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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Drug Wars; Chavez and President Bush's Latin American Tour; Airport Insecurity

Aired March 12, 2007 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you're just joining us tonight, we've been bringing you a special report that speaks to millions of Americans who have been sexually abused as children.
But that hardly does it justice because for every abused child, there are many family members and spouses and friends who experience some of the effects of that abuse.

So for those of you just tuning in, we want to bring you up to speed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): At 14 years old, Thomas Roberts was trapped by the one person he was told to trust.

THOMAS ROBERTS, SEXUAL ABUSE VICTIM: It's probably the worst place you can be in your life because there's so much shame that goes along with this. There's secrecy. There's shame. There's self- hatred, self-doubt. Every mixed up emotion you can have that you don't feel that you can talk to anybody about, it was a prison.

COOPER: The man he looked up to would not relent. Father Jeff Toohey, his counselor, his priest, continued to molest Thomas.

ROBERTS: One evening of Father Jeff, you know, kissing my ear, the next instances of abuse and how they would graduate would be Father Jeff licking the palm of his hand to then, you know, touch me and using -- using his hand to then masturbate me.

Instances after that would then graduate to kissing where he would rub his tongue across my teeth, clenched -- mine would be clenched until time after time I relented. This is -- I don't want to -- this is really too painful.

COOPER: Father Jeff became more aggressive, leaving Thomas thinking he had only one way out.

ROBERTS: I'll kill myself. And I'll get out of it that way. I'll get out of it that way. And then no one will have to know. I'll never have to tell. And I won't have to live like this.

COOPER: But his attempt was thwarted by his sister, Patsy. And surrounded by his family, Thomas sought medical attention. He still refused to speak, however, of the abuse and continued to go to counseling with Father Jeff at his home on Cottage Lane until finally Thomas fled to college, thinking he had escaped his past and Father Jeff.

But the past kept coming back. Thomas found out he was not the only victim of Father Jeff's. Even then, Thomas could not come forward with the truth.

ROBERTS: That was not my life. And there was no way, no way, I was going to go back and walk through that ring of fire again and admit to everybody, hey, you know, that was me, you know, I share, you know, part of this boy's story. I was abused, too.

COOPER: It was nearly 20 years until Thomas found the courage to share his secret with his family and that other victim of Father Jeff's.

ROBERTS: I picked up the phone and the voice on the other end said, is this Michael Goles? And I said that it was. And he just started in about that he had been abused by Jeff.

ROBERTS: After I reported it to the archdiocese, I asked to get in touch with him because I felt that I owed him, that I owed him an apology, that I needed to tell him that he wasn't alone and that if nobody in this world believed him, that I did. That I did.

COOPER: Together, Thomas and Michael sought justice against their abuser. And in February 2006, after having pled guilty, Father Jeff Toohey received a five-year sentence, with all but 18 months suspended. Meaning, he only had to serve 18 months at this Baltimore County Detention Center.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Well, in this case, as in many, the law had its limit. That was one outrage. The other became apparent when people, including Thomas Roberts, began trying to change the laws.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Father Jeff pled guilty to the crimes against us and was sentenced to 18 months. All of you have asked about what the criminal route serves. Well, that's it.

Meanwhile, in a different criminal courtroom that very same day, a man who abused the public library system of this state received a three-year sentence for not returning an overdue library book. And it really saddens me the state where I grew up values an overdue library book more than it does a child who was molested for three years ago.

COOPER (voice-over): A year ago in March, just one month after Father Jeff Toohey's sentencing, Thomas Roberts and Michael Goles sat side by side before Maryland's Judiciary Committee. They were there to speak on behalf of two bills that would extend the civil statute and in essence give abuse victims a voice.

ROBERTS: As a survivor, I'm never going to be able to deliver consequence. It's just not mine to deliver. But I can sit here and I can try and effect change to protect others. COOPER: As the law in Maryland currently stands, a victim would have to come forward with a civil charge by the age of 25.

