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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Muslim Conspiracy?; Interview With Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison; Romney on the Attack
Aired July 17, 2012 - 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: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.
And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with five members of Congress who are claiming that Muslim extremists have infiltrated the highest levels of the U.S. government, even may be working side by side with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The evidence they point to, however, well, that is questionable at best.
Representative Michele Bachmann and four of her Republican colleagues in Congress are calling for an investigation because of what she terms the possible "deep penetration" -- her words -- of Muslim extremists into the U.S. government.
These lawmakers have laid out their case in letters to the inspectors general for five different government security agencies.
And in the last 24 hours, we've been digging into one of their most serious claims. They point fingers at this woman, Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's deputy chief of staff, implying that she may be somehow working on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood and questioning how she got a security clearance.
Now, you would think, to make a charge like that -- for sitting members of Congress to make a charge like that, that they would have some actual evidence, right? You would think that. But the truth is they don't have any direct evidence. What they have are allegations of past connections of relatives of hers that are tenuous best.
Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who interviewed tonight who's Muslim, has called for Bachmann to produce credible evidence. So Bachmann produced a 16-page letter that she sent to the congressman.
Stay with me now, because we're going to walk you through the logic that she lays out in this particular case.
Bachmann says that Huma Abedin's mother, brother and late father are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. Here's how she figures it.
Let's start with Abedin's father, a man named Syed Abedin, who's dead, by the way, a professor of social science, and the founder of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, decades ago. Now, Bachmann attributes this information to 2002 law review article out of Brigham Young University. According to that article, Professor Abedin's institute had the support of another man named Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, who is a former general secretary of another group called the Muslim World League. Bachmann says that according to the Pew Forum the Muslim World League has a history of -- quote -- "being closely aligned and partnering with the Muslim Brotherhood."
So that's how many degrees of separation Bachmann's claim is based on. Huma Abedin's deceased father, who started an organization decades ago, had the support of a guy who had another organization that might have had the support of another organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. And because of that, Huma Abedin might be some sort of spy or infiltrator and deserves to be investigated.
As per Abedin's mother and brother, Bachmann never gives any evidence of their alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
We do know Bachmann and her fellow lawmakers repeatedly cites as their source the work of a group called the Center for Security Policy. A pretty serious sounding name. Its Web site is MuslimBrotherhoodinAmerica.com. The man who runs the group is Frank Gaffney who says the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating every aspect of American life in order to impose Sharia law.
Now the Southern Poverty Law Center calls Gaffney, and I quote, 'The anti-Muslim's movement most paranoid propagandist." Before Gaffney was focusing on Huma Abedin, by the way, he was pointing fingers of suspicion at conservative Grover Norquist who's married to a Muslim woman. Those allegations, by the way, were condemned by a number of conservative groups. Gaffney was actually not allowed to go to CPAC one year because of these allegations.
Now we should also point out this is not the first time that Bachmann has relied on questionable sources and leaps of logic. You may remember two years ago right here on this program, Congresswoman Bachmann made some pretty outrageous claims about the cost of a trip President Obama was taking to India, saying that it would cost taxpayers $200 million a day.
It was true. Totally false. And it turned out the source of her unsubstantiated claim was an Indian news report that quoted an anonymous Indian source allegedly an Indian government provincial official. How an Indian provincial official would even know how much the president of the United States' trip costs doesn't make sense and was apparently never even questioned by the congresswoman.
Among this cast here, all of whom we've asked to come on the program, we should point out Bachmann is not the only one who has a history of making unsupported claims. One of the four other congressmen calling for an investigation to root out Muslim infiltration in the U.S. government is Louie Gohmert from Texas.
Now, this is not the first time that Congressman Gohmert has spoken about dangerous conspiracies without providing concrete evidence. In 2002, he was sounding alarm over what we term -- excuse me, 2010 -- he was sounding alarm over what we term terror babies, a terror baby conspiracy, making this explosive claim that pregnant foreigners were coming to America to give birth to future terrorists, babies with U.S. citizenship under the 14th Amendment who would then be taken back to the Middle East, raised for about 20 years, trained overseas as terrorists, and then be able to come back to the United States because they had U.S. passports.
Insidious, right? In a speech on the House floor, Congressman Gohmert actually presented all of this as fact, saying a former FBI agent told him the FBI had been looking into this problem. Later he cited a second source. A Hamas-loving grandmother on a plane in the Middle East. And naturally, I had a lot of questions for the congressman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Did you bring it to the attention of the FBI? Did you call the FBI? That's my question.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: She first brought in my attention on the -- I -- she brought it to my attention on an airplane, having flown together, and she brought that to my attention.
