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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Insurgents Launch Brazen Attack in Tikrit; Jose Padilla Indicted; DeLay in Court

Aired November 22, 2005 - 18:00   ET


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, insurgents target U.S. and Iraqi officials inside one of the most secure military bases in Iraq. We'll tell you what happened.

And then, a leading U.S. terror suspect finally indicted after being held for three years without charge. We'll have the details about that case.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez steps up his campaign to embarrass President Bush with the help of some leading politicians in this country.

Plus, why a border fence along our southern border will not keep illegal aliens out of the United States.

And the deadly bird flu spreading fast. We'll be analyzing whether bird flu fears are simply hype.

Tonight, a day of bloody insurgent attacks in Iraq. An American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad and at least 18 Iraqis were killed in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Insurgents also launched a brazen attack against U.S. and Iraqi officials at a ceremony in Tikrit.

Barbara Starr reports.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It happens almost every day in Iraq. A mortar attack, but this time it was caught on camera as high-level U.S. and Iraqi officials attended a ceremony in Tikrit, where the U.S. was handing back to the Iraqis a complex of palaces that had been a military base.

Everyone ducked for cover and there were a few moments of chaos, but no one was hurt. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and top commander General George Casey were in the audience. No one can say if the attackers knew they were there.

It all underscores the growing debate about whether the very presence of U.S. troops is making them a target and when Iraqi security forces will be ready to take over. U.S. military commanders agree an early pullout would be destabilizing. Clearly, they now expect months of ranker perhaps not seen since Vietnam.

LT. GEN. JOHN VINES, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: The debate and the bitterness is disturbing. But after all, we are a democracy, and that's what democracy is about, is people will have differences of opinions.


STARR: Now, both administration opponents and supporters appear to agree on one thing, that the Iraqis must make political progress on their own. The U.S. military, Kitty, is already war-gaming what might happen if the Iraqis do ask U.S. troops to leave -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Barbara, what do military officials say will happen in Iraq if the United States withdraws its troops over the next few months?

STARR: Well, it is a fundamental concern right now. They call it a precipitous withdrawal.

The general view in the U.S. military is that Iraq might seriously implode into civil war, into more chaos. It's the reason that commanders say they must stay until Iraqi security forces can take over and the political process is more stable in that country -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: All right. Thank you very much. Barbara Starr.

An American has also been killed in combat in Afghanistan. Now, the service member was killed when a roadside bomb detonated next to his Humvee near Tarin Kowt. Two hundred and five Americans have been killed fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and this year has been the deadliest year for our troops there since 2001.

In this country, a leading terror suspect has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and aid terrorists. Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, no longer faces accusations that he planned a dirty bomb attack in this country.

Kelli Arena reports.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After more than three years in military custody, enemy combatant Jose Padilla has been criminally charged and will face the accusations against him in a court of law.

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The indictment alleges that Padilla traveled overseas to train as a terrorist with the intention of fighting in violent jihad.

ARENA: Padilla faces life in prison if convicted on three charges: conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap people overseas, providing material support to terrorists, and conspiracy to provide that support. But there's no mention of dirty bomb, no mention of blowing up apartment buildings in the United States, both allegations made very publicly in the past by Justice officials.

Padilla's lawyers say that's because the government can't back them up.

DONNA NEWMAN, JOSE PADILLA'S ATTORNEY: They now say conveniently it's irrelevant. How, can I ask, is such a thing irrelevant, holding somebody in solitary confinement, a citizen seized on our soil, for three and a half years with a little pen become irrelevant?

ARENA: Justice officials say they are not backing away from the earlier allegations. They say prosecutors brought charges that they could prove in court. During a press conference just over a year ago, then Deputy Attorney General James Comey cautioned that most of what Padilla allegedly confessed to couldn't be used in court.

JAMES COMEY, FMR. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't believe that we could use this information in a criminal case because we deprived him of access to his counsel and questioned him in the absence of counsel.

ARENA: The indictment may help the government avoid a Supreme Court showdown. Padilla's lawyers have petitioned the court to rule on how long the government can hold a U.S. citizen without charges.

ROSCOE HOWARD, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Clearly, the government has set a stage where the Supreme Court can -- could either deny the petition or somehow procedurally he petition can be removed from review from the -- from the court's jurisdiction because the remedies that have been requested have been fulfilled.


ARENA: Well, Padilla's lawyers say their argument should be heard and that the high court needs to set a clear standard for what the government can and cannot do -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Kelly, a jury today found another American guilty of plotting with al Qaeda to assassinate President Bush. What can you tell us about that case, Kelly?

