Return to Transcripts main page

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Reinforcements on Top of 21,500 Troops Announced; Democrats Split Over Iraq; Damage Control: Bush & Libby Conviction

Aired March 07, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, bungling and bureaucratic delays may have allowed terrorists to enter this country from Mexico. The federal government has left tunnels under our southern border unsealed now for years.
We'll have the special report.

Also, the national crisis over drug abuse and underage drinking in this country. Girls are now at least as likely as boys to be abusing drugs and alcohol.

We'll have that special report, "The War Within."

And corporate elites trying to destroy what's left of our middle class. Microsoft's chairman -- former chairman -- Bill Gates insists Congress allow an unlimited number of cheap foreign technology workers into this country.


BILL GATES, FMR. MICROSOFT CHAIRMAN: Even though it may not be realistic, I don't think there should be any limit.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, March 7th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The U.S. troops buildup in Iraq will be much bigger than the Bush administration originally announced. Defense Secretary Robert Gates today said almost 5,000 more troops are being sent to Iraq. Those reinforcement on top of the 21,500 troops already being deployed.

Meanwhile, President Bush today tried to distance his administration from the perjury conviction of former White House aide Scooter Libby. In an exclusive interview with CNN en Espanol, the president said he was saddened by the verdict, but the jury's decision, he said, must be respected.

Jamie McIntyre tonight reports on the additional troops headed to Iraq. Andrea Koppel reports on new demands by antiwar Democrats for a timeline for American withdrawal.

And Suzanne Malveaux reports on the president's damage control efforts after the conviction of Scooter Libby.

We turn first to Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, tonight the surge in Iraq is getting bigger with only tentative signs of progress. The Pentagon is planning to dispatch 5,000 additional troops on top of the reinforcements already there.


MCINTYRE (voice over): When General David Petraeus took command in Iraq a month ago, one of the first things he did was call for even more troops to reinforce the reinforcements already flowing into Baghdad in Anbar Province.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: He anticipates that as the brigades come in, and as the Baghdad security plan is implemented, that there will be a requirement for -- that they will pick up a significant number of additional detainees, and he wants more military police to help with that.

MCINTYRE: The Pentagon announced back in January that 21,500 additional troops would be sent this year, along with support units that turn out to total some 2,400 soldiers. Add in the 2,200 additional military police just requested, and the surge now comes to more than 26,000 troops.

The price tag for the roughly 5,000 extra troops? Another $1 billion, says the Pentagon.

Despite the continued ability of suicide and truck bombers in Iraq to inflict mass casualties, the Pentagon insists there are tentative signs the Baghdad security plan is working.

GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: The murders between Sunni and Shia are down. The numbers of bombs that have gone off killing large numbers, as you have mentioned, has gone up.

R. GATES: There are some very preliminary positive signs of things going on. No one wants to get too enthusiastic about it at this point.


MCINTYRE: So far, the Pentagon has only asked for money to fund the surge through September of this year, the end of the budget year. But military planners are figuring that the need for those extra troops will likely go well into next year, and they're figuring that into the budget request for 2008 -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you. Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon.

Turning to the war in Iraq, insurgents have killed three more of our troops. Those soldiers were killed while clearing roadside bombs northwest of Baghdad.

Twenty-four of our troops have now been killed in Iraq so far this month, 3,187 of our troops since the beginning of this war have been killed. Almost 24,000 -- 23,924 of our troops wounded, 10,627 of them so seriously they could not return to duty within three days.

You may notice that the Pentagon does not report how many troops are so badly wounded that they will never return to duty. Many of those badly wounded troops remain in the service for months, and sometimes years while receiving treatment.

We have asked the Pentagon to help us with those numbers in our reporting, and so far we've been unsuccessful in that effort.

Insurgents in Iraq today attacked Shia pilgrims for a third consecutive day, killing 12 of the pilgrims. Officials reported at least three attacks on them in the Baghdad area. In one of those attacks, seven police officers were also killed. The Shiite pilgrims traveling to the city of Karbala, southwest of Baghdad, to celebrate a religious festival.

Congressional Democrats tonight remain deadlocked over their policy on Iraq two months after taking control of Congress. Democrats promised a quick change of course in the direction of this war, but as Andrea Koppel now reports, those Democrats still struggle to bridge differences within their own party.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats admit, changing U.S. policy in Iraq has been an uphill climb.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER: We are now trying to fashion language, which will, while supporting and protecting our troops, also requires the administration to report on benchmarks being met, performance being met that the president has represented needs to be accomplished by the Iraqi government.

KOPPEL: That plan, to condition the continued presence of U.S. combat troops in Iraq to the Iraqi government's ability to make good on key promises, is being championed by Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha.

