Return to Transcripts main page

Lou Dobbs Tonight

House Republicans Propose Ethics Overhaul; ACLU Sues Federal Government Over Wiretaps

Aired January 17, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, rising anger over the culture of corruption on Capitol Hill. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert breaks his silence after months of doing nothing. Are his proposals today more of the same? We'll have a live report for you.

And the ACLU is suing the federal government, trying to stop what it claims are unconstitutional wiretaps of American citizens. Is the U.S. government acting unconstitutionally?

And I'll be talking with two of the plaintiffs in this case here tonight.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff say they have a vision of our borders and immigration. Does it make sense, or is it just politics as usual? I'll be talking with Congressman J.D. Hayworth, who is calling for much tougher action to secure our borders.

And guess who's supporting illegal immigration? Tonight, a special report amid growing outrage over the Catholic Church's support of illegal immigration and the church's efforts to block improved border security.

We'll have that special report for you and a great deal more here.

We begin with the corruption scandal on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Hastert today announced a series of measures to end what many say is a culture of corruption on Capitol Hill. But his measures also have another goal, to limit political damage to the Republican Party before the midterm elections this year.

Ed Henry reports from Capitol Hill -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, rocked by a series of lobbying scandals, Republican leaders are racing to clean things up, fearful that this will become the dominant issue in the next election.


HENRY (voice over): Under heavy political pressure from Democrats, Speaker Dennis Hastert wants to take the dramatic step of banning all privately-funded travel in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. The investigation has raised eyebrows about lavish golf trips to Scotland by Republicans Tom DeLay and Bob Ney.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I know fact- finding trips are important. This body considers legislation that affects peoples across this country cannot always travel to Washington to petition their government. Private travel has been abused by some, and I believe we need to put an end to it.

HENRY: Hastert also wants to tighten gift rules so that lawmakers and staffers can only accept gifts, including meals, of up to $20. The speaker's plan would put a serious damper on expense account lunches and dinners since lawmakers can currently accept gifts from lobbyists of up to $50.

HASTERT: A member of Congress should be able to accept a baseball cap or a T-shirt from the proud students of a local middle school. But he or she doesn't need to be taken to lunch or dinner by Washington lobbyists. And recent months have shown that we need a more transparent system.

HENRY: Senator John McCain, who has been pushing for such changes for years to no avail, is amused by the sudden stampede from all sides.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it proves that if you live long enough, anything can happen.


HENRY: Hastert rolled out his reform package today because he knows Democrats are already planning tomorrow to introduce an aggressive reform package of their own. But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is not waiting until then to put his money where his mouth is.

Effective immediately, he has banned his staff from accepting any gifts at all from lobbyists. He doesn't care how long it takes Congress to actually pass legislation. He's banning it in his office right away -- Lou.

DOBBS: And how about the idea of simply breaking this culture of convenience that has grown up between lobbyists and our representatives in Washington? That is, to push away the lobbyists from Capitol Hill, let them stay in their offices and work away from the Capitol Hill while our representatives who are supposed to be representing their constituents go about the people's business on Capitol Hill?

HENRY: That's what we're hearing from some leaders. In fact, Senator Reid tomorrow talking about pushing back also the ban on this revolving door that you have been reporting about so much.

Right now, lawmakers after -- are only banned for a year from becoming lobbyists and lobbying their own former colleagues. They want to now push it back to two years. And so you're going to see across-the-board reforms.

But also, others pointing out some of these bans, if you will, are already on the books. Like, for example, lobbyists were not supposed to be paying for trips before. Nonprofits were able to do it, but we know there were backdoor financing by some lobbyists.

So, bottom line is, no matter what kind of rules you put into place, you still have to have lawmakers in both parties who follow them -- Lou.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And one wonders whether two years is adequate. And as we reported here in our special series of reports, called "The Best Government Money Can Buy," fully half of all the congressmen who have retired from Congress over the past seven years have returned in a new incarnation as lobbyists.

Ed Henry, thank you very much.

HENRY: Thank you.

DOBBS: Another major issue in Washington, of course, is the government's secret wiretap program, wiretaps on American citizens. Today, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filing suit against the federal government to stop those wiretaps. The lawsuits claim the program is simply unconstitutional. President Bush, however, insists his plan is legal.

Kelli Arena reports from Washington.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Have innocent Americans been caught up in the snare of the National Security Agency's domestic spy program? Well, that's the question two civil liberties groups want answered.

SHAYANA KADIDAL, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: We firmly believe that our clients were targets of this secret surveillance program and that their conversations with us, their attorneys, were overheard by the government.

ARENA: In its lawsuit, the Center for Constitutional Rights says its lawyers cannot properly represent clients overseas. For example, hundreds of men being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, because they fear their phone conversations will be listened to.

