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U.S. Intelligence: Iran Stopped Pursuit of Nuclear Bomb Four Years Ago; Fred Thompson Steps Up Attacks on Rivals
Aired December 3, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a major, major turnaround in thinking on Iran's nuclear threat. There's a stunning new report that says work on a nuclear bomb in Iran stopped years ago.
Also, Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson stepping up his attacks on his rivals. This hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, He sets his sights on up and coming candidate, Mike Huckabee.
And details of what may be Victoria's real secret -- serious allegations that sexy clothes are made under deplorable conditions.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's supposedly the best that the U.S. intelligence community all rolled up into one critical report. And the consensus now is nothing short of shocking. The new National Intelligence Estimate is now saying Iran actually stopped working toward a nuclear weapon back in 2003.
Let's go straight to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.
He's watching this story for us.
All right, so what else -- as if that's not enough -- what else is in this new NIE?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, when you consider that the National Intelligence Estimate in 2005 said Iran was determined to build a nuclear weapon and could pull it off by the middle of the next decade, to find out that this latest assessment says it actually stopped work on nuclear weapons four years ago is, to say the least, a bombshell.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): The new National Intelligence Estimate that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003 underscores an argument Bush administration critics have made for years -- there is no good reason to threaten Iran with attack. JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: What it means is that this is not a nuclear bomb crisis, it's a nuclear diplomacy crisis.
MCINTYRE: The report's key judgments conclude Iran is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than was judged back in 2005 and more vulnerable to influence on the issue. Tehran's decisions, it says, are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.
CIRINCIONE: It's a very hopeful sign that democracy could work if we're sincere about applying all the diplomatic tools at our disposal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would never take the military option off the table.
MCINTYRE: As recently as last month, Pentagon planning has been based on a worst case scenario -- that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb by late 2009 -- just two years from now. But the new assessment considers that very unlikely. With moderate confidence, it predicts it could happen between 2010 and 2015 and says all agencies recognize it could happen after 2015.
One big problem, the report notes, is Iran can't get sophisticated centrifuges to work in its facility in Natanz, which Tehran insists is for peaceful power generation, but could also provide fissile material for a future bomb.
The White House says it still believes Iran wants a nuclear weapon and argues the administration's hard line produces results.
STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: On balance, the Estimate is good news. On one hand, it confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MCINTYRE: One big question raised by nuclear experts is why now.
Why is the U.S. just now revealing that four years ago Iran may have frozen its nuclear weapons program. The answer, according to senior intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, is that some of the best intelligence on this just came in in the last couple months. And some skeptics within the administration, at first, Wolf, didn't believe it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
A shocking story, indeed.
Thank you very much, Jamie, for that.
Let's go to the Iranian capital right now.
Our Aneesh Raman is joining us live from Tehran -- Aneesh, is this likely to embolden Iran?
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Undoubtedly, Wolf.
Keep in mind, on Friday, Iran said it was done negotiating with anyone over its nuclear program except the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog the IAEA.
But the key question here, Wolf, isn't how Tehran responds tomorrow -- in all likelihood, they will welcome this report but how it is read in Russia and China -- veto members at the U.N. Security Council. The same council where the U.S., along with France and Britain, are trying to get a third round of sanctions against Iran, ideally by the end of this year.
A key argument they have made -- urgency. The time now is to stop the Iranian threat.
Will that now be a harder sell to Russia and China, who have key trade agreements with Iran?
That is, perhaps, the most immediate diplomatic effect of this report.
And, Wolf, just hours before the report was released, Iran's president making a first -- the first time the Shiite Persia president of the Islamic Republic attended a gathering of Sunni Arab states. Among them, key U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia -- who were just in Annapolis recently, in part to try and curb the rising Iranian influence in the Middle East. It's a sign, perhaps, that those U.S. allies feel they cannot completely isolate Iran and that, Wolf, maybe it is time they need to engage further with the Islamic Republic.
So, from Tehran tonight, it is full bolster of confidence that we can expect tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Aneesh Raman reporting for us live from Tehran.
Aneesh, thanks very much.
This new U.S. government National Intelligence Estimate actually echoes what the International Atomic Energy Agency reported more than a month ago. The director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, spoke with me on "LATE EDITION".
