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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Pentagon Warns of Higher U.S. Casualties in Iraq; Caller I.D. Scam Revealed
Aired June 21, 2007 - 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: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Is your phone caller I.D. telling the truth, or is it helping a thief steal your identity and commit fraud?
A black columnist is getting death threats. What is it that he wrote that made him such a target?
And have you heard yet about the school that has banned high- fives, hand-holding, even handshakes? Who needs get control of themselves, the students or the rule-makers?
We start off tonight with a grim new warning from the Pentagon: Get ready for higher casualties among U.S. forces in Iraq. In fact, the numbers are already climbing. In the past 48 hours alone, 10 soldiers and two Marines have died. Many of those deaths were in roadside bombings, like the one you see behind me.
Over the past few days, we have been telling you that a new U.S. offensive is under way. And now the top U.S. general in Iraq says the insurgents may be on the offensive, too.
Just a few hours ago, both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, warned us that tough fighting and more deaths are ahead.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre was at that briefing. Our Hala Gorani is in Baghdad.
Hala, I want to start with you first.
We talked about that amazing death toll for just the two-day period. Does the U.S. believe that is as a result of this counteroffensive by insurgents?
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you mentioned some of the words that the top commander of U.S. forces, General David Petraeus, has uttered over the last few weeks, and he's told reporters, as well, since the beginning of this surge, which really began in earnest a few days ago, after those 30,000 extra troops hit the ground here, bringing the total of U.S. troops to about 155,000 to 160,000.
Now, he has said that, because the surge -- the surge -- or the troop surge, or the increase in troops on the ground, implies spreading out these U.S. troops, soldiers, to smaller outposts, and also having them patrol out in the field, trying to find these factories that manufacture car bombs and IEDs that have been so deadly to U.S. troops, well, that means they are more exposed.
He's also told a London newspaper and other journalists over the last few weeks that the insurgents are keenly aware of the U.S. political agenda. So, in other words, they might take advantage of this U.S. offensive and others that might be under way over the next few months to mount a countersurge, if you will, to try to take away from those headlines of anything positive that might be achieved by U.S. troops -- Paula.
ZAHN: And, Jamie, while this all plays out, you attended the briefing today where Defense Secretary Gates made it very clear he's appealing for more patience on the American public's part, and warning us that there could be more U.S. casualties ahead.
Let's listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It seems to me that there's -- that the reason for the spike in violence is that, as General Petraeus has indicated, our troops and the Iraqi troops are going in to areas where they haven't been for some time, and they anticipated that there would be a high level of combat as they did that.
GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: It's not about levels of violence. It's about progress being made in fact in the minds of the Iraqi people, so they have confidence in their government, in the way forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Jamie, was there really anything new in the tone at this news conference that we haven't heard over the last couple of weeks?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, there were two interesting themes there.
One, you heard Gates saying, essentially, that the reason that casualties are going up, and, in fact, violence in general is going up, including Iraqi civilians, is that the U.S. is on the offensive, that that's a byproduct of the strategy that's supposed to produce results later on.
But you also heard the chairman of the Joint Chiefs there saying that the level of violence, which is something we look at as an indication of how things are going, is the wrong measure. He said, essentially, that violence could continue, but, if Iraq -- the Iraqi people feel like they're making progress, it's more the state of the -- of mind of the Iraqi people that should be the measure of success, which is an interesting benchmark, considering that the whole point of the surge is supposed to be to protect the Iraqi people.
What we're seeing here, basically, is a lowering the expectations that there's going to be a reduction in U.S. deaths and that there's going to be significant progress by September that would allow a reduction of U.S. forces. Neither one of those things seem to be in the offing.
ZAHN: And, Hala, let's talk about the challenges those forces face. What seems to be killing these troops? And I understand that there used to be this thought that a lot of these insurgents were linked with al Qaeda, and that may not be the case anymore?
GORANI: Well, it's really coming from both al Qaeda insurgents, nationalist insurgents, some of whom have now formed alliances with U.S. troops in certain provinces in Iraq, but also Shiite militias.
What is killing them are IEDs, quite simply. The vast majority of U.S. troops are killed by improvised explosive devices. So, this is why this offensive in Diyala Province, north and east of Baghdad, is aimed also at dismantling these factories.
But one important point: Every single military commander I have spoken with over the last three weeks, since I arrived in Iraq, has told me, the solution to this problem is two-dimensional. It's both military and political. Politically, the government of Nouri al- Maliki needs to pass laws that will allow reconciliation between the sects in this country.
