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New Orleans Police Chief Resigns; Michael Brown Grilled

Aired September 27, 2005 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, New Orleans police chief, Eddie Compass, has resigned. Compass stepped down as the police department launched an investigation of the desertion of as many as 250 of his police officers when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

In other developments tonight, President Bush made another visit to the disaster area. This the seventh time the president has been to the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina struck. Today, the president focused on damage caused by Hurricane Rita.

President Bush flew over coastal towns such as Cameron in southwest Louisiana, towns that were devastated by Rita's storm surge. Four out of every five buildings in Cameron were destroyed.

And in New Orleans, more people are returning home tonight to survey the damage. Officials have imposed an overnight curfew, and they are warning residents that only limited services have been restored.

We begin tonight with the surprise resignation of the New Orleans police chief, Eddie Compass.

Mary Snow has our report.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As New Orleans struggles to get back on its feet, the city's top police officer is abruptly calling it quits and isn't saying why.

SUPT. EDDIE COMPASS, NEW ORLEANS POLICE: And at this time, within the next 30 to 45 days during the transition period, I will be retiring as superintendent of police. And I will be going on in another direction god has for me.

SNOW: Just what the direction is, that's unclear. Eddie Compass has been on the New Orleans police force for 26 years, serving as the superintendent for three and a half. As he led the department in the country's worst natural disaster, about a third of his officers went AWOL as looters added to the chaos. Roughly 15 percent of the force now faces investigation for leaving their posts.

Mayor Ray Nagin called Compass a hero, saying it was a sad day for New Orleans. He's named the assistant superintendent, Warren Riley (ph), to take over. MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: He leaves the department in pretty good shape. He leaves the department with a significant amount of leadership.

SNOW: As the city tries to move forward, there are still questions being raised about the past. Both Compass and Nagin are being questioned about their accounts of violence inside the Superdome right after the hurricane when thousands were stranded. Some are suggesting they exaggerated the counts of rape and murder. The New Orleans mayor said he got his information from people on the ground.

NAGIN: As far as exaggerations, you know, I don't know, man. I was in the moment, and there was lots of information flowing. You were trying to filter through the rumors that were happening. All I can tell you is, when I talked to the people that were in the Superdome and in the convention center, and I talked to the police officers and the National Guard, I was getting a much different story.


SNOW: As for now, Mayor Ray Nagin says he's concentrate concentrating on the future. Here in the central business district on Canal Street, business owners are being allowed in to go into their stores and businesses and assess the damage. Mayor Nagin saying this program that was restarted yesterday so far is going well. And Lou, he says tonight that it may be as early as tomorrow when he announces that his program might be expanded -- Lou.

DOBBS: Mary, thank you very much. Mary Snow from New Orleans.

President Bush today visiting the disaster area, taking a firsthand look at the destruction caused by the hurricane. President Bush began his tour in Beaumont, Texas, which was hard hit. He said the main priority now is to restore essential services.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, the food and water. Second, is electricity and generators moving this way. There's a rational plan to distribute the generators.

Thirdly, there's fuel. We fully understand that it's hard to maintain order if you don't have fuel for your cars and your first responders.


DOBBS: The president then flew over the coast in Marine One. Afterwards, the president visited Lake Charles, Louisiana. There he received a briefing from the governor of Louisiana and other officials.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today declared that government officials learned from their mistakes in Hurricane Katrina and were able to respond more effectively when Hurricane Rita struck. But Chertoff, speaking in Miami Beach, acknowledged that Rita illustrated the difficulty of evacuating major metropolitan areas.


MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I come at this again with a sense of humility. In the face of the very worst nature has to throw at us, we are -- we really feel our constraints. But still, we always work to move heaven and earth to mitigate the damage, to respond as quickly as possible. And we're going to take the lessons learned in Katrina and Rita and continue to build on that.


DOBBS: Chertoff's former FEMA director, Michael Brown, has learned that leaving his job doesn't mean giving up a government salary. Brown is still being paid as a consultant, a consultant charged with assessing what went wrong in the government's response to the Katrina disaster. Brown, of course, in charge of that response.

Today, Brown gave testimony on Capitol Hill, and he faced a barrage of tough questions about his role in the disaster response.

Ed Henry reports from Capitol Hill -- Ed.


That's right, over six hours of grilling for Michael Brown. As you know, he's been a political pinata of sorts for weeks now. Critics questioning his credentials, as well as his performance of FEMA director.

He finally had a chance to fire back, and he used this opportunity before the House Select Committee, probing what went wrong in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, to shift the blame to local and state officials. He said in particular that he feels that the delay in calling for a mandatory evacuation, a delay by the New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, as well as Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, was, in his words, a tipping point that led to all of the other problems that New Orleans experienced.

