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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

U.S. Marshal Found Dead in Mexico; Mexican Drug Cartel Member Reveals Secrets; Border Drug Busts; Should U.S. Legalize All Drugs?

Aired March 26, 2009 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news here on the border. A U.S. marshal dumped in Juarez, Mexico.

And something you've probably never seen before. An active member of a drug cartel takes us inside, telling us how they get drugs into the United States, how and why they torture, and how shockingly little it costs to take a human life on either side of this border.

First, the breaking news. The body of Deputy Marshal Vincent Bustamante discovered yesterday confirmed today. Shot and killed execution style. That's authorities discovering his body right there, described as multiple head wounds, multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

Then late today, we also learned that Deputy Bustamante was a wanted man, being sought on federal charges of stealing U.S. government property. We're talking about handguns, a shotgun, binoculars.

A spokesman for the Marshal Service only saying tonight they are saddened by his death. He was a 17-year veteran of the Marshal Service. He was also an El Paso police officer before that.

An investigation is under way on both sides of the border, as you might imagine. The latest casualty in what is a very dirty war.

And right now, and only on 360, you're about to hear why from a direct participant. This man claims to be a midlevel cartel member. And based on their longtime work in this war, two trusted sources bear out his claim.

We agreed to conceal his name and identity, even when and where we did this interview. We cover a lot of ground, starting with weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The weapons the drug cartels are using, are most of them coming from America?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, they are.

COOPER: How do they buy them here? UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: They have people, different people -- the officers, people with no criminal background buying the guns at the pawnshops and taking them over to Mexico.

COOPER: So they're bought legally here and then shipped illegally...

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Correct.

COOPER: Smuggled back down?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Correct.

COOPER: What kind of weapons are we talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: AK-47s mainly and assault rifles, handguns, nine millimeters, .45s.

COOPER: The Mayor of Juarez told us today the violence is down in Juarez. Why is the violence down? Is it just because the military is there?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Because the military is there. Because they're concentrating too much on the war right now and not in the business. And that's one of the reasons why right now the violence is a little bit down.

COOPER: But the cartels aren't defeated, they're just laying low?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, yes, they are.

COOPER: Until, what, the military goes away?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Well, we heard six months. So that's what we heard. Six months is what the military is going to be in Juarez. So that's what we know.

COOPER: So you think the military will be there for about six months and then after they leave, you think the cartels will come to them?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Oh, yes, definitely.

COOPER: So no matter what the Mexican government does, sending in the military, it doesn't matter, because the flow of drugs won't stop?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: It won't stop. It won't. I think the money is too good for the cartels to stop sending drugs.

COOPER: And do you think anything will ever stop the demand?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: The demand? That all depends on you guys. Depends on the United States, if they stop demanding, well, maybe it'll stop a little bit, but I don't think so. I don't think it will. The demand is too much.

COOPER: What kind of drugs are the easiest to ship across?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Cocaine, heroin.

COOPER: Why are those easier?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Smaller package.

COOPER: There's always been violence associated with the trafficking of drugs, but it seems like the violence had changed. I mean, you're seeing beheadings now, public executions. Why is the nature of the violence changed?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: The nature of the violence has changed because the message they want to send out to the other cartel, it's a message to the opposite cartel, telling them, this is what's going to happen if we get you.

COOPER: So by cutting off people's heads, they're sending a message?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, they are.

COOPER: But are beheadings is the signature of a particular cartel, or does everybody...

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: It's a signature of a particular cartel, yes, it is. It's a sign.

COOPER: And do all the cartels kill in different ways? Do they have different signatures?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, they do. They've got their ways of showing people who's killing who. Where's it coming from. They've their ways of torturing people and killing them the way they do so that all of the cartels will know who it's coming from.

COOPER: Torture is common?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, it is.

COOPER: Why? Just to get information?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: To -- not to get information, just the pleasure of doing it. They want to - they get pleasure out of doing it.

COOPER: So it doesn't yield useful information, it's just doing it because they enjoy it?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes. The information, they have information from the government, so they have all the information they can get. Most of the torture is for pleasure.

COOPER: Does it also send a message? Does it also strike fear into the heart of...

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Into the public, into other people, into all their customers, the people in the business.

COOPER: Are there any rules of people who can't be killed? Or I mean, is anybody safe? Women and children?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Nobody, no.

