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THE SITUATION ROOM
War of Words With United Nations; Interview With Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter
Aired June 7, 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: 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: an open feud between two powerful Republicans. It's 7:00 p.m. here in Washington, where Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter is lashing out at Vice President Dick Cheney and all but declaring war on the Bush White House. I will speak live this hour with Senator Specter.
It's 7:00 p.m. in New York, where diplomats are dishing out insults. It's an angry war of words between the U.S. and the United Nations.
And a close election convinces some Republicans that a tough stance on immigration will pay off. Amid calls for a border crackdown, I will ask a Catholic cardinal if the faithful should break laws to help illegal immigrants.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's the kind of outburst Washington hasn't seen in a long time, a developing story this evening, as a powerful Republican is venting his rage at another powerful Republican. And he's doing it publicly. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has just written an open letter to Vice President Dick Cheney, accusing him of going behind his back to block witnesses from testifying about domestic surveillance.
Senator Specter is accusing the Bush administration of overstepping all boundaries in its electronic eavesdropping program, and he's now threatening to subpoena witnesses and let the chips fall. A bare-knuckle showdown seems to be in the works right here in Washington. Coming up, I will speak live with Senator Specter. That's shortly.
First, let's go straight to the White House.
Our White House correspondent Ed Henry has all the details -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a hard- hitting three-page letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, accusing Vice President Cheney of working behind the scenes, going behind Specter's back, to block subpoenas to three telecom giants, to try to -- Specter trying to determine what role they may have in that controversial NSA domestic surveillance program -- Specter, in very personal terms griping.
He was particularly perplexed that the vice president was not straight with Specter yesterday, when they attended a closed-door lunch in the Capitol, Specter adding -- quote -- "I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions en route from the buffet to my table," but Specter saying the vice president never mentioned that he was working to block these subpoenas.
Specter did move forward yesterday with a public hearing, but was blocked from going into a private session and trying to consider issuing subpoenas to these telephone companies. That's because Republican Senator Orrin Hatch stepped in, said he, among others, had spoken to vice president, and that they had worked out some sort of agreement where there would be no subpoenas of the telephone companies, with the vice president agreeing that the administration would at least review legislation that would provide oversight of the NSA program.
Specter is furious, threatening in this letter that -- quote -- "If an accommodation can not be reached with the administration, the Judiciary Committee will consider confronting the issue with subpoenas."
That seems like a threat to the administration. I spoke to a Specter aide, who said it's not necessarily a threat to subpoena administration officials. You have to talk directly to the chairman about that, but he closes with -- quote -- "I am available to try to work this out with administration, without the necessity of a constitutional confrontation between Congress and the president," a not-so-veiled threat right there from Specter to vice president.
I spoke to the vice president's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride. She said the vice president has -- quote -- "not had a chance to study the letter," so they will not respond directly to the charges here but says that they will continue to work with Congress on a -- work with them in good faith to try to provide oversight of this program -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Before covering the White House, you covered Capitol Hill for a long time. Give us some perspective. How extraordinary is it for a sitting Republican chairman to lash out at a sitting vice president of the United States of the same party as what we have seen in the last couple hours?
HENRY: Extremely rare. As you know, the party discipline in recent years among Republicans in the Senate has been extreme, in the sense that they have not really stood up to the administration on many issues.
I will note, Specter, for context here, has been standing up to this administration for months now about the NSA program. That, in and of itself, is not new. He has been calling for stricter oversight of this domestic surveillance program. But to lay out allegations here in a three-page letter, stinging rebuke, in personal terms, of the sitting vice president of the United States of his own party, even Specter notes at the very beginning is extraordinary -- Wolf. BLITZER: Ed Henry, thanks very much.
Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by. She's got more on this angry letter to the vice president -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is a letter in which Senator Specter says he raises issues that are neither pleasant nor easy to raise.
He nevertheless does so for three pages. And we have posted all three of those pages online. Senator Specter writes that the vice president sought to influence, really determine the action of the Judiciary Committee, without so much as phone call to its chairman.
Senator Specter goes on to talk about this in the context of what he called repeated stances by the administration on expansion of power. He cites various examples, including the search and seizure of Congressman William Jefferson's office. We have posted the entire letter at CNN.com/situationreport -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Abbi, for that.