ROBERTS: Instead of sitting here in front of me, get behind me and work to change the laws for the state. And chairman, before you cut me off, one thing, you have the power to send a no tolerance message. Don't leave it up to the church. They're not their own city. They're not their own state body. This state is in charge of the laws. You are in charge of the laws.

COOPER: But the archdiocese of Baltimore launched a fierce lobbying campaign against the bills, even going as far as asking people to pray against the bills.

In the end, the Catholic Church won out. The two bills went nowhere.

Does it upset you that the Catholic Church lobbied so strongly against these bills?

ROBERTS: I expected them to. Why do you need those bills if the church were there to do the right thing? Why put the laws in place if they're going to stand up like they say and have a zero tolerance policy and transparency? What do you need laws on the books for? Well, of course, they're afraid of something. And laws actually hold their feet to the fire.

COOPER: This past December, barely 10 months into his sentence, Father Jeff Toohey was granted a hearing.

There, Toohey's attorney complained that his living conditions were extremely tough. The priest was locked in solitary confinement 23 hours a day for his own protection.

Toohey's attorney requested the rest of the sentence be served as home detention or even probation.

(on camera): They said his detention was particularly difficult.

ROBERTS: It's jail. I mean, I'm surprised that he got special treatment. I think that a lot of prisoners and people that admit their guilt to sexually abusing two kids would probably prefer that.

COOPER: You spoke -- I mean, you tried to get the judge to listen to your side.

ROBERTS: I told the judge that I thought it was a lenient sentence to begin with and that a trusted system let me down years ago, meaning the Catholic Church. And I think that a trusted system -- the judicial system was going to let me down today, and it did.

COOPER (voice-over): It did, indeed. The judge granted Father Jeff Toohey's request to serve the rest of his sentence in the comfort of his own home. Here in this gated community in Lutherville, Maryland. Our repeated requests to speak on camera with Father Toohey were denied. Wearing an ankle bracelet, Toohey can leave his home for church, appointments with doctors and lawyers. He can even have a job.

(on camera): Is that justice?

ROBERTS: In Maryland court system, apparently it is.

COOPER: To you?

ROBERTS: I don't know how to define justice in this. What's justice? I mean, what -- do I get early release from this? No. You don't get early release from knowing what happened to you. You just have to deal with the fact that that was your life, you did it, you had to put up with it to survive and it will be your story for rest of your life. No early release from this story.

COOPER (voice-over): Although the church relieved Father Toohey of his duties as a pastor after Michael Goles's allegations in 1993, to this day he remains a priest.

The archdiocese of Baltimore says it's requested that the Vatican defrock Father Toohey; however, no action has been taken.

When he finishes what little is left of his home detention, he won't even have to register on a sex offender list because his crimes against children predate those laws.

Do you think of him? Do you think of Father Jeff?

ROBERTS: I try not to think about it anymore. I mean there were times during his time in jail where I would be maybe at work or maybe at a social event or with friends or cooking dinner and I would think about it. Like what's go on right now? Where is he? I'd think about it for a second and I'd move on.

Knowing the -- the realization of where I am today as opposed to where I was, it's overwhelming.

COOPER: For Thomas Roberts, telling his story to us is the end of a long struggle. He hopes it will have the raw power to get laws changed and protect other children from being abused.

Now, for the first time in nearly 20 years, he can see his life without the burden of the secret of what happened in that house on Cottage Lane.

ROBERTS: I hope to be able to build my life beyond all of this now, you know, build my life forward and continue to grow as a person, not be mired down and so consumed by the shame and the secrecy that surrounds this and just move forward. And I feel like I'm finally at that place.

COOPER (on camera): It's over? ROBERTS: I want to believe it's over. I mean, I -- I have invested 20 years of my life into this. When it comes to this part of my life, I have -- I've been to hell and back and survived.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Despite their defeat last year, victims of sexual abuse in Maryland are steadfast in their fight for what they say is justice.

Earlier this month, they shared their painstaking stories with the Senate Judiciary Committee in hopes they'll gain support for a bill that would allow a one-year window for childhood victims of sexual abuse, regardless of their age, to press civil charges against their abusers.

