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Secret of Assad Regime Revealed; Contraception Controversy

Aired March 15, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks. Good evening, everyone.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a cache of e-mails. The private communications of the dictator of Syria and his wife. Hacked e-mails leaked to CNN. E-mails that appear to reveal some of Iran's influence over Assad and his handling of the uprising.

The e-mails also show what the dictator and his wife had been concerning themselves with while the soldiers and thugs who work for them have been slaughtering their own people by the thousands.

It was a year ago today in the city of Daraa that Syrians stood up to Bashar al-Assad's regime and demanded change. Now back then they weren't calling for the overthrow of the regime but then days later the government began its bloody crackdown.

For 12 months now, Assad's regime has lied about killing its own people. Night after night on this program we've called them out on their lies but we haven't been able to say what the dictator of Syria and his wife were thinking. What they've been worried about, what they've been talking about.

Well, now we can. In an e-mail on August 4th, Assad's wife Asma ordered jewelry from a cousin's boutique in Paris. She writes, "Sorry I took so long to reply but I've only just got back the final request. One, turquoise with yellow gold diamonds and small pave on side. One Cornaline with yellow gold diamonds and small pave on side. One full black Onyx with yellow gold diamonds. One Amethyst with white gold diamonds. Let me know how to proceed," she asks.

Around that same time of that e-mail in August, around the same time that Asma Assad had that e-mail exchange with a friend, she had another one with the daughter of the Amir of Qatar. Her friend writes, "From what I see, there's so many innocent lives being lost. I think with the introduction of new legislation, it's a natural time to address the nation with the intention of stepping down."

Asma Assad writes back, "There's perception and there's reality." Her friend responds, "Isn't perception what determines reality?"

In August, while Mrs. Assad was worrying about jewelry and having that exchange in the city of Hama, citizens were being fired upon, shot dead in the streets. On August 22nd, the U.N. said more than 2200 Syrians had been killed. Now on November 20th, just days after the Arab League had suspended Syria's membership, and Jordan's King Abdullah had called on Assad to resign, Assad's wife e-mailed a friend who's apparently planning to visit. "Are you coming around the 2nd or before," she wrote. "If so, please, can you bring the 'Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part 2'?" Which was released on 2nd of December.

Thousands of civilians are dying in Syria's streets. Other countries are calling on her husband to step down and Syria's first lady is busy tracking down the latest installment of "Harry Potter." On December 29th, Bashar al-Assad used an e-mailed, e-mailed one of his aides. He writes, "Check out this video on YouTube. The link is to a spoof video that mocked a theory that the regime had hidden tanks from international observers in Homs."

And here's what was happening in Homs at that time where Arab League monitors were on their mission. In Baba Amr, civilians take a monitor in the orange vest to see the body of a small child. Also in Homs, at that time, indiscriminate shelling was already reducing neighborhoods to rubble.

A month later, with the siege of Homs in full swing, what was Asma Assad focused on then? Fondue. On January 20th she sends an aide a link to a fondue set asking, please, can we get one? And then there's this on February 5th, Assad's e-mail his wife -- Assad e-mails his wife the lyrics to a Blake Shelton song.

Here's some of those lyrics. "The person that I've been lately ain't who I want to be, but you stay right here beside me, watch as the storm goes through and I need you."

While Assad was sending love song lyrics to his wife, in Homs, a man who's part of the opposition held a body of a dead child, a little girl he says was killed by Assad's regime.

A short time ago I spoke about these e-mails with photojournalist Paul Conroy who was wounded during the Assad regime's assault on Homs and with Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.


COOPER: Fouad, the level of nonchalance in these e-mails from this dictator, Assad, is just -- I mean I guess I shouldn't be stunned by it, but I am. I mean you talk about fiddling while Rome is burning.

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY'S HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, exactly right. There is nothing really unusual about this, by the way, Anderson. Many years ago a great philosopher gave us a big -- a wonderful book. It was Hannah Arendt, she went to Jerusalem to watch the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and she wrote this incredible book, called "Eichmann in Jerusalem: The Banality of Evil."

She discovered how small was Eichmann for all the great crimes he committed. And there is Bashar al-Assad and there is Asma al-Assad. They're trading these e-mails. She's worried about shopping. He's downloading his music. And meanwhile, Syria is on fire. And meanwhile the great crimes -- even in the city of Homs, which is the ancestral city of his wife, are being killed and massacred. So there you have it.

