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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Does Terror Alert System Induce Fear?; Politicians Find Ways Around Campaign Finance Reform; John Kerry Contributes to Own Campaign; British Probe to Land Tonight on Mars; Spreading Holiday Cheer to Troops

Aired December 24, 2003 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOHN KING, GUEST HOST: Tonight airports are on high alert after Air France canceled three flights to the United States for security reason.
Politics play a role in terrorism alerts.

Former Cato Institute official Ivan Eland.

Agriculture officials are tonight trying to find the cause of this country's first case of Mad Cow Disease. Countries that buy U.S. beef are taking no chances. At least a dozen have banned American beef imports.

In "Broken Borders," the Bush White House is preparing a massive shakeup in immigration laws. Millions of illegal aliens might be allowed to work legally in the United States. Former INS Center special agent will join us.

In our special report on the holiday home front. Young and old are adopting troops overseas. Sending them everything from candy to clothes and shampoo to DVDs.

Good evening. From Washington, the French government today took the dramatic and unprecedented department step of canceling three Air France flights to the United States because of a fear of a possible terrorist attack in this country. All three flights were due to fly to Los Angeles International Airport. Anti-terrorism officials say LAX is one of the cities that al Qaeda may be planning to attack.

National Security Correspondent, David Ensor reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cancellation announcement came amid concerns about the threat of terrorism at Los Angeles Airport. And about al Qaeda trying to infiltrate an Air France flight. The decision to cancel the flights was made after consultations with U.S. officials. A senior U.S. administration official says the decision was based on security concerns about these flights, and was related to the information which led to the decision to go to code orange. In fact, sources say, one of the canceled flight numbers was mentioned in the intelligence chatter of recent days. French officials say some passengers from the canceled flights were interviewed. JEAN-CLAUDE MALLET, SEC GENERAL NATIONAL DEFENSE: I'm not aware that anybody has been arrested, as you said. But, of course, questions have been asked. As you know, we exchange the procedure of providing with the United States services.

ENSOR: In addition to concerns about Air France flights, U.S. Officials are also working closely with Mexican authorities concerning flights from their country to the United States. Amid the tightened security nationwide, Los Angeles Airport authorities have said there can be no curbside dropoffs by private cars until further notice. Although our camera saw some of them going on anyway.

HAROLD JOHNSON, LAX SPOKESMAN: We're just trying to minimize the risk associated with unattended vehicles at the curbside.

ENSOR: U.S. Officials say some non-U.S. Air crews are being interviewed extensively on arrival in the United States. Officials have long expressed concerns about the possibility of a pro-al Qaeda pilot. Passengers and air crews on all commercial and cargo planes arriving into the U.S. from are undergoing more scrutiny according U.S. officials, both on departure and at arrival. Authorities are sifting through intelligence trying to both prevent hijacking and to stop a would-be terrorist from bringing weapons into this country.

DAN BENJAMIN, FMR. COUNTER-TERRORISM OFFICIAL: Putting together intelligence especially when you have a high volume of it, as we have now, is incredibly challenging. It's typically the case that there may be a lot of people talking and giving no or next to no operational details. And so making heads or tails of what you're seeing is really quite difficult.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: (AUDIO GAP) Not only -- not only a number of different sources, but also a couple of -- a couple of -- excuse me, a couple of intelligence informants who came up with specific information that was deemed credible enough, and specific enough, that the officials who are looking at the information felt they had to act -- John.

KING: And David, have these Air France flights been canceled indefinitely?

And is there any sense at all that this could expand to other international carriers?

ENSOR: My understanding from Air France is the flights are canceled for today and tomorrow. After that, they'll have to see. There is some thought among some officials that there may be additional cancellations of overseas flights, but no news on that at this point.

KING: David Ensor Thanks very much.

As David reported, the authorities at Los Angeles International Airport had dramatically increased security, even before of the cancellation of these Air France Flights. Security is now at its highest level since the September 11 attacks.

Miguel Marquez, reports for us now live from LAX -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we're seeing something that we haven't seen since September 11 here at LAX. You can see these orange barriers here at the terminal area. Everything on the right hand side are only the commercial vehicles. Only they can get close enough to the terminal to drop off passengers here. Everything on the left-hand side are personal vehicles. If you're in personal vehicles you got to drop off stuff, earlier today. Something else playing out security wise are those Air France flights that have been canceled. The two inbound flights into LAX, one inbound flight to Cincinnati, and an outbound flight from LAX today. That's essentially all the flights into and out of LAX for today and for tomorrow. We talked to the station manager for LAX here, a short time ago, he says he's not sure if that will mean other days will be affected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZIYA AKBAS, AIR FRANCE STATION MGR.: At this point, what I know is the next two days are canceled. If we know anything more, if there will be, we will act upon that the same manner we did today.

