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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Gunman at Johnson Space Center; Iraq: Lost War?; New Calls for Gonzales' Resignation; Two Die in NASA Standoff
Aired April 20, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, a standoff between police and a gunman at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We'll have the very latest for you as we continue to follow this breaking news story.
Also tonight, Senator Harry Reid, he is insisting that the war in Iraq has been lost. The White House says he's wrong.
We'll have complete coverage from Washington and Baghdad.
More Republicans calling for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Can Gonzales resist this increasing pressure to quit his job?
We'll have a special report. We'll be joined by three of the country's best political analysts and strategists.
And today a national day of remembrance for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting rampage. Church services, candlelight vigils from coast to coast.
We'll have a live report tonight from Virginia Tech.
All of the day's news, much more, and our continuing coverage of the standoff at Johnson Space Center, all of that straight ahead here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday, April 20th.
Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
A gunman tonight is barricaded in building 44 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. There are reports that two shots have been fired. Security officials at the NASA space center have evacuated the building. Police and NASA officials do not know whether anyone other than the gunman is in that building at this hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. DWAYNE READY, HOUSTON POLICE DEPT.: What we believe at this point is that we have one suspect, a white male, approximately 50 to 60 years old, with one weapon. That being a handgun. And I cannot confirm for you whether that's a revolver or a semi-automatic, or what caliber at this time. But our SWAT team members are here, their negotiators are here. We do not know if there's another person inside with this suspect. And I cannot confirm whether or not we've established communication because we're still in the throes of that as I speak.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: And at this hour, we do not have an identification of the -- of this person in this standoff. Again, reportedly entering the building, building 44, which is an engineering laboratory and communications laboratory primarily used by contractors and subcontractors at the Johnson Space Center.
As you can see there, an expansive, far-flung facility. One, however, that typically has very tight security. That security has, of course, been tightened since these reports of gunshots.
And we're going to turn now to NASA spokeswoman articulating just what she knows about the situation as of just a few moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EILEEN HAWLEY, NASA SPOKESWOMAN: We did initially issue a communication to our employees to let them know what was going on, on site. In the initial communication that went out, we advised them to shelter in place until we had a firm understanding of the situation.
QUESTION: How did you locate them?
HAWLEY: By e-mail. We sent e-mail out through a variety of mechanisms that we have. In addition, our human resource representatives called all of our major directorate offices to ensure that they would get the word out to their employees.
And then we sent out a second e-mail telling our employees that there was no need for them to shelter in place, that the situation was confined to this one area. And told them that they were free to go home at their normal quitting time or any time that they desired to do that.
QUESTION: What time was that?
HAWLEY: I'll have to get it for you, Mark (ph). I don't recall what time we sent that out.
HAWLEY: I haven't looked recently. They were released to go home if their vehicles were in a spot where they could get to them and not an area that's cordoned off.
QUESTION: And how many are we talking about?
HAWLEY: I don't have a count for you. I can get that for you, though.
QUESTION: Are your employees in building 44 accounted for?
HAWLEY: I don't know. I believe Captain Ready already answered that question. We don't know whether we have anyone unaccounted for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: And this video coming to you live. Our affiliate KHOU, Houston, Texas, bringing this video and these pictures of the area immediately in front of building 44, where a man who has in some reports been described as in his 50s, and also a man who is not identified certainly by name at this point, but who authorities now believe is an employee of one of the contractors there at NASA.
I'm joined now by CNN's space and technology correspondent, Miles, who spent -- Miles O'Brien, who spent a great deal of time at this -- at this facility over the course of the past number of years.
Miles, what can you tell us right now?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me just make it clear, Lou, that this, first of all, is not having any impact on the International Space Station or any space operations. As you well know, Lou, the Mission Control Center there, which is across the street in a parking lot from building 44, is perhaps the most heavily secured -- the most heavily secured building on that campus, that sprawling campus there, 25 miles south of downtown Houston. And this facility, this building 44, primarily contains offices and a few small labs which is engineering support for future missions, not at all linked in to current missions.
What I'm being told is by people who work there is that this employee is actually an employee of a contractor. And as you well know, Lou, the vast majority of people who we would call NASA employees are actually employees of Boeing or United Space Alliance, or Johnson Engineering, or any of these big contractors, especially in the manned space program that do the real hands-on work on getting these spacecraft to orbit.
And that is -- so, really, the chances are about 90 percent that it is a contractor. And I've been told that and gotten confirmation of that fact from a couple of sources.
At this point, though, you know, there's a full range of possibilities as to what this could be, up to and including hostage situation, a full-blown hostage situation. It could be somebody who was, for whatever reason, distraught and took his own life, or could have taken his life, as well as maybe another life, or caused another injury.
We don't know that just yet because last we heard from the SWAT team and the authorities was they had not established any sort of communication with him. So much -- much is cloudy at this point.