He also said, Michael Brown did, that his biggest mistake was not recognizing the weekend before Katrina hit that, in his words, "Louisiana was dysfunctional." He also added that critics have made the mistake of thinking that the federal government could solve all of the problems.


REP. TOM DAVIS (R), KATRINA COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: FEMA is not a first responder agency with the resources to assume principal responsibility for overwhelmed state and local governments during a disaster. This is not the movies. There is no Tommy Lee Jones character who comes in and takes charge of everything.

And that's probably a good thing. I continue to believe the worst lesson to be learned from Katrina is that all answers reside in Washington. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, there were a lot of heated exchanges with lawmakers in both parties. Republican Chris Shays really led the way. At one point, saying that he believes Michael Brown was basically a deer in the headlights, that he was glad that he was no longer in charge of FEMA. Also saying that he felt like Michael Brown was passing the buck, unlike someone like Rudy Giuliani, who in a similar situation, in the words of Chris Shays, and some other lawmakers as well, they feel he would have taken responsibility. They felt Michael Brown was not.

Also, Democrat Gene Taylor of Mississippi took some swings at Brown.


REP. GENE TAYLOR (D), MISSISSIPPI: The fact is those policemen sat at the EOC doing nothing when they could have been delivering food. Are you aware of that?

MICHAEL BROWN, FMR. FEMA DIRECTOR: No, I'm not aware of every single county.

TAYLOR: Maybe the president made a very good move when he asked you to leave your job.


HENRY: Now, Gene Taylor and William Jefferson of Louisiana were the only two Democrats to show up for this hearing. The majority of Democrats are boycotting this House Select Committee's investigation. They believe that a Republican investigation will basically shield the Republican White House.

The Republican leaders here on the Hill say that's nonsense. They say they were asking tough questions as well of Michael Brown about the Bush administration today. They say this will be a fair investigation. They say it's time for the Democrats to stop the finger pointing and finally show up for work -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, Congressman William Jefferson, one of the Democrats who was at the committee hearing today, as you know, he will be our guest here later, as will Congressman Christopher Shays, who had very harsh words for Michael Brown.

Ed, there was also a great deal of focus on Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans and Governor Kathleen Blanco. It's pretty clear this committee does not in any way intend to whitewash their role in the disappointing response to this disaster.

HENRY: That's right. And, in fact, while, as I mentioned, Michael Brown was in the hot seat for over six hours, both Mayor Ray Nagin, as well as the governor, are expected to come before this committee as well. So they're going to get their day -- their day of grilling as well. And you can bet the questions are going to be just as difficult for them -- Lou.

DOBBS: Indeed. Thank you very much. Ed Henry.

Mayor Ray Nagin declared he doesn't know what Brown was talking about when he described New Orleans' disaster response as dysfunctional. Nagin said it's not the right time to assign blame for what happened during Hurricane Katrina.


NAGIN: Well, you know -- you know, I think it's too early for us to get into that kind of, you know, name blame and all that stuff. Obviously there were issues across the board. You know, the federal government, state government, and local government, you know, did not have the processes, in my opinion, to deal with a storm of this magnitude.


DOBBS: Mayor Nagin's response is reminiscent of those from the White House in the immediate hours after Hurricane Katrina and in the days just before firing Michael Brown.

Governor Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana today blasted Brown's testimony. She released a statement saying, "Such falsehoods and misleading statements made under oath before Congress are shocking. It clearly demonstrates the appalling degree to which Mr. Brown is either out of touch with the truth or reality."

We would like to know what you think about the issue in tonight's poll. Our question is, who do you believe is most responsible for the government's failures after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Nagin, Louisiana Governor Blanco, or former FEMA director Brown? Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here later.

More now on the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Ahead, charges and countercharges on Capitol Hill today as former FEMA director Brown gave testimony about who he blames. Two of Brown's strongest critics in Congress will join us here tonight.

And rising concern that illegal aliens, not American citizens, will be the ones rebuilding New Orleans. And they'll be paid with money from you, the taxpayer. We'll have that special report.

And former model Anna Nicole Smith is going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in a bizarre New twist in her battle to win hundreds of millions of dollars from the estate of her late husband.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight there is growing concern and criticism that the Bush administration has made it possible for tens of thousands of Gulf Coast reconstruction jobs that should be offered to residents who had to live through the disaster now looking to rebuild their lives, those jobs instead will be filled by illegal aliens. The fear is that New Orleans will turn into La Nueva Orleans, once proud city of working Americans, displaced now by cheap, illegal foreign labor.

Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Gregory Rodriguez says illegal aliens will do much of the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

GREGORY RODRIGUEZ, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: This is how the nation has always worked, which is the broader point. The broader point is, in large reconstruction projects, back-breaking labor is often and most often -- most often done by immigrants at low wages who are willing to do these jobs that the nation needs to be done.

