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Rape Charges Against Duke Players Dropped; New Military Draft on the Horizon?; The Quest For Immortality

Aired December 22, 2006 - 20:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for joining us. Paula is off tonight.
There's important news, of course, coming into CNN all the time. Tonight, we're choosing these top stories for a more in-depth look.

The top legal story: a huge development in a very high-profile case. Rape charges against three former Duke University lacrosse players are dropped. But they are not out of trouble yet. We will tell you why.

"Top Story" in the war: more troops needed. But will it take a draft to get them?

And the "Top Story" in religion -- onward Christian officers. Critics say some military brass are obliterating the line between church and state.

We're starting, though, with tonight's top legal story: a dramatic announcement in a case that has been making coast-to-coast headlines since last March. That's when a black stripper accused white members of Duke University's lacrosse team of raping her during a drunken party.

Today, a prosecutor dropped the rape charges. And the players' attorneys are demanding the whole case be dismissed.

Jason Carroll has been tracking this story since the beginning and now has the very latest.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are no longer accused of rape, this after the alleged victim now says she can't be certain former Duke University lacrosse players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Dave Evans raped her during a party last march.

The Durham district attorney, Michael Nifong, dropped the rape charges following an interview with the accuser on Thursday. He would not speak about the case. But, in court documents filed Friday, Nifong wrote: "She initially believed that she had been vaginally penetrated by a male sex organ. She can no longer testify with certainly. Since there is no scientific or other evidence , independent of the victim's testimony, the state is unable to meet its burden of proof." JOSEPH CHESHIRE, ATTORNEY FOR DAVE EVANS: These boys are absolutely innocent. They never touched her. They were never alone with her together in any place. So, it is not possible that they kidnapped her, touched her, raped her, assaulted her, or did anything else to her.

CARROLL: Defense attorneys say this most recent development leaves them enormously confident that they will eventually clear their clients. But they say they are frustrated the district attorney did not drop all the charges. The three former players still face first- degree sexual offense and kidnapping charges.

WADE SMITH, ATTORNEY FOR COLLIN FINNERTY: Mr. Nifong, if you -- if you are listening, do the rest of this. Do the honorable thing. End this case, because there isn't a case to bring. And those are my thoughts.

CARROLL: Defense attorneys point to what they say are several flaws in the prosecution's case.

First, two DNA tests showed no match between the alleged victim and the Duke lacrosse players. Second, they say a timeline will show at least two of the players were not at the party when the accuser said the assault took place. They also take issue with how the DA had the accuser identify her attackers. This video of the lineup shows part of the process, during which, defense attorneys say, the accuser was only shown pictures of lacrosse players.

Typically, in a lineup, dummy pictures are also used for more a accurate result.

The dropping of the rape charges, however, was welcomed news to Collin Finnerty's father.

KEVIN FINNERTY, FATHER OF COLLIN FINNERTY: The boys are innocent. Again, this is long overdue. It is a great first step.


KING: Jason Carroll joining us here.

So, what happens next in this case? The defense attorneys obviously want it dropped. What do they do?

CARROLL: Well, what they are doing is, they -- they are trying to get their ducks lined up. They're trying to figure out what their legal next step is going to be.

One of things that they would like to do is, we talked about that photo lineup process there. They want that thrown out. And, in fact, a hearing is scheduled for that on February 5.

KING: Jason Carroll, please stay right here with us, because we want to expand our conversation on this case now by bringing in CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and, in Washington, Robert Bennett. He's an attorney who has been hired by a group of supporters of Duke University, who feel the university, the players, and the players' families have been treated unfairly.

Bob Bennett, let me start with you.

A dramatic development today: I assume your clients were pretty peeved about this.


Yes, I represented one of the boys who was not charged, John. And, then, early on, a few of the families asked me to help them with the media, who, frankly, were not treating this appropriately at the beginning.

KING: And, today, when you see it dropped like this right before the holidays, obviously very serious charges -- these three, I'm sure, thrilled to have the rape charges dropped. But they are still in legal limbo. What is your -- what did you make of it?

BENNETT: Well, I -- what I make of it are two things.

I think -- first, I think Mr. Nifong attorney wanted to control the story. He would have to disclose that he received this information. And he didn't want the defense lawyers filing a motion to the court. He wanted to control it by dismissing it.

He also didn't want, six months from now, having this come out. And, you know, his reputation, which is now on the ropes, would be -- would be absolutely finished.

John, you know, the only rape in this case, frankly, is Mr. Nifong's rape of the reputations of these -- of these young men. I think a second reason why he did this is, I think it is an effort by him, for when they go to trial, to exclude from evidence the very serious evidence undermining this woman's allegations about all of her sexual activity.

