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Osama Bin Laden Out With New Videotape; Nuclear Showdown With Iran; Incursion Outrage; Controversy Over Tim Pawlenty's Immigration Plan; Catholic Church Has Stance On Illegal Immigration; Osama bin Laden Still Not Caught

Aired January 19, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, Osama bin Laden out with a new audiotape. New threats against the United States and an offer of a truce. The White House tells Osama bin Laden effectively to go to hell.

We'll have complete coverage.

While the White House rejects any idea of a truce with terrorists, the fact is that Osama bin Laden remains at large for more than four years now. I'll be talking with two leading authorities on the war against radical Islamist terrorists about our successes and our failures and our prospects.

As the Bush administration focuses on the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan, communist China and communist North Korea are forming a new alliance that challenges the United States. Is a nuclear showdown with North Korea inevitable? We'll be hearing from one of the world's leading authorities on North Korea and China.

We'll also have startling new evidence that Mexican military incursions into the United States are not entirely innocent as our homeland security secretary suggests. That special report coming up.

And the Catholic Church's blatant interference in national politics, its support of illegal immigration, its opposition to new border security legislation. Is it time for any and all churches and religions in this country to return and remain at work in saving souls?

All of that and more coming up tonight.

We begin with the return of Osama bin Laden. In a tape released today, bin Laden threatened to launch new terrorist attacks against this country and our allies. But bin Laden also offered the United States a truce in an audiotape aired by the Al-Jazeera television network. The audiotape was released just days after a U.S. airstrike failed to kill bin Laden's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Pakistan.

David Ensor reports from Washington.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After a technical analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency, an official there says the voice is indeed that of Osama bin Laden. On it, the al Qaeda chief threatens bombings like the ones in London last year and Madrid will take place inside the United States soon.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA (through translator): As for similar operations taking place in America, it's only a matter of time. They're in the planning stages, and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete.

ENSOR: Counterterrorism officials say they believe the audiotape was recorded last month. They say the tape appears to be an attempt to reassert himself after over a year of public silence.

Bin Laden's vague offer on the tape of a truce for the United States if it pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan is, intelligence analysts say, aimed at bolstering his image in the Muslim world and not, in their view, a serious offer.

The tape grabbed the attention of U.S. intelligence from the top down and very likely came up at a White House meeting attended by the nation's top two intelligence officers, though aides say the meeting was already scheduled.

A key question now: Is bin Laden still in a position to order up attacks, or is he just a figure head who can only hope to inspire them?

JOHN PARACHINI, RAND ANALYST: He is sort of like a snake that's gone quiet but you never know when he might strike. But if we look at the attacks that have occurred in recent years, it's not been from the core people associated with bin Laden and al Qaeda, but rather with people in the broader global jihadist movement who are inspired by the call to jihad by bin Laden.

ENSOR (on camera): Most importantly, the new audiotape showed for the first time in over a year that Osama bin Laden is still alive, still issuing threats. Al Qaeda may want that crystal clear, following attempts last week by CIA airstrikes in Pakistan to eliminate his deputy and others.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.


DOBBS: This is not the first time bin Laden has offered the United States a truce. Leading anti-terrorism authorities say today's offer is no different than earlier offers and that they are all simply propaganda.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Osama bin Laden offering a truce. BIN LADEN (through translator): We do not mind offering a long- term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to. We are a nation that god banned from lying and stabbing others in the back.

PILGRIM: That from the mastermind of September 11. This is not the first time he has offered a truce, and nobody is falling for it.

A month after the Madrid bombings in April 2004, two Arab television stations aired a tape said to be the voice of Osama bin Laden calling for a truce if Europe stops attacking Muslims. "The door is open," the tape said, for about three months but could possibly be extended. The truce would begin "when the last soldier leaves our country."

That offer not extended to the United States, calculated to split the coalition.

European countries, Britain, Germany, and the European Commission all rejected that deal.

JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: One has to treat such claims, proposals by al Qaeda with the contempt which they deserve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw the next major attack against Europe not for another 15 or 16 months. And that of course was the July 7, 2005 bombing. So he did not follow up with an immediate attack at the three-month part, but he did follow up with an attack 15 months later.

PILGRIM: Sanderson (ph) says bin Laden could be trying to buy time and save face right after the U.S. strike on the al Qaeda enclave in Pakistan.

GLEN HOWARD, JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION: Bin Laden offering the superpower of the United States the offer of a truce? I mean -- I mea, every coffee and tea house in the Middle East kind of laughing at that. I mean, it's just taunting the United States.


PILGRIM: Now, the first truce offer was calculated to split the coalition. And this time, intelligent analysts say bin Laden is trying to re-inspire his followers and also convince people that he and the movement are very much alive -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you.

Kitty Pilgrim.

The White House today rejected of course any idea of a truce with al Qaeda. White House spokesman Scott McClellan declared the United States will end this war at a time and a place of our choosing.

