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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Gun Control Debate Heats Up; Interview With Stanley McChrystal

Aired January 9, 2013 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 10:00 here on the East Coast. Good evening, everyone.

We begin tonight with vital news, good news about a man whose courage is inspiring. His name is Zaidoun Al-Zoabi. And for more than a year on this program, he has raised his voice from deep inside Syria, raised his voice to counter the repeated lies told by the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

For more than a year, this man, Zaidoun Al-Zoabi, has defied the dictator, insisting on using his own names in interviews, talking about the crimes he has seen the regime commit. He has done this knowing full well that any moment the regime that has killed and tortured and disappeared so many could simply choose to silence him.

Months ago, I asked him why he was risking his life by talking, risking his life by insisting we actually broadcast his name.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAIDOUN AL-ZOABI, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: When I chant "I want freedom," I can hear my voice for the first time in my life. Now how can I give up this, even if it costs me my life?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Imagine that, a grown adult hearing his voice for the very first time. Three weeks ago, Syrian secret police arrested him and his brother Sohaib. Today, we got great news. We learned he has been freed. He said he became seriously ill during his detention, close to death, in fact, and was not given medical treatment. He is with family tonight in Syria.

His brother Sohaib though remains in custody and Zaidoun and his family fear for his safety. Zaidoun says he last saw his brothers eight days ago and that he was in good spirits.

You can go to a Facebook page the family set to get the latest on his brother's condition and find out how to help secure his release. A relative says Zaidoun thanks everyone worldwide, especially this program and our viewers, for keeping their story in the public eye, which we will continue to do as long as it takes. And we hope to speak with Zaidoun as soon as possible.

"Keeping Them Honest," the one true thing that we know about the gun debate here at home, that neither side has a monopoly on the truth, or even the facts, because the facts can be so hard to establish. One side has studies linking gun ownership with violent death. But correlation is not causation.

The other side has research showing when people are allowed to carry concealed weapons, violent crimes slow down. Yet newer studies cast doubt on that conclusion. The bottom line, finding a way to study the problem and possible solutions to it would be hard enough even if this were not already such a pressing and emotionally charged subject. But it is.

So with a shortage of facts but a surplus of victims and anguish and loss, the debate so far has evolved into passionately stated and exclusively competing articles of faith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That one view, more guns in more places. Here is the other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DAN MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: When it comes to preventing future acts of violence in our schools, let me say this, more guns are not the answer.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was Connecticut's Governor Dan Malloy. His view and Wayne LaPierre from the NRA, they each ring true to a whole lot of people. That's because each side can point to real-life gun incidents to prove their point. And in a moment, the political state of play. We will talk also General Stanley McChrystal, his view of military- style firearms in civilian hands.

But first, Randi Kaye with two very different gun stores. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you wonder whether or not good people armed with guns really do help prevent more gun violence, look no further than the shooting in the San Antonio theater in December.

And 9:30 p.m., December 17, 19-year-old Jesus Manuel Garcia allegedly opened fire at the China Garden restaurant. Investigators say he was targeting his ex-girlfriend who worked there. Police say when the employees fled, the shooter chased after them in the parking lot, firing at them. In the chaos he also shot at a San Antonio patrol car after the officer shined a light on him.

SGT. RAYMOND POLLARD, SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: He was having a difficult time dealing with the breakup and that's what may have set him off to come over here and commit this act.

KAYE: Garcia then followed the employees into the Mayan Palace movie theater next door. The gunman kept shooting as panicked moviegoers poured out the exit doors.

MEGAN ROEL, SURVIVOR: I could have died. I'm glad I'm OK and I have another day with my son.

KAYE: One of the fleeing patrons was wounded, but so many might have died had it not been for a quick-thinking off-duty sheriff's sergeant who also was armed. Sergeant Lisa Castellano, out of uniform, happened to be working security at the theater and ran toward the sound of the shooting.

When Castellano spotted the suspect coming out of the bathroom with his gun drawn, she shot him four times.

LISA CASTELLANO, SHOT SUSPECT: That was really nerve-racking and it was -- I'm not going to lie -- it was frightening. But, you know, the training kicks in.

KAYE: Garcia, the suspect, is charged with attempted capital murder and has not yet entered a plea. He survived, but more importantly so did everyone else in that movie theater, thanks to one of the good guys with a gun.

(on camera): But as we all know not every shooting incident ends like the one in San Antonio. Those in favor of tighter gun controls might argue that good guy with a gun scenarios can make a bad situation even worse.

