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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Al Qaeda Regaining Strength?; Iraqi Government Receives Mixed Grades From Bush Administration
Aired July 12, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us.
Tonight: the report card on Iraq. Are eight passing grades out of 18 subjects good enough? We will let you decide.
Why is al Qaeda getting stronger and stronger? After close to six years of the war on terror, are the terrorists winning?
And why does a man owe $10,000 to support a child that isn't even his? And he has proven it's not his baby.
Our top story, of course, is the progress, or lack of it, depending on your perspective, of the war in Iraq. That's right. You can make an argument for both cases. That's because, earlier today, President Bush sent Congress a long-awaited report card showing Iraq's grades on a list of 18 political and military goals. It gets satisfactory grades on only eight.
On Capitol Hill, reaction came fast. Just a little bit ago, the House of Representatives voted 223-201 to get all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq by next April. The president's veto threat makes this a largely symbolic vote, however.
So, let's concentrate right now on the Iraq report card. Is it really that bad? I want you all to take a good, long look, so you will clearly see what's going right and what isn't.
ZAHN (voice-over): It's not the kind of report card you can brag about. This report card is based on goals set by Congress earlier this year, when it approved extra funding for the Iraq war.
The administration was required to report whether the Iraqis are making satisfactory or unsatisfactory progress in 18 political and military areas.
Iraq gets unsatisfactory marks on eight of the benchmarks, on issues like political reconciliation, election reform, and how to share its oil money. However, Iraq gets satisfactory marks on eight other benchmarks, most of those dealing with its military and security forces. Three Iraqi army brigades have been provided for the security of Baghdad.
Sectarian violence has declined, but the report notes that those official security forces have not yet been able to disarm religious militias, which are murdering hundreds of Iraqi citizens.
There are mixed grades on the final two benchmarks. Still, the overall report card is good enough for President Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks.
Those of us who believe the battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause for optimism.
ZAHN: The report cards are not good enough for congressional Democrats.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: He's out of touch with the reality of the war in Iraq.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: ... that it's well past time for a change of course in Iraq.
ZAHN: While the Democrats want U.S. forces to start coming out of Iraq now, they alone don't have enough votes to force the president's hand.
BUSH: I don't think Congress ought to be running the war. I think they ought to be funding our troops.
ZAHN: The real showdown between the president and his opponents will probably come in September, when the final set of Iraq report cards are due.
ZAHN: So, the question is, are eight passing grades out of 18 subjects really good enough?
Before I bring in tonight's panel to debate that, we need to take a closer look now at some of those grades of satisfactory. It turns out the picture isn't as black and white as you might think.
We asked CNN's Hala Gorani in Baghdad to do some checking for us into some of the military and security benchmarks.
HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Measuring progress in Iraq. The U.S. Congress wants evidence things are getting better, with 18 benchmarks designed to assess the Iraqi government's performance.
Let's take a few of the important benchmarks -- number 13, reducing sectarian violence. The number of bodies found in the Iraqi capital has gone down from almost 2,000 in January to about 600 in June. But that's very close to the level of sectarian killing before the bombing of the Shiite mosque in Samarra in February 2006. So, sectarian violence is down in the last year, but still runs into hundreds of victims every month. While civilian deaths are down, the number of Iraqi police killed monthly since the start of the year has steadily increased.
Benchmark 13 also includes a measure to eliminate militia control of local security. The White House acknowledges this benchmark has been unsatisfactorily met. And the reality on the ground is that militias control most of the security apparatus in the regions and in Baghdad. And there is no reason to believe they will give up arms or trust the Iraqi army and police to provide security. Even prominent politicians have recently urged civilians to defend themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have seen what the sheiks can do when they work together.
GORANI: Complicating the picture, the U.S. strategy of arming and financing Sunni tribes to fight al Qaeda in some areas. Critics warn, this may take power away from central authorities and create more militias, undermining progress towards this critical benchmark.
There is progress on two other benchmarks, forming three trained Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations and creating joint U.S.- Iraqi security stations across the capital. These are now all set up.
Despite this progress, deaths from car and trucks bombs aimed at civilians remain unpredictable, and to U.S. commanders, an almost unstoppable source of violence. Iraqi casualties are lower this year than last, but could shoot up again following the recent spectacular attack in northern Iraq that killed 150 people.
Hala Gorani, CNN, Baghdad.
ZAHN: Well, the president's brand-new report card specifically says that the Iraqi military's progress is due to substantial help of U.S. and coalition forces.