The Catholic Church was also represented, arguing against the bill.

We asked the archdiocese of Baltimore and asked them why. In a statement they said, and I quote, "The bill is fundamentally unfair to defendants to resurrect dead claims from 50 years ago and financially devastates the good work and faithful parishioners of today. This legislation does nothing to protect children, rather it encourages delays in reporting allegations of abuse leaving more children vulnerable."

The fate of the bill is expected to be decided within the next few weeks. And of course we'll be tracking its progress and keep you posted here on 360.

On the radar tonight, we've been getting e-mail all day and all last week on this report. Here's a small sampling of the comments from the 360 blog.

From Jodi in Calgary, Canada, "I can't even begin to imagine the hell that Thomas Roberts must have lived through for years. That he was able to come forward after all these years shows the incredible inner strength that he has."

Rose, in Madison, Alabama, writes, "I was brought up on this church, and didn't know, until I was an adult, that the very priests shaking their fingers at me, telling me how to live my life, were child molesters. I lost a church and a way of life and now don't have a lot of trust in anyone."

Finally, Joseph in North Huntington says some very good advice. "The best revenge is a life well lived," he says, "and I wish Thomas Roberts the very best in life."

As always, we welcome your views. Just go to CNN.com/360blog. Follow the link and weigh in.

Still to come tonight, the battle on the border now playing out miles and miles from the border. How the fight over immigration affects us all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): Believe the battle on the border doesn't hit home? Just pay a visit to small town Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been accused of being racist. But let me repeat what I have been saying, illegal is illegal.

COOPER: One town's crackdown on illegal immigrants becomes a federal court case that could change the law where you live.

Also, a country that runs on cocaine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Without U.S. support in the drug war, the world would be flooded with cocaine.

COOPER: Inside Colombia's drug economy, how Americans make it tick. When 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): Protesters today outside a Pennsylvania courtroom while inside, an unprecedented showdown over illegal immigration was taking place.

On one side, the mayor of Hazleton, the town who started a high- profile campaign to rid his city of illegal immigrants. He says they're destroying Hazleton's quality of life.

On the other hand, the ACLU and various groups who say the mayor's tough anti-immigrant laws are unconstitutional. It is the first federal trial on a local government's efforts to curb illegal immigration and it could change law as cross the country, including where you live.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We call her Maria. We can't tell you her real name or show you her face. She's an undocumented worker, living here in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. And she's the target of a new ordinance cracking down on illegal immigrants.

"MARIA," ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT (through translator): For me, it's very painful because it affects many people, not just me. I've been here for four years and all I do is work and work.

CARROLL: There was a time Maria says it wasn't fear she felt, but hope. Four years ago she and her son crossed illegally from Mexico into Arizona. They settled here and worked in a packaging plant. She says they she felt welcome back then, but not anymore.

"MARIA" (through translator): Racism shows up everywhere. So no longer does one live here peacefully. CARROLL: Now the ordinance is being challenged in federal court. It imposes fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, denies permits to companies that give them jobs, allows the city to investigate complaints over a person's immigration status. The city also declared English as its official language.

The city's Mayor Lou Barletta strongly supports the ordinance because he says the federal government isn't doing enough.

(On camera): What do you say, Mr. Mayor, to those who look at what you're doing or trying to do and they say that it's racist, that it's discriminatory? How do you respond to that?

MAYOR LOU BARLETTA, HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: There's no race in illegal. Illegal is illegal. And our ordinance clearly states that a complaint cannot be based on the way someone looks or the way they talk.

CARROLL (voice-over): Civil rights groups say the ordinance is unconstitutional, that it unfairly targets people based on their ethnicity. And they say it's the federal government's job to enforce immigration law.

It's too soon to know how many Latinos have left Hazleton, but one longtime resident, Amilcar Aroyo (ph), showed us Latino-owned businesses now closed.

(on camera): So you're saying that this ordinance is just basically economically hurting Hazleton?

AMILCAR AROYO (ph), HAZLETON RESIDENT: Exactly. Exactly.

