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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Archbishop of Los Angeles Implicated in Priest Sex Abuse Scandal; Interview With Fred Kaplan

Aired December 9, 2004 - 22:00   ET

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


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again everyone.
The scandal that hit the Catholic Church that has played out over the last few years has never simply been about priests who abuse. At its core, it's been about what church leaders did when they found out.

And so, we begin tonight with a CNN investigation into allegations being levied against one of the most powerful and important leaders in the church in this country the Archbishop of Los Angeles, not that he abused but that he tolerated and covered up for those he knew did.

Here's CNN's Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His story has not been told for 23 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked and he's coming back.

GRIFFIN: He was just 16 at the time from the Philippines living in Stockton, California. He wanted to improve his English. His mother thought a Catholic priest would be a good tutor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So then Father O'Grady...

GRIFFIN: But Father Oliver O'Grady, it turns out, had more in mind than tutoring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's touching me and fondling me and he was touching my private area.

GRIFFIN: It is a story told again and again by those accusing clergy of sexual abuse. What makes this account different is that he says he has told the awful story before in 1981 right after he says he was molested by Father O'Grady. He says he told his mother, told a local Filipino priest and then went directly to the bishop of Stockton and told him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we went to this office there to meet Father Mahony.

GRIFFIN: Father Roger Mahony, then Bishop of Stockton, the same Roger Mahony who is now cardinal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Father Mahony sat down on the chair, sat down and looked at me and he asked me directly if anybody else knows about this. He asked me, "Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure nobody else know about this?"

GRIFFIN: Thursday morning, Cardinal Roger Mahony sat down in his Los Angeles residence with CNN and said he does not believe the victim's story.

CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, LOS ANGELES ARCHDIOCESE: As far as I know it didn't happen. I'd remember. I would have acted on it like I did act on another case that same year. So, to have someone tell me that with his mother present and not do anything about it is contradictory.

GRIFFIN: But this accuser says he remembers the meeting with Mahony in detail, including repeated questions about whether authorities were told.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you report it to the police or did you tell anyone or your teacher at school, all right? He didn't ask if I was OK. I thought he was going to take a type of action. When he told me that he will investigate it, I kind of feel kind of a sense of relief.

GRIFFIN: Father Oliver O'Grady remained a priest and, in 1985, was promoted by Mahony to pastor, continued to seek out young boys and even young girls, molest them and move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury have you reached a verdict?

GRIFFIN: In 1993, Father Oliver O'Grady pled guilty to four counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with other children. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison. After serving seven years, he was deported to Ireland.

O'Grady told CNN he does not recall the case of the young Filipino boy. Roger Mahony went on to become cardinal of the largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in the United States and investigators say continued to cover up and deny any involvement in a huge sex abuse scandal growing inside his church.

BILL HODGMAN, LOS ANGELES DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This was staggering to me, to my investigators. Quite frankly we were overwhelmed in the initial months of pursuing this investigation.

GRIFFIN: Bill Hodgman heads the sex crimes division for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office. For the past two and a half years he has investigated 100 allegations of priests abusing children and an archdiocese he says that has been trying to keep it a secret.

HODGMAN: There is a generalized sense that has been reflected back to me by many of a feeling that there has been concealment and cover-up here in the County of Los Angeles by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. GRIFFIN: Investigators say one of the most notorious examples of cover-up by the archdiocese involves another former priest Kevin Barmesy (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He says that you molested them, is that true? Kevin, is that true?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, the church itself was down through there. That used to be like...

GRIFFIN: Michael Moylan moved with his family from the Midwest to Tucson, Arizona in 1986. He was a high school junior.

MICHAEL MOYLAN, ALLEGED ABUSE VICTIM: This was the rectory right. This is where the priests lived.

GRIFFIN: The family was Catholic. The children were in need of new friends. The solution was to find a church.

MOYLAN: And Father Kevin Barmesy was the associate pastor up there and he was in charge of the youth group.

GRIFFIN: At the time, Michael Moylan thought Barmesy was his new best friend. Looking back now do you feel like you were being reeled in by a real predator?

