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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Director of U.S. National Intelligence in the Dark?; Bullied to Death
Aired December 22, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Anderson has the night off.
Tonight: Is the director of national intelligence being left in the dark? Is he getting the briefing he needs for you and your family and all Americans really to stay safe this holiday season? We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Also tonight: bullied to death. We have been reporting on this issue all year long. Tonight, new developments in two cases that have helped put a face on this deadly epidemic.
And later, he claims he can heal the sick without even touching them. His followers insist they have been cured. So are these medical miracles, or is it all a sham? We will take a look.
We begin, though, as we always do, "Keeping Them Honest."
Tonight, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, is facing some pretty tough questions about how clued-in he really is to possible terrorist threats. Clapper's job is to coordinate what the nation knows about terrorism and national security. He's paid to know what's going on all across the intelligence community and to make sure everyone else knows as well. He's supposed to know before we do.
So, how, then, did reporters scoop Clapper on this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news, holiday terror plot: British police arrest 12 men suspected of planning to detonate bombs or explosives in al Qaeda-style terror attacks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twelve men suspected of planning to set off a number of bombs now under arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twelve men in England have been arrested this morning in a large-scale counterterrorism sting operation. U.K. officials say the men have been detained for allegedly preparing to carry out an act of terrorism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were arrested after dawn raids this morning by unarmed officers. This is being described as a large- scale, pre-planned, intelligence-led operation. (END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: Now, those arrests in the U.K. were a major news story Monday morning and all throughout the day. The raids were carried out in the pre-dawn hours in several cities by British intelligence agents.
Now, I guess you would assume that the director of national intelligence had been briefed about a counterterror operation like this long before reporters found out.
But, on Monday afternoon, hours after the arrests, Director Clapper appeared totally in the dark during this interview with Diane Sawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)
DIANE SAWYER, CO-HOST, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": London, how serious is it? Any implication that it was coming here? Any of the things that they have seen were coming here?
LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: London?
JOHN BRENNAN, U.S. DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The arrest of the 12 individuals...
SAWYER: The arrest of the 12.
BRENNAN: ... by the British this morning.
BRENNAN: This is something that the British informed us about early this morning, when it was taking place.
SAWYER: Later in the interview, I came back to the director. Did he really not know?
I was a little surprised you didn't know about London, Director Clapper.
CLAPPER: Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't.
BRENNAN: Well, you referenced London, but you didn't talk about the arrests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: That was John Brennan there, the president's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, who essentially bailed Mr. Clapper out. Now, the interview was taped around 3:45 in the afternoon, yet you just heard Clapper say he didn't know anything about the arrests. He clearly had never been briefed.
Once ABC News released the clip, Clapper's office went into sort of damage control mode. A statement released last night explained the blunder like this: "The question about this specific news development was ambiguous. The DNI's knowledge of the threat streams in Europe is profound and multidimensional. And any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate."
Is that fair? Well, was the question ambiguous? Let's go back and take a look at the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC NEWS)
SAWYER: London, how serious is it? Any implication that it was coming here, any of the things that they have seen were coming here?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: All right, I mean, point taken there. Sawyer's wording may have been vague. Instead of saying today's arrest of a dozen terror suspects in the United Kingdom, she shorthanded the facts and said London, not U.K.
But then again, Mr. Brenner clearly -- Brennan clearly understood what she meant when he jumped in to save his colleague.
By this morning, Clapper's office had dropped the ambiguity defense. They said this: "Director Clapper had not yet been briefed on the arrest in the United Kingdom at the time of this interview taping."
His spokeswoman said this in a statement: "The DNI was working throughout the day on important intelligence matters, including monitoring military and political developments on the Korean Peninsula, providing answers to questions concerning the ratification of the START nuclear treaty and other classified issues."
OK. Clapper was busy on Monday. There was a lot going on in the world, no question, and he didn't get briefed, period.
But why not? They say this. "He wasn't immediately briefed on London -- London," Clapper's spokeswoman said, "because it didn't appear to have a homeland nexus and there was no immediate action by the DNI required."
Homeland nexus, now, that -- that sounds kind of jargony. I mean, frankly, we weren't even sure what that really meant. Are they trying to say the suspected plot posed no risk to Americans? Well: "Nevertheless, he should have been briefed on the arrest, and steps should have been taken to ensure that he is in the future. The intelligence community as a whole was fully aware of this development and tracking it closely."
Now, John Brennan, the guy who bailed out Clapper in the ABC interview, basically said the same thing today: The other staffers in the intelligence community below Clapper's rank were following the British investigation closely.
He also said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: Should he have been briefed by his staff on those arrests? Yes. And I know there was breathless attention by the media about these arrests and it was constantly on the news networks.
I'm glad that Jim Clapper is not sitting in front of the TV 24 hours a day and monitoring what's coming out of the media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: Well, you know, we kind of agree with you on that, Mr. Brennan. I mean, we don't want Mr. Clapper to be getting his briefings from us in the media either.
