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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New Info Emerges on Libya Killings; Interview With Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Aired September 26, 2012 - 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 evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.
And we begin tonight with breaking news that you will only see right here on 360 and frankly some of the details are astonishing. On a day that Secretary of State Clinton says she is still waiting for answers while the FBI investigates the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, our sources reveal that not one single FBI investigator has set foot at the crime scene 15 days after the terrorist attack, from what we hear, not one.
Those same sources also saying that the crime scene has still not been secured. And those are just two headlines, just two new pieces of information tonight. But that is not all we're learning.
CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend once again has the scoop on all of it. She joins us now.
As we often mention, Fran is the former White House homeland security adviser and she's currently a member of the CIA's External Advisory Committee and was recently in Libya with her employer, MacAndrews & Forbes. Also with us, CNN contributor and former CIA officer Bob Bear. Also, Eli Lake is the senior national correspondent for "Newsweek" and for The Daily Beast.
You have new reporting now on the status of the FBI investigation. What can you tell us?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, it's pretty extraordinary and astonishing to me who has worked these investigations with the FBI over more than a decade.
So you understand when this happens and the FBI opens the investigation one of the first things they do is go to the State Department and say, please request permission for to us enter the country, Libya, get to the crime scene, Benghazi, and please request that we will have the security and the ability to do that, that we will have access to the crime scene, that we will have access to any individuals that the Libyans take into custody.
None of that has -- while the FBI has made that request to the State Department, what we found out today from senior law enforcement officials is that while the FBI has finally made it to Tripoli, they have never made it to Benghazi.
COOPER: They haven't been on the ground in Benghazi?
TOWNSEND: They not.
In fact, it was taking so long to get permission to go into Tripoli, the FBI deployed their personnel to a location in the region so they would be closer. They have conducted interviews of the State Department and U.S. government personnel who were in Libya at the time of the attack.
But they have gotten as far as Tripoli now, but they have never gotten to Benghazi. They made a request that the crime scene be secured. As we know from Arwa Damon's reporting and other public reporting, the State Department, we don't know whether or not the State Department put that request to the Libyans and whether it was denied or what happened to it.
What we know for sure is the crime scene was never secured and in fact the senior law enforcement official I spoke to said if we get there now it is not clear it will be of any use to us.
And then the third and really critical and astonishing point to me that they made was one of the things we have to do is question the individuals the Libyans have in custody to get to the bottom of this and to understand what they are learning. In fact, they made that request through the State Department. That was denied by Libya.
So the FBI has to pass any questions they have through the State Department to the Libyan government. They put the questions and then you wait for sort of like a child's game of telephone, the information to come back before you can follow up. Not at all the ideal way to run an investigation.
COOPER: This is really amazing information you are hearing from your sources.
I want to play something for our viewers from last Thursday. Secretary Clinton said this about this investigation. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are at the very early stages of an FBI investigation. The team from the FBI reached Libya earlier this week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So she said reached Libya earlier this week. No mention obviously of being on the ground in Benghazi. You are saying they haven't been on the ground in Benghazi based on your sources. Is she splitting hairs here?
TOWNSEND: I imagine, in fairness to the secretary, it may be she wanted to be coy about where in Libya they were for security concerns. That would be understandable.
But the fact is it is not clear they have even been inside of Libya for very long. They had difficulty and there was we understand some bureaucratic infighting between the FBI and Justice Department on the one hand and the State Department on the other. It took them longer than they would have liked to get into country. They have now gotten there, but they still are unable to get permission to go to Benghazi.
COOPER: Bob Baer, you have been involved in a number of aftermath investigations. Have you ever heard of anything like this, whether it is bureaucratic infighting where the FBI is not allowed to a crime scene or I guess not approval from a home country? Have you ever heard of anything like this?
ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I have never heard of it, Anderson.
This is just outrageous in the sense that Libya is obviously on the edge but I always have seen the FBI after an attack like this, we're right on the scene. It was either secured by State Department security officers or U.S. military.
The FBI got right in, checked what was missing, checked the weapons and everything else that was used in the attack. Again, I have never seen since the takeover of our embassy in Tehran in 1979.
It tells me again that Libya is a precarious situation. The State Department realizes that the FBI cannot fight its way into a crime scene. And the FBI has got to be secured when it arrives on ground. There is obviously none.
