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The Situation Room

Gay Marriage Debate Reignited in Congress; Terror Threat From the North?; Utah National Guard Unit Manning New Mission Along Mexican Border; Princeton Scholar Reveals He's an Illegal Immigrant

Aired June 05, 2006 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now: a crackdown on security at America's northern border, after an alleged terror plot was thwarted.

It's 7:00 p.m. in New York state, where officials are now raising new red flags about the al Qaeda threat and whether the Bush administration is protecting some prime targets -- tough questions tonight for the president's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend.

Also this hour, the capital of Somalia reportedly captured by an Islamic militia with alleged ties to al Qaeda. It's 2:00 a.m. Tuesday in Mogadishu. Have allies of Osama bin Laden won a bloody battle, and have they delivered a new blow to Washington?

And a new political assault on gay marriage -- the president and Republican leaders revive the issue and reach out to their conservative base. It is 7:00 p.m. here in Washington, where supporters of a gay marriage ban say they are protecting children, and critics say they're pandering.

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

Tonight: new fear about al Qaeda on the move and possibly ready to attack. U.S. authorities have increased security at the border with Canada two days after Canadian authorities announced they busted an alleged plot to bomb major buildings in the Toronto area. Seventeen suspects said to be inspired by al Qaeda are now in custody.

The arrests sent shockwaves through the U.S. and straight into New York's City Hall. Tonight, the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, raging mad about plans to slash federal funding to protect New York from bioterrorism.

Adding to the al Qaeda jitters tonight, reports that the capital of Somalia has been captured by an Islamic militia said to be under the say of the Osama bin Laden terror network. Our Zain Verjee is standing by with more on that.

First, let's go to New York. Mary Snow has the latest on the latest threat potentially coming from Canada -- Mary. MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, New York is a key border state with Canada. And with the terror suspects arrest, there are concerns being raised about border security.

Now, the Associated Press reports tonight that U.S. Border Patrol stations, in particular those adjoining Ontario, are on -- quote -- "high alert" due to recent terror arrests in Canada. Now, this comes right on top of New York getting hit with a cut in anti-terror funds that has sparked an uproar.

Anti-terror money allocated to New York was cut by 40 percent. Now two mayors, one former, one present, are fighting back. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani blames incompetence and poor decision-making, not politics, for the cuts. He says he will join Mayor Mike Bloomberg, if needed, to fight to get the money restored.

At a news conference today, Bloomberg vowed to press forward with his case to Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I still don't, for the life of me, understand why the decision was made to reduce New York City and Washington, D.C., as much as it was. You know, if they had said the pool was slightly smaller and scaled everyone back proportionally, you could at least understand it. Whether there was a political motive or not, I would hope that there was not. I hope it was just poor judgment based on the facts.


SNOW: Now, a spokesman for the mayor says that Mr. Bloomberg did speak with Michael Chertoff late today for about 40 minutes by phone. There was no information on whether Chertoff was receptive to changing the anti-terror money, which last week was pegged to the application process filed by New York City -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Mary, for that.

And we are going to speak this hour with the president's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, on this issue, as well as the latest involving terror threats perhaps emanating from Canada.

Let's turn now, though to an apparent setback for the United States in the war against terror taking place in an extremely dangerous part of the world. There has been a war of proxies taking place in Somalia. And, at this hour, it looks like the other side has won a major battle.

CNN's Zain Verjee joining us now from the CNN Center with the latest details -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, reports from both Reuters and the Associated Press out of Mogadishu indicate that an Islamic militia with alleged links to al Qaeda now controls the capital. This follows months of bloody fighting between the Islamists and Somali warlords. Now, since February, more than 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded in the crossfire of guns and grenades. There are reports, too, that those warlords are being backed and funded by the U.S. The U.S. hasn't confirmed or denied that, really saying only it backs those who fight terror.


SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We do have real concerns about the presence of foreign terrorists in Somalia. And that is a -- that informs an important aspect of our policy with regard to Somalia.


VERJEE: Wolf, Somalia has been in a state of anarchy, as you know, since 1991, when the government there collapsed. Since then, warlords have basically run Somalia in patchworks of little fiefdoms.

This Islamist militia, though, is the first to gain control over all of the neighborhoods in the capital since 1991. It is also likely that they are going to impose Sharia law, or strict Islamic law. The U.S. has long been concerned that Islamists could provide al Qaeda with a fertile base in Somalia, almost similar to Afghanistan under the Taliban.

