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Pirates Hold American Captive; Suspected Terrorists Arrested in Great Britain; Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage Appears to be Gaining Momentum

Aired April 8, 2009 - 23:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is happening on the high seas right now, a dangerous potentially deadly standoff, pirates, armed Somali gunmen holding an American hostage. He's a ship's captain named Richard Phillips. That is his picture right there.

This is all happening as we speak, 350 miles off the coast of Somalia, one of the heaviest traveled, yet also one of the most dangerous shipping lanes on earth. Americans on board the massive freighter, the Maersk Alabama, armed with nothing but their wits, fighting off a swarm of AK-47 wielding thugs.

The crew's chilling message, "The ship is safe, but they've got our captain." The American destroyer, the USS Bainbridge right now all day has been racing to get there. It is now on the scene. A navy surveillance plane arrived earlier tonight.

We're going to have the breaking news in a moment.

Also tonight: a major terror bust in Britain. Now in custody, at least a dozen members of a suspected al Qaeda cell operating in England. Not Pakistan, not Afghanistan, we're talking about the United Kingdom.

A top-level security leak nearly blew the whole operation. We have a live report from Nic Robertson shortly.

But we begin with the pirates and the American captive they still hold.

Chris Lawrence is at the Pentagon. He has the latest. Chris first, what is the scene right now?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, right now the keyword is waiting for sunrise. Right now the Alabama is in the water. We're told that the lifeboat with the four pirates and the Alabama's captain is nearby, within sight.

And we're told that the crew on the Alabama is now in contact with the navy, the guided missile cruiser that is also on the scene; the cruiser, the lifeboat, the Alabama. All of them waiting for sunrise, which is going to happen in about an hour from now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE (on camera): The Maersk Alabama was cruising 300 miles off the coast of Somalia. It's carrying some 5,000 tons of food, humanitarian aid bound for Mombasa, Kenya. Just after midnight, our time, pirates move in on the Alabama. Its 20-man crew sends a distress call.

Now, the U.S. Navy gets the message, but its nearest ship is hundreds of miles away. It'll take the better part of a day to get there.

(voice-over): Just before 1:00 a.m., the crew calls back. Pirates with assault rifles have hijacked the ship.

JOE MURPHY, FATHER OF CREW MEMBER: Made their way on board, they held the crew in a secure area. They shut down all communication, no further communication, stop the ship. And it progressed from that point on.

We have some indications now that the crew has overpowered the pirates and I'm not sure.

LAWRENCE: The Alabama's 20-man crew is unharmed, but at some point they surprised the pirates, take one into custody and lock themselves in the ship's steering compartment.

At the same time, half a world away, President Obama gets the call to let him know what's happening.

At 10:00 in the morning, crewman Shane Murphy calls his wife.

Was he able to tell you what was going on?

SARENA MURPHY, WIFE OF CREW MEMBER: That they had taken down one of the pirates. Yes, honey. That he had taken down one of the -- not he personally, but they had taken down one of the pirates.

LAWRENCE: Hours later the Alabama's crew retakes control and a crew member calls CNN from the Alabama to tell us about a unique negotiation.

KEN QUINN, CREW MEMBER ON MAERSK ALABAMA (via telephone): When they boarded our ship, they sank their boat, so the captain talked them into getting off the ship with our lifeboat, but we took one of their pirates hostage, and we did an exchange.

LAWERENCE: That was the deal. Give us back our captain; we give you your pirate.

QUINN: But they didn't turn the ship so now we're just trying to offer them whatever we can. Food -- it's not working too good.

LAWRENCE: As the pirates renege on the deal, a U.S. Navy surveillance plane flies over the area, putting eyes on the Alabama and the lifeboat. And that navy ship, it's the USS Bainbridge, a guided-missile cruiser steaming full-speed into the area.


LAWRENCE: Which brings us exactly to where we are right now, which is that the U.S. Navy's priority is safely getting the captain off that lifeboat and back on his ship -- Anderson.

COOPER: If they're in a lifeboat, I mean, do we know if it has a motor or are they just kind of floating in this lifeboat? Do we know?

LAWRENCE: I'm not sure about that, but what I do know is that one of the crew members told us earlier that when the captain got on the lifeboat, he took one of the two-way radios with him so that he could stay in contact with the rest of his crew that remained on the Alabama.

COOPER: So he actually went voluntarily with them, to get them off the ship? Is that right?

LAWRENCE: Not sure, but from what the crew members were saying, that's what it sounded like, like this came down to a negotiation, where the captain said I will go with them to try to diffuse this situation.

COOPER: So does -- the USS Bainbridge is now on the scene trying to rescue this captain; will they actually mount a operation? I mean, because traditionally although U.S. personnel have not been involved in these kidnappings, usually they just kind of leave it up to the shipping companies and Somali pirates to negotiate something, but this is the first time we've seen an American held hostage.

LAWRENCE: You hit the nail on the head, Anderson. This is unprecedented. We just haven't seen a situation like this with the pirates, where you've had Americans held hostage.

