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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Controversy Over Missing Explosives in Iraq Escalates; Intensity of Presidential Campaigns Continues

Aired October 26, 2004 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, new and troubling questions about the politics, the timing and reporting of the escalating controversy over missing explosives in Iraq.
I'll also focus on the International Atomic Energy Agency's Mohamed ElBaradei.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: This material could already be entering the terrorist network and being used in attacks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: When were the explosives moved and by whom? To help answer those questions, I'll be talking with former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright and former CIA chief weapons hunter David Kay.

One week from Election Day, President Bush and Senator Kerry are intensifying their attacks on each other and their national security policies. We'll have live reports from the campaign trail.

Will your vote count? Malfunctioning voting machines, outright fraud, voter confusion and legal battles could be in store come Election Day. Kay Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters, is my guest.

And remember the commitment of both Republicans and Democrats to put into law the September 11 commission recommendations? Deadlock in Congress means it won't happen before Election Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY FETCHET, 9/11 FAMILY STEERING COMMITTEE: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the families and the American people, will hold them personally accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Tonight, our special report from Capitol Hill.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for Tuesday, October 26. Here now for an hour of news, debate and opinion is Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening.

Tonight, the Pentagon has ordered U.S. weapons inspectors to urgently investigate the disappearance of 380 tons of powerful explosives from an Iraq storage facility. The missing explosives have become a major issue in the presidential campaign just a week before the election.

But there are many unanswered questions tonight about what happened to those explosives, the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in all of this and the way in which news organizations reported the story.

We begin tonight with three reports: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, Lisa Sylvester in our Washington bureau, and Kitty Pilgrim here in New York.

First Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said, Lou, there are real questions tonight about whether U.S. troops in Iraq knew about the weapons stockpile and did everything possible to secure them, or were the weapons -- the explosives, that is, possibly moved by Saddam Hussein?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The Pentagon acknowledges there was a window of about six weeks after the invasion of Iraq when it's possible the stockpile of high explosives could have been stolen from the sprawling al Qa Qaa facility south of Baghdad.

But Pentagon officials argue it's more likely the explosives were moved as part of the prewar dispersal ordered by Saddam Hussein. That would have come sometime after March 3, 2003, the last time the International Atomic Energy Agency checked that security seals placed on the bunkers were in tact and before the war actually began March 20.

On April 10 of 2003, the day after the fall of Baghdad, troops from the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division reached the site. No weapons under IAEA seal were found, but the soldiers were advancing on Baghdad and officials acknowledge they didn't conduct a thorough inspection.

Sometime in the next month, May 2003, the IAEA says it relayed concerns to the U.S. government about the stockpile falling into the wrong hands.

Finally, on May 27, more than six weeks after the April visit, a special U.S. exploitation team looking for weapons of mass destruction searched all 32 bunkers and 87 buildings. Again, the stockpile was not found.

While Pentagon officials admit the facility was not completely secured between April 10 and May 27, they say many U.S. troops remained in the general area, and, although small-scale looting was certainly possible, officials scoff at the idea the large number of heavy trucks that would have been required to transport the 380 tons of missing explosives could have been moved into and out of the facility unnoticed during that time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: But what a lot of critics have a hard time accepting, Lou, is how the Pentagon would have not known if that material had been moved. After all, the U.S. was using all available technical means, including satellites and spy planes, to track troop movements and look for any effort to hide WMD.

What the Pentagon says is they did see a lot of things moving. They just can't say that any of it were these missing high explosives -- Lou.

DOBBS: Those are amongst the questions that we'll be attempting to answer here tonight. This escalating controversy has focused new attention specifically on the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director general Mohamed ElBaradei. ElBaradei has been a frequent and vocal critic of U.S. policies in Iraq both and before and after the war.

Lisa Sylvester reports from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ElBaradei is an Egyptian-born career diplomat who often has not seen eye to eye with the Bush administration. In the run-up to the war with Iraq, ElBaradei and Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix wanted the United States to give weapons inspectors more time. The Bush administration refused.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Hans Blix and ElBaradei thought they could probably continue to monitor Iraq's disarmament. They thought there was enough basis to continue to work at it, and the Bush administration said, no, we've already seen some more violations, some more noncooperation, that's reason enough for us to go to war.

SYLVESTER: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the White House also disagree over Iran's nuclear program, with ElBaradei saying there is no concrete evidence that Iran's program is linked to a weapons build-up.

ElBaradei is seeking a third term as director of the IAEA over the objections of the United States. His letter this week focusing on the disappearance of explosives has given President Bush's opponent fresh ammo in the closing days on the campaign trail.

SEN. JOHN K. KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just as the Bush administration's failure to secure Iraq's borders has led to thousands of terrorists flooding into the country. Their failure to secure those explosives threatens American troops and the American people.

