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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Cooper Harris, 22-Months Old, Died Inside His Father's Car; Central Park Five to Receive Settlement; Infant Toddler E-Lead System Warns if Baby Is Still Inside a Car; $40 Million Settlement 24 Years after Wrongful Conviction of "Central Park Five"; Armed U.S. Drones Flying over Baghdad to Provide Protection for U.S. Advisers

Aired June 27, 2014 - 20:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

The crime shocked a nation, the rape and near fatal beating of a jogger in New York central park. what followed was a kind of frenzy that sent five innocent teenagers to prison.

Tonight, how police prosecutors, the media basically, everyone convicted the so-called central park five. I'll talk to two of them, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam about the settlement they finally reached with the city a quarter century after the fact today, in fact.

Also tonight, what we're learning about Justin Harris, the father of the center of what was either a terrible tragedy or horrible crime. The death of his son alone in the back of a hype car left for seven hours.

Later, American drones now over Baghdad. ISIS fighters closing on the capital. Kurdish forces, taking territory Syria's air force bombing territory, marines approaching the region, all of it causing a lot of people to as is the Iraqi powder keg about to explode?

We begin with developments in the case of Justin Harris charged with murder in the death of his son, Cooper, just 22 months old left in the back of an SUV outside his father's office on a hot, Georgia day. Police in Cobb County, Georgia say they have ample evidence that this was not an ordinary accident. However, they yet to reveal the details which could come out next week.

The funeral for Cooper will be held tomorrow.

Martin Savidge is in Marietta, Georgia and just outside the Leno (ph) with the latest.

What have you heard, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson. Really, authorities haven't spoken publicly about the case for a couple days. But it's clear they haven't changed their mind. They definitely do not think that this was an accident.

A lot of people here still seemed talking about the information we revealed to you last night. That is that a source close to the investigation told CNN that a search of one of the father's computer has turned out that somebody was searching online about how long until an animal would die in the heat of a car.

Meanwhile, we're anticipating that the search warrants will be made public. And when that happens, we could get more insight into what police are thinking when it comes into this investigation. The toxicology results expected back anytime on the little boy.

You already know that the coroner is saying that is hypothermia, he believes is the cause of death. However, it could also show us if there was something else at play, perhaps, in the child's blood stream.

Then on top of that, there was a petition on change.org. It was started very early on at which some people have been outraged the father war charge with murder for what they thought was just an accident. Well, that's been quietly pulled down. It was said due to new developments in the case.

The person who posted that said that they still pray that this was an accident. And then as you pointed out, tomorrow is the funeral for 22 month old little Cooper. His father will not be attending because he'll still be behind bars here in the Cobb County jail -- Anderson?

COOPER: So there is a preliminary hearing next week and we expect more evidence to merge?

MARTIN: Yes, I mean, it's really referred to herein the state of Georgia as a possible cause hearing, a preliminary appearance, if you will. It's essentially where you go before a judge and the judge determines whether there is enough evidence to continue hold you on the charges. Then it will go to a grand jury.

It's anticipated that there is possibly going to be testimony, maybe from some of the lead investigators, and that's where a lot of us is going to be looking to see if authorities think this really is murder. What is the motive here? What was the reasoning if it truly was that? Ii was interesting, cameras will be allowed inside so it will be televised. You can bet a lot of people will be watching next Thursday.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it's hard to imagine any father would actually do this, kill his child in this way, left alone in a car for seven hours, it is agonizing.

Martin, appreciate the update.

The fact that Justin Harris lost support online, that may say one thing about what the public believes.

The mood back in his hometown in Alabama that says another.

Nick Valencia is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, friends say what Justin Ross Harris is accused doesn't make sense. Family friend Carol Brown.

CAROL BROWN, HARRIS FAMILY FRIEND: It's just hard to imagine that that could happen. That that could have really happened, it just seems out of character for Ross. And I know people change. It's been 15 years or so since we've had contact in the church. So, you know, people change, but it's just hard for me to imagine that is the Ross, the sweet Ross Harris, the sweet little funny boy that we knew.

VALENCIA: Harris grew up here, a city about an hour outside of Birmingham known mostly for its historic college football team and civil rights history. As a boy, he spent a lot of the time at the University church of Christ going on retreats and making people laugh.

