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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Chief Opponent of Disabilities Treaty Defends Position; Fiscal Cliffhanger

Aired December 10, 2012 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks.

Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight, as we do every night, "Keeping Them Honest." Trying to look for facts, not supporting Democrats or Republicans. You can find that in other cable channels. Our goal is just reporting, finding out facts and the truth.

We did that exactly last week when reporting the story that we're focusing on again tonight. Again, because the more we look into it, the more we find people in powerful and influential places saying things that just don't square with the facts.

It's about a U.N. treaty that failed to be ratified by the Senate. A treaty that was meant to encourage other countries to be more like the U.S. on the issue of equal rights for the disabled. Now if other countries adopted better treatment of their disabled citizens, the idea that disabled Americans who visited or lived in other countries would also benefit.

Hundred and twenty-five countries had ratified the treaty. It was signed by Republican President George Bush, supported by the current president, and has the backing of senators from both sides of the aisle, including John McCain and past Republican leaders like Bob Dole, himself a disabled World War II veteran. He was wheeled on to the Senate floor -- you see him there -- for the vote to see, he hoped, the treaty ratified.

Well, instead after pressure from special interest groups, 38 Republicans, some of them vowed to support the treaty, voted no. One of the loudest critics of the legislation was the Home School Legal Defense Association, the HSLDA. It's the powerful lobby group around the country whose leader you're about to meet.

Now they have some very strong things to say about the treaty, but the notion was basically this. If it were to pass, they said, the U.N. treaty would somehow let the U.N. mandate how parents of disabled kids in America cared for their children. Americans, among the center is echoing that center is Mike Lee of Utah.

"Keeping Them Honest," though, when I asked him to specify how this U.N. influence might manifest itself, last week I asked him this, here's the answer he gave.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Can you name any other U.N. treaty that has forced changes in U.S. law?

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I didn't come prepared to cite Supreme Court precedent on this point but it's a well known fact --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But what you're saying is hypothetical. You're saying -- you're using a bunch of hypotheticals saying they're going to -- you know, this is going to force abortion rights for people -- for disabled people overseas. This is -- they're going to -- I mean, some groups are saying children with glasses are going be taken from their parents.

You're using all these very scary hypotheticals. You can't even cite one case where a U.N. treaty has ever impacted U.S. law?

LEE: I'm not aware of one person who's saying that children with glasses are going to be taken away from their parents. The Article 7 concern from the treaty relates to the fact that the best interest of the child standard would be injected into decisions regarding how best to educate and otherwise care for a disabled child.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But again --

LEE: It's worked in the United States --

COOPER: You can't name one U.N. treaty that has ever had an impact on U.S. law?

LEE: Well, I can't name one U.S. treaty that has been the deciding factor in a decision. It may well happen. I didn't come prepared to cite Supreme Court precedent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, about that eye glass claim I mentioned, the head of the HSLDA made it. you'll hear it for yourself in a moment. It also says the treaty would allow the United Nations to dictate, say, the number of handicapped parking spaces in church parking lots in America and allow U.N. bureaucrats in Geneva to change American laws. The evidence they cite, though, doesn't stand up to the scrutiny, according to former Republican Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, himself the father of a disabled son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It has no effect whatsoever within this country. It gives no jurisdiction to the U.N. over any individual or any government within the United States. I am puzzled as to where these strong objections come from.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Keep in mind, that was the nation's former top law enforcement official and a life-long Republican who believes there's nothing to the charges against the U.N. Disability Treaty.

Michael Farris, on the other hand, he's making a lot of the charges. He's chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He's also a chancellor of Virginia's Patrick Henry College. Mr. Farris is also the person who made the claim about children with eyeglasses.

Here's what he said in a radio interview for the -- with the American Family Association.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL FARRIS, CHAIRMAN, HOME SCHOOL LEGAL DEFENSE ASSOCIATION: The definition of disability is not defined in the treaty and so my kid wears glasses. Now they're disabled. Now the U.N. gets control over them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He's saying so U.N. bureaucrats could get control over his child if they decided to define disability as kids with glasses. So keep that sound bite in mind. It came up earlier tonight when I spoke with Michael Farris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Mr. Farris, you've been saying that this U.N. treaty would allow U.N. bureaucrats based in Geneva to take control of American kids. You said under this treaty the U.N. could define disability as kids who wore eyeglasses and therefore they would become under U.N. control. That's made up, though. I mean, how can you say that?

FARRIS: Well, first of all, I didn't say those things exactly. There are two different threads of the argument. One is that --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, you actually did say that. You were on a radio program and I have the quote.