And Senator Specter will be my guest coming up shortly right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, his first interview since writing this really, really tough letter to the vice president, Dick Cheney.
In our CNN "Security Watch" tonight, there are new details of an alleged web of terror connecting the suspects in that Canadian plot with terror suspects in Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is joining us with the latest details -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, U.S. officials say some of the Canadian terror suspects visited Web sites frequented by Islamist militants, a small indicator, experts say, of the role the Internet is playing in the proliferation of this and other terror groups.
MESERVE (voice-over): The 17 arrested in Canada over the weekend are part of a larger web of terrorism, U.S. officials and experts say, that reaches into the United States, Britain, Bosnia, Sweden, Denmark and Bangladesh. It is a web created and maintained over the Internet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're using it again for propaganda, for fund-raising, for training. And we find that, many times, that these groups use it to build community.
MESERVE: In Bosnia in October of last year, authorities uncovered the first clues, evidence that led them to London, officials say, and the arrest of Younis Tsouli.
Internet experts and officials believe that Tsouli, a computer expert, was, in the cyber-world, Irhabi 007. Irhabi means terrorist in Arabic. Irhabi 007 created Web sites, including this one for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that facilitated communication between Arab extremists and English speakers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was posting training videos about how to make suicide bomb belts, posting propaganda videos, such as the horrific attack against Nicholas Berg, the American killed in Iraq.
MESERVE: Law enforcement found on Tsouli's computer what appeared to be surveillance video, some possible targets in Washington, D.C., videos that were taken, officials say, by two Atlanta men, Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, who are now in U.S. custody.
Efforts to reach their lawyers were unsuccessful. U.S. officials say Tsouli had communicated over the Internet with them and with some of the Canadian suspects. In addition, U.S. officials say, there is evidence the Americans e-mailed some members of the Canadian group, too.
MESERVE: And now the BBC is reporting that the Canadian suspects had links to two men arrested in Britain today on terrorism charges -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Jeanne Meserve, with the latest on that.
And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
Jack Cafferty's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: A California Republican will stay in Randy "Duke" Cunningham's congressional seat. Cunningham couldn't make it this time around. He's doing an eight-year stretch in the joint for taking $2 million in bribes.
But Brian Bilbray, a Republican, was elected to fill the seat. He said, opposing President Bush on immigration is what turned his campaign around. It wasn't until he emphasized that he did not agree with the Senate bill or the White House on amnesty for illegal aliens that Bilbray felt like he was going to win the race.
Meanwhile, recent polls indicate a majority of Americans are opposed to the way President Bush wants to handle the immigration issue. So, it can't exactly be great news for the White House that a member of the president's own party campaigned and won by opposing Mr. Bush on immigration reform.
Here's the question: Is immigration the issue that could allow Republicans to maintain control of the Congress in the midterms? E- mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com, or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. And we're going to take a short break right now.
Coming up, more on our top story, the new war of words between a key senator and the vice president, Dick Cheney. Arlen Specter, he is walking into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. After a short break, we will speak with him.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's get back to our top story.
In an open letter to the vice president, Dick Cheney, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Arlen Specter, accuses the Bush administration of simply going way too far with domestic surveillance. And he's also accusing the vice president personally of going behind his back to block a hearing. Is this powerful Republican senator right now at war with the White House?
Senator Specter is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, his first interview since this amazing letter that you wrote, Senator Specter.
Well, tell our viewers, in your own words, did the vice president act in bad faith, go around the back of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, namely, you, to try to undermine what you were trying to do?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I'm not accusing anybody of anything. And I'm not saying the vice president acted in bad faith.
What I am saying is that you have a domestic surveillance program, wiretapping, which is in flat violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And, if the president has inherent power under Article II, he can trump that statute.
But we have to know what the program is. And there has to be judicial review. And, for weeks now, really months, I have been trying to get an answer from the administration on my legislation, which would take this program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corps. And the vice president did contact Republican members of the committee yesterday, didn't call me up, which was surprising, frankly.
BLITZER: You would think that...
