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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Missed Warnings on Colorado Shooter?; Obama Authorizes Secret Support for Syrian Opposition; Bachmann Raises Over $1 Million Last Month
Aired August 1, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with breaking news. In the Colorado tragedy that raises some very troubling questions. Was somebody in a position to sound a clear warning about the alleged shooter? Somebody with both the expertise and the duty to see trouble coming and did that somebody drop the ball?
Twelve people died in the shooting, as you know, that's at the Century 16 Theatre in Aurora, Colorado. Dozens more were wounded. Some with life-altering injuries. Could all of this have been prevented? Some very big questions tonight.
John Ferrugia is an investigative reporter for CNN Denver affiliate KMGH. He joins us now with the very latest.
John, give us a timeline here. We've learned some information about the alleged shooter. It concerns his psychiatrist actually had about him.
JOHN FERRUGIA, KMGH INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, Anderson, in the first 10 days of June, a number of things were going on. I'll give you a timeline here, kind of set the scene. On June 7th, the suspect in these shootings was to take an oral exam. He's in the Ph.D. program, the neuroscience program of the University of Colorado. He took this oral exam as a preliminary oral exam and he didn't do well on it at all. Secondly, he had to find a mentor to continue in this neuroscience program. We're told it's unclear if he could find a mentor.
On the 7th, on June 7th, the same day that he basically failed that test, he went out in the afternoon and he bought an AR-15 assault rifle. It was in that afternoon that we know that he certainly -- or around that period, he was certainly talking to his psychiatrist who was Dr. Lynn Fenton. Now we don't know what those conversations were, but we know during that period, which seemed to be a very high stressed period for him, something that he said to his psychiatrist caused her to contact the University of Colorado Threat Assessment team.
Now that Threat Assessment team was formed in part with her help and she's on that team. So she's a member, she helped form the team, she contacted several of her colleagues on that team. We don't know what she told him. We don't know what triggered her to call them, but they decided after a day or so not to convene. And the reason was is because three days after he failed that test and bought that AR-15, on the 10th of June, he dropped out of school.
They then thought, the team thought, we're told by our sources, the team thought they had no jurisdiction, they had no control over him so there was nothing that they could do vis-a-vis this concern that she had.
Again, we don't know what the concern was. What we do know is is that no one -- through our sources and through our reporting, we have been told, no one contacted the Aurora Police Department with any of these concerns.
COOPER: So that's -- I mean that's really interesting. And this is all new information that we're really just learning now. So certainly whatever he had said, allegedly said to his psychiatrist raised enough red flags that she became concerned, contacted other members of this threat assessment team but because he dropped out of the program, you're saying, they never y formally intervened or formally got together to discuss him?
FERRUGIA: That's correct. Our reporting, though our sources, says that essentially in the process of considering what, you know, Dr. Fenton was telling them, at that point, during that period of time, he dropped out of school. They then thought well, we -- you know, we can't really -- he's not a student anymore. We're the threat assessment team for the University of Colorado, there's not much we can do. We either don't have jurisdiction or we -- you know, what do we know. He's not -- he's not coming here anymore.
As a matter of fact, two days later after the 10th, his access card was cut off. He couldn't -- he couldn't come back to the campus and get into any labs or area where he working.
But, Anderson, be clear on this. We don't know what was said so we don't know the level of threat or the level of concern. And was that level to the level that would have been necessarily reportable to the police? As you know across the country, there are obviously different rules and -- been reportable to police.
FERRUGIA: As you know, across the country, there -- you know, there are obviously different rules in different states. But if you're -- if you're here, and this is where we need to be to report to police, we don't know if that call to the threat assessment team might have been here, about something down here.
FERRUGIA: We don't have any idea about that. So we -- we can't really say whether she mishandled it or she handled it properly.
COOPER: Right. John, let me ask you, and we may not know this information. If we don't, then we can move on. But do we know -- was she actually seeing him as a patient, or just in a classroom setting? And if she was seeing him as a patient, do we know for how long?
FERRUGIA: Well, at this point our reporting tells us that she has been seeing him for several weeks as a patient, and that's also born out by court documents, public court documents that we found. Now on her Web site, on her resume page, we see that she routinely handles between 10 to 15 patients of her own at CU. So he may have very well been one of those patients.
We don't know how long he'd been going to see her. What we know is is that it was certainly several weeks. And it was in this period, the first 10 days of June, is when she finally got this kind of inkling --
FERRUGIA: -- that something might be -- might be a problem.