FARRIS: Well -- OK. Well, let me -- let me give it to you straight. The eyeglasses comment was to illustrate the fact there's no definition of disability in the treaty.

COOPER: Right, it's left up to each country to define disability --

FARRIS: No.

COOPER: As per domestic law.

FARRIS: No, it is not. It says it's an evolving concept and it will be defined by the U.N. committee of experts that implement the treaty.

COOPER: Well, actually according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the treaty specifically leaves it up to each state to define disability under domestic law.

FARRIS: Well, maybe the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that but that's what the Vienna Convention Law of Treaty says, not is it what the CRPD treaty itself says. It is a super (INAUDIBLE) treaty. It overrides inconsistent provisions in domestic law.

Under the Vienna Convention Law of Treaties no nation's law ever supersedes a treaty in the international arena. So you just need to understand the basics of international law which apparently is a little bit different for you and for some of the people that are speaking about this treaty.

COOPER: No, I actually understand it quite well, but there's also an advice and consent that the -- that the Senate negotiated and put on this treaty, which -- which specifies that this does not alter U.S. law in any way. That this treaty does not supersede U.S. law?

FARRIS: Well, it doesn't have such a broad reservation that you're talking about. There's a disability definition reservation that tracks it to a degree, but as a general proposition, we need to understand that the treaty is a law. It's not a declaration.

COOPER: What treaty --

FARRIS: Well, the case of --

COOPER: What U.N. treaty has -- has forced a state or taken over -- what U.N. bureaucrat has control over an American child? Under any treaty?

FARRIS: The Hague Convention on the international kidnapping which has a really wild title. I litigated a case this summer where an American mom lost her ability to litigate for the custody of her children and her children were sent to Zimbabwe where her Canadian husband took refuge.

That was a case I litigated this summer under that treaty. The Supreme Court in a case I wrote an amicus brief in and they specifically cited my brief dealing with juvenile justice issues used the U.N. Convention on the Rights of a Child to interpret American law. A federal district court --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But the U.S. hasn't signed on to the -- the U.N. Convention on the Rights of a Child.

FARRIS: Surprise, surprise, that's even more my point.

COOPER: You also claim that if the U.S. signed on to this U.N. treaty, on the Rights of Disabled People, we would be, quote, "signing up to be an official socialist nation."

FARRIS: That's true.

COOPER: Now this was a treaty negotiated under President Bush originally back in 2001. John McCain supports it, former attorney general Richard Thornburgh. You honestly say they want to be a socialist nation?

FARRIS: The treaty is economic, social and cultural rights at its core. The United States refuse to adopt the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights in the '60s. The Soviet bloc has adopted those treaties. The United States has never, ever adopted one of these treaties --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So you think George Bush wants to be -- this wants to be a socialist nation?

FARRIS: We have a big national debt because of the spending patterns of both Republicans and Democrats --

COOPER: OK. No, I'm just curious. So you're saying he wants socialism.

FARRIS: I don't think he understood --

COOPER: And John McCain wants socialism.

FARRIS: Well --

COOPER: Richard Thornburgh wants socialism.

FARRIS: I'm sure that you have more than once criticized President Bush for not having the capacity to understand all the issues.

COOPER: Actually I haven't.

FARRIS: I don't think he understood -- I don't think he understood this particular issue.

COOPER: You've also claimed that this treaty will ban spanking in America, that it will determine how many parking spaces a church should have set aside for disabled people. Again, there is not anything in this treaty that changes U.S. law. That in fact a lot of this is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act which is the gold standard, which I think you even support. And it doesn't alter U.S. law.

FARRIS: It -- Anderson, you're just wrong about that. I have an LL in public international law from the University of London.

COOPER: No, I'm sure you're much smarter than I.

(CROSSTALK)

FARRIS: I teach -- well, maybe on this -- I have studied this subject. If you wrote that statement, if John Kerry wrote that statement on an international law exam where I teach that subject, I would flunk you. COOPER: But you're alleging that somehow some U.N. committee of bureaucrats based in Geneva is going to have the power to change U.S. law. As you know under this treaty, that U.N. committee has not -- gives non-binding recommendations to countries about how to treat disabled people. They have no power to change law. And under this treaty, it's left to each country, again, to apply the term disability consistent with its own domestic law.

FARRIS: Anderson, I'm going to give you a video clip for a U.N. hearing held the day before the Senate vote, where in the U.N., in New York City, a disability advocate said that we need to make sure that we implement this treaty as a superseding document. That means that it overrides national law. And the idea that you're portraying about this, basically, from watching your video clips, when a Democrat says something, that's a fact. When a conservative says something, that's an unproven allegation.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Actually, no. Then you're saying Richard Thornburgh is Democrat because we had had him on the show.

