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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Alleged Libyan Rape Victim Speaks Out; Japan Dumping Radioactive Water Into Pacific Ocean
Aired April 4, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news.
We have found Eman al-Obeidy. And, tonight, she risks her life to speak out. You remember the Libyan woman arrested and dragged off after telling reporters she had been raped by Gadhafi forces. Tonight, she defies Gadhafi officials, who she says have continued to harass her and threaten her. She's defying them by talking to us.
She says she's in hiding in Tripoli and has been told not to talk about the brutality she says she suffered and the brutality she says she continues to suffer. She's fearful for her life tonight, but says she has nothing left to lose.
This, of course, is how the world first came to know her, after she snuck into a Tripoli hotel full of journalists a little bit more than a week ago, screaming she'd been raped by Gadhafi's forces, gang- raped by 15 men, bound and tormented, held captive. She had scars and bruises to prove her story. As she spoke, hotel workers revealed themselves to be government agents, assaulted -- they assaulted her verbally. One pointed a knife at her.
Then one of them threw a coat over her head. And eventually, she was hustled away. A few days later, Libyan state TV ran a tape of a woman being interrogated. It was Eman, it turns out, lying on a floor. Voices of people taunting her could be heard, telling her to do interviews on Libyan state TV withdrawing her story. She refuses all of it.
The government, she said -- the government said that she was drunk. They said she was mentally unstable. They even called her a prostitute. The Libyan state TV anchor says right here comparing her to a prostitute was insulting to prostitutes because, and I'm quoting here, "Even a with whore feels patriotic about Libya."
Well, tonight we know that Eman al-Obeidy is still in danger, still in Tripoli. She says she was with her, but they were being harassed and she's moved to another different location so her sister isn't attacked. She says she's been rearrested several times. She's tried to flee for Tunisia, tried to get to the hotel where journalists are staying, but says she's been repeatedly stopped by Gadhafi's men on the street.
I talked to her earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: When you first went into the hotel to talk to the journalists, how did you get into the hotel?
EMAN AL-OBEIDY, ALLEGED RAPE VICTIM (through translator): I arrived in a taxi that took me from the place of the incident. When I was stopped by the security, I lied and said that I worked at the hotel, because the government does not allow any communications between Libyans and journalists.
COOPER: You knew you were taking a great risk. Why was it so important for you to go into the hotel to try to talk to reporters?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): After all I went through, there is nothing else that constitutes a danger to my life. Our life was destroyed, and our dignity tarnished. Our humanity has been taken from us. There is nothing else that has not been taken from us. We are even careful to the air we inhale and exhale in order to regain our freedom.
COOPER: When you were in the hotel, you said, look what the Gadhafi brigades have done to me.
What was done to you?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): They abducted me. Prior, I showed to the journalists my hands and legs. I was bound and tied up. I was beaten and tortured. For two days, they violated my freedom, without eating or drinking.
I have further details to provide you with later on. I want to convey to the journalists that the brigades who are supposed to be protecting people, look what they did to me.
COOPER: How were you originally taken by Gadhafi forces? Where and how?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): I was in Tripoli in a region called Ayan Azhara (ph). I was in a taxi when I left a friend's house and headed home, when I was stopped.
COOPER: What were those days like for you?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): My feelings were that they had taken my humanity, that I would never leave this place. They told me I would never see the light of day again, that I would never be released or return home, and that they will kill me.
COOPER: How did you survive? How were you able to survive those days?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Of course, they had my hands tied behind me, and they had my legs tied, and they would hit me while I was tied and bite me on my body, and they would pour alcohol in my eyes, so that I would not be able to see. And they would sodomize me with their Kalashnikovs. And they would not let me go to the bathroom. I was not allowed to eat or drink. This is because I resisted them and tried to stop them from raping me. But the other girl, she gave up completely and did not try to fight them. And she was the one who was able to untie my hands and feet while they were sleeping.
They were at all the checkpoints. And they would be drunk and they would abuse all of the Libyans.
COOPER: They raped you with a gun?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Of course, they're all armed. They have Kalashnikovs. When they were raping me, one man would leave and another would enter. And he would finish and then another man would come in. Of course, they would untie my hands when they would rape me. And one of them, while my hands were still tied, before he raped me, he sodomized me with his Kalashnikov.
