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Mississippi River Flooding; Nothing to Hide

Aired May 10, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone from Tunica County in northwest Mississippi, one of many communities in this part of the country dealing with devastating some record, some near record flooding of the mighty Mississippi. You can see behind me here, this is Harrah's, a casino in Tunica County, one of nine casinos in this area. It is closed of course. You see the flooding there running up through the first floor of the building, all along the river here similar.

The casino shut down some 10,000 jobs in those casinos, now in limbo at least temporarily. They don't know when they can reopen them. That is the economic impact coming into the Memorial Day season, coming into the big summer tourism season, Mississippi being hit with this flooding.

Also there is a great personal toll and we saw it firsthand today and it is heartbreaking. We can show you images we went into one neighborhood right along the lake here, blue collar families, retirees, modest homes, many of them trailers, the others made of wood. As we show you the pictures here, 330 homes in all in this neighborhood devastated right there.

You're seeing it from above there. We can also show you boat level pictures from the ground, the cut-off is what the locals call this, several trailer parks, small residential areas along the water here, normally when it does flood, maybe six inches, maybe a foot. Some of the flood waters you are seeing here are as deep as 15 feet deep. When you travel through 330 homes in all, we are told by local officials tonight, 25, 25 of those 330 families have flood insurance.

Those families are cranky tonight. They have been out of their homes for days and they are not allowed to go back. They are not allowed to go into that neighborhood because it is still dangerous, because the sewage is turned off, because the power is turned off. They are grumpy as well because they are awaiting a disaster declaration from the federal government that we are told will come within days, but those families say now leaves them with an open question of will they get any help for the devastation and their homes?

When you go through the communities, again, you see the stop signs sticking up just out of the water. You see the power lines so low you can touch them from a boat as we drove through today and you see, you just see devastation, the water. These homes are on eight feet, 10 feet, sometimes 15 feet of stilts and yet they are destroyed by the water. That was the view we saw on the ground.

We also want to show you an aerial view. We took a ride earlier today thanks to the DeSoto County Sheriff's Office. We saw farmlands flooded. We saw homes flooded and we saw a levee, officials here hope, hope won't be breached, but has them a bit nervous.


KING: How many camps and neighborhoods along the levee?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are actually four camps.

KING: Four camps --


KING: And 330 homes total? We saw one that just barely was out of the water.


KING: That about it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's about it.

KING: That's about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're looking at 99 percent (INAUDIBLE) under water.

KING: Can you see any possibility of people coming back here?


KING: These houses are destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are destroyed. A foot of water made them be destroyed per the FEMA (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And what do we have now in terms of the depth?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't put it down. I'm on the road again --

KING: You're heading on the back way out. It was what, 16 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was 16 out there --

KING: And like a house like this it's up, what, six, eight feet on stilts?


KING: And we still see it half buried in water.


KING: That the community called the cut-off there those homes are destroyed. Those families are beginning to learn slowly and their emotions are raw, they will not be going back into those homes. They are destroyed -- again, a lot of anger in this community tonight. Let's get broader context now on this disaster.

Here is the latest on the flooding impact all up from Tennessee down, this disaster now affecting 107 counties. That's across four states. At least 7,000 households either have damage or their residents have had to evacuate. The flooding in Memphis, Tennessee, came within a foot of the all-time record. As the cresting begins to move south they are expecting to break high water records in (INAUDIBLE) in Vicksburg, in Mississippi here and then further to the south in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

This afternoon Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal predicted roughly three million acres of his state will be impacted by flooding. Right now there is so much water in the system it will be another four or five days before the flood waters in Memphis and here in Tunica begin to recede, four or five days until they begin to recede. Officials here think the water will be here, the water will be here they believe, for months.

They believe it will be four weeks, maybe six weeks just to start to get the water back down to decent levels so they can start the recovery effort. Let's get some more context now. Chad Myers is in the CNN Severe Weather Center. And Chad, when you look along the Mississippi, help our viewers understand where we are now and where this is heading.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know we talk about John this crest. This flood is not going to have a real true crest. This flood for you and for Memphis is plateauing. It's like the top of a mesa in Colorado. It went up. It stopped.

It's going to be flat for four days and then it will finally fall off, so for you today Memphis and Tunica today, you're cresting. That's the highest you're going to get. You're not going to go down for four days, but that's as high as you're going to get. Vicksburg on the 19th, Natchez on the 21st, not even until New Orleans until May 23rd before this is all done.