Murtha's proposal, backed by Democratic leaders, to add these conditions to the president's request for an estimated $100 billion in emergency war funding, was aimed at winning support from a majority of Democrats.

But a leading anti-war critic, California's Maxine Waters, whose so-called "Out of Iraq Caucus" claims about 75 Democrats, nearly a third of the Democratic majority, says her group won't support more money for Iraq, unless it's to bring U.S. troops home.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: The only way to get us out of the war is to have an exit strategy that is clear, that is well- articulated, that makes good sense, that gives them time to do it, that is funded, so that the soldiers are funded and secured on their way out.

KOPPEL: In this letter obtained by CNN, Waters and other anti- war Democrats argue, the costs of the war have become "unsustainable," and take Republican critics head on, saying, "Fully funding withdrawal is not micromanagement. It is macromanagement. The Bush administration has so badly managed this effort, that they have forced Congress to intervene."


KOPPEL: Now, this just complicates matters for Democratic leaders who find themselves in a quandary trying to balance the two extremes of their party -- the left wing and more moderate wing, Lou, who don't want to be perceived as voting against funding for U.S. troops. House leaders have just announced they're going to have another meeting on Iraq tomorrow -- Lou.

DOBBS: Andrea, thank you.

Andrea Koppel from Capitol Hill.

President Bush today focused on the aftermath of the perjury conviction of White House aide Scooter Libby, and among other issues, President Bush making a clear attempt to ensure Libby's conviction doesn't damage his presidency or his agenda.

Suzanne Malveaux has the report from the White House.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is in our interests that...

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Bush is trying to stay above the fray after the felony conviction of one in his own inner circle.

BUSH: On a personal note, I was sad. I was sad for a man who had worked in my administration, and particularly sad for his family.

MALVEAUX: Not just a sad affair for the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, analysts say, it's potentially a political blow for the entire administration.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think it's weakened the vice president. It has damaged this White House. And I think it's damaged the Republican prospects for 2008.

MALVEAUX: At the very least, says Mr. Bush's former press secretary, Scott McClellan, it's a public relations problem. SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Once you have someone that was a member of the president's senior staff, as well as the top guy to the vice president of the United States, involved in criminal wrongdoing, then this changes the equation with the American people.

MALVEAUX: McClellan acknowledges that he, himself, was misled by Libby and the president's deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, about their roles in the CIA leak investigation, telling reporters in October of 2003...

MCCLELLAN: Those individuals assured me they were not involved in this.

MALVEAUX: That turned out not to be true.

MCCLELLAN: Knowing what I know today, I would have never said that back then.

MALVEAUX: As it stands now, Libby is the only administration official to be convicted of a crime, lying during the CIA leak investigation. Now all eyes are on Mr. Bush to see whether he'll issue a presidential pardon. While Mr. Bush and White House officials refuse to say, several Republican strategists believe the president will let the conviction stand.

BUSH: This was a lengthy trial on a serious matter, and a jury of his peers convicted him. And we've got to respect that conviction.


MALVEAUX: Now, the president has up until his last day in office to make that decision whether or not he will issue that pardon -- Lou.

DOBBS: Suzanne, the president or any of his spokesmen can just categorically say that there will be under no circumstances a pardon. Have they said that?

MALVEAUX: No, they haven't said that. They refuse to say either way what they're going to do.

What some friends of the White House, some Republican strategists have said, is that they believe this is a president that sees things in black or white, that he's either loyal to people or he simply lets them go. They believe that he has essentially cut Libby loose.

DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you very much.

Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

The president today also declared so-called free trade could help end our illegal immigration and border security crisis. President Bush said it is in the U.S. interest for Mexico to generate wealth and jobs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: If you are a person deeply concerned about immigration -- and, as you know, this is a hot issue here in the United States -- it -- doesn't it make sense to encourage trade so that people can find a job at home rather than feel compelled to try to find work elsewhere?


DOBBS: President Bush acknowledged there are what he called protectionist sentiments in this country. The president said he would not -- that would not deter him from doing what he thinks is right.

Still ahead, more on the president's addiction to so-called free trade. Some in Congress have had, however, a belly full.

We'll have that special report tonight.

Also, corporate elites led by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates today. They apparently want to destroy what's left of our middle class.

We'll have that report.

And disturbing new evidence tonight that girls are now at least as likely as boys to be abusing alcohol and drugs.

We'll have that special report, "The War Within."

All of that and more coming right up.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Congress, or at least many in Congress, want to reign in the trade policies of this president and to reverse the flow of middle class jobs out of this country, but Microsoft founder and the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, on Capitol Hill today told Congress we need more guest workers. In effect, taking more jobs away from qualified Americans.

