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Birthers Resurface; Senator John McCain and Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Aired November 29, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for watching, everyone.

Tonight: The birthers are back. The Supreme Court rejects a case today about the president's citizenship, but a Texas lawmaker apparently isn't listening. He has a new bill based on birther doubts based about where President Obama was born. How does he reconcile his birther beliefs against the facts? We're "Keeping Them Honest." And it's an interview you don't want to miss.

Also, Senator John McCain and the landmark Pentagon study due out tomorrow on don't ask, don't tell. We are going to trace Senator McCain's shifting stance on repealing don't ask, don't tell, including his newest remarks made yesterday that the policy is working just fine.

Now, agree or disagree with the policy, tonight, we check the facts. Is he stretching the truth to make his case? We're keeping him honest as well.

And "Crime & Punishment" -- the alleged terror teen caught, according to authorities, trying to set off what he thought was a car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting. We have got the inside look, beat by beat, minute by minute, how the feds discovered him, played him, and ultimately took him down.

We begin, as always, "Keeping Them Honest."

In a moment, you are going to meet a Republican legislator in Texas, a guy named Representative Leo Berman, who wants to demand that presidential candidates produce a birth certificate in Texas to get on the presidential ballot.

It's a bill based on his doubts about President Obama's birth in Hawaii. It's an interview you are not going to want to miss.

Now, we should point out that the U.S. Supreme Court just today rejected another appeal challenging Mr. Obama's U.S. citizenship. Texas isn't the only state, though, with this kind of legislation. In April, the Arizona House of Representatives passed similar legislation requiring a candidate to show a birth certificate in order to get on the ballot.

It failed to pass in the state senate. At least two other states are considering the idea, though. We have -- before we talk, though, with Representative Berman, I just walk you over to the wall here, get a couple things out of the way, so we're all sort of on the same page.

Take a look over here. This is an official copy of President Obama's birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. They call it a certification of live birth. That's what it says up there. Now, the state went paperless nine years ago, so the original is now in electronic form on a server in Hawaii, according to Hawaii authorities.

This is what they send out when someone requests a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. Now, take a look on -- first of all, on the back of the official copy is a stamp from the Hawaii state's register. Doubters claim the certificate is unsigned and therefore bogus, but, in fact, this stamp, that is how they do it in Hawaii.

Now, take a look at this. They also claim, if you read on the Internet, that this document doesn't have a raised seal, which, actually, you can -- as you can see even in this photograph, it does.

Now, the photographs, the way we know that they're accurate is they were taken by the nonpartisan group They saw the actual document. They took the photographs of it back at Obama headquarters in Chicago in 2008. The campaign had apparently requested it from the state of Hawaii the year before in 2007.

But, if you cruise the Internet, you will find all sorts of other documents online, like this one, which purports to show Mr. Obama was actually born in Kenya. This is a faith -- fake birth certificate. Now, you wonder, how do we know this is a faith one -- faith -- fake one?

Well, take a look at this. It actually gets the name of the country wrong. It says 'Republic of Kenya" right down here. But it wasn't actually called the Republic of Kenya back then. There's a lot of this kind of stuff all over the Internet.

But if you want to find the facts, it's not that hard. You just have to want to find the facts. Plenty of Americans are confused about or simply divided on this subject.

Take a look at this latest CNN poll that we have, this from July 16-21. Twenty-seven percent surveyed, more than one in four believed President Obama definitely or probably wasn't born in the United States. Seventy-one percent believe President Obama definitely or probably was born in the United States.

Now, look, having an opinion is one thing. And, thankfully, we live in this great country where people can think whatever they want. But creating legislation on false information, that is something we think it's our job to point out.

Representative Berman, who was just reelected, is proposing a new law in Texas. Section 1, Subsection D of his bill, HR-295, reads -- and I want to show you what it reads right here -- it says: "The secretary of state may not certify the name of a candidate for president or vice president unless the candidate has presented the candidate's original birth certificate indicating that the person is a natural-born United States citizen."

Now, there are a lot of constitutional questions about whether a state can really even make a law like this that affects a presidential race. But we wanted to talk with Mr. Berman about the basis of his proposed bill. It doesn't mention President -- President Obama, but it's clear where the idea for the bill came from.

I talked with Representative Berman earlier this evening.


COOPER: Representative Berman, you have said this bill is needed because -- and I quote -- we have a president who the American people don't know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place.

Do you personally believe that President Obama was not born in Hawaii?

LEO BERMAN (R), TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, you know, I really don't know.

If you look at my white hair, you can tell I have been around for a while. And I have known everything about every president that I have come across for the last 70-some-odd years. I don't know anything about President Obama. I wish I did.

COOPER: How can you say that?

BERMAN: But there's nothing to prove.

COOPER: How can you say that, though?

BERMAN: Excuse me

COOPER: Because, I mean, there is a -- a birth certificate. There's a certificate of live birth, which is what the state of Hawaii sends out. We're showing a picture of it to our viewers. It has got a raised seal. And it's got the stamp of the -- the -- the -- the health register from the state.

Why -- why isn't that good enough?