CARROLL (voice-over): But the mayor says some new businesses have opened, too. And says if some stores shut down because of not catering to or not hiring illegal immigrants, so be it.

BARLETTA: I don't have any sympathy for businesses who are trying to profit from paying somebody low wages.

CARROLL: Mayor Barletta also claims crime has dropped as a result of some deciding to leave town.

(on camera): Hazelton's police department did not return several calls asking for statistics showing a recent drop in crime.

Even without those numbers, there is a feeling among some of the people we spoke to in Hazleton that crime has decreased because of the city's illegal immigration ordinance.

BERT SCHAFER, HAZLETON AREA RESIDENT: It seems like since the council passed this resolution, things have seemed to quieted down.

CARROLL (voice-over): But Maria says she and others like her are hardworking members of the community who want to be legal citizens someday. They're not, she says, common criminals. Communities across the country are watching this federal courthouse for its decision for trying to adopt their own laws on illegal immigration.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, CNN's Lou Dobbs has been following the immigration debate, of course, on his program. I spoke with him about the Hazleton case earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It's a remarkable group of, you know, the ACLU and all the -- there's a lot of groups lined up against this small town.

LOU DOBBS, ANCHOR, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": There really are, Anderson. They -- it shows you how important this is. The ACLU, Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, one of the largest firms in Philadelphia, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobby in the country, the U.S. -- the Catholic bishops. I mean it just goes on and on.

And this little town of 30,000 people is really in a heck of a fight.

COOPER: The critics, though, of the mayor's plan say, look, the constitution gives exclusive power to regulate immigration to the U.S. Congress and it's not the job of a small town and it's frankly unconstitutional for the mayor to try to do this.

DOBBS: Well, I'm certainly no lawyer, but every other instance, local law enforcement in point of fact, carry out the laws set down by Congress. And the United States Constitution is determinant in all cases.

To say that because it's prescribed by the constitution or the Congress does not mean that local governments suddenly are impotent, particularly when the federal government is failing to enforce either border security -- I mean, absolutely refusing to do so, as you know, and refusing to enforce U.S. immigration policy. What more -- what can a town, what can a community, what can the American people, do?

COOPER: The ACLU basically says this is discrimination and that's what at the core of this despite all of the legalese, despite all the talk about illegal immigrants, it's actually an anti-Latino policy.

DOBBS: Right. And that is a cry across this entire national debate. When left -- when finally reason and argument has ended, the activist groups, the socio-ethnic centric groups, the open borders lobby, they resort to racism. You know, I've been called a racist because I want to stop illegal immigration. I'm not a restrictionist by any stretch of the imagination. I want to see more legal immigration into this country. But I want it to be a result of public policy by our elected representatives, not through the dicta of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

COOPER: Critics will basically say -- well they say many things. But one of the things that critics will say on this is that, you know, you target illegal behavior. If crime is a problem, well you need to bolster your abilities to fight crime.

DOBBS: Right.

COOPER: You don't necessarily need to go after a group of people.

DOBBS: Well, I don't know that a group of people other in the sense than a collection of people who are illegally in this country who are renting from landlords and who are seeking employment with -- as President Bush puts it, willing employers -- that's the group of people. I don't think it's a matter of ethnicity. I don't think it's a matter of race. It does -- it's certainly true that most of those illegal aliens in this country are predominantly Hispanic.

But this is a racially ethnically diverse society. The most racially ethnic diverse society on the face of the earth -- 40 million Hispanics live on this country. They are legal citizens. And to equate his Hispanics with illegal aliens is nonsense. And I think it's one of the great disservices that these Hispanic activist organizations are doing to Hispanic Americans. It's -- to me, it would be intolerable.

COOPER: It is a -- it's going to be probably a long fight. We'll continue to follow it.

Lou, thanks.

DOBBS: Good to be with you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Talk to Lou a little bit later coming up as well.

