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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Insurgents In Iraq Today Launched Series Of Deadly Bomb Attacks Against U.S. Troops And Iraqis; President Bush Likely To Consider Possible Troop Surge In Iraq; U.S. Troops Holding Several Iranian Officials In Iraq; Pro-Amnesty Lawmakers Preparing To Offer Citizenship To Millions More Illegal Aliens; Program To Modernize Coast Guard Fleet In Deep Trouble; Lou Barletta Interview; New Report Says Schools In Poorest States Shortchanged

Aired December 26, 2006 - 18:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a new wave of violence in Iraq. Fifteen of our troops are killed in the past four days. Nearly 50 Iraqis are killed in the past 24 hours.
We'll have a special report from Baghdad.

And pro-amnesty Democrats and Republicans make plans to offer citizenship to millions more illegal aliens. They also want to scrap plans to build a new fence along part of our southern border.

All of that and a great deal more straight ahead.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, December 26th.

Live in New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good evening.

Insurgents and terrorists in Iraq today launched a series of deadly bomb attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqis. Three of our troops were killed in a single roadside bomb explosion. At least 20 Iraqis were killed in a bomb attack against a mosque.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops are still holding several Iranian officials who were detained in Iraq. Those arrests came amid growing evidence that Iran is giving money, training and weapons to insurgents.

Ryan Chilcote reports from Baghdad on the spiraling violence in Iraqi.

Elaine Quijano reports from Crawford, Texas, on President Bush's continued deliberations on a new strategy for this war.

And Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon on Iran's meddling in Iraq.

We turn now first to Ryan Chilcote in Baghdad -- Ryan.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, a series of attacks in Iraq today.

We start in the Iraqi capital, where a triple bombing went off at a busy intersection. Three bombs going off in short succession, killing at least 16 Iraqis, wounding 75 more. Not at all clear what the goal of that attack was.

Then, later in the day, another bombing in the Iraqi capital. This time going off outside of a Sunni mosque. At least 20 Iraqis killed in that attack. Almost twice wounded -- also twice that number wounded.

The Iraqi police also telling us that they found a total of 41 bodies in the Iraqi capital. A manifestation usually of the sectarian killings that we've seen here.

That brings the total number of bodies found in the month of December in the Iraqi capital to more than 850. And then another reminder of how cruel these attacks can be, in the city of Kirkuk a bomb going on outside of a school. At least three children killed in that attack, another eight wounded -- Christine.

ROMANS: Ryan Chilcote reporting.

In other news from Baghdad, an Iraqi appeals court today upheld the death sentence against Saddam Hussein. The appeals court ruled that Saddam Hussein should be executed within 30 days. The former Iraqi dictator was sentenced to death on November 5th for crimes against humanity.

Insurgents in Iraq have killed 15 more of our troops over the past three days. Three of them in a roadside bomb attack today.

Eighty-eight of our troops have been killed or have died in Iraq so far this month. December already the second most deadly month of the entire year for our troops. 2,977 of our troops have been killed or have died in Iraq since this war started. 22,401 of our troops have been wounded, 10,050 of them so seriously they could not return to duty within three days.

President Bush will discuss his war strategy with members of the National Security Council later this week. Among the options under consideration, a temporary surge in the number of U.S. troops serving in Iraq.

Elaine Quijano reports from near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, President Bush arrived here in Texas earlier this afternoon. And at his ranch in Crawford, the president this week will continue his deliberations over what to do next about his Iraq policy, trying to find ways to quell the ongoing violence there.

Now, on Thursday, as you mentioned, the president will be meeting with the National Security Council to discuss various options. A spokesman reiterated today, though, not to expect any major decisions to come out of that meeting, but rather described it as part of the ongoing consultations.

Now, over the weekend, in fact, those consultations we saw continued. The president sat down with his new defense secretary, Robert Gates, at Camp David. Gates is just back from a three-day trip to Iraq, during which he heard opinions from top generals about what options -- what the various options were and what their opinions were.

Meantime, today there was, in fact, some good news for the White House. As you noted, an Iraqi court did, in fact, uphold the death sentence of Hussein. And reacting to it today, White House deputy press secretary Scott Stanzel told reporters aboard Air Force One that the Iraqis deserve praise for using the institutions of democracy to pursue justice and said, "Today marks an important milestone in the Iraq people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law. Saddam Hussein has received due process and legal rights that he denied the Iraqi people for so long. So this is an important day for the Iraqi people."

