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New Details About VA Scandal; Interview with Jeff Miller; How Investigators Almost Botched the Sandusky Investigation

Aired June 23, 2014 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 HOST: Who already heard about beyond the one we've reported on and stranger than any you could imagine, bringing dead vets on paper lease back to life. I'll keep an all eyes tonight.

Also, we had tonight Bowe Bergdahl's latest of after five years in captivity, what it says about the phase of his recovery and what the rest of his life may look like.

Also, new details on how investigator's almost botched the investigation into America's most notorious child molester Jerry Sandusky. Tonight, a rare interview with his wife, Dottie: why after countless allegations and dozens of convictions, she still stands behind him?

We begin though with new trouble to the nation's biggest healthcare system, the VA, goes beyond a new and deeply critical report that's out today that you may have already heart about. This reporting tonight, you'll only see on this program. It goes beyond what whistleblowers have told the Congressional committee which is hearing testimony again tonight.

It's a product of the surge of wounded warriors who gave so much in Iraq, Afghanistan, and before that of course Vietnam the human consequences back here at home of that flood of combat veterans. People are asking for nothing more than timely access to medical care, their country, all of us promised them that they deserve.

As our Drew Griffin on this program was first to report, many spend months waiting for it, you know that by now. Some died waiting, and certain VA officials have been covering up the problem. Now, we've learned that another cover up maybe underway at the Phoenix Veterans Administration Hospital. This time, a deliberate attempt to try to hide just how many veterans died while waiting for care, hide by trying to pretend on paper that those dead veterans are actually still alive.

Now, the allegation comes from the scheduling clerk, who for the better part of the year, said she was ordered to keep a secret waiting list in her desk drawer. Pauline DeWenter has never spoken publicly about any of it until tonight. Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has the exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Pauline DeWener, a scheduling clerk at the Phoenix VA is coming forward, because she believes she knows something that is frankly unthinkable. That is saying something considering the shameful facts of what we already know happened at this VA.

She says someone now is trying to hide the number of U.S. Veterans who died here waiting for care. In seven cases so far where she has determined a veteran on a waiting list was in fact deceased, she says someone above her has changed the record back. The veteran suddenly listed as alive.

Somebody is going on that electronic waitlist and where people are identified as being dead. Somebody is changing that and saying, "No, they're not dead."


GRIFFIN: To hide the fact people died on that list?

DEWENTER: That's my belief.

GRIFFIN: What would be the other -- any other purpose?

DEWENTER: There wouldn't be any other purpose.

GRIFFIN: Why? DeWenter says, the numbers of dead in this VA waitlist scandal maybe even bigger than first reported and someone she says is trying to cover-up the record.

And that has been happening fairly recently?


GRIFFIN: That is a cover-up.


GRIFFIN: Did you feel that the investigators are on to that?


GRIFFIN: Because you told them.

DEWENTER: I have surrendered evidence. Yes.

GRIFFIN: If there ever was a doubt there was a secret waiting list at the Phoenix VA, DeWenter says she's here to lay those doubts to rest. Beginning early last year, she says she was told by managers to take requests for new appointments from veterans seeking care and hide them.

What happened to those people?

DEWENTER: They went into a desk drawer. GRIFFIN: So, if you called for a new employment thinking you were being placed on the electronic waitlist, you are actually being placed on a piece of paper in somebody's desk drawer?

DEWENTER: Correct.

GRIFFIN: Is that the secret list?

DEWENTER: Yes. That would be the secret list.

GRIFFIN: And there's no doubt in your mind that was the secret list?

DEWENTER: No doubt.

GRIFFIN: The secret list began in early 2013 she says because of a waiting list for treatment here that was simply getting out of hand. 1,700 veterans were on it. DeWenter says, you couldn't get an appointment for at least nine months and with 40 patients coming in each day, the list (inaudible) any longer, that was a problem because nationwide, the VA had set a goal. Every patient had to be seen within 14 days. The solution at the Phoenix VA according to DeWenter and others inside this hospital, keep one list that lied showing veterans we're getting appointments, and another list, a secret list that tallied the true and shameful backlog.

So as long as the secret list kept growing, the goal was being met.


GRIFFIN: That's terrible.

DEWENTER: It's beyond horrible.

GRIFFIN: There simply were not enough doctors, not enough appointments to handle new patients, backlog patients, and, yes, very sick patients. DeWenter, a scheduling clerk, was making life and death decisions.