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LATE EDITION," OCTOBER 28)
BLITZER: Do you believe there is a clandestine, secret nuclear weapons program right now underway in Iraq?
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, IAEA DIRECTOR GENERAL: We haven't seen any concrete evidence to that effect, Wolf.
We haven't received any information that there is a parallel, ongoing, active nuclear weapons program. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Dr. ElBaradei's comments were hammered by many, many critics, including John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He slammed Dr. ElBaradei's findings, calling him -- and I'm quoting -- specifically, he said he was an apologist for Iran. But now this new NIE, this National Intelligence Estimate, the declassified version released today suggesting the Iranians actually froze their nuclear weapons program back in 2003.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, says his referendum defeat is proof he's no dictator. Voters shot down his plan to amend the country's constitution, including one provision that would have abolished presidential term limits.
CNN's Harris Whitbeck is in Caracas with the latest -- Harris?
HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was a stunning result for Hugo Chavez, who had not suffered an electoral defeat since he first took office here back in 1999.
WHITBECK (voice-over): Monday morning, and happy opposition students were still out on a Caracas street corner, waving flags and greeting passing motorists. They had much to celebrate. The "no" vote in Sunday's referendum to lift limits on how long Hugo Chavez could serve as president was one they say they did not expect.
When Venezuela's electoral authorities announced the "no" vote won Sunday's referendum on the proposed changes to the constitution, the opposition students, who had spent weeks battling police as they protested on the streets, erupted in cheers.
The night had been spent in agony as hours went by without results. After their razor thin victory was announced, opposition leaders said this now has to be a time of national unity.
JUAN ANDRES, MEJIA STUDENT LEADER: This is not a moment only for students. This is a moment for the whole country. It's time for us to start walking the same path, to walking together. And I think this -- this day could be the start of a new republic -- of a new Venezuela.
WHITBECK: And perhaps the start of a new relationship between Chavez and the opposition. Chavez said shortly after the results were in that they were proof that democracy is alive and well in his country.
PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): From here on, when this national network is over, you have freedom of expression, freedom of criticism, freedom of participation, freedom of assembly, freedom -- the Venezuelan people enjoys full freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.
WHITBECK: And he also spoke of the need for unity in a society sharply divided over his policies -- a sentiment echoed by some of his most bitter political foes.
MAYOR LEOPOLDO EDUARDO LOPEZ, CHACAO, VENEZUELA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We now have to build a country that has space for us all.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WHITBECK: The opposition now has a chance to regain some of the political terrain it has lost during the last several years and Hugo Chavez must rethink his strategy. He himself has said that he considered this referendum the most crucial one his government has ever faced -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Harris Whitbeck reporting for us from Caracas.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, fared better in his country's election as Russia United party took 64 percent of the vote. And with Putin topping its list of candidates, he's guaranteed a seat in the parliament. Many people believe Putin will continue to exercise power by serving, perhaps, as prime minister when his presidency ends. European monitors say the Russian election was unfair. The opposition leader Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion of the world, calling the vote -- and I'm quoting now -- "the most unfair and dirtiest in the whole history of modern Russia."
Let's check back with Jack Cafferty.
He's got The Cafferty File in New York.
Lots of news going on today -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: They're setting the bar pretty high for -- in Russia.
How many elections have they had over there?
Not that many, right?
CAFFERTY: Now, they say they've got the dirtiest one on record, so...
BLITZER: That's what he says, Kasparov. And we're going to talk later -- I don't want you to talk about it now, Jack. We'll talk later about this new NIE, saying the Iranians actually froze their nuclear weapons program back in 2003.
Don't comment now, but in our roundtable at 6:30 or so -- our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, we're going to talk about it.
CAFFERTY: I want to comment -- why can't I comment now?
BLITZER: Because I want our viewers to be anticipating what you have to say.
CAFFERTY: All right.
Political reality says it's time to do this. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is going to give a speech about being a Mormon and the role religion plays in politics. Romney says he's going to talk about how his own faith, values and religion would inform his thinking if he was the president.
It's seen as a move to address concerns of Evangelicals, who make up a huge part of the voting bloc in states like Iowa and South Carolina. The speech is called Faith in America. It's
set for this Thursday at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas. And it's being compared to John Kennedy's speech to Southern Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960.
