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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Possible Wiretapping Deal; Chertoff Faces More Katrina Criticism; Petition To Review Port Sale Deal; President Bush's First Public Statement Over Hunting Incident; Emilio Gonzalez Says President's Guest Worker Program Is Unworkable; Congress Hears Testimony On NSA Wiretaps; Hearings On Able Danger Raises More Concern; Private Surveillance Uncovers China's Rapid Nuclear Build Up
Aired February 16, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, February 16th. Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee says the Senate's Republican leadership has abdicated its responsibilities by stopping an investigation into warrantless wiretaps. We'll be live with a report in Washington.
As we first reported here this week, a country with ties to the September 11th hijackers has been given approval by the Bush administration to take over six of our major seaports. And in the past 24 hours, Republicans and Democrats alike have petitioned to review that deal. The White House says no way, despite serious national security concerns. We'll have that special report.
Also tonight, one day after the first major hearings into the Able Danger controversy, the congressman who led those hearings says Pentagon officials stonewalled him. Congressman Curt Weldon is our guest.
And former 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer joins us. Did his commission ignore Able Danger and the reasons for the intelligence failures as much as a year before September 11th? We'll have all of that and much more ahead.
We begin with deepening divisions in the Senate over White House efforts to end the controversy over secret government wiretaps on some Americans. Republicans on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee today said they are on the verge of a deal with the White House.
That deal, were to go ahead, would increase legal and congressional oversight of the wiretaps, they say, but Senate Democrats say Republicans are caving into pressure from the White House and abdicating their responsibilities. Ed Henry reports from Washington -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. The partisan divide is so wide that Republicans and Democrats can't even agree on whether there's an agreement with the White House or not. The Senate Intelligence Committee met this afternoon to consider a Democratic move to open a second congressional investigation of the president's domestic surveillance program. That would be the second after the Senate judiciary panel, which is already probing this.
Now, the Republican chairman of the intel panel, Pat Roberts, arrived about 20 minutes late to that meeting, because he said he'd just sealed a deal with the Bush administration, with two key ingredients. The White House agreeing to a legislative fix to FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to clarify the legality of the president's program. Secondly, the White House now agreeing to more and fuller briefings about the program, amid critics saying that only a select few lawmakers had been given limited details about it.
Now, Chairman Roberts said as a result of what he saw to be progress, there is now no need to open an investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I believe that such an investigation at this point is -- basically would be detrimental to this highly classified program and our efforts to reach some -- some accommodation with the administration. This program is one which I believe is vital to the protection of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, Democrats, led by Jay Rockefeller, insists they, too, see value in the program. They do not want to shut it down. But they want to make sure the program is catching terrorists and protecting civil liberties here in the United States.
And Rockefeller charged that the Republicans have caved in to heavy pressure from the White House to shut down this investigation, and that the White House may never actually follow through on the promises they have made to Chairman Roberts. So Rockefeller says this is just a stalling tactic to ensure the White House gets no oversight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D-WV), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: The Senate Intelligence Committee has a unique and constructive role to play in guiding and informing this debate, if we knew what was in the program. But the Senate Intelligence Committee does not know what's in the program, and therefore, it would be fairly hard to draw conclusions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, Senator Rockefeller then charged that the Senate Intelligence Committee is slipping into irrelevancy, in his words. Chairman Roberts insists, though, if the White House does not follow through on these promises, at the next committee meeting on March 7th, he will in fact open an investigation of the NSA program -- Lou.
DOBBS: And Senator Rockefeller today told me that he has in his entire legislative career and his entire career in public service never witnessed such subservience as being demonstrated by the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is a very serious breach between the Democrats and the Republicans, and at a time when almost everyone is agreement that checks and balances must be in place.
HENRY: Lou, it used to be that the Senate Intelligence Committee was about the only committee in that chamber where you could see bipartisanship, sometimes nonpartisanship. But as we've seen the war on terror become such a volatile political issue, both sides lobbing charges all the time, it's now become just as partisan as a lot of the other committees on the Hill. And frankly, that's part of the reason why there's such a divide.
You could see, just about a year or so ago, Chairman Roberts and Senator Rockefeller used to appear on your program and other programs together, side by side, shoulder to shoulder.
HENRY: No more, Lou.
DOBBS: Ed Henry, thank you very much.
The Justice Department has launched an internal investigation of its own into its role in the government's wiretap -- warrantless wiretaps on some Americans. The department said the investigation will not focus on whether the wiretap program is legal, but whether the Justice Department's attorneys properly checked NSA surveillance activities.
