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No Charges for John Mark Karr; NTSB Looks for Cause of Comair Flight 5191 in Kentucky; President Bush Still Paying Price for Failures in Katrina

Aired August 28, 2006 - 17:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: 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 today's top stories.

Happening now, a stunning new twist in the JonBenet Ramsey case.

It's 3:00 p.m. in Boulder, Colorado. His attorney says John Mark Karr will not be charged in the girl's slaying.

We'll have the latest.

Is Ernesto just a day away from crashing into south Florida?

It's 5:00 p.m. in the Keys, where evacuations are under way.

A year later, Hurricane Katrina is still taking a toll, and a new poll shows President Bush is still paying a price for the failures of the federal disaster response.

And he says the United States is in a state of emergency, warning that an immigrant invasion could once again make the American Southwest part of Mexico.

I'll speak with conservative commentator and author Pat Buchanan.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

After almost 10 years, hundreds of leads, as many suspects, it appears the investigation into who killed young JonBenet Ramsey has hit yet another stumbling block. CNN has just learned that the most recent suspect is a suspect no more.

Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, is standing by with the latest in Boulder, Colorado -- Susan.


This is a bombshell. Yes, indeed, we have learned there will be no case against him, because apparently there is no DNA match.

Here is what John Karr, who had been picked up all the way in Thailand and brought to the United States, said just a short time ago -- his public defender said about his client when the attorney left the jail a short time ago.


SETH TEMIN, JOHN MARK KARR'S ATTORNEY: The warrant on Mr. Karr has been dropped by the district attorney. They're not proceeding with this case.

We're deeply distressed by the fact that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand, with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him and no independent factors leading to a presumption that he did anything wrong.


CANDIOTTI: Now, because he would not answer any additional questions, we presume that the defense attorney, the public defender in this case, was referring to a DNA sample that was taken from John Karr in Thailand. We presume that's the case, because he hasn't clarified that. We do know, at least through court papers, that no DNA sample had been taken from John Karr here in the state of Colorado, because court papers had been filed to prevent that from happening without a court order.

We are trying to find out at this time whether a press conference is scheduled this afternoon, but apparently this could be the end of the case. But we have yet to hear that officially from the district attorney's office -- John.

KING: Susan Candiotti, a blockbuster, as you put it. And Susan, we will check back as developments warrant.

Susan Candiotti, in Boulder, Colorado.

A shocking day, yet another one in the JonBenet Ramsey investigation.

Thank you very much, Susan.

One storm is on the way, while a year later, the crushing impact of another is still being felt. Tropical Storm Ernesto has weakened as it crosses Cuba, but hurricane watches are up in south Florida, where Ernesto could make landfall tomorrow after regaining strength. There are evacuations in the Keys, as Governor Jeb Bush warns this state to take the storm very seriously.

President Bush is in Mississippi to mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm which battered the Gulf Coast and, of course, battered his presidency. Mr. Bush heads later today to New Orleans. The two-day visit to the region is the 13th since the storm struck, Katrina, a year ago.

We turn first to the storm churning now in the Caribbean. CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is at our hurricane headquarters -- Jacqui.


KING: And of course when many people think of the word "hurricane," they quickly think of the word "Katrina," the most expensive in U.S. history, and costly to President Bush's approval rating. Mr. Bush is touring the region right now, and just a short while ago he spoke from Biloxi, Mississippi, about the pace of the recovery.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel the quiet sense of determination that's going to shape the future of Mississippi, and so I've come back on this anniversary to thank you for your courage and to let you know the federal government stands with you still.


KING: Now, one goal of the president's trip is to show he's still fully engaged in the recovery effort, but a new CNN poll had some surprising results about the lasting legacy, the political legacy of the president's handling of Katrina. In a few minutes, I'll have more on the political toll the storm continues to take.

In another developing story, it's a question almost everyone wants to know: What caused a commuter jet to come down in a fiery explosion yesterday morning in Kentucky? Forty-nine are dead, one man is alive. And right now there are hundreds of questions.

Our Jason Carroll is in Lexington, Kentucky, with the latest.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have confirmed that the tower did in fact clear the aircraft to take off from runway 22. That is the longer runway that is out here at Blue Grass Airport. But as we now know, instead, for some reason that is not known to investigators, at least not at this point, the crew decided to make that fatal decision and chose the shorter runway, runway 26.

It's still unclear as to exactly why that happened. One of the possible factors under investigation out here is that just last week the taxi route was changed for the commercial jets here at the airport, perhaps that created some confusion. The lights on runway 26 were not in operation. Perhaps that added to some of the confusion out here as well.

Earlier this afternoon, representatives from the NTSB talked a little bit more about the conversations that they were able to transcribe from the cockpit voice recorder, as well as from the tower tapes.

Take a listen to what they had to say about what they found.