The number of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. continues to dramatically climb. Here's the raw data. In 1989, America was home to an estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants. That number rose to 3.9 million in 1992. It reached 5 million in '96. By 2000, the number shot up again, this time to 8.4 million. In 2005, an estimated 11.1 million illegal immigrants were in the United States.

Now, it's not just illegal immigrants that are crossing the border. We'll take you to Colombia and the frontlines in the war against drugs. Next.

Also tonight, airport insecurity. Arrests lead to major changes and raise some troubling questions about exactly who is screening the screeners, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Bush in Guatemala today, doing a little farm work for the cameras and pushing for the Central America Free Trade Agreement.

He came by way of Columbia, where sadly, the primary cash crop is cocaine, coke that free trade agreement or not, has no trouble making its way north to the U.S., but not before first doing a lot of damage actually in Colombia.

Reporting for us tonight is CNN's Karl Penhaul.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those clean white lines are bankrolling a very dirty war.

The cocaine trail starts here. Peasant farmers burn clearings in the Colombian jungle to plant drug crops.

This is the raw material for cocaine. The farmers say they're not getting rich, but processing these coca leaves will feed their families.

This is a social problem. If there's land reform, maybe you can stop it, but not with violence, he says.

Colombia and U.S. governments, though, say it's a war.

Washington bankrolls Bogota's fight against drugs with an average $700 million a year. That's around what the U.S. spends in Iraq in just three days. Eighty percent of that aid goes to military and police to fight cocaine production and communist guerrillas who government officials say now control most of the market.

But right wing death squads, linked by government investigations to some of President Alvaro Uribe's political allies have also merged with some of Colombia's cartels.

That mix of cocaine and politics is stoking a war in which all sides massacre civilians.

Cocaine is such a way of life here, that in some villages semi- processed cocaine, not money, is the currency. Even for grocery shopping.

Two pounds of rice cost a gram, two pounds of beans cost a gram, and two cans of sardines cost two and a half grams, he says.

Farmers here get pennies corn and bananas, even if they can sell them. The price of a partially refined cocaine at secret markets like this is much better.

Traffickers test the purity. And then pay $900 a kilogram, a little more than two pounds. On American and European streets, that same kilo will fetch about $100,000.

When I talked to this drug trafficker three years ago, he predicted the drug war could only be won if poverty is tackled. "They haven't been able to wipe out cocoa here because instead of investing in weapons and warplanes, they should be giving peasant farmers aid and loans" he explains.

U.N. drug experts say Colombia produces 640 tons of cocaine a year, 70 percent of the world's supply. About two-thirds of that is exported to the U.S., most through Mexico.

Kingpin Pablo Escobar waged a bombing campaign against the government and killed hundreds before being killed himself in a rooftop shootout. His successors are equally ruthless. This man, Diego Montoya, listed alongside Osama bin Laden on the FBI's most wanted list.

(on camera): The drug war may have taken a backseat to the war on terror, but it's still a war.

(voice over): The U.S. and Colombian governments, guerrillas and death squads, are fighting it, and six million American cocaine users are helping pay for it.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Bogota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as you see from that map, much of the Colombian cocaine comes into this country across the Mexican border. We have been there, we've shown you the tunnels and the holes and the fences. Recently, Mexicans elected a new president, Felipe Calderon, who promised to get tough on the drug trade. Mr. Bush meets with him tomorrow.

CNN's Lou Dobbs has been keeping a close eye on the drugstore in Mexico. You might say he's been keeping them honest. Here again is part two of my discussion with Lou.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Lou, the new Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, promised that he would get tough on drug traffickers. Thus far, he's seized, destroyed thousands of pounds of drugs, extradited a couple of drug lords to the country.

How's he doing?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I think, Anderson, this may surprise some people. I think he may be doing pretty darn well, certainly in his early two months in office.

This -- this president, Calderon, has already done since taking office on December 2nd of last year -- so we're really at three months -- he has really done more than Vicente Fox in his entire five-year term as head of Mexico. Whether this is public relations posturing, it is a great beginning and something that could be built upon if the Bush -- and I have less problem, frankly, with the Mexican president than I do the U.S. president.

