Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Target: Cheney? Bombing in Afghanistan; New Terror Warning; Democrats Divided Over Iraq

Aired February 27, 2007 - 18:00   ET


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the battle in our schools to stop drug and alcohol abuse by our children.
We'll have a special report on that.

Also, the illegal alien lobby steps up its campaign to give amnesty of millions of illegal aliens in this country.

And new questions about the prosecution of two Border Patrol agents sent to prison for doing their job. Congressman Ted Poe joins us tonight. He is demanding congressional hearings.

All that and more straight ahead.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, February 27th.

Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening.

The U.S. military tonight is investigating how radical Islamist terrorists exploded a bomb within ear shot of Vice President Dick Cheney in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to Bagram Air Base. More than 15 people were killed. The vice president himself was unhurt.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are struggling to remain united on the issue of Iraq. The Democratic Party appears sharply divided over whether to impose strict conditions on the president's conduct of the war.

Suzanne Malveaux reports on today's suicide bombing in Afghanistan, only a mile from the vice president.

Jeanne Meserve reports on a new warning about the escalating threat from radical Islamist terrorists.

And Dana Bash reports on the deep divisions among congressional Democrats on Iraq policy.

We turn first to Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, at least 15 were killed, 20 wounded. All of this while the vice president was on the ground. But administration officials say fortunately, he was never in harm's way.


MALVEAUX (voice over): The bomb blast outside the U.S. Bagram air base in Afghanistan was so close to the vice president, he heard it himself. Cheney told reporters traveling with him, "... it was about 10:00 a.m. this morning. I heard a loud boom. And shortly after that, the Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate, apparently a suicide bomber."

Reporter Mark Silva, who was with the vice president, tells CNN...

MARK SILVA, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": ... at the base fire station. There had been a direct attack at the gate and the base had gone on code red.

MALVEAUX: Cheney was rushed to a bomb shelter nearby as his plane was prepared to get him out.

SILVA: People started moving, and everything advanced very quickly.

LT. COL. TAMMY HEATH, 82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION HQ: The vice president was over a mile away from the actual entry control point. He was never in any danger.

MALVEAUX: But a Taliban representative reportedly claimed it was Cheney who was targeted. A charge that military and administration officials quickly dismissed.

HEATH: It was completely coincidental that he was here at the same time this attack occurred.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You've got an isolated attack. As we've often said about acts of terror, an individual who wants to commit an act of violence or kill him or herself, very difficult to stop.

MALVEAUX: But stopping attacks like this is precisely why Cheney is in the area in the first place. Just the day before, he was in neighboring Pakistan meeting with its president, Pervez Musharraf, to put pressure on him to do more to crack down on the Taliban and al Qaeda, who are regrouping along the border.

Today, despite the deadly blast, Cheney went forward with his schedule, flying 18 minutes, 40 miles south to Kabul, to meet with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai.

HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN PRESIDENT: Welcome, Mr. Vice President. Welcome to Afghanistan.


MALVEAUX: This is an important picture for the Bush administration, which is trying to convince the American people, despite the dramatic increase in suicide bombings here, the U.S. mission is not lost.


MALVEAUX: And Kitty, today's attack really carrying significant symbolism on both sides -- the audacity of those to attack while Vice President Cheney on the ground. And Cheney, of course, being the highest level senior administration official to overnight in an active war zone, left unharmed, donning a black suit and cowboy boots -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Suzanne Malveaux.

A new warning today about rising threats to U.S. interests around the world from radical Islamist terrorists. Now, the new director of the National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, said al Qaeda remains the most serious threat. But McConnell also warned about escalating danger from Iran.

Jeanne Meserve has our report.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Iran's Qods force is training Iraqi Shiites to use Iranian-made armor- piercing munitions, and not only in Iraq, according to top intelligence officials.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: And some of that training is occurring in Iran?


MESERVE: The administration has waffled on whether the highest levels of Iran's government are directly involved. The new director of National Intelligence says it is probable.

MICHAEL MCCONNELL, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We can conclude since these are Iranian weapons, this is an official Iranian body, it would be unlikely that they would be coming in without awareness.

MESERVE: McConnell's assessment of Iraq is generally bleak. Sectarian violence is increasing, he says. The Iraqi government and Iraqi military's ability to end it, limited. But he says the next attack on the U.S. will likely originate elsewhere.

MCCONNELL: My belief is an attack most likely would be planned and come out of the leadership in Pakistan.

MESERVE: McConnell is talking about the leadership of al Qaeda. He goes further than other officials have in placing Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in the remote northwestern mountains of Pakistan.