That's why I was talking to the retired FBI agent about it. And, so, having talked to him, no, I didn't talk to them, because the point is, when we did the research, we found the hole existed. Now if you want...
COOPER: Wait, what research? What research? Could you tell us about the research?
GOHMERT: You're attacking the messenger. Anderson, you're better than this. You used to be good. You used to find that there was a problem and you would go after...
COOPER: Sir, I'm just asking you for evidence of something you said on the floor of the House.
GOHMERT: I speak with a southern accent -- I did. And you listen. This is a problem. If you had spent as much time looking into the problem as you have been trying to come after me and belittle me this week you would find out...
COOPER: Sir, do you want to offer any evidence? I'm giving you an opportunity to offer to say what research and evidence you have. You've offered none, other than yelling.
COOPER: He never offered any evidence. And you would think, by the way, if this was a real plot that he was really concerned about, you'd think he'd pick up the phone and maybe call the FBI, right? We actually did that. Unlike Congressman Gohmert, we talked with the FBI. They told us there was absolutely no credible evidence of a terror baby conspiracy. They had no idea what he was talking about.
And it's not surprising, I should point out, he declined our invitation to come back on the program as he was once on in 2010.
So back to this current conspiracy theory. We just received a statement from Huma Abedin's office about the allegations. The statement says -- quote -- "They are nothing but vicious and disgusting lies that have no place in reasonable political discourse. And anyone who traffics in them should be ashamed of themselves."
And as we said, Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has taken the lead in demanding proof of these claims about Muslim extremists infiltrating the government. He joins me.
Congressman, do you have any doubt in your mind that what Congresswoman Bachmann and the others are doing is simply scare mongering? Because it seems -- they're casting doubt on basically anyone who's Muslim and working for the U.S. government.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: I have no doubt that it's simply scare-mongering. But I think it has a long historic route.
And we've seen this kind of thing before so we've got to stand to it whenever it rears its end. I mean, when Edward R. Murrow challenged Joe McCarthy, he wasn't standing up for communism. He was standing up for American values.
And I'm not standing up for any particular religious group. I'm standing up for America's freedom of thought in America today and that, you know, just simply being a member of a particular religious group does not make you radioactive.
COOPER: You asked for a full accounting of the evidence these members of Congress were using to make their claims. You got a 16- page letter back. Does their evidence hold up?
ELLISON: No, it's 16 pages worth of nothing. It's 16 pages worth of repeated false allegations. Just regurgitated nonsense. And, you know, it doesn't -- 16 pages doesn't take nothing and turn it into something. It's still nothing.
And the fact is I would hope that we would just let our saner, more courageous spirit prevail. And say look, you know, in America, everybody counts. Everybody matters. People can be included. People can be a part our American political scene without fear. And that's what I'm standing up against here.
COOPER: I mean, have you seen any evidence of deep penetration, that was the words that Congressman Bachmann used. Deep penetration by the Muslim Brotherhood into the security apparatus of the United States?
ELLISON: No, it's not true. It doesn't exist. It's a phantom. And -- but, look, let me also assert that if there's any, any source of threat to the United States, legitimate, you know, then I want them to be fully investigated, whatever source. I don't care what religion, what race, what -- whoever they are. If they're a legitimate threat to the U.S., by all means investigate them. But in this case, there is none that I have ever seen.
COOPER: Bachmann in particular raises questions about Hillary Clinton's, one of her top aides, Huma Abedin who's Muslim.
COOPER: Married to former Congressman Anthony Weiner. He's obviously a very supporter of Israel.
COOPER: Basically they're saying that Huma Abedin's dead father headed a group decades ago. And one of the people who supposedly supported that group headed another group that was supposedly connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.
I mean, does that make any sense to you? That she shouldn't have gotten a security clearance because of that?
ELLISON: I think it just is the worst of guilt by association. It is -- it is a stark affront to American values about treating people for what they did and how they behave themselves. Not try to attribute some other people's behavior to the individual.
I think that -- I think it's really reprehensible and I do hope that there is -- that people stand up to it. Because let me tell you, Anderson, you know this. Good people were afraid to question Joe McCarthy because they thought he would be their target. But this is an occasion where good people got to stand up and say we've seen this before. We're not going to let it happen again.
COOPER: If you really believed there is this insidious security threat into the highest reaches of government, is that really something, as a Congress person, you make public? You go on some conservative radio show? You write a public letter and put it on your Web site? Or is that something you actually contact, you know, Homeland Security and FBI, and ask for a secret investigation by which Congress people can do?
