Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Military Members Charged With Murder in Death of Iraqi Civilian; North Korea Asserts Right To Test Nuclear Missile; Remains of Two U.S. Marines Return to U.S.; Author Gives View on Iraq War; New York, D.C. Concerned about Homeland Security Cuts; Schwarzenegger Urges Congress to Find Immigration Solution; American Member of Saddam's Defense Team Undeterred Despite Murders; Alternative Living Arrangements for Retirees

Aired June 21, 2006 - 17:00   ET


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 today's top story. Happening now.
It's 2 p.m. at Camp Pendleton in California. As US troops battle a brutal insurgency in Iraq, Marines face murder charges in the death of a disabled Iraqi civilian.

It's 6:00 a.m. in Pyongyang as North Korea rattles a long-range saber. President Bush takes a tough stance, but can he count on a costly missile defense system to back him up?

Also, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger soars above the border to see how his National Guard troops will be deployed and then speaks out on the immigration fight.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Not too long ago they were on the battlefield of a raging insurgency. Now seven Marines and a Navy corpsman are charged with murder kidnapping, and conspiracy after allegedly pulling an unarmed, disabled Iraqi man from his home and shooting him dead without provocation. Let's go straight to CNN's Ted Rowlands. He's joining us from outside Camp Pendleton in California.

Maybe you're in Camp Pendleton, Ted. But give our viewers a complete update on what has happened today.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, finally after three weeks, plus, in the brig these Marines have found out what they're facing in terms of charges. Today the military released those charges.

And as you mentioned, they include very serious charges. Murder, kidnapping, larceny for stealing a shovel and AK-47. It all stems from the killing in the Marine investigation's point of view of an innocent Iraqi civilian. A 54-year-old man, allegedly was brought out of his house and killed by Marines. And then an AK-47 and a shovel were planted on this man as an attempt to cover it up.

These Marines have been held in confinement here at Camp Pendleton as the investigation continued. Today the Marine Corps announced the charges against them at a press conference here on base about an hour ago.


COL. STEWART NAVARRE, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Based on the findings of a criminal investigation, seven Marines and one Navy corpsman have been charged with offenses including kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy in connection with the death of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdaniya, Iraq.

It is important to note that the charges and specifications are accusations against the individual and the accused is presumed innocent.


ROWLANDS: OK, from here the accused will be given an Article 32 hearing. It's basically a grand jury hearing. And at that point -- the Marine Corps is not sure if they'll do them all together or individually. All of these Marines and the one Navy corpsman have not only appointed lawyers from the Marine Corps but also independent counsel. So that'll have to be hashed out.

They'll have this Article 32 hearing and from there a decision will be made as to what charges they'll face at the court-martial. But very, very serious charges being leveled against these young men today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ted, how are people at Camp Pendleton in the Marine community reacting to all of this?

ROWLANDS: Well, we've been out here for a couple weeks, and this has been expected to some extent, and there is a real negative reaction from many people, saying that these young men are heroes and what happens in the theater in Iraq has to be taken with a grain of salt. They feel like these Marines are being mistreated by being put in the brig.

On the other side many Marines say these are Marines, they know what they have to do and they know what is right and what is wrong. And what they are accused of is something that is very wrong. We'll get more evidence as this continues. And I think when that comes out people will have an opinion which can be more valid.

BLITZER: Ted Rowlands at Camp Pendleton, thanks very much.

And we spoke with the father of one of those Marines earlier in the last hour. He professes his son's complete innocence. He really feels let down by the behavior of the U.S. Marine Corps. More of that coming up.

The U.S. military says the bodies of two American soldiers who were kidnapped and brutally killed by insurgents in Iraq will arrive back in the United States later tonight. There are new questions about the brutal nature of their death and about the deployment which may have left them very vulnerable in a very hostile territory. Ahead, I'll speak about that with Major General Bill Caldwell of the multinational force in Iraq. He's in Baghdad.

On Capitol Hill, senators are slugging it out right now over demands by Democrats to put a troop pullout on the calendar. One proposal calls for a phased redeployment to begin this year. The other, backed by Senators John Kerry and Russ Feingold, calls for all U.S. combat troops to be out of Iraq by next July 1st, a year or so from now. While Democrats are split between the two proposals, Republicans seem to be very united opposing both measures.

