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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Arming the Opposition in Libya?; Taking on Gadhafi's Regime; Radiation near Nuclear Plant High; Oklahoma City Invests in its Future
Aired March 29, 2011 - 23:03 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Breaking news -- good evening, everyone -- on Libya and a possible escalation in America's military involvement.
After a day of seeing Libyan opposition fighters outgunned and retreating, beaten back from places they only retook days ago, tonight, the Obama administration says it's open to the possibility of sending them weapons. These are pictures of fighters pulling back from the outskirts of Bin Jawad after coming under heavy fire from Gadhafi's forces.
Without either more intensive NATO attacks on Gadhafi forces or better-armed and better-trained opposition fighters, it is hard to see how the opposition can defeat Gadhafi's army.
Earlier today in London, Secretary of State Clinton said that arming the opposition is legal under the U.N. resolution authorizing force in Libya.
And here's what President Obama told NBC's Brian Williams this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not ruling it out, but I'm also not ruling it in. We're still making an assessment partly about what Gadhafi's forces are -- are going to be doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: There's the question, though, of exactly who we would be arming if the President chose to do that. The President tonight acknowledging there might be opposition elements unfriendly to America, but saying the people the U.S. has met with have been fully vetted and the U.S. has a clear sense of who they are.
Secretary Clinton, however, didn't seem quite so sure, saying that the United States is still getting to know the people on the transnational council in Benghazi and said -- quote -- "We do not have any specific information about specific individuals."
Joining us now to talk about what arming the opposition would entail, as well as the pros and cons of doing it, former Bush administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks. Mr. Hadley, what do you think? Is it a good idea?
STEPHEN HADLEY, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think he's got to consider it.
The problem the President has, he has a gap between what he said he wants to do to get rid of Gadhafi and what the no-fly zone authorizes him to do, which is use military force to protect civilians. And he's got to close that gap. And he's trying to do it by strengthening the opposition, by splitting Gadhafi's military away from him, by promising to help build a new Libya.
I think he's also got to do it in terms of -- of strengthening the opposition by giving them arms, so they can impose their own anti-tank and -- and anti-air zone. And really I think this is going to be decided by the Libyan people, whether they see this as an opportunity to get rid of this dictator and whether they will rise up in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands and try to sweep this man away.
So he's -- he's got to close that gap. And I think this is one of the measures he can use to do that.
COOPER: General Marks, this is not really an organized opposition force. There's only said to be about 1,000 fighters who have some level of military training. And as we know, the Libyan military that was stationed in the east, in Benghazi, was not the cream of the crop. Is arming these folks the right thing to do?
BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Well, Anderson, I think it must be done and in essence, we've already done it through the coalition and the application of close-air support to beat Gadhafi's forces down a little bit. And clearly more is needed.
But I think more importantly, but there's no time for it, is training is required in advance of weapons. Short of being able to train this -- this band of rebels, weapons is a choice. And as Mr. Hadley indicated, it's necessary for this -- for the rebels to achieve any greater success and not achieve some stalemate, which everybody has decided is unacceptable.
And I think we would all agree that a partitioned Libya is not what we're looking for as an end state.
COOPER: General Marks, though, I mean, from a -- from a military standpoint, arming folks who, you know, have just been handed a weapon for the first time and giving them an RPG, is that -- I mean, is that a practical? Is it -- is it that easy to use?
MARKS: Well, the notion of the gang that couldn't shoot straight might be lived out. Absolutely, there must be some degree of training that is associated with arming this force.
However, some weapons systems clearly they can get a handle on and they can use immediately. It's the more lethal weapons systems that would require training and I don't think there's time to do that. And clearly we have a checkered past in terms of those that we have armed before and having to face those weapons systems in battle in the future.
So, clearly, there are a number of decisions that need to be made.
COOPER: Stephen Hadley, you know, the biggest argument against arming the opposition forces is that the U.S. isn't really sure exactly who they're arming, that there may be anti-American elements among them, which President Obama acknowledged, though he said he felt that the vast majority of the folks that they have met with are lawyers and doctors and people who have the right interests at heart.
