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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Red Flags Ignored; Paying Tribute; Troops to Afghanistan?; Health Care Battle; Quit or Pushed?; Sniper Execution

Aired November 10, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.

Tonight, the government faces tough questions. Intelligence agencies now admitting they knew suspected Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan had terrorist ties almost a year ago. Why was there no investigation? Could the Fort Hood massacre have been prevented?

And tonight, justice finally served. The state of Virginia tonight will execute Beltway sniper John Muhammad for killing 10 people over seven years ago.

And struggling Democrats call in Bill Clinton to help rally Democratic senators on health care. His pitch, just pass something. That's his advice.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and analysis for Tuesday, November 10th. Live from New York, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Warning signs ignored, red flags missed. New details tonight about just how much the government really knew about suspected shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan long before the Fort Hood massacre. We now know that U.S. intelligence agencies were suspicious of the major nearly a year ago.

Communication between Major Hasan and a radical Muslim cleric with al Qaeda ties were intercepted as part of an unrelated investigation, and for some unknown reason authorities decided not to investigate further and took no action. The Army was reportedly also made aware of the major's dubious terrorist contacts well before the Fort Hood rampage.

We begin with two reports tonight. Drew Griffin has the latest for us on the investigation. John King at Fort Hood where the president today held a memorial for the victims, but we begin with Drew Griffin in Washington and the new developments in this investigation -- Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, I think it's important to point out that first, the FBI now believes there was no connection to a terrorist group. In other words, Nidal Hasan was acting alone. No co-conspirators that they can find at this time. They're pouring through every record they can trying to find out if he had any direction.

And so far they have come up with nothing. The other bombshell that you mentioned was that we learned that in December, December of '08, Nidal Hasan came on the terrorist kind of red flag list when they found him communicating with this cleric in Yemen. We believe he is in Yemen -- 10 to 20 communicaes (ph) we are told.

It was assigned to a terror investigator. They looked at what was being said. They decided this did not elevate to the point where we believe Major Hasan is involved in any kind of terrorist activity. In fact, they chucked it all up to research that he was doing concerning his work with vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. So what did they do, Lou? They dropped that investigation cold and moved on.

DOBBS: Drew, thank you very much. Drew Griffin, remarkable.

A final salute today to the victims of the Fort Hood massacre, President Obama paid tribute at the memorial service at Fort Hood calling the shootings incomprehensible and reminding families about the great acts of heroism that took place that tragic day -- John King at Fort Hood -- John, the president's message today?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the president's message was part of a very moving and solemn ceremony here on Fort Hood. Of course, they are closely tracking the investigation. Of course, they want to know why and how it could have happened right here on their home post, but today was a day to reflect and to remember.

The Army says a crowd of some 15,000 were gathered on the green behind me outside the Three Corps (ph) headquarters, 13 stations set up, one for each of the heroes who was shot down here last Thursday, 12 of the members of the Army, one retired Army man who is now a civilian helping out here on base, treating those who need care.

They came from 11 different states. They range in age from 19 to 62. Seven of the victims were under 30. One of them was pregnant. The president and the first lady met with the families of the fallen as well as the families of those wounded in the horrible attack before the memorial service. Then at the service, he paid tribute to each one of them individually and then collectively as heroes.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These men and women came from all parts of the country. Some had long careers in the military. Some had signed up to serve in the shadow of 9/11. Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some cared for those who didn't. Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity, the decency of those who serve. And that's how they will be remembered.


KING: After the service, the president of the United States, the commander of this base, the Army chief of staff General George Casey among those at the head of the line paying respects at each of the 13 stations, combat boots, an Army rifle, a helmet and dog tags set up alongside with portraits of each of the 13 victims, the president leaving his leadership coin. Barack Obama, president of the United States, it says, with an image of the White House on it.

The generals left their coins as well. They passed through the line, and what was remarkable, Lou, was that hours later there were still dozens lined up, civilians, members of the Army, others in the Fort Hood community, to offer a salute, to offer a prayer, to reflect and to cry. Some left flowers, some left notes paying tribute to the 13 fallen heroes.

The ceremony now of course is over. The Fort Hood community needs to go about its business of healing even as it waits for more details on that investigation, Lou. And one thing we should note tonight 15 of those wounded are still hospitalized, three in intensive care, the Army giving us that update a short time ago -- Lou.