The Libyans are not cooperating if they are not letting the FBI talk to the people they have arrested, and frankly I think those people are probably the types, the usual suspects and they have nothing to do with the attack, but that's just my opinion. This is an investigation that cannot possibly, at this point, turn up very much useful.
COOPER: Yes, for Libyans not allowing any access directly to the suspects, I mean, what does say to you? It doesn't portend well at all.
BAER: Not at all. It is the Libyans, they can't decide which side they are on.
This is an attack on U.S. soil. It was an act of aggression. And if they can't tell us who did it, why and where these people are that they in fact arrested, the Libyan government is on the wrong side.
COOPER: Mr. Lake, you broke the story today in The Daily Beast that administration officials knew almost immediately that this was a terror attack. You say they knew within 24 hours.
ELI LAKE, THE DAILY BEAST: It was largely the intelligence community that collected a lot of information that clearly not only pointed to al Qaeda but they were able to point the location of one of the attackers in part because the person used social media. But there were a number of clues, if you will, that were outside of the intelligence community. Ayman Al-Zawahri, the head of al Qaeda right now, congratulated the attackers in Benghazi for getting vengeance against one of the key jihadists who he asked them to get vengeance on.
The date of the attack is another kind of thing. In addition to that, there was intelligence coming in and four of the attackers were identified within 24 hours.
COOPER: Eli, intelligences sources you have been talking to say they located one attacker using social media, as you mentioned. Did they know his exact location?
LAKE: Yes. But I deliberately withheld some details on that because the person, as I understand it, is still at large.
COOPER: OK. Fair enough.
Do we know if anyone has actually been targeted or arrested? Can you say?
LAKE: At this point, I have mixed signals. There's a difference. There were 50 people or so arrested by Libyan authorities. It's unclear whether those people were innocent or guilty or kind of rounding up the usual suspects. But in terms of any kind of U.S. actions, nothing has been done at this point.
COOPER: You have talked to a number of sources, yes, on this?
LAKE: Yes. In fact, I would say as the story was coming out in the aftermath of the attacks, people actually approached me and began kind of telling me what I would call the unauthorized version of events.
COOPER: Fran, you also have talked to a senior law enforcement source who has corroborated Eli Lake's reporting about the intelligence community knowing in a 24-hour period or very short order that this was a terror...
LAKE: That's right. The law enforcement source said to me from day one we have known clearly that this was a terrorist attack and said it to me in a way, Anderson, to suggest we are mystified by why the sort of seniors in the administration have not been clear about that.
The other thing is when you look at why hasn't this crime scene been secured, after all, we know that the militias in the Libyan government were in Benghazi. They were perfectly capable of doing it. Again it underscores why has this investigation been handled, mishandled and so differently from every other international...
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Let me just think about this -- let me play devil's advocate here to give the administration benefit of the doubt just as a point of argument.
If people in the intelligence community knew or felt within 24 hours it was a terror attack, is it possible administration officials didn't want to publicly say that for some security reason, some investigative reason or they just wanted to make sure that in the fog of battle often intelligence is wrong in the first few hours?
LAKE: That may -- I think the last explanation, Anderson, that you offer is the most likely.
Look, this is an administration, they have been burned by putting early information out there. Look, this is an administration, they have been burned by putting early information out there, where then investigators and intelligence sort of stepped back from it and they looked foolish.
It may be they didn't want to say that. The problem even with that explanation though is, when Matt Olsen, the director of the Counterterrorism Center, comes out and says it is a terrorist attack the administration is very slow, including up to yesterday with the president's address to the U.N. General Assembly, very slow to embrace this notion that it is in fact a terror attack despite the fact -- you can't keep pointing to the film and this protest when they show up with RPGs and mortars.
COOPER: That's the thing, Eli, though, because arguing against what my devil's advocate question was, they were publicly giving a narrative. They were publicly linking this to that video, as opposed to just saying, we are investigating.
LAKE: I think there are two different things going on right now.
One is what happened in Cairo. And that clearly stemmed in part from a broadcaster who had jihadist sympathies talking about the Internet video that was out in June. The second is what happened in Libya. That has nothing to do as I can tell at this point from the outrage over the video that started from a broadcaster in Cairo.
I think those two narratives kind of merged, at least in the telling of senior White House officials and other administration officials.
COOPER: Bob, to you, what is the significance of all this? And I should point out Secretary Clinton made the strongest statement yet today from the administration making a link between the Benghazi attack to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
But you have been saying this really since shortly after the attack. What do you think is the significance of the information we are hearing tonight?