ROMANS: His op-ed published in the "L.A. Times" calls it "Nueva Orleans." He says many of these illegal workers will stay and make New Orleans more like Los Angeles.

That the hurricane disasters are a boon for illegal labor is clear. In the wake of Katrina, Mexican President Vicente Fox was touting Mexican laborers, telling "The New York Times," "If there is anything Mexicans are good at, it is construction." And many say our federal government is making it possible to hire illegal aliens in the Gulf Coast en masse.

The Department of Homeland Security dropped paper work requirements to help American workers who have lost everything, but many say it's a free pass for contractors to hire illegal workers. The president also suspended a 74-year-old law requiring at least average wages for government contract work. Many fear wages for Gulf Coast workers will fall and illegal workers won't complain.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: American citizens and people who are here on green cards, legal -- legal residents of the United States, people that have lawful presence here and a right to work, that's the only people that should be working in the United States of America. That's the people that should be rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

ROMANS: Georgia Congressman Charlie Norwood says Hurricane Katrina should be forcing Americans to come together, not "...letting potential taxpayer-funded jobs for storm victims be looted by illegal immigrant labor cheered on by Mexican President Vicente Fox."


ROMANS: Many fear illegal laborers will send much of their earnings home to Mexico in remittances, taxpayer-funded rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, we should point out. And that will just continue a cycle of poverty and joblessness in the Gulf Coast among American citizens -- Lou.

DOBBS: This is remarkable that this continues, with our elected officials standing there doing absolutely nothing. We're watching the Bush administration make this possible.

It is, in effect, the looting of the treasury, the rolling back of worker protection in this country, and allowing Vicente Fox, who apparently is more adept than others in responding to disaster -- and those remittances already amounting to $21 billion a year, the number one source of income, above even their oil revenues in Mexico.

ROMANS: There's a lot more money to come if a lot of these citizens get jobs in the Gulf Coast.

DOBBS: And there is nothing funny about this. The fact is that many of the residents -- hundreds of thousands of residents in that area desperately needing jobs are going to be forced out because of the economics by illegal aliens.

Christine, thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

DOBBS: Christine Romans.

The Mexican government says it is seeing soaring demand for its matricula consular I.D. cards which Mexican illegal aliens use to establish credit, open bank accounts and sign up for government services in this country. Five years ago, the Mexican government had issued only half a million of those cards to its citizens residing in the United States.

Last year, more than four million matricula consular cards were in circulation. That after a decided campaign by the Mexican government in this country to get people -- that is, Mexican nationals -- to sign up for the cards in this country.

All that is required is to get a card. It's proof of U.S. residence, not citizenship, we should point out. Critics say these cards allow illegal aliens to reap the benefits of American citizenship without earning that citizenship nor undertaking any of the responsibilities of citizenship.

U.S. companies also benefit by drawing new business from those illegal aliens using matricula consular cards. In the past four years, half a million Latin Americans with matricula cards, many of them Mexican illegal aliens, have opened up new bank accounts at Wells Fargo alone.

As illegal aliens find themselves financially rewarded for living illegally in this country, an historic shift is taking place in our nation's illegal alien crisis. A new study providing again new evidence that our nation's broken borders are simply wide open and failing.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): America has always been a land of immigrants, but now it's more accurate to say we're becoming a land of illegal aliens. A new study on immigration trends by the Pew Hispanic Center found that for the first time in history there are more illegal aliens than legal immigrants arriving in the United States each year.

ROBERTO SURO, DIRECTOR, PEW HISPANIC CENTER: And the rapid increases of migration that took place in the late 1990s, the mix changed somewhat. And the biggest change in the mix was in terms of legal status. And that trend has continued, and, in fact, it seems to have accelerated a bit in the last couple of years.

WIAN: The study found that in 1992, legal immigrants outnumbered illegal aliens by about two to one. Then legal immigration began a slow decline while illegal entry spiked. By 2004, illegal aliens outnumbered legal immigrants by 24 percent, though both categories remained slightly lower than their pre-9/11 peak.

Another finding comes as no surprise. More immigrants, both legal and illegal, come from Mexico than any other country. Mexico is also the fastest-growing so-called sender nation to the United States. And this has taken place while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has made several well publicized attempts to beef up security along the southern border.

Just last week, Customs and Border Protection held a press conference proclaiming it's making progress in reducing illegal immigration in Arizona.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: Here is the success. Picture a stream which is actually really pretty much like a flood, and you drop a boulder into it, and you can say we have successfully stopped the water from coming to where it -- coming through where this boulder was. The flood is going around it.

Can you really claim that you've successfully impeded the flow? I don't think so.

WIAN: The study also found that immigration, at least from Mexico, increases when the U.S. economy is strong, not necessarily when Mexico's weakens.


