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Republicans Block U.N. Disabilities Treaty; Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff

Aired December 10, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin, as we do every night, "Keeping Them Honest," looking for facts, not trying to support Democrats or Republicans. You can find that on other cable channels right now. Our goal is just reporting, finding the facts, finding the truth.

And we did exactly that last week when reporting the story that we're focusing on again tonight, again, because the more we look into it, the more we find people in powerful and influential places saying things that just don't square with the facts.

It's about a U.N. treaty that failed to be ratified by the Senate, a treaty that was meant to encourage other countries to be more like the U.S. on the issue of equal rights for the disabled. If other countries adopted better treatment of their disabled citizens, the idea is that disabled Americans who visit or live in other countries would also benefit; 125 countries have ratified the treaty.

It was signed by Republican President George Bush, supported by the current president, and has the backing of senators from both sides of the aisle, including John McCain and past Republican leaders like Bob Dole, himself a disabled World War II veteran. He was wheeled onto the Senate floor, you see him there, for the vote to see, he hoped, the treaty ratified.

Instead, after pressure from special interest groups, 38 Republicans, some of whom vowed to support the treaty, voted no. One of the loudest critics of the legislation was the Home School Legal Defense Association, the HSLDA. It's a powerful lobby group around the country whose leader you're about to meet.

Now, they had some very strong things to say about the treaty, but the notion was basically this. If it were to pass, they said, the U.N. treaty would somehow let the U.N. mandate how parents of disabled kids in America cared for their children. Among the senators echoing that idea was Mike Lee of Utah.

"Keeping Them Honest" though, when I asked him to specify how this U.N. influence might manifest itself, last week, I asked him this, here's the answer he gave.


COOPER: Can you name any other U.N. treaty that has forced changes in U.S. law?

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I didn't come prepared to cite Supreme Court precedent on this point, but it's a...


COOPER: But what you're saying is totally hypothetical. You're using a bunch of hypotheticals saying they're going to -- this is going to force abortion rights for people -- for example, people overseas, this is -- some groups are saying children with glasses are going to be taken from their parents. You're using all these very scary hypotheticals.

You can't even cite one case where a U.N. treaty has ever impacted U.S. law?

LEE: Not aware of one person who is saying children with glasses are going to be taken away from their parents.

The Article 7 concern from the treaty relates to the fact that the best interests of the child standard will be injected into decisions, regarding how best to educate and otherwise care for a disabled child.


COOPER: Again, you can't name one U.N. treaty that has ever had an impact on U.S. law?

LEE: Well, I can't name one U.S. treaty that has been the deciding factor in a decision. It may well happen. I didn't come prepared to cite Supreme Court precedent to you today.


COOPER: About the eyeglass claim I mentioned, the head of the HSLDA made it. You will hear it for yourself in a moment.

It also said the treaty would allow the United Nations to dictate say the number of handicapped spot in church parking lots in American and allow U.N. bureaucrats in Geneva to change American laws. The evidence they cite though doesn't stand up to scrutiny according to former Republican Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, himself the father of a disabled son.


RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: It has no effect whatsoever within this country, and it gives no jurisdiction to the U.N. over any individual or any government within the United States. I'm puzzled as to where these strong objections come from.


COOPER: Keep in mind, that was the nation's former top law enforcement official and a lifelong Republican who believes there's nothing to the charges against the U.N. disability treaty. Michael Farris, on the other hand, he is making a lot of the charges. He's chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association and he's also chancellor of Virginia's Patrick Henry College. Mr. Farris is also the person who made the claim about children with eyeglasses. Here is what he said in a radio interview with the American Family Association.


MICHAEL FARRIS, HOME SCHOOL LEGAL DEFENSE ASSOCIATION: The definition of disability is not defined in the treaty, and so my kid wears glasses. Now they're just saying now the U.N. gets control over them.


COOPER: He's saying so U.N. bureaucrats could get control over his child if they decided to define disability as kids with glasses.

So keep that sound bite in mind. It came up earlier tonight when I spoke with Michael Farris.


COOPER: Mr. Farris, you have been saying this U.N. treaty would allow U.N. bureaucrats based in Geneva to take control of American kids. You said under this treaty the U.N. could define disability as kids who wore eyeglasses and therefore they would come under U.N. control.

That's made up, though. How can you say that?

FARRIS: Well, first of all, I didn't say those things exactly. There are two different threads of the argument.


COOPER: You actually did say that. You were on a radio program and I have the quote.

