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Confronting Iran; Showdown Over Iraq

Aired February 8, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, Iran is threatening to attack U.S. interests all over the world. Adversaries are preparing for the next war as we fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We'll have that special report.

And lies and injustice in the case of two former Border Patrol agents sent to prison. Leading lawmakers are outraged. Two of those lawmakers join us here tonight -- Congressman Ted Poe, John Culberson.

And Speaker Pelosi struggles to defend herself against charges of extravagance in the furor over her use of a military aircraft.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I have never asked for any larger plane. I have said I'm happy to ride commercial.


DOBBS: We'll have a special report on the speaker's trappings of office and much more.

All of the day's news straight ahead here today.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, February 8th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, today made a chilling new threat against the United States. The ayatollah declared that Tehran would respond to any U.S. attack against Iran by striking American interests all over the world. The White House today insisted the United States has no intention of attacking Iran despite Iran's escalating nuclear weapons program and threats.

Tehran is already helping insurgents kill our troops in Iraq. Another 11 of our troops have been killed in Iraq. Seven of them in a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that was downed yesterday.

Barbara Starr tonight reports from the Pentagon on the U.S. response to Iran's new threat.

Christine Romans reports on the escalating military threat to this country from all around the globe.

And Dana Bash reporting tonight from Capitol Hill on lawmakers' struggle to hold a vote on the president's conduct of the war in Iraq.

We turn first to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the question tonight is, why does the Pentagon suddenly have this kinder, gentler tone towards Iran?


STARR (voice over): Two days of war games under way by Iran's Revolutionary Guard near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the point through which much of the world's oil supply passes. The U.S. now keeping two aircraft carriers in the region, ready to strike inside Iran if ordered, except for one thing.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I've said it, the secretary of defense has said it, the president has said it -- we're not evading Iran.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have no intention of attacking Iran. The president said that. The secretary of state's said it. I've said it before.

STARR: It's an extraordinary admission.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: And we're all a little bit mystified by this, because what we normally say is, all options are on the table. You want a potential enemy to be threatened and wondering what you're going to do.

STARR: Last month, Defense Secretary Gates openly said U.S. options against Iran are limited.

GATES: I think that our difficulties have given them a tactical opportunity in the short term. But the United States is a very powerful country.

STARR: Why the softer tone? First, Iran's nuclear program is still years away from posing a strategic threat. And the U.S. worries that if the war of words gets too hot, either side may miscalculate and go to war. But the ratcheting down of rhetoric has a political component.

SHEPPERD: The American public wants us out of the wars that we're in and not involved in another war. I think that's what this is about.


STARR: So, Lou, what would actually provoke a U.S. military reaction against Iran right now? Top commanders say if Iran did try to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, well, that's something they may have to deal with -- Lou. DOBBS: Barbara, the thinking at the Pentagon, either Iran is irrelevant to the United States and its interests, or it is posing some sort of threat, which would have led to the language in the preceding months.

What is the difference, as best as you can discern there at the Pentagon?

STARR: Well, I think what is going on here, based on the reporting that we've done, on the top commanders that we've spoken to privately, is that there is a decision, both political and military, to ratchet down at this point, to try and cool things down. There is a lot of concern if the rhetoric gets too hot, Iran may miscalculate, the U.S. may miscalculate, and both countries could find themselves in a war that neither really wants -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

Iran is only one of several escalating threats to this country and American interests around the world. Communist China and Russia are now rapidly building up their military capabilities, and North Korea is refusing to surrender its nuclear weapons program.

Christine Roman has our report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A host of potential adversaries are making the world a more dangerous place for American interests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an important point to remember, that the United States can never afford to get biopically (ph) focused, you know, on just one problem.

ROMANS: In a veiled threat, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledges to strike his enemies if attacked. During a show of force by Iran, war games feature Russian-built anti-aircraft missile tests. Iran, perhaps the most dangerous player right now, challenging American interests and foreign policy goals.

GARY MULHOLLAND, WISCONSIN PROJECT: It's getting more and more dangerous because we don't have an effective strategy for turning Iran off of the path that will lead to a nuclear weapon.

ROMANS: And then there is North Korea, again sitting down to six-party talks to end its nuclear program. But this is a nation that has already tested a nuclear weapon.

JAMES AUER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: The only ones that really have significant influence over the North Koreans are the Chinese. And the real question is whether the Chinese are really willing to squeeze the North Koreans on our behalf or not. ROMANS: China is rapidly modernizing its navy and air force, becoming a more sophisticated threat to U.S. interests in the Pacific. Developing a space weapons program that can destroy U.S. intelligence- gathering assets in space, with the potential to blind American satellites watching hot spots all over the world.