This is a family home that Ross Harris grew up in here Tuscaloosa. We just knocked on the door and his parents answered saying that they didn't want to comment to the media.

Friends and family that we have spoken to off camera say, that the man police say is charged with murdering his 22 month old son is not the man they know.

Harris graduated from central high school in 1999. For the next several years, he stayed at Tuscaloosa employed at the University of Alabama, first as a parking monitor and later as a mail delivery clerk.

And then in 2006, he found work with the Tuscaloosa police department as a dispatch operator. It would be the same year he married his wife, Liana, who also grew up in the area. He would stay in Tuscaloosa until 2012 to earn a bachelor of science degree at the university he once worked. And then, it was off to Atlanta, Georgia for a new job as a web developer for home depot, a move that would change his life.

Back in his hometown of Tuscaloosa his family and friends have been instructed by a lawyer not to talk to the media, all of them waiting to find out if little Cooper's death was a tragic mistake or something else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Nick joins us now from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

So, the service for Cooper is tomorrow. Do we know much more about it?

VALENCIA: Yes, home depot, the employer of Justin Ross Harris will be paying for the funeral through a company grant that covers up to $10,000 of the funeral cost. That's according to reports, Anderson. We also know after speaking to the church just a little while ago, they are expecting a lot of people here. The funeral service, it's open to the public including the media, though, cameras won't be allowed inside. And one final note, Anderson. Liana, Harris, wife of Justin Ross

Harris and the mother of 22-year-old Cooper Harris, well, she has made a request through her lawyer to get pictures off her husband's computer so she could use those at the funeral service. That request was denied by the Cobb County police department according to the family attorney -- Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Nick, appreciate the update.

I want to bring in our legal panel, John Zwerling successfully defended Lynn Balfour who was on this program last night, who like Justin Harris was charged with murder in the death of her son. She was found not guilty. Also, legal analyst Sunny Hostin and Paul Callan. Sunny is a former federal prosecutor. Paul Callan is a criminal defense attorney.

Paul, you think cases like this should be prosecuted aggressively.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST Yes, I absolutely do. I mean, this case is off the scale. This is not a case of a mother running into a supermarket to get groceries and for getting she left the kid in the car. I mean, this child was left in the car for an entire day.

COOPER: But, it happens a lot.

CALLAN: Not for an entire day, Anderson. People make mistakes of short duration. But to see a case like this, eight hours, the father goes back to the car and goes back in and of course, there is new evidence that he was doing or somebody was doing on his computer searches about the death of animals by heat stroke by being locked up in cars.

COOPER: That's the bit that really raises questions with you, Sunny.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It does. I mean, I disagree with Paul. I think it happens, and we know, at least last year 40 times and those kids do die because they have been left for so many hours in the car. So I think that this happens. Unfortunately, it's almost an epidemic.

But when I hear that there can be evidence or there may be evidence that he searched on the internet for, you know, how long does it take for an animal to die in a car, in a hot car, that concerns me because I know that juries in particular, that is evidence that feels real to them. That is tangible. We've done those internet searches and remember Casey Anthony --

COOPER: That comes from a single course, so, you know, and there is a lot we don't know.

HOSTIN: And I've been saying that from the very beginning. It comes from a single source. We don't know enough about the circumstances about that internet search, while it's troubling to me it's not enough.

I want to hear about motive. I mean, what parent bakes their kid to death in a car without a motive. Is there mental health issues? Is there an insurance policy on this kid? Was he in financial trouble? I need to know more.

COOPER: If somebody actually did intend to do that, though, I mean, this is a whole of the level of --

CALLAN: Well, first of all, I wouldn't be what we call felony murder. You know, you can see prosecutors are reaching here to make their case because they are charging it what is called a felony murder, not a premeditated murder, not a negligent murder. But they are saying because you were cruel to him and you accidently caused his death, that is the equivalent of murder.

So we know they have flaws in their case. But we have to see the whole case here. Why are prosecutors doing this?

COOPER: John, you represented Lynn Balfour who did was on our program last night, who did this, who left her child in the car that the child died. And she speaks about this. She goes out to try to kind of warn people about this.

There are circumstances. Do you believe there are circumstances when a manslaughter charge is appropriate in cases like these?

