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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Terrorists & Fake I.D.s; Travel Headaches; 92-Year-Old Atlanta Woman Killed in Shoot-out With Police
Aired November 22, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. And thanks again for joining us. Paula has got the night off.
There is important news coming into CNN all the time. Tonight, we're choosing these top stories for a more in-depth look.
The "Top Story" in homeland security: faking it. Just as the government announces tougher I.D. checks than ever before to get into the country, a CNN investigation reveals the thriving underground industry that is churning out millions of phony I.D.s.
The "Top Story" in travel: Are we there yet? As millions of Americans head down the highway, over the river, and through airport security, we will have the latest on potential trouble spots.
And our top consumer story: deep-fried disaster, a dramatic look at how quickly -- how a quick and popular way of cooking turkeys can quickly ruin your Thanksgiving.
Our "Top Story" in homeland security tonight: The Department of Homeland Security has just announced that, starting January 23, anyone flying into the United States from another country will have to show a passport to get in. That includes U.S. citizens and people from Canada and Mexico.
DHS says it's concerned about terrorists using phony documents to get inside the United States. This change comes just as CNN completes a major investigation into fake I.D.s.
When you see this report from consumer correspondent Greg Hunter, you may be startled at just how easy it is to get them.
GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's America's first line of defense against terrorism: checking I.D.s at airports and borders. But federal authorities say, the growing availability of fake I.D.s puts national security at risk.
MICHAEL EVERITT, IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: And that creates a vulnerability that can be exploited by those who wish to do us harm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. The police. Open up.
HUNTER: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says fraudulent documents are big business, run by organized crime in many major cities.
We put a Spanish-speaking CNN producer with hidden cameras on the streets of metro Atlanta. Within minutes, this man offered a Tennessee driver's license for $150.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You bring me the photo, name, date of birth. Then, later, I bring it to you. look at it. If you like it, we do business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Could I use it to go through airport, I mean, to board an airplane?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, maybe you can, because the one from Tennessee is well-done.
HUNTER: Despite efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to tighten inspections at airport and borders, fake I.D.s still go undetected.
This year, government investigators, using phony, homemade driver's license, slipped into the country 18 times, getting in every time they tried.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think it's -- it's very obvious that America's door is wide open.
HUNTER: Senator Charles Grassley, who held hearings on fake I.D.s, says the loose security shocked him.
GRASSLEY: The federal government is making an honest effort, but they're failing.
HUNTER: ICE says, a crime ring from Mexico even set up phony document franchises across the U.S. in 33 states.
Swad Laha (ph) is the stepdaughter of one of the alleged partners. She says she grew up counting money from the sale of phony documents.
HUNTER (on camera): How much money do you think you counted in a night?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably more than 50 -- more than $50,000.
HUNTER (voice-over): ICE has made more than 50 arrests, and has task forces in 11 cities. But Laha (ph) estimates, the fake I.D. business still earns $300 million a year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They would sell to anybody that could pay for it.
HUNTER (on camera): Illegal immigrant, terrorist, makes no difference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes no difference. HUNTER (voice-over): Laha (ph) showed us this hand signal, I.D.s for sail. In this Atlanta parking lot, our producer flashed the signal, and this man came right over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was told I could get a license.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You can have it in two hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Two hours?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Uh-huh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And how much are they?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They're selling for $140.
HUNTER: We didn't buy the false document, but there are many willing customers. And some get caught.
At ICE's forensic lab, technicians prepare evidence for court and analyze fake I.D.s to see how they're made.
Michael Everitt is the lab director.
(on camera): How good are the fakes?
EVERITT: Amazingly good. Very, good. Very difficult to tell that it's a counterfeit.
HUNTER (voice-over): ICE says this fake is top quality. It even has security features visible only under ultraviolet light. With a camera, laptop, and printing equipment anyone can buy, ICE put my face on a fake I.D. they said could pass for the real thing.
(on camera): Could I use this at an airport?
HUNTER: At the border?
EVERITT: Yes. You could try to use it anywhere, and it would probably pass muster at, you know, several places.
HUNTER (voice-over): One problem at border crossings is sheer volume. There are 8,000 different travel documents to inspect.
BRUCE MONK, ASSURETEC SYSTEMS, INC: It's just not humanly possible to do it, without assistance.
HUNTER: Bruce Monk's company sells machines that check almost any I.D. for authenticity. When a fake goes in, the machine alerts the examiner in five seconds or less. It's being used at this Boston liquor store to catch underage customers. (on camera): Just to show you how common fraudulent documents are, during the last two-and-a-half years alone, at this one liquor store in Boston, they say they have confiscated bogus visas, passports, and about 1,000 of these, driver's licenses, fakes, from all 50 states.
