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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Controversy Surround Bush's Authority To Secretly Wiretap Americans; Man Videotapes Katrina's Wrath; Germany Releases Killer Of U.S. Navy Diver; Rebuilding Slow In Aceh; Governor Warner To Sign Order For New DNA Tests That Could Exonerate Executed Man; Another Bethlehem?

Aired December 24, 2005 - 11:00   ET

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


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: This Christmas Eve, does the government know what's under your tree? Just ahead, the latest on who's being watched and who's upset about it.
It's Saturday, December 24th. Good morning, everyone. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Tony Harris.

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: And, good morning. I'm Randi Kaye sitting in for Betty Nguyen. Thanks for start your Christmas Eve day with us. We have a very busy hour ahead. But first, a quick look at some of the other stories making news at this hour.

You are looking at pictures of Christmas Eve celebrations taking place in Bethlehem today. Tourists from all over the world have flocked to the town where the bible says Jesus was born. It's reportedly Bethlehem's largest Christmas celebration since violence erupted there back in 2000.

In New Mexico, federal officials arrest four people suspected of stealing nearly 500 pounds of military grade explosives. The materials were discovered missing last Sunday at a storage depot. ATF agents say there were enough explosives taken to level a large building. Authorities have now found all of the stolen material.

The bodies of those killed in a plane crash in Southwest Asia and been recovered. The Turboprop aircraft went down yesterday in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan along the Caspian Seashore. All 23 people on board were killed.

Terrorist suspect Abdullah Khadr will remain behind bars in Toronto. The 24-year-old Canadian is wanted by the U.S. for allegedly supplying al Qaeda with weapons. He's charged with conspiring to kill Americans in other countries. A Canadian judge denied him bail yesterday, saying he is a flight risk.

HARRIS: Our top story this morning, the revelation of a secret government surveillance program aimed at preventing a radiological attack on the U.S. Several government officials confirmed to CNN the U.S. government has been testing for suspicious radiation levels outside more than 100 predominantly Muslim sites in and around Washington, D.C.

The officials also say monitoring has been conducted at times in all these cities. One government official says the testing is done outside buildings like mosques, businesses and homes, and it's done without warrants. The FBI says there is no program that specifically targets Muslims. And it adds, all investigations are ..".intelligence-driven and predicated on specific information about potential criminal acts or terrorist threats and are conducted in strict conformance with federal law."

We'll hear from the reporter who broke the story coming up on CNN at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

And now to another government monitoring program that's causing controversy, the Bush administration eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without warrants. Critics say it's a violation of civil liberties and possibly illegal. But President Bush is standing firm in his defense of the program.

Here's CNN's State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the nation still reeling just days after the 9/11 attacks, Congress authorized President Bush to use all necessary and appropriate force to go after those responsible, authority Mr. Bush claimed just this week gave him a power to sign off on secret wiretaps of American citizens.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress.

KOPPEL: But in an op-ed in Friday's "Washington Post," Tom Daschle, the former Democratic leader of the Senate, challenged Mr. Bush's claim, writing, quote, "I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. The president should explain the specific legal justification for his authorization of these actions."

It appears that's exactly what the Bush administration is trying to do. Just hours after Mr. Bush left the White House Thursday to start his Christmas vacation, the Department of Justice fired off a five-page letter to the leaders of congressional intelligence committees, asserting the wiretapping is "crucial to our national security." The letter argues that the nation's security trumps privacy concerns of individuals targeted for eavesdropping by the government.

Critics say the Bush White House had other tools it could have relied on. It could have requested warrants from a secret intelligence court located in the Justice Department. Or it could have turned to the Patriot Act.

LISA GRAVES, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: No president has taken such an expansive view of presidential power since President Nixon. We should not return to those dark days. Congress needs to conduct thorough probing, investigations into this matter.

KOPPEL (on camera): But it's unclear if and when that will happen. Before adjourning for the year, House Democrats called for an independent panel to investigate, while in the Senate, some Democrats are accusing Bush of violating the law. Senator Russ Feingold, for one, says the president is playing, in his words, "fast and loose with the law."

