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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Barack Obama vs. Osama bin Laden; The Final Minutes of Air France Flight 447
Aired June 3, 2009 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: new details of what happened to Air France Flight 447 in the sky, and new information on the final messages from the airliner itself as it beamed home the story in digital bits and bites of its own demise and the story of 228 people on board.
Also tonight, President Obama and mass murderer Osama, both today sending messages to the Muslim world. But who will the Muslim world listen to? We're with President Obama in the Middle East, as he tries to win hearts on largely hostile ground.
And, as Larry just mentioned, two American women go on trial today in North Korea. Tonight, we will talk to Lisa Ling about her sister's terrifying ordeal, an ordeal that may reach a conclusion any moment.
We begin, though, with late new details on 447's final minutes. That's the plane. They show massive system failure and hint at the possibility that the Airbus 330, with 228 people on board, broke up in midair Sunday night, after hitting extremely bad weather between Rio de Janeiro and Paris.
Now, remarkably, these indications come from the wounded airliner itself, search planes today locating more debris in the mid-Atlantic, water so deep, officials worry they will never -- they may never recover the so-called black boxes.
However, a messaging system aboard the plane and most other airliners is already providing clues -- the Associated Press late today reporting details. Here they are -- 11:00 p.m., local time, we now know a member of the flight crew sends the message he's flying through thunderstorms, satellite data showing 100-mile-an-hour updrafts in the area just then, 100-mile-an-hour updrafts, extreme weather.
Then, at 11:100, automatic messages show the autopilot disengaged itself, not unusual when flying in rough weather. In addition, though, messages indicate a key computer system on backup power and damage to flight controls.
In the cockpit, a warning alarm was going off. Then, three minutes later, 11:13, failure of so-called primary flight instruments, meaning the crew now has no way of knowing air speed, altitude, and even direction, also, loss of the main flight computer and wing spoilers. The airliner is now blind, and all but paralyzed. The final automated message comes at 11:14, reports of a loss of cabin pressure and complete electrical failure, signs the aircraft may already be breaking up.
Again, these are very early clues. Totally unknown is the first step in what looks like a complex chain of disaster. We're not going to speculate tonight about what might have happened. This is, after all, people's lives we're talking about.
But there are facts we can examine.
And joining us now is Robert Francis, former vice chairman of the NTSB.
Bob, the -- the automated messages paint a picture of a plane essentially going out of control. Earlier, you told our producer it's possible the vertical stabilizer, part of the plane's tail, might have been torn -- torn off. What jumps out at you? What would have happened if that -- if that occurred?
ROBERT FRANCIS, FORMER VICE CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Well, if that occurred, you basically don't have -- have the ability to control the airplane.
COOPER: And what makes you think that might have occurred?
FRANCIS: I would just say that the question of the plane breaking up is a very difficult one to deal with, knowing what we know now, even with this -- this supplementary information.
So, I caution a little bit. There are lots of things that cause -- cause the -- the plane to go out of control. If you lose all your electricity, and -- and losing the horizontal or vertical stabilizers on the airplane certainly something that could have happened that would not have been the break -- the entire breakup of the airplane.
So, I think it's -- we may be a little primary in speculating on the fact that the airplane broke up as it was falling or before it fell.
COOPER: What jumps out at you from those automated messages, though, that we now know the details of?
FRANCIS: Well, it's just a remarkable loss of just about every way to control the airplane.
I mean, you have lost your electricity. You have lost your flight controls. It's an -- it's an all-electronic-controlled airplane. There -- there is a supplementary way of -- of supplying electricity. But the chances are, with those kinds of forces, that -- that that -- that that would come out and be effective is probably pretty slim.
COOPER: And the weather that this plane experienced, 100-mile- an-hour updraft, that's extraordinary.
FRANCIS: That is -- extraordinary is certainly the word.
COOPER: Do -- do we know about other kinds of -- of weather that might have been hitting the plane? I mean, we -- we just know the vertical updraft; is that correct?
FRANCIS: Yes. But I think that it's fair to postulate that that would not be the only -- that that would not be the only winds that are -- that are there.
One of the things...
COOPER: Can you control a plane through a 100-mile-an-hour updraft?
FRANCIS: I would be surprised. I -- I don't know the answer to that specifically.
But that's a lot of force. One of the things that is interesting is, if you talk to pilots that fly regularly down in that part of the world, and particularly from the east coast down over parts of Brazil, this is not unusual. They are very, very wary about the weather as they go up and forth down in that area.
So, the pilots have really got to be paying a lot of attention to what's going on, and watching their weather radar, and hoping that the weather radar will tell them what -- what they need to know to divert.
COOPER: And, right now, it's a race to get those recorders. That's what -- that's what will tell us what happened, right?
FRANCIS: That -- that is priority one, two, three, and et cetera.