COOPER: It doesn't matter?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: It doesn't matter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A lot of you may be wondering why this guy would agree to do this interview with us. Well, he asked us not to reveal that in order to protect people close to him. He's got a lot more to say.

More now on the Mexican military that he credits for making a small dent in the violence. We'll have more of that interview coming up throughout this hour.

But today, we went out with a patrol with a unit of troops, Mexican soldiers on the streets of Juarez, on the streets of Juarez just over my shoulder. Here's a look at what they're up against.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Early in the morning, Mexican soldiers prepare for yet another day on the front lines of the drug war. This unit of 600 soldiers arrived in Juarez one month ago. There are 7,000 Mexican soldiers already deployed here, 45,000 throughout the country.

(on camera): Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, two years ago, realized he wasn't able to battle these cartels with local police forces, even with the federal police. Corruption is just too widespread among the police. So, that's why he's called in the military, which is widely respected in Mexico.

(voice-over): Widely respected and heavily armed, but they're still outgunned by the drug cartels.

(on camera): The vast majority of the weapons which the drug cartels are using come from the United States. Mexican authorities say as much as 95 percent of the weapons they seized that the drug cartels are using are actually originally bought in the United States and then smuggled back here into Mexico.

(voice-over): The U.S. has promised to do more to stop the flow of guns and cash into Mexico, but that's little consolation for these Mexican soldiers who are putting their lives on the line.

(on camera): Every day, Mexican military units are on patrol in the streets of Juarez. They drive around in the back of pickup trucks. The military has essentially taken over the city of Juarez. And they have been able to stop some of the violence. The death toll is down dramatically. The question is, how long can these military units remain deployed here?

(voice-over): At the height of the violence this past February, as many as ten people a day were getting killed in Juarez. Now Jose Reyes, the mayor, says only about three or four people are murdered here each week.

(on camera): How concerned are you about your own security? I mean, you have bodyguards all around us right now.

MAYOR JOSE REYES, JUAREZ, MEXICO: Well, I have been threatened, and I am concerned, and I do take those threats seriously.

COOPER: Your chief of police resigned under threats.

REYES: Yes, yes. And that week when I was threatened, seven police officers were killed. So, the threats are real.

COOPER (voice-over): Mayor Reyes has already fired half of his police force because of suspicions they were corrupt.

(on camera): Do you trust your police force now?

REYES: Well, not absolutely. There are still some bad elements there. We need to weed them out. The corruption took place during the last 15 years in Juarez, and it has grown, and we have to take measures to...

COOPER: How tough is that, trying to figure out who's a corrupt police officer and who's not?

REYES: It's incredibly difficult.

COOPER (voice-over): Until corruption is curtailed and Mexico rebuilds its local and federal police, it'll be impossible to eliminate the power of the drug cartels and impossible to remove the military from the front lines of this fight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: This has turned into a very hot topic on the AC360 blog. Let us know what you think. Weigh in on the live chat at AC360.com.

Just ahead, more of our exclusive interview, a firsthand account from inside a Mexican drug cartel. And all that comes with and including -- we've got to you warn you -- things that may make your blood run cold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: How are people tortured?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Well, we've got different ways. Burn them, they'll burn his testicles, you stick ice picks in his feet. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Later, what the fight looks like through the eyes of U.S. border patrol officers trying to keep THE WAR NEXT DOOR on the other side of the line and the drugs from flowing north.

And back home, Red River rising in Fargo, North Dakota. The question tonight, when will it stop rising? We've got a new forecast. That and more tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're on the border of breaking news, just across the Rio Grande from the place where a U.S. Marshal's bullet-ridden body turned up many, many questions tonight surrounding Deputy Marshal Vincent Bustamante.

More questions than answers, frankly. We know he was a veteran law enforcer -- law officer. He was also a wanted man here in the United States on felony theft charges. Chances are he will not be the last to fall, not in this war or maybe even this week; 6,500 killed last year in Mexico, 800 more in the last three months alone.

Let's "Dig Deeper" now with filmmaker Rusty Fleming, creator of the acclaimed documentary "Drug Wars: Silver or Lead." Also with us tonight here on the border, Arvin West, sheriff of Hudspeth, County, Texas, which includes 98 miles of border.

Rusty, first of all, what do you make of this killing of this deputy marshal?

RUSTY FLEMING, FILMMAKER: Well, it doesn't surprise me at all. I mean, corruption exists on both sides of the border. These guys have the ability to reach anybody. And you know, U.S. Marshal, DEA, FBI. I mean, as much as we want to think that it isn't possible, it definitely is.