Lisa Sylvester reports on some in Congress who are calling for an end to the president's blank-check, free-trade, high-cost policies.

Bill Tucker tonight reports on what many call the outright audacity of Bill Gates' claim that in America there aren't enough qualified technology workers.

We begin tonight with Lisa Sylvester -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, since President Bush took office, the United States has signed more than a dozen bilateral trade agreements. At the same time, the U.S. trade deficit has skyrocketed -- $840 billion. The new Congress wants to reverse that trend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: If an $840 billion annual trade deficit doesn't get your attention, then it seems to me you're brain dead.

SYLVESTER (voice over): A group of lawmakers seeks a new direction on trade. They say the old NAFTA-style model has fattened the pockets of corporate elites in the United States while devastating manufacturing middle class communities.

REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: In my lifetime I have never seen a country sell itself out based on greed.

SYLVESTER: The Bush administration has been able to negotiate trade agreements with lightning speed because of something known as Fast-Track Trade Promotion Authority. That's set to expire June 30th. Some on Capitol Hill want to gut Fast-Track Authority and ensure Congress has more input on the trade agenda.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: If we can protect intellectual property rights with enforceable provisions and trade agreements, we can do the same for labor, for the environment, for food safety.

SYLVESTER: The White House has labeled this new effort by lawmakers as "protectionism". The Chamber of Commerce says without trade promotion authority a number of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements will fall apart. But congressional Democrats disagree, calling for fair trade.

REP. MIKE MICHAUD (D), MAINE: What we're talking about are the rules of trade. That's what it's about. It's not being protectionists. It's what rules we're going to be playing by when we deal with trade issues.

SYLVESTER: This group of lawmakers insists for too long the business community has called the shots on trade. Now they say it's time for workers to have a say.


SYLVESTER: Tomorrow, Senator Byron Dorgan, who chairs the Senate Commerce Trade Subcommittee, will hold a hearing. Some of the ideas that are being offered include inserting international labor and environmental standards into the trade deals, allowing Congress to pick trading partners that the United States can sign agreements. Still, another proposal would set new national security requirements for these trade deals -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, the administration may call senators Brown and Senator Dorgan -- may call them protectionists. In point of fact, what they're being is outright constitutionalists. The House is actually required by the Constitution to be the house of authority on international commerce. The idea that there is such a thing as so- called Fast-Track Authority for the president is hardly a right in the Constitution.

SYLVESTER: Congress gave up its authority to the executive branch on this issue of trade. Many now in Congress say that was a mistake. They want that authority back, and that's what's at the heart of this debate -- Lou.

DOBBS: And we should point out that first occurred 1976. Over the 31 years since, it's pretty simple to follow -- 31 consecutive years of trade deficits in this country.

It is nice to see Congress asserting itself. And hats off to those who are starting to think about something besides the financial results and something about the results to this country and to the citizens who make it up.

Lisa Sylvester, thank you very much.

Well, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is in this equation, and tonight is he in Beijing. He is there defending this administration's trade policies with communist China. Before the Treasury secretary left, Paulson said our exports to China were "high-value-added products."

Well, not necessarily. In fact, according to the government's own reports, our number one export to China is not high-value-added manufacturing. It's waste and scrap.

Not exactly value-added.

Next on the list of exports, high-tech passenger aircraft. Microchips are third. But a lot of them, as with many of our exports to China, will be imported right back to the United States in finished products.

But fourth on the list of our exports to China and not exactly, again, a high-value-added product, soybeans. We sold over $2.5 billion worth of soybeans to China alone last year, with whom w have a record trade deficit, the largest in this country's history with any one nation.

The head of one of the world's largest and richest companies, d the richest man in the world himself, was on Capitol Hill today. He was the sole testifier, the sole witness testifying before a Senate committee, and he was pleading for help. Microsoft's Bill Gates appealed to Congress to allow more high technology "guest workers" into the country and to remove future limits on such workers.

As Bill Tucker now tells us, the Gates plan would force many qualified American workers right out of the job market.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was Bill Gates day at the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He sat alone and wasn't shy when asked about what he wants to see happen with the H1B visa program, a temporary guest worker program for skilled workers.

B. GATES: Even though it may not be realistic, I don't think there should be any limit.

TUCKER: The committee didn't deem it necessary to hear any opposing views, so...

KIM BERRY, PRESIDENT, PROGRAMMERS GUILD: An unlimited number of H1Bs would just push an unimaginable number of U.S. workers right out of the job market. It would destroy the supply and demand that's necessary to encourage next generation of Americans to enter this profession.

RON HIRA, ROCHESTER INST. OF TECHNOLOGY: He seems to be oblivious to sort of basic economics that there is supply and demand, and the fact that foreign workers, what the economists call, will have a lower reservation wage.

