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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Two Marine Corps Helicopters Crash In Africa; Members Of Congress Moving To Criticize and Block Sale Of U.S. Ports To Foreign Company; Muslim Clerics Calling For Fatwa Against Cartoonists

Aired February 17, 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 Friday, February 17th. Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, President Bush at it again, talking up the war on terror and speaking out in front of a carefully selected, screened audience. And, yes, the president seems to believe there is no difference between the illegal alien crisis and the prohibition era. We'll have the story.

Democrats and Republicans are trying to keep the president from giving up control of six of our nation's seaports to a United Arab Emirates company, a company and country with ties to the Taliban and radical Islamic terrorists. We'll have a special report.

We'll be talking to three of the country's top political commentators on a week rich in political news and controversy. Ed Rollins, David Gergen, and Michael Goodwin join me.

And the Able Danger controversy. I'll be talking with an Emmy Award journalist about what he believes is a series of cover-ups and investigative failures leading up to September 11th.

And, are we doing enough to care for our veterans in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? The secretary of veterans affairs, Jim Nicholson, is my guest here. Those stories and more coming up ahead.

We begin tonight with breaking news out of Africa. Two U.S. Marine Corps helicopters crashed into the waters off the coast of the Horn of Africa. There were 12 marines aboard those two choppers, six on each. We're going now live to the Pentagon. Barbara Starr has the latest for us -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Lou, very sad news breaking here on this Friday evening at the Pentagon. Two Marine Corps CH-53 helicopters crashing into the waters off Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. A search and rescue crew is underway at this hour but, of course, it is nighttime there. The going will be very tough.

The only thing that officials here are able to tell us at this point is that they have no reason to believe that there was any hostile fire involved. I can tell you I flew with those Marine Corps crews last month when we were in Djibouti. They're terrific guys, they're terrific crews.

They always fly in pairs two at a time, for the very issue of flight safety. If one helicopter has trouble and has to land, the other one's there can pick up the crew and they can move on.

So very sad news tonight, search and rescue underway. As you say, 12 personnel on board. No word yet about the fate of any of them -- Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara, it's early in this report of this tragedy, as to how long ago it occurred. Do we know?

STARR: No we do not. The early word is very, very sketchy at this point. The troops out in the Horn of Africa move around this very remote region quite a bit. Their job out there -- there's 1,400 U.S. troops in the Horn, and their job is humanitarian relief.

So they are always on the move, always flying, ferrying troops, supplies, relief efforts around the Horn of Africa to people that are desperately in need.

They took us to a very interesting place. I think you see some video here. They took us to the border of Somalia last month, so they fly in really tough circumstances, but they are great crews. Something apparently went very wrong, Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara Starr from the Pentagon. Thank you. Barbara.

We will have, of course, all of the news surrounding these developments throughout the evening here as we try to ascertain what happened to the crews of those two U.S. Marine Corps helicopters.

There are new efforts by the Bush administration to move beyond the shooting accident involving Vice President Cheney a week ago almost. Vice President Cheney traveled to his home state of Wyoming for his first public comments since last week's events.

President Bush traveled to Tampa, Florida. There he spoke out on national security, a familiar theme for the White House in moments of political crisis. Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the White House is certainly hoping to put this behind them. At this hour the president is raising some $30 million for the Republican party in Florida. And then earlier today it was the vice president that got a little help from his friends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(APPLAUSE)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Vice President Dick Cheney on friendly ground, before the Wyoming State Legislature where he once interned, a safe place to acknowledge the man he accidentally shot nearly a week ago.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a wonderful experience to be greeted with such warmth by the leaders of our great state. That's especially true when you've had a very long week. Thankfully, Harry Whittington is on the mend and doing very well.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm moving on.

MALVEAUX: After nearly a week of trying to change the subject from Cheney's hunting accident to other issue, Mr. Bush went to Tampa, Florida, to get a briefing on the war on terror and to sell his agenda.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Removing Saddam Hussein has made America safer and the world a better place.

MALVEAUX: Taking questions from the, audience he was showered with praise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think our country's blessed to have you as our president.

BUSH: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: And then asked how he was coping with Cheney's hunting accident dominating the news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you keep it together?

BUSH: Well, I appreciate that. It's a loaded question. I keep it in perspective. There's a lot of noise in Washington.

MALVEAUX: The president adeptly turned the focus back to the war on terror.

BUSH: 9/11 changed my thinking, so my focus it there.

MALVEAUX: And then observed it would be best to say nothing about Cheney's hunting accident.

BUSH: First I'm wise enough not to fall into your trap, because there are some keen reporters paying attention to every word I'm saying.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Well, of course, we will be paying attention to every word that he is saying. Next week the president is going to be focusing on his energy policy, he's going to be taking his message on the road when he travels to Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin -- Lou.

