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Can Romney Keep Up Momentum?; Mississippi Pardon Controversy Continues

Aired February 1, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is 10:00, everyone, here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with new developments in a story we have been following right from the start. The more we learn, the worse it gets. This is about the controversy surrounding former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who, on his way out of office, pardoned about 200 people, including these four convicted killers.

The decision has set off an uproar. It has raised enough legal questions that a judge has blocked the pardons, but not before these killers were set free, set free, by the way, from the governor's mansion. That's where, under a now suspended program, they worked both for the governor and critics say worked on the governor, winning his trust, playing on his sympathy, even though some of their crimes are absolutely horrific.

Governor Barbour remains unavailable to answer questions on our program at least despite our repeated attempts to reach him. His office today issued a statement, which we will read a portion shortly.

When he has spoken about this, not on this program, the governor suggested that these committed quote, "crimes of passion" and that experts say such killers are the least likely to re-offend.

Now, we have shown you that he is wrong on both counts. This man for instance, Joseph Ozment, one of the four killers. He shot a clerk three times on his way into the convenience store that he was robbing. On his way out, he shot twice more as the clerk was begging for his life. He got away with about $60. Ozment was spared a possible death sentence when he ratted out his partner in the deadly robbery. It was not a crime of passion.

David Gatlin acted alone when he shot and killed his estranged wife, Tammy and badly wounded her friend, Randy Walker. By the way, Tammy's mother says he relentlessly stalked her before seeing his opportunity to strike. And by the way, Tammy was holding on to their baby in her arms when she was shot. Doesn't sound like a crime of passion. Stalking, then killing someone and trying to eliminate the witness.

Here's the first officer on the murder scene described David Gatlin to CNN's Martin Savidge.


DAVID RUTH, FIRST OFFICER AT GATLIN MURDER SCENE: I think he's a barbaric individual that can just senselessly cold-bloodedly shoot someone like that and especially holding his child, his own child and him leave that child laying in the floor not to at least pick him up and take him with him. This individual is not where he belongs.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You think he's still dangerous?

RUTH: I think he's very dangerous.


COOPER: And he's free. Next week, he and the others are expected in court where the legality of the pardons will be argued. And as we mentioned, we have been able to get Governor Barbour appeared on the program to answer questions. He did, however, appear on "JOHN KING, USA" last Friday.

During the interview, John played the clip of Tammy Gatlin's sister and mother. They are understandably outraged at governor's decision to pardon the killer. They anger only grew after what he said to John. Listen.


TIFFANY ELLIS BREWER, TAMMY GATLIN'S SISTER: He is in jail for 18 years. She was 20 years old when she died and had her child laying in her arms when he shot her in the head. And he's pardoned?

BETTY ELLIS, TAMMY GATLIN'S MOTHER: Governor Barbour going to pardon us for our aches, pains of heartache that we have to suffer. Is he going to pardon a child that had to grow up without a mother?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What will you say to those people who come forward?

HALEY BARBOUR, FORMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: The family actually came in. They have met with my lawyers two years ago. Because they understood if any of these men, including that one, successfully served at the mansion, they have been serving almost 20 years. On average, they served 20 years. And that if they successfully completed it, they would be pardoned.


COOPER: Well, you heard Governor Barbour saying right there. He claims his office met with Betty Ellis and Tiffany Ellis Brewer."Keeping Them Honest," we asked them if that's true.


COOPER: Governor Barbour claims his lawyers met with your families two years before their release. Is that true? BREWER: No. That's absolutely false. We have had no contact with the governor or his lawyers, any of his people. No one has made an attempt to contact us.

COOPER: Betty, when you hear the governor refer to this as a crime of passion, what goes through your mind?

ELLIS: Rage. I mean, this is not a crime of passion when somebody rents a car in Georgia, buys a gun, and drives to Mississippi, stalks my daughter and then shoots her. I don't believe that is a crime of passion.


COOPER: So, Randy Walker, the man David Gatlin wounded, he fears for his life now. He's going to join us shortly.

First though, as we said the closer we look, the worse this gets. When the state parole board last review David Gatlin's case, they voted against releasing him. That was late 2010. Gatlin was already working at the governor's mansion and the parole board still recommended he not go free.

But the governor disregarded all that. Disregarded that recommendation and pardoned him anyway. As we said earlier, all these happened with no consultation with or even notification to the dead victims family. Nothing either for Randy Walker, the wounded man.

When we first learned David Gatlin was going to the governor's mansion, he and his wife, Crystal, tried repeatedly they say, to meet with someone, anyone with the power to stop him from being able to work in the governor's mansion. They finally got that meeting but only after Gatlin was placed at the mansion.