And I think he -- he wants to posture himself to say, since there are no longer rape charges, her prior sexual history is not relevant.

KING: Well, Jeff Toobin, jump in on that very point.

What do you make of today's development? But, more importantly, where do you go from here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I -- I -- this is really a shocking case.

You know, I have been somewhat skeptical. You know, the -- the -- the defense has so dominated the airwaves and the prosecution has largely been silent. I have sort of had a natural reaction to it.

You know, the Bob Bennetts of the world, my friends like Bob, who -- who are so, you know, engaged in this case. I want to offer the other side. I can't see what the other side is here. I don't know what the prosecution is thinking at this point. There is no DNA. The -- the only eyewitness who is remotely sympathetic to the -- to the alleged victim, the other dancer at the party, does not support her story.

Where is this case? And it is entirely on the basis of the credibility of this woman, who has changed her story in such dramatic ways. I don't see how this case will ever be tried, much less a conviction obtained.

KING: More on the legal in minute, but I want to, Jason, come to you about the community.

You spent a lot of time there as this case as unfolding. And it exposed some pretty stiff tensions...

CARROLL: Absolutely.

KING: ... black-white tensions, have and have-not tension, if you will.


KING: What do you make of this and how it's likely to affect the impact on the community?

CARROLL: Well, John, I think, at the beginning, there were a lot of people on both sides who wanted to see the process, the legal process, play out.

But now that you have got this development happening, I think you're going to find that you're going to see a lot of people pulling back, and saying, OK, the legal process has played itself out. Time now for Nifong to come forward and make some sort of declaration.


TOOBIN: John...


BENNETT: John, could I make one point...

KING: Go ahead.


KING: Sure, Bob.

BENNETT: ... I think the public didn't really appreciate.

We are now here in that Mr. Nifong spoke to the complaining witness for the first time within the last few days. Now, I prosecuted, in my earlier life, a lot of rape cases. For nine months, he gave 70-some odd speeches calling these young men rapists. And he never, and I understand no one in his office ever spoke to the complainant. That's absolutely outrageous and unconscionable. And I think the North Carolina system of justice is going to be on trial, if -- if somebody doesn't step in, hire a special counsel, a former judge in the court there, to look at all the evidence and make the right decision. This man can no longer objective decisions. All he's trying do is salvage his reputation.

TOOBIN: Interestingly, the president of Duke, Richard Brodhead, for the first time today called for Nifong to get out of the case. He has tried to be very neutral. I think that's a sign of where things are going, that the president of Duke is saying: Come on. Enough is enough with this case.

I mean, I think the Nifong's behavior here is inexplicable.

BENNETT: But, Jeff, Jeff...


KING: Quickly, Bob.

BENNETT: With all due -- with all due respect to the press, early on, I couldn't get anybody in the media or the press to look behind the storyline.

The storyline was so good. You know, it was rich kids at Duke, a poor African-American lady who is an exotic dancer to support a child, black-white tensions. We saw images of the old South plantation owners abusing the slaves. The press went crazy on this.



KING: Bob, I'm sorry. We're short on time.


KING: The press did go crazy on this. But I remember Jason's reporting and other reporting. We also did report on serious questions for Mr. Nifong.

We will, obviously, continue to focus on this in the days and weeks ahead, if the case lasts that long.

Bob Bennett in Washington, Jeff Toobin and Jason Carroll here in New York. Thank you both, all three of you gentlemen, thank you very much.

We move on to tonight's "Top Story" in the Iraq war.

The Pentagon announced five more U.S. military deaths, a soldier, a sailor, and three Marines, bringing the overall military death toll now to 2,963.

Just a few minutes ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates got home from a three-day visit to Iraq. He briefs President Bush tomorrow up at Camp David. Gates has been getting reaction to ideas the president is thought to favor: sending a surge of extra forces into Baghdad and increasing the overall size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

Up next: Is a military draft the only way to achieve those goals?


KING: We are continuing with our "Top Story" in the Iraq war, the possible increase in U.S. troop strength, even though a lot of people saw November's election as a repudiation of President Bush's Iraq policy and a call to bring the troops home.

Voters are still in a sour mood. In our latest poll, only 37 percent say President Bush inspires confidence. That's nine points lower than a year ago, and way down from the 75 percent he had back in 2001.

Our CNN/Opinion Research poll also shows voters are losing confidence in the new Democratic Congress, even though it has not started work yet. Sixty-one percent say Democratic control of Congress will be good for the country. That is, though, down from 67 percent in November.

And, as we said, the president may order more troops into Iraq, and wants to increase the size of the Army and the Marine Corps. Officials insist there is no connection. But the Selective Service System confirmed, it is gearing up for a comprehensive test of its procedures.

As Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports, some people are concerned a new draft is on the way.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an enduring symbol of the Vietnam War: protesters burning their draft cards.

That war ended, and so did the draft. But, now, with the war in Iraq, the secretary of veterans affairs has some people worried about compulsory military service.

JIM NICHOLSON, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: That is a real advantage of the draft, because it does bring people from all quarters of our society together in the common purpose of serving for a while in uniform.

STARR: Nicholson says he isn't calling for a draft. But the Selective Service System says it is planning to test the national machinery for running a draft, to the make sure it can locate all eligible men aged 18 to 25.

This comes at a time when the administration says it wants to increase the size of the U.S. armed forces. But the military insists, no draft is planned. Experts say a draft leads to troops who don't want to be there, who will only stay for a short time and be poorly trained.


STARR: Since the draft ended in 1973, and the military became an all-volunteer force, enough people have volunteered for duty, So, experts say that a draft simply isn't needed.

But with the war in Iraq, recruiters have struggled to meet their quotas.

Congressman Charles Rangel says a draft would make rich and poor alike share the sacrifice of going to war.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: If we had a draft when the president made the decision to go to war, he wouldn't have made it, because there would have been a protest. He would never be able to say "Bring 'em on" with other people's children.

STARR: Even the Selective Service says its test, scheduled for 2009, is uncertain.

DICK FLAHAVAN, SPOKESPERSON, SELECTIVE SERVICE: Now, depending between now and then, whether budget is cut or staff is seriously curtailed, then, the whole thing may be canceled.

STARR (on camera): Because of all the press reports, the Selective Service finally posted a statement on its Web site, saying that no draft is being planned and that -- quote -- "The public should not be alarmed" -- John.


KING: One more thing. And it is important. The head of the Selective Service says, because of recent budget cuts, his agency is not capable of running a draft at this point.

Another "Top Story" we are following has been censored by the White House -- coming up, a controversial article about relations between the United States and Iran that its authors say reveal no classified information. So, why, then, did the White House insist large parts of it be blacked out?

And, later, the "Top Story" in religion.: why critics say some evangelicals in the military are going too far.


KING: Our "Top Story" in diplomacy tonight: the growing tension between the United States and Iran.

Tomorrow, the United Nations votes on U.S.-supported sanctions to punish Iran for its nuclear program. But some people in this country, including members of the Iraq Study Group, think it is time the United States started talking to Iran. And now two former government officials accuse the White House of trying to silence the debate on the issue, while laying the groundwork, they say, for military action. They make their case in today's "New York Times" in an opinion article called "What We Wanted to Tell You About Iran." Just below that is the original article they hope to publish. But it is full of deletions that the White House insisted on.

The authors, a husband-and-wife team, join me now, Flynt Leverett, former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, and former foreign service officer Hillary Mann.

We want to mention that we called the White House about this story, But, so far, we have received no response.

KING: Flynt and Mary, thank you very much for joining us.

Let me start, Flynt, by asking you to respond to this. Both of you say it is the White House that -- that insisted on the redactions, as they like to call them in Washington, the deletions, the blacking about.

Tony Snow was asked about this at a White House briefing. And he said, no, the White House didn't it.

Let's listen to Tony Snow.


QUESTION: but he says the CIA has cleared this particular piece, and the White House has blocked it. So, my question is...

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House is not blocking his writings.

QUESTION: There's no effort to use national security claims to falsely silence critics?

SNOW: We don't falsely silence critics on national security claims.


KING: Flynt Leverett, care to respond to Tony Snow? How do you know it was the White House?

FLYNT LEVERETT, SENIOR FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I was told by an official of the CIA's publication review board that, after a publication of mine, a recent paper on U.S. policy toward Iran, on which this draft op-ed is based, was published two weeks ago. The CIA had cleared it, said it did not contain any classified material, didn't ask to change a word.

The White House had complained to the publication review board, and said that the White House needed to be consulted in the future, before the CIA cleared any of my subsequent pieces for publication.

That's also been confirmed in at least some of the journalistic reporting that's been done on this story.

KING: So, Hillary, help our viewers understand this. Why now, then? If all of this has been out in the public domain, perhaps not in publications that people in Dubuque, Iowa, or Kansas City, Missouri, might pick up and read every day...


KING: But, if it has all been out in the public domain, you can find it if you search on the Internet, why would the White House want to stop it now?

MANN: I think we are at a crossroads in our -- in our policy in what's going on in the Middle East.

What's happening today in the Middle East is of such significance and is going so badly, that the president is under unprecedented pressure to change course on his policies in the Middle East and on Iran in particular.