COOPER: John, stick around. I want to bring in practicing psychiatrist, host of HLN's "Dr. Drew," Drew Pinsky. Also Brett Sokolow. He's the executive director of the National Behavioral Intervention Team that developed the Threat Assessment Program for universities after the Virginia Tech shooting. He joins us now by phone.
Mr. Sokolow, give us your take on what we've just now learned. The limited information that we have.
BRETT SOKOLOW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTION TEAM (via phone): Sure, Anderson. Well, based on what I'm hearing so far and the reading I'm seeing on the coverage, it seems like there was an appropriate flow of information going on within the university that, you know, most concerning (INAUDIBLE). There was this treating psychiatrist that she communicated that information to the Behavioral Intervention Team on campus.
Now, we've already talked about there's a threshold for when a psychiatrist can reveal that information. But information flows both ways with this team. Maybe that someone brought information to the team about Holmes and depends on who's on the team they consulted about it, or maybe the extension brought information to the team about Holmes, which would then imply that there was a special threatening behavior that was imminent and that she felt the need to alert the team to that.
COOPER: Dr. Drew, what do you make of this? Because the question I have is what responsibility does a school or school officials or school psychiatrist have if a student has actually left the school. Is there anything they can really do?
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST OF HLN'S "DR. DREW": The psychiatrist -- again, to reframe your intro to myself, I'm a physician, addictionologist, but the psychiatrist themselves would have obligation to follow through in referral. They are or he or she would absolutely have to continue seeing this patient until that care was terminated or transferred to somebody else. But as you see here very clearly, this patient did not reach the threshold for a 72-hour hold, where people are an imminent threat to themselves or other. Or for her to violate his HIPAA laws to contact police because of a belief that there was imminent danger. She did do the very appropriate thing of calling the Threat Assessment Team. The question then becomes, though, each and every threat assessment team at every university has to make their own guidelines, at least by my understanding on how they function, based on their own ethical, legal obligations of that particular community.
COOPER: And I mean obviously doctors walk a fine line here in terms of patient confidentiality. I mean you're saying Dr. Drew, a doctor could put a 72-hour hold on a patient if they feel they are an immediate danger?
PINSKY: Yes, she would have an absolute obligation to do that. I can pretty much guarantee you that there was not sufficient evidence to suggest that should have happened. Or something called a Terrasoft where people are ruminating after specific harm to specific people where you notified people that that's a potential in the future to protect themselves.
But the fact is, she did what was appropriate within that community, which was to notify threat assessment.
COOPER: Mr. Sokolow, I was interested to read -- I think I read in "USA Today" just a short time ago that as many as 80 percent of colleges now in the United States in the wake of Virginia Tech have threat assessment teams. Is it really that widespread?
SOKOLOW: Oh, it absolutely is, Anderson. It became very clear after the shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois that there was one mechanism which was really was the most effective preventive, and that was to bring a team together which would help to assess these risks. Show every person who's threatened you to this kind of violence almost always engages in what's called leakage, which is, you know, dropping (INAUDIBLE) before they act.
They give clues. And so in any is college community, we pick up on these clues, we pass them along to the team. The team does an accurate assessment and then takes appropriate action. So that's a model that's becoming incredibly common place.
COOPER: Dr. Drew, is a psychiatrist -- if a patient is a college student, are they -- do they have any obligation or ability to tell that person's parents? Or because the person is over the age of 18, are they not allowed to?
PINSKY: Again, this depends on the level of threat, the level of imminent harm. The -- and it depends on the institution. Some institutions, the HIPAA laws that the rest of us are protected by aren't as stringently applied. There are other laws applied that pertain a so-called student records. So they're actually very complicated -- at least from my perspective as someone who doesn't work in that every day, looking at it from the outside in, it looks terribly complicated to navigate through that system. And each system is different.
COOPER: John, in terms of -- and again we -- we may not know this in terms of the reporting, is this the same psychiatrist that the suspect allegedly sent a notebook or a packet to with some disturbing details in it?
FERRUGIA: Yes, that's correct. That is the same package that police recovered. It was sent to Dr. Fenton. One thing I wanted to -- wanted to add here about something we don't know, Anderson. I think it's very important that we mention this. We don't know if -- even though on one side that the threat assessment team didn't follow through or didn't meet and think it could.
