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PAULA ZAHN NOW

AWOL in Canada; British Authorities Investigate Death of Former Russian Spy; Turkey Prepares For Pope Benedict XVI's Visit

Aired November 27, 2006 - 20:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks very much for joining us. Good evening, everyone. Paula is on assignment.
There is important news coming into CNN all the time. This evening, we are choosing these top stories for a more in-depth look.

The "Top Story" in the war -- 1,348 days the U.S. military has now been in Iraq, one day longer than it was in World War II. We're going to in-depth on the search for a way out.

Our top international story -- the case of the poisoned spy and the search for who gave a top critic of the Russian government a fatal dose of a rare and deadly radioactive element.

And the "Top Story" in crime: groom to kill. Is a flaw in police training behind the barrage of more than 50 shots that killed an unarmed man on his wedding day?

Tonight's "Top Story" is the Iraq war. Amid the deepening spiral of violence, there are new hints about a possible way out. The Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker, is finalizing its plan for an exit strategy. And parts of that plan are leaking tonight.

Here's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the Iraq Study Group, coming up with a winning strategy is a chicken-or-egg proposition. Which comes first? Is more stability needed to allow for fewer U.S. troops, or would fewer U.S. troops force Iraq to create more stability?

GEORGE MITCHELL, FORMER MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR: Every course of action has a high degree of risk, and is not guaranteed to succeed. But I think that there has to be a process that will force the Iraqis to make the difficult decisions they have so far refrained from making.

MCINTYRE: The problem is, U.S. commanders, including top commander, General John Abizaid, have already rejected the idea of either adding a lot more American troops or any precipitous pullout. So, any radical shift in strategy risks running roughshod over the best advice of the U.S. military. LT. GEN. DANIEL CHRISTMAN (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I think we're setting up an incredible clash between the senior uniformed military and our civilian community.

MCINTYRE: To avoid that, many observers believe the study group will advocate a gradual pullout,not linked to any firm timetable, along with increased training for Iraqi forces. A draft proposal now being debated by the Iraq Study Group reportedly frames the argument around the wisdom of a phased withdrawal, as well as engaging Iran and Syria in direct talks.

That option is also favored by America's closest ally, Great Britain, which is anxiously eying the door.

DES BROWNE, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: I can tell you that, by the end of next year, I expect numbers of British forces in Iraq to be significantly lower, by a matter of thousands.

MCINTYRE: Like the U.S., Britain won't say how many troops will be withdrawn, but insists they would leave if conditions are right.

Still, the coalition is slowly shrinking. Poland is withdrawing its 1,000 troops next year. Italy's 1,400 will be out this year. And Ukraine, the Netherlands and Spain have already left. That will leave a total of 13,000 troops from 26 other countries, down from more than 20,000 a year ago. And most of those remaining countries have only small contingents of several hundred troops in relatively safe parts of Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: (AUDIO GAP) from the Pentagon.

And, Jamie, all these strategic leaks from the Iraq Study Group, all of this speculation, when are we going to actually hear from them about what they're thinking?

MCINTYRE: Well, according to sources pretty close to the group, they -- they would like to present their results to Congress next. And they're planning to do this before this Congress takes off for its holiday recess.

So, that means probably the first week of December. And that really doesn't give them much time to firm up these proposals, considering that, at this point, there doesn't seem to be a clear consensus on what they think is the way ahead.

ROBERTS: Yes. There was speculation that they might have done it on December the 7th. But I have got it from a pretty good inside source that they are not going to release that report on the Pearl Harbor anniversary.

Jamie, stay with us, because we want to come back to you in just a moment.

But, first, let's move on to Baghdad. Tonight, the Bush administration is acknowledging that the violence in Iraq has entered a new phase, as they say. But National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley won't use the words civil war.

CNN's Michael Ware joins us now from Baghdad.

And, Michael, is it really just a game of semantics here? The White House won't use the word civil war. Some American news organizations, including "The Los Angeles Times," are beginning to use it.

Does it really make any difference as to what it is on the ground?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think anyone here really cares what it is called. They know what it is. They have to live it day in, day out.

And, to them, it is civil war. You talk to Iraqi commanders, they think they're in civil war. You talk to the Mahdi army commanders, they think they're in civil war.

You talk to the families that are too scared to leave their homes, that can't send their kids to school, for fear of crossing sectarian lines, where teachers probably won't show up anyway, whose neighborhoods have fighting positions dug in, who, each night, the father has to join with others to fend off death squads in police uniforms, institutionalized hit teams, where you have parliament restricting access to the media, because what is being said could be considered to be inflammatory, you have got Sunni patients being pulled out of Shia-run hospitals and never seen again, to them, this is civil war.

