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Shocking New Admissions From Confessed al Qaeda Terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui; Border Battle

Aired March 27, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, it's 5:00 p.m. in Alexandria, Virginia. Shocking new admissions from confessed al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. He tells a jury what he knew about the 9/11 plot and about his plans for an attack on the White House that day.

It's 1:00 a.m. in Iraq. An area hailed by President Bush as a symbol of hope suffers a very bloody attack as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gives out low grades in the war on terrorism.

And across America, the fight over illegal immigration moves into the streets as Republican lawmakers face a bitter family feud.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, an admitted al Qaeda member confesses his grisly goal, kill Americans. Zacarias Moussaoui says he waited four years to tell his story. And today, when he took the stand, his chilling words stunned trial watchers into silence.

Let's get details from our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's outside of the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was truly incredible. Moussaoui told jurors very calmly that he rejoiced after he heard about the September 11 attacks, and he laid out a plan that he said where he was supposed to pilot a plane into the White House on that very day.


ARENA (voice over): In a word, Zacarias Moussaoui was unrepentant. He said he rejoiced over the 9/11 attacks and considers all Americans the enemy.

As a stunned courtroom listened to his testimony, Moussaoui admitted for the first time that he knew about al Qaeda's plot to hijack planes and turn them into weapons aimed at the World Trade Center, saying, "I had knowledge that the two towers would be hit, but I did not have the details."

He says he was supposed to pilot a fifth plane on that fateful day and fly it into the White House. And he named infamous shoe bomber Richard Reid as one of his team members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think his testimony today was suicide on the witness stand. Here, the prosecutors had a very uphill battle in getting the death penalty. And I think that Zacarias Moussaoui has sealed his own fate by testifying today.

ARENA: There were no outbursts, no dramatic speeches. Moussaoui spoke in moderate, soft tones. Defense attorneys did everything they could to keep him off that stand, even suggesting that because he didn't recognize the authority of the court, he would not tell the truth. But the judge let Moussaoui have his say.


ARENA: Now, Wolf, Moussaoui's statements today contradict what he said in the past about being meant for a later follow-on attack. And, in fact, jurors heard from interrogation notes.

They heard from al Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who said that Moussaoui was, indeed, on the back burner, that he was meant possibly for a follow-on attack, but the targets weren't even picked. It was in the very early stages, and that he had such a problematic personality, that he instructed Ramzi bin al-Shibh to send him money and just cut him off.

And the defense did their best to try to undo some damage by getting Moussaoui to admit that he never had any contact with Richard Reid while he was in the United States or any other member of this alleged team while he was here, that he had no contact with any of the September 11 hijackers and never participated in any dry runs.

So the question is, was he supposed to be part of the September 11 plot like he said today, or should we buy his last statement that he was meant for a follow-on attack? It's for the jury to decide -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Kelli Arena doing some excellent reporting for us from outside the courthouse in Alexandria.

Let's get some more, though, on these stunning statements in the Moussaoui trial. We're joined by our CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen.

Does it pass the smell test, the assertions that Moussaoui was making today?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, I think it's very puzzling. I mean, if he's claiming that he was going to attack the White House on September 11 with Richard Reid, Richard Reid, on September 11, was in Europe. How were they planning to hijack a plane together on September 11? It doesn't make any sense at all.

Now, Moussaoui and Reid had had contacts before, perhaps at a London mosque they both attended, a fairly militant mosque. But, you know, to me it's very puzzling.

BLITZER: I think what he was suggesting was that since he was arrested in August and he was released when he first came to the United States, that there would be a fifth plane that would be hijacked, and he and Richard Reid would be part of that operation, which clearly fell apart. And that that plane was destined for the White House.

BERGEN: I'm also skeptical of that in general. I mean, the White House from the air is a very, very small building, whereas Capitol Hill is a very large building. And we know from Ramzi bin al- Shibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed when they were interviewed by Al- Jazeera about a year after 9/11, that they basically dismissed the White House as too difficult a target.

You may remember, Wolf, a small plane flying into the White House in the mid-'90s. Well, a small plane could do it, but not a jumbo jet.

And so, the al Qaeda central people had already dismissed the White House as a target that was too hard and selected Capitol Hill, which is, after all, on a hill, a very big building, as the fourth target. And that was, of course, where Flight 93 was going before it crashed in Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: Moussaoui, a French citizen, Richard Reid, a British citizen, but you're saying that they did have a connection. Their paths had crossed earlier in Europe. But had they also crossed at some training camps in Afghanistan?