Add to that this isn't even a typical hostage situation, in that the crew retook the ship that they originally were on.

So we're in uncharted waters here, but I think what the navy will look at is, in all their confrontations with some of these pirates on the high seas, there hasn't been violent confrontation and they will make that a last resort. The object is to get the captain off safely.

And let's remember, these pirates are all about money. That is their purpose out there. And so it really makes no sense to try to injure or hurt the captain at this point.

COOPER: All right, well let's certainly hope that's the case in this case. Chris Lawrence, I appreciate it and we're going to check back in with you again.

This is a developing situation and we're going to continue to follow. One reason why we are in uncharted waters, as Chris mentioned is that this is so rare for Americans. American freighters are a tiny minority of the freighters on the high seas.

And to give you some idea of how dangerous it is out there, how strikingly serious the threat is. This was the sixth pirate attack off Somali, not this year, not this quarter or even this but this week. The sixth attack this week.

So the question right now is how do they do it? And how did piracy turn into such a big problem in these waters?

Joe Johns has some answers.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The numbers are staggering -- more than 100 attacks last year, about 40 ships hijacked, off the coast of Somalia. Six vessels just since Saturday. The pirates' plunder is ransom. Hold a ship and its crew hostage until someone pays.

Estimates range from $80 to $100 million paid so far. Sometimes the money comes as a wire transfer or even in one case airdropping the loot onto the deck of the ship.

JOHN BURNETT, AUTHOR, "DANGEROUS WATERS": This aren't just out of work fisherman, these are attacking almost with military discipline. I mean, what we have out there right now today is a war at sea.

JOHNS: And so, how do they do it? Some attacks are random and can go badly. Others are carefully planned. More sophisticated pirates identify and target ships by staking them out, assessing the crew, security measures, the value of the cargo, then so-called mother ships carry pirates on speedboats out into the water.

The men on board the speedboats are heavily armed, typically carrying Kalashnikov rifles and RPGs, rocket-propelled grenades. So it may seem a little absurd for a small band of outlaws and tiny boats to overtake a super-tanker, the size of a couple football fields but remember, the crews of the commercial ships are unarmed.

BURNETT: The threat is to damage a ship. If a RPG is fired at a tanker or any ship that's carrying volatile cargo, then there's a good chance that the ship will catch fire and burn or explode and sink.

JOHNS: And cargo sometimes worth as much as $100 million is lost. So if waters off Somalia are so dangerous, why not take another route?

(on camera): Here's why. These are dots represent where attacks occurred just last year, a merchant's ship's choices for getting to this part of the world are either going around the northern tip of Africa, through the Suez canal, or south, which by the way is a much longer, slower and more expensive trip.

But nowadays pirates have demonstrated the capacity to board commercial vessels hundreds of miles off the coast of Africa, so even if the ships started coming from the south, the result might very well be the same.

(voice-over): In fact it's already happening. The pirates have started moving south, and attempts to stop them simply haven't worked. Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, as we said, the Navy is on the scene, and we're going to be following this story throughout the hour.

Join the live chat happening now at And also check out Erica Hill's live Web cast during our breaks.

Up next, how do you fight a pirate attack? You heard Joe Johns. They've got AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. We're going to have a former Navy SEAL and Somalia expert Kaj Larsen who joins us. He's been there, met the pirates and lived to tell about it.

We'll following the breaking news out of the Great Britain, a massive sweep, rolling up a suspected Al Qaeda terror cell living in northwestern England, but what were they targeting? That's the question in this hour. We've got the latest on that.

And a chance to get your questions heard. Just text them to us. Text AC your name and question to 94553, that's 94553 include your name and your question.

Tonight's topic -- same-sex marriage. Vermont becoming the fourth state to allow it, but there's a new ad campaign, gearing up against it. Defense of traditional marriage or fear campaign? You decide.

Our guest tonight is Jeffrey Toobin.

Again, text AC and your name and questions to 94553 if you want to ask Jeff a question. Standard rates do apply.

Also tonight, do you think you can guess President Obama's favorite TV show? One hint, think Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, well and see if you can figure that one out.

Also, and maybe his brother, think about that, the answer ahead on 360. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Just to update you on the breaking news: pirates like these from a country where weapons are king and where government let alone law enforcement barely exist anymore. Those pirates are now holding an American merchant captain hostage, Richard Phillips is his name.

The warship USS Bainbridge is now on the scene about 350 miles off the coast of Somalia. And that's where the pirates have Captain Phillips, the American freighter the Maersk Alabama. They've got him in a lifeboat, four pirates according to a phone call tonight from a crew member.

Now, earlier today, he and others managed to kick a band of pirates off the ship at one point grabbing a pirate with whom to try to trade for their captain. They gave up the pirate, his comrades kept the captain.

Now, it is 10:13 here on the East Coast of the United States. Its seven hours ahead in Somalia, so it's just past five in the morning.

Essentially, apparently the Navy ship is waiting for light, for first light which should be coming very quickly perhaps in this hour. And we're going to bring you any developments as warranted.