Dana Bash reports from the White House -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, their words certainly were defiant, but the White House was actually trying to downplay the significance. Of Osama bin Laden and his tape, trying to make the case that it's nothing more than an attempt to get attention from somebody who officials tells probably has little or no operational control at this point over al Qaeda.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The al Qaeda leaders and other terrorists are on the run. They're under a lot of pressure. We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business.

The terrorists started this war. And the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing.


BASH: Now, as the world found out about the new bin Laden tape, the president was in Virginia talking about the economy. He wasn't briefed about it until after he was done with that event.

Later, the president refused to answer questions about the bin Laden tape, but actually, Mr. Bush has been talking a lot lately about Osama bin Laden, trying to use him to link him to the terrorism in Iraq, trying to continually justify the ongoing war in Iraq. But certainly, Lou, they know here that a tape from bin Laden, bin Laden coming out, and no matter whether or not, they say, if has significance operationally or on terms of any future attack, they certainly know it is a reminder, probably an unwelcome reminder, that enemy number one is still at large -- Lou.

DOBBS: Dana, thank you.

Dana Bash from the White House.

The mayor of Los Angeles tonight has ordered increased security at Los Angeles International Airport and other facilities after the threats from Osama bin Laden. There will be additional police patrols at L.A. International, more frequent searches of passengers and their baggage. Officials say they know of no threat to Los Angeles, but they say everyone should remain vigilant.

The Department of Homeland for Security, for its part, says there are no plans at all to lift the national alert level.

Later in this broadcast, I'll be talking with two of the country's leading authorities on intelligence and radical Islamist terrorist, Gary Berntsen, former CIA field commander who led the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and Benjamin Daniel, former director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council.

In Iraq today, terrorists launched a new wave of attacks, killing at least 15 people in central Baghdad. The terrorists exploded a car bomb in a busy commercial district, and then a suicide bomber attacked survivors. At least 46 Iraqis were wounded.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today demanded international action to confront the rising nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea. Rice said the United Nations Security Council must deal with Iran's nuclear defiance, and immediately. And after a meeting with South Korea's foreign minister, Secretary Rice also called for resumption of six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We both urged the North Koreans to come back to the talks without conditions because North Korea also is being told by the international community that it has to be a Korean -- a Korean peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons and that North Korea must dismantle its nuclear programs.


DOBBS: Later here, I'll be talking with one of this country's leading authorities on China and North Korea's nuclear threat, Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World."

Without naming North Korea or Iran, French president Jacques Chirac today declared that France is ready to use nuclear weapons against any state that launches a terrorist attack against France. Chirac made his comments during a visit to a French nuclear submarine base in northwestern France. This is Chirac's first suggestion that France would use nuclear weapons in retaliation for any terrorist attack.

Still ahead, Mexican troops crossing our borders, seemingly at will. The Bush administration says no big deal. We'll have a special report next.

And two of the nation's largest labor unions joining with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supporting millions of illegal aliens. We'll have the story and tell you why this unusual if not unholy alliance.

The Catholic Church telling its members to oppose tough new border security legislation. Why the Catholic Church has entered an important political debate on national security and whether there should be consequences for the Catholic Church's actions.

Those stories coming right up.


DOBBS: In Washington today, a coalition of business, labor and religious groups announced their opposition to the House border security bill, the toughest border security measure ever to pass Congress. Two major labor unions, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Conference of Bishops and the American Jewish Committee all coming out in support of amnesty for illegal aliens and the passage of the president's illegal alien guest worker program.


THOMAS DONOHUE, PRES., U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: It is an unworkable enforcement bill that fails to recognize the contributions of immigrants and our growing need for them in the future.

MARK FRANKEN, U.S. CONF. OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: For those who are here in an unauthorized status, a number -- 11 million -- and they have been contributing members of our society. Give them an opportunity to earn the right to remain.

TERRY O'SULLIVAN, LABORERS INTERNATIONAL UNION: It is not honest or fair to simply ignore or disrespect the 11 million undocumented workers who are already here.


DOBBS: This coalition vowed to do all it can to defeat the House border security legislation and to support a weaker bill, including guest worker provisions soon to be debated in the Senate.

Howard Dean, the head of the Democratic Party, also agrees it is time to allow millions of illegal aliens to remain legally in this country. Dean saying it's just too much trouble to uphold the law and throw illegal aliens out.


HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DNC: ... believe it is realistic to kick 11 million people out who are here already. Here's the president of the United States, he can't find a 6'4" Saudi who blew up the towers and killed 3,000 Americans. How is he going to find 11 million and send them back to where they came from? That is not realistic.


DOBBS: Howard Dean went on to say kicking out illegal aliens would harm the economy as well. Dean has obviously forgotten the Democratic Party used to stand up for the American working person, now seeing their jobs disappear in part because of the flood of cheap foreign labor.

