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PAULA ZAHN NOW

President Bush Acknowledges Secret Overseas Prisons For Terrorism Suspects; The Politics of War; Interview With California Senator Barbara Boxer; Dangers Behind SUVs and Children

Aired September 6, 2006 - 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 thank you all for joining us tonight.
Our in-depth coverage of the top stories starts with some startling disclosures in the war on terror. Now, after months of allegations about secret U.S. prisons and disturbing questions about whether terror suspects are being tortured, President Bush has finally given the world some answers.

Here is what you need to know.

Today, for the first time, the president acknowledged that, yes, the U.S. has set up secret overseas prisons for terror suspects. They're run by the CIA. The president also revealed he has approved alternative interrogation methods for those prisoners. He insists it isn't torture, but won't describe the techniques used.

The president also announced that three al Qaeda operatives, including two with connections to the September 11 attacks, are among 14 prisoners who have been transferred to Guantanamo to face trial.

But, first, the president needs Congress to set up military commissions to conduct those trials. And he's demanding quick action -- all of this, of course, raising a lot of important questions, legal, ethical, and political.

That's why we're going in-depth tonight, starting with White House correspondent Ed Henry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush decided to finally acknowledge the existence of secret CIA prisons around the world, just days before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and two months before the midterm elections.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This program has helped us to take potential mass murderers off the streets before they were able to kill.

HENRY: The president revealed that 14 senior members of al Qaeda previously in CIA custody have been transferred to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay for prosecution.

Among the 14 terrorists in custody are Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Abu Zubaydah, a field commander for Osama bin Laden, and Ramzi Binalshibh, a would-be 9/11 hijacker.

Amid international outrage about the so-called black prisons in Europe and elsewhere, the president insisted the techniques used on the detainees were tough, but legal.

BUSH: I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world. The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it.

HENRY: And the president claimed the intelligence gleaned from the CIA program thwarted terror plots in the U.S., United Kingdom, and Asia.

BUSH: Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland.

HENRY: But Democrats immediately asked why the president was revealing this now, in part three of a series of speeches, framing a seminal issue in the midterms, the war on terror. And Democrats demanded to know why it took so long for the administration to embrace the Geneva Conventions.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Their bull-in-a-china-shop approach, ignore the Constitution, ignore the rule of law, has made us worse off than we would have been had they gone to Congress originally. The detainees are suing. Their status is in limbo. We're worse off than we were.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, the president insisted his move was not motivated by politics, instead, motivated by the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision back in June, a slap in the face to the president, where they basically said the military tribunals set up by the Bush administration to prosecute these alleged terrorists did not pass muster, without some sort of legislative framework.

That's why the president has now sent legislation to the Hill. He's demanding action before the elections -- Paula.

ZAHN: He's demanding action, but what exactly is he looking for from Congress?

HENRY: He's trying to get Congress to basically approve this CIA program. You're going to hear a lot of Democrats complaining about the fact that, just like the domestic spying program, the White House is almost trying to get it approved after the fact, after they have been doing it for a few years.

And what you're seeing the president do is try to turn a political liability, the fact that he was slapped in the face a few months ago by the high court, where they said he does not have a blank check in the war in terror -- he now wants to try to turn it into a political plus by focusing it back on the good aspects of this program, in his eyes, fighting terrorists. And that's how the Republicans are framing this entire election -- Paula.

ZAHN: We will be hearing a lot of that between now and election time, for sure.

Ed Henry, thanks so much.

HENRY: Thank you.

ZAHN: Now, as Ed just pointed out, one of the president's big announcements today is that 14 terror suspects have been transferred to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, so they can go on trial.

And justice correspondent Kelli Arena continues our "Top Story" coverage with a closer look at who they are and what exactly they will be accused of doing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the most dramatic prison transfer in recent memory, from the CIA's secret jails to Guantanamo Bay, 14 terror suspects. The government says they're among the most dangerous men in the world.

Abu Zubaydah, a top lieutenant to Osama bin Laden, injured during capture, the government says he gave valuable information in his first days of captivity, including tips that led to two of the biggest takedowns in the war on terror.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, allegedly the former number three in the al Qaeda leadership, accused of plotting not only the World Trade Center attacks, but many other al Qaeda operations.

And Ramzi Binalshibh, but for a twist of fate, the government says he would have been among the September 11 hijackers. He couldn't get a U.S. visa.

BUSH: These are dangerous men, with unparalleled knowledge about terrorist networks and their plans of new attacks.