MCCONNELL: To the best of our knowledge, the senior leadership, number one and number two, are there. And they are attempting to re- establish and rebuild and to establish training camps.


MESERVE: McConnell's crisp, direct answers were welcomed, advised some senators, but that was about the only positive thing to come out of the hearing. Whether officials were talking about Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or Russia, the picture they laid out was almost uniformly grim -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Jeanne Meserve.

The United States today said it's willing to talk with Iran and Syria about ways to stop the violence in Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Iraqi government has invited the United States and Iraq's neighbors to a conference in Iraq.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The violence occurring within the country has a decided impact on Iraq's neighbors. And Iraq's neighbors, as well as the international community, have a clear role to play in supporting the Iraqi government's efforts to promote peace and national reconciliation within the country.


PILGRIM: The State Department, of course, says both Iran and Syria are state sponsors of terrorism. President Bush has ruled out any direct talks with either Syria or Iran.

Insurgents in Iraq have killed six more of our troops. Seventy- eight of our troops have been killed so far this month, 3,161 of our troops have been killed since this war began. 23,677 of our troops wounded, 10,509 of them so seriously, they could not return to duty within three days.

Insurgents killed at least 20 Iraqis in gun and bomb attacks today. Ten people were killed in Baghdad when insurgents targeted a parking lot and two restaurants. At least 10 other people were killed in attacks in northern Iraq.

The Democratic Party's political assault against President Bush and his conduct of the war in Iraq appears to be faltering. Senate Democrats today postponed a debate on whether to curb the president's powers to wage war.

Dana Bash reports on the Democratic leadership's struggle to reach a consensus on Iraq policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Senate Democrats emerged from a closed-door meeting without a clear idea of what their next step will be on Iraq.

REID: I would hope that at a time in the near future, that I will be able to offer an amendment on behalf of the Democratic Caucus.

BASH: Democratic leaders in the Senate had hoped to rally the rank and file behind repealing Congress's 2002 approval for war, replacing it with a new authorization that would shift U.S. troops in Iraq from a combat to a support role. But Democrats now appear divided on that idea. Senators on both the left and right flanks of the caucus are balking.

Liberal Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold says he won't vote for any measure that would keep U.S. troops in Iraq.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: We don't want to talk about actually authorizing a new mission in Iraq. We want to figure out how we can get out of Iraq.

BASH: Moderate Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas tells CNN he'll probably oppose re-authorizing the war, too, but for a different reason. He agrees with Republicans that Congress should not micromanage the war.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: I am concerned about revisiting the original resolution that authorized force in Iraq because we have boots on the ground now. We have soldiers who are getting shot at and getting -- they're trying to blow them up every day. I just don't want to undercut them.

BASH: Pryor and other moderate Senate Democrats told CNN they're reluctant to back any move on Iraq that does not have bipartisan support. And so far, no GOP senator has endorsed the idea of modifying Congress's authorization for war.


BASH: One Democratic senator tells CNN what's really driving efforts for a new Iraq reauthorization is that several Democratic presidential candidates voted to back the war in 2002 and are now trying to appeal to antiwar voters and are looking for a second chance -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Dana, can you fill us in on what House Democrats are planning to do next on the issue of Iraq?

BASH: Well, we really don't know. They're actually meeting as we speak, Kitty, behind closed doors. The entire House Democratic Caucus trying to figure out the answer to that very question.

Of course, Congressman John Murtha has been pushing an idea to tie some strings, conditions to any kind of funding that would go forward on Iraq in the future. But it is very unclear whether that is something that the Democratic caucus as a whole in the House can get behind. As I said, they're talking about it, trying to figure out what their next step is as we speak.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Dana Bash.

And later on in the broadcast, we will have a special report on what voters are saying about the war in Iraq.

Also, still ahead, the illegal alien movement demands unconditional amnesty for as many as 20 million illegal aliens.

We'll have a special report.

Also, the government of Mexico lobbies for a North American union but threatens the prosperity and job security of working Americans.

And Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez, launches a new assault against U.S. interests in Venezuela.


PILGRIM: The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin hearings tomorrow on so-called comprehensive immigration reform, a plan critics say amounts to amnesty for illegal aliens.

And today, as Casey Wian reports, amnesty advocates were out in full force.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): All week, demonstrators are gathering outside San Francisco's immigration office, demanding unconditional amnesty for the estimated 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States. And they want immigration authorities to stop conducting workplace raids targeting fugitive illegal aliens.

RENEE SAUCEDO, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: The laws that are in place right now that enable immigration to conduct these raids we consider immoral, impractical, and not in touch with current reality.