BLITZER: You would think that -- you're the chairman, a member of the same party -- he would have the courtesy, if he's going to speak to Orrin Hatch, another key Republican there, other Republicans, and he saw you yesterday, as you write in the letter, he should have given you a heads up, what he was trying to do.
SPECTER: Well, I'm not looking for courtesy.
What I'm looking for is judicial review of wiretaps, which is the tradition in America. And what I'm looking for is sufficient information for the Congress, the Judiciary Committee, to handle our responsibility for congressional oversight on a constitutional issue.
This is nothing personal between Arlen Specter or Vice President Cheney. This is a matter of civil liberties. It's a matter of separation of power. And it's a matter of important congressional oversight. And, so far, we're not getting there. And that's why I prepared a fairly strong letter.
BLITZER: A very strong letter.
And you say several points -- at several points during -- in this letter -- and let me read this one sentence -- "There is no doubt that the NSA program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which sets forth the exclusive procedure for domestic wiretaps, which requires the approval of the FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, court."
No doubt in your mind that the president of the United States broke the law?
SPECTER: There's no doubt that the statute has been violated by the NSA program.
There's another question, Wolf, whether he has inherent constitutional power, under Article II. And, if he does, that trumps, supersedes, a statute. The Constitution supersedes a statute.
BLITZER: And this is what you were trying to over -- to go with the oversight, to try to determine that.
But he doesn't have a blank check. It's a balancing matter. And it's a matter for balancing in the courts. And to do that, you have got to know what the program is.
BLITZER: If you determine that he did break the law, what's the punishment?
SPECTER: Well, it's a political issue.
I don't think the president has acted in bad faith here. I think he is functioning on something which he thinks needs to be done to protect the country. But he doesn't have a blank check. He's not the final word. We have a Constitution. The Constitution says that the Congress has oversight. And, on a constitutional issue, that's the Judiciary Committee.
And the separation of powers also says, if you want a warrant, you have got to get judicial review, unless there is this inherent power. But to test it, you have got to balance, and you have got to know what the program is.
BLITZER: Do you feel let down, in the sense that you're the chairman of the Judiciary Committee? You got the president's two justices for the Supreme Court through, Samuel Alito and John Roberts. You carried the White House water on those two key nominations. And that the vice president went behind your back, spoke to Orrin Hatch and other Republicans, but not to you, do you feel personally let down?
SPECTER: I do not feel let down. I don't have time to feel let down.
This is Washington, D.C. I don't care whom the vice president talks to. What I want him to do is to submit the program, so we can have oversight, and to have the tradition of a warrant. This is not personal. I -- I don't have time to feel let down, Wolf.
BLITZER: What about your Republican colleagues, like Orrin Hatch? You feel let down by the way they behaved?
SPECTER: No, no.
If the vice president calls Senator Hatch, I expect him to take the call. Senator Hatch says that he believes he can get the administration to accept my bill, a way to provide the judicial oversight, and asked me to delay the bringing-in of the telephone company executives.
And I have waited many weeks, a few months. I can wait a few more days. But I'm insistent on the protection of civil liberties and insistent on the Congress' right to oversight on constitutional issues.
BLITZER: Will -- will these representatives from the telecommunications companies, will they be testifying any time soon before your Judiciary Committee, either in open or closed-door session?
SPECTER: Well, we have been informed that they're not going to say anything, but that doesn't stop us from calling them.
If they do come in, then I would have them in a closed session, to try to get the information for the senators and to try to maintain confidentiality.
But this is an ongoing process, Wolf. And I'm not sure exactly where it's going to end up, but I know one thing, that I'm going to keep pushing.
BLITZER: Because the vice president's argument is, if these guys testify, if you subpoena these guys to come before your committee, they will spill secrets that will undermine national security.
SPECTER: Well, we're not going to let that happen. And we can have a closed session. We have procedures for that. But the Judiciary Committee has the responsibility for oversight. It's a constitutional issue. And I intend to keep pressing it.
BLITZER: Will the White House position, as far as you can tell right now, stand? Or -- or where do you go from here? What's your next step? SPECTER: Well, my next step is to await Senator Hatch's assertion that he can get the administration to accept my legislation.