FARRIS: No.

COOPER: He's the father of a disabled child. He's been studying this for 30 years and has a personal stake in this and he says you're completely making stuff up.

FARRIS: Well, I say he's absolutely wrong and he doesn't have the degree in international law. I do. I teach international law. And so --

COOPER: Yes.

FARRIS: He just simply is wrong about that. He can say what he wants to say, but he's an advocate for the treaty. And I'm telling you this as a matter of reality --

COOPER: So the recommended conditions that were approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and attached to this treaty that restrict the power of the treaty and this resolution of advice and consent, the RUD, which includes reservations of conditions that limit and clarify the extent of any obligations this treaty might entail, I mean, are you saying they have no impact? Because I -- my understanding is, and you probably know this better than I, the Supreme Court has ruled that these kind of conditions from a Senate committee which are attached to this treaty trump any language in that treaty.

FARRIS: You're absolutely right about that point. If -- if an RUD is correctly written, it will limit the effect of the treaty. For example, the non-self-executing provision of the treaty. That was well written, it will work. It will stop an American court from implementing the treaty without first being pursued and in a proper legislative fashion or in an administrative fashion by either the political branches of government. But that doesn't mean that the United States is not obligated to obey the treaty.

COOPER: I just don't see any real -- I mean, a case you can cite, specific cases where individuals have argued in court or judges -- you know, have used U.N. conventions, but I don't see any U.N. bureaucrats ruling, or changing the laws of states, and ruling over American children.

FARRIS: Well, it's because you don't open your eyes. The most distressing thing was how often the senators spent time praising themselves and praising each other and praising Bob Dole for their work on this rather than actually reading the document and talking about the articles within the treaty.

COOPER: Well, I think most of them were praising Bob Dole for not just his service in the Senate but service to the country in which he was wounded and that's why he's disabled, but I get your point.

Michael Farris, I appreciate your being on and arguing it well. Thank you.

FARRIS: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That's one view, by the way. We had to trim that interview for time, but you can see the entire conversation online at ac360.com.

As for what Mr. Farris said about former Attorney General Thornburgh here's Mr. Thornburgh's reaction, and I quote, "My service as attorney general of the United States under President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush provides a solid grounding for my opinion on the interpretation of this treaty. It is absurd to think that I would support any treaty that would adversely impact the well-being of my own son who has severe intellectual and physical disabilities as has been implied."

He goes on to say, "My overriding concern is that America continues to be a leader on this important human rights issue."

Let's dig deeper now, let's talk with CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

So, Jeff, what's your reaction to what Mr. Farris have to say.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think it's important to put in political context what he's saying. Hatred of the United Nations is now a bedrock principle of the conservative movement in this country. So anything relating to the United States -- the United Nations, even something as uncontroversial as this treaty, draws objections based on hypothetical and as far as I can tell, extremely farfetched ideas about what the treaty might do.

COOPER: He says there are many cases of U.N. treaty becoming U.S. law. U.N. treaty superseding U.S. law, becoming the law of the land.

TOOBIN: A, not true. As far as I am aware in any significant case. COOPER: He cites a multitude of cases.

TOOBIN: You know, I was familiar with one of the cases he cited, which the Bond case, which was not in the Supreme Court about the treaty obligation to the United States at all.

COOPER: The United Nations?

TOOBIN: United Nations. No, no, the treaty obligations of the United States under the United Nations at all.

COOPER: OK.

TOOBIN: The other -- the other point is that the Congress has said, John Kerry, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has said there is no rights created to sue in an American court based on this treaty. You can't wave this treaty and go into an American courtroom and say, we're going to take your kids away. You can't do anything in American courtroom based on the treaty.

COOPER: The -- I mean, the thing he keeps saying about -- and a lot of supporters of this keep saying is that a U.N. bureaucracy, a U.N. bureaucrat based in Geneva, which they keep pointing out, is going to have power over an American child. And that just does not seem to be the case.

TOOBIN: It is not true. It is simply an invented paranoid fantasy about what could happen, which is contrary to everything in this law. I mean, as you pointed out, this is not some internationalist left- wing conspiracy. This is a very much a -- a bipartisan idea. George W. Bush, Bob Dole, Richard Thornburgh, not exactly a list of socialists. They're all for this treaty. And that's because it's really a very simple, basic idea.