And, by any academic's definition, this is civil war, organized conflict by two elements within a country to pursue the political center, with elements of ethnic cleansing, militia combat, family against family, neighbor against neighbor, with a degree of organization and coordination.

John, you can tick all of those boxes. So, whether the White House calls it civil war or not, the fact on the ground is, if this is not civil war, we don't want to see one when it comes.

ROBERTS: Michael, Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, said that the politicians have the power within them to stop this violence. Is there any suggestion that the politicians have any interest in squelch -- in squelching the violence at this point?

WARE: Well, it is really not up to the politicians, per se.

I mean, let's look at this government of Nouri al-Maliki to begin with. To what degree does it really exist, behind his prime ministerial office and the office of the national security adviser? Beyond that, this administration is merely an amalgam, or an alignment, of various Shia and Kurdish militias.

Now, for the Shia militias, there's absolutely no interest whatsoever in relenting right now. And al Qaeda and the Sunni extremists are gaining more and more foot soldiers as a result of these front lines being created along the sectarian divide. So, no. Who is going to listen to these people?

ROBERTS: Some people have suggested that this is a countrywide version of what Chicago was like in the 1930s. It's almost gangland there.

Jamie McIntyre, 3,700 Iraqis died last month, according to the United Nations. Is that a suggestion that, despite their best efforts to get between these two sides, that the fighting is so intense, that the American military really is powerless to stop these killings?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, I guess there's a -- there's a level of military force that you could apply, you know, equivalent to sort of martial law, that could restore order.

But, you know, the real problem is here, is, there really isn't much debate among experts that this really is a civil war. To the extent people want to argue whether it is a low-level civil war, a full-blown civil war, it could be even a worse civil war, that's -- that's true.

The problem is that, once you label this a civil war, then, you have to admit that the strategy that the United States and the Iraqi government is employing is not the right strategy to end a civil war. So, they insist on not calling it a civil war.

ROBERTS: Yes. They -- they keep calling it a counterinsurgency.

But, Michael Ware, as long as these two sides continue to go at each other, they're going to be causing pain and suffering for normal Iraqis. Is there still a sense -- you mentioned family-on-family violence there, neighbor against neighbor. But is there still a sense that the majority of ordinary Iraqis just want to live their lives in peace; they want to see this all go away?

WARE: Without a shadow of a doubt.

The ordinary Iraqi civilian just wants to return to some essence of normal life, to have a job, and to be able to drive to it and come home at night safely, to be able to send the kids to school, and know that they will come home, for the -- for the -- the shopper in the family to be able to go to the market without having fear of it being wrenched apart, to sleep in your bed at night without fear of men in government uniforms with government I.D. bursting in the door, dragging you away from your family, and having them never see you again. That is what they want.

ROBERTS: And -- and what I got from some families who -- who wouldn't be the target of these reprisal killings, but are still worried, they say, the thing that they worry most about are the mortars, the mortars that get flung into their neighborhoods on a nightly basis.

Jamie McIntyre, if the Iraq Study Group comes out with its recommendations in the next week or two, how long could it take for those to filter through the system, until they finally get implemented on the ground in Iraq?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, it really depends on whether they come out with a major change in strategy or whether they're tinker with the strategy that is in place ave now.

And, of course, one of the problem is, if you radically change the strategy -- for instance, if you put all the emphasis on coming up with some sort of a -- a power-sharing or peace agreement, and then try to enforce that, as opposed to continuing to build up the Iraqi army, one side against the other, the problem is, if it is too big a change, you're really sort of repudiating the military judgment of some of the generals who are in charge, who have basically said: We think we're following the right strategy.

So, in a way, because there's civilian control of the military, what you would really have to do is -- is maybe fire or replace some of the top generals with somebody who agrees with the new strategy, because, right now, you have got General Abizaid, General Casey arguing that, basically, what they're doing now is the right thing.

So, it is hard to see how you -- you have a major change, and then you just ram that down the throat of the commanders, who, at this point, are saying they don't think it is the right thing to do.

ROBERTS: Going to be interesting to find out if this is actually going to have an impact or it will be one of those studies that just ends up on the shelf.

Jamie McIntyre, Michael Ware, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

A growing number of U.S. troops will do anything to avoid a tour of duty in Iraq. The ones who go AWOL are part of tonight's "Top Story" coverage. But running away to Canada isn't what it was during the Vietnam War -- coming up, what has changed.

Later: a "Top Story" whodunit that reads like it came right out of the pages of a Cold War spy novel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We have another "Top Story" involving the war in Iraq tonight. It exposes the secretive world of American military deserters.

Hundreds of Americans have gone AWOL, desperate to avoid service in Iraq, or, in some cases, to avoid being sent back for a second tour of duty. And, just as some Americans did during another unpopular war, they head north, to Canada.

