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Lou Dobbs Tonight
President Bush Defends War in Iraq; JonBenet Ramsey Murder Suspect Awaits Extradition Hearing; Border Injustice?; Protecting Democracy in Era of E-Voting
Aired August 21, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: a stunning admission by President Bush about the war in Iraq. The president says the war is straining the psyche of our country.
And insurgents kill four more of our troops in Iraq. At least 100 Iraqis are being killed every day. And many say that conflict is now a civil war.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Monday, August 21.
Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.
PILGRIM: Good evening, everybody.
President Bush today delivered one of the most blunt assessments of the war in Iraq. The president said the war is straining the psyche of this country.
President Bush admitted, the chaos in Iraq is likely to be a major factor for U.S. voters in the midterm elections. But the president said, an early U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would help the enemy.
Ed Henry reports from the White House on the president's news conference today. Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on the escalating violence in Iraq. And Aneesh Raman reports from Tehran on Iran's new defiance over its nuclear program.
We turn first to Ed Henry -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, the president started out jovial. He was even joking with one reporter about his seersucker suit.
But the overall tone of this press conference was very serious -- the president giving a rather sober assessment of the situation in Iraq.
HENRY (voice-over): The nearly one-hour press conference featured a dramatic admission from the president about just how unpopular the war in Iraq has become. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times, and they're difficult times, and they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that. You know, nobody likes to see innocent people die.
HENRY: The president acknowledged, he's concerned about civil war in Iraq, but, in the next breath, declare he has no plans to change direction.
BUSH: We're not leaving so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake. Now, if you say, "Are you going to change your strategic objective?", it means you're leaving before the mission is complete. And we're not going to leave before the mission is complete. I -- I agree with General Abizaid. We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here.
HENRY: Pressed on whether his stay-the-course strategy is actually working, with 3,500 Iraqis killed in July, the president made an interesting distinction.
BUSH: If I didn't think it would work, I would change -- our commanders would recommend changing the strategy. They believe it'll work.
HENRY: Trouble in the Mideast dominated the press conference, with the president calling for quick deployment of an international force to help save the tenuous cease-fire in Lebanon.
BUSH: The need is urgent.
HENRY: On Iran, the president said, he hopes the United Nations will move quickly on sanctions, if Tehran does not abandon its nuclear ambitions by the end of August.
BUSH: In order for the U.N. to be effective, there must be consequences if people thumb their nose at the United Nations Security Council.
HENRY: The president also suggested, there will be consequences in November for Democrats urging that large numbers of U.S. troops come home from Iraq starting this year.
BUSH: There's a fundamental difference between many of the Democrats and and -- and -- my party. And that is: They want to leave before the job is completed in Iraq. And again, I repeat: These are decent people. They're -- they're just as American as I am. I just happen to strongly disagree with them.
HENRY: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid firing back that success in Iraq is not a matter of resolve; it's a question of strategy. And three years into the war, Reid charges, the president's strategy is failing -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Ed Henry. Well, a new CNN opinion poll says President Bush continues to suffer from poor approval ratings. The poll says, the president's approval rating is just over 40 percent. Nearly 60 percent of voters disapprove of his performance. And, separately, only 35 percent of voters now favor the war in Iraq. Sixty-one percent oppose the war. And that opposition is a new high for this series of polls.
This poll was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, and between August 18 and the 20th of this month.
Now, four American troops have been killed in Iraq in the past 48 hours. Two thousand, six hundred and eleven of our troops have been killed since this war began. The death toll for Iraqis is much higher.
Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunday in Iraq, sniper fire from houses and rooftops cuts down Shiite worshipers, as their religious procession winds through several Baghdad neighborhoods -- the toll, 17 dead, more than 250 wounded.
At the Imam Ali morgue in Baghdad's Sadr City, the bodies pile up. The violence between Shiite and Sunni Iraqis is now claiming 100 lives a day. But President Bush is still not sure it's a true civil war.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, I hear a lot of talk about civil war. I'm concerned about that, of course. No question there's sectarian violence.
MCINTYRE: President Bush insists, the basic strategy is still sound, support the new Iraqi government, and that the tactics are being adjusted as needed, with the dispatch of a U.S. Army Stryker brigade to the capital to shore up Iraqi forces. Iraq's ambassador to the United States argues, as does the Bush administration, that Iraqis yearn for peace and freedom.
SAMIR SUMAIDAIE, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: It's harder to -- to survive now than it was at any time. Yes, that's true. But the bulk of the Iraqi people -- I am absolutely clear in my mind, and I am absolutely certain, the bulk of the Iraqi people are behind the political process.
MCINTYRE: Critics, like former Democratic presidential contender John Kerry, were quick to condemn the current strategy as an unmitigated disaster. In a statement, Kerry said -- quote -- "Our troops are stuck in a civil war" and called for the U.S. to set a date to force the Iraqis to stand up for Iraq.
