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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Inside New Border Drug Tunnel; WikiLeaks Founder Wanted on Sex Crimes Charges; Pentagon Releases Report on Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy
Aired November 30, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching, everyone.
A lot happening tonight, two stories breaking at this hour. We're along the U.S./Mexico border near San Diego -- right over there is Mexico -- where authorities have discovered a drug tunnel that, frankly, boggles the mind. They have just now opened it up for us. We're the first reporters to get into the tunnel. We're going to show it to you in a m.
Also tonight: an arrest warrant for the man behind WikiLeaks. Julian Assange is now on Interpol's most wanted list on sex crime charges. In an interview today from an unknown location, he said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should resign. The U.S. is looking at possible charges against him for espionage, but, tonight, the search is on for him. We will have the very latest on that.
Plus, that new Pentagon report on ending don't ask, don't tell, see what the troops say about serving with openly gay comrades, about showering with them, living with them, and what both sides of this long and bitter fight say about the report this evening.
We begin, though, tonight with breaking news, with an exclusive look incited the drug tunnel recently discovered between the U.S./Mexico border. It was discovered on Thanksgiving, but just opened up for us by authorities on both sides of the border this evening.
We have been around here before, shown you some incredibly sophisticated tunnels, but nothing quite like the one we're about to show you. For one thing, it has its own rail network. For another, when the San Diego Joint Tunnel Task Force located it, they also nabbed eight people and more than 20 tons -- that's 20 tons -- of pot.
There are two entrances here in Otay Mesa in two warehouses. But we enter the tunnel, as the drug traffickers did, on the Mexican side of the border in a nondescript house on a quiet residential street.
COOPER: From the outside, it looks like just an ordinary two- story house in a residential neighborhood here in Tijuana. Across the street, a couple hundred yards away, is the U.S./Mexico border, on the U.S. side, San Diego and Otay Mesa. As soon as you enter the house, you enter into the kitchen, you realize nothing is really what it seems. This is not just a normal residential kitchen. First of all, there's big pylons of wood that would be used to -- to shore up the -- the tunnel below.
But in two of the rooms right off the kitchen, you find these sandbags, hundreds of them. It's two rooms piled floor to ceiling, sandbags filled with dirt and soil. This is the overflow soil that was dug out of the tunnel. The traffickers would be concerned about people in the neighborhood seeing them removing soil from the house.
It's about 80 or 90 feet from the kitchen, from the entrance down this ladder to the actual entrance to the -- the tunnel. What's remarkable about this tunnel, according to authorities, is, check out the walls. They have put cinder block to shore up the walls here. So, they have really invested a lot of time and a lot of money, perhaps even more than $1 million, maybe even $2 million, in order to build this tunnel.
It might have taken them as much as a year. But I have never seen -- I have been in two of these tunnels now, two of the -- the sophisticated tunnels over the last couple years. I have never seen cinder block walls used like this used to actually shore up any part of the tunnel.
And then the other thing that's fascinating about this tunnel is, not only is there some electricity, so there's actually lighting through -- that, we have seen in a number of very sophisticated tunnels. And you can see the actual -- the electrical cables running through.
Some tunnels sometimes have even phone systems, telephones. This one doesn't have a telephone, but what this does have, which, again, I have never seen before and authorities say is another sign of just how sophisticated this is, are these carts. They actually have put in an entire rail system with these pushcarts that you could load drugs on and just push down -- down the rails.
There's one cart here, and there's one already further down. Let's go in. So, there's actually -- I didn't realize that there's three carts here. This is the second one.
And you can see again, they really spent a lot of time shoring up these walls. Usually, you will see -- you will still see the -- the -- the actual stone wall or the -- the dirt wall of the tunnel, with just a few pieces of wood.
But this is -- this is a solid wall of wood that they have created. And, basically, it's as far as the eye can see down. That's always a fear when your -- when the drug traffickers are digging these tunnels, that the tunnels may actually collapse on them.
Again, this tunnel goes about half-a-mile underground, all the way to the U.S. side of the border. It's about the size of seven football fields. Authorities believed it was built by the Sinaloa cartel, one of the major drug trafficking cartels operating in Mexico. On the U.S. side, the tunnel, as it gets closer and closer to the exit point in San Diego, it actually gets a lot smaller. So, what was probably four-and-a-half feet is now maybe -- well, about three-and-a- half feet. So, it gets harder and harder. There's still a track all the way -- the track which you saw start in Mexico continues all the way through to the U.S.
But, if you notice the walls here, they don't have the same kind of structural support that they did on the Mexico side. U.S. authorities believe that, as they started to get underneath U.S. territory, started getting closer to their destination, perhaps they grew more impatient, didn't want to make a lot of noise, so they didn't spend a lot of time shoring up the sides of these walls.
And about half-a-mile from where the tunnel began, in that house in Mexico, we come to just about the end of the tunnel here. We're still about 70 feet below ground at this point. But this is a large room that was created that they carved out of the earth.
