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tv   60 Minutes on CNBC  CNBC  March 31, 2013 11:00pm-12:00am EDT

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not financially. so we switched to the bargain detergent but i found myself using three times more than they say to and the clothes still weren't as clean as with tide. so we're back to tide. they're cuter in clean clothes. that's my tide. what's yours? [ticking] >> i mean, you've been called a lot of names. you've been characterized as a hero and as a villain, a martyr, terrorist. >> i'm not yet a martyr. >> right. >> let's keep it that way. >> julian assange, the nomadic founder of the website wikileaks, is under legal and personal attack from the u.s. government for publishing military and diplomatic secrets. when we met him, he was under house arrest in the english countryside, where we conducted the most extensive television interview he's given about his life, his beliefs, and his concern about being charged and extradited to the united states.
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>> it is completely outrageous. it is the worst form of censorship we have seen by the united states since the 1950s, since the mccarthy era. >> are you surprised? >> i am surprised, actually. >> but you are screwing with the forces of nature. [ticking] >> [blows whistle] >> you might not think of sugar, corn, or metal as material that can cause a catastrophic explosion in a factory. but when they're ground into dust and suspended in the air, all it takes is a small spark to set off a disaster. >> if this material were gasoline, there would be no doubt in any owner's or operator's mind what needed to be done. >> that would be an emergency. >> absolutely. >> is dust functionally the same thing? >> it has the same power. >> hundreds of industries create huge amounts of lethal dust and aren't even aware of the risk. [ticking] >> welcome to 60 minutes on cnbc. i'm steve kroft.
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in this edition, we talk with julian assange, the mysterious and eccentric founder of wikileaks, whose website made public thousands of u.s. secrets. and we examine the secret danger behind a type of dust that's killing american factory workers. we begin with wikileaks, a website that publishes classified and suppressed material from whistle-blowers around the world. in the late summer of 2011, wikileaks made news when someone--it's not clear who-- dumped 250,000 unredacted and classified state department and pentagon documents, which had been in wikileaks' possession, onto the internet. when we interviewed assange, he was already under investigation by the justice department for publishing classified material and possible violations of the espionage act. he was also under house arrest in britain, fighting extradition to sweden in connection with two sexual assault cases, which he has called part of a smear
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campaign against him. in what is still his most extensive television interview, assange talked to us about the idea behind wikileaks and the prospect of facing criminal charges in the united states. i mean, you've been called a lot of names. you've been characterized as a hero and as a villain, a martyr, terrorist. >> i'm not yet a martyr. >> right. >> let's keep it that way. >> for now, julian assange is holed up on this bucolic 600-acre english estate with an ankle bracelet, a 10:00 curfew, and a slow internet connection. he declined to talk to us about the allegations in sweden on the advice of his attorney but proclaims he is innocent. well, i suppose if you have to be under house arrest, there could be worse places. >> well, it's a gilded cage. it's still a cage. but when you are forced to stay somewhere against your will, it does become something that you want to leave. >> it's a radical departure from
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the lifestyle that the peripatetic internet muckraker is used to: bounding from city to city, country to country, and regularly changing his cell phones, hair styles, and general appearance he says to elude surveillance and avoid being killed, kidnapped, or arrested. and there are reasons for his paranoia. wikileaks has published information that played some role in deciding the 2007 elections in kenya and fueling the anger that recently brought down the government of tunisia. it's divulged membership rolls of a neo-nazi organization in britain and secret documents from the church of scientology. and that was before assange began publishing u.s. secrets, provoking what he calls threatening statements from people close to power. >> what statements are you referring to? >> the statements by the vice president biden saying, for instance, that i was a high-tech terrorist, sarah palin calling to our organization to be dealt with
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like the taliban and be hunted down. there's calls either for my assassination or the assassination of my staff or for us to be kidnapped and renditioned back to the united states to be executed. >> well, as you know, we have a first amendment and people can say whatever they want, including politicians. i don't think that many people in the united states took seriously the idea that you were a terrorist. >> i would like to believe that. on the other hand, the incitements to murder are a serious issue. and unfortunately, there is a portion of the population that will believe in them and may carry them out. >> if nothing else, wikileaks is the latest demonstration that a small group of people with a powerful idea can harness technology and affect large institutions. in wikileaks' case, it was the idea to aggregate state and corporate secrets by setting up an online electronic drop box where whistle-blowers around the