COOPER: And, you know, I mean, these e-mails for Mrs. Assad who, in years past, was kind of viewed as this, you know, cosmopolitan, intellectual lady, welcomed in the West, and written about in Western magazines and fashion magazines. It's just sickening reading her e- mails, talking about fondue sets and jewelry and, as you said, I mean, Homs is where her family is from.

AJAMI: Remember, this is the woman Asma al-Assad who was born in London, by the way, to a Homs family. She worked for JPMorgan. She's who was dubbed by "Vogue" magazine, a rose in the desert. She's the partner of Bashar. He basically put her out, if you will, for the world to see that this is his modern wife and this is the modern couple. And now you see that these people are, while their followers, while their people are using pin sets (ph) to skin people alive, they are -- they are trading these silly e-mails and they are worried about shopping, and they're worried, as you said, about fondue sets and shoes and the like.

COOPER: Paul, you call Bashar the calmest killer of the century.

PAUL CONROY, PHOTOJOURNALIST: Absolutely. You know the image that we see of this man when he -- when he talks, the nonsense that he comes on TV and he says about nobody is dying in Syria. When I heard of these mails, of the e-mails, it doesn't surprise me. I think as time has gone on we look at this man who can present this image of utter (ph) calm (ph) and respectability yet they -- the barbarity, the -- his overseeing.

I wish I was shocked but I'm not shocked anymore. I think I've seen too much now of this man and yes, probably the calmest killer of the century.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, he's downloading --


COOPER: -- music from iTunes, he's passing around clips from "America's Got Talent" and in the next breath, I mean, he's slaughtering his own people and, you know, trying to kill people who are using the same Internet to try to upload videos of the slaughter that he and his forces are putting upon them.

CONROY: Absolutely. I mean, this man, he exists in a parallel universe. I think that any -- he seems to have lost any connection with humanity. I mean, this man is insane and the world should actually stop listening and act and forget any -- doing any pacts with this man.

COOPER: Well, I mean, the U.N., you know, is waiting for a study to be done by the Syrians to assess the humanitarian needs when we know what the humanitarian needs are. We've seen the videos of kids who haven't had food in weeks or just eating crust or bread. And -- I mean it's -- I guess these e-mails won't come as a surprise, Fouad, to Syrians?

AJAMI: No, I think they know all about them. The one thing that they will, if you will, if they see them, if they read them, and given the problems they've endured, given the hell they're living through, they may not have access to them. But when you read that his wife is getting a discount at (INAUDIBLE) in London for some of the things that she's buying, when you read these things, you understand what this regime was all about. It was about terror and the repression for the people of Syria and privileged for the rulers of Syria.

COOPER: Well, it's also sickening, I mean, you know, shame on any department store that gives her a discount, shame on any designer that swaddles her in clothing. You know shame on anybody in -- outside who -- you know, who continues to kind of treat them as if they have a place in the civilized world.

AJAMI: Well, shame on the advertising man here in one of the advertising agency, Mike Holdsman, who's exchanging e-mails with one of the sycophants of Bashar. She had once been an intern at this advertising agency, and he's worried, how are the Assads holding up, how are -- what are they going through?

These is the democracies. The West always does this and particularly if you bring someone in the Islamic world and you trot them out and you say that they are modern, that they know fashion, they dress well, what they do to their people is hardly of any consequence.

COOPER: You know, Paul, I mean, you witnessed Homs with your own eyes and your colleague Marie was killed by the regime's forces. You know, while Assad presents this Western front, explain it just a little bit, maybe to people who haven't been following this, what you saw with your own eyes happening in Homs in terms of the needs of people there to get medicine, to get food and to stay alive.

CONROY: I mean a simple survival in Homs was virtually impossible. People were firstly on the constant artillery bombardment. Heavy weapons, artillery that was used should be used against armies that's being fired directly into civilian neighborhoods.

This caused the people to have to flee buildings that were destroyed, food supplies became nonexistent. I know people who risked their lives to carry loaves, packets of bread through the Syrian army lines, water became a commodity. Medicine was nonexistent. These were all the basics of human existence but denied to the people.

COOPER: Fouad Ajami, appreciate it, as always. Paul Conroy, I appreciate you, interrupting your treatment to talk to us tonight to continue to focus on this. Thank you, Paul.

CONROY: Any time, Anderson. Thank you.

COOPER: Well, let us know what you think about this. E-mail us, we're on Facebook, Google Plus, follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper. Let's have a conversation about it right now on Twitter.

