PAULA ZAHN NOW
How Safe Are America's Skies?; Jury Chosen in Sniper Suspect Trial; Building Better Babies
Aired October 17, 2003 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: "In Focus" tonight: the mysterious discovery of box cutters and more on two airliners. Two years after 9/11, how safe is it to fly?
A jury is picked for the trial of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad. Now both sides prepare for opening statements on Monday.
And Paula Zahn from Rome on the life and works of the legendary film director Federico Fellini.
Good evening and welcome. Paula Zahn is on assignment in Rome. She'll be back on Monday.
Also ahead tonight, the furor over the Army general who says Islam is the spiritual enemy of the United States.
And our debate tonight: using technology to build better babies. Should parents be allowed to use science to make their future children smarter and stronger?
Plus Grammy-winning singer Natalie Cole joins us to tell us about her new challenge, helping the children of Afghanistan.
But first, here are some of the headlines you need to know right now.
The House and Senate have approved hefty spending bills for Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate version provides $85 billion, but some of the money comes in the form of loans, rather than grants, a move that the White House opposes. The $87 billion House version is entirely grant-based. The differences will have to be ironed out.
A judge has set October 28 for a preliminary hearing in the murder case against Scott Peterson. It's the third time the date has been changed because of scheduling conflicts with defense attorneys.
And the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says several potential Olympic track and field athletes have tested positive for a substance similar to a banned anabolic steroid. The agency says it's part of a conspiracy involving tennis and coaches and athletes to duck anti- doping rules. But the president of the lab that allegedly produces the substance in question says the controversy is unfounded.
Well, now to that startling security breach on two Southwest Airlines planes. It looks like someone was trying to send a message about security by leaving box cutters and other items stashed in bathrooms. CNN has learned that authorities are questioning a 20- year-old student from North Carolina in connection with the case. Sources say the student was a passenger on board the planes and not an employee of the airline or airports.
And they believe he planted the items. And he will appear in court on Monday. Officials also say this does not appear to be terrorism, but it does put airline safety "In Focus" tonight.
And I'm joined from Houston by Issy Boim. He is a former security officer for El-Al Airlines and the current president of Air Security International.
Good evening to you.
O'BRIEN: I'm also joined from Washington by Peter Goelz. He's a former managing director of the NTSB.
Good evening for you. Thanks for joining us.
PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NTSB: Good evening.
O'BRIEN: Peter, let's begin with you. When you heard the news about box cutters found on two of these airlines, give me a sense of your reaction. Were you surprised?
GOELZ: Well, of course. You're always surprised.
But I think the reality is that anyone who believes that the security at the checkpoint in our nation's airport is 100 percent is fooling themselves. That's why I think that there is a layered approach, so that no one area of security bears the full responsibility.
O'BRIEN: But, Peter -- and forgive me for interrupting for you.
O'BRIEN: And you say maybe it's not 100 percent, but certainly one would have to imagine that maybe the security would be good enough so at least a box cutter would never get through an airline checkpoint ever again after 9/11. That might be fair to say.
GOELZ: Well, you would hope that that would be the case.
Since 9/11, TSA has confiscated almost 20,000 box cutters. But, remember, on 9/11, the number of air marshals numbered in the dozens. Today, they number in the thousands. On 9/11, the cockpit access was somewhat cavalier and the doors were somewhat flimsy. Today, the regulations are strict and the doors are armored, so that a simple repeat of 9/11, the events that took place, those tragedies in that plane, would be very difficult to replicate. But is there more to be done? Absolutely. O'BRIEN: Issy, as passengers, we wait in long lines. We have our toenail scissors taken away. We take our shoes off as we go through certain checkpoints, all these improvements that we see as passengers. Is this all basically an indication that, frankly, someone who wants to do harm to the airline can, regardless of these improvements?
ISSY BOIM, FORMER EL-AL SECURITY OFFICER: Yes, good evening.
I think everything has been improved dramatically. And, actually, the first questions that came to my mind today, how it could go -- actually went through these checkpoints, because this checkpoint is looking to me very good. And by flying so much all over, I could be very satisfied with the quality. The questions that I actually like to put today, maybe it didn't go through the checkpoints.
O'BRIEN: So I guess I'd like you to weigh in, then, Issy. Are we safer today than we were before 9/11?
BOIM: Oh, you cannot even compare. It's two different issues, you see. We do have much better security. As Peter said, it's very difficult to go today through the checkpoint and actually to commit something similar to September 11.
But the question is, do we cover all the risk analysis, all the risk that is still open in the airport in order to make sure that we are working and operating in a sterilized area?