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world could anonymously upload sensitive and suppressed information. the secrets are stored on servers around the world, beyond the reach of governments or law enforcement, then released worldwide on the internet. >> the u.s. does not have the technology to take the site down. >> because? >> just the way our technology is constructed, the way the internet is constructed. it's quite hard to stop things reappearing. so we've had attacks on particular domain names, little pieces of infrastructure knocked out. but we now have some 2,000 fully independent--in every way-- websites, where we are publishing around the world. >> wikileaks first caught the attention of most americans in april 2010, when it released this video. it shows a u.s. apache helicopter crew in iraq opening fire on a group of suspected insurgents who were standing on a street corner in baghdad. some of the men were armed,
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but two of them were journalists from reuters. >> come on, fire. [machine gun firing] >> yeah, roger. [machine gun firing] >> at least a dozen people were killed in that attack, some of them innocent civilians. then, that july, wikileaks released 76,000 classified field reports of u.s. operations in afghanistan that provided a chaotic and bleak ground-level view of the war. a few months later, there were another 400,000 classified documents released from iraq showing that civilian casualties there were much higher than the pentagon had claimed and, finally, in november 2010, thousands of state department cables that lifted the veil on highly sensitive back-room diplomacy. the documents revealed that arab leaders were lobbying the u.s. to attack iran and that the state department had been secretly collecting intelligence on leaders at the united nations.
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it triggered outcries that assange was a political actor trying to damage the u.s. government. >> are you a subversive? >> i'm sure there are certain views amongst hillary clinton and her lot that we are subverting their authority. but you're right. we are subverting illegitimate authority. the question is whether the authority is legitimate or whether it is illegitimate. >> do you consider the u.s. state department a legitimate authority? >> it's legitimate insofar as its actions are legitimate. it has actions that are not legitimate. >> and you've gone after the ones that you think are illegitimate? >> we don't go after. that's a bit of a misconception. we don't go after a particular country. we don't go after a particular organization or group. we just stick to our promise of publishing material that is likely to have a significant impact. [ticking]
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>> coming up... assange on possible prosecution by the u.s. justice department. >> there is the first amendment. it covers the case. and there's been no precedent that i'm aware of in the past 50 years of prosecuting a publisher for espionage. it is just not done. >> when 60 minutes on cnbc returns. [ male announcer ] every famous curve has an equally thrilling, lesser-known counterpart.
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[ticking] >> to increase the impact of the u.s. documents wikileaks released, julian assange decided to share them with some of the leading news organizations in the world, including the new york times, a relationship that grew testy when assange published the first set of war logs without removing the names of afghans who were cooperating with u.s. forces. the most persistent criticism from within the press has been that you have behaved recklessly
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from time to time. and the example that they cite is that you decided to release afghan documents without redacting the names of people who had provided intelligence to the u.s. government. >> there's no evidence or any credible allegation or even any allegation from an official body that we have caused any individual at any time to come to harm in the past four years. >> the pentagon said that they've gone through all of these documents and they found the names of 300 people. >> well, that's new public information to us. it's possible that there are 300 names in the publicly released afghan material. we don't pretend that that process is absolutely perfect. we did hold back one in five documents for extra harm minimization review and we also improved our process. so when iraq came around, there was not even a single name in it.
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>> i mean, there have been reports of people quoting taliban leaders, saying that they had the names of these people and that they were going to take retribution. >> the taliban is not a coherent outfit. but we don't say that it is absolutely impossible that anything we ever publish will ever result in harm. we cannot say that. >> there's a perception on the part of some people who believe that your agenda right now is anti-american. >> not at all. in fact, our founding values are those of the u.s. revolution. they are those of people like jefferson and madison. and we have a number of americans in our organization. if you're a whistle-blower and you have material that is important, we will accept it, we will defend you, and we will publish it. you can't turn away material simply because it comes from the united states. >> after the release of the state department cables, attorney general eric holder condemned wikileaks for putting national security at risk.