WIAN: That suggests that demand for cheap labor here in the United States is the main reason for increasing rates of both legal and illegal immigration from Mexico -- Lou.

DOBBS: I have to say, Casey, let's speak straightforwardly here, the Pew Center, which does many good things and does them well, I read language in this report that sounded as if it had come from the heart of the darkest side of academia and the deepest recesses of bureaucracy, unintelligible language posing as some sort of explanation. It was idiotic.

WIAN: Well, the authors of the Pew study say they did not try to explain the reasons behind this shift in legal immigration versus illegal immigration. They did touch on some of them, but they say that wasn't their intent. All they wanted to do was present the numbers -- Lou.

DOBBS: They should have really referred it to the "TIME" magazine special report of last year identifying three million illegal aliens and the causes for it. Much of which, by the way, is the encouragement of the Mexican government and the deplorable conditions that exist in Mexico. And, of course, business employers in this country ignoring the law and doing so with impunity because there's no prospect of punishment.

WIAN: And that's the one thing that the U.S. could do something about -- Lou.

DOBBS: Absolutely. We could do a lot about a lot of things in this country, but a lot of people have forgotten that America is in control of its destiny, if it simply exercises political will.

Casey Wian, thank you, sir.

WIAN: Thank you.

DOBBS: Still ahead, the government of Iran, it's out for revenge. A special report coming up on a new promise of nuclear blackmail from the Iranian government.

And from the pages of "Playboy" to the halls of the Supreme Court, a stellar journey. The high court taking up the case of Anna Nicole Smith, her fight to win millions of dollars from her late husband's estate. And an analysis of an arcane law that makes it all possible.

That story and a great deal more. Stay with us.


DOBBS: A significant victory against radical Islamist terrorists in Iraq. U.S. troops say they killed al Qaeda's second in command in Iraq, Abu Azzam, two days ago.

Meanwhile, insurgent attacks continue in Baghdad and other cities. A car bomb in Baghdad today narrowly missed a convoy of western security contractors. Five Iraqis were wounded.

Turning to another major challenge to this country and, indeed, the civilized world, Iran's escalating nuclear confrontation. Tehran today threatened to punish countries such as India and Japan that voted in favor of reporting Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Both India and Japan are major importers of Iranian oil. Both are key supporters of U.S. policy toward Iran.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Iran is now making threats.

HAMID REZA ASEFI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY (through translator): If western countries think that they should push Iran's dossier to Security Council, there they are. Do that and see who will lose more.

PILGRIM: Iran is bullying countries that go against it, saying they will lose their oil.

CLIFF KUPCHAN, EURASIA GROUP: They can easily play the oil card if push came to shove. Given the price of oil these days, nobody wants to see an oil spike. Nobody wants to see Iran take their oil off the market. And that is casting a shadow over this entire diplomatic negotiation.

PILGRIM: Iran has set up a web of energy deals with half the world. Iranian oil makes up seven percent of Europe's and 17 percent of Japan's oil imports. And India is the largest consumer of Iranian natural gas.

Up until now, many countries have tacitly supported Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program. But in recent days, the climate has shifted.

Iran's president stood before the U.N. general assembly a little more than a week ago to deliver a harsh diatribe against those who would block its nuclear ambitions. That speech galvanized the vote against Iran in the IAEA. It passed by a narrow margin, with surprise support from countries like India, one of the largest consumers of energy in the world.

PETER BROOKES, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: They've made their decision on this issue, and they've said that Iran has to be more cooperative. Iran is out of step with the international community. Most people believe it's because they are concealing a nuclear weapons program within what they call a peaceful nuclear energy program.


PILGRIM: Iran sent protest letters to the more than 20 countries that voted against it and threatened that they will lose their trade relationship with Iran. Now, the IAEA will take up the issue in 60 days, reconvene in November, and that's when the final vote can be held to refer Iran to the Security Council -- Lou.

DOBBS: And that process goes on without any prospect of success. Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much.

Coming up next, a fiery exchange on Capitol Hill. Congressman Christopher Shays blasts former FEMA director Michael Brown, and Congressman Shays is our guest, coming up next.

And then, explosive new charges against the maker of bulletproof vests, so-called bulletproof vests, for the Secret Service, the first lady and the president of the United States. A whistleblower now says those vests weren't bulletproof at all.

We'll tell you who's responsible for that fiasco next in our special report. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, shocking allegations against a company that claims to make bulletproof vests for the president of the United States. A former employee of the company now says those vests are defective, and he claims the company failed to do anything about it until it was too late.

Kelli Arena has the report.


KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Bush attended this event in 2002 to honor police officers killed in the line of duty. Ironically, he may have been wearing a bulletproof vest that was defective, according to a recent deposition from whistleblower Aaron Westrick.

