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Are Immunizations Safe?; Details of Border Patrol Murder Case; Iraq Contractor Fraud Case; Military Threats to the United States

Aired February 11, 2007 - 18:00   ET


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN HOST: Tonight, which countries are preparing for the next war as the United States is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan? We'll have a special report.

And new charges of lying and injustice in the case of two Border Patrol agents sent to prison for doing their job. All that and much more straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK. News, debate and opinion for Saturday, February 10th. Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening, everyone. The United States tonight is facing dangerous new challenges all across the globe. Communist China and Russia are rapidly modernizing their military forces and North Korea and Iran are refusing to give up their nuclear programs. Christine Romans 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.

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: It's an important point to remember that the United States can never afford to be myopically 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 (on camera): On China, a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service sends a warning to this new Congress saying the United States risks costly conflicts if it doesn't pay better attention to the rise of China and other problems in Asia.

But James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation says the U.S. will overcome the way it always has, by being patient, strong and free. Kitty?

PILGRIM: But as you speak to these experts and you had considerable experts in the piece, is there the perception that the United States is really not paying enough attention to Asia and also Russia?

ROMANS: In particular on Asia, there's this idea that with China the United States is somehow managing its rise as a peaceful ally in the world. But there are concerns that the United States might be the only one who feels that way. That a lot of the allies elsewhere in the world see China as a rival to the United States and are aligning themselves with China to hedge their bets which helps undermine U.S. interests as well as.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Christine Romans.

Well, the United States says Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq kill our troops. U.S. troops say they have found weapons with Iranian markings and serial numbers. Nearly 30 Americans have been killed in five helicopter crashes in Iraq in the past three weeks. At least four of those helicopters were shot down. Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The fifth helicopter down in Iraq in just over two weeks. This time, a Marine Corps CH-46 in al Anbar Province. Military officials say it may have been mechanical failure. This after four shoot-downs and the military trying to figure out if there is a new enemy threat against its helicopters.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: At this point in time, I do not know whether or not it is the law of averages that caught up with us or if there had been a change in tactics, techniques and procedures on the part of the enemy.

STARR: January 20th: Twelve soldiers killed when an Army Black Hawk crashed.

January 23rd: Five civilians killed when a small private helicopter was brought down.

January 28th: An Apache gun ship is downed. Two crewmen killed.

February 2nd: Two more Apache crewmembers killed north of Baghdad.

With Iraqis roads becoming IED killing zones, transport helicopters are increasingly relied on to move troops. Apaches provide vital airborne defense for troops in combat on the ground.

U.S. military helicopters often are large, slow-moving targets vulnerable to attack by shoulder-fired missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: In fighter aircraft, pilots have the opportunity to pull up and away and eject. In a helicopter, the only thing you can do is land.

STARR: The threat is readily seen in Baghdad. Helicopters fly low and fast, zigzagging across the city to avoid some threats.

BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: High altitude is more susceptible of surface-to-air missiles taking them down. Low altitude, it's better for small arms fire to take on a helicopter.

STARR (on camera): There's no magic solution to keeping helicopters safe. They do carry highly classified electronics to help them avoid being hit. But privately, U.S. commanders say the insurgents simply might be getting better. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


PILGRIM: There is scathing criticism of prewar intelligence from the Pentagon. The Pentagon's inspector general says officials insisted there was a clear link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. But that opinion was not shared by any of the nation's intelligence agencies. The inspector general said the Pentagon officials' actions were quote "inappropriate."

The Justice Department says five people have been indicted in a huge money laundering and bribery scandal in Iraq. Three of the people involved in that scheme are former officers in the U.S. Army Reserve. The husband of one of those officers and a civilian contractor also face charges. Lisa Sylvester reports from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A federal grand jury indicted a former U.S. Army Reserve colonel who was the second highest-ranking official in the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority in the south central region. According to federal investigators, U.S. Army Colonel Curtis Whiteford, Lieutenant Colonel Debra Harrison, a former comptroller, and Lieutenant Colonel Michael Wheeler, an adviser on Iraqi reconstruction projects, helped funnel $8 million in contracts to a U.S. reconstruction company. In exchange, they received over $1 million in kickbacks.

