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Rahm Emanuel to Leave White House?; Politics and Distorting the Truth; Civilians in Afghanistan Killed For Sport?

Aired September 27, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching.

We begin with the breaking news. As you mentioned, Larry, President Obama's right-hand man, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, all but certain to be stepping down. Sources say he will running for mayor of Chicago. We have got two of the best political team on television to talk about it, what it means for the White House, Alex Castellanos, Paul Begala weigh in.

Also, politicians distorting the truth in hopes of winning your vote. You are going to see which politicians are playing fast and loose with the facts, and how they selectively edit videotape in their commercials to do it. We're "Keeping Them Honest," a Democrat and Republican.

And later: Eddie Bernice Johnson, remember her? She is the Democratic lawmaker who steered money that was supposed to help needy kids go to college. She steered it into the pockets of her own relatives. Well, she says she's taken responsibility, but eve time search talks about it, she refuses to take blame or even clearly explain what happened.

She's spoken about it again today. And her story this time, it's pretty stunning.

And tonight: a picture of mayhem in Afghanistan, with civilians killed for sports, body parts kept as souvenirs and troops in fear for their lives if anyone talked.

All of that in the hour ahead, but we begin with the breaking news: Rahm Emanuel leaving the White House.

Joining me now are Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. And we should point out, Alex is currently advising GOP campaigns. And Paul of course advises Democratic campaigns.

Paul, what about this? Rahm Emanuel leaving, what do you make of it?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I think it's highly likely, Anderson.

He's talking to some of his close friends. I have to say, I have to disclose I'm one of them. I'm a dear friend of Rahm's. The president, when Rahm leaves -- and I think he's pretty certain to and likely to run for mayor -- the president is going to lose his right arm. The guy -- without Rahm, I don't think we would have health care. And 30 million Americans will have health care because of Rahm.

I don't think we would have had the Wall Street reforms, which are going to be tough new rules of the road up there in Wall Street. I don't think we would have had the stimulus package, now pretty unpopular with a lot of Americans, but it saved millions of jobs and probably kept us from going into a Great Depression.

This president is an able guy. He will find more people to serve him. But Rahm has been the indispensable man in the White House for two years.

COOPER: Alex, was he a good chief of staff, or has he been a failure?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think he's been a good chief of staff and a moderating influence on the Obama administration.

I mean, he's known as a pragmatist, a level-headed guy. And, after all, why wouldn't you want to go be mayor of Chicago, as opposed to staying in Washington? There's so much more political longevity in Chicago. You can stay politically active and vote there even after you die.


CASTELLANOS: So it's a great retirement system.

But, no, it's going to be interesting now to see who he is replaced with, because if he's replaced with an ideologue, it will move the administration considerably to the left. If he's replaced with a Panetta or a Podesta, then I think you will see someone of stature go in there.

And that will be, again, another leveling influence. But, basically, they need another Rahm.

COOPER: Peter -- sorry -- Paul, what about -- what is going on behind the scenes at the White House? Is there an exodus? I mean, you have David Axelrod going to be leaving to start to run campaign. We have had other high-profile people leaving. Summers is leaving.

What's going on? I mean, is this just the normal course of events?

BEGALA: Absolutely.

COOPER: Or is there a cleaning of house?

BEGALA: The average tenure for a senior White House official is 18 months. And we're past that 18-month mark already. It's always the case that, at two years, people turn around. And I think it's very good. I think it's good for this White House or for any White House. I think this president actually has a terrific team. But there's plenty more people. Even though I said Rahm is the indispensable man, as soon as I said that, I thought of what Charles de Gaulle said about his aides.

He said, the graveyards are filled with indispensable men. So, you know, all of us who have served a president do so for just a brief time, and at his pleasure. So...

COOPER: I want to bring in John King, who is the phone, who broke this story for us.

John, what do we know?

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": We know that there will be announcements on Friday, Anderson. And we know that Rahm Emanuel has told close friends, I believe, including that guy Paul Begala, who is just being nice to his friend there, and some other senior Democrats inside the White House, obviously, that he's all but certain to run.

And the calculation is, you don't announce you're running for mayor of Chicago in a press release or an event at the White House. You resign from the White House, and you go home to Chicago, and you make your announcement there.

There are a few things they need to work out, but they already have the shell of a campaign team in place. And it looks like Rahm Emanuel will be gone as early as Friday. The White -- that Pete Rouse, who is a longtime Obama adviser, will step up as the interim chief of staff.

And it looks like we will have quite an interesting race for mayor of Chicago.

COOPER: And any idea, John, about who may become permanent chief of staff?

KING: There's been a lot of speculation about that inside the White House, some people could get boosted up. There's a lot of encouragement coming -- and it would be a good question of Mr. Begala -- from Democrats outside the White House.

Do they need some new blood? Maybe the former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. This has been a relatively insular group, though, so the expectation is they will pick from within. But there's a lot pressure to maybe look outside. And some say they wish they could make this decision after the midterm elections, where the president might have a bit more of a sober view.

COOPER: Paul, you want to weigh in that, on who should be it?

