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President Bush Meets With New Iraqi Government; Alberto Aftermath

Aired June 13, 2006 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And hi to you all out there.
Here is what is happening at this moment.

North Korea may be ready to test a new long-range missile that could actually reach North America. Some observers say it could be a way to gain leverage in stalled talks over its nuclear program.

Controversial University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill calls a committee recommendation that he be fired baloney. He's now threatening to sue the school if it follows through -- among Churchill's remarks, calling some victims of the World Trade Center attack "little Eichmanns," a reference to Nazi war criminals.

A House panel is proposing a boost in the minimum wage from the current $5.15 an hour to $7.25 over the next three years. And Congress itself is on track to get a cost-of-living increase, giving members more than $168,000 a year.

Right now, as we speak, President Bush is on Air Force One, flying back from a surprise trip to Baghdad. The trip was so secret, only a few officials knew it was even going to happen, so secret, in fact, even the nation's two top intelligence officials were kept completely out of the loop.

The president spent about six hours on the ground in Baghdad, an important opportunity for him to meet the new Iraqi prime minister face to face, to talk with his top general, and to speak with an adoring crowd of U.S. service men and women. It was also a powerful photo-op for a president struggling in the polls.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, was one of the few reporters to make that trip with the president.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Air Force One arrived in Baghdad after a secret overnight flight -- first up on the president's surprise trip to Iraq, a heavily armed helicopter ride into the heart of the city's fortified Green Zone. The daylight arrival only added to the security concerns.

Iraqi officials were kept in the dark, Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki receiving a five-minute heads up that the president of the United States was here to see him. Mr. Bush's official schedule called for him to be on the other end of this meeting, at cozy Camp David back home for a second day of Iraq planning meetings -- instead, this first face-to-face meeting with Iraq's new leader and his key ministers, the culmination of top-secret planning, dating back almost a month.

Facing critical decisions about U.S. troop levels, reconstruction spending, and a host of other issues, aides say Mr. Bush wanted to meet the Prime Minister Maliki in person as soon as possible after the completion of the new Iraqi cabinet, and wanted to visit Baghdad as a gesture of support.

It is also an image the White House hopes helps back home, where the unpopular war is the biggest election-year drag on the president and his party -- this dramatic visit part of yet another White House effort to rally public support, or at least halt the erosion.

Secrecy was paramount. Monday's planning session was organized at remote Camp David, instead of the White House, to allow the president and a handful of top aides to leave undetected after dinner -- in hindsight, maybe a playful hint during a break Monday, when the president talked of how much he was looking forward to a secure video session with the new Iraqi cabinet.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that will be a very interesting experience for all of us, to be able to talk to our respective counterparts.

KING: Of the top-level team on hand, the White House says only Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld knew the president wouldn't be there for breakfast and would surprise both the Iraqi and most of the U.S. Cabinet by joining Tuesday's session from the Baghdad end of the video link.

BUSH: And, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for this opportunity to visit with your cabinet.

KING: Iraqi officials have talked of dropping U.S. troop levels from more than 130,000 now to below 100,000 by the end of the year. While the White House would welcome that, previous Iraqi governments have struggled.

So, one goal of the visit was to get a personal confidence level in the new prime minister and his national security team, and a face- to-face assessment from the U.S. military commander, General George Casey. The president made no promises in this pep rally with troops stationed in the Green Zone that serves as coalition headquarters.

BUSH: The fate and future of Iraq is in their hands. And our job is to help them succeed, and we will.

KING: The president's caution about promising troop reductions or sounding overly upbeat is one legacy of setbacks and disappointments -- this trip, under extraordinary security, designed for a firsthand assessment of whether he might finally have reason to turn more optimistic.

John King, with the president in Baghdad. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And the president said today, Iraq's future is in the hands of its new government.

But while he visited, the bodies kept piling up outside Baghdad's secure Green Zone. Iraqi police found six people shot to death in various Baghdad neighborhoods. All showed signs of torture. An Iraqi police officer was killed by a roadside bomb. And a college professor was gunned down while driving in Baghdad.

So, in just a couple of hours, a week after the airstrike that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's government is starting a major push to show it can keep its people safe by putting tens of thousands of Iraqi troops on the streets of Baghdad.

John Vause takes us "Beyond the Headlines" tonight.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Even by Baghdad standards, there's been a dramatic increase in car bombings, drive-by shootings, and other attacks in recent days. Most have targeted civilians and police -- the government's solution, a massive crackdown to begin just after dawn tomorrow.

