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Code Words in Al Qaeda Intercepts; Inside the Search for Hannah Anderson; Anti-Gay Laws, Violence in Russia; Louisiana Bank Hostage Standoff

Aired August 13, 2013 - 20:00   ET



Good evening, everyone.

We have breaking news tonight on two fronts -- lives on a line inside a bank in Louisiana, a gunman with hostages, three hostages being held right now. Police and bomb squad officers are on the scene. We're trying to gather more information on the standoff. We'll bring you the latest on that in just a few minutes.

But we begin with breaking news. Late new word on those intercepted al Qaeda messages that sparked the closings of 19 embassies around the world.

A source familiar with the latest intelligence telling CNN's Barbara Starr that U.S. code breakers recognized a number of specific words that they believed signaled a potentially imminent attack. Three intercepts got their attention. The first was from Nasser al- Wuhayshi, leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, outlining a possible attack.

The second said to be a response from an al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. And then two weeks earlier the U.S. also snagged a third message, this one from Zawahiri appointing Wuhayshi as his deputy.

A U.S. official declined to discuss specific code words on the intercepts, but told CNN, quote, "There was a sense of imminence, a sense of the overall area at risk and the known actors." There was this, officials said, great concern.

We also now know that in addition to the embassy closings, U.S. drones launched a series of attacks on al Qaeda including one over the weekend in Yemen which ABC News is reporting killed four suspected al Qaeda operatives associated with the embassy closings. U.S. officials CNN spoke to are not commenting on that.

National security analyst Fran Townsend is working her sources, joins us now. Fran serves on the CIA and Homeland Security External Advisory Boards.

Also joining us, national security analyst, Peter Bergen, and on the phone former CIA officer and FBI official, Philip Mudd.

Fran, what do you make of this? What are you hearing?

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: You know, look, in the -- more than a decade since 9/11, we've come to understand the sorts of words, code words that they use. You learn them from people who you've captured, you learn it from surveillance and you learn it from foreign intelligence services, and we've gotten much better and we listen for that.

You know, you load surveillance systems to trigger the system to alert analysts when they capture those sorts of words. And this is an indication that we've matured in terms of our intelligence capability to identify the threat and to act on it.

COOPER: Phil, you say picking up this type of intelligence is standard operating procedure but that the information never should have been leaked to the public, correct?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, CIA AND FBI: I don't think it should have been. I think there is a big difference between what we know and telling the American citizens if there is cause for concern across Middle East. There's a difference, though, when you're playing a cat-and-mouse game against terrorists, telling them how we know.

I think it's perfectly legitimate to tell Americans that we have access to al Qaeda officials who are talking about a threat, but to tell them that we're intercepting messages in this way basically tells the mouse how to hide.

COOPER: And, Fran, does it surprise you how much is leaked out about this? Because there was that earlier "Daily Beast" report about a -- what was termed a conference call, although the reporter said it wasn't an actual telephone call.

TOWNSEND: Yes. I mean, look, it's very damaging because as we develop capability to intercept their communications, what you don't want them to know is that we have kept a pace with them, that we're able to intercept what they believe are secret communications.

As Phil Mudd says, when you -- when you signal that to them, you also signal to them it's time for them to change the way they talk to each other.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, this is certainly not the first time that al Qaeda has used codes. Didn't they use pretty elaborate coded messages before 9/11?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, before 9/11 they had a very elaborate code. Two of the leaders posed as students studying in the United States and they kind of communicated about the targets. They talked about the trade center being the faculty of town planning. They talked about four exams for targets and they talk about the exams happening in three weeks.

And so they had a pretty elaborate code, but we've also seen much less elaborate codes like the word wedding for a potential attack. So, you know, al Qaeda used these terms in the past.

COOPER: And, Fran, I mean, the U.S. embassies have reopened but these folks aren't going away unless they are eliminated.

TOWNSEND: No, that's right, and we've seen this extraordinary number increase of drone strikes in Yemen presumably at targets -- we don't know this for sure, presumably at targets related to the threat. We had heard from officials that there was an influx of what they believed were operational types into Yemen around the time that they closed the embassies.

And remember the one in Yemen stayed closed longer. And so, you know, they are taking both overt action and covert action that we only see -- you know, you see the results of the drone strikes but they're not saying and they won't confirm who's been hit.

COOPER: Phil, so now that the code of messages have been intercepted, does al Qaeda shift its M.O.? I mean, are they operationally nimble enough to shift gears? Or is that many other options for them to communicate?

