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Paula Zahn Now
Computer Worm Wreaks Havoc in CNN, ABC, 'New York Times' Systems
Aired August 16, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us. We are continuing our coverage of tonight's big story: A computer worm that is spreading havoc in systems all over the world. Here is exactly what we know right now. Someone has unleashed a worm that cripples computers by forcing them to continuously shut down and restart. It's been a wild scene around our newsroom today because of that.
Computers that use Microsoft's older operating system, Windows 2000, are the ones most at risk but the worm is also affecting computers that use early versions of Windows XP.
Computers on Capitol Hill in Washington have been hit. So have systems at CNN, ABC News and "The New York Times." We also have reports of infected computers in Germany and Asia.
Microsoft says the worm has actually had a low impact, whatever that's supposed to mean. And, there's a cure you can download from the Microsoft Web site. It's a patch that will fix the problem.
Let's get the very latest now from our whole technology team that we are unleashing on this story tonight, CNN business reporter Ali Velshi, who is here with me in New York, so is Joe Magee, a former hacker, who is now the chief technology officer for Vigilant, a computer security company, glad to have you on our side these days; and, in Atlanta, CNN Technology Correspondent Daniel Sieberg.
Daniel, I want to start with you tonight. First of all, these officials are now saying it is a worm not a virus. What do we know about this worm and what is the differentiation between it and a virus?
DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we'll start with the difference between a worm and a virus and that can be a tough technical term for people to wrap their head around.
Basically, on sort of a lay person level, a worm doesn't need you to interact with it. It doesn't need you to open an attachment or click on something to send itself out. It's replicating itself and trying to propagate on the Internet all on its own.
Generally, viruses need a little bit of interaction with the user, not always. I might get scolded by some security analysts here but that's the basic definition. So, this worm, which is going by a couple of different names, there are variants or different versions of this particular worm that are out there. Right now we're talking about the most serious one which is R-BOT, worm R-BOT. The one before was Zotob.
The name doesn't really matter. Basically, what you would often see is what you're looking at right now. If your computer is starting and rebooting and you're actually seeing computers here at the CNN newsroom and this is what we saw all afternoon here was these computers getting this message saying it's rebooting. It's going to restart. And, again, it's affecting Windows 2000 operating systems primarily.
And so, for a lot of people here they simply had to walk away from the computer because there was nothing they could do and that's probably the case at a lot of companies that are being affected right now.
You mentioned the companies that were affected, CNN, ABC, "The New York Times," Caterpillar, the construction company, and a number of others. This information is coming in very quickly as the worm is spreading and propagated and going through these different infected systems.
If it's not patched, basically it's going to infect them and that's up to the user at home, so if you're watching right now and you're using Windows 2000, you need to go to Microsoft's Web site and update your system.
ZAHN: All right, Ali, let's go back in time a bit.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
ZAHN: It was around 5:30 Eastern Time that our newsroom came to a standstill. All these computers seemed to be crashing at the same time.
VELSHI: Yes, we thought they were crashing on their own. We didn't realize there were more people involved.
ZAHN: Is there now an indication that the worm was there even earlier than when we noticed it?
VELSHI: Yes. We absolutely have reports from some companies across this country that started feeling them at about 1:30 Eastern this afternoon and, as Daniel was saying, this is a derivative or could be a derivative of something that's been around for a few days.
The issue here is that in a newsroom, like CNN in 2005, the first thing that happens when this goes down isn't calling tech support to see if we can fix it. It's, wow, everybody in this room is down. We've got people in Atlanta who are having problems. Let's find out whether this is any bigger because that's where your mind goes.
ZAHN: Joe, Daniel was just talking about some of the names for this virus. They all sound like really bad medicines, Zotob or whatever. Compare it to some of the worst worms we've seen in the past. Is Microsoft calling it low impact? We don't have any way of knowing right now how many computers have been affected do we?
JOE MAGEE, CHIEF TECH OFFICER, VIGILANT: Right, Microsoft is calling it a low impact based on the fact that we're going to see a lot of corporations that are having a problem more internally, opposed to coming from the Internet.
So, the Internet is just a gigantic network of computers that are connected together and the first two variants that came out more or less try to connect from peer to peer, from computer to computer across the Internet and we've grown up from past worms, so now we have firewalls and we have little routers and so on and so forth to protect our systems.
ZAHN: But the system we were told had some vulnerabilities, Microsoft even putting out a message 48 hours ago explaining that there were three specific areas that they were concerned about, so they didn't plug all the holes.