If you really believe there's been this infiltration, do you really alert the people you're allegedly concerned about? To me it seems like this could be more about politics and about kind of making a stand, a very public stand, for political reasons, than it is about genuine security concerns.
ELLISON: You know, Anderson, I made this very point. I said, look, if she really believes this, why is she broadcasting it? She should go to the responsible authorities to investigate it. But that's not what she's done. She's made sure that the public got a full viewing of her behavior. And I think the reason she did it is she thinks that it's going to be popular and she's going to make herself look like some sort of a hero and this may benefit her in her election.
I don't know what's in the mind of Michele Bachmann at this time. But I can tell you that it's not only about this election, although it's going to have a defectiveness election. It's deeper than that. It's about some people in our country thinking that if you're not in the, quote/unquote, "mainstream," then you have no place. That you have to be a certain color, a certain race, a sexual orientation, a certain religion.
And if you're not the right ones, then you're not OK. But we've got to stand up for this idea that we all count in this America. In America an American is an American. And we're going to stick with this idea. We're not going to back down.
COOPER: Grover Norquist himself, when he was being attacked by Frank Gaffney on this without any evidence, said this is about religious liberty and...
ELLISON: Yes. He's right.
COOPER: To practice in this country. Congressman Keith Ellison, I appreciate you're being on. Thank you.
ELLISON: Thank you.
COOPER: Well, again, we continue to extend an invitation to Congresswoman Bachmann or any of the other Congress people who are making these allegations.
Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter right now. We're talking about this right now on Twitter @AndersonCooper.
Up next, "Raw Politics": Mitt Romney going on the attack, accusing President Obama of being anti-business. It all has to do with what the president said on the campaign trail. We'll play that for you, let you be the judge.
We'll talk about it ahead.
COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight: After taking a beating for weeks on his Bain record and facing new calls for him to release more of his tax returns, likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has launched a new offensive. He's accusing President Obama of being anti- business. And he's pointing his evidence to these comments the president made on the campaign trial Friday in Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, that -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.
The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now we wanted to play a good chunk of it there so you got the full context of what he was saying. But the part of it that the Romney campaign has seized on is what the president -- when the president said, and I quote, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that."
Now today in a conference call organized by the Romney campaign, John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire governor, launched a pretty tough attack against President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: The president clearly demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions. The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build these businesses, their businesses, from the ground up, is how our economy became the envy of the world. It is the American way. And I wish this president would learn how to be an American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, moments later, on the same call, Sununu backtracked. Later on, on CNN, he apologized for some of the language he'd used by saying, learn to be an American. The president -- he also said the president has to learn the American formula to creating business.
Now, if you thought it would end there, it didn't. Sununu went back on the attack against Obama this afternoon on FOX News. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUNUNU: He has no idea how the American system functions. And we shouldn't be surprised about that. Because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, and another set of years in Indonesia. And, frankly, when he came to the U.S., he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Sununu isn't the only Romney supporter speaking out. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan is firing back as well. Congressman Ryan blasted President Obama in an interview with the American Enterprise Institute Monday saying -- quote -- "The idea that these entrepreneurs owe all their success to some government bureaucrat or some centralized planner just defies reality."
Ryan added, "Every now and added President Obama pierces the veil. He's usually pretty coy about his ideology but he lets the veil slip from time to time."
Now what candidate Mitt Romney has to say about this or Obama's comments, he's also talking tough. Here's what Romney told supporters during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To say something like that is not just foolishness. It's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America.
Our economy is driven by free people pursuing their ideas and their dreams. It is not driven by government. And what the president is doing is crushing economic freedom.
I do not give government credit for having built that. I give free people credit for having built that business.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Mitt Romney on the attack today.
That's "Raw Politics."
Joining me now, Erick Erickson, CNN contributor and editor in chief for RedState.com, and Van Jones, a former special adviser to the Obama White House, the co-founder and president of Rebuild the Dream.
Erick, I have seen your writing on this today. Do you believe this was the president kind of giving a peak behind the veil of what he really thinks? Or was this a misstatement like Romney had said corporations are people, too?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think that the White House realizes it was a damaging statement. Because now they're trying to focus on, oh, he meant the roads and bridges to the business. But this is consistent with what he was saying going back to his Kansas speech last year.
The president believes that the more successful you are, the more you owe to the federal government. When in fact the most successful people are successful in spite of government not because of government. And the most successful people happen to be the least dependent on government.