And, right now, our Frederik Pleitgen just happens to be embedded with a U.S. Army battalion that is working with the Iraqi army and police. And we asked him to show us what's really happening on the ground and talk with both American and Iraqi troops. He sent us this fascinating look at real life in Iraq.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN BERLIN BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): This is one of the main gasoline pipelines into Baghdad, blown up by insurgents only a few days ago, not for the first time.
As workers try to repair the fuel artery of the Iraqi capital, Iraqi and U.S. forces secure the area together, something Lieutenant Colonel Robert Belcavage, a U.S. commander in this area, says would have been impossible only a few months ago. LIEUTENANT COLONEL ROBERT BELCAVAGE, U.S. ARMY: But it's happening, and it's growing. It's a long process. It takes a lot of grabbing hold of a guy and showing him how to do things right, and then showing him that you're not afraid to get out there and do it with him.
PLEITGEN: Even Iraqi commanders acknowledge that, while their capabilities are improving, Iraq's armed forces are still far way from being able to secure this country by themselves.
(on camera): The Iraqi commanders here on the ground say, they know, in the long run, they will have to secure pipelines like this one on their own. Right now, however, they say they don't yet have the organization or the training to accomplish that on their own.
(voice-over): Lieutenant Colonel Sayid Klif (ph) is the Iraqi army commander for this area, an area that is rife with insurgent activity.
He says that, while his soldiers are becoming more professional, without the assistance of U.S. forces, they would be lost.
"This is not what I would say as a commander, but, in my personal view, if the Americans leave, it would mean all-out chaos in this country and also civil war," he says. But Klif (ph) also says he believes that, in time, the Iraqi army will be able to secure areas like this one, so the fuel in the pipeline will keep flowing to Baghdad and not into the soil.
Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, near Iskandariyah, Iraq.
ZAHN: Time to debate all of this with tonight's panel, Niger Innis, the national spokesperson for the Congress of Racial Equality and a political consultant, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, and Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus.
Glad to have all of you with us tonight.
CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Good to be here.
ZAHN: Cheri, since you are the only chick here tonight, I am going to start with you tonight.
ZAHN: And I want you to react to something that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to say shortly after Congress voted to get the troops out of Iraq fast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: In the fifth year of the war, the president's strategy has failed to meet those key benchmarks. President Bush continues to urge patience, but what is needed and what the American people are demanding is a new direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, can you explain to me tonight, Cheri, what is going to happen over the next two months that will really mark any significant change in progress in Iraq?
JACOBUS: Well, I think the real problem here is that Nancy Pelosi and -- and many of the Democrats, if not most of the Democrats, in Congress are so married to the political position that they want to hold, that they are failing to look at the real successes and the momentum of what's happening in Iraq.
ZAHN: But wait a minute. The Democrats aren't alone on this one, Cheri. There are a lot of Republicans that have abandoned the president on this war.
JACOBUS: Well, in the House vote tonight, there were four Republicans that did, one I was particularly disappointed in, Wayne Gilchrest, because I ran his first campaign in 1998.
But, overall, I think this is -- I am astonished, in fact, that they can't even acknowledge the momentum, that they slapped this vote together very quickly, Paula, in order to try and make this seem like this is a complete defeat.
The fact is, we have some military successes. And the political successes will come after that. This is an interim report.
ZAHN: All right.
JACOBUS: The key word is interim. And to not wait and give a full judgment until the mid-September report, I think they are showing that all they want is -- is for this war to fail, because that's the only way the Democrats can win politically.
ZAHN: All right.
Well, we got Jamal, the Democratic strategist, with us tonight.
Do you see this report as a complete defeat for the president?
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The problem is, is that it's not just this report. We have had this for four-and-a-half years.
And, so, for four-and-a-half years, the president has been telling us that things will get better tomorrow, that things will get better tomorrow. Again, we find that we haven't lived up to the judgment that the president himself said, the benchmarks that he said we were going to have to meet in order to call this war a success.
We trusted George Bush when he said he wanted to go into Iraq to get WMD. We trusted George Bush when he put a military plan together to secure Iraq. He was wrong. And now we're supposed to trust George Bush to fix that? That's wrong.
ZAHN: But, Jamal, you have got to acknowledge some of these benchmarks were met.
SIMMONS: Sure, some of them were met.
ZAHN: Are you going to give the president any credit for that at all?
SIMMONS: Sure, some of them were met. And they do get credit for actually being -- as far as we can tell, for being forthright about what was met and what wasn't met.
But the problem here, again, is, this isn't the first time we have had this issue. We have been at this for four-and-a-half years. And every time they tell us things are getting better, they never quite seem to work out the way George Bush says they're going to.
ZAHN: Niger, let's talk about what benchmarks really mean.