FARRIS: Well, let me give it to you straight.

The eyeglasses comment was to illustrate the fact there's no definition of disability in the treaty.

COOPER: Right, it's left up to each country to define it as per domestic law.

FARRIS: No, it is not. It says it's an evolving concept and it will be defined by the U.N. committee of experts that implement the treaty.

COOPER: Actually, according to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the treaty specifically leaves it up to each state to define disability under domestic law.

FARRIS: Well, maybe the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that, but that's not what the Vienna conventional law treaty says. Nor is it what the CRPD treaty itself says. It's a supervening treaty. It also overrides inconsistent provisions in domestic law. Under the Vienna Convention Law of Treaties, no nation's law ever supersedes a treaty in the international arena. You just need to understand the basics of international law, which is apparently different for you and for some of the people who are speaking about this.


COOPER: No, I do actually understand it quite well, but there's also advice and consent that the Senate negotiated and put on this treaty, which specifies this does not alter U.S. law in any way, that this treaty does not supersede U.S. law.

FARRIS: It doesn't have such a broad reservation you're talking about there. There's a disability definition that tracks it to a degree, but as a general proposition, we need to understand that the treaty is a law. It's not a declaration.


COOPER: What treaty -- what U.N. treaty has forced a state or taken over -- what U.N. bureaucrat has control over an American child under any treaty?

FARRIS: The Hague convention on the international kidnapping, which has a really wild title, I litigated a case this summer where an American mom lost her ability to litigate for her children and her children were sent to Zimbabwe where her Canadian husband took refuge.

That's a case I litigated this summer under that treaty. The Supreme Court in a case I wrote an amicus brief in and they specifically cited my brief dealing with juvenile justice issues, used the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child to interpret federal law.


COOPER: But the U.S. hasn't signed onto the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

FARRIS: Surprise, surprise. That's even more my point.

COOPER: You also claim if the U.S. signed on to this U.N. treaty on the rights of disabled people, we would be -- quote -- "signing up to be an official socialist nation."

FARRIS: That's true.

COOPER: This was a treaty negotiated under President Bush originally back in 2001. John McCain supports it, former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh. You honestly say they want to be a socialist nation?

FARRIS: The treaty is economic, social and cultural rights at its core. The United States refuse to adopt the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the '60s. The Soviet bloc has adopted those treaties. The United States has never, ever adopted one of these treaties.

COOPER: You think George Bush wants this to be a socialist nation?

FARRIS: We have a big national debt because of the spending patterns of both Republicans and Democrats.


COOPER: No, I'm just curious. You're saying he want socialism, John McCain wants socialism, Richard Thornburgh wants socialism?


FARRIS: I'm sure you have more than once criticized President Bush for not having the capacity to understand all the issues.


FARRIS: I don't think he understood this particular issue.

COOPER: You have also claimed this treaty will ban spanking in America, that it will determine how many parking spaces a church should have set aside for disabled people. Again, there is not anything in this treaty that changes U.S. law. In fact, a lot of this is based on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which is the gold standard, which I think you even support. And it doesn't alter U.S. law.

FARRIS: Anderson, you're just wrong about that. I have an LLM in public international law from the University of London.

COOPER: No, I'm sure you're much smarter than I.


FARRIS: Well, maybe on this particular -- I have studied this subject.

If you wrote that statement, if John Kerry wrote that statement on an international law exam where I teach that subject, I would flunk you.

COOPER: But you're alleging that somehow some U.N. committee of bureaucrats based in Geneva is going to have the power to change U.S. law.

As you know, under this treaty, that U.N. committee gives nonbinding recommendations to countries about how to treat disabled people. They have no power to change law. And under this treaty, it's left to each country again to apply the term disability consistent with its own domestic law.

FARRIS: Anderson, I'm going to give you a video clip from a U.N. hearing held the day before the Senate vote where in the U.N., in New York City, a disability advocate said that we need to make sure that we implement this treaty as a superseding document.

That means that it overrides national law. And the idea that you're portraying about this, basically, from watching your video clips, when a Democrat says something, that's a fact. When a conservative says something, that's an unproven allegation.

COOPER: Actually, no. Well, then you're saying Richard Thornburgh is a Democrat because we had had him on the show. He's the father of a disabled child who has been studying this for 30 years and has a personal stake in this. And he says you're completely making this up.

FARRIS: Well, I say he's absolutely wrong and he doesn't have the degree in international law. I do. I teach international law.