MARQUEZ: How many passengers are we talking about?

AKBAS: We are talking about -- about around 2, 000 passengers affected both ways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Those were all 747s that were canceled coming in here. So very big planes. Certainly a lot of money for Air France. I also asked that gentleman how long he had been with Air France. He said 22 years. And in his 22 years, the only other exception to having sort of a wholesale cancellation was on September 11 -- John.

KING: Miguel Marquez on an extraordinary day at LAX. Thank you, Miguel.

And in Iraq today, insurgents killed three American soldiers near Samarra. It was just one of several attacks on coalition and Iraqi targets during the day. But the coalition deputy director of operations Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said the overall number of attacks is on a downward trend.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it is worth noting, a very tragic Christmas Eve for three U.S. military families. Indeed, three soldiers killed earlier today in the Iraqi city of Samarra, when the vehicle they were riding in struck a roadside bomb. Now, troops across Iraq certainly are bracing for some potential buildup of violent attacks during this holiday season. Everyone got a bad case of the jitters in Baghdad earlier on Christmas Eve in Baghdad when a rocket-propelled grenade apparently was launched toward the Sheraton Hotel. The attack was heard across the city. But by all accounts, that rocket-propelled grenade missed its actual target. In addition, there was another attack on a government building in the city of Irbil. Two killed, including the suicide bomber, several wounded. U.S. Forces, John, are continuing on Christmas Eve their heavy raids across Iraq, especially focusing on Baghdad. "Operation Iron Grip" is what it's called now, designed to route suspect insurgence, dozens in recent days. All part of that intelligence payoff since Saddam Hussein was captured.

But have things really gotten better for U.S. Troops? are attacks really down since the capture of Saddam Hussein? Well, let's look at some of the statistics, because it's not entirely clear yet. In September, 800 attacks against U.S. troops. In October and November, 1,000 attacks in each of though months. And military sources now reporting at least for the first two weeks of December, 400 attacks. But it remains to be seen, of course, how the year winds up. Officials still, of course, very cautious about all of this -- John.

KING: Barbara Starr for us tonight at the Pentagon. Thank you, Barbara.

A high-level presidential advisory group has concluded that President Bush used questionable information about Iraq in his last state of the union address. The president said in that speech that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy nuclear materials from an unnamed country in Africa. The White House later conceded it could not support that assertion. And now a review by the president's foreign intelligence advisory board determined White House officials did not check the facts carefully enough.

White House correspondent Dana Bash reports -- Dana.

DANA BASH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the knowledgeable source does tell CNN that the president's own Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board has concluded that he did make a questionable claim, while saying that Saddam Hussein was trying to get uranium from Africa, and that part of the blame does lie with top White House officials, because they simply did not ask enough questions about this information. Now, this board is made up of about a dozen prominent individuals led by Brent Scowcroft, the president's father's national security adviser.

They give private advice to the president. And they have been looking into this matter for a few months, and they did find, according to a knowledgeable source, that the information simply was not checked well enough, that no one checked their facts carefully enough, here at the White House. Essentially saying that the blame isn't only with the CIA and intelligence agencies, as the White House has said in the past, but it also is with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) process here at the White House. But this source does say that there was no intention to deceive the American people, and that they need to do a better job of vetting this information when they go into making the president's speeches. Now, the president, as you know, John, has strongly defended his policies, strongly defended his case for war. But his critics have said that he is -- he exaggerated the pre-war intelligence, particularly this issue, other issues. No weapons of mass destruction have been found. So this is continuing to be an issue for the president particularly as we head into an election year -- John?

Certain to carry over into the campaign. Dana Bash at the White House. Thank you very much.

KING: And still to come, health officials race to find the cause of this country's first-ever case of mad cow disease as foreign countries ban U.S. beef imports. Medical correspondent Holly Firfer will report.

The Bush White House is preparing a program that could make it easier for millions of illegal aliens to work legally here in the United States. Former INS senior special agent Michael Cutler will join us.