COOPER: Van, the president has adjusted his language on this since Friday. But this isn't, as Erick said, the first time he's used that sort of populist tone to talk about business owners, he's often appeared to criticize corporate America. Do you think this was a slipping of the veil or a misstatement? How do you read it?
VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER FOR GREEN JOBS, ENTERPRISE AND INNOVATION, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY: Well, I mean, this is just silly season in American politics. The president said what anybody would say if you look at America. Usually what he said is America's government essentially has been a partner to American business. That is, in fact, true. It's a lot easier to be a business owner here in America and do well. Why? We've got rule of law here. We've got roads, bridges, schools. We've got the Internet.
You know, Erick Erickson on this program, one of our best business media entrepreneurs in the world right now, he's doing incredibly well. But he didn't build the Internet. He built RedState.com on top of the Internet. That's all the president is saying.
And the idea that this is somehow some horrible -- the president of the United States sticking up for America's government and what we have done as the American people through the auspices of business, that's patriotic. I don't understand how you get out of that statement any insult. He is a balanced president. He says the entrepreneur has to work well but the rest of America has to work well, too. Let's all be in this together. That's the height of patriotism.
COOPER: Erick, what about that? Effective corporate tax rates are near record lows. Corporate profits are near record highs right now. What do you make of what Van just said?
ERICKSON: That's the most articulate, beautiful log back of what the president said but I don't think it's true. When you look at the whole host of things that the president has said over the past year, starting out in Kansas. I'm not even going to say the name of the city, I'm afraid, because I can't pronounce it. But it's the city in Kansas where he gave his economic kickoff speech earlier this year.
It coincides with what Elizabeth Warren, one of his appointees, has set up in Massachusetts and what other Democrats are saying. That the more successful you are, you owe more to the government. The president talks about paying their fair share.
I don't want Mitt Romney or Barack Obama being the arbiter of what my fair share should be. The fact of the matter is the more successful you are, the more you pay in taxes. And the more you have the opportunity to get back not just through government but you give back other ways. Through charity, through hiring people, employing people. Paying into local and state taxes.
The president's walk-back and what Van Jones is walking back the president's saying, in the whole context of his remarks over the past year, that's not true it the president is saying the more successful you are the more you owe the government. JONES: Well, I would like -- I would like to challenge you on that, sir. I mean, I think what we've got to understand here is this is a balanced president. I just don't understand. From my point of view, the reason that small businesses -- no small business in America would leave America and go to any other country because we have done a great deal to create an infrastructure for our small businesses to do well.
This president has created four million private sector jobs. That's more than George Bush did. And he had a much better economy. This president has been there for the American people across the board.
I think what we have right now is an attempt to change the channel. This whole Bain situation is terrible. You've got to -- when I worked for the government, I had to disclose everything about myself back to the third grade. You've got somebody who wants to be president who doesn't even want to show you his income taxes. And this is a big channel changer moment.
But I don't think it -- I don't think Mitt Romney can escape by doing this type of stuff. Misquoting the president. Taking him out of context. Pretending that somebody staying businesses and the people can work together. That's not anti-patriotism.
ERICKSON: Yes, but he's not taking the president out of context.
JONES: That's the height of patriotism.
ERICKSON: He's focusing on the president's context. And when you look at the president's context instead of just the one little snippet it looks much worse for the president and less defensible for the president to say that somehow successful people owe things to others.
You know what, the basic part of that, everyone agrees with. I owe my third-grade writing teacher for my ability to write. But at the same time, I don't need to pay extra into the government because of what my third grade writing teacher in a foreign country taught me. And that's what the president has consistently been saying on the campaign trail for a year. Giving rise to Roanoke.
To his credit, I'm glad he's walking it back now because I think he's absolutely wrong.
COOPER: I want to just jump in because I also want to get your comments, both of you, on what Governor Sununu said earlier today, though he did walk back and apologized for his comments. The campaign, the Obama campaign, has said -- quote -- about the comments." The Romney campaign has officially gone off the deep end.
The question is what else they'll pull to avoid answering serious questions about Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and investments in foreign tax havens and offshore accounts. This meltdown and over-the- top rhetoric won't make things better. It only calls attention to how desperate they are to change the conversation."
Van, are they -- was that just a misstatement by Governor Sununu?
JONES: Well, you know, I was very disappointed to hear Governor Sununu speak that way. It did sound a little bit unhinged. It does seem like there's something going on now where people are starting to panic on the other side and -- and do anything to try to change the subject.