BEGALA: First off, John is -- no, not who should be it. That's up to the president. John's reporting is very good. It's spot-on, so far as I can discern. And I hate to admit that, because I always like to correct him.

And some of the names you hear bandied about include Tom Daschle, as he said, the former Senate majority leader, Tom Donilon, who is one of the top aides on the National Security Council and a veteran Washingtonian.

And then the two that Alex mentioned, before, John Podesta, who was chief of staff, the final chief of staff for President Clinton, and Leon Panetta, who had preceded John by a couple of chief of staffs, now the CIA director.

These are able people. We talk about this a lot in Washington all the time. The truth is, staff comes and staff goes. As a staffer, I always prided myself in knowing the difference between the organ grinder and the monkey, right? And I was just the monkey. And these staff monkeys come and go.

CASTELLANOS: And, Anderson, this is really an important moment, though, for the president, because he's had to deal with an unruly Democratic Congress.

You know, it's almost there's nothing worse than success in Washington, and he's had to placate a Congress that is led by Democrats that are really a little farther to the left than the mainstream of the country. That may change in November.

We will wait and see. But, if indeed Republicans do capture the House, the president has a chance here to start over, to start fresh with a new chief of staff that can work with both sides of the aisle. And that -- that will be one of the tests, I think, that people look and see, who does he appoint?

COOPER: Alex, Paul, stay with us. We're going to come back to you in just a moment.

John King, appreciate the reporting.

Now our "Keeping Them Honest" report: politicians distorting the truth, doing whatever it takes to get your vote. Five weeks away now from the midterm elections, and two new campaign ads distort the facts through clever editing.

One ad belongs to a Democrat, one to a Republican. We're calling them out tonight because anyone who wants your vote and your trust shouldn't try to get it by insulting your intelligence with trickery.

The first ad is by Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida, running against Daniel Webster, whom he calls Taliban Dan.


REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: I'm Congressman Alan Grayson, and I approve this message. NARRATOR: Religious fanatics try to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, in Iran, and right here in Central Florida.

DANIEL WEBSTER (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Wives, submit yourself to your own husband.

NARRATOR: Daniel Webster wants to impose his radical fundamentalism on us.

WEBSTER: She should submit to me. That's in the Bible.

NARRATOR: Webster tried to deny battered women medical care and the right to divorce their abusers.

WEBSTER: Submit to me.

NARRATOR: He wants to force raped women to bear the child.

WEBSTER: Submit to me.

NARRATOR: Taliban Dan Webster, hands off our bodies and our laws.


COOPER: Now, labeling your opponent the Taliban is obviously deeply offensive and just flat-out wrong. Taliban stone people to death, murder American troops.

Is this what really passes for political discourse today? If a Republican did this to a Democrat, liberals would be outraged. It's a low blow.

But what's also false this ad is the way Congressman Grayson has edited Mr. Webster's statements, repeatedly him playing saying, "She should submit to me, submit to me." It sounds all very ominous.

We asked the Webster campaign for the context of those statements, and they sent us this video of the full statement Mr. Webster made to a conservative religious group about keeping a journal and writing down verses from the Bible.


WEBSTER: Find a verse. I have a verse for my wife. I have verses for my wife. Don't pick the ones that say, "She should submit to me." That's in the Bible. But pick the ones that you're supposed to do.


WEBSTER: So, instead, that you love your wife, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, and as opposed to, wives, submit yourself to yourself to your own husband.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So, whatever you may think of Mr. Webster and his belief and politics, the actual statement he's making is not the ominous command to women portrayed in Grayson's commercial.

The other clever editing job is on the Republican side from Ilario Pantano, North Carolina war veteran.


STONE PHILLIPS, NBC ANCHOR: Ilario Pantano described by one superior as having more integrity, dedication and drive than any Marine he's ever met.

ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You served in Gulf I. You got out. You got a big great job, a beautiful wife, and a kid. Then 9/11 happens. You came home. Your hair is shaved off. You're ready to head back into a war zone to help America.

ILARIO PANTANO (R), NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm Ilario Pantano. And I'm ready to head to war a third time, except, this time, it's for the soul of our country, and I need your help to take the Congress back.


COOPER: Now, a few problems there.

What Stone Phillips said wasn't all that he actually said. The end is cut off. The full line goes like this.

"Ilario Pantano, described by one superior as having more integrity dedication and drive than any Marine he's ever met, but now he's charged with murder."

Pantano, you see, was indicted in murder of two Iraqis. And even though the charges were dropped for lack of evidence, Stone Phillips wasn't exactly praising Lieutenant Pantano in the clip that was wound up in his ad, nor was Ann Curry. Her clip was, well, clipped.

What she actually said was, you got a great job. You got a great big job at Goldman Sachs. Apparently, working at Goldman Sachs is something that Mr. Pantano would rather voters not know, for some reason.

Back with me now is Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos.

Paul, what about the Democrat Grayson's ad? I mean, his mantra has been to play hardball, but this is the second time in a week Grayson's attack ads have gotten him in trouble.

