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AMERICAN MORNING

Teen Drug Abuse; FBI Brain Drain; Immigration Battle; 'Now It's My Turn'; New Horizons

Aired May 16, 2006 - 08:30   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Five-month-old twin girls surgically separated last week are improving. Doctors upgraded their condition from critical to serious. Abbigail and Isabelle Carlsen remain in intensive care, though, at the Mayo Clinic. Their parents are thanking health officials and the public for their prayers.
And Bausch & Lomb is pulling its MoistureLoc Solution off of store shelves for good. The product has been linked to fungus infections that could cause blindness. The Food and Drug Administration says it supports the permanent recall.

And if you're driving between Edgewater, Florida and New Smyrna Beach, better avoid this, Interstate 95. It has been shut down indefinitely. Officials say a brushfire jumped the highway early this morning. It's one of more than 2,500 wildfires in the state this year.

That's a look at the headlines.

Back to you, -- Miles, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Carol, thanks.

Believe it or not, kids aren't necessarily getting drugs from a drug dealer these days. They don't, in fact, need to look any further than your medicine cabinet. The Partnership For a Drug-Free America reports this morning that prescription drug abuse among children is a growing problem.

Steve Pasierb is the President and CEO of the organization. Linda Surks' son, Jason, died of an overdose of prescription drugs back in 2003. They're both in Washington, D.C. this morning.

Thank you both for talking to us.

Steve, let's begin with you, if we can. I think parents, when they worry about their kids and drugs, you think pot, you think cocaine, you think ecstasy. How big of a problem, realistically, is prescription drug abuse?

STEVE PASIERB, PARTNERSHIP FOR A DRUG-FREE AMERICA: Well what we know from the studies, we have 4.5 million kids who have intentionally abused a prescription drug to get high and about 2.4 million kids who have abused over-the-counter cough medicine. So it is a fairly significant behavior, right behind marijuana and inhalants, and above all of the other forms of illegal drug use. S. O'BRIEN: And in fact, you have done a study. And let me throw up the study so people can see it. You looked at 7,300 teenagers from grades 7 to 12. And those numbers you were just giving us from the study extrapolated out, marijuana 8.6 million, inhalants 4.7 million teens, prescription medicines 4.5 million teenagers, cough medicine 2.4 million teenagers, crack/cocaine 2.4 million teenagers. I think is -- that -- those are pretty shocking when you look at that bar graph. Is it just, essentially, Steve, the ease of access, frankly?

PASIERB: That's a very big part of it. It's a combination of ease of access, but very, very weak risk behavior in attitudes among teenagers. They don't understand that intentionally abusing these products is as risky as using illicit street drugs.

So we're really going after the parents you mentioned earlier, helping them understand there's a new form of substance abuse out there. Your kid may not be doing it, but he or she is at risk. And you've got to educate yourself, then communicate that out to your kid and safeguard these medications in your home. They're wonderfully beneficial and they're in all of our homes, you just need to understand this is an issue of bad behavior meeting good medicine.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk to Linda now. Linda, as we mentioned, your son, Jason, died back in 2003. He was just 19 years old. Did you have any idea that he was abusing prescription drugs?

LINDA SURKS, MOTHER OF RX OVERDOSE VICTIM: No, we actually had no idea at all. And the fact of the matter is, I work in substance abuse prevention, so I should have had some clues, but he was very knowledgeable and a bit cagey and kept it from us completely.

S. O'BRIEN: What prescription drugs were he abusing and what happened?

SURKS: Well, he was abusing Xanax, OxyContin, Vicodin, a number of different prescriptions. He was a pre-pharmacy major. And I think that there was some level of professional curiosity, perhaps, and a sense of invincibility that Jason just always had. He just started abusing the drugs about six months prior to his death and really didn't get a chance to have a second chance.

S. O'BRIEN: Steve, you know, it is interesting when Linda talks about her teenage son and she says sense of invincibility. I don't know any teenager who doesn't have that. But it's also curious when she says she's got a history on drug prevention, I mean you know that's sort of what she does, and even she didn't see the red flags. Do you think parents are just clueless on this issue?

PASIERB: We have probably one of the most drug-experienced generations of parents in history, but this is a kind of behavior that didn't exist 10 or 20 years ago. So, for most parents, prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse is not on their radar screens. So even people in our field, let alone average parents at home just trying to raise a healthy family, this is a key issue. And this is why we're trying to alert families to the fact that there are products in your own home your kid may be intentionally abusing.

S. O'BRIEN: Linda, let me ask you another question about Jason. Where was he getting drugs from? Was he getting -- was he stealing them from you?

SURKS: No, he wasn't. But we believe that -- I know that he did order some drugs over the Internet. There was a Mexican pharmacy online that he ordered Xanax from and had set up a renewal subscription for him, so every month they would renew the order.