DOBBS: And we're all praying for them. Thank you very much, John, a truly sad occasion and ceremony -- John King at Fort Hood.

The White House tonight is denying reports President Obama has already made a decision on his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. The Obama administration says the president is now considering four options. But gave no indication what those options are or when a final plan will be announced. Suzanne Malveaux is at the White House now.

Suzanne, do we have any new information about these four options that the president is reportedly considering?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we actually do have new information about that. As you know, Robert Gibbs said anybody who says the president has made up his mind essentially doesn't know what they're talking about. He says of these four options -- having said that, a senior administration official tells me, also confirmed by a U.S. military official to our Pentagon -- well producer rather, Mike Mount (ph) that one of these options is looking at perhaps as many as 34,000 U.S. troops, this would be the bulk, about 23,000, for support and combat.

You would have about 7,000 for an international center and about 4,000 U.S. trainers. That would be sent to Afghanistan. Now Lou, I have to emphasis, this is just one of the four options that are being considered. The other three are different components and perhaps different mixes of this. And they're looking at not only troop levels but how much is the Karzai government willing to give?

How strong is the Karzai government in Afghanistan? What kind of civilian support is the U.S. able to give and what kind of support are we going to get from our allies? These are all of the things he's going to consider in his war council meeting that is happening tomorrow. It is the eighth. These are the questions that are going to be put on the table. That is one of the four options -- Lou.

DOBBS: And again, any indication as to when a decision will be reached? MALVEAUX: Well we know it's not going to happen at least for another couple of weeks. The reason why is he wants to get information not only from this war council, but there's a NATO meeting that is supposed to take place later in the month. So he's going to find more information about how much these NATO allies are willing to give in terms of troops and support.

There is the 10-day meeting, the trip to Asia, very important meetings that are going to take place. He's going to get information from world leaders. He is also going to be sitting down with India's prime minister when he gets back. That's going to be an important meeting. After all of that happens we do expect that he's going to be able to have all of the components as the White House officials say, be able to sit down and make a very comprehensive decision, perhaps in the next couple of weeks -- Lou.

DOBBS: All right, Suzanne, thank you very much -- Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

The Obama administration has agreed to direct talks with North Korea over its nuclear program. The first meeting held in more than a year. No date has been announce for the visit that will take place. Steven Bosworth (ph), the U.S. special representative to North Korea will travel to North Korea. The United Nations Security Council imposing new sanctions back in June after North Korea defiantly test fired missiles and conducted nuclear tests and in a related note, two patrol ships, one from North Korea and the other from South Korea engaging in a firefight, 200 rounds expending by both patrol boats and the North Korean boat reportedly last seen enveloped in flames.

Up next, was the Fort Hood massacre an act of terrorism? That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.

Also, worried Democrats call in Mr. Bill Clinton to help the party pass health care -- will the former president make any difference? Can he rally his party?

And then, another top official leaves the Obama White House amid controversy. Did Anita Dunn quit because of her two favorite philosophers? Stay with us.


DOBBS: Former President Bill Clinton today paid a visit to Capitol Hill. They're urging Senate Democrats to pass the health care legislation the House sent them. Supporters of the legislation hope the former president can bridge the rifts in the Democratic Party over that issue -- Brianna Keilar with our report.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Bill Clinton arrived on Capitol Hill with a message for Senate Democrats.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever their differences are, I just urge them to resolve their differences and pass a bill, and I also believe, you know, people hired us to come to work in places like this to solve problems and stand up and do it.

KEILAR: More than 15 years after losing a long, hard fight to overhaul the nation's health care system, Clinton said he stressed to Democratic senators the, quote, "economic imperative of delivering health care reform". Asked by reporters how important it is for Congress to pass a final bill this year, Clinton wouldn't say.

But in the private meeting with Senate Democrats, Oregon Senator Ron Widen (ph) said Clinton stressed Congress needs to approve a health care overhaul this year. It's a deadline the White House insisted on again this week and congressional leaders say it's still their goal. But in the most definitive sign yet that it might be impossible, Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate and one of the president's closest allies on the Hill, said the Senate may only be able to pass its bill, one vastly different from the House passed legislation and not the final bill that President Obama would sign into law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting it out of the Senate, now if we're fortunate enough to get it done earlier, then who knows, but I would say our goal is to make sure it's out of the Senate this year.