MOYLAN: Oh, definitely, definitely. Yes, he -- he knew enough about us as kids and our weaknesses, you know. He knew how Catholic I was, so yes, he was very skilled, you know. He -- he knew exactly what he was looking for and what he was doing, reeled us in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think strung along is a better term.

GRIFFIN: Their accounts are almost identical. He got you drunk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes, he did.

MOYLAN: He sexually assaulted me, yes. That's difficult to talk about still.

GRIFFIN: The archdiocese itself has acknowledged that six other credible victims have come forward to also identify Kevin Barmesy as a pedophile and the church now admits it had a problem with this priest from day one.

In 1983, shortly after Barmesy's ordination, police in Los Angeles were brought in to investigate claims by a young boy that Barmesy had abused him. According to the Los Angeles and Tucson diocese the parents were told Father Barmesy would get treatment so he would not hurt other children.

(on camera): But that's not the way it turned out. While Barmesy did receive some treatment, the Los Angeles Archdiocese shipped its problem priest to Tucson, Arizona. (voice-over): Roger Mahony was not in Los Angeles when the Barmesy deal was made but for years after being dispatched to Tucson, Barmesy would petition the cardinal asking he be allowed to return to Los Angeles. Each time the cardinal wouldn't allow it unless Barmesy received further treatment.

MAHONY: When he asked to come back her I said no because the family doesn't want that.

GRIFFIN (on camera): At any time, I mean you must have been aware of this person's past, were you concerned that he was in Tucson with little or no restrictions, in fact in charge of several youth groups?

MAHONY: Well, again, I don't think I ever met the man. This all was arranged before I came here. He was supposed to be seeing a doctor. We have his name in reports and the doctor was maintaining that he was doing well in treatment there.

So, again, that was the protocol of the '80s. You're talking about the '80s. That's where he was and that's the treatment he was receiving. Today, 2004, he'd be out of ministry immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles we now know knew about him and rather than having him prosecuted in Los Angeles, shipped him here without missing a beat. He walked right into a parish, right into the youth group, right into many people's lives, many children's lives and from there he was moved again and moved again and he was allowed to hurt many people.

GRIFFIN: This past February, Cardinal Mahony issued a report to his faithful on more than seven decades of clergy abuse in Los Angeles. Mahony cited the church's misunderstanding of the nature of the problem and explained that pedophilia had been wrongly regarded as a moral weakness and a sin. He did not believe offenders, once confronted, would offend again. He admits it was a mistake.

The report also calls for openness but prosecutor Bill Hodgman says the archdiocese has been anything but, fighting subpoenas and refusing to hand over potential evidence. The archdiocese says that's because their counseling of priests must remain private to be effective.

Hodgman says the number of cases involving priests and sexual abuse continues to grow. He is now trying to determine if all these cases add up to evidence of a larger crime of conspiracy to deceive.

HODGMAN: We will go where the evidence takes us. We are still actively gathering evidence at this time and, indeed, we will go where the evidence takes us. No one in this county is above the law and that includes Cardinal Mahony.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So far, no charges have been filed against Cardinal Roger Mahony but his involvement in several high profile cases have brought him in direct contact with priest after accused priest in which little or no action was taken to prevent further abuse.

(voice-over): According to the L.A. Archdiocese in 1986 Father Michael Baker confessed to Cardinal Mahony that he had abused two young boys. He was not removed until a total of 23 alleged victims came forward.

In 1987, the archdiocese received a report that Father Michael Wempy (ph) was accused of abusing children. He was sent for psychiatric treatment but remained a priest until 2002.

Father Carl Sutphin was first accused in 1991. He remained a priest for eleven more years. His alleged victims now number 18.

All these people were known to the archdiocese and many known to Cardinal Mahony as well as having a problem with sexually molesting and yet I can't think of one of those cases where the cardinal or the archdiocese came to the police and basically turned them in, is that correct?

HODGMAN: I think the record speaks for itself.

FRANK KEATING, FMR. OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR: Los Angeles has been a disappointment to me because I'm afraid they are thinking out there, and I include Cardinal Mahony in this category, more with their pocketbooks than their hearts, more with their heads than their hearts.