GRASSLEY: Without a doubt, the government is not doing as good of a job as that liquor store.
HUNTER (voice-over): DHS says the solution is the use of biometrics, fingerprints, for example, and the agency is pushing for a 2008 deadline to require hard-to-counterfeit passports for all entry points, including Canada and Mexico.
GRASSLEY: I don't think that they should pussyfoot around.
I think they ought to be adopting whatever technology is available, and get it done right now.
HUNTER: In the meantime, flying domestically or crossing the border, an easy-to-forge I.D. will do.
HUNTER: Two years ago, the 9/11 Commission recommended the government fix the fake I.D. problem. The commission said that, for terrorists -- listen to this -- travel documents are as important as weapons. And this new announcement by Homeland Security only affects travel by air into the U.S. Domestic flights and land borders will still accept a variety of documents -- John.
J. ROBERTS: You know, I have come into this country in a number of border entry points. I have never seen one of those little machines that was being used at the liquor store, being used to check I.D.s. for authenticity? Prohibitively expensive or -- or cheap?
HUNTER: According to the company that makes the card-reading technology, about $50 million to put it in every airport lane, in every border crossing lane around the country.
And, according to Grassley, considering Homeland Security's $40 billion budget...
J. ROBERTS: Yes.
HUNTER: ... 50 million bucks, it's a small fraction.
J. ROBERTS: Drop in the bucket.
Greg Hunter, great report. Thanks very much.
J. ROBERTS: For millions of Americans, tonight's "Top Story" is holiday travel. Neither rain, nor floods, nor airport security, nor a brief slowdown by disgruntled baggage handlers at the Minneapolis Airport, not even an overturned truck on the freeway to LAX, the nation's fourth busiest airport, could keep Thanksgiving travelers from reaching their final destinations today.
But they sure did slow things down. Let's start with that truck accident in Los Angeles, where it's now 5:00 and the height of rush hour.
Here's Ted Rowlands with that.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you couldn't come up with a worst-case scenario, most likely.
This freeway was completely shut down in one direction, the 405, for more than four hours. And, at this hour, there are still two lanes that are closed to traffic. And traffic is still backing up, as people try to get out of town on this Thanksgiving holiday.
And the kicker is, where this accident took place is just a mile or so away from the airport. So, at 10:00 this morning, you literally had people thinking they were about a mile-and-a-half, maybe 10 minutes, away from the airport. And it took them hours to get to the airport, because were caught up in this traffic nightmare.
What happened was a semitruck overturned. It was filled with canisters containing alcohol and acetone. It took hours -- it still is taking them hours to clean this mess up. And many frustrated travelers got caught in it, really a worst-case scenario, especially for people headed to the airport, and thinking they were so close.
There's no hard numbers on how many people, if any, missed their flights, but, bottom line, you can -- you can bet that there were some very anxious travelers, as they tried to make flights, stuck in traffic so close to the airport.
J. ROBERTS: Ted, how is the traffic right there at the airport now?
ROWLANDS: Pretty good.
LAX had an army of security personnel working. The TSA folks have been out in force. And the airport reports that they have had delays throughout the day. But most of the delays are because of weather problems in other parts of the country.
Right now, at least for now, everything running very smoothly -- you know, the Thanksgiving holiday has changed dramatically over the last few years. What used to be the worst day, today, is now really Sunday, because people have changed their travel plans. They're bracing for a very, very difficult day Sunday, and possibly Monday, as well, as people try to get home.
J. ROBERTS: It looks like some last-minute stragglers trying to get to Australia, behind you there.
Ted Rowlands, with the traffic report from LAX, thanks very much. Of course, getting to the airport is only half the fun. After that comes the long lines at the ticket counters and security checkpoints.
Our "Top Story" coverage continues with Thomas Roberts. He's at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
How are things looking there tonight, Thomas?
THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we still have holiday travelers that are streaming in and streaming out.
Over 280,000 people have come through this airport today, 30,000 at Delta alone. But they have had smooth sailing here throughout the day, 14-minute checks at the security checkpoints, and a lot of people talking about the fact that they had some different changes, with the TSA rules now, concerning different things, especially for young families, young parents that are traveling with kids, concerning baby food and breast milk.
There's no restrictions on that now. We have the three-one-one rule about the ounces of things that you can take, personal items, on board in your carry-on.