According to the Interior Ministry, more than 70,000, mostly Iraqi troops, will patrol the streets of Baghdad for an indefinite period of time. Checkpoints have already gone up on roads in and out of the city. And vehicles are being searched.

"We're fulfilling orders to put the Baghdad security plan into force," says this Iraqi commando, "so that we can eliminate terrorism and seize car bombs."

The increased security around the capital also coincided with the sudden unexpected visit by the U.S. president. It also coincided with the posting on an Islamic Web site of a statement from a terrorist describing himself as the successor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The statement threatened new attacks. It also said that "The end is near," and that "The enemy, presumably the American military, will be showing us its back soon."

The new security operation ordered by the Iraqi prime minister is the largest since sovereignty was handed back to the Iraqis two years ago. It will involve policemen, Army commandos, and other Iraqi security forces. Coalition troops will also be part of the operation, even to the extent of providing airstrikes, if necessary.

The government will also enforce a ban on the widespread practice of carrying weapons. And there is the possibility of a nighttime curfew, which could keep most Baghdad residents off the streets. But some of the worst violence in the past 36 hours has been outside the capital. In the northern city of Kirkuk, five early-morning explosions left more than a dozen dead. The police chief was among the targets, but survived.


ZAHN: So, John, what is the prime minister saying about the security in the rest of the country?

VAUSE: Well, Paula, the Iraqi prime minister says he has a plan to restore security to the rest of the country. No details, no specific details, have been given on that. He says his priority right now is to try and take back the capital. And this crackdown, which we're about to see in two hours from now, will be a major test for these new Iraqi forces and their ability to take the lead from U.S. and coalition troops in trying to restore law and order -- Paula.

ZAHN: A test that everybody is hoping will go just fine.

John Vause, thanks so much. Appreciate the update.

Right now, we move on to our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories on -- 18 million of you logging on to our Web site today.

At number 10 -- top White House aide Karl Rove will not be charged in the CIA leak case. A grand jury has been investigating who leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative. Rove has testified before that panel five times.

Number nine -- scientists studding polar bears in northern Alaska and Canada say global warming may be forcing polar bears to kill and eat one another. Researchers believe that longer seasons without ice are actually keeping the bears from getting to their natural prey, which happens to be seals.

Numbers eight and seven just ahead -- plus, they say you can find just about anything on the Internet these days, but just wait until you see what we found.


ZAHN (voice-over): There is no privacy, and it is getting downright personal. This Virginia woman can find Kelly Ripa's Social Security number, and Jeb Bush's, and even where Colin Powell lives. Imagine what she or anyone else can find out about you.

And what was he thinking? Ben Roethlisberger wouldn't play football without a helmet. So, why endanger a brilliant career with a ride on the wild side?

All that and more just ahead.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Now here is what is happening at this moment.

A powerful Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee is calling for U.S. troops to begin withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year and to be completely out by 2007. Michigan Senator Carl Levin met with administration officials today, but he says no withdrawal was discussed.

The space shuttle Discovery's next crew has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center for a practice countdown. The astronauts, five men and two women, hope to launch in early July.

And congressional investigators say they have uncovered more than $1 billion in fraudulent FEMA payments to alleged victims of Katrina, including a prison inmate who listed a cemetery as his address, and an evacuee who spent 70 days in a hotel in Hawaii.

For weeks, we have been showing you President Bush's declining poll numbers and reporting on the shuffling of jobs within the White House. And a whole bunch of pundits out there are speculating, the president has run completely out of political capital, as he calls it, a year-and-a-half before his term runs out.

Yet, in Baghdad today, in front of U.S. troops, he was cheered and applauded and photographed like a rock star. Will the cheering be contagious and catch on here at home? After all, the president's visit comes after Iraq has finally formed a new government and less than a week after the news that terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has finally been killed.

And with today's news that presidential adviser Karl Rove has just been cleared in the CIA leak case, are all the pieces in place for the president to start a political comeback?

Here to weigh in are three members of the best political team in television, Wolf Blitzer, anchor of "THE SITUATION ROOM," senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, and senior national correspondent John Roberts.

Glad to -- to be with the A-team here tonight. Welcome to you all.

So, Candy, we talked about some of the positive things that have happened over the last week or so, with the president, particularly, in Iraq. Is this the beginning of a comeback?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the problem with a comeback is, you -- you never really know whether you have started one until you get to the end. So, ask me again in November.

But, look, Republicans, you talk to them, and they say, it isn't -- it isn't just the three things you mentioned. But remember, a week ago, a Republican won in California, albeit in a Republican district. But it had been -- quite a lot of money was put in there by both Democrats and Republicans. So, they're feeling pretty good. You know, Karl Rove could have been very bad news, had he been indicted. He was not. So, the absence of bad news is good news. It certainly gives them what one Republican adviser said -- or operative said. Listen, this is a better week than we have had all year. So, certainly, this was a good week. But, you know, next week is coming.