(voice-over): Take what happened in Arizona, January 8, 2011, when a loan gunman opened fire on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords at a community event. While Jared Lee Loughner was spraying Giffords and a crowd with bullets, an innocent bystander named Joe Zamudio was in a nearby drugstore buying cigarettes.

When he heard the gunfire, Zamudio, who was legally armed with a pistol, ran to the scene. By the time he arrived his safety was off and he was poised to fire. Trouble is he almost shot the wrong man.

Zamudio on FOX News:

JOE ZAMUDIO, WITNESS: As I approached the people wrestling with him, one of the other gentlemen actually had gotten the gun away from him and that's what I saw first, was him holding the gun. I had my hand on my pistol.

KAYE: Zamudio said he was incredibly lucky that he didn't shoot. Listen to what he told MSNBC.

ZAMUDIO: I saw another individual holding the firearm. I kind of assumed he was the shooter so I grabbed his wrist and told him to drop it and forced him to drop the gun on the ground. When he did that, everybody said, no, no, it's this guy. I would have shot him. I almost shot the man holding the gun.

KAYE: The man Zamudio almost shot was the hero who had tackled the real shooter and wrestled his gun away from him. Two very different shootings, two armed bystanders to the rescue and the debate continues.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The debate surely does continue and is growing.

Vice President Biden meets tomorrow with the NRA. Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, both gun owners, by the way, have set up a lobbying group to press for new laws. New York's governor called for his state to enact -- and I quote -- "the toughest assault weapons ban in the nation, period," his challenge sparking protests from gun advocacy groups.

On Monday, it will be four weeks since the Sandy Hook shooting.

Perspective now from our panel, CNN political contributor and Republican consultant Margaret Hoover, Daily Beast senior political writer Peter Beinart and our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Peter, it is interesting just seeing these two different reports and these two different incidents. It is sort of a Rorschach test. It's just a sign of how tough this debate is and how tough as task this task force has.

PETER BEINART, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. But if you notice, the first story was about a police officer. She happened to be not on duty but she was a police officer. No one disagrees that police officers should have guns and she said her training kicked in.

I bet you guys went and looked long and hard for a story like that, but the one you found was actually one that I don't think does any damage to the pro-gun control argument because it was a police officer. I don't think anyone's arguing that police officers, perhaps even off-duty police officers shouldn't be armed.

The second one seems to be much more like the actual situation you get when you have lots and lots of individuals running around trying to play vigilante.

COOPER: It's interesting. We picked that story because there are all these conspiracy theorists who were e-mailing us saying that we were afraid to tell that story because they point to that story as a sign of an indication where people being armed is a good idea.

So, just to kind of address the conspiracy theorists.

Margaret, you actually say there's more common ground and things that the president could do by executive order that the NRA would actually give a thumbs up to. What do you see?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It may sound shocking, right, but the truth is I'm much more interested less in the politics of tomorrow than the policies and the common ground that can come from it. The president has taken a lot of flak from people like Mayor Bloomberg for not doing enough on gun control so far in his administration.

But there are things like enforcement. For example, 77,000 people have lied on criminal background checks about whether they could legally obtain a gun. They have been identified by the FBI and turned over to the Department of Justice and not prosecuted by the Department of Justice. The administration could say prosecute people who are lying on their gun control -- on their background checks.

There are also the national instant criminal background check mechanism is not fully funded by the federal government but could be and that would prevent people like the shooter at Virginia Tech who had a mental illness in his background -- would have registered and when he went to go buy his gun it would have sent a red flag that there's a mental illness in this guy's background. Maybe he shouldn't be legally able to buy a guy.

There are things the federal government do, fully fund programs that are already in existence that the NRA wouldn't necessarily disagree with.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I totally disagree. There is no common ground in this argument.

HOOVER: What?

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: There's zero common ground. The National Rifle Association and most of the United States Congress is against any sort of regulation of guns, period.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: That's simply not true. David Keene on this channel on CNN, has said he's in favor of not letting people who have mental illness be registered in this criminal background check...

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: He also wants the gun show loophole which allows 40 percent of people who buy guns not to have go through any background checks.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: ... to actually register then anybody with a mental illness or register people, which is -- I mean, that's a nonstarter. You can't have a database of people on guns, but you can have a database of anyone who has, what, received psychiatric counseling? Or how is that going to work?

HOOVER: I don't think that what they'd say. You would have to ask David Keene follow-up questions.

But the NRA is favor of things. To say there is absolutely no common ground is defeating the purpose of this exercise. I think the American public wants us to find common ground. The NRA leadership at times defers from NRA membership, but the truth is there are reasonable Americans who are gun owns are like Gabby Giffords and her husband and Republican responsible gun owners who are willing to make reasonable concessions.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Name one Republican member of Congress who is for any form of gun control today.

