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Gulf Oil Spill Blame Game; Craigslist Murder

Aired May 11, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest": Who's really to blame for the Gulf oil spill, BP, Halliburton, Transocean? Well, today, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers tried to figure it out. But, as you're going to see in a moment, what they got was a lesson in finger-pointing and that old blame game.

Also, "Up Close" tonight: a walking controversy. A trainer -- not a physical therapist, not a doctor -- says he can treat people with serious spinal cord injuries, and desperate patients are flocking to him. But is he selling false hope? We investigate.

And another craigslist killing started when a family put an ad in craigslist for a diamond ring. The seller showed up armed and with accomplices, say police, and it ended with a robbery and murder -- tonight, the startling details in "Crime & Punishment."

But, first up "Keeping Them Honest": Another 210,000 gallons of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico today, four million gallons so far. And who's to blame?

Well, in Washington today, being asked that question were the bigwigs from BP, which is ultimately responsible for the well, and Transocean, which ran it, and Halliburton, which helped build it.

So, here's what happened when senators started trying to pin them down.


SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: I would ask you first, Mr. McKay, is BP the party responsible for the leak?

LAMAR MCKAY, PRESIDENT AND CHAIRMAN, BP AMERICA, INC.: We don't -- we don't know who's responsible for what yet. The investigations will look at the processes, the equipment and the -- and the decisions that were made.

LAUTENBERG: Mr. Newman, is your company responsible for the -- for the eruption that occurred from the rig?

STEVEN NEWMAN, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TRANSOCEAN LIMITED: Senator, until we understand the root cause of the event, I don't think it's appropriate to speculate on who or what might be responsible.

LAUTENBERG: Mr. Probert, do you... TIM PROBERT, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL BUSINESS LINES, CHIEF HEALTH, SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICER, HALLIBURTON: I think everyone's working very hard together, collectively, to pull the facts together, so we can really diagnose exactly what took place.

LAUTENBERG: I will tell you what I draw. The conclusion I draw is that nobody assumes the responsibility.


COOPER: That was Senator Frank Lautenberg.

So, that's one line of defense we heard today: We don't know. We can't say. Too soon to tell.

There was another, though, practically in the very same breath. Let's take a look over here at the wall, the bigwigs at the oil companies not only saying, who can say? But, at the same time, they're also saying, yes, yes, we can say who's to blame. It's the other guy.

It's the blame game. We have seen it before. And we definitely saw it today. See if you can play along at home.

First of all, there's BP. Here's what they had to say.


MCKAY: BP, as the lease-holder and the operator of the well, hired Transocean to drill that well. Transocean, as owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, had responsibility for the safety of drilling operations.


COOPER: All right, so, that's BP pointing the finger at the blowout preventer, which didn't work in Transocean. And what did Transocean have to say? Well, listen.


NEWMAN: the one thing we do know is that, on the evening of April 20, there was a sudden catastrophic failure of the cement, the casing, or both.


COOPER: So, that is Transocean blaming Halliburton's well- sealing work.

And Halliburton? Well, you can take a guess.


PROBERT: We understand that the drilling contractor replaced the dense drilling fluid in the riser with a lighter seawater prior to the planned placement of the final cement plug.


COOPER: That is Halliburton pointing, of course, back at Transocean. So, what's next? I think you can guess this. Take a look.


NEWMAN: Because BP are the operator of the well and BP are the permit-holder, and BP have the relationship with the MMS, if there was a discussion between somebody and the MMS about whether or not it was appropriate to proceed in a particular fashion, that conversation would have taken place between BP and the MMS.


COOPER: So, that's Transocean blaming BP and the government agency responsible for overseeing offshore drilling.

It's the blame game. The circle is complete, once around the board -- only, of course, this is no game.

Tom Foreman, "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, breaks it down deeper for us -- Tom.


We know there was a lot of finger-pointing on Capitol Hill today. We know there is an ocean -- an oil rig lying on the ocean floor right now, and we know there's 210,000 gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf. But we don't know why.

"Keeping Them Honest," I want to show what each of these companies does and how that may have contributed to this mess. And let's start with the big bosses here.

BP, we heard about them today. If you think about it, they are the owners of the oil rig and they hire the rig operators. And, like most big bosses, they ultimately call the shots in one way or another. Everyone out here at one time of the accident was working for BP in one way or another. They admit having overarching responsibility.

But BP says, if you're handing out blame, you better look closer at the company we hired to work that well, the owners of the Deepwater Horizon, the rig over here, and of that big device down there called the blowout preventer on the bottom that was supposed to keep this oil from gushing out after the accident, but failed.

That, Anderson, is who BP wants under the microscope.

