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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
BP CEO Departure Expected; Alaska Pipeline Safety Question; Former DNC Chair Blasts Fox News; Afghan War Documents Leaked
Aired July 26, 2010 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the latest in the massive leak of thousands of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan. We will talk to the man who leaked those documents.
But we begin with breaking news.
We have learned tonight that, in just a few hours, BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, is expected to step down, getting his wish, getting his life back, and getting a golden parachute reportedly worth -- get this -- more than $18 million.
What's so stunning is that Hayward is getting a quick payoff, but the people whose lives he's ruined are still waiting to be paid. Ken Feinberg, the man in charge of handing out $20 billion of BP money to make people whole, admitted this weekend that BP is stalling on paying claims and in fact, has not deposited any money into that $20 billion account.
So, Tony Hayward walks away with bundles of cash, but people in the Gulf are not getting paid, despite answering questions and filing forms until they're all blue in the face.
Now, these are not statistics. These are people. They have names and faces and families, and they have done nothing to deserve not being paid.
Take charter boat captain Stu Scheer. He's had about -- he's had to cancel about $162,000 in trips due to the spill. And though he's submitted plenty of documentation and received several checks from BP, he's only been paid 40 percent of what his net profit would have been for the year up until now.
Or tackle shop owner Buggy Vegas -- he's been paid for April and May, but not for June or July. He has no idea why the money dried up and gotten no answers from BP.
Or Eileen Bourgeois (ph) -- here she is in June faxing documents to BP. She has submitted them five times, showing earnings of $600,000 last year for her charter boat company. She's gotten just $35,000 from BP.
And, today, after coming back from yet another visit to the claims center, Eileen (ph) told us the people there asked for the exact same documentation yet again. Just three people we have been following, and there are many more out there, tangled in red tape, drowning in red ink, all as Tony Hayward reportedly tonight has been negotiating the size of his golden parachute.
Do you have any doubts that he will get paid on time?
With us once again: Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser; Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley; and Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey.
Billy, if BP continues to stall with these payment checks, will the folks who live in your parish -- I mean, what happens to them?
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: Well, it's getting crucial.
You know, the Vessel of Opportunity, they keep saying they're going to put more boats on and do a rotation. That hasn't happened yet. The second check has run out. People are having to choose between feeding their families and paying their light bill. It's getting very serious in our parish. People are losing patience and tempers are starting to boil.
And I -- I told Ken Feinberg when I met with him a week-and-a- half ago we don't have 30 days to get this thing organized. The boats are not going on the payroll and now we seem to believe everything is going to be put on hold. We need some answers, and nobody's talking.
Here today, Anderson, we still don't know who's in charge.
COOPER: Congressman Markey, is there anything the government can do to try to speed up the payments? And -- and the fact that BP apparently hasn't put up any of the $5 billion at least they were supposed to so far into the $20 billion escrow fund is -- is pretty surprising.
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This is an agreement which BP has with the White House and with the United States Department of Justice. So, if they are going to back away from this agreement, if they're not going to honor it in a timely fashion, then I think that stern action must be taken against them.
Tony Hayward, if these reports are accurate, is going to receive approximately 10 percent of the total of $200 million which has been paid out to all of the Gulf of Mexico residents cumulatively so far, $18 million vs. $200 million.
On the other hand, they promised to put up $20 billion, and so far, they have only put out $200 million, which is 1 percent of the total of the $20 billion. While Tony will get a golden parachute, the economy in the Gulf of Mexico is in freefall. I think that obviously, BP once again is not honoring the commitment which they made to these people.
COOPER: Doug, do you think this is a story that the White House, frankly, just wants to go away? I mean, certainly, BP wants it to go away. But is this something you think the White House just wishes people would stop focusing on?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think so. I mean, they want it off the front page. It's become the big inconvenience in an election season.
But Mr. Feinberg here has to keep an iron boot heel on BP now. This week, they have to pay these claimants. If not -- I agree with Congressman Markey -- the Justice Department has to really go after BP. We have to charge this company with criminal negligence.
Whether you look at Texas City or the Alaska tundra spill or what happened in the Gulf, this is a company that's been running roughshod in America over our Justice Department, over the people of Louisiana. There's a continual arrogance of the company.
You saw it with Tony Hayward when he went on his yacht, with all of the comments that he's made, now essentially taking blood money of this magnitude as a punch-out, snubbing his nose, while they're not even paying people in the Gulf.
Hayward is known as "Toxic Tony" around the Gulf South. And people are not filling up with BP. They're selling their stock. And there's an anger rising in the Gulf. And Ken Feinberg recognizes it and he's trying to put the pressure on BP to move and pay people.
COOPER: I want to -- hold on. We have got to take a quick break. I want to talk to all of you, and particularly also Billy, about what is happening out there on the water, reports that the oil is getting harder to find. I want to talk to him about that, about trying to figure out where the oil is, if it's a good -- if that's a good-news thing or a bad-news.