MUDD: I would say sort of. Look, they've shifted in the past and I can tell you, having watched them for years, they have American citizens in their midst. They will read newspapers. They read the Internet. The problem they face, though, is the communication between people like Zawahiri and subordinates can be very difficult because he's so isolated and the pressure on him is so high that they're going to go listen to this.

They're going to be reading news reports tonight, but it's not like they can call them up and say, hey, let's change -- code words tomorrow. The communication between Pakistan and Yemen is very difficult.

COOPER: And, Peter, we talked about this a little bit but it bears repeating. How do you see this -- you know, now that we have distance on this alleged terror threat, how do you see it? Do you see it as al Qaeda resurgent or, Peter, do you see it as a sign of the difficulties they have trying to launch an operation now?

BERGEN: Well, if this show was about an attack that had happened on a U.S. embassy, we'd be having a very different show than we're having a show about U.S. embassies that are closed because the -- you know, their messages were intercepted. So a translator shows the fact that we've been pretty successful, the U.S. government has.

So, you know, I think we can celebrate the fact that this threat seems to be washing out. And we -- we've had threats similar in the past in the fall of 2010. The State Department released a Europe-wide alert for some kind of al Qaeda-like attack. It was based on real intelligence. There was a lot of criticism about the vagueness of the -- of this kind of warning, similar to what happened here where it was very unspecific.

And in the end, the threat washed out. So, you know, this may be the case now or we may find something down the road, but it's hard to tell.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, Phil Mudd, glad to have you on. Fran Townsend as well. Thanks.

Now fresh new details coming to light from inside the weeklong search for Hannah Anderson and her rescue in rural Idaho over the weekend. It ended, as you know, with James DiMaggio, Hannah's kidnapper and the killer of her mother and brother, shot dead by law enforcement sniper.

It involved the work, however, of hundreds of people, civilians and law enforcement alike, including U.S. Marshal Steve Jurman who told his story to CNN's San Diego affiliate KGTV.


STEVE JURMAN, U.S. MARSHAL: We had been working the case for nearly a week, and it's kind of interesting to point out that this was the sheriff that called in the tip about the Idaho woods and seeing them. That was our 200th tip. When the sheriff called in this tip, it was -- we were trying to determine how valid it was. When the car turned up in Idaho, and then obviously it became, you know, a central area of focus.

Once we were able to determine that the car was there, it became -- it was really the needle in the haystack that we had been searching for.

We went to the lake where she was last seen by the horseback riders, it's called Moorhead Lake, and it's a -- it's a small lake, tiny little mountain lake, and it's up -- it's probably no larger than an Olympic-sized pool. We circled a few more times and focused in on that area and then we were able to see that it was a blue tent.

Now the horseback riders had reported that they saw a blue tent at Honeymoon Lake which was only about three miles away from Moorhead Lake. And they reported that they saw her and a cat and DiMaggio up at Moorhead Lake. So when we saw the blue tent, we were -- we definitely knew that we would have to research further.

And then, we were actually able to verify that it was a male and a female with blond hair and a small animal. So at that point, we knew we had something extremely valuable.

It appears that they were just kind of going about their normal activity. They've gathered firewood and walked around and it didn't appear like they were doing anything out of the ordinary. But they were the only ones in this -- in that area. We searched the area and there was no one else within several miles.

10:00 we launched. And we had them located at 10:45. It was extremely quick. There was a lot of speculation they could be there. They could have made it out of the area and made it up to Canada.

There is always a lot of speculation in these types of things, but it's always best to start where were they last seen and really -- and work a spiral out from that.

When we got confirmation that she was OK, it was like a weight lifted off of everybody's shoulders and a job well done. It was a very rewarding feeling. It's the type of feeling that we get on a lot of cases, but in a high-profile case like this where you -- you know, you realize how imminent danger was for her, and you realize what you did, it's a good feeling. It makes my job worthwhile.


COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @andersoncooper.

Just ahead, our other breaking news. The latest on the bank hostage situation that's ongoing, happening right now in Louisiana. You're looking at the scene there.

Also tonight, the calls to boycott the Winter Olympics in Russia over Russia's new anti-gay law and harsh anti-gay climate, Olympic superstar Greg Louganis joins us ahead.


COOPER: In a moment, the debate over boycotting the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia because of Russia's stance on gay rights. First, what's at stake with or without the winter games in the Russian city of Volgograd. This May a young man's badly beaten body was found. His skull was crushed. He'd been raped with beer bottles, stripped and dumped in a local courtyard.