On the other side we really don't know what happened with Dr. Fenton and the suspect. Did she meet with him after he left the school on a private basis? Did she refer him to some other psychiatrist as one of your guests just said? Might have done that. We -- those are things we don't know. So it's very difficult to make an assessment as to whether, you know, exactly -- you know, to say that she handled this correctly or not. She may have handled it very correctly. We simply don't have those answers.
COOPER: Right. And that's an important thing to point out, and the very fact that she raised red flags and called other threat assessment members, that's certainly at least a good indication of taking the right steps. And I think Dr. Drew agrees with that.
I appreciate all of you joining us. John Ferrugia, appreciate your reporting. Brett Sokolow and Dr. Drew Pinsky, thank you so much.
Dr. Drew is going to be doing more on this story on his show at the top of the hour on HLN at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Join him for that.
Let us know what you think about this. We're on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper.
And we have also more breaking news tonight. This time now on Syria. Disturbing new evidence that the uprising has entered a new phase where revenge, not just liberation is the goal. And also breaking news about the role of the U.S. may now be playing in the effort to topple Assad. Breaking news ahead.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight. Late word that President Obama has secretly authorized American covert support for the Syrian effort to depose dictator Bashar al-Assad. Two U.S. officials tell us the president has signed what's called an intelligence finding laying things out.
When he signed that is not known. Nor do we know the exact contents. We do know that it gives the CIA and other American agencies permission to provide covert support to oust Assad. The dictator has not been seen in public for weeks. Today he put out a written statement, again blaming his year and a half war on, quote, "the criminal terrorist gangs." That's the phrase he's been using justifying destroying cities.
Take a look at Aleppo today. Under intense bombardment.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language)
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COOPER: This kind of war on cities all across Syria and its populations have now taken an estimated 17,000 to 20,000 lives, mostly civilian. Many of them children. Some of the children tortured to death by the regime, their bodies then returned to their families often as a warning.
Now all that killing later opposition fighters are said to be gaining ground in some places, battling government forces across Syria. And in some locations holding their own, even making headway. But this is not entirely a war of liberation. It is also in places and at times becoming a war of vengeance.
I want to show you one such moment. A warning, it is not easy to watch. It shows a summary execution of Assad loyalists apparently conducted by members of a pro-opposition mob. Now if you'd prefer to turn away, we're going to show it to you for about 15 seconds. Take a look.
An act of retribution, it seems, and it may not be the last one. Whoever comes out on top and whatever impact outside support for the opposition may have.
Let's dig deeper now with two people who've gotten an extensive experience dealing with presidential intelligence findings, former CIA officer Bob Baer, and Fran Townsend, homeland security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.
How big a deal is this? Again, we don't know when this was signed. How big a deal is this and what do you think it means?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, look, we should assume, where we have foreign policy challenges around the world, this is what we have an intelligence community to do, right? To go in clandestinely, to support American policy around the world. And so I -- it shouldn't be surprising.
Here's my problem with it. You talk about 17,000 to 20,000 deaths in Syria. The longer you wait to act, and you've pointed out we don't know when it was signed. The longer we wait to act, the more radicalized the Syrian population becomes. They've been tortured, they've been abused by their own -- by their own leader, and they feel abandoned. And so you lead the way for the sorts of feelings of vengeance, al Qaeda to come in --
COOPER: Right. Extremist groups.
TOWNSEND: -- and exploit them. That's exactly right. COOPER: And we've already seen an increasing reports of (INAUDIBLE) just had the other day about al Qaeda or jihadist groups. I just talked to a reporter who was kidnapped by a jihadist group.
TOWNSEND: That's right. And so I must tell you, good, if it is true that this has been signed and officials have told people here at CNN is, that's great. But it's a little and it's late. And we need to do more. Whatever we're doing, we need to do much more to bring this to an end. The conclusion to this is a transition.
COOPER: Bob, do you think this will make a noticeable difference in what the opposition is able to accomplish against the regime? Or -- I mean is lethal support needed? And is that the kind of thing this finding would have?
ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, for a start, more money is going to go to the opposition. The fighters, they're out of money. They've been complaining today. They're not getting enough medicine. They're not getting enough weapons, enough ammunition. They simply need more funding. They're not getting enough from the Gulf or from Turkey or anywhere else.
Ultimately, if this gets very bad -- and by the way, I completely agree with Fran, the longer we let this go on, the more likely we're going to have al Qaeda on the ground responding, gathering supporters. But what they need right now is surface-to-air-missiles and anti-tank weapons. They have to stop this army, they have to stop the bombardments.
