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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

House Republicans Agree on Deal to Renew Payroll Tax Cuts; Iraq Falling Apart

Aired December 22, 2011 - 20:00   ET

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


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thank you.

We begin tonight with breaking news. It looks like no one's going to be reaching in your pocket when those Christmas bills become due. Late today, house republicans agreed on the deal to renew those payroll tax cuts that you've been getting all year, adding another two months, also extending jobless benefits and fixing Medicare funding.

Now, some of that sounds familiar, that's because other than a minor change or two, it's nearly identical to the Senate legislation that was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. And then house Republicans rejected earlier this week.

Now, all of this has opened up a divide between house hard liners and the GOP establishment and by yesterday leading Republican voices were openly calling on house speaker John Boehner to back down, to agree to a two-month extension or risk ruing the brand. And tonight looking grim, he did just that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Doing the right thing for the right reason is always a right thing to do and while everyone asked for a full year extension of these programs, a lot of people weren't willing to put the effort in as the holidays were approaching to get it done. Our members were. So I'm proud of the efforts that they put into this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Now, Dana Bash is going to join us shortly to explain the mechanics of the deal, the specifics. President Obama was quick to praise the outcome. The statement reading this.

"This is the real money that will make a real difference this people's lives and I want to thank every American who raised your voice to remind folk in this town what this debate was all about."

And to give an idea of the some of the pressure, intense pressure lawmakers were feeling, take a look at these two entries from republican congressman Rick Crawford's Web page. Now, the first one is December 20th. And the headline reads, quote, "Crawford rejects irresponsible payroll tax deal."

Now today, a seemingly 180 as quote "Crawford to Boehner, let's compromise."

Now, joining us to explain the compromise, how it works, what it means to you, your bottom line, Dana Bash is just now.

Dana has been very busy in the few days. Just this morning, Dana, house Republicans were saying that they weren't going to budge on this at all. What changed between that and this afternoon?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, even when they were saying that Sanjay, we talked about last night. The pressure on them was enormous. But first of all, right after that press conference, the Senate republican leader basically issued a statement, breaking his silence and really shoving the house republicans into this position and saying, enough is enough effectively. You've got to go ahead and pass this two-month extension. I'm told privately, he was even more, Stern, that he doesn't even want negotiations.

Secondly, a very interesting happened. The speaker called the president this morning asking for help from the White House to negotiate something kind of middle ground and the president refused. The White House to refuse anybody up here to the hill so the speaker had to negotiate with the Senate majority leader and he tends to take -- and his people tend to take a harder line at another.

And lastly, I think maybe this is the most important, Sanjay, is the people - the constituents, people who sent them here, they were very upset. We heard from many republican sources that the members who did go home for Christmas were hearing from people, wait a minute, you're really going to be there in Washington and not pass this extension to make sure that I have this extra money in my pocket? That's just not going to fly.

GUPTA: You know, I want to point out something else well, Dana, maybe a formality but important one. The speaker says he's going to get this passed unanimously without actually having to call people back here to vote. But here's what congressman Mike Kelly told John King about that this evening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, ANCHOR, JOHN KING USA: You can come to the capital tomorrow and say I object and break this deal if you don't like it. Will you do that?

REP. MIKE KELLY, PENNSYLVANIA: John, you know what, I'm not so sure that I'm not going to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: So I mean, Dana, are we sure that this is really going to happen, that this is going to pass tomorrow?

BASH: After covering this congress for the past year, I will say I'm sure. But anything anymore, Sanjay. However ,the speaker's office, they certainly feel pretty confident that they are going to be able to get this passed without having to call members of congress back to actually do it in person. But I'll be here tomorrow night. That isn't going to happen until tomorrow night.

GUPTA: We'll check back with you on that tomorrow. But stay with us now, Dana. I want to bring in John King and Candy Crowley as well. Thanks everybody from joining us.

John, you know, we've been talking about this, you and I, a few days ago, we heard house republicans making - I mean, this sort of brave heart type references, almost about fighting to the end. But this looks like surrender, I mean, does it? Is it?

KING: They fought to the end and they surrendered, yes. So, they can say they did both. They are getting a small tweak in the language but they caved. And they caved under the relentless pressure. Dana just went through it. You have the president who used the bully pull pit and used it throughout the last week. Today he surrounded himself with real people and said this is who would be hurt by this. Most importantly, he had the senate republican leader who has essentially said, look, I cut this deal with the democrats. A majority of my members voted for it. So, the republicans lost their leverage when that happened. When you had a majority of republicans in the senate voting for the two-month extension, they lost the leverage so they lost it in Washington politically and they were losing the narrative out in the country politically as well. So they cut their losses.