DEWENTER: And that really overtook even the waitlist because now I have a consult where veterans are very sick. So I have to ease up on the waitlist, it's so wrong to say, but and work these schedule appointments so at least I felt the sickest of the sick for being treated.

GRIFFIN: And you're making basically those triage decisions?


GRIFFIN: So you're bumping one veteran for the other based on who's the sickest?


GRIFFIN: The stress she says was unbearable. Then came the call she had to make in early December. She finally had found an appointment available for a navy veteran who had come to the VA months earlier urinating blood.

DEWENTER: So I called the family and that's when I found out that he was dead.

GRIFFIN: DeWenter would not tell us the patient's name but it matches this story reported on CNN early this spring. Sally and Teddy Barnes told us then that their father, a navy veteran named Thomas Breen, died in November of 2013 after repeatedly being denied care at the Phoenix VA.

SALLY BARNES-BREEN, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF DECEASED VETERAN: They called me December 6th, he's dead already with ...

GRIFFIN: They called you and said.

BARNES-BREEN: I said, "What is this regarding?" She goes, "We have a primary for him." I said, "Really? You're a little too late, sweetheart."

GRIFFIN: One case, a family member said, "You're too late, sweetheart. He's dead. You guys killed him" and I apologized. They have no (inaudible) about telling you how they died and if they screamed and that particular veteran was screaming, "Please, do whatever you can. Don't let the VA do this to another patient or another veteran. We do not deserve this type of treatment."

GRIFFIN: The family member was telling you this?

DEWENTER: The family member was telling me this. And I promised her that I would do everything in my power to never have this happen to another veteran again. And that's when Dr. Foote and I really started connecting about what was happening.

GRIFFIN: In December of last year, DeWenter and a VA physician named Dr. Sam Foote told everything to the VA's office of the inspector general.

DEWENTER: I thought that was a saving grace. I thought, "OK, this is it. This is going to be all over, you know." But then it wasn't and we were waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.

GRIFFIN: And nothing happened?

DEWENTER: Nothing happened. Nothing. We didn't hear any note. We didn't hear anything. The leadership was telling us and we passed everything, we're not doing anything wrong and I'm like, "We're not doing anything wrong and people are still dying." We were giving up hope and that's when Dr. Foote finally decided that we need to contact the media and we need help as is.

GRIFFIN: DeWenter says until now she was simply too scared to come forward. The truth is she is scared.

DEWENTER: My life will change after this comes out. I will have people at work who are not going to like me because of what I've done, and I'll have other people at work who'll say, "Thank you for doing what you've done."


COOPER: Well, I mean it's amazing that she came forward and I mean clearly she's scared but she's very brave to do it.

Drew, I guess one of the most starling allegations in the report is that until recently someone, we don't know who, but someone is still been trying to hide the actual number of deaths who died. Did the VA respond to you on this?

GRIFFIN: We sent the VA detailed questions. We got a rather bland response. It just says that the new acting secretary at the VA is saying that, "We must work together to fix the unacceptable systemic problems in accessing VA healthcare and that the VA is taking action to accelerate, access to care reaching out to veterans." You know, Anderson ...

COOPER: Right.

GRIFFIN: ... I kind of look at that as a blah blah blah. They did not respond directly to the allegations being made by Pauline DeWenter.

COOPER: And I mean I this wasn't the only bad news coming out about the VA today. There's cascading new independent report exposing some of the worst horror stories yet about Veterans Care.

GRIFFIN: Yeah, really horrific stuff. The Office of Special Counsel which is a group of government prosecutors, they protect and investigate the claims made by whistleblowers inside the government like Pauline DeWenter.

This agency released a letter today, send it right to the White House to the president which is really unreal, Anderson. It details that the VA has ignored, egregious examples of poor patient care for veterans. In one case, a veteran was checked into a mental facility in 2003 for a mental evaluation, very severe mental illness, was not evaluated by a psychiatrist until 2011, eight years went by.

COOPER: Wait a minute, they didn't see a psychiatrist -- they weren't evaluated by a psychiatrist for eight years in the mental hospital?

GRIFFIN: Eight years. Eight years. That was confirmed tonight in a hearing up on Capitol Hill. It's just crazy and these critical reports are ignored routinely and the VA, according to the Office of Special Counsel, really doesn't acknowledge the fact that all these abusive care harms the veterans. They kind of say well, "Yeah, you know, it's pretty bad." but there's no actual evidence that these patients are harmed. These patients are dead, you know, many of them are. I can tell you right now.

