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Anti-Terror Blunders; Al Qaeda Gaining Strength in Iraq

Aired February 20, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, scathing criticism of bureaucratic blunders by the FBI and the Department of Justice in the war against radical Islamist terrorists.
We'll have that special report.

Also tonight, prescription drugs helping drive the fastest growing type of substance abuse in this country.

We'll have that story.

And new hopes of justice for two former Border Patrol agents sent to prison for shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler given immunity by the Justice Department. Charges tonight that the prosecutors withheld key evidence in that trial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just another example of another piece of evidence that the defense should have known about.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday February 20th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Troubling new concerns tonight about bureaucratic blunders and outright incompetence in the war against radical Islamist terrorism. Government auditors today blasted both the FBI and the Justice Department for using inaccurate statistics to claim successes in the war on terror.

Meanwhile, new evidence tonight that al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq are gaining strength in towns and cities outside Baghdad. In some Iraq towns, al Qaeda is now the most powerful insurgent group.

Kelli Arena tonight reports from Washington on the bureaucratic blunders in the FBI and Justice Department.

Arwa Damon reports from the Iraqi city of Baquba on the rising strength of al Qaeda.

And Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on the shocking reports of a failure of leadership at the Army's top medical center for our wounded troops.

We turn first to Kelli Arena in Washington -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, fighting terror has been the top priority at the Justice Department, and it can't even keep its records straight.


ARENA (voice over): If you want to know how the Bush administration is doing in the war on terror, good luck. The top watchdog at the Justice Department waded deep into the reporting of terrorism-related cases and found the government significantly overstated and at other times understated its successes in the war on terror. Bottom line, the inspector general says for the most part, the Justice Department was just flat-out wrong.

DAVID BURNHAM, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: If they can't keep track, how can you hold the government accountable? How can democracy work without a good understanding? This is very important. This is a life-threatening world.

ARENA: The statistics matter because they're one of the only ways to accurately gauge progress in battling terrorists and are used to determine where resources should go. The report charges the Department of Justice lacks adequate internal controls and that its reporting is haphazard. For example, prosecutors identify crimes such as marriage fraud and drug trafficking as terrorist activity with no justification to back that up.

BURNHAM: What it suggests is the government is trying to inflate its impact by pushing the numbers up, which is done over and over again.

ARENA: The Justice Department flatly rejects that accusation. What's more, it says it has already fixed its reporting practice.


ARENA: But the critical report is likely to reverberate. One lawmaker says it's high time the Justice Department came forward with solid numbers instead of sugarcoated stories -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much.

Kelli Arena from Washington.

President Bush today called for significant improvements in the way the United States collects and analyzes intelligence. President Bush made those remarks at a ceremony to swear in Mike McConnell as the new director of national intelligence. McConnell replacing John Negroponte, who has become deputy secretary of state. McConnell said terrorists are using new technology to plan and to carry out attacks more quickly than in the past.

Iran's president today refused to back down in his nuclear confrontation with the rest the world, just a day before a United Nations' deadline will expire. The Iranian president said he would suspend his nuclear activities only if western nations stopped their nuclear programs.

Iran is holding major military exercises this week. Sixty thousand troops from Iran's Revolutionary Guards are taking part in those exercises. Three thousand Revolutionary Guard units are involved in the war games as well. The exercise is being held in 16 of Iran's 30 provinces.

Iran's war games have provoked strong criticism from a top U.S. military commander in the Persian Gulf. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, commander of the 5th Fleet, said Iran's maneuvers are "provocative and intimidating" to other nations in the region. Admiral Walsh said, the "Exercises have taken on a very bellicose and pugnacious tone."

Terrorists in Iraq today used a chilling new tactic. The terrorists destroyed a truck carrying deadly chlorine gas in a town north of Baghdad. At least six people were killed in the explosion. More than 100 people were wounded. Al Qaeda rapidly gaining strength in towns and cities north of Baghdad.

Arwa Damon now reports from the city of Baquba, 20 miles north of the Iraqi capital.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Baquba is the capital of Diyala Province, a microcosm of Iraq, with its ethnic breakdown of Sunnis, Shia and Kurds. And while the Iraqi government and U.S. military focuses on securing Baghdad, Baquba is falling apart.

From the insurgency's infancy, this city has been plagued by violence. An ideal atmosphere for groups like al Qaeda to gain a foothold.

(on camera): Most of the Iraqi policemen here at the Diyala police headquarters will not appear on camera for fear of their lives. But there is one recurring theme. Over the last four months, security here has deteriorated drastically, and they all blame one organization for that -- al Qaeda in Iraq.

(voice over): Late last December, al Qaeda claimed the neighborhood of Tarir (ph) in southeast Baquba as part of what it calls the Islamic State of Iraq. While U.S. and Iraqi troops still patrol, these images instill a fear stronger than any sense of security the troops can provide.