And the nation is on high alert for a possible terrorist attack. The French government cancels Air France flights to Los Angeles. Is the nation's terror alert system working? Former CATO Institute official Ivan Eland will be my guest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Health officials are trying to determine the cause of this country's first case of mad cow disease. Yesterday the government announced that a cow in Washington state had tested positive for the disease. Today, a meat company said it is recalling about 10,000 pounds of raw beef that may be tainted. Medical correspondent Holly Firfer reports on the latest findings from the USDA -- Holly.

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, here are the latest developments. The USDA is telling us the infected cow was a four-year-old dairy cow injured while giving birth. And generally, injured cows are sent to slaughter. But as a rule, they are tested first for a whole host of diseases and that's how they discovered that this cow had Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE.

Now the cow in question was purchased by the Washington State Farm in October of 200 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cows, all of those cows have been quarantined. Samples have been sent to England for a confirmatory diagnosis. And we should have those results in about three to five days. Now the infected cow did have three other calves. But according to the USDA there's no evidence of transmission to other cows through birth or to calves or to humans through dairy products. John?

KING: Now, Holly, how do we know if this disease is transmitted, and when will we know if this is one isolated case or if there's a bigger problem?

FIRFER: Well, mad cow disease, or BSE is found in the central nervous system of the animal, so the brain and the spinal cord areas. Not in the muscle cuts of meat that we eat. So when a cow is sent to slaughter, the remnants of the animal not meant for human consumption is sent to a rendering plant where it's ground up and made up into feed for other animals. That's how other cows might be exposed.

Since the early 1980s, after the mad cow outbreak in England, the USDA set some precedents. They banned feeding animals other animal parts, and they also had the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis do a study on how best to protect the transmission of mad cow.

The issue now is how this cow became infected since she was born after the ban on feed. The USDA must now look at compliance with this issue. And important to note, it's very rare that human will develop the disease related to mad cow. There are only 139 reported cases of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease worldwide. And that's the disease you could get from mad cow. And as I said, probably about three to five days, those tests are in England. As soon as we know, we will let you know -- John?

KING: Medical correspondent Holly Firfer, thank you, Holly.

KING: About a dozen countries moved quickly to ban U.S. beef imports. Those countries include the biggest importers of American beef. Japan, South Korea and Mexico, as well as other countries such as Russia, Ukraine, and Malaysia.

Last year Japan imported U.S. beef worth $842 million. South Korea imported beef valued at $610 million. And Mexico imported $595 million worth. The total value of U.S. beef exports last year was $2.5 billion.

And still ahead, broken borders. The Bush administration may want a new type of visa for illegal aliens. We'll be joined by a former senior INS agent who says the plans for immigration reform will backfire.

And our terror alert system. We'll speak with the defense expert who says that alert system is short on substance and long on politics. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: For months on this program, we have reported extensively on the problem of massive illegal immigration into this country. As many as 12 million illegal aliens live in the United States. About 700,000 additional illegal aliens enter this country every year.

President Bush is on the record as saying there are no plans for blanket amnesty. But today, officials did confirm the administration is drawing up plans to help some illegal aliens find work legally in the United States.

That plan could include a new type of temporary work visa. It could also include an Internet based job registry to enable U.S. employers to post jobs for American workers, and prospective immigrants. And to help sell the plan, the administration is also considering stricter entry controls, including more technology at the border and better enforcement of existing immigration rules.

More now from someone who says much of President Bush's immigration plan seems familiar and mistaken. In 1986, the United States granted an amnesty to illegal aliens. And my guest says that plan backfired. Former INS senior special agent Michael Cutler joins us now from New York.

Mr. Cutler, some say acknowledge the reality, 8 to 12 million illegally in this country, working in this country, many of them. That something must be done to incorporate them. You say?

MICHAEL CUTLER, FRM. SEN. SPECIAL AGENT, INS: I think it's a mistake to do this. You know, we saw this happen before. We had the amnesty program. And what that led to was the biggest influx of illegal aliens in the history of the United States. You give one opportunity for first impression and those immigration laws constitute the first impression that aliens attempting entry into the United States generally encounter. By benefiting or rewarding people for violating the laws, we're sending a very wrong and dangerous message to people who want to come from all over the world.

KING: The president planned major immigration reform early in his administration, then the September 11 attacks. He is now planning a trip to Mexico in January. Many say he will unveil this before he goes down to see president Fox there. What do you believe is the president's motivation here? Is it business? Is it politics? Is it both?

CUTLER: I think it's both. I think he's looking for more Latino votes. And I think he's looking to provide inexpensive labor for the major corporations in various work environments that these aliens seek employment in.

