if the Tea Party movement doesn't get on board?

CROWLEY: Well, if they don't get on board -- let's say, if Charlie Crist, the current governor, wins that senatorial nomination, and goes on to the general, if the Tea Party sits out, you lose all that passion, you lose the conservatives.

It is very difficult, as a Republican, to win a race when you don't have the support of party conservatives. That's the base of the party. On the other hand, if Rubio should win, he certainly will have the base, the Tea Party and the conservatives, but will he be able to bring the moderates?

So, they -- they need each other, if they're going to have those kind of victories similar to ones that they had in Massachusetts, although every state is clearly different. They really do need each other, if the end game is to win. If the end game is purity, well, then that's -- then -- then they may have those 30 votes, as opposed to the 60.

COOPER: Right. Interesting. We're going to talk to Bill Bennett and Erick Erickson in the next hour on 360.

Candy, appreciate that tonight.

Still ahead: a dramatic new twist in that assassination plot. It's like something out of a movie script. A top Hamas official is killed. So, who did it? We will dig deeper with former -- a former CIA operative.

Also ahead, a report from the CNN's Special Investigations Unit: An American commander in Afghanistan had growing suspicions about what was happening on his base, about spies, that, somehow, the Taliban had been able to ambush his troops with a lot of success. But a little- known NATO rule may make it difficult for him to stop those spies.

Abbie Boudreau investigates -- next.


COOPER: Tonight in Southern Afghanistan, Taliban fighters are not giving up as U.S. and NATO forces try to gain control of Helmand province. Operation Moshtarak is in full swing. Military leaders say it could take another month to try to secure the area. U.S. and NATO forces are facing gunfire, mortar attacks and also the spread of Taliban spies.

But what if there were not one or two spies but a dozen? It happened at one U.S. base. The American commander in charge found spies within his midst, only to face his biggest challenge yet, finding the evidence to hold them.

Under NATO rules, a rule -- rules most of us never even heard of, a commander has just 96 hours, four days to gather enough evidence. Now if he can't, they could go free, returning to the Taliban armed with more information and deadlier than ever. It's called the 96-hour rule. It's a controversial policy already under review at the highest levels of the Defense Department.

CNN's Abbie Boudreau has our story.


ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roger Hill was the commander in charge of Wardok (ph) province in eastern Afghanistan for much of 2008. He was assigned just 89 soldiers to cover an area the size of Connecticut.

ROGER HILL, FORMER ARMY CAPTAIN: The enemies seemed to kind of know where we were.

BOUDREAU: Hill feared the Taliban was tracking his every move. He suspected an inside threat. Maybe a spy.

HILL: Out of a 90-man company, you know, we had 30 wounded, two killed in action.

BOUDREAU: Hill says his headquarters sent a team to the base to weed out possible spies. It screened cell-phone activity to find out which Afghan civilians working on the base were really working for the Taliban.

HILL: It turned out that it wasn't just one, two, or three, but we actually had a full dozen, 12, infiltrators, spies on our file (ph).

BOUDREAU (on camera): They were all Afghans hired as contractors. They were janitors, heavy-equipment operators. Some of them worked on the cell-phone tower.

And there was one man, one alleged spy, who Roger Hill knew well. His very own interpreter, Nuri (ph).

(voice-over) Hill had trusted Nuri (ph). For six months they fought the Taliban side by side. Hill even helped Nuri (ph) begin to apply for a U.S. visa.

HILL: I don't know what to say other than it was a huge heartbreak. You know, we were so shorthanded that we just -- we were forced to depend on each other in a very intimate level. He wore one of our uniforms.

BOUDREAU: He had no idea Nuri might be the one sabotaging missions. Angry and frustrated, Hill detained all 12 men in this small building on the base, and that's when NATO's 96-hour rule went into effect.

(on camera) What you may not realize is that nearly half of the U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan are not actually serving the U.S. military. They're assigned to NATO, and NATO has very different rules when it comes to detaining the enemy.

(voice-over) Because Hill's unit served under NATO, his men have only 96 hours to provide the evidence required for the Afghans to lock up detainees, or the NATO soldiers have to release them. The rule is designed to give the Afghan government control over detainees and to avoid abuses like what happened in Iraq at Abu Ghraib.

Hill says the NATO rule simply does not work, and many times dangerous suspects are released because there's not enough time to gather evidence.

Not just any evidence. Because of information collected by the surveillance team, Hill was certain all the suspects were guilty of spying. But under NATO rules, he couldn't share how he gathered the evidence. It's classified, so Hill knew he had to release them or get a confession. And the clock was ticking.

HILL: We're in this catch-22 where they're saying, "Hey, you know, we'll take these guys off your hands, but give us -- give us the evidence."

And I'm saying, "I can't do that."

Well, "If you can't give us the evidence, then we can't take these guys off your hands." So the clock continues to tick.

