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THE SITUATION ROOM

Coast-to-Coast Marches for Immigrant Rights; Report: Administration Considering Nuclear Strikes in Iran

Aired April 10, 2006 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.

Happening now, pride and prejudice and protest. Around the country they waved White cloths, but not a signal of a truce. Thousands of angry protesters are taking to the streets over immigration reform.

CNN anchor Lou Dobbs and one of the most famous faces in the Spanish language news media will debate this hour.

Urging resignation. A retired U.S. military general calls Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld incompetent. And other retired generals are joining in and urging Rumsfeld to leave, now.

And how should the United States keep a nuclear weapon out of Iran's hands, through diplomacy or by a military strike? One prize- winning journalist says those and other striking options are all on the table. So what's President Bush saying now?

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

We begin with a developing story. America's immigration debate is coming alive in an even more powerful way. Tonight we're watching huge demonstrations for immigrant rights from coast to coast.

Here in Washington, they rallied in the shadow of the Capitol, where senators left for a recess in a partisan stalemate over immigration.

And right now, Californians are gearing up for a big protest in Los Angeles.

Tens of thousands of people marched in Phoenix, Arizona.

Demonstrators across the nation are fighting for efforts to give illegal immigrants a path towards citizenship. And they're fighting against legislation that would make it a felony to be in this country illegally.

Also this hour, the protests are not over yet.

Our Tom Foreman is following all of this. He's joining us live here in Washington -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have been watching the immigrant community in this country for about 15 years now, and I have never, ever seen people there as energized as they are over this issue. And it showed today all across this nation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice over): They marched by the thousands in the nation's capital. And they marched by the thousands in South Carolina's capital. The Phoenix rally drew crushing crowds to the Arizona State Fairgrounds, while a rally in Hartford, Connecticut, drew a crowd of fraction that size.

But no matter how large or small the protest, the passion was palpable at all of these rallies. Some 70 of them stretching from coast to coast.

There were 10 major rallies in the southeastern U.S. alone. An estimated 50,000 people took part in Atlanta.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't want us here. They want us to go back. They're treating us like criminals. They say that we're stealing their jobs. How are we stealing their jobs if they don't want to do them? So we're doing it for them.

FOREMAN: It's been dubbed a "National Day of Action for Immigration Justice." The protesters demanding that immigration reform under debate in Congress include an avenue to allow those already here to become citizens. And they were protesting a House bill that would make it a felony to enter the country illegally.

The politics of this issue weighed heavily on some demonstrators, including one who offered this thought for candidates courting the Latino vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted for George Bush, which was a big mistake. I don't think I'm going to do it again for Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why was it a big mistake?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they're against immigration.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: It is very clear, Wolf, that neither of the parties have the faintest idea what to do about this right now because of just what that man said. They can't figure out if backing this measure will get them support among the immigrant community or opposition from the rest of the community.

So they're very worried about that.

No accident, by the way, that you saw all those American flags and red and white and blue everywhere. They were using Mexican flags a short while ago, got a lot of criticism over that. A calculated shift to show that they feel they belong here and they want the country to accept them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom, thank you very much.

Tom Foreman reporting.

What, if anything, will this day of protest accomplish? Will it be good for the United States?

Still ahead, a spirited immigration debate between our own Lou Dobbs and the anchor Maria Elena Salinas, one of the most influential voices in the Spanish language media. That's coming up.

Lots more on this story, but there's another developing story we're following right now.

If diplomacy does not work, would the United States use military force to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons? The investigative journalist Seymour Hersh of "The New Yorker" magazine says the United States is considering several military options to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, including possibly nuclear bombs to blast Iran's underground bunkers.

Today, President Bush did not actually deny that, but he did say this -- listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon. I know -- I know here in Washington, you know, prevention means force. It doesn't mean force, necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy.

And by the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend and it was just wild speculation, by the way. What you're reading is wild speculation, which is -- it's kind of a -- you know, it happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is standing by with more -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Pentagon officials are adamant that any contingency planning for Iran is just that, routine, and that diplomacy remains the path ahead for the U.S. and its allies to convince Iran to give up its nuclear program.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice over): A strike against Iran's nuclear facilities -- some are deep underground -- would be extraordinarily difficult, current and former U.S. military officials tell CNN. Pentagon sources say a "New Yorker" article by Seymour Hersh that planning for a strike has been stepped is simply not true. Experts with knowledge of Iran say there may be dozens of nuclear sites and detailed information on only a handful of locations.