I just want to show our viewers some of what President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: First of all, I think it's important to note that the people that we have met with have been fully vetted. So we have a clear sense of who they are. And so far they're saying the right things and most of them are professionals, lawyers, doctors, people who appear to be credible.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We do not have any specific information about specific individuals from any organization who are part of this. But, of course, we're still getting to know those who are leading the trans -- the transitional national council and that will be a process that continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Seems to be slightly contradictory statements there from the President and the Secretary of State. So, again, I mean, I -- that is part of the problem in terms of, who do you arm and where do those arms potentially end up?
HADLEY: It certainly is a part of the problem. But, you know, you never really know in these revolutionary situations who you're dealing with initially.
And so you take it step by step. You get to know some people. You do the vetting. And you're careful as to who you give the weapons to. But I think, you know, the bottom line is, no-fly zones do not get you regime change on the cheap.
In the end of the day, and I think General Marks will confirm this, somebody has got to be on the ground doing the hard work of taking the territory. And if it's not going to be U.S. troops and nobody really wants that, then we're going to have to deal with the Libyan people and try to empower them to fight and win their own freedom. And giving them weapons has to be part of that.
COOPER: General Marks, what do you make of the fact that the opposition has already lost territory that they just retook a day or two ago? And they were really only able to retake that, according to our correspondents on the ground, because as you said of the close-air support from NATO, from coalition forces and the fact that Libyan troops basically just ceded the ground. Now they -- they've already today been beaten back -- we're going to talk to our correspondents on the ground there in a moment -- but they're back at Ras Lanuf, which they had moved through quickly just yesterday.
MARKS: Well, clearly, the use of the airpower from the coalition is the key ingredient, the deciding factor for the rebels.
We shouldn't be surprised at all. And in fact, there might even be an argument that some of those key locations are key only to the rebels for some reason that defies my definition of military importance. They could bypass those and maybe achieve success and rout Tripoli.
And also, Anderson, I have to smile. I've got this image of arming lawyers and doctors, when truly what we need to have is a definition of who are those non-commissioned officers, who are the guys that are really going to be doing the fighting? What are their capabilities? And we really don't have a clue.
COOPER: Yes, a lot of conflicting reports.
General Marks, I appreciate your time tonight, Stephen Hadley as well.
Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will also try to be tweeting tonight.
Up next, Arwa Damon and Nic Robertson with late word on the shift in momentum from the opposition back to the Gadhafi regime. We've seen that just really in the last 24 hours, how opposition forces are trying to keep a retreat from turning into a rout.
Later, Eman's story: what happened after this woman went before cameras accusing Gadhafi forces of raping her brutally? The regime says she is back home with her family. We found out otherwise, though that's not all we uncovered. What her family told us about what Gadhafi's henchmen offered them for spinning the story their way; keeping the regime honest tonight.
COOPER: The breaking news tonight: President Obama signaling he is considering arming the Libyan opposition. Here's why, new video tonight, a Gadhafi tank in Misrata. We don't know precisely when this video was taken, only that tanks and heavily artillery pounded the city today, people there telling us they are bringing absolute carnage to civilians.
In Tripoli, meantime, fear has taken over. We haven't heard from anyone in Tripoli for several weeks. People are too scared to speak out, even on the phone. Tonight, however, we were able to speak to one man who insists it is his duty to speak, to be a voice for Tripoli, he says. I spoke to him earlier tonight.
COOPER: What's the -- the level of fear among people you talk to? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fear is -- the fear is intense.
We can absolutely not do or say anything to project our anti-regime sentiment, be that walk out in the street and protest peacefully, or -- or whether that's talk to journalists about our feelings. It's no secret that there are minders and government personnel, if you like, at stalls.
And if -- bless them, if their kids say the wrong thing, and we know how honest they are, if they say, my parents have been saying this or my parents have been watching that, or my parents have been going out and doing this and that, that's going to get us in a lot of trouble.
If you're caught, your family are harassed. Your neighbors are harassed. Your friends around you are harassed.
So, yes, there are a number of reasons why kids aren't going to school, one of which is for fear that they may say the wrong thing.
COOPER: A brave man fighting against the fear in Tripoli.
Let's bring in Nic Robertson. He's in Tripoli. We're trying to make contact with Arwa Damon, who is Benghazi. She will join us shortly.