BAER: I think it is political. I think the White House is reluctant to admit that Libya has been lost or potentially lost. No administration wants to admit that. And I think frankly we can't blame losing Libya on this administration. It was in the works for a long time.
There wasn't much it could do. But, nonetheless, we have an election coming up and no one wants to take blame for messing up the Arab spring, not that they have, but this is the politics of Washington. Even when you get a smoking gun, a White House wants to cover it up or explain it away.
COOPER: Bob, is it too early to say though that Libya has been lost?
BAER: I -- you know, you look just the academic stuff about eastern Libya and, you know, I have heard today that there are multiple assassinations around Benghazi and different parts of Libya where people are settling scores of all sorts of stripes.
It is chaotic. And going back to the FBI getting into Benghazi, you really can't blame them because there is nobody in control of a very large city in a very big part of Libya. They are -- that's the problem at the root of it. All of the facts point to the fact is that nobody's in control.
COOPER: Fran, a lot of people about the Arab spring will say you have societies that have been repressed for generations in a pressure cooker. The box has been open. A lot of weird things come out of the box, but maybe long term there's -- things will move in the right direction, as the U.S. sees it. Do you buy that? How do you see it?
TOWNSEND: The Arab spring is, in fact, a long-term game.
But what you have to understand, if it is terrorism that we are seeing, and I feel confident based on everything that we know that it is, it raises the question for the administration, why didn't you see this coming? If there was intelligence about the growing presence of al Qaeda in eastern Libya, if there was an increasing threat and presence of Libya...
COOPER: On the anniversary of 9/11 of all days.
TOWNSEND: Right. So why didn't you do more? We can't underestimate until you have the answer you are going to be reluctant to call it a terrorist attack.
I do think there is real problems with how this was handled on the front end before it happened. I think that is part of what is driving the handling of it now.
COOPER: Amazing reporting, Fran. Appreciate it. Eli Lake as well, thank you. Bob Baer as well, thanks for being with us.
Much more on this after the break. We will get reaction to our exclusive reporting from two key lawmakers.
Let us know what you think. Obviously we're on Facebook and you can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.
Later, this is just remarkable, how one man survived when an avalanche, a mountain of snow came roaring down on top of him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had been having gusty winds throughout the night. So that was kind of keeping you up also. Then sure enough, a gust of wind came that was beyond what we had felt. I told my partner, Greg, that was in the tent with me, gosh, this is a really strong gust. Greg said, this isn't a gust. It's an avalanche.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Welcome back.
If you're just joining us, our breaking news tonight only here on 360. Sources telling us not one single FBI agent has made it to Benghazi to the scene where four Americans were killed on 9/11. Also, the same source is telling our Fran Townsend that FBI requests through the State Department to get to Libyans to secure the scenes have gone unfulfilled.
Additionally, according to sources, suspects the Libyans have in custody have not been made available for direct FBI questioning and from the get-go our sources say it looked like a terror attack.
Back with us, national security contributor Fran Townsend, who broke this remarkable story moments ago. Also on the phone, Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson and Congressman Michael Turner, Republican from Ohio.
Senator Isakson, first of all, your reaction to this information?
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: Well, this entire thing mystifies me. We have an administration apparently without a policy or looking the other way, referring to the tragic death of an ambassador as a bump in the road.
I do not understand the continuance of the president to look the other way and not admit the fact that this was obviously a terrorist attack. I cannot believe that the FBI is not on the ground yet and there's not enough cooperation to get them there.
COOPER: Congressman Turner, if the FBI investigators have yet to set foot in Benghazi, how is their investigation supposed to be credible?
REP. MICHAEL TURNER (R), OHIO: Obviously, it can't be. This goes right to the failure of this administration's policies in Libya.
We have to put this in context of just a year ago. The president spent nearly a billion U.S. dollars with warships right off the coast of Libya attacking the Moammar Gadhafi regime for the purposes of transitioning Libya without a stated policy or defined policy of who we were supporting, what we hoped to gain, the geopolitical view of those who might come into power.
And now the president continues to operate in an area where he has no articulated policy. And now four Americans are dead, our ambassador is dead and the president still has yet to be able to describe what has occurred and really what is the president's policy? Why is it that the president is operating a year after having attacked Libya without a policy?
COOPER: Congressman, to be fair, and supporters of the president and the policy will point out that time was of the essence given Moammar Gadhafi's stated intention to basically invade Benghazi, go house to house and pull people out and kill them I think like rats or words to those effect.