WIAN: A call for the effective end of immigration law enforcement is among the more extreme measures being proposed by amnesty advocates now lobbying Congress.

MICHAEL THERIAULT, SAN FRANCISCO BUILDING & CONST. TRADES COUNCIL: We don't ask the question about whether they're documented or not. But if they're doing work in this country, we feel an obligation to represent them.

WIAN: Leading the amnesty charge, Senator Ted Kennedy, who's expected to introduce legislation soon.

DAN STEIN, FED. OF AMER. FOR IMMIG. REFORM: Senator Kennedy, supposedly a champion of the working person in this country, is in lead with the greatest exploiters of cheap labor, groups working with the Chamber of Commerce and the immigration bar, unscrupulous lawyers who simply use immigration to make money. And somehow, he's working with them, and they're writing the bill.

WIAN: According to "The Washington Times," President Bush has pledged support for Senator Kennedy's so-called comprehensive immigration reform plan. He met with his counterpart from El Salvador, who's clearly hoping for an amnesty bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We'll have to wait and see what happens between the executive and the Congress of the United States. We have more than two million El Salvadorians living here in the United States.

WIAN: Meanwhile, the governor of the state with the most illegal aliens met in Washington with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Schwarzenegger is also lobbying for so-called comprehensive reform. But he did urge the federal government to achieve "control of our porous international borders."


WIAN: Until that happens, the governor wants billions of dollars in federal funds for health care and prison costs incurred by the state as a result of the federal government's failure to secure the border -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much.

Casey Wian.

Guilty pleas today for five managers who were charged with hiring illegal aliens. The five were employed by IFCO systems, a nationwide pallet manufacturing company.

The managers and more than a thousand illegal aliens were arrested when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents carried out raids last April on more than 40 IFCO sites around the country. ICE officials said more than half the company's 5,800 employees in 2005 had invalid or mismatched Social Security numbers.

And that brings us to the subject of tonight's poll.

Do you believe immigration raids on businesses that hire illegal aliens are an important component of U.S. immigration law enforcement? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.

Mexican officials are in Washington tonight to lobby for the Security and Prosperity Partnership, what some call the Northern American Union. Now, this plan is backed by government and corporate elites, with no input from Congress or voters.

As Lisa Sylvester tells us, supporters of the plan want to do away with national regulations, a move that could threaten U.S. sovereignty.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The United States has started constructing a border fence over the objection of Mexico's leaders, who say they will never approve of barriers, walls or fences. Really what Mexico wants is no border at all. The free flow of goods, people and investment capital within North America. Mexico is calling for a regional vision to compete globally.

PATRICIA ESPINOSA CANTELLANO, MEXICAN FOREIGN SECRETARY: We have the institutions. We have the legal framework. We have the political will. So we have really excellent basis to do this.

SYLVESTER: Mexico's foreign secretary is referring to the Security Prosperity Partnership. The White House has been negotiating the details of this new partnership with Canada and Mexico.

U.S. business interests are represented. The North American Competitiveness Council, with some of the biggest corporate names, is making recommendations -- Wal-Mart, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, and General Electric. But Congress has largely been left out of the discussions.

The State Department denies the executive branch is working in secret.

TOM SHANNON, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: We think that we have kind of created not only a trail of public events, but also a trail of very explicit documents highlighting what it is we're trying to accomplish.

SYLVESTER: Labor unions say they, too, have been left in the dark, even though the partnership, much like the North American Free Trade Agreement, will have a direct impact on American jobs and wages.

JACK MARTIN, FED. FOR AMER. IMMIG. REFORM: Academics who have studied this indicate that it isn't a win-win situation for everybody. And, in fact, the United States stands to lose in many ways.

SYLVESTER: Critics say the Security and Prosperity Partnership may be a bonanza for big business, but it will leave the American worker less secure and less prosperous.


SYLVESTER: President Bush is meeting with Mexican president Felipe Calderon in two weeks to discuss the Security and Prosperity Partnership. And at that time, we are expecting to learn more details.

Kitty, this will in fact be the third year in a row the heads of the three governments have met in the spring to discuss the partnership -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Lisa Sylvester.

Violence in Mexico taking a very heavy toll on Mexican government officials. Now, over the past week, three Mexican officials have been shot in towns near the U.S. border. And a Mexican prosecutor was arrested in the murder of a local political leader. Now, most of the violence is attributed to rival drug cartels fighting for control of smuggling routes to the United States.

Coming up, a massive sell-off on Wall Street. The Dow has the largest single day loss since 2001.

We'll have the details on that.

