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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
President Bush Urges Patience in Iraq; Supreme Court Addresses Public School Free Speech Case; Another Case of Border Injustice?
Aired March 19, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Another law enforcement officer working to secure our borders is sentenced to prison for simply doing his job.
The trial in -- against Hazleton, Pennsylvania's efforts to curb illegal immigration. The town is being sued by well-funded national illegal alien advocacy groups. We will have the very latest from the courthouse.
And a high school student suspended for displaying a banner with a pro-drug message -- the case has gone to the Supreme Court, free speech rights for students against how far schools can go to protect students from pro-drug rhetoric -- all that and much more straight ahead.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate, and opinion, for Monday, March 19.
Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.
PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody.
President Bush today calling for patience, saying success in Iraq is still possible and that leaving Iraq too soon would be devastating.
And, on this fourth anniversary of the war, sectarian violence in Iraq continues to take a deadly toll. The Justice Department this evening will deliver documents to Congress. They're expecting to provide details of the role agency officials and the White House may have played in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.
Suzanne Malveaux reports on the administration's seeming changing position on what constitutes success in Iraq. Michael Ware reports on the latest violence in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. And Kelli Arena reports on the Justice Department's attempt to provide more details to Congress on who had a hand in U.S. attorney firings.
We turn to Suzanne Malveaux first -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kitty, what you are seeing and what you are hearing from this White House is really moving the goalposts. They are defining the mission, as well as success, in a way that is achievable.
Remember, it was four years ago we heard President Bush in May talk about that major combat operations in Iraq are over, that in front of this "Mission Accomplished" banner. And then it morphed into something else. It was kind of this stay-the-course message.
And, then, last October, he was saying, we are absolutely winning.
But, when you listen to what the president said today, he said, specifically, the war can be won. Ultimately, this is a White House that is changing the very definition of what success is. At the same time, it is trying to buy more time to make it work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to stress that this operation is still in the early stages; still in the beginning stages. Fewer than half of the troop reinforcements we are sending have arrived in Baghdad.
The new strategy will need more time to take effect. And there will be good days and there will be bad days ahead as the security plan unfolds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And, Kitty, today, President Bush was trying to show to the American people that he is on top of this, holding a secure video teleconference call with the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al- Maliki, as well as the secretaries of defense, state, General Petraeus.
But the big question here, Kitty, that still exists some four years later is whether or not the Iraqis are going to be able to rise to the occasion and take over their security, and ultimately achieve that political solution that so many people are talking about, bringing together the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux.
In Iraq today, bombs rocked Baghdad and Kirkuk, killing more than two dozen people -- now, the attacks highlighting the difficulties faced by U.S. and Iraqi forces in their efforts to curb the violence.
Michael Ware joins me with more from Baghdad.
Michael, even with the bombings today, though, Baghdad has been fairly quiet since the troop increase, correct?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not entirely.
It's seen the battle in the capital Baghdad change and mutate, as we have done many times before in many places around this country during this war.
What U.S. commanders are saying is that there has been an ebb in sectarian violence, albeit there was a spike just last week. They're still urging caution. Now, one of the primary reasons why there's less sectarian killings is because U.S. troops are actually living and staying with many of the Iraqi forces who make up the death squads. So, the death squads and their facilitators are basically being baby-sat by American troops and kept in their barracks or their positions at night. So, we're also seeing a displacement. We're seeing leaders and fighting from the militias and the insurgents moving outside of the capital.
They're either lying back, waiting to see how the Americans react, or they have taken the fight elsewhere, like Diyala Province, just north of the capital, where violence has spiked so much, commander General Petraeus has had to send an extra battalion of Strykers just to shore up the defenses -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: I think, the American public, really, the big question in their mind is, how much of this recent violence is directed towards the U.S. troops? How much of it is sectarian?
Is it possible to know?
WARE: Well, yes, it is possible to know.
I mean, what we're seeing is, on the latest figures that have been given to Congress, which, you know, are now a few weeks old, is that American troops are still being attacked -- or coalition troops are still being attacked, on average, about 148 times a day. That's more than 2.5 times the rate they were being attacked every day two years ago.
At the same time, you're having death squads hauling people off and just executing them. So, there's many different types of violence here. Indeed, Kitty, there's four wars here in Iraq, the war against al Qaeda, the war against the Sunni insurgents, in which America is capitulating and cutting deals feverishly with the Baathists, the civil war, and the ongoing conflict, competition, rivalry between America and Iran for influence here in Iraq.
