Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Critics: "Greedy" Insurer Wants More; Nobel Peace Prize Stunner; Frozen in Horror?
Aired October 09, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANET MILLS, MAINE ATTORNEY GENERAL: In Maine alone, they paid for -- they paid almost $1 million in bonuses to their Maine executives in one year alone. And that is an issue in this case.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Elizabeth Beane says she's already spending a third of her income on health care, leaving her nothing for retirement.
BEANE: Where's my retirement account?
The CEOs of Anthem, I'm sure they have no worries about their retirements, because I'm funding it for them.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: There are 12,000 individual policyholders in Maine who will be affected by this decision. But the case has national implications, as it's about the government's ability to control health care costs. It goes to court next month -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now a Peace Prize surprise -- the Nobel Committee selects President Obama.
Was the White House as shocked as the rest of the world?
I'll ask one of the president's top advisers, Valerie Jarrett. She's standing by live.
Also, the frozen head of a baseball legend allegedly subjected to bizarre and disturbing abuse -- new controversy over the remains of Ted Williams.
And what if talks with Iran over its nuclear program fail?
Some nightmare scenarios are now emerging.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's a decision that caught the world by surprise -- so unexpected, you could hear the gaffes -- the gasps in the room as the Nobel Committee awarded its prestigious Peace Prize to President Barack Obama. It cited his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation."
But coming less than nine months into Mr. Obama's first term in office. The honor is not without controversy.
CNN's Morgan Neill has details now on how this decision was made.
MORGAN NEILL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just who decides on the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize?
The five person Nobel Committee is employed by Norway's parliament. And this was their timetable in the run-up to the announcement.
In September last year, the Committee called for nominations for the 2009 prize, seeking the views of legislators, academics, previous Nobel winners and many others. Submissions had to be received by the 1st of February this year. That was less than two weeks after U.S. President barrack Obama took office.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear.
NEILL: The Committee then started sifting through more than 200 nominees -- a record number -- leading to this decision.
NEILL: Shock -- and not just in Oslo. On the streets of London, many couldn't believe the news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's perhaps a bit early, isn't it, to be giving him a Nobel Peace Prize?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's a bit of a -- a -- that's -- that's just ridiculous. I don't think he deserves that.
NEILL (on camera): Why -- why do you say that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I don't think he's done that much.
NEILL: Barack Obama has just been named the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Had you heard that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
NEILL: What do you think about it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe it. It's impossible. NEILL (voice-over): In his will, Alfred Nobel said the prize should go to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
The Nobel Committee says it chose Mr. Obama for his efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.
Some argue awarding him the Nobel less than a year into his term has degraded the prize.
(on camera): What does that make you think about the prize itself?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a farce. Like it was done -- (INAUDIBLE) it's all political, isn't it?
NEILL (voice-over): But Dan Smith, from the NGO International Alert, which seeks conflict resolution, says naming Mr. Obama will have a damaging impact on the image of the prize.
DAN SMITH, INTERNATIONAL ALERT: And I rather wonder whether they haven't actually devalued the prize somewhat.
Are they going to give it next year for achievement or will it be given just for hope and for fame?
NEILL: While the award is certainly a great honor, it also puts the U.S. President under pressure to live up to his latest billing as a man of peace.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
NEILL: A bit more on the Committee's decision. As if to acknowledge how early it comes in President Obama's term, the Committee says it gave the award "to promote what he stands for and for the positive processes that he's started" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Morgan Neill reporting for us.
President Obama now joins the elite list of the American Peace Prize laureates. But it's an unusual list, as well, when you consider who's on it, who isn't and why.
CNN's Mary Snow is working this part of the story for us -- and, Mary, what are you finding out?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, of the Americans receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, that list now includes four U.S. presidents. Several other presidents have been nominated in the past and several others, who were seen as standing a chance, didn't make the cut.
OBAMA: I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee.
SNOW: (voice-over): And that surprise was shared by many. President Obama was only in office 12 days when nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize were due. He becomes the first sitting president to get the award since 1919, when Woodrow Wilson received the honor for his work establishing the League of Nations.
In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt won for his role in ending a war between Russia and Japan.
Historians say those presidents were given awards for things that had already happened -- unlike now.
ROBERT DALLEK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it's based more on optimism and hope than on any substantive gain that he's made during his very brief presidency.
SNOW: There have been other surprises in presidential Nobel Prize history. Take Jimmy Carter. Some found it surprising he recovered the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 -- but not after his Middle East peace efforts with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the 1978 Camp David Accords. They both received the Nobel Peace Prize.
As for other presidents, Ed Rollins, CNN's contributor, who once served as an aide to President Reagan, says Reagan never expected to get the award despite his work to end the cold war.
