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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Murders Committed During Hurricane Katrina?; Inside the Church of Scientology; Torture Conducted By Texas Authorities?

Aired December 2, 2005 - 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.
New developments tonight in a criminal investigation. Did doctors kill scores of patients as the waters of Katrina rose? -

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Why did they die? More than 140 bodies found in New Orleans' hospitals and nursing homes after Katrina, were some of them murdered? Tonight, we take you inside an autopsy room with the man testing these victims for morphine and other lethal drugs. Were they really victims of the storm or victims of misguided mercy killers?

Bruised and bloodied -- alleged drug gang hitmen confess on tape. They say they killed an investigative reporter along the Texas border. But were these confessions the result of torture? And what has happened to the men whose shocking statements were caught on tape?

And inside the Church of Scientology. Tonight, we investigate an underground bunker hidden in New Mexico and strange symbols carved in the earth, only visible from space. What do they really mean? Find out tonight.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening.

It is a chilly night here in New York. And we have a forensic mystery in New Orleans to tell you about, but, first, the headlines at this moment.

Three hundred U.S. Marines, 200 Iraqi troops launched Operation Shank, centered on the town of Ramadi. The goal? Calm the area to prepare for parliamentary elections. Near Fallujah, 10 Marines on foot patrol were killed by an improvised explosive device. That is how powerful these roadside bombs have become. Three soldiers were also killed today in what is being called a vehicular accident.

In Hudson, Ohio, two bodies have been found near Interstate 80. Their identity is not confirmed, but they may be Sarah and Philip Gehring, two kids who went missing in New Hampshire last year. Do you remember this case? Their father, Manuel, confessed he killed them, said he buried them in the Midwest, but didn't say where. Then he killed himself. Authorities hope dental records will determine a match. We will more on the story later.

And, in Connecticut, a bizarre day in court -- all 45 state courthouses evacuated when authorities got five phone calls claiming bombs were set to go off. So, far police and police dogs have found nothing.

And, in New Orleans tonight, elections delayed -- today, Governor Blanco agreed to postpone local elections for the mayor and other offices. They were supposed to be in February. No new date has been set.

We begin, though, with a mystery both deeper and darker than setting a date for elections, new developments tonight in the investigation into what happened to scores of patients, some of them old, some of them terribly ill, at New Orleans area hospitals and nursing homes after Katrina struck.

Did doctors take the unthinkable, not to mention illegal, step of killing patients, injecting them with morphine or other hard-to-detect lethal drugs? It is a criminal investigation. And, as we said, there are new developments tonight.

CNN's Jonathan Freed has the late details -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson.

I can tell you that Dr. Cyril Wecht, CNN has confirmed -- and he is a coroner with Pittsburgh's Allegheny County and a noted forensic expert -- we have confirmed that he has been hired as a consultant, Anderson, by Louisiana's attorney general.

Now, the attorney general's office is investigating all deaths at hospitals and nursing homes in and around New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now, allegations of euthanasia have been focusing on Memorial Medical Center in downtown New Orleans.

Now, Anderson, to -- to bring us up to date and remind us about what happened there, 45 bodies were found at Memorial about a week- and-a-half, nine days, after the storm blew through.

Now, the conditions there, there -- there were 110-degree heat approaching that in those hospitals downtown. And after -- after the floodwaters came in, these buildings were encircled. They were cut off. There was looting going on in the area. And doctors and nurses that we spoke to, in the aftermath of all this, told us that the -- that the situation there was nothing less than desperate.

Now, one doctor in particular, Dr. Bryant King, in an exclusive interview with CNN in the aftermath of the storm, told us that, a few days after the flooding began and the hospital was encircled, Anderson, that he was approached by another doctor at the hospital, and the subject of what to do with the patients whose cases were desperate and -- was raised, in particular, how did he feel about the idea of euthanasia.

Now, Dr. King told us that his reaction was, that's crazy. We can't do that. We're here to save people.

He thought that that was the end of it. And he said, a few hours later, he looked up in the area where he was working, and he observed that doctor and some other people making preparations that he says he interpreted as the beginnings of perhaps actually engaging in euthanasia.

Now, he says he never actually saw euthanasia happen, but he felt uneasy about what he was seeing. And he said he simply grabbed his bag and left the hospital, because he just felt he couldn't be a part of what he thought might be about to happen there.

Now, we spoke to Tenet Healthcare this evening. Tenet Healthcare is the company that owns and operates Memorial Medical Center, Anderson. And they gave us a statement.