Now why is that? I want to draw your attention to how big the Mississippi River basin is. We go from New Orleans then we include the Tennessee River all the way up the Appalachian Trail. Remember the Appalachian Trail; it topped the highest part of that mountain range. One goes that way, some rivers go that way. All the way up to almost Buffalo, then down into central Ohio back up into Minnesota.

All the way to Montana and then down through the continental divide. That entire river system -- that is the drainage to the river that you are standing in front of right now. It is why it is taking so long for this water to go down. There was snow up here. There was pouring rain, 20 inches of rain just to your north here. All of that water getting together at the same time in a place.

We asked today, John, what is -- what's the worst possible scenario for these levees? Could it -- could there still be really bad stuff happening here? Yes. Something called the sand boil -- sand boil right there. Here's the levee right there. It's a big dirt berm. It's just -- it's holding all the water back. But it's dirt.

It's not metal. It's not concrete. It literally is soil. If water can get under the soil and burrow, under the soil and then it starts to boil (INAUDIBLE) like a boiling pot of water, just see the water and mud and sand boiling up on the wrong side of this levee, that's where things could really go wrong -- John.

KING: Chad Myers for us in the Weather Center and Chad, to make that point that's exactly what we saw here. There is one part of the levee here they are a bit concerned about. The Corps of Engineers is rushing in dirt and that's exactly what's happening. It's not the seepage over the top.

It's coming out from underneath, that sand boil you talked about. They're keeping an eye on that. David Mattingly, he's about 45 miles to the north of where I am in Memphis, Tennessee and let's go live to David. Now you're looking at that levee we were talking about there and David, where you were, the river has crested. That doesn't mean this crisis is over.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Only half of the waiting is over. People are no longer waiting to find out if their House is going to be hit by this or not. They now know because the river is not going to be getting any higher. This is one of the unlucky neighborhoods.

It's on Mud Island. This is a very fashionable area. People like to live here. It is on a harbor, but right now these houses, the unlucky people here, their houses are now in the harbor. You see how high up it's come here. It's hit some of the lower area and some of these structures and now the people who own these houses are worried about --


KING: We lost David's shot. We'll get back to David as soon as we can. Mike Womack is the director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency -- excuse me. He's in Jackson, Mississippi tonight and as we wait to get back in touch with David Mattingly, let's talk to Mr. Womack.

Mr. Womack, let's start with where I am, the northwest corner of the state. You have the river -- it is cresting either tonight or in the next several hours. We have -- obviously, you see the profound flooding here. Obviously you see the profound economic impact. In that one community we were in, 330 homes just wiped out. Any other concerns up here especially with that one area of the levee they are a bit nervous about?

MIKE WOMACK, DIR. MISSISSIPPI EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Well obviously, we are concerned about the levee, but we know that the Corps of Engineers, and there's two levee boards that work in Mississippi on the levees, as well. All three of those organizations supported by local officials, our Department of Corrections and others providing additional manpower. They are all working to make sure that if we have weak spots in the levee like you described, that they'll be fixed and we have a lot of confidence in the main line Mississippi levee system.

KING: I will tell you we saw them working today and they are working fast and furious. We do know that and we compliment those efforts. Mr. Womack, help me understand, a lot of people up here are nervous. And FEMA says it is here, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, helping with the flooding victims even before a disaster declaration specifically for the flooding has been declared.

And they say that is unprecedented. But some of the families are starting to grumble a little bit in terms of how quickly the White House processes these things. They have not issued a specific disaster declaration to the flooding. Are they on schedule, behind schedule, about right?

WOMACK: Well first FEMA has instituted some things over the past few years that do help speed up the process. Traditionally with flooding events, FEMA would have to wait until the water receded, then go in and inspect the homes to determine what the water level was. So you could see in this type of an incident it would take weeks before that could happen.

Now they are allowed to do some damage assessments from the air. You have a senior FEMA official that flies the area. Terry Quarrels (ph), our federal coordinating officer and I flew on Saturday and we inspected the flooding al the way from Tunica to the Louisiana line, all the way along the Mississippi River.

Plus we're having flooding else on the Yazoo River basin, which is one of the main -- or the main tributary in Mississippi to the Mississippi River. So Terry was able to give a report, and certainly the FEMA headquarters and the president has that now. We hope that he'll act on it quickly because you're right. The families have been out of their homes, particularly in Tunica County, for quite a while.

KING: And help me understand. I'm in northwest Tunica County like you just mentioned there. Obviously, they still have problems here, but they think the worst is over. The water will slowly begin to recede in the coming days. That doesn't make it easy on this community, but further to the south, as you head down toward Vicksburg and the like what do you have coming?