One key target, the nuclear enrichment facility near Natanz, south of Tehran. By some calculations, it could provide enriched uranium for about 20 nuclear warheads a year. But key parts of it are buried under layers of concrete and dirt designed to withstand bombing by conventional weapons. And the current inventory of U.S. tactical nuclear bombs cannot penetrate deep enough to destroy the target without nuclear fallout.

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI (RET.), FMR. CENTCOM COMMANDER: There's always a problem with getting deeply-buried targets, and it's difficult to get the kind of penetration if they're hardened and extremely deep.

STARR: And the resulting political and security fallout from a U.S. attack could be catastrophic.

ZINNI: I think, first of all, you have to understand that Iran may not just take the strikes and roll over.

STARR: Military officials say there is great concern that Hezbollah or al Qaeda could unleash terrorist attacks around the world. U.S. troops in next-door Iraq would also be at risk.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: One targeting expert estimates it could take as many as 400 bombs to destroy Iran's nuclear program, and that would be just the beginning of any effort to bring down the regime in Tehran -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

Once again, these claims first surfaced in a "New Yorker" magazine article written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh. Yesterday on "LATE EDITION" I asked Hersh about his assertions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you believe based on all the reporting you did for this article that the president of the United States is now aggressively plotting military action, a preemptive strike against Iran?

SEYMOUR HERSH, "NEW YORKER": The word I hear is "messianic." He absolutely thinks, as I wrote, that he's the only one now who will have the courage to do it. He's politically free. I don't think he's overwhelmingly concerned about the '06 elections, congressional elections. I think he really thinks he has a chance and this is going to be his mission.

BLITZER: So your sources have concluded basically that the diplomatic option as it -- as it's going forward is not necessarily going to work? HERSH: That's the fear. The fear is that it's just -- we're back to the -- you know, the pre-Iraqi invasion game when we went through the U.N. exercise. The fear is that the White House -- there are some people in the White House who aren't really -- no matter what happens diplomatically, they don't believe Iran's going to give up its ambitions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Seymour Hersh speaking with me yesterday on "LATE EDITION."

Tonight, high-ranking retired U.S. military generals have some choice words for the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Simply stated, they want Rumsfeld to resign or be fired.

Our Brian Todd is standing by. He's got more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Secretary Rumsfeld has heard this kind of criticism before, but this round is raising eyebrows because of the prominence taking aim at the defense secretary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): Backlash from former top brass and new calls for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Retired Marine General Gregory Newbold, assigned to the Joint Chiefs before the Iraq invasion, writes in "TIME" magazine that the decision to go to war "... was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions or bury the results."

Newbold calls for Rumsfeld's departure, becoming the third prominent retired general in as many weeks to do so.

ZINNI: We made a series of bad decisions. Bad decisions in terms of disbanding the Army, letting the de-Ba'athification go too far, not having a process of reconciliation.

TODD: And General Anthony Zinni, former commander of U.S. Central Command, joins others who says Rumsfeld ignored advice on the number of troops needed to stabilize Iraq.

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): They didn't have enough soldiers to do the missions that they had. They were undermanned for -- for the so-called phase four.

TODD: That's General Paul Eaton, once in charge of postwar training for the Iraqi military who later called Rumsfeld incompetent. But the White House is unwavering.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has great appreciation for the outstanding job he's doing.

TODD: CNN analyst David Grange, a retired general who knows Eaton and Zinni, says it's unusual for three senior retired officers to speak out in a short time span.

GEN. DAVID GRANGE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I think there is maybe some growing dissent within some of the officer corps, but again, it's retired people. Of course, when they're retired, then they will speak publicly. When they're in this service, they'll talk behind closed doors.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Secretary Rumsfeld's press office did not comment on the criticism, but one top Pentagon official points out to CNN that many retired generals do support Rumsfeld. And General Grange says he doesn't think those three generals, prominent as they are, represent the majority in the officer corps -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Wolf. Once again, the streets of our country were taken over today by people who don't belong here.

In the wake of Congress failing to pass immigration legislation last week, America's cities once again were clogged with protesters today. Taxpayers who have surrendered highways, parks, sidewalks and a lot of television news time on all these cable news networks to mobs of illegal aliens are not happy about it.