Meanwhile, Russia embarks on perhaps the biggest military buildup since the Cold War, rivaling the old Soviet army for combat readiness. A modernization worth about $190 billion, ordering new intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines, possibly even aircraft carriers.


ROMANS: James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation says the United States will overcome, the way it always has, by being patient, strong, and free. But Lou, there is no doubt, America's enemies are eagerly challenging American interest around the globe.

DOBBS: And it is -- it gives anyone, I think, pause to hear the secretary of defense really expressing the sense of limitation that he has in terms of this country's capability. While saying on the one hand the United States is the strongest power on earth, pretty much acknowledging that that power is being used rather significantly right now and to capacity.

Thank you very much.

Christine Romans.

As the Bush administration struggles to deal with new threats emerging around the world, more than 130,000 of our troops remain in Iraq. The military today said another 11 of our troops have been killed. Seven of them, five Marines and two sailors, were on board the Marine Corps helicopter that was downed yesterday.

Thirty-one of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month, 3,114 since the beginning of the war. 23,417 wounded, 10,397 of them so seriously they could not return to duty within three days.

The former commander of our troops in Iraq, General George Casey, has been confirmed as the new Army chief of staff by the full Senate. The Senate voted to confirm General Casey by a vote of 83-14. Critics said General Casey should bear some of the responsibility for the military's failure to defeat the Iraq insurgency.

House Democrats today gave details of their plans to challenge the president's conduct of this war. The House will debate the war next week. Republicans blasted the Democrats' plans, calling them political theater.

Dana Bash reports from Capitol Hill.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): House Democrats announced their Iraq resolution will be simple and straightforward: Congress supports the troops, but opposes the president's plan to send 21,500 more of them to Iraq.

REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: And the entire effort here is, this will be and is a vote on whether you support or don't support the escalation as enunciated by the president

BASH: The House Republican leader conceded some GOP lawmakers will vote to oppose the president's plan, but still called next week's House debate on a symbolic resolution a meaningless stunt.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: A non-binding resolution is nothing more than political theater that means nothing. And I believe that it demoralizes our troops in the field.

BASH: Democrats say that GOP mantra lost its punch after the highest-ranking military officer appeared to contradict it.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy, period.

BASH: House Democrats agreed to start an Iraq debate next week because it stalled this week in the Senate. Seven Republican senators are now urging Senate leaders to break the impasse, even though all but two helped block action on Iraq as part of a GOP effort to force consideration of Republican resolutions.

Several of those Republicans who oppose sending more troops to Iraq insist they never intended to prevent a vote.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: It's important to the American people that the Senate doesn't take a walk and is not willing to debate this and take a position.


BASH: And another Republican, Olympia Snowe of Maine, said that leaders of both parties in the Senate, by allowing a deadlock on Iraq they are "taking a political detour" from the message of the last election.

And, Lou, there is every indication that detour is going to last a while. The Senate majority leader said he's not even going to attempt to bring this back up before the Senate for about two and a half weeks, and even then it's very unclear that there is any idea that they could come to a compromise, one that they have yet to find over this past week.

DOBBS: It is hard to imagine that this is the kind of leadership that anyone would expect from the leaders of either party in the Senate, particularly given the grave and critically important issue of the war in Iraq.

Thank you very much.

Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.

Still ahead, escalating gang violence around the country. Violence, driven in large part by criminal illegal aliens.

We'll have that report and what's being done about it.

Also, Mexican lawmakers go to Washington, D.C. They're there to lobby for a completely open border with the United States, and they're winning support from pro-amnesty members of Congress.

We'll be telling you all about that in our special report.

And new concerns tonight about what appears to be at the very best a flawed investigation into the controversial prosecution of two U.S. Border Patrol agents sent to prison for doing their jobs, a drug smuggler given immunity, and the prosecution's refusal to prosecute the drug cartel itself.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: New efforts under way tonight trying to stop the increase in violent crime by street gangs. Law enforcement officials meeting in Los Angeles, where they're set to announce plans to target that city's worst gangs, many of whose members who are criminal illegal aliens.

Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): No one knows how many illegal aliens are among the nation's estimated 750,000 gang members. San Diego police say up to 40 percent of their gang members are illegal aliens. In Los Angeles, they make up at least 60 percent of the notorious 18th Street Gang.

STEVE TIDWELL, FBI: Los Angeles is ground zero for modern gang activity. Those gangs that are born in L.A. now have grown, matured, and they're in 40 states and seven foreign countries. They're more diverse, more dispersed and more dangerous than ever.

WIAN: Law enforcement officials from throughout North and Central America are holding a gang summit in Los Angeles. A key focus, the impact of open borders on the spread of gang violence.

