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California Teens Protest Immigration, French Teens Protest Job Bill; Rumsfeld Remembers Caspar Weinberger, Provides Updates on Iraq

Aired March 28, 2006 - 13:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips.
We start off the hour with the shakeup in the West Wing. One of the president's most trusted advisers is packing up. And the man who oversees the nation's budget is taking over.

Andy Card has been White House chief of staff for 5 1/2 years but says it's time to move on. And many of the president's friends and critics agree. Card's resignation was accepted after what's described as days of discussion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Andy is respected by colleagues for his humility, his decency and his thoughtfulness. They have looked to him as a leader and role model and they, like me, will miss him.

On most days, Andy is the first one to arrive in the West Wing and among the last to leave. And during those long days, over many years, I've come to know Andy as more than my chief of staff. He is leaving the White House, but he will always be my friend.

ANDY CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: You're a good man, Mr. President. And you do great things. I am grateful for the friendship that you've shown me and grateful for the love that Laura has shared with Kathi and with me. I'm grateful for the White House staff that has served you so well and helped me do a better job. But it is a different season, and Josh Bolten is the right person for that season.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Budget director Josh Bolten will take Card's place, a switch welcomed by many Republicans but written off by many Democrats as insufficient.

Well, he was known as a penny pincher but not when it came to defense. Former defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, died today. Under President Reagan, he oversaw one of the biggest peace time military build-ups in U.S. history. Weinberger persuaded Congress to spend more than $1 trillion on weapons in Reagan's first term and helped make peace through strength, the catch phrase of the era. Caspar Weinberger was 88 years old

Now let's get straight to our other top story, and that's these protests that are happening all the way from California to France. Tony Harris on these two developing stories for us right now -- Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Kyra, stay with me. I'm on a protest patrol for you today. Happy to do it.

First of all, if you're just joining us, let's show you the scene from Carson, California, earlier today, where a number of students -- well, they actually did not show up at school.

This looks like the situation in France, am I correct? That's France. All right, let's talk about the situation in France, and then we'll come back and talk about the situation that's going on in cities across the country right now.

This is a protest that has been going on throughout the day. The latest in a series of protests by young people upset with the CPE, the so-called CPE. What is that? Well that is Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's Contract for First Employment. Now, it's law that allows employers to fire young workers inside the first two years of employment without much notice at all.

Now, the prime minister says the country needs the law to be more competitive globally.

And this has been quite a demonstration today. You can't really tell from these pictures, but the transportation unions have now gotten involved and there's been a nationwide strike. And it's disrupted airline, train and bus service. As many as 200,000 people have been on the streets of Paris.

We've watched police haul off agitators. Sticks and bottles have been thrown at police. Mostly you've seen scenes like this, a bit of a standoff and then at various times there have been rushes by the kids and then the cops at the kids.

But for the most part, I have to tell you that the police have been retrained. But it has been a tinder box all day. It continues to be with the potential to get really ugly, and we'll just continue to watch that for you.

Now, let's see if we can bring it back. Scotty, what do we have? Do we have California or is this Texas? OK, this is Texas. OK.

This is the situation that's going on right now in Texas. Students, again, have walked out of North Texas schools. This, for a second day now, in protest of any, any proposed crackdown on immigration. These kids say they're standing up for family and friends who are in the country illegally.

And we've been watching these pictures for the last 30 minutes or so.

And Scotty, let me know if we have California. Do we have Los Angeles? OK, great.

This is the situation, I believe, in Los Angeles right now, where a couple of moments ago we saw a pretty tough takedown of one student who, again, is involved in a protest there, again, leaving class to hit the streets and to protest immigration reform.

Kyra, we will watch all of these protests, as you rightly noted at the top here, in cities across the country, as they develop throughout the course of the afternoon here on LIVE FROM.

PHILLIPS: Now, Tony, we're going to obviously be talking about this in tremendous detail throughout the day.

HARRIS: Yes.

PHILLIPS: We're waiting for a Pentagon briefing, actually, on the other news of the day. And while we're waiting for that, maybe we can talk a little bit more about these protests.

You know, when we started talking about this, what, about a week ago, we were seeing a protest, medium sized, in California. Then we started to see them in Michigan and Arizona...

HARRIS: Saw some here in Atlanta as well.

PHILLIPS: Right, here in Atlanta.