Now, meantime, the political pressure, however, is intensifying on President Bush to change course when it comes to his Iraq policy, particularly as Democrats prepare to take control of Congress next month. But, of course, a spokesman today reiterating that the president will only announce changes when he is comfortable. We are, though, Christine, as you know, expecting the president to make some sort of speech to the nation on his Iraq policy, announcing those changes in the early part of the new year -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Elaine Quijano in Crawford.

Thank you, Elaine.

U.S. national security officials are becoming increasingly concerned about Iran's efforts to drive the insurgency in Iraq. American troops in Iraq are still holding several Iranian officials, and that's raising new suspicions about Iran's role in this war.

Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, this is a very sensitive issue, and the U.S. military is not saying much about it.

What they are confirming is this all happened on December 20th and 21st. There were two targeted raids. One against a compound, one against a vehicle. They say that they had intelligence, that they moved against these targets, and they came up with about a dozen people that they took into custody.

Now, two of them claimed diplomatic status with the government of Iran, and they were released. Apparently two others, a security man and a driver, also released. But now a number of those people still being held. We are not being told exactly how many.

Apparently, the suspicion is that they are members of the Iranian military, that they were in Iraq claiming to be on legitimate business dealing with the new Iraqi government, but they were taken into custody. It is believed that some documents were seized along with them. And they are now undergoing interrogation by the U.S. government as to what exactly their business was inside Iraq and where their relationship back to Tehran exists, are they there at some orders of the Iranian government?

All of this, as you say, a very significant concern. The U.S. military stepping up its rhetoric in recent weeks, saying that Iran is shipping weapons, technology, training, manpower and personnel into Iraq, trying to foment the Shia unrest, the Shia death squads in southern Iraq. So a lot of concern that these people may be died to some of that death squad and militia activity -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Thank you, Barbara.

Iran is stepping up its nuclear defiance against the rest of the world. Tehran is refusing to suspend its nuclear weapons program despite United Nations sanctions. Now the Iranian parliament is debating a plan to withdraw all cooperation from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Aneesh Raman reports from Tehran -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, good evening.

It could prove a very dramatic development to the Iranian nuclear dispute. Iran's parliament is set any day now to vote on a measure that would suspend Iran's participation with the U.S. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

Now, why is this such a big deal? Well, if the measure is upheld, Iran could kick out IAEA inspectors that are here and pursue its nuclear ambitions in secret. Iran has said from the start it's pursuing peaceful civilian nuclear technology. Fears, though, have been raised by the U.S. and Israel, among others, that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.

The discussion in parliament was sparked by sanctions just slapped on the Islamic republic by the United Nations for its continued nuclear defiance. Those sanctions haven't worked, though. Iran continues its nuclear program and it's confirmed today by the former minister continues its construction of some 3,000 centrifuges at a nuclear site in the city of Natanz.

Iran is showing no indication it will suspend its program, even if for only negotiations. Iran said it suspended to talk with other countries for two years. Those talks, Iran says, amounted to nothing. Instead, as the U.S. says, it won't talk to Iran without a suspended nuclear program.

Next year proves make or break. A critical situation now exists with Iran's nuclear program -- Christine.

ROMANS: Aneesh Raman reporting form Tehran. The United States today defended Ethiopia as Ethiopian troops advanced against radical Islamists in Somalia. Ethiopian troops crossed into Somalia to support that country's interim government in its conflict with radical Islamists. Ethiopia says it has killed as many as 1,000 radical Islamists as it pushes them back to the capital, Mogadishu.

The United States says Ethiopia has strong security concerns in Somalia, but the State Department called on Ethiopia to "exercise restraint."

Still to come, a sharp increase in nuclear smuggling worldwide. Could terrorists detonate a nuclear bomb in one of our cities?

We'll have a special report.

Also, pro-amnesty lawmakers consider plans to offer citizenship to millions more illegal aliens.

We'll have a special story.

And small communities all across this country are struggling to defend themselves against the illegal alien lobby. The mayor of one of those communities, Lou Barletta, of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, will be our guest.


ROMANS: Lawmakers tonight are preparing to make it easier for millions of illegal aliens to stay in this country and eventually become U.S. citizens. A group of senators and congressmen are discussing legislation that would extend amnesty and ease residency requirements for illegal aliens seeking citizenship.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the day Democrats won control of Congress, lawmakers favoring illegal alien amnesty have wasted no time flexing their muscles. First, the incoming chair of the House Homeland Security Committee vowed to kill funding for the border fence and backed a scheme critics call amnesty.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: We need a comprehensive border security and immigration plan, not a piecemeal plan.

WIAN: Then, incoming Senate majority leader Harry Reid claimed an amnesty mandate from Hispanic voters.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: We won big-time with the Hispanics. We won because they accepted what we were trying to do: comprehensive immigration reform.