KING: Those who are working on this system say they are trying to develop a way that the enticements would go actually to those waiting, whether it be in Mexico or elsewhere, who are waiting to come into the United States legally. And perhaps down the road you would also deal with those already in this country illegally. Do you think such a system can be built?

CUTLER: No. I'm very, very skeptical. We've seen this in the past. Then you look at the fraud rate within the exams program. The GEO said it was running as high as 90 percent. And we still have a visa waiver program for 57 countries around the world, meaning that we don't even know who we're still admitting into the United States, even while we're at a heightened alert level. So, hAll of these things as a former agent I find very disturbing, as do many of my colleagues.

KING: You mentioned the heightened alert level. Some would say if you entice those illegally in the United States to come forward to get them in the pipeline to become legal citizens, legal residents, you will then at least have a better accounting of who is in this country. Is there at least any security gain maybe in this? CUTLER: No, I don't see that. In fact, we recently naturalized a person who was a terrorist. I think that without enough enforcement personnel, it's not going to work. I say the immigration laws are supposed to be enforced by a tripod. The border patrol is supposed to protect us from between ports of entry, the inspectors at ports of entry. We need to have special agents do interior enforcement. And right now, we have roughly 2,000 agents chasing 12 million potential suspects. There's no credibility to that system whatsoever at this point.

KING: Critics say illegal should mean illegal. If someone is in this country illegally they should not be given any benefits at all. How do you weigh that position, that principle with the fact that there are 8 to 12 million people in this country illegally and the government one way or another needs to deal with them?

CUTLER: Well, we need to deal with them. But I don't think we should make them feel comfortable for having breaking the law. If think they break the law, they have to be concerned that at some point they may be discovered. They may be apprehended, they may be removed. You don't want to send the message that if you stay here illegally and hide successfully, that we're going to ultimately give you a benefit. That's what drove them into the shadows in the first place, and it will just drive more immigrants into the shadows as they come here.

KING: One element in this plan, apparently to answer some of the criticism that is likely to come, would be better use of technology, better screening at the border. I assume you would welcome that. But you think the administration perhaps paying too much of a price to get those things?

CUTLER: Absolutely. I think what we have to do is make use of biometrics. But we also have to stop the visa waiver program and we need to have enough people out there who can do a credible job of enforcing the laws to discourage people from coming here with the hope that ultimately they will get the benefit.

And one last point, what we have found is that if you give people residencey, they start filing applications for relatives. If we give any kind of official status to millions of people, we're going to wind up with many more people having applications filed for them which will further balloon the number of immigrants that we're dealing with. And that's going to make things even more difficult for us.

KING: And lastly, Michael Cutler, we are at code orange. With so much law enforcement attention dedicated to tracking al Qaeda, to looking at terrorist threats in this country and overseas, do you have any optimism that those additional resources that you say are necessary to protect the borders or look for illegals in this country will be forthcoming?

CUTLER: Well, I have to hope so. It would seem to be a common- sense approach, that we really and truly need to have the resources to go out there and find these people before more damage is done to us. This is nothing short of a national security issue.

KING: Former senior special agent of the INS, Michael Cutler, thank you for your time tonight, sir.

CUTLER: Thank you. It was a pleasure being here. Have a good holiday.

KING: And that brings us to tonight's poll question, "would you support a temporary work visa for illegal aliens?" Yes or No. Cast your vote at CNN.com/lou. We'll bring you the results a bit later in the show.

And just ahead, the nation is once again on orange, or high alert, but what does the terror alert system really accomplish? Our next guest says it is a political tool. Ivan Island, the director of the Center on Peace and Liberty will join us when we return.

And money talks in the race for the White House. Democratic candidates are working hard to raise as much cash as possible. We'll have the report. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, this is Specialist Lisom (ph) from fairfax, Vermont. I want to say merry Christmas to my mom, my dad, my sister and grandmother and all the rest of my family. Have a merry Christmas guys. I'll be thinking of you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi my name is Specialist Christine Samuahi (ph). I'm from Portis, Indiana (ph). I would like to say hi, dad, I miss you, I love you. Hi valerie. My babies, I miss you so much. I'll see you guys soon.

UNIDENTIIFIED MALE: My name is Ernesto Castenera (ph), Sergeant First Class, United States Army. I want to say happy holidays to my brothers: Birdie, Mico, Stevie, Robert and party on, man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Cancellation of three Air France flights to Los Angeles today. Just four days after America's alert status was raised to Code Orange. The color code system has become a part of our lives.

But my next guess says it is more about politics than security.

Ivan Eland is director of the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and he joins us now from our San Francisco bureau.

