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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Planning Troop Cuts; Troop Morale; Immigration Problems

Aired November 23, 2005 - 18:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, one of the most critical periods yet in the war in Iraq. How the next month could determine when our troops come home.

Plus, sheriff's deputies break up an antiwar protest outside the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. We're live with that story.

Federal government spending is out of control, and incredibly, the White House and Congress are doing virtually nothing about it. Our special report is ahead.

Then, caught on tape. The huge smuggling operation that's bringing countless illegal aliens into this country.

And another human dies of the bird flu in China. Fears of a global pandemic are rising. I'll be talking live with the National Center for Disease Preparedness.

Tonight, the war in Iraq is entering a critical phase as politicians in this country intensify the debate over possible troop withdrawals. The Pentagon says more than 200,000 Iraqis are now serving in military or police units.

At the same time, Iraqis will vote in parliamentary elections just three weeks from now. The success of those elections and the performance of the Iraqi security forces will determine how fast our troops can come home.

Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If the December elections go well in Iraq and the violence declines, and Iraqi security forces take more responsibility, then U.S. military commanders may recommend a significant reduction in the number of U.S. forces in Iraq for next year. But as the violence continues, withdrawing troops is a careful calculation.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is optimistic.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I expect that the American forces are not going to be need in the numbers that they're there for all that much longer.

STARR: Top military commanders are more cautious. LT. GEN. JOHN VINES, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: I believe ultimately the stability of the government and its ability to support its security forces and provide for the basic functions of governance is the greatest long-term challenge.

STARR: There are about 155,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. About 20,000 are expected to leave shortly after the December elections.

CNN has confirmed that military commanders have drafted an option to gradually reduce levels to about 100,000 over the next year, with perhaps 10,000 troops on standby in Kuwait. But one official warned it's an extremely bold scenario. He says it's "... foolhardy to think we are just going to pack up our tents and head for Kuwait."

Any withdrawal will be gradual, commanders say.

Senior military officials are said to be increasingly concerned that the debate about troop levels will begin to hurt troop morale and worry military family members.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is making it clear he will not endorse a timetable for a withdrawal. It will all depend on what is happening on the ground.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If you put yourself in the shoes of the terrorists, if they get to believe that all they have to do is wait because we're going to pull out precipitously, then something enormously valuable has been lost.


STARR: And Christine, certainly so far the violence has not significantly eased. Those more sophisticated improvised explosive devices, for example, that first started appearing in southern Iraq several weeks ago, well, now they're appearing in larger numbers and in new places, including Baghdad -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you very much, Barbara.

More than 150,000 American troops, as you heard, are serving in Iraq. For most of those troops the political debate in Washington is less important than staying alive and returning home to their families and friends.

Aneesh Raman with the 3rd Armored Cavalry reports.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Over the past nine months this squadron has lost 18 men. They know that number may rise every time they go out.

CPL. CHARLES JOHNSON, U.S. ARMY: Going to get shot at. It's very unexpected. Firefights come from across canals, across open city areas and stuff where you can't get to. RAMAN: But on slow days it's rarely politics and strategy that pass the time. Sometimes the conversation turns to the worst of Army rations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like the chicken breast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love the jambalaya because I'm from Texas.

RAMAN: While in Washington the arguments rage over whether America's soldiers are risking their lives for a noble goal or a hopeless cause, the distinction means little on the front line.

CPL. JAMES PARSLEY, U.S. ARMY: Most of the people out here probably wouldn't even want to say anything.

RAMAN (on camera): Why?

PARSLEY: You want to just do your job. Your story is not what happens behind the desk. It's out here every day.

RAMAN (voice over): Aneesh Raman, CNN, northern Babel province, Iraq.


ROMANS: New sectarian violence in Iraq and new fears of an escalation in violence before Iraq's elections next month. A Sunni Arab tribal leader was murdered by gunmen wearing Iraq army uniforms. Three of the sheik's sons and his son-in-law were also killed.

Sunni leaders accuse the interior ministry of organizing death squads. The government says insurgents are responsible for sectarian murders.

The trial of former dictator Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity will resume in Baghdad on Monday. Saddam Hussein is accused of ordering the massacre of nearly 150 Iraqis following an attempt to assassinate him. There were fears the trial would be delayed because of the killing of two defense attorneys. The court has now stepped up security.

And this just in to CNN. A jury in New York today convicted a Pakistani man of trying to help an al Qaeda terrorist to slip past U.S. Custom officials. The man was found guilty of providing material support to terrorists and other charges. He could face up to 75 years in prison when he is sentenced in March next year.

Iraq, though, is very much on the mind of President Bush as he spends the Thanksgiving holiday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Today, sheriff's deputies arrested 12 antiwar protesters for camping near the president's home.

