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Crews Search for Chimneys above Thai Cave; Anti-Government Protests Over Judiciary Intensify; Living on the Fault Line of the Cold War; Protester Temporarily Shuts Down Statue of Liberty. Aired 12m-1a ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, the Russia connection. Police confirmed the same type of nerve agent which poisoned an ex- Soviet spy is to blame for leaving a British couple in hospital in critical condition.

Plus, dive, drill and drain, three rescue operations underway at the same time to try to save a youth football team from a flooded cave before more heavy rain arrives.

And a similar freedom becomes a scene of protest, why one woman decided to scale the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Hello, everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. This is NEWSROOM L.A.

U.K. police have confirmed a deadly Soviet-era nerve agent has left two people in hospital fighting for their lives in critical condition. It happened at this home, now off limits, in a small town of Amesbury. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is there with details.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wednesday evening, British counter terrorism authorities confirmed the people of Amesbury's worst fears in connection with this incident, that the couple 45-year-old, Charlie Rowley, and his girlfriend, 44-year-old Dawn Sterges, had fallen ill after being exposed to Novichok nerve agent.

ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER NEIL BASU, LONDON METROPOLITAN POLICE: This evening I received test results from (inaudible) that showed that the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent, Novichok. Following the detailed analysis of those samples, we can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent, Novichok, which has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal.

The latest update we have from the hospital is that both patients remain in a critical condition. Both are British nationals and are local to the area. Officers are still working to identify their next of kin.

MCLAUGHLIN: British authorities believe that Russia was behind the attack against the Skripals. So far in this investigation, there is no suggestion according to counter terrorism authorities that this latest couple in Amesbury had in any way been targeted. They had been described as normal, local residents with no ties to Russia.

Really, at this point, authorities trying to build a timetable of the couple's movements. We know from a family friend speaking to British media that they had been in Salisbury on the Friday evening. Authorities say they had not visited any sights that had been decontaminated in connection to the Skripal poisoning.

Once they left Salisbury on the Friday evening, they arrived back here in Amesbury and according to counter terrorism authorities at 10:15 in the morning that is when Dawn Sterges fell ill. She was taken to hospital.

And it wasn't until 3:30 in the afternoon on the Saturday that Charlie Rowley fell ill. Initially authorities said they thought this was a drug related incident. They suspected a contaminated batch of heroin or cocaine.

But by the Monday, that's when they started to look at Novichok as a serious possibility and that was confirmed not far away from here during test at the (inaudible) military research facility, the same facility that confirmed the Skripals had in fact been exposed to Novichok nerve agent.

Now, of course, the question is how did they come across this deadly weapon of mass destruction? Authorities here they simply at this point do not know, but this has this tiny little village on edge. Erin McLaughlin, CNN, Amesbury.


VAUSE: Joining me now, Bob Baer, CNN intelligence and security analyst, former CIA operative and prolific author, including the "Perfect Kill, Putting on Laws for Assassins." Bob, good to see you.

Right now, we're big on questions, short on detail. Investigators have said it doesn't appear the couple was specifically targeted. This leaves a lot of possibilities. This may have been accidental exposure to residual left behind from the Skripal poisoning, but it's not known if it's the same batch.

That leads to more questions. Where did it come from? Could it be a random attack to create confusion? Could it be attack that went wrong? So, looking at all of this, what is your initial assessment on how all this happened?

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, John, I agree with you. It is accidental. Novichok comes in a binary form. It could have been mixed. If it is not exposed to the air or rain, it will not dissipate, and it could have lasted from March. What I suspect is that these people came -- maybe in a hotel room, a desk, a car, and it only takes 13 milligrams of Novichok to kill you, and that's not much.

[00:05:10] So, a little spec of this they could have ingested it or even touched and been -- you know, it will kill them if you don't have an antidote and of course, they are working on this around the clock. They probably will survive. But on the other hand, how much more of this stuff is around Britain? You know, frankly --

VAUSE: Sorry to interrupt. It kind of raises the question that this area was supposed to be cleaned up and detoxified. Clearly, it wasn't.