JOHN ZWERLING, LYNN BALFORE'S ATTORNEY: Yes, there are. But I have to disagree with fellow guests on some of the things they said.

COOPER: Go ahead.

ZWERLING: First of all, if you forget your child is in the car, actually forget and we can talk about how that happens in a second, but you actually forget, that is not a crime because you have not willfully put your child in harm's way. If you leave your child in the car for a minute to run into a store, that's worse because then you're saying OK this is a calculate risk I'm taking and of course I'm not going to forget and you do. That can be manslaughter. OK? That's worse.

COOPER: One of the things that Lynn Balfour talked about on this program about how this could happen is that she actually created a false memory. She was so rushed and sort of discombobulated that day, that she created a false memory of actually having dropped her child off at daycare. She actually remembers dropping her child off even though she didn't do that. I think for a lot of people, that's hard to understand how that could happen.

ZWERLING: Well, if you -- if it's something you do five times a week, OK? Every week and so you have plenty of memory of dropping your child off and when you're distracted and you think you left the child off, but it actually because things turned around that day and she had not, it was her husband she dropped off, she knew she made a stop. She believed she had left the child off as she had and just always remembers, you know, what it's like and who she talked to and where she left it off and it is right on her way to work.

HOSTIN: I admitted on this show it happened to me and I don't think it's unusual for someone not to remember, I mean, something that you do all the time. I mean, don't people take vitamins every day? I take vitamins every single day. Sometimes I can't remember if I took the vitamin or not. I have a false memory about it. It happens.

CALLAN: It has to do with us trying to be safe with our kids. You know, all of these seats now are rear facing.

COOPER: You don't actually see them.

CALLAN: Yes. You know, when we were growing up and -- well, actually before those -- a lot of times those seats weren't even around but the original seats the babies faced forward so you could have a sensed that the baby is there.

COOPER: When I was a kid, I was riding up in the front seat --

(CROSSTALK)

CALLAN: And you were probably safer from this sort of thing, anyway.

COOPER: John, you were saying -- I read something you said that I think we should just get out there that after, you know, representing Lynn Balfour, she came up with some ideas for how to prevent this, that you kind of have taken to heart.

ZWERLING: There is two simple things you can do to help prevent this if you get into the habit that Lynn taught me. One is you take something that belongs to your baby like the diaper bag, even though your baby is by law required to be in the backseat, you put the diaper bag in the front seat where you have a visual queue when you're getting out of the car and while you're driving that your baby is in the car.

The other one is take something you always bring with you, whether it's your pocketbook, your briefcase, your computer, whatever it is you know you're going to take with you when you get out of the car and put that in the back with the baby.

HOSTIN: Absolutely.

ZWERLING: So when you get it, you'll have the visual queue.

COOPER: Sunny, you said you do that now.

HOSTIN: Yes. For years I drove without shoes. I would get into the car. I would put my children in the back of the car. I would take my shoes off and I would put my shoes in the back of the car because the bottom line is no one is ever going to walk outside of their car barefoot.

COOPER: John Zwerling, thanks for being with us. Paul Callan as well and Sunny Hostin.

ZWERLING: My pleasure.

CALLAN: Thank you. COOPER: Well, a quick reminder. Make sure set your DVRs so you can

watch 360 whenever you want.

You heard Sunny talked about how she drives barefoot or did so she wouldn't forget her kids in the backseat. The question is, can technology go one step better in preventing hype car tragedies? Remember, as many as 40 kids died last year in the cars. Our Gary Tuchman investigates on that.

Later, my conversation with two of the so-called central park five about how they spent years in prison in America's consciousness and the purr personification of pure evil. They talked about their settlement with New York City after 25 years.

And the great blessing they now have, one that most of us take for granted to finally, finally being able to think about the next steps in their lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, we talked briefly about how easy it is for parents, good parents with the best intension even, to leave your child in the backseat. We talked about how the brain can fabricate false memories to account for, and how ordinary life-saving technology rear-facing child seats may play a part.

Now, having said that, does automotive technology offer a way out. We asked Gary Tuchman to investigate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A shopping center parking lot, the kind of place where people are rushing and distracted. What if you forget your child was still strapped in the car seat?

Pam D'Angio believes she's developed a product to stop a tragedy from happening.