But let's "Dig Deeper" now with Kaj Larsen of Current TV. He's is a former Navy SEAL and producer of two documentaries on Somalia. You've spent a fair amount of time there; you've actually met with the pirates right?

KAJ LARSEN, CURRENT TV: I did, I met with some of the pirates that are operating out of the Port of Mogadishu in 2006. And that was right before this current uptick in piracy that we're seeing so much of right now.

COOPER: And why the uptick? Just because now they realize it's so profitable?

LARSEN: Sure absolutely, there's an extraordinary incentive to conduct acts of piracy. Last year, they estimate the pirates took in somewhere between $50 and $150 million in ransom money. It's extraordinary, it's very lucrative. And obviously the cheap flow of weapons available in Somalia all contributes to these problems of maritime piracy.

COOPER: And this is a different situation, because now the "USS Bainbridge" is on scene, this is the first an American has been held hostage, but normally a whole crew gets taken hostage. It's basically a negotiation between the company that owns the vessel or the cargo and the pirates.

LARSEN: Right, obviously it's a very unique situation and it's developing right now as we speak. So this is setting new standards and new precedents.

My concern during this situation is that the pirates seeing their first batch of resistance in the future might be using more aggressive tactics now that they see that some ships are willing to fight back.

COOPER: I've got to tell you, I'm just getting an email now with some new information. The lifeboat apparently is within, quote, "reasonable range" end quote, nearby the Alabama which is the ship that it originated from.

It's dark right now. Apparently the crew can actually see the destroyer, there's no more specific guidance. But they're saying the sun is going to rise soon. The crew is talking to the navy, but they don't know what the navy is going to do. What do you think? I mean, you were a Navy SEAL. What is the procedure on something like this? LARSEN: Right, well, obviously each situation is very unique, and so they have to balance the use of force with the potential threat of injury to the hostage. Again, this unique situation; it is the first time Americans have been taken hostage, so we could see a new precedent being set.

In the past the U.S. Navy and the other coalition forces and the combined task force in the region has been reluctant to engage with the pirates militarily for fear that one of the hostages will be hurt. We'll see if that continues to be the case here.

COOPER: And basically I mean, if they're operating 350 miles offshore and they're going around in these little skiffs, do they have a larger boat nearby? Somewhere in the area? Or I mean, can they go -- I mean, they can't go 350 miles offshore in a little skiff, can they?

LARSEN: No, absolutely not, I mean, although you are seeing improved weather conditions in the Gulf of Aden, which is responsible for the increase in attacks over the past week. 350 miles is a long way out at sea, so again, the pirates becoming increasingly more sophisticated or actually using mother ships in many cases from which they send the small speedboats out to both track and then sometimes assault these tanker and these container ships in the gulf.

COOPER: How do you think this thing is going to end? I mean, do you have any idea?

LARSEN: I don't really have any idea. In the past what we've seen is a classic kidnap for ransom hostage negotiation system, where the insurance companies end up...

COOPER: Right.

LARSEN: ... paying sometimes millions of dollars for these pirates.

In this case, I think the very close presence of a U.S. Navy vessel might -- and obviously the BBSS and the Maritime Interdiction teams that are operating off it might provide some discomfort to the pirates in the area.

COOPER: Discomfort, that's a good word. Kaj, I appreciate you reporting on it. Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

LARSEN: Thanks, Anderson. Have a good night.

COOPER: We've been talking about the other news breaking toning.

Up next, what police found when they busted a dozen suspected Al Qaeda members in raids across England, that and how the entire operation was almost blown by what a government official did and a photograph that was taken off him. We'll explain that, Nic Robertson is standing by live.

We're also going to have more on the pirates and a possible Al Qaeda connection, if any.

Also, inside the mind of an alleged killer. Investigators say he ambushed and killed three Pittsburgh cops. What may have actually set him off; tonight's impossible answers.

And later, Levi Johnston, the latest on him, he says he's no redneck and he had some more new harsh words about the Palins. That and more when 360 returns.


COOPER: Now, this would have been our lead story tonight, if it hadn't been for the pirate situation.

Breaking news on the terrorism front, a massive roundup of suspected Al Qaeda members, but we're not talking about Pakistan or Afghanistan. We're talking about Great Britain. Eight locations hit, a dozen people arrested and several hundred law officers taking part. It's been happening in northwestern England, but police believe the suspects had greater ambitions than just a few local attacks.

Nic Robertson has been following the story. He joins us now in Manchester with the latest. Nic, what do you know?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, there's 12 people arrested the police say on suspicion of terrorism offenses. A source with knowledge of the operation, says that some of those involved had ties to core Al Qaeda figures. Those Al Qaeda figures include people who have had a hand in plotting and planning terror attacks in Britain and the United States.

They say that some of these people were students from Pakistan here on student visas. They say the plan was to attack not infrastructure targets and not targets in the north of England, where we are now, indicating they may have been in the south, that the targets may have been in London, and they may have involved people -- Anderson.