Beyond that, we know that these drugs are sold on the streets, as well. They can be gotten in anybody's medicine cabinet. And he was knowledgeable, somewhat knowledgeable about the substances because he actually worked in a pharmacy part time.

S. O'BRIEN: Brutal for your family. I'm so sorry, but really, I think, good information for other parents to be very aware of.

Steve Pasierb for the Partnership For a Drug-Free America and Linda Surks, thank you both for talking with us this morning. We sure appreciate it.

SURKS: Thank you.

PASIERB: Thanks, -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The government is losing more than a few good men and women charged with fighting the war on terror. The CIA and the FBI dealing with a so-called brain drain losing some of its most talented people to the private sector. But why?

Here's CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An FBI agent for 31 years, Ronald Nesbitt has decided to call it quits.

RONALD NESBITT, FORMER FBI OFFICIAL: I knew that I had to make a decision while I was still relatively young, while I was attractive to the private sector and not much later in my career.

ARENA: Nesbitt, who is 52, ran the counterintelligence unit for the FBI's Washington field office. He says he was happy at work and wasn't job hunting, but got offers anyway. In the end, he says he did what was best for his family and accepted a security job with a large corporation.

NESBITT: I have two daughters that are adults and one is graduating, one is still a sophomore in college. I have a young daughter still, so I was really looking at expenses.

ARENA: Nesbitt is just one of several top officials giving in to the lure of the private sector. Gary Ball, the top counterterrorism chief, is leaving next month to work in security for a cruise line. In fact, since the attacks on September 11, at least six top counterterrorism officials have left. Alarming some members of Congress.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: He does...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are critical jobs at a critical time.

MUELLER: I understand what you're saying and it is an issue. We're wresting with.

ARENA: The FBI points out the officials who left spent decades working at the FBI and says it's well prepared to replace them.

MIKE MASON, FBI EXECUTIVE ASST. DIRECTOR: We know what the dynamic is in terms of the average retirement age of senior bureau employees. And as a result, are working hard to develop the bench we need to develop.

ARENA: But according to a study requested by Congress, the high turnover at the top makes it harder for the FBI to make necessary changes. Tim Roemer was a member of the 9/11 Commission.

TIM ROEMER, FMR. 9/11 COMMISSIONER: When you have six managers in the counterterrorism area in five years and you don't have that experience and that leadership at the top, even when you're bringing in creative new people, you are going to have significant morale and transfer and turnover problems at the bottom.

ARENA: Nesbitt says in his case there wasn't much the FBI could do. It came down to needing the money.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Now the salary for Nesbitt's position tops out at $165,000, civil service and all. But in the private sector, his expertise is, of course, worth a lot more.

Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: It's 38 minutes past the hour, let's get right to Jacqui Jeras. She's at the CNN Center with an update going on, -- Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey.

(WEATHER REPORT)

Back to you guys.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Jacqui, thanks.

A short break and then we're going to come back with much more in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Ten thousand teachers took up an offer to hit the movies this weekend.

Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business" with that story.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Well if you can't...

S. O'BRIEN: Kind of a nice offer.

SERWER: Yes, it's a nice offer. And if you can't get people to buy tickets to your movie, you give the tickets away. And that's what happened. You know "Akeelah and The Bee" is that movie about a spelling bee and a young girl going to a spelling bee that Starbucks helped co-produce. And it did...

S. O'BRIEN: It's a good movie.

SERWER: It is a good movie, but not a lot of people went to see it. So the AMC movie theater chain had a special offer where they were giving away tickets to teachers. Ten thousand teachers took them up nationwide.

M. O'BRIEN: So, wait a minute, they get a free ticket and they just make it up on volume?

SERWER: They're still...

M. O'BRIEN: Plus zero, right?

SERWER: They're supposed to bring -- they're going to bring their friends and students.

M. O'BRIEN: And popcorn will be purchased.

SERWER: And popcorn, right.

M. O'BRIEN: And, yes.

SERWER: And supposedly I guess they go back to school on Monday and say, now class, I saw the most wonderful film.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, that I don't think is going to work.

SERWER: Well then the kids say, forget it if the teacher liked it.

S. O'BRIEN: Right.

SERWER: Interesting strategy there.

Now let's talk about in other entertainment business news, Elvis' home has been sold. No, we're not talking about Graceland. We're talking about a house that Elvis lived in for a year before he bought Graceland. A four-bedroom ranch house, 3,000 square feet, in 1956 that he purchased. And this is...

S. O'BRIEN: There it is right there.

SERWER: There it is.

M. O'BRIEN: It's Ranchland.

SERWER: Yes. It's interesting. It's in Memphis.

S. O'BRIEN: OK.

SERWER: And here's what happened. He -- let's see, this house was bought by a couple in 1998 for $180,000. They put it on eBay, of course. Sold for $905,000. What a great investment, Elvis' house, what a great investment.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. What are the comps?