BRIAN TRUCHON, FBI: Unfortunately, the gang does not respect international borders. The fact that they're able to move back and forth across the border is very troubling to us

WIAN: The FBI says Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, is the world's most dangerous gang. It was formed by Central American illegal aliens in Los Angeles to counter the power of Mexican-dominated gangs.

CHIEF WILLIAM BRATTON, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT.: The issue of gangs and the their ability to go across borders, particularly Latin American, Latino gangs, it is critical that we not give them sanctuary in any of the countries that are inflicted by their violence.

WIAN: While overall crime in Los Angeles is down sharply, gang violence jumped 14 percent last year. City officials are trying to crack down.

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: We must work to address gang violence in a truly comprehensive way. That means coordinating efforts at the local, state, federal, and international levels.

WIAN: But when asked at the National Press Club two weeks ago if he would support stronger border enforcement as a way to combat gang violence, Mayor Villaraigosa disputed the notion that many gang members are illegal aliens. And Los Angeles continues to prohibit city police from asking criminal suspects about their immigration status.


WIAN: On the federal level, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to target illegal alien gang member. Under what it calls Operation Community Shield, ICE has arrested more than 4,000 in the past two years -- Lou.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian from Los Angeles.

Lawmakers tonight keeping up their pressure in pursuit of justice in the case of imprisoned Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. Congressman Duncan Hunter's legislation calling for a congressional pardon continues to gain support. Now with 81 congressional signatures, and no Democrats, curiously enough, have signed on.

We'll have more here later on the broadcast in what appears to be a very, very flawed and controversial prosecution of those two agents. Congressman Ted Poe, John Culberson join me. They'll be telling us their reaction by the admission by the Department of Homeland Security that they lied to Congress.

Now tonight's poll.

Do you believe that Democrats should sign on to co-sponsor Congressman Duncan Hunter's legislation granting a congressional pardon for those agents?

Cast your vote at, yes or no. We'll have the results here later.

And members of Mexican Congress are in Washington, D.C., tonight. They're here to ask the United States to change its laws on illegal immigration. And they're using the 8-year-old son of Elvira Arellano, an illegal alien who has taken sanctuary in a Chicago church, to help make their point and their case.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Mexican officials are pressing to keep an open border that has allowed millions of illegal aliens to filter into the United States. Members of the Mexican Congress are visiting Washington and Chicago this week to push for a U.S. guest worker and amnesty program.

JOSE JACQUES MEDINA, DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION PARTY (through translator): We are starting our business here in Washington, looking to integrate ourselves in the solution of the immigration problem. We don't want to see ourselves as a problem. We are here as a solution.

SYLVESTER: The group includes a representative from an agency called the Center Without Borders and a young son of an illegal alien who has been avoiding deportation by living in a Chicago church.

REP. JAMES MCGOVERN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think this is the year that we're going to make great progress in the area of immigration.

SYLVESTER: Mexico wants Central Americans to back them, enforcing the issue in the U.S. Congress. The lobbying blitz comes as President Bush prepares to visit with Mexican president Felipe Calderon next month.

Arizona's governor, Janet Napolitano, is also meeting with Calderon in March. But Mexico's heavy involvement in the U.S. immigration debate is triggering an outcry.

MARK KRIKORIAN, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: This is a direct interference in American domestic policymaking. And it's part of a long pattern of Mexico's violation of our sovereignty in the area of immigration.

SYLVESTER: Critics say Mexico's answer to poverty is to send workers to the United States instead of dealing with the problem head on.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R), COLORADO: It's a futile effort if they're here thinking that they're going to change their own problems or solve their own problems by getting us to do something, by keeping that border open.

SYLVESTER: Democrats are expected within the coming weeks to introduce legislation to legalize millions of illegal aliens.


SYLVESTER: And even though Democrats now have a majority in the House and the Senate, the so-called comprehensive immigration plan is not guaranteed. Many of the new Democrats ran against legalizing illegal aliens in the United States.

So, Lou, we could see another heated battle, particularly in the House of Representatives -- Lou.

DOBBS: It is -- this will be politics as we have grown to understand it over the course of the past several years, the fight over amnesty and open borders.

With whom are the Mexican congressmen meeting the U.S. Congress?

SYLVESTER: They've been meeting with members of the Hispanic Caucus on the grounds that many of these Mexican nationals live in their district, and those are the members of Congress who have been pushing this issue the most forcefully -- Lou.

DOBBS: So they're meeting with a Hispanic caucus, rather than with the leadership of Congress or with the president? Why?

SYLVESTER: They did request a meeting with Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but they were not able to get on her schedule because this was such short notice. So in a way, Lou, they are essentially preaching to the choir here when they're here on Capitol Hill.

DOBBS: Yes. It's interesting that the Hispanic Caucus has taken for itself -- the name "Hispanic" (ph) has embraced illegal immigration and open borders while ignoring the fact that there are millions of Hispanic Americans who really want those borders closed and illegal immigration stopped. It's a remarkable display.

Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much, as I know you will continue to follow this very important issue as the Mexican congressmen visit there in your fair city.

Thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester.

Up next, angry supporters of imprisoned Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean are trying to win those men's freedom. Congressman John Culberson wants the inspector general of Homeland Security to simply resign. He'll join us, as will Congressman Ted Poe.

And six U.S. helicopters in Iraq have been downed in three weeks. Are insurgents changing their strategy? And why don't we already know the answer to that question?

I'll be talking with General David Grange.

And the speaker of the House says she never wanted that big old airplane. So who's idea was it for Nancy Pelosi to fly a lot better than first class?

We'll have that story, a great deal more.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: More outrage today over that request by the speaker of the House to use a very special airplane to fly home to California. Across Washington, much debate about what kind of special transportation privileges the speaker of the House should have.

Kitty Pilgrim has our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After weeks of intense accusations, the speaker of the House tried to set the record straight. But Nancy Pelosi was in denial.

PELOSI: We didn't ask for a larger plane, period.

PILGRIM: She was so in denial, she even denied it was a plane.

PELOSI: And by the way, it's not a plane. A plane seems to make you think your plane's waiting there. It's a ride.

PILGRIM: What Mrs. Pelosi's staff admits to is asking the DOD for a plane that could fly nonstop to San Francisco. The DOD letter in response doesn't reveal whether she indeed asked for a C-32, the same plane as Vice President Dick Cheney's Air Force Two, a plane that carries 45 people. The DOD letter only says they will provide a plane subject to availability and not always guaranteed.

"Aircraft assigned to these missions will accommodate between seven and not more than 10 passengers. Your family will be required to provide reimbursement to the Treasury..."

White House spokesman Tony Snow defended her right to military transport as speaker of the House.

SNOW: I don't believe she's asking to be sent, you know, on the space shuttle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like her to be put on the space shuttle, Tony?

PILGRIM: But the debate on the House floor raised voices and passions.

REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: And I hope that Speaker Pelosi will take the time to come down and explain to the full House the reason why she thinks she should have $15 million a year to fly back and forth to California.

REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE (R), FLORIDA: Congress should not be above coach or first class travel.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), CHIEF DEPUTY WHIP: The ability to fly on a jumbo jetliner is a privilege never before granted to a member of Congress. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, John Murtha, chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, says that he wants to hold hearings later this spring on executive and congressional travel on military aircraft, and he's given the Defense Department a one-month deadline to provide records on congressional travel for the last two years -- Lou.

DOBBS: You know, I have to say, I'm amused by this, because as we've been reporting the story for some time, I mean, my gosh.

For those of you who are just joining our broadcast, you know, just recently, you may not know that because of the often critical nature of our reporting on some of the policies of the Bush administration, I'm persona non grata at the White House. And people are writing in as though -- and obviously very liberal.

Democrats saying, "How dare you carry Republican freight and criticize the speaker of the House." But the issue is straightforward.

What the in the world gives anyone the idea, whether it be the sergeant-at-arms, who, after all, does have to respect mightily the speaker of the House, or whether it's the Department of Defense, you know, who depends upon the House for its budgeting -- I mean, the idea of get her a 757 to fly back and forth is unprecedented. It's absolutely irrational.

PILGRIM: Well, the discussion certainly consumed Capitol Hill today. I think they will get to the bottom of it -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, the other part of it is -- and Murtha, my gosh. John Murtha, a man who really knows his stuff on defense, he did everything but threaten the DOD, reminding them that they were, in fact, dependent upon this speaker for their funding.

I mean, this is pretty outlandish all the way around. And Democrats or Republicans, sorry, folks, when it's wrong, it's wrong. And we don't really care on this broadcast which partisan ox gets gored. Just so when they're out of line, they get gored.

Kitty, thank you very much.

Kitty Pilgrim.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Anita from Louisiana, "Your story about Nancy Pelosi demanding a huge military jet for her personal use was at best inaccurate and slanted, and at worst a smear."

Well, actually, former House speaker Congressman Dennis Hastert of Illinois flew to and fro Washington, most commonly on a Gulf Stream III jet. There it is. And despite a lot of journalistic reports to the contrary, that aircraft will fly coast to coast for just about $15,000 less than the proposed aircraft for the speaker. And if you have any questions about the position the Defense Department's put in. Congressman John Murtha makes it just pretty clear, as I said.

"They're making a mistake" -- referring to the Department of Defense -- "when they leak it. Because she decides on the allocation for the Defense Department."

Now Congressman Murtha has gone completely overboard. He's decided the DOD is leaking this information. And he went on to say that he did not believe the House speaker would let a rejection drive her decisions on Pentagon funding.