COOPER: And that company is Transocean. What's their exposure?

FOREMAN: Well, it's a good question. Let's move BP back up here, and we will bring Transocean into the game for a moment or two. Transocean has its own issues here. They are the owner of much of the hardware involved in this disaster, and most of the people killed in this were Transocean employees.

BP says Transocean was hired for its skill and expertise, and all of that indeed brings some legal vulnerability. But Transocean is pushing blame in two different directions, first, back at BP, saying, yes, we are the experts, but you were directing our actions.

And, second, they're pointing to another company, saying, look at the company that poured the concrete to hold the main pipe in the well itself. That's way down here on the ocean floor, right down here. They're saying, look closely at that, because maybe that's where the problem came from -- Anderson.

COOPER: And that company, Tom, of course, is Halliburton. And what do they have to say?

FOREMAN: Well, Halliburton says, in all of this, they admit there are serious questions being asked. But let's look at this.

They say that the problem -- that there was a problem with the wellhead, and they admit that they worked on the wellhead right before the explosion. But they say this large metal fixture down here that actually connects the rig up above to the oil in the ground was something that they finished with well ahead of time.

The accusation is that there was a problem here that allowed a rush of oil -- or a rush of methane gas up here, which caused this explosion. But what Halliburton is saying is, we worked on it, but we're just a subcontractor. We were done 20 hours before the accident, and all of our work passed the integrity test.

They're saying, if you're looking for someone to blame here, look at the equipment operator, look at the people who were in charge, but don't look so much at us.

So, as you said from the beginning, Anderson, what we really have here is a whole circle of everybody pointing at everybody else and saying, this is where the blame lies.

And it is a very hard for any senator or congressmember to make sense of that.

COOPER: Yes, it certainly is...

FOREMAN: Anderson.

COOPER: ... today, at least.

Tom, thanks.

Late word tonight on what comes next in the struggle to cap that leak -- BP is preparing a second smaller containment box to lower onto it. The big one, as you know, failed. If that doesn't work, they are trying, using robo-subs, like the one that took this video, to try to cut one of the leaking pipes and try to plug it up with debris.

That's newly released video from BP. The plume you see in the background there, that's the leak right there. The truth is, it could be months before it stops. And that's the bottom line. It could be months we're talking about, 210,000 barrels -- gallons a day.

We should mention we have made repeated requests to have BP CEO Tony Hayward on this program. Every time, BP has declined the offer. We would love to have him on. He can even call in, doesn't need to go to a studio.

We will even send a satellite truck to his office to make it easier. We're -- we're that kind of guy.

President -- presidential historian Douglas Brinkley has been more than gracious with his time.

He joins us now from Washington tonight.

Doug, watching these folks today essentially passing the buck and pointing the finger at each other, why should anybody and the American public have any confidence tonight about how BP and the other companies, that they're going to be held accountable at all?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we have to believe, eventually, there will be a bipartisan commission report that comes out of this. Sometimes, these things take a while, like where the Maine blew up in 1898, and we didn't have a commission report with definitive evidence until the 1970s with the Rickover commission.

All I'm saying is, right now, what they -- these three companies are sharing, beyond finger-pointing, is muddying up the waters, confusing people about offshore drilling in general. History will mark this as the BP spill. That's what's going to be in the textbooks. Was Halliburton or Transocean guilty of -- of -- of, you know, certain problems associated with BP? Yes.

So, all three are guilty in that sense, but it's British Petroleum who has run a campaign telling everybody, it's safe, it's safe; we can do this.

Meanwhile, they have been just drilling and drilling at rapid rates and being very reckless in considering what would happen if you had a blowout preventer that didn't work. They said, it wouldn't be a problem.

And, of course, it was.

COOPER: We're going to have more with the professor in a moment.

Professor Brinkley, stick around. We're going to pick this up after the break.

A reminder: A live chat is up and running at You can talk to folks watching the program around the world right now and around America. Let's us know what you think. We would love to hear from you.

Later tonight: why America has become a breeding -- a breeding ground for Islamic extremism and a prime recruiting ground for al Qaeda. And this isn't just hyperbole, not hype. Tonight, our nearly yearlong investigation continues into one American's path, a guy born in the suburbs of New York, went to Afghanistan, ended up plotting with al Qaeda an attack on his hometown.

ANNOUNCER: Recently on 360: Bill Maher, Demi Moore, Dr. Phil, Michael Lewis, Douglas Brinkley, Shakira, and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

You don't to have miss the "Big 360 Interviews." Set your DVR for A.C. 360.


COOPER: We're back talking about the BP disaster, lawmakers' somewhat futile attempt today to get to the bottom of it. Top executives from BP, rig operator Transocean and contractor Halliburton each pointing the fingers at each other.

