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PAULA ZAHN NOW

California Feels Nature's Wrath; President Bush Taps New Homeland Security Secretary

Aired January 11, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everybody. Welcome.
Glad to have you with us tonight on a night when incredible stories are still emerging from the ruins of the great Asian tsunami, some tragic, others miraculous. You'll see one of each tonight.

And he lives in a prime terrorist target, one American's plan to defend his city, a city vital to our nation's oil industry.

But we begin tonight with bad weather. Now, in January, that's not unexpected, but what we're seeing out West right now is beyond extreme. Storm after storm has hit the West Coast, then moved inland. The result is flooding in parts of California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. These incredible pictures are from Saint George, Utah, in the southwestern corner of the state.

And they've checked the record books in Los Angeles. There has never been such a wet two weeks. After 17-plus inches of rain, 24 inches in other cases, normally dry rivers have become death traps. And mountainsides are collapsing. These scenes are from Topanga Canyon near Los Angeles.

And these harrowing pictures are from San Dimas, California. A mother and her infant son, as well as their rescuer, were dumped into a raging stream when their raft capsized. Miraculously, all three are OK tonight.

The Western storms are dumping snow in higher elevations, more than a dozen feet in some places. You would think that would be good news. But, no, a number of ski resorts in Utah have been forced to shut down because there's simply just too much snow.

Well, by now, you've seen the incredible video of the mudslide in La Conchita, California, northwest of Los Angeles. It killed, at least at this hour we believe, at least four people. From a different angle, you can see why. The mudslide obliterated parts of the neighborhood. The massive amount of debris also accounts for why they're still looking for victims and possible survivors, even though it's been more than a day since that hillside collapsed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): They are searching feverishly, more than 160 rescue workers looking for signs of life under 30 feet of mud in La Conchita, California.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I am not. It's coming down.

ZAHN: One day after a deadly mudslide swept through this small town, burying houses and people.

GIBELA WOGGON, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: I heard a very powerful crack. And I walked out into the street. I looked to the left and the mountain had come over the street, probably about 30, 40 feet. And I go, oh, my God. And people were running that way, screaming, crying.

ZAHN: The rolling waves of mud claimed at least four lives. But officials haven't given up hope of finding between 20 and 40 people who are still missing.

BOB BROOKS, VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We have sound sensors placed in the debris, and that's been what's led us to the people we've recovered from that debris field.

ZAHN: So far, nine survivors have been pulled from the piles of mud, rubble and concrete.

BOB ROPER, VENTURA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: They had to go in with chain saws and cut the walls away from the victims to finally get them pulled out of the rubbish.

ZAHN: For friends and family of the missing, the wait for news is agonizing.

ED MILLS, CHAPLAIN: They're just standing and sitting and hugging and holding. And then they stand alone, and then they'd start all over again and do it. It's a very natural response.

ZAHN: La Conchita has been hit by a mudslide before. In 1995, 600,000 tons of mud slid into the town, crushing nine homes. That prompted county officials to build an 18-foot retaining wall to control mud flows and minor slides. That wall never had a chance against the full power of this mudslide.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And Devin and Don live in La Conchita. They're alive. They're not sure what the status of their home is at this hour.

Thank you much -- so much for joining us under these terrible circumstances.

Devin, first of all, the most important thing is that you're alive. Describe to us what you saw when the hill came down.

DEVIN SKI, HOME DAMAGED IN MUDSLIDE: Well, what I saw was actually what I was running from, because I looked up, and we had seen the mountain break away. And just then, I started running up the street to a friend's house to warn the people that were inside. And before you know it, I was turning around running from it. And that was -- the next thing I knew, I just thought my house was gone, and I went to check and see if my house was still standing, and luckily, it was.

ZAHN: Don, how much of your house is intact?

DON SKI, HOME DAMAGED IN MUDSLIDE: I believe it's all there yet. There's just -- the mud has moved up against the back, my back bedroom door. And if it gets any more rain, we'll have damage. But as of right now, what I noticed, there's not much damage.

(CROSSTALK)

DON SKI: Just a lot of mud.

ZAHN: Could you look inside? Does it appear as though the house is filled with mud?

DEVIN SKI: No, it's not.

ZAHN: OK.

DON SKI: What was that? I couldn't hear you.

(CROSSTALK)

DEVIN SKI: No. The house isn't.

ZAHN: Was the house filled with mud?

(CROSSTALK)

DEVIN SKI: No. No. We still -- we were able to go in and get some of our belongings, important things. But it's not filled with mud yet.