Sir, some might say this is proof the system works. Intelligence leading to canceling these flights into the United States. You would say?

IVAN ELAND, DIRECTOR, CENTER ON PEACE & LIBERTY: Well, I think, you know, we have to separate intelligence and law enforcement, legitimate activities here from the color coding system which scares the public. Basically the public doesn't participate in this except to be scared. And what the government essentially tells people is, you know, be alert, but keep Christmas shopping, so that the economy stays, you know, in a good condition.

And I think basically what we've done here is we have a system that shows that the Homeland Security Department is doing something about the problem, but does little more.

This should be -- This color coding system is only tangentially related to the law enforcement activities that we see going on, which are legitimate. And I think we need to separate that color coding system from the underlying law enforcement activities.

For instance, in the past, they have put out alerts to state and local law enforcement authorities in certain places that they had received intelligence on, x, y or z group, or individuals that might be a problem, or there might be some sort of an attack, but they didn't broadcast it.

And I think that's what we need to go back to. Because this is unnecessarily alarming the public.

Like, what is the farmer in North Dakota supposed to do against terrorists directing their attacks to the Los Angeles airport?

KING: You make an interesting point. Let me ask you this. If you were in charge of the system as it is now, and you were briefed that there was intelligence that one or more Air France flights into the United States might be somehow under threat of being taken over by terrorists, would you not go to Code Red, the highest level?

ELAND: Well, that's another point. I mean, when do we go to Code Red? I mean, we've gone between yellow and orange. And I say that that proves that the system is political. If you go to one of the lower colors, the more green or blue, then you are basically inviting the terrorists to attack.

And also the government, of course, if an attack occurs when those colors are in being, then it -- everyone says, "Hey, how come you didn't warn us about that?" But on the other hand, if we go to red, it scares everybody too much.

So what we do is we cycle between yellow and orange, and that's why we see that it is a political system. And I think basically this is to show that the administration and the Department of Homeland Security are doing something.

And I think, really, there can be valuable tools that are used. And I think intelligence and law enforcement is a good -- are good tools to use. But, of course, we can also do also that quietly without alarming everybody.

KING: Do you have any fears, sir, the terrorists certainly know that the United States is taking unprecedented measures to listen to them around the world, here in this country, if there are cells in the United States.

Can they be easily manipulated? Could terrorists or terrorist sympathizers be talking about Air France flights, be talking about terrorist threats, fabricating those stories?

ELAND: Well, I think that's the danger of a public alert system. It also alerts the terrorists to how high the defenses are.

I mean, what we probably want to do is have a more discreet system and notify those officials that need to be notified based on the intelligence. For instance, if there is a threat to LAX Airport in Los Angeles, then we need to, you know, have measures taken there. But what we've done is we've spinned up the whole country -- or spun up the whole country, that is, and, you know, for no reason at all.

And I think we can have a system that works through intelligence, and that sort of thing. But we need to keep it more low-key, and not unnecessarily arouse the fears of everyone. Because, frankly, I think that's what it does. And many people have criticized this.

I also think we need more communication between federal and law -- and state and local law enforcement agencies. because oftentimes the state and local officials have been the biggest critics of this system, and the fact that they are scaring people unnecessarily.

KING: Ivan Eland, thank you for your thoughts tonight on this very interesting and somewhat controversial issue. Thank you, sir.

ELAND: Thank you.

KING: And coming up, campaign finance reform. If you thought the new finance law would take the money out of presidential politics, look again. Lisa Sylvester reports and the new money game.

And is there life on Mars? We may soon get the definitive answer. Dr. Charles Liu previews the Christmas landing of the Beagle 2 space probe.

Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name's Pfc. Kowalski (ph), 6th unit armored. I just want to say merry Christmas, Happy New Year to my mom, my sister and all my family in Florida. And my fiancee, baby, I miss you, and I'll see you soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Lt. Col. Valence Worth (ph) from Peach Tree City, Georgia. I want to say hello to my wife, Dolly, Justin, Jason, Erin and Dallas. And my parents down in Seminole County. Merry Christmas from Baghdad, 2003.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm Staff Sergeant Marlee Strong (ph), stationed at Fort Worth, Texas. I would like to wish a merry Christmas to my family in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I miss you. Hope to see you guys soon. Love you, bye. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. My name's Specialist Crystal Rhodes (ph), and I'm from Kansas City, Missouri. I want to say hi to my husband in Heidelberg, Germany, and to my family in Kansas City, Missouri. I love you guys and I miss you and I'll see you soon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: President Bush is on track to raise $200 million for his reelection campaign. Democratic front-runner Howard Dean has raised a fraction of that amount but hopes to increase his fund-raising entering the critical primary stretch just ahead.