DOBBS: This speech, Suzanne, the audience screened, selected?

MALVEAUX: Well, this is the same kind of process where you have to go through the Chamber of Commerce to get tickets, so essentially, anybody can go to this affair but, obviously, this was a very Bush- friendly, White House-friendly audience.

DOBBS: Screened and selected I think then, would probably be the situation. And secondly, did the president say a single new thing today about the war on terror? MALVEAUX: This was very much the same that we've heard before reiterating essentially his speech, trying to convince Americans to get on board when it comes to the war on terror. No new specifics about this, simply trying to push this forward as well as his economic agenda.

DOBBS: Suzanne Malveaux from the White House. Thank you.

The man the vice president accidentally shot walked out of a Texas hospital today. Harry Whittington gave a statement before the media, defending and apologizing to the man who shot him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY WHITTINGTON, SHOOTING VICTIM: We all assume certain risks in whatever we do, whatever activities we pursue. And regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen. And that's what happened last Friday.

My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week. We send our love and respect to them as they deal with situations that are much more serious than what we've had this week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DOBBS: Visibly bruised on the right side of his face and neck, Harry Whittington was discharged from the hospital many days earlier than many expected.

It is astounding that President Bush chose the Port of Tampa today to defend his commitment to national security and to encourage the war against radical Islamist terrorism.

It was only yesterday that his administration refused to review the deal that will hand over control of six key U.S. seaports to a company based in the United Arab emirates, a country with ties to the 9/11 terrorists. Many members of Congress today moving to complain, to criticize, and even block that deal.

Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senators Clinton and Menendez are working on legislation to stop the acquisition of American Port Operations by the Dubai Ports World, but the Bush administration has already made it clear that the deal is approved and not about to be reopened. It's doubtful that this or any legislation could stop t.

JIM SCHOLLAERT, MADE IN USA STRATEGIES: This legislation has all the hallmarks of an appeal to political emotions of the moment and as such probably will go nowhere.

TUCKER: As some look at possible legislation, others in Congress are raising questions about the review of the deal by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. They note that the deal was reviewed and approved in less than a month, and that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was never even approached by Treasury or the Department of Homeland Security.

REP. PETE KING (R), NEW YORK: Now, here's, you know, the governmental operation which runs these ports, which has a responsibility for security and maintenance, everything else -- they weren't told about it, not asked for their opinion, not asked about input whatsoever.

TUCKER: In a letter to Treasury Secretary Snow, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey wants some answers. Specifically, the Port Authority wants to know what was the review process? Was there a background investigation of DP World? Has a security review been conducted? Did Treasury or DHS prepare any reports in the application for approval filed by DP World? At the core of the concerns is the unique nature of port security.

MIKE KREITZER, ELLER & CO.: The ports are guarded by, in effect, private industry, and it is troublesome to know that there may be a foreign government that takes a certain significant responsibility for that, and it's a foreign government that comes from a place in the world where there is great social unrest.

TUCKER: Kreitzer represent a company, which is currently in a 50/50 joint venture with P&L. His company was never questioned by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Now, today the vice foreign minister issued the following statement, quote, "I understand the debate in the U.S. on the issue, but we would like to emphasize that we have been a strong ally of the United States in combating terrorism and will remain so," end quote -- Lou.

DOBBS: Peter King bringing the chairman of the House Committee, Homeland Security Committee, bringing this to the attention, being simply swatted away by the Bush administration. Senators Menendez and Clinton saying they're going to introduce legislation to stop it.

It's extraordinary that with this level of complaint within both the Republican and Democratic Parties that the White House is absolutely deaf on this issue.

TUCKER: Well, the White House clearly thinks they can get away with it. And legislation is going to have to pass the desk of the president and he obviously feels like he's got a veto-proof way to approve the deal.

DOBBS: A veto-proof deal perhaps, but does it meet any reasonable test of a responsibility to secure the national interest? Of course, there is the matter of the security of our borders as well.

Bill Tucker, thank you very much. China and Iran reportedly close to announcing a major energy partnership that will give China access to a steady stream of Iranian oil. Under this deal, China will invest some $100 billion to develop a huge Iranian oil field called the Yadavaran Field. China will also reportedly agree to buy 10 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year as part of this deal.

Coming up here next, we're continuing to follow the breaking news out of Africa tonight, the tragic news. Two U.S. Marine Corps helicopters have crashed into the waters off the coast of Africa. We'll be taking you live to the Pentagon for the latest.

And protests over Danish cartoons intensifying, violence spreading. We'll have the latest on an incredible development.

Also, our nation's newest citizens. They speak out tonight on the illegal alien crisis. Answers from those who chose to become American citizens legally.

