tv 60 Minutes CBS January 10, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm EST
captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> i think it's a national imperative that we want to secure our borders. >> playas cop lima 210. >> kroft: all of the focus this past week has been on airport security and intelligence failures. but the easiest way for terrorists to make their way into the u.s. may be along the porous 2,000-mile border with mexico. >> this is the playas area. we're in here. >> kroft: homeland security has spent three years and a billion dollars on a sophisticated electronic surveillance system that was supposed to lock it down. you oversold it. >> we certainly did.
>> cooper: so suddenly you're in a jam. >> we were. >> cooper: campaign strategist steve schmidt and his candidate, john mccain, were in such a jam just before the republican convention that he says they rushed into the choice of sarah palin as running mate. the details of how that happened are among the revelations in a new book about the last presidential campaign. >> in the immediate aftermath of her selection, it was clear to us that we had a lot of work to do. >> cooper: what sort of information did she not know? >> a broad scale of national security issues. >> stahl: the woolly mammoth is the first extinct animal to have its genome decoded. and some scientists believe that, one day, they may be able to clone one. that may seem like science fiction, but new breakthroughs in d.n.a. research may also help keep today's animals from going extinct. >> i feel like we're in the emergency room of the wildlife business, really. i don't want to see elephants in textbooks or, you know, the way
we see dinosaurs. >> stahl: so dr. dresser is storing skin samples of lions, gorillas and hundreds of other species in something she calls a frozen zoo. so, if any one of these animals were to go extinct, you could bring them back? >> in theory, i believe we can. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories and andy rooney tonight on "60 minutes." g about osteoporosis you don't already know. it runs in families - my mother has it, and now i have it. so even though i tried to keep my bones strong, it wasn't enough. now, once-monthly boniva is helping me do more. it didn't just stop my bone loss. boniva worked with my body to stop and reverse my bone loss. and studies show, after one year on boniva, nine out of ten women stopped and reversed theirs, too.
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>> kroft: terrorism and homeland security have been back in the news the past few weeks, and once again, the focus has been on intelligence failures and airport security. but the easiest way for terrorists to get into the united states may well be across the nation's porous 2,000-mile border with mexico. and it's no secret. u.s. immigration and customs enforcement investigations have revealed that hundreds of immigrants from the middle east and countries associated with terrorism have entered the country illegally through mexico. and according to a study done for the border patrol, about 90% of the people who try to get into the country that way eventually make it in. president clinton built a wall to try and stop it, and president bush tried to tackle the problem with technology, initiating an ambitious program that he called a "virtual fence," that would allow the u.s. to visually monitor most of the border. the bureaucrats at homeland security changed the name of the program to the secure border
initiative network, or s.b.i. net, and after three years and a billion dollars, we decided to see how it was going. this 80-foot tower near sasabe, arizona, is just one of a network of electronic observation posts that dot the landscape along the mexican border south of tucson. >> playas cop lima 210. >> kroft: they're part of a system that homeland security intended to be the eyes and ears of the u.s. border patrol... >> it's looking like it's going to be a white s.u.v. >> kroft: ...scanning the southern frontier for migrants, drug smugglers, even international terrorists trying to enter the country illegally. >> lima 210-- vehicle is intercepted. >> mark borkowski: these towers are located based on geography, terrain, and what the border patrol knows about typical traffic patterns. so these are placed because they're... they're where we believe they're going to be most effective. >> kroft: mark borkowski is the
executive director of this huge technological undertaking for homeland security. each one of these towers is equipped with long range radar, high resolution cameras, and is connected to underground sensors. it was designed and built by boeing, one of the nation's largest defense contractors, and borkowski himself is a rocket scientist who used to work for nasa. >> borkowski: it's not rocket science. but it is still a complex, ambitious project, particularly the way it was originally designed, which was to cover the entire border with this technology. >> kroft: why do we need this? >> borkowski: well, we need it because we need to secure our borders. i think it's a national imperative that we want to secure our borders. >> kroft: in principle, it's not that much different from the security systems you might find in someone's home, office building, or the convenience store down the block, only on a much larger and more sophisticated scale. the cameras and sensors on the towers are capable of picking up the slightest movements up to six or seven miles away, and shooting off an alert to a border patrol station, where an agent can then focus the cameras on the exact location. the visual information allows
them to discern whether the intrusion is a threat that needs to be investigated or one that can be ignored. so, in simple terms, what you want to do is you want to be able to look at the entire border with mexico? >> borkowski: right. where it's appropriate, to look at the entire border, right. >> kroft: and then, if you see somebody crossing, you can dispatch border patrol people out to catch them? >> borkowski: correct. we have a view of this person. we know if they're by themselves or with other people. we know if they're riding or not riding. we know if they're carrying things or not carrying things. >> kroft: but unfortunately for borkowski and the two people who had the job before him, it's proven to be much easier said than done. when boeing was awarded the initial contract back in 2006, it made some rather extravagant promises, claiming it could complete the project quickly, and that virtually no one would be able to sneak across the border undetected. and how has this worked out? well, it hasn't worked out, so far, as well as they had hoped. and that is putting the best possible face on it.
