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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Secrets of the Delta: Sea of Oil, River of Blood; NASA Under Pressure Over Astronaut Arrest; U.S. Helicopters at Increasing Risk in Iraq?
Aired February 7, 2007 - 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.
President Bush says, the troops in Iraq face a learning enemy, an enemy that is learning how to shoot down American choppers -- 28 troops and civilian contractors killed in less than three weeks -- another crash today, insurgents already claiming responsibility -- more on that shortly, and what is being done to counter the growing threat.
We begin, however, tonight with astronaut Lisa Nowak. A day after being charged in Florida with trying to kidnap and kill a woman whom she may have seen as a romantic rival, she's back in Houston. She's grounded -- NASA promising big changes to screen out unstable recruits.
More is coming to light, as well, about what led up to her strange trip cross-country wearing diapers -- more, too, about her alleged target and the other astronaut caught in the middle.
We will have all the angles tonight, including a closer look at romantic obsession with Dr. Drew Pinsky.
We begin in Houston with the latest and CNN's Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hiding under a black jacket, Lisa Nowak was brought to the Johnson Space Center, where she underwent a psychological and physical evaluation. NASA officials say they remain very concerned about her well-being.
ROBERT CABANA, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JOHNSON SPACE CENTER: Lisa was a vibrant, hard-working -- is a vibrant, hard-working, energetic person that did her job extremely well. She was a team player and -- you know, and dedicated to what she did.
LAVANDERA: The mother of three children recently separated from her husband, but everything else appeared normal. NASA officials say Nowak was at work last week, and was not acting strangely.
The scandal has stunned Nowak's scandal and friends.
DAVID SILVA, NEIGHBOR OF LISA NOWAK: It was totally out of character -- and she's always just been a wonderful person -- and very shocking. LAVANDERA: Nowak has been played on 30-day leave. And she's lost her job supporting the next shuttle mission. NASA officials won't say if this scandal will end her career in the space program, but they do say astronauts have a noble reputation to protect.
SHANA DALE, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION: We expect astronauts, as we expect any NASA employee, to conduct themselves in a way that does not bring any dishonor to the space program. But we do not meddle into the private lives of astronauts..
LAVANDERA: Nowak's parents have come to Houston to take care of her, but she remains somewhere in seclusion. So, what made her drive to Orlando remains a mystery.
COOPER: Is NASA assisting the criminal investigation in -- in Orlando?
LAVANDERA: Well, Anderson, NASA officials here today said that they are helping in that investigation. They will do everything that is required of them.
And, so far, that includes, even though they haven't been contacted by Orlando authorities yet, but they did say today they have frozen computers and e-mails related to this case, in case those investigators want -- want that information.
COOPER: Ed, there was lengthy press conference that NASA officials gave today. And they talked about what they're trying to do to prevent something like this from -- from happening again. What exactly is that?
LAVANDERA: Well, what they outlined is that they want to go back and institute a review process as to exactly how these astronauts are screened, specifically about the mental conditions and -- and the mental evaluations that they undergo.
And in the -- in Lisa Nowak's case, they want to go back and look at everything that has happened in her situation, make sure they didn't miss any red flags that might have alerted them to this happening.
COOPER: It seems like the screening they get is initial screening, when they enter the program, not so much, you know, as the years progress.
LAVANDERA: Well, they did say that, after astronauts have gone through spaceflight and that sort of thing, that they are evaluated. They go through other -- other training, other evaluations, for -- for years, because that's -- that's part of the process here.
But one of the things they did say is that -- and they went to great lengths several times to say that they do not meddle in the personal lives of these astronauts. Now, whether or not that changes because of this remains to be seen.
COOPER: All right. Ed Lavandera, appreciate that.
More now on Lisa Nowak's alleged target, as well as the astronaut caught in the middle of all this real or imagined love triangle.
With that, CNN's John Zarrella.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): A "no comment" next to a neighbor's door -- most of the folks who live in Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman's Cape Canaveral neighborhood weren't talking, but apparently knew she was dating astronaut Bill Oefelein. She let everyone know Oefelein was flying on board the shuttle Discovery in December.
BILL BAILEY, NEIGHBOR OF COLLEEN SHIPMAN: She was all excited when the shuttle came back. She was all happy, you know, that they didn't have any trouble or anything.
ZARRELLA: Oefelein spent almost all his youth in Alaska and is proud to call himself the only astronaut from the state he loved to explore.
BILL OEFELEIN, SHUTTLE PILOT, NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION: And, as I got older, I wanted to see even more. And one of the best ways, as you know, to -- to do that up in Alaska is by air.
ZARRELLA: He became a naval aviator in 1990. He and his older brother are both into flying, which never sat well with mom.