We are very pleased for her mercy and for yours, Congressman Murtha.

Get a grip, please, sir. And put this into some sort of proportion and perspective without partisanship, if you don't mind.

And those are the facts.

Gregory in Missouri, "Lou, I really feel for the family of this Border Patrol agent. It is sad to see that our government has turned its back on the American people. The question is, what's next? It looks like freedom is a thing of the past."

No, it isn't. But we better start changing our directions in a hurry.

And Colby in California said, "Dear Lou, after watching your show and learning that no Democrat has signed the petition to give a pardon to the two Border Patrol agents, I received a phone call to renew my membership in the Democratic Party. I declined. Until the border is secure, I'm voting independent, meaning that I will vote for those who believe that the United States of America is a sovereign country with real borders that need protecting from illegal drug smugglers. Keep up the good work."

We'll do our best.

Send us your thoughts at Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "War on the Middle Class".

And next here, was there a DHS cover-up in the case of former Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean? Congressman Ted Poe, Congressman John Culberson, they're calling for a full investigation. They join us here tonight.

And new concerns about U.S. military tactics in Iraq. One of the country's most decorated former military commanders, General David Grange, joins us.

And record snowfall, dangerously cold temperatures. We'll have the latest on the arctic blast that is gripping much of the country. And we'll tell you what forecasters are saying will happen next.

All of that and more straight ahead. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Another high-profile and controversial prosecution. This one under attack by dozens of congressmen. They're seeking justice for Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

We're joined now by two of those congressmen: Congressman John Culberson, Republican, Texas, Congressman Ted Poe, Republican, also Texas.

Gentlemen, good to have you with us.


REP. TED POE, (R) TEXAS: Lou, good to be with you.

DOBBS: This looks like a clear case the Department of Homeland Security directly lying to you gentleman.

CULBERSON: Unfortunately, that's true. They lied it my subcommittee. They lied to all four of us, didn't they, Ted?

POE: Yes.

DOBBS: Congressman Poe, you're a former judge. What is -- how could this possibly happen?

POE: Well, it did happen. We met with the bureaucrats. They told us they had evidence that Compean and Ramos plotted and conspired that day to go out and shoot Mexican nationals. And they -- that's just a fabrication. That never happened.

So we asked for the documents. Those documents never appeared over four months. And finally through the Freedom of Information Act we were able to get certain documents that didn't substantiate what the government says occurred.

CULBERSON: And then in testimony before my subcommittee day before yesterday, Lou, I had Richard Skinner, the inspector general, in front of me under oath. And I asked him directly, "Where are the documents, and is it true what your investigators told us?"

And he said, "I'm sorry, Congressman, we misled you."

DOBBS: I mean, how can the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security -- is there any sort of repercussion? The fact that -- did they explain where they got that information or did they have any source for it or it was made up out of old cloth?

POE: The old double talk about where it came from. But it was a fabrication. And it's interesting, Lou, this whole case has to do with so-called cover up, misinformation by the Border agents. It turns out the federal government is the one that's giving this information about the whole case.

DOBBS: You know, I want to just share this with our viewers. The I.G. told you and Johnny Sutton has said -- the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas has said that these men admitted that this drug dealer didn't have any kind of weapon. His statement on the 19th of March, 2005 -- and this is from Jose Compean: "When he was running, he was pointing something shiny with his left hand. It looked like a gun. That is when I started shooting."

How in the world with this information in front of the public can this kind of thing be tolerated?

POE: It can't be tolerated and have to be some consequences for the government mis -- giving misinformation, not telling the truth about the real facts of a criminal case, hiding evidence, dealing with drug dealers in back rooms. We want to get to the bottom of all of this and those people that are responsible for misinformation, they're going to be held accountable.

CULBERSON: And, Lou, Congressman Poe and I are both beginning with asking for Mr. Skinner's resignation, the resignation of these three individuals that lied to us directly. This was given -- this false information was given to us so we would quit pursuing this case, so we would believe these are rogue cops. And a terrible injustice has been done to these two Border Patrol agents and discouraged every other agent on the border from using their weapons in defense of themselves and this country. And that's a travesty.

DOBBS: This case really originated -- was driven by Washington, D.C. either at the -- obviously at the Justice Department level and at the DHS level. Do you -- do you, gentlemen have any idea why Johnny Sutton took on this case, ignored the drug cartel behind this drug dealer, who was given immunity, and prosecuted with such vigor, such relentlessness two Border Patrol agents who had distinguished records in service to the country?

POE: That is the question. Why was our government so relentless in prosecuting border agents?

If they were as relentless in protecting the border, the border would be protected. And so we're going to find out the motive behind all of this. It's really chilled the effect of border protection on the Texas-Mexico border and maybe that's the effect that somebody wanted.