DOBBS: And Miles, if you would, stand by there with us. We're going to go to James Hartsfield, who is the NASA spokesman. He is on the phone with us and has the latest for us from Johnson Space Center.
Mr. Hartsfield, have we learned anything more either about the identity of the person with the gun, the number of shots, if there were indeed shots fired, and as to whether or not there have been any injuries?
JAMES HARTSFIELD, JOHNSON SPACE CENTER NEWS CHIEF: No. Really, we have no additional details about what was released by the police about a half hour ago at this point. The situation continues, and we have really not learned more information.
DOBBS: Do you have -- and I know this is difficult -- but do you have any idea as to whether or not all of your employees, all of the contractor employees that would typically be in building 44 have been successfully evacuated from the building?
HARTSFIELD: No, as was stated in the briefing earlier by the police, we don't have that confirmed yet. So we cannot tell you for sure one way or the other on that.
DOBBS: And Mr. Hartsfield, the early reports are that the Houston SWAT teams have taken up position and have what is described as the inner perimeter of that area of Johnson Space Center secured.
Is that accurate to the best of your knowledge?
QUESTION: How did you locate them?
HAWLEY: By e-mail. We sent e-mail out through a variety of mechanisms that we have. In addition, our human resource representatives called all of our major directorate offices to ensure that they would get the word out to their employees.
That is. That is what the police reported earlier. So -- and they are in control of the scene.
DOBBS: All right.
Well, James Hartsfield, we thank you very much.
James Hartsfield, NASA spokesman, coming to us from Johnson Space Center.
We appreciate it.
Miles, at this point, there is remarkably little information about what is actually happening there. Your thoughts at this point.
O'BRIEN: Well, I think, you know, it's a couple of things.
First of all, as you well know, Lou, you know, this particular facility, property that was owned in the 1960s by Rice University, in many respects, as you look at these aerial pictures, it looks like a college campus. Well, that's no coincidence. It was built with that in mind, that maybe one day, if Rice ever wanted to use it again as a college campus, they could do that.
So, it is a college campus, but it is not. And everybody thinking, of course, about college campuses given what we all saw unfold the first part of this week at Virginia Tech.
O'BRIEN: This facility has hazardous materials inside. It has a secure perimeter. It is a sensitive government installation.
And so, people there are much more attuned to response for emergency drills, for safety drills, and also are more linked up to their e- mail. So the response to this one and the way that NASA handles things like this, they are much more schooled in these kinds of operations, frankly, than any university is.
DOBBS: And NASA has made it very clear, again, and as you pointed out, no operation concerning the International Space Station is being jeopardized by these events that are transpiring right now at the Johnson Space Center. The idea that we still don't know how many employees were in that building and that NASA does not know, nor have they been able to secure an accurate count of employees, that leaves, obviously, a lot of unpleasant ambiguity about what is going on there right now.
O'BRIEN: Yes, it sure does. As you know, Lou, I mean, when you and I go in there, we go through a fairly strict vetting, and our ability to go walking in and out of buildings is limited. And we go with escorts.
But once you have that badge, whether it's a contractor badge or the NASA civil servants badge, that is -- that's pretty much an e-ticket for the entire complex. And so, the people who go as you know, Lou, when you and I go in there, we go through a strict vetting and our ability to walking in and out of buildings is limited. We go with escorts. But once you have that badge, whether it's a contractor badge or NASA civil servants badge, that's pretty much an eticket ride for the entire complex.
And so the people who go in and out who are employees have, you know, pretty fluid and open access. They maintain that campus atmosphere.
It's not like working at one of the national laboratories where there is layer upon layer of tremendous security and classification levels and so forth. It's a pretty open feel once you are, you know, on the -- either contractor or civil servant role there. And you have access to the run of the campus pretty much to do your business.
So it's secure on one sense. But once you get inside, it's also a pretty open place.
DOBBS: And the idea that this security of building 44 would match that of, for example, of the operations center or Mission Control, it would not be as secure as those buildings certainly.
And Miles, I appreciate your standing by. And we're going to be, obviously, covering this story as developments come in here and as developments warrant.
Miles O'Brien, our space and technology correspondent.
Miles, as always, thank you very much.
We're going to turn now to the political confrontation in Washington over the war. Republicans today blasting the Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, for his declaration that the United States has lost the war in Iraq. The White House saying that Senator Reid's assessment directly contradicts the view of military commanders in Iraq.
Andrea Koppel reports now from Capitol Hill.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Not once, but twice on the same day Democratic leader Harry Reid went farther than he'd ever gone before.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: As long as we follow the president's path in Iraq, the war is lost.
KOPPEL: A blunt assessment of the war in Iraq, which Reid likened to Vietnam. He compared President Johnson's decision to send tens of thousands of U.S. troops off to war, even though Reid said Johnson knew the war could not be won, to a similar decision made this year by President Bush and his war cabinet.
REID: Now I believe, myself, that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows, that this war is lost.