Tonight, there is growing outrage over Bush administration attempts to downplay Mexican military incursions into the United States. Border security advocates say it is simply shameful the United States government could even think about allowing another military, another nation's military to cross onto our soil. They are demanding the Bush administration put an end to the incursions, and now.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Department of Homeland Security is downplaying the threat posed by repeated Mexican military incursions across the U.S. border.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY: I think to create the image that somehow there is a deliberate effort by the Mexican military to cross the border would be really to traffic in, you know, kind of scare tactics. I don't think that we have a serious problem with official incursions.

WIAN: Don't tell that to the Border Patrol agents who often encounter heavily-armed Mexican soldiers suspected of protecting shipments of drugs and people.

T.J. BONNER, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: The official story is that they -- from time to time, they get lost. But in many instances, their activities are highly suspicious. They coincide with the movement of the cartels.

It's a very serious threat. They're heavily armed and well- trained. Much better armed than Border Patrol agents are.

WIAN: Homeland Security documents obtained by "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" show that since 1996, the Mexican military has crossed U.S. border without permission more than 200 times. The incursions have happened all along the border from San Diego to the Rio Grande Valley.

Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi wants answers. He wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying, "This blatant disregard of international law warrants an official dialogue with the Mexican government."

REP. RICK RENZI (R), ARIZONA: I just flew the border with these Black Hawk helicopter guys, and you could actually see the Humvees staging a half a mile before the -- inside Mexico right around dusk so that they act as the muscle for the drug cartels.

WIAN: A State Department official says it has good cooperation with the Mexican government and these incidents are discussed and typically resolved as they occur.

(on camera): The Mexican military denies the incursions take place, saying its soldiers are ordered to stay a mile away from the border. They also claim U.S. Border Patrol agents may be confusing Mexican soldiers with paramilitary drug runners.

Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.


DOBBS: Still ahead, the United States is falling so far behind communist China in science and technology, some say it may be impossible to catch up. We'll have that special report.

And hunting bin Laden. I'll be talking with a former CIA field commander, a former counterterrorism director about the prospects of capturing or killing al Qaeda's leaders.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Well, it took only 10 years, but the special prosecutor in the case of Clinton administration housing secretary Henry Cisneros today released his final report. And more than a decade of investigation was required for prosecutor David Barrett to accuse Clinton White House officials of a cover-up in the case.

Barrett says Clinton officials made it completely impossible for him to find out whether Cisneros evaded income taxes. Barrett calls it a substantial and coordinated attempt to hide the truth.

Clinton officials note tonight that former Bush attorney general John Ashcroft found no grounds for continuing this investigation years ago, and tonight they tell this broadcast, "Reports of a cover-up are utterly ridiculous because the Bush administration has been in charge for the majority of this investigation. It is clear Barrett is just making excuses to justify his expensive and fruitless witch hunt."

This investigation, as I said, took a little more than a decade. And it, by the way, cost the American taxpayer almost $22 million. About a million dollars every six months. It's the longest independent council investigation in U.S. history, but it is over.

Another investigation is not. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, for his part, refuses to comment on the status of his investigation into the CIA White House leak case. This investigation has now lasted 750 days, more than two years. Fitzgerald's office told us today it has no update on an investigation that has lasted more than twice as long as the entire Watergate probe.

But at least it has lasted less than the Cisneros probe, to this point.

Taking a look now at some of your thoughts.

Many of our viewers responded to our report about the Catholic Church, its support of illegal immigration, and its opposition to border security legislation.

Sally in Nevada wrote to say, "What a relief to hear the Catholic Church is so gung-ho on open borders. Perhaps Vatican City can take a few million of our overflow."

Bernice in Indiana wrote: "How embarrassing to Catholics to hear that the Church's leadership cares more about the financial impact of illegal immigrants upon this country than the safety of our own citizens."

Janice in Pennsylvania said, "I'm a Catholic and appalled that they feel illegal immigrants should have the same rights as anyone else. If the trend continues, it doesn't take long to convert to another religion."

Alex in New Jersey, "Thanks, Lou. You managed to put me to sleep every night while telling me the same self-promoting story about illegal aliens. I think you're a total bore."

I apologize for that. Thanks for writing us, nonetheless.

We'll have more of your thoughts later in the broadcast.

Still ahead, much more on the Catholic Church's political stand against border security and illegal immigration. We'll have a special report on the implications for the Catholic Church and whether all churches and all denominations are becoming far too political and whether they are risking their tax exempt status.

As we've warned on this broadcast for the past three years, the United States is losing its lead in information technology. Tonight, we will report on how communist China has finally overtaken the United States and the export of IT.

And dangerously liaisons. China welcomes North Korea's Kim Jong- Il and appears to do nothing to stop him from building nuclear weapons. We'll be talking with a leading authority on both China and North Korea here next.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, communist China's aggressive new aim to weaken U.S. national security and become the world leader in technology and science.