COOPER: The more you reveal, the worst it gets. Drew, I appreciate your reporting. Thanks. The reaction to Drew's reporting out from a Republican Congressman Jeff Miller who Chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affair. I spoke to him before the broadcast. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Congressman, it's just remarkable to hear from this whistleblower the idea that employees in the VA or someone in the VA is allegedly trying to hide veterans that died on their watch is stunning. What's your reaction?

REP. JEFF MILLER, (R) CHAIRMAN, HOUSE VETERANS'S AFFAIRS CMTE: It's more than stunning and I would say that for somebody like this whistleblower to have been forced to make decisions that only medical providers should be making, to triage patients as to whether or not they should be put in a drawer is just certainly unconscionable. But even more so for the very people that were supervising the people making the decisions to continue to get promotions, bonuses, and to fight, and to call these folks disgruntled employees to be on the bale (ph).

COOPER: Yeah. I mean -- and I say without any disrespect to hurt. She's not a doctor. She is not even a nurse. I mean, she's an administration. She's a clerk. I mean, for her to be making life and death decision, this is terrifying.

MILLER: Now and for the department to allow people to do that and much less force them to do it which is very apparent what's been going on here. And I have a very great suspicion that this is not just in Phoenix where they have forced scheduling clerks to do exactly what this lady has done and there are protections for her. And I can only say this that she is someone that we should all be very proud of that regardless of whatever the consequences are, she stepped out and is helping bring the story forward. But as a whistleblower, she has protections at the federal level.

COOPER: This letter sent to President Obama today from the head of the agency that investigates whistleblower complaints basically saying that the VA didn't listen to what the whistleblowers were telling them month after month. I mean, you think of the people that could've been given the care, they desperately needed had the VA just listen to this people who were trying to tell them what was going on.

MILLER: Now, we have story after story that go all across this great country where whistleblowers were trying to tell their supervisors that things were not right. And we see almost a pattern through each one where they are said to be disgruntled employees, or somebody that didn't want to -- even Dr. Foote, there was a concerted effort to try to discredit him up on Capitol Hill to say that he was a disgruntled doctor because he was being told he needed to work more. No, these are great Americans who are doing the right thing and I wish everybody would take heed to what they've said.

COOPER: Yeah, I mean, the courage to come forward, risk your job, I mean, it takes tremendous strength to do that. Do you have faith that the VA now is taking care of these problems? That they're ready to make sure the veterans are getting the care that they deserve?

MILLER: I'm not going to have faith until we are absolutely sure every single veteran has gotten an appointment. And one thing she talked about, it's not just the primary care, it's the consults. And I think we're going to find a huge backlog with the consults and this is where people died in South Carolina, and in Georgia, and in Pittsburgh where people should have gotten care much quicker. I will say this that I know the acting secretary is out and he is making some very positive changes, but the bureaucracy is still so big. There has to be accountability and people have to pay with their jobs and in some instances, there's criminal activity and they should go to jail.

COOPER: Congressman Miller, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

MILLER: Thank you.


COOPER: Yeah, and we'll keep reporting on it.

A quick reminder, make sure to set your DVR so you can watch 360 whenever you want.

Just ahead tonight, another step forward for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the former Taliban captive is no longer an in-patient at Brooke Army Medical Center, let me tell you where he's now being treated.

Plus, Dottie Sandusky speaking out about her unwavering devotion with the man and so many others, she's a monster, and her adopted son who testified against Jerry Sandusky.


COOPER: A report issued today by Pennsylvania's Attorney General reads like a case study in how not to investigate a suspected a serial pedophile. It was sparked by allegations that politics delayed the arrest and conviction of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. Here's how the Attorney General Kathleen Kane summarized the findings.


KATHLEEN KANES, PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: This report found no direct evidence, no e-mail, no confession, no statement from anybody indicating that they were told to slow this down because of politics. This report also shows long periods of inexcusable -- by inexcusable, I mean, that even the parties involved couldn't offer an excuse for the delays and delays that quite honestly are unfathomable to most of us.