richard stana is director of homeland security issues for the g.a.o., the government accountability office. one of his jobs has been to investigate and monitor the project for congress. according to stana, boeing promised to complete the first 28 miles of the surveillance system in just eight months, and wire the entire mexican border in three years. >> richard stana: in fact, this was supposed to be all deployed by now, by 2008-2009. the entire southwest border was to be covered by s.b.i. >> kroft: but it hasn't happened? >> stana: no. we're still in the early stages. >> kroft: in fact, after three years and a billion dollars, they are still fiddling with the first 28 miles, with 1,972 to go. and that is just one of the problems >> stana: you know, when boeing first got the contract back in 2006, they made promises that they would be able to apprehend-- at least detect and apprehend-- 95% plus or minus 5% of all the incursions. >> kroft: that hasn't happened? >> stana: no. they promised camera range of ten miles. they promised radar ranges
without clutter. >> kroft: and that didn't happen, either? >> stana: no. >> kroft: and that's not all. the software had bugs, some of the equipment proved unreliable in the heat and high winds of the desert. components would break, and maintenance proved to be an issue. according to the new project director, mark borkowski, part of the problem was that boeing and his predecessors at homeland security thought they could get the job done with standard surveillance equipment. >> borkowski: we were going to go buy all this equipment that you can buy from vendors today. you can go... we call it "off the shelf," "commercial off the shelf." >> kroft: radio shack? >> borkowski: not quite. but, you know, people sell radars, people sell cameras, so not far off of that. the idea was that should have been a very simple thing to do-- you know, go put that on towers, plug it in together. it should work. >> stana: the cameras and the... and the radar, that's the blocking and tackling of the whole system. that's what detects and identifies what's on the screen. >> kroft: what have been some of the problems with the camera and the radar? >> stana: well, with the radar, they were very susceptible to weather. you know, if it was raining, it
would train on raindrops. if the wind blew mesquite leaves around on a bush, it would train on that as activity. you really don't want that. you don't want agents out looking for bushes and raindrops. >> kroft: but the biggest problem-- and you may find this hard to fathom-- was that no one at the department of homeland security or the engineers at boeing bothered to ask the people who would actually be using the surveillance system what they wanted or how they wanted the system to work. i'm just kind of amazed that they're building this... what's going to be a multi- billion dollar system for the border patrol, and nobody asked the border patrol what... >> borkowski: right. >> kroft: ...you know, what they needed or wanted, or what would be helpful. >> borkowski: what we didn't do was iterate with them and said, "okay, well, we heard that you'd like to be able to see what's going on the border. how about a little of this? how about...? we didn't do that, and that should have happened. >> kroft: that's a pretty big mistake? >> borkowski: that's a huge mistake. it's a huge mistake. >> kroft: and who was responsible for that? >> borkowski: well, currently, i am, and we'll just leave it at that. that's my job, now-- to fix that. >> kroft: one of the results was that the original plan called
for border patrol agents to be connected to the electronic surveillance system with laptop computers that they would carry in their off-road vehicles. but if anyone had bothered to ask the agents, they would have said that laptops are hard to operate bounding through the desert; that the dust would prove inhospitable to the equipment; and that the agents would be unable to get a signal over vast stretches of the desolate region, a glitch that confounded even government auditors like rich stana. how does that happen, that you decide you're going to build a billion-dollar system, and then not talk to the people you're building it for? >> stana: they really were in the mindset of, you know, pedal to the metal. they wanted to go full steam ahead with this virtual fence back in '05, '06, for whatever reason. so the kinds of things that you would expect to see in a large multi-billion dollar program, you didn't see right away. >> kroft: isn't that one of the first questions you ask? like, okay, "what does the customer think? what does the client want?" >> stana: well, you would think so. i mean, you don't want to build an edsel. >> kroft: is this an edsel? >> stana: don't know, you know. we'll have to wait and see. we're waiting for something that works. >> kroft: someone in the
government must have decided it was an edsel, because in june of 2008-- just a few months after the border patrol began using the virtual fence-- the department of homeland security announced that it would begin phasing out the original system, which it now calls a prototype, and replace it with a brand-new one covering the same 28 miles. there are people in congress that have called this first version a failure. do you agree with that? >> borkowski: i think that, given what we communicated to congress about the expectations, i don't think we met those expectations. so i... i would define that as a failure. >> kroft: and now you've got what some people have called a do-over. >> borkowski: some people have called it a do-over. the mistake we made was we... this prototype, which was a beta version, we told congress, "it's going to work great. you're going to love it. it's going to lock down the border for you." shame on us. we should not have said that. >> kroft: you oversold it? >> borkowski: we certainly did. >> kroft: have the taxpayers got anything yet for that money? >> borkowski: frankly, it's very frustrating to me to be able... to try to explain where that money went when it's kind of ethereal, because it's design and it's connections and it's