And so he just simply is wrong about that. He can say what he wants to say, but he's an advocate for the treaty. I'm telling you this is a matter of reality.

COOPER: So the recommended conditions that were approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and attached to this treaty that restrict the power of the treaty and this resolution of advice and consent, the RUD which includes reservations and conditions that limit and clarify the extent of any obligations this treaty might entail, are you saying they have no impact?

Because my understanding is -- and you probably know this better than I -- the Supreme Court has ruled that these kind of conditions from a Senate committee which are attached to this treaty trump any language in that treaty.

FARRIS: You're absolutely right about that point. If an RUD is correctly written, it will limit the effect of the treaty.

For example, the non-self-executing provision in the treaty, that was well-written, it will work. It will stop an American court from implementing the treaty without first being pursued and in a proper legislative fashion or an administrative fashion by either of the political branches of government. But that doesn't mean that the United States is not obligated to obey the treaty.

COOPER: I just don't see any real case. You can cite specific cases where individuals have argued in court or judges have used U.N. conventions, but I don't see any U.N. bureaucrats ruling, changing the laws of states and ruling over American children.

FARRIS: Well, it's because you don't open your eyes. The most distressing thing was how often the senators spent time praising themselves and praising each other and praising Bob Dole for their work on this, rather than actually reading the document and talking about the articles within the treaty.

COOPER: I think most of them were praising Bob Dole for not just for his service to the Senate, but service to the country in which he was wounded and that is why he's disabled. But I get your point. Michael Farris, I appreciate you being on and arguing it well. Thank you.


COOPER: That's one view.

By the way, we had to trim that interview for time, but you can see the entire conversation online at

As for what Mr. Farris said about former Attorney General Thornburgh, here is Mr. Thornburgh's reaction. And I quote: "My service as attorney general of the United States under President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush provides a solid grounding for my opinion on the interpretation of this treaty. It's absurd to think that I would support a treaty that would adversely impact the well- being of my own son, who has severe intellectual and physical disabilities, as has been implied."

He goes to say: "My overriding concern is that America continues to be a leader on this important human rights issue."

Let's dig deeper now and talk with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, what's your reaction to what Mr. Farris had to say?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think it's important to put into political context what he's saying. Hatred of the United Nations is now a bedrock principle of the conservative movement in this country.

So anything relating to the United States -- the United Nations, even something as uncontroversial as this treaty draws objections based on hypothetical and as far as I can tell extremely farfetched ideas about what the treaty might do.

COOPER: He said there are many cases of U.N. treaty becoming U.S. law, U.N. treaty superseding U.S. law, becoming the law of the land.

TOOBIN: A., not true, as far as I am aware in any significant case.

COOPER: He cites a multitude of cases.

TOOBIN: I was familiar with one of the cases he cited, which -- the Bond (ph) case, which was not in the Supreme Court about the treaty obligation to the United States at all.

COOPER: The United Nations.

TOOBIN: The United Nations. No, no, the treaty obligations of the United States under the United Nations at all.


TOOBIN: The other point is that the Congress has said, John Kerry, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has said there's no rights created to sue in an American court based on this treaty. You can't wave this treaty and go into an American courtroom and say we're going to take your kids away. You can't do anything in an American courtroom...


COOPER: The thing he keeps saying about -- and a lot of supporters of this keep saying is that a U.N. bureaucracy, a U.N. bureaucrat based in Geneva, which they keep pointing out, is going to have power over an American child. That just does not seem to be the case.

TOOBIN: It is not true. It is simply an invented, paranoid fantasy about what could happen, which is contrary to everything in this law.

As you pointed out, this is not some internationalist left-wing conspiracy. This is very much a bipartisan idea. George W. Bush, Bob Dole, Richard Thornburgh, not exactly a list of socialists. They're all for this treaty. And that's because it's really a very simple, basic idea.

COOPER: Supporters of this U.N. treaty say because the Senate has these RUDs, these advise and consent things, which basically limit the scope and define the scope of it, that is a protection that this treaty would ever be used to try to change U.S. law. He says that's not the case.

TOOBIN: No, it is the case because these objections that Mr. Farris was raising, they were raised at the committee level. And what the sponsors of the treaty did was, OK, we don't think this is a legitimate concern.

But just to be doubly sure that we know what this treaty means, they put in essentially amendments that say you can't go to an American court and try to enforce this treaty. The U.N., no one can do that. So again, it's a paranoid fantasy. It's not reality.