DEBBIE HERSMAN, NTSB: The preflight preparations in the cockpit were normal. No problems with the airworthiness of the aircraft were noted by the crew. Air traffic control and the flight crew planned for a takeoff from runway 22. As you know, the FDR and evidence on scene indicates the crew took off from runway 26.


CARROLL: In addition to reviewing the cockpit voice recorder, investigators have also retrieved the flight data recorder. They'll be reviewing that as well.

One of the things that investigators would like to do is talk to the lone survivor of the crash. As you know, John, 50 people were on board. There was only one survivor. That is their first officer, Jim Polehinke. He's still listed in critical condition at University of Kentucky Medical Center. So investigators have been unable to talk to him.

They hope just within the next few hours they'll have another update. Hopefully at that point they'll be able to review a little bit more information about what they found.

Back to you.

KING: Jason Carroll with the latest from Lexington, Kentucky.

Now, less than two months after North Korea tested a long-range missile, the United States is preparing a test of its own involving a missile defense system. But after a dramatic failure, will it work? Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been getting a firsthand look.

Let's go live for more now to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.

Hi, Jamie.


Well, this week marks a big test for national missile defense for the Pentagon, not perhaps the big test, but a big test, nevertheless.


MCINTYRE (voice over): A year and a half ago, when this target missile was launched from Kodiak Island, Alaska, the interceptor missile that was supposed to shoot it down failed to launch. It was the second flop in a row for U.S. missile defense tests.

So, Sunday, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld toured the U.S. missile base at Fort Greely, Alaska, where another test is being readied, he, in effect, pronounced the system a work in progress.

North Korea raised the stakes earlier this summer with its test of a newer version of this longer-range Taepo Dong-2 missile, which could in theory threaten the U.S. But Rumsfeld was issuing no pronouncements about the ability of the fledgling system to shoot down an incoming missile, saying he would first need to see a "full end-to- end demonstration where we actually put all the pieces together."

That's not what's happening Thursday. The Missile Defense Agency says the first scheduled law of an interceptor from Vandenberg, California, is designed to get data on new radars and guidance systems, not to knock the dummy warhead out of the sky, although that could happen, too.

STEPHEN YOUNG, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: Well, basically, they're trying to lower expectations. They've had a series of failures in a row, and they're trying to build up very slowly from the start, basically going back to ground zero and starting again.

MCINTYRE: A full-scale intercept test is set for the end of the year which the Pentagon says will give the best indication yet of the system's viability.


MCINTYRE: And Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says right now the biggest threat from North Korea is its ability to export missile technology, not so much its threat to invade the south with its million-man army. Rumsfeld says that army is suffering from crippling shortages and lack of training, and it's one reason the U.S. military wants to cut its forces in South Korea by as many as 12,000 troops -- John.

KING: Jamie McIntyre for us at the Pentagon.

Jamie, thank you very much.

And time now for what we call "The Cafferty File". Jack Cafferty is standing by in New York.

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John, how are you?

Remember that $230 million aid package President Bush proposed giving Lebanon last week? Well, if one top legislator gets his way, it's going to come with some conditions.

Congressman Tom Lantos is a Democrat from California. He visited Israel over the weekend and he said now that he's going to block the proposed aid package until the Lebanese government takes control of its border with Syria. Lantos can hold things up, too. He's the lead Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.

His concern is the ongoing smuggling of arms to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria. He says securing the borders is the prime national interest of the Lebanese people.

So here's the question: Should the U.S. freeze that $230 million aid package to Lebanon until that government prevents arms smuggling to Hezbollah?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to

It could be a tough call for the government officials, John, because Hezbollah is busy rebuilding much of southern Lebanon that was destroyed during that war. And if no aid from the United States shows up over there, it could just add more political brownie points to Hezbollah among the local populous.

KING: Exactly right. That's how they get their political support, building and building and providing social services.

Jack Cafferty, it's an interesting question. We'll check in later for the answer.

And up ahead here, for many seeking shelter, these will never come. Thousands of FEMA trailers meant for homeless Hurricane Katrina victims. So new and unused, the furniture is still wrapped in plastic. Why can't needy victims use them?

Also, Katrina not only devastated the Gulf Coast, it struck hard at the president's approval rating. Surprisingly, more so today than after the storm.

We'll tell you how much.

And are immigrants on an invasion and conquest of the United States, causing a state of emergency? Conservative Pat Buchanan thinks so. In a few minutes I'll ask him about his new book.


KING: We're looking at Hurricane Katrina one year later. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin suggests the biggest challenge for his city after Katrina is housing. Many people have not been able to rebuild, some still can't find temporary housing. But why can't they live in thousands of FEMA mobile homes meant just for them?

CNN Gulf Coast Correspondent Susan Roesgen first started tracking this story for us back in February. She joins us now live with an update.

Hi, Susan.


The update is that those mobile homes are still there and most of them will not be moving this way.


ROESGEN (voice over): Nearly 10,000 mobile homes intended for hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast are still in Arkansas, 450 miles away.