BERMAN: Well, because it's not an original birth certificate. It doesn't show the parents' place of birth. And, also, we know for certain that President Obama's father was born in Kenya. Since he was born in Kenya, in 1 -- that was a British protectorate. President Obama was born in 1961.

And with his father being a British citizen, at least, President Obama, we think, holds duel citizenship.

COOPER: Well, actually, technically that's not correct.


COOPER: He may have been born with duel citizenship because of the technicality of his father being under the British -- a British subject, being from Kenya, but he automatically lost that in -- in -- when he -- at the age of 23, as anybody -- anybody does.

And to say that that document is not...

BERMAN: How do you lose that?

COOPER: To say -- it's just -- it's the way it happened.

To say that that document, though, is not the original birth certificate, that's what the state sends out when anybody asks for a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. And it's accepted by the U.S. State Department as valid for a U.S. passport.

And -- and the Hawaii state health director has acknowledged that, back in 2008, she has -- and I quote -- "personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Senator Obama's original birth certificate -- certificate on record, in accordance with state policies and procedures."

BERMAN: Well, you mentioned the State Department. Now, let's talk about the State Department.

COOPER: But -- no, no, first, do you...


COOPER: ... do you not acknowledge that the state of Hawaii has the original birth certificate? The health director there says it. The governor of Hawaii says this is not an issue.

The governor of Hawaii, who is a Republican, was quoted as saying: "I had my health director, who is a physician by background, go personally view the birth certificate in the birth records at the Department of Health. We issued a news release at the time saying the president was, in fact, born at Kapi'olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. And that is just a fact."

Is she lying?

BERMAN: Well, my question to you, then, Anderson, is, why -- did you see it? I would like to see it.

COOPER: Well, you can go...

BERMAN: And I would also like to see President...


COOPER: You can go and see it. The nonpartisan fact-checking organization, they -- they looked at it. It has a raised seal. They say it's legit.

BERMAN: A raised seal could be put on by any type of machinery.

But what I'm saying is, where are the president's passports? Where are his travel documents? Where are his school records? Why don't we know anything at all about a president who has such a radical agenda? There's a radical agenda. And I would like to know something about the president of United States.

COOPER: Well, let me -- let me ask you about that...

BERMAN: The state of Hawaii...

COOPER: ... because have you seen...


COOPER: ... George W. Bush's transcripts from college?

BERMAN: I could see anything I want from George W. Bush.

COOPER: Actually, sir, you couldn't.

BERMAN: I can go right online and get it, yes.

COOPER: No, actually, sir, you couldn't.


COOPER: Under -- under federal law, you're not -- the -- those -- the schools cannot release that information. And President Bush refused to release that information from Andover and from his time at Yale.

Someone actually leaked the Yale records illegally, but, actually, he refused to release them.

But, sir, again, you haven't answered any of the facts on this which I have -- I have -- I have brought up to you. The state of Hawaii has...

BERMAN: You haven't answered me. You haven't -- tell me, where are his passports?

COOPER: I am answering it. The state of Hawaii, for a fact, has verified the original birth certificate is there. When you -- if you request one, as the Obama campaign did, what they are sent is the certificate of live birth. It's the short firm. It's what they send out. Hawaii doesn't send out the long form.

Yet, for some reason, in this man's case, it's not acceptable to you.

BERMAN: Well, let me -- let's say it is acceptable to me. Now, let's answer -- let's get on to another point. Where are the president's passports and his travel records which got him to Pakistan in the early '90s, when no U.S. citizen could get to Pakistan at all?

COOPER: Sir, where did you hear that?

BERMAN: Where are his college records? COOPER: Sir, where did you hear that?

BERMAN: Why can't we see anything?

COOPER: Sir, where did you hear that?

BERMAN: We can't see any personal documents about this president.

COOPER: Sir, I don't mean to contradict you.

BERMAN: I'm sorry?

COOPER: I -- I respect you. And I respect, certainly, your service to this country, but where do you get your information? Because that -- that -- what you have just said is factually incorrect.

BERMAN: I'm getting my information the same place you are getting your information.


BERMAN: I want to see a passport that got the president...

COOPER: Well, how do you know the president traveled to Pakistan, what did you say, in the late '90s, late '80s?

BERMAN: I think it -- late '80s, early '90s. That's common knowledge.

COOPER: That's actually not true, sir.

BERMAN: Everybody knows he traveled to Pakistan -- he had a passport -- when...

COOPER: Right.

BERMAN: ... U.S. citizens couldn't travel to Pakistan. So, which country...

COOPER: OK. Sir, he traveled to Pakistan...

BERMAN: ... did he...

COOPER: Sir, he traveled to Pakistan in 1981, and -- when he was a student. And -- and, actually, Americans could travel to Pakistan then.

In fact, I -- we have an article from "The New York Times" from 1981 from the travel section about the joys of traveling in Pakistan. You needed a -- American citizens, I think they needed a 30-day visa, but American citizens could go and travel in Pakistan. That's just an Internet rumor that you're spreading.

BERMAN: No, it's -- it's not an Internet rumor that I'm spreading. I'm sorry, it's not.

COOPER: Sir...


BERMAN: It's not. No, it's not.


