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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Military Leaders Advocate Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; House Censures Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel; American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight; Interview With Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman
Aired December 2, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for watching.
Tonight: "Keeping Them Honest" on don't ask, don't tell. America's top military leaders tell lawmakers why it should be repealed. It was a stunning day of testimony today. They took on tough questions about why, why now, and why their landmark study didn't ask U.S. troops directly if they want to see the rule lifted. You're going to hear both sides in a moment, and I will talk with Senator Joe Lieberman about whether he believes his friend Senator John McCain has been moving the goalposts on repeal.
Also tonight, Congressman Charlie Rangel censured by his own colleagues. He says the punishment was political and that he's not corrupt. We're going to show you the wrongdoing that moved his fellow lawmakers to vote against him. You can decide for yourself, "Keeping Them Honest."
And, later, you can almost believe -- you cannot almost believe that it's happening here, happening today: girls being lured into forced labor -- part two of our shocking series, "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight." John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" joins us to talk about that as well.
We begin, though, as always, "Keeping Them Honest."
After a historic day in the fight over ending don't ask, don't tell, there are critics of making that change, and they have got plenty of concerns about allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military. We spent the week separating fact from fiction on those concerns and highlighting how, in some cases, critics of ending don't ask, don't tell seem to be creating new concerns when the old ones are addressed.
Tonight, we want to show you how the military's top leadership today addressed critics point by point in their own words, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates, along with the authors of the Pentagon study on gays in the military, going before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates arguing that the time for ending don't ask, don't tell is now.
Senator John McCain is obviously the ranking Republican on the committee, and you will recall that he once said that, if the military leadership came to him with just such a recommendation, he would seriously consider it. Then, when they did, he said, well, he was waiting for the results of that study.
Then, when the study leaked out, he questioned the validity of the study and said he would be more inclined to take the advice of the individual service chiefs than the chairman or defense secretary, because the chairman and secretary don't directly command troops.
Well, today, in his opening statement, Admiral Mullen spoke directly to that criticism and to the senator in particular.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: One final word -- and with all due respect, Mr. Chairman and Senator McCain, it is true that, as chairman, I am not in charge of troops. But I have commanded three ships, a carrier battle group, and two fleets. And I was most recently a service chief myself.
For more than 40 years, I have made decisions that affected, and even risked the lives, of young men and women. You do not have to agree with me on this issue, but don't think for one moment that I haven't carefully considered the impact of the advice I give on those who will have to live with the decisions that that advice informs. I would not recommend repeal of this law if I did not believe in my soul that it was the right thing to do for our military, for our nation, and for our collective honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that's one objection answered.
Senator McCain had earlier downplayed Secretary Gates' qualifications, because the senator said that Gates had never served in the armed forces. In fact, he had. And Senator McCain had to retract those remarks.
As for the service heads, they're going to testify tomorrow, and it's going to be interesting to see if the Marine Corps commandant will change his opposition to lifting don't ask, don't tell now that he's had time to study the Pentagon report.
The study does show higher resistance among the Marines and other frontline forces to serving alongside openly gay troops, which brings up the second objection critics have had, that troops at the point of the spear in combat are being overlooked. Secretary Gates and Senator McCain clashed on it sharply.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And I would point out that for -- an example with the Marine Corps, you also have, and the most of the Marines who are in combat are 18 to 24-25 years old, most of them have never served with women either.
And so they have had a very focused, very limited experience in the military, and it's been a tough one. But I think that with time and adequate preparation, we can mitigate their concerns. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I couldn't disagree more. We send these young people into combat. We think they're mature enough to fight and die, I think they're mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A second concern of Senator McCain and others is that, in compiling its reports, the authors only asked service members about what they thought the effects of ending don't ask, don't tell would be, not whether they thought it should be ended.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GATES: I think, in effect, doing a referendum of the service -- of the members of the armed forces on a policy matter is a very dangerous path.
SEN. ROGER WICKER (R), MISSISSIPPI: Do you think the answers to the questions would have been different had we asked them outright?
GATES: Well, I think that as Mr. Johnson and General Ham have testified earlier, through the many questions in the -- in the survey, you get a pretty clear view of the views of the force in terms of this change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In addition, in his opening statement, Admiral Mullen pointed to polling done before President Truman integrated the military in 1948 that showed that 80 percent of troops then opposed it, and many saying they would leave the service if it happened.
