February 18, 2010

At the 96th Hour

Posted: 11:27 AM ET

The more I learn about NATO’s 96-hour detainee rule, the more I wonder why military commanders and NATO politicians created it in the first place.


What I heard from nearly everyone I interviewed for this story is that the rule was developed in response to the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. The world was watching, and no one wanted another humiliating display of detainee abuse. There had to be stricter rules when it came to detaining the enemy and there had to be a time limit on how long a suspect could be held. So, a small group of people agreed that 96 hours – or four days – was the magic number.

Nearly half of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan are not operating under the U.S. military, but they are assigned to NATO. That means, nearly half of U.S. troops in Afghanistan are following NATO’s 96-hour rule. The soldiers we’ve interviewed say this rule caters to the enemy, and puts soldiers lives at risk. One former commander told me he would instruct his soldiers to “not bother” detaining the enemy anymore, because the 96-hour rule made it too difficult to keep someone locked up.

From the moment a soldier captures a suspect, the clock begins to tick. They have 96 hours to gather enough evidence to hand over to the Afghans, so that Afghan authorities can detain the suspects and do what they want with them. If the Afghans decide they don’t want to detain the suspect, the NATO soldiers have no other choice, but to release them.

We’ve talked to military experts, soldiers, former commanders on the ground, even people who helped implement this rule, and they all say the enemy knows about the time constraints, so they are trained to keep quiet for the 96 hours they are detained so soldiers will be forced to release them. How does this strategy make sense? How could anyone expect soldiers – who remember, are not trained to be police officers or criminal investigators – to gather all of the required evidence to lock someone up in just 96 hours? We certainly do not hold prosecutors to these strict time restrictions when they are building their case.

I have one very simple question for you: Do you think soldiers should risk their lives to detain the enemy under the 96-hour rule?

Filed under: Abbie Boudreau • Special Investigations Unit

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February 11, 2010

Texas, Pelosi and the doctor bills

Posted: 12:47 PM ET

A picture tells a thousand words: Taken in 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is cutting the ribbon at the brand new Women's Hospital at Renaissance outside McAllen, Texas.

Everyone is smiling, and with good reason.

Once the ribbon-cutting ended, the schmoozing and fundraising began. The party moved to the home of the developer who built the hospital. The Texas Monthly reported the developer, and the doctors who also invested in his beautiful, sprawling, for-profit medical complex, handed over $800,000 in donations for Pelosi's Congressional Democrats.

One day, $800,000.

Why would a group of doctors and a big developer give so much money to Nancy Pelosi? There's a lot at stake here.

Two national studies about Medicare costs show why McAllen, Texas is a good example of why health care is costing all of us so much.

In McAllen, the medical bill for the average Medicare beneficiary is almost twice as much as the national average, and health care costs are growing faster here than almost everywhere else in the country.

Just walk down any street and you can see why. On almost every corner, in almost every strip mall, every office building, there are doctor's offices, MRI screening centers, medical testing facilities.

And believe me, they are all in use. In our report for Campbell Brown's show, we'll tell you about one patient with a swollen ankle who went through so many tests–including an ultrasound for the abdomen and one to determine testosterone levels–the Texas Medical Board finally said enough.

What a Dartmouth Atlas study found interesting is that all this healthcare being delivered in McAllen does not actually add up to better health.

Which brings me back to that picture and why doctors would invite Speaker Pelosi to dinner and raise money for her?

One doctor who was at this very fundraiser said, "Look at it this way," he told me. "If you are going to take my money way, I am going to bring you to my house, serve you a nice dinner, and do all I can to convince you not to do it.”

In 2009, the hospital's political action committee also donated to House and Senate candidates, including Republicans.

Now, I am in no way implying here that all the donations paid off... but when members of the House of Representatives voted 395 to 34 in December to approve a $636.3 billion defense appropriations bill, tucked inside was a provision that delayed a planned 21.2% cut in Medicare physician payments until Feb. 28, 2010.

And just this week, Democrats proposed the passage of a new jobs bill with yet another two month delay in those Medicare cuts.

Those doctors at the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance near McAllen, Texas, must be smiling again. 75% percent of their patients are on Medicare or Medicaid.

The speaker's office did get back to us and took offense to any suggestion political donations influenced any votes in Washington. "The House has on several occasions passed provisions strongly opposed by these doctors and any attempt to ignore this fact is nothing more than a cynical ploy to reach a conclusion that is simply false," Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said in a statement to CNN.

As for the payments to doctors treating Medicare patients, the rules apply to all doctors, the speaker's office told us, not just those she was pictured with in McAllen.

picture above: Courtesy

Filed under: Drew Griffin • Special Investigations Unit

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February 8, 2010


Posted: 07:06 PM ET

By Drew Griffin, David Fitzpatrick and Steve Turnham

Some experts blame electronic throttle controls for Toyota's automotive problems.
Some experts blame electronic throttle controls for Toyota's automotive problems.