WIAN: Now four key Democrat and Republican lawmakers are discussing amnesty for as many as five million additional illegal aliens. Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain and Congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Jeff Flake are considering a new immigration bill that would weaken even the pro-illegal alien legislation passed by the Senate in May.

That bill sought to authorize a path to citizenship for seven million illegal aliens who have been in the country for at least five years. Another five million here two to five years would have been required to leave temporarily. They could apply for amnesty as long as they paid back taxes and did not have serious criminal records. But congressional staffers now confirm the four lawmakers are discussing eliminating that requirement and allowing all qualified illegal aliens who have been in the U.S. at least two years to immediately get on a path to citizenship.

Senator Kennedy says he's "... very hopeful about this, both in terms of the substance and the politics of it." A Kennedy staffer says he's optimistic in part because President Bush continues to be a vocal supporter of the so-called comprehensive approach.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I strongly believe that we can and must get a comprehensive immigration plan on my desk this year.

WIAN: However, Senator John Cornyn, a key proponent of strong border security, calls proposals to kill the border fence or expand citizenship eligibility nonstarters.


WIAN: Now, the previous Senate plan was criticized by activists on both sides of the illegal immigration debate as unworkable because it would have likely encouraged many more illegal aliens to commit document fraud, trying to prove that they're either long-term residents or workers in the United States. Of course, that same thing can be said about this current proposal -- Christine.

ROMANS: So, instead of trying to prevent document fraud, then what you do is say, OK, we'll put everybody in the same path to citizenship. That seems -- that seems like it could be very hard to find any kind of consensus on that kind of a deal.

How close is this to being a done deal, then?

WIAN: It's not very close at all. Although supporters of this deal say they're very optimistic that it will happen.

They do admit that they will run into a lot of opposition in Congress. Supporters say that one key is going to be President Bush's level of support for this proposal. The White House would not comment on this specific proposal, would only say it's looking forward to working with the new Congress -- Christine.

ROMANS: And the president signed the border fence bill.

WIAN: He sure did. And it sure seems clear now that the new leadership in Congress is committed to not funding that border fence bill. So who knows where we go from there?

ROMANS: All right. Casey Wian.

Thank you, Casey.

Two Long Beach, California, police officers tonight are in critical but stable condition after being shot. A manhunt is under way for a suspect who may be in this country illegally.

The officers were shot during a traffic stop. According to the Long Beach police chief, the suspect, with a long criminal history, has been deported at least once. The chief said it was unclear how that suspect reentered the country.

The city of Escondido, California, has yielded to legal pressure in its efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. City officials have dropped their plans to enforce a law that would prevent landlords from renting to illegal aliens. Escondido faced a federal lawsuit from illegal alien advocacy groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, but another city, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, remains unbowed to ACLU pressure as its case moves through the courts.

Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is vowing to fight on in its efforts to crack down on illegal aliens. Hazleton's up against a formidable foe, the American Civil Liberties Union, which has deep pockets lined by anonymous donors and an army of lawyers.

In its fight, the city of Hazleton is outgunned on the legal front by more than four to one. The mayor of Hazleton, Lou Barletta, admits his opponents to have told him straight to his face they will bankrupt the city if that they have.

That's the type of intimidation that cities around the country are facing when they take on illegal immigration on the local front. But Mayor Barletta says that scare tactics haven't deterred him yet. He says, "This is one small city that won't back down. We will fight this to the highest court in the land if we must."

To help pay for the fight, the town started the Web site The town has received just over $50,000 in donations through it. Virtually all of those donations have been in $10 and $20 increments. The largest, though, was a $10,000 donation from Joey Vento, owner of Geno's cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. It's not nearly enough.

Advocates of cities and towns wanting to pass legislation dealing with the rising number of illegal aliens in their community say costs are a matter of perspective.

MIKE HETHMON, IMMIGRATION REFORM LAW INST.: The costs of doing nothing far outweigh any purported benefits from burying your head in the sand and avoiding legal fees.

TUCKER: Ask Hazleton's mayor for an example of such costs and he points to education costs and police overtime.

(on camera): Nevertheless, the number of cities willing to take on the issue of illegal immigration is dwindling in the face of well- held organizations who stand ready to serve as advocates for people with illegal standing.

Bill Tucker, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: We'll have more tonight on the battle against illegal immigration and the rising cost for local communities that choose to fight back. The mayor of Hazleton, Lou Barletta, will join us later on in the broadcast.

Two groups that support illegal aliens today filed a suit against a Texas town that passed a law banning landlords from renting to illegal aliens. Farmers Branch passed that law last month to control problems it says are caused by illegal immigration. The suit filed against the town claims the measure violates federal law and forces landlords to act as immigration agents.