Also late last year, this footage documented al Qaeda efforts to stir up crowds after an attack that many here blamed on a U.S. air strike. An air strike the U.S. military says never happened.

True or false, blaming the Americans and the weak Iraqi government for the violence is one strategy the insurgency uses to increase its power. Another, according to this security official who won't show his face on camera, is purely through fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): First, terrorists are killing civilians in public and committing massacres. The other thing is they're taking advantage of the government's mistakes.

DAMON: Both the national and the local governments are perceived here as having a Shia agenda, leaving Sunnis feeling like they have no one to turn to other than al Qaeda.

COL. DAVID W. SUTHERLAND, U.S. ARMY: It's a fear and a perception of inequality. It's different Sunni extremist groups, it's different Shia extremist groups, it's Shia domination throughout the area. All that plays into the empowerment of the -- of the terrorists.

DAMON: And in Baquba right now, the most powerful group of all, al Qaeda.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baquba, Iraq.


DOBBS: Reports tonight that Britain could announce a timetable for withdrawal of British troops from Iraq as early as tomorrow. Britain has about 7,000 troops now in Iraq. Most of them near the southern city of Basra. Published reports in London tonight say Britain could withdraw 3,000 of those troops by early summer.

The White House today said conditions in southern Iraq have improved. Meanwhile, the United States is sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq. Most of them will be deployed in Baghdad.

Two more of our troops have been killed in Iraq. The military said those soldiers died of what it called non-battle-resulted causes. Sixty-three of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month, 3,145 of our troops have been killed since the war began. 23,530 wounded, 10,449 of them so seriously, they could not return to duty within three days.

Many of our troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan received treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. The center describes itself as the Army's top medical facility. But tonight, there is rising outrage over what is nothing less than a failure of leadership in the care of our wounded troops at Walter Reed, as first reported by "The Washington Post."

Jamie McIntyre reports.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Walter Reed Army Medical Center is considered one of best medical facilities in the world for treating soldiers wounded in combat, but this is another part of Walter Reed, a part many people don't often see, building 18. It's a rundown hotel now used to house wounded veterans who are well enough to leave the main hospital but too sick to go home.

(on camera): This is the inside of building 18. It's become a symbol for a bureaucracy that's not working.

(voice over): As revealed in a story first reported by "The Washington Post," building 18 has serious problem, including pest infestations, mold and faulty plumbing. CNN got a firsthand look.

(on camera): So this is the day room. They have pool tables. They've got a flat screen TV. But even here you can see on the roof, they have got water damage.

(voice over): Top Army leaders said they were unaware of the problems until they read about it in the paper Sunday. They were shocked. After a tour, the top officials told CNN in an exclusive interview there would be quick action.

GEN. RICHARD CODY, ARMY VICE CHIEF OF STAFF: I had never come to this place. I wish I had. I'm somewhat disappointed in myself not understanding. I was briefed that it was in pretty good condition.

It's getting better today.

FRANCIS HARVEY, ARMY SECRETARY: It's all about leadership. It's all about seeing a problem, getting an action plan together, and then following up to ensure that the actions are taken.

MCINTYRE: Dozens of wounded troops have been living here for months as they go through out-patient care. Veterans' groups blame military bureaucracy for the rundown conditions.

FRANK YOAKUM, ENLISTED ASSN. OF NATIONAL GUARD: The commander of the hospital has deemed the situation to be "problematic," and that they were in a process to try and get things fixed. However, calling something problematic and actually doing something about it are two different things.


MCINTYRE: In that exclusive interview with CNN, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said the Army will look at conditions not just here at Walter Reed, but at out-patient facilities around the country. And when he said it was a leadership problem, I said to Secretary Harvey, "But you're the top leader." He said, "Yes, and that's why I'm here." He said, "As soon as I found out about, it I came down here to show that we cared about it."

But the question remains, Lou, why they didn't know about it until the newspaper brought it to their attention.

DOBBS: Well, it's -- I mean, this -- this is a great shame that this has been permitted to occur. As you know, these wounded warriors deserve the very best of care, the very best of everything. And for this Army and for this military and this commander in chief to permit this, I can't think of another word but despicable. MCINTYRE: Well, you know, to the credit of the leadership, everyone from the top all the way down has admitted this is totally unacceptable. They did begin corrective action before the newspaper articles actually came out.

And some of the soldiers here, by the way, don't actually want to leave. The conditions are not -- they're not squalid, Lou, they're substandard.

DOBBS: Right.

MCINTYRE: They should be better. They're not terrible, but certainly not what you'd expect for brave men and women who have served their country.

DOBBS: Absolutely not. And to compare those facilities to those at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, there frankly is no comparison. And it's disgraceful.