That, President Bush argued at his press conference, would be a huge mistake.
BUSH: There's a fundamental difference between many of the Democrats and -- and -- and my party. And that is: They want to leave before the job is completed in Iraq.
MCINTYRE: President Bush admitted to being frustrated at times with how things are going in Iraq, and said he understood why some people are discouraged.
But he argued that, even if people did not agree with his decision to invade Iraq, they had to see, in his words, that the consequences of defeat at this point are unacceptable -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks, Jamie -- Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
An American service member has also been killed in Afghanistan. He was serving with an Air Force special operations unit in a province in central Afghanistan. Two hundred and fifty-nine of our troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the war began nearly five years ago.
Well, today, new defiance by Iran over its nuclear program -- the country's supreme leader declared, Iran will continue its nuclear activities, despite the threat of U.N. sanctions. The United Nations says, Iran must stop enriching uranium by the end of this month.
Aneesh Raman reports from Tehran.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These images broadcast today on Iranian TV send a simple message: If any military force tries to enter Iranian airspace, this is what will happen.
It was the latest in a series of war games launched across the country, set to last five weeks, and set to showcase what Iran calls its new defensive military doctrine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have designed and manufactured systems that can make Iran's air territory insecure for enemies in different magnitudes.
RAMAN: On display, to Iranian TV cameras and nobody else, a readiness for war, a readiness to protect nuclear sites against a potential strike by the West, to reinforce the message of defiance, a TV appearance by the country's top official, the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. He announced, Iran would continue to pursue nuclear energy, despite a U.N. deadline to stop by the end of the month.
Combined with these scenes, it's all meant to reinforce, this is a government intent on pursuing a nuclear program and ready to defend against any military attack to prevent that.
But do Iranians feel the same way? At one of Iran's war memorials, a solemn art reminds of a brutal past of the eight-year battle between Iran and Iraq. We came to see if people were worried that their country's pursuit of a nuclear program could lead to an international conflict. Nobody here questioned the government's claim that its program is strictly for producing energy. It's their right, they say, whatever the consequences.
"It is useless," Ali (ph) told us, "to worry about an attack, when a basic need of the people, like nuclear energy, is being threatened. We will pursue that right against everything."
"People who believe in God," said Gorbani (ph), "are not afraid of sanctions or attacks by the United States."
Not afraid, and, as Iran's military proclaimed, ready for whatever may come.
RAMAN: And, Kitty, we expect an official response from Iran to come tomorrow, likely to be in writing, likely to be a rejection of the U.N. call to suspend its program, likely, as well, to solidify the deep diplomatic divide between Iran and the West -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks, Aneesh -- Aneesh Raman, Tehran.
Well, Israeli troops today shot two and possibly three Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon. The Israeli military said it did not know whether the terrorists were wounded or killed. An Israeli spokesman said, troops opened fire after the terrorists advanced position -- advanced toward their positions.
The United States tonight wants a new U.N. resolution to disarm Hezbollah. Meanwhile, there's still a deadlock over an expanded U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Liz Neisloss reports from the United Nations -- Liz.
LIZ NEISLOSS, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS PRODUCER: Well, Kitty, tonight what we're hearing at the United Nations is still the question, where are the Europeans? This as the U.N. rushes to beef up its patrols in southern Lebanon.
NEISLOSS (voice-over): France began deploying their troops to Lebanon over the weekend. For now, it will just be a handful, surprising many who had assumed they would be the backbone of a revamped U.N. force.
MARTIN NAVIAS, KING'S COLLEGE LONDON: The fact remains that Hezbollah remains entrenched in southern Lebanon. And the French and others are getting extremely cold feet about deploying forces into a region where Hezbollah remains, and remains to strengthen its forces, and the Israeli force remain in that region as well.
NEISLOSS: The U.N. says it needs the Europeans for their military capability and for a political balance with Muslim nation offers.
The United States, Israel's most forceful backer at the U.N., won't be sending any troops into hostile territory in Lebanon, but, on Monday, announced aid, as well as logistics and intelligence support.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. explained donor concerns.
JOHN BOLTON, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: I think that, as long as Hezbollah fighters remained armed in the south or elsewhere in the country, whether the arms are visible or hidden under mattresses, the international peacekeeping force and the Lebanese armed forces, while we are on the subject, will be vulnerable, if Hezbollah orders additional attacks. And I think that's very much on the minds of the troop contributors. And I think that's understandable.
NEISLOSS: Don't expect U.N. troops to be poking under any mattresses for Hezbollah's weapons. That's up to Lebanon's army, though UNIFIL, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, has the authority to help.