Let's go to Zain once again. She's joining us from the CNN Center with an important look at other stories -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, there's been a mass kidnapping in Iraq. Police say gunmen hijacked five buses carrying at least 50 workers at a factory just north Baghdad.

The Associated Press quotes police as saying some women and children have since been released. There's no word on a motive. The workers are reported to be mostly Shia. While the factory is in a mainly Sunni area.

Meanwhile, insurgents dressed as Iraqi police said to have kidnapped and killed one of Saddam Hussein's lead defense lawyers. Police say the bullet-riddled body of Hamiz al Zubeidi (ph) was found in a Shia neighborhood near Baghdad's Sadr City. He is the third member of the defense team killed since the trial started last year.

President Bush says Iran should respond sooner rather than later to a Western incentive package for it to stop enriching uranium. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is promising a response by the 22nd of August.

Speaking at the European Union summit, Mr. Bush said that seems like an awful long time. He add, it shouldn't take the Iranians that long to analyze what's a reasonable deal.

Mr. Bush also warned North Korea against an anticipated test of a missile believed capable of reaching the United States. He said he expects that Pyongyang will abide by past agreements. And he warned that the country could face further isolation.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes that have announced that they've got nuclear warheads, fire missile. So we've been working with our partners, particularly in that part of the world, to say to the North Koreans that this is not the way you conduct business in the world.


VERJEE: Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton rejected direct talks with North Korea on the current crisis -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Zain, thank you.

And despite all the tough warnings North Korea insists it has an absolute right to test that long-range missile. Said to be fueled and ready at a secret launch site. Can the United States do anything about it? Let's go live to our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the possibility of a North Korean missile test is putting a lot of renewed scrutiny on the U.S. missile defense shield.


STARR (voice-over): If North Korea launches it Taepodong-2 long- range ballistic missile, can America's $11 billion missile defense program really work? Could it, if there was an attack, shoot down the North Korean missile? There have been 10 tests of the Interceptor. Half of them have worked.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBAL SECURITY.ORG: If the missile defense system was a baseball player and had a batting average of .500, you'd say it was doing pretty good. If it's only working half of the time and it's the only thing standing between you and an incoming hydrogen bomb, you'd say it's not working very well at all.

STARR: The five tests that failed, one as recently as last February, had a variety of technical problems.

Pentagon officials say they are confident the missiles would work during an attack, mainly because there were four consecutive successful hits against target missiles in 2001 and 2002. Also, much of the technology has been upgraded.

But one defense official familiar with the program acknowledged a major criticism, that the testing done so far is not realistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The system's go for launch. Stand by for terminal count.

STARR: It's all been scripted out ahead of time, as most weapons tests are.


STARR: Wolf, later this summer a new round of testing will begin. Officials say it will be more realistic. But as to this current situation, let's be clear. No one expects the U.S. to fire a missile to try and shoot down any North Korean target. The view here is that the North Koreans will be conducting a test, not an attack on the United States - Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara. Thank you.

Let's go back to New York. Jack Cafferty's got "The Cafferty File" once again -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Remember "No Child Left Behind"? Well, according to a new study, we're leaving behind 7,000 children every school day in this country. The 1.2 million students, who should be graduating high school this spring most likely won't be.

Translation, 7,000 kids a day in the United States are leaving school. That's according to an alarming study sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the state of education in this country. Last year Bill Gates called American high schools obsolete. Based on these numbers, he might have been on to something.

The big cities are the worst; 14 urban districts places like Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Denver, Cleveland, Dallas, Milwaukee. They have an on-time graduation right of less than 50 percent.

In New York City the on-time graduation rate is just 38.9 percent. In Baltimore, Maryland, it's 38.5 percent. And in Detroit, Michigan the on-time graduation rate of high school students, 21.7 percent. That's disgraceful.

The nation's overall graduation rate is about 70 percent, so the question is this -- what does it mean when 7,000 students are dropping out of school every day? E-mail us at or go to We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

BLITZER: Jack, did I understand you right, that in Detroit only 1 in 5 students in high school actually graduates?

CAFFERTY: On time.

BLITZER: That's pretty shocking.

CAFFERTY: It's disgusting.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much.

Up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, I interview the spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq. I'll ask Major General Caldwell about the killing of those two American soldiers and the killing of Saddam Hussein's lawyer and more.