But, in concern for young parents, that's a big relief for a lot of people, John, because they didn't have to worry about the issue of food and packing and things for their kids, especially, you know, when you don't know what you're going to get when you get to the airport.
J. ROBERTS: Thomas, I don't -- I don't know if you heard Ted say it, but he was intimating that Sunday is actually the busiest day for travel. Any idea if that's the -- the same pattern that you saw down there at Atlanta Hartsfield today -- or at least this week?
T. ROBERTS: Yes.
John, they say that Sunday really is going to be a big day. And, also, Monday is going to be a huge day, too, for return and also for holiday travelers -- the combination of holiday travelers coming back, and also the beginning of the business week.
But just a quick number about tomorrow -- for Thanksgiving Day itself, which a lot of people may be thinking that they're going to be sneaking out and not having to deal with long lines. Between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m., they're forecasting here roughly about 9,400 people coming through. Normally, they have about 5,000. So, it's going to be double that tomorrow morning for just that two-hour pop.
J. ROBERTS: There's a lot of last-minute departures to grandma's house.
Thomas Roberts, in Atlanta Hartsfield, thanks very much.
Not everyone is flying this weekend, of course, but thanks to bad weather on both coasts, a lot of drivers aren't getting to their destinations as quickly as they had hoped. Let's get the latest travel update and the forecast from meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. She's in the CNN Weather Center.
How's it looking, because, in the -- in the Atlantic section, and coming up here toward New York City, it's looking a little wet.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes.
You know, it's really been awful all day long, John, almost worst-case scenario for air travelers, as this storm system has gotten into the Northeastern Corridor. And that's exactly what we were hoping wouldn't happen. Unfortunately, it did.
And that means the delays have been in the range of hours long, and that's still ongoing tonight. Look at this map behind me.
This is our Flight Explorer system. And that, what you see right there -- this is every single dot on your screen, that shows you an airplane which is in flight at this time. There are about 5,200 at this hour. And we are looking at this, down from maybe about 7,000 earlier in the day.
We want to show you some of the delays that are going along at this time -- Boston, 30 minute-arrival delay, Charlotte, 20-minute ground delay. There, you can see, to New York City, over an hour, and about two hours into New York City.
It doesn't quite end just there -- Philadelphia, about an hour and 10 minutes -- all of this due to really that coastal storm. It started out in the Carolinas off the coast two days ago. We have already been dealing with this for two days, bringing in heavy rain, all that moisture from the Atlantic. This has been acting more like a cold type tropical system.
Rainfall amounts have reached up to half-of-a-foot. There, you can see some of the flooding video out of Fayetteville, North Carolina. They had about four-and-a-quarter-inches of rain, with 40 mile-per-hour gusts -- the highest wind gusts we could find today, 82 miles per hour. That was in Alligator River, North Carolina.
Well, as the storm progresses northward, we have been seeing the wet weather from D.C. into Baltimore, on up into Philadelphia and New York City. New York City even saw the sleet during the drive home tonight, the air temperature just cold enough. We had what we call evaporative cooling. And we saw a little sleet mixed in with that rain.
One of the big questions is, is this rain going to stick around for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Yes, it looks like it's going to. And not only are we concerned about this rainfall getting in on the picture. We're also concerned about the winds. They have been gusting today between 30 and 40 miles per hour at times, sustained winds between 15 and 20.
The Macy's officials tell us that 23 miles per hour, that's their threshold. And, if it gets that strong, these balloons are going to have to stay down. And I think we're going to stay just shy of that criteria, so, cross your fingers, and, hopefully, they are going to be OK.
The rest of the country, for you Thanksgiving holiday, looks A- OK, especially across the nation's midsection, high pressure building into the Southeast, so, looking for better conditions in the Carolinas, Georgia, and into Florida, where you will be warming up after, yes, snow flurries in Orlando late last night, mixing in with some of your rain there.
The Pacific Northwest, you have had a storm system of your own to deal with. And this has been rather persistent, with system after system moving on in -- if you're going to be shopping on Friday, still in the morning, maybe Boston on northward, some of those rain showers. The rest of the East looks A-OK.
And, John, we will just skip right to Sunday, again, the big travel day. We will have a big system developing in the nation's midsection. Should be OK here, possible delays from Kansas City, extending on up toward Chicago.
J. ROBERTS: Jacqui, I don't know what it is about Thanksgiving, but, up here in New York City, it's also beautiful Monday and Tuesday.
J. ROBERTS: Wednesday, it starts to go downhill.
And, then, Thursday is always the worst day, just when you want to fly those balloons.