COOPER: All right.
Bob Francis, appreciate your expertise. Thanks very much, Bob.
COOPER: Now to President Obama's mission to the Middle East and his highly anticipated message from Cairo, all set against a new message from Osama bin Laden.
The president is flying to Cairo today, after meeting in Riyadh with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, telling reporters he wanted to start in the place where Islam began -- Mr. Obama, though, sensitive to the fact that the Arab world and Muslim world are not one and the same, pointing out America's large Muslim community.
In any case, new CNN/Opinion Research polling shows that he's got a massive gulf to try to bridge. Just 21 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Muslim countries, 31 percent neutral, 46 percent unfavorable.
Now, as for what people in Muslim countries think of us, get this: 14 percent favorable, 6 percent neutral, a whopping 78 percent unfavorable.
As we said, a new warning from bin Laden today, the day after a message from his second in command. We're going to talk about it shortly with Peter Bergen. David Gergen joins us as well on how President Obama benefits and loses politically at home.
But, first, Candy Crowley sets the stage.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Listen on the streets of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, and you will understand the enormity of expectations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything in life needs to change between America and -- the United States and the Middle East, especially between Arabs and Muslims
CROWLEY: President Obama's Cairo speech is another in a series of efforts...
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will listen carefully
CROWLEY: ... from a speech in Turkey, to a holiday greeting to Iran, designed to reset the U.S. relationship with Arabs and Muslims.
HISHAM MELHEM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AL-ARABIYA TELEVISION: He's creating a more conducive environment in the Arab and the Muslim world for a different beginning, for a different page. And -- and I think that's why millions of Arabs and Muslims are going to watch every word he utters in Cairo on Thursday.
CROWLEY: The president's biggest advantage in this diplomatic courtship is who he is not: George Bush, a president who went to war in two predominantly Muslim countries and a stalwart defender of Israel.
But, on BBC, this president was quick to say what his speech is not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, BBC)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this speech in any way an apology?
OBAMA: No. I think what we want to do is open a dialogue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: On streets across the Muslim world, the dialogue they want to hear revolves around two issues: U.S. troops on Muslim soil... UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I request Mr. Obama to continue his efforts in order to put an end to war in all Muslim countries.
CROWLEY: ... and the Middle East's most intractable, but critical issue: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): His speech is for bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis together. We wish that he will be fair with the Palestinian people.
CROWLEY: Recently, the president told Israel it had to stop all construction in West Bank settlements. His speech may reiterate that call, but he's not likely to ignore the Arab side of the equation.
STEVEN COOK, SENIOR FELLOW FOR MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The president, as is his will, is likely to hold the mirror up to the Arab and Muslim world as well, and suggest to them that incitement, the kinds of things -- not recognizing Israel's legitimate right to exist in the Middle East.
CROWLEY: Great expectations don't end there. Pro-democracy groups in the region want to hear the president speak out strongly about human rights and the rule of law.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Well, let us know what think about the president's mission. Join the live chat at AC360.com. It's happening now.
Up next, "Digging Deeper" with David Gergen and Peter Bergen -- they're standing by -- on the trip and the latest messages from al Qaeda.
Then, the videos are all over the Web recruiting for jihad. Are they reaching an American audience? That's the question, though. American Somalis and others are disappearing, lured overseas to learn to fight -- a shooting and alleged plot raising new questions tonight about recruitment right here in the United States. We will investigate that.
Also, their trial could be going on as we speak behind the closed borders of North Korea, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, two American reporters -- the latest on their fate. We're joined by Laura's sister, Lisa Ling, her husband and Euna's husband as well.
Text us your questions to 94553. The message has to start with the letters A. and C., then a space, then your name and question. If you don't include A.C. first with a space, we're not going to receive your text.
We will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: President Obama taking the red eye from Riyadh overnight, heading to Cairo, and, as we talked about, a major speech to the Muslim world, pretty ambitious, given how large and diverse the Muslim world is.
Then again, Osama bin Laden already claims to speak to and for the Muslim world -- a new tape of his surfacing today, hard on the heels of a message from his number two, warning that Mr. Obama is not welcome in Egypt.
More now with senior political analyst David Gergen and national security analyst Peter Gergen, who is one of the few Westerners to actually have met face-to-face with bin Laden.
David, the president's speech tomorrow, how important is it? And -- and he's got to, I guess, walk some kind of a line, doesn't he? I mean, he's talking in Egypt, which is itself an incredibly repressive country.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We're learning now that Barack Obama is a man of enormous daring, Anderson.
He started talking about this speech way back in the campaign. The White House has built it up, so that expectations are sky-high. Here's a president who wants to reach out to Muslims, a fifth of the world's population, and bring them over, in a way that no other president has ever done.