DON SKI: It's right there at the door.

DEVIN SKI: Yes. Our back patio is filled with mud, pretty much.

ZAHN: And, Don, you knew there was another one of these ago -- in 1995. I'm not sure if Don can even hear us anymore.

Devin, I don't think your father can hear us now, right? So I'll keep -- I'll stick with you for a moment. What did this sound like when the hill started coming down on you?

DEVIN SKI: It was -- it was silent, until it hit the houses. And once it went over that wall, it was just -- you know, probably the worst sound you can imagine, just houses, power lines, everything, really like undescribable. I can't...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Even looking at the picture, it's hard to understand the power of all this earth coming down. DEVIN SKI: Yes.

ZAHN: Don, are you with us now? Are you able to hear us?

DON SKI: Yes, yes, I can hear you.

ZAHN: Now, as I understand, as you were trying to get your kids off the hill, you actually discovered one of your neighbors. What condition was he in? What did you see?

DON SKI: Just I noticed legs is all. I didn't know, you know, who it was, or what his condition was. And there was another neighbor who did his best to work his way in there and try to get him loose. But there was no way. He was underneath an automobile and gas was dripping. And we were -- there wasn't anything we could do. And I went back to my house, got my things in order. And it was a real mess.

ZAHN: And I know at one point you were afraid you would lose your home altogether.

But I know, while you feel a sense of gratitude, that you're very sad about knowing that at least one person living nearby has been killed.

Devin and Don Ski, thank you so much.

I wanted to bring you quickly up to date on what we know at this hour. We believe -- and the numbers are all over the place -- at a minimum, 13 known missing, anywhere of up maybe as high as 25 dead, 20 to 27 unaccounted for, nine survivors pulled from the debris. And it is an amazing operation. You have some 200 searchers in the community right now, in some cases, digging with hands to get to the bottom of this debris.

It is a painstaking effort. This will go on around the clock. In some cases, we're told that the mud is at least 30-feet deep. So, you can only imagine what it's going to take to get at the bottom of that. And even in spite of that, as we've said, it seems quite miraculous that you have had nine survivors pulled from the wreckage.

And joining us right now from La Conchita is Frank Underlin of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department's search-and-rescue team.

Welcome, sir. Our heart goes out to you. As you go about this very difficult work, bring us up to date on what the status of your very widespread search is right now.

We apologize for some of the confusion. But, as you can well imagine, it's difficult, particularly when we have pulled this rescue worker off the piles, as he just described. Let's take one more shot at it.

Sir, describe to us what the status of the search is right now.

FRANK UNDERLIN, VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Well, we're actively searching for surviving victims of this huge disaster here.

We're digging debris out and mud out. We're tearing into parts of homes that have been displaced probably 100 yards or so. Vehicles, still pulling those out, digging with hands, and we're shoulder to shoulder with the fire department people. And we've been actively going at this since the beginning of yesterday, when this first happened.

It's just been very difficult going, with all the people in there. We have got volunteer people from the sheriff's department right, right adjacent with the fire department people. We're finally starting now to break into the houses that have been covered with debris and, like I say, moved 100 yards down. And we're still starting to find people.

But at least the weather has held off today and things are going quite well from that standpoint.

ZAHN: And we've mentioned that it's now being confirmed by L.A. County that at least nine people have survived and have been successfully rescued. Can you give us any idea where they were found?

UNDERLIN: Yes. I was here when they made some of those initial finds.

Primarily, right at the very edge of the debris basin, this huge amount of dirt, as you've probably seen, pushed out. And those survivors are right on the very fringe, trapped in houses that were pushed out in front of that whole landslide. And that's where they have been located.

ZAHN: And, obviously, you're hopeful that out of those 20 to 27 unaccounted for, that you might find those folks alive. What are the challenges now, particularly when you have mud 30 feet deep in some places?

UNDERLIN: Really, the challenges there is there's just so much weight, that the dirt is starting to compact. With all the rain that we've had here, it's settled and it's getting even more and more difficult to move that dirt out. We're doing that by hand.

And, then again, like I say, we have got some cranes in there finally start moving. We don't want to disturb things too much with the mechanized instruments, because we don't want to tear things apart if we have absolutely have to, because if we've got victims inside, we want to be able to find those, leave those kind of chambers intact, so we can attempt to extract them.

And, again, we're looking for any potential live victims we have in there. And people in the debris pile have just been going as hard as they can all day and all night.

ZAHN: And you plan to work through the night again tonight?

