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Blair's U.S. Visit; Lost TSA Uniforms; Immigration Battle; Minding Your Business

Aired May 26, 2006 - 07:30   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening this morning.
It could border on political war as leaders of the House and Senate try to reconcile their competing visions of immigration reform. The Senate passed its bill yesterday. It includes a controversial guest worker provision. The House bill would make illegals felons.

In Florida, more on that teen who died after he was smothered at a boot camp. Family members are suing. They want the medical examiner to lose his license. Doctor Charles Siebert insisted Martin Lee Anderson died of natural causes. A second autopsy found he was suffocated.

And Pope Benedict says mass for more than a quarter million people in Warsaw, Poland. He spoke on the very same spot where Pope John Paul II encouraged a rise against communism in 1979. A pivotal moment in history.

Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien.


British Prime Minister Tony Blair heads back to 10 Downing Street this afternoon. Last night he and President Bush conceded at a news conference that mistakes had been made in Iraq. Let's see how folks in London are taking that news. CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley joins us on a perspective you only get on CNN.

Hey, Robin. Good morning.


Well, I think confession is said to be good for the soul. We're yet to find out whether it's any good for the opinion poll ratings, too. President Bush and Tony Blair, both well battered in opinion polls over the war in Iraq. The question is whether their confessions of mistakes will turn things around.

I suspect not here in Britain because what people were looking for, above all else, from Tony Blair and George Bush was some sense of a timetable for the withdrawal of troops. They didn't get that out of the news conference. And instead, I think what British attention will focus on are the remarks from President Bush when he was asked, probably this was the last time he'd been hosting Tony Blair at such a news conference what would he miss about him.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't count him out. Let me tell it to you that way. I know a man of resolve and vision and courage and my attitude is, I want him to be here so long as I'm the president.


OAKLEY: Well, of course, he's president through 2008. And Tony Blair is indicated, most of his ministers say, that he's likely to step down next summer. A lot of his own party want him to go then. A lot of the labor lawmakers certainly are determined to get rid of him by then. And has he told President Bush something different?


S. O'BRIEN: That's sort of the $64,000 question today.

Robin Oakley for us. Robin, thanks.


M. O'BRIEN: Happening in America.

In Missouri, a couple accused of the taped beating, raping and killing of a woman behind bars this morning. Richard David (ph) and Nina Riley (ph) were on the run for a week, turned themselves in to authorities. They had a five-year-old girl with them. She may have been kidnapped.

One of San Diego's most wanted behind bars after nearly three decades on the lam. Peter Jacob Johnson (ph) surrendered to police in Oklahoma City. He is suspected in the 1978 murder. It's not clear what prodded him to give himself up after being on the run for so long.

Now a followup on a story we told you about last week. Two Dallas area high school students under arrest in the case of the tainted muffins. Nineteen employees at Lake Highlands high school sickened by muffins laced with the active ingredient in marijuana, THC. The 18-year-olds face five felony counts of assault.

Driving a stolen pickup, crashing into a police vehicle caught on a dashboard cam. What's unusual about this one, though? A 10-year- old at the wheel. Unbelievable. This happened in Cocoa, Florida. Officials say the boy did it on a dare.

Part of a floor to a store front church this Evansville, Indiana, collapsed last night. About 10 people fell into the basement about 10 feet, too. Their injuries were minor, however. Police say it appears two floor beams broke in the 100-year-old building.

Also, Indiana, severe thunderstorms rattled parts of the state last night. Reports of a tornado about 50 miles southwest of Bloomington. Roofs blown off homes. Trees down. Power lines out. People without power. But no serious injuries reported. Which brings us to the weather. Reynolds Wolf in for Chad this morning.

Good morning, Reynolds.


S. O'BRIEN: A CNN "Security Watch" now.

Could be a big hole in airport security to tell you about. CNN Affiliate WOAI of San Antonio has discovered that hundreds of TSA employees have lost their uniforms and badges. Brian Collister has a report.