BILLYE OEFELEIN, MOTHER OF BILL OEFELEIN: And I told both of them, I would much rather having you flying a desk.
ZARRELLA: When Discovery lifted off, Oefelein's parents and friends came to the cape to cheer him on.
BILLYE OEFELEIN: I just started shaking. And I was going, oh, my God, that's my son going up there.
ZARRELLA: We don't know if Colleen Shipman was there. Her neighbor Bill Bailey says he never saw Shipman with Oefelein; she was a private person, but always smiling and friendly.
BAILEY: She would do anything for you. I mean, if you asked for -- if you wanted to go over there and ask sugar or anything, whatever, she would get it.
ZARRELLA: Shipman grew up in Pennsylvania and went to Penn State University. As an Air Force captain, she's part of the shuttle support team at Patrick Air Force Base, not far from Cape Canaveral, and not far from Helicopter Adventures.
PATRICK CORR, HELICOPTER ADVENTURES INC.: I was quite astonished.
ZARRELLA: Patrick Corr, who runs Helicopter Adventures, couldn't believe it when the woman who had been coming here for flying lessons suddenly showed up on the news. She had been coming here since October.
CORR: Initially, she was working on private pilot rating to fly helicopters. Our school is very oriented towards career training. And, ultimately, I think her goal was to prepare for a future career as a helicopter pilot.
ZARRELLA: Shipman took her first lesson October 9. She last flew January 29, just a few days before her encounter with Lisa Nowak. On the restraining order Shipman filed against Nowak, the flight school and this dance studio were listed as places she wanted off limits to Nowak.
On that petition, requested in a Titusville court, she referred to Nowak as -- quote -- "acquaintance of boyfriend" -- end quote.
But neither Oefelein or Shipman have talked publicly yet about their private relationship or how Lisa Nowak fits in.
COOPER: A lot of questions still to be answered -- John joining us live from Orlando.
What other reasons does Colleen Shipman give for wanting a restraining order?
ZARRELLA: Well, initially, she also said that she had been stalked by Nowak for two months.
And she says that Nowak got personal information about her, including the fact that she was flying to Orlando, from either government contacts or from computers. And, so, those were two other reasons listed, other reason listed, on that petition for the restraining order, as to why she wanted it.
COOPER: And do we know where he and she are, where Shipman and Oefelein are?
ZARRELLA: Well, we know that Bill Oefelein, at least according to a NASA official today, when I spoke to them, told me that Oefelein is here in Florida. He's doing some work over at the Kennedy Space Center. But he is also cooperating voluntarily with Orlando police in the investigation. Now, Orlando police would not confirm that for us.
As for Shipman, well, we know she's not at her house. We were there today. And her neighbors said she's not there. It is possible that she's gone home to -- to Pennsylvania, which is where her family is -- Anderson.
COOPER: John, is it surprising that they allowed Nowak to leave the state of Florida? ZARRELLA: Well, you know, a lot of people that we talked to here said, look, this woman is not going anywhere. She's got the GPS ankle bracelet on her. What good is it to keep her here? She's going back to Houston, to the Johnson Space Center. She's not going to be going anywhere, skipping town.
So, the feeling was, you know, that this -- this bond that she got yesterday was probably the smart and the right thing to do.
COOPER: All right, John Zarrella, thanks for that.
There are more astronauts working for NASA than you might think right now. Here's the "Raw Data."
According to the "NASA Astronaut Fact Book," the agency has at least 95 astronauts, 11 astronaut candidates, and 46 so-called management astronauts. Another 132 astronauts have either retired or resigned; 36 have died.
Some over the years have battled depression and alcoholism. We talked about that last night. Now, if the charges against Lisa Nowak pan out, you can add fatal attraction to the list. The question is, with so many young, talented and driven men and women, was it only a matter of time?
Some perspective now from addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Dr. Drew, good to have you on.
DR. DREW PINSKY, AUTHOR, "CRACKED: PUTTING BROKEN LIVES TOGETHER AGAIN": Thanks.
COOPER: What do you make of this?
PINSKY: Well, you know, I have to think in terms of how I would -- what I would think if somebody like this showed up in my hospital.
And the first thing I would be thinking about was major psychiatric problems. Is there a major depression, as you mentioned? Are there substances involved with this? Is this a bipolar patient who became decompensated? There are many, many reasons.
And one thing I have noticed over and again when I treat patients whose stories are in the media, it's just amazing how incomplete the stories are in the media.
COOPER: There's so much we don't know.
PINSKY: So much we don't know.
And, when you really dig in, when I see these people in, like -- in a clinical setting, the problems are very severe. And the situations are actually really quite intense often and much more than they appear at first brush on the television.
COOPER: And they're not necessarily new problems.
PINSKY: They're -- they're not.
COOPER: These are often deep-seated...