Joining me again, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who is with us in Washington.

I want to play for you, Doug, one exchange, probably one of the key exchanges at today's hearing, between Senator Maria Cantwell and BP executive Lamar McKay.


MCKAY: Obviously, we -- we can't keep from being sued, but, yes, we're -- we have said exactly what we mean. We're going to pay legitimate claims.

SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: OK. So if it's a legitimate claim, arm to the fishing industry both short-term and long-term, you're going to pay.

MCKAY: We're going to pay all legitimate claims.

CANTWELL: If it's an impact for business loss from tourism, you're going to pay.

MCKAY: We're going to pay all legitimate claims.

CANTWELL: To state and local governments for lost tax revenue, you're going to pay.

MCKAY: Question mark.

CANTWELL: Long-term damages to the Louisiana fishing industry and its brand.

MCKAY: I can't -- I can't quantify or speculate on long-term. I don't know how to define it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What did you make of that? I mean, I imagine residents, and especially fishermen, along the Gulf Coast listening to that can't take too much comfort.

BRINKLEY: That's what Theodore Roosevelt used to call weasel words.

This whole area down there in the Gulf now, it is getting frightening. It's 210,000 gallons a day pouring out. But it's not just the fisheries, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife right now is desperate to protect wildlife. This is not a hurricane or an earthquake, when it happens at once.

This is Chinese torture -- water torture, they used to call that, we're going through, every day, more and more oil, and we still don't know where this story is headed. There's some evidence that the oil may head towards Texas bird reserves. Other people I have talked to at Fish and Wildlife are worried about Florida, getting in the Gulf Stream, even going down the Florida Keys.

Meanwhile, "TIME" magazine last week called this the big spill. What we're -- what we're really looking at soon is going to be a big pause, a big pause on offshore oil exploration, particularly in places like in ANWR, where Shell is getting ready to drill in front of one of our great wildlife refuges, where we have about 17 national wildlife refuges under red alert as we're speaking right now.

COOPER: But you -- you think the Obama administration is going to stop its plans to continue drilling?

BRINKLEY: I think that there will be a pause in it. And I would use that word, because, this summer -- you know, in the Arctic, you can only drill in the summer. So, you're going to Shell right now gearing up to drill the original drill, baby, drill spot, the Arctic Refuge.

And that's got to be decided. Are you going to allow a new offshore drilling situation or not? And I think it's going to be paused. If you don't drill, Shell doesn't drill the Arctic this summer, you can't drill in the winter. So, it will probably buy time for about nine months to get this investigated fully, because it's not just about this one incident.

Clearly, offshore drilling isn't as safe as the oil industry tells us it is. That doesn't mean we're going to stop offshore -- shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. It does mean we're going to have to do -- like the breakup today of MMS, we're going to have to do much more stricter regulatory practices. We can't trust the oil industry to regulate itself.

COOPER: And -- and we're still talking, I mean, 210,000 gallons pouring into the Gulf every single day. Do -- do you have any better sense from -- from the sources, from the folks you have talked to about what happens next, I mean, how this thing gets stopped? BRINKLEY: Well, right now, it's throwing -- as the saying, like, everything in the kitchen sink. Everything is being tried, and there's not really an answer, because the -- British Petroleum never had a cleanup plan. It's really a bucket and a mop.

And they were disingenuous out of the gate. They have been in legal mode protecting themselves. They have shown no corporate leadership to this. So, we're -- we're all -- you know, there's the possibility of this second smaller container dome helping somewhat, but it will still be leaking.

So, basically, we're waiting for a relief well. And that takes three months to five months to do. So, we may be, Anderson, talking, in the next months, every day having oil like this pouring out into the Gulf of Mexico.

And, meanwhile, one of our solutions, probably our most effective in certain regards, has been chemical dispersants, dumping toxins into the Gulf of Mexico. I don't know if people realize this is not a sewer around the Gulf of Mexico. It's a marvelous recreational marine system. And what's happening here is beyond just an environmental disaster. We're heading into a national crisis over what's going on in the Gulf.

COOPER: Doug Brinkley -- always good to talk to you, Doug. Thank you.

BRINKLEY: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next: people told they would never walk again, and the man who says he's helping them at least get closer to that. Is he selling false hope, though? 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta helps us -- helps us -- helps us separate some claims from medical facts.

Plus, the typo that landed on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the star whose name was misspelled, thinks it's funny. She joins me ahead.


JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTRESS: Thank you for covering this newsworthy story.




COOPER: Tonight, a clinic that claims to be helping those who have been told they is no help, people with spinal cord injuries. Critics say they smell snake oil, a possible scam that preys on desperate people.