And why this administration continues to open itself up to charges of cronyism and more cronyism. That report coming up, still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The values of freedom of speech and expression remain under attack tonight as the Danish cartoon fury has intensified in the Muslim world. Tonight Muslim clerics calling for a fatwa against the cartoonists, as protests intensify and remain unchecked.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Friday, the day of prayer for Muslims, in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, many Muslims had more violent plans. This Muslim cleric and two members of his congregation openly offered to pay $1 million plus a car to anyone who killed a Danish cartoonist.

MOHAMMED YOUSAF OURESHI, CHIEF CLERIC, MOHABAT KHAN MOSQUE: Whoever will take this insulting man to his end will get this prize.

DANIEL BENJAMIN, AUTHOR, "THE NEXT ATTACK": Pakistani religious parties have been increasing their power pretty substantially and this is a big opportunity for them to turn into the streets and to demonstrate and to put President Musharraf under real pressure.

PILGRIM: Denmark has had its embassies burned to the ground and has shut its missions in Syria, Iran, Indonesia and Lebanon. Radicals have also used the incident to stir up hatred against the United States. Passions are being inflamed for various reasons around the Muslim world.

OMAR MCDOOM, BELFER CTR. KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOV.: A lot of the violence we have seen has been orchestrated. The initial violence we saw, for example, in Beirut and Lebanon when the Danish embassy was attacked there.

When we looked at the arrest records of the rioters, we discovered that in fact the vast majority of them were Syrian nationals who were resident in Lebanon, so these are people who I think have been bussed in deliberately to escalate what would have ordinarily have been peaceful protests into something more violent.

PILGRIM: In Libya today, riots left 11 people dead or wounded. As police clashed with 100 demonstrators, the Italian Consulate was set on fire.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, the street tensions are high, but many official governments are also cracking down on those who publish the cartoons. Reporters in Yemen, Syria and Algeria have been jailed for also printing those cartoons -- Lou.

DOBBS: And the clerics calling for the death of the cartoonist.

PILGRIM: Yes, they put a bounty on is head.

DOBBS: And have we heard from Muslim leaders of the Muslim community globally condemning those clerics? Because it does offend a civilized persons sensibility.

PILGRIM: It certainly does. And this has been sorely lacking, the moderate Muslim voice, in this entire incident.

DOBBS: And also lacking has been the courage in the Western press to print and publish and present these cartoons. But it is obvious that sensitivity and sensibility of course is reciprocated in this environment.

Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much.

The Dutch cartoon protest rising to new levels of absurdity tonight. Iranians outraged over the Danish cartoon controversy have done something almost seemingly rational in all of this madness. They have decided to rename Danish pastry. Do you remember French fries and freedom fries?

Well, bakeries across Iran are now calling Danish pastries, quote, "roses for the Prophet Mohammed." They call this a punishment for those who insult Islam. A somewhat more palatable punishment than, say, a fatwa, which is also of course now in effect as well.

Turning now to a crisis in this country. As we have reported, millions of illegal aliens pour across our borders every year. Many people try to confuse illegal immigration with legal immigration. It suits their agenda, their purposes. And that can overshadow significantly the millions of people who wait years even decades to earn the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship.

Christine Romans reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy-five people from 39 countries, all new Americans. This pediatrician from Pakistan, architect and professor from Mexico and pharmacist from Colombia weigh in on the historic possibility to fix America's broken borders.

Rocco Duran served in the U.S. military and has three American children.

ROCCO DURAN, AMERICAN CITIZEN: I have played by the roles. And, yes, it's been, you know, at times maybe a little bureaucratic, cumbersome, but, you know, to hear about, you know, these proposals where, you know, illegals are coming across the border and just having some kind of a, you know, to give them citizenship or amnesty or a driver's license, I mean, I think that's just not the right single to be sending.

ROMANS: Enrique Norten, on his first day as an American already a cynic about Washington's motives.

ENRIQUE NORTEN, AMERICAN CITIZEN: There's many of the other issues. And I clearly understand that its tainted by many political interests. And that sometimes it defers really from the interests of the people of this country.

ROMANS: Pediatrician Dr. Fouzia Rishi has been in this country since 1988. She stayed using an Visa she could, tourist, student, exchange visitor, H-1, finally a green card, and now citizenship. She says even those who get to this country illegally should have a pathway to citizenship.

FOUZIA RISHI, AMERICAN CITIZEN: The diversity over here, that's very appealing, and I think it make a better people. So I agree with the residents, you know, giving amnesty and bringing people in.

ROMANS: But these people are products of America's official immigration system.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Having played by the rules, these Americans now have a voice and a vote, and true to the nature of America, there were as many opinions on immigration reform, Lou, as they were new Americans in the room.