ZAHN: I see you particularly chuckle, John Roberts, when Candy said the absence of bad news is good news for this administration right now.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they have been saying that for a couple of weeks. They also say that bad gets worse and good gets better. And it is all cyclical. So, what is up today could be down again tomorrow.

But one Republican strategist I talked to today said, this is the closest that this administration has come in the last two years to being on a roll. But they know that it is not going last very long. You know, the blush of the Zarqawi death is -- is going to come off in -- in a matter of weeks, if not days, depending on what happens in Iraq.

People will remember this -- this visit by President Bush to Baghdad in much the same way as they remember his Thanksgiving 2003 trip. And that was with fond memories, but not anything that is sort of driving the political game forward.

It will be interesting to see if this is any more than a first down in this -- in this big game of football that they're playing on the political gridiron here. A lot of people think that it is -- it's just that. It is not a Hail Mary -- a Hail Mary pass that is going to get him into the end zone.

ZAHN: Wolf, is it a first down or more than that, when you look at the numbers that the president has to confront? You look at where the American public was when he went into the war in 2003, 60 percent of the folks in favor of waging this war. And now you have just about the same number of people saying, it wasn't worth it, that this war was a mistake.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Everything is going to hinge on what happens on the ground, Paula, in Iraq itself.

If, in the next few weeks and months, the situation starts to get better, fewer car bombings, suicide bombings, beheadings, if U.S. troops, the casualties begin to stabilize or decrease at any significant way, that's going have a significant impact.

On the other hand, if the -- the terrorism, the insurgency, continues as it has over these past few years, then, all of these -- these events, like the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or the president's trip to Baghdad today, will simply be blips.

In other words, the pressure is on the new Iraqi government of Prime Minister al-Maliki to deliver. That's why the president, I -- I suspect, went there, to put the pressure on him directly. ZAHN: Let's talk about the power of that picture today, Candy.

We -- we heard John King describe in great detail at the -- the top of the show how secretive this trip was. You, of course, have heard some Democrats out there today saying it was nothing more than a photo-op.

CROWLEY: Well, sure, because, you know, once again, a picture, in and of itself, a trip, in and of itself, doesn't prove anything, if this is the beginning of -- of the Iraqis actually beginning to take charge of their government.

We -- we note how many of them are going to be out on the streets, how many Iraqi military, in Baghdad tomorrow. Since the capture of al-Zarqawi and when -- when we saw the president in the Rose Garden, I think, talking about that, there has been one thing that has come up as just a constant theme. And that is movement. We're moving forward.

And that's what the president has to do, because, right now, he almost can't concentrate on elections. He's got to concentrate on buying himself some time. And that's what all of these things do. But, you know, time runs out. And if you haven't moved the ball forward after that, then you're back where you started.

ZAHN: And at least he...

ROBERTS: And, at least -- and, at least, Paula, today, he wasn't carrying around any fake turkey platters either.



ZAHN: I mean, this was all pretty genuine. He was there. He was meeting with the prime minister. He was out there meeting with the troops.

I mean, as far as photo-ops go, and the potential for doing business, this was a pretty good one. But, again, how much of a kick he's going get is -- is a matter of question. They got five points with Zarqawi's death. They may get a couple or three more out of this.

ZAHN: All right.

And going into the midterm elections, Wolf, what kind of a kick does the president have to now know that he's going to have one of his chief strategists at his side, Karl Rove, free of indictment tonight?

BLITZER: Well, yes, I don't think you can underestimate or overestimate.

This -- this is a -- a critically important figure in the president -- in his political strategy and for Republicans. Karl Rove, as the president has often called him, is the architect of what the Republicans have done in recent years. The fact now he doesn't have this indictment hanging over his head is certainly going free him up to do what he does best, not policy decisions -- he was taken -- that portfolio was removed from him a few weeks back -- but to deal with politics. Politics is what he knows, what he loves. He does an outstanding job.

And I think it's going to put some fear into the -- into the minds, into the hearts of Democrats, knowing that Karl Rove can devote all of his energies to that right now.

ZAHN: Well, we are going to be watching that process closely with all three of you, as you join us, I hope, frequently, right her.

Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley, John Roberts, part of the best political team on TV, thank you, all.


BLITZER: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: See you again soon.

Moving on now, what happened to Tropical Storm Alberto? Did Florida really dodge the bullet after all? And who should be worried tonight? We will get some answers in just a minute.