Kennedy, you'll recall, a Roman Catholic, told the ministers: "I don't speak for my church on public matters and the church does not speak for me."
Now, Romney's advisers insist that he decided to make this speech before the latest polls were released, showing sudden strength from Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and sudden weakness on the part of Mitt Romney. Huckabee was once a Baptist preacher.
Some are still not sure if the speech by Romney is a good idea. They worry that it will only draw more attention to his religion.
Being a Mormon might hurt Romney with some voters. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that 19 percent of those surveyed say they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon for president. Seventy-seven percent say it wouldn't matter.
So here's the question -- will Mitt Romney's speech about being a Mormon help or hurt his campaign?
E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.
It's a dice roll, I think. But he's but he's got to do something. I mean Huckabee snuck up on him out of nowhere after all of that money that Romney spent in Iowa. So this is a little counter-offensive, I think.
BLITZER: And Huckabee does not have much money at all. It's a huge, huge story.
All right, Jack, thanks very much.
Republican strategist Karl Rove now offering some free advice to Barack Obama. Find out what Rove says needs to be done to beat Hillary Clinton.
Plus, actor and presidential candidate Fred Thompson enters THE SITUATION ROOM to answer some tough questions on immigration. More of our interview coming up in this hour. You're going to find out what he would do if he were to win the White House. And Victoria's Secret -- we'll take a closer look at the accusations that sweatshop laborers are cranking out women's lingerie.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Months after making some racially tinged comments that got him kicked off the air, Don Imus is now back. His comeback show debuted earlier today and he's getting a warm welcome from some of the presidential candidates.
Carol Costello is here, joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Did he apologize again for what happened?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he talked a lot about forgiveness and how people have forgiven him. And he told his new audience he would never again say anything to make the women of Rutgers regret they did forgive him.
He certainly was surrounded by powerful friends who stuck by him then and now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CITIES RFD-TV)
DON IMUS, RADIO SHOW HOST: And I'm back on the radio.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Eight months after Don Imus was fired for using racist and sexist words to describe the Rutgers women's basketball team, he's got a brand new gig.
IMUS: They forgave me and they accepted my apology. And they said they that would never forget. And I said that I would never forget.
COSTELLO: Imus, who can be heard on New York's WABC and on cable TV station RFD came out guns ablazing, as it were, welcoming back political friends.
There was Democratic presidential candidate, Chris Dodd.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Welcome back, my friend.
COSTELLO: Hillary Clinton supporter and CNN contributor, James Carville.
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning to you, Mr. Imus. COSTELLO: Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me on and welcome back, old friend.
COSTELLO: And Mary Matalin, who is an adviser of Republican candidate Fred Thompson.
Independent political analyst Michelle Bernard is surprised so many politicos agreed to appear on Imus' first day back. The wounds, she says, are still too fresh.
MICHELLE BERNARD, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: So it's a serious matter. And some of the candidates might have forgotten, but women have not forgotten.
COSTELLO: Imus is trying to embrace diversity. He's hired two African-Americans. But while Bernard says that doesn't prove Imus is really sincere, Karith Foster, one of Imus' new sidekicks, disagrees.
KARITH FOSTER, IMUS SIDEKICK: If that wasn't the case, if I didn't feel he was sincere in his efforts to turn a very awful negative situation into a positive one, one that, you know, creates a dialogue, as well about race, I wouldn't be here.
COSTELLO: But doubts about Imus' sincerity are exactly why appearing on his show was a doubled-edged sword for those who want to be president -- particularly for Democrats who rely on voters sensitive to minority issues.
LARRY SABATO, POLITICAL ANALYST: Imus was kicked off the air for inappropriate racial and gender remarks. And so I think a lot of the supporters of Obama and Clinton would naturally ask, what are you thinking of?
COSTELLO: But those who were trailing, like Democrat Bill Richardson, who will be on the show Tuesday, well, they're willing to take the risk. As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COSTELLO: They played that song a lot on his show this morning.
We did hear from John McCain, who told us he's a big believer in redemption. McCain says the fact that is we all are allowed, in life, to make amends.
We did hear from Chris Dodd, too. He says: "Mr. Imus expressed his regret publicly for what he said and Senator Dodd takes him at his word."