If that doesn't happen, then the next step is to go back to the committee for efforts to bring in the executive officers of the telephone companies. They had agreed to come in without subpoenas, go into closed session. That has to be voted by the committee.
I don't determine everything personally. It has to be a committee vote for closed session. But I can tell you what I intend to do, Wolf. And that is, I intend to press hard, because there are very fundamental values at issue here, civil rights and congressional oversight authority.
BLITZER: And you have not received any response yet from the White House; is that right?
SPECTER: Well, I only wrote the letter today, Wolf.
SPECTER: This all -- this all happened yesterday. And I had some other hearings today.
But I put the letter together. And I'm not going to let any grass grow under my feet on writing letters or on pushing this issue.
BLITZER: No response yet from the vice president, right?
BLITZER: Well, I'm sure he will be responding fairly soon.
SPECTER: I'm looking for him on SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Well, we invite him to come on this program...
BLITZER: ... and join us, and he will have an open forum to discuss this issue as well.
SPECTER: OK. And I would be glad to come along.
BLITZER: Maybe the two of you could come on together. That would be excellent.
BLITZER: Senator Specter, thanks very much.
SPECTER: Always good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
SPECTER: Thank you. BLITZER: And our White House correspondent Ed Henry is reporting that the vice president's office says he needs more time to study the letter before issuing a full comment. As soon as he does, we will bring it to you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Still to come, survival of the fittest -- after a Republican was able to hold on to a congressional seat in California, what might that mean for Republicans' survival in the midterm election?
Also, divided deeply at the United Nations -- a U.N. official makes blistering comments about the United States. Now U.S. officials are blasting right back.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Zain Verjee for a quick look at some other important stories making news tonight.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier is back on U.S. soil. She arrived in Maryland by military transport with a contingent of wounded American troops just a couple of hours ago. Dozier was at a military hospital in Germany undergoing critical-care treatment for wounds suffered in a Baghdad car bombing late last month. A British cameraman and sound tech were killed, along with an Iraqi translator and a U.S. soldier.
The nation's top Marine isn't saying a whole lot about investigations into allegations that some of his troops murdered civilians in two incidents in Iraq. The most notorious episode involved the November 2005 killings of 24 Iraqis at Haditha. The second, in April, resulted in the death of one civilian elsewhere in western Iraq. The Marine commandant says that the Corps is fully committed to getting to the bottom of both cases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL MICHAEL HAGEE, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Where compliance with our standards is in question, we used well-established processes to determine as accurately and expeditiously as possible what happened and why. But make no mistake: A Marine who has been found to have violated our standards will be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VERJEE: U.S. Air Force brass say their forces have increased the number of assaults on Taliban and insurgent targets in Afghanistan. They say there were about 750 airstrikes just last month. That's about 90 more missions than May of 2005. Insurgents have mounted a spring offensive against U.S.-led troops in southern Afghanistan. The Air Force says the season brings out more rebels that are bent on destabilizing the country -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Zain, thank you.
And, just ahead, a war of words at the United Nations. We will have details of what one top U.N. official there said and how the Bush administration is reacting.
Plus, my interview with the retiring archbishop of Washington. I will ask Cardinal Theodore McCarrick if he would ask priests to break the law by helping illegal immigrants -- plus, his surprising stance on civil unions for same-sex couples.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Another close call for Republicans, this time in California -- a tough stance on immigration helped them barely keep a congressional seat in an overwhelmingly Republican district. It's a midterm message that the border battle may be the battle cry for this year's elections.
Our chief national correspondent, John King, is in Del Mar, California -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, increasingly, strategists in both parties say that's exactly right, that immigration, at least for now, is the red-hot issue in the midterm campaign. Those strategists also say, don't be surprised if you see more of what we saw here, the Republican candidates scoring points by attacking the Republican president.
KING (voice-over): Victory for Brian Bilbray means survival for Republicans in their first big midterm election test, but the California race offers sobering lessons for both the president and his party, beginning with immigration politics.
BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: The president proposing amnesty was absolutely a big problem.
KING: As the count broke his way over night, Bilbray told CNN he won because of his vehement opposition to the president's call for a guest-worker program, putting millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. Now Bilbray says he will urge other Republicans to copy his tough election message.