And I want to put up on the screen something that Ryan Crocker had to say, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, about them -- quote -- "You could not achieve any of them, and still have a situation where arguably the country is moving in the right direction. And, conversely, I think you could achieve them all and still not be heading towards stability, security and overall success for Iraq."
Do you think Congress is placing too much importance on these benchmarks?
NIGER INNIS, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, THE CONGRESS OF RACIAL EQUALITY: I think there's no question about it.
ZAHN: And that would be Republicans and Democrats?
INNIS: It would be both. That's exactly right.
And I think the Republicans and Democrats should not be playing politics on the backs of our soldiers and our troops, that overwhelmingly want to stay there and want to get the job done to ensure a stable democratic ally in Iraq, as opposed to Iraq being a haven for al Qaeda or it becoming a client state of Iran.
And I think, you know, we have one commander in chief, George Bush. We have one commander on the ground, General Petraeus. He's got a report to give in September. The fact is, the strategy of the surge does seem to be working. We are meeting a lot of the security benchmarks, a lot of the strategic benchmarks. It's tremendous that the Sunnis in the Anbar Province, these militias that at one time were aligned with Iraq, are now switching over to our side and fighting with us.
INNIS: Where there's a failure is the Iraqi leadership. There is no Gandhi. There is no Martin Luther King in Iraqi leadership to bring the country together.
ZAHN: And you are not going to tell me that a Gandhi is going to surface in the next two months, are you, when this final report comes out?
INNIS: We will have to settle for something better -- a little less than that. But we need some leadership from the Iraqi people.
The frustration of the American people is, they know that we're pulling our fair share. American blood, American treasure is doing the job, but the Iraqi government is not doing its job of coming together, sharing oil revenues, and coming together with a plan and taking a grasp at freedom.
ZAHN: Niger Innis, Jamal Simmons, Cheri Jacobus, we have got to leave it there and move on. Thank you, all.
INNIS: Thank you.
ZAHN: Tonight, there is yet another chilling warning that al Qaeda terrorists may be trying to sneak into the U.S.
But listen to what President Bush is saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September the 11th. That's just simply not the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, just how big a threat is al Qaeda right now? You have got to see our next report. There is some brand-new information about a report tonight that has been in the making for almost two years now.
We have also found an Iraq veteran who has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Wait until you see what he did. It makes him a CNN hero. We will celebrate that tonight. Also, a man who owes $10,000 in child support for a child that isn't even his, and he has the DNA test to prove it. So, why won't the law listen? We will have his story and something that might affect some others of you out there when we come back.
ZAHN: So, why are America's jails overflowing with the criminally insane? A special CNN investigation still ahead.
Today, President Bush flatly denied that al Qaeda is now as strong as it was on 9/11, 2001. He was trying to downplay reports this week that al Qaeda has rebuilt its network and has regained its strength. But he also said al Qaeda is still a threat and still a danger to those of us in the United States.
And tonight we now know that the upcoming national intelligence estimate will warn that al Qaeda is working hard to get terrorists on the ground into the U.S. to launch another attack here.
Justice correspondent Kelli Arena joins me now live.
And there is a lot of chilling information that has been leaked about that report, isn't there?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There sure is, Paula.
You know, the national intelligence estimate is the gold standard of reports. Sixteen intelligence agencies contribute what they know. And it's meant to anticipate how current intelligence may play out 12 to 18 months ahead.
Now, this report has been two years in the making. And officials tell CNN that it states al Qaeda is increasing its effort to get operatives inside the United States, and that it has nearly all the capabilities to carry out an attack, including a safe haven along the Pakistan and Afghan border, where leaders can operate from.
The report also expresses concern about the possibility that -- a growing number of extremists who may already be in the United States. And, as you know, Paula, counterterrorism experts are particularly concerned about extremists in Europe coming to the United States. They don't need a visa.
Now, other key points from this report, that al Qaeda is still in hot pursuit of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Paula, this report, as you said, isn't final yet. The officials that we spoke to would not speak on the record because of that. But much of what has been in it has really been publicly expressed.
And, as you well know, there was a lot of discussion today in Washington about al Qaeda rebuilding in Pakistan.
ARENA: (voice-over): Al Qaeda is gaining strength. And according to U.S. intelligence, Pakistan is a big factor.
JOHN KRINGEN, CIA DIRECTOR FOR INTELLIGENCE: They seem to be fairly well settled into the safe haven and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan there.
ARENA: Pakistan's government limited military action in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan last year in exchange for promises from tribal leaders that they would prevent terrorist activities.
Ever since then, however, intelligence officials say Al Qaeda has taken advantage of those promises to regroup. In fact, officials say several suspects in recent U.K. terror plots trained in camps in the tribal areas.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, FELLOW, CENTER ON LAW AND SECURITY: They have launched a sequence of operations which have involved Pakistani training camps, training recruits in the art of bomb making skills and encouraging them to become suicide bombers.