For both parties and the groups that support them, the new law on campaign finance reform has changed the way political fund-raising works.

Lisa Sylvester has more now on the new money game in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the campaign trail, money is as important as the message. In the last 30 years, the candidate who raised the most the year before the election, generally won his party's nomination.

CHARLES LEWIS, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: The check-writers of America decide who will be the next president, not the voters in Iowa or New Hampshire. The choices are substantially made by power brokers who have money, before the election even starts.

SYLVESTER: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the McCain-Feingold Act banning so-called soft money: unlimited donations from individuals, corporations and labor unions to political parties.

That means candidates have to raise more hard money in increments of $2,000 or less.

President Bush has been enormously successful raising hard money by tapping into his large fund-raising network of contributors, who sign up to be rangers, and agree to bundle money, organizing a wide number of givers.

MICHAEL BAILEY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: In the end, each individual ranger is responsible for these immense, not direct donations, but this immense package of money. And that's perfectly fine under the new legislation.

SYLVESTER: Howard Dean is leading the pack of Democratic contenders. He's also been successful, but using a different tool -- the Internet. Dean has been able to reach more people at a faster rate and at a lower cost than the traditional direct mail approach.

(on camera) Candidates from both sides have also found an effective way to still use those big contributions. Instead of going to the political parties, big dollars are now flowing to groups called 527s. (voice-over) These independent groups can use unlimited amounts of money to get their message out. The only restriction is they can't run ads immediately preceding an election.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: McCain-Feingold did not eliminate money from American politics or campaigns. It just drove those dollars to different recipients. In this case, these 527s.

SYLVESTER: If anything has been learned from the McCain-Feingold act, it's that money is like water. It's going to find its way through the cracks in the system.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Those cracks in the system are also helping the Democratic presidential candidates. That group is hard at work ahead of the Iowa caucuses, now less than a month away.

And to get a financial boost, one of the candidates has decided to do something no other 2004 contender has done.

National correspondent Kelly Wallace reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anybody else?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the holiday season. But Senator John Kerry is dipping into his personal fortune not to buy gifts, but to boost his presidential campaign.

He just finalized a $6.4 million mortgage on his Boston home, this after loaning the campaign $850,000 of his own money just a few days ago.

Aides say this shows Kerry is committed to winning the Democratic nomination. Analysts say it could reveal something else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As his prospects have faded, particularly over the last five or six months, his ability to raise money has also faded.

WALLACE: Kerry was close behind front-runner Howard Dean in the money game at the end of September. With Wesley Clark, who got into the race in September, near the end of the pack.

But before the end of the year, Dean and Clark each expect to raise at least $10 million more dollars, with Senator John Edwards counting on $5 million.

Aides to Kerry, Congressman Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman refuse to say what they hope to collect. And Lieberman played down the act that his campaign aides will postpone receiving one paycheck in January.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is their decision, which is to have as much money available to put out into the field, into the early primary states and perhaps onto the media.

WALLACE: Not to be a Grinch, but there is one historical trend that could bring the holiday blues to all but one candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Usually the candidate who raises the most money at this point in time tends to be the winner. There are some exceptions to that.

LIEBERMAN: The last one, back in 1979, when Republican Ronald Reagan had less money than former Texas Governor John Connelly.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some of you did give it to me, and I appreciate that.

WALLACE: Everywhere he goes, Dean touts how his money advantage has come the unconventional way, through aggressive use of the Internet, the candidate courting $200 million in donations in $100 or less.

(on camera) Dean faces another advantage going into Iowa and New Hampshire. He and John Kerry have both opted out of the public financing system. This means while they won't receive any money from the federal government, they can spend as much as they want during the primaries.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Just ahead, the stock market is headed for its first winning year in four. We'll take a look at some of the year's biggest winners.

And later, they're sending care packages by the crate load. Our series of special reports, "Holiday on the Home Front," continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Santa's sleigh won't be the only exotic vehicle soaring through the cosmos tonight. Just hours from now, the British probe Beagle 2 will touch down on the planet Mars. Its mission: to search for life on the red planet.

Joining us now from New York with all the amazing details is Dr. Charles Liu, astrophysicist with the City University of New York.

Sir, this puppy, it is called a Beagle after all, just 73 pounds? What can we expect?