BAER: Well, we don't know where they staged the attack for the Skripals. It could have been in this very location where they were infected 13 miles away. We simply don't know. The reason we don't know is the Russians have not come clean, and that's the real question.

Clearly, they were behind the Skripal attack. Nobody with any sense looks at it any other way, the Russian intelligence was behind this. But the fact is Vladimir Putin has flat out denied it. He's refused to cooperate with Britain and we don't know how many more people can come into contact with this until they are forced to come clean.

VAUSE: You know, when it comes to the Russians and Vladimir Putin, they have been good at flooding social media with alternative theories about what may or may not have happened essentially muddying the waters.

A lot of them are now pointing to Porton Down where these tests are being carried out. It is a military biological research facility. They're trying to find out if this is the same batch of Novichok, which was used in the Skripal poisoning four months ago.

That attack took place in Salisbury, which is eight miles away from that research facility in Porton Down. The latest victims -- that attack happened at Amesbury less than ten miles away from Porton Down. So, you know, what the Russian media have been pointing out is this is quite the coincidence.

BAER: No, it's like Alex Jones. You can come up with these conspiracy theories as much as you like. But the fact is that Porton Down did not go out and attempt to assassinate the Skripals. They do not lose track of this stuff and they are not going out and trying to assassinate random civilians.

It is a conspiracy theory. The Russians are trying to cover this up. Putin made another mistake. He has a long history of murdering people both in Russia and abroad. Don't forget Litvinenko, that was another assassination he's denied.

But clearly, the forensic trail goes back to Moscow. It was tracked on airplanes. So, to simply deny fact it's not going to play with Britain. VAUSE: I want to knock some of these conspiracy theories down because a lot of these centered on Porton Down. That's where they started making chemical and biological weapons in more than 100 years ago.

According to the U.K. government, production stopped decades ago and now Porton Down helps develop effective medical counter measures that test systems. They say we produce very small quantities of chemical and biological agents.

They are stored securely and disposed of safely when they are no longer required. You are saying there is actually no chance that something may have gone wrong there with the storage and the disposal. Maybe the poisoning is a result of some kind of accident?

BAER: No. The fact that this Russian defector and his daughter were infected with it, it makes no sense in a rational world, none at all. In Porton Down, you know, if somehow, they had lost control of it, there would be an inquiry. They would come clean on this. It's the way Britain works. I just do not believe it.

You have to look at Putin's record. He has killed hundreds of people assassinated them and every finger, every intelligence service is pointing at Moscow at the kremlin.

VAUSE: One of the other sort of popular conspiracy theories out there is pointing to the fact that the U.K. government last month announced it would buy the home where the Skripals lived and were poisoned. They took possession of their belongings, which were inside the home and the car. A lot of speculation coming from the Russian media or Russia's embassy. This is all about destruction of evidence by the U.K. government.

BAER: It is a criminal investigation. Look, Russia is a closed state. Britain is not. They simply cannot cover this up. Frankly, I pay no attention to these conspiracy theories. The real question is why would Vladimir Putin take the risks of assassinating somebody in Britain with a nerve agent? First time, it makes me wonder what goes through his mind and that's what really scares me.

VAUSE: Maybe he feels embolden by the current state of world politics, who knows?

BAER: Look on the 16th, if they don't do something about this in Helsinki, he may get away with it.

VAUSE: Yes, good point. Good conversation. Bob, thanks so much.

BAER: Thanks.

VAUSE: Now to Thailand and the growing urgency to rescue a dozen boys and their football coach from a flooded cave.

[00:10:09] Heavy rains could potentially raise the flood levels in the cave structure, leaving the boys strapped for months underground until the monsoon season is over. Now the search has started in the hills above the cave, air vents or openings which lead directly to the boys. If they don't find a passage way, then authorities are still planning for the boys to use special scuba gear, and swim out one by one accompanied by Navy divers, a treacherous and dangerous journey to the surface.