Killed, according to one suspect, because he was gay. Something his family denies. Such is the stigma.

It's a dangerous time to be gay in Russia or even to speak out for gay rights. Protesters across the country routinely beaten, sometimes by anti-gay thugs as police stand back and watch. Sometimes the police themselves dos the beating.

And now in addition to the physical danger, there is a legal dimension. Russian President Putin recently signing legislation amending the country's Child Protection Laws outlining, quote, "The propagandizing of non-traditional sexual relations among minors." Officials saying they are not discriminating against gays, only protecting children presumably from information about gays.

The law prompting calls for a boycott of the Olympics or some kind of protest by athletes attending the Olympics, something the International Olympic Committee today said they would penalize and Russian authorities say they would punish under the law. Others, though, including one of Russia's leading news anchors, wants to go even further.


DMITRY KISELEV, RUSSIAN NEWS ANCHOR: I believe it is not enough to impose fines on gays for engaging in the propaganda of homosexuality among adolescents. We need to ban them from donating blood and sperm, and if they die in car accidents, we need to bury their hearts in the ground or burn them as they're unsuitable for the aiding of anyone's life.


COOPER: That anchor later said he was just talking about organ transplants. You can judge for yourself.

Phil Black is in Moscow reporting on the story. He joins us now.

Phil, we've seen the images, we've heard horror stories how gay people are treated in Russia. Is there much outrage within Russia itself?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Anderson, there isn't. This has long been a socially conservative society, one with little tolerance for open homosexuality. So there has always been violence against gay people that is disputed by some politicians here.

Difficult to draw a link between recent violence and this law, but gay people here very strongly believe it sends a message, reinforces a message that impunity -- there is an impunity when it comes to violence and humiliation towards them.

COOPER: And we're seeing these videos, you know, of one or two protesters who will put up a rainbow flag in support of gay and lesbian people in Russia being hauled off by police, sometimes beaten by crowds or even beaten by police.

Phil, how likely is it that gay athletes or athletes who show any support for equal rights for gay and lesbians could actually be prosecuted?

BLACK: It is difficult to say because the law itself doesn't specifically define what gay propaganda is. But you're right in theory it could include simply carrying a rainbow flag, displays of affection, anywhere these things take place publicly, and could possibly be seen by children. That is, in theory, we believe a breach of the law.

So if that happens during the games with athletes or visitors showing support for Russia's gay community, that it then comes down to Russian authorities to determine what to do under those circumstances. And it's a challenge for them because they want their laws to be respected, they want their sovereignty to be respected, but they also want -- desperately want these Olympic Games to be considered a success -- Anderson.

COOPER: Is there any reason, Phil, to believe that Russian officials will in any way ratchet down these anti-gay laws?

BLACK: Not really. No. The law does have tremendous support in this country. And one of the theories is its key purpose was to -- was to secure the support of the country's conservative majority. There's been a lot of pressure on the Russian government but the Russian government doesn't respond well to pressure, particularly from the outside, doesn't like to back down, little reason to believe it will in this case.

COOPER: Phil Black reporting from Moscow. Phil, thanks.

Some perspective now from Greg Louganis, perhaps the greatest diver America has ever produced. The first double gold medallist in 56 years, one of the youngest medallists in 1976 and in 1988 one of the oldest. He is of course a legend. He's also gay and has some ideas on how he would protest if he were in Russia for the winter games. We spoke earlier tonight.


COOPER: Greg, obviously, you're an Olympic gold medallist. You're also gay. What are your thoughts about what's happening in Russia right now, particularly the talk of boycotting the Olympics?

GREG LOUGANIS, OLYMPIC DIVING GOLD MEDALIST: Well, I'm not in favor of boycotting. I mean I lived through two boycotts. Few athletes have that opportunity. You know, there is a short window of opportunity for young kids who train their entire lives for this. Whether they be gay or straight.

You know, I was in competitions where, you know, I was called faggot and, you know, there is the whole fag buster campaign. You know, there's a lot of things that, you know, I had to deal with. The diving team, when we would travel internationally, it was very difficult sometimes because nobody wanted to room with a fag. And I would usually ended up rooming with one of the coaches. It's a very small team, small community.

COOPER: No one --

LOUGANIS: I was out for my friends and family.

COOPER: No one on your own team wanted to room with you?

LOUGANIS: Yes. Usually, I would find one person on the team that was, you know, secure enough in their own sexuality that, you know, they knew it wasn't -- it wasn't an issue.