PAUL MCNULTY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: These individuals used the CPA funds as their own personal ATM machines. They allegedly stole millions of dollars from the CPA and rigged valuable reconstruction projects, all while helping themselves to cash, SUVs and luxury cars.

SYLVESTER: Harrison allegedly swiped $300,000 from CPA funds and used part of it to build a deck and a hot tub on her New Jersey home. Congress has been scrutinizing the rampant fraud and abuse after the fall of Baghdad -- $12 billion, money from Iraqi oil revenue, cannot be accounted for.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Was it spent responsibility? Was it misspent? Was it wasted?

Did it go off to pay --- did it go to pay off corrupt officials? Or, worst of all, did some of this money get in the hands of the insurgents and those who are fighting us today in Iraq?

SYLVESTER: At the same time billions were missing or stolen, a Department of Defense inspector-general report found U.S. troops went without basic needs.

REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D), NEW YORK: From the outset, they have been sent into battle without the proper equipment, without proper communication, without proper weapons. Certainly without the proper armor.

It is a scandal, and of major proportions.

SYLVESTER: In total, the special inspector-general on Iraq reconstruction is investigating more than 80 cases of fraud and abuse.


SYVLESTER: (on camera): The owner of the reconstruction company that received the rigged contracts, Phillip Bloom pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering. He is now awaiting sentencing. Kitty?

PILGRIM: Unbelievable. Thanks very much. Lisa Sylvester.

Still to come, lies and injustice in the case of former Border Patrol agents Compean and Ramos. They were sent to prison for doing their jobs. Also, the consuming debate in Washington. Should House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have access to a military plane at taxpayers' expense? We'll have a special report on that.

And many states want to immunize all young girls against a disease that is linked to cancer, but the religious right and some parents are objecting.


PILGRIM: More outrage this week over the beating of former Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos in prison. Now members of Congress are demanding an investigation into the brutal attack. In addition, damaging new information is contradicting the Bush administration's version of events. And the stated reason for prosecuting the two agents. Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressional Republicans are again demanding that President Bush be intervene on behalf of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean now serving 11 and 12 years in prison for shooting and wounding a Mexican illegal alien drug smuggler.

As we've reported, Ramos was beaten severely in prison last weekend by men yelling insults in Spanish.

REP. DANA ROHRBACHER, (R) CA: If these men, especially after this assault, are murdered in prison, if one of them loses their lives, there's going to be some kind of impeachment talk in Capitol Hill.

WIAN: Supporters of the former agents delivered nearly 300,000 petitions to Congress Wednesday, demanding they be released. Eighty lawmakers, all Republicans, are sponsoring a bill that would pardon Ramos and Compean. So far, President Bush has refused to even consider the idea.

REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: This decision is up to one person, the president of the United States. I don't know how many letters individually and collectively we have all sent and signed. And yet, the indifference by this White House is unacceptable.

Let's not wait too long with that sober look before you do what is right. And doing what is right is to return these men to their families and let the families understand that justice still prevails in America.

WIAN: At the same time, lawmakers released a long-awaited report on the case from the Homeland Security Department's Office of Inspector General. It fails to answer several key questions, including, why did the Justice Department prosecute the agents before the report was complete?

And why did homeland security investigators tell several members of Congress they had evidence the agents were out to shoot Mexicans when Inspector General Richard Skinner admitted to lawmaker this week that was not true.

REP. JOHN CULBERSON (R), TEXAS: I asked Inspector General Richard Skinner, "Where are those statement and are they true? These statements that were made by your investigators, sir, are they true?" And he said under oath, "I'm sorry, Congressman, we misled you. Those statements were not true."

WIAN: Culberson is now demanding the resignation of three Homeland Security Department investigators. The key question remains: Why did U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton choose to vigorously prosecutor two Border Patrol agents for actions resulting from their pursuit of a drug smuggler, yet grant immunity, medical care and a temporary border crossing card to an admitted illegal alien drug smuggler?