ARENA: Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. flatly rejects that.
MAHMUD ALI DURRANI, PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: If you think that Pakistan is letting them sit there by design and we know that they're there and we are not doing anything, this is ridiculous. This is not true.
ARENA: A message reinforced today in a speech by President Musharraf, who promised to root out terrorists in every corner of his country.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan aided the U.S. in the capture of several high-profile terrorists, including Ramzi bin al Shibh, a key player in the 9/11 attacks.
President Musharraf has since survived several assassination attempts, discontent within his government, and constant calls by al Qaeda for jihadists to rise up against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Musharraf and his hunting dogs have rubbed your honor in the dirt in the service of the crusaders and the Jews.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARENA: The Bush administration is concerned about Musharraf's hold on power and even more concerned about who could replace him if he falls.
BUSH: And I'm working with President Musharraf. He doesn't want foreign fighters in his -- outposts of his country.
ARENA: But, as al Qaeda regains power, there is a push for the U.S. to be more aggressive. REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What we can do about getting the shackles taken from our own troops in that tribal area to allow them to go after the Taliban and go after al Qaeda.
ARENA: If the U.S. were to go in with guns blazing, it could risk touching off a powder keg that could envelop the entire country, a country with nuclear weapons.
ARENA: Now, this is a dilemma that the U.S. may be forced to confront.
Intelligence officials have said that, if the U.S. is attacked again, it's very likely that the plot will be traced back to Pakistan -- Paula.
ZAHN: Kelli Arena, thanks so much.
Joining me now, terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, and Larry Johnson -- there's Peter -- there's Larry -- former CIA analyst and State Department counterterrorism official.
Welcome to you both.
LARRY JOHNSON, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: Good evening.
ZAHN: Good evening.
So, Larry, what do you make of this report or at least what has been leaked from this NIE report that would show that al Qaeda is stepping up its effort and certainly, it seems, according to this report, has the capability to strike us here in the United States? How concerned should we be about this?
JOHNSON: I'm not very concerned about it. In fact, I'm puzzled by it.
I have seen some of the intelligence, and I don't know what they are looking at, because there is no doubt that the desire and the intent of these Takfiri Salafists, these jihadists, that hasn't cooled at all.
But what have seen is not increase in capability. In fact, we have been witnessing a broader time between mass-casualty attacks. We saw these two clowns over in Britain, who -- they couldn't even get two bombs to -- these fire bombs to go off. And then they set themselves on fire.
So, we're not seeing an increased sophistication and coordination. I think it is troubling, though, that we have had this federally administrated tribal area, the Fatah there in Waziristan along the border of Afghanistan, that has been a safe haven for what is the remnants of al Qaeda.
ZAHN: So, who do you blame for that? Pakistan? JOHNSON: Partly Pakistan. I mean, Pakistan has been both our best and worst friend.
They have been probably more active than any other country in the world in helping us apprehend some of the genuine terrorist bad guys. But, on the other hand, Musharraf is facing, within the intelligence service in Pakistan, a group of extremist jihadists who have supported the Taliban, who have enabled and facilitated the Arab extremists like Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahri.
So, it is -- it's a mixture. There's a limit to what we can do to press Musharraf. And there's also a physical limit we face in trying to go into that part of Pakistan, because it is extremely rugged territory. And, invariably, we are going to end up killing women and children, because these folks are not living as armies. They are integrated as families.
And, Peter, what I wanted to move on to is another piece of reporting Kelli Arena just did suggesting this report show that al Qaeda is still pursuing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. How close are they to acquiring them?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, chemical weapons and biological weapons are not particularly difficult.
I mean, Paula, remember the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001 in the United States. That was probably some lone biochemist. So, a biological attack, particularly with a group like al Qaeda, who have quite educated people involved in it, is quite plausible, similarly, a chemical attack.
Where I would be very skeptical is a nuclear attack. Iran has had a nuclear program for two decades now, without getting nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein had a nuclear program with hundreds of millions of dollars, and never managed to acquire nuclear weapons. So, it is a very hard thing to do.
And picking up on what Larry mentioned, we know what the intentions of these groups are. If they had a nuclear weapon, they would drop it on Washington tomorrow. The question -- the harder question is, what are their capabilities? And I think, on the nuclear question, their capabilities are very low.
Where they do have a capability is a radiological bomb attack, a so-called dirty bomb attack. They have had a strong interest in doing that kind of attack. A number of al Qaeda operatives have looked into this. I think it's quite plausible that a radiological bomb attack by al Qaeda in a European city in the next five years -- it would not be a weapon of mass destruction; it would be a weapon of mass disruption -- that's a plausible scenario.