"The War Within" -- seven out of 10 teens are offered illegal drugs. And now school officials are taking steps to prevent students from accepting those offers.

We'll have a special report.

Americans want the government to fix the mess in Iraq quickly. We'll have a report on what the latest polls show.

And Venezuela's leftist president moves to nationalize oil company assets.

We'll have the latest.

Stay with us.


PILGRIM: Venezuela's anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, is targeting U.S. oil companies as he expands his socialist revolution. Chavez has nationalized the last foreign-owned oil assets in Venezuela. And some of those assets are owned by U.S. companies. Chavez declared, "The privatization of oil has come to an end."

As we reported last night, Chavez is using much of his country's oil wealth to buy weapons from Iran, China and Russia.

Time now for some of your thoughts and e-mails.

Karen in Minnesota, "Too bad the Mexican government has time to criticize our government for putting up a fence on their territory. Their time would be better spent in making Mexico a better place to live. Then we wouldn't need to put up the fence."

And Barbara in Colorado writes to us, "Mexico should have no say in our border security efforts or our foreign policy. That country does nothing but promote and benefit from illegal immigration to our country."

And Tony in North Carolina, "Mexican trucks are being allowed to operate in the United States. Is this another one of those jobs that Americans won't do?" E-mail us at, and we'll have more of your thoughts a little bit later in the broadcast. Each of you whose e-mail is read here will receive a copy of Lou's book, "War on the Middle Class."

Congress is under increasing pressure tonight to end President Bush's so-called Fast Track Trade Authority. The Montana State Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding that Senator Max Baucus use his authority as Finance Committee chairman to deny any renewal of Fast Track.

Senator Baucus has supported Fast Track in the past. Under Fast Track, Congress is only allowed a yes or no vote on any proposed trade deals from the White House. The president's Fast Track Authority expires in June.

Coming up, a brutal sell-off on Wall Street. One of the worst since 9/11. Did technical glitches contribute to the rout?

We'll have the story.

Also, startling new numbers on the huge scale of the drug crisis in our schools.

We'll have a special report, "The War Within."

And a top lawmaker demands congressional hearings into the prosecution of two Border Patrol agents. They were sent to jail for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler. The lawmaker, Congressman Ted Poe, is among our guests.



PILGRIM: New polls today show the level of public support for Iraq, and the results do not look good. Now, for the administration and other supporters of the war, as Bill Schneider reports, the public is not quite sure it trusts Democrats either.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): Support for the war in Iraq continues to drop, according to a new poll by "The Washington Post" and ABC News. Nearly two-thirds of Americans now say the war was not worth fighting. Two-thirds oppose sending additional troops.

And the toll on President Bush? Two-thirds disapprove of his handling of Iraq.

But President Bush is not the only one hurt.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to sell it, and it's got to be done. And we've got to explain better the consequences of failure. SCHNEIDER: John McCain is also paying a price. Forty-four percent of Americans in a "USA Today"-Gallup poll say they are less likely to support McCain because of his support for the war. Twenty- five percent say it makes them more likely to support him.

Some congressional Democrats are calling for enforcing the rules on troop training and rest time in order to limit the amount of troops available for duty in Iraq.

Does the public support that? Yes.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When we begin a phased redeployment, I call for it to start on May 1st of this year, to have all combat troops out by law by March 31st of next year.

SCHNEIDER: Does the public support a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq? Yes.

Democrats are cautious about cutting funding for the war.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Our troops will be funded.

SCHNEIDER: Does the public want Congress to restrict funding for the war? They're split, like Congress.

The Democrats' inability to act is taking a toll on them too. In January, 60 percent of Americans said they trusted the Democrats in Congress more than President Bush on Iraq. Most still do. But the number is now down to 54 percent.


SCHNEIDER: The number who trust President Bush hasn't changed much. What we're seeing is more people who say they don't trust either one -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Well, Bill, how is the president's low approval ratings affecting him?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it's certainly affecting his ability to get what he wants done. His approval rating has been below a majority now for the entirety of his second term. That's more than two years.

That is the longest stretch on record for a president without majority support. You have to go all the way back to Harry Truman in the early 1950s to find a president who lacked majority support for this long. And some of your older viewers might remember that Truman also had a very unpopular war.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Bill Schneider.

Day five of deliberations in the perjury trial of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. It ended without a verdict. Yesterday, one of the jurors in the case was dismissed after admitting she saw information about the case outside of the courtroom. Libby was chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. He's accused of obstructing justice in the 2003 investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Heavy rains caused a massive landslide on a hillside in San Francisco earlier today. The landslide piled rocks and mud onto several buildings at the bottom of the hill. About 150 people were evacuated. City officials shut off water and power in the area while engineers assessed the damage. We're happy to report no injuries have been reported.

