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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT

Deadlock Over Iraq; Iraqi Lawmaker Helping Iran?

Aired February 6, 2007 - 18:00   ET

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


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, deadlock in the Senate over the president's conduct of the war in Iraq. Does Congress have any power to influence the president's policy in Iraq?
We'll have that special report from Capitol Hill.

And new outrage tonight after a Border Patrol agent sent to prison after doing his job is severely beaten by other inmates.

We'll have that special report, all the day's news, a great deal more, straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, February 6th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Democratic efforts to hold a full Senate debate on the president's management of the war in Iraq have been blocked. Democrats are angry and frustrated after Republican senators stopped their efforts to debate a resolution criticizing the president's troop increase.

In Iraq, there is new evidence tonight of the increasing role of Iran in this war. U.S. officials now say a leading member of the Iraqi prime minister's coalition has been helping Iranian special forces operate in Iraq. They say further, the lawmaker was also involved in a bomb attack against the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait nearly a century ago.

Dana Bash tonight reports from Capitol Hill on the political stalemate in the Senate over debate of policy and consequences in Iraq.

Ed Henry reports from the White House on the surprising declaration by Defense Secretary Robert Gates today.

Michael Ware tonight reports from Baghdad on Iran's efforts to help insurgents kill American troops.

We turn first to Dana Bash on Capitol Hill -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, despite weeks of buildup, the Senate now appears unlikely to vote any time soon on the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: There are no negotiations going on, period.

BASH (voice over): The Senate deadlocked over the Iraq debate before it even started. And leaders of both parties are now engaged in a public relations battle to blame the other for the standoff.

REID: This is a trick play by the Republicans. The real issue before this body is surge or no surge, escalation or no escalation. That's the debate the American people deserve.

BASH: Democrats say it's simple, Republicans are preventing the Senate from voting on the president's plan, and point to headline after headline saying just that.

Republicans admit those headlines are not what war-weary constituents want to see and insist they don't tell the whole story. GOP senators say they do want to vote. One promising to fund U.S. troops in Iraq.

But Democrats won't allow it.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Our colleagues on the other side do not want to vote on whether troops should be funded, period. There is no more critical question at this moment.

BASH: Privately, Democrats concede, they're refusing the Republican request because a measure pledging to fund the war would pass and a repudiation of the president would probably fail.

Even Republicans who strongly oppose sending more troops to Iraq tell CNN they'd rather risk Senate in action than give up GOP rights to debate their resolution.

SEN. GORDON SMITH (R), OREGON: But when you try to short-circuit the debate too much, the big loser is the debate and the chance to -- for the American people to see how the Senate is feeling.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Meanwhile, Democrats in the House announced next week they will hold a vote on the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq. That is likely to pass. And that could put more pressure on the Senate to eventually end its stalemate on this issue -- Lou.

DOBBS: Dana, let me ask you -- and I don't mean to put you on the spot, because the Senate is filled with arcane parliamentary procedures -- but is there a device by which the Democratic leadership could call for a debate without a legislative result? That is, without that debate being attached directly to legislation so that the country could benefit from a discussion, a debate in the Senate over policies, options and consequences?

BASH: Well, actually, if you would have watched the Senate floor today, they were having a debate all day today. They stayed in -- again, not to get too in the weeds here, but what stayed in what's called legislative morning business.

So, if you listen to the Senate floor, you heard Democrats and Republicans making their case on the war, on the president's policy and so forth. But we are not going to see, because of the Senate rules, and because of what I just described in terms of the deadlock over votes, is an actual vote on the president's plan. That's the problem.

DOBBS: And that debate which took place in some modest form today, is it expected to continue tomorrow?

BASH: Likely not. And here's why.

The Senate Democrats say they need to go on to another important piece of business. And that is funding the United States government.

The Republicans left over funding for the government, a continuing resolution until now. If the Senate doesn't vote on it in the next couple of weeks, the -- the whole Congress, actually, the government simply will shut down.

DOBBS: Are you reporting tonight, then, effectively the Senate has decided to move on from Iraq?

BASH: Essentially, if they don't get to an agreement between now and tomorrow, which is looking very unlikely, that's exactly what it looks like that. That for now, the Senate is moving on, and the next place to watch for this will be the House. You're exactly right.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Dana.

Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates today told senators the troop surge in Iraq is not the last chance to achieve success in this war. Secretary Gates said there would be serious consequences if the United States were to leave Iraq in chaos. The defense secretary also gave a new assessment of when he believes the military can begin large-scale troop withdrawals.

