Skip to main content

tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  February 15, 2010 6:00pm-7:00pm EST

6:00 pm
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. u.s. and nato forces continued their assault on taliban strongholds in afghanistan today. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the newshour tonight, the latest from the battlefield, as reported by rod nordland of the "new york times." >> woodruff: then, the debate over the obama administration's anti-terrorism policy, as vice president biden and former vice president cheney take their differences to the airwaves.
6:01 pm
>> ifill: health correspondent betty ann bowser reports on increasing premiums and profits in the insurance industry. >> woodruff: after an athlete's death, a look at the dangers of winter sports, as the vancouver olympics continue. >> ifill: and controversy in california, where undocumented aliens claim they're the real targets of d.u.i. checkpoints. >> woodruff: . >> cities are exploiting a broken immigration system, exploiting broken state law, taking advantage and exploiting vulnerable members of our society. >> woodruff: and we remember the award-winning poet lucille clifton, who died this past weekend. >> all all light, all death, all one. >> ifill: that's all ahead on
6:02 pm
tonight's pbs newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour is provided by: >> what the world needs now is energy. the energy to get the economy humming again. the energy to tackle challenges like climate change. what if that energy came from an energy company? every day, chevron invests $62 million in people, in ideas-- seeking, teaching, building. fueling growth around the world to move us all ahead. this is the power of human energy. chevron. >> on a field in a a hoe,-- it involves satellite its, soil and ecograin wheat. it's all part of a plot to save the earth. earthgrains helping to preserve the earth one field at a time.
6:03 pm
>> and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: enemy sniper teams attacked u.s. marines and afghan troops across the taliban haven of marjah, as several gun battles erupted monday, the third day of a major offensive to seize the extremists' southern heartland. >> suarez: as the battle wretched into its third day, snipers fired on nato forces
6:04 pm
and gun battle erupted in the street . >> the british and afghan troops have been deployed here in the biggest joint operation of the war. two have been killed so far, one american and one briton. dubbed operation together, the mission is to take the area and its surrounding villages out of insurgent control . marja is the biggest town in helmand province still under taliban rule and a major weigh station for the heroin poppy trade that funds the insurgent. nato publicized its plans to take the town for weeks and many taliban were thought to have fled in advance of the attack but at a news conference today, afghanistan defense minister said fighters remained and he urged them to put down their weapon its. >> i would like to give this
6:05 pm
message to our enemies. we will not leave the area. we will stay there at all costs to bring peace. so it would be better for them to join us in serving their country. >> suarez: the goal, though, isn't just to push the taliban out t is to win over the town's 80,000 residents. the plan is to establish afghan governance and afghan security. until now there was no -- >> now after everything is fine, we want them to build schools and roads. so far they haven't done anything for us. now it is time to work and they have promised to do that. >> suarez: efforts to win over the people were complicated yesterday after two u.s. rockets demolished a house killing civilians. initial reports said 12 civilians were dead including six children. today though the afghan interior minister said the insurgents may have been among the dead. >> unfortunately, our forces didn't know that civilians were living there, and as a result of this incident, nine civilians were killed.
6:06 pm
in our preliminary investigation shows that two or three fighters were killed. >> suarez: top allied command never afghanistan u.s. general stanley mcchrystal apologized for what he called this tragic loss of life. that his troops were working to minimize civilian casualties. >> first thing i would say is when president karzai approved the conduct of this operation, he gave us some very specific guidance. and that guidance was to continue to protect the people of afghanistan. and so this operation has been done with that in mind. >> suarez: afghan president hamid karzai warned civilian death kos jeopardize the mission. he called for a full investigation into the accident. and in a separate development, nato air strike in neighboring kandahar province killed five civilians. earlier this evening i talked with rod nordland of the "new york times". what kind of resistence are the allied forces meeting in
6:07 pm
their assault on helmand. >> well, you know, there is wildly varying accounts from a bunch of foreign jihadi dug in, and willing to fight to the death to snipers all over the city to some accounts that have only a few as 20 left. what everyone seems to agree on though is that there is a huge number of booby traps, buried ied mines and so forth that will be time-consuming and painstaking to remove. >> suarez: in these battles that u.s. and other forces have been getting into, how would we describe the taliban militarily. are they well warmed, are they well equipped. are they able to fight back effectively? >> i don't think you can really describe them militarily it seems like a few guys taking potshots at them. and not terribly effectively. with some exception its. they have in some cases shown an ability to maneuver.