Coming up, "Raw Politics." Controversy over contraception. What kind of access should women have to birth control? Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum say it's an issue of religious freedom. Democrats are trying to frame it as a Republican war on women. Mary Matalin and Hilary Rosen join us next. They'll square off.

Also ahead, former Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, continuing to refuse to answer questions about pardoning hundreds of criminals, a few in particular who got special treatment including new cars when they were released. We were told Barbour was unavailable all month which doesn't seem to be actually true. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Let's also check in with Isha -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, breaking news. A tornado touches down in southeastern Michigan. We'll have the latest on the damage. That and much more when 360 continues.


COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight. If you listen to Democrats in the last few weeks, you've no doubt heard them say there's a war on women in the Republican race for the White House. Controversy over contraception is nothing new, of course, but its profile has been raised in part because Rick Santorum, a staunch opponent of birth control and abortion, is a frontrunner for the Republican nomination, and because of an effort by the Obama administration to make sure that insurance offered by religious institutions covered contraception.

Things only got hotter recently when one of Santorum's biggest donors said this.


This contraceptive thing, my gosh, it's so -- such inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they use Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly.


COOPER: Well, Santorum called that a stupid joke and everything his supporters say doesn't reflect on him which is certainly a fair point. Here's what Rick Santorum himself has said about the issue.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's the church's money and forcing them to do something that they think is a grievous moral wrong. How can that be a right of a woman? That's not -- has nothing to do with the right of a woman. This has to do with the right of the church not to spend their resources in a way that's inconsistent with their faith.

This is the kind of coercion that we can expect. It's not about contraception. It's about economic liberty.

I do have concerns about women in frontlines combat. I think there could be a very compromising situation.


COOPER: Well, Mitt Romney also joined the praise, saying just a couple of days ago he'd get rid of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

But both he and Santorum said the contraception issue is about religious freedom, not contraception. They say making employers cover contraception on their insurance plans violates religious freedom.

In a recent Bloomberg national poll, more than 60 percent say it's a health care issue, not a religious one and more than 75 percent said it shouldn't even be part of a political debate.

But that hasn't stopped the Democrats from pouncing on the issue in recent days, accusing Republicans of declaring war on women. And on the campaign trail, there is a lot of talk about women.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Women are going to make up their own mind in this election.

Women deserve an equal day's pay. Because of this law, preventive care is now covered and, yes, that includes preventive care for women, checkups, mammograms, birth control.


COOPER: Well, joining me now is CNN political contributor, Republican strategist, Mary Matalin, also CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen.

So, Mary, you saw the poll number. Six in 10 Americans are saying that this isn't about religious freedom. Is this a losing issue for Republicans?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely unequivocally not. That was one poll and it depends how you ask it. In "The New York Times" poll, in the CBS poll, in myriad other polls when majorities of Americans, including women oppose the government, the full force of the government to intrude on First Amendment rights -- First amendments guarantee of religious rights.

I'm saying, women, when it's posed that way and that's how the regulation is written and that's what not just Catholics but it's multidenominational, have made an argument not as forcefully as the Obama people have, to switch it, to frame it up, when they -- when they say what it actually is, people oppose it. But equally important, probably more important is what you led with. Three- quarters of Americans, including women, do not even think this is a political issue. Equal numbers, three-quarters of Americans, including women, think the top political issue is the economy.

It's not an issue. And they don't want the government to be dealing with birth control. So I've strategically, the president has made a grievous political error here, I believe.

COOPER: Hilary, do you see that as an error? I mean, as far as Democrats go, critics are saying they're playing politics on this. We're seeing ads, mailers, fundraising, appeals from them, and a lot of talk about women on the campaign tail from the Obama administration.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, first of all, the president did not make this a political issue. The president issues a regulation to try and accommodate, implementing a law that Congress passed, and the Republicans and -- went out and started opposing it and jumping on it.

It is the Republicans who are opposing reauthorizing the -- the Violence Against Women Act today in the United States Senate. It's Mitt Romney who's on the campaign trail saying, let's get rid of Planned Parenthood. These are not Democrats going out there. To the extent that Democrats are actually telling voters what it is that the Republicans are saying, you bet we are.

And here's a key issue, which is, you know, when men have medical issues, they are medical. When women have medical issues, they seem to be political. And I think what women are sick and tired of is having their health issues politicized and framing this as a religious liberty issue is equally infuriating. I think, you know, why isn't the -- why isn't Catholic Church out there ranting and raving about not serving pork on Fridays in their cafeterias.

The only thing that they seem to, you know, want to take to the streets on is something that discriminates against women who don't agree with the men in the church.


