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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Government Failing in Oil Spill Response?; Interview With Spike Lee
Aired June 1, 2010 - 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 again from Louisiana, a state in battle against a spreading tide of oil.
"Keeping Them Honest" tonight: new signs the federal government still isn't doing enough to clean up the mess BP made here. What you will see in just a moment, frankly, boggles the mind. President Obama promised to triple the number of cleanup workers on the Gulf. So, we went down to one area in the marshes where they need hundreds of people to clean up. We found a couple dozen, not 700 or even seven dozen -- a couple dozen.
That's just one of many new developments on a very busy day and night, new restrictions on fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Get this, nearly a third of the Gulf now off limits, oil now washing ashore not just in Louisiana, but in the Mississippi and Alabama barrier islands as well, in addition to the ones here in Louisiana.
Also tonight, the Justice Department getting tough, launching a criminal investigation, and BP in the middle of Plan C or D or G -- it's easy to lose track -- to stop the leak, a very risky plan going on right now -- take a look -- cutting through the main leaking pipe. This happened just over an hour ago.
As you see there, it appears, at least in the short term, to actually be boosting the amount of oil now gushing into the Gulf. That's a live picture you're looking at now. So, this whole thing you're watching could actually make the devastation worse in the short time.
Meantime, BP CEO Tony Hayward speaking out again, sparking enough white-hot rage to light the night sky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP GROUP: We're sorry. We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused to their lives. And we have -- there's no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I would like my life back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He would like his life back, his life.
This guy made $4.5 million last year, more than most people earn in an entire lifetime. We will talk about him with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser in a moment. Hayward also cast doubts on reports of massive underwater oil plumes, despite other evidence to the contrary. We will discuss that, all of this happening, all the pressure and all the responses from both BP and the government.
You would think that, wherever oil was washing ashore, you would see hundreds, maybe thousands of people there to clean it up. That's what you would think.
That's not what Gary Tuchman found on the waters today. He's "Keeping Them Honest."
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We travel via airboat, through the swampy, grassy waters just off the coast of Louisiana to see some of the 20,000-plus people BP has hired to protect and clean up the oily coastlines.
And we run into these three men doing what appears to be an incredibly thankless task. This Coast Guard petty officer describes it well.
PETTY OFFICER NYXOLYNO CANGEMI, U.S. COAST GUARD: We have cleanup that are actually wiping down the grass with absorbent pads.
TUCHMAN: That's right. People being hired by BP are wiping down blades of grass. They're also replacing oil-sake and, therefore, ineffective booms. But given the number of workers we see in a handful of boats vs. the overwhelming amount of oil coming ashore, it all looks like an impossible task.
(on camera): I mean, it's really making a difference with these guys. They're working hard. But it's such a small area, and there's not that many of these guys doing this.
CANGEMI: Well, we try and bring out as much people as we can. And we -- working as hard as they can to -- to do as much as they can.
TUCHMAN: Yes, I don't doubt their industriousness. But it seems like you need hundreds of people here, and not 40 people in this area, or whatever we're seeing.
CANGEMI: Right. It's -- it's bit of challenge to -- to get as many people you can. And you have to balance it out with the needs of other areas.
TUCHMAN: This work is back-breaking. It's also heartbreaking, because most of the men and women hired by BP to do this work have spent their lives on this water. They rely on it for their recreation. They rely on it for their to make a living.
(voice-over): We wanted to ask them about their work, but were told, to get these jobs from BP, they have to agree not to talk to reporters.
Terry Lapeyrouse isn't working to BP. He talked us to at his general store in town.
TERRY LAPEYROUSE, LONGTIME RESIDENT OF LOUISIANA: I will be 76 in September.
TUCHMAN (on camera): And how many years have you lived here?
LAPEYROUSE: All my life.
TUCHMAN: He knows many of the workers. And he knows the water.
(on camera): They lay on their stomachs. They pick up the dirty boom. They put it in bags. Then they bring out the clean boom. They scrub the grasses with the booms to get the oil off. Do you think that's accomplishing anything?
LAPEYROUSE: A little bit. But there's so much of it out there, that it's just come -- next night, it will be back, you know, on the grass, like it is right now.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The workers' intentions are noble. But, as long as the leak continues, the teams we saw will be outmanned by the oil that relentlessly washes ashore.
COOPER: So, I mean, Gary, this is just one location that you went to. For all we know, there were thousands of workers, you know, a few miles away.
But, in -- in terms of what you saw, it looks like there was room for other people to be there. I mean, they could have had more workers there cleaning up.