COOPER: There have been a number of columnists here in the states who suggested that the athletes, you know, on the U.S. team carry rainbow flags or other athletes carry rainbow flags. Do you think that's a good idea, though? I think it's against IOC rules.

LOUGANIS: Yes. It's a really tough call and you know, unfortunately, the IOC is not -- not following their own charter and in their charter, principal six is anti discrimination against, you know, the entire Olympic movement is about not discriminating, and here they are being very select in what their -- what they are enforcing.

And they have come forward to say that they would take action toward those athletes who do demonstrate and it's really unfortunate that the IOC is not living up to, you know, they are talking the talk but they're not walking the walk.

COOPER: So you wouldn't wear a rainbow flag or wave a rainbow flag or try to make some sort of a statement while competing?

LOUGANIS: I probably would.


I'd get a rainbow Speedo.

COOPER: A rainbow Speedo.


I'm not sure if they make those, but I -- you can probably have one made.

Listen, Greg, it's great to have you on the program. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.



COOPER: We're now with Richard Socarides. He served as White House senior advisor during the Clinton administration dealing primarily with gay and lesbian civil rights issues.

What do you make, A, of what's happening in Russia right now and the idea of a boycott?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, THENEWYORKER.COM: Well, I think it's a big story. It's probably going to be the biggest international gay rights story we've ever seen, and I think we very much have to keep all the options on the table right now, including a boycott.

I think principally now the focus should be on trying to get the IOC to move the Olympics somewhere else. I know that's a dramatic -- would be a dramatic step. But --

COOPER: Yes. I mean, logistically, is that even possible?

SOCARIDES: I mean, anything is possible. I mean, we have to, though, take a strong stand that any country that violates human rights like this, targeting a population for mistreatment, violence, even killings, any country that treats a population like this can't be allowed to host an international sporting event where the idea is supposed to be welcome to everybody.

COOPER: Do you think in the future, regardless of what happens in Russia, in the future that the Olympic Committee should take into account a country's treatment of minorities?

SOCARIDES: I mean, I think they have to. I think it's part of their charter. And in this instance they seem to have been asleep at the switch for not doing so. COOPER: And their charter does not specifically talk about, you know, being against discrimination of sexual -- based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Do you think that should be rewritten?

SOCARIDES: I think it should be added but certainly their charter I think covers it in spirit. Now it talks broadly about non- discrimination, about the Olympics being about sports. This notion that they would now punish athletes or anybody for protesting, even if we go there, is also ridiculous.

I don't think they're going to -- I think people -- if the Olympics -- if the Olympics are actually held in Sochi and the Russians don't change this law, there are going to be massive protests. The Russians will then have to decide whether they're going to arrest these protesters. It is going to be a big mess and a huge story.

COOPER: And if it is in Russia, do you think athletes should carry a rainbow flag or rainbow pin or do something?

SOCARIDES: I think if it's in Russia and people decide to participate, they must protest this mistreatment of a class of people and this violence that is being perpetrated by this country.

COOPER: Do you think if this was -- if Russia had passed laws outlawing the propagandizing of black culture or propagandizing of Jewish faith, there would be more outcry than there is about gays and lesbians?

SOCARIDES: Well, you know, remarkably -- I think obviously yes. Now there would be, you know, if they -- if they were targeting women for mistreatment or if they were targeting a racial minority. They are also -- you know, they are targeting other communities. There is a story in the "New York Times" today about their targeting of the immigrant community.

COOPER: Right.

SOCARIDES: But, you know, remarkably, this is remarkably like what we saw in 1936 with the Olympics in Berlin and Germany, when Hitler said that he would suspend the anti-Jewish laws during the 1936 Olympics and of course, you know, we -- he suspended the laws. They took down the anti-Jewish signs. They cleaned things up for a little while.

COOPER: Right --


SOCARIDES: And then of course -- of course, most people -- you know, people participated in those Olympics and then we know what happened after that.

COOPER: A lot more to come on this, no doubt. Six months before the Olympics. Richard, appreciate it. Thanks for being on.

SOCARIDES: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, breaking news tonight. That hostage situation happening right now at a bank in northeastern Louisiana. The gunman has been holding three people hostage for more than six hours. I'll speak with the head of the Louisiana State Police coming up next.

Also tonight, what changed Dr. Sanjay Gupta's mind about medical marijuana? There's been a tremendous response to a documentary. I'll speak with him coming up.


COOPER: Breaking news happening now in northeastern Louisiana where a gunman is holding three people hostage inside a bank in St. Joseph, Louisiana. This bank hostage negotiators and other law enforcement officers are outside the bank along with the state bomb squad. It all started this afternoon.