COOPER: Sheriff, when you hear that man who was a member of a Mexican cartel talking to us, giving us this interview and talking about how the flow of drugs won't end the until the demand ends in the United States ends, do you think that's true?

SHERIFF ARVIN WEST, CHAIRMAN, TEXAS BORDER SHERIFF'S COALITION: To a certain extent, if you're leaning towards legalizing marijuana...

COOPER: No. Just as long as people want drugs, the cartels is going to find a way to ship them across.

WEST: Well, absolutely. They're going to find every gap, every non-stopped hole that we've got, they're going to try to get across - get through.

COOPER: Do you think that the Mexican military has had an impact on the ground in Mexico in terms of cutting down the violence?

WEST: Absolutely. From what we were experiencing a couple of years back to today, I mean, it's a world of difference. The violence is still there, by all means, but the fact that they are now actively policing the areas has been a great benefit to us.

COOPER: What do you make of what that member of the cartel told us?

FLEMING: Well, you know, I mean, first of all, Anderson, you have to know, this has been going on a long time. These guys have had a lot of time to get good at what they're doing. And they'll use any means possible to get the drugs over here.

The legitimate ports of entry, the gaps out of the desert, it doesn't matter. Whatever it takes to get it across, that's what they're doing.

COOPER: How bad is the problem of corruption in Mexico on the local law enforcement level?

WEST: It's -- on a scale of one to ten, I'm going to say it's probably a high nine.

FLEMING: And you have to know why, though, Anderson. I mean, those cops live there. Their families live there. So do the narcos. So do the same narco-terrorists that are corrupting them.

When you bring in units from the military and the federal police and their families are stationed elsewhere in Mexico, it makes it a lot harder to get to them.

But when the whole family lives right there, they're easy to touch.

COOPER: So, Sheriff, is there a solution to all this?

WEST: But some of these guys are given two choices. You've got to understand. They are given two choices. They either play the game with the narcos or they get killed. That's one of my...

COOPER: And it's not just them getting killed, it's their family members.

WEST: Family members.

COOPER: Their wives, their kids...

WEST: Absolutely.

COOPER: I mean, it seems like no one is safe.

WEST: Absolutely.

FLEMING: And they have no compunction about taking a guy, putting him in his living room, and marching his entire family in front of him and killing them all in front of him. And all of the rules of engagement that used to guide these groups are gone now.

This is a whole new era of narco-terrorism.

WEST: One of the things not too long ago, they were burying one that they killed over -- one of the officers they killed over there and just so they could make their statement well known, they come by there and shot up the family members that were at the burial site.

COOPER: How many drug trafficking groups right now are there? And what are the biggest ones? Who's fighting this war?

FLEMING: There's four primary groups right now particularly fighting right over here. You've got the Juarez Cartel, you've got the Beltran Leyva Organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Gulf Cartel. And then you've got several smaller groups, smaller factions that are also bidding for this territory over here.

They don't have the firepower or the resources that those four major ones do, but they're still in it to try to get a part of this turf.

COOPER: Sheriff, you work this area and you work this border every single day. What do you need? What does law enforcement need on this side?

WEST: Well, the practicality is we need boots on the ground. We need officers on the ground. We need a backbone that supports these officers when they do engage.

COOPER: When you're talking about boots, you're not talking about necessarily military boots.

WEST: I'm talking about officers on the ground, well-trained police officers, whether it be border patrol, whether a sheriffs deputies, whether it be city police officers. And those officers need to be on the ground.

We need the resources, we need to have the resources to be able to do the job. but we also need to understand or the government needs to understand that when we push that button, because we're taking in fire or we're being overpowered, then that's when we need to make that call to our military to come back us up.

COOPER: I appreciate you joining us Sheriff West and Rusty as well.

WEST: My pleasure.

FLEMING: Thanks Anderson.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

A lot more ahead from the border. And just ahead, another visit to the front lines. Gary Tuchman takes us "Up Close" with U.S. Border agents fighting a daily battle against the smugglers. You'll see what they found while Gary was out with them.

Also, more from inside the cartels. A member's firsthand account of almost unspeakable violence and the stunning amounts of money cartel members make, even if they don't always live long enough to spend it.