SYLVESTER: But Republicans say the letter is much ado about nothing and accuse the Kerry camp of grasping for headlines.

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Kerry is very interesting in making as much noise about this as much as possible, but the problem for him is that the American people are always somewhat suspicious of those things that pop up in the final days and the final week of a campaign.

SYLVESTER: Political experts say ElBaradei's job calls for him to stay above the political fray.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And some of those political experts are playing devil's advocate. They argue if ElBaradei did not release the letter when he did and held on to it past the election, then the Kerry campaign could have accused him of playing politics. And the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday reiterated that it does not have a political agenda -- Lou.

DOBBS: Nonetheless, Lisa, as you've reported, it is clear that politics are in play here.

There are also questions tonight about the way in which news organizations have reported the missing explosives story. "The New York Times" broke the story yesterday, just over a week before the election. Critics say "The Times" should not have rushed the story into print because several important facts remain unclear.

Kitty Pilgrim has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The "Times"' front-page scoop was followed the next day by articles in many major newspapers. A second day story in the "Times" reads "Iraq explosives become issue in campaign."

The question is: Was the "Times" in a rush to press, trying to get the story on the front page just before the election?

MATTHEW FELLING, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: It would have been preferable for a different news organization, like "The Washington Post," to break this story, instead of "The New York Times," because "The "New York Times" and the Bush administration have such an antagonistic relationship.

PILGRIM: But some journalism experts go further, saying the story was, in their opinion, overplayed, given the amount of facts available when it went to press.

ROBERT ZELNICK, BOSTON UNIVERSITY JOURNALISM CHAIR: It raises questions about the editorial judgment of those who worked the story and those who edited the story for "The New York Times."

To run a piece like this a week before the election and to have several important facts unknown and the facts that are known suggest that the material was removed before U.S. forces ever got to the area, I think, just overplays it egregiously.

PILGRIM: Talk about bad timing for the president, CBS "60 Minutes" had been planning to run the story on October 31, one day before election eve, but after "The New York Times" article, CBS broadcast a shorter piece on the evening news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... bunkers located at the al Qa Qaa munitions...

PILGRIM: NBC Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said explosives were "not found" when its crew went to the site with U.S. troops three weeks after the war started.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Journalism experts say the intensity of the campaign in final days has pushed the limits on reporting, and some we spoke to today object to the fact that the story with still so many holes received such prominence.

Now they say, in normal times, that simply would not have happened -- Lou.

DOBBS: And it is ironic that the next day headline in "The New York Times," their story becomes a central campaign issue.

Kitty Pilgrim.

Thank you very much.

Later in this broadcast, I'll be joined by the former CIA chief weapon's inspector in Iraq David Kay, as we attempt to get to the facts underlying this story.

Also, I'll be joined by former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright, and our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre will rejoin us as well.

The White House plans to ask Congress for another $70 billion in additional funding to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration is likely to make that request early next year, if President Bush is reelected.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is actively considering a temporary increase in the number of troops in Iraq to provide additional security during the January elections in Iraq. One option available is to extend the deployments of the 1st Calvary Division and the 1st Infantry Division. Pentagon officials emphasize no decision has yet been made.

In Iraq today, American troops tightened their grip around Fallujah, blocking roads and reinforcing their positions. U.S. aircraft also launched a new strike against suspected insurgent positions. Military officials said the air strike killed a leading radical Islamist terrorist.

Meanwhile, insurgents threatened an unprecedented response if American troops attack Fallujah.

Also today, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said the massacre of 48 Iraqi National Guard soldiers was the result of what he termed major negligence by some members of the coalition. The prime minister did not charge specifically the United States with negligence, but American troops are the largest contingent of the coalition.

Still ahead here, the election now a week away, President Bush and Senator Kerry today stepped up the intensity and the frequency of their attacks on one another and their policies. We'll have live reports for you from the campaign trail tonight.

Also on Capitol Hill, the most far-reaching reforms in our intelligence community in half a century are now stalled, deadlocked, even though those lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, promise to implement the recommendations of the September 11 commission.

That story and a great deal more coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: One week before Election Day, President Bush and Senator Kerry spending much of this day campaigning in Wisconsin, a state the Democrats narrowly won in 2000. President Bush today focused on the economy, but he also faced questions about those missing explosives in Iraq.

Tonight, President Bush is in Iowa. So is Dana Bash -- in Dubuque, Iowa -- Dana.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My policies support and strengthen the small businesses.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president came to Wisconsin to talk about the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, who's responsible for the weapons missing in Iraq?

BASH: He did not answer a question about who may be responsible for 380 tons of high-level explosives missing in Iraq, but his campaign did, saying they believe John Kerry attacked the president a day earlier based on what they call questionable information.

After "The New York Times" reported the explosives missing, the senator said this.