6:08 pm
but i think what they got back is to get out of dodge before the cowboys came. and that's what most of them have done. large numbers of them. there were accounts of credible accounts that there were more than 1,000 taliban there before this started. nobody thinks there is more than in the low 100s when they came in, and probably less now. >> suarez: why was this place chosen? why is marja an important objective. >> it is the last-- the last place in afghanistan where they have a large population under their control. it's a city of 80,000 people. and a small city. but that is much larger than most paces in afghanistan. it was also very important to them financially because they had heroin factorys there that converted opium into heroin for smuggling. so it had a big effect on their finances.
6:09 pm
>> suarez: and. >> and also symbolically important. we took it back to them last may, we took it back to them a couple years ago and they were able to infiltrate. and now the americans and the afghans want to show that the new population centered strategy can get the seed in holding the area long enough to rebuild it and provide government services that will hopefully discourage people from going back to the taliban. >> suarez: you mentioned this area has been cleared before. how does this approach differ from earlier attempts to control helmand? how is the obama era approach a depar ture for more than seven years of fighting under president bush? >> well, you know, i think the most dramatic example of that difference was when the military and general mcchrystal announced yesterday that they had in error killed 12 civilians. that a rocket had gone
6:10 pm
astray, hit the wrong building and killed 12 civilians. they were so quick to announce that, in fact that it turns out they exaggerated, apparently, the number of civilians they killed. it turned out it was actually only nine and there were also three taliban in the house who were shooting from the house. and thereby at least arguably making it a legitimate target. to contrast that to say th the-- one of the several weding that was bombed a year or two ago during the bush administration, you know, they just, it took them months to ever admit that they had done anything wrong. >> suarez: beforehand had there been attempts to get civilians out of the line of fire entirely, to get them to go somewhere else outside of marja? >> no, i think the whole tactic was to warn them that they were coming. and to warn the taliban that they were coming. it gave the taliban plenty of time to leave. and you know, to seek lodging elsewhere. but it also meant that they
6:11 pm
didn't have to have such a bloody campaign coming in to do it. >> suarez: the u.s. military has made an effort to call attention to the afghans who were fighting in this assault. what is the ratio of afghan to alliance forces and how are they doing? >> yeah, they have been repeatedly saying the afghans are in the lead. the majority of the forces are afghan, and so forth. but the real fighting is being done by the american marines, and backed up by the brits and the other for enforces. >> suarez: rod nordland, thanks a lot for talking to us. >> okay, pleasure. bye. >> ifill: now, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan in our newsroom. >> sreenivasan: secretary of state hillary clinton warned today that iran is drifting toward a military dictatorship. in a televised event with arab students in doha, qatar clinton said iran's revolutionary guards have seized power in the political, military and economic spheres. and she said the world has to do something to stop the guard from
6:12 pm
expanding its control. kbns we are planning to try to bring its world communities together in applying measure to iran through sanctions adopted by the united nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the revolutionary guard which we believe is in effect is up planting the government of eye rather than. i mean that is how we see it. >> on the nuclear >> sreenivasan: on the nuclear issue, iran's top nuclear official claimed iran has received a new nuclear proposal from western nations. but the u.s., france, and russia denied that claim, insisting the only offer on the table is the one brokered by the u.n.'s nuclear watchdog last october. that proposal calls for the regime to send most of its uranium abroad for processing. at least 18 people were killed in belgium when two commuter trains crashed into each other.
6:13 pm
the head-on collision happened just south of brussels at the height of morning rush hour. a belgian official said one of the trains ran a stop light as it was traveling through light snow. more than 80 people were injured. eurostar and other high-speed international trains suspended their service in and out of brussels because they share the same tracks. ukraine is set to inaugurate its new president on february 25. viktor yanukovich was declared the official winner of the presidential race after a runoff in early february. but prime minister yulia tymoshenko has yet to concede defeat. she is now pressing a court case to prove there was election fraud before her opponent can be sworn in. the appeal begins tomorrow in kiev. but today, european election monitors said the election was fair. in u.s. political news, democratic senator evan bayh of indiana announced he will not run for a third term in congress. at a news conference in indianapolis, he cited "too much partisanship and not enough progress" in washington as a reason for leaving.