COOPER: This was not how the raid was supposed to go down. It all kind of got moved up. What happened?

ROBERTSON: Bungled is the word they're using here. A senior police officer was on his way to see the British prime minister. He had documents in his hand as he went in to the prime minister's house in Downing Street. A photograph was taken of the senior police officer as he went in.

Those documents weren't covered. They were top-secret documents. They detailed some of the people on the police observations. They detail some of the officers involved in the operation. And for that reason, this whole thing had to be brought forward, possibly a matter of hours, possibly a matter of days, but it has left some police in the north of England here very frustrated with what they've seen as a mistake by a senior police officer in London.

He has apologized, but it is a severe embarrassment -- Anderson. COOPER: So Nic, that picture that we were just showing -- I don't know if we can put it back up -- of the senior police officer, the one after that getting out of the vehicle, you can actually see the white piece of paper that he has that has all the names on it -- if we can ever get that photo actually up. There it is.

So someone basically zoomed in on that, blew up the names and could tell that these were suspects, and this happened before they were even arrested, right?

ROBERTSON: This was as he was going in to brief the prime minister about this operation and about the arrests. He's admitted that it was a mistake to carry them in, in full public view.

There are always or very often photographers outside Downing Street taking pictures of any of the dignitaries and officials go in, and this appears to have been exactly that. A photographer takes what appears to be an innocent picture and it reveals some very top-secret details...


ROBERTSON: ... and that has hastened these arresting right now.

COOPER: Yes, bungling, indeed.

Nic, stay there, I want to bring in our national security analyst, Peter Bergen, who is also the author of "The Oral History: The Osama bin Laden I know."

Peter, from the attacks on London in 2005 to the plot to blow up flights to America in 2006, there seems to be a fair amount of terror- related activity in Great Britain the last few years. What is going on?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, 70 percent of British Muslims are Pakistani descent. You've got 400,000 British Pakistanis go back to Pakistan every year for vacations. Unfortunately, a very small percentage of those go for training with Kashmiri militant groups or even Al Qaeda itself.

And as Nic knows well and Anderson as you know, we've had the July 7th, 2005 terrorist attacks carried out by British citizens of Pakistani descent linked to Al Qaeda. The plan to bring down seven American and Canadian airliners in the summer of 2006, the trial is ongoing right now, but again seems to fit this pattern.

And if you would select a western country with more Al Qaeda sympathizers it would be very hard to think of one that has more than Britain itself, which of course is quite ironic, given the fact that this is the U.S.'s closest ally.

COOPER: But I mean, Peter there's plenty of Pakistani Americans, people have links to Pakistan who live in this country and we haven't seen the same kind of problems here. BERGEN: Indeed. I mean, there's an American dream which works very well for American Muslims. They are better educated than most Americans. They don't live in ghettos. They tend to have higher incomes. They really benefited from the American dream.

There's isn't a British dream and I grew in Britain, so I can say that with some assurance. There's certainly no EU dream or French dream or Italian dream.

So in country after country in Europe, we're seeing a lack of integration and people feeling alienated, homesick, or whatever. And some, a very, very small number, turning to these radical ideas as a form of identity.

COOPER: Nic, I was confused. Because there were reports that said that the men arrested today are connected to this Al Qaeda operative named Rashid Rauf. But I thought he was supposed to have been killed last year in a missile strike in Pakistan.

ROBERTSON: There's certainly been a lot of speculation that he was killed and it certainly was reported. But there also has been speculation that there's been no proof of his death and therefore he might still be alive.

But this investigation, we've been told, has been going on for over a year, so that connection with Rashid Rauf may have predated this Predator UAV attack that killed him within the last year -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Nic and Peter, stick around.

We're continuing to follow this hostage situation on the high seas. It's about -- almost 5:30 now off the coast of Somalia. Apparently the navy is waiting for first light to assess the situation.

We know the pirates are motivated by money this time, but there's a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement in Somalia, so the question now is do Al Qaeda-inspired groups there also profit from the hijacking of ships? We'll talk to Peter and Nic about that.

Also, one man's rampage left three Pittsburgh policemen dead. We're now learning more about the source of this guy's rage, his obsessions, his stockpiling of weapons. We'll have details.

And later, with more states approving same-sex marriage, we'll look at what happens next. One group now wants to deploy what they call an army of marriage activists to combat this. Are they just using scare tactics?

Jeffrey Toobin joins us and you can ask him a question. Just text your questions to us at 94553, it's 94553. Include your name and your question.

And do you know what President Obama watches on TV? Can you guess? We've got the list of the President's favorite shows coming up and see if your TiVo is set with the same choices. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Continuing to follow the hostage standoff playing out right now on the high seas of Somalia. Somali pirates holding an American merchant captain hostage, a navy destroyer on the scene. Captain Richard Phillips, there he is, he is right now in a lifeboat, sitting in a lifeboat with what we believe to be about three or four Somali pirates.

Chris Lawrence is monitoring late developments for us at the Pentagon. So essentially right now it is still dark there, dawn has not yet come, right?