STEPHANE DUJARRIC, UNITED NATIONS SPOKESPERSON: If UNIFIL comes across in its -- in its -- in its patrolling across armed -- armed men who refuse to disarm, they will have the option to use force. A lot of those decisions are obviously tactical decisions that will be left up to the commanders on the ground. But the authority to use force in the discharge of its mandate is there.
NEISLOSS: The French still say they need to know more about how they can use force in any potential troop contribution. The United Nations says the French know everything they need to know.
There is an upcoming meeting of the European Union on Wednesday, an emergency meeting, it's called, to talk about a possible European coalition -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: Thanks, Liz -- Liz Neisloss at the United Nations.
Well, new doubts tonight about the conviction of two Border Patrol agents -- it's a case that has sparked national controversy. We will have a special report on that.
Also, President Hugo Chavez is fueling his global campaign against the United States with oil revenues from this country.
And the murder suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case is back in this country, facing our criminal justice system.
Stay with us.
PILGRIM: There are important new developments tonight in the case of two Border Patrol agents facing 20 years in prison. They were convicted for pursuing and shooting a Mexican drug smuggler.
Casey Wian reports from Los Angeles on how a U.S. Border Patrol agent with ties to Mexican drug smuggler helped convict his two fellow agents in this case. And Lisa Sylvester reports on how the illegal alien crisis is placing further strains on the country's legal system.
We begin with Lisa Sylvester.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 11:45 in the morning in Nashville, Tennessee. Lee Hockaday is jumping from one courtroom to the next, serving as the voice of defendants and witnesses alike. He is a full-time trial court Spanish interpreter -- his services in constant demand.
LEE HOCKADAY, TRIAL COURT SPANISH INTERPRETER: It's grown not only in the court system. I guess in just about every facet of life, you know, with -- with the increase in the Spanish-speaking population, and the court is no exception.
SYLVESTER: Hockaday asks, in Spanish, if the defendant has a valid Social Security number.
HOCKADAY: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
SYLVESTER: The defendant answers, no.
Tennessee's foreign-born population has exploded, growing 24 percent between 2000 and 2005. That includes a surge in the illegal population drawn to the area's jobs. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates, 82,000 illegal aliens live in the state.
JUDGE SETH NORMAN, TENNESSEE CRIMINAL COURT: I have been on the bench 16 years now. And I can remember when it was extremely rare to have to have an interpreter. Now I use them daily.
SYLVESTER (on camera): And it's not just an issue facing Tennessee. California, for example, has a shortage of approximately 1,000 court interpreters every single day.
KEVIN HENDZEL, SPOKESPERSON, AMERICAN TRANSLATORS ASSOCIATION: There aren't that many qualified interpreters. There aren't that many schools that train interpreters. And the demand is sort of outstripping the supply.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Maryland and Virginia increased their budget for Spanish-language interpreters by 10 to 12 percent over the last decade. Spanish interpreters are requested the most. But other language experts are also in demand. And it's the taxpayers who pick up the tab for criminals who do not speak English.
LARRY STEPHENSON, TRIAL COURT ADMINISTRATOR: We have had at least one child sex abuse case where the defendant spoke only Bosnian. And -- and there were no -- no locally available interpreters in that language. So, we had to bring them in from Houston and Chicago.
SYLVESTER: The need for more court interpreters does not seem to be abating. Many courtrooms are now bilingual, signs in English and Spanish.
Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Nashville.
PILGRIM: That brings us to the subject of tonight's poll: Do you believe taxpayers should be responsible for the costs of providing interpreters for non-English-speaking defendants, yes or no? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We will bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.
Now, this broadcast has reported extensively on the case of two Border Patrol agents who were found guilty of pursuing and shooting a Mexican drug smuggler. Tonight, there are significant new revelations in this case.
And Casey Wian reports -- Casey.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The strangest twists in case of two Border Patrol agents now facing up to 20 years, perhaps more than 20 years, in prison for simply trying to do their jobs.
They were brought down by another agent with ties to a Mexican drug smuggler. The Border Patrol agent was working 270 miles away.
WIAN (voice-over): Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos acknowledge, they should have filed a report that shots were fired the day they tried to apprehend a Mexican drug smuggler near Fabens, Texas. The agents say they didn't know smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila was injured, because they saw him escape across the Rio Grande.
But Davila did have a bullet wound in the buttocks. And the smuggler had a childhood acquaintance, a Mexican-born U.S. Border Patrol agent named Rene Sanchez from Wilcox, Arizona.
MARIA RAMIREZ, ATTORNEY FOR JOSE COMPEAN: Agent Sanchez is the one that starts the whole investigation to find out who the agents were that actually shot at Mr. Davila, the drug smuggler.
WIAN: According to a memo from the Homeland Security Department's Office of Inspector General, Davila's mother contacted agent Sanchez's mother-in-law, who reported the shooting incident to Agent Sanchez.