And U.S. officials, too, believe, Wolf, that Islamist leaders in Mogadishu are protecting al Qaeda leaders, those that were indicted in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and also in the 2002 attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, on the coast of Kenya -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thank you very much, an important story.

To our viewers, stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Closer to home, President Bush says he's protecting an institution. Critics accuse him of political pandering. He's restating his support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, as the U.S. Senate begins three days of debate on this very hot-button issue.

New poll numbers just out show a majority of those asked say gay marriage should be illegal, 58 percent to 36 percent. But the same poll, an ABC News poll, shows a slim majority, 51 percent, believe the issue should be left up to the states, with only 42 percent actually supporting a constitutional amendment.

CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us now with the latest -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Republican leaders say they are debating this issue now to push a long-term policy goal. But doing this right now, debating it on the Senate floor five months before an election, is also part of a short-term political strategy. And that is to appeal to conservative voters who are disillusioned with Republicans in Washington.


BASH (voice-over): It sounded like a campaign flashback.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our policy should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.

BASH: After virtually ignoring the issue since he was reelected, the president reaffirmed his support for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, just as Senate Republicans opened debate. Why now?

SEN. WAYNE ALLARD (R), COLORADO: Make no mistake about it. Traditional marriage is under assault.

BASH: Supporters of a ban point to states like Nebraska, where, in 2004, an overwhelming 70 percent of voters passed an amendment banning gay marriage. But a federal judge overturned it last year.

BUSH: An amendment to the Constitution is necessary because activist courts have left our nation with no other choice.

BASH: Democrats accuse Republicans of putting gay marriage on the agenda to divert attention from issues voters care most about, like Iraq and high gas prices.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: This is another one of President's -- the president's efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract, and confuse America.

BASH: In fact, the Senate is well short of the two-thirds majority needed to change the Constitution. Yet, supporters of a ban do expect to get more than 50 votes for the first time. They insist, momentum is key.

MATT DANIELS, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, ALLIANCE FOR MARRIAGE: Right now, we have majority in the Senate. We believe that, the next time, we are going to have even more votes.

BASH: Republicans campaigned hard on this issue in 2004. But this is 2006. And some conservative activists feel taken for granted by a Republican president and Congress who talk up their issues around elections, but turn their backs once they win.

RICHARD VIGUERIE, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: We have been betrayed, that we feel like we have been dealt a very, very serious blow by the ruling establishment. And I don't think they are going to really appreciate the depth of the -- the voters' anger until the morning after election.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: The Republicans here in Congress are in overdrive, trying to diffuse that anger and trying to prove to rank-and-file Republicans they are in touch with issues they care about this election year.

After they finish the gay marriage debate, they are going to focus on two other conservative proposals, Wolf, one to make estate tax permanent, and, next week, they're going to have a debate on banning flag burning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana, thank you very much.

Also, there are new developments tonight in the immigration wars. President Bush heads to the U.S. border with Mexico tomorrow to talk about security and a crackdown on illegal border crossings.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.


That's right, the president heading to New Mexico tomorrow to inspect border control activities, just like he did last month along the Arizona-Mexico border. You remember the pictures of the president riding that all-terrain vehicle.

Unclear whether another border trip will actually help break the stalemate on Capitol Hill. But it could help the White House try to rebuild the president's image. These trips square with what "TIME" magazine reported back in April. You will remember they talked about this informal five-point plan, that the new White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, had a recovery plan for the president.

Number one on that list: Beef up the number of patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border, and get the president down there for some pictures.

I can tell you, today, White House spokesman Tony Snow was pressed a little on why the president is heading out on a road -- road show, why he's not working more behind the scenes here in Washington to try to forge a compromise in immigration reform. Snow said the president is actively involved in the legislative process here in Washington, but he also thinks it is important to get outside the beltway, take a close look at the border himself -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, thank you very much -- Ed Henry from the White House.

Jack Cafferty is joining us from New York "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It will probably look the same as it did a month ago when he was down there, don't you imagine? Same place.

BLITZER: Yes, but different...

CAFFERTY: Yes. BLITZER: Maybe a different audience.

CAFFERTY: I love this sudden emphasis on, we have got to do something to protect it.

He's had five years to close the border. And they haven't closed the border. The border is wide open.

Iraq is back in the headlines, big time. The violence raging there, including a bombing that killed two CBS crew members, a soldier, and seriously wounded a CBS News correspondent.