The football team is now into the 12th day of this ordeal and CNN's Dave McKenzie is live in Northern Thailand. So, David, it's all about the weather right now. With that in mind, what is the time frame here? How long do authorities have to get these boys to safety before those rains potentially cause further flooding inside the cave?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, there was so much hope and real joy here in Thailand when these boys were found. But I think in the days since the realization just how difficult this rescue attempt will be to get those young boys aged 11 to 16 deep into the cave system behind me out from where they are sitting on a small beach and as you say the weather is a huge concern.

In the coming days we expect heavy rains in this area. They are pumping out, according to the governor of this area, almost two million liters of water per day from three different pumps.

Desperately trying to get that water out to allow those young boys to if they have to escape through the main entrance, John, so they can limit the amount of time that they are trying to go with these face masks and train.

Some of them can't swim. You are dealing with zero visibility conditions. Often there are hazards in the way. It is almost impossible to conceive someone who is not trained with hundreds of hours of scuba training to even entertain this.

With that in mind, as you say, 20 to 30 teams are trekking in those mountains behind me looking for any kind of access point, air vent, possibly that they could drill wider, deeper to get to those boys and extract them that way.

But that is I think a long shot at this time. They're not saying they're going to try that. What they do know is time is not on their side. The boys are healthy considering what has happened. But certainly, conditions are terrible down there -- John.

VAUSE: Yes. They're alive. That's one thing. Getting them out clearly is still a challenge and remains so. David, thank you for the update. Appreciate it. David McKenzie live for us there in Northern Thailand.

Joining us here now in Los Angeles, Jess Phoenix, a geologist and volcanologist, and the co-founder of the environmental research group, Blueprint Earth. We are glad you came in especially on a holiday here. Thank you.


VAUSE: This is one of those desperate situations where every idea is looked at. Everything is considered. Nothing is ruled out. Claus Rasmussen who is part of the rescue team told CNN that noises the boys have been hearing. This is what he said.


CLAUS RASMUSSEN, CAVE DIVE INSTRUCTOR, ASSISTING THAI NAVY SEALS: They claim that they have heard noises from the outside while they are in there, and that means that such as dogs barking, other kids playing, chickens cooing, roster around. There's been animal life around and they obviously have air so there is a draft inside.

Whether that is something they are imagining because that hasn't been confirmed from Navy SEAL site yet. But that's the Navy SEALs has been really focusing on that aspect of it.


VAUSE: OK. What the boys heard was in fact real that means that rescuers are looking for this hidden passage because obviously sound travels and has to travel to reach the boys inside the cave. When you look at the cave structure here, this isn't just one cave. It is limestone as well. What are the chances that there is a passageway or a vent or some kind of chimney that would lead close to where they are?

PHOENIX: Chances are actually decent that there would be some sort of additional access, but likely it would be very small. It wouldn't be something that anybody could climb up through. That's when people would be looking at potentially trying to drill in that area because the structure around whatever vent or passage exists would likely be strong enough to hold up.

That's the main concern. You don't want to go drilling anywhere because you could potentially compromise the cavern that they're in. So, with limestone, it is incredibly porous, and you oftentimes have these caves that you know the main parts of, even Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.

It is still not known how far it actually goes and all the different passageways and different sections of it are still being explored. So, this cave same kind of deal.

VAUSE: You know, also when you look at where these boys are right now, obviously oxygen is getting in. Breathing doesn't appear to be an issue with carbon monoxide. So, as unlucky as they've been, they've also been incredibly lucky at the same time to find this safe place.

[00:15:05] PHOENIX: Yes. I mean, because it's very often that we hear about cave -- attempted cave rescues where even very experienced cave explorers are found dead by the people who are trying to rescue them. It is pretty amazing. Whoever is watching out for them, something good is going on.

VAUSE: The best option it seems is draining the water out. They're saying that these pumps have been running 24/7. They have reduced the water by about 40 percent. In some places now, they can actually move all the way in about a mile before they actually have to start using scuba gear.

But this is a limestone cave. It is like a sponge. Is it only going to be possible in the amount of time they have, which now may be days to pump the water out fast enough before it comes back in?

