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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Alzheimer's: Advances in Diagnosing, Treating; New Footage of 9/11 Terrorists Emerges; Report on September 11 Failures Due Tomorrow
Aired July 21, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Tonight, dramatic new tape of the 9/11 killers routinely filing through airport security, being searched for weapons, and then walking calmly into infamy.
ZAHN: Good evening. Welcome. Good to have you with us tonight.
We begin with some breaking news, newly released tonight, chilling video of the 9/11 hijackers taken on the morning of the terrorist attacks. The video is from a security checkpoint surveillance camera at Washington's Dulles Airport. It shows the five hijackers who used American Airlines Flight 77 to strike the Pentagon.
Three of them set off metal detectors and had to undergo additional scrutiny, but they were allowed to proceed to their gate after the extra check.
Justice correspondent Kelli Arena joins us now from Washington with more details.
Kelli, we have known about the existence of this surveillance tape for many, many months. But you've got to admit, when you see it for the first time, it gets you in your gut.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It does, Paula.
For me, at least, it brought me right back to that day when we watched in horror as those planes crashed into the towers and into the Pentagon here in Washington, very emotional. So I can only imagine that it took a great toll on family members and people who lost very close friends. It's amazing, because this is the first time that we have seen moving video of the hijackers.
Of course, we've all seen those 19 head shots. We also saw pictures from Portland, Maine, of two of the hijackers at a Wal-Mart. And those were fascinating when we got those, but this is just stunning. And what's so stunning about it, Paula, is that it's so mundane. There doesn't seem to be anything happening out of place, does there?
ZAHN: Not at all. And I guess one of the things that investigators have told us is that this mission was well-rehearsed. And it seems quite obvious when you see how casual these soon-to-be hijackers are.
ARENA: And several agents have pointed out that they never really got a firm answer on whether or not the muscle men of the team, the four hijackers, not including the pilot, actually knew what they were going to do when they got on that plane. There has been some conjecture that perhaps they thought this would be more of a traditional hijacking, take control of an aircraft and make some demands and land it somewhere else.
Obviously, they were prepared for a possible suicide mission because we know that some of them left martyr notes behind. But whether or not they knew exactly what they were getting into when they got on that plane is still a mystery.
ZAHN: Kelli, some of this video is grainy, but, if you would, help us better understand as a couple of these hijackers were double- wanded what we believe was being checked at that time.
ARENA: Well, I can tell you what the 9/11 Commission report has said. It starts -- they even give us exact time frames, which makes it even more eerie; 7:18, Majed Moqed and Khalid al-Midhar enter a screening point at Dulles Airport. They place their bags on an X-ray machine. Both of them set off an alarm. They're directed to a second magnetometer.
Al-Midhar doesn't set off the second alarm. He proceeds to the checkpoint. Moqed was wanded. But he passed inspection and was permitted entry. Now, we know that the hijackers used small knives to pull off their attack. These were allowed on airplanes at the time, Paula, so even if that wand found metal, which happened to be, you know, what looked to be a pocket knife-sized knife, that would not have caused a concern.
They would have said, oh, OK, that explains it, put it back in your pocket. You're on your way. We do know according to the September 11 Commission report that one of the hijackers even had their bags scanned for possible explosives. So this was not a group of men who got on this plane and were not looked at. They went through proper security screening at the time, some of them stopped and given a second once-over, very, very much what we all expect to encounter at the airport and none of them behaving in any sort of bizarre or unusual fashion, at least from what I could see on the tape.
ZAHN: I guess the other thing that is so disturbing in watching this tape is knowing on this very morning the FBI was searching for two of these hijackers.
ARENA: That's right.
ZAHN: I think you have some updated information on the level of concern about these two men.
ARENA: Well, actually, Paula, we've been talking about this for some time. It's been a matter of great consternation for those who have been looking back at this to find out what went wrong. Khalid al-Midhar, Nawaq al-Hamzi, these are two men who were at a very important al Qaeda meeting in Malaysia. They were known to the CIA. One of them even had a valid visa to come into the United States. There was a point where the CIA did not put these men on a watch list. The FBI was only notified that there was a possibility they were in the country just a few weeks before the September 11 attacks.
They were looking feverishly for these two individuals, whose names happened to be in the San Diego phone book, Paula, but that sort of has been declared as one of the greatest missed opportunities perhaps, something that could have stopped what we saw on September 11.
ZAHN: Kelli Arena, thank you for your walking us through tonight.