It's like climbing Mount Everest, because, even as he reaches out, Muslims are going to be expecting some sort of apology for past American injustices. That's what they believe history has been. If he does that, he is going to antagonize a huge number of people back in the United States.
Muslims are going to be looking for some concrete efforts with regard to Israel, what Israel is going to give up. If he does that, he's going to get into a real fight with the Israelis.
So, he went to Turkey and already gave a -- a speech that was a lot of generalities that were inspiring, but now people are looking for something more concrete. So, to do that -- how he does that, I don't know. I think this is sort of the Mount Everest of speeches.
COOPER: Peter, it's interesting. I'm eternally fascinated by the public relations arm of al Qaeda, and the fact that they continually time these tapes and these messages for basically maximum coverage. I mean, they know the president's going to be making this big speech. So, yesterday, you have a tape from the number two of al Qaeda, and, today, you have this tape from Osama bin Laden.
Does anyone listen -- I mean, how closely are -- are these tapes listened to in the Muslim world?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, clearly, the bin Laden tape got a lot of play on Al-Jazeera and also on CNN and other networks around the world. But I think the message is not being heard like it was several years ago. If you look at public opinion polling around the Muslim world, support for al Qaeda and bin Laden, suicide bombing, it's all going south. So, the message is not being heard quite as it was, you know, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
COOPER: Does -- does the fact -- does President Obama provide a -- a more difficult target for al Qaeda, in terms of their rhetoric?
BERGEN: Not really, because, I mean -- yes, to some degree. But, I mean, they used pictures of President Clinton for target practice. You know, they're bipartisan in their contempt for both Democrats and Republicans.
You know, they want to, you know, obliterate Israel. There's very little appetite for that on either side of the aisle in the United States. So, you know, the -- the fact that they're critical of Obama is not really surprising.
COOPER: David, as I said, I mean, he's giving this speech in Egypt -- Egypt, the -- basically the source and the origin of al Qaeda in some ways, at least philosophically. Ayman al-Zawahiri was radicalized in prisons in Egypt, after the assassination of Anwar Sadat.
Does -- does -- does the president have to speak about the -- the repression that goes on to this day in Egypt, which is, of course, a -- a strong American ally?
GERGEN: Well, here again, Anderson, it is -- it is a mine field.
And I -- all the indications are that he will not be very forthright on that, that he will not push it very hard. He's made it very clear he's not going to push human rights with Egypt or Saudi Arabia, or even with China, at the expense of other national interests by the United States.
So, I think, in that sense, again, the Muslim community, especially the people who feel repressed, may be very disappointed in this speech.
I think the real trick here -- I mean, I think the challenge here is, with the expectations oh -- how -- this high, how does he reach those expectations, without -- without causing reverberations and negative questions beyond the speech?
And, you know, this is a very difficult speech. I admire him for trying to give it. I have never seen an American president do anything like this before. And, if there's anybody who can probably climb that mountain, it's Barack Obama. But it's going to be a really tough climb.
COOPER: Peter Bergen, does he address -- I mean, I guess he has to, in some way, address the central issue for many in the Muslim world, which is the -- the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
BERGEN: He's going to have to address it. He's going to have to address democracy in the Arab world.
But the other thing is reframing the war on terror. Instead of saying, you know, you're either with us or against us, he can now, look, we're all in this against the terrorists. They're killing a lot of Muslim civilians. They don't offer a positive vision of the future.
And that's a way to kind of deal with a lot of these questions, get a lot of people on his -- on -- on the civilized world's side, including those in the Muslim world opposed to al Qaeda and its affiliates.
COOPER: Yes, we will be watching and of course bring it to our viewers.
You're probably going to miss it. It's during the day. We will bring it to you tomorrow night on the program.
David Gergen, Peter Bergen, thank you very much.
GERGEN: Thank you.
COOPER: Back home, the four men accused of plotting to blow up New York synagogues pleaded not guilty today to additional charges of attempting to use weapons of mass destruction.
Now, they and the alleged Little Rock recruiting assassin raising new concerns that global jihad is now coming home to recruit.
Randi Kaye investigates.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a good look at this young man, a college student who grew up in Minnesota. His name is Shirwa Ahmed, one as many as 20 Somali American men who have disappeared in the last year.
And the fear is, what if they come back?
OMAR JAMAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOMALI JUSTICE ADVOCACY CENTER: They just disappeared without a single word.
KAYE: This man from Minnesota's Somali community knew Shirwa Ahmed and many of the others now gone. He says some have called home to say where they are. They have answered the call for holy war back to Somalia.
JAMAL: They have been led to believe that they are part of the bigger mission. They have been disillusioned. They somewhat make them believe that, if they do something, they will go to heaven.
KAYE: Suspicions are, an Islamic terrorist group called Al- Shabab recruited them in this country. It has links to al Qaeda.