KEILAR: As Senate Democratic leaders struggle to get bye-in (ph) from moderates in their own party who have serious reservations about that government run insurance plan, not to mention the controversial over abortion coverage, conventional wisdom of course Lou tells you this isn't going to get any easier if this process moves into an election year.

DOBBS: Brianna, the idea that the Senate finance legislation would move to -- would be moved out of the Senate, it still is a matter for the conference committee and anything could happen there, correct?

KEILAR: Yes. The Senate bill, the Senate would pass its own bill and that's not the last step. Then the Senate and the House would have to strike a compromise between two pretty different bills and then they would have to come up with their final bill, both the House and the Senate would have to pass that. That's what would end up on President Obama's desk, so you can see, Lou, still a lot of heavy lifting even once the Senate votes.

DOBBS: And a lot of room for maneuvering. All right, thanks Brianna Keilar from Capitol Hill.

The inability of Congress to agree on health care legislation may have an impact on public support for what is called Obama care -- the latest Gallup poll finding that more and more Americans simply don't want Congress to pass any bill. Only 29 percent say Congress should move on the legislation this year. That's down from 40 percent, as you see there, back in October. There are issues other than health care facing the nation and the Obama administration. Another high ranking staff member is leaving the White House. Communications Director Anita Dunn stepping down at the end of the month -- Dunn became enmeshed in controversy over her criticism of the FOX News Network and over comments she made last year extolling the virtues of the late communist Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung (ph) -- Lisa Sylvester with her story.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anita Dunn is a member of the president's inner circle. So close to him that he was caught off guard the first time she called him sir. But after just six months serving as communications director, Dunn is stepping down. The White House says no story here -- that when Dunn took the job it was supposed to be only on a temporary basis, but her departure comes after a very public fight with the FOX News Network.

ANITA DUNN, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: The reality that -- that FOX News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.

SYLVESTER: Dunn also drew criticism when during a June 5th speech she cited her admiration for the philosophy of former Chinese communist leader Mao Tse Tung (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually come from two of my favorite political philosophers Mao Tse Tung (ph) and Mother Teresa not often coupled with each other.

CRAIG GORDON, POLITICO: Obviously probably the most famous communist leader ever, and here's a person inside the Obama administration saying that you know she looked to his words for guidance. Again, I suspect that's one Anita Dunn wouldn't mind having back and the White House wouldn't mind having back either.

SYLVESTER: Dunn in a response to CNN shot back at her critics saying quote "the use of the phrase favorite political philosophers was intended as irony, but clearly the effort fell flat." Dunn joins a number of administration appointees to leave recently. The first Communications Director Ellen Moran moved over to the Commerce Department after less than 100 days citing family reasons.

Green jobs czar Van Jones departed after controversial comments he made about the Republican Party surfaced. National Endowment for the Arts Communications Director Yosi Sergant left amid allegations of using his office to promote a political agenda. And Louis Caldera, the former director of the White House Military Office resigned after he approved an Air Force fly-over over New York City for publicity photos. That frightened many residents.


SYLVESTER: Dunn will step down at the end of this month. Her deputy, Dan Phifer (ph) will take her place, and although she will still be an adviser to the White House on communications issues, just not from the inside -- Lou.

DOBBS: All right, Lisa, thanks very much -- Lisa Sylvester, appreciate it. Well I'll have a few thoughts about the latest White House departure and all of the issues facing the country. Join me on the radio Monday through Fridays for "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 radio in New York and go to to get the local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" and to subscribe to our daily Podcast also on

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic leadership may have moved health care through the House, but is she holding herself to the same standards to which she tried to hold Republicans. To hear what she said just a few years ago in 2005 and 2003, go to It's fascinating and you can follow me always on loudobbsnews on

Up next, the nation honors the victims of the Fort Hood shooting rampage. That terrorist attack is the subject of tonight's "Face Off" debate.

And the beltway sniper who killed 10 people and sent fear through the Washington, D.C. area, he is scheduled to die tonight, to be put to death by lethal injection, just an hour from now.