LAWRENCE: That's right Anderson, but it's coming very quickly. We expect the sunrise to rise in the next 30 minutes to an hour, and at that point we expect the navy to reassess the situation.

We can also tell you that we have a CNN producer at the Maersk headquarters down in Norfolk, Virginia. She is telling us that the Maersk team -- the company that owns this ship is in their version of a situation room right now awaiting news.

In the last few minutes we were also able to speak with a Maersk spokesman who told us that the lifeboat is within reasonable distance, very nearby the "Alabama" and the crew on the "Alabama" can see that navy destroyer and has been in contact with the navy.

Now, they say the navy has not told them anything about what their plans might be, but of course we know the ultimate goal is to safely get this captain off the lifeboat -- Anderson.

COOPER: And obviously, even if we knew what the navy's plans were, we would not reveal those...

LAWRENCE: Of course.

COOPER: ... because obviously our broadcast is seen internationally.

LAWRENCE: But -- and just to add one quick thing, Maersk has asked the navy not to use force in this and that's not even to say that the navy would even consider that. Their goal is to talk through it diplomatically and get the captain safely.

COOPER: Two breaking stories that we're following. Kind of a piece of DNA in common and a possible al Qaeda connection. We were just talking about what's happening in Great Britain with 12 suspected al Qaeda-affiliated individuals have been arrested.

We want to zero in on the possible al Qaeda angle or future al Qaeda angle for Somalia. Nic Robertson and Peter Bergen join us now.

Peter, right now, essentially all these kidnappings, all these hijackings have a money motive, but there is a large Islamist and very powerful Islamist fundamentalist movement inside Somalia, which is well armed, which has taken over swaths of the country. It's been battling Ethiopian forces over the last year or two. Do they profit -- do we know if they profit from hijacking?

BERGEN: I don't really know the answer to that, Anderson, but I think what we can say is that the hijackings have actually gone up in Somalia in part because the Islamist government that was in place in 2006 was overthrown by the Ethiopian army with support from the United States. So ironically American actions in Somalia against the Islamist government has actually made the situation there worse rather than better; I'm not suggesting it was any particularly good in 2006, but the anarchy seems to have deepened as a result of the Islamic courts union, this Islamist government that was in place, being overthrown by the Ethiopian army with help from the United States.

COOPER: Nic, you've reported on how this latest hijack has kind of reawakened fears that terrorists could follow the hijackers' lead. Even if they're not involved at this point, they could start eyeing ships for hostages for making money.

ROBERTSON: That's certainly a concern at the moment, Anderson. Al-Shabab, which is one of the groups fighting in Somalia right now, which is pretty much a failed state, has ties to al Qaeda, some of its leadership trained in al Qaeda camps. And they may not be right now directly involved in hijacking. But they may be, according to some terrorism experts, making money from these hijackers, because they're extorting them. It's just extortion.

They operate in some of the areas that this Al-Shabab group are in -- and they can therefore go to the pirates and demand money from them. But there's a real concern that they'll learn from the pirates' techniques and tactics, and put them into play themselves. Right now the pirates are strongest on the southern shores of Somalia, and that's where Al Shabab is strong, so it's a growing concern. They may want to learn and do what the pirates are doing, Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, do we know how real the connections or affiliations may be between this Al Shabab and al Qaeda?

BERGEN: There's been a lot of concern among the U.S. government that there were connections and now you're seeing something analogous to what we just talked about in Britain, where you're seeing some American citizens going to actually volunteer to fight with Al Shabab in Somalia.

We've had a case of a group of guys from Minnesota where there's a large Somali population, actually going to fight and one of them actually conducted a suicide operation. So it's certainly something the FBI is extremely concerned about, is American citizens going to fight with Al Shabab and learning skills that they might re-export back into the United States -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We'll continue to follow this. Nic Robertson, appreciate it, from Manchester tonight on both breaking stories and Peter Bergen, as well, from Washington. Peter thanks.

Up next, he's accused of ambushing, killing three Pittsburgh police officers. The question is, why did this guy do it? Tonight, some possible clues.

Also, the e-mail scam that Oprah Winfrey wants you to know about because she's caught up in the middle of it. You don't want to become a victim. What you need to know when 360 continues.


COOPER: New information tonight on that horrific weekend shooting in Pittsburgh. A young man armed with an ak-47 allegedly shooting three police officers dead. Authorities say a 911 dispatcher knew about guns in the home after getting information from the suspect's mother, but failed to warn the Pittsburgh police officers about the weapons. They're saying it was simply human error, the dispatcher not following basic procedures.

Today, the bodies of those three officers lay in state, hundreds on hand to pay tribute to their slain colleagues. And tonight we're learning more of what might have been in the alleged shooter's mind and his suspected connections to a white supremacist Web site.

David Mattingly has our "Crime & Punishment" report.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New details about the man who allegedly ambushed and killed three police officers.

Richard Poplawski is 22, unemployed and lived with his mother. His best friend says he was booted out of Marine boot camp. But he's also being described as someone who deeply feared a breakdown in the social order and losing his guns to the government.