COOPER: Are there cases where -- that you know of where U.N. bureaucrats, you know, not even English-speaking U.N. bureaucrats, living in Geneva, in fancy Switzerland, have control over U.S. kids somehow or changed the laws of the United States?

TOOBIN: Control over kids, control over state law, control over the American educational system, never, absolutely not.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Toobin, thanks.

Let us know what you think. We're on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.

Up next: Are Republicans and Democrats looking for ways of climbing down from the fiscal cliff? The president and House Speaker John Boehner meeting at the White House, new signs of give, perhaps, on both sides, but can either side really go far enough without losing their own core supports?

Van Jones and Ari Fleischer join us for the "Raw Politics" ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back, "Raw Politics" now.

And just 22 worrying days until America goes off the fiscal cliff, or maybe 21 worrying days and one panicky night. I'm not sure.

Now, whichever it is, there are signs even three weeks out that neither side really wants to push it to the very end. President Obama today speaking at a truck engine plant in Michigan said he's willing to give a little, but said he would compromise when it comes to higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Notice, though, he did not say he was married to a specific rate such as all the way to the Clinton era levels. As for House Speaker Boehner who he met with yesterday at the White House, he said the GOP offer remains the same, no rate hikes.

However, there were more signs over the weekend that Republican unity may be cracking a little bit with a number of lawmakers who want to take the tax issue of the table ASAP.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: There is a growing group of folks that are looking at this and realizing that we don't have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue before year end. I mean, we have one house. That's it.

The presidency and the Senate is in the Democrats' hands. So, a lot of people are putting forth a theory. And I actually think it has merit.

I actually am beginning to believe that's the best route for us to take.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: What we ought to be working on is the other 93 percent because even if you do what he wants to do on tax breaks, you only affect 7 percent of the deficit. What we have done is spend ourselves into a hole. We're not going to raise taxes and borrow money and get out of it. So will I accept the tax increase as a part of a deal to actually solve our problems? Yes.


COOPER: A number of recent polls show Americans by and large agree. The latest from George Washington University, 60 percent favor raising taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year. Even a bigger majority, 64 percent, favor raising taxes on large corporations.

Somewhat more problematic is President Obama's intent to compromise on entitlements. A sizable majority says no to raising the Medicare eligibility -- excuse me -- eligibility age from 65 to 67.

Joining me now to talk about the possible outlines of the deal and hopefully pronounce the words correctly, as well as the potential land mines, GOP strategist Ari Fleischer, and Van Jones, former Obama adviser and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream.

Van, apart from my bad grammar, how close do you think President Obama and Speaker Boehner are to a deal? And from your perspective, is a bad deal better than no deal?

VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: No, I think a bad deal is a bad deal and we shouldn't accept it.

Republicans have a problem now that all of the polls show the vast majority of American people say that people who have done well in America should do well by America and start paying America back. This tax break, even George Bush didn't want it to be permanent. Somehow, the Republicans have gotten hung up on this one thing, turning this tax policy into theology. They just can't let it go. It has united the Democratic Party against them, and now most of the American people are on the other side of the debate.

We can't even talk about spending until the Republicans get out of this corner.

COOPER: Ari, how much of the Republican opposition is based on principle -- to the raising of taxes on the wealthiest is based on principle and how much is based on a fear that they may face a primary challenge from more conservatives in their party or from Tea Party candidates?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's impossible to know the second one. I think there are probably a number of people in potentially vulnerable situations where they do have to look over their right shoulder and worry about it.

But I think the reason this is so strongly felt by Republicans is the believe if you raise taxes, the government is going to spend the money anyway or the government is going to waste the money. Raising taxes is not a good answer. I think that's why you see Republicans so theological about it, if you will, for deep substantive reasons.

But the numbers really don't give anybody hope for solving any of our nation's about deficits, which impede growth, which hurt young people's chances to make it. If you raise the taxes on the rich, let's concede it's done. You bring in about $600 billion over 10 years.

You keep the tax rates the same way on everyone else, that costs the government $4 trillion over 10 years the way CBO counts it. So, Anderson, this debate really has nothing to do with getting our fiscal house in order. It's about raising taxes on the rich. It's hard for Republicans to resist it. Looks like the president is going to be somewhat successful.

JONES: I don't know if I agree with you 100 percent on this, Ari. I think the American people are pretty smart about this. I think if you look at where the American people are, it used to be a while ago people were afraid to even say the word tax in America because Grover Norquist had the whole country afraid to say the word.