Elaine Quijano reports from Crawford -- Elaine. ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine, President Bush arrived here in Texas last night. He will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday and the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at his ranch nearby here in Crawford. He'll be joined by first lady Laura Bush and, of course, their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara. We also understand that the president is also expected to have his parents with him at the ranch as well.

But near the Bush property, some unwelcome visitors today. Early this morning on the road leading to the president's ranch, about two dozen protesters gathered, setting up tents and bringing blankets and other gear. Yet, a new country ordinance basically bans camping and parking alongside the road in certain areas. So the local McLennan County sheriff's deputies warned the demonstrators several times before moving in and arresting 12 of them.

Now, according to one of those protesters, they're facing fines of up to $2,500 and up to 180 days in jail. Roughly a dozen or so other demonstrators moved on to avoid arrest.

But among those who was arrested, the sister of Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar activist whose son Casey was killed in Iraq and who first brought her protest here to Crawford last August. Sheehan is expected to be here later in the week.

Until then, demonstrators are also maintaining a presence in another spot where they are allowed to be. That's been dubbed "Camp Casey," on private property where protesters have permission to camp out.

But Cindy Sheehan has continued to argue for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, an idea that has received renewed attention after Democratic Congressman John Murtha's calls to withdraw. But again, the Bush administration is remaining firm. Administration officials believe to pull out prematurely would be a mistake -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Elaine Quijano in Crawford.

Thank you, Elaine.

Joining me now to discuss the rising political pressure for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, our Chief National Correspondent John King and our Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

John, I want to start with you. Is there at least a slight change in tone here from the White House? Earlier this week you had the vice president saying it was a legitimate discussion, an entirely legitimate discussion. At least are they -- are they willing to enter the discussion now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when it comes to the debate, there's two things, Christine. There's a dramatically different tone in that the administration so far, through the voice of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is willing to talk openly about what they think is the probability. The probability now, they are saying it is likely you will draw down at least a significant portion of the troops next home.

That is new rhetoric from the administration, a much more hopeful tone. And the fact that the vice president and the president are saying, sure, let's have a debate about the troops, that's more of a reflection of they're coming to grips at the White House with their initial pushback, especially to Congressman John Murtha, when he said bring all the troops home now.

The war is unpopular with the American people. The administration cannot be seen as simply saying no when people say let's discuss these very important issues.

ROMANS: And Bill, when people say let's discuss these very important issues, polls are showing that the American people want to discuss these issues.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Indeed they are. By the way, the administration's rhetoric was really an exercise in damage control because it was a very serious political mistake to go after John Murtha personally and to start calling him names. And they've withdrawn from that strategy.

But the polls are very clear on this. The latest coming from Harris Interactive, which did a poll just this month and asked people which position they favor more?

Do you favor bringing most of our troops home in the next year -- 63 percent said yes -- or keeping a large number of U.S. troops in Iraq until there is a stable government there? That number is down to 35 percent, just over one third.

That number has been 60 to 63 percent who favor bringing most of our troops home in the next year for about the last five months. And that's a very, very high number that the White House cannot ignore.

ROMANS: Bill, it's tricky though politically, isn't it, to not look like the White House and the administration is undergoing some sort of reversal? I mean, Rumsfeld is still talking pretty tough that a timeline would be kind of a disservice and only help the terrorists. But how -- under what circumstances can the White House start talking about pulling troops back without sounding like they are on a timeline?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they got a break in the last few days when a group of Shiite and Sunni Iraqis met with the Arab League in Cairo. And at that meeting they agreed that they wanted to see foreign troops, meaning Americans, mostly, leave Iraq, and they said that they would favor a timetable for the American withdrawal.

This is a breakthrough, because it gives the Bush administration cover. They can say, well, we don't want to go until we get the job done. But if the parties to the government there, the Sunnis and Shiites are in agreement that the United States should withdraw, no time yet. But if they want to set a timetable, we have no choice but to accede to their wishes.

ROMANS: John, is it that easy?

KING: Well, it's not quite that easy, but Bill's exactly right, that helps them politically. It gives them the framework to step up.

The administration will say it is not going to accept a timetable, that it went there with a mission and will complete the mission. But certainly they can say, if you have the December elections, that you've had three elections. They will say that more Iraqis are being trained.

Are they ready to do the job? That is an open question, as Barbara Starr noted

But you have a number of developments, including the political developments saying the government says we are not welcome, so we should think about leaving. We have a few more boxes to check, if you will, on the map. And the administration will say this will be based on the recommendation of the generals.

We know they are now prepared to recommend bringing home the troops. So the situation is in place barring successful elections for the administration to begin that.

And Christine, look, there is political pressure on the administration now. And there's a big date, the November 2006 elections. They need to have an exit strategy beginning to roll out by then.

ROMANS: And there is politics here in this country. There's also reality on the ground there in Iraq.