Also, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tours his state's troubled border with Mexico. We're going to take you there live. Chris Laurence on the scene.

Plus, a wildfire explodes overnight, burning hundreds more acres and threatening homes. We'll go live to the fire lines in Arizona. Rick Sanchez on the scene for us. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. As we told you, the bodies of those two American soldiers who were kidnapped and slain by insurgents are to arrive in the United States later today. The more we learn about the brutal nature of their death, the more shocking the details are. Were those Americans left alone and vulnerable in a dangerous area?


BLITZER: And joining us now, Major General William Caldwell, the spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq.

General Caldwell, do we have new information, more specific information, on how these two American soldiers, who had been missing, were actually killed?

MAJ. GEN. BILL CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Well, Wolf, there's no question, you know, our condolences go out to the families of both PFC. Menchaca and PFC Tucker. Clearly, their bodies showed signs of severe trauma and require further forensic pathology analysis for us to make positive identification as to their remains.

They currently are en route back to the United States. The airplane is, right now, about a half hour ago in Germany. It will be taking off shortly, returning back to the United States.

BLITZER: "The Washington Post," General, reported today this. I'll read it to you. "In telephone interviews two Yusufiyah residents described the gruesome scene, in which insurgents beheaded and dismembered the soldiers after dragging their bodies behind pickup trucks." Based on all the information that you have at this point, is that true?

CALDWELL: Wolf, we are confronted down there by very brutal element of anti-Iraqi forces that have absolutely no respect for personal dignity or deceased. And the site upon which our commanders and troops arrived on was one that was very horrific, and just at this point we're going to continue with the analysis and provide the families the full details of everything they still want to know.

BLITZER: So you don't want to say whether or not they were actually beheaded?

CALDWELL: At this point it would be inappropriate, Wolf, for me to comment on that. But I will tell you it's a very brutal force that we were confronted against down there, who absolutely have no respect for human life, as evidenced in the way they treated both our soldiers and the way they treat civilians in that area.

BLITZER: There's a report on an Islamist Web site that the new supposed leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub Al Masri, personally was involved in killing these two American soldiers. Is that, based on the information you have, accurate?

CALDWELL: Although we cannot confirm or deny that now, because we really just really don't know, by initial indications from the detainees that we've picked up and the questioning that is going on, that has not been something we have heard from them. But we can't absolutely deny it at this point. But we've had no indication in the tactical questioning that's going on -- the tactical questioning that is going on of the detainees we picked up from down there.

BLITZER: A lot of us are wondering why three American soldiers were in this location to begin with, apparently by themselves in this Yusufiyah area, the triangle of death, one of the most dangerous areas in and around Baghdad. The circumstances surrounding their deployment there, based on what you know, what can you tell us?

CALDWELL: Wolf, the commander of the unit down there has called for an investigation. It's undergoing at this time. We have established that there probably was a single vehicle at a location down there, with our three soldiers, and he has called for an investigation to look into all the facts surrounding that to determine exactly what was taking place at the time that the attack occurred there at 7:55 p.m. on Friday night.

BLITZER: Is that standard operating procedure, to send three soldiers like that with one vehicle into such a dangerous area?

CALDWELL: Wolf, we have a fairly known standard throughout the theater here that any movement that you make is normally in about a three-vehicle convoy or larger. For a variety of reasons, as you might imagine, for just inherent security in case a vehicle breaks down, a radio goes out, mutual support. That's our normal modus of operandi. So this was unusual, to have identified a single vehicle being at that location.

BLITZER: Let me ask you a question on the Saddam Hussein trial. Another of his attorneys was gunned down, was killed today. We believe this is the third of Saddam Hussein's lawyers who have been killed. Should the U.S. military -- and you speak for the coalition, the military forces -- be involved in protecting Saddam Hussein's attorneys?

CALDWELL: What I'd say there, Wolf, you know, the government of Iraq is a sovereign nation. If they were to request and ask for assistance from the multinational force, I am sure General Casey would probably take that under strong advisement and probably provide whatever they requested. Because we're here to support them. But that's a decision the government of Iraq will have to make.

BLITZER: One final question, General, before I let you go. Apparently, two Iraqi soldiers are now charged with killing two American soldiers in and around Balad. In recent years there's at trial, apparently there is a new report that has just come out. If you're familiar with that, I'm sure.

