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Wounded Vets Wait Months For Care; U.S. Troops Join Desperate Search For Girls; Kidnap Victim Finally Free After 10 Years; Boston Bombs Made with Christmas Lights

Aired May 22, 2014 - 06:00   ET



DR. KATHERINE MITCHELL, PHOENIX VA HOSPITAL: Are waiting on what could be six months, nine months, or longer.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Brand new allegations against the VA. A doctor telling CNN that recent war vets coming home injured are forced to wait months for care. Three senior officials are being called before Congress today. We have to do better for our veterans. Who will step up for them?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: On the ground. The U.S. sending 80 troops into west Africa to help find those hundreds of missing Nigerian girls. Who is being sent and what exactly is their mission?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Finally found, a woman allegedly kidnapped when she was 15 and held for ten years, forced to marry her captor and have his child. So brainwashed neighbors thought they were the perfect couple. She's free now and speaking out.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, May 22nd, 6:00 in the east. The VA scandal growing more shameful by the hour. CNN uncovering new allegations against the Veterans Affairs health system in Phoenix where recently wounded vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were forced to wait for medical treatment for months. VA officials apparently ignoring a national mandate to give them priority care.

A doctor who runs the Phoenix VA's post deployment clinic made the shocking revelations to CNN's Drew Griffin who has been covering this from the beginning. Take a listen.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You are telling me that our troops coming back from war, now separated from active service --

DR. KATHERINE MITCHELL, PHOENIX VA HOSPITAL: He should have priority for scheduling do not.

GRIFFIN: -- who are coming to the Phoenix VA for follow-up care for war injuries are being put on a waiting list and made to wait six to ten months?

MITCHELL: Yes, or longer.


CUOMO: The allegations are new. The problem is not. President Obama is promising accountability and calls for allegations. He is saying they are dishonorable and disgraceful. So is the fact that nothing has been done by this by this administration and others. Let's bring in White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. But any sense this administration has an idea of how to fix this.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. It's all in the beginning stages. There's so much going on right now. I mean, three top VA officials have been called to the Hill to meet with the House VA Committee. The White House has its top adviser down in Phoenix where, of course, this all broke.

And as much as we now hear the president talk in a mad voice about the need for accountability, he didn't really get into how the VA secretary is being or will be held accountable even if only because all of this happened on his watch for years.



KOSINSKI (voice-over): It was a time for the president to show that he, too, is mad as hell about the VA scandal using an angry tone.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period.

KOSINSKI: But if the president won't stand for secret waiting lists, months long delays in veterans care, this administration as well as the one before it did stand it for many years. The VA itself made it very clear it was an ongoing problem. What has made things more difficult to explain is saying they didn't know the extent of it until now.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: What we have to do is find out what exactly happened. I don't yet know how systemic this is.

KOSINSKI: And have not yet explained how that is acceptable for Shinseki to not know as he remains standing in his job. Now even some Democratic lawmakers have strong words on how this was handled.

REPRESENTATIVE DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: Mr. President, we need urgency. We need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals. REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BARROW (D), GEORGIA: One person wasn't responsible for it and one person's resignation, retirement, or sacking is going to get it done.

KOSINSKI: They have known about this issues for four years. Why is it just now taking action, calling the decision not to fire Shinseki unfortunate. The Obama administration did expand care and funding for the VA, but it's also very clear right now did not manage to get out ahead of this problem as the scandal evolved.

Instead, on the defense for the last week. Then just before the president spoke news broke that the head of the Phoenix VA, while under investigation and right before she was suspended, was given a bonus of more than $8,000. Now rescinded. Second year in a row she was rewarded for "good work."

Now President Obama wants to see preliminary results of the VA investigation in a week from his adviser, a full report on the problems with recommendations in a month.


KOSINSKI: While the president didn't explain why Shinseki is not being held accountable as the man on top right now, he did seem to leave the door open saying he would see what the investigation reveals and that if Shinseki himself felt he wasn't serving veterans well, then he would leave. Meantime, the House has just passed a bill making it easier for the VA to fire managers -- Chris.

BOLDUAN: Michelle, I'll take it. We're going to be speaking with the chairman of that House committee, the man who has been pushing that measure. We are going to talk to him later in the show. Thank you very much, live at the White House for us this morning.