integration and it's computer software. but you do start to see it when you start to see the construction of towers, and that's where we are now. >> kroft: are you happy with boeing's performance on this? >> borkowski: i'm spending a lot of time with boeing. i'm getting happier. i'm not yet happy. >> kroft: borkowski, who still has the patience and the optimism of a former nasa engineer, believes that great technological advances are often plagued by early failure. >> borkowski: this is the playas area. we're in here. >> kroft: last august, he took us to a secure facility in playas, new mexico, for a firsthand look at the new system, which was still being tested. agents chris geoffrey and jeff york led us through a simulation of its capabilities. what am i looking at right here? >> some of the little square boxes, the little square boxes that you see on there are-- that's a radar detection. >> kroft: what has it detected. >> on this one? jeff, can you scoot over. >> kroft: the radar and motion detectors have been improved.
and it is easier now for agents to immediately tell whether an alert is more likely to be a human intruder or rolling sagebrush. >> jeff york: lima 197, i have a group of approximately four to five on screen southwest of the playas airport. >> ten-four. do copy. >> kroft: and the cameras are better, too. the infrared picture looks even clearer than the daylight camera. >> oftentimes, it will be, yeah. you can see... at this point, you can see real clear if they had weapons or large backpacks or something. i can see that very clearly. >> kroft: but it was impossible to tell how well the new system will work, given that everybody involved in this exercise was either a government employee or a contractor, and it seemed to have been rehearsed the day before. we were out there. we saw a demonstration. they had some border patrol agents disguised as... as illegal aliens in white t- shirts, running around, trying to get through the system. it seemed like it sort of worked. >> stana: yeah, it... it sort of does. you know, the issue is... is, in what weather does it work? in what heat does it work? in what distance does it work? and how reliable is it?
those are the... the things that really... are the limiting factors. >> kroft: officially, the u.s. border patrol is behind the system, warts and all. its chief, david aguilar, claims that even in its flawed state, it's contributed to more than 5,000 arrests and the seizure of 15,000 pounds of marijuana since the 28-mile section went online in 2008. and you think it's made an impact. >> david aguilar: absolutely. >> kroft: there are people... have studied and are involved with the system who disagree with your assessment on how well it's working. >> aguilar: steve, as i said, this is not a perfect system. we're not putting it forth as a perfect system. it has got problems. we have got concerns with it. we are working to iron those out. but even as we are working to iron those out, it is still giving us capabilities that we just did not have in the past. >> wayne cornelius: it's a great deal for boeing and its subcontractors. it's a bad deal for the
taxpayers. >> kroft: there are some, like wayne cornelius, a professor at the university of california, san diego, who think the virtual fence provides only the illusion of border security. he has studied and written about the border for years, and says the only thing that has ever stopped people from illegally entering the united states from mexico was the great depression. >> cornelius: they will detour around the electronic fence just as they have detoured around sections of the physical fences that have been built since 1993. they would be crazy not to. >> kroft: cornelius says smugglers are already probing the system for weaknesses, and will eventually figure out ways to sabotage or blind the electronic towers. one thing we've learned over the years is that the smugglers and terrorists and illegal immigrants can be quite imaginative in ways to subvert the system. >> borkowski: right. >> kroft: and there are signs that that's already started, right? >> borkowski: absolutely.
>> kroft: smugglers are talking about setting up decoys. >> borkowski: we fully expect that people are going to react to this. does that mean we shouldn't do anything at all? no, we should make it harder for people to come across the border illegally. we should make it so that, if they want to come across the border illegally, they have to really want to do it. >> stana: the bottom line to the whole program, steve, is... is that, you know, here we are three years and hundreds of millions of dollars since s.b.i. was first conceived of, and where are we? we're still waiting for something that works. >> kroft: and they will have to wait a while longer. boeing, the main contractor, was scheduled to turn over the new system to the border patrol this month, but this past week, we were told it was being delayed for at least three more months. we requested an interview with boeing, but they deferred to the department of homeland security. and on friday, the secretary of homeland security, janet napolitano, ordered a department-wide reassessment of the entire program.
