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Wounded Vets Forced to Wait for Care; U.S. Troops to Join Desperate Search for Girls; Kidnap Victim Found Alive After Decade

Aired May 22, 2014 - 08:00   ET



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

DR. KATHERINE MITCHELL, PHOENIX V.A. HOSPITAL: Who should have priority for scheduling do not.

GRIFFIN: -- who are coming to the Phoenix V.A. for follow-up care for war injuries --

MITCHELL: Correct.

GRIFFIN: -- are being put on a waiting list and being made to wait six to 10 months?

MITCHELL: Yes, or longer.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama promising accountability in the face of the growing scandal. He is standing still by the V.A. chief Eric Shinseki at least for now.

Michelle Kosinski is tracking the new developments live from the White House.

Michelle, we are after a lot of silence, we heard a lot from the president yesterday. What are you hearing today?


You know, as much as this has become a sort of storm for the V.A., it has also brought that storm to the White House. An embarrassing failure of leadership within the V.A. As much as the president one month after the scandal broke in a mad voice talked about the need for accountability, he didn't really get into how the secretary of the V.A. is being or will be held accountable, even if only for the fact that this all 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 V.A. scandal, using an angry tone.

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 V.A. itself made it clear it was an ongoing problem. What has made things more difficult to explain, saying they didn't know the extent of it until now.

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.

REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: Mr. President, we need urgency. We need you to roll up our sleeves and get into these hospitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shouldn't rush to judgment, I'll buy that. We should be rushing the accountability and we're not doing that.

KOSINSKI: From the American Legion, "If the administration has known for these issues for at least 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 V.A., but it's 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 V.A. while under investigation and right before she was suspended was given a bonus of more than $8,000, now rescinded. The second year in a row where she was awarded for what was considered good work.

Now, President Obama says he wants to see results from the V.A. investigation in a week from his adviser, a full report on the problems with recommendations in a month.


KOSINSKI: So, while the president didn't explain exactly why Shinseki isn't being held accountable right now as the man at the top, he did leave the door open, saying let's see what the investigation reveals and if Shinseki feels he hasn't served veterans well, he would leave the job.

Also today on the Hill, three top V.A. officials have been called to talk to members of the House V.A. committee. The House just passed a bill that would make it easier for the V.A. to fire managers -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Michelle. It's getting a little convenient for lawmakers down there to express outrage over something they really should have known. Our thanks to her for the reporting this morning.

Now, with the clock ticking in the search for hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian school girls. The U.S. is sending troops to the region to lend a hand, 80 troops will be stationed in nearby Chad. The question is why.

Let's bring in CNN's Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more.

Barbara, there will be suspicion this is a first step towards a ground assault, but that's not necessarily the case, is it?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: No one is saying that at this point, Chris. These troops are going there they say to help with the search, but also clearly a search that is becoming more sharply focused.

The 80 U.S. troops in Chad will be split, half operating an unmanned, unarmed predator drone, searching for the girls missing since April 14 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 for maintenance. CNN has learned the U.S. believes one potential scenario, some of the missing school girls are in northeastern 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 armies to find the girls or they help the people that lost their family.


STARR: Chris, to your point, the Pentagon is insisting that there is no order for search and rescue mission, that this is simply right now helping search for the missing girls -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Barbara, thanks very much for the update.

Let's discuss this further. Let's bring in CNN national security analyst and former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, Fran Townsend. Fran is, of course, also on the advisory board for the CIA and Department of Homeland Security. So, Fran, Barbara lays it out very well, where they're coming from, from the Pentagon's perspective. Let's talk about what they're discussing and where they'll be deploying these troops. I want to get your take from your experience. What do you make of the move and the impact of these 80 troops and what their mission really is?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Look, the Pentagon has been pretty clear. This is about intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. What does that really mean? That really is getting the underlying information over to the Nigerian, providing them with the tactical information they need to the girls and ultimately to recover them.

BOLDUAN: And when you look at, I mean, yes, Chad is right next door and is right near the northern territory of Nigeria which they're focusing on.

Why deploy to Chad? How would you describe the relationship with Chad as different from the relationship with Nigeria?

TOWNSEND: Well, look, the U.S. military has taken a regional approach to this. We have Africom, we have capability in the area, we offer Nigeria a broad panoply of capability.