But, Senator, you and Senator Jim DeMint have written to Secretary Clinton requesting any diplomatic cables that might have come from Ambassador Chris Stevens. What motivated you to make such a request? What are you hoping to learn, Senator, from those cables?
ISAKSON: Well, first of all, it was myself and Senator Corker from Tennessee.
Senator, the question was to you since you have requested the cable.
Well, first of all, CNN uncovered the diary of Craig (sic) Stevens at the scene. CNN reported that the diary said that Craig (sic) Stevens wrote that he thought he was in danger and was on al Qaeda's hit list.
And I cannot a U.S. ambassador who would write that in a diary would not have sent cables to inform the State Department of his danger. And I think that is probably what happened. I think the State Department should be forthright and we should know what communications they had leading up to September 11.
And if in fact the United States State Department and this country knew in advance of the attack that its ambassador felt like he was in danger of his death or imminent demise from al Qaeda and we didn't take any action to secure him, that sends an appalling message to ambassadors around the world representing the United States of America.
COOPER: Senator, if you don't get these cables, is there anything really you can do? You requested them. Can the committee subpoena the items?
ISAKSON: Well, the committee can move forward and we have talked with members of the committee and some of the leadership of the committee.
In fact, if the administration claims executive privilege or looks the other way and denies it, Senator Corker and I will continue to pursue it because we think the American people, the Congress of the United States and certainly the family of Craig (sic) Stevens deserve an answer and they deserve it now.
COOPER: Congressman, you have been in briefings about this. What do you make of the kind of narrative that we have heard from administration officials about it was linked to this video and that it is still being investigated and we're not sure, and now this reporting tonight and today that at least within the intelligence community in the first 24 hours they felt confident this was a terror attack?
TURNER: Well, and, Anderson, I don't think we can give this administration the benefit of the doubt.
I think the fact they are trying to blame it on not a terrorist attack comes right to the heart of the fact that this is a president that took NATO and the United States into an offensive action into Libya without a clear stated policy, spent nearly a billion dollars and continues to have not a clear stated policy of what our relationship is to those who are in charge, the geopolitical evolution that is occurring there, and at the same time is not providing clearly the type of security that is necessary in the environment that we are in.
I don't think there's anybody who in Congress or the Senate can articulate what this president's policy is post-Gadhafi in Libya. He certainly didn't articulate it when he began the military action against them and he certainly isn't now, leaving I think Americans at risk.
COOPER: Congressman Turner, I appreciate your time, Senator Isakson as well
Fran, I think it is to be fair to the administration -- and those are obviously two Republican members of Congress. I mean, it's not clear how much the U.S. was in control of events. There were events -- event happen around the world and events were happening on the ground in Libya and the streets of Egypt without the U.S. being in the forefront of it. And in many cases the U.S. was reacting, as often happens in foreign policy. The Arab spring is not something the U.S. necessarily has control over.
TOWNSEND: No, that's exactly right, Anderson.
We do have to understand that. That said, our experience tells us, whether it East Africa embassy bombings or the USS Cole, right, in places around the world which are even ungoverned, the Mali-Mauritania border, or poorly governed, Yemen, Libya, because of a weak central government, nature abhors a vacuum.
We know al Qaeda has the wherewithal to take advantage of that. We know al Qaeda looks for those safe havens around the world. And it seems, it appears now that is exactly what al Qaeda was doing with Libya, trying to insert itself where it was a weakly or ungoverned space and take advantage of it to our great detriment and the tragedy.
COOPER: Fran Townsend, again, I appreciate your reporting with your sources. Thank you very much.
Other news tonight, in what was likely his last speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for a new world order not dominated by Western powers. As he was speaking, former New York Rudy Giuliani was blasting President Obama for not taking stronger action against Iran. Former Mayor Giuliani joins me ahead.
COOPER: Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again called for a new world order today at the U.N. General Assembly, one not dominated by Western powers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The current abysmal situation of the world and the bitter incidents of history are due mainly to the wrong management of the world and the self-proclaimed centers of power who have entrusted themselves to the devil.
The order that is rooted in the anti-human thoughts of slavery and the old and new colonialism are responsible for poverty, corruption, ignorance and oppression and discrimination in every corner of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Ahmadinejad's remarks came a day after President Obama said he would do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from getting nuclear arms.
Today at a anti-Iranian protest near the U.N., former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said President Obama has betrayed the people of Iran by not doing more to support their freedom, strong words.