ZAHN: And, Jamie, I want to move on to some breaking news from a little bit earlier on tonight. And that is some of the stories that have been confirmed that maybe we are pretty close to the Guantanamo detention center being closed.
Is it true the White House now is shooting that down?
MCINTYRE: Well, the White House and the Pentagon both are downplaying an Associated Press story saying, essentially, that there is a consensus building in the administration to close Guantanamo.
But this may be one of those cases where that, technically, the denial is correct, but there is no question that there is a consensus building that Guantanamo needs to be closed. In fact, President Bush has said he wants to close it. Secretary of Defense Gates says he would prefer it's closed.
The question is how and how soon. And the White House points out that there's a couple things they need to be able to do first, such as repatriate some more of the people and get a military commissions process that is actually up and working, before they can talk about closing Guantanamo.
So, the story appears to be true, in the sense that there's a building consensus that Guantanamo needs to be closed, the prisoners need to be moved out. But it doesn't appear any decision is imminent.
ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thanks so much.
Hala Gorani, you, as well.
As you probably already know, the anti-war movement is dominating U.S. politics. Will the public stand for a big spike in casualties, which is what we were warned about today?
On my "Out in the Open" panel tonight, we go to Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus, Cenk Uygur, host of "The Young Turks" on the Air America Radio Network, and Warren Ballentine, a radio talk show host with Syndication One.
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you.
CENK UYGUR, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you.
WARREN BALLENTINE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Wanted to start off with a pretty telling graphic tonight showing the death toll in Iraq. And we have just heard some of the leaders of the military saying that the American public should expect a bloody summer. Even the president has warned of that.
Is the American public going to be patient?
JACOBUS: Well, I think the American people have been patient sometimes. And, sometimes, they haven't. The good thing is that this president and this administration has not conducted this war based on the polls. Now, he has been criticized for that, because...
ZAHN: But that's not the issue. The question is, there seems to be a declining support for this -- the war and the way it is being fought.
JACOBUS: There is no question that increased casualties are going to have an effect on the American psyche. That doesn't mean that people who previously -- previously supported this administration will all the sudden turn around and not support him.
This president, from the very beginning, has said, this is going to be a tough war; we are going to suffer casualties. And he has been consistent in that.
I mean, Cheri, how much can we take? Four-and-a-half long years of, we're making progress. We're not making progress. And it's one thing to take heavy casualties, which we are, which is terrible. While you guys pretend to support the troops, those kids are dying.
It's another thing to have absolutely no plan. They don't know what they're doing. There is no political solution.
UYGUR: What is victory? Go ahead. What is victory in Iraq?
(CROSSTALK) JACOBUS: Well, the president -- the president has said -- well, basically, they have made the point that, when the Iraqis can take over for what we have been doing, then I think that will be a measure.
UYGUR: When is that going to be? Ten years? Fifty years?
JACOBUS: I don't think we have a timetable on that we can say, but that has been the goal from the beginning.
UYGUR: So, indefinitely, you are going to those kids in there getting killed, indefinitely, in Iraq in the middle of a civil war?
ZAHN: Jump in here, Warren.
BALLENTINE: What we need to look at, when we're talking about this war, look, this Republican president, George W. Bush, has single- handedly blew up the Republican Party, because he is not acting as a president. He's acting on what he thinks he wants to do and what's best for him, not for the American public.
The public put a mandate out when we elected the House and the Senate Democratic. And the Democrats are just as bad as President Bush. Hillary Clinton came out and said, look, this is president's war.
No, Hillary Clinton. This is the American people war. We are all American. And our -- our girls, our guys are dying by the boatload, 68 people dead in one month. Look, enough is enough, I agree. We need to pull out of this. We need to have a plan. We don't have a plan of action.
This president's legacy, he is going to be the worst president in American history, based on his legacy and what he has brought to the table.
ZAHN: We already see Republicans running away from this president in big numbers.
JACOBUS: Well, we have seen...
BALLENTINE: They have to. They have to.
ZAHN: This is going to cost him big time at general election time.
JACOBUS: I think, for the Republicans running for president, they are going to have to be pretty clear, in terms of outlining, a plan, just as the Democrats are going to have to be.
After this last election, when the American people voted the Democrats in, the Nancy Pelosi Democratic Congress, the people on the left, her base, the Democrats' base, thought that, snap fingers, and we are going to be out of Iraq.
Now we have seen that the Democrats certainly have no plan. Their plan is to simply slam this president day in and day out.
JACOBUS: And we have seen their numbers tank.
JACOBUS: The Democratic numbers are tanking because of the lack of leadership.
ZAHN: Cenk can finish his thought. And, then, Warren, I will let you come in here.