But the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, has cautioned his colleagues not to rush to judgment.

Andrea Koppel, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: So, how is President Bush faring with the American people? A new Gallup poll shows his approval rating at 43 percent, with 53 percent disapproving of the way the president is handling his job. Even more Americans are unhappy with the way things are going in the country, 62 percent, to be exact, while 36 percent say they are satisfied.

The popularity of the Iraq war a topic of conversation in Mosul, where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is spending time with the troops this Christmas Eve. Rumsfeld showed up in the mess hall, where he helped serve dinner to the troops. He told them to shrug of misgivings about the U.S. mission in Iraq and predicted the United States will be victorious in the battle against insurgents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We will win this war. It's a test of wills. And let there be no doubt, that is what it is. It is not a competition between big armies, big navies or big air forces. Generations before you have persevered and prevailed. And they, too, were engaged in a test of wills.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Elsewhere in Iraq, the leading Shiite religious bloc is adamant that its lead in the country's parliamentary elections reflects the will of the people. The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance is condemning protests by Sunni Arabs and secular groups who claim the December 15th vote was tainted by fraud and the Shiites are rejecting calls for a new ballot.

Iraqi soldiers, government employees and civilians the victims today in a rash of insurgent attacks in Baghdad. Police tell CNN the attacks included several shootings and eight people were killed.

Meantime, authorities have discovered six bodies over the last 24 hours in Baghdad, all with gunshot wounds.

KAYE: A husband's agony. The husband of the pilot who died in the crash of that seaplane off Miami has been talking about his loss this morning. All 20 people aboard died in the crash on Monday. Mark Marks talked to reporters just a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MARKS, HUSBAND OF SEAPLANE PILOT: I'd like to thank the general public at large. I've been overwhelmed by the sympathy and love from people I haven't even met. Michele touched everyone she ever met. She was, she was my soul mate, my best friend and my wife, and I really feel privileged that I had the eight years with her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: So much courage to come out and talk about her this morning.

HARRIS: Yes.

KAYE: Just ahead, the power of Katrina captured by one man's video camera. We'll tell you how he hopes these images will help him rebuild.

HARRIS: And many who evacuated from Katrina's path are hoping this holiday will help them move on.

Atlanta, good morning.

Coming up, one mother tells us her story. It's a story of trying to rebuild in a new place.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A quick look now at our top stories.

Controversy about another government surveillance program. Federal officials confirm the FBI has been monitoring suspicious radiation levels at some 100 Muslim sites in the U.S. without warrants. The program is aimed at detecting material that could be used in a so-called dirty bomb. But Muslims question whether their civil rights are being violated.

A body found off the coast of Southeast Florida has been positively identified as the 20th victim of a recent vintage seaplane crash. The bodies of the 19 other people on board were retrieved just hours after the plane crashed on Monday.

For the first time since hurricane Katrina, New Orleans' curfew has been lifted. Mayor Ray Nagin suspended the curfew in all neighborhoods west of the Industrial Canal last night. The city's celebrated Bourbon Street bars and other businesses will be allowed to stay open all night.

KAYE: In the last four months, we've all seen video of the destruction left by hurricane Katrina. Now you're about to see that hurricane as it happened from a Slidell, Louisiana man who was right in the middle of it and watched the water surround his home. He took out his video camera to document the disaster and now he's hoping to sell those images to pay for his home repairs.

CNN's Gulf Coast correspondent Susan Roesgen has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNARD JACKLEY, KATRINA VICTIM: I turned it on and pressed that button.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Kennard Jackley says he only picks up his video camera when a storm's coming. And on August 28th he knew a big one was on the way.

JACKLEY: OK. You'd never know there was a hurricane coming.

ROESGEN: This was the afternoon before the storm.

JACKLEY: What you going to do, man?

ROESGEN: But by daybreak the next morning, the wind was starting to howl.