I mean, we think he should be well aware of any terror threats or suspected plots or planned arrests or anything, for that matter, long before we in the media are reporting the story. After all, the job Clapper now holds, director of national security, was created in 2004 to prevent the kind of intelligence failures that allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen in the first place.
In other words, Clapper is to make sure all the dots are connected.
Joining me now to help us connect the dots is senior political analyst David Gergen and former CIA Director James Woolsey.
Thanks to you both for joining us.
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Good to be with you.
GUPTA: David Gergen, let me start with you.
Obviously, this was not a great event for him. Do you find any -- any sort of excuse or justification for what happened?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, not really.
But I have to tell you, I'm sympathetic with him. And, Sanjay, how many great doctors do you know who have left a sponge behind in a patient at some point or made some other mistake? That's why we have a lot of medical mistakes, and we have mistakes in intelligence. Having said that, I find it stunning that this interview took place at 3:45 Eastern time in the afternoon, and this British -- or these British arrests occurred in early morning, British time. That means there were a lot of hours that passed in which his staff did not see fit to tell him even though he was going on national television.
And that part of it, I think his staff blew it. I appreciate the fact he's got an extraordinarily busy life, the kind of life that Jim Woolsey once led.
GUPTA: You know, I mean, I -- David, I agree with you, even on the sponge comment that you made about surgeons.
But, you know, look, it's one of these things where, you know, if he had read the newspaper or even watched a little bit of television, I mean, this -- this is part of his job, I'm not saying 24/7.
But, James Woolsey, let me ask you. I mean, when you were in a job like this, I mean, how would you prep for a press interview? I mean, every -- everyone keeps saying that they're glad that he wasn't in front of the television all the time -- me, too -- but he couldn't have been learning about this in other ways before the TV news conferences?
WOOLSEY: Well, you're not sitting around in that job with a channel-changer sipping coffee and going from channel to channel.
WOOLSEY: I mean, I think, first of all, Jim -- Jim Clapper's a real pro. And he I think had a right to expect somebody on his staff who is working on press issues would bring him up to speed before a meeting with the press on the highlights of the day, since maybe he saw a morning briefing or something.
But this is -- this is a public relations glitch. This is not evidence of something fundamentally wrong. Look, we -- we -- we don't spy on the British. We're not in the business of collecting intelligence from them.
If we have a cooperative endeavor, that if they needed some American help, some information from us, somewhere down the line, there could have well have been close cooperation. But that doesn't mean they're going to tell us exactly when they're going to make the bust.
This is basically an internal British law enforcement matter, it sounds like. Yes, it's terrorists, but that does not mean they tell us, you know, within the hour or whatever that they're going to start arresting people.
GUPTA: But, I mean, people here did know. It wasn't that they didn't know. It's just that he wasn't briefed, right?
(CROSSTALK) WOOLSEY: Maybe they knew exactly when. Maybe what they knew was just the British were undertaking an investigation and it was going well.
We have pretty close liaison with MI5, the British domestic agency, but this is -- this is not like, say, a CIA/MI6 cooperative effort vis-a-vis some country in the developing world that's a rogue state or something.
WOOLSEY: This is not something that Jim Clapper really needed to be orchestrating or running.
And -- and the other thing I would say is...
WOOLSEY: ... I -- Congress was in session 195 days my first year as director of central intelligence, and I had 200 appointments on the Hill. I was up there more than once a day, on average, and that's just one of the things you have to do.
You also are meeting with visiting heads of state.
GUPTA: All right.
WOOLSEY: You're doing a lot of things, and you count on your staff to say, hey, they made a bust in that British case yesterday. It was on the news this morning.
GUPTA: Yes, I don't want to -- I don't want to beat up on his staff, because, I mean, I imagine a lot of that is happening.
David, I saw you nodding your head a couple times. I mean, was there something you disagreed with? I mean, do you think that this was critical information for the director of national intelligence to have?
GERGEN: I think it -- we expect the director of national intelligence to know when some big operation is going down against al Qaeda by one of our closest friends in the world.
And, yes, I do think he should have known, but I think it's up to his staff and I think it's up to him to establish a system.
But I -- I want to distinguish something Jim -- Jim Woolsey said I agree and disagree. Jim Clapper is a good man, and I don't think this should reflect badly on him.
I do think it's going to -- an embarrassment. He doesn't want another one like this, because that really will be damaging. But there is a problem in this job. And Jim knows this better than anybody else. The way this is structured, we have had -- this has been a snakebitten job. We have just had a series of people who have had embarrassments or difficult times in this job.
And something about this is not properly structured. It's a fairly new job within the -- within the intelligence community.
And, somehow, Jim, it does not seem to be working out the way that anybody hoped.