As we said, Governor Barbour's office sent about how that placement happened. It reads in part -- quote -- "This process is solely at the discretion of the department of corrections and department of public safety -- not the governor's." It goes on, "The governor had no role whatsoever in deciding who served as a trusty at the mansion nor did he have personal knowledge of the men-MDOC sent to the mansion to work."

So, the governor is saying he had no control over who gets into the mansion. But, what about the decision of who gets out of the mansion and who gets free, who get pardoned? Well, considering David Gatlin's pardon, did Governor Barbour, as we mentioned about Gatlin's parole denial which happened while Gatlin was serving him in the mansion?

The parole board itself is required to investigate all applications for pardons and other clemency. But get this. Only if the governor asks them to. Did he ask? Well, we don't know and he's not talking.

Joining me now is Randy Walker, who shot, nearly killed by David Gatlin. Also joining us is senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Randy, how did you originally find out that David Gatlin was serving as a trustee in the governor's mansion? RANDY WALKER, VICTIM OF DAVID GATLIN: Well, I have never been contacted by the MDOC or anybody about that. The way we found out was a Web site for the department of corrections in Mississippi. You can look up an inmate by their last name or by their inmate number. And I constantly kept a check on David every time -- but probably about every two weeks, I would look to see where he was. Because, there for awhile, he was being transferred around between different facilities as a trustee. And it was quite a shock when I saw in November, 2009. He became a trustee at the governor's mansion.

COOPER: And you knew if he was a trustee at the governor's mansion, you knew that was a road, eventually to getting pardoned as other killers have in the past. Did you try to contact him, try to tell them he should not be working in the governor's mansion?

WALKER: We tried to plead our case.

We -- when I found out in November, we tried for about four months, before we got a meeting with Lucien Smith, one of Haley Barbour's legal advisers. And it was much just a pat you on the back kind of meeting. They listened to what we said, said that's not going to happen. He's a trustee, live with it. That's pretty much -- I mean, that was pretty much their attitude.

And then since then, we have written numerous letters around 20 phone calls just really being relentless. We have not had any, any more contact with them. We think that if we could have gotten to Haley Barbour for just a few minutes and pled our case, as David obviously pled his case for two years, I just needed five minutes. We thought we could change the outcome on this. But we never got that opportunity.

COOPER: Because Randy, as you know, what the governor is saying, the former governor is saying is that, this is a crime of passion. And that because of the so-called crime of passion, according to the governor, experts say he's not likely to do something like that again. We found no experts who actually say that. In fact, experts say that it's just silly and they antiquated notion.

But to you, was this is crime of passion when he pointed that gun and shot you? When he shot the woman you were friends with clutching her baby?

WALKER: Absolutely not. I mean, if you take that further back in the time line, three or four days before David came, he actually told a girlfriend that he was involved with in Georgia, that he was coming to do this very thing. She would be subpoenaed to show up in court to testify.

So, he actually told somebody before he even left Georgia. And you know, if you look at his statement, his own words at the time that he wrote the confession out. He pretty much point-blank says it's premeditated. I mean, a crime of passion for me is if you come home, a spouse comes home early from lunch or a business trip unexpected and you walk in and catch them in bed with somebody and you beat them to death with a lamp on the side of the bed, you know. Haley Barbour, his definition and mind of crime of passion, they are not even in the same dictionary.

COOPER: Jeff, the fact while this guy, Gatlin, was working at the governor's mansion, his parole was denied, I mean, that tells you a lot.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It tells you a lot. You know, United States department of justice has something called the office of the pardon attorney. And there are very elaborate public procedures for applying for pardon from the United States government and it's very complicated and it takes a long time. And they have to consult the prosecutors and the victims.

And I think they probably give to few pardons but they avoid precisely this problem. Because there's a system in place where, you know, everybody gets a chance to be heard. Instead, you have this thing which Haley Barbour obviously just ran out of his back pocket. He decided on his own without input from anybody except the people applying for the pardons, and this is the result you get. I mean, it's just a complete madness.

COOPER: Randy, did anyone in the governor's office tell you that Gatlin was being pardoned?

WALKER: No. Well, the Saturday -- I got that letter saying he was declined parole on Friday. I forget what the date is. Like the 5th, I think. Or it might have been the 6th. Whatever the Friday was before the 6th. So, that's on Friday.

And then, Saturday, about 10: 00, I get a phone call from the lady at the corrections department, the victim's coordinator and said that he had been unconditionally pardoned and he will be released Sunday. So, you know, I get this letter and not even 24 hours later, I get a phone call saying, you know, the worst possible thing has happened. And I didn't get a say in anything. I didn't get to plead my case about anything. My rights have been violated.