WOMACK: Well you have the same type of communities and about three or four other locations along the Mississippi River. In fact every one of our river counties from Tunica down to Vicksburg, Warren County, all of those counties have the same type of situation where you have neighborhoods of 20, 30, 50, 100 homes.

And they are all inundated just like what you see there in Tunica. And then down in the very southern most county is Wilkinson County and they have a couple of communities that are in the same situation. Now there are some river counties, Mississippi River Counties, that are not flooding right now and that's because there are very high bluffs.

If you look at Vicksburg down to Natchez, there are some very high bluffs, series of bluffs there, so they're not flooding. But certainly all of the ones in north -- along the northern part of Mississippi and that southern most county, as well. And we are starting to have some very significant flooding on the Yazoo River system because the water is backing up from the Mississippi, so you have what's called back water flooding.

And we anticipate we may have as many as 850 homes affected on that river system. So you can see it's a very serious situation. It's not going to get better for weeks.

KING: Weeks, weeks, Mike Womack is the director for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, a very busy man. Mr. Womack, we greatly appreciate your time at this very busy time for you and we'll keep in touch in the days ahead and we wish you -- certainly wish you the best, sir, as you deal with this.

Let's head back up to Memphis, Tennessee, just north of here, about 45 miles north (INAUDIBLE). We've restored our connection with David Mattingly. And David, just pick up where you left off that you're in the middle of this hard-hit community. Yes, the river crested. As you explain what's happening right there in that community, also help us understand any concerns on that end up there even as the waters start to recede a bit, you still have to wonder about the levees. Are they all set up there?

MATTINGLY: That's right. And they are watching those levees very closely. You just heard about how they are keeping a constant watch on them throughout the Mississippi system. Here they are looking for the possibility the sand boils popping up. You heard Chad describe earlier that's how water percolates up into the ground beneath these levees, so that is something they are watching for now.

They can treat those with sandbags. They are also watching as this water starts to slowly recede is some of the soil in those levees starts to fall away with it. They are prepared for that, as well, but right now everyone just watching their property -- the property that's been hit by this water. The longer the water stays here, the longer or the greater the chances are that it's going to do some sort of lasting damage.

And here in the Memphis area in this county, we are seeing last night I think about 500 people in shelters. They are now wondering when are we going to get to go back to our houses. But they're also wondering what are we going to have to come back to because this water is going to be sitting here just the way it is for at least the next couple of days. And then it's going to slowly start to go away.

The Army Corps of Engineers saying today it could be later next week we start to see it fall away, maybe a foot a day. That's when the pace starts to pick up. But for right now, it's just going to sit here. It's going to keep everything soaked. Everything water-logged and continue to do damage to the properties like this that it's already had contact with. So while the waiting may be over to see what the -- where the water is going to go, the waiting has just begun to see what the water is going to do -- John.

KING: David Mattingly live for us Memphis, Tennessee. I'm in Tunica County, Mississippi -- this flooding problem moving down the river.

Still ahead tonight, the United States believes it's making some progress in its efforts to get to question Osama bin Laden's wives and others taken into Pakistani custody from the bin Laden compound in Pakistan. We'll have that story and also much more of our heartbreaking day here in the areas hit -- hard hit by this flooding -- when we come back, Tunica's mayor and one of the executives of this casino join us to talk about the emotional, the raw emotional impact and the potentially devastating economic impact.



KING: How big a house (INAUDIBLE) we talking about?

JAKE JACOBS, MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT: It's not very big. It's about 420 square feet and it was up on eight foot stilts, but the water with any movement at all water is heavy, eight and a third pounds a gallon. And it's just got enough kinetic energy to push the house over. I had the opportunity to look at photographs, a collection of photographs, several hundred of them. My house does not appear in the cut-off, so it may be under the surface.

KING: Do you think it's under water or just pushed and floating?

JACOBS: It's a goner, a goner.



KING: That is the neighborhood you're looking at aerial photos of where Jake Jacobs house is. We drove through there on a boat, road through there on a boat today. He says looking at photos in the local newspaper he saw the other day, his cat up on a roof, still no word on his cat. It is now illegal for Mr. Jacobs to go back to his home because of the devastation in that neighborhood. That's the personal impact of this flooding.

It is devastating for the 330 homeowners who live in that one particular area that has been destroyed. There is also a significant economic impact here. Let's talk about the emotions and the economy. The Tunica, Mississippi mayor, Chuck Cariker is with us and also R. Scott Barber. He's Harrah's Entertainment regional president.