(on camera): Hey, come on in. Your tax dollars paid for this mobile home and 10,000 others just like it. (voice over): Each one was brand new a year ago, and the furniture is still wrapped in plastic. But it turned out that FEMA rules won't allow mobile homes in flood zones, and many hurricane victims decided these were just too big to fit in a driveway next to a damaged home. Now FEMA says the mobile homes will be used for other disasters.

(on camera): But these can't be sent to very the hardest-hit areas down in St. Bernard Parish, down in coastal Mississippi. And in places that got the worst of Katrina, these mobile homes won't ever go to those victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mobile homes aren't the answer for everybody, and that's why we looked at a variety of options, from mobile homes, to travel trailers, to repair grants and rental assistance. We're looking at a variety of ways to use federal inventory to help disaster victims.

ROESGEN (voice over): While these mobile homes may never get to the Gulf Coast, FEMA says it has helped more than 800,000 get some kind of housing.


ROESGEN: Now, how much did those mobile homes cost? Tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," John, we will add up the numbers.

KING: And we'll be watching.

Susan Roesgen, live for us in New Orleans.

Susan, thank you very much.

And critics might point to those empty trailers as yet another example of the Bush administration's mishandling of the storm. Even the president acknowledges the government's slow response, but who knew the public would still disapprove of the response even more so today than when Katrina first hit?


KING (voice over): Back on the Gulf Coast one year later, Katrina's political toll is obvious as the lingering rebuilding challenge.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: Katrina was clearly a blow to the president because it undermined his well- deserved reputation for competence and compassion.

KING: In a new CNN poll, just 34 percent of Americans approve of how Mr. Bush responded to Katrina, 64 percent disapprove. Even fellow Republicans say the president is still paying a price for the government's initial response a year ago.

COLLINS: It was hesitant and halting, when it should have been crisp and competent. KING: What made Katrina's political punch even more powerful was that it came just as Americans were turning increasingly sour on the Iraq war.

ANDREW KOHUT, PEW CENTER: As people become demoralized and negative about a political leader, when something like Katrina comes along it reinforces and cements in, crystallizes a negative image.

KING: Sixty percent of Americans, for example, viewed the president as a strong and decisive leader a year ago. Just 51 percent do now.

And 51 percent considered Mr. Bush honest and trustworthy back then. Just 44 percent now. This is part of what Bush allies consider a distorted picture. The president at first viewed the damage from Air Force One because he believed visiting right away would drain police and other resources from search and rescue efforts. Instead, this reinforced the idea of a president too detached to understand the desperation.

ANDREW CARD, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Some of the frustration that I experienced in the White House was that people didn't recognize that the president's hands were tied frequently during the response to Hurricane Katrina by a relatively weak response from the state and local governments.

KING: The president's anniversary visit is designed to offer assurances the government is better prepared for this hurricane season and to highlight a $110 billion federal commitment to the Gulf Coast recovery. Yet, even some loyalists lament what they see as a failure to follow through on this post-Katrina promise.

BUSH: We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

MICHAEL GERSON, FMR. SR. BUSH: ADVISER: You know, we gave out a lot of money and we're rebuilding various things, but America really needed a dialogue on race and poverty.


KING: The president in to New Orleans tonight. He continues his visit to the Gulf Coast tomorrow. And we'll continue covering it here on CNN.

And coming up, he suggests immigrants are invading America on a conquest and that the United States is in a state of emergency. Pat Buchanan, he's out with a new book. In just a few minutes I'll ask him about his strong positions.

And U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hopes to persuade Israel to make a key move to further ease tensions in the Middle East. We'll tell you what he recommends.


KING: He warns in this new book of an invasion of immigrants that's changing the very nature of America and could lead, he says, to the Southwest United States to once again become part of Mexico, at least culturally.

Joining me now at the table, political commentator, former presidential candidate, and the author again of this new book, "State of Emergency," Pat Buchanan.

A fairly provocative book here, Pat. I want to begin with something you say near the end of the book, where you call for a moratorium on immigration so that the government can think about what we should have as a policy.

And you say this: "The first imperative is an immediate moratorium on all immigration. And while the moratorium lasts, we should debate and decide whom we wish to come and whether we wish to alter or preserve the ethnic-religious composition of America. After all, America belongs to us, not the world."

There are some who would say Pat Buchanan wants to set a government policy where we pick the white English-speaking people. They can come to America. Others are left out.

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR, "STATE OF EMERGENCY": Pat would say the American people should decide who comes, John.

We've got 36 million immigrants in this country, 12 million folks here illegally, more illegal aliens than all the Jews and Irish and English who ever came. The American people want the borders secured, and I think they support a time-out. But if you've got to have a time-out, you've got to have a certain number -- as John F. Kennedy said, 150,000 to 250,000 -- who should decide who comes and what are the criteria?