COOPER: Would they say anything to you? Were they saying to you -- did they want something from you?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): They would say, let the men from Eastern Libya come and see what we are doing to their women and how we treat them, how we rape them.
COOPER: How were you able to escape?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Among the kidnapped women, there was one girl who was no more than 16, and she untied me. They did not bind her because she gave up out of fear and did not try to resist them or try to fight them and hit them.
And about 7:00 a.m., early in the morning, I was crying, and she came to cover me. And I begged her to untie me. She was so scared, but she untied my hands and feet. And she refused to escape, out of fear of them. She gave me her name and address and asked me to report everything to the police.
COOPER: When you were in the hotel room trying to talk to the journalists and other -- and Libyan government thugs were attacking you, trying to silence you, what was going through your mind?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): I was not thinking anything when I came to the hotel. I heard about the existence of the fact- finding organization.
I came here because I knew that the Libyan authorities won't respect my rights or talk about this issue. I could have been jailed and nobody would have heard my story. I was just looking for my rights to be returned.
I came even though I knew that the Libyan government would not leave me alone and would try to silence me. I knew that they could imprison me and that no one may ever know my story. And even when they were hitting me and trying to cover my face so that I would not tell people the truth, I was not afraid. I have reached the end of my tolerance for this, as a human.
COOPER: They finally -- a woman in the hotel put a coat over you. Another -- a waiter there, a waitress called you a traitor. Did you realize there would be so many government officials there who would try to stop you?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Everyone that is in the hotel that appears to be waiters or members of the staff, they are secret police. And I knew this. I know they were all members of the secret service and internal security forces and the Revolutionary Guard. And I know all of this.
And I know I could even die. But there's something we are trying to tell the world. Gadhafi says that all the people here support him and that he is originally from the east and his roots are in the east, meaning there is no opposition to him at all. The people here live in hell, in detention, in a 24-hour state of terror, the same terror that happened to me in the hotel, so that I would not speak.
COOPER: We will have more of my interview with her in just a moment.
We also want to be very transparent about this interview. A number of you have asked on Twitter how we can be sure this is Eman al-Obeidy. And it's a very good question.
Through a number of sources, we believe the woman you are hearing is Eman al-Obeidy. We have spent days vetting her all weekend as best we can through several contacts. Because she's not on camera and we haven't been able to get to her location in Tripoli, because we're not allowed to by the Libyan government, we cannot swear this is her.
But several people who talked with Eman al-Obeidy in that Tripoli hotel last weekend talked to the woman you just heard and say for sure it is the same person.
We have talked to her parents as well about the information she has given us, and we feel confident through our sources that this is Eman al-Obeidy.
When we come back, the moment when her captors demanded she go on state TV and lie about what happened to her. I ask her about this video, and she revealed chilling details of what you don't see, what she was facing, she says, just off-camera -- part two of the conversation after the break.
And later in the program, on the front lines, the opposition regaining some momentum on the battlefield. We will show you why.
And speaking of why, why are they deliberately dumping radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean at Japan's crippled nuclear plant? What could be worse than that? Well, it turns out a lot. We will explain ahead.
COOPER: More now of our breaking news, Eman al-Obeidy speaking out for the first time since her detention and disappearance at the hands of the Gadhafi regime.
Throughout her detention, there was always the expectation that she like so many others who found themselves in government captivity would ultimately go on state TV and toe the government line, that, in so many words, she'd be forced to lie. But she has said no.
For the first time, she told us in terrifying detail just what she was facing right off-camera when she refused to play along with her captors.
Here's part two of our conversation.
COOPER: They put you in a car and drove off. That was the last time we saw you. What happened to you then?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Before they took me to prison, they bought me new clothes and said he would take me to Libyan state TV station, so I could retract my statements and say that those who kidnapped me were actually the revolutionaries. And when I refused, they took me to jail for the arrest.
COOPER: We saw a video on Libyan state television of a woman lying on a floor being asked questions. And was that you?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Behind the camera, there was more than 15 Kalashnikovs, and they were threatening me. But I refused to go on Libya TV, because the TV station has no credibility and I am fearing the consequences.
COOPER: How were you treated?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): They cursed at me and told me I was a traitor, because I said the truth. And on Libyan TV, they said I was a traitor because I refused to be silent about what happened to me.
COOPER: The government spokesman, Mussa Ibrahim, he said -- he called you many things. He said you appeared drunk, that you were mentally unstable, that you were a prostitute.