BERGEN: I don't believe so. I mean, I think that they were -- certainly there was a radical mosque in London which they both attended. It makes sense that they might have encountered each other, but I just -- this doesn't -- the testimony today doesn't make a lot of sense from a kind of commonsensical point of view.

BLITZER : Maybe he's just trying to boast, or whatever, for whatever reason going through his twisted mind. Thanks very much for that.

Our CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen.

Other news we're following across the country today, tens of thousands marching once again for immigrant rights and against the congressional crackdown on illegals. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would make illegal immigration a felony. It requires employers to verify worker status and sets fines for hiring illegals. It calls for fences along the U.S.-Mexican border and rejects the idea of a guest worker program here in the United States.

The Senate Judiciary Committee faces a midnight deadline to come up with a compromise. President Bush is caught right in the middle. His fellow Republicans fight was is being described as a family feud.

CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by, but Peter Viles is in Los Angeles. Let's go there first with the latest -- Peter.

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the fourth day in a row of protests here in Los Angeles against that House-passed bill. It started off somewhat peacefully this morning with a couple of thousand high school students boycotting class. That number grew this afternoon to 14,000 high school students boycotting class in Los Angeles and taking to the streets in sort of random marches.

And then in the last 20 minutes, something strange and potentially dangerous happened. About 300 of those students, joined by some adults, marched on a freeway, the 110 freeway near downtown Los Angeles. Now, first of all, this is dangerous. Second of all, in this city, it is a sure way to lose an argument, to close down a freeway.

The police get a lot of grief anytime they do this for good reason. But these are high school students, about 20 minutes ago, who shut down some of the lanes of the 110 freeway.

It's only 2:00 out here, not yet rush hour. But a protest that I can guarantee you by tonight is going to be extremely unpopular in large portions of Los Angeles because they shut down a freeway in L.A. That's a no-no -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And is it still shut down, as far as we know, or is it reopened?

VILES: Well, CHP, the California Highway Patrol, is telling us that they have reopened it, but we haven't been able to confirm that from helicopter shots that we were getting earlier that clearly showed these kids walking in the middle of the freeway and shutting down two and three lanes of the 110 freeway near downtown Los Angeles, which is a road that's congested to begin with. If you shut it down in rush hour, you're going to have a lot of angry Angelinos.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Peter Viles in Los Angeles for us.

VILES: Sure.

BLITZER: Now, let's go to the White House right now. Our Suzanne Malveaux is standing by with the president. He spoke out forcefully on this issue today -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, of course what happens in the next 24 to 48 hours is really critically important because it could really impact what the Congress looks like in November, even, perhaps, who is going to sit in the White House 2008.

Republican strategists who I've spoken to say that this really is a very important test, a test of leadership for the president and clout. His critics argue that he's lost both, specifically the Hispanic community saying that today.




MALVEAUX (voice over): Veronica Pacheco, mother, caterer, now U.S. citizen.

VERONICA PACHECO, NEW AMERICAN CITIZEN: And my mom came to the United States 20 years ago. And she came with one dream, seeing us all together in the United States.

MALVEAUX: A dream that's now come true, with the president of the United States telling her story.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Veronica first came to the United States from Bolivia 15 years ago.

MALVEAUX: Now she and her mother cater special events at the White House. Today, Veronica and several dozen other immigrants were used as a backdrop for President Bush's push for Congress to support his controversial guest worker program, a program which would allow illegal immigrants to temporarily work in jobs Americans refuse.

BUSH: Nobody benefits when the illegal immigrants live in the shadows of society.

MALVEAUX: But facing strong opposition to the program from his own party, the president has recently changed tactics, putting more emphasis on measures aimed at beefing up border security. But some Republican proposals have outraged a key voting bloc Mr. Bush has been porting, Hispanics.

BUSH: Vamos a ganar en Noviembre.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush recaptured the White House in 2004 with a 25 percent increase in the Latino vote.

RON BROWNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: What many Republicans fear is that if the party consolidates around an enforcement-only approach that is seen as harsh, it will undo the gains that he has made in the last few years.

MALVEAUX: Particularly in key battleground States where Hispanics have become a strong political force, like Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Texas and California.