GUPTA: And, Candy, I mean, if you give us a little peak behind the curtain, was there a sense, do you think, that the republicans thought that they could really win on this issue?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: As hard as it is to believe, I have to tell you, the great mystery of this is that this was such a losing issue for the republicans from the start of this, six weeks ago. When you looked at it, there is no way that you could allow this tax cut on payroll, on the payroll tax to expire without people saying, wait a minute, the republicans fought all year long against tax increases for millionaires and now they are doing a tax increase on the middle class. That's exactly how the democrats portrayed it from the very beginning.

And here is a party, the republicans who have spent entire year saying we can't do entire tax increases. So, it was just a very hard thing to do. I must say that there was some in the tea party portion on the house side that saw a string of victories, that they have been able to have, often working with the president which may be why the president sent John Boehner back to Harry Reid. But nonetheless, they may have been encouraged in the past victories but you know what, we're on election and election eve year and that just didn't work this time.

GUPTA: I want to explore some of those details, Dana that Candy is bringing up. You know, we like to keep them honest here on 360 as you know. So again, people should know, this is just a two-month fix. Their promise this part of this, they will start negotiating right away on a year-long extension but we don't have a guarantee that will happen. And that was part of the resistance that we heard from the house Republicans, right?

BASH: That's exactly right. And the resistance, I think even more importantly, from the senate democrats, why they felt that they needed -- and senate republicans why they needed this two-month extension. The issue at this point in time is that everybody says that they want the one-year extension but how do you pay for it? It costs the whole package itself costs between 120 and $160 billion. And the whole reason why they had this short-term fix in the senate is because they couldn't come to an agreement on how to pay for it. Does it sound familiar? It should be because this is the issue that we've seen this throughout the year on various battles.

How do you pay for it to ensure that the deficit doesn't go up and there are partisan divides and it's not going to be easy to come together on this year-long extension even if they have more time.

GUPTA: Right. And speaking of paying for it, one of the narratives, John king. That was part of this as well is that millionaires were going to get taxed to help pay for this. And that's not part of this deal. Given that, were you surprised from democrats that sounded a bit like they were gloating?

KING: Well, they are gloating today but you making an important point. The democrats have not gotten what they want and that is to change the tax rates, to have millionaires pay more and that's what they wanted to pay for this.

So, Sanjay, the republicans can vote today. The republicans blanked and the republicans backed down but when we come back from the holidays, as Candy knows, we will be in 2012 . We will be in the election year, not just talking about the election year.

All of these issues are going to come back up. When they negotiate the long term, as Dana just note, they are going to have to pay for it. So, they won't get their tax increase on millionaires most likely. Republicans won't agree to that. So what programs are you going to cut? That's the tough one for democrats in election year.

And then, we're talking about a tiny issue here, the payroll tax. A lot of people who don't like because it comes out to Social Security trust fund. But what about all the other of the George W. Bush taxes that are going to expire? We're going to get into a tax debate next year and the republicans will use what the democrats said this week. How could they possibly raise taxes right now. Those quotes will come back when this debate -- look, this chapter's closed but the fights not over.

GUPTA: Absolutely. I mean, we are going to hear some of these sound bites. People are going to be accountable for some time to come for those words.

Candy, any idea of the impact of this on any of the republican candidates? I mean, the people feeling on the defensive? Should they be engaging more? CROWLEY: No. I tell you, the republican candidates stay about as away from this as far as they can possibly get. With the exception of Michele Bachmann who says, this is a quick fix, this is a Band-Aid, this is, you know, et cetera, et cetera. This is not something that they particularly wanted to get into because what was driving the opposition was the tea party and what's driving the primary is the tea party. So, you don't want to get caught between the tea parties.

GUPTA: Right, right. And you know, I couldn't help but notice, Dana, you know, if you looked at speaker Boehner's demeanor and you talked to him directly, but you notice his demeanor in the press tonight, he didn't seem happy at all. And you get this idea that his leading this caucus filled with people who don't care as much about the political consequences. I mean, is this going - I mean, how tough a year has this been for him, do you think?

BASH: I mean, obviously, it's been a great year because he's been a speaker of the house but incredibly tough, Sanjay, you're exactly right. I was struck by something Candy said earlier about the fact that this was obviously a politically terrible idea for the republicans on the beginning to fight this fight.

But guess what? The house speaker didn't have much of a choice. He is a very smart politician. There's no question that he knew this was a bad political fight to pick but he had a conference, a republican caucus which revolt it when he said that he wanted to make this deal on a two-month extension.