PHOENIX: That's actually a pretty interesting math problem because it is not just a straight equation like how much, how many gallons do we have to move. Last, I had heard they already removed over 320 million gallons of water.

But the issue here is the weather. You cannot nail down exactly how much rain fall they're going to have. So, it is all going to depend on how much rain fall and the rate that we see recharge into the cave system. That's the big critical factor.

VAUSE: If they decided they have no other choice, they have to go with this scuba options where the kids have this special mask and face goggles and they are guided out by Navy divers, one of the biggest concerns they have are these fast moves currents. Explain what's driving those currents.

Where do they come from? Is it possible to pick a time when the currents aren't as strong as they may be at another time or are they just simply flowing at the same phase 24/7?

PHOENIX: Well, you know, I haven't been on the ground.

VAUSE: In general sense, yes.

PHOENIX: From past experience, you know, caves like this, you've got water entering and exiting the system. So, it's largely driven by whatever precipitation you are going to see at the surface that percolates through into the sub surface.

Also, there is air moving in that cave as you mentioned. These currents can be a combination of factors that are driving them. But I will tell you as somebody who does scuba dive, this is an incredibly dangerous situation and those currents can change from minute to minute.

It is not like tides where you can depend on them going in and out. And of course, the cave environments are extremely dynamic. There is always things changing, whether it is the humidity or air temperature. It is changing constantly if the cave is an open system, which this is.

VAUSE: And they could be dealing with changing currents and zero visibility.

PHOENIX: Exactly.

VAUSE: One thing that hasn't been explained to me is how this actually happened. So, the boys went into the cave. I'm assuming they weren't there for a long period of time, but long enough for the rain to fall and then the water to rise to the point where they were cutoff?

PHOENIX: Yes. It is essentially a flash flood situation. We get that a lot here in the desert southwest where you can be in a perfectly dry environment and then a flash flood will sweep through and kill whoever is in its path. This is the same sort of scenario where you had a monsoon rainstorm appear and it basically changed that environment like that.

VAUSE: So, the water can rise, what, a number of feet per minute?

PHOENIX: It can. It can rise a couple of feet pretty quickly in a situation like this.

VAUSE: OK. So, the other worst-case scenario here is that if they don't get out before the rains arrive the water will rise to a point where they will be stuck there for an extended period of time. Thai officials were planning four months' supply worth of food.

So, obviously that's the time period they are looking at. I guess they will survive, but that will be tough. What sort of impact will that isolation have on 12 young kids and a soccer coach?

PHOENIX: I think we need to look at the experience of some folks in Chile who were trapped in the mine back in 2010. They were down there for 69 days. They said as grown men it was hard.

VAUSE: They said their lives down a mine.

PHOENIX: They're professionals who do this all the time. These boys were in there to do an initiation, write your name on the wall and go back out. Having the coach there and having the people that can get in via diving in, coming in and giving them encouragement and taking out videos to show their families and bringing those back in will make all the difference.

But whenever you are in a really dangerous isolated position, I think one of the best things you can do is remember why you are trying to make it through.

VAUSE: Wow. Yes, these kids, wow. I just feel for them. You know, clearly everyone hopes this ends sooner rather than later.

PHOENIX: I know. The good luck needs to hold just a little longer.

VAUSE: Yes, a little bit longer. Jess, thanks.

PHOENIX: Thanks, John.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, President Trump may be hours away from a supreme decision. When we come back, the details on the search to fill an important seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Also, ahead, the pressure is on. The U.S. secretary of state has to show results of a little more than just smiles and handshakes when he heads to North Korea for trip number three.



VAUSE: Progressive lobbying campaign is underway trying to influence the U.S. president and the choice for a seat on the Supreme Court. It's only been a week since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his resignation. The president says he'll announce his decision on who will be next justice on Monday. Jeff Zeleny is at the White House with details.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump is only hours away from finalizing his choice for the Supreme Court.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I've spent the last three days interviewing and thinking about Supreme Court justices. Such an important decision.