UYGUR: Cheri, the Republicans block us getting out of the war, and then they say, oh, well, the Democrats can't get us out of the war, because we're being obstructionists.
JACOBUS: You know what?
UYGUR: Look, they -- it's not the base.
JACOBUS: Any time...
UYGUR: It's 60 to 70 percent of the country. If you think that's the Democratic base, great. The Democrats will never lose in another election.
UYGUR: It is an overwhelming majority of the country saying, for the love of God, get a plan and get out.
ZAHN: All right, Warren?
BALLENTINE: What you guys -- what the guys are missing here in this argument is this. It has nothing to do about the Republicans or the Democrats.
Look, everybody is tired of this. The Republicans are -- have lied to us from the very beginning about this war. This whole war is based on a lie about weapons of mass destruction. The Democrats lied because they said they weren't going to fund the war. Then they used the excuse that, hey, we have got to support our troops.
Look, what we have to do as American people is this. Get on the phone. Call your congressman. Call your senators. Make your voice be heard. And, if they don't want to listen to what we have to say -- we empower them, we, the people. We elected them into office. If they don't want to do what we want to do, get them out of office on the next election, whether they are an incumbent or not. That's how we change what is going on here.
ZAHN: And I need to say goodbye right now to Cenk Uygur.
Thank you so much.
Cheri Jacobus and Warren Ballentine will be back in just a little bit. That was interesting. I think you woke a lot of people up tonight, if they have had long days.
ZAHN: Tonight, we are sounding the alarm about a new trick that thieves are using, more often than you might think, to steal your identity. Check this out. Has this ever happened to you?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It starts with the banks: Please give me your -- your -- your number. We have a problem with our computer system. And I need this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: All right, that sounds pretty fishy, but your caller I.D. says it really is the bank calling. Can you believe it? Well, hold the phone until you see our next report.
Plus: A black columnist who is getting death threats, what made him such a target? And wait until we show you some of the e-mails he gets every day. You have never seen anything quite like it.
ZAHN: Consumers, beware. There is a new identity-theft threat out there tonight. And it uses something that you probably rely on every day.
We all know what a blessing caller I.D. can be. You see a name or number you don't want to deal with, then you can ignore the call. But now crooks have figured out how to fool your caller I.D., and can display any name they want. Imagine thinking you are getting a call from the police. Well, you would probably answer that one, and then you would be ripe to be ripped off.
And, today, Congress took up the question of how to crack down on caller I.D. scams.
ZAHN (voice-over): Sharpshooters surround an apartment building in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Police respond to a desperate call from a woman who says she's being held hostage. A SWAT team shuts down the entire neighborhood.
But it was all a hoax. Pranksters had fooled the authorities by faking the number on caller I.D.
I.D. spoofing allows a caller to alter the name and phone number that appears on the caller I.D. display of the person they are calling.
KRIS MONTEITH, ENFORCEMENT BUREAU CHIEF, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION: The commission is deeply concerned about reports that caller I.D. information is being manipulated for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.
ZAHN: Senators on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a full hearing today on the topic of I.D. spoofing in a push for new laws to protect consumers.
RON JONES, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REGULATORY UTILITY COMMISSIONERS: Caller I.D. spoofing is a key tool in identity-theft efforts by criminals. The Federal Trade Commission reports that 10 million are victims of identity theft each year. And identity theft is the number-one consumer complaint.
ZAHN: The possibilities are endless: Fake a call from a credit card company, a local courthouse, even the White House. A thief might spoof the number of your bank and even trick you into giving away sensitive financial information.
JERRY CERASALE, VICE PRESIDENT FOR GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, DIRECT MARKETING ASSOCIATION: I think you have to look at this as telephone phishing. And it starts with the banks: Please give me your number. We have a problem with our computer system, and I need this.
So, those kinds of things are what we're starting to see.
ZAHN: Dozens of Web sites make it easy to do. Some are free. Others require the purchase of a calling card. Some even have features to mask your voice or record the call.
SASCHA SEGAN, "P.C.": You punch in your real number, the number you are calling, and then the number you want it to appear to be from, the fake number. So, my phone is ringing here. I will pick it up. It tells me I'm being connected. But look here.
ZAHN (on camera): So, it says, call from the White House.
SEGAN: Yes, not from my BlackBerry. And, as you can tell, I'm not George Bush.
ZAHN: So, the bottom line is, the caller I.D. system is nothing more than the honor system. And you could pretend to be anybody you want.
SEGAN: Exactly. It's no more trustworthy than the return address on an envelope.