GUPTA: Five years now, Mr. Woolsey. Has it -- has it -- do we need this job? It's another layer, it seems, of bureaucracy.
WOOLSEY: Well, that's what I thought at the time, and I don't really think they needed to make this change. But now that they have made it, they ought to try to make it work, because constant reorganization is a -- is a really bad thing in the intelligence community.
It jumbles everything up. I think that there's a -- a reasonable likelihood that, because the Congress cut back on the authority of the DNI when they finally got into the House of Representatives and started redrafting the legislation that set this all up, they don't have as much authority in the hands of the DNI as initially they -- they thought they should.
But this is -- this is not the kind of issue that gave rise to the not connecting the dots before 9/11. That was a matter of the law enforcement community and the intelligence community being barred by a Justice Department policy from dealing with one another on important matters. This is not that.
GERGEN: Yes. Jim -- but, Jim, there's another question here that many are asking, and that is whether in fact Mr. Brennan, who is terrific, working for the president and the White House, but whether he has centralized intelligence operations so much in the White House, that someone like Clapper may be a little bit out of the loop on something like this.
WOOLSEY: Well, that's not impossible. The -- that -- that -- that happens.
I mean, sometimes, you get squeezed to the outside. When that little airplane crashed into the lawn of the White House in the fall of 1994, the White House staff joke was, that must be Woolsey still trying to get an appointment with Clinton. So...
GUPTA: Is this going to damage him, David Gergen?
GERGEN: I remember that.
It was, I think, wasn't it?
WOOLSEY: Yes, it was me.
GERGEN: No, I think we're in a -- I think we're in a "three strikes and you're out." I think this is just the first strike. So, I think -- I think he's fine now, but, again, he does not want another episode like this.
GUPTA: And I know, Mr. Woolsey, you -- you -- you agree with that as well.
WOOLSEY: Oh, sure.
GUPTA: And both he and Panetta are doing a -- doing a pretty good job, you say.
WOOLSEY: I think they are. They're real pros. And I think we ought to give them a chance to get the job done.
GUPTA: All right, James Woolsey, David Gergen, both of you, happy holidays. Thanks for joining us.
GERGEN: Thank you.
WOOLSEY: Same to you.
GUPTA: You can join the live chat now as well under way at AC360.com.
Up next, we're still going to keep them honest, updates on a couple of stories about bullying, a topic we have been following quite closely here on 360. In one case, the mother of a California teen who took his own life is finally getting attention from the federal government. We will see why.
Also tonight, it's called faith healing. We're going to meet two people who say they have seen it work firsthand. And we will talk about whether a man named John of God has the power to cure what modern medicine cannot.
GUPTA: We have "Keeping Them Honest" updates now on a couple of stories tonight: teens who were bullied by others at school and online.
It's an ongoing problem that we have been following closely for a long time here on 360. And in many cases, the bullying has been made worse for the victims due the prevalence of cell phones and easy access to the Internet.
Tonight, there are developments in two cases we have paid a lot of attention to, both involving gay teens.
First, the case of 13-year-old Seth Walsh, an openly gay student from California who hanged himself in September because he could no longer take the verbal and physical abuse from other teens. Well, now the United States Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into his case. Seth has been teased since the fifth grade, and the abuse only got worse when he announced he was gay in the sixth grade.
His mother, Wendy, says she informed school officials of the attacks against Seth, but says they didn't seem to care. She homeschooled him for a while in the seventh grade, but Seth eventually returned to school.
After being harassed by a group of teens in a local park three months ago, Seth killed himself.
Now, Wendy Walsh contacted the ACLU for assistance, and together they posted a video of Wendy on YouTube reading Seth's suicide note.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY WALSH, MOTHER OF TEEN WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE: "Mom, Amanda, Shane, Shawn, I love you. Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure. I know this will bring you much pain, but I will hopefully be in a better place than this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hole.
"Please, put my body in burial and visit my body. And make sure to make the school feel like (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for bringing you this sorrow. This life was a pleasure, mostly having you guys to pull me through the pain. Hopefully, I become the universe. Seth."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: It is hard to hear, obviously, Wendy, Seth's mother there.
The ACLU sent a letter to the Tehachapi School District superintendent, stating it's their understanding that -- quote -- "despite being notified of the harassment and despite the clear obligations under state and federal law to protect students from such harassment, neither the school nor the district took adequate measures to protect Seth."
The letter went on to suggest that, since Seth died, little has been done in his school or the district to address an environment of what they call hostility. The ACLU offered a list of actions the district could take.
We tried to reach both the superintendent and the president of the school board for reaction, but were unsuccessful.
And there's a development as well in another story we have followed closely, the case of Tyler Clementi. He also committed suicide in September. His parents have put Rutgers University on notice that they may file a lawsuit for failing to protect their son.