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>> kroft: now, cnn's anderson cooper on assignment for "60 minutes." >> cooper: barack obama is just ten days away from completing the first year of his presidency, but surprising revelations about the historic campaign that got him there are still coming to light. it turns out hillary clinton was so confident she would become president that, a full year before the election, she had already started planning for her transition into the white house. that's in a new book by
reporters mark halperin and john heilemann, who have also unearthed secrets from the republican campaign, and some of them directly contradict what sarah palin wrote in her book. palin said she had been misunderstood and mishandled by top mccain staffers. the new revelations quote mccain staffers saying palin created most of the problems. john mccain's chief campaign strategist, steve schmidt, had a major role in choosing sarah palin. just days before the republican convention, john mccain thought he'd be running with joe lieberman. schmidt told us why mccain pivoted from lieberman to palin. >> steve schmidt: roughly up to a week before the convention, we were still talking very seriously about senator lieberman. but once word leaked out that he was under serious consideration, the blowback was ferocious. >> cooper: "ferocious" because many conservatives thought lieberman was far too liberal. schmidt says they feared the republican convention might reject him. mccain couldn't risk that, so they needed a last minute
replacement. so, suddenly you're in a jam. >> schmidt: we were. >> john heilemann: that's the state of desperation they're in as they sit down with mccain that sunday night over a dinner of deep-fried burritos and say to him, "what about sarah palin?" >> cooper: john heilemann of "new york" magazine and mark halperin of "time" covered the campaign, and spent the last two years interviewing some 200 political insiders for their book, "game change." among their revelations is how mccain's campaign manager, rick davis, spotted sarah palin while searching the google and youtube for possible vice presidential candidates. >> mark halperin: rick davis saw one interview she did with charlie rose where she was very much the sarah palin that people find appealing. she was lively, she was engaging, she popped off the screen. mccain boxed himself in. he needed a game-changing pick for vice president. and that left them with a last minute pick of someone who was, to mccain, a virtual stranger, and was, to his senior staffers, an absolute stranger. >> cooper: just two days before mccain publicly announced his choice, sarah palin arrived in
arizona to meet with the senator and his top staffers, including chief campaign strategist steve schmidt. >> schmidt: i said, you know, "if this project goes forward, you'll be one of the most famous people in the world by friday. will you be able to live with that?" she said she would be able to. >> cooper: after senator mccain asked her to be his vice- president, how did she respond? >> schmidt: she was very calm, nonplussed. i said, "you don't seem nervous at all about this." and she said, "no, it's god's plan." >> cooper: in terms of vetting, was there enough time to do the kind of vetting you would have liked? >> schmidt: i'm not going to second guess the process. >> cooper: the process, according to the authors, was so rushed, the background check was little more than one lawyer searching the internet. no one went to alaska. >> schmidt: i wasn't the vetter on the... on the campaign. >> cooper: early on, though, you apparently said, "she doesn't know anything."
>> schmidt: in the immediate aftermath of her selection, it was clear to us that we had a lot of work to do. >> cooper: what sort of information did she not know? >> schmidt: a broad scale of national security issues. but we expected that that would be the case with... with any of the potential nominees. >> cooper: in her first major speech at the convention, palin seemed perfect. >> sarah palin: i love those hockey moms. you know, they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? lipstick. >> schmidt: she gave a great convention speech. and we came out of that convention ahead in the polls. >> cooper: in public, palin looked like the game-changer mccain had wanted. but in private, the authors say, she was struggling to learn too much too fast. >> heilemann: her foreign policy tutors are literally taking her through, "this is world war i, this is world war ii, this is the korean war. this is the... how the cold war worked." steve schmidt had gone to them and said, "she knows nothing. >> heilemann: a week later, after the convention was over, she still didn't really understand why there was a north
korea and a south korea. she was still regularly saying that saddam hussein had been behind 9/11. and, literally, the next day, her son was about to ship off to iraq. and when they asked her who her son was going to fight, she couldn't explain that. >> cooper: still, schmidt says she was a quick study. >> schmidt: her focus was extraordinary. she was working 15, 16 hours a day. and we were pleased with the result. we were very pleased with the results. >> cooper: pleased, he said, until that interview with katie couric. >> palin: when you consider even national security issues with russia-- as putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the united states of america, where do they go? it's alaska. it's right over the border. >> cooper: in her book, palin accuses cbs news of editing the interview to make her look bad. but steve schmidt told us palin did poorly because she didn't do her homework. >> schmidt: i made the case to her that, in my view, the reason that that interview was a failure was because she did not prepare for it.