TUCHMAN: In this specific area where we were (INAUDIBLE) Louisiana, southwest of New Orleans 90 miles, there could have been a lot more workers.
I mean, we saw no more than 10 small boats, three or four people on each boat. You could have fit 150 boats and he could have used all those people to do the job they're doing.
COOPER: Why won't BP allow workers to answer questions from reporters?
TUCHMAN: Well, they don't want them saying embarrassing things to us.
The fact is, we did talk to some of the people casually, didn't use their names, just wanted to get some general information. And we asked these guys. We said, do you think you can really keep the oil away from the land here? And they said, you know, not necessarily with this few people, but we have to try.
This is their whole livelihood.
COOPER: Well, it's good to see them at least picking up some of those oil-soaked booms. When I was out, I guess it was almost a week ago, there were booms that just had been left out there fully soaked with oil that -- that hadn't been picked up.
TUCHMAN: We should make it clear, they're working very, very hard, but it's just a very difficult job with that few people.
COOPER: That few people.
Gary Tuchman, appreciate it.
Joining us once again tonight, Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish, though he seems to be everywhere at once lately. So, we're always grateful for his time.
Billy, thanks very much for being with us.
When you hear Tony Hayward say, "I want my life back," what's your reaction?
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: It makes me sick to my stomach. Everything this guy says, from that to, there's no booms out there, I stated today, I would like to take him offshore, stick him 10 feet under the water, pull him up with that black all over his face, and ask him what that is.
It's just ridiculous statements, one after another. It's no wonder -- if he's leading this company, it's no wonder they can't stop the leak or do anything right, because his ridiculous comments only insults the people of South Louisiana. And it's a good thing I wasn't in Venice when he made those comments.
COOPER: Are -- are there enough people out there being paid by BP cleaning up the marshes at this point? I mean, Gary went out to one location. And I don't want to generalize to the entire marshland. And the -- and the folks he saw were working incredibly hard, but are there enough of them?
NUNGESSER: Well, Anderson, they're moving another 1,500 people to Plaquemines Parish. Today, they put a quarters barge out in the mouth of the river that's going to house several hundred workers.
The question is -- and they're working very hard, but what they're doing, is it effective? Wiping down blades of grass, are we going to be able to keep up with this oil? Without these barrier islands, this oil is just going to pick us apart.
They had estimated, the Coast Guard estimated 30 miles of marsh in Plaquemines Parish has had oil, the Coast Guard 24 miles. My team, parish employees, worked through the holiday weekend. And, at 10:00 last night, the total was 2,968 acres that had been impacted. So, we have a little difference there. Their calculations were quite different.
And what we have is the factual areas... COOPER: That's a huge difference.
NUNGESSER: ... that me and you went out to and where it spread, all those areas. We did it with GPS. It's documented. And, so, we have quite a difference there.
And, at 10:00, when we got those numbers back from our team, we were shocked.
COOPER: Billy, I know you had a tough day today. There was a meeting with the Coast Guard. You actually left the meeting in disgust. I want to talk to you about that and talk to you about the berm plan that you have been pushing now that -- that is sort of still hanging in the balance. We will talk about that.
We have got to take a quick break. The live chat is up and running at AC360.com. Let us know what you think about today's developments.
Also tonight: making a criminal case against BP. Could executives go to prison? Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us. So does Douglas Brinkley.
Later, you see the pictures from down below, the main pipe cut, the oil still gushing out, more so right now. We will show you what's next. What do BP -- what are they trying to do, and what happens if yet again they fail?
And Spike Lee joins us shortly -- coming up as well.
COOPER: We're back talking with Plaquemines Parish Billy Nungesser.
You heard him mention it before the break. He's looking for berms to be built to protect local beaches and wetlands, to try stop some of that oil from coming into the marshes. He wants BP, of course, to foot the $350 million bill for the overall plan.
He met today with the Coast Guard. Not happy today. It was a rough day.
Billy, I heard you actually walked out of the meeting with the Coast Guard. You called it a dog and pony show. What happened?
NUNGESSER: Well, it started out that way.
The panelists that were selected were tearing that -- besides Gary Graves (ph) speaking on our behalf and Colonel Lee supporting the project, everyone on the panel was there to shoot holes in it.
When they took a break, I had gone back in and went up to Admiral Allen and said, this is not what the president said. He said we would have an open discussion and discuss the pros and cons. So, immediately following that, before we resumed the meeting, he did come up and say at the mike that we would allow the parish presidents, the governor and the mayor to speak at the end of the discussion.