Also later, how the story of Natasha Richardson's untimely death actually saved a girl's life. That and more on 360 from the border.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. You're looking at a scene from the border, where we are right now. We're on the El Paso side. That's the Rio Grande and Juarez, Mexico, where a deputy marshal was found dead yesterday, identified just today.

It's a line separating a pair of countries, the border is, but also dividing up a deadly economic ecosystem. On one side of the line, the makers, the growers, the shippers, the bribers and killers -- that's right over there on that side of the line. On this side, the weapons suppliers, money launders, teen enforcers and crucially, the consumers.

Take a look at this. According to the DEA, 3.2 million pounds of pot were seized crossing this border going north in 2007. 40,000 times, that's only the stuff they stopped; nearly 60 fully loaded semi-trucks worth of American demand.

You heard Secretary of State Clinton talk about it, you heard the man in the ski mask talk about it. Tom Foreman has a fuller picture of America's drug habit -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, about 20 million Americans use illegal drugs each month, enough to be considered addicted in some way. That estimate is based on routine surveys by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The most commonly used drug is marijuana, with more than 14 million people using that, or about one in six Americans over the age of 12 saying that he or she has used it in the past month. Psychotherapeutics is the next category, kind of a broad one because it includes prescription drugs used illegally, like stimulants and painkillers. Methamphetamines are also in here, and about seven million people use these in a given month.

Cocaine, more than two million people are using that drug routinely, whether powdered or in rock form as crack. And hallucinogens, inhalants, and heroin are done by almost two million more Americans - Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Tom, thanks.

Big numbers. A huge demand, as Tom shows us just ahead, the fix begins at a very early age. That's coming up.

Right now, more than 16,000 U.S. border agents are trying to keep the drugs and the violence on that side of the border. Now, on a given day, these heroes seize thousands of pounds of narcotics, but the illicit shipments keep pouring in by foot, by truck, by any way they can.

Gary Tuchman went to the Arizona desert to show you the constant battle between the agents and the traffickers, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Handcuffed to a bench in the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Nogales, Arizona, this Mexican man is under arrest. He was driving a huge semitruck through a checkpoint 30 miles north of the border.

I ask him what was in the vehicle. He says, tomatoes. And he's right. This truck impounded by the border patrol is full of tomatoes. But this dog smells more than produce. He smells dope. And lots of it, bale after bale of marijuana, 40 bales, 908 pounds. At $800 a pound, a street value of over $720,000.

It's believed this man is doing transport work for a Mexican drug cartel, just another night for border patrol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, there's not much that surprises us anymore.

TUCHMAN: About 2.8 million pounds of narcotics were seized on the border in 2008; almost half of that just in this part of Arizona.

We follow Sarah, the drug-sniffing dog, through hilly brush near the border wall. Two men were seen jumping over the wall with backpacks. The men are gone now, but Sarah's on to something. She's trained to sit if she finds the target. She sits and then jumps.

You wouldn't know it is a human being, but she smelled it. It looks like Christmas trees or bushes. You turn it around and inside there is the marijuana.

Agent Ray Rivera has been with Sarah for two years.

How many pounds of marijuana has she found with you?

RAY RIVERA, U.S. BORDER AGENT: Almost 9,000 -- 6,800.

TUCHMAN: So it didn't surprise you when she found this just now?

RIVERA: No, no, she's a great nose, she's a great dog.

TUCHMAN: Agents also have great technology. This is an X-ray truck. It drives up to vehicles, taking images that can reveal hidden drugs. Cameras and sensors watch along the border fence; agents monitoring the video in a control room. Hundreds of people are arrested every day in this region, mostly for immigration violations, but also with drugs and weapons.

An unknown but large number of people and drugs make it through.

John Fitzgerald is division chief here.

This job is more dangerous now than it ever has been, isn't it?

JOHN FITZGERALD, U.S. BORDER DIVISION CHIEF: Absolutely, we had our agents assaulted over 260 times last year alone.

TUCHMAN: These narcotics were nabbed just over the last couple of days; 7,400 pounds of pot will be removed soon by the DEA.

These drug traffickers are incredibly motivated and in most cases pretty strong. This right here is 64 pounds of marijuana. It's worth about $50,000 on the street.

The typical scenario this person is carrying this across the border on their back like this and they're walking, typically, when they see U.S. Law enforcement officials, they drop it and run away. There's no way they could run with that.

But how do they get over the border with all the agents, the dogs, the wall?

