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CNN Presents: Polygamy's Dirty Secrets; Addicted at Birth
Aired July 31, 2011 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CNN PRESENTS. "Addicted at Birth."
JEFFICA, RECOVERING OXYCODONE ADDICT: What's she going through because she's just a little baby? And she can't talk and she can't tell me how she feels.
ANNOUNCER: America's pain pill epidemic. It's the youngest generation.
AMBER LYON, CNN PRESENTS: We're seeing more babies being born addicted to drugs.
ANNOUNCER: "Beasts of War."
KAJ LARSEN, CNN PRESENTS: Next thing you know, I was staring a porpoise right in the face. Just got me again.
ANNOUNCER: A once top-secret military program that's enlisting animals to protect the country.
But first, inside a polygamous sect.
DAN MOSKALUK, ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE: We're dealing with the exploitation of children of young girls for sexual purposes.
ANNOUNCER: Gary Tuchman takes you where most people never go. Exposing "Polygamy's Dirty Secrets."
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN PRESENTS (voice-over): The scenery is spectacular and the polygamist families who live here along the Utah-Arizona border have been able to live their lives with little interference from the outside world for generations. Stepping into their world is both jarring and surreal.
(On camera): How many brothers and sisters do you have in all?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have 18.
TUCHMAN: And Albert, how many brothers and sisters do you have?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-two.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am the oldest of 32.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): These are not members of the Salt Lake City- Based Mormon Church known as the Church of Latter Day Saints. They belong instead to a splinter group who believe in polygamy and call themselves the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS.
(On camera): Mr. Jeffs, do you think you can win this case?
(Voice-over): The spiritual leader, Warren Jeffs, has been jailed now for nearly five years and faces trial on three charges including aggravated sexual assault on a child, charges to which he's pled not guilty.
(On camera): The people of the FLDS are convinced that there is nobody on earth closer to god than warren Jeffs. They believe that Jeffs, even behind bars, is the mouthpiece of god, that words he utters are divinely inspired. Law enforcement authorities have long been worried what would happy if Jeffs told his followers to do something violent and dangerous.
SAM BROWER, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I've never seen it like this before. I've been here for seven years. I've never seen things so unstable and so lawless. I consider this the most lawless town in the country.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Sam Brower is a private investigator and writer who's been following the polygamous sect closely for nearly a decade and who's written a book about the FLDS called "Prophet's Prey."
(On camera): Do you think there are comparisons to be made like to the Taliban or the mafia?
BROWER: Absolutely. I mean even the Utah attorney general has stated that the FLDS in this community is run Taliban-style and that's really all the FLDS church is, in my opinion, is an organized crime family.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Attorneys for the break-away sect say that kind of assertion is nonsense, that the polygamist leaders and their followers who live here simply want to be left alone to practice their religion the way they see fit. But real violence, according to some neighbors, has crept into the community.
This burned down patch of grass in the town of Colorado City, Arizona, is evidence of what authorities say is a very disturbing example. Arizona state investigators say FLDS leaders burned dozens of books here, rather than let an open library be built, because they believe those books were collected by infidels.
STEFANIE COLGROVE, LIBRARY ORGANIZER: They burnt things that didn't belong to them. And they broke and entered the building.
TUCHMAN: Former FLDS member Stefanie Colgrove says she worked for more than two years to collect books for the library, a library independent of the church.
(On camera): And what do they do with the books?
COLGROVE: They hauled them out of the building.
TUCHMAN: Then what did they do with them? COLGROVE: We assumed that they were burnt. We saw a massive bonfire and assumed all of this was on the pile because we saw books in the burning pile.
TUCHMAN: This is the remnants of one of the charred books. Looks like a medical textbook.
(Voice-over): County investigators say the local police in Colorado City are all members of the FLDS and have ignored the arson. Those local police have not returned our calls.
It's the county authorities who have worked to crack down on the church.
(On camera): And so you're with the county and they're the local police, and normally 99.9 percent of the time, police all work together. You don't work with these guys, do you?