Ed Henry reports now from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeatedly hinted at a timetable for when U.S. troops would start leaving Iraq.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: If the plan to quiet Baghdad is successful and the Iraqis step up and successfully assume the leadership in trying to establish order and then beginning their political -- or further carrying out their political reconciliation process, I would hope that we would be able to begin drawing down our troops later this year. HENRY: Skeptical Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee said they've heard rosy scenarios before. So Gates was pressed to push the Iraqi government harder.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Many of us have concluded, Secretary, the that the moment of truth has arrived and we have got to have a pretty direct dialogue with them and actually lay out some specific consequences that will matter to them.

HENRY: While Gates insisted this is not the last chance in Iraq, he did admit the administration has started planning for the possibility of failure.

GATES: If this operation were not to succeed -- and we clearly are hoping it will succeed, planning for it to succeed, allocating the resources for it to succeed -- but I would tell you that I think I would be irresponsible if I weren't thinking about what the alternatives might be if that didn't happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, administration officials say this was not a trial balloon to lay the groundwork for pulling out of Iraq. Instead, they say, Iraqi officials have repeatedly said they want to take over the bulk of security by November. U.S. officials want to push them to try to hold them to that -- Lou.

DOBBS: And as Secretary Gates said, he would be less than responsible not to be considering those alternatives. Any discussion of what those alternatives might be?

HENRY: Well, there are various other options in terms of eventually pulling out troops in a way that the U.S. hopes obviously would not make the situation worse, it would not put them in even further harm's way. Some sort of a way to figure all that out. But they're not going into that much detail just yet, but they're obviously going through various scenarios of what they would do next.

DOBBS: Right.

HENRY: Because obviously a lot of people have said this is the last chance -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much.

Ed Henry from the White House.

New concerns tonight about Iran's efforts to kill American troops in Iraq. U.S. military intelligence now says a member of the Iraqi parliament has been assisting Iranian special forces operating in Iraq. It also turns out that the lawmaker was sentenced to death in Kuwait for bombing the American and French embassies in Kuwait City in 1983. Five people were killed in those attacks.

Michael Ware has the report from Baghdad -- Michael. MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the very delicate relationship between Washington, Baghdad and Tehran is being strained to its very limits right now. Amid an American campaign of accusations of Iranian military interference supporting insurgents attacking U.S. soldiers here in Iraq, comes a revelation following a CNN investigation that a member of the Iraqi parliament was involved in the car bombing of an American embassy in Kuwait in 1983.

Indeed, this member of the parliament was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in that attack, as well as other attacks on the French embassy and other installations in his absence. It is believed he had already fled Kuwait at the time of the sentencing. At the time, he was part of an armed faction supported by Iran.

This member of parliament then went on to eventually lead an Iraqi element of the Iranian armed forces, a position he left shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when he returned to covert operations. In the December, 2005 U.S.-sponsored elections here in Iraq, this member of parliament, Jamal Jafaar Mohammed, one of his many names that he's operated under, was successful in winning a seat represented southern Babil Province.

So, suddenly, the American mission here in Iraq found in the parliament it had created was a man who had blown up one of America's own embassies.

Meanwhile, an Iranian diplomat has gone missing here in the capital, Baghdad. Little is known. Accusations are flying.

Iranian and Iraqi government figures say that the diplomat was taken by up to 30 gunmen in Iraqi army or Ministry of Defense unforms. The Iranian government has actually accused the U.S. of direct or indirect involvement in this official's disappearance.

Certainly the strain is starting to show -- Lou.

DOBBS: Michael Ware from Baghdad.

Insurgents have killed three more of our troops in Iraq, two soldiers serving in Baghdad, a Marine serving in Al Anbar Province. Eighteen of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month, 3,101 of our troops since the war began. 23,417 of ours troops wounded, 10,397 of them so seriously they could not return to duty within three days.

Still ahead here, fury tonight after one of two Border Patrol agents sent to prison for doing his job was severely beaten by other inmates.

We'll have that special report and analysis of the legal implications in this case.

Also tonight, many states want to immunize girls against a disease that could lead to cancer, but the religious right and some parents are objecting.

We'll have the story.

And we'll have the very latest on the astonishing case of a NASA astronaut who's accused of trying to kill her rival in a space-based love triangle.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Outrage tonight over the beating of former Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos. Ramos was assaulted in federal prison Saturday evening by a group of men. His family is simply devastated. Lawmakers are angry and outraged, and the Bush administration is ignoring please for justice.

Casey Wian reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Monica Ramos expected a phone call Monday to celebrate her husband's birthday, but when former Border Patrol Ignacio Ramos called from prison, where he's serving an 11-year sentence for shooting and wounding an illegal alien Mexican drug smuggler, this is what she heard...

MONICA RAMOS, WIFE OF IGNACIO RAMOS: "Monica," he says, "they got me. They got me good."

And I said, "What are you talking about?" He told me that he had been beaten up on Saturday night. I said, "You were beaten up?" And he just said, "Yes, I was."

