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Al Qaeda's Message; Interview With Greg Louganis; Gunman Holding Hostages in Louisiana Bank; Marijuana Gives Sick Child New Chance

Aired August 13, 2013 - 22:00   ET


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

And we have breaking news on two fronts, a hostage situation playing out in a bank in Louisiana. Bring you the latest on that in a few minutes.

First, though, late new word on the 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 believe signaled a potentially imminent attack. Three intercepts got their attention. The first was from Nasir al-Wuhayshi, leader of the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula group, outlining a possible attack.

The second said to be a response from al Qaeda leader Ayman al- Zawahri. Two weeks earlier, the U.S. also snagged a third message, this one from Zawahri appointing al-Wuhayshi as his deputy. A U.S. official declined to discuss specific code words on the intercepts, but told CNN "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 and FBI official Philip Mudd.

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

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Look, more than a decade since 9/11, we have come to understand the sorts of words, code words that they use. You learn them from people who you captured, you learn it from surveillance and you learn it foreign intelligence services and we have gotten much better. And we listen for that. You load surveillance systems to trigger the system to alert analysts when they capture those sorts of words. This is an indication we have matured in terms of intelligence capability to identify the threat and act on it.

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


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

COOPER: Fran, does it surprise you how much has leaked out about this? Because there was that earlier Daily Beast report about what was termed a conference call, though the reporting said it was not an actual telephone call.

TOWNSEND: Yes. Look, it's very damaging because as we develop capability to intercept their communications, what you don't want them to know is we have kept apace with them and that we're able to intercept what they believe are secret communications. As Phil Mudd says 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 al Qaeda has used codes. Didn't they use pretty elaborated coded messages before 9/11?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM 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 four targets and they talked about the examines happening in three weeks. They had a pretty elaborate code.

But we have also seen much lesser elaborate codes like the word wedding for a potential attack. Al Qaeda has certainly used these terms in the past.

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

TOWNSEND: No, that's right, and we have 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 there was an influx of what they believed were operational types into Yemen around the time they closed the embassies and remember the one in Yemen stayed closed longer. So they are taking both overt action and covert action that we only see -- you see the results of the drone strikes, but they are not saying and they won't confirm who has been hit.

COOPER: Phil, now that coded messages have been intercepted, does al Qaeda shift it's M.O.? Are they operationally nimble enough to shift gears? Are there that many other options for them to communicate?

MUDD: I would say sort of. They have 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 and they read the Internet.

And the problem they face though is the communication between people like Zawahri and subordinates can be very difficult because he's so isolated and the pressure on him is so high. But they will go listen to this and they will be reading news reports tonight, but it's not like they can call him up and say, hey, like let's changed code words tomorrow. The communication between Pakistan and Yemen is very difficult.

COOPER: Peter, we talked about this a little bit, but it bears repeating. How do you see this, you know, now that we have some 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 happened on a U.S. Embassy, we would be having a very different kind of show. We are having a show about U.S. embassies that closed because their messages were intercepted.

As Fran said, it shows the fact that we have been pretty successful, the U.S. government has. So we can celebrate the fact that this threat seems to be washing out. We have 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 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, good to have you on, Fran Townsend as well. Thanks.

Now fresh details coming to light from inside the week-long 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 a 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 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 the tip, it was -- we were trying to determine how valid it was. When the car turned up in Idaho, then obviously it became 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 we had been searching for.

We went to the lake, where she was last seen by the horseback riders. It's called Morehead Lake. It's a small lake, tiny little mountain lake, and it's probably no larger than on Olympic size 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.

The horseback riders had reported they saw a blue tent at Honeymoon Lake, which was about three miles away from Morehead Lake. They reported that they saw her and a cat and DiMaggio up at Morehead Lake. When we saw the blue tent, 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 blonde hair and a small animal. So, at that point, we knew we had something extremely valuable. It appears they were just kind of going about their normal activity. They 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's always a lot of speculation in these types of things, but it's always best to start where were they thank last seen and really 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's 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 realize how imminent danger was for her, and you realize what you did, it's a good feeling. It makes my job worthwhile.