The memo says, the women tried to persuade the smuggler to report the shooting to the Mexico Consulate. But Davila did not want to report the incident, because he had actually been transporting "a load of marijuana, and was afraid authorities would put him in jail." The drug smuggler also told Agent Sanchez that fellow drug traffickers suggested, "They should put together a hunting party and go shoot some Border Patrol agents in revenge for them shooting Osvaldo."
Agent Sanchez then contacted the Office of Inspector General, and an investigation followed.
ANDY RAMIREZ, FRIENDS OF THE BORDER PATROL: From that point on, it was -- it was open rain, because nobody stood by the agents.
WIAN: The Border Patrol says, in a statement, "Agent Sanchez was made aware of a criminal act or a civil rights violation. As law enforcement officers, we are obligated to report ethics violations to the appropriate supervisors and authorities."
But supporters of Agents Ramos and Compean question the ethics of Agent Sanchez's involvement with the drug smuggler. According to news reports, during the trial, the Border Patrol agent and the drug smuggler saw each other socially after the shooting. And Agent Sanchez's mother-in-law drove drug smuggler Davila to medical appointments in El Paso.
T.J. BONNER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: As to why this Border Patrol agent, who was in cahoots with his childhood friend drug smuggler, why he's not being investigated, you would have to ask the Department of Justice and the Office of Inspector General.
WIAN: The smuggler received immunity from prosecution, as did several other Border Patrol agents on the scene. But Agents Compean and Ramos now face 20 years in prison.
IGNACIO RAMOS, BORDER PATROL AGENT: I was doing the job the public entrusted me to do. They entrusted me to stop a drug smuggler, and I did. I have arrested people with 2,500 pounds of marijuana that are looking with less time than I am.
WIAN: Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has joined some of her colleagues in the House of Representatives, is now calling for an investigation of the case. Senator Feinstein says, she's concerned it may represent a serious miscarriage of justice -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: And a very welcome investigation. too.
Thanks very much, Casey Wian.
PILGRIM: Still ahead: John Mark Karr, the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, is heading to court tomorrow. Will he fight his extradition back to Boulder? We will be live in Los Angeles.
Plus: Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is blasting the United States, and laughing all the way to the bank. We will have a special report on how U.S. policy makes Chavez richer by the day.
Plus: a report from Jerusalem and Beirut with the very latest on the fragile Mideast cease-fire. New fighting is being reported today. We will have the latest.
PILGRIM: More fiery rhetoric tonight from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Chavez is using his country's oil wells to circle the globe, in an attempt to undermine American influence. And, incredibly, U.S. dollars help fund his anti-American campaign.
Christine Romans reports.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's no secret that Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, uses his country's oil wells to taunt the United States. But thanks to a little-known clause with its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, he has even more oil riches at his disposal, a de facto tax benefit that one industry analyst estimates has boosted Venezuela's oil profit by $1 million a day, to the delight, no doubt, of President Chavez, who is making a career of spending his country's oil wealth to undermine U.S. influence all over the world.
The Bush administration has just named a high-level CIA veteran to oversee intelligence in Venezuela and Cuba.
DANIEL ERIKSON, DIRECTOR OF CARIBBEAN PROGRAMS, INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE: Now that you have Venezuela behaving more erratically, and seen as a potential adversary, I think there's a desire within the intelligence community to focus more resources on Latin America.
ROMANS: Especially as Venezuela strengthens ties with America's foes, lionizing Fidel Castro, and helping Iran with its growing thirst for imported fuel -- Chavez embarking next on a trip to China, to secure more markets for Venezuela's crude oil, all this as Chavez prepares his people for what he says is an imminent U.S. invasion, and has threatened to cut off the U.S. from Venezuelan oil.
PATRICK ESTERUELAS, LATIN AMERICA ANALYST, EURASIA GROUP: Chavez has often threatened to cut off oil supplies to the U.S., but no one has been taking any of these threats all that seriously, because the U.S. remains, for better or worse, Venezuela's primary natural market. Any threats to cut off oil supplies are really directed towards scaring the markets and pushing the price up.
ROMANS: Indeed, many say Chavez is more bluster than true threat.
ROMANS: Perhaps it's bluster, but Chavez has billions in oil wealth behind him, making this undiplomatic neighbor a serious diplomatic issue, at least, for the United States -- Kitty.
PILGRIM: It's a ridiculous and unbelievable story.
Thanks very much, Christine Romans.
Well, tonight, new developments in the JonBenet Ramsey case -- controversial suspect John Mark Karr is in a Los Angeles jail. And he faces a court appearance tomorrow. We will have the latest.
And, tonight, fear of renewed fighting between Israel and Hezbollah prompts new moves by the Bush administration. We will have a special report.