CAFFERTY: Excuse me.

Then we had those kidnappings today...


CAFFERTY: Pardon me -- carried out by gunmen dressed as Iraqi policemen.

But some TV correspondents are worried that audiences and producers in the United States are getting tired of coverage from Iraq. A story in "The Los Angeles Times" says, by the end of April, the amount of time devoted to Iraq on the weeknight newscasts of the three major television networks had dropped 60 percent from 2003.

One media expert attributes the decline, what he calls the underreporting in Iraq, to several factors, including the danger for journalists who try to cover that story, the sense that continuing attacks are no longer news, and political pressure put on the networks, you know, how the administration says the media only reports the bad news from Iraq.

Here's the question, then: Is the American public losing interest in the war in Iraq? E-mail us, or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much -- Jack Cafferty.

And if you want to preview Jack's questions, plus an early read on the day's political news and what's ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, sign up for our daily e-mail alert. Just go to, and follow the instructions.

Coming up, the rules of war -- we have some details of a heated debate over terror suspects under way right now inside the Pentagon. How far should the U.S. military go while interrogating detainees?

Also, he's a brilliant student, accepted at Princeton University, courted by Oxford. He's also an illegal immigrant -- his story coming up. Plus, more on our top story -- U.S. and Canadian border security is tightened tonight. The White House homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend, joins us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: It was bold and brutal. Gunmen dressed as Iraqi police carried out coordinated mass kidnappings, simply grabbing bus passengers, merchants, and streets vendors off the streets of Baghdad.

CNN's John Vause is in the Iraqi capital -- John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it all happened in broad daylight in downtown Baghdad, what appears to be a well-organized, well-planned kidnapping.

Some witnesses say it took more than an hour to carry out. The Interior Ministry says here gunmen dressed as Iraqi commandos driving more than a dozen cars, some without license plates, others painted to look like Iraqi police vehicles, kidnapped more than 50 people from three different transportation companies, all located next to the other.

They grabbed anyone, it seems, drivers, office staff, even passengers on buses headed to either Jordan or Syria. Also abducted, the owner of one of these transportation companies, the largest in Iraq, as well as his two sons.

It is not uncommon for gunmen to dress as Iraqi security forces. It has happened before. A month ago, near Baquba, north of Baghdad, 13 people were kidnapped. Fake police and army uniforms are easy to find on the streets of Baghdad. They can be bought for as little as $25 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Vause in Baghdad, thank you.

When it comes to the war on terror, should the U.S. military rewrite the rules? How far should U.S. troops be allowed to go when interrogating detainees?

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us from the Pentagon with more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that debate has raged since the war on terror began and is especially hot inside this building right now.


TODD (voice-over): A senior defense official tells CNN, there's considerable debate within the Pentagon over new guidelines on how to treat U.S. enemies captured on the battlefield.

The sticking point: Should the military be able to use tactics not allowed by the Geneva Conventions when interrogating suspected al Qaeda detainees? Right now, the Geneva Conventions forbid so-called humiliating and degrading treatments.

The debate centers on whether al Qaeda detainees should be placed in a different category, not necessarily covered by the Geneva Conventions. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke of this internal debate recently.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It is complicated because of some definitional issues. And it clearly is designed to be -- comply with the law. Let there be no doubt about that.

TODD: The outcome of this debate will be crucial. Some experts say that, if interrogators have to follow the Geneva Conventions with al Qaeda detainees, they might not be able to use certain techniques, because they would be considered humiliating and degrading.

COL. THOMAS HAMMES (RET.), AUTHOR, "THE SLING AND THE STONE": If you want to interpret extraordinarily strictly, then maybe you could say that techniques like -- I guess the supposition is, you aren't man enough to build that bomb, trying to work on a kid's anger and getting him to admit something, and then using that to put him in a position to get information about future bombings. Maybe a lawyer could say, that is humiliation.

TODD: But one former military attorney argues, the U.S. military shouldn't be able to pick and choose who gets covered by one of the most comprehensive legal documents on human rights.

GARY SOLIS, FORMER MILITARY ATTORNEY: The Geneva Convention remains binding, whether or not it's included in a report or in guidance. It's the law of the land. It's not as if we had a choice as to which parts we would observe and which we would ignore.


