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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Assault on the Middle Class; Gang Crackdown; Crash Probe

Aired August 15, 2005 - 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: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, record gasoline prices across the country. Middle class Americans under assault as major oil companies are making record profits. Washington politicians and corporate America declaring the economy is strong. We'll have that special report.

And an explosion of gang violence in this country spreading to neighborhoods and communities in many parts of the country. The biggest and most dangerous gang, MS-13. The head of the MS-13 National Gang Task Force is our guest here tonight.

And new doubts about U.S. strategy in Iraq. Negotiators on a new constitution, missing a critical deadline despite repeated White House assurance that that deadline would be met. A former constitutional adviser to Iraq is our guest here tonight.

We begin with the continuing assault on this country's middle class. Gasoline prices hit another record high over the weekend. Unleaded fuel now up a staggering 40 percent so far this year, up almost 10 percent in the past two weeks alone. But as Christine Romans reports, not everyone is paying the high price. Some, in fact, are reaping huge rewards.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Record pain at the pump. And record oil company profits. While business leaders in Washington proclaim a strong U.S. economy, it's strength the middle class isn't sharing.

TYSON SLOCUM, PUBLIC CITIZENS ENERGY PROGRAM: There's an economy for those people who are already successful, who are members of a very large corporation that is getting lots of handouts from the federal government, and then there's the rest of us. Working people, middle- income folks are not winning in this economy.

ROMANS: He says big oil companies got $6 billion in tax breaks in the energy bill, while middle class Americans are slammed by skyrocketing gas prices, up 36 percent in the past year. Adjusted for inflation, closing in on the record set in March 1981, the Iranian revolution. A remarkable blow to the monthly budget at a time when wages are stagnant.

JARED BERNSTEIN, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: If you look at healthcare, college tuition, housing, those are some of the kinds of items in the consumer pricing that have been rising a good bit faster than average. And another piece of this puzzle that we often overlook is the fact that for many people, their wages and their incomes have not been keeping pace with inflation.

ROMANS: College tuition up almost 11 percent last year. Fourteen percent the year before. Drug prices rising at twice the pace of inflation. Healthcare insurance up 41 percent just in the past three years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: These are expenses for many American families that are not negotiable: educating children, driving to work, taking your medicine, paying your health insurance. And if interest rates begin to rise, those families with adjustable rate mortgages, they might have some very, very grim decisions, very grim math on their household budget coming up.

DOBBS: And most of those mortgages obviously are adjustable.

Christine, thank you. Christine Romans.

Meanwhile, oil refiners are making record profits, but that doesn't mean they're always producing at full capacity. Right now there are as many as seven U.S. refineries partially or completely closed because of unplanned outages. An additional six refineries face scheduled outages over the coming months. Together they represent about 10 percent of all of U.S. capacity.

These statistics did not, by the way, come from the refining industry or the federal government. Remarkably, the Department of Energy does not require refineries to report when their facilities go down, despite the huge influence on gasoline prices.

Even as this recent spike in gas prices, gas is still less expensive here than in many countries abroad. The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United Kingdom costs $5.85. In France, $5.75. In Germany, $5.69. In Tokyo, $4.24.

From energy woes in the United States to dangerous weather, thousands of homes and businesses remain tonight without power on the East Coast after powerful thunderstorms and torrential rains, almost six inches of rain, fell in and around Boston last night. Flash floods turned streets into rivers, trapping people in their cars. Officials in the Boston suburb of Brockton say half their city was under water at one point.

In New Jersey, more than 80,000 homes and businesses lost power after massive flooding there, nor the New Jersey residents may not see their power restored until late tomorrow. Wind gusts of as high as 80 miles an hour knocked down trees, toppled power lines and started fires.

In Connecticut, officials in the town of Stamford say damage to their town is the worst since a severe ice storm back in 1973.

And severe flash flood watches remain in effect in and around Las Vegas after heavy rainstorms. Two teenage girls were swept away by rising floodwaters in the town of Henderson, Nevada. They were ultimately rescued, treated and released from the hospital.

The worst drought across the Midwest in 17 years is now threatening commercial shipping. A standstill along the Ohio River is costing some businesses up to $250,000 a day.

Near Cairo, Illinois, the Coast Guard has closed the Ohio River, extremely low water levels along that vital shipping route where the Ohio meets the Mississippi. Shipments of petroleum products, coal, chemicals, grain and building materials are at a standstill. Five hundred and thirty-three barges are not moving at all. The Coast Guard says that's equivalent to 80,000 tractor-trailers worth of goods.