But patients like Kendell Hall, who you're about to meet, say they see improvement. We will talk with Dr. Sanjay Gupta in a moment for some perspective.

But, first, Alina Cho take us to the clinic "Up Close."


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Until they got here, none of these people thought they would ever be able to do any of these things: move their arms, legs, take steps. But they are.

TED DARDZINSKI, FOUNDER, PROJECT WALK: It's not brain surgery. It's -- it's -- when I try to explain it, everybody is like, well, it's too simple. Why isn't it -- why isn't it normal? Why isn't everybody doing it?

CHO: Ted Dardzinski founded Project Walk in 1999, a controversial outpatient rehab facility for the paralyzed in Carlsbad, California.


CHO: He's not a doctor. He's a trainer who believes, as long as you have sensation below the injury, what doctors call incomplete paralysis, there's a chance you can walk again, through lots of exercise.

The idea? Repetitive motion can help train the body to remember how to walk, like this man, who is walking with ski poles, even drives on his own, one of more than a half-dozen people we spoke to who claims similar success.

DR. KAMSHAD RAISZADEH, SPINE SURGEON, ALVARADO HOSPITAL: I think they're really on to something.

CHO: Dr. Kamshad Raiszadeh, director of spine services at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, says he has sent patients to Project Walk.

RAISZADEH: Traditionally, these type of injuries are very hard to treat.

CHO: Twenty-year-old Kendell Hall, a former volleyball player, is paralyzed from the chest down, but her injury is incomplete. Six months ago, the car she was riding in crashed on a Dallas highway. Everyone walked away, but her.

SHERRY HALL, MOTHER OF KENDELL: They told us that the most we could ever hope for is that she would be able to feed herself.

CHO: Look at her now.


CHO: After just a month of therapy at Project Walk, Kendell is already freely using her arms. That's not a surprise, but this is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kick them out. CHO: ... lifting her legs.


CHO: With help, she's even standing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kendell, how does that feel?




CHO (on camera): Mom, when you see Kendell today...

S. HALL: I'm -- I'm blown away.

CHO (voice-over): Kendell says getting out of the wheelchair on her own is next.

K. HALL: I think the thing that I have gotten back the most is realizing I'm not so fragile. And, then, once you have that attitude, you're not scared to push yourself. And then it's like, wow.

CHO: But doctors say, statistically, there's a slim chance Kendell will ever walk again.

(on camera): Based on your expert opinion, is this giving people false hope?

DR. JOSEPH CIACCI, SPINE SURGEON, U.C. SAN DIEGO MEDICAL CENTER: I think that there is huge potential for abuse of people's hopes.

CHO: Dr. Joseph Ciacci, a spine surgeon at U.C. San Diego Medical Center, says he has never heard of Project Walk, and worries patients are being taken advantage of, and losing their money, too, thousands of dollars a month.

We showed him video of Kendell's workout routine, and he was not impressed.

CIACCI: This looks like a show to me, where someone's holding someone up, and everyone's standing back, saying, look, she's standing.

CHO (on camera): You freely admit you have been called a con artist.


CHO: People call this voodoo.

DARDZINSKI: That was -- that was five years ago now. People are now accepting it. We have doctors referring. We have researchers coming here. CHO (voice-over): Dardzinski says he never guarantees his clients will walk again, and adds, if they weren't doing something right, nobody would come back.

CHO (on camera): What's your dream for Kendell?

JAY HALL, FATHER OF KENDELL: Oh, dance with her at her wedding, yes, get her life back.

K. HALL: It's up to me, and I'm going to make this happen. I will walk again.

CHO (voice-over): Alina Cho, CNN, Carlsbad, California.


COOPER: 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon who has seen many spinal cord injuries in his career. He joins me now.

What do you make of this? I mean, Alina talked about an incomplete spinal injury. What does that mean? How extensive -- somebody like Kendell's injuries, how extensive may they have been?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really makes a world of difference, whether someone has a complete spinal cord injury or an incomplete.

A complete spinal cord injury means the spinal cord had such a significant impact on it that the cells all in that area, they died. Incomplete means a lot of different things here. You're looking at a -- at a skeleton here. If you take away the muscle and then you take away these blood vessels over here, take a look. This is the spine. It's designed to protect the spinal cord, which is in yellow inside there.

Incomplete means there may have been some pressure on the back, a little bit on the front, on the side. But the point is that the entire spinal cord was not damaged. There is still some possibility of connections getting through.

So, in the world of neurosurgery, in the world of rehab, that simple point makes a world of difference.