WIAN: After watching an episode of "America's Most Wanted," focusing on his case, Ramos went to bed in his cubicle at the lower- security facility in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

RAMOS: At about 10:00, he was awoken to stomping of like -- they were wearing steel-toed boots. He could hear them running into his cubicle. They just repeatedly kicked him and cursed him in Spanish. Calling him (SPEAKING SPANISH).

You know, "Give it to him. Give it to him." And he said he just -- he couldn't move. He was outnumbered.

WIAN: A prison spokesman confirms Ramos reported the assault and sustained what the prison calls minor bruises and abrasions. Ramos has since been transferred to a special housing unit away from the general prison population while the assault is under investigation.

About 20 percent of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens. If those numbers hold true for the Yazoo City facility, about 350 illegal aliens, plus an unknown of drug dealers, were sharing space with a former Border Patrol agent convicted of shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler.

For weeks, lawmakers have warned that Ramos and fellow agent Jose Compean would be in danger if sent to prison.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: Saying, "I told you so" doesn't help anybody. It certainly doesn't help the family. It doesn't help Mr. Ramos.

All you can do is put there on the weight. Add to the weight of things that you have actually given the White House already as for reasons why they should be pardoned.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We want to be careful about issuing pardons, and we're trying to be careful about the facts, which is why the Department of Justice is in the process of trying to get full transcripts of the trial of agents Compean and Ramos so you and everybody else who are willing to ask questions about this will be armed with facts.

WIAN: Congressman Duncan Hunter wrote President Bush Tuesday demanding an investigation into the attack and consequences for Bureau of Prisons officials who failed to protect former agent Ramos.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: One factor, Ramos chose to be housed with the general prison population instead of in protective custody so he could maintain regular contact with his family. Monica Ramos, his wife, also says she and her husband believed he would be housed with nonviolent offenders. Obviously that turned out not to be the case -- Lou.

DOBBS: And we should point out that he made that choice before being sent to this prison.

WIAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Casey.

Casey Wian.

Joining me now with more on this case is our senior legal analyst and former prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, thanks for being here. And let's go through this.

Let's start with, first, the fact that federal officials put him into a general population with the very people that he was defending the country against -- known convicted drug smugglers, illegal aliens. I mean what the -- what in the world is going on?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: It's dangerous to be a law enforcement official in prison. That's something everyone knows. Unfortunately, they have some experience with that. But the prisoners themselves have a difficult decision to make, because do they take the risk in general population, or do they live segregated, which is a very difficult existence in and of itself?

DOBBS: Well, let's go to a number of other issues, because we had a number of congressmen warning that precisely this would happen. It has happened. We have got at this point a tepid response, at best, from the administration.

Let's go to some of the facts.

One, because White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said we're waiting for full transcripts so that we'll all be armed with the facts, I'm sure that if Mr. Snow would be so kind, he could watch this broadcast and learn a lot of the facts. And by the way, that prosecution was made by the executive branch's Justice Department. So if he wanted facts, the president could have them instantaneously.

Why in the world are we waiting on a transcript nearly a year after the end of the trial?

TOOBIN: This is bizarre. Perhaps not a phrase we want to use today, but it is not rocket science to produce transcripts. Every trial has a court reporter.

DOBBS: Right.

TOOBIN: You can't have an appeal before you have the full transcript. I mean, it's simply inexcusable not to have transcripts this late after a trial.

DOBBS: Ten months later, an appeal is being held up, the effectiveness of it. The fact is that the public doesn't have access to that. We don't have access to it. We can't even get it through Freedom of Information or any other way because this idiotic system will not give us the transcript of a trial that is so controversial.

TOOBIN: Well, and -- you know, the justice system stops in its tracks, because an appeals court can't evaluate a trial until they can read what happened. So it is totally unexpected. I've never seen this long for a transcript.

DOBBS: Well, let's go to a couple of other issues.

These men are in prison. Ignacio Ramos paying a price today -- or over the weekend. Why in the world aren't these men free on bail?

TOOBIN: The way judges look at the question of bail -- bail in general is -- they look at risk of flight and danger to the community. Clearly, under those two areas, both agents are not risks. They're not going to go out, hurt anybody else, and they are rooted in the community.

The problem is, they are already sentenced to long sentences, and in those circumstances, judges feel there's a presumption against bail-pending appeal. This was a close one. And they lost out.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

And let's go to the issue of the fact that part of this is the request for a hearing because three jurors said they were coerced by the foreman in this trial to come to their decision. Why no hearing? Why no further exploration about it?

TOOBIN: Well, that's a lot of jurors to feel -- to feel coerced, to have potential juror misconduct. You know, just because jurors say they felt coerced, that's no guarantee that a trial will be overturned. But it does seem like it's grounds for a hearing, but you can't have a hearing until you have a transcript.