Still ahead here tonight, an American company will build a billion-dollar computer chip plant, but it won't be in this country. We'll have a report on what country is reaping the benefits.

A Coast Guard plan to modernize its fleet has turned into a nightmare for both the Coast Guard and taxpayers. We'll have the details.

And there's an increase in the number of illegal sales of nuclear material. Are terrorists buying?

We'll have a report. Stay with us.


ROMANS: New fears tonight that thousands more American jobs could be exported to cheap overseas labor markets. President Bush last week signed a bill to normalize trade relations with Vietnam. Critics say that law will simply add to the suffering of middle class Americans already reeling from the impact of unfair competition from China.

Lisa Sylvester has our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush embraced Vietnam as the United States' new favorite trade partner. He signed a bill that grants Vietnam permanent normal trade relations, a status that helped turn China into a manufacturing giant seemingly overnight. BUSH: It's the interest of the United States to promote prosperity around the world. And the best way to do so is opening up markets and free and fair trade.

SYLVESTER: Vietnam is poised to be a major destination for U.S. multinational corporations looking for cheap labor. Intel is planning on building a $1 billion computer plant there.

U.S. foreign investment, which was $4 billion this year, is expected to double next year. And trade between the United States and Vietnam has increased 400 percent in the last five years.

Critics say it may be free trade, but it's not fair trade.

THEA LEAH, AFL-CIO: We really think our policymakers should be thinking at every turn about how to keep good jobs home in the United States, how to make it possible for American workers and farmers and producers to succeed by producing on American soil.

SYLVESTER: Dave Frangel works at Penn United Technology, a tool and dye shop. He says nearly half the companies in his industry have gone out of business or were bought out by companies operating in China, where workers are paid in cents instead of dollars, and labor and environmental standards are ignored. Frangel fears with Vietnam a player, it will only become worse.

DAVE FRANGEL, PENN UNITED TECHNOLOGY: As long as they do that and we're the nice guys that play by the rules, and we're forced to integrate with economies that don't play by the rules, this is going to be the result. It will be -- it will be the loss of our way of life as they continue to suck our wealth away.

SYLVESTER: Frangel says it's a race to the bottom. Next stop, Vietnam.

(on camera): Trade between the two countries has been mainly a one-way street. Vietnam earned about $6.5 billion from exports in 2005 but bought only about a billion dollars in products from the United States.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: In addition to the deal with Vietnam, the United States last week reached a free trade agreement with Panama. The new Congress will address that trade deal, along with similar deals with Colombia and Peru when it convenes in January.

And that brings us to our poll question tonight. Do you believe the majority of our free trade agreements benefit or harm this country's middle class?

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

And time now for some of your thoughts.

Dan in Illinois, "My friends asked me if I got everything that I wanted for Christmas. I told them not yet. I said all I wanted was a government that truly cares about their people, one that doesn't outsource our livelihoods overseas, and one that secures our borders."

Phillips in California, "Success is up to Iraq and the people. It will not depend on the number of troops, amounts of money we spend or all the good deeds we attempt. Sometimes the best way forward is to take a step back and really see where we are."

Janet in South Carolina, "How can U.S. citizens fight the Senate's immigration bill that's now being written once it gets to the floor? It stops building the fence, among other things. Kennedy and McCain are at it again, writing illegals a first-class ticket to U.S. citizenship."

E-mail us at We'll have more of your thoughts later in the broadcast. Each of you whose e-mail is read here on the program will receive a copy of Lou's best-selling new book, "War on the Middle Class."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is said to be doing fine tonight after surgery to repair a broken leg. Schwarzenegger broke his right leg skiing in Idaho's Sun Valley over the weekend. He was fully anesthetized for the operation.

During that time, California's lieutenant governor assumed the role of acting governor. Doctors cleared the governor to resume his duties shortly after that procedure. He'll remain in the hospital for just a few more days. Governor Schwarzenegger will be on crutches at his second inauguration next month.

Still to come, homeland insecurity at its best. The Coast Guard spends $100 million to upgrade its ships. One problem, the ships are still not seaworthy.

Then, the trafficking of radioactive materials is increasing. We'll have a special report on the threat of nuclear terrorism to this country.

And more wild weather. Denver braces for another massive storm as the southeast recovers from a pair of tornadoes.


ROMANS: Now our top stories.

A deadly new wave of violence in Iraq. Fifteen of our troops have been killed in the past four days. Nearly 50 Iraqis were killed in gun and bomb attacks today.