PINSKY: Well, they can be.
COOPER: ... or at least showed up earlier.
PINSKY: And that's really the question in this case. Is this -- you know, you look at her profile, and it's someone who has been, you know, a stable relationship for a long period of time, highly functioning, extremely successful, and, all of a sudden, boom, this aberrant behavior.
I mean, for me, that, you know, goes to depression and substances, and things like that, or brain tumors and thyroid disease. You want to make sure she's medically OK, even.
On the other hand, if we find out, which we may, that there's been a longstanding history of chaos in relationships, other kinds of impulsive acting out, then, it starts to make more sense that things finally got to the point where she did, indeed, snap.
But I don't think that's the case here.
COOPER: It's strange, though. Her marriage, I guess, she separated three weeks ago, and yet we have this two-month-old restraining order.
PINSKY: There's no doubt -- I don't know -- that is the most confusing part of this, is the idea that she's been stalking for two months, because that kind of stalking behavior suggests much more severe, chronic problems than this story has suggested.
So, we really need a lot more information. And we really don't know exactly what's going on here. But she deserves a lot of sympathy. Something horrible has happened. And her behavior was reprehensible. It's inexcusable. And she's going to pay the price for it.
COOPER: Well, it's interesting. Do you think there's a double standard, because, if this was a guy who drove 900 miles in a pair of diapers to assault someone -- or allegedly assault someone -- I'm wondering if people would be saying, this person should get sympathy?
PINSKY: You know, we tend to think of men being a little more violent and sinister in their behaviors towards women. We might be a little harsher. And there's certainly a double standard there.
But, again, let's not be too harsh about -- the diaper issue keeps coming up over and again. I mean, astronauts are trained to be able to use these implements to be able to take long trips. She knew how to do that. Astronauts wear these things in their trips. So, it wasn't that bizarre, that she had done that.
What's bizarre is that it's so out of character for her, this entire thing, based on what we know about her, that seems profoundly...
COOPER: But plenty of people do have relationships, and, then, when the relationship ends, they snap, or one partner snaps.
PINSKY: But -- you're absolutely right, that the stress can be so profound, that things can happen. And she's under a lot of stress right now.
But the reality is, to see violent acting out, you really tend to see a history of that throughout their lifespan, problems with relationships falling apart, you know, impulsiveness, acting out, aggression.
This is -- appears to be none of that at all.
COOPER: And her -- I want to read this -- this family statement.
It says: "Considering both her personal and professional -- considering both her personal and professional life, these -- these allegations -- these alleged events are completely out of character and have come as a tremendous shock to our family."
PINSKY: And I would -- I believe that. I think that something has happened.
And, look, as I'm saying, if this were coming to my facility, boy, I would be thinking about things that effect major psychiatric events, major psychiatric pathology.
COOPER: What is the treatment? I mean, I guess you can't even say at this point, because who knows what the diagnosis...
PINSKY: It depends what the diagnosis is.
You know, again, on -- in the media, so often, that you hear, somebody went to rehab. Somebody did this. And, you know, there's really no discussion about the diagnosis was. We should really keep our ear to the ground about what exactly this was.
COOPER: But, for someone who has done this, can they care for their children?
PINSKY: It depends what the diagnosis is.
(CROSSTALK) PINSKY: I mean, yes, these -- all the things I'm thinking about are quite treatable conditions. They're usually acute problems precipitated by severe stress. She's in severe stress. Everyone has said that. And maybe that precipitated a major psychiatric event.
COOPER: It's obviously a fascinating case to a lot of people.
Drew Pinsky, thanks very much.
PINSKY: My pleasure.
COOPER: Dr. Drew.
Still to come tonight: yet another helicopter down in Iraq, an insurgent group claiming responsibility -- a growing problem, a deadly challenge.
COOPER (voice-over): Five choppers down, 28 dead, all in less than three weeks -- what's being done to keep American troops safe and keep one step ahead of enemy fire?
Also: They rule the water, but they're gunning for the oil -- inside a rebel army led by a mystical warrior fighting for oil, and why their war may cost you at the pump -- only on CNN, ahead on 360.
COOPER: Well, today, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, a U.S. helicopter crashed in Iraq. Seven people were killed.
The Marine Sea Knight CH-46 helicopter went down in Anbar Province this morning during routine operations, as they were called. Everyone on board was killed.
The umbrella insurgent group Islamic State in Iraq, which includes al Qaeda in Iraq, has claimed responsibility. Through postings on Islamic Web sites, the insurgents claim they shot the chopper down while hundreds of people watched and praised God. That's what they said on their propaganda site.
The official cause of the crash still under investigation, says the U.S. military. But officials say there was enemy activity in the area when the chopper crashed.
After today's incident and four other shoot-downs in recent weeks, the military is trying to figure out if there is a new enemy threat against our helicopters.