Colonel Michael Edmonson is the head of the Louisiana State Police. He joins me now on the phone. He's at the scene.

Colonel, thank you very much for being with us. And before we begin, I know obviously there are only certain things you can say. This is an ongoing hostage situation and it's very possible the gunman in the bank could be monitoring media. So with all that in mind what can you tell us about what's happening?

COL. MICHAEL EDMONSON, SUPERINTENDENT, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE (via phone): Well, it's a very fluid situation, Anderson. Thanks for giving us the opportunity. This happened around 12:30 this afternoon. A gentleman entered the bank.

There's a lot of things being said about him. He's a U.S. citizen. He's from this area. He was born in California. He's 20 years old. Family moved over here. The only convenience store. This is a rural area. The whole parish is about 5,000 people. The town is about 1500, farming area. They own a convenience store here.

For whatever reason he entered that bank, he's taken three hostages. Two females and a male. They work at the bank so they were workers at the bank itself. And so -- we're negotiating with him, we're talking with him. We've been on the phone with him. We actually talked to the hostages there.

Nothing is more important to me than the state of those hostages. That's why it's a fluid situation. I have assets from area, sheriffs, a lot of partnership in Louisiana. The sheriff's department and local areas, the U.S. Martial task force, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are all here with their assets.

He is armed and dangerous. So we have enough individuals here to take as long as we need to make sure that I go within place -- to get those hostages out there safely. They are most important to me as well as the manpower that's all around there. Of course the -- the individual himself is last. But we're on the scene. A lot going on. Very, very fluid and we're going to be here as long as it takes to get them out of here.

COOPER: You've said you've been in contact or your negotiators have been in contact. Has he made any demands? And if so, can you say what they are?

EDMONSON: He has. He's made some demands of us. We're talking through those. We're trying to talk with him. He's very calm. We've been able to talk to some of the hostages. We believe them to be safe. We know him to be armed. But we're talking through that and trying to work with him. I go -- I got (INAUDIBLE) to get them out of there safely. But we are in conversations with them and with the things that I've talked about that's on the site.

COOPER: It is fair to say, though, this began simply as a bank robbery, though.

EDMONSON: It is, and again not knowing what intent he had in place, no reason for him to want these particular individuals in this bank, what statement he's trying to make or was there something that just went bad. So we don't want to speculate because there's a lot of moving parts that we've got work through.

But what's most important is the fact that he's in there now. He is armed and he has three hostages. And I want them out of there and I want them out of there safely. I'm going to go meet with the families. (INAUDIBLE) with you, Anderson, and then talk to them to make sure they understand we're doing everything we can to get their loved ones back. To bring some resolve to this community. Get them back to normal.

COOPER: Well, I don't want to delay you at all. Just one quick final question, there is a report a couple hours ago about a car breaking through a roadblock. Did that have anything to do with the bank?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir. He had some family members trying to get up and try to approach the area. A lot of things are being said from explosive devices to people from outside the country. This is an incident here from this community. A lot of moving parts, like I said, a lot of things we'll learn and talk about afterwards but the most important thing is to get them out of here safely.

COOPER: I appreciate time tonight, Colonel. I'll let you go because I know you want to talk to those families of the hostages. Thank you so much, Colonel Edmondson. We'll continue checking with you. Our best to your officers on the scene and to those people being held hostage and their families.

I want to get caught up on some of other stories we're following now. Susan Hendricks joins us with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Susan. SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a juror in the Whitey Bulger trial is speaking out after the Boston mobster was found guilty of 31 counts of racketeering including involvement in 11 murders. Juror Janet Uhlar says corruption in the FBI during Bulger's hay day left her disgusted. She admits there was tension during deliberations.


JANET UHLAR, BULGER TRIAL JUROR: I'm not sure a jury in the United States in the history of the United States has ever faced anything like this. We had 30 years of crime. We had many criminals before us. So many situations and we had corruption in the government to top it all off. It was huge.


HENDRICKS: New development here, two friends of Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice charges. They are accused of taking items from Tsarnaev's dorm room to keep them from investigators.

Paula Deen no longer faces racial discrimination claims after a judge toss out that part of a lawsuit against her. But the financial damage is already done from her admitted use of racial slurs in the past. According to, Deen has lost several million dollars a year in income due to the scandal, but she has a net worth of about $10 million.