Rudy Giuliani said he is not scheduled to appear on the Imus program. As for the others, no response.
BLITZER: But he is raising money for children with cancer. That was made clear in this debut this morning.
COSTELLO: That's made clear -- that was made clear the last time around and it was made very clear again this morning.
BLITZER: All right, good.
Thanks very much.
Carol Costello reporting for us.
He's been called the architect of the Republican ascendancy. But now Karl Rove is offering some unsolicited advice to a Democratic White House hopeful.
Tom Foreman -- he's joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All right, which Democrat is Karl Rove singling out?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's the one that on raw politics we called the Obamarama -- Barack Obama is getting this unsolicited advice from Mr. Rove. It doesn't mean he's going to take it, though. But this unusual party crossover has some here in Washington wondering just what this GOP political mastermind is up to.
FOREMAN (voice-over): President Bush's former top strategist, Karl Rove, is still in the game -- dispensing advice to candidates of all parties. In the "Financial Times" of London, he wrote an op-ed entitled, "Memo To Obama: How To Beat Hillary." He says to Senator Barack Obama: "Not that you have asked for advice, but here it is anyway. Sharpen your attacks and make them more precise."
It's not the first time the fabled GOP strategist has said Obama should step up his criticism of Hillary Clinton in speeches and debates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM NOVEMBER 16, COURTESY C-SPAN)
KARL ROVE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: There have been a number of occasions like that, where a sharp and clear and respectful contrast could have really created a moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Rove's free advice to Obama may actually help Republicans.
JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO: Because I'd love to see Democrats whacking each other and doing things to erase some of the popularity that they might have and some of the inherent advantages they might have heading into the next race. FOREMAN: Hillary Clinton's campaign offered this hypothesis -- could it be that he thinks it will be easier for Republicans to run against the unknown gentleman from Illinois?
But Obama has said he's the one they're most afraid of.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Part of the reason that Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that's a fight they're very comfortable having.
FOREMAN: So what is Rove's aim?
VANDEHEI: I'm sure there's conspiracy theories that he's doing this to help Barack Obama or to help Hillary or whatever theory they want to toss out there. I really think he does this because he likes to mix it up and be part of politics. I mean the advice on that memo was actually a pretty shrewd advice.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FOREMAN: Contracted by CNN, Karl Rove declined to comment on all of this. The Obama campaign says they have no plans to accept advice from Karl Rove, saying that he contributed to the political system that Senator Obama believes should be replaced.
There you go, Wolf. None of these people trust each other as far as they can throw them.
BLITZER: Well, there's a history there.
FOREMAN: But they'll all say to us, trust us.
FOREMAN: (INAUDIBLE) time.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Tom Foreman reporting.
And we're also learning right now some new details about the suspect in the hostage crisis at the Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire. You saw it unfold here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll tell you about the details we're learning of the suspect's troubled past. Plus, you'll find out what happened at his court appearance earlier today.
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson -- he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM, and speaking bluntly about his problem with his rival, Mike Huckabee.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Let's go back to Carol.
She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Carol.
COSTELLO: We're getting word of a plea deal in the case of Mychal Bell. He's the 17-year-old African-American who is was one of the Jena 6, charged with attempted murder in an assault on a white student in Jena, Louisiana. His lawyer says Bell has now agreed to plead guilty to knocking out the white student. In exchange, he'll face a sentence of 18-months in a group home or halfway house. The deal could lead to Bell's release by June.
A lethal mix of snow, sleet and rain has left at least 16 people dead in the Northeast and the Midwest. The fierce winter storm pounded the region, snarling traffic and causing numerous accidents. Schools from New York to Maine canceled classes. And the Northwest is also getting battered. Washington State's governor has declared a statewide emergency. That's in response to wind storms and flooding from heavy rains. Helicopters had to rescue stranded hikers.
And a teaspoon of honey may be better than an apple a day keeping the doctor away. A just released study says a spoonful of honey right before bedtime seems to calm children's coughs and help them sleep better. In fact, the long time folk remedy did better than either cough medicine or no treatment at all.