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But I think both he and Clinton did a lot to reduce nuclear weapons, which is sort of the goal of Obama. They actually did it.
SNOW: Bill Clinton, as president, also led peace initiatives in the Balkans, Ireland and the Middle East. That, coupled with his Clinton Foundation work, led some historians to wonder...
STEPHEN HESS, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I think the only person who might secretly be a little disappointed is -- is Bill Clinton. And that might be for the Clinton Foundation and all the things its doing and spending around the world to bring -- to bring good health and peace.
SNOW: Other Americans receiving the honor -- former Vice President Al Gore for his work on climate change, Martin Luther King and Holocaust survivor, Eli Wiesel. One American who sparked controversy for winning was Henry Kissinger in 1973. He won for helping negotiate the Vietnam peace accords. But he shared it with Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho, who was the only person to decline the award, citing the lack of peace in his country.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: And, Wolf, perhaps the biggest surprise overall -- Mahatma Gandhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize, although he was nominated five times. The Nobel Foundation says it's one of the most common questions it gets about non-recipients. It's even dedicated a section on its Web site explaining why he never got that award -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.
Let's get some reaction now to this huge surprise that we all woke up to this morning.
Valerie Jarrett is joining us.
She's a senior adviser to the president, also a good friend of his for many, many years.
Valerie, thanks very much for coming in.
VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: My pleasure, Wolf.
How are you doing today?
BLITZER: I'm sure he was stunned, as all of us. But take us behind the scenes and give us a little flavor of his reaction when he got that call saying guess what, you've won the Nobel Peace Prize?
JARRETT: Well, as he said this morning, it was certainly no the call he was expecting. When Robert Gibbs awakened him at the crack of dawn this morning, he was surprised. And then right away, his daughter Malia came in and announced that it was Bo's birthday, too. And then Sasha mentioned that Monday was a day off from school. So it was a very happy morning in the Obama household.
BLITZER: What about the wife, Michelle?
JARRETT: Oh, well, of course, Michelle was delighted, as well.
BLITZER: They were all...
JARRETT: But he was...
BLITZER: They were all surprised.
JARRETT: He was saying how they all keep him very grounded and -- and he was honored. He was deeply humbled by -- by this honor. And I thought his remarks this morning were pretty straightforward.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, Valerie, because we're going to take a quick break.
We've got a lot more questions for you on this and other subjects.
Valerie Jarrett, she's not going away.
We'll continue our conversation with her.
Also, we're following other important stories right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including Ted Williams -- the remains of Ted Williams. There's huge controversy right now over what happened.
Stay with us.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're getting reaction to the president's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Joining us again, the president's senior presidential adviser, Valerie Jarrett.
Do you know if anyone had -- did you know in advance that someone had recommended the president, Valerie, for this prize?
JARRETT: No, we did not. It was a complete surprise -- a very pleasant surprise, of course. But we had no inkling that this was coming whatsoever.
BLITZER: Because he himself says he's not sure he's worthy. He's -- he deserves this prize so early in his administration.
Did he ever give any thought to not accepting?
JARRETT: No, I don't think so. I think it's a deep honor and -- and he said he was extraordinarily humbled by the honor. But I don't think it occurred to him not to. In fact, I think it's a time for all Americans to be proud of our president and -- and the hopes that we have for improving peace and cooperation and diplomacy around the world.
BLITZER: He says he's going to give the money, the prize money, about $1.4 million, to charity.
Has he decided on which charity?
JARRETT: No, actually, he's had a very busy day promoting regulatory reform. And so I'm sure that he will. There's plenty of time to figure out what worthy charity to donate it to. But he's had a very busy plate today.
BLITZER: And he will definitely go to Oslo, Norway to receive it, right?
JARRETT: Yes, he did announce earlier he would be going to receive the prize.
BLITZER: Let me read to you the reaction from Michael Steele, the Republican Party chairman: "The real question Americans are asking, what has President Obama actually accomplished? It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working toward peace and human rights."
You want to react to Michael Steele?
JARRETT: Not really. I just -- I don't know what happened to the days where we couldn't just congratulate our president. After all, this isn't just about our president, it's about our country. It's about the hope for the future. It's about diplomacy and building bridges around the world. And I -- I would welcome the day when the Republican Party would do what John McCain did and congratulate -- congratulate the president. BLITZER: Some people are sort of surprised that the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, took this sort of swipe at President Bush.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Certainly from our standpoint, we -- we think that this gives us a -- a sense of momentum, you know, when the United States has accolades tossed its way rather than shoes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Wow! Accolades rather than shoes being tossed at the president.