Along the Mississippi, the Army Corps of Engineers is dredging parts of the river, trying to avoid a backup of agricultural exports. Up to 70 percent of grain, one of the only industries the United States has a positive trade balance in, is shipped down the Mississippi for export.

Tomorrow here we'll have a special report for you on the spreading impact of this extreme Midwestern drought.

In the suburbs surrounding the nation's capital there's rising fear that the vicious MS-13 gang has gained a violent stronghold. Many residents live in fear. Those residents say police are too slow in taking on the ruthless gang organization that is now overrunning neighborhoods and communities in many parts of the country.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A Target store in suburban Maryland recently became a crime scene. Four people were stabbed in the store as frightened shoppers looked on. Earlier the same day, two other teens were attacked at the nearby Springbrook High School. Both stabbings were gang related.

JEFFREY WENNAR, MONTGOMERY COUNTY ASSISTANT STATE'S ATTORNEY: At the Springbrook event, the attackers shouted "MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha" before stabbing the two victims.

SYLVESTER: A few years ago, hardly anyone outside of Los Angeles had heard of the MS-13 gang formed by people fleeing the war in El Salvador. But now they gang has reached into at least 31 cities and the District of Columbia, spawning a deadly and violent crime wave, including the murder of pregnant 17-year-old Brenda Pas (ph). She was killed in northern Virginia after she tried to leave the gang.

Most of the MS-13 members are not even supposed to be in the United States.

HEATHER MAC DONALD, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: The vast preponderance are illegal aliens, according to police officers that have worked with them and have been -- been begging for the authority to use immigration laws against violent gang members.

SYLVESTER: What's frustrating local law enforcement is the revolving door. Illegal aliens are put on planes and sent back to their home country, but many, like Roberto Madrigal-Lopez, an MS-13 gang member, returned. He's a convicted sex offender who has been deported six times, but keeps reentering through our porous border with Mexico.

MIKE CUTLER, FORMER INS AGENT: What we're seeing is more emphasis made to secure Iraq's borders than our own borders.

SYLVESTER: Until U.S. officials control the border, law enforcement officers believe the wave of violence will continue as the MS-13 gang moves into new cities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And law enforcement officials in Maryland are pointing out that a person is more likely to be attacked by a gang member than a terrorist, a sign there needs to be more resources devoted to the problem -- Lou.

DOBBS: Absolutely. Lisa, thank you. Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

Still ahead here, we'll have much more on the explosion of gang violence in this country. The head of the MS-13 National Gang Task Force is our guest.

And nearly 15 members of Congress sponsored legislation to create a new civilian border patrol to work alongside U.S. Border Patrol agents. We'll have that special report.

And deadlock in Iraq. Iraqi politicians failed to meet the deadline to agree upon a constitution. I'll be talking with the former constitutional adviser to Baghdad.

Those stories are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Federal law enforcement officials say the threat from the MS-13 gang is so great that they put together a countrywide command structure to fight it.

Joining me from Washington, D.C., tonight is the director of the MS-13 National Gang Task Force, Robert Clifford.

Bob, good to have you here.

ROBERT CLIFFORD, DIRECTOR, MS-13 NATIONAL GANG TASK FORCE: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: I think most people are shocked to find out the size of the so-called MS-13 gang in this country. In 31 cities that we're aware of, 30 states. Fifty thousand gang members. These are extraordinary numbers.

Put into context for us, if you will, how many resources you're putting up against this gang in particular trying to stop them.

CLIFFORD: Absolutely. The National Gang Task Force has put together a coalition of several federal agencies, some of our intelligence services, and six foreign countries in a coordinated, concerted effort to combat MS-13 on an international scale.

DOBBS: The gang draws its name from the fact that they originate from El Salvador. They have around for some 20 years. And they are the most violent gang in the country's history, are they not?

CLIFFORD: That's correct. They're characterized by machete attacks, drive-by shootings, robberies, gang rapes. An incredible escalation of violence throughout the country.

DOBBS: And how much progress are you making against this gang?

CLIFFORD: Right now, we're working very closely with the Department of Justice, the organized crime and racketeering section, the domestic security section. What we are doing is attacking this gang, not as individuals, but rather as a criminal enterprise to disrupt and dismantle the alliance, communication, the leadership of MS-13.

DOBBS: And in this -- in this instance, going after MS-13, I don't recall ever a nationwide task force ever being formed to go after one specific gang. Has this ever occurred before?

CLIFFORD: It's unprecedented. Traditionally, the FBI and law enforcement has gone after gangs on a municipal or regional basis. Because of the national presence of MS-13, its demonstrated international nexus, this type of characteristic demands a nationwide concerted approach to attack the infrastructure, not the individuals, but the criminal enterprise.

