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Interview With Joel Osteen; Behind Prison Walls

Aired July 18, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us tonight.
He is a phenomenon in the pulpit. He's bringing his message to a brand new Texas-size sanctuary.


ZAHN (voice-over): A brand new mega-church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the lights. It's beautiful.


ZAHN: And when it opened this weekend, he packed it to capacity.


ZAHN: What keeps thousands of the faithful coming back to hear Joel Osteen?

New clues in the London bombing terror, and they seem to lead to our ally in the war on terror.

Plus, what was going on behind prison walls? A prison guard blows the whistle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no conscious if you can do that sort of thing.

ZAHN: Shaking up a Georgia jail, a CNN investigation.


ZAHN: So, the chances are, if you walked into a church this weekend, it looked nothing like this. This former NBA arena has been reborn. It is the new home of Houston's Lakewood Church and it opened for the first time on Saturday. And there's a reason the Lakewood Church needs more than 15,000 seats. It's because of its pastor, Joel Osteen, who will join us with his wife and co-pastor, Victoria, in just a minute.

Good to see the two of you. Chat with you in a minute or two.

His church and TV ministry are so popular, he could afford to spend $95 million to convert this arena. What a phenomenon, as you'll see in tonight's "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" profile. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): The 16,000 seat Compaq Center, once the home of the Houston Rockets, was packed four times this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The biggest night ever. I mean, it's -- it's -- it's -- like we tell our children, it's history in the making.

ZAHN: The main attraction, Joel Osteen, a new-age preacher who leads the largest congregation in the United States.

JOEL OSTEEN, EVANGELIST: Isn't it great that we can all come together tonight, not for a ball game, not for a concert, nothing wrong with that, but we can come together to celebrate the goodness of our God?



ZAHN: The former arena is the new home of the nondenominational Lakewood Church, with more than 30,000 members and a worldwide television audience in the millions, a staggering number, considering Osteen is a college dropout, never attended seminary, and only began preaching six years ago.

JOEL OSTEEN: This is my Bible. I am what it says I am.

ZAHN: Osteen's simple, straightforward message has turned this unassuming pastor into America's number-one rated televangelist. Osteen preaches a user-friendly gospel of prosperity and optimism.

JOEL OSTEEN: And if you believe it, shout amen. Amen. Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His messages are down to earth. Instead of being biblical or scriptural, they're more daily activities that you do.

ZAHN: Looming large over the sanctuary, the shadow of the late televangelist John Osteen.


CROWD: Ha-ha, devil.

ZAHN: Who, in 1959, founded Lakewood in an old abandoned feed store. Forty years later, when he was too sick to preach himself, John Osteen asked his son to take over.

Joel, more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, wasn't sure his place was at the pulpit, but, ultimately, he answered the call. This was the first sermon he ever preached.

JOEL OSTEEN: If I'm really bad and you don't enjoy it, when you walk out of here, you can say, you know, that boy has nowhere to go but up. (LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Osteen says the lord speaks to anyone who's willing to listen.

JOEL OSTEEN: We don't have to make hearing from God and staying in his will some super spiritual or even some difficult thing. We just got to learn to follow our heart.

ZAHN: But critics say, it's all just cotton candy Christianity, tasty, but insubstantial. There's no fire and brimstone at Lakewood, no talk of sinners, nor Satan, no talk of politics, abortion, gay marriage.

JOEL OSTEEN: I don't know if I want to go there, you know? I mean, I just -- you know, I'm for the -- I don't even know where to go. I haven't really addressed it much.

ZAHN: Nothing at Lakewood that's not upbeat, and that's just how Joel Osteen likes it.

Osteen is a rich man. His new best-selling book, "Your Life Now," is doing so well now, the church says he's foregoing his $174,000-a-year salary. In all, Lakewood reports bringing in $48 million last year. And Joel Osteen hopes to fill all 16,000 seats in his new mega-church four times every week.

JOEL OSTEEN: I think that, one day, that we could have a congregation at our new facility of 100,000 people.

ZAHN: Big dreams for the smiling preacher whose optimism knows no bounds.

JOEL OSTEEN: Thank you for coming out.


ZAHN: And joining me now from his massive new home, way, way, way down there on the floor from the home of Lakewood Church, pastor Joel Osteen and his wife and co-pastor, Victoria Osteen.

