[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/23/art.vert.willingham.face.jpg caption="A photograph of Cameron Todd Willingham." width=292 height=320]
Randi Kaye| BIO
I have been reporting on Cameron Todd Willingham for a few years now.
He’s the Texas man who was convicted of “arson homicide” and executed on February 17, 2004, after 12 years of claiming innocence on death row.
Texas Governor Rick Perry refused to grant him a stay even though new evidence had come to light in the days before the execution that there was no evidence of arson at Willingham’s Corsicana, Texas home. His three little girls died in the fire. His wife at the time was out shopping for Christmas presents.
Have you ever wondered what a death row inmate thinks while the time ticks away, while he waits to die? Below you will find some of Todd Willingham’s most intimate thoughts about death, about his conviction and about his wife and the daughters lost in the fire.
Tonight we're look at the accusations Pres. Obama is giving big donors access to the White House. We've got the raw politics. And we're looking into reports that the CIA has a drug lord on its payroll in Afghanistan – the brother of the Pres. Hamid Karzi.
Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ
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Afghanistan is a major opium producer and exporter. The U.N. is now worried about the world's failing to dent heroin trade.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/16/mccain.speech/art.mccain.gi.jpg caption="Senator McCain believes that America must succeed in Afghanistan"]
Special to CNN
For the first time since September 11, 2001, America is having a vigorous national debate about how to succeed in Afghanistan. This debate is entirely worth having. Whenever America sends its citizens into harm's way, it must do so with eyes wide open.
Though no veteran would ever think of himself as "pro-war," I believe that the fight in Afghanistan is critical to our national security. Our goals there are achievable and success is worth the continued sacrifice.
We must succeed in Afghanistan for many reasons, but one stands above all: the world walked away from Afghanistan once, and it descended into a cauldron of violence, hatred and human rights atrocities that served as the base for the worst terrorist attack in history against our homeland.
We cannot let that happen again, and we cannot let the Taliban and its al Qaeda allies conquer Afghanistan once more. Failure of this kind would also destabilize the entire strategically vital region, including nuclear-armed Pakistan.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/25/obama.carter.reagan/story.obama2.gi.jpg caption= "Democrat Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 on a message of change."]
According to reports, big Democratic donors, many of them friends of Pres. Obama, are getting VIP access to the White House. We're talking about use of the bowling alley, Oval Office meetings, and movie screenings in the basement theater.
This may bring memories of Pres. Bill Clinton's prestigious list of those who got to stay overnight in the Lincoln bedroom. Or more recently, Pres. George W. Bush gave donors access to the White House, Camp David and his Texas ranch.
Democrats and Republicans have given perks to donors. That's nothing new.
But Pres. Obama promised to be different.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledge that during today's media briefing.
"What this President has done is institute the toughest ethics and transparency rules of any administration in history," Gibbs said.
He didn't stop there.
"The President believes strongly in transparency. If people can determine whether who is here, why they are here, for what course of business – transparency in that way is the best policy. There are people that gave money that the President has been personal friends with since they went to school. I don't think it makes a lot of sense to preclude somebody like that from coming here simply because they gave money. David Axelrod couldn't work here, if that were the case. He's a donor," Gibbs added.
Do you agree? Is the White House changing the way Washington works? We'll have the raw politics tonight.
We'll also bring you part two of our "Keeping them Honest" investigation on the your tax dollars being spent in the U.S. territory of American Samoa. When a devastating tsunami hit the island last month, the U.S. rushed to help – sending emergency equipment and manpower. But Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit found very little of that aids is reaching those in need. Who's to blame? See what he uncovered.
And how did it happen? How did a 15-year-old California girl get attacked outside her school after a homecoming dance and no one did anything to help her. Police say she was raped for more than two hours with as many as 20 people on the scene doing nothing to stop the attack. Tonight five people are in custody in connection with the rape. But what about the bystander who did nothing? Shouldn't they face charges. And where were school officials? Wait till you see what we uncovered.
Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10pm ET. See you then!
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/28/art.kitty.genovese.jpg caption=""Genovese syndrome" was coined after dozens watched or heard a killer attack Kitty Genovese and did nothing."]
For more than two hours on a dark Saturday night, as many as 20 people watched or took part as a 15-year-old California girl was allegedly gang raped and beaten outside a high school homecoming dance, authorities said.
As hundreds of students gathered in the school gym, outside in a dimly lit alley where the victim was allegedly raped, police say witnesses took photos. Others laughed.
"As people announced over time that this was going on, more people came to see, and some actually participated," Lt. Mark Gagan of the Richmond Police Department told CNN.
The witnesses failed to report the crime to law enforcement, Gagan said. The victim remained hospitalized in stable condition. Police arrested five suspects and more arrests were expected.
So why didn't anyone come forward?
Criminology and psychology experts say there could be a variety of reasons why the crime wasn't reported. Several pointed to a problematic social phenomenon known as the bystander effect. It's a theory that has played out in lynchings, college riots and white-collar crimes.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
US First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx October 28, 2009 before attending Game 1 of the 2009 World Series.
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/20/afghanistan.election.fraud/art.karzai.afp.gi.jpg caption="Afghan President Hamid Karzai, here in the photo, has long been considered by his brother Ahmed Wali Karzai to be an American puppet."]
The claim that Ahmed Wali Karzai has been on the payroll of the CIA for the past eight years, as reported in the New York Times on Tuesday, won't come as a surprise to most Afghans, who have long considered his brother, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to be an American puppet. The revamped allegations that Karzai frère is deeply involved in Afghanistan's annual $4 billion drug industry isn't much of a shocker either — on the streets of Kabul and Kandahar, the name Wali has long been synonymous with someone who can get away with a crime because he has friends in the right places. Diplomats, counternarcotics officials and commanders from the International Security Assistance Force, NATO's military wing in Afghanistan, have all privately (and not so privately) expressed frustration with President Karzai for not reining in his brother. In fact, the people most likely to be shocked by the revelations are Americans back at home, who are already wondering why they should be sending more soldiers and money to a country whose leadership has rarely proved an adequate partner.
That the CIA might turn a blind eye to the unsavory extracurricular activities of a local asset isn't exactly new. It's emblematic of the often shady compromises that are conducted on a daily basis around the globe in the name of increased American security. (If you think the U.S. is only talking to "good" guys to get information about al-Qaeda, think again — men with clean hands rarely truck with those without.) But if the Times' charges are true, the revelations that Wali Karzai is a major drug trafficker who has been protected not just by his brother, but also by CIA operatives establish a chain of causality between the efforts of U.S. intelligence to obtain information and influence and drug monies that pay for an insurgency that has taken 53 American lives this month — the highest death toll ever for Americans in Afghanistan. Karzai denied both allegations, telling the Associated Press that the paper's report was "ridiculous."