Tyler was an 18-year-old Rutgers student who took his own life after two other students, including his roommate, allegedly used a Web camera to record a sexual encounter Tyler had with another man. They then streamed it online. Rutgers says it's not responsible for Tyler's suicide.
We will continue to follow these stories as they develop.
But -- but it's not just teens who harass gay students. Incredibly, back in October, a man named Clint McCance, the vice president of the Midland School District in Arkansas, posted a series of anti-gay remarks on his Facebook page. He said he likes that gay people give each other AIDS and die, and that he would disown his own kids if they were gay.
He also said, "Seriously, they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide?" That's a direct quote. "The only way I'm wearing it for them is if they all commit suicide," he wrote. I can't believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid."
Two of the five people he was referring to, Seth Walsh and Tyler Clementi.
Now, when McCance's remarks were made public, people across the country expressed their anger, expressed their outrage at him, and their immediate calls for his resignation.
We at 360 wanted answers as well to find out if he stood by his remarks.
"Keeping Them Honest," Anderson confronted Clint McCance, and he got some action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 28, 2010)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, Clint, you have written some really terrible things. You called kids who killed themselves because of bullying fags and queers. You wrote that you like to see gay people die.
Do you -- I mean, do you really hate gay people that much, that you like to see them die?
CLINT MCCANCE, POSTED ANTI-GAY RANT ON FACEBOOK: Anderson, I made some very ignorant comments, did not realize just how ignorant they were. I have -- I have, you know, went back and looked over it.
I would never support suicide of any kids. I don't support bullying of any kids. I posted that on down further in -- in my post, that I hated it, you know, for those -- for those kids, that they felt so hopeless...
COOPER: But -- but you sound...
MCCANCE: ... that that was the only place they had to turn.
COOPER: But, as you know, I mean, in -- in the writing, you sound like a bully yourself, I mean, calling -- using...
MCCANCE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
COOPER: You know, calling...
COOPER: ... fags and queers, that's -- those are the words of a bully.
MCCANCE: I was -- you know, like I said, I used some -- I used some really strong language that -- you know, and it wasn't correct.
And -- and it was -- it was too emotional. I don't -- you know, I am a -- I have got two children myself, and I love them dearly. I have got a wife I love dearly. You know, I don't agree with bullying in any shape, form or fashion. I don't agree with it for any children.
And, you know, the words I used were -- were unfortunate. And -- and they're -- you know, I should have picked different ones, but it can't be taken back. And all I can do now is -- is extend my apologies for my poor my poor -- my poor speech.
COOPER: What do you -- what do you feel like you're apologizing for, exactly?
MCCANCE: It was over the top, Anderson. It was -- I -- I just went too far with it. I -- you know, I -- I don't really believe anyone should commit suicide. I -- I don't -- I don't feel that way.
COOPER: But, I mean, do you have any idea of the pain that -- that you may have caused, not just to families and friends of kids who -- who have killed themselves, but the pain and fear you have caused to kids maybe even in your own district who are being bullied or who are gay or who don't feel safe telling anyone that they're gay?
MCCANCE: You know, Anderson, that's a what-if. I don't know.
I know it was a -- like I said before, I know my statements were too harsh. I don't -- I don't agree with -- with the language I used. It was out of control. And it does look like I was -- that I'm a hate-monger or I'm a horrible person. And that's -- that's not me at all.
COOPER: Because you did say you like it when gay people get AIDS and die. Do you want gay people to die?
MCCANCE: No, I don't.
COOPER: Some of the -- you know, clearly, you know the response to this isn't just because you said these words. It's because of who you are. You're the vice president on a school board. I mean, you oversee, you know...
COOPER: ... kids in your school district. And I -- I think that's...
COOPER: ... clearly what's at the core of the reaction to this.
Are you going to resign from the school board?
MCCANCE: I am going to resign from the school board.
It is to -- to help my community, to help my school. I don't want them to receive bad press or have a distraction because of some ignorant comments that have -- that I made.
COOPER: Do you have anything specifically you want to say to parents of kids and friends of kids who have committed suicide after being bullied?
I -- you know, I would -- would like to extend an apology, especially to those to those -- to those families that have lost children, not just gay, heterosexual, all -- all children that feel like suicide's the only way out.
It's a -- it saddens me, and -- but especially for those five -- five families that have just recently lost children. You know, I have -- I have brought more hurt on them with these comments. And that was never my intention. And I apologize for that, because they don't -- they don't deserve that. And I do feel genuinely bad for that, for them.
COOPER: Moving forward...
COOPER: ... are you going to use those words in the future?
MCCANCE: That's in the -- that's in the future.
I would hope not. You know, I have -- I have learned a very valuable lesson over the last week, and, number one, on the suicide issue. You know, my -- my core beliefs don't change as far as, you know, my -- what I read in the Bible and what I read to be true.