They say that, "We support the Louisiana attorney general's office in their investigation." And they go on to say that, "We won't be making any comments about who he hires for the investigation" -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jonathan Freed, thanks very much for the latest development.

Now, as Jonathan just mentioned, Dr. Wecht's reputation precedes him. He's the man who has now been hired as a consultant. He has got the detective job of a lifetime.

Long before he got the job, however, he gave CNN's Randi Kaye an inside look at forensic investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Did dozens of patients from New Orleans Memorial Medical Center die of natural causes in sweltering heat, following the storm, their life-saving machines no longer pumping without power, or were these mercy killings?

DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: It is a real mystery and it is going to be a real legal quandary.

KAYE: More than 1,000 miles from New Orleans, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Dr. Cyril Wecht, the county coroner, is following the case closely, wondering if it will become a real-life crime scene investigation, a CSI that could take months to resolve.

WECHT: Bodies are brought into the back of the building or entrance.

KAYE: Dr. Wecht gave us an exclusive look inside his autopsy room to help us understand how the mystery down South may unravel.

WECHT: See this?

This is the -- this is marbling, greenish-black discoloration. See, these, we call subepidermal blisters are beginning to form. You -- you can see it there. This is already early decomposition. After a while, he will balloon up and he will look like a Sumo wrestler. And you will say, boy, where did you get this 450-pounder?

KAYE: The bodies from Memorial will be far more decomposed than this one. It's likely they had not been refrigerated for more than a month.

Dr. Wecht says, to determine cause of death, Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard will collect blood, bile and urine. They will be tested to determine if drugs like morphine or potassium chloride may have been used to euthanize patients.

WECHT: If you find any morphine in a patient for whom morphine had never been ordered, now, in my opinion, from a forensic, scientific, legal, investigative standpoint, that's enough, because what are they doing with morphine?

KAYE: Testing for the drugs is complicated. And Wecht admits, what happened at Memorial may never be known. With a temperature of 110 degrees, Wecht says the organs are useless to a coroner.

WECHT: The body first begins to swell and become discolored. And, then, inside, the organs and tissues begin to become decomposed. The bacteria go to work. And, after a while, all you will have will be shrunken, totally discolored, blackened organs and tissues.

KAYE: The best chance at knowing how these patients really died is through toxicology tests, like this one.

WECHT: She's placing in a -- a solvent solution. And -- and that is going to lead to the -- picking up the absorption, the extraction of whatever it is that is contained in the blood. Some extraction has taken place, because blood from you or me wouldn't have this non-bloody component. That has already been accomplished.

KAYE (on camera): So, it will be further...

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE: .... separated in there?

WECHT: Yes.

And now it will be further separated in this centrifuge, a rapid spinning. And this will lead to further extraction.

KAYE: So, it's one step closer to figuring out this whole mystery?

WECHT: Exactly. Right.

KAYE (voice-over): After the blood is separated, it is tested.

WECHT: This is going to show, as the specimens go through that Connie (ph) and Julie (ph) extracted, whether or not there are drugs present. And they will give you some blips.

KAYE (on camera): So, if, down in New Orleans, they find that there's morphine or potassium chloride, or whatever there might be, this is what they will see on the screen?

WECHT: Sedatives, barbiturates, tranquilizers of different kinds, morphine and related analgesic drugs, right. Then, blips will appear.

KAYE (voice-over): Those blips still won't be enough to determine if mercy killings took place.

Next, the amount of drugs found in the patients, if any, must be measured.

WECHT: And you say, hey, how could they have possibly have needed this much morphine or this much secobarbital?

KAYE: Remember, most of these patients were elderly and may have been taking pain medications, like morphine. But drugs like that only stay in the body for 24 hours. If it shows up now, especially in high doses, mystery solved.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: One more note out of New Orleans tonight -- all week, every night, we have been reporting on the fate of more than 200 unidentified bodies, Katrina victims who have not had any DNA tests conducted on them.

It's an outrage that has kept hundreds of families in an agonizing limbo. State authorities have promised to make an announcement today about when the testing would begin. They did not make the announcement. A spokesman tells us that, even though they have hired a company and signed a contract, they won't say anything until early next week and the DNA testing won't begin until at least then either.

As always, we invited the governor of Louisiana to come on the program tonight to talk about the delays, the repeated delays. Once again, she has declined.

A discovery in Ohio that could end a missing-persons case -- did police find the remains of two children missing, kidnapped by their own father and murdered?