DOBBS: Oregon police say a gunman shot and killed a woman and wounded two other people before he took his own life at a suburban office park. All of this happening at a drug testing center at Tualatin (ph), 15 miles southwest of Portland. Police say a man armed with a rifle opened fire at that facility this morning. Police are now investigating any possible connection between the gunman, the laboratory, and the victim.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has denied a request for clemency for the man known as the beltway sniper, John Allen Muhammad. Muhammad and his teenage accomplice killed 10 people over a three week shooting spree all across the Washington D.C. area back in 2002. Muhammad is scheduled to be executed tonight by lethal injection at a state prison. Jeanne Meserve now joins us from Jarrett (ph), Virginia with the details -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we have just been having a press conference with one of John Muhammad's attorneys named Jay Wendell Gordon (ph). He met with John Allen Muhammad this afternoon in this correctional facility and he was asked how John Muhammad was doing. He said he's a durable man. He is maintaining his innocence in this case.

He always has even though he extends sympathies to the families. Even on his death bed, he says he will express his righteous indignation for his own execution. He tells us that Muhammad has had his last meal; it was chicken in a red sauce. And the witnesses will shortly be assembled; these will be official state witnesses, representatives of the media, and also victim family members including Bob Meyers. His brother Dean was the seventh sniper victim. He was killed with a single shot to the head as he was pumping gas in Manassas, Virginia. We asked Bob Meyers what it might be like to watch John Muhammad die.


BOB MEYERS, BROTHER OF SNIPER VICTIM: This is an unknown. And a human being's death, whether it's justice or not, is still a human being's death. And we have not experienced that before. We have experienced like my mother's death, which was natural, and we were present for that. But this is different. And so I don't know.


MESERVE: Shortly before 9:00, the order for execution will be read; John Muhammad will be led out of his cell in shackles. He will be brought into the death chamber where he will be strapped to a gurney. An execution team will then attach IV's to both of his arms. They will then leave the room and John Muhammad will be given an opportunity to say his last words. He will talk for 15 or 20 seconds, at that point the director of the prisoner will cue people to start the infusion of the chemicals into his body.

Muhammad can continue talking as long as he is able. Behind a curtain, invisible to Mr. Muhammad, invisible to the witnesses, and also someone who won't have a view of what's going on in the room will be a doctor. What he will be doing is monitoring an EKG machine. He is the one who will pronounce John Muhammad dead. When that has occurred, a representative of the prison will come outside and announced it to all of us -- Lou that's the scenario tonight.

DOBBS: Jeanne, thank you very much. Jeanne, I have to ask you, the witness, the family member who will be there witnessing it, he doesn't have to be there. He wants to be there, I presume. Yet he didn't sound as if he were motivated by simply a desire, if you will, to witness a death, and if you will, justice being delivered for the death of his brother. He seemed more detached, if you will, and philosophical -- your thoughts about his reaction and his thinking, if you know it.

MESERVE: He said he is not here for vengeance. He says he has forgiven John Muhammad, not just for John Muhammad's sake but for his own so he can continue his life and prosper. He said in part he was here to give support to other family members. They all developed a kinship during the trials of Mr. Muhammad and Lee Malvo. They haven't seen each other for several years.

They wanted to be here to support one another through what will be undoubtedly a very difficult time for them. Not just because they are watching a man die, something most of them have never done, but also because it is bringing up a lot of their memories of the loved ones that they lost during the sniper spree -- back to you, Lou.

DOBBS: Jeanne, thank you very much -- Jeanne Meserve, thank you. Well, this just in to CNN, a United Airlines pilot has been placed under arrest in London for being drunk shortly before leaving London's Heathrow Airport for a flight to Chicago -- Scotland Yard taking 51-year-old Erwin Vermont Washington (ph) of Lakewood, Colorado, into custody. His aircraft was already full of passengers. It was due to leave within just minutes when a coworker suspected that the pilot had been drinking. That flight was canceled. The passengers were put on other flights.

Up next, the United States, trillions of dollars in debt, a trillion dollar health care plan before Congress. How long and -- can this go on and how much more can we put up with? I'll be talking with a leading economic historian.

Also the city of San Francisco fighting to make it harder for police to report illegal immigrants, is that legal?