Also, Iran is stepping up its nuclear confrontation with the rest of the world. The Iranian parliament is considering withdrawing all cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. It follows a United Nations decision to impose limited sanctions against Iran. And pro-amnesty lawmakers are preparing plans to offer citizenship to millions more illegal aliens living in this country. Those lawmakers also want to scrap plans to build a new fence along part of our southern border.

In other news tonight, a building collapsed today, killed one worker and injured two others in New York. The five-story apartment building in Harlem was under renovation when the three top floors gave way. One man was killed instantly. Two others were hospitalized. They are in stable condition.

Emergency crews are cleaning up in the southeast after violence storms struck the region. Hundreds of people lost their homes after two confirmed tornadoes touched down in northern and central Florida. Only a handful of people were seriously injured.

And Denver could be seeing more snowstorms. A new storm is slamming into the Pacific Coast. It's even more powerful than the one last week. This new storm is expected to bring rain from Seattle to Los Angeles, heavy snow in the Rockies and Plains and wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour.

Outrage tonight about reports the Department of Justices has built a massive new crime database. It's believed to contain millions of case files from agencies like the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration. State and local police across the country can search this database. Civil liberties and privacy proponents are alarmed. They say this database allows local police to see personal information about people who have never been charged with a crime.

The Coast Guard is on the frontlines of protecting our nation from terrorists, illegal immigration and drug smugglers. But a program to modernize the Coast Guard fleet is in deep trouble tonight. The federal government has spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, but it appears the money has been totally wasted.

Susan Candiotti reports from Key West, Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the ones we've noticed some hole deformation.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Key West, Florida, all eight of U.S. Coast Guard commander Scott Bushman's (ph) newly-converted 183-foot cutters are, for now, dead in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we look down over the port side of the ship, you can see where it's deformed, it's dished in.

CANDIOTTI: Deformities, superstructure cracks, two things you don't want to hear after spending about $100 million on what was to be a 49-ship project.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If left to go like that, it could potentially could cause some water to intrude there which is what we obviously don't want on a ship at sea.

CANDIOTTI: If there's a mass exodus when Cuba's Fidel Castro dies, the Coast Guard will have to scramble until other boats and planes arrive to cover the slack.

REAR ADM. DAVID KUNKEL, U.S. COAST GUARD: We have to multicrew our crews. We'll have to work our cutters a little harder. But I am confident that our force fleet will not by any means decrease. Does the loss hurt us? Coast Guard wide, absolutely.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): For now, there's no telling how long the cutters will be out of service or what the ultimate solution will be.

(voice-over): It's one of many snags plaguing the U.S. Coast Guard's $24 billion Deepwater Program to revamp an aging fleet, now under investigation by the General Accountability Office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Integrated Deepwater System will leverage advanced technologies to develop systems with greater speed and longer endurance.

CANDIOTTI: But only four years into the 25-year plan, questions are mounting. Design flaws have suspended work on a new fleet of fast response cutters. The newly christened first half million dollar national security cutter also has structural problems. Is the privatized project awarded to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman mismanaged?

REP. DAVID FILNER (D), CALIFORNIA: They make billions and billions and billions of dollars off the American taxpayers. They do not deliver high quality work. They make an enormous profit and our national security has been compromised.

CANDIOTTI: A spokespersons for the hock Northrup Grumman/Lockheed Martin project referred CNN to the Coast Guard for comments. The spokeswoman for the Coast Guard admiral who oversees Deepwater declined comment because she said CNN interviewed this man, former Lockheed engineer Michael De Kort who put a video on YouTube that claims he was laid off for pointing out problems.

The court says surveillance cameras on the converted cutters have blind spots, and communications equipment is insecure.

MICHAEL DE KORT, FORMER PROJECT ENGINEER: These issues, every single one of them, was extremely avoidable and not difficult to do so.

CANDIOTTI: While some dispute De Kort's claims, a U.S. Coast Guard official tells CNN, Commandant Thad Allen is investigating and plans to find out who may be responsible for Deepwater's troubles, troubles keeping these impressive cutters all shined up with no place to go.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Key West.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS: There's been another troubling development on the homeland security front. The number of cases involving the smuggling of radioactive materials has increased sharply, and that's raising new fears about the risk of nuclear terrorism.

Jeanne Meserve has our report.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A cache of enriched uranium seized from a smuggler in the Republic of Georgia. This incident in 2003, one of a growing number of reports involving the illegal diversion, purchase or storage of nuclear and radiological materials.

A Homeland Security official says there were 100 cases reported in the year 2000. In 2005, the number more than doubled to 215, and no decrease is expected this year.

The detonation of even a small nuclear weapon in an American city would be catastrophic, computer models show, with tens of thousands of people killed instantaneously. An explosion of a radiological dirty bomb would do serious economic and psychological damage.