KERRY: This is one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the great blunders of this administration, and the incredible incompetence of this president and this administration.

BASH: NBC News later reported the 101st Airborne arrived at the site nearly a month after air strikes began, and now the reporter on the ground say the military did not see or search for explosives. Bush officials initially bombarded reporters with e-mail saying that report proved "The New York Times" and the senator wrong.

Not so, said camp Kerry. Regardless, the White House should have showed more urgency.

The president's aides now concede there are many unanswered questions about when the explosives disappeared and who's to blame and say that's why Kerry's out of line.

DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think when you see the facts being contradicted in some cases through some of these reports that are coming out, it shows the weakness in their strategy down the stretch of this campaign.

BASH: Defending the president's execution of war, of course, was not the preplanned Bush strategy of the day. That was to spin the president's Wisconsin bus tour as proof they're on offense, going to Democratic areas of a traditionally Democratic state, getting pictures like these on local news, exuding confidence.

The candidate stayed on message.

BUSH: When you're getting people to go to the polls, remind them of this, that under the Bush administrations, the farmers are doing just fine. The income is up, and people are making a living.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And the president added only a generic line in an afternoon speech, calling his opponent somebody with no vision, only complaints.

But the vice president did respond to John Kerry head-on on his attacks on the missing explosives issue. The vice president said that John Kerry is "an armchair general who's not doing a very good job of it" -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Dana Bash reporting from Dubuque, Iowa.

Senator Kerry today focused on the war on terror and accused President Bush of trying to hide bad news about Iraq. Frank Buckley is with Senator Kerry reporting tonight from Las Vegas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last of Senator John Kerry's policy speeches on Homeland Security. Kerry criticizing President Bush's policies on America's port, borders and rail transportation. Kerry also claiming the president hasn't adequately funded first responders.

KERRY: We don't need a president who thinks we can't afford to fund Homeland Security. We need a president who believes we can't afford not to.

BUCKLEY: Bush campaign officials called the speech a series of baseless attacks and distortions, saying Homeland Security funding had tripled since 9/11.

While the two tangled over domestic security, Senator Kerry also engaged Bush for a second straight day on the missing explosives in Iraq, claiming the president tried to keep the news from the American people.

KERRY: He stood in front of the American people day after day, telling us how much progress we're making in Iraq and how much safer we are under his leadership without ever mentioning the loss of these explosives.

BUCKLEY: Kerry bundling the explosives with new reports the Bush administration intends to seek an additional $70 billion to fund the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

KERRY: Mr. President, what else are you being silent about? What else you are keeping from the American people? How much more will the American people have to pay?

BUCKLEY: While Kerry will continue to hit Bush on Iraq in the final week, Kerry campaign officials say rallies will dominate the final days.

KERRY: Thank you, Las Vegas!

BUCKLEY: Like this one this evening in Las Vegas.

KERRY: Are you ready for new leadership? Well, I'm telling you help is on the way!

BUCKLEY (on camera): Senator Kerry's appearance here in Nevada, so late in the campaign, an indication of the state's importance. Senator Kerry hopes to pick up electoral votes in Nevada and other southwestern states to help offset President Bush's apparent strength in traditional southern states. Next stop: New Mexico.

Frank Buckley, CNN, Las Vegas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Coming up next here tonight, intelligence reform stalled on Capitol Hill. Congressional negotiators likely failing to pass the 9/11 commission's recommendations before Election Day. We'll have that special report for you.

And then, an explosive issue. New questions tonight about the timing of a report on missing weapons in Iraq and the facts. Former weapons inspectors David Kay and David Albright and Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre join me next as we search for answers for so many unanswered questions.

That and a great deal more still ahead. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: House and Senate negotiators tonight are deadlocked over intelligence reforms recommended by the September 11 commission. It now appears there is no chance they will pass a combined version of the House and Senate bills before Election Day.

Ed Henry reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When the 9/11 commissioners unveiled their report this summer, they warned of dire consequences if the intelligence community wasn't restructured quickly.

Three months later, efforts to pass reform before the election have stalled. Some 9/11 families say Congress and President Bush will pay a heavy political price.

FETCHET: History will judge their actions, and we, the families and the American people, will hold them personally accountable when tragically other families face a similar loss in next attack.

HENRY; The White House says the president wants to sign reform into law before the election, and Mr. Bush supports the Senate version of the legislation, which would create a national intelligence director with vast budget authority.

But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers, is lobbying against the president's position. Myers is pushing for the House bill, which would allow the Pentagon to keep some power over the nation's intelligence budget.

One Democratic member of the 9/11 commission accused the administration of trying to have it both ways.

TOM ROEMER, FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: It's certainly very curious that the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke out over the weekend undercutting the president's position. Certainly, this administration has a spotty record of support for the 9/11 commission.