Joining us now for some perspective, CNN's Michael Ware, who is covering this story from Baghdad, and CNN military analyst Brigadier General David Grange.
Guys, thanks for being with us.
Michael, you know, military officials have long pointed out that this enemy in Iraq is a learning enemy, adjusting their tactics, as we adjust ours. The U.S. military is investigating all these crashes, but do we know if the crash is the result of new enemy tactics?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's too soon to tell, Anderson.
We do know that the insurgents here, be they Shia militias, be they Sunni insurgents, or be they al Qaeda, which are the ones who have essentially claimed the shooting down of this latest helicopter, the Islamic State of Iraq is a state within a state declared by al Qaeda.
They have long targeted air assets. We have seen, way back from 2003, how they have tried to hit fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Now, this is the fifth helicopter that's come down in two-and-a-half weeks. That is a lot -- four of them, we know, so far, definitely result of hostile fire. We're awaiting the outcome of this one.
But does that make a pattern? We're unclear yet. Even if the same methods have been used on each of the choppers, we're eagerly awaiting to see what comes of this investigation.
COOPER: General Grange, any loss of life is terrible and a tragedy. And any time a helicopter is down, there's often multiple loss of life.
But, given the total number of choppers flying on any given day over the skies in Iraq, is five down in this length of time surprising?
BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No.
Actually, I'm -- I'm very surprised that, during this war, that more helicopters had not been knocked down, either by the enemy or from mechanical failure. If you look at Vietnam and other areas of combat, actually, it's a very good record.
Losing one is bad, obviously. But it's -- there's a lot of flight hours going on, a lot of helicopters in the sky, because the coalition forces, the U.S., owns the sky. It's the third -- three- dimensional fight for the U.S. And no one else can take the skies. And, so, the enemy tries to counter that, obviously.
COOPER: General Grange, correct me if I am wrong. I seem to remember reading in Neil Sheehan's book "A Bright Shining Lie" that, when Vietcong guerrillas figured out how to down U.S. choppers during Vietnam, it was a huge victory or morale boost for them.
Do you feel that the insurgents here have figured out how to bring these choppers down, or is it -- I mean, do you have a gut feeling on this?
GRANGE: Well, the enemy, our adversaries not only studied Vietnam. They studied Mogadishu and Somalia and other actions.
And they know that -- the vulnerability of American or any helicopters in the sky. I mean, there's no place to hide. There's tactics that are used to avoid fire. And there's -- there's techniques that are used to -- to counter ground fire, either from missile or small arms.
COOPER: And that's kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you fly too low, which is to counter surface-to-air missiles, then you're vulnerable to small-arms fire. If you fly too high, you're vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles.
GRANGE: That's correct. And either one of them can take down a helicopter.
I mean, I have been in helicopters that have taken over 45 hits and never went down. Also, a helicopter can go down from one hit. It just depends.
But the enemy also knows that there's a lot of sensationalism in knocking out a helicopter. I mean, just as, you know, American soldiers dying in a truck in a convoy or a Humvee is just as drastic. It just -- it's not as big of a deal on television or in -- as people talk about it. So, it's a very tempting target to our adversary.
COOPER: Well, certainly, also, for soldiers on the battlefield, the supremacy of American airpower is something which, if they feel they can hit, I guess it gives a morale boost.
Michael, the U.S. military announced today that the new Baghdad security operation, it has officially begun. But, according to the AP, more American troops were killed in combat in Iraq in the past four months than in any comparable period.
Is that an insurgent strategy in response to American politics, to try to bring up the body count? Is it because there are more Americans on patrol in Baghdad? Is it just coincidence? Do we know?
WARE: Well, no, we don't know exactly.
But we do know that the insurgents had, for want of a better term, their own surge of operations that we saw come during the holy month of Eid at the end of last year.
Now, that also aligned with the American midterm elections. And we do know that the insurgents not only monitored U.S. domestic politics during that period, but vowed that they would capitalize on it.
So, I believe that some of those figures will be linked back to offensives, you know, that were to -- to maximize the holy month and the elections.
However, by and large, we still don't have the U.S. troops on the streets of the capital that we're expecting. We're being told that's going to be a slow rollout, and there's no fixed date for when all American troops will be here.
Bottom line is, this is the war. It continues to evolve. And it can easily get worse before it gets better.
COOPER: Michael Ware, General David Grange, appreciate it, guys. Thanks for your time.
GRANGE: Thank you.
COOPER: It's a place where the oil runs as thick as the blood. We're not talking about Iraq.
It's also one of the most bizarre and terrifying reports you -- you may see. Its center is a phantom rebel leader who reached out to us. What he says could affect all of us here at home, in terms of prices at the pump -- the story from Africa next when 360 continues.