O'BRIEN: Peter, what should we be doing at the airports that we're not?
GOELZ: I think there's two things right away that we need to do. One is, we need to bite the bullet and move forwards on CAPS 2. And that is the sophisticated computerized screening system, so that we get a better profile of our passengers.
And I know that there are concerns about civil liberties on that, but if we want real sophisticated security, we need to move ahead on that. The second thing we need to do is to put more money into the next generation of screening devices that we use at our checkpoints. The screening devices that are mostly in use are last-generation equipment. We need to spend some more money there.
TSA has done a pretty good job over the last 18 months. They're going to do a better job.
O'BRIEN: Peter Goelz and Issy Boim joining me this evening -- thanks, gentlemen. Appreciate your time.
GOELZ: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: The trial of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad is moving ahead full steam; 12 jurors and three alternates were chosen today, with opening statements expected to begin on Monday morning.
For more on that, as well as who might be holding the edge in the Kobe Bryant case, I'm joined from Los Angeles by criminal attorney Trent Copeland.
Good evening. Thanks for joining us. Nice to see you.
TRENT COPELAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good evening, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the week in review, shall we? And, in fact, gauge the week for me. Some people said that defense attorney Pamela Mackey of the Kobe Bryant case made a tactical error. They were saying that last week. For the second part of the hearing, though, now some people say, no, in fact, it was a brilliant move. Weigh in for me on who's doing better now, the prosecution or the defense.
COPELAND: Well, it depends on what comes latest, Soledad.
Certainly, early in this proceeding, people seemed to think that Pamela Mackey should be disbarred and they wanted her head. They were suggesting that she would come out far too aggressively, that her decision to even go forward with the preliminary hearing was a risky move that was certainly sure to backfire on the defense.
But by the end of the preliminary hearing, I think she's been roundly praised, and I think most people would consider that the preliminary hearing ended up on a virtually high note for Kobe Bryant.
O'BRIEN: So what do you think is the prosecution's strongest evidence that we have heard so far? Because, obviously we're not in trial. We're only listening in on the hearing.
COPELAND: Right. Absolutely.
Soledad, I think the prosecution certainly made some points, too. To suggest that this was a defendant's victory at the end of the day I think would be foolhardy and certainly overstates the case. The prosecution still has a victim who clearly, through this detective, has indicated that she was raped and in a very demeaning manner. I think that came out pretty clearly in the preliminary hearing. She was apparently, allegedly, bent over a chair.
And, again, forgive the indelicate language, but she was taken from behind. And all of those things are very salacious. I think they have captivated the attention of people who have been following this trial. I think, as well, the prosecution has blood evidence. That's blood evidence in the panties that she wore on that evening. I think there's blood evidence on Kobe Bryant's T-shirt that can't be explained away.
So I think the prosecution still has some things up their sleeve. And I think it wasn't a total loss for them.
O'BRIEN: Is there any indication at this point that this case will not go to trial, or is the bar basically so low that, generally, these things do?
COPELAND: Very good question, Soledad. And I don't think that any court anywhere would find that the preliminary hearing in this case had not sufficiently established probable cause. Now, remember, for purposes of probable cause in preliminary hearings throughout this country of ours, the only standard is whether or not there's a reasonable basis to assume that a crime was committed. And, clearly, based on the hearsay evidence that was admitted in court -- and hearsay can be admitted in these kinds of hearings through the detective -- which was unimpeached, frankly, this court would be hard-pressed not to find that this case should and will go forward to trial.
O'BRIEN: Let's turn and talk a little bit about the sniper case. The court has now ordered Lee Malvo to appear at John Muhammad's trial, the idea being that the witnesses who testify need to be able to see the pair together in the same room.
First, give me the impact on the defense and then give me the impact on the prosecution of doing this.
COPELAND: First of all, Soledad, I think it's an unusual ruling. And I think, clearly, it will have an impact. The fact of the matter is, these two individuals are alleged to have committed this crime.
They are, for all intents and purposes, inextricably intertwined. And this court has ordered that Mr. Malvo be present at Mr. Muhammad's hearing. So it focuses the jury's inquiry on not just Mr. Muhammad, who is on trial on this case, but also Mr. Malvo, who will sit there and will be an omnipresent fixture in that courtroom. So not only will they have to focus their attention on Mr. Muhammad, but they will also focus in on Mr. Malvo. So the two of them there will be a constant reminder of what these alleged evil acts were.
O'BRIEN: Trent Copeland is a criminal defense attorney.
Nice to see you this evening. Thanks. Appreciate it.