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>> there's a real basis. there's a predicate for us to believe that crimes have been committed here. >> holder announced that the justice department and the pentagon were conducting a criminal investigation. they are reportedly looking at the espionage act of 1917 and other statutes to find a way to prosecute assange and extradite him to the u.s. >> it's completely outrageous. >> are you surprised? >> i am surprised, actually. >> but you are screwing with the forces of nature. you have made some of the most powerful people in the world your enemies. you had to expect that they might retaliate. >> oh, no, i fully expected they'd retaliate. >> you took, you gathered, you stored all sorts of classified cables and documents and then released them to the world on the internet. they see that as a threat. and they want to-- >> well, they see it as highly embarrassing. i think what it's really about is keeping the illusion of control. i'm not surprised about that. i am surprised at how the sort
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of flagrant disregard for u.s. traditions. that is what i'm surprised about. >> you're shocked? someone in the australian government said that, "look, if you play outside the rules, you can't expect to be protected by the rules." and you played outside the rules. you've played outside the united states' rules. >> no. we've actually played inside the rules. we didn't go out to get the material. we operated just like any u.s. publisher operates. we didn't play outside the rules. we played inside the rules. >> there is a special set of rules in the united states for disclosing classified information. there is. >> there is a-- >> longstanding... >> there's a special set of rules for soldiers, for members of the state department who are disclosing classified information. there's not a special set of rules for publishers to disclose
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classified information. there is the first amendment. it covers the case. and there's been no precedent that i am aware of, in the past 50 years, of prosecuting a publisher for espionage. it is just not done. those are the rules. you do not do it. >> no one has accused assange of stealing secrets. the apache video and the classified documents were allegedly provided to wikileaks by private first class bradley manning, a low-level intelligence analyst in iraq who is accused of copying them from a classified government network that a half a million people have access to. manning is now in solitary confinement at a military prison, facing charges that could put him away for 50 years. >> you've called him prisoner of a conscience, correct? >> i've said that if the allegations against him are true, then he is the foremost prisoner of conscience in the united states.
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there's no allegation it was done for money. there's no allegation it's done for any other reasons than a political reason. now, i'm sorry if people in the united states don't want to believe that they are keeping a political prisoner. but in bradley manning's case, the allegations are that he engaged in illegal activity for political motivations. >> people in the united states think he's a traitor. >> that's clearly not true. >> regardless of what happens to private manning, any prosecution of assange will be fraught with problems because wikileaks wasn't alone in publishing the classified material. the new york times also published some of it. if the government were to try and prosecute wikileaks and not the times, it would likely need to prove that assange was actively involved in a conspiracy to illegally obtain the documents. did you encourage anyone to leak this material to you? or have you done anything in connection with the u.s. cases, in terms of encouraging an individual to provide you
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with material? >> no, never. >> there are people that believe that it has everything to do with the next threat, that if they don't come after you now that what they have done is essentially endorsed a small, powerful organization with access to very powerful information, releasing it outside their control. and if they let you get away it, then they are encouraging-- >> then what? that we'll have to have freedom of the press? >> then they will--that it's encouragement to you. >> and, and? >> or to some other organization? >> and to every other publisher. absolutely correct. it will be encouragement to every other publisher to publish fearlessly. that's what it will encourage. >> to publish information much more dangerous than this information. >> if we're talking about creating threats to small publishers to stop them publishing, the u.s. has lost its way. it has abrogated its founding traditions. it has thrown the first
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amendment in the bin, because publishers must be free to publish. >> when we come back, julian assange talks about his background and his political beliefs. [ticking] [ male announcer ] this is bob,
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[ticking] >> julian assange is not a traditional journalist or publisher. in fact, many have argued that he is not really a journalist at all. he is an anti-establishment ideologue with conspiratorial views. he believes that large government institutions use secrecy to suppress the truth. and he distrusts the mainstream media for playing along. while most reporters pride themselves in gathering information and interpreting it
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for a larger audience, wikileaks wants to make the raw data available and let others decide the meaning. regardless of whether you agree with this or not, the idea beats close to the heart of the internet and a younger generation, and it runs through the life of julian assange. you obviously have a mistrust of authority. where does that come from? >> that's a good-- i think it comes from experience with various types of authorities. >> assange gave us an example from his childhood, a story about him and his mother, christine, who was present at one of his recent court hearings. she was a political activist who helped scientists gather information about nuclear tests conducted by the british in the australian outback. he remembers them being stopped late one night and questioned by authorities, one of whom said: >> "look, lady, you're out at 2:00 a.m. in the morning with this child. it could be suggested you're an unfit mother. i suggest you stay out of politics."