And I -- you know, one day, if it gets really bad, and it could be very soon, we're going to have to switch this to a lethal finding or actually get the United States military to start supplying these people.
COOPER: It's interesting, Bob, and you've been a case officer on the ground in a lot of dangerous places. But there are those who say well, look, look, al Qaeda is involved here or jihadist groups, people from Chechnya or Bangladesh or Libya or going there on what they call a jihad. You see that as a result of not having it more international -- intervention earlier on?
BAER: Well, with the way I look at it is that Islam is a default. When things get really bad and people get hungry and desperate, they turn to the Koran. It's not their first choice. But the longer it goes on just like in Somalia, or even Chechnya, they'll go from a secular opposition to a religious opposition. And you know, let's say another year, we're going to see al Qaeda all over the place.
Al Qaeda is just an idea. It's not an actual military force. It's going to becoming in and people are going to be turned the most extreme forms of Islam, especially if they feel abandoned.
COOPER: Fran, under what -- do you agree with that? That this is a result of not -- of being abandoned? TOWNSEND: And I think you have to understand whether it's the Palestinian people, when a government, when an institution or international institutions fail a population and they are desperate and abused and tortured, they will turn to whoever can provide them weapons, food. And if that's al Qaeda, that's who they'll turn to if they're on the ground.
COOPER: It's interesting, Bob, because when I was -- I was on the border, the Turkish-Syrian border, I don't know, a month or so ago, or maybe longer. And the members of the Free Syrian Army, the folks who are actually fighting, who I was talking to, you know, they kept saying, we keep hearing about communication equipment coming from the U.S., we keep hearing about money and arms coming from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but we're not seeing it on the ground.
I just talked to Ivan Watson who has seen, you know, evolved tactics, who has seen some better armaments, though still relatively small scale weaponry on the part of the opposition, but it's interesting to me that even now, they're still short of ammunition, short of weapons and short of medical equipment.
BAER: Well, I think everybody was just sort of hoping that Bashar al-Assad would fall on his on way, that there would be a coup d'etat. That there would be an easy solution to this. I don't think as a failure of imagination that this could turn into a full blown civil war and that we would have to come down on one side very -- very quickly which we didn't do. So yes, we're coming -- Anderson, we're coming late to the game.
TOWNSEND: And Anderson, I think it's -- I think it's worth noting here. You know, if we're only going to rely on covert action and clandestine activity of the intelligence community, we're not going to win this. This really requires us to be willing to stand up and use all instruments and national power. We're using treasury sanctions? That's good. We may now, as we find out today, be using clandestine activity, that's good.
But some of this really means you have to be willing to stand up and have the courage of your convictions and lead. Right? You've got to pull together the resources of the Arab governments who are willing to contribute. If Turkey is willing to be useful on -- and help form the refugee issue. You have to really be willing to stand up with a strategic plan and pull the international community together. And that's what's been lacking.
COOPER: Bob, you know, everyone knows, horrible things happen in war on all sides. When you see that video of what appears to be a rebel group, opposition members lining up, what they say are regime supporters or regime soldiers, or Shabiya, against a wall and shooting them, you know, unarmed, hands tied behind their back. What do you make of it? And how do you see that?
BAER: Anderson, this is a sectarian conflict. If Bashar al- Assad falls, if the Alawites are forced out of Damascus, we're going to be in a position that we need to defend them because it will be a Rwanda-like situation where these groups are uncontrollable right now, will turn on this minority community. And we don't want to see that either. We're not taking sides in a civil war. We're just trying to stop the violence. And so it doesn't surprise me at all and it could get a lot worse and I think it will.
COOPER: Bob Baer, appreciate your expertise. And Fran Townsend, as well. Thank you very much. Difficult times.
We're following other news tonight as well. Including the fundraising haul that Michele Bachmann is touting. She's raised more than $1 million last month. The question is, has she made some of that money on the controversy over her comments about Huma Abedin and others, and alleged infiltration by radical jihadists into the U.S. government?
We're "Keeping Them Honest." Our political panel joins us ahead.
COOPER: An amazing story from Virginia. A young woman saves her father's life by lifting a car off him. We have details when we continue.
COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's re-election campaign is touting the fact they raised more than $1 million during the first 25 days of July. Yesterday Bachmann tweeted, "I'm so thankful for my generous and faithful supporters. We just raised more than $1 million in less than a month."