COOPER: Supporters of this U.N. treaty say because the Senate have -- has these RUDs, these advice and consent things, which basically limit the scope and define the scope of it, that is a protection that this treaty would ever be used to try to change U.S. law. He says that's not the case.

TOOBIN: No. It is the case because these objections that Mr. Farris was raising, they were raised at the committee level. And what the -- what the sponsors of the treaty did was, OK, we don't think this is a legitimate concern. But just to be doubly sure that we know what this treaty means, they put in essentially amendments that say you can't go to an American court and try to enforce this treaty. The U.N. -- no one can do that. So again, it's a paranoid fantasy. It's not reality.

COOPER: I just -- are there cases where -- that you know of where U.N. bureaucrats, you know, not even English-speaking U.N. bureaucrats, living in Geneva and fancy Switzerland or -- have control over U.S. kids somehow or changed the laws of the -- of the United States?

TOOBIN: Control over kids, control over state law, control over the American educational system, never, absolutely not.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Toobin, thanks.

Let us know what you think. We're on Twitter right now. @andersoncooper. I'll be tweeting tonight.

Up next, are Republicans and Democrats looking for ways of climbing down from the fiscal cliff? The president and House Speaker John Boehner meeting at the White House, and signs of give, perhaps, on both sides, but can either side really go far enough without losing their own core supporters? Van Jones and Ari Fleischer join us with the "Raw Politics." Ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back, "Raw Politics" now. Just 22 worrying days until America goes off the fiscal cliff or maybe 21 worrying days and one panicking night, I'm not sure. Now whichever it is there are signs even three weeks out that neither side really wants to push it to the very end.

President Obama today speaking at a truck engine plant in Michigan said he's willing to give a little but said he would not compromise when it comes to higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Notice, though, he did not say he was married to a specific rate, such as all the way back to the Clinton era levels.

As for House Speaker Boehner, whom he met with yesterday at the White House, he says the GOP offer remains the same, no rate hikes. However, there were more signs over the weekend that Republican unity may be cracking a bit with the number of lawmakers who want to take the tax issue off the table ASAP.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SE. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: There are a growing group of folks that are looking at this and realizing that we don't have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue before yearend. I mean we have one house, that's it. The presidency and the Senate is in the Democrats' hands. So a lot of people are putting forth a theory. And I actually think it has merit. I actually am beginning to believe that is the best route for us to take.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: What we ought to be working on is the other 93 percent because even if you do what he wants to do on tax rates, you only affect 7 percent of the deficit. What we have done is spend ourselves into a hole. And we're not going to raise taxes and borrow money and get out of it. And so will I accept the tax increase as a part of a deal to actually solve our problems? Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A number of recent polls show Americans by and large agree. The latest from George Washington University, 60 percent favor raising taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year. Even bigger majority, 64 percent, favor raising taxes on large corporations. Somewhat more problematic, is President Obama's intent to compromise on entitlements. A sizeable majority says no to raising Medicare eligibility -- excuse me, eligibility age from 65 to 67.

Joining me now to talk about the possible outlines of the deal and hopefully pronounce the words correctly as well as the potential landmines, GOP strategist Ari Fleischer and Van Jones, former Obama adviser and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream.

So, Van, apart from my bad grammar, how close do you think President Obama and Speaker Boehner are to a deal? And from your perspective, is a bad deal better than no deal?

VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Well, no, I think a bad deal is a bad deal and we shouldn't -- we shouldn't accept it. The Republicans have a problem now all the polls show the vast majority of the American people say that and people have done well in America should do well by America and start paying America back.

This tax break, even George Bush didn't want it to be permanent. So, somehow the Republicans have gotten hung up on this one thing, turning this kind of tax policy into theology. They just can't let it go. It's united the Democratic Party against them and now mostly American people are on the other side of the debate.

We can't even talk about spending until the Republicans get out of this corner.

COOPER: Ari, how much of the Republican opposition is based on principle and -- to the raising of taxes on the wealthiest is based on principle and how much is based on a fear that they may face a primary challenge from more conservatives in their party or from Tea Party candidates?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's impossible to know the second one. I think there are probably a number of people in potentially vulnerable situations where they do have to look over their right shoulder and worry about it, but I think the reason this is so strongly felt by Republicans is the belief that if you raise taxes, the government is going to spend the money anyway or the government is going to waste the money. And so raising taxes is not a good answer.

I think that's why you see Republicans so theological, if you will, about it for deep substantive reasons. But the numbers really don't give anybody hope for solving any of our nation's problems about deficits which impede growth, which hurt young people's chances to make it.