(on camera): Why should you care? Because these Somali men are also U.S. citizens carrying U.S. passports. So, if they are training to become terrorists, there's little stopping them from flashing their passport and returning home to U.S. soil well-trained in jihad.
(voice-over): Terrorism expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross.
DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, SENIOR CONSULTANT, GERARD GROUP INTERNATIONAL: It's certainly a concern that someone will come back here and choose to carry out an attack in the United States, rather than carrying it out in Somalia, given the fact that they see the U.S. as a primary enemy.
KAYE (on camera): Which brings us back to Shirwa Ahmed, that Minnesota college student. We now know, last October, he blew himself in northern Somalia in a suicide bombing, killing 29 people, making him the first U.S. citizen known to have become a suicide bomber. Imagine if he blew himself up at home.
GARTENSTEIN-ROSS: What they can try to do is apprehend people as they try to reenter the United States. So, there are things that can be done. But there's no guarantee of 100 percent safety.
KAYE (voice-over): Experts say, it begins here. The men are being recruited at mosques, schools, even coffee shops. This man's nephew has been missing since November.
ABDIRIZAK BIHI, NEPHEW DISAPPEARED: We searched his room, and we found out that his passport, his belongings and everything was gone.
KAYE: Al-Shabab uses slick advertising campaigns like this one, featuring a man dubbed "The American" now training with Somalis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Away from our families, away from the cities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Much of it's in English, the message powerful -- no question, experts say, who the group is targeting. Still unclear, if those who join the fight will bring it home.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: It's fascinating to see Americans training in Somalia. We will try to find out more about that guy.
A lot more on the story online -- go to AC360.com to read about out how homegrown terrorists are actually born.
Just ahead tonight, we're waiting word from North Korea on the fate of two American journalists on trial starting today, on trial for their freedom, facing years of hard labor. While we wait, their loved ones are holding a vigil. You're looking at it right now. Some will be joining us, including Lisa Ling, whose sister Laura goes on trial, perhaps right now, as we speak.
Up next: Everything must go, nearly 800 car dealers with just three weeks to sell their entire inventory. We will tell you why and how they are fighting back.
We will be right back.
COOPER: Just ahead: candid talk from Lisa Ling about her sister's nightmarish ordeal going on right now in North Korea -- two Americans being put on trial.
First, though, Erica Hill has a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a conviction in the 2006 slaying that spurred a citywide crackdown on nightlife security in New York -- former New York bouncer Darryl Littlejohn now facing a possible life sentence without parole for murdering graduate student Imette St. Guillen.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich backing away from the controversial tweet about Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Today, Gingrich wrote, he shouldn't have called Sotomayor a racist, even though he finds her words unacceptable.
It is crunch time for almost 800 Chrysler dealerships slated to close next Tuesday, June 9. Given just three weeks notice, they're now scrambling to sell their inventory and asking the Obama administration for more time. Chrysler, by the way, is not obligated to buy back any old -- unsold cars, and it turns out the dealers cannot legally sell them, Anderson, after June 9.
So, talk about being in a bind.
COOPER: Yes, that's incredible.
Coming up, Erica, two American women behind bars in North Korea now standing trial as alleged spies -- tonight, looking at live pictures at a vigil being held for them. We're bringing you their stories told by their desperate families. You will tell you about a chilling phone call and a gut-wrenching letter from one of the young American prisoners.
Families also going to be taking your questions, so send us a text message with your question to 94553. The message has to start with A.C., then a space, then your name and question. If you don't include A.C. first with a space, we can't receive your text.
Also tonight, new details about the Muslim convert accused of killing a U.S. soldier -- authorities now believe he may have scouted out other locations, targeting other people.
And same-sex marriages, another state is about to make it legal. We will tell you where and when that is going to happen. We will be right back.
COOPER: Well, right now, the fate of two Americans is being decided in a secret trial deep inside North Korea. And, within hours, maybe even minutes, we may know if they're going to be freed or perhaps spend years in a labor camp.
These are the two women being held by the rogue nation, TV journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, sister of "Oprah" correspondent Lisa Ling. Now, the regime say they're spies and illegally entered the country.
Around the country, around the United States tonight, there are vigils. You're looking at a live one in Santa Monica, California, tonight. Lisa Ling is among those who have gathered there. She's going to join us in a moment. So will other family members of Laura and Euna, who are breaking their silence, speaking out, in the hope that their loved ones will soon come home.
Here's what life has been like for them.
LISA LING, JOURNALIST: Every single day people come up to me, and like, "How is your sister doing?"
Well, I don't know.
COOPER (voice-over): Lisa Ling doesn't know how her sister Laura is doing, because Laura, along with her colleague, Euna lee, are prisoners in North Korea. They have been held for nearly three months.
(on camera): What's been the hardest part for you?