BEINART: Peter King is.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: He's from the Northeast.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: And Mark Kirk and Susan Collins and you can go through the list. There are a lot of.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: This is not a Democratic/Republican issue.

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: It is.

The biggest obstacle is John Boehner, because John Boehner having been humiliated in this fiscal cliff situation is then going to have to find a situation in which he would allow a vote in the House when most of his Republicans would not support it.

And his own stated policy of the majority of the majority seems to me is impossible to imagine that happening.

COOPER: What do you think is going to happen?

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: There is nothing.

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: But the Obama administration is going to tee it up and then do executive action and then bring it to 2014. I think they do believe the politics of this has shifted enough they can make some Republicans pay a price for not even being willing to even hold a vote.

TOOBIN: But, remember, in 1994 the assault weapons ban passed and the Democrats got mauled at the polls afterwards and a lot of people remember that, especially in the West and the South.

And you're right, Margaret. A lot of Democrats don't want to touch this issue either. But I'm just saying there's no common ground here because the people who don't want gun control, they don't want gun control and they recognize that they will pay a price politically for supporting gun control and they're not going to...

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: ... since 1994. There are not as many Democrats in those conservative districts as there used to be.

We have seen some of the conservative Democrats who still exist moving in response to the shooting in Connecticut.

HOOVER: If you begin with the point that there is no possibility for common ground, we will get exactly nowhere. And the truth is...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Because I say it, it's going to...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But, Jeff, what are the guidelines right now on how far the government can go in restricting gun ownership by executive action?

TOOBIN: Very modest. I think Margaret mentioned a couple of areas, but when you talk about the significant things that can be done like banning assault weapons, President Obama can't do that himself.

And remember, guns are portable. And this is very much a state issue. Mayor Bloomberg points this out all the time, that New York and Andrew Cuomo can pass all the laws they want. But as long as guns are so easy to get in North Carolina and Virginia, which they are, they come up here and they are used in crimes up here. So unless you have national gun control and unless states also regulate it, you're not going to have any...

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: To that point, one of the programs in the Bush administration was called Project Exile.

What they did is they prosecuted under federal laws state violations, because they're also violations of federal law. What did they do? They ended up locking up criminals, local criminals in federal courts to get them off the streets and the carry rate diminished by 50 percent. In other words, there are federal things that this administration can do now that would help gun control efforts that don't require passage of Congress.

BEINART: But it doesn't have to be either or. Even if we were totally to concede all of that, we could say because 40 percent of the guns are bought at a gun show or other places like that where there's no background check whatsoever, that even all the best enforcement of the current laws would not solve that problem.

I think the most important meeting tomorrow is not the NRA, it is Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is the potential partner. Why? Wal-Mart has an economic incentive to end the gun show loophole so people buy their guns at Wal-Mart, rather than -- if Wal-Mart gets behind the idea of saying that all guns have to be sold in a place where you can actually have a background check like Wal-Mart, that is a powerful ally for the president.

COOPER: Jeff, you actually wrote a piece in "The New Yorker" recently, looking at the Second Amendment, arguing it is not quite what people think.

TOOBIN: It's changed dramatically. For a hundred years the idea that the Second Amendment gave anyone, individual, a right to keep and bear arms was, as Chief Justice Warren Burger said, a fraud, the idea that the Second Amendment gave you any rights at all.

But a lot of Republicans and a lot of conservative intellectuals starting making the argument that, no, the Second Amendment does give individuals the right.

COOPER: The view it was only the militias.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: That it was only the militias. In 2008 the Supreme Court agreed. The Supreme Court said, yes, you do have an individual right.

The extent of that right has not been clarified. Justice Scalia's opinion said individuals can have handguns in the home. But can they have handguns outside the home? Can they have bigger weapons? Can they have concealed carry laws? Those are still up for grabs. Even if Congress manages to pass something, it's not at all clear it will be declared constitutional by the court.

HOOVER: Justice Scalia also said the Second Amendment does not guarantee anyone who wants a gun the right to have a gun any time, any place anywhere they want it.

The most conservative on the Supreme Court has said there are limits to the Second Amendment.

COOPER: We will see what comes out of tomorrow, if any. Margaret, thank you. Jeff Toobin, Peter Beinart as well.

Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I'm tweeting about this.

We also have a big interview coming up with America's former top commander in Afghanistan, former General Stanley McChrystal, who has strong word about weapons of war in civilian hands. We will talk about gun control with him and also the war in Afghanistan as it now stands.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: No shortage of good reasons tonight for the "Big 360 Interview" featuring America's former top commander in Afghanistan.