Despite the rising number of reported incidents, U.S. officials say they have no indication that terrorists have succeeded in getting nuclear or radiological materials. They do know they have tried.

MATTHEW BUNN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Al Qaeda has repeatedly attempted to purchase material for a nuclear bomb. They have attempted to recruit nuclear weapon scientists from Pakistan and elsewhere.

MESERVE: This demand has made nuclear and radiological materials valuable black market commodities, but some of the incidents reported may not represent a real threat.

LINTON BROOKS, NATL. NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMIN.: Nuclear trafficking is an area replete with scams and so not all reports actually have anything to do with real material. I mean, there are people who run around selling containers with radioactive markings that just have junk in it.

MESERVE: Better detection and reporting are certainly a factor in the increased numbers.

VAN OLERICH, FED. OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: We're getting much more organized around the world at tracking sources and developing radiation monitors and such at airports and harbors and the tunnels that go into major cities and keeping track of these things better.


MESERVE: Efforts to secure nuclear and radiological materials have increased in recent years, but experts say even more has to be done and even faster -- Christine. ROMANS: Jeanne, what are some of those efforts that have been made to keep track of these materials?

MESERVE: Well, just within the past month, there was about 600 pounds of enriched uranium in what had been a research facility in East Germany. That was moved to Russia to a very secure facility there. Experts say that sort of thing is absolutely essential and terrific, but, they say, there are still some nations reluctant to take part wholeheartedly in these efforts.

They say this should be a higher priority of the president, the secretary of state and top officials, in order to bring those nations along because, they say, this is such a grave threat, the consequences just so severe if anything were to happen.

ROMANS: Right, it takes just one incident. It just takes one time for a terrorist organization or network to get their hands on some of these materials and we do know there are vast holes in the detection system, aren't there?

MESERVE: There are. I mean, certainly, there are efforts being made around this country to plug those holes. They've installed nuclear detectors at many ports. They're trying to push things out and put detectors in foreign ports so things are screened before they come in.

But we know people can get over the border, well documented on your show. And as people get over, they can carry things with them and some of the things they carry could be very dangerous. They could be nuclear or radiological materials.

ROMANS: All right, Jeanne Meserve. Thank you very much for that report, Jeanne.

MESERVE: You bet.

ROMANS: When we return, the latest on local efforts to stop illegal immigration. The mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania will be our guest. He says he'll take his battle against he ACLU all the way to the Supreme Court.

And a new report suggests that students who need the most are often given the least. One of the authors of that report will join us. Stay with us.


ROMANS: It's one small city in America and it's at the forefront of the battle against illegal immigration. Hazleton, Pennsylvania has become a model for other communities trying to stem illegal immigration within their own city limits. But Hazleton now faces expensive legal challenges for those efforts. The mayor of Hazleton though says he won't back down and he joins me now. Mayor Lou Barletta of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, welcome back to the program.

LOU BARLETTA, MAYOR, HAZLETON: Nice to be here. ROMANS: Now Escondido yielded in California to the pressure that it was getting from groups who said you can't do this. And in fact, turned around and even paid the people that were suing it. Are you daunted at all by that?

BARLETTA: No, I'm not. You know, I'm sorry to hear what happened in Escondido, however we do things a little differently in Hazleton. We put together one of the finest legal defense teams in the country. Some of it is pro bono, some of it at discounted rates. Our insurance carrier is also covering us as well as we started a defense fund, where people from all over America are helping us defend ourselves.

ROMANS: Mayor, one attorney with the national ACLU had this to say about the Escondido move and how it relates to Hazleton and other towns. Quote, "Other cities that have similar legislation should heed the lesson of this case. These ordinances will not withstand challenge, and must be repealed."

You've had -- you have suffered some legal setbacks in the course of this legislation. Are you concerned?

BARLETTA: Well, we have. The plaintiffs who are suing us, the judge has ordered that their identities will be kept confidential from even us.

ROMANS: So you're being sued by people who are not being identified?

BARLETTA: Absolutely. We don't know who these people are, where they live, where they work. They could be invisible for all we know. Unfortunately, we will heed that challenge and continue on. We're not going to back down and we'll fight this all the way to the supreme court if we have to.

ROMANS: Now the ACLU declined our request or our invitation to appear on the program with you tonight. But we did get several statements. And I've spoken to Vic Walczak who is the person for the ACLU in Pennsylvania who has been on this case.

"The mayor was unable to give statistics to support claims of problems illegal aliens have caused to Hazleton. There was no evidence to support any of his claims. He gave no details of actual problems illegal aliens are causing in Hazleton."