GRIFFIN: In 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asked former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating to head a national review board to scrutinize the Catholic Church, hold bishops accountable, and guide the church in how to prevent, report, and disclose sexual abuse.

Keating resigned after making critical comments about how some diocese, including Los Angeles, were and continue to be less than open with the public and less than honest with themselves.

KEATING: If you take the position that you won't get anything out of me without a subpoena, the suggestion is you have something to hide and for a faith institution that's a terrible suggestion.

GRIFFIN (on camera): You, as a man of God, and answering to a much higher calling than a district attorney or a former governor of Oklahoma, I guess their feeling is and the feeling of some of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who cares about all these laws? Let's get this out in the open and put the sexual crisis behind the Catholic Church. I mean it does appear to them that there's something to hide.

MAHONEY: Well, that's simply not the case but there are a lot of privileged communications in the State of California. One of them is reporters and news media or sources. That's a very highly protected -- protection that you have. There are between a husband and wife testifying against each other there are a whole list of them. Those are protected communications and so a priest talking to his bishop is a protected communication.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): This man says he had a private conversation with Roger Mahony 23 years ago. He now wants to know why Mahony protected the priest instead of the children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean how could you do that to little kids, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

GRIFFIN (on camera): Cardinal, did the archdiocese protect the priests over the children?

MAHONY: Absolutely not. That was never, never our objective at all. We were operating under the knowledge and the treatment protocols of the time doing what we thought was best at the time. We have learned with time that that was simply inadequate and now we have a zero tolerance policy and that's the way it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: The man who says he reported his abuse to Cardinal Mahony has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Stockton where Mahony was the bishop -- Aaron.

BROWN: All right. Let's work out way through, I think, several questions fairly briefly if we can. We need -- there are a number of cases in play, am I right, that there is a criminal case that Mr. Hodgman is involved in and then there is a large civil case that's in play as well, correct?

GRIFFIN: It's a gathering storm. There are three or four criminal cases going forward. The first is going to be Mr. Wempy, who goes on trial next month. In addition to that, there are some 490 civil cases that are being joined as one as we speak in negotiations right now for a settlement.

BROWN: Is there a broad criminal investigation that could draw the cardinal into it, as opposed to a specific prosecution against an abusing priest?

GRIFFIN: Absolutely, Aaron. There is a grand jury investigation underway in Los Angeles right now. It's looking at individual priests but it's also looking at the archdiocese action as a whole as a criminal entity.

BROWN: And has anyone been identified as a target of that investigation?

GRIFFIN: Not specifically.

BROWN: OK.

GRIFFIN: But we did hear from Mr. Hodgman that, again, no one is above the law including the cardinal himself.

BROWN: Now, back on the subject of the cardinal, at some point a lot of these are kind of he-said he-said stories. Is there any documents that support the position, the general argument at least that what the cardinal did was sort of knowingly shuttle these people off, these priests off to one part of the country or one part of the diocese or another? GRIFFIN: Well, there are records now coming forward and almost every week we hear more of them. The position of Michael Baker that was a mistake the cardinal admits, the position of Kevin Barmesy that was also a mistake not to follow or monitor this guy.

We just got a hold of a deposition today, Aaron, in which two more priests from Stockton were reported and there are some questionable dealings there where one of them just disappeared in Tijuana and was allowed to go free. They just never found where that priest went and never followed up on what happened to him.

BROWN: Is this the Comacho (ph) case?

GRIFFIN: This is -- is it Comacho, yes it is.

BROWN: OK. And, if I understand this case, let's just work through this just for a second with me, that he was sent...

GRIFFIN: Actually, Aaron, I think that's Munos (ph).

BROWN: OK. Comacho is a case of a priest who was sent back to Mexico and Cardinal Mahony was involved in that because his signature is on the letter sort of acknowledging the fact, correct?

GRIFFIN: That's right and you're right it's Antonio Comacho and we have now a document in which he is sending a letter to the police department of Modesto, saying, you know, we've basically tried our best to find him but we can't find him.

This is a priest who was accused of taking children down to Tijuana and abusing them there. Once word got out and it was reported, he never came back from Tijuana.