U.S. troops are now getting involved in the frantic search for the hundreds of schoolgirls who have been abducted in Nigeria. The White House says they will support the search from the neighboring country of Chad by helping with intelligence and drone surveillance. It has been more than five weeks since the girls were taken by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon this morning with much more. What more are you hearing, Barbara, from your sources about this troop movement and why now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, good morning. The U.S. troops are going to be helping with the search, but what we are hearing here is they are also focusing it much more sharply.


STARR (voice-over): The 80 U.S. troops in Chad will be split, half operating an unmanned, unarmed predator drone searching for the girls missing since April 14th when they were abducted by the insurgent group, Boko Haram. The other half, providing security for those troops. The predator drone may be joined by this manned surveillance aircraft, which has already been used, but has recently been grounded from maintenance. CNN has learned the U.S. believes one potential scenario, some of the missing schoolgirls are in North Eastern Nigeria and others may have been taken into surrounding countries.

A senior U.S. official tells CNN, quote, "It's possible based on some intelligence," but adds, "We just don't actually know where they are." There has been no verified intelligence about their specific location.

This action comes as a teenage girl who survived another Boko Haram attack after seeing her father and brother killed spoke to lawmakers in Washington and offered her thoughts on what needs to be done to rescue the girls.

DEBORAH PETER, BOKO HARAM SURVIVOR: I want the government to know how much Nigeria is in our prayers and I want them to send them to find the girls or they should help the people that lost their family.


STARR: Pentagon officials insist that the U.S. troops will be there only to help search for the girls. That even if they are located at least for now U.S. troops will not be participating in any rescue effort -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Barbara, thank you very much for that. A quick note, 15- year-old soft-spoken girl you heard in the end of Barbara's piece, her name is Deborah Peter. She has escaped being captive by Boko Haram before. We are going to be speaking with her next week. Her story so important to see that face and hear her story of what that group is capable of.

Let's talk more about these troop movements in the search right now, though, joining us from Washington, Retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He is a former assistant secretary of state for political military affairs. General, thank you so much for coming in?


BOLDUAN: Real quick, what do you make of this move, 80 troops on the ground in Chad?

KIMMITT: Well, I think it's important to keep in context that we've been having operations coming out of Niger for some time with manned aircraft putting these personnel into Chad would indicate may they have a better specificity where the Boko Haram person may be, but this gives us another operating base to send intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to look at a wider area.

BOLDUAN: You know, a lot of people who maybe are not familiar with U.S. operations in West Africa. They will ask this question, why be in Chad? Why not be right in Nigeria?

KIMMITT: Well, there's a big difference between actually putting troops on the ground in a sovereign country. Number one, the Nigerians haven't invited us in. Number two, there are a whole host of challenges when we are putting our troops in direct contact or potential direct conflict with Boko Haram. At this point, the mission seems to be limited simply to that of providing intelligence and surveillance support.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that is a smart approach at this point? Everyone says we are more than five weeks now with very little evidence of where these girls are.

KIMMITT: Well, I think it is a smart way to go at this point. If there hasn't been a decision to ramp this up at all the best the United States can do is provide technology. We tend to have an over reliance on technology. We've been looking for Joseph Coney for years and years using this same type of technology and you see what happened with technology in the search for MS Flight 370. We shouldn't be too reliant on what it can provide. It can only provide a little bit of granularity. Eventually it's going to take Nigerians on the ground to find these people.

BOLDUAN: General, do you think that this offers a good sign or a bad sign on where U.S. intelligence places where they are in this -- in terms of this search at this point?

KIMMITT: I think it's a somber sign of perhaps an over reliance on technology, but the Nigerians have no capability of looking at these large swaths of land. That with the Nigerian forces may be the best way to determine where the Boko Haram forces and these young ladies are.

BOLDUAN: At least that is where they are today in terms of moving troops there. We'll see how this develops. Brigadier General, great to see you. Thank you very much.


BOLDUAN: Of course -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, let's take a look at more of your headlines at this hour. Breaking overnight, Ukraine says nine soldiers were killed in terror attacks in the volatile eastern region. The defense minister says an armored vehicle was hit by rocket propelled grenades and mortars in one attack. In another incident, a military convoy was hit. No other details have yet been made available. This violence comes just days before Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday.

The special congressional committee charged with investigating the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi meets today for the first time in a planning session. This after Nancy Pelosi tapped five Democrats to round out the panel acknowledging that her party was divided over whether to participate. The Republicans allege the White House covered up facts surrounding the 2012 attack that led to the deaths of four Americans including the U.S. ambassador.