With every concession by the Bush administration, and the ever- growing demands of Mexican president Vicente Fox, America's illegal aliens are becoming ever bolder. March through our streets and demand your rights. Excuse me? You have no rights here, and that includes the right to tie up our towns and cities and block our streets. At some point this could all turn very violent as Americans become fed up with the failure of their government to address the most pressing domestic issue of our time.

Here's the question: What effect will the immigration protests have?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of these demonstrators, you know, Jack, are legal. And many of them are citizens of the United States. They're not all illegal immigrants, the people protesting.

CAFFERTY: How do you know?

BLITZER: Because I as out on the streets. I saw.

CAFFERTY: Well, where's the immigration service? Why don't they pull the buses up and start asking these people to show their green cards? And the ones that don't have them, put them on the buses and send them home. BLITZER: There's a -- well, that's an expensive proposition, as you know -- 12 million -- 12 million of them.

CAFFERTY: As opposed to the cost we're enduring by having 12 million of these people running around the country.

BLITZER: Jack, much more coming up. We have a debate. Lou Dobbs is standing by as well.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you very much.

Coming up, an immigrant and a governor. That would be Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself. We're going to tell you about his political bind in California.

Plus, the White House leak. President Bush explains himself today for the first time. And the man at the center of it all responds. That would be the former U.S. ambassador, Joe Wilson. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And there's a developing story we're following right now over at Duke University in North Carolina. The DNA results are in from an alleged rape in an off-campus house. And there's a surprising twist on what's going on.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Two political power players are weighing in big-time on the immigration controversy taking center stage today. That would be Hillary Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

CNN's Mary Snow is standing by live in New York. Let's go to L.A. first.

Chris Lawrence is on the streets, where demonstrations, Chris, I take it, are about to begin?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just within the next hour, or next half-hour or so, Wolf. You know, some of the largest crowds, loudest voices have been from there protests here in L.A., where another major rally is just getting set to get started.

So this issue of illegal immigration really puts Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in some say the toughest position of any politician.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): He's the immigrant governor of a border state, a Republican in mostly Democratic California, where about one out of every three people is Hispanic.

ARNOLD STEINBERG, POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he's in a real quandary because the fact is that Republicans see this is an issue of law and order more than anything else.

LAWRENCE: Republican political strategist Arnold Steinberg is critical of Governor Schwarzenegger's balanced opinion on illegal immigration.

STEINBERG: The governor is really trying to preempt the issue by going toward the middle and being sort of a committed extreme "middlest (ph)".

LAWRENCE: In a "Wall Street Journal" editorial, the governor supports tougher enforcement of immigration laws, writing, quote, "Congress must get serious about our security" and "a stronger border means more border patrol agents, greater equipment and better resources."

But he criticizes the plan to fence off the U.S.-Mexican border "Brick walls and chain link fences will not stop the desires and dreams of a father who is desperate to feed his family. And making it a felony to cross the border crosses the line into pure politics."

STEINBERG: The fact of the matter is, he's going to have a very, very tough time because he so alienated his base within the Republican Party, that being in the middle probably isn't good enough.

LAWRENCE: To hold onto the Republican base, Steinberg says the key is not what Schwarzenegger says about illegal immigration, but what he does with the power of his office.

STEINBERG: He got into office by opposing giving driver's licenses to illegal aliens or undocumented aliens there. When that bill comes before him again, will he sign it or veto it?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: We asked the governor's office the same question. They say that's he vetoed that legislation before. And if it came back up again and looked pretty much the same, he would veto it again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris, thanks very much.

Let's go cross country to New York. Mary Snow standing by there -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the crowd here just breaking up. But this has been an issue that's stirred passions.

We saw immigrants from around the world showing up here in downtown Manhattan to rally. This is also, some say, an issue that has stirred a political advantage for Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice over): Coast to coast, as protesters hit the streets, high-profile Democrats joined them. In New York, Senator Hillary Clinton. SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: All across America, thousands -- hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in great crowds like this. And your faces are the faces of America.

SNOW: In Los Angeles, Senator John Kerry.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: So we have to find the ground, the common ground of America based on our best values.

SNOW: In Washington, D.C., Senator Ted Kennedy supported paving the way to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We will never give up.

SNOW: What's uniting Democrats is dividing Republicans.

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: What you're seeing, the tension, is being pulled here over the issue of a guest worker provision. And at this point, it does not look like there's an easy compromise for Republicans on the issue.

