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Senate Leaders Unveil Health Care Plan; Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes

Aired November 18, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: breaking news in the health care battle. Senate Democrats release their long-awaited bill and its estimated price tag. It's a major step, but the battle is by no means over. The question is, do they have enough votes to get it passed in the full Senate? The numbers and hurdles ahead.

Also ahead, our 360 investigation special continues, "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes" -- tonight, a videotaped confession you will hear only on CNN, an Army sergeant admitting he killed two men. But was it murder or battlefield justice? You can decide for yourself tonight.

And, later, the "Raw Politics" of Sarah Palin -- she kicked off her book tour today and also shared her views about profiling and how it might have been prevented the Fort Hood shootings. You will hear that for yourself ahead.

First up: breaking news out of Washington. How you get your health care and how the government figures into that equation may have gotten a little clearer tonight. Majority Leader Harry Reid has unveiled the Senate's sweeping health care bill, weeks after the House passed their version.

Some key points, Reid said the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost $849 billion over 10 years. And they -- they say it will reduce the federal deficit by $127 billion over that same period. Critics disagree. Another key detail, 94 percent of Americans would have health care under this plan.

Now, we want to emphasize, all those figures, the cost, the savings, the coverage are all according to Democrats. That's who we heard from tonight. We're waiting to see the Congressional Budget Office report for ourselves. Republicans say there are a lot of hidden costs in here.

Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash was the first to report the long-awaited price tag. She's still on the story.

Dana, what are the highlights of this plan?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Anderson, we should tell you this is over 2,000 pages, and we just got the bill a couple of hours ago. But we do have some of the important highlights.

First of all, if you have a preexisting condition, just like the House bill, under this, you can no longer be discriminated against by insurance companies. And there would be a mandate for most individuals to get health insurance, and pay a penalty if you don't do that.

And that so-called government-run health insurance option that is very controversial, it is in this bill, but states would be allowed to opt out.

And, "Keeping Them Honest," Anderson, it is hard to see how that ultimately survives in this Senate bill, because there are just a lot of conservative Democrats who continue to tell us they are adamant they won't go for a government-run health insurance plan. So, it's likely that that is going to have to change in order for Democratic leaders and the president to actually pass this bill in the Senate.

COOPER: So, Dana, the price tag, the preliminary price tag that the Democrats say is huge. It's $849 billion. They claim it's going to reduce the deficit. How are they going to do that?

BASH: Well, let me give a couple of examples of how they're going to pay for this, first of all, a 40 percent tax on so-called Cadillac, or high-cost, insurance plans.

And the Medicare payroll tax that already exists, that would be slightly increased for families making over $250,000. And get this -- this is new -- a 5 percent tax on elected cosmetic surgery. That, Democratic leadership aides say, would generate about $50 billion in revenue.

Anderson, this new concept already has the nickname here called the "Botax." And get this. I talked to a Democratic leadership aide just before coming on here and said that most Botox procedures actually could be taxed under this new plan.

COOPER: A lot of people are going to be surprised about that, but you won't be able to tell, because, you know, they won't show expressions.


COOPER: The question of abortion funding was huge, was a huge issue, obviously, in the House version.

BASH: Yes.

COOPER: How is the Senate planning to deal with it?

BASH: Well, it officially says that there can be no taxpayer funding for any abortion. But then you go into some of the details. It is not banned from that government-run insurance option, not banned from the public option.

Instead, the secretary of health and human services would be able to determine whether it's in the public option, and as long as she can prove that -- that the government money is not used. And private insurers also could be allowed to offer abortion coverage, again, as long as the money that is paid by taxpayer money is separated out.

But guess what? Again, "Keeping Them Honest," this is just not going to be acceptable to staunchly anti-abortion Democrats, who in the House of Representatives had the votes to block the bill if much more strict abortion restrictions were not put in. They had the votes. They were backed by Catholic bishops. And they're probably still going to have the votes, ultimately, to stop this, if this language is in there, from going to the president's desk -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Dana, stick around.

I want to bring in Candy Crowley, who has also been on the story all day.

Candy, what do you think?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this is sort of -- has been an incremental story all along, as Dana can probably tell you better than any, standing up there on Capitol Hill for weeks and months on end.

And what we have now is a significant movement in all these incremental movements. And that is that it appears that Senator Reid does have a bill that he can at least get to the floor for discussion. I think reading the tea leaves of some of the conversations in the hallways and elsewhere with these moderate conservative Democrats, they do seem willing to bring this to the floor.

That doesn't mean ultimately they won't try to change it, ultimately, they might vote against it. But the whole idea so far has been, let's keep the train rolling. Let's keep this thing moving. So, the next step is -- I think what -- what Senator Reid has done is put together something that is sufficient enough to get it to the floor.

And what they want is to bring those few moderates -- Democrats -- still looking at this bill, they want to bring them on board, so they can get it out of the Senate. It will not be the same leaving the Senate as it will be when it comes back. But this has been a process. And the whole idea is, don't let it stagnate, move it forward, move it forward.