Also on Capitol Hill today, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff facing a new round of blistering criticism for his role in the Hurricane Katrina disaster. One lawmaker, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, says Chertoff should be fired because of his department's failure to adequately respond to the disaster. Jeanne Meserve reports from Washington.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another day, another pummeling of Michael Chertoff and his department.
REP. GENE TAYLOR (D), MISSISSIPPI: If we turned it over to Homeland Security to plan D-Day, General Eisenhower would still be waiting for the landing craft.
MESERVE: Some Democrats said Chertoff should pay for the flawed Katrina response with his job.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON-LEE (D), TEXAS: Do you believe you should be fired? Because I believe you should.
MESERVE: The editorial page of "The New York Times" agrees. "While there is no shortage of incompetent public officials involved in this tragedy, one stands out above the rest. That person is Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. It would be nice for the administration to finally send a message that if important people do a bad job, they go away."
There is no groundswell in Congress for Chertoff's's removal, but there is a loud bipartisan chorus calling for FEMA to be removed from his department.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), D.C. DELEGATE: So let FEMA be FEMA, not DHS' stepchild.
MESERVE: Chertoff argues FEMA is stronger inside DHS, where it has more resources at its disposal. But he is making reforms to improve logistics, communications, debris removal and customer service. Most controversially, he has removed responsibility for disaster preparedness from FEMA, and put it in an office coordinating preparedness across the entire department.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: When Katrina came, we operated under the old system, and the old system failed.
MESERVE: Chertoff promises more changes to FEMA when the White House and Senate finish their reviews of the Katrina response. He's well aware of the deadline for reform: The beginning of the hurricane season, June 1st -- Lou.
DOBBS: It is clear that Secretary Chertoff tried to assert that it was the failure of a system rather than failure of leadership. Did anyone in Congress buy that approach?
MESERVE: Certainly he has his supporters. There are certainly many people who say that they thought he did the best that he could. There are some people still being singled out for blame, however; Michael Brown of course being amongst them -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Jeanne Meserve.
President Bush today declared that Vice President Dick Cheney did a fine job handling the aftermath of his accidental shooting incident in Texas. This is the president's first public comment on that accident since it occurred last Saturday. Dana Bash reports now from the White House -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, yesterday it was the vice president's turn. Today, as you mentioned, the president finally spoke out and he said that he was satisfied with the vice president's explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought the vice president handled the issue just fine. He went through -- and I thought his explanation yesterday was a powerful explanation. This is a man who likes the outdoors and he likes to hunt. And he heard a bird flush, and he turned, and pulled the trigger and saw his friend get wounded. You know, it was a deeply traumatic moment for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, Cheney associates are now trying to defray the intense criticism that we've seen over the last several days about the delay in getting this news out by trying to play it more as a human drama: The story about a man very upset about shooting his friend. And Mr. Bush joined in to that strategy, if you will, by talking about an emotional moment from a man, the vice president, we don't usually see a lot of emotion from.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I think people are making the wrong conclusion about a tragic accident. The vice president was involved in a terrible accident, and it profoundly affected him. Yesterday when he was here in the Oval Office, I saw the deep concern he had about a person who he wounded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, despite that, we do know, we have been talking for several days about the fact that there has been irritation among the president's staff, maybe even the president himself, about the timing of this, that it took so long for Mr. Cheney to speak out. Mr. Bush was asked about that today, and he simply said, I'm satisfied with the explanation he gave. Mr. Bush was clearly ready to move on from that question -- Lou.
DOBBS: Dana Bash, thank you very much.
The sheriff's department investigating the vice president's accidental shooting today said there will be no charges in the case. The Kenedy County sheriff's office said the shooting was simply an accident and the investigation is closed.
Doctors treating the shooting victim, Harry Whittington today said he's doing extremely well. Hospital officials in Corpus Christi say Whittington could be sent home within the next few days.
Coming up here, guess who's lobbying? Senators and the border security debate -- our nation's open border advocates with friends in high places in the Mexican government.
We'll have that special report, and our exclusive interview Emilio Gonzalez, the head of U.S. immigration services. Is he really on the same page with the Bush administration on a guest worker program?
And urgent efforts on Capitol Hill to stop our seaports from being taken over by a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates, a country with ties to the September 11th terrorist attacks. That special report is next here.
DOBBS: The head of this nation's Citizenship and Immigration Service last year said President Bush's guest worker program was simply unworkable. Today, Emilio Gonzalez said the president's guest worker program is workable, a breathtaking reversal even by Washington's standards. Christine Romans has the report.
EMILIO GONZALEZ, DIR., USCIS: You'd find any number of people that would love just to move here and be where you're sitting today.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's been on the job barely six weeks.
GONZALEZ: Only in America can an immigrant be in charge of immigration.