COPELAND: It's good to see you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Now let's turn to the war on terrorism and a senior Pentagon official who's, yes, catching a lot of flak for speaking his mind. Army Lieutenant General William Boykin is a key player in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. He is also quoted as having told a religious group that radical Islamists hate the United States because "we're a Christian nation and the enemy is a guy named Satan."
Late today, the general issued a statement -- quote -- "I am not anti-Islam or any other religion. I support the free exercise of all religions. For those who have been offended by my statements, I offer a sincere apology."
Joining me from Washington this evening is Nihad Awad. He's the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
It's nice to see you. Good evening to you. Thanks for joining us.
NIHAD AWAD, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Thank you for having me.
O'BRIEN: What do you make of this apology?
AWAD: Well, first of all, let me clarify one point.
He also said that Muslims worship idols. And that shows me a very serious sign of ignorance in a very important position within the Pentagon. Of course, his apology should be appreciated. But the question is, do we want a person with extremist views in this important position, who's in charge of filtering intelligence that will be used in decision-makings in life-and-death situations in the war on terrorism?
And what kind of message are we sending to the Muslim world, which is already skeptical about our motives and our intentions with the Muslim world in the war in Iraq, and even, of course, in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So if he continues to be there, I think it sends a very negative message to the Muslim world. And we try, as Americans, to wins the hearts and minds of the world and Arabs and Muslims. And now we're shooting ourselves in the foot, if he stays where he is.
O'BRIEN: So you're saying that, in spite of the apology, you think he should be removed from his position?
AWAD: Well, it's not like the apology, but the views. How would I trust someone who looks at Islam and Muslims as idol worshipers?
And, in fact, allow me just to put one point of education here, because it is very important. Islam is a monotheistic religion. God in Islam is the same God as in Christianity and Judaism. And just I have with me an Arabic bible here. The word in the bible in Arabic says Allah. So we worship the same God.
So with this level of ignorance that exists with a high official who is conducting the war on terrorism, I don't trust his judgment to make life-and-death decisions.
O'BRIEN: What do you think the risk is in framing this war, or really any war, in terms of a fight between good and evil?
AWAD: Well, first of all, this war is between America and terrorists. And the Army in America is not a Christian Army. It's not a Southern Baptist Army. It's an Army, a nationalistic Army, that has Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, and Buddhists in it. And, therefore, our approach to the war on terrorism is based on national security, not on religion.
And this person, this general, with all due respect to his position, I think is contradictory even to the statements by the president and to the strategy that this war is not on Islam. It's against terrorists.
O'BRIEN: Nihad Awad, thank you for joining us this evening. We certainly appreciate your time.
Well, Paula Zahn is reporting from Rome tonight for us. We're going to hear what the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican has to say on this week of celebration for the pope.
Also, should you be able to choose the sex of your child or engineer a smarter baby? We have got a debate tonight.
And we'll take you live to London, as David Blaine counts down his last hours suspended in that box.
O'BRIEN: On this day after he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II held private meetings and attended an orchestra concert. On Sunday, he leads ceremonies beautifying Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The U.S. ambassador to the Vatican is former Republican Party Chairman Jim Nicholson. And Paula Zahn spoke with him earlier.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: You came to your post as ambassador at a highly volatile time in the United States. Describe to us what surrounded your appointment.
JIM NICHOLSON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE VATICAN: Well, I presented my credentials to the holy father on 9/13/01, 48 hours after 9/11. And I did it Castel Gandolfo, his summer palace.
And he was in a down mood, just like all the rest of us. But he said to me, he said, "Ambassador Nicholson, that was an attack not just on your country, but an attack on humanity." And he cupped his arms like this. And he implied that humanity was going to have to do something about these terrorists who kill people in the name of God.
And he asked me just that I ask President Bush to maintain the sense of justice for which our country had become famous and well- respected. And I reported that to President Bush. And, of course, he has done that.
ZAHN: How would you characterize the pope's current relationship with the United States?
NICHOLSON: Our relationship with the pope and with the holy see is very good fundamentally, because we have such a foundation of shared values, especially under this president.
When you have that kind of a common foundation, then you can have some disagreements, which we do, for example, on Iraq, not on the ends, but on the means. I mean, they wanted to bring down this ruthless dictator and free the people of Iraq as much as we did, but not in the same way.
ZAHN: Because of the pope's vehement opposition to the war in Iraq, has there been any strain in the relationship between the Vatican and the United States?
NICHOLSON: Well, there was tension here in Rome for many months, no question about it.