Plus, mysterious designs in the New Mexico desert -- we will take a closer look at the heart of Scientology's secrets coming up on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In Ohio, two bodies discovered in a shallow roadside grave may bring the possibility of peace, of sorts, for a grieving mother. The FBI says the bodies may be those of Sarah and Philip Gehring,two New Hampshire children kidnapped by their own father, who admitted he killed them before he killed himself.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As snow fell in Hudson, Ohio, police uncovered a grave. The question, are the two bodies discovered here those of two murdered children, 14-year-old Sarah Gehring and her 11-year-old brother, Philip?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are together in the same -- what appears to be the same shallow grave.

OPPENHEIM: Investigators said the discovery was made by a woman who had been walking her dog.

JEFFREY STRELZIN, NEW HAMPSHIRE ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: My understanding is that her dog actually keyed in on this site, and she went up to it, took a look at it, and she started digging herself. And, once she unearthed the garbage bag, she stopped.

OPPENHEIM: While the bodies have not yet been identified, the location closely matched details of a description police had been trying to pinpoint. Still, Teri Knight, the two children's mother, didn't want to make assumptions.

TERI KNIGHT, MOTHER OF MURDERED CHILDREN: I am not going down the road yet that this is definitely it, because it just sets yourself up for disappointment. So, I'm just going to wait and take it one step at a time.

OPPENHEIM: In July of 2003, Sarah and Philip Gehring were last seen with their father, Manuel, near their New Hampshire home. Bitter about a custody dispute, Gehring drove cross-country and was arrested in California a week later. He admitted to murdering his daughter and son, but, on tapes made by the FBI, gave a general description, not a precise location, of where he buried his victims.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MANUEL GEHRING, CONVICTED MURDERER: It looked like abandoned property. It was like a dumping area. There is a large building fairly close to it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OPPENHEIM: Seven months later, Gehring hanged himself in a New Hampshire jail, but the details he gave were enough for his ex-wife, Teri, to do everything she could to find the bodies.

KNIGHT: I'm Teri Knight. And, two years ago, my children, Sarah and Philip Gehring -- I don't know if you remember the case -- they were murdered. OPPENHEIM: Last summer, exactly two years after the crimes were committed, Knight spearheaded a drive to get volunteers throughout the Midwest to search for Sarah and Philip.

KNIGHT: They don't deserve to be buried on the side of a road. I don't deserve to have them buried on the side of the road, and we need to find them and bring them home.

OPPENHEIM: It seemed like an impossible task. But Teri and her husband, Jim, were determined.

KNIGHT: I'm going to be successful in making sure that, when I leave, someone else and many other people are going to be looking.

OPPENHEIM: Her efforts may have paid off.

While police didn't identify the person who found the bodies, they did say she was a volunteer searching for the Gehring children. If they are positively identified, then Teri Knight will be able to fulfill the one thing she could hope for, to give her children a decent burial.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Horrific case, that.

A rare look at a -- at a secret Scientology vault in the New Mexico desert is coming up in a moment.

First, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with the latest.

Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson.

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq now confirming it day pay newspapers to boost its image, saying it favored -- it offered favorable editorials to Iraqi newspapers and also used a Washington- based public-relations firm to place them. Military officials said the practice is customary in Iraq and that it was done to counter -- quote -- "misinformation and propaganda."

The woman who received the world's first partial face transplant says, "Thank you." Her doctors said today those were her first when she awoke. A surgical team in northern France used the tissue from a brain-dead patient to restore the nose, lips and chin of the woman who had been mauled by her dog.

The hurricane season, of course, officially over, but it appears the message not getting through to Hurricane Epsilon, which has now set a new record at the 14th hurricane this year -- Epsilon clocking winds of 75 miles per hour in the Atlantic, but it's not a threat to land. It's the 26th named storm of 2005. And this is likely the biggest story of the night, Anderson, Brad Pitt petitioning to become adoptive father of Angelina Jolie's children. Now, that's according to the actor's publicist. No real additional information provided -- Pitt and Jolie, of course, have been romantically involved since the filming of the movie "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." On the AP write, it said the children would be known as Zahara and Maddox Jolie-Pitt, in case you were wondering, with a hyphen.

COOPER: Is that even -- I didn't know that was possible for someone -- I mean, they're not married -- for him to adopt children from...

HILL: Maybe they are secretly married.

COOPER: Ah. Erica Hill, you know, you cut right to the core of everything, don't you?

HILL: That's what I'm here for.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: All right, Erica, thanks very much. We will see you again in about 30 minutes.

