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A Rare Look Inside Anonymous' Secret Ops; Toxic Schools: Indoor Air Problems; Prescription for Cheating

Aired January 14, 2012 - 20:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CNN PRESENTS, "Anonymous." They live in the shadows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the closest thing to a global revolution that we have ever got (ph).

ANNOUNCER: But their message and tactics have ignited a movement around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are Anonymous.

ANNOUNCER: A rare look inside the shadowy group's secret ops.

"Toxic Schools" -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a building that was storing chemicals that were cancer-causing agents and because of the vicinity and the children that are involved, you didn't care.

ANNOUNCER: These parents have every reason to be angry. Their children's school had toxic chemicals and even worse, they were the last to know.

"Prescription for Cheating." They read our x-rays, but as CNN investigation reveals a disturbing question over the certification of many radiologists -


ANNOUNCER: Revealing investigations, fascinating characters, stories with impact.

This is CNN PRESENTS with your host tonight Brooke Baldwin and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good evening.

We begin tonight with a rare look inside Anonymous.

BROOKE BALDWIN, HOST: They're this shadowy and motley group of hackers and activist who answer to no one, drawn together by love of Internet mischief. GUPTA: Well, now - now they're evolving into this movement of social change, a real driving force behind the Wall Street Occupiers. No surprise, they're hated by corporate security, but also hunted by the FBI.

BALDWIN: And one of the questions we're asking is, who are these people and why are they taking to the streets?

To get some answers, Amber Lyon stepped into the shadows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, back up, back up, back up.

AMBER LYON, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS AND DOCUMENTARY UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a dark and disturbing vision. A world where riot police attack with impunity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened? What happened?



LYON: Where democracy is corrupted by greed and dissent is crushed.

That's how Anonymous sees America and they say that's why they're fighting back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget.

LYON: It's a movement that defies description - leaderless, faceless, anarchic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our space!

LYON: A loose collective born on the Internet, Anonymous has no official members and no hierarchy, but within the group some individual Anons have greater standing, earned by their skills as hackers, video makers -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To see it with my own eyes and record it myself.

LYON: -- and increasingly street level activists.

Troy (ph), not his real name, is one of them.

TROY (ph), PROTESTER: This is what happens when the people have had enough. This is what happens when greed goes unchecked.

LYON: Troy said he was drawn to Occupy Wall Street after watching his mother struggle with medical debts. He himself is working two jobs to make ends meet, despite having a college degree.

TROY (ph): You lose track of days, lose track of time but it's worth it. It's all worth it.

LYON: We met him at the Occupy Wall Street camp at Zuccotti Park.

TROY (ph): There's no specific person to talk to. It's move like a hive, you know, an idea is brought up and whoever agrees with it, if the overwhelming majority of people agree with it, then we go with it.

LYON (on camera): So we're following Troy (ph) and he's been out here policing, kind of making sure that all of these protesters are getting along with the community and not causing any problems.

TROY (ph): We're handling internal affairs as far as damage control within the community, making sure that everybody is respecting the local - the local small businesses around here.

LYON (voice-over): But he's not just watching over the protests. He's also watching the police.

Part of the evolution of Anonymous from hackers to activists. Anonymous was born a decade ago in one of the weirdest and darkest corners of the Internet, an anything goes imageboard called 4chan. 4chan users post Anonymously and the name stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do not forgive.

LYON: The group adopted a distinct identity and its own symbolism, a mask taken from the movie "V for Vendetta," a retelling of the story of the English rebel Guy Fox and his plot to blow up the House of Lords in 1605.

Instead of gun powder, Anonymous uses the Internet. Anonymous attacks its targets by flooding and crashing corporate and government web sites, or digging up and publicizing highly embarrassing information. It's called trolling. They troll targets out of genuine outrage but also just for fun.

GABRIELLA COLEMAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: The LULZ - it's a kind of parallelization and bastardization of Laugh Out Loud.

LYON: New York University Professor Gabriella Coleman has been watching Anonymous for years.

COLEMAN: It's a term that kind of denotes the sort of pleasure, humor, laughter, everything from something which is quite playful, harmless to engaging in a kind of full-fledged trolling attack that humiliates.