DOBBS: And so all of this is working very, very neatly and conveniently from the prosecution's standpoint and from a very controversial prosecution standpoint against the interests of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

TOOBIN: They're locked up. The Justice Department has won. So they're in no hurry to resolve this.

DOBBS: And apparently Tony Snow at the White House thinks the world fools, suggesting that everybody just continue to wait for a transcript. The arrogance of the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney in this case, Johnny Sutton, in the way in which they have come forward not telling the facts -- one of the facts that we should go through, they have said that they had no choice but to give this drug smuggler immunity to testify. And they have not explained why they took the word of a drug smuggler and an an illegal alien over two sworn officers.

In point of fact, the drug smuggler was granted immunity -- to be very precise, I'm going to put on my glasses here, Jeffrey -- on March 16, 2005. According to the Department of Homeland Security inspector- general memo, the smuggler admitted to a Border Patrol agent some time on or before March 10th, six days before that immunity was granted, that he was smuggling a load of marijuana on the day he was shot. And ".. that the smuggler's friends ostensibly drug cartel members, were considering to put together a hunting party and go shoot some BP agents."

TOOBIN: What -- what they mean by forced to give them immunity is they had to give him immunity in order to make him a witness. They didn't have to use him as a witness, they didn't have to bring the case. If they wanted to bring the case, and if they wanted to use him as a witness, then they had to give him immunity because he was taking the fifth. And given all the criminal activity he was involved in, he was well advised to take the fifth.

DOBBS: But six days before they give him immunity, he admitted to a Border Patrol agent that he was unlawfully transporting illegal drugs.

TOOBIN: This is why prosecutors have so much power, because no matter what kind of criminal activity is admitted by someone, they can give immunity and wash all of those sins away if they think the prosecution is important enough. And apparently they thought this one was.

DOBBS: Partner, let me just ask you as a former prosecutor, a bright and capable lawyer, as well as our senior legal analyst, does this prosecution make one wit of sense to you?

TOOBIN: It's one of the most unusual prosecutions I've ever seen. Under these circumstances, in these facts, I am baffled why this case was brought. But, you know, a jury came back with a guilty verdict.

And it's -- and that's very tough to get overturned. I mean, whether an appeal or pardon. The chance is -- the chances are slim.

DOBBS: It's incredible. It's one of the reasons Capitol Hill and most of the country -- I won't say most of the country, but those who know about this case are absolutely fit to be tied.

TOOBIN: It's a tough one.

DOBBS: Thank you, Jeffrey Toobin. That wasn't particularly legalese. I think you were very straightforward on that.

Thank you, sir.

TOOBIN: I try to keep the legalese to a minimum.

DOBBS: Thank you, sir.

Jeffrey Toobin, who can legalese with the best of them.

Coming up next, controversy over plans to vaccinate girls with a drug that could prevent cervical cancer. We'll have that special report and the controversy that has ensued.

And new legislation that could cut the threat of e-voting to our democracy.

We'll have that story.

And a love triangle involving two NASA astronauts, an Air Force captain leads to charges of kidnapping and attempted murder.

We'll have the very latest for you.

All of that and more straight ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Beginning next year, sixth grade girls in Texas must be immunized against HPV. That's a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer. The controversial plan pits cultural conservatives against advocates of a potentially life-saving intervention.

Christine Romans reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Each year in the U.S., thousands of women learn they have cervical cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could be one less.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This vaccine, if given to school-aged girls, could prevent cervical cancer, a disease that kills 3,700 women each year in this country.

Texas governor Rick Perry is making the vaccine mandatory for school-aged girls. Across the country legislature is moving quickly to require vaccinations for 11 and 12-year-old girls.

DR. LOUIS COOPER, NATIONAL NETWORK FOR IMMUNIZATION INFO.: It's critically important to get the vaccine to the children before they become sexually active and, therefore, potentially exposed to this virus.

ROMANS: Before a girl becomes sexually active -- because HPV, the Human Papilloma virus, which leads to cancer, is spread through sexual intercourse. The Centers for Disease Control estimates HPV infects about 20 million people in this country, with more than six million new cases each year. But some say vaccinating such young girls against a sexually transmitted virus is an implied endorsement of dangerous behavior.

PETER SPRIGG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: We feel it's very important that people not be told that this is a vaccine that will make it safe to have sex.

ROMANS: There are concerns about parents' rights, and screening and treatment have already been very effective, says Dr. Kevin Holcomb, who treats cervical cancer.

DR. KEVIN HOLCOMB, WEILL CORNELL MEDICAL CENTER: And I think each parent has to decide for themselves whether they want their child to have this vaccine or not.

ROMANS: Dr. Holcomb says, unlike the measles and pumps, a child cannot catch HPV just by sitting next to another student in a classroom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: The CDC recommends girls be vaccinated, but the federal government does not make it mandatory. States are moving quickly to do so, with some states, though, providing exemptions so parents, Lou, who are uncomfortable can opt out.