KOPPEL: It's a message Reid says he delivered in person to Mr. Bush on Wednesday, one that touched a nerve, according to a Democratic aide, who told CNN the president "visibly stiffened his back."
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Well, I don't know what Harry Reid is talking about.
KOPPEL: As word of Reid's comments reverberated across the capital, Republicans went on the attack.
CORNYN: Senator Reid is playing to the worst elements of the antiwar left that's part of unfortunately his political base.
KOPPEL: House Republicans plan to devote the GOP's Saturday radio address to further criticism of Reid.
REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What message has he sent to al Qaeda? Well, that's perfectly clear. He believes that al Qaeda has won and that America has been defeated. (END VIDEOTAPE)
KOPPEL: Now, look for Republicans to continue this drumbeat next week. That's when the House and the Senate are set to vote on a final version of this emergency war funding bill, one that the president has said when it lands on his desk, if it contains a deadline or a goal for U.S. troops to withdraw, he'll veto it -- Lou.
DOBBS: Andrea, thank you.
Andrea Koppel from Capitol Hill.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he strongly disagrees with Senator Reid's assessment. Secretary Gates is in Iraq meet with American commanders. The military says it will know in the next few months whether the troop buildup or surge in Iraq has been successful.
Jamie McIntyre reports now from the Pentagon.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With the Iraqis dying by the hundreds and U.S. casualties on the rise, hardly anyone argues the war in Iraq is going well. Remember Defense Secretary Robert Gates at his Senate confirmation just four months ago?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gates, do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: No, sir.
MCINTYRE: But Senator Harry Reid calling the war lost, as in lost cause, that's a different matter.
GATES: On the matter of whether the war is lost, I respectfully disagree.
MCINTYRE: Gates is fresh from Baghdad meetings with his top commanders, including David Petraeus, the general who wrote the Army manual on how to defeat insurgents. And Petraeus insists the tide is turning, slowly.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: It's almost imperceptible at times, but that there is slow progress with the Baghdad security plan.
MCINTYRE: The problem is, if Petraeus in his heart believed he had been dealt a losing hand, he couldn't admit it. No general could.
LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: They can't say it publicly. They don't obviously want to undermine the troops.
MCINTYRE: Lawrence Korb is a die-hard critic who believes Petraeus' new surge strategy might have worked four years ago, but not now. KORB: The Bush goal of having a peaceful, stable Iraq that's going to be a beacon to all the countries in the Middle East is not going to happen.
MCINTYRE: But those who haven't given up on the war say that's defeatist rhetoric, that if repeated enough can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's favorite argument.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FMR. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're not going to lose a battle over there. It can only be lost in Washington, D.C. It's a test of wills. And they know that.
MCINTYRE: The reality is there's no way to know if the Iraq war is still winnable. In fact, even General Petraeus is not promising victory. He says he won't know if the surge is working until late in the summer -- Lou.
DOBBS: Yes, when the contest in Washington becomes a rhetorical exchange over whether this war is being lost or whether it is not being lost, rather than how it's going to be won, it is discomforting, at best, for nearly everyone.
MCINTYRE: Well, the problem is, once you say that you have been defeated, you are defeated in this kind of a conflict.
DOBBS: If this were only a war of words, it would be a great comfort to us all.
Jamie, thank you very much.
Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.
The latest developments on the standoff between police and a gunman at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We'll have continuing live coverage. We'll have the latest developments for you.
And, can Attorney General Alberto Gonzales survive in his post? Will he resist the rising pressure for his resignation? Our special report for you next from Capitol Hill.
And today a national day of mourning and remembrance for the victims of the worst shooting rampage in American history. A live report upcoming from Virginia Tech.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: We are continuing to monitor that standoff in Houston at the Johnson Space Center. One man with a gun has moved into what is called building 44, a communications and engineering building that has nothing to do with the actual operations of either the space station or the shuttle.
It is a building that has been evacuated. However, NASA at this point does not know how many of its employees have been -- have exited that building. They do not know at this moment as to whether or not there are any NASA employees or contractors to NASA or their employees in that building.
We are going to monitor the situation. We will bring you any development as it occurs. Again, a man entering building 44 at the Johnson Space Center, and reports of two shots fired.
A rising number of Republican lawmakers tonight are now calling for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Many Republicans were disappointed with the attorney general's testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. They say Gonzales failed to adequately answer questions about his role in the abrupt controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Dana Bash has the latest for us from Capitol Hill.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The third ranking Republican in the House tells CNN he now thinks it's time for the attorney general to step down.
"I think that they would be well served by fresh leadership," GOP Congressman Adam Putnam told CNN. He did not distinguish himself in the hearing. There remains a cloud over the department.
In the Senate, an influential conservative on judicial matters said he is wrestling with whether Alberto Gonzales should keep his job. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama tells CNN, "The attorney general should take time this weekend to think about it. Ask himself whether he can effectively reconstitute the attorney general's office. And I'll be thinking about the same thing," said Sessions. "If he feels like he cannot, then it would be best for the president and the country to resign."