And I appreciate that, because that's what the president said we would do. So, we did get a chance to -- at the end to all have a piece, a say in this.
And I got to tell you, it was one of the best talks from the governor, the mayor, Craig Taffaro, all the other parish presidents, spoke from the heart and spoke passionately and said, if you don't have a better plan, you know, say yes or no. And that's what Admiral Allen had asked. Give us a yes or a no. Nobody would do that.
Finally, we got the secretary of interior to say, "I'm OK with the plan." So, I chalked that up as a yes. The other panelists never did say yes or no.
And I don't think anybody wants to say no because they -- deep in their heart, they know this oil is going to destroy our coastline. And they don't want to be the one to say absolutely not. But they sit there and find every reason why not to support it.
So, we're hoping the president looks through all of this...
COOPER: Well, I mean, that...
NUNGESSER: Go ahead.
COOPER: That's been your -- that's been your argument all along. You have all along said, look, you know, if you have got a better idea, say it now, but -- but, you know, in lieu of you actually speaking up with something better, this is the plan we need, this is plan that we should do moving forward.
Am I right in understanding right now that BP is only being asked to pay for one small part of this berm project?
NUNGESSER: Yes. It's like being a little bit pregnant. Either they're responsible or they're not.
And one reach -- we will take anything we can get, and we're -- we're -- we're happy for anything, but, unless we do the whole plan, we're going to see oil come ashore and pick parts of this marsh apart. As you saw, as your people saw today, wiping the blades of grass is not working.
We said from day one, if we don't put our best foot forward and keep it out of the marsh, we will never clean it up. And I don't care if you put 1,000 people in the marsh. In many cases, you will do more harm than good.
You were out there, and you saw what we were dealing with. It was stuck like glue on that marsh grass. Wiping it down is not going to do the trick. We have got to keep it out. COOPER: Have you -- I mean, when you look at -- at what is going on down now underneath the water, the attempt to basically cap the well, suck up what oil does still come out, I mean, are you optimistic at all that this is actually going to work? Or, in your -- in your mind, is this thing going to be gushing oil until August, which is what BP is saying, you know, would be -- is when those -- the relief wells might be ready?
NUNGESSER: I think at least August. And, hopefully, the relief wells will be successful.
I don't put a lot of faith in anything they're trying. You know, there's been a lot of -- a lot of talk lately. One of the local companies had a plan to set a barge over it and it would be lifted to the top, capturing all the oil. I don't think BP really wants us to know how much oil is coming out.
Some of the things that have been proposed that aren't even considered, a curtain all the way to the surface, that the oil would go up through the middle and be captured all-in-one area. There's -- with all the crazy things they have tried, nothing has been really considered to capture all the oil. And a lot of people say, a lot smarter people than me, that they don't want us to know exactly how much oil is coming out of that hole.
COOPER: Well, you know, that's not -- that's not, like, crazy talk, because, frankly, for the first month, you know, we all know NOAA came up with the 5,000 barrel figure. BP was still saying it was 1,000 barrels back then.
And, then, as soon as they were forced to actually release the video, then, lo and behold, a bunch of independent experts starting, you know, giving figures anywhere from 20,000 barrels all the way up to 70,000 barrels. So, we know BP has had no interest in having people actually know how much oil has been gushing.
In fact, they say and they have been saying all along it doesn't matter how much oil is gushing, because they have been planning for a worst-case scenario, which, given the fact that they're now tripling the number of people, doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
NUNGESSER: Let's have full disclosure. Let them show us all the things that were presented to them that they haven't considered, and let a panelist of experts weigh those things and independents and say, we should try this, this, or this, not the things that BP thinks, the junk shot, the jump shot, or whatever they try.
You know, let's take some more control from an independent body that's not being paid by BP, and say we're going to try this, because this will capture all the oil. There's a lot of things been proposed just through local people that make a lot of sense.
NUNGESSER: And I'm sure there's a million more ideas by experts that aren't being considered. COOPER: Billy, I appreciate it. I know it's been a long, another long day in a long month. Billy Nungesser, appreciate you being with us. Thank you.
NUNGESSER: Thank you.
COOPER: As always, we invited BP executives to come on the program tonight.
COOPER: We -- we invite them every single night. Other than the one time they have shown up, they basically don't return our phone calls anymore.
We're more than happy to have them. I will wake up early. I will stay late, whatever it is easy for them. The invitation stands.