6:14 pm
bayh is the fourth sitting democrat not to seek reelection. that leaves seats up for grabs in indiana, illinois, north dakota, and connecticut. at the winter olympics in vancouver, canada, american skier bode miller broke his losing streak and won a bronze medal in the men's downhill competition. he did not win any medals at the last olympics in turin, italy. miller was .09 seconds behind the gold medal winner, didier defago of switzerland. the silver went to norwegian askel lund svindal. those are some of the day's main stories. i'll be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you'll find tonight on the newshour's web site. but for now, back to gwen. >> ifill: and still to come on the newshour, the rising costs of health care; the dangers of some olympics sports; in california, a debate over d.u.i. checkpoints; and remembering the poet lucille clifton. >> woodruff: that follows our look at counter-terrorism policy in the u.s. how much has changed between this white house and the last? we begin with some background on
6:15 pm
yesterday's clash between officials from both administrations. >> woodruff: on valentine's day morning there mr. were plenty of arrows flying across the talk shows. >> trying to rewrite history. >> woodruff: but little love lost between the sitting vice president and his immediate predecessor. >> it's dead wrong. >> woodruff: joe biden and dick cheney engaged in a virtual vice presidential debate sunday morning arguing over their administration's approaches to fighting terrorism. and whether the federal court was the right venue for prosecuting acaused terrorists. cheney in the year since he left office has been by far the most vocal member of the bush white house repeatedly accusing the obama team of endangering the nation. biden leveled a preemptive rebuttal on nbc's "meet the press", part of a new offensive approach by the obama white house to take on
6:16 pm
its critics. first he described how they had taken the fight to al qaeda. >> we've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. we have taken out a hundred of their associates. we are making-- we've sent them underground. they are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. they are on the run. i don't know where dick cheney has been. look, it's one thing, again, to criticize. it's another thing to sort of rewrite history. what is he talking about? >> woodruff: cheney responded in an interview on abc's "this week" conducted by jonathan carl. >> they say that they are actually dedicating more resources to the fight against al qaeda than you were. >> well, i-- you know, i'm a complete supporter of what they are doing in afghanistan. i think the president made the right decision to send troops into afghanistan. i thought it took him awhile to get there. >> woodruff: while lauding ot bama white house's afghan
6:17 pm
policy, he blasted some individual moves. >> but i do see repeatedly examples that there are key members in the administration like eric holder, for example, the attorney general who still insists on thinking of terror attacks against the united states as criminal acts as opposed to acts of war. >> they will be brought to new york, to new york, to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the twin towers once stood. >> woodruff: it was attorney general eric holder who decided last fall to move the self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11 challid sheikh mohammed out of the military tribunal system at guantanamo and into the federal civilian court. but pushed back-- pushback from new york officials and pressure from congress have put that decision in doubt, a reality biden acknowledged
6:18 pm
on cbs's face the nation. >> that creates a political dimension of this is the sense that the congress can control the cost and the purse strings of how much money we have to try this case. so that is the only reason why the president is taking it under consideration. the president is now waiting for a recommendation from the attorney general to see after review whether we have 9 option to continue there or have to consider another option. >> woodruff: distinctions also arose over the alleged christmas day bomber who is presently being held in federal custody, a decision cheney derided. >> the proper way to deal with it would have been to treat him as an enemy combatant. i think that was the right way to go. the thing i learned from watching that process unfold though, was, the administration really wasn't equipped to deal with the aftermath of an attempted attack against the united states in the sense that they didn't know what to do with the guy. >> woodruff: cheney advo cade the use of military tribunal. biden on "meet the press" said the civilian system had
6:19 pm
better results. >> the christmas day bomber was treated the exact way that he suggested that the shoe bomber was treated. absolutely the same way. under the bush administration, there were three trials in military courts, two of those people are now talking the streets. they are free. there were 300 trials of so-called terrorists and those who engage approximated in terror against the united states, america, who are in federal prison and have not seen the light of day. prosecuted under the last administration. dick cheney is a fine fella but he is not entitled to rewrite history without it being challenged. i don't know where he has been. where was he the last four years, of the last administration. >> woodruff: more often than not cheney said he was looking to hold prisoners either indefinitely or for military trial. he did, however, acknowledge how difficult the questions are surrounding trying terrorists. >> we never thoroughly or totally resolve those issues. these are tough questions,
6:20 pm
no doubt about it. >> woodruff: cheney shed new light on divisions within his own administration,emly during the second bush term, over dealing with terror suspects and the use of controversial torture techniques. again, he said he preferred a war footing to crime fighting. >> i do get very nervous and very up set when that is the dominant approach as it was sometimes in the bush administration, or certainly what appear to be at times in the obama administration. >> did you more often win or lose those battles, especially as he got to the second term? >> well, i suppose it depends on which battle you are talking about. i won some, i lost some. >> woodruff: among those battles, cheney said he unsuccessfully opposed efforts to end water boarding, the latter part of the bush administration. so for more on the >> ifill: for more on the nation's terror policies under presidents bush and obama, we're joined by juan zarate, who served as president bush's deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. he's now with the center for
6:21 pm
strategic and international studies and is a consultant for cbs news. and david cole, author of the book "the torture memos: rationalizing the unthinkable." he's a professor of law at georgetown university. elcome to you both. juan czar atee, starting with you, help people understand the distinction of the vice president, cheney was saying and what current vice president biden was saying. >> i think what you see at play, gwen is the grand debate of not only the past but current counterterrorism policy. i think a lot of the confusion and a lot of the fire around this debate stems from a bit of histrionics around what is really at play. i think and i've argued since i left the bush administration that we were likely to see fundamental continuity in our counterterrorism policy. and i think for the most part that is what we have seen. the problem with that is that has not matched the political rhetoric and frankly the requirements of this administration to appear to have been tacking against the past. and so the decisions that have proven most
6:22 pm
controversial and confusing for the obama administration, the khalid sheikh mohammed trial, the could closure of guantanamo by date certain, new interrogation policy has led to some confusion because the obama administration continues many of the same policies. talk about a war on al qaeda but is trying to demonstrate a difference. and it's in that gray zone that you have a lot of confusion and a lot of this debate. >> ifill: david cole, we're talking about fundamental continue as juan zarate says or a big distinction between what the two vice presidents meant and what they said? >> well, i think there is a big difference in that the bush administration really sought to fight the war on terror outside the law, thrusting the rule of law to the side as an obstacle to be evaded by disappearing people into black sites, by reading a ban on torture to permit torture. by putting people in guantanamo and arguing that no rights apply there.