Well, today, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia raised that very same concern. He said that, by his reading of the Pentagon report, more than a quarter-million troops might up and leave if don't ask, don't tell is lifted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: What if it does happen? What if we -- if those 265,000 resigned from the military over the next short period of time? What are you going to do?
GATES: If I believed that a quarter of a million people would leave the military immediately, if given the opportunity, I would certainly have second thoughts about this. But I don't believe that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Secretary Gates on the idea of mass departures.
There's also the question of why now, in wartime? Should we be tinkering with don't ask, don't tell? Republican Senator Collins handled that one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Admiral Mullen, the second objection that we hear over and over and over is that we cannot implement this kind of change in the midst of a war. And I thought you made an excellent point that the opposite may be true, that wartime facilitates change in some ways. And in fact, wasn't President Truman's 1948 order to integrate our forces actually fully implemented during the Korean War?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Admiral Mullen said, yes, in fact it was, and went on to say that, from being a bad time to implement change, it was, in his view, ideal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULLEN: We have changed dramatically as a military since 2001, which I would argue puts us in a good position to facilitate additional change. There couldn't be a better time to do it. We are better led, in my experience, at every level than we have ever been led.
So leaders can do this. We are able to take advantage of our ability to change and sustain that combat readiness, and I believe making a change like this makes us better. It doesn't make us worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, finally, there's the question of legislative timing. Many senators want to delay a vote on don't ask, don't tell until the new Senate is seated.
They say there simply isn't enough time in this session to get it done. Senator McCain has said he wants more study and more hearings, in part because there wasn't enough time in today's hearing to fully answer all the questions.
But what's interesting about that is, he chose not to use all the time of the hearings today to focus on don't ask, don't tell. Look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary, finally, we are very deeply concerned about WikiLeaks, the impact that it has had on identifying people who were cooperating with us and Afghanistan and Iraq and some leaders who have said they have blood on their hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, we're going to devote more time right now to the repeal.
I spoke earlier with Senator McCain's colleague and friend Senator Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: Senator Lieberman, based on what you heard today, is there any legitimate reason for keeping this policy in place?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: No. I don't think -- after today's hearing, after the report put out by the Pentagon a couple of days ago, there is no legitimate reason for sustaining the don't ask, don't tell policy.
I mean, I thought Admiral Mullen, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, said something that summed it all up. Today, based on the report and survey that was issued by the Pentagon a couple of days ago, Admiral Mullen said, it's my professional opinion that we can make this change which is right, and do it in a way that will not compromise our military effectiveness.
COOPER: You have actually called this policy un-American.
LIEBERMAN: I think it is un-American.
I mean, the basic American value, to me, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence is that we're all created equal, that that's -- that was God's work. And, as such, we're all endowed with the same rights.
At -- at the beginning, those rights were obviously not really given to all Americans. And, in some ways, American history is a journey to realize the basic promise of equal opportunity. And now we have extended it, obviously, to women and African-Americans.
In our time, I think the front line of the civil rights movement, the human rights movement in America and the world is making sure that people don't get discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
COOPER: Your very good friend, Senator John McCain, obviously is a staunch opponent of -- of repealing don't ask, don't tell.
I want to play you something he said back in 2006 on -- on "HARDBALL."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS," OCTOBER 18, 2006)
MCCAIN: The day that the -- the leadership of the military comes to me and says, "Senator, we ought to change the policy," then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it, because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Years later, when the leaders of the military, when Mullen and -- and Gates, came out with their opinion, Senator McCain started saying that, well, we have to wait until the survey is complete. And then, when word leaked about what the survey was actually saying, he said, well, they didn't ask the right questions in the survey. And then this is what he said today. I want to play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: I am simply saying that it may be premature to make such a change at this time and in this manner, without further consideration of this report and further study of the issue by Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Has he been moving the goalposts here?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I -- John is my good friend, but I disagree with him on this. And the tapes you have played suggest changing standards here. I mean, in my opinion...
COOPER: So, you do think that he's changed the standards, he -- that he's moved the goalposts?
LIEBERMAN: I think the question that John raised today has been answered in the survey. Not -- two-thirds of the American military, a little more than that, say that they don't think repealing don't ask, don't tell will have any effect on military effectiveness.