BILBRAY: Don't listen to the Senate and don't listen to the White House. They mean well, but they're not listening to the people.
KING: The immigration issue has added intensity in the San Diego area district, just miles from the Mexican border. Still, conservatives who oppose the president's approach were quick to see the vote here as ratification.
GARY JACOBSON, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: And I think the prospects of anything getting through Congress before the election are virtually zero.
KING: Nationally, Republicans prefer to focus on the bottom line. California's 50th Congressional District will remain in GOP hands. Francine Busby's defeat denied Democrats their first big 2006 target, even though she insists there's a message in coming so close.
FRANCINE BUSBY (D), FORMER CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We need a government that works for us, not for special interests. And people are -- actually, they're fed up with the direction that we're going in.
KING: Busby climbed from 36 percent two years ago to 45 percent against Bilbray, suggesting to political scientist Gary Jacobson the national climate still favors Democrats.
JACOBSON: I think the national message is that she came fairly close in a district that's overwhelmingly Republican. A lot of Democrats, with seven or eight more points, would put a lot of Republicans in serious trouble.
KING: The election was to fill the final seven months of the term Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned earlier this year because of a corruption conviction. Bilbray and Busby will face off again for a full term in November. Higher turn out should favor Republican Bilbray.
KING: Another lesson here is that money matters. National Republicans poured more than $5 million into this race, more than double the Democrats. That money used for television ads and a voter turnout effort that helped Republicans, Wolf, squeak out a win here in a district, in a normal year, they would win easily -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John King, thanks very much. John is part of the best political team on television. CNN, America's campaign headquarters.
Happening right now at the United Nations, a war of words and a growing divide pitting the United States against top United Nations leaders. Our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth, is joining us from New York, with the latest. What a day, Richard.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, the diplomatic gloves are off again between senior United Nations officials and the Bush administration's man at the U.N. It started with a rare, public calling out by a U.N. executive of a U.N. member country. In this case, the world's biggest power, the U.S.
ROTH (voice-over) The United States and the United Nations are at it again. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton is outraged over remarks by Kofi Annan's deputy at the United Nations.
JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: This is a very, very grave mistake by the deputy secretary-general.
ROTH: In a speech this week, Mark Malloch Brown criticized the Bush administration for keeping the American people in the dark about the good things the U.N. does around the world.
MARK MALLOCH BROWN, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, U.N.: That is not well known or understood back home, in part because much of the public discourse that reaches the U.S. heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and FOX News.
ROTH: Earlier in the week, Bolton called for all of Kofi Annan's senior aides to resign when the secretary-general's term ends later this year. Now, Bolton is demanding immediate action against the U.N.'s second in command.
BOLTON: Secretary-General Kofi Annan, we think, has to personally and publicly repudiate the speech at the earliest possible opportunity.
STEPHAN DUJARRIC, U.N. SPOKESMAN: The secretary-general stands by the statement made by his deputy, Mark Malloch Brown. And he agrees with the thrust of it.
BOLTON: I spoke to the secretary-general this morning. I said I've known you since 1989. And I'm telling you this is the worst mistake by a senior U.N. official that I have seen in that entire time.
ROTH: Malloch Brown now says the speech was a call to arm arms to rally support for the U.N., which he says is slipping into crisis, because the entire U.N. membership is divided over how to fix the organization.
BROWN: For the life of me, I can't understand how that can be construed as an anti-American speech.
ROTH: Malloch Brown, however, does say it's time for some truths to be told. Bolton insists Malloch Brown has no business as an international civil servant commenting on middle America. We're awaiting comment from Rush Limbaugh's camp. As for reaction, "Fox News" referred us to their on-air reports on the story.
BLITZER: Richard, thank you very much.
There are also new developments tonight surrounding allegations the CIA is using some secret prisons in Europe to house interrogate and possibly torture terror suspects illegally.
CNN's Brian Todd is here with details of a new report -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The investigation that was spurred by reports from media organizations and human rights groups has been in the making for seven months now and now takes dead aim at America's best-known spy agency.