Nic, you know, it's remarkable hearing that man in Tripoli, who is the first person we have been able to speak with who feels he can speak freely on the phone, saying that they're afraid to send kids to school because those kids might say something about what their parents have been talking about and some government minder or spy there might hear the kid and then therefore go and pick up the parents and the neighbors.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And we have unconfirmed reports as well of families having their children, daughters in some cases kidnapped out on the streets, 15, 17-year-old girls kidnapped; reports of young men from their families being kidnapped when they have gone to pick up weapons that they have been offered by the government, or indeed just kidnapped on the streets and forced into volunteer forces for Gadhafi's army or Gadhafi's loyalist forces.
At least, these reports impossible for us to confirm here, for the very reasons that we can't go and talk freely to people. When I was at the gas pump just the other day checking up on people's thoughts about the fact they were lining up for gas, there were three government minders standing over my shoulder, one of them even interfering with the gentleman that I was talking to.
But it was clear he wasn't necessarily a huge fan of the regime. He wasn't carrying a green flag with him, didn't have any of the sort of green flags tied in his car. But the government minder, whenever I asked this man a question that might -- he might have just given me something, some piece of information against the regime, there was a government official standing right over my shoulder telling him, telling him some of the things to say.
So it's little wonder that people don't dare come up on the street and speak to us. There were officials around us and people will even try and tell them, do tell them what to say --Anderson.
COOPER: Arwa Damon, you're in Benghazi tonight.
You were with opposition fighters in Bin -- Bin Jawad today. Last night, 24 hours ago, when you and I spoke, you talked about the opposition momentum having stopped. It now just hasn't stopped. It seems like there have been -- there's been a big reversal. What happened today?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson.
We caught up with opposition fighters again just outside of Bin Jawad as they were coming under a heavy artillery barrage. They had told us that the barrage had begun in the morning, that there were also snipers within Bin Jawad itself who were shooting at them, some of them describing a street-to-street battle.
They say they stood their ground there for as long as they could, but after around seven hours, we saw them forced to turn around and retreat all the way to the outskirts of that critical oil town of Ras Lanuf. And then outside of Ras Lanuf, too, we saw and heard explosions, dark smoke rising, and this ongoing trade of artillery fire.
We saw the opposition fighters trying to shoot back with artillery, rocket-propelled grenades, with multi-barreled rocket launchers, a very intense battle. They were intent on standing their ground there, but it does seem as if they're beginning to lose that area as well.
What has changed is that they have not come across just Gadhafi's military at this point that has appeared as if it is regrouping and re-standing up against the opposition, but also up against residents in Bin Jawad and in other areas, people telling us that Gadhafi loyalists armed by Gadhafi himself, they say, are also beginning to stand up and push back against the opposition. And this is most certainly a change in the dynamic to this battlefield -- Anderson.
COOPER: Arwa, I think -- I apologize -- I said you were in Benghazi. You're not. You're further west. You're in Ajdabiya, which is the town that the opposition was able to take over because of close air support just the other day.
COOPER: If you can, Arwa, just briefly, how much land did they lose today between Bin Jawad, retreating to Ras Lanuf? And it sounds like Ras Lanuf now is under fire and there may be a battle of that, based on what you saw.
So, how much land did they lose and did NATO -- was NATO not involved in trying to prevent this -- this rout?
DAMON: They probably lost around 50, 60 kilometers from the point where they were 24 hours ago. So that's around 30, 40 miles.
DAMON: And no, as far as we're aware, NATO was not involved in the fighting today. There were no reports of that. In fact, many of the opposition fighters asking where NATO was, where those airstrikes were, because they do realize that without that, they are going to struggle greatly because they don't have the weapons, they don't have the equipment, and they simply don't have the military training.
And the issue now is this street-to-street combat and whether or not they are going to be up against Gadhafi's military when -- when that does take place and whether or not they're going up against armed Gadhafi loyalists who are civilians as well. And, in that case, what does the coalition do?
Is it going to launch airstrikes against civilians, pro-Gadhafi loyalists?
DAMON: What sort of a position is it going to take? So, there's a lot of unanswered questions, Anderson.
Meanwhile, we are seeing the opposition slowly, slowly being forced to retreat even further back.