COOPER: Coming up in our next hour: an exclusive 360 investigation that may change the way you think about auto insurance.
CNN's Drew Griffin talked to industry insiders, who told him about the secret hardball tactics insurers are using to maximum profits and minimize payouts. He also talked to people stuck with major medical bills, on top of their injuries.
Here's a preview.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After three years of fighting over bills and still hurting from the accident, Allstate came with a take-it-or-leave it offer, $15,000.
ROXANNE MARTINEZ, ACCIDENT VICTIM: That was for, I guess, the car, medical. I mean, that was everything. You know, I thought they would pay all your bills and, you know, keep on paying your medical bills.
GRIFFIN: Roxanne Martinez was battling Allstate, the second biggest auto insurer in the nation. What she didn't know was that both Allstate and the largest auto insurer, State Farm, had changed the way they handled so-called minor crashes like hers.
COOPER: Well, Drew's full report is ahead in the next hour. We will show you what he found, and let you decide if the insurance companies are being fair.
First, you're about to see one of the strangest stories we have reported on in a while. It began as a mysterious e-mail, ended the same way. It is about the oil that heats your house, the gas you put in your car, and a dangerous, some would say magical, desperate region in Africa known as the Niger Delta. There's a rebel leader of militants battling the Nigerian army who contacted us. Few would go inside this no-go zone. We did.
So began a journey by CNN Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange, one that took him into the absolute heart of darkness.
JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A treasure lies beneath these brackish waters, billions of barrels of oil, so much that Nigeria produces about 10 percent of the oil brought into the U.S. So, if this oil is interrupted or stopped, it's all but certain to cause a disastrous recession in the U.S.
But where there are vast riches in Africa, there's always something else: bloodshed. But to see for ourselves what is happening in the Delta, we first needed permission from a mysterious rebel leader named Jomo, who communicates via e-mail, and whose heavily armed and fierce men are fighting for control of the Delta and the oil.
Jomo agreed to have us come by. But he wrote: "There's a snag. I don't do audio or video interviews."
Days later, we were on a speedboat to meet the phantom Jomo. We were an hour-and-a-half upriver from the Delta town of Warri, when, suddenly, out of nowhere, masked gunmen in powerful speedboats surrounded us, shooting over our heads and demanding to know who we are -- their weapons, impressive, small machine guns, a boat-mounted .50-caliber, and grenade launchers, far more firepower than I had ever seen in the Delta.
Simply put, in their black outfits and black ski masks, these guys were terrifying. And that's exactly what they have become: Nigeria's worst nightmare. They call themselves the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND. Their goal, they insist, is to mend what they say is the unequal distribution of the vast wealth reaped from Nigeria's oil bonanza. These murky water contain some of the richest oil deposits, and, ironically, some of the poorest people in the world.
The rebels say they are like Robin Hood, and it's a matter of taking back the oil money from corrupt politicians, a corrupt military, and the oil companies, and giving it to the people who live here.
Recently, the rebels have ratcheted up. They are kidnapping expatriate workers who have come to work here. The number of hostages is growing quickly.
As for the Nigerian military, when they come down to the hostile swamps of the Delta, they are easy prey for the rebels, who kill them indiscriminately.
Oil facilities here are also favorite targets. Explosions have sharply cut the flow, a drop from three million barrels of sweet crude a day down to two million.
But for us, there seemed to be a dangerous misunderstanding. The rebel leader Jomo had invited us here, but these men in the black ski masks were suspicious and angry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many times do you come here with your cameras, and you didn't do anything? We don't want you guys to come here again.
KOINANGE: But we weren't about to leave so easily. We asked about Jomo. But they insisted he doesn't talk to anyone, especially journalists. But to prove how serious they are, they offered to take us to one of their hide-outs to show us something no western journalist has seen.
Another hour winding through the mangrove swamps, and we arrived at a scene I never thought possible in Nigeria. Men put on a show for us. Men in black dancing and chanting themselves into a trance. Some point their guns menacingly at us. Others try to intimidate us.
And yet we still had no idea who was in command here. No sign at all of our host, Jomo. And there's no way we could have ever guessed what they wanted us to see next.
COOPER: Coming up, the rebels show Jeff they mean business.
And later people have said they've been victimized twice, first by the car crash, then by the insurance companies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): The accident was bad enough but then she really got hit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just very insulted.
COOPER: She says she got short-changed by her insurance company. A CNN investigation reveals she's not alone. It's no accident. Only on 360.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Our economy could take a hit, depending on what happens in the coming months in a mysterious part of Africa. It's the Niger Delta in Nigeria, and it holds vast riches of oil. Militants there on the attack, seizing foreigners and vowing destruction. They insist the poverty stricken people of the Delta deserve a greater share of the oil wealth.