Police say Miss. Puerto Rico has some explaining to do. Ingrid Marie Rivera and pageant officials claim someone doused her gown and makeup with pepper spray during last month's Miss. Puerto Rico/Universe Pageant. She broke out in hives. But investigators now say they have failed to find any traces of pepper spray in Rivera's clothes or makeup.
Back to you -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The plot thickens in that story.
Thanks, Carol, very much.
Carol will be back.
The TV star and presidential candidate, Fred Thompson, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Smart politicians woke up one day and said, you know, we didn't have this problem yesterday, but all of a sudden we have this problem of millions of illegals into the country. So now that they're here, we'll just throw up our hands and kind of rubber stamp them in.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Fred Thompson on immigration, Iran and torture -- more of my interview with the Republican presidential candidate coming up. You're going to find out what he would do if he were president.
Plus, an update on the man accused of taking hostages over at the Hillary Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire. We're now learning of a serious criminal past and a drinking problem that may have driven him over the line.
And Victoria's Secret -- allegations of sweatshop labor. Much more coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in The Situation Room. Happening now, the federal government is working on a plan to try to keep thousands of homeowners from foreclosure. The treasury secretary Henry Paulson says he's confident an agreement would soon be reached to freeze soaring adjustment rate mortgages. We're watching the story.
The British teacher jailed in Sudan for letter her students name a class teddy bear Mohammed is now free and on her way home. Gillian Gibbons left Sudan after being pardoned by the country's president.
And the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says, I'm quoting right now, "There is no other alternative than having separate Jewish and Palestinian states." He made the statement on the 60th anniversary of the United Nation's vote for partition of Palestine.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
New details emerging right now about the man accused on that hostage crisis situation over Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire. You saw it unfold here on Friday in THE SITUATION ROOM.
CNN's Mary Snow has been following the story, getting more information. What are you finding out, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these new details are emerging as Leeland Eisenberg was arraigned in New Hampshire today. A judge ordered him held on $500,000 bail as his lawyer and prosecutor painted two very different pictures of him.
SNOW: With a video camera fixed on him, 46-year-old Leeland Eisenberg stood in a separate room from a judge, lawyers, and his wife and two stepchildren. His court appointed lawyer said Eisenberg was desperate when he held hostages for more than five hours at the campaign office for democratic presidential candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton. He said Eisenberg tried repeatedly to get help for his mental problems but failed and said at one point he heard voices and a movie in his head telling him to sacrifice himself to bring attention to mental health issues. RANDY HAWKES, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's clear that Mr. Eisenberg's actions were the act of a desperate man to draw attention not only to his own situation, but to the plight of people everywhere who seek, but cannot find, treatment for psychological problems.
SNOW: But a county prosecutor painted Eisenberg as a man with a criminal record dating to 1978 that included two rape convictions and an escape from prison. She said Eisenberg did not tell authorities he had a mental health problem or a drinking problem.
JANICE RUNDLES, STRAFFORD COUNTY ATTORNEY: Now, he's trying to use his own actions to create sympathy for himself for a mental health problem which, as far as I can tell, has been phantom until now.
SNOW: Eisenberg's lawyer says Eisenberg was the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest which was documented in a civil lawsuit and as late as last week was rejected by a hospital because he didn't have insurance. The hospital said law prohibits it from discussing individual patients but says no one is ever denied treatment because they don't have health insurance. Others say it points to a problem in the system.
DR. JAMES SCULLY, AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION: This kind of dramatic event is not an effective way to get the help you need. But we've not yet made a commitment in this country to get the kind of help to people who need it and we need to do that.
SNOW: A psychiatrist says the irony is that now that Eisenberg is behind bars, he'll get psychiatric care. He has been charged with six felonies, including kidnapping. There were six hostages in all including a mother and baby who were released soon after Eisenberg was accused of walking into an office claiming to have explosives. Police say it was a fake that he was wearing road flares taped to himself with duct tape. Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary, thank you; Mary Snow reporting.
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson is stepping up his criticism of his competition. Last hour we heard Fred Thompson accuse Mitt Romney of flip-flopping on some key issues. After that he took a few swipes at Mike Huckabee's immigration stance.
FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he, of course, is a riot as far as the pro-life issue is concerned. When it comes to immigration, he opposed any measure that would restrict him of immigration and to his state was in conflict with his own party on many, many issues concerning giving illegal immigrants the right to public funds and ...