TODD (voice over): Serious charges against the CIA from a European lawmaker, including secretly rounding up terror suspects, unlawfully flying them through shadowy European airstrips, holding them indefinitely without charge, possibly torturing some, all while many of America's European allies either complied or turned a blind eye. A new report by Swiss senator Dick Marty says the CIA orchestrated what he calls a spider web of transfer sites throughout Europe with secret detention centers in Poland and Romania.
DICK MARTY, SWISS SENATOR (through translator): Those places are prisons that are known but that stay secret because of their inaccessibility to international organizations such as the Committee Against Torture or the International Red Cross.
TODD: But Marty says he has no direct proof of these places and relied on air traffic control logs, intelligence sources, and witness accounts. Of the 14 European nations who he accuses of colluding with the CIA in these so-called rendition operations, some heads of state flatly denied involvement. Others had rowdy confrontations with legislators.
MENZIES CAMPBELL, MEMBER OF BRITISH PARLIAMENT: Can he confirm that the United Kingdom has given no logistical support for rendition to the CIA, nor provided any information to be used in torture?
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We have said absolutely all we have to say on this. There is nothing more to add to it.
TODD: Pressed further, British Prime Minister Blair had this response...
BLAIR: Rendition had been the policy of the American government for a long period of time.
TODD: The CIA would not comment on the report. Bush administration officials don't deny the practice of rendition but do deny allegations of torture or other illegal activities. And they add...
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Intelligence cooperation between the United States and Europe and between the United States and other countries around the world saves lives in the war on terror.
TODD: Where does this go from here? Not very far.
The Council of Europe has no power to start legal proceedings and almost no power to punish its members for allegedly violating human rights treaties. That council was the one that sponsored this investigation by that Swiss senator, Dick Marty -- Wolf. BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, Brian thank you. Still to come, my interview with Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. We'll talk about illegal immigration, same-sex marriage and more. You might be surprised by some of his views.
Also, Hillary Clinton takes on Ann Coulter. We'll have details of why the New York senator says the conservative pundit's new book should be called heartless. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The fight over immigration reform and the for and against gay marriage. We've heard what the politicians and the public think on those issues, but what does one prominent priest in the catholic church, where does he stand on these issues? Joining us now is Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Your eminence, always good to speak to you, especially now as you're rapping up your tenure, more on that coming up. Let's talk about immigration first. Your colleague, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, in Los Angeles, has been very outspoken on this issue, as have you been.
Let me read to you what he said the other day.
He said, "I've received a lot of criticism for stating that I would instruct the priests of my archdiocese to disobey a proposed law that would subject them, as well as other church and humanitarian workers, to criminal penalties. But I stand by my statement."
He's referring to the House version of the legislation that would make it a felony -- that illegal immigrants in this country would be deemed felons. The Catholic Church presumably would have to report them if they came in to seek sanctuary.
How do you feel about this?
MCCARRICK: Well, I've made it clear, too. I think we're basically on the same page.
If a little kid comes up to you and says, "I'm lost, can you give me some money to get home," we're not going to say, "Show me your papers first." Or if an older lady comes to you and says, "Look, I need medicine badly," I'm not going to say, "Show me your papers." We don't work that way. You can't work that way. I don't think any religious body in the country works that way.
And so I've said to everybody, I think every Catholic priest, everyone who works for the Catholic Church, is going to know that if somebody comes to them in need, you don't ask them any questions. You don't say you're Catholic, you don't say anything. You say, "Are you in need?" If you're in need, then we help you. I think that's what it's all about, and that's what we'll continue to do, whatever the law might be.
BLITZER: So even if this House version were to become the law of the land, would you instruct priests to disobey the law? MCCARRICK: I don't think I'd have to instruct them. I think they would know. They would know that the law of God tells you to take care of your neighbor. You have to do that.
I think all my priests and I would hope anyone who worked for Catholic charities throughout the archdiocese would always know, you don't turn away somebody who's in need. You don't turn away somebody in trouble. You do the best you can for them.
This is why I have been very critical about the -- that version, because even though people have said, no, it doesn't really mean that, but if it -- it should mean what it says. And what it says is very difficult for us to accept. I don't think we're going to meet that.
I cannot see the United States passing the House version. I'm sure that when we get a new, comprehensive immigration reform bill out of the Congress, it will be something that, please God, we'll be able to support.