BROWN: All right. Just one more area I think in -- one of the -- for me, I think, as a non-Catholic looking at all of this is you get into this area of privilege. Privilege is there to protect -- to protect people.

I mean the fact that it's a church, I don't know that it necessarily means that they're not entitled, particularly when you're talking about a criminal case, to the same protections that everyone else is and I think that's the heart of the archbishop's argument here.

GRIFFIN: Aaron, indeed. It is the legal argument and legally they have every right to protect that. What Keating is saying, what Hodgman is saying, what I think many Catholics in Los Angeles are now saying is let's get above the law.

This is the church and the very faith of the people inside this church, at least some of them, is in jeopardy and it's a much bigger issue than who has the right to have private conversations or not?

BROWN: Drew and to your group down there, nice work on all of this. Thank you very much Drew Griffin out in Los Angeles tonight. We have much more to go, of course. We'll go to one of the other hot topics of the day, if you will, whether U.S. troops in Iraq are adequately protected and, if they're not, why not?

A question about personal security asked by a soldier rose to the commander-in-chief today. We'll look at how the armor issue has played out today through the Pentagon and beyond.

Then security of another kind, Social Security, politicians seem to be realizing there's no armor to protect them from the difficult decisions that will have to be made there.

And this story is also in the red, oh my, lobsters and, yes, they're at risk too, lots to do.

This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: For soldiers on the ground, war is anything but an abstraction or a policy debate. At a town hall meeting yesterday in Kuwait, that much was clear. The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld taking heat from soldiers who say they don't have the armor they need to stay safe, in some cases stay alive. We'll get to that part of the story in a couple of moments. We've been working it all day. There are new facts to report.

First, though, another piece of all of this, a report today in the New England Journal of Medicine speaks to the fact that the armor in question undoubtedly saves lives but it doesn't always prevent injuries and those injuries are often devastating, from the Pentagon tonight CNN's Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Army Specialist Kevin Panel (ph) lost both his legs in Iraq when his unit was hit by grenades. Now he has the best technology available to America's young veterans, a $48,000 high tech prosthetic limb driven by computer technology.

Today, U.S. military personnel have a better chance of surviving war than ever before. In Vietnam, 24 percent of the wounded died. Today, in Iraq and Afghanistan, ten percent of the wounded do not survive.

Now, forward surgical teams go right to the front lines to provide immediate care keeping troops alive until they can be quickly moved to hospitals in Germany and the U.S.

Dr. John Casler recently retired from the Army, a surgical rotation on the front lines in Iraq left a lasting impression.

COL. JOHN D. CASLER, M.D., U.S. ARMY: I recall being called to the emergency room early one morning to take care of a wounded soldier, who was injured in the face from an RPG. He had been wounded 15 minutes prior to seeing me in the emergency room and then within another ten to 15 minutes had been stabilized.

STARR: The New England Journal of Medicine reports that with 10,000 troops wounded, the largest number since Vietnam, surgical teams are saving nine out of every ten wounded soldiers but the journal also notes that means a new generation of veterans that may need medical care for decades to come.

(on camera): This generation of veterans is surviving because of unprecedented medical care but they are still dealing with a generation of the aftermath of serious battle injuries.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: On that note, more troops have lost limbs in Iraq than the Army's amputee unit at Walter Reed in Washington can handle. The overflow is being treated at a new facility in Texas at the Brooke Army Medical Center. NEWSNIGHT's Beth Nissen plans to visit patients and staff there in the next few weeks.

Meantime, repercussions from the armor story made it all the way up the chain of command, the president citing a national guardsman who asked the question in Kuwait yesterday, first, from the Pentagon, CNN's Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Everyone from the president on down agrees it's a legitimate question.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of defense the same question and that is are we getting the best we can get us? And, they deserve the best.

MCINTYRE: But the complaint that troops don't have the best has put the Pentagon on the defensive and, in an effort at damage control, they quickly arranged a video link for a three-star general in Kuwait to brief reporters at the Pentagon.