ROMANS: But Emilio Gonzalez is already at the center of what he calls "the passionate debate in Washington over immigration reform." His agency, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, processes legal immigrants, decides who becomes U.S. citizens like these, and administers non-immigrant work visas. It's his agency that would be responsible for the president's plan to give temporary worker status to up to 20 million illegal aliens.
GONZALEZ: We will do whatever we need to do to make sure that we have a credible, transparent, efficient temporary worker program within the rubric of security.
ROMANS: His optimism is at odds with testimony during his confirmation process last fall.
GONZALEZ: I don't think the systems -- in fact, I know the systems that exist right now wouldn't be able to handle it.
ROMANS: But today he says he does have the system and the resources he needs.
GONZALEZ: Right now, oh yes. Oh yes.
ROMANS: At same time, he acknowledges that Americans and immigrants are concerned about border security.
GONZALEZ: And the debate can't be about whether you're pro or anti-immigrant. The debate has to be what measures do we need? What are the accurate measures that we need to defend ourselves and to defend our border and there are genuine border concerns.
ROMANS: But critics say a temporary worker program might worsen those border concerns, rewarding those who've broken American laws.
(on camera): And this is an agency working nonstop to whittle a backlog of legal immigrants, just recently completing applications under the 1986 amnesty. There are serious concerns about whether adding a new guest worker program would be fair to legal immigrants, like those naturalized here today, who have played by the rules.
Christine Romans, CNN, Philadelphia.
DOBBS: And on the issue border security, you just heard the head of CIS say the issue is not whether one is pro or anti-immigrant. To my knowledge, that is not the issue or the conflict whatsoever. The issue is one of border security and whether or not this country will enforce immigration laws or whether we will tolerate illegal immigration.
In Washington, the U.S. Senate is nearing its showdown on the Bush guest worker program. Our nation's open border advocates want this unworkable program passed at any cost. And they want an influential U.S. senator from California to be at their side. Casey Wian has the story.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): About 100 demonstrators marched outside the Los Angeles office of Senator Dianne Feinstein, demanding that she support expanding rights for illegal aliens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people, united, will never be defeated.
WIAN: It's part a growing effort to defeat the Sensenbrenner Border Security Bill, which has passed the House and awaits Senate action.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH).
WIAN: Among its provisions, stricter penalties against illegal aliens and their employers and the construction of new fences along about a third of the southern border.
FATHER SEAN CARROLL, DOLORES MISSION CHURCH: Policies should be passed in terms of border security that are humane.
WIAN (on camera): Protesters are here even though Senator Feinstein has already publicly expressed her opposition to the Sensenbrenner Border Security Bill. They're saying she's not doing enough to support illegal aliens.
DIANA TELLEFSON, UNITED FARM WORKERS: She has not stood up for proposals that actually allow for immigrants that are currently here undocumented the opportunity to legalize permanently.
WIAN: In other words, Feinstein doesn't support amnesty for illegal aliens, nor does she support a so-called guest worker program and she advocates tougher law enforcement along the border.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't betray the USA.
WIAN: But that's not enough say the border security activists who held a candlelight vigil, also outside of Feinstein's office, several hours later.
TERRY ANDERSON, RADIO SHOW HOST: We've got a bunch of politicians out there who think they are doing the right thing. But they're doing what they want rather than what we tell them to do, and we've got to get their attention.
WIAN: Feinstein is the only Senate Democrat with a favorable rating by Numbers USA, an organization favoring strict immigration controls. Still border security activists are determined to persuade her not to support competing legislation that's soft on illegal immigration and border security.
SUSAN TULLY, FED. FOR AMER. IMMIG. REFORM: We're here to save the American worker. No guest worker amnesty. Illegal aliens, it's time to go home and let Americans have their jobs back.
WIAN: Feinstein's position is crucial because she's the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee -- Lou.
DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much. Casey Wian.
Tonight, one sheriff is demanding that Mexico repay his county for the extensive costs of incarcerating hundreds of illegal aliens from Mexico. Sheriff John Trumbo of Umatilla County, Oregon has sent a bill directly to Mexican president Vicente Fox.
The amount that he wants to be reimbursed, $318,843. Trumbo says taxpayers should no longer have to pay for the room, board, prosecution and defense of illegal aliens who commit crimes in this country. The sheriff has yet to receive a response from President Fox.
Still ahead here, a Bush administration national security cave- in. Why Congress is being forced to plead, to beg, the White House to stop the sale of our major seaports to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates.
And Congressman Curt Weldon -- he hoped to learn the truth in yesterday's Able Danger hearings, both in open hearings and closed. He says truth was in short supply.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CURT WELDON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: What's going on here? Is this a massive effort to deny reality?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Congressman Weldon is our guest here next.