We have had reports this week about battle carrier groups going to the Gulf to -- just to -- a warning, as a symbol, as a sign to the Iranians how tough we are. They're -- you know, we're going to have -- we are probably -- may have this surge of troops in Baghdad. So, we could have more troops on the border with Iran.

We are trying to send signals to Iran that we are ready to continue challenging them, and not -- not to reach any kind of settlement or resolution of our difference with them.

And what was so damaging, I think, about our article, is that we detail how not just this administration, but every administration since the Islamic revolution, the Reagan administration, the first Bush administration, the Clinton administration, and this administration, have all talked to Iran, have all had these kinds of dialogues.

KING: I remember, from my days covering the White House, that the White House did indeed. Ambassador Zal Khalilzad talked to Iran about Afghanistan. He was not the ambassador to Iraq at the time, but talked to Iran about Afghanistan.

Flynt, let's just take -- let's peel the curtain back, then. If this is all in the public domain, what was redacted? What would it have said?

LEVERETT: The -- the two largest excisions -- and I would actually point out it was Hillary that conducted virtually all of the discussions that this administration had with the Iranians after September 11. Ambassador Khalilzad was in a very small number of those meetings., Hillary was in virtually every one of them.

And the passages that were redacted basically detail how, after the 9/11 attacks, the Iranians worked with us, through this dialogue that Hillary was intimately involved in, how they worked with us, not just for a few weeks, not just for a few months, but for well over a year, until we cut off the dialogue in the spring of 2003.

The other major excision deals with an offer by Iran, a document, which is available online, a document that came in from the Iranians, offering to negotiate a comprehensive resolution of bilateral differences between the United States and Iran, and how the administration summarily rejected that.

KING: Help me...

LEVERETT: I think...

KING: I'm sorry.



KING: Go ahead.

LEVERETT: I think what -- yes, what is really at stake here for the White House is that they have two people of -- not to be immodest -- but of great credibility with how this administration mishandled Iran policy, who were going to go into the leading newspaper of record in the English-speaking world and show how this administration has bungled multiple opportunities to put relations with Iran on a better path.

KING: Well, Hillary, help us understand that.

At a time when Iraq is going so bad, there's talk about sending more troops in, the military is so strained -- North Korea ended the six-party talks today without a nuclear deal there. if Iran is ready to put a grand compromise, as you call it, on the table that includes setting aside its nuclear program, why in the world wouldn't the Bush White House sit down and try to talk to them?

MANN: Well, I mean, Iran made this offer in the spring of 2003, before the price of oil was going through the roof, before they were actually spinning centrifuges.

When we were -- when it appeared that we were victorious, when the president was standing under the -- the -- the banner that said "Mission Accomplished," this is when the Iranians put the offer in. We don't know for sure that they would actually -- that they would continue -- that they would actually stand by that same offer today.

I have had discussions with Iranians since leaving government, Iranian officials in Europe since leaving government, that indicate to me that they are still interested in this kind of grand bargain with the United States. But they say the price will be higher than it was three years ago, when they first made it.

And my -- on -- on this point, I think that, if we continue waiting, the price is just going to get higher. And it would behoove us to actually look at history and take the deal that we can get.

KING: It is a fascinating issue, both the question of what would Iran do and the question of what the White House is doing to your article.

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann, we thank you both for your time tonight.

LEVERETT: Thank you very much.

KING: Thank you.

Tonight's "Top Story" in religion involves some officers in the U.S. military. Some critics say, they have not only gone too far to promote their faith. They could be hurting national security. We will get both sides next.

Later, tonight's "Top Story" in health: buying immortality. But there is a catch. You have to die first, and it may not work.


KING: In tonight's "Vital Signs": the quest for immortality. And, for some people , it's more than just a quest. You might be surprised at how many have signed up, and put down a lot of cash, to get a chance to live again.

We asked chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta to find out more.


BRIAN HARRIS, CRYONICIST: What's going on, Xander (ph)?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like any young father, Brian Harris looks forward to seeing his son Xander (ph) grow older. But he wants much more than that.

HARRIS: The idea of seeing my great-great-great-great-great- great-great-grandchildren would be pretty neat.

GUPTA: For Brian it is much more than just an idea. He's actually investing his money to make it happen. He's part of a small group of people who call themselves cryonicists -- their belief, if they freeze bodies or just brains that would later be given bodies, they will be revived in the future.

HARRIS: So, for the cryonicist, protecting what's up here is the most important thing. For somebody that's been suspended, you have got all the time in the world. You can wait literally hundreds of years until technology can do something.