If they could work together, then sensibly they can actually create border security, they could actually go after the drug cartels that are shipping, you know, up to $100 billion worth of illegal drugs into the country. I think it's very encouraging, frankly.

COOPER: You've argued in the past the U.S. hasn't really had the will to win the war on drugs. What are they doing wrong?

DOBBS: Well, a number of things that they are doing wrong. They're acting like this border, which is -- Mexico is the principal source of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines into this country. The numbers rise to $125 billion, that's the highest estimate. It's low is $25 billion going across that border.

But the fact is, a million lives are at stake every year in the country. And if for no other reason, forget there's a small item called a war on terror that we're waging, forget that there are issues with illegal immigration, to stop the drug traffic alone is all that should be required of this government to insist on securing that border and securing our ports.

COOPER: Last year, Mexico, Vicente Fox, basically legalized small amounts of some narcotics.

DOBBS: Right.

COOPER: What kind of impact has that had? I know you were very critical about it at the time.

DOBBS: I'm very critical then, I'm very critical of it now. The idea that he would -- just another example of him rolling over for the drug cartels, which as you know are dominating northern Mexico and now are in a very violent struggle for control of those drug trafficking routes into the United States for distribution.

COOPER: For all of the attention that's been paid to the immigration issue, and I guess some would argue lack of attention from Washington, but at least attention in the media, has -- have things on the border really changed?

DOBBS: No, they have not. As a matter of fact, they've worsened in many respects, whether we're looking at Nuevo Laredo or whether we're looking down to Mexicali, to the western part of northern Mexico. The violence is unending. The police in Tijuana, 2,100 of them, disarmed because of suspected complicity in the assassination, the brutal assassination of other police officers, as well as drug cartel rivals.

Calderon has a great deal to do, and one hopes he can be successful and one hopes he has the true will and support of what has been an incompetent and corrupt government. I wish Felipe Calderon nothing but the best of luck. He has the opportunity to be historic in his achievements.

COOPER: Lou, thanks.

Lou Dobbs.

Appreciate it.

DOBBS: Good to be with you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Of course you can watch Lou every night, weeknights, at 6:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

From Mexico's president, now to Venezuela's. Quite a difference there. Not only didn't President Bush meet with Mr. Chavez, Mr. Chavez pretty much taunted President Bush from the first day of his Latin American journey.

More on that now from CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As protesters swirl around President Bush's South American tour, the undisputed heckler- in-chief is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. On his own shadow tour of taunts, he is shouting out loud.

HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT: Gringo, go home!

FOREMAN: And nothing makes Chavez happier, says Michael Shifter, who has studied him a lot.

MICHAEL SHIFTER, INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE: That's what he's about. That's what drives him, motivates him. He's got a lot of money, he doesn't like the United States, particularly doesn't like the Bush administration, and he just got re-elected for another six- year term.

So he's got the bit (ph) in his teeth. He's feeling very confident, and so he's pounding away.

FOREMAN: Many Americans first noticed the pounding when Chavez stood at United Nations podium last fall and called President Bush the devil. "It smells of sulfur still," he said.

Since then, he's missed few chances to show his disdain, whether standing by the sickbed of America's old foe, Fidel Castro, calling President Bush a political skeleton, or running TV ads in America that portray the United States as a virtual welfare nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy, I'm cold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had to drag an iron cot from the basement to the kitchen so I could sleep by the oven.

FOREMAN: Ostensibly, the ads just promote the fact that oil-rich Venezuela is giving cheap heating fuel to low-income Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help is on the way. Heating oil at 40 percent off from our friends in Venezuela and Citgo.

FOREMAN: But the political pitch is unmistakable. Mr. Chavez is selling himself as the leader of the poor, no matter what nationality, sometimes donating much more money to his Latin American neighbors than the United States has sent.

(on camera): President Bush is not saying anything about President Chavez, at least not by name. Maybe that's because Venezuela is a still a relatively small player in the international scene, or maybe it's because it is the fourth largest supplier of oil for the United States.