And, a little bit later on, why can this Virginia woman find Kelly Ripa's Social Security number and Jeb Bush's? Are you at risk for identity theft?

Number eight on our countdown -- a manhunt in Reno, Nevada, for the suspect in yesterday's sniper shooting of a judge. Police are looking for Darren Mack. He has already been charged in his estranged wife's killing. Judge Chuck Weller had presided over the couple's separation. He's now recovering from that sniper attack.

Number seven -- Congressman Patrick Kennedy has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs, in connection with his car crash last month near the Capitol. The Rhode Island Democrat was sentenced to undergo drug treatment and was fined $350 -- numbers six and five just ahead.

Please come back to us.


ZAHN: Tonight, there are a couple of things we all need to know about Tropical Storm Alberto. Number one, it isn't over yet. It is still a tropical storm, punching about 40-mile-an-hour winds.

Not only is it dumping heavy rain on Georgia and South Carolina as we speak. Flood, gale and tropical storm warnings are posted in both states. It has also spawned a few tornadoes, causing damage, but, fortunately, no loss of life. The storm will eventually move across North Carolina and back into the Atlantic, and may cause trouble up the East Coast as the week goes on.

Second thing we all need to know, Alberto could have been a whole lot worse. Still, it knocked out power for about 21,000 people all over the state.

And, as John Zarrella shows us, others have a big mess to clean up.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Watching the rain fall and the water rise, for folks in Crystal River on Florida's Gulf Coast, the A. in Alberto stood for annoying. Some folks stacked sandbags, hoping to keep the water out. It seems like every year lately, in this flood-prone town, the storms come and the water rises.

For Jo Becker, it is getting old.

JO BECKER, RESIDENT OF CRYSTAL RIVER, FLORIDA: I'm moving out. That's the different thing I'm doing. I'm moving out to another location.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We're seeing no signs of strengthening.

ZARRELLA: Tropical Storm Alberto never made it to hurricane status before coming ashore near Tallahassee. It won't be remembered for its winds, but it will for the storm surge it pushed ashore in coastal communities from Cedar Key to Crystal River.

Charles Slider runs a dive shop on the edge of King's Bay.

(on camera): I'm sure you are a bit concerned. When we take a look, I mean, the water is right up against the side of your -- your business here.

CHARLES SLIDER, BUSINESS OWNER: Yes. I have done moved everything that's -- that would be hurt if it got wet. I have got all of the electrical stuff up that is already -- computers and everything, I have done moved to higher ground or moved out.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): As storms go, Alberto let Florida off easy, compared to others of recent memory.

In Tampa, a barge broke loose and got stuck under a bridge. A few trees went down, and power was out in spots. What might have been a tornado roughed up an area near a water park in Jacksonville. State officials say, it is way too early to assess the damage.


ZARRELLA: Emergency planners say Alberto was, in a way, beneficial, giving them an opportunity to put into practice what they learned from mistakes made last season.

Authorities were happy with the smooth evacuation of thousands of people, as well as the pre-positioning of supplies and National Guard troops. There is no alternative, Florida governor's says, but to be prepared.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: If these hurricanes and these -- and these weather systems are a way of life of our state, I think it is our responsibility to be not only the best, from an emergency operations point of view -- and -- and I hope we, and I believe we are -- but from a citizens point of view and from a business point of view and from -- you know, from every aspect of our society here in the state, this -- this needs to be who -- this defines us.

ZARRELLA: And after two seasons of being pummeled by storms, people in Florida are getting used to it, or perhaps numbed by it.


ZARRELLA: Now, the water here in Crystal River has receded dramatically. It is only about four or five, six inches up on my boots right now.

But, earlier today, Paula, this was probably the worst-hit area in and around the Crystal River spot. The water was actually up. You can see -- actually, they have been pulling the carpet out of that apartment over there, where the water made it all the way up and inside that apartment.

Now, if you look off to the left here, you can actually see the water is still pretty high. And those light posts over there, that's where the seawall actually is. So, all of this water still has to go.

And, as far as hurricane season goes, Paula, you know, for those of us living here, it doesn't seem like last season ended, and we're already into this season. With predictions of 16 to 17 named storms, we have got a long way to go and probably a very long summer ahead -- Paula.

ZAHN: Yes. Unfortunately, you are going to get a lot of wear of that CNN-issued slicker that you're wearing there tonight, John. Thanks so much.

ZARRELLA: That's for sure.

ZAHN: Glad it wasn't as bad as some of the folks we talked to in Cedar City feared.