The pope is a man for peace. And he wanted every day for war to not happen. But the pope is not a pacifist. And the pope never said that war would be immoral or that war is immoral. He recognizes the doctrine of the church, which says, there are evil forces around and people have to protect innocent people from them.
So now, with Iraq having been what it is, we are looking prospectively. Secretary of State Powell was here recently. We had a very good meeting with the pope. And we're sharing in the humanitarian work in Iraq right now. And we're looking forward and trying to make life better for the people of Iraq.
ZAHN: This is a president whose faith is incredibly important to him. How much resonance do you think that has with the pope?
NICHOLSON: They respect that the president is a man of faith and a man of prayer. They know that.
They respect also his value system. He's a man who values life, who has based his whole national security policy on human dignity, who is against human cloning and human engineering. There are so many things that this president stands for that are consistent with what the holy see stands for that makes my job easier.
ZAHN: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for your time today.
NICHOLSON: Thank you. Nice to be with you, Paula.
ZAHN: It's an honor to be here with you.
O'BRIEN: In Rome, Paula Zahn will report on one of the movies' most legendary directors, Federico Fellini, whose favorite set was Rome's spectacular scenery.
Also: designer babies, the debate over allowing people to use technology to build better children.
And Grammy-winning singer Natalie Cole on why she is lending her name to the cause of Afghanistan's children.
O'BRIEN: He's considered one of the most innovative directors of all time. And his films are so unique, sometimes bizarre, that only his name can describe them, Felliniesque.
Paula Zahn, reporting this week from Rome, looks at how Rome is keeping alive the legacy of Federico Fellini.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN (voice-over): Fellini loved the circus, the quintessential scene from "La Strada." He loved memories, the emotional scene from "Amarcord." He loved Rome. And Rome loved Fellini.
At the end of October, the city will commemorate his death 10 years ago with a celebration of his film and life. Citywide exhibits and film festivals will take place throughout Rome, fitting, since so many of his films were shot here.
GORE VIDAL, FRIEND OF FELLINI: Rome was always a character.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "ROMA")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Good evening, Mr. Vidal. Do you mind if we disturb you for a second?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Gore Vidal was a close friend. He called Fellini friend and actually had a cameo in the film "Roma."
VIDAL: He usually used nonactors, because they would do whatever he told them. And then he would dub their voices later, so they never knew what they were talking about.
FERRUCCIO CASTRONUOVO, DOCUMENTARIAN: They want to work with Fellini.
ZAHN: Ferruccio Castronuovo is a documentarian who turned his camera on the famous director for a year, shooting this never-before- seen behind-the-scenes footage of Fellini at work.
CASTRONUOVO: I learned, working with Fellini, to love some part of Rome where he made some part of his movie.
ZAHN (on camera): What is it about a Fellini film that is so different from any other director who has ever lived?
CASTRONUOVO: Fellini make -- invent some story from his imagination. It changed life in something not real. When he shoot a train, the train is completely invented in the studio. It's a piece of wood with a window. And the people move the wood for movement of the train. And somebody put water on the window. And somebody moved the scenario. The panorama is painted on paper moving with the big roll. And everything is completely imagined.
ZAHN: So his goal was to play with your head.
CASTRONUOVO: Yes. And the people like sometimes to go in the cinema and to see something completely different of the reality.
ZAHN (voice-over): Fellini's imaginative journey didn't always break box office records, but it did make him one of the most celebrated directors in the history of cinema.
VIDAL: I don't think there was a man called Fellini. There was a fat artist. And all he thought about were pictures.
No, true artists are all of apiece. And they don't go in much for personal life. There was never, ever a word of scandal about Fellini's private life.
ZAHN: Just millions of words about the man himself and all that he created. Fellini once said: "There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life." In his passing, audiences are left with a unique view of the world and maybe a passion to live.
"La Dolce Vita."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LA DOLCE VITA")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Marcello, come here. Hurry up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Straight ahead, we're going to take you live to Washington for new details on the arrest in that security breach on two airliners.
And building smarter, stronger babies with science. Our debate tonight on the ethics of biotechnology to improve children or even select their gender.
And, he was fired for writing phony stories in one of the nation's most respected magazines. Now how will Stephen Glass feel seeing his life portrayed on the big screen?
O'BRIEN: Here's a story you need to know now.
CNN has learned that authorities are questioning someone in connection with those suspicious items found on a couple of Southwest Airlines jets last night.
Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us now with the very latest on that.
Jeanne, good evening to you.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Soledad.