TODD: Once this debate settles, the new guidelines will be put into the new version of the Army field manual and other documents that have rules for interrogation. The current Army field manual says, al Qaeda detainees are covered under the Geneva Conventions and cannot be subject to humiliation and degradation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.

There's a developing story we're following here in the nation's capital right now.

Our Kathleen Koch is joining us on the phone.

What is going on, Kathleen Koch?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have a report from the FAA that, apparently, there was a violation of the restricted airspace over Washington, D.C. This would be roughly 22 miles northeast of Reagan National Airport. The initial report actually to CNN came from our former anchor Bernie Shaw, who noted a couple F-16s flying over the Takoma Park, Maryland, area. So, from what Laura Brown, a spokesman for the FAA, says is that they haven't yet communicated with the pilot. They don't know what type of aircraft, what size.

But she -- this sort of thing does happen from time to time. She says it, apparently, may have just nicked the northwest corner, the corner of this restricted airspace. The aircraft was heading to the northwest. But we're still waiting to -- to get this finally resolved.

But, again, just some unknown aircraft violating the restricted airspace, but not heading into D.C., rather, heading northwest and away.

BLITZER: And the standard operating procedure, Kathleen, is whenever this happened -- happens -- and it does happen relatively frequently -- the normal procedure is to scramble jets from one of the nearby air bases here, whether it is Andrews Air Force Base or some other base, just out of an abundance of caution.

KOCH: Correct, Wolf.

They can scramble the -- the F-16s. There are Black Hawk helicopters that are used to patrol the airspace over cities like both Washington, D.C., and New York. In this case, they went with the F- 16s.

So, we should be learning relatively shortly what it was. But, again, generally, it is nothing. But, obviously, no one wants to take any chances.

BLITZER: Right. Usually, it's just a pilot who doesn't have a good set of maps.

But we will continue to watch this story. Kathleen, stand by and get some more information for us. We will share it with our viewers.

Still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM: The U.S. has recently been worried about illegal immigration and other threats emerging from our southern border with Mexico. But might our open northern border with Canada be an open door for terrorists? Mary Snow is going to take us on a unique tour.

Meanwhile, how is the Bush administration handling border security with Canada? I will ask the president's homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Zain Verjee is joining from us the CNN Center with a closer look at some other stories making news -- Zain.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will call for a referendum on Palestinian statehood. That would implicitly recognize Israel's right to exist. Today, Abbas met with the Hamas-led government to try for an agreement to recognize Israel. But those talks ended in failure. Hamas doesn't support a referendum. It also doesn't support Israel's right to exist and refuses to renounce violence.

Today, oil prices climbed to over $73 a barrel, amid fears of possible oil supply disruptions. Yesterday, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, said Iran could disrupt oil supplies if the U.S. makes a -- quote -- "wrong move against Iran."

But, today, the White House said the comments should only be taken in a theoretical sense, and that Iran should be given the time to weigh the current offer for it to give up its nuclear program, in exchange for incentives.

A war that ended decades ago is back in focus. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is visiting Vietnam right now. He's there to try to persuade that nation to help the U.S. recover the remains of American troops still missing from the war. Out of the talks came a commitment from Vietnam to do more to help in the search for American remains. More than 1,300 U.S. troops are still unaccounted for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Zain -- Zain Verjee reporting.

Just ahead, not -- not many people can say they won a full scholarship to Princeton and one to the equally prestigious Oxford University. We are going to tell you about one student scholar who won both, all while hiding a major, major secret.

And securing the nation's borders -- I will ask President Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend, just what the Bush administration is doing right now.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Let's get back to our top story, the alleged terror plot in Canada and the weekend arrests of 17 Muslims.

Prosecutors have now released a list of charges. It shows, a dozen men are accused of participating in a terrorist group. Six of those are accused of taking part in a plan to -- quote -- "cause an explosion likely to lead to death and injuries."

Other charges involve the importation of guns and ammunition and terrorist training. Authorities now suspect the group plotted to bomb major buildings in the Toronto area. A U.S. official says the suspects were -- quote -- "pretty far along" in terms of attack planning. While the U.S.-Mexican border has been the focus of a bitter immigration debate, does a porous northern border leave the country vulnerable to terror threats? CNN's Mary Snow got a first hand look at some of the defenses along the U.S./Canadian border. She is joining us now live from New York. Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is a border that is difficult to protect and some say this weekend's arrests only underscore the need to put more attention on the 4,000-mile stretch between the U.S. and Canada.