We will have a lot more, also, about the departure of Tony Hayward, the size of any potential severance package, after the break.
You can weigh in as well. Join the live chat now under way at AC360.com.
Also, it recently sprang a leak. People worry it could cause a Gulf-size disaster up in Alaska, another BP facility -- what 360's Drew Griffin uncovered about the pipeline that BP co-manages and critics say dangerously mismanages.
COOPER: Continuing our breaking news coverage: the announcement expected from London within hours, BP CEO Tony Hayward expected to step down, expected to get paid a lot of money to leave. He said he would like his life back. It looks like he's going to get it, and a lot of money to enjoy it.
Back now with Billy Nungesser, Doug Brinkley, and Congressman Ed Markey. Billy, I read a report that some folks are finding it harder to find oil now on the surface. Is that what you're hearing as well? And if so, where's the oil? What does this mean? Is this good news, that it's all dissipated?
NUNGESSER: Well, it's good news.
You know, we expected this storm to bring a lot of oil ashore. The storm actually broke up before it came ashore, and it really wasn't much of a storm. So, that was good news.
But I think the way this thing is being played up is like the oil is over because we didn't have oil after one small storm. There was a sheen out of Saint Bernard today. There is some on the inside of one of the islands.
But to take a helicopter ride with the Coast Guard and BP and think this is over -- we met tonight with the parish presidents. We feel like we're going to get hit real soon here with an exit plan and not wait this thing out. There's oil offshore. It took six weeks to come ashore. It's not going away any time soon just because they stopped the leak.
We're glad they did. We're glad we got people out there picking up, but we shouldn't call this thing over just yet.
COOPER: Congressman Markey, what -- what's your greatest concern right now?
MARKEY: My concern --
MARKEY: -- is that BP is waiting for the storm to pass, the political storm to pass. And then they will start backing away from the obligations which they have to the people in the Gulf of Mexico.
My concern is that this delay in them putting the extra billions of dollars into this escrow account is just a preview of coming attractions.
My fear is that, as Bob Dudley is apparently going to become the new CEO, that the page won't be turned, that transparency and honesty for all the people in the Gulf of Mexico will not have replaced this policy of deception that has been characteristic of the company right from the very beginning of this crisis. That's my greatest concern, which is why it is going to be necessary to keep an eagle eye on everything that they do from here on.
We are now in maybe the most dangerous period, where the people of the Gulf of Mexico might wind up just being forgotten, as the country starts looking at them in the rear-view mirror, as assurances are given to them that the worst has passed.
It has not passed economically for the people in the Gulf of Mexico. For most of them, it has just begun. COOPER: Doug Brinkley, I assume you echo what the congressman just said.
BRINKLEY: I agree with him. I think BP is trying to demobilize from the area. They're trying to get out. Once that got capped and they saw that it held up, their view is, we have fulfilled that responsibility. Now let's cut our losses from the Gulf South.
And the stalling, what they're hoping to do is get this off the front page. The news cycle is going to change. You know, at some point, "The New York Times" and CNN won't be focusing on it as much and we won't be able to keep demanding, like we're doing tonight, that they act like a fair player.
Dudley's coming in now. He's from Mississippi. He's in a mode that he knows how to talk to these parish presidents in Louisiana. Yet last week, they had a meeting at English Turn Country Club and he blew them off 20 minutes before.
This was the -- Bobby Jindal, Mitch Landrieu, six parish presidents, including Billy and here's Dudley blowing them off last minute. It's a constant insult to not just Louisiana, but to the United States. Yet, BP is this oil company that's making its money off of the consumers in this country.
It's about corporate arrogance on BP's part. And if they don't act and -- and pay people responsibly soon, I think the Justice Department, Eric Holder needs to make another trip to New Orleans. That's when they got nervous. They don't want jury trials, because if you have jury trials in Louisiana, they're going to be paying lawsuits forever. Feinberg's giving them a way out with the $20 billion. They need to pay it.
COOPER: Billy, were you -- did you get blown off and if so, what was that like?
NUNGESSER: Well, absolutely.
Let me tell you, we -- we showed up there. I called the summit. And James Lee Witt, I could see he took a lot of heat from the -- the -- the governor, the mayor and parish presidents; took a lot of questions and he said he would go back to them across the river. They were here in downtown New Orleans. They just canceled. We flew in from Lafayette after the rally on the moratorium.
And while we were in flight, they had called and said they were not going to be there. You know the thing that amazes me, when they tried to pull the equipment out before the storm, why is the Coast Guard writing a letter for BP?
