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Secrets in bin Laden's Journal Revealed; After Osama bin Laden; Flood Disaster Rolls South; Newt Gingrich Running for President; An Office Perk Unlike Any Other

Aired May 11, 2011 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: "They're in reality. We like the duality?" Simon, Alex's husband for the New York Housewives has a song, "We're Officially through the Looking Glass, People". You can literally have an entire dance party with the soundtrack and nothing but reality star songs and that dance party would of course take place in Haiti with Lucifer himself as the deejay or in Andy's Club house on Bravo.

And even in the burning pits in the presence of the dark lord, Michaele Salahi would still be telling anyone who would listen that she was once on TV and perhaps even on the "RidicuList." We'll be right back.


COOPER: Good evening everyone.

Tonight, breaking news on two fronts: a top U.S. lawmaker has seen the bin Laden death photos and tonight describes what he saw. And a blockbuster revelation, Osama bin Laden kept a journal, a hand-written diary of death, a wish list of ways to kill as many Americans as possible. Navy Seals grabbed it. U.S. intelligence now has it.

And what is inside, along with other seized material and computer flash drives, demolishes any notion that Osama bin Laden was merely some aging figurehead channel-surfing his way through semi-retirement. Instead it demonstrates that the man who lived as many as six years inside this compound in the same town as Pakistan's military academy was still in command and control in a very detailed way. Still in communication with his troops, still very much a threat.

You know, ever since the raid that killed bin Laden, many in Pakistan seem to be expressing more outrage over the raid instead of being outraged over the fact that bin Laden lived for so long on Pakistani soil. We're "Keeping Them Honest" on that tonight.

But we beginning with the breaking news with Jeanne Meserve and CNN national security analyst, Fran Townsend are learning tonight from their sources about the intelligence bonanza. Fran by the way was homeland security adviser in the last administration. Currently serves on the Department of Homeland Security and CIA external advisory committee.

Jeanne, the handwritten journal of bin Laden that was seized in the raid, what kind of clues does it offer about bin Laden and his role in al Qaeda?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's still being analyzed at this point in time, Anderson. But it does name key dates on which Osama bin Laden wanted to see the United States hit, and those include Christmas, the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

It mentioned specific cities, notably Washington and New York and it talks about modes of attack. It was from this journal that the information was gleaned about the possible threat to rail lines, which caused that alert last week in the immediate hours after Osama bin Laden's death.

In addition, U.S. officials say that they have also found communications which indicate that Osama bin Laden was communicating back and forth with other terrorists. He was not just sitting in this compound looking at videotapes of himself; he was more than a figurehead, they say. He was also strategic, operational and even tactical in his communications -- Anderson.

COOPER: Which begs the question, Fran, about whether or not he had a support network in Pakistan; if he's able to get and receive messages, and most notably received messages back, that indicates some level of -- of -- of support beyond just a single courier.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: That's exactly right, Anderson. And we've got to presume that he didn't have just a single network, right. The courier couldn't have just always gone to the same people. He probably had multiple routes and he would have varied that in order to avoid detection.

And so it begs the question, were there officials inside the Pakistani government or perhaps more likely retired officials from the Pakistani military or intelligence service that were providing support, were tipping him off if there was interest, and providing this network.

COOPER: Right, because in the past, we've seen retired officials with the ISI, which is the military intelligence service there.


TOWNSEND: That's right.

COOPER: They're the ones who sort of have had maintained direct contact with the Haqqani networks of the Taliban or other terrorist groups inside Pakistan.

TOWNSEND: It's exactly right. And it was part of their job, frankly, even when they were active, to maintain these networks. And so when these guys retire from ISI, the Pakistani military intelligence service, that they maintain these -- these relationships, these contacts. They tend to report back into active duty, ISI people.

And we also suspected, at least during the Bush administration, that these were some of the ways in which al Qaeda targets got tipped off before a raid because all of a sudden these guys -- you would go to do a raid and the guys would move and clearly they had been tipped off in advance.

COOPER: And it's interesting, and Jeanne we're going to hear it later on in the program, the interior minister of Pakistan flat out denies that there's any network in Pakistan active. How he would know that right at this point, even though they claim there's an investigation under way, I'm not sure.

But Jeanne, we also now know more about how the FBI is handling some of the information seized in the raid, how it's being processed to look for possible threats.