FBI sources say a 20-year-old student has now admitted to placing contraband items on two Southwest Airlines flights. He is a student at Guilford College, we're told, in Greensboro, North Carolina, according to these sources. An FBI statement says he does not appear to pose any further threat to airline security and that proceedings are anticipated this Monday in United States District Court in Baltimore, Maryland. The items, box cutters, bleach and also clay that resembled plastic explosives, were found on two Southwest Airlines flights in the bathrooms along with notes that were critical of TSA security. Those planes had flown from different cities to different destinations, but FBI sources say at some point this individual had been a passenger on both of those aircraft.
The TSA official says that the young man was tracked down through an e-mail he had sent to the TSA. I am told that that e-mail was received last month. There was a database search done last night when these items were discovered. It turned up the e-mail, the e-mail given to the FBI, and they came up with this young man.
Soledad, back to you.
O'BRIEN: All right. CNN's Jeanne Meserve with some late- breaking news for us this evening. Jeanne, thanks for the update.
Well, just out this week, a report from the President's Council on Bioethics that says medical technologies has produced everything from designer babies to mood-altering drugs to extend lifespans raise questions of safety and equality and freedom.
Joining me from Washington to debate designer evolution is Eric Cohen.
Good evening to you. He is, of course, the editor of The New Atlantis.
It's nice to see you.
Let's begin with examining a little more closely some of the items inside this report, which they say is purely educational.
For example, the report does not support using biotechnology for parents to pick the sex of a child. This is something many parents are interested in doing now and in the future. Why not use this technology?
ERIC COHEN, EDITOR, "THE NEW ATLANTIS": Well, one thing is -- the report is clear that the prospect of designer babies is not something that is on the imminent horizon, the idea that we'll be able to pick and choose the characteristics of our children -- the science for this is just not there yet.
But one of the things it did find is that our genetic expanding technologies are going to give us new powers over procreation, over the beginning of life, including the power to choose the sex of children.
Now there are a couple of problems with this. One is the social effect, what we've seen in the countries where this has happened is a huge discrimination against women, huge sex imbalances in a society to very bad effects. What we have also seen and one of the big dangers, and this is probably more relevant in the United States, is that this will really change the relationship between parents and children. It will make children more into objects to manufacture rather than gifts to be welcomed into the world and it will really change procreation and the image of biotechnology an in a way that should give us some disquiet and concern.
O'BRIEN: There are people who disagree with you, who would say, essentially, you can't stop progress.
COHEN: Well, the argument that you can't stop something isn't necessarily an argument that it's a good thing.
Look, there are all kinds of bad practices that happen. Sex selection, like I said -- huge discrimination against women and aborting of women in countries like China. But the fact that some nations may receiver (ph) these things is not a reason to allow them to proceed. And, in fact, it's a reason for countries like the United States to have a real debate about these things and to try some moral set limits where those limits are called for.
O'BRIEN: We're going to ask Jeffrey Khan to join us now. he's the director of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics.
Mr. Khan, good evening. Thanks for joining us.
Weigh in on this for me. You've heard a little bit of the debate. Where do you stand?
JEFFREY KHAN, UNIV. OF MINN. BIOETHICS CTR.: Well, I don't disagree with the problems that may occur when we're talking about parents choosing the gender of their child.
But I think we have to look beyond overbroad statements about its always being wrong to choose gender. I think we have to look at motivation. And I agree with -- with Eric, that it's a bad thing if we choose to only have boys because we disvalue or devalue girl babies and therefore women. That's a very bad motivation. but if we're trying to avoid diseases that's linked to gender, as many diseases are -- they only occur in boys -- then it's a very good reason to avoid having boys and only have girls. So I think we have to look a little bit deeper than just say, Gender selection is always a bad thing.
I also think in terms of this idea that using biotechnology turns children into objects really misses a key point, which is that many, many people have children through in vitro fertilization and other reproductive technologies, which is obviously a technological use of having a child, and those children are no less valued than those that are created the normal way.
So I think we have to be very careful about how we go about preserving the benefits of these new technologies, but make sure that we don't fall into the misuses.
O'BRIEN: Mr. Cohen, let's turn and talk about mood-altering drugs, especially as it comes to be used in children. And the report said "self-control would be better," saying -- are they essentially saying that in no cases should children be taking thinks mood-altering drugs to control them in some cases? COHEN: No, absolutely not. What the report said is that there are significant and important medical uses of these drugs. And in those cases, they've done great good for children, for families, and have been a real blessing for children who are suffering from mental illness.