LT. GEN. STEVEN WHITCOMB, COMMANDER, THIRD U.S. ARMY: We're not lacking at this point for our kits, our steel plating to fabricate the level three kits or the personnel to apply those kits. Our goal and what we're working towards is that no wheeled vehicle that leaves Kuwait going into Iraq is driven by a soldier that does not have some level of armored protection on it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: And, Aaron, we learned today that the question that put Rumsfeld on the hot seat and created so much controversy was actually planted by a newspaper reporter for the "Chattanooga News Free Press" who brought the soldier who asked the question with him. He'd been embedded with those soldiers. The newspaper today stood by the reporter's technique of getting the question asked but admitted it probably should have disclosed his role in the newspaper story. Meanwhile, the Pentagon was complaining that the press has plenty of opportunity to ask Rumsfeld questions and they shouldn't interfere in the dialogue between soldiers and the defense secretary -- Aaron.

BROWN: Fair enough and a different question because at its core this is still about whether the armor is there, so I want to ask a quick one here. First of all, if I understood the general, he said "We've got all we need to get the job done" but, at the same time, we know that only 75 percent of the vehicles are protected, I believe. And he also said some level of protection, which doesn't necessarily mean full level of protection, does it?

MCINTYRE: No. What they call -- what they're referring to there is a level three protection and level three is the least amount of protection. That's the sort of bolted on steel that's added sort of on an ad hoc basis, so some level of protection isn't necessarily enough protection.

On the other hand, this adding armor to vehicles is pretty complicated. It can add between 1,000 and 4,000 pounds to a vehicle and, depending on the vehicle, it may not be able, the transmission and engine may not be able to handle that.

The other thing, of course, is while it's true that not all the vehicles are armored, not every vehicle needs armor. They don't all have missions that require armor. The priority is to get them on those trucks, transport vehicles, things that are in convoys and they insist they're not sending anymore vehicles into Iraq that need armor that don't have them.

BROWN: Jamie, thank you, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.

Coming up, we'll have more on this. The defense secretary said the Pentagon is doing all it can to produce more armor. Do the facts support the claim, a reality check on that?

Also ahead it's provided a security net for the elderly for more than 60 years. Will it survive as we know it in the next Congress? The changing face of Social Security as NEWSNIGHT continues from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Sad to say, there's nothing new about soldiers in wartime not getting what they need stay alive. Any vet whoever used an early M-16 in Vietnam knows the truth of that.

Whether it's the brass to blame, or bureaucrats, congressmen or contractors, the foul-ups are almost always avoidable, even if they usually turn out otherwise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BROWN (voice-over): The military says it's working as hard and as fast as it can to provide the increased armor protection for the thousands and thousands of vehicles which are now in Iraq.

JESSE POOR, DEPUTY COMMANDER, ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT: Since December of last year, the collective output of the Army arsenals and depots is approximately 10,000 Humvee door kits.

BROWN: Here at the Army's arms depot in Anniston, Alabama, workers are racing to supply so-called armor kits, hardened steel doors and frames for the ubiquitous Humvees. They are fitted to the vehicles in staging areas in Kuwait and in Iraq itself, where Humvees won't be fully armored, according to the Pentagon, until March of next year.

Meanwhile, the complaints keep coming. Soldiers in the Oregon National Guard who are in Baghdad are telling their families that they have been forced to extraordinary lengths to beef up their Humvees and other vehicles.

REP. DARLENE HOOLEY (D), OREGON: You have members out looking in, finding metal to put in the vehicles between the plywood and the sandbags. So they're out scavenging metal from any place, from heaps of old vehicles. And some of those are Russian vehicles and some of those are Iraqi vehicles. They're trying to do everything they can to make themselves safe by doing that.

BROWN: And then there is this, a plant near Phoenix called ArmorWorks. It also produced protection kits for about 1,200 Army vehicles this year. But these use a ceramic base, not steel. It's lighter, but it's more expensive. And now the company is laying people off because its contract with the military runs out in January and hasn't been renewed.

MATT SALMON, PRESIDENT, ARMORWORKS: The steel technology which is being employed on so many vehicles over there has been around since World War II. It's time to move forward with the best technologies that we have, so that we can save lived and make our equipment function properly. It's just -- you know, to me, it's a no-brainer.

BROWN: The Pentagon so far is not commenting. But it does admit that planners were not prepared for the kind of attacks that are now routine, the improvised explosive devices that kill and maim so many.