CULBERSON: And, Lou, I can tell you in visiting wit visiting with Border Patrol agents in Arizona and in Texas the week before last, they tell me that the word among agents, their opinion is -- and I tend to agree with it -- that this was a political prosecution pursued to placate Mexico public opinion and to help Vicente Fox's candidate in the Mexican elections. And I think that's outrageous. It's unacceptable. The effect of this prosecution has been to chill every agent, every law enforcement officer on the border to make them hesitate and think twice before they pull their weapon. And that is dangerous. DOBBS: You know, yesterday one of your colleagues, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, he said that if one of these agents now in prison is killed, there will be serious talk of impeachment. What's your reaction to that?

POE: In my own personal opinion, I don't think that is the answer to follow right now. I certainly don't. The border agents, we put the prison authorities on notice that they could be injured. And they were. You know, I was a judge forever. And prison people know how to take care of all inmates. That's one of the things they are taught. And they just disregarded simple procedures in protecting Ramos in this case. That's another question we want to find out the answer. To and they should be held accountable.

CULBERSON: I also -- agree with Judge Poe that this -- impeachment's not appropriate. I do think first of all we need to focus on making sure these two officers are given an appeal bond so that they can get out of prison until the appeal is complete.

And then secondly, Lou, I hope you'll encourage your listeners to contact the White House and ask the president to issue a full and complete pardon to both of these officers for the sake of the national security of the United States and the security of that border. We need to send a message to every law enforcement officer on the border, "We are as proud of you as we are of your soldiers in Iraq. And we want you to do whatever you think it needs to be done to protect yourselves and this country."

DOBBS: And those serving on the border are doing so with basically their hands tied behind their backs. And with this very clear statement by the U.S. Justice Department and the attorney general's office in Texas. They're basically saying that they would rather prosecute Border Patrol agents with distinguished records rather than bust drug cartels.

And as a matter of fact, gentlemen, we're going to be demonstrating why we think we can substantiate that very straight- forward priority here in just a few moments.

Congressman Culberson, Congressman Poe, we thank you both for being here, all that you are doing on behalf of these agencies, in truth, in justice, and I even believe in saying the American way. Because what has been pursued by this administration is, in my estimation, absolutely disgraceful. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

POE: Thank you, Lou.

CULBERSON: Lou, thank you for shining sunshine on this very important subject.

DOBBS: We try and we appreciate you doing exactly the same thing, and with your half making a difference.

CULBERSON: Thank you, sir.

DOBBS: We hope that justice can be arrived at here. We thank you for your efforts.

Coming up here next, we'll have much more on this case. And our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, joins us. We're going to be analyzing exactly what in the world was the Justice Department thinking? You're going to find it shocking. I'll tell you, it is absolutely shocking.

And there are new concerns tonight about the U.S. military's use of helicopters in Iraq. And what are our enemies doing that we have not responded to? General David Grange will be here, one of the country's most distinguished former military commanders.

And what is the state of race relations in the United States? Michael Eric Dyson is the author of a provocative new book debating race. He'll be my guest here. Stay with us.


DOBBS: For more now on the legal issues surrounding this Border Patrol agent case which I consider to be just a travesty of prosecution, we're turning to our senior legal analyst here at CNN, Jeff Toobin, former federal prosecutor, terrific attorney.

The idea of giving this drug smuggler, illegal alien, what's called limited use immunity to testify, what does that mean that the prosecutor could have done?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Lou, when you think about the powers of a federal prosecutor, there really is no greater power that a prosecutor has than the right to give immunity.

Now, the technical legal phrase is limited use immunity, but it's not really limited use immunity. It's immunity. It means you can essentially waive the pixie dust over whatever witness you want and say, we're going to wipe the slate clean. We're not going to prosecute for you -- whatever you have done, in return for your testimony in the case. It's a huge power. You can say to a murderer, we're not going to prosecute you for murder because we want you as a witness.

It's done, but it has to be done very judiciously, and it has to be done in service of a case that's worth it.

DOBBS: Johnny Sutton, U.S. attorney's office in this case, with that powerful immunity, and it is clearly stated in the I.G.'s report, chose not, according to these affidavits, to ask that drug smuggler a single thing about the people he was meeting, the car that he was to meet, with a million dollars in drugs, the safehouse that he was supposed to go to, or anything about the drug cartel.

TOOBIN: See, this is where the power is so extraordinary. Because basically as a prosecutor, you get to say, I care about case A and I don't care about case B. I care about prosecuting these Border Patrol agents and I don't care about the million dollars in drugs. That's a judgment that is completely within the discretion of the prosecutor, but it's an incredible power, when you think of weighing which crime is more serious.