Westrick said he believes the vest was not only defective, but that the company that made it, Second Chance Body Armor, knew it. Westrick's lawyer is Steve Kohn.

STEPHEN KOHN, AARON WESTRICK'S LAWYER: The armor at issue here was sold as the premier. This was the Cadillac, the Mercedes. People traded in armor that worked to buy this armor for more money. It was highly profitable. They didn't want to take it off the market because they were making so much money.

ARENA: Kohn says his client has documents to prove his former employer knew the vest was defective but did not recall it, not until 2003 when a California police officer allegedly wearing one was killed. The Secret Service would not comment. Second Chance denies the allegations, and says when it found out its xylon vests were substandard, took immediate action. We spoke on the phone with one of company's lawyers.

DOUG WAGNER, ATTORNEY, SECOND CHANCE BODY ARMOR: When they knew they had a problem, they led the industry. They were the first to announce a problem. They were the first to take directive action. They were in bankruptcy by the time their nearest competitor announced a similar type of recall.


ARENA: And the company's troubles are far from over. Government sources say that prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation on top of a Justice Department lawsuit which was filed last summer -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kelly, this raises a question what's the role of the Secret Service here? Should they know whether a vest is working or not?

ARENA: Well, the Secret Service, of course, has no comment on this issue at all. DOBBS: Well, imagine that in Washington, D.C.

ARENA: It did purchase the vests. The vests were tested, Lou, but they're tested when new to see if they can stop a bullet. This issue had to do with degradation over time.

DOBBS: I understand. I understand. Sometimes you think maybe no comment is the appropriate comment from officials. Kelli, thank you very much.

ARENA: You're welcome. Kelli Arena from Washington.

DOBBS: More now on the spirited and sometimes fierce questioning today of former FEMA Director Michael Brown on Capitol Hill. The criticism of Brown's response to Hurricane Katrina was bipartisan, widespread, including this exchange today with Republican Congressman Christopher Shays.


REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: And you were very clear that your job is to coordinate. I want to know how you coordinated the evacuation.

MIKE BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: By urging the governor and mayor to order the mandatory evacuation.

SHAYS: And that's coordinating?

BROWN: What would you like for me to do, Congressman?

SHAYS: Well, that's why I'm happy you left because that kind of, you know, look in the -- in the lights like a deer tells me that you weren't capable to do the job. I would have liked you to do a lot of things.

BROWN: I take great umbrage to that comment, Congressman.


BROWN: Because FEMA did -- what people will missing in this entire conversation is the fact that FEMA did more in Hurricane Katrina than it did in Charlie and Floyd and the others.

SHAYS: Why is that relevant?

BROWN: We moved all those in there.

SHAYS: Why is that relevant?

BROWN: We did all of those things. And things were working in Mississippi and things were working in Alabama.

SHAYS: No, but see, why I don't -- I want to ...

BROWN: And so I guess you want me to be this superhero that is going to step in there and suddenly take everybody out of New Orleans.

SHAYS: No, what I wanted you to do was do your job of coordinating and I want to know what you did to coordinate. Those are your words, sir. I didn't invent them.

BROWN: And coordinating is talking to the governor and the mayor and encouraging them to do their obligation to their citizens. I am not a dictator and I am not going and cannot go in there and force them to do that.

SHAYS: No. See what I think that is is just talk. It's not coordinating.


DOBBS: Congressman Shays joins us tonight from Capitol Hill. Congressman, you were pretty tough today. Do you blame Michael Brown for the pace of the federal response to the hurricane?

SHAYS: No comment, Lou. No, Lou, I don't blame him for the storm. I don't blame him for this full tragedy. I mean, there was incompetence on the state, local, and federal level. Every part broke down.

What I do and what I am pretty harsh with Mr. Brown is, that he didn't coordinate and that was he said his one responsibility. He tried to convince the mayor and the governor to have a mandatory evacuation. That's part of his job, but a lot more was involved.

DOBBS: A lot more. You struggled mightily today to get the former FEMA director to define and describe precisely what coordinating is, coordination. To what degree did you learn anything about his view of what coordination is?

SHAYS: Well, he basically is a strict constructionist. He basically thinks that he doesn't have the authority to step in when there's a huge void. And, you know, if he were President Jefferson, he wouldn't have bought the Louisiana Purchase, and west of the Mississippi would still be French.

I mean, Jefferson didn't technically have the authority to do it, but he seized the opportunity and met the need. This man, in his position, needed to do what I think the present, you know, head of FEMA is willing to do.

DOBBS: Many of your colleagues, your Democratic colleagues today passed up the opportunity ...


DOBBS: ... to attend the hearing and to question closely the former FEMA director. Your reaction to that boycott?