MATALIN: Oh, Hilary, please, the Catholic bishops and Cardinal Dolan have tried to work with the White House. They sat there for a week, waiting for an accommodation which turned out to be --

ROSEN: An accommodation --


COOPER: Let her finish -- let her finish what -- no, let her finish what she's saying.

MATALIN: Hilary. Hilary. Please.

COOPER: Go ahead, Mary.

MATALIN: They are -- this is a 2,000-year-old Catholic belief that the natural order of things is love, marriage, sex, procreation. So the overwhelming majority of American people including women do not want their religious liberties invaded. They -- all we're asking is this. In this very narrow issue exempt religious institutions and those that are affiliated with religious institutions and this would go away. But it won't go away because the president hasn't vented this war on women.

And I -- I'm going to agree with you on this point. If we're against subsidizing -- using taxpayer dollars for birth control or sexual sorts of drugs, then we're waging a bigger war on men because we don't want taxpayer subsidized erectile drugs and arguably I think that's a much bigger issue for men -- I'm not a scientist but anecdotally after decades I think that's a bigger health issue for the men.

ROSEN: But the Catholic --

MATALIN: Than birth control is for women.

COOPER: But guys --

MATALIN: The Catholic Church is not going after any men's health issues. They are not making those value judgment. It's only about women. And you know here's the issue I think that we have to focus on, which is, you know, women are going -- are watching now. You know, and this is -- this is going to be an issue that is waking up women.

The gender gap in 2008 for the election was, you know, over 10 points, the difference between senator -- then Senator Obama and John McCain. In 2010, it evened out. This is going to widen that gender gap. Women are sick of having our reproductive health and our health issues be politicized and used on the campaign trail.

COOPER: And Mary, Mary --


COOPER: I mean, couldn't you argue that both sides are using this as a political issue? I mean the Republicans certainly raised the stakes on this issue between Rush Limbaugh's comments, Rick Santorum's comments on the trail, they saw it as a religious liberty issue and that as something that would mobilize people to come out and vote, and on the Democratic side they see it as a women's health issue and that's something that's going to mobilize women voters who they believe are going to side with the Democratic Party.

MATALIN: Right. The president specifically turned it into a women's health issue, and a war on women because -- let me translate for you, Anderson, because women are dropping him like a bad first date. He had a nine-point gender advantage the last time, he's down to less than half that.

Mitt Romney is not even on the field yet and he's only down by four points. Mitt Romney has no gender gap. But I think this is insulting to women. They do not think there is a birth control problem. They do believe, as all Americans do, that it's a government out of control problem. So what is happening here is every -- all of his enthusiasm, the intensity and the support among all this demographics, starting with women who -- the president is right, are going to make a difference in this election are leaving the president because they are insulted by making them focus on this. Any woman who's going to be jazzed up by this are not people who would ever, ever vote for Romney as he gave them birth control and a man to go with it.

ROSEN: You know, my friend Mary is, you know, engaging in wishful thinking here. She may be right that this is not an issue that's -- important. But it is -- her candidates, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney who are running around the country trying to get elected on this. By saying they're going to get rid of Planned Parenthood, by saying that there's a war on, you know, religious liberty using what was a regulatory issue to be a political issue.

You know, it is the Republicans ginning up this issue, it's the Republicans refusing to reauthorize a statute that has been on the books for years.

COOPER: Hilary, both sides are using the issue.


COOPER: I mean aren't both sides use this as an issue?

ROSEN: Well, you know --

COOPER: I mean they both see this as an opportunity in different ways.

ROSEN: I think that Democrats started out here playing defense. And you bet we're going on offense because it became clear that this is not just a political game. It became clear that literally our rights are threatened. And that is going to be the case if you have a Mitt Romney president and a Republican Senate, because they've laid out their agenda.

COOPER: We got to leave it there.

ROSEN: That's it. They've been very clear.

COOPER: Hilary, appreciate your perspective. Mary Matalin, as well. Thank you.

Coming up, "Keeping Them Honest." For months now former Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour has refused to talk to us about his pardoning of hundreds of criminals. Fine. The victims' families want answers at the very least about why their loved ones' killers got special treatment. Even new cars in some cases, new cars for killers.

Also ahead, the murder of another U.S. Border agent in Mexico. Is it another fast and furious scandal in the works? Some Republicans think so. Drew Griffin investigates. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: A follow up to a "Keeping Them Honest" report we did last night. One of many we've done of former Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, pardoning more than 200 criminals on his way out of office. And for months now refusing to answer the most basic questions about that.