LYON: Anonymous' campaigns, known as Operations or Ops can be dramatic. In late 2010, a distributed denial of service attack took down the web site of PayPal after the company cut off support for the online whistle blower site WikiLeaks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: PayPal continues to withhold fund for WikiLeaks, the beacon of truth in these dark times.

LYON: Sixteen Anons were arrested by the FBI charged with conspiring to intentionally damage PayPal's computers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a message from Anonymous to the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, BART.

LYON: This summer, Anonymous attacked the San Francisco Area's public transportation system BART. BART had cut cell service within the transit system as a way of disrupting antipolice brutality protests. Anonymous' reaction was devastating and vicious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not issue anymore warnings.

LYON: OPBART included the release of a naked photo of a senior BART employee.

COLEMAN: Sometimes it kind of makes you laugh, sometimes it makes you cringe, sometimes it makes you laugh and cringe at the same time. All of a sudden you're like, oh, my gosh, there is this, you know, dagger that's being thrown.

LYON (on camera): And a naked photo?

COLEMAN: Yes. A naked photo.

LYON: Do you feel like there is a fear out there of, you know, what they could possibly find or leak about a certain individual?

COLEMAN: Absolutely. I mean, that's what makes them who they are is that they are kind of bad boys and rude boys to some degree. There is a dual sort of fascination and horror that goes on at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be aware. Be vigilant.

LYON (voice-over): Anonymous was evolving, using its power to shock and disrupt to effect social change.

During the Arab Spring, the collective emerged as a full fledged activist group, taking up the cause of Tunisians fighting against the repressive regime - literally saving lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Tunisian government has made itself an enemy of Anonymous.

COLEMAN: They did everything from take down government web sites. They wrote scripts to stop the phishing of passwords. They brought massive media attention to Tunisia.

LYON: And last fall, Anonymous broke cover here at home, stepping out from behind their secure computer screens for a new cause, Occupy Wall Street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a revolution brewing.

LYON: Suddenly the symbols of Anonymous were everywhere, in flags, masks, banners.

CROWD: We are the 99 percent!

LYON: When we return, pepper spray and Anonymous strikes back.

(on camera): How are they getting the personal information of these officers?

TROY (ph): I'd rather not say.




BALDWIN: The shadowy Internet group known as Anonymous has grown now far beyond its hacker roots. It's now emerging as a forceful public relations weapon for the Occupy protest movement.

Amber Lyon takes you inside Anonymous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are Anonymous.

LYON (voice-over): Anonymous likens itself to the Air Force of the Occupy movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone, everywhere will be occupy their towns, their capitals and other public spaces.

LYON: Anonymous has an array of people on the streets. We're talking medics in San Francisco, tech support in Washington, D.C. And here in New York, guys like Troy (ph).

Troy (ph), not his real name, is part of an army of citizen journalists documenting the movement and the police by broadcasting live video over streaming sites. When they see evidence of what they believe is police misbehavior, Anonymous strikes back, releasing personal information about specific officers.

TROY (ph): And hopefully he'll think twice before he pulls out his baton against somebody who is holding a sign saying we just want peace.

LYON (on camera): And how are they getting their cell phone numbers and personal information of these officers or bankers?

TROY (ph): I'd rather not say.

LYON (voice-over): In September an NYPD officer named Anthony Bologna was filmed pepper spraying two protesters. Anonymous took direct action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will unleash all of your phones, your servers and anything else we can find.

LYON: One of the most active subgroups within Anonymous is called the Cabin Crew. Their specialty is doxing. It's shorthand for combing the Internet for all the information you can find about a target and then releasing it publicly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cabin Crew have noticed injustices being committed by the New York Police. LYON: Cabin Crew compiled Bologna's name, his home address, past legal actions, even the names of his family members and put it all online.

After a police investigation and public pressure, Bologna was placed on leave and reassigned to Staten Island.

(on camera): What do you think that did to the NYPD when they saw this officer's information get posed online?

COLEMAN: I think that they would see it as a form of vigilantism. They're pushing the boundaries of the law. But I think some of their actions also reveal the ways in which either private security companies or police are also acting outside of the boundaries of the law.

LYON (voice-over): Anonymous' biggest coup in the propaganda wars was this. An Anon group by the name OperationLeaks posts the clip on YouTube. The next day the clip tops 100,000 views. Three days later one and a half million. The casually spraying cop had it all. It was outrageous, ridiculous, lulzy and effective.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police in riot gears spraying students.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pepper spraying student protesters.