Thelma Gutierrez followed the trail of three young deserters on the run from the U.S. military.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vancouver, British Columbia. Somewhere in this city of two million people, American servicemen live in the shadows, soldiers on the run from a war they won't fight and the United States, which they swore to protect.

A world away, in a dark Vancouver basement, Sara Byorknis (ph), a librarian, reaches out across cyberspace to young soldiers seeking refuge in Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They Googled AWOL, and our contact information came up.

GUTIERREZ: Private Smith from Texas, Specialist Michael Hansen (ph) from Minnesota, and PFC Alonzo Lewis (ph) from Florida. These three young deserters are typical of the hundreds who have made their way to Canada, aided by a network of lawyers, college instructors, even Vietnam-era defector, who gave them advice as they left the United States, and are now helping them to try and stay in Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our newest arrival.

GUTIERREZ: This is Private Smith. He asked us not to reveal his real name, because he fled an elite Army unit and entered Canada illegally, on foot, carrying a backpack and a phone number for the war resistance movement tucked into his sock.

(on camera): Was it tough to make that decision?

PRIVATE SMITH, U.S. ARMY DESERTER: Well, the decision was made overnight.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Overnight, because, at 19, Private Smith, a medic, was facing his second tour of duty in Iraq.

SMITH: I have seen what a bullet can do to a man. I have seen what a bomb can do to a person. I remember talking to my mom on the phone. And I said: "Mama, I -- I -- I can't do this anymore. I can't fight anymore. I can't go to that war again."

GUTIERREZ: It was a decision that would cost him dearly. Once across the border, Private Smith called the Canadian war resisters from a pay phone. A voice at the other end of the line sent him to Elsie (ph) and Karen Dean, who have given him a place to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a piece of every mother that wants to believe, if her son made this decision, there would be another woman someplace in the world who would take them in.

GUTIERREZ: Michael Hansen (ph), once a radio operator in Iraq, is now an American refugee in Canada. The hardest thing is the loneliness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are times when I miss my family. It is tough, knowing that there's a chance that I might not be able to go home. GUTIERREZ: Alonzo Lewis (ph) knows that isolation. He comes from a military family in the South. He hasn't talked to his parents since he left. Lewis (ph) cannot legally work in Canada, so he has to rely on Valerie (ph) and Yevon Raul (ph) to feed and shelter him. It is a fragile existence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people are afraid that some -- maybe the government will come and -- come to Canada, get them, and take them back.

GUTIERREZ: Even though there may be U.S. warrants out for their arrest, Canadians can legally harbor American deserters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking about a process of caring, one person at a time, and trying to help and save one person at a time.

GUTIERREZ: Activists are also trying to change Canada's immigration laws.

BILL SIKSAY, CANADIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: The folks who are coming here now, the resistors who are coming here now, face a very difficult situation, in terms of gaining legal status.

GUTIERREZ: Deserters must claim they're political refugees from the United States. And no deserter from the war in Iraq has been granted that status so far.

(on camera): Organizers with the war resistance movement here in Canada say, 30 Americans have already applied for refugee status to remain here in this country. And no one knows for sure just how many more are living underground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to keep you guys safe.

GUTIERREZ: Activists Robert Ages and Valerie Lannon (ph) estimate, several hundred deserters are living in Canada illegally, people they say they feel bound to help.

(on camera): You don't think you're doing anything wrong?

ROBERT AGES, CANADIAN CITIZEN: I think we're doing the most moral thing anyone could do.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Private Smith says leaving the military was the most courageous thing he has done in his life.

SMITH: I have had to face adversity. I have had to face public opinion. I have had to face disownment from my father. He told me I was dead to him.

GUTIERREZ: What hurts the most, he's no longer allowed to see his little brother.

SMITH: I have lost pretty much like half of my family. They won't speak to me anymore. And I could care less what anybody thinks. I know what I'm doing is right here. GUTIERREZ: They say they joined the military as teenagers, and left as men, walking away from everything they had ever known and ever loved.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Vancouver.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And one more thing: More than 200 AWOL Americans are believed to be living in Canada. And at least 25 have applied for refugee status.

There are a pair of top stories in crime tonight, and they're very different -- next, the strange case of the former spy who was killed by a rare and deadly form of radioactive poison. So, who were his enemies?

Later, from New York City, why a bachelor party ended in a hail of police bullets aimed at unarmed men.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Tonight, our "Top Story" in the world of international crime takes us to London. And it could have come straight out of the latest "James Bond" movie.

British officials are appealing for calm after finding more evidence of a radioactive trail left by a former Russian spy who died a gruesome death by atomic poisoning.