Great to see both of you. Thanks for joining us. Your numbers are absolutely amazing.

Joel, what pulls all these people in?

JOEL OSTEEN: You know, Paula, I don't know if it's one particular thing. I mean, it's just God blessings and favor.

And I think maybe one thing is, the message is positive. It's relevant. We help people in their everyday lives. And, you know, I don't know, maybe, too, because I'm younger. On television, there's not a lot of young men on. So, I don't know if it's one thing. I just give the credit to God. I mean, I never even knew I'd be here, so it's pretty overwhelming to me. ZAHN: But when you talk about your message being positive, that leaves you open to charges that you're copping out, that you won't directly address issues like abortion and other really incendiary issues. What do you say to those critics?

JOEL OSTEEN: You know what, Paula? I think everybody is called to different things. And I've never been -- my dad's never been political, and I just -- you know, that's just not me. I know my gifts are to encourage people, to inspire them, to motivate them.

And, you know, I believe when -- you know, if you get into areas that you're not called to, you know, it just divides the very audience that I'm trying to reach.

ZAHN: I guess you know more better than anyone out there along with these enormous crowds come a lot of very specific criticisms.

I'm going to put up on the screen now another one of those, this gentleman saying: "Some call it Christian light. You get all the benefits, but don't pay attention to the fact that Jesus called for suffering. He doesn't tackle many problems of the world," responding to you.

So, what do you say to these folks who say you're practicing cotton candy Christianity?

JOEL OSTEEN: Well, what I tell them, Paula, is, every week, we deal with people that are suffering from cancer, people that have lost a loved ones -- loved one -- people that are, you know, going through a divorce. I mean, that's where the rubber meets the road. And my messages are about not being selfish.

It's about forgiving one another, not holding grudges. And, you know, I do talk about suffering, but it's just in a different sense. I mean, I don't believe God wants us to go through life beat down and, you know, looking like we lost our last friend. God wants us to enjoy our life and be prosperous.

But, of course, there are times God views as the tough times to work character in us. So, I talk about that a lot. I just -- you know, I don't believe in beating people down. And I believe, when you serve God, you can be happy. You can have a good marriage. You can have good children. And that's what our message is, is, there's a good God and there's a good tomorrow for all of us.

ZAHN: So, Victoria, when you hear this criticism lodged against your husband, what is your response?

VICTORIA OSTEEN, CO-PASTOR, LAKEWOOD CHURCH: Well, my response is that there's always critics, and any time you're doing something good, people are going to criticize you.

But, you know, I know that the message is true, and I know Joel's heart. And I know that we're helping people. So, you know what? It far overshadows any criticism. ZAHN: You talk about helping people. And no doubt the people who attend your services believe that. On the other hand, you know, here it is again, the course of folks saying $95 million; give me a break. You could have spend that money more effectively helping the poor, helping the disenfranchised, helping people who don't have medical insurance.

Reverend, what do you say about that?

JOEL OSTEEN: Well, you know what, Paula? Where we were, we were in an 8,000-seat auditorium. I'm 37 years old. We had nowhere to grow. We couldn't build a new facility out there.

So, my thing is this. God wants us to keep growing. And I think it's more selfish to say, let's just be happy in our 8,000-seat auditorium. We don't need to worry about anybody else. But then, you know, you become stagnant. And when this place opened up, we'll pay that $95 million off, and then we can be -- we can do great things for the world.

When we have a bigger base, like we saw this weekend, 57,000 people came out, when we get all those people behind us, that's when I believe we can really reach out and touch the world. And our heart is to build hospitals, to help people in every way that we can. I mean, that's really what the heart of our ministry is about.

ZAHN: Victoria, you can't help but see the joy in these people's faces, as we look at a close-up shot of some of the folks worshiping over the weekend.

And in spite of what your husband has just said, people are saying, if you look closely at the Compaq Center, there are no crosses. There's no stained glass, that we're really not talking about a church service here. We're talking about serious motivational speaking.

V. OSTEEN: Well, motivation is great, and inspiration is great, but we do teach the principles of the Bible. And the principles of the Bible are, God is a positive God.

In fact, you know, you addressed the issue about giving the money to the people who need insurance and to the poor. But I'm telling you, the message that we speak brings people to another level. The message that we bring, which is God's message, it heals people. It heals their emotions. And, you know, a lot of times just the stress of life, the burden of life can bring on a lot of sicknesses.