For Veronica the immigration debate is very personal.

PACHECO: Because my mom came many years ago. And I know she was illegal at the beginning.

MALVEAUX: And now with citizenship Veronica will become a voter. But she is uncertain her loyalties lie with the Republicans.

PACHECO: I plan to vote, but I don't follow politics yet. You know, I have to learn more and see which is going to be my party.


MALVEAUX: Well, Wolf, of course President Bush certainly hopes that it will be the Republican Party, but there is a lesson here GOP strategists point to. They say that California race for the governor, Pete Wilson in 1994, back then he went up against Proposition 187, denying services to illegal immigrants. Ultimately, he did win that re-election, but the Republican Party definitely suffered for it. It was crippled as a result -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that.

Suzanne Malveaux at the White House.

Let's go to New York once again. Jack standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's like choosing the lesser of two evils this election year, Democrats or Republicans. And when it comes to the Republicans, a lot of them broke from President Bush on the Dubai ports deal. And now the issue of illegal aliens is threatening to send another crack through the GOP.

Then there are the Democrats. That's the party in search of a clue. Although Americans aren't happy with the way the Republicans are running the country, Democratic strategists say they haven't yet sold the voters on their party either.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who engineered that drive to take over the Congress in 1994 by the Republicans -- remember the "Contract with America" -- has told "TIME" magazine that the Republicans have so bungled the job of governing, the best campaign slogan for the Democrats should be "Had enough?"

So here's the question this hour: What's a good campaign slogan for the Democrats and/or the Republicans?

You can e-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This will be excellent. Thanks very much, Jack, for that.

Up ahead, the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, says the stories out of Iraq are too negative. But this comes amid regular reports of chaos and carnage, including today's violence in one area President Bush cites as a success story.

And how far was President Bush willing to go to go to war in Iraq? There are explosive new allegations in a startling document.

And he's facing death for converting from Islam to Christianity. Now there's a new plea in the case of the Afghan man condemned by Muslims for his religious beliefs.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: As violence raged in Iraq today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complained not enough good news is getting out.

Let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today Defense Secretary Rumsfeld labeled the al Qaeda terrorist network and other Islamic extremists "one of the most brutal enemies the United States has ever faced." That on a day when scores of Iraqis were dying again in Iraq.


MCINTYRE (voice over): Iraq's fledgling security forces continue to be the prime target of insurgents intent on fanning the flames of civil war. In the latest suicide bombing, 40 Iraqis were killed, at least 30 others wounded at an army recruiting station not far from the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar, just cited by President Bush as an example of how insurgents are losing. It's just the worst of a half- dozen attacks that have killed more than 80 people in less than 24 hours in Iraq.

Half a world away at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argues again that progress in Iraq is much greater than the daily attacks indicate and that the U.S. simply needs to do a better job of getting the good news out.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If I were grading, I would say we probably deserve a D or a D-plus as a country as to how well we're doing in the battle of ideas that's taking place in the world today.

MCINTYRE: Rumsfeld said that frustration is what motivated some in the U.S. military to pay for placement of upbeat stories in the Iraqi media. Stories which he insists were accurate but which nevertheless may have gone too far.

RUMSFELD: But it's critically important that each of you have the ability to communicate and to deal with the press and to understand where the red lines are and where the lanes are that we have to stay in, because in our society, we have to find them.


MCINTYRE: On his way to the Army War College today, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld stopped at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the site where Flight 93 crashed on September 11. It was the first time Rumsfeld had visited that site. And he told the audience at the war college that the effort now in Iraq and elsewhere is an effort to make sure those kinds of attacks don't happen again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rumsfeld, in that clip you just ran, Jamie, gave -- he said the country a D or D-plus for communicating the good story, which he thinks the country, in his words, are not doing. But really, he's blaming the Bush administration, which has been in office for more than five years now, including himself and the DOD, the Department of Defense, that deserves a D or a D-plus because they've had an opportunity since 9/11 to do a better job communicating.

MCINTYRE: Well, he's also, I think, blaming the difficulties that a free society has and the rules that they operate under, as opposed to the freedom that the terrorists have in giving out misinformation. And he was talking there, again, about the frustration they have about essentially playing by the rules, trying to make sure that what they say is accurate, that they are not falling into the realm of just propaganda. And that essentially makes it much harder for them to compete with what they see as the effectiveness of the terrorists in grabbing headlines with daily bombings.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much.