COOPER: Barack Obama went to Pakistan in 1981, when Americans could go there. It -- it's an Internet rumor that Americans couldn't travel there. And you had the dates completely wrong. You're saying the early '90s.

BERMAN: I have got a report here from the Congressional Research Service and their legislative attorney, Jack Maskell. And there's a lot of good information here.

I'm not asking for a lot. I'm asking for simple information about the president of the United States. The news media, they...


COOPER: So -- so, is his travel to Pakistan in the Congressional Research Service information there?

BERMAN: Yes. The major news -- the major news media will not answer any of these questions. Why won't you put this out factually?

COOPER: Sir, I'm asking for where you got that information.

BERMAN: Why won't you show us the long birth certificate or the passport? And why didn't the United States Congress -- we have 535 members of the United States Congress. They are the only body of the federal government in a Constitution that really should be vetting the president of the United States...


BERMAN: ... because they take an oath of office in which they will support and defend the Constitution against -- of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and they will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, so help me God.

COOPER: But, sir, again, just...


BERMAN: Not a single member of the...


BERMAN: ... United States Congress raised their hand when they were counting the electoral votes in 2008...

COOPER: OK. BERMAN: ... to say, show us. I want to see it.

COOPER: Sir, just, of the points you -- of the points you have raised, the factual points to -- to -- I mean, you're basing legislation on stuff that's basically just rumors and -- and stuff that's been proven to be false.

I mean, you -- you say that -- that President Obama didn't release college records. That's true. He hasn't released college records. But, under federal law, the schools can't release them, and he doesn't want to, for whatever reason. And you know what? George W. Bush didn't want to, for whatever reason, from Andover and from Yale.

You didn't seem to object about that. You have raised medical records issue, that he didn't fully release his medical records. Well, you know what? John McCain didn't fully release his medical records either. They both did in a very limited way.

BERMAN: Am I wrong when I say that the president has employed many, many lawyers and is spending millions of dollars to keep all these records from public view?

COOPER: Well, actually, sir, we don't know exactly what -- what -- what he spent the money -- first of all, I'm not sure it's millions. I think the record I saw was one-point-something million. And we don't know that the bulk of the work that the lawyer, the law firm he has obtained is -- is directed to this.

He's certainly being sued by a couple of people, and those lawsuits have gone nowhere. And, yes, he's -- he's, you know, paying lawyers for that. But we don't know if that -- all that money has gone for that. We just -- we just factually don't know that, so we can't say what -- what exactly...

BERMAN: Have the major media actually gone into an investigative mode to see if the president...

COOPER: Sir, this has been looked at for...

BERMAN: ... is really entitled...

COOPER: ... years and years.

BERMAN: ... to be the president of the United States?

COOPER: And -- and no court has supported this. Most legitimate, you know, observers of this, most people in the country have moved on from this and say, look, the president is a -- is a United States citizen.

BERMAN: Oh, I don't think most people have moved on.

I think either 50 percent -- even CNN polls have shown that 50 to 60 percent of the people of the United States do not believe that the president is eligible to be holding that office. COOPER: Sir, again, I'm sorry to -- to keep...

BERMAN: That's your own CNN poll, isn't it?

COOPER: All right, sir, OK, I have the CNN poll right here.

I hate to -- I hate to keep reading this. The CNN poll from July 16-21, all Americans, question, was Barack Obama born in the U.S.? The number of Americans who said definitely or probably, the percentage was 71 percent, definitely or probably no, 27 percent.

So, according to this poll, if you believe this poll, 71 percent of Americans believe probably or definitely that Barack Obama was born in the United States.

Admittedly, 30 -- 27 percent who don't believe it, that's a lot. That's a big number. But, again, just factually, you haven't shown me any fact that proves he's not, and -- and -- and you haven't been able to answer anything of -- any direct thing about the facts that you have brought up that have been wrong.

BERMAN: May I -- may I say that no major media has shown me any facts either?

I will give you my public mailing address, and you can send me the facts, if you would like to. But no one will send me the facts, the State Department, the public media, I mean the major media. I haven't seen anything yet. And I would like to see it. And I do extensive reading.

COOPER: But how much of this is about -- purely about politics? Because, look, you -- you -- you are a good person, and you have served your country remarkably in the military, and you're a public servant now.

But you're basing legislation on things which have been disproven. And you have said -- in the past, you said -- and I quote -- "I believe that Barack Obama's God punishment on us today."

Is this just about politics, that you don't like this guy, and, therefore, you're raising these objections about him?

BERMAN: Well, it's -- it's a lot more than politics.

Like you said, I did serve my country. And there is a lieutenant colonel who will be court-martialed in mid-December for refusing an order from a president who he believes is not the commander in chief of the United States military forces.

We also have a case in the U.S. Supreme Court -- I think it was started either yesterday or today -- based on the same information that we're discussing right now.

COOPER: But, so far, the Supreme Court has batted down attempts to -- to get -- I mean, most -- all courts have rejected these arguments. This -- this is going nowhere, other than in a few state legislatures.

BERMAN: Well, it's in the Supreme Court today, isn't it? Have they already completed the case?

COOPER: It -- it got thrown out. hit got thrown out. They're not going to take it.

BERMAN: Was that today?