You can see all the -- the jackhammer markings here. It's still only about -- maybe this is about four feet tall. This is the widest part of the tunnel that we have seen. It's about 15-feet wide. Found a lot of equipment here. There's a -- an old hoe. Here's a drill that was used by the traffickers, all part of the equipment, and all these sandbags, of course, empty sandbags which they would use, fill up with soil, and then cart the soil back to the Mexico side.
But, for U.S. authorities, of most interest, what they found in this large room was three tons of marijuana found in this room, as well as in bundles a little bit further up.
The tunnel begins to move upward toward the surface in these very large steps that have been just basically hewn out of the -- the rock and soil. It's a very steep climb, climbing about 70 feet from that big room downstairs to -- to an area. We're about -- probably about now 10 feet or so away from the street level.
And it just goes straight up. There's actually an area where you can stand up for the first time fully upright. And if you look up right up here, that's actually the bottom of a sidewalk right outside this warehouse in San Diego. So we're very close now to the surface, to the ground.
And then the -- this is the hole, the concrete flooring. And I will show you where we are.
This is where the tunnel emerges on the U.S. side. This is a warehouse in Otay Mesa. When they discovered this tunnel, it was just covered -- the hole was covered with this piece of -- of Sheetrock. And there were these pallets filled with fruits and oranges and stuff, just in case somebody came by to see if this was a legitimate warehouse.
It's not much of a cover, but it's amazing. When you drive by this warehouse, you would never know that this is the place where one of the most sophisticated drug tunnels they found emerges.
COOPER: Well, I'm joined now by Michael Unzueta from ICE.
It's a remarkable thing, that you guys discovered this. This was a joint effort by -- by the Tunnel Task Force, which is made up of whom?
MICHAEL UNZUETA, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS: Right.
Our San Diego Tunnel Task Force is made up of agents from ICE, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Border Patrol.
COOPER: And you -- there's a lot of sophisticated equipment you use, but, basically, you found this tunnel based on a tip, right?
UNZUETA: Yes. This was a really good tip that really paid off.
We got a phone call saying that a truck would be picking up a load of dope at a warehouse. We had a number of warehouses on the Otay Mesa under surveillance. And, luckily, on Thanksgiving Day, the information matched with what we were seeing. And, lo and behold, we found the -- the tunnel that you just were in.
COOPER: And you found the three -- three tons of marijuana inside the tunnel. Another five tons, Mexican authorities found on a ranch that's associated with this tunnel. And then the vehicle that you guys were following had -- had, what -- had -- had a lot as well, right?
UNZUETA: Yes. The tractor trailer that we followed away from the tunnel had about 28,000 pounds of marijuana in it.
COOPER: So, we're talking about more than 20 tons of marijuana totally, probably, seized from this one tunnel.
UNZUETA: Right, close to 21 tons.
COOPER: That's incredible.
UNZUETA: It's a very significant seizure for us. It's a very significant case.
COOPER: And you had another very sophisticated another tunnel that you found, a little bit smaller than this, back on November 2. So, you found two major tunnels in this -- in the month of November.
UNZUETA: Two in less than 30 days, and, obviously, the work of a major drug cartel.
COOPER: The most likely, you think, the Sinaloa cartel?
UNZUETA: Yes. From what we have been able to piece together, the intelligence that we're getting, the information that we have been working on in our investigation, we believe this is the work of the Sinaloa cartel.
COOPER: They -- they weren't always operating in Tijuana, were they? They have -- they have sort of moved into this area.
UNZUETA: No, they have kind of moved in. Before, we had the Arellano-Felix organization. And, of course, DEA has been working that case and that target for a number of years, pretty much dismantling them.
But, unfortunately, the downside of that is, now you have another drug cartel that's trying to influence and move into the area.
COOPER: Do you get the sense that -- I mean, there must be other tunnels being dug. Do you think there are other tunnels being dug right now?
UNZUETA: Well, that's actually what our Tunnel Task Force does. I mean, the minute we find one of these things, we're working on the information coming in and trying to locate the next one, before it turns into the level of sophistication that we saw in this one.
COOPER: Do the -- do the people who own these warehouses on the U.S. side, I mean, do they know what's going on? Do they just kind of turn a blind eye? Or are -- or are they fooled as well?
UNZUETA: Well, by and large, they're, for the most part, absentee owners. But that's one of the things that we actually launched three days before we found this tunnel, was an outreach to the Otay Mesa community and trying to get the business owners on board with us in providing us another set of eyes and ears.
COOPER: I mean, we have -- we have visited two of these tunnels in -- in past years. You have seen a lot. Do you -- do you -- are you always surprised by just the level of sophistication? The fact that they had a railway in this thing, it's pretty amazing.
UNZUETA: Yes. Every time I have been in one, I have been surprised by the uniqueness of the tunnel, the construction, the amount of ingenuity that goes into digging these things, into building them, and the investment in time and resource. It's -- it's just very obvious that these cartels will do absolutely everything they can to guarantee their bottom line.