Indeed, the central government here is much closer to Tehran than it is to Washington. So, there's many battlefronts yet to be played out -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Michael Ware
Well, 10 more of our troops have been killed in Iraq. The soldiers and a Marine were killed as a result of enemy action in several locations. Fifty-six of our troops have been killed in Iraq this month; 3,220 troops have been killed since this war began four years ago; 24,042 of our troops have been wounded, 10,685 troops of them seriously.
Now, the president continues to ask for support for the war in Iraq, but how is the public responding?
Bill Schneider reports on what the latest polls tell us about the mood of the country.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): The war began with shock and awe. Four years later, it has spawned anger and division.
BUSH: Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult. But it can be won. It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through.
SCHNEIDER: But the American public's support for the war has deteriorated badly, down 40 points in four years. Most of the loss occurred in the first year. Americans were shocked when, instead of being greeted as liberators, an insurgency broke out, and no weapons of mass destruction were found.
In a democracy, it's difficult to sustain a response that defies public opinion.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The public wants us out. They spoke in the last election. They're ignoring the mandate that the public gave the Congress of the United States.
SCHNEIDER: The war has provoked an unusually partisan response. In 2003, just after the initial fighting ended, the war got almost unanimous support from Republicans. But a majority of Democrats also favored the war.
Now, four years later, Democrats are nearly unanimous in their opposition to the war. But only 24 percent of Republicans oppose the war. Seventy percent of Republicans continue to support it. That is a huge partisan divide.
Bigger than Vietnam? Yes. In 1971, public opposition to the war in Vietnam was about the same as it is now to the war in Iraq. Even though Republican Richard Nixon was president, there was virtually no difference between Democrats and Republicans. Both opposed the war in Vietnam, which had started under a Democratic president.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): The war divided the country, but the division was not primarily partisan. There were plenty of pro-war Democrats and anti-war Republicans in those days. Not now -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Bill Schneider reporting.
A new poll taken in Iraq shows the nation gripped by fear and distress. Now, the poll, by "USA Today" and ABC News, shows that Iraq's optimism has dropped sharply over the past two years.
The number of Iraqis who say their life is going well went from 71 percent in 2005 to 39 percent now. Only 18 percent have confidence in the U.S. and coalition troops. And just 42 percent said life in Iraq is better now than it was under Saddam Hussein.
The White House and Justice Department tonight feeling pressure from Congress over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys -- Senator Patrick Leahy today renewed his call for administration officials to testify under oath. And the Department of Justice is expected to turn over documents relating to the firings to Congress shortly.
Our Kelli Arena has been following the story for us.
Kelli, we're expecting more documents from Justice. What's the very latest on that?
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest guidance from the Department of Justice is that those documents will be heading over in boxes to Capitol Hill within the hour.
Now, we're expecting as many as 2,000 documents could be released tonight, Kitty. And they could well determine the fate of this attorney general. They have been described as e-mails and other internal memos, which should provide additional insight into the decision to dismiss those U.S. attorneys. And, with any luck, Kitty, we will finally get some answers.
PILGRIM: (AUDIO GAP) White House and Congress about whether top administration officials will testify at a Judiciary Committee hearing.
ARENA: Well, we expect an answer this week on that issue from the White House -- the two key people, of course, that they're looking at, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, the former White House counsel Harriet Miers.
Now, Democratic lawmakers want them to testify under oath, a very important distinction -- Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy making that as clear as possible.
Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We don't need another: "We will come up to the Hill. We will brief you on this. Let's have a quiet little briefing, and we will tell you what's going on," and then we pick up the paper two days later and find out what they left out.
Well, I want a briefing all right, Mr. President. I want a briefing where they stand before us, raise their right hand, and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARENA: Now, here's the catch, Kitty.
Historically, people who provide advice to the president don't usually testify under oath. That falls under executive privilege. And, so, there are negotiations under way.
Fred Fielding, who is the current White House counsel, is the lead on those talks. But we're not getting much from the White House on exactly where those negotiations stand.
Here's what White House spokesman Tony Snow had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What Fred Fielding will be doing is going up to the Hill, and, in a spirit of cooperation, trying to work with members to come up with a way of getting them the information they need, as we have said a number of times now, in a manner consistent with presidential prerogatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARENA: So, the next question is, will we see subpoenas? Well, the Senate panel says that it will vote Thursday on whether to authorize subpoenas. The House could vote even sooner.
And, then, Kitty, of course, there's the whole general issue of whether the attorney general should keep his job. Well, there was a very interesting exchange with reporters today. First, Tony Snow said that the White House hopes that Alberto Gonzales stays on as attorney general, which was seen as a rather tepid endorsement. And, then, later, Snow said that Gonzales had the full confidence of the White House.