Just last week, President Bush called Tal Afar a free city that gives reason for hope and said terrorists have been killed, captured or driven out during last year's U.S. military offensive. The Bush administration has challenged reporters to get out to see what's going on.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, has done just that. He has a reality check now from Baghdad -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's been a lot of criticism recently about journalists not covering the good news stories, if you will. We were able to get out and see what many people might consider one of these good news stories, if you will.



ROBERTSON (voice over): A whirlwind trip out of the super-secure Green Zone. We tag along as U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is getting some time out of his office.

KHALILZAD: One of the nicer things to do.

ROBERTSON: He's come to open a recently renovated youth club, renovations that cost U.S. taxpayers almost $500,000. According to officials here, this is a good news story. Iraqi officials have plans for three sports stadiums that will cost between $300 million to $400 million each.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I spoke to Donald Rumsfeld's deputy to fund this project. He promised to come back and discuss the issue. But until now, nothing. ROBERTSON: In his speech, the ambassador emphasizes the positive, sport, to keep the bad, terrorism, at bay. A welcome break from all the bad news he normally has to deal with.

KHALILZAD: This is a good event. It's been a good day to do something for the youth of Iraq.

Of course, the attention is always on the struggle against the terrorists and the insurgents and the sectarian conflict and the formation of government. Oh, I spend most of my time doing that.

ROBERTSON: A few days ago, President Bush cited U.S. efforts in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar as an example of successful progress.

BUSH: The military's success against the terrorists helped give the citizens of Tal Afar security, and this allowed them to vote in the elections and begin to rebuild their city.

ROBERTSON: Journalists here asked to see and were taken on a tour of the city.

COL. SEAN MACFARLAND, U.S. ARMY: When the U.S. forces came in and cleared al Qaeda out of the city and began to restore basic services, people viewed us as the solution to their problems.

ROBERTSON: At a U.S. base, the newly-appointed city mayor, chosen to replace the last one, apparently loyal to the insurgents, explained his gratitude to the Americans.

MAYOR NAJEM ABDULLAH, TAL AFAR, IRAQ (through translator): Terrorists were everywhere in the city. People were prisoners in their own houses, and death was waiting for them until the U.S. forces arrived.

ROBERTSON: A drive through the city reveals the main market shuttered and closed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have to worry about snipers or anything like that.

ROBERTSON: The journalists are taken to a small market in a Shia neighborhood in the now ethnically-divided town.

"The Shiites are forced to live here without doctors," he complains. "Is this the security the U.S. forces brought us? Where is the rebuilding they promised? Look at our streets."

The mayor tries to interrupt him. "Why can I not speak? I'm a citizen. I have the right to speak," he says.

Then the crowd joins in, angrily shouting, "This is not security or stability!" We're told to stop filming.

Back at the youth club, anger is being channeled, not turned on the U.S. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTSON: And that's very typical of the situation here. When you look closely at any event here, you will always find issues that will give you cause for concern in the longer run -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson reporting for us.

And earlier today, just outside Tal Afar, at least 30 people were killed, recruits for the Iraqi military. A suicide car bomber drove right in, at least another 30 to 60 people badly injured as well just outside that area that President Bush cited last week as a good story coming out of Iraq.

Coming up, he could face death for converting from Islam to Christianity. Now new developments in the case attracting international attention.

And coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, we'll have more of my interview yesterday with the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. We'll give you a little extra of what she had to say in case you missed it.



BLITZER: Let's check in with our Zain Verjee. She's joining us from the CNN Center with some other stories making news.

Hi, Zain.


An Afghan man facing a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity from Islam is requesting asylum. A United Nations representative to Afghanistan says Abdul Rahman is seeking a safe haven outside his country.

Rahman reportedly converted from Islam 16 years ago, but the information only recently came into light in a custody battle. Under Islamic law, renouncing Islam is punishable by death.

British and U.S. officials are announcing a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. They're scheduled for Thursday in Berlin with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany taking part. The talks are essentially aimed at jump-starting stalled efforts to drop the Security Council's statement on Iran's nuclear ambitions that country insists are peaceful.

A former top aide to Saddam Hussein is reportedly calling on Arab leaders to support the Sunni-backed insurgency in Iraq. Al-Jazeera had a tape in which it says it was made by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, apparently addressing the Arab League summit. The voice on the tape calls the Sunni insurgency, "The sole legitimate representative of the Iraqi people" -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thanks very much, Zain, for that.