And you know what? Our message is full of hope. It's full of joy. It's full of inspiration. And it saves a lot of people a lot of not only physical illnesses, I believe, but it saves them heartache. It saves them mental issues. It's an all-around good thing for people. And that's what we believe. And we've just seen people -- it changed their life. It saved their life.

ZAHN: When I listen to what your mission is, and I look at the faces of your followers, Joel, I'm just curious if you at times think that some of this criticism is rooted in jealousy. Do you think some of your critics are jealous of what you've accomplished here?

JOEL OSTEEN: You know, Paula, the amazing thing is, I don't really focus on my critics. So, I don't know if they're jealous. I don't know.

I think some of them genuinely think maybe I'm a little too far this way or this way. But what I do, Paula, is, I get up every day and just search my heart. If I do hear some of the critics, I think, you know what, God? Is this what I'm supposed to be sharing? And every time I come back to it, I think, you know what? I'm not going to go around beating people down.

I mean, I see the response. I see all the people being -- their lives changed. So, I hope it's not jealousy. I mean, the friends I have in the ministry that I know, they're for me, and I'm for them. And we don't know it all. And I've been doing this six years. I don't claim to be the epitome and to be right on every aspect. But I do know our heart is to help people. And I think that's why we're seeing so many people respond.

ZAHN: Well, Reverend, I appreciate your joining us tonight, as well as Victoria.

I used to live in Houston. I never once saw the arena that full. Congratulations.

JOEL OSTEEN: Thanks, Paula.

V. OSTEEN: Thank you.

ZAHN: Take care.

We're going to change our focus quite a bit now. We've seen some incredible pictures out of Iraq. While they're deeply disturbing, the gunshot you're about to hear isn't the end of the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Come on. Come on.


ZAHN: Our question tonight, what happened to that soldier and the people who took these pictures?

Please stay with us.


ZAHN: Still ahead, some of the most shocking pictures we've ever seen from Iraq. A sniper targets a U.S. soldier and the insurgent's camera is rolling.

Also, a scenario we all dread. Will suicide bombers strike again? Will it happen in this country?

But, first, just about 16 minutes past the hour, time for Erica Hill at Headline News to update the top stories.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. Good to see you.

Hurricane Emily headed towards northeastern Mexico now, near the border with Texas, after raging across the Yucatan and damaging resorts in Cancun. That did, though, reduce Emily's winds to 75 miles per hour. That makes the storm barely a hurricane at all. Forecasters say Emily will probably get stronger before making landfall tomorrow.

Meantime, strands of blonde hair on a piece of duct tape may be a clue in the fate of Natalee Holloway. The FBI is testing the DNA on the hair now. It was found by a ranger along a stretch of beach in Aruba.

Israeli police held back thousands of Israeli demonstrators from entering settlements in Gaza. They danced in protest against Israeli government plans to return the land to Palestinians. That begins in 28 days.

U.S. forces and Iraqi place say they discovered a cache of weapons and explosives buried inside a farmhouse in Mosul, the third such find in 24 hours. And, in Baghdad, a string of attacks killed five Iraqi police officers.

And, Paula, that's the latest from Headline News right now -- back over to you.

ZAHN: And we'll check back with you in, I guess, about a half- hour or so, if you're counting, with Erica Hill. Thanks.

What is new in the London bombings? For one thing, this incredible picture of all four bombers as they start their mission. We're going to take a closer look and ask someone who's talked with suicide bombers in training, why do they do it?


ZAHN: You're about to see something absolutely astonishing, an American soldier shot by an Iraqi insurgent sniper. And it is all caught on videotape. What happens in the moments that follow is remarkable, too.

Here's Alina Cho.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The camera rolls. From their hidden position, the insurgent snipers are watching their victim. "Go ahead. Shoot him in the name of God," says one.

"I am waiting for him to straighten up," says the other.

Their target, this American soldier, Private 1st Class Stephen Tschiderer from Mendon, New York. What comes next is this.

CHO: And, as the snipers chant, "God is great," Private Tschiderer gets back on his feet. With rifle in hand, he takes cover. Debby Tschiderer believes it's a miracle her son is alive.

DEBBIE TSCHIDERER, MOTHER: The bullet grazed his thumb, and because it grazed his thumb, it went in as an angle.