But this has opened my eyes to a lot of different things. I hope I'm -- I hope it makes me more sensitive to -- to other people's feelings and what they're going through. And, you know, I -- this was a -- it was a -- hateful, hurtful thing. And it's been -- it's been hurtful for my family as well and my community. So, I -- you know, I'm going to watch what I say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: Well, still ahead: An impasse is broken -- a major development today in the battle over the 9/11 health care bill.
Plus: a chilling letter from an American aid worker who's been jailed in Haiti's most notorious prison. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GUPTA: There's a lot more news we're following tonight.
Joe Johns joins us now with a 360 bulletin -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, we begin with an incident near a home of former President George W. Bush.
CNN confirms a suspect was detained tonight outside Bush's home in Preston Hollow. They say the suspect was driving a muscle car through the former president's neighborhood. The former president was at home at the time and was not harmed.
A 360 follow: A U.S. aid worker being held in a Haitian prison writes in a letter that he's scared he will never be released. Paul Waggoner was jailed last week under suspicion of kidnapping a baby boy, even though no official charges were brought against him. The boy died at a hospital in February.
The U.S. House and Senate have approved a $4.2 billion bill to give compensation and free medical treatment to first-responders to the 9/11 attacks. The bill now goes to President Obama to sign into law.
Two Chicago firefighters were killed when a wall and roof collapsed in an abandoned building on the city's South Side. Seventeen others were injured.
And Broadway's "Spider-Man" musical is scheduled to resume tomorrow night to give the show more time to rehearse new safety measures. Performer Christopher Tierney is in serious condition after falling more than 20 feet during Monday night's show. The actors union says human error was responsible for the fall.
Scary stuff, Sanjay. Hope he's OK.
GUPTA: It really is. I don't know if you've seen any of that, but it really -- it's quite a show, but you can tell where obviously some -- some of those risks might come from. And those -- they're really -- those people are coming across the audience, and I certainly hope that he recovers well.
Joe, stick around. It's time for tonight's "Shot." Joe, you may have seen this. I hadn't up until today, but Internet sensation Antoine Dodson is getting into the spirit with a new version of his hit song.
Now, just in case you had no idea who Antoine Dodson is, give you a little bit of background. This past July Dodson gave a sort of very animated interview, I'd say, to a TV news crew in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, about the would-be rapist he chased out of his sister's room. After the interview went viral on the Internet, the Gregory brothers auto-tuned it and created the "Bed Intruder Song." Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTOINE DODSON, WITNESS: He's climbing in your windows. He's snatching your people up, trying to rape. Hide your kids, hide your wife. Hide your kids, hide your wife. Hide your kids, hide your wife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: There's a Christmas version, Joe, of this song, which first aired last night on our sister network, TBS, on "Lopez Tonight." Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DODSON: He's climbing in your chimney, snatching your cookies up, trying to eat them. So hide your gifts, hide your trees. Hide your gifts, hide your trees. Hide your gifts, hide your trees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: What do you think, Joe? Instant classic?
JOHNS: How many million hits do you think it took to get these guys on TV?
GUPTA: Right. It's the amazing thing about the Internet. It just -- it goes viral, and everyone around -- around the world knows this guy all of a sudden.
JOHNS: Yes. I mean, I've seen that, and I laughed out loud the first time I saw it. It's just amazing, it's still alive.
GUPTA: That's right. Maybe he'll have more tunes to come even.
JOHNS: We'll see.
GUPTA: All right, Joe. You're going to want to hear this story as well. In a small town in Brazil, there's a man who's known to the locals as being somewhat of a miracle man. Ahead, we've got two people who met him. His name is John of God, and they say they witnessed his miracle healing claims.
Also all the best, all the worst in pop culture this year. California girl Katy Perry has been at the top of the charts and the top of our list, but who else do you think is on there? We'll tell you.
GUPTA: In western medicine, the kind of medicine that I practice, we are used to counseling patients, running tests, prescribing medicine and, if necessary, performing operations.
But in a small town in Brazil, a man named John of God is practicing a very different kind of medicine. He says he's a faith healer, and people from all over the world flock to him. He claims to be able to heal very sick patients without even touching them.
John of God was recently featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and this month's issue of "O magazine" featured an article about him that was written by the magazine's editor in chief, Susan Casey. She met John of God. She was counseled by him.
Dr. Jeff Rediger, a Harvard trained psychiatrist, actually witnessed John of God's healing. I spoke with both of them earlier this evening.
GUPTA: So Susan, now let's start with you. You went down to Brazil on assignment from the magazine to see what all the -- all the hype was about. As a journalist, obviously, you try to be objective. You must have had some sort of preconceived notion going into this.
SUSAN CASEY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "O MAGAZINE": Well, I was just curious. I was plain and simple, incredibly curious. Because when I first heard of John of God, there was always an aura of respect and, you know, gravitas around it. It was clear that he had helped tremendous amounts of people already.