ZAHN: Well, my next guests happened to be victims of a vicious caller I.D. spoof.
Beverly Alderfer and her daughter Becky join me now from Philadelphia.
So, Becky, you have got to help us understand what happened that night. You were home asleep. You get a call on your cell phone. And you read the number, and it reads as your own home phone number.
BECKY ALDERFER, VICTIM OF CALLER I.D. SPOOFING: Right.
ZAHN: What did the caller say to you?
BECKY ALDERFER: He told me he was in my house and he was watching me sleep. So, I just hung up on him, thinking it was my brother or my dad fooling around.
ZAHN: But you were scared enough, then, that you went to your mother and you said, hey, I just got the call. This is pretty darn creepy.
BECKY ALDERFER: Yes.
ZAHN: And someone calling from in our -- inside our house is telling me they are watching me sleep.
So, Beverly, were you nervous about this?
BEVERLY ALDERFER, VICTIM OF CALLER I.D. SPOOFING: Oh, yes, definitely.
ZAHN: Yes. What went through your mind?
BEVERLY ALDERFER: Well, we did think someone was in our home. And they called her twice, before she -- she called me on my cell phone number to see if we were doing anything. And we were sleeping on the couch.
ZAHN: Did it get bad enough where you thought that your lives might have been at stake?
BEVERLY ALDERFER: Well, we told her to come down to us. And we did call the police, and they searched our house, but, yes. ZAHN: And, as it turned out, Becky, no one was in your house. And it ends up that one of the perpetrators of this scary night in your home happened to be a friend of yours. How did she pull this off?
BECKY ALDERFER: They went online and bought a card called a spoof card. And it was somebody who I used to be friends with who I haven't had contact with for about a year.
ZAHN: So, she was just trying to shake you up?
BECKY ALDERFER: Yes, I guess.
ZAHN: Or she thought it was pretty funny?
BECKY ALDERFER: I guess she thought it was funny, but I didn't think it was too funny.
ZAHN: And, Beverly, what is going to happen in terms of punishment to this young girl who did this terrible thing?
BEVERLY ALDERFER: Well, we don't know yet. It still has to go to court.
ZAHN: And what do you want other families out there to know every time they pick up their cell phone or their home phone and they see a number displayed? Would you ever believe that again? Would you ever believe a real person is calling you that -- that is read out on the screen?
BECKY ALDERFER: Well, you never know who it could be, I guess.
ZAHN: How about you, Beverly?
BEVERLY ALDERFER: Yes. We were -- we were very scared.
ZAHN: And, of course, Congress recognizes that a lot of American families could live in the -- with the same kind of terror as you do. And, even though this is considered legal at some -- at -- at this stage, there are people that would like to -- to ban the use of this practice altogether.
How would you feel about that, Beverly?
BEVERLY ALDERFER: I think that would be a good idea. I can't see anything good about this card.
ZAHN: Well, you have got a lot of company on that end.
Beverly and Becky Alderfer, thank you so much for your time. And...
BEVERLY ALDERFER: You're welcome.
BECKY ALDERFER: You're welcome.
ZAHN: ... in spite of the fact that this was a -- a prank gone awry, I guess you can consider yourselves pretty darn lucky.
All right. We are going to move on to another topic now: A prominent columnist is getting death threats. Why is he behind targeted? And who is making the threats against him? I will ask him in just a minute.
Then, a little bit later on: a very touch subject. We're going to take you a school that has banned all forms of touching, even handshakes -- no high-fives either. Is that going too far?
ZAHN: This year, we're introducing you to some people who are doing some amazing things in their communities.
And, tonight, we're taking you to Colombia, where one man is using his creative gifts to help hundreds of kids escape poverty.
And that makes him tonight's "CNN Hero."
ALVARO RESTREPO, CHOREOGRAPHER: Cartagena is a one-million- people, a one-million-inhabitants city, where 70 percent of the population is living below poverty line.
My name is Alvaro Restrepo. I co-direct a College of the Body. We work with kids coming from poor, difficult neighbors of Cartagena, teaching them dance, and, through dance, values that can change their lives.
A kid like Jose (ph), well, he was born in the midst of something that, for him, is natural.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Sometimes, here, we see violence. Almost every Saturday or Sunday, someone is killed.
RESTREPO: They have the courage to -- to realize, yes, I can become somebody with doing this.
So, when you are teaching a simple exercise, you are speaking about concentration, about self-esteem. You are learning to work with others.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Whenever I performed, I was afraid. But Alvaro encouraged me. He tells me: There are two options. Either you do it or you do it.
I have to do it.