When you hear all that...
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): The Libyan government, when someone protests, they say he's taking hallucinogenic pills. And when someone demands their rights, they say he is mentally retarded. They accused me of being mentally retarded and an alcohol addict. In Libya, the government has no rationale to what is happening in the country, other than accusations.
COOPER: Mussa Ibrahim first said you were with your family. Then later, he claimed he didn't know where you were. And then he said maybe you were in a shelter for women.
Can you say where you are now? Are you safe? Where are you?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): There's no safe place for me in Tripoli. All my phones are monitored. Even this phone I'm speaking on right now is monitored, and I am monitored.
And, yesterday, I was kidnapped by a car and they beat me in the street and then brought me here after they dragged me around. They told me, whenever you leave the house, we will do this to you, meaning that I was not allowed to leave the house or see the journalists.
I had asked to see the journalists. They beat me and hit me and sent me back. Please tell all the human rights organizations to return me safely to my family.
COOPER: Were you worried that when word got out of what happened to you, that your family would be upset? Because, as you know, there have been demonstrations in Benghazi and other cities supporting you, and your family is standing by you.
We have talked to your mother, and she is -- she's proud of you and is standing by you. Did you worry that that would not happen?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): No, no. I know the way my family thinks. They are not backwards. My sister had the opportunity to study abroad without a male chaperone. They supported her. They raised us well.
COOPER: We saw the videos of the engagement and wedding ceremony for you in your parents' hometown. When you saw that, what did you think?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Certainly, this is a Muslim conservative society, and one has no mercy on a woman who has been raped, and especially one who brings it out in the public.
I was happy with these (INAUDIBLE) he proposed to me after all of these events and after showing me on Libyan television.
COOPER: Did you know any of the 15 men who hurt you? Because now the government is saying that they are going to sue you for slander. Did you know who they were? Can you identify them?
E. AL-OBEIDY: Yes, yes, yes.
(through translator): I got to know one of them. I found out the place where they took me to, the neighbors of the place. This guy owns the place.
The neighbors came with me to the police to testify with me. Everything that the Libyan government said about my court case is a lie. They don't care about my case. And they don't care about arresting me, even though they know the place where the girls are being held, even though the neighbors testified. They haven't arrested him. He's still in Tripoli. COOPER: Why do you continue to speak out? You must be very, very scared.
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Why be scared? So I don't die? Dying is more of an honor than having been denied my freedom, my family, and my dignity. I have a right to defend myself. I'm not scared of him.
I would like to direct a word to all the people watching us in America, that we are peaceful people and we are not members of al Qaeda. We are peaceful people and moderate Muslims, not extremists. And we're not asking for anything, except for our freedom and dignity and the most basic human rights, which are denied.
COOPER: What do you think will happen to you?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): I do not know. I leave everything in the hands of Allah.
COOPER: Do you want to get out of Tripoli now?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): Yes, yes. I want to leave Tripoli. In the middle of the night, I get nightmares, and I feel threats 24 hours a day. They are constantly threatening me with death.
COOPER: Do you worry somebody may kill you?
E. AL-OBEIDY (through translator): I don't know. My emotions change.
Sometimes, I feel, no, they're going to kill me. But at the same time, I feel afraid, but I have a motivation that says there is nothing to be afraid of. We have lost everything. What is left to be afraid of? It is done.
COOPER: Thank you for your strength. Please be careful. Please try to stay safe.
COOPER: Well, joining us now is Nic Robertson in Tripoli, who's been confronting the Gadhafi regime with Eman's accusations and their inconsistencies, and in Benghazi, Reza Sayah, who's talked today with Eman's family, as well as traveled there last week in order to talk to them.
Reza, you talked to Eman's father. I want to take a look at some of what he had to say about the situation his daughter's in right now. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATIQ AL-OBEIDY, FATHER (through translator): What is happening to her is wrong. What can I do? I have no power to do anything. I asked the human rights organizations and all international movements to get involved and help us with this issue.
She is just like so many others who got killed, whether they were from the rebels or those who support him in Libya. My feelings, we can't sleep, we can't eat, we can't drink. What can I say? God will bring us justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Reza, their family is far in the east of Libya, and obviously in opposition-controlled territory. Eman told me she would like to be able to go to her family, but she's not being allowed to leave. Is there any -- do they have contact with each other?
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They don't have contact with each other.