EDDIE PERKOVIC, FRIEND: He didn't like our rights being infringed upon. He didn't -- he didn't like the communists controlling the media, controlling our freedom of speech. He didn't like the control of, you know, the guns that was about to happen.

MATTINGLY: According to the Anti-Defamation League, Poplawski subscribed to racist conspiracy theories that society would soon crumble into civil unrest and the Jews would be to blame.

The ADL claims Poplawski frequented a white supremacist Web site, Stormfront, and left posts under various names, including BracedforFate.

(on camera): Less than a month before the Pittsburgh shootout, BracedforFate posted questions on Stormfront, asking how this pending economic and social collapse was going to happen. And he wrote what today sounds like a warning: "If a total collapse is what it takes to wake our brethren and guarantee future generations of white children walk this continent, if that is what it takes to restore our freedoms and recapture our land, let it begin this very second and not a moment later."

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: He believed the Jews were coming, the Jews controlled society, you know, we are all under the thumb of Zionists, and so on.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Police and prosecutors attending memorial ceremonies for the fallen officers were unavailable for comment on these allegations.

Poplawski was wounded in the leg in the shootout and hospitalized. His public defender has declined to comment.

His friend says there was nothing unusual about Poplawski's behavior prior to the shootout, but his comments seen on MySpace suggest otherwise.

DENNIS RODDY, "PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE": He burned the back of one of his hands with a cigarette. And he's not even sure why he did it, he says. And then, a while later he burned the other hand just to achieve some symmetry.

MATTINGLY: Dennis Roddy of the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" says he also found comments Poplawski allegedly posted about a gun he owns.

RODDY: "When it hits the fan, what's the one weapon he could keep it if he would want?" And he said readily, "My AK." That's an AK-47.

MATTINGLY: Poplawski allegedly wielded an AK-47 assault rifle when officers responded to his mother's 911 call for help. But a dispatcher's error kept police from learning there were guns in the home, and they had no idea what the young man was prepared to do.

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Unbelievable.

Coming up, what's next in the debate over same-sex marriage; Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts. District of Columbia may soon recognize it. One group opposing it calls it, quote, "a gathering storm." Others say those are scare tactics.

We'll talk to legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and give you a chance to ask your questions to Jeffrey. Just text them to us at 94553; that's 94553; include your name and your question.

Then President Obama revealing his favorite TV shows. Where do they stack up on your DVR? Or even -- or are they even on your DVR?

And Levi Johnston, father of Sarah Palin's grandchild, still speaking out. Hear what he's saying now about the Palins and what he's hoping is going to happen to him now.


COOPER: This week has seen some remarkable advances for supporters of same-sex marriage: new victories in Vermont and Iowa, and measures pending in at least nine other legislatures. Gay rights advocates say they feel the momentum is building. So do opponents, though, and as you're about to see, they are trying to mobilize their opposition.

Randi Kaye with "A Nation Divided."


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One way to keep same-sex marriage illegal may be to paint its impact on those who oppose it as dark and scary. That's the latest tactic from the National Organization for Marriage, which just released this $1.5 million ad campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a storm gathering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clouds are dark and the winds are strong.

KAYE (on camera): Do you acknowledge that the ad is dark and scary and paints this picture of this gathering storm?

BRIAN BROWN, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: Well, I think there is a gathering storm. Unless we act to protect marriage, we're going to see more and more moves to overturn the will of the people.

KAYE (voice-over): But Evan Wolfson, an advocate for same-sex marriage, calls the ad an assault on gay people that undermines civil rights.

EVAN WOLFSON, FREEDOM TO MARRY: Everything in these ads is phony, from the scary zombie special effects, to the actors reading the lines, to the arguments they're making to try to scare people into thinking that allowing gay people to marry is somehow a threat to everyone else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we have hope.

KAYE: The ad was supposed to be released late spring, but recent decisions by Vermont and Iowa to legalize same-sex marriage prompted the group to act now.

Connecticut and Massachusetts already allow it. But Vermont is the first state whose legislature approved same-sex marriage and not a court. In fact, legislators overrode the governor's veto.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have voted to override the veto. The house will come to order.

BROWN: People don't want this. This is being forced by both the courts and by out-of-touch legislators.

KAYE: Brown wants to create an army of marriage activists in every state, to put a stop to whatever momentum gay couples are gaining.

(on camera): In California there's the petition to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage. Governors in both New York and New Jersey say they'll sign same-sex marriage bills. Maine later this month will hold hearings on the issue.

New Hampshire's house of representatives has approved it. Even the District of Columbia is moving towards recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

WOLFSON: When gay people marry, they don't use up the marriage licenses. And the idea that somehow treating gay people as equal under the civil rights laws of this country is a threat to other people is as bogus as it was when they made this claim in other civil rights chapters in American history.