Paula Newton has more now on the final excruciating days of a man apparently targeted for death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He went from an athletic 43-year-old to an emaciated skeleton in just three weeks, Alexander Litvinenko, former Russian spy, exiled in Britain, fierce critic of the Russian government.

The mystery started on November, when Litvinenko went to the Millennium Hotel to meet a fellow ex-spy to go over evidence Litvinenko believed, all put together, tied the Kremlin to the 1999 apartment bombings that killed hundreds in Russian, coordinated terror attacks that the government blamed on the Chechen rebels.

And then there was the most recent murder of a prominent Russian journalist, and, maybe most crucially, the alleged dirty money being siphoned from Russia's oil industry by government officials.

(on camera): Litvinenko told friends he thought it was a strange meeting, but really didn't give it any more thought. He was already late for an appointment at a Japanese restaurant, where he was meeting an Italian spy catcher for lunch.

(voice-over): At the Itsu sushi bar, Mario Scaramella desperately tried to warn Litvinenko that his name was on a hit list being circulated by a top Russian mob ring. Litvinenko told his friend it just couldn't be true. He couldn't figure out why the Russian mafia would be after him.

But, within hours, Litvinenko fell violently ill. At the time, they didn't know the culprit was polonium, one of the rarest radioactive elements on Earth.

DR. ANDREA SELLA, CHEMIST: It's highly radioactive, so you really don't need very much, and spiking somebody's drink or adding it to somebody's food, and that would probably be sufficient, if you got the dose exactly right, to cause an extremely painful, lingering death.

NEWTON: After days of trying to figure out the problem, Litvinenko was finally checked into this London hospital, gravely ill, still conscious, and not having a clue about what was wrong with him.

The doctors ran through countless possibilities.

(on camera): But, no matter the tests they ran here or the cures they tried, it was already too late for Litvinenko. His organs were shutting down, his body surrendering to the poison, but not his mind. To his last breath, he fingered the Kremlin for his murder.

(voice-over): Litvinenko insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered him killed to silence him. And he named a Russian special agent, Viktor Kirov, as the man who poisoned him.

Scotland Yard is investigating all this. They have already found that Litvinenko's North London home is contaminated with polonium. So are the Millennium Hotel, buildings close to it, and the Japanese restaurant.

Now three people are being observed for radiation poisoning. Hundreds more have called health authorities, worried about exposure.

Polonium no longer just a murder weapon. The fear on the streets of London shows, it can also be a weapon of terror.

Litvinenko's friends say that's why everyone should worry about this case.

ALEX GOLDFARB, FRIEND OF ALEXANDER LITVINENKO: Russia is drifting, over the past six years, to a state when it will become a menace to the rest of the world. And this affair is a symptom of it.

NEWTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin denies his government is involved. But, for people here and around the world, this mystery is proving to be as gripping as any fictional thriller.

Paula Newton, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: And there's this. There still has not been a decision to do an autopsy on Litvinenko's body, probably because of fears of radiation exposure.

Let's find out more about polonium 210 poisoning.

For that, we call on CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, in addition to Litvinenko's residence, the hotel, the sushi bar being contaminated, health officials in England apparently are looking at three people who claim that they are -- are symptomatic, potentially of polonium 210 poisoning.

What would those symptoms indicate? How does this particular compound kill?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a very -- a very fatal substance.

Very small amounts can kill, because it releases so much radiation, high-energy radiation. To give you a sense of reference, it is about 250 million times as toxic as cyanide, something that people have heard of.

Let me show you quickly how this would happen. It would have to be ingested or inhaled. If it was actually ingested, it would go into the stomach. Subsequently, you can see, it actually -- if it was ingested there, get down into the stomach, subsequently, into the small intestines, where it would be absorbed across the lining there.

And, then, it would get into the liver. And this could all happen very quickly, John. Once would get into the liver, some of that will be deposited there. Subsequently, it will get into the bloodstream, where it can really wreak havoc. It can get into the bone marrow. It can get into several other organs. And this process can take place very quickly.

And it just releases mega-doses of radiation very, very close to the tissues. And that's subsequently what happens.

The symptoms you asked about specifically, they can be all sorts of different symptoms, sometimes a little bit vague, but, specifically, nausea, abdominal pain, extreme headaches, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and hair loss.

And, if you look at the pictures, John, which I know you have, and you will sort of compare them side by side, you can see what happened to him over this period of time. He had weight loss. He had the hair loss, all those things, became this emaciated man, again, in a very short period of time.

ROBERTS: Yes, cancer patient in a matter of days, outside a couple of weeks.

You said that the key here, Sanjay, is to either ingest the poison or to inhale it. So, what -- what -- what -- what is the potential for somebody to be poisoned by this just by simply being in contact with Litvinenko? And is it a real, genuine fear among people who would conduct the autopsy, that they could be contaminated simply by doing that postmortem?