NASA has postponed next month's launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis because of damage caused by a hail storm. NASA this is there is significant scarring on the shuttle's external fuel tank. Atlantis was scheduled to lift off on March 15. The launch has been delayed until at least the end of April.

Tonight, "The War Within", our special report on this country's battle against drugs and alcohol. The numbers are staggering. By age 17, seven out of 10 teenagers have been offered illegal drugs.

Millions of teens each year use prescription drugs and alcohol. And now hundreds of schools are fighting the drug war with random drug testing.

Christine Romans visited one of those schools.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These kids have all been drug tested at school.

GABRIEL HAMILTON, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: They just -- it's confidential. I was comfortable doing it.

MEREDITH DUDLEY, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: It's a deterrent, so if someone has ever offered me something, I'd be like, "No, I can't. I'm going to get tested."

ROMANS: At Hunterdon Central High School in New Jersey, it's a trip to the nurse's office if your name comes up randomly.

SUZANNE COOLEY, VICE PRINCIPAL, HUNTERDON CENTRAL HS: Once they get to the health office, they get -- they pick a little ball out of the box. One says urine. One says oral. And whatever one is picked is the test that we administer for them.

ROMANS: Testing for THC found in marijuana, cocaine, PCP, prescription drugs and alcohol. It's not legal to randomly test everyone, so Hunterdon Central tests kids in extracurricular activities or with other privileges like a school parking spot.

LISA BRADY, SUPERINTENDENT, SOUTH HUNTERDON HS: The message of a student random drug testing program is pretty simple. We do not allow drug use and alcohol use in our school. ROMANS: But critics say it doesn't work. It's a poor use of money in cash-starved schools. It undermines trust between teens and adults. And it's an invasion of privacy.

Jennifer Kern lobbies against school drug testing.

JENNIFER KERN, DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE: You're pushing teens way from the very things that have been proven most effective. To keep them engaged in those after-school hours while their parents aren't home, during the peak drug use hours.

ROMANS: Randomly testing, she says, the wrong students.

BRADY: No, we're not. We're testing the right kids. Because these programs are deterrent programs. They are designed to try to keep kids who are not already using drugs from starting. Or getting those kids that are maybe dabbling around in drug use to stop.

ROMANS: So often that very experimentation is happening under parents' noses.

TONY SPADORA, HUNTERDON CENTRAL PARENT: If it's only a matter of, you know, a test to find out if my son is using drugs, then you know, I'd be interested in having it done, because I want to know, as a parent.

ROMANS: The White House pushing hard to get more schools to test for drugs, providing $20 million in 2003 for school districts.

BERTHA MADRAS, OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY: This is a way to help both the children and their parents get over this very treacherous period of adolescence.

ROMANS: By the age of 17, seven out of 10 kids have been offered illegal drugs. Thirty percent of 16- and 17-year-olds drink.


ROMANS: At the 400 or so schools that received federal funding for their drug testing programs, a positive test means that parents are called and drug counseling is provided.

But the critics call these surveillance programs. They worry that kids are going to find ways to cheat the test, like moving away from marijuana because it stays in the system for so long, moving onto harder, more dangerous drugs the kids say is in the system a much shorter amount of time. You have a better chance of beating the test.

PILGRIM: Is this likely to become a widespread national effort?

ROMANS: There are about 500 -- 400 or 500 schools that get federal funding. Another thousand schools have their own sorts of programs where they're using other kinds of funding.

And the White House is really pushing this. The Office of National Drug Control Policy having these regional summits. They'd like to see more and more schools take a look at programs, you know, like the one that we profiled here and think about doing this.

The critics say, however, this is a privacy issue. This is something for the arena of pediatric health. It is not something -- testing is not something you should do in school.

So there's a real conflict of culture here of ideologies about whether this should be done in our schools.

PILGRIM: It's a very interesting issue and one very close to the hearts of Americans. Thanks very much, Christine Romans.

Still ahead, the fight continues on Capitol Hill to gain the freedom of two imprisoned former Border Patrol agents. And we're joined by Congressman Ted Poe, one of Ignacio Ramos' and Jose Compean's strongest supporters.

It was one of the promises of the midterm elections, but Democrats still haven't been able to change the course of the war in Iraq. And that's just one of the many topics we'll discuss with our distinguished panel of radio hosts. We'll be right back.


PILGRIM: An update today on efforts to secure justice for imprisoned former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean.