Is that appropriate, on a day like this, to take a swipe at former President Bush?
JARRETT: Well, look, I guess what I would just say is that I think that it does build on momentum. It gives us the ability to move forward with our cause, hopefully it put -- puts pressure around the world to bring people to the table and to focus on diplomacy and cooperation and everything this prize stands for.
And so I think it's a very positive day, but not, as I said, just for the president, for our country and for people all around the world who are dedicated to the peace process.
BLITZER: He has to deliver now.
What's going to be his principal focus when it comes to peace?
JARRETT: Well, as you know, Wolf, he's had a multi approach around a variety of different topics. There's no one priority. We want a president who can multi-task and he's focused all around the world. And he has -- he, together with his team and together with so many people who are cooperating around the world, I think, recognize that perhaps it is a new day and there ear -- there are opportunities ahead that might not have been possible in the past.
So I think what everyone can know is the president is going to do what he always does. He's going to get up, he's going to work hard each and every day and stay focused on the American people and what's best for our country and what's cha -- what's best to improve our relationships around the world.
BLITZER: What a -- what a week, a difference a week makes. A week ago Friday, you were in Copenhagen. You're from Chicago. You urged the president to go over there. Chicago came in fourth. We were stunned by that. We thought it would make the final cut. But it -- it didn't.
Looking back on that experience, was it a mistake for the president to go there? JARRETT: No, no. As he said at the time, look, you -- what's wrong with trying hard on behalf of our country?
It would have been terrific to bring not just to Chicago, but to the United States of America. He made a valiant effort it didn't require but a hot minute of his time to do it. And, you know, obviously, what a difference a week makes. And today is a really special Friday.
BLITZER: You've been doing a lot of traveling, because in September, you had to fly over and tell the Dalai Lama, guess what, when you're in Washington this week, you're not going to be able to meet with the president of the United States, even though the Dalai Lama has met with all the presidents going back to 1990, when 10 times, ever since he comes here.
Why didn't the president want to see the Dalai Lama this time?
JARRETT: Actually, Wolf, you don't have it quite correct. What the Dalai Lama, His Holiness, said to me is that he would look forward to seeing the president after his trip to China and that would actually be his preference, as well. So I -- I kind of disagree with the way you described it.
It was a terrific trip. I had not been to Dharamsala before. I had an opportunity to learn a great deal about the Tibetan people who are living in -- in Dharamsala and everything that His Holiness is doing to try to promote respect for the Tibetan people around the world.
So as a -- it was an extraordinary trip and a privilege for me to be able to go. And His Holiness made it very clear directly to me, he's looking forward to seeing the president after his trip to China.
BLITZER: Because yesterday I interviewed His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and he said he -- he confirmed that his representatives on two occasions had asked the White House to have a meeting when he comes here -- when he was here this week but that you flew over, and at that point, the Dalai Lama himself said, OK, if it's going to embarrass the Chinese in advance of the president's trip to Beijing, he would defer and wait until after the president goes to China.
But he did confirm that his representatives did ask the White House for that meeting on two separate occasions.
JARRETT: Well, all I can say is that I know that the president is looking forward to meeting him after his trip to China. He has a great deal of respect for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama -- his ways, his religion, the culture of the Tibetan people. He has met with the Dalai Lama before he was president. They've spoken on the phone before, while he was running for president. And he looks forward to an opportunity to meet him after the trip to China.
BLITZER: And he was very gracious yesterday in saying no hard feelings, he understands the White House position and he greatly admires the president and looks forward to meeting with him after the president's trip to Beijing in November.
BLITZER: Valerie Jarrett, thanks very much for coming in.
JARRETT: My pleasure.
See you soon, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Disturbing allegations involving a baseball legend and the facility where his head was frozen. We're investigating whether the remains of Ted Williams and others have been abused.
BLITZER: Right now we're going to examine a story from all sides. The story, accusations that people who had their bodies frozen at extremely low temperatures -- a practice called cryonics -- may have been abused by a company that stored their remains. One accusation -- the baseball legend Ted Williams' frozen head being whacked with a wrench.
In a moment, we'll have an in-depth interview with the former executive who first made all these explosive charges and then we'll get immediate reaction from a company attorney.
But first, let's get some background from CNN's Brian Todd.
He's taking a closer look at cryonics and what's going on -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this story offers a window into a practice that not many people know about and which certainly raises eyebrows about the treatment of human remains. One person whose remains we're talking about is one of the most famous Americans of all time.
TODD: (voice-over): A genuine icon -- baseball Hall of Famer and war hero, Ted Williams. In life, he was the all-American success story. In death, Williams' legacy is marred by a bitter family dispute over his remains and now accusations that those remains were mistreated.