KADIDAL: And the burden is on the government to tell us otherwise.

ARENA: The ACLU filed a similar suit on behalf of author James Bamford, journalist Christopher Hitchens, and others whose work involves the Middle East.

ANTHONY ROMERO, ACLU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: The real harm has already occurred, the harm that we can no longer have conversations free from government intrusion. ARENA: Both groups say their clients have well-founded fears that they have been targeted by the NSA but no hard evidence.

ANDREW MCBRIDE, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it is a stretch. And I think the government will argue that under the law, these people lack standing, because there's absolutely no evidence that their communications were listened to or that this program intruded in any way on their speech with anyone.


ARENA: In response to the lawsuits, a spokesman for the Justice Department says that the DOJ believe the cases are without merit and says that it plans to vigorously defend against such charges -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kelli, thank you.

Kelli Arena from Washington.

The White House today strongly defended what it says is the president's right to spy on Americans using wiretaps without a warrant or court order.

Dana Bash reports from the White House -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, what we heard here was the same refrain we really heard over and over from the White House that both the Constitution and a loosely-worded congressional resolution passed shortly after 9/11 both give the president the legal standing, they believe, to search without, or to spy, I should say, without a warrant.

Now, the White House spokesman did not mince any words in describing how the administration feels about two lawsuits filed today.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the frivolous lawsuits that you reference do nothing to help enhance civil liberties or protect the American people. And that's what those are. In terms of this authorization, again, it is a vital tool and it is limited.


BASH: Now, the fact that these lawsuits were filed were no surprise here at the White House. They're well aware that opponents of this surveillance program have a two-pronged strategy, either to try to stop the program legislatively through Congress, or by finding a federal judge who simply thinks that it's wrong, do it through the courts.

And Lou, privately, Bush allies do think that perhaps opponents' best bet, whether it's through these lawsuits or perhaps others in the future, is to try to stop it through the courts -- Lou. DOBBS: Dana, thank you.

Dana Bash from the White House.

Turning now to Iran. Russia has surprised and switched positions on Iran, calling for Tehran to immediately freeze its nuclear activities. Moscow now says it supports Europe and the United States on the issue of containing Iran's nuclear program. But the key question remains, what now will Iran do?

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Russia teaming up with Germany, France, Britain and the United States against Iran, at least for the moment. President Putin was clearly taking sides at a meeting with the German chancellor.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russia, the Federal Republic of Germany and our European partners and the United States have a very close position on the Iranian problem.

PILGRIM: That statement alone a major breakthrough. Russia has long been a business partner with Iran and just concluded a billion- dollar arms deal and has helped build Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor.

Russia's has also been trying to broker a proposal to help Iran with uranium reprocessing. The Russians' switching position may be because the showdown over Iran is not in Russia's interest.

PETER BROOKES, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Russia would certainly make a lot of money in providing civilian nuclear reactors to Iran, and also in providing and reprocessing Iranian fuel. So there's still a lot of money involved here if they're able to push Iran back from the nuclear abyss.

I see that it's not costing them at all right now to support in general the United States and Europeans' view that Iran should not be a nuclear weapon state.

PILGRIM: Iran's new leader and the resumption of operations at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant last week has put Russia in an awkward position. The Russian foreign minister today called for that activity to stop.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I fully call for the resumption of talks. But in reality, it can only be done on condition of the enrichment moratorium, which is mutually acceptable.

PILGRIM: China shows no signs of supporting the U.S. position. China's U.N. ambassador says referring Iran to the Security Council might complicate the issue.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PILGRIM: Now, Russia is reporting the U.S. position but it's also talking about proceeding cautiously, not taking any abrupt steps against Iran. So even though Russia looks supportive, it may not ultimately go the full distance and support sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council -- Lou.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you.

Kitty Pilgrim.

Still ahead, the Catholic Church, it is now trying to stop efforts to secure our borders. We'll have that special report next.

And the Bush administration promoting its vision for border security and immigration. Does any of it make any sense? We'll have the story.

And if there's one thing the United States and Mexico can agree on these days, it is tequila.

That story and a great deal more straight ahead.


DOBBS: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today announced new initiatives. Initiatives, they say, will both increase border security and make it easier for foreigners to travel to the United States.

Is this political posturing or is it for real?

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The departments of Homeland Security and State are eager to throw out the welcome mat for foreign tourists, students and workers. At an event with a business-friendly audience, secretaries Michael Chertoff and Condoleezza Rice used words like "streamline," "expedite" and "smarter screening."

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: We seek to use new information technology to renew America's welcome, making it as easy as possible to foreign visitors to travel to the United States and to do so securely and safely.