Why is the Coast Guard -- it's like they're -- the Coast Guard is the PR firm for BP. We're supposed to take it because it's our own Coast Guard writing a letter, saying it's OK to take assets out. The Coast Guard should be there helping us. Instead, it's like they're there to keep us quiet and help BP on the exit strategy. I have never seen anything like this. Somebody needs to stand up and answer some questions. Why is it the -- the Coast Guard won't get me boom. They won't give me things I need in the parish, but they will help BP sneak equipment out of my parish.
That is criminal. It's criminal.
COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there.
Billy Nungesser, good to have you on.
Congressman Markey, thank you for your time.
And Doug Brinkley as well; appreciate it.
Just ahead tonight: 360 investigates another piece of the BP empire that's more than just an accident waiting to happen. Accidents have happened. They already have. The fear is, the worst is still waiting in the wings.
Also next: new fallout from the Shirley Sherrod affair -- Howard Dean calling FOX News's role in it racist. Does that accusation fit the facts? Both sides of the argument -- you can decide for yourself.
COOPER: Updating the breaking news: in just a few hours, BP's board expected to announce the departure of CEO Tony Hayward, to be replaced, according to most reports, by Bob Dudley.
Less well-covered, earlier this month, a man named Kevin Hostler announced he was stepping down shortly as head of Alyeska, the company that runs the trans-Alaska pipeline, the company under fire, accused of cutting corners at the expense of safety. It's a company co-owned by BP and critics say presiding over a ticking time bomb.
Drew Griffin in the CNN Special Investigations Unit now "Keeping Them Honest".
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are outside Pump Station 9 on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in remote Alaska. A company called Alyeska operates it. And the day before we arrived here, company officials invited us to come take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's allowed to go through this point.
GRIFFIN (on camera): When did they tell you that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning.
GRIFFIN: They told you that just this morning?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. GRIFFIN: Why the security to keep us this far out? Well, Pump Station 9, 110 miles south of Fairbanks, critics say, is the poster child for everything that could and has gone wrong with the Trans- Alaska pipeline.
(voice-over): It was an engineering marvel when it was built more than 30 years ago. Today, it carries about 650,000 barrels of oil a day across pristine wilderness. But it's aging.
BP owns 46 percent of Alyeska, the company that manages the pipeline. And critics say BP now wants to cut costs and potentially put the pipeline at risk.
(on camera): I guess your fear is that the same BP corporate culture that we're seeing in the Gulf of Mexico, where corners were cut, is the same corporate culture managing this pipeline?
DAVID GUTTENBERG, ALASKA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, that's been the problem that I believe has been the problem, yes.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Not just an accident waiting to happen; the accidents have been happening repeatedly on this pipeline. And critics say they have been largely ignored, until the Gulf oil crisis.
REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: There's incident after incident, after incident within the last six months. It might seem like small things, but when you put them all together in a relatively short period of time, it really tells you how poorly this pipeline is being maintained.
GRIFFIN: Alaska State Representative David Guttenberg says there's good reason to be worried. He says he has proof, oil workers, even managers, coming to him warning of attempts to trim safety costs, insider memos on BP letterhead dating back to 2002 seeking ways to cut spending on maintenance.
(on camera): So, what's the attitude here?
GUTTENBERG: The attitude is --
GRIFFIN: We will do what we want?
GUTTENBERG: That's pretty much it, the way I see it, yes. We're BP. We're beyond petroleum. We're beyond whatever. We're --
GRIFFIN: Beyond regulation? Beyond the state of Alaska? Beyond you, certainly.
GUTTENBERG: Yes, beyond --
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Since 2004, the federal agency overseeing the pipeline has fined the pipeline eight times for safety maintenance and procedural violation. Alyeska has challenged every one, refusing so far to pay a million dollars in fines.
And that is why we went to the remote Pump Station Number 9. A few years ago, it was manned. Workers were here to ensure it worked properly. But company cost-cutters replaced them with new monitors and cameras. In late May, it stopped when both the power and emergency power failed. Five thousand barrels of oil overflowed into a spillway. The company has yet to say what exactly went wrong.
Mike Joynor is the vice president of operations for the Alaska pipeline.
(on camera): Is that a good idea, to have remotely operated pump stations?
MIKE JOYNOR, VICE PRESIDENT, ALYESKA PIPELINE SERVICE COMPANY: That's the industry standard. Most of the equipment nowadays, with the modern controls --
GRIFFIN: I have got to stop you there, because I have heard about industry standards before.
GRIFFIN: We have heard about blowout protectors in the Gulf that were industry standards. I guess what I want to ask you is, is that -- is that the safest route to go, or is that the most economically viable route to go?
JOYNOR: We believe it's the safest route to go, because a vast majority of incidents occurred due to human error.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Richard Fineberg, a longtime critic of the pipeline and consultant to four Alaska governors, says a fire here nearly burned the station down in 2007. Now they're investigating a spill.