COOPER: So, Nic, from -- from Tripoli, what do you -- how do you see this basically what sounds like a -- a kind of a renewed offensive by Gadhafi's troops, is it a coincidence that it occurred basically after President Obama's speech? I mean, what do you make of this kind of new -- new push by them? Because it's not just to -- to Bin Jawad and Ras Lanuf; we're also hearing from folks in Misrata that there has been heavy, heavy fighting today.
ROBERTSON: I think it is a direct response to President Obama's speech and to the conference in London as well. This is -- Gadhafi's response is to up the ante, put his troops back into the battle. If anyone was in any doubt that he was going to back down when President Obama said that he wouldn't broaden the mission here and put troops on the ground to force regime change. He seems to have gone on the offensive.
And not just Misrata and with the rebels in the east of the country, but we get reports that Zintan as well, that Gadhafi is massing forces outside of there. There's no way for us to independently confirm that report, but it does seem to conform with the -- with the impression that Gadhafi is giving, that he's coming back fighting, putting his army back in the fight and back in the path very probably we have seen now of coalition warplanes and bombing missions. This is his response -- Anderson.
COOPER: And in Tripoli, Nic, do you see, I mean, do you know where Gadhafi is, where members of his family is? Is Seif Gadhafi as visible or even visible at all, as he once was?
ROBERTSON: No, the family has really dropped out of the spotlight. Gadhafi has been on television once. His son Khamis was on television just a couple of days ago. He's the commander of the 32nd Brigade here, a very powerful and feared unit within the military.
So, he's been on television, perhaps symbolizing that of all of Gadhafi's sons he's the one that is preeminent right now because he is the one with the -- principally with the sort of military reputation at the moment. But, no, the family has pretty much gone to ground. Nobody really has an idea where they are.
The last that we heard when the -- when the U.N. resolution was passed and the bombing began was that the family was together. Are they still together? We don't know. But you get the impression now that they are staying out of sight so no one attacks them directly -- Anderson.
COOPER: And very briefly, we have not been able to confirm one way or another whether -- I believe his name is Kunis (ph), the guy who runs one of the special forces units, Gadhafi's son, whether or not he's alive, have we?
ROBERTSON: He was the one that appeared live -- well, live, as live as state television said it, at Gadhafi's palace compound a couple of nights ago.
ROBERTSON: It did appear to scotch those rumors. And they did appear to be rumors only based -- that had been running around for a couple of weeks -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right, good to -- good to know.
Nic Robertson, I appreciate it. Be careful. Arwa Damon as well, thanks.
Coming up tonight, she risked everything to stand up for her dignity and take a stand against the Gadhafi regime.
Her name is Eman al-Obeidy, the Libyan -- the Libyan woman who burst into a hotel, screaming, saying she had been gang-raped by members of Gadhafi's regime.
Now that regime is claiming that some of the men have actually filed charges against her, accusing her of slander.
Tonight, keeping the regime honest, they say that Eman is with her family in Tripoli. Our correspondent drove hundreds of miles east of Benghazi, found her real family. Tonight you will hear from her mom and from a resident in Tripoli who calls Eman a hero.
Also, later, Japanese -- the Japan nuclear crisis, new fears about highly radioactive water and growing concerns over the way Japanese officials are handling the situation. They are now asking for more help. But should they have been asking for that help a lot sooner? We'll get the latest.
COOPER: New developments tonight in perhaps the single most chilling episode yet to come out of Libya. This is Eman al-Obeidy just moments after she went before cameras in Tripoli on Saturday, alleging gang rape at the hands of Gadhafi's troops. You see her literally being silenced, a bag put over her head, then a short time later hustled off to a car, the last anyone has seen of her. It looks like actually it may be a coat that was put over her head.
Today, the regime says she's been released and is with her family. But "Keeping Them Honest", CNN's Reza Sayah drove for hours to Eastern Libya, tracked down her real family in Tobruk. They told him that she's not with them and they've got no word of where she is.
Her mother says she would like to kill Gadhafi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AISHA AHMED, MOTHER OF EMAN AL-OBEIDY (through translator): No, I'm not afraid of Gadhafi. If I were to see his face in front of me, I would strangle him. When we go all the way to Tripoli, we'll cut his head off and bring it here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Eman's mother also says that right after the incident, she got a call at 3:00 a.m. from Gadhafi's compound, officials, she says asking her to convince her daughter to retract her allegations, in exchange for which, she says they promised a new home or cash. Her family refused.