DOBBS: Which is the more serious crime and which would you rather have information about? Assuming there is any legitimacy whatsoever. I mean, this drug smuggler actually lied to investigators initially, which he admits.

TOOBIN: It's all over the papers that he lied.

DOBBS: And this -- and Johnny Sutton makes a decision not to ask about the drug cartel that was employing the source of the drugs? A million dollars' worth that he's bringing in from New Mexico?

TOOBIN: And he was in Mexico after the investigation began, and they have prepared letters to him. They basically -- they wrote letters to him saying, we promise we will not prosecute you for the drug involvement that you have in return for coming back to the United States and testifying against the two agents. So even more than the usual circumstance, where you simply have just immunity. Here you have this cross-border issue, where they said, come on back, you have nothing to fear.

DOBBS: It's incredible. And this judgment, in your -- let me ask you this. In your view, can that kind of judgment be substantiated in any way by a prosecutor?

TOOBIN: Well, this is the thing. The system leaves it to the discretion of the prosecutor. The only remedy is through Congress and the pardon power, because there is no review of a decision to grant immunity.

DOBBS: Well, I'll conclude with my view on this, and you tell me if I'm wrong. If a U.S. attorney sitting in the state of Texas, or any one border state, takes the judgment and the word of an admitted, confessed, lying drug smuggler over distinguished Border Patrol agents, and then doesn't even attempt to find the source of those drugs and to find connections and the basis for stopping a drug cartel, somebody's out of their mind.

TOOBIN: Somebody needs to explain a lot better than they've done.

DOBBS: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you for being here.

Coming up next, General David Grange. What's behind that big increase in the number of our helicopters being downed in Iraq and the rising number of lives being lost?

And I'll be joined by author Michael Eric Dyson. We'll be talking about America and race. He'll join us to discuss his provocative new book, "Debating Race." Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up, the "SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

Iran's supreme leader vowing to respond to any American aggression with what he calls an all-out reaction around the globe. The tough talk backed up by a show of force with Iran testing missiles that could take out U.S. warships in the region.

Also, are insurgents adopting deadly new tactics against U.S. troops and helicopters in Iraq? I'll ask the spokesman for the Multinational Forces, U.S. Army Major General William Caldwell in Baghdad.

And an exclusive CNN report. Mysterious and heavily-armed fighters showing off of their hostages and vowing nothing will stop them in their mission. We're going to take you to a remote corner of Africa where a living nightmare is unfolding right now.

All of that, Lou, coming up right here in is the "SITUATION ROOM". .

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

New concerns tonight about U.S. military tactics in Iraq. Six American helicopters have been downed in three weeks.

General David Grange joins us now.

General, what is going on? This looks like someone has a new weapon.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I don't know if there's a new weapon, Lou. I doubt that. There may be some improved weaponry or training by the insurgents, by militia. I think if you take into perspective to the Vietnam War, the amount of helicopters we lost in Iraq is very small. We're very fortunate.

What's happened here is the enemy is extremely at a disadvantage that U.S. military owns the sky, the three dimensional battlefield. They can find the enemy. They can kill the enemy from the air. They can move troops. And they're countering on that. They're focusing on countering that capability.

DOBBS: And two capabilities, that is, to adjust to the tactics that are being employed now by the insurgency, and also the IEDs, for which the United States military has not come up with an answer. What's wrong?

GRANGE: There's technical capabilities on the aircraft that give some protection. Depending if you're flying high, flying low, slow or fast. Some work at different times, and other times they don't. There's no fool-proof means. You always have a counter, you always have an asymmetric action to whatever capability you have. And that's what's going on right here.

The IEDs issue with vehicles -- and the amount of troops that we've lost in vehicles is a big concern, as we've been talking about for years. Some improvements have been made. But, again, the sophistication of IEDs mainly supplied -- the sophistication supplied by Iran is causing a lot of trouble in the battlefield today.

DOBBS: So you're putting basically more than half of the casualties in this war because they are as a result of IEDs, at the footstep of Iran?

GRANGE: In recent years the technical capabilities exported to Iraq, yes, I am.

DOBBS: General David Grange, as always, good to you have here.

GRANGE: My pleasure.

DOBBS: Coming up next, the author of "Debating Race". Michael Eric Dyson joins me. We'll be also bringing the results of our poll tonight. Stay with us.


DOBBS: My guest, a professor of humanities, a provocative radio host, a prolific author and an ordained Baptist minister. Michael Eric Dyson joins me now. His provocative new book "Debating Race" is going to be out in just about 11 days.

We're delighted to have you with us, Professor.


DOBBS: The book, it's a collection of conversations, debates on race. What do you think? Is there a central issue of race in this country, do you believe?