JACKLEY: Oh, Mother Nature is angry, my friends. That's about enough out of you there, whatever your name is, Katrina, or whatever the hell your name is.

ROESGEN: Eventually, Jackley realizes the situation is much worse than he thought. It isn't just the wind anymore.

JACKLEY: Uh-oh, the ground floor is buckling up underneath me.

ROESGEN: It's the water from the lake swallowing his property.

JACKLEY: Uh-oh, here it goes. It's in. Here it comes. It's in the house. It broke the door locks. There it is. Oh, man, I can't stop it now.

ROESGEN: Now surrounded by water, Jackley watched his neighbors' homes start to float away.

JACKLEY: There goes Charlie's boathouse. It's taking off now.

ROESGEN: Jackley begins to question his decision to stay.

JACKLEY: When's this thing supposed to stop? Oh, the next time leave, stupid. I don't even think I saved my golf clubs.

ROESGEN: It took about a day for the water to go down.

(on camera): This is one of the few things that didn't float away. This is one of his wife's golf clubs. And to give you an idea of how high the water was here, I'm 5'8" and the golf club takes us up to about nine feet. But you have to remember that the water that was here came from the lake 200 yards away.

JACKLEY: Brave. I wouldn't go brave. Probably crazy.

ROESGEN (voice-over): Today, Kennard Jackley is starting to put his home back together. The whole bottom half of his house is bare. His wife's little beauty parlor, the washing room and the sewing room, all gone.

(on camera): Why stay here? Why put your house back together when you know the next one could come even higher?

JACKLEY: Why? This is -- well, I'm from Illinois, but this is the only house I've ever had, you know? And I'm not going to let a little rain hurt me.

ROESGEN: Oh, it was more than a little rain.

JACKLEY: We had history made, didn't we? It's part of growing up, that's what I say.

ROESGEN: Susan Roesgen, CNN, Slidell, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: And for many hurricane Katrina evacuees, this will be their first Christmas away from home. But many aren't letting their living arrangements break their Christmas spirit or their celebrations.

Joining us is Carlanda Isaac. She's a mother of four who was displaced by hurricane Katrina and is now living here in Atlanta. Good to see you again.

Last we spoke with you was November, around Thanksgiving. For our viewers who might not have seen our story then, tell us what happened to you when you were -- you were in Metairie, Louisiana, right?

CARLANDA ISAAC, KATRINA EVACUEE: Yes, I was. And we were very fortunate. We was able to get out before the storm came in, actually, the day before. And we evacuated then to another part of Louisiana, which was very overpopulated. And the power was gone there, very uncomfortable. And about four days later we evacuated to Texas.

KAYE: And what kind of damage was there to your home? How long before you were even able to go back to your home?

ISAAC: I went home about two weeks after the storm due to urging by the governor, saying that my area was not badly damaged.

When we got there, the tree had fell into the house and there was flood damage about four feet high in my home. My furniture was gone, the clothing was gone. It was definitely not livable.

KAYE: It is a terrible sight, having seen it firsthand.

Tell me about who you moved with, because you have quite a family with you that you've had to relocate here to Atlanta. ISAAC: Yes. I'm here with my kids, my four kids.

KAYE: And how old are they?

ISAAC: I have twins that are two years old, a 14-year-old daughter, an 8-year-old son. My twins' father, Charles, he's here with us; my brother, Curry; and, also, we have my babysitter Diana and her son Joshua.

KAYE: And are you settled here now?

ISAAC: We are settled.

KAYE: You're not going back?

ISAAC: We are not going back. We cannot do it again next year.

KAYE: But your family -- you still have some family there and some good friends?

ISAAC: Yes. My parents, my aunt, my grandparents, they're all still in Louisiana, toughing it out. My parents and my grandparents are here for Christmas. They're celebrating the holidays with us.

KAYE: Who's doing the cooking this year?

ISAAC: My mother.

KAYE: She is?

ISAAC: Yes, she is.

KAYE: And how'd she get that job?

ISAAC: It's time for me to relax.

KAYE: Oh.