ARENA: Government officials say, since the CIA program began, after 9/11, fewer than 100 detainees have been held in secret. Now there are none, all transferred to other locations. The administration says that they have lost their intelligence value.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: In most cases, these terrorists probably have no additional knowledge of impending attacks. They do, however, continue to possess knowledge of how the organization works, how relationships work within al Qaeda, how al Qaeda communicates, and how it operates generally.

ARENA: Among the others just transferred to Gitmo, Riduan Isamuddin, AKA Hambali. Allegedly the head of al Qaeda's Asian operation, investigators say that he was behind the 2002 bomb attacks in Bali that left more than 200 dead.

The so-called chief of al Qaeda's operations in the Arabian Peninsula, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, said to be responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole.

And Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a veteran paramilitary commander, officials say that he was a liaison between al Qaeda's top lieutenants and Osama bin Laden.

We don't know where they came from. The CIA's jails were secret. But we know what awaits them, chain-link cells, isolation, and an uncertain future.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And, even as the president was defending the tough interrogation techniques he has approved for terror suspects, the Pentagon was unveiling its own new procedures, which prohibit questioners from doing things like sexually humiliating suspects, or making them think they're about to drown to get information out of them.

The military's new rules will apply at Guantanamo Bay, where President Bush says 455 suspected terrorists are being held.

With me now is Joshua Denbeaux, an attorney who represents two of those suspects, and has helped compile reports on all of the Guantanamo detainees.

Thanks so much for being with us tonight.

Why are the two men that you represent being held?

JOSHUA W. DENBEAUX, ATTORNEY FOR GUANTANAMO BAY SUSPECTS: Well, that's a good question. You need to ask the government attorneys, not me.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Well, we will tell you what the government attorneys have told us about one of the men, Rafik Al-Mani, that...

DENBEAUX: Al-Hami.

ZAHN: Al-Hami -- that is how you pronounce it?

That he was an al Qaeda fighter and that he attended an al Qaeda training camp.

DENBEAUX: They have told me that, too, but they have not told me why they believe that to be true.

ZAHN: You don't believe it to be true?

DENBEAUX: The government's job is to prove it. And I have seen no proof of it, other than someone tells me. The government says that's where he was. But where's the guy that turned him in? Where's the guy that turned him in for a bounty? My -- one -- one of my clients -- I think both were actually turned in for a bounty from Pakistani people. One was turned in for a bounty from Pakistan. Pakistan -- a Pakistani farmer turned him in for a bounty, got some money, walked off. We have no idea what he told to the government.

ZAHN: Well, let's specifically talk about Mohammed Rahman.

Am I pronouncing his name correctly?

DENBEAUX: Yes.

ZAHN: He was in Italy...

DENBEAUX: Yes.

ZAHN: ... picked up by CIA agents, after a terrible accident.

DENBEAUX: No. He was the one who was picked up in Pakistan by someone in Pakistan -- no one knows who it was -- who put him in the back of a truck, drove him over to the border of Afghanistan, turned him into the United States forces, and told someone from our forces something, which then led them to send him to Guantanamo. But no one knows who this Pakistani farmer is, or whatever he was.

I don't know who the second lieutenant or whoever he was that was turned into United States forces. And nobody seems to know what he actually said. There's...

ZAHN: But the government certainly has to have more than just hearsay to bring them to Guantanamo.

DENBEAUX: You would think, but I don't believe that to be so. I have seen...

ZAHN: Why are you so convinced that is not the case?

DENBEAUX: Because I saw...

ZAHN: I know you keep on saying you ask for proof. But -- but you're not suggesting, in the case of your other client, that, you know, thousands of people are injured in Italy every year. That a CIA agent would have to go in and pick somebody up out of the blue seems preposterous.

DENBEAUX: No. You're -- no, you're getting confused.

The -- the -- Rafik was picked up from Iran, from an Iranian official. I don't know why he was in Iran or what they picked him up for, put in a helicopter, and sent directly to the CIA. There's a direct link between the CIA and Iran for Rafik.

ZAHN: Sure.

DENBEAUX: OK. (CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: With -- with Iranian officials participating in that?

DENBEAUX: I believe so. I believe so.

Now, Mohammed was in Italy for a time, when he was in a car accident, and hurt his head. That has nothing to do with the CIA. He was back in Pakistan when he was picked up by somebody, and turned over to the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. That's the sum total of information the government has on him in the classified and declassified information. There's nothing there.

And, Paula, the reason why I know there's nothing there is because the president has never said, I want to give Mohammed Rahman a trial or Rafik Rafik Al-Hami a trial. He's picked 10 guys at Guantanamo he thinks he can try. He can't try my clients. There's no evidence against my clients. And all I want for my clients is a trial. Win or lose, give me a trial.