We've known Anderson, about this multi-agency task force that has been sifting through the computers and the flash drives and the paperwork, trying to get information. And I'm told by law enforcement sources some of that information has been pushed out to the FBI, that many of the 56 FBI offices around the country are now engaged in following up on potential leads, things like telephone numbers.

Now, this source does tell me that at this point they have not uncovered any plots that indicate anything at all is imminent. But what they're trying to do is possibly open new avenues of investigation or find pieces of intelligence that fit into a larger puzzle. That fit with things they found out previously that might clarify exactly what they're dealing with. It's a work in progress -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Jeanne, do we know, we may not know this at this point because as you said, it's still being investigated and still being looked into, but how wide his communication was?

MESERVE: At this point in time, we haven't been given an indication of that.


Have agents uncovered any info that's -- that's actually have been acted on? I mean, we did have this alert last week about -- about rail service; that came from this.

MESERVE: I talked to some law enforcement sources who say no, that there has not been any actionable intelligence out of this. There hasn't been anything that's more than aspirational. Nothing that indicates that anything was -- was under way, that they are in the process now of quashing any imminent plots. It's not that.

It's more the -- the difficult work of law enforcement, the sorts of things they do every day.


COOPER: Right.

MESERVE: Taking leads. They just happen to have a lot of them right now and tracking them down, following them up and seeing where they lead.

COOPER: You know, Fran, we've heard from al Qaeda since bin Laden's death, confirming that he's dead. But we did not hear them name a successor.


COOPER: You find that interesting.

TOWNSEND: I do. Because, of course, issuing -- if you're in hiding, if you're Zawahiri and you're in hiding, it's difficult and there's a timeline to issuing statements. And so you want to be pretty careful. You don't do it every day. You try to minimize it and get information out.

And so they went to the trouble of issuing a statement after bin Laden's death. And it would have made perfect sense to me that if you were going to name Zawahiri, who was the obvious heir apparent, if you will, that you would have done it all in a single statement so you didn't have to take the risk of issuing a second statement. And we didn't see that.

Now, we assume that the -- that the Shura council of al Qaeda would confirm Zawahiri's succession his ascendance to lead al Qaeda, we haven't seen that, we haven't heard that yet. And of course, the intelligence before this has suggested Zawahiri's a difficult guy, difficult to get along with, doesn't have the same charisma as bin Laden, doesn't have the power to quell this sort of discontent among the affiliates --


COOPER: Right.

TOWNSEND: -- that bin Laden had.

And so we have to wonder is it a lack of support for his ascension to the leadership of al Qaeda.

COOPER: And he is a controversial figure, even within al Qaeda, not well liked as you've said on this program before.

Fran Townsend, I appreciate it; Jeanne Meserve as well, thanks for the late reporting for us.

Coming up, we'll talk to Congressman Ron Paul about the new information about bin Laden and what he thinks of what we should do about Pakistan.

But first we want to look at Pakistan's very mixed record on fighting terrorism and their failure to find bin Laden. As far back as January of 2002, Pakistan's leadership said that bin Laden was probably dead and certainly not in Pakistan. In fact, about three years later, not only was bin Laden still alive and well, he was living comfortably near Pakistan's equivalent of West Point. As we mentioned at the top, it begs the question, did he have a support network in Pakistan? Today we learned he was able to communicate with his terror network, as Jeanne and Fran were just talking about.

But Pakistan's interior minister categorically denies he had a support network in Pakistan. And Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. says his government and the Pakistani nation had no interest in harboring bin Laden, and that a complete investigation is under way to figure out how that happened. You're going to hear more from him shortly.

But just today, Pakistan's opposition leader, its former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for another kind of investigation. Not into what bin Laden was doing in Pakistan all these years. Instead he wants to know why the Pakistani military didn't know about the May 2nd raid.

There are reports as well which the ambassador denies that China may be given access to pieces of that stealth chopper that went down in the bin Laden compound. And it was the attempted leaking of the CIA station chief's name of Pakistan to local media. Clearly there are a lot of factors in play at the moment in that country. And Pakistan's government has factions -- factions within it that are apparently slugging it out.

There's also the growing sense of it here in America for the United States to wash its hands of the whole mess. You'll hear Congressman Ron Paul say so tonight; he and others calling for cutting off or drastically limiting aid to Pakistan, especially its military.

According to Congressional Research Service, America has sent Pakistan more than $14 billion in security-related aid since 2002. And there's another $1.6 billion in the pipeline for next year. Add that to about $6.5 billion in economic aid over the same period that makes Pakistan one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid.

