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Shocking Verdict in Landmark Terror Trial; Will Sarah Palin Run For President?; Amazing Animals: Smarter Than You Think

Aired November 17, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching everyone.

Breaking news tonight: a shocking end to a landmark terror trial. An al Qaeda terrorist who took part in the bombings of two U.S. embassies which killed 224 people is found guilty of just one count, innocent of the murders of 224 people who died in those bombings.

He's the first Guantanamo detainee to stand before civilian court. So, was this a victory, the rule of law, or a travesty of justice? We have the breaking details ahead.

Also tonight, Sarah Palin says, "I am," telling Barbara Walters she is looking at a run for the White House and believes she can beat President Barack Obama. We will show you parts of the interview and the factors that may put Palin on top of all those other Republican candidates.

Also tonight, our series on amazing animals and the scientific research about how they think. Tonight, can apes be taught to communicate using the English language?

It sounds absurd, right? But you're going to meet some scientists who say they have done just that. I met the apes myself and somehow ended up in that bunny costume. If I told you the apes wanted me to wear it, would you believe me? The whole bizarre story later tonight.

We begin, health care with the breaking news, and a stunning verdict in a terror trial. The man accused in the killing of 224 people in the U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa is found guilty by a civilian jury, but of just one of the 285 counts.

He gets off on all the counts of murder. It's important, not just because of the nature of the crime, but because this was seen as a test case for trying terror suspects in civilian courts. The Obama administration certainly had a lot riding on it.

Here's the al Qaeda operative, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, in federal court today. Again, he's the first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in federal criminal court. The jury found Ghailani guilty of only conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property.

He does face a minimum of 20 years behind bars for that conviction, a maximum of life behind bars. All the other charges, including all those murders, he was acquitted on.

The bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, as I said, killed 224 people, including a dozen Americans, wounded thousands of others as well. Ghailani was on the FBI's most-wanted list when he was captured in Pakistan in 2004. He had fled there right before the bombings.

He even at one point had worked as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. He was moved to Guantanamo two years after being captured, until he was transferred to New York in 2009 to face trial in civilian court.

Conservative critics of the use of civilian courts are blasting the Obama administration right now. Tonight, New York Congressman Peter King put out a statement. He's the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security.

He said in a press release -- and I quote -- "I am disgusted at the total miscarriage of justice today in Manhattan's federal civil court -- civilian court." He went on to say, "This tragic verdict demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama administration's decision to try al Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts."

Our question, was this a miscarriage of justice, applying civilian laws to a wartime suspect, eliminating information possibly gotten through torture, or was this a victory of the rule of law, however painful and unsatisfying the verdict? Also, what does it mean for the other cases? Will the Obama administration keep pushing for civilian trials?

Accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other co- conspirators are supposed to face similar trials.

We don't claim to have the answers tonight. That's not our job. That's up to you, really, to decide what you think.

But our guests certainly have some strong opinions.

Joining us now, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who is a former federal prosecutor, national security analyst Peter Bergen, and Kirk Lippold, former commander of the USS Cole, which was bombed in the Yemen port of Aden in 2000. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed. More than 40 others were injured. He joins us on the phone.

Some of the bombing suspects are -- are being held at Gitmo, by the way.

Was this a miscarriage of justice, Jeff?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's important to remember, Ghailani himself is not going anywhere. He got -- he's looking at 20 years, probably life in prison. So, it's not like this guy is walking out the door.

However, this is an extremely disappointing verdict for the Obama administration, and it's a reminder that, when you go to civilian courts, to federal district courts, you don't get a guaranteed result. Juries are unpredictable. And this judge excluded important evidence, which happens, and there was almost an acquittal here.

COOPER: Commander Lippold, what do you think? Is this a complete mischarge of justice?

KIRK LIPPOLD, FORMER COMMANDER, USS COLE: I don't think it was a miscarriage of justice.

I think what you're seeing, though, is a president and an attorney general that attempted to guide a case into the federal court systems, in hopes that it would validate their attempts to delegitimize the military commission's process.

And, unfortunately, the tables got turned on them, and although there was a conviction today, it was only on one count. And, unfortunately, because of their decision to not use military commissions, I think what you're beginning to see is, unfortunately, a revictimization of all these families who lost loved ones in this attack.

COOPER: Well, Commander, as you know, the flip side of the argument is that the reason -- one of the reasons this guy probably only got the one count was because, according to his attorneys, he was tortured, or at least harshly interrogated, in a secret CIA prison, and the information that came out of those interrogations was not admissible in court.

LIPPOLD: To be honest -- honest, Anderson, what I think you're going to see is every attorney that represents any detainee in Gitmo is going to attempt to use the torture defense.

And the reality of it is, with enhanced interrogation techniques, if they term that to be torture, then I think we're fighting an uphill and losing battle in this nation. The reality of it is, evidence that could be gleaned through sources other than what was obtained at a black site could have been admitted as part of a military commissions process, used in that proceeding.

