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Preparation for Hurricane Season; Key Members of Congress go Behind Closed Doors about Reported Collection of Phone Records; Interview with Mary Cheney; Debate over Immigration Fueling Hate Groups

Aired May 17, 2006 - 17:00   ET


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 today's top stories.

Happening now, it's almost 4:00 p.m. here -- actually, 4:00 p.m. in New Orleans. Hurricane season beginning in only two weeks. After months of feverish repair work, will the levees hold? Startling admissions coming in right now from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And it's 5:00 p.m. here in Washington. On the even of confirmation hearings for a spy chief, key members of Congress go behind closed doors to find out what's behind the reported collection of Americans' phone records.

And she's out with a new book. I'll ask Mary Cheney about everything from same-sex marriage, to the war in Iraq, to her father's health. A candidate interview with her, that's coming up.

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

Over the past eight months, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been racing to prepare New Orleans for the next hurricane. But with the next storm just two weeks away, when will the levees be ready and what happens if a hurricane hits?

CNN's Sean Callebs is joining us now from New Orleans.

Sean, this is a very worrisome problem for the people in New Orleans.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think you can say it is perhaps the worst nightmare for the residents in this area. For months they have been hearing June 1, the levees, the floodgates will be ready. Well, now the Army Corps of Engineers says it will not meet that deadline and will slide at least two weeks.


CALLEBS (voice over): He's gutting his house, but Brian Bonura has no plans to move back in, at least not this year. Especially, he says, now that the Army Corps of Engineers admits construction on floodgates and levees will not be finished when the hurricane season starts June 1st.

BRIAN BONURA, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I don't feel safe come back to this area right now. And I would rather be somewhere else and come here and work on it. And hopefully in the future, you know, it will be safe to come back and live here again.

CALLEBS: Colonel Lewis Setliff is in charge of the federal project to repair the levee system dubbed Task Force Guardian.

COL. LEWIS SETLIFF, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: We're going to be very anxious. But I'll tell you, if these are -- if these systems are never tested, I'll be very happy.

CALLEBS: It will be at least a month until repairs are done. But local residents like Bonura and his business partner Mike Palmisano say they, like others, will sweat out the entire hurricane season.

MIKE PALMISANO, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: They don't feel safe. I mean, just think about it, you're not going to go pour new money into an area when you know that there is a potential problem for this levee to go ahead and break again.

CALLEBS: And despite months of work here, the "what if" factor has the corps concerned.

SETLIFF: We don't know the frequency, the dynamics involved, is there another Hurricane Katrina coming. But I do know that the system we're building will prevent catastrophic failure.


CALLEBS: And that is indeed what this area is counting on. We have all heard the warnings from hurricane forecasters that this, again, is supposed to be another very active year for hurricanes. Wolf there is some 350 miles of levees surrounding this city, the only thing keeping the water out.

The big question, will those hold? The city cannot take another big hit like it had last year.

BLITZER: What a story. Sean, thanks very much. Good luck in covering this hurricane season where you are.

From wiretaps without warrants, to the reported collection of phone records, members of Congress want to know what the super-secret National Security Agency is really up to. Today they got a closed- door briefing on the eve of confirmation hearings for the CIA director nominee.

Let's go to our national security correspondent, David Ensor -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these briefings needed to happen before tomorrow's confirmation hearings for General Michael Hayden for the CIA, and they needed to go far enough to make his chances better tomorrow.


ENSOR (voice over): Briefers from the National Security Agency were called up to tell Senate Intelligence Committee members more about the domestic aspects of the NSA's post-9/11 snooping designed to track potential terrorists in this country.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: It was a very good briefing. I think it was very informative.

ENSOR: The Republican chairman said it's going well. But whether Senate Democrats and even some Republicans agree they're learning what they want to know, will it become clear at the hearings on the nomination of General Michael Hayden, former NSA director, to be director of the CIA? And based on past comments by senators, the probable answer to that is no.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We're left in a position where they don't tell us anything and we know nothing. And then we're all talking without any knowledge until these leaks in the newspapers come, and then some on the other side get all hysterical about the leaks in the newspapers.