SNOW: On Sunday, protesters demonstrated outside the office of Republican Congressman Peter King, who co-sponsored the House bill calling for tougher border patrols. The bill would criminalize helping illegal immigrants. King says he won't bow to pressure from protesters.

Moderate Republicans, especially in the Senate, want some sort of guest worker provision for the estimated 12 million illegals in the country. And striking the right balance is crucial in gaining support from Latinos, the fastest-growing voter bloc. They helped President Bush win re-election in 2004 when he picked up more than 40 percent of their vote.

With midterm elections this year, both parties are well aware of the stakes.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: In marginal races it may be all the difference.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we lost Mary's audio. But we're going to try to fix that. Mary Snow reporting from New York.

Still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, an alleged rape at Duke University involving the lacrosse players. They are accused, but now some new DNA results are in and there's a surprise twist.

We're going to tell you what's going on.

Also, President Bush talks about an intelligent leak. Now the man at the center of it all responds. The former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: There's a major new development in a case that's rocked Duke University and the surrounding community. DNA results linked to the controversial rape allegation against some of the members of the lacrosse team are now in.

CNN's Jason Carroll is joining us now live from Durham, North Carolina, with more.

What are the results, Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me just first tell you, Wolf, that the defense attorneys said this is news that they say they have been waiting for some time with regards to this case. The DNA results show no match between the players and the woman who says she was raped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WADE SMITH, ATTORNEY: No DNA from any young man tested was found anywhere on or about the body of this woman.

MICHAEL DIFONG, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Nobody is going to get a proper record based on things that are leaked by either side prior to trial. The place to get a proper record in any criminal proceeding is in the trial, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any of the evidence at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: This is a case, Wolf, as you know, that has really magnified racial tensions in Durham. The young woman, the exotic dancer, she's black. She says that the three lacrosse players who attacked her and shouted racial slurs at her during the course of the attacks were white.

And at this point, the defense attorneys are saying that since the DNA test results are in and show no match, the D.A. should simply drop the case. But as you can see, the D.A. is not commenting, but he did tell us at this point it doesn't appear as if he will drop the case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason. We'll continue to watch this story.

Thank you very much.

Just ahead, immigration nation. Good or bad for the United States? Lou Dobbs and Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas, they're standing by.

Plus, White House intelligence leak. President Bush tells his side of the story.

And the former ambassador Joe Wilson will tell his. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

The White House is once again under a spotlight stemming from the CIA leak investigation. And this time the president is implicated, although not of breaking the law.

It's the latest development in a case that started when the name of an undercover CIA operative was leaked to reporters after her husband criticized White House assertions about Iraq's attempts to buy uranium.

Ambassador Joe Wilson is standing by here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

First, though, our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, brings up to date on this complicated case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Bush insists he did not leak classified information to justify his rationale for the Iraq war. Instead, he just declassified it.

BUSH: You're not supposed to talk about classified information. And so, I declassified the document.

MALVEAUX: That document was the October 2002 national intelligence estimate, or NIE, which supported Mr. Bush's claim that Iraq was trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush cleared a portion of the NIE for public consumption as he is legally authorized to do several months after the U.S. invaded Iraq, but failed to find weapons of mass destruction.

It was part of a top-level campaign to discredit his critics who were accusing him of twisting Iraqi intelligence to justify the war.

BUSH: I decided to declassify the NIE for a reason. I wanted people to see the truth.

MALVEAUX: Court documents in the trial of top Cheney aide Scooter Libby show that the White House was particularly irked by former ambassador Joe Wilson's challenges, that Iraq sought nuclear weapons. So the president's public defense of the war was no longer enough.

BUSH: I thought it was important for people. To get a better sense for why I was say I saying in my speeches. I felt I could do so without jeopardizing ongoing intelligence matters, so I did it.

MALVEAUX: What the president did, the White House maintains, was disclose information that was previously classified. Not leak.

BUSH: There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. MALVEAUX: But Democrats say the president is being hypocritical and parsing his words. Political analysts say that strategy failed former president Bill Clinton.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It depends on what the meaning of the word is is.

MALVEAUX: And ultimately will backfire with Mr. Bush.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think that does not wash with the general public.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: At least one Republican, Senator Arlen Specter has joined Democrats in calling for President Bush to give a fuller explanation.

BLITZER: Suzanne, thank you very much. Now we talk to the former U.S. ambassador, Joe Wilson, about these developments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond to the president's statement.