The allegations come from this man -- Larry Johnson -- who was, for at least six months, clinical director for a place called the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona.
LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER ALCOR CLINICAL DIRECTOR: I view the treatment very -- very poor, very amateurish, very unprofessional.
TODD: Shortly after Ted Williams' death in 2002 and following a legal dispute between his children over what to do with his remains, Williams' body was taken to Alcor to be frozen. Alcor is a cryonics facility. So-called members, who are called patients after they die, allocate about $80,000 to have their brains frozen, about $150,000 for the entire body from insurance policies and other payments. The belief is that if the brain or body is frozen, it could possibly be revived several years in the future if medical advances allow.
Alcor's chief medical adviser took CNN on a tour of the facility in 2006, showing us the containers where bodies are kept.
DR. STEVEN B. HARRIS, ALCOR CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: They're basically giant thermos bottles. But the temperature inside is very, very cold. It's 196 degrees below zero centigrade. A patient's brain or -- or head would go in here and then several of them go in here. And then this whole thing goes into one of the large containers.
TODD: In his new book, "Frozen," Larry Johnson says he witnessed an incident in 2003 when he says Alcor employees were trying to transfer Ted Williams' head from one container to another. Johnson says the head was frozen onto a pedestal fashioned from an empty tuna can. He says the pedestal needed to be separated from the head for the transfer and one employee was having trouble with that.
JOHNSON: He reached over, took a monkey wrench, took a strike at the tuna can, missing it and hitting the head and then immediately took another strike, hitting the can and shooting it off across the room, scattering small pieces of -- of scalp and whatever across the room.
TODD: I asked Johnson if he tried to stop it.
JOHNSON: I couldn't stop it. It happened way too quick.
TODD: We asked a board member at Alcor about that allegation.
RALPH MERKLE, ALCOR BOARD MEMBER: The claim that we mistreated Ted Williams is false. More specifically, the claim that Ted Williams' head was struck by a wrench is false.
KING: Larry Johnson says he was too scared to report the alleged incident to anyone outside Alcor. He told us he did tell someone in authority at Alcor about the incident, but that the person, "blew it off."
MERKLE: Mr. Johnson never raised these very serious concerns when it was his duty to do so. It is inconceivable that someone in his position would have watched the mistreatment of a patient and neither stopped it nor reported it to the board.
TODD: Alcor has tried unsuccessfully to stop Johnson's book from getting published. The company is litigating against Johnson, accusing him of violating legal settlements and confidentiality agreements. Alcor says Johnson took materials from the company without authorization. Johnson says he's advised by his attorney not to comment on those accusations.
But Alcor officials also raised questions about Johnson's credibility, pointing out he once posted pictures of Alcor patients on his Web site and charged visitors $20 to see them.
Johnson doesn't deny posting pictures on his Web site. JOHNSON: It's a decision that I -- I -- I regret. To this day, I regret that. I've apologized several times for that.
TODD: Johnson says he posted those pictures only for a few hours, at a time when he says he and his wife were receiving death threats from Alcor employees. And he says he was trying to get some money to help him get out of town.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: An Alcor representative denies any knowledge that those threats ever occurred and calls that claim "sensational." So far, there seems to have been no independent confirmation of any of Larry Johnson's allegations -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, has there been any reaction from Ted Williams' family?
TODD: We were unable to reach the attorney for Williams' eldest daughter, Bobbi-Jo Williams Ferrell. But another daughter, named Claudia Williams, gave us a written statement through her attorney. The statement said that this book has caused her family what she called "painful and emotional distress," and "in my opinion, Larry Johnson violated the privacy and confidentiality of my family in the most vile manner possible. My family took every measure to maintain its privacy and confidentiality, which has now been breached for personal and financial gain."
But I also spoke with Ted Williams' nephew, who is also named Ted Williams. He told me that he believes -- he finds this book a believable book. He says it's disturbing, but important. So the family seems to be divided.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
We're going to examine this shocking story now from every angle. When we come back, I'll speak with Larry Johnson. He's the former company executive now blowing the whistle on what he says are company crimes. He's the author of the book.
And then, Clifford Wolf -- he's an attorney for the Alcor Life Extension Institute. We'll get -- we'll get his response.
All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're just getting this story in of a plane going down in Haiti.
Let me go to Fredericka Whitfield now for some details.
What are we picking up -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Well, Wolf, we know that the U.N. has an active peacekeeping mission in Haiti. We understand that not long ago, a plane carrying 10 U.N. military personnel went down. It went down, apparently, about 12 miles west of the Fonds-Verrettes area, which is accessible only by foot. It's unclear the status of the 10 people or anyone on the ground as a result of this plane going down. Of course, when we get any more information about it, we'll be able to bring that to you.