Now with Eman nowhere to be found, the government seems bent on smearing her even further. In past days, they called her a prostitute, said she was mentally unstable. Well, today, Libyan state TV aired this video claiming it is Eman shortly after her abduction from the hotel. We have been unable to confirm when, where it was taken or even who is on the tape. Libyan TV's record obviously as a reliable source speaks for itself.
In it, in this tape, the woman on the floor is asked repeatedly to see an official doctor and make a statement to police. Then they ask her to tell her story on Libyan state TV and she refuses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I want the world to know about the scandals that are taking place in Libya and the shame brought to us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What shame are you talking about? If from the beginning you had gone to the police, it would have been better than going to Al-Jazeera.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, the harangue continues with more calls to see a doctor, one of the voices asking, "Are you afraid the rape kit will come back negative?"
Then the woman is asked, "Don't you care about the people who died in Allied airstrikes?"
"What do I have to do with the airstrikes?" she replies.
It then goes back to a female anchor on television who says, with a mocking tone, "And that's Eman for you."
Then, in the guise of apologizing for earlier likening her to a whore, the anchor goes on to say that even a whore, unlike Eman, has a sense of patriotism when it comes to her homeland.
A spokesman for Gadhafi's government, by the way, said today the soldiers she accused of raping her are now suing her for slander.
So, that's where we are right now.
Before talking to Nic Robertson and Reza Sayah, who drove all that way to find and talk to her mom, about the latest, I just want to remind you all about -- remind everyone about what happened to this woman on Saturday.
Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): Saturday morning, Eman al-Obeidy risked her life by storming into a Tripoli hotel to tell journalists her story of government brutality.
"They say we're all Libyans," she screams, "but look what Gadhafi brigades did to me."
Plainclothes government officials immediately intervened. This man tries to grab her and shut her up. Journalists jumped in to try and help her.
Her face bruised, she says she's from Benghazi and was abducted at a government checkpoint, bound, beaten, and raped by 15 members of Gadhafi's militia. She shows journalists blood on her inner thigh and rope burns on her hands and feet.
"My honor was violated," she cries out.
Here, officials, including some who previously appeared to be hotel staff, tried to separate al-Obeidy from the journalists, dragging her away. One hotel staffer shouts, "Traitor" as he draws a knife. This man here appears to be going for a weapon.
Gadhafi's men kick and punch journalists, wrestling some of them to the ground, breaking their cameras for their footage. As al-Obeidy continues to cry out her story, watch as this woman throws a dark bag over her head to silence her.
A little while later, al-Obeidy surfaces as government officials drag her out of the hotel.
"If you don't see me tomorrow, then that's it," she screams.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you taking her to now?
COOPER: Journalists tried to come to her aid one last time. But al- Obeidy is shoved into a car and taken away.
COOPER: Earlier tonight, I spoke on the phone to a man in Tripoli. We heard from him earlier in the program, talking about the intense fear that people have of speaking out against the regime, something Eman al-Obeidy did in an unprecedented way. He told me, the man in Tripoli, that many people in that city are talking about her, rallying around her, and they consider her a hero.
Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This lady is a hero. I'm sure not exaggerating, and I'm very confident I speak for the rest of the city, the rest of the country. This lady has really encapsulated the spirit of this -- of this revolution, this uprising.
The whole idea that you have to -- you have to overcome fear and to insist and almost demand that your voice is heard and at whatever cost.
She caught the imagination and the affirmations of a lot of people. She's talked about all over the city, and she's instigated many a debate. There are many fears over her story. My family included.
And what they're doing on state TV is deplorable. It's absolutely disgusting, and it's just adding to the anger. And it's just adding to the support that other people have for her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: One man's view from Tripoli.
Back with us again: from Tripoli, senior international correspondent Nic Robertson and in Benghazi tonight, Reza Sayah.
Reza, you traveled all that way to meet with her mom. How is her family holding up?
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're holding up. We expected them to be worried. They are.