LYON: The incident was picked up by mainstream media and replayed over and over again.


LYON: Anonymous wants to frame the narrative of the Occupy movement as a contest between peaceful protesters and a militarized police state.


LYON: Reality, though, isn't quite so clear cut. At Occupy Oakland, some protesters attacked the police with rocks and bottles. Others erupted in a fury after the city tore down their encampment.

(on camera): Some people are trying to tear down this fence and head into the main area, but others are trying to keep them quiet and calm so that the police don't have to get re-involved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need some help. We need some more help over here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're non-violent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you [bleep] believe you're willing to fight us but not the police? And you're doing their job.

LYON (voice-over): The Anonymous PR machine focused solely on instances where the cops got out of line - and they have plenty of ammunition. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened, what happened?



LYON: During one night of chaos, police apparently fired a projectile directly at a former Marine named Scott Olsen. He was peacefully protesting against the crackdown. Anonymous went into overdrive, scanning the video for police badge numbers and names, offering a reward for anyone who could identify the officer responsible. The case is still under investigation.

The Department of Homeland Security has put out several alerts to law enforcement and corporate security focused mainly on the group's hacking activities, and the FBI has made more than a dozen arrests.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are living in a police state -

LYON: But there's no indication that has cramped Anonymous' style. Their latest op?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all on planet earth.

LYON: On Christmas Day, members crashed the web site of a security research company, hacking its client list along with their credit card numbers in order to steal $1 million for donations to charity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are Anonymous. Expect us.

GUPTA: And our correspondent Amber Lyon now joins us here in studio. A little frightening, a little scary.

LYON (on camera): Yes, especially for law enforcement in many aspects.

GUPTA: I've got to ask you. What if they get it wrong? What if they put up some personal information that is inaccurate? Do they have any accountability?

LYON: There's very little accountability because of the way Anonymous is organized, anyone can claim to be Anonymous. There's also a lot of extreme outliers.

And, you know, law enforcement is intimidated by Anonymous. We tried to get an interview with anyone federally or locally and they refused to send an officer forward kind of to the chopping block because they feared that if this officer appear on camera, they could become a target of Anonymous.

BALDWIN: All right, Amber -

GUPTA: Amber, thanks a lot. Great story.

BALDWIN: -- thank you. GUPTA: And coming up, is it possible that schools could be making your child sick? My investigation reveals there's a hidden problem all around the country and it's one the kids can't avoid.




GUPTA: The parents say that Public School 51 in the Bronx, they thought they had won the jackpot. Their children won the lottery to get coveted spots in one of New York's best public elementary schools, but they found out the school had a problem.

It wasn't the teachers or the test scores or even the other kids. The problem was the building. It's toxic. That's right. It wasn't safe for the children. And P.S. 51 isn't alone. In fact, it's part of my ongoing reporting on toxic towns, our investigation found that all over the country children are going to schools that can make them sick.

Our first stop was P.S. 51.

MARISOL CARRERA (ph), MOTHER: Yes, I need your lunch bag.


GUPTA (voice-over): Marisol Carrera (ph) is helping her son Brandon (ph) get ready for the first day of school. Brandon (ph) seems excited but Marisol (ph), well, she seems nervous.

CARRERA (ph): Am I always ready myself with this?

GUPTA: This is more than just a case of first day jitters.

BRANDON (ph): I cannot wait to get to school.

GUPTA: In august, just weeks before school started, Marisol (ph) saw this emergency meeting notice taped to Brandon's (ph) school P.S. 51 in the Bronx. That night, Marisol joined an auditorium packed with worried parents.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott opened the meeting with a dramatic statement.

CHANCELLOR DENNIS WALCOTT, NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: First, I want to start out by apologizing to all of you.

GUPTA: And he followed the apology with disturbing news.

WALCOTT: We decided to do environmental reviews. Your school came with a result that we were not satisfied with, with an elevated level of TCE.

GUPTA: TCE or trichloroethylene is a carcinogen. Prolonged exposure can cause Parkinson's, cancer, even death. Tests at P.S. 51 showed TCE levels at a hundred times worse than what's considered safe.