John King, Bill Schneider, thank you both for joining me tonight.

KING: Sure.

ROMANS: Still to come, federal government spending is out of control. And the White House and Congress are doing virtually nothing about it. We'll have a special report on that.

Plus, the United States is falling behind in the global race to invest in the technologies of the future. We'll tell you why.

And stunning pictures tonight of the huge smuggling operation that's bringing countless illegal aliens into this country.


ROMANS: From massive pork-filled spending bills to billions in proposed new tax cuts for the wealthy, Congress is under increasing attack for blowing a hole in the federal budget and triggering a federal deficit crisis. Critics say it's time for Congress to face reality and stop jeopardizing our fiscal future.

Lisa Sylvester reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): David Walker is the U.S. comptroller general. As the government's auditor, it's his job to monitor the country's financial health. What he sees is not a comforting picture.

DAVID WALKER, GOV. ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: Unfortunately, both spending increases and tax cuts are out of control. And we need to get control of the bottom line, and we need to do it quickly because we face an unprecedented demographic tsunami; namely, the retirement of the baby boom generation.

SYLVESTER: Since 2001, federal spending has increased 33 percent. The war in Iraq is costing $6.5 billion a month. Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction, by some estimates, are expected to top $200 billion. And the government's commitments for Social Security and Medicare have soared from just over $20 trillion in 2000 to more than $43 trillion in 2004 for $150,000 for every American.

How are U.S. taxpayers going to pay for all of this?

Senator Olympia Snowe agrees the United States is living beyond its means.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: The American people understand it because, you know, if they don't have the money, they don't spend it. And I think Congress would be wise to recognize that we have to return to those basic principles.

SYLVESTER: Some politicians say don't worry because, as the U.S. economy expands, the problem will correct itself. But...

WALKER: The long-term gap is too great to grow your way out of the problem. The math just doesn't work, and economic history doe not support it.

So as a result, in the end, we're going to have to reform retirement programs, look at the base of all discretionary mandatory spending, and look at tax policy. All three are going to have to be dealt with, and the sooner, the better.


SYLVESTER: On the revenue side, Congress is considering extending tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, which means even less income coming in just as the U.S. financial obligations begin to skyrocket with the baby boomers retiring, starting in 2008 -- Christine.

ROMANS: And what a wonderful gift for our children and grandchildren.

Lisa Sylvester in Washington.

Thank you, Lisa.

America is on a massive borrowing and spending binge, and at the same time, failing to invest in the future. The United States is cutting research and development spending even as countries like China are pouring new money into R&D. Critics say the U.S. vision has become so short-sighted, it's not only borrowing from future generations, but setting up our children and grandchildren for failure.

Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): China's increased research and development spending by 500 percent over the last decade. Members of the European Union are raising spending on R&D to three percent of their total economic output by 2010.

In the U.S., spending on R&D as a percentage of economic output, defense and non-defense, is on the decline. We had been the global leader. We are now falling behind.

In the mid '80s, it was spending on semiconductor work which revived a sagging industry. R&D spending by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have had similar benefits.

DAVID MOORE, ASSOC. OF AMER. MEDICAL COLLEGES: Well, I think you can look to the biotechnology industry which would not exist at all if it were not for the investments in basic biomedical research.

TUCKER: Pharmaceutical companies then use that basic research to develop new drugs. Scientists and businesses are concerned that while other nations have made R&D a spending priority, we are letting it slip away, and along with it our economy.

REP. RUSH HOLT (D), NEW JERSEY: In 1958, Americans, including their representatives in Congress, were scared by the launch of Sputnik, the Russian satellite. That prompted a commitment. The public does not feel that same sense of fear and motivation that they did during the space race.

TUCKER: Holt and other Democrats in the House have introduced what they call their innovation agenda, which would double federal science research, guarantee broadband access to every American in five years, and achieve energy independence for the United States in 10 years.


TUCKER: But with congressional spending and the budget deficit at historic levels, as Lisa just reported, the hardest question to answer, Christine, may be, just where is the money going to come from to pay for all those programs?

ROMANS: Absolutely. Bill Tucker. Thank you for that, Bill.

Well, we want to know what you -- how you would like the federal government to allocate spending. Should the government spend the most money on the war in Iraq, protecting our borders, rebuilding the Gulf Coast, or medical research?

Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results laterr in the broadcast.

Now, we had hoped to continue our discussion of the competitiveness of American workers with Jerry Jasinowski, the president of the National Association of Manufacturers. However, Mr. Jasinowski today decided to cancel his appearance on this program.

A spokesman for NAM released this statement: "He was so put off by what he called the sensational and simplistic reporting in this important skills gap story last evening that he changed his mind."

It should be pointed out that NAM sponsors a blog that continually derives this show's anchor and its reporting and repeatedly calls for opposing positions to be aired.

