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THE SITUATION ROOM

President Bush Was On the Road Calling On Americans To Show Patient With Iraq War; Update On Naji Sabri; Could The Government Have Stopped 9/11 Attacks If Moussaoui Warned officials About Plot In Advance?; Senator Clinton Trying To Block Immigration Bill; Harry Reid Interview; Technology May Make Learning Languages Easier

Aired March 22, 2006 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And it is 5:00 p.m. here in Washington. To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, it's 1:00 a.m. in Baghdad, where Shiite pilgrims fall victim to sectarian slaughter as President Bush calls on Iraq to get its act together and put a government together.

It's 2:00 p.m. in southern California. Could the next election be a battle over the border as politicians feel the push and pull over illegal immigration? I'll speak with the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid.

And it's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington. You pay your taxes to the IRS, but will the IRS let others pay to get your financial and personal information?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Bush was out on the road once again today, calling on Americans to show patience with the war in Iraq. But is he showing impatience with the failure of Iraqis to govern themselves and defend themselves?

Let's go live to our White House Correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, what's the answer?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the answer is yes, that the president did show that, and essentially that falls into the theme that you heard from the president today. And we've heard that from him over the past several days, Wolf, as you know.

What he is trying to do is show that he is listening to the concerns of the American people when it comes to Iraq. Now, most of that is, of course, the violence. But some of it also is the political situation, the fact that the elections there were held more than three months ago and they still don't have a government. That is what the president honed in on today in his wide-ranging town hall event, and he said his administration is making clear to the Iraqis that that must happen soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people have spoken. And now it's time for a government to get stood up. There's time for the elected represent -- or those who represent the voters and the political parties to come together and form a unity government. And that's what the people want, otherwise, they wouldn't have gone to the polls, would they have?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, for the most part, today's event was the same kind of thing that we have heard from the president in terms of the substance, the themes over the past several days. But what the White House tried to do with the style of this event, the town hall event, is to have the president not stand behind the podium but be free-wheeling, talk about these things in a more folksy way, perhaps.

For example, in talking about the idea of the need and the desire and the ability, perhaps, to win in Iraq, he talked about the fact that he wouldn't sit with mothers and fathers of troops who are in Iraq and say that they should stay there if he didn't believe that America can win. So, that's just one of the things that the president brought up a number of times.

He made clear that he understands Americans' concerns, he understand that there is anxiety. And Wolf, he even said those things before he took any questions.

And if you're the White House and they wanted to get that information out through questions, it's a good thing, because Mr. Bush did not get any tough questions today when it comes to Iraq.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you very much.

Dana's at the White House.

If it's Wednesday, it must be Wheeling. President Bush took his traveling bully pulpit into a West Virginia theater today. Yesterday, it was a White House news conference, the day before it was Cleveland.

Is this strategy working?

Let's ask our CNN Senior Analyst Jeff Greenfield. He's joining us live in New York -- Jeff.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Wolf, another day, another forum where the president faced questioners, working without a script. The message here is about as subtle as a police siren: I'm engaged, I'm listening, I'm responding. Different presidents, though, have used very different methods to make that point.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD (voice over): President Nixon preferred to keep his foreign policy credentials on display after Watergate exploded with frequent trips aboard. But one question-and-answer session with the press in March of 1974 provided this classic moment with CBS' Dan Rather...

RICHARD M. NIXON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you running for something?

(LAUGHTER)

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?

GREENFIELD: When President Carter was faced with a primary challenge from Senator Ted Kennedy in 1980, Carter cited the Iran hostage crisis as a reason not to campaign at all, using a rose garden strategy to underline his role as commander in chief.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, are you satisfied...

GREENFIELD: President Reagan often deflected questions by indicating he couldn't hear them. And during his most difficult time, after the Iran-Contra story broke, he preferred the more formal setting of an Oval Office speech to answer the tough questions.

RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are reasons why it happened but no excuses. It was a mistake.

GREENFIELD: When the first President Bush hit rough seas in 1992, the White House put emphasis on his State of the Union speech as a defining moment.

GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tell the men and women of Desert Storm.

GREENFIELD: It didn't work.

When the Monica Lewinsky story exploded in January of 1998, President Clinton went three months before holding a news conference where he deflected most questions. His frankest comments came in a prayer breakfast in September, after he told the nation he'd misled it.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned. It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: In his efforts to convince the country that his Iraq policies are right, the president has gone from reliably friendly audiences to forums where the questions are less predictable. If this doesn't work, what's the next step? Change the cabinet? Change the White House staff? Change the policy? Dig in? Stay tuned -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The real thing that's going to help him is facts on the ground in Iraq. If the situation there gets better, the violence goes away, and a real government of national unity comes in, democracy begins to take hold. That's what's going to change American public opinion.

GREENFIELD: Yes, it's a shocking notion to those who put a lot of emphasis on the media. But, in fact, reality often governs what people think.

BLITZER: Jeff, thanks very much.

Jeff Greenfield in New York.

In Iraq today, more sectarian slaughter. Shiite pilgrims are gunned down in the streets and more bodies are found. They're slain execution style.

Can it now be called a civil war?

Our Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson is in Baghdad -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, another brazen attack against an Iraqi police station, 2:00 a.m. in the morning, 12 miles south of Baghdad. Insurgents used mortars, machine gun fire to storm a police station, killing four policemen.

Iraq's Ministry of Interior responded with a sweep for insurgents. They say they've detained more than 50. The deadliest attacks coming in Baghdad.

Muslim -- Shia Muslim pilgrims returning from a holy festival south of Baghdad targeted by insurgent gunmen opening fire on them in two places in the capital, killing 13, wounding 46. And when Iraqi policemen came to the aid of the pilgrims, two Iraqi policemen were killed in the shootout with the insurgents.

Three more bodies police discovered in Baghdad today. Their hands have been tied. The police say -- they also say that they had been shot in the head.

They believe this more of the ongoing sectarian violence. I spoke about that with Ayad Allawi, Iraqi's former prime minister, today.

At the weekend he said Iraq was in civil war. He appeared to walk away, walk himself back from that statement a little bit. He said he brought this issue up because he's very concerned about the rising sectarian tension. Indeed, he said he wanted to continue to sound the alarm bell on that issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AYAD ALLAWI, IRAQI FMR. INTERIM PRIME MINISTER: It's not a full- blown civil war. It's really terrible and severe sectarian violence which -- which can turn into a full-blown civil war. And sectarian violence is a stage of civil war, one of the stages of -- probably an early stage of civil war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: What worries Allawi now, he says, is that the dominant political bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, the religious Shia political bloc, he says hasn't made up its mind if it wants to form an Iraqi government of national unity.

He says he would support that. That is a government he said that can bring an end to the violence in Iraq. He said he thinks United Iraqi Alliance might be prepared to form a government from its own parliamentarians. And he said if that happens, the violence will get worse and, in his opinion, it would descend fully into a full-blown civil war -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Baghdad.

Thank you very much.

We want to update you on a story we reported on yesterday in THE SITUATION ROOM, word that a key member of Saddam Hussein's regime was actually a secret source for information that was eventually passed on to the CIA. That man is Naji Sabri. He was Iraq's foreign minister at the time of the U.S.-led invasion.

Sources tell CNN he supplied information to French intelligence that was then passed on to the United States before the U.S. invasion in 2003. The same sources say Sabri was actually paid about $100,000.

Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He brought us the story yesterday.

One question that has come to mind, came to mind early on: why Naji Sabri was not included in that so-called deck of cards of the most wanted Iraqis. Do we have the answer to that?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think we do. We talked to Pentagon officials who told us -- first of all, the deck of cards of 52 was just the 52 most wanted, if you will. They in fact had another list of thousands of other Iraqi officials they also wanted to interview, interrogate, perhaps.

They will not say whether he was on that list or not. But it was a much larger number of people than just the 52 on the deck of cards. He wasn't on the deck of cards. They say who was on that list.