So, this all continues. It doesn't get any easier for anybody to follow.
ARENA: But we will see what happens tonight.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Kelli Arena.
Coming up, Congressman Paul Gillmor will be here. He's one of the few Republicans calling for Attorney General Gonzales to resign.
And are our armed forces stretched too thin to respond to an emergency in a military situation? We will have a special report.
And the Supreme Court will decide how far a school can go to prevent pro-drug messages from being spread by students. We will have that story and much more.
Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Tonight: a special report on the war within, a look at this country's struggle with alcohol and drug addiction.
And, today, the U.S. Supreme Court listened to arguments between those fighting the drug epidemic in our nation's schools vs. advocates of free speech.
Lisa Sylvester reports.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dozen of students lined up outside the U.S. Supreme Court, as the U.S. justices weighed, how far does free speech extend in public schools?
Kenneth Starr represents school officials in Juneau, Alaska.
KENNETH STARR, FORMER SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Schools are not public streets and the like. Schools are special places, where the schools have a special responsibility for these young people.
SYLVESTER: In 2002, the Olympic torch passed through the streets of Juneau. Student Joseph Frederick unfurled this banner, "Bong Hits For Jesus." The principal tore down the banner and suspended Frederick for 10 days for violating the school's policy on promotion of illegal drugs.
His lawyer says the school overreached.
DOUGLAS MERTZ, ATTORNEY FOR JOSEPH FREDERICK: What it means is that individual school officials or school boards could suppress, could punish viewpoints by students that were contrary to what that official or that school board believed was the case.
SYLVESTER: The justices questioned, where does the classroom begin and end? Frederick was actually just off campus at the time. But it was a school-sanctioned event during school hours.
U.S. former drug czar General Barry McCaffrey says, with drug use now an epidemic on campuses, educators need the authority to protect the learning environment.
GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), FORMER U.S. DRUG CZAR: We have a huge responsibility to create in our school systems not just an sphere in which learning can take place, but in which we also form character and values.
SYLVESTER: Justice Samuel Alito expressed skepticism, saying, "Schools have and they can define their educational mission so broadly that they can suppress all sorts of political speech."
But the majority of the Supreme Court appeared to side with the school board -- Justice Anthony Kennedy Saying of Frederick's off- colored banner, "It was completely disruptive of the message of the theme that the school wanted to promote."
SYLVESTER: The U.S. Supreme Court, in a famous 1969 case involving students protesting the Vietnam War, ruled that students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. But, in later rulings, the high court acknowledged some limits to a right of free speech in public schools. And, Kitty, this case will likely be decided in late June -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester.
Well, CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is here with us with the analysis of this very important case.
Jeffrey, thanks for being here.
You know, stops at the schoolhouse gates, but this wasn't on school property, correct?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
PILGRIM: How -- how does that factor in?
TOOBIN: That makes -- that is one of the many interesting quirks about this case, that, yes, it is true that the school has the right to restrict speech in a way that any other employer couldn't. I mean, children have different and lesser rights than adults.
But does that even extend to a sign that they display out on the street? Because that's where this was. And the school responds, well, yes it was out on the streets, but it was a school-sanctioned event. Everybody went out to look at the Olympic torch being passed. So, it was sort of like being in school.
But, again, if the school board wins, it will restrict students' speech even more than if the case had just been about what goes on in school.
PILGRIM: How important is this case? I mean, after all, every school struggles with the sort of senior class jokesters who try to push the limits.
Every great Supreme Court case involves conflicting legitimate claims. I mean, here, it is obviously a legitimate thing for schools to want to discourage drug use. But, you know, students have to be taught that they have the right to express themselves.
The problem here is, they -- he expressed himself on a subject that the school very much has the right to regulate, which is messages about drugs. The famous Tinker case that Lisa mentioned from 1969 referred to a black armband, which is much less disruptive, and involves a subject -- it was the Vietnam War -- that the schools would probably not want to -- it's harder to justify why they would want to regulate that message.
But, you know, it's a tough case.
PILGRIM: I have to say, it's very interesting, because any parent -- parent in this country is probably very interested in the outcome of this case. Let me move on to something else, the Gonzales issue -- new documents coming out from the Justice Department. What can we expect on that?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, just -- just as an example of how much chaos there's been in the administration on this, they announced last Friday that the documents would be delivered by the close of business today.