ENSOR: The confusion over the programs has been heightened by statements from BellSouth and Verizon denying aspects of the "USA Today" story saying Americans' phone call records are being given to the NSA. But knowledgeable intelligence and legal experts say the denials were very carefully crafted, leaving room for the NSA to be obtaining the records still -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David, thank you for that.

And to our viewers, stay with CNN for complete coverage tomorrow of the confirmation hearings of General Hayden. I'll be here anchoring our coverage, a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

That begins at 9:25 a.m. The hearings begin at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. We'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM for you for that.

Another angle to the NSA spying program, some customers are suing some of the major phone companies. Plaintiffs in a case against AT&T say today in court that they have proof the company shared information with the NSA.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has more on that.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're talking about internal AT&T documents furnished by a former AT&T employee who says that they show that AT&T gave the NSA access to vast e-mail and phone databases. AT&T has been fighting in court to get these back.

Today, a federal judge rejected that bid, even though AT&T said these documents are proprietary and included trade secrets. Plaintiffs -- these documents are still under seal. We can't show them -- we can't see them here online. They're not out in the public.

What EFF, which is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who brought this case, what they say is these documents prove this AT&T- NSA relationship. Earlier court filings refer to a cable of Internet data that was split with one going -- one copy going directly to the NSA.

AT&T has said repeatedly they cannot comment on ongoing litigation but they follow all laws and respect customer privacy. If the -- if the government has their way, this case won't even go ahead. Last week, the Department of Justice said that they wanted to dismiss this case because it deals with state secrets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that.

Let's check back with Jack. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File"-- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What do you do when gas prices hit 3 bucks a gallon? Well, one idea is to raise the speed limit to 80 miles an hour. This is actually under consideration in Texas.

There are a couple of rural highways in west Texas where a study found that most of the drivers that use these roads already drive between 76 and 79 miles an hour. At 80 miles an hour, your car not only burns more gasoline, you stand a much better chance of killing yourself if you have an accident. And you have a much better chance of having an accident at the higher speed.

There are actually serious discussions elsewhere in the United States about reducing the speed limit to 55 miles an hour, like it used to be during the last gasoline crisis. The Energy Department says gas mileage drops sharply at speeds above 60.

So the question is this: Does raising the speed limit to 80 miles an hour anywhere in the United States make any sense?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thank you.

Up ahead, we're going to take you live to an immigrants' rights rally. It's happening right now here in Washington on the National Mall. And we'll also get some details of a Senate vote to build a giant fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Also, are U.S. troops caught in a civil war in Iraq? I'll ask the man who is the top military spokesman there, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me.

Plus, my interview with Mary Cheney, the openly gay daughter of the vice president. We'll talk about her father's role, her role in the campaign, the CIA leak probe, Scooter Libby, lots more.

All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here she is, Zain Verjee, once again, joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta with some other important stories making news.

Hi, Zain.


They're offering candy for gold. That's what Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is calling a package the Europeans may offer Iran in exchange for a freeze on Iran's uranium enrichment program. Reports say among European incentives there's a light water (ph) reactor that's harder to use in weapon developments.

The U.S. suspects Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran's denied that and says it has a right under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty to produce nuclear fuel that they say is intended only to generate power.

The World Health Organization is confirming five new human deaths from bird flu in Indonesia. These latest cases give the country a total of 30 victims, second only to Vietnam. The H5N1 virus has spread rapidly through Indonesia's bird population and is now reported in two-thirds of the country's provinces.

Iraq may finally be on the verge of installing a permanent government five months after elections. The parliament's speaker says that Prime Minister-Designate Nouri al-Maliki will present his cabinet nominations on Saturday with a vote by parliament expected to follow.

We're going to be talking about that and a lot more coming up in just a few minutes. The former deputy director of U.S. operations in Iraq, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, is going to be joining Wolf in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Zain, for that.

Let's check in with Ali Velshi. He's in New York. He's got "The Bottom Line".


BLITZER: Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're going to take you live to the National Mall here in Washington. Protesters are targeting Congress right now as the border battle heats up. We'll show you what is going on outside.

Plus, he's the top U.S. military planner. I'll talk here in THE SITUATION ROOM with Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. Military Central Command. We'll talk about what's going on in Iraq right now, what about military plans to deal with Iran.