COOPER: So, I mean, this guy is not a doctor. He's not even a physical therapist. He's basically a trainer. Is it possible she regains some mobility from this treatment that he gave that she wouldn't have otherwise?

GUPTA: Basically, she probably would continue to make some improvements. If she has an incomplete spinal cord injury -- and, in her case, it was right around this level here, where her spinal cord, again, was injured incompletely -- she probably would have eventually started to have some benefit.

And what we know is that people who -- who have some improvements within six to eight weeks after this type of injury, they do tend to have a steady increase overall in function.

The reason that it is of some benefit, though, is that that type of intensive exercise, we know, does several things. It does move muscles that were becoming atrophied. People who -- can develop ulcers from simply sitting in bed or lying on their back, and people can get pneumonias because they're not moving around enough. And those things can be terribly debilitating towards one's progress.

So, you know, simply getting some type of activity for a spinal cord injury really at any level does -- does seem to make a big difference.

COOPER: So, is this guy doing anything that's really different from traditional method of treating these injuries?

GUPTA: I don't think so. You know, and, certainly, you need to recognize the -- the efforts of the physical therapy and physical rehab community. They have very specific exercises they do.

And, as you pointed out, this person is not trained along those lines. But, again, just intensive therapy of some sort does seem to make a difference, again, in patients who have an incomplete spinal cord injury.

I haven't seen exactly all -- all the different exercises that he does. I know it's intensive. I know it's expensive. But, you know, and someone who has the chance of getting some muscle function back anyway, because of the just natural state of their injury, this could offer a little bit of help.

COOPER: Does it offer, though, or -- or suggest, I mean, false hope to -- to some people?

GUPTA: Well, I think it depends on how it's -- how it's pitched.

This idea that someone who has a complete spinal cord injury, as a result of doing this type of therapy, is going to walk again, that -- that -- that could be false hope. And I always -- you know, hope is hope, but false hope potentially could be a dangerous thing.

I think that this idea that people who have an incomplete spinal cord injury simply aren't being given adequate rehab, aren't being given adequate therapy, and, therefore, people sort of give up on them, things like this can help.

I mean, it would be better, I guess, if it were in a more controlled setting, where people who were trained in this area to give someone the maximum benefit, the speediest recovery possible, would be ideal. But simply having some sort of intensive therapy, getting people up and moving who have a chance of recovery, I think, overall, is not a bad thing.

COOPER: All right, Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Interesting report.

Still ahead, our nearly yearlong investigation: how a quiet, studious, middle-class kid born in New York's suburbs became a dangerous enemy of the state, his path to al Qaeda -- coming up.

Plus, an embarrassing spelling on the Hollywood Hall of Fame. I will talk to Julia Louis-Dreyfus about the typo that almost overshadowed her big moment. They spelled her name wrong. It's tonight's "Shot."


COOPER: Coming up, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson traces one young man's journey from all-American kid to al Qaeda.

First, Joe Johns joins us with a "360 Bulletin."

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Britain has a new prime minister. The queen today named conservative leader David Cameron to the post just hours after Gordon Brown resigned and five days after a national election failed to identify a clear winner. Appearing outside 10 Downing Street, Cameron announced he plans to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Vice President Joe Biden raced to the hospital today, where his son was treated for what doctors called a mild stroke. Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is said to be in good spirits and talking to family tonight. Doctors expect the 41-year-old to make a full recovery.

And the Miss USA contest is under fire tonight after posting steamy photos of this year's hopefuls on its Web site. While some fans are upset, pageant officials defend the photos as tasteful and insist that the contestants are not afraid to be sexy.

Now, I've got to tell you, they've always had the bikini contest, haven't they? So what's the big deal?

COOPER: It's very brave of them not to be afraid to be sexy.

JOHNS: Yes, I know, I know. Now we need world peace. World peace.

COOPER: Joe, thanks very much.

This is a remarkable story. Recently, we've done a lot of reporting on the young man from Pakistan who became a naturalized U.S. citizen and who, investigators say, tried and failed to set off a car bomb in Times Square. You all know his story.

In fact, most of the attempts to cause a terrorist attack in this country came at the hands of people who were not born here but became citizens. But tonight, we bring you the story of a young man who was born, frankly, not far from where we are right now, here in New York. He grew up privileged and solidly middle class but who, in his late teens, concluded the most important thing for him to do was to join al Qaeda and towage war on the United States.

Now, before he was done, he met with the third highest-ranking member of al Qaeda and helped plan an attack on the busiest train station in the U.S.

Senior international correspondent has our special investigation.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Penn Station, it is the busiest train station in North America. It is one mile from Times Square, about two miles from ground zero and 50 miles from where Bryant Neal Vinas grew up in a middle-class suburb. It is also a target the young American would help al Qaeda try to attack.