This is the infant toddler e lead system and the idea is if you walk out of this car and your child is in the backseat, this fob will make a sound and you will know your child is in a car.

PAM D'ANGIO, BABY ALERT INTERNATIONAL: Absolutely.

TUCHMAN: Texas based baby alert international is just one of the number of companies that sells such devices. Her product uses a key fob and a sensor pad which is placed on the car seat.

The pad is under the seat right here. The pad is connected to this.

D'ANGIO: Right.

TUCHMAN: The pad is activated by the weight of the baby. When I walk away with this, the weight is still on the car seat and when I walk away, this will go off. D'ANGIO: Right, absolutely.

TUCHMAN: And I know my child is could be in the car.

D'ANGIO: Right.

TUCHMAN: We get a little help from a family we meet in the parking lot.

What I have here now is a grandma and aunt and little Quincy who is 6- months-old. And Quincy is going to demonstrate how well this product works, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Correct.

TUCHMAN: You guys ready to try it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready.

TUCHMAN: Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're OK.

TUCHMAN: It's pretty clear baby Quincy is not very happy to be part of our experiment. But we don't take it personally.

We are going to see if it works. If you walk out of the car and the baby is still here. So, hang on to that, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hang on to this.

TUCHMAN: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

TUCHMAN: You can drive the car now,

Grandmother Ellie drives her SUV to another part of the parking lot and gets out of the vehicle, which by the way, we leave well air conditioned for our test. She continues walking to one of the stores in the shopping center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. It's beeping. So I forgot something in my car. Better go check.

TUCHMAN: Hey, there is a baby in here, there is also your daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There it is.

TUCHMAN: That seems to work well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It works well. It takes a few steps but it does bring you back.

TUCHMAN: Just like 15 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the important thing.

TUCHMAN: This is certainly not fool prop. Batteries can get low. The sound may not be heard in the noisy place.

A federal government studied two years ago and said while such products are well intentioned, they are unreliable and there is no substitute for responsible care giving. But entrepreneurs like Pam D'Angio say they save lives.

D'ANGIO: Our sales have really increased, especially when there is a tragedy, that's when we really get a lot of phone calls, a lot of orders at that time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Gary joins us now from Sugar Land, Texas.

So, I mean, are these kinds of devices easy to find? You said there are a bunch of different products.

TUCHMAN: If you don't like to shop online, Anderson, they are very difficult to find. Very few stores carry them. I think if the government came out with a more favorable recommendation two years ago, more stores would carry them. But they are easy to buy online. There are number of companies in the business making similar technology.

This particular item that we showed you in the story, retails for about $70 online and the woman who runs the company based here in Sugar Land, Texas, which is just outside of Houston said she moved tens of thousands of units all around the world last year.

COOPER: All right, Gary, appreciate it. Thanks very much. God good advice.

As always, for more on this story, you can go to CNN.com.

Up next tonight, their nightmare began 25 years ago when they were just teenagers said the central park five are one step closer of being compensated for some of what they have lost.

Also, the crisis in Iraq escalating, some are fears that the conflict could spread even wide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: New York city's comptroller has approved a $40 million settlement in the lawsuit over the wrongful conviction of five men more than two decades ago. Today, one of the man, Kevin Richardson was overcome with emotion as he recalled on what he had been through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN RICHARDSON, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED OF CENTRAL PARK RAPE: You all don't really understand what we went through. You all try to dehumanize us as human beings but we're still here. We're strong. People called us animals, wolf pack. I have four sisters and a mother. I would never do anything to a woman. I was raised better than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's impossible to over state what a big deal this was at the time. Richardson and four other teenagers, the youngest just 14, were charged and convicted with raping and beating a jogger in New York central park. They were held up as the face of urban lawlessness. The police said the teens had been on that crime spree in the park terrorizing random people wilding, some called it, except it just wasn't true.

Susan Candiotti looks back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a story that not only gripped New York City but inflamed racial tensions around the country.

Five black and Latino teens accused of a horrific crime savagely raping and beating a white woman who was jogging through central park in 1989.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was just hollering like help, help.

CANDIOTTI: After what appeared to be confessions, it seemed like an airtight case. The jury didn't buy a claim the confessions were coerced. And although there is no DNA match from any of the teens, and the victim has no memory of the attack, each of them is found guilty.