HENRY: A White House spokeswoman told CNN General Myers' position is no secret, but the president's position matters most. The spokeswoman added Mr. Bush is still working with Congress to get a deal as soon as possible, and some 9/11 families who support the president point out he has already implemented other reforms without waiting for Congress.

HAMILTON PETERSON, LOST RELATIVE ON 9/11: The irony is the very people who maliciously and gratuitously slander him are safer as a result of his good efforts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Some Republicans are privately nervous about the potential fallout for not finishing the job, but other Republicans cite a poll showing most Americans don't want legislation rushed through before the election.

Democrats say such a serious matter should not be based on polls, and Republicans will get the blame for inaction since they run the White House and the Congress -- Lou.

DOBBS: Both Houses thereof.

Ed, thank you very much.

Ed Henry.

Still ahead here tonight, the escalating controversy over those missing explosives in Iraq. I'll be joined by former weapons inspectors David Kay and David Albright and Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, as we try to assess the facts.

And then, President Bush and Senator Kerry intensifying their campaigning. Seven days to go. I'll be joined by three of the country's top political journalists to assess this campaign.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: LOU DOBBS TONIGHT continues. Here now for more news, debate and opinion, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: A major development in the Middle East and a major victory for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tonight. The Israeli parliament voted to support Sharon's controversial plan to withdraw Israeli troops and settlements from Gaza and a portion, a small portion, of the West Bank. The vote was 67 in favor of Sharon's plan, 45 against.

In other international news tonight, Secretary of State Colin Powell has provoked controversy. He talked about the eventual reunification of Taiwan and China and in no uncertain terms. In a CNN interview taped in Beijing, Secretary Powell said all parties are seeking reunification.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We did not support independence for Taiwan. That would be inconsistent with our one China policy, and there is no doubt in President Chen Shui-bian's mind or in any other Taiwanese leader's mind that that is a firm U.S. policy that is not going to change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: The Taiwanese government expressing regret over Secretary of State Powell's, what they called, heavy language.

More now on another international controversy, the mystery over what happened to the 380 tons of missing explosives in Iraq. The controversy has only intensified, even though many of the facts in this escalating debate are unclear.

Joining me now from Washington, former U.S. chief weapons inspector David Kay, former United Nations weapons inspector David Albright, now president of the Institute for Science and International Security, and our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.

First, let's begin with this -- the HMX and RDX, the intensely high explosives that are now missing. Is there anything in your assessment, David Albright, that would suggest, first, that this was a recent development?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, we don't know. I mean, I would expect that it happened a while ago, but frankly, we're -- we need to find out what happened. I'm a little skeptical of the stories that say that it disappeared prior to the U.S. troops arriving, and also just to correct the record, U.S. troops were there around April 3rd. The 3rd Infantry Division, actually, came through al Qa Qaa, and actually saw explosives. We don't know if they saw the HMX, but they were there one week earlier than you reported, and indeed did see that the explosives were at the site.

DOBBS: No, we didn't -- we reported, actually, on April 4th, and the fact of the matter is, David Albright, we're going to show you, if I may before I go to you, again, let me put up, if I may, a quote from "The New York Times" dated April 4th, which is one of the mysteries here. Reading: "At an industrial site south of Baghdad on Friday, U.S. troops found what were reported to be thousands of boxes of white powder. Allegedly, a nerve agent antidote, but preliminary tests showed it to be an explosive."

David Albright, could that be HMX or RDX?

ALBRIGHT: Yes, it could be. In fact, it's referring to the same story that I was drawing from. That the...

DOBBS: Let's all drop on the same facts.

ALBRIGHT: No, that's right. But the problem is in the story, it's unclear if it is the HMX, because for example we know the sizes of the boxes of the HMX were in. And the reporting doesn't correspondent to that. So, I think it's still unclear if that was the HMX, but it could have been.

DOBBS: And David Kay...

ALBRIGHT: But also let me add, RDX is also white. So -- and there's a lot of RDX that at Al Qa Qaa.

DOBBS: Approximately 380 tons of it apparently at one point.

David Kay, what is your assessment of this?

Is it your judgment, your best judgment that United Nations weapons inspectors and others had this carefully secured at al Qa Qaa.

DAVID KAY, FMR. HEAD OF IRAQ SURVEY GROUP: Oh, it was definitely carefully secured. Actually, this is one of Yogi Berra's deja vu all over again. It was a team of mine 1991 that went to al Qa Qaa and first discovered the huge stock of HDX, RDX that they had. So, I mean, I know it was secured. It was left in the country. Not all of us agreed that it should be in the country. But it was left there and it was in bunkers and it certainly disappeared at some point between -- certainly between March, the end of March and by May.