(on camera): And you feel that these accidents, little or minor though some may say they are --
RICHARD FINEBERG, OIL AND GAS CONSULTANT: Yes.
GRIFFIN: -- are precursors or warnings to something along the lines of a land-based Exxon Valdez?
FINEBERG: Yes, that the possibilities are much greater than the risk assessments account for.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Alyeska's Joynor bristles at the critics who say his pipeline is run by BP. He says it's owned by several major oil companies, and even though BP owns the largest share and even though the pipeline's current and former directors are executives on loan from BP, Joynor claims BP is not his boss.
JOYNOR: We stick to what our core values are. That's safety, integrity, environmental protection, and protection of a safe work force.
GRIFFIN: Fineberg disagrees. He says what's going on at Pump Station Number 9 and the rest of the 800-mile pipeline is all about saving money and has BP's fingerprints all over it.
(on camera): Is that wise, to cut costs on a pipeline that is now some 30-some-odd years old, aging?
FINEBERG: I don't think it makes a lick of sense.
GRIFFIN: Are you under pressure to cut costs on this pipeline?
JOYNOR: No, we're not under pressure to cut costs.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Members of Congress, local Alaska politicians, environmentalists and even oil company insiders tell CNN they just don't buy it. They say this pipeline is controlled by BP, BP wants to cut costs, and this aging masterpiece of engineering is at risk because of it.
COOPER: So, Drew, the pipeline official was pretty adamant in your report that he's not under pressure to cut costs. Do you think he's telling the truth?
GRIFFIN: I think he's giving us words that are saying he's not under pressure maybe, Anderson, but they are cutting the costs, as much as $100 million in the operating budget this year, including 30 workers, deferring some improvement projects.
So, whether he's under pressure to cut costs or not, he is cutting costs. And that's what the -- the oil workers are really concerned about. Not just waving environmental flags, because, keep in mind, Anderson, if it spills on the ground, it's going to be easier to clean up than it would be in the Gulf of Mexico.
What they're worried about is a catastrophic incident that would affect the jobs in Alaska on the pipeline and certainly on that NORTH SLOPE. That's what has them scared to death.
COOPER: I want to bring back in historian and author Doug Brinkley.
Doug, you have been studying the -- the history of the pipeline for some time now. You spent a lot of time up in Alaska this summer. I mean, Drew was turned away, even though he had earlier been given permission to go see that part of the pipeline. Why are they so sensitive about this? I mean, are they trying to hide something?
BRINKLEY: I was shocked when I heard that you guys were going to get to go see that pump house. There are 12 of them and BP or Alyeska don't want anybody to look at them, because the pipeline is in a ghastly sense of disrepair. The federal government needs to go and give it a green light and check it.
Look, this notion that we shouldn't be regulating the -- the Alaska pipeline, this was not just an engineering marvel. It's been an economic marvel for Alaska. Nobody's criticizing the pipeline. People are saying we need to check that kind of infrastructure. Look what just happened in the Gulf. Now, BP has 26 percent of Prudhoe Bay and their facilities are crumbling. They're trying to sell Alaska properties to Apache out of Houston. Every -- nobody wants to get anywhere near a BP property because they haven't done any maintenance on it. It's been a speed drill company that, through it all laughed at environmental standards and laughed at regulation.
They are continuing to do it, and they want no transparency. The federal government needs to be checking out BP. They are chronic liars and they have -- we have got to now make sure that that pipeline is safe. It's that simple.
COOPER: But, Doug, I mean, just to play devil's advocate, there haven't been any major accidents there. There have been little spills and little accidents there.
BRINKLEY: Big spill, 2006, BP, the largest in North Slope history, corrosive pipes, spilled oil all over the tundra; anybody right now can pull it up online that's watching. It's the worst disaster in North Slope history, the 2006 BP spill, because they didn't properly maintenance anything.
Other companies are operating in Alaska and not having that kind of spill problem that BP had. And so what happened to those pipes could happen here. I'm not raising an alarm about this. I think, why not inspect all 12 pump houses? You know why? Because if we will find things wrong, BP's worried they're going to be in lawsuits, because of -- more people are going to start seeing this -- with the more transparency they have, the more fearful they are of America's Justice Department. They're in cover-up mode.
COOPER: So, Drew, why did somebody -- who -- somebody at BP said you can come up there and visit, and then clearly that message didn't get --
GRIFFIN: Yes, they basically -- they basically said, come to the pump house. We can't let you in. We can't let you tour it, but you can at least be outside of it.
And we got there. We pulled off the road and literally pulled off the road right to that pickup truck. And the guy said, here's the imaginary line. You're not going past it.
We, of course, protested. And I questioned him. I said, when did you get out here? And he said, well, I got out here this morning. And I said, so you knew we were coming? He didn't answer that question, but, as soon as we pulled way, Anderson, he pulled away. So, his assignment was done as soon as we left.