ZAHN: Well, it will be interesting to see what happens with the president's proposal, as he's leaning on Congress to move forward on -- on what he talked about during his speech today.

Joshua Denbeaux, thanks for your time.

DENBEAUX: Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate it.

Coming up, we have other top stories we're following tonight, including two different strategies to win one of the toughest election battles in years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): The politics of war -- as Democrats target Donald Rumsfeld and the war in Iraq, Republicans focus on the worldwide terror threat. We will analyze the two parties' very different appeals to voters.

Plus: driving blind. Just how big is the blind spot behind your SUV? How many first-graders could fit into it? Thousands of children crushed because they can't be seen. Tonight, a CNN investigation that could save lives -- all that and more just ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our "Top Story" in politics tonight, it's all about Iraq, terror, and angry voters.

With about two months to go before the midterm elections, the challenge for Republicans is trying to persuade voters that their record on the war on terror trumps growing anger over how the Iraq war is going.

So, the White House is hoping the president's series of speeches on the terror front will do the trick. But, as you're about to see, being tight with the president may not help anyone get elected in November.

Here's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Though a lot of voters are angry with George Bush, he's not on the ballot this year. But it's bad news for Republicans who are.

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: You look good.

CROWLEY: And it is the core of Democratic strategy.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: George Bush and his acolyte, Mike DeWine, just care about the people at the very, very top.

CROWLEY: Republican Mike DeWine is the senior senator from Ohio. He struggles against a rip current which threatens to pull under Republicans nationwide. CNN and Opinion Research Corporation asked voters whether they were more or less likely to vote for pro-Bush candidates. Message: There is a price for an R after your name.

JENNIFER DUFFY, MANAGING EDITOR, "THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT": You mostly see incumbents telling voters, I will be with the president when I agree with him, but I won't be with him when -- when I don't.

REP. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: The next one?

CROWLEY: Sherrod Brown is a Democratic House member gunning for DeWine's Senate seat.

BROWN: Mike DeWine voted for the Iraq war, and I voted against the Iraq war.

(APPLAUSE)

CROWLEY: Ohio ranks fifth in states with the highest number of Iraq war dead, and, like the rest of the nation, has seen the downward spiral of support for the president and the Iraq war.

The president and Iraq, Republicans and the president, they are inextricably linked.

JOHN GREEN, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF AKRON: You know, most Ohioans realize that Senator DeWine is not in charge of the war effort. But he's a strong supporter of the Bush administration, and many people do hold President Bush accountable for the problems in Iraq.

CROWLEY: Republicans counter the Iraq attacks with what they hope is their campaign ace card, the war against terror. DEWINE: I voted for the Patriot Act to find and stop the terrorists. It makes a difference.

(APPLAUSE)

DEWINE: Sherrod Brown voted to deny these tools to our terrorist fighters.

CROWLEY: And as the president stumps the country, insisting that Iraq is part of the war on terror, he is echoed on the Republican campaign trail in word and in picture; 9/11 Mayor Rudy Giuliani has left the streets of New York for Republican hustings everywhere.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We are interested in Senator DeWine being reelected all over the country, because he's someone who's a leader in the effort against terrorism.

CROWLEY: Bottom line: We are better at protecting you.

It worked for Republicans in '02 and '04. They hope it will drive their discouraged voters to the polls in '06, except that something is different now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY AD)

NARRATOR: He failed us on the Intelligence Committee before 9/11, and on weapons of mass destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Instead of avoiding the issue of the war on terror, Democrats are taking it on, convinced that, this time, Republican arguments won't work on a hardened electorate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Candy, I guess what it makes you wonder is how this will really play out. You have got so many voters out there so angry at the president. This rollout of speeches, is that really going to make a dent in that?

CROWLEY: Well, look, again, they're -- they're going for their base.

So, the people that are prone to be Republican, that were with Bush from the beginning, they're trying to say, look, remember the things about him you liked:? Come on -- you know, come on home. Actually, come on out to the ballot box.

ZAHN: Right.

CROWLEY: But I have talked to some Republicans that say, boy, every time he gets out there, you know, it's a reminder. Now, they are the minority. So, there are some, though, that think, like, every day, you know, Iraq comes up, every day. They don't mind the war on terror, but when Iraq comes up -- and, inevitably, it does when we have these conversations and everybody else.

ZAHN: Sure.

CROWLEY: That -- some people think that's not helpful.

ZAHN: Candy Crowley, always good to see you -- part of our best political team on TV.

Our "Top Story" coverage continues in just a moment.

First, though, let's check in with Melissa Long, who joins us from our Pipeline studio for our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories.