Bryant grew up on this street on Long Island. He loves swimming, baseball and biking. He was a good student, an altar boy. Everything was right until, at age 14, his parents separated. For Bryant, it was traumatic. He got angry, disconnected from his family. It was the start of a dangerous journey.

For five years, the boy tried a lot of things. He joined the Army, then quit boot camp. He made new friends. In time, Bryant became fascinated with the Koran.

(on camera) His conversion was fast. He came to a mosque run by Tabliki Tomat (ph). Members are like Jehovah's Witnesses, spreading the word, looking for converts. They avoid politics.

(voice-over) And, although Tabliki Tomat (ph) is not considered a radical movement, counter-terrorism officials point out that its members passion can make some of them vulnerable to radical recruiters.

Bryant Neal Vinas had unwittingly taken another step on his path to al Qaeda.

ALEX ACEVEDO, FRIEND OF BRYANT NEAL VINAS: You could see it in his face, in his eyes, that he was more focused, more happy, more outgoing. There was no more playing softball, doing this and that. There was more praying.

ROBERTSON: But his vulnerability, plus his eagerness to absorb Islam, drew him into a new and more radical circle of friends, young men on Long Island with extremist Muslim views.

He connected with people like Ahmer Qayyum, who would soon move back to Pakistan. And Ahmed Surini (ph), who is front and center at protests in New York City staged by the Radical Islamic Thinker Society, a radical Islamist group.

Federal investigators believe this is about when Bryant's odyssey turned to ideas about jihad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see this flag here?

ROBERTSON: About wanting to fight the U.S.

MITCH SILBER, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: They're almost bug lights for aspiring jihadists. They're anti-western, anti-Democratic, anti-U.S., pro-al Qaeda message.

ROBERTSON: But the group is entirely legal.

SILBER: As much as the Islamist Thinkers Society might put out an extremist message, it seems they go right up to the line with the First Amendment.

ROBERTSON: Now, in his early 20s, Bryant is spending time with his radical new friends. His growing views also fueled by the Internet. He's on extremist sites for hours at a time.

(on camera) When Bryant was looking at this, what was he thinking?

ACEVEDO: It was telling him to get out. Get out of this country.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He grew convinced that the U.S. was behind the 9/11 attack and is an enemy of Islam. Alex Acevedo, a friend from high school, saw Bryant transforming.

ACEVEDO: Yes, there's a war against Islam.

ROBERTSON (on camera): This is what Bryant believed?

ACEVEDO: It's what Bryant believed. You know, he was always pissed off or was mad.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Soon, Bryant would give Alex the biggest clue yet to his intentions.

ACEVEDO: He's like, "I'll see you in your dreams." I didn't know what he was talking about. I was dumbfounded. And he just gave me a book. And the book was "Jihad."

ROBERTSON: The next day, Bryant was gone.

(on camera) On September 10, 2007, Bryant Neal Vinas flew from here in New York to Lahore, Pakistan. It had been five years since he had been a U.S. Army recruit, a little less since he converted from Catholic to Muslim. Now, he was on his way to Afghanistan to attack U.S. troops.

(voice-over) Bryant can't do it alone. He's never been there before. But one of his radical friends was returning to his home in Pakistan, which is where we tracked him down.

AHMER QAYYUM, FRIEND OF BRYANT NEAL VINAS: We had planned to come back, like together, and but my flight got delayed. And he arrived in Lahore before me.

ROBERTSON: Qayyum claims Bryant tells him only that he had come to Pakistan to attend a religious school, a madrassa.

(on camera) U.S. security officials tell us they believe not only did Qayyum know about Bryant's plans to fight U.S. troops but also helps him hook up with contacts here in Pakistan who can introduce them to militants on the border with Afghanistan, the land of the Taliban and al Qaeda. Qayyum denies this.

SILBER: At the least, it seems like he was involved with military actions, a little action out there.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): He actually joins militants on a mission targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

SILBER: We've almost called him the Forrest Gump of the jihad, in the sense that he seems to find this way to get himself involved in operations or attacks that seem way beyond a 20-some-odd convert from Long Island should be involved in.

ROBERTSON (on camera): He was resourceful and persistent. Bryant made a number of zigs and zags between Taliban militants here in Pakistan. He even volunteered to become a suicide bomber.

But what he really wanted to do was connect with al Qaeda. He was determined. He disguised himself as a woman, dressed in a burka, and set off alone to find the al Qaeda camps.


COOPER: It's unbelievable.

Next -- coming up next, part three. Bryant Neal Vinas becomes an American al Qaeda and sets his sight on his homeland. The secret plot this homegrown terrorist planned to set in motion just in time for the holidays.

