This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson and Heather Nauert," October 2, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HEATHER NAUERT, "BIG STORY" CO-HOST: It is the "Big Outrage" tonight. San Francisco apparently is not the only city in California to turn its back on our brave Marines.
JOHN GIBSON, "BIG STORY" CO-HOST: Marines returning home from the war in Iraq a few days ago had several layovers before they reached home base way out in Hawaii. There were all treated well at every stop — every stop except Oakland, California, where they were not even allowed to use the bathroom. "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy has been investigating this appalling reception of our men and women from the U.S. military.
DOUGLAS KENNEDY, "BIG STORY" CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, they did not have a bathroom, but more importantly, they were separated from their friends and family. Now, some members of Congress are involved, claiming it is no way to welcome our soldiers home.
KENNEDY (VOICE-OVER): It is a moment most soldiers can't stop thinking about: being back in America and in the arms of a loved one. But it was a moment denied to 200 soldiers returning home from combat missions in Iraq when they landed at Oakland International Airport.
REP. JOHN MICA, R-FLA.: I thought it was a real slap in the face to our troops.
KENNEDY: Last Thursday, the Hawaii-based Marines touched down in Oakland for a three-hour layover on their way back to Honolulu from Iraq. Many had friends and family waiting to greet them, while some simply wanted to get a taste of America inside the passenger terminal. Others just needed to use the bathroom. But airport officials told them no.
John Mica is a Congressman from Florida who sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure:
MICA: We want to greet our troops and thank them for their service, not treat them as if they were someone who was diseased.
KENNEDY: In fact, the soldiers say they stood for hours outside in the back of the terminal, where the airport stows extra baggage. They say they had no food, no bathroom, and no place to sit down.
Airport officials call it a miscommunication: "Here at Oakland, we need to make sure the passengers who come into our terminals have been screened per TSA standards."
But the soldiers say they had already been screened by customs and other airports, like JFK, routinely allow returning soldiers full access to the terminals and their families.
Mica says this is not the first time it has happened at Oakland, and he is calling for an official investigation.
MICA: We have asked the inspector general of the Department of Transportation to conduct a full investigation to see, again, why these troops who are returning from combat, who had passed customs, passed immigration, passed security, were not allowed the common courtesy of entering the terminal like any other citizen would.
KENNEDY: Mica says all airports need to make sure U.S. soldiers have access to all services. He says if airport procedures are the problem, John and Heather, the procedures need to be changed.
GIBSON: Go ahead, Heather.
NAUERT: They actually thought that our troops might have been a security threat?
KENNEDY: Yes, you know, sometimes these airplanes come in with guns, but the soldiers always leave them on the plane.
NAUERT: But those are stowed away. I mean, John and I have both seen at Dallas Airport before — you have troops coming off the planes, people, including TSA, are applauding and crying when these men and women get off the plane.
KENNEDY: That's the thing about it, and this is only happening at Oakland International Airport. So it's a problem with the airport.
GIBSON: A slap in the face for troops. Is this a Bay Area here we go again? I mean, there is a little history of this happening.
KENNEDY: You know, this is, as I said, only happening at this one airport. This is not San Francisco International.
GIBSON: No, it's Oakland.
KENNEDY: Yes, it's Oakland. But it's problems with this particular airport.
GIBSON: The Bay Area secondary airport, known as Oakland.
KENNEDY: I want to leave that one to you, John.
NAUERT: Yes, we have a history of these things going on here. Douglas Kennedy, thanks a lot.
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