SERWER: Listen to this. Right. A New York attorney, retired firefighter, along with an Israeli psychic bought the house.

M. O'BRIEN: Perfect.

SERWER: Wasn't that a great combination?

M. O'BRIEN: And you know what, they're going to conjure...

S. O'BRIEN: Wait, that's one person?

M. O'BRIEN: They will conjure Elvis back.

SERWER: No, it was two. It's two people. And they're going to restore the house.

S. O'BRIEN: New York attorney, retired firefighter, psychic.

M. O'BRIEN: And Elvis impersonator.

SERWER: No, then there's the Elvis -- never mind.

S. O'BRIEN: That would make sense.

SERWER: Yes. It's going to be an interesting little thing.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: They're going to restore it.

S. O'BRIEN: That's a nice little profit on some real estate.

SERWER: Wow, nice one.

S. O'BRIEN: You'll be turning those numbers one day, Miles, don't worry.

M. O'BRIEN: That's all right. S. O'BRIEN: Thank you, -- Andy.

SERWER: Some day.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Maybe some day, maybe.

The president last night making it official, he is sending 6,000 National Guard troops to help the Border Patrol police the U.S.-Mexico border. He also offered his most clear support yet for a program that would give illegal immigrants already in the country a path towards citizenship. Is this the right mix? Will it really work?

Let's go to a place where they know a lot about this issue, Laredo, Texas, big crossing point from Mexico to the United States.

We are joined by Her Honor, Mayor Betty Flores, once again.

Madam Mayor, good to have you back on the program. What did you think of the...

MAYOR BETTY FLORES, LAREDO, TEXAS: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: What did you think of the president's plan?

FLORES: Well, good morning to you.

I thought it was -- well, it's a great day in Laredo, let me put it to you that way. That I think what made it a great day and what I thought specifically of the president's speech was the tone he set for the country. That was the most important thing.

But this is a cautious statement, however, because the devil is always in the details. And the details about sending Guardsmen to the border are still very worrisome. And I'm really worried about that particular point about it.

I still am not sure how it doesn't mean not militarize the border, because I think it's exactly what it does. So in that respect, we are still worried about it, we're cautious about it, but we're very glad that he included a worker's program. I think that's important because people want to be able to go back home.

M. O'BRIEN: Mayor, let's -- yes, let's talk -- I want to talk about the worker's program, but first let's settle this border issue. We did some math this morning. If you're going to send 6,000 troops, they work, you know, three per day, if you do the shifts. That comes out to one member of the National Guard per mile along this long border. So to say it's militarized the border is probably stretching it a little bit.

Let's listen to the president just briefly here and then I want to ask you about this devil in the details thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was the governor of a state that has a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. So I know how difficult it is to enforce the border and how important it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: Do you think he really gets that, because it seems to me there's not enough troops here to truly make a difference?

FLORES: Well, I think what he wants to do is support the Border Patrol and law enforcement that we already have in our communities. And I think, in that respect, it is a good thing. But he is right, you're not ever going to be able to patrol the entire border, so what we need to do is the other pieces.

M. O'BRIEN: Why not? Wait a minute, why not? The Chinese built a Great Wall over you know 6,000 miles. It could be done, right?

FLORES: No.

M. O'BRIEN: Why not?

FLORES: The Wall didn't work. I mean, I went to the Wall. I walked the Wall. All kinds of people are walking the Wall now. So are we building a wall and do we want to build a wall for future generations to walk around it and walk over it and say it didn't work? I don't think so. I think we're a better country today and I think we are a better world today than we were in the past.

M. O'BRIEN: So...

FLORES: And I think we have better ways of solving our problems.

M. O'BRIEN: ... you actually would suggest it's better to leave the border kind of porous? You think that -- is that what you're suggesting or is it just you throw up your hands and say there's nothing we can do here?

FLORES: No, I'm not putting up my hands. I think we're not doing the right things. And I think Mexico is not a partner in this. And I think they should be a stronger partner in this. I don't think that Mexico benefits from having all their good working people leave their country. I think there are villages that are being destroyed by doing that.

And the money isn't everything. I know everyone claims that Vicente Fox wants the money be sent back to Mexico. That's one thing. But what about not having a work force in Mexico to be able to have a prosperous economy and a better economy?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, this is part of the equation we don't talk as much about, what happens on that side of the border. Final thought here and on that vein, if there's a guest worker program or an amnesty program, whatever you want to call it, doesn't that just provide further incentive for people to try whether there's guard troops there or not, whether it's enhanced security or not, to try to get through that border?

FLORES: You can pooh-pooh all you want, Miles, if you -- and if that's your mood for the day. But let me tell you, we have a guest worker program here in Laredo, Texas, pretty much, that people cross over, they work here and they go back home every day.