Now during that time, the Pakistani government has helped capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda leaders also hiding in that country. At the same time it's also cut peace deals with the Taliban and permitted nuclear scientists A.Q. Khan to pedal Pakistani nuclear secrets to Libya and North Korea.

Despite that, even though the Obama administration has dramatically stepped up drone attacks on Pakistani targets American officials in both administrations have said things like this.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Pakistan is a -- is a friendly country. We've had friendly relations with Pakistan for many, many years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pakistan is a -- an important friend and ally for the United States.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States does indeed consider Pakistan a strategic partner and a good friend.

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Clearly, Pakistan is clearly a very strong ally of the United States in this.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're also helping because Pakistan is our partner.


COOPER: Well, the question is, which Pakistan? I talked about it with Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani.


COOPER: Mr. Ambassador, new reports today that bin Laden was sending and receiving messages from his compound, that he was in communication with a network of people in Pakistan, perhaps even beyond. This obviously raises even more questions about Pakistan's failure to find him.

HUSAIN HAQQANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I think that the question of Pakistan not having found Osama bin Laden is something that we are addressing. The important thing is that Pakistan wants to get to the bottom of this. We had no interest whatsoever, as a nation, as a government, as a state, in keeping Osama bin Laden in our country.

COOPER: You say that your government is looking into it. But -- but a lot of people in the United States doubt the seriousness of that. In an interview with Charlie Rose, you said that -- that bin Laden had a private support network, which were your words.

But just yesterday in a -- in an interview with our reporter, the Pakistani interior minister said the exact opposite. I just want to play that for you.


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

REHMAN MALIK, PAKISTANI INTERIOR MINISTER: There is no such thing at all. You are not an iota of doubt in the mind of --

SAYAH: So you categorically deny --

MALIK: Categorically deny --

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

MALIK: No support network.


COOPER: It sounds like your interior minister has already made up his mind before any investigation is complete or even begun. HAQQANI: I think -- I think there are two points that the interior minister is trying to make.

I think the first point he's trying to make is that there is no indication that there was a support network within the government or any of its institutions or within our law enforcement agencies. He just didn't state it that clearly. But I think that's how I understood him.


COOPER: But he categorically denied it.

HAQQANI: Yes. And the second thing I think he was trying to say was that, so far, what they know is that that has not been the case.

The United States has a lot of information that they got from the compound. We have some people that we will be interrogating. This is not something that we can actually reach a conclusion about just over different television networks.

COOPER: But our reporter is asking if -- he said was there -- have you found any evidence? And the interior minister said there's no such thing at all. He wasn't saying no, we haven't found anything yet. And then our reporter said you categorically deny he had a support network here? And your interior minister said, yes, he categorically denies it, no support network.

That doesn't sound like he has any doubt.

HAQQANI: I would not like to comment on his specific words.

But I'm just telling you that the position of the government of Pakistan remains that Osama bin Laden was somebody who was a perpetrator of international terrorism. Pakistan had no interest in protecting him, has no interest in protecting anyone who may have protected him and we will work with all countries, especially the United States, to make sure that whoever was involved in keeping him in our country definitely is brought to justice.

COOPER: You have admitted, though, on -- on -- in one interview that the government or that somebody dropped the ball. CIA Director Panetta in this country has said that Pakistan officials were either involved or incompetent. Is that the choice? Would you pick between one of those two?

HAQQANI: As far as dropping the ball is concerned, that is obvious. I mean, Osama bin Laden was physically inside of Pakistan without any of our law enforcement institutions --


COOPER: Do you think it's a choice between incompetence and involvement?

HAQQANI: I think that it is something that the prime minister of Pakistan has already assigned a senior officer of the Pakistani military to look at. I'm sure we will found out what really happened.

COOPER: The interior minister has also said that he would allow the U.S. to question bin Laden's wives, the three wives who were taken from the compound.

I have talked to one former Bush administration official who had dealings over the years in Pakistan who said sometimes Pakistani officials promise one thing, but don't deliver on it.

When do you actually expect U.S. officials to get access to be able to interview and/or interrogate these women?

HAQQANI: I'm not going to go into the specifics of intelligence cooperation. All I'm going to say is that the people who deal with these matters in the U.S. government will, within the next two to three days, be talking to you and others and they will make it very clear to you what exactly is the state of play.

COOPER: Can you at least guarantee that U.S. officials will be allowed access to bin Laden's wives who are in custody?