But another reason also may by that they had already spoke on the him. As we now know, he was -- he was talking to French intelligence, he was providing the information that he had about weapons of mass destruction, and they may have been satisfied they didn't need him as a result. BLITZER: How seriously do they take the information that he was secretly passing along apparently to French intelligence which then made its way to the United States?

ENSOR: Former senior intelligence officials that I've spoken to say that they took the information quite seriously. And, in fact, they point to a speech that then director of Central Intelligence George Tenet gave back in 2004 at Georgetown, where he laid out what he called a very well-placed source had told the CIA indirectly about the weapons of mass destruction.

And that information, Mr. Tenet said, corroborate what they already believed. First, that Iraq didn't have a nuclear weapons program worthy of the name anymore but sure wanted to get one going if the -- if they got the chance. That was what Saddam wanted to see at some point in the future. That it did have chemical weapons and it did have poison gas weapons left over from the Iran-Iraq war.

Now, that -- on that one, Sabri was wrong. U.S. intelligence was wrong, as we now know.

And on biological weapons, Sabri apparently told them that there were some little experiments going on, but nothing really worthy of the name of a biological weapons project. So they took his information, they took it seriously, and they put it in with what they believed to be the case. Of course as it turned out, not all of it was correct.

BLITZER: David, thank you very much.

David Ensor reporting.

Let's go up to New York once again. Jack's standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf.

Here's an interesting idea. Some high school freshman may soon have to declare a major. Florida Governor Jeb Bush is proposing that incoming freshman declare a major just like college students.

Governor Bush says the plan would help prepare students better for the real world and would reduce the dropout rate by making school more interesting. Students would be able to major in subjects like humanities, English, math, science, history, foreign languages, et cetera.

They would also have to declare a minor. Critics worry the plan would deprive students of a broad liberal arts education and would put even more pressure on the students.

So, here's the question: Should high school freshman have to declare a major?

You can e-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. I don't know about you, Wolf. When I was in high school, I majored in trying to get my face to clear up, trying to get a driver's license and trying to lose my virginity. I wasn't thinking much about majors of humanities and stuff. You know...

BLITZER: I think I was like you, too, Jack. Thanks very much.

Up ahead, how much money you make and your mortgage payment. These are highly personal questions, and they are on your tax returns. But what if a company with cash and curiosity were able to buy that information? What's going on?

And how will politicians handle the hot potato issue of immigration reform this election year? In a few moments, I will ask the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, joining us live in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And a coyote running wild, but not in the wild. How did it end up in the middle -- yes, in the middle -- of New York City?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our CNN "Security Watch," a speculative yet startling argument in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. Could the government have stopped the 9/11 attacks if Moussaoui warned officials about the plot in advance?

Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is closely watching the trial in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. She's joining us now with the latest developments -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's exactly what the prosecution tried to prove today when it called a TSA official to the stand.

Now, this was an aviation expert who was a replacement for the witnesses that the judge said were tainted by that TSA lawyer who coached them before they testified. This official's name is Robert Comorado (ph). And basically, he laid out several steps that the government could have taken if they had known that al Qaeda operatives were in the United States, intending to fly airplanes into buildings, using short-bladed knives to hijack those airplanes.

The jury heard about how they could do secondary searches, how they could search carry-on baggage, how they could ban short-bladed knives from being allowed on airplanes. That witness is still in cross-examination at this point, Wolf, and the defense has brought out how airlines might have objected if they didn't have a time period to institute those changes, how they may not have been sustainable, how they would have been costly, and how there were other things that were allowed on planes, like scissors, for example, which are still allowed on airplanes, that could have been used as weapons if those short- bladed knives had been taken a way. As you said, Wolf, the main goal here is to convince the jury that if Moussaoui had told the truth, that the government might have been able to stop September 11. But this testimony followed other testimony from flight school employees who said that they had actually filed complaints about three of the hijackers, Wolf, and the FAA turned a deaf ear, much like we heard the FBI turned a deaf ear to some of its field agents.