ARENA: Well, that is a man by the name of Abu Ali. He's a 24- year-old U.S. citizen who was in custody in Saudi Arabia where he was studying.

When he was taken into custody, he confessed to Saudi officials that he was a member of al Qaeda, and that he had plotted to assassinate President Bush. He was brought back to the United States. He, in turn, said that he was tortured and gave a false confession.

A jury rejected that claim, convicted him. He could serve life in prison. His lawyer promises to appeal -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much. Kelli Arena.

Former House majority leader Tom DeLay went back to court today in his fight against conspiracy and money laundering charges. Now, DeLay's attorney tried to convince a judge to dismiss the charges without a trial.

Joe Johns has our report -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, former House majority leader Tom DeLay asked a judge to throw out money laundering and conspiracy charges against him, but the judge refused to rule this week. DeLay wants a quick decision.

He lost his leadership position in the Congress after he was indicted in the campaign finance investigation by prosecutor Ronnie Earle and a grand jury. DeLay's lawyers are pressing the courts in Texas to rule on this case as quickly as possible so that he can ask his colleagues to reinstate him.

The prosecutor's office has said DeLay should be treated like everybody else. DeLay's lawyers say no crime occurred, but the judge said he needed two weeks or so to think about it before he makes a decision. He also said if the case goes trial, it's unlikely it will be disposed of by the end of the year.

The case, of course, concerns the 2002 transfer of $190,000 in corporate money from a political action committee created by DeLay to the National Republican Party in Washington, D.C. The RNC then sent the $190,000 back to Texas, Republican state candidates.

It's illegal under Texas law for corporations to contribute to political campaigns. DeLay's lawyer said the money sent to the RNC was not the same money that was sent back to Texas, thus no violation.

The judge is Pat Priest. He came out of retirement to hear the case after an earlier judge was accused of being a partisan Democrat and removed. Judge Priest may rule on whether to toss out the indictments; however, he appeared to be anticipating a full trial when he laid out ground rules for cameras in the courtroom at trial.

Kitty, back to you.

PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much. Joe Johns. Thanks, Joe.

Still to come, how President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is trying to embarrass President Bush with the help of some politicians in this country.

Plus, why big companies say they can't find enough middle class Americans to fill key manufacturing jobs.

And the grim reality of urban combat in Iraq. What the U.S. Marines call the 3 Block War. We'll have a special report from the front line.


PILGRIM: FEMA announced today that tends of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims still living in hotels and motels will not be forced to move into new housing next week. FEMA is extending its December 1 deadline for the evacuees to move into apartments and more permanent housing.

Most evacuees have now until January 7 to find new living arrangements, which will still be paid for by the federal government. FEMA has been stung by criticism that it was forcing evacuees into new living arrangements during the holidays.

Tonight, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has made his most blatant attempt yet to embarrass the Bush administration. CITGO, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, announced plans today to sell 12 million barrels of heating oil at a steep discount to low-income families in Massachusetts. Now, critics are calling it a shameful, populous stunt, but amazingly it's gaining support from politicians in this country who are also ready to score points against the president.

Christine Romans reports.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a gift from Venezuela, and we're having a party.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Venezuela's president is making good on a promise to bring cheap heating oil to poor Americans, and in the process thumbing his nose at President George Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Venezuelan oil now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Venezuelan oil.

ROMANS: Massachusetts Democrats and Venezuela's ambassador, with much fanfare, gathered on the lawn of a resident south of Boston to celebrate.

REP. WILLIAM DELAHUNT (D), MASSACHUSETTS: To CITGO, to the people of Venezuela, our debt.

REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This is a singular gesture which will translate into real help for real people.

ROMANS: Real help from the Latin American leader prone to outrageous insults of President Bush, who's called the United States the largest terrorist organization in the world.

At today's State Department press briefing...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What type of message does it send when foreign government comes in and is helping Americans in a time of need?

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Well, again, we haven't seen -- we've seen -- we've seen the rhetoric, we've seen the press reports. I don't think that we have seen any sort of -- you know, have any further details with regard to these news reports. Or we haven't seen any concrete -- concrete steps on the part of CITGO Corporation. ROMANS: But Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano is seeing concrete steps on the part of Venezuela's CITGO.

REP. JOSE SERRANO (D), NEW YORK: CITGO Corporation will sell -- set aside eight million gallons of home heating oil to be sold at a 40 percent discount, with the full understanding, signed understanding, that this 40 percent savings has to be passed on to the community.