DOBBS: Let me, again, this, a report from April 5th of 2003, this from the Associated Press, and if you'll just bear with me as I bring everyone into the same data point as they say.

"U.S. troops have found south of Baghdad thousands of boxes of suspicious white powder, never agent antidote and Arabic documents on how to engage in chemical warfare. But a senior U.S. official familiar with the initial testing said the materials were believed to be explosives. The facility is part of a larger complex known as the Latifiyah Explosives and Ammunition Plant al Qa Qaa."

Jamie McIntyre, did we ever learn from the Pentagon, from the U.S. military what precisely all of those boxes of thousands of viles, point in fact, were?

MCINTYRE: Well, I'm not sure we did. Although, the Pentagon has said that lots of high explosives and regular conventional explosives were found. The question that they said -- the point they make here is they didn't find anything that was still under IAEA seal. So it was -- it wasn't clear whether this was -- this could have been part of that stash that had been taken out of the seal. The last we know was under seal in March -- in early March, March 3rd of 2003. So it's not that they didn't find explosives. It's just they didn't find what they believed to be this particular stash.

DOBBS: David Albright -- yes, did ahead.

KAY: There's a point here that keeps getting confused, and that's what seals is. The seals actually were only seals on doors to bunkers. The individual boxes were never sealed, that would have been a Herculean task. And the Iraqi behavior, I must -- I have had teams of inspectors, literally thousands of Iraqi bunkers and the Iraqi behavior when they believed they were going to be attacked would be to empty the bunkers and scatter the material around the site.

DOBBS: Well, let's talk about that, and I'd like both of your reaction, David Kay and yours David Albright, and Jamie of course yours.

The fact is ElBaradei appeared before the Security Council in February, after having testified on January 27th, 2003, said that the Iraqis -- he told the Security Council -- that the Iraqis had declared 32 tons of HMX had been moved for what they styled as civilian purposes. That's over 10 percent of the total of these explosives involved. About 10 percent of the total. Why in the world would we be accepting at that point through the weapons inspection process either at United Nations or our own, of course, it was it was the United Nations at that point, a declaration from the Iraqis?

And why would we assume if that they said 32 tons, it was not more or less or not at all, David Albright?

ALBRIGHT: Yes, one thing, the inspectors knew how much HMX was there in 1998. So, when they went in they found out that discrepancy and they were checking that out.

DOBBS: I am sorry, who found a discrepancy.

ALBRIGHT: The International Atomic Energy Agency.

DOBBS: No, sir. No, sir, this was in February of 2003. The Iraqis had declared it. Those are ElBaradei's comments.

ALBRIGHT: Well, that's fine. I mean, so that's fine. But the IAEA can go in and count the boxes, measure the HMX, and see that what they -- what had been there in 1998 was not the same that was there in February or probably of January of 2003. So the IAEA accepts the declaration, but it then checks to see if it is true. And the IAEA was following up on the HMX through its period of inspections to see was Iraqi declaration true.

DOBBS: Right, David Kay, let's put it starkly. The United -- the "New York Times" printed in its pages yesterday the document from October 10th by the Iraq government with the declarations from July of 2002. Reference to three types of explosives including HMX and RDX. Yet there is no notation on those declarations of any adjustment for the 32 tons. So it seems extraordinarily likely, at least reasonable at the very least, that the record keeping as well is flawed here.

KAY: Well, I actually think the record keeping accounting for 32 tons of being withdrawn is probably accurate. Because the inspectors in February did verify the total balance, and it was short about 32 tons. And the creative part, the one that I've got grave suspicions about is the Iraqi explanation. Yes, we took 32 tons away because we wanted to use it in the cement industry was their explanation given. Well, if they did, it was the world's most expensive use of explosives for that industry.

DOBBS: And now, we come to the next part. The record-keeping by this provisional government, interim government now, now taking account of the 32 tons, if you accept that view, if you accept that as a credible statement, but not reflected in the most recent declarations.

Why in the world, if this is such dangerous material, was Saddam Hussein permitted to keep it at al Qa Qaa?

KAY: I think that's a very good question, and as a matter of fact, and here again, it makes me realize how long I have dealt with this issue. There was a strong argument in 1992, '93 at point where Iraq was being, a lot of its WMD was...

DOBBS: We're getting into real trouble on time. I'm going to ask you to be as succinct as you possibly can. KAY: Being destroyed and removed, that the HMX, RDX should be taken out of Iraq. Iraq protested...

DOBBS: So why wasn't it?

KAY: Well, they protested to the IAEA that they needed it for civil construction. The IAEA accepted that argument. Not all inspectors agreed that that was a credible argument.

DOBBS: Why in the world would the inspectors, David Albright, be making that kind of division?