Now, we had hoped to do just that before Mr. Jasinowski's change of heart. For the record, we stand by Lisa Sylvester's report and our invitation to Mr. Jasinowski remains open.

Still ahead, our nation's broken borders. Stunning pictures of illegal alien smugglers allegedly at work.

And tens of millions of Americans are on the move this long Thanksgiving weekend in planes, trains and automobiles. But the weather is not cooperating. A live report on holiday travel trouble.


ROMANS: Crowded airports, traffic jams, lousy weather. Travelers are facing virtually every challenge imaginable this day before Thanksgiving.

The holiday getaway got off to a chaotic start this morning in our nation's capital after a gas truck explosion on I-95. No one was injured, but the traffic tie-up from this accident went on for miles.

And the misery only intensified from there. Travelers across the country saw delays and long lines at airports as a major storm system moved into the Great Lakes region. This fast-moving storm is bringing snow, wind and rain from Minnesota to upstate New York.

Cleveland, Ohio, is expected to see as much as six inches of snow.

Some parts of the Great Lakes could be hit with as much as two feet of snow, and winter weather advisories are also in effect for parts of West Virginia, Maryland and New England tonight.

Some 37 million Americans will be traveling this weekend. And they can all expect to pay a little more.

Since last year, airfares are up by as much as $41 a ticket. Gas prices now average $2.27 a gallon, some 31 cents a gallon higher than a year ago. Happy Thanksgiving.

Those gas prices are not stopping tens of thousands of travelers from hitting the roadways around Chicago tonight after a winter storm hit the Windy City today.

Sean Callebs is live near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport tonight.

Hi, Sean.


Boy, the way you set that up, I almost regret getting in the car and going to the airport today. But you know what? I had an effortless flight from Denver into Chicago.

The Windy City living up to its name. The flight landing was a bit dicey, but no delays at all, Denver or coming into crowded Chicago airport.

But look over my shoulder. You see the gas price, $2.27 a gallon. The exact national average.

And as you mentioned, it's still more than 30 cents a gallon this year more than we paid last Thanksgiving season. But you know what? After the money we paid this summer, more than $3 a gallon, it almost seems like a bargain.

You talked about all those travelers. Thirty-seven million people are going to be traveling more than 50 miles this holiday weekend.

Look out here over the tristate toll way. This is a major interstate that really takes travelers through Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin. Thirty-one million of those travelers are going to be going via car this holiday weekend. An awful lot.

You also talked about the airline prices. A mixed bag there. Some low-cost flights are actually benefiting travelers who decide to maybe snap a bargain at the last minute. But sill, more than 4.5 million people are going to be flying this weekend.

And also, don't forget about Amtrak, the trains. They expect -- especially in the Northeast. You talked about the weather problems a bit on the interstates and at the airports. Well, usually some of those trains only get a couple hundred people a day. Well, they expect it's going to be up about 30 percent during this holiday weekend as people take advantage of that, trying to make their way through the Northeast as well.

You know, thinking back after everybody sits around the table, tells exaggerated stories about their childhood and the caloric festivities, you know what? I think that these travel headaches may seem a little bit minor compared to that once they get around to spend some time with the family -- Christine. ROMANS: And it's worth it to see grandma no matter how much it costs, right, Sean?

CALLEBS: Indeed.

ROMANS: Sean Callebs outside of Chicago. Thank you, Sean.

Just ahead tonight, a dangerous rise in violence against Border Patrol agents. We'll have a special report on the aggressive attacks.

Plus, illegal alien smugglers operating in broad daylight in one American city. We'll talk to the reporter behind a four-month-long undercover investigation.

And caving to Canada, why American lumber producers are the latest industry outraged by a trade decision from the White House.


ROMANS: Border Patrol agents are increasingly becoming the targets of violence from illegal alien and drug smugglers. They say it's a result of make crossing the border more difficult.

Casey Wian reports from San Diego.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is just one of the threats faced by San Diego sector Border Patrol agents, wrist rocket slingshots launching potentially failed ball bearings and marbles over the border. Agents are also getting hit with so many rocks, the San Diego Border Patrol has ordered five of these steel- caged vehicles nicknamed lure (ph) wagons.

JOE PEREZ, BORDER PATROL AGENT-IN-CHARGE: On a nightly basis we get robbed. You see I have an agent over here with a pepper ball gun. We normally can't stand here this close to these vehicles here without getting rocked.

We lose windows here every night. We lost so many windows and agents getting hurt in the last couple of weeks. We had two different shootings.

WIAN: In fact, the number of assaults against San Diego sector agents nearly doubled to 259 in the 12 months ended in September. Since then, they are up nearly fivefold compared to the same period last year.

The Border Patrol is trying to de-escalate the violence by using more non-lethal weapons such as these gas-powered paintball guns.