Take a look here at America's newest millionaires. Meet "Ocean's 16" as they are called, the 16 workers from Ocean County, New Jersey's Vehicle Maintenance Facility who won a third of last week's $448 million Powerball jackpot. After taxes, each of them get $3.8 million.

COOPER: I hope they invest it wisely. Susan, thanks very much.

Just ahead, chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me to talk about really the overwhelming response to his provocative documentary "Weed" all about medical marijuana and why he's changed his mind about it. Hear that ahead.

Also ahead, new details on the Florida sink hole that gave vacationers a scare of a lifetime. What investigators have found and the man who is being called a hero.


COOPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta's 180 on medical marijuana, why a lot of people are talking about his new documentary "Weed" when 360 continues.


COOPER: A CNN documentary that premiered two nights ago got tremendous viewership and a lot of reaction. It's called "Weed." And a lot of people are still talking about. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent a year digging into research on medical marijuana and what he found made him do a complete 180 in his thinking.

Before we talk to Sanjay about that and the response to the documentary, we want to play a clip for you. Sanjay met a number of people whose lives have been dramatically changed for the better by medical marijuana. One of those of people is a little girl named Charlotte. Take a look.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was January 2012, Afghanistan, about 7,000 miles away from his family in Colorado, Matt Figi received this video from his wife, Page.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's horrible seeing these videos when I'm deployed.

GUPTA: It was his 5-year-old daughter, Charlotte, seizing, diagnosed with epilepsy, she was having 300 seizures a week, each attack so severe it had the potential to kill her. They had already tried dozens of high-powered drugs.

MATT FIGI: We needed to dry something else, and at that point in time, marijuana was that natural course of action to try.

GUPTA: At home in Colorado, Page searched for marijuana high in CBD, that's the ingredient some scientists think help seizures and low in THC. Remember, she didn't want to get her daughter stoned. She found a small amount at a Denver dispensary. The owner was surprised anyone would even want it.

PAGE FIGI: They said it's funny because no one buys this. That was the general consensus. Nobody wanted it. It didn't have an effect.

GUPTA: Page paid $800 for a small bag and took it home.

PAGE FIGI: Had a friend that was starting a business making medicine and I said can you help me extract the medicine from this bag of marijuana. I measured it with a syringe and squirted it under her tongue.

GUPTA: Holding Charlotte in her arms, Page waited. An hour ticked by and then another and then another.

PAGE FIGI: She didn't have a seizure that day and then she didn't have a seizure that night.

GUPTA (on camera): Sit there and look at your watch.

PAGE FIGI: Yes, I thought this is crazy and then she didn't have one the next day and the next day, and I thought that is -- she would have had 100 by now. I just -- I know, I just thought, this is insane. GUPTA (voice-over): Then Page heard about the Stanleys, the six brothers and their greenhouse of marijuana that is high in CBD.

PAGE FIGI: I said, my goodness, he says I don't know what to do with it. We're trying new things, but nobody wants it. It's not sellable. I said just don't touch that. We need that plant.

JOSH STANLEY, MARIJUANA GROWER: People have called us the Robin Hoods of marijuana. They say we sell pot so that we can take care of the kids and the truly less fortunate.

GUPTA: Charlotte was the first of those kids. Late spring 2012, she tried the Stanley special marijuana and again, it worked.

STANLEY: I can't tell you what that means to us.

GUPTA: Get you going a little bit.

STANLEY: If it doesn't get you, something is wrong with you. She lived her life in a catatonic state. Now her parents get to meet her for the first time. What a revelation.

PAGE FIGI: Yes, kitty.

GUPTA: The child who had had 300 seizures a week was now down to just one every seven days.


GUPTA: And it's kind of her example that was part of the reason you really have done a complete 180 on your opinion on this.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, I think Charlotte just watching that story is unbelievable, but she's emblematic, Anderson, of a lot more patients. The other thing was if you just look at the literature in the United States on medicinal marijuana, the vast majority of studies are designed to look at the harm. That's what I realize. If you look at it, sort of globally, it doesn't look very impressive.

But then you realize the vast majority are looking for harm, a very small percentage, about 6 percent to look for benefit. Once you start looking outside the United States and other countries and smaller labs, and then listening to the legitimate course of patients out there who have legitimate problems who marijuana works for them when nothing else did, then you start to really, dive into this and that's what really tempered my.

COOPER: Marijuana, the U.S. government still classifies marijuana in the same category as LSD and heroin and those are defined as drugs with, quote, "No currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." Do you think that's just not true?

GUPTA: That is not true.