Lots coming up with General Kimmitt right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Exactly six months ago, Democratic Congressman John Murtha, a strong supporter of the U.S. military, called for a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Murtha said today nothing has changed in Iraq since then. Is there an end in sight?


And joining us now, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt. He's the deputy director for plans and strategies of the U.S. military's Central Command.

Welcome to Washington, General.


BLITZER: Here is what Representative John Murtha said earlier today. Listen to this.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: We're caught in a civil war, and our military is caught in between. We've got 100,000 Shias fighting with 20,000 Sunnis. And we have alienated every country in the region.

BLITZER: A harsh assessment. You were just in the region. What is your assessment?

KIMMITT: Well, again, we have tremendous respect for Congressman Murtha, but I don't agree with his assessment as we see it on the ground. There is sectarian violence going on. The government of Iraq is taking action against that. It is not helpful to the overall situation, nor are the presence of the militias.

BLITZER: What, if anything, is the government, the punitive government of Iraq right now, doing to stop these militias? Because they seem to be in charge of huge areas of some of the most contested parts of Iraq.

KIMMITT: Well, first of all, they're not in any large number taking over any parts of the country.

BLITZER: But the Badr militia, the Mehdi militia, the Peshmurga's got the control of the north, for all practical purposes.

KIMMITT: But all of those areas are under control of the coalition and of the Iraqi security forces. They're not under separate control of any other organization, either the coalition forces or the Iraqis. The government is taking very decisive action, has made it very clear that they intend to demobilize this arm and reintegrate the militias.

It's going to take some time.

BLITZER: Do you to see a civil war either happening now or on the verge of a civil war?

KIMMITT: I really don't. The sectarian violence has worsened. There's no doubt about it. But the military is holding firm.

One of the real indicators of civil war is, as we have seen in Lebanon, the military broken down along confessional lines. As we saw in Yugoslavia -- in fact, in our own country when the Army broke up the union army and the army of the south.

Number one, the military is holding firm. We've not had any instances where units have crossed over to either the militia or broken their bonds to the Iraqi government. And the Iraqi government, too, has said, we're going to stick this out, we're going stay together.

BLITZER: They say they're going to break up the militias. We'll see.

General Barry McCaffrey, retired, said this the other day. He said, "We need at least two to five more years of U.S. partnership and combat backup to get the Iraqi army ready to stand on its own."

Two to five-year assessment on his part. He was in the region. He's a four-star general, retired.

What do you think?

KIMMITT: Well, I think that those numbers are plausible. There will be -- this is not a situation that is going to be cured in weeks nor days. We're talking months, we're talking years.

We're prepared to work with the Iraqi security forces to have them take over more and more of the responsibility. We can't leave the job undone. We can't leave a half-trained military to take over responsibility for the security.

BLITZER: Here is what Captain James Beal -- he's training Iraqi troops at the Haditha Dam -- was quoted in the "Los Angeles Times" on May 13th as saying.

"There's a lot of lip service being given about letting the Iraqis do independent ops, but nothing much is happening. A lot of our guys just don't believe in letting Iraqis get out and do things."

That's a guy who's on the ground.


BLITZER: He's training these Iraqis. Is he right?

KIMMITT: Well, he could be well correct that where he is at that point that maybe the specific case on Haditha Dam. But the fact is that we have 16 brigades of Iraqi security forces, over 58 battalions in the field fighting.

Some of them need American assistance. Some of them are using advisers -- we call them military training teams to support them. But they're taking on more and more of the fight.

And I think it's far more than lip service. The number of operations that are led by Iraqis, the number of operations where the vast majority of forces are Iraqis is probably the vast majority of the operations we're seeing on the ground today.

BLITZER: The Central Command -- and you work at the U.S. military's Central Command, in charge of the Middle East region -- one sensitive area that you oversee is Iran, next-door neighbor to Iraq. How much time do you spend planning potentially a military operation to deal with Iran's nuclear capabilities?

KIMMITT: Well, I think what we do is watch the diplomatic work that is being done. We firmly support the notion of a diplomatic solution.