It is an impressive amount to be sure. The question is, does it also say something about how -- what politics have become? During those same 25 days, Bachmann and four other Republican members of Congress were alleging that members of a radical jihadist group were infiltrating the United States government. They specifically named an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin.
And we've reported on this a lot over the last two weeks. We've invited Miss Bachmann to come on the program half a dozen times including tonight to provide proof, real evidence of these supposed ties to jihadist groups but the congresswoman refused. She did, however, find time to talk to others about Huma Abedin. This is from Glenn Beck.
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REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: She is the chief aide for the -- to the secretary of state. And we quoted from a document and this has been well reported all across Arab media that her -- her late father who is now deceased was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood. Her brother was a part of Muslim Brotherhood and her mother was a part of what's called the Muslim Sisterhood.
What we did is ask, did the federal government look into her family associations before she got a high-level security?
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COOPER: Senator John McCain blasted Bachmann and her fellow lawmakers calling their claims unwarranted, unfounded. Other Republicans have condemned the allegations as well. But "Keeping Them Honest," you have to wonder if Bachmann relishes all this heat, seeks it, in fact, so she can raise money off of it. Whether the claims she makes are factual or not, does not really matter?
See, this isn't the only time controversy seemed to help her raise money. Back in November of 2010 on this program, Bachmann made this claim.
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BACHMANN: We know that just within a day or so, the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him. He'll be renting out over 870 rooms in India and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over the top spending. It's a very small example, Anderson.
COOPER: No one really knows the cost because for security reasons they don't disclose the cost. So this idea that it's, you know, $200 million is simply made up.
BACHMANN: Well, these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press.
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COOPER: OK, I don't want to replay this, but she said those are the numbers coming out in the press. It turns out the press she's talking about, the original source, for that $200 million figure was an Indian news report which cited an anonymous source allegedly a local Indian provincial official.
So how would a local Indian provincial official anonymous know how much the trip was costing? Impossible. During that same quarter, Bachmann raised nearly $4 million, a near record for her.
Joining us now is senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash and political reporter of Salon.com, Alex Seitz-Wald.
So Dana, you've reported a number of times on the show that the reason Congresswoman Bachmann wasn't backing down on her Muslim Brotherhood claims was because she was sure to raise a lot of money from it.
You even had members of her own party tell you this, and lo and behold her campaign announced she raised a staggering $1 million last month.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Her campaign wants to make $1 million in 25 days, that's what one of her campaign aides e-mailed me yesterday. But look a top House Republican told me just this week that in a very candid way, Anderson, if your network, meaning CNN, goes after someone in their party, meaning the Republican Party, it only helps when it comes to fundraising and that was especially true, according to this top Republican for Michele Bachmann.
Every time the media attacks her, she does better. Now, of course, we should make clear that this show has now attacked Michele Bachmann, but that is definitely the way it is perceived. And that is telegraphed to some of the very important areas where she fundraises.
Now, we should probably ask the question whether or not all this money is really necessary, whether or not she's really in trouble in her re-election bid. You know, by all accounts not really.
I talked to one Democrat who is monitoring this, who said that the Democrats did a poll that shows that she actually is only about five points ahead of her Democratic challenger, Jim Graves.
And he is somebody who has a lot of money. He is independently wealthy. He could spend a lot of money there. But by and large, it does not look like she's in very, very serious trouble.
COOPER: Alex Seitz-Wald, because the congresswoman's fundraising prowess is legendary on Capitol Hill. You say it's also an important kind of currency in Congress. Explain that.
ALEX SEITZ-WALD, POLITICAL REPORTER, SALON.COM: Yes, that's right. I mean, it's sort of win-win for her. Even if she loses on the policy, which it seems like she's going to, she can still win on the politics, both in terms of fundraising for the re-election bid and internally within the House Republican caucus.
It's kind of a dirty secret how important fundraising is on Capitol Hill, but a lot of members who retire will say that this is the reason why they left because it's so important that they raise money in order to get plum committee assignments, to get good leadership positions to be well placed within the caucus.
So what Bachmann can do is raise a lot of money and then turn around and give it to other Republicans. She gave over $60,000 in the 2010 election cycles to other Republican lawmakers, which curries favor.