RESTREPO: From the very beginning, we started to realize that we were plowing in very fertile soil. We are able to prove that, if these kids are given opportunities, they can become -- they can become great human beings.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: And you can learn more about Alvaro Restrepo's dance school by going to CNN.com/Heroes. And, while you are there, you can nominate your own hero for recognition later this year.
We saw a little bit earlier on bad guys using computers and technology to violate your privacy and destroy your peace of mind -- coming up next, a top syndicated columnist who is getting death threats over the Internet. I am going to ask him why.
Then, a little bit later on: a school that has banned hugs, handshakes, just any form of touching between kids. Is that really going to improve education, or is that political correctness gone awry?
ZAHN: Now, I want to bring a frightening kind of cyber assault out in the open tonight. The target is one of this country's most prominent black journalists, "Miami Herald's columnist, Leonard Pitts. He has been writing about a chilling crime in Knoxville, Tennessee. A white couple who was carjacked, kidnapped, raped and killed in January. The suspects are four blacks and white power groups have accused the media of failing to cover the story because the victims are white. They say the media is obsessed with political correctness and ignores black on white crime, Pitts too. And he definitely took on those charges directly in a forceful column two weeks ago. Here's what he wrote:
"Black crime against whites is underreported? On what planet?" He went on to say, "...I am...unkindly disposed toward the crackpots, incendiaries and flat-out racists who have chosen this tragedy upon which to take an obscene and ludicrous stand. I have four words for them...Cry me a river."
Well, after that, outraged white supremacists posted Pitts' home address and home phone number online. Now he is swamped with hate make and death threats and the FBI is investigating. And Leonard Pitts joins me now.
Good to see you, sir. So, please explain to us tonight, the key point that you think set off this storm of controversy and hate.
LEONARD PITTS, JOURNALIST: I don't think it wasn't so much a key point as it was those four words, "cry me a river" which, unfortunately, are too easily, willfully misinterpreted by folks who are in the business of fomenting hate.
ZAHN: So, what do you think -- how do think they interpret it? And what did you mean?
PITTS: They chose to interpret it as an expression of insensitivity towards the crime or towards the victims or towards the victims' families, as is pretty obvious from what you just read. My intention, my words were directed specifically to white supremacists who have been claiming that this crime -- this heinous crime represents, in the words of one of them, genocide or that this represents some failure of the media to report black crimes against white. That's specifically who those words were intended for.
ZAHN: And you certainly opened up a lot of hate with that piece. And I want to put up on the screen some of the e-mail that has been generated as a result of that. One e-mailer saying:
"Whites have given blacks civilization and freedom and you all bow it. How does it feel to know that your people are actually going backwards??"
"You are the lowest form of life on the planet. I would happily buy you a ticket to Africa so you could live among your own kind."
All right, all of us journalists have to have pretty thick skins...
ZAHN: But what was it about these e-mails that are so vile to you. I mean, they're vile to me reading them out loud, but we all get bad stuff in our e-mails.
PITTS: Yeah, what's actually vile about these, I don't believe there's any black columnist who writes about anything of substance who has not received hate mail. What's different about this is the intensity of it, the concentrated intensity. We're talking about 400 e-mails over the course of a couple weeks, and the visceral hatred of it. Those are things that you don't see, you might see virtual (ph) hatred, but you don't see it in that concentrated form and in that concentrated timeframe.
ZAHN And, of course, the other thing you have seen is this total violation of your privacy with your home phone number being put out there and, of course, all kinds of kooks giving you a call. How exposed has that made you feel?
PITTS: It's make me feel quite exposed, but I'll tell you the truth, what it's actually made me realize is that all of us in the public eye, whether as journalists or actors or activists or whatever are subject to this. I've come to understand in the weeks since this happened that this not -- it's not just me, it's not just my, sort of trial that I'm going through. This is a tactic that is favored by these sorts of people to intimidate and to harass people who dare to say things that they don't agree with.
ZAHN: Sure, but it's got to be very intimidating for your and your family, that folks got your phone number, they know where you live. Have you thought about moving?
PITTS: Briefly. But, I'll tell what you I've come to understand. This has sort of given me a new appreciation for what it must have been like to be, say, Rosa Parks in Montgomery in 1955 or Fred Shuttlesworth in Birmingham or any of these other, you know, civil rights icons, not that I'm comparing myself to them, but it occurs to me, you know, they lived in a time and a place when not only did everybody know where they were, but it was very common for people to assassinate with guns and with fire bombs and you couldn't go to the FBI or to the police because usually they were part of the problem.