But first, let's take a look at this hour's top stories.

The CIA has confirmed that the voice heard on a new audiotape is in fact the voice of Osama bin Laden. On the audiotape, bin Laden says al Qaeda is planning new attacks against the United States. He said al Qaeda is, however, opened to a truce. The White House has rejected outright even the consideration of such an idea.

Vice President Dick Cheney today aggressively demanded the Bush administration's program to wiretap Americans without warrant is legal. He says the program is a wartime measure completely within the constitutional powers of the president.

In Iraq today, insurgents killed at least 15 people in Baghdad. Another 46 were wounded. At least three Iraqi police officers were among those killed.

This broadcast has consistently reported on the growing economic threat to the United States posed by communist China. America is finally beginning to take notice, but in science and technology, many think the battle appears lost already.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): China rings in the new year at the end of this month, but its leaders are already looking ahead to the next 15 years. That's the amount of time the country is giving itself to "break the international monopoly on strategic high-tech."

The communist country is focusing on space exploration, nanoscience, nuclear and strategic energy. If China dominates these fields, it would have a major impact on U.S. national security.

CAROLYN BARTHOLOMEW, U.S.-CHINA ECON. & SEC. REVIEW COMM.: If the Chinese government is producing the very product, the high-tech products that we need for our defense -- defense equipment, what does that mean? If they just decide to turn off the spigot one day, can we conduct a war?

SYLVESTER: Communist China's Academy of Sciences in the next decade and a half will increase GDP spending on technology and science from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent, encourage Chinese scientists abroad to return to their home country, and invest in education to turn out even more scientists and engineers.

China already trains an estimated 300,000 engineers every year. The United States, only 60,000.

The Council on Foreign Relations held a forum to discuss China's rapid technological growth.

WILLIAM ARCHEY, AMERICAN ELECTRONICS ASSOC.: There is no question about the urgency that the Chinese feel about becoming a major technological power. And you see it. They're going to put major investments in education, major investments in R&D.

SYLVESTER: China's rise not only poses a potential national security threat, but an economic threat as well. According to a survey out last week by the Business Roundtable, 67 percent of opinion leaders see the United States as the strongest economic power today. But only 26 percent believe the United States will be the strongest economic power in two to three decades.


SYLVESTER: And communist China has already surpassed the United States, become the world's leading exporter in information and communications technology. U.S. lawmakers clearly have a major role here to reverse this trend by encouraging engineering and science in the classroom, monitoring the transfer of technology from U.S. companies to China, and how about this for a novel idea: creating policies that actually encourage high-tech and defense manufacturing companies to stay here in the United States -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, as you well know, and as the viewers of this broadcast know, I have been talking about the -- that this is a technology-driven economy for the past three years, warning about the geoeconomic threat posed by these so-called free trade policies of this administration and the previous, in fairness, to see where we are today. And to see the lack of response by the U.S. government is remarkable.

SYLVESTER: Well, Lou, this clearly is -- this should be a wake- up call, if there's ever been a wake-up call. It is very clear that China has a game plan, but our U.S. lawmakers don't seem to have a similar game plan in place.

DOBBS: One would cry out, one would think, for a strategy. Thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester.

Communist China is also taking new steps to challenge U.S. military and political strategy globally. Chinese leaders this week met with the dictator of communist North Korea, Kim Jong-Il. One of the top issues, North Korea's nuclear weapons program. But it is far from clear that Beijing is making any effort at all to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Joining me now is Gordon Chang. He's author of the new book "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World."

Gordon, good to have you here.


DOBBS: Are you hopeful that this meeting between Kim Jong-Il and Hu Jintao and the leaders of communist China will lead to any sort of result that's helpful?

CHANG: I don't think so, because while China wants to really encourage dialogue, it's not really wanting to come to a constructive solution. Every time Kim Jong-Il goes to China or Kim Jong-Il goes anywhere, people say, "Oh, this must be a new breakthrough; that really there is going to be a change in North Korea or that China's really now trying to become constructive." But it never really works out that way.

DOBBS: Explain to all of us, if you will, why the Bush administration, running a nation that is regarded as the world's only superpower, finds itself dependent upon communist China to intercede with North Korea, a nation of about 25 million people, to resolve this matter?

Is this the way a superpower behaves? Or is it -- is the real chevalier (ph) that the United States is a superpower?

CHANG: Well, I think what the Bush administration is trying to do is to integrate China into the existing world order, and what they see is that this is an opportunity for the Chinese to be a constructive force.

So in a sense, we're subcontracting out this whole issue which is critical to our national security. But as we've seen over the last two years, the Chinese are not really willing to help us. They are willing to help North Korea. They have their own objectives to basically keep Japan and the United States off balance, but they don't want to really help us.