So, there's no question that it's been incredible tough for him. So far he navigated it pretty well. I'm told that on this press conference that he had this evening, Sanjay, with members of his conference. Generally he comes to them and asks them for approval. Not this time. He said, this is my deal. This is what I struck, and this is what I'm doing. Did not take any questions and it was over. And I was told that he sounded quote "tired and ticked off."

GUPTA: I bet. I mean, he saw a lot of this unfold. Fascinating insights. Really appreciate it. Happy holidays guys. Thanks for joining us. Dana Bash, John King, Candy Crowley. Thanks so much.

Let us know what you think as well at home. We are on facebook, Google plus as well. You can follow me on twitter @sanjayguptacnn. I'll be tweeting tonight.

Up next, does speaker Boehner, President Obama, who benefits from tonight's breaking news? The answer may not be what some of the pundits are claiming. We have Paul Begala and Ari Fleischer join us from insights you might see coming.

And, later, does a wave of deadly bombings mean that things are unraveling in Iraq? You'll hear from an expert who says that the region is bracing for civil war. First, let's check in with Isha Sesay -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sanjay, tonight, can you trust a dog's nose to put at the scene of a crime. We'll tell you about a woman who actually doing time because one dog did just that. Was it legit to all? Is it another example of junk science in court? That and more when "360 "continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: All right. Breaking news tonight. Congress is back on track to renew the payroll tax cut. House speaker Boehner this evening bringing his republican members back on board, saying this about his earlier opposition to a deal. Quote, "it may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world."

More now on what this means politically for the speaker, for republicans, for President Obama. Here to talk about it tonight, democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Bush White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer.

So Air, let me start with you. Everyone thinks that republicans really lost the optics on this tax cut issue. What exactly do you think went wrong here for them?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think what went wrong is house Republicans put substance first. They actually tried to do something long term. It's exactly why the tea party. It's exactly why the tea party got elected to change the usual way Washington does business.

So my message to the president and to senator Harry Reid is congratulations. You're now governing in two-month increments. What a wonderful way to lead the country.

I think that's what they did for us. They mistook Washington for a year-long, call it long term and do the right thing, politically it didn't work.

GUPTA: But you have to agree, Ari. That a lot of people who have been paying attention on both sides of the aisle say look, I mean the optics of this in the end was that the house republicans looked like they were not going to allow this tax cut to happen and that's a poor issue for them.

FLEISCHER: Well, no. The republicans passed a measure that cut taxes for one year. It was the senate that didn't let that happen. I don't think there's any dispute about that fact. The job to dispute about whether the tax cuts should be two months or one year and then a Washington standoff.

But they actually literally passed a tax cut. The notion that the republicans aren't for tax cuts is a laughable notion. Republicans have always been for them. Always will be. What's happening is the democrats are getting drag along through the republican position and they did out maneuver the republican in terms of the December 31st deadline.

GUPTA: and one of the things you brought up, Air, when you we talked about this early in the recon. Paul, I want to ask you about this. It's a little bit more of what this deal is about and the substance, for example, what is paying for these tax cuts. One of the things that the president wanted, Paul, all along, was taxing millionaires to help pay for these tax cuts. He didn't get that. Is this an unqualified victory for President Obama?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think it's a very good point. That's the real dispute. The dispute is not between -- democrats didn't want two months and republican wanted a year. What happened was the democrats wanted a year-long paid tax cuts for the middle class paid for so we wouldn't lose money in Social Security. Because the payroll tax comes out of the Social Security trust fund. We don't want to lose that money to Social Security. So, democrats put forward a proposal that would ask citizens who make more than a million dollars a year to pay 1.9 percent more, less than two pennies on the dollar after you make a million bucks to pay for this middle class tax cut. It was good economics. It was politics.

And that's where the republicans fought because they don't actually believe in tax cuts per se, not if they go to the middle class. But when it's about the rich, they will pay any price, bear any burden, defend any friend, oppose any foe to make sure that millionaires and billionaires don't have to pay even two pennies, two pennies more and that's really the heart of the republican problem, is that they are seen now as the party of the wealthy elite and democrats are seen as the party of the middle class and that's what this fight was all about.

GUPTA: Ari, I want you have to respond to that but the issue all along was how it was going to be paid for and that seems to have gotten buried over the last couple weeks of extending this.

FLEISCHER: Well, Paul is right. The democrats always want to pay for everything with another tax icon, somebody. And that's why taxes always go up when you have the democrats in charge. And the reason that's so destructive, especially for Social Security, that if Social Security is no longer a retirement fund and which you take money and give it to the government, they are supposed to invest it for you in Social Security. They are supposed to not spend it, which they always do.