LING: The whole thing has been hard. But, for me, my sister is my best friend in the world. And not having her to talk to every single day, multiple times a day, has been so, so hard.
You know, on my -- on my cell phone, I have little pictures that come up. And, when her husband will call me from home, her little picture pops up. And I get so excited because I think it's her. And -- and it isn't.
COOPER (voice-over): Laura and Euna are both journalists working for Current TV. They were reporting on the border of China and North Korea when they were arrested, accused of illegally crossing into North Korea. They were charged with hostile acts to the country, a penalty that can carry eight years in prison.
LING: We will say, very decisively, that, when the girls left the United States, they never meant to -- to cross into North Korea. I mean, that was never their objective. And, if for some reason, they may have, then we are sorry. COOPER: Euna's husband, Michael, and their daughter, Hannah, now spend most of their time with the Ling family. They often gather at Laura and her husband Iain's house to wait for news. There hasn't been a lot of that lately.
But, last week, the phone did ring, and on the other end was Laura.
(on camera): What was that phone call like? I mean...
IAIN CLAYTON, HUSBAND OF LAURA LING: It was pretty amazing, and not to have heard from her for -- in almost three months. And this was the -- the longest, you know, obviously, you can imagine, we have gone without -- without talking.
So, you know, when -- when I got the call, and I could hear her voice for the first time, you know, there was obviously a flood of relief just to know she was -- she was OK and...
COOPER: How did she sound?
CLAYTON: She sounded scared. It wasn't her normal, kind of strong, you know, clear voice.
COOPER (voice-over): The U.S. has no diplomatic ties to North Korea, but, through a Swedish diplomat, the families are able to send letters to Euna and Laura.
CLAYTON: I write to her, yes, every day.
COOPER (on camera): What do you say?
CLAYTON: I -- I just tell how -- how much, you know, I love her and how much I miss her.
This is actually the letter from -- from her that she sent that we got through, and in her handwriting. So, I'm just going to read this -- this little bit.
It says that -- so, right at the end, it says: "The reality is that we really need the goodwill of the U.S. government to help -- help us return home. Otherwise, we may find ourselves here for -- for a very long time. Please, don't let them forget about us. I love you so much, sweetheart. Be strong for me, OK? Thinking about you endlessly. Love, Laura," and then (INAUDIBLE) name.
So -- so, having seen that letter and seen her handwriting, that's when I started to -- to write as well.
COOPER: And this is the only letter you have gotten?
LING: This is the only letter that I have got from her so -- so far.
COOPER (voice-over): For Euna's husband, Michael, the situation is especially hard because of 4-year-old Hannah.
(on camera): She drew a picture recently?
MICHAEL SALDATE, HUSBAND OF EUNA LEE: Yes. Yes.
Normally, the old pictures that she would always draw were always my wife in the center, and I would always be kind of aside and to the -- and smaller, and it would be all three of us. And she drew a picture, and I was the center, and it was just her and I. And I didn't even know what to say. I wanted to say, thank you, Hannah. That's such a beautiful picture. But deep down inside, she didn't include her mother, which really made me sad. I don't know what to do.
COOPER (voice-over): Euna and Laura will be put on trial on June 4 in North Korea's capital, Pyongyang. Lisa hopes they might be released after the trial, but with tensions between the U.S. and North Korea high over nuclear weapons, there's no telling what may happen.
Every day, she and other family members have a conference call with the State Department. But today, on the eve of the trial, there's little encouraging news.
LISA LING, LAURA LING'S SISTER: I don't know what we're dealing with. And that's really been the most frustrating thing of all is, we are in the middle of something so complex, and so much bigger than anything that we've ever imagined, and we just don't know how to react. We just don't know what to do.
COOPER: What to do. That's the question. It's the unknown that's so unsettling for the families of Laura and Euna.
Next, tonight's 360 interview, Lisa Ling joins us live to talk about her sister's trial in North Korea. We'll also talk to Laura's husband and Euna's husband. They have gathered at the vigil tonight.
And we want to hear what you have to say about their plight. So send us a text message with your question to 94553. The message has to start with the letters "AC," then a space, then your name and question. If you don't include "AC" first with a space, we can't receive the text.
Plus tonight, a father's fight. A New Jersey man pleading to get custody back of his 9-year-old son. He's been in Brazil for five years. There's yet another new twist in the case. Be right back.
COOPER: Well, as we talked about before the break, two American journalists, Laura Ling, Euna Lee, are standing trial in North Korea. We believe that the trial may have already even begun. We simply don't know. It was supposed to start anytime today.
Both have been held since March, accused of being spies. Their trial could end at any moment. They could be released, or if they're convicted, they could be sent to a labor camp. We don't even know what their sentence might be.