Zain Verjee reporting.

Coming up, partners in planning, partners in war. A revealing secret memo details a private meeting between President Bush and the British prime minister, Tony Blair. And it suggests just how far President Bush was willing to go to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

And in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, our interview with Condoleezza Rice. We'll ask the secretary of state what she thinks about the war on terror and more.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: More now on the immigration debate taking center stage on Capitol Hill this week. It's creating a family feud of sorts among Republicans torn between competing proposals.

Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn is a member of the Judiciary Committee. He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, but he's also co-sponsoring a bill that would provide temporary work permits for up to five years.

Senator Cornyn joins us now live from Capitol Hill.

Thanks, Senator, very much for joining us.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, some of your fellow Republicans, especially in the House, believe this guest-worker program that you support, that the president supports, is, in effect, a form of amnesty; you're going to reward these 10 million or 12 million illegal immigrants with -- with breaking the rules in order to get in. Now they're going to be rewarded with jobs.

CORNYN: Well, the -- the problem we have, Wolf, is, number one, we have 10 million or 12 million people who are here who violated our immigration laws to come here. And we would not provide a pathway to citizenship for them without returning to their country of origin and then reentering legally.

But a temporary-worker program is not, under anybody's definition, certainly not mine, an amnesty. It would create a flow of circular migration into the country for those who qualify and who fill needed jobs that Americans won't fill, but then return to their country of origin with the savings and skills that they have acquired in the United States, filling an important void in our work force needs here that can't be filled by Americans willing to do some of those jobs.

BLITZER: And what would happen to their children who are born here in this country, and are, as a result, American citizens? CORNYN: Well, that's a -- a big challenge. I personally believe that it would require a constitutional amendment to change that.

In 1982, the Supreme Court essentially said you have to treat children born here all equally. And frankly, I think that's -- that's fixing the problem on the wrong end. I don't favor having children born here left dependent and uneducated.

I would rather have them educated and productive. But we need to fix the issue on the front end by border security. We need to fix it at the workplace by making sure that only qualified workers can work in the United States. And, then, we also need to enlist the help of local and state law enforcement to back up our law enforcement efforts to enforce our laws.

BLITZER: Here's what Congressman Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado, said about you.

He said: "If Senator Cornyn wants to stay consistent on immigration, he will have to vote against Senator Specter's bill. Every Republican in the Texas delegation voted for the House's get- tough bill. If Cornyn votes for amnesty or more foreign workers, he will be out of step with his party and his state."

What's your response?

CORNYN: Well, I have -- I think I have a better idea of what the people of my state want, rather than a congressman from Colorado.

I have talked to a lot of them. A third of my constituents are Hispanics. And they don't want amnesty, because they believe that those who have played by the rules, who have come to the country legally, shouldn't have to compete with workers who have violated our immigration laws by pressing their wages down or competing for those jobs.

I feel very comfortable with where I am on this issue. It's -- I'm trying to solve a problem, which is one that has existed for many years. And I think, rather than sort of pointing the finger of blame and polarizing people, I think we ought to try to find ways to come together to try to propose solutions that -- that will actually work.

BLITZER: The House legislation that passed would regard the illegal immigrants, 10 million, 12 million, whatever number they are, as felons. Would you support that?

CORNYN: I do not.

Right now, people who violate the immigration laws are guilty of a misdemeanor. And I -- I think it's a mistake to try to be unduly harsh or punitive here. We all understand, at a very human level, why it is people come to this country. It's because, frequently, they don't have any hope or opportunity where they live, and they want to provide for their families.

And who among us wouldn't do whatever it took to come here? But the fact is, as well, is that we can't accept everybody from all over the world who wants to come to the United States in violation of our laws. We have to have some controls. And, in the post-9/11 world, we know that the same way that workers and others can come here can be exploited by criminals, including terrorists.

So, this is simply an imperative we have got to deal with. And I believe we can do it in a fair and balanced way, but a way which respects our heritage as a nation of immigrants, and, also, our heritage as a nation that believes in the rule of law.

BLITZER: The Republican-sponsored legislation in the House also calls for spending billions of dollars to build a wall, or a fence, along the border between the United States and Mexico. Do you support that?