ZAHN: If you're wondering if there's something wrong with your TV set, there isn't. We had something going on where the image froze up. We're going to try to see if we can get that problem corrected.

We're going to take a short break here. A little bit later on, we will also have an amazing story out of Iraq with a guest who has actually infiltrated a group of suicide bombers and will give us some real insights as to why these bombers do what they do.

Please have patience. I promise you, we'll be back and get it right.


ZAHN: We want to show you a picture that was released over the weekend that you may have missed. I think it is absolutely chilling to watch.

It is 7:20 a.m. on July 7. A security camera at Luton train station about 25 miles outside of London captures this picture of all four suicide bombers as they start their mission, each of them wearing a backpack, leaving together on their deadly mission. In the lead is Hasib Hussain. He's the youngest bomber, 18 years old. His bomb killed at least 13 people on a double-decker bus.

Next is 19-year-old Germaine Lindsay, a British Jamaican and a convert to Islam. He left behind a year-old daughter and a pregnant wife. Scotland Yard believes he's responsible for the deadliest of the four bombings on a subway between King's Cross and Russell Square stations, where at least 25 people were killed.

Now, behind him is 22-year-old Shahzad Tanweer, believed responsible for the Aldgate station explosion, where seven people died. People say a missing person call from his family just hours after the bombings helped out the entire investigation, flushed it out altogether.

And, finally, 30-year-old Mohammed Sidique Khan, a married schoolteacher with an 8-month-old daughter. His bomb exploded on a subway car near Edgware Road, killing seven others. He also phoned New York City not long before the explosions.

It's just incredible the capture -- or the cameras captured all four of these men.

Nic Robertson now joins us from London. So, Nic, is it any clearer tonight if anybody else was involved?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's -- that's certainly something the British police are looking into. Was there a mastermind behind this?

Certainly, there's an indication that this group sort of self- selected themselves, if you will. The younger man in the group, Lindsay, Hussain, and Tanweer, were all sportsmen. And it does appear to be emerging as if Khan was sort of a ringleader. But were they directed by somebody else?

And there's certainly a lot of attention being paid on the fact that Tanweer and Khan were known to have entered Pakistan last year, spent about three months there. Police very keen to find out what they were doing, who they met. Did somebody give them instructions what to do? Did somebody finance their operation, Paula?

ZAHN: Is it clear if there is any al Qaeda link tonight? There had been a lot of speculation from day one, even when a group loosely affiliated with the organization claimed credit for it.

ROBERTSON: And, indeed, just from the style of the attack, the complexity and the planning, and the British police are still saying that they -- in fact, now they expect to find an al Qaeda link.

And, again, that's why a lot of scrutiny is being placed on what these men, the two men, did while they were in Pakistan. It's suspected that they may have visited some of the very religious, extremist religious schools in and around the city of Lahore, certainly, Pakistani officials investigating that. Some of these schools are believed, sudden to have had, maybe even to this day, have links with al Qaeda.

And that's why a lot of attention is being focused on what those men did. So, it was quite possibly the very fact they were in Pakistan not long ago could lead to that link with al Qaeda yet, Paula.

ZAHN: So, can we conclude that there's no way these four guys could have pulled this off on their own?

ROBERTSON: There's an element about this that says that's very unlikely.

And perhaps the bomb-building is the biggest clue there. Which one of these men had training in bomb-building? Which one had the expertise? Which one had done it before? Which one could know that they were going to be able to pull off and build four bombs that takes a certain degree of skill to do? And, again, that's another missing component in all of this. Even if they did self-select themselves, even if they did decide on their own mission, which one of them was capable of building the bombs?

So, it doesn't seem that it could have been just them. That certainly seems to be the way that the British police are approaching the situation right now, Paula.

ZAHN: So many details yet to be nailed down. Thank you so much, Nic Robertson, for that update. We appreciate it.

Now, since 9/11, more than ever before, terrorists have chosen suicide bombs as the main weapon in their arsenal. And the London attacks are only the latest example of that.

Here's Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the weapon of choice in modern terror, fueled by fanaticism, ruthless and effective.

And suicide bombing is a growing threat, from 9/11 to Iraq and beyond, a challenge say experts, explanations, like religious fundamentalism, can only partly explain.