(AUDIO GAP) us with 11 tonight, Melissa.

MELISSA LONG, CNN PIPELINE: OK.

ZAHN: You will have to make it up.

(CROSSTALK)

LONG: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

LONG: A lot of curiosity about Tropical Storm Florence today on CNN.com. Some 23 million people logged on to the Web site.

Right now, the National Hurricane Center's forecast shows that only Bermuda appears to be in the possible path of that storm. That story ranks number 10.

In Florida, Congresswoman Katherine Harris wins the GOP nomination for the Senate without support from party leaders. As Florida's secretary of state, Harris oversaw the recount that gave President Bush the White House in 2000.

And number eight -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair facing controversy over when he plans to leave office. Six top government officials resigned today, because they say Blair refuses to set a time frame for his departure -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Melissa, thanks so much.

LONG: Mmm-hmm.

ZAHN: Another "Top Story" is raging on Capitol Hill. And it continues at this hour. Will all the angry debate about Iraq and a no-confidence vote on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld actually lead to any action at all? We will take you there to find out.

A little bit later on: a sobering look at what you can't see in a rearview mirror. This one is absolutely stunning for anybody out there with children. Consumer correspondent Greg Hunter will show us how many children can hide in an SUV's blind spot. It will make you sick.

Should the automakers be forced to do something? Well, some folks in Washington think they should. And we will hear what they have to say when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

Another "Top Story" in politics tonight: a new attack on the president's handling of the war in Iraq. And it just played out minutes ago in the Senate, where Democrats were calling for a no- confidence vote on the president's strategy in Iraq and in his secretary of defense. They want Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: The facts on the ground do not lie. All the speeches by President Bush, all the speeches by the vice president, all the speeches by Secretary Rumsfeld do not change what is taking place on the ground in that desert called Iraq. The current course in Iraq is not working, not for our military, not for the Iraqi people, and not for our security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Well, it seems Democrats made their point without winning anything at all. It was a non-binding resolution, and Republicans killed it on a technicality, before anyone could even vote on it.

And, just a little bit earlier, I spoke with Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who is on the Foreign Relations Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Senator, your resolution never had a shot at passing. Republicans, of course, with a majority, they weren't going to allow this to fly. And Congress can't even fire Cabinet secretaries. So, what is the whole point of this exercise?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: We have to conduct oversight.

And the fact is, we can't hire and fire, but we do confirm people for these positions. And we do have a right to be heard. This is supposed to be the executive branch and the legislative branch that works together in a time of war. We simply don't have that.

ZAHN: You call it oversight.

BOXER: Yes.

ZAHN: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says this is nothing more than a partisan political stunt. BOXER: We are in politics here. We can't duck the most important issues and the most pressing issues, or we might as well go out of session, which, by the way, he wants to do, you know, weeks and weeks before an election.

You have to keep on working, even though there is an election. Our soldiers, they keep on fighting, and they keep on dying. And we need to have a debate about Iraq. This isn't about politics. This is about policy, the most important policy we could be debating.

ZAHN: Do you really think, if Donald Rumsfeld is replaced, that this administration's policies on Iraq are going to change?

BOXER: Well, this resolution is a lot more than replacing Donald Rumsfeld.

It calls for a whole entirely new approach. It makes that point that what is happening now is not working, that we're seeing an increase in the violence, an increase in the sectarian strife, and we have to completely turn around this policy.

ZAHN: Critics are saying that you really don't have a unified plan of your own. So, beyond replacing Donald Rumsfeld, could you articulate, very briefly for us tonight...

BOXER: Sure.

ZAHN: ... how your plan from -- for Iraq would be appreciably different from what this administration is doing now?

BOXER: Well, we voted just a few months ago to say that this year has to be the year of transition in Iraq, that they have to want democracy as much as we want it for them, that they have to take over their own defense, and that we should begin redeploying the troops out of there.

ZAHN: The Republicans are saying, the reason they didn't allow this to come to a vote was that it was not at all germane to the appropriations bill you were considering.

Don't they have a point?

BOXER: They just simply don't want a vote. They want to change the subject.

And it's most unfortunate, because the American people deserve this debate. They deserve to see how their senators feel. Do their senators want to continue the status quo, or do they want a new direction, a new course, and would it start with replacing Donald Rumsfeld, who has been wrong on this war pretty much from the beginning?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That, of course, was Senator Barbara Boxer.

More of our "Top Story" coverage in a moment.

Right now, let's check back in with Melissa Long -- Melissa.

LONG: Hello, Paula.

You covered the story that ranks number seven a little earlier in the program: President Bush acknowledging, for the first time, that the U.S. has secret overseas prisons for terror suspects.