COOPER: Let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper..

Just ahead, our other breaking news, the latest in 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 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 had 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 are routinely beaten, sometimes by anti-gay thugs as police stand back and watch. Sometimes the police themselves do the beating. And now in addition to the physical danger, there's a legal dimension. Russian President Putin recently signing legislation amending the country's child protection laws outlawing "the propagandizing of nontraditional sexual relationships among minors."

Officials saying they're 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 said they would penalize and Russian authorities said they would punish under the law.

Others, though, including one of Russia's leading new anchors, want to go even further.


DMITRY KISELEV, RUSSIAN NEWS ANCHOR (through translator): 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 the story and he joins us now.

Phil, we have seen the images and we have heard horror stories of how gay people are treated in Russia. Is there much outrage within Russia itself? PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Anderson, there isn't. This has long been a socially conservative society, one with little tolerance of open homosexuality.

So there's 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 strongly believe it sends a message, reinforces a message that there is an impunity when it comes to violence and humiliation towards them.

COOPER: We're seeing these videos, one or two protesters who 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 possibly 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, it then comes down to the Russian authorities to determine what to do under those circumstances. It's a challenge for them because they want their laws to be respected, they want their sovereignty to be respected, but they also desperately want these Olympic Games to be considered a success.

COOPER: Is there any reason 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. One of the theories is, its key purpose 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.

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 a legend, and he's also gay and has some ideas 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 GOLD MEDALIST: I'm not in favor of boycotting. I lived through two boycotts. Few athletes have that opportunity.

There's a short window of opportunity for young kids who train their entire life for this, whether they be gay or straight. I was in competitions where I was called faggot, and there was the whole fag buster campaign. There's a lot of things that I had to deal with.

The diving team, when we would travel internationally, it was very difficult sometimes nobody wanted to room with the fag. So I usually ended up rooming with one of the coaches. It's a very small team, small community.


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 they knew it wasn't an issue.

COOPER: There have been a number of columnists here in the states that have suggested the athletes on the U.S. team carry rainbow flags or other athletes carry rainbow. 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 following their own charter.

In their charter, principle six is anti-discrimination against -- the entire Olympic movement is about not discriminating. And here they're being very select in what they're enforcing. And they have come forward to say that they would take action toward those athletes who do demonstrate. It's really unfortunate that the IOC is not living up to -- they're 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: Oh, I probably would. I would get a rainbow Speedo.

COOPER: A rainbow Speedo.


COOPER: I'm not sure if they make those, but you could 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 here now with Richard Socarides. He served as White House senior adviser 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, FORMER PRESIDENT, EQUALITY MATTERS: I think it's a big story. It will probably be the biggest international gay rights story we have 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, though, the focus should be on trying to get the IOC to move the Olympics somewhere else. I know that would be a dramatic step.

COOPER: Logistically, is that even possible?

SOCARIDES: Anything is possible.

We have to -- they will 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 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: Their charter does not specifically talk about 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 covers it in spirit. It talks broadly about nondiscrimination, 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 -- 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: 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 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: Remarkably -- I think obviously, yes, now there would be, if they were targeting women for mistreatment or if they were targeting a racial minority. They are targeting other communities.

There's the story in "The New York Times" today about the targeting of the immigrant community. But, remarkably, this is remarkably like what we saw in 1936 with the Olympics in Berlin and with Germany, when Hitler said he would suspend the anti-Jewish laws during the 1936 Olympics. Of course, we know he suspended the laws. They took down the anti-Jewish signs.

They cleaned things up for a little while. Then of course, most 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 coming on.

SOCARIDES: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, breaking news tonight. That hostage situation happening right now in a bank in northeastern Louisiana. A gunman has been holding three people hostage for more than six hours. I will 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 his documentary. I will speak to him coming up.


SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. I'm Susan Hendricks with breaking news from northeastern Louisiana, where a gunman is holding hostages inside of a bank in St. Joseph.