I do believe we should favor folks from cultures and civilization that have been assimilated before. But the purpose of the moratorium is like the moratorium we had from 1924 to 1965, to assimilate, Americanize and to introduce all these folks to our language and culture, and history and heroes, and make them Americans.

KING: But you know how emotional this debate is, and many would say, if we went back in time, that you and I might not be here, that the Irish would not have been welcomed, if you had somebody in government...

BUCHANAN: We were in by then. We were in by then.

KING: ... somebody in government saying, who gets to come and who doesn't get to come?

BUCHANAN: Well, sure. John...

KING: You clearly think -- I want to read more from your book -- you clearly think that the people coming in from Mexico, and I assume Central and South America, are a threat to the culture of the United States, because you write in your book, "Those who believe it doesn't matter from where they come will turn America into something she cannot survive, becoming a multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual Tower of Babel."

You think it's that bad?

BUCHANAN: It's what Teddy Roosevelt said, we'll become a "polyglot boarding house for the world, a tangle of squabbling minorities."

The problem with the immigration, basically -- let's take Mexico -- is these folks are breaking the law first.

Secondly, they're coming in huge numbers like no other group before.

Third, they're from a contiguous nation.

Fourth, 58 percent of Mexicans believe the Southwest belongs to them.

Fifth, the Mexican government is pushing them in here, and it's got a political and ideological agenda that I outline in the book.

If you don't have secure borders, Ronald Reagan said, John, you don't have a country anymore.

KING: Well, let's talk a little bit about that, then I want to get to the politics. But you mentioned California in your book. You talk quite a bit about it, what you call an invasion coming in from Mexico.

"The golden land is no more. For the first time since the Spanish came, native born Californians have begun to depart, fed up with rising crime rates and rising taxes to subsidize illegal aliens. They're leaving for Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Colorado, as the California they grew up in and love morphs into Mexifornia."

You also talk about perhaps Texas.

Is that -- some people -- sometimes you write in a book, you get a little bit out there, a little hyperbole to catch attention. Are you trying to catch attention or do you think that's a serious threat?

BUCHANAN: Thirty-four percent of California is Hispanic. Thirty-four percent of Texas, 43 percent of New Mexico. You've got a half-million illegals making it in every year. You've got a million -- I mean, another half-million illegals.

Clearly, what is going to happen is that's going to be completely his Hispanicized. The Census Bureau, John, says 102 million Hispanics, mostly concentrated in the Southwest, by 2050.

To me, what happens when native-born Americans of European descent depart is this is going to become a border land which is basically neither America nor Mexico. How do you think the Mexicans lost Texas? The folks came it in from the South, they outnumbered Mexicans 10-1, and then they told the Mexicans good-bye.

KING: This is a dangerous debate. You get into race, ethnic questions.

Let me ask you this, if the border...

BUCHANAN: You've got to get into race and ethnic questions.

KING: If the border were secured and through legal immigration California became a majority Hispanic, majority Latino, Texas became a majority, do you have a problem with that if they came in through legal immigration?

BUCHANAN: Yes, I do. Yes, I do. Because of the Mexican situation Mexico has a claim on this country, John.

Our Irish ancestors, Italian ancestors, Jewish folks, they didn't say, look, this belongs to us. That (INAUDIBLE), what did you have 500,000 to a million people? They're under Mexican flags. They say, "This is our land."

You had 90,000 people in the coliseum in a soccer game in California, in L.A. What happened? When the Mexican team came out they booed the American flag, they tore down -- excuse me, tore down the American flag, booed our national anthem, threw garbage on the American team.

You've got a tremendously rising militant group among Mexicans in this country which is documented there, and if we don't wake up to it, we're risking the breakup of our country. T.R. warned against this, Wilson warned against it. Half the great Americans do.

KING: It is a significant policy debate. It's also a bit of a tug-of-war within your party. And you've gone to war with the Republican Party in the past when you deemed it necessary.

Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, as you know, disagrees with you, and the president of the United States disagrees with you on much of these points. What Ken Mehlman said in a June 22 speech to the -- I believe it was to the NAACP...


KING: No -- Latino-elected officials. I'm sorry.

He said, "America has always and will always be changed by the immigrants who come to our shores. Changed for the better."

You have a fundamental disagreement. I want you to talk about that in the context of Republican politics. You talk about it here about impeaching the president for not securing the borders.

BUCHANAN: I think the president is not going to be impeached, but he's guilty of an impeachable offense. The Constitution commands the president of the United States to defend the states from an invasion.

When he himself says six million people have been stopped, we don't know how many have gotten in. Most people think about half that number. You've got an invasion.

He hasn't been enforcing the immigration laws and he hasn't been defending the border against an invasion, John. He ain't going to be impeached, because the Democrats are going along with the program, because both of them are beholden to the same corporate people right down there on K Street who want limitless immigration and who want cheap labor, and who want to be able to go abroad and bring in foreign workers into this United States.