Number six tonight: Pakistan's prime minister denying a news report that said Osama bin Laden would not face capture if he agreed to lead -- and I quote now -- "a peaceful life."

And number five: a surprising legal move from the man whose son was killed along with O.J. Simpson's wife. And that's Fred Goldman, who is asking a court to give him control over Simpson's publicity rights to his own name and likeness. Simpson was found liable in the wrongful death civil case in 1997, ordered to pay $30 million to Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown's families.

And let me mention, as well, Mr. Goldman's news event was covered in its entirety here on Pipeline, just like we cover all news events on Pipeline.

ZAHN: An interesting move on his part.

LONG: Mmm-hmm.

ZAHN: We will keep following it.

Melissa, thanks.

Millions of Americans drive SUVs, but even if it seems all clear in the rearview mirror, consumer reporter Greg Hunter will show you, all of us, how many lives might be in danger if you start to back up. You're not going to believe how many kids he actually put behind this SUV that he could not see in one single mirror. It's downright frightening. We will tell you what we all can do about that.

And, a little bit later on: pictures worth more than 1,000 words. Here it is, the cover. Baby Suri landed it. Will these pictures help a tarnished superstar make a comeback? We will debate that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: These are the worst things that can happen to any of us, and the average age of the victims is between 12 and 23 months. These are toddlers. These are kids who finally got the freedom to walk around and are exploring everywhere. They're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Senator Hillary Clinton on the tragic number of children who are crushed because drivers in SUVs can't see them when they back up. She supports a proposal to require a warning device that alerts drivers to a child standing in the vehicle's blind spot. Our top consumer story tonight, the more than 2,400 children who are seriously injured every year and 100 killed in driveways. And while it sounds like carelessness, our consumer correspondent Greg Hunter found that the design of the ever larger family vehicles, like SUVs, play a major part in backover accidents. You'll see right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy birthday to you.

GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four-year- old Jackson Peck wanted to be a superhero. He liked to wear a costume wherever he went. Superman was his favorite.

JULIE PECK, JACKSON PECK'S MOTHER: My last words to him were do you know how much I love you, so I feel very blessed to have that time with him.

HUNTER: Jackson's parents never imagined that moment with their son, ten months ago, would be their last. It was two days before Christmas. Jackson's grandmother dropped him off to go caroling with other grand children. As she backed up the family's SUV, Jackson ran behind the vehicle but she didn't see him. With the children screaming in horror Jackson's grandmother backed over him.

PECK: He was gone instantly. They didn't hear a sound when the car backed over him. When they pulled it back off of him, he didn't make a sound.

HUNTER: Jackson's story isn't unusual. All these children were killed in backover accidents and the numbers are growing. Janette Fennel, founder of the safety group Kids And Cars, tracks these tragedies because the government doesn't. She discovered 100 deaths a year on average, two children backed over and killed each week, typically in a driveway with a parent or relative behind the wheel.

JANETTE FENNEL, FOUNDER, KIDS AND CARS: Little children do not have to die this way. All of these incidents are not only predictable, they're 100 percent preventable.

HUNTER: Safety advocates say most people know there are blind spots behind every vehicle, but they often don't realize how big that blind spot can be.

DAVID CHAMPION, CONSUMER REPORTS: More and more people are buying bigger and bigger vehicles, and the bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot.

HUNTER: Consumers Reports routinely tests vehicles for blind spots. To illustrate just how much size can matter we went to its auto test track. Using 28 inch high cones, about the height of a small child, testing director David Champion will mark where the driver in this sedan first sees the cone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still can't see it. Nope, further back. OK, that's good.

HUNTER: Now he measures the distance from the cone to the car.

CHAMPION: It's ten feet, ten inches.

HUNTER: But watch what happens with larger vehicles like this mini van.

CHAMPION: Eighteen feet, one inch.

HUNTER: Or this SUV.

CHAMPION: Twenty five feet, ten inches.

HUNTER: And how far away is the cone from this truck?

CHAMPION: Forty six feet, nine inches.

HUNTER: Now look at the dramatic results. In this case the truck's blind spot is more than four times greater than the sedan. Consumer Reports also points out the shorter the driver, the bigger the blind spot can be.

CHAMPION: On these big vehicles where we see something like 20, 30, 40 feet of blind spot behind, that is where the problems are. That is where the deaths we're seeing with backover accidents are occurring.

HUNTER (on camera): Backing up in a big SUV can be deceiving. You can't see anything from that vantage point, can you? And when I check my mirrors, driver's side, rearview, and passenger, it looks clear to me too. But if I get out of the vehicle and walk behind it, got a little surprise for you. Hello kids. Twenty nine school kids from East Hadam Elementary School in Connecticut, all hidden dangerously out of view.