COOPER: All right.
Drew Griffin, "Keeping Them Honest" -- Drew, thanks.
Doug Brinkley, as well, thank you. Tomorrow night, 360: a look at BP's Liberty Island project off the coast of Alaska. It was built to drill the fragile Arctic Ocean and called the riskiest drilling project in U.S. history. How did it happen? We will have a 360 special investigation tomorrow night.
Up next, though, Monday-night quarterbacking of the Shirley Sherrod story -- charges by Howard Dean that FOX News wasn't only biased in its coverage; it was actually racist. That's what Howard Dean said. We will take a look at those charges from the left and from the right.
Plus, it has all the ingredients of a good spy thriller: classified war documents uncovered, putting national security at risk says the White House. It's all real, though. We will talk to the man who actually put the documents online, why he did it -- my interview with him in a moment.
COOPER: Well, the Shirley Sherrod story is not over. The latest to weigh in, former Vermont governor, Howard Dean, who's charging that FOX News was not only irresponsible with its coverage of the story, but he says it was downright racist. Dean made the charge while appearing on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: FOX News did something that was absolutely racist. They took a -- they had an obligation to find out what was really in the clip. They've been pushing a theme of black racism with this phony Black Panther crap and this -- this business, and Sotomayor and all this other stuff.
You've got to be very -- I think, look, the Tea Party called out their racist fringe, and I think the Republican Party has got to stop appealing to its racist fringe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the charges of racism have been, frankly, used on both sides of the political aisle over the last week. The question is, are they fair? Or have our conversations about race in this country become nothing more than partisan weapons?
Joining me now: RedState.com blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson.
Professor Dyson, what do you make of this? I mean, is Howard Dean basically just using this just as the right has used this? Or is he -- is he correct?
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, clearly the history of racism in this country is not simply about individual bias. It's also about institutional power.
And I think, if there's any validity in what Mr. Dean said, it is to point to the institutional matrix in which this whole thing unfolded. The reality is, is that FOX News has not been friendly toward the interests of or perspectives about African-American people or Latinos or a whole range of other minorities.
And I think that when we begin to sling around the term racism, people get offended and think, well, the right says it. The left says it. Well, bias is one thing; racism is another. Racism is the ability to impose your viewpoints, biased as they are, as normative, and then have the power to reinforce them as necessary and primarily exclusive.
So I think in that sense the institutional power that's wielded by a place like FOX News certainly has to be called into question. And the fringe, as he pointed out, of the Republican Party has to be taken to task for the racist elements that are there.
COOPER: Erick Erickson, what are your thoughts?
ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: Really? We're going to go there with a news channel that they're racists? You know, we can't have an honest conversation about race in this country because of things like this.
Everyone wants to hurl the racism charge, particular towards Republicans and towards conservatives, simply because they don't agree on policy. And we try to take policy disagreements and turn them into racial issues when they're not. I think it's time to grow up.
Honestly, I can't believe a week after the Andrew Breitbart story broke, we're still talking about Shirley Sherrod instead of the economy, jobs, you name it.
DYSON: Well, but here's the problem. When you say that racism is equally distributed on both sides, I have no doubt. And talk about liberal enlightened racism on the one hand and conservative racism on the other. I think that's an absolutely valid point. The problem is --
COOPER: Wait, do you see -- professor, are you saying there's some sort of difference in racism on the left versus racism on the right?
DYSON: No, absolutely not. I'm saying that racism is racism, period. I'm saying it's deeply embedded in the structure of American society and that people on the left and people on the right certainly have been racist and have promoted and promulgated racist ideas.
But let's not pretend; Mr. Erickson can't be that naive to say it's more than policy disagreement. Policies are rooted in the culture of racism. Jim Crow was a public policy perpetuated by the legal systems of American society. So don't pretend that the mere reference --
ERICKSON: Yes, but tax cuts and stimulus opposition and opposition to Barack Obama are not racist. DYSON: The opposition to Barack Obama as a witch doctor? Tell me, sir, why -- why the reference to his ethnic particularity has anything to do with his public policy? Be opposed to the public policy.
ERICKSON: That's what I'm wondering.
DYSON: What I'm saying is that the witch doctor motif has been perpetuated by the Tea Party. And on top of that, when we talk more specifically about FOX News --
ERICKSON: No, it hasn't perpetuated by the Tea Party, just by a few people who were crazy enough to hold up signs.
DYSON: You know what?
ERICKSON: We can't paint with that broad of a brush.
DYSON: I understand that. But, see, that -- that's the argument. You can't paint it with that broad of a brush. But the same people who never stood for civil rights, who never stood for the progressive realization of freedom for minority people, who never stood for the realization of the basic rights of these individuals, then all of a sudden appear on the scene, take the words that have been used by the progressives -- that is civil rights, liberty and justice -- and then use them in defense of right-wing policies that have no sensitivity toward African-American people.