WIAN (on camera): Sutton's ties to President Bush date back at least to the mid-1990s when he served as chief criminal justice advisor to then Texas Governor Bush. Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Casey Wian. The high profile and controversial prosecution of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean under attack by dozens of congressmen. Now they're seeking justice for the two men. Lou spoke with two of those congressman, John Culberson and Ted Poe, both Republicans from Texas. And Lou began by asking if the Department of Homeland Security lied to them.


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

REP. TED POE, (R) TX: Yes.

DOBBS: Well, you -- 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: 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: They gave 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 misinformation 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 there has to be some consequences for the government giving misinformation, not telling the truth about the real facts of a criminal case, hiding evidence, dealing with drug dealers in backrooms. 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, DC, 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 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: 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 straightforward 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 agent, and truth, in justice and I will 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.


PILGRIM: Coming up, the speaker of the House says she never asked for a big airplane. So whose idea was it for Nancy Pelosi to fly a lot better than first class? We'll have a report.

More states opt out of a plan for national driver's license standards. We'll hear from the author of the Real I.D. Act, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner.

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 that story. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plane problems set off a firestorm of criticism this week on Capitol Hill. Now the controversy has many people questioning what kind of special transportation privileges the speaker of the House should have.


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.

QUESTION: 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.


PILGRIM (on camera): 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. He's given the Defense Department a one-month deadline to provide records on congressional travel for the last two years.

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

More states are choosing to ignore national standards for drivers' licenses. But the Real I.D. Act is a law. How can they do that? We'll speak with the author of that law, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK. News, debate and opinion. Here again, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Starting next year, sixth grade girls in Texas must be immunized against human papilloma virus. Now that is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. The controversial plan pits cultural conservatives against advocates of a potentially life-saving intervention. Christine Romans reports.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Each year in the U.S, thousands of women learn they have cancer. I could be one less.

ROMANS (voice-over): This vaccine that's given to school age 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 age girls. Across the country legislatures 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.


ROMANS (on camera): This virus is spread almost exclusively through sexual intercourse. The CDC says 80 percent of women will be infected by the age of 50, 80 percent, and the CDC recommends girls be vaccinated. But the federal government does not make it mandatory. States are moving quickly though to do so but some states are providing exemptions so that parents can opt out who are concerned, Kitty, can opt out.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Christine Romans.

Well, joining me now are two medical doctors with their insights on whether this vaccine should be mandatory and they are considerable experts in the field. Here in New York, we have professor emeritus of pediatrics at Columbia University, Dr. Louis Cooper.

And from Richmond, Virginia, we have Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association. And gentlemen, thank you very much for taking the time to discuss this with us today.

Before we get into the real key question here, which is should we make it mandatory, let's put up statistics for our viewers just to show how prevalent this is becoming. Twenty million people currently infected with HPV. Fifty percent sexually active people acquire this, and 80 percent of women will have acquired HPV by the age of 50, 6.2 million new infections each year.

These are fairly shocking statistics, gentlemen. I guess the real question is, should this vaccine, now that it's available and it is quite a breakthrough, should this be made available to everyone and mandated by the federal government? We'll start with you, Dr. Cooper.

DR. LOUIS COOPER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: The good news is that this is a very good vaccine and using it is going to save countless thousands of lives, not just in the United States. But more importantly, in the rest of the world when we can get it distributed there. Mandates is really not the issue.

We pediatricians are sure where appropriate education of parents and teenagers, that they're going to want this vaccine. And so the issue is, adequate education and a good vaccine and we can save lives by so doing.

The only virtue of the mandate from where I sit is that it sure has brought a lot of attention to HPV and cervical cancer. And I hope that -- what that will do is bring more families into the doctors to get this very useful vaccine.

PILGRIM: And yet, if you don't mandate it, there is the chance that some families will slip through. Dr. Stevens, what's your view?

DR. DAVID STEVENS, CEO, CHRISTIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: We take kind of a pragmatic approach. We're not opposed to mandatory vaccines as long as there's an easy opt out for parents who feel they shouldn't give it to their children. But it does open programs at the state level where certain very vulnerable populations will not have access to the vaccine. Mandating it opens the doors for everyone to have the opportunity to get it. PILGRIM: Now this vaccine is not cheap. It's $360. You need a series of injections. And there is the fact that perhaps not every family can afford it. What should be done about that, and would mandating it bring the drug prices down because then the vaccines would have to be made available?