COOPER: And even if it costs $1 million for this tunnel or $2 million, and took a year or nine months or whatever, it's a drop in the bucket for these cartels. They were -- they were even probably doing multiple tunnels at once.
UNZUETA: And the hope for them is that they are going to get the return on investment. And the hope for us is that we're going to catch them in the process of being built or as soon as they're opened up.
Well, a lot of great people were working really hard on this. I'm sure they ruined a lot of people's Thanksgiving. But it was a good day.
UNZUETA: It did.
UNZUETA: But it was fun for everybody.
UNZUETA: And we had a good time with it.
UNZUETA: And the work is just beginning now.
COOPER: Well, I appreciate all the folks from ICE and the Tunnel Task Force letting us into the tunnel.
UNZUETA: Thank you.
COOPER: Michael, thank you very much. Michael Unzueta, thanks.
Let us know what you think. You can join the live chat right now at AC360.com.
More from the border here ahead in the program, including an electronic virtual fence. Remember a lot of politicians talking about the virtual fence? It's supposed to be protecting a big chunk of it by now. You have already paid nearly $1 billion for it. The whole thing was supposed to be up and running last year. Instead, it's barely built, barely works. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And next: what the troops think about ending don't ask, don't tell. The new report is out. Details ahead -- when we continue.
COOPER: We're here on the Mexican border, but you can feel the shockwaves all the way from Washington. They're coming from a Pentagon report on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military that could make history.
It's the product of nine months of work, researchers soliciting the views of 400,000 service members, getting about a 28 percent response rate, which they say is average for the military. They conducted 140 focus groups, 95 town-hall style forums, interviewing commanders, and top brass, as well as members of Congress, gathering the views of friends and allies, as well as supporters and opponents of repealing don't ask, don't tell.
The bottom line, according to the report, 70 percent of the troops surveyed say repeal would be either positive, mixed or make little difference at all. Thirty percent were opposed, about the same percentage as American civilians. Marines and special forces members registering higher negatives, 40 percent to 60 percent. The report also noted a number of religious and morally based objections to homosexuality.
That said, when asked about serving in a unit with someone they believe to be gay or lesbian, 92 percent the unit's ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor.
The study recommended no housing or living changes. Critics have raised concerns about gays and straights showering together, that gay men and lesbians would act as predators. The authors concluding the report -- the report said the concerns that they heard were -- quote -- "based on stereotypes" and pointed to their survey results showing that 50 percent recognized they already have had the experience of sharing bathroom facilities with someone they believed to be gay.
The report also quoted one gay service member who said that, in order to fit in, gay men have learned to avoid making heterosexuals feel uncomfortable or threatened in these situations.
President Obama tonight praising the report, he and his defense secretary urging lawmakers to take action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The legislation presently before the Congress would authorize a repeal of the don't ask, don't tell, pending a certification by the president, secretary of defense, and the chairman. It would not harm military readiness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He went on to say it would be unwise, in his view, to push full implementation of repeal until more can be done to prepare certain specialized units.
The secretary also taking issue with critics of the study, singling out Senator John McCain. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GATES: I think that, in this respect, and I obviously have a lot of admiration and respect for Senator McCain, but in this respect, I think that he's mistaken. I think this report does provide a sound basis for making decisions on this law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's talk about the "Raw Politics" with former Clinton White House legal adviser on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, Richard Socarides, also Nancy Pfotenhauer, president of Media Speaks Strategies and former senior adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign.
Richard, what about this Pentagon review? I mean, it was obviously very comprehensive, very detailed. What happens now?
RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, I think, you know, first of all, today was really an extraordinary day in the history of this. We had for the first time this nine-month, comprehensive, impartial study done by the Pentagon, and endorsed by Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen, which said not only was this the right thing to do, but that it could be done seamlessly, that it would have no negative adverse consequences to the military, and, in fact, it would be a net positive in terms of national security, in terms of military effectiveness, in terms of the integrity of the force.
So, I think, you know, we should just understand what an important thing this was today in the -- in the history of trying to get this repealed.
What we're going to look at next is, there are going to be hearings on Thursday and Friday. And then there's going to be a vote, probably next week. And it will be up to the Senate. You know, this -- this repeal has already passed the House. So, it will be up to the Senate to decide whether or not this will go forward.
And -- and the concern, of course, now is that, because they have these Senate procedural rules where any one senator, or certainly a group of Republican senators, can block forward movement, that a procedural hurdle will be thrown in -- in front of this.
Nancy, you oppose repealing don't ask, don't tell. What do you make of the fact that 70 percent of the service members surveyed apparently don't have a problem with getting rid of the policy?
NANCY PFOTENHAUER, FORMER ADVISER TO MCCAIN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, I think there -- that it will take a couple of days to peel back the layers on this survey, because, obviously, the -- some of the questions are about how the entire thing was framed.