CNN's Africa correspondent, Jeff Koinange, traveled there seeking to meet a rebel leader named Jomo. Here's part two of his journey.
KOINANGE (voice-over): Like Robin Hood and his men hiding in the dense woods, the MEND fighters have found safety in the unmarked islands hidden among the swamps of the delta. So, of course, there is no way to check on their claim. MEND tells us these are but a handful of 200,000 fighters they have throughout these waterways, an area about twice the size of Maryland.
But they could prove their willingness for audacious crimes.
(on camera) Just to show us how confident these MEND militants are, they brought us here deep in the heart of Niger Delta, to show us their latest hostages, 24 Filipino sailors.
(voice-over) It was a brazen raid at sea, The largest number of hostages kidnapped at once. The armed rebels' speed boat surrounded the workers' ship at sea, and they have now been held captive for nearly a month. MEND insists no harm will come to the hostages. This is about intimidation, a demonstration of MEND's power. It's also about ransom.
As for these dazed and confused sailors, imagine what they must be thinking when they see this menacing dance of madness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all OK, but only we want to be free. We want to be released.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a family. And we need to communicate with them but our communications is closed.
KOINANGE: But how did it ever come to this? Who is coordinating these attacks?
After much discussion, the rebels did agree to take us to their leader, but only under one condition. Because of his superstitions we could only interview him in the water, out in the middle of the swamps. We wondered were we finally going to meet the mysterious Jomo?
(on camera) I'm here to find out about the movement. Who are you? What do you want? What's your struggle?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta is a struggle, a movement for the liberation of the Niger Delta, the most devastated and the most threatened region in the world.
KOINANGE: Is your fight against the oil multinationals or against the Nigerian government or against them all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our fight is against everybody, every institution that don't want the people of the Niger Delta to have their fair share of the Nigerian project. Any person that is either by knowing or unknowingly has connived to deny the people of Niger Delta their fair share of the Nigerian project.
KOINANGE: And how far are you willing to go? How far is MEND willing to go to accomplish your goals?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MEND has come to stay and that there is no force in the universe that will stop MEND in achieving these demands.
KOINANGE: What do you want to tell the oil companies right now? To leave Nigeria?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are telling all expatriates to leave Nigeria. Leave Nigeria. We will take lives. We will destroy lives. We will crumble the economy, mercilessly.
KOINANGE (voice-over): And with that the interview suddenly ends. The general's men feel vulnerable here in the open. We're escorted out and into open waters. But as we're about to take off one of the masked men issues yet another threat to the Nigerian government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don't listen, well, maybe we don't know how many pieces it will go into, but the federal government will not be in peace except they listen to us.
KOINANGE: As for Jomo, we never did get to meet the man who invited us here. Or perhaps we did and he just wouldn't reveal himself.
But when we got home, we did get another message from the e- mailer calling himself Jomo. In this one, he complained the hostages we saw were not kidnapped by his group MEND and that our report would be misleading.
We have no doubt those kidnappers were MEND militants, and we have no idea why their leader would now distance himself from that. But the delta is full of mystery and magic and bloodshed.
Jeff Koinange, CNN, in the Niger Delta.
COOPER: Well, all of this could have an affect on the prices here at the pump here. We'll have more on the fight for the oil of Nigeria and what it means to America and the rest of the world coming up.
As part of an exclusive interview with "Vanity Fair" magazine, the author of "The Perfect Storm", Sebastian Junger, talks about what happened when he went to the nightmare that is the Niger Delta. 360 next.
COOPER: CNN Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange met face to face with the militants of the Niger Delta. So did best-selling author Sebastian Junger. The land is oil rich, soaked in blood. And what happens there could reach all the way to your home.
Junger's gripping article, "Blood Oil", can be found in this month's issue of "Vanity Fair", along with pictures from "Vanity Fair" photographer Michael Kamber. You can also check out the article and the photos at VanityFair.com.
I spoke to Sebastian Junger earlier.
COOPER: Sebastian, thanks for being with us. What did these guys want?
SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR, "THE PERFECT STORM": In a general sense they want control of their resources, meaning the oil, the billions of dollars of oil that gets pumped out of the Niger Delta.
More specifically, there are Ija (ph) leaders who have been in prison. They want them released. And they want some of the pollution cleaned up in the delta. There's been a court judgment against Shell Oil of $1.5 billion for environmental damage. They want that paid.
There's sort of a package of complaints that they've come out with.
COOPER: They say they're representing the people of that region. Do they have popular support?
JUNGER: They do in the sense that the people there are really incredibly poor and miserable. I mean there...
COOPER: It's a poverty -- I mean, we travel around a lot, but you were writing it's a poverty unlike anything you've seen.