Mr. Mayor, I want to start with you first because when we were over at that town hall meeting today, and the FEMA officials and the state officials and the local officials were talking to the families, they are raw. The emotions are raw because they can't get back to their homes. Many did get their belongings out, but those who didn't want to see if anything has survived. You've been through there on the boat. I went through there today. The truth to those families is they are not going back into those homes.

MAYOR CHUCK CARIKER, TUNICA, MISSISSIPPI: FEMA and MEMA will make the determination when they can go back into the homes. It is devastating. It's painful to watch the slow rise of the water. We can't start the recovery and you can't start the healing process until the water goes down. And that is the part that is painful. And for their safety, for safety of others, they are not allowed back in there. And the last flood, there was not a forced evacuation and we did have loss of life. We are very fortunate this time we've not had any loss of life concerning this flood.

KING: What is the hardest part for you as their mayor and explaining to them it might be days before you can go back there? I can't let you go back there, and sorry, but you say the determination will be made, but if you go through and look at those homes, a foot of water is considered under the law destroyed. That water -- those houses are on eight, 10, 12 feet stilts and the water is up still onto the second floor.

CARIKER: It is and the Emergency Management Operations director and the Planning Commission will make the determination when it's safe for those people to go back in. There are snakes there. There are animals that have made it to roof tops that are still there that are surviving at the time. But and it's hard for them to understand that they can't go back.

KING: Twenty-five of the 330 families had flood insurance. What happens to the rest of them?

CARIKER: That determination will be made by FEMA and MEMA. They are here on scene. They're doing an outstanding job. There are two emergencies going on at the same time and that's a -- it's a difficult operation for them to handle.

KING: Mr. Barber this is one of your casinos, Harrah's Casino here, it's one of nine in this area. Obviously we are heading into the Memorial Day the beginning of the summer tourism season. You cannot with any certainty know when you might be able to bring this back open. What is the economic impact -- first and foremost on your workers, who not only are dealing with maybe devastation in their homes, devastation in their communities, they can't come to work.

R. SCOTT BARBER, REGIONAL PRES., HARRAH'S ENTERTAINMENT INC.: Well John I'm happy to report that we made that determination early even before we started to see these type of flood levels come in. And we made the decision to pay our employees during the entire duration of our closure, so our employees are all safe and out actually volunteering, giving back to the communities and being paid to do so. So we are very pleased to do that on behalf of Caesar's Entertainment.

KING: What is your sense if it is weeks and potentially longer than that? Not only on Caesar's Entertainment and the other casino companies and forgive me who have a little bit of a cushion anyway, but the domino effect. You're a big employer in this community and it's not only people who work for you right here, the pizza place, the gas station, the theater, everything else is affected. This is like having an auto manufacturing in the center of your town. Everything else in town is affected by this.

BARBER: No doubt, no doubt, on behalf of all 3,800 employees it's quite devastating as you can see. I mean, water here at this Harrah's property is abut 7.5 feet deep at the casino porticos here and the hotel porticos here. And we are hoping for, you know, as quick of a recovery as we possibly can see. I mean, the water is expected to recede only between four and six inches a day. So it's probably going to be a solid two to three weeks before we can re-enter these buildings.

KING: I am going to ask you to do me a favor and I am going to ask Doug to turn his camera into the parking lot here. Because when people just see this water, if you could turn Doug this way, when people just see this water they'd see flooding water and they see a building behind it. Explain to us, this is a parking lot. This is eight, 10 feet of water here?

BARBER: This is a parking lot all the way up to almost where we are standing here. And yes it's normally about 2,500 parking spaces and it's about 7.5 to eight feet deep, quite remarkable.

KING: Ever seen anything like this?

BARBER: Never seen anything like it, nothing quite prepares you for it and it's one of these scenarios where you have to see it to believe it.

KING: Mr. Mayor, have you ever seen anything like this, not just here but throughout your community especially when you go down to the cutoff area?

CARIKER: No. This is the worst we've ever seen here. And it is -- pictures don't do it justice. You actually have to see it yourself to really feel it and understand it.

KING: And in terms of the help you need whether it's from the state or the federal government, are you getting it as fast as you need it or is there inevitable bureaucracy and delay?

CARIKER: We are getting the help. Both organizations from state and federal have been available. They have been here. They're working devastations that were in Tuscaloosa and Smithville, Mississippi, so their resources are stretched thin. But we are getting the help as we need it. And we have no complaints as far as how people have responded.