WALCOTT: Based on the final confirmation, we thought we needed to shut the building down.

GUPTA: Parents are upset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you are using euphemisms. You're trying to be nice. That was a building that was scoring chemicals that were cancer-causing agents and because of the vicinity and the children that are involved, you didn't care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you guys, Board of Ed, first allowed it to be used as a school for our children. I think it's so inappropriate.

GUPTA: But the parents were even more upset by the fact that the Department of Education discovered the contamination in January, yet parents weren't told and their children were kept in class through the end of the year.

WALCOTT: I voiced my displeasure with our folks any myself as far as the timeliness of the notification. And from this point on, whenever we get a positive notification around some type of environmental issue, the parent community, the staff and the school community will be notified immediately.

GUPTA: I met Marisol (ph) outside that contaminated school.

(on camera): So the staff, the kids, all the people who are essentially in this building a good chunk of their days knew nothing about this?

CARRERA (ph): No. The chancellor said he was sorry.

GUPTA: How worried are you?

CARRERA (ph): Very worried.

This is the school right here.

GUPTA (voice-over): Marisol says even Brandon (ph), who's normally upbeat, is worried.

(on camera): You like this new building?

BRANDON (ph): Yes.

GUPTA: You know why you're in the new building?

BRANDON (ph): Yes.


BRANDON (ph): Because it closed down because of TCE, a chemical.

GUPTA: You knew all of that. What do you know about TCE?

BRANDON (ph): Well, it's a cancer-causing chemical.

GUPTA (voice-over): We wanted to ask Chancellor Walcott why they didn't tell parents about the toxic chemical in the school until months after they knew about it. But after repeated requests for an interview, his office declined to speak with CNN.

SHAWN COLLINS, ATTORNEY: For the sheer callousness and recklessness of the behavior toward kids, this is as bad as I've ever seen.

GUPTA: Lawyer Shawn Collins has won a number of TCE contamination suits for communities around the country.

COLLINS: The people who ran this school and their environmental consultants knew for at least six months that there were dangerous levels, in some cases off-the-charts levels of chemicals in the air that these kids were breathing and yet they let those kids go there day in and day out every day for the rest of a semester. Unconscionable.

GUPTA: Collins said the building should never have been a school.

COLLINS: It's an old industrial site, not a place to have kids going to school.

GUPTA: New York City records show P.S. 51 did house a car garage and a lamp factory. TCE, once used to degrease metal, could have been leftover waste.

Many schools around the country are built on old industrial sites according to Lenny Siegel, who digs up the past of toxic schools.

LENNY SIEGEL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR PUBLIC ENVIRONMENTAL OVERSIGHT: We don't consider contamination before we decide where to put the school, and particularly in New York City where they have so many leased schools on leased properties, most of which are former industrial sites or at least many of which - I don't know the exact number - they had a policy of not looking for problems.

GUPTA: Siegel believes that ground and water testing should be mandatory. He also says P.S. 51 was probably always problematic.

Just weeks before Brandon (ph) and the other P.S. 51 kids started at their new school, parents were hit with more unsettling news. Tests revealed slightly elevated level of a common but toxic dry cleaning chemical, PCE.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what's going to happen to our children?

GUPTA: Parents showed up at another meeting in October to confront the chancellor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I first have to say Dennis Walcott, how dare you?

CROWD: How dare you?

GUPTA: The chancellor dismissed the results at the new school as insignificant.

WALCOTT: There was an open container and so once that was corrected, the levels came back down. It was fine.

GUPTA: But parents like Marisol (ph) no longer trust the school system.

(on camera): What are you going to do? And what's the plan?

CARRERA (ph): Well, I'm just going to watch him consistently. Any little thing that he gets is going to be an alarm for me. He's 8 years old and it's scary and I have to see what's going to happen with him. I pray that nothing's going to come of this but you just don't know.

GUPTA: When we come back -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About a third of our schools have some kind of problem that causes respiratory problems in children. It is horrific.




ANNOUNCER: We now return to CNN PRESENTS with your host tonight, Brooke Baldwin and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

BALDWIN: We've seen a school contaminated by a toxic chemical in New York where many schools still sit on those old industrial sites.