MAGEE: No, well the thing is they learn more and more about the vulnerability as, you know, new malicious exploits are coded by these hackers or malicious users.
VELSHI: These hackers are looking for those.
VELSHI: They see those exploits and they go further into them.
MAGEE: Right and one good example, as you mentioned, or actually Daniel mentioned about, you know, the times of a network worm jumping around and the newest variant actually has a mass mailer so it e-mails it out too, so they're finding just new ways to distribute it.
ZAHN: Daniel, do we have any sense worldwide what this means?
SIEBERG: Well, we've heard reports in Germany and Asia of computers being infected there. As far as the scope of this internationally, again, some companies tomorrow may be open for business and finding out that this is affecting them so we may hear more in the hours ahead of just how far this has gotten.
As for where this originated, we really don't know at this point. We've talked to several security analysts and they don't know if it originated outside of the U.S. or within the U.S., so that's something we're going to have to look at.
ZAHN: You're a former hacker. How easy is it to introduce a worm like this into the system?
MAGEE: Well, these days with the Internet being a huge communications medium as it is, you know, there's underworld kind of chat rooms and, as we saw in the last-- the identity theft show, there's people out there 24 hours a day just trading code and trading different malicious tactics (INAUDIBLE). ZAHN: That is true but there's also the specter of terrorism.
MAGEE: That is true. My feeling is that this is not terrorism related. This is not...
ZAHN: Based on what?
MAGEE: Well, I mean it's not -- the impact of this virus is not going to cause anybody to die. Could it cause, you know, a big financial in New York to use a bunch of money based on a number of systems going down, sure, that could happen but they need to, you know, practice due diligence and treat security with responsibility. So, that's more of an issue of them, you know, not being ready to issue patches out when these things, these new things come out.
ZAHN: So, what is it, Ali, that American businesses wake up to tomorrow morning?
VELSHI: Well, so far we know about 125 American businesses have been affected by this in some way or other and, as Joe says, not necessarily very seriously but, again, these guys put their computers on tomorrow morning.
I've spoken to one company who says "We're in here all night. We're working it. We know we haven't been fixed up here yet." So, you know, it will cost some people. The danger is when it costs a company because they provide lifesaving services or critical services or it's, you know, somebody dies.
ZAHN: Sure. Well, what still seems very odd to me is Caterpillar complained about this several days ago right?
ZAHN: Does it seem odd to you that it would take this many days jump for all of these companies now to be talking about this?
VELSHI: You know I wish, I wish I knew why it is these vulnerabilities take the time that they take and what it is that has to be done to fix them but we do know that by morning, within a few hours, we should have all the fixes in place for it.
But, as Daniel was saying earlier, there are a couple of variations to what Microsoft said it was vulnerable to a few days ago already. So, until they fix it, you might see different things spreading from it.
ZAHN: All right so basically, Daniel, tonight the bottom line is this patch they're offering is not a cure all.
SIEBERG: Well, I mean it's at least a start for people at home to do something about their own system and to update their system. Now, of course, if it's rebooting all the time there's not a whole lot you can do.
At least disconnect from the network or to your Internet provider so you can boot up your computer possibly in safe mode or from CD, which will allow you to at least get your computer up and running again. You won't be connected to the Internet but that's a start for some people.
I just wanted to point out one other thing in terms of the seriousness of this. We talked about computers rebooting and a loss of productivity and frustration but the other thing that security analysts are telling me is that there's a possibility for a back door to be opened on these systems for somebody to go in and remotely get access to these computers and that's very serious.
How far that has gone or how widespread that is we don't know at this point but that's certainly a level of seriousness beyond just the frustration that a lot of people are experiencing.
ZAHN: There's another frightening thought for us all to consider tonight. Daniel Sieberg thanks so much for your time, Ali Velshi and Joe Magee, appreciate your help.
Good luck tomorrow morning when you all wake up to your computers at work. We're going to continue to follow this developing story.
But right now we're going to switch gears in just a minute and take you to President Bush's ranch in Texas for a provocative question. Are presidential vacations too long? How much time does the commander-in-chief need to spend in Washington, as this president spends five weeks in Crawford, Texas?
ZAHN: Millions of Ford cars and trucks were built with switches that may be defective and that defect can cause fires. Still ahead, what's the government's latest advice for you and why is it so darn hard to find? We have some answers for you in a couple of minutes.
Right now though at 12 minutes past the hour time for Erica Hill at Headline News to update the other top stories tonight.
ZAHN: Our next stop is Texas where I'll be talking with the uninvited guest just outside the president's ranch.