President Obama's choice of Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon, for one, or the possibility of a zero option for Afghanistan, with President Obama pulling out all troops by 2014, not leaving any military presence behind. That idea was floated or suggested at the White House earlier this week. We will talk to retired General Stanley McChrystal about that, and we will also talk his new memoir, "My Share of the Task."

But I want to begin by asking General McChrystal about the weapons he used during his long career and whether civilians ought to be able to own similar weapons.

First of all, welcome.

You made headlines just recently talking about gun control. What is your view when you see these military-style weapons in the hands of civilians?

GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET.), FORMER U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: I spent a lifetime, a career carrying a weapon, an M16 first and then an M4 carbine later.

And they fire a .556 round at about 3,000 feet per second and when it hits human flesh, it's devastating. It's designed to be that way. That's what I want soldiers to carry. But I don't want those weapons around our schools, I don't want them on our streets. I think that if we can't -- it's not a complete fix to just address assault weapons, but I think if we don't get very serious now when we seeing children being buried, then I can't think of a time when we should.

COOPER: You don't buy the argument that the only good answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?

MCCHRYSTAL: I don't. And I think it's a time we have a serious discussion and not an either/or discussion. It is not a question of no guns at all in America or all guns.

COOPER: Nobody's talking about taking away all guns. MCCHRYSTAL: That's right. Exactly.

I think it has to be reasonable and I think assault weapons are things that I'm not comfortable having in places around my family.

COOPER: Let's talk about Afghanistan.

The idea that was kind of floated earlier this week, the idea there would be no U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014. It came out of the White House. It is also being considered anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000.

Can you foresee from a military standpoint, not from a political standpoint, but from a military standpoint, where there would be no U.S. troops after 2014?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think I certainly wouldn't try to second-guess what commanders on the ground are analyzing right now, but I would say that first when I arrived in 2002 in Afghanistan, pretty early after the fall of the Taliban, the country was devastated physically and traumatized psychologically.

It was literally a basket case. Didn't know which way was up. Normal was everything before 1978. That was 23 years at the time. Now it's 34. People couldn't remember normal. They have made a loving progress. There are girls in school. There's been progress and greater security in places like Helmand. It's imperfect, but there's progress.

Now they're scared. They're scared of 2014 because there's a lot to lose now. They had this chaotic 34 years and I think the Afghan people don't want to lose it. Instead of just troop numbers, I really think what the Afghan people want from America and the West is a strategic partnership, that is not numbers of people, but it's a relationship that gives them the confidence that we are enough of a partner that if they need our help, not thousands of troops, maybe not even billions of dollars.

COOPER: But some sort of presence.

MCCHRYSTAL: Some sort of presence and some relationship.

COOPER: But how do you have that relationship when you have Afghan soldiers, when you have Afghan police killing NATO forces and killing U.S. personnel?

There's a huge amount of mistrust, probably more distrust than there's ever been.

MCCHRYSTAL: There is an awful lot of distrust, and we have to work through that.

COOPER: Because our whole program is based on the idea of building up Afghan security forces. And yet now we stop going on patrols with these guys. MCCHRYSTAL: For a period they did but in reality, again, if you use the anecdote to prove the whole, sometimes it's not true. I think the wider story is more complex. You have been there. You know there's an awful lot of good and there's an awful lot that's disappointing.

But I think we have to look at it holistically. It's so complex, to take one narrow part I think would be incorrect.

COOPER: Your strategy was counterinsurgency strategy and it was protect the population, build up confidence in local governments, in the central government as well, extend the power of the central government out to localities where it hadn't been traditionally and go after the Taliban, defeat the Taliban, not just degrade them, defeat them.

That's not the strategy anymore. The whole counterinsurgency strategy seems to have basically gone by the wayside. It's now just defeat al Qaeda or limit al Qaeda and build up security forces. Is that -- I don't hear people talking about winning these days.

MCCHRYSTAL: When I was in Iraq particularly with special operations, I was in charge of a very kinetic part of the operation against al Qaeda in Iraq.

COOPER: Right. And a lot of your book focuses on the battle in there and it's actually fascinating.

MCCHRYSTAL: Exactly. I take people through details of going after Abu Musab al Zarqawi and other stories.

But when I got to Afghanistan, I realized that the Taliban is not this national liberation front, it's not something there are people waiting to have the Taliban come rescue them. They're extraordinarily unpopular, they're extraordinarily mistrusted because of how poorly they governed before and how extreme they are.

What they want is they want a reasonable legitimate government, and of course, they're struggling to have that. But in my view, the right approach was to protect the Afghan people and give them a reason to believe.