BOUDREAU: Wade Barker was a force protection officer who worked on Hill's base. He says most evidence collected on the battlefield is considered classified.

WADE BARKER, FORMER FORCE PROTECTION OFFICER: If you pass off too much information you're given back what we know potentially to the enemy. You have to classify things. You have to be careful about -- have to be so careful about what you give away.

BOUDREAU: It's almost like you're protecting your information more than you're protecting soldiers if everything is classified.

BARKER: We have certain rules we have to follow. We have to protect our soldiers, and we have to protect the soldiers through protecting the information.

BOUDREAU (on camera): But how does that protect the soldier if you're releasing people who had been shooting at them?

BARKER: No, it doesn't. It puts the soldiers right back in harm's way. It's just a vicious cycle. It goes round and round. It drives me absolutely up the wall. It's the most frustrating thing I've ever seen.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): If Hill were going to convince the Afghans to lock up the 12 suspected spies, he would need evidence that was not classified. And he needed it before the 96 hours were up. What he really needed was a confession. So at the 80th hour, Hill came up with a plan.


COOPER: When we come back, what happened to the suspected spies. Part two of Abbie's report and the latest on the assassination of a Hamas arms dealer, coming up.


COOPER: A former U.S. Army captain in Afghanistan has just lost two soldiers in an IED attack. Dozens more were seriously injured on other missions. The enemies seemed to anticipate where Captain Roger Hill and his soldiers were headed. As it turned out, 12 Afghans working on his military base were suspected spies, including his own interpreter.

Captain Hill now faced an impossible choice: violate orders and give the Afghan government classified evidence against the 12 suspected spies, or let the men go free. Under NATO rules, he had just 96 hours after the men were detained to figure it out. At the 80th hour, he came up with a plan.

CNN's Abbie Boudreau picks up the story.


BOUDREAU (voice-over): As the clock ticked towards the 96-hour NATO deadline, the 12 suspected spies were held in this small building on base.

HILL: I decided that I needed to break protocol and interrogate them myself. I took three gentlemen outside, sat them down, walked away, fired my weapon in the ground three times, hoping that the men on the inside, left to their own imagination, would think that they really needed to talk.

BOUDREAU: Meaning that maybe you killed these men?

HILL: Or hurt them. I really did not consider what they would think. I just knew that it would gain a reaction.

BOUDREAU: You thought it would scare them?

HILL: Yes. And that's all I was concerned about, because I needed that intelligence.

BOUDREAU: So what happened?

HILL: Fired three rounds into the ground, walked back inside, and sure enough, some of the detainees started to talk.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): What the detainees told him inside this building was ultimately enough to convince the Afghans to take all 12 suspects into custody, including Hill's interpreter, Nuri (ph). Hill felt he'd done the right thing, that he'd protected his soldiers.

HILL: I broke protocol and more or less took matters into my own hands out of necessity, out of self-defense.

BOUDREAU (on camera): But the Army saw it differently. Hill was charged with detainee abuse. He accepted a plea deal and received a general discharge last year. His military career was over.

(voice-over) NATO spokesman James Apatherei (ph) announced the 96-hour detention rule in 2005 after talks with both U.S. and Afghan military commanders. He told CNN, quote, "We have to balance the requirement for protecting our soldiers with the reality that Afghanistan is a sovereign country, that there must be limits on the time we can detain Afghans before handing them over to Afghan authorities."

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham says cases like Roger Hill's are the reason NATO needs to change the rule. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The one story I hear told over and over and over again, "Senator Graham, this policy makes no sense. It is putting our folks at risk for no higher purpose. Quite frankly, here's what's going to start happening. We're going to take less prisoners. They're going to start shooting these folks."

BOUDREAU: Graham has seen the problem first hand. He's the only U.S. senator who serves in the Air Force Reserves. He's a colonel and was in Afghanistan just last year.

GRAHAM: Who the hell made this rule up? Why did you pick 96 hours versus 80 hours or 100 hours? I can't get anyone to tell me how this thing was formed, whose idea it was, and how it became policy.

BOUDREAU: To find out, we tracked down Cully Stimson. In 2006, working for the Pentagon, he advised then-secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on the 96-hour rule.

(on camera) Did you have concerns at that time?

CULLY STIMSON, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I did then. I do now in certain circumstances. But I do believe the policy works for the most part. There is no perfect system. There is no magical number in terms of hours and days or weeks. And so I think it's a healthy compromise.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Compromise may not be what General David Petraeus wants to hear. After all, he's the commander in charge of all U.S. forces in the region. He's the one who would know best if the 96-hour rule really is working. After a public appearance we asked him about the detainee rule.

(on camera) I'm with CNN. We just have one quick question.