BLITZER: Another very sensitive issue that's being dealt with in the Senate right now involves a constitutional ban on same sex marriage. Senator Ted Kennedy said this yesterday. He said, "A vote for this amendment is a vote for bigotry, pure and simple." You disagree with him, don't you?
MCCARRICK: On this one, I do. Ted and I have -- do have differences from time to time, and this is a real big one. It seems to me that we really have to continue to define marriage as we've defined marriage for thousands of years as a union between a man and a woman.
Now, I think the legislation as it is proposed would not throw out the possibility of a civil union. And I think we can live with that if this is what the Constitution will provide for.
But to say that you can take this concept of marriage, this word of marriage, and use it in ways that it has never been used before, as far as I know, in the history of the world, I think that makes no sense.
BLITZER: So just explain. You think that you could live with -- you could support civil unions between gays and lesbians, but you wouldn't like them to get formally married, is that right?
MCCARRICK: Yes. I think basically the ideal would be that everybody was able to enter a union with a man and a woman and bring children into the world and have the wonderful relationship of man and wife that is so mutually supportive and it is really so much part of our society and what keeps our society together. That's the ideal.
If you can't meet that ideal, if there are people who for one reason or another just cannot do that or feel they cannot do that, then in order to protect their right to take care of each other, in order to take care of their right to have visitation in a hospital or something like that, I think that you could allow -- not the ideal, but you could allow for that for a civil union. But if you begin to fool around with the whole nature of marriage, then you're doing something which effects the whole culture and denigrates what is so important for us. Marriage is the basic foundation of our family structure. And if we lose that, then I think we become a society that's in real trouble.
BLITZER: You're about to retire. What are you going to do, because a lot of us think you're hitting your prime right now, those of us who have seen you in action over these years here in the nation's capital.
It's almost a pity that you're retiring. Are you being forced to retire? Is that the rules of the Catholic Church right now, the Vatican? Says you reach a certain age, you've got to retire?
MCCARRICK: Well, the rules are a certain age, when you hit 75, you have to send in your resignation. And that's what I did. The Holy Father gave me a whole year later, because I sent it in July of last year.
So now the Holy Father felt that it was good to have a younger man who's going to be wonderful. He's -- the best possible archbishop of Washington, I think, is Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, who is going to succeed. And I think he's a great teacher. He's a man of the center. He's articulate. He's courageous. The people are going to love him, and he's going to love the people.
I think I'm really happy that we have a good man coming. I keep saying this is going to be the golden age of the archdiocese. They're in the Bronze Age now. We're going to make good progress.
BLITZER: I think you're being modest. You've been a beloved figure here in Washington, D.C., Cardinal McCarrick. We appreciate your coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Good luck to you. Thanks so much.
MCCARRICK: Thanks, Wolf. Great to be with you.
BLITZER: And up ahead, our own Jeanne Moos on the Ann Coulter controversy. We're going to show you what the conservative firebrand said that's upsetting so many people on the left and on the right.
Plus, is immigration the issue that will allow Republicans to maintain control of Congress? Jack Cafferty will be back with your answers to our question of the hour. Stay with us.
BLITZER: "The Bottom Line" on the markets, a fourth straight losing session for the three major indices. They all lost ground thanks to inflation and interest rate concerns, and the Dow closed below 11,000 for the first time in almost three months.
Her critics liken her to the queen of mean. Now some say conservative writer Ann Coulter has really earned it. Coulter is calling some 9/11 widows, quote, self-obsessed and witches. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can't miss Ann Coulter with her mane and her mini skirt. The banner asks, can Bush fire up conservatives? Don't know, but maybe that mini skirt can. She's always quotable, but this time --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Ann Coulter went too far?
MOOS: Coulter the cruel, screamed "The New York Daily News."
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR: I'm thrilled.
MOOS: In her new back about godless liberalism, Coulter attacked a group of New Jersey widows who have been so politically involved following the loss of their husbands on 9/11. Writes Coulter, "I've never seen people enjoying that are husbands' death so much." That led to this on "The Today Show."
COULTER: You're getting testy with me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think, I think it's just, I think it's a dramatic statement. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands death so much?