DOBBS: With as many as 50,000 members estimated to be participating in the gang's activities, this is a huge, huge task. To what degree are you receiving cooperation? How much cooperation are U.S. law enforcement agencies, local, state and federal, receiving from the origin of the gang, that is El Salvador, and other countries in which MS-13 has strength?

CLIFFORD: Well, right now we estimate their population to be between 8,000 and 10,000 hard-core members throughout the United States. Several thousand more supporters. And, of course, very, very strong infrastructure in Central America.

At this time, the federal agencies, certainly state and local law enforcement officials, know the importance of intelligence, know the importance of sharing information, and have combined resources to attack this gang. I would say the cooperation really has been unprecedented, in particular from the departments that normally do not have a gang presence, such as rural North Carolina, the Pacific Northwest, areas like that. DOBBS: Putting a line to the idea that this gangs are -- this gang in particular is an urban phenomenon. But this gang has one other aspect to it in that it does not recognize borders at all in its operation and it's alliances. At the same time, the U.S. government is not recognizing borders either.

If we are, as Lisa Sylvester just reported, to deport these gang members to their countries of origin -- most of them are illegal aliens -- and not secure our borders, how can you possibly succeed?

CLIFFORD: Well, it's disturbing. We were recently interviewing a detained MS-13 member, asking where he was from, and he responded, (SPEAKING SPANISH), "This gang has no flag."

Because of that, we have to work just as hard with our foreign counterparts, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Canada, to form truly an international effort to combat MS-13 in a regional manner.

DOBBS: Bob, let me go to the point. If you deport these gang members as they are taken, and they continue to cross our borders, isn't border security absolutely critical to the success of your task force?

CLIFFORD: Absolutely. Deportation alone does not work. Time and time again, we've arrested MS-13 members who have been here repeatedly.

The key is law enforcement cooperation, strong prosecution, and heavy and stiff prison sentences to attack the leadership, to attack the lines of communication, to attack the infrastructure of this dangerous gang.

DOBBS: Bob Clifford, the head of the MS-13 task force. Thanks for being here.

CLIFFORD: Thank you, sir.

DOBBS: The federal government's failure to secure our nation's borders is sparking new calls in Congress tonight for a volunteer civilian border patrol. Texas congressmen are working on a proposal that would allow civilians to work alongside Border Patrol agents who have been unable to contain the illegal immigration crisis.

Casey Wian has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The minuteman civilian volunteers patrolling the nation's borders were initially dismissed as incompetents, vigilantes, or worse. But now a growing number of federal officials say civilian patrols should be a key component of border security.

First, Customs and Border Production chief Robert Bonner endorsed the idea before being overruled by higher-ups at the Department of Homeland Security. Then, 48 federal lawmakers introduced a bill that would create an armed national citizens militia to help guard the border.

REP. JOHN CULBERSON (R), TEXAS: I am confident that in Texas alone we would have hundreds of thousands of volunteers step forward in a matter of hours, if not days, to serve. There are 237,000 concealed carry permit holders in Texas. The borders are essentially wide open, unprotected.

And I'm fed up. My constituents are fed up. And we're ready to help.

WIAN: Border Protection Corps volunteers would be screened, trained, armed and deputized with full power to make arrests and use reasonable force. They would serve under the direct control of border county sheriffs.

Funding would come from nearly $7 billion in unspent homeland security money, originally intended for first responders. Some of the funds would also be used to provide badly-needed detention space for apprehended illegal aliens.

The Border Patrol would only say it's aware of the bill and awaits the outcome. Others dismiss the idea.

T.J. BONNER, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: Regardless of how well intended the proposal is, it merely serves as a smokescreen to divert attention away from the fact that most politicians are unwilling to tackle the illegal immigration crisis by cracking down on employers who hire illegal aliens, and fully funding the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies that enforce our immigration laws.

WIAN: Even founders of the Minuteman Project are suspicious, saying they want to keep their movement independent of the government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: Sponsors of the Border Protection Corps Act say civilian volunteers are part of a long American tradition, from the Revolutionary War to modern neighborhood watch groups. And they would help fill the holes in border security until the federal government does its job -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you. Casey Wian from Los Angeles.

Well, open borders activists in this -- in this debate over border security and immigration have taken to calling those who are demanding border security in the midst of a war on terror and the halt to illegal immigration as racist. But Hispanic-Americans are also extraordinarily concerned and put the lie to those charges.