SHAYS: Well, I mean, I think it's silly, frankly. I mean I understand that some of my Democratic colleagues want a commission instead of Congress to do its job in investigating, but there are 20 members assigned to that committee, nine of them would be Democrats and 11 are Republicans.

That's about as close a margin as you can get. And this is being run by Tom Davis, who is about as bipartisan, as fair as any member in Congress. So it's foolish for them not to be there.

DOBBS: That bipartisanship will be on display when Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco will appear before your committee. Will you be as tough on them?

SHAYS: Oh, absolutely, and, you know, I hope the Democrats by then will see it's important for them to be there.

DOBBS: Congressman Christopher Shays, thanks for being here.

SHAYS: Thank you.

DOBBS: A reminder to vote in our poll. The question, who do you believe is most responsible for the government's failures to respond adequately after Hurricane Katrina? New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, Former FEMA Director Michael Brown. Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up in just a few minutes.

We'll have much more ahead on the heated questioning of Michael Brown. Congressman William Jefferson, one of only a handful of Democrats that did attend today's hearing, is our guest.

And then the author of an important new book on the military role in the world says the Pentagon should take a commanding role in response to disasters like Katrina. Journalist Robert Kaplan has spent three years with our troops in some of the world's most dangerous places and joins us with his view of "Imperial Grunts." Stay with us.


DOBBS: My next guest says the Pentagon should take the lead in responding to any future disasters on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. Troops from the 82nd Airborne division and other units taking part in relief work now in New Orleans, but their role limited by a 19th century law that restricts the operations of our troops on American soil.

My guest is Robert Kaplan. He's the author of an important new book, "Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground." He's also correspondent for the "Atlantic Monthly." Robert, why do you support the idea -- first congratulations on the book.


DOBBS: Terrific, as I said, important book. But why do you support the idea of the U.S. military taking a greater role?

KAPLAN: Because we have seen in recent years the militarization of disaster relief already. The Marines and the Navy did 70 percent of the tsunami relief effort. Disaster relief is like combat. It's about quick insertion, Lou, access, establishing security once you're on the ground. It's about a logistics tale, and in terms of security, remember, even after an earthquake, after a flood, security breaks down, even in the most civilized countries. It's got to be re- established. And the U.S. military has been emerging quietly as the world's most sophisticated relief organization.

DOBBS: The fact is, Honore, Clark are two of the principle names, there. Strock, Blum even in terms of the National Guard, those are the four big names, controversy surrounding some others, but those are the four names we've turned to, all generals.

KAPLAN: That's right, particularly the National Guard. I've gotten e-mails from National Guardsmen I was embedded with on the Afghan/Pakistan border. They're doing exactly the same thing in New Orleans. They are doing presence patrols, hunting down what they call quote/unquote "bad guys" with night vision goggles and M-4s. They say it's the same challenge as in Afghanistan.

DOBBS: And also with the shovel and moving material and supplies as well.

KAPLAN: Right. War is all about logistics.

DOBBS: All about logistics ...

KAPLAN: And so is disaster relief.

DOBBS: ... and proximity.


DOBBS: The U.S. military -- as you point out so articulately in your book the U.S. military is far flung with our special operations forces, conducting operations in 60 to 70 countries at any time.

KAPLAN: Any week. Most of those operations are disaster relief or humanitarian in nature.

DOBBS: You've got -- and while that is somewhat satisfying to those who would be critical of an imperial America, it is imperialism by any definition. But you've got an interesting construction of it that even makes it more palatable even to those liberals who would be violently critical.

KAPLAN: That's right. This summer in Algeria, I saw an operation across the whole swathe of Sub-Saharan Africa that was imperial in nature, it was classic imperialism but no liberal could be opposed because you had Army Green Berets training select battalions over a whole number of African nations. And what were they training them for? For possibilities like future interventions for future Darfurs.

DOBBS: And let's just take a look at the map up here at some of the countries that where you're traveling with U.S. troops. But just to look at that -- and that's only a small sampling.

KAPLAN: Oh, yes.

DOBBS: Everywhere from Colombia to Mongolia down to Indonesia, and speaking of Indonesia, as you point out, Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic terrorist organization -- it isn't eliminated, but it's certainly been mitigated to the point of neutralization.

KAPLAN: Right, right. What U.S. military has been learning to do, is how to kill without firing a shot by using humanitarian emergency relief to win over -- win over host country rural populations.

DOBBS: Go ahead and say it. Hearts and minds.

KAPLAN: Hearts and minds, you're right, which drive actionable intelligence. Then you take a company, a battalion, of a host country. You don't reform their whole military, you can't do that. You concentrate on one battalion, one company.

You provide them with surveillance and then with the actionable intelligence driven by hearts and minds, in turn driven by humanitarian relief activities, that's how you win.

DOBBS: Winning in Iraq, we're not hearing a lot of talk about winning in Iraq. We need to win in Iraq, we need to do so as soon as possible.