But, again, a plane with 10 U.N. military personnel on board has gone down there in Haiti. And, of course, rescue efforts are underway to try to discern exactly what may have taken place and if, indeed, there are any survivors.
BLITZER: Let's hope there are.
All right, thanks very much, Fred.
We'll stay on top of this story.
Before the break we heard the essence of a sensational story, the alleged abuse of a baseball legend's frozen head at a company which collects large sums to freeze people after they die. There's more to this story.
Later, we'll be speaking with a lawyer for the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, but first some very serious accusations from a former Alcor executive.
And joining us now, the author of the book, "Frozen, A True story: My Journey into the World of Cryonics, Deception and Death," Larry Johnson, is with us.
Mr. Johnson, thanks for coming in. You describe yourself as a whistleblower. What made you do it?
LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER ALCOR EXECUTIVE: I've got to tell you. This is the -- I know the Ted Williams story is big news and I can appreciate that, but I've got to give you reasons why I did come out with the book and why I'm here right now. I have solid evidence, recorded evidence, that there are certain employees at Alcor who have been involved in the hastening of people's deaths.
I have recorded evidence of that. I have recorded evidence that they dumped biological waste, biohazard, toxic chemicals in the back of their -- in the back of their business. I have recorded evidence of the mutilation, if you will, or the mistreatment of bodies, namely Ted Williams.
Also, I have eye-witnessed in 2003 at one of their sister facilities in Rancho Cucamonga, California, cruel animal experimentation.
BLITZER: Let me interrupt -- let me interrupt, Larry, for a moment. On the other incidence before the animal cruelty allegation, was this eyewitness accounts by you? Did you actually physically see what was going on, or was this hearsay secondhand reporting?
JOHNSON: No, sir, I actually saw what happened. It was with one of their sister facilities in California. I did eyewitness that. I do document that account in...
BLITZER: That was with the dogs in California, is that right?
JOHNSON: That's absolutely correct, Wolf.
BLITZER: What about the mistreatment, for example, of Ted Williams, of his remains and the other allegations that you made about hastening someone's death? Was that an eyewitness account by you, or was that something you were told about?
JOHNSON: The -- the mistreatment of Williams' body, namely his head, was eye-witnessed by me. This happened in July of 2003. I had begun work there in January of 2003. The hastening of the death was told to me by two Alcor officials, one of which was actually an eyewitness to the death.
I do have that recorded. I have those conversations uploaded on the book's Web site at www.frozenbook.com. You click on the audio tab, and you can you hear those recordings for yourself.
BLITZER: Now you're saying you went to the police with these allegations. What happened after you told the police about that?
JOHNSON: That's correct, Wolf. Now the hastening of this death was when Alcor was still in Riverside, California so the individual that was put to death was in Hollywood Hills, California.
I went to LAPD, basically surrendered the tapes to them. They said, oh, my god, this is a smoking gun, we're going to look into it and get back to you. Several days passed. I got back with them. They basically said they don't have the resources.
This is an old case. Back then in 2003 it was 11 years old already, and they said we're more concerned about the homicides that occurred last night.
You also need to know that I gave support and evidence to state representative Bob Stump who is a congressman there. He introduced a bill in 2004 to regulate Alcor and cryonics in that state. He began to get threats, phone calls, threatening phone calls. One so severe he went to the capitol police to report it.
In the end it resulted in Mr. Stump pulling his bill, so where are these people? Where do they get off...
BLITZER: All right...
JOHNSON: ... being able to intimidate a lawmaker like that?
BLITZER: Yes, you say that you eye-witnessed the mistreatment of Ted Williams' head. Why didn't you go to the Arizona police where that allegedly occurred?
JOHNSON: Wolf, I was scared. I was scared. These people are fanatics. I was scared for my life. After what I had heard regarding the -- the hastening of this individual's death in California, I was scared. I was still employed there.
I was afraid to go to the authorities because the authorities are going to call. They're going to do an inquiry and I'm still there and me being new with that company and being the outsider, it was going to draw a line right straight to me.
They ended up -- in August in 2003, they were pounding on my door shouting threats to me through the door, that they were going to kill me, that they were going to kill my wife. I was too scared to do anything, Wolf.
BLITZER: You report that you eye-witnessed abuse of animals that were taken from shelters, adopted, and then they were mistreated for experimental use. What, if anything, did you do to try to stop that?
JOHNSON: This is what happened, Wolf. I eye-witnessed -- they had a small German Shepherd mix, a female dog. They sedated the dog. They put the dog on a table. They started to infuse a solution that they were experimenting with, flushing the dog's blood out.