And democracy at risk -- fresh evidence that your vote may not be counted in the next election. A leading authority joins me next.
Also ahead, the president, Iraq, new poll numbers -- all that and a great deal more, with our political panel.
Stay with us.
PILGRIM: John Mark Karr, the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, sits tonight inside a high-security jail cell in Los Angeles. Karr makes his first U.S. court appearance in this case tomorrow.
Now, there is new outrage over the treatment he received during his flight back to the United States. Dan Simon is live in Los Angeles tonight with the very latest. Dan?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Kitty. He's in a six by nine cell at the downtown jail. It's called the Twin Towers Facility. A lot of guards closely watching him. I'm told they're checking on him every 15 minutes or so. He was given his blue jail uniform, if you will.
Yesterday, he had this flight, which you were talking about. And I got to tell you, Kitty, everybody I've talked to says it's pretty much much ado about nothing. CNN's Drew Griffin, who was on that plane ride, told me it was not a lavish flight by any means. John Mark Karr was sitting in business class and was simply, you know, taking advantage of what that has to offer. But Drew says it was not lavish and really it was no big deal.
As for tomorrow, there is this extradition hearing which is in downtown Los Angeles. These are very, very routine matters, but in a case like this it seems like nothing is routine. Everything is closely watched, as we saw with the champagne he apparently drank on the airplane. But this extradition hearing taking place tomorrow. He's expected to waive extradition, which means he could be taken to Boulder, Colorado, as early as tomorrow afternoon. Kitty, back to you.
PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much, Dan Simon.
A massive two-day manhunt for an escaped Virginia convict is over tonight. Police tonight have 24-year-old William Morva in custody. He escaped from a hospital in Montgomery County, Virginia, yesterday, where he was being treated for an injury. Police say he killed a hospital security guard before his escape and a sheriff's deputy earlier today. He shot and wounded another sheriff's deputy. Morva was in jail awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges. Nearby, Virginia Tech University canceled its first day of classes today and ordered everyone on campus to remain indoors as the manhunt continued. Morva was caught this afternoon hiding in a briar patch near a nature preserve. He now faces capital murder charges.
Turning now to the fragile truce between Israel and Hezbollah. Israeli troops today shot and possibly killed at least two Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon. The shooting demonstrates that there's a serious risk the war could flare up again. Chris Lawrence in Jerusalem reports on the growing anger in Israel about the outcome of the war. And Brent Sadler reports from Beirut on what many Arabs say was a decisive victory over Israel. We turn to Chris Lawrence first. Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kitty, skirmishes continue to break out during this so-called cease-fire. Israeli soldiers shot at least two Hezbollah fighters today, possibly three. Now, Israel says they advanced on their force in south Lebanon, but this is bound to add fuel to the fire for those critics who have criticized Israel and accused it of breaking the truce. It's one of the reasons that President Bush said today that it is, quote, very urgent that they get a strong international peacekeeping force on the ground very soon. Now, the U.S. is not sending troops, but it will provide logistical support. And President Bush has promised to send more than $200 million in aid to the Lebanese people.
Now, Olmert and his defense minister are both being asked to resign by hundreds of Israeli military reservists. Now they say that the war was mismanaged from the start. The reservists say that at times they had no idea what they were doing and were forced to take canteens of water off the bodies of dead Hezbollah fighters because they had no supplies of their own. Kitty?
PILGRIM: Chris Lawrence reporting from Jerusalem. Well, Hezbollah's deputy leader today declared that Hezbollah will not disarm until the Lebanese army can defend Lebanon. Meanwhile the ruler of Qatar today praised Hezbollah's role in the war. Brent Sadler reports from Beirut.
BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Kitty, a close U.S. ally in the Middle East dropped a political bombshell in war torn Beirut. The Emir of Qatar hailed Lebanon's resistance, meaning Hezbollah, for delivering the first Arab victory, he said, over Israel in nearly 60 years of conflict. The Emir said it was a victory Arabs had longed for and could improve prospects for peace in the region. His unequivocal support for Lebanon follows more than a week of peace here after 34 days of war, during which time Hezbollah fired some 4,000 rockets into Israel and continues to bury its fighters.
Hezbollah is supposed to be disarmed under the terms of the U.N.- brokered truce, but that demand, in the light of post war conditions, says the Emir of Qatar, is unrealistic. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has turned its fighting force into an invisible army that remains entrenched in the war ravaged south. The Lebanese army continues to deploy south and can be trusted, says the Lebanese government, to seize illegal arms wherever they may be. But Israel has little trust, say western diplomats here, and the Lebanese cabinet, that includes two members of Hezbollah. And Lebanon's army has neither the resources nor the numbers to force compliance with the terms of the U.N. cease-fire as nation struggle to come up with thousands more troops to secure an uneasy peace. Kitty?