ROBERT PAPE, AUTHOR, "DYING TO WIN": What over 95 percent of all suicide terrorism has in common is not religion, but a specific strategic goal, to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland or prize greatly.

CHANCE: It's a political thread running from Hezbollah, fighting Israeli forces in Lebanon in the early 1980s to the separatists Tamal Tigers in Sri Lanka, from Palestinian militants in Israel, to Russia's Chechnyan Guerrillas, and the 9/11 attacks, all suicide campaigns to pressure governments and to kill.

And the pace has quickened, as terrorists have learned that suicide bombers can be precise and evade detection. According to figures compiled by the Rand Corporation, a U.S. think-tank, about three-quarters of all suicide bombings have occurred since 9/11. Countries from Indonesia to India, to Morocco have been targeted, hundreds have been killed.

But one battlefield stands out. About 400 suicide attacks have shaken Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The suicide bombing epidemic is focused here. And Iraq may be cultivating bombers elsewhere, too, like in London where more than 50 people were killed earlier this month. A new British report by the Chatham House think- tank, warns Iraq has become a fresh motive for terrorist attacks.

CHANCE (on camera): Do you think there's a sense in which the war in Iraq is actually quickening the pace of terrorist attacks against western targets?

RIME ALLAF, CHATHAM HOUSE: Certainly, the war in Iraq, the continuing occupation of Iraq and the chaos in Iraq has been a catalyst and this global jihad, this global movement of people, pretty much in every country in the world, at least in Western Europe and even, we've seen in the Indian sub-continent, and in Asia, it has quickened, it has been a catalyst, it has been a -- CHANCE (voice over): Not a reason, but an incentive, one that shows little sign of fizzling out. And few doubt suicide attackers of the future, may continue to use U.S. foreign policy and that of its allies to justify their acts.

PAPE: So long as there are tens of thousands of American and western combat forces on the Arabian peninsula, that is in Iraq and other countries in the Persian Gulf, we should expect that suicide terrorism is likely to continue and may well escalate in the future.

CHANCE: And the London attacks may themselves mark a new turning point. Analysts say a new generation of home-grown bombers, born and bred not in Pakistan or Palestine or Iraq, but in the country they attacked.


ZAHN: And a turning point that is so difficult to confront. Matthew Chance reporting for us tonight. It's been almost impossible for us to imagine what would actually drive someone to carry out a suicide bombing, but we're about to speak with a man who had the rare chance to actually get inside the head of a potential suicide bomber. Working on a story for "Time" magazine, Bobby Gosh interviewed an Iraqi bomber in training. Bobby joins us now. So you met this man, Marwan (ph), as he was being prepared for a mission. Why do you think he talked with you?

APARISIM "BOBBY" GOSH, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, he was a foot soldier working for al Qaeda. He was obeying orders, somewhere up the chain of command, his commanders decided that it would make sense, probably for propaganda purposes that he come and speak to us. And he was quite reluctant to do so. He made that clear, but he was following orders.

ZAHN: He was reluctant to talk with you, and yet he was fully prepared to carry out whatever he was asked to do. Describe to us the training that led to his mindset and his certainty that that's what he was going to do.

GOSH: Well, he was always a religious young man, as he says. And after the war in Iraq, he fell in with the crowd of insurgents. He apparently did well attacking American positions and Iraqi security positions, and a little more than a year ago, he was recruited by al Qaeda in Iraq, the group run by Abu Musab al Zarqawi. And then since then, he participated in more attacks, but in being around fanatical extremist religious people, I think, convinced him that he had to take it up a notch, and he decided that he was going to make the ultimate sacrifice and participate in a suicide mission.

ZAHN: When you read your piece, it didn't seem like this guy had any doubts or fears at all. Did you see any hesitation on his part?

GOSH: None at all. He was very calm, very collected, very articulate. Obviously, somewhere deep inside him is a very disturbed mind, but on the exterior there seemed no doubt at all. It's an old fashioned expression, but I think he's been brainwashed to a point where he has absolutely no doubt. In fact, he spoke about his future of going to paradise and meeting people there and talking to people there with absolute certainty. He was talking about it like you and I, Paula, might talk about our next vacation.

ZAHN: But the weird thing about this conversation is he also understood this was something his family thought was a pretty stupid idea.