If you raise the taxes on the rich, let's concede it's done. You bring in about -- I mean, $600 billion over 10 years. You keep the tax rates the same way on everybody else, that costs the government $4 trillion over 10 years the way CBO counts it.

So, Anderson, this debate, really, has nothing to do with getting our fiscal house in order. It's about raising taxes on the rich. And I think it's hard for Republicans to resist it. Looks like the president is going to be somewhat successful.

JONES: Well, I don't know if I agree with you 100 percent on this, Ari. I think the American people are pretty smart about this. And I think that if you look at where the American people are, it used to be a while ago people were afraid to even say the word tax in America because, you know, Grover Norquist kind of had the whole country afraid to say the word.

I think Americans now are saying, listen, we want to actually be, to coin a phrase, conservative. If you have a war, you've got to pay for that war. If you're going to do stuff like the Republicans did with the Medicare prescriptions, you've got to pay for it.

I think the Republicans now look like a something for nothing party almost. I think America --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: We have to pay for this stuff that we actually look for now.

FLEISCHER: But, Van, to be consistent, you should raise the rates on everybody back to the Clinton rates. What you're doing --

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: With that theory is making 2 percent of the country pay all the nation's bills.

JONES: No, no. That's not exactly right, Ari.

FLEISCHER: Hold on a second. If you were consistent and principled about what you said, the 10 percent rate would go back up to the 15 percent rate the way it was under Bill Clinton. The 25 percent rate would go up, too. All rates would go up.

JONES: Yes. Well, let me tell you why --

FLEISCHER: That's the logical follow on to what you just said.

JONES: -- that would be a bad idea. No -- let me tell you why that would be a bad idea. The 98 percent of Americans, if you raised taxes on them, it would actually hurt the economy. What -- the top 2 percent, raising taxes on them is not going to change their economic behavior very much and so you can actually begin to get some of that revenue back. The rest of the country, if you hit them with that 2,000 bucks --

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: But then don't say it's about people paying --

JONES: As well as --

FLEISCHER: Don't say it's about people paying their bills.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Ari, do you think raising it -- do you think raising it on the wealthiest will change their behavior?

FLEISCHER: Of course it will change their behavior, Anderson. We're already seeing it right now. People are moving their charitable contributions into 2012. There will be less contributions to charity going out in 2013. It always does.

The question is what impact will it have on the economy and on job creation and on growth. My belief is --

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: It's going to hinder it. It's going to hinder it. But this debate is a false debate because the real debate is going to be the one that comes over spending. That's where we're really putting a damper on America's growth. We cannot go forward with trillion-dollar deficits. And raising the taxes on the rich is not going to solve the deficit problem.

COOPER: And Van --

FLEISCHER: This is to small.

COOPER: And, Van, as a Democrat, do you acknowledge the spending cuts are necessary as well?

JONES: I do think we're going to have to do something about spending. But if you look at where Americans are actually, again, in their great wisdom looking, if you ask them to -- we'd be giving corporate welfare to oil companies, they so no, cut the spending there. If you look at the Pentagon budget. Take care of our soldiers but you shouldn't be giving so much money to these Defense contractors. Take money there.

There are places to cut, but we can't even have a discussion about where to cut because Republicans have gotten themselves so far out on this one tiny issue. But they want to fight and die on the hill, I think it's bad for them I think it's bad for the country.

COOPER: All right.

FLEISCHER: No, Anderson, just notice, it used to be about balance. There's nothing balanced in what Van just said.

JONES: This is balanced.

FLEISCHER: It's all taxes now.

JONES: Hey, listen, we -- no, no.

FLEISCHER: And we can't even begin to talk about -- come on, Van.

JONES: We can cut --

FLEISCHER: Hold on. Hold on.

COOPER: Let Ari --

FLEISCHER: You don't get to interrupt all the time. The president used to say we need a balanced plan that includes taxes and spending. And now they're saying we can't talk about spending until we have taxes. That's a change in position. That's one of the reasons the mood in Washington is so bad.

The president has got the leverage, he's got the upper hand, but he's also poisoning the well.

COOPER: All right. The final thought from you, Van, then we've got to go.

JONES: Well, I think that the president is taking a balanced approach. We are talking about spending cuts. The problem that I think we have right now is that where we can cut, and where we can come together and cut, we can't even have that conversation because Republicans are taking such an extreme position.

COOPER: OK.

JONES: I think Americans are pretty wise about wanting the people who have done well in America to do well by America and start paying America back.

COOPER: Van Jones, thanks. Ari Fleischer, thank you.