PILGRIM: Thanks, Brent. Brent Sadler in Beirut.
Well, the families of two Fox News journalists abducted in Gaza have again appealed for the men's release. Correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were abducted by armed men one week ago. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
Time now for some of your thoughts.
Eugene in California writes, "Secretary Chertoff's erroneous and laughable statement touting the National Guard as a great success on our nation's southern border is just another example of how out of touch with reality he and the Bush administration really are."
And Steve in Virginia writes, "The old adage applies to Chertoff and all our current politicians. If their lips are moving, they're lying. Oh, excuse me, we have to be politically correct these days. They're spinning" he writes.
And Bob in Massachusetts, "How in the world can Bush claim to be fighting terrorism when no one knows who is crossing our borders or what and who is coming into our ports?"
And Sheila in Ohio writes, "be fair to poor Michael, he said Bush put 6,000 boots on the ground at the border, with two boots per soldier, that's 3,000. Now I call that creative communication."
And do e-mail us, LouDobbs@CNN.com. We'll have more of your thoughts later in this broadcast.
Still ahead, one of the nation's leading authorities on e-voting warns the potential for disaster ahead. He says election debacles are inevitable unless we act. Author Avi Rubin will be my guest. And presidential hopefuls map out their strategies for 2008 and we'll discuss the state of U.S. politics with our political round table. That's next.
PILGRIM: More than half of all American voters will cast their ballots on electronic voting machines this November. But the accuracy and the integrity of these machines increasingly are in question tonight. Well, my next guest has written a provocative new book on the threat that e-voting machines pose to our very democracy. Avi Rubin is a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University and he's also the author of "Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting." Thanks very much for joining us tonight.
AVIEL RUBIN, AUTHOR: Good evening. PILGRIM: Aviel, you know, you point out some very, very compelling e-voting issues. And let's just bring our viewers up to speed on some of your worries. The first one is there's no way for voters to verify that their votes are recorded correctly. There's no way to count the votes in a publicly viewable fashion. And meaningful recounts are impossible.
For the American voter, this does not bode well for confidence in the system. What makes you think this with such conviction?
RUBIN: Well I'm speaking here about the electronic voting machines that are being used in many places. And these are the direct recording electronic or DREs. And the problem is that these are simply computers. And they've been programmed by people, computer software often has bugs in it. And it's almost the ideal platform for somebody who wants to rig the election or tamper with the election in some undetectable fashion.
Now the problem is that when a voter goes up to one of these machines and votes and makes their choices, when they leave the polls, they have no idea how that machine recorded the votes that they cast inside of it. There's no way for them, for example, to have confidence that the data that's now inside of that voting machine corresponds to how they voted.
Worse, if the election becomes controversial or if it's very close and a recount is needed and many states actually have laws giving the candidates the right to have a recount, there's no way to get an independent count of those votes.
If you ask a computer to add a bunch of number, it will give you a particular result. And even if you ask it to do that 100 more times if the data is incorrect or corrupted, it is going to give you that same incorrect result. So that's one of my primary concerns.
PILGRIM: You know, and recounts are not unusual in elections if there's a particularly close election. Let's go to some other points that you make. And this is about the security of the machines. Your basic problem is that the machines must be trusted not to fail. And you say in the Diebold machines we found gross design and programming errors. And we cannot determine the quality of vendors' machines because their code is proprietary.
I know you have vast expertise in this area, especially in checking the security of these machines. Tell us why you're really concerned about the design of these machines at this result?
RUBIN: Well, everybody who has worked in the software field knows that software's very complex and very difficult to get right. So when you're building something like a voting machine, in the case, for example, of the Diebold voting machine, which my research team examined, it was 50,000 lines of C++ code. There's a lot of room for error there. And it's really crucial that that software be designed using formal software engineering processes.
And the software that we looked at from the Diebold voting machine was really poorly written. We found all kinds of security errors that I outline in the book and the use of cryptography for example, that's used to encrypt information on the machine was using outdated and broken ciphers.
And so I'm very concerned in the first hand that we're even using this kind of technology, but furthermore, I'm concerned with the fact that we're taking the plunge and using it, we're not even using well designed systems.
PILGRIM: Now, some states, in fact, 27 states have instituted laws or mandates that a paper trail be available on a vote so that people can check if the machines record it properly. But other states have not. There are many court cases that now take on this issue. And let's listen to a sound bite from one of the plaintiff attorneys in one of these cases. This is what he says about what's going on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOWELL FINDLEY, PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY: Sometimes litigation is the only way to get the attention of the officials and, in the end, sometimes the only way that the change can be brought about, by asking a judge to order it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Now Aviel, we've looked at some very flawed elections and controversial elections in Georgia, Maryland and Ohio and other places around the country. Is litigation the way to go? Why are not state officials re-examining their decision to purchase these machines?