She can appear at their fundraisers. And all of this helps her insulate herself and, you know, moves her up in the ranks. This is maybe how she got the position on the Intelligence Committee in the first place, considering she doesn't have any foreign policy experience to speak of before.
COOPER: So she's actually using some of the money that she raises to just give to other people, other members of Congress for whatever reason?
SEITZ-WALD: That's right, yes. It's very common. Almost every member of Congress has a leadership "PAC." And they use that to collect their own money and then redistribute it to other members.
So this can, you know, build ties, build relationships. And it's really interesting that in 2011 after the Republicans came in, Bachmann asked to be put on the Intelligence Committee.
She has no foreign policy experience and never served on a foreign policy committee and Speaker Boehner granted that request.
COOPER: Dana, it seems like Congresswoman Bachmann did sort of become this congressional juggernaut in a very short amount of time. How did that happen?
BASH: What's that old phrase? If you see a stampede coming, jump in front of it and pretend it's a parade. I mean, that's effectively what Michelle Bachmann did with the whole Tea Party Movement.
It was actually quite brilliant politically and strategically. A couple of years ago when the Tea Party Movement was really, really gaining steam, she started what she called the Tea Party caucus here in Congress. I'm not really sure if they met even once, maybe a couple of times.
But she became the chairwoman of the Tea Party caucus. She was the go-to person for this movement, which was incredibly popular particularly two years ago. That is how she really became such a superstar. She became a darling of the movement.
There's no question about it. But, you know, it has changed a little bit, particularly because of this controversy. I was just talking to top Republican leadership aide this week who gave me a quote that I just thought I had to pass on, who said loving her is no longer a litmus test for your conservative credentials.
And that really I think does sum up the way things may have changed for her because of this controversy. One other thing I want to add, you're talking about her position on the Intelligence Committee.
My understanding from my reporting is that she ran when the Republicans took the majority, ran for a leadership spot. There was no way the leadership was going to give it to her.
So they wanted to make sure she had a consolation prize because she has so much support out there, legitimate support among so-called Tea Party supporters. And that's why she got it.
COOPER: Interesting. Dana Bash, appreciate it. Alex Seitz- Wald, appreciate it as well. Let's get some other updates and stories we're following. Isha's here with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Agriculture Department has declared disaster zones in more than 200 additional counties in 12 states because of the ongoing drought.
More than half of all U.S. counties now have that designation and the USDA says food prices could rise as much as 4.5 percent because of crop damage linked to the ground.
A 22-year-old woman in Virginia is being credited with saving her father's life by lifting a car off of him and giving him CPR. The father was working on a car in his garage when the jack slipped and he was pinned underneath. Local news reports say he has several broken ribs and other fractures.
Award-winning writer Gore Vidal has died from complications to pneumonia. Vidal wrote dozens of novels, two Broadway plays and hundreds of essays. Gore Vidal was 86 years old.
And Anderson, the first U.S. franchise to open in Libya is Cinnabon. The cinnamon roll fellows seen in more than airports throughout the United States has opened a shop in downtown Tripoli.
The company has plans for 10 more locations in Libya over the next four years. One exec says they were in all the major countries in the Middle East and they said this makes sense.
COOPER: It's going to grind Libya to a halt because every time I pass a Cinnabon at an airport, I literally have to just stop and sit there and smell it.
SESAY: Which is funny because there's so many other things that you don't like --
COOPER: I try not to eat them because -- but they're so yummy.
SESAY: You and I will go together on our road trip, which we talked about last night and we will eat Cinnabons.
COOPER: I'm looking forward to this road trip, Isha.
All right, tonight, a Buddhist retreat co-founded by a couple is facing some troubling questions after a former member was found dead in the desert after being expelled. His family calls the group a cult. We have details ahead.
COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight, a mysterious death in the desert in Arizona is raising some troubling questions about a group that calls itself a Buddhist retreat. Ian Thorson's family may never exactly know how he spent the final months of his life. What do they know is he wasn't entirely alone. His wife was with him. They apparently had a falling out with the retreat and been vanished. Miguel Marquez investigates.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They wanted enlightenment. To get it, they would spend three years, three months and three days meditating in the Arizona desert. This is from their retreat video.
LAMA CHRISTIE MCNALLY, SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR, DIAMOND MOUNTAIN: It will be very, very hard to change the world. We will need a lot of love and support.
MARQUEZ: Christie McNally was the co-founder of the so-called "Diamond Mountain University" in the Southern Arizona desert where 40 committed Buddhists paid thousands of dollars to build their own accommodations.