DOBBS: And like all Americans, there has to be a majority, because it still is majority rule, sometimes just barely. What did the majority believe on the issue of illegal immigration?

ROMANS: Majority believe that something has to be done. How to do it -- that's where they all differ.

DOBBS: OK, Christine Romans, thank you.

We'd like to know your thoughts. Do you believe the presidential guest worker amnesty program is an insult to the millions of immigrants who wait for years to become legal citizens of this country? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results later here in the broadcast.

Up next, we'll take you back live to the Pentagon for the very latest on the breaking story. Two of our marine helicopters have crashed off the coast of Africa tonight.

And charges of cronyism once again for the Bush administration, another high-profile nominee drawing attention for his absolute lack of qualification and experience for the job. But he wouldn't be in charge of anything special or critical, just the economy.

And another week the White House might like to forget. I'll be joined by three of the country's sharpest political minds. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: You might think the Bush administration would do everything in its power to avoid the appearance of cronyism after all of the uproar over former FEMA director Michael Brown and others, but it appears the White House has failed to learn its lesson.

Critics say the nomination of a 35-year-old White House aide, one Kevin Warsh, to the board of the Federal Reserve has more to do with Warsh's political connections than with his qualifications or experience.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Federal Reserve's current board members each has a hefty resume. Four of the five have Ph.D.s in economics, the fifth has been a banker since 1966 and is a former head of the American Bankers Association.

But a new nominee to the Fed is raising eyebrows, 35-year-old Kevin Warsh, a White House aide.

KEVIN WARSH, FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD NOMINEE: If confirmed, I can assure this committee I will be devoted solely to the Federal Reserve statutory mandate for monetary policy.

SYLVESTER: After law school, Warsh worked on Wall Street for six years on mergers and acquisitions and then got a political appointment on the staff of the White House National Economic Council.

TOM SCHLESINGER, FINANCIAL MARKETS CENTER: It's not the deepest or most well-rounded resume that any Fed appointee has ever sported. We do have reservations because so little is known about his background and his view.

SYLVESTER: But he is known in social circles for his wife, Jane Lauder, a granddaughter of cosmetics founder Estee Lauder. The Lauder party has been a long-time supporter of the Republican Party. Warsh's father-in-law was a U.S. ambassador to Austria and has contributed more than $165,000 to Republican campaigns since 2002.

Warsh's nomination comes after the White House has been criticized for picking nominees long on political ties and short on credentials: FEMA's Michael Brown, Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief Julie Myers.

ROBERTA BASKIN, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: The Federal Reserve Board, where you're talking about the economy and raising, lowering interest rates and the global economy and so you really should be -- this should be a case where experience trumps politics.

SYLVESTER: Warsh was not available for an interview, but the White House says, "the criticism is completely misplaced. The president selects only individuals who are highly qualified."

If approved, Warsh, at 35, will be the youngest member ever to sit on the Federal Reserve Board. The average age currently is 58.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: Critics say perhaps more troubling is that for the first time ever, the Federal Reserve Board could have three members who recently served in the White House that appointed them. That raises questions if the independent Federal Reserve will begin taking cues from the White House -- Lou.

DOBBS: I don't think it so much, Lisa, raises questions as answers them. Lisa, thank you. Lisa Sylvester.

Coming up next, we have new developments to report to you on the two U.S. Marine Corps helicopters that crashed off the coast of Africa. We'll go live to the Pentagon for a report from Barbara Starr.

Also ahead, the vice president speaks publicly about his very long week, as he put it, but is it enough to move the White House past another political crisis? Three of our nation's top political analysts are with me next.

And caring for our veterans. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson will be here to tell us whether our veterans will be receiving the best care possible.

And Able Danger -- a Congressional uncovering new information about the secret intelligence program and what it discovered before September 11th. Award-winning investigative journalist Peter Lance joins me next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Updating you now on developing news out of Africa. Two U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 helicopters have crashed in the waters off the coast of the Horn of Africa near Djibouti. There were 12 Marines aboard the two helicopters, six on each. Barbara Starr at Pentagon has more information.

Barbara, bring us up to date.

STARR: Lou, the Pentagon just now confirming that two injured crew members have been recovered but still 10 people are missing. The search and rescue goes on.

Two CH-53e Marine helicopters heavy lift transport helicopters crashing earlier today off the coast of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. Officials strongly emphasizing there is no indication of hostile fire. This does appear to be a very tragic accident, Lou.

DOBBS: All right. So while the Pentagon is not yet saying it, Barbara, the clear implication is they collided?

STARR: That would be a very reasonable implication here, Lou. They're very reluctant to say it publicly. First reports from such a remote area are very difficult. They want to make sure they know exactly what happened. They don't believe there was any hostile fire involved of at this point, Lou.