SYLVESTER: It was billed as a joint vision on secure borders and open doors. A lot was mentioned of opening doors, but virtually nothing to secure borders and no mention of the illegal immigration crisis. Critics sum it up as one big photo-op.

ROSEMARY JENKS, NUMBERSUSA: I think we'll hear a whole lot more (INAUDIBLE) border security, and I think most of it will be fluff. You know, the administration recognizes that it's got to talk the talk so that it doesn't have to walk the walk. SYLVESTER: The timing is interesting. The Bush administration says it wants to soften its image after tough security measures were put if place after the 9/11 attacks. But immigration reform groups say it's not a coincidence that the Senate is scheduled to debate immigration reform next month. And the White House has been having trouble selling its guest worker program.

MARK KRIKORIAN, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: There's no demonstration that this -- this White House is committed to enforcing the law and is actually implementing the systems that are necessary before we even talk about guest worker programs. This is a spoonful of enforcement to make the amnesty go down.


SYLVESTER: And immigration reform groups says the United States has always welcomed visitors and already has one of the most generous travel policies over the world, so our welcome mat has been just fine. From 2003 to 2004, the United States welcomed more than 46 million visitors -- Lou.

DOBBS: An interesting case of emphasis on the part of Secretary Chertoff and Secretary Rice, and an interesting continued omission on the part the administration, an abject refusal to secure this nation's borders while conducting a war on terror.

SYLVESTER: Indeed, Lou. This is a perfect example of what we see is they want to try to send a message, a lot of smoke and mirrors, that they're being tough on border enforcement and the like. But when you pull back that first layer, you see there's not a whole lot there -- Lou.

DOBBS: And it's a pretty categorical statement on the part of this administration and the Republican Party that they think voters and our viewers are abject fools to continue these kind of political games.

SYLVESTER: Well, that's where we come in, to at least point out this discrepancy, this disconnect between what we're hearing and what the general public actually wants.

DOBBS: Lisa Sylvester, thank you for that excellent report.

Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

Tonight, the effort to secure this nation's borders has a new opponent. It is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has launched an aggressive battle against the interests of the United States in an effort to defeat border security legislation.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Catholic Church just finished celebrating National Migration Week. From the pope in Rome to priests in the United States, the church is demanding justice for immigrants. A more accurate description would be expanded rights for illegal aliens.

Church leaders are calling on the faithful to help defeat the Sensenbrenner border security bill.

PETER GADIEL, 9/11 FAMILIES FOR A SECURE AMERICA: I think it doesn't exaggerate the situation to say that the Catholic Church is becoming one of the main enemies of American sovereignty. They simply do not support any measure that would secure our borders.

WIAN: Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney wrote to President Bush, claiming if the bill passes, "... priests, ministers, rabbis and others involved in various church-related activities will be forced to become quasi-immigration enforcement officials."

House Judiciary Committee staffers say that's completely false, as our fears that clergy would be prosecuted for aiding illegal aliens.

Church officials are also emulating open borders activists by playing the race card.

Brooklyn, New York, bishop Nicholas DiMarzio claims in his weekly column that, "Some in the media sometimes aid and abet those who are racist in distorting facts about immigrants, especially those who have entered this country without legal status."

Catholic Charities recently released a position paper called "Justice for Newcomers," where it declares, "The church does not support open borders. It recognizes a state's right and duty to control its borders and to enforce immigration laws."

Yet, the same organization operates several day labor hiring sites nationwide, where between 80 and 90 percent of workers are illegal aliens.

DAN STEIN, FED. FOR AMER. IMMIGRATION REFORM: If anybody gets in here illegally, Catholic Charities basically says, let them stay. Well, people have seen that, and they realize that's simply not a credible position, and that Catholic Charities has an enormous financial interest in continuing illegal immigration.

WIAN: This catholic opponent of Burbank's brand-new day laborer center apparently sees no conflict between his religion and border security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm called to clothe the naked and I'm called to welcome the stranger. My parish is extremely active in the service to migrants and to the homeless. However, you as public officials are sworn to uphold the law.

WIAN: W called several branches of the Catholic Church for comment and none would agree to an interview. In a statement, the church says it "recognizes the rights of human persons to migrate so they can realize their God-given rights." (END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: But apparently those rights are not universal. Italian Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, a former top candidate to become pope, says Catholic immigrants should be admitted to Italy before those from Muslim countries. He says to save the identity of the Italian nation and to avoid civil unrest and to spare a lot of suffering, you can't allow all the immigrants in -- Lou.

DOBBS: And it's interesting. The refusal in all of the language used in these statements by the Catholic Church and certainly others, but peculiar and disheartening to see it coming from the Catholic Church, to refer to the issue as one of immigration, not illegal immigration.