ROMANS: In the Bronx and in Boston, Democrats say Venezuela is doing what the Bush administration, Congress and oil companies can't or won't.

Citizens Energy president Joe Kennedy...

JOSEPH KENNEDY, CITIZENS ENERGY CORPORATION: When it comes to saying whether there's enough money to increase just a little bit for the fuel assistance program, what do we hear from Washington? Sorry, boys, no money in the till.

ROMANS: No money in the till, critics say, unless it's handouts for oil companies.

TYSON SLOCUM, PUBLIC CITIZEN'S ENERGY PROGRAM: The recent energy bill, prioritized oil companies with $6 billion in subsidies. There wasn't a dime in that energy bill for lower income people to help them out with their utility bills or for middle American -- for middle income people.

ROMANS: That leaves a big opening for the man who calls the president "Mr. Danger" to playing Santa Chavez.


ROMANS: Chavez clearly using his petrol dollars to buy some goodwill with the American public and maybe take a poke or two at the Bush administration. Chavez' timing is impeccable. Winter heating season is upon us. And just last week, the Senate, driven by the Republican majority, rejected a measure to force energy companies to give back some of their profits to fund relief for low-income taxpayers in this country.

PILGRIM: Let's take a reality check here. Venezuela has abysmal poverty rates. Doesn't Mr. Chavez have something to do for his own people this winter?

ROMANS: He's been spreading around the money all over Latin America, and now here those petrol dollars. He's clearly trying to set himself up, the experts say, as a kind of populist leader to rival George Bush. He wants to really put himself out there and be a leader for the hemisphere.

PILGRIM: Nice. Thanks very much, Christine.

Well, Mexico has become the verbal arch-rival of Venezuela in recent weeks. But today Mexico announced an oil deal of its own with the United States. Mexico approves the construction of a pipeline that would pump crude oil to a U.S. gas refinery in Arizona. Now, that construction could begin next year. It will be the first new U.S. gas refinery to be built in the United States in almost 30 years. Energy analysts have urged the construction of new U.S. refineries to help ease our nation's oil crisis.

Well, we have told you about the new 18-year-old mayor in Hillsdale, Michigan. Well, today, it was official.

Mayor Mitchell Sessions officially taking the oath of office there. It makes him the youngest mayor in the city's history, and one that is still a high school senior. Sessions was a write-in candidate. He defeated the incumbent mayor by just two votes in the November 8 election.

And Sessions used $700 from his summer job to finance his campaign.

Still ahead, a new twist to our nation's manufacturing crisis. Firms say factory jobs are there but qualified workers are not.

Plus, from fences to roads, new broken border proposals are now in the works. How effective would they really be? We'll have a special report next.

And also, bucking conventional wisdom on bird flu. I'll talk to a flu expert who says fears of a pandemic are way overblown.

Stay with us.


PILGRIM: A new study finds fault with American workers for this country's manufacturing decline. The National Association of Manufacturers says U.S. workers can't keep up with new technology. That is causing an uproar, and critics say it's a shameful attempt to blame the victims, middle class workers trying to earn a livable wage.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The National Association of Manufacturers is sounding the alarm. The United States is running out of skilled workers. According to a survey at U.S. companies, 80 percent expect a shortage over the next three years. This comes as manufacturing has become more technical and the global market more competitive.

JOHN ENGLER, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MANUFACTURERS: The unavailability in some cases of the technical skills threatens U.S. competitiveness and leadership and technology and innovation.

SYLVESTER: But that's only half the story. JARED BERNSTEIN, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: A lot of times when employers are saying we can't find the skilled workforce they need, the unspoken part of that is, not at the pay raise we're offering.

SYLVESTER: So there's not necessarily a shortage of high-skilled workers. The shortage is in high-skilled workers willing to work for low pay.

Corporate America also says the public education system is failing students.

RICHARD KLEINERT, DELOITTE CONSULTING: Indeed, 84 percent of respondents say that K to 12 schools do not do a good job of preparing individuals for the workplace.

SYLVESTER: No argument there. But why, then, isn't the business community on the front line, fighting proposed cuts in student load aid and worker training programs? Consider that the current administration has pushed for federal cuts in programs that provide training to disadvantaged workers and match Americans with jobs. Currently, there's a proposal that would make it more expensive for college students to take out federal loans, and companies have been cutting back on training programs.

ROBERT BAUGH, AFL-CIO: What's the first thing to go in a workplace when they're saving their budgets? They cut training. They throw out apprenticeship programs. And therefore, they are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy here by the lack of investment in their own workers and by their failure to train.