Now they have chosen to stay there.

Did they not have a lot of damage at their homes?

ISAAC: They had damage, but the damage was minimal. And the area that they lived in is about 45 miles outside of New Orleans. So, they want to take chances and continue living in Louisiana.

KAYE: And what about gifts this year, now that we know who's doing the cooking? What about gift buying? Have you been able to find some gifts for your kids this year, because this is a really important holiday...

ISAAC: Right.

KAYE: ... especially this year, for them?

ISAAC: Right. Financially, a lot of things have been stressed for us because I'm still not working as of to this date. The kids' father, he's not working. So basically we have a group called Unite and they have sponsored our family. And they were able to actually provide two gifts apiece for each one of my kids. And so that was lovely.

KAYE: That's very nice.

How did you get connected with them?

ISAAC: Through an organization called Home Stretch, which was the agency that assisted us in our first month's rent to move into our apartment.

KAYE: And how have the kids adapted to being relocated? I mean it's hard enough as an adult, but have they adapted? Are they in school?

ISAAC: They are in school now. It has been very hard for the older two children. My daughter doesn't have friends. I mean at 14, they become socially inclined...

KAYE: Sure.

ISAAC: And I don't see her socializing with the kids in the apartment community. She's auditing this year in school, this semester, actually. So she's not receiving credits for any participation that's she's doing this semester.

KAYE: Right.

ISAAC: So that's not good.

Last Friday...

KAYE: I had a chance to visit with some of the kids who were displaced and are now in new schools, and a lot of them, they just feel a little bit lost and parents have told me they're somewhat depressed.

ISAAC: Right.

KAYE: Are you seeing anything like that?

ISAAC: I do. I see a change in my kids' behavior. They are not communicating with me, so I don't really know exactly what areas that I can help them in. So it is a difference.

KAYE: Well, it is Christmastime...

ISAAC: Right.

KAYE: ... and we wish you the best and everything for the new year. We hope you find a job and maybe even get back to visit your parents in New Orleans a little bit here and there.

ISAAC: Right. Right. That's what I'm looking forward to. KAYE: All right, Carlanda Isaac, thanks so much.

Good to see you again.

ISAAC: Thank you.

KAYE: Best of luck.

Hundreds of children were displaced because of hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, more than 500 cases are still unresolved. Coming up in the next hour, we'll talk with a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to find out what it is doing to resolve these cases.

HARRIS: And, Randi, Katrina wasn't the only powerful storm to change lives over this past year. Later, we will look at how victims of the Asian tsunami are trying to rebuild their lives one year later.

And next, we'll get a check of the Christmas Eve forecast across the nation.

We'll be right back.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: An ice jam is causing concern in Idaho. Packed ice has clogged up a river, forcing waters to rise. Some residents in Horseshoe Bend have already been flooded. Officials are watching the situation closely. They say there could be an evacuation if it gets any worse.

HARRIS: OK, now, I'm confused. Bonnie Schneider, is that because of a freeze, a quick thaw?

(WEATHER REPORT)

HARRIS: Now a look at some other stories making news across America right now.

A prayer vigil in Indianapolis for James Dungy, son of the Colts' head coach, Tony Dungy. James Dungy was found dead in his Tampa, Florida apartment Thursday. Autopsy results are pending, but authorities believe he committed suicide. A Florida newspaper reports that Dungy tried to overdose on painkillers in October.

A wayward diamond ring is back with its rightful owner. The ring ended up in a bag of candy. A customer returned the ring to the candy store clerk who lost it. Now a jewelry store will reward the finder with a $2,500 ring of her own.

A thief may have stolen Christmas gifts, but he couldn't steal Christmas. Toys and presents were stolen from a West Philadelphia daycare, but now generous folks have come forward with a mountain of gifts and goodwill for the little boys and girls. Santa Claus may be a state of mind, but he has the willies in Pennsylvania, Willy's Jeep, that is. Santa rides...

KAYE: Look at him go!

HARRIS: Yes.