COOPER: Does it seem too odd to you Jeff, that the pardon files which would normally contain letters and other documents about this process, they don't exist for the trustees working in the governor's mansion.

TOOBIN: I mean, it's even more odd when you consider the people working in the governor's mansion were not just any old criminals, they were murders. So, these are the kind of people you want to take extra care, not, you know, rely on just their good works and the fact they appear to have done a good job around the governor's mansion. You want to take extra care because you don't want to release murders lightly.

Again, there were no procedures. It was just Haley Barbour making up his mind and these are the consequences.

COOPER: Randy, just remind the viewers how many years Gatlin was sentenced to and -- because he avoided the death penalty. How many years he was sentenced to? How may actually served?

WALKER: Well, he was originally charged with capital murder which would have carried the death sentence. We were getting ready to go to trial, trial was saying where he could he pled guilty to simple murder, a lesser charge.

And he got a life sentence on that. And consecutive to that, he pled to aggravated assault which is 20 years on that, then consecutive to that house burglary, a ten year charge. So, I read it to be one after the other, consecutive life plus 30 years. And he did 17 years, 6 months and three days.

COOPER: And two years in the governor's mansion.

WALKER: Two years in the governor's mansion. David has never been a quote "behind bars inmate." From the first time I started seeing him on the Web site, when I started following his case, he's always pretty much been a trustee. So, you know, he's never really been what I consider to be incarcerated.

COOPER: Randy Walker, I'm sorry you are in this position where you have to talk about this. This shouldn't be the case. Appreciate you being honest tonight when talking about it. And we will continue to follow it. Thank you, Randy.

WALKER: Well, thank you for having me, Mr. Cooper.

COOPER: All right, Jeff Toobin as well. Jeff, thanks very much.

We are going to continue to follow this case.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Add us to your circles. Or follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.

Let me know what you think of this case. this it make any sense to you?

Up next, what are the keys to victory for the four candidates? John King crunches the numbers tonight. Ari Fleischer, James Carville, joins as well. We will look at that headline making statement that Mitt Romney made today. It's taken out of context. We will play the whole thing for you.

Later, one young survivor of the Florida highway tragedy that lost her family. There's another dimension to the story no one saw coming.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" now.

What happens next after Mitt Romney's crushing victory in Florida? Newt Gingrich is about to fight until the end. There is no sign the other two challengers are getting out either. As we said last night, now the road leads west. For look at what lies in the end of it, now the candidates hopes together. Let's quickly check in with John King at the magic walls -- John.

KING: Soon, we begin February with a map that should favor Mitt Romney. I say should because there are some mine fields.

Saturday in Nevada is next. It's a caucus state. Romney won it in 2008. But watch Ron Paul. Sometimes, with quirky rules, passion can beat organization. So, that's one place to watch.

Then we go forward from there. The next Tuesday, February 7, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri. Romney favored in all these places. But again, quirky caucus rule, watch Colorado. Watch Minnesota. Santorum and Paul looking to spring a surprise.

Also, watch Missouri. It's a beauty contest. No delegates at stake in the first round. Speaker Gingrich is here. Because he didn't make the ballot. If he wanted to plant a symbol of combat flag, that would have been a good state with a lot of conservatives there. But Gingrich is not even on the ballot. That a factor as we move forward.

The main caucuses, again, watch up here. Romney is a New Englander, should be his state. Ron Paul working very hard. That could be a Paul win on February 11th, up in Maine.

Then we move on here. These are the prizes of the month, Michigan and Arizona. Both wired at the moment as established as Romney states. He was born in Michigan. They look very good for him right now. But we'll have to see if the situation remains the same as we get to the end of the month.

Now, so let's say we go all that far and Gingrich doesn't have a victory. March 3, watch Ron Paul and Mitt Romney competing in the Washington caucuses. And then, why did speaker Gingrich say he would stay in the race? Super Tuesday, March 6th. But in Tennessee, he is on the ballot, didn't file enough delegates slates, could win the state, still come out short.

Some delegates not on the ballot at all in Virginia, Anderson. That is a place Newt Gingrich could have had as part of his comeback strategy. He does thinks he'll win Georgia. He does think he will win Oklahoma. That's why he stays in until March.

But, this could become a factor. If Gingrich and nobody else gets wins in the month of February, money matters. Romney, way ahead to begin the year. He is raising even more money after Florida. No one else is even close to start the year. Yes, they have raised the money since but they are also spending it as the calendar gets more crowded -- Anderson.