BEGALA: Yes. Well, look, first off, you don't compare another American to the Taliban. I mean, I screamed louder than anybody when Saxby Chambliss, this dirtbag senator from Georgia, became a senator by accusing Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, of lacking courage. And he ran an ad that compared Cleland to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. I don't see where this ad is a heck of a lot better. You don't compare somebody to the Taliban. It's nuts.

And then you're right. That edit job on that speech was deeply dishonest.

You know, I think he can win on the issues, if those votes -- I haven't looked them up -- if the votes he cites are accurate, that's enough to run on. In other words, if the guy did oppose divorce for abused women, that's a pretty important issue. You don't need to gild the lily by misleading edits.

COOPER: He -- he -- by the way, there was a covenant marriage proposal that he had submitted in a state senate that got rejected. And that's where they get that.

Alex, what about Pantano's ad? I mean, obviously, the guy has served our country. Why reedit news clips?

CASTELLANOS: It's the wrong thing to do. He shouldn't have done it.

He drew attention to the messenger and not to the message. He has got a good story to tell, but now he has brought his own integrity and credibility into question. Shouldn't have it.

He can tell his story. I don't know this candidate at all. But, from what I have heard of him, here's a guy who put his life on the line for his country who made a -- you know, dozens of phone calls to parents of kids in his unit to let them know that, hey, they're not coming home.

So, he's -- you know, before we condemn this fellow, we should -- we should walk in his shoes for a little bit. But this was just a political mistake. And more campaigns are lost like this by overreaching than are ever won by the people who do it.


And I -- and we're not -- I'm not condemning -- you know, the guy has served and served honorably and stuff, and the charges were -- were dropped for lack of evidence against him.

It's just, in a commercial, to make it sound like Stone Phillips is saying one thing, and then he's actually saying something else, just seems kind of odd.

CASTELLANOS: Yes, very odd, and especially when what you're trying to sell is your integrity.

And when you do have a good story to tell, tell it. Draw attention to it, not to your credibility in telling it.

But, in regards to Alan Grayson, Anderson, I think he's the only congressman legally required to wear a bright red nose when he's on the floor of the House.


CASTELLANOS: He's an unusual fellow.

Grayson is -- is really the Howard Stern of Congress. And one of the things we're seeing this year is, Democrats are running on local issues, and they're running against, you know, the specifics of their opponent, because they can't really run on national issues.

They can't say: President Obama endorsed me. I voted for the health care plan. Look what I have done for the economy.

Some Democrats are doing it the right way. They're drawing differences, whether on local issues or things like that. Some Democrats are doing it the wrong way, like Alan Grayson. And, ultimately, again, it's easier to lose an election than to win one.

This is a district that voted for Obama. It may swing Republican this year.

BEGALA: Here's what I'm looking for in this, though, Anderson. It's going to be interesting. Will these misleading edit jobs by these two candidates, one a Democrat, one a Republican, will it actually hurt them?

Hey, Alex and I confidently tell you that it will because all of our vast experience tells us that. We're in a new media age right now, though, Anderson, like I need to tell you, right?

Too many Americans, if you ask me, too many voters, especially, use the media like a drunk uses a lamppost, you know, more for support than illumination. They're not interested in really getting the facts or keeping people honest. They're more interested in simply confirming what they already believe.

And it may be that, in this new media environment, if you're a Republican, you can say anything you want and the Republicans will like you.

COOPER: Right.

BEGALA: If you're a Democrat, say -- I hope -- this will be an interesting test case -- I hope this -- this -- this works -- or this does not work.

CASTELLANOS: I think -- Paul, you know, I think the American people are -- you know, they're still pretty good on juries. There's a reason we trust them.

And they're pretty good as voters. And more information, even when some of it is wrong, they still manage to sort it out.


CASTELLANOS: You know, what Grayson is doing, he is making a very good case of why this election is important to Alan Grayson. He's not made a very good case why this is important -- is -- you know, voting for him is important to the voters.

COOPER: Guys, I got to run.


BEGALA: Well, same as Pantano. Same with Pantano.

I mean, the -- if the editing wasn't so dishonest, I would call foul on this line that says, "I'm going to save the soul of America in Congress"?

Please. Please. Mr. Pantano, the soul of America is not in Congress, not going to be saved by Congress.


COOPER: Paul, Alex...

CASTELLANOS: Begala calls Democrat-controlled Congress soulless.



COOPER: That's the headline?


BEGALA: ... defends trial by jury, which is kind of a new thing for Republicans.


COOPER: Paul, Alex, appreciate it, guys.

BEGALA: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Let us know what you think. The live chat is up and running right now at

Are these ads just completely dishonest? Does it annoy you? Let us know.

Up next: The congresswoman who turned scholarship donations into money for her relatives, we have been following her story. Well, she is speaking out again tonight, and her story keeps changing, and it just keeps making us scratch our heads. We will tell you why ahead.

And later, find out how opponents of a mosque in Tennessee are trying to stop it. They're in the courtroom today. We will find out if their legal strategy will work, some controversial claims in court about the -- about Islam and terror. We will talk to that.

A lot more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: New developments tonight in a scandal involving two Democratic congresspeople and scholarships they were supposed to be awarding to needy kids.