Nuclear weapons, they may have a desire to get, but that's a long way off before a terrorist group can deploy these kind of weapons.
ZAHN: Peter Bergen, Larry Johnson, thank you for educating us tonight.
JOHNSON: Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Coming up: an American who went off to war, and, amid the fighting and chaos in Iraq, finding the unexpected, a son. It's really a great story. I hope you stick with us for it.
Also, a battle with a bizarre legal system -- why does a man have to pay child support even though he has DNA tests proving that he is not the father? A shocking legal nightmare, and he is not alone. There are other men across the country facing this same crisis.
Please stay with us.
ZAHN: This year, we have been searching for stories of ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make this world better. We call them CNN heroes.
And, tonight, we honor an American soldier who went to fight in Iraq, but came home with something he never counted on, a son.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready?
MAJ. SCOTT SOUTHWORTH, WISCONSIN ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: No soldier goes to war with the expectation of coming home and adopting an orphan from the war zone.
My name is Major Scott Harold (ph) Southworth. I'm a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard and the proud father of an Iraqi orphan by the name of Alla'a Din (ph).
My soldiers and I volunteered at the Mother Teresa orphanage in Baghdad, Iraq.
I did not choose Alla'a. Alla'a chose me.
When the sisters informed me that they were going to have to move him to the government orphanage, I instantly told them I would adopt him.
There were a number of obstacles to bringing him to the United States: not having money, not having a stable enough career, not having a wife. But I could not, as a Christian man, walk away from that little boy. It really was a step of faith for me to just put that into action.
He's my little boy.
SOUTHWORTH: I know you are. OK.
It's been 2-1/2 years since I picked Ala up in Baghdad.
Nice steps today, OK?
He's learning how to walk, he's doing addition and subtraction, he's learning to read the English language. He's just a brilliant little boy.
Come on, kick those legs hard. Work those legs!
He's limited by some of the things he can do physically. But, I never treat Ala as though he's disabled.
ALLA'A: I love my (INAUDIBLE).
SOUTHWORTH: I love you too, my buddy.
Alla'a is so much more of a blessing to me than I to him.
It's the fate that tickles you.
I felt a ton of sympathy for Alla'a when I was in Iraq. But Ala didn't need my sympathy, what he needed was some action.
ZAHN: Wow, what a beautiful story. And what a smile that Alla'a has. If you want learn more about tonight's "CNN Hero" you can find out what you need to know on our Website, cnn.com/heroes.
A lot more ahead tonight including a man's bizarre journey through the legal system.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost like you're drowning every day. You want to know when you're going to be able to go up and gasp some air.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
All right, get this. He has DNA proof that he isn't the father of a child, but he still has to pay child support. How did it come to this? And will he ever get out from under it?
Also ahead, why have America's jails become dumping grounds for the criminally insane? A special CNN investigation you have to see to believe. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Coming up in this half-hour, a trip behind bars into a world few of us will ever see. How jails have become dumping grounds for America's mentally ill.
Then coming up at the top of the hour, LARRY KING LIVE. Larry has an exclusive interview with illusionist Criss Angel, talking for the first time about his divorce and Cameron Diaz.
Now, imagine being forced to support a stranger, child you've never seen, as child that isn't even yours. That's a story we're bringing "out in the open" right now.
In almost half of the states in the United States, a man does not have a legal right to fight a child support order even if DNA proves he is not the father. Tonight, Susan Candiotti shows us one man's remarkable struggle with laws that are clearly stacked against him.
FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ, PAYING FOR CHILD NOT HIS: like playing the movie out, that's all it is.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like many couples, Francisco Rodriguez and his wife, Michelle, both work hard, but still find themselves living paycheck to paycheck.
RODRIGUEZ: Repetition. Playing over and over again.
CANDIOTTI: It's expensive raising his two daughters and his son from his wife's previous marriage. And Rodriguez he has one more mouth to feed. This birth certificate says he's the father of a 15- year-old daughter. He says he didn't even know about her until three year ago when a former girlfriend had filed for child support.
(on camera): What did you say?
RODRIGUEZ: Can't be. Can't be.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Rodriguez owes $305 in support, he's more than $10,000 behind in payments and even spent one night in jail because of it. There's just one thing, Rodriguez says he's not the daddy and has a 2003 DNA test to prove it.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): And you read down here and what does it say?
RODRIGUEZ: It says Francisco D. Rodriguez is excluded as the biological father.
CANDIOTTI: In fact it says "probability of parentage."
CANDIOTTI: Zero percent.