You know, Kelli -- Kelli Arena just reports, we think maybe we will get them in an hour or so. And, you know, here it is 6:20 on the East Coast.
It just shows how much they're scrambling. And, every time they have released new documents, their stories have changed. You know, first, this whole thing was no big deal. Then, the documents said, oh, well, it's all Harriet Miers' idea. Then new documents said, well, it was actually Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales involved in the decision.
You know, if there are 2,000 pages, it's going to be a lot to go through. And it's hard to imagine it's going to simplify the White House task.
PILGRIM: And these might be e-mails? We have been looking at some e-mails.
TOOBIN: The past have been e-mails. These are going to be e- mails. They're going to be memos.
You know, what is interesting is that this White House has no experience with congressional oversight over the past six years. You know, the Clinton administration did this over and over again, because they had a hostile Congress.
This administration has had a docile Congress for six years, and now they're starting to learn what it's like to have some oversight. And it's been a pretty rocky on-the-job training for them.
PILGRIM: It will be an interesting week for Gonzales, also.
Thanks very much, Jeff Toobin.
TOOBIN: And perhaps the last.
PILGRIM: That's right.
All right, still ahead: more on the case of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. We will talk with one Republican calling for his resignation.
Also, four years into the war with Iraq, our troops are tired. Their equipment is worn. And critics say the U.S. military is stretched too thin. That leaves America very vulnerable.
And another case of border injustice -- another U.S. law enforcement agent is punished for simply doing his job. We will have a special report.
PILGRIM: A confession from the mastermind behind the blowing up of the USS Cole almost seven years ago -- Pentagon officials say Waleed Mohammed Bin Attash is a suspected member of al Qaeda and admitted to planning the attacks during a hearing at Guantanamo Bay.
Now, Bin Attash also said he helped organize the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. More than 200 people were killed in those attacks.
Well, with the U.S. fighting wars both in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military is finally admitting what many have feared for some time. Military and government officials say ground forces may be stretched too thin to handle conflicts elsewhere in the world.
Barbara Starr has more.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After four years in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, troops are exhausted, and much of the equipment is worn out or even destroyed. So, now, if war broke out on a third front, could the U.S. win?
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says, absolutely, yes. But:
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We night not be able too respond according to the timelines we would wish.
STARR: General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, secretly upgraded to significant the risk of being able to be respond to a new threat. He said, any new fight would require what he called brute force.
GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: You need precision intelligence to drop precision munitions. And a lot of our precision intelligence assets are currently being used.
STARR: The chief of the Army worries, the troops back home aren't really ready.
GENERAL PETER SCHOOMAKER, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I am not satisfied with the readiness of our nondeployed forces.
STARR: Today, nearly half of the Army's combat brigades are already tied up fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Army wants billions of dollars for the 18,000 additional improved armored vehicles urgently needed in Iraq.
The Marine Corps commandant also is concerned. GENERAL JAMES CONWAY, U.S. MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT: Suffice it to say that we have examined other war plans and our capability to respond to those plans. And we see that we are lacking in some areas with our ability to do so.
STARR: There is also the worry of the human toll.
BRIGADIER GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: And it's easy to quantify the strains on the equipment, because you can measure it. You can touch it. You can feel it. You can tell if it's broke. The very difficult thing to assess is the readiness of the individual soldier and Marine that have sacrificed so greatly, and the stresses on their families.
STARR: Kitty, the top military brass says they could and would win if any third conflict broke out, but, clearly, it would be messy -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Barbara Starr.
Coming up: town officials on the stand today in the trial against Hazleton's efforts to bring illegal immigration under control. We will have a live report from the courthouse.
And another case of border injustice -- a Texas deputy sheriff is sentenced to prison for simply doing his job -- that special report, much more, coming up next.
Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Tonight, a new case of outrageous border injustice -- two of our Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, are already serving lengthy prison terms for shooting and wounding an illegal alien Mexican drug smuggler in Texas.
Well, today, the same prosecutor who went after Ramos and Compean is responsible for sending another law enforcement officer to prison.
As Casey Wian reports, the case raises questions about the Bush administration's apparent efforts to appease the Mexican government.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Edwards County Texas sheriff's deputy Gilmer Hernandez was just doing his job that day in April 2005, when he attempted to pull over a Suburban loaded with suspected illegal aliens.
CHIEF DEPUTY JAY ADAMS, EDWARDS COUNTY, TEXAS, SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Gilmer approached the car that run the stop sign. They stopped approximately half a mile after he turned his emergency lights on. He walked up to the driver's window and asked for the license. And the driver immediately put the car in gear and swerved toward him, taking off. Gilmer pulled his pistol and fired at the left rear tire, blowing it out. And they kept on going, and he attempted to shoot out the right rear tire.