Now, the two men are serving lengthy prison terms for shooting and wounding a drug smuggler. The smuggler was given immunity in exchange for his testimony against the agents.

Congressman Duncan Hunter is sponsoring legislation for a congressional pardon for the pair. And so far 85 Republicans have signed as co-sponsors. And now two Democrat Congressmen, Tim Holden from Pennsylvania, Mark Gordon from Tennessee have also added their names to the legislation.

Joining me now, a strong supporter of Ramos and Compean, former Texas prosecutor and judge, Congressman Ted Poe.

And thanks very much for joining us, sir.

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: Good evening, Kitty.

PILGRIM: I want to lay out a couple of facts here. We know that the illegal alien drug smuggler smuggled a caseload, a second load of drugs into the United States after he was given immunity.

And then we also know from a DEA report that the DEA investigators believed they had enough evidence to indict him, but prosecutors told them not to. Why is that? And what's your reaction to that?

POE: Well, the Justice Department, the federal prosecutors always done there was a second case. And they were wrong about that. There was a second case. And the drug smuggler was not prosecuted on the second case. It's a case that could be made. They chose not to even investigate it, even though there's obvious evidence that he's guilty of that. The jury should have heard about the second case, and that he was not prosecuted for it, so they could judge the credibility of the drug smuggler, who was the government's only and main witness in this case.

So that's very disturbing that the Justice Department really misled -- misled the public about the second case. And what we have done is ask that the speaker of the House and the appropriate committee chairs now investigate, have Congressional hearings on exactly this case and why the federal government acted the way it did.

PILGRIM: Now, the DEA says there was clearly a second case, and they were told not to prosecute. As a former judge, is it unusual for prosecutors to protect a witness to this degree?

POE: Well, certainly it is. Normally, the prosecutors prosecute criminals. But in this case, they give the criminal a pass. And then while he's waiting to testify, he slips in some more drugs and they don't prosecute him for that.

They were so determined and relentless to have both these border agents convicted that at any price, any cost they would give immunity to the drug smuggler, make deals for him so he would testify and cooperate.

And the thing is, normally in this kind of situation, where you make a deal with a witness, you usually get the testimony you want.

PILGRIM: You know, this -- the DEA believes that this was done under a special border crossing pass that was given to this illegal alien. He was under immunity, and he did this while he was being protected to testify, which is pretty shocking details coming out.

Now, let's listen. During a press conference last October, the U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton expressed his feelings about the case and feelings about the illegal alien we're discussing. So let's listen to that for a second.

POE: All right.


JOHNNY SUTTON, U.S. ATTORNEY: I feel no sympathy for this alien. I feel that he deserves to be in prison. If we ever find him again smuggling drugs into this country, we will happily put him there.


PILGRIM: This does not seem to line up with facts, because by -- by the DEA report, they knew that he smuggled drugs in. And so it seems a little bit disingenuous.

POE: It seems a little hypocritical that they proclaim to be a great prosecutor's office for drug smugglers. And in fact, the drug smuggling prosecutions have gone down in that district.

But be that as it may, he had a second case. He was never prosecuted for it. The jury never heard about it. It's very disturbing how the federal prosecutors handled this case and really were determined to prosecute the border agents at any price, at any cost, including the truth to the jury.

PILGRIM: It's shocking. We do have a statement from the U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton in the office on today's developments, this DEA report. And this is what he said. We have the statement. "The U.S. attorney's office cannot comment about matters that are under seal or ongoing investigations. This office will pursue criminal charges where there is prosecutable criminal activity and competent evidence to prove it."

Seems a lot of backpedaling going on there. What's your view?

POE: Well, they're hedging on this case. They've got a case. The DEA has made the case for the prosecutors. All they had to do is prosecute it.

But see, they were caught in a fix. They're getting ready to use this drug smuggler to testify against the border agents. He picks up another case. What are they to do? What they should have done is dismissed the case against the border agents to prosecute the drug smuggler, but they didn't choose to do that.

So they're giving double talk to the American public about this second case. They should have prosecuted him. He's a drug smuggler bringing in, twice now, $1 million worth of drugs into the United States.

PILGRIM: Yes. The details of this are shocking. Do you believe there's enough evidence for an appeal here?

POE: Certainly. No question about it. My opinion, as a former judge, the jury should have known about the second case and let them judge the credibility of the witness to see what kind of deal he was getting to testify like the government wanted him to testify.

And they did give him certain privileges. You know, came to the United States, got treated for his medical wounds at taxpayer expense. And on probably one of these visits is when he brought in the drugs in the second case.