DOBBS: On Capitol Hill tonight, this broadcast has just learned that the White House has absolutely refused Republican and Democratic lawmakers' demands to review the sale of six U.S. ports to a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates is a country with ties to the 9/11 hijackers. Bill Tucker has the story.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No review of the takeover of Dubai's Ports World's acquisitions of FNO's (ph) operations and ports in the United States. Administration officials made that clear.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: And we're here.
TUCKER: But a bipartisan congressional group wants a delay, calling for a full review of the deal announced on Monday by which D.P. World will take control of some operations in six ports, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. Dubai Ports World is owned by the government of Dubai.
SCHUMER: Outsourcing the operations of our largest ports to a country with a dubious record on terrorism is a homeland security accident waiting to happen.
TUCKER: They're asking for a 45-day review of the deal.
REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FOLEY: This is after all a country that still sees the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and still fails to recognize Israel as a sovereign state.
TUCKER: Yet it's a deal which is already received the blessings of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
REP. CHRIS SHAYS (D), CONNECTICUT: The last thing you want is for a country like this to have control of five of our ports.
TUCKER: Because it raises security concerns. Only five percent of all containers entering America's ports are ever inspected by the Department of Homeland Security.
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The thing that concerns me about this is the one area where we haven't done as good a job we need to do so far has been in our port security.
TUCKER: Officials for the Department of Homeland Security say the deal has been rigorously reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
TUCKER: Now the problem with that committee is, well, it answers to no one and it does its business in secret. When I called them earlier in the week, in fact, they wouldn't admit they knew of the deal.
Lou, New York City Mike Bloomberg has been a little bit more above board and clear in his dealings. He announced that the city will review its lease for the passenger ship terminal here in New York City currently held by P&O and says it will not automatically extent their lease to D.P. World. DOBBS: It may not extend the lease, but in point of fact, it's -- the committee, as it has approved it, permits this to go ahead over the objections of lawmakers who are obviously seriously concerned about the national security implications. That transfer will take place irrespective the mayor's good judgment in terms of extending or not extending the lease.
The fact that Treasury Secretary John Snow, who heads this committee, has absolutely no hesitation to approve this deal tells us that the system is rotten to the core.
This is the same group of people who had no problem with turning over Unocal assets to the Sinopec, the Chinese state-owned oil company. This is the same group of people who presumably have no problem in continuing to allow the sale of strategic assets in this country to anyone.
DOBBS: It is absolutely remarkable. Congressman Peter King, Senator Charles Schumer, Chris Shays, one can only be thankful that these people are at least trying, apparently with deaf ears in the White House. Thank you.
United Arab Emirates firms are interested, by the way, in more than our ports. Tonight, a media investment firm based in the United Arab Emirates has taken a sizable stake in Time Warner. Time Warner owns this network.
We don't suggest that there is any correlation between our reporting and the investment firm's interest in Time Warner, but we did think it was notable. The firm is called Istithmar, it has bought a 2.4 percent stake in Time Warner, the parent company, as I said, of this network. The company now has control of more than 100 million Time Warner shares.
That brings us to our poll question tonight. Do you believe that Congress should investigate why the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States approved has a deal that would give control of our ports to a country with ties to radical Islamist terrorism? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results coming up here later in the broadcast.
Taking a look now at some of your thoughts. Many of you wrote in about the sale of those important ports and the operation to an Arab company. Nancy in Virginia saying: "Lou, thank you for alerting us about the ports that are being sold to the United Arab Emirates. Now perhaps we should put ads in Russia and China that we have a few more ports for sale." An interesting idea.
Donna in New Jersey: "Lou, there is no need to worry about anyone attacking our country. At the rate we are giving it away, it won't belong to us much longer anyway."
And Richard in New York: "Lou, with the president approving illegal immigration, a one-way street in trade, Arabs taking over our ports, and doing nothing about the Chinese stealing our technical and military secrets, the Republican Party is doing everything wrong. The Democratic Party is doing absolutely nothing. Don't you think it's time we had a third party?" Again, an interesting thought.
We'll have more of your thoughts later in this broadcast. Still ahead, efforts to hammer out a bipartisan compromise on warrantless wiretapping breaking down on Capitol Hill, we'll be live in Washington with the latest for you.
And a day after the Able Danger hearings, are we closer to the truth about intelligence failures a year before 9/11? Congressman Curt Weldon, former 9/11 commission member, Tim Roemer are my guests. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Senate Democrats and Republicans tonight have broken apart on a new effort to end the battle over warrantless wiretaps. Republicans say they are close to a deal with the White House that would increase, they say, congressional and legal oversight on domestic wiretaps. The Democrats, however, say the Republican leadership has abdicated it responsibilities. Ed Henry is live on Capitol Hill with the latest for us -- Ed?