Now the criminals he pardoned include these convicted killers who worked at the Governor's Mansion, killers who got special treatment, that adds yet another level of outrage to this story.

Now CNN has learned that when two of the men were pardoned, the killers were pardoned, they had new cars waiting for them. According to documents from the Mississippi attorney general's office, Haley Barbour's wife called a car dealership about buying cars for the inmates. One of the criminals who got a new car, that man, David Gatlin, he shot and killed his estranged wife Tammy while she held their baby in her arms.

Now the idea that Gatlin would not only be pardoned, but also will get a new car that Barbour's wife would work to arrange it for him, it just adds insult to unspeakable injury for Tammy's mother Betty Ellis. Here's what she said last night.


BETTY ELLIS, TAMMY ELLIS GATLIN'S MOTHER It really upsets me because, you know, I wrote Miss Barbour a letter and asked her to consider asking her husband not to pardon David and she didn't even do me the courtesy of responding to my letter but she had time to take the inmates and get them a car.


COOPER: We wanted to ask Haley Barbour about that, to get answers on behalf of Betty Ellis, in behalf of all the victims' families. We asked Haley Barbour to come on the show as we have been asking him, frankly, for months. We were told that he was unavailable, that he couldn't speak to us, not even on camera, not even on the phone, and that he was unavailable and frankly would be for a month. In fact, we're told unavailable for the rest of the month. Then we saw this last night.


NEIL CAVUTO, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: Former governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, joining me now on the phone.


COOPER: Say what? Haley Barbour, supposedly unavailable for the rest of the month on FOX News yesterday. Apparently he found some unexpected wiggle room in his schedule. Hey look, that happens, I understand that.

That interview went on for 3 1/2 minutes, by the way. The pardoning scandal never came up. There was not one question about it. But we still have our questions, no matter how much Haley Barbour tries to duck them, no matter for how long, we'll still be here.



ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can we talk to you real quick?

BARBOUR: Let me go get my instructions first.


COOPER: Governor Haley Barbour who's refused our repeated request by the way to be on the program.

Governor Barbour, we would love you to come on this show and answer some questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, can you talk to us about the pardons?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, we'll wait for you out there then.


COOPER: Again, an open invitation stands for Governor Barbour to come on this program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you come out and talk to us here in a second?


COOPER: Now despite repeated requests, Governor Barbour will not come on this program. We've tried multiple times.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, can we get a few minutes and talk about the pardons with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the Supreme Court rules, it will be time to talk. I'm not so presumptuous. But when they rule, then we can talk.


COOPER: Let's wait for that Supreme Court to rule. What's that? Supreme Court ruled last week. Still haven't heard from Haley Barbour. Haley Barbour said he would talk to us after that ruling. We are still waiting and the invitation still stands. We're following other stories tonight. Isha is back with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we begin with breaking news. The National Weather Service forecast office in Detroit confirms that a tornado touched down tonight near Dexter, Michigan.

Many homes were damaged. Some were completely destroyed. As of now, emergency officials don't know if there are any injuries. The path of the storm also brought flash flooding.

Afghan's president got tough with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meeting in Kabul. Hamid Karzai called for U.S. troops to leave their outposts in the villages and return to their bases. This comes after the murder of 16 Afghan civilians allegedly by an American soldier.

In Egypt, 75 people were charged today in connection with a riot during a soccer match back in February that killed dozens of people. Some of those charged are accused of planning in advance to attack France from the visiting team and police officers are accused of failing to confiscate weapons from bands.

Actor George Clooney paid a visit to President Obama at the White House today. He said they discussed the ongoing violence in Sudan and the president's re-election campaign. Clooney says he's a supporter of Mr. Obama.

And Anderson, Kate Middleton, the new wife of Prince William played hockey today, as you see there, in London with members of Britain's hockey team. She took to the field while touring an arena inside Olympic Park. London, of course, hosts the Olympics this summer.

COOPER: That's it?

SESAY: Yes, that's it.

COOPER: She played hockey? That's the story?

SESAY: That's the story. Don't look at me.

COOPER: I thought some big event happened.

SESAY: She changed into a sweatshirt and she wore coral jeans.

COOPER: Because I went for a run today, but it hasn't made the papers yet.

SESAY: Yes, but you're not the Duchess of Cambridge, last time I checked.