RON DEFORE, SUV OWNERS OF AMERICA: Nobody knows whether it's a vehicle problem or is it a personal problem? Is it because somebody didn't check behind the vehicle or is it because of lack of vision?

HUNTER: CNN contacted the auto makers trade group. It sent us to this man, Ron Defore. He represents SUV Owners of America, an organization partially funded by car companies.

DEFORE: We aren't addressing this issue right now.

HUNTER: So 2,400 kids a year being backed over, 100 kids a year dying. How many kids have to die or be hurt before you will address the issue?

DEFORE: The most important thing that we put focus on is how many lives can be saved in an SUV as opposed to moving to a smaller vehicle.

HUNTER: Defore says there's not enough data to require auto makers to come up with a fix. FENNELL: You need to be able to see when you're going backwards. You can't just kind of close your eyes and hope there's nothing back there.

HUNTER: To help drivers see better some carmakers are offering new options like bumper sensors. If someone gets too close this sonar signal shows the location. And a few manufacturers also sell a backup camera like this one. Shift into reverse and the navigation screen switches to a live picture of what's behind the vehicle. Consumer Reports says, based on its research, this technology should be required.

CHAMPION: I would have all motor manufacturers that produce these bigger vehicles put backup cameras on all of them.

DEFORE: That is a very dangerous public policy because you start pricing the vehicles well beyond what a lot of people can afford.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much is a life work? You can't put a price on that.

HUNTER: At Jackson Peck's funeral every one wore Superman t- shirts. His parents set up a foundation for needy children so their son will be remembered as the superhero he wanted to be. But they say their lives will never be the same.

PECK: To lose a child that was loud and rambunctious and full of life is, you can't imagine. You can actually kill your own child, which is the worst tragedy. It's a double edged sword. I mean it's guilt along with killing someone that you love dearly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER: According to the latest finding from Consumer Reports, the SUV with the longest rear blind zone is the Jeep Commander Limited. It's a midsize. For a driver of five foot, one inches tall the blind zone is, listen to this, 69 feet. Compare that to the best in that category, the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder LE. The blind zone is just 18 feet. Now Daimler Chrysler, which makes Jeep, told us that the Consumer Reports test was done with that third row seat up, and that cut down on visibility. Also the company says it already offers a system that gives an audible warning when backing up as standard equipment. And the 2007 models of the Commander will have a rearview camera as standard equipment.

ZAHN: All right, so if it's not offered as standard equipment how much does it cost to install one of these backup cameras in any vehicle?

HUNTER: To retro fit it's about $1,000, but Janette Fennel told me just last night that 50 kids a week are getting backed over, about a hundred a year die.

ZAHN: That is an amazing statistic. That should put a chill down all of our spines whenever we put those big fat SUVs into reverse. HUNTER: Or a car.

ZAHN: Learned a lot by watching your report. Thanks, Greg, appreciate it.

We'll move on to more top story coverage in just a minute. First though, let's check back in with Melissa Long, who continues our countdown, Melissa.

LONG: And Paula, mysterious disappearance, number four tonight, the military says a U.S. Air Force officer is missing after a trip to the mall in Kyrgyzstan. Major Joe Metzger (ph) was last seen Tuesday.

And number three.

BOB IRWIN, STEVE IRWIN'S FATHER: Steve and I weren't like father and son. We never were. We were good mates.

LONG: Bob Irwin speaks out about his son who died on Monday. His father said the family will refuse Australia's offer of a state funeral for the Crocodile Hunter, Paula.

ZAHN: Still amazing the outpouring of support we're seeing from all over the world for him and his family. Thanks Melissa, appreciate it.

Now tonight's top story in entertainment is literally making front page news. Will the cover of Vanity Fair make Suri Cruise a star or help her famous father, who stumbled as of late, start a come back? We'll debate that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Moving on to our top story in entertainment tonight, making waves on news stands all over the country. You've probably seen it. In case you haven't, just take a look at this. The very first family photos of Suri Cruise, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Now really, how many baby pictures get on the cover of the very latest issue of "Vanity Fair" taken by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz no less?

But something else is new. He is mending fences personally, apologizing for one of his public outbursts, his harsh criticism of actress Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants after the birth of her child. Here is how she described his apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE SHIELDS, ACTRESS: He apologized for bringing me into the whole thing and for everything that happened. And through it all, I was so impressed with how heartfelt it was. And I didn't feel at any time that I had to defend myself or did I feel that he was trying to convince me of anything other than the fact that he was deeply sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: So does any of this bail out Tom Cruise or not? Let's take it to our top story panel tonight. Celebrity publicist Marvet Britto, Sarah Bernard, a writer for "New York Magazine" and Katrina Szish, contributing editor of "US Weekly." Nice to have all three of you with us tonight.