KAYE: Man!

HARRIS: What is Santa getting to the gallon?

KAYE: I think he's speeding.

HARRIS: Yes. Well, Santa is riding around town in an alternate sleigh, a 1946 Army Jeep, all decked out with six shiny reindeer and Rudolph out front leading the way. That's what Rudolph does.

KAYE: Of course, that Jeep is red, too.

HARRIS: Yes.

KAYE: Well, 20 years later, one of the hijackers who killed a U.S. Navy diver has been released from custody. We'll get reaction from the victim's brothers.

HARRIS: Also ahead, did the Christmas story really take place in Bethlehem? And, if so, which Bethlehem?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Now in the news, a body found off the coast of southeast Florida has been positively identified at the 20th victim of Monday's seaplane crash. The bodies of the 19 other people onboard were retrieved shortly after the plane crashed.

Meanwhile, the husband of the plane's pilot spoke out today. Michelle Marks also perished in the crash when the plane's right wing broke shortly after takeoff.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in Mosul, Iraq, this Christmas Eve talking to U.S. troops about their mission. He also served the troops some lunch, and met with U.S. and Iraqi officials. His visit comes amid more violence. Insurgents killed eight people in Baghdad today.

In New Mexico, Federal officials arrest four people suspected of stealing nearly 500 pounds of military grade explosives. The materials were discovered missing last Sunday at a storage depot. ATF agents say there were enough explosives taken to level a large building. Authorities have now found all of the stolen material.

HARRIS: Navy diver Robert Stethem was murdered by an airplane hijacker 20 years ago. His killer has just been released from a German prison and Stethem's family and the U.S. government are furious. They now want the man brought to justice in the United States. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): June 1985. It was all on television. TWA flight 847 was headed from Athens to Rome when it was seized by terrorists and forced to land at Beirut international airport. The hijackers singled out 23-year-old U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem after seeing his military ID.

He was tied up, beaten beyond recognition, shot in the head, his body then tossed on to the tarmac. Last week, one of the hijackers, Mohammad Ali Hammadi, was released from a German jail after 19 years and allowed to fly to Lebanon. U.S. officials are furious and want Hammadi to face trial now in the U.S.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: I can assure anybody who's listening, including Mr. Hammadi is that we will track him down. We will find him and we will bring him to justice in the United States for what he's done.

STARR: On "The Situation Room" with Wolf Bliltzer, Stethem's brother said they are furious the U.S. government did not move to stop the release of Robert's killer.

KENNETH STETHEM, ROBERT STETHEM'S BROTHER: I'm totally disgusted at the German government and at the United States government for allowing this to have happened and not doing something about it.

STARR: At the highest levels, the Pentagon making it clear, it has not forgotten a young sailor tortured and executed 20 years ago. The chief of naval operations, Admiral Mike Mullen, issued this extraordinary statement saying, Navy sailors including me still regard Robert Dean Stethem as the uncompromising, unflinching hero he was. Stethem's brothers recall Robert's courage and humor in the moments before he died.

PATRICK STETHEM, ROBERT STETHEM'S BROTHER: After one the beatings he suffered on the plane, as a good example, they sat him down next to a 16-year-old Australian girl and she was trying to take care of him the best she could. He saw that she was upset. He started cracking jokes with her to try and get her to ease. But at the same time, he recognized that he was only one of his group that didn't have a wife and kids and he told her if any one of us is to die, it should be me.

STARR: There is no extradition treaty with Lebanon. U.S. officials privately acknowledge they doubt diplomatic pressure will work and they have no expectation that Hammadi will be returned to the U.S. for trial any time soon. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: It has been a year since the tsunami devastated hundreds of thousands of lives in south Asia. What is life like for those who survived?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: Top stories right now, this is what's left of a plane that crash near the Azerbaijan capital of Baku. Police say all 23 people aboard the aircraft were killed. The turbo prop plane disappeared from radar about five minutes after takeoff last night. It's unclear what caused it to crash.