COOPER: Yes, that was today.

BERMAN: Because I was listening for it.

COOPER: Yes. No, that was today.

BERMAN: OK. I didn't hear. I will have to -- I will have to check on it.


Well, I appreciate you coming on. If you could send us the Congressional Research Service document you have that talks about then young Mr. Obama traveling to Pakistan with the dates you gave us, I would appreciate if you would send it to us.

Leo Berman, Representative Leo Berman, I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

BERMAN: It's a pleasure. Thank you very much, Anderson.


COOPER: Well, Representative Berman, as we mentioned, we asked him to send us the copy of the Congressional Research Service report that he mentioned that talked about Pakistan. He didn't send us the report itself, which -- we actually found it on our own.

And, when you read through it, it actually concludes that the doubts that have been raised about the president's citizenship really don't hold water. That's what the Congressional Research Service report concluded.

Instead, what -- what Representative Berman sent us, what he was actually talking when he cited the CRS report was actually a critique of that report by a blogger. And in the critique -- critique that Mr. Berman sent us, the blog actually made no mention of President Obama's travel to Pakistan.

We did our own research. We found another article by the same blogger which did mention President -- then Barack Obama's travels to Pakistan in 1981. That much was correct. The blogger, however, said Mr. Obama couldn't have used a U.S. passport for that trip because Pakistan was on the United States' no-travel list in 1981.

That's just not true. An American could get a 30-day visa to travel in Pakistan in 1981. And that fact is easy for anyone to check.

Let us know what you think. The live chat is up and running right now at

Up next: what John McCain is saying now about gays serving openly in the military. He's already opposing the release of a big study tomorrow, the one whose conclusions apparently differ from his. And now he's saying don't ask, don't tell is working just fine. The question is, do his facts match up?

Later: Authorities say he bragged that his terror bombing would be a spectacular show and tear people to pieces. They were talking about a bombing here in America, allegedly. He was talking to the FBI. He didn't know that at the time. We will take you inside the sting operation that stung this alleged would-be teen terrorist.


COOPER: Another "Keeping Them Honest" report.

The Pentagon's long-awaited report on lifting don't ask, don't tell is due out tomorrow. Senator John McCain, one of the country's most respected lawmaker and ex-warriors, is speaking out against it.

Now, he has got every right to oppose any policy he wants, and good people can disagree on the issue. But in opposing the repeal, Senator McCain appears to be making statements that don't seem to be absolutely true. You can decide for yourself in a moment.

But here's a quick reminder of just how Senator McCain seems to have shifted the goalposts on repealing don't ask, don't tell. The senator has a long history of being against lifting the ban. But he's indicated over the years he would change his mind if certain conditions were met.

But, then, when they were met, he seemed to set new conditions. So, here he is on "HARDBALL" four years ago.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The day that the -- the leadership of the military comes to me and says, "Senator, we ought to change the policy," then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it, because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.


COOPER: All right. Fast-forward four years. Here's the military leadership in February 2010.


ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Last week, during the State of the Union address, the president announced he will work with Congress this year to repeal the law known as don't ask, don't tell. I fully support the president's decision.

ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.


COOPER: That was the military leadership there sounding pretty clear.

On the 28th of that month, Senator McCain said no. Chairman Mullen, he said, was speaking personally, and he said the Marine Corps commandant opposed lifting don't ask, don't tell. Now, he didn't say why the views of a subordinate, personal or not, suddenly trump the views of the chairman and secretary of defense.

But, in any case, the senator went on to add a different condition for considering repeal, tomorrow's -- considering repealing. Here's tomorrow's study that he talked about.


MCCAIN: We're going to go through hopefully a yearlong study that will hopefully also have the feelings of the men and women who are serving.


MCCAIN: I believe that it's working.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": If the result of that study is that we should move beyond it, you would -- you would side with that?

MCCAIN: If the result of that study is -- is one that I can trust and believe in and is supported by our military leaders, obviously, I would have that -- have to give that the most serious consideration.


COOPER: All right, that was February 2010.

In September, he said a vote on the defense authorization bill containing language repealing don't ask, don't tell should be delayed until that very same study arrives.

But then, when parts of the study were leaked, including the bottom line that lifting the policy would not harm morale or the war effort, Senator McCain said he wants another study and more.


MCCAIN: We need a thorough and complete study of the effects, not how to implement a repeal, but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness. That's what I want. And once we get this study, we need to have hearings and we need to examine it and we need to look at whether it's the kind of study that we wanted. I think, once the study comes out the beginning of December, we should at least have a chance to review it and maybe have hearings on it.


COOPER: So, that was Senator McCain on "Meet the Press" just two weeks ago moving the goalposts.

This weekend, though, he took another tack that's hard to justify with the facts. He said don't ask, don't tell is working fine.


MCCAIN: There was no problems in the military with don't ask, don't tell. It was a critical promise. It was a...

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY": Well, if you were gay, there was a problem.

MCCAIN: No, it wasn't, because it wasn't a problem, because you didn't have -- it's called don't ask, don't tell. OK? If you don't ask them, you don't ask somebody, and they don't tell.

CROWLEY: But they were...


COOPER: So, he's saying gays in the military have no problem with it.