she was focused that morning on answering ten written questions from a small newspaper in alaska called the "matsu valley frontiersman." >> cooper: she thought katie couric was kind of going for "gotcha" questions. >> schmidt: i don't think that katie couric asked a single unfair question in that interview. >> cooper: over on the democratic side, halperin and heilemann report that, early in the campaign-- a full year before the election-- hillary clinton was so sure she'd win, she had already started preparing for her presidency. >> halperin: she had two top advisors start to plan her transition for after she won the general election, even before she was the nominee. that's how confident she was that things were headed in that direction. >> cooper: what clinton didn't realize, according to the authors, was that some of her fellow democratic senators whose support she thought she had actually preferred obama. >> halperin: the sort of mythology is that hillary clinton was the establishment candidate, that obama had to run kind of a guerilla campaign against her.
in fact, obama was the establishment candidate. there were a number of united states senators, democratic leaders, who secretly and privately encouraged him to run behind the clintons' back. >> cooper: the authors say several of her senate colleagues thought she would be too divisive, that obama would be a stronger candidate. even democratic senator bill nelson of florida, who endorsed clinton, thought obama should enter the race. >> senator bill nelson: i had no doubt that this was somebody that was going to be like a magnet wherever he went. >> cooper: were there a number of democratic senators who were privately urging barack obama to run? >> nelson: it is my understanding that they were. and you would often see these little clumps of senators talking, or maybe it was one-on- one, talking with barak on the floor of the senate. ah, yes. >> cooper: later, in the general election, john mccain's chief campaign strategist, steve schmidt, told us about a recurring problem the campaign had with sarah palin. >> schmidt: there were numerous
instances that she said things that were... that were not accurate that, ultimately, the campaign had to deal with. and that opened the door to criticism that she was being untruthful and inaccurate. and i think that that is something that continues to this day. >> cooper: and you think that's fair criticism? >> schmidt: i think it's fair criticism. >> cooper: after an ethics investigation of palin, when the alaska legislature issued a report, schmidt says she mischaracterized that report. >> schmidt: she went out and said that, you know, "this report completely exonerates me." and in fact, it... it didn't. you know, it's the equivalent of saying down is up and up is down. it was provably, demonstrably untrue. >> cooper: and schmidt said it just kept happening. >> schmidt: stuff like the alaska independence party that her husband had been a member of for seven years. she wanted to put out a statement saying that he was not a member of it.
he was a member of it. >> cooper: palin declined to be interviewed for this report or to respond to any specific allegations, saying she'd dealt with a lot of this in her book. in their book, halperin and heilemann say though palin always seemed upbeat in public, in private to campaign staffers, she was anything but. >> halperin: as things started to go bad, particularly after the interview with katie couric, she was feeling a lot of pressure. the debate was coming up. she became what they called "the other sarah," the sarah palin who was... >> cooper: they actually called her "the other sarah." >> halperin: they said, "there's one sarah who you see in public"-- upbeat. but the other sarah was the one that frightened them. it was someone whose eyes were kind of glazed over, who was literally not responding to questions, who was keeping her head down. >> cooper: the authors say she hit bottom trying to prepare for her vice-presidential debate. the person in charge of her debate prep made a desperate call to steve schmidt. >> schmidt: he told us that the debate was going to be a debacle of historic and epic proportions. he told us she was not focused, she was not engaged, she was
really not participating in the prep. >> cooper: so schmidt and campaign manager rick davis sat in on the debate prep, and schmidt says palin seemed overwhelmed. >> schmidt: rick davis and i sat in the back of the room for a few minutes, suggested everybody take a break, asked everybody to leave the room, and... and we had a conversation with her. >> cooper: what'd you say to her? >> schmidt: i said to her, i said, "governor, this doesn't seem to be going very well to me." and she assented, she agreed. she said, "you know, i think that's right." >> cooper: they flew her to john mccain's ranch in arizona. schmidt said he took over the debate prep and simplified it. and palin began doing well, except for one persistent problem-- she kept confusing joe biden's name with obama's, calling him "o'biden." >> schmidt: she did. ( laughter ) she did. >> cooper: over and over again. >> schmidt: it was a verbal tic. and it was subconscious. but when you had gone through the tina fey parodies, you certainly cannot be in a position where you walk out onto the stage and, you know, refer to him repeatedly on national