DOBBS: We need to do so in such a way that Iraqi government is stable and sustainable.

KAPLAN: The troops tell a different story. I've been in touch with Marines and Green Berets in the last few days and they talk about a deployment that's less and less combat related, more and more what they call SASO, security and stability operations, humanitarian relief, building roads, things like this.

What's happening -- Iraq is less and less a military problem and more and more just a governance challenge because the deaths from car bombings and that are tactically and statistically infinitesimal over a country of 23 million people.

DOBBS: You can say that statistically, but when we're looking at 1,918 American troops dead, and as you point out, those since the end of major combat operations, it's unacceptable and we need to reshape that battlefield if it's going to be our future. Robert Kaplan, the book is "Imperial Grunts."

KAPLAN: Yes, and it's dedicated to one of those 2,000.

DOBBS: Absolutely. Thank you very much for being with us.

KAPLAN: My pleasure.

My next guest is one of only three Democrats who today participated in the questioning of former FEMA director Michael Brown. Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana joins me now from Capitol Hill. Congressman, good to have you here.

Today you told Michael Brown it was stunning that he would blame Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin for the failure to evacuate sooner. Why did you say his explanation was weak and incomplete?

REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON (D), LOUISIANA: Well, we had a federal declaration of disaster down there, both before and the day after. This meant that FEMA director had all the resources of the federal government at his disposal. The city in a Rita -- I'm sorry -- A Model Pam hurricane, it was already anticipated with three or four level hurricane hitting New Orleans, that the city's capacity would be overwhelmed immediately.

And so the dependency was on the federal government from the outset and they just didn't do their job. I could not believe he would come and blame the city, any city, for not being able to respond to a disaster such as we were faced with back home.

DOBBS: As you may be incredulous at his blaming the local and state government, referring to Louisiana as "dysfunctional," many of us were incredulous, as you pointed out, that one of the lessons learned from Pam was that the communication systems didn't work, million dollars expended and no suggestion that FEMA had learned a lesson there.

JEFFERSON: Well, there are lots of lessons that FEMA apparently has not learned, and even today, I don't think that they're taking stock of what happened down there in any sense that's realistic. We today had to pull bit of information after bit of information from Mr. Brown and it's unfortunate.

It would be better if we simply looked at the thing and said we didn't do it right, let's get it together for the future and we would I think go away feeling better about it.

But as it is now, what's really a blame game going on about local government and the media, it doesn't make any sense to me as to what's happening. And I think it's going to be a hard haul trying to get down to the facts of this matter.

DOBBS: You think it's going to be a hard haul, but yet, it is a critically important haul for us all to make because lives depend on it as we learned with Hurricane Katrina, Congressman.

And as you pointed out today, the idea that so many of the officers of the New Orleans police force abandoned their post did not -- were not there to provide security for those in the Astrodome, the idea that whether FEMA Director Brown is right in referring to Louisiana as dysfunctional, there is going to be a complete examination of the state and local officials as well. What are your initial views there?

JEFFERSON: Well, I think everything deserves to be examined. But I don't think -- these people, most of them, were victims also. They woke up with water in their homes and their cars overwhelmed with water. They couldn't respond to this disaster. They couldn't be displaced another location. They had to stay home.

And they were overwhelmed by it. They saw neighbors and friends who were in trouble, they saw people die. It was a very tough time for them. I don't make excuses for them, but I do say that that's why we have the federal government out there to take care of the situations.

Local responders can only do so much. Then it's the National Guard and the military and all the federal assets of FEMA that are brought to bear in a coordinated way to solve these problems. That's why the agency is there.

DOBBS: It is why the agency is there and it's obvious that Michael Brown, even as he has resigned his post under great pressure, forced out of his job. Do you think that much the same awaits Mayor Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana?

JEFFERSON: Well, I can't -- I can't speak to that. I don't believe that people down there are -- believe it's their fault that the ice didn't show up, the bus didn't show up, that the help didn't show up the day after the storm.

You've got maybe some people talk about the evacuation plans, that they weren't as good as they should have been, but you have to remember 80 percent of the people got out of New Orleans, which is a tremendous happening before all these other things came to bear, and that was a good result.

But I don't think that that's going to happen. And I think more of what will happen here is that we'll look at FEMA as an agency which itself is dysfunctional, which has systemic problems, which has a budget that's low, that's cut too much and not a good quality in administration. So it's a FEMA problem we're going to be facing here.

DOBBS: A lot of issues to consider and you're to be complimented. While some of your colleagues in the Democratic Party chose not to attend the hearings, you were there taking care of business for those you represent. We appreciate it, William Jefferson.

JEFFERSON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Nice to meet you.