And this is the next step.

COOPER: And, Dana, Republicans just say, and conservative -- conservative Democrats say, look, these cost projections are just sheer fantasy and that there's no way it's going to be able to take that kind of money off the deficit.

BASH: Most Republicans say that for sure. I mean, they're not even probably good at -- there's no chance most Republicans are going to vote for this. But that is the open question for many conservative Democrats.

I talked to several coming out of a meeting that Senator Reid had to brief the Democratic senators about this. And they said trust, but verify -- but verify. You have these Democrats who are hearing from their constituents from conservative states, saying, we don't want Washington to continue to spend this much -- much -- this much money, and we don't trust that it is actually going to do the things you say, like lowering the cost -- lowering the deficit, and actually -- that it's actually going to be paid for, that it's not just going to end up being another government entitlement that will add to the deficit ultimately.


Obviously, that's something we are going to be looking at very closely in the next couple of days, as we're able to finally read this thing. But we just got it, as you said, Dana, just a couple hours ago.

You can join the live chat -- let us know what you think -- under way at

Still ahead: Sarah Palin selling books, speaking out about taking shots at some of her favorite targets.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Thank you so much for showing up for the book, and so that you can read my words unfiltered.



COOPER: Palin also shared her thoughts tonight about the Fort Hood shootings and profiling to protect Americans -- "Raw Politics" ahead.

Later, our special series, "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes" tonight, a taped confession obtained exclusively by CNN. You will hear an Army sergeant confessing to shooting two Iraqis. He's now serving a long prison sentence. You will also hear from his wife, who stands by him.

So, was it murder or battlefield justice? You can decide for yourself tonight.


COOPER: Sarah Palin launched her book tour today in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she was greeted like a rock star at a book signing event. Hundreds of fans began lining up outside Barnes & Noble last night armed with sleeping bags and snow gear. Hundreds more showed up this morning, but were turned away.

Palin continued the media blitz on FOX's "Hannity" show tonight, where she weighed in on the Fort Hood shootings, saying that political correctness caused officials to miss warning signs. She said they should have been profiling Major Nidal Hasan.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": ... Fort Hood was an act of terrorism?

PALIN: I certainly do.

And I think that there were massive warning flags that were missed all over the place. And it was quite unfortunate that, to me, it was a fear of being politically incorrect, to not -- I'm going to use the word -- profile this guy, profiling in the sense of finding out what his radical beliefs were, the simple things, like looking at his business card that had the -- the -- the secret code word for who it was that he actually...

HANNITY: How about contacting al Qaeda?

PALIN: Well, yes, that, too.

HANNITY: Trying to contact al Qaeda.

PALIN: Right. Right.

Now, because I used the word profile, I'm going to get clobbered tomorrow morning. The liberals, their heads are just going to be spinning. They are going to say, she is radical. She is extreme.

But I say profiling in the context of doing whatever we can to save innocent American lives, I'm all for it then.


COOPER: Well, we should point out that what they're referring to are business cards found in Nidal Hasan's apartment. They had the initials SOA on them, believed to be an abbreviation for "Soldier of Allah."

Some have said it's a sign he was a jihadist, but CNN's reporting shows that abbreviation has no known connection to al Qaeda or any other extremist group. It's simply sometimes used as an affirmation of someone's belief in Allah.

Earlier, I talked to James Carville and Ralph Reed about Palin's remarks.


COOPER: James, has your head exploded?


JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, my head hasn't exploded, but I think a lot of people in the military's heads exploded.

They actually are trying to recruit Muslim soldiers or sailors or Marines or airmen. And there are, like, over 3,000 Muslims in the Army. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- excuse me -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff very concerned about -- about that, because these are soldiers, just like I was a Marine.

And if you're a Muslim, or whatever you are, you're a Marine first. I think that the -- the -- the military community is going to be -- heads are going to be spinning a lot more than any liberals right now.

COOPER: Ralph, what about it? I mean, her definition of what profiling is, she doesn't exactly say racial profiling or ethnic profiling.


COOPER: She sort of defines it in a way I have never heard it defined before.

But, I mean, what do you make of that comment, but also just how she's doing in general reintroducing herself?

REED: Well, I think she's doing terrific.

I mean, if I could just -- maybe just put on a political strategist hat for a minute, this is a woman who really kind of had a meteoric kind of explosion on the national scene, came out of nowhere. Most Americans didn't know who she was.

And she had a great launch at the convention in Minneapolis, when -- when McCain picked her. This book tour has given her a second introduction. She's going to sell an estimated million-and-a-half to two million books. She's got a huge following out there.

I personally think she's got a very bright future in American politics. And, frankly, whether you agree or disagree with her, to have a woman who is clearly a very talented, gifted, attractive, bright, with good political instincts as part of our national conversation, I think she should be welcomed, whether you agree with everything she's saying or not.

COOPER: James, is she good for the Republican Party?

CARVILLE: I don't know. She sure is good -- she's good for us. I mean, I think she's compelling.