WIAN: Right. There is no distinction in any of these documents between the rights of legal and the rights of illegal immigration.

The church's position is that they're basically all of same. Yet, at same time, they say that nations have the right to enforce immigration laws and to control their own borders. It's hard it see how those two positions add up -- Lou.

DOBBS: And it's hard it see why any institution, religious or otherwise, would ever argue with the right and the responsibility of any nation's government to provide security at its borders.

Casey Wian. Thank you.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Should churches that take political positions lose their tax exemptions?

Please cast your vote at We'll have the results later here in the broadcast.

And we'll have much more ahead on our broken borders.

Congressman J.D. Hayworth has written a new book, an important new book calling on our nation to do whatever it takes to secure our borders. He's our guest still ahead.

And the United States Supreme Court hands an important victory to the right to die movement and a defeat to the Bush administration.

And did Senator Hillary Clinton help or hurt herself in using "plantation" language when talking about the House of Representatives? We'll have that story next.


DOBBS: The United States Supreme Court today handed down a decision on the right to die in a 6-3 vote. The high court upheld Oregon's doctor-assisted suicide law. It is the only such law in the country.

The Bush administration had tried to strike down that law by denying drug privileges to Oregon doctors practicing assisted suicide. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Bush administration exceeded its authority in the case.

A school district in California today agreed to stop offering a course on intelligent design. The El Cajon school district had been offering an elective philosophy course on this controversial theory which states that an intelligent being shaped the universe. But parents oppose that course and they sued the school district.

The parent says the course violates the separation of church and state. The school district said, "The teaching of intelligent design is an appropriate topic for our philosophy course."

And now it is time for some of your thoughts.

Joyce in Kentucky is following our series of special reports on the lobbying scandal in Congress which we entitled "The Best Government Money Can Buy."

Joyce wrote in to say, "Lou, my suggestion is make all politicians who take money wear those fancy suits like race car drivers" -- with those logos -- "listing everyone who has purchased their votes."

And Jim in Washington said, "Logic escapes me. If we are at war, the war on terror, how does President Bush justify a porous border?"

Beats me.

And Al in Arizona writes, "You ask where do Mexicans and for that matter everybody else get the idea they can cross our border with impunity? Why, from their two presidents, Bush and Fox, that's who."

And Michael, also writing from Arizona, said, "As a Mexican- American, I believe both president are a disgrace, and I believe border jumping is wrong."

And Catherine in Virginia said, "Lou, I can see where the Mexican population would mostly think that crossing our borders was their right. I mean, if our own government is promoting it, why shouldn't they?"

Send us your thoughts at We'll have more of your e-mails later here in the broadcast.

The United States and Mexico are far apart on the issue of their common border, law enforcement and immigration. But at least they agree on certainly one thing, and that is tequila.

Mexico and the United States signed an agreement today that would continue bulk exports of Mexican tequila to this country. Mexico had threatened to ban that bulk tequila export to ensure quality standard. Under this agreement, all tequila bottling will now be done in Mexico.

Imagine that. Coming up next here, why the failure if U.S. policy is allowing leftist governments to take power in Latin America and allowing communist China to expand its influence in this hemisphere.

Also tonight, civil liberties groups go to court to try to stop secret government wiretaps of U.S. citizens. My guest, two of the plaintiffs.

And Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans manages to work "chocolate" and "god" into his comments about his city. We'll have that story.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Still ahead, two of the plaintiffs will be here to tell us why they are suing the NSA to stop the wiretaps of American citizens without court orders. But first, let's take a look at top stories of the hour.

Support tonight for Judge Alito. Democratic Senator Ben Nelson telling CNN correspondent Ed Henry tonight he will vote to confirm Judge Alito to the Supreme Court. Senator Nelson from Nebraska becomes the first Democrat to announce his support for Alito, citing Alito's strong judicial credentials.

House Republicans today announced their new plan to toughen Capitol Hill lobbying rules. The measures include a ban on all privately-funded congressional travel. Critics say the measures don't go far enough and are merely aimed at limiting political damage after the Abramoff scandal.

Russia today appeared to switch positions on the growing Iranian nuclear crisis. Russia now calling on Iran to immediately freeze its nuclear program.

Communist China urging continued diplomacy.

The United States government is finally being forced to pay attention to South America. Years of U.S. neglect has turned Latin American into what appears to be a breeding ground for a new era of leftist regimes now cozying up to communist China. Even today the United States still has no stated strategy for Latin American.

Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Half a billion neighbors in our hemisphere whose governments are moving to the left, increasingly shunning American foreign policy goals and embracing China.

