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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Bin Laden's Journal; Interview With Texas Congressman Ron Paul

Aired May 11, 2011 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good everything, everyone.

Tonight, breaking news on two fronts.

A top U.S. lawmaker has seen the bin Laden death photos and tonight describes what he saw.

And a blockbuster revelation: Osama bin Laden kept a journal, a handwritten diary of death, a wish list of ways to kill as many Americans as possible. Navy SEALs grabbed it. U.S. intelligence now has it. And what is inside, along with other seized material on computer flash drives, demolishes any notion that Osama bin Laden was merely some aging figurehead channel-surfing his way through semi- retirement. Instead, it demonstrates that the man who lived as many as six years inside this compound in the same town as Pakistan's military academy was still in command and control in a very detailed way, still in communication with his troops, still very much a threat.

Yet, ever since the raid that killed bin Laden, many in Pakistan seem to be expressing more outrage over the raid, instead of being outraged over the fact that bin Laden lived for so long on Pakistani soil. We're "Keeping Them Honest" on that tonight.

But we begin with the breaking news, what Jeanne Meserve and CNN national analyst Fran Townsend are learning tonight from their sources about the intelligence bonanza. Fran, by the way, was homeland security adviser in the last administration, currently serves on the Department of Homeland Security and CIA External Advisory Committee.

Jeanne, the handwritten journal of bin Laden that was seized in the raid, what kind of clues does it offer about bin Laden and his role in al Qaeda?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's still being analyzed at this point in time, Anderson, but it does name key dates on which Osama bin Laden wanted to see the United States hit.

Those include Christmas, the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It mentions specific cities, notably Washington and New York. And it talks about modes of attack. It was from this journal that the information was gleaned about the possible threat to rail lines, which caused that alert last week in the immediate hours after Osama bin Laden's death.

In addition, U.S. officials say that they have also found communications which indicate that Osama bin Laden was communicating back and forth with other terrorists. He was not just sitting in this compound looking at videotapes of himself. He was more than a figurehead, they say. He was also strategic, operational and even tactical in his communications -- Anderson.

COOPER: Which begs the question, Fran, about whether or not he had a support network in Pakistan. If he's able to get and receive messages, and most notably receive messages back, that indicates some level of support beyond just a single courier.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's exactly right, Anderson.

And we have got to presume that he didn't have just a single network, right? The courier couldn't have just always gone to the same people. He probably had multiple routes and he would have varied that in order to avoid detection. And so it begs the question, were there officials inside the Pakistani government or perhaps more likely retired officials from the Pakistani military or intelligence service that were providing support, were tipping him off if there was interest and providing this network?

COOPER: Right, because in the past, we have seen retired officials with the ISI, which is the military intelligence service there...

TOWNSEND: That's right.

COOPER: ... are the ones who sort of have had -- maintained direct contact with the Haqqani Network or the Taliban or other terrorist groups inside Pakistan.

TOWNSEND: That's exactly right.

And it was part of their job, frankly, even when they were active, to maintain these networks, and so when these guys retire from ISI, the Pakistani military intelligence service, that they maintain these relationships, these contacts. They tend to report back into active-duty ISI people.

And we also suspected, at least during the Bush administration, that these were some of the ways in which al Qaeda targets got tipped off before a raid, because all of a sudden these guys -- you would go to do a raid and the guys would move. And, clearly, they had been tipped off in advance.

COOPER: And it's interesting. And, Jeanne, we're going to hear later on in the program the interior minister of Pakistan flat-out denies that there's any network in Pakistan active. How he would know that right at this point, even though they claim there's an investigation under way, I'm not sure.

But, Jeanne, we also now know more about how the FBI is handling some of the information seized in the raid, how it's being processed to look for possible threats. MESERVE: Right. We have known, Anderson, about this multiagency task force that's been sifting through the computers and the flash drives and the paperwork, trying to get information.

And I'm told by a law enforcement source that some of that information has been pushed out to the FBI, that many of the 56 FBI offices around the country are now engaged in following up on potential leads, things like telephone numbers.

Now, this source does tell me that, at this point, they have not uncovered any plots that indicate anything at all is imminent. But what they're trying to do is possibly open new avenues of investigation or find pieces of intelligence that fit into a larger puzzle, that fit with things they found out previously that might clarify exactly what they're dealing with. It's a work in progress -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Jeanne, do we know -- we may not know this as this point because, as you said, it's still being investigated and still being looked into -- but how wide his communication was?

(CROSSTALK)

MESERVE: At this point in time, we haven't been given an indication of that.

COOPER: OK. OK.

Have agents uncovered any info that's actually been acted on? We did have this alert last week about rail service. That came from this.

MESERVE: Oh, I have talked to some law enforcement sources who say, no, that there's not been any actionable intelligence out of this. There hasn't been anything that's more than aspirational, nothing that indicates that anything was -- was under way, that they are in the process now of quashing any imminent plots. It's not that.