Hispanics polled by "TIME" magazine say they are overwhelmingly in favor of programs that would allow illegal aliens to work in the United States if they register legally. Eighty-four percent of Hispanic-Americans say they would favor a temporary worker program under such conditions. Sixty-one percent of Hispanics polled say the illegal alien crisis is either an extremely serious or very serious problem. And 88 percent of Hispanics polled said it is either very important or somewhat important for Hispanics to assimilate into American society.

Just ahead here, what went so terribly wrong? The crash of a Boeing 737 jetliner north of Athens claimed the lives of all 121 people aboard. With hundreds of this type of aircraft in service around the world, investigators are looking for answers, and looking for answers desperately. We'll have a special report from Greece.

And later, I'll be talking with the country's leading First Amendment attorney about what he sees as a national federal effort to curtail the freedom of the press and limit your right to know.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Greek police raided the offices of Helios Airways one day after the devastating crash of one of its Boeing 737s that killed all 121 passengers and crew. According to government agencies, prosecutors want more information than Helios Airways was willing to provide, specifically maintenance records. Today, the chief Athens coroner reported that at least six of the 121 people aboard the passenger jet were alive when it crashed.

The Boeing 737 series is the most popular commercial jetliner in the world. Every five seconds a Boeing 737 takes off or lands somewhere in the world. There are more than 1,400 Boeing 737s in use in this country.

Boeing 737s have completed more than 81 million departures since 1968, when it was first put into service. The 737 has been involved in 69 accidents. It is considered one of the safest aircraft in the world. But that is little consolation to the families of the 121 victims in Greece. And they're demanding answers.

Chris Burns reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Grief and rage overcome families of those killed in the crash the relatives say didn't have to happen if it weren't for what authorities believe was mechanical error. This man lost his daughter-in-law and three grandsons.

"Those responsible have created a flying death trap," he says. "Didn't they see the problem? I want them to be severely punished."

More relatives are brought in from Cyprus to identify their loved ones in a makeshift morgue. They are given masks to protect them from the smell of the bodies, an agonizing and wrenching task.

"Those that are not identifiable will go through the process of identification through DNA testing," he says. And the grim task goes on at the crash site. Recovery teams search for the last of the human remains, as well as for clues as to what led the Helios Airlines Boeing 737 crashing in a fireball in perfect weather on Sunday.

(on camera): It's a spectacular and sickening sight, a mountaintop view of the Aegean Sea ravaged by the plane's wreckage. And it's still smoldering. Sometimes it's overpowering.

(voice over): So far, authorities say the evidence points to a loss of cabin pressure and oxygen that incapacitated the pilots. They had earlier radioed that they were having an air-conditioning problem.

A senior government official says the F-16s that were scrambled to escort the plane after it lost contact with the ground say they saw a stewardess trying to take the controls to prevent the crash. Her body was later found with the co-pilots.

More clues could come from the black box data and voice recorders found in the wreckage, though authorities caution the voice recorder was severely damaged.

Chris Burns, CNN, Athens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOBBS: Coming up next here, protecting our troops in Iraq. A special report on why it's taking so long to get life-saving armor to those troops.

And "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller, I'll be talking with her attorney and First Amendment authority Floyd Abrams here next.

And the U.S. media can't get enough of the soap opera in Aruba. Can you? We'll take a look at how the Natalee Holloway story is dominating news coverage.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Iraqi politicians today failed to meet their deadline to agree upon a new constitution, putting in question the ability of Iraq's new groups to build a new democracy. The politicians' failure comes despite repeated White House assurances that this deadline would be met today.

Aneesh Raman in Baghdad reports on the constitutional deadlock -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, it is a new day in Iraq, one that is confronting serious political questions. With just minutes to go until Iraq's government was set to be dissolved, a unanimous vote, followed by applause, as Iraq's National Assembly amended the law, and by one week extended the process for them to write a draft constitution. They conceded, Lou, essentially that they could not reach compromise on the two main points that had emerged in recent days, federalism, how powerful would autonomous regions in Iraq be, specifically the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south, where the majority of Iraq's oil is, mind you. And many concerns about oil revenue and whether that would go just to the regional governments.

Also, Lou, the role of Islam. Would it be a source or one of many sources in Iraqi law? Women's rights groups really vocal in the buildup to this deadline to make sure that their rights were not infringed upon.

Now, of course the U.S. had put a lot of confidence in today's deadline, putting a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government to meet it. They are now voicing confidence that the new deadline will be met, but it does undercut the political timeline here. The delay is seminal in itself and raises questions about the confidence of Iraqis themselves in this their transitional government -- Lou?