DOBBS: So what exactly is the State Department doing?

Today we heard Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, refer to North Korea's nuclear program as if there were no weapons involved. This is becoming an -- certainly an artful government, but not necessarily a straightforward government -- I'm talking about our government.

CHANG: I think what Condoleezza Rice was trying to do was that she was talking in front of the South Korean foreign minister, and essentially we've had strained relations with Seoul for quite some time and so she was sugarcoating everything in order really not to force the South Koreans even closer to the North Korean camp. So essentially what she was doing was really not telling the truth, in a sense.

DOBBS: Well, isn't it about time this government tried speaking the truth?

We're trying to rationalize our Middle East policy. There have been serious efforts at doing that. Looking straightforwardly at Saudi Arabia and saying, "We're not going to accept the duplicity, the duality of our role with you -- our dependence on you for oil and your support of radical Islamist terrorism."

Why in the world are we behaving like this?

Why would a government that wants to promote democracy around the world resort to this kind of language?

CHANG: I don't really understand it, because the challenges that the United States faces in North Korea, Iran, in the Middle East are existential challenges to us.

And so, therefore, I think what we need to do is be much more resolute, and we haven't done that. Essentially what we've tried to do is subtract out a lot of the policy, but unfortunately, the Chinese and others are not willing to be constructive at this time and we need solutions now.

DOBBS: Let's you and I -- and I appreciate you saying that.

Let's you and I be very straightforward about this as well.

One, does the United States have a policy vis-a-vis China?

CHANG: Well, we have a policy but it's not really working very well, because we've been trying to integrate China into the world community, but China is trying to destabilize that global system.

DOBBS: Why does this administration refuse to recognize that China is a communist state?

CHANG: That's very difficult, because I think we're trying to see China become a more constructive state.

We're acting as if we -- China is what we hope it to be. So we're trying to see China in the best light possible and I don't think it really makes sense.

DOBBS: Gordon Chang, thank you for being here to make as much sense of it as possible, as always.

CHANG: Thank you.

DOBBS: Look forward to talking to you again soon.

Time now for our poll. The question is: How do you view Osama bin Laden's latest threats against the United States and his offer of a truce? Do you see that statement by Osama bin Laden as a sign of strength or a sign of weakness?

Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here later in the broadcast.

Up next, history at Cape Canaveral today. We'll show you the launch to Pluto.

And public officials in Minnesota at war over Governor Tim Pawlenty's bold immigration reform plans. I'll be talking with one official in that state who is accusing his governor of election-year politics -- imagine that.

And the Catholic Church entering the national political debate over illegal immigration and border security. What are the consequences? What should they be?

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, the battle in Minnesota is escalating over Governor Pawlenty's plan there to fight our nation's illegal alien crisis.

One of his proposals would roll back so-called sanctuary laws which are deemed illegal in federal law and give local police the power to enforce immigration laws. A number of public officials are blasting the governor's plan, including the mayors and police chiefs of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

My guest tonight is on their side, saying Pawlenty's plan is irresponsible.

Brian Melendez is the chairman of Minnesota's Democratic Farmer Labor Party, joining us tonight from Minneapolis.

Good to have you here.

Why in the world aren't you supporting the law and Governor Pawlenty?


Well, I think what Governor Pawlenty is up to is just election- year politics. Governor Pawlenty has brought up illegal immigration exactly three times: just before his election in 2002, just before the presidential election in 2004, and again now when he's up for re- election in 2006. DOBBS: All right.

MELENDEZ: He made this an issue in his 2002 election campaign.

If he was serious about it -- he's been governor for more than three years -- why are we just now hearing from him?

DOBBS: Well, let's ascribe to the governor, as you suggest, the most -- the basest of all motivations, that is re-election. We don't see that in any other elected official anywhere in the country.


Let's assume that he has the worst of reasons, that his re- election is his primary guiding light, but let's talk about the merits of what he's saying. What's wrong with it?

MELENDEZ: Well, it depends on which proposal you're talking about, because he's rolled out...


DOBBS: Well, let's talk about rolling back sanctuary laws that are illegal under the 1996 immigration laws, that are illegal under the Vienna Convention.


DOBBS: We could start there.


MELENDEZ: I'm sorry, Lou?

DOBBS: I said we could start there.

MELENDEZ: There is already a federal law on the books that addresses this issue.

If the federal law isn't being enforced, then we should talk about enforcing it. And if a federal law isn't working, what makes Tim Pawlenty think that a state law is going to change anything?

Immigration is a federal issue and Tim Pawlenty is trying to turn into a state problem first in order to get himself re-elected...


DOBBS: Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Brian, it's not necessarily so, as they say. As a matter of fact, the arrest of any foreign citizen under the Vienna Convention, local, state authorities are required to notify the councils and embassies of that resident's citizenship of his or her arrest.