But the most important judgment is, does this help or hinder our military effectiveness? And, on that one, the jury is still out. I mean, the most important arbiters of this are the four service leaders. So, whether you're looking at -- you know, the Marines or the Air Force or the Army or the Navy, do they believe that this will improve our combat effectiveness?
SOCARIDES: I mean...
PFOTENHAUER: Not one of the four has endorsed this.
Not only that. The percentage...
The percentage of people who are the most concerned about this are the people who are in combat situations. So, you have got Marines and Army...
COOPER: So, you're discounting -- you're discounting Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint -- you're discounting, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Bob Gates?
PFOTENHAUER: No, I'm not -- I'm not discounting. I'm saying -- I'm -- I'm not discounting.
What I'm saying is, the -- the people charged with offering independent, objective views of combat readiness are the heads of the four -- the four service leaders. Not a single one of them has endorsed it. The Marine commandant has raised serious concerns.
SOCARIDES: Well, we're going to -- we're going to see -- we're going to see -- we're going to...
PFOTENHAUER: And so have the people in combat.
SOCARIDES: Nancy -- Nancy, we're going to see, you know, later this week...
Richard, what about that?
SOCARIDES: I mean, we're going to see, Anderson and Nancy, later this week exactly what the -- the -- what the service chiefs have to say.
But I think you -- I think -- I don't understand how anybody could say, after this most comprehensive study -- I mean, there have been lots of -- there have already been 22 studies of this, and this is the most comprehensive, the most impartial study of this, which has -- which found, you know, conclusively, that there would be no issues, that -- that -- that service members supported this.
So, I don't see how anybody could say that there's -- that -- that -- that there's any -- there's no dispute left here.
What I fear is that senators...
PFOTENHAUER: No, that's not true.
SOCARIDES: No, that is definitely -- there -- there -- there's no...
PFOTENHAUER: That's just not true.
SOCARIDES: That -- all of the arguments against this repeal have fallen away. There is nothing left.
(CROSSTALK) SOCARIDES: I fear that what John McCain is doing right now is, he's trying to re-litigate the election, unfortunately. And he is just standing in the way of this...
PFOTENHAUER: Well, that -- that's...
SOCARIDES: ... because the Republicans see this as a win for Obama.
But let me tell you...
PFOTENHAUER: No, no, no, that's incredibly disrespectful...
SOCARIDES: ... this is not a win for Obama.
PFOTENHAUER: ... of someone...
COOPER: Well, Nancy...
PFOTENHAUER: ... who has actually served in combat.
PFOTENHAUER: And you must distinguish between the opinion of people who sit behind desks and the people who are fighting and dying for us.
SOCARIDES: Listen -- listen, I have a lot of -- I have a lot of respect -- listen...
PFOTENHAUER: Those individuals have raised serious concerns.
SOCARIDES: Listen, I...
PFOTENHAUER: And we should listen to those.
SOCARIDES: I have a lot of respect for Senator McCain.
PFOTENHAUER: This is about politics and the lame-duck section -- session.
SOCARIDES: The senator -- but...
PFOTENHAUER: The only reason...
SOCARIDES: Well, it is about politics.
PFOTENHAUER: ... to be doing this now, when we -- when we have got -- when we're fighting two wars is because of politics.
Now, we understand politics. Politics matters. But it should not trump concerns about military effectiveness.
COOPER: OK, Nancy, got it. Richard, I want you to be able to respond.
SOCARIDES: Unfortunately, it is about politics. And it's about...
SOCARIDES: It's -- it -- we -- what -- what Senator McCain has to realize is that the time for this has come.
So, I think, Nancy, I would urge you -- I mean, I have a lot of respect for him, too. His position on this keeps shifting. First, he wanted to hear from the military. Then, when the military said it was the right thing to do, he wanted a study. When the study said it was the right thing to do, now he wants another study.
I mean, there is no escaping that he is just being contrary on this, because he doesn't want to see President Obama, you know, have some kind of win on this.
SOCARIDES: But this will not be a win for President Obama. This will be a win for basic American fairness, for the -- and for the Constitution.
And I -- I -- you know, people who care about this ought to call Senator McCain and call the other Republicans, Senator Collins, Senator Snowe, who are very crucial to this right now...
COOPER: We have got to leave it there.
SOCARIDES: ... and urge them to do the fair and right thing.
PFOTENHAUER: Senator McCain has always said he wanted to hear from the four service leaders. Not a single one of them has endorsed moving forward at this time, when we're fighting two wars.
PFOTENHAUER: There's just no reason to implement this now, except for a lame-duck session.
COOPER: That's actually not what he said -- that's actually not what he said back in 2000 -- right. That's actually not what he said, actually, in 2006. He said -- he talked about military leadership. He didn't cite the four -- you know, he didn't discount...
PFOTENHAUER: Well, he has also cited the four...
COOPER: ... the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He didn't discount the secretary of defense.