GENARO MIRANDA, BORDER PATROL AGENT: And when you get hit by one, it's like getting hit by a boxer in the chest.

WIAN: They shoot plastic balls loaded with pepper powder that make breathing difficult. When you get hit with one of these, you are stopping in your tracks.


WIAN: Two agents demonstrate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Border patrol, stoop.

WIAN: Sometimes deadly force is the only solution. Border Patrol's Air Mobile Unit goes into areas that can't be accessed by vehicles, and agents are armed with machine guns.

ANTHONY BIANCO, BORDER PATROL AIR MOBILE UNIT: There's always weapons around rocks, sticks, knives, anything that can be used as a weapon will be and we have to be cognizant of that at all times.

WIAN: Last week, near El Paso, Texas, the border patrol lost a seized load of marijuana because agents were outnumbered by Mexican smugglers with AK 47s. Two weeks ago in these mountains east of San Diego, a border patrol agent was attacked by a machete wielding illegal alien. The agent shot the man twice, both survived.

BIANCO: They are just getting a lot more aggressive. A lot of it is frustration. We are doing better at protecting this border and controlling this area.

WIAN: Agents acknowledge they will continue to face deadly threats until the entire 1966 mile border is controlled. Casey Wian, CNN, San Diego.


ROMANS: Immigration officials have indicted eight people in a massive human smuggling ring in California including the owner of an Anaheim travel agency. Authorities say the group smuggled as many as 100 illegal aliens each month. The Orange County bust was the result of a two-year investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Two of the eight suspects are still at large.

Another investigation captured stunning pictures of illegal alien smugglers at work in this country. A Denver television station recorded the coyotes transporting van loads of illegal aliens in broad daylight and in clear view of police. Brian Maass of KCNC has the report.


BRIAN MAASS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER (voice-over): They cross the U.S./Mexico border any way they can. If they aren't caught by U.S. authority, illegal immigrants disappear onto the streets of America.

But thanks to this man, we have a much better idea where in the U.S. illegals end up and how they get there. Pepe calls himself a coyote, a human smuggler. Over the course of four months a CBS 4 undercover investigation penetrated Pepe's smuggling operation as it openly moved through Denver, what he indicated were illegal immigrants. His business is robust on a regular basis we watched as Pepe stopped with van loads of people at this restaurant at Federal and I- 70. After lunch at a stopover of several hours, they would continue east on I-70.

An undercover CBS 4 producer made contact with Pepe telling him she had a brother she wanted to smuggle into the U.S.

No problem, said Pepe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE(through translator): Don't worry, he's in good hands, do you understand me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I don't give you the money first?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you'll give it to me when he's in California. There you send me the cash. Until he's in California, I'll say I have your brother here, then is when you pay me the cash.

MAASS: His talk was backed up with action, we repeatedly watched as he watched vans packed with women and men and children move through Denver. Through multiple conversations, he detailed how it works, how he and his ring transport illegals in Denver and across the U.S. day after day.

He tells our operative her brother needs to get to a staging area in Tijuana, Mexico, just south of the border. From there, Pepe says, our operatives brother with be picked up. It will cost $1800 to make what Pepe refers to as the jump, the illegal trip from Mexico to Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should he bring clothes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He can bring a little suitcase. That stays at the jump. When people come carrying nothing, the immigration messes with them.

MAASS: Then, says Pepe, another $400 to transfer her brother from Los Angeles to Denver. But he says the illegals he transports can be taken on to New York or Florida, all for a price.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And here, where will you leave him for me?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I bring him here, here is where you pay me for the ride.

MAASS: Pepe was unconcerned about law enforcement. On one occasion, a Denver police officer stops by, checks out Pepe's van and talks to him and leaves.

JEFF COPP, IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: I would think they are moving quite a few people through here. MAASS: Immigration officials say what Pepe is doing is part of a huge business.

COPP: I would say people are in this for the money, and they care nothing about the cargo they're carrying. A group of Republican state legislators examined our tapes and say this has to stop for many reasons.

DAVE SCHULTHEIS, (R) COLORADO STATE HOUSE: I don't like the fact that Denver is one of the key part this was country where they're moved to and distributed from. I don't like that.

JIM WELKER (R), COLORADO STATE HOUSE: How many of these could be terrorists to? We have a war on terror going on.

MAASS: Pepe may not be alone on his route or methods. On many days we watched as virtually identical white vans with out of state plates and blacked out windows stopped at restaurant. Latino passengers stop for lunch and reboard for the trip east.

Immigration authorities have long suspected Denver was a key location for the smuggling of illegals. A 1997 government report suggested 20 percent of illegals arrested on Colorado highways were headed for Denver. The other 80 percent headed to cities farther east.