LT. GEN. STEVEN BLUM, NATIONAL GUARD CHIEF: There was a lot of vehicles and rolling stock in Iraq and Afghanistan, and none of them had armor when we went in there. So we're playing catchup as fast as we can.

BROWN: Small comfort, perhaps, for the soldiers and the Marines on duty day and night in an extraordinarily dangerous environment.

HOOLEY: We're asking these guys to put their lives on the line every single day. No matter what are they're doing, the minute they go out on patrol, their lives are in danger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: We're joined now by Fred Kaplan of Slate.com, whose writing on defense is a bracing mixture of news, analysis and opinion.

Here's how he led his piece on armor today. "Donald Rumsfeld," he wrote, "gave every grunt in the Army a good reason to hate him today." Loud and clear. We're always pleased to have him with us on the program.

Look, the secretary, on his best day, is not exactly warm and fuzzy. That's not who he is. So, what -- I think you can make an argument what he was trying to say is, we're doing the best we can.

FRED KAPLAN, SLATE.COM: Well, he didn't even say that. He said, you go war with the Army you have.

And, you know, Aaron, if you're attacked by surprise, that's right. If you have a year to prepare for the war, as these guys did, if you have the advantage of the initiative of the attack and if you don't have enough, then that's just a sign of poor planning.

BROWN: And, to be honest, I think that's exactly the story. In an odd way, we've gotten a bit distracted from what this story is about, to me, at least. This story is about whether they adequately planned, because they did get to choose the start point, whether they adequately planned for the war they had to wage.

KAPLAN: They thought -- I mean, Rumsfeld was right that the battlefield phase would go much more easily than some of his own generals thought.

But then, remember, they thought that their pal, Ahmad Chalabi, would come in, take control of the government, put in his own militia and we were supposed to be down to 30,000 troops by the summer. That was their original formulation. And they had no plan B. They had nothing to back it up. So it's not just that they weren't expecting, you know, these explosive devices that blow up convoys on the road. They weren't expecting anything after the statue in Baghdad fell.

BROWN: But in fact there were people telling them, you better expect plenty.

KAPLAN: Oh, yes, absolutely. But they didn't listen. That's really what it comes down to.

BROWN: There's another part of the story that, at least for me, is a little hard to get my arms around. And that's this question of how reservists are being treated relative to regular Army forces.

KAPLAN: Right. Reservists are being treated like reservists, even though they're acting like active Army soldiers.

BROWN: Do we know that or is that their perception? Because as a one-time reservist, I can tell you, you do perceive that, that the regular guys don't treat you the same. KAPLAN: Well, there's a story out of Bloomberg News today that one of the companies that makes the armor platings for these Humvees says, you know, we have the capacity to build 25 percent more of this without any additional investment whatsoever. Their capacity is not even being fulfilled as it is.

BROWN: How -- and a rational explanation for that is what?

KAPLAN: It wasn't planned for. I mean, you know, there's whole procurement process that goes down the line. And...

BROWN: So it's not as simple as picking up the phone and calling them and saying, look, we need...

KAPLAN: Well, now it is, I think.

BROWN: We need 4,000 -- you think, today, it is?

KAPLAN: Well, look, they have a huge supplemental. You know, there's billions of dollars in this supplemental that hasn't been spent, that hasn't even been appropriated.

BROWN: You think they're embarrassed by this all?

KAPLAN: Now they are. And you know who else should be embarrassed is members of Congress, members of the armed forces.

Here's some reservist who stands up in front of the world and all of his officers and the secretary of defense and asks a simple question. It's not anti-war. He's saying, look, I'm proud to be here. I'll go in on a bicycle if I need to, but how come I don't have what I need? So why aren't other people asking these questions?

BROWN: It's good to see you. Thanks for coming in tonight.

KAPLAN: Thank you.

BROWN: Fred Kaplan.

A programming note before we go to break. We expect in the days ahead to take a good, hard look at Social Security reform, privatization and the rest. This is, if you will, the trillion-dollar elephant in the room. When we come back, we'll get the ball rolling with a quick overview of what's at stake for all of us. And it's a lot.