COOPER: But you go out on patrol with these guys. I was out last time I was out with the Marines in Helmand Province before the battle of Marjah.

You would spend all day going out to some isolated village, at great risk to the Marines on the ground, have a meeting with local elders, and they hadn't seen the national government in that town in a long time and then you go to Kabul and there are all these Afghan generals and politicians building McMansions in Kabul and you wonder where is the money going?

MCCHRYSTAL: Yes. It's hard.

And there have been a lot of mistakes made. I think when the United States entered we didn't understand the country or the problem well enough. But if you went to Marjah today, as you know, it much more secure. It's not perfect, but progress gets made slowly in any society.

I think just because it's hard and takes a long time doesn't mean it's not important for America's strategic interests in the region, which is stability.

COOPER: But you can't do that -- that whole idea of building up the national government and confidence in the government, you can't do that without troops on the ground. Where does -- if we're pulling out, whether it's we leave no troops or 6,000 troops or 15,000 troops, what is the mission?

MCCHRYSTAL: As I outlined in the book, in the fall of 2009 when I asked President Obama to approve 40,000 more forces, they were really to be a bridge force to give us a enough time to stop Taliban momentum, to create some secure areas, but also to grow Afghan security forces.

They have had a fair amount of time to grow the army and police. There has been progress. They got a long way to go, but there's been a lot of progress and I think it's time the Afghan forces and the Afghan government stand on its own as much as possible. They may need some help, but I think they can do an awful lot of it themselves now.

COOPER: In the book you write about the distrust between the military in the United States and the Obama White House and distrust based on -- or that it really occurred early on based on kind of the politics of the operation.

I'm not -- I don't want to misquote you. But you basically talked about -- where are my notes -- the distrust, the decision- making process on Afghanistan, that's what the distrust was based on, the decision-making process. What does -- you don't go into too much detail on what that actually means. What does that mean?

MCCHRYSTAL: The term I used was lack of trust and a trust deficit. The reason I used those is because I consider that a little different from mistrust.

Whenever you have got a new organization, a new administration, any new administration, it's a team that has to come together, it's got to build links among itself, it's got to build trust over time. It comes in and it works with the Department of Defense and military and it takes time to build a team. It takes time build trust.

COOPER: But you can build trust pretty quickly if you feel the other person has your back and isn't double dealing or double talking or talking out of the side of their mouth or leaking stuff to reporters. Did you think the political apparatus understood what you wanted, understood the military?

MCCHRYSTAL: I'm not sure you can build trust as quickly as you say. I think you build trust when you speak the same language. If you think about it, civilians and military grow up in slightly different cultures and it takes a while to grow together. Look at President Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of the Civil War. It took him quite a while to grow comfortable as commander in chief, and it took the generals that he led quite a while for them to grow and mature into the kind of relationship -- I would argue it was probably 1863 before those two elements became an effective team.

COOPER: Do you think the trust is now better than it was when you came in?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think it's undoubtedly grown. I think maturation of all the players. I think it's grown.

If I could do it over again, one of the things I would try to stress even more is building trust between civilian leadership and my command and other parts of the military.

COOPER: Was it a mistake to go for the counterinsurgency strategy? Because it did require a large number of troops. There were those who argued just focus on al Qaeda and focus on drone strikes. Do you have any doubts about it? Do you wish you had been able to continue that strategy?

MCCHRYSTAL: Well, to answer the second part, yes, I do.

I have thought a lot about it. I am convinced that was absolutely the right strategy. It was the only strategy. We had to win the support of the Afghan population. They're not just the prize. They're the point of it all.

COOPER: But have we won the support at this point? Because, again, you go out to these meetings and these guys are on the fence. They say you guys are going to leave and the Taliban -- you leave tonight, the Taliban comes back tomorrow.

MCCHRYSTAL: If I'm a 50-year-old Afghan living in Marjah and Americans come in and they say we want you to do this but the Taliban come at night, I don't have a choice.

I have to be scared. I have to hedge my bets and an awful lot of Afghans have been put in that position. Only when there's enough security that they can be protected and their government grows enough legitimacy that they can believe in it do they have a strong ability.

So it's very difficult to judge Afghan who act very rationally. We think, well, why won't they fall in completely with the government? They're in a position very hard to do that.

COOPER: It's a fascinating book. I really appreciate you coming on and talking about it. Thank you very much.

MCCHRYSTAL: Thanks, Anderson. I appreciate it.

COOPER: Yes. Up next, a wife's plea for her missing husband. A former FBI agent who vanished in Iran nearly six years ago, his name is Bob Levinson. This week, his wife, Christine, released these photos of him in captivity. They were e-mailed to her anonymously. Who does she think is holding him hostage right now?