The world has some concerns about Iran and its nuclear programs. The opportunity for military options always remains. But that's probably the last option we should be considering. Let's let diplomacy work on this.

BLITZER: But you obviously have to plan for that contingency. You plan for all sorts of contingencies.

KIMMITT: Sure. Planners plan all the time.

BLITZER: Is there a military option?

KIMMITT: There's certainly -- what I would say is we remain capable of doing whatever our nation asks us to do.

BLITZER: So if the president or the secretary of defense said, "Take out this nuclear facility," you would have an opportunity, you would have a plan ready to go?

KIMMITT: Oh, I think that I wouldn't want to talk about any hypotheticals. But we remain prepared to do whatever our country asks us to do when we're asked to do it.

BLITZER: The National Guard, as you know, troops from the National Guard, the Reserves, they've played a significant role in Iraq over the past three years. A big percentage of the troops on the ground are National Guard or Reserves. Now the president is saying up to 6,000 National Guard forces will be deployed to the border with Mexico. Some senators like Chuck Hagel and others are suggesting the National Guard is already stretched too thin.

How dependent is the Central Command on the National Guard, and will this deployment to Mexico -- to the Mexican border undermine your military planning?

KIMMITT: Well, I don't think it does. Again, we are in the -- we're on the demand side of the equation.

We ask for forces from the Pentagon and from the services. The services are the ones that determine which are the best forces to be sent over. We have not received any indication from our services that the deployment of the National Guard forces down to the border will impair our current or potential future operations in the region.

BLITZER: This is all part of a long war which is a theme that you clearly have been advancing. Briefly explain to our viewers what you mean by that.

KIMMITT: Well, when we talk about the long war, it is the understanding that, although our main effort may be in Iraq and Afghanistan, the real existential threat in the long run to this country is al Qaeda and its associated movements. We have groups throughout the region such as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in Aleria, the Islamic Movement in Uzbekistan, Jama Islamiya.

These are groups that work affiliates, so to speak, of al Qaeda, that share the ideology and share the war on the West that bin Laden declared in 1998. That ideology must be defeated. Those forces must be defeated. We believe it is going to be a fight that goes on long beyond the time we stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan.

BLITZER: General Kimmitt, welcome to Washington. Good luck.

KIMMITT: Thank you.


BLITZER: And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the border battle happening now on the National Mall and in Congress. We're going to take you live. We'll get details of the latest skirmishes.

Plus, my candid interview with the daughter of the vice president, Mary Cheney. She'll join us in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk politics, Iraq, her role as a lesbian working on her conservative father's campaign.

All that coming up.


BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

She's a close, entrusted adviser to the vice president of the United States. She's an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq. But she's also at odds with many conservatives in the Republican Party over an issue very personal to her. Ordinarily, that might not cause much of a stir, but this is by no means any ordinary person. It's the vice president's daughter.


BLITZER: And joining us now is Mary Cheney. She's the author of a new book entitled "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life".

Mary Cheney, thanks for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. MARY CHENEY, AUTHOR, "NOW IT'S MY TURN": Thanks for having me here.

BLITZER: On Sunday I interviewed the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist. And I pointed out what you write in your book, your opposition to a constitutional amendment that would ban, in effect, same-sex marriage. And I asked him what he would say to the vice president of the United States if he looked him in the eye knowing that the vice president's daughter, Mary Cheney, is herself a lesbian.

Here is what he said to me.


SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I'd basically say, "Mr. Vice President, right now marriage is under attack in this country. And we have seen it, we have seen activist judges overturning state- by-state law, where state legislatures have passed law defining marriage between a man and a woman. And that is why we need an amendment to come to the floor of the United States Senate to define marriage as that union between one man and one woman."


BLITZER: All right. I'll ask you. If you could look Senator Frist in the eye right now, what would you say to him?

CHENEY: Well, obviously I think Senator Frist is wrong. The -- same-sex marriage is obviously an issue that we can degree on and that this country needs to debate. But the notion of amending the Constitution and writing -- basically writing discrimination into the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally wrong.

BLITZER: You write this on page 180 in your book: "If the Republican Party fails to come around on this issue (same-sex marriage), I believe it will find itself on the wrong side of history and on a sharp decline into irrelevance." Those are strong words.