JERAS: I know. go figure.
J. ROBERTS: Thanks for the forecast, Jacqui. Appreciate it.
JERAS: You bet.
J. ROBERTS: Whether you have gone 50 miles or thousands, we know something every airline traveler would love to get for Christmas. Next up in our "Top Story" travel coverage, a way to bypass all the security hassles, and go right to your seat every time. But is it safe for the rest of us?
And later: tonight's "Top Story" in crime. What happened when drug agents broke in and surprised a 92-year-old woman who was packing?
J. ROBERTS: Continuing our "Top Story" in travel: Five million people will be flying over this long holiday weekend, but only a handful of them have the key to jumping to the head of security at the airport. They have paid to sign up for registered traveler programs at certain airports.
It sounds like a great way to ease the airport pain, but not all security experts are sure that it's a good idea.
Take a look at this report from Rusty Dornin.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A traveler's life: Hurry, hurry, hurry, and wait. If you had a choice between this security line and this one, would you pay for it? Thirty thousand flyers out of Orlando, Florida, have.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just need to see your Clear card.
DORNIN: It's called Clear, a registered traveler's program that's been up and running in Orlando for more than a year.
MARLENE GREEN, PASSENGER: To get through quicker if you travel a lot.
DORNIN: Marlene Green signed up online. She paid her $100, and has to finish up her application at the airport using biometrics to scan her fingerprint and iris.
(on camera): What did you have to provide to them?
GREEN: Just two forms of I.D.
DORNIN: Which were?
GREEN: Passport and driver's license.
DORNIN (voice-over): Then she must wait about three weeks, while TSA does a background check. The agency has the final word on whether a passenger is approved.
For Donna White, life in the fast lane makes sense.
(on camera): That's it?
DONNA WHITE, PASSENGER: That's easy. Yes. It's about 15 minutes quicker on a good day. And then, when all the tourists are here for spring break, it's probably an hour.
DORNIN (voice-over): This program should be available in five airports, including New York's JFK, by year's end.
STEVEN BRILL, CEO, CLEAR: It's layers of security.
DORNIN: And Clear president Steven Brill hopes to use his card in 18 airports by the end of next year.
BRILL: People who are signing up for this are, you know, the road warriors who are salesmen, who are, you know, advertising people, who are media people. They're not, you know, the rich. And the program doesn't cost that much.
CHARLES SLEPIAN, CEO, FORESEEABLE RISK ANALYSIS CENTER: The average family flies once a year.
DORNIN: Security analyst Charles Slepian questions why everybody can't have the same opportunity without paying for it.
SLEPIAN: You're getting a free pass, so to speak, to a shorter line for $100, under the theory that there's better security being provided. And I just don't think that's the case.
DORNIN: The bottom line, all passengers must still go through the same TSA physical security screening.
(on camera): We decided to do an experiment. I will stand in the regular line, which is actually fairly shot now, and see how long it take me to get through compared to the man with the Clear pass.
Rick Blanchette (ph) presented his pass and had his fingerprint taken, but was long gone by the time we were through the security line.
Then there was Sherrod Cooley. She made our flight just before the doors closed, late because of a traffic accident.
SHERROD COOLEY, PASSENGER: If I hadn't been able to go through as a registered traveler, I would not have made it. I was really frantic. Hair on fire.
DORNIN: Rusty Dornin, CNN, Orlando, Florida.
J. ROBERTS: And one more thing: That watch list that Rusty just mentioned, there are 40,000 people on it who are simply not allowed to fly.
We're going to move -- move on now to tonight's top stories in crime. Police raid a house looking for drug dealers, but only find a 92-year-old woman, who had a gun.
Plus: proof that anyone can become a crime victim, even the daughter of a president. So, where was the Secret Service?
J. ROBERTS: Our "Top Story" in crime is causing outrage in Atlanta tonight. Police there killed a 92-year-old woman in a shoot- out last night, while trying to serve a search warrant at her home. The assistant police chief says his officers acted appropriately. And there is an investigation under way right now to find out what happened.
But the dead woman's relatives are furious, calling it a case of mistaken identity.
Randi Kaye has the latest from Atlanta.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the scene just after 7:00 Tuesday night. Atlanta undercover narcotics officers arrived with a search warrant, expecting to find the same guy they say sold them drugs at this home hours earlier. Instead, they got 92- year-old Kathryn Johnston. She was locked and loaded.
ALAN DREHER, ASSISTANT ATLANTA POLICE CHIEF: The female inside began shooting at the police officers. The officers returned fire, and, as a result, Ms. -- Ms. Johnston received fatal injuries.