Sessions is usually a reliable Bush ally, but he's a former U.S. attorney who has become increasingly concerned the Justice Department is damaged by the fired prosecutors controversy, and was openly frustrated Thursday when the attorney general couldn't remember if he was at a key November meeting 10 days before the attorney generals were fired.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Well, I guess I am concerned about your recollection, really, because it's not that long ago. It was an important issue. And that's troubling to me.
BASH: GOP support for Gonzales is so limited, some Republicans who want him to stay say it's because the alternative, a confirmation hearing for a new attorney general, could be worse.
CORNYN: If for some reason Alberto Gonzales is thrown overboard, it's not going to end the problem that the president has from a political standpoint. A newly emboldened majority -- Democrat majority, who is going to continue to conduct investigations and try to gain political advantage the best they can.
BASH: There is no organized Republican effort to force the attorney general out, but this weekend will be critical. Several key GOP senators say they will be reviewing transcripts and other information and may be more aggressive in calling for the attorney general to resign if they, in fact, determined he is simply too damaged to stay on -- Lou.
DOBBS: Dana, thank you.
Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.
More developments in that standoff at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
A local Houston television station now is reporting that a gunman barricaded in that building, building 44, at the Johnson Space Center, has killed a hostage that he was holding and has killed himself. Those reports as SWAT officers surrounded building 44 and closed off roads around that 1,600 sprawling NASA campus.
Police and NASA officials do not know whether anyone other than the gunman is in that building, unable to determine how many employees were successful in exiting the building in the evacuation, or whether anyone, in fact, remains in that building. Police reported the gunman armed with a handgun, and reports of two shots fired.
Again, a local Houston television station now reporting that the gunman and one other person has been killed in this standoff. We will be coming to you with the very latest developments as soon as we can confirm these reports. NASA officials not yet able to confirm that, nor Houston local police able to confirm that to CNN.
Coming up here next, the wife of a Chinese dissident sentenced to 10 years in prison is suing internet giant Yahoo!. We'll tell you why.
The nation pausing to mourn the victims of the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. Chilling new details uncovered in the investigation.
We'll have the very latest on that and a great deal more as we continue here.
We'll be right back. Stay with us.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
READY: They did indeed determine that the suspect shot himself one time to the head. He appears to be deceased at this time.
Also on the same floor, there was one other hostage that was shot. We believe that may have occurred in the early minutes of this whole ordeal. And another hostage that was unharmed taped, but unharmed and being looked at by our paramedics.
READY: One hostage fatality. One hostage released unharmed, except for the fact that she was Duct-taped to a certain degree.
QUESTION: Captain, what's the relationship...
READY: Hold on. Let me get the follow-up.
READY: There were two people up there with the suspect. One female, one male.
The male is deceased. The female was the one that was taped. She was -- after the SWAT team members made entry, we had our paramedics check her.
DOBBS: This a spokesman for the Houston Police Department confirming that the gunman at building 44 in the Johnson Space Center has killed one hostage and killed himself. The spokesman for the Houston Police Department saying that they believe that the killing of the hostage took place early in this incident, but those details are extremely scarce at this point.
But again, the Houston Police Department confirming that the hostage and the gunman both have been -- have been killed. That is now confirmed. And one other hostage released apparently unharmed.
There has been no identification of either the gunman or the hostage that he took, nor the other hostage who is safe. We will continue our coverage of this as we get more information.
And let's stay and just see if we can get some more information as the Houston Police Department spokesman continues.
READY: I did not see anything as far as a note or anything up there at the scene. But I did not do a thorough investigation either. Like I said, that will be a part of the follow-up investigation.
READY: No, I do not have any names. I do not have any names or any identities at this time.
READY: Just the female that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: How was the female taped?
READY: Hold on, guys. I can barely hear you all because of the helicopter.
QUESTION: How was the female taped?
READY: My understanding is around the feet and the arms. But I don't want to go into details because I didn't get to see that.
QUESTION: Where is that person right now, Captain?
READY: You know, that's a better question for the investigators. I don't know exactly where they are or how far they've gone, but I'm sure that's something that will be looked at.
The question was, what other areas are we investigating or looking at?
QUESTION: Have you alerted the families of those held hostage?
READY: Notification is part of our regular process. I can't tell you or confirm whether or not any family members, whether they be of the suspect or of the hostages, have been contacted or not.
QUESTION: Did the female hostage indicate she knew the suspect?
READY: I don't know because I did not speak with her, nor was I able to speak with anybody who did speak with her. So we'll have to learn that later.
QUESTION: Captain, where is the surviving hostage right now?
READY: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Where is the surviving hostage right now?
READY: The one is being treated by paramedics, and I don't know if she'll be transported eventually to a hospital, or if she'll be released here from the scene.
QUESTION: What kind of weapon?