RICHARD FISHER, INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGY CENTER: We have to work far harder to pursue relationships and to develop our own friends in this region. ROMANS: The government stated mission is to, "... generate broad-based growth through freer trade and sound economic policies; to invest in the well-being of people from all walks of life; and to make democracy serve every citizen more effectively and justly."

Yet many say our government is failing.

PETER MORICI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: It seems to not be paying much attention to what's going on in Latin America.

ROMANS: What's going on is China is getting closer with Fidel Castro, and radical Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and anti- American Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales.

STEPHEN JOHNSON, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We have to have a much more active sense of engagement with the region. Our diplomats have to be drawn into that. They can't be observers on the sidelines.

ROMANS: He says our agencies are tied up in the bureaucracy. Congress drives piecemeal initiatives in the region and the administration is preoccupied with its foreign policy goals in The Middle East. Indeed as leftist politics spread, The State Department appears unconcerned.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We're willing to work with governments across the political spectrum.

ROMANS: And unconcerned that China is the new moral and economic authority in the region.

MCCORMACK: What we encourage is good, transparent, respectful relationships between countries. Whether between China and countries in South America, Latin American, or anywhere else.

ROMANS: The question is, behind the diplomatic talk, does Washington take what's happening in Latin American seriously?


ROMANS: Many we talk today lauded the administration for its focus on trade with the region but they wondered if real economic reform in the region and real free market democracy is faltering and if China may be succeeding at isolating the United States in its own region. Lou.

DOBBS: All good questions posed by critics of the administration but point in fact questions that were apt for this administration as well as the one before it. And to listen to The State Department's spokesman, my god what blather.

ROMANS: I asked folks for bright spots in U.S.-Latin American relation, they go way back to Ronald Reagan, Lou.

DOBBS: Those were bright spots for many. For some. And now I'm starting to blather when we get to that one. Christine Romans, thank you very much. Two U.S. civil liberties groups today filed separate legal challenges to the Bush administration's domestic spying program. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights going to court seeking an immediate and permanent end to the wiretap program.

The groups said the government is using that operation to illegally monitor journalist, scholars, others who regularly communicate with people in the Middle East.

Joining me tonight from Washington, journalist, author, James Bamford, one of the plaintiffs in this case. And also ACLU associate legal Director here in New York, Ann Beeson. Good to have you both with us.

Jim, let me start with you. Why do you think you're being spied on?

JAMES BAMFORD, JOURNALIST, AUTHOR: I do a lot of communicating overseas. I have written probably more than anybody else has ever written on NSA, The National Security Agency.

DOBBS: I will so stipulate.

BAMFORD: And I write on intelligence. My last book, "Pretext for War," was all during the period of time that the NSA was doing warrantless surveillance. So a lot of the information I wrote about had to do with the events leading up to the Iraq war and so forth. So there's a lot of indications.

DOBBS: James Bamford says he's written more, which is the truth. What he didn't say, in all modesty, he didn't say he's also written better than anyone else on the issue of the NSA and intelligence. But while Jim may believe he's a natural target for such a wiretap, nothing he said that I heard suggests that he indeed is targeted for wiretapping.

ANN BEESON, ASSOCIATE LEGAL DIR., ACLU: Lou, we have all the evidence that we need to bring this case. The evidence that we have is the fact that the president and the National Security Agency have not denied that this program is in place. They haven't denied that they're wiretapping the phone calls and e-mails of innocent Americans without first getting court approval.

DOBBS: When you say innocent Americans, I don't know that they've gone quite that far, Ann, but what they have said is such a program is in place. They are proceeding they said lawfully and legally. But they are doing so in the interest of national security.

To prevail here aren't you going to have to have evidence indeed that they have spied upon, wiretapped, innocent U.S. citizens such as Jim Bamford.

BEESON: No, we don't think so, Lou. And that's because the very existence of the program has already caused scholars, journalists like yourself who have to talk every day on the phone to place like in Iraq and Afghanistan, human right's researchers and lawyers to change their speech, because they are afraid they can no longer say privileged matters or sensitive matters over the phone with their clients and their sources.

DOBBS: Jim Bamford, Lou Dobbs and Ann Beeson, we're sitting here. Each of us I think would be furious, I will speak for myself rather than two of you and ask you to join in on this. I would be furious if the federal government had missed an opportunity to gain intelligence. At the same time, I have to tell you, I am absolutely furious that the government would wiretap, invade the privacy, of any American citizen without appropriate legal process.

How do we come down on that, Jim? And how do we resolve the issue?

BAMFORD: Actually, Congress came down on that in 1978. What it did was it created this buffer, this firewall between NSA, which is extremely powerful agency, and the American public. And what we want to do is to see the FISA court restored to what it's supposed to be, as the firewall that Congress put there.