DOBBS: Two Marines have been rescued. Rescue efforts are under way for the other 10 Marines. There is some good news in this tragedy. We thank you for that, Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

More now on what has been a difficult political week for this White House following Vice President Cheney's hunting accident. I'm joined now by three of the country's top political analysts Ed Rollins, served at White House political director under President Reagan.

Good to have you with us.

ED ROLLINS, POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you.

DOBBS: And Michael Goodwin, columnist for "The Daily News", joining us from Boston -- David Gergen, he's not a columnist, former adviser to four presidents.

Dave, good to have you as well.

DAVID GERGEN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.

DOBBS: Michael, let's start with you.

This is a week-long unwinding of a story that should have been perhaps more measured in its reporting. Is the frenzy justified?

MICHAEL GOODWIN, COLUMNIST, "THE DAILY NEWS": Probably not, but I think it apparently was the any way to get information out of the White House. I don't know that Cheney would have ever spoken had there not been such a clamor for it.

I think, yesterday when President Bush spoke and said he's satisfied with Cheney's answer, he really had no choice, because all of the reports coming out about how there was division, the White House wasn't happy with Cheney. I think the president had to finally put a stopper in it.

DOBBS: Was the president really satisfied, David Gergen?

GERGEN: Ha! That we'll never know. We'll wait for the memoirs on that, Lou. There's no question that this week unusually the White House staff and -- by implication saying that the president was not happy, that they would have handled it differently from the vice president's staff.

And my bet is that the dynamics inside will change some. There have been a series of things now, the Libby indictment, this, and some other things that what you're going see now in the end game in Iraq, and on the decisions on Iran, Hamas, and the like and that is that Condi Rice going emerge now, even more clearly as the heavyweight of the second term. And I think the vice president's voice may be a little diminished.

DOBBS: OK. Ed, first do you agree with that? And, secondly, has this administration simply lost its way? Not only on this incident which in the scheme of things, like a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a global war on terror, and the plight of millions of Americans who have to face an uncertain future economically?

ROLLINS: First, relative to the vice president, this was a terrible tragedy, an accident obviously. It's something that could have been cleaned up in a day if they would have been very forceful and out front. You know, to let it go on three or four days even the president, I think, and the White House staff had said it should have been handled on the first day.

You know, my sense is they've lost an edge. This is a very good campaign organization and the last couple weeks after the State of Union, it is very good for them to get back on the offensive. They've got to lead this Congress. They have to basically drive some serious legislation and I think to a certain extent they've been distracted by side bar things --

DOBBS: Here's a little side bar, Ed. See if this decides that it's already to turn over control of an operation of six U.S. seaports to a United Arab Emirates company?

ROLLINS: You'll never be able to explain that to the American public.

DOBBS: Forget the great unwashed American public, who are a hell a lot smarter than anybody gives them credit for -- because I'm one of them, all right?

ROLLINS: Yeah. Me, too.

DOBBS: We're going to raise -- you know, we're going to raise the level here a little bit. How in the heck can a U.S. administration of either party simply do this and over the objections of Congress say it's fine, you don't know what the hell you're talking about? ROLLINS: You'll pay a price. At the end of the day it will be rescinded. I think there will ban an outrage as it gets more known and we can create 53,000 federal inspectors to do transportation security in airports, we've not basically focused on the ports. I think there is far more danger there. So, the mere fact that this company, it may be a perfectly reputable company, but the perception is, how do you secure them?

GOODWIN: Can I just say?

DOBBS: Sure.

GOODWIN: I was struck by the fact that if Democrats had been saying, let's let this company run the ports, the president possibly would have said, no, that would be a security risk. I mean, hear you have ...

DOBBS: Who knows what these people would say.

They have borders that are unsecure to the north, south, seaports, we're only inspecting about 4 percent of the goods coming in to this country. We even have -- now, I'm going to just say it -- an idiot in homeland security saying that, the real issue is the ports abroad that we have already lost the battle if we've, we have to worry about domestic ports, which is inane comment. One knows what -- well, you think you know what he was trying to say. But that's inane. We should drop our defenses on domestically.

GOODWIN: That is one of the things we've all counted on, for the president to be consistent on. When he's consistent, the Democrats waiver. This time it looks like the president is confused and the Democrats have it right.

DOBBS: And Senator Menendez and Senator Clinton, David Gergen, saying they're going to introduce legislation to shut down this reckless administration when it comes to our seaports?

GERGEN: Well, they've been joined by Senator Lautenberg and others, a lot of people around these ports.

DOBBS: They were first.

GERGEN: That's right.