And this is what they need the most. They need the tactical intelligence that's unique to the American capability. So, we deploy out of Chad, we have aircraft, all sorts of capability that will allow them to cover a wide area and look for these girls.

BOLDUAN: Does it say anything about the state of the search, that they're sending these 80 troops in, kind of what the U.S. is comfortable with at this point?

TOWNSEND: Well, I'll tell you. Look, we knew right after the girls were taken that there was the inner agency presence, you know, the FBI, the CIA, all sorts of capability. This really is a supplement to what's already there, which is a pretty large U.S. presence.

BOLDUAN: And in announcing this deployment, the White House statement said something interesting, the forces will remain in Chad until the support is no longer required. Other than the obvious which is they find the girls and can bring them home to safety, what determines that?

TOWNSEND: Well, you know, this is sort of like the Malaysia case. You saw capability deployed. It was deployed for a substantial period of time. But as the investigation goes on, specific capability so aircraft that can be better used elsewhere can be redeployed because they've not helped in the mission here, they will be. So, the U.S. is leaving itself open to sort of reassessing their decision, their deployments. They'll do that in consultation with the Nigerian government.

BOLDUAN: That also gets to the point that Rear Admiral Kirby was making to Chris earlier in the show, the Pentagon spokesman. He said it will be very difficult to see them from the air because they have little certainty of where they think the girls are at this point. If not from the air because of the difficulty in knowing where they are and also the topography they're dealing with, the terrain is very difficult, what then for the United States do you think?

TOWNSEND: Well, you know, what they can do, once you put aircraft up there, whether it's manned or not, what the U.S. is not telling us, what are the packages on the aircraft? So, is it thermal imaging, is it electronic surveillance? They can change the packages over time, and we won't see that. That will be --

BOLDUAN: And we won't know.

TOWNSEND: That's right. Exactly.

BOLDUAN: What are the next options?

Right now, we heard over and over again that boots on the ground in Nigeria, getting Special Forces on the ground to help with the search, that's not the option.

Is there an option before that?

TOWNSEND: Well, look, I think what you're looking at really is kind of technical capability. We can advise them if they're going to launch an operation. I would be very surprised if the president, as the commander-in-chief, authorized the use of American boots on the ground, as we call it, troops, to participate in any operation. I just don't see that happening.

BOLDUAN: Because they have said over and over again when asked this question, this is up to Nigeria. Nigeria has the capability, but maybe don't have the expertise in terms of the intel that we can offer.

TOWNSEND: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Fran. Thank you so much.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks so much, Kate and Fran.

Let's take a look at headlines.

Breaking this morning: shots have been fired in both directions along a disputed maritime border between North and South Korea. The South returned fire after the North fired at least two artillery shells near a patrol boat in the Yellow Sea. Those shells landed near Yeonpyeong Island. Residents have been ordered to take shelter.

Democrats are now joining the Republican-led special committee investigating Benghazi. Nancy Pelosi appointed five lawmakers to serve on the panel, which meets today for the first time for a planning session. Republicans have alleged the White House covered up facts surrounding the 2012 attack that led to the deaths of four Americans including the U.S. ambassador.

A wildfire that has quadrupled in size is threatening hundreds of homes near Slide Rock State Park in Arizona. More than 3,000 people have been warned they may need to evacuate. About 500 firefighters are battling the flames. They're facing high winds and steep terrain. The fire has grown to 4,500 acres. Officials believe it was human caused.

Six Iranians have good reason to be happy this morning, released from jail a day after being arrested for appearing in this dance video on YouTube featuring the Pharrell Williams song "Happy." Authorities in Tehran called it vulgar and an affront to public chastity. The director of the video, however, remains in custody.

Good news they were released, but there is concern there that --

BOLDUAN: Not over yet.

PEREIRA: It's not over yet. The director is still in jail. Not sure what's going to happen.

CUOMO: Good proof of the influence of people on the internet. Had to play some role, the hashtag.

All right. Coming up on NEW DAY, it's happened again. A woman kidnapped as a teenager held for a decade, forced to have her kidnapper's baby and yet manages to escape. How she got away and how he got away with this for so long.

BOLDUAN: Terrifying moments truly caught on video when a pool filled with children becomes electrified. How did this happen? Sanjay Gupta is back with us to discuss.