HENRY: Lou, that's right. The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, declared this evening, he's force a deal with the White House that will assuage critics the domestic surveillance program.
That the White House agreed it a legislative fix to FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to clarify the legality of the program. And that the White House is agreeing to more and fuller briefing about the program. Chairman Roberts said as a result of that progress, there is no need to open an investigation of the program.
But Democrats led by Jay Rockefeller have charged Republicans have caved in to political pressure from the White House to shut down an investigation, and that this is a stalling tactic to ensure the White House gets no oversight.
Lou, this committee used to be an oasis of bipartisanship in the Senate but no more, it is clear. It has broken down specifically over this issue, Lou.
DOBBS: And checks and balances hardly, hardly present in this issue at all.
HENRY: And that's the frustration of the Democrats. Republicans, though, insist Chairman Roberts said that if the White House does not follow through on the promises they made today, he will open an investigation on March 7th. But Democrats are skeptical to say the least, Lou.
DOBBS: Ed Henry, thank you very much.
Able Danger Army intelligence officers have finally told their story in a major hearing on Capitol Hill. Able Danger officials yesterday testified how they identified Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 radical Islamic terrorists more than a year before 9/11, using data mining technology. And they explain how they were not allowed to share the information they had gathered with the FBI.
LT. COL ANTHONY SHAFFER, U.S. ARM RESERVE: We tried to arrange three separate times meetings between the FBI. I called down to Captain Philpot, as I recall, and said, Why? What's going on? Why aren't you guys showing up for these meetings? And that's when I was informed that they were told that they -- special operations command were told by their legal advice, their legal attorneys, they were not supposed to show up for these meetings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Able Danger officials say that if the meetings had been allowed to go forward, intelligence officials might, might have been able to prevent 9/11. It has taken years for Congress to finally hold these hearings on Able Danger and what happened to that project. The Able Danger unit began its operations in the fall of 1999. In early 2000, Able Danger uncovered its first information about the 9/11 radical Islamist terrorists.
The unit and its officers say they also uncovered information that might have prevented the terrorist attack against the U.S.S. Cole in October of 2000. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was finally briefed about Able Danger findings in January of 2001. But that spring, just months before September 11th, the Able Danger project was shut down.
Congressman Curt Weldon who fought for months to bring these Able Danger hearings to Capitol Hill was openly frustrated yesterday but what he calls Washington's failure to take Able Danger claims seriously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CURT WELDON, VICE CHAIR., HOUSE ARMED SVRC. CMT: Like Jay Stewart, who had his career ruin at DOE back in the '90s. I mention Doctor Gordon Ehlers, a CIA nonproliferation director at the CIA, who was forced out. Partly as a result of Iran's development of their missile technology in Shahab (ph) three.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Tim Roemer, a former member of the 9/11 commission, joins me now from Chicago tonight.
You heard Congressman Weldon's charges. You've seen much of what has -- what transpired in the open part the hearings yesterday. What's your reaction?
TIM ROEMER, FMR. 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: Well, Lou, first of all my reaction is I'm glad that the oversight function of Congress, which the 9/11 commission criticized, as almost dysfunctional itself -- is working. That they're trying to get to the bottom of this.
Was there in fact a chart, a picture of Atta before 9/11? Was there some evidence of this? So far, the Defense Department is saying, no. Steve Cambone testified they'd been unable to find it. The 9/11 Commission did not see factual evidence of it.
DOBBS: In fairness the staff of your commission did not -- point in fact, spend anytime at all seeking it out. I mean isn't that correct, Tim?
ROEMER: I don't think that's entirely factually correct, Lou. What chief of staff, I believe said, he said this to us before. I don't know what he said yesterday in closed testimony.
DOBBS: Right. Nor do any of us.
ROEMER: Right. Nor could we talk about it, Lou. But what he has said to us before was that when Colonel Shaffer talked to the 9/11 Commission in Bagram, Afghanistan, he talked about Able Danger, but he did not talk about Atta or identifying Atta ahead of time. And that's confirmed by a White House person.
DOBBS: In his unclassified testimony yesterday in point of fact, Colonel Shaffer did say, point blank, that they the information about Mohamed Atta just about a year before 9/11.
And then moved into a spirited examination of the reasons that his unit, the Able Danger project, was frustrated. Do you find it remarkable that Dieter Snell, the man pivotal in all of this because working on your commission, at staff level, obviously, and now working for a New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, was not present for these hearings? The request of Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general?