It's more the -- the difficult work of law enforcement, the sorts of things they do every day, taking leads.

COOPER: Right.

MESERVE: They just happen to have a lot of them right now and tracking them down, following them and see where they lead.

COOPER: You know, Fran, we have heard from al Qaeda since bin Laden's death, confirming that he's dead. But we did not hear them name a successor. You find that interesting.

TOWNSEND: Right. I do, because, of course, issuing -- if you're in hiding, if you're Zawahiri and you're in hiding, it's difficult and there's a time lag to issuing statements, and so you want to be pretty careful. You don't do it every day. You try to minimize it and get information out. And so they went to the trouble of issuing a statement after bin Laden's death. And it would have made perfect sense to me that, if you were going to name Zawahiri, who was the obvious heir apparent, if you will, that you would have done it all in a single statement, so you didn't have to take the risk of issuing a second statement.

And we didn't see that. Now, we assume that they Shura Council of al Qaeda would confirm Zawahiri's succession, his ascendance to lead al Qaeda. We haven't seen. We haven't heard that yet. And, of course, the intelligence before this has suggested Zawahiri is a difficult guy, difficult to get along with, doesn't have the same charisma as bin Laden, doesn't have the power to quell this sort of discontent among the affiliates that bin Laden had.

COOPER: Right.

TOWNSEND: And so we have to wonder, is it a lack of support for his ascension to the leadership of al Qaeda?

COOPER: And he is a controversial figure even within al Qaeda, not well-liked, as you have said on this program before.

Fran Townsend, appreciate it.

Jeanne Meserve, as well, thanks for the late reporting for us.

Coming up, we will talk with Congressman Ron Paul about the new information about bin Laden and what he thinks of what we should do about Pakistan.

But, first, we want to look at Pakistan's very mixed record on fighting terrorism and their failure to find bin Laden. As far back as January of 2002, Pakistan's leadership said that bin Laden was probably dead and certainly not in Pakistan. In fact, about three years later, not only was bin Laden still alive and well. He was living comfortably near Pakistan's equivalent of West Point.

As we mentioned at the top, it begs the question, did he have a support network in Pakistan? Today, we learned he was able to communicate with his terror network, as Jeanne and Fran were just talking about, but Pakistan's interior minister categorically denies he had a support network in Pakistan.

And Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. says his government and the Pakistani nation had no interest in harboring bin Laden, and that a complete investigation is under way to figure out how that happened. You're going to hear more from him shortly.

But just today, Pakistan's opposition leader, its former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, called for another kind of investigation, not into what bin Laden was doing in Pakistan all these years. Instead, he wants to know why the Pakistani military didn't know about the May 2 raid.

There are reports as well, which the ambassador denies, that China may be given access to pieces of that stealth chopper that went down in the bin Laden compound. And there was the attempted leaking of the CIA station chief's name in Pakistan to local media.

Clearly, there are a lot of factors in play at the moment in that country, and Pakistan's government has factions, factions within it that are apparently slugging it out.

There's also, though, growing sentiment here in America for the United States to wash its hands of the whole mess. You will hear Congressman Ron Paul say so tonight. He and others are calling for cutting off or drastically limiting aid to Pakistan, especially its military.

According to the Congressional Research Service, America has sent Pakistan more than $14 billion in security-related aid since 2002. And there's another $1.6 billion in the pipeline for next year. Add that to about $6.5 billion in economic said over the same period and it makes Pakistan one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid.

Now, during that time, the Pakistani government has helped capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda leaders also hiding in that country. At the same time, it's also cut peace deals with the Taliban and permitted nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan to peddle Pakistani nuclear secrets to Libya and North Korea.

Despite that, and even though the Obama administration has dramatically stepped up drone attacks on Pakistani targets, American officials in both administrations have said things like this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Pakistan is a friendly country. We have had friendly relations with Pakistan for many, many years.

DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Pakistan is an important friend and ally for the United States.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States does indeed consider Pakistan a strategic partner and a good friend.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Clearly, Pakistan is clearly a very strong ally of the United States in this.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're also helping because Pakistan is our partner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the question is, which Pakistan?

I talked about it with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Mr. Ambassador, new reports today that bin Laden was sending and receiving messages from his compound, that -- that he was in communication with a network of people in Pakistan, perhaps even beyond, this obviously raises even more questions about Pakistan's failure to find him.

HUSAIN HAQQANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: I think that the question of Pakistan not having found Osama bin Laden is something that we are addressing. Important thing is that Pakistan wants to get to the bottom of this. We had no interest whatsoever, as a nation, as a government, as a state, in keeping Osama bin Laden in our country.

COOPER: You say that your government is looking into it, but a lot of people in the United States doubt the seriousness of that. In an interview with Charlie Rose, you said that bin Laden had a private support network, which were your words. But just yesterday, in an interview with our reporter, the Pakistani interior ministry -- minister said the exact opposite. I just to play that for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In your investigation, have you found any evidence that bin Laden had a support network here in Pakistan?