READY: The weapon -- the question is, what kind of weapon? I can tell you it's a revolver, handgun. It appears to be -- like a two- inch barrel or snubnose might be the reference. It's either like a .38 or .357, but I don't know for sure.
QUESTION: Only one weapon?
READY: Yes, only one.
QUESTION: Captain, can you talk about the shots that were fired? Two initially, then you believe that the one hostage was killed early on, and then (INAUDIBLE)?
READY: Yes, let me explain that. The report to us was that there were two shots and that's what caused us to respond to this scene.
And we're believing that one of the hostages, the male who is deceased, was shot during that particular moment, because from that point forward we only have the other shot that was heard by our SWAT team members, and we believe that to be the suspect shooting himself.
QUESTION: What time was that, that second one?
READY: I don't have an exact on the time.
QUESTION: Can you tell me, are those victims, not just the one that is dead, the one that did survive, are they NASA employees?
READY: I don't know if they are NASA employees or contract employees or what their status was. I can't tell you. I don't know.
QUESTION: Do you know their relationship, if any, with the gunman?
READY: That was asked earlier about relationships. I don't know. It will be a part of the investigation.
QUESTION: Captain, you initially said that an employee had seen this gunman. Was he an eyewitness to the shooting of the one hostage?
READY: You know, that would be speculation on my part. If the person who originally reported the scene actually saw the suspect shoot another individual, I am inclined to say no, because I believe we asked that earlier and he indicated that he heard two shots, but he did not actually see anybody get shot.
READY: No, it's virtually impossible for me to try to describe the scene and the floor layout and everything. I'm just not that familiar with it.
QUESTION: So at this point, what is going on with the investigation?
READY: At this point, the paramedics are working on the female who was taped, or homicide investigators are en route to the scene. We're working with the FBI to do a thorough investigation. And we're going to leave it up to the investigators from this point.
QUESTION: Do the victims remain inside the building?
READY: One does. The suspect and the other deceased individual are still inside because we're obviously waiting for the medical examiner, homicide investigators and some other people to make it to the scene.
DOBBS: You are listening to Captain Dwayne Ready. Captain Dwayne Ready, spokesman for the Houston Police Department again confirming what has been approximately a four-hour standoff with a gunman at the Johnson Space Center, Building 44 at the Johnson Space Center. A communications and technology and laboratory building at the Johnson Space Center has killed one male hostage and himself.
Another hostage, a female, is reportedly not seriously injured in any way, but is being treated by the medics at the scene. And may be transported but has not been shot and is safe.
Captain Ready also reporting that the bodies of both the gunman and the hostage he killed remain within Building 44. Neither the name of the gunman or either of the hostages, one deceased and one safe, has been released by either the Houston Police Department or NASA.
We'll continue to follow this story as we monitor the developments there at the Johnson Space Center. But it appears -- it appears that the hostage standoff has ended with two deaths. And we will be coming back to cover this as we monitor it for further developments in the minutes ahead here.
The nation today mourned for the victims of the massacre at Virginia Tech. And at the school, students stood in silence to pay their respects. Brianna Keilar has our report from the Virginia Tech campus.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bells tolled around Virginia and around the country today as the nation stopped to mourn 32 victims of Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech. On the campus itself, hundreds marked a moment of silence at 12:00 noon. Grieving students and area residents brought flowers and candles to a memorial on the Drill Field in front of Norris Hall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's starting to heal. It's kind of a closure. It's just amazing to see the community together, to see all of this orange and maroon when it's not a game day.
KEILAR: Hokie Hope Day, that is what Virginia Tech alum called it, asking people to wear the school's colors of orange and maroon. And they did just that, releasing balloons of the same colors into the sky. Across the nation, many Americans observed a moment of silence, including lawmakers on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
In places like Boston, Las Vegas, and Baltimore, bells ring out in remembrance. In downtown Blacksburg, the grief was still raw with residents openly weeping.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine declared this a day of mourning to honor victims of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
GOV. TIM KAINE, (D) VA: This event this week, this horrible event has touched every corner of the world.
KEILAR: Kaine spoke of the universality of grief at a prayer service at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Some students there took turns reading the victims' names aloud, pausing for chimes between each one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin Granata, professor.
KEILAR: And at the end of the service, a spontaneous pep rally with students erupting into the school cheer.
CROWD: Let's go, Hokies!
KEILAR (on camera): It's a chant students here say has taken on a new meaning as a symbol of solidarity and strength, Lou.
DOBBS: And very tough, tough day, I know, for everyone. I can't tell you the number of people, Brianna, and colleagues that I've talked with this week who have said even reporting on this story at a distance how draining it has been, what an emotional week it has been, what a tragic week.
I can only imagine what you and our other colleagues there, everyone cover this story has gone through. Let alone imagine the suffering of this tragedy at Virginia Tech.
You've done an outstanding job, Brianna. We thank you very much.
KEILAR: Thank you.
