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President Obama in Mexico; Right-Wing Extremists; Spying on U.S.; Rights under Assault; U.S. Flip-Flop on China; Border Drug Wars

Aired April 16, 2009 - 19:00   ET



President Obama makes his first official visit to Mexico and he promises to fix our broken immigration system and work with Mexico to stop violent drug cartels. We'll have complete coverage -- also scathing new criticisms of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, this after she linked right-wing extremists with military veterans, supporters of border security and advocates for gun rights.

And what's next for the growing anti-tax movement after the nationwide "tea parties"? Well one of the country's leading opponents of big government and high taxes, Governor Mark Sanford (ph) of South Carolina is my guest.

We begin tonight with President Obama's visit to Mexico. In a news conference a few minutes ago, President Obama said this country has been greatly enriched, as he put it, through migration from Mexico. Now, the president also said a renewal of the ban on assault weapons in this country would make sense but he acknowledged it would be difficult to re-impose the ban and called instead for the enforcement of existing gun laws. Dan Lothian reports from Mexico City.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama says it was a wide ranging face-to-face meeting with President Calderon, chewing over common challenges and plotting a strategy to tackle the biggest one, the violent drug war.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are absolutely committed to working in a partnership with Mexico to make sure that we are dealing with this scourge on both sides of the border.

LOTHIAN: An estimated 6,000 Mexicans were killed here last year in the violence and the bloodshed continues, fueled in part by guns and cash flowing from the U.S.

MIKE HAMMER, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: The United States has a responsibility, whether it's on demand side, whether it's on arms, trafficking into Mexico because it shows that the Mexican government and Mexican people that we are willing to do our part.

LOTHIAN: In an opinion piece that ran in several newspapers across the country and Latin America, Mr. Obama again suggested that the U.S. is partly to blame for the problem, writing quote, "by reducing demand for drugs and curtailing the illegal flow of weapons and bulk cash south across the border, we can advance security in the United States and beyond".

But the administration seems unwilling to step into a political mine field by pushing for stiffer gun laws, even though some Mexican officials say the lifting of a U.S. ban on military assault style weapons has made things worse. Instead, the Obama administration has stepped up efforts to fight against the cartels by appointing a border czar and using an old law to target specific cartels and the cash they might be hiding in the U.S.

OBAMA: The king pen law allows us to go after the finances, the financial underpinnings of the cartels in a much more aggressive and much more effective way.


LOTHIAN: Attorney General Eric Holder has called the drug war here quote, "a national security threat." But I'll tell you an administration official I was talking to today said that he didn't believe that it had risen to that level, however he added that if this situation is not dealt with now, it certainly could get there -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: Dan, Attorney General Eric Holder has gone on record as saying he supports the renewal of the ban on assault weapons, so how did President Obama tackle that issue in his news conference?

LOTHIAN: That's right. Well you know he pointed out that it is something that is not politically right now to do. I mean this is something that the president during the campaign promised that he would push for. But he's not ready to step into those waters. He says what he wants to do now is to focus on enforcing the existing gun laws.

And another thing that the president also announced today that he would be pushing the Senate to ratify this treaty, this trafficking -- gun trafficking treaty that Mr. -- President Clinton rather signed back in 1997. He would be pushing the Senate to ratify this because he believes that could cut down on the guns and the cash going back across the border -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much -- Dan Lothian.

Well, before he left for Mexico, President Obama sat down for an interview with Juan Carlos Lopez (ph) of CNN Espanol and President Obama declared he is a strong supporter of so-called comprehensive immigration reform. This is what many call amnesty for illegal aliens.


OBAMA: I have a strong proponent of comprehensive immigration reform. I've already met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and committed to working with them to try to shape the agenda that can move through Congress and this is something that I think is important not just because of the drug cartel issue. It's important because of the human costs of an ongoing flow of illegal immigrants into this country. It's something that we need to solve.


PILGRIM: And the president's comments coming one week after White House officials said that the administration will launch an all- out effort to sell so-called comprehensive immigration reform to the American people.

There are new details tonight on the scale of Mexican immigration, legal and illegal, into this country. The Pugh Hispanic Center (ph) says a record 12.7 million Mexican immigrants now live in the United States. That's a 17-fold increase since 1970. One out of every 10 people born in Mexico alive today now lives in the United States. The Pugh Hispanic Center (ph) says 55 percent of those Mexican immigrants, almost seven million are illegal aliens and in all, there are between 12 and 20 million illegal aliens in this country.