SNOW (voice over): With 17 terror suspects arrested in Toronto, some are questioning just how security is the U.S.-Canadian border?

MICHAEL CUTLER, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: This attack was not aimed at the United States, it was aimed at Canada. So they have got their own problem, and their problem could easily spill over the border.

SNOW: Along that border, Buffalo is the busiest crossing, with over seven million cars and trucks passing from Canada to the U.S. Lawmakers are debating the need to require passports at checkpoints, but some are concerned terrorists could slip in through a less obvious place, by water.

CHRIS ROMOSZ, U.S. COAST GUARD: People have the right to go back and forth, but, you know, I think it's -- it makes it a little difficult up here to figure out who's doing what.

SNOW: This Coast Guard unit stationed in Buffalo is assisted by the U.S. Border Patrol, watching by camera spots not all boats can see.

(on camera): One of the key concerns about border security here outside New York State is just how close the Canadian border is. It's right behind us. And here on the Niagara River, there's less than a mile in some spots between Canada and the United States.

(voice over): The Coast Guard says they don't see numbers of illegals entering like those at the southern U.S. border, but they do find people trying to enter the country illegally by water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take small boats, some of them will float across in their own life jackets to have a lower profile in the water. Sometimes they'll go at night.

SNOW: Sealing the 600 miles of shoreline this unit patrols, which include the Great Lakes, is impossible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's wide open. It's a huge, vast area, and it's tough to enforce.

SNOW: A former immigration agent says the terrain, coupled with Canada's laws, should be an area for concern. CUTLER: What we also know is that Canada has a very liberal policy towards political asylum.

SNOW: Not true says Canada's ambassador to the United States.

MICHAEL WILSON, CANADIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: I think that our immigration laws as they are implemented are very close in the outcomes as the United States immigration laws.


Republican New York Congressman Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, doesn't blame Canada but does say that people in New York and Michigan in particular should be the ones most concerned about a terrorist situation in Canada possibly coming in the U.S. Wolf?

BLITZER: Solid reporting Mary. Thank you very much.

Could Americans face a new terror threat from Canada? How vulnerable is the northern border?


Joining us now from the White House is Frances Townsend. She's the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Thanks very much, Frances Townsend, for coming in.

Let me ask you that first question. How vulnerable are Americans because of the potential of terrorists crossing in from the north?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Well, you know, Wolf, we're vulnerable at all of our ports of entry. For that reason, particularly on the northern border, the president since 2001 has tripled the number of Border Patrol agents, he's -- we've invested over $120 million in advanced technology along the northern border. We're working with the Canadian government on a Western Hemisphere travel card that is biometrically enabled so we can facilitate legitimate travel but be sure that we understand and know who's coming in and exiting our country.

BLITZER: I assume you're learning more about this plot, the arrest of these 17 Canadian citizens and residents. Is there anything that you've learned that indicates that they were plotting targets here in the United States?

TOWNSEND: No, Wolf, I should be absolutely clear, there is no indication that those 17 suspects were plotting here in the United States. They've had some limited contact with two individuals who were earlier arrested in Atlanta, but there's no indication that this cell in Canada was targeting here in the U.S.

BLITZER: When you say "limited contact" with those two individuals arrested in March in Georgia, what -- can you be more specific?

TOWNSEND: Well, I can't. I would say to you that the contact between them is limited, and we're working between the FBI and the Canadian authorities to make sure we understand the nature of that relationship. But I can tell you with absolute confidence that the cell in Canada was not targeting here.

BLITZER: It was supposedly, according to Canadian authorities, an al Qaeda-inspired plot that really got inspired by the Internet. But is there any hard evidence suggesting that al Qaeda operatives were directly involved in working allegedly with these 17?

TOWNSEND: Well, now that we have the in -- now that the Canadians have them in custody, Wolf, these are the sorts of connections that we will explore and we will investigate. As you know, in the London bombing, that, too, was an al Qaeda-inspired group. But what we look for very specifically and very meticulously is to see if there's any direct contact. We're unaware of that at this time.

BLITZER: The ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer that they had, supposedly could have blown up three kinds of buildings as was blown up in Oklahoma City. How close, based on the information you've gotten from the Canadians, how close were they actually to going forward with such a detonation?

TOWNSEND: Well, we know, one, it was three tons of ammonium nitrate, which is the reason that the Canadians were so concerned. The second thing we know, Wolf, is that the Canadian authorities understood that they had guns, detonation equipment, and were beginning to assemble the detonation device.