And, most important, 92 percent of the American military who -- who feel that they have served with somebody gay or lesbian in their own unit say that it has simply not been a problem.
COOPER: So, as his friend, I mean, what do you say? I mean, I -- you're not going to give up private conversations, but, when you're one-on-one with him, what kind of discussions do you have? How do you try to convince him?
LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, in the one-on-one conversations, I mean, I try to convince him in the same way that I have made the case here. But, as is evident from today's hearing, I'm not making much progress in my arguments.
But I think that there are -- as a matter of fact, I don't think -- I know there are more than 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to adopt the defense authorization bill, including the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. The only thing that will stop us is time.
And that would be a shame. Dr. King, Martin Luther King, once said that it's always the right time to do the right thing. And that's exactly the way I feel about repealing don't ask, don't tell. It's the right time.
COOPER: Honestly, though, how much of the opposition -- and I'm not talking about from Senator McCain, but of other folks in Congress -- how much of the opposition do you think is from folks who -- who maybe just don't like gay people or are just uncomfortable with -- with homosexuality, or -- or -- or opposed to it on -- on religious grounds, or -- or whatever?
Because you don't -- you know, while you hear many people who -- who oppose repealing it, you hear them praising service members, you never hear them praising gay and lesbian service members, who basically fight and risk their lives, while, at the same time, are forced to keep their -- you know, a key part of themselves a secret.
LIEBERMAN: Yes. I -- you know, I don't know the motivations of people who are opposed to this.
Again, I want to repeat, I thought it was very interesting that, if you ask the military personnel who have in fact served with gay and lesbian troops in their unit whether it had any effect, they say no. And so that's the greatness of the American military.
It's committed to a cause greater than the individuals. They're committed to each other. They -- they protect each other. And, obviously, a soldier in combat will not care whether your -- what your race, gender, religion, nationality is, or your sexual orientation. They will care about what kind of soldier you are.
And the record is clear that gay and lesbian soldiers have performed bravely and brilliantly in service of our country. You know, in the military, what matters is how you fight, not what you do in your private life.
I mean, Admiral Mullen talks about integrity. The military still has great values, but this policy, don't ask, don't tell, is a stain on the honor and values of the American military. And we ought to remove it as quickly as possible.
COOPER: Just a final question. Part of the argument used by those who oppose repealing this is that, well, sharing bathroom facilities or showering facilities -- although, frankly, most showers now in the military are -- are individual -- would -- would be -- make people uncomfortable and would also be bad because of possibly predatory, I guess, gay -- gay and lesbian service members.
Do you think that's a -- a valid argument, and, I mean, would you have a problem sharing a locker -- locker room facility with somebody who was gay?
LIEBERMAN: Of course not.
I mean, look, if any gay soldier begins to sexually harass somebody, a man, they're going to be subject to discipline, just like a straight soldier sexually harassing a woman will be subject to discipline.
So, I understand some of these -- these concerns, but, really, there's no reason for them in any way. And, again, the -- the survey of the gay and lesbian members of the military is so powerful, which is, they have got their own private lives. They're not going to -- as -- as one of them said: There's not going to be some outbreak of gayness in the military That's not what we want. We want to be members of the military, honorable and -- and effective. And our sexual orientation is our private business. And that's the way we're going to keep it.
COOPER: Senator Joe Lieberman, appreciate it. Thank you.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Anderson. Take care.
COOPER: Well, let us know what you think about all this -- the live chat up and running right now at AC360.com.
Up next: Congressman Charlie Rangel's punishment by fellow House members and his claim that he doesn't deserve it, that he's not corrupt. We will give you the facts on what he did. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And later: the global manhunt for the man behind WikiLeaks, Julian Assange wanted on sex charges. He's on Skype, so why can't authorities arrest him? Details ahead.
COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight: a congressman who broke the rules punished by fellow lawmakers today. He says it's all about politics, but a lot of his Democratic colleagues disagreed.
So, today, Congressman Charles Rangel had to do what fewer than two dozen of his colleagues in history have ever had to do. He stood in the well of the House and received the condemnation of his speaker and his colleagues -- a man who once ran the committee that wrote the nation's tax law censured this afternoon.
The vote, bipartisan, 333-79, came after the House Ethics Committee found him guilty of 11 counts of violating House rules.