PFOTENHAUER: Well, he has also cited the four service leaders. COOPER: Not -- not back in 2006, but now he has.
PFOTENHAUER: And -- and, frankly, I would like to hear from them, I mean, when we have not seen a single one of them endorse this, and when -- when we have got...
SOCARIDES: Look, we're going to hear from them.
PFOTENHAUER: ... at least one out front...
PFOTENHAUER: ... raising concerns.
SOCARIDES: And do you think if -- if we hear from them...
COOPER: We have got to -- we have got to...
SOCARIDES: If we hear from them Friday, will it then be OK...
SOCARIDES: ... if we hear from them Friday, and they say we can go forward?
PFOTENHAUER: I -- I would personally feel a lot...
SOCARIDES: Because I think that's what they will say.
PFOTENHAUER: I -- I would...
SOCARIDES: I think what they will say on Friday is that we can go forward, that this is doable, that -- that there may be some objections, but it's the right thing to do and that it's the right thing for the military.
PFOTENHAUER: If it's the right -- if it's the right...
SOCARIDES: So, will Senator McCain agree then?
COOPER: We will wait. We will wait. We have got to wait and see until Friday.
COOPER: And we're out of time, guys. I'm sorry.
PFOTENHAUER: OK. Thank you.
COOPER: Nancy Pfotenhauer, appreciate your time, Richard Socarides as well. Up next, we're going to tell you what happened at the trial of Elizabeth Smart's alleged kidnapper that landed the defendant on a stretcher.
Also ahead: Another -- another danged fence, this one supposed to protect the border electronically, the virtual fence, remember? President Bush talked about it. Obama has talked about it. Wouldn't it be nice if it actually worked?
We're "Keeping Them Honest."
COOPER: Coming up: Remember all that talk about a virtual fence, a lofty plan to have the U.S. border protected by a high-tech fence to all but stop illegal immigration? That was the promise. Four years, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars later, where is the fence? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
But, first, Randi Kaye joins us with the 360 bulletin -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the father of three missing Michigan boys was arrested today, charged with parental kidnapping. John Skelton was arrested after he was released from a mental health facility following a suicide attempt. He said he left his sons with a woman the morning before he tried to kill himself, and she was supposed to take them home. Investigators haven't found the children and say they don't expect a positive outcome.
The federal trial in Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping was delayed today after the man accused of the crime apparently had a seizure. Brian David Mitchell was carried out of the courtroom on a stretcher. The trial will reportedly resume again tomorrow.
And a 71-year-old retired electrician who says he worked for Picasso has revealed that he has 271 previously unknown works by the artist. But there's a lawsuit now over how he actually got them. The man's lawyer says Picasso's widow gave them to him, but the family claims he stole them.
And, Anderson, I guess that none of these paintings were actually dated, and the family is saying...
KAYE: And the family is saying that they never should have left the studio.
COOPER: It's an amazing trove, though, more than 270 works. It's incredible.
Randi, time now for "The Shot." You're about to see one Bob Marley-loving baby.
COOPER: Not quite old enough to grow dreadlocks, he's more at the no-binky, no-cry stage. Check it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This demon child, as you can see, can only be soothed with one thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it the power of Jesus?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The power of reggae.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Isn't that amazing? I love that.
KAYE: He's got some rhythm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take that, Jesus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I -- I know. I -- like, I didn't believe it was real at first, but his reaction is so incredible. It's so great.
KAYE: It's like someone flipped a switch.
KAYE: He just goes right into the -- the -- the music.
COOPER: I know. Yes. First...
KAYE: Chilling out.
COOPER: Yes, first note to "Buffalo Soldier," and there he is.
All right, up next: It's the biggest tale of trickery involving a fence since Tom Sawyer, a total whitewash going on over a virtual fence that was supposed to make U.S. borders safer. All it's really done so far is cost nearly $1 billion of your tax dollars. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And breaking news: a new bombshell in the WikiLeaks scandal. And this has nothing to do with diplomat cables. It's about the founder of the Web site and a warrant for his arrest on alleged sex charges. We will tell you what's landed him on Interpol's most-wanted list tonight -- coming up.
COOPER: Welcome back. We're live tonight from just south of San Diego right along the U.S./Mexico border. That is Mexico just over my shoulder.
Tonight, what happens when a government agency and one of the biggest corporations in the world team up to build a virtual fence. Well, what happens is you get a lot of promises, a lot of bills and, in this case, not a whole lot of fence.
It was supposed to be the big fix in border security: a virtual fence, a high-tech system that would all but stop illegal immigration through surveillance, ground sensors, radar, the works. It was supposed to be in place in working order by now. The project started under President Bush back in 2006.
But four years, $850 million of taxpayer money later, the virtual fence is a virtual disaster, a huge waste of time and money, tied up in bureaucracy and a bloated contract between the Department of Homeland Security and Boeing. They both, apparently, bungled the project, but tonight we're "Keeping Them Honest."