GUPTA: Very low likelihood, based on what you just said.

This is considered a high-energy, low-penetration substance. What -- what that basically means is, it would have a hard time actually even crossing your skin. It would have -- you would have to, you know, inhale it or ingest it in some way. And, then, it would get into your tissues.

So, it would be unlikely someone who came in contact with somebody who had been poisoned or a health care actually worker working with him could actually be contaminated that way. Of the hundreds of people who have come forward, about 18 people were referred to the Health Protection Agency. Three are going to get urine tests, but, again, very unlikely it's actually to show anything -- John.

ROBERTS: Nasty way to go.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Let's bring in a "Top Story" panel now for more on this incredible case.

Konstantin Preobrazhensky was a friend of Alexander Litvinenko and a lieutenant colonel himself in the old Soviet intelligence agency the KGB. And Mark Brzezinski is a former member of the National Security Council under President Clinton.

Konstantin Preobrazhensky, let's start with you.

Authorities in Britain still aren't sure whether or not your friend Litvinenko was murdered or whether it was some other form of death, because of polonium 210.

Is -- is there any doubt in your mind that he was murdered? And, if there isn't, why?

KONSTANTIN PREOBRAZHENSKY, FRIEND OF ALEXANDER LITVINENKO: Well, I have no hesitation to say that he was murdered by Putin, who considered him to be his personal enemy.

Putin is a very vulnerable to the criticism against himself. He has sort of an inferiority complex. And Litvinenko knew very much about Putin, about his drawbacks, about his connections with some political forces which are not disclosed, even now, because Litvinenko knew Putin personally. And Putin was the person who dismissed Litvinenko from FSB.

The question is, how and why could Putin afford organizing -- or ordering such a murder nowadays?

ROBERTS: All right.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Well -- well, let's go to Mark Brzezinski and ask more about that question.

Mark, because these, or at least some of these atomic substances, can be traced, because some of them have a fingerprint, is it possible that this could be traced back to its origin?

MARK BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: It is possible, John.

But let's be clear. We don't know all the facts yet. And we don't know for sure if the Kremlin was behind this. But what this event has done is cast a light on what has been happening from the Kremlin over the last couple of years, which is a real regression of liberties, rights and democracy within the borders of Russia, and then also extending beyond the borders to the former Soviet bloc.

There was assassinations conducted in Qatar two years ago. There was the strange poisoning of the Ukrainian president. And this event allows us to -- again to consider what has been happening there.

ROBERTS: Right.

Do -- do -- do you suspect that this is just a -- a -- a one-off kind of thing, or a very isolated type of incident? Or -- or could this be, as has been suggested, a leading edge of a new form of terror?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, it could be, John. But, again, we don't know the facts.

But what the Kremlin has been doing has been, in certain ways, manipulating elections and developments within the former Soviet bloc, through engagement in elections, through intimidation and the like.

And, so, whether or not this is connected to the Kremlin, there have been other activities should -- that should give us real pause about Putin.

ROBERTS: Right.

And, Konstantin Preobrazhensky, you have suggested that your friend had no shortage of enemies?

PREOBRAZHENSKY: Yes, his only enemy was Putin, as far as I know. He couldn't have some other enemies. His case was very clear, like the case of Anna Politkovskaya...

ROBERTS: Right.

PREOBRAZHENSKY: ... world-known journalist who has been murdered recently.

ROBERTS: Whose -- whose -- whose death it was that...

PREOBRAZHENSKY: Yes.

ROBERTS: ... Litvinenko was actually investigating.

Konstantin...

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Yes.

Konstantin Preobrazhensky, Mark Brzezinski, thanks for being with us.

BRZEZINSKI: Thanks for having me.

ROBERTS: An amazing story, like right out of a John Le Carre spy novel.

Another story in crime is under investigation here in New York tonight -- coming up, why police fired more than 50 shots at an unarmed man who was leaving his own bachelor party.

Later: the "Top Story" in religion -- Anderson Cooper joins us from Turkey, where Muslims await a controversial visit from the pope.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We have another "Top Story" in crime tonight: an explosive shooting that is shaking the largest police department in the country. It erupted in the early-morning hours this weekend. A young black man was the target of a hail of New York City police gunfire just hours before his wedding.

Deborah Feyerick has the very latest now on this tragic case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It happened in less than a minute, 50 shots fired by five cops at three unarmed men wrapping up a bachelor party, leaving the groom dead on his wedding day, the bride devastated...

NICOLE PAULTRE, FIANCE OF MAN KILLED BY POLICE: They -- they don't know what they have done, what they have done, what -- what pain they have caused to this family, to my kids.