That interview coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Now a startling story. Tonight the family of Bob Levinson, a retired FBI agent who's been missing for nearly six years -- that's right, nearly six years -- wants you, wants the world to see some photographs that were e-mailed to them anonymously almost two years ago.

They're just now making them public, because they're concerned the man they love is being forgotten.

Imagine if this were your husband or your father, holding that sign, saying, quote, "I'm here in Guantanamo. Do you know where it is?" In each picture a different message. The English is crude. Quite, "This is the result of 30 years serving for USA."

The images and words disturbing: "Why you cannot help me" or simply "Help me." This one seems to reference how long Levinson has been missing: "Fourth year. You can't or you don't want," question mark.

Mr. Levinson never returned from a 2007 trip to Iran's Kish Island. His family says he was working as a private investigator looking into cigarette smuggling.

In 2010, three years after his disappearance, his family received this proof of life video. It, too, was sent anonymously with no demands or no explanations.

The story has gotten media coverage. Last fall the Levinsons plastered Times Square with "missing" posters. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was in town at the time for the U.N.'s annual meeting. In an interview with CBS News, he hinted that Levinson may have been in Iranian custody. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT, IRAN (through translator): I remember that last year Iranian and American intelligence groups had a meeting, but I haven't followed up on it. I thought they had come to some kind of an agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: U.S. officials believe Levinson is being held somewhere in southwest Asia, but they haven't said exactly where.

Christine Levinson says she has no doubt that it is Iran. I spoke to her just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Christine, you received these photos of your husband in April of 2011. Why did you choose to release them now?

CHRISTINE LEVINSON, WIFE OF BOB LEVINSON: What I want people to know is that there is still a hostage in Iran, and that's my husband, Bob Levinson.

COOPER: You have to doubt that he's being held in Iran?

LEVINSON: I do not.

COOPER: What makes you so sure?

LEVINSON: Bob went to Kish Island for a 24-hour visit, and he has not been seen since he left there. And that's a month after he...

COOPER: That's Iranian territory.

LEVINSON: Right. And less than a month after that, after he went missing on March 9, there was an article in an Iranian-sanctioned newspaper, Press-TV (ph), that said that Bob was in custody and he would be released in a couple of days, but that has not happened.

COOPER: And has the Iranian government ever communicated with you? Because in a statement yesterday an Iranian spokesman said, and I quote, "Levinson is not in Iran. There is no single evidence that he is in Iran."

LEVINSON: Well, yes, I have talked to them, and there may be no evidence that he is in Iran. There's also no evidence that he's not. We have not heard or seen anything.

COOPER: How closely is the State Department working with you? What are they telling you?

LEVINSON: Well, the State Department is trying to resolve this through diplomatic channels. Unfortunately, I feel that they need to be much more vocal about the case in order to get Bob home safely.

COOPER: How are you holding up? I mean, you and the rest of the family. I know your oldest daughter is getting married in February. How do you -- day to day, just how do you get through it?

LEVINSON: We just keep working to get Bob home one day at a time. Hopefully, he'll be home as soon as possible. I would like it to happen tomorrow. So would the rest of my family. But it hasn't yet, but we keep hoping it will be tomorrow.

COOPER: Were the photos sent directly to you?

LEVINSON: Yes, to my e-mail.

COOPER: I've got to just ask, I mean, when you opened up that e- mail, what was that like, to see that?

LEVINSON: It was heart-breaking and good, because it indicated that he is alive. And we had had very little proof before we received these pictures and the video. We had none.

COOPER: This broadcast is seen around the world. If there's anybody involved watching this or if your husband is in some way able to watch this, is there anything you want to get across?

LEVINSON: Well, I want Bob to know that we love him and we miss him every day, and we will never stop looking for him. Please stay well so that we can get you home safely.

COOPER: And I guess some people might ask why you waited so long to release the photos. What were -- what was the thinking on not releasing them earlier?

LEVINSON: Well, the photos came to us, but there was no indication of what we were supposed to do with them, why we received them, what they wanted as a result of giving us these pictures. And so we chose to hold onto them, because they're very disturbing. And at the time we thought it would be best. Now we need the public to know that he is still a captive.

COOPER: Christine Levinson, I'm so sorry for what you and your family are going through, and we'll continue to follow this. Thank you so much.

LEVINSON: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Imagine that, six whole years.