6:23 pm
by arguing laws of war don't apply. i think the obama administration is continuing to fight a war and it is also continuing to use criminal measures just as the bush administration did. but the big difference is that the obama administration is seeking to do that within the frame of the rule of law. it has ended torture. it has closed the black site and ended the practice of disappearance. it has committed to closing guantanamo. and it said that it will attempt to try as many people as it can in the criminal courts. but it's still using military measures as well. and as vice president biden said it has killed 12 of al qaeda top 20 people since it has come to power. >> ifill: go ahead. >> i would agree with david if we were talking about 20023 and 2003. but i think what we have seen and including vice president biden agree og to this, the second term of the bush administration actually saw a real evolution of our counterterrorism policy. we know that water boarding was ended in 2003. the cia sites were-- woodruff: .
6:24 pm
>> ifill: vice president chaney said he favored it. >> even though he favored it, to were in essence shut in 2006. presidbig ptem year transferring those detainees to guantanamo. president bush in 2006 said he wanted to close guantanamo, and this is all, i think, corroborated by the fact that the administration is now in defense of its own policies pointing to the very continuity. the fact that the prior administration released these detainees, used the criminal legal system and engaged in some of the same practices that the obama administration did. >> ifill: let me ask you david cole about one of the specific issues that comes up time and time again in these debates. and that's about the handling of the suspected christmas day bomber abdulmutallab and how that was compared to richard reid, the shoe bomber who was also read his rights before he was arrested and was taken to civilian trial. now a lot of people disagree with the way the obama administration has handled
6:25 pm
this latest one even though it looks at least on the surface very similar. how do you see it. >> well, identical, in fact. richard reid was prosecuted in criminal court and is spending the rest of his life in jail. abdulmutallab will be prosecuted in the criminal court and probably will spend the rest of his life in jail. exactly the same way. in fact, the bush administration tried house ouee in criminal court t tried padilla, the alleged dirty bomber in criminal court it tried mr. almari who was alleged on september 10th by al quite v to do a followup attack in criminal court. so there i think both the bush administration and the obama administration have sought to use the criminal route when they can, and particularly with respect to domestic incidents. and so i don't think there's a real depar ture here. 9 only depar ture is in rhetoric on the republican side. >> ifill: and rhetoric on the democratic side as well. >> i think so i think part
6:26 pm
of the problem has been the obama administration's instinct to try to-- against the past. and the reality is there is at any time as david just demonstrated and talked about some of it. including some things that have been considered and were campaigned against. things like rendition, preventive detention, the use of the ability to kill al qaeda figures across the world. these are things that the obama administration not only is continuing but in some cases touting. we saw the president touting numbers in the state of the union union with respect to killing al qaeda members in 2009. in any case the obama administration want it both ways. they want to demonstrate they are strong on the war or terror that there is continuity. and at the same time they want to demonstrate they are different. but at the end of the day they are not very different from the bush administration policies that were handed over in 2009. >> ifill: david cole what about this, the targeted attacks, the rendition, they continue? >> well, they are not different in terms of using
6:27 pm
the criminal law to prosecute people within the law with. what they are different, and i think where they have tacked against the path and just tack against the path is in insisting that in conducting this war we're not going to throw out the rule book. we're to the going to throw out the laws of war. instead we're going to pursue this war within the frameworks of the laws 6 war. and it is important that we distinguish what we are doing now from what we did then. because remember, what did the bush administration give us, it gave us abu ghraib and guantanamo, probably the two biggest gifts to al qaeda and its recruitment program that they ever could have been. it gave us in the war in iraq where more people died than on 9/11, and which took our focus off of al qaeda. i think the obama administration said yes, we're fighting a war but it is in afghanistan. it's after al qaeda it is not in iraq and it is to the going to use torture and it is to the going to give al quitea propaganda like abu ghraib and guantanamo. >> i think what david described is important. but it's been a problem over
6:28 pm
the past year for the administration. the rearview mirror approach to looking at what the prior policies were or were not is actually i think distracted the administration. >> ifill: what should the practice be going forward? >> i think to david's point, i think absolutely right, we need a consistent, transparent rule of law context for dealing with the terrorist threats of the 21st century. this administration is going to hold people without trial, not only in civilian courts but not even in military commission. what is the legal basis for that? what is the long term legitimacy for that kind of program. congress, the administration need to step up and define that. we need to talk about this not in the two war construct that defines a good war and a bad war. but we've got to view this as a global threat. and i think that was the wake-up call september 25th when we saw this threat coming from yemen. that wasn't on the radar screen, we had mondays of debate about afghanistan and not much public discourse about yemen, somalia, so we