DOBBS: It's a very difficult ethical choice for parents and, as they mature, teenage girls. It's interesting Dr. Holcomb, who believes obviously mightily in the power of this drug, this vaccine, still believes that it should be a matter of parental volition.

ROMANS: It's for families. And he has a daughter. He said he would have his daughter vaccinated, but he doesn't want the government to tell him he has to. It's a family-by-family choice.

DOBBS: And it's apparently a remarkable drug in terms of how effective it is.

ROMANS: That's true.

DOBBS: Christine, thank you very much. Christine Romans.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight: should vaccinations against the STD Human Papilloma Virus be mandated for sixth-grade girls across the country in your opinion? Yes or no, please cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results for you here later in the broadcast.

Time now take a look at some of your thoughts.

Bonny in Illinois said: "I read with disgust the president's comments regarding CEO compensation. He said that it should be tied to the value provided to shareholders. Doesn't this mean more of the same, companies so concerned about the shareholders that U.S. workers are forgotten?"

And Barbara in Ohio: "Bush lives in an upside-down world. Sending Border Patrol Agents to jail, presidential pardons for drug dealers, billions for Iraq, tax breaks for the rich, cut benefits and services for the poor and aged, with reductions in Medicare and Medicaid. Upside-down"

And Delores in Texas: "We knew this would happen -- Ignacio Ramos, former Border Patrol agent, was recognized and beaten by other inmates on Saturday. What a travesty of justice for this man."

Send us your thoughts to loudobbs.com. More of your thoughts coming up here later in the broadcast. Each of your whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "War on the Middle Class".

Up next here, new legislation on Capitol Hill aimed at protecting America's struggling middle class. We'll have that story, tell you all about it.

And arctic temperatures from the northern plains to New England have taken a deadly toll. We'll have the very latest and the weather forecast for the nation upcoming.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: A love triangle has an elite NASA astronaut facing attempted murder charges tonight. The astronaut took off on a wild 900-mile dash across the country to confront the woman she thought was her rival in that triangle. The astronaut, Lisa Nowak, is free tonight on $25,000 bail facing charges of attempted murder. And now Kyung Lah with a report for us from Orlando, Florida -- Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, bond was posted just a short time ago, about an hour ago. And that's when Lisa Nowak, a NASA astronaut, did least jail here. Let's give you a look at her as she is departing the jail. She was surrounded. She was the center of this throng of cameras and reporters. Her head was covered and then she slipped into a car and left.

This was after her second hearing of the day, when she was charged with attempted first-degree murder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (voice-over): For the second mine a day, NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak faced charges, this one far more serious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Murder was the plan. And it just was not able to be carried out.

LAH: In the charging affidavit, Orlando police say Nowak was carrying a black duffel bag. They say she approached an apparent romantic rival, Colleen Shipman, in a parking lot at Orlando Airport. Authorities say the bag contained a steel mallet, a Buck knife with a four inch blade and a bb gun that resembled a 9 millimeter. Nowak's attorney told the court the physical evidence does not mean Nowak had intent to kill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: These things were in the duffel bag and they didn't leave the duffel bag. And there's no evidence that she intended to do anything other than have a talk.

LAH: Police say Nowak had driven 900 miles and urinated in diapers to avoid stopping. Officers say probable cause exists that the astronaut's intent was murder motivated by an alleged love triangle with astronaut Bill Oefelein. Nowak's commander on her space mission last summer was at the courthouse for Caption Nowak.

COL. STEVE LINDSAY (RET.), NASA CHIEF OF ASTRONAUT CORPS: If you're representing NASA and our primary concern is Lisa's health and well-being, make sure that she's safe, make sure we get her through this and we get her back to a safe place with her family.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: As a condition of her bond, she will have to wear a GPS device to monitor her movements. That will be worn on her ankle. And her attorney says that she's going to head straight home to Houston -- Lou.

DOBBS: Let me ask you, this, this Captain Nowak, this is a distinguished astronaut. She has completed a mission back in July on Discovery flying -- actually was the pilot in December, I believe on Discovery. Do we know if there were any trauma? Any -- what might have precipitated this on the part of Captain Nowak?

LAH: We only have a few clues. We know that a restraining order was filed by the victim in this case, the alleged victim in this case, and that she indicated in filing that restraining order that she had be stalked by two months by Nowak. So we know that something had been going on for at least two months. But what exactly precipitated this unusual behavior, we just don't know at this point. That did not come out in court today -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kyung Lah, thank you very much, reporting tonight from Orlando. We appreciate it. A tragic case.

A seventh person has died from bitter cold stretching from the plains to New England. The low in Chicago today hit the zero-degree mark. That's an improvement, believe it or not, over yesterday's ten below zero. Records show this is in fact the longest and coldest deep freeze in Chicago in 11 years. Pockets of frigid cold air are lingering. Overnight temperatures tonight will dip lower even again as the forecasters believe the worst may be ending.