ERICKSON: We've been talking about liberty since the founding of the country. You know --
DYSON: I'm talking about racial liberty, sir.
COOPER: Wait, wait.
DYSON: I'm talking about liberty rooted in --
COOPER: Let --
DYSON: -- the possibility that black people can be -- be respected. That's what I'm speaking of.
COOPER: Let -- let Erick respond.
ERICKSON: You know, to say that people who weren't there marching in the civil rights movements are now all of a sudden marching in the streets, and that's proof of racism or something, no, it's not. It's proof of people being hacked off by the growth of government.
And certainly there's some people out there on both sides. I mean, saying the Tea Party is racist is like saying all Democrats support cop killers, because a few Mumia Abu Jamal (ph) people show up and have three hand posters. I mean, we're painting with too broad a brush here.
And we should be having a serious conversation about race, but we can't because we're too busy with the stereotyping.
DYSON: Well -- no, no, the reason we can't have a serious conversation on race, because it's very difficult for white Americans to conceive the legitimacy of a viewpoint that says, listen, this is not an equal argument. You can't say that, well, it's racism on the left and racism on the right, which is certainly true.
But the problem is, you never acknowledge the vitriolic history of racial animus in this country. And as a result of that, when you say -- you make strong arguments like I'm against people who are out there marching, and because you didn't support the civil rights marches, that therefore, you're racist. That's not what I'm saying.
I'm saying you cooperated with and benefited from a society that was unequal and that permitted African-American people to suffer for a great deal. That's what I'm talking about, something concrete and empirically verifiable and specific.
ERICKSON: My family's from Sweden. How exactly did I benefit from that?
DYSON: Wait a minute. Are you are actually trying to tell me that, because your family is from Sweden, that white skin privilege does not extend to them because they are European and not Anglo-Saxon from America? That's ridiculous.
ERICKSON: See, this is why we really can't have this discussion.
DYSON: No, you don't want to have an honest discussion.
ERICKSON: If I want to have -- if I've got to have the sins of generations ago placed on me --
DYSON: No, not the sins.
ERICKSON: -- we can't move on.
DYSON: I'm not talking about the sins, the benefits.
ERICKSON: The benefits. But you're also talking about them as sins. And you know, I would love to be able to move on from this.
DYSON: No, I'm not talking about the sins, I'm talking about the benefits.
ERICKSON: But the benefits are derived from the sins. Therefore, the benefits are also part of the sins.
DYSON: No, no. I'm saying --
ERICKSON: I will admit, it was terrible. But you know, there were people like Charlton Heston who marched with Martin Luther King, and if he were alive today he'd be out in the Tea Party movement, as well.
DYSON: All I'm telling you, sir. ERICKSON: Are we going to say someone like that is racist?
DYSON: I'm telling you this. When you go to the Supreme Court, you make arguments predicated upon what? Legal precedent. Why is it that the right wing is capable of acknowledging the historical impact of precedents that were set 200 years ago but can't acknowledge the benefits that they've inherited as a result of the same system?
So all I'm suggesting to you is that the past does have an impact on the present. And when we deal even with, specifically with FOX News, read Media Matters. FOX News claims that it did not report the story before Shirley Sherrod resigned, but FOXNews.com reported on the story before she even resigned. So I'm saying we can't even get the facts right.
ERICKSON: No. If you're going to quote from Media Matters, then we just -- we can't have this conversation, because Media Matters is nothing but a left-wing hit job.
DYSON: Well, wait a minute. You play for the Los Angeles Lakers. I play for the Miami Heat, but we're both in the NBA. We still have rules that we have to observe on either side.
ERICKSON: Yes, but you know, we also have facts we have to observe on either side, and it seems like no one wants to talk about the objective facts. We'd rather talk about the spin.
DYSON: Well, no. Sir, that's redundant, objective facts. If it's objective, it's factual.
What I'm certainly suggesting to you is that the facts have been printed there. All we have to do is look at them, sir. And when we look at them, we see that FOXnews.com was involved in the story prior to the resignation of Shirley Sherrod.
ERICKSON: For some reason, you and I are looking at the same facts and coming to different conclusions. Which I guess is fair, but I just don't think we can deal legitimately with this conversation when we're having to go back 200 years to who had benefits and who didn't and what have you.
DYSON: No, I'm talking about benefits right now.
Look, if you're a white person and you get stopped by the cops, and the cops don't assume that when you reach for your wallet it's a gun, that's a form of privilege that has nothing to do with how much money you have or what country you're from.
COOPER: Erick, I'll let you have the final thought, because we've got to go. ERICKSON: Well, Anderson, I appreciate the time to do this, but I just think we're painting with too broad a brush. And we've just moved to the point where we can't have a civil conversation here.