Nice to see you. So will this public apology, on top of all of these glorious pictures of this brand new family, do anything to rehabilitate Tom Cruise, who has lost a lot of popularity among women moviegoers?

KATRINA SZISH, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, US WEEKLY: Well, I think the timing of this apology is suspect. He happens to get dropped from Viacom and Paramount and suddenly he feels the need to finally apologize to Brooke Shields. But then you see the picture of baby Suri and that baby is beautiful. She's adorable and suddenly your heart melts a little bit, even if you haven't been a Tom Cruise fan.

SARAH BERNARD, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I don't think the apology honestly is going to do a lot. In fact, it sort of was a forgotten issue and then he brought it all up again by having Brooke go on "The Tonight Show" and mention it all. But I think it's the pictures. I mean, reading the article, there's something kind of unreal about the article. The whole problem with Tom was that he seemed not very human with his roboticness and his over-the-top celebrity gone wild year, but the photo and all of the 22 pages inside really make him look like a loving, cozy dad. That's going to do more for him than the article, which makes him seem sort of like he lives too perfect a life.

ZAHN: But Marvet, you kind of disagree with that because you don't think he should be opening up his personal life at all to any of us.

MARVET BRITTO, CELEBRITY PUBLICIST: Well I actually think that if you're this megastar, as he is, and as he was, you should really let your work speak for yourself. You know, it really shouldn't be about putting your innocent child -- you know, it was so orchestrated and it seemed to contrived. And the timing, I agree, if you're going to Brooke, do it after you commit the act, and not six months later. So everything he's doing, I would rather see Tom Cruise concentrate on his work, rather than on his personal life.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Ah, but wait a minute. Isn't there a sort of genius to waiting four months to gain even more attention as the outside world is debating whether he had an alien child or the baby exists?

BERNARD: I thought that at first this was some genius strategy that they had done. You know, there was Shiloh, there was Moses, there were all these other celebrity babies, why not put some distance? But then it really backfired because people started saying these horrible, hateful things, maybe there's something wrong with the baby. And they basically didn't play the celebrity game, which is release a picture right away, give people something, and then they'll leave you alone. (CROSSTALK)

SZISH: I think Marvet had a good point though. I think you said it. You're sort of using your baby for your own gain, not like you're protecting your baby for a reason. You're basically waiting until you have the cover of "Vanity Fair" with Annie Leibovitz.

BERNARD: You don't think he would have gotten it anyway?

SZISH: Well he would have, but I think he waited so long and everything has been so public.

ZAHN: All I can tell you, the quality picture certainly beats what are in my family photo albums. But at the end of the day what we're really talking about is selling tickets to movies.

Are people going to be so moved by these gorgeous pictures of this brand new baby that they're going to want to see an action picture they wouldn't be inclined to see to begin with?

BERNARD: For a minute. I think the best thing that he could do is make a movie like "Collateral," something that shows he's a fantastic actor because he really is. And we could all be sitting here talking about whether he's going to get an Oscar domination for something. You know, have us talk about that.

SZISH: He needs to step out of the action hero and take on roles that are more befitting as his new stature as a brand new dad.

BRITTO: And he should actually focus on the work and not focus on...

SZISH: ... Keep private, private.

BRITTO: Absolutely. It took them how long to orchestrate, let's get Annie, let's get "Vanity Fair."

ZAHN: There's just no need for him to be spending all this money on P.R. after all these years. He could just listen to you guys for free. Katrina, Sarah and Marvet, some very good insight. Thank you.

Larry King will have all the pictures from the "Vanity Fair" article tonight. They are beautiful, aren't they Larry?

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: They are, they're extraordinary, Paula. A lot of people have been waiting four and a half months to see all of this. The complete set of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' baby photos from "Vanity Fair," plus the "Vanity Fair" editor who lived with the Cruises for five days getting all the photos. Then with fugitive polygamist Warren Jeffs in court in Utah today, we'll get exclusive insights from his sister. It all starts at the top of the hour, immediately following Paula.

ZAHN: Thank you, Larry. We'll be looking for you at nine. We're going to take though a quick "Biz Break."

(BUSINESS HEADLINES)

ZAHN: Here's a look at gas prices all over the country, our "Crude Awakenings." The states with today's highest prices are in red. Yes, it's hard to get out there to those states in red. The lowest in green. Today's average for unleaded regular, $2.69 per gallon. Again the latest trend in gas prices is trending lower.