CHENEY: They are strong words. And I did write them. And I believe them. I think if you look at polls, and I do talk about them in the book, this is not a conservative issue, not a liberal issue, not a Republican issue or Democrat issue. This is a generational issue.

And as, you know, voter -- as younger voters come -- as younger people come of age, what you're going to see is you're going to see resistance to same sex marriage dissipating, and you're going to see politicians who continue advocating on behalf of discrimination, particularly discrimination in the Constitution.

BLITZER: You see this in the book in which you go into great length as almost like treating gays and lesbians as second class citizens, real discrimination along the lines of what used to exist in this country with other minorities.

CHENEY: The analogy I use in the book, I don't think I use the word second class citizens anywhere. But the analogy I use in the book is when the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Virginia v. Loving, and forgive me if I don't remember the year. It was '62 or '67. Polls at the time showed it was one of the most unpopular decisions ever by the Supreme Court. Something like 72 percent of the people in America opposed the idea of interracial marriage.

Now 40 years later, looking back on that, can you imagine, as I talk about in the book, can you imagine any legitimate politician today coming out and speaking out against interracial marriage?

BLITZER: And you see this as basically the same issue?

CHENEY: I see it as very similar. I think they will follow very similar paths.

BLITZER: Let's move on a little bit and talk about your dad. This must be painful to see Dick Cheney's favorability rating slip as dramatically as it has over these years. In our most -- in a CBS/"New York Times" poll, he only has a 20 percent favorability rating among the American public. What do you attribute that to? Because you know your dad better than anyone.

CHENEY: Honestly, one of the things that I most admire about my dad is he doesn't spend a lot of time worrying about what's politically popular or what his poll numbers are at the time. He spends his time and energy and focuses his attention on -- I mean, you've known him for years, Wolf. He spends his time worrying about doing what's right, making sure he's doing the things that are going to keep this country safe, making sure he supports -- everything he can do to support President Bush's agenda. That's what he spends his time doing. And quite frankly, I'd much rather have him focused on that.

BLITZER: Most people probably see him as one of the key architects of war in Iraq three years running now. And in the same CBS/"New York Times" poll, only 29 percent approve of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq; 67 disapprove.

Do you believe that your father and the president have handled the Iraq situation well? You've been one of your dad's key advisers.

CHENEY: I don't speak for the administration. I'm not an administration official.

BLITZER: You did work in the campaign.

CHENEY: I did work on the campaign and very proud of that. And I think that they have handled Iraq exactly right.

BLITZER: You do?

CHENEY: Just think about it, Wolf.

BLITZER: No mistakes?

CHENEY: No mistakes. BLITZER: Exactly right? Because those are strong words.

CHENEY: Three years ago -- exactly right. Those are very strong words.

BLITZER: Tell us...

CHENEY: Three years ago, Wolf.


CHENEY: Twenty-five million -- 25 million people are free today who were not free three years ago in Iraq. Iraq has managed to hold three national elections and every single election, more people came out and voted than voted in the previous election.

These are people who are going to the polls, and voting and casting votes for their leadership for the first time in their lives. They deserve an enormous amount of respect from us and they deserve our help, and we are doing everything we can to help them. And quite frankly, I think we are doing it exactly right.

BLITZER: But don't you think if there would have been a better plan for the post invasion to deal with an insurgency, to deal with the reconciliation, the disbanding of the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein, more than 2,000 troops might not necessarily have been killed if it would have been handled better?

CHENEY: As I said, I think it's been handled exactly right. And one of the things that I find really interesting is if you watch and listen to people who are in opposition to the war in Iraq, particularly John Kerry during the 2004 campaign is a great example. They sit there and criticize, but they don't offer an alternative.

BLITZER: Some of them do. Some of them say get out.

CHENEY: My God, what a horrible idea that is.

BLITZER: A lot of people think it's a great idea.

CHENEY: It's a horrible idea.

BLITZER: Why is it a horrible idea?

CHENEY: Because we have an obligation to the people of Iraq to make sure that when we leave them, they have a stable government that is in place.