CORNYN: Well, I don't believe building a physical barrier along our entire southern border is the solution. Number one, it's -- cost a lot of money, and it doesn't account for people who will tunnel under that wall or who will go over the top of it.

What I favor is a doubling in the number of Border Patrol and a creation of what I would call a virtual wall, that is, using technology to be able to effect ground sensors on the ground, unmanned aerial vehicles in the air, to be able to see people coming a long way off, and, then, to stop them.

But, ultimately, our -- our goal has to be deterrence, discouraging people from coming across by showing them that they're going to be unsuccessful, and that they should only enter our country through legal channels.

BLITZER: Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, underscoring the divisions within the Republican Party up on Capitol Hill on this sensitive issue -- Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

CORNYN: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks a lot.

BLITZER: The immigration issue also heating up on the Internet, with activists mobilizing online.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we're seeing some incredible photographs, as some people first document what is going on offline via the Internet -- these taken by a guy named Dave Bullock in downtown Los Angeles from some of the protests over the weekend. The name of his blog is

But there is actually mobilization and action taking place online. The United Farm Workers tell us, the Internet is the most important tool for them. They're encouraging people to call the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying they're hearing enough anti- immigration voices. They need to hear some pro-immigration voices there as well. On the same side of the issues, the -- they're a national online organization of progressive Latinos. They have been organizing offline. They're working online. Contact your senator.

The same on the other side of the debate -- this is NumbersUSA. They boast an e-mail list of one million members. They say they have added some 13,000 new members over the last few weeks. And then there's also FAIR USA (sic). They, too, are using e-mail to contact legislators -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jacki.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on today?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you very much.

Coming up at 6:00 here on -- 6:00 Eastern -- here on CNN, after years of ignoring our illegal alien crisis in this country, the Senate is beginning -- beginning -- to deal with legislation, and, tomorrow, will begin a historic debate over immigration reform and border security. We will be live at the Senate tonight, where a showdown on immigration reform is now under way.

We will also be live in Los Angeles where thousands of protesters today staged new demonstrations, clogging freeways, all supporting something called illegal alien rights.

And, tonight, my special guest is Congressman James Sensenbrenner. It is his legislation that has -- ostensibly, at least -- sparked protests around the country. We will be talking about immigration reform and the critical importance of border security.

All of that -- plus, we will have the latest on the Bush administration's apparent attempts to outsource more of this nation's security.

We hope you will be with us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: And we're going to see you back in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Lou.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: You are going to be on with Senator -- or with Governor, that is, Bill Richardson, Democrat of New Mexico -- the two of you debating this entire issue, borders, immigration. We will look forward to seeing you during our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Lou.

DOBBS: Look forward to it, Wolf.


DOBBS: Thank you.

BLITZER: And this note to our viewers: You are going to want to catch "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" this Wednesday, for sure. He will be broadcasting live from Cancun, Mexico, where President Bush will be talking immigration, trade, other issues with the Mexican and Canadian leaders -- Lou Dobbs, live from Cancun, Mexico, just two days from now.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, ever go online to get a date? There are plenty of matchmaking services out there that promise love, but what happens if you can't even post your personal? One guy is suing. We are going to tell you his story.

And I can't wait to find out what you think are good campaign slogans for Republicans and Democrats this year -- Jack Cafferty sorting through your e-mail. We will have the best a little bit later -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In the weeks before the United States invaded Iraq, did President Bush look for ways to make sure that war was a certainty? There are some stunning new allegations including in a secret memo that has just been circulated.

Let's turn to our national security correspondent, David Ensor -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the secret memo was written by now British Ambassador in Washington Sir David Manning. And he describes the closed-door meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, less than two months before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saddam Hussein is not disarming. He is a danger to the world.


ENSOR (voice-over): The memo describes the two men talking privately on that day, as if they assumed war was inevitable, according to "The New York Times," and were looking for ways to provoke it.

PHILIPPE SANDS, AUTHOR, "LAWLESS WORLD: AMERICA AND THE MAKING AND BREAKING OF GLOBAL RULES FROM FDR'S ATLANTIC CHARTER TO GEORGE W. BUSH'S ILLEGAL WAR": One of the provocations that was raised by the U.S. president was the idea he put to the prime minister of taking U.S. spy planes, American spy planes, painting them in United Nations colors, putting them in the air above Iraq, and, when Saddam Hussein shot at them, he would bring himself into material breach of various U.N. resolutions, so as to justify the use of force.