Adding to the misery, however, more snow possible for the Great Lakes region, parts of the Northeast and as far south as West Virginia. In many areas, the snow is being measured, not in inches, but in feet.

Turning now to our "Democracy at Risk", there's a growing demand on Capitol Hill for new national standards for e-voting before next year's elections. Those national standards would require a paper trail for every vote placed electronically.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As presidential candidates declare in droves, legislators are tightening up rules on electronic voting. House legislation introduced by Rush Holt with 160 co-sponsors calls for $300 million in financing.

REP. RUSH HOLT, (D) NEW JERSEY: It is bipartisan, absolutely bipartisan. There are very many Republicans, very many Democrats on this. There's no reason why it should be a partisan issue.

PILGRIM: Among the provisions, all machines must produce a paper ballot that voters can check and verify in the voting booth. Inspections of software: all voting machine companies have to make their source code available so that elections can be verified.

WARREN STEWART, VOTETRUST USA: Well, I think it's really important that the bill addresses the culture of secrecy that has been allowed to test around the testing and certification of voting systems. And that's addressed very well in this bill.

PILGRIM: Random audits of all voting machines, even if there's no problem on election day.

SUSANNAH GOODMAN, COMMON CAUSE: Even if you're already voting on a paper ballot, that paper ballot gets read by an electronic machine. And as we know with all machines, they break. So it's very important to have an audit in place.

PILGRIM: Legislators point to the 2006 Florida Congressional election that is still being contested in Sarasota County. Eighteen thousand 000 votes were lost by electronic machines. But because there was no paper trail, it is impossible to find out exactly what went wrong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM (on camera): Now there's no time to waste. The new rules have to be in place for the next presidential election in 2008. And the Senate takes up the issue tomorrow in hearings on the hazards of electronic voting. And they're calling it the "Machinery of Democracy". By now it's very clear to many lawmakers that our democracy is at risk -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, this is -- Congressman Holt and a number of others who have been working very hard on this issue. And certainly the time is now if there is to be reform.

Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

Coming up now, three talk radio show hosts and what their listeners are saying about the newest presidential contenders.

By the way, Rudy Giuliani wants to play.

And our middle class has been heard by eroding union memberships. Some in Congress want to reverse that trend. They have an idea about how to do it. We'll have that special report and a great deal more still ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Democrats in Congress want to put some power back into the hands of American workers. They're planning to introduce legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act tomorrow. The idea is to reverse a trend that's just about a half century old.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Union membership has been declining. In the 1950s, one in three American workers was in a union. By 1983, it dropped in one in five. Today only about one in ten workers is in a union.

As the membership has dropped off, workers' bargaining power has diminished. Middle-class families have been squeezed.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: We've seen increased productivity. But has that been passed onto workers? No.

We've seen increased profits. Has that been passed onto workers? No.

SYLVESTER: Legislation introduced on Capitol Hill would make it easier for workers to form unions by simply signing a card or petition. The current system requires traditional secret ballot elections. Unions say corporations can and do manipulate that process. In 2005, labor arbitrators sided with 31,000 workers, awarding them back pay because companies tried to bust or prevent union activity.

REP. GEORGE MILLER, (D) CALIFORNIA: This is a basic and fundamental human right. It's a basic and fundamental civil right. And for too long, too long workers have been thwarted in this effort.

JOHN SWEENEY, PRES., AFL-CIO: Every day corporations, harass, intimidate and even fire people who try to form unions to bargain for better wages and benefits.

SYLVESTER: Business groups oppose the measure, saying it takes away a worker's right to a secret ballot. But at the heart of their concern, rising labor costs.

The bill would also impose stiffer penalties on employers who use intimidation to prevent labor activity and outlines new arbitration rules. Two hundred and thirty-two members of the House support the legislation. But the bill's fate is uncertain in the Senate. And even labor leaders admit the president is all but certain to veto the legislation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (on camera): Labor leaders making the case for unions say a union worker earns 30 percent more than a non-union worker doing the same job. Eighty percent of union workers have health coverage, compared to only 50 percent of non-union workers. And union workers are four times more likely to have a guaranteed pension from their employer than workers who do not belong to a union -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much. Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

A reminder to vote in our poll tonight.

Should vaccinations against the STD Human Papilloma Virus be mandatory for sixth-grade girls all across the country?

Give us your opinion, yes or no. Cast your vote please at loudobbs.com. The results coming up here in just a few minutes.

Up next, three of the nation's leading talk radio talk show hosts join me here. Their callers cant say enough, apparently, about who's lining up to replace President Bush.