There's just no other way to look at it. The fact that there's corrective action being undertaken is a credit to "The Washington Post" for breaking this story and bringing our attention to it.

Thank you very much, Jamie, for your excellent reporting, as always.

Jamie McIntyre, from Walter Reed.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow today faced a barrage of questions about conditions at Walter Reed. Snow said President Bush believes our troops should have the best care possible, but Snow said it is up to the Department of Defense, not the White House, to answer specific questions about Walter Reed.

Still ahead here, charges tonight that prosecutors withheld key evidence in the trial of two former Border Patrol agents sent to prison.

We'll have that special report.

And Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, well, he's praising efforts to build a fence along our southern border with Mexico. Our border, however, is wide open to illegal aliens, to terrorists, to drug smugglers.

We'll have that story.

And the war on our middle class, it's escalating. New government figures tonight illustrate the worsening plight of working men and women in this country.

That special report and a great deal more all coming up here next.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Important new developments tonight in the case of imprisoned former Border Patrol agents Compean and Ramos. Both sentenced to lengthy prison terms for shooting and wounding an illegal alien drug smuggler whom the prosecutors then gave immunity to testify against the agents. One of the defense attorneys now says government prosecutors failed to disclose a key document during that trial. A document that could have undermined the government's entire case.

Casey Wian has the story.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): At the heart of the prosecution's case against former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean was the alleged cover-up of the shooting of a Mexican illegal alien drug smuggler. Now the online publication WorldNetDaily reports the existence of a Homeland Security Department document suggesting two Border Patrol supervisors were at scene and knew about the shooting.

That's consistent with the agents' statements that they did not report the shooting because they believed supervisors already knew about it. The attorney for Ignacio Ramos says prosecutors never disclosed the existence of the documents, which could be grounds for a new trial.

MARY STILLINGER, ATTORNEY FOR IGNACIO RAMOS: The government is really charged with a higher responsibility than just winning a case. The government is charged with seeking justice in trying to do the right thing.

So they can't hold back on evidence just because it's helpful to the defense. And, if fact, they have an obligation to turn that over.

WIAN: The document lists the names of Border Patrol agents and supervisors who were at the scene. It also says, "Investigation disclosed that none of the above agents reported the shooting or the subsequent cover-up."

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: The more that comes out about this case, the more it seems that the prosecution was relentless in making sure these border agents were convicted. And this is just another example of another piece of evidence that the defense should have known about, the jury should have known about during the trial to make their determination on whether these border agents even violated the law or not.

WIAN: U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton did not return calls seeking comment on the new evidence and other documents raising questions about his decision to prosecute the agents and grant immunity to an admitted drug smuggler.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think our police officers, our law enforcement have been undermined. WIAN: Meanwhile, Ramos and Compean supporters are raising money to buy air time for these television ads demanding the White House pardon the former agents.


WIAN: Finally, the Texas branch of the Latino advocacy group LULAC has drafted a resolution supporting a pardon for Ramos and Compean. LULAC says it believes the 11 and 12-year sentences were too harsh -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, it's what now, four months since the sentencing? LULAC taking this stand. I have to give them credit.

They have been absolutely absent in this case despite the fact that both of these agents are Hispanic-Americans. Did they have any indication as to why they were joining in this now?

WIAN: No, they did not. We asked them for further clarification, more information about -- about this position they've taken. They didn't give it to us. We're still hoping we'll get it soon.

What we did find out, though, there's a couple of other leading Latino advocacy groups. MALDEF and the National Council of La Raza still are refusing to take up position on this issue -- Lou.

DOBBS: One would think to their great shame.

Thank you very much.

Casey Wian from Los Angeles.

Joining me now on these developments and to assess their importance is CNN legal analyst here at CNN, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, what do you make of this -- this disclosure?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: You know, some of the developments after the trial I don't think have been of great legal significance, second thoughts of jurors, things like this. This is potentially very significant, because it may violate two core provisions of prosecutors.

One is that prosecutors have to give all statements of witnesses at the trial to the defense. And they also have to give all exculpatory information to the defense. This statement appears to be a violation of both of those duties.

DOBBS: Now, we have reported on this brought broadcast before that there were supervisors present at that -- at the scene of that incident. The fact that the prosecutors would not turn that over, the fact that the inspector general of Homeland Security would lie to congressmen about the state of mind and the statements of those two agents, that U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton would lie, saying that he had no choice but to give immunity to the drug dealer in order to prosecute, when, in point of fact, the drug dealer had admitted six days previous to that limited use immunity deal that he was in fact moving drugs, those seem to me to be very important.

TOOBIN: Well, this is important because it fits into a legal category that does get people new trials sometimes. When evidence that could be very significant is not turned over, that's the kind of thing that trial courts grant new trials on or appeals courts overturn convictions on.