And, speaking of the ranch, is the president spending too much time away from the job in Washington, D.C., after all there's a war on?
ZAHN: Now, we move on to the peace protest near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. This is day ten of the vigil by Cindy Sheehan, a mom who lost her son in Iraq, who vows to stay there until President Bush meets with her. I will be speaking with her in just a moment.
But first, White House Correspondent Dana Bash joins me from Crawford because there are some important developments tonight to talk about, good evening Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening.
ZAHN: First of all, is there anything new from the administration? Will the president meet with Cindy Sheehan?
BASH: In a word, no, there is nothing new and at this point there are no plans for the president to meet with her. And, in talking to White House officials, they say it's about setting precedent.
They say that this is where the president is going to live forever and this is his home and that ironically or I should say actually surprisingly no one has ever done this before. He's been here for four-plus years and no one's ever tried this and they don't want to set a precedent.
They don't want to say, yes, he will meet with somebody because they're protesting outside his ranch because they say that that could encourage other people to do it. So, at this point, the line from the White House from the president is that he sympathizes with her cause but no plans to meet with her.
ZAHN: So, what is the administration's chief concern now about public perceptions of what's going on down in Crawford?
BASH: Well, you know, it's interesting the way they sort of deal with this. They are very careful not to say very much at all about this, Paula, but they are not unaware of what is going on.
They're very well aware that, for example, Cindy Sheehan said that she wanted the president to come out and pray with her on Friday, again, no plans for him to do that.
And, they are I think increasingly aware of how savvy she and the people around her are. She has constant interaction with the media, as you know. She not only talks to the people like us who are around her actually here in Crawford, she's always on blogs.
She is doing interviews, remote interviews like we'll see on CNN tonight and she does things like radio. She's doing drive time radio tomorrow for 50 minutes across the country, so she knows how important it is to keep the momentum up.
ZAHN: And we're going to talk to her about her strategy right now. Dana Bash thanks so much for the update.
Joining me now from Crawford is Cindy Sheehan herself, thank you so much for being with us tonight. Cindy, we should mention that you did meet with the president shortly after the death of your son and since then the president has made it very clear he has no intention of pulling troops out of Iraq right now. So, if you were to meet with him, what is it that he could possibly say that would satisfy you?
CINDY SHEEHAN, LOST SON IN IRAQ: Well, number one, I didn't come here asking him to pull the troops out of Iraq. On the Wednesday when the 14 Marines were killed and he said that our loved ones have died for a noble cause, I want to know what the noble cause is because I don't believe a war of aggression against a country that was no threat to the United States of America, I don't believe that's a noble cause.
And, I want him -- I want to ask him if he believes it's such a noble cause then does he encourage his daughters to enlist so they can take the place of some soldiers who want to come home? There are soldiers there on their third tour of duty.
ZAHN: But, Cindy, you have made the request directly to the administration though about the issue of withdrawal and that seems to be a non starter as far as any conversation with the two of you goes.
SHEEHAN: Well, I did but that's not -- yes. Yes, that's not what I'm here for though and also I want him to quit using my son's name to justify his continued killing in Iraq of Americans and Iraqis.
And every group that's out here with me who has had skin in the game who served there or who have loved ones serving there or who have had loved ones killed there we do call for an immediate withdrawal and the majority of Americans know that this war is a mistake and they're calling for the troops to start coming home too and that's the majority of Americans.
ZAHN: Cindy, let's talk about -- let's talk about what you find yourself in the middle of tonight. There is a perception that as more and more special interest groups join your fight that you are perceived as pushing their political agenda. Do you think you're a pawn?
SHEEHAN: No, absolutely not. This was my idea. It was a spur of the moment thing and it's really focused on the Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace.
And, we are -- we do have some people helping us but all of this is our vision and what we want and they're helping us. They're not making me their pawn, you know. Paula, I've been doing this for months, you know.
This is just a culmination of what I've already been doing and nothing that I've done, no matter how well it was planned has been as successful as this and this was a total spur of the moment thing.
ZAHN: Cindy, you have said rather pointedly that you refuse to pay federal taxes now because you don't want to fund this war and yet you continue to enjoy government services and I'm wondering how you justify not funding a war but at the same time also the tax money perhaps not going to schools, not going to health care, not going to the nation's infrastructure?
SHEEHAN: Well, I pay property taxes in California for the schools and for the infrastructure. But, I'm doing this war resistance thing where you withhold half of your taxes and that goes to a special fund for peace and I am paying the other 50 percent of my taxes for it because 50 percent of our budget goes to funding war.