ZELENY: Tonight, CNN learned the president is poised to make his decision Thursday or Friday. The pick will be a highly guarded secret until an announcement Monday with a name included on a list with one or two other finalists.

So, aides in a new White House war room can spend the weekend gearing up for the confirmation fight. The president leaving the White House on this federal holiday today spending four hours at his golf club in sterling Virginia but taking calls along the way. At times this week, the president sounding like his mind is already made up.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think you will be very impressed. These are talented people, brilliant people. I think you will love it like Justice Gorsuch. We hit a home run there and we're going to hit a home run here.

ZELENY: The replaced retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the White House is following a similar roll out used for Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first nominee to the Supreme Court.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: (Inaudible). Here they come.

ZELENY: But the question is whether the second nominee will follow in the same ideological mode. The president interviewed at least seven potential justices including these federal judged thought to be leading contenders, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge, both of whom clerked for Justice Kennedy, and Amy Coney Berrett and Joan Larson, who clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The president is also said to be considering Amul Thapar and Thomas Hardman, who is runner up to Gorsuch. All candidates are in their 40s or low 50s, a sign the president is intent on leaving a long and lasting legacy.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years. ZELENY: Tonight, the president is also facing another decision. How long to keep embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in his cabinet. For months the president has kept Pruitt on the job despite more than a dozen investigations and far more controversies over his ethical conduct.

[00:25:10] But one administration official telling CNN the White House is reaching a tipping on Pruitt. Pruitt is attending the 4th of July picnic at the White House tonight.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Happy 4th of July to everybody.

ZELENY: All this as new details are emerging about the president openly considering invading Venezuela during a meeting last August on diplomatic sanctions to the country. Aides urged him against using military force fearing it would backfire on the U.S. But a day later, the president publicly suggested he was still considering it.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have many options for Venezuela. By the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option.

ZELENY: Tonight, one senior administration official telling CNN, the president was simply thinking out loud about using force.


(on camera): But the White House, of course, turning its entire focus to that Supreme Court pick. The president nearing his decision. Vice President Mike Pence also weighing in, meeting with more than one contender.

All of this happening exactly one week after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court moving incredibly quickly. The question now how long this confirmation fight will take in the Senate this summer. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.

VAUSE: The pressure is on. The U.S. secretary of state to show some tangible results as he heads to North Korea on Thursday for talks on denuclearization. This is Mike Pompeo's third known trip to Pyongyang. It comes as U.S. intelligence officials cast doubt on Kim Jong-un's intention to dismantle his weapons arsenal.

Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul, South Korea. So, Paula, he's been to Pyongyang twice before, but this is different. It is for a sleep over, which would indicate there is a lot for the secretary of state to get done. Critics say on the previous two trips he came away with very little.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we have sources telling CNN Washington that Secretary Pompeo knows he has to come back with something a little more concrete. He and the State Department officials are well aware that the pressure is on, that they have something from North Korea after this trip.

Now, we did hear from an intelligence official last week saying that what they're expecting to do is to have a detailed list of requirements, of tasks that North Korea has to carry out in order to start this denuclearization process.

We have heard from the secretary himself. He had said on a number of occasions that he believes it will be very clear very quickly if North Korea is not serious about denuclearization.

So, certainly there is a feeling that they will want to get something out of this meeting. There are a number of things that are still up in the air. The issue of repatriation of U.S. remains of U.S. service members, that was expected to have been done by this point.

The U.S. military still standing by for North Korea to hand those remains from the Korean War back. And also, this test missile engine site that the U.S. president said Kim Jong-un had promised to dismantle. There is no indication that that has happened or even begun as well.

So, there are a number of things that were expected to have been done by now and certainly Secretary Pompeo will be hoping to push on those -- John.

VAUSE: The concessions have all been coming from Washington, the latest being a softening of demands. Before the summit in Singapore, the Trump administration, it was all we won't accept anything short of complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, CBID.