Well, what was it they said? President Bush, Sr. said back in 1991, this will not stand? This will not stand. There are too many people who live -- I bet 50 percent of the American population lives within 100 miles of these ports. And you're going to find a lot of people are going to be nervous. They're not going to want an Arab company controlling -- which is very closely tied to an Arab government, which has had inconsistent record.

DOBBS: That recognizing the Taliban, not recognize the state of Israel. I mean, what in the heck are we thinking?

GERGEN: I mean, it's going to cause all of these questions, who's working for these people? Who does the clearances? All the rest of it. I don't think they want to live with that kind of danger --

DOBBS: What is this administration doing, Ed Rollins? I mean, my gosh, today the president goes -- I'm tempted to say to describe the words otherwise -- I'll simply say he went on to say, I remember -- talking about illegal immigration, quote, "I remember reading about it, prohibition" he said. "You know, people still made whiskey because people wanted to drink it. So guess what's happening today? We got people stuffed into the back of 18 wheelers driving across hot deserts to find jobs." Comparing, again, illegal to prohibition. What in the world is the president thinking? What in the world is his staff thinking?

ROLLINS: I don't think anybody understand the animosity that's out there both among Republicans on the Hill, and around the country. You go to a place like Florida, you go to a place like California or Arizona, Texas. People are very concerned about the security of our borders and I think what the Congress has already passed, which is border security, is all he's going to get. He won't get anything beyond that at this point.

DOBBS: This president was talking about the war on terror to a select, screened, carefully chosen audience today, and has the temerity to say that.

And David Gergen, he's snickering about the fact because he's standing in front of building trades people talking about this and saying, you won't go to the job site, the implication being clearly, that he thought he might find some illegal aliens. This from the president of the united states! Sworn to uphold the laws of this country!

GERGEN: Listen, I think they're tired.

(LAUGHTER)

DOBBS: You know, with that that is probably the kindest conclusion that the three of us can -- the three of you could reach.

ROLLINS: Dave, you want to serve a fifth president? They could use your talents.

DOBBS: They certainly could use something. David's, yours and Michael's. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Take a look now as some your thoughts.

Richard in California wrote in to say, "Leaving lawyers and governmental bureaucrats to manage critical areas as Homeland Security and FEMA is just nuts. Why don't we hire experienced people from the private sector to really run vital services instead of promoting amateurs and watching them fail time and time again?"

You have to send your question actually I urge you to do it directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Delores in Arkansas, "Lou, you said that President Bush said that vice president Cheney did a fine job of explaining the hunting accident. Seem we heard something like that before, as in -- Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

And from M. Page in Arkansas, "Lou, if the president's intentions were to make himself look smart by surrounding himself with idiots, so far it hasn't worked."

Send us your thoughts at Loudobbs.com. We'll have more of your thoughts later here on the broadcast. Coming right up what Congressman Curt Weldon, NASA scientist James Hanson and a sheriff in Oregon all have in common. We'll have that next.

And Emmy Award winning investigative journalist Peter Lance joins me. We'll be talking about what he calls an Able Danger cover-up that continues, even after hearings on Capitol Hill.

And are we not doing enough to care for our veterans? Can we do more? Should we? Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Jim Nicholson joins me here. That's coming up. Please, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Congressman Curt Weldon succeeded in holding congressional hearings on Able Danger this week. But the Able Danger controversy certainly will continue. Emmy Award winning investigative journalist Peter Lance joins me now on the Able Danger situation, controversy, case.

Peter, are you encouraged by the hearings that you watched?

PETER LANCE, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: I'm encouraged by Congressman Weldon's tenacity, but frankly, I...

DOBBS: Absolutely

LANCE: I think he was he was betrayed by his own committee, frankly. The fact so much of the hearing was held in closed session, why should Philip Zelikow, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission have testified in closed session? Why did they diminish Lt. Colonel Anthony Schaffer, a decorated member of the Able Danger, calling him Mister Schafer on the witness list.

DOBBS: That is, after all, the Armed Services Committee reaching out there. And the fact is that the testimony that was opened up, about the Colonel Schaffer, as you say, a distinguished veteran.

LANCE: Right.

DOBBS: What the military has done to try to destroy this man's career trying to come forward with what the Able Danger project was able to learn, including information about the USS Cole, that could have saved the USS Cole and those 17 lives; that could, had it been acted on, that interest and concern as Yemen in the days leading up to that attack is remarkable. This much is on the record

LANCE: It is. And that's important. I think another thing that isn't on the record, though, is the testimony of Dietrich Snell, this is where the committee let Congressman Weldon down. They never formally requested that Dietrich Snell show up at the hearing. He was able today to issue a statement saying, well I talked to the committee people. I'd be happy to testify if they ask me, but they really didn't ask me to come, formally.