ZAHN: Well, Cindy Sheehan, we appreciate your joining us tonight. I know you're hopeful that the president will join you at the vigil. Just a quick word on that, do you expect him to join you at any part of that vigil?
SHEEHAN: I don't know. He's invited. I guess that would be up to him.
ZAHN: All right, Cindy Sheehan, again thanks for your time tonight, appreciate it.
SHEEHAN: OK, thanks. Thanks.
ZAHN: Part of the president's political problem with this story is that he happens to be on vacation for about five weeks. Who gets that kind of time off? Well, presidents do of course but do they deserve that much?
Here's more from Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of all the presidential perks, none attracts so much scrutiny as the summer vacation and George W. Bush is under the microscope on vacation more than 300 days, a fifth of his presidency. That's much more than average according to Kenneth Walsh who wrote the book on presidential retreats.
KENNETH WALSH: Really from George Washington, presidents have struggled to get into the White House and then once they get there they're almost desperate to get away from the place because they're eager to get some normalcy in their lives.
FOREMAN: Out of eight years in office, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower each took an entire year off. George W. Bush is on track to beat their records but defenders say that's a good thing.
DAVID GERGEN: I happen to believe that we're better served by someone who is willing to take some vacation time and not be there 24/7. We tend to get much better decisions out of people like that.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to show you what it looks like on the back side completed because you'll see what I'm saying.
FOREMAN: The White House points out that even during time off the president is always in touch, meeting with advisers, taking calls, using modern technology to watch the world.
WALSH: When a president's away every day has some segment of presidential duties.
FOREMAN: Big progress has been made by presidents on retreat. Roosevelt approved development of the nuclear bomb. Lincoln worked on the Emancipation Proclamation. And, President Carter has suggested his historic Camp David meetings on the Middle East could not have happened in the formal settings of Washington.
Capricia Marshall (ph) worked closely with the Clintons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vacation never was truly ever a vacation and even Christmas with them was also work. I mean being the president and first lady you never get to go home and turn it off.
FOREMAN: There are serious political risks on vacation. Critics of President Bush have suggested he should be working as long as troops in Iraq are fighting. There are minor risks too. Snapshots can make a president look too casual, like Truman or too stuffy like Harding. A shirtless president, like Ford, might look healthy or, well might look like this.
(on camera): Still remember presidents are not like the rest of us. Jimmy Carter once told me that he and his family used to occasionally put on disguises and slip out of the White House just for a few hours or normal life.
(voice-over): When Bill Clinton's mother died the world went on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the public really would have understood had he taken a few days off to privately grieve. Instead, he stopped briefly for the funeral and then went on to an economic summit in Paris.
FOREMAN: It takes a toll. Look at their pictures coming into office and going out. Presidents tend to get sick, to die earlier than most of us. No wonder vacations have always been prized.
WALSH: John Adams, our second president, actually took eight months when he was away from Washington mostly at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts.
FOREMAN: In one year?
WALSH: During one year.
FOREMAN: No modern president has ever enjoyed his vacations more than Ronald Reagan and when a reporter once asked if he was spending too much time at play, Reagan said, "Well, it's true hard work never killed anybody but I figure why take a chance?"
ZAHN: Tom Foreman reporting for us.
But five weeks in a stretch that's getting President Bush a lot of criticism and jokes too from the late night comics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, THE TONIGHT SHOW: And, as you know, President Bush is now on week three of his marathon five week vacation. In fact, he's been on vacation so long today in Washington a judge ruled that a young couple with two children can now legally move into the White House because it appears to have been abandoned by its previous tenants, so they can do that. (INAUDIBLE).
ZAHN: And, joining me now syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington and talk show host G. Gordon Liddy, good to see the two of you back together again. So, Gordon, I know you think there's no such thing as a presidential vacation. These presidents are on call 24 hours a day. But should this president be concerned about the public perception that he is taking five weeks off during a war?
G. GORDON LIDDY, TALK SHOW HOST: No. When presidents start being concerned about minutia like that they're no longer effective.
ZAHN: Don't they need the support of the American public?
LIDDY: Believe me, he has -- he has a -- wait a minute. He has down there an extraordinary como system. I mean if he wanted to he could sit down and direct a battle all the way down to the squad level. That's the kind of equipment that's down there and he is able to do the job. He is doing the job. He's just doing it from down there rather than the White House and I don't see any problem with that.
I'm old enough to remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt pretty well because I was 15 when World War II ended and he was not criticized for the time that he spent down in Warm Springs, nor should he have been.