Right now I'm standing in Mexico behind the border fence. I don't want to say exactly where I am because of the loophole you're about to see. Let's say this gigantic rock is a bundle of marijuana.

Well, at this point at the border fence, all I need to do is take it, walk around the fence where it's discontinued, and now I'm in the United States.

But just minutes later, four border patrol agents showed up, one pointing his rifle at my crew and me, concerned we were criminals. We were spotted on one of those video cameras. They let us go after we explained who we were, but it was a tense few moments.

On the border these days, nothing is left to chance.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Nogales, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Yes, nothing left to chance for good reasons.

Just ahead, more of my exclusive interview with an active member of a Mexican drug cartel. We agreed to keep his identity secret, and in return he answered all of our questions, including this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: How much does it cost to get somebody killed?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Right now, across the border it's $100.

COOPER: A hundred dollars? In Mexico, if you wanted to have somebody killed in Mexico, it cost about $100?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: A hundred dollars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Also ahead, with demand for illegal drugs so strong in the U.S., many people wonder, would legalizing drugs stop the killing or maybe even end the war next door?

Coming up, the best arguments for and against making drugs legal -- you can decide for yourself.

And the latest in North Dakota's battle to hold back the floodwaters. New predictions tonight about how high the rivers may rise and how fast. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We want to update you now on our breaking news here from the border. The body of a U.S. marshal was found just across the Rio Grande from over there in the city of Juarez. It's literally only a few hundred yards from our location here in El Paso.

Officials say that deputy marshal, Vincent Bustamante was shot in the back of the head. Bustamante was a 17-year veteran of the Marshal Service. He was also accused of stealing several U.S. Marshal's guns, all of which were recovered.

A warrant was issued for his arrest last week. So at this point, there are frankly more questions than answers about this killing. The latest casualty, though, he is in the war against the drug cartels.

Every year Mexican cartels smuggle nearly about $40 billion worth of illegal drugs into the United States. Illegal drug users can be young or old, black or white, rich or poor, but some people are certainly more likely to become addicts.

Tom Foreman is back with a look at that.

FOREMAN: You are right about that, Anderson.

The Department of Health and Human Services finds by gender, men are more than twice as likely as women to use marijuana, but the sexes are pretty close to even on everything else. By age, I'll tell you this, it starts young.

Look at this. This is a chart of age use. You can see around 17, it really goes up, stays there until around 25, 26. But, look at this, over 30, all drug use drops off pretty dramatically at that point.

Education, the equation over here is simple. If you go to college, the better chance you will try drugs. If you don't go, you're more likely to become a regular user.

By employment, if you have a job, you are less likely to have used drugs in the past month, unemployed, more likely.

By race, look at this, this is very interesting because what this shows is that in fact this is the breakout. The most likely group found by the government to have a problem with drug dependencies native Americans or Alaska natives and mixed race people, than blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians over here.

The final one we wanted to look at is simple geography. The truth is, if you live in a city, you are much more likely, more than twice as likely to use drugs as if you live out in the country -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Tom, thanks.

That demand keeps money flowing south, though, giving rival cartels plenty to fight and kill over. Killing is not the worst of it, though.

Here again, our cartel member. He claims to be a midlevel member and two trusted sources say that he is. They've worked in this region a long time.

First though, we should warn you, what you're going to hear right now from him is very graphic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: How are people tortured?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: We've got different ways. Burn them. We burn his testicles. Stick ice picks in his feet.

COOPER: Ice picks into people's feet?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes. They'll pull off his nails one by one with some pliers, whatever they can think of.

COOPER: You say they burn people. With what?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: A torch.

COOPER: Like a blowtorch?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Like the ones you use at a body shop.

COOPER: Is everybody corruptible?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Maybe one out of ten -- I mean, nine out of ten, it is, in Mexico, it is.

COOPER: You think nine out of ten people in Mexico, whether they're military or police or officials or just regular people, nine out of ten are corruptible.

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: I say so. I think so.

COOPER: And is -- it's just the need for money, the desire for money? UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Not only that, but their families, their lives depends on it. They want to cooperate, they either cooperate or get killed. They have no choice.

COOPER: But there is corruption in law enforcement, there is corruption in border enforcement here?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, there is. I knew an agent, U.S. Customs back in the days. They offered him $50,000 for a vehicle to cross over, and he took it. So I think there is.

COOPER: Simple as that.

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Simple as that.

You don't have to ask what's in it, just say it's American and the car would cross and that's it. He doesn't know what's in the trunk or anything, but there's a body in the truck.