TUCKER: That means they'll work for less. The median wage paid to an H1B visa worker in the United States, according to the government, is $50,000. Little wonder then that American students are showing less of an interest in computer sciences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) flood the market with cheap labor.

TUCKER: And most of those workers coming at that lower wage are not working for American companies. Again, according to the government, seven of the top 10 applicants are Indian companies. Infosys Technologies, Wipro and Cognizant Technology Solutions took the top three spots, all providing outsourcing solutions to American companies.

Even more interesting, there appears to be no apparent shortage of engineers.


TUCKER: A recent study by Duke's Pratt School of Engineering found that eight out of 10 companies filled open positions within four months, and that few of those companies had to offer a bonus to secure an employee. That does not sound like a labor market wanting for workers.

DOBBS: Yes. It's -- to hear Bill Gates, who -- a marvelous entrepreneur, highly successful, the richest man in the world, but there is something wrong when a man as smart as Bill Gates advances an elitist agenda without regard to the impact that he is having on working men and women in this country, our middle class, and the future of the country.

He couldn't be more right when he talks about the need to invest in education in this country, but this is one sorry way in which to live up to the standard that he is trying to set. And to confuse this issue as he did with H1B visas, unlimited, as if there's no role for government or for the right of a man and a woman in this country to make a living and to provide for their families, I mean, the shortsightedness of the elites in this country right now, this is going to be, I think -- go down as one of the most shameful periods in our country's history, both in terms of the absence of government leadership and business leadership.

Bill Tucker, thank you for setting the record straight.

That brings us to our poll question tonight.

Do you agree with Bill Gates that the United States should allow an unlimited number of cheap foreign technology workers into the country? Yes or no?

Cast your vote at We'd like to hear what you think. Send us your thoughts, We'll have those results here later.

Up next, the government comes up with the money finally to fill those tunnels used to smuggle illegal aliens and illegal drugs across our border with Mexico. It's only taken them 13 years. Nothing like a war on terror to galvanize your government to secure our borders.

And "The War Within." Speaking of wars, the war on drugs a losing war. And disturbing news tonight on teenage girls in this country and substance abuse.

We'll have that report.

And two Russian-born American women apparently poisoned with thallium. Another in a highly suspicious series of deaths and injuries involving Russia.

We'll have that story and a great deal more next.

We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The DEA is still looking for two members of a major drug ring busted in New Jersey last night. The largest in the state's history, in fact.

Federal agents seized millions of dollars of cocaine and crystal meth. Four people are in custody. The DEA says the suspects are part of a powerful drug cartel run out of Mexico.

Federal agents recovering almost 500 pounds of cocaine. Estimated street value of more than $10 million. Another 75 pounds of crystal meth. Another $3 million also confiscated.

Tonight, "The War Within," our series on the war against drugs and alcohol abuse and addiction in this country. Alarming research shows teenage girls now are abusing drugs and alcohol at a disturbing rate.

Christine Romans has one young woman's shocking story.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Twenty-six- year-old Nicole Stuckey begins each day writing notes to herself to stay sober. She took her first drink at 12. By high school, she was abusing alcohol, then marijuana and acid, landing in rehab twice. The picture of a happy 15-year-old, her life was a mess.

NICOLE STUCKEY, RECOVERING ADDICT: I failed five subjects in my high school and was kicked out. I was kicked off my soccer team. Not cheerleading anymore.

I mean, the fights with my parents were amazing. My sister would hide under tables when I came inside. My brother stopped talking to me. It was just horrible.

ROMANS: And then?

STUCKEY: I was completely and obliviously drunk. I blacked out, and I woke up to realize that I had lost my virginity and somebody had raped me.

ROMANS: Nicole says she abused alcohol to relax and fit in with her friends, a common sentiment from girls who have now surpassed boys in the early teen years for drinking.

Korean Zailckas should know. She too spent her high school years smashed. She now writes and campaigns against the alarming trend of...

KOREN ZAILCKAS, AUTHOR, "SMASHED": Young people, especially girls, drinking explicitly to get drunk, to get that -- to that state of beyond gone.

ROMANS: In eighth grade, just over 16 percent of boys reported having a drink in the past month, compared with almost 18 percent of girls. By 10th grade, again, the percentage of girls drinking has eclipsed the boys. By senior year, boys had retaken their traditional lead.

The shift alarms researchers, who say even as overall rates inch lower, girls are falling into a dangerous pattern.

DAVID ROSENBLOOM, JOIN TOGETHER AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY: The parts of the brain that control judgment are the parts that develop last, and alcohol and drugs affect the development of the adolescent brain in a very negative way.