JOE WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: I believe, in fact, it's probably in the interest of the American public. It is certainly in interest of the president and vice president to be very direct with the American people with exactly what happened in that time frame. My view is that they should release the White House transcripts of their testimony to Mr. Fitzgerald. There's a precedent for doing that. I would fully expect that the White House transcripts of their conversations with Mr. Fitzgerald would make very clear.

BLITZER: I asked people why wouldn't they do that. They argue this is the middle of legal proceedings right now. When all of the other legal matters, have been resolved at this point, for historic record they would do that. But it would be inappropriate to start releasing the kind of testimony you want released while the proceedings are still under way.

WILSON: By the way, not just me. Senator Specter --

BLITZER: Senator Specter said the president should give a fuller explanation. The vice president should give a fuller explanation. He didn't say what you're saying that they should release the actual transcripts of their testimony.

WILSON: The fullest possible explanation --

BLITZER: That would be OK with you, if they came out and gave a full explanation.

WILSON: I'd like to see the White House transcripts, but I would certainly like to see a fuller explanation.

Listen to what Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona told me yesterday involving you. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: The Wilson piece that appeared in the newspaper provided some of, but not all of the information and created a distorted picture. And so, they recognized that they needed to get some of the information declassified so that the full picture could emerge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The argument being, and you've heard this, that you were criticizing them, so the natural reaction for Scooter Libby and others in the White House is to rebut, to respond to the criticism.

WILSON: Which is absolutely fine. And indeed, I would have loved it if they had, in fact, declassified the entire national intelligence estimate and put it out there.

BLITZER: They never declassified the whole thing. They declassified a big chunk of it, but never the whole thing.

WILSON: They leaked selective parts of it. Page 24, which happened to contain the information which was misleading about the allegation, and which was rebutted in the appendix, and, which, by the way, was not part of the key judgments. When Mr. Libby spoke to Ms. Miller, according to testimony, he said that one of the key judgments was this allegation. In fact, it was not.

BLITZER: Scott McClellan, White House...

WILSON: Now, with respect to Jon Kyl, by the way...

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead.

WILSON: ... he knows very well because he is the one who asks the question in the Senate Select Committee on intelligence briefing.

BLITZER: He was a member.

WILSON: He was the person who asked the deputy director of Central Intelligence about the allegation that Saddam had attempted to purchase uranium from Africa four months before the State of the Union Address. And it was to him that the response was, we believe the British have stretched the case beyond where we would stretch it.

BLITZER: What he said to me yesterday was that they couldn't confirm it, was the way that they sort of phrased it to him.

WILSON: Well, that's not the way the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report reads.

BLITZER: Well, let's -- let me get you also to respond to what the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, said on Friday.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There were people that were out there making irresponsible accusations that intelligence was manipulated or that intelligence was misused. There's been no evidence to back that up, whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You're smirking, you're laughing.

WILSON: No, I'm not smirking. I'm really rather saddened by all this, because after all, everything that has come out, all the reporting over the weekend, where people finally did go in and dig into the NIE, makes...

BLITZER: The story in "The Washington Post."

WILSON: "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" make abundantly clear that, in fact, there was nothing to sustain this allegation. And, in fact, the White House and the Senate knew it weeks before the president's State of the Union Address. And it is very sad to think that indeed there was the twisting of intelligence to support political decisions to take this country to war.

BLITZER: Do you believe based on everything you know right now that the president or the vice president directly had a role in outing the name of your wife, Valerie Plame-Wilson, as an undercover CIA operative?

WILSON: I have -- I have no knowledge of that one way or the other. I'm as curious as everybody else is. Perhaps more curious since it is my wife and since it's very clear from the filings of what happened to us was part of a concerted effort to besmirch my good name and my wife's reputation and damage her career.

BLITZER: It was clear in the document that was released last week that there was a plot, a plan, whatever you want to call it, to rebut you and to go after you to undermine your credibility. But there was no assertion...

WILSON: Oh, I think it's more than that. I think if you read the filing it's very clear that there was a concerted effort to -- to engage in character assassination.

BLITZER: But that stopped short...

WILSON: This was not hardball.

BLITZER: Right. But...

WILSON: This was not hardball. This was spitball politics.

BLITZER: But it stopped short of actually making the assertion that there was a concerted effort to release the name of your wife, who was a clandestine officer.