But as soon as you break the bond where your money that comes out of your payroll tax that goes for your Social Security and you pay for general revenue, it's a welfare program. You have broken the bond that FDR and LBJ and all those who came before us vote for.

Now, Social Security is nothing but another re-distribution of income program. And to extend Paul's logic, one year from now when the same tax cut is up again, what will they do? Let's tax somebody else and make them pay for somebody else's Social Security. Let's just abolish all payroll taxes in that case and make it all income taxes. That's the inevitable logic of what Paul is pursing.

GUPTA: Happy holidays to both of you. Ari Fleischer, thanks for joining us. Paul Begala, I know you're spending some time with your mother tonight as well. Wish you happy holidays as well. Thanks.

FLEISCHER: Thank you. BEGALA: Thanks and happy holidays, Ari to you too.

FLEISCHER: Thank you guys. Thanks all.

GUPTA: In Iraq now with U.S. troops gone, the violence is ramping up. A string of coordinated attacks killing more than 60 people in Baghdad. So what does this exactly say about security there without American forces and could this be a step towards civil war? A lot of people are asking this.

Plus, former player suing the NFL. They say the league misrepresented the impact of concussions after their day and the grid iron are over. The NFL responds when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: A way the bombings across Baghdad today killing more than 60 people. Now, it's just less than a week after the last American troops left Iraq but already some are comparing this to the worst days of the insurgencies when sectarian violence brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Now, the list of target includes a market, a coffee shop, even a school just as children were arriving for class. They hit almost exclusively a neighborhood shared by Shiites and Sunnis. The bombings are raising fears, the power of acting left by U.S. troops is setting the stage for a battle between the al Qaeda and Sunni fighters and Shiites Militia's sponsored by Iran.

To talk about it, let's bring in Arwa Damon who is live in Baghdad and also former CIA director Robert Baer. He is the columnist for time.com and also the co-author of the book "the company we keep." Thanks to both of you for joining us.

I mean, Arwa, I've read some of what you've written today. You say, what's happening right now is the Iraqi's worst nightmare. What is the latest that you're seeing from Baghdad?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sanjay, when we think about what took place, 16 explosions from the span of two hours during morning rush hour. This is very much is exactly what many Iraqis feared would take place when the U.S. military withdrew. This casts a huge question mark whether the Iraqi security forces can actually protect the population.

And it wasn't just the explosions in the morning. There were four explosions that took place at night as well. And so, once again, civilians are thrown into the mind set of that utmost fear, not knowing, if when you leave your house if you're going to see your loved ones again.

GUPTA: I can't imagine living under those circumstances. But Bob, you say it could be potentially worse than that. You say your sources inside Iraq tell you that they are stockpiling weapons for a potential all-out civil war? ROBERT BAER, INTELLIGENCE COLUMNIST, TIME.COM: I've gotten multiple calls from people really worried about a civil war. They think that Maliki is going to make a grab for power, that there's going to be ethnic cleansing in Baghdad. Sunnis are going to be forced out. And there's some sort of defense of western Iraq which is mainly Sunni Iraq in the north.

I mean, the indictment -- not the indictment but the arrest warrant for the vice president is a really bad sign and they are taking it as a bad sign and they are preparing for the worst.

GUPTA: So you're talking about the prime minister who is the vice president as we talked about it, who has a warrant out is Sunni. And Arwa, you talked about the fact that many of the attacks have the hallmark of an al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq. I mean, how much do you believe this is sectarian score settling? How much do you think its terrorist groups or sort of asserting their control on this power vacuum?

DAMON: Well, you know Sanjay, all of that kind of morphs together into this gray area when it comes to Iraq. The attacks that we saw taking place today appeared to bear the hallmarks of al Qaeda or al Qaeda-linked groups just because of the level of sophistication and coordination amongst them.

That being said, there was also the reality here that with this political instability, a vacuum is created and that vacuum tends to be filled by violent extremists groups from both sides of the spectrum, groups who don't believe that dialogue is the way to settle political disputes but rather that violence is. The great concern again, is that this is once again going to set off that cycle are tit for tat, Sunni verse is Shiite attacks.

GUPTA: And to be clear, Bob. There are still 17,000 American diplomats and private security contractors in Iraq, many concentrated at the embassy of Baghdad. You've said you're very concerned as well about the safety of those people, is that right?

BAER: Well, the security forces are contractors and they are well qualified but can't contain an assault from a militia group. Mikado Sader (ph), he's talked about the embassy being too large. It's vulnerable and in the case - in the event of a civil war even right now, it could come under attack. And I think the state department should be very worried about that and, you know, we could have to rescue that mission.