As best I can tell, this president knows what it means to be an American. He grew up here and he has lived the American dream. He worked hard. He went to school. He did all that stuff. And as I said, he has created four million private sector jobs. More than George Bush. In a much worse economy. So to attack him and say he needs to learn how to be an American, I think that's really unfortunate and I think it's wrong.
COOPER: And he did, again, apologize for that language.
Erick, what do you make of what he said? Was that, again, a slipping of the veil or was that a misstatement?
ERICKSON: Well, and you know, I think his underlying statement is true. I think Barack Obama actually is pretty ignorant about how to create private sector jobs in this country. He's never really had a private sector job and he surrounded himself with a lot of people who never worked in the private sector.
In fact, he -- his presidency has had fewer people who have come from the private sector than any other president, including Jimmy Carter. But you know I would say on Sununu's specific statement, had he called the president a liar and a felon the White House would have been OK with it because that's what Stephanie Cutter called Romney last week.
COOPER: We'll leave it there.
Erick Erickson, Van Jones, gentlemen, thank you very much.
There is a new violence in Syria, reports of the regime randomly shelling houses in Homs, in Damascus, as Syrian TV tells a much different version of the story. No surprise there.
Plus, one of the most troubling questions so far: Is the Assad regime planning to use chemical weapons?
I will speak with CNN contributor former CIA officer Bob Baer about that next.
COOPER: A dangerous religious tradition turns deadly -- a snake- handling preacher dies, and it doesn't stop a faithful community from keeping the practice alive -- "Up Close" look ahead when we continue.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: The fight for Syria seems to be nearing a battle for the capital city of Damascus. All under the specter of an ominous question. Would Bashar al-Assad, the dictator of Syria, be willing to use chemical weapons on his own people? We're going to talk with former CIA officer Bob Baer about that in a moment.
But first, the latest pictures from Syria. Opposition groups say 45 people were killed today including 14 in Damascus. This video posted online purports to show random shelling of houses in the capital city. Again, we cannot independently confirm this video.
Also, there's video purporting to show the shelling of a house in Homs. CNN has also exclusively obtained video showing corpses in the town of Duma last month in what residents called a government-backed massacre.
At the same time, the propaganda coming from the Syrian regime seems to be ramping up. Syrian state television showed an interview with a woman driving through the Damascus neighborhood of Madon who was asked about reports of violence in the neighborhood. And as she responds that no, there's nothing happening, you can actually hear what sounds like gunfire in the background.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Interpret it as you will.
Syrian state television also showing videos of Syrian soldiers marching in parades, kissing children, and doing precision exercises. A much different picture from the death and destruction you see in videos coming from the opposition.
And it's all under the backdrop of disturbing reports that the Syrian regime has been moving stockpiles of chemical weapons. In an interview with the BBC, the most senior politician to defect so far says the Assad regime would not hesitate to use chemical weapons.
CNN contributor, former CIA officer Bob Baer joins me now live.
How much should we read into these reports, Bob, that the Assad regime is moving around chemical weapons? Is there any way to know whether -- if they are moving to keep the weapons from falling into opposition hands, or move in preparation to use weapons?
BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, we can't know for sure, and I don't think Washington knows, as well. These weapons apparently have been distributed around the country. The regime is moving them either to protect them from the opposition or to use them themselves. I think what we have to consider is would they use them? My interpretation of events there, it's getting very bad. Syrian troops, I understand, have been pulled off the Golan Heights, moved back to Damascus. Madon area of Damascus is sort of the heart of the regime. This is moving a lot closer. And we see no indication that the Alawites, who run this regime, the minority, are backing away. They've put up MI-24 helicopters. They've moved armor into the street.
So far, they've shown that they'll stop at nothing to defend themselves or to crush this rebellion. So to answer your question, would they use these weapons, I think there's a good chance, if their back's truly against the wall.
COOPER: Obviously, a lot of people, when they hear about chemical weapons, they think back to Iraq. There's about of skepticism about this sort of thing. What kind of chemical weapons does the Syrian regime have? Do we know?
BAER: Well, you know, Anderson, the Iraq thing, I see why it could confuse people. That was all -- that was old weapons. It was mustard gas. It deteriorated quickly.
But these weapons are binary. They're very sophisticated. The Syrians have the most sophisticated weapons, chemical weapons in the Middle East. They know how to use them. It was given to them by the Russians. And they are perfectly capable of causing widespread destruction. Think of a small nuclear weapon.
We don't know what's going on in the mind of Bashar al-Assad. We just have to interpret, you know. These people are paranoid. They're worried that their end is close. And as we've said all along, they don't intend to give up.