CUOMO: An incredible homecoming in California to tell you about. A woman kidnapped a decade ago at just 15 years old has been found alive. Police say the suspect drugged her, abducted her, then held her for 10 years, forcing her to marry him and have his chide.

CNN's Sara Sidner is in Los Angeles with the latest -- Sara.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris. This is a case that has a lot of people talking. I do want to tell you that the arraignment for the suspect is supposed to be this morning. He's supposed to have his court appearance in Santa Ana, but police were very surprised when after ten years this missing persons case was solved when the alleged victim walked into the police department and told a disturbing story.


SIDNER (voice-over): These photos from KNBC show that 25-year-old woman found a decade after she says she was kidnapped. These photos taken during her alleged captivity show her, her alleged kidnapper and their child seemingly living a normal life. She tells our affiliate KABC that she's so happy and god blessed to be with her family. She says all the time she cried for them.

Police say the girl entered a police station in Bell Gardens, California, with a disturbing story. She told police her mother's live-in boyfriend, this man Isidro Garcia drugged, kidnapped and tricked her into keeping quiet after a family home back in 2004.

LT. SCOTT FAIRFIELD, BELL GARDENS POLICE DEPT.: She walked in on her own, stated she was kidnapped about ten years ago and held against her will.

CPL. ANTHONY BERTAGNA, SANTA ANA POLICE DEPT: You're talking about a 15-year-old girl that came to this country, doesn't speak English. Her mother's boyfriend decides he wants to physically and sexually abuse her. He tells her that her mother doesn't care, that she can't go to the police because they're going to deport her.

SIDNER: The girl reportedly telling police she ended up marrying and having a baby with her alleged kidnapper, all the while harboring the painful secret.

(on camera): This apartment complex is where the couple lived. Police say it's about 25 miles from where the victim's mother lived. But people who live here in this very tight-knit community say they knew the couple well and they simply can't believe what they're hearing. It appeared they loved each other.

MARIBEL GARCIA, VICTIM'S NEIGHBOR: She would go to the market like every other, they'd be happy, kissing, holding hands and she comes up with this now. Why did she take so long to do it, you know?

SIDNER: Was there any indication that she was in trouble, that something was wrong in this family?

GARCIA: That I think of myself, from what I seen? No.

SIDNER (voice-over): Police say there was something terribly wrong.

BERTAGNA: We do know on two occasions she fled, she was caught and she was beaten for her efforts.


SIDNER: Now, Garcia was arrested and is being charged with kidnapping, rape, lewd acts with a minor and false imprisonment according to police.

We do want to mention, we talked to five different neighbors. None of them could believe it. They said they have seen this couple time and again holding hands, dancing at parties with one another. They simply don't believe what they're hearing -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Sara, thanks for the reporting.

Let's try to make sense of what seems so confusing. Let's bring in Wendy Walsh, psychologist and CNN human behavior expert.

Doc, it's good to have you with us.

You heard the interview with a woman who thinks she knew the situation. Why did she wait so long to come forward? That's a question that makes sense to the uninitiated. But what is not seen? What is missed?

WENDY WALSH, CNN HUMAN BEHAVIOR EXPERT: Well, what neighbors see, what friends see is somebody's public personality. They see the performance that a victim is made to behave in when they're in public.

But in private, things can be very different. It can be brutal. There can be emotional torture, physical torture, and that's what makes the person behave that way in public, as if everything is OK, because they're afraid.

CUOMO: The reaction to that is, not me, I would run away. First chance I had. I would never have this man's baby. What is missed again?

WALSH: Again, to understand what Stockholm syndrome is, and this is a version of it, it's so easy to coerce a young person. We can train a puppy with kinder ways.

Especially -- imagine this girl had only been in America six months. She did not speak English. He told her, her parents would be deported, her family would be deported, the police would not help her. She came from potentially a country where the police didn't offer help.

There are potentially thousands and thousands of people in this situation in America today and this is a very real risk for our new immigrants to our country. And so, it's hard to wrap your head around it, but the emotional shackles that he had her in were actually stronger than any physical shackles would be.

CUOMO: The mother supposedly was saying she thought the boyfriend could be involved many years ago and there's criticism of whether this case was a priority, whether they followed up the leads. We're going to need more information on that. Let's deal with what we know.

Having had the child -- now, that creates an umbilical connection to this man, also, makes it harder to leave. Is that true?