BLITZER: For young kids, he said the scholarships, the children should not be punished for the mistakes or the failures of their parents. THOMPSON: What about the millions of children that will be coming in because they're being induced, their parents are being induced into the country? We not only have the current children to look out for. Of course, if they need medical services and things like that, you take care of that. But what you're doing by his policies are inducing more and more people to flout the law and come across illegally and bring those little children along and create problems for them for decades to come.
BLITZER: So, correct me if I'm wrong, and I could be wrong on this. Did you suggest that it was really unrealistic to think that 12 million illegal immigrants could be kicked out of the country?
THOMPSON: Immediately, yes. Sure, that's unrealistic.
BLITZER: What would you do?
THOMPSON: What you don't do is you have to throw up your hands and you can't deal with it. It's like politicians woke up one day and said, you know, we didn't have this problem yesterday but all of a sudden we have this problem of millions of illegals into the country. Now that they're here we'll throw up our hands and kind of rubber stamp them in. No way to tell whether or not they have criminal records, no way to tell whether or not they're coming terror-related countries or anything else. That's what you don't do.
What you do is secure the border as the law requires, enforce the law, require that employers have some reasonable system whereby they can verify the legality of the employment and you stop things like sanctuary cities and quit inducing people to come here and protecting them in enclaves, oftentimes not learning the English language and becoming separate parts of our society. That doesn't promote unity. It doesn't help them any more than it helps this country and it encourages people to continue it come across the border.
If you did all of those things over a period of time, the situation would reverse itself and there would be attrition and we would be moving in the right direction.
BLITZER: Let's talk about some issues. Iran for example, if you're president, what do you do to stop the Iranians from building a bomb?
THOMPSON: Well of course the latest information is that they quit that endeavor a few years ago.
BLITZER: They may have.
THOMPSON: I found that very interesting.
Well, may have, indeed. I would be interested to know whether or not our intelligence picked that up over the last few years or whether or not this is something that they're putting out.
There's no way, ultimately, if they're intent on doing that that we can stop them. Other than military operation of some kind. BLITZER: Is that an option?
THOMPSON: Well, obviously, it's an option that has to be on the table. You can never take an option off the table. A lot of things we can do short of that. We're making a little headway on sanctions, although we will never be able to stop them on sanctions if they're intent on doing it. A lot of things going on inside the country ...
BLITZER: In Iran?
THOMPSON: In Iran. The inflation rate is high. The economy is terrible. They're having to import their gasoline. They're on rationing. There are demonstrations and jailings all across the country. We've got a lot of friends there, people like the United States of America don't like their dictators any more than we do.
Part of that problem might tend to solve itself over a period of time. That's why this latest information is correct. This meeting is important. It makes a difference whether or not we have a two-year window or a much longer window and we don't know the answer to that.
BLITZER: Let me see where you stand on this issue of Guantanamo Bay and alleged torture of terror suspects. When I interviewed John McCain, he said basically shut it down, waterboarding is torture. The United States is better than that. As you know, the Mitt Romney's position is, double the size of Guantanamo Bay and he's not ruling out, he's not discussing what is or is not torture. On this issue, are you closer to your friend John McCain or to Mitt Romney?
THOMPSON: Let me tell you where I am. Those people have to be kept somewhere. We need to understand that we're in a global conflict of which Iran and Afghanistan is a part. But it's much broader than that and it will be with us for some time. No one has come up with a perfect solution as to what to do with regard to people who are terrorists, who have been captured. Their home countries don't want them. People of the United States don't want to bring them here. Politicians don't want to bring them here and put them to our regular prison system. I think where they are right now is the best that we can do and we need ...
BLITZER: To keep Guantanamo Bay.
THOMPSON: Absolutely. We need to maintain it for as long as we need to maintain it.
As far as torture is concerned, my bottom line is this. We do not believe in torture in this country. We should abide by all international agreements. We should abide by our own history and our own tradition in these matters. But at the end of the day, the real question is what would a president do under extreme circumstances? And if a terrorist had information that I was convinced would save the lives of a lot of Americans in an American city, I would do what is necessary to get that information. The methods ...