What we didn't expect is this type of outrage that we saw, and some of the comments they were making were incredibly bitter and pointed. The fact that she said she wants to see Gadhafi killed. She wants his head delivered to the town of Tobruk, which is their hometown. These are incredibly extreme statements, statements that were a couple of months ago unthinkable.
Now you have a Libyan woman going on camera, openly making these statements. It shows how angry they are. And it also shows how people, at least on this side of Libya, the eastern region, territory firmly in the hands of the opposition, are no longer afraid of making these types of comments against the regime, against Colonel Gadhafi.
COOPER: And Reza, in several cities we have seen demonstrations in support of Eman. We even saw a video last night of what was said to be a wedding that she has been betrothed to somebody in her family's tribe. What's the significance of that?
SAYAH: I think that was a defiant message on the part of the family. There's been all sorts of allegations coming from regime officials that Eman is perhaps promiscuous, a prostitute, leading a lifestyle that's not in keeping with Islam. These attempts -- these are clearly attempts at discrediting her without any proof.
And last night, the family in Tobruk held an engagement ceremony, in essence, saying her honor is intact; again, a defiant message to the regime officials. They're trying to discredit her --
COOPER: Yes. A remarkable statement in a very conservative culture.
Nic, this new video of what is purporting to be Eman al-Obeidy first broadcast on Libyan state TV yesterday. We know her family is saying that they don't know about her whereabouts now, but the government is claiming that she's free. Have they said where she allegedly is?
ROBERTSON: No, they haven't. The only indications were that she had been released to her sister's custody, that she'd been living with her sister here in Tripoli, and there's some indications that she may be under house arrest with her sister, that -- that she has no communications now, possibly part of that house arrest.
But it's impossible for people to get to her house, because there are security people outside. That's what we're hearing.
This video that surfaced on state television, when she was being held at the police headquarters late Saturday, early Sunday, there were reports on state television that a state television reporter had been there, interviewed her. She didn't want to go on camera. But this reporter from state television said that "We have -- we have taken secret video, and we will be showing it to you later" because Eman al- Obeidy refused to speak to the state television reporter, because she wanted to be released. As a lawyer, she knew her legal rights.
We were in that police headquarters just a couple of weeks ago, and we saw in one room alone, there were ten secret cameras in this one meeting room alone. So that's possibly how the video that we're seeing on state television of Eman al-Obeidy got out, not because she wanted to give any interviews at all, Anderson.
Nic Robertson, thank you; Reza Sayah, as well, thank you very much for making that talk to her mom.
Coming up, the latest from Japan: the nuclear crisis seems to be going from bad to worse as workers struggle to cool reactors to -- at the plant and keep radioactive water out of the ocean.
New questions about the people in charge, though. Are government officials and TEPCO, the private company which runs this plant -- are TEPCO officials telling the truth, the whole truth right now? We're "Keeping Them Honest", next.
COOPER: More breaking news. We've just learned about new and troubling developments in the struggle to bring the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant under control.
Reports tonight, quoting the Japanese government, that seawater near the plant contains radioactive iodine at more than 3,300 times the legal limit. The government today also calling the situation, and I quote, "unpredictable". Officials saying the effort to bring the plant under control is now at, quote, "maximum alert".
Fresh worries over contaminated water leaking from containment vessels with some of that runoff making it simply too risky for workers to continue their efforts to stabilize the plant.
Now, all of this comes as the company at the center of the mess, TEPCO, comes under fire from the Japanese government for wildly inaccurate radiation readings that officials are calling unacceptable.
And where is the man who's supposed to be leading the fight to head off a full-on nuclear meltdown? Well, lately almost nobody seems to know exactly where he is. This man, TEPCO's CEO, Masataka Shimizu, is not even -- is not -- even many of the people who work directly for him. "The Washington Post" is reporting it's been more than two weeks since he last made a public appearance.
The company reportedly said he suffered a, quote, "small illness from overwork" and that he is back on the job now.
But we are hearing now from some of the people inside the Fukushima Daiichi Plant, some of the workers. Here's what one of them had to say, according to e-mails obtained by the "Wall Street Journal".
Quote, "The quake is a natural disaster, but TEPCO should be blamed for contamination caused by the radioactive materials released from the nuclear plants."