But what it's also said is that there may be cases where these drugs can be used not for therapeutic purposes, but for reasons that really go beyond therapy -- for performance enhancement, for social control purposes -- and what it tried to do is explore the situations where these drugs make sense to be used, those medical situations where they can do great good, but at the same time take seriously the fact that we have seen a huge increase in the use of these drugs in children, in children as young as three, four years old.
And what we need to do is examine and have a bigger and more serious public debate about when this is a medical use of the drug and when it's a use of the drug that really goes beyond therapy to uses of social control and performance enhancement, in ways that are not good for childhood, and are really not good for the moral education of the child.
O'BRIEN: The authors of the report saying that it is for educational purposes.
Eric Cohen, Jeffrey Khan, thanks for joining me this evening. Appreciate it.
KHAN: Thank you.
COHEN: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Well, he was disgraced from making up the news. Ex- journalist Stephen Glass will join us as he faces the reality of seeing his life portrayed in the movies.
And after 40-odd days in a box, suffering abuse from Brits, will David Blaine really want to come out this weekend? We're going to take you live to London for the countdown.
Coming up on Monday, a rare interview with the Iraqi man who helped save Private First-Class Jessica Lynch.
O'BRIEN: Before Jayson Blair, there was Stephen Glass. Five years ago, Glass' career in journalism fell apart when his bosses found out that most of his stories were too good to be true. Ironically enough, it's time to send in the truth squad.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): By the mid-1990s, Stephen Glass had become one of the most sought-after young journalists in Washington. As a staff writer for a respected "New Republic" magazine and a freelance writer for "George," "Harper's" and "Rolling Stone," he told stories that were celebrated for their realism.
The problem is, they weren't real. In 1998, he was fired from "The New Republic" when editor Chuck Lane found out Glass' story, "Hack Heaven," about a computer hacker who extorted big money from a software company, was a complete fabrication. And he found out the hard way, from a competitor.
Glass' fall was swift and hard. Lane began investigating all of the writer's 41 "New Republic" pieces and found at least 27 were either totally or partially false.
Now, the story of the disgraced writer is about to hit the big screen with the film "Shattered Glass."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The "Forbes" guys are going to have all this too. They're going to dig through the records of that office building -- I'm sure they have surveillance cameras -- and they're going to check them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't do anything wrong, Chuck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really wish you'd stop saying that.
O'BRIEN: The film, "Shattered Glass," opens in limited release on October 31. And I'm joined now by its subject, writer Stephen Glass. Nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.
STEPHEN GLASS, AUTHOR, "THE FABULIST": Thanks for having me.
O'BRIEN: You've sat through that movie. What it's like to watch someone portraying you, and it's not a flattering portrayal at all?
GLASS: No, it scared me more than "The Ring." It was my own personal horror film. I was having the things you're most ashamed of, the things you wish you most could undo, the things you feel the greatest remorse about, portrayed by actors -- very good actors -- for 90 minutes. I couldn't watch much. I watched the floor instead.
O'BRIEN: Let's talk about those days when you were faking what you were doing as a journalist. The amount -- I was amazed, and I remember this really clearly, I think most journalists do, the amount of work that you were doing to cover your tracks. You'd create Web sites, you'd create e-mails, you would create phone messages. It almost seemed much easier to actually just tell the truth -- people thought you were actually a good writer. Why would you do that?
GLASS: You know, part of what the movie doesn't capture is why I did what I did. And so I wrote a novel, in which I discuss why a journalist might -- "The Fabulist" -- in which I discuss why a journalist might do these things. And one thing is to try to earn the love and respect of the people around me.
I mean, I hated myself every time I wrote one of these stories, but then I would feel great need to do it again, and felt I shame, and promised myself I won't do it, I won't do it, I won't do it. A week or two would go by, and then I would find myself doing it again, and then hating myself for doing it.
O'BRIEN: You obviously have had a lot of therapy from what I've read. Are you a pathological liar? Were you a pathological liar?
GLASS: I think I'm someone who lied all the time in order to try to get people around me to think better of me, and to hopefully then to think better of myself. All of that was ...
O'BRIEN: Professional life, certainly. In your personal life, too?
GLASS: Well, I think it overlapped. I mean, these people who I lied to were my friends and I betrayed them at every step, and that required lying about who I was as a person, lying about every aspect of my life.
O'BRIEN: To your family, to your girlfriend?
GLASS: Absolutely. I lied to my family, to my girlfriend. If I had had a dog, then I would have lied to my dog at that time, too.
O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about your novel. And as you said, it's call "The Fabulist." Why write a novel -- why not come clean in a work of non-fiction? It almost seems that people could say, you see, he still doesn't get where the line is, because in this novel, the main character is Stephen Glass, and it's a story of what happened, so you're telling a real story in novelized form. It seems like you still maybe don't get it.