Wouldn't that be a governmental division and that of the United Nations' policymakers?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't the history of it. I mean, typically RDX, HMX was not explicitly banned by the U.N. Security Council and so the inspectors are in a bind. I mean, they left other things there, like low enriched uranium. So, I mean, one can look back and say these things should have happened. But I will say...

DOBBS: I think we can all agree those things should have happened.

ALBRIGHT: ... they were being monitored and protected -- but they were being monitored by the IAEA. Before the war they were under security. And that the question is, what's happened to them since then, not the IAEA's performance.

DOBBS: Well, I -- no, I quite disagree with you, David Albright. I think the question here is why that material is dangerous as it obviously is was permitted to exist in the hands of Saddam Hussein. Secondly, why there wasn't real security leading up in the days and months leading up to the U.S. invasion?

Then thirdly, Jamie McIntyre, we come to the point with this identified as a serious, serious repository of dangerous, high explosives, why in the world did the United States military and the CIA not make certain that this stuff was either secured or either eliminated altogether?

MCINTYRE: Well, it was certainly on the list of the facilities to be checked. The troops that first got there, as was noted, were on their way to attack Baghdad. The Baghdad had not fallen yet...

DOBBS: This is the 101st?

MCINTYRE: When we first went through it. Well, in the 3rd Infantry Division, as David Albright noted. And the other point I would note is that assuming that we take what David Kay said to be likely, that is that they may have found some powder and the bunkers may have been emptied in advance of the attack. But that would tend to support the Pentagon's case, but what really underscores is that no one really knows what happened to this material. We don't know if some of it was recovered. If it was moved someplace else. If it's in the hands of insurgents. We really don't know the answer to that question.

DOBBS: We can say all the things we don't know, but in summation, we have to say, we just don't know period!

Which is remarkable, considering we are here now trying to assess what happened a year and a half ago.

David Kay, David Albright, Jamie McIntyre, thanks to you all.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight.

Do you believe it would have been fair for the "New York Times" and CBS News' "60 minutes" broadcast have reported this missing explosive story one day before the election as they apparently planned, yes or no? Cast your vote at cnn.com/lou. We'll have the results later here in the broadcast.

Coming right up, "Democracy at Risk." Will your vote count this year?

Kay Maxwell, national president of the League of Women Voters joins me next.

And conservative comedian, Dennis Miller. He says anyone who still claims to be undecided in this election is just looking for attention. He's my guest next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Now "Democracy at Risk." My guest tonight says many of the key battleground states are facing serious problems specifically with provisional ballots, and that we could be headed for some real problems. Joining me now is Kay Maxwell. She's the head of -- the national president of the League of Women Voters. Good to have you here, Kay.

You have been to a number of the states. We know Ohio, Florida, a number of states already involved in amazing litigation with a week to go before the election. How big a problem are these provisional ballots going to be?

KAY MAXWELL, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: They have the potential to be a big problem. First of all, it's important for people to know that provisional ballots can be cast this time for the first time in every state where there is an election. So voters need to know if they get to the polls and have a problem they are entitled to a provisional ballot.

DOBBS: The League wants any provisional ballot to be submitted irrespective of whether in the right precinct or the right part of town if you will or the right polling place. That isn't the ruling that's coming down from some of the courts.

MAXWELL: From some of the courts, and we disagree obviously with that. It seems silly to us for example to give somebody a provisional ballot and then not let them cast it and not count it which is what some of the courts are saying. So we obviously think that it makes more sense for people to get it and be able to vote for those offices that they would if they were in the right place.

DOBBS: At what point, though, is there some responsibility on the part of the voter to know what the ballot is, to know how to sign it, put their names on it, check the appropriate boxes, and be at the right poll?

MAXWELL: Sure, the voter has a lot of responsibility but the problem we face right now with all of the increased voter registrations is if there are issues or problems with people's voter registrations there just hasn't been enough time to get back to them, let them know that there are problems and get them fixed.

DOBBS: I have looked at some of the material that's being put out by the Democratic party, Republican party, the League of Women Voters, the Help America Vote, I have to tell you, it is almost unintelligible. How is this helpful to a voter who is having trouble with a basic ballot?

MAXWELL: Well, the provisional ballot is terribly important because a ballot of last resort.

DOBBS: I'm talking about how is all that literature around it helpful?

MAXWELL: Well, I think THAT there is not any particular literature that needs to go with it. It is simply if you registered, you filled out your form correctly. If it has been processed correctly, if it got to the election officials, then you should be entitled to vote and hopefully you will when you get there on election day.

DOBBS: You want to give us your assessment on where the election is most in trouble?

MAXWELL: I think it's going to be very close, potentially very close in a number of states and the thing is, in those close states, it may be these provisional ballots that will make the difference in who wins or loses.

DOBBS: Florida?

MAXWELL: It could be Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, any of those...

DOBBS: I think we better quit there because we want everybody to go out and vote.