Well, this evening, after a brief statement on the House floor, the 80-year-old 20-term -- 20-year -- excuse me -- 20-term New York congressman talked to reporters, insisting he is not corrupt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I think history would show that a different standard has been used in this case, where I did not curse out the speaker, I have not tried to have sex with minors, I didn't steal any money, I never -- I tried to help City College.
And it's been hard for me to get some of the people in the press to state that, out of the 13 charges, seven of them are related to one event.
As I said two years ago, I have not and never and there's not any evidence that I did anything to enrich myself, that I have done anything corrupt or done anything to sell my office or to sell the Congress, anything that involved intent to deceive or to avoid my taxes or any disclosures.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That was Congressman Rangel today.
No, he did not have sex with minors, as some other censured congressmen have, nor did he curse anyone out, but he was convicted of 11 counts of misconduct by a bipartisan committee.
So, let's talk about the facts here. Some of the counts were related to his using his office as a powerful congressman to raise money for a school at City University of New York named in his honor.
And why is that wrong? Well, the question is, is it really appropriate for a member of Congress to be suggesting or even appear to be pressuring companies or individuals to donate money to something?
In one case, according to "The New York Times," Mr. Rangel's committee helped preserve a tax loophole for an oil drilling company that pledged money. So, even if -- even if it wasn't money he himself was after, as he says, you can make a case it was influence and self- aggrandizement.
He was also censured for accepting several rent-stabilized apartments for campaign offices at prices far below market value, apartments designed for residential, not office, use. Now, Mr. Rangel denies any wrongdoing.
But, let's remember, rent-stabilized apartments in New York City are meant for people with low incomes. And if Rangel was using those apartments and got them because of who he is, then, actually, deserving people were not able to use them.
Then there's the Dominican Republic. Here he is enjoying a moment on the beach. He's got a villa down there -- the congressman failing to disclose rental income on it, as well as on mutual funds and other accounts, as required by Congress. He filed amendments to his financial disclosure forms only after the Ethics Committee began investigating him.
Now, the congressman has blamed sloppy bookkeeping. And that may be, but it may also be an excuse. Remember, this was the guy writing tax law, and he can't seem to keep his records straight, the kind everybody has to, whether we're in Congress or not.
Joining me now, Joe Johns and Melanie Sloan. She's currently executive director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Earlier next year, she will be leaving that post to go into private legal practice with Democratic strategist Lanny Davis.
Melanie, is Congressman Rangel corrupt? I mean, he says he's not. He says it's not corruption because he wasn't personally benefiting financially. But is there an argument to be made?
MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: I think there is.
I think, if you ask most Americans, they'd think that, if you're getting a bunch of apartments that other people couldn't have access to, that if you're trading on your influence in Congress in order to raise money for basically a big monument to me, people would have problems with those kind of things, as well as the tax violations, for example, failing to disclose income. Those are things that directly benefited Mr. Rangel.
COOPER: Joe, you were at the House today. You spoke to the congressman. What was his mood like?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, humiliated, no, contrite, no, apologetic, yes, admitting that he did something wrong and needed to be punished, yes.
But bottom line was, he thought it was too much punishment. And the interesting thing was watching the dynamics down in the House. He was surrounded by people. There were only two moments I saw when it looked like he was alone and sort of soaking this in and -- and realizing that he was in trouble here.
One was when it was clear that they weren't going to bust the charge down and make it a lesser charge. He's -- he was alone, looked like he had to take a bunch of deep breaths to sort of regain his composure.
And the other time was when the speaker of the House read the censure resolution while he was standing in the well. Those were the two moments. Otherwise, this was a politician who was just not going to let them see him sweat today.
COOPER: Melanie, I mean, he was talking about the punishment's too severe, and part of his point was that others in the past, members of Congress, have committed similar violations and -- and were only reprimanded.
But, in truth, there really was no punishment. I mean, there's -- there's not any punishment. I mean, yes, he was sternly talked to today, I guess, but that's it.
SLOAN: Well, that's right. And, so, to a lot of people, that probably wouldn't seem like much, but this is sort of the ultimate humiliation for a member of Congress.
Being censured is the most serious thing that can happen to you, short of being expelled. And they save that for members of Congress who are convicted of crimes. Let's also note that Mr. Rangel really changed his strategy.
If you will remember, for the past two years, he's been proclaiming his innocence: He didn't do anything. He was going to have his day before the Ethics Committee and tell us all how he didn't do anything wrong.