DOBBS: Aneesh, there are those who say that Iraq is on the verge of civil war. Put into context how critical it is for this constitution to be agreed upon by the three principal ethnic groups and for Kurds to have their own homeland, if you will, irrespective of what is agreed in terms of Islam as a principal source or a source for the constitution.

RAMAN: Well, Lou, the Kurds had an autonomous region under Saddam. It is nonnegotiable for them to not have the same under the new Iraqi constitution. But as you say, keeping all these parties at the table and talking is of critical concern. Now under immense pressure, the Kurds, the Sunni and the Shia really are butting heads on these issues and the potential for a breakdown does seem real. We thought it was minutes away today. It would have been catastrophic for the political process. And now, one week to resolve the issues that couldn't be resolved through today. We could be in a similar situation a week from now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Aneesh, thank you. Aneesh Raman from Baghdad.

President Bush tonight declared he appreciates the hard work of the Iraqis who are trying to write that new constitution. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that Iraq has generated considerable momentum, as she put it. White House correspondent Dana Bash reports now from Crawford, Texas. Dana, the reaction there?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Lou. It was actually Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who called the president late this afternoon and informed him that Iraqis had missed the deadline. They would extend deliberations for another week. And actually, President Bush just put out a written statement reacting to this. He applauded Iraqis for their "heroic efforts," calling it a tribute to democracy. But Mr. Bush did send his secretary of state out to talk before the cameras to put the best face on it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The new constitution will be the most important document in the history of the new Iraq. We're confident that they will complete this process, and continue on the path toward elections for a permanent government at the end of the year.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, there has been a lot of talk recently about the Bush administration and expectations on Iraq. The reason this seems to be, at least for now, a bit of a blow to the White House is because from the president on down, they have been raising expectations about getting this done.

Yesterday the U.S. ambassador to Iraq made the TV talk show rounds. He had been intensely involved, of course, trying to get them to meet the deadline. He said yesterday he was pretty confident they would get it done. Mr. Bush there you see at the ranch last week on Thursday. He said then, and again this weekend, the establishment of a democratic constitution is a critical step on the path to Iraqi self-reliance.

And Lou, through all of the violence, through the growing insurgency, the one thing the Bush administration has been able to rely on in order to point to some good news in Iraq is the democratic process in Iraq and meeting the deadlines on the path towards forming a government. And today I'm not able to do that, Lou.

DOBBS: I think it's probably fair to say, though, Dana, that it is a mark of some democracy, not unlike our own Congress, that they often extend their deadlines that they impose themselves. Perhaps we can take at least some heart in that. Dana Bash ...

BASH: And that's exactly what they're saying today, Lou.

DOBBS: ... thank you.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has new harsh criticisms of the U.S. mission in Iraq. Dean saying, quote "as of today, it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman called Dean's comments quote, "wild assertion." Mehlman says the comment demeans the hard work our servicemen and women have done in Iraq.

As Iraqi politicians debate the future of the country through their constitution, insurgents launched a new wave of attacks against Iraqi security forces. A suicide bomber attacked a restaurant in Baghdad used by Iraqi police officers. Twenty people were wounded in the attack, at least six policemen among them. Insurgents also killed four Iraqi soldiers in two separate attacks near Baghdad.

Eighteen hundred and fifty two of our troops have been killed in Iraq. The military is introducing stronger body armor to protect our soldiers and marines from insurgent attacks. But critics say there have been serious delays in the program to deliver that new body armor to Iraq. Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.

BARBARA STARR (voice-over): The Pentagon is shipping improved armored vest plates to Iraq at the rate of 20,000 a month. But it could be some time before all the troops have the new gear. The army is adamant that soldiers and marines already have the best armored vest protection there is. All troops in Iraq do have the current armor plates inside their vests.

(voice-over): The Pentagon is shipping improved armored chest plates to Iraq at the rate of 20,000 a month. But it could be some time before all of the troops have the new gear. The army is adamant that soldiers and marines already have the best armored vest protection there is. All troops in Iraq do have the current armor plates inside their vests.

COL. THOMAS SPOEHR, U.S. ARMY: What we do is we add what's called the small arms protective insert, or SAPI plate, if you will, into a pocket in both the front and then there's already one here in the back, you'll see.

STARR: But the improved plates use new ceramics and materials for better protection against small arms fire. The army says its simply trying to stay a step ahead of the insurgents.

SPOEHR: We're facing a very learning and adapting enemy, who adapts to our actions and takes counter actions.

STARR: Critics still believe the military could do better.

LAWRENCE KORB, CTR. FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: They all have body armor, but they don't have the best. There's body armor and then there's body armor. We're now into the third upgrade.