Look, she was discussing conservatism on "Rush Limbaugh" and with Sean Hannity. I mean, look, they're trying to portray her as some intellectual heft in the Republican Party. I don't know about that. I will let the Republicans decide that.

But in terms of being an interesting, compelling person, I agree completely. And she's a real force out there, and she's a compelling person. And we will see where she goes. She will add a lot of depth to the party. I will tell you that.

COOPER: James, are you intentionally saying good things about her, so that the Republicans will keep her around as much as possible? Is there some sort of secret strategy on your part?


CARVILLE: Well, I don't have...


CARVILLE: I will intentionally say it. I mean, the secret strategy is, I like talking about her. I think she's compelling. And it's not me. She's getting the forum on Rush's show, on Sean's show. She was the person that was discovered by "The Weekly Standard."

She's drawing these huge crowds. So, I mean...


REED: Well, can I take a crack?


CARVILLE: Look at -- look at what she's doing. She is a major dynamo in the modern Republican Party. And that's a fact. And whether I like it or not -- and I don't mind it -- but it's a fact.


COOPER: Well, Ralph...

CARVILLE: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

COOPER: Should Republicans be concerned that James is kind of encouraging this?


I mean, I -- look, I -- I -- I like James, but, with all due respect, we're not really going to take his advice on where we ought to take our party, anymore than he would probably take ours about his.

But, look, the reality is this, Anderson. She's a major asset. And I will tell you why she's a major asset, because she can go in for a candidate, like she did for Saxby Chambliss in a Senate runoff in Georgia last November. She can raise a million dollars in an hour. She went to four stops and had a crowd of 20,000, to 25,000 people.

She energizes the grassroots. And I think -- I don't want to speak for her, but I think there -- I think there might be a little chess going on, on the Republican side. She may be the most effective decoy in American politics today.

Everybody is firing all their artillery at her. If she goes out there with her PAC and with her personal appearances, and raises money and energizes the grassroots, and lots of people get elected, who really had the last laugh here? I think maybe she and the Republicans will. CARVILLE: I'm not criticizing her. I'm merely pointing out how powerful she is in the Republican Party.

REED: Right.

CARVILLE: She has all of these crowds. I mean, that -- whether you like her or not -- I agree with you -- whether you like her or not, she Friday brings some depth to the party.

COOPER: No doubt about that.

James Carville, Ralph Reed, good to have you on. Thank you.

REED: Good to be with you.

CARVILLE: Appreciate it.


COOPER: Next on 360: A soldier confesses to murder. We have the tape. We have his words about what happened to four Iraqi detainees during the war. But is what he did actually justified because of the impossible situation he found himself in. You can decide for yourself tonight.

You can text your questions on the case to AC360, or 22360. Standard rates apply.

Also ahead, what the secretary of health and human services is now saying about the breast cancer screenings debate -- a lot of confusion. She's now recommending -- we will tell you what she recommends for women now.

We're also awaiting President Obama's news conference. He's expected to take questions from reporters. We will see if he comments on health care or any decision about Afghanistan. He will be taking questions. We will bring it to you live.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Tonight, confessions of a soldier convicted of murder in his own words.

You are going to hear why and how he and two other Army sergeants gunned down four Iraqi detainees in Baghdad. The victims were shot execution-style.

Now, the Americans who were charged with the crime have all been found guilty. But some believe they should be praised, not punished. Tonight, in our continuing special report, we are going to let you be the judge.

CNN exclusively obtained 23-and-a-half-hours of interrogation tapes, which include the confession you're about to see for the first time, and only on CNN. Was it murder or was it battlefield justice?

Here's Abbie Boudreau of our Special Investigations Unit with "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes."


ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (voice-over): You're watching an interrogation.

SGT. MICHAEL LEAHY, CONVICTED OF MURDER: I'm not sure if that is what happened.

BOUDREAU: It would take hours and yield a chilling murder confession.

In time, three U.S. Army sergeants, including this man, Sergeant Michael Leahy, would be found guilty of premeditated murder in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED INVESTIGATOR: After you fired the two shots and you shot them, how did you feel at that point in time?

M. LEAHY: Scared.

I made a huge mistake in my life that I know I have to accept the consequences for.

BOUDREAU: Michael Leahy married Jamie in a hasty civil ceremony between his deployments to Iraq. But they wanted a traditional ceremony and set a date. Jamie bought a dress.

(on camera): Oh, wow. Do you love it?

JAMIE LEAHY, WIFE OF SGT. MICHAEL LEAHY: I do. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen. And it just looked wonderful on.

BOUDREAU: And did you ever have the ceremony and the reception?

J. LEAHY: No, we haven't yet, because our plans were in February of 2008. So -- but the investigation started in January. So -- so...


M. LEAHY: I told her that -- I said: "Honey, I'm going to tell you something. And I understand if you don't forgive me. But I'm not a good person, because I murdered someone in Iraq. I killed someone in Iraq."