Here's the question a lot of our viewers are asking. Can American troops, in Iraq, trust their Iraqi soldiers that go out with them on these kinds of operations? The fear being that the insurgents might slip in terrorists into the Iraqi military.

CALDWELL: Wolf, we go through a fairly deliberate process in vetting the soldiers that currently serve in the Iraqi army. And then we spend a lot of time with them before we ever go out on patrols working closely together through training, coordination, planning, and then we go out and join patrols together.

The American soldiers that are going out with the Iraqi army soldiers fairly well know these counterparts. And have put trust and faith in those that they're going out with. If for some reason they didn't nobody was going to -- whatever, force an American soldier to do something he or she felt uncomfortable with. If they felt they could not trust someone else around them, they'd bring it to their immediate superiors and somebody would look into that immediately.

BLITZER: General Caldwell, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck over there.

CALDWELL: Well, thank you.


BLITZER: And coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, they're outraged over deep cuts in their Homeland Security funds from the federal government. Now the mayors of Washington, D.C. and New York City take their complaints right to the top.

Plus, remember this? She heckled the Chinese president, Hu Jintao at the White House and was whisked away. Now there are new developments in her case. We're going to have the latest for you. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Right now in Arizona firefighters are beating back a blaze that just doesn't want to give up. It's taking manpower, muscle, and might, that is, strength to battle a stubborn fire that's already scorched almost 2,500 acres near Sedona. Let's go out to the scene. Our Rick Sanchez is standing by with the latest.

Rick, how bad is it?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's a very difficult fire to put out or at least try and contain, Wolf, and the reason is the erratic winds that have been cutting through this area. They've been getting gusts of up to 35 miles an hour. In fact, we were feeling one just a little while ago. And that's what makes it so difficult.

Let me give you the lay of the land, if we can. Jonathan, go ahead and see if you can get them a shot just behind that mountain over there. You might be able to see some of the flames as they flicker through there, and you see some of the smoke as well. It's behind that mountain that there's an area called Oak Creek Canyon.

That's where a lot of residents live with some really big homes. And they're very nervous about losing their homes because this fire basically has gone up just up to the crest of the community where they live. Let me tell you a little bit about what firefighters are doing. They're doing what's called a containment line. And a containment line is where essentially they bring in a group of firefighters that are called hot shots. Their expertise is wild land fires, like this one. They come from all over the country.

And what they'll try and do, Wolf, is dig a ridge, an area that doesn't have any trees on it, so that the fire can't jump it. So essentially, it will form a line.

There's a highway back there called 89A. And 89A essentially separates the fire from the people who live there. And those people are being protected by that roadway and that containment line that they have put into that area. So far, it seems to be working. But obviously, there's a lot of folks out there, some 500 of them that have their fingers crossed right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope it works out. Rick, thanks for being on the scene for us. Rick Sanchez, Sedona.

Coming up, don't try to cross the border when a former action hero's in town. The California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, eyeing the border from high in the sky.

And take anti-terror cash out of the hands of two major cities, and what happens? Lawmakers get some angry words about cities being stabbed in the back. We'll explain. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

For 20 years he was a CIA clandestine officer directing agents against terror groups in the Middle East. He organized the failed coup attempt against Saddam Hussein, and he was the model for the George Clooney character in the film "Syriana," inspired by his own memoir "See No Evil." His latest book is a novel, "Blow the House Down." It's just out. The author, the former spy, Bob Baer is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Congratulations on the new book. We'll talk about that shortly. But I want to talk about some other issues of your expertise first, if that's OK with you.


Let's talk about the war in Iraq. Do you believe, based on your years of experience, in the Middle East, and that part of the world, that the U.S. can win this war?

BAER: No. I'm convinced the U.S. cannot win the war. I've been wrong about the Middle East, but I think the evidence in this case is that we cannot win. The way we are going without a real political solution and we're not even heading in that direction. BLITZER: When you say not heading in that direction, there is a new Iraqi government, a coalition of Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis. They're trying to do their best.

BAER: You know, everybody's saying in this town that Maliki's going to come around, but Maliki, the prime minister, is from a very radical background. He's got Shia support. The Shia are, in effect, in control of that government. And they're not going to forgive the Sunni for 300 or 40 years of oppression.