WIAN: One of the shots slightly injured a passenger. The other occupants fled. The Texas Rangers investigated the shooting and cleared the deputy of wrongdoing. Even so, Gilmer Hernandez, not the illegal aliens or their smugglers, is now the one incarcerated.
He was convicted of violating the illegal aliens' civil rights and sentenced to a year and a day in prison.
ADAMS: I believe that Gilmer was unfairly prosecuted. If a police officer can't protect the people that he's assigned to protect and serve, who's going to protect him?
WIAN: It's a painful separation from his wife and 7-month-old daughter.
ASHLEY HERNANDEZ, GILMER'S WIFE: He knows he did what was right, and everybody's supporting him and that keeps him going.
ROY COTTLE, LONGTIME FRIEND OF GILMER: This is a small town. We all know everybody. We know their whole life history. If Gilmer Hernandez wasn't a good person, this whole town wouldn't be behind him, but we are 100 percent.
WIAN: Hernandez was prosecuted by Texas U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton's office after the Mexican government intervened in the case. Sutton also pursued criminal charges against Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean for shooting and wounding an illegal alien Mexican drug smuggler.
REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: They were similar in that the Mexican government demanded prosecution. Our federal government quickly reacted to prosecute in both cases. And in both of the cases, when the border agents and Gilmer Hernandez discharged their weapons, they were acting in self-defense, but yet, the federal government felt otherwise and prosecuted them for really doing what I think was their job.
WIAN: Poe and other supporters want a congressional investigation into how the Mexican government may have influenced both prosecutions. Hernandez could have received a decade in prison.
However, with time served and good behavior, he will serve most of the rest of his sentence in a halfway house and be home with his family in about six months.
PILGRIM: Casey, what was Johnny Sutton's reaction to the prosecution of this case? WIAN: He defended the prosecution of this case. He says that this sheriff's deputy broke the law by shooting at suspects who were fleeing. But what's interesting is that the sentence handed down by the judge, one year and a day, was far short of the seven-year sentence that federal prosecutors had asked for, Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Casey Wian.
Well, that brings us to the subject of tonight's poll. Do you believe the Mexican government is influencing the cases being brought against U.S. law enforcement agents? Cast your vote at Lou Dobbs.com. We'll bring you the results later in the broadcast.
Now, the attorney for Gilmer Hernandez has more on this case of border injustice. Jimmy Parks joins me now from San Antonio.
And thanks for being with us, sir.
JIMMY PARKS JR., ATTORNEY FOR GILMER HERNANDEZ: Thank you, Kitty.
PILGRIM: You know, 12 months and a day, most of it now being served in a halfway house. But what's your reaction to the sentence?
PARKS: Well, actually, I'm relieved. You know, we were so concerned that he might get anywhere from seven to 10 years that one year and a day is a relief. And I'm very pleased with that. I'm excited. I may even celebrate this evening at such a short sentence.
But also, Kitty, who will be celebrating tonight will be smugglers and criminals everywhere. They'll know that one more dedicated law enforcement officer who -- who protected our borders, who protected our major cities from smugglers from Mexico and Central America, is now in prison and behind bars.
PILGRIM: Let's delve into the case a bit. We had the sheriff of Edwards County, Texas, Don Letsinger. He wrote a letter to the judge, and it's a pretty heartfelt letter. Let's read a little bit of it for our viewers.
He says, "I cannot begin to explain to anyone my dismay when I was informed of the guilty verdict handed down. I assure you that I become truly ill. I could have not been any more upset if the verdict had been passed on my own son."
And he went on to write in this very same letter, "No many should stand for judgment based on prosecution courtroom antics in the name of advocacy based on false statements and implied evidence."
There were a lot of inconsistencies in the prosecution of this case, were there not?
PARKS: Yes, there were, Kitty. And it was a prosecution that I just believe never should have been brought. Gilmer Hernandez was doing his job. What homeland security does to these young guys down on the border is it gives them a heightened sense of responsibility. It tells them about dangerous individuals who will be crossing the border, like the MS-13 gang and possible terrorists.
And when you put that kind of responsibility on them, when you make them the bellwether, the first line of defense for our border to turn back around, anytime they react and attempt to do what they think is right to protect us, and then to prosecute them sends a message to the individuals in law enforcement on the border that they'd better not react and that they'd better be overly cautious and they'd better err on the side of caution.