KAYE (voice-over): In the last CNN/Opinion Research poll, 55 percent did not want to legalize same-sex marriage, but Wolfson hopes the more time people have to think about it, the more they'll be able to ignore what he calls the scary ad campaigns.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: A flurry of victories in the face of constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in at least 26 states. The question is, is the tide turning?

Joining us now, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

How significant was this -- this legislature move in Vermont?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's very significant, because it's the first time the people's representatives voted for gay marriage. In the three other states, it was courts that imposed -- that said gay people have the right to marry. And the argument against that was, you know, you have elite, out-of-touch judges.

COOPER: Activists.

TOOBIN: Activists.

COOPER: Even though a lot of them have been actually appointed by conservatives.

TOOBIN: That's right, but they were still judges. They weren't directly responsive to the will of the people. Vermont is different. Vermont is a state where the people's representatives voted for it.

And if you look at the states that are likely to pass gay marriage next, it's likely to come from the legislature, as well: New Jersey, Maine, maybe New York, although probably not immediately. These are states where the legislature, it appears, is ready to say gay marriage is legal.

COOPER: We got a text question.

This is from Nyesha in Texas. She asks, "Will this law ever be in jeopardy of being annulled like in California?" She's talking about in Vermont. TOOBIN: Probably not. It's interesting. Iowa has a -- where there has been some talk about overruling same-sex marriage, the -- it's almost impossible to do. The legislature has to act two years in a row, and the legislature, which is controlled by Democrats who support same-sex marriage, they have said they're not voting for it. So it's pretty bulletproof in both Vermont and Iowa.

COOPER: Though we showed that poll which showed that 55 percent of Americans, majority do not want to legalize same-sex marriage, but in terms of -- there's a big breakdown between generations.

TOOBIN: That's the thing that's so interesting about the issue with same-sex marriage. That it's not party, it's not race, it's not gender, but it's age. It's generational. Young people overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage, whereas older people overwhelmingly oppose it.

Supporters of same-sex marriage say this just shows the future is with us, because as those people move through their lives, they're not going to start opposing it.

COOPER: But because the Defense of Marriage Act, you have federal government, obviously, not recognizing these states' decisions. So we could very well end up with a situation in the United States where a number of states, a handful of states, as many as ten states, say, have recognized same-sex marriages, but the federal government still does not.

TOOBIN: And that's not necessarily a result inconsistent with how America's government is supposed to work. The federalist system says states can do things differently. We may well have a system where 10, 15 states have -- have...

COOPER: So in terms of immigration laws and things like that on the federal level, they would not recognize the marriages?

TOOBIN: No, and where the legal fights may come is what happens when people from, let's say, Massachusetts, who were married there move to a state without same-sex marriage. That's where the courts might get involved. That's where you might see some complexity with that.

But the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by President Clinton, really keeps the federal government from recognizing it in almost any circumstance.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Toobin, appreciate it. Thanks.

Next, Oprah Winfrey gives away free gifts, but she's not giving you a million dollars. We'll tell you about the Oprah millionaire contest scam and what's behind it.

And what is on President Obama's DVR or TiVo or one of those devices that we don't approve of? How does his TV taste compare to past presidents? Erica Hill has the inside scoop; it's our "Shot of the Day." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, coming up, we all know the president is a basketball fanatic but what does he actually watch when the game's not on? Obama's TV favorites: that is our "Shot of the Day."

But first, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, in a major policy shift the U.S. will join the U.N., Europe and Iran in direct talks about Iran's nuclear programs. To date, Iran has refused demands to halt its production of enriched uranium, claiming it is for nuclear power, not weapons. The announcement marks the Obama administration's latest effort to engage Iran after nearly 30 years without formal ties.

Stocks rallying slightly today despite the Fed's gloomy economic recovery data. The Dow added 47 points. The Nasdaq rose 29. The S&P gained nine points.

If you see an e-mail from Oprah in your inbox, chances are it's a hoax. The FBI warning today e-mails asking for money to appear on the Oprah millionaire contest show are bogus. Winfrey's official Web site also warns that no such program is scheduled.

And from Tyra Banks to "The Early Show," seem to have Levi Johnson who isn't giving up on his very long 15 minutes just yet, using the airtime to fight back against what he calls Palin family lies.


LEVI JOHNSTON, FATHER OF BRISTOL PALIN'S BABY: We're not cashing in on their name, you know. I'm just trying to get my side of the story out there and letting people know who I am.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ, CBS, "THE EARLY SHOW": What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

JOHNSTON: Probably that my family is white trash.


HILL: He may not be cashing in, but Johnston did admit that he hopes, quote, "All this publicity" will lead to a modeling or acting gig, and also stressed again, as he did with Tyra Banks, that he really just wants to see his son more -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. We'll see. Erica, thanks.

Tomorrow, new perspectives on the death of actress Natasha Richardson; the 911 calls after her fatal fall on a ski slope leave a lot of unanswered questions. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta headed to Canada and looked at what happened during those final moments. Would access to a helicopter, for instance, have saved her life?