And, later, why are lobsters suddenly on the rocks? Does global warming have something to do with it, if you believe in global warming?

Around the world and 20,000 leagues beneath the sea as well, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Still trying to catch up, if you will, from Falluja. The president said today in no uncertain terms he will not raise payroll taxes to help pay for overhauling Social Security, which is another way of saying he intends to borrow the money needed for his proposed changes to the system, $2 trillion or more. Social Security is a story that never goes away. It only gets more complicated and more costly. The question, as always, will the new year bring new change?

Reporting tonight, CNN's Bruce Morton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Social Security is in trouble. Politicians like South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham know it.

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Between 2011 and 2030, there will be a 65 percent increase in retirees and an eight percent increase in the work force. We're short of money to pay the benefits. If we do nothing, the cost will be trillions.

MORTON: Non-politicians like Chelsea Naja (ph) know it too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problem is, is I'm 27 years old. And every week -- every two weeks, I get my paycheck and I see the chunk that goes to Social Security. And what worries me is I'm not going to have that there when I retire.

MORTON: The problem is all those baby boomers rushing toward retirement. But the real problem is that the obvious remedies, raise taxes, cut benefits, raise the retirement age, involve pain. And politicians hate to vote for pain. So can you fix it?

ROBERT BIXBY, THE CONCORD COALITION: What we have is a system that promises far more future benefit than it can afford to deliver. So, somehow, you need to bring the benefit promises in line with the money coming into the system. If you take out benefit cuts, if you take out tax increases, or contribution increases, I don't know how you can get from here to there.

MICHAEL TANNER, CATO INSTITUTE: I think we're closer to Social Security reform than we have ever been.

MORTON: Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute is optimistic in part because the president wants reform.

BUSH: Reforming Social Security will be a priority of my administration. Obviously...

MORTON: But you still have to get from here to there. Lindsay Graham's plan, for instance, would raise the amount of income on which you pay Social Security tax. But the president is a tax cut man.

BIXBY: Politicians are always looking for a free lunch when it come to Social Security. And, frankly, so is the public.

TANNER: There's no such thing as a free lunch. And any Social Security reform is going to have certain costs involved.

MORTON: Fixing the system will have to hurt, somehow. But not fixing it may hurt worse.

TANNER: In many ways, it's like paying off your credit card. You're much better off if you pay them off today, then if you make the minimum payments forever. But you have to come up with that money now, and that's not always the easiest thing to do.

MORTON: And politicians worry about what their opponent will say in the next election.

BIXBY: It's very easy to demagogue this issue, very easy to talk about they're going to cut your benefits, or raise your taxes, or Wall Street's after the money, or something like that. And so politicians have gotten away from having a rational discussion about these things.

MORTON (on camera): Experts disagree over whether Congress and the president will be able to come up with a fix for the system. They do agree that if it happens it will have to happen next year. If the debate spills over into 2006, an election year, reform is almost certainly dead.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: One other note before we go to break.

We got an awful lot of mail, e-mail, from our report last night on child labor, a heartbreaking story to begin with, made even more so when you look at the kinds of lives these kids are facing in every respect. Today, UNICEF issued a report saying more than half the children in the world, a billion kids, grow up in poverty. One in six goes severely hungry. One in five don't have access to safe drinking water, one in three without sanitation facilities at home.

We'll be doing more on this and the child labor story as we go along. In the meantime, many of you wrote in asking again for the Web address we mentioned last night. It's www.stolenchildhoods.org. That's stolenchildhoods.org, S on the end, .org, not .com. Got it?

Ahead on the program, off the coast of New England, a deep sea mystery. Where have all of the lobsters gone? A long time passing.

Also ahead, the rooster, fat and happy and ready with morning papers.

This must be NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: A wise person once said, ignore the humble messenger and you may miss the larger story. Well, we imagine someone wise thought that somewhere some time. A lobster is nothing if not humble. It lives at the bottom of the ocean, after all. The trick is figuring out what he's trying to tell us.

Here's CNN's Dan Lothian.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Pat White...

PAT WHITE, LOBSTERMAN: There's a keeper.