So I think that the president of the United States has been derelict in his duty, unlike Dwight Eisenhower who put together something calledoperation wetback" excuse me, on the border when he had a million immigrants coming in from Mexico. He said we have to stop this, he sent down a general to do it, and they deported those folks. Something has happened to the elites in this country if they can't defend America's border.

KING: What would you say, I've known you a long time. What would you say to a Muslim watching in Dearborn, Michigan or a Latino watching in Los Angeles, California, maybe even a Cuban-American watching in Miami, Florida, who says this is a crazy white guy?

BUCHANAN: I'd say look, anybody from any country or culture or civilization can be a good American. We know that. Cuban Americans are good Americans. Mexican Americans fight in our wars. Muslim Americans fight in our wars. I would say simply this -- I'm an American, if you're coming here to be an American, fine, that's the immigrants we want. But if you're coming here simply for a job, and you don't give a hoot about the United States of America, I would say stay home, because there's millions of people all over this world who want to be Americans, and those are the type of people who have waited in line for years who ought to get those 150,000 slots or 250,000 slots, John. Those are the folks we want. We don't want a bunch of proletarian workers who have no desire to be citizens and who don't want to be American citizens.

KING: And what do you say, lastly in closing, to a republican strategist like a Ken Mehlman or a Karl Rove at the White House who would say, talk like that will drive away Latino voters and cost the republicans what could be an emerging majority for the next 25, 30 years or so?

BUCHANAN: What I'll tell them is look, you keep pandering to La Raza, you keep going to meetings like that, you keep dishing the republican base by supporting open borders, which they don't want. You fail to secure America's borders and you will take down the coalition some of us put together with Richard Nixon and some of us put together with Ronald Reagan. You will drive away the Reagan democrats. It is working-class democrats, John who are the most militant, African-Americans, about stopping the invasion, because they suffer the social cost and they lose the jobs.

KING: Pat Buchanan, always provocative, agree or disagree, it's an interesting book.

BUCHANAN: Take it easy. KING: Good to see you Pat.

And coming up, is Iraq now in the middle of a civil war? It's been a hot debate in this country and it seems Iraqi leaders have their own differences about that. I'll speak with the deputy prime minister.

And why did they use the wrong runway. We'll use special software to give you a cockpit view of the situation at the Kentucky airport, which was the scene of this weekend's deadly crash. That's in the 7:00 p.m. hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: The Iraqi military says more than 20 of its soldiers and dozens of Shiite militia men have been killed in bloody street fighting in the city of Diwaniya. And there's been a deadly car bombing in Baghdad today. Our Michael Holmes is in the Iraqi capital.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the incident in Diwaniya, that's about 160 kilometers south of Baghdad, really turned into a pitched battle. This is a Shia area, an area heavy with militia influence, especially the feared Mehdi militia, now that's a group controlled by the radical Baghdad cleric Muqtada Al Sadr, who has been a problem for U.S. forces in particular over the last couple of years. Diwaniya's is something of a stronghold for his militia. Now it had been comparatively quiet there. But overnight there was an exchange between police and members of the Mehdi militia, perhaps over the arrest of one of the militia men. The Iraqi army came in to try to quiet things down, but that's when things really got out of hand. The latest info we have is that more than 60 people have been killed, 23 of them Iraqi soldiers. And according to the defense ministry, 38 militia men, and of course, many, many civilians are being caught up in this too, killed and wounded. There's been violence also in Baghdad, John, I have to tell you a massive car bomb outside the interior ministry here in the capital, that explosion killed 11 people, more than 60 were wounded, and this following on from the weekend deaths of eight U.S. servicemen. Those deaths occurring in roadside bombs and also small arms fire. So while the Iraqi government is saying, John that the death toll, the acts of violence are down this month, 100 people have been killed in just the last two days. John?

KING: Michael Holmes for us in Baghdad. And this latest violence raises the question, is a civil war already raging in Iraq? But even within the top ranks of the Iraqi government, there seems to be varying assessments of the security situation.

Barham Salih the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, thank you sir for joining us today from Baghdad. As we watch more violence today in (INAUDIBLE), I want to ask you if one of the problems here is that as the government tries to assert control if there are differences within your coalition governments. And I ask because of this, the prime minister Mr. Maliki was on this network just yesterday and he was quite optimistic. He said this, "We're not in a civil war and Iraq will never be in a civil war. The violence is in decrease and our security ability is increasing." And yet you had a much more sober assessment of the security situation when you were quoted in "The New York Times" very recently, you were acknowledging structural problems in the way the security forces were recruited. You said there has not been enough attention paid to quality nor to leadership. Command and control remains a problem. Mr. Deputy Prime Minister is one of the problems that you have disagreements within the senior officials of your own government?