What we found Pepe doing out in the open day after day, maybe the clearest indication that the business of trafficking illegals to and through Denver is booming.


ROMANS: Joining me now is the reporter behind this four month long undercover investigation. Brian Maass of KCNC joins us from Denver. Thank you for joining us, very nice work on a very comprehensive piece here.

What really is shocking to me is it looks as though this is happening under the nose of law enforcement.

MAASS: It was happening regularly. It seemed to be pretty well known. The story began with a tip from law enforcement to me. Somebody said this is going on every day and nobody is doing anything about it; maybe if you shed some light on it, something will happen.

Obviously you saw on the story, a Denver police officer stopping and talking to the coyote and they seemed to be familiar with one another, and a Denver police officer gets in the car and leaves, and that got a lot of people's attention.

ROMANS: Brian, this looks organized, clever, almost easy and routine. How routine is it? And how much of a hub is Denver in the transporting and trafficking of illegal aliens?

MAASS: Denver has always been known as major transit point for the smuggling of undocumented immigrants into the U.S. It is happening in the open, it's happening regularly. Sometimes in that particular restaurant parking lot there would virtually be a traffic jam of all of these very similar vans with very similar cargo. Some days there would be four or five in the restaurant parking lot, and it was going on very regularly and several days a week, sometimes.

ROMANS: It's clever, the vans, you say, are rented, so if -- for whatever reason, it doesn't look there is much risk they get stopped -- if they get stopped they lose the van, they don't lose an investment there.

You point out somebody gets three tries if they want to come in to this country. Which is why when people get deported or get caught, they don't ever squeal on their smuggler.

MAASS: The people from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement told us that after they looked at this tape. We asked why it was so hard to make case against the coyotes. And they said part of the problem is the people who are being smuggled in the vans are really reluctant to say anything or rat out drivers.

If they're caught, arrested and deported back to Mexico. ICE, the immigration people, say that typically they get several more tries at coming back across the border. In other words, the transporters say, if you get caught, if we get arrested, don't worry about it, we'll give you a couple more tries for your 1800 or $2,000.

So because of that it's very hard to get cargo, the passengers, to roll over on the coyotes.

ROMANS: Brian Maass, KCNC DENVER, an excellent report. Thank you for bringing that report to us.

Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado is calling for a complete investigation into the KCNC report and he calls the Denver police department's response to the report shameful.

Congressman Tancredo is Chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, he has also been leading the fight on Capitol Hill to beef up border security and stop the flow of illegal aliens into this country. Welcome to the program.

REP. TOM TANCREDO, (R) COLORADO: Thank you, pleasure to be here.

ROMANS: We heard from the Denver mayor's office as well that they do routinely turn over leads on trafficking to Immigration Custom's Enforcement. They point out there are resource problems and they can't go after everybody. What kind of country is this?

What kind of state is Denver that you have people routinely being smuggled into this country and fed into the rest of the country with virtually no risk of being caught?

TANCREDO: Let me tell but what happened. At very site that was identified in the Brian Maass report. At that restaurant, a policeman had been watching it for a long time. It was sort of on his beat. We heard about this probably three months ago. I wrote, at the same time, I wrote both I.C.E. and Denver about this. This policeman observed this going on -- these vans pulling up, people going in, getting the lunches, coming back out, taking off.

He reported this to I.C.E. He got so frustrated with it. He reported it himself to I.C.E. Okay? Guess what happened to him? He got reprimanded by his superiors in the Denver Police Department. So don't let Denver give you this bunk about them working with I.C.E., cooperating with I.C.E. That is just what I said it is: bunk.

Denver has a sanctuary city policy. It keeps saying it doesn't, but the words in the regulations are clear. The mayor supports it. If the mayor really did not want to support this kind of activity, he would do an executive order, repealing that sanctuary policy.

ROMANS: Let me explain quickly, Congressman, what sanctuary policy means. It goes on all kinds of cities around the country. And that is where, if a police officer apprehends somebody for anything, domestic abuse, drunk driving, robbery, breaking and entering, if the police officer thinks that person is in this country illegally, they do not ask them the question and they don't report it to anybody.

That's what sanctuary laws are and you're right, Denver says that they don't. They don't have sanctuary laws, but we've seen time and time...

TANCREDO: ... I guarantee you they do.

ROMANS: Well let's talk a little bit about the trafficking overall. This is clearly the feeding point or a big feeding point for illegal aliens, illegal workers into this country. Women and children also in these vans, I can't expect that many of these coyotes are looking for the best interests of the people, clearly out to make a buck. How concerned are you about this?

TANCREDO: Well, you should see what happens down along the border especially. Many times these people are mistreated. Many times the women are raped. Many times the group itself is robbed by the coyotes and then shoved into the desert. So in fact, we've got a lot of problems that are endemic to this whole situation.