DOBBS: Mary Sillinger, the attorney for Ignacio Ramos, says this document, DHS document, could have proved her client innocent, is her statement. She says it falls under the Supreme Court's 1963 decision, Brady versus Maryland.

Can you put that into some context that we could understand here?

TOOBIN: Right. Brady versus Maryland is the decision by Justice William O. Douglas that said any exculpatory evidence, any evidence that tends to show a defendant is innocent, must be turned over to the -- to the defense.

You know, in the everyday world of criminal law, people talk about Brady material all the time. "Is it Brady? You've got to turn over your Brady material." If it's not turned over and it's significant -- and the prosecution may say this is not significant -- but if it's significant, that gets convictions reversed.

DOBBS: And the fact is these agents remain in prison on the testimony of an admitted drug smuggler with a prosecution that was far more committed to going after two agents than learning any more about the drug cartel that is operating almost with impunity in the El Paso area and the northern parts of Mexico nearest El Paso.

TOOBIN: And no bail pending appeal, which is pretty unusual when you have defendants with such tight roots in the community.

DOBBS: This is, as far as I can see, no American's idea of justice.

What's your thought?

TOOBIN: Well, it is shocking that something like this would come out at this late date. And it seems like new stuff is coming out all of the time. And it's important for a court to take a look at it.

DOBBS: And in terms of investigating how this happened, the Democratic Congress shows absolutely zero interest in this because this Democratic Congress is committed to comprehensive immigration reform, as they call it, which is amnesty and open borders. Is there no path here for the American people to learn what has happened?

TOOBIN: No. Unless the Congress act, no.

I mean, that is all that's left, because this legal proceeding has moved on to the court of appeals, unless they can make some kind of new trial motion. But this case, if people wanted it investigated, it's Congress or it's nothing.

DOBBS: Well, we're going to continue our humble efforts...

TOOBIN: Or the press. That's another point.

DOBBS: ... to bring as many facts to light as possible.

And Jeffrey, we appreciate you being here. Thank you, as always, for your insight and analysis.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight.

Do you believe that in light of this new evidence brought forward former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean should be granted a new trial? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at We'll bring the results here later.

Coming up next, Congressman Barney Frank will join us. He wants to block the president's free hand on free trade that's resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs, and, oh, yes, about $5 trillion in trade debt.

And in the war on this country's middle class, more and more women entering the workforce. Not as expression of their personal freedom of choice, but just so their families can survive.

We'll have that report.

And fighting the war within. The most serious drug abuse threat to your children is likely to be right in your own home.

That special report, a great deal more, straight ahead.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The war on our middle class continues unabated, and more women are joining the workforce order in to provide for their families, keeping their struggling families afloat.

Kitty Pilgrim has the report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A conference in Phoenix, Arizona, is asking professionals to try to find solutions to the punishing schedules many families have to work these days.

DAVID THOMPSON, CAPITAL UNIVERSITY: Today, the generations that are working now work anywhere from 10 to 15 hours more per week than any other generation prior to them.

KATHY LINGLE, ALLIANCE FOR WORK-LIFE PROGRESS: Yes, it is a difficult situation out there. It, today, takes two people, two in the couple to make one living. We're expected to work 24 by 7. Technology keeps us tethered night and day.

PILGRIM: A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has some dire information of what went on in a five-year period in this economy. Women are taking more than half of the new jobs created.

ELLEN GALINSKY, FAMILIES AND WORK INST.: Women are now contributing 42 to 43 percent of family income. Their jobs are absolutely necessary to the survival of the family. But the jobs that are available tend to often be lower-paid jobs. And the biggest growth in the economy is among these lower-paid jobs.

PILGRIM: The report also finds a number of industries sustained employment decreases. Some quite severe.

One industry, where the U.S. is supposed to excel, the so-called information industry. Internet publishing, software, and other information media -- 660,000 jobs were lost.

JARED BERNSTEIN, ECONOMIC POLICY INST.: I really don't think policymakers appreciate this. If you listen to the discussion, it sounds like there are huge unmet demands in our IT sector, that employers just can't get enough workers. But if you look the at employment trends, they're pretty flat

PILGRIM: The largest job loss, 3.3 million manufacturing jobs, high-paying jobs for middle class workers.


PILGRIM: Now, another interesting point in this government report, employment opportunities for men were in the construction industry. Mostly lower-paying job opportunities. And this is an industry that's seen considerable wage pressure from the influx of illegal alien labor that keeps wages low.

DOBBS: War on the middle class, it continues.

This Democratic Congress in their first six weeks has made some important strides. It's going to be very interesting to all of us to see what it can actually accomplish, or whether we're going to see more politics as usual.

Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Bobby in Georgia said, "Lou, Congress should forget about signing the petition for Bush to pardon the two Border Patrol agents and pass legislation to give Congress the authority to pardon the agents themselves. Congress should stop playing games with non-binding resolutions and petitions and start fixing our problems."

And Rick in Montana, "I'm confused. When Reagan was in office they campaigned with 'Just say no.' Now with Bush in office, they send Border Patrol agents to prison for stopping drug smugglers. Am I missing something?"

I don't think so.

And Nick in Illinois, "Lou, I thought I'd never see the day when a drug smuggler from Mexico is granted immunity, Dog Chapman is extradited to Mexico for apprehending a serial rapist, and my government is going to sit back and allow this to happen."

Send us your thoughts to More of your thoughts coming up here later.

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

Up next, Congressman Barney Frank, he wants to end President Bush's so-called free trade agenda, an agenda that has cost million of Americans their jobs and led to trillions of dollars in trade debt. Congressman Frank joins us.

And Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, he doesn't join us. But today he praised efforts to build a fence on our southern border with Mexico. A fence that so far he's refused to build.

We'll have that report.

And the war within. Some of the most dangerous and addictive drugs available to our young people are actually in your own medicine cabinet.

Stay with us for all of that and more.


DOBBS: Remember the border fence? Well, construction on new security barriers today began at the Arizona-Mexico border. It's all part of an initiative to protect our border with a combination of physical and virtual fencing.

The homeland security secretary was there. But was it just a photo-op or it was real progress towards securing our broken borders? Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That guy in the welding mask is none other than U.S. homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff, welding part of the new border fence that's going up in San Luis, Arizona.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: What the fencing does is it builds a barrier that slows up the people who want to cross illegally.

SYLVESTER: A colorful photo-op, but critics say the border fence with Mexico is actually one of the nation's weakest security links. President Bush promised to build 700 miles of fencing as part of the Secure Fences Act signed in October. This year, only 75 miles of new actual border fence will be built.

And by the time President Bush leaves office, there will only be 370 miles of fencing along the southern border. And much of it not a fence that you can even see or touch. A virtual fence, sensors and cameras. Immigration reform groups say that's not good enough.

DAN STEIN, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: It represents a continuing train of betrayals by the Bush administration in not fulfilling promises made since 9/11.

SYLVESTER: Congressional lawmakers are trying to figure out how a law that was passed is being reinterpreted.

REP. NORMAN DICKS, (D) WA: The previous congress put money in for 850 -- a start I guess on 850 miles of actual fence. And now we're going to have a virtual fence. Tell us how this is going to work.

MICHAEL JACKSON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We believe that fences are an important of the tool kit that we must use at the border. They're not the only tool kit we must use at the border.

SYLVESTER: Money is a big factor. Congress approved $1.2 billion for the border fence. But it will cost at least twice that amount to build all 700 miles of fence that has not been appropriated.


SYLVESTER: And President Bush's budget did not include enough funding for the entire 700 miles of fencing. And Congress is not acting either. With the Democratic majority, not likely to happen at all. We're not likely to see anymore funding and some immigration reform critics feel they were sold a bunch of baloney right before the election to win votes. Lou?

DOBBS: Say it's not so, Lisa. Our Congress would never do such a thing. This president would never do such a thing. These are men and women committed to national security. We're on a war on terror. There are laws to uphold. And citizens to protect. Just 300 million of them.

SYLVESTER: And I also believe that Chertoff is really building that fence, too.

DOBBS: OK. Lisa Sylvester, thank you. I wish the news were better. But it is the reality and that's what we're about. Thank you very much.

Another encounter between National Guard troops and a group of men possibly armed at the Arizona-Mexico border Friday night. The National Guard troops held their position near Sasabe, Arizona, and road for Border Patrol assistance. Agents and a helicopter responded. But intruders, yes, you've guessed, it they've escaped.

This is the third incident involving National Guard troop encounters this year. You may remember as we reported last month a Tennessee National Guard unit withdrew an approach by a group of armed men the same border area as Friday's incident. They were, however, recommended for a National Guard award for following orders and withdrawing.

In Mexico today, hundreds of heavily-armed police there raided a Mexico City neighborhood notorious for drug trafficking. Police seized a building known as the Fortress.

It is reputedly a cocaine and marijuana disruption center.

Elsewhere in Mexico, a brazen attack critically wounded a Mexican congressman outside of Nuevo Laredo. The border city best known for rampant violence by drug cartels. The congressman car was ambushed by gunman on the road to Nuevo Laredo's airport. His driver was killed. That shooting comes one day after the Mexican government announced it was stepping up security in the region.

Nuevo Laredo remains the center of violence as the drug cartels fight for control of smuggling routes and access into the United States.