REHMAN MALIK, PAKISTANI INTERIOR MINISTER: There is no such thing at all, not an iota of doubt...

(CROSSTALK)

SAYAH: So, you categorically deny that he had a support network here?

MALIK: Categorically deny it, no support network.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It sounds like your interior minister has already made up his mind before any investigation is complete or even begun.

HAQQANI: I think there are two points that the interior minister is trying to make.

I think the first point he's trying to make is that there is no indication that there was a support network within the government or any of its institutions or within our law enforcement agencies. He just didn't state it that clearly. But I think that's how I understood him.

COOPER: But he categorically denied it.

HAQQANI: Yes. And the second thing I think he was trying to say was that, so far, what they know is that has not been the case.

The United States has a lot of information that they got from the compound. We have some people that we will be interrogating. This is not something that we can actually reach a conclusion about just over different television networks.

COOPER: But our reporter is asking if -- he said was there -- have you found any evidence? And the interior minister said there's no such thing at all. He wasn't say, no, we haven't found anything yet. And then our reporter said you categorically deny he had a support network here? And your interior minister said, yes, he categorically denies it, no support network.

That doesn't sound like he has any doubt.

HAQQANI: I would not like to comment on his specific words.

But I'm just telling you that the position of the government of Pakistan remains that Osama bin Laden was somebody who was a perpetrator of international terrorism. Pakistan had no interest in protecting him, has no interest in protecting anyone who may have protected him, and we will work with all countries, especially the United States, to make sure that whoever was involved in keeping him in our country definitely is brought to justice.

COOPER: You have admitted, though, in one interview that the government or that somebody dropped the ball. CIA Director Panetta in this country has said that Pakistan officials were either involved or incompetent. Is that the choice? Would you pick between one of those two?

HAQQANI: As far as dropping the ball is concerned, that is obvious. Osama bin Laden was physically inside of Pakistan without any of our law enforcement institutions...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Do you think it's a choice between incompetence and involvement?

HAQQANI: I think that it's something that the prime minister of Pakistan has already assigned a senior officer of the Pakistani military to look at. I'm sure we will found what really happened.

COOPER: The interior minister has also said that he would allow the U.S. to question bin Laden's wives, the three wives who were taken from the compound.

I have talked to one former Bush administration official who had dealings over the years in Pakistan who said sometimes Pakistani officials promise one thing, but don't deliver on it.

When do you actually expect U.S. officials to get access to be able to interview and/or interrogate these women?

HAQQANI: I'm not going to go into the specifics of intelligence cooperation. All I'm going to say is that the people who deal with these matters in the U.S. government will, within the next two to three days, be talking to you and others and they will make it very clear to you what exactly is the state of play.

COOPER: Can you at least guarantee that U.S. official will be allowed access to bin Laden's wives who are in custody?

HAQQANI: Pakistan and the United States will continue to share intelligence. The arrangements are going to be worked out between both our sides.

COOPER: Has Pakistan shared with the Chinese government the -- any of the technology from the -- this secret helicopter that parts of it were left behind at the bin Laden compound?

HAQQANI: Pakistan is not going to share any technology, and I don't think our friends in China have shown any interest in doing so.

COOPER: For years, though, as you know, President Musharraf and other Pakistani officials have said that bin Laden is not in Pakistan. They have said Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is not in Pakistan. Al-Zawahiri, they have said, is not in Pakistan.

Given the fact that Osama bin Laden was indeed in Pakistan, as U.S. intelligence was saying all along, do you now admit that it's likely that Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban, is in Pakistan, and that the number two of al Qaeda is in Pakistan?

HAQQANI: Anderson, it's not for me to admit because I do not deal with day-to-day intelligence. But the fact remains that after the Osama bin Laden incident, we have to work together much more closely about Mullah Omar, about al-Zawahiri, about all the other people who are considered by the international community and by Pakistan as terrorists.

COOPER: Do you anticipate hearing -- that we will be hearing down the road from other Pakistani officials that, no, no, no, there's no way Mullah Omar is here in Pakistan? Do you think we will continue to hear that?

HAQQANI: I'm sure that there are people who will say all sorts of things. Pakistan is a huge country with a huge government, with inexperienced and new politicians, with a lot of civil servants, a lot of law enforcement officers who don't have the experience always of being able to talk to people like yourself and your reporters.

So you will hear a lot of things. But I'm just telling you authoritatively that the United States and Pakistan, at the government-to-government level, intelligence-to-intelligence level and military-to-military level, are in close contact. We are not in the business of denial or contradiction right now. We are trying to get to the bottom of things, understand the intelligence and work together.

And at the same time, we continue to be concerned about unilateral actions and would prefer if the United States works with Pakistan, instead of making Pakistan look like the bad guy here.

COOPER: Ambassador Haqqani, I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

HAQQANI: Pleasure. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. We're on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.