ROMANS: Even now Nicole says she struggles with being an addict every day.


ROMANS: Clearly, Nicole's experience is dramatic and extreme, but thousands of girls like her are taking their first drink every day, and in eighth grade now girls have eclipsed boys in cigarette smoking, in alcohol, and in illegal drugs other than marijuana -- Lou.

DOBBS: All addictive behavior, and all part of what is now an outright national crisis. It has been for years. Christine, thank you very much.

Christine Romans.

The Department of Homeland Security today finally taking action. The department is going to fill seven remaining tunnels under the U.S. border with Mexico. Incredibly, the DHS action comes more than five years after September 11th. And as Casey Wian now reports, after the discovery of nearly four dozen tunnels.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some are crude, others incredibly sophisticated, and all of the 47 tunnels discovered under the U.S.-Mexico border since 9/11 are national security nightmares.

The tunnels are used to smuggle drugs, illegal aliens, and potentially terrorists. We've been reporting on them since 2003.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: How much marijuana was here?

WIAN: Last year California Senator Dianne Feinstein and other lawmakers began pressuring the Department of Homeland Security to do something about the border tunnels. One of the biggest, nicknamed the Taj Mahal, has been unfilled for 15 years.

The Bush administration says all but seven big tunnels have been dismantled, and now it finally has a plan and the money to fill in the rest.

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: There is obviously a whole emphasis with the administration of trying to gain some credibility on the immigration issue. I, for one, would have filled them with sewage. It would have been a lot cheaper and would have sent a lot stronger message in a lot of ways.

WIAN: Customs and Border Protection says it will spend nearly $3 million to fill the tunnels. The work will be supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers and is expected to be completed by mid-May.

So why did it take so long? A CBO spokesman says it has been studying structural engineering and environmental issues since it was put in charge of border tunnels in 2005. He did not dispute the suggestion that political pressure from Congress prompted the agency to finally take action.

In a statement Feinstein said, "These are significant steps toward resolving the jurisdictional and financial impediments to remedying this ongoing threat to our nation's border."


WIAN: Customs and Border Protection says it is in the process of developing sophisticated tunnel detection technology and will award contracts within the next few months. It also says it will make every effort to plug future tunnels as soon as they're discovered -- Lou.

DOBBS: What a novel idea.

I was just curious. The National Guard is now near the border. They've got bulldozers. They've got backhoes. Why couldn't they do this?

WIAN: Not sure why the National Guard couldn't do it, but the Customs and Border Protection says it's a lot more sophisticated than you might think. One of the issues that they're running into is some of these tunnels are on private property, but they've got to do engineering studies, structural studies, environmental impact studies, all that government stuff, Lou.

DOBBS: Yes. I suppose they do. They always have more reasons to complicate what's a straight forward issue, don't they?

WIAN: Sure seems like it.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much. It's good to see the government in action. Well, sort of action. And good for Senator Feinstein, actually making a difference here. It's nice to see one of our elected officials really care about the integrity of the country and the safety of its 300 million citizens and, oh, yes, those sovereign borders.

Casey Wian in Los Angeles. Thanks.

Congresswoman Marcia Blackburn also taking action, and she is sending a message to Bank of America and other financial institutions that are disregarding the nation's banking laws, at least in spirit.

Congresswoman Blackburn has introduced legislation that would stop illegal aliens from receiving credit cards from U.S. banks. As we've reported on this broadcast, Bank of America blatantly marketing its high interest credit cards to illegal aliens. A community service, as one of their spokespersons put it.

Blackburn says her legislation will shut down the loophole banks are using to target illegals. She adds, "You can't get a Visa without a visa."

An interesting concept, and it's good to see a Congress -- a congresswoman with a sense of humor. Not many of the congressmen have it. And the congresswoman from Tennessee will be our guest here on this broadcast tomorrow evening.

Up next, a White House on the defensive after the Scooter Libby conviction. The race for the White House is heating up. I don't know if it's heating up, but it's getting crowded. And I'll be joined by three of the country's best political analysts and strategists next.

And more on the national crisis of addiction. An important and ambitious new documentary series on HBO aims to help all Americans understand addiction. If you have anyone in your family who has ever been addicted to alcohol or to drugs or if you have young children, this is a series of special documentary reports that you need to see. We'll be talking with the framers and -- of this very important documentary.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, he doesn't have as many critics as he once did. Is his government trying to kill critics? One of the world's leading experts on Russia's drift into authoritarianism and possible criminality joins us here. We'll be discussing that and other issues.

A great deal more straight ahead. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Two American women have been released from a Moscow clinic after they were hospitalized with possible radioactive thallium poisoning. Marina Kovalevskaya and her daughter, Yana, are returning home to California tonight. They were born in Russia, and they visit the country frequently.