And I wanted to know, you know, really, even if one person who was, in some way, terminally ill and couldn't be helped in conventional ways, had been helped by this man, really, what was going on? So to me as a journalist, that was -- that was what impelled me down there.
GUPTA: I was sorry to hear about the loss of your dad quite suddenly just two years, I think, if the number is correct, just two years before going to see John of God. You talked about that you still obviously were carrying a lot of emotional weight around. Were you hoping to get some kind of healing, as well?
CASEY: Well, I feel like when -- in a story like this, one of the best things that I could do for the readers would be to take them through the process, and actually going through it myself was one way to do that. So yes, absolutely I was.
I think when I heard his name and something kind of clicked with me, that was because I was seeking help myself. And, you know, I really felt as though I was in a hole that I couldn't get out of alone, and he definitely helped me.
GUPTA: Jeff, Doctor, like Susan's experience, many of the healing rituals John of God practices are so-called psychic surgeries, psychic operations where he purportedly operates on a patient without touching them. But I understand there are some hands-on procedures, as well, Jeff. Is that right? You know, eye scraping, nasal probing, is that right?
DR. JEFF REDIGER, M.D, HARVARD INSTRUCTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY: That's right.
GUPTA: Can you just describe what you saw, Jeff? REDIGER: Well, that was certainly something I was very interested to observe. A number of people told me down there that they believed they sustained a healing from that kind of experience, and I was skeptical.
I think that if people do have healings from that, that is a result of belief, and it does illustrate perhaps the power of belief. But physiologically, that's possible. It's possible for the human body to take an instrument into the nose, probably four inches or so.
GUPTA: You probably did a lot of reading on this, like I did. A lot of people out there claim that these types of things that John -- John of God are doing is just quackery, just sleight of hand. Is -- I mean, are they even scraping the cornea when they do this?
REDIGER: I do believe that some of what goes on down there is sleight of hand. I also believe, however, there are things that happen that cannot be explained by sleight of hand.
So I have come to believe somewhat reluctantly and with difficulty, figuring out how to accommodate this in my world view, that the world is a more mysterious place than I had understood.
GUPTA: I approach this from my background, obviously, as a neurosurgeon. I find it intriguing. I want to read something that you said while you were in Brazil. You said, quote, "It's asking a lot of people to believe that this man is able to do this, but at the same time it appears that he is."
You know, like Jeff, maybe in some ways, it's just hard for me to believe. It's not just thinking that it's woo-woo. You know, just being skeptical. You talk about being transformed in some ways. I mean, what do you have make of this and what is the message you think for other people?
CASEY: Well, I agree with Jeff that the world is a mysterious place. And just because we don't understand something doesn't mean it's not happening, and just because we can't explain it doesn't mean it's not happening. And there is a lot of power in something like love and something like faith.
People have taken for centuries on faith, the power of prayer and sort of a way that people know. So I don't really think that, you know, you need to one way or another prove or disprove that this is going on. I think in all of our hearts we know there's more out there than we can actually explain. And you know, maybe 100 years from now energy healing will be one of the forefronts of medicine.
GUPTA: You know, the concern, obviously, Susan, and I'll ask you, as well as Jeff, is that I agree. I mean, there are a lot of things out there that we don't understand.
But the consequences of sometimes going with something, despite understanding it or despite being able to prove it, might have some dangers. And I understand Jeff, for example, I understand John of God tells his patients to continue on with their doctor-prescribed treatments. I think that's a good thing.
But could John of God be endangering people by possibly giving them false hope?
CASEY: That wasn't how I perceived the environment there. I don't know what the danger is in false hope. I -- you know, and let's just say some of this is placebo effect and has to do with the force of belief of an individual. Is that bad?
I mean, there is -- as far as I could tell -- and I didn't find in my research instances of infection, instances of things gone wrong. I think not everybody gets the sort of happy perfect ending that they might hope for.
And my own personal experience was that it was a powerful thing and a very good thing. And I'd like to hear what Jeff thought of it. But I can't see anything bad about what's going on there, myself.
GUPTA: Well, Jeff, I'll let you weigh in on that, but let me ask you, as well, as a Harvard-trained doctor, did you look at scans of people or try and do, you know, medical confirmations of some of these things, as well?
REDIGER: Yes, I did. I went down there after initially resisting the idea of going down there and just tried to see what was true. I tried to collect CT scans, laboratory tests and data from before and after these healing events, just to see what the evidence said was going on. I do believe that this kind of research is complicated.
GUPTA: Yes, I think Susan makes a good point. I mean, just because we can't always explain things doesn't make them not true. But to be real honest about that, I think it is very important. A respected physician, Dr. Rediger. Susan, a respected journalist, a very important topic. I'm glad you could both weigh in. Thank you very much.
I'm honestly not sure what to make of all this in some ways, but maybe it's something I should see for myself. To try and better understand what's happening here. Susan Casey, Dr. Jeff Rediger, thanks so much for joining us.