DOBBS: And Ann, your judgment?

BEESON: Our judgment is that this is not a hard case. This is a case about whether the president is about the law. And in a democracy, like we have, even the president can't issue an executive order to authorize wiretapping of Americans without court approval.

DOBBS: Jim, as horrific as the threat is to the United States from radical Islamist terrorists. We go back to the cold war. We go back to 40 years of the cold war. Did we have anything approximating the situation that we have today?

BAMFORD: Well, actually, prior to the formation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the NSA, during the cold war, began spying on anti-war protesters, writers, journalists, and that was during the time we had the cold war.

So they created this court. What we have today with this terrorism is not nearly as bad as when we had The Soviet Union pointing about 2,000 nuclear-tipped missiles at us.

DOBBS: And Ann, the next step here, when do we find out the progress of this legal action?

BEESON: Well, the government will have 60 days to file its response it our lawsuit and we'll go forward from here. We do expect this case to end up in The Supreme Court.

DOBBS: Ann Beeson, thank you for being here. Tim Bamford thank you very much.

Still ahead here, Congressman J.D. Hayworth, a strong border security advocate, will be our guest. He has a new book. It blasts the Bush administration's lack of border security. And playing the race card on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, both Senator Hillary Clinton and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tried it out. One of them is apologizing. We will tell you about their reaction, next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: In reporting on the government's wiretapping of American citizens and the lawsuits filed today against the NSA to end what the plaintiffs claim is unconstitutional wiretapping, I neglected to say that we had invited representatives of the Bush administration, the U.S. Justice Department to join us here. They declined.

Turning now to Senator Hillary Clinton. She's drawing fierce criticism today for her comments in an event marking Martin Luther King Day. The senator called the Bush administration one of the worst in history and she accused Republicans of running the House of Representatives, quote, "like a plantation." Bill Schneider reports.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: On Martin King Luther Jr. Day, Senator Hillary Clinton made these remarks to a mostly African-American audience in Harlem.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: When you look at way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation and you know what I'm talking about.

SCHNEIDER: She was talking about the Republican majority that has controlled the House since 1994. Some Republicans were offended by the plantation metaphor. Was Senator Clinton comparing them to slave holders?

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-ILL.), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think that's probably a little bit over the top. Never run a plantation before. I'm not even sure what kind of association she's trying to make. If she's trying to be racist, I think that's unfortunate.

SCHNEIDER: A New York Republican congressman made this accusation.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: It's always wrong to play the race card. Plantation is a racially charged word.

SCHNEIDER: Many African-American Democrats from New York defended Senator Clinton, including Al Sharpton, who seemed to take credit for her statement.

REV. AL SHARPTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The bosses make the decisions. That is tantamount to plantation. I absolutely defend her saying it because I said it all through the '04 elections.

SCHNEIDER: Of course it isn't African-Americans Senator Clinton is accused of stereotyping, it's Republicans. House Democrats feel like a powerless and oppressed minority. Because they are, unlike the minority party in the Senate, which has more rights and privileges.

In 1994, after 40 long years in the minority, House Republicans rallied behind fire-brand Newt Gingrich. Shortly before the 1994 election, Gingrich made this statement to a "Washington Post" reporter about the Democrats. "Since they think it is their job to run the plantation, it shocks them that I'm actually willing to lead the slave rebellion."


SCHNEIDER: Which proves what exactly? That metaphors may be colorful writing, but risky politics. As they say in the "New Yorker" magazine, block that metaphor. Lou?

DOBBS: I think there's a lot of gnashing of teeth over very little here. It's remarkable what passes for a problem in language these days. Political correctness, be damned Bill Schneider. Thank you very much.


DOBBS: Tonight the mayor of New Orleans is apologizing for comments that he made on Martin Luther King Day as well. Mayor Ray Nagin promised that the devastated city of New Orleans will be quote, "chocolate once again." Susan Roesgen reports from New Orleans.


RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS: And when we come together...

ROESGEN (voice over): In his speech, Mayor Nagin claimed to be speaking for God. But today, ordinary folks, black and white, standing in line for city permits to rebuild their hurricane-damaged homes, say the mayor was out of line.

(on camera): As a white woman, what do you think of the mayor's remarks?

ANN MCKENDRICK, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: White, black, indifferent. It doesn't matter. It's just you can't reunite a city if you have comments that are, you know, I think going to divide a city.

AISHA JOHNSON, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I don't think they were inflammatory or divisive or -- but I think he should have chosen his words more carefully.

ROESGEN (voice-over): Mayor Nagin says he should have chosen his words more carefully.

NAGIN: If I could take anything back, that's what I would take, any references to God. I think that was inappropriate for that particular setting. It was something that I had discussed with a minister several weeks before, and for some reason, it became top of mind and it became part of that speech. It was totally inappropriate.