COOPER: Dr. Stevens and I are on the same page. We want to make sure that it's available to be everyone. The poor will get the vaccine if they're in the Medicaid program because of vaccines for children. People with very strong insurance programs will get it.

But unfortunately, we still have a problem with the working people in the middle whose insurance programs don't cover this vaccine and for the poor doctors delivering it because many of the insurers don't adequately reimburse for the vaccine either. These are all issues that need to be worked out.

PILGRIM: Dr. Stevens, is it because it's so new that the cost has not been worked out yet?

STEVENS: Yeah, that and there's no competition for the vaccine. There's another vaccine coming on the market in about a year or so that's probably going to bring the prices down. And to Merck's credit, they already have a program for low income people where their doctor can actually call, get approval in 10 minutes by faxing a form, and then they will replace the vaccine the doctor gives to the patient.

But this is a serious issue, as you've pointed out so clearly. And not only can we make sure people get it in this country but around the world where there's a half a million cases a year and 250,000 women die each year from this disease. We need to find a way to make the vaccine cheaper so they have access.

PILGRIM: We've discussed the government role. We've discussed the medical role but haven't discussed the parental role. Now we are seeing pretty much across the country a bit of a pushback from some parents about vaccines in general and the worries about side effects and such things. They're resisting mandatory vaccines that are required in school systems. What might you anticipate on this and are we already seeing this kind of a push, Dr. Cooper?

COOPER: We don't know what to anticipate, what you said, however, is what already has happened, which is some pushback. There's a lot of misinformation on the Internet and in the media about what vaccines allegedly do and don't do.

We do best when parents and the public understand what the vaccines are for, what the benefits of the vaccine are, and what the risks are. And that takes time to do. So, one of the advantages of this hullabaloo about mandates, is that it's given us a chance to have these kinds of discussions where the public can pay attention and can go to their doctors and ask these questions.

PILGRIM: Dr. Stevens? STEVENS: Yeah, I agree. Mandates make sure the conversation takes place. Parents can opt out and they have the right to do that. But at the same time it assures that they have the opportunity their children will be immunized. I consider this like telling your children not to speed but at the same time telling them to wear a seat belt. Through no fault of their own, you may give them an abstinence message, but a girl could be raped, her husband could bring it into the marriage, they could still be exposed to this vaccine and we need to offer protection if at all possible.

PILGRIM: Yes, of - And this is one of the arguments that's coming up, that this vaccine would somehow promote sexual promiscuity. What do you think of that argument, sir?

COOPER: There's just no evidence to suggest that giving this vaccine is going to increase early sexual behavior. None whatsoever.

PILGRIM: Dr. Stevens, last word?

STEVENS: There's in fact a study of 16,000 teens they gave to hepatitis B vaccine to and they asked them what it was for. They couldn't even remember what it was for. They just told the doctor said they should get it and they did.

PILGRIM: That we can believe. Gentlemen, thank you very much for sorting out the facts on this very, very important issue. Dr. David Stevens and Dr. Louis Cooper. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Still ahead, House Democrats schedule their first major Iraq debate since taking power. A political roundtable will preview what's likely to be a very volatile hearing.

Plus, is, open rebellion over a law mandating national drivers' licenses. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner says the revolt threatens national security. We'll hear from him.

And a move in Congress to reward businesses that help support National Guard and reserve troops deployed overseas. We'll have a special report on that. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: The Real I.D. Act introduced a national driver's license. Now at least seven states have begun efforts to avoid the law. Earlier this week, Lou Dobbs sat down with the author of the Real I.D. Act, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner. And Lou began by asking him for his reaction to those states who are trying to exempt their residents from the Real I.D. Act.


REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, (R) WISCONSIN: Well, they say it's a national driver's license and it's not.

DOBBS: Right.

SENSENBRENNER: It's optional amongst the states. If the states want to have their driver's licenses be valid for federal I.D. purposes, they've got to do a couple of things.