And should we now call the Fort Hood shooting massacre terrorism? That is the subject of our "Face Off" debate here tonight. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Welcome back. The U.S. military and many in the national media are reluctant to characterize last week's massacre at Ft. Hood as terrorism. This in spite of evidence that the suspected shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, had ties to terrorists. So who was responsible for the horrific massacre at Ft. Hood? Was it an act of terrorism at the hands of a terrorist? That's the subject of our face- off debate. We're joined by Phyllis Chesler. She's emerita professor at the City University of New York. She also writes for Pajamas Media, a conservative and libertarian web site. Great to have you with us. And John Nichols, Washington correspondent for the nation. Great to have you with us, John. Let's start --


DOBBS: Let's start with the president at Ft. Hood today. He alluded to the role, the possible role of religion in the murders of those 13 people.

OBAMA: It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know. No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts. No just and loving god sees that favorably.

DOBBS: Professor, do you think it is relevant that Hasan was Muslim and that his religion may have contributed to his motivation in killing those 13 people, wounding 29 others?

PHYLLIS CHESLER, EMERITA PROFESSOR-CUNY: I think Major Hasan is a radical jihadist, which is not the same as being a Muslim and not the same as being Islam is not Islamism and I work with Muslims who are feminists who are dissidents who are ex-Muslims. I'm not afraid of them. This concept of Islamophobia is a complete false context. DOBBS: Islamophobia in the context of a, being afraid of terrorist acts at the hands of a radial Islamist or being afraid of them in the sense that you're afraid of retribution for calling one who has identified himself as a Muslim a terrorist.

CHESLER: Everyone at Ft. Hood and Walter Reed understood this guy was way out of control, talked about killing infidels, beheading infidels, said that America was an evil empire, so to speak. There's lots of rapports coming in about this. People were in the Army were afraid to turn him in because it wouldn't be politically correct. They would be accused of being Islamophobic.

DOBBS: John, your thoughts?

NICHOLS: I think that if people, if we find out that people in the military were afraid to turn him in because they were fearful of being accused of being Islamophobic or anything else, there's a real problem there and the military has to get serious about telling people, look, if you think somebody is going to be violent, you have to address this. Let's go to the core question of whether we, where we draw these lines between a Muslim and a jihadist. What we know is at least 3,500, perhaps many more Muslims serve in the U.S. military, the overwhelming majority of them honorably and the U.S. military is glad to have them.

DOBBS: I don't think there should be any doubt about that. I also worry -- I would like to ask you both this question because it is interesting. The Bush administration back in the weeks and months immediately following the terrible tragedy of September 11th chose to call this a war on terror rather than a war on radical Islamists. Apparently with the view, the rather condescending view that the American public couldn't make the distinction between one who is Muslim and one who is a radical Islamist.

CHESLER: This is a very crucial distinction we must make. See, political correctness was also pulling the trigger together with Major Hasan. And the Army has got to become a politically incorrect free zone. They can't afford to be afraid to turn in jihadists because they're Muslims or they have a different skin color or because it's called Islamophobia. Since 2001, there are 4,349 separate acts of terror committed by Islamists against civilians around the world. I would say that we should be fearful. We should call it by its right name. The president today at the memorial service did not. He referred vaguely to the war.

DOBBS: This administration doesn't even refer to the word terror.

CHESLER: No Muslim was mentioned, no Islamist was mentioned, no jihad was mentioned.

DOBBS: At a memorial service I don't think one should be too critical of the president.

CHESLER: I think it would have given strength to the troops. Name who you're fighting. DOBBS: Your thoughts, John?

NICHOLS: I would tend to agree with you, Lou. I think the president's approach was the appropriate one in this setting. If he was going to address these issues, I don't think it wouldn't have been appropriate to say something that -- something of a variation of what the professor has said. There really is a distinction between a devout Muslim and a jihadist.

DOBBS: I resent --

NICHOLS: He's glad that military people get it.

DOBBS: I would say that most -- I just can't imagine anyone in the United States military who would not understand the distinction between a jihadist and a radical Islamist and Muslims. I think that is snobbery from elitists. It goes to the issue, it seems to me, of an orthodoxy, a political correctness that has infiltrated the U.S. Army. I'm going to be very specific here. We had the treat of listening to the chief of the staff, United States Army, talk about he didn't want to believe, he said they're not ready basically to accept that they missed anything with 13 people lying dead at Ft. Hood and 29 others wounded. Unwilling to call this terrorism. John, do you have any reticence in calling this terrorism?