6:29 pm
have to look at this globally. and i think we need to set for a program that gets at operationalizing what president obama has done in terms it of the cairo speech, reaching out to muslims, destroying the narrative that the west is at war with islam. david is right, we handed the enemy gifts in terms of propaganda value and we have to make sure we are not doing it in the future. >> david cole, i want to you talk about the future. i also want you to tackle this question. are we talking about nuance here, or are we talking about nuance in approach or are we talking about something that is really fundamentally different? >> i think it's fundamentally different to say you are going it to thrust the law aside and say with you are going to fight a war and fight terror within the rule of law. i think what the obama administration has shown us and is struggling with is that the rule of law permits a state to use certificate us-- serious tactics, to use preventive detention when you are fighting a war, to use targeted killing when you are fighting a war. but it is doing it within the framework of the rule of war, not arguing that we somehow don't have to abide
6:30 pm
by the rules that everyone else did. what that got us with the bush administration was the highest level of anti-americanism that this world has ever seen. that is not good for our national security. obama put a big end to that. and by presenting a very, very different affront on how we are going to fight this battle in the future. >> ifill: david cole and juan zarate, thank you both very much. >> thank youness thank you. >> woodruff: now, new questions about rising premiums amid big profits for health insurance companies. newshour health correspondent betty ann bowser has that. the health unit is a partnership with the robert wood johnson foundation. >> reporter: recent announcements by anthem blue cross/blue shield said it would raise premiums 35% for policyholders in the individual market in california has created a storm of controversy at the state and national levels.
6:31 pm
so in what appeared to be bowing to pressure, over the weekend the company said it would delay the increase two months. but timing aside, health and human services secretary kathleen sebelius called the increase unreasonable. >> well, i think it's hard to look at a company which had a $2.7 billion profit in the fourth quarter of 2009, pays both their top ceos just under $10 million and says we have to raise rates on 800,000 people, which will effectively, betty ann, either drive them out of the marketplace or make them make terrible choices about do i have health care or pay my rent. do i buy pie kids new gym shoes or provide them health insurance. and that's a situation nobody in america should be in. >> reporter: anthem's announced increase sparked congressional hearings
6:32 pm
scheduled to take place on february 24th. and in california, both the state's insurance commissioner and the state's assembly have launched investigation. a san francisco attorney says that means her monthly premiums will soar from $584 to $748. >> that is a very large increase in monthly expense on very short notice. and i really don't have that kind of extra disposable income. >> brian, the president of consumer business for wellpoint the parent company of anthem said the rate increase represents approximately 10% of our more than 8 million members in california. adding that rates are rising because healthy people are choosing not to buy coverage during the recession leaving a sicker and older pool of customers. and robert, the spokesman pore america's health
6:33 pm
insurance plans said profit margins for health insurance are slimmer than in other areas of health care. >> the profits in the health insurance industry are much less than other industries within the health care sector. and have been historically low compared to many other industries. the average profit margin that, when you look at yahoo! does their latest quarterly rangings showing that the average profit margin in the entire health care sector right now is 11%. but the health insurance industry is at 3.4%. >> reporter: anthem's decision to postpone the increase will give investigators two months to see whether the company is in compliance with federal and state regulation. meanwhile, one of the nation's leading health care advo cass-- advocacy group says the five largest insurance companies last year posted record profits while covering nearly 3 million fewer customers. secretary ebb-- sebelius says that shows more and
6:34 pm
more americans are being driven out of the individual market. >> everybody else is down. health costs keep going up. and i think insurance companies over and over again are declaring record profits. so it isn't that more people are getting better coverage, it isn't that we have better health results, it's that more of these companies are making big profits and eliminating the a foferd-- affordability of health insurance for way too many american families and businesses. >> sebelius says the anthem increase is a graphic illustration of why the congress needs to pass health-care reform. something president obama has also been hammering away at. >> we don't act, this is just a preview of coming attractions. premiums will continue to rise for folks with insurance, millions more will lose their coverage all together. their deficits will continue to grow larger. >> reporter: saying the president's rhetoric is just politics as usual. >> the fact is we need an open and transparent
6:35 pm
discussion about what is driving the rise in health-care costs in this country. we're-- if you look at the data that the federal government has put out it shows very clearly that its underlying medical costs, not health plan administrative costs that driving the increase in health-care costs and yet up to this point in the health-care reform debate, there has not been a willingness and desire by people in washington to really focus on and address the underlying medical cost drivers. >> much of this is expected to be addressed next week at the white house when the president meets with members of both parties in a special summit on health care . >> ifill: next, olympic athletes competing at the tops of their games and assuming the risks that come with it. jeffrey brown has the story. >> reporter: in vancouver today mourners guaraned at a memorial survey for nodar