Their families are waging a very public appeal to North Korea, pleading for their freedom. As you saw before the commercial break, they've had very limited communications with Laura and Euna. They say the women are terrified.
Joining us now, "Oprah" correspondent Lisa Ling, the sister of Laura Ling. Also with us, Laura's husband, Iain Clayton, and Euna Lee's husband, Michael Saldate. They join us all from a vigil that's going on in California.
Lisa, you're in contact daily with the State Department. Is there anything new to report from them at this point?
LING: No, we're just waiting right now.
COOPER: Lisa, I've got to stop you. We're having a problem with your mike. If you could take Michael's mike and just use his mike. See if that works any better.
LING: Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
COOPER: Yes, that works much better. Lisa, any new word?
LING: Well, we haven't heard anything new. But it's altogether possible, as you said, that the girls could be standing trial right now as we speak. So we just wanted to be amongst all these people who have gathered together to support the girls. You know, these grassroots vigils have sprung up all over the country. And we actually had nothing to do with them. They were just people who wanted to support my sister and Euna Lee.
COOPER: And Lisa, we're simulcast. We're seen in North Korea. What is your message to the North Koreans right now?
LING: Well, it's really important that we are able to talk to the leadership of North Korea, and what we just want to say is that when the girls left the United States, they never intended to cross into North Korean soil. And if they did at any point, we apologize. And we know that they are very, very sorry.
And we ask that you show mercy today. And take into consideration that they have families back in America that love and miss them desperately.
COOPER: Michael, and Lisa, if you could give the mike back to Michael.
Michael, the verdict, as we said, could come down at any moment. We simply don't know. How have you been dealing with all the uncertainty over the last nearly three months?
SALDATE: Just very stressed. It's been very crazy. Just frustrated. Nothing I can do. COOPER: And Iain, I know that your wife has an ulcer. Do you know if she's been able to get medication?
IAIN CLAYTON, LAURA'S HUSBAND: Yes, we do. We've actually sent some medication to her. And with our communication, limited communication with her, she has been able to get that medicine.
What we are concerned about, though, is that she has said that the situation seems to have exacerbated her ulcer. And her physician has actually sent a letter to the government of North Korea, requesting that a physician sees her.
COOPER: And Iain, do we have any idea even how the North Korean court system works? I mean, is there any international monitoring? Is there any -- do we know a lot of details about what the trial is going to be like?
CLAYTON: No, we have very, very few details. This is a very unique situation. This might be, you know, the first time or the second time that a U.S. citizen, two U.S. citizens here in this case, has been indicted. So it's -- we don't want to speculate here.
What we really hope is that, at the end of the trial, there is a process that is started that will lead to their rapid and quick release. And we are appealing today to the North Korean government for clemency here.
COOPER: Lisa, I want to direct this question to you. Hillary Clinton had made a statement about -- about your sister and about Euna. I want to play some of what she had to say. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe that the charges are baseless, and should not have been brought. And that these two young women should be released immediately. But the fact that they are now going to have some process, we believe, is a signal that there can be, and I hope will be a resolution as soon as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Lisa, given all that's going on between the U.S. and North Korea, the nuclear weapons issue, how concerned are you that your sister, and Euna, are going to be basically pawns in this large geopolitical fight?
LING: Well, we are all incredibly anxious. And that's really the reason why we wanted to go public, because given everything that's happening geopolitically, we just felt compelled to try and urge our government to keep these two issues separate.
We beg our government to try and communicate about this humanitarian issue so that it can possibly resolve it and allow Iain's wife, my sister, and Michael's wife to come home to families that miss them desperately. COOPER: We've been asking viewers to text questions to 360. This is for Lisa, Iain and Michael. Let's go to this one from Mississippi. "Lisa, I know you're a journalist who is usually on the other side of the story. What's it like to be the central force on the other side of a story?"
LING: It's extremely uncomfortable. This isn't the kind of story that I like to report, especially because it has to do with my own family.
But I have been very fortunate. The people in the industry, for which I work, have been really gracious and allowed us this opportunity to try and communicate these messages to our government and the government of North Korea. And we just so strongly hope that this may be a reason for our governments to communicate. And we just want to encourage diplomacy and increased dialogue.
COOPER: I appreciate you all joining us. I know it's got to be a tension-filled night for you. Lisa Ling, Michael Saldate, and Iain Clayton, stay strong. And we wish you well. We'll continue to follow this important story. Thank you very much.
You can go to AC360.com to read about other journalists detained around the world. The number of detained journalists will surprise you.
Still ahead tonight, they trusted GM cars and SUVs to be safe, ended up with devastating injuries. Now bankruptcy law is robbing them of their day in court. One family's heartbreaking story ahead.
Plus, a father's five-year battle to be reunited with his young son takes another gut-wrenching turn. We'll be right back.