Coming up: President Obama, has he done enough, said enough, been here enough? And what about today's decision to launch a criminal investigation? We will talk about it with Doug Brinkley and Jeffrey Toobin.
Later, director Spike Lee joins us here live to talk about his documentary -- his documentary, "If God Is Willing and the Creek Don't Rise," a film he's re-shooting and revising because of the spill. We will talk to him ahead.
COOPER: Well, President Obama gets plenty of advice on handling the oil spill, of course, from plenty of people inside the White House and out.
In just the past 48 hours, pundits have told him get angrier, move down to the Gulf, nationalize BP, speak more, speak less, you name it. There's probably no single right answer. But you can tell the administration is trying to find some combination of talk and action that works.
Ed Henry tonight has the "Raw Politics."
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With aides saying that president is enraged by the failure to plug the oil leak, he launched a public relations offensive, introducing the chairman of a new commission to investigate the spill.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have my full support to follow the facts wherever they may lead, without fear or favor. And I am directing them to report back in six months with options for how we can prevent and mitigate the impact of any future spills that result from offshore drilling.
HENRY: But the people of the Gulf can't wait six months for answers, so the president also sent Attorney General Eric Holder to the region. He made a splash, saying there could be criminal prosecutions.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: And we will closely examine the actions of those involved in this spill. If we find evidence of illegal behavior, we will be extremely forceful in our response.
HENRY: And in a move to separate itself from BP, the White House has abruptly decided to have its commander, Admiral Thad Allen, start conducting daily press briefings without BP officials.
ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: A couple operational issues for you.
HENRY: The switch was made this weekend, after Carol Browner and other White House aides were frustrated that BP officials failed to acknowledge the risk of more oil gushing out if the latest top hat procedure fails.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Now, obviously, we were uncomfortable with Saturday's briefing, when somebody from BP didn't acknowledge that.
HENRY (on camera): Right, but people have -- critics have for weeks been saying that BP's information was not adding up. You had outside experts saying that it was leaking far more than 5,000 barrels a day. They were saying...
GIBBS: Which is why we set up a flow rate group to determine adequately, using the best technology possible, Ed...
QUESTION: Right. And it took until Sunday, day 41, for Carol Browner to say, "You know what? BP's 's information is not accurate." Why did it say so long?
GIBBS: No, no, no, no. Let's not -- I think you're confusing about eight issues into one.
HENRY: The more the government takes control from BP, the greater the risk for Mr. Obama, which is why aides now describe a president who has been privately clenching his jaw and demanding that officials -- quote -- "plug the damn hole."
GIBBS: I think he's enraged at -- at the -- the time that it's taken, yes. I think he's been enraged over the course of this.
HENRY: So far, however, the American people have seen a lot of pronouncements from the president, but not a lot of that rage.
Ed Henry, CNN the White House. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: Just for accuracy sake, you heard from Robert Gibbs talk about the -- the group that was put together, the team of scientists, independent scientists, to analyze, get some sort of more correct flow rate. And that -- they came up with the 12,000- to 19,000-barrel-a- day figure.
That is true. But, for about a month, the U.S. government, NOAA in particular, went along with this 5,000 barrel figure, which they actually came up with based on the -- just oil on the surface, even though many people for weeks, independent scientists for weeks were saying the rate was much higher, and NOAA and others were saying it doesn't matter how much oil was leaking into the Gulf.
I still cannot get over that fact, that, for a month, people were saying it didn't matter.
More now with Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeffrey, what does this mean, criminal investigations, criminal prosecutions? I mean, could BP executives go to jail?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it -- a lot depends on how the investigation proceeds, because it is actually fairly easy to prosecute a company, to prosecute a corporation and get a fine. That happens in a lot of circumstances. And it ultimately doesn't usually amount to much. What's difficult, and what will be a challenge here is to see if any individuals can be prosecuted.
That's much harder to do, because that requires proving intentional misconduct, and that's going to be difficult in this case.
COOPER: Right, especially because you have slack oversight from -- from MMS. So, you know, if there was at least some level of oversight, then saying it was intentional is -- is hard to prove, I suppose.
TOOBIN: Very much so, because, undoubtedly, one of the defenses of the BP people here, both the corporation and the individuals involved, is going to be, hey, the federal government was involved with this every step of the way.
You knew what we were doing. You approved it. You approved all our actions. How can you turn around and prosecute us? That argument, while it may be politically infuriating, is actually a good legal argument in court, which would make a case like this pretty difficult to prove.