Let's take a look at the plan. Boeing got the contract to build this virtual fence back in September of 2006. Now, according to a report by the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, just three months later the Department of Homeland Security said by the end of 2009 the entire northern and southern western borders of the U.S., a total of 6,000 miles, would be covered by the fence.
Well, late in 2008 that projection was scaled back, forgetting about the northern border for a while, and the new goal was to have just 656 miles of the southern border completed by mid-2011.
Well, here's what has actually been accomplished to date: a handful of cameras in the Great Lakes area in two small sections totaling 53 miles. Fifty-three miles of virtual fence in Arizona and even that is said to be not working all that well. One problem, the sensors have been known apparently to have been thrown off by things like tumbleweeds.
Now, as we said, President Bush started the program back in 2006 but the reported 90 percent of illegal immigrants who decide to cross the border actually eventually succeeding, building a better border security system has long been and still is a political brass ring. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must not, and we will not surrender our borders to those who wish to exploit our history of compassion and justice. We will make it tougher for illegal aliens to get into our country. GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to create a virtual fence that employs motion detectors and infrared cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles to detect and prevent illegal crossings. What I'm telling is that we're going to have a border that is smart and secure.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: What we're looking to build is a virtual fence, a 21st century virtual fence.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got to have stronger border surveillance and security. That is probably going to be more of a combination of virtual borders, virtual patrols.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was then-candidate Obama on the campaign trail. So why has the virtual fence turned into virtual unreality? Too many promises from Boeing, not enough oversight from the DHS. This is from a GAO report on the virtual fence, which homeland security calls the Security Border Initiative Network or SBInet.
Quote, "DHS has not effectively managed and overseen its SBInet prime contractor" -- that would be Boeing -- "thus resulting in costly reworking, contributing to SBInet's well-chronicled history of not delivering promised capabilities and benefits on time and within budget."
So what is Boeing saying after all these years and all the money? Believe it or not, in their official statement, they stand by their work. In part their statement reads "Boeing stands behind its work on the SBInet system as a reliable, effective border-security tool.
So what now? That's the question. Nearly $1 billion of your money into this thing. The DHS extended Boeing's contract until December 18 and had this to say about the future of the program: quote, "DHS is currently reviewing the independent, quantitative, science-based reassessment of the SBInet program. A way forward on the future of SBInet is expected shortly and will be fully briefed to Congress when ready."
Fred Burton is the VP at counterterrorism and corporate security for Stratfor, a global intelligence company. He's also the author of the best-selling "Ghosts: Confessions of a Counterterrorism agent."
He joins us live from Austin tonight.
And joining us live from Washington, California Congresswoman Democrat Loretta Sanchez. She's on the subcommittee on border security and, as former chair of that committee, has held countless hearings on this subject.
Welcome. Congresswoman Sanchez, you say that Customs and Border Patrol were not even consulted before work on this virtual fence began. How is it possible that people on the ground with the most experience on the border were never asked what they needed to make this happen? REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Absolutely, Anderson. The first contract that was let was what we called Project 28. The first 28 miles. It was supposed to be an operational, sort of the pilot project to test the different sensors and the cameras and everything.
Well, one of the pieces of the actual contract was that they could not go and talk to the Border Patrol to get their help. And actually, it's the Border Patrol that is using this, because even though you can put up a virtual fence, if it did work, you still need Border Patrol people to run it, to see it, to see what's coming across, to intercept people that you see on this virtual fence video game, if you will, and they weren't even allowed to discuss and weren't even asked about what they needed.
COOPER: That's so -- I mean, it makes no sense whatsoever. Fred, beyond the missteps of the program, you believe even if the technology worked like it's supposed to, you say this still wouldn't secure our border.
FRED BURTON, AUTHOR, "GHOSTS": No, it would not, Anderson. What we really need are more boots on the ground. There are not adequate resources being dispatched by either the U.S. Border Patrol or the National Guard to secure the border.
And without having the ability to respond to any kind of intrusion that would be observed under any kind of surveillance technology, you're going to have an intelligence failure and that person is going to get into the United States.
COOPER: Congresswoman Sanchez, I mean, is this thing -- are they still throwing money at this thing? Are they still -- this thing still continues to be funded, right?
SANCHEZ: To my knowledge they are. In fact, in I think it was 2008 I had nine hearings with respect just to this Project 28. And it's -- and then when that didn't work, they amplified that. They went and reworked that; they added more. It's still not a working system.
And here's some important things. The Border Patrol and others cannot tell us if -- if we even got something like that to work, if it would actually cut down on the boots on the ground or the Border Patrol that we need, or whether it increases the number we need or whether it decreases it because we have this technology.
What we do know is that our borders are very varied in terrain, in heat, in climate, et cetera. And so you really can't have a wall- to-wall force of boots on the ground. So we're trying to find other ways.
And this system was to try to help us to sort of move people who were coming across into corridors, if you will, where we would have our Border Patrol then waiting to get these people.