COOPER: The presidents of General Motors and Chrysler were on Capitol Hill today facing senators who grilled them about their plans to slash thousands of car dealerships nationwide. The testimony was testy at times, to say the least.
GM followed Chrysler into bankruptcy protection this week for GM. Bankruptcy means a clean start.
But for families, like the one you're about to meet, it means a door has slammed shut. In legal terms, they are unsecured creditors of GM. In plain language, Amanda Dinnigan is paralyzed from the neck down. Her product liability claim against GM, along with untold others, has hit a wall.
Joe Johns tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amanda Dinnigan's parents hoist the 10-year-old into and out of bed every day. The little girl now breathes on a respirator. AMANDA DINNIGAN, CAR ACCIDENT SURVIVOR: I led a good life before the accident. All I can remember is waking up in the hospital.
JOHNS: Not long ago, after these pictures were taken, Amanda was in a car accident. But what happened to her, the severity of her injuries, her parents say they blame in part on GM. And now, because of the GM bankruptcy, they may never get their day in court.
ARLENE DINNIGAN, MOTHER: She was victimized once by what we feel was a defective seat belt. And now she's going to be victimized again by not getting her chance to prove her case.
JOHNS: Amanda was paralyzed when the GM SUV her mother was driving slammed into a tree. On impact, Amanda was in a third row seat of the vehicle. Her parents say the seat belt that was supposed to keep her safe severed her spine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lap belt is supposed to hang on to you tight, hold you into the seat like this. And then you're supposed to come forward and slow into the crash. What happened is she ran right into it, and the seat belt just snapped her neck.
JOHNS: The accident left Amanda unable to feel anything below the neck, except for pain.
AMANDA DINNIGAN: Ow.
JOHNS: The family says her medical care costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They sued General Motors and other companies in the production line, claiming the seat belt had a design flaw, an assertion GM denies.
(on camera) But now it may not matter whether GM is responsible. Here's why. Unless a court intervenes, or Congress changes the law, bankruptcy means GM is off the hook for Amanda and anyone else alleging a similar claim that a GM product failed.
(voice-over) But GM says all claimants will have the opportunity to submit their claims and have them resolved, as provided by the bankruptcy code and other applicable law.
Product liability lawsuits cost GM an estimated $2 billion over the last two years. The whole point of bankruptcy is to give the company a fresh start, washing away its liabilities.
The family's lawyer is outraged.
ALAN SHAPEY, DINNIGAN FAMILY'S ATTORNEY: It's shocking. And if I had the opportunity, I'd be able to present this case in court. Now what the government has effectively done is more or less denied my client's right to do that.
JOHN (on camera): GM argues that it did everything it could to avoid bankruptcy and stay out of this situation. But the bottom line is, you can't collect money from a company that's broke. PETER MORICI, ECONOMIST: The human effect is tragic. But unfortunately, this is not a perfect system. Just because you bring a claim in court and get a settlement doesn't mean you're going to get paid.
JOHNS: Amanda's parents worry about that. But their daughter still dreams the dreams of any young girl.
AMANDA DINNIGAN: I want to join the circus.
COOPER: The poor girl.
Joe, what can the family do? Do they have any options?
JOHNS: Well, they can go after other people's moneys, say, dealerships that sold the cars, or the company that made the individual component of the car that's alleged to have been defective.
They can also try to force the company to buy insurance to cover the claims. But the Dinnigans and a lot of others are basically asking Congress, essentially, to bail out the victims of the lawsuits, the same way the government bailed out the banks and the automakers, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Joe, appreciate it. Thanks, Joe.
When General Motors emerges from bankruptcy, it's going to be a shadow of its former self. At AC360.com, you can read a fascinating take on how the once giant automaker lost its way.
Up next, a man charged with slaying a U.S. soldier at a recruiting center. Investigators now say he was planning other attacks. What they discovered, coming up.
And a sixth state makes same-sex marriage legal. We'll tell you where, coming up. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Ten years ago today the Chinese government moved into Tiananmen Square to crack down on a student uprising. Tonight, how the government's trying to stop the media from reporting on the anniversary. Surprisingly, it involves umbrellas. That is tonight's "Shot."
But first, Erica Hill joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, federal investigators say the 23-year-old accused of killing a soldier at a recruiting center in Arkansas may have been considering other targets. They say the Muslim convert searched the Internet for maps of various cities and locations, including Jewish organizations, a Baptist church and a child care center. A "360 Follow" tonight, a father's plea now denied. A Brazilian judge has suspended a court order that would have returned 9-year-old Sean Richard Goldman to his father, David, in New Jersey, saying it would cause psychological harm to the boy.
Well, the custody battle actually began five years ago when Goldman's wife took Sean to her native Brazil and never returned. She filed for divorce and remarried. She then died last year. The boy has been living with his stepfather.