Well with the escalating drug cartel violence in Mexico, a rising number of Americans are demanding the deployment of U.S. troops along the southern border. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll says three-quarters of Americans want the government to send a large number of our troops to the border. Now, this poll also says only 52 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tonight is facing a storm of protests over her department's view on domestic terrorism. Now she is refusing to criticize a homeland security report that links right-wing extremists with military veterans, supporters of border security, and advocates for gun rights. Napolitano offered an apology of sorts to veterans. Now critics say that apology does not go far enough -- Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tried to clear up the controversy surrounding her department's report regarding the threat potential of domestic right-wing extremist groups. Single issue groups such as anti-abortion activists, groups focused on illegal immigration or Second Amendment rights and military veterans all were mentioned as groups vulnerable to recruitment by right-wing extremists in the report. Veterans who pledged their lives to defend the United States were especially stunned, so without disavowing the report, Secretary Napolitano explained on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING".

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is an assessment, not an accusation as the Veterans of Foreign Wars Organization released yesterday. But I know that some veterans groups were offended by the fact that veterans were mentioned in this assessment, so I apologize for that offense. It was certainly not intended. I'll be meeting with the leaders of some of those groups next week.

TUCKER: A spokesman for one veterans group said he understands the department's intent.

JOE DAVIS, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS: We believe it's a poorly written report. It should have included not only military veterans who are possible targets for extreme right group recruitment but could include the SWAT teams, police teams, FBI, the own ICE agents coming out of Department of Homeland Security themselves.

TUCKER: DHS issued a statement on why domestic threat assessment is necessary, but added quote, "we do not nor will we ever monitor ideology or political beliefs." But that statement failed to reassure groups opposed to the liberalization of immigration policy and focused on gun control.

DAN STEIN, FED. OF AMER. FOR IMMIG. REFORM: When House Speaker Pelosi said immigration enforcement was un-American and then you see a document like this published by the Department of Homeland Security, you see what is fusing into a modern day version of the un-American activities committee.

LARRY PRATT, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: If Richard Nixon had published a profile of his political opponents like this, an enemy's list like this, why, he would have been out of office before he was.

TUCKER: President Nixon did have such a list and when it was uncovered and published, it unleashed a fury in the media.


TUCKER: Now the report says current political and economic conditions posed the threat of domestic terrorism like that seen in the 1990s in Oklahoma City. But critics say the report is nothing more than an attempt by DHS to crush free speech through condemnation and intimidation. A department spokesperson late this afternoon conceded that there are -- or were objections to parts of the report from the Department of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office, but, Kitty, she refused to be specific about what they might be.

PILGRIM: So there's...

TUCKER: We don't know. We know that there were problems and that Civil Rights and Civil Liberties had objections but the report, which was not intended to be issued publicly, was meant to go to law enforcement, came out any way.

PILGRIM: All right, thanks very much, Bill -- Bill Tucker.

Well we would like to know what you think and here's tonight's poll question. Do you think President Obama's trip to Mexico will do anything at all to end our illegal immigration and border security crisis? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.

Crew members of the Maersk Alabama returned home to a hero's welcome today and they called for much stronger security measures against pirates. The sailors flew into a military air base in Maryland. Reporters asked them a barrage of questions about their ordeal and the bravery of their captain, Richard Phillips.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Before you go, what do you think about the captain of the ship?

WILLIAM RIOS, MAERSK ALABAMA CREW MEMBER: Very brave man, very brave man.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think he saved your life?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well it was me, the captain, and a third engineer on that boat, in the lifeboat with the pirates, us three was there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I can't -- I can't even imagine how that must have been.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What was it -- how was it?





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we had was knives. They had AK-47's.


PILGRIM: Now Captain Phillips is expected to return to this country tomorrow.

Still to come, we have new concerns the Obama administration is threatening your Second Amendment rights. We'll have a special report on that.

Also, outrage after the federal government admits that it intercepted some of your phone calls and e-mails.


PILGRIM: The Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate a government spy program that improperly accessed some American phone calls and e-mails. The National Security Agency intercepted U.S. phone calls and e-mails at the same time it was eavesdropping on foreign communications. Now the Justice Department said it has stopped those abuses. Jeanne Meserve reports.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Intelligence officials say the National Security Agency collected information about American's communications that it should not have. The nation's top intelligence official, Dennis Blair, says the numbers of these mistakes are very small. One official said the agency was not reading domestic e-mail or eavesdropping on domestic telephone calls and that the collection was done inadvertently, the result of a technical problem. That explanation does not satisfy privacy advocates.

MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: The agencies have very clear, legal guidelines and it's their responsibility to comply with the legal rules when they do surveillance within the United States. So they can't say, you know, whoops.

MESERVE: The law governing NSA eavesdropping was revamped last summer after politically explosive revelations of warrantless wire tapping of Americans. The current law requires regular audits and the Justice Department says the present problem was discovered during routine oversight. Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corp (ph) were notified and corrective steps were taken. A former intelligence official says this is how it's supposed to work. But critics could hardly disagree more. They say the current system gives the NSA too much leeway and too little oversight. They say there must be better safeguards on American's information.

JAMES BAMFORD, AUTHOR, "BODY OF SECRETS": Otherwise you're going to have millions of Americans communications or private phone calls or private e-mails sitting in enormous NSA databases, which isn't a very good solution.

MESERVE (on camera): Current and former officials say NSA's authority to monitor certain targeted communications is absolutely critical to the protection of the United States, but revelations that the program has again operated outside its boundaries have disturbed some members of Congress and they are promising to investigate.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


PILGRIM: The Obama administration has decided not to prosecute CIA officers who use water boarding and other harsh interrogation methods. Now the CIA has acknowledged using water boarding against three top al Qaeda suspects in 2002 and in 2003. The Justice Department says it won't take action against CIA officials because the Bush administration declared that the interrogation techniques were legal. Now the CIA says it no longer uses water boarding.

New indications today that Americans are concerned the Obama administration will curtail their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. According to the FBI, background checks required for gun purchases are up 27 percent this year. And that's nearly four million background checks so far in 2009. Well, those FBI statistics are only part of the picture. Gun shop owners around the country are also reporting a surge in gun sales and as Sean Callebs reports, some gun owners are concerned the Obama administration will limit Second Amendment rights.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Tyler, Texas, one of those places all over America where a kind of quiet code of arms is getting louder and louder. Just ask Attorney Sean Healy and Jimmy Moore (ph), who's a nurse.

(on camera): Who thinks President Obama wants gun control, wants to restrict the kinds of guns you can get?

SEAN HEALY, ATTORNEY: If you look at what he said in the past and look at his actions, that if he and the people in control of Congress right now could have what they want, they would heavily restrict or eliminate guns from this country.

JIMMY MOORE, REGISTERED NURSE: He voted for a 500 percent increase in the tax on guns and ammunition, doubling basically the cost of my hobby and my passion.

CALLEBS: So here in Tyler and other parts of the country there's been a run on ammunition. One man ran into a Wal-Mart and said, sell me all the ammo you have. Guns, they're also flying off shelves, those highly prized semi-automatic rifles are becoming more and more expensive.

So this is $2,200. Why is it so expensive?

STEVE PRATER, MANAGER, LOCK AND LOAD: Well, right now they are just about impossible to find. They are just hard to get. Everybody got kind of scared and the market got depleted.

CALLEBS: A run on guns because of President Barack Obama. But since he has been president, he has said, quoting here, "I will not take away your guns." It couldn't be more clear. But listen to his secretary of state. She sounds as though she has a different message.

(voice-over): This is what she said in Mexico when asked why the administration isn't fighting the sale of assault weapons.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to you know sugar coat it. It's a very heavy lift. I think that's a mistake. I think these assault weapon, these military-style weapons don't belong on anyone's street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is her intent to see gun legislation passed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little bit ridiculous to blame Americans for the fact that people in foreign countries are trying to ship illegal drugs into our country and they're committing violence against each other. CALLEBS: Back in the gun store...

(on camera): Why would someone own a semi-automatic weapon like this? I mean is saying it's my right, is that enough?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I believe it is. Yes, I believe it is. It's what sets us apart.


CALLEBS (voice-over): Remember Jimmy Moore? He owns an AR-15 (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not a freak. I'm a registered nurse. I'm a responsible individual. I'm a law-abiding citizen. I've been one my entire life.

CALLEBS: A nurse, an attorney, not the usual portrait of Second Amendment diehards and the man who owns the Lock and Load gun shop, he's a cardiologist who moved here from New York.


CALLEBS: Are you kind of profiting on this fear right now?

SCOTT LIEBERMAN, OWNER, LOCK AND LOAD: I think we are. Again, I don't know how rational it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon. Lock and Load.

CALLEBS: In fact, it may not be rational at all. It might even be paranoid. But one thing is certain, many gun owners believe this president is somehow out to curb their rights, and they are stocking up just in case.


PILGRIM: Sean, what is really driving this increase in sales?