This is a real concern. And obviously the threat was imminent and caused the Canadian authorities to take it down.

BLITZER: I grew up along the border with Canada in beautiful Buffalo, New York. I want you to listen to what Congressman Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN over the weekend once we got word of this plot.

Listen to this.


REP. PETER KING (R-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Americans should be very concerned because Canada is our northern neighbor. And there's a large al Qaeda presence in Canada.

I think it's a disproportionate number of al Qaeda in Canada because of their very liberal immigration laws, because how -- how political asylum is granted so easily. And also, the previous government, quite frankly, in Canada I don't think was tough enough as far as going after terrorism.


BLITZER: Is there a disproportionate number of al Qaeda operatives in Canada?

TOWNSEND: Wolf, I'll tell you, Chairman King is my hometown congressman, and he is understandably concerned about this terrorist- related activity across our northern border.

I will say that we have -- we enjoy an incredibly transparent and cooperative relationship both with law enforcement in this country and Canada, and also intelligence authorities between the two countries. And so they have been incredibly open and sharing with us. Director Mueller of the FBI commended them for their cooperation.

And we have other initiatives jointly with them to ensure that we address this problem like these -- establishing the Western Hemisphere travel cards and the security and prosperity partnership launched by the president and the prime minister.

BLITZER: But is there a disproportionately large number of al Qaeda operatives in Canada?

TOWNSEND: Wolf, I think -- I guess my problem with the way you ask the question is, I don't know what a disproportionately large number of al Qaeda is. Do they have concerns? Absolutely, just as we do here with individuals who are second and third generation, who are radicalized and use local mosques and local centers to congregate and share radical ideas.

So I'm not sure that I would say it's a disproportionate number there. It is a subject of real concern.

BLITZER: That's the phrase that Congressman Peter King used in that interview that he gave CNN on Saturday.

Yesterday I spoke with Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, which borders Canada, as you know. He's got deep concerns as well. Listen to what he said.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: We've got a longer border with Canada than we do with Mexico. We've got thousands of trucks that come in every day, many of them -- most of them not inspected, and particularly, by the way, garbage trucks from Ontario which cannot be inspected. They represent a real significant security threat.


BLITZER: When I heard him say that yesterday, I got nervous. But what about you?

TOWNSEND: This is exactly why what you want to do -- the security and prosperity partnership is targeted at ensuring that legitimate trade and travel across the border is unimpeded. We both have a huge economic interest in ensuring that, but then we can target our resources, that triple the number of Border Patrol agents on the northern border, on those things that we want to stop. BLITZER: Let me switch gears, because we only have a moment left, to talk about funding for counterterrorism. As you know, the secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, is getting pounded, especially by politicians in New York State, in Washington, D.C., and in Michigan. Let's put some numbers up.

In the 2006 recommended funding, in New York State it went from $208 million last year to $125 million this year. In Michigan it went from $64 million to $46 million.

Speak about that for a moment. What's behind those cuts in two states where clearly they have major terrorism concerns.

TOWNSEND: Well, there should be no doubt that New York is the number one in terms of its risk. And for that reason, since the inception of the grant program New York has received more than $500 million in grant money.

This year, the request to Congress in the budget for grant money was reduced by Congress by over $360 million. So there were -- it was inevitable that there were going to be some cuts.

We understand that New York, having been the victim of that -- of the tragedy of September 11th, has particular concerns. Wolf, I would say to you, I think we need to do a better job about talking to New York and prioritizing their -- their requests, but it was inevitable that there were going to be some cuts. And we're just going to have to work through this, both with New York, with Washington, D.C., with Michigan, and with our allies up on the Hill.

BLITZER: Because Washington, D.C., as you know, was ranked by the Department of Homeland Security as a "low risk" terrorist attack. Washington, D.C., with all the monuments, with all the base of political power, how did that become a low risk for terrorist attacks?

TOWNSEND: Well, I think there's a misunderstanding. It was a low risk in terms of as it was compared to other states. You can imagine given its size, it was considered smaller. But I think that that's basically a misunderstanding. In the urban area security initiative grant, which is a separate grant program, they did recognize Washington as number three -- the metropolitan area as number three in terms of risk.

BLITZER: So it's not a low risk, the District of Columbia?

TOWNSEND: No, sir, absolutely not.

BLITZER: It's a high risk?

TOWNSEND: That's right.