COOPER: You said these things are binary. I mean, can they be -- are they put on rockets? Is that how they're delivered?
BAER: They can be put on rockets. They can be put on SCUDs. You know, one fear in Washington is that the Syrians could give these chemical weapons to Hezbollah, for instance, which has 60,000 rockets, all facing Israel.
Israel at this point is in a very clear panic at what's happening in Syria.
COOPER: So what -- I mean, the intelligence is spotty. You said you're not clear the U.S. even knows. The situation is unknowable. What does the U.S., international community, in your opinion, need to do to prevent these weapons from being used? What can they do?
BEAR: We need a serious U.N. sanction. It's got to include Iran, as well as Russia. It's in no one's interest to see the situation spin out of control because it will infect the entire region.
It's not going to help that the Russians are sending helicopter parts and ammunition for the MI-24 helicopters to Syria. It just gets more destruction. It will get a lot closer to using those chemical weapons. The world community has got to come together on this and take it for the seriousness that it deserves.
COOPER: Yes. No evidence at this point the Russian is willing to move on this. It looks like Friday there's going to be more talk in the U.N., because the U.N. peacekeeping mission needs to be renewed if it's going to be starting Friday.
Bob, appreciate you being on. We'll continue to follow this.
Let's turn to Susan Hendricks for "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dutch authorities are joining the FBI in the investigation into the six needles found in food on board four Delta Airlines flights. The planes all took off from Amsterdam where the sandwiches were made. One passenger was injured and said at first they thought the needle was a toothpick.
The FDA just approved the second new diet drug in 13 years. Studies found Qsymia helped patients lose, on average, more than 20 pounds. But some are concerned about potential side effects, including increased heart rate and birth defects.
And a wild scene caught on camera. You've got to see it. A senior citizen pulls out a handgun and foiled an attempted robbery at a Florida Internet cafe. He is 71 years old. He's named Samuel Williams. He shot and injured the two robbers. Police say he has a permit, allowing him to carry the concealed weapon.
HENDRICKS: Pretty amazing.
COOPER: Incredible it was caught on tape there.
Susan, thanks very much.
The death of a snake-handling pastor is putting the spotlight on an often secretive religious tradition. Churches that use venomous snakes during services. It's illegal in some states. Doesn't necessarily stop true believers. Gary Tuchman goes up close tonight to see why parishioners are willing to risk their lives for their faith. That's next.
COOPER: Remarkable story, 7-year-old girl playing on a third- story air conditioner, fell. The story could have ended tragically. It didn't.
COOPER: Up close tonight, a look at a rarely seen religious tradition. Just weeks ago Mack Wolford, a renowned Pentecostal serpent handler, died after suffering a bite from one of the snakes that he used to show his devotion to God. Wolford's death sent shock waves through the Appalachian congregations committed to carrying on this practice.
The faithful continue to handle venomous snakes on a regular basis. Gary Tuchman reports.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This church in the heart of Appalachia is completely quiet just before the service begins, except for the creature inside this locked box. It's a rattlesnake. And it's rattling. It's one of seven deadly snakes about to be used in a wild ceremony in God's name.
This is Pastor Andrew Hamblin. He's a 21-year-old serpent- handling pastor at the Tabernacle Church of God in Lafollette, Tennessee. He, his wife, and the rest of his congregation practice Christianity much differently than almost all other Christians, using venomous snakes as part of their service.
Why? They point to the New Testament. The gospel of Mark, chapter 16, verse 18. It stated, in part, "They shall take up serpents." Believers like Pastor Hamblin say when God anoints them they have an obligation to do this and that God will protect them.
And even if they are bitten, their belief is God will heal them, no doctors necessary. If it looks dangerous, that's because it is. It's also illegal in the state of Tennessee. But that only strengthens the pastor's conviction.
Snake handling in churches is a tradition in decline. But Hamblin wants that to change.
(on camera) It's against the law to have snakes in a church in Tennessee.
PASTOR ANDREW HAMBLIN, TABERNACLE CHURCH OF GOD, LAFOLLETTE, TENNESSEE: Right.
TUCHMAN: Does that concern you?
HAMBLIN: No, sir, it didn't. Now if someone was to get bit and die, I know the authorities would come in on us and probably shut us down. But that's why I stress so much to my people to, you know, make sure. And if it's their appointed time to die, there's nothing I can do to prevent it.
TUCHMAN: This is not a con game. These things are poisonous. They can kill, and they do kill.