6:36 pm
kumaritvashili who was kilted in a crash during a training run on friday. the incident brought into focus the dangers of some olympic competition. the newer sport, and older ones in their pursuit of the olympic motto faster, higher, stronger, athletes in these winter games continue to push the limits of human performance. in some cases, raise new questions about safety. david-- has onic eled the evolution of the olympics in several books, he joins us now from vancouver. let's start with friday's accident and its aftermath. you have been talking to people there. where do things stand now? >> well, right now what concerns me is that the international luge federation seems to be trying to cover-up the causes of this accident. they quickly put the blame on the athlete himself which was rather shocking, first of all it was insensitive. but also they tried to say that it was because he was not an accomplished athlete when it reality, the best lugers had been crashing also.
6:37 pm
the defending olympic champion without won a medal here, in vancouver, he had crashed. so when you start getting the athletes themselves questioning a course, that is when you should step in and do something. >> reporter: now you have followed the olympics for a long time, as i said. do you see them, especially the winter olympics, more thrills, more spills? i mean is it getting more dangerous. >> it is almost as if they have added a fourth category too faster, higher, stronger, which is more dangerous. and it is true. and part of this goes back to about 20 years ago when the international olympic committee, the ioc discovered that they were losing the youth audience for the winter olympics. the summer olympics wasn't a problem. so they sought out snowboarding, a youth sport. then short track speed skating, aerials, moguls, these different more x game like sports that peel to younger people. but what they also have done is brought in more of a danger element and they also added that danger element to even alpine skiing.
6:38 pm
so yes, i think it is a disturbing trend, actually. >> reporter: a disturbing trend, but go it work? is in what they think people wanted? >> yes, it definitely worked. the ratings have been up. so in that sense, i guess they got what they wanted. but sometimes you get a little something that you didn't ask for. and in this case, it was a really tragic something they didn't ask for. >> reporter: presumably though the technology changes as well, the ability to control some of these sports, the equipment, all of that advances at the same time. >> well, it's true. but if you take the luge, sticking to the luge, yes the technology advances all the time. but it advances in a way that not only makes them go faster but also gives them more control. and so what you had with, the problem we had here in vancouver was the course itself. it was a new course. and it was designed by somebody who had designed the last three olympic courses, is very knowledgeable. in his early interviews after the tragedy, he said that he designed the course
6:39 pm
to go a certain speed. and in reality, it was going 20 miles an hour faster. so the question that if you are going to have a real investigation, not like the white wash that we saw the luge federation do, you have to ask yourself, is this designer of the course, is what he said the truth, did something happen between his design and the construction, what is the story here. when you have even the major athletes worrying about the course, you really should, that should have been a red flag that they had to deal with it before the olympics. >> reporter: to the degree that there is this line between thrill and real danger, who is supposed to-- how is it supposed to be governed? who is supposed to be finding that line? >> the international olympic committee is the umbrella organization that runs the olympics. but in reality the competition themselves are run by the international sports federation in charge of each sport. so the ski federation is in charge of everything about skiing. the skating federation is
6:40 pm
skating, and in this case the luge federation was supposed to make sure that the course was safe and that everything was going well. of course the international olympic committee can criticize the sports federation but in the end it is the sports federation that takes responsibility. >> and when you look at what's to come here in terms of audiences, in terms of governing bodies, do you expect any change or is it all fade away over time? >> i'm a little concerned about what is going to happen in the luge situation. primarily because of the initial way that the luge federation dealt with it. i can see delaying a full investigation until after the games are over. but when they just quickly came out and said okay, we've done an investigation, there is nothing wrong with the course, it was all the athlete's fault. but by the way, since you mentioned it, we're going to change the course. i think there is something wrong here. but at this point i'm not confident that the international luge federation realizes that they have to make some changes or at least they have to regulate themselves. >> reporter: and is there
6:41 pm
any way of bringing those concerns to the federation? >> i would say that other than public protest and the media calling attention to them t is the international olympic committee who is going to talk to them, i'm sure, in private after the games are over and go this is outrage us. you've got us into trouble. you need to, we're going to have to put you under stricter control. keep in mind that luge was added in 1964, and two weeks before the opening of those games, luge athlete was killed on the olympics course. now it was two weeks before the games we didn't have so much television. so it wasn't a big story. but here you would have thought that they would have learned after 26 years. and here we had it on the opening day. >> reporter: all right, in vancouver, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> ifill: for the record we asked the international luge federation to respond to the