But it's also my -- my opinion, Anderson, that if we had a program that allowed people to come and work, if jobs were available, and Americans were not taking those jobs, already had enough jobs, if we had a visa program of some type that would allow workers to come, we would decrease the number of people who actually come across the border in this manner. And that would mean that the scarce resources we do have for homeland security could actually be put on those people who come across who mean to do us harm.
COOPER: Fred, I mean, that is obviously a nightmare scenario, terrorists sneaking across the southern border and carrying out some sort of an attack. It hasn't happened. Fred, do you think it's just a matter of time?
BURTON: Well, I think it's very feasible that it could happen. And I know, for example, in Texas there has been terrorists captured, Hezbollah, Hamas, even IRA. So in essence we already have that proof- of-concept model.
But at the end of the day, what is really needed are additional resources for the state and local cops doing the job, the Texas Rangers, Department of Public Safety, for example, in Texas. But we also need Washington to dispatch the proper number of Border Patrol agents or National Guard to adequately secure the border.
SANCHEZ: Well, let me just speak to that, because in the last five years we have increased our Border Patrol from 4,000 people to 20,000 people. Think about that. That is a big increase in that agency.
And the problem that we have is a problem that, for example, we saw when we went to Vietnam, where all of a sudden we had a lot of draftees in, and we were sending them over, but we didn't have the captains and the supervisors that had any experience.
And so one of the reasons we have sort of set back a little bit is we're trying to give people experience so that we can get those supervisors we need in the midlevel so that we don't have an agency that, you know, runs amok, if you will.
COOPER: Congresswoman Sanchez, I appreciate you being on tonight.
Fred Burton, as well. Thank you very much.
Up next, more breaking news, this time in the WikiLeaks case. Tonight, the Web site's leader has landed on Interpol's most wanted list. Details ahead; the search is on.
Plus the Slurpee summit, well, that lands on tonight's RidicuList. We'll show you why when 360 continues.
COOPER: More breaking news to tell you about tonight. Interpol has put WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on its most wanted list at the request of a Swedish court. It's issue an international warrant for his arrest in connection with alleged sex crimes. Assange has repeatedly called those accusations a smear campaign. When asked about them in a recent interview with CNN's Atika Shubert, he got up and walked out. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, I'm not, but what I want to ask is at one point you said it was a dirty tricks campaign.
JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: 'm going to walk if you're going to.
SHUBERT: So you don't want to address whether or not you feel this is an attack on WikiLeaks?
ASSANGE: It's completely disgusting.
SHUBERT: I'm asking whether or not you feel...
ASSANGE: I'm going to walk if you're going to contaminate us revealing the deaths of 104,000 people with attacks against my person.
SHUBERT: I'm not. What I'm asking is if you feel it's an attack on WikiLeaks.
SHUBERT: Julian, I'm happy to go onto -- in what sense? I have to ask that question, Julian.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mr. Assange is, of course, feeling intense heat tonight for reasons that have nothing to do with those sex charges. The Justice Department and the Pentagon have launched criminal investigations into WikiLeak's latest document dump. The Web site released thousands of classified diplomatic cables yesterday.
Assange is in hiding but still throwing darts. In a Skype interview today at an undisclosed location, he told "TIME" magazine that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should resign.
Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins me now.
Jeff, first let's talk about this Interpol thing. Even though Interpol put Assange on this wanted list, it does not actually mean they have the power to compel police to arrest him in any country around the world. Right?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. What this warrant means, it's called a red notice. It means that, if he arrives in any of these countries that Interpol is part of, and that's most of the civilized world, the local police in that country are to notify Sweden that he's here. He's in that country. And then Sweden can start the extradition proceedings to try to get him back to Sweden, but it's not like he shows up at an airport and he gets arrested.
COOPER: Is it likely, you think, or possible that the U.S. is going to press charges against him on espionage? And do you think it's possible they've already done something along those lines?
TOOBIN: Well, I don't know what the precise charges are, but certainly listening to Attorney General Holder, it seems to me almost certain that prosecutors have already gone to a American magistrate and said, "We have enough evidence to charge Assange with perhaps the Espionage Act, perhaps just unlawful -- unauthorized disclosure of classified information," and they would have a sealed arrest warrant. That is a secret arrest warrant that they could spring wherever they found him, including overseas, because we have collaborative relationships with a lot of other countries.
COOPER: You think they may have already done this?
TOOBIN: I absolutely think they might have already done that.
COOPER: And -- what, and how long can that remain secret? They basically would have -- it's a secret arrest warrant and then whenever he shows up someplace, they can, what, extradite him? Or try to extradite him?
TOOBIN: They can start the proceedings. It depends on which country. Extradition is a very complicated process and it varies country by country in terms of what crimes are extraditable, how long it takes.
But an arrest warrant that the government obtains, that's valid indefinitely until he's found. So, given the magnitude of these events and given how Assange has really rubbed the United States' nose in this, and the fact that the attorney general of the United States has gone on television and said, "We think he's committed criminal acts" I think it's inconceivable that there will not be criminal charges filed against him.
he question of whether they ask him and whether they can bring him back, that's a separate issue.