In fact, plenty of gay and lesbian service members have been discharged after being essentially outed by others. Some described their experience in letters written to President Obama, people like former Air Force Staff Sergeant David Hall, who was training to be an officer until, he says, a fellow cadet turned him in, or former Sergeant Tracey Cooper-Harris, who says male soldiers demanded sexual favors in exchange for their silence about the fact that she's gay.

She says she watched others drummed out of the service, but she herself stayed in by paying the price with her body, stories that, at the very least, show that the don't ask, don't tell part of don't ask, don't -- the don't ask part of don't ask, don't tell is problematic for gay service members.

Senator McCain also said this yesterday.


MCCAIN: The military is at its highest point in recruitment and retention and professionalism and capability, so to somehow allege that this policy has been damaging the military is simply false.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, in fact, he's right about the raw numbers. Recruiting standards, though, had to be lowered until just recently.

And the forces have felt it. A decade ago, 94 percent of Army recruits had high school diplomas. Today, that figure is closer to 70 percent. According to advocacy groups and the Government Accountability Office, many discharged service members have valuable skills, troops with specialized technical knowledge, Arabic speakers, for instance -- 320 Arabic, Farsi and Korean speakers in the first 11 years of don't ask, don't tell, about 8 percent, again, according to the GAO, held what the Pentagon calls critical occupations.

It cost money to replace them, about $10 million a year as of 2005. It takes money and personnel to investigate allegations of homosexuality.

Now, you can argue that changing the policy on gays openly serving could weaken the military or hurt the war effort. And Senator McCain certainly has, and it's a perfectly legitimate point of view to have, if you have got the facts to back it up and if you hold yourself to the standards of proof you expect of your opponents.

We invited him on the program tonight. He declined.

Instead, I spoke earlier with Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Kirk Lippold, former commander of the USS Cole.


COOPER: Commander Lippold, I know Senator McCain and other critics like yourself have been saying that the report hasn't dealt with all of the obstacles or touched on whether this is a good idea in the first place.

The chief of naval operations, though, recently sounded pretty happy with the way this entire survey has been conducted. He said, "I think -- I think the survey, without question, was the most expansive survey of the American military that's ever been undertaken. I think the work that's been done is extraordinary."

If they have actually seen the data, unlike us, if they seem happy with the way the survey has gone, why shouldn't we trust it?

KIRK LIPPOLD, FORMER COMMANDER, USS COLE: Well it's not just the survey. It's not the data that was gathered, Anderson.

Quite frankly, it's the fact in how they approached it to begin with. When you are trying to provide top cover for a preordained political decision, and you put out a survey where the commander in chief, the secretary of defense, and even, I think, inappropriately, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speak out in favor of changing a law, then they turn to the troops and ask them, well, what do you think about the impact of this law change might be on how you conduct combat operations or how you just conduct operations worldwide, it's somewhat telling the troops that, while your opinion is noted, it's not really going to be relevant in our decision-making process.

COOPER: Paul, take a look at something Senator Lindsey Graham had to say yesterday.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There's no groundswell of opposition to don't ask, don't tell coming from our military. This is all politics. I don't believe there's anywhere near the votes to repeal don't ask, don't tell. So, I think, in a lame-duck setting, don't ask, don't tell is not going anywhere.


COOPER: My understanding is that they would only need two or three more votes, but -- but is Graham right? I mean, is that -- is that impossible to get those votes from Republicans in this environment?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's a much better vote- counter in the Senate than I am, believe me. He's a person who is respected on military issues, of course, himself is a longtime National Guard officer.

So, I think he should be respected on that. I do think he's empirically wrong when he says there's no groundswell of support among the troops. We will see what this study says. But there plainly is. Public opinion has changed on this issue in support of equality. And military opinion has changed.

But Senator Graham knows Senate opinion better than I do. And the truth is, if the Republicans, who still have the capacity under the filibuster rule to block anything, if they hold firm -- and I fear that they will -- they will be able to stop this.

I -- I personally disagree with it, but just my own view of the vote in the Senate is, if -- if people like Senator Graham, John McCain, a very respected man on military affairs, if they hold this very tough position against it, I think they will be able to kill it.

COOPER: Commander Lippold, as someone who commanded folks on a ship, on the USS Cole, did you feel -- I mean, you must have had gay and lesbian people on -- on board your ship, whether you knew it or not. Did you -- I mean, did you feel bad that they had to hide themselves?

LIPPOLD: To be honest with you, Anderson, I did not take it into consideration.

All I can tell you for sure is that, when I had people, if they were gay or bisexual or whatever they may have been, it didn't matter. I didn't have men and women serving aboard my ship. I had sailors. And they did a phenomenal job, especially the morning of October 12, when we were attacked. They did phenomenal.

COOPER: And do you think the same... (CROSSTALK)

LIPPOLD: So, if there were -- if there were gay service members on board, they did a great job, too.

COOPER: And do you think the same thing would be said if this policy is reversed and they are able to serve openly, that -- would you -- do you think commanders would say the same thing, that, you know what, bottom line, it doesn't matter, because all -- because all service members are the same?

LIPPOLD: I don't -- I don't think it will matter.