In the war within tonight, the prescription medicines in your own home are a source of the fastest-growing substance abuse in this nation. The government's set a goal to cut prescription drug abuse by 15 percent over the next three years. Today issuing new guidelines on how to prevent those drugs from reaching your children and abusers.

Christine Romans has the story.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The medicines in your home, when abused, are as addictive and dangerous as illegal street drugs. Dr. David Murray is the chief scientist of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

DAVID MURRAY, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: They got from family and friends. They got it the from someone's medicine chest. They got it from trading in front the locker at the high school. Thinking hey, this will be fun and every bit is dangerous and is dirty for them as a street drug.

ROMANS: New guidelines tonight to keep unwanted, unused and unnecessary drugs out of the hands of the estimated 850,000 children and teens this year who will try them to get high.

First, get them out of the medicine cabinet. Because abusers and dealers scavenge garbage, take them out of the container, mix them with used coffee grounds or kitty litter and put them in the trash.

Flush drugs down the toilet only if the label says it is safe. The EPA is still studying the toxicity of these drugs in our waterways. With some 6.4 million Americans using medicines to get high, it raises the question, why as a society are we taking so many drugs in the first place? DR. JERRY AVORN, AUTHOR, "POWERFUL MEDICINES": There's probably an excessive looseness on the part of both doctors in writing these prescriptions and also in patients in demanding them. And then once they've got them, there is probably a lack of care in making sure they're kept where somebody's nephew or grandson isn't -- or granddaughter isn't going to come upon it and see if they can get high of it.

ROMANS: There is no doubt the dealer is at home. The government says 60 percent of pain pill abusers got their supply for free, from friends or relatives.


ROMANS (on camera): The government's David Murray had a stern warning for Americans. If you have a two-year-old you don't keep bleach under the counter. Parents and grandparents of teenagers should not have addictive medicines in their medicine cabinets, Lou.

DOBBS: And they don't want you to flush this stuff down the toilet or the drain?

ROMANS: The EPA still deciding whether this is something that is going to be harmful to our waterway. These are things that are not biodegradable. We're putting them on our bodies. In many cases they're life-saving medicines, in many cases kids are using to get high.

But unless the label says, don't flush it down the toilet. And don't just throw it away ...

DOBBS: That really raises a lot of other questions as well.

ROMANS: Sure does. Sure does.

DOBBS: As if there wasn't enough already. Christine, thank you. Christine Romans.

The pharmaceutical company, Merck is suspending a state-by-state push to require girls to be immunized with a controversial vaccine. The vaccine prevents HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer. But proposal is controversial among social conservatives and some religious groups. So Merck says it will no longer lobby schools to require the use of that vaccine.

Still ahead, Congressman Barney Frank says a spate of recent trade agreements has charged American workers. He's our guest.

And the president installs a new director of intelligence and then immediately orders him to address failures in our spy network. I'll be taking that up as well with three leading talk radio shows from all around the country as we find out what America's talking about here tonight.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: The president's fast track trade authority enables him to negotiate trade deals without oversight from Congress or voters. It expires at the end of June. Those deals have cost middle-class Americans millions of jobs as reported here just tonight.

And since 2002, the president's signed a dozen free trade agreements, bilateral agreements with nations from Chile to Oman and a major deal with South Korea is now being negotiated.

Congressman Barney Frank is the chairman of the House Financial Service Committee and he agrees that fair trade deals would be better, and that these free trade deals, so-called have, cost millions of jobs. Congressman Frank, joins us. Mr. Chairman, good to have you with us.

REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MA: Thank you, Lou. Glad to have the chance.

DOBBS: First talk about, this first the trade promotion authority, the fast track authority. The campaign's already under way. The Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the Democratic Leadership Council. The third way on the Democratic side. And of course President Bush himself. The National Association of Manufacturers. They're all pushing for it. Is it going to happen?

FRANK: No. I think Third Way better understand this is really the third rail we're talking about. Nobody's going to touch it. Some of us having trying to tell them, the business community, the financial community for some time that an economic model in which there is growth and increasing inequality just doesn't work.

And they haven't listened because they've had everything their own way. And apparently even after what we saw in Seattle, with the world trade deal and everything else, they're not paying attention.

So it did seem to me, time to get this across to them. I guess it's going to take a real meaningful denial them. They want -- I do not believe that Congress will or should pass trade promotion authority expansion. Because, again, you know, look, the minimum wage shouldn't be a big deal but in a Congress in which we can't even get the minimum wage raised, in which the ability of the middle class to survive is being eroded, the notion that they can just ignore us and go ahead and continue to do business as usual, they're not paying attention.