COOPER: According to the report, investigators of different agencies repeatedly failed to communicate and to coordinate their reference three years went by before Sandusky was arrested, three years. Jury convicted him at 2012 on 45 counts for sexually abusing 10 boys. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years. Now, throughout it all, Sandusky's wife, Dottie has stood by him. She still does. Jason Carroll spoke to her. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOTTIE SANDUSKY, JERRY SANDUSKY'S WIFE: I think a lot of it was the media. I think Jerry was found guilty before he ever went to trial.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dottie Sandusky is unwavering in her belief. She says her husband, former Penn State Assistant Coach, Jerry Sandusky is innocent and did not receive a fair trial.

SANDUSKY: I've known him for 38 years. I was -- I've been married to him for 37 and he's always been truthful to me. And I've asked him and we've talked about it and the stories are just -- I cannot believe the stories that have been told about him.

CARROLL: Was there a family discussion where Jerry came to you all and said, "I did not do this. I did not do these things that I'm being accused of'

SANDUSKY: Yes. We kept it from the kids as long as we could because we did not know what was going to happen and that was really hard, you have to tell the kids. And the kids question their dad and he talked to them and told them and they believed their dad.

CARROLL: At any point, did you have any doubt at all? Did you say to yourself, "I've known this man, you know, practically, my whole life"? But is there a chance?

SANDUSKY: I don't know because I know who he is. I know who he is. And I know that he is not guilty.

CARROLL: Sandusky is not alone in her beliefs.

JOHN ZIEGLER, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: This is not a situation where Dottie is simply standing by her man and has no knowledge of the accusations.

CARROLL: Family confidant and documentary filmmaker, John Ziegler, also believes in Sandusky's innocence. He takes issue with Penn State administrators where he says railroaded former head football coach Joe Paterno by firing him in the wake of the scandal.

ZIEGLER: When Joe Paterno was fired, it is a nuclear explosion that goes to the landscape of this case. And because of that, Jerry Sandusky loses all presumption of innocence.

CARROLL: Back in 1998, Penn State Police launched an investigation after a young boy's mother reported Sandusky had showered with her son on campus. No charges were filed but a police report shows an officer advised Sandusky not to shower with any child. Sandusky stated he wouldn't. So why did he keep showering with young boys?

Would it have been smart to do it again?

ZIEGLER: And I have said that to Jerry as well. And I don't know if Dottie has but I know that this is something that Jerry regrets. CARROLL: You told him not a good idea to do it again and then he does it again.

SANDUSKY: But it was like -- it wasn't like he just took boys and took them to the shower. It was when he would work them out. And they would shower and it's a public place. I mean, there's people that come and go.

CARROLL: The one thing that I heard from people in this community repeatedly she's just deluding herself for he's buried things just so deeply she's just unwilling to accept the truth.

SANDUSKY: I'm not that kind of a person and I believe he's innocent and if I didn't believe he is innocent, I would not stand by him.

CARROLL: We first met Dottie Sandusky during a visit to the state prison in Greene County, Pennsylvania where her 70-year old husband is serving a 30 to 60 year-sentence.

SANDUSKY: He's in a cell 23 hours a day, Monday through Friday, and then on weekends, it's 24 hours. It's hard. We talked about what he's doing in prison, what has happened, you know. And I just -- I try to cheer him up but usually he cheers me up instead of me cheering him up.

CARROLL: When we were at prison, I remember something that you had brought up which was very telling to me. You referenced victim number nine and you became very angry because that was the one, I believe, who had said when he was in the basement, he called out for help and you should have heard, you said, "I was here and if someone had, I would have said something." I'm paraphrasing.

SANDUSKY: He said he screamed. He said he screamed. He also said we didn't see him. If we did, we'd brought his food down to the basement which is untrue. And I can take you down to the basement.

CARROLL: So it's one flight down here.


CARROLL: So is this room where most of the ...

SANDUSKY: Right, where the accused -- victim number nine said that he screamed.

CARROLL: From this room here?

The young man known only as victim number nine during the trial testified Sandusky raped him in the basement bedroom and he screamed for help.

CARROLL: So if someone had screamed, you're saying, you would've ...

SANDUSKY: I would've heard it.

CARROLL: Since the trial, 26 young men have come forward and settled claims with Penn Sate totally nearly $60 million, all saying they were abused by Sandusky as boys.

In the phase of all of that, why do you still believe?

SANDUSKY: Because he is innocent.

CARROLL: Why do you think so many would say the same thing about Jerry Sandusky?

SANDUSKY: I think that they could have been manipulated by people. I think a lot of them had a financial problem. I just -- I don't believe their stories.