MELENDEZ: Yes, that's exactly why we don't need a state law that addresses the problem. The problem is already covered under federal law.


DOBBS: ... I wish it were in perfect order as you suggest, Brian, but let's back up a little bit again.

You have local governments putting forward sanctuary laws that are absolutely in contravention of federal law and U.S. treaties.

MELENDEZ: If they're void under federal law, then what additional is a state law going to get? It just doesn't make sense.


DOBBS: So what you would have the governor do, Brian?

MELENDEZ: ... and he may be running for president of the United States.

DOBBS: OK. Whatever you want...


MELENDEZ: So why would a state government make immigration the centerpiece of his agenda?

DOBBS: I get it. You don't like Governor Tim Pawlenty, but let's talk about the merits here. What would you have...


MELENDEZ: I don't know if I don't like him. I wouldn't vote for him for re-election.

DOBBS: What would you have your state government -- and would you then ascribe to the idea that perhaps those city councils, those police chiefs and mayors should take note of federal law and the law of the land and remove those sanctuary laws? Would you urge your membership and your party to do that?

MELENDEZ: You know, it's really up to a court whether...


DOBBS: I'm sorry, it's up to whom?

MELENDEZ: ... enforce those laws.

DOBBS: It's up to whom?

MELENDEZ: I don't know that the laws have been challenged. But it's not up to Governor Tim Pawlenty to decide whether federal law applies or not.

DOBBS: No, no. I'm not talking about Governor Pawlenty. I'm talking about you, the membership of your party there in Minnesota. Don't you want them to roll those back and get in line with federal law?

MELENDEZ: We're in favor of enforcing federal law. The Democratic Party is not in favor of illegal immigration. We're in favor of responsible policy toward illegal immigration instead of these gimmickry tactics that Tim Pawlenty is advancing to cover up the failures of the federal government in this area.

DOBBS: Brian, thank you for that straightforward answer. We appreciate it. Brian Melendez, thank you.

We've been reporting this week on the aggressive support of the Catholic Church for illegal immigration and its aggressive opposition to border security legislation. It is a controversial political position that could have enormous implications for the Catholic Church and its millions of followers in this country.

Delia Gallagher joins me now. Delia, good to have you here. One of the things that's interesting is that the viewers of this program, the Catholic viewers, to almost a person are outraged about the fact that the Catholic Church has taken this position. What's going on?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH & VALUES CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I saw some of those responses and I think, you know, it's clear that not every Catholic in the country agrees with the bishops conference. It wouldn't be the first time. The bishops conference ...

DOBBS: Let me try that again.


DOBBS: I said nearly every person who wrote into this program who is Catholic -- and you looked at the hundreds and hundreds of e- mails -- thinks it's outrageous on the part of the church.

GALLAGHER: Yes, well, individual Catholics have their own conscious and they're able to go by those. The bishops are there to kind of lead and suggest, and I think one thing that the bishops conference, and those people that I talked to today want to make clear is that, you know, this is a right of the Catholic Church to be in the public square, to voice their opinion.

DOBBS: Really?

GALLAGHER: Yes, absolutely. It's a right of any faith-based organization to do so.

DOBBS: Really?

GALLAGHER: And, I mean, that's the first issue which we should address. Quite outside of this particular issue, you know, that faith-based organizations -- the Catholic Church and Atheists Anonymous and everybody else -- have a right in our democracy to voice their opinion. DOBBS: No, I have no problem with that. As a matter of fact, I'm all for support of individual freedom of speech.

GALLAGHER: And to advocate for certain legislation.

DOBBS: I have a problem with this.

GALLAGHER: What they cannot do is partisan politics. They cannot ...


GALLAGHER: ... support one candidate over another, that -- to loses their taxes and status. That's what you are concerned about.

DOBBS: It is.

GALLAGHER: And I think that's correct but don't -- they stay away from that. They say we advocate for issues. And that's clearly allowed in a democracy.

DOBBS: For example, a group of religious leaders looking right now -- 31 leaders, as a matter of fact, from nine denominations signing a letter asking the IRS to determine whether the churches should lose their tax exempt status because of their support of Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio.

In addition, as you know, the Internal Revenue Service warned one of Southern California's most liberal churches just a little over a year ago, that it stood to lose its tax exempt status because of its political adventurism in the war in Iraq.

GALLAGHER: Right, and it's an extremely interesting point because in that church case, for example, it was a sermon on a Sunday. And it was just before the elections and he was advocating peace in Iraq.

DOBBS: Let me ...


DOBBS: Let me just show you something, Delia. We'd like to share with you and our viewers a poll that we -- they took -- was it -- I believe Tuesday night. The poll -- the question was, should churches that take political positions lose their tax exemptions?

Our audience, an overwhelming response as you see there. But thousands upon thousands of votes saying, you know, it's nonsense.