RUBIN: I think we have to attack this from all angles. And in the short term I've supported some of this litigation. I believe that when the election officials are not responding to what the security experts are saying, litigation might be the only way. I think in the long term it has to be through legislation.
I think that we need laws that will require us to have transparent systems where the votes can be publicly observed, the vote counting can be publicly observed and recounts are possible. But if we're not going to have legislation like we don't have in my state of Maryland, then I think for the public to bring lawsuits challenging the use of these machines is not only reasonable, but I think it's the right thing to do.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Aviel Rubin, author of "Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting." Thanks very much for being with us Aviel.
RUBIN: Thanks a lot, Kitty.
PILGRIM: Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Kitty. President Bush is concerned about civil war in Iraq, but has no plans on changing course right now. Find out just how long he's willing to have U.S. troops stay put.
Also, defiant Iran. A nuclear deadline fast approaching. Will the Iranian government comply with U.S. demands? We'll take you live to Tehran.
Plus, the most infamous terrorist you've never heard of. He's on the FBI's most wanted list. We're going to take a closer look at the man who might have inspired Osama bin Laden.
And facts versus confession. We're hard on the trail of the man who claims to have killed JonBenet Ramsey to see if his story really matches up.
Plus, the famed attorney and DNA expert Barry Scheck. he worked on the Ramsey case. Tonight, he's in THE SITUATION ROOM. Kitty, all that coming up at the top of the hour.
PILGRIM: Thanks, Wolf. A reminder to vote in tonight's poll. Do you believe taxpayers should be responsible for the cost of providing interpreters for non-English speaking defendants? Yes or no. Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.
Still ahead, President Bush's stunning admission about the toll in the Iraq war and what it's taking on this country. Three of the nation's most distinguished political analysts will join me.
PILGRIM: At his news conference today, President Bush defended his policies in the Middle East and Iraq. And these are the latest polls for CNN shows opposition to the war at an all-time high of 61 percent.
Well joining me now, Ed Rollins, Republican strategist and former Reagan White House political director. Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf and John Fund, columnist for the "Wall Street Journal." Thanks for being with us.
Let's take a -- let's first of all listen to the president, what he said during this press conference about his general mood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated, rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. You know, this is a -- a war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times and they're difficult times and they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that. You know, nobody likes to see innocent people die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: This is a real nod to the tone of the country right now. Are you surprised that he came out this straightforwardly and addressed it? JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, the facts on the ground have been getting worse and I think the public has been waiting for some shift in the president's mood rather than just stay the course. The president has an opportunity now, his polls are slightly up after the bomb plot. Remember, we've not been attacked for the last five years. That is a success for this president. But Iraq is bad news and there's an election 80 days away. I think the president is thinking about his reality. The problem is this, he doesn't exude confidence and that's what you need in order to carry this war to a successful conclusion.
HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: If I were a Republican and I saw that I were up for re-election, I would be very, very, very frightened. He doesn't have the power to help his friends in Congress survive. That's what this is ultimately about. If I were a Republican, I would want to him to pull something out of whatever hat he has to save me come the Fall. And it is questionable whether he will be able to do that. He doesn't have the credibility in the population to do that right now.
PILGRIM: And yet they say if he admits weakness, they pick on him. If he doesn't admit weakness, they say he has a blind side. So it's sort of damned if you do, damned if you don't. The poll numbers may reflect that.
ED ROLLINS, FORMER REAGAN W.H. POLITICAL DIR.: The bottom line as I watch that clip, I'm a little older than the rest of you, but there used to be a Mad Magazine. There was a character called Alfred E. Newman and it was sort of what, me worry? I sort of had this what me, worry look and he should be worried. This is a very difficult time and he does not basically give me confidence, and I don't think he gives our troops confidence. The more important thing he said today is as long as I'm in my presidency, troops are going to stay there. I think he needs to tell the country that message and give them the resources to fight. If we're going to be there two more years, we better have the resources to get the job done because he's betting this country's foreign policy and he's betting his own legacy on this.
FUND: The irony is by trying to avoid Vietnam, remember, Vietnam was we kept sending more troops in, by trying to avoid that and having the number of troops down to a small level, we may end up with the public reaction being similar to that of Vietnam, saying we've had enough.
PILGRIM: Let's address the actual conditions in Iraq. Many saying now it's actually de facto a civil war. Let's listen to what the president had to say about that.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hear a lot of talk about civil war. I'm concerned about that, of course. And I've talked to a lot of people about it. And what I have found from my talks are that the Iraqis want a unified country. And that the Iraqi leadership is determined to thwart the efforts of the extremists and the radicals and al Qaeda. And that the security forces remain united behind the government. PILGRIM: All right. So do you think he's assessing the ground situation accurately?