KAYE: Police aren't saying yet how many shots were exchanged. That's still under investigation. But before Johnston was killed, police say she shot three officers, one in the leg, one in the arm, and one in the leg, face, and chest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was an oncoming, just pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.
KAYE: In a neighborhood just southwest of downtown known for trouble, Johnston's niece says she bought her aunt a gun so she could protect herself.
SARAH DOZIER, NIECE OF KATHRYN JOHNSTON: Yes, she has a gun. And I went and got her a gun permit. Now, they didn't have to shoot that old lady down like a dog. They didn't have to do that. It's one old woman in that house.
KAYE: Her niece these believes Johnston was startled and acted in self-defense. But police believe otherwise. This assistant chief says drugs were recovered from the home. And they're still looking for the man they say took part in the undercover buy earlier in the day. It's unclear at this point if Johnston had been at home during the alleged buy.
DOZIER: They kicked her door in, talking about drugs. There are no drugs in that house. And they realize now they done the wrong house. They went, and they killed her.
KAYE (on camera): Police still insist they had the right address, and that officers had no choice but to fire back.
The assistant police chief says officers weren't wearing uniforms, but bulletproof vests clearly marked with the word "police." He also says officers announced themselves before forcing open the front door, even though the warrant didn't require that.
(voice-over): The three officers are on administrative leave with pay, while Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard looks into their actions.
PAUL HOWARD, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: So, as far as we have been able to determine at this point, the police followed the law.
KAYE: They may have followed the law. But, still, the victim's family wonders what kind of law allows police to shoot and kill a 92- year-old lady in her own home.
DOZIER: I'm as mad as hell. And somebody's going to answer to that.
KAYE: The three wounded officers were taken to Grady Hospital here in Atlanta last night, John. They have all been released. The assistant chief says the officers are talking and doing great.
J. ROBERTS: Randi, as you said, they're on administrative leave right now.
What do we know about their histories? Have they ever been involved in controversial incidents like this before?
KAYE: Well, as you know, during ongoing investigation, it's very tough to pull any information from police, especially about their own officers.
So, right now, they're not releasing anything about the officers' history on the job. They would only say today that they have been on the force for more than 10 years.
We have also been able to learn tonight that two of the officers involved in the shooting are white, and one is African-American.
J. ROBERTS: In your piece, we also heard from the -- the niece of the woman, saying that she's mad as hell. What are they planning to do, the family?
KAYE: Right now, John, I believe the family is just busy grieving.
This is a very tough situation for them to deal with. Nothing like this has ever happened to their family before. The woman didn't have any children. So, the niece is really all she had. And she's there sort of to fight for her -- but, right now, no plans yet for any lawsuit, but, certainly, she's looking for some answers.
J. ROBERTS: Quite a bizarre story, I mean, even just the fact that the woman got off five or six shots in that short a time.
KAYE: And hit one of those officers in the chest.
J. ROBERTS: Yes. Luckily, he had the bulletproof vest on.
KAYE: Yes, he did.
J. ROBERTS: Otherwise, he might not be here today.
Randi Kaye, in Atlanta, thanks very much for that.
Another "Top Story" in crime tonight involves one of President Bush's daughters. They're under constant protection by the United States Secret Service. So, how did a thief in Argentina end up with Barbara Bush's purse?
And later, tonight's "Vital Signs" -- a bizarre and devastating disorder that affects both children and dogs.
ROBERTS: We have another top story in crime tonight. The reports that one of the president's twin daughters had her purse snatched in Buenos Aires, Argentina while the Secret Service was guarding her.
Here's justice correspondent Kelli Arena with what we have learned today about this embarrassment for the Secret Service.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The historic Santelmo (ph) neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina is known as a place where tourists go for good food and great tango, and now, law enforcement sources say, is the place where First Daughter Barbara Bush had her purse snatched.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): I live here and, truthfully, it's very quiet. But I have heard that there are people who rob around here. However, it is targeted to the tourists more than anyone.
ARENA: Exactly where and when the crime happened is something of a mystery. Given the high profile victim, Argentinian officials are refusing to comment. Local newspapers have reported conflicting accounts. Some say the incident happened Sunday, others Monday, that it was either at a restaurant or a club. Police officials there say no official complaint has been filed. The White House has no comment. Neither does the Secret Service.
BOB OATMAN, SECURITY EXPERT: If I was chief of detail, I wouldn't find any of this humorous. And I guarantee you the Secret Service doesn't think that way as well.