CARROLL: Nor does she believe the couple's youngest adopted son, Matt, told police he too had been abused after previously telling a grand jury his father had not molested him. He settled with Penn State for an undisclosed amount. Jerry Sandusky responded in writing about the allegations.

This is from February 3rd. It's a letter from Jerry. I've been consumed with how or if too respond to Matt. I wrote, I rewrote, and rewrote. It ended with four pages of writing that just sit. It's very confusing. Is that the same for you? Is it confusing for you?

SANDUSKY: I don't know whether someone talked to him or whether he saw money. You would have to ask Matt. I don't know.

CARROLL: Would you want to reconcile with Matt?

SANDUSKY: I would like to talk to Matt. I really miss seeing these kids. They were part of our life. And I got hurt that they must be going through. I would love to talk to Matt just to see, you know, why and what his thoughts are.

CARROLL: Sandusky lost his most recent appeal but will not give up trying to prove his innocence writing in another letter. "My biggest hope at the moment is that somehow, people will realize how unfair everything was and that judges will have the courage to examine everything."

SANDUSKY: I believe in God and I believe God has a purpose and some purpose will come out of this that he will see us through.


COOPER: Wow. Well, joining me now is CNN Legal Analyst and Former Federal Prosecutor, Sunny Hostin.

I mean, it is extraordinary to hear from this woman who is standing by him despite I mean these dozens of people who have come forward.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It seems remarkable but I have to tell you having trialed child sex crimes, I spent a lot of my career during that. Denial is just a classic response. It's terribly common. I think what it so odd about this particular case is that there is overwhelming evidence ...

COOPER: Right.

HOSTIN: ... of his guilt. Generally, when I trialed these sex crimes, child sex crimes, you have no witnesses or you have one witness, or you have a child self reporting. Now you have someone, not one, by 26 people, you have Dottie having, has been in the court room her own adopted ...

COOPER: Right. Yeah.

HOSTIN: ... son says this happened and in the face of all that, there's still this remarkable denial.

COOPER: And the pedophiles that I've interviewed and spent time with are really the most manipulative people I've ever met. And in many cases, I mean, some of them grab kids, some of them groom kids over a length of time.


COOPER: With Jerry Sandusky he certainly seemed to have done. I guess, the most charitable explanation of his wife is that he could've been manipulating her as well. He could've been lying to her.

HOSTIN: Yeah. And I thought about that and I think you're right because I've interviewed pedophiles, of course in my line of work and they are a master manipulator as most good criminals are. That's why they're able to re offense. So certainly, that's part of it. But I think part of it when you interview and you speak to wives of pedophiles, part of it is, "Oh, my goodness, if I marry this man, what is wrong with me?" There is that, I think, self blame. I'm a failed mother. I'm a failed wife. And I think it's more about that quite frankly than manipulation.

COOPER: It is hard to believe that you can live with somebody for 35 years and not have some sort of suspicion that something is going on.

HOSTIN: You know, I think in a case like this, and in many of the cases that I've tried, I don't believe that they didn't have somewhere in the depths of their soul some sort of worry and some sort of feelings this was happening.

COOPER: And again, the thing showering with boys and she's saying, "Well, he was working out with the boys," I mean, that still doesn't make any sense.

HOSTIN: It's odd. And if you heard her what she said during her interview with Jason which I thought was remarkable was, I can't believe it. She can't bring herself to believe it. And I had people sitting in my office as mothers turning against their own children saying their children were lying. And I've got to tell you, there were classic signs in this case of grooming.

COOPER: Right.

HOSTIN: This fascination with these boys, she must have known. And she should've known. And I've got to tell you. When I prosecuted cases, it's still very unpopular position, I wanted to go after the mothers because these are witnesses to sex abuse. They're enablers. They're putting these children in danger and I think they're partly responsible.

COOPER: All right. Sunny Hosting, I appreciate you being on. Thanks very much.

As always, you can find out more on the story and others at

Up next, former Taliban captive Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has begun a new phase of his reintegration, the latest on where he's now being treated (inaudible).

Plus, tonight's breaking news in Iraq. Iraqi air strikes have not stopped the advance of ISIS Sunni extremist fighters. It's believed they've taken yet more territory. I'll tell you where.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has taken another significant step. The former captive is no longer been treated as an inpatient at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. He's been moved to outpatient care. He was held for five years of course by the Taliban after walking off his base. His release after the controversial prisoner swap to spark a bitter debate. He's the seventh person to go through the army's reintegration program.