GLASS: No, this is obviously an intentional work of fiction. What I'm trying to do is to get at some of the larger truths that are at issue here and reach toward some of the greater things. What does it mean to betray everyone around you? And I'm also trying to tell a story that is somewhat different than the story that I actually experienced. I didn't have access to interior lives of other people, and I needed to sort of tell my emotionally true story, and this is the way I could do it.
O'BRIEN: Do you ever contemplate the depths of sort of what you -- I guess the impact that you had on people's mistrust of journalism and the impact it had on journalists too? You do...
GLASS: Absolutely. And what I did didn't just hurt the people I personally hurt, my friends, my colleagues, the readers of "The New Republic" and the magazines I worked for, it hurt a broader audience, what people think of journalism generally, and I think that's unfortunate. I think I was the exception.
Look, I don't prove that journalism is broken. I prove that I was broken.
O'BRIEN: And yet there's Jayson Blair. GLASS: There are other people who have done similarly bad things.
O'BRIEN: I was surprised that you went away for five years, and I think from my senses, sort of seeking for redemption, and Jayson Blair has kind of turned, got a book deal, got a movie deal. Went a very different path. What's your take on that?
GLASS: I don't know Jayson Blair. And I don't really know much about him. What I do know is it took me a very long time to think about this and spend some time in therapy, and with help of my family and my girlfriend, and my brother, to work through this and to begin a very long process of finding peace and expressing my remorse.
O'BRIEN: Ever a time you think when people will not say, Stephen Glass, you know, the guy who?
GLASS: I am not sure that will happen. I think somehow I -- I did terrible, terrible things, which I deeply regret, and I've come to be defined by them.
O'BRIEN: Well, we certainly appreciate you coming in and talking about them. Thanks so much for your time.
GLASS: Thanks for having me.
O'BRIEN: Stephen Glass.
Coming up next, singer Natalie Cole will join us live. She's telling us why she's lending her voice to help Afghan children.
And then live from London, it's the man in the Plexiglas box. We're going to check in on David Blaine as he counts his minutes to freedom.
O'BRIEN: Some people complain that Afghanistan has been forgotten as the war on terrorism focuses on Iraq. Sonia Nassery Cole feels that way and is doing something about it. In December, her organization will sponsor a concert to benefit the children of Afghanistan, and among the performers will be singer Natalie Cole. And both women join me now. Good evening, it's nice to have you both here.
Sonia, I want you to tell me about your story, because it is so amazing. It's actually almost hard to believe. You were 14 years old when you left Afghanistan, that was back in 1979. Tell me about that escape.
SONIA NASSERY COLE, AFGHANISTAN WORLD FOUNDATION: You know, it's very interesting. I don't know how to explain it to you, except to tell you that it's amazing that we never think something like this could happen to us. We think it happens in the movies and in the books, that you wake up one morning and your free country is taken over and there are tanks and soldiers with machine guns pointed at you, and the country is under martial law, and your TVs are not working, the radio is not working. All of a sudden, you have lost all the freedoms that you had. And you are -- you don't know what to do. It's like to me, 9/11, what happened in America was the same thing to me again, because it's like, what is this? It's happening to me?
O'BRIEN: You left your country and later started the Afghanistan World Foundation. What made you channel your own experience into doing something to help really primary children?
S. COLE: It changed my life, what happened to me, and I came to this country -- this is the country that the essence of democracy is practiced. It's my new country. I am an American citizen. I'm very proud to be an American.
But in the meantime my heart belongs to Afghanistan, and the children, the suffering that these children have gone through through 23 years of war has devastated me. And for the last 17 years, that's all I've been doing is helping the children of Afghanistan, and I've done -- there will be the fourth event that I'm chairing for Afghanistan World Foundation.
O'BRIEN: Natalie -- it's -- it's -- you know, whenever I talk to somebody who's a big star -- you're busy. I'm sure you get a million requests for things. So what was it about this particular foundation that made you say, My full calendar, yes, I'll make time for this.
NATALIE COLE, SINGER: Well, other than she told me that she would kill me if I wouldn't a part of this...
O'BRIEN: Besides that.
N. COLE: When Sonia and I met, one of the first things that she shared with me was her story, because we just started talking, and we were taking a drive down to a concert in -- outside of the city of Los Angeles, so it was going to take about an hour or so. And she starts telling me her story of actually being led across the desert by a nomad man that her parents knew who entrusted this girl at 12-years- old into the hands of this man -- and the thing that she endured just to reach freedom -- by the end of the trip, we're both in tears. I'm like sobbing.