BLITZER: Kelli, thank you very much.

Kelli Arena reporting on the latest.

And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news of your security.

Let's go back with the CNN Center in Atlanta. Zain standing by once again with some other stories making news -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Wolf, a spokeswoman says almost a third of Detroit, Michigan's 130,000 students were affected by today's teacher sick-out. Enough educators called in sick to force the closure of more than 50 of the city's 231 schools. The move was essentially to protest a temporary pay cut imposed on teachers to deal with a cash flow shortage in the school district.

Scientists think they may know why people infected with bird flu can't pass it on easily to other humans. They're saying that the virus basically burrows in too deeply in the respiratory tract to be expelled by coughing or sneezing. Still, the University of Wisconsin research team says mutation of the violence could change that, triggering an outbreak of the dangerous flu strain. The research is published in tomorrow's issue of the journal "Nature."

A coyote who made a rare appearance in New York's Central Park has been caught. But, you know, it really wasn't very easy. The wily year-old coyote led police and park rangers on a two-day chase before it was finally captured inside the park.

He apparently came to Manhattan to dine on duck. That -- the last time a coyote was captured in the 143-acre park was back in 1999.

The Frenchman whose company was responsible for crocodiles on polo shirts has died. Bernard Lacoste died in a Paris hospital yesterday. He spent more than 40 years as head of his family's clothing empire and he's credited with transforming it into a major apparel company. He was 74 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I've got a few of his shirts. Thanks very much, Zain, for that.

Coming up, your private information on your tax returns. Might it soon be available for sale? We are going to tell you about some proposed changes from the IRS.

And outrage over a man in Afghanistan who converted from Islam to Christianity. Could he now be put to death for changing his religion? We're going to tell what's going on with this story.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, he's on the border between California and Mexico right now, having a little news conference. We are going to speak to him live. That's coming up live this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate. Lots of questions to ask him. That's coming up.

You consider the information on your tax returns to be sacred. At least most of us do. But new IRS changes may make your information available -- get this -- for sale. What's going on?

Ali Velshi joining us now with "The Bottom Line."

(BUSINESS REPORT)

BLITZER: Coming up, in Afghanistan he actually could be put to death for converting from Islam to Christianity. Brian Todd's got some new details in this amazing story.

And always wanted to learn a different language? You may not necessarily have to. Future technology may help you say whatever you want in whatever language you want to say it. We're going to share that technology with you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Many around the world are watching a very bizarre case unfold right now in Afghanistan. A man could literally die for his religious beliefs.

Our Brian Todd has been following this story. He's joining us now from the newsroom with details -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Afghan and Western sources tell CNN the trial of 41-year-old Abdul Rahman is now on hold while the Afghan courts try to determine if he is sane. Another odd twist in a case that has rattled top officials from Washington to Kabul.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): In his own country, where U.S.-led soldiers died to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban, why can Abdul Rahman be executed for this belief?

ABDUL RAHMAN, DEFENDANT (through translator): I believe in Christianity. I believe in the holy spirit. I am a Christian.

TODD: Rahman converted to Christianity 16 years ago while serving as an aid worker. He's now on trial for that conversion.

Listen to the judge hearing his case.

ANSARULLAH MOWLAWIZADA, JUDGE (through translator): If he does not repent, you will all be witness to the sort of punishment he will face.

TODD: A punishment of death because the Afghan constitution says no law should go against the beliefs of Islam. Some Afghan judges interpret that as support for Sharia law, which calls for executing Muslims who reject Islam.

Now the U.S. is putting pressure on the Afghan government.

BUSH: It is deeply troubling that a country we helped liberate is -- would hold a person to account because they chose a particular religion over another.

TODD: Top Afghan officials counter, they can't interfere with an independent court system.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The government of Afghanistan has nothing to do with it. It's a legal and judicial case.

TODD: Now the prosecution is raising questions about of Rahman's sanity.

Congress Tom Lantos believes this is how Afghan officials are trying to make this case go away.