It may have ended up just the same. But the reality of it is, we're trying terrorists at a time when this nation is at war against al Qaeda, and we should use the venues available to us and that are proper and just, which I believe are military commissions.

COOPER: Peter, what -- what's critical about this, too, is you have the possible upcoming trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who, you know, according to many sources, has been water-boarded numerous, numerous times.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, according to the CIA's inspector general report, he's been water-boarded 183 times. So, there's -- I mean, there are two points about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

He's admitted to Al-Jazeera long before he was captured that he masterminded 9/11. He said that also at proceedings at Guantanamo. You know, in a sense, the coercive interrogations he's gone through are sort of moot, because he's admitted his own guilt. However, in legal doctrine, there's something called the fruit of the poison tree, which is that evidence gathered by unconstitutional means can be excluded from trial. And that could complicate putting him in a civilian trial. And certainly Eric Holder, the attorney general, will be looking at what happened today.

And this is going to make any Justice Department lawyer gun-shy of putting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed through a conventional civilian trial. But, I mean, on the other hand, Ghailani will serve up to a life in prison here. He was convicted of a very -- fairly serious crime. Justice was served, by the way.

The reason that he didn't get a larger sentence is because evidence gathered in the course of a coercive interrogation on him was excluded by the judge in this case. So, the American legal system actually worked today. It may not be to everybody's, you know, predilection, but, in the larger scheme of things, justice was served today by this conviction.

And the jury did the right thing with the evidence they were presented. They don't know all the other things that we know about this guy. If they had been told certain things that are probably true, he might have got a bigger sentence.

But, given the evidence they were presented, the evidence that wasn't obtained by coercive interrogations, I think they made the right choice.

COOPER: Commander Lippold, moving forward, do you think any more suspects should be tried in civilian courts?

LIPPOLD: I don't think they should be, Anderson.

I think I have been pretty clear on this. I think we have a military commissions process that's been put into place. It's been adjusted by the Congress in a manner to withstand Supreme Court scrutiny. And I think that the president should authorize charges to be preferred and move forward with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Nashiri, the bomber on the USS Cole.

And we should get these cases going, because justice delayed is justice denied. These families deserve to see these people held accountable for their murderous acts.

COOPER: Jeffrey, what's the counterargument to that?

TOOBIN: Well -- well, remember, the rules of the military commissions say you can't use the products of torture there either.

So, you know, the torture remains a -- a problem. But I think, from a political perspective, the Obama administration has given up on trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed anywhere other than in military commissions. There is no district in the United States that will accept that trial.

I think that -- that decision has been made, just not announced. But, you know, the -- the rules of our system are, military commission, wherever, that, if there has been torture, you cannot use it in our legal system. And that's not going to change.

Now, fortunately, there's lots of other evidence against these people. But the fact is, torture is wrong. Our legal system believes it's wrong, and we are never going to allow the products of torture in any part of our legal system.

COOPER: Peter, moving forward, I mean, how do you think this -- this -- the results of this trial is going to be seen throughout the world? Obviously, there -- there's an important kind of aspect to this trial.

Do you think it will be seen as a victory of the rule of law, of, you know -- the judge today was saying to the jury, you know, a calm, rational verdict has been -- has been ruled -- you know, has been given today.

BERGEN: I mean, I'm not sure the world is too focused on the Ghailani trial, because this is not -- he -- at the end of the day, he's a minor player in -- in an attack that happened quite a long time ago.

You know, the KSM trial, the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial, is a whole other matter. And , you know, one approach with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a rather cynical approach, would be to just not put him on trial at all.


COOPER: Just keep him in -- in detention indefinitely?

BERGEN: Yes, because it comes freighted with all sorts of problems, some of them, you know, that -- that Jeffrey's already alluded to.

And I mean, that's not particularly satisfactory on a lot of levels. But you could imagine a situation where you just defer this and defer this and defer this. Now, the counterargument would be that we're coming up on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. And I think Americans would like to have this guy put on trial in some forum during that anniversary.

And not to have him on trial, I think, during that anniversary year would be a significant setback, just generally. But, you know, the fact is, there's going to be a problem in -- as Jeffrey has indicated, because of the torture issue, with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

COOPER: We are going to leave it there.

Peter Bergen, Jeffrey Toobin, Commander Kirk Lippold, appreciate both of you -- all of you being on. Thanks.

Let us know what you think, the live chat right now up and running at Up next: Sarah Palin for president in 2012? Tonight, what she said in a "New York Times" magazine article and what she told Barbara Walters. Palin is also taking aim at the media again, saying she's accessible, like any other politician. We're "Keeping Them Honest" on that.

Also tonight, amazing animals, smarter than you think -- my bizarre encounter with bonobo apes.