BARHAM SALIH, IRAQI DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, I think the government and definitely the prime minister, myself and the other senior leadership of the government recognize the need to improve the quality of Iraqi security services. What happened in (INAUDIBLE) today was very significant and very important. Iraqi military took on a militia, an armed group that operated outside the law and took decisive action. And nobody could accuse the government of being engaged in sectarian conflict as such because this was done against what is a Shia community in (INAUDIBLE) or a Shia armed group somehow. And was done by a Shia led prime minister, the prime minister did not hesitate to take them on. So this in many ways why one regrets the loss of life in the conflict today but one should also recognize this is a sign of leadership and seriousness by the government to take on those who violate the law.

KING: You mention those who violate the law. I want to ask you, is this militia in question loyal to Muqtada Al Sadr and I ask you because in this country as the political debate unfolds in the United States, here's something said recently by Senator John McCain of Arizona. He says, "Al Sadr has got to be taken out of this equation. His militia has got to be addressed forcefully. Militias cannot control Iraq. We cannot allow that to happen. Is this Al Sadr you're dealing with today?

SALIH: Elements that were affiliated with Muqtada Al Sadr party, the (INAUDIBLE) party. But according to what we have heard today, Muqtada Al Sadr has disavowed those people and this is what some of his close associates have informed the prime minister that these groups were operating outside his control. Regardless of who is behind this group or not, one thing should be clear that our framework of activity in this country they should abide by the law of the land and anybody that violates the law will be stopped. And the government with the resources it has and with the support of the international coalition should deal with those elements that violate the law, whoever that might be.

KING: What is your assessment of where Iraq stands in its political transition, especially with the question asked so often here in the United States as to whether you are in or at the verge of a civil war. And I ask because of these numbers. If you look at the number of Iraqi civilians killed in January according to the United Nations, it was just shy of 1800. In May it spiked up to nearly 2700. In the July the bloodiest month in quite some time, nearly 3500 Iraqis killed. To many here in the United States that is proof, that if you're not in a civil war, you're certainly very close sir.

SALIH: Undeniably the transition in Iraq has been very tough and the loss of life has been terrible. And it is important also to understand the following points. Any other society that would have gone through the experience of Iraq, car bombs day in, day out, society battered by these terrible (INAUDIBLE) by international jihadists and the remnants of the former regime. In some ways one can argue it is remarkable that Iraqis have stayed somewhat (INAUDIBLE). Yes there is sectarians fighting this country, yes there is sectarian divisions and unfortunately in certain situations have deepened in recent times. But we all recognize the (INAUDIBLE), the mainstream leadership of this country from the various communities recognize that a civil war would be a calamity for all, there will be no winners. And in recent times we have had to change and important change. For the first time through the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime we had a national unity government that represents all elements of Iraqi societies. All these diversities included in this government. Sometimes I complain about them because it makes the government less efficient than I would like it to be. But in terms of the political statement as it stands that Iraqis want to be united in the face of the evil of terrorism and the difficulties that we have to deal with. We have a government that has embarked on a campaign of national reconciliation. A couple of days ago the prime minister opened, inaugurated this meeting attended by 500 tribal chiefs.

This is a society engaged in soul searching, we have problems, we have serious, serious problems and I'm not here to tell you things are easy, absolutely not. That's -- there is a committed determination by the government and mainstream political leadership to make it happen. At the same time there are extremists who try to make it difficult. Furthermore I want to say also Mr. King, we live in the Middle East, we're surrounded by a tough neighborhood. Over the past month this entire Middle East was (INAUDIBLE) in a situation of conflict and chaos because of the actions of one group with the abduction of two soldiers. We are burdened by the difficulties and the complexities of the entire Middle East. Transition in Iraq is complex, tough, difficult. The thing that needs to be understood is that there are many Iraqis who are serious about making it work because if it does not work it would be a calamity for us and I dare say a calamity for the rest of the region too as well.

KING: Well then let me ask you quickly in closing sir, we're nearly out of time. But because of these circumstances, the government taking on the militias, what you say the complications in the region because of Hezbollah and the like, will you need American troops longer, for a citizen of the United States in this election year where Iraq is the dominant issue? Do you think there is any hope of U.S. troops beginning to come on in serious numbers this year or does Iraq need them for some time to come?

SALIH: Well, definitely we and the Americans recognize that security in Iraq cannot be assured without Iraqis assuming full control of the security (INAUDIBLE). If you were to compare our situation to three years ago, now we have nearly 300,000 troops and policeman. Half of Iraqi provinces will be turned over to Iraqi security control in September. Another province, Dakar, will be offered to Iraqi security control in September. The Iraqi ministry of defense and the joint headquarters will be assuming direct control of Iraqi ground forces. There is progress taking place and I think as more Iraqi troops come online and recruited and with the right type of leadership, more reliance we will become on them and less reliant we will be on American troops and then American troops can go home with deep gratitude and appreciation for what they have done for this country because they have helped us overcome the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and they gave us the freedom that we have fought for, for so long.

KING: Barham Salih, the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, sir thank you very much for joining us today in THE SITUATION ROOM.

SALIH: Thank you for having me.