KING: Have you been able to put a dollar figure both for the company and for the community on, let's say we go through the Memorial Day weekend and you can't open up, how much does that impact? BARBER: Well if you look at the market all nine casinos, we generate about $85 million a month in revenue or would have in the month of May, and you figure about 12 percent tax rate on top of that. So you're talking 10 to $12 million tax impact and about a $90 million top line revenue impact.

KING: That's a devastating impact on this community. Mr. Barber, appreciate your time tonight. Mr. Mayor, we'll keep in touch in the days ahead as well.

When we come back, we'll bring you the latest, we'll have more on the flood coverage later in the program. But when we come back from this break more on the latest of what we are learning from the computers and the notes seized during that raid on the bin Laden compound in Pakistan.







KING: Tonight a federal law enforcement source tells CNN counterterrorism agents are actively working leads traced to the evidence seized during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, but that official tells CNN there appears to be no indication, no indication of am imminent attack.

In the official's words, no quote, "smoking gun kind of stuff". Also today a Pakistan official tells CNN his country has no skeletons to hide and will let the United States question bin Laden's wives and his children. CNN's Reza Sayah spoke with Pakistan's interior minister in Islamabad.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, ever since the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound last week, senior Pakistani officials have been relatively quiet, not giving many interviews to the international media. But we managed to sit down with Pakistan's interior minister and asked him some questions many people want answers to.

REHMAN MALIK, PAKISTANI INTERIOR MINISTER: I was happy that he is killed, but I will not be happy they raided, the operation has been done.


MALIK: Because the sovereignty of the country we cannot compromise. SAYAH: But this was President Barack Obama's stated policy that if he found actionable intelligence that bin Laden was here in Pakistan he would go after him.

MALIK: If I decided to go do the same operation in New York, how would the people of America feel? We -- we -- what is important that the (INAUDIBLE) between the two countries must (INAUDIBLE).

SAYAH: But do you understand why, not just Washington but Pakistani people lose trust when it's discovered that bin Laden was hiding here in Pakistan all these years?

MALIK: We will say based on the information what we have. And honestly speaking we did not know. Had we known (INAUDIBLE) he wouldn't be living there.

SAYAH: I'd like to know how you didn't know. This was a man who was living in a fortress and you have intelligence agents swarming all over the country. How did they not know?

MALIK: 9/11 happened in New York with all the (INAUDIBLE) and the best available intelligence (INAUDIBLE) the American parties could not make out 9/11's culprits and they were still training in the institutions there, so sometimes intelligence failure (INAUDIBLE).

SAYAH: Who is to blame for this intelligence failure? Is it partly you? After all you are responsible for the internal security of this country.

MALIK: (INAUDIBLE) yes. I will not say total failure. I say part failure and it happens in the history of intelligence. Sometimes they are successful.

SAYAH: In your investigation, have you found any evidence that bin Laden had a support network here in Pakistan?

MALIK: There is no such thing. I told (INAUDIBLE) --

SAYAH: So you categorically deny --

MALIK: Categorically deny --

SAYAH: -- that he had a support network here.

MALIK: No support network from the official sources.

SAYAH: Interior Minister Rehman Malik also confirmed that the U.S. will have access to the three widows of Osama bin Laden who were found in the compound. This move by Islamabad will certainly help build much-needed confidence for this troubled relationship. But, certainly, a lot of questions remain about where this relationship is headed -- John.


KING: Let's get some important perspective now with CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She's a member of the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security external advisory committees. And also with us: David Sanger of "The New York Times." He's the chief Washington correspondent.

Fran, I wan to start with you first. I assume it's a step of progress, Pakistan saying the United States should be able to have access to question bin Laden's wives. Do you believe -- do you believe -- there is good intelligence, actionable intelligence, fruitful intelligence to be gained from them?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, John, it's one thing to say actionable. I don't think they are likely to have actionable. That is real time perishable information.

But I do think they will have useful intelligence to provide. They will be able to talk about what the rhythm of the compound, the schedule of the compound was, how people came and went from the compound. They can describe those that they saw coming and going. They may be able to identify them by noms de guerre, war names, aliases, if you will.

And all those are important pieces, maybe not to action immediately. But they may not mean something to those interrogators right away. But those are important pieces of -- they are dots, John. And while you can't connect them now, you may be able to connect them in the long term.