BLITZER: OK. Frances Townsend is the -- thanks for clarifying that, because as you know there's been a lot of confusion here in the nation's capital, where you and I happen to live.

TOWNSEND: Absolutely. BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.


BLITZER: And stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliability news about your security.

Still to come, more on our developing story. Another security watch a small plane violates restricted airspace here over the District of Columbia. We have new details coming in. We'll bring them to you right after this.

Also, he went from a homeless shelter to Princeton University. It's an inspiring story with a twist. He's an illegal immigrant. We're going to show you the tough decision he now faces. Stay with us.


BLITZER: We're going to bring back Kathleen Koch. She's been monitoring this story involving a small plane that violated airspace over the nation's capital. Kathleen, what's the latest?

KOCH (on camera): Wolf, the latest is that yes indeed, two F-16s -- and this according to both NORAD and the FAA -- two F-16s were scrambled around 7:00 p.m. from Andrews Air Force Base to check out this small plane.

Turns out it was a Cessna 182 flying from Philadelphia to Charlottesville, Virginia. And it clipped the outer perimeter of the restricted airspace over Washington D.C. They flew up, they met the pilot. The pilot followed their instructions and they brought the small plane down in Gaithersburg, Maryland, at the Gaithersburg airport.

And we're told by the FAA he'll likely be questioned there, this pilot, by someone with the Transportation Security Administration. The Secret Service just to make sure they meant no harm. Again, the situation is over.

BLITZER: Kathleen, thank you for that -- Kathleen Koch reporting. Let's go to Zain Verjee. She's got another story we're following right now. Zain?

VERJEE: Wolf, we're learning that a student has been shot in a faculty parking lot in California. It happened at Venice High School as classes let out for the day. One report says that the victim is a 15-year-old boy. We can't confirm that. We don't know the details or the victim's condition. We don't know the circumstances either of the shooting. The police department says that it got word of the incident around 3:00 p.m. Pacific time. Paramedics also, they say, responded to the scene and they took one victim to a local hospital. An investigation, Wolf, is underway. Two black suspects are being searched for by police. Venice Boulevard has been closed as police units are en route to the scene to assist in the search for the suspects -- Wolf? BLITZER: All right Zain, thank you very much. And still ahead, an inspiring story with a twist. An Ivy League student, one of America's brightest. So why would the United States want to send him packing?

Plus, is the American public losing interest in the war in Iraq? Jack Cafferty has the answers to his question for this hour. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The bottom line of the markets, the Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P all were down sharply. Much of the slide followed new hints from the Federal Reserve chairman of more potential interest rate hikes.

Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File." Jack?

A story in the "L.A. Times" today, Wolf, that the coverage of the war in Iraq on the three major broadcast networks is down 60 percent from 2003. So the question we asked is, is the American public losing interest in the war in Iraq?

Steve writes from Atlanta, Georgia: Jack, I don't think the American people have lost interest, I think the media has. Unless there is something happening to spark immediate viewer draw, the Iraq war is not as interesting to the news media.

Robert in Kemmerer, Wyoming: The American people would like to forget about Bush's war. They want it to go away like an uncle who was convicted of child molestation. They feel violated, lied to, and they sense the stench of defeat. The leadership of this war is a disaster and no one seems able to get us out. The troops deserve better than the crap they've had to endure with Bush's war.

Derrick in Tacoma, Washington: Ask the people that have lost loved ones over there if they've lost interest. Ask the people that have loved ones still over there. They're the ones that count.

Chuck in Northville, Michigan: Yesterday while Condoleezza Rice was on "Face the Nation," saying that progress was being made in Iraq, 21 Iraqi students were pulled off buses and executed on the spot. Today while President Bush was giving a speech in support of a constitutional amendment against gay marriages, 50 Iraqis were kidnapped in broad daylight by Iraqis in police uniforms. I'm outraged by this. Why aren't you?

Joe in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia: It's a damn shame, Jack, but we are. Every time I sign onto, I don't even read the news stories of a bombing, it's the same news as the previous day. Perhaps that 60 percent drop in coverage should be reversed and we should pull our heads out of the sand to give the soldiers who are dying a little more honor.

And finally Grace in Austin, Texas: Of course I'm losing interest in Iraq. I'm now completely riveted by the gay marriage issue. It is so important to me that the government control who we all love and marry. Frankly I don't care if you marry a kangaroo, Jack, but I would like the videotape.


BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you very much. Let's go up to New York -- stay in New York. Paula is standing by with a preview of what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Paula?

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf, we're going to have the very latest on that huge Canadian anti-terrorism sweep. In addition to an amazing court case. You have two women in their '70s. They made friends with homeless men, then allegedly collected millions in insurance money when those men suddenly and violently died. Was it merely a coincidence or is there something much more sinister at work here? We'll also hear from an incredibly brave woman. Her estranged husband set her on fire. Now that he's been sent to prison, what does she have to say to him now? She'll tell us at the top of the hour. Hope you join us then, Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly will, Paula. Thank you very much. And still ahead, a new front in the border battles. We'll take you live to the U.S.-Mexico border. Some new developments there, stay with us.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hot shots coming in from the "A.P.," pictures likely to be in your hometown newspaper tomorrow.

Gaza City, Palestinian security forces jump through flaming hoops during a graduation ceremony. Baghdad, well-armed supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr take to the streets. Greensboro, North Carolina, preschoolers take part in army day. The children completed a basic training obstacle course to earn their plastic weapons. And in Alexandria, Virginia, two squirrels play together on a side walk. Some of today's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

There are new developments tonight in the nation's efforts to try to secure its borders. Some members of the Utah National Guard are now along part of the U.S.-Mexico border. Our Kareen Wynter is there with details. Kareen?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, 55 members of the Utah National Guard will work 12 hours a day for the next few weeks. You can see some of the activity going on behind me. They have been called in as part of President Bush's federal plan to bolster border security.

Now crews spent the day out here constructing a fence. You see there here along the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in San Luis, Arizona. They're also building a road and will work to install more lighting here to help border agents crack down on illegal entry. Now the National Guard says 6,000 troops from several southwest border states will be deployed here by August. Wolf? BLITZER: Kareen Wynter on the border, thank you, Kareen. Internet users from around the world may soon be helping to provide border security from the comfort of their home computers. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has details. Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it's a kind of online neighborhood watch. Texas Governor Rick Perry has announced hundreds of cameras will be added along private land along the Texas border. They are already cameras out there that are publicly acceptable like these in Washington state along the border there. But these are used to monitor traffic.

The ones in Texas would be used to monitor illegal immigration. The program is called the Virtual Border Watch Program. And these cameras will be linked to a Web site that people could go online, watch the cameras day or night and then report suspicious activity through a 1-800 number -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you. Meanwhile, the debate over illegal immigration is also winding its way through the ivory towers of the Ivy League. But not simply as a form of academic discussion. Tom Foreman is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with some incredible details, an amazing story, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, indeed. The story of a young man at Princeton University who was a big deal at that school even before this broke out. Now he's an even bigger deal because he has outed himself to the immigration service.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Dan-El Padilla Peralta is fluent in five languages, highly honored for his study of Greek and Latin classics. Not bad for a kid from a homeless shelter. But now he has publicly admitted that he is an illegal immigrant and he may not be able to stay in America.

DAN-EL PADILLA PERALTA, PRINCETON STUDENT: I will take everything as it comes. And I will say that I worry about things, but I'm not afraid of them. And if that should happen, then that is what will happen. I hope that does not happen.

FOREMAN: Dan-El says his mother Maria came with him to New York from the Dominican Republic on a temporary visa for medical treatments when he was a toddler. But the visa expired and they remained. Dan- El excelled at school and when he was ready for college, Princeton was ready for him, illegally here or not.

PERALTA: They said that they would not look at that, that it would not matter in their decision. They would admit me strictly on merits and award me financial aid strictly on the merits.

FOREMAN: Now, however, Oxford University in England wants him to continue his education there. Here's the catch. If you leave America, he will be banned from re-entering for at least 10 years.


FOREMAN: Advocates for strict immigration law enforcement say too bad, too sad. He shouldn't have been here in the first place, he should have no special treatment now. His supporters, on the other hand say, look, he didn't choose to be here. It's not his fault and now he can contribute to society just the kind of immigrant you want to keep. Difficult problem.

BLITZER: Difficult dilemma, I know you're going to have more on "A.C. 360" coming up 10 p.m. Eastern tonight. Tom, thank you very much. Good reporting, good story.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for joining us. Tomorrow here on THE SITUATION ROOM, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton joins us. We'll talk about Iraq, Iran, lots more. Until then, thanks for watching. Let's go to Paula in New York. Paula?