(voice-over) Just a few weeks ago the pastor of this church in the remote West Virginia town of Matoka (ph) was bitten by one of his rattlesnakes during a service. Pastor Mack Wolford initially refused medical care. But as he got seriously ill, he gave his permission to go to a hospital, but it was too late. He died the same day. The pastor's father died the same way three decades earlier. Pastor Wolford died two days after his 44th birthday. Outsiders were not invited to the funeral. But perhaps it's not surprising that the funeral home tells us snakes were part of the graveside ceremony.
ROY LEE CHRISTIAN JR., ASSISTANT PASTOR, CHURCH OF THE LORD JESUS: Any given time, I mean, it could turn around and bite me. Like I said, the lord either he let it bite or he won't let it hurt. He'll let it hurt or he won't let it hurt, you know. It's all up to God.
TUCHMAN: Roy Lee Christian Jr. is the assistant pastor at another church at West Virginia. The Church of the Lord Jesus in the town of Jollo. He was at the service where his friend, Pastor Wolford, was fatally bitten. He's shocked and saddened, but his faith remains the same.
(on camera) It says, "They shall take up serpents." That doesn't mean you have to, does it? Is that your interpretation, that you must take up serpents?
CHRISTIAN: Well, if you believe the word of God enough, you believe it, and the Lord moves on you, you'll do it.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Back in Tennessee, the 21-year-old pastor says he's been bitten four times in two years. He says he almost died after the first bite and says he's prepared to lose his life from a snake bite if God determines that's how he should go.
HAMBLIN: I realize that. And I've thought about it. I have. I've really thought about it. But that's why it pays to be ready spiritually.
TUCHMAN: Another verse from the New Testament states that faith quenched the violence of fire. So that's why this test of faith happens at many of these services. This is called handling fire. People burning their hands, arms and other body parts with flames shooting out of bottles.
(on camera) Are you ever worried that seeing people burn themselves and the snakes will frighten your children?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Not really.
TUCHMAN: How come?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When God's in it, there ain't no harm in it.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): This woman had been crying during much of the service, the pastor saying she had been going through some emotional difficulties. She then took to the altar, grabbing a rattlesnake, and shaking it with abandon. Almost daring the serpent to sink its teeth into her skin. To us, it looked like she had no idea about the personal risk.
Pastor Hamblin, though, claims God had anointed her to handle this deadly serpent.
HAMBLIN: I'll stand before Christ Jesus and I'll be judged according to my worth on this earth.
TUCHMAN: The people we talked to at this church know what happened to Pastor Wolford in West Virginia. But that risk won't stop them from coming back to this church. Looking for salvation in ways both unusual and unique.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Lafollette, Tennessee.
COOPER: An act of heroism caught on camera. Remarkable video. A New York City bus driver is in the right spot at the right time to catch a child falling three stories. My interview with him next on 360.
COOPER: Well, a veteran New York City bus driver is being held as a hero for putting himself in harm's way and saving a life as a result. It was all caught on camera.
Steven St. Bernard spotted a 7-year-old girl standing atop of an air conditioner three stories up. When she fell, he was there to make the life-saving catch. I spoke to Steven St. Bernard about the fateful moment.
COOPER: Steven, this video of you catching Kayla is just incredible. When did you first realize that something was wrong?
STEVEN ST. BERNARD, CAUGHT GIRL (via phone): Well, when the little kids started running towards me, coming -- coming to the walkway, little kids started coming. That's when I realized something.
COOPER: Did you -- I mean, you saw her before she fell, I assume, right?
ST. BERNARD: Yes. She was standing up on top of the -- on top of the air conditioner.
COOPER: What was she doing? I heard a report she was dancing on top of the air conditioner. Did you see that?
ST. BERNARD: Yes, she was dancing.
COOPER: Yes, she was doing that?
ST. BERNARD: Yes.
COOPER: And did you hesitate at all? I mean, did you immediately rush toward her? ST. BERNARD: Of course. It's a natural instinct I guess. It's just a normal reaction, you know, a kid is -- needs you.
COOPER: I think some people would be -- would be scared that they could get hurt by the fall. Did you not think about that?
ST. BERNARD: No, that didn't -- that didn't come to mind.
COOPER: I understand your arm got injured. What happened?
ST. BERNARD: Yes, the tendon in my left arm, the bicep, got torn. So tomorrow I go to the specialist, and they'll tell me what -- what's the next recourse to take. I hope it's not surgery, though.
COOPER: Have you seen the video yourself? Have you watched it?
ST. BERNARD: Yes, I've watched it. Every time I look at it, I tear up.