MCNALLY: We also need a little bit of financial support to tell you the truth.
MARQUEZ: Support that would allow those in the retreat to as they call it, explore the inner space of the mind without worries about food, water or other necessities with McNally, her husband and yoga partner, Ian Thorson. They co-authored a book together.
IAN THORSON, CO-AUTHOR, "TWO AS ONE YOGA": Once we do this kind of yoga together. The next day when we try to do like a series alone, it's really, really lonely.
MARQUEZ (on camera): The bliss was not to last. A year and a half into the retreat, both McNally and Thorson would be expelled. Then they seemingly disappeared. Three months later, 38-year-old Thorson would be dead. Christie McNally at his side.
SGT. DAVID NOLAND, COCHISE COUNTY, ARIZONA SHERIFF'S OFFICE: She was completely hysterical. According to her, she needed to stay with him for a three-day period to help his spirit to heaven.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Thorson died just a few miles from the retreat. He and McNally made had made the fatal decision to continue it on their own, roughing it in the Arizona desert in the middle of winter on a nearby mountainside.
NOLAND: I wouldn't call it a cave. It was big boulders that were stacked.
MARQUEZ (on camera): But the pair had help. Someone was bringing them food and water from the base of the mountain. They had to come down and back up in order to get it.
At some point, they became too weak and too sick to actually do that. The coroner's report says Thorson died of dehydration and starvation.
(voice-over): Despite their bad decision to rough it, Thorson's mother doesn't blame either her son or his wife. She blames squarely on this man, Michael Roach, seen here in the retreat video.
GESHE MICHAEL ROACH, SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER, DIAMOND MOUNTAIN: What you're seeing here is the party to celebrate the retreat.
MARQUEZ: Co-founder of Diamond Mountain with McNally, he goes by Geshe Michael, the honorific title of a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Thorson's mother accuses Roach of running a cult. And says the three- year retreat was just another step in establishing control over her son, Ian. VICTORIA THORSON, IAN THORSON'S MOTHER: He changed radically, but over a period of time. It doesn't happen overnight.
MARQUEZ: But there is more to the story. Before it was Christie and Ian, it was Christie and Michael. That's right. Michael Roach and McNally had done a three-year retreat starting in 1999, living in the yurt in the same Arizona desert. They were more than 15 feet apart.
Their relationship was frowned upon by Tibetan Buddhist including the Dalai Lama who disapproved of Roach wearing monastic robes indicating celibacy while apparently in a sexual relationship. They even made a series of videos about their spiritual partnership.
The problem began in February, a little more than a year into the retreat. McNally gave a lecture indicating Ian had been violent towards her and she accidentally stabbed him while practicing martial arts.
Reason enough Ian's mother contends for Roach to expel Christie and her son. Days later, McNally received a letter from Michael Roach and the retreat's board of directors demanding to know details. She refused.
In a rambling 31-page letter titled a shift in the matrix, she said she was treated with disrespect, calling the board's letter disturbing and a gross breach of the retreat. The dispute appears to have led to the couple's expulsion from the retreat.
In his own open letter, Michael Roach said Ian had been cut three times. One which was deep enough to threaten vital organs, but the coroner's report only mentions a scar across Thorson's right shoulder.
THORSON: He expelled the couple for whatever reasons. You can -- I don't think it's possible to justify something like that.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Expelled them and never informed the families, she says. Both Ian and Christie emerging from a year of the retreat would have been in a delicate frame of mind.
No charges were ever filed and Arizona authorities consider the case closed. Michael Roach continues to run Diamond Mountain traveling and spreading the gospel of Buddhism in business. He refused our every attempt to talk to him on camera.
Last April, Ian Thorson was cremated in Arizona. What started as a journey towards enlightenment ended with his death and many unanswered questions.
COOPER: It's such a bizarre tale. Miguel, I mean, if he and Thorson's family were convinced it was a cult, did they try to do anything to get him out of it?
MARQUEZ: They did indeed. In the late '90s and early 2000, they actually brought in experts. They brought him out to Long Island near where they lived. They tried to basically mount an intervention to get him out of it.
There was one scene where he became so upset and agitated in the car he jumped out of a moving car and went running away from the family while in flip flops essentially and they had to go chasing him down.
They tried everything that they could to try to get him away from Michael Roach, away from what they considered a cult and never could -- Anderson.