COOPER: Also -- and we should never forget this -- I mean, 11 people lost their lives, incinerated, bodies never found. I mean, could there be charges, what, for manslaughter, based on that, or would that just something -- be civil -- civil fines -- or, I mean, civil suits brought by family members?
TOOBIN: Well, certainly, the family members will be one of the many, many civil lawsuits brought against BP.
And, remember, it's not just BP. It's all the corporations involved in managing and constructing the -- the -- the -- the oil rig. The -- as for manslaughter, it is certainly possible. I mean, manslaughter is unintentional killing.
If the prosecution could show that the behavior here was so reckless, so careless that it can be shown to be a cause of the death of these 11 people, a manslaughter investigation would certainly be possible. But, you know, determining the facts is obviously going to be the most important part of this or any criminal investigation.
COOPER: Doug Brinkley, I mean, does it seem odd you that, at a time we're going be criminally investigating BP, we're still trusting them to clean this mess up?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it's very odd.
And to say what -- to go on with what Jeffrey said, I mean, Cameron, the company who made the blowout preventer, is also going to be looked at, Transocean, Halliburton. This is going to be a very large case.
I think what -- that what you said, Anderson, is why people are frustrated. Every day, we're waking up, pulling for BP to plug the hole. At the same time, we hear Tony Hayward make this ridiculous comment feeling sorry for himself today, when you had 11 people died, you have an entire region in distress.
And it seems almost unbelievable at this point that the board of BP would keep Tony Hayward, who's insulted the American people over and over again. I think, today, BP stocks went down. People are getting angry. People are starting to boycott BP gas. They need to also fire somebody.
The head of MMS has been fired or just resigned, Elizabeth Birnbaum. Tony Hayward has to go. It's insulting to watch him operate these last weeks, and he's still out there everyday, as kind of co-director of this enterprise.
COOPER: Jeffrey, you know, people hear criminal investigation, and, you know, there's a lot of anger here, and people, understandably, you know, their -- their ears pick up when they hear that.
But, when you look at the Exxon Valdez spill, I mean, there's litigation from that 20 years from that that is still going on. I mean, that's still not completed, right?
TOOBIN: You know, the -- one of the biggest cases of last year's Supreme Court term, 2009, involved the continuing litigation over the Exxon Valdez. This is -- this for an oil spill that took place in 1989. so, exactly 20 years later, it's not over.
These are the kind of situations where the lawyers benefit, where these cases drag on and on, but it's very hard to get results. I mean, imagine just trying to resolve, with all the different companies who's responsible, what percentage, whose insurance companies pay, who has to pay to the government. I mean, it is enormously complicated.
TOOBIN: It's going to take a long time.
COOPER: Doug, does it seem to you the White House is kind of finding its -- its footing now?
BRINKLEY: Well, it is. I mean, today was sort of swinging out of the gates by President Obama, starting this week after the holiday.
Eric Holder and the -- and the U.S. government is looking to see if these companies violated the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the Migratory Bird Act, Endangered Species. The environmental component of this is taking place.
I think it was a stronger day for President Obama. I still think he needs to create a command center, and not have Thad Allen, who is running the Coast Guard, do the Q&As every day. And I think President Obama needs to have an open forum with the American people, either in Louisiana or on a television program or radio, and reach out there more, answer -- talk to the people of Louisiana.
He was only there for a few -- few hours, instead of a few days. So, I think he's good on those forums. I would try to see the president open up, reach out to the people in the Gulf south more than he has.
COOPER: Doug Brinkley, good to have you. Jeffrey Toobin, as well. Thanks.
Coming up, more on the oil spill. Filmmaker Spike Lee joins us. He thought he was done working on a documentary about the Gulf. Due to the spill, he's not. He has a lot to say. We will talk to him ahead.
Also tonight, the latest on a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, including video of the incident that both sides are using. We'll show it to you. And the surprising announcement from Al and Tipper Gore when 360 continues.
COOPER: We'll have more on the oil spill in a moment. First, we want to get you the latest on another important story we've been following, the deadly Israeli raid on an air -- on a flotilla heading to Gaza. At least nine activists aboard one of the boats were killed.
The U.N. Security Council demanding an impartial and transparent investigation. President Obama expressed deep regret over the deaths and said we need to learn all the facts of the tragedy.
So what are the facts? We're getting two very different versions tonight. Did Israeli soldiers massacre innocent people or did they defend themselves against a brutal attack? Both sides are turning to videotape during the raid to prove their points.
Ben Wedeman reports.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was chaos on the high cease. Israel commandos, caught on night scope video released by the Israel military, land on the deck of the Turkish cruise ship, the Mavi Marmara, and are met by pro-Palestinian activists.