And among them, Rudy Giuliani as of today.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, the "SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, tell us all about it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. An astronaut charged with attempted murder in a bizarre love triangle that leaves NASA officials and the rest of us scratching our heads. We're going to have the latest details.

And the ties that bind. China turns to some of America's biggest enemies to quench its burgeoning economy's thirst for oil. Is this an ominous sign of things to come?

Plus, the race for the presidency. Who's surging in New Hampshire, the first in the nation primary state? We're about to release some brand-new poll numbers from the Granite State.

Lou, all of that coming up right here on the "SITUATION ROOM".

DOBBS: Looking forward to it, Wolf. Thank you.

Joining me now, three of the country's best radio talk show hosts and certainly some of my very favorites, Mark Simone of WABC in New York City, Joe Madison of WOL in Washington, D.C. and Peter Boyles of KHOW in Denver.

Good on you have all here.

Let's start with you, Peter. Rudy Giuliani's in. Are you shocked, surprised?

PETER BOYLES, KHOW, DENVER: Not really. Giuliani's an interesting character to watch. Following 9/11, of course he's one of the people who emerges as a popular person. The interesting thing is the personal life and those things aside, we've looked that the before, but will they feed him to the wolves? In other words, my personal thoughts are the Democrats going to be in the Oval Office given the proclivities and where the Bush administration's taken us. And I think -- could they give this guy up, sort of a Michael Dukakis character, he takes the hit and the real guy tries again four years.

DOBBS: What do you think, Mark?

MARK SIMONE, WABC NEW YORK: Well, you can't compare Giuliani to Dukakis. That's like comparing Gomer Pyle to Patton. Giuliani is the perfect guy right now. If you want a guy that will clean up and fix broken government agencies like FEMA, he's the guy that did it in New York. The best crime fighter in the world. Who else would you want fighting terrorism?

DOBBS: Joe, could you think of anybody?

JOE MADISON, WOL WASHINGTON: I'm not in agreement what I just heard about Giuliani.

DOBBS: I thought I'd just tried to shock you a little bit.

MADISON: Gee, I mean, I was still shocked when I heard that about, you know, crime fighter. Yes...

SIMONE: He brought crime down 50 percent in New York. No one thought that was possible.

MADISON: Yes, and you know, you guys...

DOBBS: The presidential debates are under way.

MADISON: ... you guys stopped 500,000 people in New York. And only arrested -- charged 5,000. And most of those are African- Americans. Giuliani's going to have a very interesting race. And I can't wait for them to get in it, from an urban standpoint, especially.

BOYLES: I really -- I really believe he's a good man, don't misunderstand me. But who's the real candidate here? Who's the guy they're going to let out there to go against -- to go against Mrs. Clinton? It's going to be a tough one. I'm not dissing Giuliani, but is he the guy who can win?

DOBBS: Yes, you know -- I'm sorry.

MADISON: No, I was just going to say, and Republicans have this tradition of going with insiders. I don't think it's going to be Giuliani. I think it's going to be an insider.

SIMONE: I don't think Reagan was an insider.

DOBBS: Can I ask you a question? Does either party have an outsider? Joe, come on.

MADISON: Well, you know, look...

BOYLE: Tancredo.

MADISON: Reagan had to do his time...

DOBBS: Well, I'm talking about this current crop, partner.

MADISON: Well, you know, I think you're going to find an old standard, somebody who's on the inside, well connected with the party bosses.

DOBBS: All right. You mean in both parties or just one?

MADISON: Both.

DOBBS: All right.

BOYLE: The outsider, Lou, is Tancredo.

DOBBS: Well, he would definitely be that. And the idea that there's going to be a little difference in Washington, D.C. we saw tested over Nancy Pelosi's big 'ole airplane. Did you have any reaction to that one, Joe? This is supposed to be a different deal, isn't it?

MADISON: You know, Nancy Pelosi, big PR mistake. I love her. She's going to be on my show Thursday. But, you know, when you get -- when you get elected saying it's going to be different in Washington, then darn it, make it different, you know.

SIMONE: This is different, you know. That Gulfstream jet that Hastert was using, it was fine for Warren Buffett, Jack Welch didn't mind it. But she said, you know that plane that the sultan of Brunei has? I'd like one of those. I have got to take 40 people with me.

MADISON: Yes. I mean, it was a PR mistake. And, you know, she just needs to back off of it. People don't understand. I understand, but the public doesn't. And here we go.

DOBBS: Yeah, well, I don't understand, Joe. I'll call you later and you can explain it to me.

MADISON: Well, I saw you down there with Prince. That's what I didn't understand -- at the Super Bowl.

DOBBS: Well, I didn't understand it either, and it was more than just purple rain coming down, too, partner.

Let's turn to something that's sort of interesting, because one of the things that receives little coverage across most media are unions. And I'd like to know what your audiences are saying about unions. The idea that George Miller, congressman of California, is going to introduce this legislation that would make it certainly easier for workplaces to be organized. What is your reaction, Peter?