CALLEBS: Well, I think to large part people are pointing to the NRA. If you look on their Web site into mailings to its members, they talk about this issue and we know that the sale of guns has gone up dramatically since Barack Obama was elected and NRA's membership has gone up significantly as well. And what we're hearing from gun enthusiasts, members of gun clubs is they can get information from the NRA they can't get from the quote, "mainstream media".

But we've heard a lot about the weapons used in Mexico to fuel the drug trade there. The fact that 90 percent can be traced back to the United States, well one report says that 90 percent of the guns can be traced back, those that have been licensed. So and they say it's a very, very small percentage of the weapons used in the illegal drug trade down there.

PILGRIM: That's a fascinating story. Thank you very much -- Sean Callebs. Well, New York Governor David Paterson today introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Governor Paterson says gay marriage is a civil rights issue. He compared it to the fight to end slavery in America. Now the same bill died in the New York State Senate in 2007. If it passes, New York would become the fifth state in the country to allow same-sex marriages.

Still ahead, the impact of nationwide "tea parties", South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (ph) tells us why he hopes this is just the beginning of a grassroots movement.

And the Obama administration changes its mind on communist China's unfair trade policy. What does that mean for workers in this country? We'll have a special report.


PILGRIM: Some encouraging news tonight from the nation's banks -- JPMorgan posted better than expected earnings of $2.1 billion. The bank says it now has enough money to repay the $25 billion in federal bailout money tomorrow. Wells Fargo last week said it would earn $3 billion in its first quarter and Wells Fargo accepted $25 billion in bailout funds.

Citigroup, expected to report its first quarter profits tomorrow and the bank received $45 billion from taxpayers. Bank of America, which took over Merrill Lynch, releases its first quarter report on April 20th and it also received $45 billion in government funds. And the results of the government stress test of the nation's top banks will be released in May.

Well, a change of heart from the Obama administration on communist China's unfair trade policies. The administration is now backing away from earlier statements that China undervalues its currency for trade advantages. Well this comes from an administration that promised to take a tougher line on China. Lisa Sylvester has our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Made in China, clothes, toys, electronic gadgets. The United States has racked up a $266 billion annual trade deficit with China and it continues to grow. Many economic analysts say China's currency has played a major role.

SCOTT PAUL, ALLIANCE FOR AMER. MANUF.: China is artificially undervaluing its currency to gain a trade advantage so its goods come into the United States about 30 percent cheaper than they should be.

SYLVESTER: The Alliance for American Manufacturing says that encourages companies to stop manufacturing in the United States and ship production to China, costing American jobs. When President Obama was then candidate Obama, he agreed.

OBAMA: We can't have China manipulating our -- its currency to make our exports more expensive and theirs cheaper. SYLVESTER: That was almost a year ago while he was campaigning in Pennsylvania. Fast forward and now in a new report the Treasury Department says it did not find that any major trading partner had manipulated its exchange rate to gain unfair competitive advantage.

In the report, Secretary Timothy Geithner said China has taken steps to enhance exchange rate flexibility and enacted its own large stimulus package. In the last nine months, the Chinese currency has appreciated by some 16 percent against the dollar. But just three months ago, during his confirmation hearing, Geithner had a completely different take, labeling China as a currency manipulator.

ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUS. AND IND. COUNCIL: We haven't seen any significant Bush-Obama difference yet on China trade policy and the Treasury Department's currency report that was issued yesterday was a big opportunity for the president to affirm his campaign position. If this isn't the black and white example of a flagrantly broken campaign promise, I don't know what is.


SYLVESTER: And this is an issue that has riled both Democrats and Republicans, especially those from manufacturing states. One and a half million manufacturing jobs have been lost in this latest recession. Senator Debbie Stabenow (ph), a Democrat from Michigan, says she will introduce legislation that will explicitly define currency manipulation and will put in place remedies to offset any currency under-valuations -- Kitty?

PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Lisa Sylvester.

Coming up, nationwide "tea party" protests against high taxes and bigger government, what's next, well Governor Mark Sanford (ph) of South Carolina will join me.

Also on the front lines of the out-of-control drug war in Mexico, we'll have a special report on that. We'll examine the growing threat to this country.


PILGRIM: President Obama in Mexico tonight. He promised to help the Mexican government fight violent drug cartels. Now, 8,000 people have been killed in the past two years, including more than 1,000 so far this year. The violence is spreading into this country from Mexican cities, such as Juarez on our southern border. Karl Penhaul has a report from Juarez. We should warn you it does contain graphic images.



KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The police radio crackles. Shots have been fired downtown.



PENHAUL: (INAUDIBLE) transvestite prostitutes that they heard six shots they say a few blocks away. It's midnight in Juarez...


PENHAUL: ... Mexico's most dangerous city. The gunmen seem to have faded away so the patrol heads up into gang land, the hillside slums that ring Juarez.


PENHAUL: "We are arresting gang members before they get together because then there will be killings", he says. Police say there are a thousand gangs in the city that go by names like the "Skulls", the "Sharks", the "Aztecs" (ph) and the Artist Assassins (ph). They pedal cocaine, crack and heroin and fight gun battles for turf.

The gangs, too, have become a recruiting ground; the narco traffickers looking to hire hit men.

"Organized crime recruits from these gangs. There's evidence they come and choose the most dangerous members," the captain says. Captain Pinedo and his men on the anti-gang patrol know the labyrinth of alleyways by heart.

They pull suspected gang members out of vehicles and even sniffing their fingernails to see if they have been using drugs.

"A lot of them don't have ID and they look like gang bangers," he says.

For the last year Juarez's best-selling newspaper has been filled with gory photos of drug war hits as the Sinaloa cartel battles for the Juarez mob's trafficking routes. Bodies hanging from a bridge, other victims stuffed into cooking pots, another murdered and his face covered with a pig mask.

Police say many of the victims have been young gang members recruited as cartel foot soldiers.

We head back into our Juarez neighborhood, this time without the police, to try and discover why young men have been lured by the drug mobs.

This small gang calls itself Below 13; none of its members seem to know why. The few who say they work, earn less than $50 a week in assembly plants. With the cartel war now raging, it offers a chance of quick money.

"Some of the gang members here have joined organized crime groups and some are in prison because they were busted for selling drugs," this young man tells me. He knows working for the cartels can mean a short life expectancy. "Of course it's easy money, because you can earn serious cash, but it's dangerous, too. Like they say, it's easy money until they kill you," he says.

Sixteen hundred people died in drug cartel killings last year in Juarez, but in this neighborhood, there's little sense the war will end.

"Thank God we're alive. We're going to show all the hit men that Juarez is No. 1," he boasts; fighting talk that bodes of more untimely deaths.

Karl Penhaul, CNN, Juarez, Mexico.


PILGRIM: Mexican troops today engaged in a bloody shootout with drug cartel gunmen. Fifteen cartel members were killed, one soldier died in the gun battle near the Pacific resort of Acapulco and the army unit was on patrol when the cartel gunmen opened fire. The troops recovered a number of rifles, handguns, grenade and ammunition.

Well, joining me now is Professor George Grayson from the College of William and Mary and he's the author of "Mexico's Struggle with Drugs and Thugs." We have -- joining us also is CNN military analyst, General David Grange and also syndicated columnist and CNN contributor, Miguel Perez.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining me.

A very disturbing report. I'd like to start with the issue of cartel violence. Professor Grayson, you've pointed out many times that this is not -- this is not just a south of the border issue. This is an American cities issue. Explain that a bit for our viewers.

GEORGE GRAYSON, PROFESSOR, COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY: Well, the cartels have migrated to every state in The Union, including most Canadian provinces and they have especially major strongholds in cities like Dallas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.

And they take advantage of the illegal immigrants who are here. And the cartel members and their accomplices can sort of swim in the stream of illegal workers who would like to make money and can do so by lending a hand to organized crime.

PILGRIM: General Grange, this has become almost a military issue; Americans asking for maybe troops to be sent to the border. What do you see in terms of strategy that could be done to help the situation?

GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I believe, Kitty, that the National Guard can be used. I mean, we have laws like (INAUDIBLE) that our regular army units could not unless there were some waivers made.

But really going back to the doctor's comment, I mean, I think we ought to have tough action but I think we have to have it in depth from the border all the back through our own country up to Canada as well as helping the Mexican government inside of Mexico. If you don't do it in depth, you're not going to be able to take it down.

So I would like to see, if you can use the word a surge, of all power, diplomatic, informational, military, law enforcement, economic, et cetera, to take this thing on and nip it in the bud.

PILGRIM: Miguel Perez, you were actually -- you know Juarez. You were there.

MIGUEL PEREZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. About ten years ago, Kitty, I was in Juarez and I was going back and forth. And you mentioned how it's affecting us, U.S. cities. Of all cities then we have to look at El Paso, Texas, because El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez are one single metropolitan area. There's one river dividing these two cities, but it's really one metropolitan area.