Up next, more breaking news, proof of death. Hear from the senator who has just seen the photos of bin Laden's body the public won't be allowed to view.

Also tonight, Congressman Ron Paul, he says he's glad bin Laden is dead, but what about the mission to get him and our relationship with Pakistan? Is it worth it? The answer may surprise you.

And, later, the breaking news out of Libya, reports of massive new explosions in Tripoli and an exclusive report from inside Misrata still under siege, but now celebrating a major opposition victory.

First of all, let's check in Isha Sesay -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, you might as well call it the misery, not the Mississippi River tonight, 14 feet above flood stage in Memphis, and the high waters are moving south. Parts of the states of Mississippi now disaster areas, and major crop damage in Arkansas, and Louisiana is bracing for damage. We will bring you live reporting from the flood zone. That is just ahead tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: More breaking news tonight, select members of Congress describing what very few Americans have seen and the general public will not be privy to, photos of bin Laden's dead body.

Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe spoke to CNN's Eliot Spitzer about what he saw. And, as you will hear, he also had a little trouble with bin Laden's first name.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: There are 15 pictures. The first 12 were taken in the compound right -- it's obvious it is right after the incident took place. So, they're pretty grueling.

The other three were taken on the ship. And they included the burial at sea. So, I would say this. Three of the first 12 pictures were of Obama (sic) when he was alive. And they did this for the purpose of being able to look at those and seeing the nose, the eyes and his relationship for positive identification purposes. And that was good.

One of the things that was -- and I had to make my own conclusion on this, because they're not really sure. One of the shots went through an ear and out through the eye socket, or it went in through the eye socket and out, but it exploded. And it was that kind of ordnance that it was. Now, that caused the brains to be hanging out of the eye socket. So, that was pretty gruesome. But the revealing shots, really, I thought, the pictures, were the three that were taken on the USS Vinson in the Northern Arabian Sea. And they were the ones that showed him during the cleanup period.

In the cleanup period, he had some kind of undergarment on, very, very pale, but they had taken enough blood and material off of his face so it was easier to identify who it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, members of Senate and House committees dealing with national security issues are being given a chance to review the photos. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wants them made public, calls President Obama's decision to withhold them a mistake.

Earlier tonight, I talked to Texas Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul and possible new presidential candidate Ron Paul about bin Laden, his still-active role running al Qaeda, and whether it was worth the money and effort to kill him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: There's new information today out confirming that bin Laden was indeed communicating with other terrorists from his compound. Authorities say they have a diary of his that shows not only that he sent out instructions, but also received communications back. You have expressed doubts, though, that this killing actually makes the U.S. safer.

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: I don't think that the fact that he's now dead automatically makes us a lot safer. That's my point.

And my other complaint has been it cost too much. It cost 10 years, invading two or three countries, killing a lot of people, 5,000-plus American lives cost, a trillion dollars, to go after one guy? And we're supposed to now feel a lot safer?

But I do think it's a perfect opportunity to say, look, we have spent all that. We have spent all those years and money over there and he's finally dead. It's time to come home. And that's my point.

COOPER: You're saying this is time to rethink Afghanistan, time for U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan?

PAUL: Oh, oh, absolutely. And the momentum is building. I feel good about what's happening on the Hill now.

It was coincidental, but on that Thursday just of last week, we introduced a bill, a coalition between Republicans and Democrats, that urges the president to end this war. And that plan was laid before bin Laden was killed. And I think that the momentum is building. I think the American people are ready to quit fighting all these wars.

COOPER: Isn't there a risk, though, that once we leave Afghanistan, that that country turns into a vacuum that allows the remnants of al Qaeda to grow again?

PAUL: Well, there's always -- always a danger. But there's a danger all around the world that things can happen.

But, no, I think we're in greater danger by killing more innocent Muslims around the world, because there's a lot of collateral damage that we have been participating in since the early '90s, all through the '90s, bombing Iraq, and that was one of the excuses for 9/11. So, I would say the less that we do of that, the less danger we're in.

COOPER: Were your surprised where Osama bin Laden was actually found and do you think someone in the Pakistan government knew about it?

PAUL: Well, I don't know that, but you wonder. But it does make the very positive point that I have made for years that foreign aid is not a good investment, you know, whether you give it to Egypt or whether you give it to Pakistan, you know, because we don't bear fruit from those investments. So, I assume they probably could have known, but, you know, the Pakistani government has cooperated with us in the past.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So you say no foreign aid whatsoever to any place?

PAUL: No. There's no basis for it. I don't think it's worthwhile. I don't think there's an authority to take money from poor people in this country and give it to rich dictators around the world. And that's what foreign aid's all about.

And it's also a big assistance to the military industrial complex, because as we send moneys around the world, there are conditions. Sometimes, the money never leaves. It just goes to the military industrial complex and then there's war profits made and other people get the weapons and our country becomes poorer. And now we're in this huge financial mess.