ZAHN: So, Arianna, let's talk about the reality of this time that President Bush is spending in Crawford, Texas. He will crisscross the country traveling to seven different states. He is hosting world leaders. He has had key members of his administration down there. He's getting daily national security briefings. So, what's your gripe?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, he's also going to fund-raisers. He's going on two-hour bike rides. He's taking in a Little League baseball game and he has Cindy Sheehan outside bringing to his doorstep the harsh reality that we're at war that every day when he's fishing or bike riding young Americans are dying in Iraq and that even those who completely support the war are saying that it's not going well.
ZAHN: So, what are you saying he has to stay holed up in the White House?
HUFFINGTON: No, what I'm saying is that symbols matter. Cindy Sheehan is a symbol. She represents the harsh reality of war and the juxtaposition of Cindy Sheehan outside not being able to claim ten minutes of his time while he's on vacation is not good, especially at a time when the administration keeps reminding the American people we're at war.
So, my advice to him is sacrifice something. You love your vacation, sacrifice it. This is the time for all of us to sacrifice something, not just young Americans who are dying.
ZAHN: But, Arianna, I think we're talking about two different issues here. I don't think the administration is saying this president doesn't have ten minutes to spare. The fact is he's already met with this woman and Cindy Sheehan wasn't satisfied by anything he told her and subsequently she's asking to pull the troops out of Iraq and he said he's not going to do that right now. Just a brief answer and then I want to get Gordon's opinion.
HUFFINGTON: Well, first of all, I think it's a little disrespectful to refer to a grieving mother whose son died in a war which many Americans, in fact over 60 percent of Americans believe was a mistake as this woman. I mean she represents something very powerful in this country. She has stepped into the leadership void that is there that has been left there by many elected officials.
ZAHN: Gordon, would it make any difference if this president met with Cindy Sheehan now?
LIDDY: It would be a big mistake if he did.
LIDDY: Anything you encourage you will get more of.
Now, look, when my youngest son's face got blown off in Panama, Mrs. Liddy naturally was unhappy with that, but she didn't go down and protest outside the home of the president. She went down and stayed with her son until she grew him a new face, and then with his new face, as a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, he went all the way from Kuwait to Baghdad. That's how to do it.
ZAHN: But once again...
HUFFINGTON: (INAUDIBLE). But you know, there are many, many different opinions in this country. And one of the things that's troubling me is the way the president is talking about what he's doing. It sounds as though he has so much time on his hands. He's watching Tony Robinson, Dr. Phil too much, because he's talking about my being needs to be outside exercising, or it's very important for me to get on with my life. That's so very flippant and very petulant at a time of war, and huge sacrifice by many Americans.
ZAHN: Gordon, you get the last word tonight.
LIDDY: It may sound flippant and patronizing in Greece, but not here in the United States.
HUFFINGTON: Oh, wow, now we're doing ethnic varieties. Well, it's not just the Greek Americans who are complaining; it's millions of Americans. And that's why the president's approval ratings are down at 42 percent.
LIDDY: That's a gratuitous assertion, and any gratuitous assertion may be equally gratuitously denied. ZAHN: I think I'm going to have to bring the two of you back to see if we can come to any resolution of minds there. Arianna Huffington, G. Gordon Liddy, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HUFFINGTON: Thank you.
ZAHN: Appreciate it.
Coming up next -- a vital update for millions of Ford car and trucks owners. The government has some new advice about a potentially defective switch. But why is that advice so hard to find?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOAN CLAYBROOK, FORMER NHTSA ADMINISTRATOR: Nothing prevents the agency from warning the public and saying we have already received 600 cases where there have been fires.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Stay with us for a very important update on a CNN investigation.
ZAHN: For six months now, CNN has been tracking a potentially dangerous problem with some Fords. The vehicles in question were made with an electrical switch that Ford stopped using two years ago. But here's what can happen: Certain models could actually erupt in flames while they're parked and turned off. In some cases, they can catch fires in people's garages, burning down entire houses.
So what's the government agency that's charged with overseeing vehicle safety doing about it? Here is investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was New Year's Day 2004, about 7:00 in the morning, when this Georgia home burst into flames. It burned fast, while inside, a family struggled to get out.
Juan Washington, his wife Tanika, son Pryce and daughter Blake were sleeping when the fire began. A neighbor recorded this video as firefighters arrived, but it was already too late.
Four-year-old Blake Washington never made it out. Her body was found only after the fire completely consumed the house.
Stephanie Bell is a close family friend.
STEPHANIE BELL, FAMILY FRIEND: I'm sorry. I said I wasn't going to cry. She just was an amazing child.