HARRIS: Denver, yes.

PHILLIPS: It's creating a domino effect right now at this point.

HARRIS: Well, what's interesting is -- you're right, we started watching it last week. And then all of these protests seemed to be pointing to a huge demonstration on Saturday past. And that did happen. And that was, boy, maybe the word "massive" doesn't do it justice. Upwards of 500,000 people, maybe a little more, in Los Angeles.

Again, just having -- having their say, having their say in this system, in this debate, that's going on across the country.

And the thought that I had that occurred to me time and time again as I was watching these protests is, "My goodness. What an economic statement, all these people are making."

You know, they're not taking care of their fairways at your favorite golf course, you know. Perhaps they're not at home with your kids. And all of the work that they do for this economy with all of these people on the streets, it just was a tremendous statement about their economic clout in this country that we've been watching play out now for over a week now, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And we're going to continue to talk about all those details. You make a good point about the economy. We're going to hit on that, definitely, with Lou Dobbs coming up in the 3 p.m. hour. We'll talk more, Tony. Thanks so much.

Let's get straight to the Pentagon. Donald Rumsfeld addressing reporters.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Cap Weinberger was a friend. His extensive career in public service, his support for the men and women in uniform, and his central role in helping to win the Cold War leave a lasting legacy.

He left the United States armed forces stronger, our country safer and the world more free. Certainly, I offer my deepest sympathy to his wife Jane and his family and his many friends throughout the world.

Recently, Iraq and coalition forces took steps to prevent terrorists from carrying out large-scale attacks in Iraq against the many hundreds and hundreds of Shia observing their religious event known as Arbiyam (ph). The observance, banned for three decades under Saddam Hussein, is a culmination to the pilgrimage to the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf, where Shia Muslims gather each year to pay homage to the grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

It's estimated that more than a million Shia travel across the country, across Iraq, for the pilgrimage. Many slept in tents along the road. Many wore black robes and held banners. Some walked with their children. They were thought to be easy and very visible targets for terrorists.

In 2004, terrorists killed more than 120 Iraqis and wounded around 300 during this period. In 2005, terrorists killed 33 Iraqis and wounded 130. This year, it's estimated that 12 Iraqis were killed and two were wounded in connection with the pilgrimage.

So this year's pilgrimage, for the most part, passed peacefully. Iraqi security forces, benefiting from their increased numbers -- there are now some 241,000 strong -- and their additional training and experience performed well and took the lead in protecting their fellow Iraqis.

Provincial governors, provincial police chiefs and Iraqi security personnel executed an extensive security plan. One Iraqi army captain said, "My soldiers have done a very good job, following their orders, and I'm proud of how they kept things under control."

In a situation like exists in Iraq today, one measure of what is happening is to note things that are not happening. Admittedly, that's a difficult thing to do. It's far easier to report about a bomb that goes off than to note a bomb that doesn't. A car bomb that killed Iraqis outside a police recruiting station makes for a clearly unable story, compared to the fact that hundreds of Iraqis volunteer the next day to step up to volunteer, despite that attack.

The relative success of this year's Arbiyam (ph) underscores the complexity of understanding the events that are taking place there. This event, there are questions one might ask: is Iraqi truly a country in uncontrollable chaos as we occasionally are told? How are more than one million Iraqis able to move across the country with only a handful of incidents?

If the coalition does not have an adequate number of forces on the ground, as some argue, how did the Iraqi forces with coalition support manage to protect millions of Iraqis? And if terrorists tried and failed to pull off a massive attack, what does this say about their strength and their capabilities?

These questions aren't easily answered, I admit. But they, it seems to me, are worth asking.

In closing, I might mention that yesterday I visited Shankvsille, Pennsylvania, and paid my respects to the passengers who gave their lives in defiance of the hijackers and in defense of our country's capital on September 11, 2001.

The field there is hallowed ground, dedicated to those selfless Americans who were really the first to fight back in the post-9/11 war against terrorists. And it's heart-warming that some 150,000 individuals on their own time at their own expense visit that site each year to remember the heroes, the heroic passenger of Flight 93. I think it says a great deal about our country.

General Pace.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

I just spent this last week visiting with my counterparts in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, having dialogue about how our militaries can work more effectively and efficiently together.