television as senator o'biden. it would have just been, you know, devastating beyond words. >> cooper: so how'd you get around that? >> schmidt: it was multiple people-- and i wasn't one of them-- who all said at the same time, "just say, 'can i call you joe,'" which she... which she did. >> palin: do you mind if i call you joe? >> cooper: so, the... the, "can i call you joe," which people at the time thought was some sort of strategy, was really just a way for her to be able to say his name without messing it up. >> schmidt: correct. absolutely. >> cooper: but, one "o'biden" did slip out. >> palin: barak obama and senator o'biden, you've said no to everything. >> cooper: still, mccain staffers were delighted. >> schmidt: she did a good job in the debate against senator biden. i think she more than held her own. >> cooper: but schmidt now believes, if palin is the republican presidential candidate in 2012, it will be catastrophic for the party, even though he is one of those most responsible for making her a national figure. for you, picking sarah palin was about winning an election, not necessarily about who's going to
be best as vice president? >> schmidt: my job was to give political advice. we needed to do something bold to try to win the race. >> cooper: if you had it to do over again, would you have her on the ticket? >> schmidt: you don't get to go back in time, anderson, and... and have do-overs in life. >> cooper: i guess a viewer would read into the fact that you... that you didn't say, "i would do exactly the same thing." >> schmidt: i believe, had she not been on the ticket, our margin of defeat would've been greater than it would've been otherwise. >> cooper: after the race was over, heilemann and halperin report that hillary clinton initially turned down obama's offer to become secretary of state. but in a late night phone call, he tried to change her mind, telling her that he and the country needed her. >> heilemann: at that point, she says, "you know, there's one last thing that's... that's a problem, which is my husband. you've seen what this is like. it will be a circus if i take this job. there will be a new controversy every day that you'll have to deal with."
and obama says to her, "i understand. but i want you so badly that i'm willing to live with your husband." >> halperin: it's this extraordinary moment-- on the one hand, you have hillary clinton saying something she says to almost no one, admitting that her husband is a problem, at the same time, obama comes back and shows vulnerability to her. he says to her, "given the economic crisis, given all i have to deal with, i need your help." and that bond, i think, that trust that was built in that call, according to the people who were familiar with the call, built up enough that, over night, she was able to change her mind and take the job. great game, honey.
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right here in north america, there lived giant animals that are now the stuff of legends-- mammoths and mastodons, ground sloths and saber-tooth cats. they, and thousands of other species, have vanished from the earth; and today, partly due to the expansion of one species-- ours-- animals are going extinct faster than ever before. the very definition of extinct means "gone forever," but what if that didn't have to be? scientists are making remarkable advances that are bringing us closer than ever before to the possibility of a true animal resurrection. >> oh, my goodness, that's the biggest one! >> stahl: who wouldn't be dazzled by an animal like this, the woolly mammoth... or the saber-tooth tiger... the irish elk... the giant sloth. today, they exist just as bones in museums, alive only in our
imaginations, and the recreations of artists and filmmakers. but what if that could change? in the age of dna, we now know that these vanished creatures, like all life on earth, are ultimately nothing more than this, sequences of the four letters-- a, c, t, and g-- that make up the genetic blueprint or code of life. the codes for extinct animals were thought to have died along with them, until recently, when machines like this one at the smithsonian's d.n.a. lab started working magic. >> sean carroll: just the study of ancient dna only broke onto the scene 20 years ago or so-- the idea that we could harvest d.n.a. from extinct creatures, from fossil bones, learn something about the past. >> stahl: sean carroll, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the university of wisconsin, says that, like so many things in the field of d.n.a., the progress has been staggering. one surprising discovery has
been the value of ancient hair. scientists recently discovered that the hair shaft seals d.n.a. inside it like a biological plastic, protecting it, and making hair a rich and plentiful source of genetic information. does that mean that you can take extinct animals... i mean, there's hair in museums? >> carroll: right, yeah. >> stahl: and get the genetic sequencing? >> carroll: possibly. and especially if those animals were preserved in any way, there's a good prospect of that. it's sort of like "c.s.i.," you know? how good is this forensic material? can you get good d.n.a. information from older and older and older material? that's pretty promising. >> stahl: so dusty old specimens that have been tucked away in the drawers of natural history museums like the smithsonian are suddenly potential treasure troves of genetic information. just last year, using only a few clumps of wooly mammoth hair, scientists at penn state were able to extract enough d.n.a. fragments to figure out most of