GRIFFIN: Cobb County fire investigators searched for a cause, but could only determine the area where the fire started.
RODNEY SANDERS, COBB COUNTY, GA FIRE DEPARTMENT: In that area, we identified the kitchen, the family room and the garage.
GRIFFIN: For months, the family blamed themselves. They had used a gas fireplace that night and weren't sure if it had been turned off.
But then the Washingtons learned there may be another reason -- the family pickup truck contained a small electrical switch that could catch fire.
ZAHN: You certainly don't expect it to burst into flames, but it has happened, to some Fords built before the year 2004.
GRIFFIN: CNN first reported the problem back in June. The government has received reports of at least 660 Ford vehicles bursting into flames while the engine is off and the key is out of the ignition, and has launched four separate investigations, dating back to 1998, including one that is open. CNN obtained this Ford document that shows 16 million Ford cars and trucks may have been built with the switches that may be faulty. The company has recalled only 1.2 million of these, fewer than 10 percent of the cars and trucks with the same or similar switch that could catch fire.
One of those vehicles, a 2001 Ford F-150 SuperCrew pickup was parked in the Washingtons' garage with the engine off the night the house burned down. The family is now suing Ford Motor Company.
MARK CHALOS, FAMILY ATTORNEY: We believe that at trial, we are going to prove that this was the Ford that caused this fire.
GRIFFIN: This is second wrongful death lawsuit, both filed this year, against Ford linked to the part. The first filed by Earl Mohlis, who lost his wife Dally (ph) this May. He says her 1996 Ford F-150 truck caught fire in the garage attached to their farm home in Iowa.
EARL MOHLIS, WIFE DIED IN FIRE: I just about dropped when I saw that pickup was on fire. Couldn't believe it.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Ford denies its vehicles or parts were responsible for either of these fires or deaths. In the Iowa case, Ford's investigator determined the fire started elsewhere in the Mohlis' garage. In the Georgia case, Ford says there is no evidence the fire started in the truck, and says since the truck has been disposed of, there's nothing left to inspect.
(voice-over): For months, Ford has refused an on-camera interview with CNN. But on its Web site, the assistant director of automotive safety says Ford is looking into all fire claims on all of its vehicles.
RAY NEVI, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: In January, we took action. We voluntarily recalled model year 2000 F-150 Expedition and Navigator vehicles, because our investigation found that there was an elevated rate of underhood fires related to the speed control deactivation switch in those vehicles.
GRIFFIN: Ford says it is still investigating problems related to the switches but does not see the need for a wider recall at this time.
NEVI: The last thing we want to do is make an important safety decision on incorrect or incomplete information.
GRIFFIN: But in its lawsuit, the Washington family insists a simple warning might have saved their daughter's life. The suit alleges Ford not only manufactured a defective car, but also failed to notify customers, users in the public, including the Washington family, of the presence of defective and deadly fire hazard in Ford vehicles.
The federal agency that is supposed to make sure cars and trucks are safe also issued no warning to the public about the nearly 15 million non-recalled vehicle. For months, CNN asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about any advice or any warning it might give to Ford owners whose vehicles contain the switch. Finally, last week, the agency known as NHTSA sent us this e-mail. It is as close as NHTSA has come to issuing a warning. It says: "Any Ford owner experiencing problems related to the cruise control switch should get the problem repaired at a Ford dealer, and until you do, NHTSA now tells Ford owners, do not park your vehicle in your garage.
That warning has never been placed on NHTSA's Web site. NHTSA never took an ad. The agency never held a press conference. Nancy Lopez is a friend of the Washingtons.
NANCY LOPEZ, FAMILY FRIEND: If somebody knows -- I mean government, whoever -- knows that there is a potential risk for such a tragedy, why wouldn't you say something? Why would you not give people the opportunity to fix it before something terrible and tragic happens. I can't understand.
GRIFFIN (on camera): The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is housed in this building along with the whole Department of Transportation. Despite our repeated requests for interviews, not one person will come out of this building and explain on-camera why, if this agency knows of a potential defect that may be causing fires and now deaths, is there no warning to the public.
JOAN CLAYBROOK, FMR. NHTSA ADMINISTRATOR: They can certainly warn the public.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): To Joan Claybrook, who ran NHTSA for four years, the agency is not doing all it can to protect the public.