We should explain to the viewer why someone from the U.S. can reach Eman and her family can't. The Gadhafi regime pretty much had control over all cell phone networks in Libya. And when this uprising happened, they cut off those networks in the eastern portion of Libya, the rebel strongholds.
But the rebels managed to hook up one of the networks, but the problem is with that particular network you can't call Western Libya, places like Tripoli. You can't take calls from Western Libya. So that's why someone in the U.S. can contact Eman, and her parents, who are here in Eastern Libya, can't contact her. So they haven't had contact with her for days now.
COOPER: Nic Robertson, you were there in the hotel when Eman first came in more than a week ago.
You have been relentless in trying to continue to keep this story in the forefront. You asked Mussa Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Gadhafi regime, about her claims that she's barred from leaving the country. What did he tell you?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He told me he's not aware of that. He's been very inconsistent on this.
She tried to come to the hotel just yesterday and speak to journalists, but she was arrested before she got here, before she could get inside, and taken away by security officials. Mussa Ibrahim told me he was aware of this, because he said that her deal with the attorney general is such, her case is such to the attorney general, and she has said the attorney general hasn't listened to her and hasn't talked to her.
But he claims the attorney general says that if she speaks to the press, that will essentially violate the case at the moment. And he said that for that reason she was taken away. Well, just yesterday he was telling us he was still trying to put journalists in touch with her. These things are not consistent at all, the fact that he's saying on the one hand she's being stopped from talking to the press and on the other hand telling us that he's trying to help us get to her, even will try and facilitate it. So it's inconsistent. She has tried to get to the border to leave this country to get to her family in the east of Libya. And the government -- literally, she was at the border, she told us, at the border trying to go through passport control, and the government officials brought her back to Tripoli, and right now won't even let her go to the suburbs of Tripoli. She is not allowed to leave the country, Anderson.
COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, she says any time she goes outside that, if it's not Gadhafi, you know, uniformed soldiers, it's kind of supporters or loyalists who recognize her. She said she's not safe on the streets.
ROBERTSON: She isn't. When she goes out, she says she is ridiculed by people because of what's been said about her on state television. There's been a massive smear campaign from the government spokesman through state television officials.
It's general -- for regime loyalists here it's a generally perceived situation that she is a prostitute, a drunk person. And that's the way that she's been cast here. So when she steps outside of her house, people have a very negative reaction to her, she says.
What happens, she says, when the police pick her up and take her to a police station after interrogating her for a while, they realize there are no charges against her, so they're forced to let her go. So she's kept in this never-never world of barely being able to leave her house. She says her spirits and morale are low and she can't leave the country. The government's dangling her, just dangling her right now, Anderson.
COOPER: Reza, her family is standing by her. And, as we saw, they have even had an engagement and a wedding for her. That's a huge deal. Explain why that is such a stunning development in a place like Libya.
SAYAH: Well, in a conservative society like Libya, even allegations of rape, allegations of prostitution, a promiscuous lifestyle is enough to discredit you and dishonor you.
In a defiant message to the Gadhafi regime, last week the family essentially had an engagement ceremony for her. Even in her absence, they had this engagement ceremony, and it was a message to the Gadhafi regime: Despite your effort to discredit her, to dishonor her, her honor, Eman's honor, is still intact, and we're looking forward for her to come back to Tobruk, to Eastern Libya, and get married.
COOPER: Reza Sayah, appreciate the reporting.
Nic, stick around. Want to talk to you about the latest developments elsewhere in Libya and other stories in Libya.
We're on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.
Coming up, the Libyan opposition gaining some ground in the key city of Brega, just as there's new word that Gadhafi may be ready to hand over control to his son Saif. We will have the latest on that from Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson.
Later, millions of gallons of radioactive water being dumped into the Pacific Ocean from Japan on purpose. The latest twist in Japan's nuclear crisis -- is that really the only solution? Maybe not -- when 360 continues.
COOPER: More breaking news out of Libya tonight, word that Moammar Gadhafi may be ready to hand over power to his son. In just a moment, we will talk to Nic Robertson, who's been following this angle and has new information tonight.
But, first, a new look at fighting on the ground. Opposition fighters, Gadhafi forces continue to fight for control of Brega. An opposition officer says Gadhafi's troops are on the defensive there, surrounded from three directions.