GARY ENGELS, MOHAVE COUNTY (AZ) DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: Not at all. I can't even get them to talk to me most of the time.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): That's because, according to Mohave County chief investigator Gary Engels, police here obey the religious leaders first, civilian leaders second.
(On camera): In your eyes, is their allegiance more to the Constitution of the United States or to Warren Jeffs, their prophet?
ENGELS: I believe that their allegiance is probably more to the church. I know they are required to swear allegiance to Warren in one of their church meetings here not to long ago.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Some say if you do not side with Warren Jeffs, there can be trouble.
(On camera): So are you afraid for your safety sometimes?
ISAAC WYLER, WARREN JEFFS OPPONENT: Well, yes, sometimes you get a little worried. They've killed some of my animals.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Isaac Wyler has lived here for years, and until he split from Warren Jeffs, life was more or less tranquil. Not now.
WYLER: At one time there was, like, six dead cats in my window wells. They're thrown in there. A lot of times you go out and there'll be a dead cat or dead pigeon or dead duck or something.
TUCHMAN (on camera): You feel that's a threat to you, though? To intimidate you?
WYLER: Yes, definitely for intimidation. But I don't intimidate that easy.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Attorneys for the FLDS did not return calls for comment on either the book burning or the alleged intimidation.
WARREN JEFFS, FLDS LEADER: Do not video our (INAUDIBLE), please don't point that at me.
TUCHMAN: During my frequent reporting trips to Colorado City, we were often made to feel unwelcome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cameras allowed here. Sorry, this is private property.
TUCHMAN: And there's still a great deal of allegiance to the leader who's long been in jail. But that may be changing.
Just ahead, a man who was once one of Warren Jeffs' most loyal followers now tells a very different story.
WILLIE E. JESSOP, WARREN JEFFS OPPONENT: He in his own words has admitted to what he is, and he said he's a very wicked man and he confessed to doing some very terrible things.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Eldorado, Texas. This tiny town is where Warren Jeffs is now in jail as he stands trial. And while Jeffs has been here, he's done thing above all else. He spent a lot of time on the phone.
(On camera): In this past month, how much money has he spent, would you estimate, on phone cards and phone calls?
DAVID DORAN, SCHLEICHER COUNTY SHERIFF: Roughly $3,000.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And a similar pattern when he was for a time in a different Texas jail a few dozen miles away.
JEFF GARNER, REAGAN COUNTY SHERIFF: I would say probably in excess of $10,000.
TUCHMAN (on camera): And is it unusual to spend that much money? Have you ever had an inmate spend that much money on phone cards?
GARNER: No. No.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Authorities tell CNN Jeffs has been given cash by his loyal followers to pay for the calls and jailers say they monitor what's said. Mostly lengthy sermons and detailed instructions to his followers a few miles away at his isolated Yearning for Zion ranch, as well as to his followers in the twin polygamist towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah.
If that sounds like he's still running the church from jail, he is. Insiders say he's even been excommunicating those who disagree with him. But what it hasn't done is stop a growing feud between those who still believe in him and those who now believe he's a child molester.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like you all of you to think if you were standing here today --
TUCHMAN: Three years ago, Willie Jessop was one of Jeffs' most trusted lieutenants. He even showed me around the compound in west Texas that was raided by Texas Rangers to show CNN there was nothing inherently bad taking place.
(On camera): So where are the carrots?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, there.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Today Jessup says Warren Jeffs has betrayed his church.
JESSOP: And he said he's a very wicked man and he confused to doing some very terrible things, including molesting his daughter and sister and others. And I think his own words describe himself.
TUCHMAN: Jessop is talking about diaries submitted as evidence that he says were left by Warren Jeffs after his arrest in Las Vegas five years ago. He's talking about these. Pictures showing Jeffs embracing and kissing young girls no more than 12 or 13 years old, Jessop sufficient says.
JESSOP: His conduct will never be sanctioned by me. I don't think there's anyone in my church that will ever sanction what he has done. It's just a matter of time until they come to terms and figure out how to cope with what he has done.