GUPTA: Arwa, I mean, there on the ground. I mean, given that there's no military muscle to speak of left in the country, does the United States have any influence on events happening on the ground?

DAMON: Not a lot, Sanjay. The U.S. doesn't have a strong trump card that they can play against the Iraqis to try to force or influence what's happening here. The best that they can do right now is to urge these various leaders to try to sit around a negotiating table. The political crisis right now is actually monumental. You have the government collapsing like a house of cards, each side by the day growing more polarized against each other. And its Sunni verses Shiites, Arabs versus Kurd. All of these various fault lines that are existing are crumbling apart and there are so many points percolating that at any given moment in time could erupt into war along any sort of sectarian or athletic line.

GUPTA: And Bob, building on what Arwa is saying, I mean, Iran has long been talked about as the real power player potentially in Iraq. And what are your sources telling you in regards to how the Iranians are involved in this and the relationship with Maliki?

BAER: Well, you know, there is a power vacuum there. And you're going to see three powers being sucked in to this conflict if it turns bad. And that would be Iran. It would include Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia had said it will defend the Sunni and I think it will. I think it will send it arms. It will send money. The Iranians can't avoid getting involved. I'm not sure that they want to. But if it turns into a civil war, they will. And Turkey has to worry about the British north.

GUPTA: Bob Baer, thanks so much. Arwa Damon, please stay safe out there as always. There's a lot more going on there tonight. Isha joins us again with a "360 news and business bulletin" - Isha.

SESAY: Sanjay, we are getting out first look today, one activist group called the "massacre on the streets of Italy province" in Syria. It happened two days ago. And be warned, the pictures are graphic.

The group said people were surrounded by security and military forces then slaughtered. Another group said, 35 more people died today in clashes throughout the country.

A "360" follow on the investigation about the controversial contract for the experimental drug to treat small pox called "ST- 246." The Obama administration awarded the $432 million contract to SEAGEL (ph) technologies. Several republican congressmen have signed a letter to health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius demanding details on the deal.

They say, quote "we are interested in obtaining more information about the threat of smallpox. The HHS strategy to address the threat, the basis for the cost of the procurement, and the evidence supporting the department's belief that the contract requirement of FDA approval of ST-246will be achieved." SEAGEL's (ph) biggest share holder, (inaudible), a major contributor to the democratic party.

Wal-Mart is voluntarily pulling cans of infant formula off the shelves of all its stores after a baby died of an rare bacterial infection. It's Enfamil Newborn powdered formula that's involved in the case, but so far they're being cautious. No link has been made between the formula and the baby's death. Four former NFL players are suing the league, saying that they improperly failed to inform them of the long term effect of head injuries especially concussions.

The league responded saying it has long made player safety a priority. To learn more about just how devastating the effects of repeated head trauma can be, especially to young player, Dr. Sanjay Gupta spent a year following a team from North Carolina to study impacts of concussions on and off the field. Tune in to his special "Big Hits, Broken Dreams" Sunday, January 29th at 8:00 p.m.

Sanjay, doctors in England removed a felt-tip pen from a woman's stomach. It had been there for 25 years. Guess what, yes, it still writes. The woman told doctors she swallowed the pen while using it to poke at her tonsils. We don't know why. She forgot about it until she went in for tests and doctors found the pen lodged in her tummy.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: You know what this reminds me of, Isha, the old adage that the pen is mightier, in this case, than the hydrochloric acid in your stomach. The doctor writes hello.

SESAY: That is such a doctor joke.

GUPTA: Come on. You got it. You got it. I think you're always calling me a geek or a nerd. I'm not sure.

SESAY: You did just say the pen is height mightier than the hydrochloric acid in your stomach. Keep going.

GUPTA: When you think of things, Isha, that want to hang on your Christmas tree, a snake probably isn't one of them, which brings us tonight shock, which came from an I-Reporter Casey Blain.

One of the Blain's children made this shocking discovery, shocking mostly in part because they have a fake tree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have an issue and this is the issue. A snake is in our Christmas tree. Don't let it touch me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: You know, I have to say, it's a fake tree so he put this tree up with the snake in it the whole time? I don't know how that works and then they wanted to keep the snake. She said absolutely not -- and released it onto the woods not bad.

SESAY: Happy holidays to Tinzel, but Sanjay, I'm going to see your snake in a Christmas tree and raise you, standby, with some adorable puppies under a tree.