COOPER: Do you guys do anything that chimps tell you? Like...


COOPER: This is the weirdest thing I have ever...



COOPER: Yes. I was told the apes wanted me to wear a bunny suit. I'm still trying to figure it out. We will explain when we continue.


COOPER: Sarah Palin says she is considering launching a bid for the White House in 2012. She said it to "The New York Times" magazine and also in an upcoming interview with Barbara Walters.

ABC News has released a clip of the interview. Here it is.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I am looking at the lay of the land now, and -- and trying to figure that out, if it is a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family, if it's a good thing.

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?

PALIN: I believe so.


COOPER: Well, in the "New York Times" magazine article, she yet again takes aim at members of the media, insisting she's as accessible as any other political figure.

She told "The New York Times" magazine -- quote -- "I'm on television nearly every single day with reporters. Now, granted, that's mainly through my job at FOX News. And I'm very proud to be associated with them. But I'm not avoiding anything or anybody. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. I'm out there." "Keeping Them Honest": Sarah Palin is not exactly out there. She rarely takes questions from other reporters, and even tells other politicians, like Christine O'Donnell, to do the same. You may recall this tweet she posted in mid-September directed at O'Donnell.

"Time's limited," she tweeted. "Use it to connect with local voters whom you will be serving vs. appeasing national media seeking your destruction."

So, not doing interviews with reporters who might be critical or ask tough questions is absolutely her right. But to say you're not avoiding anything or anybody, that is not true. Because you're on Facebook and Twitter doesn't mean you're out there doing that either, which isn't to say that Sarah Palin is not doing a remarkable job getting her message out. She certainly is.

No other potential candidate is using Twitter and Facebook as effectively as Sarah Palin. And her new TV show on TLC brilliantly sells the Palin brand.

The first episode had some five million viewers, many times more than have ever watched a program on TLC. It's not the kind of program her critics may want to see, certainly, but her fans love it. And others may form a positive opinion about Palin after seeing her out there and interacting with her family.

So, is Palin really ready to run?

Joining me -- joining me now, Democratic strategist and Obama campaign pollster Cornell Belcher, and contributor Erick Erickson, editor in chief of

Erick, you read the -- the interview in "The New York Times" magazine, which was fascinating...


COOPER: ... because it really focused on sort of her inner circle and -- and the loyalty that they have to her and that she wants from them, very understandable. Do you think she's ready to run, in terms of her organization?

ERICKSON: I'm not sure she's ready to run a national campaign in terms of an organization. You need many more people than who she has.

But she has surrounded herself with some very bright, very loyal people, which is a starting point she's going to have to have. After 2008, I suspect she and her husband are both very skeptical of some of the people who may want to latch on to her, if only to make money for themselves and not to actually help the Palins. She's going to have to have a lot of discernment going forward.

A lot of people who say they're her friend really aren't.

COOPER: Even if she does get the right campaign staff, are they going to be able to -- I mean, to operate effectively? Because, just given from what I read in the "Times" article, it seems a very kind of ad hoc organization she has, which, you know, her -- her supporters will say, look, it's -- it's worked effectively in terms of...


COOPER: ... you know, keeping her out in the public eye and reversing a lot of the -- the negative perception of her after search -- she dropped out of being the governor.

ERICKSON: Well, you know, that is one of the criticisms some on the right level, is that she's very hard to get ahold of. Her staff is not very responsive.

I -- I'm not sure what that issue is. I don't have a hard time getting ahold of people in her organization. And many others I know don't. But the criticism is there, and, at some point, there will have to be changes made at this level, to be more responsive to some of the interest groups who would like to get ahold of her.

But, again, she's not running yet, and there are a lot of people right now who want to get their claws into her to make money for themselves, not to help Sarah Palin. And she's using some -- some discernment on that. But, at the same time, I'm worried that she might overcompensate it and be overly aggressive in shutting some people out she can't afford to.

COOPER: Cornell, what is your take on -- on -- on Palin saying this, basically, this being announced today, that she is, you know, seriously looking at this stuff?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Look, I think Erick and I will actually agree on this, that she does speak to something, the grassroots of the Republican Party, in a way that none of the other mainstream candidates right now speak to.

Look -- look, looking back over the year that has been, the way she has turned the Republican establishment absolutely on its ear in primary after primary, I think you take her lightly at your own peril.

I -- you know, I wouldn't be surprised at all if she ran right now. And looking at what the -- the effect that the Tea Party, that she speaks to, had on the Republican primaries this past year, I don't know why you can't -- you can look at what she's done and argue that she's -- she's not a formidable and credible candidate.

Yes, you guys are absolutely right, she's going to have to get better with -- with the infrastructure piece of this. And you -- and you can't dodge reporters in -- in -- in Iowa and New Hampshire. You just can't -- you can't do that. But, to a certain extent, she's out in front in a lot of different ways.