COOPER: They are not a high potential for abuse and legitimate medical reasons. GUPTA: Cocaine is a schedule two substance. It has a higher potential for abuse. It is -- you're more likely to become addicted, more than twice as likely to become addicted to it. There are many substances that are legal that you're more likely to abuse than marijuana. It's just not -- it's not even close to being the truth with regard to abuse.

With regard to medical applications, you saw, again, an example of that. I don't want you to think this is anecdotal. That's been part of the problem with this debate is people rely on conjecture hyperbole and anecdotal stories. There is real science here. So Charlotte is one girl, but she represents lots of patients who have problems for which marijuana has really worked for them.

So it definitely has medical applications. Let me just share with you, Anderson, this wasn't in the documentary, but the United States government through its Department of Health and Human Services holds a patent on marijuana as a protectant for the brain. That's something to protect the brain after head injuries.

COOPER: How is that possible that the U.S. government holds a patent?

GUPTA: The U.S. government holds a patent on one hand and on the other hand, same government says it has no medical applications. I mean, I think I've said this to you before, but journalists I think are trained to hate hypocrisy. This is hypocrisy. I've never seen it quite like this.

COOPER: You interviewed the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse for the documentary. She told the "USA Today," she said that if she was concerned that if the drug became universally legal that adolescents would have more access to the drug. That's something you hear from a lot of parents and people who work in the drug field who say it's kind of a gateway drug.

GUPTA: Well, you know, first of all, I don't think it's a gateway drug. I mean, to the extent that that implies that your body somehow changes and that you now crave other drugs as a result of trying marijuana, I don't think that's true. The science doesn't back that up. People who get marijuana illicitly are often coming in contact in situations where they are then exposed to other drugs, and that may explain in part why they go to heroin or cocaine or something like that.

But with regard do adolescence, look, of course, I'm worried about that as well. I think any responsible doctor or responsible parent. Anybody would be worried about that. I don't want kids taking this stuff. I don't want anybody whose brain hasn't fully developed, which, you know, usually in the mid 20s taking this stuff.

That's not about this. But the trade off shouldn't be because of those concerns, we will deny people therapy. That maybe the only therapy that works for them. I don't think that's the trade off and I don't think even Nora Volkow, who is the head of NIDA would think that would be a good idea. COOPER: It's fascinating. You've gotten a huge response from this. What kind of response?

GUPTA: It was a bit surprising. You know --

COOPER: You apologized. You said I'm sorry that I was wrong about this.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, that's a tough thing to do, I think for anybody. When I hit send on that, it was tough. It's the right thing to do because I -- you know, I didn't look deep enough at the evidence and the research going on there. I think we have been in this country misled. I said that. I think we have been misled systemically. It's been terrible misleading over the last 70 years and I wanted to apologize for my own role in that.

But I think now it's important to look forward and say look, there is legitimate medical applications here, just legitimate uses for marijuana and people could -- who needlessly suffered during this period of demonization of marijuana should feel like they maybe can have some options in terms of treating their disease. That is just the right thing to do.

COOPER: Sanjay Gupta, good to have you on. Thank you. It's a fascinating documentary.

If you missed it the first time around, I urged you to watch it. You can catch Sanjay's documentary, "Weed," this Friday 10:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Just ahead, the security guard is being called a hero for his quick thinking when that giant sinkhole opened up at a Florida resort.

Plus David Mattingly takes us inside one of these freaks of natures, inside a sinkhole, an up close look at a phenomenon as old as the ice age.


COOPER: Welcome back. Today we learned that sinkhole that swallowed up a three-story villa at a Florida resort is bigger than first thought. It measures up to 120 feet wide, 15 feet deep. An engineering firm hired by the resort said that preliminary tests have not turned up any further cause for alarm.

As we reported, three dozen people had just minutes to get out of that villa. The amazing thing is no one was hurt and tonight the security guard, Richard Shanley, is being called a hero. Today he described what he did when he realized the building was coming apart.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went door to door, just beating on the doors, trying to get people out and making sure they were safe. I went floor to floor, got everybody out and at the time I got done, I really didn't think about it. I just got a mountain and got out myself.


COOPER: Now the resort now says some guests will be able to retrieve their belongings from the collapsed villa. It can be hard to really wrap your mind around sinkholes if you never actually seen one, how and why they happen and also what they look like from the inside. Not long ago, our David Mattingly found out firsthand.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's just a few short steps down to an incredible underground site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the original cavity that eventually collapsed in.

MATTINGLY: A massive sinkhole carved out of limestone by drops of water.