Some amazing medical news ahead. Really remarkable stuff. An experimental treatment that brought a little girl back from the brink of death. That's the little girl. Last spring, it looked like Emma was going to lose her battle against leukemia, but then her doctors used, get this, a strain of HIV to save her life. Dr. Sanjay Gupta join me ahead to explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Does the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" take moviegoers inside the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Does it go too far and distort the truth? I'll talk with CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen who served as an unofficial adviser on the film coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, some really fascinating medical news to tell you about. A little girl who last spring was dying of leukemia is now healthy with no signs of cancer. Her name is Emma Whitehead and the fact that she's alive today is frankly remarkable.

Even more astounding is how doctors were able to bring her back from the brink of death. They used disabled HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to basically reprogram her immune system to kill cancer cells. HIV, it seems counterintuitive to most of us that a virus as deadly as HIV or ultimately deadly could actually help save someone's life.

It's a very experimental treatment. It's developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Now they've tested it on a dozen patients and today they're presenting their latest results. Emma was one of the first children to get the treatment.

Now before it saved her, it nearly killed her, it's a very, very difficult treatment to undergo, but seven months later, she's still in complete remission. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins me now.

Sanjay, I find this incredible here, this little girl, Emma Whitehead, alive today because of this therapy. I don't understand how this works at all. How does this actually kill the cancer?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is something that people have been talking about for some time and have used in forms, but in a nutshell, it's teaching the body's immune system that cancer is foreign, bad, and should be attacked using the body's immune system.

So different than using chemotherapy to achieve those goals, you take out some of the body's immune cells and you basically reprogram them. You put some genetic material into them that teaches the cells to attack that cancer. What's interesting here is they're using a deadened form of the HIV virus to transport that genetic material into cells.

HIV very good to getting to cells so they're putting this genetic material sort of as a piggy back onto the virus and then they put the T-cells back onto the body and it attacks the cancer. The person also oftentimes gets very sick.

They get their immune system really blown up so it's a long hospitalization, it's a tough hospitalization, but in her case, as you point out, quite remarkable.

COOPER: What her prognosis and also how did the other patients do?

GUPTA: Well, you know, this is new, and that's what fun about reporting on this stuff because, you know, this is in part, you know, how medical history is sort of made.

What we know is he's doing well right now. There aren't many patients, I guess, is my point who have had this done. I wrote down some of the numbers. They have tried this in adults. Three adults have had complete remission. No signs of disease.

And keep in mind these are patients for whom nothing was really working anymore. Four adults improved, but did not have complete remission. There was one other child who improved for two months, but then relapsed and also two adults for whom it didn't work at all.

So still trying to figure out are there some people for whom this is going to work better and what is the timing? How quickly after the treatment do you expect it to work? These are unanswered questions still.

COOPER: So I mean, I guess, if they can duplicate these results, I guess the question is could this treatment eventually replace bone marrow transplants? GUPTA: That's exactly what they're thinking and hoping. We're not there yet. First of all, just the financials, I mean, this is about $20,000 for a treatment, which is not cheap by any means, but is a lot cheaper than a bone marrow transplant.

The other thing, as they get more results back, they'll answer some of these questions. Think about this, Anderson, if you have these cells in your body that are now trained to recognize that cancer, if the cancer were to ever come back, it is possible that these cells could immediately attack it.

So it's kind of almost like a cancer vaccine. Again, it's early in the studies, but imagine that, Anderson, if you had these cells in your body, you could basically say you wouldn't get that cancer again.

COOPER: So other teams have been using T-cells, I know, to target not just leukemia, also other cancers. You saw this type of therapy recently at MD Anderson. Are they seeing similar results?

GUPTA: They are, and I tell you, I visited with one of the first patients getting the therapy. This is Brian, a baseball coach from the Midwest. He has stage four melanoma, melanoma that has spread throughout his body. There aren't any good options or long-term options certainly to treat this.

What you're watching there is them actually doing the same thing. They're removing lots of blood. Then eventually, they're going to take those T-cells specifically, and they grow them with a growth factor and add other immune cells.

Eventually, you have this cancer concoction they put back into the body. Again, patients get really sick because you're essentially just ramping up the immune system. Sometimes 100, 1,000 times normal, but once they get through that, sometimes with the help of medications, they can have pretty astonishing results.

COOPER: It's incredible. Sanjay, appreciate the explanation. Thanks.

Amazing stuff, a lot more happening including controversy over a movie that tell the story of the decades long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. The film is already raking in awards and raising some questions about a scene involving torture.