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and which she did for the next ten years in order to make sure nothing happened to me. so that's a very early abuse of power and of secrecy that i saw in my life. >> his was an unconventional and sometimes tumultuous childhood. he was frequently uprooted and moved around the countryside and attended 37 different schools. so you've always been a little bit of an outsider. >> i've certainly--when i was a child, going from one school to another, you are the outsider, to begin with. and you have to find your way in. but in most of the places where i stayed for long enough, i did find my way in. >> one of the first places assange found his way into was populated by teenagers and computers. and he knew how to program them before most people had them. you got involved with computers pretty early... with hacking. >> well, i first became involved
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with computers when i was 13 or so. and i was unusually adept. i saw a sort of intellectual opportunity, understanding how to program, understanding how these complex machines work. and that was part of a social culture in cracking codes to prove that you could do it. it is very actually normal and healthy amongst young men. you see it in skateboarders that are competing to show that they are capable in learning the best tricks. >> and your tricks were like breaking into computers at the department of defense and los alamos national laboratory, nasa and nortel, some canadian banks. >> yeah. all that happened. >> at age 20, assange was arrested by the australian federal police and eventually pled guilty to multiple counts of computer hacking. he managed to get off with no jail time because the judge concluded that he hadn't stolen any information or done any damage. is that still one of your
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primary skills? >> not really. unfortunately, i've been sort of, you know, promoted up into management. so i don't get to do that so much. but i know the terrain, which means i know what is possible. for example, bill gates could program but he certainly doesn't program anymore. but he knows what is possible for other people to do. >> except that assange is not bill gates, and wikileaks is not microsoft. the shoestring operation that created all the havoc has no permanent offices and is headquartered wherever assange happens to be. wikileaks is a small nonprofit organization with a handful of employees, a secret cadre of international programmers, and a legion of worldwide volunteers. its finances are administered by the wau holland foundation based in berlin and named after a famous hacker. according to its ledgers, in 2010, wikileaks took in $1.3 million in donations,
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with expenses of about $500,000. for somebody who abhors secrets, you run a pretty secret organization. >> that's not true. what we want is transparent government, not transparent people. we are an organization who-- one of our primary goals is to keep certain things secret, to keep the identities of sources secret. secrecy is an inherent part of our operation. >> the state department would make the same argument. they have--doing very sensitive work that they're trying to make peace and negotiate situations around the world very delicately. it's important that they do this in secrecy. what's the difference? >> and we don't say that the state department should have no secrets. that's not what we're saying. rather, we say that if there are people in the state department who say that there is some abuse going on and there's not a proper mechanism for internal accountability and external
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accountability, they must have a conduit to get that out to the public. and we are the conduit. [ticking] >> coming up... you've said you have this package of very damaging documents, sort of a poison pill that's going to be released if anything bad happens to you. >> no, that's not at all true. that's some kind of media hype. and what we do have is a system whereby we distribute encrypted backups of things we have yet to publish. >> that's ahead, when 60 minutes on cnbc returns. [ticking]
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>> given all the attention that wikileaks founder julian assange has received, we were curious about how he thought he was being perceived in the united states. he told us he hasn't had the time to give it much thought. do you want me to give you my characterization of what i think people think? >> sure. >> mysterious. little weird. a cultlike figure. a little paranoid. >> well, you're repeating all the ad hominem attacks by our critics. my role when i do something like speak about that we have discovered the deaths of 109,000 individual people in iraq, 15,000 civilian casualties never before reported anywhere, that's a very serious role. that is not a role where i can engage in humor. so i'm not used to performing
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under the spotlight. and i am learning this as time's going by. >> you have shown a fair amount of contempt for the mainstream press over the years. why did you decide to--as you used the word--"partner" with them in some of these most recent releases? >> we're a small organization. we're in a position, say, with cablegate, where we have 3,000 volumes of material that are very important to get out to the public in a responsible manner that have the potential for great change. for example, this recent revolution in tunisia. it is logistically impossible. so instead, our organization delegates its excess source material to other journalists who will have more impact and who will do a better job. >> there is an element of the press--most of the mainstream press--nobody wants to see you
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prosecuted. because it could affect the way that they do their business. but there's also a feeling within the community that you're not one of them, that you play a different game. >> we do play a different game. and i hope we're a new way. >> the point that they're making, i think, is that you're not a--you're a publisher, but you're also an activist. >> wait, whoa. we're a particular type of activist. in the u.s. context, there seems to be communist activists or something, so it's a-- >> right, agitator. >> it's a dirty word in the u.s. >> it's a dirty word. and people think that what you're trying to do is to sabotage the workings of government. >> no. we're not that type of activists. we are free press activists. it's not about saving the whales. it's about giving people the information they need to support whaling or not support whaling.