LOTHIAN: ... has been hauling up lobsters for almost 50 years.

WHITE: It's a wonderful way of life.

LOTHIAN: If this boat is his desk, the Atlantic Ocean off Maine is his office, where lobstermen have been riding a record wave, 62 million pounds of lobsters caught two years ago. That was the peak. And the boom for now continues.

WHITE: Yesterday, I got 230 pounds.

LOTHIAN: But some worry Maine, showing signs of the slowdown along parts of the coast, may be next to face a mysterious problem clawing its way north from New York to New Hampshire.

(on camera): In some areas, south of here, the catch has collapsed by more than 70 percent. And no one really knows why.

MICHAEL TLUSTY, AQUACULTURE SCIENTIST: It could be water. It could be pollution. It could be the return of cod, one of the major predators.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Michael Tlusty researchers lobsters at New England Aquarium's hatchery.

TLUSTY: Very small age.

LOTHIAN: He believes compounding factors, triggered in part by rising water temperatures tied to global warming, could be to blame.

TLUSTY: Everything in a lobster is temperature dependent.

LOTHIAN: Some government scientists say overfishing is also a major problem. White admits that could be a factor, but he says most lobstermen are responsible, throwing back egg-heavy females and other catch vital to a healthy population.

WHITE: It's amazing how much stuff we don't know, and we need to know if we're going to manage our oceans properly.

LOTHIAN: Ultimately, experts say, everyone should pay attention to these bottom dwellers.

TLUSTY: When a lobster population starts having trouble, that just means that there's very serious things going on in the environment.

LOTHIAN: Scientists are studying these waters, hoping to find definitive answers just under the surface.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Morning papers after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(ROOSTER CROWING)

BROWN: Okeydokey. Time to check morning papers from around the country, around the world.

"International Herald Tribune" starts it off. There's a fair amount of outrage in the papers today, I think. Anyway, "The International Herald Tribune." "Iraqi Shiites Form Election Alliance. Pullout Talks a Goal." One of their plans is to negotiate with Americans for a pullout of American troops. What's to negotiate? They are a sovereign government, I thought.

"The Christian Science Monitor." Down at the bottom, it's not that the headline is fabulous in any sense, but the story is. "Marine Company and a Month in Falluja," written by Scott Peterson, who has been with us a number of times, who works, or -- yes, works for "The Monitor." I was going to say freelances. Anyway, some of the reporting out of Falluja and the bath battle of Falluja by the print press has been absolutely fabulous.

Here we go on outrage. Man, oh, man, oh, man. "The Times Herald-Record" in Upstate New York. "Abandoned by the Army." This local man gave his arm for his country. Now the U.S. wants $1,768.81 from him. Now, I don't know what this story's about but...

"Washington Times." "Bush Focuses on Fixing Social Security." Told you about that. "Canada Will Allow Gays to Marry." This was a ruling by the high court in Canada. And that made front page to "The Washington Times." But here's the one I like, down here. "Fists Fly in Game of Strategy. Rock Stars, Paper Tigers Throw Down the Sport." This is rock, paper, scissors, folks, as seen by you on NEWSNIGHT weeks ago.

"Cincinnati Enquirer," I'm liking this paper. Down at the bottom, "Springer" -- that would be Jerry Springer -- "to Launch Radio Show Here." Used to be a big deal in Cincinnati. And that's why that's a front-page story.

"The Dallas Morning News." Haven't ad this for a while. Good to have it back. "Rumsfeld: Armor Crisis to be Solved. Defense Secretary Says It's Necessary to Hear Soldiers' Complaints." Should have solved it before it happened.

"Chattanooga Times Free Press." "Our Troops Deserve the Best" is the lead. But, also, the publisher explains how this question came to be asked, the role their reporter played in it. And that's appropriately put on the front page, I believe. Weather in Chicago tomorrow, if you're traveling there, "lightly sprinkled."

We'll wrap it up in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Tomorrow is Friday. Our Friday conversation is with Barry Scheck, the criminal lawyer of some note. It's a good conversation. We had it this afternoon. And we hope you'll join us for that and the rest of the day's news.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" next for most of you. Good night for all of us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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