At the time, the teens are called animals, savages. Donald Trump puts out a full page ad, asking to bring back the death penalty. There were seven long years in prison for four of the boys, 13 years for another before a major break in the case in 2002.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The verdicts have been set aside in their entirety.

CANDIOTTI: All five convictions are thrown out. Overturned after a stunning confession from a serial rapist whose DNA was found at the scene. While the teens were in jail, the real rapist didn't stop.

SARAH BURNS, DIRECTOR, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE: He commits at least five more rapes that we know of after the central park jogger.

CANDIOTTI: Suing for damages has taken years, more than a decade. The city has always maintained it acted in good faith with a settlement, there is no apology.

Instead, the city calls it a wise solution closing as they put it a difficult chapter in New York's history.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Anyways, it is a shameful chapter. It's been a long horrific journey for Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise. It is a journey that still not over.

I spoke to Raymond Santana and Yusef Salam earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Raymond, let me start with you. I mean, I hears you say, the first time I see you, you never thought this day would come. I mean, what was this day like finally after all these years to get it settled?

RAYMOND SANTANA, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED OF CENTRAL PARK RAPE: You know, I said I waited for this day to come, right? And when the day finally came, I couldn't sleep, and I felt like even though we was about to acknowledge THAT the settlement was done, I felt like some ways, somehow, the city is going to just pull his rope from under our feet, you know, and say oops, sorry.

It is like when you fight against an agency or system for so long, we talking 25 years. And then now, to get to this point where you stop fighting is difficult. It's difficult to just take the gloves off and hang them up, you know.

So to me, it's like we getting up and we are going to do a press conference against fighting against injustice for the central park five, you know. It still hasn't sunk in that this is finally over.

COOPER: Yusef, I want to read something your mom said today at the press conference. She said I'm not smiling nor am I laughing all the way to the bank, I'm still covered in shame.

Do you feel that, as well? A sense of shame?

YUSEF ABOUS SALAAM, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED OF CENTRAL PARK RAPE: There is an indelible scar that was placed on us and that scar hasn't been removed just because we've come to this point. That's very real.

You know, like I said in the film, we really went through that. And it was shameful because we was always known as, you know, Raymond Santana, the guy from the Central Park jogger case, not Raymond Santana, you know, my childhood buddy or something like that and the same for all of us. It's hard to get past that even though we know that this is now a new chapter, you know, but just yesterday, so to speak --

COOPER: And no amount of money, I mean, obviously a huge settlement, but no amount of money wipes that away, no amount of money makes up. I mean, you had years of your life taken from you.

SAALAM: Right.

COOPER: People have not been in that situation can't even imagine being in prison for something you did not do.

SANTANA: Yes, exactly. And after the announcement of the settlement, you know, it seemed like the $40 million decided to take a life of its own. But now, there was like, we are waiting on the $40 million, what do you think? It wasn't even about the central park five anymore, you know. And it was like wow, like they just pushed us to the side like the money means more and for us, that wasn't the case. It was just about closure. Finally coming to an end and putting, you know, an end to the chapter and moving on with our lives.

COOPER: What does this tell you about, I mean, about the system, about how things work? I mean, you've got an advantage, you were a victim of the system that betrayed you. The things that should work to protect you were working against you. Has that changed the way you look at, you know, the justice system and are you skeptical when you hear, you know, everybody ganging up on somebody whose committed a crime?

SALAAM: I'm very skeptical when I hear reports because of what happened to us, you know. And even after the fact, even when something like justice happens and the truth comes out, and for us that's unfortunate because we still live in that reality. We still live in the reality of how many others, you know, the Central Park five is a celebrated case among hundreds of thousands of Central Park cases. People was able to retire with full pensions off the backs of us and gets raises and move on with their lives.

COOPER: No one was ever reprimanded.

SALAAM: No. That's hard to swallow this whole case I always say was more sexy for it to be five individuals that have done this to one woman than for it to be one individual to do this. It's unfortunate because with the regards to the Central Park jogger herself, she was victimized in the worst way because she was raped, but then she was lied to. So imagine for 13 years being made to believe a story for 13 years you were told, we got the real perpetrators of this and then all of a sudden, 13 years later, the closure that you had is now gone, it's now blown up in your face.