GUPTA: To most people, it sounds like science fiction or Hollywood fantasy, Mel Gibson in "Forever Young." Tom Cruise in "Vanilla Sky" reached the future through cryonics. Even Austin Powers poked a little fun. But the reality is this: One cryonics organization says that about a thousand people have signed up. Many have chosen to be brought here upon their death to this office park in Scottsdale, Arizona, the headquarters for the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

Currently, there are 73 clients, including the late baseball great Ted Williams. Some whole bodies, some just heads, preserved in this room along with 25 pets, dogs, cats, even a monkey.

DR. STEVEN B. HARRIS, ALCOR CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR: It's an experimental medical procedure. I think reviving people who have been cryopreserved is almost inevitable in some way or another. Just like going to Mars is inevitable.

GUPTA: Dr. Steven Harris is not only Alcor's medical advisor, he's also a member. Trained as an internist and a gerontologist, he helped to develop the cryopreservation process.

HARRIS: As soon as the patient is pronounced dead, legally, while their cells are still alive, then they are turned over to cryonics team and the first order of business is to cool them down as fast as possible.

GUPTA: For believers, speed is key. Alcor members wear these inscribed bracelets and necklaces giving precise instructs on how to start the process when they die. This nondescript truck outfitted with medical equipment and an ice bath is on standby to pick up a member at a moment's notice.

Alcor's mantra, keep the tissues alive.

HARRIS: The person is brought into this room and put into this chamber.

GUPTA: Once a member arrives in this room, the body's blood and much of the water are replaced with chemicals to stop the formation of tissue destroying ice crystals. The body is cooled, first in a box like this and then finally in something called a doer -- four people per container.

HARRIS: They're basically giant thermos bottles. But the temperature inside is very, very cold. It's 196 degrees below zero Centigrade. The patient's brain or head would go in here. And then several of them go in here. And then this whole thing goes into one of the large containers.

GUPTA: The costs are steep. $150,000 for the whole body or $80,000 for the brain and the head. Many of the members pay for it with additional life insurance. There are even discounts for entire families.

HARRIS: These are where pets of cryonicists are stored. It is only available for pets of people that are signed up for Alcor.

GUPTA: It is an elaborate process, but all based on the hypothetical promise of future scientific advances.

DR. VIVIAN TELLIS, MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER: People, in fact, just tissues, not even people, once frozen cannot be resuscitated. It would take a quantum leap, I think, of imagination right now. Our current solutions, our technology, our current machines cannot do this.

GUPTA: Today most organs for transplants can only be preserved for 24 hours. And even less time for hearts or other complicated organs. In short, success in cryonics is a long way off. If not impossible.

HARRIS: Technology seems to double about every five years. If that pace continues, we will see amazing things happen.

GUPTA: Dr. Harris is encouraged by advances. Tiny blood cell sized robots that can one day perform functions inside our blood vessels. Encouraging enough for some cryonocists to set up financial trusts to make sure their money is there for them if they ever do come back. But Brian Harris knows these trusts, like cryonics itself, are experimental.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being frozen is the second worst thing that can happen. The worst being, for a cryonocist, being buried in the ground. Because if it doesn't work you are still dead. So, seems like a reasonable gamble.

GUPTA: To see the future? Brian Harris is willing to bet against the odds. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


KING: The biggest critics of cryonics say that it is not only impossible but they call it a huge waste of resources. But let's say you get to live again in the future. How would you support yourself?

Well, as you just heard Sanjay touch on some wealthy businessmen have done something about that. They have created so-called personal revival trusts that are designed to allow them to reclaim their riches hundreds, or thousands of years into the future.

Tonight's top story on religion is coming up. A controversial video featuring military officers in uniform promoting a Christian evangelical group. Critics say it tramples on the separation between church and state.

Later, a soldier whose courage saved his platoon but cost him dearly.


KING: Our top story in religion tonight is growing outrage over an evangelical Christian group's promotional video. Much of it was shot at the Pentagon and features top military brass in uniform. A watchdog group is demanding an investigation, saying military regulations forbid promoting any cause, including religious ones. Kathleen Koch has the details.


MAJ. GEN. JACK COTTON, U.S. AIR FORCE: I meet the people that come in to my directive and I tell them right up front who Jack Jatten (ph) is, and I start with the fact that I'm an old fashioned American and my first priority is my faith in God and then my family and then country.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A seemingly innocuous video testimonial, except when the man's uniform belongs to the U.S. Air Force and the video was shot at the Pentagon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christian Embassy is mustering these men and women into an intentional relationship with Jesus Christ.

KOCH: These clips are part of a 12 minute video promoting a Christian group that evangelizes is in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Generals and admirals meet regularly for the flag officer fellowship.

KOCH: Three minutes of the video were shot at the Pentagon and show four generals and three colonels endorsing the organization and espousing their religious beliefs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soldiers are going to benefit from the fact that they are military men that are also godly men.