Still ahead, new details about Lance Armstrong's alleged intimidation of his former teammates and others who tried to expose the truth about doping on the U.S. Postal Service Team. Plus, the going speculation that he's going ready to publicly confess to doping. He's going to do an Oprah interview next week. How much will actually come out from that interview? We'll talk about it ahead.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A "360 Follow" now. Tonight we know that Oprah Winfrey is going to interview Lance Armstrong, and it's going to air on January 17. It's being billed as a no-holds-barred interview, and Oprah's Web site says that the disgraced cyclist will address the doping scandal that destroyed his career.

But will he actually confess to doping and in what kind of detail? That is the big-money question. There is growing speculation he will, in some level of detail. It will be Armstrong's first interview since he was stripped of his seven titles and banned for life from cycling. But again, how much detail he's actually going to get into and how much follow-up questioning there's going to be on the details that have already emerged about the doping, that's -- that's something we're going to have to wait and see.

He's not the only one who's speaking out. The head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, is also talking. In an interview with CBS News's Scott Pelley, he talked about Armstrong's drug-testing history and how the cycling superstar intimidated other riders to keep them quiet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: Was Lance Armstrong personally involved in intimidating these other riders to keep them quiet?

TRAVIS TYGART, HEAD OF U.S. ANTI-DOPING AGENCY: He was. It was tough. All these witnesses were scared of the repercussions of them simply telling the truth.

PELLEY: What could Lance Armstrong do to them?

TYGART: Incinerate them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Tygart's agency laid out its case against Armstrong last fall in hundreds of pages of documents, including eyewitness testimony from multiple teammates and others.

Betsy Andreu's husband, Frankie, rode with Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service Team; was one of the first to testify against Armstrong. It took tremendous courage. Betsy joins me along with "New York Times's" Juliet Macur.

Betsy, in the intro we heard that Travis Tygart talked about Lance Armstrong intimidating other riders who testified against him and that even Tygart got anonymous death threats. To anyone else, that might sound kind of crazy, but you actually lived this. You yourself say Lance Armstrong tried to basically destroy you after you testified more than five years ago to hearing him admit to taking drugs. What did he do?

BETSY ANDREU, WIFE OF CYCLIST WHO RODE WITH ARMSTRONG: Well, e- mail accounts were hacked. And I filed a police report. We went through -- we hired attorneys so we could discover who hacked into our e-mail account. We spent thousands of dollars. We got nowhere, because a Virginia court doesn't have to comply with a Michigan subpoena.

Frankie got a text from Lance in Spanish which said, "Cuidado," which means "caution." I received phone...

COOPER: Frankie is your husband?

ANDREU: Yes, yes. I received numerous phone calls throughout the years. They've stopped -- they've stopped in the past couple of years.

And it's just the threat of we see what Lance has done with other people, whether it's with us and the loss of jobs, with Frankie getting -- having his career completely derailed, because he rode the 2000 tour clean and refused to get on a doping program along with Lance.

COOPER: What -- I mean, what's amazing is, as you read the reports of these investigations and the evidence that has come out and the things that you have said and so many other people have now finally testified to, I mean, the public image that Lance Armstrong has created of himself seems at such odds to what so many other people in his inner circle have experienced over the years.

ANDREU: Well, that's true, but that's because he created -- the perception and the reality were completely different. So what -- the person you see is the image he wants you to see. He's a chameleon. I've said this before.

If he wants you to like him and if you're a member -- if you're an influential member of the media or if you're a politician, if you're wealthy and he can use you, he's going to be very charming. And if he wants to send a message and bully you, then he can be very intimidating and very, very mean.

COOPER: Juliet, you broke the news last week that Armstrong was considering whether to admit to doping. What do you think he is going to say with Oprah? I mean, Juliet, do you think this is kind of a full-admission interview, or how do you think he's going to play this?

JULIET MACUR, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, that really depends on your definition of full admission. We're hearing that it will be an admission. How big the admission will be is up to anyone's guess, but will he detail all of his doping, his secret blood transfusions, the needles in the arm that he took for EPO, all those things?

And will he talk about people like Betsy Andreu and her husband, Frankie, who he tried to crush because they dared to say that he was doping? I really don't think that Oprah is going to get into that during her interview.

COOPER: Betsy, I know I heard you laughing, as well, and I know you have those similar doubts. I mean, my question is how detailed is Oprah going to get in her questions? Because if you actually read these reports, I mean, the details are so damning. And I'd be curious to hear any answers he has to any of the allegations.

Betsy, do you think this is going to be a cake walk for him?

ANDREU: I presume it will be. And I base that on the interview that Oprah did with Marion Jones, where she did not know the sport well enough -- she didn't know the doping that went in track and field -- in order to ask the tough questions or the follow-up questions.