REP. TOM LANTOS (D), CALIFORNIA: So, while the Afghan government might wish to solve this issue by claiming that this person is insane, we need a generic solution.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: That solution may take us back to the Afghan constitution, which also calls for freedom of religion.

Now, late today, the Afghan Embassy issued a statement, which said, the government is pursuing what it calls the best ways to resolve the case.

But if Rahman's case is dropped, he will have to face his own family. They were the ones who turned him in, after a custody dispute -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story. And we are going to stay on top of this story, and see what happens. It's pretty shocking.

Brian, thank you very much for that report.

Zain Verjee joining us now, once again, from the CNN Center with another look at some other stories making news -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, an Army dog handler faces six months behind bars and demotion for using his dog to intimidate inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

At Fort Meade, in Maryland, a military jury today imposed the sentence against Sergeant Michael J. Smith of Fort Lauderdale. He was convicted yesterday. Prosecutors say he let his black Belgian shepherd lunge and bark at prisoners just for his own amusement.

A man who contracted anthrax danced for reporters and tearfully thanked doctors for saving his life upon his release from the hospital today. Vado Diomande, an Ivory Coast native, is the first person since 1976 to have contracted naturally occurring inhalation anthrax in the U.S. Health officials think he inhaled it while making drums from cowhide. He later collapsed after a week.

Ninety-two airlines are now not allowed to land at airports in the European Union. The E.U. announced the ban today, saying that the carriers don't measure up to its safety standards. Most of the airlines are African-based. Fifty are from Congo alone. Also included on the list are certain carriers from Afghanistan, South Korea, and Thailand.

NASA has successfully launched three micro-satellites into space over the Pacific Ocean. The 55-pound orbiters will study the Earth's magnetic field. And they're going to be testing new technologies for future science missions. They were carried on board a Lockheed L-107 -- excuse me -- L-1011. The broader mission is to demonstrate the value of several small, inexpensive satellite measuring the planet's magnetic field simultaneously from different locations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the political war over immigration. I'm going to go one-on-one with the Senate minority leader, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid. He's getting a firsthand look at the state of U.S. borders right now.

And, later, assassination game -- 7:00 p.m. Eastern, the latest in real-time street entertainment whose goal is to kill or be killed. You have to see this to believe this.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Turning now to the battle over the border, the Senate faces a fight over the fate of illegal immigrants. And the Democratic Senator from New York Hillary Clinton is now raising some eyebrows by bringing religion into the fray.

Let's go live to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was a rare reference to the Bible in public debate, as the Senate gears up to tackle immigration reform next week.

Senator Clinton, speaking at a press conference today, is trying to block measures that were passed in a Republican-backed House bill, that, among other things, called to criminalize giving aid to illegal immigrants.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is using a dose of religion to blast what she calls mean-spirited legislation.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the scriptures, because this bill would literally criminalize the good Samaritan, and probably even Jesus himself.

SNOW: What's striking about the choice of words, say political observers, is that it is unusual for any Democrat, let alone Senator Clinton, to use religion in political debate.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: It is good for a Democrat to mention Jesus, because, in fact, in a lot of the states, Christians are a big voting bloc, and they do determine the results of the statewide election for president.

SNOW: Clinton and other Democrats say they are seeking a compromise bill to offset calls by those politicians who want to deport illegal immigrants.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said, even if no compromise is reached on what to do about illegal immigrants already in the U.S., he will move forward next week on pushing for stricter border enforcement.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Our country needs security at our borders, in order to stop the flow of illegal immigration and make America safer from foreign criminals and terrorists.

SNOW: But Senator Clinton, for the moment, is focusing on the controversial House immigration bill and says, if the Senate follows that path, Republicans will pay a price.

CLINTON: We want the outcome to be that they are on the wrong side of politics, as well as on the wrong side of history and American values.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And, Wolf, political observers take particular note when Senator Clinton mentions religion, viewing it as a way for her to move more toward a moderate position and shed an image of her as being a liberal, a move they say not only necessary to win votes in the Senate to pass a compromise bill, but a move needed, should she decide to run for the White House in 2008 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you very much.