KING: A day of dramatic developments in the investigation of the 1996 murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Let's go straight now to our Susan Candiotti in Boulder, Colorado with yet another big development. Susan?

CANDIOTTI: Right. We have already heard by now, I believe you have, our viewers have, that there will be no case now against John Mark Karr. The district attorney here in Boulder has announced that it is dropping that probable cause warrant that they used to pick him up in Thailand, and there will be no case against John Mark Karr. This is a man that you will recall claimed that he had information about JonBenet Ramsey. He even sat before reporters in Thailand and said that he was with JonBenet in the basement when she died and furthermore said he was not an innocent man. Nevertheless, naturally, authorities need to have evidence against anybody if they're going to charge him. We have learned through a lengthy document provided to us by the district attorney's office about how they traced information about Mr. Karr. And let me say before going on any further, we've also received information that he has already been released from the Boulder County Jail.

Now, how did this all go down? Well, the long and the short of it is this -- the district attorney said that it started looking at him before April of last year because of e-mails that had been provided to investigators that he had expressed an interest in JonBenet Ramsey. After that, the e-mails took a different turn. These were coded e-mails, so in the beginning they didn't know exactly where John Mark Karr was. Eventually, to make a long story short, they were able to identify where he was in Thailand and in fact they went there. Authorities say that they took DNA samples from items that he had touched from the apartment where he was living in Thailand, but investigators here and authorities here, a laboratory technician said they did not want to rely on those, they wanted to take a swab from the inside of his mouth.

After he was picked up, John Mark Karr refused to provide a sample on two different occasions, and get this, when he finally did consent, apparently authorities did not have a swab kit with them. Consequently, he traveled all the way here to Colorado. At that time authorities in Colorado obtained a search warrant and did take a DNA swab. That swab was sent to the Denver police crime lab. There was no match, and that's why the district attorney says it has dropped its case against him. And because California authorities who had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant on him have not called authorities here in Colorado to ask for Karr, he was released from jail here. That's the long and the short of it. John, back to you.

KING: Susan Candiotti for us on the dramatic developments in Boulder, Colorado. We're joined now I believe on the phone by Jeff Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst. Oh there he is right there in New York, Jeff I'm sorry, we have you in person. In a word, listening to Susan Candiotti, wow!


KING: Textbook of how not to run an investigation?

TOOBIN: I mean, you know, you just have to wonder what they were thinking in going to all this trouble. And you know, the real losers here are the taxpayers of Boulder who underwrote this rather bizarre expedition and also the family of JonBenet Ramsey who were led to believe that there had been this major break in the case and what seems to be a fairly simple resolution by testing this guy, which could have been done in Thailand, turned into this cross -- transpacific adventure. And it just seems like a very bad way to run a prosecutor's office.

KING: And you know Jeff, you've tracked many high profile cases and of course the prosecutor has been under pressure for a decade now to solve this case, to come forward with a suspect in this case, but we have not heard from them publicly about this. Where do they go from here?

TOOBIN: Well, I think it just goes back to the status quo. There was a lot of pressure to settle -- to resolve this case several years ago, but there certainly hasn't been much pressure recently. I mean, the case like most 10 year old murders that aren't solved, I think everyone expected it to remain unsolved. So it does not seem like precipitous action was really necessary. Now in defense of Mary Lacy, the two points she raised at her press conference -- I'm sure we'll hear from her more -- one was the issue of public safety. She knew that Karr had a record of pedophilia, if not criminal behavior, he's never been convicted of anything. And he was teaching children in Bangkok, so there was that risk, and also the issue of risk of flight. They were worried that if they didn't grab him right then, he could have disappeared for all time. Now, I still think it was a pretty dubious decision to arrest him the way they did, but I'm sure that will be the defense when Mary Lacy makes her public comments.

KING: And we will continue to track it. Jeff Toobin, thanks for your help, trying to explain perhaps, trying to understand the inexplicable. Jeff Toobin thank you very much in New York.

And still to come, will he or won't he? Iran's president, as the United Nations deadline looms for Iran to stop its nuclear program, the Iranian suggests how his country might respond.


KING: Just days before the United Nations deadline for Iran to halt its suspect nuclear activity, Iran's leader is telling the world, don't hold your breath. Our Aneesh Raman is the sole U.S. network correspondent in Iran now, and he's live for CNN in Tehran, a report you'll see only on CNN. Hi Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi John. You would think that with that Thursday deadline looming, Iran's president would show at least a little bit of anxiety, instead at every turn it seems, he's showing quite the opposite.


RAMAN (voice-over): Iran's president is saying it as often and as clearly as he can these days, the west should stop waiting.

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN: You should know, he says, that no power can stop our nation from making progress. Based on this our nation's decision in its way of scientific and technological developments is a strong one.