ENSOR: British lawyer Philippe Sands wrote about the memo in his book "Lawless World," but British law makes it a crime to directly quote secret documents. "The New York Times," however, quotes from the memo, and says the two leaders even discussed the possibility Saddam Hussein might be assassinated.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Did the president really contemplate that as an option, since it would be breaking...


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was a meeting that took place back in January of 2003. Even if I knew exactly what was said in that meeting, I wouldn't get into discussing private conversations between world leaders.

SANDS: I'm not sure from the material that I have had sight of that it was necessarily a question of the United States or the United Kingdom assassinating, or a mere expression of the hope that he might be assassinated. But the topic of assassination certainly came up.

ENSOR: "The New York Times" quotes Manning writing, Mr. Bush predicted that, in post-war Iraq, it was -- quote -- "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups," and that Mr. Blair agreed.


ENSOR: U.S. and British officials declined to confirm the memo's contents. But one knowledgeable source noted that there have been no denials. If they could deny it, he said, they would -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David, thanks very much.

On an exceptionally bloody day in Iraq, the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is suggesting, the United States is losing the battle for hearts and minds in its worldwide fight against terrorism.

Joining us now, a key member of the CNN Security Council, our world -- world affairs analyst, former Defense Secretary William Cohen. He's chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group, here in Washington.

Mr. Secretary, listen to what the defense secretary said earlier today. Listen to this.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If I were grading, I would say we probably deserve a D or a D-plus, as a country, as to how well we're doing in -- in the battle of ideas that's taking place in the world today.

What -- what -- and -- and I'm not going to suggest that it's easy. But we have not found the formula, as a country.


BLITZER: Isn't he admitting a failure apart -- on the part of this administration, this Department of Defense, that, five-years-plus in -- in office, they have failed, in effect -- well, they have gotten a D-plus -- in communicating the American message to the world?

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, he said, we're losing in the battle for the hearts and minds throughout the world.

And I would take issue with that. I think that we're winning the battle of the hearts and minds. If you look at what is taking place in the Gulf states -- we have talked about Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar, those countries are actually moving in the direction of more and more freedom, more democracy, you know, on an evolutionary basis.

If you look at what's taking place in Europe, with the spread of NATO, we're winning the battle for people who want to be free and promote Democratic capitalism.

The problem is in Iraq itself. And it's very hard to win hearts and minds when 100 people, or 200 people a week, are being blown up.

BLITZER: But I think what he was complaining about was, on the specific policy of the United States in Iraq, the war on terror, preemptive strikes, that so many people around the world hate this policy, and -- and his government, the Bush administration, has been unsuccessful in convincing them that this policy is just.

COHEN: Well, it's always difficult, when you're engaged in a war, to present a positive side of that, when it's going on for such a long time.

I mean, I find it difficult to watch the news, the local news, at night, because it talks about murder and rape and mayhem, and it's inconsistent with what I see taking place on a daily basis.

Nonetheless, that's what leads, because it's bleeds. You may see a sliver of positive news, with George Mason -- Mason -- winning against UConn. But you rarely see anything in the local news. So, I think it's something endemic in our society. And it's not only the situation in Iraq.

But we would rather focus on the negative than on the positive.


COHEN: That's something we have to live with in -- in a free and open society.

BLITZER: Let's talk about this Afghan man who converted years ago from Islam to Christianity. Now he's -- he's been sentenced to death in Afghanistan.

But there are appeals going on, an international outcry.

COHEN: Right.

BLITZER: Listen to what the secretary of state told me yesterday on "LATE EDITION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE EDITION") CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we have been very clear with the Afghan government that it -- it has to understand the vital importance of religious freedom to democracy. We have religious freedom as a cornerstone in the United States of our democracy. And it is a cornerstone any place, religious conscience.


BLITZER: It's a great dilemma for Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, who is Western-oriented, very much aligned with the United States in the war on terror, yet faces a lot of Muslims in his own country who believe in the Sharia, Muslim law, that this man should be sentenced to get for converting to Christianity.

COHEN: Prime Minister Blair made an important speech in Australia recently, when he pointed out, we are not witnessing a clash of civilizations, but a clash within a civilization.