FEYERICK: .... and the city searching for answers.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: It is, to me, unacceptable or inexplicable, how you can have 50-odd shots fired.

FEYERICK: Sean Bell and two friends left Club Kalua at 4:00 Saturday morning. Undercover cops investigating guns and teen prostitution had been watching the club for months. Police say, when Bell and his party got into an argument with another group, Bell's friend threatened to get a gun. They had just gotten into their car, when the undercover cop pulled his weapon to stop them. BLOOMBERG: When they tried to detain three or possibly four people in a car, the car rammed -- hit a police officer and rammed the car twice.

FEYERICK: It's unclear when all the shooting started, whether it was before or after the officer and unarmed police van were hit. But, of the 50 shots fired, 31 were by a single officer.

BLOOMBERG: It sounds to me like excessive force was used.

FEYERICK: Also unclear, whether the undercover cop, dressed in street gear, identified himself as a police officer when he pulled his .9-millimeter semiautomatic. The relative of one victim shot three times says the men in the car thought they were under attack.

SHAMEL O'NEAL, COUSIN OF WOUNDED MAN: They feared for their lives. They didn't know that they was cops.

FEYERICK: No gun was found. And the shell casings at the scene all matched the officers' weapons.

So, why, then, did five officers who never before fired their weapons on duty all start shooting? One theory, a phenomenon some experts call Contagious shooting, in one officer opens fires, and it quickly spreads among fellow officers.

EDWARD MAMET, FORMER NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT CAPTAIN: It has to do usually, when a person feels threatens and shoots, and the people around them feel threatened as well, and, in defense of that person, whether it's a police officer or a soldier, will fire also. It is -- it's sort of like a Pavlovian response. It is automatic. It's not intentional.

FEYERICK: New York City's police commissioner, Ray Kelly, today admitted, contagious shooting does happen, which is why officers are trained to fire three times, stop, and assess the situation.

RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: It is a phenomena that does happen in policing. There's no question about it. And we try to guard against it with training actually on the range.

FEYERICK: Still, it happens. The last time in New York City was in 1999, when cops shot unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo 41 times. Unlike this latest shooting, the cops in that case were all white. This time, they were mixed, two blacks, two Latinos, one white.

AL SHARPTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will fight for all the cops, black, Latino, and white. Whoever is guilty ought to pay for this crime.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: The five police officers involved in this shooting have had to hand over their guns and are now on administrative leave. Let's ask our "Top Story" panel about this and the theory of contagious shooting. "New York Daily News" columnist Michael Daly is with us, along with Paul Callan, a former New York City prosecutor who has also been a deputy chief of homicide, and former NYPD Detective Bo Dietl.

Let's start with you, first of all, Michael. You had a great story about this in "The Daily News" today. Was there any legitimate reason, as far as what you have discovered from talking to sources and other people, as to why -- as to the fact that these officers would have thought that they were in mortal danger?

MICHAEL DALY, "THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well, they clearly did, or they wouldn't have started firing.

I mean, I think they -- they followed these guys down the block with the belief that they were going to the car to get a gun. That's the premise. It turned out there was no gun. But, at some point, they must have decided there was a gun and that they were in danger, or they wouldn't have started firing.

ROBERTS: Right.

All right. So, they believed that they were in danger -- the response, 50 bullets fired into -- into the car, 31 of them by one officer alone, who happened to be the sole Caucasian officer.

Is there any way, Paul Callan, to justify that level of force in response to that perceived threat?

PAUL CALLAN, FORMER NEW YORK CITY PROSECUTOR: It is really hard to justify it on this fact pattern, particularly the -- the -- the officer who fired more than 30 shots.

The occupants of the vehicle were unarmed. And, you know, this argument that the cops thought they were in a situation where the other guys were armed, that's pretty much always the situation police officers are facing on the street. They have to be responsible in their use of deadly physical force.

And I think a grand jury, when looking at this, is going to look at the number of shots fired, 50 shots here at an unarmed civilians. I don't know that there's going to be an indictment. But I got to say, on the face of it, it looks like a bad case for the police.

ROBERTS: Bo Dietl, come at it from the -- from the policeman's point of view.

After the Amadou Diallo incident, in which he was shot at 41 times, 19 of those bullets hitting him...

BO DIETL, CHAIRMAN & CEO, BEAU DIETL AND ASSOCIATES: Right.

ROBERTS: ... there was -- there was -- there was more re- training that was done in the police force. They were taught, fire a few shots. Then look at the result. How does this hail of bullets erupt?

DIETL: Well, you know, we dissected that whole Amadou Diallo case, and actually put a lot of money behind doing a whole reenactment of it.

And it showed how fast these 41 bullets -- the thing that was said by the cops was, when they yelled "gun," all bets were off. When one cop falls down, they think he's hit. You have seen flashes. You don't know where the bullets are coming from. Once the shooting starts, people are trying to stop it.