With NATO airstrikes dwindling, one opposition spokesman says the U.N. resolution is not being implemented. He says fighters are wondering, where are they?
Meanwhile, the Gadhafi regime is floating a scenario for Gadhafi's son Saif to take over without it looking like his father's being forced out.
Joining us live from Ajdabiya is Ben Wedeman, with opposition forces in Tripoli Nic Robertson, and at the State Department Jill Dougherty.
Nic, this is a confusing situation. The envoy sent by Gadhafi to negotiate with the West is proposing that Gadhafi's son Saif take over for his father?
ROBERTSON: That's it.
This is sort of an old idea that's been out there for some time. In effect, Saif al-Gadhafi has been running this country, we're told, on a day-to-day basis for the last couple of years.
This was a plan we were told was always in the works, for the father to move to one side, Saif al-Gadhafi to take over. What we're being told is that the father won't go at the point of a gun, that if negotiations start out with the precondition for regime change and him leaving, it's not going to happen.
We're told, if the negotiations start without that precondition, then it will easily achieve his departure at the end of it. He needs to go with respect, is what we're told. The regime views and believes it is still strong here, and that's why it thinks it can try and have it -- have the terms the way it views them.
But there is one problem here, and that is that the -- that Gadhafi himself has yet to convince all the tribes here to support Saif al-Islam, his son, and without that tribal support, whatever they try to sell to the international community, the opposition, if it doesn't fly -- if it doesn't fly with his supporters, it's not going to fly at all, Anderson.
COOPER: And Ben, there's also the question of the opposition and whether they would stand for Saif Gadhafi taking over, because all along they've always said any other member of the Gadhafi family would have to step down, as well.
WEDEMAN: No, we're hearing a fairly unanimous call from the eastern Libya, and that is they do not want anybody from the Gadhafi family.
I heard one say, "We don't want the big Gadhafi. We don't want the small Gadhafis to have any role in the future of this country."
I think they've made it very clear time and time again that they are looking for regime change, not simply the changing of a figurehead. And even the rebels at the front say -- when I asked them, what do you think of this talk of some sort of compromise solution? And he said, "We are going to fight to the last man, to the last drop of our blood to get rid of Moammar Gadhafi."
There's no talking with the Gadhafis. They want all of them out -- Anderson.
COOPER: And Ben, how are things at the front? I mean, the opposition forces took some hits over the weekend. Where do things stand now?
WEDEMAN: Well, they continue to take those hits. But there is sort of an emerging force among the rebels, which is this new national Libyan army that is trying to organize itself, trying to push forward, and, in fact, keeping the irregulars to the rear.
What we did see today is that for the first time there was a rebel counter-barrage of missiles that went on for quite some time, longer than I've seen yet. And so it does appear that they are beginning to organize themselves.
And I think what we're also seeing is that -- is the effect of two weeks of the no-fly zone, of the NATO air strikes, although there really haven't been too many in the last 24 to 48 hours in this part of the country.
But we're being told by opposition officers in the opposition army that the troops within the -- Gadhafi troops within Brega are beginning to run low on ammunition, they're cut off. And after all of that they are saying they're confident that they may take Brega within the next 24 hours. But we shall see.
COOPER: Yes, we shall see.
Jill, it was reported today, and Ben just kind of mentioned it, that NATO may not have the military equipment to actually continue this kind of bombing campaign. Are they looking now to keep -- or basically for an increase in the U.S. role? Because the U.S. said they were going to be out of it, more or less, in terms of the active bombing campaign. JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Anderson. But the U.S. is the only country that actually has what they need right now. And these are the A-10s and the AC-130s.
And they are able to fly low and slowly into places, and especially useful when you're trying to hit, let's say, tanks on the ground or people on the ground. And NATO doesn't have them. The U.S. is the only one that does.
So they called on the U.S. to use them up and through Monday. And also Gates and Mullen are saying that they could be used around standby and they could be used again, if necessary.
COOPER: Nic, if the Gadhafi regime, I mean, is doing well on the ground, why do they feel that they have to negotiate? I mean, if they're winning against this disorganized opposition force, is it just pressure of the air strikes?
ROBERTSON: Well, perhaps it is the reality that they can't now take the other half of the country or the other sort of third of the country in the east. And that perhaps is what's pushing them toward this.
Perhaps they're rattled by Moussa Koussa, the foreign minister, defecting last week. Perhaps they really are worried that more people will go. Perhaps they're worried that only Gadhafi -- I mean, this is what we keep hearing here, it's only Gadhafi that can hold the tribes together.