M. O'BRIEN: So your guest worker is an important part of the piece for you?

FLORES: Absolutely.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. It's not that I'm in a bad mood, I'm just supposed to be devil's advocate. That's my job.

Always a pleasure...

FLORES: I understand.

M. O'BRIEN: ... to have you drop by, Laredo, Texas, Mayor Betty Flores.

AMERICAN MORNING will be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Growing up in the political spotlight, Mary Cheney made a point of flying under the radar and guarding her privacy, until now. The vice president's daughter is speaking out. She's got a new book. It's called "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life."

Mary Cheney is with us this morning.

Nice to see you.

MARY CHENEY, AUTHOR, "NOW IT'S MY TURN": Nice to see you, too.

S. O'BRIEN: Why now since now it's your turn? You know because you really have had people calling on you for a long time to make comments on all aspects of the campaign and your personal life and you haven't said much.

CHENEY: I haven't. And there's several reasons why I wrote the book. A big one is because it's been six years since my dad was first nominated to run for vice president. And in that time, everybody from the media, to activists on both ends of the political spectrum, to the Democratic nominee for president has offered up their opinions regarding me and my personal life. And, you know, so now, I decided to write a book, "Now It's My Turn."

S. O'BRIEN: Many people in the gay community would say how could you work for an administration that has said that they want a constitutional amendment that would make marriage between a man and woman. I think that sort of begs the question, why work in an administration that sort of goes against the way you live your life and the way you want to live your life? CHENEY: Well I'll be very clear, I -- you know technically I don't work in the administration, I worked for the re-election campaign.

S. O'BRIEN: But you...

CHENEY: But one of the things I talk about in the book is it was hard -- it was a hard choice for me. I gave serious consideration to quitting the campaign in 2004 when President Bush came out and endorsed the federal marriage amendment. You know, as I talk about in the book, I had very strong feelings about the marriage amendment. I say it is fundamentally wrong.

But it's also important to remember that in the 2004 campaign, which was, you know, one of the most important political campaigns of our lives you know, there were lots of issues. But the most important one was national security, and so when...

S. O'BRIEN: Does national security trump your personal life, though, because it's an issue that's...

CHENEY: No, no, but let's be very clear here. When push comes to shove, I can feel however strongly I want to about the marriage amendment but when push comes to shove, what ultimately matters is that we need to do whatever we can to protect this country where we can debate issues like same sex marriage.

S. O'BRIEN: When you say I am working in a campaign, but I don't always agree with everything they're going to do?

CHENEY: I make it very clear that I worked on the campaign and supported George Bush and Dick Cheney and still do, but that I disagree with President Bush on the issue of the marriage amendment.

S. O'BRIEN: Was this book helpful to write in any way? I mean was it cathartic? You got attacked a lot and you kept your mouth shut every step of the way. Sometimes people would just want you to make a comment, sometimes they would absolutely excoriate you and you never said anything.

CHENEY: I never did.

S. O'BRIEN: I know.

CHENEY: (INAUDIBLE) you have to remember is in both in 2000 and especially in 2004, I had a very specific role. It would have been, from my perspective, very inappropriate for me to start issuing policy statements of my own as a campaign staffer.

S. O'BRIEN: If they revisit the issue, will you go, since you're not a staffer anymore, will you be sort of a vocal leader?

CHENEY: I'm not really sure how much more public I can be regarding my point of view.

S. O'BRIEN: Always. Always much more, but I guess we'll have to wait and see how it turns out.

The book is called "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life." Mary Cheney is the author.

It's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

CHENEY: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jim Geiser is not your ordinary volunteer firefighter. He's 75 years old.

JIM GEISER, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER: Let's go. We're going to a scene of a medical run. Somebody has fallen and we want to see if we can help.

STOUFFER: The Evansville, Indiana resident retired in 1995 and a year later he got into fire fighting by accident.

GEISER: They were talking about making a taxing district for the fire department so that they could raise funds. And I came to that meeting and they said well come on up and see what it's like for training tonight. And there on I've been hooked. And the most exciting part of being a fireman is going into a fire. And I've only done that once.

STOUFFER: His doctor would rather he didn't go into burning buildings and Geiser says he'll respect the limitations that age brings. He's won several awards for his work at the German Township Fire Department. In addition to going on calls, he's the maintenance coordinator for the fire station and runs its Web site.

GEISER: The other thing I like is the kids when we do the fire prevention program at the schools, it's unbelievable.

CAPTAIN CINDY GREIS, GERMAN TOWNSHIP FIRE DEPT.: I think any time you see somebody of Jim's age doing what he does the way he goes about it it's an inspiration.

GEISER: The fire department is a very, very close family. It is something that the community needs and I feel I'm helping out.

STOUFFER: Linda Stouffer, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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