Another worker said, quote, "I feel frustrating anger across the nation pointing to TEPCO. I suspect TEPCO executives feel it well enough."
We'll bet they do. Tom Foreman has the latest on the fight inside the plant.
Tom, what do we know? TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we know that the workers inside the plant, they're sure doing their jobs. And these guys are getting, like, a stack of crackers in the morning, one meal at night. They're working these 12-hour-long days, sleeping on these mats on the floor that are supposed to protect them from any kind of contamination here. And the fight goes on.
Look, one of the concerns is -- for officials there is that there has been some kind of partial meltdown in Reactors One, Two and Three. The reason they think that has been a sort of partial meltdown is, you know, Anderson, we've been watching this from the beginning, the spraying of water, from the beginning. This is how they had to try to cool down those cores because all of their pump systems were ruined. They didn't have electricity. They couldn't do it. So they sprayed water and sprayed water and sprayed water.
Well, guess what? Just what you would think. Now there is water filling up basically everything you can fill up here, because the water has just built up as they've cooled and cooled and cooled, and the water is contaminated. That's what these workers are having to work around while they try to continue to keep this under control -- Anderson.
COOPER: I'm -- first of all, it boggles my mind that they're being fed crackers and one meal a day. I mean, this is, you know, one of the most important jobs that's occurring right now in the world. I'm not quite clear on why they're being fed small rations.
FOREMAN: I'm not clear on that either, Anderson. It just looks like they're doing this incredibly difficult work in terrible circumstances. It sort of defies explanation as to why they're not getting tremendous support. They don't seem to be.
COOPER: What's going to happen with all that contaminated water if it can't be -- what happens to it?
FOREMAN: Well, you started to say, "if it can't be contained"? Well, the simple truth is so far some of it hasn't been. One of the big concerns here has been Reactor Number Two. That's where they most think they've had a breach in the containment vessel.
The reason they think that is because contaminated water not only made it out of here and pooled in all these areas but showed up in this tunnel over here near one of the turbine buildings, and this is only about 60 yards from the open ocean.
How much contamination is in this water? Well, look at it this way. They say this is a dangerously high level. If you stood here for a couple of minutes, you would get as much contamination from radiation as you would from about 300 years of just living your life on land.
That's the big concern here, Anderson, with all this water. Right now they're putting in sand bags and barriers and trying to stop it, but this remains a very serious concern, because there's a lot of water and a lot of radiation in this area still.
COOPER: Yes. Do we know where radiation levels stand at this point?
FOREMAN: We know that as you said a moment ago that the reports from the beginning have been all over the map.
We do know that there have been some traces of plutonium, radioactive iodine and cesium found on the grounds and out in the water out here.
Now, what we're officially hearing is that it's not enough to be a real threat to people, but that's the concern, Anderson, as people have raised questions day after day, week after week now about how the company's handling this, about the transparency of information and the quality of the information.
That's why so many scientists have been saying, "Look, whatever they're saying about this, we have to at least arch an eyebrow and say how much can we trust it?" Especially if this effort has to keep going on and on and on, and right now it does.
COOPER: Incredible. Tom, appreciate the update.
We're joined now by a former senior operator of several nuclear plants, Michael Friedlander, who's in Singapore. He worked, as I said, as senior operator for 13 years. Also, chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reporting tonight for us, as well.
Sanjay, there are reports that low levels of radiation have been detected in the air or water in 13 states here in America. Earlier when this thing first began, there was talk about, "Well, it's going to hit some of the western states." It's now at 13 states. How much cause -- I mean, is this cause for concern at this point?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think it's cause for concern, and I can tell you a couple of things. One is that it's likely that more states will probably trigger these low levels of radiation higher than normal but certainly low in terms of, you know, potential consequences on human health. So I think we're likely to see the number of states actually increase.
We also know from looking at, you know, previous accidents, such as Chernobyl, that you do get this radioactivity, you get the sort of plume, as people have been referring to it, and it will circumnavigate the globe. That's what happened with the radioactive particles from Chernobyl. And as a result, you will get, you know, radioactive increases, radioactivity increases in many places around the world.