WILSON: Well, it certainly makes the case that my wife was a classified officer and, therefore, the leak of her name is a violation of national security. Whether that can be prosecuted and other relevant acts, I have no idea. But at a minimum, it's a violation of national security. There are administrative procedures for that.

BLITZER: But Patrick Fitzgerald is not going after that. He's going after the -- he's simply investigating, at least based on what he's charged so far, that Lewis "Scooter" Libby lied.

WILSON: Well, Mr. Fitzgerald has made it very clear and made it very clear in his press conference two things. One, justice would be served so long as somebody was prosecuted for a crime. And second, he made it very clear that the fact that Mr. Libby had perjured himself and had obstructed justice in the view of the special prosecutor, that had stymied his effort, really, to get to the bottom of the organic crime that he was -- that he was looking in to.

BLITZER: This is what you said almost three years ago about Karl Rove. You said, "At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

You still want to see him frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs?

WILSON: I think that's appropriate, but as I said a long time ago, I'd be happy to take the handcuffs off, just have him frog- marched out of the White House. I cannot understand how the president of the United States would keep on his senior staff somebody who was so cavalier with the national security of my country.

BLITZER: Ambassador Joe Wilson, thanks very much for joining us.

WILSON: Good to be with you, Wolf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We asked The White House to react to Joe Wilson's comments. So far, no comment from the White House.

Up ahead -- immigration nation. Thousands of people hitting the streets in protests. Lou Dobbs and Univision anchor, Maria Eliana Salinas, they're standing by.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back now to our top story. Coast to coast demonstrations for immigrants rights. Hundreds of thousands of people on the march, from here on the East Coast, out to the West Coast, including all over the country. It's the biggest wave of immigration rallies yet. And some are even likening it to the civil rights movement. In all, about 70 protests with a big demonstration in Los Angeles about to begin. Two T.V. anchors who are outspoken on this issue are joining us now, live.

CNN's own Lou Dobbs and Maria Elena Salinas of the Spanish language network Univision. Thanks to both of you for joining us. Lou, these people say they're sick and tired of being treated like criminals. What do you say?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well I don't know that they are being treated like criminals. That's the interesting part. They're demonstrating in our streets, taking the right of assembly and free expression. It looked to me like they're being treated pretty well. They're hardly in the shadows. And I don't see any INS agents, any ICE agents, rounding anybody up. So it looks to me like that's a bit of stretch.

BLITZER: Is it stretch, Maria Elena?

MARIA ELENA SALINAS, ANCHOR, UNIVISION: Well that's just one of the misconceptions of illegal immigration and of immigrants in general. If you think all the people that are out here today in Los Angeles are undocumented immigrants, you're wrong. Because now it has spilled over to where all Hispanics feel offended by what has been going on, by the rhetoric, the level of the negativity that you hear coming out of Capitol Hill. And also in some television stations and by some journalists.

These people -- a lot of them are not only legal residents but they're also U.S. citizens, American citizens. One of the misconceptions, they're not all Mexicans, they're not all Latin Americans. There's Asians, there are Haitians that have come out to protest.

There are Europeans have come out to protest. You see American flags everywhere. And once in awhile you'll see a flag from Mexico, you'll see a flag from Argentina, from different countries. Why wouldn't an American citizen, Lou, have the right to protest? This is what makes this country so great. This is a country where there's freedom of expression. People can come out and protest. And that's exactly what they're doing.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Lou.

DOBBS: Well I'm certainly not complaining about the protest or the demonstration in any way whatsoever. So I don't know what you're talking about. The fact is, I even complimented the organizers.

SALINAS: There's American citizens here.

DOBBS: I'm sorry? I didn't understand you, Maria Elena.

SALINAS: You were saying that the INS -- you said INS should be out here arresting people. Why would doing that when there are thousands of people out here who are legal residents of the United States and American citizens of Hispanic origin?

DOBBS: Right. I was responding to really Wolf's question about this, in terms of being in the shadows. The statements by many of the organizers that this is a demonstration for certain rights, that are only enjoyed by American citizens. And the organizers have told us that many of the demonstrators, if not most are illegal aliens.

SALINAS: Oh, yes, most of them are. But not all of them.

DOBBS: I didn't say they were.

SALINAS: You continue to call them criminals. And they are not criminals.

DOBBS: No, I don't. I call them illegal aliens.

SALINAS: Of course I know HR-4437.

DOBBS: I call them illegal aliens and that's what they're called by the Department of Homeland Security.