And we need to work a lot of things out. This is not going to be an easy transition, and it's not a question of getting rid of a few bad apples like Zarqawi, because largely the Sunni community is against this government, is going to continue to fight.

BLITZER: So do you support a specific timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq? Along the lines of what Senator John Kerry believes, a year from now all U.S. forces should be out of Iraq?

BAER: No. We can't leave. At the same time...

BLITZER: You're saying we can't win but you can't leave.

BAER: We've got to change course to win, but we can't leave today because the chances of chaos in Iraq migrating south into the Arab sheikdoms in the western side of gulf is very high.

BLITZER: You mean Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Qatar?

BAER: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait. They're already afraid. The Saudis are building a wall. The Bahrainis are worried about being overthrown, and the Qataris are worried about their gas facilities.

BLITZER: So what's the strategy? If you were in a position of influence, what would you do?

BAER: I would bring in right now, and this is a tough road, is bring in the Iranians and the Saudis in a solution. Say hey, guys, you've got to sit at the table with us because you have constituents in Iraq; you've got to bring them around. There's things we've got to do, and let's talk this over.

BLITZER: You could trust the Iranians under President Ahmadinejad to come in and try to work out a solution in Iraq? Is that what you're saying?

BAER: I don't see that there's another choice. I think that the Iranians right now for the foreseeable future are in control of the south. I mean, they've got Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps people sitting in police stations in Basra. They've got militias. They're running around the country. They're already determining Iraq's course.

So if we pretend this is not happening, we're never going to get anywhere. So let's acknowledge facts and sit down with these people. BLITZER: Some analysts out there, critics of this war, who have suggested that the U.S. has lost more than 2,500 troops already, maybe 20,000 have been injured in Iraq, seriously wounded, hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. treasure that have been expended, and the big winner that will emerge will be the Iranians.

BAER: Oh, I think it's already happened. Look, I say, and I've said this before the war, it was a folly to go into Iraq the way we did, to remove the government and to destroy the army, because that left us in charge. And Americans do not like colonialism. They hate it. And our army can't do it. We've put them in a terrible position.

But now that we're there we have to take a responsible course. I mean, I'd like to walk away. We walked away from Vietnam. It didn't matter. But Vietnam is not Iraq.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little about this book that you've written, "Blow the House Down." It's a novel. But there are some real-life people mentioned in this novel. If you read the brook, and it's a fast read, to anybody who wants to get a good read in a novel like this, the neocons, the neoconservatives, who are blamed by some for getting the U.S. involved in Iraq, the implication is that they may have been involved in getting the U.S. 9/11 as well.

And I want you to explain exactly what your theory is, if in fact this fiction is based on what you believe to be fact.

BAER: Well, Wolf, you know, I think any good fiction is based largely on real experiences. And I take this whole problem of Ahmadinejad and Iranians attacking us basically since '79. He's a bad actor, Ahmadinejad, no question about it.

Some people say he's responsible now. But we have been protecting him and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for more than 20 years, 25 years now. And they've been killing Americans.

Why is it that we went to war against Iraq when we knew Iran was behind terrorism? And I'm convinced, as is the 9/11 Commission, that Iran had some connection to the 9/11 attacks.

BLITZER: Even though they -- even though they say it was inconclusive, it required more investigation? That was the 9/11 Commission.

BAER: Exactly.

BLITZER: But at the same time, and we're almost out of time, you're saying even though you suspect Iran may have been involved somehow in 9/11, you've got to talk to them and bring them in in finding a resolution of the situation in Iraq.

BAER: Yes. The way to isolate bad actors, the way not to isolate them, is to confront them. If we hit them, their nuclear facilities now, for instance, we would empower Ahmadinejad more. We have to isolate him and find again, try again to get a moderate Iranian political constituency. BLITZER: The book is entitled "Blow the House Down", a novel by Robert Baer. Bob, thanks for coming in. Congratulations on the new book.

BAER: Thanks, Wolf.

In our "CNN Security Watch" the mayors of Washington and New York effectively say show me the money. They're mad as ever about cuts in the homeland security funding for their cities, so today they're giving Congress a piece of their minds.

CNN's homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has details -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there was no lack of colorful adjectives or invective as officials from Washington and New York fumed over reductions in their homeland security grant money.


REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: ... the city of New York was indefensible. It was disgraceful.

MESERVE (voice-over): New York says it will have to postpone a new security plan for the city's financial center. In the D.C. area the expansion of a wireless broadband system to help emergency officials communicate might be delayed because the Urban Area Security Initiative grants for both cities have been cut 40 percent.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: The application process should not be a test for who can write the best term paper for their college class. The application process should be to present the facts as to what is needed to keep this country safe.

MESERVE: New York, the nation's economic hub, with icons like the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. Washington, the seat of government, chock full of monuments. Both cities already hit by terrorists. Both of them, officials acknowledge, likely to be hit again.

So how, the D.C. police chief asked, could a risk-based grant system reduce his city's funding?

CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, WASHINGTON POLICE: It makes absolutely no sense. So whatever formula they came up with, they need to rethink it, because it is not going to get you to the moon. It won't get you off the ground.

MESERVE: DHS says the reductions do not reflect a declining risk in New York and Washington but a rising risk elsewhere.

GEORGE FORESMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY UNDERSECRETARY: Forty-four of the 46 urban areas saw their relative risk measure rise this year, in some cases by three or fourfold.

MESERVE: DHS points out that New York is still getting more money than any other urban area, and Washington is ranked fourth.


MESERVE: Despite all the belly-aching on Capitol Hill, the bottom line is DHS has less money to spread around this year. And who cut the money? Congress -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve reporting for us. Thanks, Jeanne.

Stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

And still to come, the governor of California wants to know how things are going on the U.S. border with Mexico. So he decided to go see for himself from up high.

And it started with allegations of sex being used as payment for drugs. It ended in a deadly shootout between federal agents and guards at a Florida prison. We're standing by for details. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

He's reluctantly agreed to deploy National Guard troops, and today the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, got a firsthand look at his state's troubled border with Mexico.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is joining us live from the border in San Ysidro with the latest -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just a few hours ago Governor Schwarzenegger got a bird's-eye view of some of the problems here along the border, but he says the solution is right there in Washington.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): As his helicopter swept over the mountains, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger kept one eye on the California-Mexico border and the other on Capitol Hill.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Each one of those members has been sent to Washington to work out the problems that the United States has.

LAWRENCE: House Republican leaders announced they would hold public hearings on immigration reform. That means they're unlikely to reach a compromise with the Senate before the November elections, which prompted the governor to criticize members of his own party.

SCHWARZENEGGER: It would be inexcusable. It would be ludicrous for them to say, "Well, we can't work it out." That's their job.

LAWRENCE: Schwarzenegger says there's no time for two months of hearings held all over the country.

SCHWARZENEGGER: And maybe take this whole thing on the road show and have debates out there on the road because we know what the facts are.

LAWRENCE: The governor has shown his independent streak before, when he initially resisted President Bush's plan to put troops on the border.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I was hesitant about it because it was half baked -- a half baked idea.

LAWRENCE: But after getting assurances from the federal government and touring the border, he's come around. The governor's agreed to deploy more than 1,000 National Guard troops, with guarantees the federal government will pay for them and that the mission lasts no longer than 18 months.


LAWRENCE: Which means they're only here until the Border Patrol hires and trains enough agents to take over.

Now, so far more than 200 National Guard troops have already started training with the Border Patrol, and by the middle of next month they'll start doing flyovers, communication work, and other kinds of jobs in a support capacity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Chris. Thanks very much. Chris Lawrence reporting.

Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his program that begins, and Lou's standing by to tell us what he's working on.

Hi, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Hi there, Wolf. Thank you.

Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll be reporting on the disarray in the Democratic Party as Democrats launch a new assault on the president's conduct of the war in Iraq. But the Democrats can't decide. We'll have that live report for you from Capitol Hill.

Also, President Bush tells Iran it has only weeks to accept an offer to begin negotiations on ending its nuclear weapons program. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, will be here for an exclusive interview.

We'll also take you to a town in Pennsylvania that's had a belly full. It's about to begin one of the toughest crackdowns of illegal immigration anywhere in this country. The mayor of the town joins us.

And the Bush administration pushing forward with a so-called security and prosperity partnership with Mexico and Canada that will do nothing to increase security nor prosperity in the United States. And who voted on this anyway? We'll have the special report.

We hope you'll be with us. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much.