DYSON: We're very civil. We just disagree.
ERICKSON: Just -- the brush that we're painting, calling people racist and racism. And is the Tea Party or not? We're talking about individuals, and we're painting with a brush that involves groups.
DYSON: We're talking about the collective enterprise -- we're talking about the collective enterprise of American society. Individuals belong to a United States of America. The United States of America benefited from privileges that were extended to certain groups and not to others. So that's empirically verifiable fact.
ERICKSON: There you go.
COOPER: We'll leave it there.
ERICKSON: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Erick Erickson, Professor Michael Eric Dyson, appreciate both your perspectives. Thank you very much.
DYSON: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up, classified documents about Afghanistan gone viral. We'll speak to the man who published the information and ask him whether he believes he's compromising national security, as the White House said he is.
First, Tom Foreman joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.
An arrest today of that man suspected of killing four people in Panama, including one American. The body of Cher Hughes of suburban St. Louis was found last week on the property of William Adolfo Cortez Reese. CNN has learned that Reese and his wife were arrested in Nicaragua.
The Senate wants to know if blood was given for money in the release of the Libyan man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing Thursday to examine whether Scottish authorities released the terrorist from a life sentence in return for getting permission from Libya to let British Petroleum drill for oil off Libya's coast. BP has denied any involvement.
Lawyers for former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, are expected back in court Tuesday morning to start their closing arguments; prosecutors wrapped up theirs today. Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell President Obama's old Senate seat. And on Wall Street, the Dow rallied 100 points on a better-than- expected housing report and a rosier profit outlook from FedEx. Both the Dow and NASDAQ are now in positive territory for the year -- Anderson.
COOPER: Tom, thank you very much.
Coming up next, releasing the secret military documents: thousands of files about the war in Afghanistan now for everyone to see. We'll talk to the man who put them online after the break.
COOPER: Lifting the fog of war in Afghanistan, but at what price? Tonight the fallout over the release of those secret military documents. More than 76,000 classified records, papers and files about the mission made public by WikiLeaks, a whistleblower Web site that says the documents contain evidence of war crimes among other things. This previously secret record span six years of the war. They contain some pretty interesting revelations, from strategies on the battlefield and the strength of the insurgency, to Pakistan's alleged support of the Taliban. A lot of the information isn't new, but it is in great detail and very ground-level specific detail.
The White House reacted quickly, forcefully to the release of the documents. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a concerning development in operational security. And as we said earlier, it is -- it poses a very real and potential threat to those that are working hard every day to keep us safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, in a moment we're going to talk to the man who actually put all the documents online, the man behind WikiLeaks. But joining me now: national security analyst Peter Bergen; and former CIA field officer Robert Baer, who's also TIME.com's intelligence columnist.
Peter, I mean do you think -- what in this is new and/or important, in terms of the actual content of the documents?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I can only think of one thing that actually is new and significant, which is indications that the Taliban did have heat-seeking missiles and were using that to bring down American helicopters. That's the only real piece of news.
The Pakistan -- the Pakistan intelligence supporting the Taliban has been true since 1994. What we have is more detail about that fact, but this isn't new at all.
And in fact, one of the striking things to me, Anderson, we have 75,000 secret documents but almost nothing in it was of any news value. We didn't -- nothing in there about where Mullah Omar might be, nothing where -- about where Osama bin Laden might be.
To me, you know -- and I think if the war was going well, you know, there would be a different reaction. It's obvious that the news environment it's going into makes a difference.
And the other thing is, by the way, (INAUDIBLE) whole experiment where these were unclassified documents. No one would be paying any attention to them. It's just because the word "secret" has been slapped on them. And we make secret like millions of documents every year. The United States over-classifies everything.
COOPER: Bob, do you agree that this is -- is sort of maybe less than -- than it may seem on the surface?
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA FIELD OFFICER: I think there's nothing new really here.
What struck me in these documents, the ones I read -- I haven't read all of them; there's so many of them -- is the fact that how little we know about the Taliban. I mean, if these are any indication about how good our intelligence is, we are fairly blind in Afghanistan.
I mean some of these reports are just preposterous about bin Laden attending committee meetings with Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders. And they're picking -- they're picking targets, and they're paying suicide bombers $50,000 for a single attack.
It's just -- it's just patent nonsense, and that's what's worrisome about these documents.
COOPER: So you're saying the intelligence -- I mean, a lot of these documents come from sources in the field. So you're saying those sources basically are making things up?
BAER: They're fabricators. They're making the information up. The reports aren't worth the paper they're written on. And if our Special Forces are using this intelligence to make raids and takedowns and assassinations, we're in a lot of trouble.
COOPER: Peter, I think the answer is no, but I mean, do you see these leaks as somehow changing people's minds about the war or changing the course of the war?