SYLVESTER: The National Association of Manufacturers' study recommends that companies spend at least 3 percent of their payroll on training. Three-quarters of the surveyed companies are not meeting that mark -- Kitty.

PHILLIPS: Thanks very much. Lisa Sylvester.

Well, coming up, a terrifying look inside what the U.S. military is calling the 3 Block War. Dramatic footage from the battlefield coming up.

Then, tough new border proposals to keep out illegal aliens. How well will they really work? We'll have a special report next.

And Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be my guest. He says the U.S. is in a race against time to save its faltering schools.


PILGRIM: Now we have this just into CNN. We have a large plume of smoke rising out of Mount St. Helens. You can see it right there. These pictures are live from our affiliate KGW in Washington State.

Now, you may remember how Mount St. Helens became active last year after it was dormant for decades. The U.S. Geological Survey on September 11 of this year raised the alert system to orange for Mount St. Helens.

Mount St. Helens in Washington States is an active volcano. We are seeing a plume of smoke, live. We're going to be following this and keeping track of it for you, but we wanted you to see it as soon as possible. And there it is.

Well, tonight, a debate under way over controversial new proposals to help secure our nation's broken border with Mexico. From fences to roads, momentum is building in Congress to do something, but critics say these new proposals may be promising too much in the fight against illegal aliens.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Much of the U.S. border near San Diego is already fenced in some places with two or three layers of metal barriers up to 20 feet high. Illegal crossings have been dramatically reduced here, but even these fences don't come close to stopping all illegal alien border jumpers.

DAVID BROWN, BORDER PATROL AGENT-IN-CHARGE: What they'll try to do is either decoy us or create a diversion by either running groups at us or throwing rocks at us, something to get us to move to respond to move out of the area where -- where they want to go.

WIAN: The Border Patrol has experimented with different fence materials from metal sections of military landing strips to thick concrete posts.

BROWN: The mesh on top is to make it even more difficult for people to get over. Unfortunately, they can still do it. People who -- that have enough desire to try to do it, they can come up with these makeshift ladders, throw it on top of there, climb up on it, and then go on over.

WIAN: The first ladders the Border Patrol encountered were crudely fashioned from steel poles and rebar.

JOE PEREZ, BORDER PATROL AGENT-IN-CHARGE: This is super heavy, real cumbersome, and not very conducive for what they want to do. They want to go over the fence extremely fast.

WIAN: Now they use narrow lightweight aluminum ladders that even we could scale without much trouble.

PEREZ: It wasn't two, three weeks ago that we had the same thing, a decoy come across. We chased the decoy. We were looking for the person. And right below us in the very bottom, when that agent moved, another smuggler smuggled two Turkish nationals in. We were able to apprehend those because we set up for it.

WIAN: Though this is the most secure stretch of the U.S. border with Mexico, the Border Patrol admits it's not secure enough. While more fencing is being added, some places like these mountains and canyons east of San Diego are far too rugged for a simple fence. But the Border Patrol says what it needs most is a combination of resources, including better roads, remote cameras, and high-tech sensors that can detect foot traffic.

Congress approved $200 million this year for additional Border Patrol infrastructure and technology. Agencies say it's a start.

Casey Wian, CNN, San Diego.


PILGRIM: In North Carolina, a drunken driving crash involves an illegal alien. Now, his person had been deported more than 17 times in the past. Authorities say the Mexican national was driving more than 100 miles an hour the wrong way on Interstate 485.

He crashed head on into the car of an 18-year-old college student, who was killed. The illegal alien also had been previously arrested for impaired driving in Colorado and Tennessee.

Now, a prosecutor in the case says he has no idea how the man keeps getting into the country, but we do have an idea. Our broken borders.

Well, turning now to the crisis at our nation's schools. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney continues his push tonight for a top-to-bottom overhaul of the state's school system, almost $200 million in new spending over the next two fiscal years.

Romney is fighting for new laptops for students, new science teachers, new math teachers, and also merit pay for teachers. This is a controversial new idea that ties teacher pay to the performance of their students.

Now, Governor Romney is also speaking out about the need to reform our schools nationwide, and Governor Romney joins me tonight from Boston.

And thanks for being with us, sir?


PILGRIM: It's a -- it's a great new proposal, it makes a lot of sense, and yet there's a good bit of resistance from teachers, teachers unions. They do not want merit-based pay.

What do you say to them?