(on camera): So this is what a sinkhole looks like from the inside.

JERRY BLACK, GEOLOGIST: From the inside, yes, before you fill it up with sand and dirt.

MATTINGLY: And if someone were living on top of this, they would be at risk?


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Geologist, Jerry Black, says sunshine state homeowners might be surprised to find out just how common these are.

(on camera): What are the chances of someone having a house in Central Florida and living on top of something like this?

BLACK: Very good. Not probably as close to the surface as this, but you definitely have a cavity of this size all over the state of Florida.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Fossils found in this sinkhole shows it's been around since the ice age, but no different Black says than the sinkholes we see opening up today. These are just a few of the pictures. The one thing they all have in common is water.

BLACK: Rainwater is going to turn into ground water and that's what is naturally acidic. That is the device that dissolves the limestone and will help create these cavities.

MATTINGLY: What is unusual about this sinkhole, it's easy to get inside, called the devil's den, it's open to tourists for viewing and diving. And Dive Instructor Prince Johnston takes me under for a look. I find the seemingly placid pool of water is anything but. PRINCE JOHNSTON, DIVER INSTRUCTOR: The water has gone down considerably because of the aqua, but has also risen when we've had hurricanes and tropical storms. It's risen another 45 feet.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Forty five feet?

JOHNSTON: Forty five feet.

MATTINGLY: So the water is going up and down.


MATTINGLY: Depending on drought and hurricanes?

JOHNSTON: Correct.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Down here it's easy to see how fluctuating ground water has silently wrecked havoc. I passed by limestone boulders as big as cars sitting on the bottom and the same forces are still at work compounded by the demand for fresh water.

JOHNSTON: It is progressively dropping yearly, and that's basically over the whole state of Florida. Aquifer is getting lower and lower.

MATTINGLY: Perhaps most striking to me, how appearances of this sinkhole are so misleading. A single beam of sunlight reveals the cavern is even bigger below the water line with tunnels and passage ways deep carved into the darkness. But most disturbing could be the view from up top. The round opening is deceptively small, little indication of the cavern that's just beneath my feet.

(on camera): Until a hole like this opens up, there is really no warning, is there?

BLACK: Correct, it's that random and that sudden and can happen, obviously, overnight or at any time.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): It can and it does with thousands of sinkholes opening up in Florida every year. David Mattingly, CNN Williston, Florida.


COOPER: It's incredible to see how big some of these sinkholes are and how wide spread they are in Florida.

Coming up next, "The Ridiculist," find out who is on it tonight.


COOPER: Time for "The Ridiculist" and tonight a thank you to my fellow journalist, the reporters who brave the elements and the unknown to bring us the news. Take for instance, the recent case of a reporter in Philadelphia who is live on the air talking about a string of robberies when all of a sudden. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite this resent rash of car thefts, the captain said that car break-ins are down 28 percent this year, but he is urging people to keep their doors locked and continue to communicate. I'm sorry something was going on behind me.


COOPER: Behind him indeed. Do you know how districting it can be when out of nowhere a full moon breaks out? That reporter I think handled it like a pro. He is after all part of a crack team of journalists. You know what is even more districting than someone mooning your live shot is a hurricane.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll bite my tongue, people coming out. We're talking about dozens of people who have walked by me and to be honest, I'm pretty much speechless.


COOPER: When you think about it, live news reporters are kind of like the post office delivering the news deterred by neither rain or heat or drunken idiots going full frontal during a hurricane nor snow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been out a couple hours.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people are just out of their minds, you know. What are you going to do? I mean, it's nuts.


COOPER: I actually met that guy last time I was in Cleveland. He was wearing clothes at the time, a very nice guy. I think he works for a radio station. Anyway, to circle back around, that was more than enough to seal his place in "Ridiculist" history. But look, I suppose, if you're going to strip down in a snowstorm, you really commit to staying in the pictures or make it worth your while.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long have you been out and what are you doing to stay warm?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Staying warm is a good question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, I can't do this. Thanks a lot, man. Thanks for being out here. Guys, we'll turn it back to you reporting live from a crazy downtown Cleveland.


COOPER: That is why they call it action news. Sometimes the action, it's behind you. To all the reporters out there in the field now, we salute you and to anyone of thinking pulling down your pants live behind a reporter, remember it's been done before, bigger, better, in hurricanes and snowstorms. So take a deep breath, take a minute and butt out because we're tired of blurring your junk on the "Ridiculist."

That does it for us. We'll see you again one hour from now at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, another edition of 360. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.