GOSH: Yes, he broke off with his family a little more than a year ago when he joined al Qaeda. And he knows that his family would not approve of what he does, but he no longer considers them to be his family. His family now is al Qaeda. His family is this group of fanatical extremists Sunni fighters who surround him, and he no longer thinks about his parents, his many brothers and sisters as being his family.

ZAHN: I guess that's what I'm trying to better understand. You talk so much about his religious convictions, and then, obviously, later in his life became the impact of these extremists who have a very clear political philosophy. In the end, was he inspired by both the religious and the political?

GOSH: Probably, but in a three-hour interview with me, he only focused on the religious aspect. He only mentioned the political side of things once or twice. He spoke very loosely of wanting to get the Americans out of Iraq, but he also said that Iraq was not his concern. He was fighting for the larger Muslim community. And, where as somewhere up the line, his political commanders have a larger political goal in mind, in his mind it's a very small, narrow goal. He wants a passport to paradise, and he has been led to believe that doing this terrible thing will take him to paradise.

ZAHN: Well, I read the article three times, and I guess each time I read it, it made me sicker. It's just really so difficult to get your arms around this and understand how a man was so affected by these outside forces. Bobby Gosh, thank you for the fascinating read. It really was brand new to a lot of us.

And still ahead is some shocking allegations of prison guards out of control.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They beat me with their fists and they feet, kicking me and boxing me in all parts of my body and my face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're still cuffed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still handcuffed from behind.


ZAHN: Who would tolerate such a horrible thing, and has it actually stopped? Stay with us for the answer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Coming up, an isolated prison, alarming allegations, and a whistle blower goes public. Would anyone believe his story? Right now though, at 20 minutes before the hour, time to check back in with Erica Hill of HEADLINE NEWS.

HILL: Thanks, Paula. Confessed bomber Eric Rudolph has been sentenced to the first of four consecutive life terms for the attack on an Alabama's women's clinic that killed a cop and maimed a nurse. He will be sentenced next month for bombings in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympics, at another clinic, and at a gay nightclub, those attacks killed one and injured more than 100.

Iraq is too dangerous for Saddam Hussein, that's according to his attorney. The attorney says the former leader's trial should be held elsewhere because there are just too many Iraqis who want to kill Saddam Hussein and too many who want him freed.

A study on American marriages shows more couples are living together: 35 percent of babies born to unmarried women last year. The Rutgers study also shows that divorce is down in the U.S.

And it is microwave-hot in Arizona; not what you want to hear. Phoenix broke a record at 116 degrees yesterday, but that was nothing compared to 124 in Bullhead City. At least seven deaths are blamed on the heat, mostly the homeless or elderly. Tomorrow's forecast in Phoenix, a little better, dipping down to 113. Get out your sweaters.

And that's the latest from HEADLINE NEWS. Paula back over to you.

ZAHN: Thanks, Erica. And we were feeling so badly that we hit the 90s today -- Wimps!

Coming up next, an insider goes to bat to stop, he says, unspeakable abuse. Will blowing the whistle do any good at all? Stay tuned.

And then at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," palace insiders and royal watchers pour over the latest about Charles and his beloved Camilla.


ZAHN: So if you saw someone you worked with breaking the rules, what would you do? What if lives were at stake? Would you have the courage to step in and try to stop it? Well, here is Randi Kaye with a story of someone who was in just that position and took on a prison he believes was violent and corrupt.


LANCASTER GRAHAM: I thought they were going to kill me. I was begging them to stop. My pleas went unheard.

TOMMY CARDELL, FORMER PRISON GUARD: They were doing two to three inmates a week then. You have no conscience if you can do that sort of thing.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two men on opposite sides of the law: One prison, dozens of allegations of abuse.

CARDELL: I'm just a regular guy. It's not that I went with all of these lofty ideas or anything.

KAYE: Tommy Cardell says he'd always dreamed of working as a corrections officer. After retiring from Coca-Cola in 2001, he was hired as a guard at Georgia's Rogers State Prison, a minimum security facility about an hour west of Savannah. Cardell says he soon noticed something wasn't right.

CARDELL: It was about 90 days after I started that I saw the abuse taking place.

KAYE: Guards were called to break up a scuffle between inmates. Cardell says the situation was under control, until one of his superiors showed up.

CARDELL: It wasn't really a fight. One of the inmates was just holding the other one until we could get there and secure him and we did that, but then a lieutenant came through the door and just -- I mean, just started slamming this guy and threw him to the floor. He was looking for a fight. He was -- and I found out later on -- this was business as usual. I started noticing a lot of things after that.