Mysterious markings in a remote corner of the New Mexico desert, but what are they, and why won't the Church of Scientology talk about them? We go back to New Mexico tonight to see for ourselves.

Plus, a doctor who was tried for molesting patients, pleaded no contest, still has his license. He's still seeing patients. See why some call him Dr. Molester -- coming up next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the other night, we told you about a vault in the New Mexico desert and some mysterious land markings nearby, markings that can only be seen from the sky. Both are part of a compound built by the Church of Scientology. And inside the vault are said to be writings by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church.

Many who live in New Mexico are simply unaware the vault even exists and don't -- they have never seen the markings. And the church itself isn't talking.

So, we sent CNN's Gary Tuchman to investigate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The land is rugged on the south end of the Rocky Mountain range, a panoramic view of northeastern New Mexico, under clear skies, which makes it easier to see an unusual sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is it. TUCHMAN: Two huge interlocking circles, markings on the desert soil that cannot be seen from the ground, but can be seen from the heavens.

MICHAEL PATTINSON, EX-SCIENTOLOGIST: I think they're not designed to be seen by human beings, but by alien beings.

TUCHMAN: Michael Pattinson says he was a member of the Church of Scientology for 23 years. Now he's a disgruntled ex-member, who says the circles are signposts for reincarnated Scientologists who come from outer space.

PATTINSON: They're markings to show the location of one of the vaults which Scientology has prepared to safeguard the technology of L. Ron Hubbard.

TUCHMAN: Hubbard, who died in 1986, was a science fiction writer who started the Church of Scientology. And, indeed, next to the circles and a private runway is a building with a vault built into the mountain. Current Scientologists do say archives are held in the vaults, just as other religions safeguard their sacred texts.

They say the vault is overseen by a Scientology corporation called the Church of Spiritual Technology.

(on camera): Church of Scientology officials denied CNN's request for a tour of the compound. They say the markings are simply a logo of the Church of Spiritual Technology and that this is a non- story. But from what we have experienced, church officials are extremely sensitive about this nonstory.

(voice-over): A pilot we hired to fly us over the compound backed out, saying he got a call from the Scientologists asking him not to go with us. Other pilots said they would not fly us because they didn't want to make the Scientologists angry. But we did finally get a pilot.

(on camera): What do those circles look like to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They look like a branding symbol a rancher might have put out there.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The closest town to the desert etchings is Las Vegas, New Mexico. The county sheriff there is one of few non- Scientologists who have visited the compound. Chris Nahar (ph) did so just last month, for the first time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time that there -- an incident that happens, that there's, say, for instance, Waco or the World Trade Center incident, every time something like this happens, there seems to be some rumblings that it's a training ground for militia or a terrorist training ground, that kind of thing. So, they have been inviting me out there, so we can go out there and try to dispel those rumors.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Have you dispelled those rumors? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we went out there. I didn't see anything of the sort.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The sheriff says the Scientologists told him, this is where L. Ron Hubbard's writings, saved on titanium plates, will be preserved for thousands of years.

He says many people were there, lots of farm animals and a large cache of food supplies.

(on camera): Did it strike you as a place for survivalists?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite possibly, yes. I definitely want to go there if it hit the fan.

TUCHMAN: If it hits the fan?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The sheriff says the notion of spacecraft returning here was not discussed with him, but former members say that's part of Scientology teachings.

PATTINSON: I know it sounds very, very bizarre, but this is where reality is stranger than fiction.

TUCHMAN: So, are the circles a landing pad for extraterrestrial vehicles? The church is not commenting to us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: Scientology officials are generally not gung-ho about talking to reporters, believing they have been unfairly dumped upon. But they do tell us, they do not think it was necessary for us to cover this story. They say that, either way, they didn't want to talk to us, after they made that comment -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, Gary, I mean, every church wants to protect the -- the texts that they believe are sacred. I mean, what I have heard is that they're using sort of titanium plates that the -- the -- the writings of L. Ron Hubbard are etched into. Is that -- is that what you were hearing?

TUCHMAN: Yes.

And that's one thing that everyone agrees upon in the story, the former Scientologist, the current Scientologist, the sheriff who went there, that there are archives, sacred texts, inside. Titanium protects those texts. But it's still not exactly clear what those circles are in the New Mexico desert.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman, thanks.

The Church of Scientology reportedly only allows very high- ranking members inside the vault. In a moment, you are going to hear from a former church member, a former member of the Sea Org, the super-secret organization within the church. He will explain what it's like inside the Church of Scientology.