MAXWELL: Absolutely. Get out there and vote.

DOBBS: With joy in their hearts.

MAXWELL: Indeed. Thank you.

DOBBS: Kay Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters, thank you.

Coming up next here, conservative comedian, talk show host Dennis Miller will join me. He's going to give us his perspective on this presidential campaign. He joins us next.

Seven days and counting. President Bush, Senator Kerry, they're trying hard. So are three of the nation's top political journalists. They will be here when we continue. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Well, my next guest is an Emmy Award-winning comedian, commentator known for his liberal turned conservative views. Described by the "Chicago Tribune" as a born-again Republican. Joining me now is Dennis Miller. Hallelujah, Dennis, good to have you with us.

DENNIS MILLER, HOST, "DENNIS MILLER": Hey, Lou, my theory, by the way, before we get under way here, that Howell Raines and Jayson Blair are working in conjunction, raided the weapons' cache at al Qa Qaa and are using the weapons to leverage Hootie Johnson to let women play at Augusta National. I trace as one of my facts the fact that al Qa Qaa has replaced all the news that's fit to print on "The Times" masthead now.

DOBBS: As "The Times" has established, I love the fact, Dennis, that "The Times" reported the story on a Monday, actually earlier than that, but on a Monday and on a Tuesday report that the story they published on a Monday is now a campaign issue.

MILLER: Yes. In my book, "The Times" has the legitimacy now of "The Autotrader" as far as factual material.

DOBBS: Well, I'm sure they'll be flattered to hear your compliment and congratulations. A born-again Republican. Tough times to be a Republican?

MILLER: Well, you know, I'm libertarian, liberal in almost everything, Lou, except 9/11 changed me. I am quite frankly shocked it hasn't changed the whole country, but obviously that's the beauty of a democracy. Anybody can believe what they want, but the moment they blow up the two biggest buildings in your culture and the Pentagon, you know, I'm certainly thinking preemption. It doesn't seem like a dirty word to me anymore. I believe the game has to be taken to the enemy.

DOBBS: And certainly this administration and our President Bush has done exactly that. It looks though like the country is just where we were in 2000. Right down the middle, divided as we enter this election.

MILLER: Well, I will say this about Bush and Kerry. There are two types of politicians in the world. There are chess players, which I think of as Kerry. He examines every permutation, every possible sequence of moves, but in the dangerous climates we live, I think that's risky because occasionally the egg timer goes off and you miss your turn.

Bush is a checkers player, occasionally runs across a jerk and he jumps them, and that's why I'm for Bush. But it is split down the middle and I am prepared to say this, Lou, right up until the election I hope Bush wins but if Kerry does win, November 3, I'm going to get behind Kerry, because the simple fact is now, America is simultaneously the most loved, hated, feared and admired country on the planet. In short, we're Frank Sinatra, and you know something, we better get on our side now, because nobody else is going to be there for us. Since the Soviet Union fell apart and there's no superpowers to pick from anymore.

DOBBS: Well, in that spirit of embracing bipartisanship and healing, you recently were quoted as saying that you believe that anyone who isn't decided on this election at this point is too stupid to vote anyway.

MILLER: I think they are being too precious by half. Think about it, you are sitting at home and pollsters are actually calling and acting interested in you. I mean, certainly you feel like you're the belle of the ball for a few minutes, but I don't believe anybody is undecided at this point.

And you know something? I agree with you, Lou. This propping up people and explaining to them how hard the voting process is going to be and how they won't be able to navigate the Sargasso Sea that is a touch-screen. For God's sakes, if you can't navigate your way around a chad, stay home! Do us all a favor! And if a touch-screen is puzzling to you, well, take the next six days and go practice on your ATM machine for God's sakes! Get it together!

DOBBS: Dennis Miller, we thank you for being here. Great talking to you as always.

MILLER: Thank you, Lou, I'd follow you into hell.

DOBBS: All right. Take care, partner, we are going to head the other way, though.

Still ahead, I'll be joined by three of the nation's top political journalists with just one week to go before this election. And of course, the results of tonight's poll. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Karen Tumulty of "Time" magazine joins me tonight from Washington, as does Roger Simon of "U.S. News & World Report." And here in New York, Mark Warren of "Esquire" magazine.

Karen, let's start -- 380 tons of missing explosives. It's now a campaign issue. Should it be?

KAREN TUMULTY, TIME MAGAZINE: Yeah, it should be. Although I do think that the eagerness with which both campaigns jumped on it and distorted it and made things seem a lot more certain on both sides than they really are is somewhat concerning at this late stage in the campaign.

DOBBS: Roger, as best the facts suggest now, and that's, I know, a clumsy way to put it, but nonetheless, as the facts now suggest, 18 months ago, this material arguably was not in al Qa Qaa, the facility in Iraq. Does that -- is that of any moment whatsoever in understanding the story and its relevance?