The scholarships were from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. But it turns out, for many years, these two congresspeople were awarding their own relatives and the relatives of their staff with some of the money. Sanford Bishop is a congressman from Georgia who reportedly seven scholarships to his stepdaughter and wife's niece and, according to the AP, also gave scholarships to those who had ties to his wife, who is the municipal court clerk in Columbus, Georgia.

He's paid the money back, but says he did nothing wrong. He also refuses to talk about it, though we continue to invite him.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson gave a lot more money to her relatives and staffers' relatives. She's a Democrat from Texas who, according to "The Dallas morning News," gave away 23 scholarships to family and friends worth about $31,000.

She's also repaid the money, but her story keeps changing. We invited her on tonight, but we're told she's not talking about it anymore. We can sort of understand why, because, every time she does talk, she just raises more questions.

See, in the past, she said she was sorry, didn't know the rules of the scholarships, and says she took responsibility for it. But today, when she spoke about it with "The Dallas Morning News," she not only refused to apologize. She actually denied she had violated any rules.

Weeks ago, she blamed her Dallas staff for awarding these scholarships to her relatives. Today, she was asked by the paper if anybody on her staff ever concluded they were giving money to the congresswoman's relatives.

Listen to what she said.


REP. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON (D), TEXAS: If it had been a rule against it, it was discussed. If it had been any rule against it, it wouldn't have happened. I didn't do anything I was trying to hide.


COOPER: She just had surgery, which is why she's wearing a neck brace.

She said, if there had been a rule against it -- if. Now, she knows there was a rule against it. When we spoke with her on this program a couple of weeks ago, we showed her the 2008 scholarship application. This is it. It says -- and I quote -- "Employees and/or relatives of CBC members, CBC spouses, the CBC Foundation, the board of directors are ineligible for the scholarship program."

And take a look. This is the 2006 guidelines. It says the exact same thing. So, even is if she didn't know, her staff must have been known, because they reviewed each -- each completed application. And her grandkids and others who got the money, they would have known because they signed the application saying they were not relatives.

So, even if she didn't know about the rules back then, she certainly knew today, because we told her about the rules weeks ago. Yet she still told the paper today, if there were any rules -- if.

It's a simple fact. There clearly were rules, and she violated them. In an interview with us weeks ago, she claimed she didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to get her relatives a few thousands dollars. She said she was too busy doing important work.

But since then, this letter has surfaced that certainly seems to indicate she was a lot more involved than she admitted, this letter bearing her signature on her letterhead written to the scholarship people asking that the money be sent to her relatives, not the school they were going to.

"Mrs. Meek," it says, "please accept the enclosed scholarship checks for Preston and Gregory Moore" -- those are her great-nephews. The letter goes on to ask, "If possible, I would like their checks be made out to them, instead of the university. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. Eddie Bernice Johnson."

So, listen to how she explained this today to "The Dallas Morning News."


JOHNSON: I did not sign the letter. Apparently, it was done from my district office. I haven't even seen it close enough to even detect whose handwriting it was. I just knew it wasn't mine.


COOPER: So, she says someone else signed the letter. Now, if that's true -- and let's just assume that's true -- that means she either asked someone in her office to sign the letter under her name, so her relatives could get the money directly, or someone in her office just took it upon themselves to write this letter and forge her name, so her relatives could get the money.

Now, why someone on her staff would care enough to do that, to award the relatives, I cannot fathom. Apparently, Ms. Johnson doesn't care enough about this to actually investigate. And she certainly doesn't want to talk to us anymore about it, though the invitation still stands.

So, joining us now is We have Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, also Todd Gillman, who has been reporting on this from beginning and broke the story for "The Dallas Morning News." Todd, it does seem like her story keeps changing every time she talks.

TODD GILLMAN, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": She -- she has offered extremely contradictory versions of what she felt was going on. She says she takes full responsibility. But then she says she didn't violate any rules.

It's not really clear to me why she would have gone to the pain of cutting a $31,000 check to the foundation if she really maintains that no rules were violated.

COOPER: Melanie, I mean, clearly, she broke the foundation rules. What about this strikes you, from an ethics standpoint?


The first thing that strikes me is, sometimes, you shouldn't even need a rule. It's pretty clearly wrong to misappropriate scholarship money for your kids and grandkids, when it's intended for needy kids.

Secondly, she's clearly lying. When she's coming back and saying she didn't know the rules, she didn't understand the rules, that's a lie. She's lying again when she says she didn't sign the letter. All of these things are -- are obviously untrue. And Ms. Johnson is just refusing to take responsibility, which is what so many people are sick of in our Washington politicians.

We want them to take responsibility for their actions and we want them to exhibit the values of honesty and integrity that are so important.

COOPER: Todd, also, amazingly, she seems to be blaming you for actually just doing this reporting and doing your job.

I want to play some of what -- what else she had to say today to your paper.


JOHNSON: Everybody in the office knew that Gillman was always looking for something negative on me, everybody. This office and the Washington office all knew that.

When my -- when a national organization I belong to wrote to CNN, they said "The Dallas Morning News" asked them to do the story, to -- to that national president. So, you know, it was -- it is clear that it was orchestrated.