Here's a preview of our "360 Follow."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): By 1 p.m., 17 minutes after that initial call, an ambulance did arrive here, but Natasha Richardson was already heading back to her room. She said she felt fine.

I can tell you as a neurosurgeon, that's not unusual. Someone has a significant blow to the head and then has what is known as lucid interval where they do feel fine. But that pressure is still starting to build up in the brain.

(voice-over): The paramedics are told to stand down. Richardson says she doesn't need medical attention.

(on camera): Mont Tremblant is a beautiful place. In fact, it's considered one of the best ski resorts in eastern Canada, but there are no medical helicopters services here. It got us wondering if this was less about the tragic story of Natasha Richardson, and more about anybody who decides to ski here. Remember, the closest trauma hospital is two and a half hours away by road.

(voice-over): Richardson's story is about to take a turn.


COOPER: And next, TV time at the White House. What President Obama likes to watch on his down time. It's our "Shot of the Day."


COOPER: All right, Erica, time for tonight's "Shot:" President Obama's must-see TV. Now, fresh off his whirlwind European tour, his face has probably been beamed into more living rooms in more countries than, well, "Baywatch."

But when he actually kicks back to watch a little TV, I understand you actually have the list of the shows he can't miss.

HILL: I do. We know the president, of course, is a huge sports fan, so he correctly picked both NCAA winners, which you did, too, I'm sure, with your brackets. Yes.

And there was even -- apparently, one of the members of (INAUDIBLE) women's team might have given him a shout-out after the game, confident that that Obama may have been watching. And chances are he saw it.

So no surprise that the president is a huge ESPN fan when it comes to TV, and specifically, he is a "Sports Center" devotee, has been for years, a show that can really come in handy when you don't have time to catch the game, because maybe you're bonding with the G- 20. So this way you can get your highlights.

It turns out Mr. Obama is also a huge fan of "Entourage." COOPER: I like that show. It's a good show.

HILL: Love the show; one of my favorites, too. A choice, though, which is made all the more interesting by the fact that the character, of course, of Ari Gold, who's the agent in the series you see there, the abrasive Hollywood agent, is actually based on Rahm Emanuel's brother.


JEREMY PIVEN, ACTOR: Boys, boys, look at that. Wouldn't even have dinner with me. Weird, kind of feels like I'm trying to (bleep) you guys.


HILL: Interestingly, both the president's chief of staff, who the character's not based on and Ari Gold are also known for their colorful language, which may be one reason the show is on our sister network, HBO.

He's also a fan of the HBO show, "The Wire." And...

COOPER: One of my favorite shows.

HILL: Really?

COOPER: Yes, "The Wire" is a genius show.

HILL: I've heard fantastic things about it.

COOPER: There's been, like, four seasons of it. It's no longer on. I was heartbroken when it stopped. And the creator did also the show "The Coroner," which I may have been the only one who watched. I loved that show, as well.

HILL: I bet you he appreciates that.

COOPER: He's now shooting another show, I understand, in New Orleans.

HILL: And it begins with the word "The."

COOPER: It does.

HILL: It might.

Anyway, another White House staple, by the way, since we're tight on time, Disney's "Hannah Montana."

COOPER: Oh, ok.

HILL: On the TV list. Not on mine, may not be on yours, Anderson, but there you go. I'm guessing it's for his daughters.

You know, when this list comes out, there's always this endless speculation to the analysis of what these TV choices actually mean.

COOPER: Right.

HILL: I say who cares what they really mean? Instead, let's give Anderson Cooper a quiz. That's right. No Freudian examinations on 360 tonight. Presidential TV preferences. You ready?


HILL: OK. So first up, "Family Ties," which of course, classic '80s drama.

COOPER: Right.

HILL: The hippie parents, the conservative kids, Alex P. Keaton.

COOPER: Right.

HILL: Who do you think said this was their favorite TV show?

COOPER: Oh, a president?

HILL: A president.

COOPER: Bill Clinton.

HILL: Ronald Reagan.

COOPER: Ronald Reagan? Really?

HILL: Yes, he did. The show was his favorite.


HILL: Alex P. Keaton probably very happy to hear that.

This one might be a little bit more difficult. The uber- suspenseful drama, "24."

COOPER: Right.

HILL: I mean, this one-time leader of the free world wouldn't want to watch this and wouldn't count it among the favorites.

COOPER: George Bush.

HILL: I picked it just to stump you, hoping you'd say George Bush. Bill Clinton.

COOPER: Oh, really?

HILL: Yes. After leaving office, right up there with "Boston Legal," he said. And "Grey's Anatomy" he likes, too. Who knew?

Finally, who wouldn't love a sea sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea? "SpongeBob SquarePants." COOPER: This is a new show, so it's got to be President Obama.

HILL: 1999, actually, but you're right.

COOPER: Really? 1999, it's been around since?

HILL: President Obama, yes.

COOPER: Wow. I've never seen an episode.

HILL: Well...

COOPER: Does the sponge actually talk?

HILL: I think he does. I've never really watched it, either.


That does it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts right now. I'll see you tomorrow night.