Did the filmmakers go too far and is the movie distorts the facts? CNN analyst Peter Bergen was nonofficial adviser of the filmmakers. He joins me ahead and so does former CIA Officer Bob Baer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The Australian radio hosts behind that prank call to a British hospital speak out about the tragic suicide of the nurse who took their call. What they're saying to her family when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Some major film critics are raving about a new movie, "Zero Dark Thirty," which is a fictional account of the decades long man hunt for Osama bin Laden. "Zero Dark Thirty" by the way, is a military term for half past midnight, which is when Navy SEALs raided bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

Now the movie hasn't opened in theaters yet it's already pulling in awards and is expected to be an Oscar contender.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you really believe this story, Osama bin Laden?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The movie is also stirring up controversy because of a torture scene. The movie contains some extremely graphic scenes of a CIA officer interrogating an al Qaeda detainee, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, beatings and other physical abuse and torture is depicted in detail.

Leaving some to ask, does the film go to too far and is it accurate in talking about the use of torture or what they call enhanced interrogation techniques in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and in ultimately finding Osama bin Laden.

CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen was the unofficial adviser of the film. His latest book is "Man Hunt, A 10-Year Search For bin Laden." He joins me now along with CNN contributor, former CIA Officer Bob Baer.

Peter, you have seen the movie, I have seen the movie as well. You were an unpaid adviser. What did the filmmakers get wrong in terms of -- because I mean, it was -- you know, there was a lot of reporting the screen writer did to kind of suss out the facts.

But in terms of the torture sequence, were they right in that waterboarding led to the information that led to bin Laden?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Not according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Anderson. I mean, you know, the film is a great film and it covers a lot of themes about the war on terror and the decade-long struggle against al Qaeda.

As a sort of overall picture, I think there's a lot of things that are good about the film. But the fact that is Senate Intelligence Committee, which has spent three years investigating the claim that coercive interrogation techniques led to bin Laden amongst other claims find there was no, basically no truth to that.

They haven't released their official report yet, but the heads of this committee have publicly stated this several months ago.

COOPER: In the film, the first 20 or 30 minutes, probably 20 minutes, is a rather extended interrogation sequence, and some of the techniques are -- would be classified as torture, I guess, it's an arguable point, but waterboarding used to be considered torture.

But you and other terrorism experts, you took issue with how those interrogations were portrayed in an early version.

BERGEN: Yes, we saw an early cut similar to what you saw, Anderson, and I said I think that the scenes were overwrought. And he said they in fact turned down some of the scenes.

You know, certainly, people were abused in CIA custody who were members of al Qaeda, but they weren't beaten to a pulp as was in earlier cuts. So I think, you know, the filmmakers behaved in a sensible way in the fact they have taken outside advice and they did a lot of reporting.

And it is after all a movie. That said, half an hour of the film is very, very visceral and viewers are going to walk away with the feeling, I think wrongly, that torture somehow basically netted bin Laden. I think that's the bottom line they'll come away with in the film.

COOPER: Bob, do you see danger in Hollywood buying this part of the story?

ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. This is the version we're going to be living with for the next however many years, that torture found us bin Laden, and it's just not true as Peter said.

I can't emphasis this enough. He was found with traditional sources, traditional espionage, the way things, with detective work, it had nothing to do with torture. I have seen no credible version of that someone was broken, gave up bin Laden's location.

And the problem is the next time we go into a war, people are going to have this movie on their minds. As good as the movie is, you know, as graphic as it is, and the rest of it, it's simply not the way it happened. And in that sense, it's not helpful.

COOPER: The movie portrays the CIA analysts and also CIA officers in the field and then obviously Special Forces. But in reality, there was an FBI component and a lot of contention between the FBI and the CIA about it.

BAER: Sure --

BERGEN: Go ahead.

COOPER: Bob, go ahead.

BAER: The FBI is against torture. It can't take the evidence and take it into court. An FBI agent interrogated Khalid Sheik Muhammad disagreed that torture got anyone anywhere. They're completely opposed to it. The CIA was reluctant to use torture, too. It was the Pentagon and as we know as Peter said the results are mix.

COOPER: So Peter, what -- do you fear this becomes the narrative, that people will see this and think, OK, waterboarding got bin Laden?

BERGEN: Yes. I mean, I think that's the bottom line. I don't think that's not the filmmaker's intent, and they have many other scenes in the movie about how the relationship with the foreign intelligence office derived real leads, the name of bin Laden's courier.

And they tracked down the cell phones he was using and how human spies on the ground in Pakistan tracked him to where he was hiding with bin laden and after that. But at the end of the day when somebody pulls something out of a file and it's from foreign intelligence service.