BOUDREAU (voice-over): As the investigation broadened, more and more men were interviewed, this man never charged. Interrogators knew the murders would grow into a scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know about you, but I wasn't at Abu Ghraib. But I can tell you, half the time I'm walking down the streets, that's what people think when they're looking at us. "Oh, there's those damn Americans that abused those poor prisoners." (EXPLETIVE DELETED) fat boys gets abused worse during pledge week in college than that crap. But it's what the media made of it. What the hell do you think they're going to make of this? This is going to be ugly, because it is.

BOUDREAU: And this is how it all emerged. A platoon was on patrol. Someone in this neighborhood was shooting at them. They took four suspects into custody.

And, instead of following Army rules for detainees, 13 of the soldiers brought them to this canal. Three of them, three sergeants, then executed them. For months, the killings at the canal were a secret. Then one of the 13 talked. The investigation began.

At this point in the interrogation, Leahy had already admitted he murdered one detainee. But listen closely. He also admits he shot two times.

M. LEAHY: I fired twice. I fired when I saw the guy fall back on me. And when he fell back on me, I don't know why I fired again.

It wasn't at him. Like, my arm went up to -- to the right, and I fired again. I'm pretty sure it didn't hit anybody, but I'm not going to say that, because I don't know for sure. I wasn't even looking when I shot the second time. My arm just went up to the right.

BOUDREAU: The interrogator pushes. Something isn't right. Remember, four Iraqis were murdered. So, what really happened if Leahy shot twice?

UNIDENTIFIED INVESTIGATOR: No reasonable person is going to believe that you shot and then this guy fell back on you, and then your arm went at this angle. If you shot this dude, just say you shot him.

M. LEAHY: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED INVESTIGATOR: Just be honest about it.

M. LEAHY: That is true. This guy did fall and my arm...


UNIDENTIFIED INVESTIGATOR: No, I don't doubt that that guy fell on you. But if you purposely shot this guy, Mike, just say it. You've already manned up. You've already shown that's what you're made of. I know it's hard, but I know that's what happened, dude.

You wouldn't have so much question in your mind right now if you didn't know what happened. And I know it's hard.

M. LEAHY: You're right. And it...

UNIDENTIFIED INVESTIGATOR: Just tell us what happened, Mike.

M. LEAHY: I'm like 80 percent sure, yes, I turned and shot this guy. But I'm not 100 percent sure I turned and shot this guy.

BOUDREAU: Why would Sergeant Leahy admit to one murder, but be unsure if he shot a second man as well? Was he hiding something, trying to protect someone?

UNIDENTIFIED INVESTIGATOR: You're not a killer. You're not a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) murderer.

You acted way out of character and shot somebody, something that you would have never, ever done, and something you will never do again. And you would have never done it without that influence. That's something that's extraordinary in your life. It's something that -- that you're never going to forget.

M. LEAHY: I say, yes, I shot the other guy.


All right. Well, talk to me about exactly how it happened, what you remember.



M. LEAHY: I shot. The guy did fall, and I did turn. And the other guy was right there in front of me. And I shot again. And that guy, he didn't -- that guy didn't die right away.

That guy fell down. And he was still -- I don't want to say crying, but was making noises.


M. LEAHY: And -- and I hate to point other fingers, but..

UNIDENTIFIED INVESTIGATOR: Dude, say it. You're not pointing fingers.


M. LEAHY: ... later on -- later on, 1st Sergeant came and shot that guy in the chest. Now, that's what I know about the situation.

BOUDREAU: Leahy is saying he actually did shoot a second detainee, but the man did not die. Leahy was trying not to reveal that 1st Sergeant John Hatley then shot the Iraqi in the chest.

(on camera): Did you ever think that your husband was capable of killing like this?

J. LEAHY: No, I didn't. No, that's -- that's why I am trying to understand what was going on in his head, what was going on around him that could bring him to something, a situation like that.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Her husband, Sergeant Michael Leahy, and 1st Sergeant John Hatley, were sentenced to life in prison. Sergeant 1st Class Joseph Mayo pleaded guilty and got 35 years.

Earlier this year, all three were granted clemency, their sentences reduced. Michael Leahy is now serving a 20-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth.

(on camera): What do you want people to know?

J. LEAHY: Just that Michael is a good person, that, I mean, he has done a lot of good, and he will continue to do a lot of good, no matter what happens to him in this life.


COOPER: It's so sad, especially, I mean, her -- she was planning her wedding. She thought it was all about to start.

You talked to two other wives. What did they have to say?

BOUDREAU: We talked Kim Hatley, and we talked to Johanna Mayo. And Kim Hatley is the kind of woman who says, "I refuse to let myself cry," even in private, because she has to protect her husband, who is in prison, and her son, who is 19, fighting in Afghanistan.

And then you have Johanna Mayo. And she has a totally different type of story. She has three young kids, aging -- ages ranging from 11 to 15 months. And she is legally blind. She cannot drive. She relied on her husband for everything.


BOUDREAU: And it's -- yes, it's a very, very sad situation.

All of these women want their husbands home.