And it tells smugglers that if you don't want to stop, you can just run from them, that the red lights don't mean pull over and stop. They mean pull over and stop if you want to. If not, I'm just going to let you go.
PILGRIM: You know, and there's a deeper issue here that I'd like to get into. Congressman Ted Poe, he's appeared on this broadcast in support of the Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean.
He voices support for Deputy Hernandez, and in a statement he made to Congress, he also noted that the Texas Rangers did a thorough investigation and cleared Hernandez of any wrongdoing.
And he went on to say something that's very intriguing. "The Mexican government arrogantly demands the federal government prosecute Hernandez for using his gun, as the feds do exactly that. Our government ought to support the border protectors like Hernandez and prosecute the border violators."
What do you believe about the involvement of the Mexican government in this case?
PARKS: Well, I was aware of the involvement of the Mexican government, Kitty, and it disturbs me. And it would for any attorney who represents a citizen accused, to think that you've got that added pressure of a prosecutor reviewing the case and investigating you. And on top of that, he has a concern about how your government will react to a foreign government who demands a prosecution.
I know that those people at the Mexican consulate don't know what happened. I know that they just reacted. And I know that they just demanded a prosecution in a case where they were unaware of the facts. I think that's unfair.
And I think it's wrong for them to do that, and I think it puts added pressure on our Justice Department here to bring those charges to apiece them.
PILGRIM: You know, Congress is taking this up. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has asked for congressional hearings on the issue. And representative Bill Delahunt, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, he announced yesterday that he's granted hearings which are supposed to be held in May about the involvement of the Mexican government in these sorts of issues.
Are you -- how do you feel about that?
PARKS: I praise them, Kitty. I praise him for looking into this, for individuals that have the courage to get involved, to get into the middle of this and find out what's going on on our borders. Because if we don't find out now, we may pay the price later.
If we can't get good dedicated individuals to protect our borders, then we the people, we the citizens are in danger. We need to -- we need to support them. We need to help them. We need to assist them and make them more proficient and make them better law enforcement officers, rather than attacking them, second-guessing them and using 20/20 hindsight to prosecute them for their decisions.
PILGRIM: After being through this case at length, can you see any legislation that might be suggested by this?
PARKS: Oh, I could suggest the legislation. I'd like to do that myself. And I would hope that they would. I would hope that they would let the individuals down on the border have some input, because those are the guys that are on the frontline.
Let them tell you what needs to be done. Let them give you input on what kind of legislation maybe needs to be promulgated. And I think if we get something done, than we can feel safer as citizens of this country.
PILGRIM: Jimmy Parks Jr., thank you very much for appearing on the broadcast tonight. Thank you, sir.
PARKS: Thank you, Kitty.
PILGRIM: New developments in the case of Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. Now, they're serving lengthy prison sentences for wounding a Mexican drug smuggler who was given immunity in exchange for his testimony.
A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold hearings on this case, and those hearings are expected to begin in May. And the legislation proposed by Congressman Duncan Hunter, calling for a pardon of the two men, now has 93 cosponsors and 89 Republicans, four Democrats.
Still ahead, the latest on a bipartisan push in Congress to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.
And a town under siege. One Pennsylvania town defends its crackdown on illegal aliens in federal court.
And more and more members of Congress want Alberto Gonzales fired. We'll talk to one Republican who is calling for his resignation.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PILGRIM: The trial against Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is now in its second week. Now, today, local law enforcement officials testified on the impact illegal immigration is having on the community.
Bill Tucker is covering the trial, and he joins us now from Scranton with the very latest -- Bill.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, a lot of the justification that Hazleton officials have given for passing the local ordinances aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration have to do with what they've been calling a rise, a startling rise in crime committed by illegal aliens in the community.
Well, today on the stand, the plaintiffs worked hard at discrediting that information.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM FIDDLER, PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY: We received documents on those issues, and we went over them with the police chief, and I think they show that out of the 30 reports that they produced to us, there were only 20 incidences in which -- since 2001 in which individuals were -- who committed the crimes were alleged to have been illegals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: Now, the mayor responds they haven't been collecting these statistics for the last -- except for like maybe the last two years. And the mayor notes that arrests of illegals, involving illegals, has gone from five in 2005 to 19 last year.
And the mayor asked the question, how much is enough?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LOU BARLETTA, HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: I don't know how many crimes the plaintiffs need until finally a city says we had enough. You know, there's no magic number, whether it's one murder, two murders, what kind of gun was shot on the playground. It's ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: Now, the police chief is back on the stand this -- tomorrow morning, Kitty. He ended the day under cross-examination. That will continue. It should be another very interesting day in court -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Bill, how is the town of Scranton reacting to this trial?