REDIGER: Thank you.
GUPTA: And up next, all the best, all the worst of 2010. Lady Gaga is on our list of pop culture favorites this year. Who else, what else made the cut? We'll show you.
Plus a rogue's gallery of not-so-smart thieves taking aim at a big-named rapper and landing on our RidicuList.
GUPTA: Could it be that watching the reality show "Jersey Shore" is a lot like eating cheesecake? Something to think about. Most people love it but refuse to admit they sneak a piece. Or in this case, a peek.
Love it or hate it, it was part of American pop culture in 2010. Even people who don't watch "Jersey Shore" probably know who Snooki is and know all about The Situation and his now-famous abs.
Then again, there's no better reality TV than a real story. Many Americans were riveted by the saga of Conan O'Brien, who was fired from "The Tonight Show" but then started a new show on our sister station, TBS. And Betty White was one of the busiest actresses this year. Next month, she turns 89 years old.
2010 was also a big year at the box office and in prime time. Tom Foreman's here tonight with our year-end series, "All the Best, All the Worst."
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Best money maker. "Avatar" was released late in 2009 but this year reigned supreme as the biggest box-office winner ever...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Repetition, repetition.
FOREMAN: ... becoming the first film to gross more than $2 billion.
PETE DOMINICK, COMEDIAN: Before seeing the movie "Avatar," I was an atheist. After seeing the movie "Avatar" with my wife, we actually went home and connected our tails together.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to see a bunch of blue people running around. I mean, I like movies where people look like me pretty much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me what it was, was "Dances with Wolves" in a different galaxy.
MARY MCDONNELL, ACTRESS: Kick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Navi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Navi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Navi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Navi.
FOREMAN: Other big openings? "Toy Story 3," "Iron Man 2," "Alice in Wonderland."
TAYLOR LAUTNER, ACTOR: I'm in love with you, and I want you to pick me instead of him.
FOREMAN: And the "Twilight" saga "Eclipse." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually really liked "Inception."
LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: I know how to search your mind and find your secrets.
FOREMAN: Worst disappointment?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ACTOR: Why don't you start calling me Gordon?
FOREMAN: "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." Maybe it should.
Best of prime (ph).
EMMA STONE, ACTRESS: Ready for the grand finale?
FOREMAN: "Easy A," smart, funny, a reality play for amoral times.
JESSE EISENBERG, ACTOR: Talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.
FOREMAN: Best thing on screen about people online.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I loved "The Social Network." I thought that was fantastic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your best friend is suing you for $600 million.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know how accurate it was about the founding of Facebook, but I just thought it was kind of a fascinating story.
FOREMAN: Best alternative to wasting your time online? Wasting it on the sofa.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a TV junkie. I love "The Good Wife." I love "Dexter." That show is brilliant.
ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": I am a sap for "Glee."
LEA MICHELE, ACTRESS: Glee club is fun.
SUNNY HOSTIN, TRUTV CORRESPONDENT: I'm surprised Eliot watches that.
JACK GRAY, CNN PRODUCER: My favorite TV show is "Modern Family."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Breaking Bad" is my favorite television show. That -- that is just genius.
KATHLEEN PARKER, CO-HOST, "PARKER SPITZER": I still like "Law & Order."
DANIEL TOSH, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "TOSH.O": Let's all have bread bowls for lunch. FOREMAN: Best show to air while you were sleeping, Comedy Central's "Tosh.O."
COOPER: I think the guy from Tosh.O is really funny, and I think the videos they pick are -- the web videos are amazing.
FOREMAN: On to music. The best reason to buy a neck brace, Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair."
BARATUNDE THURSTON, "THE ONION": I just worry about people's health. You know, whipping your hair back and forth, you should do it with care.
COOPER: I'm not really listening to a lot of music right now. I'm kind of lame in that way.
PARKER: I have no idea what I'm listening to. Isn't that terrible?
HOSTIN: I will say that I downloaded Eminem. I thought he was really good.
JULIE CHEN, HOST, CBS'S "THE TALK": If you listen to his lyrics, he has a lot to say.
FOREMAN: Worst wardrobe malfunction: Lady Gaga, who reached for a dress and grabbed an entree.
COOPER: The meat dress? You know, that's Lady Gaga.
SPITZER: That was kind of revolting. Wasn't it? I mean, it was -- that was just awful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a medium rare dress, which is the way I like them.
DOMINICK: She gets on every magazine cover in America. If I put on a meat suit I'd be lucky to get attacked by my neighbor's dog.
THURSTON: As long as the meat dress doesn't touch me and no one around her got salmonella or other kind of microbes from the meat dress, then I think we'll be all right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a smart chick. My hat's off to her.
FOREMAN: Hats off, too, for the best song of the year in terms of sheer popularity.
FOREMAN: "California Girls."