This is the latest in a series of recent suspicious poisonings and violence. Three critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin have been killed or seriously injured, two in the past week.

In November former Russian spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko died in London of radioactive polonium 210 poisoning.

Last week Ivan Safronov allegedly fell from a window in his apartment building and died. Safronov, a correspondent for the Russian newspaper, working on a critical story about Russian arms deliveries to the Middle East.

And just days ago in this country, Russia expert Paul Joyal was shot outside his Maryland home after saying on television he believed there was a Russian intelligence connection to the death of Alexander Litvinenko.

Joining me now for more on these mysterious deaths and attacks is David Satter. He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, author of "Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State". David joins us tonight from Washington, D.C.

David Satter, good to have you with us.

DAVID SATTER, AUTHOR, "DARKNESS AT DAWN": And it's good to be here, Lou.

DOBBS: These two American women hospitalized in Moscow, what do you make of this most recent incident, and then we'll move to what is apparently a series of murders and anticipated murders?

SATTER: Well, we don't have very much information right now about the two women. The circumstances of the poisoning, what it was they were doing in Russia, who their associates were, so it's very difficult to draw conclusions.

But one thing is absolutely sure, that thallium is a murder weapon that's used by intelligence services. And if this was a simple criminal dispute in some way, or someone was trying to rob them or kill them for some other reason, thallium would be a most unlikely weapon for that person to be using. So we have to find out more.

DOBBS: Why is there -- and it seems very difficult to imagine that the United States intelligence services are not trying to get to the bottom of this, but there seems to be almost no reaction from this administration, the federal government, the U.S. government in this series of highly suspicious deaths and what are apparent murders.

SATTER: Well, I personally hope that the American government is waiting for some word from the British concerning the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. It seems to be inevitable that the British are going to demand the extradition of the two people that they think are responsible for the murder.

And under those circumstances, insofar as it's virtually sure the Russians are going to refuse, we will have a very serious diplomatic confrontation in which I hope our government will give full backing to the British side.

For the moment the British have not said anything, so it's understandable up to a point that the United States has also not said anything.

DOBBS: It is understandable perhaps to you, but let me say to me that if U.S. intelligence and British intelligence cannot ascertain both the motive and those who are perpetrating what are murders and at whose behest, their intelligence services don't seem to be much improved over pre-9/11.

SATTER: Well, I -- of course, I don't have direct knowledge, but I'm virtually certain that both the British and the American intelligence services are quite aware that the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was carried out by the Russian intelligence service.

The evidence for that already is overwhelming. Not just the -- not just the physical evidence, but the fact that the Russian government is obstructing the investigation in every way possible. So I would be very surprised if there's any doubt in anyone's mind as to who was responsible for that killing.

In the case of Ivan Safronov, who fell from his fourth story window several days ago...

DOBBS: Right.

SATTER: ... it seems to me that what's happening is that Russia is a country where people don't orient their behavior on law, because they don't believe in law. They orient their behavior on the behavior of the people who are in charge.

And when they see the head of state or they see the people who are in charge behaving lawlessly or in a criminal way, they feel that they're free to do the same thing.

DOBBS: And David, we thank you very much. I'd like you to come back more...

SATTER: Sure. Sure.

DOBBS: ... as we continue to report on the series of highly suspicious and to this point inexplicable murders of critics of the Putin government. David Satter out of the Hudson Institute and author of "Darkness at Dawn". We thank you for being here.

SATTER: Thank you.

DOBBS: Coming up next, HBO launching a provocative new documentary on addiction. We'll have the producer of that series with us, along with the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

And this is a subject I would encourage everyone with children, who has anyone in their family who has been -- has been an addict or is, to watch and watch very carefully. This -- this documentary, in my opinion, could be absolutely seminal and pivotal in awakening the national conscience and consciousness.

Clinton versus Obama. We'll tell you who is in the lead now and which former politician, one who's not even running, he's in third place and gaining ground. Three of the country's very best political minds join us here to explain all of that and more. Stay with us.


DOBBS: HBO next week launches a new documentary, "Addiction". The program is intended to highlight the disturbing level of drug and alcohol addition in this country, treatment options and addiction's devastating impact.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ashamed because I looked into the eyes of my children, and that wasn't enough to make me stop.


DOBBS: Joining me now, the producer of this powerful series, John Hoffman of HBO. Also joining me, Norah Volkow. She is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Thank you both for being here. And I would congratulate you, but I want to also at the same time say thank you. This is such an important issue that so many people are not confronting in this country, and it's devastating, as you both well know, our young people and much of society.

John, where did you get the idea?