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why? that is the raw ingredients that is needed to make a just and civil society. and without that, you're just sailing in the dark. >> there have been clear signs that assange, under the threat of possible indictment by the justice department, has moderated some of his views. before releasing the last two batches of classified documents, assange and his lawyers contacted both the pentagon and the state department, offering to explore ways to minimize potential harm. in both cases, their offer was rebuffed. assange acknowledged that his fundraising has been hurt by the decision of paypal, mastercard, visa, and bank of america to cease handling donations. but he dismissed reports that wikileaks is wracked by internal dissention and mass defections. >> we're talking about daniel domscheit-berg, who was a german spokesperson, had a limited role in the organization. we had to suspend him some five months ago.
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>> describes you as being authoritarian, secretive, punitive. >> i'm the boss that suspended him. that's correct. >> you don't care to elaborate? >> i think i just did, yeah. >> you've said you have this package of very damaging documents, sort of a poison pill, that's going to be released if anything bad happens to you. >> no, that's not at all true. that's some kind of media hype. what we do have is a system whereby we distribute encrypted backups of things we have yet to publish. there are backups distributed amongst many, many people-- 100,000 people. and that all we need to do is give them an encrypted key, and they will be able to continue on. >> this wasn't intended to be a blackmail threat? >> not at all. >> what would trigger that encryption code being released? >> anything that prevented us from our ability to publish. so not just for a second, but
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prevented us significantly from being able to publish. >> your imprisonment, for example. >> if a number of people were imprisoned or assassinated, then we would feel that we could not go on, and other people would have to take over our work, and we would release those keys. >> i mean, you see yourself as a check on the power of the united states and other big countries in the world. and in the process of doing that, you have now become powerful yourself. who is the check on you? >> it is our sources who choose to provide us with information or not, depending on how they see our actions. it is our donors who choose to give us money or not. this organization cannot survive for more than a few months without the ongoing support of
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the public. >> wikileaks continues to release documents on its website, but its donations have fallen off considerably. despite this, julian assange has announced that he plans to launch a television talk show. but whether he'll ever be able to host it is anyone's guess. as of january 2012, he was still under house arrest in england. [ticking] >> [blows whistle] >> coming up, american factory workers at risk. >> we know that as much as 2 inches of dust had accumulated in the ceiling, probably about a ton of material. that makes for a powerful explosion. >> combustible dust, when 60 minutes on cnbc returns. [ticking] conservative.
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[ticking] >> you might not think of sugar, corn, or metal as material that can cause a catastrophic explosion in a factory. but when they're ground into dust and suspended into the air, all it takes is a small spark to set off a disaster. over the past few decades, combustible dust explosions at american factories have killed more than 130 workers and injured many more. yet, in 2008, when scott pelley first reported this story, some top federal safety officials told us that the government agency whose job it is to protect those workers
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were ignoring a tried-and-true way to prevent those explosions. [explosions and sirens wailing] >> on the night of october 29, 2003, the hayes lemmerz factory in huntington, indiana, exploded in a ball of fire. the plant made wheels for cars. and federal investigators said aluminum dust had piled up and detonated. 33-year-old shawn boone was a mechanic at the plant. his sister, tammy miser, got a call with word that her brother was seriously injured. >> shawn and a couple of his coworkers were in the furnace room. and there was an explosion. and then there was a second more intense blast. >> what happened to him? >> he laid on the building floor, and the aluminum dust actually continued to burn through his flesh. >> and how severe were those burns? >> he had third- and fourth-degree burns between 92% to 100% of his body. >> the doctors said what to you?