Each of those countries is fighting hard against terrorism inside their countries. They're working diligently to reduce transits of terrorists that cross their borders. And it was a good, open dialogue amongst military folks.

I also had the opportunity in Pakistan to observe the U.S. forces who are there now wrapping up a six-month operation in support of the Pakistan relief efforts. We can be very proud of what our folks are doing in support of the Pakistan government, and the Pakistan government can be very proud of what it did to support its own people.

With that, we'll answer your questions.

RUMSFELD: Bob.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about the report that was issued last Friday by joint forces command in which they stated that the Russians had fed sensitive intelligence to the Iraqis, to Saddam Hussein, in the early days of the war.

The report cited two captured Iraqi documents, but the authors of the report also concluded that, "Significantly, the regime was also receiving intelligence from the Russians." That's a direct quote.

So my question to you is, if that's true, what was done to follow that up, to verify that, and to get an explanation from the Russians? And if it wasn't true, why was it contained in this government report?

RUMSFELD: Well, I suspect it was -- what was in the government report characterized a document or some piece of information that existed. I haven't seen the specific reference in the report. And my understanding is that Secretary Rice has indicated that she's going to discuss that with the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know this to be true? Have...

RUMSFELD: No, I don't. It's something that -- obviously, it merits looking into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have not previously been alerted to this item?

RUMSFELD: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, perhaps this is for General Pace, but -- either one of you or both of you. A possible downside to this pilgrimage would be agents coming across from Iran, not only members of their Republican Guard but also those skilled in bomb making and others who would support the terrorists. Does intel that you can share with us bear that out that this was and is an increasing problem, specifically during this pilgrimage?

PACE: The intel would not verify one way or the other as far as whether or not there's an increase or decrease or how many. What I can tell you publicly is that the Iraqi government is certainly sensitive to the understanding that, potentially, inside those couple of million pilgrims there may be some few who are transporting, who are using that pilgrimage for other than going to pray.

More than that, I cannot tell you publicly, other than to tell you that is an item of interest any time there's that kind of movement of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the word "few," are we talking about half a dozen, a dozen, 2,000?

PACE: I cannot. I don't know.

RUMSFELD: I'd like to go back to Bob's question. There's been a good deal of discussion about the fact that the director of national intelligence is in the process of discouraging (ph) what will turn out to be millions of documents, I believe ultimately, that were captured during the conflict.

We also know that there were millions of documents destroyed because, as forces went into the buildings, they found systemic destruction of a great many documents, burning and shredding and the like.

Given the fact that it's going to -- these things are mostly in Arabic, and they're going to be put out by the government of the United States without, in many cases, have been read or translated or analyzed or checked, simply because the decision has been made that, with a quick review, a great amount of it is appropriate to put out, a large amount of it. That being the case, there's going to be all kinds of things raised and questions raised. And needless to say if one started trying to track down the things that exist in literally millions of documents, it would -- you wouldn't be able to do much else.

So what will happen will be that this will go out, and the important pieces will rise to the top. Some will be accurate, I'm sure. Some will be inaccurate, I'm sure. Some will be rumors. Some will be speculation. And people will have an opportunity to let the truth win out over time. And we'll find out what actually took place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You told us last week you were briefed twice on this report. Did anyone ever mention the Russian information to you when you were briefed on it?

RUMSFELD: Not that I recall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The two authors of the report told...

RUMSFELD: This was weeks -- months ago that I was briefed on this; many months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The authors of the report told us they were surprised by this information. Did it surprise either of you?

PACE: We still don't know whether or not the translation itself is 100 percent accurate. We don't know if it is -- if this is real information or disinformation. There's all kinds of pieces of this that need to be looked into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They seemed to believe it, the authors. Mr. Secretary, could you...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just following up on the same subject. If -- Mr. Secretary, if you don't personally know this information about the allegations about the Russians to be true, was it appropriate to put it in a public report like this? And does the United States owe Russia an explanation for doing this?

RUMSFELD: I'm sure if anyone is owed anything, they will get it. But -- but the idea that we're supposed to know what's going to be in every single document report that comes out of this department is obviously -- it doesn't quite appreciate the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of reports that are put out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a subject that you've talked about many times publicly, the importance of protecting the integrity of classified information. Here, in a wartime setting, another country is providing sensitive information to the enemy. It seems like just the kind thing that you'd be much concerned about.