ARENA: You're welcome.
ZAHN: Joining us now on the telephone from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, is Donn Marshall. His wife, Shelley, was killed at the Pentagon on September 11.
Donn, thanks so much for joining us.
I understand you have just watched this video for the first time with us tonight at the top of our show. Your reaction.
DONN MARSHALL, HUSBAND OF SEPTEMBER 11 VICTIM: My heart is pounding. I'm sort of cold all over. It's -- the first thing that leaps to mind is, did anybody question the security guard?
I had a friend in law enforcement who told me that, you know, that they'd investigated Argenbright Security at Dulles. And there was a high proportion of employees from countries that are on our terrorist watch list. And many of those employees had criminal records. So the thing that strikes me is, did the guy even turn the wand on, you know?
ZAHN: I can well understand your sense of anger as you watch this tape tonight. And, yet, Kelli Arena just pointed out something that I guess is really hard for all of us to take. And the fact is we believe that when these men were checked, they were basically checked because they had knives on them, which were legal at that time to carry.
MARSHALL: I think the other thing this shows us how easy it is -- the threat is still there. Granted, now, you know, we ban the knives. But look how easily these guys walked right through and look at the calm. It's just scary how easily they did it.
ZAHN: What do you make of the casualness when you see them walk through with very Western clothes? They could have blended into this -- as we no doubt know now, blended into this population beautifully.
MARSHALL: One of the things I've talked to the people about is how you can't underestimate al Qaeda. For so long, our stereotype of the terrorist was the suicide bomber who is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, you know? And here we have guys who blend right in, like you said.
I mean, as much as I hate them, they're smart. And they're savvy and they're a terrible threat.
ZAHN: Donn, this has been a painful journey that the rest of you and your family have taken, along with the thousands of other Americans slaughtered that day. On the eve of this 9/11 Commission report that comes out tomorrow, what's going through your mind?
MARSHALL: I just hope we implement the findings of the commission. I mean, you know, as I said, this is just too easy for them to do. You know, I think of my children. I think that I don't want them to have to go through anything like this again.
And the one thing these -- one thing they showed us is just how easy it is to kill people, a lot of people. And, you know, they only have to get away -- they only have to get lucky once. We have to be lucky all the time. And so I'm scared.
ZAHN: Donn, finally, tonight, we understand that the 9/11 Commission report, the final report that comes out tomorrow, will basically show there is a lot of blame to go around here, not only at the presidential level, but in terms of congressional oversight. Who do you blame for your wife's death?
MARSHALL: I blame Osama bin Laden. And that's somebody that -- that you don't hear enough about anymore. I don't want to be political, but I don't care about Saddam Hussein. I want Osama bin Laden.
And where is he? That's who I blame. And as far as the blame for things that happened in the past, that's in the past. That can help us only in so much as we build on it and take action now. So what we need to do is look to the future and see what action, whichever administration emerges from the election, what action they take, deeds, not words.
ZAHN: Donn Marshall, some powerful words for all of us to hear tonight. Thank you very much for joining us.
When we come back, reaction to tonight's dramatic surveillance tape and to the 9/11 report from the Bush administration next.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
Tomorrow, the 9/11 Commission concludes its 20-month investigation by releasing a nearly 600-page final report. We still do not know all the details of what is inside, but some members of Congress and the Bush administration have been briefed on it.
A source who has seen a final draft tells CNN that it finds intelligence duties spread too widely across the government, too many turf battles, too many budget fights. The report also rebukes Congress for not having done more to correct earlier problems. Sources also say the commission will outline 10 operational opportunities that the government missed to potentially unravel the September 11 plot.
According to "The Washington Post," six of those happened during the Bush administration and four clocked during the Clinton years. The upcoming report is already drawing reaction from both Republican and Democratic leaders.
Tonight, we will speak with top officials from both sides, first, the Bush administration.
Joining me from Washington tonight, Fran Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security.
Welcome. Good to have you with us.
FRAN TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: I wanted to start off tonight by reviewing the video that we just saw for the first time a little over an hour and a half ago. I know you just watched it for the first time at the top of our broadcast showing the five hijackers who used the plane that ultimately struck the Pentagon. Is there any explanation for how these hijackers got through security?
TOWNSEND: Paula, the video that you showed is chilling and one can only imagine the horror and the -- just additional pain that the victims of those tragic events suffer just watching it.