Six Iranians arrested for dancing in a YouTube video to "Happy." They've been released. Authorities accuse the three men and three women of making an obscene video that, quote, "offended public morals." They're seen dancing to the song in a variety of settings however the director of the video is still in custody. Christiane Amanpour will join us later and we'll discuss this with her coming up on NEW DAY.

CUOMO: Interesting there because the actions against those people stand in contrast to what the president has been saying and tweets he wants more internet expression and freedom of speech and happiness is the right of Iranian people. They're going to have to deal with the conflict.

Let's take a quick break here on NEW DAY. Free after ten years held captive in a garage. Find out how a 15-year-old survived, became a mother, how the man who kidnapped her was able to hide in plain sight and the social media escape plan.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, did the Boston marathon bombing suspects have help? That is the question raised and new information about what motivated them and how they allegedly pulled off their deadly act of terror.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

This morning, a young woman is free for the first time in 10 years and her alleged abductor is behind bars. Police say a 41-year-old man drugged and kidnapped the woman when she was just 15, then abusing her for a decade, forcing her to marry him and even have his child. Now we're learning many more details about her ordeal.

Sara Sidner is in Los Angeles with much more.

Good morning, Sara.


Yes, this case, as one police officers said, is stranger than fiction. After 10 years, this victim walks into the police department to try and tell police what had happened to her and that she was actually a missing person. She showed up and she told them that this man, Isidro Garcia had actually kidnapped her and drugged her one night after he had attacked her mother in their home. He turns out to have been, according to her, the boyfriend of her mother.

So, she has been with him this whole time. He is 15 years her senior. They even got married and had a child together because he was able to get some forged papers, according to police, from Mexico to marry her in 2007.

This case has shocked the neighborhood. We talked to several neighbors who told us they simply couldn't believe it because they seemed like such a happy family. In their public life, they were holding hands, they were seen at parties, they would hold parties and dance together and kiss one another, just like any other married couple. But police say there was something terribly wrong. They went back and looked at records and it turned out her mother had reported her missing back in 2004.

Now, Isidro Garcia has been arrested. He is charged on several counts. He is supposed to be in court -- appear in court today for his arraignment. We do not know yet if he has hired an attorney -- Kate.

CUOMO: All right. I'll take it, Sara. Thank you very much for the reporting.

Let's bring in Steve Moore. He's a retired supervisor special agent for the FBI, 25 years experience dealing with cases like this. Steve, unfortunately they are not unheard of although they are always very complex and confusing.

When people hear about this, oh, they seem so happy, I wonder if it could really be an abduction, I wonder if there's something more to this story. What do people miss in situations like this?

STEVE MOORE, (RET) SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Well, what they're missing is what happened immediately after the kidnapping. You don't see the torture, you don't see the coercion. You don't see all the things that led to this person becoming capture bonded to the person who took them.

CUOMO: And capture bonded means what to the uninitiated?

MOORE: Capture bonding is referred to as the Stockholm syndrome. It's a psychological coping mechanism where people who have been abducted, taken, however they are in somebody else's custody, they begin to sympathize with and then assimilate with their captor. Usually, it's a coping mechanism to try and deal with this great fear that they have of being harmed. And they figure, subliminally, if I am bonded with them they won't hurt me.

CUOMO: And to those who say, I would escape, if I had a chance to run, I would just run. Why don't they run?

MOORE: It's -- it's hard to -- it's hard to describe, but after a while you become so bonded that this seems the normal thing. The fears are still there. And subliminally you feel this person could kill you at any time. Even though, with this case, it doesn't really matter if the person later on stayed with him voluntarily.

From the time she was 15 to the time she was 18, she wasn't even old enough to consent to be with him, so that's not even going to be an issue in this case really.

CUOMO: It's not relevant legally certainly. But also as details come out of what happened when she did try to escape, the beatings that happened, the threats that were given on a daily basis, the physical abuse that happened, that all winds up changing someone and hopefully not permanent ways. Two other important aspects here -- the mother said at the time of the abduction, I think this guy had something to do with it. He winds up hiding in plain sight with this alleged wife for all of these years. Why didn't they get him?

MOORE: Well, I think what he was doing, if what I've heard is true, is that he was frequently changing his name. And that's going to be easy for somebody who comes across the border undocumented. They can go back to Mexico and get the birth certificate of a person who died young, say the year of their birth, and completely redo their identities every few weeks, months, or years.

And basically you're just keeping everybody one step behind. The other thing is, cases grow cold. The initial detectives on this case might even be retired by now. And the truth is, it's not on the front burner after several years.