KOCH: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a watchdog group, says the video violates the constitution and military regulations that prohibit appearing in uniform to promote a cause, religious or not.

REV. MELINDA MORTON, MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION: There is a regulation that a disclaimer be included, saying even though this person appears, they are not voicing the particular viewpoint of the military. You will notice in this video that this disclaimer never, ever appeared.

KOCH: Critics point out that in a military setting, in particular, such evangelizing can have a coercive effect.

MICHAEL WEINSTEIN, MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION: Because if your superior officer or commander is evangelizing you to your face. Get out of my face, sir or ma am is not an option for you.

KOCH: Christian Embassy would not agree to an on-camera interview, but its director says, quote, "the Pentagon gave us permission to film the video. I do not know of any regulations that we violated." The group is adding a disclaimer to the video, but for some of the other faiths that's not enough, especially given what some officers say in parts of the video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, we are the aroma of Jesus Christ. RABBI MARVIN BASH, FT. BELVOIR CHAPLAIN: We -- we are the aroma of Jesus Christ. I wonder who he is speaking for when he says we. If he is speaking for all of the people at the Pentagon, that's offensive. That's wrong.

KOCH: In 2003, Army Lieutenant General William Boykin was criticized for saying his speeches before church groups, that President Bush was, quote, "appointed by God. And that the U.S. is, quote, "a Christian nation."

And in 2005, Christian cadets, faculty and staff at the Air Force Academy were found to have inappropriately proselytized other cadets. Still, the Pentagon says the Defense Department, quote, "does not endorse any one religion or religious organization."

COL WILLIAM BROOME, PENTAGON CHAPLAIN: We live in a very pluralistic society. In other words, there are people of all faiths that are here. So we don't want to just put one faith above another.

KOCH: CNN requested interviews with all of the officers who appear in the video. But our request was denied because the Pentagon inspector general is now investigating whether any rules have been broken.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, the Pentagon.


KING: And joining me now from Albuquerque, Michael Weinstein, who we just saw there in Kathleen Koch's report. He is the founder of the military religious freedom foundation, and author of "With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against the Evangelical Coup in America's Military." And from Los Angeles, John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley and president of Master College and Seminary.

I want to start with you, Pastor. You think there is nothing wrong with this video. But I do want to read you a bit from the Pentagon regulations. They say, quote, "professionals and especially commanders must not take it upon themselves to change or coercively influence the religious views of subordinates."

Could you not say, sir, that by appearing in these videos, the commanders could be trying to influence their subordinates?

JOHN MACARTHUR, PASTOR, GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH: Certainly we don't know their motives. But that's not an inference that can be immediately drawn.

What strikes me is you have got this military fighting to defend people's right to reject Christianity, and people who are rising up wanting to take away their right to affirm it. I think this is what it means to be an American, whether you are in uniform or out of uniform. You have the freedom to declare what it is that you believe. And I don't think there are any restrictions that should be imposed upon men, whatever their religious belief, and whether they are in a uniform or not.

KING: Mikey Weinstein, you have demanded an investigation. A, any word from the Pentagon on whether you will get one? And what do you hear? Your group obviously wants to hear from the rank and file who might feel pressured, coerced? You pick the word for it. What are you hearing from the rank and file?

WEINSTEIN: Well, John, you know, there are 702 U.S. military installations in 132 countries around the world. I get contacted by sailors, soldiers, Marines and airmen 24-7 around the clock. I can tell you that 96 percent of the people coming to us that are being tormented are Christians: Three-fourths Protestants, one-fourth Roman Catholic. My moles in the Pentagon are telling me that they are running around like chicken with their heads cut off right now to figure out, you know, who has been in bed with the Christian embassy and who isn't.

And with all due respect to Dr. MacArthur, I don't know what planet he is from. He doesn't think there is any implications here? He thinks there's an unalienable (ph) right to pursue one particular Biblical world view of the gospel of Jesus Christ, irrespective of any -- of any constraints whatsoever? I mean, if that's what he feels, that there's no separation of church and state, I mean, I think he ought to go to Saudi Arabia or Kim Jong Il's North Korea.

KING: Pastor MacArthur, please feel free to respond. And as you do, just tell me where you would draw the line. I think some would find it extraordinary that this is actually filmed inside the Pentagon. I think it might be less offensive to Mikey and others who are appalled by it if these were individuals perhaps sitting in their home or sitting in their church. Maybe the military uniforms would offend somebody, but it would be less objectionable if they weren't actually in the home of the United States military.

MACARTHUR: Yes. Well, I would affirm the right of Jewish officers to gather together in the Pentagon and state their faith in God, or any other religious group to get together and affirm their faith in God. I think that's what it means to be an American.