BOUDREAU: But it's going to be a long time before that happens.

COOPER: The -- the four detainees who were killed, did their families ever report them missing?

BOUDREAU: No. That is what also interesting about this. No one ever reported these men missing.

Investigators went back to the canal about a year later, and they went diving and looking for the bodies. They never found the bodies. And they never were able to identify who these men were. So, these are nameless, faceless Iraqis that we're talking about.

COOPER: But these soldiers were convinced that they were insurgents, that they had been involved in it. They found them near weapons.

BOUDREAU: The soldiers...

COOPER: But they didn't have enough evidence to -- to give them up?

BOUDREAU: Exactly. They thought these were the men who were firing upon them. They found them. They found weapons with them. And they felt they had the right men.

COOPER: Abbie, it's fascinating.

Sergeant Leahy and the other two convicted soldiers are inmates Fort Leavenworth. You can go to to actually see pictures of the prison. We're going to have more with Abbie in a moment.

Sergeant Leahy confessed, but says he's not a murderer. Abbie joins us after the break, as we dig deeper. We're going to talk to a former military psychologist, as we take look at the soldier's state of mind during that interrogation, also during the alleged killings. We are going to take your questions. Text them to AC360, or 22360. That's AC360, or 22360. Standard rates apply.

Also, all that confusion over breast cancer screenings, it is confusing, no doubt about it. Today, the Obama administration weighing in. They gave their own recommendations on when women should get them. We will tell you what their recommendations are coming up.


COOPER: Murder on the battlefield. And the mindset of a soldier. We're back with our continuing 360 special, "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes."

As we told you before the break, three Army sergeants were convicted of murdering four Iraqi detainees, blindfolded, zip tied and shot execution style. Now, the details of what happened were revealed in 23 1/2 hours of Army interrogation tapes that we've obtained exclusively by CNN.

But opinions very widely on whether this was a case of battlefield justice or murder, as the courts decided. On those tapes, Sergeant Michael Leahy admits to the killings. His only -- he's the only one who confessed on tape. His wife, as you heard, stands by him. She calls her husband a good person.

Some go further and believe the soldiers are heroes who carried out battlefield justice against a ruthless enemy.

We're "Digging Deeper." With me again, special investigations correspondent Abbie Boudreau. Also with us, David Bellavia, a former Army staff sergeant who wrote about his experiences in Iraq in his book, "House to House." And Larry James, a former military psychologist and retired Army colonel. He was the chief military psychologist at Abu Ghraib.

Larry, it's fascinating to watch. I mean, I've never seen Army interrogation tapes like these. To watch the interrogator calling the soldier "dude," telling him that he manned up by confessing to one of the murders, is this a common technique in interrogations? LARRY JAMES, FORMER MILITARY PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, Anderson, I don't know that I can say that it's common to refer to someone that you're interviewing or interrogating as "dude."

But I think it's safe for me to say that the interrogator was attempting to build rapport, keep the person he was interviewing relaxed, not attempting to coerce any statements or confessions out of him, but -- but to focus on building a relationship with him.

COOPER: And not in any way being judgmental, just sort of trying to feel like I'm on your side. I'm just trying to get you to, you know, remember what happened.

JAMES: Right.

COOPER: You know, David -- go ahead.

JAMES: Exactly. The -- no, the more that the -- the detective or the interrogator can keep someone relaxed and calm and keep the person talking, the higher the likelihood that the person is going to talk, be relaxed and be as open and honest with the interrogator.

COOPER: David, it's tough for anyone to see these tapes, to see a soldier confess to a crime like this. But it's got to be especially tough for anyone who's served in a war zone, you know, because you know the kind of pressures and dangers these guys are dealing with every day.

DAVID BELLAVIA, FORMER ARMY STAFF SERGEANT: After yesterday's segment, I talked to a bunch of my Army buddies and, you know, your audience is probably looking at this and thinking, these guys were heroes before this happened. You know, I guess what I'd want to say to someone who hasn't served is that every day in a combat zone, you're evaluating threats. You're -- you don't think about your spouse and your kid after you're killing terrorists and after you see your friends in grotesque positions on the ground dead.

Death is a bland oblivion at that point. You're -- you literally live in the moment. You don't think about tomorrow. Tomorrow you might be on the street dead.

This isn't temporary insanity. But what this is, is these are soldiers who believe that, by killing these four guys, they were going to save scores of their friends. It's criminal, it's wrong, and they should have relied on the Army values that we all live by. But -- but this was the mindset.

I don't believe they were living for tomorrow. I think that they were surrounded by death, and they took it upon themselves to make a call. And it was a horrible...

COOPER: You might be surprised, David, to learn that, actually, overwhelmingly among our viewers, and this has been -- our story has been online all day -- people are overwhelmingly supportive of these three soldiers in -- I mean, not necessarily even what they did, but supportive in thinking they shouldn't be serving these long prison sentences.

Abbie, we've got a Text 360 question from a viewer in Tennessee. Were the soldiers following direct orders?