UNDERLIN: Yes, we will.

ZAHN: And is there any help you need from the public at this point?

UNDERLIN: Yes.

What would really help is if anybody knows residents or friends that might have been visiting the La Conchita area, if they could contact the sheriff's department. The problem that's arisen is that some entire families -- could have been their houses -- may be missing. But since they were all together, nobody might be reporting them missing.

So, if somebody has some friends here and they haven't heard from them or possibly relatives that haven't heard from them, we'd like to know because we really need to get a firm handle on all the potential victims that might be here.

ZAHN: Well, we hope you will get that help that you've just asked for.

Frank Underlin, thank you for your time. We really appreciate your joining us, as you took a break from this very difficult work that you're doing. Good luck to you and the rest of the crews out there working around the clock.

UNDERLIN: Thank you.

ZAHN: And tonight, at 10:00 eastern, my colleague Aaron Brown will be focusing on a different natural disaster. He joins us now to quickly look ahead.

Aaron, welcome home.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I had not -- Paula, I hadn't seen it. I was traveling from Asia yesterday. I hadn't seen that stuff out of California.

ZAHN: Isn't it incredible?

BROWN: One disaster after another.

Anyway, tomorrow on the program, we'll look at all sorts of weather-related things. A couple of stories to tell you about tonight out of Asia and the tsunami. Nissen reports tonight out of Aceh on a teacher who is trying to put his life, his student's life and his sole surviving son's life back together again.

And I'll tell you I think extraordinary story of a young Navy seaman, who is the third man in a helicopter who literally has to make day-in and day-out life-and-death decision. You'll watch him do it, as we watched him do it late last week in a small village in Aceh. Now, that and more coming up on NEWSNIGHT tonight. And, again, tomorrow, a special edition of NEWSNIGHT. We take a look at this strange weather that's been happening around the country and around the globe.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Aaron. We'll be watching.

Please stay with us, everyone, because there is much more ahead tonight, the latest in the fight against terrorism right here at home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Tonight, on the CNN "Security Watch," the man whose job will be to keep you safe.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY NOMINEE: I will be proud to stand again with the men and women who form our front line against terror.

ZAHN: The president's new choice for Homeland Security.

And what if it happened here, where a terrorist attack would cause a major disaster? One man hopes for the best, but gets ready for the worst.

And just ahead, he went to the hospital for a nosebleed and came out $45,000 later. Were they charging by the drop? Outrageous hospital bills and much more tonight as PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Now to the price we pay to stay healthy.

No one seems happy with the way things are. Patients complain about rising health insurance premiums. Doctors claim about frivolous lawsuits and their rising malpractice coverage costs. And 45 million Americans, well, they don't have any health insurance to complain about.

The U.S. spends a bigger share of its gross domestic product on health care than any other major industrialized country, nearly one- seventh of our GDP. And one reason that that figure is so high may be stories like the one you're about to see.

Here's Sharon Collins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On September 15, Jim Carpenter was rushed to hospital with a nosebleed.

TRACY CARPENTER, WIFE OF JIM: When we walked into that emergency room that first morning at 6:00 a.m. with his nose hemorrhaging, I mean filling up a cup, hemorrhaging, bleeding, and when we walked in the emergency room saying, help us, I would have paid $80,000.

COLLINS: But the bleeding did not stop. And the next day, Jim was rushed to another hospital.

(on camera): So you're scared?

JIM CARPENTER, PATIENT: Yes.

T. CARPENTER: We're terrified.

COLLINS: And you're not thinking about like insurance and the bills and all that?

J. CARPENTER: No. You're thinking about, what do we got to do to get this stopped?

COLLINS (voice-over): That changed when they got the hospital bills. The Carpenters encountered what to them seemed to be a secret code.

T. CARPENTER: I had to look at this eight times and get a guy on the phone. Nothing matches. The only thing that matches is the $5,852. And then there's here, tumor local limited. Here's a 79280. That's 79280 on some other itemized thing they sent us.

J. CARPENTER: And maybe that's the 792 repeated, repeated. It is. That's what it is.

T. CARPENTER: No, no, no. No, honey. That's a whole different thing. That's a whole different itemized thing.

COLLINS: The bill from North Fulton, the Atlanta area hospital where Jim was first taken, was 30,300.01. The bill from the second hospital, Northside, was $14,558.40.

T. CARPENTER: And we had that experience of a $30,000 bill vs. a $15,000 bill and went, uh-oh, something's wrong here. We probably would have been like every other Joe consumer out there and paid, let our insurance pay what they would pay.