KING: You've covered U.S.-Pakistan relations for some time. A fascinating piece in the newspaper today about how President Obama insisted that that Navy SEAL team, the commando team, be beefed up just in case they ended up having to fight Pakistani security on the way out. When you listen to the interior minister there, do you get the sense that the Pakistani government gets the message and is ready to fix things with the United States or is the mistrust actually growing?

DAVID SANGER, NEW YORK TIMES: I certainly think that the mistrust is deep. And I don't see a vast improvement in it. I mean, think about what the decisions that the president made. First of all, of course, as we all know, he decided not to tell the Pakistanis in advance. And that seemed to be what Minister Malik was partly upset about, John.

But the second thing he decided was about 10 days before the operation went into effect, he changed the plan and asked the Pentagon to bring in the two backup helicopters that were going to stay in Afghanistan. About 90 minutes away from the action. Just in case the American commandos had to go fight their way out of the compound, which would mean, in fact, probably firing on Pakistani police or military, depending on who showed up.

Now, fortunately, no one from Pakistan did show up in time, and this got avoided. But it tells you how seriously the president took the need to get the commandos out and not have them come into Pakistani hands. KING: And, David, your sources suggest there's valuable things to be learned from bin Laden's wives or maybe just sort of character traits and a little sense of what was happening at that compound?

SANGER: You know, they don't know yet because it's not clear whether the wives were there at the time, that there were visitors, whether there were many visitors who came in, whether those visitors were identifiable in any way.

But, you know, in the backs of the minds of American officials is the A.Q. Khan case. You know, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was the father of the Pakistani bomb, shipped technology to Libya and to Iran and North Korea. And the U.S. was never allowed to interview him directly. And I had several U.S. officials say to me they were not going to let that happen again this time.

KING: Fran, bin Laden's son, one of bin Laden's sons released a statement today saying, you know, why did the United States kill an unarmed man, demanding a U.N. investigation. Will this have any impact is? Is it just noise, if you will, or as we've all been waiting to see, you know, will there be anger, will there be impact, will there be perhaps retaliatory strikes? Do some of that have any effect?

SANGER: You know, John, I think it's not surprising that bin Laden's own son would raise this issue, but you haven't heard that from the government of Pakistan. And, frankly, there's no reason to believe that the use of force wasn't absolutely appropriate. It's clear when you talk to U.S. officials that they were authorized to use force, if they would have captured him if they could, they expected to have to kill him. They had reasonable basis to believe there was a threat having to shoot one guy on their way to get to bin Laden and having found weapons in the compound.

And so, there is no real legal basis for such a challenge, but I think we can expect some propaganda, some noise in the system and not at all surprising that it's coming from bin Laden's son.

KING: And what's our sense -- David, to you first, 10 days out? We hear from officials in New York that they are acting on some intelligence taken from the bin Laden compound. Nothing suggesting any imminent attack, but they are looking into some things. You hear from FBI officials some fears that they think perhaps there's a lone wolf out there, somebody who's sympathetic to al Qaeda who might decide to lash out.

What are you picking up from your sources about what that they are learning that they think is helpful from the bin Laden compound and what they're worrying about?

SANGER: John, I think there are three categories of what they can learn. First, what was the support network? And, presumably, some of that is in that material. And it's important the Pakistanis don't know what the Americans are learning from that material.

The second is imminent threats, as you discussed. And the third is long-term projects. You know, before 9/11, Osama bin Laden and many others in al Qaeda central were interested in nuclear and biological weapons. They had a number of false starts.

And what no one knows is, were any of those projects continuing in recent years? There's no particular evidence to indicate so far that they were. But, certainly, that's one of the things they are going to be looking for.

KING: One thing they look for there.

Fran Townsend, almost 10 days out -- when you talk to folks in the intelligence community, in government, are they more nervous now 10 days out because they are learning more or do they seem a bit less nervous than they did back on Sunday night/Monday morning in the hours immediately after bin Laden was killed?

TOWNSEND: One, John, they sound exhausted. Two, what you hear more frequently than anything else is how overwhelming the amount of what they got was. I mean, they really are working their way through it. But I think there's a recognition now as they go through it quickly sort of immediate threats, potentially for location data on other high value targets like Zawahiri or Mullah Omar and the Taliban, what their sense is they are going to be at this, going through it very deliberately for a good period of time because there's just so much data.

And they recognize they may not appreciate the significance of all of it the first time through, that it's going to take a while to do really a full-scale analysis of the material.

KING: Important context.

Fran Townsend, and David Sanger, thanks for coming in and helping us out tonight.