BOUDREAU: No, they were not following orders. By all accounts, this was the first sergeant's idea to go out and take care of them themselves. And the other sergeants decided they were going to follow him and do the same. It was their choice. They made that decision.

COOPER: Larry, from a psychological standpoint, put yourself in a -- in a soldier's shoes. What do you think happens in a case like this, you know, in the heat of the moment that -- that makes somebody do this?

JAMES: Well, first of all, Anderson, I want to back up because I absolutely agree with what -- what David was saying. I think that, you know, these soldiers got caught up in -- in the heat, the moment, in the fog of war.

But the fact of the matter is, there are -- there are literally thousands of soldiers serving on the battlefield right now in Afghanistan and Iraq who are serving in as difficult, as tough circumstances and -- and follow the law.

COOPER: Right.

JAMES: We are -- we are taught to disobey unlawful orders. And so if the first sergeant ordered these other sergeants to kill someone unlawfully, these soldiers had, although it's difficult to disobey your superiors, but we're taught to disobey -- disobey unlawful orders.

COOPER: David, these soldiers originally were sentenced to life in prison. The sentences have been reduced. They're still facing a lot of years behind bars at Fort Leavenworth. Do you think the punishment fits the crime?

BELLAVIA: I don't, Anderson. It's really tough for us, when we've seen, you know, Guantanamo inmates being released, you know, because they don't -- they're detained in Tora Bora with weapons.

But yet we're told that they're not a threat to the American population. And then we've got guys in solitary confinement. We're hearing stories from guys in Leavenworth that have to take vitamin supplements because they're not exposed to the sun enough. I mean, these are guys that -- Fort Leavenworth is not a joke. This is a serious, you know, center. These guys are locked up, and they don't see 20 years for -- you know, we heard from Sergeant Mayo's wife. This woman is blind with kids.

This is a criminal, horrible act. I don't believe that this is -- I don't believe a jury of infantrymen would look at this, taking all the circumstances into account, would give these guys 20 years. I think that's unjust.

COOPER: It's a -- it's a difficult situation, no matter how you look at it.

Larry James, David Bellavia, it's good to have you on again. Abbie Boudreau, as well. We'll have more on this tomorrow. Abbie brings us part three of the story, an exclusive interview with a former soldier who, after months of keeping his deadly secret, broke his silence. Why? Why did he do that? Two very different answers. Tomorrow be sure to watch the one-hour CNN documentary on this story this Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern.

I want to show you a live picture right now, President Obama and South Korea's president at the podiums. The two leaders are giving statements to the press, which is customary. But then they're going to take questions from reporters. When they actually start taking questions from reporters, we are going to bring you -- that to you live. That's going to happen in about 15 minutes, so stay tuned for that. It could -- could happen sooner. We'll bring you President Obama answering questions to reporters. Could be on any subject, could be on the health-care situation that we reported on earlier tonight. Afghanistan, what have you.

People have been weighing in also on our story about the killings at the canal on You can get in on the conversation, if you'd like. You can join the live chat right now at A lot of differences of opinions right now on the site.

Up next on this program, a school teacher and preacher's daughter could go to prison for 15 years for something that happened at Wal- Mart. Police say she became belligerent when she asked to leave the store. She says the charges against her are racist. What's the real story? Gary Tuchman has an exclusive interview with someone who was there.

Also ahead in "Crime & Punishment," an Army memo revealing serious concerns raised about Fort Hood shooting suspect Major Nidal Hasan by his own boss more than two years ago. What happened to that? We'll follow


COOPER: In Missouri, a racially-charged trial is under way and one that is attracting national attention. It's also led to several protests like this one.

An African-American schoolteacher named Heather Ellis is accused of assaulting police officers outside a Wal-Mart store. Now, she could face 15 years if convicted, serious time. Her supporters claim Ellis is being victimized because of the color of her skin.

Gary Tuchman joins us from Kennett, Missouri, with new information on the explosive case -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this has been a very tense week with high stakes here in this small town of Kennett, Missouri, right by the Arkansas border.

This week, as you said, demonstrations in the streets, civil rights advocates on the streets, saying there's institutionalized racism in this town. And meanwhile, counter demonstrators, including one man holding a flag with a swastika. It was not a pretty sight.

It all revolves around a case that began inside this courthouse today, a trial involving a 24-year-old African-American woman accused of assaulting two white police officers in a Wal-Mart after a dispute. Prosecutors say she was profane, she was rude, she was violent. But she and her family say it's all a lie, that it's a racist vendetta.

The jury started hearing the case today, and one big question here in this county that's 90 percent white, were any African- Americans selected on the jury? We'll have all the details in the next hour -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Gary, thanks.

COOPER: All right. Let's take a look at some other important stories we're following. Erica Hill has a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a federal judge has ruled the Army Corps of Engineers' failure to maintain a properly a navigation channel led to massive flooding in Hurricane Katrina. Now the ruling is a victory for residents, who've argued Katrina is actually a manmade disaster caused by the poor upkeep of the city's levee system.