STARR: The army won't say how many troops have the new gear, and says the plates are being made as fast as possible.

SPOEHR: I equate it sometimes to the heat tiles on the shuttle, because we're talking about a piece of equipment that has to meet some very high tolerances for what we expect of it.

STARR: But all of this comes as the insurgent arsenal is growing more sophisticated. U.S. troops near Mosul last week raided this suspected clandestine insurgent chemical production site. Initial analysis shows the chemicals found were accelerants to be used in explosive devices.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(on-camera): And, Lou, the military has taken the highly unusual step of asking the news media not to talk about the very specific protection that these new armored plates offer. They are worried if the information gets out and the insurgents get a hold of it, that they will simply step up their attacks against U.S. troops once again -- Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much. Barbara Starr. Today's quote of the day comes from Senator Joe Biden, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When Biden learned that the Defense Department continues to have difficulty getting much needed body armor to our troops, he said quote, "Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should get his notice on Monday morning. If Rumsfeld worked in a U.S. corporation," Biden continued, "he'd be fired by now."

That brings us to tonight's poll question. How would you rate the Defense Department's performance in providing body armor and other basic security protection to our troops in Iraq? Excellent, good, poor, very poor. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later.

Turning to the escalating confrontation in Gaza, where Israeli police and troops today served eviction notices to thousands of Jewish settlers. The settlers have until Wednesday to leave Gaza voluntarily under the Israel withdrawal plan.

If the settlers fail to leave voluntarily, the Israeli government says the settlers will be removed by those forces and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared the withdrawal is being "carried out with great anguish," as he put it. But he said the pullout is good for Israel and necessary for peace.

Coming up next, 40 full days in prison and counting. "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller, jailed for a story she didn't write. Miller's attorney, Floyd Abrams, is our guest.

And a new setback for the Bush administration in Iraq. The Iraqi parliament missing a key constitutional deadline. We'll take a look at what's next with one of those who has advised the Iraqis on their new constitution. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Tonight, new documents reveal more about Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts and his views on the contentious issue of school prayer. Earlier today, the White House released 5,000 pages of new documents related to Judge Roberts' government service, among them, a memorandum written in 1985 -- 20 years ago -- when Roberts was a White House attorney. The memo clearly shows that Roberts supported the idea of allowing religious prayer in public schools. In his words, school prayer was quote "within the constitutional power of Congress."

Well, on this program, we report each day the number of days that "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller has spent in prison for protecting her confidential sources in the investigation of the White House CIA leak case. We do so, frankly, out of respect to her and the sacrifices she's making, for a principle that has served journalism, free speech and a free press well.

As of today, Ms. Miller has spent 40 full days behind bars, more than any other "New York Times" journalist. Joining me now to discuss the impingement, if you will, on free speech, a free press and certainly the incarceration of Judy Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is Floyd Abrams, a renowned First Amendment attorney, serving as her attorney.

Good to see you, Floyd.

FLOYD ABRAMS, JUDITH MILLER'S ATTORNEY: Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: Let's begin with 40 days in jail. How much longer is this going to go on? And what purpose does it serve?

ABRAMS: Well, the order of confinement by the judge was that she would stay in jail until she revealed her confidential sources, or until the grand jury expired, which is right now scheduled for October 28th. So it would be until then, unless there was -- there were additional legal steps taken against her. But if things go as they're going right now, I'd say the end of October.

DOBBS: The issue of criminal proceedings has been raised here...

ABRAMS: Yes.

DOBBS: Would Judge Hogan, would Special Counsel Fitzerald, go so far, in your judgment?

ABRAMS: I have to say I don't think so. But maybe this is wishful thinking. I think they both recognize that she is doing what she not only believes is the right thing to do, but what journalists in general are trained to do, taught to do, and honored for doing.

DOBBS: There is an extraordinary set of currents surrounding Judith Miller, and this instance, in which the left is obviously extraordinarily agitated with her, and the principled stand that she's taken, and the right is defensive because of the leak that purportedly put at risk a covert agent. How do you react to it?

ABRAMS: Well, I'm just unhappy that so many people can't distinguish politics from principle. Judy Miller is acting out of principle. She would be acting the same way if her source were from the left or the right, Democrat, Republican, hawk or dove. She made promises of confidentiality. She thinks it's a matter of honor and adherence to First Amendment principles that she has to keep her word.

Now, people can argue about that, but what's disturbing to me is that, as you rightly say, from the left and the right, you hear a torrent of criticism, a minority criticism to be sure...

DOBBS: Right.