ARENA: A source familiar with the incident says some credit cards and a cell phone were among the items stolen. But CNN has learned that Secret Service agents remotely deleted the cell phone's memory as soon as they learned it was missing.
CNN is also told that young Barbara Bush left her purse on a chair and that she was never out of her security detail sight. Experts say Secret Service agents are there to protect people, not their stuff.
OATMAN: In my opinion, I don't believe the purse is the issue here. The issue is it's an inconvenience it did occur. I will guarantee one thing: probably that the purse was not in proximity of Barbara Bush.
ARENA: What's more, CNN has learned the president has told the Secret Service to give his daughters as much freedom and space as possible. In fact, when they're out and about in the United States, it's very easy to just walk right up to them.
(on camera): No word on how dad reacted to this latest news, but I for one, would not want to be the agent who had to deliver it.
Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.
ROBERTS: We have late word that Argentina's government has confirmed the purse snatching, but the country's interior minister would not say which of the president's daughters was the victim. In fact, he said there isn't much that he wants to say about it at all.
Joining me now is Jeff Stein. He is the national security editor and "Spy Talk" columnist for "Congressional Quarterly". He joins us now from Washington.
And Jeff, you know, I covered the White House for six and a half years when I was working with CBS, and I know how diligent those Secret Service agents are in protecting the president and the first lady, at least. Kelli Arena was saying the president has demanded a little bit more space for his daughters.
But how does something like that happen, where something as significant as her purse could get snatched?
JEFF STEIN, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY: Well, John, you know from being around the White House that the president moves with a very large detail. It's very difficult for him to move without that big detail, although, I once bumped into Bill Clinton at a book store not long ago and had a nice chat with him -- or during his administration, I should say.
But the families are different. They do allow them to have a little more latitude. It's a love-hate relationship with the kids of all presidents because they're often young, teenagers, and they need some freedom. So you'll have maybe just one agent with a daughter and -- or the daughters, and that person will be young enough to blend into a crowd. They don't want to draw attention to the daughters by being too obvious around them.
But here's the question that this story raised for me. And Kelli Arena kind of pointed to the idea of do they watch the person? Do they watch the person's stuff?
She said the Secret Service is really charged with protecting the body, not the possessions. But what would there be to stop someone, rather than stealing that purse, from putting some sort of device in it, perhaps an explosive?
Nothing. And we don't know the details of this incident, but we don't know if that person got close enough to take a shot or to grab her, and, you know, with a plan to pull her out the back door of this club or restaurant or club or wherever she was.
So that's a very convenient answer on the Secret Service's part. And I think they're right. Their job is to protect the person, not the purse. But if a person can get close enough to the purse, they might be able to get close enough to the subject.
But often these families, even the presidents themselves, really get irritated by the Secret Service. Lyndon Johnson very famously urinated on the leg of an agent, he hated them so much.
ROBERTS: Does this, Jeff, speak to a broader problem that could be brewing within the Service, or do you think this is just an isolated incident?
STEIN: Well, you know, these poor guy guys, their successes are largely unknown and their failures are really well-known. They're stark and often tragic. We know from all the assassinations and assassination attempts.
However, they've been through a lot of shake-ups over the years. They've had, I think, five directors since 1999.
ROBERTS: But is morale still high? Is the level of training the same as it was before?
STEIN: They've had some bumps because they were brought into the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, and none of these intelligence agencies or bureaucracies have been happy about that. There's been a lot of adjustment.
The secret service is about 160-odd years old. It's the oldest law enforcement agency we have. It has very proud history. It's very proud of its free standing nature. But it's now in DHS, it's part of a large bureaucracy, and that has not helped morale.
ROBERTS: Well, I know from my interaction with Secret Service members, most of the agents and people in the uniformed division were terrific people, professionals who did their job well. But I guess every once in a while, something like this happens and you're left scratching your head to say, what does it represent in terms of the bigger picture?
Jeff Stein, appreciate you being with us. Thanks very much.
STEIN: Thank you, John.
ROBERTS: Tonight's "Vital Signs" is an extremely rare exception to the medical rule that people and dogs don't get exactly the same diseases.
Up next, a baffling degenerative and so far incurable illness that affects both children and some dogs.
Later on, frightening pictures of what a popular way of cooking turkeys can do to your home if you don't follow the instructions.
ROBERTS: Our top story in health tonight focuses on a devastating illness that is so rare, many doctors find it difficult to diagnose. It's called Batten Disease and usually strikes children, and there's no cure. Dan Simon has the story of one girl's struggle with the disease in tonight's "Vital Signs."