COOPER: Finally, when you heard that bin Laden was killed, what went through your mind? Was there a moment where you said, oh, this is a good thing? Or what were your thoughts?

PAUL: Well, I put a statement in the record, a five-minute speech about why I thought this was good that it's happening. I don't -- I didn't approve of the process that happened.

But I thought, well, maybe we can put this behind us. And, to me, it gave me an opportunity to say, all right, it's over. We're over there doing all this warmongering and then rebuilding Afghanistan, which will never be successful. This is the opportunity for us to come home, and I believe the American people agree with me on that.

COOPER: Congressman Ron Paul, I appreciate your time, sir.

PAUL: OK. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, I also spoke today with Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair about what a post-bin Laden world might look like and where the next challenges lie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I say, well, what should we be worried about most? Would it be Afghanistan? Would it be Iraq? Would it be Pakistan? Would it be Yemen? Would it be Somalia?

The answer to that question is all of those, I'm afraid. So, for me, this is one struggle. It's got many different aspects to it. One is a security aspect. But the other is the narrative, the ideology that people like bin Laden represent, because my fear is that the narrative has a far broader support than those engaged in extremism would suggest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I will have more of the interview tomorrow night on 360.

Tonight, devastating flooding along the Mississippi River is moving farther south. In Memphis, the river has crested at nearly 48 feet. That's nearly 14 feet above flood stage. You can see how swollen the river is in these aerial shots. In Mississippi, 14 counties have been declared major disaster areas.

In Tunica, floodwaters have driven about 600 people from their homes, and forced casinos to close, big economic blow for the city. And in Arkansas, the state's farm bureau says more than a million acres of cropland are underwater right now, the estimated damage at least $500 million.

Meantime, Louisiana is bracing for flooding with the river's crest expected to arrive next week.

Martin Savidge joins me now from Arkansas -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, right now, you can't see it necessarily in the darkness, but behind us here, it would appear to be that we're on the banks of a river. We're not. We're on the banks of a farmer's field.

And instead of seeing acre after acre of farmland out there, what you look at is mile after mile of what is water. There should be no water absolutely within sight of this place, but now it stretches all the way to the horizon here and, as you point out, the impact on the farming community here has been significant. It's not just on this farmer's field, but, as you say, a million acres underwater, $500 million.

And that's really just a best guesstimate on the part of the state agricultural industry. And this is an industry that is about $16 billion in this state annually, so that's really a large chunk of money and, quite frankly, they really aren't going to know the final tally for, say, another month-and-a-half, because it will take that long for these fields to drain and then the farmers have to figure out, well, what crop can they plant midseason?

Let me show you something else that is going on here. Two farmers own this land and the water threatened their home. So, they were quick to act and they put this dike up. It was built in a day- and-a-half using a backhoe. It's about 100 yards square. It surrounds their entire house. If that dike wasn't there, their house would be gone. Their neighbor's houses are already gone.

They have been able to save their property by that earthen dam there. The only problem is the water continues to rise here, Anderson. They're not certain it will maintain or hold back the level, depending on how hard it rises, how fast and how long it stays up -- Anderson.

COOPER: Where are the floodwaters expected to move next?

SAVIDGE: Well, that's a good question. I mean, the interesting thing about this disaster is that you can plot it by your calendar. There's no sudden storm that comes in the middle of the night with this one. This is one that you can actually mark it by the calendar. For instance, on the 16th, it's going to be in Greenville, Mississippi. On the 18th, it's going to be in Vicksburg, and then it's going to be probably be down in New Orleans between the dates of the 24th and the 26th of this month.

It takes a while for this huge swathe of water to get to where it's going. But once it's there, it lingers. And then it's going to take a long time. So this is a disaster that's going to be with us through the rest of the month of May, Anderson.

COOPER: It's so strange that you can plot it so clearly like that. I guess it gives folks some sort of time to prepare. But, for a lot of folks, there's no way to really prepare. You have no idea where the water is exactly going to go.

Martin, appreciate it. Thanks very much from Arkansas tonight.

Still ahead, breaking news in Libya. Reports of rocket strikes in Tripoli tonight. Plus, the latest from Misrata, where opposition forces have apparently scored a victory at the airport where that city is still under siege and the resistance the opposition is putting up is remarkable that they've been able to hold on. Good news out of Misrata tonight.

Also, incredible video of today's deadly earthquake in southern Spain, destroying buildings, including a church's bell tower reduced to rubble. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In Libya breaking news tonight. Just a four time ago, at least four large explosions rocked Tripoli, one right after the other. Government officials say four rockets fired from the sea hit Gadhafi's compound. Earlier NATO jets were heard flying over the capital.

It's been a fast-moving day in Libya. Earlier, Libyan state television broadcast this video, which it said shows Gadhafi meeting today with tribal elders in the Tripoli hotel. Still wears his glasses indoors, apparently.