DOBBS: Actually, well, Dietrich -- or Dieter Snell, his nickname, gave us a statement. Do we have that statement available to put up very quickly? Because we asked Dieter Snell for a statement, and this is -- I'm told we have it.

There it is. And this is his statement. Saying he had talked with and given answers to the staff of the Armed Services Committee about Able Danger. Declined our invitation to be here to discuss Able Danger and his role in the investigation. You have quite a different view of what he has done here?

LANCE Yes. Dietrich Snell is a linchpin to help us explain why the Able Danger information was suppressed both by the FBI and also the 9/11 commission, and yet Dietrich Snell has never been subject to any kind of adversarial questioning. He testified, he was a staff counsel before the 9/11 commission. He presented staff statement 16, a few softball questions from the commissioners.

But Dietrich Snell, in my opinion, is connected with at least four affirmative cover-ups on the road to 9/11 in the Clinton Justice Department and those cover-ups carried over and linked with the Able Danger operation. So if he was here tonight, if you'd let me ask a couple of question, I'd be happy to put these questions forward as to what Mr. Snell should answer. He's a public servant, he has no executive privilege, working for Eliot Spitzer, attorney general of the state of New York. He should come forward in an open forum and answer these questions.

DOBBS: He does not want to do that obviously, or he would. The question is, why do you think he's been involved in? As you put it, a cover-up? He's been a prosecutor, investigator in the war on terrorism?

LANCE: Right. A distinguished prosecutor, in fact, in my first book, "A 1,000 Years for Revenge", I was very praiseworthy of him. But, look, Dietrich Snell, in 1995, the southern district of New York was a party to a suppression's information from the Philippines that the plot, the 9/11 plot had begun as early as 1994. That was suppressed.

In 1996, he participates in a secret indictment of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, no one ever heard of Khalid Shaikh until 1998, at a time, by then he's already got the plot well underway in Hamburg. Dietrich Snell -- when I testified before the Commission it was a closed-door hearing, no stenographer present. He takes my information and basically flushes it. When the Able Danger people, Scott Philpot, presented his information about a direct tie between Al Qaeda and the Brooklyn cell and Yousef and blind Sheikh Rahman, Dietrich Snell flushes that from the 9/11 report. Why? DOBBS: And go on to draw the connection between a plot that -- and you make a convincing case that could have affected even TWA flight 800.

LANCE: 800, absolutely.

DOBBS: And the fact that we do not know the resolution to these instances. It suggests either extraordinarily, terrible, terrible investigatory efforts, and results on the part of a number of our agencies including the FBI, the CIA, the Defense intelligence, as well, State Department intelligence and security.

But at the end of the day, we've got to get to these -- if we're going to understand 9/11, we've got get to the answers. Do you believe that Congressman Weldon and this Congress will pursue this through the Department of Defense?

LANCE: I totally believe Congressman Weldon wants to and if Senator Specter -- I think we have to put this back in the Senate now. Arlen Specter is a courageous lawmaker and I think his committee is now the one that needs to take this up and Dietrich Snell has to answer the largest unsolved mass murder in American history, New York homicides, Lou. And he's in New York state. Why not come forward and tell the truth?

DOBBS: Putting the focus clearly on the principle investigative elements, that is, the New York office of the FBI, and the Southern District of New York U.S. attorneys' office.

Peter Lance, thanks for being here.

LANCE: Thank you.

DOBBS: Each week here we salute the individuals and organizations we think have made some pretty remarkable contributions to our society and country. Those earning our admiration and respect this week and deserving, we think, special note, none other than Congressman Curt Weldon. His courage and his commitment to hold hearings on Able Danger. For his commitment to protecting as well, government whistle-blowers.

And Sheriff John Trumbo, Umatilla County, Oregon. He sent a bill for more than $300,000 to none other than Mexican President Vicente Fox for the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens criminals, saying enough is enough. By the way, Sheriff Trumbo joins us here Tuesday.

Dr. James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Doctor Hansen says NASA tried to stop him from speaking out of the dangers of global warming. Dangers, that he says are intensified. He will be our guest here this coming Tuesday, to discuss this rising threat.

And a reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe the president's guest worker amnesty program is an insult to the millions of immigrants who wait for years to become legal citizens of the United States? Please cast your vote at Loudobbs.com. Results are coming up here, in just a moment.

Coming up next, is this country doing enough to care for our men and women in uniform who defend it? Secretary of Veteran's Affairs Jim Nicholson is my guest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The president's new budget allocates $80 billion for the Department of Veteran's Affairs, an increase of 12 percent over year ago. Still, the new budget has many critics. I'm joined now by the nation's Secretary of Veteran's Affairs Jim Nicholson.