TUCKER: Well, it's been very interesting. There have been a couple of protests, a couple of demonstrations. Today we saw a demonstration across the street from the courthouse in support of the city of Hazleton. And in fact, one of the participants in the parade echoed a very famous comment by Mayor Lou Barletta. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM BOLDING, PROTESTOR: This is crazy. This is totally crazy. They say illegal. It's undocumented. It's not illegal. If it's illegal, it's illegal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: Not quite so fast, though, say the plaintiffs' attorneys. They spent most of the day this morning in court trying to deliberately blur that distinction between illegals, saying you can't quite say that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WITOLD WALCZAK, PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY: It is simplistic and wrong to say illegal is illegal. And Hazleton has really made a pretty fundamental mistake in relying on that kind of premise here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: And in fact, the plaintiffs pointed out in court today, there is no definition for what constitutes an illegal immigrant or illegal alien in federal law. And they tried to make the point that the law also doesn't define what unlawful presence in the country means, as well.
So it's a very interesting morning in court this morning. You kind of left for lunch wondering, what's the point of the law and enforcing it at all -- Kitty?
PILGRIM: Yes, it's pretty enigmatic. Thanks very much, Bill Tucker.
In California, Mission Viejo could join the list of local governments cracking down on the hiring of illegal aliens. The city council is expected to approve an ordinance tonight requiring city contractors to check workers' immigration status.
Beginning in July, companies who hire illegal aliens will lose their city contracts.
And in Payson, Arizona, late last week passed a similar ordinance. Business owners hiring illegal workers face fines of 20,000, and they will also lose their license to operate. Landlords also face fines if they rent to illegal aliens.
About 80 local governments around the country have or are proposing similar ordinances.
Senator Ted Kennedy continues to push his amnesty and citizenship bill, and today, blasting immigration officials' use of force during the raids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There are ways that we can and should and need to enforce our laws, but the heavy handedness of the immigration service in the raids that they use, I think are completely unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: In the meantime, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell wants Republicans to unify behind a bipartisan bill as a solution to illegal immigration.
This weekend, Senator McConnell told the "Washington Times", quote, "There's a pretty broad desire to have an accomplishment, to do something, even among members who voted against final passage last year. There is still a lot of sentiment that a comprehensive bill would be the right thing to do."
Now, there is still no date for a vote on Kennedy's amnesty agenda, and Kennedy says he hopes it will reach the Senate floor sometime in may or June.
A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. Do you believe the Mexican government is influencing cases being brought against U.S. law enforcement agents? Yes or no. Cast your vote at Lou Dobbs.com, and we'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.
And coming up, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales under fire. The pressure keeps mounting for him to resign. It's not just Democrats. We'll talk to the latest Republican lawmaker who says Gonzales should quit.
PILGRIM: The fallout continues over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Now, another Republican is calling for U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' resignation.
Congressman Paul Gillmor of Ohio is one of a handful of GOP members saying Gonzales should quit. And he joins us now from Capitol Hill.
Congressman Gillmor, thanks for joining us.
REP. PAUL GILLMOR (R), OHIO: Thank you.
PILGRIM: You have said you would like Gonzales to resign. Would you go further and ask for the president to fire him?
GILLMOR: I think that's the president's decision. What I've said is I think the president would be well served and the department would be well served if the attorney general did step aside. I think you have to have a certain degree of confidence, the general public, in the operation of the Justice Department. And there have been enough problems there, but I think it would be better for him to step aside. PILGRIM: The White House press secretary, Tony Snow, said the president hopes that Attorney General Gonzales will stay to the end of his term. And he also said that Gonzales has the confidence of the president. Some feel that is -- there's some daylight between those two statements.
Let's listen to what Tony Snow also said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Department of Justice has said that it will supply materials and also witnesses for House and Senate committees. They have been very forthcoming. It has been our hope that members are going to behave responsibly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Would you agree that the Justice Department has been forthcoming?
GILLMOR: Well, I think there have been some mixed signals from the Justice Department. Hopefully at this point, they've got their act together and will be forthcoming.
In terms of who's actually going to testify, I don't know if that's resolved. You do have a serious issue of executive privilege, and you also have a kind of unseemly atmosphere about this. It's -- it looks like partisan politics in full gallop. And I'm concerned that we have confidence in the Justice Department, not who's scoring political points.