CNN is gearing up to be your hurricane headquarters. Count on us for the most comprehensive storm coverage all season long. You just heard John talking about the number of named storms that were expected. And we will be there.

Now, have you ever looked to see how much of your personal information is on the Internet? We're about to meet a woman who found Jeb Bush's Social Security number and Kelly Ripa's. Are your secrets out there for everyone to see?

And, then, a little bit later on: two fathers whose anger is aimed squarely at the Marines. Why are their sons in custody? And are they being treated unfairly?

On to number six on our countdown -- a new study shows coffee may actually cut the risk of liver damage for heavy drinkers. Researchers say they're not sure if it is the caffeine or another ingredient in coffee that provides the protection. Oh, great. It would be kind of nice to know the difference, wouldn't it?

Number five, though, the escalating dispute over the blast that killed seven members of a Palestinian family Friday at a beach in Gaza. Israel today denied any involvement in the attack and said the blast was likely caused by an explosive that had been buried in the sand.

Number four on our list is next.


ZAHN: Welcome back. Here is what is happening at this moment. The administration's plan to tighten border security is gaining some steam. With 150 Arizona National Guard troops expected to ride at their posts on Thursday. All together 6,000 Guard troops will take over jobs that will free border patrol agents for actual law enforcement.

Chrysler is recalling more than 131,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees. They may have defective cooling fans. Yesterday Chrysler recalled more than 100,000 Grand Cherokees because of faulty seat heaters.

Here is our nightly look at gas prices all over the country in our "Crude Awakening" segment. The states with today's highest gas prices are in red, the lowest ones in green and the average for unleaded regular has held $2.90 for a solid week now. Want to see the last month or so check out this graph.

Moving on now, what would you think if I told you with just a few clicks of a computer mouse, you can get the Social Security number, signature and home address of a talk show host in New York, even a former secretary of state. You're about to meet a woman who can do all that with no trouble at all and she says she can find your most personal information too.

For tonight's "Eye Opener" investigative correspondent Drew Griffin is here to show us how the government is giving away your privacy. And in this age of identity theft, that's something we all should be --

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: "Eye Opener" this is a eye popper. Forget about those stolen payroll records or computer disk at the Veterans Administration. What you're about to see is unbelievable. Your privacy, our privacy, is literally a few clicks away and we were stunned at how fast your identity could be in the hands of a complete stranger.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): What this woman knows about you or more accurately could know about you is frightening.

BJ OSTERGREN, "THE VIRGINIA WATCHDOG": Yes it is so easy, so quick. And let me show you.

GRIFFIN: BJ Ostergren, also known as The Virginia Watchdog, is infuriated about how easy it is for her to find your name, Social Security number, date of birth and even your signature.

OSTERGREN: Look. Here is a Bank of America loan number.

GRIFFIN: Anything anyone would need to steal your identity right online, and put there by the government.

OSTERGREN: This is another divorce I printed out this morning. The father was in the Air Force and there is his Social Security number.

LAWRENCE (on camera): He would die if he knew this.

OSTERGREN: They have no clue.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): How did it happen? Ostergren says there was a big push in the last decade to push the access of government records into the 21st century. A paperless society, everything accessible at your finger tips via the Internet, including government records, historically kept inside courthouses, inside clerks' offices, behind government counters. Now many of those government records across the country can all be accessed by BJ Ostergren, right here in the crowded office of her rural Virginia home.

OSTERGREN: But are they public records? Yes, they're public. But there is a huge difference from driving to the courthouse and looking at it right here. Would I drive there to look at this and go through the records? No. Would I have driven to Miami-Dade to get Jeb Bush's? No.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: This meeting was a very productive one.

GRIFFIN: Did she say Jeb Bush? Yes, the president's brother. To prove her point she has gone on celebrity style identity hunts. The governor of Florida's Social Security number posted along with other Floridians.

OSTERGREN: I sat right at this very computer and got that record off the Florida Web site.

GRIFFIN: Jeb bush has since had his Social blacked out, but plenty of records in Florida are still there for the taking.

OSTERGREN: Let's see. Here is Brevard County.

GRIFFIN: With information like your Social Security number your signature, even your date of birth, a thief can pretend he's you. And it could cost you dearly. OSTERGREN: You can get bank loans, you could get fake paper, you could come into this country using this man's information. You could have -- look, document fraud is a big thing. Mortgage fraud is a huge thing.


ZAHN: All right, Drew, I get you get Jeb Bush's Social Security number. The guy is a public figure after all. But does she have as much success in going after information of other well known people or those that are lesser known.