COOPER: So, on the one hand, she says she takes responsibility. On the other hand, she's basically blaming you, saying this is sort of part of a conspiracy. GILLMAN: I can attest that nobody -- certainly, I and nobody that I'm aware of from "The Dallas Morning News" ever asked you or anyone from CNN to cover this story. I think you...


COOPER: See, I didn't even understand -- is that what she was saying -- is that what she was saying? Because I didn't even understand the...


COOPER: ... what she is saying. OK. Well, that is absurd.


GILLMAN: She was alleging right there -- she was alleging that we tried to engage CNN to get you to cover this story.



GILLMAN: She was blaming me. Just for fun, I went back into our library. I have been with "The Dallas Morning News" 21 years. The first time I wrote about her was in about 1992.

And I, for the life of me, have no idea what she's talking about where she thinks that I have had some vendetta against her.

COOPER: And we...


GILLMAN: It just doesn't make sense.

It's a time-honored tradition for politicians to blame the messenger. But it also kind of obviates what her core message is, which is: I take responsibility.

COOPER: Right.

GILLMAN: Either she takes responsibility or she's blaming the messenger. And so I'm not really clear how those two things jibe.

COOPER: And, for the record, I have never met you in my life. I have now talked to on TV a couple of times. And I read your story in the paper and thought, this is an amazing story. And that's why we started to do it.

There's no sort of collusion here.

Melanie, you have actually talked to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. We had -- with -- their spokesperson on a while ago, who said they were going to do an internal investigation. They're now saying they say they don't want to talk about it anymore, at least publicly.

Are they doing anything? Because, basically, it's been revealed now that two members of Congress who belong to the Congressional Black Caucus were -- were misusing the funds from this. We have no idea how many more there may be, but -- but it doesn't seem like the Congressional Black Caucus are the ones out in front revealing this stuff.

SLOAN: No, they don't seem to be out in front on it. But I did go over there and I did meet with them, Dr. Elsie Scott, after talking about this on your show a couple of weeks ago. And it is clear that the foundation is very troubled by this.

They feel that they trusted the wrong people. They relied on congresspeople to follow the rule. And I guess what they really need is to trust, but verify. So, they were deeply troubled. They are auditing the system and they're thinking about ways that they can revamp their scholarship program, so that it can be more appropriately monitored...

COOPER: Right.

SLOAN: ... and they can make sure that scholarships are given to the kids they intend to get them.

COOPER: Todd, very quickly, what -- what to you are the biggest unanswered questions right now that you would like answers to?

GILLMAN: I -- I would say the very biggest unanswered question for -- for the congresswoman is a question which my editorial board colleagues in Dallas did pose to her, which is, how did your grandsons and great-nephews find out about this scholarship program, if not by you discussing it with them?

She -- she does -- she's yet to answer, and -- and they have yet to -- to give interviews as to how they come to find out about this. And -- and the biggest question for the foundation, I think, is how much more widespread this was. Who reviewed the documents? Who should have reviewed the documents more closely, the applications, and the processes, to make sure that this didn't happen?

COOPER: I -- it seems to me...


SLOAN: And, Anderson, let's not...

COOPER: Go ahead.

SLOAN: ... let Sanford Bishop get off the -- Sanford Bishop off the hook here. He, too, has behaved outrageously in response to these scholarships that were awarded to people who worked with his wife.

And it seems like he, too, wasn't announcing the scholarships, allowing people to apply widely. And, really, both of these members are to be condemned for their actions. COOPER: And, also, we should point out, are not talking about it. I mean, we -- we -- I mean, the media was all over Christine O'Donnell, and we were as well, for not coming forward and talking to the press. These folks are -- are running for cover on this thing, and saying they did nothing wrong and have no reason to talk about it.

Our invitation stands to both Congressman Bishop and Congressman Johnson.

Todd, appreciate you being on as well, and Melanie as well -- Melanie Sloan and Todd Gillman.

UP ahead tonight: controversial court testimony in a legal attempt to stop a mosque from expanding in Tennessee. Allegations about mosques and the of Sharia law, you're going to hear from the man making those charges, as well as a leading scholar of Islam.

Also tonight, what one of the five American soldiers accused of killing unarmed Afghans told investigators.


JEREMY MORLOCK, U.S. ARMY: And, you know, he pulled out one of his grenades, American grenade, you know, popped it, throws the grenade, and then tells me and Winfield, "All right dude, you know, wax this guy." Kill this guy, kill this guy.



COOPER: Coming up, trouble in flight caught on tape. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay down! Heads down! Stay down!


COOPER: Take you inside a flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in New York over the weekend. We'll have more of the cell phone video and show you the scary moments the passengers and crew faced.

First, though, Randy Kaye is following some other stories for the "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, harsh words from a commission investigating the government's response to the BP oil spill.

The panel said the repeated low estimates of the huge spill undermined public confidence in the entire cleanup effort. One of the co-chairs compared the botched estimates to Custer's disastrous decisions at Little Bighorn. Another co-chair said he found it disturbing that government officials still don't have a plan on how oil flow will be analyzed in future spills.