A full-scale melee ensued on the upper decks. One soldier appears to be pushed overboard. Others appear to be beaten with bars. In slow motion, it appears this soldier may have been stabbed.
One of the Israeli commandos, only identified as Captain R, is in hospital.
"At the moment, I saw people holding knives were approaching me and attempting to stab me. I took out my weapon and shot one bullet. A large amount of people threw me down to the main deck, to the lower deck. As I was thrown down, a group of another 10 people jumped money, stabbed me with a knife in my stomach."
According to the Israel military's own account, Israeli troops killed at least nine of the activists. Seven Israeli soldiers were wounded.
But Hanin Zoabi, an Arab member of the Knesset Israel parliament, has a completely different version of events. She was on board the ship and that says the Israelis opened fire before boarding.
This is video broadcast by the Turkish news network DHA. On the boat, you can see the chaos and violence of the moment. The activists, Zoabi says, were acting in self defense.
HANIN ZOABI, MEMBER OF KNESSET: When they find themself inside a dangerous situation, very natural, very human reaction. They resist themselves. There was not a plan of resistance.
WEDEMAN: The entire incident has now become a whole new battleground, pitting Israeli and its supporters against the Palestinians and their backers, each wielding their own narratives, their own videos. And it's a battle both sides are determined to carry on.
(on camera) And would you do it again?
ZOABI: Yes, of course I'd do it again. And I think hundreds now will do it again.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): In fact, more ships are being prepared for another flotilla and, no doubt, more trouble.
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Jerusalem.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: We're following a number of other important stories tonight. Joe John joins us with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the White House is calling the death of Al Qaeda's third-ranking leader a severe blow to the terrorist network. Al Qaeda announced on Islamist Web sites that its commander of operations in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, also known as Sheikh Sa'id al-Masri, was killed, along with several family members.
A U.S. official said al-Masri is believed to have died recently in Pakistan's tribal areas.
After just eight months in office, Japan's prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, is stepping down. In a live broadcast on Japanese television, he said he's resigning because he broke a campaign promise to move a U.S. Marine base off the southern island of Okinawa. His ratings have plunged over the issue.
Federal regulators are warning owners of 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury sedans to avoid stacking all-weather floor mats on the car's standard mats. They've had three complaints of all-weather floor mats slipping forward and trapping gas pedals. No reports yet of crashes or injuries.
And after 40 years of marriage, former vice president, Al Gore, and his wife, Tipper, are separating, a decision they described as mutual. The couple has four grown children and three grandchildren. And that's a couple a lot of us thought would have been together forever.
COOPER: Very sad news. Yes. Joe, thanks.
I'm going to talk with filmmaker Spike Lee. He thought he was done shooting his new documentary about the Gulf. He is back now here in New Orleans tonight, documenting this new disaster to add to his film. He has a lot to say about the oil spill and the response to it. We'll talk to him in just a moment.
Plus, what the paper trail now reveals about the dangers of deep water drilling. Were danger signs ignored on the Deepwater Horizon rig? We'll tell you what we're learned through these papers. We're "Keeping Them Honest," ahead.
COOPER: Filmmaker Spike Lee has a new HBO documentary coming out, "If God is Willing and the Creek Don't Rise." It airs August 23 and 24. It's a sequel to "When the Levees Broke," his Emmy-winning documentary about Hurricane Katrina, the definitive documentary, really, about Hurricane Katrina.
It was pretty much in the can, I'm told, when Lee decided the oil spill needed to be part of it. He's been shooting new material. He joins me. Thanks very much for being with me.
You thought you had your ending.
SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: I thought it was done, but BP, they had other plans.
COOPER: So what do you make of what's going on? What do you -- you've been down here for days now.
LEE: People are mad and rightfully so. And I'm glad that Attorney General Eric Holder is thinking about criminal charges. If it was up to me, they'd be going to the hoosegow, headed to the slammer.
COOPER: I don't know if you know Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish. Tony Hayward said he didn't think there were oil plumes underwater. And Billy Nungesser said he wanted to dunk him in the oil.
LEE: And that's the kind thing, what people want to do to him. And I just think that this shows that MMS, the government, big oil, gas, they're in cahoots. And you know, again, these people are laying down an altar of almighty dollar, and people have to suffer. You know?
This coming August 29, as you know, is going to be the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina breaching the levee. People are still trying to get over that. They win the Super Bowl, new mayor, Mayor Landrieu, he's looking up.