Plus, it used to be simple. Christmas trees were Christmas trees. But nothing seems simple anymore. 'Tis the season for semantic folly -- coming up next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A New Mexico police chief tells us what he saw inside a top-secret Scientology vault. That's coming up.

But, first, here is what is happening at this moment.

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito says, if he gets the job, he will put his personal views aside when ruling an abortion. Alito assured Senator Arlen Specter, the man who will head his confirmation hearings, that he will give weight to legal precedent.

New changes to what you can and cannot take on an airplane -- transportation officials say scissors and small tools are now OK. The tradeoff is more -- the prospect of more pat-downs and extra security checks. Officials say the new rules are aimed at catching terrorists with explosives.

A federal judge says random bag searches on the New York City subway are constitutional. He's ruled that the searches deter terrorism and fall under the special-needs exception to the Fourth Amendment, which requires reasonable suspicion before a search. The New York Civil Liberties Union brought the suit, says it is planning to appeal.

And, on the loose in Vero Beach, Florida, two possibly armed and dangerous prisoners -- the sheriff's office of Indian River County says that Edward Roberson and Marty Finney escaped overnight. A third inmate has been recaptured.

Before the break, Gary Tuchman showed us what some mysterious markings in the New Mexico desert look like from the sky. They are two giant interlocking circles that some former Scientologists say are meant to be signposts that will one day guide reincarnated Scientologists to a special vault -- inside that vault, an archive of the writings that define the church.

Very few outsiders have been inside the vault. Tim Geigos has. He's chief of the Las Vegas, New Mexico Police Department, and is not a Scientologist. I spoke to him earlier about what he saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: This is for the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology. I understand they're written or etched into what's been described as either stainless steel or titanium tablets. Did you see that? CHIEF TIM GEIGOS, LAS VEGAS, NEW MEXICO POLICE: Yes, and that's only one form of recording. They have CDs, if you will, and I don't remember what the type of etching is on CDs. They had a recording, a tape-driven cassette or something similar. They had special writing, special paper, special inks, you know, these type of things. If I remember correctly, they were using five formats to store each of the, whatever it is that they were saving.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: We were curious to talk to former Scientologists or current Scientologists, but they wouldn't speak with us tonight, about what is the appeal for the Church? Bruce Hines, my next guest, was a Scientologist for 30 years. During that time he had access to another church vault in California. I talked to him earlier tonight. I began by asking him to describe that vault.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE HINES, FMR. CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY MEMBER: I'd estimate it was about 15 feet in diameter, circular, on the inside, had a sort of a flat bottom, and it was, as I recall, it was maybe about 100 feet long, and it was well-lit. It was metallic.

COOPER: And the purpose of the vault, as I understand it, is to preserve the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. Why is that so important in the Church of Scientology?

HINES: You're taught in the church that L. Ron Hubbard is the only person who has worked out man's salvation, you could say. And he says outright, there's a particular writing that one has to study and just about any course you do, and he says outright that no other route to freedom or to enlightenment or whatever you call it, works. And, this is the only one that works, and so he considered it so important that he felt it was worth millions of dollars to put this in indestructible form, and put it in a place where it couldn't be destroyed.

COOPER: And, is there a belief in Scientology that there is -- and many religions have sort of an "End of the World" scenario. Is there that in Scientology? Is that the reason why these things are written on steel or titanium tablets and buried in the ground?

HINES: There is, continually, while you're in the Church, there's a threat that if we don't succeed in our mission, meaning the Church of Scientology's mission, the consequences could be really bad. And, such things as a nuclear war, or -- it's a bit vague. It's all left a bit vague. But the idea is definitely that there could be a really bad end.

COOPER: And the mission is what, as you saw it?

HINES: The catch phrase was "clear the planet," which basically means get everybody on the planet to the state of clear, and above, and what this supposedly would do is rid the word of aberration, you'd get rid of war and insanity and various other ills. COOPER: And, "getting clear," that's -- I've heard Scientologists talk about that. That's what? That's getting to a point where you're perfected? What does it mean?

HINES: Well, sort of. The definition is that you no longer have your own reactive mind, and the reactive mind is labeled as the thing that makes people act irrationally, destructively, the source of psychosomatic illnesses and such things. And, supposedly at the state of clear you have gotten rid of this thing altogether.

COOPER: In this facility in New Mexico, there are sort of symbols in the ground, circles with diamond shapes in the center of them. To you, what does that mean? What do those symbols mean?