BRIAN COLLISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): You may remember Deborah Sander (ph). She made national news just a few weeks ago after she found this TSA screener shirt in her luggage. She had just gotten off a flight in Tampa, Florida, from Newark, New Jersey.

DEBORAH SANDER: And my jaw dropped. I couldn't believe what was on there. Patches for homeland security. Tagged TSA all over and then the name tag with the number.

COLLISTER: A traumatic experience for Sander who lost loved ones in the September 11th attacks. The Transportation Security Administration says a screener took off his shirt in a hot bag room and it fell off a hook into the luggage while he was inspecting it.

But this is not the first time TSA screeners have lost part of their uniform. News headlines like these caught the troubleshooters attention more than a year and a half ago. Badges, uniforms, missing and stolen across the country.

So since that time we've been battling with the TSA using the Freedom of Information Act. We finally got these internal records just a few weeks ago. They showing that TSA employees have lost more than 1,400 ID badges and uniform items like shirts and patches since 2003.

And that's not everything. TSA is still withholding much of the information. The records are full of examples. In Atlantic City, New Jersey, a homeland security patch is missing from a shirt after it comes back from a dry cleaner. In Fort Lauderdale, three sets of uniforms lost or stolen out of luggage left in a hotel baggage room. Here in San Antonio, six TSA uniform shirts are stolen out of this apartment laundry room. Another San Antonio employee's ID badges are stolen when someone breaks into her car and takes her purse.

The airport's missing the most ID badges include O'Hare in Chicago with 115. And topping the list is Los Angeles Airport with 120 missing. Here in Texas, DFW is missing 42. Bush in Houston, 18, Hobby (ph), 10, San Antonio, seven.

SAUL WILEN, TERRORISM PREVENTION EXPERT: You have a very serious problem.

COLLISTER: Saul Wilen is a nationally known expert in terrorism prevention.

Is this a threat to our homeland security?

WILEN: No question. If you have a badge and an uniform, you are invincible in terms of the system. Not only can you get in and get around, you can become known and become a regular that becomes more and more recognized so that the next time you're less liable to have to go through the system's security. And the next time, even less.

COLLISTER: The Department of Homeland Security thinks missing badges and uniforms are a big deal, too. In just the last few years, they've issued several warnings to local, state and federal agencies to guard theirs. Pointing out that terrorists have used these items to pull off attacks overseas.

But when we asked the TSA just this week about their own missing badges and uniforms, the TSA told us it is not a security risk. TSA refused our request for an on-camera interview, but said this in a written statement.

"Transportation security officers, regardless of credentials or uniforms, are screened each time they enter the checkpoint. Badges and uniforms used individually or collectively, would not allow access to a person with ill intent."

Then why is this TSA employee not going through the security check point? Just last week, we caught him on our undercover camera going around security by simply flashing his badge and going in through the exit. And he's not the only one. We watched time and time again as TSA employees skirted the security screening using only their uniform and badges. TSA refused to watch our undercover video, but they now tell us these are screeners who went through security at the beginning of their shift or supervisors who are allowed to avoid screening.

And it's not just happening here. This is video of TSA employees going around security in Miami back in 2003. The TSA screener manning the check point simply waves them past. Saul Wilen says he's witnessed the same thing at JFK Airport in New York back in 2004.

WILEN: All of a sudden, three people walked around security and in. All of them had badges, but they certainly did not go through security.

REP. LAMAR SMITH, TEXAS: And all that is a clear and present danger to homeland security.

COLLISTER: Texas Congressman Lamar Smith sits on the House committee on homeland security.

SMITH: We are dealing with people, criminals, who are smart people who will go to great lengths to try to take advantage of any loopholes in our security. COLLISTER: Smith has introduced legislation he says will help better protect TSA badges and uniforms. And he wants airports to start issuing heavy fines. TSA is not saying if it has fined or fired any employees who've lost these items.