In Colombia County, Wisconsin, tonight, a state of emergency after a levee failed along the Wisconsin River. Up to 100 homes could be hit by floodwaters near the city or Portage. The aging levee system is under pressure after last week's heavy rains.

And a California police officer is on paid administrative leave after this video surfaced showing him allegedly faking the arrest of a teenage boy he believed was having sex with his 14-year-old daughter. The boy's parents made this video. We got it from the "San Jose Mercury" newspaper. On the tape, the officer is heard lecturing the boy. Just listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. So you are better off -- not hanging out with who -- Growing up and being in high school, a cop's daughter is not someone you mess around with. You're stupid.


KAYE: And there you have it. "You're stupid" is what he said in that lecture.

COOPER: All right, Randi. We'll check in with you for another update ahead.

Still ahead, though, new developments in the battle to stop a mosque from being built. Not the one near Ground Zero. This battle is in Tennessee. It's already escalated to arson and vandalism. A hearing in court today. We'll tell you about it.

And later a disturbing story. Five American soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians for sports. CNN has obtained videotapes and interrogations. You'll hear what some of them described what they did to unarmed Afghans who they say posed no danger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see him present any weapons or did he -- was he aggressive at you at all? Did he...

MORELOCK: No, not at all. Nothing. He wasn't a threat.


COOPER: Tonight, new developments in a story we've been following in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where plans to expand a mosque have created controversy. After the construction plans were approved back in May, protests soon followed.

Now, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which is building the new mosque, has been part of the community for the last 30 years or so without any problems.

Last month, though, someone set fire to equipment parked at the construction site. That arson investigation continues. And someone else targeted signs at the site.

Now, opponents have filed a lawsuit to block the project. They allege that county officials violated open meeting laws, making the project's approval void. They also argued the planning commission didn't properly vet the backers of the mosque, who they contend may have ties to terrorist sympathizers.

At a hearing today, one witness accused the mosque leaders, including the imam, of being supporters of Sharia law.

Now with us is Frank Gaffney, president of Center for Security Policy. He joins me now, along with Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic studies at American University and a former Pakistani ambassador for the United Kingdom.

Mr. Gaffney, let me start with you. You testified today in court that there are what you called red flags from a security point of view regarding the mosque. What are those red flags?

FRANK GAFFNEY, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Well, several were introduced into evidence during the court proceedings. That speak to this issue that you've touched on which is that the imam and others who are involved in the board of the mosque are proponents of Sharia, this totalitarian program, political military legal program that is absolutely at odds with the Constitution of the United States. In fact, has as its purpose supplanting it.

And that kind of seditious activity is, I believe, a red flag that ought to preclude it from being allowed to operate in Murfreesboro or, for that matter, any other community in the United States.

COOPER: But the idea that -- I mean, this is an imam and people have here for the most part, in this community for many, many years. They've practiced in this community for decades without any problems. And I mean, how are they trying to take over the United States from Murfreesboro, Tennessee?

GAFFNEY: Well, I don't think I suggested that they're trying to take it over from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I'm suggesting that it's places like Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They are promoting a program that is at odds with our freedoms, our form of government, our Constitution and, to the extent as we've seen in Europe, for example, that this kind of agenda follows the trajectory that it has elsewhere around the world.

It ultimately winds up becoming a cancer inside a society. No-go zones are typically associated with it where the authorities dare not go. Sharia law is practiced in those no-go zones. They are expanded in due course. And ultimately, you have the groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom many of these mosques and for that matter, Muslim-American organizations of any note, are associated, pursuing a mission that we know, from evidence introduced into another federal trial, is to destroy western civilization from within. If that's -- that's really worrying.

COOPER: Ambassador Ahmed, what do you make of what Mr. Gaffney is alleging?

AHMED: Well, I think that there is an atmosphere and a cloud of distrust and fear happening over the Muslim community. And I'm concerned about this. In fact, we have this particular mosque last year. I went with my team to Columbia in Tennessee, also, where the mosque had been firebombed.

So it isn't just an isolated case and that is why I applaud Abe Foxman and the ADF, who have come out with the committee. The committee exclusively to defend and protect mosques throughout the United States of America, and I'm privileged to be a member of that committee.

COOPER: Do you believe this mosque in Murfreesboro is trying to -- it wants to institute Sharia law in the United States?

AHMED: Anderson, I want you to ask yourself this question, and I'm sure your mathematics is better than mine. If every Muslim in the United States of America, which is about 2 percent of the population, wanted Sharia -- which is not the case at all -- even if they wanted it, could they impose it over a population of 98 percent who are not Muslim in a democracy?

In my country where I come from, Pakistan, 98 percent of the population is Muslim. There is no Sharia law. I've been a commissioner in charge of large parts of the country. Our laws are criminal and civil procedure codes derived from British colonial law which go to Westminster, which in turn has influenced the U.S. Constitution.

So the notion of Sharia being implemented in America with about 2 percent of the population, to me, is mathematically absurd.

COOPER: Mr. Gaffney, what about that? I mean...

GAFFNEY: Well, I don't think he answered your question. What is, of course, the case is that today, the numbers of Muslims in America and, indeed, the numbers of Muslims in America that are promoting Sharia are very small, blessedly. This is the time to stop them from trying to move this country in a direction that we dare not have it go. If we in fact...