When I was there ten years ago, people would go back and forth and commuting. In fact, El Paso didn't have much of a night life so everybody in El Paso used to go to Juarez on the weekends to go to the clubs and so forth.

I'm sure that's changed a lot right now. I wouldn't want to be going back and forth. But it is affecting us on this side of the border, of course.

PILGRIM: It certainly is.

You know, I'd like to draw some attention to some comments at a joint press conference in Mexico City. President Obama actually spoke about American drug consumption, the flow of assault weapons over the border and it was very much mirroring the comments of Mexico's president.

Let's listen to that for just a moment.


OBAMA: I will not pretend that this is Mexico's responsibility alone. A demand for these drugs in the United States is what is helping to keep these cartels in business. This war is being laid with -- more than 90 percent of the guns in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border. So we have responsibilities as well. We have to do our part.


PILGRIM: Professor Grayson, that 90 percent gun statistic, do you think it's accurate?

GRAYSON: No, it's a blue sky figure. That counts only the weapons that the Mexican authorities have shared with their U.S. counterparts. And so the figure is substantially lower. But that's beside the point. If all the weapons that flow into Mexico were interdicted, the cartels have so much money that they could go into the international arms market and develop the arsenals of any size they wanted. And so cutting off the flow from the U.S. would be perhaps a thorn in the side but certainly not a dagger in the heart of the cartels.

PILGRIM: General grange, I'd like to get your thoughts on that. And also do you think -- what do you think the Obama administration would say and do on the promise about assault weapons?

GRANGE: Well, first of all, most of the weapons that get into the hands of Mexico obviously are usually resell weapons, sold to people that are not qualified to purchase the weapons. They are illegal sales. They are usually serial numbered and that's why they can be traced.

Like the doctor said, a lot of these weapons come from overseas. They come from China, Russia, other places. In gun sale events, they don't sell hand grenades and RPGs as an example. Those are smuggled in. Assault weapons that meet the criteria as a semi-automatic type weapon is authorized and I don't believe that that should be attacked. But I do think we should enforce the laws and hammer those that do sell guns illegally to people that aren't qualified to purchase them.

PILGRIM: Miguel.

PEREZ: Look, we should enforce, we should help Mexico as much as we can. But, you know, I agree with the professor. Those drug dealers can buy arms anywhere in the world. Colombia doesn't have a border with the United States and they used to buy airplanes and submarines when they were going. So, you know, let's remember that.

Also the drugs, I think it's a myth to blame only the United States. The whole world is consuming drugs right now. And so that excuse that we keep hearing, "the arms are coming and you're consuming the drugs and you're sending us the arms," enough is enough. It's a problem. We have to deal with it. We need to help you but stop blaming. The blame game has to stop.

PILGRIM: I'd like to shift to one of our great characters, President Hugo Chavez. He seems to be dialing up the rhetoric as the summit will take place, the fifth summit of the Americas. And president Obama will attend and he'll greet a number of Latin American dignitaries.

Let's listen to what President Chavez had to say.


HUGO CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA: Obama is going to accuse me now of supporting terrorism. At the very least, you could say he's a poor, ignorant man. He should study and read a little bit so he can learn what is the reality of what he is living and the reality of Latin America and the reality of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PILGRIM: Now, president Obama making this trip into the region, one of his first as president. Strategically, we've somewhat let this languish. And where do we stand now, General Grange, in terms of strategy and countering this kind of rhetoric from people like Hugo Chavez?

GRANGE: I think it's an important issue that we need to take up. This is our backyard. And essentially in South America, it has kind of been done on the cheap recently. I mean, we did a great job in Colombia. I hope we maintained the support of the Colombian government. They've taken tremendous strides in taking down cartels and taking back a lot of the country from the FARC, the insurgent force that's there.

We need to pay attention to Central and South America and have a very proactive counter insurgency, counter communistic type policy. These people don't wish us the best and they have a lot of things going on there tied to terrorist organizations. So we need to help our allies down there the best that we can.

PILGRIM: Professor Grayson, this is your area. Give us your thoughts on the new -- potentially new change of events.

GRAYSON: Kitty, I think this is political tourism. It's a chance for the leaders of the hemisphere to rip and grin, to renew old acquaintances and to make new ones. It will give President Obama a chance to say that he's becoming familiar with a region that has been long neglected.

Given the priorities of this administration, I think that Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East will still remain much higher on the radar screen.

PILGRIM: We have to hold it right there. Thank you very much, gentlemen for your insights on this. George Grayson, David Grange and Miguel Perez, thank you.