I spoke with former Mayor Giuliani moments ago.
COOPER: You have very been critical of the U.S. policy toward Iran, saying the Obama administration has a cavalier attitude. How do they have a cavalier attitude?
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: The idea that you are going to stop them from becoming nuclear by just saying things like all options are on the table or...
COOPER: But isn't that what Mitt Romney has said, all options are on the table.
GIULIANI: Well, Mitt Romney is not the president. The president of the United States should be communicating -- what the president of the United States should be communicating is that he will take military action.
COOPER: But no president ever says, we are going to bomb you. George W. Bush said all options are on the table.
GIULIANI: Gee, the last one I remember that did that was Ronald Reagan. He was pretty successful. Ronald Reagan made it pretty clear when he was going to take military action. He would point missiles at the Soviet Union and made it clear that he would take military action.
COOPER: So was Bush wrong when he didn't say we are going to bomb you, but when he said all options are on the table? I mean, Reagan said all options are on the table plenty of times.
GIULIANI: Well, first of all, this was a long time ago when Bush was dealing with Iran. Iran was five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years away from becoming nuclear.
Iran now could be months away, could be a year away, could be two years away. Under -- under President Obama, Iran has by three times increased the uranium and made it much more enriched than it was originally. That's a massive change in a very short period of time.
And, of course, Obama has a very bad history of, you know, begging to negotiate with them. Wrote a letter to the ayatollah six months to talk to him.
OBAMA: But what would Mitt Romney do better? Because Mitt Romney, when he was talking to George Stephanopoulos, said that he had the same red line as President Obama.
GIULIANI: Well, we don't know. We don't know what President Obama's red line is, since he won't share it with us. He won't share it with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He doesn't want to have a red line. He wants to keep it as fuzzy as possible. Now, if he wants to do that and communicate privately to Netanyahu, if he wants to communicate that privately to the ayatollah, I'm OK with that. But the reality is that he wants to -- he wants to keep it very fuzzy. And my fear is Iran will pass the point of no return without knowing it passes the point of no return.
COOPER: We don't necessarily know what the president has said privately to -- to an Israeli leader, but also he has said publicly, acquiring a weapon is the red line, that acquiring -- he just said it yesterday at the U.N.
GIULIANI: But Anderson, we know he hasn't told Netanyahu that. Unless he's a big liar. I mean, Netanyahu is begging to meet with him so they will set a red line. Netanyahu was criticizing him for not setting a red line.
COOPER: But just yesterday at the U.N....
GIULIANI: And he's leaving Netanyahu in the dark, which is a terrible mistake.
COOPER: But just yesterday, the U.N., he said we must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Now some saying we should stop them from having the capability, and there's a difference. But Mitt Romney, when asked by Stephanopoulos, used the same term about acquiring a weapon.
GIULIANI: Well, I mean, the reality is that's very, very fuzzy language. Very fuzzy language can lead to war. Very fuzzy language and confusion led to the first world war. There's no point in being fuzzy about it now.
COOPER: So you're saying capability. You are saying that Iran has the capability of a weapon, then...
GIULIANI: I'm worried about that because I think we're not concentrating on the real key problem here. I don't think the key problem is Iran using missiles. I think the key problem is having nuclear material that they can hand off to the terrorists that they are presently...
COOPER: We don't have a good track record -- look at Iraq -- of figuring out what capabilities people have. Isn't actually having the weapon the kind of only thing we can actually positively say?
GIULIANI: I'm not sure that's right, and I don't know that we don't have a pretty good capability. But an awful lot of -- an awful lot of Iranian scientists have been killed in Iran. Somebody had pretty good information about who they were, where they were living.
COOPER: But you just said -- I mean, you're saying that we've been fuzzy and weak in our diplomacy. But in fact, besides sanctions, there has been an assassination campaign against Iranian scientists and online virus.
GIULIANI: The assassination campaign was from Assad, not us. So let's be clear about that.
COOPER: We don't know for sure who it was, and we don't know what involvement or...
GIULIANI: As far as we can all tell, it was Assad. It wasn't us. And the reality is, this whole approach to Iran has been a very, very conciliatory one. Even the sanctions, which are stronger than they used to be. There are 20 exemptions from the sanctions.
COOPER: Do you see a big difference, though, Mitt Romney -- with what Mitt Romney would do?