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At only 16, Katie Allio, is in the final stages of her life. Still every night before dinner, she puts on a show dancing to the music. Katie was born with Batten Disease, a rare genetic disorder, so rare experts say only one in every 40,000 children worldwide is likely to have it. There's no cure though some new research involving dogs may hold promise for future generations.
KATHY ALLIO, MOTHER: There really are no words to describe that moment when you're told that your child is going to die.
SIMON: That moment, says Katie's mom, came after years of slowly watching her daughter deteriorate. It started at age five when this seemingly healthy, normal little girl started losing her vision.
K. ALLIO: We noticed that she wasn't able to see us waving from inside a sliding glass door or if we were to point something out to her, maybe the moon or trees.
SIMON: Katie's doctors couldn't figure out what was happening. In addition to going blind, she was also having seizures. When she was 10, they conducted some genetic testing. For her parents, the results were crushing.
K. ALLIO: The neurologist herself told us that it was the most devastating childhood disease, she believed.
JOE ALLIO, FATHER: I like to be able to fix things, I like to make things better for my family, and this one I can't fix.
SIMON: And for Joe Allio, a police officer, that was devastating.
J. ALLIO: It took months to digest all of the information related to Batten Disease.
SIMON: What he and his wife later learned is they both happen to carry the gene for it, which is extremely rare. But that didn't mean they would automatically pass it on to their kids. Genetic experts say there was a 25 percent chance a child would actually get Batten Disease.
Still, sit seems so unfair that not one, but two of their six children were born with the disorder. This is Katie's sister Annie, who at age seven might appear normal, but is also going blind, has daily seizures, and uncontrollable rages.
K. ALLIO: She turns furniture over, she breaks things in the home, she's almost broken my nose, and I have scars on my hand from scratching. In very lay terms, our girls brains are dying one cell at a time.
SIMON: In a few years like her older sister now, she'll be completely blind and barely unable to walk. The disease is advancing on Annie even faster.
(on camera): But that's not the worst of it. Batten disease also causes dementia, to the point where you can no longer say the alphabet or count to 10. Eventually it reduces you to a total vegetative state before it completely shuts down your body.
(voice-over): Few people with the disease make it into their twenties. The speed with which it progresses is truly tragic.
Here was Katie only a couple of years ago, singing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go, girl, go Katie.
SIMON: And running like little girls are supposed to. Her parents say the support of their other children and their faith has sustained them.
K. ALLIO: If Katie could no longer count to 10, that's OK. If she can still give me a hug or if she can still try and sing a song, that's wonderful. I'll take that. I'll take that.
J. ALLIO: Katie, this one is arrow.
SIMON: On this day, these dogs, Tibetan terriers, provide the sisters some cozy companionship. Their owner often brings them around to sick children.
But that's not the only relationship between the kids and the dogs. It turns out Tibetan terriers can sometimes suffer from the exact same disease, the only breed known to be susceptible.
J. ALLIO: Daddy's here, it's OK.
SIMON: Reporter: The hope is that studying the effect on canines might some day lead to remedies for humans. But it will take a lot more money and time to achieve that goal. For now, the dogs bring a little happiness. Dan Simon, CNN, Vacaville, California.
ROBERTS: And there's this. Just last week, another Batten Disease patient survived a stem cell transplant. The procedure is part of ongoing research to try to find a cure.
Time now to take a Biz Break.
ROBERTS: In just a minute, we'll return to everyone's top story, Turkey day. But we have a very serious warning for you. Every year more and more people deep fry their holiday turkey. The unlucky ones may also incinerate their homes. Next, a startling report on the dangers of deep frying.
ROBERTS: The traditional holiday bird is our top consumer story this Thanksgiving eve, specifically, the increasingly popular deep fried turkey. One industry association says more than 10 million propane turkey fryers are now in use.
But deep frying a turkey can also be a recipe for disaster. Every year dozens of people are injured while cooking turkeys in big pots of boiling oil.
Once again, here's consumer correspondent Greg Hunter.
HUNTER (voice-over): This Thanksgiving while some Americans are slaving for hours over their ovens inside, millions of Americans will be cooking up a feast outside in near minutes, using one of these, a turkey fryer.
However, sometimes the quest to get a tasty bird to hungry stomachs can be a nightmare. Just last Thanksgiving the owner of this house in Tennessee says he left hot oil on his turkey fryer for only a few minutes, long enough for flames to catch his house on fire.