So, looked at in, you know, in that regard, you know, I almost feel as if, you know, I'm not minimizing what I'm going through, but there are other people who have gone through a whole lot worse.
ZAHN: Yeah, but I got to tell you, I've read a bunch of those e- mails you got. They really, really sting and I can't imagine how you could feel very safe. Leonard Pitts, thank you so much.
PITTS: Thank you.
ZAHN: We'll continue to follow the reaction to your pieces.
Coming up, we're going to check out a school and we want you to check it out with us. Wait until you see what we found. A student got in trouble recently for something he just couldn't believe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAL BEAULIEU, STUDENT: I went to my girlfriend's table, I briefly put my arm around her for like, I don't know, a few seconds. And then the lunch monitor came around and said: "You come with me."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Well, not only is hugging banned, so is holding hands, high-fives, even hand shakes, any touching at all. Is this political correctness gone mad or should more schools be like this one?
ZAHN: We all know that schools and rules are supposed to go together, but you should have seen the eyes rolling in our newsroom today when we heard about this story.
At a middle school in suburban Washington, it is against the rules for kids to touch each other, no hugging, no high-fives, not even a handshake. All right, schools need to keep kids in line, but does a complete ban on touching really make any sense at all? We sent Kathleen Koch to find out.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a quiet March day in the cafeteria at Kilmer Middle School in Vienna, Virginia. Everything was normal until 13-year-old Hal Beaulieu did something that was strictly forbidden.
HAL BEAULIEU: I went to my girlfriend's table, I briefly put my arm around her for like, I don't know, a few seconds. And then the lunch monitor came around and said: "You come with me."
KOCH: Busted. Hal had violated the Virginia school's strict "not touching" policy. Hal's father never knew about the rule until his son called him from the school office. HENRY BEAULIEU, FATHER: I said what do you mean "no touching" and he says: we're not allowed to touch at all at the school. And I said: no handshakes, no high-five? What do you mean no touching? No hugging? I mean, that could be reasonable. He says, it's a no -- we've been told no touching.
KOCH: Henry Beaulieu was shocked.
HENRY BEAULIEU: This is unconstitutional. Talk about violating freedom of expression.
Koch (on camera): CNN contacted both the middle school principal and the Fairfax County school system, but neither would comment on the March incident in the cafeteria or the school's "no touching" policy.
(voice-over): The president of the school's Parent Teacher Association says the rule prevents harassment and inappropriate behavior and helps keep order in an overcrowded school.
LAURIE BAKER, PTA PRES, KILMER MIDDLE SCHOOL: Even high-fives can get out of hands. You get two boys in the hallways, high-fiving, then their three friends want to be there and then a couple of other kids join in and then you got a traffic jam, you've got elbows flowing, you got feet flying. Somebody could get bonked in the head, they could get tripped. We don't need it.
KOCH: Kilmer principal, Deborah Hernandez, told the "Washington Post" that some handshakes are gang signs. She also said that in a culturally diverse school, some families have different views of appropriate physical contact.
HENRY BEAULIEU: And my response to that was along the lines of, you know, this is an American culture and other societies really should adapt to our culture when they come here.
KOCH: Experts say that for children touching is an essential part of development.
DR MICHAEL BRODY, ACAD OF CHILD & ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY: This is a natural thing that goes on in families and friendships. This has been -- and again, this is very much developmentally, which is very important part of this age. There is physical contact. With the physical contact, I have to believe that the kids could be trusted to understand this is appropriate. It is not necessarily a gateway to other things...
Koch: Henry Beaulieu has lobbied the school system since March to drop the policy. Their response was this e-mail: "...we do not plan to change the rule at this time..."
Now Beaulieu hopes media attention will make it reconsider or he may sue.
HAL BEAULIEU: They're saying a handshake to your friend or somebody you just met is bad. It's like denying manners. It's ridiculous. It's just -- I don't even understand why they have it. KOCH: Hal, an honorable student just wants the policy to go away.
Kathleen Koch, CNN, Vienna, Virginia.
ZAHN: And with me now, one of the people you just saw in Kathleen Koch's report, Laurie Baker, the PTA president at Kilmer Middle School.
Thank you for joining us.
ZAHN: You've got to understand, Laurie, those of us that are seeing this for the first time are kind of scratching our heads. And I know myself, I'm just trying to figure out what would be the harm of two kids shaking each others hands after they've aced a test? What could that possibly lead to?