RUMSFELD: It certainly would be something that one would look into.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should you have been told about it?

RUMSFELD: I'm not going to criticize somebody for not calling it to my attention previously. We'll sort through it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, to follow up, CentCom said that they are not -- have no plans to investigate whether or not there was somebody, as these documents suggest, at CentCom leaking sensitive information that could jeopardize U.S. troops to the Russians. Isn't that a subject...

RUMSFELD: Who at CentCom said that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spokesperson for CentCom.

RUMSFELD: Yes, I don't know, I didn't see it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shouldn't -- I mean, that's the other part of the equation here. Shouldn't we be investigating whether or not there was...

RUMSFELD: There are people in the department who have the responsibility for looking into things like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not being looked into, though. Do you think it should be?

RUMSFELD: If it should be, it will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it should be? This is a serious question.

RUMSFELD: I have to go back and read it carefully and see what credence one ought to give to it and see what we may have discovered through other channels and then make a decision.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, on Sunday there was a coalition operation whereby -- which included both Iraqi and U.S. Special Forces in an attack on a compound in Baghdad...

RUMSFELD: About 3 to 1 Iraqi security force, special operations forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But in that operation, it was first reported that the initial target were armed militia, possibly members of the Mehdi Army. Does this signal a new tactic in going -- in pursuing these armed militias more aggressively in Iraq?

RUMSFELD: Want to go ahead?

PACE: First of all, this was an operation that was conducted by Iraqi special operations forces and it was briefed, as you know, in Baghdad by their troops.

We did bring some pictures to be able to show you here, if I could see -- we have the first one. This is the area we're talking about. The target area is here. And this complex is an old school complex, believed to hold, among other things, the hostage ring, people who grab people off the street for money.

The Iraqi special operations came into this area here and here to cordon off. These areas of red, over the course of the operation, are buildings from which the Iraqi security forces cordon took fire.

And then the Iraqi forces themselves went into the main target area, this one with the red dot, into the main target area. This is the building inside of which, once they got in there, they found a small minaret and a prayer room.

Next picture, please.

These are some of the things they found inside of that compound, some RPGs...

RUMSFELD: Those are not religious instruments.

PACE: ... and the like. The next picture, please.

And these are parts of IEDs. So inside of this compound that they went into looking for hostages -- by the way, they did find a hostage bound inside this facility. When the hostage was released, he pointed to two of the individuals who the Iraqi security forces have detained as being his kidnappers.

So this was a very good operation on the part of the Iraqi special operations forces, into a compound that turned out to have -- other than religious pilgrims in it.

RUMSFELD: They also found at least two people who had traces of explosives on their fingers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beside the hostage, the initial reports indicated that the target for this assault were armed militias that had possibly been responsible for some of the abuses, the executions, the beheading, the bodies that have been found in Baghdad...

RUMSFELD: I think the answer to your question is that it's -- I'm not in a position to say that there's been any change in the policy. The Iraqi government, to the extent they decide to make a change, would announce it themselves. And this was an Iraqi led security operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it an indication of the beginning of a crackdown against these militias...

RUMSFELD: It's one point; it's one dot. And I don't think there's a lot to connect to it at this moment.

Furthermore, I would say that it strikes me that the situation they're in, negotiating, to finish the adjustments to the constitution, negotiating as to who will serve that post, and what other things they may want to decide politically, is probably not a time when the government is going to be making big announcements on changes in policy. So I think this was what it was, is my guess. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this attack was not the announcement? I mean, it seems to me a pretty dramatic step in going after the militias themselves.

RUMSFELD: As I say, I think if the new government, when it gets in place, and we hope that's soon, if they have announcements to make, they'll make it. But that was not an announcement. It was an operation that they conducted.

Brett.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of this operation, many Shiite leaders have said they're postponing negotiations on the formation of that government. You've been concerned about that delay. Do you have any message for them today?

RUMSFELD: Well, I think they're now back talking. We just got off a secure video with the ambassador, Zal Khalilzad, and General Casey and General Abizaid, and the discussions are going forward. And I hope they'll sort it out soon. It's important that the...

PHILLIPS: All right, we're going to continue to follow the Pentagon briefing, but we just can't ignore these live pictures coming out of France right now.