DOBBS: Brianna Keilar from Virginia Tech.
Three of this country's top political analysts will join me here later. We'll be talking about the political impact of the Virginia Tech shootings, the declaration by Senate majority leader Harry Reid that the war in Iraq is lost.
And we'll be talking about the future of Alberto Gonzales. And the ravings of a man named Rove. And one this country's biggest Internet companies in court charge with helping communist China put a leading political opponent in jail. Those stories and a great deal more straight ahead. Stay with us. We're coming right back.
DOBBS: Yahoo! is tonight defending itself against charges it helped communist China to jail and torture a Chinese national citizen. The wife of a jailed Chinese dissident says Yahoo! gave the Chinese government information about her husband's political writings. She also says Yahoo! helped put her husband in jail for 10 years. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The communist Chinese government sentenced Wen Chow Ning (ph) to 10 years in prison for his use of the Internet in China. His wife, Yu Ling, came to the United States to sue Yahoo! under U.S. law. She is returning to China this week. She says the information provided by Yahoo! to the Chinese government helped put her husband in prison.
YU LING, WIFE OF DISSIDENT (through translator): When I received the court verdict, I saw the paper everywhere is Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo! offered information to the Chinese government.
PILGRIM: It's been a tough struggle. Wen Chow Ning was sentenced in 2002 and has been sitting in a Chinese prison for five years already. But Yu Ling's attorney says they only recently got the Chinese court sentencing documents.
MORTON SKLAR, LING'S ATTORNEY: That sentence, that decision included in the 14 pages had nine pages itemizing the information that Yahoo! provided that caused the prosecution. And Yahoo! itself was mentioned 10 times in that decision by the Chinese court.
PILGRIM: The complaint against Yahoo! reads, "Defendants willingly provided Chinese officials with access to private e-mail records, copies of e-mail messages, e-mail addresses, user I.D.s and other identifying information. Defendants knowingly and willfully aided and abetted in the commission of torture and other major abuses violating international law."
Yahoo! defends the company policy, saying they must comply with Chinese laws.
JIM CULLINAN, YAHOO!: All we know is they request information and -- not request, but force us to turn over that information as part of law. And then once we pass that over as required with threat of criminal penalties, we then don't hear anything about it.
PILGRIM: Yahoo! agrees he should be freed, but the company claims they didn't know about the case until Yu Ling came to the United States.
PILGRIM (on camera): Yahoo! claims the availability of Chinese citizens to use the Internet promotes freedom. They call on the government, the U.S. government, to pressure the Chinese government. And they say they have no choice but to comply with Chinese laws until international pressure forces the Chinese to change those laws. Lou?
DOBBS: Effectively saying there's no room for morality or ethics, decency in business?
PILGRIM: It's not our job basically is what they say.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.
Up next, the very latest on the Johnson Space Center shooting. We'll be joined by Miles O'Brien as more developments are coming in that Johnson Space Center standoff in which one gunman took two hostages. One of those hostages killed. The gunman killing himself. We'll have the very latest for you from Johnson Space Center.
I'll also be joined by three of this country's best political strategists on all of the week's top political issues of which there are many.
Stay with us. We're coming right back.
DOBBS: A gunman barricaded in a building at the Johnson Space Center in Houston has killed one of two hostages that he was holding, and himself. Miles O'Brien joins me now and has the very latest for us. Miles?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on phone): Lou, it was about a four-hour ordeal. It was an tense standoff which -- in which case police never really had an opportunity to communicate with the gunman.
It began, according to employees, as a contract employee with a firm called Jacobs Engineering entered into the building, a building he had free access to and took two hostages, fired two shots. Apparently to -- causing no injury at least initially. That caused the building to be cleared out. That led to the four-hour barricade situation. And Houston police pick it up from there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
READY: While they were trying to establish communication, they did hear one additional gunshot. Believing that the suspect may have shot himself. The decision was made to make entry. As our SWAT team members made entry they did determine that the suspect shot himself one time to the head. He appears to be deceased at this time.
Also, on the same floor, there was one other hostage that was shot. We believe that may have occurred in the early minutes of this whole ordeal. And another hostage that was unharmed, taped but unharmed and being looked at by our paramedics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So there you have it. The event is over. Over tragically, we should say. One hostage with a horrifying tale to tell. The other hostage in this case deceased as a result of this gunman. The gunman taking his own life. And all of it transpiring without the SWAT team or the negotiators having any opportunity to communicate with him. Given all that has transpired this past week in Blacksburg, Virginia, certainly could have been worse. But terribly tragic situation.
And NASA officials saying today that they will be scrubbing and looking very closely at all of their security procedures to see if there's something they could have done to prevent this. But the fact, as you well know, Lou, from being there if you have an employee badge or a contractor badge there, you basically can breeze through security at the Johnson Space Center.