ABRAMS: ... but criticism of her by people who can't abide the idea that she's doing this out of principle. Which is the only reason she's doing it.

DOBBS: Arianna Huffington sent out a newsletter, e-mail newsletter, suggesting that Judith Miller was simply not standing on principle, but rather doing so out of self-interest and protecting herself, rather than her confidential sources. How do you respond to that kind of attack?

ABRAMS: Well, let me say first, with Judy Miller in jail, there are limits to what I can say about that. I don't want to add to her legal risks. But I can say that's preposterous. It's not so. And it illustrates what I was talking about earlier. What Arianna Huffington is concerned about, what she dislikes Judy Miller for is not this, but earlier reporting she did on weapons of mass destruction. And because of that reporting, she refuses to give her the credit for acting out of the principle that animates her.

DOBBS: And there is also -- and some viewers of this broadcast have said -- how can Judith Miller possibly think she stands above the Constitution and the law? We are all beneath the law, serve at the law. We are protected by the law itself. And how can you possibly support her?

How do you respond to that?

ABRAMS: Well, I'd say this. She doesn't stand above the law. She knows she doesn't stand above the law. She's in prison. She didn't run away. She's serving her time in prison, as a way of showing, illustrating that she's not above the law. And the notion that this is some sort of lawless act on her part, as if no one has ever received what the lawyers call a privilege, a right not to reveal sources, it just isn't so. I don't have to reveal sources, because I'm a lawyer. I don't have to reveal her sources, because I'm a lawyer. Priests don't have to reveal sources. Lots of people don't. Judy believes that when she made a promise, she committed herself, her honor and her profession, and so she really doesn't have any choice but to keep her word.

DOBBS: To keep her word, and she should be honored for doing so, because I'll just speak for myself here simply, I think the prosecutor in this case, the judge in this case is -- they are acting injuriously to the First Amendment, and to the society that they say they're protecting. I understand perhaps their frustrations, but this is a remarkable infringement of our Bill of Rights.

ABRAMS: You know, they're doing what they think they have a right to do. And Judy is doing what she knows she has to do.

DOBBS: And what I always say when people say, well, Judith Miller thinks she's above the law here, I always say, well, she is certainly serving her principles, because she's willing to pay the price of being in prison, which is required by the law.

ABRAMS: And not many people do it.

DOBBS: Not many. But thank goodness we have at least one here.

ABRAMS: Yes.

DOBBS: Thank you, Floyd.

ABRAMS: Thanks. And thanks for your support.

DOBBS: Floyd Abrams.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. How would you rate the Defense Department's performance in providing body armor and other basic security protections to our troops in Iraq? Excellent, good, poor, very poor? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results coming up here in just a few minutes.

And at the top of the hour, none other than Anderson Cooper with "ANDERSON COOPER 360" -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Lou, thanks very much. Yeah, tonight on "360," disturbing details emerging about that jet that went down in Greece yesterday, killing all 121 passengers aboard. Tests today on six of those passengers revealing they were alive when the plane slammed into the mountainside. Investigators had originally thought everyone died before the crash. Now the question, what happened to the pilots and the emergency oxygen supply onboard the plane? Is it an isolated problem, or is there something that we should learn about before you fly next time? We'll take a look at that.

Also, the controversy continuing to swirl around the mother and Iraqi protester Cindy Sheehan. We'll talk with her live from Crawford, Texas. That's next on "360" -- Lou.

DOBBS: Look forward to it, Anderson. Thank you.

Turning now to a story that wins great coverage, but offers little information -- but nonetheless, generates great interest. American teenager Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba two-and-a-half months ago. No news -- no new news about her disappearance, but the media cannot stop covering it, can't stop talking about it.

Since her disappearance, the three cable networks have aired numerous stories. Our own network, 75 times. MSNBC, 103. Fox News Channel, 434. Each television network has the -- had approximately 20 to 40 people on the ground -- that means on the island of Aruba, covering this story in the first few weeks. That's now cut by half. The networks, however, remain in Aruba. The coverage goes on. As they say, stay tuned.

Coming up next, my guest is Noah Feldman, former senior constitutional adviser to Iraq. He joins us to talk about Iraq's failure to meet its constitutional deadline. What does it mean for Iraq? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Iraq's failure to meet a constitutional deadline difficult and perhaps an ominous sign for the future, perhaps a delay setting forth an opportunity for a brighter future. We'll see.

My next guest knows the enormous challenges facing the Iraqis. Noah Feldman served as a top adviser working with the governing council on its interim constitution in 2003. Noah Feldman joins me from Westport, Maine.