COOPER: As you look forward now, what do you hope to do? Do you -- how do you see your life?

SANTANA: You know, because for me, because the possibility was taken away, I'm not so quick to rush into that.

COOPER: Right.

SANTANA: I want to sit back and let my thoughts manifest and any way possible but do it on my terms, you know, don't rush. Don't make any rush decisions and I say I'll be at work on Monday.

SALAAM: At the end of the day, it's not enough money. Any amount of money wouldn't be enough. We still have to provide for our families and make proper decisions and do what is right. Most of this money will make sure our families are OK, our children are taken care of. So it's not like we can retire, you know, that definitely isn't part of the plan right now, you know, but being able to think about next steps is definitely a great feeling to have that opportunity to be able to do that.

COOPER: Yes. Well, thank you so much for coming and talking to us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I also spoke to civil right attorney, Jonathan Moore, who represented four of the Central Park five in the lawsuit including Raymond Santana and Yousef Salaam. He had a lot to say about the settlement and also how and where the justice system went off the rails in this case and not just the justice system, the media as well. You can watch the exclusive interview on our website at ac360.com.

Just ahead, Iraq on the edge, ISIS fighters closing in on Baghdad tonight. Armed U.S. drones now flying overhead. Is the crisis about to spin out of control and U.S. involvement about to grow?

Plus a Tea Party leader accused of taking part in a smear campaign has apparently taken his own life. Details on his death straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, the crisis in Iraq maybe escalating and U.S. officials confirmed that armed American drones are now flying over Baghdad to protect 180 U.S. military advisors now on the ground. Their mission at this point is said to be defensive, any offensive strikes would need the authorization from President Obama.

Also another U.S. warship carrying 1,000 Marines has been redirected to the Persian Gulf. That is eight naval ships on standby in the Gulf. In an interview with the BBC today, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, slammed the U.S. for not providing fighter jets that could have stopped the advance of ISIS.

Maliki said he is buying fighter jets from Russia and Belarus instead. All of this as new allegations of atrocities are coming to light and fears of a widening conflict are growing. CNN international correspondent, Arwa Damon joins me now from Baghdad along with chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto in Washington.

Jim, these drones armed with hell fire missiles, sounds like an escalation. What does it mean in terms of a possibility of air strikes from the U.S.?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Not for offensive operations, primarily for force protection. You'll have 300 U.S. military advisors on ground if they get in trouble, they need to have this backup as possibility, but I spoke earlier today to Admiral John Kirby, and said listen, you know, if there is a situation, Baghdad comes under threat, other key assets come under threat, could these be called, you know, into action and he said yes, we're prepared for all missions, but that order would have to come from the president.

COOPER: Arwa, obviously this conflict in Iraq has now linked to the conflict in Syria, but word that ISIS has their eyes on Jordan, which is a significant U.S. ally and has been up to now relatively stable.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that is a legitimate concern, Anderson. They have been dealing with problems when its own problems when it comes to the population. Let's not forget that al Qaeda and Iraq's first leader was of Jordanian descent, as well. That being said. This is already a regional conflict.

You have the regional power houses, Saudi Arabia and Iran, in a standoff in both the Iraqi and Syrian battle fields and many people will tell you the way Iraq and Syria end up going is going to be the way the region goes. This is a region redefining itself to a degree and many fear the worst is yet to come.

COOPER: Jim, there is more U.S. assets headed to the region. You know, for someone skeptical about this, it could be argued that this looks like mission creep. It seems like every day there is more and more numbers being added.

SCIUTTO: It does. This additional ship, the "USS Baton," 1,000 Marines on board and seven other ships there, two functions one in position for a possible evacuation of the hundreds of U.S. Embassy staff that are in Baghdad at this point and elsewhere in the country, two, support of those advisors on the ground, if they, you know, force protection again like those armed drones.

It does give capability, but I have to tell you, having traveled with Secretary Kerry this last week in Iraq, my strong impression is that this administration is in no rush for offensive military action in Iraq, air strikes, et cetera. They are placing emphasis on a political agreement.

They want to be moving toward political compromise because they feel offensive military operations in the meantime one, won't have much effect on the ground and two, might be perceived supporting one side in what is looking more and more like a civil war. So, you know, you have the assets on the ground that give capability and options, but order coming from the president, it does not seem imminent at this point.