Yes, we found this video on YouTube and we're not the only ones, in fact. This video has gone viral with more than a million hits. Enjoying the Christmas gift thing like most kids, aren't they adorable? GUPTA: They will never forget this Christmas. That is a -- Isha, you always win with puppies. Puppies are always going to beat out a snake in a tree.

SESAY: That's a lot of puppies to clean up after.

GUPTA: Isha, thank you very much. See you in a bit.

And still ahead for all of you, serious stuff. A 360 investigation, they catch criminals simply by following their nose. Scent dogs. They've become a valued investigative tool, question is, are these canine cops reliable enough to send someone to prison for life or other dog in pursuits and other kind of junk science.

Also, two sworn enemies, one shared border, how soldiers defend one parts of the dangerous crossings with mean looks and loud voices. We'll explain when "360" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: This week, we've been taking a look at the science involved in catching criminals. The amazing breakthroughs we see on popular television shows that may or may not be quite so amazing in the real world.

Now police have long use scenting dogs to search out suspects or look for evidence and lately, more and more evidence found by these canines is being relied on to convict criminals. The question is, how reliable is the evidence they provide? Here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the country in places like Vincent, Alabama, dogs like these are being trained to help investigate crimes. They are energetic, smart, and one of them could put you into jail.

Just asks Professor Larry Myers of Auburn University. He spent a lifetime studying their abilities and he says they can even identify murder suspects.

(on camera): So they are fully capable of doing this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, if trained properly and if they are in good health. Yes. Yes, capable.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Sound far-fetched? Not in cold spring Texas. That's where a few years back a school janitor named Murray Burr was murdered, stabbed dozens of times in his home.

And this young woman, Megan Winfrey, was convicted of the killing in part because a dog by scent alone put her at the murder scene. Now she's in prison serving a life sentence.

Her father, Richard, was stunned that the evidence stood up. After all, he and Megan's brother were also identified as suspects by that dog, but the courts dropped the charges after deciding that the dog's evidence was fatally flawed.

RICHARD WINFREY JR., MEGAN WINFREY'S BROTHER: I just can't believe that that's even thought of, that they can take somebody's life away over a dog.

FOREMAN: So how are dogs trained for so-called scent line-ups? Professional trainer and police officer, David Latamer gave us a demonstration with some unused pizza boxes.

Targets in this case vials of bed bugs, but in a crime of maybe bits of clothing from the suspect and other would be placed where a dog could only smell them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to close the box so that there's no visual cue.

FOREMAN: The dog would then be given a scent from, say, the crime scene and brought into to sniff around. If he sits in front of a sample, he's matched a suspect to the crime.

But here's the problem, if the handler knows what the investigators want, with a slight nod, pause, or even a blink, he can send a signal.

(on camera): So there are many, many different ways in which you can accidentally tell the dog where the target was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. And to be fair, it's usually unintentional.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The trainer who's dog helps convict Mega Winfrey is involved in a lawsuit on another case and doesn't want to talk about Winfrey's.

But Professor Myers who's taken part in hundreds of cases including hers says the dog handling there was abysmal. He has complete faith in scent line ups since the dogs are well trained and guidelines followed, but that rarely happens.

(on camera): Is this more science or art?

LAWRENCE MYERS, AUBURN UNIVERSTIY: It is an art mostly that needs to become science if it's going to be used in a court of law or for other critical issues.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Authorities in Texas found no DNA linking Megan to the murder. They did, however, find people who testified that she talked about the crime. Still, even the prosecutors are cautious about dog evidence.

RICHARD COUNTISS, SAN JACINTO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It should be corroborated. It should not be -- a person should not be convicted solely on a dog sample.

FOREMAN: Megan is waiting on her latest appeal and her letters home seem optimistic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never been this hopeful.

FOREMAN: Then again, her family never thought she would wind up in jail in large part on the word of a dog. Tom Foreman, CNN, Vincent, Alabama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Lots of questions about this. We want to dig deeper. So we spoke earlier with senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin and also Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Jeff, I mean, best we can tell, Megan Winfrey was charged in connection with the murder of this high school janitor back in 2004. There was no physical evidence, no DNA, really nothing that linked Winfrey to the scene.

Everything was circumstantial except for the dog scenting, which was considered scientific evidence. I mean, should we be in a place where dog scenting could be relied on as the only scientific evidence?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, there are some legitimate controversies about some of these areas like blood spatter, bite -- bite mark evidence, but this is an absolute travesty.

The idea that you could ever rely on dog scenting as evidence that could lead to someone being convicted of a serious crime, we don't know how good dogs are.