And up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Jack Cafferty says the numbers are alarming. Get this: 7,000 students dropping out of school every day here in the United States. What do you think of that? Jack has your e-mail.

And in our 7 p.m. Eastern hour, shining a spotlight on one of the world's most mysterious men: Kim Jong-Il of North Korea. Who is he really? We'll tell you what we know and what we don't know. Zain Verjee will have a special report. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

Saddam Hussein and the co-defendants in his trial will start a hunger strike tomorrow. We've just learned that. That's according to the former Qatari justice minister, now a member of Saddam Hussein's defense team.

The lawyer says Hussein and the others won't eat as a way to protest the killing of yet another member of that defense team.

Let's get the latest. Mary Snow is in New York. She's joining us live -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that murder came today. Now another member on that defense team, living here in the U.S., Ramsey Clark, says lawyers on Saddam Hussein's team have been trying for months to get better security protection but gave up hope it would ever come.


SNOW (voice-over): This is the third lawyer for Saddam Hussein to be murdered since Saddam was put on trial for crimes against humanity in October. It's a fate attorney Khamis al-Obeidi, seen here in November, spoke about with CNN's Nic Robertson.

KHAMIS AL-OBEIDI, LAWYER FOR SADDAM HUSSEIN (through translator): Our clients' interests is more important than anything else, and even if there is risk, we will attend.

SNOW: Now another member of Saddam Hussein's team, an American and former U.S. attorney general, Ramsey Clark, faces the same danger.

(on camera) Will you go back?


SNOW: Why?

CLARK: Because I couldn't imagine not going back. How do you walk away from it?

SNOW: Does the thought go through your mind that your life is on the line?

CLARK: It may be. But it's not suicidal to go back. It's not a picnic either.

SNOW: In addition to fighting on behalf of Saddam Hussein, Clark has battled the Iraqi court to get round-the-clock armed guards for defense lawyers and their families.

CLARK: The lawyers were told that they could have either one or two pistols and two guards. Well, two guards aren't worth much and a pistol is probably a danger. Five guys come in with automatic weapons dressed in police uniforms, saying they're ministry of td3 interior, you're going to pull a pistol?

SNOW: Clark also says Hussein's lawyers can't afford prohibitive security costs. He cites a $6,000 private contractor fee just to be escorted from the Baghdad Airport into the Green Zone as just one example.

As for Clark, he says he doesn't travel with security. The last time he carried a pistol, he says, is in the Marines.


SNOW: And Clark says he plans to return to Baghdad for closing arguments, scheduled for July 10 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow in New York. Thank you very much.

From Mary Snow in New York to Zain Verjee at the CNN Center in Atlanta with some other stories making news -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, first a sex scandal, now a deadly shootout. The FBI says that it went down like this. Federal agents had arrived to arrest six guards at the federal prison in Tallahassee in Florida when one of the guards opened fire. Agents fired back, and in the end the gunman and an agent were dead, a prison official was hurt. The guards were being arrested for allegedly giving female inmates drugs in exchange for sex.

She's the woman who heckled Chinese president Hu Jintao during his White House visit back in April. Today attorneys say that all charges against Wenyi Wang will be dropped. That's if she does not commit the same crime again in one year. Wang had been arrested just after heckling the Chinese president and charged with a federal felony.

Their personal information was stolen. Now attempts to make sure their identities aren't stolen as well. Today the Department of Veterans Affairs said that it will offer 17 million veterans free credit monitoring to guard against identity theft after they had their name, Social Security numbers, and their birth dates stolen from the homes of -- from the home, rather, of a V.A. employee -- Wolf. BLITZER: Zain, thank you.

A 14-year-old girl is suing, alleging she was sexually assaulted by an older man she met on the popular web site. The first of its kind lawsuit argues MySpace does not adequately protect underage users from online predators.

What's MySpace doing to protect underage users? Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner has details -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, MySpace doesn't usually comment on legal matters, but they did issue a statement today saying that they take security measures. They're committed to Internet safety. They take aggressive pleasures to protect their members.

We reached out to the law firm in Texas that is representing this girl. They didn't return several of our calls. But a statement on their web site alleges that MySpace does not have the proper security measures in place.