Mr. Secretary, good to have you here.

JIM NICHOLSON, SECRETARY, VETERAN'S AFFAIRS: Good to be with you, Lou.

DOBBS: It's a lot of money. You know as well as everyone else there are many veterans groups that still think there should be more. Concern about various facilities that are being closed. Let me read to you something that a Senator Larry Craig, I'm sure you're familiar with this quote.

He said in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he said, "What will occur in the near future -- be it under the current discretionary funding process or under a mandatory funding formula is that VA spending will collide with spending demands made in other areas of government. I asked all of my colleagues," said Senator Craig, "and the veteran's organizations, what do we them what do we do in the face of a challenge?"

What are you going to do? Because the costs are monumental, the demand, you as a veteran, absolutely committed to the care of our veterans, and all of us insist that we give the best to the people who serve us most.

NICHOLSON: Well, I think it was Washington who said can you tell the mark of a society the way it takes care of its veterans. By that standard we Americans are a great society. This president is extremely supportive of our care of the veterans.

This budget request that I testified to Senator Craig, and his committee, on yesterday is an increase of 69 percent since President Bush came in to office. We are now seeing a record number of veterans. We have 25 million veterans and we have 7.5 million enrolled in our health care. Last year we had 55 million patient visits. We project 61 million this year, because our veterans, of course -- I'm not, but many of the veterans are getting older. I'm just kidding. We Vietnam veterans are aging, too. And the older you get, the more ailments you have, so the more clinic visits you have. We have a great demand on the system.

DOBBS: With that levity, the older you get the more you enjoy getting older. The proposed 2007 budget for veterans, you know, Mr. Secretary, has non-disabled higher income to pay a $250 annual enrollment. American Legion National Commander Thomas Bock said, and I want to quote, "It's a budget request built on charging new annual enrollment fees for VA care, nearly doubling co-payments, driving 1.2 million veterans out of the system specifically created for them."

NICHOLSON: Well, this is a difficult subject to discuss in a short time and sort of sound bite terminology, but there's a real equity.

DOBBS: That is so simple you almost have to give me a yes or no, Mr. Secretary.

NICHOLSON: Well, the answer is, it's fair. If you spent 30 years in the military like I did and retired, you're on what is called tri- care. You pay an annual enrollment fee and you pay a co-payment that is considerably higher than we're asking just the people that have no service disablement, and have good jobs to pay to get our great care at the VA.

DOBBS: Secretary Nicholson, good to have you here

NICHOLSON: It was good to be with you.

DOBBS: Appreciate it.

Still ahead, the results of our poll tonight. We'll have more of your thoughts specifically about illegal immigration. Then we'll look at what's coming up next week. Please, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight -- 97 percent of you say the president's guest worker amnesty program is an insult to the millions of immigrants who wait for years to become legal citizens of the United States.

And time now to take a look at more of your thoughts. Bob in New York wrote in to say, "Perhaps word that Dick Cheney is now patrolling the Mexican border fully armed will slow illegal immigration to trickle."

Virginia, in Pennsylvania, said, "Lou, why is illegal immigration still under discussion? I checked "Webster's", the definition of illegal hasn't changed."

And Richard in Georgia, "Lou, I can't believe the audacity of those individuals who as illegals have no legal rights, but demand we treat them as such. If they don't like it, they can go home."

And Dave in New Jersey, said, "Lou, what's next? Al Qaeda operatives protesting in Washington we're not doing enough to support them? What's happened to this country, anyway?"

And Robert in California, "They're selling ports to Arabs, our Southern border and jobs to Mexico, our industry to China and trying to sell the airlines to anybody! When will they tell us who bought Washington, D.C.?" And Timothy in Tennessee, "Lou, if the president will sell our ports to a country that supports terrorists why not let Osama bin Laden stay in the Lincoln bedroom?"

And Patrick in North Carolina, "Maybe we can get the Taliban to take over the Coast Guard or Customs."

Anita, in Illinois, "Dear Lou, as long as we're going to hand over our port security to Dubai, what's next? Turning over border security to Vicente Fox?

And Silva, M.S. Silva in Colorado, "Lou, with the idea of selling our ports, why bother with wiretapping?"

And Sigrid in Colorado, "Why don't we just put the White House on the market? Contents included."

We love hearing from you. Send your thoughts to Loudobbs.com. Each e-mail read here receive as copy of my book, "Exporting America". Also, if you would like to receive our e-mail newsletter, sign up on our website.

We thank you for being with us tonight. Join us here next week. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman will join me just days after he said our trade relationship with Communist China now needs adjustment. We hope you're looking forward to it. I know I am. For all of us here, have a pleasant weekend. Good night from New York.

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