We all love dogs and we all think dogs are very smart, but how often do dogs make a mistake. How often can a dog make a mistake between a true and a mistake?

We just have no statistics. We just have anecdotal evidence and the idea that this was allowed in a courtroom is just a disgrace.

GUPTA: I heard the story along with you. I was quite surprised. Dr. K., I mean, you hear this all the time. Dog handlers who say their dogs can track scents across the water, you know, for long distances.

There have been calls for tougher certification standards, but what about what about this case? I mean, were you surprised by it?

LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Well, I was. I think one has to be very careful when working with dogs. I've never seen a dog testify on the stand and I worry quite frankly about false positives as well as false negatives.

In fact, you can't really talk about dogs in general because every dog is unique and different. The training for a particular dog will be different from the training for the next dog. And we really don't know if the dog is just excited about a cadaver or drugs or whatever it's trained to sniff out or it may be catching the scent of another dog of the opposite sex.

So I have a lot of questions about this. I would say it's not science. I would say it's great for an investigative lead.

GUPTA: Right.

KOBILINSKY: Great for law enforcement, but not ready for the courtroom.

TOOBIN: Right. I think that's an important point. It's not like dogs should never be used if you want to try to find someone or find a body that hasn't been located. And you use a dog to get to the location, well, that's great. Then you get the evidence at the location that can be scientifically tested.

GUPTA: Dr. Kobilinsky, you're involved to some degree with the Casey Anthony trial. One of the things that came up there, a lot of people remembered was the scent, for example, that emanated from the trunk.

People tried to make sense of what that was and what it represented. I mean, how useful is evidence like that, the idea or aromas, scents being called into question here.

KOBILINSKY: Well, again, if you're using a dog and it's reacting to the scent, it gives you an investigative lead, perhaps. But if you try to prove it through instrumental analysis as what happened in the Casey Anthony case, then that testing had better be published, it had better be validated.

It has to go through a series of different kind of tests to show that it's reliable information or else it never should end up in the courtroom.

GUPTA: Fascinating series, guys. I learned a lot. I really appreciate it. Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, Jeff Toobin, thanks so much.

Still ahead, we have some incredible video of the showdown at the India/Pakistan border. A war has been going on for decades. We get the story behind the ceremony.

And also ahead, number seven on Anderson's "Ridiculist" countdown. Tonight, for anyone who messes with Matt Damon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: Pakistan is disputing the results of the Pentagon's investigation in the last month's air strike that killed 24 of their soldiers.

Now the Defense Department's report blames a string of mistakes fuelled by miscommunication, poor coordination and distrust. It says the incidents started when American soldiers came under fire. Pakistani intelligence officials dispute this, telling CNN the U.S. fired first and it was Pakistani's return fire that prompted the air strike. Now while all this is raising tension between two strained allies, Pakistan's chilling relationship with neighboring India is showing signs of a thaw.

That may be hard to tell from one busy border crossing where after more than half a century, still business as usual and it's something you have to see to believe. Reza Sayah has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who's tougher? Who's stronger? Who has got more swagger? This is the daily showdown between nuclear neighbors Pakistan and India at the border crossing just outside of Lahore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is intense.

SAYAH: This war dance is a symbol of six decades of bad blood and mistrust sparked by a violent separation in 1947 after British rule and fuelled by three wars, a nuclear standoff and a seemingly endlessly barrage of accusations from both sides.

Ever since 1959, the long time rivals border guards have met here at sunset and faced off in a flag lowering ceremony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just about spirit and you know, patriotism.

SAYAH: Each angry stomp, each glare, another dagger in this battle of bravado.

(on camera): If you want to know what the rivalry feels like, this is where you come.

SAYAH (voice-over): The ceremony starts with a furious 50-yard march to the border gates then comes the stare downs followed by synchronized lowering of the flags.

The event is one of the region's most popular tourist attractions. Thousands line the stands on each side of the border and the stronger the scowl, the louder the war.

Fuel electrifies the Pakistani crowd more than Sergeant Tarek Mahkmoud at 6'6", 240 pounds, no border guard here is bigger. The towering figure who doesn't speak on camera but makes clear that his country is not to be messed with.

(on camera): But over the past years, there's been some developments in some signs that show maybe, just maybe this icy relationship is gone.

(voice-over): Pakistan and India are meeting again. Leaders are talking peace, not pointing fingers and work is under way to expand trade despite signs of improved relations, the border gates are still slammed shut after every ceremony.

Erasing half a century of mistrust takes time analysts say until then, conflict not peace defines Pakistan-India relations. Reza Sayah, CNN, Waga, Pakistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: I've actually been to that part of Pakistan, just outside of Lahore, and it's amazing to think that for 60 years now ceremonies like that have been going on. Maybe as Reza said, a little bit of a sign of thawing of some pretty chilly relationships.