John, appreciate it. Thanks.

Mitt Romney's victory lap interrupted today. He stumbled a bit over something he said. He was talking this morning to CNN's Soledad O'Brien. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm in this race because I care about Americans.

I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I will fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 99 percent of Americans who right now are struggling. And I will continue to that mistake across the nation.


COOPER: So, the headline, as you can imagine, went on a lot of blogs. Logging to these sites, Romney says he is not concerned about the very poor which of correspond to the governor and try to clarify what he said. Listen to him try to clarify.


ROMNEY: You've got to take the whole sentence, all right, as opposed to saying, and then change it just a little bit, because then it sounds very different. I've said throughout the campaign my focus, my concern, my energy is going to be devoted to helping middle income people, all right? We have a safety net for the poor in, and if there are holes in it, I will work to repair that. And if there are people that are falling through the cracks I want to fix that.


COOPER: We think it's fair to show context of things. You can make up your mind if that clarified it. The fact that he spent a valuable campaign though, they though dealing with a fall out of this, tells something in itself.

Here to talk about it, former White House press secretary, GOP strategist, Ari Fleischer -- he joins us on the phone -- and Democratic strategist, James Carville.

James, is it fair for the headline to be all over today about what Governor Romney said?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was an eruption among conservatives in "The Weekly Standard," "National Review." I saw three or four comments that people came out. He was a really -- he just not a very good candidate.

And by the way, he doesn't even understand conservative doctrine. I mean, I have to live with it in my house. They say they really care about the poor. These kinds of programs actually hurt the poor. I mean, it was not only was it come across to sort of voters in the middle, is kind a callous. And that's to send collaboration or rich people to real conservatives. It comes across is just dumb and doesn't represent what they say, they think.

COOPER: Ari, what is your take on what he said?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Anderson, it shows why politicians are politicians and that's sad. That be so perfect and watch ever word. Everybody knows that was just a mistaken statement. People have heard him on the campaign trail talk about how he wants to just focus on the middle class. That's the need the most help in this country which is a pretty accurate statement. But it was a slip. He shouldn't have done it.

But you know, I want to point out, also President Obama had his own slip that I thought was bad this week, too. When he was introduced to Jennifer's husband. He was seeking a job and he couldn't understand how her husband couldn't get a job, how to be an employment in the semiconductor and electronics industry that he was working in.

You line those two up. Romney had a slip of the tongue. But Barack Obama showed he doesn't understand just how bad this economy is.

COOPER: James?

CARVILLE: Yes. You know, look. It goes Mitt Romney is just not a very good candidate. I said that before. Yes, if he outspent somebody 5-1, and don't, you know, 95 percent negative spots on air. He's going to win a primary. He is going to be a nominee. And Ari knows there's zero chance of Newt Gingrich or Santorum, any of the guys, come in right close in poke of nomination.

But, I think he is scaring a lot of Republicans. Did he actually mean that? A slip of the tongue? He has a lot of slips of the tongue. And he said the kindest things that scare people. And that's a problem that he has. And I don't think his campaign can trust him to go out there on his own. I think he can do OK if he's scripted and he's got five to one money. But, he is not going ahead in general election.

COOPER: Ari, let's talk about what happened last night. As now, so you have 24 hours distance on it. How do you look at his victory?

FLEISCHER: A few step back. I really do think you go straight to Mitt Romney increasing credit. He's won two and three-quarters of the four primaries so far. He originally Iowa, the state he doesn't really fit. And then he lost of course as votes finally came in. He huge win in New Hampshire. He huge win in Florida in terms of the percentage margin over the number two finisher.

Most Republican candidates don't have that kind of big gap between them and second place finisher. And then, February is such a strong month for him. So, he is in a very well positioned place. He still has problems in term of who will be the best with the conservative base. He hasn't satisfied the conservative base, yet.

But, you know what, independents seem to like him. That's why he's running neck in neck with President Obama. No other Republican is running as close to President Obama s Mitt Romney is. He's neck in neck.

COOPER: And James, he did make inroads among tea party voters. He did make inroads among evangelicals.

CARVILLE: He's not running against anybody.

None of these people -- and I have been very consistent on this -- ever had a chance whatsoever to be the nominee. He -- barring some kind of breakdown, if he can't get to 50, which is almost impossible to see now,Well, he's going to be the nominee.

The problem that Mitt Romney has, he just is not that good a candidate. The guy is not good on his feet. And politically, he comes across as some kind of a detached doffs. And that -- the kind of thing that I said politically. You know, showing he's a bright guy. But politically, he's just out of it sometimes.