I think, quite frankly, what you have to look at is, what are the policy implications that are being done? I think this is such a contentious issue in our society that you can't use the military, especially during a wartime, especially given some of the -- the ongoing war effort in Afghanistan, to try and change something, without thinking through the policy ramifications.

COOPER: Paul, do you think it's been fought -- thought through?

BEGALA: Well, we have had 18 years, Anderson, to think it through, and I think it has been.

It's been as rigorously analyzed and thoroughly debated as any national security policy that -- that we have seen in a long time. And this is what has happened. It's an unintended consequence of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which was a compromise that the president and my boss, President Clinton, signed into law 17 years ago.

Here's what's happened. We had an officer, for example, serving in Iraq. A routine security check of his computer, for security reasons, turned up e-mails that revealed that he had privately written e-mails showing that he was gay. He was never asked. But -- and he never told -- but this officer has been drummed out of our military, in a time of war, in a combat theater where he was serving honorably and admirably. That weakens our national military.

First off, it distracts all those people who have to investigate this man's sex life. And obviously, it weakens our military when we take an honorable, able officer and throw him out of the military for something unrelated to his fitness for duty.

So, yes, obviously. I mean, we've gone through this for many, many years. And again, the solution here is not to wait for the Senate, which I think will not be able to pass the repeal. But, instead, for President Obama to issue a stop-loss order. Then we can test it. Maybe chaos will ensue. I tend to doubt it.

COOPER: Interesting perspective, both, I appreciate it. Paul Begala as well, thanks.

BEGALA: Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, just ahead tonight, "Crime & Punishment." How the feds caught what they are calling a would-be terrorist, a teenager they say determined to blow up thousands of people at a Christmas-tree lighting. New details from inside the sting operation. Was it entrapment, though, or a classic sting? You can judge for yourself.

Plus, safe to say this probably was not entrapment. Willy Nelson, a tour bus and pot smoke. The only surprise? This was reportedly at 9 a.m. in the morning. We'll explain ahead.


COOPER: We're following a number of other stories tonight. Joe Johns brings us up to date in a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the U.S. government today ordered all agencies that handle classified information to look at their security procedures in the wake of the Wikileaks scandal. The Web site is releasing batches of what it says will be more than 250,000 secret diplomatic cables. The documents contain an avalanche of information. One cable suggests that United States believes North Korea is supplying Iran with long-range missiles.

The Pentagon says six U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan today when a gunman in an Afghanistan border police uniform opened fire on NATO-led service members. This happened during a training mission in eastern Afghanistan. The suspect was also killed during the incident.

Now to Haiti, where there was rioting today in the wake of yesterday's national elections. Twelve of the 18 presidential candidates say there was widespread fraud at the polls.

And Willie Nelson was on the road again, arrested for marijuana possession again. A U.S. Border Patrol station in Texas says Nelson was arrested on Friday -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, Joe, as you know, Willie Nelson is no stranger to, we should say, joint investigations.

JOHNS: Yes, you could call it that.

COOPER: He's an unapologetic, bona fide pot aficionado. I don't know if you remember this. Back when he was on -- back when he was on "LARRY KING LIVE," back in April, he admitted that he'd actually indulged in a little herbal smoking, I guess, right before the show, and as you may remember, Joe, we decided to have a little fun reediting the rest of conversation.

JOHNS: I can't believe...

COOPER: While the editing was good, the high point was actually your reaction to our fake editing of the interview. Call it our token effort of tonight's "Shot." Take a look.



WILLIE NELSON, MUSICIAN: Do I smoke cigarettes?

KING: Did you smoke pot today? This day.


KING: You did. Before you came here?


JOHNS: This is so embarrassing. I mean, for me.

KING (singing): Never saw the sun shining so bright on you brother.

Thank you love you.

NELSON: Love you, too.

JOHNS: That's kind of extraordinary. Long pause there.

COOPER: Well, we re-edited it. That didn't actually happen. Yes, we made that up. We edited all the -- all the pauses together.

JOHNS: I got it.

COOPER: Yes. I love that you believed it, Joe, too.

JOHNS: No, I totally fell for it. Plus, the giggles.

COOPER: Well, just some people out there don't believe it. Yes, we re-edited it. He wasn't that stoned that he was, like, totally silent and then singing.

JOHNS: Hilarious.


JOHNS: It worked.

COOPER: It worked. I'm glad it worked. Yes.


COOPER: So, Joe, there you go.

JOHNS: That's really embarrassing.

COOPER: We re-edited that. I love that you thought it was real.

JOHNS: You know, I still haven't lived that down. I still get teased about that. COOPER: All right. Serious stuff when we come back. "Crime & Punishment." A 19-year-old suspect indicted, accused of trying to bomb a holiday celebration in Portland, Oregon. The bomb was fake, thanks to an undercover operation. How did they pull off the big sting? That is next.

And the football player who dropped what would have been a game- winning touchdown pass -- did you see this -- and then passed the buck to God. He actually blamed God for his butterfingers, and that earns him a slippery spot on tonight's RidicuList.