A Canadian man wanted by the U.S. for allegedly supplying al Qaeda with weapons will remain behind bars in Canada. A judge in Toronto says 24-year-old Abdullah Khadar is a flight risk, citing his alleged terrorist connections. Khadar is charged with conspiring to kill Americans abroad and possessing a destructive device.

It was one of the world's worst natural disasters. That massive tsunami in Asia that killed over 200,000 people and it happened nearly one year ago, December 26th, 2004. Indonesia's Aceh province was especially hard-hit that day. In the year that followed recovery efforts moved forward, but as CNN's Atika Shubert discovered, the rebuilding process has been extremely slow going.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aceh is a broken land, more than 130,000 dead, more than 30,000 still missing and half a million homeless. More than $7 billion has been pledged to rebuild its shores one year on as the Indonesian province finally on the road to recovery.

This is Aceh's biggest reconstruction project, rebuilding more than 250 kilometers or about 155 miles of road, washed out to sea by the tsunami. It will become the link between rural areas and markets in the city, but it could take years to complete.

We traveled down here to talk to communities alongside the road and ask them how the reconstruction process is really going. Construction has yet to start. For the moment, the two-lane road is sometimes paved, sometimes not. More than 100 bridges need to be replaced. Building crews struggle to get through in the monsoon season.

Ships deposited inland by the tsunami rust on the roadside. Tent villages are common as homes are cobbled together from tsunami scrap wood. In one such village, we find Zakarias. The tsunami swept away his man's home, his parents, his wife and two young daughters. He calls them his pocket family.

ZAKARIAS, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I only have photos left, he says. I keep them in my pocket and carry them wherever I go.

This has been his home for a year now, sleeping in a bed salvaged from the wood of destroyed homes. He says new houses will be built nearby, but he doesn't know when. If you ask me, I think it's taking far too long, he says. I'd like to say I'll be moving into a new house this month, like they told me, but I'd be lying. I also can't say that they are not building us homes, because they say they are.

There are many houses under construction, just not enough. More than 100,000 are needed, only 0,000 have been built. Fewer than 20 percent of those displaced are in permanent homes. The rest remain in flimsy, temporary shelters. Aid officials say the situation is improving, but more work needs to be done.

ERIC MORRIS, UNITED NATIONS: Maybe a few months ago, the common question from the tsunami survivors is where is my home? That's still a basic question, but now you're getting the same question, what can I do to take care of my family?

SHUBERT: This road was also an economic lifeline for communities here. In this village, more than half were killed, mostly women and children. The husbands and older brothers left behind are eager to work and forget their losses, but the broken road cannot provide jobs anymore.

ZAKARIAS: It takes all afternoon just to get into the city to look for work now, not including the money for transportation, Zakarias says. With a home and some start-up money, I would be just as happy to learn to become a fisherman.

SHUBERT: Even fishermen have newly donated boats, but only rusty, salvaged engines to work with. Life in Aceh seems to consist of living off the scraps the tsunami left behind.

ZAKARIAS: I look for tsunami scrap all day because I can't sit still Zakarias says. I have no family. So I go into the fields, looking for wood to build a house, and try to remember my wife and children.

SHUBERT: For Zakarias, like so many others, the road to recovery is far too long. Atika Shubert, CNN, on Aceh's west coast road.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And be sure to join us for a special "Paula Zahn Now," the tsunami a year later. That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Monday right here on CNN

KAYE: Proving or disproving a claim of innocence from a death row inmate. That's what the state of Virginia may do when it takes a new look at some old DNA evidence. But as CNN's Brian Todd reports, this new inquiry comes years too late for the man convicted of the crime.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An official in Virginia Governor Mark Warner's office confirms to CNN the governor is preparing to sign an order for new DNA tests that could exonerate a man executed in 1992. If these tests are done and do exonerate Roger Coleman, death penalty opponents say it would be the first time an executed convict is scientifically proven innocent since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976.

But officials in the governor's office stressed the evidence could also further implicate Coleman in the crime. Coleman was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy. He maintained his innocence until the very end, claiming he was elsewhere when the crime occurred.