GRIFFIN: Nothing out there, we found is private. When it comes to what these government sites will put online, everything is on there. That's celebrities, we found them. We found other politicians. And we found some very average citizens who became pretty upset.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Upon searching further, we also found talk show host Kelly Ripa and her husband.

OSTERGREN: Yes, and with their home addresses. They own, apparently, two places.

GRIFFIN: Ostergren made exposing this electronic privacy gap her mission four years ago when a concerned stranger warned her that her personal information was about to go online. Now she wants everyone to be warned.

She has set up a Web site to lobby governments and financial institutions to stop posting this information and she now takes the time to call strangers herself and let them know the risks.

OSTERGREN: It infuriates me no end but what can I do? I think people should see what I'm showing you and people should see, you know, what -- you want to see Colin Powell's.

GRIFFIN: On a Virginia Web site, she found the former secretary of state's social security number, his wife's, their Virginia address and even signatures.

OSTERGREN: You can get that record and on the first page of that document, here it is right here, you see page one, with his home address here.

GRIFFIN: We decided to check for ourselves. Ostergren suggested we look at Phoenix, Arizona. Maricopa County. Per capita, it has the highest rate of identity theft fraud in the country. Sitting at a computer, in Atlanta, we were a bit taken back when we went to the Maricopa County Recorders Office Web site and found just about every document you could imagine and personal information that you would never want others to get.

(on camera): Social Security number right there. (voice-over): So we physically went to the Maricopa County Recorders Office and ran into a local resident, Phyllis Montgomery, who was shocked when we showed her all of her personal information.

(voice-over): Little surprising?

PHYLLIS MONTGOMERY, MARICOPA COUNTY RESIDENT: Very surprising, very scary. Very scary because this is private information. Everybody should not have information dealing with exactly where to come and murder me or pick me up or --

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The recorder's office here posts a sign warning people their information will be made available on the Internet. But available where? And who is the warning for? Using the Internet we randomly looked up Michael Russo who lives in Phoenix. He has never used a computer. And doesn't remember ever being in the recorders office.

MICHAEL RUSSO, MARICOPA COUNTY RESIDENT: Your privacy is your privacy. Up until they come out with these computers.

GRIFFIN: Michael Russo ripped up our copies of his personal documents right in front of us. But we can easily print out another copy right on the county Web site.

Recorder Helen Purcell says she is working with the state of Arizona to figure out how to cleanse the records, like blackening out Social Security numbers. But she admits that in their rush to post the information online, they did not realize how easy they were making it for criminals intent on committing fraud.

HELEN PURCELL, MARICOPA COUNTY RECORDER: Maybe at the outset of that all of these things weren't thought about.

GRIFFIN: BJ Ostergren, the Virginia watchdog --

OSTERGREN: There it is.

GRIFFIN: -- couldn't agree now. The question now she says what, if anything, is anyone going to do about it?

OSTERGREN: We're very stupid in this country. Very stupid. This is spoon feeding criminals.


ZAHN: She raises a very interesting issue. You could well understand why Phyllis and Michael were so outraged. But the question is, and she posed a good one, how do you keep this stuff off the Internet?

GRIFFIN: They just weren't thinking when they started this. And we talked to the former national president of the county registers and she's from Texas. She said this horse has left the gate. You really are not going to be able to go back and retrieve these documents without spending millions and millions of dollars and manpower to try to actually scrub out Social Security numbers on these.

Florida is trying. They are spending tons of money. They have pushed the date back to 2008 when they could possibly finish.

ZAHN: Virginia, obviously, is very good at finding this information. Is it really as easy as she makes it sound?

GRIFFIN: I can find it in 30 seconds or less. We put a demonstration on here. But literally I found this in 30 seconds. This is the Missouri secretary of state's office. I typed in a real natural name, a common name, I won't tell you what it is. But I just pressed search. And look what we have here. Now we've blacked out the numbers for the people at home. But Paula, you can see, there's a woman living in Kansas City, here's her address.

ZAHN: You see her Social Security number.

GRIFFIN: Right there. And her address.

ZAHN: Signature.

GRIFFIN: This is basically a tax document, a financing statement. The signature is down below. She's in Kansas City right now tonight. She has no idea you and I are here in New York looking at her personal information.

ZAHN: It's ridiculous.

GRIFFIN: And it's on the secretary of state's Web site in Missouri.

ZAHN: Well thank you for bringing this to our attention. I don't think any of us understood it was that easy to access. Appreciate the warning. Do come back and visit us more often, Drew.

GRIFFIN: I'll come back anytime you want.