You know, everyone can judge things. It was 3:00, 3:30 in the morning. We have got two detectives from Flatbush Avenue that didn't fire fast enough that got shot in the head a few months ago, and we buried them. And the whole fact of this thing was, the undercover, they thought, at that time -- what they thought.

This is not murder. This has to be investigated and see what was in those people's heads, what were in those officers' heads when they were shooting that gun. When those flashes happen -- and, again, the sound -- you don't know where the bullets are coming from.

Those bullets could be coming from the outside of the car. You're going to shoot until it stops. Otherwise, you are going to get hit with a bullet.

We had this NFL star in Afghanistan was hit by friendly fire. When they asked some of the other soldiers, why did you fire, because they were firing, and the same thing.

This is similar of what happens.

(CROSSTALK)

CALLAN: But these guys -- John, these guys are unarmed. There's no...

DIETL: But we didn't know that.

(CROSSTALK)

CALLAN: Well, we didn't know that.

This is an undercover team. The purpose of an undercover team, they're supposed to look like bad guys, OK? So, you have these civilians who think they are bad guys. And, yet, the police then open fire on the civilians.

Undercover cops have an obligation to be extra careful in situations like this, because the public is going to think they're bad guys.

(CROSSTALK)

DALY: One of the wounded guys in the hospital told the police that they thought that they were dealing with bad guys. He didn't even know he had been shot by the police.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Very quickly, Michael, because we're almost out of time here, do you expect indictments in this case?

DALY: I would say the guy that fired those 31 shots is -- you know, better start shopping for a lawyer.

DIETL: And that's something -- that's something even -- if you reload, now we're getting a little over to that side of it.

But the initial shooting, it happens in a fraction of a second. I can guarantee you, four cops can unload 45 bullets to 50 bullets in a matter of five seconds.

ROBERTS: Yes, I have seen it -- I have seen it happen on the range. It's very quickly.

Gentlemen, we have to go, but a lot of fodder for the discussion in -- in the future.

Michael Daly, Paul Callan, Bo Dietl, thanks very much.

Tonight, we're on the eve of one of this year's top stories in religion. Next, from Turkey, my colleague Anderson Cooper sets the stage for Pope Benedict XVI's controversial visit.

And, later, the Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks out in our "Top Story" in entertainment, one that has exposed a raw nerve in U.S. race relations, Michael Richards' racist rant on stage.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Our "Top Story" in entertainment tonight: The fallout continues from comic Michael Richards' racist rant. And now there are calls for change.

Just hours ago, at The Laugh Factory, the management invited Richards to return to apologize in person. Just over a week ago, he ripped into a group of people at the club. And his repeated use of the N-word exploded off the stage and across the country. That word is now barred at the comedy club.

And a new campaign has started to just say no to that word everywhere, on stage and in music.

Michael Richards, Kramer on "Seinfeld," hopes that the healing can now begin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL RICHARDS, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: The African-American community has -- I mean, the leadership has -- has opened up the healing. And, for that, I'm grateful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: That was Richards yesterday, after appearing on the Reverend Jesse Jackson's radio show.

And the Reverend Jackson joins us now.

Reverend, what did you think of what Michael Richards said to you yesterday on your -- on your radio show? Was he sincere? Did you buy his apology? Does he really want to change?

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: You know, people will have to assess the depth of his apology to correspond with the depth of the -- the -- the profanity. And the continued use of the N-word, and the idea of being -- of hanging from a tree is very deep.

But, when you acknowledge a problem, admit you have your own internal unresolved conflicts, and then you're contrite, then, it is a -- the time -- it takes time for people to determine whether or not you are -- regain their trust, or you earn their trust.

ROBERTS: The Laugh Factory, as we mentioned, has now banned all of its performers from using that word. And the NAACP went a step forward -- further than that.

Let's listen to what Willis Edwards of the NAACP had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIS EDWARDS, NAACP: ... hope this goes bigger than Kramer himself. This is bigger than he is. It's about the use of the N-word in the public place, in the private place. We're asking everybody to say no to it, ask that you teach your children to say no to the N- word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: Reverend Jackson, so, it's -- it has been long held by people in the white community that that's a word that you can't touch.

But, among people in the hip-hop community, in the African- American community, it became a certain sort of slang. There was also another variation of the word that ended in A, as opposed to E-R, which was seen as more friendly among the groups of people who were using it.

So, does the black community, to some degree, bear responsibility for the prevalence of this word in today's society?

JACKSON: Well, those who have used it and profited from it do bear some responsibility.

And, yet, we want to make the position clear, you cannot sanitize a term so derogatory. This is hate speech. And we're asking everybody, all artists, to just stop.