Is 96 hours enough?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Ninety-six hours is not enough, if you are going to ensure that they stay behind bars, obviously. Again, there has to be a process by which the individuals that need to be detained are detained or that, if they're handed over to Afghan officials, that there's confidence in the system working. OK?

BOUDREAU: Thank you.

PETRAEUS: You bet. That's a big concern of mine personally.

BOUDREAU: Big concern of yours?



COOPER: Abbie, he's saying that's a big personal concern of his. Is the Pentagon planning to do something about this? We said there was a review under way. BOUDREAU: Right. The Pentagon is now reviewing the 96-hour rule to see if it can be adjusted or improved. But for soldiers on the front line perhaps their biggest frustration about the rule is what happens after detainees are handed over to the Afghan government?

COOPER: Is anyone actually tracking what happens to the detainees after they're handed over?

BOUDREAU: Well, up to now, NATO has not made that information public. But at our specific request, NATO calculated that four out of every ten detainees are released. Once they're released, no one knows what happens to them.

And Anderson, there's one final point we want to make. Of the 12 suspected spies that Captain Roger Hill turned over to the Afghan officials, all 12 were released despite the confessions.

COOPER: That's incredible. I mean, they got these guys based on, basically from your reporting, wiretapping the phones. It seems like the evidence was clear. That's -- that's amazing. They were all just released.

BOUDREAU: They were all released. And once they're handed over to the Afghan authorities, NATO does not track what happens to them from that point on. And so obviously, they're looking at this and reexamining this policy.

COOPER: Yes. I can't imagine how frustrating that is for the soldiers in the field. Abbie, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.

Up next, a mysterious assassination. A Hamas leader killed in a hotel room. Hit team caught on a lot of security cameras. Are the Israelis behind it? There's a lot of backlash from a lot of different countries toward Israel right now. We're digging deeper with former CIA officer Robert Baer when 360 continues.


COOPER: Back to the brazen assassination of a leading member of Hamas. He was murdered, as you know, in his Dubai hotel room last month. Eleven of his alleged killers caught on tape. New information tonight the senior official of the United Arab Emirates saying there are seven more suspects involved, including two Palestinians, for a total of 18. The two Palestinians were arrested in Jordan, according to this official.

There's mounting allegations, as well, that this was a hit carried out by Mossad's -- Mossad, which is, of course, Israel's intelligence agency. The alleged hit squad may have stolen identities and forged passports from several European countries. The case is causing a major diplomatic uproar.

As is their standard response, Israel will neither confirm nor deny they were involved.

Joe Johns has more on this international mystery. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If these guys are Mossad, agents of the vaunted Israeli intelligence agency, they seem totally unfazed that surveillance cameras all over Dubai are seemingly following their every move. Check it out. This guy, apparently part of the hit team, goes in bald and comes out wearing a wig.

And that's what's so out of the ordinary about claims that what you're watching on video here are the moments leading up to a carefully-orchestrated and executed assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai.

Take a look. The hit so brazen, to many it just doesn't fit the secretive Mossad. And yet, the head of the Dubai police agency has reportedly said, quote, "He's 99 percent sure these guys are Mossad agents."

Let's go back to the surveillance tapes. Here we see members of the alleged hit squad checking into a hotel where the target will be staying. We see the target, the Hamas leader, arriving. And there you see two alleged killers in tennis gear, going into the elevator with him.

Al Mabu entered his room at 8:25 p.m. and was discovered dead the next morning. In all, 11 of 18 suspects in the case were caught on camera. They allegedly used bogus British, Irish, French and German passports, and that turned this murder mystery into an international uproar over identity theft.

GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think this is a matter of investigation and regarding other facts. We have to know what happened, what happened to British passports. It's as simple as that. It's an investigation that's got to take place before any conclusions are drawn.

JOHNS: As for the Israelis, are these their agents? The man who heads Britain's diplomatic service, Sir Peter Rickets, demanded a response from the Israel ambassador to Great Britain. And his answer cleared up nothing.

RON PROSOR, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.K.: I was unable to add additional information to the -- the request.

JOHNS: Israel also suggested that the Hamas leader was an arms dealer, too, and that he had many enemies. So for now, perhaps, the biggest question is why didn't the assassins cover their tracks?

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Such a fascinating case. Bob Baer joins me now. He's a former CIA officer who writes an intelligence column for He joins us from Irvine, California. Bob, thanks for being with us. What do you make of this? Was it a mistake? Did these guys realize they were being captured on surveillance cameras basically every step of their journey?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I'm sure they did, but what they didn't recognize is that there's software out there that you can correlate pictures with identities, names, arrival times and the rest of it. They didn't realize that the surveillance would be so complete. They thought there would be isolated pictures; they'd never come up with names.

I mean, the Israelis are very good, but they do make blunders. In this case they didn't realize how advanced Dubai is in terms of technical security.

COOPER: Is that a new thing for Dubai?