COOPER: Time now for the shot. Have you seen this one? Blues musicians pride themselves for keeping it cool. No one is cooler apparently than Josh Williams. Take a look. That's at the Bluegrass Festival in Denton, North Carolina. Williams is in the middle of a song then a bird decides to make his guitar a perch. The bird just stays put.

SESAY: Must have a banging headache.

COOPER: I supposed so. Isha, we'll check back with you in a little bit.

Up next, a federal agent gunned down more than a year ago by guns smuggled from the U.S. Is this incident similar to the troubled "Fast and Furious" operation that led to another agent's death? You can decide for yourself.

And as we know, one potential key witness for the prosecution is expected to testify when John Edwards' conspiracy trial gets under way. Details on that.


COOPER: Up close tonight, does the government have another "Fast and Furious" problem they are trying to ignore? "Fast and Furious" was that botched gun running operation where weapons were allowed to be smuggled out of the U.S. into Mexico in the hope of tracking them to drug cartels.

But U.S. authorities lost track of many of the guns, never really had a way to track them and this man paid the price. U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry was killed with one of those missing guns.

Now the Justice Department has taken a lot of heat for "Fast and Furious." Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the debacle was an isolated mistake.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The notion that you would let guns walk in a firearms case is for me absurd, absurd. And it was the reason why I said it cannot happen. While we stopped it, it is not DOJ policy and anybody who does it now is breaking a direct directive from the attorney general of the United States.


COOPER: Strong words, no doubt about it. But now the Justice Department is facing new questions about guns illegally bought in Texas and used to kill another U.S. agent. Drew Griffin reports.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was just another assignment for Immigration and Custom Enforcement agent Jamie Zapata. He told his mom and dad it would just be a short time in Mexico. No danger, just business stuff.

(on camera): Were you worried? MARY ZAPATA, SON KILLED IN MEXICO: No, I wasn't worried because I thought he was going to fly from Laredo to Mexico City airport, go to the embassy and work from there. I didn't see anything wrong with it.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Then, on February 15th of last year, the phone rang. The second Mary Zapata learned her son had been shot, she ran to the bathroom she says, and began calling her sisters-in-law pleading them to pray.

ZAPATA: When I got off the phone, my son told me, mom, Jamie's dead. That was very devastating.

GRIFFIN: Jamie Zapata was killed when he and his partner were ambushed on a Mexican highway between Mexico City and Monterey. It was an ambush by drug gangs on two U.S. law enforcement agents traveling alone in a conspicuous blue suburban. Zapata's surviving partner says the killers knew full well they were shooting at U.S. agents.

HOLDER: Agent's Zapata story is one that we must not forget and it is one that we will not.

GRIFFIN: The story could end there. A U.S. agent shot and killed in an ambush on a dangerous stretch of highway, smack in the middle of a drug war, but it doesn't.

Mary and Amador Zapata have nagging questions that point to a cover-up from their own government. Namely, did the ATF watch as guns used to kill Jaime Zapata were sold illegally in Texas and allowed to, quote, "Walk from Texas into Mexico with no hopes of tracking them?"

(on camera): Why has it been so hard to get the answers that you want?

ZAPATA: I don't know. I expected to have a response or a report 30, 45 days afterwards.

GRIFFIN: It's been more than a year?

ZAPATA: It's been a year and you're talking about the government, the U.S. government in conjunction with the Mexican government. Why is it taking so long?

GRIFFIN: The chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform already investigating a similar ATF operation, called "Fast and Furious," that allowed guns to walk from Arizona to Mexico says what happened in Texas looks very similar.

In "Fast and Furious," authorities lost track of thousands of smuggled weapons, two of them turned up at the crime scene of a U.S. law enforcement's agent's murder. Now two guns were recovered at the Zapata's crime scene have been traced back to purchases made in Texas.

According to court documents, one of the guns, an assault rifle, was purchased here in this suburban Dallas gun store in October 2010 by Otilio Osario (ph). Internal ATF records show months before the purchase, the ATF was tracking Osario and knew he was trying to smuggle guns into Mexico.

The operation seized some of those weapons before they reached the border, but not one of the guns used in Jamie Zapata's murder.

ZAPATA: There were maybe under surveillance by the ATF.

GRIFFIN: The second gun was traced to a man named Manuel Barba (ph) who bought 10 guns in Houston on August 20th, 2010. One of them, a semi-automatic rifle, was also used in the killing of Agent Zapata.

Both men have pleaded guilty to gun trafficking charges neither was charged in Zapata's murder. The ATF flatly denies its agents were watching either man when the gun purchases in question remained.