The new media stuff reminds me a lot of -- of Governor Dean, whose birthday it is today -- happy birthday, Governor -- who was out in front on a lot of this sort of stuff, sort of tapping into that early, but he couldn't -- but that didn't campaign didn't transform it into sort of an organization, the way -- if she can tap into this new media and bring this to bear in an organizational way, I think she becomes even more formidable in a Republican primary.

COOPER: I mean, I -- I'm -- I'm fascinated by her. I think, obviously, she's a fascinating figure. And whether people like her or not -- and, obviously, things are very divided -- I mean, you can't -- you can't -- I don't think any -- I think, as -- as Cornell said, you underestimate her at at -- your peril.

Have you ever seen a candidate or a potential candidate who makes their critics' head explode -- heads explode in the way that Sarah Palin does?


COOPER: Because, I mean, it does seem those who oppose her, it's kind of...


COOPER: They seem to go nuts about it, you know?

ERICKSON: Oh, it's hilarious for me to watch, even on the right.

COOPER: Because, the more they -- because, the more they criticize her, the more successful she becomes among those who support her, and that just makes the critics go nuts even more.

ERICKSON: Look, if as much energy was spent into reviving the economy as was spent in trying to discern...


ERICKSON: ... the criminology of typos she makes in her Twitter feed...


ERICKSON: ... we would be probably all be very rich right now as a nation.

It's -- it's amazing to me the amount of time and energy people spend on things like that. You know, I -- I hate to use this comparison, because people will read into it more than I'm trying to say, but the -- the last guy that I can remember doing this was in '76 with Reagan, when you had critics on the left and the right saying: Who is this actor? He's -- he's done nothing -- never mind that he was the governor of California.

And people were very dismissive of him in '76. Now, he didn't go on to win in '76, but he did go on after that and -- and win in 1980. And a lot of people, not just Democrats, but a lot of Republicans, wanted to know, who was this guy? What qualifies him to run? And he was tapping into something that people didn't understand at the time.

BELCHER: Erick, did you just make her into Reagan, by the way? I think you just made her in Reagan.


COOPER: Cornell...


COOPER: ... I want to play for our viewers something that Palin said in an interview yesterday, because it's the kind of thing that, for those that don't like it -- don't like her, it makes their heads explode. So let's watch this.


PALIN: We know that Obama wasn't vetted through the -- the campaign. And now, you know, some things are coming home to roost, if you will, with his inexperience and his associations. And that ultimately harms our republic, when a candidate isn't -- isn't vetted by the media, that cornerstone of our democracy.


COOPER: So, obviously, her critics will say, you know, those who still have their heads, will say, well, look, she avoids, you know, a lot of national media. She's -- she's very selective in who she talks to. And -- and you could make the argument that -- that she hasn't been vetted.

Her supporters will say, well, look, she's been vetted very closely by a lot of people who have their knives out for her.

BELCHER: Two things. One is, it's kind of hard to argue that Barack Obama wasn't vetted...


BELCHER: ... given all the things that came -- that -- sort of the way the news media came -- came -- went through him -- through -- through his stuff, but that the most skillful political operation in the last decade, being the Clinton administration -- being the Clintons, in the primary vetted him very well.

So, it's -- it's kind of hard for sort of that to stand up. And he certainly didn't run or dodge from -- run from reporters. But the other part about this is really interesting to me, because -- because, you know, there becomes a point in this where, does she look like a victim of the -- of the national media and the establishment?

And if she starts to sort of look like the victim of that, particularly with a -- with a -- with a female candidate, there is something there to sort of rally her supporters even more around her. So, to a certain extent, I think sort of her positioning herself as being a victim of -- of the "lamestream" media sort of helps her strategically with a lot of her key supporters.

COOPER: No doubt about that.

ERICKSON: Well, you know, let -- let me... (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Erick, though, her critics say that she plays the victim.

ERICKSON: You know, Anderson, let me actually go back to something Cornell said that answers your point as well.

And that is, you know, the interesting thing about a statement like this is, there are a lot of Republicans who don't like Sarah Palin, but when they hear a statement like that and what Cornell just said, they immediately want to start screaming at the TV, that, where are his college transcripts? Where was his medical file? He only sent out a letter. Where are the constituent letters from when he was in the state legislature? Where are the case files from when he was a lawyer in Chicago?

It drives people on the right mad about things like that. And a lot of people who aren't necessarily Sarah Palin fans rush to her defense on that. And she plays it very, very well, intentionally or not, simply because of this polarization that has developed around her and this great disconnect about who she is.

I mean, we're talking about "Dancing With the Stars" and whether or not her celebrity is impacting her daughter on that show.


ERICKSON: I can't remember a candidate ever, including Ronald Reagan, who had something like that happen.

COOPER: Just in our defense, we have not discussed that on this show, though, tomorrow...