(voice over): Whatever the reason, Mr. Bush is keeping quiet, even as Mr. Chavez keeps up the heckling.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, straight ahead tonight, do you feel safe at the airport? You might think twice after you've seen our next report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice over): You empty your pockets. You take off your shoes. Yet, somebody got 14 guns on to a single plane. We'll show you the emergency effort to plug a gaping hole in airport security.

Plus, she's tough, but not that tough.

ROSE MORAT, 101-YEAR-OLD MUGGING VICTIM: I'm 101 years old. How are you going to run after a mugger?

COOPER: Surviving this at 101, doing well enough now to be mad as hell about, ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, their job is to keep us safe, but at least four airport security workers are charged with using their access to smuggle weapons and drugs on board planes. Now the TSA is cracking down, screening their screeners and other airport workers to make sure it doesn't happen again. The question is, is it enough?

CNN's Jeanne Meserve investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Every day, Audrey Loop (ph) does security at Tampa International Airport. Today, the tables were turned. When Loop (ph) reported for work, she was the one getting a security check, a pat-down, a bag inspection.

This arrest last week is one reason why. Thomas Anthony Munoz (ph) is charged with using his airport employee I.D. to smuggle 14 weapons and marijuana into the secure portion of the Orlando Airport and then into the passenger cabin of a plane which flew to Puerto Rico. While he was in the air, law enforcement got a tip.

EARL MORRIS, TSA: No passengers were at risk because we knew who the individual was and we had air marshals on board.

MESERVE: Since then, three more arrests in an alleged airport- based drug and weapon smuggling ring. Officials are still investigating its full dimensions. One of those charged even posted on his Web site pictures of himself flaunting cash and weapons, and in a cockpit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. How are you?

MESERVE: Today, the Transportation Security Administration responded by sending a team of 160 officers into five airports in Florida and Puerto Rico. CNN was given exclusive access.

Not only are there random searches of airport workers and their bags, canine teams are checking vehicles entering secure areas. Access to those areas is being limited at night. And before passengers board, some planes are getting a closer look as security personnel check for contraband.

The security teams change location every 45 minutes or so. Their goal is to be unpredictable.

DARIO CAMPAIN, FED. SECURITY DIR., TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: That is a formidable weapon when bad people don't know where we're going to be, what time, which door, which hallway.

MESERVE: Is it a foolproof system? Consider this -- at Tampa alone there are 6,300 badge holders with access to secure areas. Nationwide, about 800,000, including the swarms of people who refuel, load, cater and clean aircraft.

BILL BISHOP, RAMP AGENT: There's so much going on, that one would think that anything you do, will it ever be enough?

MESERVE: All airport workers with access to secure areas are finger-printed and undergo background check. But the TSA doesn't have the resources to screen them all daily. So it will move its surge teams announced to other airports in the weeks and months ahead, hoping to deter, if not detect.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Tampa International Airport.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Amazing that an airport worker would put a picture of himself with a gun and cash on his Web site.

Still ahead, what officials say sparked the wildfire burning homes in California.

Plus, the video that shocked even the most cynical New Yorkers. A 101-year-old woman punched and robbed. She wasn't the only elderly victim. The guy is still on the loose. Maybe you can help find him.

The story next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A lot of people around the country are talking about this video. It happened here in New York. The victim, left battered and bloodied, was born more than a century ago. And police say she was not the suspect's only elderly target.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice over): The tape is sickening to watch. A man attacks a 101-year-old woman, repeatedly punching her in the face. But it's just the beginning for the victim. Her name is Rose Morat.

MORAT: I'm 101 years old. How are you going to run after a mugger?

COOPER: Appearing bruised but remarkably unshaken, Rose describes the crime that has stunned New York.

On the morning of March 4th, Rose left her Queens apartment building for church. Surveillance video captures Rose using a walker as she enters the vestibule. The tape shows a man holding the inner door for her. It then appears he's going to help her with the front door.

Suddenly, he spins around, grabbing Rose by the neck, holding her with one hand, while punching her in the face with the other. The mugger then grabs the purse. She tries to reach for it. That's when the attacker hits her to so hard in the face, Rose is sent flying to the floor.