GALLAGHER: You have got to be clear on one thing, what is the political decision? Is it support of a candidate in particular, i.e., this Republican or this Democrat? Or is it an issue-based question?

And I think it would be inconceivable for any person in a Democratic country to suggest that a faith-based help organization should not take a political position on an issue. DOBBS: Here's -- I guess the question that starts arising, when you have a church taking a political position that is, if you will, basically ignoring national sovereignty -- as a matter of fact, as you know, a number of the Catholics that we have spoken with on this program suggesting that there are higher issues than national sovereignty, our national interests, and in point in fact that gets to be problematic.

But whether it's Pat Robertson, whether it is, you know, radical Islamists, whether it's evangelical Christians, once they enter the political arena, do you really believe that's appropriate? Because we're a nation in which we're supposed to be separating church and state.

For example, the idea of the government supporting a church, or supporting a religion, is absolutely unconstitutional. And there are equal responsibilities for a faith-based organization.

GALLAGHER: Yes, sure. And I think, Lou, that it comes down to what we understand by the political arena and what we understand by the issues because, you know, church-based organizations talk about abortion all the time. And that's acceptable because people tend to see ...

DOBBS: Is it accept acceptable ...

GALLAGHER: ... moral issues as acceptable for churches, and perhaps something like immigration, they're a little bit less sure because they think it is just about border security whereas the churches think it's about human rights and border security. So I think it's a little bit of a distinction on what is a political issue.

DOBBS: Well, we're going to continue to examine the church's views.

GALLAGHER: We should. It is a very good point.

DOBBS: And we're going to ask you have -- ask you to come along with us as we journey down this road toward the truth and shedding the light on all of those dark recesses that have received far too little attention. Delia Gallagher, thanks.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

DOBBS: Appreciate it.

Just ahead, the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Why our efforts to capture the al Qaeda leader have failed so miserably. I'll be talking with two leading authorities on military intelligence and counterterrorism here next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Osama bin Laden today made new threats against this country in an audiotape aired by Al-Jazeera. The tape highlights the fact that bin Laden remains at large more than four years after September 11th, and despite U.S. global efforts to capture or kill him.

Joining me now, a former top CIA field commander who led the hunt for bin Laden in 2001, Gary Berntsen; and Daniel Benjamin, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former counterterrorism director at National Security Council. Gentlemen, good to have you with us. Let me start with, first, your reactions, Daniel, about this tape? What do you make of it?

DANIEL BENJAMIN, SENIOR FELLOW, CSIS: Well, two things. First, bin Laden's telling us he's alive. We don't know if there's a connection to the Pakistani missile attack, but if there is, he is saying I'm here. The leadership's intact.

And then he's taking credit for an awful lot of what's happened in Iraq and he's speaking to the Muslim community around the world and saying look at what we have done to them. And, you know, they can get out of here but we have imposed a big cost.

Let me ask you this as well. The White House reaction today was basically, go to hell Osama bin Laden. But at the same time, Scott McClellan saying we will end this war at a time of our choosing, at a place our choosing.

We haven't chosen apparently in four years, four and months. This superpower, the greatest military on the face of the planet, hasn't been able to bring him down. What does that say about what we're doing and how we're doing it?

BENJAMIN: Well, Lou, as you know, I've been arguing for a long time that we had our priorities wrong in the war on terror and that Iraq was a diversion and in many ways, a step backwards in the war on terror.

We have created a field of jihad there for the mujahedeen and we left Afghanistan way too soon before the job was done when we defeated the Taliban and al Qaeda but not destroyed them.

DOBBS: But what about what it says about what we're doing in the hunt for bin Laden, and our ability to track down one man who's certainly been pivotal, if he does not remain so, in the terrorist attacks over the course over the past four years and four months.

BENJAMIN: Well, I believe that the CIA is working very hard. The intelligence community is working very hard to find him, difficult territory. And you know, we have the problem of a sovereign country that has put limits on what we can do there.

DOBBS: Gary Berntsen, you have hunted obviously -- it's the foundation of "Jawbreaker," your new book -- for Osama bin Laden. But at what point does the country say, "Mr. President, the CIA director, Secretary Rumsfeld, we really should be able to do a little better than this, don't you think?"

GARY BERNTSEN, AUTHOR: They're making significant efforts. The efforts last week were additional steps that were taken. They're collecting intel from Oman (ph), they're doing the signals intelligence, they are doing the overhead.

Again, these among 25 million batons that are trying to hide him. What I found interesting was his desire to want to negotiate now. He tried to negotiate in late December when we were conducting air strikes on him, he wanted to buy time.

I'm sure he's feeling the heat. And the only time he would want to negotiate is when he wants to reconstitute his forces. I'm sure he's feeling the heat, he's under pressure. The president is doing everything that can be done at the moment given the constraints of the political environment in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

DOBBS: Gary, let me ask you this because I asked our folks to kind of go back over it. I count one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 times over the course over the past five years, almost five years, four and a half years in which our various intelligence and counter-terrorism experts have said Osama bin Laden is dead based on their reasonable judgment of the evidence they have. Why can't we even get that right? It gets embarrassing after awhile, doesn't it?