TUCHMAN: According to authorities in both Texas and Canada, Jeffs orchestrated what Canadian police have called a child trafficking ring. Sending as many as 30 young girls ages 12 or 13 from a polygamist compound in British Columbia across the U.S. border to FLDS enclaves in Utah, Arizona and Texas.
MOSKALUK: And this is very serious allegations here where essentially in layman's terms we're dealing with the exploitation of children, of young girls, for sexual purposes and the procurement of sex with girls under the ages of 18.
TUCHMAN: And here is that Canadian compound. Now it's self-split into factions. One faction loyal to Jeffs, the other loyal to this man, Winston Blackmore. He is a long-time polygamist leader who does not want to believe accounts of child brides moving away from Canada into the United States.
WINSTON BLACKMORE, CANADIAN POLYGAMY LEADER: I've heard those stories. Just different people have come like you're come and told me about them but I would feel very disappointed if they were actually true.
TUCHMAN: A woman who did not want her face shown told us it is true. She says she has first-hand knowledge. Three of her nieces were among those sent away to be married to older men in the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It angers me that 12 and 13 year-olds would be taken away and given to an older man and that he'd consummate their marriage vows. It angers me. I mean they're just children. You know? It's not right.
TUCHMAN: Many girls, investigators say, ended up here at this FLDS compound in west Texas where we tried to get some answers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello.
TUCHMAN (on camera): It's Gary Tuchman with CNN and we're doing a story about Warren Jeffs.
(Voice-over): Cars and trucks passed in and out, but no one came out to answer questions.
(On camera): I can ask you a quick question?
(Voice-over): Warren Jeffs' attorney declined to comment.
(On camera): The people who live on this ranch in one of the most isolated parts of Texas are not only loyal to Warren Jeffs, they're the most loyal of the loyal. You're only invited to live here if the prophet himself approves.
(Voice-over): And despite his long stay in jails in Utah, Arizona and Texas -- jail time amounted to more than five years so far -- that's what Warren Jeffs is to people who believe in him, a leader to be followed and obeyed. He's pled not guilty to the most recent charges against him of sexual assault of a child and bigamy.
Officials of the mainstream Mormon Church reject Jeffs and his practices. But within the FLDS, there seem to be more people supporting Warren Jeffs than those trying to unseat him.
How long that will last is anyone's guess, but from his jail cell here in Texas, there's little doubt Jeffs is still controlling the destiny of the nation's largest group of believers in polygamy. Just listen to this young believer in Arizona.
(On camera): Tell me what Warren Jeffs means to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what you mean by that.
TUCHMAN: I mean, how important is he to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything?
TUCHMAN: He's everything to you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mm-hmm.
TUCHMAN: And are you married yet?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not.
TUCHMAN: So do you want to be married someday?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Course I do.
TUCHMAN: And do you want to have -- do you want to have sister wives, too?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Course I do.
TUCHMAN: Like how many sister wives would be perfect do you think in your family?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As many as I can.
ANNOUNCER: Next on CNN PRESENTS, the new face of America's pill epidemic. Innocent infants.
LYON (on camera): If you are pregnant and you know that it's harming the babies, why don't you just quit using the pills?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just not that easy. You feel like you're going to die.
ANNOUNCER: And later --
LARSEN: And caught me like a bear in a bear trap.
ANNOUNCER: Caught by the U.S. Navy's underwater recruits, marine mammals.
LYON (voice-over): From the outside, they look more like nightclubs than doctors' offices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, (EXPLETIVE DELETED). (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
LYON: And they're not too happy to see our cameras.
(On camera): We're here in a parking lot of one of these pain clinics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of here. Get out of here. Leave us the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) alone.
LYON (voice-over): Broward County, Florida, is filled with pain clinics. Doctors making millions doling out prescription opioids, also known as heroin in a pill, like candies.