Now the U.S. goal is the final fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim. They sound kind of similar, but for starters there is no mention of irreversible. What does this watered-down version actually look like?

HANCOCKS: We are hearing so many different versions of this. It started with the complete verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the program. Then it was changed. The verifiable wasn't there. The irreversible wasn't there, but if you look at the declaration itself, what Kim Jong-un and President Trump signed in Singapore does not have the word verifiable in it anyway.

So, despite what the administration is calling this, the number of different versions that people are calling it, the fact is in this declaration, the North Korean leader has not agreed to the verification of this denuclearization. He has said and signed that he would work towards the complete denuclearization of Korean Peninsula.

This really goes to the crux of the issue that officials and observers of North Korea talk about that the identification of that word, denuclearization, it means something very different to north Korea as it does to the United States.

And really what was agreed in Singapore did not give any more specific details of how that would come about.

VAUSE: Ronald Reagan, you say trust but verify. Donald Trump, I guess, it's trust and trust. Paula, thank you. Next here on NEWSROOM L.A., defiance and anti-government demonstrations in Poland as a Supreme Court judge defies a new law.


VAUSE: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause, with the deadlines this hour, police in England say two people found unconscious were exposed to the same military grade nerve agent which almost killed a former Russian double agent and his daughter, last March. All were poisoned by a Soviet-era chemical called Novichok. Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess are in critical condition in an entry not far from where the attack on the former Russian spy took place.

Rescue crews in Thailand are looking for so-called chimneys above the cave, where a youth football team is trapped for 12 straight days. They say it would be safer to bring the boys up through one of those vents than have them dive through the flooded cave. Plus, August, U.S. President raised the possibility of a U.S. invasion of Venezuela.

According to an administration official, the President was meeting with top foreign policy adviser at the time, and while senior aides spoke out against it, the President then raised the possibility with the number of Latin American leaders as well. One administration official says, Donald Trump was thinking out loud.

Protest intensified in Poland as a controversial new law went into effect up in the judicial system. Public outrage has been loud and angry over mandate from the government, requiring Supreme Court judges over the age of 65, to retire. We have more now from CNN's Atika Shubert.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poland's ruling law and justice party is carrying out what it claims a reform of its justice system to get rid of communist influences and fight corruption according to the party. But, human rights camp group say that it's really a systematic attempt to remove independent judges and to dismantle one of the crucial checks and balances of a Democracy and independent justice system.

So, why are the changes taken place? Why is it today? Any judge, 65 years or older, must be removed. The government has imposed a mandatory early retirement age and that will force 27 judges, nearly 40 percent of the Supreme Court, to retire, and that includes Chief Judge Malgorzata Gersdorf. She has been particularly critical of the government's legal reform, and that's one thing.

In addition to that, there is now a new extraordinary appeals chamber, that can re-open old cases and rulings, at the request of the justice minister. That's important because it means the government through its justice minister can challenge and potentially overturns Supreme Court rulings.

[00:35:13] Now, there is resistance to this, on the streets of Poland, tens of thousands are organizing protests in various cities. Chief justice -- excuse me, Chief Judge Gersdorf still showed up to work this morning and she was supported by hundreds of protesters in Warsaw. The E.U. has also started unprecedented disciplinary measures, known as Article 7, and that could ultimately suspend Poland's voting rights in the E.U., unless, it reverses course on these reforms. The Polish government, however, is adamant that it will go ahead and overhaul the courts, whatever the E.U. or the protesters on the streets have to say. Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.


VAUSE: While the Berlin wall has fallen, the Cuban missile crisis is history and many nuclear fallout shelters are just gathering dust, but there is one place. But the Cold War is alive and well, and CNN's Patrick Oppmann, is there.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don't be fooled by the stunning beauty of these waters. This is one of the last and longest running fault lines of the Cold War. On one side of the bay, is the town of Caimanera, Cuban territory, on the other, the U.S. Guantanamo Bay, navy base. Ever since the Cuban revolution, thousands of troops stand at they're ready.