Noah, good to have you here. There are various ways in which to cast the disappointment surrounding the failure to meet the constitutional deadline. How would you do so?

NOAH FELDMAN, FMR. SR. CONSTITUTIONAL ADV.: It matters less to the Iraqis than it does to people in Washington to delay a week. They've been waiting for a long time for a government of their own, and this deadline was imposed on them from Washington anyway.

So the fact that they're going to take a week and not dissolve the parliament and demand new elections is probably just good common sense on their part. I think these problems are very serious. They're still going to be there a week from now.

DOBBS: Some of these problems, one would have to believe, would be there for a very long time. But first dismissing the issues as federalism and the role of Islam in this constitution, said succinctly, but the complexities that arise from both of those rather simple sounding problems are enormous, are they not?

FELDMAN: They certainly are. Those are the whole constitution really. To say that federalism and Islam are still outstanding is to say the most important part of the game is yet to be played. Federalism, the key question is, will the country essentially break apart into three reasons, leaving the Sunnis in the middle without much oil.

On Islam, the question is what's the balance going to be between Islamic law and democratic equality?

DOBBS: Help us understand one thing. The Kurds have oil. The Shia have oil. The Sunnis have none. The Shia have power. The Kurds have an autonomy that will not be mitigated by this constitution. What is left for the Sunnis?

FELDMAN: That's exactly the question the Sunnis are asking themselves. What's left for them is to participate in a country that will divide the oil revenues equally for everybody. And we hope that a larger number of Sunnis will see that that's the best option for them and put down their arms.

Some Sunnis though, seem to think that their best option is to fight the Shia so that they can reassert hold over them to get hold of those oil resources, which is how the country ran under Saddam. So the question of the constitutional process is, really, will the Sunnis get on board or will they continue with the violence.

DOBBS: And as with the foundation of this constitution, the issue of Islam itself, shall Islam be a principal source or a source for divining the constitution? What do you think will be the outcome?

FELDMAN: It's most likely that the stronger form that will say that Islam shall be a principal source of law will be adopted. That's largely symbolic at this stage, and that's the reason that the more secular folks can probably be willing to compromise on it in exchange for some other concerns and demands that they have.

What that will do is it will leave it to future legislators in Iraq and to future courts in Iraq, including the Constitutional Court, to decide what the balance is between Islam on the one side and constitutional democracy and specifically equality on the other.

DOBBS: This process of a constitution, creating a constitution has been underway for two years. Are you hopeful? Are you optimistic? Do you believe the Iraqis will succeed in bringing forth a constitution within the next week?

FELDMAN: I'm optimistic that an agreement will be reached, probably within the next week. We probably -- this is the Middle East, so it's always a mistake to give strict deadlines. But I think that we'll get some kind of a document that people can agree on. But that's not the whole story. What we need is an underlying agreement between the Shia and Sunni and Kurds, and that's going to be a lot harder to accomplish.

DOBBS: And one can't imagine anything emerging from the constitution without that underlying agreement. Noah, thank you very much for being here. Look forward to talking to you again soon. Noah Feldman.

FELDMAN: Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: Still ahead, your thoughts and comments, the results of our poll tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Taking a look at some of your thoughts, Sanjay in San Diego. "The ACLU people who had been present all along the southern border to see if violence was being caused by the minutemen were nowhere to be seen when the Latino groups were inciting violence and abusing your own crew led by Casey Wiatt. The hypocrisy of the ACLU is absolutely impalpable."

Shon in Pasadena, Maryland. "I watch your show. It amazes me how much energy the Mexican citizens put into protesting the security of our borders. If they would put that much energy and interest into fixing their own country, they might actually want to stay there."

And Andre Grouix in Monroe, Michigan. "If the government can't tell us who's in this country, legal or illegal, what makes you think the U.S. government can fight terror or know those who are terrorist in this country?"

And Ed Grogue in Crown Point, Indiana. "Who the hell is paying George Bush? The United States for being its president, or Mexico for being its slave?"

And Rita Nalette in Seattle, Washington. "Mexico has a climate more temperate than the United States. They have more oil. They have more coastlines for seafood, but they don't control pollutants ruining it. So it is down to the individual character of its citizens when their government pimps them out to the United States for the remittance dolllars."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at loudobbs.com. Each of you who's e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "Exporting America," and you can receive our e-mail newsletter at loudobbs.com.

The results of our poll tonight -- 95 percent of you rate the Defense Department's performance in providing body armor and other basic security protections to our troops in Iraq as poor or very poor. Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, good night from New York. Anderson Cooper 360 starts right now -- Anderson.

END

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