6:42 pm
piece of his investigation and a spokesman declined to comment. woodruff: now, the fallout from the increased use by police of traffic sobriety checkpoints in california. that's the focus of a three- month probe by ryan gabrielson, a fellow in the investigative reporting program at the university of california, berkeley. the program's director, special correspondent lowell bergman, narrates this report. every year 12,000 people die on the nation a roads in accidents caused by drunk driving. over a thousand die in california alone. and in an effort to save lives, california has become the leader in the use of check points to get drunk drivers off the roads. >> good evening. see your driver's license, dui check point, have you had anything to drink tonight. >> no. >> reporter: but even if you are sober, this check point means trouble for some drivers. >> your driver's license,
6:43 pm
durx i check point. >> reporter: police don't just go after drunk drivers at these check points. they are looking for people drive woing a licence. >> it's a common perception that driving without a licence is a victimless crime. in fact, it's not. >> reporter: professor david ragland of the university of california berkeley helped administer millions of dollars in federal funds for dui checkpoints. in 20% of traffic fatalitys there is at least one unlicensed driver involved. and the risk of being in a hit and run crash is even higher. therefore, it is extremely important that we try to get people without licenses off the road. >> this is a ticket for driving without a licence. sign at the bottom. >> reporter: and in california if you don't have a licence most police don't just give you a citation, they do something that no other state does. >> it is a-- because you
6:44 pm
don't have a licence, we're towing the car. can i have the key please. >> reporter: if you don't have a licence, they tow your car and impound it for a month. >> as it stands right now it is a 30 day tow. do you understand that?. 30 days, give you the phone number. >> reporter: if you are caught driving drunk you can pick up your vehicle the next morning. but if are you caught driving without a licence, you lose your car for at least 30 days . last year 24,000 vehicles were impounded at california check points. because an unlicensed driver was caught at the wheel. professor ragland says the 30 day impound makes sense. >> if someone is drive woing a licence, you want to keep their car long enough so they can't just get their car immediately and start driving again. >> reporter: but there is a fundamental problem with this practice. according to democratic state senator gilbert padilla.
6:45 pm
>> impowning the vehicle of unlicensed motorists in california is illegal and unconstitutional. >> reporter: what senator is referring to is this decision in 2005 by the 9th circuit court of appeals. it concluded that it was quote unreasonable seizure under the fourth amendment to impound a vehicle if the only justification is that the driver is unlicensed martin mayer is a lawyer for california's police chief and scher i've association. >> it was pointed out by the 9th circuit was that in the united states, you have to have a warrant to seize any personal property. with very few exceptions. >> reporter: in this memo mayer told his clients that the ruling would, quote, impact upon an officer's authority to have a vehicle towed if the only charge against the driver is driving without a licence. >> if they are doing that and they can't justify it, it would be an
6:46 pm
unconstitutional seizure of personal property. >> reporter: since the court ruling some law enforcement agencies like the california highway patrol have changed their policy. but most police departments continue to routinely impound cars. in fact, the number of vehicles seized at california check points has doubled in the five years since the decision the senator says the reason for this is simple. money. >> it's all to raise revenue for the local governments. this is a simple reason why they are doing this, to raise revenue for their cash-strapped city. >> reporter: the revenue comes in two ways. first 30 million dollars in federal funds pays for police overtime. and operating costs at check points like these. and then the impounded vehicles provide a profit. after fines are paid to the city along with 30 days in storage fees, a vehicle
6:47 pm
typically produces 2000 in revenue. sometimes more if it is not claimed and then auctioned . >> okay, thank you with. with. >> an a than sis of records obtained shows that last year impounds brought in over 40 million dollars in revenue. shared by tow operators and municipal government. and documents reveal that for every one dui arrest in these sobriety check points there can be as many as 60 people cited for driving without a licence. 60 vehicles sized . >> so who is losing their vehicle? according to police at check points and our own reporting around the state, most of the unlicensed drivers are undocumented hispanic immigrants. >> cities are exploiting a broken immigration system, exploiting broken state law, taking advantage of
6:48 pm
exploiting its vulnerable members of our society. >> reporter: by state law undocumented immigrants are barred from getting a driver's license. but they can buy a car. like this man who we'll call persondino an undocumented immigrant, to drive to his construction job . >> i know that i am doing something wrong. i shouldn't be doing it but i need to. i need my car for work. without a car i have nothing . >> reporter: he told us he was stopped at check points. >> they asked me for my licence. i said i didn't have one. they asked for i.d.. i said i left it at home. they said okay, we're sorry but we are going to have to take your car. what happened to him? like almost all of the undocumented immigrants who are stopped at check points, after their vehicle is seized, they simply walk away .