A South Carolina ethics panel Governor Mark Sanford could face charges he violated state law. That decision coming after a three- month investigation into his travel and campaign finances. The investigation began after Sanford disappeared in June to visit his mistress in Argentina.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says now is a critical moment for Afghanistan. The secretary in Kabul for a surprise visit. She'll be attending Hamid Karzai's inauguration to his second term. Karzai is under tough international pressure to clean up corruption in his government. A senior U.S. official tells CNN Clinton will deliver a tough message on the need to show results.

And Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius weighing in on the breast cancer screening controversy. Sebelius says the recommendation that most women in their 40s should avoid routine mammograms is not government policy and that women should talk to their doctors and make the decision that is right for them.

And the Maersk Alabama, you'll recall, attacked by Somali pirates. Well, it happened again, the second pirate attack on the ship in seven months. This time, though, they were apparently scared off by private guards who fired their guns and a high-decibel noise device.

You may remember the pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama in April. They took Captain Richard Phillips hostage for five days. You see him there.

COOPER: Yes. Amazing that they picked the same ship again.

HILL: What are the odds of that?

COOPER: All right. We're going to go live now to that joint news conference President Obama is holding with South Korean's president in Seoul. Dan Lothian is in Seoul, joins me by phone. Also joining me, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. But let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Do you envision any timeline between Korea and the United States in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue? Do you have any deadlines about it?

And also regarding the grand bargain proposal that you proposed to North Korea, how do you think that North Koreans will react to your grand bargain proposal? And you -- both of you mentioned during the result of your talks, what kind of things did you discuss regarding the course of FTA?

A question going out to President Obama on the course FTA. The course FTA is regarded here within Korea as something that will further strengthen bilateral relationships between Korea and the United States. And many Korean people are hopeful. We're hoping for the early ratification of the course FTA. And I'd just like to ask, Mr. President, of your strategic vision regarding the course FTA? And as for the grand bargain proposal, I would just like to ask you how much you intend to cooperate with the South Koreans in implementing this?

LEE MYUNG-BAK, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I think we promised to ask one question to one leader, but I think you were asking many questions all at once.

First of all, on North Korean nuclear issue and convincing North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons program, it is not a simple matter. We know that for sure. For the last 20 years or so, we've been negotiating with the North Koreans and negotiating with the North Koreans. We would take one step forward and two steps back, and that has taken 20 years, and still we do not have a full resolving on this issue.

Now with the -- with President Obama and the White House, we were successful in passing and adopting a U.N. Security Council resolution. International cooperation is perfect, in my opinion, in terms of trying to resolve this issue peacefully, and I think we are entering into a new chapter in bringing this issue to an end.

I do not put any deadline to resolving this North Korean nuclear issue. Of course, we would want to resolve this issue as soon as possible, because that is critical for ensuring peace and stability of the region and the world. And so this is why I proposed a grand bargain proposal.

And what's important is to really know whether North Korea has genuine intent to give up, fully and verifiably, their nuclear weapons program. And we must find out the intention of the North Koreans, and as soon as we find out, the better it is. And the negotiations to convince North Korea to resolve their nuclear weapons issue, like I said, it is not going to be easy, but I believe it is possible that we can resolve this issue peacefully. So together with President Obama, and the international community, we will work to resolve this issue. About the grand bargain, the North Koreans haven't yet conveyed what they thought of the grand bargain.

But in order for the North Koreans to ensure their stability, to improve the lives of the North Korean population, to have economic prosperity, in short for a better future for the North Koreans, it is my wish that the North Koreans will adopt the grand bargain proposal.

And as for the course FTA, I'm sure President Obama will be making comments. So I'll just listen.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The -- well, first of all, with respect to North Korea, there's going to be extraordinarily close coordination between our two countries, as there has been for many years.

The thing I want to emphasize is that President Lee and I both agree on the need to break the pattern that has existed in the past, in which North Korea behaves in a provocative fashion, it then is willing to return to talks. It talks for a while and then leaves the talks, seeking further consolidation. And my administration is taking the same approach, which is the door is open to resolving these issues peacefully. For North Korea to see over time the reduction of sanctions and its increasing integration into the international community, something that will be good for its people.

But it will only happen if North Korea is taking serious steps around the nuclear issue. And we will not be distracted by a whole host of other side items that end up generating a lot of meetings but not concrete action.

Now, with respect to the free trade agreement, I am a strong believer that both countries can benefit from expanding our trade ties. And so I have told President Lee and his team that I am committed to seeing the two countries work together to move this agreement forward. There are still issues that are being discussed and worked on and we have put our teams in place to make sure that we are covering all the issues that might be a barrier to final ratification of the agreement.

With respect to the United States, I think it's important to understand, and I shared this with President Lee, that American companies and workers are very confident in our ability to compete. And we recognize that there's not only an economic but also a strategic interest in expanding our ties to South Korea.