(On camera): Oxycodone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oxycodone, 30 milligrams. Roxies, blues.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can get hundreds and hundreds of pills in one day. I'm just going from one doctor to the next, and then they take them on the street and they're selling them.
LYON (voice-over): Authorities are struggling to shut down these pill mills, but not fast enough.
(On camera): More and more people keep dying from prescription drug overdoses. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These doctors are slaughtering our children every single day. Look at us, we're desperate, we're begging you.
LYON (voice-over): As one generation succumbs to prescription opioids, a new generation of addicts is being born.
SHERIFF AL LAMBERTI, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: First we saw the number of crack babies that died and this is just another version of that. We all need to be concerned.
JESSICA: Good morning, ladies. I'm Jessica. I feel good today. Casey goes for her follow-up appointment at the doctor so hopefully they'll say she's doing better and I hope everybody has a blessed day.
This is Casey's bed. Just like I said, she's a princess so --
LYON (on camera): And that's --
JESSICA: That's the track when she was born. This is about a week after she was born and --
LYON: What --
JESSICA: This is her -- it's her nebulizer. Just put it -- put that on her face and turn it on.
LYON: Kind of loud.
JESSICA: This is why we're going to the doctor's, that nasty cough. That nasty cough.
LYON (voice-over): For most of her pregnancy, Jessica flooded her body, and therefore Casey's, with the prescription painkiller, Oxycodone, a synthetic version of heroin. These prescription pills have emerged as the nation's fastest growing drug problem Jessica fears the drug use is responsible for Casey's frequent respiratory infections.
JESSICA: With my other two kids they were never sick this young so it's kind of new to me. God comforts us in a way a loving parent comforts a frightened child.
LYON: Two years ago Jessica's husband died. A friend gave Jessica a couple Oxycodone pills to numb the pain.
JESSICA: When I started I was taking like one to two and within a six-month period I was taking 30. Thirty, 30 milligram --
LYON (on camera): Thirty? Thirty milligram?
JESSICA: Yes. Exactly. Snorting them.
LYON (voice-over): Jessica was getting her pills from Florida's numerous pill mills. And then she got pregnant.
(On camera): If you are pregnant and you know that it is harming the baby and you know it could possibly cause birth defects, why don't you just quit using the pills?
JESSICA: It's just not that easy. You feel like you're going to die.
LYON (voice-over): This recovery center used to be filled with pregnant women who had abused crack cocaine. Now it's pills.
(On camera): When did the first patient start coming in addicted to pills?
GARY FORREST, SUSAN B. ANTHONY RECOVERY CENTER: OK. In 2000, this is all cocaine. Right here.
LYON: The blue line.
FORREST: The blue line versus primary drug of choice prescription. And the crossover was sometime in 2009.
LYON (voice-over): Pregnant women addicted to crack are encouraged to quit. But with opiods, babies get just as addicted as the mother. If she quits cold turkey, the baby could die in utero from withdrawal.
(On camera): And when you were going through withdrawal did you feel Casey was going through withdrawal?
LYON: How is that?
JESSICA: She would like curl up, like in a -- because it was in the latter part of the pregnancy, she would crawl up in like a ball and my stomach would be like rock solid and she wouldn't move. I mean you could feel it. You could just feel that she was -- she was in torment. It's really sad. You know? To know that your baby's in pain while you're in pain. And then you just feel horrible because you did it. You know? You did it. You put yourself there.
LYON (voice-over): Jessica was weaned off the pills before Casey was born. Those that aren't give birth to babies who begin to suffer with their first breath.
(On camera): So you actually have to detox the babies?
MARY OSUCH, RN, BROWARD GENERAL MEDICAL CENTER: Right. They go through their withdrawal symptoms, yes. They start out by having feeding intolerances, diarrhea, you can tell that they're crampy, they're miserable, they're irritable. They have -- they sweat. They can have rapid breathing. Sometimes they can even have seizures.
LYON (voice-over): According to state health records, during the first half of 2010 alone, 635 Florida babies were born addicted.