It is hauntingly casual. It is hauntingly mundane. I think the thing that's really important for those families and the victims to remember is how much we've done to make sure that if you went through that checkpoint today the way they did, it would be an entirely different process. It is from curb to cockpit. And it's got a whole variety of factors, including additional training for the screeners about what to look for and what to be suspicious of.
We've hardened cockpit doors. We have the federal marshal program. It's a different world today. And the sorts of things that they did on that day, our programs are specifically designed to prevent that same kind of same attack from being able to be successful today.
ZAHN: And yet, we understand from what our sources have told us about this final report issued tomorrow, there is still a strong belief there are shortcomings when it comes to our intelligence- gathering capabilities and putting it all together.
And one of the things that is going to be promoted is the idea of an intelligence czar. Is that something the Bush administration would back? TOWNSEND: The president has said, Paula, that we need to have better human intelligence, that we need to do better investments in terms of the technology, so we're staying one step ahead of the bad guys, and, finally, that we need better coordination and integration of the 15 agencies that comprise the intelligence community.
We need to do better among them. And I think the president has made that clear. But that doesn't mean we haven't done anything. Frankly, we have a terrorist screening center that looks at people as they cross our borders. We have a terrorist threat integration center that pulls both the foreign and the domestic intelligence into one place and puts the dots on the map, if you will.
We've done a lot of things, like the Patriot Act, for example, so agents that sit next to one another working the same case now can share information. It's the very complaint that the agents when they were looking for al-Midhar and the other guy in New York in August complained about not being able to do. We've taken those. We've learned some lessons and we've tried to fix some problems. Certainly, there is more to be done.
ZAHN: You say we have learned some lessons. And I guess what some people are going to find quite surprising tomorrow when they see this full report for the first time is the conclusion that is drawn is that -- quote -- "There were 10 missed operational opportunities that could potentially have prevented 9/11," according to "The Washington Post," six of those happening during the Bush administration, four happening during the Clinton administration.
Can you tell us anything that would help us better understand what some of those missed opportunities were?
TOWNSEND: Kelly did a terrific job walking you through it. And I don't dispute sort of the factual recitation of those opportunities, Paula.
What I would say to you is, we have -- the president made perfectly clear today, whether it was the Bush administration or the Clinton administration, people would have moved heaven and earth to stop this. Frankly, the victims and the families deserve better than a finger-pointing battle, and that's not what we're about. If we can learn from what the commissions -- Governor Kean and Congressman Hamilton are very well respected, committed public servants.
If we can take what they have found and apply better lessons, more lessons to improve our security system, we're committed to doing that.
ZAHN: This report comes out of a politically charged environment. Does the Bush administration think its conclusions are fair?
TOWNSEND: Look, while I think that we might take issue with some of the characterization of the facts, what is really important here are the recommendations and the findings. And what matters to everybody, and I think it's fair to say regardless of what side of the aisle you're on, is making America safer.
I've got two children and I have to tell you, what matters to me is, what can we do to prevent the next attack? That's what we want to see out of that report. And those are the kinds of recommendations we're going to work with the commission and with Congress frankly to implement.
ZAHN: Fran Townsend, thank you for joining us tonight.
TOWNSEND: Thank you.
ZAHN: We appreciate your time.
When we come back, Democratic reaction to the new 9/11 tape and the 9/11 Commission report.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Welcome back.
We just heard the Bush administration's reaction to the new 9/11 surveillance tape and tomorrow's final report from the 9/11 Commission.
Joining me now from Boston, the chairman of next week's Democratic National Convention, New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson. Governor Richardson also served in the Clinton White House.
Always good to see you. Welcome, sir.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: I understand you, too, for the first time, saw the surveillance tape at the top of our show tonight. Your reaction to that scene that unfolded so casually at Dulles Airport that horrific morning.
RICHARDSON: Well, there was anger. There was confusion. I lost some friends on 9/11. When I served at the U.N. in New York, I made a lot of friends that lived there and that were victims.
It shows that we've still got some massive failures in our system, first of all, the lack of an integrated watch list of suspected terrorists. My sense, too, Paula, that we haven't fixed our intelligence problems, that we don't have any central authority, that there is no real human intelligence out there. As a governor, I worry about our homeland security, the lack of any kind of plan to protect our chemical plants, our nuclear plants, our first-responders, our police, our firefighters.
Money is coming in, but there is no integrated plan. We seem to have a lot of color-coded lists and a lot of big announcements, but the equipment, the plan just isn't there. But watching that tape, it just relived those moments of the whole 9/11 explosion and wounds in our country and the fact that we don't have a real system to track these suspected terrorists.
ZAHN: Governor, let me ask you this, as we rerack the tape. In your heart of hearts, do you believe that this could happen again, in spite of all of the changes that we have made in this country in terms of airport security since September 11, 2001?
RICHARDSON: Well, I believe it probably could happen again.
And, you know, we're concerned here at a political convention and in New York, too. We just have to be not just vigilant, but we have got to clean up and do what the 9/11 Commission said we should do. They deserve a lot of credit, a bipartisan effort. Fix our intelligence system. Really have a homeland security plan for our country that involves anthrax, that involves our police.
And then, thirdly, it just seems that we've spent so much time on Iraq, that perhaps the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan with al Qaeda, that somehow we're not putting all our resources, all our commitment, all our strength behind those efforts.
ZAHN: Governor Richardson, we're going to look at pictures now, close-up pictures of the very same five hijackers we have just seen in that surveillance tape. You talk about the need for fixing our intelligence structure. One of the ideas batted around in this final report tomorrow is creating an intelligence czar. Would that prevent another September 11?
RICHARDSON: I don't know if you can prevent another September 11, but I favor that, because what we have is, right now, the Department of Defense has intelligence, the Navy, the State Department. What we need is one central authority with budget authority.
We've seen that, in the Department of Defense, there is almost a counterelement to the CIA on intelligence. This happened during the Iraq war. We shouldn't have that. We should have one central, Cabinet-level individual that has brought authority over all intelligence and gives the president the kind of advice that any president, Republican or Democrat, should have had on accurate intelligence, not intelligence based on politics and many other factors.
ZAHN: Briefly here, sir, the report concludes that there were 10 -- quote -- "missed operational opportunities," six in the Bush administration, four in the Clinton administration that might have prevented this attack on September 11. When you hear that, you were in the Clinton administration. What do you think?
RICHARDSON: Well, Paula, I'm an American. I think we all could have done better. There is no question about it.
I think the important thing is focus on preventing this happening again, regardless of who is in office. And the 9/11 Commission has given us some very, very good recommendations on what we should do. The worst thing we can do is deny what -- the recommendations of this bipartisan commission and put our heads in the sand and just say that, because we're spending more, taking Saddam Hussein out, and we have better color codes, that that is going to make the situation better.
We need a bipartisan effort to fix this problem. Take the politics out of it. Take it out of our conventions, our political campaigns. This is America and I think the least we can do is make this as unpolitical as possible.
ZAHN: That would be a dreamy America, wouldn't it, if you could remove the partisanship from the conventions and the campaign? Something we all could think about, though.
Governor Bill Richardson, thank you.
RICHARDSON: Well, that may be tough.
ZAHN: Yes, exactly, but a good thing to point to.
We'll be right back.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Next week at the Democratic convention, when Ron Reagan, Jr. Speaks in favor of stem cell research, it will, for a moment, focus attention on Alzheimer's, the disease that killed his father.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in three Americans know someone with the condition. And for 70 percent of Alzheimer's patients, the heavy burden of care falls on family and friends.
Tonight, we focus on Alzheimer's in the latest advances in diagnosing and treating the illness.
ZAHN (voice-over): It is an forgiving disease that does not discriminate: a president, celebrities, 4.5 million Americans.
It's a disease that robs people of their memories, and a family of a loved one. That's what it did to Maria Shriver, the daughter of Alzheimer's patient Sargent Shriver.
ZAHN (on camera): What has been the hardest thing for you to accept about your father's illness?
MARIA SHRIVER, FATHER SUFFERS FROM ALZHEIMER'S: That he has Alzheimer's. I mean, I think that's just hard for anybody to accept. It's hard for him to accept. It's hard for my mom to accept.
And I think if you talk to anybody who has a relative with Alzheimer's or, for that matter, any disease, it's hard to accept that that's happening, that your parents are aging, that they're different than they were or that you want them to be. And so you, yourself, have to, you know, adjust.
ZAHN (voice-over): Many see Nancy Reagan as a model for coping with Alzheimer's, and despite ultimately losing her husband to complications related to the disease, she still holds hope for a cure.
NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: And now science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research.
ZAHN: Nancy Reagan and her son, Ron, believe stem cell research might provide a cure. Recently, Ron Reagan sat down with Larry king.
RON REAGAN JR., RONALD REAGAN'S SON: Here is the potential for this. Imagine ten years from now, you have, you know, something goes wrong with you. You can extract cells from your own body, create embryonic stem cells with those cells and then reinject those embryonic stem cells that are a now a genetic match to you so there's no, you know, fussing around with rejection, or tissue rejection, anyway.
That -- and repair an internal organ; repair your heart from the inside out, using your own cells.
ZAHN: Ron Reagan surprised everyone when he announced he'll speak in support of stem cell research at next week's Democratic convention.
But Ronald Reagan's oldest son, Michael, told me he does not agree that stem cells are the answer.
MICHAEL REAGAN, SON OF RONALD REAGAN: I'd like to sit here with you and say, you know, stem cell research is the answer that's going to cure, you know, Alzheimer's. But the reality of it is that because Alzheimer's is such a complete brain disease, stem cell probably won't do much for -- for Alzheimer's.
ZAHN: The divide within the Reagan family is not surprising, since the scientific community is not yet convinced that stem cells will provide the answer.
Scientists are currently focusing their efforts on this: brain plaque. Devastating plaque develops when enzymes clip off a part of a protein called amyloid. Those fragments clump together and build up around brain cells, interrupting communication between them. Those brain cells eventually die.
Since those cells lose the ability to talk with each other, Alzheimer's patients cannot reach back into their memories and eventually lose cognitive and motor skills, as well. Drugs are showing promise at attacking the plaque.
DR. PAUL AISEN, ALZHEIMER'S RESEARCHER: Now we're directing our therapy at the cause of the disease to try not to control the symptoms, but actually to change the course of the disease.
ZAHN: Hope for patients, families and loved ones dealing with this disease now. Hope for the more than 12 million Americans expected to be diagnosed with this disease by the year 2050.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: Joining us now is someone who knows firsthand the challenges of caring with a loved one with Alzheimer's. Karen Henley's husband was diagnosed with the disease when he was just 36 years old. She joins me now.
KAREN HENLEY, WIFE OF ALZHEIMER'S PATIENT: Thank you.
ZAHN: So you have lived with this disease now for some three years. In spite of the fact that your husband has slipped away from you, on so many different levels you do still have some hope, don't you?
HENLEY: Of course, you always have to have hope. If you don't have hope, you don't have really much -- you know, much of anything else.
ZAHN: What do you hope for?
HENLEY: I would like to think that there will be a cure someday. Right now, I hope that I just have him home for as long as I possibly can. I don't want to be -- I'm cautiously optimistic, but I really just want him to be home with us as much as he can.
And I hope for the future that, you know, they find a cure and I don't have to worry about my children going through anything like this.
ZAHN: Any diagnosis is tragic. But you have found yourself in a very empty universe. There are very few patients your husband's age being treated for this. How isolating has that been?
HENLEY: It's -- it's very difficult. A lot of the support groups are geared towards older people, retired people. They're during the day. I have to work, you know. Thankfully, my boss is very understanding. And you know, I happen to be in a situation where I can take the time when I need it.
But support groups are during the day, and since I have to work, I'm young and I have to, you know, support my family. As far as that, it's difficult.
Is it difficult for my husband because there's not many places for him to go. A lot of things are geared towards older patients. There are very few day care centers for him that he would feel, you know, comfortable with. It's all older people.
ZAHN: Would it be obvious for somebody who didn't know him that there was something wrong?
HENLEY: At this point in his stage, yes.
ZAHN: How is that borne out?
HENLEY: How is -- over the course of the years... ZAHN: How disconnected is he right now?
HENLEY: Yes, I mean, right now, we just -- he was just in the hospital last week, and he was treated for his anger. That's the point where he's at now.
My husband is a very quiet, sweetest person you'd ever want to meet, but the disease brings out anger and agitation. So that's the stage that we're going through right now.
We're trying to treat it to make sure that, you know -- we can deal with the forgetful. We can deal with the disoriented, but the anger and the aggression is one part of the disease that's very difficult to deal with.
ZAHN: How hard is it on your children?
HENLEY: It's very difficult for my children. They're my rock, though.
ZAHN: They're how old now?
HENLEY: Eleven and 12, soon to be 13.
ZAHN: So old enough to understand their dad has Alzheimer's. And I understand one of them actually came to you and said out of fear...
ZAHN: "I think I'm going to get Alzheimer's."
HENLEY: Yes, she was concerned about that, and that's the reason why I want to get this word out. And I want people to realize that it's not just an old person's disease. It does happen to young people.
And I really need people to fund more research, do whatever they can to find a cure, because I don't want to need to worry about my children and their future. I want them to know that they'll be OK.
ZAHN: What can you say as a mother that is at all comforting to your daughter when she asks you a question as wrenching as that: "Will I get sick, too, Mommy?"
HENLEY: I tell her that we just have to have hope and faith and believe that things happen for a reason and believe that we will be OK and that, you know, in the future, that they will find whatever they need to find to cure this and that she will be OK.
ZAHN: You got some very bad news today, that your husband's brother, who is now 42 years old, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's?
HENLEY: He was diagnosed just recently, yes.
ZAHN: So doesn't that make the hereditary link even more powerful?
HENLEY: Yes, more frightening.
ZAHN: And scarier for all of you.
HENLEY: Absolutely. Absolutely.
ZAHN: How do you live with that?
HENLEY: I try not to think about it on a day-to-day basis, because I probably would break down constantly. I just try and focus on my husband right now and, you know, just not think about the future. Because if I thought about the future, I wouldn't -- and what possibly could happen, it would be too heart wrenching for me.
ZAHN: Well, you're certainly...
HENLEY: I live day-to-day, minute-to-minute.
ZAHN: ... setting a wonderful example and trying to at least maintain a sense of optimism and a sense of hope.
ZAHN: Karen, best of luck to you and your whole family.
HENLEY: Thank you.
ZAHN: Thank you for sharing your story with us tonight.
HENLEY: Thank you.
ZAHN: When we come back, some encouraging new research that could help doctors delay the onset of Alzheimer's. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: There is news this week on the fight against Alzheimer's coming from an international conference on the disease in Philadelphia. Medical correspondent Holly Firfer joins us.
Good to see you. Welcome.
HOLLY FIRFER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: So where's the good news here?
FIRFER: Good news, a lot of advances coming out. The doctors were talking about a vaccine that they're looking at.
As you mentioned in your earlier piece, they're looking at the plaques in the brain. They now think they know part of what causes Alzheimer's, so a new vaccine they're looking at to target that plaque, to try and rid it from the brain. And there's also a new drug called Alzhemed that's doing very well. It's going into its last test trials, and they hope that they can get it on the market by 2007.
ZAHN: That seems like a long way off. Why the year 2007?
FIRFER: Well, the reason is because it has to go through FDA review process. It takes a long time. And that's why the doctors at this conference were actually hoping to get together to come up with a proposal to ask the FDA to sort of fast track these decisions, to make them faster so they can get to the market faster to those who need it.
ZAHN: Holly, we are going to take a little break here to look at one of the first of two reports tonight. This first one focuses on research and how to slow down the progress of Alzheimer's in its earliest stages.
FIRFER (voice-over): At what point does a person cross the line from mere forgetfulness to the onset of Alzheimer's? And what if you could catch those patients and treat them before they cross that line?
That's the mystery that this man, Dr. Ronald Peterson, is trying to solve. Dr. Peterson is the man who diagnosed and treated President Ronald Reagan.
DR. RONALD PETERSON, TREATED FORMER PRESIDENT REAGAN: When people start to forget important pieces of information, information they're trying to remember -- appointments with their doctors, luncheon engagements, things of that nature -- this might mean the earliest signs of what might become mild cognitive impairment, leading on to Alzheimer's Disease.
FIRFER: According to Doctor Peterson, 80 percent of patients who suffer from mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, will go on to develop Alzheimer's.
PETERSON: Follow my finger with your eyes.
FIRFER: So he decided to study the use of certain therapies to see if they could delay the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. For three years, Doctor Peterson gave patients with MCI either the Alzheimer's drug donepezil, also known as Aricept, or 2000 ICUs of Vitamin E daily or a placebo.
And what did he discover?
PETERSON: The Vitamin E had no effect over the course of the three years. The donepezil group actually had a reduced rate of developing Alzheimer's Disease for the first 18 months of the study.
FIRFER: A major development.
Three years ago at the age of 84, Father Ellsworth Neil enrolled in Dr. Peterson's study when he showed early signs of MCI. FATHER ELSWORTH NEIL, STUDY PARTICIPANT: I suddenly discovered that I could not, for the life of me, 40 minutes by this fake Rolex watch, recall the name of the American food institution which has as its logo two crossed arches. And that's pretty disturbing.
FIRFER: Although he doesn't know which therapy he took, he's made peace with the uncertainty of his future.
NEIL: I think I'm assimilated the fact that we are mortal, human, fragile, vulnerable. And I can live with that.
FIRFER: Doctor Peterson concedes there's no way to know if Father Neil will go on to develop Alzheimer's but believes by treating people like him 'at this stage of MCI, they have a far better chance of delaying the onset of the disease.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Touch the large white circle with the small green circle.
PETERSON: Ultimately, of course, we'd like to move the threshold even further back, meaning we'd like to go to normal people, people who may be asymptomatic, doing quite fine in society, but they're at risk for developing the disease.
FIRFER: Father Neil looks at it this way.
NEIL: I believe that I'm a part of a much larger plan and I've seen the evidence of it, I think. You never know, though. And I don't know what that plan holds. So I'm, in a sense -- I'll go along for the ride.
ZAHN: I'll just read it.
Medical correspondent Holly Firfer will be back with us in a moment. Nice to end on that hopeful note.
Joining us now from Rochester, Minnesota, Dr. Ronald Peterson, director of the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, who you just saw in Holly's piece.
Welcome, sir. Glad to hear some of this good news. Is it really your belief that someday you might be actually be able to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's?
PETERSON: That's our hope, Paula. I think that ultimately, this type of research is the first foot in the door, indicating that now that we're able to design studies that are able to intervene at the earliest stage of what might become Alzheimer's Disease.
So mild cognitive impairment proceeds Alzheimer's disease. So if we can have an effect at this stage, we might ultimately be able to prevent the disease down the road.
ZAHN: We just heard the heartbreaking story of Karen Henley, her husband diagnosed with Alzheimer's when he was 36 years old. They found out today that his 42-year-old brother has now been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. They're very concerned, obviously, about their children. The children are -- they're fearful that they also will get this disease.
Are you of the mind that, if you took this treatment you're talking about one step further; you could actually treat these children to stop it from happening altogether?
PETERSON: Well, much of the research in Alzheimer's Disease is aimed at prevention currently. So, both on the clinical side of the disease with regard to how we define individual patients, how we image their brains is designed at predicting who's going to develop Alzheimer's Disease in the future.
On the basic science side, in the laboratories, people are also designing strategies to try to intervene with the disease at the earliest stage and stop the destructive process that ultimately develops Alzheimer's Disease. And I think that's where the research in the field is moving.
ZAHN: We mentioned that you diagnosed Ronald Reagan with Alzheimer's over a decade ago. What has happened in the ten years since he got that bad news?
PETERSON: Well, it's been an important ten years in terms of the way the field has advanced. I think we've learned a great deal about how to make the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease earlier in the clinical spectrum of the disease.
Also, on the basic science side, we've been able to decide what types of features of brain disease, what is it about the protein that causes ultimate Alzheimer's Disease that develops into the abnormal form that causes the brain destruction?
So I think, both on the clinical patient oriented side and on the basic science side, we've made considerable strides towards preventing this disease.
ZAHN: Do you believe that the prevention or even a potential cure lies in stem cell research?
PETERSON: Well, stem cell research is important. I think it may hold important implications for the disease process down the road. But I don't think it's the immediate step in terms of making impact on this disease.
I think there are other avenues designed at -- at developing strategies for prevention of the disease, aimed at perhaps having an impact on the protein that causes the disease, that may be more important in the short run.
Stem cell research -- research, however, may of course, -- in fact, have an important impact on the disease in later stages after we've had a chance to develop research on the disease over several years. But I don't think it's the immediate goal for research in Alzheimer's Disease.
ZAHN: Well, you certainly are one of those foot soldiers out there in the trenches every day. We salute you for your tremendous determination to help make the lives of Alzheimer's patients better. Dr. Ronald Peterson, thank you.
PETERSON: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Coming up next, breakthrough technology that could pave the way for future treatments.
ZAHN: We are talking about advances in the fight against Alzheimer's Disease.
Doctors still can't, with 100 percent certainty, diagnose Alzheimer's. Progress in that field of research is the subject of Holly Firfer's second report for us tonight.
FIRFER (voice-over): Richard Johnson painted these paintings, but he can hardly remember.
RICHARD JOHNSON, ALZHEIMER'S PATIENT: This is it. This is the -- oh, gosh.
FIRFER: He lost his memory to Alzheimer's Disease.
LILIANE JOHNSON, WIFE OF ALZHEIMER'S PATIENT: The longer I knew him from the time we were married, the more I fell in love with minimum him, you know? I got to know this person who developed, and all of that is gone.
Do you want to call Julie to see if she wants to come?
R. JOHNSON: Julie? Where is Julie?
FIRFER: Richard has severe Alzheimer's Disease and is easily confused. His wife, Liliane, asked him to get their daughter, Julie, but when he gets to the top of the stairs, he can't remember why he's there.
Richard can't remember a lot of things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What year is it?
R. JOHNSON: It's...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm doing well here.
R. JOHNSON: It's 2000. 2000. Oh, 2000.
FIRFER: These researchers at the University of Pittsburgh were interested in seeing exactly what was going on in his brain. So they enrolled him in a study testing a new imaging system that would allow them to follow a radioactive tracer through his brain to see the plaque that's built up around the nerve cells.
This buildup of amyloid plaque you see here, lit up in red and yellow, damages those nerve cells and, because they can't talk to each other, they can't transfer information through the brain.
Doctor Dekosky is scanning the brain in hopes of being able to test and study new drugs someday.
DR. STEVE DEKOSKY, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH: This is pretty exciting stuff. It does set the tone, not only for, in essence, a confirmation that the target that you're after is there for a drug intervention, but it does provide what is, you know, an absolutely vital baseline from which to say this drug works or this drug doesn't.
FIRFER: This is the first time they've been able to see the disease in a living brain. This, they hope, could eventually be used for diagnosing Alzheimer's and distinguishing it from other forms of dementia.
DEKOSKY: We wouldn't have to spend years looking at people over time to see if they stopped their decline. We'd simply be able to give the medications, look for what we hope would be a more quick decline in amyloid in the brain and say, "OK, we're having the desired effect."
FIRFER: Although this a breakthrough in diagnosis and imaging, Doctor Dekosky and his team says it will be a few years before they're about to routinely use this tool on Alzheimer's patients.
But it's too late for Richard.
L. JOHNSON: Come on, you handsome dude.
FIRFER: Liliane knows she will soon be putting Richard in a nursing home but, for now, she says she's doing the best she can.
L. JOHNSON: Every morning I get up and I think what can I do that will make him smile today? One thing. I'm not asking a lot. Just one thing. And I can always find something to make him happy that day, and that's what I do.
FIRFER: She says she hopes his involvement in this research may help someone else the way he has helped her.
L. JOHNSON: He gives me grace. I am going to miss that so much! He's helped me become more than I ever thought I could.
ZAHN: What a beautiful report.
FIRFER: Thank you. Beautiful couple.
ZAHN: The strength that she showed and the sense of hope, despite the fact that she knows she's sending him off to a nursing home ultimately, because she's not going to be able to care for him.
FIRFER: Right. It's demanding, and she was exhausted when we saw her and when we met her. She was just exhausted. The caregivers have such a burden.
ZAHN: Let's talk about the next burden, the folks in the fight against Alzheimer's, and that is getting adequate funding.
FIRFER: Money. Research is $600 million, almost $700 million for Alzheimer's research, compared to $1.9 billion for HIV and AIDS research. Seventy-seven million baby boomers are out there, which means 16 million will probably have Alzheimer's by 2050.
Researchers say they don't have enough money to come up with these drugs to develop new therapies so when these people...
ZAHN: It's a staggering number.
FIRFER: Absolutely. When 16 million people perhaps develop this disease, researchers don't want to be caught empty-handed. They want to work on it now. There is a bill in Congress that they're asking for more money, and the researchers are saying they hope it goes through.
ZAHN: Well, Holly Firfer, thank you for covering all aspects of this disease for us tonight. Good to see you in person.
FIRFER: Thank you.
ZAHN: As we've said, Alzheimer's affect millions of Americans today and millions more know someone with the disease. You can learn more about it on our web site, CNN.com/Paula, where you will find fascinating articles about how Alzheimer's is detected, how to care for patients and the new advances in fighting the illness.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Just to recount, some breaking news for you tonight. Chilling surveillance video, that is, taken by a security checkpoint's surveillance camera at Washington's Dulles Airport on the morning of September 11.
It shows the five hijackers calmly filing through security. Three set off metal detectors and had to undergo additional scrutiny. Then they're cleared by security to board American Flight 77 that would later crash into the Pentagon.
That wraps it up for us this evening. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.
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