ROMANS: Congressman, let me ask you, the president is slated to speak again, maybe Monday, I think on border security. We've heard some tougher talk from the White House and from the administration. How much of this is a real dedication, do you think, from the leaders in your party to border security, how much is photo-ops and just talk?

TANCREDO: A lot of it is sizzle. There's not much steak that I can see. I want to see some real, honest to god, movement. I just don't want to see words, I want to see movement.

ROMANS: All right, Congressman Tom Tancredo, thank you so much for joining us here. We hope you get that movement. Coming up, our guest last night said bird flu is nothing to worry about. But tonight, the bird flu death toll is rising. Is there a new reason to fear this disease?

And our nation's so-called free trade agreement with Canada, why some believe the Bush administration is caving into Canada in a fierce trade debate.


ROMANS: The mysterious and deadly bird flu is now blamed for a second death in China. A 24-year-old female farm worker died from the disease two weeks ago. At least three people have been infected with bird flu in China. A fourth case is suspected in the recent death of a 12-year-old girl. The disease has now killed at least 68 people in five countries in Asia. It has infected and killed millions of birds in 18 countries.

My next guest says the United States needs to do more to prepare its health care system for a possible outbreak. Dr. Irwin Redlener is the director of the national center for disease preparedness at Columbia University. Thanks for being here.

Last night our guest was basically taking the opposite tact, saying that maybe we're making too much out of this and we're building a bit of hysteria when it still is not inevitable that there's going to be person-to-person transmission. You say we need to be preparing and we need to be talking about it.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, NATIONAL CENTER OF DISEASE PREPAREDNESS: Well, first of all, I don't think we can take a chance and even think about not preparing for a pandemic flu. For one thing, if we happen to get pandemic flu, which is at least likely at some point in the future, we cannot be left unprepared, because we will not certainly have either vaccine or the anti-viral medications that we'll need.

So what we need to do is make sure that our health care system is up to snuff, so that if we do have that situation or any other kind of major infectious problem, we'll be able to handle it.

ROMANS: And this is where I start to get real concerned, because I've done a lot of reporting on infection control, and already, a 747 full of people every day is killed because of infections in medical mistakes and things in this countries, reasons that you weren't sick in the first place that kill you. And my concern is, you have a pandemic, I think that some of these studies show that we aren't ready to take care of it.

REDLENER: We're totally not ready. It's interesting now, because the health care system has been increasingly fragile over the last 10-or-15 years, we're really at the very edge of what our capacity is.

So, if we had to gear up and deal with more people who need isolation or intensive care or mechanical ventilators, we are going to be in very big trouble. One of the interesting aspects of preparing for pandemic flu is that it will actually help fix the whole health care system and our public health system so, we really do get dual benefit from taking prudent steps to enhance our health care system in the United States.

ROMANS: It would be wonderful if in a few years, the critics say, "look, see, nothing terrible happened" and we could point and go back and say, "wonderful, because we were ready for it and we prepared for it, and we spent the money in the right place."

My worry is that politics and competing interests, are people going to be able to boil it down and make the right decisions to prepare?

REDLENER: I keep thinking about people who 10, 12 years ago, were saying, "fix those levees in New Orleans." And we waited and we waited and we waited, and then we had a catastrophe that unfortunately, could have been a lot better than it had turned out to be, because we didn't take the preventive steps that we needed to take.

I think we're dealing with the biological equivalent of those levees, in that our health care system really does need to be upgraded so we can confront whatever comes down the road, whether it is pandemic avian flu or some other catastrophe. We really do have to be ready and we have a lot of work to do on that.

ROMANS: You keep hearing simple things like hand-washing and hand hygiene and you know, the things that we can all do. So far, we've seen this mostly spreading from birds. This is a bird flu spread by birds, but is person-to-person contact and spread, is that inevitable? And how much more dangerous is that?

REDLENER: Well, really, although the avian flu is extremely dangerous to people who contract it from birds, and a very high mortality rate, at least 50 percent of the people who get it, we think, do not survive. The problem would be, just as you're saying, that if it ends up mutating or changing in a way that is easily transmissible from person-to-person, that is the beginning of a pandemic and that's what really all of us are concerned about.

Right now, we're biting our time, but we already know it's a lethal virus. We already know that it's a virus that people have not been exposed to really before, so that this next step, if it gets to a point where it can go from person-to-person, we will have the makings of a true global pandemic. And that really is something we need to worry about.

ROMANS: But we have a golden opportunity here.

REDLENER: Golden opportunity to fix the health care system and really upgrade our public health infrastructure, not only nationally, but internationally. And that will be a wonderful outcome of getting prepared for pandemic flu.

ROMANS: All right, Dr. Irwin Redlener, thank you for joining us.


ROMANS: Thank you very much.

Another chance now to speak out in our poll tonight. We want to know how you would like the federal government to allocate spending? Should the government spend the most money on: the war in Iraq, protecting our borders, rebuilding the Gulf Coast or medical research? Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results later in the broadcast.

John Kerry is once again reporting for duty...jury duty. Senator Kerry, the former presidential candidate performed this latest act of public service at a superior court in Massachusetts. Kerry was even picked as jury foreman in the car accident case. the first election he's won since the 2004 loss to President Bush. Kerry said he was a little surprised to be called up. Fellow jurors called him a model foreman.

Still ahead, the United States government and the Bush administration caving to Canada in a sweetheart deal that has one American industry up in arms. We'll have that story next.


ROMANS: The Bush administration tonight is under attack for caving into Canada in a trade dispute that has damaged relations between the two nations. The United States has agreed to a plan that would virtually eliminate tariffs on more than $7.5 billion worth of Canadian lumber imports and the U.S. lumber industry is outraged. Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Timber. The Commerce Department was failed by Canada, accepted a NAFTA panel ruling to cut duties on Canadian lumber, even though the U.S. government thinks the ruling is wrong. "We have serious concerns about the panel's decision. However, consistent with our NAFTA obligations, we have complied with the panel's instructions," said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in a statement.

It's been a bitter fight. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin needs the victory to boost his political standing at home. And the U.S. lumber industry is adamant they need protection from subsidized Canadian lumber.

DALE RIDDLE, COALITION FOR FAIR LUMBER IMP.: If it can't be fixed, what it does, it eventually destroys our industry. We can compete with anybody in Canada on a day-to-day basis if we're on the same playing field. But we can't, in fact, compete with the Canadian government.

PILGRIM: The rhetoric has been so heated, on a recent visit to Canada, Condoleezza Rice was begging for everyone to lay off the apocalyptic language. Sorting out the lumber for the trees, the United States argues that Canada's subsidizes its industry, so the U.S. collects duties, about 16 percent, on the lumber that comes into the country from Canada.

Canada says that's in violation of trade agreements, and wants a $5 billion refund. Complicating the issue, dueling trade organizations, World Trade Organization ruled that the U.S. duties on lumber are within international guidelines. But a NAFTA panel rules differently.


PILGRIM (on camera): Now, the Commerce Department could appeal the ruling. They still argue that Canada subsidizes the industry. The Canadian government, however, has to refuse to negotiate on this issue. They clearly value the political victory for their own voters, more than the Canadian relations with the United States.

ROMANS: All right, Kitty Pilgrim, thank you, Kitty.

This just into CNN, "The Associated Press" is reporting a Metra commuter train traveling from downtown Chicago has crashed into several cars, with one of the cars bursting into flames. You're looking at live pictures here.

A spokesperson from Metra reports, says that the train was traveling from downtown Chicago to Antioch, that's near the Wisconsin border, when the accident occurred. One report says the train struck at least ten vehicles. There is no word yet regarding any injuries. Obviously, a very crowded commute for the holiday season.

Stay with CNN for the very latest on this commuter crash outside of Chicago. We'll be right back.


ROMANS: We want to bring you up-to-date on something that is happening just outside of Chicago, a commuter train crash. The Associated Press is reporting that a Metra commuter train, which was traveling from downtown Chicago, has crashed into several cars, with one of those cars bursting into flames.

As you can imagine, it is the rush hour in Chicago right now. A lot of folks heading home, both on the train and in cars for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

A spokesperson for Metra reporting that the train was traveling from downtown Chicago to Antioch, that is a town near the Wisconsin border, when this accident occurred. The A.P. story is date lined Elmwood Park, Illinois, west of the city.

One report says that this train struck at least ten vehicles. Now, we have no word yet regarding any injuries. All we know is that at least one car was struck, or vehicle was struck. At least one vehicle bursting into flames. This is a Metra train. If you're just tuning in, that is a commuter rail line in the Chicago area, the Chicago suburbs. The North Central service line, we are told. This train was heading from downtown Chicago to Antioch, that's a town near the Wisconsin border. You're looking at live pictures right now, you can see that emergency crews are there. Obviously, you can see some cars there.

This is really a terrible time for something like this to happen with so many people on the roads. So many people on the trains, and the rails and in their cars heading home. This train was heading to a town near the Wisconsin boarder from downtown Chicago in the rush hour.

Metra, again, is that commuter line. We're going to stay tuned to this story and let you know if we know any more about injuries or fatalities. But indeed, it does look as if several cars at least were struck. We're going to have much more on this coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Thank you for being with us tonight, of course, and please join us tomorrow for a special Thanksgiving day edition of LOU DOBBS TONIGHT.

For all of us here, good night from New York.

THE SITUATION ROOM, right now, with Ali Velshi, who is also following these live developments out of the west side of Chicago, Ali?