RAMAN: The latest remarks came as Ahmadinejad applauded Iran's nuclear scientists for their work. And came a day after the president, ahead of a U.N. deadline to stop Iran's nuclear program, announced the opposite, that he was expanding it, unveiling a new heavy-water production plant at the Iran nuclear facility. Then there are the country's ongoing war games. On Sunday state-run TV showcased a submarine fired missile, overall the message is a defiant one. But the rhetoric is not always consistent. In fact, President Ahmadinejad sometimes offers more conciliatory words, repeatedly these days saying Iran is no threat to the world, nor even to the country he wants wiped off the map.

AHMADINEJAD: We are no threat, he said on Saturday to the Zionist regime, which is a definite enemy for people of the region, the solution is elections. To solve the problem of Israel we have said that a free election attended by all Palestinians must be held.

RAMAN: Iran knows its nuclear defiance could bring about U.N. sanctions, but officials here hope its calls for dialogue will keep the U.N. divided over what to do next. And as for reports the United States may embark on unilateral sanctions that would come as little surprise. Recently the country's head nuclear negotiator told CNN this entire nuclear dispute is fueled by the Bush administration's desire for regime change. It's a sentiment likely to resurface Tuesday when Iran's president gives only his third news conference since taking office.


RAMAN: It is essentially a given that next week there will be a diplomatic standoff. What is unclear is whether it will be between Iran and the United Nations or more directly between the United States and Iran. John?

KING: Aneesh Raman on the ground for us in Tehran at this critical time. Aneesh thank you very much.

Up next, Jack Cafferty wants to know, should the United States freeze $230 million in aid until the Lebanese government takes control of its border with Syria. Your thoughts just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Our Zain Verjee joins us with a look at other stories making news right now. Hi Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi John. Federal investigators questioned passengers aboard a US Airways jet after a threatening note was found. The commuter jet took off from Philadelphia this morning to Houston. The plane was diverted to Bristol, Tennessee and searched, but no bomb was found. 56 passengers were on board. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's meeting with Lebanese and Hezbollah leaders in Beirut today. Annan called on Hezbollah to hand two kidnapped Israeli soldiers over to the Red Cross as soon as possible, and he promised to urge Israeli leaders to lift a blockade of Lebanon when he meets with them tomorrow. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meanwhile saying that the decision to invade Lebanon was his and Mr. Olmert says that he will not set up an independent commission to investigate the offensive. Instead he says he'll launch his own narrower probe. John?

KING: Zain Verjee, thank you very much Zain. Still ahead, Jack Cafferty wants to know should the United States freeze $230 million in aid to Lebanon until the Lebanese government prevents arms smuggling to Hezbollah? Your thoughts are just ahead.


KING: Let's check back in with Jack Cafferty in New York. Hi Jack.

CAFFERTY: John, the top democrat on the House International Relations Committee, that's Tom Lantos, says he'll block a U.S. aid package to Lebanon until the Lebanese government prevents arms smuggling to Hezbollah. The question we asked is, is that a good idea? Should the U.S. hold up aid to that country. Alyn in Dover, Delaware, "Absolutely not. After the Israeli's used U.S. made munitions to kill so many Lebanese civilians it would be immoral to withhold aid. Besides the Lebanese government is not strong enough to disarm Hezbollah and it's time to quit pretending that it is."

Corey in Maine, "How about we stop dishing out massive amounts of cash to volatile parts of the world? The only thing we should send under contract with the Red Cross is medical supplies, food and clean water." Pete in Illinois, "How about a permanent freeze? Is anyone naive enough to believe that a great portion of that money, if not all of it, will go to Hezbollah?" Smith writes, "Tom Lantos is placing Israel above the national interests of the United States when he advocates blocking aid to Lebanon." John in Tennessee, "Do they really want our money? CNN has shown coverage of Lebanese people refusing aid from workers on the ground. Maybe such money would be better spent contracting with Hezbollah to fix New Orleans. Can that be done, swords into plow shares?" And Carl in Connecticut writes, "Sounds like a great idea. While we're at it, can we freeze the salaries of the House, Senate, President, and Cabinet until they secure our borders?"

Now there's an idea. If you didn't see your email here, go to, you can read more of these online. And on THE SITUATION ROOM at 7:00 John, we're going to take a look at the dismissal of any criminal charges against this John Karr. I mean the news media got played like a tin drum on this thing for weeks and weeks. Turns out the guy was not linked to the case at all and he's a free man now, is that right? He's been let go.

KING: He's a free man, he's been let go Jack, he's in Boulder, Colorado. The case has been dropped and the suspect has been freed. It is a dramatic story. You will check in on it at 7:00?

CAFFERTY: Well we're going to ask a little question about whether the news media might have learned something from the way they covered this thing.

KING: We will ask questions about it as well and ask what the prosecutors are saying about it. And remember we're here every weekday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 eastern and we're back on the air at 7:00 p.m. eastern, just one hour from now. Until then, I'm John King in THE SITUATION ROOM. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. Kitty Pilgrim is in for Lou. Kitty?