Now, completely unrelated to this lawsuit, MySpace is implementing new security measures starting next week. One of them's going to be that members can actively hide their profile from people they don't want to see it. Another thing will prohibit anyone over 18 from adding anyone who is under 16 as a friend without having their first and last name or proper e-mail address.

Now, of course there's nothing in place to stop anyone from lying about their age online. I went on to MySpace and said I was 16 with no problem. We posed this to MySpace, Wolf, and they said, of course there's no foolproof technology on the Internet to stop anyone from lying, but they encouraged parents to be very aware of what their kids are doing on the Internet.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much for that.

Let's go back to New York and Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Startling statistic. 7,000 kids a day in this country are leaving school. That means 1.2 million kids who should be graduating this spring most likely won't be, according to a new study.

The question is what does it mean when 7,000 of our students are dropping out of school every school day?

Linda in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania: "All part of the dumbing down of America. Ignorance breeds slavery. With U.S. jobs going overseas and outside labor being imported to lower wages and eliminate job opportunities domestically, more hamsters on the wheel of corporate democracy. There could be a rainbow, though at the end of this. There won't be much extra money left to buy those big screen TVs, 1,000 cable channels, and mindless videogames which are anesthetizing Americans to the point where they know more contestants on 'American Idol' than contestants in the war to steal our country." Very good.

Neil in San Diego: "It's a step in the right direction. Time and again our test scores show our schools aren't up to par, and partially it's blamed on school over population. High schools should be voluntary so that teenagers that want an education can get one. Let the dropouts find out what life on the streets is all about."

Megan in Palm Coast, Florida: "It means our nation's public school systems are failing us. I'm a junior in high school, and I honestly feel that high school has made me dumber. The focus is no longer on learning but on social issues like how to dress and who to date."

Tom in Tequesta, Florida: "So much for no child left behind."

And John in Lunenburg, Vermont: "It means less stress every day for the teachers" -- Wolf.

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

Up next, forget about nursing homes and assisted living. We're going to show you what the future may hold for tomorrow's older Americans. Miles O'Brien will be joining us. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Do you have enough money for retirement? In today's edition of "Welcome to the Future", CNN's Miles O'Brien shows us one solution that might help keep your money in your wallet and a roof over your head -- Miles.


MILES O'BRIEN, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Wolf, the average cost of a private room in a nursing home is $203 per day. That's nearly $75,000 a year. But there are some alternative living arrangements for the parents of Boomers and for Boomers themselves.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): This man, elder care expert Dr. William Thomas, sees a future where community is key.

DR. WILLIAM THOMAS, ELDER CARE EXPERT: In the 20th Century old age is about leisure and independence and retirement. In the 21st Century aging is going to be about community, interdependence, and darn good neighbors.

O'BRIEN: For Boomers it's a flashback to the communes of the '60s. So-called intergenerational co-housing communities, planned by the residents, usually densely packed homes built around a central courtyard and a common house where meals are prepared and shared. There are playgrounds for kids or grandkids, too. THOMAS: Twenty years from now America will have constructed so many useful and clever alternatives to the nursing home that those institutions are no longer necessary.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Seventy-eight million Baby Boomers, Americans born between 1946 and '64, begin retiring in 2008. If and when Medicare and Social Security run out, Dr. Thomas thinks co- housing may be more a necessity than an option -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Miles, thanks very much.

There's a story just coming in from Texas. Let's go to Zain at the CNN Center.

What's going on, Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, there's a fire burning in Dallas. These are pictures that you're seeing from our WFAA affiliate. Thick black smoke is rising over a building in an area known as the Lower Greenville Avenue in Old East Dallas. The building houses a theater, a restaurant, and some other businesses, as well as a commercial area of town.

Fire engines are on the scene. Multiple jets trying to get it under control. We don't know the cause or if there are any casualties -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch, Zain. Thanks very much.

Finally, we want to follow up on CNN's coverage of World Refugee Day yesterday. We brought you some of the reports from around the globe. Let's check in with our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton for an update -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, World Refugee Day is now over, but the start of a global campaign called Nine Million has just begun. This is trying to bring education and sports programs to the nine million children displaced around the world like these kids here in Thailand.

We spoke to the U.N. refugee agency today. They say that since the coverage yesterday, their phone lines for donations have been frantic -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much.

That's it for us for this hour. We're back in an hour. Let's go to Lou in New York -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines