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Should U.S. Government Be Spying on American Citizens?; Hidden Cameras Capture Pickpockets at Work

Aired December 19, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us. Tonight growing controversy and the latest battle in the war on terror. Just how much privacy are you willing to give up for security?

ZAHN (voice-over): I spy. How far should the president go in spying on Americans?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is absolutely.

ZAHN: When it comes to terrorism, where are the limits?

A failure to communicate. What if you called 911 for help...

DISPATCHER: Hello, 911. Is this an emergency?

JOHN CHAUVIN: I believe it is.

ZAHN: ... and got an argument instead?

DISPATCHER: They're not fighting. They're not yelling. They're nothing.

CHAUVIN: He jumped through her window while she was squealing away.

ZAHN: The outrage over not one, but two calls for help and the tragedy that might have been prevented.

The art of the steal. Incredible hidden video of pickpockets at work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a pickpocket, he's a pickpocket?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is this one, and so is this one.

ZAHN: Now you have it, now you don't. You might not even know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's probably one of the most underreported crimes in the country.

ZAHN: How you can avoid being picked clean.

And phone rage.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't talk to a human being.

ZAHN: The vicious side of voice mail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press one if you'd like to murder the operator.

ZAHN: Tonight on "Paula Zahn Now."


ZAHN: We begin tonight with dramatic and exclusive amateur video that came in just about 30 minutes ago showing the fatal crash of a sea plane in Miami earlier today. Very hard to watch this. The video shows the plane crashing into the sea off Miami Beach in front of horrified onlookers on the beach. As the plane dives into the ocean, the burning fuselage falls into the sea right behind it. There were 20 people on board the aircraft. The Coast Guard says so far 19 bodies have been recovered, and the divers are still searching the wreckage at this hour. John Zarrella is in Miami Beach. He's been covering this developing story for us tonight. He joins us now also.

John, you've got to imagine this videotape will be of some help to investigators. What's the latest on that?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Paula. It is not often that National Transportation Safety Board investigators, who we expect here at the scene at some point this evening if they're not already here, not that often that they get an opportunity to actually see those last -- that last instant before impact. It is invaluable to them when they are separating out what witnesses think they might have saw, perhaps conjecture, because so many times what a witness thinks they saw is not actually what happened.

When they have this video, it will go a long way to help them. But, in fact, at this point, what we are hearing from eyewitnesses, many of them, telling us that, in fact, the plane appeared to explode in the air before crashing back to the ground.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I seen a plane coming across, coming through government cut, make a left-hand turn, wing came off, exploded.


ZARRELLA: Now, it hit that water right behind me here. And, of course, it is pitch black out here. We're on the very southern end of Miami Beach. Police car here and the tape roping off this area. In fact, just a few minutes ago a Coast Guard helicopter was right along the beach here behind me, Paula, with its search lights apparently looking for possibly debris or possibly the remains of that 20th victim.

Again in the distance, the boats have that whole area of government cut secured. No traffic going in and out. And, of course, as many people know, government cut is the entrance, the exit for the huge cruise ship terminal here. That's been shut down tonight and from what we understand, Paula, will not reopen again until tomorrow. This Chalks sea plane owned by Chalks Airways was on its way to Bimini at the time of the crash.


ZAHN: John, do we know anything at this hour about the history of this aircraft and any problems it might have had over the years?

ZARRELLA: No, not of the aircraft in and of itself. But we know from the company that gave a brief statement earlier this afternoon that they've been in business since 1919, under two or three different names, but basically Chalks all the time and that this is the first time, according to the company, that they've had any kind of a fatal accident involving any passengers on any of their flights. And they do fly quite often in and out of Miami, in and out of Watson Island, which is called - to a lot of the items in the Bahamas. In fact, we here at CNN have flown them on several occasions, Chalks, over to Nassau and into the Bahamas.


ZAHN: John, we're watching that video again. And it seems quite obvious that some of what the eyewitnesses describe appear to be accurate with a wing tearing apart from the rest of the fuselage. It is just absolutely horrifying to watch. But hopefully this will give investigators at least an understanding what went so terribly wrong.


ZAHN: John Zarrella, thanks so much for the update.

There's another big story to talk about tonight. In Washington, a mammoth battle is raging over your security. And we're considering a question no one thought we'd face only six days before Christmas. Has the president of the United States flagrantly broken laws in the name of protecting you from terrorists? As White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux reports in our security watch, President Bush has his own opinions and lots of opposition, too.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush defended his top-secret domestic wiretapping program insisting that eavesdropping on callers in the U.S. to possible terrorists overseas is perfectly legal.

BUSH: I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is absolutely.

MALVEAUX: The debate over the president's legal authority is at the heart of what is quickly becoming a very heated controversy.

SENATOR RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: He is the president, not a king.

MALVEAUX: Shortly after the September 11th attacks, the president said he greenlighted a government program to wiretap calls from within the United States of suspected terrorists without obtaining a warrant from a special court as required by law. The president says going through the normal channels to get permission for wire tapping under some circumstances is too slow.

BUSH: To save American lives we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks.

MALVEAUX: The president says as commander in chief during wartime, both the U.S. Constitution and Congress' authorization to go after Al Qaeda give him the authority to bypass normal channels. Some constitutional scholars say the president is on shaky legal ground. But politically, he may have the upper hand.

THOMAS GOLDSTEIN, SUPREME COURT LEGAL ANALYST: This is a situation in which Congress will probably have to solve the problem or at least political pressure to bring an end to the program because no one knows they are being searched so they can't even bring a court challenge to these sorts of interceptions.

MALVEAUX: While Democrats are accusing the president of breaking the law, Republicans are reserving judgment, but calling for congressional hearings. Mr. Bush is focusing on who may have leaked his top-secret spying program to the press.

BUSH: It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy.

MALVEAUX: The president said a small number of lawmakers were briefed on the program at least a dozen times. But the ranking Democrat of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller, released a letter to the vice president he had sealed two years ago, which expressed his reservations about the program saying, "Given the security restriction associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse, these activities."


MALVEAUX: And Congress is expected to begin hearings on this matter early next year.


ZAHN: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks so much for the update. We turn to now to Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who serves on the Subcommittee of Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security.

Senator Durbin, do you think the president broke the law?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: The president had no legal authority to eavesdrop on or wire tap hundreds if not thousands of Americans on American soil. He says that it was under his power as commander in chief, and I will just tell you that there was a clear legal way to do this. And in many cases, the president did not follow it.

ZAHN: But the president says that, in fact, what he did was legal, that he's protecting the civil liberties of Americans and went on to say today during a news conference that the information netted from this very act has stopped terrorist plots. Is the president lying?

DURBIN: I have no way of knowing whether or not the information gathered was of value to us. Every president will tell you that there is a good reason for ignoring the law, which a president has done in this case. But we really need to step back and ask, why did this president decide at this moment in history to ignore the clear standards of the law, a standard which allows him to go to a secret court even on an expedited basis if he feels that someone has engaged in terrorist activity. This administration just ignored that.

ZAHN: But the administration said quite forcefully in a couple of different fronts today, not only out of the president's mouth but his attorney general, that they have followed the law here.

DURBIN: I don't believe that. I think the law is very clear. And under the law, a president cannot decide on his own, without going through a court process, to eavesdrop and wire tap on American citizens. In this case, the president did so. And he said as commander in chief he was authorized to do so. I don't believe that's true.

ZAHN: The president is accusing the folks who leaked this of shame shameful conduct. Why would somebody leak this information now?

DURBIN: I have no idea how this came about. I was on the Intelligence Committee for years. We were never apprised that this was even occurring when it was going on. Someone decided or some people decided to make this known. And as a consequence now, all of the American people realize that for years the president has been engaged in activity which is not legally authorized.

ZAHN: The president says even having a public discussion about this is helping the enemy.

DURBIN: You know...

ZAHN: Do you believe that? DURBIN: ... in a democracy, an open discussion of ideas is important. I really as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee took care not to disclose classified information for fear that it could endanger lives or reduce the security of America. But there comes a point for a national debate, and we've reached it. Now that this has been published in major newspapers and discussed all around the country, I think we need to have the investigation that Senator Spector has asked for to understand why the president believes he has authority which the law clearly does not give him.

ZAHN: Senator Durbin, thank you so much for your perspective. We appreciate it.

DURBIN: Thank you.

ZAHN: Of course, there are an awful lot of issues to consider here. But they boil down to a few basic questions. Did you know that our government can spy on anyone at any time? All it takes is a warrant, and it can be issued either before or after the fact. But the president ordered wire taps without doing even that. But does it mean President Bush actually broke the law?

Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is here to break it down for all of us. Always good to see you, Jeffrey.


ZAHN: So, bottom line, is it legal for the U.S. government to spy on you, spy on me, or anybody else in the United States?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. They can wire tap. They can bug your house, bug your bedroom, bug your phone if they get a court order.

ZAHN: And how do they do that?

TOOBIN: Well, they go -- in a criminal investigation, they go to just a regular federal judge. But in a national security investigation, they go to the special court that was created in 1978. It's not a very high standard. There have been 19,000 applications to this court as of a couple of years ago, and only five were turned down. So it's virtually a rubber stamp. But the administration decided that even that was too much of a hurdle, so they did it on their own.

ZAHN: Why is the question, particularly, if this secret court is a rubber stamp for these requests?

TOOBIN: I think it fits into a whole perspective that we've seen from this administration, especially Vice President Cheney. They feel that the presidency has been weakened in recent years and they need to reassert the president's power. And they also felt that it would -- the court slowed them down too much in a world of cell phones and Blackberries.

ZAHN: So did the president break the law?

TOOBIN: What is striking to me is that not a lot of people are coming to his defense on this one.

ZAHN: Senator Durbin just told me he broke the...

TOOBIN: He's a Democrat. You could say he's out to get him.

ZAHN: Sure.

TOOBIN: But there haven't been a lot of Republicans jumping up and saying that this is permissible activity. I think it's going to be very tough for the president to justify this activity. I haven't heard an explanation that's persuasive. The president's invocation of Article II of the Constitution, which says he's the commander in chief of the military, that doesn't seem to get you this far.

ZAHN: So as we leave you tonight if you are an American citizen - let's say you have relatives in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan and you are making phone calls to those relatives in those two countries or any country for that matter, you are fair game?

TOOBIN: You were fair game all along. Now it appears you were even more likely to be wire tapped. And the president says that's to protect us all. Maybe it is.

ZAHN: The debate rages on. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Imagine walking down the street and coming face to face with a man police say is a very dangerous criminal accused of a horrifying crime.


ANNETTE BROWN, WITNESS: It wasn't until he got on the sidewalk and was close enough to me where I could touch him where he looked up into my eyes and I immediately recognized who he was.


ZAHN: Coming up, the astonishing story of how a man who was outside the law finally got caught, but not before he pulled a knife on himself. Was it all about theater?

And a little bit later on, why did a 911 call in this Colorado City bring an argument instead of help?

We also got a real eye opener for you tonight. If you intend to put on a happy face for the holidays, you're facing a long wait.

In tonight's Outside the Law, the latest developments in another story we've been following very closely. Right now, the man accused of a brutal sexual attack back on Halloween night in New York City is in police custody in Tennessee. Peter Braunstein is waiting to be sent back to New York where he'll face several charges. He was caught just two days ago, but not before he put up a bloody resistance. Adaora Udoji tells us exactly what happened in tonight's Outside the Law. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Journalist Peter Braunstein was used to writing headlines, not making them. But he managed to allude police for 46 days in a manhunt that grabbed huge headlines in New York City. The chase took him from New York to Ohio, to Tennessee, where he was finally captured. Braunstein carried out his final moments of freedom with a dramatic flair. Witnesses say he used a knife on himself.

WESLEY GIFFORD, WITNESS: He stabbed himself in the neck right about here. And he fell over, keeled over down on his knees, and blood spread everywhere.

UDOJI: It was a bizarre ending to a chase triggered by accusations of a brutal and elaborate crime against a man who once wrote for fashion magazines such as W. Back on Halloween, police say Braunstein dressed up in a firefighter's uniform he bought on the Internet. They say he set two small fires to lure a former W colleague out of her trendy neighborhood apartment. Then police say Braunstein drugged her with chloroform, tied her up and sexually abused her for more than 12 hours, which he allegedly videotaped.

That morning on November 1st, police say Braunstein checked into this Super 8 Hotel, which is just around the corner from Times Square here in New York City. And by the next day, they say, he was on the run already in Cleveland, Ohio. Meanwhile, there were continued sightings of him in New York City, while tabloids had a field day. Headlines blared a sex fiend was on the loose, making some women anxious. Reporters hounded Braunstein's mother.

ANGELE BRAUNSTEIN: Go away. I've had enough of the newspapers.

UDOJI: Braunstein's father also struggled with the news.

ALBERTO BRAUNSTEIN: It was just devastating, devastating.

UDOJI: And he predicted correctly as it turned out that his son would give police a tough time.

A. BRAUNSTEIN: He's going to try and play cat and mouse with the police to see. But how far can he go?

UDOJI: The story aired on America's Most Wanted. And that would turn out to be crucial to Braunstein's arrest. By November 28th, police say the suspect was in Memphis, Tennessee, collecting $20 for donating his blood. Two weeks later, Braunstein was on the campus of Memphis University. Annette Brown happened to see him. She also happened to just have seen Braunstein on America's Most Wanted.

ANNETTE BROWN, WITNESS: It wasn't until he got on the sidewalk and was close enough to me where I could touch him when he looked up and into my eyes, and I immediately recognized who he was.

UDOJI: She told campus police, who confronted him.

GIFFORD: They asked him to stop. They preceded to pepper spray him. The guy wouldn't go down.

UDOJI: Braunstein finally did go down after stabbing himself. He was arrested and taken to the hospital. He had been in trouble before. After stalking an ex-girlfriend, he was put on probation. He retaliated on a Web site calling her a biohazard. When he was captured, he was carrying notebooks reportedly accounting the last six weeks. His father says his son desperately needs help.

A. BRAUNSTEIN: He's got mental problems. So you cannot treat him as a rational person. So whatever is written in those letters and everything else, it's a sick mind writing. It's not him.

UDOJI: That will be for a New York court to decide. In Tennessee, Braunstein waived extradition. He returns to New York to face a number of charges, including sexual abuse. Adaora Udoji, CNN, New York.

ZAHN: In addition to sexual assault, Braunstein will also be charged with kidnapping, robbery and burglary.

Right now, I want to play for you part of a 911 call. A man had just jumped into a woman's car. But listen to this dispatcher. Is she actually arguing against sending help?


DISPATCHER: Normally if they need help they're going to yell or scream or fight or something.


DISPATCHER: So they may have just been playing around.

CHAUVIN: No, I don't think so.


ZAHN: Was the dispatcher out of line? What was she thinking, and what really happened? Stay with us. It's shocking.

And a little bit later on, some amazing undercover video and a report we all need to see. It could stop a pickpocket from running off with your money during these very busy shopping days.

We turn now to a story that has, quite frankly, left a lot of folks who have heard about it stunned. If you have an emergency and you dial 911, you can be pretty sure you're going to get help pretty fast. Or can you? You are about to hear the actual tapes of a 911 operator who not only couldn't be convinced there was an emergency, she actually seemed to debate the people who were pleading with her for help. Our Sean Callebs investigated the incident. And when you see this, you are bound to ask, what was she thinking?


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was summer, 2001. Instead of blowing snow, heat was coming off the asphalt parking lot. Pizza delivery man, John Chauvin, called the Aurora, Colorado, police emergency line, believing he was witnessing a car jacking.

DISPATCHER: Hello, 911, is this an emergency?

CHAUVIN: I believe it is.

DISPATCHER: What's going on?

CHAUVIN: This black guy jumps into this Asian lady's car like, she was squealing away from her (ph). And then he parked it in the parking lot. He's still in the car with her.

CALLEBS: The young woman was 21-year-old Le Thu Nguyen. Friends and family say her former fiance, Omar Green, was a threat. Nguyen's mother, Susan DuVall, also called 911 after her daughter's co-worker at a salon called and said Green had worked himself into Nguyen's car. This is the response Green got.

DISPATCHER: I talked to people there. She was not fighting, she was not screaming, she did not ask for help, nothing.

SUSAN DUVALL, MOTHER: Right. We don't know whether he has a weapon or what.

DISPATCHER: Does he normally carry a weapon?

DUVALL: I don't know if he does. No, I don't. I just know those threatening things that he's trying to do to her.

DISPATCHER: I think a lot of times they end up making back up together. They end up making up.

DUVALL: Right, well, that's not this case.

DISPATCHER: Well, we don't know because we haven't talked to her.

DUVALL: Right. I would just like to record it because I know she fears for her life from him.

CALLEBS: Try as they would, the two callers could not get the dispatcher to accept the sense of urgency, even dismissing attempts to describe what kind of car was involved.

CHAUVIN: OK, would you like the car description?

DISPATCHER: Well, there's really not -- I mean, they're not fighting. They're not yelling, nothing.

CHAUVIN: He jumped through her window while she was squealing away.

DISPATCHER: OK, well, you think they should be fighting or something. I mean, I can have the officers check the area, but that's about -- I mean, she'd be fighting or screaming or something if she needed help.


CALLEBS: It turns out Nguyen had good reason to live in fear. Police found her body two days later, and the ex-fiance, Green, was convicted of the murder.

DUVALL: I knew it was serious. I needed to give her the main concern of this call. Her life was in danger.

CALLEBS: Authorities say the dispatcher, Jeannette Price, was reprimanded. DuVall filed a lawsuit, not against the city of Aurora. Colorado law prohibits citizens from suing cities. Instead, DuVall's attorneys are going after the dispatcher saying Price's response allowed Omar Green to kill.

GREGORY GOLD, DUVALL'S ATTORNEY: He's in the car. The tires are screeching. And it's not property. This is humanity that we're dealing with. How much more of an emergency do you want before you send the police when a human is being attacked by another human inside of a vehicle?

CALLEBS: Aurora city attorneys are representing Price and admit her actions were negligent, but stop there. And here's why that's so important. To win the case, DuVall's legal team must prove Price disregarded the emergency calls in a willful and wanton way, disregarding any concern for safety. A big part of the case will be Price's own words.

DISPATCHER: OK. I'll have them check on it, but normally if they need help they're going to yell or scream or fight or something.


DISPATCHER: So they may have just been playing around.

CHAUVIN: No, I don't think so. She's in...

DISPATCHER: OK, I'll have them check the area. OK?

CHAUVIN: Thank you.


CALLEBS: According to the lawsuit, Price willfully and wantonly failed to send police on an emergency run. The Aurora city attorney says emergency call takers have to make critical judgments under very tight timelines in order to respond. And, quote, "Ms. Price utilized her professional judgment and training in an effort to ascertain what would be an appropriate response." Sean Callebs, CNN, Denver.


ZAHN: And there's one more thing to add. Omar Green, the ex- fiance, is now in prison serving a life sentence for murder, kidnap and assault. What you see in our next story could stop a thief from ruining your holiday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a pickpocket?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a pickpocket. So is this one, and so is this one. They're all -- four guys.



ZAHN: Pickpockets are getting really creative, and they are really good at what they do. We've got some hidden cameras to prove it, as well as some advice on how to stay ahead of them.

And a little bit later on, is there any way to stay ahead of those computer generated operators when you call a store or a government agency? Stay tuned. Jeanne Moos is heading to the phone.


ZAHN: Don't know how far along you are with your holiday shopping, but it's the final week and the malls are packed, making for ideal hunting grounds for pickpockets. Just how easy is it to steal your wallet? Well our consumer correspondent Greg Hunter asked an expert with a hidden camera to show us exactly how it's done. And what you can do to keep from getting ripped off.


GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Watch this lady very carefully. You are about to witness a crime. Here it comes. Did you see it? Within two seconds, this woman's wallet got picked out from her bag. Here it is again. As the woman walks, the guy on the right distracts her. Then the guy on the left slips his hand into her bag and snags her wallet, right there. It looks like a pretty simple crime, but, in fact, there's a lot to it.

ARNO: Trust me. When it happens to you, you remember it for a long time.

HUNTER: Bob Arno is a former entertainer from Sweden who used to have a pick pocketing stage act. He has perfected his craft so well, he now teaches police officers how to protect against pickpockets.

HUNTER (on camera): What would you call yourself?

ARNO: Basically, I'm a thief hunter. I'm always looking for these guys.

HUNTER (voice-over): Armed with a hidden camera, Arno travels the world trying to catch pickpockets in action. ARNO: That's me there with those...

HUNTER: He showed me some of his never-before-seen video.

(on camera): So, you are basically setting yourself up to get the video.

ARNO: There's no question that we are setting ourselves up to be the victim. That is how we, most of the time, can catch them.

HUNTER: These aren't actors. These are real crooks.

ARNO: No, nothing. Real crooks.

HUNTER (voice-over): Here, you actually see someone take his wallet.

ARNO: A thief will immediately realize that there's a little gaping here. It stands out. That means you have something heavy in the pocket.

HUNTER: Arno says pickpockets usually work in teams, like this man and woman. One is pretending to shop. The other is stalking his victim. The real shopper has no idea what's about to happen to her. The moment she turns her back, her wallet is swiped, just like that. She doesn't even realize it's gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. . Don't you dare put your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) my pocket.

HUNTER: This guy caught a pickpocket while Arno was videotaping. It turns out the crook wasn't alone.

HUNTER (on camera): He's a pickpocket?

ARNO: He's a pickpocket.

HUNTER: He's a pickpocket? He's a pickpocket?


ARNO: So is this one and so this one. There are four guys.


HUNTER: Four guys here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You touch me again, I will kill you.

HUNTER (voice-over): And remember this video? That's Arno's wife, whose wallet was taking while he was videotaping. There were at least two people involved here.

ARNO: If they are slightly out of sync between the two of them, that will never happen.

HUNTER: So, how do you protect yourself? The secret is understanding the crime. And nobody knows it better than 13-year veteran detective Cedric Mitchell of the Metro Transit Police in Washington, D.C.

MITCHELL: It's hard to keep statistics, because, if you're a good pickpocket, the victim never know they were a victim. They think they lost their wallet. So, how do they make a police report? They can't make a police report. So, it's probably one of the most under- reported crimes in the country.

HUNTER (on camera): Most crooks hate a crowd. Pickpockets, just the opposite -- the more people the better it is.

A crowd is a pickpocket's best friend.

MITCHELL: Best friend, partner, partner in crime and don't even realize it.

HUNTER (voice-over): That's because, in a crowd, thieves can get close to you without any questions, like they did to Helen Williams on a jammed escalator three years ago.

HELEN WILLIAMS, VICTIM OF PICKPOCKET: I think I may have felt someone brush against me.

HUNTER (on camera): And you were carrying a purse like -- you were carrying this purse?

WILLIAMS: I was carrying this purse. And the wallet is usually -- usually probably propped up against my items up -- up front, so it was a easy target, very easy for someone to just lift.

HUNTER (voice-over): In a flash, it was gone. She took immediate action.

WILLIAMS: Canceled credit cards. I canceled the checks. I canceled my debit card, my ATM card. And I just knew I -- I would be OK once I got -- I did that.

HUNTER: But the nightmare was just beginning. Within a few weeks, she started receiving bill after bill for purchases she had never made, totalling $10,000. It took about a year to clear it all up.

WILLIAMS: Clothing, toys, food, computers, books.

HUNTER (on camera): They were living on you?

WILLIAMS: Yes, living on me for -- for quite some time. And -- and they got a lot of good things in my name.

HUNTER (voice-over): But Helen played a big role in luring the pickpockets. For one thing, she was carrying an open purse with no zipper. And it was swung behind her, a common mistake.

(on camera): If a lady's purse is hanging in the back, she's in trouble.

ARNO: The minute it's behind -- it depends, of course, on the buckle and so forth. But, on a one to 10, that's a nine for a thief to get into.

HUNTER (voice-over): And it's almost as easy to snatch the purse. Look at what happened to this 76-year-old woman whose handbag was ripped away from her last year.

(on camera): Were you afraid?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, of course. I was trembling. I was scared.

HUNTER: Isabel Manuel's (ph) purse was snatched right here in this Tucson, Arizona, parking lot. She was robbed all right. But this crime was anything but random.

(voice-over): Like pickpockets, this guy took his time to find the perfect victim. He hung around the parking lot, pretending to play a video game. Isabel (ph) and her daughter, Myra (ph), weren't paying any attention to him. And that was a mistake. So, he waited until Myra (ph) sat in the driver's seat and Isabel's back was turned.

(on camera): The door is open. You're doing what?


HUNTER: Groceries right there.


HUNTER: And the guy comes up behind you and he puts both hand on...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... pulling my bag.


HUNTER: So, he's pulling this. Then what do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I saw him. I -- I don't want to give it to him.

HUNTER: And, so, he's pulling you?


HUNTER: And you're pulling back.


(voice-over): After taking that nasty fall, Isabel (ph) is on the mend. The crook was caught and convicted. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we don't trust anybody anymore.

HUNTER: And Isabel (ph) and Myra (ph) are now on guard every time they go out.

But plenty of people aren't. Walking around our nation's capital, Detective Mitchell and I easily find prime targets for pickpockets.

(on camera): Excuse me, ma'am? Ma'am?


HUNTER: Hi, I'm Greg Hunter with CNN. How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. Nice to meet you. Very good.

This is Detective Mitchell.

MITCHELL: How you doing?


HUNTER: Could we just open your purse to see how easy it is to open?


HUNTER: And you had your purse behind your back.



HUNTER: Oh, how easy is that?

MITCHELL: Very easy.

HUNTER (voice-over): And look. Her wallet was sitting right on top.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, what should I do?

MITCHELL: What should you do? Carry your purse this way.


MITCHELL: Now the flap rests there. There no way I can get into the pocketbook.


MITCHELL: That's all you have to do.


HUNTER (on camera): And the purse in front and not behind?

MITCHELL: And yes. You can -- if you like to lean -- there you go. Perfect. Now you can -- you can't be a victim.

HUNTER (voice-over): Men, especially if they look like they have money, are also targets.

Where do you carry your wallet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On my inside pocket.

HUNTER: Inside pocket. Jacket open?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the time.

HUNTER: Most of the time, jacket's open. So jacket open is bad.

MITCHELL: Jacket open is bad.


MITCHELL: Because it lends myself easier to get into the pocket. So I would get in here and then basically they hold on and they slide it out.

HUNTER: How much did you feel at all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't feel anything at all.

MITCHELL: You see, if you just button that button right there, you've just safeguarded yourself.

HUNTER: And check out this woman. She's got a backpack. Mitchell says it's too easy for a crook to get into. And he finds things she should leave at home.

MITCHELL: And take all those checkbooks out.


MITCHELL: The more things you carry, checkbooks and credit cards, the more you give them to steal.

HUNTER: How do you feel now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel better because I'm going to do something about it.


ZAHN: Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to listen to Greg and we have some tips from him right now. Carry a money belt during the shopping week. And to fool the pickpockets, carry a dummy wallet in your back pocket.

So now that we've gotten you past the pickpockets, we've found a stocking stuffer for your favorite aging baby boomer. It's guaranteed to give them a lift.


DR. STEVEN DAYAN, PLASTIC SURGEON: Some people get a diamond ring. Some people get a car and some people get a face-lift.


ZAHN: Would you be offended if someone gave you a face-lift for Christmas or a minimum botox? Stay tuned for tonight's eye opener.

And a little bit later on, Jeanne Moos has an ear opener. What shouldn't you say to those computer generated phone operators no matter how annoying they are.


ZAHN: In tonight's eye opener, forget about expensive chocolates or cashmere sweaters this Christmas. How about a gift of botox? Believe me, it's not that far fetched and this season you may actually have to stand in line to get that new look.

Jonathan Fried has tonight's eye opener, the gift with the lift.


JONATHAN FRIED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): You can't box him or wrap him or tie him with a bow, but that isn't stopping people from giving this Chicago doctor and his botox as a gift this season.

DAYAN: Some people get a diamond ring. Some people get a car and some people get a face-lift.

FRIED: It's the busiest time of the year for Dr. Stephen Dayan. A time when good friends tell each other, well, you could use a little work.

DAYAN: I'll put some botox in here. I'll put some around here, a little bit around here, and what it's going to do is it's going to raise your eyebrows a little bit. So it will make your eyes look a little more open. You're going to love it.

FRIED: When Rita Conway decided to perk herself up a bit she decided it would also be the perfect present for her friend Michelle Goodeve.

RITA CONWAY, SURGERY GIFT GIVER: I'm going to get her another sweater? You know, she has enough sweaters.

FRIED: Seems a lot of people have enough sweaters. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons tells us just about every one of their doctors experiences a big boost in business between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

DAYAN: Many people are coming in now asking to look good for the holidays. And I can make them look great with just a few procedures today.

FRIED: The doctor says minimally invasive procedures like botox or some laser treatments are the most popular because they heal so quickly in time for those holiday parties. Nose jobs take a week to heal. And if you want a face-lift, it could be a month before you can unwrap the new you.

Now, was Michelle offended when Rita popped the botox deal?

MICHELLE GOODEVE, SURGERY GIFT RECEIVER: Oh, God, no. She's said a lot worse things to me to offend me as I have to her. No, it was a nice Christmas present.

FRIED: And for Rita, it's a secret gift for her husband. She hopes not too secret, though.

CONWAY: Because I didn't tell my husband I was coming. So I am going to probably not tell him to see if he can notice. And then if he doesn't notice, then I'll, you know, yell at him.

That's awesome. Thank you.

GOODEVE: I would walk by a mirror, and I would see my constant frown, and it would just irritate me. I always looked angry. And now I can look a little bit more refreshed and friendly, maybe approachable.

FRIED: The cost for a botox session? Dr. Dayan charges between $300 and $600 depending on the case.

GOODEVE: I don't think I've gotten very many Christmas presents that would be better than this in all honesty. So I'm happy with it. Thank you, Rita.

CONWAY: You're welcome. Merry Christmas.

FRIED: Call it the gift that keeps on lifting.

Jonathan Fried, CNN, Chicago.


ZAHN: And then there's this. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says there were nearly 12 million surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. just last year.

And in just a minute you're going to meet the real live person behind some of those computer generated phone operators we all end up talking to at some point.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, try telling me your 10-digit account number once more.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: Believe it or not, there's actually a right and a wrong way to talk back to voices like hers. We'll explain. Stay with us.


ZAHN: All right. So I think I know the answer to this question, but I am going to ask it anyway. Have you ever gotten hung up trying to talk to those computer generated voices when you call a store or an office? Well, the people who create those phone voices know how frustrating it can be to talk to a computer instead of a real person. And you won't believe what they're doing to make it a little bit easier.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's an option people who hate automated voices can only dream of...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press one if you'd like to murder the operator.

MOOS: After all, there's nothing more human than getting enraged over not being able to talk to a human. This is an actual call...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe I'm talking to this stupid robot. I want to talk to a human being, God damn it.

MOOS: They may sound like 911 calls...


MOOS: But all they want rescued from is the interactive voice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can I get you?

MOOS (on camera): A drink!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't stand them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are such a pain in the butt.


MOOS (on camera): Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't talk to a human being. You've got to go through 20 different things just ask one simple question.

MOOS (voice-over): And to add insult to injury...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can never understand me.

MOOS: But at least they know how to apologize...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry we're having so much trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry, but I'm not exactly sure what you want.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mistake again.

MOOS: The computer takes the blame even if it's the caller's fault. Misspelling Peoria, for instance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: P-I-A -- Now, can I talk to a person!

MOOS: Being a virtual operator means always having to say you're sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really sorry. Hey, I'm sorry. , try telling me your ten digit account number once more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you do that one more time. Just sound a little more sorry.

MOOS: Meet Jenny from Yahoo. Not to be confused with...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, I'm Julie, Amtrak's automated agent.

MOOS: Actually Yahoo Jenny is really actress Deborah Eliezer, who jokes about what she'd rather be saying to callers...

DEBORAH ELIEZER, VOICE OF "YAHOO JENNY": You look great in those pants today. Just to be able to say something like that would be so funny.

MOOS: And maybe folks wouldn't swear at her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when I said 'shit' and it goes, "sorry, do not recognize that command.'

MOOS: Experts like Professor Clifford Nass, author of "Wired for Speech," say the worst thing callers can do is get mad.

PROF. CLIFFORD NASS, AUTHOR: Their voice changes in ways that make it harder to understand. So, now the system has an even tougher time, which makes the person even madder. So, you get in a hideous downward spiral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said no, no, n-o, n-o.

MOOS: These calls you've been hearing are from an airline. Professor Shri Narayanan of the University of Southern California's speech analysis lab, is studying 1400 recordings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to speak with a human being, please.

MOOS: He is developing a computer program that can recognize when a caller is upset.

PROF. SHRI NARAYANAN, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Here you see, you know -- You also see these wild pitch variations.

MOOS: The program analyzes, pitch, volume and certain words to determine when to turn the caller over to a live person.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, my name is Fred.

MOOS (on camera): Are you real?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was when I woke up this morning.

MOOS (voice-over): There's even a Web site that gives tips on how to find a human; how to go around the interactive voices at various companies, though the tips didn't always work...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which would you like?

MOOS (on camera): Agent, agent, agent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that you said you wanted reservations.

MOOS (voice-over): Try telling directly assistance you want this town in Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What city or borough?

MOOS (on camera): Knockemstif, Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's North Armstead, Ohio -- right?

MOOS (voice-over): Even a live operator had trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What city was the city ma'am?


MOOS (on camera): Knockemstif.

(voice-over): Other tip from experts: Try to speak naturally.

NASS: Trying to say like "this is what I meant" makes it hard to understand; trying to neutralize you accent in some strange or bizarre way.

MOOS: Jenny from Yahoo sounds pretty strange herself.

ELIEZER: Oh, my God. You've got more than 50 messages. MOOS: One Valentine's day, National Public Radio invented a romance between flight information guy Tom and Amtrak Julie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you also a little lonely? Please say yes or no. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. MOOS: Though it didn't end well...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call me back when you can act like a human being.

MOOS: What do automated voices have over real voices? The head of a speech recognition company called Nuance explains...

CHUCK BERGER, CEO, NUANCE: and it saves a lot of money. Instead of three to five dollars a call, it's 15 to 20 cents a call.

MOOS: ATMs were once despised, now they're loved. Maybe the same thing will happen to virtual operators.

(on camera): Do you ever swear at them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I just pray for them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press three if you'd like to pray for the operator.

MOOS: Virtual operators don't have a prayer...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are full of crap!

MOOS: Of avoiding abuse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I talk to a person?

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: And Jeanne keeping as civil a tongue as she can. In just a minute, we will go back to Florida for the very latest on tonight's developing story, the search and recovery operation after a plane crash that was captured on camera.


ZAHN: Right now we go straight back to our top story of the night, the fatal plane crash off Miami Beach this afternoon. Just a short time ago we took in some exclusive video that is absolutely horrifying to watch.

Check this out. It actually shows the plane crashing into the sea with the burning fuselage also falling into the ocean. The Coast Guard says 20 people were on board that plane. So far tonight, 19 bodies have been recovered.

Let's check in with John Zarrella who joins us again from the scene with the very latest. I imagine by now it's kind of difficult to see exactly what's going on in terms of recovery operations. Give us the latest.

ZARRELLA: That's right Paula, it is difficult. You can just see the blue dots out in the distance there, literally. Those are the Coast Guard ships, police boats that have cordoned off the area out there. It's Watson Island area.

Government Cut, it's the inlet where all of the cruise ships and the commercial cargo ships come in and out of. That's been closed off tonight as they continue the recovery operations. Nineteen bodies recovered. They believe there is a 20th. They are still looking for it.

The National Transportation Safety Board, we understand is out here, is on the scene now and beginning its investigation into what caused what eyewitnesses have said and that video appears to bear out, an explosion and then a fiery crash into the waters just off Miami Beach. Paula?

ZAHN: John, what kind of plane was it and where was it headed?

ZARRELLA: It was a seaplane. And it was headed from what's called Watson Island here to Bimini in the Bahamas, from Chalk's Airways, the airline. They've been operating since 1919. Officials at the airline tell us they have never had an accident involving passengers in the long history of the airline. This was a first and a very tragic first just days before the holiday season. Paula?

ZAHN: John, I know you had the opportunity to talk with a couple of witnesses because these folks weren't too far from the crash site, standing on the beach. What did they tell you they saw and more importantly, what did they hear?

ZARRELLA: Well most of the people that we did speak with had the opportunity to listen to, told us that they saw and they heard what appeared to be an explosion. They saw the video. They saw the plane apparently coming apart. The wing separating from the fuselage and then the body of the seaplane crashing back into the water with the wing following close behind. Paula?

ZAHN: I don't think any of us ever thought we'd see video that so accurately depicted all of that. It's really a great tragedy. John Zarrella, thanks for the late details tonight. The investigation continuing in a very aggressive way at this hour.

Now we want to know about how you are feeling about some of the stories we brought you this hour. We're going to give you a chance to talk back to us in a new segment called, "Hey Paula..." You can e- mail us your thoughts at or leave us a voicemail at 877-PAULA-NOW.

And that's it for all of us here this evening. Thanks so much for being with us. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now. Have a good night.


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