COOPER: I mean, it's a miracle you were there, and I mean, it just says so much about what kind of person you are that you -- you didn't even think twice. You just ran toward this little girl. A lot of people consider you a hero. Did you think of yourself that way?
ST. BERNARD: Nah, that's not a hero. No, I just saved a life, that's all, the little girl's life. That's all.
COOPER: Have you seen Kayla since the fall?
ST. BERNARD: I've seen Kayla. I've seen her. And I met with the mother. And sometime later on this evening -- I don't know exactly when -- she's supposed to bring her little girl over to play with my little daughter for a little while, she said.
Two minutes ago, I saw her, and she said she was going to bring her little daughter to play with my daughter for a little while. Because they never met.
COOPER: And how is she doing? She's doing OK?
ST. BERNARD: Yes, she's doing fine. She's doing fine. She just smiled.
COOPER: Well, Steven, there's a lot of people around the country and around the world right now who, you know, have you in their thoughts and just think you're remarkable for what you did. And I just want to add my name to that list. I just want to thank you and thank you for talking to me.
ST. BERNARD: Thank you, and no problem.
COOPER: All right. You take care, Steven.
COOPER: Well, Kayla has autism, and her mother says she just took her eyes off her for just a few seconds.
We're following some other stories tonight. Susan Hendricks joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Susan.
HENDRICKS: Hi, Anderson.
The FBI says scent dogs did pick up a trail while searching two young cousins in Iowa -- searching for them. The spokesman wouldn't say what, if anything, it led investigators to. Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook were last seen Friday, riding their bikes near a lake. The girls are 8 years old and 10 years old.
Police arrested the 44-year-old man in this surveillance tape after a shooting in a bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Seventeen people were hospitalized. The suspect has been charged with 18 counts of attempted murder. One of the charges stems from a shooting hours earlier.
And a 33-year-old woman is brave. She was training for her second Iron Man triathlon. She was attacked by an otter in a Minnesota lake. The animal left 25 bite marks in her legs, feet and back. Some were even two inches deep. She has to get rabies shots, tetanus shots. Remarkably, Anderson, she plans to compete in the triathlon in the same lake next month. Good for you.
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Susan, thanks.
Coming up, if you've always wanted to go back and read the classics but have always thought they've just been missing something, you're in luck. "The RidicuList" is next.
COOPER: Ah, yes, time for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding classic literature. And I have to say, it pains me to do this, because I'm actually quite an avid reader and a big fan of classic literature. "Heart of Darkness," one of my all-time favorites.
But you know and I know that there have been -- there's really been one major problem plaguing all great works of literature, from "Absalom, Absalom" to "Wuthering Heights." The problem being, of course, that they're just not enough like "50 Shades of Gray." Well, now, thankfully, that problem is being solved by something called "Clandestine Classics."
In just a few weeks you will be able to download e-books. Is that what the kids do with that digital download. Is that what they do with the download? Anyway, I still read analogue books, for the most part.
Anyway, in just a few weeks, the Clandestine Classic series will be available online with racy versions of such great works of literature as "Jane Eyre," retold with, quote, "scorching passion." "Pride and Prejudice," with the addition of, quote, "electrifying sexual tension" that turns Elizabeth's world upside-down. A version of "Sherlock Holmes" in which Watson falls in love with Holmes and has his, quote, "sexual needs attended to in a way he had only previously dreamed about." Yikes.
And, of course, what literary collection would possibly be complete without an erotic retelling of "20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"? Wait, isn't there a sea monster in that book? I don't want to know where they would take that.
Also, if you're going to go the whole maritime adventure route in your series of dirty books, wouldn't the obvious choice be Herman Melville's novel about a rather large whale? Instead, they went for Jules Verne. It shows you they're serious about literature.
So the company says they're not rewriting the classics, that they're keeping the authors' voices, just enhancing the novels by adding steamy new scenes.
Now, some people are going to say these works of literature contain sacred prose that shouldn't be manipulated in any way, but why not? And why stop at the classics? There are plenty of other books that could use some erotic enhancement. How about cook books? Those things are totally boring to read. Why not randomly throw some saucy encounters in there?
What about do-it-yourself home improvement books? Financial books? All very informative, but there's, like, zero sex in there. Historical biographies, political theory. Possibilities are endless.
I say let's just turn the whole darn Barnes and Noble into "50 Shades of Gray" knock-offs from wall to wall and floor to ceiling? Sure, it might not be what the authors had in mind. I bet sales would skyrocket, certainly on "The RidicuList."
OK, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.