PILGRIM: Partisan politics at full gallop. And yet, is there a bigger, a broader issue here?
GILLMOR: Well, I think the issue is how the department operates. I think there have been some very serious mistakes made. The national security letters flap, to me, was probably more important in the big picture than the removal of some U.S. attorneys, which is hardly an unprecedented action.
PILGRIM: You know, you've actually been quoted as saying you see a pattern of things at the Justice Department. Would you support legislation that would modify the Patriot Act at this point?
GILLMOR: Well, I think I would -- I would support one of two things on the national security letters. Either modifying the act or getting some real assurance that the act is going to be followed.
It's -- and it's a basic premise of whenever you give government powers, especially broad powers, at some point, they're going to be abused.
PILGRIM: The White House denies that the attorneys were fired for political reasons. The e-mails, though, between the Justice Department and the White House may suggest something different.
What do you think should be done if the attorneys were not fired on job performance but for political reasons?
GILLMOR: Well, you know, there's -- you don't have to be fired on job performance.
I think it would be wrong for any administration to tell a U.S. attorney that they have to prosecute somebody or not prosecute them. But I think it is appropriate for any president to give some direction to the U.S. attorneys as to the type of issue that they want covered.
And that's a different thing than job performance. You could remove attorneys for not having the right priorities, as opposed to for bad job performance.
PILGRIM: Let's go to what might happen. Senator Patrick Leahy is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's calling on the White House political advisor, Karl Rove, and White House counsel Harriet Miers to testify publicly under oath.
Let's listen to what he said earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), CHAIR, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I've reached a point where I'm not here to negotiate. I want the answers. They can either supply the answers voluntarily or we'll subpoena them. It's as simple as that.
The American people deserve accountability. They know that the story changes every single day when you pick up the paper from the White House. They deserve accountability. We will get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Are we at the point, sir, where you would support subpoenas?
GILLMOR: I don't -- I don't think I am, because the point here is to get the information. I think what the senator wants is to have a kind of media circus. And I think we have to consider the issue of executive privilege, whether it applies in this case.
Any president, Republican or Democrat, has to have some confidence that the few people around him, closest, can give him advice without concerned about him testifying.
And I guess one question for Senator Leahy is whether we would be following these same actions if we had a Democratic president.
And another thing, frankly that bothers me in terms of the appearance of propriety is one of the leaders in this effort is the chairman of the Democrat campaign committee.
PILGRIM: It is, as you say, a difficult issue, a very big issue, but one of great importance, and we will follow it very closely this week. It will be an eventful week.
Thank you very much for joining us on the program to discuss it, Paul Gillmor.
GILLMOR: Thank you.
PILGRIM: Coming up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Kitty. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sounding some new alarm bells over a potential Iranian missile threat. We're going to show you why she now says the U.S. must act and act soon.
Also, the Justice Department releasing thousands of new documents tonight about the controversial firing of those eight U.S. attorneys. Presidential advisor Karl Rove already linked to the scandal. Will he come out unscathed?
Plus, an Iraqi who took part in an iconic moment in his country's history. We're going to find out tonight why he now says he regrets taking down Saddam Hussein's statue.
And new information emerging tonight about the recalled pet food already linked to almost a dozen animal deaths.
All that, Kitty, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".
PILGRIM: Thanks, Wolf.
Still ahead, the results of tonight's poll and some of your thoughts. So stay with us.
PILGRIM: Now the results of tonight's poll. Ninety-eight percent of you believe the Mexican government is influencing the cases being brought against U.S. law enforcement agents.
Time now for some of your thoughts. And we have our e-mail from Patrick in Delaware: "The war on drugs is a joke in the USA. The Justice Department doesn't even bother to prosecute Mexican dug dealers with less than a quarter of a ton of marijuana. If Johnny Sutton would stop prosecuting the good guys, they may have time to prosecute the bad guys."
Dave in Massachusetts: "With the recent purge of U.S. attorneys under questionable, at best, circumstances how did Johnny Sutton escape the cutting crew?"
And Tamara in Utah, "We don't need immigration reform. What we need is immigration enforcement of the laws that already exist. The only thing broken is the government's will to enforce the law!"
Laura in South Carolina: "We should let the ACLU enforce the border and bill them deportation costs each time an illegal alien arrives or doesn't leave."
And Margaret in Maryland wrote to us, "Not only should Gonzales be fired for the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys, he should have been fired for the mockery he has made of the criminal justice department."
We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com.
Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow. Former senator and current presidential candidate Mike Gravel will be among our guests.
For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Kitty.
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