We stepped back and asked why -- why do people say that? What do they mean? Gadhafi was a hero in this country 42 years ago, when he kicked out the Italian colonialists and the United States from here. That's what made him a hero. And what -- and he comes from a small tribe.
Normally here, people are competing between the tribes, the big tribes competing for power. His point and his regime's point is, if he steps away from power now, this country descends into the chaos of all these tribes competing for power again, chaos, and this is what's keeping him in power.
So part of that is in this, too, that perhaps he doesn't have a strong control over the tribes, so he needs to sort of sue for some kind of victory as he sees it on his terms now early, because he knows he can't get the rest of the country. Perhaps that's part of the sort of diplomatic reality on the ground. And perhaps there's a possibility in all of this that more bombing will make him make more concessions.
And there certainly is the history and sort of negotiations, diplomatic, military struggles that, if you lose on the battlefield, you're going to lose diplomatically, as well. Perhaps he feels he's reached his line, Anderson.
COOPER: Ben, have you seen any of these A-10s or, you know, the A-130s, which are basically used, as Jill said, to fly low and go after tanks, go after ground forces, as opposed to, you know, just bombing other installation installations?
WEDEMAN: Actually, we have seen no airplanes whatsoever. We've heard them overhead, way overhead. But in terms of actual air strikes, seen none, heard none.
And that is the complaint that we hear time and time again from the opposition fighters. They're feeling that, despite the opening salvo, which was quite -- quite impressive, quite dramatic -- we still see all the burnt-out tanks in this area -- that on a day-to-day basis, the planes seem to have disappeared.
COOPER: Jill, so in terms of NATO, I mean, where does this go? Now, if NATO is saying, "We need, you know, maybe more U.S. involvement," how is this going to be negotiated?
DOUGHERTY: Well, I mean, I think it does raise an issue, because you know, remember, the briefings that we had before NATO took over. And the whole idea was that NATO would be able to carry out this operation the way that the coalition had. And that said, I mean, the U.S. was the crucial part of the coalition.
But it does appear that, you know, as Gates and Mullen are saying, if necessary, they could be called back. So it's not really as purely a -- you know, a NATO mission. There are certain capabilities that NATO does not have that the United States does have. And they're going to have to participate when it's necessary.
COOPER: All right. Jill Dougherty, appreciate it. Nic Robertson, as well. Ben Wedeman, as well. Be careful. Stay safe.
Ahead, startling new development in Japan at the crippled nuclear plant. They are now dumping millions of gallons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Why plant officials say it's the best choice and whether our experts say it is the only choice. Coming up.
Plus a happy ending. Just an incredible story for a lucky dog who survived the tsunami and was plucked from a pile of debris in the ocean. It happened Friday. We showed you the rescue on Friday. Tonight the dog has been reunited with its family.
Also Isha Sesay is following some other stories for us -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Southwest Airlines today canceled dozens more flights as it rushed to complete safety inspections on a big portion of its Boeing 737 fleet. Inspections triggered when a tear in the fuselage of a 737 forced an emergency landing.
Now, the Federal Aviation Administration is taking action.
Coming up, I'll have more on the steps being taken to make sure all 737s in service are safe. That story and much more when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: In Japan today some startling developments. Workers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are now dumping storage tanks full of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Get this: they plan on dumping 3 million gallons in all to make room for water that's even more radioactive.
Workers, as you know, have been pumping huge amounts of water onto the reactors to try to cool the fuel rods, and they're running out of places to put the water.
Now, three million gallons is a lot, but for context, here's how one expert put it. The Pacific Ocean holds about 300 trillion swimming pools of water. Three hundred trillion. And they're going to dump about five swimming pools of radioactive water. Experts say the radiation will quickly be diluted.
Meantime an eight-inch crack in a shaft in the No. 2 reactor is still leaking highly radioactive water into the ocean. An effort to plug the leak with concrete over the weekend failed.
Yesterday, TEPCO disclosed it had found the bodies of two missing workers in the basement of the No. 4 reactor's turbine plant four days earlier.
The utility is facing a growing backlash, though, for its handling of the crisis and for the lack transparency.
CNN's Kyung Lah joins us now from Tokyo. And in Hong Kong Michael Friedlander, a former senior nuclear power plant operator for more than a decade.