BLITZER: You don't think three years of trying, $300, $400 billion, all of these lives lost, the treasure, the effort that that should have been able to give the Iraqis a chance to get this job done on their own?

CHENEY: I think the Iraqis are doing an admirable job. And I think we need to continue to support them until they're ready to stand on their own. BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit. You acknowledge that Scooter Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, now indicted for perjury, lying, obstruction, obstruction of justice, you thank him in writing your book.

He's been extremely close to you and the whole Cheney family for so many years. Now he's going through these legal problems. How painful has this been for your family?

CHENEY: Yes, Scooter Libby is a -- the only thing I can say about him is he is a good and honorable man. And I have no information on what's going on with the Fitzgerald investigation. But I like Scooter Libby. I've known him for years. And he is just a great guy.

BLITZER: So you believe these charges are just, what, trumped up?

CHENEY: I have...

BLITZER: You think he possibly could have lied to a grand jury or FBI agents?

CHENEY: Come on, Wolf. I have no information about what's going on inside the Fitzgerald investigation.

BLITZER: But it's painful to see what -- what has happened to Scooter.

CHENEY: It is painful to see Scooter go through this, yes, it is.

BLITZER: I'm sure another painful incident was the hunting accident when your dad accidentally shot his friend in the face. When did you learn about that? How did you come upon that?

CHENEY: I actually learned about it later that day. I don't know the exact...

BLITZER: That same Saturday?

CHENEY: Mm-hmm.

BLITZER: What did you think?

CHENEY: My first concern was for my dad and for Harry Whittington.

BLITZER: It must have been, first of all, very awful for the man who was shot, but it was awful for your father, as well.

CHENEY: My dad's first concern as it should be, was for Harry, for making sure that Harry got the proper medical care, that he got to the hospital, and that his family was notified.

BLITZER: You write about your dad's health in the book. The heart attacks. He's had multiple heart attacks. First of all, how is he doing?

CHENEY: He's doing great.

BLITZER: The stress must be enormous.

CHENEY: My dad is -- well, two things. One of the stories I tell in the book is after his first heart attack, he got a piece of advice from one of his doctors that is probably just about the best piece of advice anybody gave him. And that is that hard work never killed anybody. It's doing what you hate; it's doing a job you don't like that will put you in the grave.

And it's a piece of advice that my dad took to heart. And he loves what he's doing right now. He loves being able to serve the people of this country and doing everything he can to protect this country. So I think he's actually handling it really well.

BLITZER: It's a candid, gutsy book.

CHENEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for coming in. "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life". Mary Cheney is the author. Good luck.

CHENEY: Thank you.


BLITZER: And coming up in our 7 p.m. Eastern hour, "Da Vinci Code" controversy. Some religious groups are calling for a boycott of the new film. We'll show you why some say that could backfire.

Also coming up next, details of the latest skirmishes in the border battle. Demonstrators protesting right now on the National Mall here in Washington. We're going to go there live.


BLITZER: We're back in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for joining us.

The border battle happening now here in Washington. Just a few hours ago, the Senate voted 83-16 to build a 370-mile-long triple layer fence along the U.S. border with Mexico. Not far away, though, there's a rally for immigrants' rights happening here in Washington on the National Mall.

Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN Espanol is there for us.

What's it like out there, Juan Carlos?

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN ESPANOL: Wolf, they're expecting thousands, and the numbers really don't add up yet. I see hundreds of people here at the Mall. The events have been delayed. Organizers say they think it might be confusion because the original event was scheduled for Friday. And they also think that rain might have kept people away, but they call it a positive day, a successful day.

They had volunteers lobbying in Congress today. Obviously, the Senate voting on several measures.

And they say their next step will be on July 1 to start a campaign to register people to vote. They expect to register at least one million new voters and expect to have an impact on the elections in November -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carlos, thank you very much.

The politics of all of this very, very important. Is the immigration debate fueling the growth of hate groups around the country? That's what a new report suggests, and the details are startling.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, has more -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, immigration is the No. 1 issue for hate groups right now. And anti-immigration fervor is playing a huge role in the growth of the number of hate groups that we're seeing in recent years. This according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that has been tracking hate groups over the last 25 years.