HAQQANI: Pakistan and the United States will continue to share intelligence. The arrangements are going to be worked out between both our sides.

COOPER: Has Pakistan shared with the Chinese government the -- any of the technology from the -- this secret helicopter that parts of it were left behind at the bin Laden compound?

HAQQANI: Pakistan is not going to share any technology, and I don't think our friends in China have shown any interest in doing so.

COOPER: For years, though, as you know, President Musharraf and other Pakistani officials have said that bin Laden is not in Pakistan. They have said Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is not in Pakistan. Al-Zawahiri, they have said, is not in Pakistan.

Given the fact that Osama bin Laden was indeed in Pakistan, as U.S. intelligence was saying all along, do you now admit that it's likely that Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban, is in Pakistan, and that the number two of al Qaeda is in Pakistan?

HAQQANI: Anderson, it's not for me to admit because I do not deal with day-to-day intelligence. But the fact remains that after the Osama bin Laden incident, we have to work together much more closely about Mullah Omar, about al-Zawahiri, about all the other people who are considered by the international community and by Pakistan as terrorists.

COOPER: Do you anticipate hearing -- that we will be hearing down the road from other Pakistani officials that, no, no, no, there's no way Mullah Omar is here in Pakistan? Do you think we will continue to hear that?

HAQQANI: I'm sure that there are people who will say all sorts of things. Pakistan is a huge country with a huge government, with inexperienced and new politicians, with a lot of civil servants, a lot of law enforcement officers who do not have the experience always of being able to talk to people like yourself and your reporters.

So you will hear a lot of things. But I'm just telling you authoritatively that the United States and Pakistan, at a government- to-government level, intelligence-to-intelligence level and military- to-military level, are in close contact. We are not in the business of denial or contradiction right now. We are trying to get to the bottom of things, understand the intelligence and work together.

And at the same time, we continue to be concerned about unilateral actions and would prefer if the United States works with Pakistan, instead of making Pakistan look like the bad guy here.

COOPER: Ambassador Haqqani, I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

HAQQANI: Pleasure.


COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. We're on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.

Up next, more breaking news: proof of death; hear from the senator who has just seen the photos of bin Laden's body the public won't be allowed to view.

Also tonight, Congressman Ron Paul, he says he's glad bin Laden is dead, but what about the mission to get him and our relationship with Pakistan? Is it worth it? The answer may surprise you.

And later, the breaking news out of Libya, reports of massive new explosions in Tripoli and an exclusive report from inside Misrata still under siege, but now celebrating a major opposition victory.


COOPER: More breaking news tonight, select members of Congress describing what very few Americans have seen and the general public will not be privy to, photos of bin Laden's dead body.

Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe spoke to CNN's Eliot Spitzer about what he saw. And as you'll hear, he also had a little trouble with bin Laden's first name.


SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: There are 15 pictures. The first 12 were taken in the compound right -- it's obvious it is right after the incident took place. So they're pretty grueling.

The other three were taken on the ship. And they included the burial at sea. So, I would -- I would say this. Three of the first 12 pictures were of Obama (SIC) when he was alive. And they did this for the purpose of being able to look at those and seeing the nose, the eyes and his relationship for positive identification purposes. And that was good.

One of the things that was -- and I had to make my own conclusion on this, because they're not really sure. One of the shots went through an ear and out through the eye socket, or it went in through the eye socket and out, but it exploded. And it was that kind of ordnance that it was. Now, that caused the brains to be hanging out of the eye socket. So that was pretty gruesome.

But the revealing shots, really, I thought, the pictures, were the three that were taken on the USS Vinson in the Northern Arabian Sea. And they were the ones that showed him during the cleanup period.

In the cleanup period, he had some kind of undergarment on, very, very pale, but they had taken enough blood and material off of his face so it was easier to identify who it was.


COOPER: Well, members of Senate and House committees dealing with national security issues are being given a chance to view the photos. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham wants them made public, calls President Obama's decision to withhold them a mistake.

Earlier tonight, I talked to Texas Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul and possible new presidential candidate Ron Paul about bin Laden, his still-active role running al Qaeda, and whether it was worth the money and effort to kill him.


COOPER: There's new information today out confirming that bin Laden was indeed communicating with other terrorists from his compound. Authorities say they have a diary of his that shows not only that he sent out instructions, but also received communications back.

You have expressed doubts, though, that this killing actually makes the U.S. safer.

REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: I don't think that the fact that he is now dead automatically makes us a lot safer. That's -- that's my point.

And my other complaint has been it cost too much. It cost 10 years, invading two or three countries, killing a lot of people, 5,000-plus American lives cost, a trillion dollars, to go after one guy? And we're supposed to now feel a lot safer?

But I do think it's a perfect opportunity to say, look, we have spent all that. We have spent all those years and money over there and he's finally dead. It's time to come home. And that's my point.

COOPER: You're saying this is time to rethink Afghanistan, time for U.S. troops to pull out of Afghanistan?

PAUL: Oh, oh, absolutely. And the momentum is building. I feel good about what's happening on the Hill now. It was coincidental, but on that Thursday just of last week, we introduced a bill, a coalition between Republicans and Democrats, that urges the President to end this war. And that plan was laid before bin Laden was killed. And I think that the momentum is building. I think the American people are ready to quit fighting all these wars.

COOPER: Isn't there a risk, though, that once we leave Afghanistan that that country turns into a vacuum that, you know, allows the remnants of al Qaeda to grow again?

PAUL: Well, there's always -- always a danger. But there's a danger all around the world that things can happen.

But no, I think we're in greater danger by killing more innocent Muslims around the world, because there's a lot of collateral damage that we have been participating in since the early '90s, all through -- all through the '90s, bombing Iraq, and that was one of the excuses for 9/11.

So, I would say the less that we do of that, the less danger we're in.

COOPER: Were you surprised where Osama bin Laden was actually found and do you think someone in the Pakistani government knew about it?

PAUL: Well, I don't know that, but you wonder. But it does make the very positive point that I have made for years that foreign -- foreign aid is not a good investment, you know, whether you give it to Egypt or whether you give it to Pakistan, you know, because we don't bear fruit from those investments.

So, I assume they probably could have known, but, you know, the Pakistani government has cooperated with us in the past.


COOPER: So you say no foreign aid whatsoever to any place?

PAUL: No. There's no -- there's no basis for it. I don't think it's worthwhile. I don't think there's an authority to take money from poor people in this country and give it to rich dictators around the world. And that's what foreign aid's all about.

And it's also a big assistance to the military industrial complex, because as we send moneys around the world, there are conditions. Sometimes, the money never leaves. It just goes to the military industrial complex and then there's war profits made and other people get the weapons and our country becomes poorer. And now we're in this huge financial mess.

COOPER: Finally, when you heard that bin Laden was killed, what -- what went through your mind? And was there a moment where you said, oh, this is a good thing? Or what were your thoughts?

PAUL: Well, I put a statement in the record, a five-minute speech about why I thought this was good that it's happening. I don't -- I didn't approve of the process that happened. But I thought, well, maybe we can put this behind us. And, to me, it gave me an opportunity to say, all right, it's over. We're over there doing all this warmongering and then rebuilding Afghanistan, which will never be successful. This is the opportunity for us to come home, and I believe the American people agree with me on that.

COOPER: Congressman Ron Paul, I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.



COOPER: Tonight, devastating flooding along the Mississippi River is moving farther south. In Memphis, the river has crested at nearly 48 feet. That's nearly 14 feet above flood stage. You can see how swollen the river is in these aerial shots. In Mississippi, 14 counties have been declared major disaster areas.

In Tunica, floodwaters have driven about 600 people from their homes, and forced casinos to close, big economic blow for the city. And in Arkansas, the state's farm bureau says more than a million acres of cropland are underwater right now, the estimated damage at least $500 million.

Meantime, Louisiana is bracing for flooding with the river's crest expected to arrive next week.

Martin Savidge joins me now from Arkansas -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, right now, you can't see it necessarily in the darkness, but behind us here, it would appear to be that we're on the banks of a river. We're not. We're on the banks of a farmer's field.

And instead of seeing acre after acre of farmland out there, what you look at is mile after mile of what is water. There should be no water, absolutely, within sight of this place. But now, it stretches all the way to the horizon here.

And as you point out the impact on the farming community here has been significant, not just on this farmer's field but, as you said, a million acres under water; $500 million. And that's really just a best guesstimate on the state agriculture industry.

And this is an industry that's about $16 billion in the state annually, so that's a large chunk of money and quite frankly they really aren't going to know the final tally for say another month and a half because it will take that long for these fields to drain. And then the farmers have to figure out what crop can they plant mid- season.