HINES: The symbol is very definitely the logo for one of the entities within the Church of Scientology or it's related corporately somehow. It's called the Church of Spiritual Technology. And the only reason it could be etched into the ground like that, so large, is so that it could be recognized from a great distance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, not all Scientologists keep a low profile. Many celebrities have joined the Church. Why though? What draws them to the secretive religion? A look at that coming up. Plus, this video shows drug gang hit men allegedly confessing to terrible crimes. But, check out the tape. These men appear to have been beaten. The question is by whom, and what has happened to them since? We'll investigate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: For 24 years Bruce Hines was a member of a Group called the Sea Organization. It's inside the Church of Scientology. And the Church describes it as a religious order made up of the most dedicated Scientologists in the world; individuals who have dedicated their lives to the service of their religion. I asked Bruce Hines to give me his description of Sea Org.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HINES: It's very much a military organization. You wear a uniform, there's saluting, marching, standing at attention.

COOPER: And what was the appeal of it for you? What did it give you?

HINES: Well, at the time when I joined it, it was an opportunity to, I thought, contribute to this great purpose, which is sort of like save the planet, sort of thing. And, if you're a believer in their teachings, then you're helping to bring about a better society, a better world, and you sort of dedicate yourself to that.

COOPER: How do you see it now? I mean, you were a member for 30 years. HINES: I see it totally differently now. I left in 2003. And since I've been out, I've -- have a whole other view of it now. And I do not see that the Church of Scientology can accomplish what they say they will, and what they convince people that they are capable of. And in a sense I felt like I was duped or tricked into it, and I feel like I've woken up since I've been out.

COOPER: Was it hard to get out?

HINES: Oh, I had -- definitely had to go through some soul- searching, and decide if I wanted to keep doing that or, um, or just terminate my relationship with that organization. I just packed my bags and went to Port Authority and got on a bus.

COOPER: You didn't tell them. You just disappeared?

HINES: Right, I just disappeared. Because, I know that it's a bit of an ordeal otherwise.

COOPER: What do you think people should know about the Church of Scientology?

HINES: I think that they just need to know everything that they teach and they believe up front. And, that they do have policies such as disconnection. Like the fact I left and now my family, they won't even talk to me.

COOPER: Why won't they talk to you? I mean, what is it that they feel that you have done?

HINES: It's more just the rule.

COOPER: Why do you think it is that so many celebrities seem to be interested in Scientology?

HINES: I don't know the full answer to that. Partly they do promote to celebrities directly. They have the Celebrity Center in Los Angeles.

COOPER: Is there something about sort of empowering the individual, and are those lessons somehow particularly suited to Hollywood celebrities? Is it a message that they somehow, they want to hear that helps them in their career?

HINES: Well, I think so. It does empower the individual, that's one of the big things that's taught. And, it also teaches you to you deal with stresses in life. And you take courses in this, and you learn how to recognize certain kinds of people and how to deal with them, and there are drills in how to communicate with people. And, I can imagine that, for a celebrity, who -- there probably is quite a bit of stress in that sort of lifestyle, I would think, that they find that helpful.

COOPER: It does seem to be kind of a master form of therapy and kind of a long process of therapy. I mean, taking classes and, you know, these e-meters and kind of looking back at childhood incidences. I mean, that sounds very much like therapy, but they're so opposed to therapy.

HINES: And I agree. I think it's just a paradox and I think it's hypocritical.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as always, we don't take sides. We like to examine all sides of the story. We called the Church of Scientology yesterday, they declined to comment. We called them again today and we haven't heard back from them yet. To the violent world of gangs now where drug trafficking and retribution murder are not exactly novelties along the Texas border. Nor is it so rare to find Mexican police officials on the wrong side of the law. It takes a particularly brazen instance of corruption to get noticed here in the U.S. or, in the case, under federal investigation tonight, a disturbing videotape. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a brutal revelation caught on tape. Seven minutes of alleged confessions by members of Mexico's so-called Gulf cartel, played on the Dallas Morning News Web site, believed to have been recorded on May 16th.

On the tape, you see four bloodied men sitting in front of a window covered with black plastic garbage bags. They are handcuffed. Mexican authorities say the men appear to have been tortured. On tape, the men confess that they are enforcers for the Gulf cartel, responsible for kidnapping, torturing and killing their enemies. The men also claim responsibility for the recent high profile murder of reporter Guadalupe Escamia. Escamia had been investigating drug cartel violence along the Texas/Mexico border, when she was gunned down outside of the radio station where she worked.