(On camera): You're saying that the number of babies you've seen addicted to prescription drugs doubled last year.
DR. LESTER MCINTYRE, JOE DIMAGGIO CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes. There are some situations where we have three or four babies at a time. It just makes everybody a little reflective and a little sad about the whole situation.
LYON (voice-over): Even more troubling, researchers still don't know what the long term effects of opiod use will be on infants. And neither does Jessica.
JESSICA: Because I know that I'm going through stuff getting off of the pills. So what's she going through because she's just a little baby? And she can't talk and she can't tell me how she feels. I want to make sure that she doesn't want for anything, that she doesn't have to hurt any more than I already put her through because she didn't deserve that. She's a princess.
LYON: Coming up --
(On camera): We're going to see her drug dealer. He's got tear drops tattooed on his eyes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I own got 12 until later.
LYON (voice-over): We see first-hand how the pill trade works.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone.
I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world here are your headlines.
The clock is ticking toward default if the U.S. doesn't raise the debt ceiling but the details appear that we've been falling into place to finally get it done. And we have heard from President Obama and we've also heard from leaders in Congress, they say they have struck a deal to raise the nation's debt limit and cut spending.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: There are still some very important votes to be taken by members of Congress but I want to announce that the leaders of both parties in both chambers have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default a default that would have had a devastating effect on our economy.
The first part of this agreement will cut about $1 Trillion in spending over the next ten years, cuts that both parties had agreed to early on in this process. The result would be the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was president. But at a level that still allows us to make job creating investments in things like education and research.
We also made sure that these cuts wouldn't happen so abruptly that they'd be a drag on a fragile economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Both the Senate and house have to approve the plan. It would raise the debt ceiling initially by $900 billion which will get us to February. Raising it again after that is a multi-step process involving a joint committee that will have to be created to work toward more debt reduction measures.
In total the plan calls for more than $2.4 Trillion in deficit reduction.
Those are your headlines this hour. I'm Don Lemon, keeping you informed.
CNN, the most trusted name in news.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
AMBER LYON, CNN REPORTER: We came to Broward County to do an investigation on pill mills a year ago.
Now, we're back a year later and a there are still rows and rows of pain clinics. We are seeing more babies being born addicted to drugs.
AL LAMBERTI, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY FLORIDA: More people died last year from prescription drug overdoses than car accidents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our children are dying. It's all young people. It's all the young people.
LYON: What age were you when you started using pills?
BREE SAGHY, OXYCODONE ADDICT: I was 18. That's me, my dad, my brother. That's me and my mom before drugs.
Like, I used to be so prissy and preppy, cared about my hair and makeup. I don't give a (bleep) anymore.
LYON: Bree - addiction to Oxycodone is killing her.
BREE SAGHY: So there's five of the Oxycodone and a bar and a half of Xanax.
LYON: She allowed us to hear this because she wanted us to see what a rut the pills have made of her life.
BREE SAGHY: This is the only thing -- I mean, I love my family, but this is the only thing I care about.
My vein's not popping up. God, I hate this.
Burns until you take the tie off. I need more pills. I don't feel anything. I'm not satisfied. You can just leave the door open.
LYON: Is that hard for you to see her like that right now?
JOY SAGHY, BREE'S MOTHER: I hate it. I hate it.
LYON: Bree's mother joy is a nurse but this is one patient she's not been able to help. JOY SAGHY: She's dropped cigarettes onto her chest, burned holes in her -- it's amazing their house hasn't burned down.
LYON: Your daughter lives with you. She's around you all the time. How come you can't keep her from doing the pills? She tried.
BREE SAGHY: I tried. I've tried everything.
JOY SAGHY: I say a prayer to god before I go to work and say, God please let my daughter be OK.
When I got home, it's the first thing I do is walk in, check on her, make sure she's still breathing. This is not a fun way to live.
LYON: Joy joins other south Florida parents in protest against the pill mills that feed addiction.
So the majority of people out here have they lost family members to pill.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my precious named Jay. He died at age 36 on his birthday.