KAYE: Cardell says among a small elite group of guards, inmate beatings were blood sport. Over the course of nearly three years, Cardell says he witnessed as many as 30 beatings and heard about countless more.

CARDELL: A lot of the inmates were pleading: Please, don't do this. Don't kill me. Don't hurt me. The officers -- there's been racial remarks. The black officers also would use racial remarks and cursing and telling them all the time they're doing this to them, that they're dirt and you know, nobody can help them and we could kill you and bury you outside the institution. No one would care. No one would know.

GRAHAM: A manmade hell. A manmade hell.

KAYE: While Cardell says he witnessed the abuse, Lancaster Graham says he experienced it. With a history of drugs and burglary convictions, Graham was serving time for a parole violation and was being transferred to Rogers to finish out the final months of his sentence. He says he never had problems with prison guards before.

This time it was different. Graham says during transport to Rogers State Prison, a guard didn't like where he placed his bag in the van and started beating him.

GRAHAM: Got on top of me, started punching me and choking me. I was handcuffed the whole time I was handcuffed.

KAYE: Over the course of a few hours, Graham says he was beaten a total of six times by seven officers. The final attacks were so brutal, Graham still struggles to talk about it six-and-a-half months later.

GRAHAM: He took me in the shower area and they asked the dorm officer to make sure nobody come in and they beated (sic) me with their fists and they beat -- kicking me and boxing me in all parts of my body and my face and I'm still handcuffed from behind. I feel helpless. I'm afraid.

KAYE: Graham says afterwards a few of the guards spit in his face and rubbed it in with their boots. And as Cardell says he witnessed in other beatings, Graham says there were racial threats.

GRAHAM: They said: Nigger you're still in the South. Do you understand me, boy?

KAYE: Graham says after the beatings, he was placed in solitary confinement without any significant medical treatment.

GRAHAM: The doctor did what he could to cover for him. I'm hurting. I know my ribs are either fractured or broken. He said there's nothing wrong with me. Both of my eyes closed shut. They took X-rays.

KAYE: Graham got out of prison in May. The only physical reminder, a scar below his eye. Far greater: The emotional toll.

GRAHAM: I'm afraid of officers. At times, I'm afraid to come out of the house. I have flashbacks, crying spells.

KAYE: This former prisoner is now being treated for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He has filed a civil suit against the guards he says attacked him. We called Sergeant Jason Burns, one of the men Graham says beat him in the shower.

(on camera): ... And from what I'm told by Mr. Graham, you were present at one of the beatings?

JASON BURNS, PRISON GUARD: Ma'am, I don't have no comment.

KAYE: Were you present?

(voice-over): Graham is also suing Warden Glenn Rich, whom he says did nothing to stop the beatings. We also called Warden Rich.

(on camera): I'm calling regarding the case of Lancaster Graham.

GLENN RICH, WARDEN, ROGERS STATE PRISON: I have no idea what you're talking about, ma'am.

KAYE: (on camera): Can I ask you if you were aware of anything relating to Lancaster Graham while at Rogers? Any beatings that may have taken place?

RICH: Ma'am, you need to contact the spokesperson for the Department of Corrections. KAYE (voice-over): And when CNN tried to take pictures from the public road outside the prison, at least a half dozen guards appeared, attempting to stop us.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is public property. We can shoot the prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot take pictures of the prison.

KAYE: In the end, the state patrol dispatcher told the guards CNN was within the law.

(on camera): Reports of abuse at Rogers State Prison are being examined by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Guard Tommy Cardell told CNN he filed a report after every incident, but his superiors didn't want to hear about them. Instead, Cardell was fired.

Commissioner James Donald, with the Georgia Department of Corrections declined CNN's request for an interview.

(voice-over): But Donald did speak to the "Atlanta Journal- Constitution" newspaper. He said, "We will absolutely not tolerate this type of conduct." And that if Cardell's allegations are true, he will recommend charges be filed.

Donald also praised Cardell's courage for coming forward.

Cardell has since been rehired, but put on paid administration leave until the investigation is complete.

Respect for the law, it's what Tommy Cardell says inspired him to work at Rogers prison. That same respect, he says, compelled him to speak out.