Also tonight, coming up, from the Craig's List classified to a deadly home invasion. Why prosecutors are calling one family's nightmare a cautionary tale for all of us. Tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report ahead.


COOPER: Continuing the story of the young man's path to jihad against his own country. Angry, alienated, he travels to Afghanistan to target U.S. troops. But his dreams of punishing America didn't stop there.

Here's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): It took months. Suspicious militants nearly killed him, but by extreme perseverance, the young man from Long Island made his way to a mud-wall building in the parched hills of Pakistan's lawless border region, where he was at last welcomed by al Qaeda leaders. Bryant Neal Vinas spent a year in Pakistan. He was 25 when he joins other al Qaeda fighters to launch a rocket attack on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. We know from court documents Bryant was disappointed because they failed. One rocket fell short, and they did not launch another.

But al Qaeda didn't want him just as any fighter. They had other special ideas.

SILBER: Here's an individual, not only has he spent a lot of time in the west, but he's got a U.S. passport and also, from just physical appearance, he certainly doesn't look like he's an Arab or south Asian. So if you're al Qaeda thinking that -- you're looking to potentially get around customs or some type of security regimen in the west, here's an individual who has a lot of appeal to you, who's just sort of shown up on your doorstep.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Somewhere on this timeline, and they won't tell us exactly where, U.S. intelligence agencies began tracking Bryant. What we do know is that he left the safety of the al Qaeda camps and territories here in Pakistan and traveled to Peshawar. He was detained and swiftly transported to the United States and then secretly taken to a Brooklyn courthouse.

(voice-over) Bryant would plead guilty to three charges, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals. Counter-terrorism officials tell us he has given the FBI more than 100 interviews and has proved what they call priceless information for targeting al Qaeda and the Taliban. We know details Bryant has revealed have been crucial in helping the U.S. direct its unmanned drones to find and take out al Qaeda targets.

(on camera) Bryant Neal Vinas was intelligent and inquisitive. But he was vulnerable and ultimately gullible. And that was his downfall. He bought into hollow conspiracy theories, was easily radicalized. By the time he was captured, he'd already tried to kill his own countrymen.

His story challenges the jihadist stereotype. But perhaps more importantly, it reveals that homegrown radicalization is taking root.

SILBER: I'm sure he's not the last homegrown jihadist from the United States.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): finally, we also know this. Bryant Neal Vinas, the middle-class boy who grew up an hour from Penn Station, also told investigators he had talked with al Qaeda about attacking the Long Island Railroad that terminates here at Penn Station. Officials reacted swiftly and stepped up security here just in time for Thanksgiving 2008.


COOPER: Nic, this guy, Bryant Neal Vinas, he's now providing American interrogators with information, and the information I've read is so specific that they're actually able to use it to help target al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. How did they do that? I mean, how did they get him? You know, the guy who tried to blow up Times Square, and just like the guy who tried to blow up Times Square, how did they get him to turn around and talk so openly so quickly?

ROBERTSON: Well, one of the things is that these guys believe that what they're doing is important. They like being the center of attention. They think that they were doing something important for their religion.

And what we heard about, Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, when he was picked up on the plane at the airport there, he said to the people who came to arrest him, "Hey, are you the FBI or the NYPD?" It was border cops in the end, but you know, he was sort of already thinking through engaging with these people. There's an element about these characters: they want to tell about what they've done. They want to brag about it. It's just how the investigators connect with them, to make them do that and let them open up. They want to talk about it. They want to brag.

COOPER: Nic, great reporting. I know the investigation was nearly a year in the making. Thanks, Nic.

Just ahead, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus joins us to talk about her new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And they spelled her name wrong, if you can believe it. A funny conversation ahead.

Plus, new details in a Craig's List murder of crime authorities are calling a cautionary tale for anyone who posts an ad on the Internet.


COOPER: Three men and one woman are charged in the murder of a Washington state man, shot dead in his own home, in front of his own family. The prosecutor is calling the brazen crime a cautionary tale. The victim, James Sanders, had advertised a diamond ring for sale on Craigslist, but he never imagined killers would come calling.

Here's Dan Simon with tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Charlene Sanders relives the moment, a nightmare from two weeks ago.

CHARLENE SANDERS, WIFE: We were saying the whole time, "Please, just take what you want, take what you want. Just don't kill us. Don't kills us. and I had a gun at the back of my head with the countdown, "3, 2." And I'm screaming, and my kids are standing there. And I'm like, "Oh, please, God, don't let them kill me in front of my kids. Don't let them kill me in front of my kids."