RODRIGUEZ: Zero percent.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Yet he's still ordered to pay child support. Rodriguez next got the girl's mother to sign this notarized affidavit in 2004. In it, she writes, "DNA tests say 'he is not the father' and ask to 'terminate child support.'" But that didn't stop his court ordered payments. RODRIGUEZ: It's almost like drowning everyday. You want to know when you're going to be able to go up and gasp some air. And you know, it's just -- that's the way we've been living these past four years.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): Trying to get dourts listen can be a long drawn-out affair. According to one group, Florida is only one of only 27 states that allow men to fight back at all.
Most of those states have set time limits to challenge paternity and if men don't meet those deadlines, even if they can prove they're not the father, they cannot get the money they already paid in child support and might still be responsible for future payments.
(voice-over): Carnell Smith went through a similar nightmare. He founded an organization lobby for new laws. He wants mandatory DNA tests when a child is born.
CARNELL SMITH, CITIZENS AGAINST PATERNITY FRAUD: Unfortunately today, it is not a crime for someone to lie about which man is the father. The mother doesn't have to return the money, and rarely, if ever, is she prosecuted for prudery, for fraud...
RODRIGUEZ: How about that pressure, there?
CANDIOTTI: Every paycheck Rodriguez gets as a massage therapist is garnished by the state of Florida to make sure he pays.
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I grossed $273, the garnished $152.31 and left me with $99.80 to bring home.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): What do you do with that?
RODRIGUEZ: I just grab what I can in the supermarket.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is your client willing to take additional paternity testing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): A recent change in Florida law has given Rodriguez hope. It clears the way for Rodriguez to get a court- sanctioned DNA test.
RODRIGUEZ: I still have to pay that.
CANDIOTTI: Even so, after his most recent hearing, Rodriguez's frustration boils over.
RODRIGUEZ: So, when you live check by check it's hard when you got to come up with money to goes to avoid jail time. It's ridiculous.
CANDIOTTI: Two weeks later, Rodriguez took that new DNA test. His ex-girlfriend and her daughter are no-shows and it's not clear if they've been retested yet. CNN was unable to reach his ex-girlfriend for comment.
RODRIGUEZ: I'm hoping that the courts will go after her by all means necessary and just do the right thing.
CANDIOTTI: Even if he wins this case, Rodriguez won't get back what he's already paid and Florida law does not automatically take him off the hook for that $10,000 he still owes.
Susan Candiotti, CNN, Fort Lauderdale.
ZAHN: Joining me now, Court TV anchor, Jami Floyd.
This is ridiculous he has to pay this money.
JAMI FLOYD, COURT TV: Yeah, it's an amazing story.
ZAHN: Is this a fluke or -- we heard of two cases, there? How often does this happen?
FLOYD: I don't think it's a terrible fluke because it's easy to say that someone's the daddy and DNA is a relatively recent thing. So, there are a lot of guys out there, I imagine, paying child support for kids that aren't theirs. The great irony is that we always hear stories, and it is a real problem, of men who are the daddy who aren't paying. Here you've got a guy who's not the daddy who is paying. So it is -- it's quite an amazing tale.
ZAHN: So, what is the deal with these states setting these time limits by which you have to deny that you're the father? I mean, come on, and in 23 of these states you only have 60 days?
FLOYD: Well, they have policy concerns. They want a child to know who the father is within a reasonable amount of time and they also don't want the system to get bogged down with paternity battles 10, 15 years after the fact, but now we've DNA and that really changes the whole equation. It's not he says, she says. It really -- and even blood testing wasn't as precise as DNA, it can only narrow the field. Now we've got DNA. There's no excuse and the law needs to catch up to the science.
ZAHN: All right, so how does Francisco catch up here if you were advising him?
FLOYD: Poor Francisco. Well, the law now recognizes that this is a problem, but Francisco's case preceded the current laws, so I don't know that he's going to be able to, after the fact, either get the money back that he's paid or certainly even unhook himself from the extra $10,000 he owes. I think it's a real problem for those men who came before. But there are lessons to be learned for the future. I don't know about Francisco. I think in his case he's going to have to affirmatively sue or even perhaps press criminal charges.
ZAHN: Is that the lesson to be learned from this or should the law be a little more flexible? I understand the law is the law, but now that you've got DNA testing that can definitively prove that a man didn't sire a child, how can you force him to pay this money?
FLOYD: I think that's right. I think the law should be more flexible, and in fact, the law can be more precise. Let's DNA test when the baby is born. Let's do that right up -- straight up front, or perhaps right a couple splits. But, the law rarely allows for folks who were affected under old laws to know fall under new laws. And it seems terribly unjust, but the system would grind to a halt if we allowed for that each time.