I don't think the Constitution -- I'm clear on that. The Constitution does not forbid church and state coming together. It simply states the government cannot establish a religion.

But we all believe something. Our lives are conducted on what we believe. Everybody lives out his convictions. And to be a Christian is to be dominated by a conviction that this is the most defining reality in your life. And you can't separate these guys from that. And they are fighting, as I said, for the very freedom for all of us to affirm what it is that we believe.

I don't think there is any downside to this whatsoever. I think being a Christian makes a man a better soldier. He understands humility, he understands sacrifice, he understands giving up his life for somebody else. He understands honesty, integrity. I think that makes a man a better soldier. WEINSTEIN: We are not trying to take anyone's -- we are not trying to take anyone's religious faith away. There are thousands of chaplains and thousands of chapels in the U.S. military. We are saying that there is a time and a police.

It is supposed to be the Pentagon, Dr. MacArthur, not the Pentecostal gon. This is not a Christian versus Jewish issue. It is a constitutional right and wrong issue. It has nothing to do with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It has everything to do with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

If this were freedom of speech we were talking about, you, sir, would demand the right to scream fire in a crowded theater. There are no limits on it.

MACARTHUR: You have to stop this sensational bizarre tactics. All we're talking about here is some men who declared what they believed who happened to be in uniform and in a building.

I don't see any downside. I don't see any violation of any constitutional law, military law at all. This is life. This is who they are. And they can give their opinion on a football team. They can give their opinion on a political campaign...


KING: Gentlemen, we are short on time.

WEINSTEIN: Can I ask you -- have you ever been in? Have you ever been in the U.S. military, sir? And can I ask you what -- have you ever been in the U.S. military, and can I ask you what law school you graduated from?

MACARTHUR: I have not been in the U.S. military. And I have not graduated from law school.

KING: OK, gentlemen, I need to end it there. It is obviously a fascinating and controversial subject. We will revisit it, we promise you that. Pastor John MacArthur in California. Mikey Weinstein, thank you both for joining us tonight. Thank you.

MACARTHUR: Thank you, John.

KING: And time now for a biz break. Santa did not deliver any presents to investors today. The Dow lost 78 points. The Nasdaq dropped nearly 15 points. And the S&P finished 7.5 points lower.

Stock markets will be closed Monday for Christmas.

DaimlerChrysler will send out more than 68,000 recall notices this February. The recall affects mostly 2007 model cars to fix a problem with the brake system that could cause drivers to lose control. The auto maker, though, says no accidents have been reported so far as a result of this problem.

Seventeen years after the tanker Exxon Valdez spilled $11 million of oil off the Alaskan coast, a federal appeals court has cut in half the original $5 billion punitive damage award against Exxon Mobil.

The union representing 15,000 striking Goodyear workers in the United States -- in the United States and Canada -- said it reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with the tire maker. Workers went on strike 11 weeks ago over health care benefits, and the company's plans to close a plant in Texas.

Next in our top story coverage, the story of a military hero who inspires everyone he meets, even though he can't see any of them.

And later, a message no one can decipher. It's a top story that has been a mystery for more than 100 years.


KING: Welcome back. We dedicate our next top story to the more than 23,000 American men and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last five years. Today, President Bush helped wrap presents for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He also made bedside visits and said he was moved by their courage and their bravery.

You are about to meet one of the many wounded, a man who almost made unbelievable -- a man who has made an unbelievable journey from terrible wounds on the battlefield to inspiring players in the NBA.


KING (voice-over): Gilbert Arenas is an NBA star, and, to many, a role model. Nimble under the basket, and always a threat to pull up and launch a three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good work, Gilbert. What's the score now?

KING: Among those on hand this night is Scott Smiley, a man Arenas considers a friend, a more appropriate role model and a hero.

GILBERT ARENAS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS: I don't know if I would have had the courage to do what he did, and you know, just to give, you know, your body, you know, to help your soldiers, your teammates, you know, that's just amazing.

KING: Captain Scott Smiley is 26, a West Point grad, an Iraq war veteran whose tour ended on an April morning when a suspicious vehicle approached his platoon in Mosul.

CAPT. SCOTT SMILEY, U.S. ARMY: I then shot out a warning round in front of his vehicle, and at this time I didn't know that he was a terrorist. He stopped, raised his hands up again, and then began to point forward. I then shot another round, and he exploded. I received shrapnel in both of my eye sockets.

KING: The eyes that sparkled at the sight of Tiffany or the chance to hold an Iraqi baby were destroyed.

SMILEY: I was probably not the nicest person in the hospital. KING: The military offered a discharge, but Smiley said no. And the first blind man to serve in the active duty Army now counsels soldiers and their families on the stress of war.