JOHN HOFFMAN, PRODUCER, "ADDICTION": Well, really it began with Sheila Evans, president of HBO Documentary Films, who really has had a long-standing commitment to issues of mental health and addiction.

And it was Sheila's hunch that there really were advances in the understanding of addiction and treatments. And she asked Susan Fromke (ph) and myself to travel the country and to really see if that hunch was true.

And we met Norah early on, who proceeded to introduce us to a set of researchers and doctors who are really leading, along with Norah these advances and understanding. And so we just decided that the time was right to elevate the public's understanding that addiction is a medical disease.

DOBBS: Norah, addiction, it's your -- it's your life's work, your career here. This -- the expanse of this project, using the Web, books, television, it's remarkable to see that level of a commitment to public education, public service here. What was your motivation?

NORAH VOLKOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE: My motivation was it looked like an extraordinary opportunity because what I've come to realize is science, as eloquent as it can be, is not sufficient. You need to educate the public about that science and that knowledge.

And I was immediately taken by the creativity and the willingness of HBO to do something that would be different and to convey the message which is something that we've been saying, but it somehow hasn't caught that drug addiction is a disease of the brain that can be treated.

DOBBS: Right. And it is a disease, as you -- as you document. I would also like to see if we could go to one of the statements in the -- in the documentary. The doctor from the University of South Carolina discussing some misconceptions about addiction itself. If we have that, could we -- could we see it and hear that?


KATHLEEN BRADY, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: There are misconceptions that really drive me crazy when it comes to addictions. One of them is this whole idea that an individual needs to reach rock bottom before they can get any help, and that is absolutely wrong.


DOBBS: Absolutely wrong. What is the reality?

VOLKOW: The reality is that the earlier you can treat someone, the better the prognosis. So it's not terribly -- it's also not terribly wrong, but it's actually dangerously so, because by promoting that idea we're encouraging people to wait and wait and wait. And in the meantime, this can have devastating consequences on that person, and it's unnecessary.

DOBBS: John, what are some of the other myths that surround addiction?

HOFFMAN: Well, that you have to -- people have to seek treatment voluntarily. You can mandate treatment. There's -- you can mandate treatment.

There's a tremendous movement in the court system, the whole institution of drug courts, which -- in which we are mandating people get treatment, rather than serving time, for crimes that are nonviolent felonies that were committed in the act of serving their addiction. And if can you treat them rather than imprison them, then we really are helping them to regain their life.

DOBBS: Everyone, in my opinion, in this country who has a family with young children, without any issue of addiction or any sign of it that you can possibly recognize needs, if you care about your children and care about your family, this book, this series, this important documentary. And that begins on March 15, and available...

HOFFMAN: Well, it's available in every platform. People can have it as a -- download it as a podcast. They can stream it on, and four DVD disk set in stores.

DOBBS: And if I may say, I think that every middle school and high school in this country should be watching that documentary. This is such a critical issue. Thank you both very much.

VOLKOW: You're very welcome.

HOFFMAN: Thank you.

DOBBS: And congratulations, and again, thank you for your great work.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM", Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

A leading Republican critic of the Iraq war strategy of the president is poised to make a major announcement. Is Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska making a run for the White House?

Also, amazing stories of survival in a fiery plane crash. We're going to show you what experts say you can do to increase your chances of getting out alive.

Plus, yet another critic of the Russian government hospitalized under very mysterious circumstances. This time right here in the United States.

All that, Lou, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

Coming up here next, Senator Barack Obama under fire. The controversy over his financial investments and arrangements with political donors. Our panel of political analysts join us to chew on that a while. We've got a lot for them to chew on tonight. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Joining me now, Democratic National Committeeman, Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman; Errol Louis, columnist "New York Daily News"; member of the editorial board, syndicated columnist Miguel Perez.

Gentlemen, thank you very much.

The war in Iraq, the Democrats are now in division over what to do with the policy. What's going happen?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Now? Now they're in division? They've been in division for how many weeks now. They can't decide what to do.

DOBBS: They're also in control, and that division is having a big impact on them now.

PEREZ: Yes, I don't -- I don't -- I think it's a stalemate, and it's going remain that way. You know, we elected the Democratic majority to do something in Congress. I don't see it happening. They have to come up with some kind of leadership here.

DOBBS: What do you think?

ERROL LOUIS, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": They have this out of Iraq caucus, but it's only 75 members. They don't have even a majority of their own conference. So the Democrats can't talk so tough. And they'd like to talk tough. But they don't have the votes to get the country out of Iraq any time soon.

DOBBS: Without the votes, this doesn't look too good for them.