ERICKSON: There you go. Good.

COOPER: ... who knows, now that you have brought it up.

I think we have talked enough about -- in ways that will both -- that will make people's heads explode on both sides of the aisle in this last segment.

So, Cornell Belcher, I appreciate that, and Erick Erickson as well.

BELCHER: Thank you.

COOPER: Guys, thanks.

One of Sarah Palin's chief rivals in Alaska politics, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, declared victory tonight over fellow Republican Joe Miller in that bitter Senate race in Alaska. Murkowski lost out to Miller, of course, in the primary back in August, launched a write-in candidacy. Counting those ballots is what has delayed the final outcome. After all, Election Day was two weeks ago. Alaska's Division of Elections has Murkowski leading Miller by just over 10,000 write-in votes. Miller was of course backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. And, as of tonight, he's not conceded defeat, despite Murkowski's move.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: It's safe to say that Alaskans have chosen the path of unity, the deliberative path, the commonsense path. And I think they have shown that through this write-in process. Can you imagine, over 100,000 people who wrote in the same name?


COOPER: Well, if the state of Alaska certifies her victory, Murkowski will become the only -- only the second person to ever win a write-in bid for the U.S. Senate.

All right, coming up, keeping the governor of New Jersey honest over the controversial video that got one former hero teacher suspended.

And the man police say took a shotgun, blasted a hole in his TV -- what he was watching that apparently drove him over the edge. Erick Erickson sort of hinted at it. That's next.


COOPER: Following a number of other stories tonight.

Susan Hendricks has the latest in a 360 bulletin -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Haiti's cholera outbreak has reached the U.S. A Florida woman who just got back from Haiti has the disease, which has also spread to the Dominican Republic now.

Meanwhile, for the third day, violence rocked the city of Cap- Haitien, where protesters clashed with U.N. peacekeepers, who they blame for the outbreak. Cholera has taken more than 1,100 lives in Haiti.

Accused Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the so-called Merchant of Death, pleaded not guilty to terror charges in a Manhattan courtroom today. The Justice Department alleges Bout conspired to sell weapons to the Colombian terror group FARC, with the intent to kill Americans. The former Soviet military officer faces 25 years to life if convicted.

And Bristol Palin's routine on Monday night's "Dancing With the Stars -- yes, we're talking about it again...


HENDRICKS: ... apparently triggered a Wisconsin man to shoot his television set.

Police say Steven Cowen, this man, blasted a hole in the screen because he felt Palin wasn't a good dancer, and he was fed up with politics. He allegedly turned the gun on his wife and was arrested after an all-night standoff with a SWAT team.

I picture him sitting there...

COOPER: Crazy.

HENDRICKS: ... in his chair with a shotgun watching the show.

COOPER: Yes, crazy.

In tonight's "Shot": Bristol Palin teamed up with The Situation from the program "Jersey Shore," whose real name is Mike Sorrentino, in a public service announcement, if you can believe it, aimed at preventing teen pregnancy.

If you have watched the "Jersey Shore," you might be surprised to know that The Situation is involved in any effort regarding this.


COOPER: But here's part of the commercial.


MICHAEL "THE SITUATION" SORRENTINO, "JERSEY SHORE": All right. Well, you know what? I mean, just in case you do get into a situation, I want to make sure that you are situated, because, if you do get into a situation with your situation, you may end up with a situation. And you may not like that situation.

BRISTOL PALIN, DAUGHTER OF SARAH PALIN: Trust me, though, I'm not getting myself into another situation. I know how hard it is to be a teen parent.

THE SITUATION: You know what? I totally respect that. And I totally respect abstinence. I mean, "abstinence" has the word "abs" in it. I'm The Situation. I love that.

B. PALIN: Very funny. But I'm worried about you and you practicing safe sex.

SORRENTINO: I actually practice a whole lot. I mean, a whole lot.

B. PALIN: I'm talking about the safe part of that.


COOPER: For the record, they used the word "The Situation" or "situated" eight times. Not that anybody's counting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And "for real? For real?" I think five times. I don't know.

COOPER: Yes. It's a little painful.

Anyway, up next, another "Keeping Them Honest" report. New Jersey's governor and the controversial video that got one hero teacher suspended.

And our series, "Amazing Animals: Smarter than You Think." Tonight, a look at bonobos, cousins to chimps, how they use tools to communicate, according to researchers, and how they somehow convinced me -- that's right, the apes convinced me to wear a bunny costume. Still trying to figure it out.


COOPER: Oh, a bib. The bunny has a bib.



COOPER: Tonight, another "Keeping Them Honest" report, this one about Governor Chris Christie. You may recall a young conservative filmmaker named James O'Keefe. He's the guy there, who posed as a pimp in an undercover video that basically put ACORN out of business.

He's done some other things you might not know about. We'll get to those in just a moment.