ZAHN: Do you believe that?
FLOYD: I do. I do. I think unfortunately...
ZAHN: What would happen?
FLOYD: I think, unfortunately, what would happen is you'd have lots and lots of men coming out of the woodworks trying to revisit orders that are currently in place. And unfortunately, justice has to be somewhat -- there's a bit of triage that goes on. I know we don't like that, we like to think justice is done in every case...
ZAHN: Well, it certainly isn't fair what is happening to Francisco.
FLOYD: No, it's not fair.
ZAHN: I don't think that anybody out there would support the idea of him supporting a kid, not only that he hasn't met, but he didn't the father.
FLOYD: And he's got going in his favor is that the mother is now acknowledging that he's not the father. That's rather unique. So, we have that in addition to his DNA...
ZAHN: Yeah, after he paid 10,000 bucks.
FLOYD: Well, yeah.
ZAHN: $300 a week.
FLOYD: A week? And he's not a guy who's got tons of money and he's got other children to support. So, it is very problematic, it's terribly sad and I think all of this attention on Francisco's case may help Francisco, but I don't think you're going to see the courts revisiting hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of court of child support and paternity from the past. I think it's a lesson for the future and it's also a lesson to be careful about your choices as a man and as a woman.
ZAHN: Sure. But, you can't always predict that will happen some 12 years after the fact.
FLOYD: No. All of our male friends know that this is a great fear for men.
ZAHN: Hello, this is your son, but isn't. Jami Floyd, thanks. FLOYD: Such a pleasure, Paula.
ZAHN: My pleasure.
Coming up next, a shocking truth about America's jails.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEIFMAN: This is the largest psychiatric facility in Florida. There is five times more people here with mental illness than any state hospital.
O'BRIEN: But this is a jail, this not a psychiatric facility.
LEIFMAN: It is not, unfortunately it's become one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, why do so many mentally ill people end up behind bars, getting no treatment at all? A stunning look inside a world few of us have ever seen before.
ZAHN: Right now I want to take you inside a frightening world that few of us ever see. Monstrous killers like Jeffrey Dahmer who abused and ate some of his victims often end up behind bars instead of in psychiatric facilities where it might be possible to treat them. In fact in some jails, they are packed with the criminally insane.
This weekend our own Soledad O'Brien takes us into that world in a Special Investigation's Unite documentary called "Criminally Insane" and she's here now with a look ahead to it.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening...
ZAHN: This is so sad.
O'BRIEN: Oh, it really is absolutely tragic. And you know, in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings and, of course, some of the other cases, Kaczynski and Jeffrey Dahmer, we were curious to know how often were there red flags, not just for the outliers and the bell curve like Kaczynski, like Jeffrey Dahmer, people who did horrific things, but for regular people who may have mental illness who somehow confront the legal system and lose. And our investigation brought us floor in Miami, a prison floor, where it's so disturbing to see people who are not just prisoners, they are also psychiatric patients, and they need help, and there they are not getting it. Take a look.
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O'BRIEN (voice-over): It's called the "forgotten floor." At the Miami-Dade County pre-detention facility, the entire ninth floor houses prisoners with the most serious mental illnesses.
They're warehoused here, before being taken to court or in their cases, before being send to a state hospital or other mental health facility.
JUDGE STEVEN LEIFMAN, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COURT: This is the largest psychiatric facility in Florida. There is five times more people here with mental illness than any state hospital.
O'BRIEN (on camera): But this is a jail, this not a psychiatric facility.
LEIFMAN: It is not, unfortunately it's become one.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Miami-Dade County Court Judge Steven Leifman has made the forgotten floor and its mentally ill residents his personal crusade, providing me with a tour of its deplorable conditions.
LEIFMAN: Sometimes when it gets overcrowded in here, you may see two people kind of spooning in this metal shelf and one or two on the ground and one waiting their turn to sleep. It's very difficult.
O'BRIEN: This is how inmates on the ninth floor of the jail live. A small space, sometimes there's two, three, four, inmates sharing this cell, lights on 24-hours a day. This wrap is the only clothing they'd wear. And you'll notice there's no mattress on the bed. Both those things to keep mentally ill inmates from harming themselves.
(voice-over): Most of the inmates are brought in for drug possession, assaulting an officer, or resisting arrest. But they can remain here for an average of six to nine months, sometimes up to a year or even longer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, what happens after that point?
O'BRIEN: Well, sometimes...
ZAHN: So, they're stuck there for a very long time.
O'BRIEN: They cycle back and they cycle back or sometimes they're sent to a state hospital where they're stabilized, they get better, well enough, to go to trial. And then...