The Senate minority leader, the Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, has been getting a firsthand look at the front lines of this immigration fight. He's spending the day along the U.S.-Mexican border at San Ysidro, California. He is joining us now live.

Mr. Leader, thanks very much for joining us.

Are you prepared to use every parliamentary maneuver you have in the Senate to block this Republican-backed legislation that passed the House?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Well, first of all, Blitz, the first parliamentary maneuver I'm going to use is to wish you a happy birthday.

And, so, happy birthday.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

REID: But let me just say this.

If the president -- if the majority leader brings to the Senate floor a bill that has not been -- had a thorough hearing with the Judiciary Committee, and he's going to bring his own bill to the floor, dealing with only one of the problems we have with immigration, then, I will use every procedural means at my disposal to stop that.

America needs comprehensive immigration reform. I have spent the day down here with the people who are in the trenches, so to speak. They acknowledge that immigration is not one problem. It's not a guess-worker program only. It's not enforcement only. It's not only dealing with the 11 million people here who are undocumented. It's all of them. Now, we have to make sure that we deal with all of these.

BLITZER: You want these 10 or 12 million illegal immigrants here in the United States now to get on a fast track to gaining citizenship?

REID: I don't want them to get on a fast track to gain citizenship.

What I want is on a fair track, so that these 11 million people are not part of an underground, that we don't know where they are and who they are. I believe what should happen is that they should know English. They should pay their taxes. They should have a job. And they should earn it. And it won't happen quickly. But we need legislation in place to give these people hope.

Blitz, let's be realistic. We have to have good, strong border security. That's what real security is all about.

BLITZER: Do you think there should be...

REID: But we also need to make sure...

BLITZER: Senator, let me -- excuse me for interrupting.

Should they build a fence or a wall to prevent these kind of people from coming into the United States illegally? REID: Of course.

And when we finish comprehensive legislation dealing with immigration reform, that's what we would have, a better border enforcement program, a better -- a good guest-worker program, and a program of legalization for these 11 million people, who we have to take care of.

Realistically, we are not going to deport 11 million people. We need to give them a stake in our great country. And that stake is to have earned citizenship. So, it doesn't come easy. It comes hard, but they will get citizenship.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some other issues facing the Senate right now: Russ Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, proposing a resolution to censure the president for what he says was illegal surveillance without warrants.

Is this a good idea? Will you support Russ Feingold?

REID: I understand the frustration of people throughout this country and members of the Senate, because President Bush and Vice President Cheney have thwarted any initiatives that we have had to find out how the information, intelligence information, was manipulated before we went to war.

We have tried, in addition to that, to have hearing after hearing -- and we have been stopped every step of the way -- to find out what is going on with the spying program. We want to get the bad guys. We want to be able to listen in on the bad guys, and find out what they are trying to do to hurt we Americans.

But we also want to do it legally. And that's what we are asking the president: Tell us what you are doing. And if what you're doing is not constitutional or legal, give us an idea of how you think it can be improved.

And that's the frustration of Russ Feingold and others. And we have said to Senator Frist: Let's make sure the Judiciary Committee does what they are supposed to do in the ordinary course of business. Have a hearing on this. Let's listen to it. And, then, we can decide what we would do with his legislation.

BLITZER: Senator Feingold, former Vice President Gore, other Democrats, they say the president broke the law; this wiretapping without warrants was illegal.

Do you believe it was illegal?

REID: With the information I have, which is very spotty, you know, I -- you know, it's really hard to come by -- I think what he's doing is illegal.

That's why we have reached out to him and said: Mr. President, we think what you are doing is wrong. Come with us and work with us. For example, FISA has worked well since 1978. Twenty thousand requests, we have only -- the courts have only turned down five.

And FISA would work -- we have been told by all the experts, all the academics, it would work with what he's trying to do. Let's do it the legal way. Let's do it the way that appears to be constitutional.