BOYLES: Well, I grew up in a place called Roanoke, Pennsylvania. Couple of steel mills and they're all gone. The industrial base in this country left in the '70s. Those unions went in the '70s.

The strongest unions in this country today are government unions. It's wonderful to watch guys like Miller and Ted Kennedy, who are giving free sway to all the illegals who come in here and take work.

Now to talk about unions. I want to see unions back in this country -- strong, industrial unions. We have to return to industrial base. We have to have the kinds of people that are going to fight for the working man and the middle class in this country. And it ain't Ted Kennedy.

DOBBS: OK. Joe?

MADISON: I'm from a union family. My father worked in -- as a union member in the Flint foundry. And let me tell you, the strongest unions right now are SEIU, it's service-oriented unions. I think that they need to become stronger. And most of us, even if you belong or don't belong to a union, we actually benefit, because many non-union people...

BOYLES: They're organizing illegals, Lou. You know that.

DOBBS: Absolutely. I think that the AFL-CIO is out of its mind.

BOYLES: Absolutely.

DOBBS: The Service Employees Union is out of its mind. BOYLES: Absolutely.

DOBBS: And they're playing a two-faced game with their membership.

BOYLES: Absolutely.

MADISON: With immigration, you're right about that, but we were talking about organizing unions.

DOBBS: Oh, yes...

MADISON: I agree with you about immigration.

DOBBS: And I agree with you all about the fact that the working man and woman in this country deserves representation by someone for their interests, and one of the things that's upside down here, though, is the civil service and the public employee -- more than a third of public employees in taxpayer-funded jobs are organized. Less than 8 percent, just less than 8 percent in the private sector organized. What's your reaction to that, Mark?

SIMONE: There are unions and there are unions, but if we could find some way, some, I don't know, I hate to say regulation or law, but some way of keeping them so they're just helping the working man and not becoming like -- when they got out of the control in the '60s and '70s, they played a big role in making our car industry not competitive any longer. And other industries.

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: Almost as big a role, Peter, as management's played over the last 30 years.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE: What I'm talking about is very often, certain costs, union costs, labor costs got so out of control...

BOYLES: Wait a minute, the union men and women designed those cars?

(CROSSTALK)

SIMONE: If you think there was never any corruption or problems with unions in '60s and '70s...

BOYLES: I'm not saying that, but the failure in Detroit...

(CROSSTALK)

DOBBS: One thing about it, in the American car industry, I think we can all agree, Peter, there's plenty of blame to go around.

SIMONE: But the unions built some nice casinos in Las Vegas.

BOYLES: The cars that the American people didn't want were not designed by rank-and-file members.

DOBBS: I want to turn to one thing. We're reporting on what China is doing here in -- particularly, in the Middle East, Africa, around the world. One of their treaties and moves in the Sudan I know has you fuming, Joe Madison.

MADISON: They're two-faced. I mean, what a bunch of hypocrites, you know? And we need to be attacking China and Sudan on this one.

But to say, oh, let's stop the genocide and then turn around and I will build you a presidential palace? I mean, what a hypocrite. What a hypocrite.

DOBBS: And with that, we're going to have to conclude, gentlemen. I thank you very much for being here. Peter Boyles, out there in Denver...

BOYLES: Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: ... thanks for being here, as always. Joe Madison, down there in the nation's capital.

MADISON: Thank you.

DOBBS: Living large.

MADISON: Yeah. Well, you didn't include talk show hosts in that union and the need for more pay.

DOBBS: I figured you're going to be well represented no matter what, Joe. Thank you very much.

MADISON: I'm going to demand it.

DOBBS: Right. And Mark Simone right here in New York City, KABC...

SIMONE: WABC.

DOBBS: I'm sorry, WABC. I went to the West Coast on that one. Thanks a lot.

SIMONE: Thanks.

DOBBS: Still ahead, the results of our poll. A lot of you are voting. We'll have those results and more of your thoughts. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight: 62 percent of you say vaccinations against the STD human papilloma virus should not be mandatory for sixth-grade girls across the country.

Time now for some of your thoughts. Eric in Ohio. "Lou, ask your ordinary, everyday working man or woman if free trade has made their life better, and you will receive a resounding no. If the politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, cease to pay attention to the working families in this country, then they will be looking for not only a new job, but also a second one to help pay the bills."

And Eric in Michigan. "Hey, Lou, if America is opposed to integrating Mexico and Canada, there should be town hall meetings across the nation and lots of discussion. What gives the president authority to do this against the will of the people? This is out of line with the Constitution and our freedoms."

Absolutely.

We love to hear from you. Please send us your thoughts to loudobbs.com.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow when among our guests will be Congressman James Sensenbrenner. For all of us, thanks for watching. And good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

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