GIULIANI: I see a very, very big difference. I think Mitt Romney would deliver a very clear message. First of all, he's meet with -- how about a big difference like this. He would meet with Netanyahu, and sit down face to face with the man and discuss with him what the options are.
This is highly irresponsible. Netanyahu has to make a very critical decision. He has to decide whether, for the sake of his nation, he should attack Iran. He's entitled to a face-to-face, eye- to-eye discussion with the president about this so they can get it straight.
The president has a problem with this. Bob Woodward's book is all about how President Obama doesn't seem to know how to deal with people, or act with people, or meet with them. This is a critical moment where the president has to put aside whatever personal feelings he has about Netanyahu, sit down with the man for an hour or two, and they've got to discuss it. More important they discuss it than you and I discuss it.
COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Mayor Giuliani, appreciate your time.
Coming up, the avalanche that killed at least eight people in Nepal. Now a survivor speaks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLEN PLAKE, EXTREME SKIER/AVALANCHE SURVIVOR: I'm like, no, this isn't going to hit us. This is going to go by. We picked a good spot. This is -- you know, we're in a secluded -- you know, we're in a safe zone. And -- and the next thing you know, it just -- we felt a slap almost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A survivor takes us inside the avalanche that killed at least eight people in Nepal. An extreme skier, Glen Plake, describes what happened on that mountain and how he made it out alive.
COOPER: Tonight a survivor of the avalanche in Nepal that killed at least eight people speaks out. His name is Glen Plake, one of the most famous, accomplished and wildest extreme skiers in the world.
Throughout Plake's career, there have been many extreme moments. That's some of him doing what he does best. But nothing could have compared him for what happened Sunday when he was camped out on the world's eighth highest peak with other climbers and the avalanche hit. Three of those climbers are still missing, feared dead. And Plake knows he is lucky to be alive.
COOPER: Glen, first of all, how are you doing?
PLAKE: I hate to say it, but I'm doing very, very well. I had a great climb manager that didn't let me get onto a rescue helicopter and fly to some hospital or something, and said, "If you're in good shape, Glen, why don't you walk down to base camp and kind of taper off this mountain on your own terms," and it really helped me psychologically. Physically, I'm just beat up. You know, just beat up. Been in a car wreck, if you know what I mean.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, an avalanche. Can you walk me through what happened the day of the avalanche? You were in your tent when it happened, right?
PLAKE: We had bedded down at camp three and was actually going to -- was preparing for a rest day the next day. We would have just stayed at camp three. We wouldn't have done much.
There had been some avalanche awareness in the area. So believe it or not, we did in fact, sleep with our avalanche beacons on. I literally had my head lamp on, reading my daily devotions at 4:30 in the morning, and we'd been having some gusty winds throughout the night, so that was kind of keeping us up also. And then sure enough, a gust of wind came that was beyond what we had felt.
I told my partner Greg that was in the tent with me. Gosh, this is a really strong gust. Greg said, "This isn't a gust. It's an avalanche." And about a second later, we were off to parts unknown.
COOPER: So what is that moment like? I mean, one moment you're conscious. You're seeing things and then to get hit by an avalanche. What is it like?
PLAKE: It just -- I -- unfortunately, I've been in one before, and I felt it. The wind was coming. It was coming, it was coming, and you know, the avalanche, the winds in front of the avalanche could be up over 200 miles an hour.
And I'm like, no, this isn't going to hit us. this is going to go by. We picked a good spot. This is -- you know, we're in a secluded -- you know, we're in a safe zone.
And the next thing you know, it just -- we felt a slap almost. I was airborne for quite a while, because I did go over -- through some big ice cliffs, quite a few cerak (ph), which are some big ice cliffs, and then I started feeling the actual rumble, tumble of an avalanche, maybe like you'd been knocked over by a wave, you know, in the ocean before.
And I was thinking myself, "My gosh, this is it." Excuse me. I try to laugh and cry at the same time. I said, this is it. I said this is it. And then, I don't even really know, you know. A couple of seconds, who knows what later, all of a sudden, I felt it come to a stop. And I immediately basically just completely started freaking out and trying to -- you only have a few seconds before the snow starts -- starts getting hard like cement. And...
COOPER: So you're actually conscious when it hits and I mean, you're actually tumbling over and over. And you remained conscious.
PLAKE: Yes, I was conscious throughout the whole thing. And what's interesting is the sun was not up yet. And when I finally came to a stop, I started thrashing about to try to, you know, make an air pocket or something. And I realized I'm on top of something -- I'm on top of the surface, but I'm still in the tent. And I'm thrashing about, and I can't rip the tent open. And I realized, "Wait a minute. I'll just unzip the door."