COOPER: We'll continue to follow. Miguel, appreciate it. Elsewhere, deadly Ebola outbreak is spreading. There are health teams on the ground. Russia tries to deal with a contagious disease. We have details ahead.
COOPER: There's a lot more we're following tonight. Let's check in with Isha again with "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
SESAY: Anderson, the death toll in Uganda's Ebola outbreak has climbed to 16 and there are three dozen suspected cases. Uganda's president and health officials are urging people not to gather in large groups in hopes of stopping the spread of the highly infectious virus.
A "360 Follow," Hans Christian Rausing heir to one of the world's biggest fortunes has pleaded guilty for the unlawful and indecent burial of his wife, Eva. According to news report, she likely died in April. Her body wasn't found in their London mansion until last month after Mr. Rausing was stopped by police on suspicion of driving under the influence. On the driving offense, Rausing also pleaded guilty. The couple fought drug addiction for years.
U.S. stocks fell after the Federal Reserve said it wouldn't change its policies even though new data suggests the U.S. economy is slowing. The Dow sank 37 points. The Nasdaq lost 19 and the S&P shed 4 points.
And Anderson, a badminton scandal at the London Olympic games, eight female players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were disqualified. They're accused of playing to lose so they could face easier opponents in future matches. A lot of unhappy people.
COOPER: I guess so, Isha, thanks. Coming up, she is back. Big news for the modern day Grace Kelly. Anyway, big news for Courtney Stodden and all who follow her. "The Ridiculist" is next.
COOPER: Time now for the "Ridiculist." Tonight, there is joy throughout the land because it has finally happened, people. We are go for launch for what is bound to be the best reality show ever. That's right, our between teen bride, Twitter poet and ambassador of love, Courtney Stodden is doing a freaking reality show. A quick refresher with the blessing of her parents, Courtney at age 16 married 51-year-old character actor, Doug Hutchinson who was on the "X Files" and "Lost."
But Doug isn't the star here, Courtney is clearly the star. Ever since she erupted into our consciousness, we have been waiting for this day. She tweeted, and I quote, FYI stoddenistas. We'll be MIA for about three weeks, packing up and heading out to shoot a reality show. Love you all, xxx. God bless, Courtney.
Speaking of xxx. Do you remember that Courtney made that video about vegetarianism? It was so pornographic we had to blur the veggies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COURTNEY STODDEN: I grabbed these veggies, but then I turned around and these were calling to me for some reason. They're sexy, aren't they?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: See, we are super excited about Courtney's reality show because we have a pretty good idea what it's going to look like. The details of the show are being kept secret. But for instance, we already know what her typical day is like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STODDEN: A typical day for me is crazy. I get up out of day and the sexiest outfit you've ever seen. My hair is done, my makeup is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And maybe the reality show will have singing and pink dogs and boats.
We didn't actually show you the pink dog, but there was a little dog dyed pink in there. So she says she's taping the show for the next three weeks or so. Unfortunately, there's no holiday fall within that time frame because you may remember Courtney pulls out all the stops for holidays.
Like when she went to the pumpkin patch last Halloween. According to Radar Online, some parents who took their kids said pumpkin patches were in the Halloween -- if for whatever reason, Courtney and Doug's PDA were just inappropriate.
The Halloween scrooges also reported took issue with the way Courtney was dressed. So after multiple complaints, she got thrown out. She had no other choice, but to walk off right out of there and show off her pumpkins on the side of the road. We've done about, I don't know, 50 "Ridiculist" on Courtney Stodden. This won't be the last one. There is one thing though that's for certain about Courtney's reality show, no matter what, it's going to be 100 percent real.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STODDEN: My breasts are real. Everything about me is real. My hair is real. My teeth are real. My eyelashes are real. My breasts are totally real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She said that twice. I would have to say the main reason I'm personally looking forward to the reality show is maybe, just maybe, it will give us new insight into the enigma that is Courtney Stodden.
Her goals, aspirations and yes, maybe even an answer to the question that plagued us for more than a year now, what in the name of all that is holy is she doing with her face in this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG HUTCHINSON: People are welcome to their opinions. That's what the world is about. If they need to feel this way, that's theirs to hold. Not ours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Congratulations on the reality show. Courtney, we will definitely, definitely be watching. No doubt about that.
That does it for us on this edition of 360. We'll see you again one hour from now at 10 p.m. Eastern. PIERS MORGAN starts now.