FLEISCHER: You know, this is where James has a short memory and this is why politics are so tough. Of course, four years ago was when Barack Obama in a fund raising, when he thought no one was listening said that blue collar voters cling to their guns and cling to their religion. And James worked for Hillary at the time.

Barack Obama has his share mistakes. And I want to say that Mitt Romney is a bad candidate. He's what every candidate is, I would have made a mistake and the task of a campaign is you firmed from it, go on and do you the better.

CARVILLE: First of all, I never worked for Hillary. Secondly, he paid a price for that. He paid a price for that. But Romney -- you look at the comments to date among conservatives. You look at the concern. And he always conforms. He has a stereo type whether it's accurate or not, that he is kind of out of touch guy. That's why I said politically, he comes across as a detached doofus.

And in this comment today just feeds into a perception that is about him. And he's not able to deal with it. He's just not that good on his feet. Obama is not the greatest candidate ever. He paid a price for saying that. There's no question about that. But Romney is going to pay a price again and again for this, because it fits into the existing suspicion.

COOPER: Ari, James, thanks very much.

Still ahead tonight: an alarming morning about Iran -- what U.S. intelligence officials told Congress and what the White House is saying they're prepared to do about it.

Also ahead tonight, remember that crash involving more than a dozen cars and trucks? Well, a Florida teen who survived that horrific crash, she lost her family and then her story took another frightening twist. We'll explain.


COOPER: A "360 Follow" tonight about that horrible multi-vehicle crash on I-75 in Florida back on Sunday.

Florida Highway Patrol says an 11th body has found inside a truck that was pulled from the wreckage.

And one of the survivors is a 15-year-old girl named Lidiane Carmo. Her parents, her sister and uncle all perished in the crash. Lidiane has hospitalized and had been told about her family but many questions were raised about what happened to her when she recovers. Lidiane and her and her family were in the country illegally. It turns out, they are were originally from Brazil.

Tonight, there's word about her status. Martin Savidge joins us with that part of the story -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Well, here is the way it broke out, Anderson. They -- family have come here illegally on a visa 12 years ago. But in the time since, it had expired which is why now, there was concern by extended family members that Lidiane might be deported.

The federal government has stepped in and said absolutely not. It's not going to happen. In fact, ICE which is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency released this statement. They say -- quote -- "Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Lidiane Carmo as she deals with the tragic loss of her family. Reports of her facing deportation are completely false."

They go on to say, "ICE's stated priorities include convicted criminals, immigration fugitives, repeat immigration, law violators and recent border crosses -- crossers."

So, there you have it, no prosecution, no deportation, no prosecution.

COOPER: You were able to speak with a pastor who spoke with family members who were with her when she heard the news about the accident. How is she doing?

SAVIDGE: You know, it's unimaginable. She does not have any memory of the accident. And so, she was told yesterday as to what happened to her family. In fact, we talked to Aron, a close family friend. Here's how he described how they told her.


ARON AMAZONAS, SENIOR PASTOR, INTERNATIONAL RESTORATION CHURCH: She waked up. And she -- the first thing she was looking for was Laticia (ph), her older sister, her mom and dad. "Where is Mom and Dad? What happened to me? What happened?"

So, they explained to her what happened. She simply cried a little. We know she's trying to process everything. But, she's doing well so far.


COOPER: Wow. Fifteen years old. To lose your parents, your sister like that. Have we learned anything more about what she's going to be facing? What challenges?

SAVIDGE: Well, she has a lot of challenges still ahead of her. First and foremost, she has to heal. And it's expected that she has a lot of broken bones. She does have some burns. Probably going to need another surgery. She has no health insurance, and money is another factor here, because you've got five members that were in that vehicle. They all died. The church says they do not have the money to even transport the bodies back here to Atlanta where they all live, let alone carry out the funerals.

So there is a lot of suffering going on. And the church is so small, they say, that, in fact, they don't even have room for all the caskets that would be there when the funeral is eventually held. They're looking for a place to hold the church, and they're looking for people to help with the money.

COOPER: Marty, thanks very much.

For those who'd like to help the family, here's how. There's an account set up with Bank of America. It's called the Carmo Family Funeral Fund. We're told you can go to any B. of A. branch, and they'll assist you. Again, that's the Carmo Family Funeral Fund.

Here's Isha now with a "360 Bulletin."

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the United States wants to end their combat mission in Afghanistan next year. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement today. He said by late 2013, he hopes the mission will shift to a training and advisory role.

In Syria, opposition activists say at least 70 people were killed today. This, a day after the U.N. Security Council failed to agree on a draft resolution calling for President Assad to step down.

