The future of auto-making is electric, and last year half of all the electric vehicles in the world were made in China. Holly Williams goes there to report on a burgeoning electric auto industry that with massive support from the Chinese government might leave the U.S and the rest of the global industry behind. Williams’ report will be broadcast on the next edition of 60 MINUTES Sunday, Feb. 24 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The lure of fighting for oppressed Muslims in the Middle East pitched in online videos drove troubled American Muslim convert Bryant Viñas into the arms of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, where he spent seven months training with the terror group. In his first TV interview, Viñas says he even supported an attack on a U.S. base there. But after he was caught in Pakistan and shipped back to the U.S., Viñas provided key information about his experience that made U.S. officials request witness protection for him. But he was denied. His interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Feb. 24 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The training did not resemble the propaganda videos showing al-Qaeda cadres running and navigating obstacle courses in formation. “That’s not how it was when I was there. We did basic Soviet weapons. AK-47, RPG-7, PK machine gun, different pistols,” he tells Pelley. “They go a little bit into explosive theory, suicide bombing vests.”
Viñas spent eight years talking to the FBI while he was locked up and provided what former FBI acting director Andrew McCabe termed “incredibly valuable” information, including identities of terrorists and how he made his way from Long Island, N.Y., into al Qaeda. His lawyer, Steve Zissou, says Viñas’ information was used to target, capture and kill many of his former terrorist associates.
The judge in his case, Nicholas Garaufis, says Viñas is in “grave danger,” and that the FBI and prosecutors agreed and sought witness protection for Viñas. Prosecutors described Viñas as the “Single-most valuable cooperating witness…with respect to al Qaeda...” But that wasn’t enough for the witness security program to grant him witness protection. The Justice Department Witness Security Program declined an interview, but provided this statement: “[The program] must take into account the risks associated with giving a person a new identity and placing them in a community that is unaware of the person’s actual identity...”
The decision troubles Judge Garaufis. “They’ve had…at least 8,700 cooperators placed in witness protection and I know some of these cooperators….I’ve had virtually the entire Bonanno organized crime family on my docket,” he tells Pelley. “Murders and drug kingpins on my docket, so I’m not a newcomer to this process and I was shocked that they took such a cavalier irresponsible step as they did to deny Mr. Viñas witness protection.”
Viñas says he came on television, further risking his life, “to let people know what went wrong.”
THE LABEL – Bill Whitaker reports on how the FDA allowed companies to market opioids for chronic treatment – a decision that fueled the opioid epidemic. Ira Rosen and Sam Hornblower are the producers.
DOUBLE CROSSED – An American Muslim convert who joined al Qaeda risks safety to speak out about providing what the FBI regarded as critical intelligence that helped get him out of jail, but not into the witness protection program. Scott Pelley reports. Robert G. Anderson and Aaron Weisz are the producers.
MADE IN CHINA – The future of auto-making is electric, and last year China made half of all the electric vehicles in the world. Holly Williams goes there to see a burgeoning electric auto industry that enjoys help from the Chinese government that may give it the advantage it needs to pull ahead of the U.S. Howard L. Rosenberg and Julie Holstein are the producers.
Dr. David Kessler, the FDA commissioner in the 1990s at the time Purdue’s powerful, long-acting opioid OxyContin was first approved, says the FDA never should have allowed the drug and others like it to be broadly marketed for chronic pain patients. The agency erred in radically extending the market for opioids despite the lack of studies on the safety and efficacy for long-term use, he says. The former commissioner says the label on opioid drugs must be changed to limit the ability of drug companies to market opioids. “It needs to be done,” he says.
The change in the FDA’s labeled indication for opioids such as OxyContin to long-term use gave big pharma a green light to push opioids to 10s of millions of new pain patients nationwide. “You have a system of pharmaceutical promotion that changed the way medicine is practiced, and no one, all right, stopped it,” says Kessler, who has been retained by cities and counties suing big pharma for the opioid crisis. The marketing led to an over-prescribing of the dangerous drugs and a river of pills that fueled the deadly epidemic, as companies were allowed to sell more and more pills at higher and higher doses. Kessler speaks to Bill Whitaker for a 60 MINUTES report to be broadcast Sunday, Feb. 24 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
In 2001, after Dr. Kessler left the agency, the FDA officially relabeled the powerful opioid OxyContin to be used for an “extended period of time” by chronic pain suffers. Originally approved based on science that showed it safe and effective only when used “short-term,” the label was changed without adequate scientific study. “We don’t know whether the drugs are safe and effective for chronic use,” Kessler says. “The rigorous kind of scientific research the agency should be relying on is not there.” The right to market for the new indication was ultimately granted to a whole class of opioids.
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an addiction specialist at Brandeis University who has been an expert witness in litigation against big pharma, including Purdue, has been trying to get the FDA to change the label and limit the marketing of opioids since 2011. He tells Whitaker opioids are essential drugs for pain management at the end of life and for short-term pain needs. “[But] if you’re taking them around the clock…you become tolerant to the pain-relieving effect…you’ll need higher and higher doses,” he says. “The treatment becomes more dangerous, and the risk of death goes up,” says Kolodny.
Asked by Whitaker why the FDA failed to act in this case as the watchdog it was created to be, Kessler partly blamed understaffing in the FDA division that oversaw marketing and promotion.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the current FDA commissioner, turned down an interview request, but provided a statement to 60 MINUTES. It reads in part: “Many mistakes were made along the way…While the agency followed the law in approving and regulating opioids, we at the FDA include ourselves among those that should have acted sooner.”
On Sunday’s 60 MINUTES, Whitaker will also report the role drug manufacturers had in the label change – which greatly increased profits – and on the relationship between drug makers and the FDA.