COOPER: So anything could be brought across the border if the money's good?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes.

COOPER: What's it like working inside a cartel? Are you nervous? Are you scared?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: It starts off being nice and good, the money, the girls, the fast life, the cars, the women, everything in it. After a little while, it gets out of hand, once you realize that it's a little bit out of hand, it's late, it's a little bit too late for you to back out. There's only one way, and that's being killed.

COOPER: There are drug cartels operating in every state in America?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: They have certain states, throughout America, yes, there is. But there are certain states where they operate the most.

COOPER: What states are those?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: I'm talking about New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, North Carolina, South Carolina, East Coast, West Coast.

COOPER: How much does it cost to get somebody killed?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Right now? Across the border, it's $100.

COOPER: A hundred dollars?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes.

COOPER: In Mexico, if you wanted to have somebody killed in Mexico, it would cost $100?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, $100.

COOPER: What about the United States?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Maybe $500 to $1,000.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: $500 to $1,000. More of my exclusive interview ahead. Talking money, drugs, and why Americans should feel responsible. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Anyone who's consuming drugs in the United States, anyone who's buying cocaine recreationally, buying pot, are they contributing to the war in Mexico?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, they are. All that money goes to the war; that money goes to the cartel.

COOPER: They have blood on their hands?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Chilling details from inside a cartel, next.

Later, the drug debate; President Obama talked today about the push to legalize marijuana. Would he support it? Hear what he said today about it and we'll have the issue debated tonight.

And later, an incredible story. How the tragic story of Natasha Richardson saved the life of young girl.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We're live along the U.S./Mexico border. Just a couple of hundred yards in that direction is the city of Juarez. If people want to try to cross over the border illegally, run across here, there's numbers of border agents around here 24 hours a day, just waiting for that in their vehicles, ready to chase them down.

If they get this far, this is basically the final stop. This is the wall that was recently put up in this sector, 18 feet high. It goes up very high; there's concrete blocks here at the bottom. Even if you get up past these concrete blocks, you have 18 feet.

If you look closely here, this is double-mesh steel. You can't use a hacksaw to try to get through it. And it's also so small, you can't really get your fingers more than just a little bit into it. It's hard to actually hold on to, very difficult to climb.

Usually if someone has a ladder or something, they might be able to get up there. A couple of people maybe one of them may be able to get it if a whole group tries to cross.

But border agents say this is essentially trying to buy border agents' time. Yes, if someone's really determined and has the equipment, they're going to be able to get over this fence, but it may take them a minute, minute and a half. And that can be enough time for border agents to swarm on the area.

The problem, of course, this fence doesn't go all the way down, it stops over there and that's obviously a point where a lot of people aim for to try to get across where there isn't such a big fence.

As we've been showing you all throughout this hour, we had the opportunity to interview a man who claims to be a midlevel member of a Mexican drug cartel with knowledge of operations on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. His claim has been verified by two trusted sources of ours, who have been working in this region for a long period of time.

We agreed not to reveal his identity, not to give you his name or where the interview took place or even when it took place. He's talked a lot about the operations of Mexican drug cartels.

Now he talks about why he says that Americans who consume illegal drugs have blood on their hands. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Do you trust the people you work with?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: No, I don't.

COOPER: I would think it would be hard to trust anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: You don't trust anybody in that business. You can't. You're not allowed to trust anybody.

COOPER: That can get you killed if you trust somebody?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes.

COOPER: Do you worry about talking? Are you concerned about...

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, I am.

COOPER: What concerns you the most?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: First of all, my family, you know, can get hurt, my family can get killed. That's maybe my most concern, my family.

COOPER: You're afraid somebody will be able to identify you or hear that you've done this? UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes.

COOPER: Should Americans be fearful of what's happening here?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Well, if they like the drugs and they like the fast life and everything like that and they consume drugs, yes.

COOPER: Anyone who's consuming drugs in the United States, anyone who's buying cocaine recreationally, buying pot, are they contributing to the war in Mexico?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes, they are. All that money goes to the war; that money goes to the cartel.

COOPER: They have blood on their hands?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Yes.

COOPER: You said that you regret some of the things you've seen, some of the things you've had to do. What in particular? Is there something that stands out?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Well, seeing people die in front of me, I think that's one of them. Watching them die and beg for their lives for money, kill them for money because they owe certain amount of money and we're going to kill them and watching them getting killed, that's one of them.