Still ahead here, we'll continue our coverage of the devastating flooding. It begins in Tennessee and heads through Mississippi, where I am. They are on alert to the South and Mississippi, and then further south in Louisiana.

And up next: President Obama goes to Texas to talk about immigration reform, border security and -- gets booed.


KING: Welcome back.

Much more from Mississippi on the flooding. But, first, let's check in with Joe Johns back in Washington for the latest news you need to know right now.

Hey, Joe.


A U.S. official tells CNN certain members of Congress such as the top Democrats and Republicans on the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees will be allowed to go to CIA headquarters to see the pictures of Osama bin Laden's corpse.

The first shipment of U.S. humanitarian aid for Libya's rebels, including 10,000 ready-to-eat meals arrived in Benghazi today.

As many as 54 people are feared dead after a boat crowded with refugees capsized in Tripoli's harbor last Friday. Witnesses say 600 people may have been aboard. Only 16 bodies have been recovered.

There's a huge deal in the tech world today. Microsoft is buying Skype for $8.5 billion in cash, saying it will incorporate Skype's live video and voice calling into existing products such as Microsoft Office, Windows, phone and Xbox games.

Also today, General Motors announced its investing $2 billion across 17 of its U.S. auto plants, a move expected to save or create some 4,000 jobs.

Right now, President Obama is attending Democratic fundraisers in Austin, Texas. A few hours ago, he was in El Paso, renewing his call for comprehensive immigration reform. The president told a crowd his administration has answered Republican calls to increase border security -- but when he mentioned the border fence the crowd booed. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, we put -- we put the agents here. Then they wanted a fence. Well, the fence is --


OBAMA: The fence is now basically complete.


JOHNS: Well, you would have thought it was a campaign rally, John, until the point where they got into the boos. But still, shadows of 2012.

KING: It's interesting whether they were booing the president mentioning the fence. Some of the border communities don't like the fence because their families are used to going back and forth over generations, though, some like it. Interesting to try to figure out exactly what the booing was about.

But you say 2012, Joe, you are so dead right. The president knows he doesn't have a prayer of the Republican House brining a comprehensive immigration reform bill. So, what he's trying to do is raise the issue, say I'm going to continue to press the issue. And, yes, he wants the policy but he also wants those Latino votes in Texas and elsewhere, don't you think?

JOHNS: Yes, I would think so. It's pretty clear a lot of people say, he'll get California, but Texas is a big question. KING: Democrats think Texas is growing their way. They don't think by 2012. But maybe by 2016 we'll be talking about Democrats competing in Texas in a presidential race if the Republicans do not cure their Latino voter problem.

Joe, thanks.

We'll keep in touch with Joe Johns. When we come back, we're going to show you some remarkable scenes and some heartbreaking scenes of the flooding along the Mississippi.



GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: If you've been here long enough, you certainly know what we've gone through Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. We always know you prepare for the worst case. This is a very serious event. It's historic water levels. And we've not seen this kind of water before, in many cases, going back to 1927.


KING: That's Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal briefing reporters a few hours ago. He is predicting some 3 million acres -- 3 million acres -- of his state could be impacted by the flooding. That's in Louisiana. The water first will come south of the Mississippi. I'm in northwest Mississippi down the river.

Casey Wian is in Vicksburg.

And, Casey, they are hard-hit here. They believe they could be harder hit where you are. What is the sense and what are they doing to try to make sure those levees hold?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we spent last several days with the Army Corps of Engineers here, John. And they are definitely preparing for the worst. They've been moving mountains of earth, if you will, to try to fortify some of the levees here along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

And we can show you some pictures of one of the projects that they actually completed just today. Probably a week before this river is expected to crash. And what they are doing is laying miles, four miles of polycarbonate sheeting down on the dry side of the levee -- the side of the levee that's supposed to stay dry because they are fully expecting that the river and its tributaries will overflow that levee within the next several days.

What they are trying to do is stop the erosion from hitting farm lands on this supposedly dry side of the Mississippi and its tributaries. And I can tell you that that's not dry any more. Already, the water has started to seep over on the other side that's supposed to be dry. So, they've been rushing to get this project completed and they managed to complete that section of it today, John.

KING: And what's your sense, Casey? Obviously, officials there are warning people it's coming. It's days away. It's coming.

Sometimes, advanced warning is great because people have time to move their belongings and get out of the way. Sometimes, emergency management officials tell you that when you tell people early, that sort of dulls their sense, and they lose their sense of urgency.

What's your sense there?