ROGER SIMON, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: It is, but as I think your interview of the segment before last shows, there are many more questions than answers regarding this story.

DOBBS: Do you remember how we used to be in the business as journalists of having more answers than questions?

SIMON: We'd have to go back a long way.

DOBBS: Yes, you do.

SIMON: I think the critical question you asked David Kay was what was Saddam Hussein doing with this stuff after we knew that this stuff was used to create not just high explosive explosions, but nuclear explosions, and we let him keep it in a bunker? You know, what on Earth were we thinking?

DOBBS: We're very accommodating at the United Nations, through all that weapons inspection process. And Mark Warren, aren't you curious about what was in all those little vials? White stuff? Apparently no answer 18 months later.

MARK WARREN, ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: I personally am very curious about it. If the story ends up being true and accurate, it is certainly a legitimate campaign issue. It doesn't matter if it came from the Iraqi government or from the IAEA, or whenever. It's still a legitimate issue. And certainly if it was just this in isolation, it may be easier for the White House to handle.

DOBBS: Karen, I have to say, of all of the things to create -- to place in metaphoric responsibility, that is this 380 tons of missing explosives, all of the screw-ups and mistakes in Iraq since May 1st, this strikes me as being relatively secondary to some of those. Doesn't it to you?

TUMULTY: Well, certainly how at a time, though, when we are trying to figure out how and why it is that the insurgents have this capacity to continue attacking not only our troops, but other Iraqis, this may be an explanation.

Again, we still don't know precisely where this story is going, and probably won't by Election Day.

DOBBS: Well, one thing we do know precisely, Roger Simon, is where these candidates stay in the polls. We have our pulse on the voting public. We are a finger on the pulse of the voting public. It's a tighter race tonight. What do you think?

SIMON: I think it's a toss-up. I think it could go either way. DOBBS: Very helpful, Roger!

SIMON: Well, I'm not in the crystal ball business. I'm supposed to be in the analysis business. I think stories like this one do not help George Bush, and there has been a steady drumbeat of bad news for George Bush. And just to prove that when things are going bad they can always get worse, a day after the story about missing high explosives, you get Prime Minister Allawi bashing Bush, who a week ago was his best friend, for gross incompetence in not protecting Iraqi soldiers. That's not helpful to the Bush campaign.

WARREN: That's exactly right. I mean, this is -- if this, again, if this were just in isolation, the missing explosives, it would be easier for the White House to parry with a week out. But it's just part of a cascade of bad news about neglect and mismanagement of Iraq.

As for the polls, they're statistically meaningless. I'm with Newt Gingrich on this one. Nobody understands this election. Nobody. If they pretend to, they're lying.

DOBBS: How about the people in -- Karen, in Wisconsin, and Colorado, and New Mexico. Do they understand it?

TUMULTY: Well, I think at this point, they, you know, these are all states that seem to be teetering, and it's going -- you know, these are things that, you know, after the election we are going to be pointing back to, a decision to run more ads or to pull ads out, as potentially fatal just like people talk about the Gore campaign in 2000 pulling out of Ohio. Things that are being done now are going to look a lot more significant next Wednesday morning.

DOBBS: And Roger, as you look at what's going on right now, you're not in the crystal ball business, but what do you think will be in your analysis a determinant two issues over the course of the next week?

SIMON: Two sort of issues that have gone below the radar screen but shouldn't have. One is the cost of gasoline. You and I and people like us just fill up the tank and we don't worry about it. To many Americans, the rise in the cost of gasoline is a serious problem.

And the second is the flu vaccine shortage. You know, France has enough flu vaccines for its citizens, but the United States of America doesn't. This is, I think, leaving many people wondering what the heck is going on here, and many elderly people saying, hey, I need a flu shot and I can't get it.

DOBBS: We got 30 seconds.

WARREN: Totally agree with Roger on those two issues. I'll say one more issues that is not below the radar, Iraq, the soft spot for the president, and a factor, for the debates, or the so-called debates. Presidential presentations, whatever. Senator Kerry saved himself. If he wins, we'll go back to the debates as defining moments for Senator Kerry. DOBBS: Mark Warren, Karen Tumulty, Roger Simon, thank you very much. We will see you all here tomorrow night, as the campaign moves on.

Now the results of our poll. Just over three-quarters of you say it would have been fair had "The New York Times" and CBS News "60 Minutes" have reported the missing explosives story one day before the election.

Thanks for being with us here tonight. Please join us tomorrow. Former Reagan White House chief of staff, Ken Duberstein, and Democratic billionaire George Soros will join me. Also, singer and author Kinky Friedman on his new book, and his views on issues from country music to, of course, presidential politics.

For all of us here, good night from New York. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is next.

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


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