FUND: I think you rely on the generals. The generals are clearly worried. The generals recognize, though, the Iraqi military is slowly rebuilding. The police forces there are still a disaster, however and that's the problem. We have operational control of the country, but we don't have civil peace that can allow the Iraqi government to function and the economy to start growing.
SHEINKOPF: The average American will listen to all that and say absolute nonsense. What's in it for me? Why are my sons and daughters being sent? What are they going to accomplish? All I see is violence. The war has become like serial program on television. All we see is civil war, and Iraqis killing one another in the most extraordinary kinds of violence. Americans want some conclusion.
ROLLINS: I'm not sure he's correct in that all the country wants common. First of all, a third of the country, the Kurds have what they want. They have sort-of an independent state and they're functioning very well. The Sunnis and the Shiites hate each other, have for a very long period of time and I think they're going to continue to kill each other until one basically ends up being in a dominant position.
FUND: Or there's a partition.
ROLLINS: Or there's a partition. And I think the reality is what we tried to create without proper troops, without proper understanding of the country is a very chaotic situation that I think long term is going to be there.
PILGRIM: Let's talk about how the American public views President Bush and his job as a president. Approval rating for him is at 42 percent, disapprove 57 percent. And also that's versus in July, which was 35 percent, 57 percent. How are we doing in the polls and do they matter at this point? Is it too early to care?
FUND: We are going to be reminded between now and November, god willing, that despite the failures in Iraq, we would be surprised that we've spent five years since 9/11 and the homeland has not been attacked. I assure you on September 12th, 2001 most people expected that to happen pretty quickly.
SHEINKOPF: Not good enough. The president's job is to protect the country. The president's job is to make sure our troops aren't at risk unnecessarily over seas. The president's job is to protect the economy as he can. So far he's doing 1 1/2 out of 3. Not so good.
ROLLINS: You can't be a strong leader with these numbers in the low 40s or even high 30s for any sustained period of time. And I'm afraid this is this president's numbers. They're not going to go back up again. And I think he's going to not be able to build the confidence among the American public that he's doing right. And even though the economy's going strong and a lot of other things are good. People don't believe that. FUND: It is up seven points. I mean that's not insignificant. It helps a little. The slide has stopped, at least.
PILGRIM: Meanwhile, the opposition is forming. The new presidential race, the troops are sort of circling. And we're getting strategists picking sides. The new "Time" this week focuses on Hillary Clinton's possible bid for president. And also, let's take a look. Her poll shows highest favorable impression in the possible Democratic field at 53 percent. Al Gore at 49 percent. John Edwards at 48 percent. And John Kerry at 48 percent.
I wish I could read. I can't read these numbers too well. I hope I got that right. How do you assess the field as it is shaping up, John?
FUND: Hillary is the front-runner. The other candidates look like dwarfs, with the possible exception of Al Gore, who has rehabilitated himself dramatically. And I think that Hillary would have a race with Al Gore.
SHEINKOPF: Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. It's hard to imagine Gore getting into it to get beaten up some more and go through more trouble. People will have to consider who he was and where he was. It's not going to be easy for him under any circumstances. She's the nominee, I would bet. The Republicans are going to have a real problem taking her out.
ROLLINS: She's certainly going to be a very formidable candidate. Obviously she's running for re-election in this state and I disclosed that I have a candidate against her, but at the end of the day, if she has a big victory in New York and she basically goes out around the country and raises a lot of resources, she's going to be very, very tough to beat. And I think she will be a much more formidable candidate that people anticipate.
SHEINKOPF: If she wins the western interior of New York state with big numbers, where Catholic men reside in large quantity, she will be a tough player to get rid of. Because she will have understood what makes the country run and what makes presidential campaigns work or not work.
PILGRIM: Well, we'll be discussing this for quite a while, I think. Thanks very much for joining us this evening Ed Rollins, Hank Scheinkopf and John Fund, thanks.
And still ahead the results of tonight's poll and more of your thoughts. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: Now, the results of tonight's poll, 87 percent of you do not believe that taxpayers should be responsible for the cost of providing interpreters to non-English speaking defendants.
Well it's time now for more of your thoughts.
Dwight in Ohio writes, "I have the perfect job for George Bush when he leaves office. He can be a greeter at the Mexican border."
Jeffrey in North Carolina, "Mr. Bush stated today that pulling out of Iraq now would be a disaster. And what does he think it's been so far, mission accomplished?"
Edith in New York, "thanks for covering the problems of electronic voting. Nothing is more important to preserving our democracy and the integrity of the ballot box."
Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. Thanks for being with us tonight. For all of us here, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Wolf Blitzer, Wolf.
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