Ed Lavandera joins me now with the latest. So, he's still at the Army Medical Center but transferred from inpatient to outpatient, what does that mean exactly?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's still in San Antonio Fort Sam Houston in the Brooke Army Medical Center where he's been for the last 10 days or so. And that will continue. Essentially, this is the next step in this process. And for the -- since he had arrived from Germany to San Antonio, he'd been kept in this hospital-like room with no television set, that sort of thing, very limited number of people who are around him. Now, he is moved to an other part of this base and officials there aren't really same, describing this current living conditions only to say that he's been exposed to more and more people and all of this is being done in the hopes of, you know, getting him to talk about his experiences and slowly kind of reintegrating him in moving him back into everyday life.

COOPER: So, two things, do we know -- have the army began their investigation or began to interview him about what occurred, not just in this captivity but also in terms of how he left the base. And also, has his family seen him?

LAVANDERA: Well, we do know that the investigation is going on whether or not that includes Bowe Bergdahl at this point. It doesn't appear that that's the case. I spoke with army officials there in San Antonio today who said that he is still fully into the reintegration process and then while that is going on, it doesn't sound like he would be interviewed or being part of the investigation that the army is doing into his disappearance and whether or not he deserted his unit. And as far as his parents are concerned, you know, it's interesting because up until the end of last week, we hadn't got any indication that he had spoken or wanted to speak with his parents just yet. But we asked about that today and they have said all along that living with the family is an important part of the reintegration process but army officials in San Antonio and the spokesperson for the Bergdahl family will not say if that, you know, a phone call or a meeting has taken place yet.

COOPER: All right. Ed, I appreciate it. Thanks very much. A lot more happening turning to Susan Hendricks says at 360 Bulletin. Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, the United States can use legal force against the U.S. citizen overseas if that person is part of an enemy organization seeking to attack the U.S. and cannot be apprehended. That's according to a one secret memo released by a federal appeals court. Now, this memo outlined the justification for killing American-born suspected Al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki. He was killed in a drone attack in Yemen nearly three years ago. The government fought for years to keep this memo private claiming national security concerns.

Well, the CDC has reassigned the leader of a lab work. Dozens of staffers may have been exposed to anthrax. The workers are being monitored and provided antibiotics.

And you got to see this. Off the Coast of New Jersey, there it is, a group of fishermen came face to face with this. A great white shark. They caught it all on video. The shark stole their basket of bait Anderson, after circling the boat for 20 minutes.


HENDRICKS: And you could hear if you listen to the video, one of the guys is like "Stay back, it could come on the boat." So.

COOPER: Yeah. I hear it very close.

HENDRICKS: You'll never predict (inaudible).

COOPER: Susan, thanks a lot.

Up next, a breaking news in Iraq reports that ISIS fighters have regained control to country's largest oil refinery, plus three Al Jazeera English journalists convicted in Egypt of helping the Muslim brotherhood spreading false reports each facing years in prison seven to 10 years, each denying the charges. The world reacting an outrage. Ahead, reactors in -- from our own Ivan Watson who knows one of the men.


COOPER: Breaking news out of Iraq tonight. ISIS-Sunni extremist fighters taking yet more territories believed they've regained control that big refinery in Baiji and have an air base in -- as well as an air base in Tal Afar in the northwest and are gaining ground in parts of Kurdish north as well. Arwa Damon witnessed the fighting there.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The battle line is drought but for over a week not crossed, that came the ISIS's fault (ph). They came at us from three directions. Colonel Ahmed tells us the battle lasted for six hours. In the distance, an Iraqi military vehicle commandeer by ISIS.

The intersection at this combat outpost just protecting is incredibly strategic. Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit in that direction. To the north, the oil reef (ph) city of Kirkuk. Sulaymaniyah and Iraqi Kurdistan to the east and then to the south, a two-hour drive, a straight shot to the capital.

COOPER: Well, in that capital today, Secretary of State Kerry meeting top leader. They are promising help if Iraqis help themselves.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq's leaders take the necessary steps to bring the country together, it will be effective. It will allow Iraqi security forces to confront ISIL more effectively and in a way that respects Iraq's sovereignty while also respecting America's and the region's vital interests.


COOPER: Now, a key U.S. condition beginning to process of forming a new government starting -- the first of July. A key request upon Minister Nouri al-Maliki is to rise above sectarian motivations something as you know is yet been willing to do even now with insurgence at the door. I spoke earlier tonight with Nic Robertson in Baghdad and Arwa Damon in Norville (ph).