One is to make sure that the people they issue those licenses to are legally present in the count. And secondly, they've got to check to make sure that somebody does not have a valid driver's license issued by another state.

DOBBS: Right.

SENSENBRENNER: This is not just an anti-terrorism action. We do know that the 9/11 hijackers had multiple driver's licenses from five states. But it's public safety as well because if you're up to 11 points on your driver's license, without the Real I.D. Act, you can use your cousin's address in the next state and get a clean license and continue to be a bad driver on the road.

DOBBS: One of the things I was impressed with, congressman, in my state -- I live in New Jersey, the state actually sent me a note saying we're concerned about your Social Security I.D. matching up with your driver's license. I thought, my gosh, I've had this driver's license forever. I called up and they're doing a very good job of checking to make certain that people and their Social Security numbers and their driver's licenses are all valid and legal.

SENSENBRENNER: The Real I.D. Act, Lou, actually prevents a national ID card ...

DOBBS: Right.

SENSENBRENNER: ... because if we didn't use state drivers' licenses to prove our identity, then there would be pressure on the federal government to have all of us carry a national I.D., just like they do in Continental Europe. That would that be a bad move. And I've been strongly opposed to having a national I.D. card for a whole number of reasons.

DOBBS: Let's turn now to the -- to the border, the border fence. I'd like to share this with all of our viewers and Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, who was just blasted today by the General Accountability Office for further issues and problems and failures in management and leadership. But here's what he says about that fence. He says, quote, "We are committed to the right fencing in the right place at the right time."

Is there no end to the blather and nonsense and obfuscation emanating from the executive branch on the issue of border security?

SENSENBRENNER: President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act. That means that the fence has to be done in the 700 miles where it's appropriate to use a fence by the end of next year, and to put in high-tech equipment to detect people who are illegally entering the country in places where a fence won't work. He ought to read the law. He ought to support the law. And he ought to support appropriations to allow his department to get it done on time.

DOBBS: All right. Let me read you what new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson says.

"I plan to revisit the border fence idea. I spoke to several border town mayors. These mayors -- which included Republicans and Democrats -- told me what a bad idea the fence would be for their communities."

Well, how about that?

SENSENBRENNER: Well, how about that? Everybody tells Congress that securing our borders is a national responsibility. Congress stepped up to the plate and exercised this responsibility, not just in passing the law that the president signed, but increasing the appropriations for DHS by over $2.5 billion to make sure that the law is implemented.

DOBBS: It's truly remarkable. Congressman Sensenbrenner, we thank you for being here.



PILGRIM: Still ahead here tonight, our distinguished panel of political analysts will join me. The Senate debate on Iraq, the 2008 presidential race, and more are on the agenda for our discussion. Also, tax breaks may be coming for companies that may the salaries of reservists and National Guard troops on active duty. We'll have a report.


PILGRIM: Joining me now, Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. Columnist for the "New York Daily News" Errol Louis and columnist for the "Washington Times" Diana West. And welcome to the program. Thanks for being with us.

You know, we saw this resolution debate going on in the Senate. It came to not much. Let's listen to what John Kerry had to say first to set this up.


SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MA: The last few days here in the Congress, we saw a profile in politics, not a profile in courage. We saw a group of senators who go on Sunday talk shows and talk in hearings and express their opposition to a war, but when it came for a moment to register it with a formal vote, yea or nay, they chose not to have a vote at all.


PILGRIM: Hank, where is this debate going? HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Not clear. The politics are pretty clear though. Nobody wants to step too loud because the Republicans will jump back. The Democrats don't want to take too strong a position because they don't want to be accused of undermining the men and women serving this nation. And not a good day for profiles in courage.

PILGRIM: And yet, Diana, this is one of the key issues in the country. It's at every kitchen table in this country it's being discussed.

DIANA WEST, "WASHINGTON TIMES": It should be. Although I would say the debate as it's going on and no matter what Senator Kerry would like it to be remains completely unhelpful. I mean, having a debate on the troop surge and making a decision based on whether yea or nay for the troop surge is not about strategy. It's not about ascertaining what America's interests are in Iraq at this point.