CARDELL: I still believe in the system, yes. Sometimes it goes awry, but we can fix it. An individual can fix it. One person can make a difference.


ZAHN: What an attitude to have. Randi Kaye, reporting for us just last week. Lancaster Graham's attorney filed three more lawsuits against guards and managers at Rogers State Prison.

Coming up next, a remarkable story. An American soldier targeted by an Iraqi sniper. It is all caught on videotape. Wait until you hear his amazing survival story -- amazing that he walked away from this attack. You'll see shortly. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: And we are turning back now to the story we had a glitch with earlier, a story about an American soldier shot by an Iraqi insurgent sniper, all of it caught on videotape. Here's Alina Cho.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The camera rolls. From their hidden position, the insurgent snipers are watching their victim.

"Go ahead, shoot him in the name of God," says one.

"I am waiting for him to straighten up," says the other.

Their target: This American soldier, Private First Class Stephen Tschiderer from Mendon, New York.

What comes next is this.

And as the snipers chant "God is great," Private Tschiderer gets back on his feet. With rifle in hand, he takes cover.

Debby Tschiderer believes it's a miracle her son is alive.

DEBBY TSCHIDERER, MOTHER: The bullet grazed his thumb, and because it grazed his thumb, it went in at an angle.

CHO: And never penetrated his bulletproof vest.

PFC STEPHEN TSCHIDERER, U.S. ARMY: I kind of opened up my vest and I'm like, oh, boy, good to go, let's go get them.

CHO: Less than a minute after Tschiderer is shot, his unit takes the offensive, humvees rolling towards them. The snipers realize they are now in danger.

"Hurry, hurry, get out," says one.

What you cannot see on the tape is the foot chase that follows. Private Tschiderer, fueled by adrenaline, hunts down and catches the man who shot him. He even tends to the sniper's wounds, the man who moments earlier tried to kill him.

S. TSCHIDERER: It's part of the job. I'm a medic. He put down his arms; he's no threat. I mean, there's no excuse not to.

CHO: A few days later, when Stephen told his parents about his close call, they were scared and relieved. And then he told them about the tape.

D. TSCHIDERER: I said, what do you mean, there's a video? He goes, mom, they taped the whole thing. Why? For training. I wasn't -- I wasn't supposed to live. It was for training.

CHO: It took some time before parents John and Debbie finally got the courage to watch. D. TSCHIDERER: It was the sound more than the actual action. And to hear the Iraqis talking about my son and to have him in their sights. For me, the initial feeling was, was anger.

CHO (on camera): And then?

D. TSCHIDERER: Well, then I started sobbing, hysterically. I mean, it just -- it was amazing to see how close -- how close it came. I said, Steve, they were laughing. He said, no, mom, they were praying. Well, I said, we go into battle, we pray; so do they.

We keep the dialogue up, because you know, as you can see, you're back and forth, back and forth.

CHO (voice-over): The Tschiderers are in constant touch with their son, via online instant messages.

D. TSCHIDERER: He's asking for you, dear. Come say hello.

JOHN TSCHIDERER, FATHER: He's leaving in 10 minutes to go on patrol.

CHO (on camera): How often do you tell him to stay down?

J. TSCHIDERER: All the time.

CHO (voice-over): These instant communications give the Tschiderers some peace of mind. The photos he sends help, too.

Like this, showing the bruise on his chest. This one, showing the sniper's weapon. And this, Stephen's damaged flack jacket.

He's due to come home in late September. I asked him how anxious he was. He replied, "I'm counting the days, and it's still more than one, so it's too far."

D. TSCHIDERER: We were starting to think that, OK, we can do this, he'll be home soon. And then it all just kind of was put right back into perspective, what these guys go through every single day, and it's hard. It's hard. This brought it all home.


ZAHN: So horrifying to watch that. What a courageous and lucky family all the way around. That report from Alina Cho tonight.

We want to thank you all for being with us tonight. Next on LARRY KING LIVE, royal watchers and palace insiders on how things are going with the newlyweds -- you know which ones we're talking about -- Charles and his bride, Camilla. Also, how the royal family has been dealing with the aftermath of the London terror bombings.

And we know that every year, hundreds of children lose their lives in swimming pools. Tomorrow night, we're going to have some safety proofing tips, no matter where that swimming pool might be in your life. Thanks so much for dropping by tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Have a good night.


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