I think Americans now are saying, listen, we want to actually be, to coin a phrase, conservative. If you have a war, you have to pay for that war. If you're going to do stuff like the Republicans did with the Medicare prescription, you have to pay for it. I think the Republicans now look like a something for nothing party almost.


JONES: We have to pay for the stuff that we actually are on the hook for now.

FLEISCHER: But, Van, then, to be consistent, you should raise the rates on everybody back to the Clinton rates. What you're doing with that theory is making 2 percent of the country pay all of the nation's bills.

JONES: No, no, that's not exactly right, Ari.


FLEISCHER: Hold on a second. If you were consistent and principled about what you said, the 10 percent rate would go up to the 15 percent rate, the way it was under Bill Clinton. The 25 percent rate would go up, too. All the rates would go up.


JONES: Let me tell you why that would be a bad idea.

The 98 percent of Americans, if you raised taxes on them, it would actually hurt the economy. The top 2 percent, raising taxes on them is not going to change their economic behavior very much and so you can actually begin to get some of that revenue back. The rest of the country, if you hit them with that $2,000, $3,000...


FLEISCHER: Don't say it's about people paying their bills.


COOPER: Do you think raising it on the wealthiest will change their behavior?

FLEISCHER: Oh, of course it will change their behavior, Anderson. We're already seeing it right now.

People are moving their charitable contributions into 2012. There will be less contributions to charity going out in 2013. It always does. The question is what impact will it have on the economy and on job creation and on growth?

JONES: So far.

FLEISCHER: My belief is it's going to hinder it. But this debate is the false debate because the real debate is going to be the one that comes over spending. That's where we're really putting a damper on America's growth. We cannot go forward with trillion dollar deficits. And raising the taxes on the rich is not going to solve the trillion dollar deficit problem. This is too small.

COOPER: And, Van, as a Democrat, do you acknowledge the spending cuts are necessary as well?

JONES: I do think we're going to have to do something about spending. But if you look at where Americans are actually again in their great wisdom looking, you ask them should we be giving corporate welfare to big oil companies, they so, no, cut the spending there.

You look at the Pentagon budget, take care of our soldiers, but should you be giving so much money to these defense contractors? Take money there. There are places to cut, but we can't even have a discussion about where to cut because Republicans have gotten themselves so far out on this one tiny issue. But if they want to fight and die on that hill, I think it's bad for them and I think bad for the country.


FLEISCHER: Anderson, just notice, it used to be about balance. There's nothing balanced in what Van just said.


FLEISCHER: Van, hold on. You don't get to interrupt all the time.

The president used to say we need a balanced plan that includes taxes and spending. And now they're saying we can't talk about spending until we have taxes. That's a change in position. That's one of the reasons the mood in Washington is so bad. The president has the leverage, he's got the upper hand, but he's also poisoning the well.

COOPER: The final thought from you, Van, and then we have to go.

JONES: I think the president is taking a balanced approach. We are talking about spending cuts. The problem I think we have right now is where we can cut, and where we can come together and cut, we can't even have that conversation because Republicans are taking such an extreme position.

I think Americans are pretty wise about wanting the people who have done well in America to do well by America and start paying America back.

COOPER: Van Jones, thanks. Ari Fleischer, thank you.

Some amazing medical news ahead, really remarkable stuff, an experimental treatment that brought a little girl back from the brink of death. That's the little girl. Last spring, it looked like Emma was going to lose her battle against leukemia, but then her doctors used, get this, a strain of HIV to save her life. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me ahead to explain.


COOPER: Does the movie "Zero Dark 30" that purports to take people moviegoers inside the hunt for Osama bin Laden, does it go too far and distort the truth? I'll talk with CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, who served as an unofficial adviser on the film coming up.


COOPER: Hey, tonight, some really fascinating medical news to tell you about. A little girl who last spring was dying of leukemia is now healthy with no signs of cancer. Her name is Emma Whitehead, and the fact that she's alive today is frankly remarkable. Even more astounding is how doctors were able to bring her back from the brink of death.

They used disabled HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to basically reprogram her immune system to kill cancer cells. HIV. It seems counterintuitive, obviously, to most of us that a virus as deadly as HIV, or ultimately deadly, could actually help save someone's life. It's a very experimental treatment. It's developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, they tested it on a dozen patients, and today they're presenting their latest results.