Now the dog was sedated but you could still hear the dog crying and whimpering. Finally they did that to the point where the dog finally died, thank God, and -- and they opened up the chest of this animal, pulled out the lungs, looked at it, threw him down and walked away.
No documentation, no legitimate research. I was shocked. I was...
BLITZER: So what did you try to do to stop it?
JOHNSON: I stood there. I had been a paramedic at that point in time for 25 years. I have seen a lot of horrific scenes. I was totally shocked. It set me back. And again...
BLITZER: Did you do anything to try to stop it?
JOHNSON: I couldn't do anything. I was too scared to say a word because I was just afraid that I was going to be viewed as an outsider, as a troublemaker. I had grave concerns because of what I heard about these deaths. There was no way I was going to say one word.
COLLINS: So you didn't call the authority, law enforcement after that incident?
JOHNSON: No, I -- like I said, I was scared to death. I could not think straight. I -- I didn't want to have them draw a line straight to me and start doing experiments on me. Who knows? God knows.
BLITZER: Alcor says you're doing all of this for money simply trying to make a profit and they cite the pictures that you posted on a pay- per-view Web site.
JOHNSON: You know, what they are trying to do, Wolf, they're trying to divert the public's eye and attention on to me and away from them. Simple psychology. It's not going to work. This is what they have done. You can go on to that book Web site and hear it for yourself. I invite the entire public to go on to this Web site, to frozenbook.com, and listen to those tapes. I don't know how they can refuse and say that all this stuff is made up when it's right there on tape. You can you hear their conversations.
BLITZER: And you decided to wear a wire and record these conversations, when and why?
JOHNSON: Yes, absolutely. I'll tell you. This whole thing was so outlandish. I couldn't believe what was going on and I knew to God that the general public would not believe what I had to say, so I wired myself, gathered this evidence, for one, because I knew no one would ever believe me and for two it was to cover my own rear end.
You know I had evidence that they had hastened somebody's death, so who is to say that later on while I'm there they are going to do the same thing and now I'm implicated along with their little game? So it was half to cover my own rear end and the other half was to -- no one would ever believe this because it's so outlandish.
BLITZER: Were you scared -- were you scared to walk around in the company with a wire?
JOHNSON: Absolutely. And I write in my book several times just the emotions I was going through, the anxiety I was going through. I wished -- it was just -- I can't even explain it. It's hard to explain, but yes, absolutely. I was scared to death doing that.
BLITZER: But you have acknowledged it was a mistake for you to post those pictures and get people to pay to see them online?
JOHNSON: When all this unfolded in 2003, when they came pounding on my door saying Johnson, some dirty words, you -- you're going to die, we're going to kill you and you, too, and said my wife's name, I couldn't think straight. I was scared to death. I was trapped there.
I didn't have any money. They were withholding my paycheck. I need somehow to gather up some money so I could escape.
BLITZER: Do you want to name names who you believe was actually threatening you?
JOHNSON: You know, it's -- it's in my book and I would refer to my book.
BLITZER: And leave it at that point.
JOHNSON: Yes, sir, that's correct, Wolf.
BLITZER: Where do you go from here?
JOHNSON: I'll tell you what I want to do. You know, this state -- they need to be gained control of, all right? They've successfully threatened a lawmaker in the state of Arizona.
I'm not trying to shut down cryonics. A lot of them out there believe that's what I'm trying to do. No. If you want to be frozen, you know, have fun. If you want to be buried, that's fine. If you want to be cremated that's fine, but I strongly believe that these people need to be regulated.
There needs to be some oversight or things like this are going to continue to happen, like what happened to Ted Williams, what happened with the gentleman in north Hollywood. This stuff has got to stop. They need to be regulated.
In -- I'm sorry, in 2002 -- in 2003, when I came out with this, there's a cryonics company up in Michigan called the Cryonics Institute. The state of Michigan stood up right away and forced regulation upon that company and basically put them under the state funeral home, basically they are a frozen cemetery, if you will. So that's what needs to happen with Alcor. They need to be regulated.
BLITZER: Larry Johnson is the author of "Frozen, A True Story: My Journey into the World of Cryonics, Deception and Death." Thanks for coming in.
JOHNSON: Thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: CNN has called Bob Stump, the Arizona stayed representative identified earlier, to confirm Mr. Johnson's claims. We're waiting for a call back. We'll let you know what he says.
All right. We've heard one side of the Alcor story. In just a moment we'll get the company's response. I'll speak with the company's attorney.
BLITZER: We're continuing our in-depth coverage right now, the story many of you are talking about. Were the frozen remains of the baseball star Ted Williams and others abused by the company charged with their care?