He says that he deposed you for some seven hours in the course of this litigation and in fact he couldn't come back with any kind of clear, concise data about just what harm illegal immigration is doing to your town. How do you respond to that?

BARLETTA: That's quite amusing. Apparently he forgot the illegal alien that shot two people on a busy street with hundreds of teenage high-schoolers standing nearby, killing one. Apparently he forgot about the 29-year-old that was shot between the eyes by two illegal aliens costing the city thousands of dollars. Apparently he forgot about the 14-year-old illegal alien who was shooting a gun on a playground. Or the drug dealers, over half last year, who were illegal aliens. And apparently he forgot the statistic that over half of our entire budget for overtime in the police department was spent on one homicide committed by illegal aliens.

If he wanted more statistics, I gave them to him. The school district, for example, English as a second language. In the year 2000, the budget was $500. Last year, that budget now is $1,145,000. So he may have to refresh himself on the notes from that deposition.

ROMANS: Let me ask you. So often people like the ACLU and some of the open borders lobby, they say this is war on immigration and on immigrants. You have told me before that that is simply not the case, that this is something to preserve a town for legal immigrants and for citizens. Explain that a little bit.

BARLETTA: That's correct. We are not rolling out the welcome mat for legal immigrants. However illegal aliens are destroying the quality of life and we simply cannot absorb the cost in our small budget where we cannot -- we can no longer provide the level of public service to the legal, hard working taxpayers of our community. This does not mean that we don't welcome legal citizens. Illegal is illegal and it shouldn't go any further than that.

ROMANS: So how far now does this legal battle go?

BARLETTA: Well this battle right now is in federal court here in Scranton, Pennsylvania. From there, it will most likely go to the third circuit court in Philadelphia. And I believe it will finally end up in the Supreme Court. We are one small city with limited resources, but we have a big heart who won't back down from this fight.

ROMANS: Let me ask you, is there a way mayor to write this legislation to make everyone happy? Is there a way to still preserve what you're trying to do, and that is to stem illegal immigration within your city limits, but at the same time satisfy the folks who say this is some kind of racism?

BARLETTA: No, there's no race in illegal. Illegal is illegal and we have. The ordinance that is before counsel and before the judge right now, we feel, does not regulate immigration in any way. We punish businesses that hire unlawful workers and landlords that harbor illegal aliens.

As far as the illegal immigrants, we leave that up to the federal government. Nobody in the city of Hazleton will be determining anyone's immigration status. And I believe we have found a way to defend ourselves and we're willing to fight to prove that.

ROMANS: Is there a point, Mayor, where this becomes too costly, where you have to throw in the towel?

BARLETTA: Well there are 25 lawyers on the other side suing us and the ACLU has a lot of money, and we are one small city. We've set up a legal defense fund, city of Hazleton legal defense fund and anyone in America and they have already that wants to help us fight, can do so through this Web site. The Escondidos in this country, as well as Farmer Branch and many other cities, this fight, the battleground is really in Hazleton, Pennsylvania right now.

ROMANS: That's true. I spoke with somebody from the ACLU several months ago actually who said that Hazleton is our Alamo, meaning they were really going to focus on this case and hope that it would deter other communities from doing the same that you are.

BARLETTA: Well, I could tell them that this is one mayor that will never stop fighting for the people in my community.

ROMANS: Mayor Lou Barletta, thank you so much for joining us.

BARLETTA: Thank you.

ROMANS: And a reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. Do you believe the majority of our free trade agreements benefit or harm this country's middle class? Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.

Still ahead, a new report on education says the federal government isn't giving the most to the children who need it the most. That story next.


ROMANS: The concept of public education as the great equalizer in this country is in jeopardy tonight. A new report says that schools in our poorest states are being shortchanged by policies that distribute federal aid to public schools. The report says wealthier states are receiving more federal funds.

Joining me now is Ross Wiener. He's vice president for policy and practice at the Education Trust. He is one of the authors of this report.

Welcome to the program, sir.


ROMANS: You know, the idea that just with a public education, armed with knowledge, anybody in this country can move up the ladder and be anything they want, it's not necessarily true that you go into a public school system and that you're going to be treated fairly. Is that right?

WIENER: Well, that's right. And Americans rightly take a lot of pride in how we've expanded access to public education in this country. But what a lot of Americans don't understand is that our education funding policies actually have stacked the deck against our most vulnerable students.

ROMANS: And I understand that it's very complicate complicated. Local communities and states -- they all kind of spend the money differently, and then the federal money is allocated with a very complex formula.

But we have sort of an example here, when you look at Massachusetts and Oklahoma. And this is what your study found and sort of broke it out. That in Massachusetts, the federal dollars spent per child is $2,310. In Oklahoma, it's just over $1,000. But there are far more poor students in Oklahoma. So why is this happening?