In New Jersey, a police dashcam video captured a car in flames. Two officers who responded found a 57-year-old man trapped inside. What you can't see is one of the officers risking her life to pull him free. The man suffered smoke inhalation. The officer, an 8-year veteran, was uninjured.

And a stunning discovery. The earliest known copy of Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" was hidden beneath layers of another painting. Officials at the Prado Museum in Madrid believe one of Leonardo's students painted the newly-found copy alongside the master himself while Leonardo was creating his masterpiece.

COOPER: Take a look at "The Shot" now, video of -- well, the most awesome assistant ever. Take a look. This Yellow Lab named Mallory (ph) helps out with paperwork at a veterinary hospital in Texas. Her owner, Katharine (ph), says she trained Mallory (ph) to take paper off the printer. Eventually, it developed into Mallory (ph) also delivering receipts to the clients.

SESAY: I know. That is very cool. You have to admit.

COOPER: A very sweet dog. SESAY: A very, very sweet dog.

COOPER: What is that? Wow, look at that.

SESAY: This is getting a little troubling.


SESAY: And looking pretty cool there.

COOPER: Wow, all right.

Isha, we're going to check back with you a little bit later.

Just ahead, a new and troubling warning about Iran. Also, an incredible look at the far side of the moon. It was shot by a NASA space craft. We're going to show you more of these images.

Plus the legacy of "Soul Train" founder Don Cornelius, who died today. Tributes and tears for him tonight.


COOPER: "Digging Deeper" tonight, high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials are sounding a new and alarming warning. They testified in a Senate hearing that Iran is prepared to launch terrorist attacks inside the United States.

We need to point out that they also said they have seen no intelligence to indicate that Iran is actively plotting attacks on U.S. soil.

But these officials believe that Iran's involvement in a botched plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador on U.S. soil signals a shift in Iran's boldness. And that, what's been a decades-long feud set on simmer, is on the verge of quickly moving to a boil.

Here's what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS's "60 Minutes."


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: In the United States, the president has made this clear. He does not want Iran to develop nuclear weapons. That's a red line for us, and it's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. So we share a common goal here. If we have to do it, we will do it.


PANETTA: If they proceed and we get intelligence that they're proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon, then we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Including military steps?

PANETTA: There are no options that are off the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We were surprised to hear how far he thinks Iran has come.

PANETTA: Consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort to deliver that weapon.


COOPER: "If we have to do it, we will do it." That's what Panetta said.

Let's "Dig Deeper" with CNN national security advisor, Fran Townsend. She's also a member of the CIA's general advisory committee. Fran, along with more than 100 members of Congress and other former senior U.S. national security officials, have publicly advocated the United States take the Iran opposition group, MEK, off the State Department's list of terror groups as the European Union has already done.

Also joining me is Kareem Sadjadpour with the Endowment for International Peace. So what do you make of the likelihood, Fran, that Iran may be willing to attempt an attack in the United States?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: That is a shift, Anderson. Remember, they -- Hezbollah, Iran using Hezbollah is responsible for the Beirut barracks bombings in the '80s. They attacked cultural sites in Buenos Aires. And so they tend to not to want to plan and plot attacks inside the United States.

We think -- we always believed that was because they feared retaliation. The plot against the Saudi ambassador really was a shift. And so I think, you know, intelligence officials and law enforcement officials are taking it really quite seriously that they'd be willing to take the risk to plan such an audacious attack.

COOPER: Kareem, there are going to be some people, though, who are listening today saying, "Look, this is just an excuse to provoke fear in the United States or for a drum beat -- building a drum beat against Iran." Do you buy that they might be willing to plot attacks?

KAREEM SADJADPOUR, ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I'm skeptical, Anderson, that the Iranian regime after 32 years of not committing acts of terror on U.S. soil has now changed their calculations.

The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, may be ruthless, but he's not Osama bin Laden. I mean, he's a straight actor. If they were to commit an act of terror on the United States, we know where their return address is. It would be in Tehran. He's not hiding out in a cave somewhere.

And Afghanistan, and I think what's paramount for the Iranian supreme leader is to stay in power. If they were to commit a major act of terror on the United States, I think he's gambling with his own life and the life of the regime itself.

COOPER: Fran, those who say it behooves them to preserve the status quo.

TOWNSEND: OK, maybe, but I mean, you know, it's interesting. Because to say he's not Osama bin Laden, I mean, I understand that point. Let's remember: Iran is the single largest state sponsor of a terrorist organization in the world. They use Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, as an arm to execute their foreign policy. They are a terrorist group, very much in the making of al Qaeda.