And this was the scene on Thanksgiving Day 2003 at the Moon (ph) home in Aloha (ph), Oregon, as described by terrified neighbors:
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The flames are 20 feet high and there's black smoke in the air. It's the whole back side. It started on the deck.
HUNTER: Dr. Steven Moon (ph) says he had been cooking the family feast with a propane turkey fryer.
STEVEN MOON, ALOHA, OREGON: I thought, well, you know, if something happens, I've got a fire extinguisher, that'll take care of it. And was like spitting in the wind. It was nothing compared to this fire that was going on.
HUNTER: But the fire raged on and eventually the Fire Department had to come put it out, but not before it caused more than $100,000 in damages.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission says that turkey fryers have caused 110 fires in the last eight years. And at Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook (ph), Illinois, a nationally recognized product testing organization, spokesman John Drengenberg says they will not put a seal of approval on any propane turkey fryer.
JOHN DRENGENBERG, UNDERWRITERS LABORATORIES, INC.: There have been safety improvements on turkey fryers, but it's still not at that point where UL will authorize the use its mark.
HUNTER (on camera): It's not safe? DRENGENBERG: Because we don't believe it is safe enough for people to use.
HUNTER (voice-over): Underwriters Laboratories has been testing turkey fryers for years. In this company video, they show how easily fires can get out of control when typical consumer mistakes are made, like dropping a partially frozen bird into a pot of overheated oil.
The industry over the last few years they've corrected many problems. In 2002 the Canadian Standards Association, a UL consumer testing competitor, began certifying some turkey fryers as safe. The stands are sturdier, the tanks are better marked, so consumers won't overfill.
Manufacturers have decreased the intensity of the flame, so the oil won't overheat as quickly, and fryers come with pages of explicit cautions. One booklet contains at least 15 specific warnings on the dangers of frying a turkey.
Industry group the Hearth and Patio Barbecue Association says that electric and gas turkey fryers are safe as long as customers follow directions and suggested we talk to Don and John McLemore, who own Masterbuilt, one of the biggest makers of turkey fryers.
JOHN MCLEMORE, CO-OWNER, MASTERBUILT: If you don't drive your car attentive and like you should, automobiles can be dangerous. So turkey frying is the same way. If you use it, follow the instructions, and do what we say in our instructions, no, it's a perfectly safe product to use.
HUNTER: Simple instructions, like making sure the fryer is outside, away from all buildings, on level ground, and is watched at all times.
DRENGENBERG: Well, the industry has added a lot of warnings to these turkey fryers. But the fact is, the construction has to be improved to the level of safety that UL would demand for such a product.
HUNTER: UL says it wants a device that will automatically limit the temperature of the oil in a gas turkey fryer, because it's not practical to expect consumers to watch a turkey fryer every minute, especially around the holidays.
MCLEMORE: It's got to be done right.
HUNTER: The McLemore brothers point out they already make an electric fryer with a control to keep the oil at the correct temperature, but it'll take time to develop one for their gas fryer that's safe.
Until a thermostat is developed, overheating oil is Underwriters Laboratories' main concern.
UL set up a demonstration for CNN. (on camera): One thing you need to be careful of when using a turkey fryer is something called the oil flashpoint. That's where if you leave this unattended too long and the oil gets too hot, it can ignite without even touching a flame. Watch.
(voice-over): As you can see, even putting the lid on doesn't stop the fire. And within seconds, flames are leaping four feet over the fryer. But even in this controlled situation, it's not easy to put out. Nor is a fryer fire easy to forget, as Dr. Steven Moon will attest.
(on camera): Would you fry one at your house again?
MOON: Not at my house, not.
HUNTER (voice-over): But those who will, follow the instructions carefully or risk a holiday dinner tragedy.
Greg Hunter, CNN, New York.
ROBERTS: It had better taste really good for all that risk.
And there's this: always wear protective clothing, like an apron, glasses and heavy gloves to protect yourself against hot, spattering oil, if you decide that's the way to go. But give me an oven any day.
Before we go, a holiday getaway story that even a turkey can appreciate. A security camera at a commuter train station in Ramsey (ph), New Jersey spotted about a dozen wild turkeys waiting patiently on the platform today, perhaps trying to get out of town before Thanksgiving. Some farms in the area, about 20 miles from New York, specialize in free range birds. And, as you can see, some of those birds range further afield than others.
Tomorrow, feed your brain as well as your stomach. All afternoon, CNN will present a series of specials by our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Explore the mysteries of sleep, memory, genius and the power of simply being happy.
It all starts at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
That's all for tonight. I'm John Roberts for Paula.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.
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