its genetic sequence, making the woolly mammoth the first extinct animal to have its genome decoded. which raises the question of whether resurrecting one of these creatures is really possible. scientists say one option would be genetic engineering-- take a living animal that's related to the mammoth, like the elephant, figure out all the places where its d.n.a. differs from the mammoth's, and then alter the elephant's d.n.a. to make it match. that's not possible just yet. but there may be another way-- cloning. is it possible that we're going to get the full d.n.a. of the woolly mammoth and be able to clone it? >> carroll: yes, i think we'll be able to get much, if not all, of the woolly mammoth d.n.a. and the great advantage there is that a lot of the specimens are in permafrost. so they've sort of been conveniently frozen for us, which preserves d.n.a., preserves tissue better. >> stahl: but for cloning, just
knowing the d.n.a. sequence from hair isn't enough. you'd need an intact mammoth cell, which carroll says will be difficult to find, but not impossible. >> carroll: it could be a skin cell. it could be any particular cell that, hopefully, has been preserved well enough, stayed frozen for thousands of years, and to transfer the nucleus of that cell into, for example, an egg of an elephant. >> stahl: and they're close... >> carroll: close enough that... >> stahl: ...close enough. >> carroll: ...close enough that maybe the elephant could serve as a surrogate mother. it's called inter-species cloning, implanting d.n.a. from one species into the eggs of another-- and anyone who wants to try it, with a mammoth or anything else, would be well- served to pay a visit to dr. betsy dresser in new orleans. tucked away on 1,200 acres of land that seem part serengeti, part high-tech medical facility, she and her staff at the audubon nature institute have been working quietly for years on the science and the art of inter- species cloning. and she'll be the first to tell
you that, even with living animals, it isn't easy. >> betsy dresser: you don't just clone some cells, and then all of a sudden you have a baby. i mean, there's so many scientific steps along the way-- knowing everything from hormones to the proper surrogate to, you know, length of pregnancy. >> stahl: length of pregnancy? >> dresser: yeah. because, see, we don't know how long a woolly mammoth-- the gestation period. we can guess, but we don't know, really. >> stahl: but betsy dresser's work on inter-species cloning is focused on the future, not the past. rather than trying to resurrect extinct creatures, her goal is to keep the animals we have today from going extinct tomorrow. >> dresser: i feel like we're in the emergency room of the wildlife business, really. i don't want to see elephants in textbooks or, you know, the way we see dinosaurs. we're going to lose a lot of species if we don't do something about it. >> stahl: dresser and her team
are trying to increase the populations of endangered animals by putting their d.n.a. into the eggs of their non- endangered relatives. >> dresser: this cat's going to act as a surrogate mother, and so here's the surgery... >> stahl: on the day we visited, they were laparoscopically removing eggs from an ordinary housecat, then sending the eggs down the hall to have the housecat dna literally sucked out of them. ooh, tell me what's happening. >> dresser: what she's doing is she's removing the d.n.a. from this domestic cat egg. and she can see it by what we call fluorescing it. it becomes just very blue, and so now, she knows where it is. and now, you'll see her go in there and be able to remove it. >> stahl: she's taking out all the genes? >> dresser: right. >> stahl: once the housecat d.n.a. is out-- that's it being deposited outside of the egg-- they will replace it with the dna of an endangered arabian sandcat, a completely different species, gathered from a tiny piece of skin.
>> dresser: and there you see it being inserted into the domestic cat egg. >> stahl: oh my gosh. and you made that from just skin? >> dresser: just from skin cells, right. >> stahl: an electrical pulse starts the egg dividing, and if all goes as planned, the now sandcat embryo will be put back into the domestic cat to grow to term. it's worked before, with african wildcats. these two are both interspecies clones-- so normal, they even mated the old-fashioned way and produced kittens. >> dresser: eight kittens, all together. we had a couple litters. >> stahl: and they're totally healthy and they're african wildcats. >> dresser: totally african wildcats, totally healthy. and it said to us, "hey, this works." and now that we know we can do it, we can say to the world, "these animals do develop. they do reproduce naturally. and we can use this as a tool for endangered species." >> stahl: is she hissing at us? >> dresser: yeah, she's hissing at us. >> stahl: and dresser is working
her way up. her next inter-species cloning project will use this non- endangered caracal cat as a surrogate mother for an endangered lynx; and after that, the eland antelope as a surrogate for its endangered cousin, the bongo. you know, there are still people who get nervous at the idea of cloning. they think there's something wrong about it. >> dresser: i'll tell you what-- if you have to choose cloning or extinction, i'm going to choose cloning. but i want to be darn sure that i know how to do it. and if we don't do it while we have the animals, now, to be able to learn how to do it, then we're not going to have a choice. it's not going to be an option. >> stahl: so, to keep her options open while she's mastering inter-species cloning, she's also putting as many animals as she can on ice, literally. dresser is the keeper of a new kind of zoo-- a frozen zoo-- where she's collecting tiny skin samples from thousands of different animals, representing hundreds of species, and is storing them at 343 degrees