ROMNEY: Well, I think more and more teachers really prefer a system where teaching is seen as a profession. Teachers are not automatons that are making widgets. People are people with skill and capability that needs to be recognized for its individual accomplishment. We'd like to see the very best teachers promoted, given responsibility to mentor other teachers, train other teachers. We'd like AP, advanced placement, teachers to get an extra bonus. Math and science teachers and those that are willing to go into our toughest schools get extra pay. We want the very best to be treated like professionals, and that's, I think, the direction that teaching is going to go.

PILGRIM: You've been out there on education for awhile sir, and looking at the statistics, the U.S. is 25th out of 41 industrialized nations in math and science. Are we in crisis?

ROMNEY: Well, there's no question. We have an extraordinary challenge. It's impossible for us as a nation to lead the world, to be the superpower economically, the superpower militarily, unless we also are the superpower in terms of brainpower. And we're going to have to provide for our kids the kind of education they need to lead the world.

And we're not doing that today. Particularly in math and science, our kids are way behind international standards. We're going to have to raise the bar in education dramatically, and you can't do that by just paying more money to the same people to do the same thing.

We have to improve our underlying system, and improving our system means moving ahead in math and science. And I suggested, as you indicate, merit pay as well as computers for all of our kids, laptops. Take them home, explore the world through your computer. We're going have to really take a giant leap in education if we want to keep up.

PILGRIM: You've recently said that the ability to close the achievement gap is the civil rights issue of a generation, is that something that you feel very strongly about? Do you think it is the quintessential issue for our people right now?

ROMNEY: Yes, I really think we have two very serious gaps in American education, and in my own state, of course. One is the achievement gap, the fact that people who are of minority origin are in a position where they're not able to have the same opportunities following high school that other kids have, is unacceptable. We have to give people equal opportunity in the classroom.

And secondly, we have an excellence gap. Our very best and brightest are not keeping up with the world standard. We're going to have to close both of those gaps.

And in terms of our achievement gap among our minority students, look, it's a civil rights challenge. It's something which is going to be measured for decades to come. Did we keep up? Did we provide ethnic minorities with the same opportunities they deserved, and I think we're failing that test today.

PILGRIM: You know, with the No Child Left Behind program, how can we have this gap widening? How does that make sense with you?

ROMNEY: Well, No Child Left Behind gives us the tools to see where we're failing. It allows us to test our kids, which identifies which schools are failing and then it offers ways for us to get those schools back on track, and that's what we have to do. We can't just pretend like we're make progress if we're not.

And doing the same things we've done before and expect a different result is the definition of foolishness. We are going to have to change the way we're doing things. That's what I'm proposing to do here in Massachusetts.

Other governors will other ideas, maybe better than mine. We'll learn from one another. But we have to change the way we're doing things to improve education, give teachers the tools they need, and, in my view, higher pay that they need for the very best and brightest to come into a profession that our whole nation depends on.

PILGRIM: You're heading into rough waters, sir. Governor Schwarzenegger shelved his merit-based plan earlier this year. What do you anticipate in terms of fighting this through?

ROMNEY: Well, I'm not going to go with a ballot initiative. Instead, we're going to work with our legislature and with our teacher's union. And I think teacher's union members, particularly the teachers themselves, want to see higher pay. They want advanced placement teachers getting higher pay, those that have experience in math and science, those that are doing the best in the classroom.

They want to get better pay, and I want to give more pay. That's why I proposed hundreds of millions of dollars more in funding. But I don't better pay just for showing up. I want better pay for being excellent. And that's the way it is in all of our professions, and teaching is as important a profession as anything else that goes on in our economy.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Thank you.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Well, this us to the subject of our poll tonight. Which of these pressing issues do you believe should be the first priority for our lawmakers? Broken borders, education crisis, loss of manufacturing jobs, or the threat of terrorism? Cast your vote at We'll bring the results later in the broadcast.

And coming up, Able Danger, more on the secret Army intelligence unit that identified Mohammed Atta one year before September 11th.

And then the triple threat of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and rogue states. We'll talk to the author of a new book about how the United States should confront these threats.

And bird flu killed more than 60 people in Asia. But one expert says widespread fears of a global pandemic are unfounded. He'll be our guest. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PILGRIM: Here's some news just in. The Justice Department has decided to drop its indictment against the accounting firm Arthur Andersen. The government says further legal action is not in the interest of justice.

Arthur Andersen, of course, was forced out of business after being convicted of obstruction of justice in the Enron scandal of 2002. Eighty-three thousand people lost their jobs. The conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court earlier this year. And tonight, once again, the Justice Department has decided to drop its indictment against the accounting firm Arthur Andersen.