ROESGEN (on camera): Inappropriate, but do you believe it, that this should be a majority African-American city?

NAGIN: Well, I just look at the data. And the data tells me that from every perspective that the city will come back, and it will be, you know, a very diverse city, similar to what we had before.

ROESGEN (voice over): Pre-Katrina, the city was 67 percent African-American. And Nagin says he was trying to give tens of thousands of displaced African-Americans hope that the city would help them return. But back in the line for building permits, one man said the mayor's comments about a chocolate New Orleans were ridiculous.

ALEX GERHOLD, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: He used the wrong dairy product to describe us. We're more Neapolitan, not chocolate. We're more vanilla, strawberry -- you know, it's just stupid. It was a stupid comment on his part. And, you know, it's just pitiful. It doesn't do the city any justice.


ROESGEN: Now, Lou, from a business perspective, many people are saying that they're afraid that white-owned businesses that set up shop in other cities since the hurricane, might now reconsider coming back to New Orleans because of the mayor's comments.

DOBBS: Well I thought it was interesting, Susan, the mayor is concerned about his references to God, referring to the fact -- saying at one point that he thinks that Hurricane Katrina, the hurricanes hitting -- God's mad at America. He wanted to take those back.

Personally Susan, I happen to agree with him. I thought those were regrettable comments. But hey, it's his city, he's the mayor, he was elected, that's fine. The chocolate reference? I liked the fellow you talked to who said "Neapolitan." That has sort of a right feel to it. Susan, thank you.

ROESGEN: It sure does, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much -- Susan Roesgen, reporting from New Orleans.

Mayor Nagin will be talking more about what he meant by those comments tonight. He'll be on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time right here on CNN. And coming up next here at top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, top that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. We're following lots of stories, including this story out of Florida. A popular cruise ship returns to port. Another war of words, by the way, is also brewing.

More on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton taking on Washington's power structure. But was it the right time and place for the comment? And Senator John Kerry is my guest here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" I'll ask him if he agrees with Senator Clinton's comments and lots more. All of that coming up, Lou, right at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: We'll be watching, Wolf. Thank you very much.

Coming up next here, one congressman's call to action for a nation to finally secure our borders, really secure our borders. Congressman J.D. Hayworth will be here to talk about his new book, "Whatever it Takes," next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: My next guest has written a new book that among other things, blasts the White House and Congress for failing to take on our broken border crisis.

Congressman J.D. Hayworth of Arizona is the author of the new book, "Whatever It Takes: Illegal immigration, border security and the war on terror." Congressman Hayworth joins us tonight here in New York. Good to have you with us.

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: Lou, good to be here with you.

DOBBS: Congratulations on the book.

HAYWORTH: Thank you.

DOBBS: The idea, as you deal with in your book, that this administration will not focus in real terms about a real threat and that's a lack of border security.

HAYWORTH: The biggest problem we have, and it goes for the administration and my colleagues in Congress. It seems all of official Washington views this as a political problem to be managed, rather than an invasion to be stopped.

And what I'm trying to do with this back is issue a wake-up call to all of America to get behind real enforcement, get behind interior enforcement and make the difference. It's time to do whatever it takes.

DOBBS: But you know, you've just described, trying to manage a political problem. That is the reflex of members of Congress, the U.S. Senate, the White House, both parties, no matter what the issue. Their first reaction, it seems, is to manage the problem, not solve it.

HAYWORTH: And this is what is so dangerous with this. I mean, who would have thought in the wake of 9/11 that four and half years later, you'd have the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security say late last year, it would be his goal to have operational control of the borders in five years. So then a decade passes in the wake of 9/11? We can't have that type of situation.

DOBBS: It is remarkable. I don't know what you're hearing from your constituents, but the congressmen, the senators I talk with are hearing a real wake-up call from the people who are going to be voting come November of this year.

HAYWORTH: People will remember in November -- and I have to tell you, I parted company with a lot of my friends with the bill that was brought before the House just before the Christmas break. In my opinion, despite all the concentration on the perfecting amendment about the border wall, what we had there was not enforcement first. It was enforcement maybe.

Keep your eye on the Senate. I believe the Senate and the administration will try to ram through and ram down the throats of the American people a guest worker amnesty plan. As far as I'm concerned, guest worker equals amnesty equals surrender. It is the wrong thing to do. We tried that in 1986. It only increased illegal immigration.

DOBBS: Now, you've -- in the past you had supported guest worker program.


DOBBS: You're not pleased with the Sensenbrenner legislation?


DOBBS: The fact is, at what point do you say we've to do something now, let's put up a fence, whatever it takes. Whatever it takes. Would you like that?