DOBBS: The power, and this isn't discussed much, except certainly it is discussed on this program, the overwhelming political power of corporate America today is all but -- it's just not -- there's no countervailing influence it seems. Labor unions have been minimized. My gosh, in Colorado recently, they're trying to take -- to make it somewhat easier to organize. That governor just rolled over.

FRANK: Here's the deal, and I think it is true. Money is very powerful, but votes can beat money if the votes get energized. I think we're at a point, and I think we saw in the last election, that average citizen understands what's going wrong.

Look, when George Bush has to say publicly that he's worried about income equality, then we know, not that he's serious about it in my judgment but that he's been told this is a major political issue.

And whatever corporate America thinks, they are in for a big surprise. If the want to get a deal in this Doha round, it won't pass the House. And if they then come and get trade promotion and ask for it to be extended, it won't pass.

I do think the power of money, the power of corporate America, and by the way, they've been weakened in some. I tell you what we will pass soon, I believe is a bill that allows shareholders to vote annually on CEO compensation. I think we've reached a point where that degree of indignation is going to carry.

DOBBS: Well that CEO pay in the last 30 years, just about 35 years, has gone from about 20 times the average worker's pay to just over 400 times the average worker's pay in any company. I mean it's insane.

FRANK: It's taken away - here's the best example. When Nardelli got $230 million, they were bragging about ...

DOBBS: Of Home Depot.

FRANK: Home Depot was saying fix up our stores and put $350 million in fixing up our stores. Well, those are comparable numbers. If they haven't overpaid him so wildly, they could have done a much better job of fixing up the stores. There is a real cost to this excess.

DOBBS: You mentioned the economy. I want to show everyone watching and listening to you what you've had to say recently.

At last week's hearing you said this, "I tell my Republicans friend, keep telling the American people about how good the economy is because the disparity between what you tell them is happening and what they feel themselves makes them even angrier."

Why is the simple - and I refer to it as an independent nonpartisan reality, the facts, why is that so difficult for bright enable men and women in Congress to comprehend?

FRANK: It's a combination of partisanship and ideology. These are people who want to believe, so they wish - look, we had this problem last year. Ed was there. Perfectly nice man. Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. He was frustrated because he said how come we are not get credit for this good economy?

Basically he was telling people who were well off and we didn't believe him. And I said there was one scene in the Marx Brothers where Groucho catches Chico red-handed and Chico says, who are you going to believe me or your own eyes?

And what the Bush administration is saying, who are you going to believe, me or your own wallet? I don't care that you don't have any money and that you're in serious trouble. But I think as I say a combination of partisanship and ideology but I think reality's breaking through.

DOBBS: Well, Barney Frank, we appreciate it, Mr. Chairman, outstanding to have you here. And everyone who cares about working men and women in this country, hope that your forecast of the future is right.

FRANK: I appreciate it. Thank you.

DOBBS: Still ahead here, three of the country's top radio talk show hosts join me. They'll tell us what their listeners are talking about, whether it's the war on terror, the war in Iraq, or perhaps the economic reality. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up, THE SITUATION ROOM and Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much, Lou. A major setback for President Bush in Iraq. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair expected it announce tomorrow a timetable for bringing home U.K. troops. I will talk about it with former presidential adviser David Gergen.

Also presidential candidate Barack Obama and the race for Hollywood campaign dollars. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is standing-by. He'll join us to talk about jumping on the Obama bandwagon in Hollywood.

And overcoming the racial divide in American politics. Obama's campaign has issue on the spotlight. I'll talk about it with Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick. He's only the second African American since Reconstruction to be elected governor of the state. All of that, Lou, coming up right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.

Joining me now three leading talk show hosts from around the country. Doug McIntyre, KABC, Los Angeles. Charles Goyette, KFNX, Phoenix. And Mark Simone, WABC, New York. Good to have you with us. Let me turn, first, Doug. Let me reach across the country, and ask you the decision by Tony Blair, as we've reported to begin withdrawing British troops. The import?

DOUG MCINTYRE, KABC IN LOS ANGELES: Well, I think it's very significant, Lou because it is getting very lonely in Iraq for the United States. And that's one the things, we keep talking about Iraq in the terms of presidential politics and whether it's good or bad for the president.

But what we have to keep in mind is what we're really talking about is what is good or bad for the United States of America. I don't think it's good for America to find ourselves alone and left really holding the bag. Colin Powell's right, we broke it, we own it. DOBBS: And Charles Goyette, your senior senator out there, John McCain, saying the secretary, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, one of the worst. Your reaction?

CHARLES GOYETTE, KFNX IN PHOENIX: Well, John McCain can't make up his mind from day it day what side of the issue he's on. It is the Rumsfeld era (ph) that he was supporting months ago.

Look, it's the same thing with Jerry Falwell. He can't decide from day to day whether he supports Jerry Falwell, it's the same with Roe versus Wade. The only thing consistent about John McCain is it is always bigger, better wars, but it doesn't matter if it is Bush's wars or Clinton wars, it's more war, war, war.