GUPTA: Yes. But my investigation also found the problem goes far beyond toxic chemicals. The best estimates are that one third of our public schools have air quality that can cause respiratory problems in our children.

BALDWIN: And people may not realize, but our kids actually spend about half of their waking day in school but there are no air quality standards for classrooms in the United States.

GUPTA: It's quite shocking.

So in the second part of my investigation, we found schools that are literally making children sick.

(voice-over): In picturesque Winsted, Connecticut, a 250-year-old New England town, a typical school day at Hinsdale Elementary. But one fourth grader, Matthew Asselin wouldn't be there this morning or any morning.

MELISSA ASSELIN, MATTHEW ASSELIN'S MOTHER: Now, if you look at him, what do you think? Do you think he's going to be friendly?

GUPTA: Matthew's mother, Melissa, an elementary school teacher, is home schooling her son this year. ASSELIN: When he was out of school he was well. And when he was in school, he became ill. Last year was by far his worst year. He missed more than 50 days of school.

GUPTA: Mold at Hinsdale, she says was making her son sick.

ASSELIN: This bag represents most of the medications that Matthew was on last year. This is Xoponex, Veramyst. He was given erythromycin (ph). This was right before he went in the hospital for pansinusitis.

When he left school, he left all this behind, too. He needs none of it. So this is garbage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this is actually a zero, Alexandria (ph).

GUPTA: Alexandria Mero's (ph) parents pulled her from Hinsdale this fall after a persistent cough wouldn't go away. That was a tough decision because her father, Paul, was on the school board at the time.

PAUL MERO (ph), ALEXANDRIA MERO'S (ph) FATHER: She's been on the nebulizer, steroids and another medication. Since she's been at parochial school, she hasn't been on any of it.

GUPTA: The school district spent $16,000 this fall to get rid of the mold at Hinsdale and the board is now trying to decide whether to close the school temporarily to replace the leaky roof and make other repairs.

Only about 20 to 30 percent of the population is susceptible to indoor air problems like mold or dust. But for those who are, the symptoms get increasingly severe.

In Fairfield, Connecticut, so many of the students and teachers were getting sick with respiratory problems that officials decided to tear down McKinley Elementary and start from scratch. The school was riddled with mold.

JOELLEN LAWSON, SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER, FAIRFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOL: I started to get sick the second year when they put me in the basement classroom.

GUPTA: McKinley's the special ed teacher Joellen Lawson taught for 23 years before she became permanently disabled with a serious lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

LAWSON: There are three levels, mild, moderate and severe. Because I've lost 50 percent of my lung capacity, I'm considered a moderate COPD person. Yes, I've also never had a pain-free day since then because have I chronic pain, I have muscle spasms.

GUPTA: You can see another source of pain for Joellen, if you ask her if she misses teaching.

LAWSON: I'm sorry, that's a really loaded question for someone who has been forced to leave the profession when they didn't want to. I'm sorry.

GUPTA: If you think Connecticut is somehow unique, consider this - a 2010 survey of school nurses nationally found 40 percent knew of children and staff sickened by their school environment. And not all school districts have the money to fix the problem.

Here at Southern Middle School in Reading, Pennsylvania, concerns about air quality closed the basement gym. And mold is visible in the computer lab.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we see some colonies, there's probably two or three different kinds of mold here.

GUPTA: And take a look upstairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it rains heavily, the water actually rains into the room. What we do is we take these buckets, these trash cans and we collect the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's raining outside and inside.

GUPTA: A teacher shot this video.

(on camera): What about mold?

DREW MILES, INTERIM-SUPERINTENDENT, READING SCHOOL DISTRICT: One of the residual effects to the water would be mold certainly.

GUPTA (voice-over): Drew Miles is acting superintendent of Reading schools. He's seen the video and he says there's no money to replace that roof.

MILES: The buildings continue to deteriorate and we only have a small amount of dollars to spread to do just some minimal things like new roofing.

LILY ESKELSEN, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: There are some people who would say this would never happen in my school.

GUPTA: Lily Eskelsen of the National Education Association, which is the largest teachers union, agreed to meet me in Reading, Pennsylvania.

(on camera): How big a problem would you say air quality - indoor air quality in schools is to a student's health?

ESKELSEN: Right now, the last estimates said about a third of our schools - about a third of our schools have some kind of problem that causes respiratory problems in children.