SALINAS: No, you just called them criminals a couple of minutes ago. You said that they are criminals.

DOBBS: No I didn't, Maria Elena.

BLITZER: Maria Elena, there's a lot of people who think on your side of this debate, that there's a racist element underway. There are a lot of people, Lou, you know that, that think that if these people were blond or blue-eyed from Europe, the demonstrations against the illegal immigrants wouldn't be as serious as they are. Maria Elena is shaking her hear yes. Is that a prevailing view in the Latino community?

SALINAS: Well there are certain things that indicate that there is a racist tones to this. Without a doubt, because there's constantly people saying go back to Mexico, protect the border of Mexico when the illegal immigration or undocumented immigration comes from all over, not only from the border.

I mean, people don't understand in this country, that there are millions of people who come here illegally, overstay their visas and turn into undocumented immigrants. And there's people from all over the world, there's people from South America that are very wealthy, that because of their personal circumstances they become undocumented.

BLITZER: OK.

SALINAS: So the racist undertones that are detected are sometimes because the debate is constantly attacking Mexicans and asking to block the Mexican border.

BLITZER: All right, Lou, go ahead.

DOBBS: Well if it is racism to call for control of our southern border with Mexico, then you would have to define me and millions of other Americans as racist. That's quite right, Maria Elena.

SALINAS: Well I'm not calling you racist. I'm saying -- Lou, what I am saying is that that is not the only -- there are, of course there are Mexicans that are here undocumented, of course there are. And of course we should enforce our security in the border, in the southern border, in the northern border, in all the borders from state to state, in all the ports,k in all of our airports.

Our country, unfortunately it's not safe. But it is not these people that are out here protesting that are threatening our country. They're not terrorists, they are not criminals. Most of them are hardworking people that are helping the economy of this country. If it wasn't for them, there are industries that would completely collapse.

BLITZER: Lou do you want to respond to that?

DOBBS: I really don't know where to begin, Wolf, because there's so many distortions in what is often articulated in this discussion. One is border security has nothing to do with these demonstrations. The people who have organized them really don't want border security. They don't want port security. But we cannot have reform of immigration that is...

SALINAS: That is not true, I'm sorry, but there is another misconception.

BLITZER: All right, Maria Elena, let Lou finish. Go ahead, Lou.

SALINAS: If you do not have all of the information, you can't really have a debate. Go ahead.

DOBBS: Well I apologize for my lack of understanding of the issues, then. But with my understanding of the issues, limited though it may be, Maria Elena, I feel very strongly that the borders have to be secured.

We have to be able to control immigration before we can ever meaningfully reform it. And unfortunately, there are too many people involved in this, who would not be involved were it not that most of the illegal immigrants in this country originated in Mexico and Central America.

Despite the fact that we have a million legal immigrants come to this country every year, and the vast number of those originated in Mexico, there is nothing in all of this, despite the hysterics or the hysteria, the hyperbole, that could not be resolved by simple enforcement of our immigration laws. And the absolute insistence, that I think most rational well-meaning Americans would have that we secure our borders and our ports.

BLITZER: All right.

DOBBS: I don't see the basis for any other view, frankly.

SALINAS: But I don't think that there's anyone saying let's not secure our -- I'm sorry, Lou, but I disagree with you because everyone here thinks -- agrees...

DOBBS: That's fine, that's what makes America great.

SALINAS: ... that they should secure the border. I have not heard anyone up to now say, "Let's have an open-border policy. We do not want security on the border."

On the contrary, we say, "Yes, should have securing the border." But we can also deal with the situation of the 11-to-12 million undocumented immigrants in this country. What these people want is an opportunity to become legalized. They want a path to citizenship. They want to contribute to this country like they have been doing for so many years. They want legislation that is humane, that is realistic, and that is enforceable. That's what they want, along with border security. That's what they want.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, we've got to leave it there. Lou, Maria Elena, both of you have got to get ready for your next broadcast, especially Maria Elena.

DOBBS: Not me, Wolf, I'm through for the day.

BLITZER: You're done for the day, Lou, we'll see you here tomorrow. Thanks to both of you, very much. Maria Elena, thank you to you as well.

Up ahead, tens of thousands turning across the United States, demanding immigration reform. But what impact will these protests actually have? Jack Cafferty, taking hundreds of your e-mails right now and he's going to show us a sample. Stay with us.