So Michael, is dumping so many tons of radioactive water into the ocean really the best option available?
MICHAEL FRIEDLANDER, FORMER SENIOR NUCLEAR POWER PLANT OPERATOR: Well, Anderson, I have my doubts about that. You know, over the course of my career, I've seen some pretty amazing things done in similar circumstances where there's large volumes of water, such as bringing in temporary 100,000-gallon tanks, storage bladders, building evaporation basins, and things like that.
It's certainly the most expedient, but I'm not sure that it's exactly the most prudent thing to be doing.
COOPER: So what do you think? I mean, is it that they're not creative? Or they're just completely fried? I mean, that they've been working so much they're kind of not exploring other ideas? That they're not asking for input and help from others?
FRIEDLANDER: You know, it's difficult to say. There's no doubt that everything that you just said is true. And I'm certain -- and there's no doubt, don't get me wrong, by any stretch of the imagination, water and water management is the crisis right now. And they are going to have to figure out how to solve this problem.
But you know, quite honestly, until they get the systems put back into service or reconstructed or whatever, this is not a one-off deal. This issue of water and water management is going to plague them until they can get on long-term core cooling and get the liquid processing systems put back in service. So this is going to be the crisis du jour for some time to see.
COOPER: Kyung, we spoke Friday about a growing frustration from the public toward this company TEPCO, this private company which runs the plant. This weekend there was actually a protest against TEPCO. It might not sound like a big deal, but protests are pretty rare in Japan.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinarily rare, Anderson. Usually, here in Japan, you don't say things publicly. You certainly don't say them out loud. And you don't do it at a protest.
A protest here would be maybe one guy with a bullhorn and three or four of his friends. So to have 300 people gather outside of TEPCO, that's something extraordinarily rare.
And if you talk to the people who are there this weekend, what really struck me is that these are regular people. They were organized by social media. Average moms and dads, many people who had never protested a single thing before in their life. So it's extraordinarily rare. A really unusual thing that we saw this weekend.
And something else. If you look online, you really get the sense of growing frustration by the public, who really are wondering is TEPCO making the right move?
There are death threats against TEPCO executives, and TEPCO is so concerned they've actually taken the extraordinary move of removing the TEPCO name on many of their buildings. So they're very concerned about this backlash.
COOPER: Michael, do we know what kind of impact this would have in the sea? I mean, do you agree with those who say, well, look, this is quickly diluted and, you know, this is a small, you know, drop in the bucket?
FRIEDLANDER: I think that the figures that were quoted are pretty accurate. In the grand scheme of things, as it gets diluted out over the seven seas, the reality is that you're probably not ever going to ever know that it was done.
But I think that it's just an example of this is not excellence in nuclear operation, and it's just another example of how the crisis is being mismanaged.
COOPER: They also used, TEPCO tried to use, Michael, a mix of newspapers, sawdust, cement to help seal a crack. That failed. Now they're trying to use bath salts, I guess, to find the source of the leak. This leak is different than the water that they're just pouring out.
FRIEDLANDER: Yes. That's correct. As I understand it from the reports that I've read, the water that they're dumping is water that has been processed to some degree. So the levels of radioactivity are dramatically lower than the water that's leaking.
Then the logic is we're going to dump a lot of very low-level radioactivity to give us space so that we can put the water that is extremely highly radioactive in its place. The logic makes sense. There's no doubt about it.
And certainly, they have to do something with the water that is, in fact, leaking out because that is very, very, very highly contaminated water. And we certainly need to deal with that promptly.
COOPER: And Kyung, I know you've tried to and had a tough time doing it. Have a lot of reporters been able to speak to the families of the workers at the plant?
LAH: Certainly not. What reporters have been doing is trying to talk to those family members, and what the difficulty has been is that if you go to the shelters, and I've been to a couple of these shelters where these evacuees from Fukushima are staying, there is the sense, and one person told me directly, that TEPCO has told family members not to talk to the press. And because of that -- and that is certainly getting around in the papers and social media as well.
There's growing suspicion against TEPCO. What is it that TEPCO wants to hide that they don't want the family members to talk?
I spoke to a woman whose brother is inside the plant, and she said she would absolutely not say anything to us, would not appear on camera because she was worried about the backlash against her brother.