CLAYBROOK: Nothing prevents the agency from warning the public and saying we have already received 600 cases where there have been fires. Half of these vehicles have been recalled. The other half have been not. Here are the make and models that have not been recalled where we suspect that there's a problem. Let us know if you have this problem or have heard of anyone who has this problem so that we can expedite this decision. GRIFFIN: So why not a simple warning? In an e-mail to CNN, NHTSA said "the agency is living up to its charter" and added "it has not yet been known that non-recalled vehicles are experiencing fire rates comparable to those recalled." And "NHTSA has acted appropriately by requesting" or demanding, says the agency, "recalls in those cases where available evidence demonstrated that a consumer remedy was appropriate.
Automotive safety expert Sean Kane believes NHTSA is doing the best it can with just 18 investigators.
SEAN KANE, SAFETY RESEARCH STRATEGIES, INC.: You've got a very large corporation making some bad decisions and ultimately the government chasing their tail down the road and chasing leads the best they can with very limited resources and very limited budget to do so.
GRIFFIN: He believes the agency's investigation will, in the end, pressure Ford to voluntary recall all 16 million vehicles. The families are seeking of Dally Mohlis (ph) and Blake Washington are seeking their own answers from Ford in court.
ZAHN: Drew Griffin reporting. For a complete list of Ford vehicles equipped with the cruise control deactivation switch, please check out our Web site at cnn.com. There are also a few warning signs that can happen just before a switch catches fire that you should look for.
First your cruise control may stop working. The cruise control light stays on. A fuse may blown. Your vehicle may get stuck in park. And our brake lights could stop working altogether. Keep in mind Fires can also happen with absolutely no warning signs whatsoever.
Coming up a story that sounds too incredible and too outrageous to be true. Why is a two-year-old on a terrorism no-fly list.
INGRID SANDEN, MOTHER: My husband and I sometimes think she has a little bit of terror in her, and she's not always that much fun to fly with, but no, she's not a terrorist.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to play.
ZAHN: So who thought she was a terrorist? Coming up, where's the common sense when it comes to airline security?
ZAHN: Still to come, what the heck is going on with millions of computers all over the world? The latest on the mess caused by that new computer worm. But right now, just about 15 minutes before the hour, the rest of the hour's top stories from Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS.
HILL: Thanks, Paula. The government is defending itself against accusations that it has lost control of the Mexican border. The State Department says the U.S. and Mexico have made extraordinary progress, but last week, the governors in Arizona and New Mexico declared a state of emergency. They say drug smuggling and illegal immigration are a threat to citizens along the border.
Spain is one of the countries contributing peace-keeping troops in Afghanistan. And today, 17 Spanish soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in western Afghanistan. The cause of that crash hasn't been determined. It is the largest single loss of lives yet for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
China's military is beefing up its weaponry. And today, Israel agreed to consult with the U.S. if it sells any weapons to China. The Pentagon had complained about the possible sale of several different weapon systems to China. We'll keep following that one for you.
In the meantime, within a year, you won't be able to buy these familiar names over the counter in Oregon. It is the first state to require a doctor's prescription for cold medicines that contain the ingredient used to make illegal methamphetamines. And Paula, that's the latest of HEADLINE NEWS. With that, we will hand it back over to you in New York.
ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. Appreciate it. We have an unbelievable story coming up. Why was a two-year-old stopped at airline security?
SANDEN: We found out that she was on the no-fly list and we didn't really understand why.
ZAHN (voice-over): She's wiggly all right, but so when it comes to airline security, who really isn't thinking and what can the rest of us do about it?
ZAHN: On the "Security Watch" tonight -- the no-fly list. Here we are, less than a month from the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it looks like there are still a few bugs in the system.
Would you stop a year-old baby from flying because her name showed up on a list of banned passengers? Here is Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY (voice-over): Is this the face of terror? Is this young girl on a jungle gym training to be an al Qaeda operative? One airline apparently thought it was possibility. Last Thanksgiving, when she was only a year old, she was stopped from getting a boarding pass at a ticket kiosk at the Phoenix airport.
INGRID SANDEN, MOTHER: After some flurry of activity and some phone calls, I guess, and some frantic typing on the computer, we found out that she was on the no-fly list. And we didn't really understand why.
MESERVE: Though she shared a name with a known or suspected terrorist, she clearly did not share the same birth date.
RAPHAEL RON, SECURITY ANALYST: Completely unacceptable.
MESERVE: Security analyst Raffi Ron says mistaking kids and prominent Americans like Senator Ted Kennedy for individuals on the no-fly list demonstrates what is missing from airport security.
RON: We have to reintroduce common sense into the system, so that people use their understanding and thought (ph).
MESERVE: The Transportation Security Administration, responsible for making sure airport passengers are screened, says that within the last few months, it has taken steps to address the situation.