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland (CNN) - In his hectic, noisy laboratory at the
University of Maryland, Michael Pecht is wary when it comes to assessing
whether Toyota's suggested repair of sticky gas pedals will have any real

"They are in a bit of a quandary," Pecht, a professor at Maryland's Clark
School of Engineering, told CNN. "If they announce that electronics is a
problem, they are probably going to be in a lot of trouble, because nobody's
going to drive the car. So at this stage , they don't want to announce there is
any electronic problem."

For more on this story go here

Also check out this test video by the NHTSA

Filed under: Special Investigations Unit

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February 2, 2010

Judge seals videotape in Taser case

Posted: 04:52 PM ET

By David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffin

WINNFIELD, Louisiana (CNN) - A judge has sealed a potentially explosive
videotape taken in the aftermath of a racially charged incident in this small
central Louisiana town two years ago.

On January 17, 2008, an unarmed man - wanted on what police said was an
outstanding arrest warrant - was struck by a 50,000-volt Taser nine times
within the space of 14 minutes.

The suspect, Baron "Scooter" Pikes, was handcuffed during each separate
Taser incident, according to the Winnfield Police Department. The officer who
fired the Taser, Scott Nugent, is white. Pikes, who was pronounced dead on
arrival at a hospital, was black.

CNN's account of the incident in the summer of 2008 relied on interviews
at the time with the local parish coroner, the police and an attorney for the
family of the victim.

Winn Parish Coroner Dr. Randy Williams told CNN that in his opinion,
Nugent had violated every police procedure for using a Taser on a suspect.
Moreover, contrary to initial police reports, Williams told CNN that there was
no trace of drugs in Pikes' system. The coroner ruled the death a homicide.

Subsequently, the officer was fired following a long civil service hearing and
is now on trial for manslaughter in Winnfield.

At the time, a lawyer for Nugent, Phillip Terrell, told CNN that his
client had, in fact, followed proper procedure and that Pikes was resisting
arrest and had fought with Nugent before being struck by the Taser.

The video sealed Monday by the judge shows the aftermath of Nugent's
Taser use, according to sources who have seen the tape. They told CNN that it
runs about 17 minutes and was shot by Nugent himself.

The tape begins with Pikes handcuffed to a chair in the Winnfield Police
Department, the sources said. He had already been hit by a so-called "direct"
stun - a Taser fired directly into his chest rather than from a distance –
and eight other Taser shots.

Off camera, voices can be heard taunting him, shouting the "N" word and
demanding to know if he was high on drugs, the sources said. The tape also
shows Pikes foaming at the mouth and struggling to breathe. He later slumps to
the floor and is ultimately taken to an emergency room with shackles around
both of his ankles. CNN has seen still photographs of the lifeless body, still
in leg shackles at the hospital.

Filed under: Drew Griffin • Special Investigations Unit

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February 1, 2010

Are Americans being forgotten on Vieques?

Posted: 05:14 PM ET

Vieques is a tropical paradise. Most people there speak Spanish. It’s a fishing community, and they typically eat what they catch. There are wild horses roaming all throughout the island. Many of the roads are unmarked and most do not have street lights.


It really feels nothing like America. But Vieques is part of America – and its people are Americans. So, why do these U.S. citizens feel their own government is ignoring them?

Most of the people on the island are suing the U.S. government for contaminating the island, which they claim made them sick. (So far, the Centers for Disease Control say it has not been able to find a link, though it plans to launch a new investigation.)

For six decades, the U.S. military used parts of Vieques and its surrounding waters as a weapons testing site. After years of protests, the military was ultimately forced off the island, which, by the way, was later designated a Superfund Toxic site. But what kind of mess did it leave behind? Islanders want answers – and most of all, they say they want the government to step up and help them with their illnesses.

The U.S. government claims “sovereign immunity” as its primary defense in the islander’s lawsuit. That argument means the government asserts that the residents on this island do not have the right to sue the government for training soldiers and testing weapons.

Obviously, the islanders do not share the same sentiment – more than 7,000 people are named in the lawsuit, which is more than 75% of the residents who live on the island.

The government also points to a 2003 CDC report which found no link between the islanders’ illnesses and the Navy’s activities on the island. That report, however was very controversial, and strongly criticized by many scientists. Now the CDC says it is taking a fresh look to see if there is a possible link.

Even though these islanders are Americans, many say they do not feel like they are being treated like Americans. They say they feel they have been forgotten about.

One young girl I interviewed told me she was proud to be an American, and she will fight for her rights just like any other American. She is 16 years old, and she is one of many, many young people on this island who battle cancer. She blames the contamination on the island for making her sick.

Do you think these Americans are being forgotten about?

Filed under: Abbie Boudreau • Special Investigations Unit

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