And this is something that the Muslim world has to contend with. Are they going to remain locked into eight -- 8th century religious philosophy in a 21st century world? They have got to recognize, or reconcile, how they can maintain this kind of very harsh, brutal type of interpretation of their religion in a world in which is much more humane -- or at least hopes to be much more humane -- in consideration of the religious freedom and expression of individual thoughts.

So, the -- the Muslim world is at a crossroads. And they are going to have to make this kind of determination, reconciliation.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, William Cohen, for joining us.

COHEN: Pleasure.

BLITZER: And, just ahead, what's a good campaign slogan for the Democrats and/or for the Republicans this year? It's the question of the hour -- Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.


BLITZER: Let's check with Zain once again at the CNN Center for a closer look at some other stories making news -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, she's the preacher's wife who police say confessed to killing her husband. Today, in Tennessee, Mary Winkler was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge. The 32-year-old did not proclaim her guilt or innocence during the proceedings. The widow's accused of gunning down her husband, Matthew Winkler, in their home last week.

We now know when the mayoral election will be in New Orleans, but we just don't know if every eligible person will be able to vote. A federal judge says the election will be now on the -- now held on the 22nd of April. It was originally set for the 4th of February, but then was postponed because of post-Katrina cleanup operation.

Civil rights groups remain concerned that many of the city's African-American residents who were displaced won't be able to vote.

And, for Elvis fans -- I'm not sure if you're one of them, Wolf -- but Graceland has always been a major landmark.




VERJEE: Now, though, the federal government thinks that as well. Today, Elvis' home joined George Washington's house, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge, as national historic landmarks. Elvis Presley bought the house back in 1957 with earnings from his first hit, "Heartbreak Hotel" -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Love Elvis. Thanks very much for that, Zain.

A California man is suing an online matchmaking service for refusing to set him up on a date.

Let's get some more from our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, it sounds strange.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this man, John Claassen, says that his civil rights were violated when the company, eHarmony, this popular online dating service, refused to let him use the service.

He had gone online and gone through a lengthy questionnaire, trying to sign up, but wasn't allowed. The reason? Claassen is married. He's legally separated, but not divorced. E-mails exchanged with the company told him that he was welcome to reapply once his divorce was final.

We tried to get a statement today from eHarmony, but they didn't return our calls. But their Web site is clear on separated members. They said that they had surveyed potential users, who didn't want to date separated people, only divorced or never-married people.

Now, Claassen, for his part, says that there are lots of people in his situation, legally separated, and wanting to move on. His divorce is final next month -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.

Jack Cafferty has your answers to our question of the hour: What's a good campaign slogan for the Democrats and/or the Republicans? That's coming up right after this.


BLITZER: Jack is back in New York with what we call "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's what we call it.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has told "TIME" magazine the Republicans have done such a lousy job of governing that the best campaign slogan for the Democrats this year should be, "Had enough?"

So, we thought that was a good question: What's a good campaign slogan for the Democrats and/or the Republicans?

Bill in Saint Petersburg, Florida, writes: "It took 800 years for bad management and ill-advised wars to bring down Rome. Republicans can do it in eight. It's not too late. Vote Democratic."

Mark in Universal City, Texas: "Republicans: The Democrats have no spine. We have no morals. Vote your way of life."

Larry in Abilene, Texas: "Frustrate Cafferty. Vote Republican."

Patti in -- some place in Pennsylvania I can't pronounce: "Democrats: We're just as greedy, selfish and corrupt, but at least we care about the environment."

Rich writes: "Broken Borders, broken ports, broken promises, broken ideas. If it's broken, fix it. Vote Democrat."

Stephen in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: "I think Democrats could stick with: I didn't vote for him. Don't blame me. And the Republicans can move into the 'George who?' tourniquet mode to reduce the bleeding in 2008."

Bill writes from Santa Rosa, California: "Here's a single campaign slogan useful for both parties: United, we bungle."

And Mark in Needham, Massachusetts: "For the Democrats: At least we will kiss you first."


BLITZER: All -- all right.

CAFFERTY: That's just one of my favorite e-mails of the month of March.


BLITZER: For an adult audience out there.

Thanks very much...




BLITZER: ... Jack Cafferty.


BLITZER: See you in an hour, back here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We are here weekday afternoons, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern -- back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, an hour from now. We will have an interview -- actually, we are going to have a debate between Lou Dobbs and Democratic Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico on the issue of illegal immigration -- lots more coming up in one hour, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.