LEE: And then Deepwater Horizon.
COOPER: This was a good year.
LEE: A good year.
COOPER: I mean, New Orleans is back. I mean, more restaurants open than before the storm. That, you know, there's a lot -- there's still a lot of work to be done, but a lot of life has returned.
LEE: But this has really, really brought everybody down low. And I know, as you said before, you're talking about people have -- President Obama, what can he do? What can he do?
I interviewed retired General Russel Honore today for this piece.
COOPER: You want him.
LEE: And I said -- I said, "You're the guy." Obama has a lot of stuff. He needs -- I think he needs somebody here. And I don't think there's a leadership. And they -- he said he's waiting for the call.
COOPER: He's ready to do it? LEE: Honore will come back, and this thing will be run right. Because I don't know what they're doing now.
COOPER: A lot of people have said that President Obama should have stayed here longer, maybe spent the weekend, but at least express some more emotion, and maybe not just a PR thing. But do you get that?
LEE: I mean, that's just who he is. You know, he's very, as I know, as I've seen, calm, cool, collected. But one time, go off. And if there's any one time to go off, this is it. Because this is -- this is a disaster, twice -- twice as big as Valdez.
COOPER: So far.
LEE: So far. And then now, they're saying -- Obama said yesterday, front page, "New York Times," it might be until August?
LEE: Why are we going to believe anything BP says? I mean, they're a foreign company. And they're running stuff.
COOPER: I mean, your documentary about Katrina is, by far and away, the definitive film about that time. And I can't wait to see the new one.
And people have compared -- people said this is Obama's Katrina. And I don't thin -- I don't think you should compare disasters, because I don't think there should be a sliding scale.
LEE: I think that that's going a little overboard, but where there might be some similarities is the slow response. And I don't know why we're going to take the word of any oil company, not just B.P., because they're about making dollars.
COOPER: It does seem like the U.S. government has sort of early on -- James Carville with his criticism was that they viewed BP as a partner in this, as opposed to the relationship which now seems to be the case. It's going to be investigated.
LEE: They're all in cahoots, you know. They're making money. And the people, again, here are suffering. You will understand, this is going to affect the total United States of America. So it's not -- it's more than just the Gulf states. People have to realize that.
COOPER: Spike, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much. And we look forward to seeing the new documentary.
Still ahead from the Gulf Coast, a lot more ahead. We'll have the latest on yet another high-stakes effort to plug that mile-deep oil gusher. This time it's called the cut and cap. Billy Nungesser saying he thinks this thing is going until August. We'll talk about that ahead.
Plus, were red flags missed by BP? We now have documents, early warning signs the deep water drilling rig was headed for serious trouble. We'll show you the paper trail, ahead.
COOPER: During the breaks, we've been seeing some remarkable live pictures from the BP wellhead. I just want to show them to you and try to explain a little bit what we understand is going on.
This is a shot of one of those diamond-tipped circular saws. It appears to be trimming the edges of the riser pipe. Those edges were left ragged by the giant pair of shears that you saw earlier on the program. The idea is to make the edges clean enough to attach a collection cap.
Here's another angle. You can clearly see the down side, of course, to all this. A freshly-cut pipe lets a lot more oil flow. So until they can actually cap it off, the spill is actually doing more damage than before the cut.
The stakes are incredibly high. This may not work. David Mattingly joins me now with the latest.
We talked to Billy Nungesser. He said in his gut he thinks this is going to go until August.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everything that you've experienced so far from this, for anyone who lives here, has been failure or lowered expectations. It doesn't help anyone to expect this to work, because they think this -- they're going to be dealing with this oil no matter what for every day until that well is capped in August.
COOPER: Do you know when will you know the results of this operation?
MATTINGLY: We could see them put -- attempting to put a cap on sometime tomorrow. It could be that early. We won't know exactly how much oil they're collecting right away.
Again, these are just collection systems, and they're not going to be stopping all the oil. So we're going to be seeing some oil, a fraction of that oil, possibly. So what are we talking about, 1,000 gallons, 2,000 gallons a day? We just don't know.
COOPER: And the idea of this is that essentially, it's sucking up the oil. I mean, oil will still be coming out. They're just hoping this cap will be able to suck it up to waiting barges on shore.
MATTINGLY: Right. This is like the grandchild of that big containment dome they started a couple of weeks ago that completely failed. This is smaller. They've learned from that mistake. And this is just going to be siphoning that oil that's billowing out of that pipe, taking it to a ship on the top where they're going to be burning up the natural gas and carting away the oil.