ROEMER: Well, I think the 9/11 Commission should be as cooperative as they possibly can with Congress trying to get to the bottom of this. I absolutely embrace Congress doing its oversight and getting to the bottom of it, Lou. They're bringing up the right people, the Department of Defense people, undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Steve Cambone said not able it find any factual evidence of this.
Let's keep digging, Lou. Let's keep looking for this. Because what it does is it verifies what the 9/11 Commission said that maybe in this instance too, government agencies failed to communicate with one another. We propose 41 different recommendations for Congress to fix.
They've only passed half of them, Lou. We still half of them to go to make this country safer and they -- Congress in addition to doing their oversight, they need to act on the 9/11 Commission recommendation, make the country safer, protect us from Al Qaeda and more effectively gauge this war against Jihadists. DOBBS: And Colonel Shaffer, in his public testimony, saying precisely the same thing. That the bureaucratic infighting and all of the sordid impulses of a Defense Department Intelligence Department and political CYA, as he put it, organization, led to failures to reform and to the failures a year before 9/11. And he said the same and just as you're suggest, those failure are still with us.
ROEMER: You know, Lou, --
DOBBS: Tim, are going to have to break. Tim, I appreciate it.
ROEMER: I hope we can talk about more of too much bureaucracy in Department Homeland Security and in Defense. I think we could see changes, Lou.
DOBBS: I'm with you, although, I as soon not talk about, it I would rather somebody get in there and do something about it.
ROEMER: I agree with that.
DOBBS: I have a belly full of talk about it.
ROEMER: I agree with that. Let's go get 'em. I'm with you.
DOBBS: And now if we could just do something, you and I.
ROEMER: Well, we can, thanks, Lou.
DOBBS: Appreciate it.
Coming up next, here, Congressman Curt Weldon will join me with his response to what was a frustrating day, after he succeeded in getting at least partial public hearings on the Able Danger controversy.
And tonight, red storm. New satellite pictures revealing how China is aggressively, and to this point, secretly building up its military including nuclear weapons. That special report is coming right up. Stay with us.
DOBBS: We just heard former 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer suggest that he wants to see a full investigation of the Able Danger controversy. And now it's time for Congressman Curt Weldon to join us. Congressman Weldon the driving force behind yesterday's Able Danger hearings in Congress and joining me tonight from Wilmington, Delaware.
Congressman, good to have you with us. You spent of what was obviously a frustrating, considerable time yesterday afternoon in the open hearings. Do you believe that enough got out on this issue to be helpful to you, to congress, to the public?
REP. CURT WELDON, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: If the public could have access, unfortunately C-Span didn't cover it. You're only network doing a decent job on it, but information's there, Lou.
In the opening hearing, in the closed hearing, we had five people testify that they agree with Louis Freeh. That the information they had could have prevented 9/11 from ever happening. And they testified under oath. The Defense Department said they didn't have any information.
Lou, I gave them information in the hearing that I have a source within the intelligence community today, who did a run for me one month ago, and in that run came up with the name Atta 800 times. The Mohamed Atta with an O five times. And Mohamed Atta with a U three times. That's pre-9/11 data he used, not post-9/11. So the data's there, Lou. It's question of getting it out.
DOBBS: Colonel Shaffer's testimony at least the part that was unclassified and was public, is fascinating. He's stated straightforwardly, that his project, Able Danger, knew of Mohamed Atta, about a year before September 11th. When he talks about those people who were supportive of Able Danger, and who were important to the success to that point of able danger, and then he talks about the bad guys. What are you going to do about the bad guys?
WELDON: You know, I wish I knew that answer right now. You know, Zelicow (ph) should have testified in open session, because nothing he said was classified. I don't think he wants to be in open session to let the American people see us question him. We should have had Dieter Snell there. He's the guy that debriefed Scott Philpot.
DOBBS: Why did you allow the attorney general in New York to keep him away?
WELDON: I didn't, Lou. The committee hearing was not run by me. I wish it had been; they did not force the issue.
DOBBS: Congressman, apologize for interrupting, but this is beginning to look like it would serve the interest of neither Democrats nor Republicans, the latter Clinton administration, nor the Bush administration for the truth to come out here. Is that what you're really fighting here as well as a Defense Department DIA entrenched bureaucracy.
WELDON: Yes. And I don't think it's either President Clinton, nor President Bush, it's the underlings. It's the bureaucrats who fear embarrassment. They're in this CYA mode. They don't want anything to come out and they will ruin the career and life of anyone who dares to put forth information that's truthful, that could contradict that.