Emma was one of the first children to get the treatment. Now, before it saved her, it nearly killed her. It's a very, very difficult treatment to undergo, but seven months later, she's still in complete remission.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins me now. Sanjay, I find this incredible here. This little girl, Emma Whitehead, alive today because of this therapy. I don't understand how this works at all. How does this actually kill the cancer?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is something that people have been talking about for some time and have used in forms, but in a nutshell, it's teaching the body's immune system that the cancer is foreign, it's bad, and that it should be attacked using the body's own immune system.

So different than using chemotherapy to achieve those goals. You take out some of the body's immune cells, and you basically reprogram them. You put some genetic material into them that teaches the cells to attack that cancer.

What's interesting here is they're using a sort of deadened form of the HIV virus to transport that genetic material into cells. HIV, very good at getting to cells. So they're putting this genetic material sort of as a piggyback onto the virus. And then they putting the T-cells back into the body, and it -- it attacks the cancer. The person also oftentimes gets very sick. They get -- their immune system really blown up. So it's a long hospitalization, it's a tough hospitalization, but in her case, as you pointed out, it's quite remarkable.

COOPER: And what's her prognosis and also how did the other patients do? GUPTA: Well, you know, this is new, and that's what's fun about reporting on this stuff because this is, in part, you know, how medical history is sort of made.

What we know is that she's doing very well right now. But there aren't many patients, I guess is my point, that have had this done. I wrote down some of the numbers. They've tried this in adults. Three adults have had complete remission. No signs of disease. And keep in mind, these are patients for whom nothing was really working anymore. Four adults improved but did not have complete remission. There was one other child in the study who improved for two months but then relapsed. And there were two adults for whom it didn't work at all.

So still trying to figure out, are there some people for whom this is going to work better, and what's the timing? How quickly after the treatment do you expect it to work? These are unanswered questions still.

COOPER: So, I mean, I guess, if they can duplicate the results, I guess the question is could this treatment eventually replace bone marrow transplants?

GUPTA: That's exactly what they're thinking and hoping. We're not there yet.

First of all, just the financials, I mean, this is about $20,000 for a treatment, which is not cheap by any means, but it is a lot cheaper than a bone-marrow transplant.

The other thing, as they get more results back, they'll answer some of these questions. But think of this, Anderson. If you have these cells in your body that are now trained to be able to recognize that cancer, if the cancer were ever to come back, it is possible that these cells could immediately attack it.

So it's kind of almost like a cancer vaccine. Again, it's early in the studies, but imagine that, Anderson. If you had these cells in your body, you could safely say that you wouldn't get that cancer again.

COOPER: So other teams have been using T-cells, I know, to target not just leukemia, also other cancers. You saw this type of therapy recently at MD Anderson. Are they seeing similar results?

GUPTA: They are, and I'll tell you, I visited with one of the -- one of the first patients that was getting the therapy. This is Brian Rose. He's a baseball coach from the Midwest. He has stage IV melanoma. Melanoma that has spread throughout his body. There aren't any good options, really, or long-term options certainly to treat this.

What you're watching there is them actually doing the same thing. They're removing lots of blood. And then eventually, they're going to take the T-cells specifically, and take those T-cells, and in this case, they grow them with a growth factor and add some other immune cells. But eventually, you have this sort of cancer concoction they put back into the body.

Again, patients get really sick, because you're essentially just ramping up the immune system. Sometimes 100, even 1,000 times normal, but once they get through that, sometimes with the help of medications, they can have pretty -- pretty astonishing results.

COOPER: It's incredible. Sanjay, appreciate the explanation. Thanks.

Amazing stuff. A lot more happening tonight, including a controversy over a movie that purports to tell the story of the decades-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. The film's already raking in awards. It's also raising some questions about a scene involving torture. Did the filmmakers go too far, and does the movie distort the facts? CNN analyst Peter Bergen was an unofficial advisor to the filmmakers. He joins me ahead. So does former CIA officer Bob Baer.


COOPER: The Australian radio hosts behind the prank call to a British hospital speak out about the tragic suicide of the nurse who took the call. What they're saying to her family when we continue.


COOPER: Major film critics are raving about a new movie, "Zero Dark Thirty," which is a fictional account of the decades-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Zero Dark Thirty, by the way, is a military term for half past midnight, which is when Navy SEALs raided Obama's compound in Pakistan.

Now, the movie hasn't opened in theaters yet. It's already pulling in awards and is expected to be an Oscar contender.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really believe this story? Osama bin Laden?