We've spoken to the accuser. Now we turn to an attorney for the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
And joining us now Clifford Wolff. He's a lawyer based in Florida. He represents Alcor.
Clifford, thanks very much for coming in.
CLIFFORD WOLFF, ATTORNEY FOR ALCOR: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, you had a chance to hear this interview with Larry Johnson who makes very explosive charges against your company, Alcor, the company you represent, in this book, "Frozen."
Let's go through them point by point. The mistreatment of Ted Williams and the way his head, which had been severed, was treated. Is he accurate in describing it the way he does?
WOLFF: Having an opportunity to speak with part of the Williams family I can tell you that Alcor respects the privacy of all of its patients, so I cannot speak directly to any patient at the facility.
I can tell you that we respect the privacy of our patients and our members. We try to protect the privacy of our members and of our patients, and we regret that Mr. Johnson has essentially breached the confidentiality agreement. He's violated a court order, violated a judgment and continues to expound and breach those agreements.
BLITZER: But the description, can you tell us whether it's accurate or not accurate, that they mistreated the head and had it on a pedestal and took it out, temperature and the container was not as low as it should have been?
WOLFF: I can tell you two things on that specific issue. One, I wasn't there at the time, so I can't speak to that. I can also tell you that Mr. Johnson was not there at the initial cryo-preservation of Mr. Williams and he's acknowledged that, so can I tell you that much.
If there's specific situation involving Mr. Williams, again, I wasn't there, and I want to respect the rights...
BLITZER: But you're representing the company. I assume you've spoken to the principals of the company that were directly involved with Alcor.
WOLFF: I can tell you that I have of course spoken with the company but to the extent that there's an attorney-client privilege there. I'm regrettably not allowed to disclose that.
BLITZER: And the employees you didn't speak -- but you did speak to the other employees as well?
WOLFF: I can tell you that the entire matter is being taken very seriously by Alcor.
BLITZER: What about this allegation he makes that an AIDS patient who was near death, the death was actually accelerated by administering some drugs in order to, quote, "beat traffic," the traffic was going to be serious?
WOLFF: Again, let me just be clear. Alcor's intention here is to protect the privacy rights of its members and of its patients. I can tell you because I'm sure you've seen this as well that as recently as last week ABC independently determined that that allegation was contradicted, and our investigation is under way and we suspect that we will find the same.
BLITZER: Have you been cooperating with law enforcement on that specific allegation? Has anyone from law enforcement been in touch with you or Alcor involving these charges of murder in effect?
WOLFF: Well, first of all, Alcor categorically denies the false allegations of Mr. Johnson's book which is why we brought the lawsuit against him, for that and other reasons, not the least of which...
BLITZER: Have you been questioned by law enforcement?
WOLFF: No. I can fairly say to you that I have not been contacted in that regard.
BLITZER: You or others at Alcor, have they been contacted by law enforcement, either in Arizona or in California?
WOLFF: To my knowledge no, but, again, I can't disclose anything that might have transpired that I don't know about.
BLITZER: The other allegation is that Alcor would routinely go ahead and adopt pets or dogs from shelters, bring them in and then do experiments, very painful experiments on these animals, and Mr. Johnson says he eye-witnessed that.
WOLFF: Well, what he said was he witnessed that at another facility.
BLITZER: An Alcor-related facility?
WOLFF: No, he said -- well, that's what he alleges. I am telling you that Alcor -- I can tell you this. Alcor has not performed any such type of experiments in probably over 20 years so to suggest that anything like that happened recently is categorically untrue.
BLITZER: Who regulates Alcor?
WOLFF: Well, there's -- there's two -- there's something called the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. It's been passed in California and it's been passed in Arizona, so to the extent that that uniform act governs the conduct of Alcor, that is the governing statutory scheme, if you will.
BLITZER: Has Alcor changed any of its employment policies or behavior, surveillance cameras as a result of these rather explosive charges?
WOLFF: Unfortunately, Wolf, I can't speak to the ongoing investigation either on my part or internally either. But I can tell you that Alcor takes everything it does seriously. They are a pioneer in cryo-preservation. They invite anyone interested to understand more about Alcor by simply going to either the Web site, Alcor.org, or they can certainly tour the facility themselves.
If they have any questions, yourself, your crew, you're welcome to visit the Alcor facility in Scottsdale.
BLITZER: What would you say to a family that's thinking about using your company, Alcor's services after reading this book and hearing these charges?
WOLFF: I would tell them that the Alcor categorically denies the false allegations in that book. We have taken legal action against Mr. Johnson because of that. And we are asking him to please just vet this in the court of law where it deserves to be vetted.