CUOMO: We seize upon these cases when they happen. They kind of go to everything we don't want to see in somebody's life happen to them. How unusual are they?

MOORE: Well, they're -- cases that go this long, yes, they are unusual, but they're not unheard of. I mean, Elizabeth Smart case, the Patty Hearse case, we've seen them in our press before, the Ohio case. It's just not that it happens every day.

CUOMO: Because the dream is of those who have a missing child, maybe they're out there somewhere, maybe something like this happened to them. Is this the common occurrence or is this the exception and that's why it's so remarkable?

MOORE: Chris, I think it's the exception, unfortunately.

CUOMO: And now, just because she's free and back home, how long is the recovery? To use that word loosely, how long does she have challenges ahead of her?

MOORE: I don't think even psychiatrists can tell you how long her recovery is. I think you have to realize that in Stockholm syndrome or capture bonding, even after the person escapes, they can sometimes try to keep a relationship going with that person. It's similar to the woman who has been abused by a violent husband who bails him out of jail and refuses to press charges. It is -- it is a process to get better.

CUOMO: The case against a man like this probably much easier to make than the recovery for his victims.

Steve Moore, thank you for the insight. Appreciate it.

MOORE: Thanks.

CUOMO: Now, next hour we're going to talk live with Elizabeth Smart. You heard Steve referring to her. We all remember her story. She was taken from her bedroom as a teenager in 2002. She has now made her life about helping people who were victimized the way she was. She has some interesting things to say about the woman who was just rescued ahead. I hope you watch that with us -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, new information about the Boston marathon terror suspect shedding new light on their motives and how they made the bombs. And it also raises the question, did they have help carrying out their deadly plan?

And a massive beef recall now spreading coast to coast. Nearly 2 million pounds of ground beef pulled from store shelves. Why then aren't officials disclosing which restaurants serve the tainted beef if it's dangerous?


PEREIRA: Good to have you back with us on NEW DAY. Let's take a look at your headlines at this hour. Troubling new allegations against the V.A. health system in Phoenix uncovered by CNN, wounded veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq faced to wait months for medical treatment despite a national mandate to give those soldiers priority care. President Obama is promising accountability but he is leaving V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki on the job for now.

Meantime, three senior V.A. officials could be grilled on Capitol Hill today about that ongoing scandal.

Eighty American troops are being sent to Chad to aid in the search for the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls. The White House says the team will help with intelligence and surveillance and the operation of a predator drone and they will stay in Chad until the help is no longer need. Five weeks since the girls have been taken by Boko Haram.

The Justice Department is reversing course on a century old policy of not recording criminal statements. Officials say federal agents will be required to videotape terror suspects in custody. Critics have said the failure to maintain electronic records has hampered intelligence gathering, especially in terrorism cases. The new DOJ policy will take effect July 11th.

Health officials warn up to 5,000 people may have been exposed to hepatitis A at a Missouri restaurant after an employee there tested positive for the virus. It was at the Red Robin in Springfield. They're telling diners who ate there between May 8th and May 16th to call the health department.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection that inflames the liver and can be transmitted by contaminated food. Local officials are planning a two-day vaccination clinic. Really concerning there. We'll keep you abreast of the situation.

Kate, over to you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

This morning we're learning more about the materials that the alleged Boston marathon bombers used to make the explosives in their terror attack. Federal prosecutors say they used Christmas lights to make fuses, model car parts to make remote control detonators, and even crush fireworks to fuel the pressure cooker bombs. Prosecutors also say the devices would have been difficult, could have been difficult to make without training or some sort of assistance.

Let's discuss all of this and what we've learned in this new document with CNN terror analyst Paul Cruickshank.

Paul, it's great to see you.

Some really new and in some cases some surprising details coming out in this court filing. I wanted to get your take on what you saw in this document that you didn't know before, that may have surprised you -- Christmas lights, model car parts, fireworks.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Kate, we actually did know a lot of this before. What this document shows is the United States government, counter terrorism were concerned in the days after the Boston bombings that these individuals, the brothers, may be acting with others because that device was relatively sophisticated and tricky to put together.

Now, that's what they believed possibly was the case a year ago but there's been a lot of investigation since no evidence now to suggest that they trained overseas or were acting with others, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Let's discuss that in part. You call it the relatively tricky to put together. What do you see in the documents and also what you have heard yourself, what does the document expose about the sophistication of the bombs that they put together?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, most of the bombs they put together was from a recipe in "Inspire" magazine, which is a magazine put out by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.