DR. CHARLES LIU, ASTROPHYSICIST, CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK: It's really packed with all kinds of equipment. What's going to happen is, just a few minutes from now, the initial breaking and landing maneuvers will start.

And in about three hours it's going to bounce literally across the Martian atmosphere in huge air bags and will come to a stop. A few hours later, we're going to start getting the first telemetry, we hope.

KING: And what are they looking for? What answers are they looking for in the early days of this probe?

LIU: The number one task of Beagle and the also the others that are coming in the next few weeks to Mars, is to try to find evidence of either liquid water on Mars or evidence that liquid water once existed, either underground or possibly locked in the rocks in the area.

Because we're trying to find evidence for life on Mars. And everywhere we found liquid water on earth, we've been able to find life. That's what we're trying to achieve, the same thing over there on Mars.

KING: You mentioned the other landings on Mars. This is a British probe. Two from NASA scheduled to land in January. Why the fascination with Mars?

LIU: I think Mars more than any other object in our solar system embodies human imagination about the search for extraterrestrial life.

Mars has many things that are similar to ours. And we see all these beautiful pictures. And it's relatively close to Earth. And folks like Ray Bradbury, written "Martian Chronicles," for example. Lots and lots of deep thoughtful science fiction about Mars.

So I think it's a great spot for us to think about, too, for future colonization or exploration of the solar system.

KING: And as our imagination is captured in the next hours and in the next weeks and months by these landings on Mars, the Bush administration considering a new mission for the space program, perhaps a return to the moon, some say perhaps a permanent base on the moon to be used to launch a manned mission to Mars.

Your thoughts, sir?

LIU: Well, I think that manned missions to the moon and Mars are a noble goal and should be pursued. It shouldn't be pursued, though, as a public relations stunt.

If it's put in a sequence, or in a program that's well-sustained, and long term, we can really change civilization. And it will be a wonderful thing. But we have to have, along with that landing, a space program that's vibrant and innovative and a space science program with astronomy and astrophysics to support it.

KING: You mention not a publicity stunt. Obviously, we would like to answer the question, was there ever life on Mars? Is there any life hiding on Mars? Beyond that question, what other scientific gains are there to be made by a mission to Mars, or going back to the moon?

LIU: When we learn about the moon and the Mars, we're really learning about ourselves. We're learning now over the years more and more that every single planet and every single moon is somehow related.

For example, we've now found, astronomers have, over 100 solar systems outside our own. And the more we study them, the more we realize that the planets aren't necessarily staying in their same orbits the whole time, that pieces of one planet or one moon can actually land on other pieces.

So it's possible that by studying life on Mars, or the origins of life on Mars, we may be studying our own origins as well, here on earth.

KING: Dr. Charles Liu, we'll have you back here when as we learn more and more about this. Are you going to bed tonight? Or stay up and watch?

LIU: I think I'll stay up and watch.

KING: Thank you very much for your time.

LIU: My pleasure. Thanks for being on.

KING: All right.

LIU: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

And tonight's thought is on exploration. "One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." That is from French novelist Andre Gide.

Stocks today ended lower for the first time in more than a week. Food and restaurant stocks slid sharply, following that news about the first case of Mad Cow Disease here in the United States.

In an abbreviated day of trading, the Dow fell 36 points to 10,305. The NASDAQ slipped 5. And the S&P 500 ended down two points.

Turning to some of the biggest widely held winners in this past year, Lucent is up 128 percent. That stock, however, is still trading for less than $3 a share. Intel is up the 5 percent. Cisco, up 83 percent, and Oracle up 22 percent. Others winners include Home Depot, up 45 percent; Time Warner, the parent of this network; General Electric and IBM.

Now for a look at your thoughts.

On "Exporting America," this from Danville, California: "My suggestion is to outsource the CEOs, CFOs, CTOs. Any job function that has chief as part of its description should be outsourced. By outsourcing just one of those jobs, we can bring back to America potentially hundreds of contributor level jobs." That from Victor K.

And from Wells, Maine, "Thank you for doing an outstanding job of explaining to your viewers what a disaster it is to have U.S. corporations send jobs overseas. Factories are closing in Maine at a record rate. The jobs are going overseas, from shoes to toothpicks. We are losing." That from Dan Beeson.

On the right to illegal aliens enjoying here in America. This e- mail from Canada. "I'm thinking of booking a trip to California for next November, play some golf, get a state driver's license, maybe become a citizen and vote for president. Should I book for one week or two?" That from Kirk Clements.