JUNGER: It's incredible, I mean, particularly for such a wealthy country. I mean, a lot of Africa's very poor. What's startling there is to see oil wells next to villages with no drinking water, no sanitation, no schools, no medical help. It's the contrast that I think is so troubling to journalists and to the locals.
COOPER: Because I mean, Nigeria is incredibly wealthy, and they're making hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars from this oil. So basically, these rebels or militants, whatever you want to call them, want a cut of that to go back to their community.
JUNGER: That's right. I mean, the oil companies, the international companies are -- in a way they are discharging their duties. They're paying up to the Nigerian government up to a billion dollars a week in oil revenue, 60, 70, 80 percent of their profits. That money does not get to the delta, because the country -- the government is so corrupt.
COOPER: It's hard to get a sense of how many of these militants or soldiers there really are. Real numbers are hard to come by. What -- how do they strike you as, as combatants, as soldiers. Serious fighters?
JUNGER: They were incredibly disciplined. I mean, there really seemed to be a -- they followed their -- they followed orders. There was a chain of command. They were painted with magical symbols. It's a warrior cult called imbasu. They seemed absolutely serious and fearless.
COOPER: What kind of impact can this have on the United States, to all of us paying, you know, at the pump?
JUNGER: Well, MEND has threatened to completely shut down Nigerian oil production.
COOPER: Can they actually do that, though?
JUNGER: It's hard for me to tell. They've shut down a quarter of production without, I think, trying very hard so my guess is that they could. Two and a half billion barrels a day is pumped out of Nigeria, but they're already lost a quarter of that. If they took it all out, what I've read, the analysis I've read is that that would send oil to $80 a barrel, which the U.S. economy would recover from, but it would take a hit. Nigerian oil is particularly valuable because it's so pure.
COOPER: It's light, sweet crude oil.
JUNGER: That's right. If you take out Nigerian oil it means there's almost no buffer if there's another crisis in the world, particularly in the Middle East.
So it's not so much that the U.S. wouldn't recover from it, but there's no safety margin. We're right at the edge of a cliff. And a major incident in the Middle East could send oil to $120 a barrel, and that would be catastrophic for this economy.
COOPER: It's a great article, again, on VanityFair.com. Sebastian, thanks.
JUNGER: Thank you.
COOPER: Fascinating look at what's happening in that part of Nigeria.
Just ahead on 360, piles of money, billions of dollars unaccounted for in Iraq. It was supposed to help get the country back on its feet. Now a lot of people are asking what happened to all the money? Where did it go? We're "Keeping Them Honest".
First, more on the suspected love triangle involving two astronauts and an Air Force captain. A scandal for NASA, certainly a tragedy for all involved. But Christmas in February for comedians. We'll explain next on 360.
COOPER: A seemingly obsessed woman drives more than 900 miles to confront her romantic rival with pepper spray and a mallet. Throw in the fact that she and her alleged lover are astronauts, not to mention she was wearing diapers, and you can see why this story has captured just about everyone's attention around the world.
CNN's Jeanne Moos looks at the media frenzy surrounding Lisa Nowak's apparent unraveling.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like the runaway bride, the out of the world astronaut is hiding her face. You'd hide, too, if you were being called names like this. Astro-nut is a favorite in the tabloid press.
As puns go, "Newsday's" "2007: A Space Oddity" is mild.
REGIS PHILBIN, CO-HOST, ABC'S "LIVE WITH REGIS & KELLY": "The Post"...
KELLY RIPA, CO-HOST, ABC'S "LIVE WITH REGIS & KELLY": This is so bad.
PHILBIN: ... says "Lust in Space".
MOOS: And none of this is lost on comedians.
CRAIG FERGUSON, HOST, CBS'S "THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON": I guess what happens in space doesn't stay in space.
MOOS: Letterman illustrated his top ten list with the shuttle.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, CBS'S "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Top ten signs an astronaut is trying to kill you. She poisons your Tang.
MOOS: And when the first words out of Leno's mouth are...
JAY LENO, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Houston, we have a problem. Oh, my God.
MOOS: ... you know you really do have a problem if you're the butt of that joke or this headline.
PHILBIN: "Dark Side of the Loon".
MOOS: As "People" magazine editor Larry Sutton notes...
LARRY SUTTON, EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: It's a cheap laugh, but you know, it's part of the reason we're attracted to the story.
MOOS: Even the straight news reporters can't resist the space wordplay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was once on top of the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether she'll ever be able to escape this atmosphere again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE : Reentry probably never looked so bad. MOOS: But there's one word in particular that has captured the public's attention.
PAUL SHAFFER, BAND LEADER, CBS'S "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": But if you have a diaper on.
FERGUSON: Special space diaper.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in a bizarre display of NASA ingenuity, diapers.