COOPER: You've seen people getting killed?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: I've seen them die.

COOPER: Is that something you could have stopped?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: Tried to, but it's impossible. You can't, unless you want to get killed yourself, too.

COOPER: So the war goes on?

UNIDENTIFIED CARTEL MEMBER: It goes on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The war goes on and on. With all the violence, money and murder that come with the drug trade, some people say, just legalize drugs, take the profit out of it.

You may be surprised to hear how most Americans feel. We'll also tell you what President Obama said today about legalizing marijuana.

Later, flood predictions for Fargo, North Dakota, and how high the rivers may rise; the city now bracing for 43 feet of water. We'll tell you what's being done to get people to safety. A lot of heroic people there, helping neighbors.

We'll be right back from the border.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says America's need for drugs fuels the war next door. Her admission is adding to the growing debate over legalizing marijuana.

Today, the "Raw Politics," President Obama weighing in. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We took votes about which questions were going to be asked. And I think 3 million people voted or 3.5 million people voted.

I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high. And that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation. I don't know what this says about the online audience, but I just want -- I don't want people to think that -- this was a fairly popular question; we want to make sure that it was answered. The answer is, no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the president poses the idea, and in a new poll, most Americans agree. But millions of others do not, insisting that legalizing drugs will put gangs and cartels out of business and reduce the demand at home.

We were flooded with comments about this on the blog. One e- mailer said, drugs should be taxed like cigarettes and liquor and a portion of the proceeds should be allocated toward drug addiction treatment centers where addicts can be rehabilitated.

So what do you think? Should all drugs be legalized?

Robert Almonte doesn't think so. He spent 25 years with the El Paso police. He's now the executive director of the Texas Narcotics Officers Association. He joins us by satellite. And Terry Nelson is for it. He worked for decades with the U.S. Border Patrol, Customs Service and Homeland Security. He's currently on the Board of Law Enforcement against Prohibition.

Appreciate both of you being with us.

Terry, let's start with you. Looking at you, you're the last guy in the world I would think would want to legalize all drugs. But why do you think it's a good idea?

TERRY NELSON, LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST PROHIBITION: Well, we don't want people using drugs but under the current policy we have people using drugs. We believe in our system regulation and control and to regulate and control something, it has to be legal. We want to regulate who can sell the drugs and we want to control who can buy them, something like cigarettes or alcohol. You have to show an ID to buy it.

Currently we have about 900,000 teenagers selling drugs.

COOPER: You don't think if it's legalized, though, it's going to explode the number of teenagers who use them?

NELSON: Well, if it's legalized, teenagers won't be selling to teenagers as they are today. We believe that a system of education, coupled with, you know, treatment for those that become addicted, is a better approach, because for 40 years, we tried prohibition and it's not working.

Anyone tells me it's working, they may be smoking some of the stuff that they want prohibited, but...

COOPER: Robert, let me ask you, how about that? A, do you think it is working, and wouldn't the U.S. be putting some of these cartels out of business by making drugs legal and regulate it?

ROBERT ALMONTE, TEXAS NARCOTICS OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: Let me just -- let me just say this. Mr. Nelson said his group doesn't want people using drugs.

Well, I can tell you, if drugs are legalized, you are going to see more people using drugs. And if he thinks that's not true, then I wonder what they're doing.

This will not put the cartels out of business. You're talking about taxing something and maybe having a group, maybe the government selling it. I guarantee you, I can guarantee you, the Mexican cartels are going to sell it cheaper than anybody in the U.S. can sell it for. They will be undercutting any kind of prices set here in the United States.

COOPER: What about -- what about to his point about the Mexican cartels would still find a way to kind of sell cheaper?

NELSON: Obviously, he wants to keep doing what he's done for 40 years, because it serves his interests, I guess. I don't believe if you take the profit out of it, how could they undercut it? That just doesn't make sense. Supply and demand, if it's easy to get, then the cost is not going to be high.

COOPER: Do you think it would increase, also, you know, drug- impaired people driving in cars, road accidents?

NELSON: It might. I don't know. And that's an answer we don't have yet. But we do have laws against that already and it's called driving while impaired. So we have laws on the book to deal with that situation.

But to continue doing something that's not working at a cost to families in this country. You know, 1.9 million kids go to bed every night with one or more of their parents or a sibling in jail, and 40- some-odd percent of all people in prison -- going to prison have someone in prison ahead of them. Plus, 25 percent of the prisoners come from foster homes or institutions. That is destroying our families, and we just don't need that anymore.