CHEN: I have to admit. I know it's bubble gum, but I love that Katy Perry.
FOREMAN: Then she came up with the worst way to tickle Elmo.
KATY PERRY, SINGER: Are you ready to play dress up?
KEVIN CLASH, VOICE OF ELMO: Dress up?
FOREMAN: Her steamy visit to "Sesame Street" was dropped after parents saw too much of her Muppets.
HOSTIN: Who gets bounced off of "Sesame Street?" Wow.
PERRY (singing): You want to play, so I wore dress up clothes.
DOMINICK: I'm the father of two little girls. I have to watch thousands of hours of "Sesame Street." I think I'm entitled to a little cleavage shot from time to time that doesn't include Miss Piggy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hoping to see the Katy Perry segment over and over again.
GUPTA: Oh, my. Learned a lot about my colleagues watching these Tom Foreman segments.
You can see much more of them, by the way, in "All the Best, All the Worst 2010." It's part of CNN's New Year's Eve coverage.
Elliott Spitzer's favorite show is "Glee." Who knew?
Speaking of our colleagues, Anderson and Kathy Griffin are together yet again this year for New Year's Eve, live, counting down to 2011.
Up next, though, the main facing charges for his book on pedophilia heads to court. Phillip Greaves had headlines for selling a book on Amazon. We'll have the latest on his legal fight.
Plus two men accused of breaking into a rapper's mansion. They land on our RidicuList. Wait until you hear what the cops say they did next.
GUPTA: Coming up, two accused robbers target a rapper's mansion, one with a love for wine. That's going to get them on our RidicuList.
First, though, Joe Johns joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.
JOHNS: Sanjay, President Obama has signed the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" into law, but it will take months for it to take effect.
A Florida judge has set bail at $15,000 for the man who wrote a controversial book considered a how-to guide for pedophiles. The book was sold on Amazon but taken off last month. Phillip Greaves is charged with distribution of obscene material depicting minors engaged in harmful conduct. Greaves said he's a target of entrapment. The judge disagreed.
A state of emergency for six Southern California counties. Monsoon-look conditions are creating flash floods, forecasters predicting as much as two inches of rain an hour.
And should outlaw Billy the Kid get a pardon? The governor of New Mexico has received about 400 responses on a special Web site dedicated to answering a generations-old question.
GUPTA: I don't -- I don't even understand that one. That was like 1880s that he died.
JOHNS: Right. Right. I mean, why is it still a controversy? You know? Who knows?
GUPTA: Apparently, a lot of people think so, judging by his e- mail response.
JOHNS: Well, you know, I'll read up on it.
GUPTA: Maybe that will get him on the RidicuList some other time, but we've got time now for the RidicuList tonight. Two additions, in fact. Two men suspected of braking into 50 Cent's Connecticut mansion. "Fitty Cent," you like the way I said that?
The local newspaper, "The Hartford Courant," reports that one of the suspects was found in a closet, drinking a bottle of wine he had taken from the home. You heard me right. He was found in one of the rapper's closets.
Fifty Cent is trying to sell the home for a billion cents. That's $10 million. We did the math. We don't think he was home at the time. As a brain surgeon, what were these suspects thinking? I've got to think in a 52-room mansion, there must have been a better place to drink that way-too-early celebratory toast.
Another thing: if you're going to party like it's your birthday at Fifty's home, don't park your car in the driveway. According to reports, a security guard spotted the suspicious wheels and called police.
What were you thinking? Not the brightest move by these suspects.
This might explain a little. The men are also charged with marijuana possession, along with burglary and criminal trespass.
Now, 50 isn't the only celebrity turned victim this holiday season. Thieves broke into a rental storage facility and stole more than 50 trophies and other items from former tennis champion Pete Sampras. For Pete's sake, Mr. Sampras, that's not the best place for your prized goods. Among the missing items, his 1994 Australian Grand Slam trophy. As for the fate of that hat, that's still unclear tonight.
The good news: one of the stolen trophies and other items were found at a Los Angeles park this week. After all, I guess there's probably not much of a market for stolen tennis trophies, but hey, I could be wrong.
Did you also hear what happened to famed cook Paula Deen? Her ex-housekeeper was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing jewelry from Deen's home. According to the "Savannah Morning News," Deen told the judge, quote, "The scars she left behind emotionally can't begin to be measured." Interesting choice of words from the cook. We could also say she got burned.
There you go. Paula Deen, Pete Sampras, and 50 Cent. Three celebrities hit by crime this holiday season. But 50 Cent's theft suspects, especially the wine lover in the closet, you're at the top of Santa's naughty list and also tonight's RidicuList.
Well, ahead at the top of the hour, a dozen arrests in the U.K. in a suspected al Qaeda plot, but more than 12 hours later, the director of national intelligence for the United States didn't have a clue that it even happened. What else is he in the dark about?
We're asking the questions and "Keeping Them Honest."