MARK HATFIELD, TSA SPOKESMAN: We make sure that every name on the no-fly list has a birth date associated with it. That's a big step in getting to eliminating these false matches.
MESERVE: But right now, most airlines do not ask for birth dates when tickets are purchased, though they are responsible for cross- checking passenger and no-fly lists. That means the process of eliminating an obvious non-terrorist, like a child, doesn't take place until the day of travel, causing inconvenience and even missed flights.
(on camera): A new security system called Secure Flight is intended to further reduce the instances in which innocent travelers are mistaken for terrorists. It would collect more passenger information and have the TSA, rather than the airlines, run it against the no-fly list. But even the early phases won't begin until late this year.
(voice-over): Though there are a handful of children among the estimated 100,000 people on the no-fly and other watch lists, this young lady is not one of them. But to avoid hassles, her flights are now booked using a nickname.
SANDEN: My husband and I sometimes think she has a little bit of terror in her. And she's not always that much fun to fly with, but no, she's not a terrorist.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I can fly.
ZAHN: That was Jeanne Meserve, reporting for us tonight. Stay with us. We're going to head back to the land of computer worms. And for what you can do to keep your machine running, we go straight to the head of security for Microsoft tonight. Please stay with us.
ZAHN: This afternoon, a lot of us got a very unpleasant reminder of how much we rely upon our computers. They stopped working, particularly in the CNN newsroom, thanks to a nasty new word that is spreading -- worm, that is -- that is spreading through cyber space.
For the latest on this developing story, including what you can do to keep your computer running, I'm joined on the phone by Debbie Frye Wilson. She is Microsoft's director of communications for its security division. Debbie, I know you're busy. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
Do you have any idea how many computer users will be affected? Good to see you, actually. You're not on the phone, you're with us in person after all.
DEBBIE FRYE WILSON, MICROSOFT: Yes. Good evening, Paula.
ZAHN: How many folks affected by this all over the world?
WILSON: Well, this is a -- there is a worm that is propagating. It is a worm that we have rated low. The anti-virus vendors have rated it low as well. Which means that the impact has been fairly minimal, and the number of customers who have been impacted has been limited in scope.
ZAHN: I don't know what that means. Are we talking about millions of people, hundreds of thousands? What does that mean?
WILSON: What that means is that customers who are on Windows 2000 and Windows 2000 only -- predominantly enterprise customers, not at-home customers or consumer users, who have not patched with the latest security updates, or are possibly not using a firewall, are potentially at risk for this worm.
So the scope of potential affected is on the moderate to low side. We don't anticipate this worm to propagate in a quick way or in a broad way.
ZAHN: But certainly, you have to have some sense of -- a ballpark idea of how many computer users we're talking about?
WILSON: Well, we put out security updates a week ago. And certainly we know that at least 200 million computer users worldwide have updated with security patches, which means that they are not vulnerable to this issue and would not be impacted in any way.
In addition, we know that customers who are using a firewall -- and many, many customers around the world who are using anti-virus software -- and both those protections would help customers be protected from this issue.
ZAHN: But we don't know exactly how many people had those firewall protections in place.
WILSON: Well, we certainly know that this issue is not moving in a rapid way, or a wide scale way, as we've seen in years past.
ZAHN: There has been a lot made of the fact that you were aware of the vulnerabilities in the system, actually put out a notice warning customers of that. Did that mean you were tipped off that someone had manufactured this?
WILSON: Well, what we do in the Microsoft Security Response Center, is we monitor actively every single day, 24 hours day. We're looking for unusual activity, suspicious activity, so that we can be ahead of the game, so we inform our customers, so we can work with law enforcement and partners to help them be informed. And by working together in tandem with these partners and with law enforcements, we can -- we can go after these situations and inform customers rapidly.
ZAHN: All right. Debbie, we just got 15 seconds left. I know you have two war rooms up and running right now. Do you have reason to believe that this worm was created out of malintent (ph), somebody up to no good?
WILSON: Certainly, a worm by definition is malicious software. It is somebody intending to cause harm to computer users. This is criminal activity. And we're working with law enforcement to identify who's responsible and to do the forensic analyst, so that we can determine who's responsible and what we should do in terms of going after the people who are responsible.
ZAHN: Well, we know you got a lot of work ahead to do. Thank you so much for sharing...
WILSON: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: ... the latest information with us tonight.
And we thank you all for being with us tonight. We will be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Good luck for those of you that are waking up their computers this morning. Hope you didn't have as much fun as we did in the newsroom this afternoon. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.
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