GUPTA: That's remarkable. A third -

ESKELSEN: It's horrific. It is horrific.

GUPTA: Would you send your kid to this school? MILES: To this school, would I send my child to this school? For the quality of education that I believe that these teachers can provide and the principal will demand, yes. From a facilities standpoint, if I had another option, I would exercise it.

GUPTA: You're the superintendent. People are going to be surprised because, I mean, you're the guy who they're going to say, look, I mean make it the school that you want to send your own kid to, but you can't do that.

MILES: I can't with the financial means that I have now.

ESKELSEN: I know the solution to this and it costs money. And this, it's the right thing to do to get these schools the money they need so that kids have a healthy place to learn.

BALDWIN: Sanjay, that is stunning to hear that superintendent say he wouldn't even send his own child to the school and it's something that's intangible. We're talking about air. And I didn't realize that a third of - a third of schools have air that's unhealthy?

For parents who are watching who don't even realize this, is there anything that they can look for?

GUPTA: Well, I think about this all the time as you might imagine -

BALDWIN: With these little ones.

GUPTA: -- and I learned a lot - yes, with little ones myself, I mean, there are some things, visiting your kids' school, looking just for simple cleanliness. There are sometimes inspectors that do that and you ask for those records. Looking for obvious things like mold, which can be a significant problem in terms of people who are susceptible to it.

But also, you know, this idea of, for example, buses and cars idling for a long time in front of the school. That wasn't obvious to me but exhaust fumes get into the school -

BALDWIN: Make sense.

GUPTA: -- and that can be a problem. The other thing was clusters of kids, a lot of - a lot of kids in your kid's class suddenly have headaches, suddenly have asthma, that's should be a warning sign as well.

BALDWIN: Great takeaway for parents. Thanks, Sanjay.

Up next, a stunning CNN investigation reveals doctors cheating on medical exams.



(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BALDWIN: It's a critical specialty in medicine, radiology. These are the doctors who examine x-rays and other imaging to diagnose if you have a serious disease. To get board certified, radiologists must pass a series of tests during their residency.

But a CNN investigation has found many of those doctors have taken shortcuts along the way by getting exam questions from doctors who have taken the test before. And, you know, this has been going on for a long time. There's even a name for it, "recalls," because the doctors memorize the question and then they write them down.

And now a national crackdown is under way by the group that certifies radiologists which calls the practice downright cheating.

Drew Griffin reports.

DR. MATTHEW WEBB, DOCTOR: This is absolute definitive cheating.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Matthew Webb is a 31-year-old Army doctor, accepted into one of the military's largest radiology residency programs, a San Antonio, Texas- based complex that includes the renowned Brook Army Medical Center, where Webb trained as a resident.

But it wasn't long before he was stunned to learn an open secret about most of his fellow doctors. They were, he says, cheating to pass medical exams.

WEBB: It wasn't until I took my physics exam that I found out that the way the residents were studying for the exam was to actually study from verbatim recalled back tests that had been performed by prior residents.

GRIFFIN: To become certified by the American Board of Radiology or ABR, doctors must pass two written exams and an oral exam. Webb says he took that first exam in the fall of 2008. And to his surprise, he failed that first test, which focuses on physics. He says he went to the director of the radiology program at the time.

WEBB: He told me that, if you want to pass the ABR physics exam, you absolutely have to use the recalls. And I told him, "Sir, I believe that's cheating. I don't believe in doing that. I can do it on my own." He then went on to tell me, you have to use the recalls, almost as if it was a direct order.

GRIFFIN: And an order easily fulfilled. Webb found the recalls, the tests, almost verbatim, on the Military's Web site for the radiology residents.

CNN has obtained all of these tests, at least 15 years of recalls stored on a shared military computer server. The test questions, the answers, even presented as a PowerPoint, cultivated from years of residents taking tests, recalling the questions, and adding them to what appears to be an ever-growing database of glorified cheat sheet.

WEBB: Residents knew about the recalls. The program directors knew about the recalls. A large portion of people were using them and it was just accepted.

GRIFFIN: That bothered Webb. Not only was this cheating, this was the Army. But he says his supervisors in uniform didn't seem to care. So Webb took his complaint of cheating to the very board that certifies radiologists.