COOPER: But what evidence do you have that the folks in Murfreesboro are part of this plot linked to the Muslim Brotherhood? I mean, it seems...

GAFFNEY: I -- I've suggested that some of the evidence was introduced in the trial. We have an imam who was trained in al-Azar (ph), the central academic institution of Sharia in the world.

We have members of the mosque board, who promote Hamas in demonstrations and through their public statements.

We have people associated with the mosque who, I think, make no bones about their preference for Sharia. In fact, that is what the authorities of Islam say they are supposed to do.

And this is the problem. Just a second. This is the problem. What Sharia commands is jihad. And in Pakistan as elsewhere, we see that it's taking the form of the violent kind of jihad and, indeed, Sharia law is being encroached into the Pakistani system and, indeed, other systems around the world.

But also, the stealth jihad and this is the real problem with places like this mosque in Murfreesboro. You have stealth jihadists at work, trying to advance the situation.

COOPER: But the FBI investigated.

GAFFNEY: Most of our government is ignoring it.

TENNESSEE: , apparently, investigated the board member you're talking about there were comments made on his my space page and no charges were brought. Ambassador, just because the imam went to this university in Egypt, should that be a red flag?

AHMED: Of course not, Anderson. This is the oldest university in the Muslim world. It's 1,000 years old. It's expected to teach Islamic jurisprudence. I went to a Catholic school in north Pakistan. Does this mean that I owe allegiance to the pope? That's absurd.

Any university in the Muslim world, any university in the Catholic world would teach its own laws, the laws of their particular religion. If this imam has violated the laws of America -- can I please finish? -- if the imam has violated the laws of the land, if he's a threat to the security, the land the authorities should act.

But unless we know whether he, in fact, has been promoting -- and I'm not even sure what this concept means: "promoting the Sharia." The Sharia is an abstract. It's a discipline slicing from watching history. That's like saying promoting history or biology or mathematics.

What does that mean? When I pointed out that the total population here is about 2 percent of the country. How can this tiny percentage impose the Sharia on 98 percent of the population?

COOPER: Unfortunately, we've got to go.

GAFFNEY: The answer is in this report

AHMED: Read my book, "Journey into America: The challenge of Islam.

And disinformed, as you were by the ambassador.

AHMED: Yes, yes. And by Mr. Gaffney and his scholarship.

COOPER: I appreciate.

GAFFNEY: It's all in the faction. I appreciate your perspectives. Investor Ahmed and Frank Gaffney as ell -- thank you.

Up next, did U.S. soldiers kill Afghan civilians for sport? Drew Griffin investigates.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want you to tell me that this didn't happen. That this isn't true. Can you?


COOPER: Hear his answers; plus, how the soldiers themselves explain what happened on interrogation tapes obtained by CNN. Tonight, "Crime & Punishment" report.

Also ahead, panic in the sky when a plane forced to make an emergency landing. The dramatic cell phone video coming up.


COOPER: We're going to show you some videotapes in a moment that are very disturbing for any American to see. Disturbing not because of anything they show but because of what you hear a handful of our soldiers speak about doing.

Today hearings began for first of five American soldiers facing murder charges, accused of killing three Afghan civilians. In the interrogation tapes you'll see a painted picture of a rogue band of American infantryman who smoked hash at night and killed for sport by day. Their alleged ringleader, a sergeant they say they feared.

Drew Griffin investigates in tonight's -- for tonight's "Special Investigation."


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeremy Morelock is accused of killing three Afghan civilian men. Two by shooting. The third, which is described to a military investigator, was literally a set-up he says, by his platoon leader, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then we had this guy by this compound, and so Gibbs, you know, "walked him out and set him in place and like, 'Hey, stand here'."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was fully cooperating?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did he sit him?

Next to a wall. That's where Gibbs could get like behind cover after the grenade went off. And then he kind of placed me and (DELETED) all over here out of line of sight for this guy. And you know, he pulled out one of his grenades, American grenade, you know, pop the it and throws the grenade and then tells me and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) all right, dude, watch this guy.

GRIFFIN: Morelock goes on to describe two more killings. Unarmed Afghan civilians, picked out, stood up, shot, and then blown up with a grenade.

Michael Waddington is Corporal Jeremy Morelock's civilian attorney.

I want you to tell me that this didn't happen, that members of the U.S. military didn't go out and three Afghan civilians were killed for sport.

MIKE WATTINGTON, ATTORNEY: You have the -- you have the, from what I understand, the case file. I mean, you know what the witnesses in that file say. And what they say in their videos. But that's what it sounds like.

GRIFFIN: To defend his client, Mike Wattington will try to prove Corporal Warlock, already injured in two separate IED attacks, was suffering from brain damage. And instead of treating him, Wattington says the Army drugged him.

(on camera) So your defense is that your client was mentally incapacitated and the Army either knew it or should have known it?

WATTINGTON: The Army knew he had been blown up in two IED attacks, and the Army chose rather than to treat him but to take his weapon, give it back to him for whatever reason and then load him up on drugs.