Arwa, ISIS continued to gain ground, what's the latest on their events?

DAMON: Well, the most strategic game they managed to make Anderson has been the capturing of the Iraqi border post along the border with Syria. What this means is that ISIS now controlled massive clause (ph) of territory inside Iraq directly linked to the territory that they controlled inside Syria giving it other freedom of movement whether it comes to weaponry, military armor, and personnel. This is a key strategic route that they now control through unbar province down the Euphrates River Valley that gives them direct access to the western out skirts of the capital Baghdad. Anderson.

COOPER: And Nic, with Maliki telling Secretary Kerry, he's going to form a new government by July 1st. Is there any indication at least in the short term that that will actually change situation on the ground.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There really isn't Anderson. This is actually a process that begins on July 1st. 30 days after that process begins to nominate a president and then another 15 days to nominate a prime minister. That key contested position and then another 30 days by the constitution to have a government form. We're talking about two and a half months. The real immediate threat is ISIS fighters digging in and getting stronger and being harder to dislodge as one of the Iraqi army not being ready to take them on.

So, the process we're talking about, it's not one that really seems to be designed to actually deal without real immediate threateners (ph) right now, Anderson.

COOPER: Arwa, in terms of military folks that you are talking about and you're talking, I mean, you're in the Kurdish side, they're up in the north. How much support is there for the idea of American advisers coming?

DAMON: Well, it really depends on who you're talking to. The (inaudible) are very critical of the Iraqi security forces and in the words of the governor of the province of Kirkuk. He put it quite simply. The Americans trained a checkpoint army. They are great at setting up checkpoints and creating traffic jams but clearly are incapable of stopping the kind of offensive that ISIS in the various Sunni insurgence have lots speaking with Sunni leadership and they will tell you that America needs to be very careful when it comes to Iraq and learn from the lessons of its deadly era that it spent here and realize that if it is going to get involved in Iraq, it also needs to reach out to the Sunni tribes. The Sunni tribes however will not turn on ISIS until they say Maliki is out of power.

COOPER: And Nic, in Baghdad over the weekend, we saw this huge show (ph) force, this huge -- basically a parade by the militia linked to Muqtada al-Sadr, the -- a Shia cleric in Sadr City in Baghdad, I know you covered this, how are these militias going to actually be used, I mean, with so much heard (ph) toward being lost, why are they parading around the streets? I mean, shouldn't they actually be doing something?

ROBERTSON: Yeah. It's kind of a double message there. I mean, part of the message was from Muqtada al-Sadr to Nouri al-Maliki, it's time for you to go. The other message was for ISIS fighters. You know, if you come near us, near our shrines, we're going to take you on. So it's kind of a double message. The message from the top religious cleric in the country as we don't want militias, we want everyone fighting in the army but as we all know, the army here is completely fell (ph) to fight in a cohesive way. How are they going to graft (ph) on militias like this in a cohesive way? The real issue is that these militias could be unleashed if sectarian violence kicks off.

COOPER: All right. Nic Robertson, Arwa Damon, thank you very much. Stay safe.

Up next tonight, a verdict did outrage journalist and activist around the world. Three Al Jazeera English journalists who are detained while reporting an anti-government protest in Egypt are convicted sentenced for years in prison. We have a reactions tonight from Ivan Watson's report obviously extensibly (ph) from Egypt and were closely with one of the three men.


COOPER: Welcome back. Egypt has faced worldwide outrage tonight after a judge there convicted three Al Jazeera English journalists of aiding the Muslim brotherhood spreading false news and endangering Egyptian security. They've been held for six months in the charges. Two of the journalists bureau chief Fahmy and correspondent Peter Greste faced seven years in prison. The third producer Baher Mohamed got 10 years, the extra three years for apparently possessing a single bullet. All three deny the charges. Greste's parents got the news on their computer.


JURES GRESTE, PARENT OF JAILED AL JAZEERA JOURNALIST: Seven years for Peter Greste, (inaudible) and five other six defendants imprisoned. My god. My god. Sorry.



LOIS GRESTE: That's crazy. That's absolutely crazy.


COOPER: Plenty more, denouncing the judge's decision including our own Ivan Watson who joins us now.