DYSON: I think so. You know, Lou, it's been said that we live in the United States of Amnesia. And I add that, well, the theme song is provided by Barbra Streisand, "What's Too Painful to Remember We Simply Choose to Forget".

People would rather avoid race. They don't want to talk about it, white, black across the board. So in America, we have to provoke people into an open space of conversation where they tell the truth about what they feel, without fear of either being stigmatized as a racist or, on the other hand, by not stigmatizing people of color who want to talk about the issue of somehow generating the converse. So we've got to be honest on both sides.

DOBBS: Yes, I think honesty, whatever the issue, including race, is a pretty good policy still for everybody. A little out of date maybe in the 21st century, but still a pretty darn good policy.

DYSON: It is.

DOBBS: We're the most racially, ethnically diverse society on the face of the earth.

DYSON: Right.

DOBBS: There's no nation that has what we have. I mean, we truly have something to be proud of.

DYSON: Right.

DOBBS: Why is it, do you think, race is avoided? And if I call you a racist, why is that such a -- I mean it's a bolt of lightning that galvanizes.

DYSON: It does. First of all, because we've never honestly -- your word was very important -- honestly dealt with the issue of race altogether in America. We go around the world doing things, trying to negotiate the peace settlements between warring factions. But in America the unstated civil war between competing ethnic and racial groups has never been ultimately dealt with. So if you call somebody a racist or deal with it, it's not the fact that in America we can't honestly acknowledge that. The question is what do we do with that? And is it individual or institutional? Many people think it's a matter of personal bigotry and bias, everybody is racist. No, racism is about the systematic exclusion of people from the larger circle of American privilege and how we have to be culpable for that.

DOBBS: Let me ask you something.

DYSON: Sure.

DOBBS: Black leaders in this country, quote-unquote, the agenda really hasn't changed, the language hasn't changed that much over the course of -- in terms of the national media -- over the course of 40 years. Why not?

DYSON: Well, you know, you remember that Sunday morning guy who's preaching and they said, "Boy you keep using the same language Sunday after Sunday, Reverend." He says, "well, if you stop sinning, I'll stop using that language."

So some of the people figure -- Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton -- and people call them Ethnosaurs, relics from an earlier era, that they haven't given up this language. Well, the reality is we've had a shift to train. You can't use, you know, sixties-style language for 2007 realities.

But there are some persistent realities that need to be dealt with and I think that we have to be honest.

DOBBS: If somebody calls Jesse Jackson, a what?

DYSON: An Ethnosaur.

DOBBS: An Ethnosaur?

DYSON: Right.

DOBBS: You know, whatever you have -- and a lot of people get mad at me because I happen to like Jesse Jackson. They get mad because of the politics. But you've got to give that man respect for what he did in the civil rights movement...

DYSON: Absolutely.

DOBBS: ... and everything he's done.

DYSON: Yes, he's an extraordinary figure.

DOBBS: You also have to take with a great deal of perspective some of the new issues in which we look around our urban centers. And Jesse's actually talking about this right now. And we still have an underprivileged group, primarily black youth, the same unemployment rate as 40 years ago.

DYSON: Yes, that's a great point, Lou. That's a great point.

DOBBS: That's insane.

DYSON: It is. You know, a report came out from the Ford Foundation, and on my radio show today I hosted the woman, Kathy Cohen (ph) at University of Chicago, that said that these black youth are in trouble, enormously buffeted by these forces of the economy. But they are also hopeful about politics. And they're involved in them and invested in them.

DOBBS: Well, we talk race. And that should have only one, to me, one purpose, one motivation, one result. And that is in terms of equality, which should be in the interest of every citizen, irrespective of race, or ethnicity or whatever.

DYSON: Absolutely.

DOBBS: But we have left frozen in time in many of our urban centers, particularly black folks who are still poor after three and four generations. And they're absolutely beset by drugs...

DYSON: Absolutely.

DOBBS: ... and an indifference on the part of a system, by the way for white kids, for whatever ethnicity...

DYSON: Right.

DOBBS: ... just willing to write them off.

DYSON: Exactly. And that's part of the tragedy of America. How can we write off an entire population of young people whose creativity culturally has made us -- America a very powerful space?

So, I have...

DOBBS: Come back soon.

DYSON: I'll do that. Book is out now, actually. It's out right now.

DOBBS: You can get the book. It's right there, "Debating Race".

And Michael Eric Dyson, powerful and provocative as always. Good to you have here.

DYSON: Thank you, sir.

DOBBS: The results of our poll: 97 percent of you say Democrats should sign on to co-sponsor Congressman Hunter's legislation granting a pardon for those Border Patrol agents. Currently, 81 Republicans supporting.

That's our broadcast. We thank you for being with us. Good night from New York.

The "SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.


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