You hit the nail on the head. I said it yesterday. I'm very frustrated because I don't think either bureaucracy, either administration, wants the full truth to be told to the American people. I voted for the 9/11 Commission. I supported almost all their recommendations and continue to do that. But we've never yet had the true story and I don't think the commissioners were ever briefed. That decision to not briefed them was stopped by staff.
DOBBS: And that being the case, the straightforward evidence and even the agreement, that there was at least a level of intelligence that could have, if they had follow the instincts of Able Danger analysts, have perhaps had that been in the hands of the captain of the USS Cole have prevented the loss of 17 sailor's lives. I mean that is extraordinary. I mean there is no equivocation about that.
WELDON: Lou. That's right. The captain of the Cole, Kirk Lippold was in his audience in a civil uniform. And he sat there and listened. I talked to him before the hearing. I talked to him at length privately. He said congressman, I had three options that day. I could have refueled at sea, or refuel at another port. If I had any indications there was any potential problem at port of Yemen, I wouldn't have gone in.
We heard testimony yesterday that we had that information. We had those warnings. Why it didn't get to the right command officer is something we have to look at. This is about protecting American in the future. It's not about pointing fingers in the past. It's about understanding what we can do to prevent the next attack.
DOBBS: Help us understand why you went into closed hearings, because the whole point was to be in the public eye with this information.
WELDON: Well, Zelicow (ph) would not come in a open hearing. He said matter of fact. Be honest with you, two witness -- two very dedicated employees, military employee, and another are fearful for their careers.
In fact, they fear our government more than they do Al Qaeda actions and that's really a tragedy. When our own government employees are fearful their career's will be ruined because they're simply telling the truth. That's not America. We lost 3,000 people here. You know Richard Nixon had to resign for covering up a third rate burglary.
DOBBS: Colonel Shaffer also made it very clear he's more than a little angry that, in his estimation, that the Defense Department has spent $2 million trying to ruin his career, trying to stifle him. And over what are trumped up charges of something less than $300 in bureaucratic nonsense.
WELDON: Absolutely, Lou. We have his file from his career. He has letters of commendation from every DIA director. George Tenet had him personally brief him. This guy had a stellar career, a bronze star recipient.
Within two days the bureaucrats, of taking the health care benefits for his two kids and his salary. And stood on the floor of the House and I said if you do that I'll resign, rather than be a part of this outrage. In sends a signal to every uniform person in our military.
DOBBS: Are we going to be able to have the privilege of watching you and your colleagues on Capitol Hill breakthrough this morass and this veil of disinformation and secrecy, that exists within our own government? WELDON: We have no choice, Lou. This is not about the facts here. It's about dedicated military personnel, who take duty, honor, country seriously. If we let this drop, then none of them will have any respect for the institution of the Congress, for the American government. And they'll all believe that to tell the truth puts them at risk and that's not what America's all about.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Congressman Curt Weldon. We'll be continuing our coverage of the Able Danger controversy throughout. Joined us here tomorrow by Pulitzer prize winner investigative journalist Peter Lance.
And coming up at top of this hour, "The Situation Room" and Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Thank you very much, Lou. Good interview.
President Bush speaks out for the first time and the vice president shooting accident. He's standing by his man. The president tonight, his own words.
Plus, the vice president's police report released a few hours ago. No charges will be filed, but are there still some questions that are unanswered.
Also, get this, Al Qaeda job benefits. Seized documents by the U.S. military shows how much they're paid, and how much vacation time terrorist get. You have to see it to believe it.
And see what might be the first line of defense here in the United States, if bird flu hits our soil. That, all of that, lots more, Lou, coming up at the top of the hour.
DOBBS: Wolf, thank you.
Still ahead here, red storm, alarming new picture, satellite pictures reveal China's secret underground hiding places for its growing nuclear arsenal. That special report coming up.
And rising criticism that the Pentagon has little if any useful intelligence on radical Islamist terrorists. General David Grange will be here next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Disturbing new evidence tonight of Communist China's efforts to build up their military at a rate that has not been acknowledged nor recognized by the Bush administration. And disturbing new evidence tonight of an even worsening threat. Newly released commercial satellite photographs showing Chinese nuclear bases that have been secret up to this point. Kitty Pilgrim reports.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): These satellite photos are a view of a secret underwater submarine tunnel in China. Nuclear warheads are thought to be in the tunnel next to the submarine. Nuclear experts bought the photos from commercial satellite companies.
ROBERT NORRIS, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: We purchased these looking for Chinese nuclear weapon facilities. We had some indication of where these facilities might be and then we ordered more high resolution photography from these companies. And zeroed in and found the only Chinese ballistic missile submarine, and a cave that it uses to hide in.