The mugger got way with $33, but he wasn't done yet. Police say he went to a nearby apartment building and found another elderly victim, this 85-year-old woman.

SOLANGE ELIZEE, VICTIM: He began to beat me, beat me in my face, a lot. And a lot of blood started coming out of my mouth.

COOPER: The suspect stole $32. He also took something priceless, the wedding ring the victim wore on her finger for 60 years.

This is the best picture we have of the suspect. Police say he's in his 30s. They're following up on dozens of tips.

As for Rose, after spending a few days in the hospital, the centenarian had some words for her attacker.

MORAT: I got a little angry, you know, and I said, "Oh that's so-and-so. I hope you get caught."

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, to California, where a wildfire has left homes in ruins. The crime fire officials say sparked it and why firefighters are finally making some progress against the flames.

360 next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Cooler weather is helping firefighters get the upper hand on a wildfire that has burned thousands of acres, threatened dozens of homes in Orange County, California. Now, the fire is 80 percent contained, and tonight officials say they know how it started. They say it was arson, and it may have been set to cover up another crime.

CNN's Dan Simon reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The flames got dangerously close to as many as 200 homes. Here they took over someone's back yard. Fire crews ordered the reluctant woman inside to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to let your house burn. Don't worry. Just go and get out.

SIMON: At another house the flames jumped on to a roof, but were stopped before doing further damage.

It started with a small brushfire Sunday morning and grew into a monster inferno within just a couple of hours, charring more than 2,000 acres in Anaheim Hills, 35 miles south of Los Angeles. More than a thousand people were advised to flee their homes. For hundreds, it was a mandatory evacuation order. For the others it was voluntary.

Most heeded the warning, taking with them their precious valuables.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some wedding pictures of my parents and my grandmother's crystal candy dishes. That's about it.

SIMON: The fire fed by intense winds, with gusts up to 45 miles an hour. Firefighters used helicopters to drop water and planes to drop fire retardants. Big fires like this aren't unusual here, except that this is march. Fire season usually gets going in May and June.

(on camera): Why so early? Well, it turns out this is one of the driest seasons ever for southern California. Winter and springtime here usually mean rain. But this year there's barely been any, and it's made the brush here completely bone dry.

JULIE HUTCHINSON, CALIFORNIA FORESTRY & FIRE PROTECTION: We really are going from, what, two inches, three inches in some areas at the max. So we are way behind normal. SIMON: Julie Hutchinson, a forestry expert, says recent years have brought more rain than usual. That made the brush grow thick here, creating lots of fuels for fire now.

HUTCHINSON: We have a lot of vegetation that grew. Well, now we're not giving it any water. So it's dying back. It's dormant.

SIMON: The dryness here is part of a nationwide trend. Look at the map. From the West, to the upper plains, to the South, unusually dry weather which could lead to drought and wildfires this summer.

This latest fire authorities are calling arson, but not in the usual sense. They say it appears someone set a stolen car on fire, perhaps to destroy evidence. Some remnants of the car seen in this brush.

With the blaze this hot and fierce right up against neighborhoods, it might seem surprising there wasn't widespread damage. But not a single home was lost.

Dan Simon, CNN, Irvine, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, we'll have more 360 in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Now here's Soledad O'Brien with a look at what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING".

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, Anderson.

We're live in Mexico City as the presidents of two nations, the United States and Mexico, sit down to discuss what's become a common crisis, immigration. Now, obviously we've heard a lot about illegal immigration in the United States. We wanted to get the story from the other side of the border.

Why are so many Mexicans leaving? What is that mass migration doing to this country?

We'll take a look across Mexico at 6:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll see you then -- Anderson.

COOPER: Soledad, thanks.

A reminder. We want you to help us keep them honest. If there's a wrong that needs to be made right in your community, tell us about it, cnn.com/360.

I'll see you tomorrow night.

Larry King is next. His guest, comedian Bill Maher.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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