"And from Norfolk, Virginia, a car company can move its factories to Mexico and claim it's a free market. A computer company with outsource its help desk to India and claim it's a free market. A toy company can outsource to a Chinese subcontractor and claim it's a free market. A major bank can incorporate in Bermuda and avoid taxes and claim it's a free market. But heaven help the elderly who dare to buy their prescription drugs from a Canadian pharmacy. That's just so un- American!" That from Ray Jones.

We love hearing your thoughts. Please continue to send them, all of your e-mails to LouDobbs@CNN.com.

And a reminder now to vote in tonight's poll question on "Broken Borders." "Would you support a temporary work visa for illegal aliens, yes or no?" Cast your vote at CNN.com/Lou. We'll bring you the results a little later in the show.

And coming up, volunteers for the home front, sending holiday cheer to our troops all year round. We'll tell you about some dedicated Americans who have adopted platoons and made it their mission to care for our troops in Iraq.

But first, "Exporting America" this is the list of companies that our staff has confirmed to exporting American jobs, or creating new jobs in cheaper overseas labor markets.

Today's additions to the list are Comcast holdings, the owner of Comcast Cable; Nabco (ph), an auto parts and supply company; and Siebel (ph) Systems.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight's poll question: 27 percent of you said you would support a temporary work visa for illegal aliens; 73 percent said you would not.

Turning to tonight's quote on this holiday eve: "This is a special season for many, but anti-coalition and anti-Iraqi elements will be well advised not to misjudge this period, nor miscalculate our abilities. We will not lower or guard, and we will not relax until our vigilance -- until our mission is complete." That is from Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the coalition provisional authority. And finally tonight, in this season of giving, many Americans have turned their thoughts to members of the armed services, many of whom are far from home tonight.

Dedicated volunteers across the country have taken part in Adopt a Platoon, sending care packages to our troops in Iraq.

Peter Viles has the story now, particularly one woman who considers herself responsible for 250 soldiers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vera Beach, Florida, eighth grader Callie Churchwell wanted to help her sister, Angela Maddox (ph), who serves in the Air Force in Iraq.

CALLIE CHURCHWELL, SISTER SERVING IN IRAQ: I really do love my sister. And I want the best for her. And so I just thought about getting everybody together, and getting up stuff to send over to her.

VILES: The whole school got together in a competition, who could send the most -- shampoo, clothing, soap, CDs, whatever -- to Angela's squadron of 80.

BRITTANY BURDOCK, STUDENT: It just warms my heart to know they're going to have a nice Christmas, getting the things that they need to survive.

VILES: Now, the champion of troop support is Elaine Harmon of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, who has adopted not one, but ten platoons. She's Mom to 250 soldiers in Iraq.

ELAINE HARMON, ADOPT A PLATOON: You write to them. You send them packages. You let them know you're praying for them. They know you are supporting them. You send anything you can to make their deployment easier.

VILES: And when she says anything, she means it. Scooby Doo boxer shorts, Girl Scout cookies, mouse traps, DVDs of action movies, and the kind of greeting cards that only a mother could send.

HARMON: Dream big, reach far; shine brightly, you're a star.

VILES: If you're inspired to follow her lead, put a box in the mail, the Pentagon's official guidance is, please don't do that.

JOHN MOLINO, DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The best way to help is not to put a box of something in the mail, because what that does is it raises security concerns, because we really don't know what's in that box.

And it also clogs the mail system that we have getting other supplies to the service members, as well. The best thing to do is to take advantage of the online opportunities.

VILES: The Pentagon recommends the web site, DefendAmerica.mil. You click on the box, "Support Our Troops," and you can send gift certificates directly to the front lines.

But back in New Jersey, though, it's going to take a lot more than Pentagon guidance to stop Elaine Harmon. She's got ten birthday boxes to put in the mail to her soldiers.

HARMON: Without our soldiers, we wouldn't live the life we lead. And we are totally devoted to our soldiers. We really do love them.

VILES: Peter Viles, CNN, Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: A stubborn and remarkable woman.

That's our show tonight. Thanks for being with us. Tomorrow, join us for a special holiday edition of LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, in collaboration with "The Economist" magazine. We'll have a look ahead at the year 2004, including an exclusive interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

For all of us here in Washington and in New York, good night. Have a safe and happy holiday.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

Ways Around Campaign Finance Reform; John Kerry Contributes to Own Campaign; British Probe to Land Tonight on Mars; Spreading Holiday Cheer to Troops>


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