J. CARPENTER: Paid our 20 percent.

T. CARPENTER: And we would have paid the balance.

COLLINS: Instead, frustrated and suspicious, they looked for help and hired a medical billing advocate to determine if they were being overcharged.

Cindy Holzman says common billing problems include typos, double billing and something called unbundling.

CINDY HOLZMAN, MEDICAL BILLING ADVOCATE: It could also be something included in the cost of your room, like gauze, gloves, drapes, Band-Aids, even light bulbs for your light. They will charge you for that. And those are usually bundled in the cost of a room charge, operating room charge.

COLLINS: For example, North Fulton charged $5,852 for recovery room fees, but didn't break it down any further. Tracy Carpenter says her husband was lying on a gurney in an alcove surrounded by empty gurneys and she's the one who brought him water and juice.

In a statement, North Fulton tells CNN: "Cooperation among hospital staff, the patient and insurance company is helping to resolve the issue. Although this claim has not been closed, all parties are continuing to work together."

But does everyone's bill get a second look? The answer is no. Ken Thorpe, who worked for President Clinton measuring the financial impact of his health care proposals, says hospitals often charge to cover losses, including those caused by uninsured patients.

KEN THORPE, EMORY UNIVERSITY: The irony here is, is that hospitals really charge the patients the most who don't have health insurance or who really can't on their own negotiate those rates.

COLLINS: However, in some cases, the opposite is true.

CARMELA COYLE, AMERICAN HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: As an example, for hospital that do treat large numbers of low-income patients, large numbers of senior citizens, they may have to charge insured patients higher prices to be able to keep their doors open.

COLLINS (on camera): But $33.70 for a disposable plastic spit basin? We found one for about $3 retail. We've all grown accustomed to paying more for things than they actually cost, be it a hot dog at the ballpark or a pair of jeans at the mall. But let's face it. Going to the hospital is no trip to the ballpark. And unlike those jeans at the mall, there aren't any price tags. Even if those price tags existed at the hospital, when you're in pain and need help, it's the last thing you're thinking about.

(voice-over): And do insurance companies do what the Carpenters did, ask for an itemized bill and check it line by line? The Carpenters insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Georgia, told CNN: "We do audit claims from providers and when we discover discrepancies, we work to resolve them."

The experts we talked with agreed. America's health care system is at times costly, complicated and cumbersome. At issue is how to fix it. The Carpenters say, taking a closer look at the hospital bill might be a good start.

T. CARPENTER: How many people pay that kind of bill and never, never, you know, their insurance company never questions it and they never question it? Everybody just pays it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: She has got a good point there. That was Sharon Collins reporting for us tonight.

And joining me now, someone who knows well the ins and outs of hospitals, our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who, in his limited free time, happens to do brain surgery.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, welcome back to the country. You did some extraordinary work from Asia.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Paula. I appreciate that.

ZAHN: Now, you know I consider myself a friend of yours. But I want to know is if you guys intentionally rip off patients or if these inflated costs are justified. GUPTA: Right. Well, I'm not going to speak on behalf of the entire hospital system here.

But, Paula, let me say it was a good piece that Sharon did. Most of the costs that people are going to see on their hospital bills are real. One of the things that Sharon alluded to in her piece is something called unbundling. For instance, you go to the hospital. You're told a stay in a general care room is $800 a night. Well, it might end up being $1,800 a night because the hospital did something called unbundling.

Instead of charging you one bulk rate, they charge you for every cotton swab that was used, a rental charge for the television, every single I.V. that came into your room, all those things, which added up to more than $800. And that's called unbundling. That does happen, but it's still a real cost. It can also be a mistake, Paula. Mistakes do get made on bills. A $5 charge could turn into a $500 charge. A one-night stay could turn into a 10-night stay.

ZAHN: Oh, come on, Sanjay. That's a mistake, a $5 charge going to a $500 charge. That like doesn't pass the laugh test.

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: Well, mistakes do happen in the bills, Paula. And then I think that sort of speaks to the fact that people have to be vigilant about these bills.

There's also -- if you talk to the experts on health care fraud, they will tell you that there is a lot of fraud that goes on. In fact, there are criminals who do drug trafficking and have actually starting to migrate to fraud against Medicare and Medicaid. There's a lot of money to be made. And there are criminals who have figured that out.

So, I think a lot of the charges are real, but there are people who are committing fraud as well.