But what was really surreal is that I had been reading before and my head lamp was still on my head and was still producing light. So even though it was very dark, everything was really light. And it took me a few minutes to actually comprehend what was happening. And then I realized, oh, my head lamp is on.
And anyway, as soon as I got myself out, I immediately started screaming and yelling and, you know, went into a rescue mode for my friends. And unfortunately, Remi, I never -- no sign of Remi whatsoever. I mean, he's literally disappeared. There's nothing that was anywhere near or associated with his tent visually.
And -- and Greg, even though he was sleeping right next to me, everything that we had in that tent, I found except his sleeping bag.
COOPER: And so they're both still missing?
PLAKE: And they're both missing, and for sure they're -- I came to rest at about 6,300 meters or so. So, you know, more than 20,000 feet so your time is very limited there.
Again, it was our first day at that altitude, and with a rest day planned I myself was basically just standing in my skivvies with no shoes or anything on. And -- in the process of thrashing about I had thrown Greg's backpack. His backpack and his sleeping bag were the same color. And as I threw it I realized that there was a radio in that. So I was able to contact our camp manager -- or our climb manager and say I've been hit by an avalanche. Greg and Remi are missing. I can't talk right now. I've got a rescue to attend to. Called them back five minutes later. "I still can't talk to you. I appear to be OK. I'm still in rescue mode."
This wasn't on for about 20 minutes or so, before I realized, oh, my gosh, I'm not in rescue mode anymore. I'm in my own survival mode and realized I'd better start putting some clothes on and getting some shoes on, because things were starting to get pretty cold.
COOPER: How do you -- I mean, it's so recent I don't know if you've had time to even process it. How do you -- how do you go on from something like this? I mean, your friends are missing. Will you climb again? What do you -- where is your head right now?
PLAKE: Again, I -- fortunately, I was advised by an old veteran to, you know, not just jump on a rescue helicopter, and took his advice. And I can honestly say, in the seven hours that it did take me to walk back to base camp, I was able to say taper off of the situation. And I wasn't just, you know, plucked out of an emergency situation and sitting in a hospital or something somewhere.
We had some -- some dirty work to do. I had to call Remi's wife. I had to call Greg's father. And I also had to -- you know, there's nine other people, you know, involved in this thing, too. So the scene around base camp was kind of interesting. But I kind of stayed there, and as far as my head is concerned, I was able to, you know, leave the mountain -- I guess, well, on my own terms. COOPER: I don't want to ask you anything personal, but I mean, how do you make those calls to your friend's loved ones?
PLAKE: It's a pretty intense roller coaster for sure. Right now I'm like on a kiddy roller coaster. There for a while, any person I saw, I was -- I burst into tears. And right now I'm -- I'm still not completely stable. But I'm there.
They're hard. Of course they're hard. Gosh. And then the thing about this whole thing is Remi and Greg are missing.
COOPER: What do you want people to know about them?
PLAKE: Remi -- Remi's greatest flaw is he was too enthusiastic. Isn't that a great flaw to have?
COOPER: That's a great flaw to have, yes.
PLAKE: He was just always like come on, let's do this, let's just do -- oh, man, let's go. Isn't this great? Oh, God.
I mean, we had been trekking and everything, and we finally got to put our skis on the first day just to slide a little bit. It was like the first day, the day after Christmas and you got a new pair of skis. I was like hang on, man. Mellow out.
And Greg, I never really knew Greg. This was our first expedition together. But he was -- he was -- again, just a great guy to travel with. You know, you go on an expedition with somebody you don't necessarily know. And then you share a tent with somebody for a month, and he was just -- he really enjoyed where he was and the culture. Him and the Sherpa were -- he was always in the cook tent, hanging out and making jokes with the Sherpa any spare time. And he really enjoyed.
You know, the summit is the summit. You go on a six-month trip and you make one ski run and you make one summit. And that's not actually what it's all about. And Greg really enjoyed every minute and every moment of the trip other than the summit.
You know, it was great. Cruised around Kathmandu. Just all over the place. Really enjoyed the local setting and the travel aspect of adventure. You know, and that's what these things are. They're adventures, whether it's sailing trip or a climbing trip or something. It's...
COOPER: Yes. A young journalist I knew in Somalia named Dan Eldon (ph) who died in Somalia, was killed and wrote in his journal. He journal was entitled "the journey is the destination," and I think that's a lot of what you're saying.