COOPER: You've been covering this for weeks now. Does anything surprise you? I mean, what over the last couple of days has sort of caught your attention and surprised you?
MATTINGLY: You asked me what surprises me. I've stopped being surprised, because I think surprise also goes hand-in-hand with disappointment. And there's been a lot of disappointment along the way with this.
This siphoning tube that they have that was collecting oil from the large leak they had down there was really under-performing. It was still -- there was still a big cloud billowing out of that. The containment domes they created didn't work. The big hope was to stop the oil with the top kill. That didn't work.
And you see the sense of defeat, the sense of resignation just eating away at people here with every failure that comes along. And no one is getting their hopes up to see what happens here. Because even under the best circumstances, there's still going to be oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico until this well is capped in August.
COOPER: Right. And that's what people say the August figure is. That's basically two relief wells that are being dug now, but they won't be finished, we're told by BP, until August.
MATTINGLY: Right. BP said, "We're going to drill a relief well. We're going to try and intersect where that well is leaking."
And then the U.S. government stepped in and said, "No, you're going to drill two of them, in case the first one doesn't work."
COOPER: There was talk of that nuclear option. Was that just talk? Or did anyone...
MATTINGLY: I haven't heard anyone in a serious position talking about that, because the idea is you've got a hole in the ground leaking oil. Why do something to make the hole bigger?
COOPER: Right. Right. Who know what the results of that. David Mattingly, appreciate the reporting, as always.
We told you earlier that the Justice Department has now opened up a criminal investigation to the oil spill. That occurred today. You can be sure federal prosecutors will want to get their hands on internal BP documents, especially the papers about safety issues on the rig.
The story of what happened in the weeks and days and even hours before this rig -- the explosion is only just now starting to be revealed. Those documents do -- the ones that we've seen so far do reveal warning signs. The question, of course, were the warning signs ignored? What was the response to them?
Tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," Joe Johns.
JOHNS (voice-over): Internal BP documents obtained by congressional investigators show the warning signs of an impending disaster began well before fluid started leaking uncontrolled from the well's blowout preventer, just hours before the explosion.
In fact, the documents show BP was dealing with well-control issues as far back as March 10 when a BP official wrote an e-mail to the MMS in New Orleans reporting, "We're in the midst of a well- control situation" and went on to explain plans for dealing with the problem. What troubles a lot of people is that BP apparently did not stop to assess the situation.
MARK HAFLE, BP SENIOR DRILLING ENGINEER: No one believed that there was going to be a safety issue with bumping that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) plug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So y'all did discuss your concerns, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you went ahead and proceeded with the job anyway?
HAFLE: All the risks had been addressed. All the concerns had been addressed.
JOHNS: But an expert on wells and drilling who has reviewed the document said putting on the brakes is what BP should have done.
GREG MCCORMACK, PETROLEUM EXTENSION SERVICE: It's standard operating procedure when you have a problem, to stop whatever you're doing and resolve the problem before you move on to the next step.
JOHNS: BP did not respond to CNN inquiries for this story. But on ABC over the weekend, a BP executive said the answers about well- control issues in March will have to come from investigators.
ROBERT DUDLEY, BP MANAGING DIRECTOR: There were issues of well control, signs out there, and there are strict procedures that are written to rig owners to walk through well control. That's what the investigation will take minute by minute and investigate that.
JOHNS: Apparently, this wasn't the only time BP had ignored or departed from standard practices.
One unsigned document released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee shows that in May of last year, someone at BP asked for a dispensation or departure from BP's own rule book on drilling and well operations policy.
(on camera) One month later, the issue was the well casing. That is the pipe that keeps the well hole open. In June of 2009, according to the "New York Times," BP engineers were expressing concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use might collapse under high pressure.
The paper reports that BP went ahead with the casing only after getting special permission, because it violated the company's own safety policies. (voice-over) Why anybody would do that is a mystery. Experts we've spoken with dismissed the idea that the company was choosing profit over safety, because they argue everybody in the business knows the down side to doing that is potential disaster.
MCCORMACK: There definitely is a profit motive or they wouldn't be drilling for oil, and there's always a pressure, a constant pressure on a drill rig to drill faster. But there's also the same pressure to deal safer. It's a dangerous business. And if you don't drill safer, then the profit goes away.
JOHNS: A costly accident for sure. BP has only begun to feel the financial pain.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: We're going to continue to follow the paper trail in the days and weeks and month ahead. We're back with more from the Gulf at the top of the hour.