Well, it's been five days now since Congressman Curt Weldon has sent his Able Danger letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This letter was sent on Friday. And as of this broadcast, we understand Rumsfeld has still yet to respond. Almost 250 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed the letter along with Congressman Weldon.

They are demanding that members of Able Danger Army Intelligence Unit be allowed to testify before Congress. Able Danger officials claim to have identified 9/11 mastermind Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 radical Islamist terrorists more than a year before the attacks.

They say that the Pentagon stopped them from sharing this information with FBI officials who could have possibly prevented 9/11. Now, can you read Congressman Weldon's letter to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on our Web site,

Well, my next guest has written a new book on what he says is a triple threat to peace and stability around the world. Peter Brookes is the author of "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Rogue States." And he also is a senior fellow for national security affairs at the Heritage Foundation, and he joins us from Washington.

Thank you being with us this evening, Peter.

PETER BROOKES, AUTHOR, "A DEVIL'S TRIANGLE": Good to be with you, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Let's start with rogue states. Seems like a good place to start. And we've had some developments in Iran this week and last where Iran basically came up with some components for a bomb and said, oh by the way, we had these, and yet, what's your response to the reaction in the international community?

BROOKES: It hasn't been enough. I mean they met this week in Vienna at the International Atomic Energy Agency -- the meeting. The Board of Governors is meeting this week and they've decided to let Russia try to come up with a new plan, but we keep kicking the can down the road here.

The problem is, is that potentially, time is on Iran's side. They may be doing -- we know they're doing some things, moving in the early steps of enriching uranium, turning into uranium hexafluoride, turning this yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride. But then they can start enriching it, and we're not sure what's going on behind the scenes. Their program is underground both literally and figuratively.

Literally, they have a lot of facilities that are underground, they're near civilian facilities, or civilian cities, highly populated.

Know that we could potentially attack them, so they put them underground. And then there's a lot of other things we don't necessarily know what's going on with the Iranian program.

PILGRIM: Let's talk about another nuclear state, and potentially the most dangerous in the world, and that's North Korea. You know, in your book, you use this quote from John F. Kennedy, saying "diplomacy and defense are not substitutes, one for another. Either alone will fail." We've tried a lot of diplomacy with North Korea. How do you assess how we're doing?

BROOKES: Well, it's very, very difficult. North Korea is a very, very difficult country to deal with in sense. The right framework the Bush administration has set up is this six-party framework.

China is key, of course, there is some unclarity about how helpful China has been in moving this forward. But China has more influence in Pyongyang than anybody, and if North Korea is going to move back from the nuclear abyss, I think Beijing has a very strong hand in that.

PILGRIM: How do you assess the terror threat, Peter? Are we too heavily emphasizing the Middle East?

BROOKES: It goes well beyond the Middle East, Kitty, as we know. Obviously, every night in the news, we see a lot of stuff coming out in the Middle East.

But one of the things I talk about in the book is how this is so spread out, al Qaeda has franchises across the globe, including, especially, Southeast Asia is very troubling.

We've had attacks in Indonesia. A lot of people don't realize that Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim state, 240 million Indonesians. There's also trouble in the Philippines, with al Qaeda affiliates. So, it's not just something that is in the Middle East. And obviously, we had our troubles in Europe, and Europe could go over the top at any point.

PILGRIM: You know, in reading your book, Peter, it just strikes you how global this threat is. What can one do, what concrete steps can the United States do now to help?

BROOKES: Well, one of the first things, Kitty, I think is we have to be successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, that will set a model. We have to continue to push the envelope in terms of freedom.

One of the things we're not talking about today is terrorist financing. You know, this was something, we locked up a lot of finances right after 9/11. This is something, there's still too much cash out there for terrorists to operate. It doesn't always take a lot of money, but it does take some money, and we have to continue to push to be able to shut down terrorism financing.

Another thing is education reform, a lot of countries around the world -- children to have choices between going to madrasas, religious schools -- and many of these schools teach radicalism and extremism, or they don't go to school at all.

So in places like Pakistan and Indonesia, education reform, supporting secular education is critically important.

PILGRIM: A key element to this book, "A Devil's Triangle," are the prescriptions for success. Thanks very much for being with us, Peter Brookes.

BROOKES: Thank you, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Well, a reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. Which of these pressing issues do you believe should be the first priority for our lawmakers? Broken borders, education crisis, loss of manufacturing jobs, or the threat of terrorism? Cast your vote at and we'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.