His latest project, secretly recording teachers during a New Jersey Education Association conference. O'Keefe caught teachers on tape saying things they probably shouldn't have and released the results in a documentary called "Teachers Gone Wild" -- "Teachers Unions Gone Wild."

How he recorded some of the video is pretty questionable.

In this clip from the film, special education teacher Alissa Ploshnick was secretly recorded talking to O'Keefe in a hotel bar. She's recorded talking about how hard it is to fire a teacher in New Jersey.


ALISSA PLOSHNICK, TEACHER: It's really hard to fire a tenured teacher.

JAMES O'KEEFE, FILMMAKER: Even if there's a case like...

PLOSHNICK: It's really hard. Once you get that three years and a day (ph), it's like shwing. It's really hard. Like, you seriously have to be in a hallway (EXPLETIVE DELETED) somebody.


COOPER: Well, Ploshnick went on to relate the story of one teacher who was still teaching after calling a student the "N" word. On the tape she actually used the "N" word to tell the story.


PLOSHNICK: We had this -- we had a teacher that just recently was like, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED). He's been moved down.

O'KEEFE: To who?

PLOSHNICK: Another student. To a student. And the teacher, the teacher has been demoted, but is still teaching.


COOPER: So again, this was a story she was relating in a bar, without knowing she was being recorded. Civil libertarians would say this is a massive invasion of her privacy.

Regardless of her use of the "N" word, because she did use the "N" word, she was suspended for nine days and denied a raise.

Speaking of Governor Christie, in the film teachers are heard but not seen singing about the governor in very unflattering terms.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's have a whiskey, and get a little misty. Join me now and slander Chris Christie. Reading and writing and arithmetic, here comes Christie with a whipping stick. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) What are we going to do? Kick him in his toolbox.


COOPER: So what's interesting about this story is that Governor Christie is kind of endorsing this video, even given how some of it was shot clandestinely.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is their leadership conference, where they're in a hotel having a leadership conference, singing songs together about kicking the governor in his toolbox. I wonder what they mean by that? But I can tell you I sense it would hurt.

The arrogance, the greed, the self-interest, the lack of introspection, the lack of standards, and it hurts the great teachers just as much as it hurts our kids.

If you need an example of what I've been talking about for the last nine months, about how the teachers' union leadership is out of touch with the people and out of control, go watch this video. It's enlightening; it's enraging.


COOPER: It's understandable the governor wouldn't like what some of those teachers said in the video. Some of it was very shocking. But making Ms. Ploshnick the scapegoat for everything wrong in New Jersey's education system just doesn't seem accurate.

In fact, despite her use of the "N" word, she's basically saying it's hard to fire bad teachers, something the governor would no doubt agree with.

Ms. Ploshnick recently came forward to tell her story to "The Star-Ledger." Remember, she went on suspension for nine days and was refused a raise.

It turned out 13 years ago Ploshnick actually risked her life for her students, throwing herself in front of a van that had careened out of control. According to the "New Jersey Star-Ledger," she saved the kids but suffered broken ribs, a fractured wrist, badly bruised pelvis and glass cuts in her eyes.

Her bravery was even rewarded by then-President Clinton, who wrote in a letter, quote, "You are an example for all of us, and I applaud you for your sense of duty."

Ploshnick is not contesting her suspension but is considering legal action against filmmaker James O'Keefe for stalking and harassment.

You'll remember, this is not the first time O'Keefe used false pretenses to get a story. He recently tried to arrange a meeting with former CNN correspondent Abbie Boudreau in a bizarre attempt to seduce her on videotape.

O'Keefe also pled guilty to federal charges of entering a U.S. senator's office under false pretenses. That senator was Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana.

Well, still ahead tonight, our series "Amazing Animals: Smarter Than You Think." In tonight's report, I visit bonobo apes. Raised with language since birth, things took a very strange turn.


COOPER: So this is pretty of the strangest assignment I've ever had.



COOPER: Earlier in the week we showed you some really cool research involving dolphins that have a sense of self, can actually see themselves in a mirror, which is a rare trait among animals.

We continue our series "Amazing Animals: Smarter Than You Think" tonight with great apes called bonobos. They're known for being super smart. And when we heard about a place called the Great Ape Trust in Iowa, we knew we had to go there. It's home to some remarkable bonobos, one of the least known Great Apes. They're a close relative of humans. We share 98 percent of our DNA with them.

We read that these Great Apes can actually understand English and communicate with humans using the English language. Some scientists have cast doubt on these claims, so we wanted to see for ourselves. I really was not sure what to expect, but I could never have predicted how bizarre this visit would become.


COOPER (voice-over): Meet Kanzi (ph) and his younger half- sister, Panbanisha (ph) (ph). They're bonobos, cousins to the chimpanzee and an endangered species. Kanzi (ph) and Panbanisha (ph) (ph) are also superstars in the world of science.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you happy, Kanzi (ph)?