There is obviously also a concern within the United States around the incredible trade imbalances that have grown over the last several decades. Those imbalances are not as prominent with Korea. But there has been a tendency I think to lump all of Asia together when Congress looks at trade agreements and says it appears as if this is a one-way street. And one of my goals is to make sure that as we work through these issues, that the American people, American businesses, American workers, recognize that we have to look at each agreement and each country on its own merits and make sure that we can create the kind of win-win situation that I know President Lee is interested in seeing, as well.

I think that we've got a question. Whoops, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President, President Lee. President Obama, it appears that Iran has rejected the international offer on its nuclear problem. What are the consequences that you've threatened, and when will we see them?

And for President Lee, are you willing to open up your market to U.S. automobiles to get the free trade agreement moving again?

OBAMA: With respect to Iran, at the beginning of my administration, we put in place a policy that we have executed as drawn up over the last few months. What we said was that we would take a new approach and say to Iran that we are willing to engage them directly, that we would organize the international community around a series of proposals that would permit Iran to show its intentions to give up any nuclear weapon programs and pursue peaceful nuclear energy under the framework of a nonproliferation regime.

That, even as we were organizing the international community to put forward a fair deal to the Iranians, that we would also move on a dual track and that we weren't going to duplicate what has happened with North Korea in which talks just continue forever without any actual resolution to the issue. So that we indicated that our offer would be on the table for a certain period of time, and that when that time ran out, we would look at other approaches that would increase pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Since that time, through the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as the P-5 plus one, we put forward such a proposal, one in which low enriched uranium could be removed from Iran, processed outside of Iran, returned to them in a way that couldn't be weaponized, and used for research purposes.

The fairness of the deal, I think, is confirmed by the fact that Russia, China, the other members of the P-5 plus one, as well as Muhammad ElBaradei, the secretary-general of the IAEA, all confirmed that this was a smart, creative proposal that could lead to a path in which Iran was no longer in breach of its international agreements and that Iran should accept it.

Iran has taken weeks now, and has not shown its willingness to say yes to this proposal, and I have not seen the report that you're referring to today, but we've seen indications that, whether it's for internal political reasons or because they are stuck in some of their own rhetoric, they have been unable to get to yes.

And so, as a consequence, we have begun discussions with our international partners about the importance of having consequences. That the dual track approach requires Iran to get a clear message. That when it fails to take advantage of these opportunities, that in fact, it is not making itself more secure; it's making itself less secure.

And our expectation is, is that over the next several weeks, we will be developing a package of potential steps that we could take that will indicate our seriousness to Iran. I continue to hold out the prospect that they may decide to walk through this door. I hope they do.

But what I'm pleased about is the extraordinary international unity that we've seen. If you think, at the beginning, of the year how disjointed international efforts were and how uneven perceptions were about Iran's nuclear program, and where we are today, I think it's an indication that we've taken the right approach.

LEE (through translator): With regards to the automobile, in principle, I believe in free trade, and I believe that the international community must strengthen free trade. The last two decades or so, I think free trade and the movement of goods and services was the driving force behind the development and economic prosperity that we enjoy today.

COOPER: Let's bring in Dan Lothian in Seoul. He joins me by phone. Also, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley and Politico's Nia Malika Henderson.

Nia Malika, what do you think of this?

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, POLITICO: Well, I mean, clearly, the headline here is the nuclear arms race here that's going on, obviously, in North Korea and then you saw questions about Iran. And also, this free trade agreement that President Lee was talking about just now.

What's interesting, I thought, is when this free trade agreement came up that was signed in 2007. Barack Obama, the president, said that he backs it, but there's no timeline. He's going to run into a real obstinate Congress in trying to get that thing passed, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out next year.

COOPER: And Candy, all of President Obama's stops (ph), what we really have seen particularly in China is just the changing dynamics of the U.S. status in the world. I mean, compare this to the way it was years ago, it's a whole different world.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very different, and it requires a whole different strategy and a whole different set of expectations. You know, I've been on so many of these trips with presidents where the agenda was laid out. And they knew what they were going to bring home. "I'm going to get an agreement for this." They didn't go on this trips and have these high-level meetings unless they knew they were going to bring something home.

Well, now the whole tenor of this has changed. China obviously has challenged, if not surpassed the U.S. in terms of its economic power. We are the debtor to China.

Japan is looking at a relationship with the U.S. that is different. A lot of these countries looking at the U.S., looking at the state of the economy and what capitalism has brought, thinking, "Well, maybe they don't have all the answers."

So there's this new independence from all these nations. At the same time, sort of a new interdependence of everyone. And so the president has gone on this trip and really is going to come home with very little that you would say, "Oh, wow, this happened."

But the White House says, "Listen, it's important that we go out, that we show these nations that we are, in fact, wanting to cooperate. He's the most traveled first year president of any. So they say he is laying the ground work for future things from this international cooperation that these new changing times demand.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Candy Crowley, Nia Malika Henderson, appreciate it tonight. Thank you.

Still ahead, young woman at the center of a racially-charged trial that is attracting national attention. What happened at Wal- Mart that could put her in prison for 15 years? That's next on 360.