That's not an inherently dramatic scene as opposed to half an hour waterboarding and beating somebody off and all these other things that happened in the beginning of the film. So I think a lot of people are going to walk away saying, torture got us bin Laden.

COOPER: Yes, Peter Bergen and Bob Baer, thanks very much. You can read Peter's op-ed on this at cnn.com.

Up next, the death of a superstar, singer and reality star, Jenni Rivera, killed in a plane crash in Mexico. You may not have heard of her. She has millions of fans. We'll remember her life next.

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COOPER: Welcome back. Tonight, millions of Jenni Rivera's fans are mourning her death in a plane crash. Her family obviously reeling from the tragedy at the crash site in northern Mexico, very sobering scene, seven people were onboard the small Learjet. No survivors.

It's not yet known what caused the plane to go down yesterday. Rivera's fans admired her deeply not only for her strength but her powerful voice. One of her early albums was tribute to the slain singer, Selena, who is murdered in 1995. That album helped put Rivera on the map, and tonight, some believe her legacy could even eclipse that of Selena's. Here's her story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Singer Jenni Rivera was a household name to millions in the U.S. and Mexico. She released her first album in 1999 and her popularity exploded. She went on to sell more than 15 million records, making her one of the most popular Latin artists in the past two decades.

She recently won two Billboard Music Awards and was nominated for several Latin Grammy awards. Magazine people in Espanol named her to the list of 25 most powerful women. Known as the diva, her audience was drawn to her powerhouse Spanish language performances of ballads.

Speaking of the Senate floor today, Senator Marco Rubio said Rivera was a real American success story.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: She was a singer in a genre of music that is largely dominated by males. Yet she brought a powerful voice to that genre where she sung frankly about her struggles to give her children a better life in this country.

COOPER: It was her openness with her struggles that drew her fans even closer. Born in Long Beach, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, the 43-year-old performer had struggled through tough financial times and a tumultuous personal life.

The single mom at 15 and mother of five, she had been married three times and often joked about how she once sold cans for scrap metal at her family's stand add a Los Angeles flea market.

JENNI RIVERA, MEXICAN-AMERICAN SINGER (through translation): It's very flattering when they tell me I'm a great artist, a great entertainer, that I can entertain the audience that I can get in the studio and record. But before that, I was a businesswoman.

COOPER: Rivera eventually became the owner of her own music and TV production company, a fragrance brand, and a clothing line. In her latest professional chapter, she'd set her eyes on Hollywood where she also had many admirers.

After learning of her death, actor, Mario Lopez tweeted, what an amazing lady. Cool, smart, funny, and talented, such a travesty. God bless her family. Many Hollywood insiders believe she was on the verge of crossing over to the English language U.S. market.

ABC had recently signed her to star in a sitcom and she was writing songs in English and signed with a powerful Hollywood talent agency. The world rarely sees someone who has had such a profound impact on so many.

Universal Music Group said in a statement from her incredibly versatile talent to the way she embraced her fans around the world, Jenni was simply incomparable. Family members were planning to travel to Mexico as investigators determine what caused the crash.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sad loss for so many. Let's get the latest on some other stories we're following. Isha is here with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a Navy SEAL was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday during a successful raid to free an American doctor who was being held hostage.

Petty Officer First Class Nicholas Checque of Monroeville, Pennsylvania, was a member of the elite SEAL Team Six, according to a U.S. official. That's the same unit that carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

A 360 follow, bodies found in a wooded area of Iowa last week have been identified as 10-year-old Lyric Cook and her 8-year-old cousin Elizabeth Collins. The two girls have been missing since July 13th.

Former International Monetary Fund Chief Dominic Strauss-Kahn has settled a lawsuit with a New York hotel housekeeper who accused him of sexually assaulting her. Terms of the settlement have not been released.

And Anderson, the two Australian radio deejays who made a prank phone call to the British hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was staying are speaking out. The deejays today spoke on Australian television about the suicide of the nurse who put the prank call through to the ward where the duchess was. They said they're heartbroken and sorry and they feel horrible for the nurse's family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just so devastated for them. I'm really feeling for them, just shocking turn of events. If we had any idea that something like this could be even possible to happen, you know, we couldn't see this happening. It was meant to be a prank call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: It's an interview that's tough to watch in parts, but our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the nurse who are going through a really tough time.

COOPER: To say the least. Isha, thanks. We'll be right back.

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COOPER: Ran out of time for "The Ridiculist." We'll see you again one hour from now another edition of 360. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.