PILGRIM: It's unbelievable. What is your next step in Congress, sir?

POE: Well, we have asked, and we sent -- 30 of us have sent a letter that will actually go out tomorrow to the speaker and to the chairs of the different appropriate committees, asking for a congressional investigation on this whole case. And to see why the federal government chose the action it did, chose -- why it especially chose to deceive members of Congress and the public about the truth of the whole border situation.

PILGRIM: Well, we applaud your efforts. Thank you very much for explaining the situation tonight. Congressman Ted Poe.

POE: Thank you, Kitty.

PILGRIM: A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. Do you believe that immigration rates on businesses that hire illegal aliens are an important component of U.S. immigration law enforcement? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.

And still ahead, three of the country's top radio hosts join me for a discussion on some of the biggest stories of the day. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: Joining me now are three of the country's top radio talk show hosts: Mark Simone of WABC in New York, Peter Boyles of KHOW in Denver and Joe Madison of WOL in Washington. And thanks for joining us.


PILGRIM: He also is -- the guys who are farthest away. And Peter, we'll start with this -- the topic that I'm really interested in, is this whole Iraq war debate in the Senate.

Now, the Senate Democrats are saying that they're going to hold off on repealing the 2002 Iraq war authorization. They're going to look at the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission first. What's your reaction to this? Does this show weakness or does this just show common sense?

PETER BOYLES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Did you see -- I'm sure you saw the reaction of the 9/11 families, who said, look, don't do this with us.

The other part of it, too, is I think they're not sure what's going to happen if they go to a vote.

And the third part of it is, of course, we still are that far away from the presidential elections. And I think that everybody is trying to keep as much of this off of themselves as they can.

I thought they believed they really had something secure. And then they weren't quite sure. And it kind of shows a little bit of cowardness (sic).

PILGRIM: Or indecision, Joe, what do you think?

MADISON: Well, I think it's too things. I'll do my countdown. One, they just simply don't have the votes. That's the simple fact of it. Right here in Washington, they are counting. They don't have the votes. If they're going to do it, they want to win.

No. 2, and I agree with the fact that they just don't have the courage to do this. They're so concerned about what the reaction will be, what the other side will say, how that other side will use it two years from now. Not only in the presidential election, but, again, you have to remember, there's a lot of senators up for re-election.

And, of course, the House of Representatives. So -- and this is why you're seeing the polls that you're seeing. Because clearly in November, the American people spoke. And they simply are now just playing politics. Typical Washington.

PILGRIM: Policy by poll numbers?

MADISON: Yes. No question.

PILGRIM: What do you think, Mike?

MIKE SIMONE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Everybody is there. You've got the courage problem, the playing politics problem. But let's get to the bottom line here.

In the beginning, everybody was for this war. The vast majority supported it in polls. The vast majority wanted to get rid of Hussein. They wanted to try to create some democracy in the Middle East.

But they didn't want to get stuck there. And that's the problem. We're stuck in the mud now, spinning our wheels. And nobody has got an answer to this. If somebody had an answer to this, that would be great. But nonbinding resolutions, votes, debates, that's not going to do anything right now.

MADISON: But everybody was -- and I agree with you. And I think the only thing I wanted to add was everybody was for it for the wrong reason. And you see, that's -- that's what's really the problem here. The American people were had by the White House.

SIMONE: But if you go read that war resolution, there's pretty good reasons on there. One was liberating those 25 million people there, creating a democracy. There were other reasons on that.

MADISON: But you haven't created a democracy. You haven't liberated. You've killed more people than you've freed. And so -- and that's what the American people understand. I mean, the real reason we went there was not so much democracy, and people know that now.

We were there because supposedly, there was weapons of mass destruction. And people now know they weren't...

PILGRIM: Guys, you're debating this more than the Senate. Let me move onto another topic, OK? Because we have some good stuff.

"The Boston Globe" today reported a 77-page strategy for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. They're basically going after the two Republican front runs, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

Let me just read to you and to our viewers what this said. Now, the memo said McCain is too Washington, too close to the Democratic left. And an uncertain, erratic, unreliable leader in uncertain times. This is not a fan letter.

Giuliani, it says, he's too liberal. And if he's the nominee, he could destroy the GOP brand. The memo alludes to Giuliani's three marriages as his personal politics liabilities.

And the memo also refers to Hillary Clinton. And it says, Hillary equals France. A little enigmatic to me. But maybe it made sense to them.

Anyway, what's your reaction, Peter?

BOYLES: Well, first of all, I think Romney is facing what John Kennedy faced. And it's interesting they're discussing going to George 41's library in Houston where Jack Kennedy spoke in 1960 about his Catholicism.