BERGEN: I don't think so. I mean, this is not the Pentagon papers where, you know, there was a lot of top-secret information that was released and there was a huge disconnect between what the U.S. government was saying, what they were -- you know, publicly and what they were saying privately.
You know, everybody knows the war is not going well, and you know, I completely agree with Bob. A lot of the stuff in these documents -- there's a story about senior Taliban leaders going to North Korea to buy weapons. I mean, just on its face it's nonsensical. And of course, it's a lot of raw, undigested intelligence. But the fact is, if this is the stuff that's in the system, it's not -- it's not very encouraging.
COOPER: Bob, how -- I mean, WikiLeaks is sort of a fascinating organization with, you know, which I guess, depending on where you stand, is either a huge threat or an incredible thing about -- you know, toward transparency. As a former intelligence officer, what do you make of it? I mean, it's got to -- does it scare you?
BAER: If I were an Afghan reporting to the military or any intelligence organization in Afghan, I'd be very scared. I would change my mind about it.
I mean this is a good way to lose sources, and I assume this whole report is going to end up in the hands of the Afghans. They're on the Internet, too. And they're going to say, "Wait a minute. My name is going to appear in WikiLeaks, and I'm not going to talk to these people." So the inclination of getting volunteers is going to quickly be killed.
COOPER: I mean they claim that, you know, they're not endangering sources on the ground. They said they have some 15,000 documents that they're still going over that they haven't released because they're, you know, kind of basically vetting them to see what kind of harm it might do. Do you buy that or --
BAER: Well, they may have tried, I mean, but they're not -- they don't have the capacity to really judge whether they're compromising sources and methods. I mean, as Peter said, this isn't the Pentagon papers. We were talking about policy in the '70s and exposing that and exposing official lies.
Here we're taking raw intelligence reports from confidential informants, we're exposing them in the press and you really have to go through this stuff to see if anybody's going to lose their lives over it. But there's a good possibility they will.
COOPER: Bob Baer, Peter Bergen, appreciate it.
Up next, the man at WikiLeaks who published the documents and promises to publish more; we'll talk to him ahead.
COOPER: We're talking about the tens of thousands of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan published on WikiLeaks. Just before air time, founder Julian Assange talked with us. Take a look.
COOPER: Thanks very much for being with us.
You're being accused of basically threatening the national security of the United States and possibly putting American lives at risk. Do you believe the White House when they say that?
JULIAN ASSANGE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WIKILEAKS.ORG: No. And quite frankly, that's nonsense. We're used to exposing corrupt or abusive organizations or the actions of otherwise mainly group organizations where there is some component that is abusive. And we often get this sort of -- sort of lie that people will try and distract -- distract from the significance of the evidence against them by trying to shoot the messenger. And that's what seems to be what's happening in this case.
All the material released here is at least seven months old. It's of no tactical consequence. In addition, we have held back some 15,000 files for further review to make sure there's not going to be any -- any harm that comes to people as a result of the leaks.
COOPER: So you have 15,000 more files that you're still looking over and may publish still?
ASSANGE: That's correct, yes. We have approximately 15,000 reports that we're still reviewing to make sure that these aren't going to disclose the names of local Afghanis where there's may be some possibility there of retributive action. It's not for sure that material is included in there, but we just want to spend a little bit of extra effort with this particular sub category of material.
COOPER: To you, what is most surprising about what you have read in these documents? Because I mean, you probably haven't been able to go through all these documents. I think you've gone through -- I read more than 1,000 or so.
But what jumps out at you? I mean, clearly what's gotten a lot of attention here in the United States is details about people in the field, thoughts about Pakistan, and their direct involvement with operations in Afghanistan and against the Afghan government and the U.S.
ASSANGE: Yes, those allegations are in relation to ISI, the Pakistani intelligence organization. They are serious. There's a lot of reports there by informants that have been paid money by U.S. forces or that are trying to sort of set up their opponents or prey on their opponents.
But it does seem to be such a large number of reports in relation to ISI activities in the South of Afghanistan that they really do need to be taken seriously. And those are in line with some other sort of evidence and reporting.
COOPER: You've been quoted as saying, "I enjoy helping people who are vulnerable, and I enjoy crushing bastards. So it is enjoyable work."
In your mind, who are the bastards here, and what, in your mind, qualifies as crushing them? I mean, what's -- what's the end game?
ASSANGE: Well, when you see cases that look like U.S. Special Forces being so careless that they end up killing children; these people, arguably, are bastards. Not all the evidence is in on these events. What we have is material that forms the basis for any sort of police or journalistic investigation: who was there, how many were killed, what time and what precise geographic location. COOPER: Julian Assange, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
ASSANGE: You're welcome.
COOPER: Hey, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.
"LARRY KING" starts now.
I'll see you tomorrow night.