COOPER: Some scientists believe they can understand spoken English and can communicate by pointing and gesturing.


COOPER: Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh discovered Kanzi's (ph) capabilities nearly three decades ago and since then has dedicated her life to studying how early and constant exposure impacts language development.

To do that, she's created a culture here at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, that's both human and bonobo. She spends nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, interacting with the species.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: It is truly a humbling experience, because I have throughout my life been like a skeptic. And for many years, even now, I have underestimated them.

Show me egg.

COOPER: As Kanzi (ph)'s language comprehension grew, so did this. It's called a lexigram board. Each lexigram represents a word: objects like Jell-o, ball; verbs like want and drink; and the abstract like good and bad, tomorrow and yesterday. There are 400 words on the board.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Can he touch your hand now, Kanzi (ph)?

COOPER: When I come face to face with Kanzi (ph) and Panbanisha (ph), we're separated by glass for my own safety. Bonobos are amazingly strong, at least five times more powerful than the average adult male.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: He said, "Ball." Did you see him say "ball," Anderson?

COOPER (on camera): Yes.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: You can ask him. If you didn't see it, you can ask him to say it again.

COOPER: What's ball?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Show him again.

COOPER: What's ball? That one.

(voice-over) Immediately Kanzi (ph) gets down to business.

(on camera) Am I going to look out there?

(voice-over) I've been told the bonobos had asked that I bring surprises when they learned I was coming to visit. They wanted, among other things, a ball and pine needles.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Are you ready? You ready? OK.

COOPER: Once Kanzi (ph) is content with his ball, Panbanisha (ph) points to pine needles on her lexigram board. And then things get, well, weird.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Panbanisha (ph), who's going to get the surprises? The bunny.

COOPER (on camera): Bunny?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: The bunny is going to get the surprises. Did you know that, Anderson? The bunny is going to get the surprises.

COOPER: Who's the bunny?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Who's the bunny? Who should be the bunny? Bunny? It's you!

COOPER: I'm the bunny?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: You are the bunny.

COOPER: How am I the bunny?


(voice-over) Before I know it, I'm presented with a costume.

(on camera) You want me to dress up like the bunny? OK?

(voice-over) And I'm escorted off to go put it on. I wasn't sure if I should do this, but I remember the advice we were given before arriving: be laid back and see where it goes.

(on camera) Oh, a bib. The bunny has a bib. So apparently, one of the chimps, Panbanisha (ph), likes bunnies. And asked me to dress as a bunny, which was the big surprise, and get one of the presents that she had requested.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Hi, Mr. Bunny. COOPER (voice-over): Where did the bunny suit come from? Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh used to make video skits for Panbanisha (ph) and Kanzi (ph) as they grew up to help them learn language threw lexigrams.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: I wonder what's in here, Panbanisha (ph).

COOPER: Turns out the bunny is Panbanisha (ph)'s favorite character from those video skits. That's why I'm now in this ridiculous costume.

(on camera) They wanted pine needles and eggs, green beans, string beans, and bread and ice. Should I bring this whole cart in?

This is pretty of the strangest assignment I've ever had. Nobody laugh.

Hello! Presents. I brought you presents. Surprises. Lots of surprises.

(voice-over) Among the surprises, lots of food. Something Kanzi (ph) is clearly interested in.

(on camera) What about this one?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: What's that one, Kanzi (ph)? Bread?

COOPER: That's bread. And what are -- what are these?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: What are those, Kanzi (ph)? Pine needles.

COOPER: Pine needles. That's right. Clearly, you know, some people will see this and say that you're projecting onto them, that you're interpreting things they say, and they make a sound and you say, "Oh, this means that." Is that a fair criticism?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: It's a fair criticism until I can show what every single sound means. But it's not a fair criticism when it comes to the lexigrams. I can say the English word, and they can find a photo, even an odd photo they've never seen, and they can find the lexigram on their keyboard.

So while I haven't yet penetrated their sound system I have penetrated their cognitive system.

COOPER: And to take our understanding to the next level, Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh's turning to the next generation. Wow. Hey. Meet Kanzi (ph)'s 4-month-old son, Tiko (ph). He's the first bonobo to be exposed only to the language-speaking bonobos and everything human.

(on camera) He has his own iPad.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: This is his favorite one, and this is the one that he first learned to activate.

COOPER: So you think, by being exposed to people from the earliest age and the culture of humans, that he actually may surpass the others in terms of his ability to communicate?

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: Yes. The others have been exposed to language, but not cub scouts, not going out to a restaurant.

COOPER: She doesn't want to divorce him from the bonobo world altogether but believes he could expand their world and give us humans a window into theirs.

That's only if we don't wipe them out first. Bonobos are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where ongoing violence threatens their existence. Conservation International says there are only about 5,000 bonobos left in the wild.

SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH: We can solve a lot of things, a lot of puzzles about ourselves by looking at bonobos as they exist now. And if we wipe them out, those answers are lost to us forever.


COOPER: Well, we have much more to show you about the bonobos at the Great Ape Trust. I eventually took off the bunny suit, much to my relief.

Next week we're going to have a special 360. We're going to dig deeper into the science behind these discoveries.

Up next -- oh, thank you. Appreciate it. Very nice. Very funny. Ha-ha. I've been having bunny jokes around the office for weeks now, so these carrots are -- appreciate it. Are the bunny jokes going to stop now? Is this the last night? No? No? I didn't think so.

Coming up, the RidicuList. Who's on it? Well, the guy who claims he's going to be the next president, because he's the man. And tonight he makes our RidicuList list. We'll tell you who it is coming up.


COOPER: Quick correction I want to make. We said that the premiere of Sarah -- "Sarah Palin's Alaska" on TLC was the top-rated show ever on the network. I should have said it was the top premiere of a show ever on the network.

Well, keeping our eyes on the horizon and other stories tonight, Susan Hendricks is back with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a Tennessee judge has ruled that a controversial mosque can, in fact, be built after all. He denied a request for a temporary halt to construction of the new Islamic center of Murfreesboro. Equipment at the building site was torched a few months ago.

An Army investigator has recommended a court martial and the death penalty for Major Nidal Hasan. He is accused of a shooting rampage at Ft. Hood, Texas, last November that killed 13 people. The final decision on trial and punishment rests with the commander of Ft. Hood.

The makers of caffeinated beverages such as Four Loko have been ordered by the FDA to reformulate their products. The agency called the beverages, which appeal to young people, a public health concern. The concern is that the caffeine can mask the intoxicating effects of the alcohol.

And who will design Kate Middleton's wedding dress? That is one of the big questions in London, now that her engagement to Prince William is official. "People" magazine reports that Middleton already has a favorite designer but that notable names like Stella McCartney and John Galliano are likely to be on her list.

No word on who designed that bunny suit you wore.

COOPER: Yes. I would think they would go for some British designer, given the importance of this to England but...

HENDRICKS: Yes, maybe so.

COOPER: We start a new segment on the program to point out hypocrisy, double talk, stuff that's just downright ridiculous. We call it the RidicuList. Tonight, the former candidate for Senate who says he should be president, and the idea of that is, well, honestly, completely ridiculous.

Alvin Greene makes our list tonight. In June, Mr. Greene shocked the nation by winning the South Carolina Democratic Party's nomination for U.S. Senate with almost a nonexistent campaign.

Greene was unemployed at the time. Couldn't afford the filing fee. No sooner did he counter the nomination when news of criminal charges surfaced. Greene had been arrested last year for allegedly showing pornographic images to a University of South Carolina student in a computer lab.

Much to his party's chagrin, he refused to step down and led a somewhat bizarre campaign, that is, when he campaigned at all.


ALVIN GREEN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm the best candidate in the United States Senate race here in South Carolina. I am also the best candidate for the -- I am also the best choice for the Image Award next year. Let's reclaim our country from the terrorists and the communists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sound you hear in the background is Alvin Greene wailing the words "no" and "go."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No comment. We're going to stay in the race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has he told you what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No, but we're going to stay in the race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does your political future hold?

GREENE: I'm not sure yet. But this is a good thing right here, the ultimate warrior.


COOPER: Not surprisingly, two weeks ago he lost decisively to Republican Senator Jim DeMint. It would seem his political career was pretty much dead, right?

Apparently, that's not the case. Yesterday, Greene turned down a plea deal and asked a judge for a trial on the porn charge, which will not happen until the new year. That wasn't the headline, though. Greene also announced his next political move is he's running for president.

Here's what he said, and I quote, word for word: "I'm the next president. I'll be 35 just before November, so I was born to be president. I'm the man. I'm the man. I'm the man. Greene's the man. I'm the man. I'm the greatest person ever. I was born to be president. I'm the man. I'm the greatest individual ever."

We don't contest that Greene may, in fact, be the man. But president? That's earned him a spot on the RidicuList.

Up next, our breaking news and stunning verdict in a terror trial. An al Qaeda operative accused of killing 224 people in the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa found guilty by a civilian jury, but of just one of 285 counts. None of them murder. Is this a travesty of justice, or is it just the way things work? We'll let you be the judge, ahead.


COOPER: Thanks for watching, everyone. Breaking news tonight: a shocking end to a landmark terror trial. An al Qaeda terrorist who took part in the bombings of two U.S. embassies which killed 224 people is found guilty of just one count. Innocent to the murders of 224 people who died in those bombings.

He's the first Guantanamo detainee to stand before civilian court. So was this a victory of the rule of law or a travesty of justice? We have the breaking details ahead.