The suspect has been holding the hostages, who are bank employees, for about 10 hours now. Just a short time ago, state police announced that negotiations are continuing, but that one of the three hostages has been released. Listen here.


COL. MICHAEL EDMONSON, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE: One of the females had a chance just a few minutes to talk to the family. They were notified. They know of it. We're in the process right now with the team from FBI and State Police interviewing that lady to get as much information as possible. I want you to remember, as we said earlier, it's a fluid, active scene. We still have two hostages in there. We have a hostage taker. They have been in there since 12:30. We have every tactical element that we need at the scene right now.


HENDRICKS: As you just heard, it's a fluid, active scene.

Joining me by phone is Tensas Parish Homeland Security spokesman Jane Netterville.

Jane, I know it is active there. We appreciate you taking the time.

This is an ongoing situation. I'm sure you don't want to speculate here, but what can you tell us about the negotiation process? One person has been released and the suspect is armed. But what is he saying to authorities?

JANE NETTERVILLE, TENSAS PARISH, LOUISIANA, HOMELAND SECURITY SPOKESWOMAN: Ma'am, you're getting the same information that we're getting.

No other news to report other than one hostage has been released and we can all be very thankful for that. We still have two hostages being held. And it's our main concern right now to try to get these two hostages out safe and back home with their family members. We're just asking everybody in the parish to remain calm and to pray and to dispel any rumors, not spread any rumors and that's just kind of where we are right now.

HENDRICKS: Jane, it's a long process. What do you know about the hostage taker? I have heard that he was born in Southern California, he's new to Louisiana. Is it true that his family owns a store in the area? Do you have any clue if he may know the people that he's holding hostage?

NETTERVILLE: If he's from Tensas Parish, he would know the people that he's holding hostage.

The only thing that I can confirm is that his family does own a convenience store and he was an employee at a convenience store here in Tensas Parish.

HENDRICKS: In terms of his motive, just share what you can right now. Do you know if this was a robbery that went wrong or was there something else that he was looking for going into that bank?

NETTERVILLE: I can't speculate on that. I have no clue whether -- what the motive may have been.

HENDRICKS: What about his family? Are they involved? Are they helping out?

NETTERVILLE: From my understanding, the authorities were trying to contact family members of the suspect in order to get them involved in the negotiations. That's as much as I can tell you.

HENDRICKS: And, Jane, as you said, the safety of the two hostages who are still in there is, of course, your number one priority. Could this last through the night, depending on how the negotiations go?

NETTERVILLE: Yes, it could last through the night.

The situation could be ongoing for quite some time. People just need to remain calm, stay abreast of the situation, and continue to remember these folks in their prayers. We all know who they are. And we're all concerned about their family and -- that they have at home and their safety where they are now.

So we just need to keep -- keep them in our prayers and hope that this situation can be resolved without anybody getting hurt. And that's the only thing that I can say for the hostage taker himself, if he's listening -- I hope he is listening -- that he needs to let these people go.

HENDRICKS: Jane, we're all so thankful that you were able to come on and get that message out. We're hoping that too, as well. Good talking to you.

NETTERVILLE: Yes, ma'am.

HENDRICKS: Now to a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

An update on the saga surrounding baby Veronica and the arrest of her biological father for defying a court order to return her to her adoptive parents. Dustin Brown turned himself in to authorities in Oklahoma yesterday. The adoptive parents live in South Carolina, and that state wanted to extradite him. But today, Oklahoma's governor, Mary Fallin, said she won't do anything about that extradition request until after a court hearing next month.

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. The juror, Janet Uhlar, says corruption in the FBI during Bulger's heyday left her disgusted. She admits there was tension during deliberations.


JANET UHLAR, JUROR: I'm not sure a jury 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: An update now on this story. 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 tossed out that part of the 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 this scandal, but she has a net worth of about $10 million.

And take a look at America's newest millionaires. Meet Ocean's 16, as they're 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 gets $3.8 million. Good for them.

Anderson will be right back.


COOPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta's 180 on medical marijuana and 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 it.

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. But before we talk to Sanjay about that and the response to the documentary, I 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 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, Paige (ph).