COOPER: Tonight in "Crime & Punishment," the anatomy of a sting. A 19-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia was indicted in Portland, Oregon, today on one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Law enforcement officials say the mass destruction that Mohamed Osman Mohamud wanted to create entailed setting off a bomb at a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland this past Friday.

The suspect is being described by a former neighbor as the quintessential quiet kid from a normal middle-class family. Law enforcement officials tell a much different story. They say he'd been dreaming of jihad since the age of 15 and that he wanted anyone who was at that holiday ceremony to leave either dead or injured. Mohamud was arrested Friday after allegedly trying to detonate what he thought was a bomb in a van parked outside the ceremony. The bomb was fake. The arrest the culmination of an extensive undercover operation.

Randi Kaye tonight reports on the anatomy of a sting.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The story reads like something out of a spy novel. For six months accused terrorist Mohamed Osman Mohamud had no idea he was being played by the FBI.

According to this affidavit, FBI agents began is surveilling Mohamud in August of 2009 after they intercepted e-mails between him and a man they believed was recruiting terrorists in Pakistan. The FBI says between December 2009 and May of 2010, Mohamud, a former Oregon State student, made several attempts to contact another man in the Middle East to arrange his travel to Pakistan. But his e-mails didn't go through.

(on camera) That's when the FBI decided to make its move. On June 25 this year, using a similar address as the man Mohamed was trying to reach, an undercover FBI employee e-mailed Mohamed and asked him if he was, quote, "still able to help the brothers." Mohamed thought the undercover agent was someone else looking to commit jihad and stayed in touch with him via e-mail.

The two agreed to meet face-to-face for the first time July 30. (voice-over) The meetings continued. When an August 19, Mohamed told an undercover FBI employee he'd been thinking about violent jihad since he was 15. The FBI says at that meeting, Mohamud said he had chosen Portland's Pioneer Square as his target where 25,000 people were expected for the Christmas tree lighting.

According to the affidavit, Mohamud was asked, "You know there's going to be a lot of children there?"

His response? "That's what I'm looking for. A huge mass. For them to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays."

ARTHUR BAUZAN, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: He's the one that selected the location. He stated why he selected the location because of the mass of people that would be here. And we followed up on that.

KAYE: On September 7, the undercover FBI employees continue to lay the trap. According to the affidavit, they arranged for Mohamud to buy bomb components and provided him with $2,700 to cover those items and the cost of an apartment where he thought he would hide out after the bombing.

On October 3, the FBI says Mohamud was full of enthusiasm about his plans, saying, quote, "It's going to be a fireworks show, a spectacular show. 'The New York Times' will give it two thumbs up."

(on camera) About a month later, November 4, the FBI employees pulled off the ultimate bait and switch. The affidavit says they took Mohamud to a remote location to test an explosive device similar to the one he planned to use. He triggered the device with his cell phone, unaware he had been duped. His phone was not connected to the device. The FBI bomb technicians were in control the whole time. They actually triggered the device once they got the go ahead signal.

CHIEF MICHAEL REESE, PORTLAND POLICE: It was a very well- conceived plan by the FBI and it worked according to plan. And our officers and FBI agents did a tremendous job keeping it low key and undercover.

KAYE: That same day, the FBI says Mohamed told the undercover men he thought it was, quote, "awesome on 9/11 when people jumped from the towers."

Mohamed's enthusiasm was growing. The date of the attack was now three weeks away.

(on camera) On November 26, the day of the attempted bombing, the FBI says Mohamed and the FBI men parked a van in Portland's square. Mohamed, unaware the bomb inside the van was a dud, smiled and called it "beautiful."

After the crowds gathered, the FBI says Mohamed from a nearby car, dialed the cell-phone number he thought would detonate the bomb in the van. When it didn't blow, the undercover FBI employee with him suggested that he get out of the car for a better signal and try again. He did just that and stepped right into the arms of the arresting officers.

(voice-over) According to the affidavit, he yelled and kicked the agent who took him into custody. Six months after the sting began, Mohamed Osman Mohamud was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. In court today, despite the case against him, he pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, accusing the government of entrapment.


COOPER: Randi, I mean, you've been reporting on the case of young Somali-American men who become radicalized. How surprising is this case?

KAYE: This isn't all that surprising. We've seen them being recruited from Minneapolis, Minnesota. It has also spread to Seattle. It spread to Columbus, Ohio, and now we're seeing it in Portland.

What's different about this case, Anderson, is that the other men who disappeared, they've gone back to Somalia. They've gone to help the cause of al Shabab, who is trying to overthrow the Somali government.

COOPER: As a matter of act, the first American suicide bomber was apparently one of those young men who died in college.

KAYE: Exactly, but this guy, apparently, he was unable to get out of the country. He tried. He was stopped at Portland airport because the FBI put him on a "no-fly" list. So he couldn't get to Alaska. And apparently, he was going to get to Yemen and then maybe Pakistan. So maybe it was because he didn't have anywhere else to commit jihad.

COOPER: But it's interesting because, I mean, they really, according to the FBI, they gave him many opportunities to back out or to do a lesser kind of attack.