COOPER: Arwa, two weeks ago, we saw mass executions by ISIS forces of prisoners they had taken. I understand there are some disturbing reports of mass executions carried out by Iraqi forces.

DAMON: That's right and that was highlighted in a report that was put out by Amnesty International, but also something we have been investigating. Executions of Sunni detainees allegedly carried out by Iraqi security forces as they were evacuating various facilities to include incidents that were reported to have taken place in Tel Afar, Mosul and in Bacubas.

Human Rights watch putting out a report saying now it has analyzed satellite imagery and can confirm the two mass graves that we saw in Saddam Hussein's hometown were in fact people that were executed by ISIS. That's contributing to the growing tensions and Anderson, unravelling of this country.

COOPER: All right, Arwa, stay safe. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.

A lot more happening tonight, Susan Hendricks has the 360 Bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a scathing new report submitted to President Obama says the VA health system is plagued by ineffective leadership and quote, "a corrosive culture that is impacting the timely delivery of care." The findings come from the acting VA secretary and a White House official assessing the VA crisis.

Officials in Mississippi say attorney and Tea Party leader, Mark Mayfield is dead after an apparent suicide. He was arrested in May and according to a local newspaper accused of conspiring with three others to get a photo taken of Senator Thad Cochran's wife who suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home. It was used in a primary run off race this past Tuesday.

A big shakeup at "The View." Sherri Sheppard and Jenny McCarthy are leaving the daytime talk show. ABC says "The View" will be moving in an exciting new direction this fall. Sherri Sheppard said tweeted that she was incredibly grateful to Barbara Walters who she called her second mom -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, we'll see. Susan, thanks very much.

Ahead, I'll talk to Sebastian Younger about his film the intensity of war and why so many soldiers want to go back.

A mom to be eight months pregnant defends her track and field championship running eight months pregnant. Was it the right thing to do or safe thing to do? I'll talk to Sanjay Gupta ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In tonight's "American Journey," U.S. soldiers who went to war were forever changed by it and then came home. We first met them in a documentary "Restrepo" made by journalist, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hedrington. Now Junger made a second film about the same soldiers. The title references the valley also known as the valley of death, one of the most dangerous places in the war in Afghanistan. Here is a clip from the new movie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until you hear the snap of a bullet go by your head or hit your head, there is nothing else like it. All right, we're getting engaged again because our guys moved. Blow my -- drums out. Having a blast. Pretty much --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Tim Hedrington was killed in Libya so Sebastian Junger made the sequel on his own and joins me tonight. Even though it picks up where the film "Restreppo" left off, what do you want people to understand? SEBASTIAN JUNGER, DIRECTOR, "KORENGAL": It came out in the middle of two wars, I wanted civilians to get a feel for what combat is like for soldiers that we send over there. "Korengal" is different. It's an attempt to inquire a little more deeply into how combat affects these young men. It was all young men out there and there was some very interesting conversations with these guys that we had about the consequences of all this.

A lot of them afterwards really missed it and wanted to go back, which is a puzzling thing on the face of it if you think how hard it was out there and how dangerous. And the other sort of end of the spectrum, you know, one guy really ruminated whether God hates him for all the killing that they did and added, but I would do it over again the same way if I had to. Complex stuff for these soldiers.

COOPER: But wanted to go back because of the intensity of the experience, because it was -- you talk to soldiers, to Marines, to those who have served and say often that it's -- there is nothing like it anywhere else. There is nothing like the bond that they had with others, there is nothing like the experience.

JUNGER: I think in combat, you're sort of dosed, if you will, with two potent chemicals, one is adrenaline. Men in particular respond strongly to that experience and the other is human closeness. They are sleeping shoulder to shoulder with each other over the course of a year on a remote ridge top. They are completely relying on each other for their very survival. There was no internet, no phone, no TV, nothing.

They were on a ridge with each other for a year. And that kind of intense human closeness I think actually reproduces our human evolution, our evolutionary past quite closely and I think they come out of that experience really kind of missing it and missing the security of it.

And they get back to this wide open society and they are alone again and I think it's very, very unsettling for them. Those are two things I think they really miss.