DOBBS: Miles, thanks for a terrific job of reporting on this. And as you say, against the backdrop of the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, and also on this day, which marks the eighth anniversary of the Columbine shooting, we want to also point out to our viewers that as of right now, neither NASA nor the Houston Police Department has identified either the gunman or the two hostages taken in this standoff. That as Miles O'Brien just reported, lasted about four hours.
Miles, thank you very much. Miles O'Brien.
DOBBS: Joining me now, Ed Rollins, he is former White House political director. Republican strategist. "New York Daily News" columnist, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael Goodwin and Democratic strategist and good guy Hank Sheinkopf. Thank you all for being here.
Let's begin with -- what does this do to the national political psyche on this, the eighth anniversary of Columbine, the horrible tragedy at Blacksburg, and now the insanity of this shooting and hostage taking at Johnson Space Center?
HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: All it does is add to a general sense by the public that things are out of control. They are out of control in Washington. They are out of control in our streets. Whether there is crime or not is not the issue, things are out of control no one is doing anything about it. That is what people will be feeling.
MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I think gun control is always an issue in these times. But I think people, when they step back they realize it's deeper than gun control. There's some kind of angst or anger in our society that causes these sorts of things. And I don't think we're all held accountable or anything like that, but I think it's not something simply a law can fix.
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You had this tragedy with this great institution, Virginia Tech, that we all basically have struggled with, suffer with this week. And obviously, the shooter is a tragic figure. I mean, as disastrous as this event was, how does he get through the system?
I think the critical thing here is, two decisions this week, obviously, the incident that happened there and obviously the Supreme Court decision is going to force for us Republicans to debate some very significant issues that -- which are gun control and the whole abortion issue. It gets it thrown back into the presidential race with a great fury.
DOBBS: And, Hank, as we watched that incredible testimony by the attorney general before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the attorney general, great criticism because one of his top aides announced that she would take the Fifth Amendment, he did almost as well using "don't recall" what was it, 64 times?
SHEINKOPF: Absurd for the nation's chief law enforcement officer to be acting and speaking in the language of someone who is appearing before a panel investigating him, kind of ridiculous. He was like a little boy on a scavenger hunt, trying to pick up pieces of the clues as he went along with no clear way to find himself out of the problem.
DOBBS: Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican stalwart, if there is one, he looked like he couldn't stand the smell in the room.
GOODWIN: I think the Republicans are really suffering from Alberto Gonzales and they know it. I think in some ways they are more eager to get rid of him then the Democrats are. The Democrats like having him as a pinata, they can just hammer on and make Bush look bad and the administration look bad.
Whereas the Republicans know he's a millstone that is going to drag them down in 2008.
DOBBS: Do you agree?
ROLLINS: Absolutely. This issue here is here's a man who obviously may be a decent man, maybe a friend of the president. But he's incompetent. I think the country is getting another view of a Republican incompetency at a very important agency and the White House all saying, I don't care. I stand behind him. And I think day by day, drip by drip, that hurts us and hurts us severely.
DOBBS: I'm going to do something mean. I'm going to ask you where you see great competency in this government right now?
ROLLINS: I have to assume having spent 25 years of my life in government there's a lot of very good people ...
DOBBS: I'm not asking you that.
ROLLINS: You are asking me where in this government ...
DOBBS: I'm asking you where it is.
ROLLINS: I don't find it in the White House. I don't find it in Justice. I don't find it in DOD today, although I think our men and women who are fighting in Iraq are doing the best they can under very ...
DOBBS: The troops are outstanding.
ROLLINS: But I think -- there's just no big leadership. I think it all starts right at the top.
DOBBS: We're going to come back and pursue that line of questioning in just a moment. We'll be right back. But first, here's Wolf Blitzer to tell us what's coming up on THE SITUATION ROOM. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much, Lou. The family of the Virginia Tech gunman speaking out. They are speaking of sorrow and heartbreak and what they are doing for the victims' families. Also, I'll be speaking with "The New York Times" Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Thomas Friedman. He's written extensively about the war in Iraq. He's visited there several times. Does he think the war can be won?
The Senate majority leader Harry Reid says no. Tonight he's under fire from the Bush administration and some congressional colleagues. All that, Lou, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.
When we come back, we'll be having more of our light-hearted discussion with our political panel. Stay with us.
DOBBS: We're back with our panel. Hank Sheinkopf, I'd love to ask you, does Alberto Gonzales survive?
SHEINKOPF: If he's smart, he leaves on Monday morning to help his brother Republicans and to help this president.
GOODWIN: I don't think he survives. It's a question of how long. Clearly, right now, I think he's useful to the administration because, to the extent that he's out there taking a beating. We're not talking about Iraq, which is what the country should be talking about. So I think that Bush is letting him take the hits.
ROLLINS: I think he should go. I said this on this show a number of weeks ago. I think he should have volunteered to go. He can't lead the Justice Department. He can't basically be a part of this administration and have any credibility. But I don't think the president is going to ask for his resignation and I don't think he is going to offer it. I expect him to basically hunker down and fight through this thing.