COOPER: What do you think of this guy? What do you think of what he's done and, I mean, his comments today about Hillary Clinton. What do you make of him?
TOOBIN: I mean, I think he's delusional. I think, you know, good intentions, if you can even acknowledge he has good intentions, are not an excuse for breaking the law on a grand scale. And the idea that he is doing this to further the cause of peace when he is undermining negotiations that we have around the world is just -- is just preposterous.
I think all of us who are journalists have a kind of instinctive sympathy for whistleblowers. We rely on people for leaks but this is so extravagant and so absurd and his claims about Hillary Clinton are so ridiculous that, I mean, he is well beyond sympathy from anyone I'm aware of.
COOPER: In this day and age, how easy is it for someone like that to disappear? He's got to surface some point pretty soon, I would imagine.
TOOBIN: You know what? I think it's hard to disappear. For one thing, he's a very recognizable figure around the world now. I think lots and lots of people know what he looks like.
And for example, today there was a report that Ecuador had offered him safe haven. But think about. He was in England recently. What's he going to do, go to Heathrow Airport and say, "Get me on the next plane to Ecuador"? It's a lot more complicate then that.
And certainly, in a country like England, which has a very close law-enforcement relationship with the United States, I think he's a hunted man. And -- and I cannot imagine he will disappear for long. And I think he's going to be facing charges in Sweden, in the United States, elsewhere, sooner rather than later.
COOPER: What do you think of the possibilities that he's being set up on these charges? I mean, that's basically what this is saying. He's saying this is sort of a smear campaign.
TOOBIN: He set himself up. I mean, the -- it's not exactly like he's kept it a secret that -- that he has obtained classified information from the United States.
Now, in fairness, I think this would be something less than an open-and-shut case, because even though he is the spokesman for WikiLeaks, we don't know how these documents got to him. There is the Private First Class Manning, who has been arrested. But we don't know whether he's the source of all these documents. We don't know what his relationship is to Assange.
So the mechanics of this, are very much unknown. But whether he's going to be arrested, I think that's a pretty safe bet at this point.
COOPER: All right. Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.
Coming up, new announcement from the Department of Homeland Security that affects all passengers flying within the United States. What does this mean for you and your safety? We'll have details on that ahead.
And why the latest political summit between the president and congressional leaders is our latest addition to the RidicuList. Here's a hint, it could give you a brain freeze.
COOPER: A lot more happening tonight. Randi Kaye joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT
COOPER: Anderson, word today that nine years after the 9/11 attacks, all airline passengers are finally being screened against no- fly lists before getting their boarding passes. That was a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.
The Senate failed to advance a bill today that would have extended the deadline to file for unemployment insurance through next year. Two million jobless Americans will be affected. Their benefits will run out if Congress does not act.
Finally, to Washington state, and you might as well call him Mr. Potato head. It's all Chris Voight has been stuffing into his face for the last two months. While on this diet, he lost 21 pounds and his cholesterol level actually dropped 67 points.
Mr. Voight is also head of the Washington State Potato Commission.
Imagine that. He went on the all-spud diet to draw attention to a federal proposal to bar or limit potatoes in some food programs. I guess it worked. And these are regular potatoes, not sweet potatoes.
COOPER: I don't know about that. Well, sweet potatoes are supposedly very good. Anyway, I digress.
Time now for another name to add to the RidicuList, our nightly list of stuff that is kind of silly or ridiculous. Tonight the honor goes to the Slurpee summit. Maybe the summit's fate was sealed from the start, after it began as a quip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to ask you if you're going to have John Boehner over for a Slurpee, but I have a serious question.
OBAMA: They're delicious drinks. The Slurpee summit. That's good. I like it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, used to be that a summit actually meant something. Yalta in 1945, for example, when Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met to hammer out a post-World War II Europe. The meeting lasted seven days.
Or how about Camp David Accords in '78? They were signed by the presidents of Egypt and Israel after 12 days of secret negotiations at Camp David.
Well, in 2010 we have beer and Slurpee summits. Today's meeting of the minds lasted barely two hours. President Obama invited eight top congressional leaders from both parties. The vice president, the treasury secretary, the budget director were also there.
A lot of pictures were taken, and in the end they basically agreed to keep talking about everything they disagree on. Here's what Representative John Boehner, the presumptive new House speaker, said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: There's a reason why we have Democrats and Republicans. We believe in different things about the appropriate role of the federal government.
But having said that, the more time that we do spend together, we can find the common ground, because the American people expect us to come here and work on their behalf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's right. Work to create more jobs, to fix the economy. Big stuff, that.
Now, to be fair, no one really expected them to solve these problems in two hours, but agree to talk about their disagreements? Doesn't sound like much. And that's why the Slurpee summit joins tonight's RidicuList.