COOPER: You had made "Restrepo" obviously with Tim Hedrington who was killed in Libya. How different was it making this without him? How difficult was it to make it without him?

JUNGER: Emotionally it's -- a lot of things are difficult without him. He was a very good friend of mine. I -- you know, my found myself in the edit room sort of like -- he was almost there, the ghost, he and I affected each other a lot. Sometimes I would channel his opinion about things as we were doing the editing. Mainly, I just miss him.

COOPER: I want to ask you about Bowe Bergdahl because this film comes out at a time with so much focus on him and him trying to understand, you know, why he left. I heard you say that for Bowe Bergdahl and we don't know the full circumstances but a lot of guys consider him a deserter. If he did just walk out of that base, that is an enormous betrayal of those he served with. JUNGER: I mean, I'm not a soldier but I've been with soldiers a lot and I think that would be considered a very high betrayal, and, you know, I've heard it suggested it was so dangerous. He wanted out of the pressure cooker situation. It was more dangerous outside the wire. I don't quite buy that. I'm curious what he has to say about it.

COOPER: I look forward to seeing the film, Sebastian. Thank you.

JUNGER: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, you don't expect a runner who finishes last to get a lot of attention unless they are eight months pregnant and an inspiration to a lot of people. The question is it safe to run eight months pregnant? I'll speak to Sanjay Gupta more about her case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: For most Olympic runners finishing dead last would be heart breaking, not the case for Elisa Montano. She got a huge applause where the U.S. track and field championships ran the 800 meters eight months pregnant, that's right, eight months pregnant. She finished 35 seconds off her personal best.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Congratulations to her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't want to be judged or have any ill things said about me and I wanted to do what my heart and desire wanted to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: She says she ran with her doctor's approval. The question is how is that? We'll get insight from our own doctor, chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us. What do you make of her running this race while she was pregnant? Is that safe thing to do?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's an extraordinary thing and I would say it's probably not safe for everybody, but we're talking about a well-trained athlete. What is so fascinating, Anderson, if you look at the human body, when a woman is pregnant, it will do everything it can, the body will to protect the uterus and baby. It doesn't want to divert blood flow away for anything.

But you got a woman running and needs blood flow to the arms and legs and why is this person running? She must be running because she's running for her life saving herself and the baby. The body allows blood to go to the arms and legs but again, she's a conditioned athlete. For someone to go start doing this, the body hasn't adjusted to that, it could be a problem.

COOPER: This may be a dumb question, but is the baby bouncing around during the run? GUPTA: Yes, the baby is rocking around in the uterus. The amniotic fluid is a really good cushion and buffer. So the baby will rock around and move around but that part of the whole experience is not unsafe. She was asked about that specifically, take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Usually the baby gets rocked to sleep on runs and about 30 minutes afterwards, like right now I'm getting poking. A little like, I want to go on that run again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Sounds like the baby gets used to it.

COOPER: How much did being 34 weeks pregnant slow her down?

GUPTA: I asked the same question. I was curious, again, you're talking about a world class athlete. We pulled her times to get an idea. She was doing the 800 meter. Her personal best at the bottom, the top 2:32 so 34, 35 seconds slower when she's pregnant, which is incredible.

COOPER: That's amazing.

GUPTA: Do you know how fast that is, that's half a mile in two and a half minutes. She's running a five-mile minute phase. That's faster than you could run I bet not pregnant.

COOPER: Yes, there is no way, yes. I tried, I did a piece for "60 Minutes" I tried to race against a marathon runner. I couldn't do it. I was running full out and I couldn't keep up with her for 10 seconds. It was pathetic.

GUPTA: It doesn't look like they are going fast.

COOPER: You never can tell how fast they are going. She got a standing ovation from the crowd.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it was a powerful moment. I will tell you, even people say, you know, a woman who is pregnant shouldn't be doing things like this or what are they capable of doing, I think that's part of the reason she did this so publicly, she wanted to show what was possible. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what it looks like to be a professional athlete as a woman and continue on your career. For me, I wanted to celebrate where I'm at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: We'll hear from her again. She'll have the baby and you can see, she'll continue to train while pregnant and continue to race.

COOPER: Sanjay, thanks very much. Fascinating.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Amazing stuff. That does it for us. Thanks for watching. "The Sixties" starts now.