But if you measure that back from 1986, what we hear from scientists who measured it at the time was the total amount of radiation that was increased was about one-tenth that of a chest X-ray. Even, you know, after that accident so many years ago. So I think we're likely to see the number of states get worse but still overall, low levels of radiation.
COOPER: Michael, as you see what's been going on over the last 24 hours or so, what gives you the greatest concern? MICHAEL FRIEDLANDER, FORMER SENIOR OPERATOR OF SEVERAL NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS: I think precisely what your previous contributor mentioned, the -- if you stand back and look at the forest for the trees, I worry that the accident management that's going on, that they're not being able to stay one or two steps ahead of the evolution.
I mean, we should have known that there was going to be literally millions of gallons of contaminated water that needed to be addressed at some point in time. And the ability to handle that should have been something that got put in motion days ago, if not weeks ago.
I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that these tanks are filling up. We continue to inject water. Normal operations would have had them using their gaseous and liquid radwaste systems. We know that the gaseous radwaste system was destroyed in the explosions and most likely the liquid radwaste systems are not available.
If they don't deal with this, though we are out of the apocalyptic scenarios of core melting and things like that, that's clearly no longer the issue. The prospect of potentially spilling massive quantities of highly contaminated water really, really, really worries me.
COOPER: What would you normally do with contaminated water?
FRIEDMAN: Well, normally, Anderson, we have systems where you process it through a sort of demineralizers and charcoal filters. You take the gaseous waste that's gone off, and you process it, as well, to allow it to decay. We take the solids; they get packaged up and sent off to radwaste facilities around the globe.
But they have none of those systems available to them. All of those systems have been damaged over the events of the last two weeks. Again, that shouldn't be any big surprise to them, and they should have been putting in place steps to deal with that.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we're out of time. I appreciate you being on. Michael Friedlander, as well; it's always good to have your expertise.
Still ahead, "Building up America" where a pro basketball franchise fits into one city's future.
COOPER: Tonight, in "Building up America", conventional wisdom says people will follow jobs, even if it means moving to another state. But what about the reverse? Will jobs follow people to where they want to live? The mayor of Oklahoma City is betting on that. Here's Tom Foreman.
FOREMAN: Every time the Thunder takes the floor, the home crowd cheers not just for the team but also for the remarkable transformation it represents.
KENDRICK PERKINS, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: I love what I've seen. I think it's been great. It's been great.
FOREMAN: For almost two decades through targeted use of a voter approved one-cent sales tax, Oklahoma City has been rebuilding itself, with a new ballpark, new attractions, refurbished entertainment centers, museums, schools and more.
MAYOR MICK CORNETT, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA: We're creating a city where your kid and grand kid is going to want to live.
FOREMAN: Mayor Mick Cornett --
CORNETT: The past paradigm has been that people went to where the jobs were. And what I believe is that in the future the people are going to go to the cities where they want to live and the jobs are going to follow the people.
FOREMAN: The acquisition of the Thunder three years ago was a milestone in the process of making this a prime place to live and a coup for this town that is one of the smallest to host an NBA team. It was made possible in large part because that same tax money was used to build an arena with no loans to hang over the profit-making potential of the new franchise.
GARY DESJARDINS, REGIONAL GENERAL MANAGER, SMG: There's no debt on the building. It's paid for.
FOREMAN: That's pretty unusual.
DESJARDINS: Extremely unusual.
FOREMAN: Thunder coach Scott Brooks called it team work.
SCOTT BROOKS, COACH, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: It's important we get behind each other's endeavors.
FOREMAN: So today, Oklahoma City enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates of any city in the country. Sales tax revenues have soared and this town is charging back from the recession.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Oklahoma City.
COOPER: Building up America. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Time for our "Beat 360" winners; our daily challenge to viewers to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption for the photo we put on the blog every day. Tonight's photo: Prince Charles aboard a ship in Lisbon, Portugal.
Staff winner tonight is Tom Foreman. His caption, "No, your majesty, it's the other one. That's Big Ben. You don't get out of the palace much, do you?"
The viewer winner is Bruce. His caption, "You're right, captain. We can see Sarah Palin's house from here."
Bruce, congratulations. Your "Beat 360 T-shirt is on the way.
That's it for 360. Thanks for watching.
"PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.
I'll see you tomorrow night.