below zero in tiny canisters inside these tanks filled with liquid nitrogen. >> dresser: we've got lions and tigers, we've got gorillas and rhinos. we've got little frogs. all of the animals... >> stahl: so, everything... >> dresser: ... that people know in zoos. >> stahl: ... from this size to this size... >> dresser: to this size, exactly. >> stahl: so how long can a piece of skin be viable? >> dresser: we think these cells can sit here for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. >> stahl: so if any one of these animals were to go extinct, you could bring them back? >> dresser: in theory, i believe we can. >> stahl: in other words, it's... it's kind of a noah's ark. >> dresser: yeah. >> stahl: it's not a zoo, it's an ark. >> dresser: it's an ark. ( chuckles ) truly. >> stahl: do you think we're at the stage where we should be taking every single wild animal, even if they're not endangered, and putting them in a frozen zoo? >> dresser: yes. i absolutely do. >> stahl: every single one? >> dresser: what have we got to lose? i think we should put every species in that we can, while we have the opportunity. >> stahl: which raises the question, with so many living animals today threatened, why think about resurrecting extinct
ones, like the mammoth? to bring the woolly mammoth back-- we don't have enough space for the big animals we already have. >> carroll: these projects, like the woolly mammoth, they inspire people to think about the meaning of what we're doing here. and why would you invest years and years of your life in trying to bring back a woolly mammoth, or taking care of them if you did? >> stahl: that's an excellent question. >> carroll: i think it would fire up people's imaginations. and i think, somewhere, there's a nine-year-old girl watching this program and listening to this saying, "that's what i want to do. i want to bring back these creatures that are extinct. or i want to protect creatures that are now threatened from going extinct." so, in many ways, i think the woolly mammoth can sort of be, you know, a poster animal for a general effort of being more conscious of our activities on the planet. >> stahl: no one has yet found the intact cell it would take to resurrect that poster animal, but in siberia two years ago, a reindeer herder discovered a remarkably well-preserved one-
month-old baby mammoth that had lain frozen in permafrost for 40,000 years. its dna was in better shape than any previously found, raising hopes that between new finds and new technology, it may just be a matter of time. >> hello, everyone, welcome to the cbs sports update. i'm james brown in new york, with a look at afc play-off picture. new england's tom brady was an unbrady-like day throwing three picks as baltimore knocks off the patriots by 19. and now move on to the meet ind nap listen saturday in the divisional round. on sunday the jets will be in san diego to meet the red hot chargers who have won 11 straight. and for more news and scores log on to cbssports.com. uh... yeah?
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>> pelley: now, a few minutes with andy rooney. >> rooney: i'm upset with myself tonight because a lot of the things i bought several years ago that plug in or run on batteries are obsolete now and i can't get myself to throw them away. just, for example, in the past ten years, i bet i've bought at least eight electric razors. of the eight, i only use one now. the others don't work, but i can't bring myself to throw them away. about 40 years ago, i bought a 16-mm camera called a filmo. i took pictures of the family, and even got a couple of pictures on television with it.
it's been in the back of a closet ever since. it's still perfectly good, but not many people takes pictures with film now. i'll never use that camera again, but i'll never throw it away, either. where do you throw a camera, anyway? in everyone's house, there's stuff that will never be used again. i happen to know there's a singer sewing machine, two hoover vacuum cleaners, a mixmaster, an electric typewriter, two slide projectors, and a black and white television set in the basement of our house that ought to go to the dump. but they don't go because i think they're too good for the dump. even dumps are obsolete now, of course. now, they're called recycle centers. i have four computers here in my office-- three of them are useless and one is broken. they were invented about 20 minutes ago, but they're obsolete already. there they sit, taking up space. they'll be there tomorrow and a year from tomorrow.
i'll never use one of them again but i'll never throw one out, either. i'm thinking of starting the new year by doing something i've never done before-- cleaning out my office here and at home. i'll just move all the stuff i have in the closets down into the basement with the rest of the junk i put down there. the basement may be full, but my closets will be empty and ready for the new junk. >> pelley: i'm scott pelley. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." captioning funded by cbs, ily's. if your kids can go onward and upward no matter what. if you get sidelined from work. insuring your family's ifs can be hard to figure out. so metlife removed the guesswork, combining the insurances families need most, term life and disability, in one affordable package. find out just how affordable term life and disability insurance can be at metlife.com. and start building your personal safety net. visit metlife.com today.
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