Coming up, there are thousands of foreclosed homes across the country. They are so vandalized they can't be sold. We'll have more on this unreported trend and what it means for you.

Also, thousands of Americans protest high taxes, government spending. We'll assess the impact with South Carolina's governor next.


PILGRIM: Thousands of Americans express their frustration with taxes and the government in TEA Party protests across the country. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford attended two of those protests in the state. The governor is a vocal critic of President Obama's stimulus plan. And he joins me now from Columbia, South Carolina.

Very nice to have you on the program, sir.

You were one of the first governors, even before Obama went into office, who was critical of the stimulus plan. And yet, what was the reaction to the people in your state when you talked about rejecting some of the money?

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's been mixed, as you might imagine. Some people have loved the idea and some people have been decidedly against it. What I thought was interesting yesterday about the tax parties was there has been something of a time of wilderness for those of us who've been against the stimulus. And if anything it was partial vindication of that silent majority that we have long believed was out there because what happened across the country is a lot of people were out making their voices heard on their concerns about taxes, spending, and stimulus.

PILGRIM: You know, there was quite a debate about this, whether it was a real grassroots up rising or a sort of a one-day protest. It's your opinion that it's deeper?

SANFORD: Again, time will be the ultimate judge of that. But my sense is, yes, something is going on in this country that I can't quite put my arms around or put my finger on. Because what I saw both in Columbia and in Charleston yesterday and there'll be another TEA Party rally in (INAUDIBLE) Greenville, South Carolina tomorrow night was again something at the grassroots level, the likes of which I have not seen before in the 15 years that I've been involved in the political process.

PILGRIM: Yes. It was quite remarkable and then watching that yesterday.

I'd like to bring up your position on the stimulus money. You reluctantly accepted on April 3rd the federal stimulus money for your state but you put some conditions on it. You say that you will not spend the $700 million that's earmarked for education and public safety unless the state legislature agrees to take that same amount of money to pay down the state's debt. How did that go over in your state?

SANFORD: Again, as suggested earlier, you know, mixed reviews, some like it and some don't. What we did was we certified the funds. We did not accept them. What we said was we would not accept that last $700 million unless concurrently we use some state money to pay down debt. And the reason is, if we spend all of the money we end up $744 million in the hole, 24 months from now. And the question has to be asked, how do you get out of that hole?

And also what we looked at was, you know, if you spend every dime of this thing, we're not going to make some reforms that are absolutely essential to South Carolina becoming more competitive going forward and I could give you a laundry list of other reasons as to why we laid out the position that we did. But ultimately we think it is tied to South Carolina becoming more competitive economically going forward not accepting all the money.

PILGRIM: This is such a hard position to take, such a responsible position to take. And you actually risked a lot because if the economy suddenly bursts into health, you risk a lot because you may look wrong. You're thinking about that, I'm sure, a lot.

SANFORD: yes, but I think what you've got to do as a fiduciary or trustee is plan for the worst and hope for the best. Gordon Sullivan who was a former chief of staff of the United States Army and he wrote a book called "Hope is not a Method." And while we all hope that the economy is decidedly improved 24 months from now, what you've got to plan on is what if that doesn't happen.

And what we've been looking at is if you accept all of this money, you spend all of this money, we end up $700 million in the hole. And I think that that would be a real problem, which is why we think it's so important we shore up our financial position while we have the opportunity to do so.

This stimulus package in a lot of ways represents the mother of all lotteries to state governments across this country.

PILGRIM: Well, we commend you for the tough position you've taken and you defend it well. Thank you very much for being with us, Governor Mark Sanford. Thank you.

SANFORD: My pleasure, take care.

PILGRIM: Still ahead, foreclosures skyrocketing across the country and fewer of those properties are being sold. We'll tell you why and how this could affect the value of your home. We have a special report next.


PILGRIMS: Foreclosures are still rising across this country. Tonight RealtyTrac reports the number of foreclosed properties; it's up 40 percent in March compared to the same time last year. Mortgage lenders repossessed more than 70,000 properties last month in March, 2008; the number of foreclosed properties was about 51,000 the year before.

Many of these foreclosed properties will be sold by the lenders and cities that take them over. Some of the properties are so badly damaged they cannot be sold. That's having a devastating impact on homes and communities across the country.

Drew Griffin of our Special Investigations Unit has our report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNITS (voice-over): It's a whole different class of homes across the country that so far no one is counting: unsaleable, foreclosed and left for dead.

