Bombs Astray

Residents look at the damage caused by a U.S. airstrike in the Afghanistan capital Kabul Thursday Oct. 11, 2001. Heavy airstrikes also hit the southern Afghan city of Kandahar Thursday morning, the latest of a series of U.S.-led raids. AP

Civilian deaths caused by American bombings are creating tensions in Afghanistan and the country's new government has promised angry tribal leaders it will warn the U.S. to be more careful.

"The people are not happy with Americans. They promised they would not kill civilians," the government has said.

One cause of the casualties: smart weapons that have gone astray, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales. United Nations officials believe more are missing their targets than the U.S. admits.

In some cases guidance systems failed. The batteries that power the guidance systems of nearly all of America's smart weapons are made at this Eagle Picher Technologies plant in Joplin, Mo. Without power from the battery, a smart bomb turns dumb.

Complete Coverage
  • Smart Bombs Made Dumb?
    Read last month's CBS News report on problems with smart bomb guidance systems.

  • Bad Batteries To Blame?Part two of Vince Gonzales' report.
  • As CBS News first reported last month, former plant workers — including engineer Rick Peoples — worry the batteries are failing.

    "People's lives depend on those weapons working and chances are they are not going to work," said Peoples.

    Eagle Picher attacked his credibility and denied the batteries were faulty. But after the reports, others came forward to support the allegations.

    "There's bad batteries out there, and it's gonna kill people," said Toni Goodwin.

    Goodwin has been with Eagle Picher since she was 18. The day before the interview she received a gold watch for 25 years of service.

    "I'd give it back if it meant they'd spend this money to do things right," she said.

    She says she was prevented from properly calibrating test equipment so supervisors could cover up bad batteries.

    "They could have made that equipment say anything they wanted."

    In a small town like Joplin few people are willing to risk their jobs or the anger of their neighbors by talking on-camera. But off-camera, more than a dozen former and current Eagle Picher employees confirmed the batteries had big problems.

    Others, who also worry the batteries are causing civilian casualties, spoke on-camera only after CBS News agreed to protect their identities.

    "I think a lot of innocen people are gonna be killed," said one woman.

    "The battery would fail and the proper data to make it pass would be fed into the computer and new printouts made," said one man.

    Asked if the test was faked, he said, "Yes."

    Workers say key battery components and chemicals were used without proper testing.

    "I've been told to falsify records. I've been told to falsify test reports," said another man.

    When tests were conducted, employees said they were ordered to ignore failures.

    "I wouldn't trust nothing. I've seen too many failures," said another woman.

    As a result of CBS News' stories, two separate military inquiries are underway. In the last few weeks, Pentagon officials conducted interviews in Joplin. Eagle-Picher declined requests for an interview. The company denies the allegations and still says the batteries work.

    "I would not want to trust anything that came out of that plant," said Goodwin.

    Smart bombs and missiles, like those used in Afghanistan, are not the only weapons using Eagle Picher batteries. Click here for more on this story.



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    • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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