In fact, ATF says it didn't even know Manuel Barba's existence until three days after he bought the gun used in Zapata's killing. As soon as ATF did find him, Barba was arrested. In other words, the ATF and Department of Justice say this was not "Fast and Furious."

(on camera): The Department of Justice has tried to maintain that this was just only in Arizona. This was only very limited.


GRIFFIN: It didn't spread to other states. You say no?


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Since their son's killing, Jamie Zapata has been honored by top federal law enforcement officers including the Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama himself.

(on camera): Despite the accolades, though, there are still no real answers. Just where did those guns come from? Why did they end up at the crime scene and what was Jaime Zapata doing in Mexico?

The attention has now focused to Senate hearings to Congress and for government officials who so far will not answer any of those questions.

AMADOR ZAPATA, SON KILLED IN MEXICO: Whoever let these guns walk should be held accountable for what happened to my son.

GRIFFIN: Amador Zapata no longer wants more accolades for his son, just the truth. Drew Griffin, CNN, Brownsville, Texas.


COOPER: In his piece, Drew mentioned the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The Chairman is Congressman Darrell Issa of California, a Republican. I talked to him about this a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Congressman Issa, two of the guns found at Agent Jaime Zapata's murder scene in Mexico were traced to gun buyers in Texas. You've been investigating the ATF "Fast and Furious" operation in Arizona. Are you concerned that what happened in Arizona was also happening in Texas?

REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Well, we are and there are similarities. These were known straw buyers that were not intercepted or stopped and ultimately gun walking, everyone has a different definition.

But when you let weapons go from the control of a federally licensed gun dealer to a straw purchaser to an intermediary and ultimately to the scene of a crime.

If you don't interdict that immediately and/or follow the weapons and interdict it before you lose control, you're gun walking and clearly that appears to have happened in Texas.

COOPER: The parents of Agent Zapata say they feel their questions surrounding the murder of their son have fallen on deaf ears. You pressed the ATF, the Department of Justice for answers, what have they told you?

ISSA: Well, they've continued to give us a great deal of inappropriate answers inconsistent. As you know, we've subpoenaed information fairly broadly and received a small amount of it.

Out of our 80,000 pages we know to exist, we've received 6,000 pages of answers. And only recently after Attorney General Holder was in front of our committee did we get a renewed promise that these documents would be forthcoming.

COOPER: The ATF is telling us that they didn't watch -- they did not watch guns walk into Mexico from Texas. They are not aware of the purchases of both weapons found at the Zapata murder scene and this was not similar to "Fast and Furious." Do you buy that? Are you satisfied with that response?

ISSA: Well, Anderson, we've been lied to by the Department of Justice. We've been lied to by some of the ATF. Ultimately, the former director of the ATF, Kenneth Nelson, he was pretty straightforward in telling us what he didn't know, why he didn't know it.

And how he felt when he found out that guns had walked, that in fact Brian Terry's death was blood on the hands of ATF agents who had allowed these weapons to go as part of what's called (inaudible) of combined task force headed by justice that had in fact said break away, let these weapons go.

COOPER: One of the men who was convicted of providing weapons to cartels in Mexico was under ATF surveillance months before he purchased a weapon that was found in the Zapata crime scene. They were aware of his intentions to take guns to Mexico. Is it your feeling that he should have been arrested before he can move any more weapons?

ISSA: Well, ATF agents on both sides of the border have told us that once you have enough to know that somebody has done something and to indict them with a felony, you take them down and you take them down because at that point you either take them out of action or you flip them and make them part of your investigation.

They missed opportunities to use people that they had felonies against as if you will roll-up witnesses, which means they violated good procedures that historically have allowed them to climb the chain to get to the bigger fish.

Instead, they made the assumption that if you let the weapons disappear and they reappear at a crime scene, somehow that was going to allow you to make the connection between these two points. Something that they haven't shown us they can do.

COOPER: Congressman Issa, appreciate your time. Thank you.

ISSA: Thank you.


COOPER: Still ahead tonight, he's accused of using campaign money to support the woman he was having affair with during his presidential campaign.

Now John Edwards' former mistress and mother of his daughter is expected to testify against him in the trial that could actually send him to prison.

Plus, how can you own a piece of history? The "Titanic" is on the auction block. Details on that ahead.


COOPER: Isha's back with another "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, a judge in Georgia sentenced a man to life in prison without the possibility of parole. It came out after jurors found him guilty, but mentally ill for the 2010 murder of Rusty Sniderman outside of a Georgia Daycare Center. Newman claims he Sniderman after having delusions of an angel and a demon.