ZAHN: Well, why isn't there more uniformity in the system? You heard the shocking statistic in this report, that the care was $30,000 in one emergency room. The same care would have been $15,000 in another.

GUPTA: Well, professional services, like any other field, can vary from professional service to professional service or hospital to hospital in this particular case.

Also, insurance companies often have deals with particular hospitals. So, in Jim Carpenter's case, for example, he went to one hospital. His insurance provider may have had a specific deal with that first hospital, which was a very different deal than with the second hospital. So that can be part of it as well.

There should be uniformity. And a lot of people are fighting for that right now. But, right now, professional services do vary from hospital to hospital and from doctor to doctor as well, Paula. ZAHN: Need a quick yes or no. Are you able to decode costs on a hospital bill, Doctor?

GUPTA: It's very difficult. I don't know what half these codes mean. And we spend lot of time trying to learn these codes. There are a couple of bills, Paula, before Congress, a truth in billing bill, to try and make it easier for both doctors and patients to try and understand those.

The answer to your question, no, not all those codes. I don't get them.

ZAHN: See, an honest doctor. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you for educating us tonight. And, again, welcome home.

GUPTA: Thank you. Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Interesting to note that 15 percent of all Americans, even with insurance, are postponing medical care because of what you've just seen that last family subjected to.

We are going to move on now to our CNN "Security Watch" and one man in charge of protecting a community with a tempting and potentially deadly target.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And we begin tonight's CNN "Security Watch" with the president's choice for the nation's top security post.

Today, the president named federal Judge Michael Chertoff to take over as homeland security secretary. Chertoff is a former attorney general, a former federal prosecutor, and a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. He also happens to be one of the authors of the controversial Patriot Act.

If confirmed, he would take over at a time when only 37 percent of Americans believe the U.S. is actually winning the war on terror. And according to a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, that is down from 51 percent this time last year.

Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The nominee has made fighting terror sound straightforward.

CHERTOFF: Those who commit acts of terror against Americans whenever and wherever will be hunted, captured and brought to justice.

MESERVE: But, if he is confirmed, experts say, Michael Chertoff will face complexities and more.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I would say dysfunction and chaos. MESERVE: Clark Kent Ervin is the former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

ERVIN: The department is largely still a collection of 22 disparate dysfunctional agencies sharing a common name. It has yet to come together as a cohesive, integrated, effective whole focused on its core counterterrorism mission.

MESERVE: The president says Chertoff has a record of cutting red tape, but he will oversee 180,000 employees on sea, and land and air. And some are asking if Michael Chertoff really has the skills to tame and harness the DHS behemoth.

MICHAEL GREENBERGER, CTR. FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: Chertoff does not have the resume of somebody who can run a large bureaucracy.

MESERVE: In the dusk of 9/11, Chertoff was a key player in crafting the U.S. Government's legal policies, including the Patriot Act. And that is a record, which in some corners creates concern, not confidence.

GREGORY NOJEIM, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: Mr. Chertoff has taken a number of positions that have been put into policies that have adversely affected Americans and non-citizens' civil liberties in the United States.

MESERVE: Chertoff has a rich prosecutorial and law enforcement background. He was key figure in the Whitewater investigation of former President Clinton's financial dealings. He also supervised the prosecution of Zarqawi Al-Moussaoui, the only person in the United States charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks. But homeland security is about emergency response, transportation security, infrastructure protection. Chertoff has no experience with many of these issues and doesn't know key players, including the governors, the mayors, the first responders.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Today, the United States government is raising the threat level to code orange.

MESERVE: Tom Ridge, a politician has a calm and folksy demeanor considered a great plus at times of crisis. It's unclear how Chertoff's charging no nonsense style will go over with the public.

RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: He's not a public figure and has never run for office, to my knowledge. And we'll have to see what sort of public persona he establishes now that he's in this incredibly high profile position.

MESERVE: Ridge is the only man who has held this job and truly knows what it takes. He believe Chertoff is the right pick.

RIDGE: He comes by experiment -- by experience and temperament and background to be a very effective and capable secretary.

MESERVE: But even those who question whether Chertoff is a perfect fit for the homeland job recognize his intellect. And that gives many of them hope that he will master what he does not know and move forward the department and the country's security.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that was Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve reporting for us tonight.

Joining me now from Washington, someone who knows Michael Chertoff well, senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Good to see you, Jeffrey.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: I don't know if this will make you feel really old or really young, but the fact that you were actually interned for Michael Chertoff at one time, what were your impressions?