BLITZER: If he broke the law, as you suspect he might have, why not simply go for impeachment, as opposed to censure?

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Well, I have been through one impeachment proceeding already during my tenure in the Senate. It wasn't real pleasant. And I think it has to be a last resort. And I'm not at that last resort yet.

BLITZER: But you're not ruling that out? Is that what you're saying?

REID: I'm not ruling anything out. But I think it is just way too early to talk about that now.

BLITZER: What about on this third anniversary of the war in Iraq?

Yes, the president is under criticism, severe criticism. But when our poll asked, "Do Democrats in Congress have a clear plan for Iraq?" only 25 percent of the American public said yes. Sixty-eight percent said no.

And the former national security adviser under Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said this. He said: "Democratic leaders have been silent or evasive. They have not offered an alternative to the war in Iraq. It's easy to criticize. But they haven't offered an alternative."

You are the leader of the Democrats in the Senate. What do you say?

REID: Well, I think, first of all, Mr. Brzezinski should read the newspapers once in a while.

We offered, for example, an amendment on the Senate floor that passed by 78 senators -- it was bipartisan -- that said the year of 2006 should be a year of significant transition in Iraq. We should not stay the course. We should change course. That passed. That's the law of this country.

President Bush hasn't followed this. And I would suggest that what we -- President Bush, rather than going to West Virginia and Pennsylvania and Ohio, giving speeches about how war -- great the war is going, that he should be spending time with Iraqi leaders, with his secretary of state, trying to get this government of Iraq to function.

We -- the government is not functioning. The economic standards in Iraq have gone downhill. We are producing less oil, less electricity, less potable water. I think that we -- as Senator Levin has said so many times, we have to get the political structure of Iraq together. America cannot do that alone.

BLITZER: All right.

REID: We are -- we have been in Iraq longer than we were in World War II. And it -- the American people are not willing to pay $2 billion a week.

The president must have a plan to win the peace. And he hasn't had one yet.

BLITZER: Senator, we're almost out of time, but I have to ask you a question about a memorandum that you circulated among Democrats, suggesting that, during this break, they go out, and they go out and meet with soldiers, and they try to publicize their stance.

And, in effect, what Republicans are accusing you of doing is wanting to use national security and American troops as props in a propaganda battle against the White House.

Listen to what the Republican Party chairman, Ken Mehlman, said here in THE SITUATION ROOM earlier this week:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN MEHLMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think the American people are going to have a clear choice between leaders like George W. Bush and others, who will do whatever it takes to win the war on terror, and leaders like Harry Reid, who will say whatever it takes to win the next election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Your reaction, sir?

REID: Well, first of all, what we're doing during the recess is to focus attention on real security. The American people are tired of what this president is doing. They are tired of the fact that he has not told the truth to the American people on so many different issues. And they want the situation in Iraq to be resolved.

The president should be more involved, not less involved.

And what we're doing here, and around the country, is what we should be doing, is focusing attention on the real security of this nation: our ports, our airplane cargo holds, our chemical plants, our -- of course, our nuclear power facilities. And the Republicans simply have been unwilling to talk about real security.

All they talk about is staying the course. We don't want to stay the course. We want to change the course.

BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for joining us. See you back here in Washington.

REID: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program -- that begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Coming up at 6:00 here on CNN, we will be reporting tonight on a government contract that some say would give communist China access to our most sensitive government secrets.

And President Bush again declaring he has a strategy for victory in Iraq -- is the president correct? What have we learned after three years of war? Tonight, I will be talking with the authors "Cobra II," the most detailed, insightful, and critical look at U.S. war strategy so far.

And should the Catholic Church stay out of the national debate on illegal immigration and legislation to solve it? My guest tonight is one of the Catholic Church's leading authorities on illegal immigration.

Please join us for all of that and a great deal more at 6:00 here on CNN -- now back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou, for that.

Still ahead, Jack is back. We are going to hear about the e-mail question he asked, your responses: Should high school freshmen -- high school freshmen -- have to declare a major?