Dr. Gary Becker is the American Board of Radiology's executive director.

(on camera): We've heard about this, you know, recall, memories come out of the test, write down 20 questions here, you take the next 20 questions. They almost sound like well organized thieves to skirt the very certification you're trying to ensure.

DR. GARY BECKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN BOARD OF RADIOLOGY: I don't think we know how well organized they are. I mean, we have inferential evidence.

GRIFFIN: Isn't it cheating?

BECKER: We would call it cheating. And our exam security policy would call it cheating, yes.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): And now for the first time in more than 10 years, the board is revamping its entire testing procedures. At the same time cracking down because so many certified radiologists may have gained their certification at least partially because it was so easy to cheat. Right now, about half of the written test questions are the same every year.

BECKER: We take it seriously because when we put the stamp of certification on an individual, that means that the public has trusted us to do so.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And from any of the investigations or inquiries you've done, you don't really have a sense of how long it's been going on?

BECKER: No. It's been going on a long time, I know. I can't give you a date.

GRIFFIN: Because this goes right to the heart of the value of the certification.

BECKER: That's exactly what it's all about.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): We showed Becker copies of the recall exams from the military's San Antonio program.

BECKER: We're outraged by this, and we took this case to our professionalism committee. The result of the deliberations there and the decision of the board was to go directly back to the training director, the dean of the institution, and we've had those discussions.

GRIFFIN: He acknowledged the recalls were very close to the actual test.

(on camera): In fact, think you even have them sign a statement that they know that this material is copyrighted.

BECKER: That's correct.

GRIFFIN: And that any -

BECKER: That's where the illegal comes in.


BECKER: Exactly right.

GRIFFIN: So it would be a crime.

BECKER: It would be a crime.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Despite repeated requests, the military refused to answer our questions on camera.

It did send a statement acknowledging residents shared exam questions in the past and it does not encourage or condone cheating of any kind. The military also admitted some faculty members and program directors were aware of the use of recalled examination questions by residents. In fact, the military admits a smaller number of faculty in a past program leader encouraged the use of recall questions as one of several tools to improve medical knowledge and prepare for the exam.

The military now says the recall exams have been removed from its computers and residents must sign this statement that they wouldn't use them. But has the damage already been done?

GRIFFIN (on camera): Dr. Webb, the complainant, he told us that, to find out that some of these physicians don't have the knowledge but are able to still get through by cheating, it's despicable. Do you agree with that?

BECKER: I agree. I agree. Now, I can say we don't have any - more information on other programs. We haven't heard similar reports from other residents. But if and when we ever hear of any, we're going to track them down.

GRIFFIN: We wanted to find out just how widespread the use of recalls really is, so we figured we'd come here to Chicago, to the largest medical convention in the United States, the Radiological Society of North America, which draws 60,000 radiologists from around the world.

(voice-over): It wasn't long before we started getting answers.



(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BALDWIN: The CNN Investigation reveals that radiology residents at a well known military program use what are known as recalled test questions for years just to prepare for a critical exam.

GUPTA: Now the Executive Director of the American Board of Radiology calls this cheating. But as we've learned as well, it doesn't stop there. The question is how widespread is the cheating and also what did doctors have to say about it?

Drew Griffin investigates.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): If you want to find out just how widespread the cheating is on radiology exams, there is no better place than Chicago's McCormack Place in late November.

For most of the last 36 years, radiologists from across the world have been gathering here for the largest medical convention in the United States. Sixty thousand strong, the Radiological Society of North America is the place to show off new technology, new techniques and to find out that an old bad and perhaps even illegal practice has been going on for years.

Dr. Kay Lozano, a practicing radiologist for seven years, says she never used recalls but admits they were easy to find.

DR. KAY LOZANO, RADIOLOGIST: I didn't know a person who didn't have access to those, but it was - I think part of it is how you use it.

GRIFFIN: Residents here told us off camera recall use is widespread, not just at the army program in San Antonio but at programs across the country, including prestigious ones like Harvard's teaching hospital, Massachusetts General. The chief of radiology there says he didn't know personally of anyone using recalls, but also says, "we did not officially sanction or organize the recalls."

(on camera): Was using recalls cheating?

LOZANO: I think when something's so widespread, it feels less like it's cheating.