MOOS: A columnist for the "Detroit Free Press" writes, "The Diaper Did It", "It's the diaper that will return this tale into one of 2007's top jaw droppers."
JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": She wears Depends diapers, because she's going to drive 900 miles.
ROSIE O'DONNELL, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": That to me was the first sign of whoa, danger, warning.
MOOS: On "The View", Barbara Walters jumped in to sort of defend what apparently suited up astronauts do.
BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": When they wear those suits, you know, they cannot go to the bathroom. So they wear a kind of diaper thing.
BEHAR: So she's used to that.
MOOS: But on this subject...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, by the way, Bush. Maybe you can hook me up with one of those heavy duty astronaut diapers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Depends.
MOOS: ... one joke led to another.
LETTERMAN: The astronaut drove 900 miles wearing a diaper so she didn't have to stop. What kind of car gets 900 miles to a tank of gas?
MOOS: Looks like there's a lot more mileage left in this story.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, in a moment, our "Shot of the Day", a burglary caught on tape, proof that not everyone is cut out for crime exactly.
First, Tom Foreman joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson. A scare today in Kansas City. And explosion and raging fire at a chemical distribution plant forced about 500 people to leave their homes. Two people suffered minor injuries in the evacuations. Thick smoke from the fire still burning is causing some concern, although officials say the air quality across the city remains safe.
Take a look at this video, released today by police in Utah. It was taken a year ago. The guy in the car being chased is a parolee from Oregon, allegedly driving a stolen vehicle. Watch this. He took off, and when he was pulled over, he spun out and then started shooting. He jumps into a deputy's car, crashes eventually and then he is killed in the shoot-out. Amazing.
If you've lost your luggage while flying, well, get in line. Airlines mishandled more than four million bags in 2006, nearly a million more than the previous year. The new government report includes luggage that's damaged, delayed and pilfered, as well as simply lost.
And good news for video game addicts. Your obsession won't make you blind and, in fact, may actually improve your vision. The searchers at the University of Rochester found that people who played action video games for a few hours a day for a month improved their vision by about 20 percent. They measured the games by giving subjects an eye test similar to the one your eye doctor uses -- Anderson.
COOPER: There are parents around the country saying, "I wish you didn't do that story," because now their kids are going to use that as an excuse for why they should be playing more video games.
FOREMAN: Good for your eyes.
FOREMAN: Bad for the job time (ph).
COOPER: Hey, Tom. Take a look at this. Today's "Shot", a crime caught on tape. This guy just may be the worst thief ever. You can decide that.
First, he throws a cement block through the glass door. So far so good. He's in. Then he grabs the tip jar, his target. A high stakes crime, this one. Then he fumbles, tries to recover some of the loot. Time is now running out. He makes his getaway. Wrong side of the door, of course. And he got away, remarkably. No arrest yet. Yes.
FOREMAN: For the tip jar.
COOPER: Hey, you know?
FOREMAN: The tip jar. Why do you go through all that for the tip jar?
COOPER: You've got to do what you've got to do, I guess. FOREMAN: I suppose. He could play video games, improve his eyesight.
COOPER: That's right. His coordination could use some help, though.
A programming note. Tomorrow, we'll be live from New Orleans again. We should be there talking about rebuilding. Instead, it is the skyrocketing crime wave that brings us to New Orleans this time. The city is now the murder capital of the nation. People are angry or afraid. They want answers. So do we. Trying to figure out what is going on. That's tomorrow night at 10 p.m. Eastern.
We've got a CNN investigation to bring you in our next hour. People who say they were hit twice. First a car accident and then, they say, low ball payouts from insurance companies. We uncover the facts. That's coming up.
Also, indictments today over millions wasted in Iraq and the controversy over billions more. Tons and tons of cash literally flown into Baghdad in the middle of the war. Where did it all go? We're "Keeping Them Honest" when 360 continues.
COOPER: The astronaut, her cross-country odyssey, and the murder she allegedly planned. Lisa Nowak, back in Houston tonight, grounded. NASA promising big changes to weed out unstable astronauts. All the angles, coming up.
We begin, however, with Iraq and a whole lot of money. Billions of dollars, some of it yours, some of it belonging to the Iraqi people, much of it either wasted, stolen or recklessly dumped into the middle of a war zone.
Those were the allegations tonight, and some of the figures are truly mind-boggling. In one case, we're talking about 363 tons of money. That's 726,000 pound of cash.
CNN's Joe Johns, "Keeping Them Honest", starting small and working his way up.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Making a dent in the waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq? We've got a long way to go.
The Justice Department today unsealed indictments against five people charged with ripping off government money for Iraq reconstruction. In another era, it might have sounded like a lot of money, too.
PAUL MCNULTY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The CPA Fund lost more than $3.6 million. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com