NICHOLS: Well, let's first be clear that they missed something. There's no doubt of that. And something serious. As the evidence comes out, we have more and more that points to this as an act that would fit many people's definition of terrorism.

DOBBS: Timothy McVeigh was immediately regarded as a terrorist. What is the difference?

NICHOLS: Timothy McVeigh was tied to other people. He was part of something. We don't know yet if this Major Hasan was part of something.

DOBBS: He couldn't be a terrorist unless he was acting in a conspiracy? You make an important point. Are you saying a terrorist can't act alone?

NICHOLS: Yes. I don't think that -- well, let me finish and then of course.

DOBBS: Go ahead, John.


NICHOLS: I would say that I don't think that it helps us to assume that somebody who might have had severe mental problems and linked in with different groupings or different ideas on paper but not in reality is necessarily a terrorist. And this is where we need to --

DOBBS: Wait a minute. That's nice. Let's cut through, if you will, let me use an old word, pedagogy and get down to something. Are you saying that someone carrying a suicide vest for Hamas or Hezbollah or the Muslim brotherhood is not a terrorist because they happen to be retarded and be used by radical Islamists for a specific purpose? Even though the man is deeply troubled --

NICHOLS: I think you would define that person as a terrorist. What I'm saying is -- well, I don't think we know enough here. I really don't. And I believe that --

DOBBS: Whom do we offend by calling this an act of terrorism? And why would we be reticent to do so, either of you?

CHESLER: OK, first, mental illness did not shoot 13 American soldiers. He was a jihadist. It wasn't that he was mentally ill.

DOBBS: Well, he could be both.

CHESLER: Yes, but the point is he was energized by a jihadist era moving in the world. He was going to a mosque that two of the 9/11 hijackers attended at the same time, following the same imam who recently he contacted on the internet. Yes, he may not have been able to contact al Qaeda, which he presumably was trying to do. The point is Hitler was not in good mental health, either. That doesn't change the fact that he was capable of powerful evil.

DOBBS: So at the end of this, is it -- is there some reason, John, that we need to be so careful with our words, or is this a time for journalists and the national media, in fact, to be embracing street talk, using Anglo-Saxon words from time to time to describe what is happening, in this instance, 13 deaths on the largest Army post in this country?

NICHOLS: I like straight talk, and I do agree with you that there's tragedy here, horror. And if it is terrorism, let's define it as such without any caution. Remember, if we're dealing with the issue of terrorism, this is a big deal. It's something we should take seriously enough to get it right and to be accurate. First off, I would like to see the U.S. government try and come up with a clear definition of terrorism. Something they still haven't done.

DOBBS: All right, John Nichols, we thank you very much. Phyllis Chesler, thank you for being with us. We appreciate it both of you.

Up next, your move to liberalize, if you can imagine such a thing, San Francisco's sanctuary city. It could shield young illegal immigrants suspected of crimes from being turned over to federal authorities. They're meeting with strong, stiff resistance. We'll tell you about that.

And lessons learned from this recession. Will the lessons do anything to speed our economic recovery? I'll be talking with historian and author Niall Ferguson here, next.


DOBBS: A change in San Francisco's sanctuary policies for illegal immigrants could be setting up for a showdown with the federal government. Mayor Gavin Newsom wants the city to continue to report juveniles illegal immigrants suspected of crimes to U.S. immigration officials, but the board of supervisors is fighting the mayor, trying to protect juvenile felony suspects from being reported to the feds. Casey Wian with our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-two-year-old Salvadoren Edwin Ramos, an illegal immigrant, is awaiting trial on murder charges for a triple homicide in San Francisco last year. Ramos' attorney denies he was the gunman. Danielle Bologna, the widow and mother of the three victims blames San Francisco's illegal immigrant sanctuary policy for their deaths. When Ramos was still a juvenile, he was convicted of two other felonies, yet he was able to remain in the United States because he was protected from deportation. San Francisco law prevented police from reporting him to immigration and customs enforcement or I.C.E. The Ramos case and dozens of other involving juvenile offenders who are illegal immigrants prompted Mayor Gavin Newsom to order San Francisco police to report juveniles, even those only suspected of felonies, to federal immigration authorities.

MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM, SAN FRANCISCO: This is about people committing crimes and putting their lives of San Franciscans at risk.

WIAN: But the city's board of supervisors voting to overturn that policy and only allow convicted felons to be reported to I.C.E.

DAVID CAMPOS, SAN FRANCISCO SUPERVISOR: The notion that you are innocent until proven guilty so this is about giving children their day in court.

DIANA OLIVIA, IMMIGRANTS RIGHTS ACTIVIST: It is really, really important to be able to protect children and not to break up families here in San Francisco.

WIAN: Newsom vetoed the board's decision, and today, supervisors voted to override the veto. That sets up a showdown with federal authorities, including San Francisco's U.S. attorney.

JOSEPH RUSSONIELLO, U.S. ATTORNEY, SAN FRANCISCO: The idea that only people who are convicted of felonies in the juvenile system are the ones who are going to be referred, that makes no sense. For all intents and purposes, no one would ever be referred to us.

WIAN: Newsom, a longtime supporter of policies protecting illegal immigrants from deportation says he will disregard the board's action because it violates federal law.

NATHAN BALLARD, SPOKESMAN, SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR'S OFFICE: The sanctuary city policy was never supposed to be a shield for illegal behavior.

WIAN: San Francisco city attorney warns that refusing to report juvenile suspects to I.C.E. poses a threat to the sanctuary policy and could expose city officials to prosecution for harboring illegal immigrants. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WIAN: That's likely a theoretical argument. Dozens of cities have sanctuary policies and the justice department says it's aware of no cases where cities or their officials have been prosecuted for failing to cooperate with I.C.E. -- Lou?

DOBBS: Gavin Newsom, he's now the champion of prosecuting criminal illegal aliens and immigrants. What is that about? Is he running for governor or something?

WIAN: Not anymore. He pulled out of the governor's race. He took a lot of political heat for the sanctuary policy in San Francisco last year, especially after it was revealed that the suspected murderer and many other felons got away with their crimes because of San Francisco's policy. He did at least toughen it somewhat.

DOBBS: One would think that would open up the city of San Francisco, given the family of the murder victims, to immense liability and a civil lawsuit.

WIAN: I wouldn't be surprised if you see the family filing a civil lawsuit after this criminal case is adjudicated.

DOBBS: All right. Casey, thanks so much, appreciate it.

Up next, I'll be talking with the author of "The Acquiescent of Money." Is this economic recovery, is it really underway? Is it strong enough to sustain it? We'll find out. Niall Ferguson will be talking about the president's foreign policy, specifically a new strategy for Afghanistan.

We're coming right back.


DOBBS: The United States appears to be a debtor nation in perpetuity. The federal government, in fact, has also spent more than a billion -- trillion and a half dollars trying to shore up the economy. A trillion and half dollar federal budget deficit, trillions more on the way should we pass something called health care reform. And another trillion on the way for a host of other things. Joining me now, one of country's leading economic bankers, historians, professor at Harvard University, Niall Ferguson.

Niall, great to have you with us.


DOBBS: As you look at what's happening in this country, first we cheer the 3.5 percent GDP growth in the third quarter as reported by the commerce department and look at 35 million people under or unemployed in this country. Where are we headed?

FERGUSON: I think we are headed for a very, very slow extrication from a very, very deep hole. I don't expect the next quarter to be as good as that. And let's face it, good is a relative concept. Most of that 3.5 percent came from programs clash for clunkers that are basically gone. You know the U.S. will not grow rapidly. Not this year, not next year, not the year after that. The only thing that will grow Lou is the debt because right now the only solution to the problem the administration has is, as you said yourself, trillions upon trillions, $9 trillion of new federal debt. You will double the federal debt inside the decade. I don't think that's a credible strategy.

DOBBS: Not a credible strategy and one that does not at least at this point relate in any way to bringing fiscal responsibility to the federal government. We have $60 trillion in unfunded mandates. 12 trillion, soon to be $13 trillion in a national debt, 7 trillion external trade debt. As I mentioned almost a -- a trillion and a half in the federal budget deficit. That used to be the budget, not the deficit. The dollar at a 15-month low now against the Euro and seemingly without a floor. Where are we headed and what will -- first, what will energize the economy and what will sustain growth in America if we are not to build and manufacture products in this country?