President Bush calls Iraq the central front in the global war on terror. Some of the bloodiest fighting has been in insurgent controlled towns near the Syrian border.

U.S. marines call it the three block war. Marines met fierce resistance in towns like Husayba earlier this month. Arwa Damon was there, he reports on the grim reality of urban combat.


ARWA DAMON, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): Gunnery Sergeant Jeff Cullen and his platoon, in the thick of battle, with a front line that is never really clear. From combat to confronting civilians, it's the reality of war in Iraq, and of this particular mission, to clear Husayba of insurgents who operate among the civilians, who had no way to flee the fighting.

GUNNERY SGT. JEFF CULLEN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: It's kind of difficult, you shoot a rocket at one building because you have an insurgent inside, and then you go the next block up and you've got a family with six kids running around.

DAMON: The Marines call this a three block war.

LT. COL. DALE ALFORD, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Three block war is the ability for that young corporal to go from block three back to block one in a very short time.

DAMON: Block three, full urban combat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the corner, right there underneath you. DAMON: Block two, exposed and searching for bombs. Block one, facing off innocents.

ALFORD: You go back and forth between those blocks, it takes a unique mindset, and we train to that, the Marine Corps, especially.

DAMON: Cullen and his men, now moving toward their target house. The target building is right behind this pile of rubble. U.S. Marines have spotted an individual carrying an AK-47, running along the bottom floor of the building, and the windows are sandbagged.

But they really have no idea what's inside these buildings. There could be insurgents, there could be IEDs, or there could be a family who couldn't escape the fighting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell them to come out to the grass.

DAMON: The training is vital. The difference between life and death, for Cullen and his men, and for the civilians.

CULLEN: It gets kind of nerve-wracking, but you've just got to do it, deal with it and move on.

DAMON: There is little time to contemplate...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there, hole in the wall, right there!

DAMON: ... when fighting a three block war.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Husayba, Iraq.


PILGRIM: Still ahead tonight, growing worldwide fears about the deadly bird flu. One expert calls those concerns ridiculous. He'll be my guest, he'll explain why.

But next, we'll have latest on a developing story in Washington state. A huge plume of smoke coming from Mount St. Helens tonight. And you're looking at live pictures. We'll have much more on the story next.


PILGRIM: Bringing you up to the minute now on a developing story we told you about a little bit earlier in the program.

A large plume of smoke is rising out of Mount St. Helens. Now, these pictures are live from our affiliate KGW in Washington state. This plume can be seen, as you can see, it's spreading out from the crater of the volcano, curving into the distance.

The U.S. geological survey, describing this as, what they say, is a modest steam plume. Now you may remember Mount St. Helens became active last year, after being dormant for decades. And on September 11 of this year, the geological survey raised the Mount St. Helens alert to orange, and that means there's a high likelihood of volcanic activity, but not a high-risk to loss of life.

They say that this activity will not cause them to raise the alert level, and Mount St. Helens' most recent major eruption, by the way, was nearly 25 years ago, May 18, 1980. That eruption did kill 57 people and cause nearly $3 billion in damage. Mount St. Helens, located about 55 miles from Portland, 95 miles from Seattle. And do make sure you stay with CNN for the very latest on the story. We'll be following it all evening.

Well, today for the first time, China admitted that the deadly bird flu is, quote, "a serious epidemic." China reported new outbreaks of the avian flu in three different regions. Also today a second case of bird flu was reported in British Columbia, although it was not the most deadly strain. Now, the United States and Japan have banned poultry imports from British Columbia.

The bird flu has spread to humans in five countries in Asia, killing more than 60 people, but my next guest says all the hype surrounding the bird flu is in his words "ridiculous." He is Michael Fumento. He is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, and he joins us from Washington. And Michael, thank you for being with us.


PILGRIM: You're taking on the collective knowledge of many epidemiologists and doctors and some of the top officials in this country who do believe that bird flu has the potential to be serious. Why do you take your position?

FUMENTO: They're basically -- they're just not looking at the facts, they're not looking at the history of this thing, and they're not telling people what the history of this avian flu it.

First of all, I think your listeners would be very reassured to know that this avian flu is not a sudden arrival upon the scene. A lot of people think it just appeared in the last couple of years, some people think it appeared in 1997. Virtually nobody knows -- it's a state secret almost -- that this actually -- this strain of avian flu, H5N1, goes back to 1959, in Scottish chickens.

PILGRIM: Well, let me interrupt you for a second. The incidence of outbreak is increasing. The number of humans infected is 130 and the mortality rate is 55 percent. Now, certainly no one is advocating panic but they are advocating preparedness. How do you have a problem with that?