GRIFFIN: How it works is simple and a longstanding practice. Residents take the American Board of Radiology's Certification Test and immediately upon finishing write down a portion of the test they are responsible to recall.

DR. JOHN YOO, RADIOLOGIST: People decide beforehand what sections will I focus on in terms of trying to recall those questions and answers. And then after - immediately after the question - after the examination, the residents get together and try to put these down onto paper or on word processor to be able to, you know, share it with the classes coming behind you.

GRIFFIN: Dr. John Yoo says residency programs even share their recalls, helping each other build as close to a copied test as possible. Yoo says it's not exactly cheating, especially when passing the test, getting certified could mean the difference between getting a job and being unemployed.

YOO: It's sort of out of necessity to pass these examinations that you have to rely on the recalls.

GRIFFIN: Yoo, Lozano and Dr. Joseph Dieber all say residents have used the recalls primarily as guides to help narrow down topics most likely to be covered on the exam.

And Dieber says the radiology test is almost impossible to pass without the recall exams because many of the questions are obscure, irrelevant facts.

DR. JOSEPH DIEBER, RADIOLOGIST: We've known people who have tried to study just out of the books and people don't pass that way.

GRIFFIN: Nonsense says Dr. Gary Becker, Executive Director of the American Board of Radiology or ABR.

BECKER: There are people who say that because they say, well, the ABR writes arcane questions or random medical facts. Well, obviously we don't believe that.

GRIFFIN: Board officials insist there's no reason to believe the widespread use of the recalls has led to unqualified doctors since they still must pass a rigorous oral exam.

(on camera): But these are doctors, medical doctors and it seems like there should be and is a higher standard.

DR. JAMES BORGSTEDE, PRESIDENT-ELECT, AMERICAN BOARD OF RADIOLOGY: And I agree with you. And that's why the ABR does not want to tolerate this behavior.

GRIFFIN: Do you think it's a big deal?

BORGSTEDE: Yes, I think it's a big deal. I think recalls are cheating, and it's inappropriate, and the ABR isn't going to tolerate it.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): That may be so but residency program directors like Dr. King Li who doesn't endorse the use of recalls says it's been going on for so long it's difficult to stop and any resident who speaks out may find few friends come test day.

DR. KING LI, THE METHODIST HOSPITAL: So if a particular trainee is not willing to actually use recall to help them to pass the exam and the culture of that particular training program is that everyone does it, then that particular person can be singled out as a social outcast.

GRIFFIN: Which brings us back to Dr. Matthew Webb who tells us that's exactly what happened to him. He says he's been shunned by fellow residents. And he was fired from the radiology program after something unrelated to the recalls.

He was reprimanded by the Army for making sexual comments to another doctor and for other conduct unbecoming an officer. Webb calls it a personality dispute that escalated.

Now the army has other plans for Dr. Webb. As this story was being prepared, he says the Army called him in and grilled him on why he spoke to CNN. While he remains an army doctor, he does fear his military career is in jeopardy.

GUPTA: Actually a fascinating investigation, lots of questions it raises.

And Drew Griffin joins us in studio now.

BALDWIN: Here is my question. What is the army saying about Webb's claim they just wanted to get rid of him?

GRIFFIN (on camera): Yes, the army flatly denies they retaliated against this guy for speaking out about this. But as far as Dr. Webb is concerned, we got a document - an army document that basically said, look, this guy was a "remarkably talented resident," that's their quote, "who demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer."

I think what they're saying is he's a good doctor, maybe not a good soldier. He did have the right to speak out, says the army, but they wanted to be notified in advance.

GUPTA: Did you get an idea of how often this occurs in other medical specialties, this test sharing?

GRIFFIN: We only found hard evidence with the American Board of Internal Medicine. They suspended 139 doctors back in 2010 who they found were leaving the test exam and going to a test exam company and helping that company to generate a recall exam. The director there has told us that this was a brain dumping, a case of brain dumping, called it grossly unethical and said that it threatens the integrity of their standardized testing.

BALDWIN: Drew Griffin -

GUPTA: Thanks a lot, Drew.

BALDWIN: -- thank you.

GUPTA: Appreciate it. And that's it for tonight's show. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

BALDWIN: And I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for joining us.