Where this thing falls out, John, in the real world is that, kids in school, a white kid calls a black kid the N-word, and there's a fight. Somebody gets kicked out of school. It is ugly. And there is no redemptive value in it. And I hope that one thing that will come out of this whole episode would be the banning, voluntarily, of this word and that stations will not carry it.

But, even for Christmas, people are saying that they do not want Seinfeld and Kramer in their house for Christmas.

ROBERTS: And it's interesting, Reverend Jackson, to look at the dynamic here as well -- Michael Richards looking for redemption, leaders in the African-American community looking for a point to spark discussion.

Thanks very much. Appreciate your time.

JACKSON: Thank you.

And let's take a "Biz Break" now.

Wall Street had its worst day in months. Stocks slumped, hit by higher oil prices and a falling dollar. The Dow took a triple-digit drop, down 158 points. The Nasdaq plunged 54 points. And the S&P slid 19.

But the shopping continues on Main Street and on the Internet, with today dubbed Cyber Monday for shoppers who would rather surf the Web than struggle with mall travel. Wal-Mart says online sales are up 60 percent this year.

And the great apple feud may be over. "Fortune" magazine reports that Apple Computer is close to a deal to finally bring the Beatles' music online for the iPod. Beatles music is handled by Apple Core. The two companies, Apple and Apple Core, have been fighting over the Apple trademarks for decades.

When we come back, tonight's "Top Story" in religion, when faiths collide -- Pope Benedict XVI prepares to visit Turkey, where many Muslims are still seething about something he said earlier this year.

And, at the top of the hour, on "LARRY KING LIVE," former President Jimmy Carter talks about the Iraq war and the Democratic takeover of Congress.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Our "Top Story" tonight in religion: Over the centuries, Turkey has been a battleground for believers.

And, tomorrow, Pope Benedict XVI goes there for his first visit to a Muslim country. He won't be entirely welcome either. Small protests broke out today in Ankara and Istanbul. And security will be tighter than it was for President Bush's visit there in 2004.

Istanbul has long been a bridge between East and West, between Islam and Christianity, and also a place where faiths collide.

CNN's Anderson Cooper is covering the pope this week, and joins me now from Istanbul.

Anderson, what have you seen so far there in Istanbul that gives evidence to this collision of faith?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, John, they're certainly getting security ready.

There are going to be some 22,000 Turkish police on the streets. We saw today large numbers of Turkish police massing, practicing for -- for the pope's eventual arrival. He is due here in several hours, in Ankara. He's going to meet with the Turkish prime minister briefly, about 20 minutes at the airport, then spend some time with other Turkish leaders in Ankara, then coming up here to meet with Christian leaders in -- in Istanbul.

As you know, there was this demonstration on Sunday. About 10,000 people showed up. The pictures looked very impressive, in terms of the number of people. It was actually a disappointment for the people who had organized the march, an Islamist party here in Istanbul. They had hoped for as many as 100,000 or more people to pour in the streets. They didn't get anyway close to that number.

A lot of people here are just kind of waiting to see what the pope will talk about when he does actually come. Will he repeat the comments that he made several weeks ago about the role of reason and -- and -- and faith in Islam, about the role of violence, as well, or will he strike a more conciliatory tone? There are going to be an awful lot of people here in Turkey just waiting to hear, John, what the pope has to say.

ROBERTS: Anderson, you had the opportunity to talk with a hard- line Islamist there, a supporter of Osama bin Laden. What did he have to say?

COOPER: Well, he -- I mean, there's a very small number of extremists here in Turkey.

As you know, it is a secular country. It prides itself on -- on -- on a moderate form of Islam. There are this -- this hard core, though, of extremists. This lawyer I talked to basically said that the pope is colluding with Israel, in support of the Turkish government.

He obviously believes that the pope is here to -- to spread Christianity as part of a war on Islam. But that's really a minority view here. There has been very low levels of violence here, some -- some suicide bombings back in 2003. But, for the most part, things here are -- are very peaceful, as people just await the pope's arrival -- John.

ROBERTS: All right, Anderson, we will hear more from you very soon. Anderson Cooper has got more tonight from Istanbul, with firsthand coverage of the controversial visit of the pope to Turkey. That's at 10:00 Eastern on "360."

And stay with CNN tomorrow for special coverage of the pope's trip, "When Faiths Collide," all day tomorrow here on CNN.

We're just minutes away from the top of the hour and "LARRY KING LIVE" -- his guest tonight, former President Jimmy Carter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: And that's going to do it for us tonight. Paula Zahn is back again tomorrow. I'm John Roberts in New York.

Thanks for joining us.

And stay tuned. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now -- his special guest, former President Jimmy Carter.

Good night.

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