ZAHN: Love your investigative pieces. Coming up, a top general in the Marine Corps is making a very important stop today. Can he answer the disturbing questions and calm the simmering anger at a base where some parents say their sons are being held unfairly?

And a little bit later on, what the heck was he thinking? Why would a Super Bowl winning quarterback risk his career -- by the way, a career where he wears a helmet all the time, and his life -- by riding a motorcycle without a helmet? We'll have a guest sound off on that, famous radio sports guy.

First No. 4 on our countdown. It's a story we covered a little bit earlier on, Tropical Storm Alberto packs less of a punch than expected. The storm did make landfall this afternoon near Adams Beach, Florida. It is dumping heavy rain over the area and tornado watches have been posted in parts of Georgia and South Carolina. No. 3 right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Tonight the general in charge of the Marine Corps continues his tour of marine bases all over the world to lecture marines on values. This, of course, in response to the allegations of atrocities by some marines in Iraq.

General Michael Hague spoke at Camp Pendleton, California, today, that's where seven marines and one navy medic are being held as the military investigates a possible war crime in Hamandiya. The allegations are that marines dragged an unarmed Iraqi man from his home in the middle of the night and killed him with no provocation.

Ted Rowlands has been speaking with some of the marines' families. He joins me now live from Camp Pendleton. What are they telling you tonight, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the marine families are upset. General Hague here, as you mentioned, he's been going around the world talking to marines. His mission here today to reinforce the core values for the marines here stationed at Camp Pendleton, also the Navy corpsmen who are stationed here at Camp Pendleton.

Meanwhile, you mentioned the parents. Well two of them are very upset with the way their children are being treated. They're in the brig here at Camp Pendleton during an investigation. And they are very upset and speaking out about it tonight.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): Terry, who doesn't want his last name used, does want you to take a good look at his 21-year-old son Robert, a lance corporal in the marine corps. Terry says Robert, who one day plans to be an architect, joined the marines after September 11th and was on his third tour in Iraq when he went from the battlefield to a military jail cell.

TERRY, FATHER OF ACCUSED MARINE: They're heroes. They deserve respect.

ROWLANDS: Robert is one of seven marines and a Navy corpsman being held in solitary confinement accused of murder in the killing of this 54-year-old Iraqi civilian in April. The marines' families say the accusations simply don't make sense.

TERRY: Did they, would they, could they? I can't say. I can't say for sure that nobody cracked and did something wrong. What I am certain of is that if somebody did, nobody else would have gone with them because this is going to be a very random event. So to allege that somebody did something wrong and seven other guys covered it up, I don't believe that for a second.

ROWLANDS: John Jodka is another marine whose family is speaking out. Jodka's father also named John, says his son is the quintessential marine, who would never kill an innocent civilian. He says it is wrong to keep his son and the others in solitary confinement before any charges have been brought. JOHN JODKA JR., FATHER OF ACCUSED MARINE: He is being treated like a convicted murder. He's not being treated like a potential murderer. Potential murders are often out on bail and most often are not in solitary confinement.

ROWLANDS: Over the weekend, a handful of people showed up outside the main gate at Camp Pendleton pledging support for the accused. Today on the base, a high-ranking marine commander spoke with CNN during a media event with the San Diego Charger football team. Colonel William Liston said he couldn't talk about the ongoing investigations, but he did say this about the marines being held in solitary confinement.

COLONEL WILLIAM LISTON, USMC: I am absolutely confident that we will make sure that these kids are taken care of. It is the most important thing that a marine officer can do is look after his marines.

ROWLANDS: But the families say they're upset with the way they think the top brass of the military and even the president have abandoned the suspects by making statements like this, vowing to be tough on anyone found guilty.

BUSH: Those who violate a law if they did, will be punished.

TERRY: The reaction is just so over the top that this kind of treatment of our guys, they don't deserve it. They're heroes. They're not criminals.


ROWLANDS: The Marine Corps says they're keeping these eight individuals in solitary confinement because of information that was developed during the preliminary investigation. However, Paula, today there still have not been any charges preferred or filed in either case and the parents are hoping that something happens to get their sons out of solitary confinement sooner than later.

ZAHN: Keep us posted on any changes out there. Ted Rowlands, thanks. And "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in just about 11.3 minutes, if you're counting. He's got a very special guest.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Sure do, Paula, 11.4 now.

ZAHN: OK, go, go.

KING: I like that exactness. Al Gore is with us, the former vice president of the United States. In fact the -- up until the last election, the largest vote getter in American history. He's got an extraordinary film out that is doing very well, a book that will be No. 3 on "The New York Times" list this Sunday. Al Gore for the hour with your phone calls is next following Paula Zahn. Paula?