BLITZER: Including torture? THOMPSON: The methods that you have to use have to be commiserate with the situation that you're faced with. And the situation that you're faced with goes in to determining what is torture and what is not torture, as far as I'm concerned under the law. No president should be, or I don't think by the law of the constitution is required to set back and not avail himself of information that would save American lives. It's just that simple.
That's why it's difficult to talk in generalities other than you don't believe of torture as a concept. When you get down to the details of it, responsibility is the ultimate responsibility of a president to look out for the welfare of his country and American citizens. The methods that you use, the means that you use, have to, have to depend upon the circumstances that you're faced with.
BLITZER: And coming up in the next hour, the third and final part of my interview with Fred Thompson. We'll talk about the comparisons that have been made to Fred Thompson and Ronald Reagan, both former movie stars. What happened? That's coming up in the next hour.
Coming up next, stunning models, glossy catalogs and sweatshop labor? Victoria's Secret facing some stunning allegations; why some workers claim they were thrown in jail for complaining about their working conditions.
And a high price to pay. Find out just how much the national debt could cost you.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Everyone knows Victoria's Secret for its glittering fashion shows and lingerie that leaves little to the imagination. But now there are reports that some workers are being subjected to what are described as sweatshop conditions and have been tossed into jail for speaking out.
CNN's Jim Acosta is following the story for us. Where is the alleged abuse happening, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's happening in Jordan of all places and a workers' rights group claims, as you said, Wolf, that when these workers complained about their conditions that factory, they were tossed into jail.
ACOSTA: The National Labor Committee provided CNN with these photos of the D.K garment factory in Jordan where workers are putting in 100 hours a week cranking out Victoria's Secret lingerie for just 75 cents an hour with no overtime.
CHARLES KERNAGHAN, NLC DIRECTOR: I think the American people would be shocked.
ACOSTA: According to National Labor Committee Director, Charles Kernaghan, employees who tried to protest their positions lost more than their jobs.
KERNAGHAN: Management's response was to have six of the workers imprisoned who had organized the protest.
ACOSTA: Victoria's Secret declined a request for an interview but released this statement saying the company is investigating the allegation. "We are taking this issue very seriously," the company said. "And since the moment we learned of the report, have had a team investigating the concerns." Our attempts to reach the D.K. garment company were unsuccessful. In the meantime, the Jordanian government also started its own inquiry.
MERISSA KHURMA, JORDAN EMBASSY: The ministry of labor has commissioned an independent third party to look into the specific case.
ACOSTA: This is not the first allegation of sweatshop labor to surface in Jordan this year. Earlier this year, the National Labor Committee obtained this video of another factory in Jordan, not related to Victoria's Secret, where workers have made similar claims of abuse. Some in congress say it may be time to begin imposing fines on American companies that profit off of the exploitation of cheap labor overseas.
SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: I think if most people find this happening at the end of the block, they would walk down to the end of the block and say you can't abuse people this way.
ACOSTA: And Senator Byron Dorgan says the workers in these Jordanian factories are actually from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The senator says some of them are subjected, these are in his words, Wolf, slave-like working conditions.
BLITZER: All right, Jim. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta reporting from New York.
An online video posted to You Tube aims to expose a stark contrast between two different ad campaigns for beauty products owned by the same parent company. Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's watching all of this unfold. What is going on, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this video is called Onslaught, a young girl bombarded by advertising images, skinny models, plastic surgery, dieting. It's from Unilever, the company that owns the Dove brand and this is part of their campaign for real beauty that's been targeting women since 2004, challenging beauty stereotypes and this video has proved popular online. Almost 1 million views.
But now there's an unofficial version on You Tube, same premise here but in this one the ads that the young girl is bombarded with are taken directly from Unilever's own ads for another one of their brands, no, not Dove. This one for Axe Body Spray, the target market of that one is young men. If You Tube video was made by a Virginia man. He works in advertising but he said he made this in his own time because he was shocked by the contradiction. A Unilever spokesperson tells CNN today that each of our brands talks to its consumers in a way that's relevant. They went on to say that the Dove campaign aims to give young women more confidence whereas that Axe campaign is a spoof, not to be taken seriously. Wolf?
BLITZER: Thanks, Abbi, for that.