An alarming report is sounding a warning about mistakes involving medications in hospitals. Next in our top story coverage, what you can do to be safer when you or a member of your family checks into a hospital. Buyer, beware.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top story in medicine tonight, the alarming rate of mistakes that happen in hospitals all over the country. This is a story with critical information for the next time you or anyone you know who checks in to a hospital. According to a recent report hundreds of thousands of people are hurt every year because someone makes a medication error in a hospital and thousands of them end up dying. Here's our senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta with tonight's Vital Signs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What started as one of the happiest days of Jasmine Gant's life ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My father talked about with her baby.

GUPTA: Suddenly and unexpectedly turned tragic. In July Jasmine went to this Madison, Wisconsin hospital to give birth to her first baby. Everything seemed to be fine, but in the delivery room a fatal mistake. Jasmine was supposed to get a shot of Penicillin, a common procedure but instead, the hospital admits, a nurse injected epidural anesthetic directly into her blood steam, the last place it was supposed to go.

In a matter of minutes Jasmine had a seizure and died, leaving her baby without a mother. Jasmine's death is one of many caused by medication mistakes, according to a troubling new report by the Institute of Medicine. Here's what it found, on average a hospital patient is subject to at least one medication error a day, and at least 400,000 hospital patients are injured or killed by medication mix-ups each year. Dr. Albert Wu served on the IOM committee and is an expert on patient safety.

DR. ALBERT WU, JOHNS HOPKINS RESEARCHER: I have to say that I was actually shocked.

GUPTA: Every year hospitals spend more than $3.5 billion treating medicine mistakes that happen on their watch.

ILENE CORINA, PATIENT ADVOCATE: The government knows about this, the hospitals and health care professionals knows about this. We need to be working together to make sure it ends now. GUPTA: Ilene Corina is a patient's safety advocate who read the report.

CORINA: I think that the consumers should be demanding to know why these errors happen.

GUPTA: The reasons aren't simple but a combination of computer glitches, fatigue, poor communication, and illegible handwriting are to blame. While some medicine mishaps are inevitable, the good news says the IOM report, there are ways to prevent the majority of the mistakes. It suggests hospitals invest more in technology.

WU: A simple thing that could be done is to adopt electronic prescription writing. This would virtually eliminate the problem of doctor's handwriting.

GUPTA: E-prescriptions also keep track of all the drugs the patient is taking and looks for possible interactions, allergies, and potential overdoses.

The report also puts some of the responsibility on the patients. First know your medical history and don't just assume your doctor does. Next ask for a written list of all medications, what they do, and when to take them. Also bring an advocate, someone to speak for you if you are too sick. Finally, if you think you're getting the wrong medicine, speak up. You have the right to refuse treatment.

WU: You don't have to be obnoxious about it. Any medical person would be given pause if you said I'm worried there may be a mistake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Doctor, the most amazing thing about your report is the statistic that on average patients are subjected to a mistake a day for every day of their hospitalization. That is nuts.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it is alarming. I mean I was pretty shocked to hear that as well. We're talking specifically about medication errors. One per day per hospitalization day. You know, it's interesting. I want to put a little bit of context, Paula, because I think it's important to point out that some of this might be that an aspirin was missed or an extra aspirin was given.

Not all of these are hurtful, or are certainly not fatal mistakes. But they are mistakes, nonetheless and it is concerning. A lot is being done, Paula. I mean, in 1999 there was an IOM report, Institute of Medicine report, talking about this and looking at all the technology, all the fixes. It is getting better, but not too fast, not fast enough for a lot of people.

ZAHN: Well the best advice is to have an advocate. My mother was just in the hospital and believe me, you got to have someone standing by your side to make sure this is done right for all of the reasons you made so clear tonight. Doctor, thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks Paula. ZAHN: Always good to see you. We're going to quickly go back to Melissa Long to wrap up our count down.

LONG: And Paula, you shared that sought after photo a little earlier. CNN.com readers really wanted to see the new "Vanity Fair" photographs of Suri, the daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

And number one, the Austrian girl kidnapped and held for eight years, she's sharing her story. Now eighteen, she says she tried to escape but feared her captor would kill her if she failed to get away, Paula.

ZAHN: Amazing that she was never hurt seriously as everyone feared. Melissa, thanks so much.

We're just minutes away from the top of the hour and "LARRY KING LIVE." Larry and his guests have all of the new "Vanity Fair" pictures of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and of course baby Suri. Isn't she beautiful? Well, you'll see more of her coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here. Thanks so much for dropping by tonight. We will be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Until then, have a great night. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

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