O'BRIEN: On your way to concert.
N. COLE: But again, as you say, Soledad, it's an incredible story. And there are many incredible stories of the children that are still not able to flee and leave and she's got such a heart for her country -- she's got such a passion for what they have been enduring and what again they have endured since, you know, the relations with the United States. And good relations with Afghanistan will bring a lot of help to the United States as far as international relations.
We need to help these people and it's... O'BRIEN: Tell me about the event, December 2. Every headliner -- I mean, name after name after name.
N. COLE: Stevie Wonder and I.
O'BRIEN: Pretty cool.
N. COLE: I called him and threatened him too, as well. And Sonia has brought -- there will be many dignitaries from all over the country. Actually, this event was supposed to come in February, and, of course, that's when the war started, and Colin Powell even had -- was considering very seriously also attending this event.
So we're getting ambassadors.
O'BRIEN: Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Henry Kissinger...
N. COLE: Who is now our governor.
O'BRIEN: The list goes on.
N. COLE: You know, and...
O'BRIEN: Governor Schwarzenegger -- sorry.
N. COLE: Prime ministers, as well as a great cache of celebrities.
O'BRIEN: A combination of performers and then also politicians.
N. COLE: And it's called "A Time to Give."
O'BRIEN: Well, I certainly appreciate you coming to share your story.
S. COLE: Thank you so much.
N. COLE: And don't forget the watches and our sponsors.
O'BRIEN: They're all thanking you right now.
O'BRIEN: And good luck with the concert and fundraiser.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead this evening, David Blaine might be the most ridiculed man in London. He's counting down the hours until he gets out of that Plexiglas box. We're going go live to our Richard Quest to see just how he's holding up.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just two days to go before Blaine with escape the box. But questions are being asked about his physical health. I'll have the details when PAULA ZAHN NOW in London continues.
O'BRIEN: In just two days, illusionist David Blaine finally gets to come out of that box over the River Thames. He said he would go 44 days without anything to eat and only water to drink. But some photos in a London tabloid seem to actually show that he's packed on a few pounds.
Our man on the scene is Richard Quest, and he joins us live from London.
Richard, where do you stand on that, because I got to agree. I think he looks, like, five pounds heavier.
QUEST: Well, he certainly doesn't look like a man who has fasted for the past 42 days, although he hasn't done much energy -- or he hasn't done much running around in his little Plexi-box.
Good evening from London. Behind me, of course, is Tower Bridge, the famous landmark. But that's not why people have coming down to this part of the city, because this is what you really want to see tonight, Soledad.
There he is. And I'm delighted to tell you, over the last few hours, he hasn't moved at all. Occasionally you'll see the odd arm move out or you'll see him wriggle about under that comforter of his, and then the crowd gives a big cheer. But so far, David Blaine hasn't really shown any sign that he knows we are here.
What is interesting, Soledad, is that in these last two days, serious questions are being asked about his physical state. Even though the pictures suggest he hasn't lost a lot of weight, hallucinations, delusions, obsessional behaviors -- he's playing with his hair -- he seems to be losing it to some extent.
On Sunday, he comes down, and he'll be rushed to hospital, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Besides being rushed to the hospital, is anything special planned? I mean, doesn't he get to, like, have a big cake or something at the end of it?
QUEST: The experts say the last to give him is a steak and fries with a jacket (ph) potato all at once. That would really polish him off.
No, it's going to be a slow process. It's going to be drip- feeding, it's going to be special foods, medicinal foods. That way, he will get his strength back. But, of course, there's still the big question -- is he really doing it? And on that question, Soledad, there really is no consensus.
O'BRIEN: Richard, we have about 10 seconds left. Can you sum up for me, why the Brits just hate David Blaine?
QUEST: They don't like it, because they don't necessarily see the point of what he has been doing, Soledad. They think it's just showing off pure and simple.
O'BRIEN: Well, Richard, we don't see the point of what he's been doing either, but we don't hate the guy. Come on now. Richard Quest for us this evening in London. Richard, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
And thanks to all of you for joining us this evening. Paula Zahn's going to be back here on Monday.
And on Sunday, join her for a special "CNN PRESENTS," the revealing interview with former President George Bush talking about his harrowing experience as a pilot in World War II and losing his two crewmen. You can see "A Flyboy's Story: George Bush in World War II" on "CNN PRESENTS" this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
"LARRY KING LIVE" is up next with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
Good night and have a great weekend, everybody. We'll see you back here next week.
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