DOBBS: Well, Senator Clinton, Mark Simone is calling for the Iraq troop redeployment to begin in 90 days. And she is also refusing to apologize for her vote authorizing the war. What message do you think it'll send to, particularly the Democrats in the primaries that are approaching?

MARK SIMONE, WABC IN NEW YORK: Senator Clinton has a particular problem. I play these audiotapes argument time on my own show. All through the '90s, the Clinton administration kept swearing the weapons of mass destruction were there. She and her husband. There is thousands of clips saying we've got to disarm Saddam Hussein, we've got to have regime change.

So it's particularly hard for her to back off her vote for the war. She can't pin it all on Bush because when she and her husband had were on power and had access to all of the intelligence. If you listen to the Clintons, they not only said Saddam Hussein had the weapons but that he was about to use them. Mark my words, he'll use them, President Clinton said.

DOBBS: Doug McIntyre, you had to be cheered as you watched Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, put on that welding mask and start building that fence. Can you contain yourself?

MCINTYRE: Well, I particularly like, Lou, that, as you heard, the quote of note. And it should be recognized in Bartlett's quotes, a dictionary of quotes, that the fence you see, according to Chertoff, is to keep people from entering the country illegally. So at least they've got down the function of a fence is, which is a step in the right direction.

DOBBS: Yep. It was amazing to hear him describe a fence as a barrier. As millions of us scratch our head and say, thank you, Mr. Secretary.

MCINTYRE: For that clarity, yes.

DOBBS: The idea, Charles Goyette, that Arizona will soon be protected, well not soon, apparently to the most recent projections it will take something like eight to nine years to build out that fence. How do people feel there in Phoenix? GOYETTE: Lou, I don't think people in other parts of the country realize really what we've experienced. You talked earlier on the show about these cross border incursions that ran the National Guard troops off down by our southern border.

I don't think that people realize that Mexico is nothing but a narco-kleptocracy. What you have got going on is the army, the Mexican military cooperating with the drug cartels and the drug runners in bringing things across the border and then subsequently getting paid off. So the situation is much more militaristic than people realize and they ought to apply that judgment to the two border guards down there in Texas as well.

These people are virtually in a war.

SIMONE: Am I mistaken? I am looking at footage you are showing of this fence. Did it have slats in it? The last thing you'd want in that fence.

DOBBS: Well, remember, it is a government fence and it's not clear at what stage or construction this is at.

Doug McIntyre, the idea that the National Guard remains on our border, near our border, without orders to engage in any way, neither to capture nor apprehend or even defend themselves. Could there be a greater mockery of that fine institution than to do that to them?

MCINTYRE: I've got my stepson in the National Guard. He is a helicopter pilot. It's insulting to them.

But what is also insulting is you see the disaster that Iraq's become. And all of this isn't result of post-9/11 world. If you just want to keep in terms of homeland security, since Chertoff is there. That we had two genuine fronts in the war on terror. The home front, which means securing the borders, the ports and harbors and airports. And then Afghanistan where bin Laden and the Taliban were.

So instead of doing that, we're in Iraq.

DOBBS: And Charles Goyette, president welcomes a new director of national intelligence. And then immediately tells them, we need to fix our spy network. More than five years after September 11th. Your reaction?

GOYETTE: Yeah. And I'm a little concerned about this. We've entertained the discussion on my radio show in Phoenix, Lou that this fellow's replacing John Negroponte because Negroponte got on a turf battle with Cheney over the national intelligence estimate on Iran. And that he was, Negroponte, willing to cook the books. And be complicit in cooking the intelligence for a pretext for war on Iran. I'm a little concerned about this whole change.

SIMONE: I hate to say, but we've had intelligence failures going back 50 years. Pearl Harbor, we didn't see the end of the Soviet Union. This administration's not going to fix it, because the last dozen didn't fix it either. DOBBS: I hate to conclude on those reassuring word, Mark Simone. But we will, and must. Thank you very much, Mark Simone, Charles Goyette, Doug McIntyre, thank you very much for being with us.

Still ahead, the results of our poll. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Our poll result tonight. Ninety-eight percent of you saying former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean should be granted a new trial based on the new evidence.

And time now for one last e-mail. John in Ohio said, "Lou, I get so sick and tired of the law enforcement agencies saying we can't do anything about the illegal drugs in this country. They would be more believable if they said we choose not to do anything. It's the same as choosing not to do anything about the illegal aliens."

We thank you for your thoughts. Send them to us here at Join us here tomorrow night for our special report, "The War Within." We look at marijuana, it's addictive properties, its impact on our society. We thank you for watching tonight. Good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM begins now with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?


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