Let me show you something else that's going on here. Two farmers own this land and the water threatened their home. So they were quick to act and they put this dike up. It was built in a day and a half using a backhoe. It's about 100 yards square; it surrounds their entire house. If that dike wasn't there, their house would be gone.

Their neighbor's houses are already gone. They've been able to save their property by that earthen dam there. The only problem is the water continues to rise here, Anderson. They're not certain it will maintain or hold back the level, depending on how high it rises; how fast and how long it stays up -- Anderson.

COOPER: And where are the flood waters expected to move next?

SAVIDGE: Well, that's a good question. I mean the interesting thing about this disaster is that you can plot it by your calendars. There's no sudden storm that comes in the middle of the night with this one. This is one that you can actually mark it by the calendar.

For instance, on the 16th it's going to be in Greenville, Mississippi. On the 18th, it's going to be in Vicksburg, and then it's going to probably be down in the New Orleans area between the dates of the 24th and the 26th of this month. It takes a while for this huge swath of water to get to where it's going. But once it's there, it lingers. Then it's going to take a long time.

So this is a disaster that's going to be with us for the rest of the month of May -- Anderson.

COOPER: So strange you can plot it so clearly like that. I guess it gives folks some sort of time to prepare. But for a lot of folks there's no way to really prepare. You have no idea where the water is exactly going to go.

Martin, appreciate it. Thanks very much -- from Arkansas tonight.

Still ahead, breaking news in Libya: reports of rocket strikes in Tripoli tonight.

Plus the latest from Misrata where opposition forces have apparently scored a victory at the airport where that city is still under siege and the resistance, the opposition is putting up -- it's remarkable they've been able to hold on. We have some good news out of Misrata for you tonight from correspondent Marie Colvin who's there for "The Sunday Times".


COOPER: In Libya breaking news tonight. Just a short time ago, at least four large explosions rocked Tripoli, one right after the other. Government officials say four rockets fired from the sea hit Gadhafi's compound. Earlier NATO jets were heard flying over the capital.

It's been a fast-moving day in Libya. Earlier Libyan state television broadcast this video which it said shows Gadhafi meeting today with tribal elders in a Tripoli hotel. He still wears his glasses indoors apparently.

A CNN International reporter said Libyans in the lobby of her hotel broke out in cheers while watching it, if it really was shot today it would be proof that Gadhafi really had survived the NATO air strike two weeks ago in the compound where he was reportedly staying.

Libyan officials said one of Gadhafi's sons was killed in that raid while the elder Gadhafi escaped. He had not though been seen publicly in the last two weeks.

Meantime, in the western port city of Misrata, opposition fighters have apparently taken control of the local airport, and been able to push Gadhafi forces back from there. Misrata has obviously been besieged now for two months, still surrounded on three sides. It's seen some of the fiercest fighting

Marie Colvin, Middle East correspondent for "The Sunday Times of London" is in Misrata. I talked to her earlier.


COOPER: Marie, we've heard that the opposition forces in Misrata have taken the airport and are holding on to it. How significant is that?

MARIE COLVIN, CORRESPONDENT, "THE SUNDAY TIMES": It's huge, Anderson. In fact, the last two days have seen a real breakthrough in what has been a stalemate. The airport is south of Misrata -- we're besieged here, as you know, on three sides. The airport is south. It's really a huge area.

They took the whole thing today. That's significant, not just because of the land they've taken and forced Gadhafi's troops off of, but that's where a lot of the ground launchers and the tents are located, that are hurling high explosives and artillery shells into Misrata, randomly into civilian areas.

So, that's what the rebels are trying to do is get them out of there, as well as Gadhafi's forces. And we've got the first quiet night we've had in a while.

COOPER: Has NATO been helpful? Has NATO been continuing to patrol the skies, to bomb the Gadhafi positions that they can find in and around Misrata?

COLVIN: Until the last two days, everyone in Misrata was saying what is NATO doing? Yesterday and today, there's been quite very serious attacks on tanks, missile launchers. Before that, they seemed to have been going for control centers.

COOPER: I've been so moved obviously by the pictures we've seen not just of the civilians dying but of the people in Misrata who have been fighting back and fighting back. It's extraordinary that they have been able to hold on this long.

What have you seen, what do you attribute that to?