And so the whole thing is a big zero that actually, if it does come to pass, will only telegraph to our enemies how disintegrated our unity is.


ERROL LOUIS, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Diana is right. It's a very narrow question. There is a lot of overblown rhetoric about what in the end is a very narrow question about the overall conduct of the war.

But really I think what you've got is a situation, and John Kerry knows this better than anybody. Senators should really just vote their conscience. They should do what they think is right because what seems to be politically advantageous today will look entirely different two or three out years from now. Those who voted for the war and then had to sort of go through all kinds of back flips to explain how they were misled and they didn't really mean it and they thought the vote was going to be used differently, I think it's a perfect example of what happens when politicians try to be a little bit too slick and a little bit political. So he's right. It's a profile in politics and a very ill-advised one.

PILGRIM: And it looks bad. It is bad, but it looks bad.

The House is about to begin, what, 36 hours of debate coming up next week starting on Tuesday. Might we see a more in-depth treatment of the topic that's more valuable perhaps?

SHEINKOPF: Possibly, the Democrats have a larger margin in the House. It's possible that people will show more courage not being worried about losing margins in the next election. But the mandate of the American public is pretty clear, talk about it and resolve it and let's move forward and make a decision.

And that's the problem both houses face.

PILGRIM: Diana, what are you expecting to hear next week? WEST: More of the same. I haven't heard from a single leader anything that suggests that there has been any reassessment of American strategic interests in the region. We remain with this crazy kind of tunnel vision on Baghdad. Should we fortify Baghdad, should we not?

That seems to be the extent of our leaders' interests in the area. To me, fortifying Baghdad, securing the country, again, it looks to me like you make a natural ally of Iran.

What about the al Qaeda fighters that remain in the country? What about trying to curb Iran's aggressive and very frightening ambitions in the region? These are the questions our leaders should be discussing. And I'm sorry, they are not.

PILGRIM: Broader strategic issues.

LOUIS: And ironically, the one time -- people always accuse politicians of keeping an eye on the polls. The one time I think where they wouldn't get in the trouble is if they looked at the polls and saw that a clear majority of the American public doesn't like the way things are going now and wants a pullback and simply vote in that direction.

PILGRIM: Let's move on to a couple other things. In the middle of this very important topic, another topic seemed to consume Capitol Hill. And that was Nancy Pelosi's plane. Let's hear what the White House spokesperson had to say about this.


SNOW: We think it's appropriate. And so, again, I think this is much ado about not a whole lot. It is important for the speaker to have this kind of protection in travel. It was certainly appropriate for Speaker Hastert. And so we trust that all sides will get this worked out.


PILGRIM: This big plane, little plane debate. Was it blown out of proportion?

SHEINKOPF: Kind of silly. Speaker of the House in line to be president of the United States should he or she become incapacitated. Why not? The larger issue, though, for Democrats, is it a good thing for a speaker to be seen flying military jets. For Democrats they've got to poll that one but as a generalized argument, Hastert had it. She needs it, why not?


WEST: Well, I don't think this is an issue you have to poll on, Hank, exactly. I mean it just doesn't look right for the speaker to be grasping at a perk. That is the way it comes across to Americans who are watching this. And this came right on the heels of that very strange exemption that we saw coming out of her district when the minimum wage increase consideration was to exempt American Samoa because Starkist is owned by a constituent of Nancy Pelosi's.

And the whole thing, you see that, what they call Tunagate, now you see Pelosi 1. The whole thing looks bad and it surprises me that the Democrats wouldn't appreciate that and try to behave with a little more dignity.

PILGRIM: Isn't this a little bit myopic inside the Beltway stuff?

WEST: Yes.

PILGRIM: Do you think America cares?

LOUIS: I don't know if it's that America doesn't care. I think it's one of these things that can and will be sort of blown you, depending on how it gets resolved.

WEST: Because you can caricature it. It's an easy thing to grasp. It is inside the Beltway, it doesn't matter a whole lot, and yet, it reveals a lot about the personalities involved.

LOUIS: Every person who has to wait in line and take off their shoes ...