DOBBS: Still ahead, intelligent design, it comes under attack in federal court. Day two of the case that could decide whether our school children are taught about our origins and what they're taught. We'll have the latest.

And the Supreme Court or bust. The case of Anna Nicole Smith and her late husband's fortune heading to the high court. A Special Report on a court case of remarkable proportions next.


DOBBS: For the first time in this country a federal court in Pennsylvania is hearing the case of whether intelligent design can be taught alongside evolution in public schools.

Judges heard new arguments in the case today which resolves around what our school children can be taught about our origins. Our faith and values correspondent here at CNN, Delia Gallagher, joins me now. What is the case all about? What's at stake in your view?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: This is the interesting point, Lou, actually. It's not necessarily about whether intelligent design can be taught in the classroom.

What's really happening in this case is the decision by the school board last year to allow a three paragraph statement to be read in science classes. And I have excerpted some of the statement for you because I think it's important that people understand what this is actually about.

So this statement that teachers are supposed to read in the science classroom says "because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individuals and their families."

So this is very interesting because what is at stake in this is this three paragraph statement. There's not a question of teaching intelligent design in the classroom. It's a question even of mentioning intelligent design.

DOBBS: In talking with people on both sides, the intelligent design advocates suggesting that allowing only evolution as sort of a back door entry for atheists and the atheists scientists, if you will, suggesting intelligent design is nothing but more a back door for the introduction of religion into our public schools.

GALLAGHER: Right, well, this is what the ACLU, who is representing the eight families in this case, because these are parents who have brought this case against their school board, and this is what they are claiming, that this sort of intelligent design theory is kind of thinly disguised creationism in the school.

And, of course, the intelligent design people are saying no, it's not about intelligent design. It's simply about allowing -- teach the controversy is what they say. Allow students to know about this controversy.

DOBBS: It was interesting here last night I asked two advocates on opposite sides, obviously, how -- their view of the origin of life. Neither of them could come up with an origin. In point of fact the science as to the origin of life is incomplete and certainly the other -- the creation -- the creationists requires a leap of faith. So we're left in an interesting way to kind of think about our beginnings.

GALLAGHER: Yes, the question is what should the students be told about it? DOBBS: Absolutely. The more the better, how about that? Delia, thank you very much -- Gallagher. Thanks.

A court case of a more secular nature will soon be heard by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court justices are set to hear the case of self-described blonde bombshell Anna Nicole Smith and her efforts to win hundreds of millions of dollars of inheritance from her late husband. It's a case of a Supreme Court and a very tricky piece of law. Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" -- 1939, clean and wholesome. But times have changed. Now it's Anna Nicole Smith's turn. The blonde bombshell is all smiles after the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear her appeal to restore a multimillion-dollar award from her late billionaire husband's estate.

KENT RICHLAND, LAWYER FOR ANNA NICOLE SMITH: She finds -- gives her a lot of faith in the country's legal system and I think all of us should be gratified by that fact because it means that even someone who has led a controversial life can get a hearing in the United States' Supreme Court.

SYLVESTER: Anna married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall in 1994. He was 89, she was 26. He died a year and a half later. Thus, began the legal battle between the 1993 Playboy playmate of the year and her late husband's son E. Pierce Marshall. At stake, $450 million.

DAVID MARGULIES, E. PIERCE MARSHALL'S SPOKESMAN: We don't think Anna Nicole Smith is ever going to see any money. If Anna Nicole Smith had taken the $6 million her late husband had given her and had invested it or watched over it at all, she'd be set for life.

SYLVESTER: Anna invested assets of a different sorts, landing her own TV reality show and has been basking in the limelight while her lawyers duke it out in court. The issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, if federal judges should jump into probate matters typically reserved for state court, a serious issue with far reaching implications. But even if it doesn't set legal precedence, it will still be a first.

PAUL ROTHSTEIN, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR: To my knowledge, there's never been a Playboy model in the Supreme Court.

SYLVESTER: Anna Nicole Smith, if anything in the last few years, has shown she's a gal willing to take on a fight.

(on camera): And the justices are expected to hear arguments in January with the decision to come next summer. And as for Anna Nicole Smith, she says that she will be here in Washington -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you for bringing us up to date on the high court's deliberations or soon to be deliberations. Still ahead here, the results of tonight's poll, a preview of what's coming up tomorrow. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll now -- 70 percent of you said Former FEMA Director Michael Brown is most responsible for the government's failures after Hurricane Katrina.

As of tonight, Judith Miller, "New York Times" reporter has been in jail for 83 days for protecting her confidential sources in the White House CIA leak case, an investigation that began two -- more than two years ago, so far without resolution.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. One state is taking on gas gouging gas stations and oil companies. New Jersey's attorney general is our guest. Please be with us. For all of us her, good night from New York.

ANDERSON COOPER 360 starts now -- Anderson.


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