The other part of that is I suspect if we were able to see inside of everyone's campaigns, we'd see similar kinds of things. This is this guy. This is that guy. But I love the line, Hillary Clinton is France. That's classic.

SIMONE: Well, I can explain what that means.

PILGRIM: OK, Mark. Go ahead.

SIMONE: Her health care proposal seemed to be a little bit of socialism to everybody. And they thought it was kind of what the French government would impose on somebody.


PILGRIM: Joe, go ahead.

MADISON: Once again, you know, he's got to -- he's going to end up just like Jimmy Carter ended up, just like Clinton ended up, and every other governor who became president, they always run on they're not Washington. And it takes two weeks before they are Washington, once they get here.

PILGRIM: All right.

BOYLES: I think the jab on Mrs. Clinton, my father always had a great line. The French had the flags of every nation in their basement, depending on who was marching down the street. And I think they're watching Mrs. Clinton go from side by side. And she was for the war. Now, she's against the war. And I think maybe that's what the Romney people were talking about.

SIMONE: They all have the flip-flop problem, you know.

BOYLES: They do.

SIMONE: First thing you always here on Romney is the problem is he's Mormon. But Harry Reid is a Mormon. I've never heard anybody worry about that. BOYLES: You know, exactly. And it's trying to do what John Kennedy inevitably had to do in 1960. I believe he did it. And he did it in Houston. That speech he made was in Houston, as well.

MADISON: And I don't want to hear what the other folks aren't. I want to hear what you are.

BOYLES: Thank you.

PILGRIM: OK. Fair enough. Let's move on to another personality in this whole issue, Hollywood and Al Gore. They just loved each other. And it was a very, very interesting night.

But today, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research says that Gore's own home uses 20 times the national average for power. This is after collecting an Oscar for his global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth".

MADISON: Yes, and I drove over here in an Escalade that you guys had pick me up.

And you know, somebody said, well, he's flip-flopping, because he's now going to put solar panels on. Well, this is a good flip- flop. I'm glad he's going to do that.

But come on, we can all be hypocrites, too. It wasn't my Escalade, by the way.

BOYLES: But you remember -- you remember, during the big debates on civil rights and the debates on bussing. And then they found that most of these people who are voting on bussing, oh, yes, they have their children in private schools. And hypocrisy, in politicians, well, there's something brand new.

SIMONE: Here's the new term. This is what our listeners are calling it. Gulf Stream liberals. You have limousine liberals. These guys that fly around in private jets and preach that you shouldn't waste gas are Gulf Stream liberals.

You know what's interesting, the president of the United States put in solar power, thermal heating in the White House a few years ago. His ranch in Texas, completely green. Solar power, thermal heating. That truck he drives around in is hydrogen, and he never -- he never gets any credit for that.

MADISON: Well, let's give Gore credit, because at least he said, "I'll change it. I will put solar power." And I think give him credit for -- well, fine, but you know, Bush got caught and is still in Iraq.

SIMONE: Well, next year, I want to see all those people at the Academy Awards, all those stars show up in a bus instead of all those limousines.

PILGRIM: Yes, that would be very -- that would be even more entertaining. All right. Mike Simone, Peter Boyles, Jim Madison, thank you very much.

MADISON: Thank you.

PILGRIM: Still ahead, the results of tonight's poll, more of your thoughts. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: Now, the results of tonight's poll: 98 percent of you say immigration raids on businesses that hire illegal aliens are an important component of U.S. immigration law enforcement.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Joey in Texas: "The United States has been bowing to Mexico and letting them get away with too much for too long. George Bush claims to be the president of the U.S., but he seems to be more concerned about Mexico's interests than this country, especially with the Ramos and Compean situation."

Tim in Indiana: "The hypocrisy of the Mexican government is no more hypocritical than our own government, which has allowed two Border Patrol agents to go to prison for defending our border against Mexican drug smugglers."

And Mike in Texas: "I think it's an outrage that the Border Patrol agents were even charged, let alone given a trial without all the facts being disclosed. Our president has sworn to protect us, yet he continues to support an open border."

And Walt in Nevada: "It appears to me our attorney general's loyalty to the drug smugglers and the Mexican government, NOT to our border patrol agents and the citizens of the United States. Shouldn't Mr. Gonzales be required to register as an agent of a foreign country?"

And William in Illinois writes, "Where are the people that are supposed to be changing Washington? They look just the ones we just threw out."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts, Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow.

For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York, and "The Situation Room" starts right now with John King -- John.


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