TOOBIN: It was 1986. It was a summer job for me. And he was in charge at a young age of the famous commission case, which was the prosecution of the heads of the five families who ran the Mafia in New York City. And Paula, I've got to tell you, I don't think it was just because I was a naive young law school graduate, Mike Chertoff is just about the smartest lawyer I have ever encountered. The guy is just absolutely superb.

ZAHN: But in spite of how smart he is, you heard a number of people in Jeanne Meserve's piece saying, smart is one thing, this is a guy who doesn't have a resume to suggest he could actually run a bureaucracy as unwieldy as this department is.

TOOBIN: Well, I think if you had told me a year ago that Mike Chertoff would wind up attorney general of the United States, I'd say, of course, that makes a lot of sense. That seems to be how his career has been pointed. Homeland security is completely new. In fairness to Mike, and I suppose anyone, it's not clear that anyone can run this department, given its vast size. But most of Mike's career has been as a lawyer, a judge, and a little bit as an administrator, and now, it's mostly an administrative function, as you point out.

ZAHN: And it seems to me the president was sending a clear signal, given the fact that this man has been confirmed three times so far by the Senate, he views this as almost a sure shot.

Is that the way you look at it?

TOOBIN: II think it is. You know, The only person voted against him consistently as attorney general and as a judge is Hillary Clinton, who, of course, was the subject in large a part of Mike Chertoff's Whitewater investigation. Which was, I think it's fair to say, not a high point of Chertoff's career. That was Al D'Amato's investigation in the Senate, which really didn't go anywhere. It made -- it made Mike some very good connections in the Republican Party and his career has flourished. But I don't think that was particular success of his.

ZAHN: But I wouldn't say that was a real high point from him. You can't blame it all on Al D'Amato. What share of the blame does he take for the tone of that investigation?

TOOBIN: I think, you know, when I've spoken to him about it, he sort of screws up his courage and says, well we did the best we could. I think he's a lot more comfortable. He -- I did a profile of him for the "New Yorker" when he was head of the criminal division. And that was job he really loved. He was in charge not only of the post 9/11 investigations but all of the post Enron white collar investigations. Chertoff did the Arthur Andersen case. He was basically single handedly responsible for putting Arthur Anderson out of business. Now, you can argue whether that's a good thing or bad thing, but that's the world he has so far been much more comfortable with, much more than politics and Whitewater or homeland security where he has next to no experience.

ZAHN: Now for a brief answer to a critical question, what did Michael Chertoff think of you as an intern?

TOOBIN: Well, I think I did OK, but my legal career is now over, so I some how, both he and the legal profession have survived that loss.

ZAHN: There's always television news for people who get out of the legal business.

TOOBIN: Now, I play one on TV, right?

ZAHN: Thank you.

And tonight's PZN Meter focuses on homeland security. Is your city or town adequately prepared for a terror attack? Give us your opinion at cnn.com/paula. The results at the end of this hour.

And in towns all over America, the security of thousands is in the hands of a dedicated few. When we come back, meet one man who's got his own playbook for dealing with disaster. Please stay with us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we continue our CNN security watch now. The Texas Gulf Coast is a maze of barrier islands, sea channels and oil pipelines, in other words, the last place you'd want an accident or worse, a security threat.

Ed Henry introduces us to one man whose job it is to worry, what if, and to juggle the possible responses, if disaster strikes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): People here call this the sound of money. But it is also the sound of danger. The oil industry pumps billions of dollars into the economy of Baytown. Thirty miles east of Houston, the landscape is dotted with refineries and chemical plants run by several corporations like Exxon Mobile. And with oil and gas lines everywhere, the petro-chemical coast is a rich target for terrorists.

ASSISTANT CHIEF BERNARD OLIVE, BAYTOWN FIRE DEPARTMENT: We know that the wolf is at the door. It may not be making sounds or anything like that but we know it's there.

HENRY: Meet Assistant Fire Chief Bernard Olive, Baytown's emergency coordinator. He has 70,000 lives on his shoulders. It weighs on him.

(on camera): Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and worry about the horrific scenarios?

OLIVE: Sometimes I don't go to sleep at night thinking about some of the scenarios.

HENRY (voice-over): But people here are stoic. They're used to playing and praying in the shadow of refineries. Chief Olive had a detailed playbook for dealing with disaster long before last week's streamlined national response plan from the Department of Homeland Security.

OLIVE: The federal government, when they get here, they'll be welcomed with open arms, believe me. But until that time arrives we have a duty to our citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine-one-one. Your emergency?