BAER: It's fairly new. The Europeans use it. The British do. The Swiss do. They've used it for years. You know, it's also the question of the cell phones. Because as I understand they were using -- they were calling Austria and...

COOPER: There's a German news report that Austrian cell phones or sim cards may have been used.

BAER: Uh-huh. And it's a question of finding the phones that are all calling the same number simultaneously, and they were calling a controlled number in Vienna. And all they have to do is run the software, and it will show where the phones were located when the calls were made to the same number, and they're able to connect all of them, even though they're not calling each other. That's another piece of this puzzle that the MRI has put together.

COOPER: What's interesting about that is, if memory serves me correctly, didn't the Mumbai terrorists who -- or Pakistani terrorists who attacked the hotels in Mumbai, they also used that same -- they used Austrian sim cards. Am I wrong?

BAER: Yes, they're usually simultaneous sim cards. What we call them is ghost phones. They're prepaid calls. We used to think, and a lot of intelligence services did these prepaid telephone calls, were untraceable. But in fact, as computers have gotten better and better software, they are ultimately traceable. Now, whether they find the true identities of the assassins is something else. That might take -- that may never happen.

COOPER: Why did these assassins have to steal so many identities to carry out this operation? Because there's a bunch of folks in Israel right now who are saying, "Wait a minute. This is my name. This is my information but my identity was somehow stolen. I've never traveled to Dubai. I haven't been on a plane for years."

BAER: Well, that was sloppy. I mean, if you're going to steal identity it shouldn't have been in Israel. Seven of these identities, I believe, were stolen in Israel, and that was a huge blunder on their part. I mean, what you do is you pick up identities the day before you use them around Europe. And they shouldn't be connected. But having them in the country that I believe sponsored this attack or this assassination.

COOPER: You think no doubt Mossad's behind it?

BAER: Absolutely. I mean, this guy was the enemy of Israel. He wasn't anybody else's enemy. If it was another arms dealer killing him, it would have been a one-on-one assassination.

COOPER: What do you -- the method of killing, which at this point seems -- hasn't really been announced. There were signs reportedly of some sort of electric shocks to various parts of his body but also possibly suffocation because there was blood on the bed.

BAER: I think what they did was they tasered him. You can buy taser guns in Dubai, and then they suffocated him. The problem with Israel is it can't bring weapons into the diplomatic pouch and wouldn't trust its networks to bring them in, themselves. So they had to use low technology.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting. There is a lot of -- around the world in various governments, especially the government whose passports were used, concern about this. But I mean, is this really any different than the U.S. now? We basically assassinate people. We just do it from a Predator drone. We target people, you know, in Somalia. We target people in Yemen. We target people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Is this any different?

BAER: It's different because Dubai's not a war zone. You know, if we are killing people in Afghanistan and Iraq and Somalia and Yemen, it's a war zone. We've declared war on terrorism. The Israelis have declared it, and they conduct it in Gaza in the West Bank.

But this is almost friendly country for Israel, Dubai. I mean, it's as if the Russians were to come into New York City and settle scores. That's the difference. And this is why Israel is in so much trouble.

COOPER: Interesting. Bob Baer, appreciate your expertise. Thanks, Bob.

BAER: Thank you.

COOPER: Still ahead tonight, a happy homecoming for eight American missionaries held in Haiti on kidnapping charges. But are they home free? We'll take a look at that.

And a former New York City police commissioner, hailed as a hero after 9/11, headed to jail. Find out why next.


COOPER: Let's get caught up on some of the other stories we're following tonight. Poppy Harlow has the "360 Bulletin" -- Poppy. POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, two American missionaries charged with kidnapping in Haiti appeared in court today as eight other Americans were welcomed home. A Haitian judge ruled group leader Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter remain, though, behind bars. Officials want to determine why the two traveled to Haiti on an earlier trip.

And a federal judge threw the book at former NYC police chief Bernard Kerik today, sentencing him to four years in prison. Federal guidelines recommended between 27 and 33 months, but the judge was incensed that Kerik used the 9/11 attacks to personal gain.

Kerik pled guilty November to eight felonies, including tax fraud and lying to the White House during his nomination for secretary of homeland security back in 2004.

Well, Toyota's president said it would take a formal invitation to get him before Congress and now he has one. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has asked Akio Toyoda to testify at next week's hearing about the automaker's recall. He's been criticized, as you know, for not speaking up sooner about Toyota's troubles.

And talk about raising a stink. A man was reportedly kicked off a regional jet in Canada earlier this month because he smelled bad. Another jazzed (ph) air passenger described the odor as, quote, "brutal." The airline confirmed that a passenger was deplaned but, Anderson, wouldn't go into details for privacy reasons.



COOPER: How bad do you have to smell to get taken off a plane?

HARLOW: Stink.

COOPER: Brutal.

A lot more coming up at the top of the hour. More ahead. We'll be right back.