It just might be the ticking time bomb that throws the U.S. economy into a much-feared recession. Is anyone even noticing? You'll find out why the national debt could hurt your wallet to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
Plus, we'll have more of my interview with Fred Thompson. How the republican presidential candidate says he stacks up to Ronald Reagan and what Thompson has to say about the pressure of high expectations.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's no secret the U.S. government is in debt but the numbers may shock you. Let's break it down right now. If the U.S. national debt were divided among all Americans, every single man, woman and child would owe $30,000 apiece. The debt is increasing at a rate of nearly $1 million per minute. And it already tops $9 trillion.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got the Cafferty file in New York. That is not a surprise to you and me because we've been mentioning that a lot but a lot of our viewers may be surprised.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's something else that will surprise you. The debt was roughly half that when President Bush was inaugurated in 2001. This was the party of fiscal conservatism and small government. They have doubled the national debt in seven years.
The question, will Mitt Romney's speech about being a Mormon help or hurt his campaign?
Lisa writes, "Mitt Romney can try to explain his way out of not believing in traditional Protestant Christianity until the cows come home. But when it boils down to it, the fundamentalist Christians who are basing their vote on the candidate's religion are not going to be persuaded by Romney's slick words or slick hair do. He may as well beat home the same old lines about abortion, guns and gays. Mormonism isn't going to be his ticket into the White House."
Russ writes from New Hampshire, "Mitt Romney could practice witch craft as long as he tends to the many problems that face this nation." John writes from Philadelphia, "Did you say Mormon or moron? This guy has changed his tune so many times on so many issues that I don't believe his religion's the problem. Anyone that would vote for him is a moron. Religion makes no difference to me."
Pam in Connecticut, "Romney's speech will make his poll numbers go up a little, but in the long run he will not win the nomination because too many people in the U.S. think of the Mormon religion as some sort of cult."
Anonymous, "Jack, the fact that we have to have a speech about religion for someone running for office is ridiculous. When will America start judging the runners on merits and not misunderstanding someone's personal beliefs? We vote Catholics into office all the time. Is there any reason another religion that believes in the same morals cannot provide the same level of mediocre government?"
And Jean writes, "I don't think it makes a bit of difference what he says. The republicans made a big deal out of Kerry flip-flopping and now they have a candidate who's turning somersaults with the truth. Iowans may be conservative but they're not stupid." Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks. We'll see you in a few moments.
Also coming up next, Lou Dobbs. He's going to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about what's going on with immigration with Lou.
Also, the critical Iowa caucuses now only one month away. We're going to show you some new poll numbers that will give some of the top candidates some serious cause for concern.
When it comes to one-liners he stands out from the pack. We'll show you what Mike Huckabee's greatest hits are. All that and a lot more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Time for a look around the world. Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show that begins in one hour. Lou, there are I take it new developments tonight in the case of those two border agents convicted of shooting a drug suspect. What's going on?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, convicted of shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler, one given immunity by the justice department, as you know. Wolf, there are some very hopeful signs today, an appellate court hearing arguments and asking very critical and skeptical questions of the government in this case, which I have styled from the outside as one of the most outrageous miscarriages of justice ever perpetrated by this government and this justice department. So, tonight, Casey Wian will be reporting from New Orleans, the site of the appellate court hearing on what looks to be a positive development in what has been a tortuous experience for these agents, their families and for American justice.
BLITZER: Did you see that editorial on the editorial page of the "Wall Street Journal" today Lou? Immigration phonies really going after some of these republican presidential candidates who appear to have flip-flopped on the issue of immigration now that they're running for president. I wonder if you read that editorial.
DOBBS: Sure, I read that editorial. I read the "Wall Street Journal" it get a sense of what libertarian suicide is all about. The "Wall Street Journal" really doesn't see a role for government in our society. As you know, I happen to believe there is a very strong role for government, a proper role for government in regulating markets and protecting the public safety. So, there's no surprise in the perspective taken by the journal's editorial page. I think it's limitable that they are so short-sighted in their reasoning, but, you know, that's what makes America great. Divergent and opposing opinions freely expressed.
BLITZER: We love that.
DOBBS: You better believe it.
BLITZER: Certainly, certainly do. Lou is coming up in one hour on his show at 7:00 p.m. eastern. Thanks very much.
To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
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