HENRY: In an attack, the mobilization starts with a dispatch call to first responders and an SOS to officials.

GARY JACKSON, CITY MANAGER: Mr. Olive then would notify myself, the other key players, and we have a command and control meeting in our emergency operation center.

HENRY: Later this year, the city will have a modern command center. For now, it's makeshift. Everyone at this table has a role, from the police chief...

CHIEF BYRON JONES, BAYTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is find out what type of incident is occurring.

HENRY: ... to health officials who are ready for mass injuries or worse.

JACK PITCOCK, EMS DIVISION MANAGER: We would work with -- with our -- with Harris County medical examiner's office. We'd also work with our local funeral homes.

HENRY: They'd scramble a new HAZMAT truck bought with federal money and keep in close touch with industry officials.

PATTY FOWLER, ASSISTANT EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR: It's partnership. We handle what we do best and we let them handle what they do best. HENRY: The head of the parks department would have his staff direct traffic away from the disaster scene and bus people to shelters.

SCOTT JOHNSON, PARKS AND RECREATION: We're able to get people out really quick.

HENRY: Olive can't designate shelter locations in advance, because he has to make sure they're not in the danger zone. He'd prefer to pick schools instead of churches, because houses of worship have fewer bathrooms.

(on camera) No detail is too small in Chief Olive's plan. He even has a veterinarian on call to deal with pets. The department would use this truck and seven others just like it to race around town, rescuing as many dogs, cats and even horses as possible.

(voice-over) He's also stockpiled necessities.

OLIVE: Toilet paper, hand soap, diapers, everything.

HENRY: No plan is perfect but the chief is driven to a devotion to firefighting, like his grandfather and a love of this community that runs through his veins like the oil that runs through the pipelines.

OLIVE: I've been in Baytown 55 years. It's -- my family is here. My friends are here. My church is here. Everything is here. I'm one of them. And I want them to know me as a citizen as well as an emergency management coordinator. Because a lot of times, they'll tell you things over a plate of barbecue that they wouldn't tell you, say, in my office.

HENRY: So, this, too, is part of the job, judging at a chili cook off. And the key to sampling 31 pieces of meat?

OLIVE: Little, little bites and lots of crackers.

HENRY: Chief Bernard Olive brings the same no nonsense approach to his work. As a boy, he met John Wayne, who was filming "Hell Fighters" in these very oil fields.

He still marvels at the duke's swagger, and maybe a little bit of that has stayed with them.

OLIVE: Hopefully, our citizens in Baytown won't have to put up with excuses. They'll see performance. And that's what -- that's why I guess some people might have the, you know, thought that I might be a little rough.

But I believe in performance. I don't believe in excuses.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: I like that motto. That was Ed Henry, reporting for us tonight. Coming up, an incredible story about the human will to live. A miracle at sea. A survival story like none you've ever heard before.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Today the U.N. said it has more than $700 million already in hand to help tsunami survivors. Just two weeks after the disaster, that's 70 percent of what's needed for immediate relief.

The disaster has killed nearly 150,000 people. But in Indonesia, which has suffered the most, 77,000 people are still unaccounted for. And in town after town, it's up to each survivor to search for the missing.

Here's John King reporting from Banda Aceh.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sabri (ph) has been searching for 16 days now, in camps full of children. For him, disappointment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The last time we saw each other was outside. The last time was when there was the earthquake and we all went to sit in front of the house.

KING: Finally, some help. Wrinkled photographs out of the rubble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This child is two years and seven months.

KING: This child is Deira (ph), brown hair, big brown eyes, beautiful and missing, or worse.

In this snapshot, proof of a messy eater. A red sweater here, a yellow dress the day the wave came.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We all sat up front and her baby-sitter was feeding her. She was being difficult and didn't want to eat, and so she had food dribbling down her face. Then the water came, and I grabbed the youngest child.

She was wearing a yellow dress, yellow. Perhaps she doesn't have her clothes anymore. She is skinny, but she likes eating fruit.

KING: His wife is dead, the youngest daughter alive, Sabri (ph) and relatives searching all around Aceh province. In Indonesian, "ryang" (ph) is precocious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She was pretending to make a temperature call, and we took a picture of her. She likes to play, singing songs. Very, very happy. She likes to make friends. She goes to our neighbor and always ask him for a hug. He's dead now.

KING: Someone told Sabri (ph) a TV news report showed a girl who looked like Deira (ph) at a hospital in Medan with breathing tubes. He is here, looking for answers. He is not alone.