SMITH: When we start imposing fines and hold people accountable for their identification, I promise you fewer will go missing, fewer will be left in unlocked cars to be stolen and I think that will help our homeland security as well.

COLLISTER: TSA insists there have not been any breaches of security that it knows about. But experts say you don't want to wait for it to happen. So what is happening to these? Wilen thinks terrorists may be behind some of the disappears items.

WILEN: There is no disagreement at this point that there are sleeper terrorists in the United States. Well, if we believe that, we have to believe they're doing something with their time.

COLLISTER: TSA employees are also issued a badge by each airport where they work. That badge gets them into locked areas of the airport. TSA tells us they don't know how many of those badges are missing or stolen.

Brian Collister, in San Antonio for CNN.


S. O'BRIEN: A very scary report. You want to stay with CNN day and night for the latest news about your security.


M. O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, a convicted sex offender avoids prison time. And this will peg your outrage meter. The reason, too short. We'll explain.

S. O'BRIEN: Also, the immigration battle and why some folks who cross the border illegally might actually have an advantage when it comes to becoming citizens.

M. O'BRIEN: And everything you need to know about holiday travel this weekend. We'll tell you what to expect on the roads, and the airport, on the rails, and maybe we'll offer some grilling tips, too. We'll see about that. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: The immigration fight is about legislation and compromise, hard as that might be. But it is also about people with a dream. And Carol Costello is here to tell us about one such family.

Good morning, Carol.


Good morning to all of you.

The story is bound to make some of you angry. It plays into the whole amnesty debate and whether illegal immigrants should be granted U.S. citizenship. Well, it's happening now, even without a new immigration law.


COSTELLO, (voice over): In 1987, Angel and Ophelia Chinbol (ph) walked through the hot Mexican desert and entered the United States illegally. Nineteen years later, they finally become American citizens. The Chinbols say they would have been forced to wait even longer had they abided by the law.

JULIE DINNERSTEIN, NEW YORK IMMIGRATION COALITION: In terms of your average person from Mexico who wants to come to the United States, there are very, very few visas.

COSTELLO: The Chinbols were in the United States illegally for 10 years before they were caught. By then they had American children and American jobs. So an immigration judge . . .

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Angel Chinbol, Ophelia Vela, come to me.

COSTELLO: Put them on a path to citizenship, despite the fact they had entered the United States illegally. And that's exactly what the proposed immigration reform bill would do. If they'd applied to enter legally, they likely would have found few visas available for unskilled workers, especially considering the large numbers of applicants from countries like Mexico.

ALFONSO AGUILAR, CHIEF OF CITIZENSHIP, HOMELAND SECURITY: The waits for countries like Mexico, and say the Philippines, can be many, many years. Can be even over eight years, over 10 years, because there's such great demand.

COSTELLO: In this Brooklyn courtroom where 40,000 new Americans are naturalized each year, the Chinbols were two of the four Mexicans being naturalized Thursday. The other Mexicans were Oscar Conulaz (ph), who married an American, and Tania Rodriguez, whose parents are U.S. citizens.

TANIA RODRIGUEZ, NEW U.S. CITIZEN: It's not an open door. We don't have an open invitation to come and to enter this country to just come and work.

COSTELLO: But immediate family of U.S. citizens, and workers with extraordinary skills, are given preference no matter what country they come from. All the Chinbols had going for them was a sympathetic judge.

OPHELIA VELA, NEW U.S. CITIZEN: I no come early (ph). Just maybe right now it's no -- no citizen. Never.

COSTELLO: Without that kind of help, Ophelia says she believes she would still be waiting in Mexico. But instead, by entering the United States illegally, they effectively jumped to the front of the line.


COSTELLO: Oh, that phrase, jumped to the front of the line. As you know, that's what the House of Representatives does not want. It remains to be seen whether some kind of compromise can be reached on this issue. Of course, the bigger question, if there is no amnesty- type compromise, what exactly do you do with 11 million people already here illegally? It's a big question and not many great answers out there right now.