We have filed a lawsuit. Mr. Johnson has evaded service of that lawsuit. Mr. Johnson refuses to abide by a court order. In fact, we were successful in obtaining in part a temporary restraining order against... BLITZER: He says he was scared for his life because there were threats leveled against him.
WOLFF: I find it hard to believe that Mr. Johnson can say out of one side of his mouth that he's afraid of Alcor, if you will, but at the same time go on national television as often as he possibly can either remotely from New York or locally and make himself available to the news press but not make himself available to the court of law that is seeking to enforce the judgment against him.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise. You're denying all of these allegations including the Ted Williams allegations?
WOLFF: What I'm telling you is that I cannot -- as I just said before, I can't speak to the Ted Williams issue because that's a private family matter. I can tell you that what we have in cover thus far as far as Mr. Johnson's conduct is absolutely despicable. You can only imagine. For instance, as you pointed out in your interview with Mr. Johnson, he charging a pay-per-view of $20 an hour to see stolen photographs in the Alcor facility.
If, for instance, a nurse who was a nurse surgeon or a nurse to a surgeon and she was taking photographs or stealing photographs from the offices of that doctor and selling them, perhaps of famous individuals, perhaps private individuals -- if any nurse were to steal photographs in the facility of a physician and then sell those either online or in the context of a book, I think everybody including Alcor has a right to be outraged for that.
BLITZER: But he says he's a whistleblower and he's just trying to alert the public, law enforcement, to what he sees as a heinous abuse.
WOLFF: If you claim to be a whistleblower, then don't sell the book, don't sell the photographs online. If you claim to be a whistleblower, do it the way whistleblowers should act, not by evading service, thumbing their noses to a court order, violating confidentiality agreements, and invading the privacy of others including those that he secretly recorded whose rights were frankly invaded to some extent.
BLITZER: All right, I think we're done, but if there's anything briefly else you want to make, any other point regarding these allegations, this is your final chance.
WOLFF: I just want to make it clear that our intention is to do one thing. We have filed suit in Arizona originally. Mr. Johnson has failed to appear, he evaded service. We filed suit in New York. We obtained a temporary restraining order against Mr. Johnson. We welcome him to vet his concerns in a court of law, which is the right forum to do so.
BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it. Clifford Wolff is the lawyer representing Alcor. Thanks very much for coming in.
WOLFF: Thank you. BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story. Meanwhile, some NFL players for the St. Louis Rams are reportedly saying they'll refuse to play, if -- if -- Rush Limbaugh buys their team.
BLITZER: High hopes that talks with Iran could diffuse its nuclear standoff with the west. But what if those talks fail?
Let's go to CNN's foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. Jill?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, no one can predict how the next few weeks or months will play out after the promising beginning of that meeting with Iran in Geneva. But it's no exaggeration to say the stakes are enormous and so is the potential downside.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a constructive beginning, but hard work lies ahead.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): But what if it doesn't work out? What if Iran doesn't halt its nuclear program? What if, as the United States and its allies fear, Iran develops and uses a nuclear bomb?
That's one nightmare scenario, but there's another one. Iran gives the bomb or its know-how to terrorist groups.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, INST. FOR SCIENCE AND INTL. SECURITY: Always in the back ground is the Israeli threat to strike.
DOUGHERTY: Israel says Iran with a bomb is a threat to its very existence and that cannot be allowed to happen. But a military strike by Israel most experts warn could start a war in the Middle East.
ALBRIGHT: It's impossible to predict what's going to happen and inevitably it probably will draw on the United States. Iran is not going to distinguish between an Israeli attack and an attack by the United States.
DOUGHERTY: Another fear if Iran gets a nuclear bomb...
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: A nuclear armed Iran with a deliverable weapons system is going to spark an arms race in the Middle East and the greater region.
DOUGHERTY: Neighboring countries including Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates could feel pressure to go nuclear in self defense. Finally if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran gets nuclear weapons, the U.S. might be faced with a blast from the past.
A new kind of Cold War, forced to resort to a policy if used to control another nuclear power, the Soviet Union, for more than half a century, containment and deterrence.
ALBRIGHT: We thought about attacking them, but we didn't in the end, we decided the best way forward is to contain them and view it as a long-term struggle to keep them from using nuclear weapons to increase their influence. And it's a tough strategy.
DOUGHERTY: Unless President Obama and his allies' strategy with Iran works, this could be what the world will be facing. Containment work with the Soviet Union but it was a pretty rough half century. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thanks very much for that "What If?" scenario.
President Obama's stunning win of the Nobel Peace Prize, a prestigious acknowledgement, but critics are asking what has he accomplished.
ANNOUNCER: "What If?" brought to you by...