FUMENTO: No, no. These people are advocating panic if you really listen to what they're saying. What we are seeing -- what our worry ought to be is -- and they will tell you this, is human to human transmission. We're not seeing that; we're seeing bird to bird transmission. For all of this talk about an epidemic in China, this is an epidemic among birds. Only one Chinese person ..

PILGRIM: Michael, 70 percent of the chickens in china are raised in the backyards, there is very much the potential for a bird to human transmission. There have been cases of it. And there are unproven clusters where they suspect human to human transmission, but they can't prove it yet. This is the data.

FUMENTO: What did you just say? Potential. Potential. That is all these people can talk about is potential. For 46 years, as I said, this thing has been going from bird to bird. It's been going from bird to human. It has not yet mutated to go from human to human and that is really all that matters.

The cases that we have, a grand total of 130, these are from bird to human in very close contact. Notice, they are all in Southeast Asia with a couple in China. They aren't even taking place in Europe and the United States, because we raise birds differently.

All we care about is human to human contact. Is it mutating in that direction? It has not done so in 46 years. There is absolutely no reason to think it will do so in the next few years by which time we will have plenty of vaccine, we will have anti-virals the size of Mt. Everest.

PILGRIM: Michael, there is considerable downside risk in the position you're taking, in that if we become complacent, and it does break out -- and epidemiologists tell us that it only takes the cases of bird flu and a simultaneous case of human flu to maybe mutate this virus. You're taking -- the downside risk on your position is considerable.

FUMENTO: And that has been the case for 46 years. There is never a good hysteria; it just doesn't work that way. People ...

PILGRIM: What action are you advocating, Michael?

FUMENTO: What I'm advocating is rationality. Yes, steps should be taken. We are -- there is already an avian flu vaccine, for example. It will be going into commercial production in some countries as early as next year. It is not like we aren't doing anything. Tamiflu is being produced, next year will be produced in many, many different countries.

We will have maximum amounts of anti-virals, but there are some things people aren't talking about. For example, flu, whether it was the Spanish Flu or the annual seasonal flus or this flu, normally does not kill directly. It kills by weakening the immune system to allow bacterial infections to kill.

PILGRIM: But, Michael, the mortality rate on this is considerable. It's 55 percent.

FUMENTO: No, actually it isn't. That is only recognized mortality. That is to say that these are the people who have actually presented to physicians, who have gone to doctors. These are not the people who get an ache here, a pain here, a sneeze, or who are absolutely asymptomatic and don't go doctors.

In other words, we know the numerator here, but we have no idea what the denominator is. But as I noted in my piece, it could very well be that for every death we actually see, there is a thousand or more people out there who get infected, but they just don't show up on the records.

PILGRIM: At which point you're arguing against yourself, because you're saying it's more pervasive. We must end it here. I'm delighted to debate this with you at another time. Thank you very much for coming on the program. Michael Fumento -- thank you, Michael.

Well, up next, the results of our poll question. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: Let's take a look at some of your thoughts.

David in Georgia: "How come e-mails that are totally against Bush are not ever read on your show? Bias?" That's what he says.

Marvin in Delaware has a different perspective. "Why do you keep bashing Bush? Try supporting the president!!!"

Well, R.P., in Oregon, says "GM can't make a profit. But the Japanese car makers in the United States are profitable, and they are not offshore. Explain that."

Richard in Michigan: "We need cars people want to buy that are fuel efficient, safe and appealing by design. Is that too reasonable to ask?"

And Jay in Washington writes, "I guess to some it may seem unnecessary to try saving 'our' jobs until it is they themselves without one."

Terry in Michigan: "Your show should be required viewing for every working family in America. You continue to take on tough subjects that our so-called elected officials choose to ignore."

Well, we love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts,, and each of you whose e-mail is read on this broadcast will receive a copy of Lou's book, "Exporting America." And also, if you would like to receive our e-mail newsletter, sign up on our Web site at

Now the results of tonight's poll. Fifty-three percent of your said our broken borders should be the first priority for our lawmakers. Seven percent said the education crisis. Thirty-seven percent said the loss of manufacturing jobs. Two percent said threat of terrorism.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow. A shocking new report on human trafficking into this country, and how police in one American city did little, if anything, about it. Now, the reporter behind the four-month long investigation will join us.

And ten war on the middle class -- we'll have much more on the new report claiming this country is running out of skilled workers. The head of the National Association of Manufacturers is our guest.

For all of us here, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.