In New Hampshire, smiles and applause as state legislators approved a measure today making the state the sixth to allow same-sex marriage. That law will take effect on January 1.
And investigators in Vassalboro, Maine, now say a fire at a controversial coffee shop featuring topless waitresses was arson. Seven people were inside at the time. Everybody got out safely, although apparently, Anderson, there was no insurance there for the building.
All right. Coming up next...
HILL: Coming up next, it's time for something a little different, Anderson.
COOPER: Oh, no. This always happens on my birthday.
HILL: Because it is June 3. Well, you know, if you didn't work your birthday, we wouldn't have this problem. So you have no one to blame but yourself.
There's a lot of love for you, Anderson Cooper. Everybody on the blog. But it's not just in cyberspace that there's love. There's love in the studio, too.
HILL: In fact, we have special friends who wanted to come send love to you. But I want you to guess who they are.
COOPER: Wow. I have no idea.
HILL: Friend No. 1, could you please say something to give Anderson a clue?
KATHY GRIFFIN, COMEDIAN: I have helped build your career to where it is today.
COOPER: I have no idea.
HILL: No idea? Let's see if you can guess friend No. 2.
SUZE ORMAN, PERSONAL FINANCE EXPERT: The only place my interest really pays off is right here on "AC 360." COOPER: All right. All right.
HILL: All right, Anderson Cooper. What do you got?
COOPER: Is that Suze Orman and Kathy Griffin?
HILL: Could it be? Could it be true? Happy birthday, Anderson Cooper!
COOPER: Oh, no.
GRIFFIN: Happy birthday!
ORMAN: Happy birthday!
GRIFFIN: Look at the confetti. You'll have to step in it (ph). This is an awesome party.
COOPER: Thank you.
GRIFFIN: Happy birthday, everyone.
COOPER: Thank you very much. Wow.
GRIFFIN: I'm so surprised you still have this job and everything. You're doing great.
COOPER: I know. The last time we were together...
GRIFFIN: It was on the bubble whether you'd keep your job.
GRIFFIN: That looks like an expensive suit. DKNY or Pucci?
ORMAN: Oh, he is so a Pucci.
COOPER: Wow. Well, thank you. Gosh.
GRIFFIN: What are we doing tonight? Where are we going? On your dime?
ORMAN: Are you taking us out?
GRIFFIN: Yes, where are we going?
HILL: You can't really discuss that on the air.
COOPER: I'm actually -- yes, I'm actually filling in for Regis tomorrow, so I have to get to bed early.
GRIFFIN: You're filling in for Regis? Oh, bye!
ORMAN: See ya!
GRIFFIN: Regis! Regis! COOPER: All right. Thank you very much. Wow.
HILL: There you go. You know, we throw a party in style, Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: Thank you very much. Wow. I'm a little surprised. I don't know what -- do we continue? Does the show go on?
HILL: I think maybe we'll take a break. We'll come back, and how about we do "The Shot" after that?
COOPER: We'll do "The Shot." You'll only see it here. So very unusual tactics used to literally block reporters from Tiananmen Square. We'll be right back. Have some cake, will you?
COOPER: All right, Erica. Time for tonight's "Shot." The strange ways China is trying to censure the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising. Ten [SIC] years ago today soldiers began clashing with students on the site, 20 years ago.
Well, today, the government is clamping down on anything remotely connected to the anniversary, especially, of course, at Tiananmen Square where CNN's John Vause was harassed by undercover cops carrying umbrellas. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Vause near Tiananmen Square. This is about as close as we can get to the square, because these plain clothes officers are using their umbrellas to try and stop our view so that we cannot actually do any videotaping here.
There is an incredible security presence here on the eve of the 20th anniversary. There are so many police and soldiers. These plain clothes -- really? These plain clothes officials are using these umbrellas here to block our view when we try and do any videotaping anywhere near the square. They also...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: I love how he grabs the umbrella. Here, let me demonstrate your tactic.
COOPER: Yes. Passive/aggressive to say the least.
Despite the umbrellas and the walkie-talkies, John was able to tell the story of what happened then and, of course, what is happening now. We applaud his efforts.
You can see all the most recent "Shots" and tonight's "Beat 360" on our Web site, AC360.com. We didn't have time to do it because of the...
HILL: Birthday celebration. It's the celebration of Anderson Cooper, every night. But especially tonight.
COOPER: There's the cake. Well, thank you very much.
And Erica, thanks very much. I completely -- I was caught by surprise. I did not -- I expected -- I was worried about clowns, frankly. A couple of years ago we had evil clowns who came on. This year I was worried about mimes or something. But...
HILL: No mimes this year. But now that I know, you know, maybe next year.
COOPER: Maybe so.
Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll all the breaking news on the crash of Air France Flight 447. All the news ahead. We'll be right back.