WALSH: Exactly. I mean, I liken this to a case where there's a domestic violence perpetrator and a victim. As soon as children are there, she needs him.

So, her game becomes how can I placate him so that everything will be OK? Now I've got this child. I need this child. I need his money to support the child. I need this for my survival.

Remember, the most important environment that affects us in our life is our relationship. If you isolate somebody and give them only one relationship and this time with a captor, rather than trying to run, we try to negotiate how to survive in the environment, especially a young person who is only 15 years old. CUOMO: Elizabeth Smart was on the show and made a point that really resonates. She says this young woman probably had never seen this man fail at anything, never failed to follow through on any threat. Why would she not believe him? And then once the baby was involved, any threat to the baby would make her willingly sacrifice herself.

When you look at the situation, Wendy, is there any reason for you to be suspicious as to whether or not this was a kidnapping?

WALSH: No. I mean, I think this was a kidnapping, this was rape. This man assaulted and drugged this woman -- woman? She wasn't a woman. She was a child. She was a minor at this point.

And interesting you mentioned Elizabeth Smart. Remember, Elizabeth Smart was around the same age, only kidnapped for nine months. But when police discovered her, she denied she was Elizabeth Smart and even kind of protected her captor at that point. It took some time for her to trust the police. And that's only nine months. So, imagine ten years.

I think this is such a brave act that this woman reached out on Facebook and found her sister and that's how it was all discovered.

CUOMO: We had the privilege when I was reporting at ABC to get to know Jaycee Dugard, and to hear the stories from her of what she endured with this man for years and what she had to accept as her reality and how afraid she was when people were trying to save her that she fought it every way she could, because those fears were so ingrained.

It's hard for the rest of us to understand that kind of fear, isn't it?

WALSH: It's hard for us to understand because we've never been isolated to that degree and we've never been sort of given that degree of emotional punishment and physical punishment. You combine all of that and you can shape human behavior.

CUOMO: Talk about not judge a book by its cover. Certainly that applies in this situation. Will there ever be normal for this woman and child going forward? I guess easier for the child, but for her?

WALSH: Well, the sad thing is that she has no model in her head about what healthy love looks like. Sadly, she is a population of young people whose mothers have to go abroad to make money and she had only just joined her mother. Finally, she was going to get to be with her mother six months before this happened.

And then have this guy mix these awful violent punishments in his definition of love, yet she would have formed an attachment. Remember, an attachment and love are different things. She would have been highly attached to him. And so, now, her idea of attachment and bonding is actually co-mingled with pain and punishment.

So, it can take a very long time. I think what she needs more than anything right now is a parenting class, because if she can learn to parent this toddler, she can also learn to self-parent and give herself some self-love.

CUOMO: Elizabeth Smart made the point that also what she needs is distance from us. Not you. She needs you the clinical community, but from the media. And, obviously, that's hard for the media to do. But hopefully, it's a message that's heeded.

Dr. Wendy Walsh, thank you, as always.

WALSH: Good to see you.

CUOMO: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY: video of a pool party that goes from fun to absolutely horrifying in just a moment. Children in the pool when the water becomes electrified. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is back with us to discuss what happened.

Also, a major beef recall now becoming a national concern. If it is dangerous, why then food safety officials not revealed which restaurants received the tainted beef? That ahead.


PEREIRA: All right. It's time for the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

At number one, CNN is uncovering new allegations that wounded vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had to wait months for care at the V.A. health system in Phoenix.

U.S. troops are joining the search for hundreds of school girls abducted in Nigeria. There'll be at nearby Chad, providing intelligence and drone surveillance. Those girls have been missing now for more than five weeks.

A 25-year-old California woman found alive nearly 10 years after her mother's ex-boyfriend allegedly abducted her. Her accused captor has been booked on suspicion of kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment.

The House votes today on a bill banning the bulk collection of American phone records by the NSA. If it passes, phone companies would keep the records and the spy agency would need court approval to see them.

Quite a hepatitis scare in Missouri. Officials say up to 5,000 people passed through a Springfield Red Robin Restaurant where a worker tested positive for hepatitis A.

We always update those five things. So, be sure to go to for the latest.

All right. Chris, over to you.

CUOMO: All right. Mick, let's make it the six things you need to know for your new day, because we have an important warning for you especially with the holiday weekend coming up.