LOUIS: Well, no. They'll continue to talk. They'll continue to bad-mouth of administration, but voters have a right to know what do you really want to do?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And they put one proposal on the table after another. Let's start dealing with some facts. Democrats have been very united in their commitment, one, to make sure that there's a phase for the redeployment of troops.

They've gone on the record saying that we can't send our soldiers into battle without the proper armament or training. I'm tired of this argument that Democrats don't have a message. They've been clear.

DOBBS: I didn't say that.

ZIMMERMAN: I didn't say you did.

DOBBS: I said, and that's what we really want to address here, Robert...

ZIMMERMAN: Yes. DOBBS: ... is that this Democratic Congress, if you can attach one issue that they were elected in Congress to take control is the war in Iraq.

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: What we're watching right now is division and a lack of direction.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, the problem is you can't have a solution until the Republican -- until President Bush and the Republican leadership in the Senate allow a debate on the issue. And as long as they intend to filibuster and block a discussion, you're not going to see any real resolution.

The only thing we know is George Bush is advocating staying the course. Democrats are putting alternatives on the table.

DOBBS: We'll turn to something I think you're going to be more comfortable discussing here in just a moment, and that is the conviction of Scooter Libby. We'll be right back with our panel. Stay with us.


DOBBS: All right, Robert Zimmerman. Scooter Libby convicted. Does he get a pardon?

ZIMMERMAN: No, he doesn't get a pardon. When is someone going to apologize for Valerie Plame Wilson for destroying her career and jeopardizing her life?

DOBBS: Perhaps in civil court, where Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson, Ambassador Wilson, have filed suit. Do you agree? No pardon?

LOUIS: They may try a pardon, but it would certainly be inappropriate. You know, looking back at some of the documents after -- you know, we now have a very high-ranking official who's a convicted felon.

You look back at some of the documents, including that "New York Times" article that started this whole thing in motion. There were 200 casualties at the time, and what he was saying at the time with decades of experience was trying to sort of stop it from spiraling out of control, which is exactly what happened.

I think this lesson is going to -- is going to far outlast this administration of the need to let professionals do their job.

PEREZ: Look, if he is going to be cleared on appeal, as he claims he is, his lawyers claim, why does he need a pardon? He's the fall guy here. It goes beyond him. Mr. Cheney is diminished by this. It basically illustrates the vindictiveness of Mr. Cheney.

ZIMMERMAN: That's what the story is. This is an orchestrated effort. This was an attempt to cover up an orchestrated effort to smear an individual, Ambassador Wilson, telling the truth about the -- about the deceit that led us to war.

DOBBS: Let's turn to -- to the Democratic agenda, comprehensive immigration reform. It looks like the Democratically-led Senate is moving in exactly the same direction as the -- serving their corporate masters as did the Republican-led Congress.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, first of all, this is George Bush's agenda, not the Democratic Congress's agenda.

DOBBS: Don't tell Ted Kennedy that.

ZIMMERMAN: But he's one member.

DOBBS: Don't tell Senator Harry Reid that, Senate majority leader.

ZIMMERMAN: The reality is you still have a great many Democrats...

DOBBS: You are a wonderful Democrat.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm doing my best.

DOBBS: You can't do it this time.

ZIMMERMAN: There are many Democrats who agree with me that border security has got to come first. And Bill Gates' proposal, which to me was just absolutely stunningly...

DOBBS: Referring to unlimited H-1B visas.

ZIMMERMAN: After Bill Tucker's reports that show that we don't even know how many visas are in the country, least of all who has them.

DOBBS: Exactly.

LOUIS: I mean, this is the problem with comprehensive immigration reform, right? The corporate types like Bill Gates are looking out for their shareholders and their bottom line. The unions, they say they don't care about green cards. They care about union cards. You've got the wrong stakeholders at the table.

DOBBS: Absolutely. And the stakeholders, as we've been reporting on this broadcast, are middle class.

LOUIS: Nowhere to be found.

DOBBS: Just getting torn up in a town that just doesn't seem to know how to represent them.

PEREZ: I'm on the other side of this argument, as you know.

DOBBS: Which one?

PEREZ: I'm for immigration, comprehensible reform. DOBBS: So am I for immigration. I'm just not for illegal immigration.

PEREZ: You know, I am for a legalization plan. Not for amnesty, but for a legalization plan, which is what they're proposing.

DOBBS: OK. We've got you on record. Maybe we'll take it up.

All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

The results of our poll tonight. Ninety-six percent of you do not agree with Mr. Bill Gates, richest man in the world, chairman of Microsoft, and the only witness before the Senate committee of Mr. -- Senator Kennedy, that the United States should allow an unlimited number of cheap, foreign tech workers into this country.

Thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow when our guests -- we thank you very much for being here. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.