BAKER: Well, I gave you the example before of how the physical horseplay can get out of hand. I was chaperoning some boys last week, really nice boys, friends of my son, one comes up to shake the other one's hand, and the next thing they're in arm twisting battle and one of them's on the floor. Now, both of these boys are over six feet tall. If this happens in school, you have a small seventh grader bonked in the head. It gets dangerous and kids this age don't have a real presence of mind, they don't have adult self-control abilities, they don't quite always understand what the other person is thinking or what they're facial expression's about. So, the best measure is preventing.
ZAHN: Laurie, like you, you know, I have a bunch of kids and I can't ever remember hearing an occasion in any of my kids' school where a handshake could have led to something dangerous, as you just said. And isn't that a natural part of expression?
BAKER: Well, we're trying to prevent issues, here. Do our kids get to shake the hand of a teacher or a principal or a teammate in a controlled situation? Sure.
You know, how is this policy normally enforced? Administrators in the hall, when are changing classes and there's crowds everywhere and they say: OK, boys, calm down, girls, you've got a minute to get to class, 95 percent of the time that's what this policy is.
This school's had this policy for 15 years, every middle school in the county has a similar policy. These are just preventive measures to keep things from getting out of control, because you don't know beforehand which handshake, which high-five is the one that is going to -- is going to cause the trouble.
ZAHN: Well, we should also make it pretty clear, as long as this policy has been in place, it has been pretty controversial. Isn't it true that your principal has had some death threats? BAKER: Oh, I don't know about that. And everything I've heard -- we have 1,000 families in this school. It's only the Beaulieu family that's upset with this policy. Everything else I hear -- a parent may first say: Oh, well that sounds extreme, and you give them a couple examples and they say: Oh, sure I see that, it makes sense. They see that it's based on common sense, it's based on experience and it's really preventing some of the hijinx that our kids get into at this stage of their development. They're just starting to get into boy-girl relationships, but they've still got awful lot of kid left in them and...
ZAHN: All right. Laurie Baker, I've got to move on, because I've got to hear from what some other folks think about this policy. Thanks for your time tonight.
We're going to turn this over to an "out in the open panel," now. Political strategist Cheri Jacobus, Warren Ballentine -- who we met both of them earlier tonight -- and national radio talk show host, with Syndication One.
Let me read to you, right now, how the principal defends this policy and we'll put it up on the screen.
"Allowing students to physically touch one another in middle school, especially with the boys -- causes many, many potentially dangerous horseplay incidents that elevate into full-scale fights. Hugging and kissing, and other forms of PDA detract from our outstanding learning environment."
We invited this principal to come on the show. She declined. Do you really think that this kind of touching in a controlled situation will lead to kids being out of control?
CHERI JACOBUS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think this story has two components to it, Paula, that are completely separate. First of all...
ZAHN: No, but come back to the question.
ZAHN: You and I went to school. We shook each other's hands, we did high-fives...
JACOBUS: No, when I was in school, we weren't allowed to chew gum, and I'm only minimally damaged because of those rules. But first of all, this kid broke the rules. He knew what the rules were and blatantly broke them and somehow got his parents onboard, so every kid in America is saying, hey, how can I get that done too? How can I get my parents onboard? But yeah, some of these rules are probably a little bit too politically correct.
ZAHN: Which ones? Do you think kids should be allowed to give each other high-fives?
JACOBUS: High-fives are probably OK. ZAHN: Holding hands? What's the harm of holding hands?
JACOBUS: You know, kissing, but to what degree? You know, it's -- you know, I can't say. And that's probably why they've gone too far with some of these rules, because where do you draw the line?
Well, we're doing a draw the line -- Warren.
WARREN BALLENTINE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Paula, Paula, this is just ridiculous. Look, our country has gotten so politically correct, that we've lost our backbone. You think about what's going on in America with our children, you take this case right here with this touching incident where these kids are getting suspended from school. This is ridiculous.
You take the Shaquanda Cotton case, out in Texas, where this young lady gets seven years in prison for touching a hall monitor. She's released now, thank god. You take the Genarlow Wilson, case consensual sex, he's looking at 10 years in prison. We're fighting that now.
This is ridiculous what's going on in America with our children. And when you sit up here for this -- for a jury to say, you know, hey, he broke the rules. Look, this is unconstitutional. I'm not just a radio host. I'm an attorney as well, and from a legal point of view, this is killing self-expression. This is killing what is necessary as a child...
JACOBUS: You might have been missing my point, there. I think it is two different issues. The fact is these rules are not necessarily hurting these kids. I mean, they're not draconian...
ZAHN: But that's not the point. The point he's making that these rules violate your constitutional right to expression.
JACOBUS: You know what, I still think you got to let the parents and the teachers are the ones that ultimately get to make the decision. And if they don't like the rules, if they think these rules have going too far with political correctness, which yes, they probably are, then they can fight it. But, the kid did break the rules, he deserved to be punished.