ZAHN: So if they beat the drug charge they get to go back into society.
O'BRIEN: But, you know, some of them are in for felonious assault on a police officer because they're confronted, often because of their mental illness. They've had some kind of confrontation with law enforcement. What we've seen in Miami and elsewhere around the country, 33 states do this, they've actually started training the police officers to make sure that those kind of confrontations don't bring people who are mentally ill into the system, they're not arresting them for felonious assault on the police officer. They negotiate.
ZAHN: So, that's one solution. But, what do you do with so many of those that are trapped on those forgotten floors?
O'BRIEN: Well they're trying to move them into hospitals. Figure out who's mentally ill and who can be chunted (ph) into hospitals, other treatment programs where they can watch, monitor, given medicine and brought back into, you know, society and not left on these floors. And that judge is really the on, in a lot of ways, in Miami, who's leading the charge.
ZAHN: And I guess that I shouldn't be surprised he gave you the access he did, because we saw stuff a lot of stuff we wouldn't ordinarily see.
O'BRIEN: Yeah, he's been great about that.
ZAHN: We will be watching you over the weekend.
O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.
ZAHN: Soledad O'Brien. "Criminally Insane" is the name the documentary, it airs on this weekend, Saturday and Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern. Thanks again.
O'BRIEN: The pleasure's mine. Thank you.
ZAHN: Thanks for stopping by.
LARRY KING LIVE is coming up in just a few minutes.
Hey Larry, who's joining you tonight?
LARRY KING, LARRY KING LIVE: Hey Paula. Coming up, police today have named a missing Illinois mom's husband persons of interest and we've got reaction, by the way, from Laci Peterson's stepfather, Ron Grantski.
And then we're going to meet magic's new megastar, Criss Angel. He's incredible. He's going to show us some of his mind freak tricks and he's going to clear the air about Cameron Diaz and his divorce -- interesting case. All at the top of the hour, on LARRY KING LIVE -- Paula.
ZAHN: So, did he do any of that stuff in front of you, Larry, or you watched it all on video?
KING: No, he's going to do some stuff in front. I've seen some video stuff, two of which are unbelievable to me, are unexplainable to me.
ZAHN: I know. And you know what?
KING: ...my probing mind. Have you seen any of his stuff?
ZAHN: I have, and bet amazed by it, but then I get frustrated because I want to figure out how he's doing it.
KING: OK, how does he saw himself in half? ZAHN: That one you're going to have to give me the details on, in about nine minutes.
KING: No. He's amazing.
ZAHN: Will all of him be here tonight or just half of him?
KING: You're getting funny, Paula.
ZAHN: See you in eight minutes, Larry. Have a good show.
KING: Which half?
ZAHN: Yeah, I'm not sure. We will stay tuned. Now, you really have teased this story. We'll be watching.
Still ahead tonight, one Vietnam veteran's long journey to fulfill his lifelong dream. How did he manage to trade a Navy uniform for a park ranger's? You'll meet him, right after this.
ZAHN: Billions of us are heading to National Parks this summer. My own personal goal had been to try to hit six in one summer, haven't met that goal just yet. But, for one military veteran, National Parks became more than just a dream vacation, more like the dream of a lifetime. Tony Harris has tonight's "Live after Work."
TONY HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gerry Allen feels right at home as a park ranger, but the trail he followed to get here was longer than expected.
GERRY ALLEN, PARK RANGER: This was during the time of Vietnam and I was drafted. By the time I got out of the service, I had a wife and a child and the option of going into the National Park Service were pretty much closed, because of the pay that I needed to support my family.
HARRIS: Allen went to the airline industry instead; working for Delta Airlines as an environmental engineer. And after 30 years retired with enough security to pursue his childhood goal, once again.
ALLEN: When I was about 18 years old, we went to Gettysburg National Military Park and I was entranced by a National Park ranger giving a program about the battle at that site. I stayed and listen to him all day long. And ever since that point I decided I wanted to be a National Park ranger.
HARRIS: Today Allen works at the Andersonville Historic Site in southwest Georgia, which encompass a national cemetery, and a museum that pays tributes to America's prisoners of war. ALLEN: I hope when the visitors come and see me, they understand the historical significance of Andersonville National Historic Site and the honer of being buried here along with other veterans from the Revolutionary War all the way up to the present time. I try to convey how powerful that is.
HARRIS: Tony Harris, CNN.
ZAHN: Coming up at the top of the hour, LARRY KING LIVE exclusive, illusionist Criss Angel for the first time, revealing his side of his divorce and those stories about him and Cameron Diaz, he has the scoop.
That's it for all of us. Thanks so much for joining us, goodnight.
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