This UNICEF center sits at the back of a tsunami refugee camp, volunteers on hand to add names to the list of the missing. It is order after two weeks of complaints of parents that there was nowhere to go, no one to ask.

"Adeira Kanya Puchi (ph)," Sabri (ph) says, "Deira for short." The story once again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were all at the house when the water came, and it was so strong. One child I managed to take with me, thanks to God.

KING: He is a teacher, 37 years old. His wife was killed. The babysitter, like Deira, missing. The forms ask for a photo.

No answers here, but a promise to try and directions to the wall, more than 2,000 names, children without parents now at camps and in government custody.

For days there has been no information. Now, Sabri (ph) joins others, looking for a name, for something to reward their hope.

Maybe a cousin here, but no Deira (ph). As he looks again, Sabri (ph) says, "Maybe she is sick and can't give her name." Yes, he knows it could be worse, but he isn't ready to accept that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As much effort as it takes, we must try as hard as we can. When it comes to how long, I don't know. We must keep on trying, and praying.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: There's nothing like the hope and prayers of a parent. John King in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, reporting.

And today, government scientists released these pictures from space. This is amazing, tracking the great Asian tsunami as it moves around the Earth.

What you're actually looking at is a satellite photo animation that shows the killer wave and actually landing on both coasts of the United States. If you want to get a closer look at this, you can see it at the web site, NOAA.org. NOAA.org.

Next, if you believe in miracles, we've got a survival story that just might qualify. That's right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Sixteen days after the tsunamis washed thousands of people out to sea, we still hear about miracles, survivors who somehow managed to stay afloat and stay alive on the ocean that killed so many others.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN (voice-over): Brought together by courage, united by their mutual will to survive, new friends Rizal Sapura and Ari Afrizal comforted each other in a Malaysian hospital room and shared prayers of thanks. Both men were rescued from what could have been watery graves in the Indian Ocean.

The latest to cheat death, Ari, appeared surprisingly strong as he greeted a crowd of reporters and photographers in Malaysia's west port. The 20-year-old was swept out to sea on December 26 as the tsunami flooded his home in Sumatra's Aceh province.

A first, he says he clung to driftwood, later, to a sinking boat and finally, on the fifth day, his prayers were answered. This raft miraculously appeared on the horizon. It was abandoned but seaworthy and stocked with several bottles of water.

He says he survived for 15 days on rotting coconuts and faith as ship after ship passed by without even noticing him. But when his raft was finally spotted by this container ship some 200 miles from his home in Sumatra, Ari's heart nearly sank.

ARI AFRIZAL, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR (through translator): I thought the ship had left the area, and I sat down and cried. But the ship returned and cheered me up.

ZAHN: Ari boarded the ship without any help and, remarkably, walked ashore on his own two feet.

His new friend in the Malaysian hospital, Rizal Sapura, said he drifted for nine harrowing days on an uprooted tree before a Japanese cargo ship finally spotted him, seemingly standing on water.

Rizal had watched as his family was swallowed by with the sea and now says there's nothing left for him at home. So this 23-year-old Indonesian fisherman has gotten special permission to stay and start a new life here in Malaysia.

And an update. Remember this woman, Malawati Daud, the expectant mother who was found by a tuna fishing boat, clinging to a palm tree? She'll be discharged from the hospital tomorrow, after reportedly surviving for six days in the Indian Ocean. She now looks forward to the birth of her first child later this summer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And you'll be probably pretty happy to know so many people have been moved by Malawati's story, they've been flooding her hospital room with flowers and baby gifts. She's hoping for a healthy baby girl.

Slight correction here. If we confused you, the web address we gave to view the satellite pictures of the tsunami wasn't quite exactly what we gave you. Here this is correct one: NOAA.gov. NOAA.gov.

We'll be right back with an update on the disaster weather in this country, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Before we leave you tonight, we wanted to bring you the very latest on the weather out west.

Flooding is reported in parts of California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah, the result of more than a week of storms moving in from the Pacific. These incredible pictures are from St. George, Utah, in the southwestern corner of the state.

In California, at least 19 deaths are blamed on the water. These -- weather, that is. These harrowing pictures are from California, where a mother and baby son were actually dumped back into the raging stream, when their raft capsized. Miraculously, all three are OK tonight.

And authorities have just updated the death toll from yesterday's mudslide from La Conchita, California, northwest of L.A. They said at least five people are confirmed killed, 13 known to be missing.

Of course, CNN will keep you up to date on that very important story throughout the night.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.

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


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