We're following several other stories tonight as well. Isha Sesay joins us again with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: Sanjay, breaking news out of New Zealand. We're just getting word of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocking the city of Christchurch. There's no word yet on damage or casualties. You may remember the 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city in February killing 181 people.

The U.N. General Assembly granted a request from North Korea today and held a moment of silence for Kim Jong-Il who died on Saturday. However, the United States, European Union and other nations boycotted the tribute.

John Edwards' legal team is asking for another delay in his criminal trial that is supposed to get under way next month. This time they're citing an unexpected medical issue, but gave no specifics.

The former presidential candidate has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including conspiracy and violating campaign contribution laws.

Sanjay, a FedEx executive has taken to YouTube to apologize for these actions, the actions of a delivery guy in California who tossed the box containing a computer monitor over a fence as you saw there, saying his actions go against the company's values.

Video of this incident itself has nearly five million hits on YouTube. The executive says the delivery guy no longer works with customers.

GUPTA: Maybe he should no longer work with computer monitors as well.

SESAY: Maybe.

GUPTA: Didn't see that camera there.

SESAY: Nope. That will get you every time.

GUPTA: That's right.

Stick around though, Isha, up next, our countdown of the top ten "Ridiculist" of 2011. Well, tonight is number seven and it's a reminder of why no one should mess with Matt Damon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: You know, we've been counting down the top ten "Ridiculist" of the year based on your votes. Well, tonight we have number seven. When someone was caught on tape messing with Matt Damon. Here's Anderson back in August.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight we're adding anyone -- and I mean anyone -- who messes with Matt Damon. Just don't do it, people. Don't mess with Matt Damon.

As a big fan of Matt Damon and I am, I know not to mess with him. Not that I even would want to, but some folks haven't learned that. It's a lesson that a certain cameraman and reporter had to learn the hard way over the weekend.

Matt was in, and I think I can call him Matt. Matt was in Washington for a save our schools rally with his mom who is a teacher. He spoke out against teachers job security being based on how students performance in -- test.

Afterward, some reporter from I think a libertarian website took him to task. Watch this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In acting, there isn't job security, right? There is an incentive to work hard and be a better actor because you want to have a job so why isn't it like that for teachers?

MATT DAMON, ACTOR: You think job insecurity is what makes me work hard?

COOPER: See right there. She just messed up. She messed with Matt Damon. Not a good idea. Now she's about to get well reasoned, highly intellectual smack down. A smack down if you will granted it isn't as exploded as the born identity, but I have to say, it's still awfully thrilling to watch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have an incentive to work harder.

DAMON: That's the thing. You take this MBA style thinking, right? It's the problem with that policy right now is this intrinsically paternalistic view of problems that are much more complex than that.

COOPER: Snap. Hold the dictionary. He just said intrinsically paternalistic view. I think Matt Damon just proved once and for all that his brain is a whole lot more goodwill hunting than it is team America.

OK, yes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone messed with Matt Damon over and over again, but they are brilliant so they get a pass. This reporter, we're talking not so much. Matt's not quite done making his point. DAMON: A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a -- salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really loved to do it?

COOPER: She messed with Matt Damon and she is facing the dragon. People can debate all night about ED policy. That's the cool way to say education policy, which I just learned from Matt Damon. Good teachers are highly dedicated and should be compensated appropriately. Stand by, though. A cameraman is about to mess with Matt Damon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where did you get that number?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

DAMON: Well, OK, but I think maybe you're a -- cameraman.

COOPER: Matt Damon doesn't need any special effects or stunt doubles or even hair to go all action. His words are his known chucks. By the way, don't mess with Matt Damon's mom either. Can we see that again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where did you get that number?

COOPER: Go Matt Damon's mama. I love how she just jumped in there. Where did you get that number? I bet she's a great teacher and great mom and really proud of her son. He's an Oscar winning screenwriter, a really good actor and he has great taste in the ladies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I'm (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Matt Damon.

MATT DAMON, ACTOR: She's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Matt Damon.

COOPER: I know it's old, but I still think it's funny.

All right. So, let's bring it home Damon style. Unless you're Sara Silverman, or Trey Parker, or Matt Stone, a word to the wise, don't mess with Matt Damon. If you do, you'll end up spotted down and on the "Ridiculist."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Good advice there from Anderson, who will be back Monday, incidentally, to continue the "Ridiculist" countdown. And I'll see you again tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT starts now.