6:49 pm
>> law enforcement officers at check points around the state told us they don't call immigration authority. sergeant david hardigon of the sacramento police department. >> we don't check with immigration, you know, either they have a licence or they don't. and if they don't have a licence, they are issued a citation and sent on their way. obviously without a car but they are free to go . >> reporter: persondino like two-thirds of those who vehicles are impounded at check points never claimed his vehicle. he simply went out and bought another one . >> i know if they stop me i will lose my car again. but if i lose it, i will buy another. because i need one . >> reporter: none of the police chiefs in cities where we observe check points would talk with us on camera. and the state attorney general's office told us that they believe it is
6:50 pm
quote unclear whether or not these impounds are still unconstitutional. they await a ruling on a new case that is to you before the 9th circuit court of appeal. meanwhile the california office of traffic safety plans even more check points this year. declaring 2010 the year of the check point. >> woodruff: that report was produced by the investigative reporting program at the university of california berkeley, in collaboration with the "new york times." >> ifill: finally tonight, the words of poet lucille clifton. the former maryland poet laureate and national book award winner died saturday after a long battle with cancer. clifton, whose work was praised for its "moral quality," shared her poetry with us on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. >> my name is lieu seen clifton. i was having lunch at st. mary's college of
6:51 pm
maryland on september 11th. when i watched on television the devastation of the twin towers, i thought a lot about that and about the fact that my eldest daughter had had a new baby girl five days before. and about love and continuing and fear and hope. and this poem is a reaction to those thoughts and feelings. the poem is called september song, a poem in seven days. and i would like to read two days in the poem . >> tuesday, 9/11, thunder and lightning and our world is another. no day will ever be the same. no blood untouched . they know this storm in other wheres, israel, ireland, palestine.
6:52 pm
but god has blessed america, we think. and god has blessed america, to learn is that no one is-- the world is one. all fear is one. all life, all death , all one. sunday morning, 9:16. the st. mary's river flows as if nothing has happened. i watch it with my coffee, afraid and sad as are we all. somebody wants to hate and i hurt cursed with raw memory, cursed with a desire to understand have never been good at hating. now this new grand daughter, born into a violent world,
6:53 pm
as if nothing has happened. and i am consumed with love for all of us. the every dayness of bravery, of hate, of fear, of tragedy, of death and birth and hope, true as this river. and especially with love -- for you . >> ifill: the words of the late poet lucille clifton. she was 73 years old. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day. enemy sniper teams attacked u.s. marines and afghan troops across the taliban haven of marjah, as several gun battles erupted. it was the third day of the largest joint operation since 2001. secretary of state hillary clinton warned that iran is drifting toward a military dictatorship. and democratic senator evan bayh of indiana announced he will not
6:54 pm
run for a third term in congress. the newshour is always online. hari sreenivasan, in our newsroom, previews what's there. hari? >> sreenivasan: we look at the strategy behind the marine offensive in the marjah region of afghanistan. there are more stories from the investigative reporting center's collaboration on the impact of d.u.i. checkpoints in california's hispanic communities. and on art beat, jeffrey brown interviews author ursula le guin about her battle with google books, part of our series on the next chapter of reading. there's also more poetry from lucille clifton. watch her read poems about race, gender, and economic hardship. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. judy? >> woodruff: and that's the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll see you online, and again here tomorrow evening. thank you, and good night.
6:55 pm
major funding for the pbs newshour is provided by: bnsf, the engine that connects us. chevron. this is the power of human energy.
6:56 pm
and by earthgrains. and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
6:57 pm
6:58 pm
6:59 pm

440 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on