And in fact, prior to 9/11, Hezbollah was understood to be worldwide more militarily capable and more deployed worldwide than any other terrorist organization including al Qaeda. So this is a very, very serious organization with very real capability that we ought to be concerned about.

COOPER: Kareem, if they have done operations through Hezbollah and Buenos Aires and elsewhere, and if they were involved in a plot against the Saudi ambassador of the United States, does that not argue against your position?

SADJAPOUR: Anderson, certainly, the Iranian regime has been committing acts of terror beyond its borders since the 1979 revolution. So we're not here to debate the ruthlessness of this regime. They do it in places where they think they can get away with it. They did it a lot in the 1990s in Europe and Argentina, and sometimes in the Arab world.

But they haven't yet committed a major act of terrorism in their 32 years of existence, now 33 years of existence against the United States. So my line about the Iranian regime is that it's homicidal -- it's homicidal, especially towards its own population, but it's not suicidal. It wants to stay in power.

COOPER: Did it surprise you, Fran, to hear Secretary Panetta kind of giving those details on the time line here on the nuclear program, what the U.S. perception of it is? And, I mean, it's also the line that, well, no option is off the table. That's not really anything new.

TOWNSEND: No. And I think the fact that Secretary Panetta said that we will take action if we have to was not surprising. I mean, I think it's very much in keeping with what President Obama has said. He has made clear Iran getting nuclear capability is unacceptable.

What, I think, is surprising is the specifics with which he laid out the time line to Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. One year to get a bomb, two to three years until you have a deliverable vehicle. What he's talking about there is it's one thing to have enough enriched uranium. It's another thing, you have to be able to deliver it on target and they're going to have to have that weapon and that missile technology.

Look, I think people -- just this Sunday in "The New York Times" there was a very extensive piece about Israel versus Iran. And Iran's nuclear -- growing nuclear capability. And so I just think the surprising thing is to hear somebody with clearly access to classified information laying out a time line.

COOPER: Kareem, how tough would a strike against Iran be, to actually try to cripple? Is that even possible? My understanding is their sites are incredibly hardened and spread out. It's not like Israel bombing Iraq back under Saddam Hussein to eliminate their program.

SADJAPOUR: Anderson, according to many Israeli estimates, they could set back Iran's nuclear clock one, two, a best-case scenario maybe three years.

The concern that many of us, including myself, have is that if Israel or the United States were to take military action against Iran it could potentially prolong the shelf life of the Iranian regime another decade longer.

So when you measure it in terms of cost benefits, the costs are pretty high. Both in terms of the domestic repercussions with Iran and globally in terms of the price of oil skyrocketing and Iran's ability to retaliate throughout the Middle East. When I talked to members of Congress, whether Democrats or Republican, there's almost a universal consensus that Americans want to reduce our entanglements, our military entanglements in the Middle East. And bombing Iran would, of course, prolong our entanglements.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Fran, appreciate you being on.

Kareem Sadjapour, thank you, as well.

Just ahead tonight, a look back at the impact Don Cornelius had on American pop culture with his ground-breaking, long-running television show "Soul Train," longest syndicated show in history.

Also, incredible images of pandemonium and violence breaking out following a soccer match in Egypt. Dozens are killed. More on that ahead.


COOPER: One of the most distinctive voices in the entertainment business is silent tonight. Tributes are pouring in for "Soul Train" founder Don Cornelius, who died today.

Fans started leaving flowers at his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame after Cornelius was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the dead early this morning at his home in California. He was 75 years old.

No word on what would have motivated his apparent suicide. There are reports that his health was failing in recent years.

Artists from Smokey Robinson to Aretha Franklin say they're shocked and stunned and call him a visionary pioneer, a giant in the business.


COOPER (voice-over): "Soul Train" premiered in August 1970.


COOPER: It was the first of its kind, a show created for an African-American audience showcasing mainly African-American teenagers dancing to the latest soul and R&B music, the brain child of producer and host Don Cornelius.

DON CORNELIUS, CREATOR, "SOUL TRAIN": That's that magnificent group known as War running on a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sound. We think it's one of the baddest things around.

COOPER: Cornelius was originally a journalist and D.J. from Chicago who was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement in the '60s. He realized there was no television venue for soul music and no show designed to appeal to a growing African-American television audience. \

So using $400 of his own money, Cornelius created a pilot for "Soul Train" and premiered the show in Chicago. It was an instant hit. In a year, it became national and quickly became appointment viewing every Saturday for many families.

CORNELIUS: You know, African-American guys and girls can achieve anything.