Ivan, the convictions and sentences for these three journalists, you've reported extensively from Egypt. You worked closely with one of this men, does any of this make sense?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's absurd. It's disgraceful. This men, the only crime they really committed is journalism, some of them -- the Australian, Peter Greste, he'd only been in the country for I think less than a couple of weeks, another Mohamed Fadel Fahmy were as I know him, many of his friends know him Moody (ph). He worked as a producer for CNN. He's a freelancer for more than a year. These guys -- he had only been working with Al Jazeera for I think less than two months. The allegation, the suggestion that they were in some way involved with terrorism were not linked with the Muslim brotherhood is absolutely absurd.

COOPER: You also wrote about Mohamed Fahmy's heroism which you witnessed firsthand, what do you say?

WATSON: Well, I mean, this is part of what has me so angry. I personally witnessed him rescue a young Egyptian woman when a mob outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo attacked a public, U.S. public television crew in 2011. I personally witnessed this Moody (ph) protected an Egyptian producer who was surrounded by dozens of angry young man. He protected her with his body screaming, you know, she's Egyptian, she's a journalist and he saved this woman single handedly, brought her to a car and escaped with her at time when this horrific mob sexual assault attacks was starting to pickup against Egyptian women in the streets of Cairo. Why is a man like this now sentenced to seven years in prison along with other journalists whose only crime was to commit acts of journalism? It's an outrage Anderson.

COOPER: And the trial itself, I mean, it seem pretty much like a farce (ph).

WATSON: Absolutely. I mean, the kind of things the evidence that was brought against them, they ran a video by an entirely different companies, Sky News Australia, they use that BBC podcast as evidence, they aired part of a documentary on Somalia also by the BBC. It had no links whatsoever to this Al Jazeera crew. I can speak for Moody (ph). I've known him since 2006. We worked together in Dubai. This is a brave patriotic Egyptian journalist. He was not a fan of the Muslim brotherhood. He was a liberal. He is nothing close to a terrorist, and the fact that Egypt thus decided that the authorities have decided to convict one of the best and brightest in their country who was just doing his job. Again, it's a travesty of law and governments around the world, human rights organizations, they've all united as well as journalist to condemn this because when we start getting thrown in jail for the things we write and say, that's basically the beginning, the end of any semblance of democracy in this world.

COOPER: Right. It's extraordinary. Ivan Watson, appreciate you've been on. Ivan thanks.

WATSON: Thanks Anderson.

COOPER: When we come back, we're going to remember the man who -- I spent a lot of time with him on this program who passed away yesterday, Fouad Ajami. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Just want to take a moment to remember a friend, a man that we all on this broadcast came to know, a man I came to like enormously, Fouad Ajami. He was a man of tremendous grace and kindness, scholar of the Middle East who's eloquence was with our parallel in his opinions that often controversial came from a place with compassion and caring for those who's voices were not being heard, those forced to live under desperate cruel rule.

Fouad Ajami was born in southern Lebanon. And in his 68 years, he traveled far and so much. He wrote a half dozen of books in the Middle East with countless articles and taught generations of students. He was a supporter of U.S. intervention in Iraq and for that many criticized him. I valued his friendship and his sense of justice.

Two years ago, we traveled together to a Syrian refugee camp at Turkey. We sat in tents talking with Syrians who had fled their homes who was still trying to come to grips with their new lives.

Professor, you've been to these camps before. The people here have great dignity, they're trying to hold their head up, but they really do feel abandoned by much of the world.

FOUAD AJAMI: They feel exactly. They use the word forsaken by the world. I have been here before but I was not -- I didn't have a camera with me. I came with the notepad. The camera is a different -- is a different instrument and a different creature (ph). This people want the world to bare witness to their suffering. They want the world to hear them, and the camera in a way they had this relationship to it, they are drawn to it because in fact they may not convince that should the people know about them, should the people of the world see what they have suffered, should they understand that they're not terrorist, they're not Al-Qaeda.

Many of them were telling you and trying to convince you, "Look we have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, we're not terrorist groups." One man told you, "Look, I don't -- we don't even have riffles in our town, let alone heavy weapons." So, they want the world to understand them and they want the world to bare witness. And I think they also see the camera as the way of holding on to the memory of this lost world, the world that is very achingly close, it's very close to here but it is not yet retrievable to them.

COOPER: That was two years ago in Turkey. The news came yesterday that our friend Fouad Ajami has died. Cancer was the cause. My thoughts now go to his family and his friends, and all of us here. We shall miss him very, very much.

That does it for us. We'll see you again 11 p.m. tonight for another edition of 360. CNN Tonight starts now.