WEST: Yes.

LOUIS: ... and go through all of this hassle and thinks about the fact that those federal rules were imposed by a Congress led by somebody who decided to exempt themself from all of that inconvenience, I don't think that it's something that's going to go away.

SHEINKOPF: The problem is all those people are not in line should something happen to be the president of the United States. Very different set of circumstances. Number one. Number two, the Republicans if they had brains would figure out how to use those issues in a campaign. But they're never going to beat her in her own district so maybe they can nationalize it. If not, they have limited political weight.

PILGRIM: Look at this. We all debated. This is a big topic for us, too. We can't stop.

Let's go into some of the candidates that are coming up. We see some new people coming into the field. Likely presidential candidate Mayor Rudy Guiliani filed a statement of candidacy. Mitt Romney expected to formally announce his decision to run, as well.

And here's our latest poll. We have to take a look at this. Republican primary voters choice for nominee, McCain 28, Gingrich nine, Guiliani 27. Romney 13. Many people are undecided. Can you blame them? It's so early.

What's up?

SHEINKOPF: We're a long time away from this. Number one. You noted so early. Rudy Giuliani, pretty popular. But they haven't started cutting him up yet in the South. His hope is that the primaries continue to be moved up in northern industrial states and other states earlier in the season before they take him on on social issues in the South.

McCain in trouble if you look at these numbers. Because he can't seem to get a clear majority.

PILGRIM: Let's get the Democrats in here. Because we're running out of time. So we'll comment on both. The Democrats right now we have Clinton 35, Obama 21, expected to announce this weekend, Edwards 16, Gore, eight, and all the rest is noise. Go ahead, Diana.

WEST: Well, I love this part of the presidential campaign when everybody just jumps in. I only wish it were about six months ahead of us. Because it's hard. It's hard to get a look at them.

LOUIS: Guiliani's been migrating his positions on gun control, on abortion. He's trying to make himself more palatable to the hard- core Republican base. It's not clear whether or not that's going to work. Early polls indicate that he has a very good shot at pulling it off.

PILGRIM: All right. Well, we'll be discussing this for quite some time. But anyway, thank you very much for being here this evening.

Still ahead, what Congress is doing to protect our troops returning home from battle. That's next.


PILGRIM: Companies may be in line for a tax break if they pay the full salaries of their employees who are activated for National Guard or reserve duty. The Hope for Home Act introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu would provide a tax incentive to do just that. Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost half of America's military is a reservist or a member of the National Guard. Those reservists and guard members work for hundreds of thousands of employers. Many of those members suffer a pay cut when they're called up for active duty and the law only requires their employers to offer them a comparable job when they return. The Hope at Home Act would give employers an incentive to take better care of them.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEY, (D) LA: They've been great. You know, they in many cases are keeping the salaries up for these guy, and the least the federal government could do, since we're giving everybody else in the world a tax cut is help them.

TUCKER: Her bill which has bipartisan support would give a tax credit to those companies who pay their employees the difference between their military pay and their regular paycheck, allowing employers a 50 percent credit on that wage differential. It would also give tax credits to small businesses who have to hire temporary workers, a break which would only be allowed as long as the company was paying the full salary of their reservist or Guard member.

WES PORIOTIS, CENTER FOR MILITARY AND PRIVATE SECTOR INITIATIVES: It's a magnificent inducement. It's a necessary magnum (ph) because when you are talking about some sort of subsidization, it is all important to the small and midsized employers. I think it is long past due.

TUCKER: Senator Landrieu's bill would have the greatest impact on small businesses but every employer with employees called on active duty would be eligible for the tax cuts.


TUCKER (on camera): Landrieu first introduced her Hope at Home Act in 2004, only to see it die in the then Republican-controlled House. But as we know, the House is now under the control of the Democrats, Kitty, raising everybody's optimism who are proponents of this bill.

PILGRIM: Well, as the man says Bill, long overdue. Thanks very much. Bill Tucker.

Thanks for joining us tonight. Please join us tomorrow. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. Enjoy your weekend, and THIS WEEK AT WAR starts right now with John Roberts.


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