DOBBS: Fighting through this thing - Senator Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader this week saying that the war in Iraq is lost. Straight out declaration. What do you think?
ROLLINS: I think it's a disastrous thing for the majority leader of the Senate to say. You may say that in private, you may say that in the cloak room but you certainly don't stand up and say that when you have men and women getting up every day and obeying the orders of this government to try and create a democracy, a long ways away. You may disagree on the war but to stand up and make that kind of statement is not an act of courage.
GOODWIN: Reid from time to time just pops off in inexplicable ways. And this is one of them. What does he do now? What does he say after that? How does he fund the war if he declares it a loss? What does he say to the military? It's a mistake to say that, as Ed said, publicly.
DOBBS: Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf.
SHEINKOPF: Now that he's put the Democrats in a position where they have to force this to conclusion you better pray that he somehow manufactures additional Democratic senators to make that happen because at 51-49, not likely they can pull that off so fast.
GOODWIN: I'm not sure what it is he wants to pull off now. Sounds like he wants to de-fund the military entirely in Iraq.
SHEINKOPF: That's how Nixon was forced to get us out of Vietnam. That probably is what happens here. But, remember, the dynamics and setup of the Senate are entirely different. There were more Democrats to do it.
DOBBS: Speaking of popping off, Senator John McCain declaring that Baghdad is safe. Singing -- making a diddy out of the idea of bombing Iran. What in the world is he thinking?
ROLLINS: Well, John's campaign has had a terrible three or four months. I can't think of any modern presidential campaign that's gone as downward as his has. He is out of money. He certainly has lost a lot of traction and the guy that was the inevitable nominee has got to really fight now to get back in the game. I think John has got to get very programmed and really figure out what it is that he wants to do.
He's running for a third Bush term. This country is not going to give Bush a third term with John McCain or anybody else.
GOODWIN: I think what's interesting, talking about Harry Reid popping off. John McCain has a reputation as a maverick. He says it was a joke. But it's a totally inappropriate joke for a presidential candidate. That's just the kind of guy he is. He can't get away with that for the campaign now.
SHEINKOPF: Save the money and buy a house.
DOBBS: Should Senator Barack Obama be buying a house? A lot of people right now at the end of this week are trying to define what in the world he meant comparing the violence at Virginia Tech to verbal violence.
SHEINKOPF: He's also wrong. There is something wrong with people in public life who keep saying things that the public is going to reject. The basic rule of rational political discourse is to did that which the public would like you to do, say what they would like you to say to win them over. Not to alienate them. So we have three alienating gestures all in one week.
DOBBS: Let's go to someone who we are reliably assured at least in years past was a certifiable political genius. Karl Rove saying in a speech this week that, "We are foolish if we think we can turn away from this threat and draw inward and they will not come," saying very clearly that if we lose, they will follow in Iraq to the United States. Want to sort that out for me?
ROLLINS: That's also an absurd statement. We basically are defending our borders every single day against terrorists here. That's the FBI's job. That's the police department's job. That's the intelligence network. Fighting in Iraq was to basically create a democracy. That's what's gone badly.
GOODWIN: Well, look, a lot of people in the military say that. That is the Republican argument. That's why Iraq matters because if we lose there, then we have set up a place. Whether they follow us, we can all agree that something terrible will happen in Iraq. DOBBS: Here's my problem if we lose there. Senator Reid saying that we've lost there. However you construct it.
This government, this administration, this leadership has not told us what victory look like in Iraq, nor have they explained how we will know if we do win or how we will know if we have lost.
GOODWIN: I think the basic argument that Bush has made is that when Iraq can defend itself and govern itself. That will be the test. It's not close to it. And the way we're going, we -- it's disappearing down the distance, not coming closer.
ROLLINS: It's not fair to the men and women who are there to basically say, they are losing a war. They are in a police action. They aren't fighting a war anymore. And I think to a certain extent ...
DOBBS: Thank you for saying that.
ROLLINS: It's a great disservice to them.
DOBBS: We've not heard this Democratic Congress, the ranking Democrats on so many committees. We have not heard the Democratic leadership over these past several years come forward with an alternative here. This has been a -- this episode in American history, I believe William Odom, General William Odom will be proved exactly right in his characterization of our involvement in Iraq. But don't the Democrats have to come up now, particularly with a strategy going forward, especially as we enter the 2008 election?
SHEINKOPF: There is no leadership on both sides of the aisle that can speak to the American people because no one knows what to do. They've never confronted anything like this before.
DOBBS: And the four of us are going to resolve over the course of this weekend to find a way to have a lighter and brighter discussion about something.
ROLLINS: Martinis before in the green room before the show starts, Lou.
DOBBS: Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, Hank Scheinkopf, thank you gentlemen.
Thank you for being with us tonight. We hope you have a very pleasant weekend. Good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM begins now with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?
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