COLVIN: Here in Misrata, people -- remember, these people did not know how to use a gun until two months ago. Their homes, their families, their backs were to the sea, there's nowhere to go. They had to learn how to shoot. They had to learn how to fight. Today was a day that the rebels just poured out in the streets, joined by civilians. People were crying and hugging each other when they got that airport, when they got that air academy, when they were able to stop rockets from the south.

Now, this is not complete victory. Remember, we're still -- there are still tanks and rocket launchers both west and on the east. But this was a big breakthrough for the rebels of Misrata.

COOPER: Will they be able to start getting supplies by air at that airport? Will they be able to get the wounded out? Because up until now, it's just been the occasional boats and ferries that have taken people from Misrata, from the port to Benghazi and other places.

COLVIN: No, the airport is not going to be able to open, largely because no one would trust Gadhafi's forces not to use anti-aircraft against any plane, civilian plane, even if it's carrying only humanitarian supplies. I think Misrata is still going to have to rely on boats coming in about one day of the week they're getting in and that's because the port is also being shelled.

COOPER: And still they resist.

Marie Colvin, I appreciate your reporting. It's been extraordinary as always. Thank you. Please stay safe.


COOPER: Coming up also tonight, the race is on. Newt Gingrich making it official today, announcing that he's running for president. Excuse me. I'll talk to his former press secretary next. Also I'll talk with Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher.


COOPER: Sign of the times: when Newt Gingrich officially announced today that he's running for president, he did it on Twitter. In a video posted online, the former House Speaker said he's seeking the 2012 GOP presidential nomination because he wants to return America to hope and opportunity. He talked more about his campaign on the "Sean Hannity Show" tonight and said that he thinks President Obama will be hard to beat.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, he's going to say whatever he needs to, to win. Second, he's going to have all the advantages of the mainstream media. He's going to have all the advantages of left-wing billionaires like George Soros. He's going to have all the advantages of the Hollywood crowd. And they're going to go out and have all the advantages of the unions. And so they're going to try to raise a billion dollars for a practical reason, he can't afford to run in a fair election.


GINGRICH: If he was on an equal playing field, he would lose.


COOPER: Republican strategist Rich Galen is Gingrich's former press secretary and communications director. He joins us live from Washington; and in Washington also, CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, who was an Obama pollster in 2008.

Rich, I heard you say that Gingrich's biggest challenge is going to be making the old Newt the new Newt. What do you mean by that?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Newt will be 68 years old next month. His last big massive political victory was in 1994, 17 years ago. And I think for a lot of voters looking at this situation, talking about Newt helping take over control of the House in that 1994 election is the equivalent of talking about FDR and the New Deal. It's just ancient history.

COOPER: Why do you think he's running?

GALEN: Well, I think he's running because he truly does believe that he has some answers and a vision that can alter the nature and the direction of the country. And the challenge that he has is to convince people that -- especially younger voters, the ones that go after the shopping centers, that get the signatures, that help you do all those things -- to convince them that he is relevant to the 21st century.

Frankly, the Twitter, the YouTube, the Facebook; it seemed a little bit to me as he was trying just a touch too hard to kind of accomplish that on day one of his campaign.

COOPER: Cornell, you polled, as I said, for Obama the last election. I think you're going to do it again for the upcoming one, if I'm not mistaken. How strong an adversary do you think Gingrich is for Obama?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think the problem with Newt is that he will start off in a general election with some fairly high negatives and one of the toughest things for any politician, whether you're Democrat or Republican, to do, if you have established negatives is to turn those negatives around.

There's not a lot of reintroducing you can do of Newt Gingrich for the older elected who know who he is and quite frankly for the most part have a negative attitude or a negative view of him. So it's going to be a real challenge for him to take what is right now viewed as a rather high negative and turn those around to positives. In politics, that is one of the toughest things to do is when people have a negative notion of you is to change their minds about that.

COOPER: Are those negative notions based on ideas that they disagree with or personality or, you know, past history?

BELCHER: Past history. And a lot of it stems from him shutting down the government. That was where I think you saw a lot of the sort of the public turned on him and quite frankly I think what makes him a strong primary candidate for the Republican Party is exactly the sort of things that make him not a strong candidate in the general election. Because he had to cater to his base and he had to run so far to the right as speaker that I think it drove negatives for independent voters and some of the more mainstream voters.

COOPER: Rich -- sorry, go ahead.