MATT FIGI, CHARLOTTE'S FATHER: It's horrible seeing these videos when I'm deployed.

GUPTA: It was his 5-year-old daughter Charlotte seizing. Diagnosed with a severe form of 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.

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

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

PAIGE FIGI, CHARLOTTE'S MOTHER: He said, "It's funny, because no one buys this, you know." That was the general consensus is that nobody wanted it. It didn't have any effect.

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

P. FIGI: I 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. It was exciting and very nerve-racking.

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

P. FIGI: She didn't have a seizure that day, and then didn't have a seizure that night.

GUPTA: Did you sit there and look at your watch?

P. FIGI: Right. I thought this is crazy. And then she didn't have one the next day, and then the next day. And I thought, that -- she would have had 100 by now. And I just -- I know, I just thought this is insane.

GUPTA: Then Paige heard about the Stanleys, the six brothers and their greenhouse of marijuana that is high in CBD.

P. FIGI: I said, "Oh, my goodness."

He says, "I don't know what to do with it. We're trying new things with it, but no one wants it. It's not sellable."

And I said, "Just don't -- don't touch that, because we need that plant."

JOSH STANLEY, MARIJUANA GROWER: People have called us the Robin Hoods of marijuana. They say that 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 (on camera): Gets you. Gets you, doesn't it?

STANLEY: A little bit. 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.

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


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

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, I think just Charlotte, certainly; just watching that story is unbelievable. But she's emblematic, Anderson, of a lot more patients.

And 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 of these studies are actually looking for harm, about a very small percentage, about 6 percent to look for benefit.

Once you start looking outside the United States, in other countries and smaller labs and then listening to the legitimate chorus of patients out there who have legitimate problems who marijuana works for them when nothing else did, then you start to really, you know, dive into this, and that's what really tempered my...

COOPER: And 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: There's 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 has -- you're more than likely to become addicted to it; almost twice as likely to become addicted to it.

There are many substances out there, some of which are legal, that you're more likely to abuse marijuana. It's just -- it's not even close to the truth with regard to abuse.

With regard to medical applications, you saw, again, an example of that. But I don't want you to think this is anecdotal. That's been part of the problem to date, is that people rely on conjecture and hyperbole and anecdotal stories. There is real science here.

So Charlotte is one girl, but she represents lots of patients who had 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. Something to protect the brain after a head injury.

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 the same government says it has no medical applications. So it's -- I mean, journalists -- I think I've said this to you before, but journalists, I think, are trained to hate hypocrisy. This is hypocrisy. Just -- I've never seen it quite like this.

COOPER: The -- you interviewed the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse for the documentary. She told "USA Today" something. She said that she was concerned that, if the drug became universally legal, that adolescents would have more access to the drug. And that's something you hear from a lot of the 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, to the extent that that implies that your body somehow changes and you 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 with situations where they're then exposed to other drugs, and that may explain in part why they go on to heroin or cocaine or something like that.

But with regard to adolescents, what -- I'm worried about that, as well. I think any responsible doctor and responsible would be worried about kids taking this stuff. I don't want anybody whose brain hasn't fully developed, which usually is the mid-20s, taking this stuff. That's not about this.

But the tradeoff shouldn't be, because of those concerns, we will then deny people therapy that may be the only therapy that works for them. I don't think that's the tradeoff. And I don't think even Nora Mykoff (ph), who's the head of MIDA (ph), would think that 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 by, I think...

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's tough. But it's the right thing to do, because I didn't look deep enough at the evidence and the research that's going on there, and I think that we have been in this country misled. I said that. I think we have been misled systematically. It's been terribly 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. There's legitimate uses for marijuana, and people 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. And, you know, that just -- that's the right thing to do.

COOPER: Sanjay, good to have you on. Thank you. Fascinating documentary.

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

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

Also, David Mattingly takes us inside one of these sinkholes. It's an up-close look at a phenomenon as old as the Ice Age.



COOPER: We'll take you inside the so-called Devil's Den, one of Florida's nearly 20,000 known sinkholes, ahead on 360.