PILGRIM: A Shia class submarine is docked at a base located on the Yellow Sea in the Shandong Province. China conducted war games with Russia in that very region with thousands of troops last year. China's rapid conventional military build-up is well documented. But it's unclear how fast its nuclear arsenal is growing. Estimates on China's nuclear warheads run from 40 to 800 and the Pentagon has said China has about 20 missiles that could hit the United States.
RICHARD FISHER, INT'L. ASSESS. & STRATEGY CTR.: China is working on three types of missiles that can reach the United States, but at the same time it is working on at least two families of land attack cruise missiles that could also be nuclear armed.
PILGRIM: While China acts as a strategic partner with the United States against nuclear North Korea, it hides its own nuclear weapons program from the world.
HENRY SOKOLSKI, NON-PROLIFERATION POLICY EDU. CTR.: The Chinese don't want the explicit in showing exactly what they have in the nuclear arsenal that they're building, because they don't want to spook Japan or the United States into building up in reaction.
PILGRIM: Now the evidence is clear, the Chinese are building up their nuclear and conventional weapons. And Secretary Rumsfeld said China is sending mixed signals by building up its forces in secret, but so far the evidence has not been enough, Lou, to awaken U.S. policymakers.
DOBBS: It's confounding how a secretary of Defense could find such a staggering level of build-up in a nuclear arsenal to be a mixed signal.
PILGRIM: Certainly is. And you know, the conventional build-up is well-documented. This is new evidence that the nuclear issue is coming up also.
DOBBS: This administration perhaps will perceive that, again, as a mixed signal. Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.
Communist China only one of several escalating geopolitical threats facing the United States and indeed Europe and much of the Western world. The United States continues to fight radical Islamists terrorists across world and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States is facing a long war against those terrorists.
But critics now say the Pentagon still has little satisfactory intelligence about those terrorists, and very little idea of how to defeat them. General David Grange joins me here now. General, this is remarkable. That we would be in a situation in which that we don't have actual intelligence on our enemy, radical Islamist terrorists.
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Lou, I believe that there is a lot more enemy out there than we do have our fingers on. And there's a lot of people who hate us. And they're everywhere in the world. And I think they pop up again here and there all of the time and so there is actual intelligence on some of them but it's a tough threat. There's no doubt about it.
DOBBS: As we explore what is happening with Able Danger and the controversy and the hearings that were held yesterday, an extraordinary effort led by Army intelligence, to see that kind of bureaucratic nonsense taking place -- and tragedy, frankly, within the Department of Defense, scuttling lives and careers in point in fact.
Is there anything that can be done to bring a level of leadership that will demand that that kind of attitude be removed from our Department of Defense and our U.S. military?
GRANGE: Well, actually, I mean it's against code not to tell the truth. And when a military person comes forward with the truth, I mean it has to be honored. In court, or honored in testimony of some sort and should be reported. It's the duty of the soldier to do such thing.
DOBBS: And the duty certainly of the men and women who lead the U.S. military from the Pentagon. Are you -- are you hopeful that we're going to see a better response in terms of -- and I will limit this to Defense Department intelligence?
GRANGE: I believe so. I think there's a lot of effort there. It's the long poll in the tent for any operation today against terrorists. And I think so, Lou. I think there is a lot of work being done.
DOBBS: Thank you Dave Grange. We appreciate it.
Still ahead, more of your thoughts on Communist China and results of our poll tonight. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Now the results of tonight's poll: 98 percent of you say that Congress should investigate why the committee on foreign investments in the United States has approved a deal that would give control, operational control, of six major seaports to a country with ties to radical Islamist terrorism. A position the White House continues to say is irreversible.
Now some more of your thoughts on the Bush administration's spending on public relations and advertising.
Scott in Wisconsin said, "Lou, wouldn't we call that so-called advertising propaganda if it were any other country?"
And Felix in California, "How about spending $1.6 billion on or border patrol agents or maybe on armor for our troops!!"
T.V. in New York wrote about the illegal aliens trying to sue the federal government. "Illegal aliens suing FEMA? How do you say Chutzpah in Spanish?"
How about, nervio.
Joe in Texas, "How in the world can Congress condemn Internet companies for their dealings with Communist China when they are giving away the farm with their screwy trade practices? We need to vote those idiots out and clean house."
And Mike in Arkansas, "Lou, all the uproar over the dot.coms in China, but what is the difference between them and Wal-Mart, Motorola, IBM and all the rest of our corporations that have gone there and taken our jobs with them?"
Send us your thoughts at loudobbs.com. We appreciate it. Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow when our guests will include Veterans' Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, Journalist Peter Lance, presidential advisers David Gergen and Ed Rollins. From all of us here, good night, from New York. The "Situation Room" and Wolf Blitzer, right now -- Wolf.
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