CASEY: That's part of it. They are happy that they got plenty of advance notice to get people out and they they're going to get all the people out that need to get out.

But one of the problems is that this event is so slow-moving that it's going to last for a really long time. And that means that there's going to be more pressure on all of these levees and it could cause further problems down the road. You can look behind me. We're re at Diamond Jack's Casino here on the banks of the Mississippi.

And you can see the water level that has come up to the casino. Over there, you can see the door that's about four feet of water at that door. And t his casino says that they believe they could be closed until the middle of June. So, this water is going to be sticking around for a long time and that's a big problem, John.

KING: Casey Wian tracking things in Vicksburg for us. Casey, thanks.

And I'm going to go a crude geography. Casey is that way -- that way -- to my right. Your left on television. That is the south. Memphis, Tennessee, to the north.

Today, we had a rare chance to get an aerial view of the devastation here. That's a ground's eye view right here. The Desoto County sheriff's office took us for a tour. And we saw homes underwater, farmland under water, and a levee that they are working furiously, hoping -- hoping -- it doesn't breach.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About your right, this is a flood spillway. They usually control the floodwaters through the delta area. By now, they have to keep them shut down due to the flooding that is already in the south part of the delta. By doing that it allows the water to back up in this area.

This is the largest spillway so the water gets to a certain level, (INAUDIBLE) and it rolls over the top. That's where the water is now, at the top of that. It's not going-over. And it's the water in the whole channel in there. It's completely dry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are seeing the Mississippi river here.

(INAUDIBLE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This river is on the main line levee and the water is always on the main line levee and that's not normal. That's the back up. You can see right here that the water is up against the main levee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll see this and you can't see it anymore.

This is resort (INAUDIBLE) Horseshoe Casino.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down here, they are bringing in dirt.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water is coming through underneath. Seeping under the levee, that is correct. I don't know what the engineering term is, but not good.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All this land at the levee, normally completely dry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is dry land. You have never seen it like this. The thing about these houses, all the houses are like eight to 10 feet and they're built up in the air.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are on eight, 10, 15 feet and that water is right up the river. You are looking at, what, 20 to 25 feet of water.


KING: Hard to understand sometimes. Much of what you are seeing, most of that water is not supposed to be there. That is supposed to be dry parkland. That is supposed to be dry neighborhoods -- a view from above there.

When we come back, a view from boat level, above ground level because of the water -- but boat level that will break your heart.


KING: Live pictures there of the floodwaters, Tunica County in northwest Mississippi. Tunica County, this part of the state, the casinos, we're outside one of them there, one of the big job givers here. The average income: shy of $30,000. Most people in this community, blue collar, they work in the casinos, they work in the farms, they work with their hands -- many live in trailers or in modest wooden houses.

We took a vote through a community today -- once home to 330 families and now all of them destroyed.


KING: Just a string of different home sites and camps along this side of the levee and they are washed out.


KING: Three hundred and thirty homes total? And we saw one that just barely was out of the water.

GOFF: That's right. You look at 99 percent are under water.

KING: Can you see any possibility of people coming back here? These houses are destroyed.

GOFF: Yes, they are destroyed.

KING: And the local management said of the 330, 25 had flood insurance?

GOFF: Correct.

KING: Have you seen water on these streets at all?

GOFF: It would be water that would make it all the way to the base of the levee, but that's as far.

If there was a home here that, you know, was not built up, it might get water up to the door, but as far as destroy them like this, never before.

KING: Everybody was evacuated out?

GOFF: Yes, they had I think three people said at the time that they were going to stay and went to Mississippi (INAUDIBLE) and they took over and didn't give them a choice. They told them to pack what they could and get out. I mean, there was probably half the people lived out here that said that there was no way they were going to get to their house. They just knew they wouldn't do it.

KING: They didn't think the water would get here?

GOFF: No way. They have been here 40 years and said no way it's going to get this high.

KING: In normal circumstances, it will be dry below us and we are in 32 feet of water.

GOFF: We're in 32 feet of water.

KING: Thirty-two feet of water.

GOFF: Right.

KING: Who lived here? What kinds of people are we talking about?

GOFF: Retired, a lot of retired people out there. Some young couples that, you know, working class. They work in the casinos --

KING: Blue collar working people?

GOFF: Right.

KING: So, the people who have the least.

GOOF: Exactly.


KING: Breaks your heart to be in there. Those people are never going home.

That's all from us tonight in Tunica County, Mississippi.

"IN THE ARENA" starts right now.