M. O'BRIEN: No. The whole notion of mass deportation seems like a logistical challenge to say the least.

COSTELLO: Yes, but you round them all up, what would you do? Where would you send them?

M. O'BRIEN: I don't have a good answer.

Carol Costello, thank you very much.


S. O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer's "Minding Your Business."

Andy, good morning.


Move over Microsoft, Dell is getting in bed with Google and that's the truth.

M. O'BRIEN: Really?

S. O'BRIEN: Hmm.

M. O'BRIEN: Interesting alliance there.

S. O'BRIEN: Interest -- yes.

SERWER: Interesting way to put it, too.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll talk about that just ahead.

M. O'BRIEN: Wasn't going to go there.

SERWER: Yes, right.

S. O'BRIEN: Also this morning, millions of Americans are expected to head out of town this Memorial Day weekend. We'll tell you what you can expect at the airport and on the roads. That's ahead. Stay with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Just moments ago Andy told us Google and Dell in bed together. He's "Minding Your Business."

What do you mean?

SERWER: Well . . .

S. O'BRIEN: Very salacious.

SERWER: Well, it wasn't a salacious thing. Well, it's -- we're talking high-tech companies. The high-tech dating game continues, Soledad. Yesterday we told you about eBay and Yahoo! hooking up. And now Google and Dell have an alliance.

And this is actually something that I find very intriguing here. Google will bundle its software on Dell computers. Meaning Dell will factory install the Google software, which is a huge step because, of course, for years and years and years they only installed Microsoft software, Windows and its precursors on their machines.

S. O'BRIEN: What's going on behind the scenes? Is it just a big diss to Microsoft? Is it just looking at Google as the new future? What's going on?

SERWER: I mean I'm sure it's not an intentional diss to Microsoft, Soledad, per say, but, you know, it is a slap in the face to the "Beast of Redmond," as they call that company. Google is so powerful it cannot be denied. That's what it comes down to. And Dell will be installing its search software and Google's tool bar as well. And it's still going to have Internet Explorer there. But basically it's saying, you know, Google is the search and that's what people are using.

And, of course, this is the second big move for Dell because now not only are they using Google along with Windows, but you may remember they only used Intel chips. They went to AMD just a couple of weeks ago for the first time. So remember they used to call it Win-Tel, which is a combination of Windows and Intel. That strangle hold, if you will, on PCs seems to really be broken now for the first time, which is big news in the land of info tech.

S. O'BRIEN: Certainly is.

All right, Andy, thanks.

SERWER: Thanks, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: We've got a short break. We're back in just a moment with a look at the top stories. Stay with us.


KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kathleen Koch at the White House. What mistakes does George Bush think he's made in Iraq? I'll tell you coming up. BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Bob Franken in Washington. The White House and Congress are snarling at each other. It's not even about immigration. That's coming up.

M. O'BRIEN: Your baby is sick, needs some surgery, but some genius at the insurance company tells you what can be done in one operation needs to be done in four. That's the rules, ma'am. Well, does it make any sense? Of course not. We'll give you some tools to fight back.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And Memorial Day weekend is upon us and you've got to know the travel forecast. I'll show you what to expect coming up in a few minutes.

S. O'BRIEN: Plus, a major milestone to tell you about. Remember this young lady? This is our friend Lizzie Maloy. Remember, she shared her post-Katrina life with us. Well, now she's graduating. We've got her story. And the story of her community, too. Just ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

That's so nice to see Lizzie Maloy graduated.

M. O'BRIEN: Makes me smile, yes. I'm getting a little misty.

S. O'BRIEN: Remember this young lady. We gave her the DV camera. Of course, her community just devastated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

M. O'BRIEN: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, she's moving on to the next big thing. We'll check in with her ahead this morning.

Welcome back, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us on this Friday morning.


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