ROGER COLEMAN, EXECUTED IN 1992: I'm innocent. I did not kill Wanda McCoy and I did not rape Wanda McCoy. I will fight proven innocent until I'm either free or dead.

TODD: Officials in the governor's office say the evidence that would be tested is now in the hands of a California doctor who was hired by the defendant. And they're working out final details where one-third more objective party, a forensics lab would do the testing. Governor Warner's aides say he hopes to sign the order for the DNA testing before he leaves office on January 14th. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Well, here's a question. Do we really know which town Jesus was born in? And if not, does it really make much of a difference to the millions of Christians celebrating his birth this weekend?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Rudolph better run, because there is some stormy weather, right, Bonnie? Stormy weather in Rudolph's path?

(WEATHER REPORT)

KAYE: Thanks, Bonnie.

HARRIS: Christmas just one day away now, but thousands of Christians are already celebrating the holiday in the birthplace of Jesus. Pilgrims are gathering in Bethlehem's manger square, near the church of the nativity, which is built over the grotto where it is believed Jesus was born, a belief not all share. CNN's John Vause has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Christians, this is where it all began in the little town of Bethlehem, six miles from Jerusalem. Here, the grand church, the nativity, is built over the grotto where Mary is believed to have given birth to Jesus. A 14- point star on marble mark the place. But could it all have happened someplace else, maybe 100 miles to the north at another town?

AVIRAM OSHRI, ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY: The town of Bethlehem.

VAUSE: Another Bethlehem? Yes. Aviram Oshri, an archeologist with Israel's antiquities authority believes Jesus was born here, same name, different town. The evidence starts with this wall.

OSHRI: This is what I identify as fortification wall. It was surrounding the whole town. VAUSE: The stone wall dates back to the sixth century, rarely built around small towns he says, but could indicate the population, possibly Christians, felt threatened and had to defend what may have been a sacred site. More importantly, Oshri says it's what he found in excavations over the last decade, the remains of a sizable church built around the sixth century, a cross dating from the same period and these old limestone pots used by Jews.

OSHRI: Here we have some implements that were made by Jews from 100 years BC to 100 years AD, meaning the period of time, the era of Jesus, and it signifies only Jews and only that time period.

VAUSE: All of this is significant, he says, because it shows that Jews once lived in this Bethlehem in the Galilee and then later Christians.

OSHRI: That evidence completely left in the other Bethlehem.

VAUSE: According to the biblical story, Joseph and Mary set out from Nazareth to Bethlehem to take part in a census ordered by the Romans. Many have asked, how could a woman nine months pregnant, make such a long journey on a donkey? Is it possible they only reached this Bethlehem in the Galilee, just five miles from Nazareth? The holy land's Latin patriarch Michel Sabah refused to consider what all of this might mean to Christianity.

MICHEL SABAH, LATIN PATRIARCH OF THE HOLY LAND: As long as this is not the reality, it is useless to say, if.

VAUSE: The biblical prophecy in the old testament says the messiah will come from this Bethlehem just outside Jerusalem. And so a few scholars have recently suggested that Matthew and Luke were looking to bolster Jesus' credentials as the messiah and so that's why they wrote in the gospels that he was born here.

Dr. Handan Taha is in charge of antiquities for the Palestinian authority, and that includes Bethlehem. He could show me no archaeological proof that Jesus was born where the church of the nativity now stands.

HANDAN TAHA, PALESTINIAN ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY: You cannot prove it. You cannot disprove it. You can believe it.

VAUSE: Tradition and faith says Jerusalem's Latin patriarch, should be more than enough.

SABAH: Twenty centuries tradition is better than some thinking of some news for us today.

VAUSE: And Christians the world over, Christmas will be once again a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, wherever that may have been. John Vause, CNN, Bethlehem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: Ahead in the next hour of CNN SATURDAY, I'll have an update on the search for children who are still missing in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

HARRIS: See you next hour, Merry Christmas.

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