ZAHN: We look forward to it. I'm sure he's going to have some pretty interesting things to tell you tonight, Larry. Thanks.

KING: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: See you then. Right now we're going to take a quick biz break.


ZAHN: And in a minute, the youngest quarterback ever to win the Super Bowl. Why wasn't he wearing a motorcycle helmet? Will the accident that nearly cost him his life end his career?

First No. 3 on our countdown, tonight's lead story, the president's surprise visit to Baghdad. Mr. Bush met with Iraq's new prime minister and then spoke with U.S. troops. No. 2 on our list straight ahead.


ZAHN: Tonight Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is recovering from seven hours of surgery after a motorcycle crash yesterday. He could be out of the hospital in a few days. Roethlisberger's face took the worst of it when he and a car collided on a Pittsburgh street. The Steelers quarterback was not wearing a helmet. And he made it clear in the past that he won't as long as it is not required by law.


BEN ROETHLISBERGER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS QUARTERBACK: It is like anything else, you can get injured and killed in a car too. It is just -- you can get killed walking down the street. It is just you have to know what you're doing. And not saying anybody didn't know what they were doing, but it is a risk and being in life is a risk.


ZAHN: Well, he certainly took his chances, didn't he? But a pro athlete with a $40 million contract riding a motorcycle with no head protection makes you wonder what the heck was he thinking? Joining me now, Stephen A. Smith, host of ESPN's "Quite Frankly." Good to see you. Do you think it was stupidity or arrogance that put Roethlisberger on one of the fastest motorcycles on the road without a helmet?

STEPHEN A. SMITH, ESPN COMMENTATOR: I think it was a healthy combination. Not healthy. I take that back. A combination of both. Make no mistake about it. It was absolutely stupid. At the same time, there is a level of arrogance that comes with it because if you talk to any executive in pro sports what they will tell you is that what separates the average professional athlete from the common civilian out here in the world what it comes down to it is there is an edge to them and that edge is what makes them great. Where you believe you can overcome or conquer or endure anything. And that appears to be the case with Ben Roethlisberger.

ZAHN: The edge is one thing. But the Steelers had this huge investment in him. Are you surprised there wasn't any clause in his contract that would prohibit him from riding a motorcycle without a helmet or riding one all together?

SMITH: I am surprised by that especially in the NFL. Unlike other sports like in Major League Baseball and other things of that nature where it is very difficult to insert clauses like that in an individual player's contract, the NFL seems to get whatever they want when it comes to their players and how their players are policed.

Especially in light of Kellen Winslow Jr. in May of 2005 suffering that motorcycle accident, you would have thought that would have raised a red flag and somebody would have said wait a minute, and said this needs to be in clauses and players contract because we can't have then jeopardizing their future or the future of our franchise.

ZAHN: What kind of a responsibility did Roethlisberger not only have to the folks who are paying his paycheck, but to the folks who pay a lot of money to come see him play?

SMITH: I think he had a tremendous responsibility to the organization, to the fans. More importantly than anybody else to himself. The fact of the matter is anything can happen. You can know how to ride a motorcycle like an absolute pro, but somebody can come and sideswipe you, do a lot of things to you that can cause you harm.

Unlike being in a car or in a truck, surrounded by steel and protected by something over your head and on your side and in front and in back of you, with a motorcycle it just you. Once you're knocked from that, anything can potentially happen to you. I did a show about that yesterday where I highlighted that. Really there was simply no excuse for it to happen. But it did. And, you know what can you do?

ZAHN: Stephen, quick yes or no, you think he will play again professionally?

SMITH: He will play again professionally. He'll play this year. I don't know how effective he'll be especially if he gets blind sided if a left tackle doesn't protect him. That remains to be seen. I think we'll see him on the football field. No question in my mind about that.

ZAHN: Stephen A. Smith, thanks for dropping by tonight. Appreciate it.

SMITH: Take care.

ZAHN: No. 2 on our countdown, a fatal freak accident in Oxnard, California, two police officers patrolling a beach in an SUV ran over and killed a sunbather without even realizing it at first. The officers are on leave while that accident is being investigated.

Next, No. 1, plus a story just in about a legendary comedian who is having some heart problems. We'll be back with that.


ZAHN: Just getting word that comedian Jerry Lewis is recovering from a mild heart attack, apparently, that he suffered on Sunday. He is 80 and is expected to make a full recover. Top story, Heather Mills McCartney confirms she is divorcing former Beatle Paul McCartney and plans to sue newspapers that have ran unflattering articles about her.

That's it for all of us. Please join us again tomorrow night. We'll be back soon.


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