GALEN: Let me just speak to this point, just to follow what Cornell was saying. In the 1996 cycle, we calculated that Democrats and their allies -- unions and what have you -- spent somewhere in the area of $60 million running ads against Newt Gingrich, who was, after all, only running to be re-elected to his House seat. And what they did successfully was they created -- it was like the golden -- the Golden Arches. When you're driving down the highway and you see that, you know everything you need to know about the restaurant behind that sign.

COOPER: Rich Galen, it's good to have you in the program; Cornell Belcher as well. Guys, thanks very much.

Also ahead, fascinated with this royal fascinator? Now Princess Beatrice's wacky hat could be yours, for a price.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: All right, another quick update of the headlines with Isha Sesay in a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the U.S. Navy is backing off a plan that would allow same-sex marriages on some military bases once the "don't ask, don't tell" policy ends. The marriages would only be permitted in states that allow such ceremonies. The critics say the unions would violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. So now the plan is on hold pending a review.

Famed Evangelist Billy Graham is hospitalized in Asheville, North Carolina and is being treated for pneumonia. The 92-year-old minister is said to be stable, fully alert and in good spirits.

Stocks tumbled on Wall Street today as oil prices fell. The Dow shed 130 points to close at 12,630. The Nasdaq lost 27 while the S&P fell 15 points.

And Anderson, for all of those who want to get their hands on the infamous fascinator Princess Beatrice wore for the royal wedding --

COOPER: That's what it's called: the fascinator?

SESAY: It is indeed and this is their moment. She's auctioning off the Philip Treacy creation on eBay to raise money for UNICEF. That's what her mother Sarah Ferguson revealed on "The Oprah Winfrey Show". Now as you point out, Treacy's hats can cost around $3,000. Personally I think it hit the mark with this. But it might make a really good toilet paper holder.

COOPER: Up next, "The Connection". We take you inside Google's high- tech workshops for what could be the ultimate job perk.


COOPER: In this week's edition of "The Connection", we're the first TV organization to get access to what could be the ultimate perk at Google. The Internet and software company has more than 26,000 employees worldwide, but just 300 are allowed to play around in what's known as Google workshops, a playground for innovators.

Here's CNN's Dan Simon.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a car and high-tech cameras affixed to the roof, Google pioneered the 360 degrees Street View from the Golden Gate Bridge to New York's Times Square to other landmarks here and overseas.

(on camera): Google's Street View became such a popular feature on the site, but there was one small problem, you can't take a car everywhere. So you're looking at the solution.

(voice-over): It's a jumbo tricycle designed to take you to those hard to get places. Daniel Ratner came up with the idea a couple of years during a trip to Spain.

DANIEL RATNER, GOOGLE ENGINEER: Walking around cobblestone alleyways where it was so narrow, cars couldn't even fit inside there and yet that was one of the coolest areas of the whole city.

SIMON: This innovative idea was created here, the Google workshops. And this is the first time a TV news organization has been given access.

GREG BUTTERFIELD, GOOGLE R&D LABS MANAGER: This isn't the stuff you're going to find in Home Depot.

SIMON: Top of the line machinery for wood, metal and electronics. The manager Greg Butterfield describes it as sort of a sand box to test ideas. The company already known for its lavish perks including round-the-clock free gourmet food is offering this one to anyone with the skills.

(on camera): Where does this rank in terms of the perks offered at Google?

BUTTERFIELD: I guess it depends on who you ask, right. But I think for a large population I think this would be considered a core perk. This is something that typically a company doesn't offer.

SIMON (voice-over): but it's not for everyone. Workers need to be certified before they operate the machinery. Only 300 of 10,000 on campus have a pass. But once you're in, the materials are free and come any time, even on weekends.

CHRIS ELLIOTT, SOFTWARE ENGINEER: It's pretty much like being back in college; you work late into the night.

SIMON: Chris Elliott, a software engineer who works on Smartphones is experimenting with robotic toys.

ELLIOTT: You've got the arms, waist, you have, for example, the disco points.

SIMON: He hopes one day they'll show up in a store. But it doesn't have to be about business. Employees are free to pursue personal projects, as well.

(on camera): So under the project that you're working on here, what is it that you're trying to make?

IHAB AWAB, SOFTWARE ENGINEER: I'm making a recumbent bicycle. I enjoy recumbent bicycles.

SIMON (voice-over): Ihab Awab is in here once a week, taking a break from writing security software; a benefit where sparks can fly, on the ground and by firing up creativity.

Dan Simon, CNN, Mountain View, California.


COOPER: And that's "The Connection" for this week.

That does it for 360. Thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow night.