But who's responsible for making this tape, and beating the confessions out of the men? The attorney general's office in Mexico recently announced at rest of ten people, including eight federal agents who work for the AFI, the Mexican equivalent of the FBI and a close partner in the war on drugs. As for the fate of the four bound men? Authorities say at least one was executed, shot in the head.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wow. Well, it is the holiday season, and you're probably trying to figure out what to buy for whom, maybe where to find the best tree. What do you call that tree? Ahead we'll look at the holiday hubbub over what some see as a politically correct threat to Christmas.

Also, breaking news or, perhaps heart breaking news if you're -- well, anyway, news about Brad and Angelina and who could be their child? That's right, their child. Brad Pitt may move for adoption of her children.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): With a wine-colored birthmark on his forehead there's no mistaking Mikhail Gorbachev. The former Soviet president is still a household word. Gorby, the man who helped end the Cold War. In 1985, Gorbachev became Communist Party Chief, the Soviet Union's top job. But, with his charisma and charm he broke the mold, and so did his elegant wife, Raisa.

Creator of Perestroika, reform, and Glasnost, openness, he tried to reshape the Soviet Union. In August, 1991, hard liners attempted a coup. Boris Yeltsin came to his rescue. But, in December of that same year, Gorbachev resigned, and the Soviet Union was dissolved.

A few months later he started the Gorbachev Foundation dedicated to democratic values and raised money for it by starring in an ad for Pizza Hut. He's also founding president of an environmental group called Green Cross International. His wife, Raisa, battled a rare form of leukemia and died in September, 1999.

These days, Gorbachev still travels the world, speaking out on nuclear disarmament, the environment and poverty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Over the next few weeks, maybe you'll be wishing your friends and neighbors a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa or the all inclusive Happy Holidays. It all depends on who you are and who your friend or neighbor happens to be. When it comes to Christmas, however, in particular, some say political correctness has taken over and they're ready to fight back. In Michigan, CNN Faith and Values Correspondent, Delia Gallagher found a family whose front yard literally became a battlefront.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the first silent night the Samona household has had in a while. They and their nativity scene have been at the center of a Christmas controversy.

BETTY SAMONA, MICHIGAN WOMAN WITH NATIVITY SCENE IN HER FRONT YARD: I started crying. How can I take the nativity down? How can I take Mother of God, Mary down? Really, I was surprised.

GALLAGHER: Surprised to receive a letter from the Neighborhood Association, demanding that the Samonas remove the creche in their front yard, or face a fine. For these Iraqi immigrants who came to the United States three decades ago in search of freedom, the letter hit hard.

BETTY SAMONA: We're here in a free country. We are American citizens. We got shocked when we received the letters, you know, how this has happened? GALLAGHER: The home owner's association that governs this Novi, Michigan suburb said the Samonas were in violation of a rule that prohibits lawn ornaments. But the letter did not mention any of the other lawn ornaments. Nothing about removing Santa, or Winnie, or Minnie, just "Please remove the nativity scene display."

JOSEPH SAMONA, SON OF MICHIGAN FAMILY WITH NATIVITY SCENE IN FRONT YARD: A lot of people who don't celebrate Christmas have Winnie the Pooh or have Santa Claus. It's just what Christmas is. What they specifically commented -- the nativity scene.

GALLAGHER: Battles like this have been playing out across the country in what some are calling a war on Christmas. For instance, in the center of Chicago, this is not a Christmas tree. Officially it's a holiday tree. In Boston, it was a holiday tree until there was such a huge ruckus the mayor declared it's going to be a Christmas tree as long as I'm around.

In stores like Target and Wal-Mart, shoppers are generally greeted with Happy Holidays. Although both stores say it's up to the individual greeter. Here in the Time Warner lobby where CNN'S officers are just upstairs, the holiday decorations are striking. Over here, a Kwanzaa table, and on this side the Menorah, and right in between them, a Christmas tree? No. A snowflake tree. To some it's a flat out conspiracy to take Christ out of Christmas, death by political correctness. Not surprisingly, the usual suspects are fighting back.

REV. JERRY FALWELL: ... that breaking man's law enables us to keep God's law.

GALLAGHER: The Reverend Jerry Falwell has a battalion of lawyers poised and ready to keep the Grinch from stealing Christmas. But, not everyone is buying it.

REV. BARRY LYNN, REPRESENTATIVE, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: There's no one trying to eradicate Christmas in the United States. This is mainly a fund-raising gimmick for a couple of right of center interest groups. Anybody who wants to put up a private display on their front lawn or wear a T-shirt or a hat or a pin to school has my full support, even if the message is religious. No one's trying to stop individual people from exercising their right to celebrate Christmas.