KAYE: Oh, yes, I went through this 40-page affidavit many times today to make sure that we didn't miss anything. There were so many times where they gave him five options. You can be in the car for the suicide bombing. You can detonate it from afar. You can pray about it. You should think about it. You have to feel it in your heart. They gave him so many chances to rethink this, and every time he said he wanted to be "operational," as he put it, and he wanted to cause an explosion.

COOPER: Randi, amazing story. Thanks very much.

A quick programming note, tomorrow I'll be in the San Diego area where authorities have found a huge and sophisticated tunnel underneath the Mexican border. You might have seen the headline, maybe, over the weekend. But we were the only ones that got access and exclusive look inside the tunnel. Even more elaborate, we're told, than the one we toured a few years ago and that was pretty impressive. Take a look at what we found then.


COOPER: But what's really remarkable here is what I'm about to show you. This is the motor works for an elevator. It's a primitive elevator. There's no doubt about it. But they brought this down here. This is the elevator itself. It's basically a large cart on wheels, and we're going to take you down and show you what -- what happens.

You really get a sense when you're going down in this tunnel just the amount of work that it took to build this. Look, you can really see the bore marks that were used to tunnel deep underground. It must have made a lot of noise. I mean, this is solid rock that they are digging through. And they used clearly, they used heavy machinery. This is all jackhammers, mining equipment.

We're now 90 feet deep, and there's the electrical system is still in place. There's plugs here. There's an electrical box. There's a still the ventilation system. The lights -- the lights still work down here, and the phones are even this deep underground.


COOPER: Again, we're told this new tunnel is even more sophisticated than that one, so we'll find out tomorrow. We'll show you that, "360 Battle on the Border" from Southern California tomorrow night.

With drugs, of course, comes violence. Police arrest an alleged gang member who they say is responsible for -- get this -- 80 percent of the killings in one city in Mexico. Details on that, coming up.

And you probably heard of athletes thanking God for helping them win a game. What about blaming God for their mistakes? We're going to tell you how this NFL star in the making came the latest edition to our RidicuList.


COOPER: We're following a number of other stories tonight. Joe Johns is back with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOHNS: Anderson, a big arrest in Mexico's war against drugs. An alleged gang member who police say was behind 80 percent of the killings in Juarez, Mexico, over the past 16 months is behind bars. Investigators say Arturo Gallegos is the leader of the Aztecas gang, which was closely linked to Juarez drug cartel.

Nearly 107 million online shoppers are expected to take advantage of holiday bargains on this Cyber Monday. That's according to a retail group that's predicting a 10 percent increase in online shopping on this day over last year.

And fans are mourning the loss of actor Leslie Nielsen. The movie and TV star passed away yesterday at the age of 84. Nielsen is best known for his comic wit like this classic line from the hit 1980 movie, "Airplane." Take a look at this. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LESLIE NIELSEN, ACTOR: Can you fly this plane and land it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surely, you can't be serious.

NIELSEN: I am serious. And don't call me "surely."


JOHNS: I love those lines. He did that two or three times. An amazing guy.


JOHNS: We're going to miss him.

COOPER: I was sad to hear that he passed away. Joe, thanks.

Time now for another -- well, to add another name to our RidicuList, our nightly list of, well, stuff that's just kind of ridiculous. Tonight, the honor goes to Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson. In a scream-worthy for Bills fans everywhere, Johnson dropped the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's not why -- let's take a look at that. Do we have it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got Johnson. He dropped the ball! That would have been...


COOPER: That's not why he's on the RidicuList. After all, look, we all make some mistakes. We all make bad mistakes sometimes. But Steve Johnson doesn't use some excuse like, you know, "I lost it in the sun" or the Hollywood starlet staple, "I was in the hospital for exhaustion," or the political favorite, "I didn't inhale." Steve Johnson punted to an even higher power. He blamed God.

Here's exactly what Johnson tweeted. Quote, "I praise you 24/7, and this is how you do me? You expect me to learn from this? How? I'll never forget this, ever. Thanks, though."

And as you see, it's all in caps, so technically, he's not just lodging a complaint; he's yelling at God. Is God even on Twitter? Is the supreme being paying attention to the NFL?

Johnson's clearly not the only football player who thinks that God is interested in the game.


KURT WARNER, FOOTBALL PLAYER: We got a lot of faith. I praise God for this victory. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always give God the glory. I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life.

CHRIS JOHNSON, FOOTBALL PLAYER: First of all, I want to thank God, most of all. Without him, it wouldn't be possible.


COOPER: So we're used to people thanking God, athletes thanking God. But it's not often he gets blamed. I happen to think God is way too busy with his own fantasy football team to maybe intervene in every single pass. If he were that interested, wouldn't heaven's home team naturally be the Saints? Explain how the Saints won the Super Bowl next year?

Anyway, after the case of the blaspheming butterfingers hit the Twitterverse, Steve Johnson posted some follow-ups, including this one: quote, "And no, I did not blame God, people, seriously."

That's the hail Mary of all excuses, "I didn't mean it," tried and true. We'll give him a pass. We've also got to give him a well- meaning spot on tonight's RidicuList.

Coming up next, does this belong on the RidicuList? A new bill based on birther doubts about where President Obama was born. We'll talk to the lawmaker who wrote it and see if he can back up his beliefs with facts. We're "Keeping Them Honest."