BALLENTINE: What needs to happen here, Paula, is you need a set of parents who are strong enough to file a lawsuit, because this is repugnant to the constitution. And when you look at what's going on, these children need to be able to touch each other, they need to be able to interact with each other. That's part of growing up, that's part of being a kid. You mean you're going to suspend an honor roll student for a hug? That's ridiculous.
JACOBUS: It sounds like, obviously, the rules have gone too far with political correctness. The kid blatantly broke the rules, was trying to make some kind of a point about it and he...
Yeah, you know what? Nobody's preventing hugging everywhere, but I think...
BALLENTINE: What's absolutely hilarious to me about this argument that she's making, I'm sure she supports the president in the fact he wants to bring this immigration reform bill up to play.
JACOBUS: Actually, I don't.
BALLENTINE: They're here illegally...
JACOBUS: Try again.
ZAHN: All right, you're wrong on that.
JACOBUS: You know, now this is something that needs to be worked out with the parents and the teachers. You don't need to suing anybody. I think they need to have a big town meeting, a great big parent teachers meeting and get this worked out. You don't need to go suing anybody and saying this is unconstitutional. That's ridiculous.
ZAHN: You know, I'm like the two of you. I would do a group hug right now, Warren, if I could.
BALLENTINE: Hey, I'm in for it, Paula. I'm in for it. I love you, you come out and give me a hug, girl.
ZAHN: You got it. Could you feel my love, Warren?
BALLENTINE: I feel your love. I feel your love.
ZAHN: All right, Cheri, thank you.
JACOBUS: We're shaking hands.
ZAHN: A handshake (INAUDIBLE). She doesn't get a hug, right now. We do that after the break.
BALLENTINE: That's right, Paula. She doesn't play well with others.
ZAHN: Oh, come on, we're all playing in the same sandbox, here.
OK, we're going to take a quick Biz Break right now.
The Dow gained 56 points, the Nasdaq closed 17 higher, the S&P was up nine.
Senate Republicans have killed a plan to impose $29 billion in new taxes on the oil industry. The money would have been turned into tax breaks to encourage windmills, hybrid cars, and other energy sources. But, they have made a deal on raising fuel economy standards to 35 miles-per-hour. The Supreme Court is making it tougher for shareholders to sue companies accused of fraud. In an 8-1 decision today, the justices ruled in favor of an Illinois telecom company accused of driving up its stock price by overstating its earning.
The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators rose 3/10 of a percent in May. Could that be a sign the economy has fought off the impact of a housing slump?
So, how do you follow up on a career of catching spies? (INAUDIBLE) teaching is in the cards. Stay with us, meet a guy who is applying spy catching techniques to card playing. You might just learn something here.
ZAHN: For an FBI agent who's in the business of catching spies, the ability to size up someone in a split second can often be the key to catch dangerous criminals. But we've actually found a retired FBI agent who's now showing other people how to use that skill in some pretty unusual settings. Ali Velshi has tonight's "Life after Work."
JOE NAVARRO, RETIRED FBI AGENT: What we do in this room is two things, observe and communicate.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Navarro's life seems right out of a Tom Clancy novel.
NAVARRO: For 25 years, I -- most of my work was in the National Security division of the FBI. I was a spy catcher and that's what I did.
VELSHI: When he retired from the bureau in 2003, Navarro had fairly pedestrian goals.
NAVARRO: Honestly, I thought I would be writing part time, because I enjoy writing, and I would be teaching maybe one school a month.
But if you want to learn about reading nonverbal behavior.
VELSHI: Navarro is teaching, but the subject matter of the class is less Tom Clancy and more "Oceans Eleven." You see, his students here are poker players.
NAVARRO: I teach them the significance of tells that affect us the most. Things that tell us what is this person going to do? Is this person going fold, is this person going to quit or are they going to continue?
VELSHI: Navarro does spend most of his time teaching law enforcement groups and business clients, like JP Morgan Chase.
NAVARRO: I wish more agents played poker, because there's tells that you pick up in the poker room, and you pick up so many of them in one day or in one hour, that it would take you maybe 40, 50, 60 interviews to see these, and you can see it in one or two tables in the span of 30 minutes.
Ali Velshi, CNN.
ZAHN: Got no excuses for losing anymore. We only minutes away from LARRY KING LIVE. Tonight, the always outspoken, always outrageous Kathy Griffin joining Larry at the top of the hour.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: That's it for all of us tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Please join LARRY KING LIVE right now.
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