Well, that didn't work out for him so well. So, now he's changed his strategy: It's not that I didn't do anything wrong. It's just that I wasn't personally corrupt, so you still shouldn't issue this harsh sanction on me.
COOPER: Joe, the Congressional Black Caucus was upset Congressman Rangel was censured. They thought that went too far.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters is also facing -- facing ethics charges. How wary are congressional leaders of being perceived that they're being extra tough on African-American lawmakers?
JOHNS: Well, that is a concern that's out there, simply because we have these two African-American congresspeople who are both very high-profile.
Nonetheless, there has been some concern, a greater concern perhaps, that this Democratic Congress came in talking about a culture of corruption among Republicans and weren't able to discipline their own. Now with Rangel sort of held out as an example, that he did something and he actually was the first member of Congress to get censured since 1983, so it will be a little bit easier for them to make the claim that they police their own after -- after these two cases.
COOPER: Fascinating day.
Joe Johns, thanks, Melanie Sloan as well.
Up next tonight: a mother and two daughters murdered in that Connecticut home invasion -- a killer facing the ultimate punishment. He was sentenced today. We will tell you whether he was sentenced to death or not.
And later: part two of our special report on slavery in America -- girls forced to work for years, no pay, no rights. It happened right here in America. We will show you how and where. And we will talk to John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" about how to stop it.
COOPER: A lot going on tonight that we're following. Randi Kaye has the "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Steven Hayes was sentenced to death today for a vicious home invasion in Connecticut that left a mother and two daughters dead. Prosecutors say he and a co-defendant invaded the home, tied up a doctor, raped and strangled his wife and molested one of the daughters before tying them to their beds and setting the house on fire. The doctor escaped to a neighbor's house.
In court today, Hayes said death will be a welcome relief.
A person of interest in the shooting murder of celebrity publicist Ronni Chasen has committed suicide. Authorities are not releasing his name yet. Police say the man shot himself in an apartment building lobby in Hollywood as detectives tried to talk with him. Buffalo is buried in snow, approaching four feet in some areas, and falling fast. At last report the snow was falling up to an incredible two to three inches per hour, faster than plows can actually take it away.
And take a look at this. Could these pictures of bacteria mean there's life on other planets? Scientists are excited about the discovery of a form of bacteria that thrives on arsenic.
A researcher says that challenges what was known about the elements required to sustain life. Very exciting news for the scientists.
COOPER: Yes, it's really interesting. I don't quite understand it, frankly, I tried to reach as much as I could about it today, but it's complicated.
KAYE: We should be excited, though, because they are.
COOPER: I'll take it. I'll take that. All right.
Randi, as you no doubt heard, Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup, a long way away. It was just announced today. A pretty big clue, to say the least, but a country that only existed since 1971.
Now, you may not know much about Qatar's soccer team. They've never qualified for the World Cup. And now automatically, they're going to get in. How long they'll stay in, you might want to book your ticket for the first match because there may not be a second.
This is tonight's "Shot." We found it on YouTube, a game between Qatar and Uzbekistan. Now, take a look. Qatar's striker has a wide- open shot. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COOPER: I mean -- no one in the goal.
KAYE: Two of them missed there. Looked like.
COOPER: Could we see that again? There's no one in the goal.
COOPER: Boom. Ouch. That's got to hurt. Let's watch it again.
Now, I'm far from an expert on soccer but that looks like the easiest goal ever.
COOPER: I could get that goal, I think. Maybe. KAYE: You could. I'm sure you could. I don't think the World Cup committee has probably seen that video. You might want to send it.
COOPER: At least they have 11 years to work on getting better.
KAYE: Might not be long enough.
COOPER: Coming up, some serious stuff. Our series, "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight," the extraordinary report about teenage girls held as slaves for years on end here in America, forced to work in hair and nail salons. We'll tell you where it happened.
And I'm going to talk to John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted" about what's being done to stop this kind of crime.
Also ahead, the football player who put his foot in his mouth and ended up on tonight's RidicuList. Find out who he is and the ridiculous thing he said
COOPER: Tonight, the second in our series of reports, "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight." Now, you might think that we're exaggerating, that we picked that title to grab your attention, and we're not actually being literal. You might be thinking, how could slaves really be Hiding in Plain Sight in America today? That can't be possible. Someone would notice, right?