BERNTSEN: I've never believed that. We have to assume he's dead until we either find the body or have him in jail. It's that simple.

DOBBS: Gary, thank you very much. Dan, we appreciate you both being here.

BERNTSEN: It's a pleasure being with you, Lou.

BENJAMIN: Thanks very much.

DOBBS: We're out of time, thanks very much gentlemen.

A reminder to vote in our poll. How do you view Osama bin Laden's threats against the United States and his offer of truce: a sign of strength or a sign of weakness? Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up in just a matter of moments.

Coming at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, what are you working on?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. Ahead in "THE SITUATION ROOM," are America's cities taking direct action after today's threatening audiotape from Osama bin Laden? We're live across the country.

And the mother of a kidnapped journalist in Iraq pleads for her daughter's life. You'll hear directly from Mary Beth Carroll. And we're also live in Oklahoma City, where Michael Fortier is just a few hours away from being released from prison. He was convicted for knowing about the Oklahoma City bombing but not alerting authorities. Find out what he faces now. All of that, Lou, coming up right at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf. NASA's first-ever mission to Pluto took off today. A Titan V rocket carrying the new horizon, Pluto probe, took off from Cape Canaveral after two days of delays. This is the fastest rocket ever built, nearly 100 times faster than a jetliner, but it will still take this probe more than nine years to reach out to Pluto and beyond.

Still ahead tonight, General David Grange joins me on the bin Laden tape and charges that our troops don't have enough protection. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Joining me now with another perspective on the hunt for Osama bin Laden and our efforts to capture him or kill him is General David Grange. General, four years and four months, still haven't caught him, still haven't killed him, still hearing from him. What's your reaction?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, obviously he's still alive but I think he's desperate, Lou. I don't think he would have made this -- put this message out unless the pressure's on and he knows that. It's a sign of weakness as far as I'm concerned, on his part. And I also believe that he's in a little bit of an ego contest with Iran.

DOBBS: How so?

GRANGE: Well, because, they've been flaunting their proudness about shutting off oil and nuclear weapons and getting all of the attention in the extremist Muslim parts of the world and here al Qaeda and bin Laden, you haven't heard much from them. So I think that's why he spoke up a bit.

DOBBS: That's an interesting point and frankly one that I haven't heard advanced by some of the geopolitical folks. To what end, though, General? The fact is that the war continues, the insurgency in Iraq. We continue to take casualties. And Osama bin Laden's been basically in effect in the West with his terrorist campaign.

GRANGE: Well I think when you see the results of the actions of al Qaeda, and some other supporters of bin Laden in Iraq, you'll see that actually killing them and fighting them and distracting them and holding them down in Iraq is not a bad thing. I mean it's bad whether we lose people but I mean, you're going to fight him somewhere. And so actually this is truly putting pressure on his system.

DOBBS: I want to ask you two quick questions and that is, the concern right now about our troops having, after all of this time, still insufficient body armor. Your quick thoughts on that.

GRANGE: The thing about body armor, the troops get body armor when they go over there now. Now design in body armor that's short of the new things developed in combat over their last -- last part of the couple of years, that they're now putting together with the troops in the field. The problem is, you have to make a decision on the ground by the ground commander, do you use everything or do you go lighter so you can carry ammunition, water, radios, and actually fight? And that's the problem. You've got to decide in each case.

DOBBS: And lastly, your quick thoughts on bin Laden's idea about a truce?

GRANGE: Let's do it but let's make it unconditional, surrender to us.

DOBBS: General David Grange, the warrior always, thank you.

The results of tonight's poll, 55 percent of you say that Osama bin Laden's latest threats against the United States in his offer of truce are a sign of weakness. More of your thoughts now.

Dave in New Mexico written in to say: Mr. Chertoff plans to have operational control of the U.S. border within five years. That is, if he can manage to have operation control of his own department.

And Matt in Missouri writing: Lou, does Congress really think they are fooling Americans when it comes to lobby reform? American citizens believe them about as much as we believe that the Bush administration is committed to immigration and border security reform.

Janet in Washington: First the National Association of Manufacturers says Americans can't do manufacturing jobs. Now the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants all illegal aliens currently working in the country legalized.

Finally, Mark in Kentucky says: Lou, you tell it like it is, on our farm we call people like you straight shooters, all crankshaft and no horn. Keep up the good work.

Thank you and we're going to be sorting that out for some time. Send your thoughts to, the good, the bad and the ugly. Thanks for being with us tonight, please join us here tomorrow. Our guests will include a leading authority on national security, James Bamford -- former presidential adviser, David Gergen. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York, "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer now -- Wolf.


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