A CNN international reporter said Libyans in the lobby of her hotel broke out in cheers while watching it. If it really was shot today it would be proof that Gadhafi really had survived the NATO air strike two weeks ago in the compound where he was reportedly staying. Libyan officials said one of Gadhafi's sons was killed in that raid while the elder Gadhafi escaped. He had not, though, been seen publicly in the last two weeks.

Meantime, in the western port city of Misrata, opposition fighters have apparently taken control of the local airport and been able to push Gadhafi forces back from there. Misrata has obviously been under siege now for two months, still surrounded on three sides, it seems, from the fiercest fighting.

Marie Colvin, Middle East correspondent for the "Sunday Times of London," is in Misrata. I talked to her earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Marie, we've heard that the opposition forces in Misrata have taken the airport and are holding onto it. How significant is that?

MARIE COLVIN, CORRESPONDENT, "SUNDAY TIMES OF LONDON" (via phone): It's huge, Anderson. In fact, the last two days have seen a real breakthrough in what has been a stalemate. The airport is -- we're besieged here, as you know, on three sides. The airport is south. It's a huge area. But they took the whole thing today. That's significant, not just because of the land they've taken and forced Gadhafi's troops off of, but that's where a lot of the ground launchers and the tents are located, that have been hurling high explosives and artillery shells into Misrata, randomly into civilian areas.

So that's what the rebels are trying to do, is get them out of there, as well as Gadhafi's forces. And we've got the first quiet night we've had in a while.

COOPER: How -- has NATO been helpful? Has NATO been continuing to patrol the skies, to bomb the Gadhafi positions that they can find in and around Misrata?

COLVIN: Until the last two days, everyone in Misrata was saying what is NATO doing? Yesterday and today, there have been very serious attacks on tanks, missile launchers. Before that, they seemed to have been going for control centers.

COOPER: I've been so moved, obviously, by the pictures we've seen not just of the civilians dying but of the people in Misrata who have been fighting back and fighting back. I mean, it's extraordinary that they have been able to hold on this long. What have you seen? What do you attribute that to?

COLVIN: Here in Misrata -- remember, these people did not know how to use a gun until two months ago. Their homes, their families, their backs were to the sea, there's nowhere to go. They had to learn how to shoot. They had to learn how to fight.

Today was a day that the rebels just, you know, poured out in the streets, joined by civilians. People were crying and hugging each other when they got that airport, when they got that air academy, when they were able to stop rockets from the south. Now, this is not complete victory. Remember, we're still -- there are still tanks and rocket launchers both west and on the east. But this was a big breakthrough for the rebels of Misrata.

COOPER: Will they be able to start getting supplies by air at that airport? Will they be able to get the wounded out? Because up until now, it's just been the occasional boats and ferries that have taken people from Misrata, the port, to Benghazi and other places.

COLVIN: No, the airport is not going to be able to open, largely because no one would trust Gadhafi's forces not to use anti-aircraft against any plane, civilian plane, even if it's carrying only humanitarian supplies. I think Misrata is still going to have to rely on boats coming in. About one aid ship a week is getting in. And that's because the port is also being shelled.

COOPER: And still they resist.

Marie Colvin, I appreciate your reporting. It's been extraordinary, as always. Thank you and please stay safe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, Isha Sesay is following some other stories for us. She's back with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in Syria, human rights groups say military tanks shelled residential areas, killing at least five people. Fourteen others reportedly died in separate attacks by the military. Now, CNN has not been allowed inside Syria and cannot independently confirm witness reports.

Human rights groups say more than 700 anti-government protesters have died since mid-March.

Reuters is reporting that two months after Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami, much of the record $2.2 billion in aid hasn't reached the neediest victims. The Japanese Red Cross said that's because the authorities have yet to identify them.

In Spain, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake has killed at least eight people. It struck the city of Lorca near the Mediterranean coast. Now, the bell tower of this church collapsed. Thousands of people slept in the streets after the quake, too terrified to go back inside. Anderson, numerous reports that that bell, when it fell, it narrowly struck a reporter who was standing close by.

COOPER: Unbelievable. All right, Isha, we'll check in with you coming up. Coming up also tonight, the race is on. Newt Gingrich making it official today announcing that he is running for president. Excuse me. I'll talk to his former press secretary next. Also, I'll talk with Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher.

And later, what do you think -- what do you do next when you've already crashed a White House party, starred in a reality show, gotten kicked off of "Celebrity Rehab?" You record a song, of course. Those about to rock, we salute you, and you are excused. For the rest, get ready to hear a really bad song, coming up on "RidicuList."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Sign of the times when Newt Gingrich announced today that he's running for president, he did it on Twitter. In a video posted online, the former House speaker said he is seeking the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, because he wants to return America to hope and opportunity. He talked more about his campaign on the Sean Hannity show tonight and said that he thinks President Obama will be hard to beat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, he's going to say whatever he needs to, to win.