They just released a report saying that there has been a five percent increase in the number of hate groups from 2004 to 2005. And that this caps off a 33 percent increase in hate groups since the year 2000.

They also talk about why immigration is being used by hate groups. They say it's something that resonates throughout the entire country. They also talk about seeing an increase in connections between anti-immigration groups and hate groups. They say some groups, though, definitely not all of them.

Another thing they talk about is an increase in hate online. They say there were 524 hate groups last year online or hate sites online. This is a 12 percent increase from the year before.

The site also details hate groups by state. Interesting to note, they've got 43 hate groups found in Texas and in another border state, New Mexico, there are none according to this web site -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.

Lou is back in New York, getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour.

It was good having you here in Washington the last couple of days, Lou. What have you got on tap today? LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, it was good being in the nation's capital. And in some ways it's even better to be out of it. Thanks very much, Wolf.

Coming up at 6 here on CNN, we'll be reporting on a major new effort by the White House to sell the president's amnesty program for illegal aliens. He's making progress. But is the United States? And will congressmen resist the rising pressure from the White House and corporate interests and special interests? Will they think about the middle class working men and women in this country?

We'll have a number of reports. We'll be live at the White House. Three of the country's best political analysts and commentators join me.

Also tonight, new doubts that large numbers of our troops will be withdrawn from Iraq this year. We'll have that report. And I'll be talking with a retired CIA analyst who says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a liar.

And I'll be talking with former National Security Agency director Admiral Bobby Inman. He says they're liars, but they're not at the NSA.

Stay with us. We'll have all of that and more at 6 Eastern right here on CNN. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lou, thanks very much. And thanks for the excellent discussion we had yesterday in THE SITUATION ROOM, you and the Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. You got lots of positive feedback.

DOBBS: Good, good. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll do it again.

Up ahead, he's been making a documentary on global warming and joking around on late night TV. Does Al Gore have time for another run for the White House? That's coming up in our 7 p.m. Eastern hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And with gas at $3 a gallon why would there be talk of raising -- yes, raising the speed limit to 80 miles an hour? Jack Cafferty goes through your e-mail.


BLITZER: There's a developing story involving air cargo security. Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve. She's tracking this.

What's going on, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, critics have said that air cargo has been one of the big gaps in aviation security. This afternoon the TSA issuing a press release outlining some new regulations it's going to be putting into effect on air cargo.

Consolidating the known shipper data list into one central list. Requiring background checks of approximately 51,000 off airport freight forwarder employees. Extending secure area of airports, ramps and cargo facilities. This would require an additional 50,000 cargo aircraft operator employees to get a full criminal history background check. And requiring employees of more than 4,000 freight forwarders to attend enhanced security training.

And the TSA says in the coming weeks it's going to be hiring about 300 additional personnel to implement these new regulations, Wolf.

BLITZER: And there is especially great concern right now. What's going on?

MESERVE: Well, it's been a continuing concern since 9/11. You know, they've taken all of these steps, strengthening the cockpit doors, improving screening of passengers and so forth.

But many members of Congress and other critics have said, you know, passengers may be secure getting on, but underneath their feet is cargo that hasn't been checked at all. And they've argued that passengers have, in effect, been having to play Russian roulette because of this gap. This is an attempt by the TSA to respond to that concern -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Let's check back with Zain one more time for a quick look at some other stories making news -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, President Bush says today is a good day for American workers, families and businesses. The president signed a $70 billion tax cut bill. The measure extends tax breaks on capital gains and dividends through the year 2010, setting the tax rate at 15 percent for most taxpayers. It also excludes about 15 million middle class tax payers from the alternative minimum tax.

In Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire, many are out assessing the damage after heavy rains over the past week. The downpours turned many roads into rivers, caused the evacuations of thousands, pushed dams to near breaking point and is being blamed for one death. Dry weather is forecast for tomorrow. But rain could return on Friday.

Hurricane Katrina didn't destroy it, but this four-alarm fire is. Right now plumes of black smoke are belching out as a warehouse on the New Orleans riverfront burns. Helicopters are dousing the site with water. Officials are investigating the cause of the blaze. There are no reported injuries.