SIMON: All this over a simple diamond ring, just one of thousands of classified ads you can find every day on Craig's List. Jim Sanders thought he had a potential buyer for the ring. Police say this woman, 21-year-old Amanda Knight, arrived at his home outside of Seattle, claiming she was looking for a possible Mother's Day present. Charlene Sanders told NBC's "Today Show" that night that a man posing as her husband entered the house, then pulled a gun.

SANDERS: Then I just started rushing around, and my husband was with me, started panicking and saying, "Just take it. Take it. Take anything you want. Just don't hurt us. Don't hurt us."

SIMON: Sanders says two more men raced in the house, and things got violent.

SANDERS: Then I had a man came over to me with a gun in the back of my head, saying, "Where's the stuff? Where's the stuff?"

I'm like, "What stuff?"

"Where's the safe?" And, you know, just continually just screaming. And, you know, at one point he kicked me in my head.

SIMON: Then the beating moved to the kids.

ED TROYER, PIERCE COUNTY SHERIFF'S SPOKESMAN: Once they got in there, they hit one of the boys and hurt him. Dad intervened. One of the other boys was able to call 911 and tell us what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad has been shot. Please hurry. We don't know if they're going to come back.

SIMON: Police are investigating whether the same group is involved in another recent home invasion. In that instance, the victim was selling a flat-screen TV, also on Craigslist. The Web site has been linked to a wide range of crimes, from petty theft to homicides.

(on camera) In a January editorial, "he Los Angeles Times" wrote that Craigslist popularity makes it attractive to seamy elements of society.

Craigslist told us that violent crime linked to its site is extremely rare but wants to urge its users to take the same common- sense precautions online that they would use offline.

(voice-over) As for the case near Seattle, the four suspects have been charged with first-degree murder and have pleaded not guilty.

The victim, Jim Sanders, worked in construction. His co-workers drove a procession of trucks in his honor as his community said good- bye.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


COOPER: Coming up, we'll take a quick look at some other headlines we're following, and we'll change gears and make you smile before going to bed. We'll talk to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose name was spelled wrong on her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COOPER: Tonight's "Shot," actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently received a star on Hollywood's legendary Walk of Fame. It's a huge milestone, obviously, for her, but just hours before the ceremony honoring her, CNN producer David Daniel spotted a typo in her newly- engraved star. That's right: they actually misspelled her name. Fame, shmame.

David took this photo, notified the people in charge. They came up with a temporary fix in time for the dedication. It all worked out, Julia Louis-Dreyfus joins me now.

Congratulations, though I'm sorry it sort of happened in this way. How did you find out that your name had been misspelled?

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTRESS: I found out -- I was getting ready to come out for the big ceremony, and my publicist called me with a very worried and shaky voice. And she says, "I have something to tell you."

And I, for some reason, immediately intuited what it was. And I said, "Oh, my God, they spelled my name wrong." And they had, in fact. And...

COOPER: Has this been a lifelong problem?

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yes, indeed it has. I imagine you don't have that problem with Cooper or Anderson.

COOPER: I get a lot of Cooper Anderson. You know, they reverse the name. So you -- do you have the old messed-up star?

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Oh, yes. I have this. it's just -- can you see it? This just came into my possession about an hour ago. It's the "Luis" of Julia Luis-Dreyfus, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, as a matter of fact.

COOPER: I heard you called this the ideal metaphor for how the -- this business works. Explain that.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Well, it is. It's a wonderful metaphor. And it's perfectly apt. You know, I mean, show business is a tricky thing. And all of a sudden, you think you've made it. And all of a sudden, you haven't.

So I think that's what this -- what this sort of symbolizes. I think it's absolutely marvelous. And I was hoping that they could keep the messed-up star for the ceremony, because it would have been such fun to get down on my hands and knees and used a Sharpie and try to fix it. Anyway, no such luck.

COOPER: You're in good company, though. I understand that the last time this happened was to Dick Van Dyke. LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yes. One only can imagine how they misspelled his name.

COOPER: Do you have any -- do you have any special plans for the "Luis"?

LOUIS-DREYFUS: For the what? I'm so sorry. For this?

COOPER: Do you have any special plans for this? Yes.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Yes, yes. I'm going to frame it beautifully, and I'm going to hang it above my fireplace. How can I not? Look at it. It's a dream come true. Isn't it?

COOPER: Well, you've really made it. You are a star.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Thank you. I feel like one for sure.

COOPER: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

LOUIS-DREYFUS: Thank you. Thank you.


COOPER: She's fun to play along.

Serious stuff at the top of the hour. The latest news. Oil company executives passing the buck, playing the blame game on the Gulf oil spill. We're "Keeping Them Honest."