GRIFFIN: The drugs shown here, distributed in plastic baggies include, included Ambien and Amatrictalyn, both of which cover FDA warnings about producing suicidal interval thoughts, . The trouble began a drug that produce suicidal thoughts. The trouble began he says, in November of 2009 when the striker brigade got a new squad leader, Staff sergeant Calvin Gibbs.

WATTINGTON: When Gibbs showed up at this unit he bragged to the young soldiers underneath him, including my client, about killing innocent people in Iraq.

GRIFFIN: Staff Sergeant Gibbs is charged in all three killings. And witnesses stated it was this new commander who orchestrated, coerced and threatened the Stryker brigade to both kill Afghan civilians and cover up their murders.

And there is something else. The U.S. Army accuses Staff Sergeant Gibbs of collecting teeth, leg bones and fingers as souvenirs.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Did your client see those fingers?

WATTINGTON: He says he did. According to the statement, he did see that happen.

Corporal Emmett Quintado (ph) is charged in five counts of drug abuse, possession of pictures of dead bodies, and of beating a soldier who was trying to warn the Army what was going on. He says the boredom and the stress pushed this platoon to escape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long did the drug use in this unit continue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The smoking of hashish?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably up until about a week and a half ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the way from the beginning of deployment until now?


Prominently? Was it around consistently or what?

QUINTAL: Bad days, stressful days, days that we just needed an escape.

GRIFFIN: CNN has placed several calls to attorneys representing soldiers Emmett Quintal and Adam Kelly. Calls not returned. According to the soldiers' taped interviews, the drugs came from locals who laced hash with opium.

(on camera) This paints a picture of U.S. Army soldiers smoking hash at night, killing Afghans by day. How is it possible that, if this is true, that nobody knew? In authority? Nobody put a stop to it?

That's impossible that nobody knew. I mean, on the ground, if you have a bunch of soldiers walk you around with brain injuries that are drugged up by prescription pain killers and narcotics, and smoking hash and opium on a daily basis, you would be able to know it instantly, if you have any common sense.

One soldier did, apparently, try to warn superiors. that soldier is not charged. corporal Quintal tells investigators that on May, the platoon, under the direction of staff sergeant Gibbs, went to the barracks of the man they believed was a snitch, a narc, and beat him up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was asked ... he wouldn't tell us he narc'd on us why or anything. Pretty much everybody just kind of started striking. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was he sitting before you pulled him off the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On his cot. And they pulled him on to the floor. I didn't strike (DELETED) twice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody take part in it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Just sat down casually and told (DELETED) that if he snitched again he would kill him and that he has killed people before and he has no problems killing again.

At the time Staff Sergeant Gibbs had a cloth. He opened it and dropped it and three human body fingers fell on the ground. At that point I kind of lost my head.


GRIFFIN: Anderson, I must tell you that we did reach out to the attorney for Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs who is being referred to on many of these tapes. Those calls have not been returned to CNN.

COOPER: Has the Pentagon said anything about how this could possibly have happened?

GRIFFIN: No, we asked for an interview. No interview. The only statement we got was the Pentagon questioning our release of these tapes, saying it's going to interfere in the justice these men get. Y

But you heard about the photographs. The Pentagon is very afraid that these photographs, Anderson, will get out. Because as they've been described to me by those who have seen them, they're almost like a hunting trophy photograph of U.S. Army soldiers holding up dead Afghan civilians.

There is a great concern that this will turn into a kind of an Abu Ghraib type incident if those photos get out. The military has asked all the attorneys in this case to return the photographs that were released so they can be in charge of the dissemination of those.

COOPER: I can understand their concern. Drew Griffin. Appreciate it, Drew.

A Delta Airlines pilot hailed as a hero tonight and with good reason. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Heads down. Stay down! Heads down! Stay down!


COOPER: A plane in distress making a successful emergency landing, all captured by one passenger's cell phone video. We'll show it to you ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Randi Kaye has the news bulletin.

KAYE: President Obama signed a $42 billion bill that he says will help small businesses create jobs providing billions in tax credits and creates a $30 billion found for banks to make loans to small businesses.

Southwest Airlines is buying AirTran, its low-cost competitor. AirTran will adopt Southwest's name and its no-fee policies. In return, Southwest will gain a foot hold in AirTran's major destinations like Atlanta, Washington and New York.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: down! Stay down! Heads down! Stay down!


COOPER: Some very frightening moments aboard a Delta Airlines jet on Saturday night as it was forced to make an emergency landing at New York's JFK Airport, all captured on that cell-phone video.

The flight originated in Atlanta and was bound for White Plains, New York, when it developed landing gear problems. Despite the sparks from the right wing, no one was injured, and the pilot hailed as a hero for touching down safely.

Amazing, Anderson, that someone has the presence of mind to take out their cell phone and start recording that instead of assuming that crash position.

COOPER: Yes. Scary stuff. I assume they were in the crash position, as well as shooting.

KAYE: Maybe just holding it. There you go.

COOPER: All right, Randi. Have a good night. A lots more coming up at the top of the hour, including some big breaking news about the almost certain departure of President Obama's closest political confidant.