HAYWORTH: That's the title of the book which we hope is selling briskly right now, Lou. Listen, this is such a major problem that I guess the big thing I'm saying, and maybe it's a cry in the wilderness, we can't afford business as usual. We can't afford politics as usual on this. Powerful interests are allied. You have a situation with agribusiness and big business saying they get cheap labor. The left believes it will get cheap votes. In the meantime, the American people are left paying a huge bill.

DOBBS: Absolutely. In the book, you recount the conversation you had with the president, Karl Rove, early last year. You said, the president thanked me for being candid, Karl Rove then just sputtered to you -- you just don't want to help brown people, do you?

HAYWORTH: Well, let me set up the circumstances.

DOBBS: Well -- I tell you, the White House denies that that occurred just that way.

HAYWORTH: I first spoke to the president dealing with Social Security totalization, told him I had filed a resolution of non- approval on that issue, explained my concerns. He thanked for me for that a few days later in West Virginia at the Republican retreat.

DOBBS: He thanked for the explanation, not parting company with him on...

HAYWORTH: I saw Karl and I recounted that brief conversation and then he responded as I said.

DOBBS: Well, that's a really ignorant comment. HAYWORTH: Well -- and again, I'm not inside Karl's mind. He may have meant that -- sometimes people deal with difficult issues in a jocular fashion. I think there is an over-concern and there is the myth of the monolith, that if people have Hispanic surnames, instantly they embrace the notion of illegal immigration. We know that's not the case and we've proven that in Arizona. Prop 200, 47 percent of self-identified Hispanics voted in favor of Prop 200, more than the 42 percent voting for President Bush.

DOBBS: And I think that just about half of the population, which does fall pretty much into the general overall canvas of the vote -- I think that shocked a lot of politicians in the state of Arizona. It shocked the dickens out of the so-called comfortable elitists in your fair city, Washington, D.C.

HAYWORTH: Well, my fair city is really Scottsdale. I just happen to work in Washington.

DOBBS: Oh, don't try that. You're from Washington!

HAYWORTH: And, of course, for purposes of full disclosure, you used to work in Yuma, Arizona.

DOBBS: And proud of it.

"Whatever It Takes" is the name the book and J.D. Hayworth, we thank you very much for being here. Good luck with the book. Good luck with your colleagues in Congress and your Republican president who doesn't want to secure the borders that you so aptly focus on in this book.

HAYWORTH: Lou, thanks.

DOBBS: Take care. J.D. Hayworth.

Still ahead, we'll have your thoughts on the results of our poll tonight. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight. Ninety-two percent of you responding that you believe churches that take political positions should lose their federal tax exemptions.

Now, taking a look at some more of your thoughts.

Matthew in Arizona e-mailed to say: "Lou, keep up the excellent work. As a border patrol agent working in Arizona, I am so grateful to you and CNN for focusing on the broken immigration policies of the United States.

John in Massachusetts says: "For the life of me, I cannot understand why Mexico does not apply the same liberal notions on immigration to its southern border as it promotes for its northern border." An interesting question. And Sharon in Indiana: "I don't understand why the illegal immigrant burden is not placed where it belongs: the employers who do not abide by the laws of our country by hiring illegals."

And Archie in New Jersey said: "Lou, we're all tired of hearing that Americans won't take certain jobs. We Americans will take any jobs that pay American wages."

And Barbara in Texas saying: "I'm so glad to know you're spreading the news that the H1-B technical worker program is nothing more than a way for employers to pay less and avoid hiring American workers. Our government is working against the middle class when they approve H1-B visas."

Duke in Georgia said: "I've become such a believer in outsourcing that I recommend that our Senate and congressional representatives should be outsourced. Surely, foreign nationals couldn't do any more to harm our economy, border security or manufacturing base than our elected American representatives have."

And John in South Dakota: "Our government won't enforce our borders, a member of Congress tells us to get used to losing jobs overseas and American companies take advantage of the chaos. Who's on our side?"

And Jerry in Ohio: "Keep up the people's work, Lou. It doesn't look as if our senators and representatives care."

And finally tonight, Paul in California writes to say: "Lou, it looks you're out there howling at the moon while people don't seem to pay attention. Somehow we go on doing business as usual. Keep howling anyway, it's guaranteed."

We love from you, so send us your thoughts at And if we read your e-mail, you'll receive a copy of my book "Exporting America." And you'll receive our e-mail newsletter by signing up at

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. Among my guests, Senator Trent Lott. He joins us to talk about corruption on Capitol Hill and what should be done to restore representation for Capitol Hill.

For all of us, good night from New York. And "THE SITUATION ROOM," starting right now with none other than Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.