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BLITZER: Jack's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question we're fooling with this hour is ultimately, what effect will all these immigration protests have?

Bruce writes from Delaware -- "The effect will be that I exercise my option to dump all incumbents in November. I sense the intensity of the middle class is potentially quite violent, and already viscerally very angry."

Michael in my home town, Reno, Nevada -- "I think the demonstrations by noncitizens with benefits are very encouraging. Most of my friends have now joined me to lobby for the Sensenbrenner bill and hopefully have the fines and penalties increased. Enough is enough."

Dee in Washington -- "I think the protests just go to show that illegal aliens are more passionate about this country than U.S. citizens seem to be."

Karl in Henderson, Kentucky -- "The more demonstrations, the madder I get. As an average American, I hope the rest of the average citizens are steaming, too. Congress needs to act, and anyone in the United States illegally should go home."

Rafael writes -- "Your stand on this issue is ridiculous. This country would crumble without immigrants. These people are not entering illegally with criminal intent. They're in search of a better life."

True, Rafael, but they're coming illegally.

And John in Miami writes -- "It will have a domino effect. I work for a company that makes dominoes, and I haven't had a raise in three years." Wolf.

CAFFERTY: All right, Jack. Thank you very much. See you tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has been following these protests online -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, with all of the protests and rallies, it's tough to keep track of them all. But April10.org has become somewhat of a clearinghouse. Thirty-one rallies and protests in cities today, and some of the photos from the District of Columbia just now showing up online. Other people starting to upload their photos online as well, at flickr.com, the group photo blog. It's free for people to put heir photographs online.

Lexington, Kentucky here for you. Atlanta, Georgia. We're seeing photos coming out of Love Park in Philadelphia. Also photographs out of the University of Chicago in Champagne.

Also, happening now, Wolf, there are still protests going on. This day is still not over. A flyer downloadable for a protest in San Jose. There is also flyers downloadable for a protest just getting under way in Los Angeles within the hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much. Let's go up to New York again, Paula Zahn standing by with a look at what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf, thanks so much. Well, we're going to have more on this afternoon's bombshell announcement surrounding the sexual assault allegations against players on Duke University's lacrosse team. Are there really no DNA matches as one of the team's defense lawyers claims? We will hash that all out tonight.

Also, a little boy who called 911 trying to save his mother's life. When you hear what the operator said, you'll be asking what were they thinking? First, the kid was dissed by one operator, and then three hours later, the same thing. Tonight, we're going to try to explore what went wrong.

That and more at the top of the hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: Really a shocking story...

ZAHN: It's very sad.

BLITZER: Paula, thank you very much for that.

Still ahead here on THE SITUATION ROOM, Enron's chief executive takes the stand. Find out why he says he wanted to die. Ali Velshi has "The Bottom Line."

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BLITZER: Ali Velshi standing by with "The Bottom Line" -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf, talking about Jeff Skilling, the former CEO of Enron. He said like he felt he wanted to die. That's what he told a Houston courtroom today when his lawyer asked him how he felt back in 2001, when he saw images of Enron employees who had just lost their jobs.

Skilling, who was the CEO at the end, finally took the stand today, declaring, quote, "his life was on the line," end quote. Skilling said he was innocent, and that he'd been caught up in witch hunt with people looking for someone to blame for the lost money and the lost jobs.

It only gets tougher for Skilling. The Enron task force gets to question him later in the week.

Now, if you've been sleeping on oil prices since Katrina hit, it's time to wake up. Crude oil climbed more than $1 today, to $68.74 a barrel. That puts it within striking distance of an all-time high.

Now, chief among the fears that were driving oil up -- Iran, of course. The latest report that the U.S. is considering military options, including nuclear bombs, to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, helped drive the prices higher. Iran is the world's fourth biggest oil producer.

Now, there's also some lingering problem in Nigeria, where rebel attacks have shut down half a million barrels a day of production. Shell, which lost most of that production, says it still can't say when oil will return to that market.

The spike in oil comes as prices at the pump jumped 17 cents a gallon over the last two weeks. And oil has kept investors on edge. The Dow added 21 points, to 11,141. The Nasdaq lost 5 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That price of oil, that's a worrisome development, especially given the nature of world events right now. Ali, we'll continue to watch it together with you. Ali Velshi with "The Bottom Line."

Don't forget, we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We're back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for joining us. Let's head up to New York; Paula Zahn is standing by -- Paula.

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