Second, he's going to have all the advantages of the mainstream media. He's going to have all the advantages of left-wing billionaires like George Soros. He's going to have all the advantages of the Hollywood crowd. And they're going to go out, and they're going to have all the advantages of the unions.

And so they're going to try to raise a billion dollars for a very practical reason. He can't afford to run in a fair election.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL'S "HANNITY": Fair or...?

GINGRICH: If he was on an equal playing field, he'd lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Republican strategist Rich Galen is Gingrich's former press secretary and communications director. He joins us live from Washington. And in Washington also, CNN contributor, Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, who was an Obama pollster in 2008.

Rich, I heard you say that Gingrich's biggest challenge is going to be making the old Newt the new Newt. What do you mean by that?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Newt will be 68 years old next month. His last big, you know, massive political victory -- his only real one -- was in 1994, 17 years ago. And I think, for a lot of voters looking at this situation, talking about Newt helping take over control of the House in that 1994 election is the equivalent of talking about FDR and the New Deal. It's just ancient history.

COOPER: So why do you think he's running?

GALEN: Well, I think he's running because he truly does believe that he has some answers and a vision that can alter the nature and the direction of the country.

And the challenge that he has is to convince people that, especially younger voters, the ones that go after the shopping centers, that get the signatures, that help you do all those things, to convince them that he is relevant to the 21st century. Frankly, the Twitter, the YouTube, the Facebook, it seemed a little bit to me as he was trying just a touch too hard to try to accomplish that on day one of his campaign.

COOPER: Cornell, you polled, as I said, for Obama the last election. I think you're going to do it again for the upcoming one, if I'm not mistaken. How strong an adversary do you think Gingrich is for Obama?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think the problem with Newt is that he will start off in a general election with some fairly high negatives. And one of the toughest things for any politician, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, is if you have established negatives is to turn those negatives around.

There's not a lot of reintroducing you can do of Newt Gingrich for -- for the older -- for the older elected who know who he is and, quite frankly, for the most part, have a negative attitude or a negative view of him. So it's going to be a real challenge for him to take what is right now viewed as a rather high negatives and turn those around to positives. In politics, that is one of the toughest things to do is when people have a negative notion of you is to change their minds about that.

COOPER: Are those negative notions based on ideas that they disagree with or personality or, you know, past history?

BELCHER: Past history. A lot of it stems from him shutting down -- shutting down the government. That was where I think you saw a lot of the -- sort of the public turn on him. And quite frankly, I think what makes him such -- what makes him a strong primary candidate for the Republican Party is exactly the sort of thing that make him not a strong candidate in the general election. Because he had to cater to his base, and he had to run so far to the right

Let me just speak to this point, just to follow. In the 1996 cycle, we calculated that Democrats and their allies, unions and what have you, spent somewhere in the area of $60 million running ads against Newt Gingrich, who was, after all, only running to be re- elected to his House seat.

And what they did successfully was they created -- it was like the golden -- the golden arches. When you're driving down the highway and you see that, you know everything you need to know about the restaurant that's behind that sign. And to Cornell's point, the Democrats were so successful that all they had to say was, Newt likes this, and 54 percent of the population said, "If Newt likes it, I don't."

That has had time to kind of dissipate over the years, but I think we'll see a return to some of that if Newt looks like he's -- he's gaining headway.

And rich, I don't think that's also something we've seen just of Newt. Quite frankly, they've done the same thing with Pelosi. I think being speaker of the House is a tough, tough job these days.

COOPER: Rich, why have so few Republicans at this point declared?

GALEN: Well, I think there's a couple of reasons for that. No. 1 is the money. I mean, back in the good old days like four years ago, you could afford to start up in December right after the -- right after the midterm election. The guys that are suffering the most -- I did a radio show the other day with David Yepson (ph) the other day, who used to be the guru of Iowa politics at "The Des Moines Register."

And I was laughing about the fact that all along Grand Avenue in Des Moines, where we have all been, there were empty store fronts which by now should be just brimming with people. The money is a big thing, and as we talked about a little bit earlier, let's take Newt as an example, he's got 1.3 million people following him on Twitter. I assume the others have similar sort of numbers. He can reach out to his supporters 17 times day at 140 characters a shot and not spend a dime, as opposed to spending 12 -- $1.2, $1.5 million a week with staffs in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. He'll get there, but it's better to withhold.

BELCHER: But wouldn't the drawback to that be, I mean, look, this time last cycle, all the Democrats were already in. And we were already building an organization. As someone who went through a primary process and something I don't -- I'm glad I'm not doing again this cycle, you know, building that process in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, that's a lot -- that takes a lot of infrastructure and a lot of time.

I'm shocked, I'm shocked that more Republican candidates who are talking about it aren't already in it, but I'll tell you, they're falling behind. And it gives an opening for a guy like Donald Trump to walk in the door and steal all the limelight.

GALEN: Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee. But if nobody is doing it, then everybody is doing it. So they're all in the same cycle -- they're all in the calendar and timeline.