PLAKE: Absolutely. I can say it's an adventure, and he really enjoyed that. He was -- he was a wonderful person to travel with and a wonderful skier. He was a French ski instructor, Corsavel (ph). We never let him down. He had some great stories of some pretty highfalutin people. Because Corsavel's (ph) kind of -- It was very nice getting to know him. And it breaks my heart -- I thought for sure he was going to be right there. And I thought we would be going -- not a cynical laugh, but going oh, my gosh, we're alive, dude.
COOPER: Well, Glen, I'm so sorry for what you've been through and I'm so sorry for your friends who are missing. And our thoughts and our prayers are with them and their families right now. I appreciate you talking to us, Glenn.
PLAKE: I appreciate you caring. There's an -- this is not an ordinary event. We're not adrenaline junkies. I'm not -- this is catastrophic, this thing. There's, you know, 30 year Himalayan veterans staring up at this thing, going "I can't believe what I'm looking at." This is a disaster is what it is. This isn't an avalanche.
COOPER: Glen, thank you, again. Stay strong.
PLAKE: Thank you guys. God bless. He did me today.
COOPER: He certainly did. A remarkable story.
Coming up, the video went viral. Students being pepper sprayed. You've probably seen the video. Some sued. Today they found out just how much money they could collect. Details, next.
SESAY: More from Anderson in a moment. First, a "360 Bulletin."
An opposition group says 343 people were killed across Syria today, the deadliest day since the conflict began. Four were killed, and 14 wounded in an attack on a military facility in Damascus. The Free Syrian Army and opposition force is claiming responsibility.
In Greece, thousands marched in Athens to protest new austerity measures. It's the first general strike since Greece's new coalition government was formed in June.
A preliminary settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit filed after this video went viral on YouTube last year. The University of California is offering $30,000 for each of the 21 plaintiffs who were pepper sprayed at an Occupy encampment on the Davis campus.
Acting on a new tip, police plan to take soil samples at a home in Roseville, Michigan, to see if Jimmy Hoffa is buried there. The Teamster boss vanished in 1975. It's one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Time for "The RidicuList." Tonight there is a whole new way to go totally overboard with your kid's birthday party. Because let's face it: the usual birthday party fare, it's pretty played out.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've had the Chuck E. Cheese party. You've had the clown party. You've had the jumperoo or bounce house party.
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COOPER: Now, hang on. I'm familiar with clowns. I've heard of Chuck E. Cheese, of course. That's Vegas for kids, right?
But what on earth is a jumperoo or bouncy house party? And more importantly, how can I go about getting invited to one? I've been to pool parties. But who wants to go to another pool party? Yawn.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when you say you're going to have a party, they go that's nice.
"We're going to have a pool party." "That's nice." "We're going with a gator. Everybody comes.
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COOPER: Wait. That guy doesn't really take alligators to people's pool parties, does he? See? That can't actually be happening. That's actually be good for gators. We need a reporter to get to the bottom of this.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If put him on the guest list, he's guaranteed to show up. This gator makes house calls.
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COOPER: I stand corrected. The guy takes alligators to pool parties. What better way is there to spice up a pool party than throwing a live gator in with the kids? Happy birthday, Suzie, go play with a carnivorous reptile.
Why stop at gators? Throw some rabid squirrels in there, too, maybe some pissed off snapping turtles. Maybe a great white shark with a mood disorder. They can all play Marco Polo with the youngsters. It will be fine. Don't worry.
And it's good for the gators. I'm sure that chlorine is good.
Of course, the most important part of throwing an alligator pool part, is being the first one on your block to throw an alligator pool party.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both of my daughters have had their parties this way and been the first one of their friends to do it.
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COOPER: Look, I get it. It's kind of different. I guess it's kind of cool. The kids can learn about alligators up close, while secretly hoping the tape over the gator's mouths doesn't come loose, revealing its ferocious, razor-sharp teeth. Or maybe they're hoping that does happen.
But whatever happens to the good old days where you blew up a few balloons, you got a cake and then played pin the tail on the donkey? I don't know. Do kids actually use maybe real donkeys now? I don't know.
Look, at the end of the day, I want kids to have fun, but is this really a good idea? Is it even healthy for the animals? I say hire a clown. If you really want something new, throw the clown in the pool and watch the kids laugh and laugh and laugh.
That does it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.