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>> they told us that there wasn't any hope, that his internal organs were burned beyond repair. they wouldn't even bandage him. they just--they said that the only solution we had was to take him off of life support. >> shawn boone was 1 of 15 people killed in dust explosions that year. it was a turning point for carolyn merritt, who was then the head of the chemical safety board, the federal government's own experts who find the cause of the nation's worst industrial disasters. merritt ordered the most comprehensive investigation ever done on dust explosions. her conclusion: hundreds of industries create huge amounts of lethal dust and aren't even aware of the risk. >> if this material were gasoline, there would be no doubt in any owner's or operator's mind what needed to be done. >> that would be an emergency. >> absolutely. >> is dust, functionally, the same thing? >> it has the same power
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if a dust explosion occurs. >> can you just explain to me how it is that the dust is explosive? i mean, what's going on here? >> okay, if you take an ear of corn, you're not gonna be able to light it with a match. but if you grind that into a powder, the smaller the particle size, the more explosive it is. metal dust. i mean, people don't think metal can burn. but you turn it into a fine powder, and you have a very explosive and flammable material. >> even a thin layer of dust, once airborne, can be ignited by the smallest spark, a machine being plugged in or a forklift scraping the ground. one explosion, also in 2003, at west pharmaceutical industries in kinston, north carolina, showed just how insidious the problem can be. because it was a drug company, the factory floor was immaculate. but plastic dust was hidden above the workers' heads. >> we know that as much as 2 inches of dust had accumulated in the ceiling, probably about
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a ton of material. that makes for a powerful explosion. >> hours after the blast, employees were still trapped inside. seven died, and scores were injured. carolyn merritt's investigation concluded that osha, the government agency created to safeguard workplaces, had no effective regulation on its books to deal with explosive dust. and she found that osha inspectors routinely overlook the hazard. did osha inspect that work site before the explosion? >> yes, osha had been in that facility. >> what did they find? >> they didn't find any dust issues. >> even when the dust was in plain sight, osha inspectors missed it. as they did at c.t.a., a plant that made soundproofing in corbin, kentucky, where the workplace had been covered in plastic dust. that factory exploded in february of 2003, killing seven. the chemical safety board determined that the cause was
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dust, ignited by an open oven. it was clear that they had a dust problem. >> it was clear there was a dust problem. >> help me understand. how does osha inspect that plant and not find a problem? >> the inspectors aren't trained to recognize dust as a critical, catastrophic potential hazard. >> bill hargraves was one of those osha inspectors until he retired this past january. >> how long were you at osha? >> 28 years. >> and in all that time, how much training did you receive on industrial dust? >> none. >> none in 28 years? >> no. >> he learned in 1999 how costly that ignorance was, when an iron foundry he had inspected in springfield, massachusetts, was destroyed. the fire marshal said it was a dust explosion. >> three people died, and nine people were severely injured. >> when you were standing in the devastation of that plant, did you wonder why you hadn't been trained on industrial dust
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before that time? >> i had been to that plant before. i had been at the foundry before. and it had not been a consideration of mine. >> why not? >> i did not have the knowledge, either foreknowledge or knowledge by training. [ticking] >> coming up, we talk with the former head of osha, ed foulke. >> you've identified 30,000 workplaces that are at risk. how many of those will you inspect over the next year? >> well, approximately 300 or more. >> if you do 300 a year, it'll take you 100 years to inspect all those places that you've identified. >> that's ahead, when 60 minutes on cnbc returns. [ticking] [ male announcer ] you are a business pro.