WIENER: Well, the federal government -- this is Title I money, and Title I money is the largest anti-poverty education program. It actually goes all the way back to the war on poverty from the Lyndon Johnson administration. It now accounts for about $13 billion that gets distributed to states on a series of formulas. And those formulas basically look at two issues. First is the number of poor children in any given state. But the second factor in the formula is average per student expenditures in that state.

And you know, you can understand how they came up with that policy in the first place, because they wanted to reward states that spent a lot themselves on public education. But as the study that we published shows, that tends to reward wealthier states, even if they have lower tax rates, while states that have less wealth, they might tax themselves at higher rates, but they get less in federal financial aid.

ROMANS: So bottom line, the way we're spending $13 billion in federal funds is not narrowing the gap between rich and poor students, between kids across the country, but might in fact even be making it bigger?

WIENER: Well, you know, as you mentioned, it's complicated. And so, once it goes two states, actually, Title I does help to narrow the funding and equities within states. So inside of Oklahoma and inside of Massachusetts, Title I funds are very well targeted to the districts that have the most kids who are growing up in poverty.

But when you look across states, you see that actually Title I tends to make the inequalities in education funding more stark rather than narrowing them.

ROMANS: Let's talk a little bit then about the solutions. Is this something that can be reviewed? Is this something that is a huge federal bureaucracy that is going to roll under its own weight in perpetuity? What happens next?

WIENER: Well, you know, Title I is a part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is now commonly referred to as the No Child Left Behind Act, for its most recent authorization. And Congress looks at this law periodically, and they reauthorize it. And that's actually supposed to happen next year.

So they're going to give a thorough review to all of the law's provisions, not just the funding, but all of the other ways that the law operates. And I think that what this report does is highlight an issue that hasn't gotten very much attention, and hopefully when Congress comes back to the law, they can try to make -- they can try to equalize some of these inequalities across states.

ROMANS: What about education and public education as the great equalizer in this country? Is that something that is closer to being a truth today than it was five or 10 years ago?

WIENER: Well, I think what you can say is we're actually taking that obligation a lot more seriously. So we're paying attention to the results a lot more. And there are a lot of very positive things going on. There's a lot of very serious efforts to narrow the achievement gap in public education.

But we haven't made as much progress as we could. And I think underneath that is some of the funding inequities that we point out in this report.

Again, you know, better funding policies are not a silver bullet. That's not going to solve our problems in public education. But I think if we can direct more resources to the places with the biggest challenges, that will be a good start at trying to get on top of some of these problems.

ROMANS: Who are the students who are being left behind at this point?

WIENER: Well, unfortunately, we actually have a lot of students who aren't getting the education that they deserve, and one of the biggest groups is students who are growing up in poverty.

We know that those kids face big disadvantages outside of school. And you know, again, as you talked about at the beginning, this idea of education as the great equalizer -- Americans believe that if you work hard, you ought to be able to work your way out of poverty and into the middle class, or to wherever your dreams might take you. But what we see is that actually, the students who are disadvantaged outside of school actually have schools that place them at more disadvantage.

So that if you're growing up -- if you're going to a school that educates mostly kids growing up in poverty, you're less likely to have qualified teachers, you're less likely to have a challenging and a rigorous curriculum. So that again, there is a lot we have to do, and funding is just part of the solution.

ROMANS: Complicated problem with a complicated solution, I'm sure. Ross Wiener, thank you so much for joining us, the Education Trust.

WIENER: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: Still ahead, the results of tonight's poll, and another look at e-mails. Stay with us.


ROMANS: And now, the results of tonight's poll: 97 percent of you say the majority of our free trade agreements harm this country's middle class.

Time now for more of your thoughts.

Howard in Kentucky -- "I would like to congratulate the astute U.S. trade negotiators. The deal with India is a classic we give them nuclear technology and cannot inspect their weapons program. In return, we get a few mangoes. Gee, what a great deal!"

Ron in Florida -- "I find it disgusting that our so-called president can pardon 16 convicted felons, but can't do the same thing for two brave Border Patrol agents who did their jobs. He should be impeached before he can do more harm."

Pat in Michigan -- "Does President Bush think we still believe it's jobs Americans don't want? Swift & Co brought wages down, fired Americans, hired illegals and said Americans don't want those jobs."

Ian in Florida -- "In light of the $24 billion in bonuses being handed out on Wall Street, you are damn right that $5.15 minimum wage is too low."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us again tomorrow. From all of us, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Ed Henry and Suzanne Malveaux -- Ed, Suzanne.