THOMAS POPIK, CAMPBELL COMMUNICATIONS: About a third of all foreclosed properties have been so damaged either by their previous owners or by criminals coming in to loot after the foreclosure that they no longer qualify for standard mortgage financing. GRIFFIN: From his tiny office in southern New Hampshire, Tom Popik surveys thousands of realtors nationwide and what he says he's discovered is a national trend that regulators in Washington haven't yet seen.

POPIK: In many cases it costs so much to rehabilitate these properties, it's just not cost-effective and the properties are eventually going to be bulldozed.

GRIFFIN (on camera): This looks like it had been sitting here vacant for quite a long time.

NELSON ORTEGA, CHIEF CODE INSPECTOR: It was vacant for a while.

GRIFFIN: This foreclosed house in Nashua, New Hampshire is one of 29 in this city. Four years ago the sale price was about $200,000.

ORTEGA: This house is not livable until code enforcement releases it and says it is.

GRIFFIN: So whoever buys this...

ORTEGA: Has to bring it up to compliance with national ordinance.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): And take a look at these foreclosed homes in Atlanta; boarded up on the outside, inside trash everywhere, walls ripped open, even a toilet on the living room floor.

DANA ASH, REAL ESTATE BROKER: A lot of the homes have been vandalized. They're a little scary going into them. The power is out. A lot of them are boarded up.

GRIFFIN: It's not just foreclosed homes in less affluent areas that have been badly damaged. Some very pricey homes are in terrible shape, as well.

(on camera) This house actually had two kitchens. One was the main kitchen and one for the entertainment room. This was it. Took out all the appliances, all the cabinets and just left. And outside it's even worse.

The foreclosed owner here had been ripped out and hauled off thousands of dollars in custom stone work. Just to stick it to the bank. So if I'm getting foreclosed on, I'm mad, I'm ticked off at the bank, my final fist shake is going to be, take the water heater, sell it and throw a hammer through the wall.

POPIK: Unfortunately in many cases, that's what happens.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): A spokesman for the department of housing and urban development tells CNN that unsaleable homes are a relatively small part of the national inventory of foreclosed properties. But that the worse the economy is in a particular region, the more distressed the foreclosed homes are likely to be. (END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Kitty, Popik says the Housing Department is out of touch with what's happening in neighborhoods across the U.S. His survey of realtors, he says, foretells a huge problem of these unsellable homes dragging down their neighborhoods, and in his view and the views of the realtors he is surveying right now, the housing gurus in Washington aren't even acknowledging that this problem exists -- Kitty.

PILRIM: That is a staggering report. Let's hope that they are listening. Thanks very much, Drew Griffin.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "NO BIAS, NO BULL," Roland Martin, in for Campbell Brown -- Roland.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, GUEST ANCHOR, "NO BIAS, NO BULL": Kitty, breaking tonight, details from Bush administration's torture memos. We are just now learning how far CIA interrogators were allowed to go.

Also ahead, President Barack Obama is in Mexico tonight as that country wages war with vicious drug cartels. The president has vowed to stop the violence from causing chaos on his side of the border. But how much can he really do? We'll look at that.

Plus, one of the nation's biggest airlines says it's going to charge obese passengers extra, if they can't fit into a single coach seat. Is that fair? We'll talk about it and take your calls.

All that at the top of the hour -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: We look forward to it, Roland Martin, thank you.

Still ahead, tonight's poll results. Some of your thoughts.

Stay with us.


PILGRIM: Tonight's poll results: 95 percent of you think president Obama's trip to Mexico will not do anything at all to end our illegal immigration and border security crisis.

We do have time now for some of your thoughts.

Greg in North Carolina wrote to us: "Lou, please tell your audience that the Tax Day Tea Party is not a Republican nor Democrat issue but an American issue. The people are sick of elected officials of both the parties."

And John in Idaho wrote to us: "If we don't start putting an end to this overtaxing, they will just take it all. We Americans need to start voting these folks out of office. It's the only way we can fix this mess." And Taven in Massachusetts: "Gee, Lou, you would think that if the Obama administration is taking all our money, then it would at least spend some of it on border control."

Terry in Oklahoma: "The Democrats would consider me a 'right wing extremist' and the Republicans would call me a 'liberal loony.' I guess that makes me an average American."

And Steve in Oklahoma: "The people who disrupted Congressman Tancredo's speech in North Carolina need to read the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Those rights apply to all of us equally."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts. Go to

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow.

For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.

"NO BIAS, NO BULL" starts right now. And in for Campbell Brown is Roland Martin.