COOPER: Well, what about that, Robert?

ALMONTE: Drugs are destroying our families. Drugs are destroying our families. There's no doubt, you're going to see more people using drugs. Drugs destroy lives; they destroy families.

It's easy to sit here and have a conversation about legalizing drugs and wiping our hands, saying, "Well, it's not our problem any more. Drugs are legal, and let's things happen that are going to happen."

That's not the easy way. That's not the answer. The answer is not giving up, throwing in the towel. The answer is preventing our kids from using drugs. That's the answer. And then treatment of...

COOPER: Do you see anything wrong, Robert, with the current policy? Robert, do you see anything wrong with the current policy?

ALMONTE: Well, let's talk about that. He's saying that we've been doing something wrong for the last 40 years. That is not true. Is it perfect? No. Can we make improvements? Absolutely.

But we have a lot of success stories. There's one- third fewer people using drugs today than there were 20 years ago.

Another thing, he's talking about these kids. A recent study completed by the University of Michigan called Monitoring the Future showed that in 2008, there were approximately 900,000 fewer eighth graders, tenth graders, and 12th graders using drugs in 2008 compared to 2001.

There are some success stories out there, but nobody wants to talk about it. All they want to do is legalize drugs, legalize drugs.

COOPER: Terry -- I want to give Terry just the final thought, just to respond to what Robert said that the kids -- fewer kids are using drugs.

NELSON: Substantial (ph) studies show that kids today find it easier to buy narcotics than it is cigarettes or tobacco. And there's 900,000 teenagers selling drugs to other teenagers.

The only way we can ever win it is to stop the new drug use amongst kids. We can't have that if we have kids selling to kids.

We need to somehow stop that and then use a system of education so we stop the new users from ever starting using drugs. Because what we're doing is not working.

COOPER: I appreciate both of your perspectives. I appreciate you arguing so politely, not a lot of yelling. We always like that. Thanks so much for coming in. NELSON: Thanks you for having us. It's always good to talk about prohibition.

COOPER: Terry, thanks so much.

Robert, thank you very much, as well.

There's an interesting parallel in all this. Franklin Delano Roosevelt repealed Prohibition during the first 100 days of his presidency, a move that gave the government a new stream of income because it could then tax alcohol.

Next, parts of North Dakota could soon be under water. Residents are bracing for unprecedented floods. We've got the latest forecast, coming up.

Plus, how the tragic story of Natasha Richardson saved the life of a young girl.

A lot to talk about. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Looking at some people on the Mexican side of the border right now, just kind of hanging out there. Not sure if they're planning to cross over later.

This is a very active crossover point. There are border agents all around here, as they are all night long, all day long, just waiting for people to cross over.

Tom Foreman joins us again with a "360 Bulletin" -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Thanks Anderson.

Cities across North Dakota are preparing for the worst as rivers swell. Thousands of volunteers are filling sandbags in anticipation of the worst floods in more than 100 years. Parts of Bismarck are under water already.

Forecasters now say the Red River could crest as high as 43 feet in Fargo this weekend, nearly three feet higher than the record set in 1897.

An Ohio couple says news of Natasha Richardson's death saved their daughter's life. Seven-year-old Morgan McCracken was hit in the head by a baseball and seemed ok until she developed a headache two days later.

Her parents had watched the CNN report on Richardson's fatal head injury. They rushed their daughter to a hospital where a C.T. scan showed she had the same injury as Richardson, an epidural hematoma. After emergency surgery and five days in the hospital, Morgan is doing fine.

On Wall Street, another broad-based advance for stocks; the Dow surged 175 points. The Nasdaq added 58. The S&P gained 19.

And thousands of Americans are falling for their pets, literally. The government's first-ever study of pet-related tumbles found that cats and dogs are a factor in more than 86,000 serious falls each year. Seniors are more likely to trip over their furry friends, and dogs cause more falls than cats.

So they say, Anderson, but that sounds like cat propaganda to me -- Anderson.

COOPER: Cat propaganda -- I've got to say, I thought I was the only one who tripped over my dog.

FOREMAN: Oh, no.

COOPER: But I do this about two or three times a day. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Tom, thanks very much for that.

That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching. We'll be here tomorrow night as well along the border.

"LARRY KING" starts right now.