He died in December 5th 2009.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're home at night and the phone rings and you are afraid to answer because you don't know if it's the sheriff, the morgue or the hospital.
BREE SAGHY: I don't want to put you in danger.
LYON: Bree is driving to pick up more pills.
How much money is this?
BREE SAGHY: $175.
LYON: And this can get you one hit? She spends thousands of dollars a week just to get high. We are going to see her drug dealer. He's got tear drop tattoos on his eyes and gold teeth.
You're not scared of this guy?
BREE SAGHY: No. He's a sweetheart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you see me on the street, ignore me.
LYON: OK. I think Steve's getting out because it may be suspicious having him sitting at the back.
BREE SAGHY: Hey, baby. Let me get 12 until later. One, two, three.
LYON: The dealer admits he gets his stash after visiting multiple pill mill doctors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to shop at four, five, six doctors. LYON: What did he give you?
BREE SAGHY: 11.
LYON: What are they?
BREE SAGHY: Oxycodone.
LYON: To put this it into perspective, the recommended starting dose for Oxycodone is ten milligrams in 12 hours.
Bree just bought 30 times that and that's just enough to get her through one afternoon.
Today a multi-agency task force busts 22 pill mills, arresting doctors for trafficking in illegal prescriptions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not uncommon to see doctors making upwards of $1 million a year.
LYON: But that's nothing compared to what some of the clinic owners make.
DEA agents seized more than two dozen luxury cars from the garage of one pill mill entrepreneur.
LAMBERTI: This individual was making $150,000 a day.
LYON: Viper, Porsche, a nice blue Bentley. I don't even know what car this is.
Why does it take so long to bust the clinics? Why can't you knock them down one by one?
LAMBERTI: Well, they do it under the cover of their medical license. And you have to prove that the doctor knew that they were overprescribing.
MARK TROUVILLE, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, DEA MIAMI: These people are addicted. These people are suffering and these pill mill clinic owners and some of these doctors are just preying on that suffering for cash, for profit.
LYON: These are the faces of that suffering.
BREE SAGHY: I remember when I first started doing this occasionally.
Everybody, all my friends, none of us was drug addicts. Now the whole town is.
LYON: One mother who has already lost her child.
Another mother who's hoping her past hasn't ruined her child's future.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to ever forget how bad I felt. I don't want to ever forget what it could have done to her. It's not ever OK to do a pill again. Ever.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (voice-over): Up next, animals trained to take on terrorists.
KAJ LARSEN, CNN REPORTER: Oh, yes. Get ready for an episode of man versus dolphin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (voice-over): Trying to beat a dolphin at its own game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
LARSEN (voice-over): The tools of war - planes, ships, bombs and bullets.
But since ancient times, there's been another tool -- animals, beasts of war.
For Hannibal in the third century B.C., it was elephants, his version of a tank to break through enemy lines.
In world war one, carrier pigeons, one bird flying 25 miles and delivering its message before dying of its injuries.
Today we are driving in to go see a very unique Navy program that's been around for about 40 years, but it's only been declassified since the '90s.
And this is a really rare opportunity. It was extremely hard to set up. The Navy, understandably, is very sensitive about access to this program.
The Navy says what you're about to see is the best protection for a ship or a harbor against an attack. It has the finest sonar in the world and you can't see it coming.
The dolphin, what the Navy calls the mark six weapon system, trained to find and identify a hostile swimmer.
The Navy has seen firsthand how vulnerable their ships can be at anchor.
17 sailors were killed when the U.S. Cole was attacked in 2000.
Two years later, U.S. intelligence warned of possible Al Qaeda attacks by terrorist scuba divers. Divers these dolphins are trained to detect. Today, as part of the Navy's marine mammal program, dolphins are deployed to protect nuclear submarines on the east and west coast. They can be sent anywhere in the world in 72 hours, wherever the enemy threatens.
Now, I'll be that enemy diver.
I have come to the point Loma Naval Base to see if I can beat the dolphin at its own game.