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[ticking] >> hey, how's it going? >> ed foulke headed osha, the u.s. agency created to safeguard workplaces, from april 2006 to november 2008. in march 2008, he told congress that osha was on the case. >> we are doing the job. and we are getting to the places we need to get to. >> when we talked with foulke in 2008, he told us that some 50 of his 1,029 inspectors had extensive dust training. he says osha sends inspectors to
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companies with the greatest risk of a dust explosion. and it turns out there are a lot of those. you've identified 30,000 workplaces that are at risk. how many of those will you inspect over the next year? >> well, approximately 300 or more. >> if you do 300 a year, it'll take you 100 years to inspect all those places that you've identified. >> we're not gonna get into every work site every year. we're not gonna get-- it would be physically impossible from a monetary standpoint and on a personnel standpoint to get in every facility once a year or even every five years. >> [blows whistle] >> foulke blames employers for the dust explosions. too many companies, he says, don't comply with existing osha safety regulations that he claims take care of the problem. the main one, he says, is the "housekeeping" standard, which doesn't mention dust but does require workplaces to be generally clean and safe. >> it's been on the books for-- since the early '70s. if employers comply with the
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housekeeping standard, then they have eliminated dust, and you cannot have a combustible dust explosion. >> but the plants are exploding, mr. secretary. that's the bottom line here. people are dying. >> it comes down to--it's the employers that are responsible for complying with the standards. >> why aren't your inspectors making the employers comply? >> well, we do when we go in the inspection. we cite employers all the time on combustible dust. >> we reviewed osha's own records and discovered that of 67 factories hit by dust explosions, only one of them was cited for a dust hazard by osha inspectors before the blast. in one case, a factory exploded just three days after a visit by an osha inspector, who found no problem with dust. [machinery whirring] 20 years ago, osha did deal with one kind of explosive dust: grain dust. grain elevators used to blow up regularly. osha fixed the problem with a new safety standard limited to grain dust.
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carolyn merritt says it had a dramatic effect. >> fatalities were reduced by 60%, and incidents were reduced by 42%. >> it was a big success. >> and industry is very happy with the standard now and fully supports it. >> so then why is the same standard not applied to other dust in the workplace? it doesn't seem to make sense. >> the industry lobby is very strong, and they do not want new regulation. >> after the grain dust rule was imposed, fatalities went down by 60%. and yet, other industries that have dust see their plants exploding month after month. and the critics say they don't see osha putting two and two together. you have a successful program. why not replicate it? >> well, once again, scott, as i indicated to you, i think it's the fact that we do have-- our standards are in place. and we are looking at the data that we have. >> ed foulke told us he hasn't ruled out issuing a new
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industrial dust standard. but he says that the issues are complex and need study. >> to go across all the industries, we're talking about tens of thousands of facilities. we're talking about hundreds of types of processes, at least, maybe thousands of types of processes. >> when someone says that this is all very complex, and we don't understand it, well, therefore, we can't regulate it, you say what? >> it's just a delay mechanism from actually doing anything. >> you were appointed to the chemical safety board by president bush. >> that's correct. >> what has your experience been with regard to safety regulations in the bush administration? >> the basic disappointment has been this attitude of no new regulation. they don't want industry to be pestered. in some instances, industry has to be pestered in order to comply. >> the accusation is made that this administration is against rule making. they don't want any more standards. >> and it's totally false.
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absolutely false. >> in february 2008, there was yet another massive explosion investigators say was caused by dust, this time at the imperial sugar refinery outside savannah, georgia. once again, osha had failed to cite the company for dust. a huge factory building was demolished. dozens of workers were severely burned, and 13 died. >> if osha had acted and if the industry itself had paid more attention, possibly, this incident would not have happened. it should not have happened. >> these people should not have been killed. >> these people should not have been killed. >> the savannah explosion led to immediate action on the part of congress. george miller, a california democrat, told ed foulke that lawmakers would impose a new safety standard if foulke continued to resist. >> mr. foulke, i must tell you, i just see such an incredible lack of urgency on your part about the role of your agency
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to protect workers that it's astounding. you're here clinging to what you've done. and it's turned out to be fatal for the american workers. >> if the employers comply with the housekeeping standards, it would eliminate, or at least mitigate, the hazard of having a combustible dust explosion. >> tammy miser, who lost her brother shawn in that 2003 explosion in indiana, now speaks out on behalf of other dust explosion victims. >> our losses are a lifelong, needless sentence, because a few people couldn't or wouldn't do what was right. >> what responsibility do you think osha bears? >> i feel that they should take most of the responsibility for this. because they know. and they're the ones that can prevent it; nobody else can. there's nobody else out there to take care of it. >> in april 2008, the house voted to force osha to impose new safety rules for combustible dust, but that bill never became law,


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