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


RICHARD SHANLEY, SECURITY GUARD: 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 them out and then got out myself.


COOPER: Well, the resort now says some guests will be able to retrieve their belongings from the collapsed villa.

It can be hard to wrap your mind around sinkholes if you've 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 CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's just a few short steps down to an incredible underground site.

JERRY BLACK, GEOLOGIST: And this was the original cavity that eventually collapsed in.

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

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

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

MATTINGLY: And if someone were living right 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 cavities of this size all over the state of Florida.

MATTINGLY: Fossils found in this sinkhole show 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 his pictures. The one thing they all have in common is water.

BLACK: Rainwater is going to turn into ground water. And that's what's naturally acidic. That's 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.

Dive instructor Prince Johnston takes me under for a look. I find that this seemingly placid pool of water is anything but.

PRINCE JOHNSTON, DIVE INSTRUCTOR: The water has gone down considerably because of aquifers. And it's also risen. When we've had hurricanes and tropical storms, it has risen another 45 feet.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Forty-five feet?

JOHNSTON: Forty-five feet.

MATTINGLY: So the water is constantly going up and down?

JOHNSTON: Up and down. MATTINGLY: With a drought or hurricane?

JOHNSTON: Correct.

MATTINGLY: Down here it's easy to see how fluctuating ground water has silently wreaked havoc. I pass by limestone boulders as big as cars sitting on the bottom. And these 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. The aquifer is getting lower and lower.

MATTINGLY: Perhaps most striking to me is 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 passageways carved deep 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's really no warning, is there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. It is -- it is that random and that sudden. And it could happen, obviously, overnight or at any time.

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

David Mattingly, CNN, Williston, Florida.


COOPER: Incredible to see how big some of these sinkholes are, and how widespread they are in Florida.

Coming up next, the "RidicuList." Find out who's on it tonight.


COOPER: Time now for the "RidicuList." And tonight, a thank you to my fellow journalists, the intrepid reporters who brave the elements and the unknowns to bring us the news.

Take, for instance, the recent case of a reporter in Philadelphia who was live on the air talking about a string of robberies when all of a sudden...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And despite this recent rash of car thefts, the captain that we spoke to said that car break-ins are down 28 percent this year, but he's urging people to keep their doors locked and they continue to communicate. In Roxborough, Dmari Fleming, FOX 29. I'm sorry, something was going on behind me.


COOPER: Behind him, indeed.

Do you know how distracting 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's even more distracting than someone mooning your live shot? Just add a hurricane.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... coming quickly. People have been coming out. We're talking about dozens of people who have walked by me and, again, I'm speechless.


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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been out a couple hours getting the building clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's cold out here.

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


COOPER: I actually met that guy last time I was in Cleveland. He was wearing clothes at the time. Very nice guy. I think he worked for a radio station.

Anyway, the circle back around, that was more than enough to seal that gentleman's 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 picture. Make it worth your while.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what? I'm sorry. I can't do this. Thanks a lot, man. Thanks for being on here.

Guys, we're going to turn it back to you. Reporting live from a very crazy downtown Cleveland. I'm meteorologist Don Loughlin (ph), 19 Action News.


COOPER: That is why they call it action news. It's just sometimes the action is behind you.

Now, to all the reporters out there in the field right now, we salute you. And to anyone thinking of pulling down your pants live behind a reporter, just remember, it's been done before. It's been done bigger; it's been done better. It's been done in hurricanes and snowstorms. So take a deep breath, take a minute and just butt out. Because frankly, we're getting kind of tired of blurring your junk on The RidicuList."

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

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: "Outfront" next, breaking news. We now know how U.S. intelligence officials discovered a possible al Qaeda attack on American embassies. They cracked their code. That news top of the hour.

Plus, Senator Rand Paul comes "OUTFRONT." We'll talk birthers, Sarah Palin, and a comment about tapping your phone that will probably surprise you.

And a serial killer goes on a cross-country murdering spree. Tonight the chilling interrogation video "OUTFRONT." Let's go "OUTFRONT."

Good evening, everyone.