A North Carolina judge says Rielle Hunter, the former mistress of John Edwards is set to testify against him. Prosecutors accuse Edwards of using money from his 2008 presidential campaign to try and cover can up their affair. Edwards' trial is scheduled to start next month.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is spending his first night behind bars at a federal prison in Colorado. He arrived today to begin his 14-year sentence for corruption.

Apple stock hit a new record high today. Shares briefly reached over the $600 mark in morning trading and ended the day just under near $586. This comes as Apple's latest iPad officially goes on sale with midnight releases in several countries, Japan being one of the first.

And we've seen items from the "Titanic" auctioned off before but now, Anderson, you can bid on the entire shipwreck. This includes items recovered from the ocean floor like jewelries, sculptures and fine China.

The highest bidder also gets the salvage rights to explore for more items. The appraised value for the entire lot is around $189 million.


SESAY: I know.

COOPER: I didn't realize you would get the whole lot.

SESAY: You do, but you have to be a prequalified bidder, which means you wouldn't qualify.

COOPER: Nor would I be able to dive to the depths to salvage it nor would I have time or the machinery to do so.

SESAY: Time being the critical issue in your case.

COOPER: Machinery, too.

SESAY: And machinery, if you're going to be picky. But you submit your bids to the company before April 2nd.

COOPER: Wow. I actually bought something from the wreck of the Lusitania. I bought a passenger list that had his name on it.

SESAY: And how often do you look at that?

COOPER: I have it framed on the wall. I look at it fairly regularly. It's kind of cool.

SESAY: I think that is very cool. I'm prone to mocking you for just about everything.

COOPER: I appreciate you're not mocking on that one. You were waiting. You had to hold your tongue, didn't you? You had to reschedule it, didn't you?

All right, "The Ridiculist" is next. Tonight, I'm going to bat for two of my favorite ladies and, yes, I may have a drink during this commercial break.


COOPER: Time for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, we're adding a group of people I'm calling Kathie Lee and Hoda haters and you know who you are, you know who I'm talking about. Let's be honest. This one has been a long time coming and now I'm finally taking a stand on behalf of two women who I consider to be national treasurers. That's right.

Like my eyes, they are two national treasures. You see, this morning I was watching the fourth hour of the "Today" show in my bathtub as I always do, come on at 10:00.

I noticed that Joel McHale, host of "The Soup," a show I like on the E! Channel and star of NBC's "Community," Mr. McHale was clearly trying to patch things up with Kathie Lee and Hoda Lee, and much to their credit, those two ladies were not having it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys look fabulous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't trust you saying that because --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me tell you --


COOPER: That's right, Joel McHale, they know you. We all know you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the fourth hour of the "Today" show, Hoda and Kathie Lee had a conversation about marital aids, but they kept it tasteful because this is a family show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a new survey out from Adam and Eve Productions, I guess, and it says that -- it talks about adult --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Careful, my daughter and Bo are here. Adult toys and you know what I'm talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't know it if it slapped me in the face.


COOPER: National treasurers. Frankly, I don't know what Kathie Lee and Hoda haters are so riled up about. I see nothing that is even remotely unusual.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get that pillow. What is going on -- Meredith is here.


COOPER: What's so strange about that? You think they don't have fights in "THE SITUATION ROOM." If you only knew what goes on. Listen, come here. Come here. Listen very carefully. I'm going to say this one more time, national treasurers. By the way, Joel McHale is not the only person in NBC who's one going after Kathy Lee.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At 2:30 in the morning, I hear this commotion. I don't know what it is, it's Frank. He's in the downstairs guest room, pants around his ankle and he's about to urinate in the mini fridge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that's weird.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's not. And if you had a man in your life, ho-down, you'd understand sometimes these happen. I sleep walk every day. I don't call it sleep walking. I call it white wine walking. Ma loves the grape.


COOPER: All right, I love Christine Wage. She's a genius. She can do anything. Consider yourself on notice all you other Kathie Lee and Hoda haters, clean up your act and I better not find you hanging out with this guy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're making tuna. Can I talk? I watch this show every day. Everybody has issues with a lot of cheddar back here. Pay attention, one minute.


COOPER: All right. Yikes, Martha Stewart would never pull that kind of crap. So pipe down hater, let Kathie Lee and Hoda do what they do best, deliver an hour of wine soap TV heaven. You know you love it right down to the last drop.

Thanks for watching. I'll see you an hour from now for another edition of 360. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.