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go right to New York -- Jack Cafferty standing by -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you, Wolf.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush is proposing that incoming high school freshmen declare a major. Governor Bush says the plan would help prepare students better for the real world. Critics say the plan would deprive students of a broad liberal arts education and would put even more pressure on the kids.

The question we are asking is: Should high school students have to declare a major?

Jeremy in El Paso, Texas: "High school freshmen should not have to choose a major. I'm a high school senior myself, and I am still not sure what I want to do. Making freshmen choose a major would keep them from getting a well-rounded education and would lock them into a career that they might later decide they don't like."

Lawrence in Durham, North Carolina: "High school freshmen don't know much. Just ask any high school sophomore. Besides, people change, and so do their interests. Could they possibly have been exposed to enough of life and all its offerings and options? It sounds like a Republican ploy to get rid of music, arts, and humanities education."

Frank in Orem, Utah, says: "I think choosing majors in high school would be a great idea. Today, many students who are not college bound are forced into the college prep classes, when they should be taking businesses or technical classes."

Tom in Tampa writes: "As a Floridian who has watched his Jeb-ness major in dismantling state government and reducing the quality of state schools, I think the governor should avoid anything related to education. With all that high school freshmen experience in physical and emotional changes, declaring a major should not be added to this mix."

Bill in Missouri says: "Remember the good old days, when the kids learned the three Rs in school? Now they have to attend college to get the same education we got in high school. This warm-and-fuzzy schooling is not working. No wonder the rest of the world is beating us in technology" -- Wolf.

Jack, thanks very much. See you in a hour later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And want to speak another language? Sure. You may soon have the chance without years of lessons. A glimpse of the new technology that's coming up, that's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lost in translation -- with more than 6,000 languages spoken around the world, how can technology help to bridge the gap?

CNN's Miles O'Brien shows us in today's edition of "Welcome to the Future."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATIE, RELIEF DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION: When I'm speaking to people overseas, it certainly slows down communication to go through a translator.

And I work for a relief and development organization. In a relief situation, lives are at stake, communication is key, and a little bit might be lost in translation.

It would be great to have some type of speech technology that would allow relief workers to speak directly with the people that they are serving, so they can understand their needs as quickly as possible.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Quick and easy communication in a foreign language is essential for relief workers, like Katie. And for the rest of us, it sure would make traveling overseas more fulfilling and enjoyable. Wouldn't it be great if you could speak any language effortlessly? (voice-over): Director of the interACT Center at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Alex Waibel is in the business of breaking language barriers.

DR. ALEX WAIBEL, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY INTERACT CENTER: Have you been feeling well?

O'BRIEN: In Waibel's lab, you'll find portable PDA translators for tourists, goggles that project translated subtitles, even a speaker that can send a beam of translated audio to a single listener.

WAIBEL: We can have a personalized translation for one listener in Spanish, for another one in German, for a third one yet another language.

O'BRIEN: Even more amazing, electrodes that, when attached to the cheek and throat, can turn a person's native tongue into a language they have never spoken before.

WAIBEL: Then, these electrodes can capture the movement, recognize the words that could have been spoken that way, and translate them into another language, and sound them out aloud.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And the future may be closer than you think -- at your fingerprints right now, plenty of online tools that help you translate back and forth between dozens of languages.

Let's bring back our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these sites are great if you want to translate a word or two to and from major, widely spoken worldwide languages here.

Some of them, like Google, for example, lets you type in, put in a whole Web page, and get a translation, giving you access to so much more on the Web. We put in CNN.com in English, got it in Chinese immediately.

But these translations are computer-generated. And, so, sometimes, you will run into limitations. You will find words "drywall" and "Clooney" here from CNN.com that didn't find a Chinese equivalent. Because of the computer-generated translated, it's better to put a couple of words in, rather than a lot of text.

It doesn't understand the nuances of language. We put in "black belt in judo," and got "black judo girdle."

So, they also offer -- offer human translations, if you run into problems -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

See you back here in an hour, with Bob Dole.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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