SMILEY: I have a purpose in life, and I signed a contract with the United States Military Academy. It is a little different than being an infantry officer and shooting guns and driving vehicles around, but I'm still able to do a lot of things for the Army.

KING: Scott first met Arenas and other NBA stars last summer, when he was invited to address team USA before practice.

SMILEY: Appreciate you guys having us. You know, we all look up to you, you guys are doing awesome.

KING: Arenas and Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade wore microphones so Captain Smiley could listen in during drills.

SMILEY: Oh, it was excellent. No, you did awesome.

KING: A bond was formed, and Arenas and the NBA invited the Smileys to a recent Washington Wizards game.

ARENAS: You guys have a happy holiday.


ARENAS: You, too. Appreciate it, man.

KING: With opposition to the war at record highs, Arenas says he worries the troops are underappreciated.

ARENAS: You know, it is kind of sad that, you know, our role models are people who entertain, you know, but at the end of the day, there are people who are the real heroes of the world. There's you know, people like Scott that's going out there and fighting for our freedom.

KING: Smiley wants to get his MBA, perhaps teach at West Point. He still sky dives and has learned to surf -- yes, surf. A determined hero who has lost his sight, but not his way.


KING: He is a remarkable man. We should also thank the military surgeons and rehabilitation staff who perform near miracles on wounded warriors like Captain Smiley, giving them a second chance.

There are a couple of top stories in science tonight. One of them is a rock with some mysterious writing. It's baffled people for more than 100 years.

And despite a lot of bad weather around the nation, at least one flight made it home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Our next top story is a mystery for the ages. The discovery more than 100 years ago of a small stone with some very strange carvings. Our faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher decided to look into this unusual and unexplained find.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mystery begins more than a century ago in this quiet lake region in New England. A strange, perfectly formed egg-shaped stone with eerie carved symbols. A face. An ear of corn. Crossed spears below a crescent moon. And absolutely no indication of who made it.

WESLEY BALLA, NEW HAMPSHIRE HIST. SOCIETY: The story for us at least starts in 1872, when it was found in Meredith, New Hampshire.

GALLAGHER: A New Hampshire businessman named Sanika Ladd (ph) discovered the stone at a construction site near his home, in ground believed to have been untouched for centuries.

Right away, scientists were fascinated by the detailed carvings and undecipherable symbols. The "American Naturalist" magazine called it a remarkable Indian relic. But archaeologist Richard Boisvert says the stone is unlike any Native American artifact ever found in the Northeast.

RICHARD BOISVERT, ARCHAEOLOGIST: It is unique. There's not much more you can say. I know of no other stone of that approximate size, shape, and carvings that I can compare it to. So it is unique.

GALLAGHER: In the mid-1990s, the state of New Hampshire asked Boisvert to analyze the stone. That study yielded almost no information.

BOISVERT: It is made of quartzite, which is a very hard stone. And I really don't know what kind of tools were used to shape the stone.

GALLAGHER: Boisvert and his team did concluded that two holes bored in the bottom and top of the stone were probably made with a metal tool, suggesting the carved stone is fairly modern in origin. But even that is uncertain.

(on camera): The stone is heavy and solid. Its surface is smooth. And the carvings have very precise. Now, people have been asking the same questions about this stone for over a century. And while modern technology can help us guess when the carvings were done or how they were made, the biggest question remains -- what does it mean?

(voice-over): The New Hampshire Historical Society had displayed the stone on and off since 1927.

BALLA: We've had a variety of communications from around the world, actually, with people suggesting everything from the star on the bottom relates to Azerbaijan, to a Mexican spiral of life, which also appears on it.

GALLAGHER: Other suggestions: The stone was used for secret Masonic ceremonies. Or the carved face is based on traditional African masks. Or this is a Native American deer's leg. Or the horn of an Egyptian bull.

One person even suggested that the stone was carved by aliens.

Scientists and archaeologists agree almost anything is possible, and admit that the stone could even be a hoax.

BALLA: That's not saying that a prehistoric culture or another culture from another region could not have created it, but that combination of symbols, images, surviving and in this condition, I think it's pretty unusual, whether it's prehistoric or of more recent origins.

GALLAGHER: Will we ever know the true origins of this stone? Archaeologists and historians hope one day further testing will yield concrete answers. But until then, the mystery stone will remain just that.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Concord, New Hampshire.


KING: Bad weather is delaying thousands of holiday travelers. The Denver, Colorado Airport reopened just a few hours ago, and had been closed for two days by a major snowstorm. Weather also delayed the return of the Space Shuttle Discovery, but only for one orbit. Conditions at Florida's Kennedy Space Center improved just long enough for the astronauts to make a sunset landing.

That's all for us tonight. Have a great Christmas, a safe and happy holiday weekend. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.


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