FERGUSON: I think it is urgent the administration comes up with a credible plan forgetting the U.S. back on to the track of fiscal stability. Because you can carry on this way, you are headed for Latin American status with all due respect to our friends in the south. It is a higher strategy. International reserve currency status is not guaranteed. That helps the U.S. to borrow from abroad. Half the federal debt is in foreign hands and as you said, a big chunk of that is with the People's Republic of China. I don't think we can rely on foreigners to carry on financing our debt at these interest rates with a currency that's on the slide. The nightmare scenario is this big pile of debt ultimately starts costing us more in interest payments. If that happens, then the U.S. economy is in a vice-like grip rising with interest rates could crush us. That's the nightmare scenario. This recovery could peter out early next year. Then the administration has a problem because it does not have an answer beyond more debt.

DOBBS: It may be a problem for the administration. It would be a nightmare for the American people because as we look at what will drive this economy, manufacturing has dwindled in terms of the employment, products we are no longer export-driven economy. Our trade debt continues to mount. We don't have sharp distinct leadership from our CEOs and business community. And there's only a muted voice from academia itself leaving us government and that means politicians from either party.

FERGUSON: Yes, the power of the U.S. Congress, Democratic Party in Congress, is key part of the land at this point. That does not inspire me with much confidence. You know, to give American business and especially small business its due, this is the best country in the world for technological innovation and turning new ideas into profitable companies. The key is not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. If we tax small businesses and if we discriminate in favor of too big to fail banks and against the small banks that finance small business, then we will stay in this hole. I think -- DOBBS: By the way, I should interject, if I may. All of which is what we are doing now with these policies out of Washington, D.C.

FERGUSON: That is the problem. We are steering the wrong direction to get ourselves out of these difficulties. I think that the core of the U.S. economy is still healthy and this is a dynamic bit of people and businesses are the best in the world. I think that the policy mix that we have excessive debt to cure a problem of excessive debt, that makes ultimately it will end up with tax burdens for precisely the sections of the economy that can get us out of these difficulties.

DOBBS: Is it your sense that this administration will press with a hard left turn in its domestic policies and its economic policies, press forward a broader taxation?

FERGUSON: I think that's going to have to be a new tax. Otherwise, the fiscal position of the U.S. is going to be unsustainable. There may be a dollar crisis. I think it won't be long before we are hearing talk about value added tax. I think there's no way they can increase income tax and survive politically. Look out for the next big tax. It is pretty much baked in the cake now. Otherwise we are a Latin America economy.

DOBBS: And with a value added tax we would be so European.


DOBBS: European is still better than Latin America --

FERGUSON: If I had to choose between France and Argentina, I would choose France.

DOBBS: You've got it. All right. Niall Ferguson, thanks for being with us. Give me one second and I will plug your book which is "The Assent Of Money." Now out in paperback, Niall Ferguson's latest bestseller. Pick it up at a bookstore near you or at any number of digital outlets including of course I'm throw plugging that book for one moment.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown -- Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Lou. When we come up at the top of the hour, a United Airlines pilot is yanked out of the cockpit. This was just before takeoff. Allegedly from being drunk. We are just getting in the details now. We are going to have the full story coming up in just a moment.

Also, the last hours of condemned D.C. sniper, his attorney just told reporters John Allen Muhammad has no remorse.

Plus tonight's news maker, Martina Navratilova. She's going to be here live to Andre Agassi's revelations about his crystal meth use -- Lou?

DOBBS: All right. Campbell, thank you very much. Coming up next here, some of your thoughts. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Time for one final e-mail. Bob in Pennsylvania said: "Lou, there's a billboard here in Pennsylvania that reads: Congress is like a woodpecker with rubber lips -- useless." Thanks for sending that thought along. We appreciate all of your thoughts. Send them to us at Each of you whose email is read here receives a copy of my book, "Exporting America" and you receive brand-new independent American t-shirt. Be the first in your neighborhood with one.

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Thanks for being with us here tonight. Join us tomorrow.

For all of us, good night from New York. Next, Campbell Brown.