Well, the story we're about to show you proves not only is it possible; it may be happening in your neighborhood in front of your very eyes.
Here's Amber Lyon with a 360 exclusive.
AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These girls were victims of something hard to believe, something you might never expect. Something that happened in plain sight.
You're looking at girls who were held as slaves in America, not for a week or a month, but for years.
(on camera) Can you tell us about what it was like having someone else control all of your movements, everything you did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like being, you know, being trapped, you know, being in a cage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's horrible. You know, like sometimes there's not enough food for us to eat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No freedom at all.
LYON: Nicole and Zena and another 20 girls like them were brought to the U.S. From their homes in the West African nations of Ghana and Togo, nearly a decade ago.
Barely teens, promised an American education. They were instead enslaved in Newark, New Jersey.
(on camera) What did the traffickers take from you?
ZENA: They took my childhood from me. My teenhood, they took it from me. They took my trust from me, and they took everything. They took everything away from me.
LYON: The girls were forced to work in hair braiding salons, serving customers all day. Right out in the open. Their captors took all the money the girls earned. Every penny. How many days a week were you working?
ZENA: Seven days a week.
LYON: How many hours a day?
ZENA: Sometimes 14 hours.
LYON: This went on for five to six years. Traffickers held the girls in several houses in Newark and East Orange. The traffickers no longer live there.
(on camera) This is the neighborhood where these girls were being held, and just look at it. Manicured lawns, nice houses. It looks like any neighborhood in America, and it definitely doesn't look like a place where you'd expect to find slavery.
(voice-over) Who would commit such a crime? These are the traffickers. Akouavi Afolabi was the ring leader. Lassissi and Dereck, the son, were accomplices according to court documents and law enforcement. Why did they do it? Money. Pure and simple. They made about $4 million off the girls.
Paul Fishman is the U.S. attorney for New Jersey. His office prosecuted the case, rutting in convictions.
PAUL FISHMAN, NEW JERSEY U.S. ATTORNEY: I think it's hard for someone to believe that in the year 2010 we have people who will actually put people in slavery. It's the most fundamental and intolerable violation of human rights.
LYON: A Newark court recently sentenced Akouavi Afolabi to 27 years in prison. The father got 24 years, and the son? Four 1/2 years.
ZENA: After all the promises she promised me, and then when I got here my life was messed up. I was too young. If I knew this was how my life was going to be, I would have never come. I would never let her take me.
BRIDGETTE CARR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN LAW SCHOOL: the fact that my clients could be in these hair salons for so many years braiding hair as young as 9, 10, 11, is extremely frustrating. But it's not shocking. Human trafficking is extremely profitable. It's so profitable that we're seeing some drug traffickers get out of drug trafficking and into human trafficking.
LYON: Zena took me on a walk where the girls walked every morning to work. From the house to the hair salon down the street. Slave girls walking in plain sight of an entire community.
ZENA: I always thought of running but I didn't know nobody. I didn't know where to go.
LYON: Finally, after five years, a tip came to immigration and customs enforcement, or ICE.
PETER EDGE, ICE, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: These girls were shielded from the outside world, virtually hidden in plain sight.
LYON: After months of surveillance, ICE agents raided the houses. Inside, they found the girls, mattresses on the floor, and filthy conditions. The traffickers had hidden bags of cash and the girls' pass passports.
Something else the agents found: a notebook the girls used to track the tips they received at the hair salon. Ironically on the cover of that notebook, a picture of the Statue of Liberty.
After so much pain, the girls, now young women, were free.
ZENA: It was a good day. Because, you know, it helped my life. I was so happy that I was out from the jail.
NICOLE: All I did was cry. It was -- you know -- it was overwhelming. I told myself she finally, you know, she finally got what she deserved. She did really, really wrong. She treat us bad, and she -- I just -- she was heartless. When I think about it, she was heartless. And I'm happy that she's caught.
LYON: Amber Lyon, CNN, Newark, New Jersey.
COOPER: It's an incredibly disturbing report, that so many people who could have helped didn't. So the question we have is what's being done to kind of stop this crime on a broader scale.
I talked earlier to John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted."
COOPER: It's interesting. These young women, who were brought over from Africa and forced to work in this -- this hair braiding salon, I mean, they were living in a neighborhood. People saw them coming and going. It's almost sort of hiding in plain sight.
JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": It's all -- it's all over this country, and I don't think politicians or the criminal justice system has really dealt with it. It's the ugly underbelly of America. It's something, save the whales is a good thing, save the polar bears, save the Amazon, but this is ugly, ugly stuff. There's three big revenue streams for illegal activity. No. 1 is drugs. We all know that. Tied with number two with illegal arms and guns is sex trade.
And who is the No. 1 country that engages in sex trade and use of illegal workers and keeping them in slavery like those women? It's America. And we have Central Americans. We have Mexicans...
COOPER: Tens of thousands of people are brought -- are trafficked into the United States for this, for slavery.
WALSH: For sex, for work, work they don't want to do, work they don't have to do, seven days a week. Brutalized, scared to death, threatened with, "We'll kill you, we'll kill your family."
I think it's the underbelly of this rich, rich country we live in that touts personal freedoms all over the world. We are the freest country in the world. Every time I come back, I say thank God that I live in America.
But we're also a great country in denial. Freedom of sex, freedom of speech, how about freedom of life? Of trying to live your life not being exploited and not being used in sex trade or working in a job that you're terrified to tell anybody.
O'REILLY: And I guess, I mean, some people say, well, look, these women were brought in from Africa working in this hair salon. They weren't chained up. They weren't, you know. They were coming and going. They were walking to work every day. Why didn't they try to escape? I guess the answer to that or one of the answers is, had they tried to escape, they were afraid of being deported and being sent back.
WALSH: Of retribution. I mean, the people who manipulate these people are good at it. They brought them in. They smuggled it in. Look at the Mexican people that have been smuggled in here. I've done many cases of Mexican pimps and madams. A woman who smuggled in young girls from Mexico, telling them that they're going to be maids, again at the Ritz Carlton. They're going to be a waitress at an Applebee.
And where are they brought to? South Florida where I'm from or they're brought to Southern California or Texas. And they're brutalized by -- pimps control them and say, "I'll kill you. You don't tell anybody. Or we'll get back into Mexico and we'll kill your loved ones. We know exactly where you're from. We got you from your family."
COOPER: Do you think the law knows how to deal with this? I mean, the trafficker in the case of the Africans in the hair salon got 27 years. That's an extraordinarily long sentence for -- it's a rare sentence.
WALSH: It's a bellwether. It's great. It sends that large message that, if you're going to bring people into this country illegally and exploit them, you're going to pay for it. And I think law enforcement's ready to saddle up for years. They just don't have the resources.
The FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children just partnered up in a nationwide sting. And they arrested 900 people that were involved in sex trafficking of little children, of teenagers, girls, 12, 13 years old. They got -- I forget how many kids that they got out of that. Something like 30 kids they got out of it.
They've been wanting to do this for years. They need the mandate. They need the money. They need the training. They need the resources. And they need the politicians to say it's not just enough to deport these guys and push them back over the border. They're going to come back in six months and they're going to operate somewhere else.
COOPER: John Walsh, thank you so much.
WALSH: Thank you for covering these cases. You give victims hope.
COOPER: Well, still ahead tonight, the man behind WikiLeaks has exposed government secrets on an unprecedented scale, but he's a master of hiding himself. The latest in the search for Julian Assange and the sex crimes charges he's facing.
Plus, an NFL player lands on the RidicuList tonight for what he said about troops coming home from overseas.
COOPER: Tonight in "Crime & Punishment," where in the world is Julian Assange, the guy behind WikiLeaks? He's essentially been in hiding since the international warrant was issued. He's wanted in Sweden on sex crime charges and the one thing he won't seem to leak is his location.
Tom Foreman tonight with the search for Assange.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All over the planet police have been alerted by Interpol to look for the elusive Julian Assange. He is wanted, not for the stunning release of all those secret diplomatic documents, but for something else entirely.
The Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks stands accused of rape and sexual molestation in Sweden. The charges stem from an encounter with two women in August.
Assange's lawyer says it was consensual. Assange says he did nothing wrong.
JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WIKILEAKS: I'm not going to talk about that. FOREMAN: And he bristled when CNN's Atika Shubert asked about the accusation in October.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So you don't want to address whether or not you feel this is an attack on WikiLeaks?
ASSANGE: It's completely disgusting, Atika.
FOREMAN: Then he walked out.
But Assange may have a harder time walking away from the international fury over the leaked U.S. government documents.