His loving flame is out. Former Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife, Heather, say they're splitting up after four years of marriage. McCartney blamed the media for constant intrusion in the marriage and for spreading vicious rumors.

McCartney is considered one of the world's richest rock stars. He's worth more than a billion dollars. Heather McCartney says no prenuptial agreement was signed. They have a 2-year-old daughter called Beatrice Millie -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much.

Coming up next, Jack Cafferty is going through your e-mail. Jack will be joining us.

Also outsourcing and insourcing. The jobs were going away. Are they about to come back? We'll take a closer look at the job market of the future. Miles O'Brien standing by with that.



BLITZER: As President Bush today signed a bill extending big tax cuts, he said such measures have boosted the economy and created millions of jobs for Americans. In the past few years, outsourcing of American jobs has been a big buzzword. But the outflow may be reversing.

CNN's Miles O'Brien has more in today's edition of "Welcome to the Future" -- Miles.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, if you've ever called an 800 number and gotten someone in Bangalore, you know the story. Right now, U.S. companies employ somewhere one and two million service workers offshore. Another 3.5 million overseas jobs to be added to the next 10 years. But they may be overlooking a homegrown option.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the lure of the big city isn't quite what it used to be.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Kathy Britain White (ph), founder of Rural Sourcing, says there is a wealth of untapped IT knowledge right here at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were people that were working at McDonald's or Wal-Mart or other places with a college degree. So we really came in and gave them an opportunity to work in the field.

O'BRIEN: White says many companies that employee offshore workers find they don't save as much as they hoped. The overhead is high, and what's more, their customers are often dissatisfied.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can either sit and whine that there is a global economy, or we can get serious and realize we have the responsibility to be competitive and we have to find new ways to innovate. That's what's always made American workers great. O'BRIEN (on camera): Good as American workers may be, there are fewer and fewer of them pursuing high tech careers. In the past five years, the number of Americans choosing computer science as a major has dropped by 30 percent. If that doesn't change in the future, employers may be forced to look for help offshore -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli Arena is watching a developing story for us.

What's going on, Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the FBI is searching a property right outside of Detroit for clues to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. You may remember he disappeared in 1975.

Investigators say that they're looking for evidence of criminal activity that may have occurred under the previous owner of that property. When the FBI was asked specifically if they were looking for Hoffa's remains, they were a little cagey and said could be. But, you know, they're digging up the ground, Wolf. I mean, what else could it be?

The FBI says that they're operating after they received a tip. Now you should know that the FBI has gotten tips before and have conducted searches in that area before, obviously with no success. There's no information that this search is going to be any more successful than the rest of them.

BLITZER: We'll watch it with you, Kelli. Thanks.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Texas is considering raising the speed limit to 80 miles an hour on a couple of west Texas highways. The question is does raising the speed limit to 80 miles an hour anywhere in the United States make any sense?

Hubert in Oberlin, Louisiana: "Eighty miles an hour? No way. I think we should all drive electric cars to and from work and drive 50 miles an hour. Save on gas and save on lives. Of course, that will never happen."

Michael in Gulf Breeze, Florida: "Yes, in the red states only. Make it 90 miles an hour."

Charles: "Sure it does. If I could drive from my home to my job at 80 miles an hour, I would be there in eight seconds as opposed to the three minutes it takes me now."

John in Albany, New York: "Raising the speed limit? You've got to be kidding. If anything, it should be lowered in view of the current gasoline prices. The guy who suggested this should be given a Breathalyzer."

Jim in Phoenix writes, "Only in Texas does it sound logical to raise the speed limit to 80 miles an hour. I used to live there, and if going 80 increases your chances of being removed from the gene pool, I think it's a great idea."

Shawn writes, "Europe has expensive gas. They also have roads with no speed limits at all. Let us kill ourselves if we want to. I have an expensive sports car and would love to be able to drive 80 and not worry about getting a ticket."

And Rich writes, "Jack, based on all those risks you described, it seems the only logical place to raise the speed limit to 80 miles an hour would be inside the Beltway" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. See you back here in THE SITUATION ROOM in one hour.

To our viewers, remember, we're here weekday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern. Back at 7 p.m. Eastern for another hour. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" getting ready to start right now. Lou is in New York -- Lou.


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