COOPER: The movie is also stirring up controversy because of a torture scene. The movie contains some extremely graphic scenes of a CIA officer interrogating the al Qaeda detainee. Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, beatings and other physical abuse and torture is depicted in detail, leaving some to ask, does the film go too far? And is it accurate in talking about the use of abusive or what they called "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and in ultimately finding Osama bin Laden?

CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen was an unofficial adviser for the film. His latest book is "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad." He joins me now, along with CNN contributor and former CIA officer Bob Baer. Bob, you've seen the movie. I'm sorry, Peter, you've seen the movie. I've seen the movie, as well. As I've said, you were an unpaid adviser. What did the filmmakers get wrong in terms of -- because I mean, it was, you know -- there was a lot of reporting the screenwriter did to kind of suss out the facts. But in terms of the torture sequence, were they right in -- that waterboarding led to the information that led to bin Laden?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Not according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Anderson. I mean, you know, the film is obviously a great film, and it covers a lot of themes of the war on terror and the decade-long struggle against al Qaeda. And I mean, as a sort of overall picture, I think that there's a lot of things that are good about the film.

But the fact is, is that the Senate Intelligence Committee which has spent three years investigating the claim that coercive interrogation techniques led to bin Laden, amongst other claims, found that there was no, basically no truth to that. They haven't released their official report yet, but the heads of this committee have publicly stated this several months ago.

COOPER: In the film, the first 20 or 30 minutes or so, probably 20 minutes, is a rather extended interrogation sequence, and some of the techniques are -- would be classified as torture. I guess it's an arguable point, but waterboarding used to be considered torture when the Khmer Rouge did it. You and other terrorism experts, you took issue with how those interrogations were portrayed in an early version.

BERGEN: Yes. We saw an early cut similar to what you saw, Anderson, and I -- you know, I said that I think the scenes are overwrought, and Mark Boal, the screenwriter told me that they, in fact, turned down some of the scenes. So, you know, certainly, people were abused in CIA custody who were members of al Qaeda, but they weren't beaten into a pulp, as was in an earlier cut.

So, you know, with the filmmakers, I think, have behaved in a very responsible way in the sense that they've taken outside advice and they obviously did a lot of reporting. And it's after all a movie.

But that said, I think half an hour of the film is very, very visceral, and viewers are going to walk away with the feeling, I think basically wrongly, that torture somehow basically netted bin Laden. I think that's the bottom line that they'll come away from in the film.

COOPER: Bob, do you see danger in sort of Hollywood-fying this part of the story?

ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. This is the version we're going to be living with for the next however many years, that torture found us bin Laden, and it's just not true, as Peter said.

I can't emphasize this enough. It was -- he was found with traditional sources, traditional espionage. The way things -- it was detective work, and it had nothing to do with torture. I have seen no credible version of that someone was broken, gave up bin Laden's location. And the problem is the next time we go into a war, people are going to have this movie on their minds. As good as the movie is, you know, as graphic as it is, and the rest of it, it's simply not the way it happened. And I don't -- in that sense, it's not helpful.

COOPER: The movie portrays the CIA analysts and also CIA officers in the field and then obviously Special Forces. But in reality, there was also an FBI component and a lot of dissension between the FBI and the CIA, Bob.

BAER: Sure.

Well, the FBI doesn't...

Go ahead.

COOPER: No, Bob, go ahead.

BAER: The FBI -- yes, the FBI is against torture. It can't take the evidence and take it into court. Ali Safan (ph), an FBI agent who interrogated Khalid Sheik Muhammad, disagreed that torture got anyone anywhere. They're completely opposed to it.

The CIA was reluctant to use torture at the beginning, too. It was the Pentagon and, as we know, as Peter said, the results are mixed.

COOPER: So Peter, what -- do you fear that this becomes the narrative, that people will see this and think, OK, waterboarding got bin Laden?

BERGEN: Yes. I mean, I think that's the bottom line. I don't think that's not the filmmaker's intent, and they have many other scenes in the movie about how, you know, the relationship with the foreign intelligence service derived a very important lead, the real name of bin Laden's courier house. Signals intelligence tracked down the cell phones that this courier was using; how human spies on the ground in Pakistan tracked him to where he was hiding with bin Laden and after that.

But, you know, at the end of the day when somebody pulls something out of a file and it's from a foreign intelligence service, that's not an inherently very dramatic scene, as opposed to half an hour of waterboarding and beating somebody up and all these other things that happened at the beginning of the film.