BETTY SAMONA: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

GALLAGHER: Which brings us back to the Samonas. Their story has a happy ending. The Neighborhood Association sent a letter of apology saying "We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience or distress this confusion has caused you and your family." That means the Samonas can keep their creche.

JOSEPH SAMONA: We did accept the apology, after we received it. That still doesn't mean we're not upset.

GALLAGHER: Upset, but willing to forgive. FRANK SAMONA, MICHIGAN MAN WITH NATIVITY SCENE IN FRONT YARD: Christmas time is all about love and care and forgiveness. So we do forgive them, and we put this behind us, and we want to move on with our lives.

GALLAGHER: Now that's the Christmas, I mean holiday spirit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It does seem sort of moronic that they would specifically say you got to remove this Nativity scene, if they have some ban, a general ban against, you know, holiday ornaments. I mean, if you have a ban against holiday ornaments, you should ban all holiday ornaments. It sort of violates the whole Christmas spirit.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, well, I think that that's the point. That a lot of people are kind of confused as to what is allowed, what isn't allowed, what are the rights here, and there, and this was a sort of housing association so they had their own set of details about what was going to be allowed and not allowed. So this is an argument going on in schools and in counties all across the nation. But, you're right, that a lot of people say, well, it's not really in the Christmas spirit to be arguing about Christmas. And I did hear that from a lot of people, that really there shouldn't be any argument here. But, I think there is the other side which says, well, there's something at stake. There are certain rights that people have, and maybe just even aside from rights, just a kind of PC run amok.

COOPER: I still don't understand how a community organization can arbitrarily say no to a Nativity scene, but Santa's okay. But, we'll just have to -- obviously, they backed off so clearly, it was a conflict.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, they did. They apologized for that and they said they can keep the Nativity scene.

COOPER: All right, Delia, thanks very much. I want to thank our international viewers for watching tonight.

Coming up next, though, her new face made headlines tonight. We'll get a first glimpse of the woman, and hear from doctors who performed the historic partial face transplant. Plus, one-on-one with Bill Clinton; some key members of his party are calling for a quick withdrawal out of Iraq. What does Former President Clinton think about that? I'll show you more in my exclusive interview with him. Also, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are making headlines tonight. As far as we know they're not married, they're not even engaged, but they want to share custody of the kids. Brad Pitt has petitioned to be their adoptive father. We'll have the latest. You're watching 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: You're watching "360." Tonight her face transplant made history. Now, we get a first glimpse of the woman who doctors say is recovering well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Our first glimpse at the woman whose face has made headlines. She survived the surgery, and tonight we see her as she faces the world, and herself, for the first time.

How can this happen? A doctor with a record of sexual abuse going back to the '70s still allowed to practice medicine. His patients are stunned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I realized ewww, I have just been molested. I have just been violated.

COOPER: Tonight we investigate the man some call Dr. Molester.

And Oprah and Dave kiss and make up. But, whatever happened to good old-fashioned celebrity feuds? Tonight we'll show you the best and worst celebrity grudge matches of all-time.

ANNOUNCER: This is Anderson Cooper 360, live from the CNN studios in New York. Here's Anderson Cooper.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Good evening. The world's most famous surgical patient going home with a new face. That story coming up. But, first the headlines at this moment. A tragic trip that started in New Hampshire may have ended near an Ohio interstate. Two bodies have been found. Their identities still not confirmed. They may be Sara and Phil Gehring, however; victims of their own father who claimed to have killed them and buried them, before taking his own life in jail. Police say the site matched Gehring's description of where he buried the bodies.

Confirmation today from the U.S.-led coalition that has been paying to have its own articles run articles in Iraqi papers saying the practice is customary there. It's part of an effort to counter misinformation and propaganda in their words. Senator John Warner, Chair of the Armed Services Committee, is concerned. After he met with Pentagon officials, he said, "They don't have all the facts."

Teenage boys, start your engines. A federal judge has ruled that a new Illinois law banning the sale of certain video games is unconstitutional. Games like "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" has supporters of the law upset over what they saw as violence and sexually explicit scenes. The judge said there wasn't a compelling enough reason like preventing imminent violence to restrict protected speech.

It is already possible, and has been for some time, for a plastic surgeon to alter, radically alter, someone's appearance, feature by feature by feature, producing what amounts to a new face. But, there is a big difference between something that amounts to a new face, and an actual new face. A face once recognized by friends and family as belonging to a certain individual suddenly appearing in another life on another person. That's what's happened today.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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