Cuban and U.S. snipers watch each other from guard towers. And countless minds have been laid to keep the U.S. from invading or the Cubans, from retaking the base. The sign when you enter the town says it all, this is the first trench of the Cuban Revolution. This is one of the most tightly restricted places in all of Cuba, even Cubans (INAUDIBLE) need special pass to come and visit the town.

The owners (INAUDIBLE) after years of asking the Cuban government they finally relented and allowed a group of foreign journalists to come make a quick visit. Those restrictions were put in place to keep Cubans from trying to go the U.S., from sneaking into the base or as the Cuban government has long claimed to prevent agent provocateurs from inciting a war between the two countries.

When outsiders do venture in, they draw a crowd. Many of the town's 11,000 residents, like Olga Perez, said they support their government. They complain they live in perhaps the most isolated corner of an already isolated island.

OLGA PEREZ (through interpreter): If today, as a young Cuban from Caimanera, I fall in love with someone who isn't from here, she says. I have to ask permission for them to be able to come here. And there is nowhere else like that in all of Cuba.

OPPMANN: The base occupies 45 square miles of land, illegally, the Cuban government says. A deal signed after the 1898 U.S. invasion, supporting Cuba in the Spanish-American War, states that both countries have to agree on any changes to the status of the base. Every year, the U.S. pays Cuba, $4,085 rent. Every year, the Cuban government refuses to cash the cheque.


JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: Let me tell you something, and listen up because I really -- (END VIDEO CLIP)

OPPMANN: In movies like A Few Good Men, the base was a symbol of Cold War brinkmanship.


NICHOLSON: I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 Cubans who are trained to kill me.


OPPMANN: Then, in 2002, the base earned notoriety for something else. The alleged mistreatment of (INAUDIBLE) suspects sent there to await trial. President Obama promised to close the prison, but was unable to get Congress to go along with the plan. President Trump says he may send war detainees there. Cuban officials are frustrated that the debate is over closing the prison, not the whole base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through interpreter): We're not asking for any favors, says this government official for the province where the base is located.

OPPMANN: What we were asking for is that they turn over what is ours. And for residents of Caimanera, the base is a constant reminder of what could be.

PEREZ (through interpreter): The enemy over there impedes us, Olga says. Over there is a beautiful natural geography and it's prohibited to us.

OPPMANN: Frozen in time by lingering Cold War tensions, life hardly moves here at all, a lazy game of dominos, a newspaper read on the front porch, plenty of time still to kill before the people who live here will be able to rejoin the outside world, Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Caimanera, Cuba.


VAUSE: Well, still to come here, a woman climbed Lady Liberty, demanding a freedom for undocumented children currently being held by the U.S. government, you know, the type that would be the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be breathe free.


[00:41:49] VAUSE: An American icon packed with tourists for the July 4, Independence Day holiday, was shut down when a protester took her demands to another level. Brynn Gingras has more on the standoff at the Statue of Liberty.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For more than three hours, there was a standoff between New York City police officers and a protester who was standing her ground at the foot of Lady Liberty, her protest against President Trump's immigration policy, a part of a group called Rise and Resist. A group formed here in New York City back in 2016 and direct reaction to the election.

Their website says, "they aim to oust the Trump administration" though we talked to that group, eight protesters and all went out to the Statue of Liberty, to protest, wearing abolish ICE t-shirts. But this eighth protester climbs the actual statue and all eight of these protesters were arrested. But as I said, it took more than three hours for officers to actually get to this protester using a system of ropes to safely bring her down and finally put her under arrest.

In the meantime, though, we know on this Fourth of July here in the United States and New York City, the New York Harbor was shutdown, that island, which attracts tourists on the July 4th holiday, was also evacuated.

We learned that a company that brings tourists there and also the nearby Ellis Island turned away, 3,000 tourists who wanted to get there as this was all unfolding. But the good news, this protester, brought to safety, now under arrest for an immigration policy that she was against but now, under arrest for, back to you.

VAUSE: Brynn Gingras there, reporting, thank you for that. And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause. "WORLD SPORT" starts after the break.