And as well, in April of 2011, Oprah welcomed and embraced Lance onto her program when Lance was under a federal criminal investigation and never asked him about it. She embraced him all the time.

And if Oprah did -- he was on her show a number of times, and if Oprah did ask the question, I think she just took him at face value, despite the fact that there were books written on Lance's doping, and there was -- there was the detail.

A lot of what has come out now is not new. A lot is new, but there's a lot of stuff also that has been out there. It's just -- the question is why has it taken so long to get out here?

COOPER: It's...

ANDREU: And the fact that he chose somebody like Oprah instead of going onto "60 Minutes" I think speaks volumes, as well.

COOPER: It's interesting, Juliet. I mean, I don't know what kind of a response you've gotten based on your reporting. You've been out in front of this. You know, every time we do this, I get inundated by tweets saying -- you know, people saying leave Lance Armstrong alone. He's done so much.

Do people -- do you find there's still a huge groundswell of people who just doesn't believe that he doped?

MACUR: I actually do, believe it or not, after all the reporting we've done about his doping and the 11 teammates who came forward.

COOPER: Because you can't read the hundreds of pages of documents and not see there is -- there's a lot of smoke there, and there's fire.

MACUR: I think people don't want to know. Those people who saw him as an inspiration for their fight against cancer or their -- maybe their family member's fight against cancer, they just don't want to know. And I'm not sure if they'll be tuning in at all.

But next Thursday we're going to hear something from Lance, you know, whether it's a full mea culpa and a full admission where he has tears and all those things that really make him seem contrite. I'm not sure if that's going to happen, but it's the first step in people believing that he actually lied to the American public and really to the world for more than a decade.

COOPER: Juliet and Betsy, I appreciate talking to you tonight. We'd love to talk to you next week after the interview and see how it goes. Thank you so much.

MACUR: Thanks, Anderson.

ANDREU: You're welcome.

COOPER: We'll be watching.

Coming up, you bailed them out. Then, after thanking you for the tens of billions of dollars, AIG said they might sue the government. In other words, you might end up paying even more. Next, their decision.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, I'm Susan Hendricks. More from Anderson in just a moment. First, a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Boston's mayor has declared a public health emergency due to the flu. Since October 1, there have been 700 confirmed cases in the city. That is ten times more than what they faced in all of last year's flu season.

A "360 Follow" now. The board of AIG has decided not to join a lawsuit against taxpayers over the bailout that saved the company from bankruptcy in 2008. The board said the reasons behind that decision will become clear through court filings in the coming weeks.

And Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been fined $50,000 over a tweet criticizing NBC officiating. He tweeted that he had, quote, "failed miserably" in his attempt to, quote, "fix the officiating in this league."

Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Susan, thanks.

Coming up, reports of a lion on the loose in Norfolk, Virginia, turned out to be, well, somewhat exaggerated. "The RidicuList" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And there's nothing like a good mid-week lion-on-the-loose story to get everyone all excited.

In Norfolk, Virginia, today some very startled people called 911 to report that a lion was roaming the streets. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Norfolk 911, where is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, I'd like to report a lion sighting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just saw an animal that looked like a small lion. It had the mane and everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just saw a baby lion on Colley Avenue and 50th Street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a lion that ran across the street. A baby lion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Where...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was about the size of a Labrador Retriever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So police called the Virginia Zoo to make sure that the lions were all accounted for, which they were. And it turns out that last caller was really onto something, because the reason the lion was about the size of a Labrador Retriever is because he is. The lion was actually a Labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador and a poodle.

Now, I have to say, I do not blame those people one bit for mistaking him for a lion. That is one lionesque hair-do. This is Charles the Monarch. His owner gets him groomed to look like the mascot from nearby Old Dominion University.

Charles the Monarch has a very popular Facebook page. Even the director of the Virginia Zoo wanted to meet him to see the most lion- like dog for himself.

Charles the Monarch's owner says when he is taking his dog to a park near the zoo, he has actually seen people run to their cars in shock. He says he tells people he's a Lab -- a Lab-a-lion and that half of them actually believe him.

Charles the Monarch is friendly. He's great with kids. He loves tailgating at Old Dominion and hanging out with the school's mascot. And the last time we checked he had 6,000 friends on Facebook.

Now look, it's probably a good idea to let somebody know if you think you see a lion roaming the streets. That's just a good policy to have. It's always been my policy. But to the good citizens of Norfolk, Virginia, rest easy tonight knowing your streets are safe. After all, there's only one place where there's a fine line between a lion and a tailgate-loving Labradoodle, and that place is "The RidicuList."

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