COOPER: The show also extended beyond its target audience, something Cornelius thought was good for the visibility of African- Americans.

CORNELIUS: You see people who just are on television grinning and making fools of themselves and telling jokes and singing, but we have the ability and should be given the opportunity to create, as well.

Gladys Knight and the dancing, swing, singing Pips.

COOPER: Cornelius also featured African-American musicians on each show, giving a face to popular radio stars, like Gladys Knight, who performed on the very first episode.

GLADYS KNIGHT, SINGER (via phone): He was taking a giant step to even compete in that arena where Dick Clark had such a hold with "American Bandstand." But he was brave, and he went out and he did it. And we as artists are so grateful to him for giving us that faith.

COOPER: Over the years, Cornelius presented a parade of famous performers to the "Soul Train" audience, including Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five, and non-R&B stars like David Bowie and Elton John. The show lasted for 35 years, a lasting legacy for a man who increased the visibility of African-American culture and changed the face of television.

CORNELIUS: I'm Don Cornelius, and as always, wish you love, peace, and soul.


COOPER: Love, peace, and soul.

Isha is back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, deadly violence following a soccer match in Egypt. Officials say at least 73 people were killed and 1,000 injured when rioting broke out inside the stadium. Fans of competing teams reportedly attacked each other with rocks and chairs.

Facebook today officially filed to raise $5 billion in an initial public offering. The company also revealed that it earned $1 billion last year on sales of $3.7 billion.

And check this out: video of the far side of the moon. Besides that, no matter what, it's always facing away from us. It was shot by one of two NASA spacecrafts called Ebb and Flow that arrived in Moon's orbit on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Both are equipped with what's called a moon cams, and are there to map the lunar gravitational field -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hey, tomorrow on "STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN," more on Mitt Romney's comment about not being concerned about the poor, and the exclusive interview with a Texas teen who was mistakenly deported to Colombia. That's tomorrow on "STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN," 7 to 9 a.m. Eastern.

Coming up, Joan Rivers smoking a doobie on camera. Not kidding. "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding an excellent adventure we're calling Joan Rivers' blaze of glory.

On her We TV reality show, "Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best," Joan Rivers was feeling a little tense. So on the advice of a friend, she got a prescription for medical marijuana. Here is what happened next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that Louis would be awesome for you.

JOAN RIVERS, COMEDIAN: Louis XIII. All right. Already I'm liking this, French.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready? Now suck it in while I light it.

Oh, my God.

J. RIVERS: Whoopsie.


J. RIVERS: No, I'm not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're getting there.


COOPER: Joan Rivers and a friend then proceeded to ask themselves a question asked by so many cannabis aficionados: can we talk about getting some food? Pronto.


J. RIVERS: I want to eat right now. Let's go.


J. RIVERS: What uh-oh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was already on. All right, I can't tell if I'm moving.


COOPER: Since friends don't let friends drive when friends can't tell if they're moving or not, Joan Rivers got her daughter, Melissa, to come pick them up, and the quest for food continues. Luckily, there was a burger joint nearby.


J. RIVERS: Thank you.


J. RIVERS: This is a great meal. You have made a great meal. You make a wonderful meal.

MELISSA RIVERS, JOAN'S DAUGHTER: Get in the car, get in the car.

J. RIVERS: They make a wonderful meal.


COOPER: Next up, dessert.


J. RIVERS: If you love me, you would drink out of my shoe.

I will drink to you, too. To you. Lachaim.

Oh, this is fabulous.


COOPER: But it wasn't all giggling and howling and consuming of food truck delicacies on this long strange trip. Oh, no. Joan Rivers also took time to appreciate nature, to expand her mind, ponder the infinite wonders of the universe. This is before the cheeseburger showed up.


J. RIVERS: Look at that sky.

How many people are looking at the same sky?

M. RIVERS: How many people are looking at the same sky?

J. RIVERS: That's why I asked you. I don't know.


COOPER: Even baked out of her mind, she's a true comedian.

Now, in case you're wondering, yes, Joan Rivers is 78 years old. She just so happens to be the same age as Willie Nelson, who has made no secret of his affection for the bud. And personally, as someone who was once beaten on "Jeopardy" by Cheech of Cheech and Chong fame, I really can't judge. It's true. On at least one day two years ago, Cheech Marin's reflexes and mental acuity far surpassed my own.

When you hear about celebrity dope smokers, it's always the same: Willie Nelson, Cheech and Chong, Snoop Dogg. To put it bluntly, I think it was high time to shatter the glass ceiling and add a woman to the group. And who better than a legendary female comic who's always pushed boundaries and once again blazed the trail.

Hey, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.