Russia, for example, is angry over references in the papers to massive corruption, deep economic problems and detailed breakdowns of Prime Minister Putin's relations with his deputies. Putin told Larry King, in essence, the United States should mind its own business.
(on camera) And the U.S. government may now be doing just that. The Justice Department is looking into what laws may have been broken in obtaining, transporting and publishing all these classified papers.
ASSANGE: Well, I encourage...
FOREMAN (voice-over): Assange could possibly be charged with any number of crimes, from possessing stolen material up to espionage. According to Tom Fuentes, who directed international operations for the FBI and is now a CNN contributor.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Someone accessed classified databases or basically confidential systems and, therefore, those communications are property of the U.S. government. And someone stole those from the U.S. government and then provided them to WikiLeaks.
FOREMAN: A U.S. Army private has been charged with an earlier leak of classified video to WikiLeaks. Assange has appeared only once since this latest document release. For an interview with "TIME" magazine over Skype from an undisclosed location.
Why Skype? Experts say it's heavily encrypted, and even the best intelligence can't crack it.
And Assange is savvy like that. He routinely changes cell phones, his appearance, his location. Some are now suggesting they know he is hiding out in or near London. With police and border agents everywhere on the lookout, the net appears to be tightening around him.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: We'll see.
Ahead, the NFL player upset with the booing from fans. His over- the-top message gets him sacked on our RidicuList. First Randi Kaye has a "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.
KAYE: Anderson, two of John Edwards' former top aides testified today to a federal grand jury looking into payments the former presidential candidate campaign made to a videographer who became his mistress. Edwards fathered a daughter with Rielle Hunter.
In Florida police are investigating the first homicide in a Disney-developed town. A 58-year-old man was found dead in an apartment in Celebration, a town built 14 years ago near Walt Disney World.
The defense has rested in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case. Prosecutors are expected to take several days to give their rebuttal in the trial of Brian Mitchell, who's accused of abducting Smart from her bedroom back in 2002.
And actor Chuck Norris is perhaps best known for playing Walker, Texas Ranger in the CBS cop drama. Well, today, the governor of Texas gave Norris the honorary title of Texas Ranger. No, I wouldn't mess with the 70-year-old martial arts expert, and I'm sure, Anderson, you wouldn't either.
COOPER: All right. Well, time now for the RidicuList, our nightly salute to something that's, well, kind of RidicuList.
Tonight we welcome NFL player Antrel Rolle. Rolle plays safety for the New York Giants, a tough position. No arguing that. It's not the hard knocks on the field that bother him. What really irks him is when fans boo like they did this past Sunday.
Two days later on the radio, he we went after them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTREL ROLLE, NFL PLAYER: We're out there playing. We're out there, you know, pouring our heart out for our team, as well as our fans. You don't boo your team. I don't care what the situation is, you don't boo the team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right. Rolle said the booing, quote, "pissed" him off. But that's not why he's on the RidicuList. It's what he told reporters today that earns him the honor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROLLE: We risk ourselves out there on the field each and every day also. You know, when soldiers come home from Iraq, you don't boo them. I take my job seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes. Seriously. He really did just compare booing the giants to booing our troops, as if football players are somehow equivalent to troops fighting in war.
Now, I know football players are in a very tough profession, but they're not being shot at or blown up by IEDs. They're not living in dusty tents eating MREs, and they are not serving and sacrificing for America.
And then there's the money. Rolle signed a five-year, $37 million contract with the Giants. He's average more than $6 million a year. A private, depending on experience, makes a base salary between $17,000 and $23,000.
Now to be fair, Rolle later backtracked on his Iraq comments, calling it inappropriate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROLLE: You cannot compare, remotely compare what we do as opposed to what they do. You know, they're fighting for our freedom; they're fighting for our country. We're out there playing a game. At the end of the day, you know, it's a game. We get paid a lot of money. I understand that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. So he stepped back. He apologized, but he's staying on the RidicuList because, on top of everything else, he blamed his mom. That's right, his mom, when his comments got bad press. Quote, "Blame my mom," he told the "New York Daily News." "I'm not a politically correct guy. Not my father; it's my mother's fault."
Nothing personal, but if you can't take the heat and you have to blame your mom, and you're being paid $37 million, in our playbook, at least for one night, that puts you on the RidicuList.
A lot more at the top of the hour, starting with the fight over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."