COOPER: Rich Galen, it's good to have you on the program. Cornell Belcher, as well. Guys, thanks so much.

Up next, you know her as a party crasher, a reality star? And all-around, well, lover of fame, shall we say? But it's what the Salahis, namely Mrs. Salahi, is doing now that has landed her on our "RidicuList" tonight. Get your ear plugs ready.

Also ahead, fascinated with this royal fascinator. Now Princess Beatrice's wacky hat could be yours for a price. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right. Another quick update of the headlines with Isha Sesay and a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, the U.S. Navy is backing off a plan that would allow same-sex marriages on some military bases once the "don't ask, don't tell" policy ends. Now, the marriages would only be permitted in states that allow such ceremonies. The critics say the unions would violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. So now the plan is on hold, pending a review.

Famed evangelist Billy Graham is hospitalized in Asheville, North Carolina. He's being treated for pneumonia. The 92-year-old minister is said to be stable, fully alert and in good spirits.

Stocks tumbled on Wall Street today as oil prices fell. The Dow shed 130 points to close at 12,630. The NASDAQ lost 27, while the S&P fell 15 points.

And Anderson, for all of those who want to get their hands on the infamous fascinator Princess Beatrice wore for the royal wedding...

COOPER: That's what it's called, a fascinator.

SESAY: It is indeed, and this is their moment. She's auctioning off the Philip Treacy creation on eBay to raise money for Unicef. That's what her mother, Sarah Ferguson, revealed on Oprah Winfrey's show. Now, we should point out, Treacy's hats can cost around $3,000.

Personally I think he hit the mark with this. But it might make a really good toilet paper holder. Don't you think? You see the big hole in the middle?

COOPER: I guess. That would be one use for it. Yes. It's weird to me. I don't understand this whole -- I don't know why they're called fascinators. I'm confused by the whole British hat obsession.

SESAY: Yes, I know. Let's just say it's a thing of great ugliness when she's wearing that. It's ugly.

COOPER: I applaud her courage. All right. Time for the "RidicuList."

And I hesitate to even say this person's name, because I'm convinced she would have to gouge out her own eyes or mine if it would get her mentioned even briefly on TV.

But nevertheless, tonight we add Michaele Salahi. And yes, I know it's pronounced "Mikhail Salahi," but I prefer to mispronounce it. Michaele rose like a shooting star into our orbit when she and her husband crashed the White House state dinner, then denied it and claimed to have e-mails. That's when I checked out of the whole.

Then she was on the "Real Housewives of D.C.," which I refused to watch, because they were on it. And then I'm told she got kicked off "Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab" because she wasn't addicted to anything. Apparently, the DSM4 does not recognize fame as something to which you can be addicted to. Yet.

So I thought that was it for Michaele, but she's risen again like a phoenix in a turn of events that makes me want to travel back to 1877 to stop Thomas Edison from inventing the phonograph. Michaele Salahi has recorded a song. That's right. Radar Online posted a preview. The song is called "Bump It," and like every good song, it starts with a whaling police siren signaling that the cops have arrived to arrest everyone for excessive use of Autotune. "Bump It."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I'm not sure whether the Darth Vader effect was for her voice. She sounds like one of the visitors from the TV show "V."

Now, w hen it comes to real housewives, Michaela is, dare I say, a tad tardy to this party. Here's Kim from "The Atlanta Housewives."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't be tardy for the party don't be tardy for the party don't be tardy for the party

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm not clear, should we be tardy for the party? I cannot decipher the lyrics. Actually, I love Kim.

Then there's Countess Luann that teaches us money can't buy you class. Money comes in handy when you want to hire the extras for your music videos.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: My personal rule is that anyone who uses the word "class" when not referring to a room where people learn has none.

Luann's track is tight, in my opinion, but nothing -- and I mean nothing -- beats Danielle Stoub -- or is it Stobe -- formerly of "The New jersey Housewives." behold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Is it just me, or did that whole thing kind of play like a record on the wrong speed? I miss vinyl. The sound is just so much warmer and, more importantly, making a record was a long, involved process. You had to go to a proper recording studio. A lot of time and money and time went into crafting the albums themselves.

Now anyone with a Macbook and Pro Tools can make a song, throw it up on I tunes, and I mean literally throw it up: vomit it right onto the Internet, and we all pay the price.

Now I apologize. I will not play any more songs by "Real Housewives" tonight. Here's one by one of their husbands, though.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: "There's reality. We like the duality?" Simon, Alex's husband from the New York housewives, has a song. We're officially through the looking glass, people. You can literally have an entire dance party with the sound track nothing but reality star songs and that dance party would, of course, take place in Hades with Lucifer himself as the deejay, or in Andy's Club House on Bravo.

And even in the burning pits in the presence of the dark lord, Michaele Salahi would still be telling anyone who would listen that she was once on TV and perhaps even on the "RidicuList." We'll be right back.