COOPER: Michael, we got a "Text 360" question from Keenan Abbott in Portland, Oregon. They want to know say the best -- they say, "Say the best possible situation happens. How long until people can go back to living in the area?" assuming a best case scenario.
FRIEDLANDER: Well, I think, you know, again, we've talked about it before. The radioactive iodine has an eight-day half-life. So by the end of April most of the iodine is going to be gone.
We've also seen some reports of the radioactive cesium that's around in the different areas.
And so what I think you're going to see is that for the most part, probably in the May, June time frame, the radioactivity that's going to be gone will be gone, but you're going to see patches here and there, small tracts of land that are going to have to be decontaminated.
And so what I think you're going see is late May, you'll probably see people being released to move back into the areas. With some specific areas that are going to be cordoned off until the authorities can come in and decontaminate it.
By decontamination, they're actually going to have to scrape away layers of dirt, perhaps pump groundwater if groundwater's been contaminated, remove surface water. Again, you know, they're doing a massive recovery effort from the tsunami. So there's probably debris laying around. So it is going to be a huge, huge, huge effort.
But we hope that most of the radioactivity that's going to go away will be away by around the May time frame.
COOPER: And that's -- it's far different than something like Chernobyl, which is still in the area around, not someplace that people live. It's a different kind of radiation?
FRIEDLANDER: Well, it's actually the same radiation. It's the cesium that we're worried about.
But the two things that are dramatically different. The amount that has been released here is dramatically lower than the amount that was released during the Chernobyl accident.
At Fukushima Daiichi these were puffs of radioactive steam, as opposed to a massive nuclear explosion that dispersed the core contents all over the countryside. And the puffs of steam were carried with the winds at the time. So that's why you see the depositing out in sort of patches up along the ground.
COOPER: OK. Michael Friedlander, I appreciate your expertise, as always. Thank you.
Kyung Lah, as well, thanks for the reporting.
COOPER: Up next some good news out of Japan. The dog rescued from an island of debris on Friday is back with her family tonight. We'll show you the amazing reunion that took place.
And Transocean, which owned the oil rig that exploded in the gulf of Mexico, says its statement calling 2010 its, quote, "best year in safety" may have been insensitive. You think?
COOPER: All right. Let's get the latest on some of the other stories we're following. Isha Sesay has the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
SESAY: Five alleged 9/11 terror suspects will be tried at Guantanamo Bay. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other suspects will face a military trial. The Obama administration had wanted to bring the men to New York for federal civilian trials.
Haiti has a new president. Preliminary results released tonight show musician Michele Martelly got about 68 percent of the votes, beating Haiti's former first lady in a runoff vote last month.
The FAA is mandating new safety inspections on some older Boeing 737s after a Southwest flight made an emergency landing with a hole in its fuselage. The mandate will affect about 175 planes, about 80 of which are registered in the United States.
President Obama has invited congressional leaders for a budget meeting tomorrow to try to avoid a partial government shutdown. Republican and Democratic leaders haven't been able to agree on government spending for the rest of the fiscal year.
And the owner of the gulf of Mexico oil rig that exploded last year has called 2010 its, quote, "best year in safety." That's from a proxy statement from Transocean Limited when explaining bonuses and raises.
In a statement today, Transocean acknowledged the wording may have been insensitive in light of the tragedy, which killed 11 workers and led to what is being called the worst oil spill in history.
Anderson, William Reilly, co-chair of the presidential panel that investigated the spill, just said, you know, to reporters, "I think Transocean just doesn't get it."
COOPER: Yes. Well, it seems like a lot of those companies don't.
So Isha, I know you've seen this video. It's just incredible. An update on the story we brought you last week. It's always nice on such a heavy show to end with something to make you smile.
On Friday we brought you the dramatic rescue of this dog. Japan's coast guard rescued the dog. She was washed out to sea, found floating on debris three weeks after the earthquake and tsunami. Tonight a reunion story.
Happy to tell you that Ban -- that's the dog's name -- has been reunited with her family. As you can see, Ban's been very excited to see this woman. She's a relative of Ban's owner, who's been staying at a temporary shelter since the quake hit in Kesennuma.
They may not have a home to return to, but Ban and her owner are together again tonight. We are told both lucky survivors.
Important stuff at the top of the hour. Breaking news, starting with the interview with Eman al-Obeidy. Risking her life tonight, speaking out about the ordeal she underwent at the hands of Gadhafi's forces. Only on 360.