So you know, it's certainly, I don't think, the filmmaker's intent to make that message, but I think a lot of people are going to walk away from the film saying, hey, torture got us bin Laden.

COOPER: Yes. Peter Bergen and Bob Baer, thanks very much.

You can read Peter's op-ed on this at

Up next, the death of a superstar. Singer and reality star Jenni Rivera, killed in a plane crash in Mexico. You may not have heard of her. She had millions of fans. We'll remember her life next.


COOPER: Welcome back tonight. Millions of Jenni Rivera's fans are mourning her death in a plane crash. Her family obviously reeling from the tragedy. At the crash site in northern Mexico, a very sobering scene. Seven people were on board the small Lear jet. No survivors. It's not yet known what caused the plane to go down yesterday.

Rivera's fans admired her deeply, as much for her personal strength as her powerful voice. One of her early album was a tribute to the slain singer, Selena, who was murdered in 1995. That album helped put Rivera on the map, and tonight some believe her legacy could even eclipse that of Selena's. Here's her story.


COOPER (voice-over): Singer Jenni Rivera was a household name to millions in the U.S. and Mexico. She released her first album in 1999, and her popularity exploded. She went on to sell more than 15 million records, making her one of the most popular Latin artists of the past two decades.

She recently won two Billboard Music Awards and was nominated for several Latin Grammy Awards. The magazine "People in Espanol" named her to their list of 25 most powerful women.

Known as the diva of Banda music, her audience was drawn to her powerhouse Spanish-language performances of Mexican corridos, or ballads.

Speaking on the Senate floor today, Senator Marco Rubio said Rivera was a real American success story.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: She was a singer in a genre of music that's largely dominated by males. And yet she brought a powerful voice to that genre where she sung frankly about her struggles to give her children a better life in this country.

COOPER: It was her openness with her struggles that drew her fans even closer. Born in Long Beach, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, the 43-year-old performer had struggled through tough financial times and a tumultuous personal life.

A single mom at 15 and mother of five, she'd been married three times and often joked about how she once sold cans for scrap metal at her family's stand at a Los Angeles flea market.

JENNI RIVERA, SINGER (through translator): It is very flattering when they tell me that I'm a great artist, a great entertainer, that when I'm onstage, I can entertain the audience, that I can get in the recording studio and come up with a great production. But before all of that, I was a businesswoman. I'm primarily business-minded.

COOPER: Rivera eventually became the owner of her own music and TV production company, a fragrance brand, and a clothing line. In her latest professional chapter, she'd set her eyes on Hollywood, where she also had many admirers.

After learning of her death, actor Mario Lopez tweeted, "What an amazing lady. Cool, smart, funny, and talented. Such a travesty. God bless her family."

Many Hollywood insiders believe she was on the verge of crossing over to the English language U.S. market. ABC had recently signed her to star in a sitcom, and she was also writing songs in English and signed with a powerful Hollywood talent agency.

"The world rarely sees someone who has had such a profound impact on so many," Universal Music Group said in a statement, "From her incredibly versatile talent to the way she embraced her fans around the world, Jenni was simply incomparable."

Family members were planning to travel to Mexico as investigators worked to determine what caused the crash.


COOPER: A sad loss for so many.

Let's get the latest on some other stories we're following. Isha Sesay is here with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan during a successful raid to free an American doctor who was being held hostage has been identified. Petty Officer First Class Nicolas Checque of Monroeville, Pennsylvania, was a member of the elite SEAL Team Six, according to a U.S. official. That's the same unit that carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has settled a civil lawsuit with the New York hotel housekeeper who accused him of sexually assaulting her. Terms of the settlement have not been released.

The two Australian radio deejays who made a prank phone call to the British hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated are speaking out. The deejays today spoke on Australian television about the suicide of the nurse who put the prank call through to the ward where the duchess was. They say they're heartbroken and sorry, and they feel horrible for the nurse's family.


MEL GRIEG, AUSTRALIAN RADIO 2DAYFM DJ: I'm devastated for them. I'm really feeling for them. It's a shocking turn of events. I just -- if we had any idea that something like this could be even possible to happen, you know, we couldn't see this happening.


GRIEG: It was meant to be a prank call. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: And scary moments caught on tape in Birmingham, Alabama. A man was being interviewed by affiliate station WIAT about severe storms in the area when the roof collapsed under heavy rainwater. Now serious injuries were reported. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had dogs -- she was in the cage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! You all OK? You all OK? You all all right?


SESAY: Really frightening. We'll be right back.


COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.