Sort of brings back memories of Tiananmen Square when you saw these activists in front of tanks. Now what you're seeing are tremendous movement, from students to young working adults there, right in the line of fire of these police water tanks.

Paula Hancocks, via telephone with us now.

Paula, tell us exactly where you are, compared to what we're seeing in these live pictures right now, with these water tanks and these protesters.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm in the middle of this sort of like square at the moment. And there are two water tanks that I can see, one on each side. They've turned these water tanks on, to try and -- to try and disperse the protesters.

Now, just about five or 10 minutes before they did that, they released some tear gas on the one end of the square. Most protesters rushed away from that area.

And then, as soon as the water canyons started, a lot of the protesters actually ran to that area to try and show solidarity to those who are in that area, as well. And there was just a rush towards the water canyons themselves.

Now, they're trying to get some of the protesters off the monument, in the middle of this Place de la Republique there, up on that monument. And the police really want to disperse people. It's getting fairly late now. It's 20 past 8 local time in the evening. And they really want to try and break the groups up so that they can put them into smaller groups and then maybe be able to either arrest them or persuade them to go home.

PHILLIPS: Now Paula, the last time I remember seeing pictures -- they weren't even this intense, if I'm remembering correctly in November, of last year. Remember all those riots that occurred in the suburbs of Paris? It was largely by the unemployed youth there. Is this a part of that same movement? Or are we talking about two different classes here of youth?

HANCOCKS: There is an element of that here definitely. Just -- I mean, some of this are more violent elements than we saw last November, when they were torching cars and causing havoc, is the only way of explaining it, in the suburbs of Paris. That element is definitely here.

Unfortunately, it happens in most countries. That element is always at protests of this kind. If they think there's a chance to make trouble. As they did last Thursday after a legitimate protest by many students and union members. They were torching cars and they were even mugging some of the legitimate protesters and looting the shops.

So there is definitely that element here, the hard-core element that is just here to cause trouble.

But there are also still a lot of legitimate protesters who are caught in the middle here of this square. And they're just running from one part of the square to the other, trying to avoid the tear gas and then trying to avoid the water canyons.

Excuse me. So there is -- there is definitely a peaceful element that's here, and that peaceful element is angry that certain of the hard-core elements seem to be hijacking their cause.

And I think you can probably hear in the background the boos that are happening just as the riot police are trying to move the protesters down a little bit. There's a couple of bottles being thrown. So there are some skirmishes carrying on.

PHILLIPS: Now, Paula, let's just give a little context. First of all, is the tear gas getting into your lungs? Is that why you're coughing? Are you all right?

HANCOCKS: Yes, I'm fine, I'm OK.

PHILLIPS: All right, let's give background here about this new labor law. I know a little bit about it, not too much. But maybe we can kind of set the scene to why this has reached -- this has gotten so big and it's reached this point. Tell us about this new labor law. A lot of these protesters, these young workers, say that it deprives them of various parts of job security. Is that right? Can you give us details?

HANCOCKS: That is right, yes. Basically, this labor law is a law that the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, brought in last month. He rushed it through parliament, and he didn't really negotiate very much with the unions. And it's a law that allows employers to give contracts to those people under the age of 26. The contract where they can fire them at any point with very little notice and giving no reason for the first two years of that contract.

Now, the prime minister is saying this will make the labor market more flexible. It will create more employment. But the protesters I'm talking to standing around me are saying they will have absolutely no job security. That it's an employer who will be able to ax them at any point.

So the two sides are really diametrically opposed. Neither is negotiating with the other. And certainly not this evening. You can see the police standing off against the protesters. So at the moment, I really don't see how this stalemate will be broken.

PHILLIPS: All right. Paula Hancocks, joining us there via telephone. She's right there in the middle of those protests in Paris.

Paula, thank you so much. We'll continue to talk to you throughout the next couple of hours.

And Paula basically is covering what began just a couple of dozen students. Now we're being told possibly more than a million workers and students taking to the streets across France, demanding the withdrawal of this new labor law, which as Paula was pointing out, these youth are saying it would deprive them of job security, that it would hurt -- these new contracts would hurt long-term employment and protecting them within a short period of time.

We're going to continue to follow the protests, talk more about this new labor law, see how this develops. Stay with CNN for more live coverage of Paris and other stories. We'll continue on right after a quick break.

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