My opponent will be one of more than 75 dolphins stationed here.
But before I can test this dolphin's skills in the water a little care and feeding.
I have to feed the animal that's going to hit me. Full service.
CHRIS HARRIS, OPERATIONS SUPERVISOR: We are looking at calories or the energy the animal needs to be healthy and do his job well. So this animal gets probably around 9,000 calories per day compared to you and I who might be getting 1800 to 2200 calories.
LARSEN: And 9,000 calories adds up to a lot of restaurant quality fish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It usually it takes a good sailor about two minutes to make up a bucket.
LARSEN: I better pick up the pace here.
LARSEN (voice-over): The mammal program is comprised of hundreds of trainers, veterinarians and Navy sailors dedicated to keeping the animal in optimal shape.
Like any other combat system in the Navy, prior to deployment they are subject to maintenance and inspections.
HARRIS: Before we get to work we are going to do what we call a body check. We are looking for attitude, appetite and appearance.
Let's go take a look.
The handler looks in the animal's mouth, looks at the animal's eyes while he does that making sure the dolphin is real clean.
So now that the dolphin looks good and ready to go, we can go ahead, beach him in the boat and get to work.
LARSEN (voice-over): Dolphins have been working for the Navy since the 1960s when military researchers first started investigating how their sonar capabilities could help naval missions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We may be able to train this animal to assist us in various ways in the sea. LARSEN (voice-over): The Navy quickly realized they could train mammals to perform missions.
They have served in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.
Today the U.S. is one of a handful of countries in the world which acknowledges having an anti-swimmer marine mammal program.
This was something I was aware of from my time in the active duty Navy, but now I'm about to experience it firsthand. It's unprecedented for the Navy to allow what I'm about to do.
Now we are going to get in the water and put this to work.
So today I'm the bad guy simulating a swimmer trying to attack a port, harbor, ship. They will release Mark six, the dolphin and see if it can find me in the water.
Essentially I'm the crash test dummy for the dolphin.
Oh, yes. Get ready for an episode of "Man versus Dolphin".
The dolphin gets a ride from its pen to its patrol area and it's ready to go to work.
Hundreds of yards away, armed with an inert mind, I'm ready to face off.
Here's the mission. I'm about to enter the water. I'm going to attempt to head to that ship over there and see if I was going to make a combat swimmer attack on the ship.
The dolphins are patrolling. We'll see if it intercepts me between here and the ship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to go?
LARSEN: Good to go.
Utilizing a low profile combat side stroke I'm on my way to the ship.
But the dolphin is on its way to me.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LARSEN: Playing the role of a terrorist in San Diego bay I'm trying to evade a dolphin that's trained to find hostile swimmers.
HARRIS: He's not going to make it. She's going to get him.
LARSEN: Out of nowhere --
KARRIS: She's got him.
LARSEN: I got about 50 meters from the ship behind me and then -- boom.
Came and hit me right here.
The dolphin hits me with a marker that alerts armed security to my presence.
There was a second where I thought I would make it through. Next thing you know I was staring a porpoise in the face.
Oh, just got me again!
In a minute she's back on her boat getting some TLC.
I guess my combat ship attack, foiled again.
Undaunted, I try underwater with scuba gear on.
Here's what the camera on the dolphin saw.
Underwater or on the surface, the dolphin finds me every time.
How does she compare to, say, suppose you had side scan sonar on the bottom of the boat. What's the difference?
HARRIS: She's able to pick out details about an object we would only dream to have on sight (inaudible). She can do it at great ranges with 100 percent reliability.
LARSEN: The dolphin is looking for a swimmer like me.
And she's going to hit the ball?
HARRIS: Once she's sure it's a swimmer. There she goes.
So she just touched that ball right there.
Now, at this point, Kaj, we have to get out of the way of the handler.
He's going to go back in there and let her know, hey, good girl, thanks for keeping your eye out for us.
He's going to let her know that she did a good job and he's giving her the marker.
And there goes the marker.