COULTER: yes, they're all over the news.
MOOS: The widows responded, "There what you no joy in watching men that we love burn alive. There was no happiness in telling our children that their fathers were never coming home." Even conservative pundits seemed shocked by Coulter's words.
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Average Americans are going to think, Ann Coulter is a whack job and a bad person and I'm not buying her book and I'm not listening to her ideas. Isn't it self-defeating to say things like that?
COULTER: I guess we'll see by my book sales. I don't think they will say that.
MOOS: Hillary Clinton jumped in, accusing Coulter of a vicious, mean spirited attack.
(on camera): Senator Clinton said that perhaps Ann Coulter should have called her new book Heartless rather than Godless.
(voice-over): Coulter's says her point is that having widows score political points makes it impossible to criticize their views. As for criticizing Coulter, she was once heckled at the University of Connecticut and responded, "I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am." And she accused "Time" magazine of manipulating her cover photo, saying, "My feet are the size of the Atlantic Ocean and my head is the size of a tiny little ant." And then there was the time she got pied. Forget al Qaeda, the two pie throwers called themselves al Pie-da. What's a little custard cream when the target is used to throwing verbal grenades. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour. That means Paula is standing by. Hi, Paula.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. We're going to have the latest from the Pentagon tonight into the investigation and alleged massacre at Haditha.
We will also be meeting one of our secret weapons in the war on terror and she is the last person you'd expect to be doing what she does. How does a working mom from Montana make contact with would be terrorists in cyberspace? And what is her track record so far? You might be surprised.
Plus, incredible stories from a woman who makes a living following happy couples, the trouble is the guys aren't with their wives. How far will the sex spy go to catch a cheating husband? You will see. It's top of the hour. That and a whole lot more. Wolf, hope you stay tuned.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Still to come, the balance of power in Washington could be at stake. Immigration is an issue that has a lot of people boiling mad. Will it help or hinder Republican efforts to maintain control of Congress. Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Check back with Jack with "The Cafferty File." Jack?
CAFFERTY: Republican Brian Bilbray, Wolf, says that opposing President Bush on immigration is what turned his campaign around. He's the guy who won the California congressional seat formerly occupied by Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham who is now occupying a prison cell for about eight years for taking a bunch of bribe money.
The question is, is immigration the issue that might allow Republicans to maintain control of congress?
Leigh writes, from Fairfield, Iowa, "I hate to say it, but probably so. If the Democrats want to pursue amnesty and alienate themselves alongside President Bush, I don't think I can vote for them and that's sad because the Republicans are leading us down a dark road with no light at the end."
Richard in Huntley, Illinois. "Yes, it will be the main issue. People realize what amnesty will cost and what aliens have cost us already. The Democrats are on the wrong side and too stupid to realize it. The incumbents from both parties should be thrown out for not listening to the voters."
Anthony, Springfield, Mass. "Jack, I think if anything this issue just might bring the Republican-held congress down. I believe the American people are becoming impatient with congress' slack attitude for the illegal immigration issue."
Lee is East Tawas, Michigan. "Jack, it appears that we Democrats don't really want to run anything but our mouths. We finally get the worst administration in history, what do we do but let them hook our nose ring and then let them lead our way on ignoring the majority of American people's views. If the democrats can't hear the people telling them we want secure borders first, then they are going to finish dead last again."
Ruth in Florida. "Yes, Jack, illegal immigration is the issue. I am a lifelong died in the wool, card carrying Democrat and I despise everything the Republicans stand for, but this is the one issue that would make a difference in my vote. I want those borders secure. I want no more illegal aliens granted amnesty."
Norma in San Marcos, California. "First I was a Republican, then Democrat now an independent because the two main parties are cowards and flakes. I would vote for my cat right now if the borders are secure."
Finally, "Yes, the theme of the 2006 and 2008 elections is, it's the economy, stupid." From Nikki in Branford, Connecticut.
BLITZER: I remember that from the campaign in '92, so do you, Jack. See you tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Among our guests tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM, the California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the outgoing congressman Tom DeLay. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Let's go to New York. "PAULA ZAHN NOW" starts right now. Paula.
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