So now she's on her way like a shot. As you know it's a pretty good little bump.
LARSEN: Yes. That's one way to put it.
LARSEN: Dolphins' jobs go beyond what the Navy calls swimmer interdiction.
It turns out that they are good at finding not only people in the water but also things. Things like mines.
HARRIS: The animal is using echolocation looking in the front of the boat.
LARSEN: He is the supervisor operations for the Marine Mammal program and works with the Navy's explosive ordinance disposal unit.
HARRIS: Over time we have to train the animals to discriminate between -- you know, it could be a lobster trap.
Sorry. Got a positive.
Right now the animal just went positive.
LARSEN: So, what's she doing now?
HARRIS: Right now, she's carrying the marker down to the mine shape that she's found. That means the marker has deployed. The diver's going to go down, go to that anchor and do a circle verifying that the animal found the target.
LARSEN: In 2003, the Navy performed this operation in wartime, deploying mine-detecting dolphins to Iraq to ensure safe passage for humanitarian ships meaning some of the dolphins are Iraq war veterans.
What about danger to the animal? You're asking them to go get close to explosive devices under water.
HARRIS: Mines are very complicated, high grade machinery. They are not set off to go on dolphins. They are set to go off on ships.
LARSEN: Even if the animals are safe, the marine mammal program has been criticized by animal rights group who claim it exposes the animals to stress in un-natural environment.
And how do you react to people who say that the animals shouldn't be confined. They should be in the wild.
HARRIS: We recognize that people have concerns and we are happy people are concerned with the welfare of animals as we are, too.
Everyone who works on this project is any capacity is an advocate for animals. And that's their top priority or they wouldn't be here.
It's something that never leaves our mind.
LARSEN: The program's first dolphins were captured in the 1960s. Now dolphins are raised from birth.
Today, the program also uses sea lions that were abandoned in the wild or bought from sea world. Both animals receive topnotch medical care.
In return the sea mammals cannot only save lives but can save millions of dollars.
The Navy does a lot of training for war fighting. And one thing they do is shoot torpedo, they drop sensors. Sometimes they end up at the bottom on the ocean during those training exercise.
So the question is how do you recover them?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. So we have Gus here. He's almost ten years old. He's a trained mark five animal. He can dive up to depths of 1,000 feet. But right now, we are just going to do a little deck demo here and show you what we do under water.
LARSEN: Gus is taught to pull on the cable to make sure he's made a secure connection.
And then you guys will reel it in whatever?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go get it.
LARSEN: He can recover up to 40 items per day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water!
LARSEN: His buddy Joe is so well trained even I could recover a test object.
Joe just made me look good. He did everything we talked about. Now he gets a little reward. The Navy trained sea lions to use clamps to recover not just objects but people.
I got in the water one last time to see how sea lions as well as dolphins can conduct swimmer interdiction.
The result -- the same as the dolphin.
Caught, but with a twist. A clamp that attaches to my leg.
Reeled me in like a fish. He caught me like a bear in a bear trap. Hooks right onto your leg.
But there are no hard feelings.
Good job. Thanks for not hitting me too hard. Thanks for being gentle.
For the dolphins and sea lions, it seems like a game.
Oh! Just got me again!
Find the target, get some fish.
But for their handlers, it's much more.
An unlikely partnership between humans and animals that, right now, is the most effective way to guard our nation's top maritime asset.
It's a tradition in the Navy for sailors to salute each other as a sign of respect.
As I closed my time with the Navy marine mammals, I was saluted by this unlikely warrior.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good boy!
LARSEN: Working every day to keep the nation safe.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (voice-over): On the next "CNN presents" a pizza delivery man robs a bank with a bomb around his neck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My brother has this bomb on him. And I'm thinking, OK, the police have him. They'll find out who did this to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (voice-over): That's just the beginning of one of the most bizarre crimes ever.
And what it takes to become one of the coast guard's elite rescue swimmers.
Kaj Larsen takes you inside a rescue mission next Sunday night on CNN Presents.