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Osama bin Laden Fallout; Bin Laden's Secret Life; Mississippi River Flooding

Aired May 9, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. A busy night and hour of breaking news this Monday -- this right here, a live picture of the mighty Mississippi -- look at that -- Memphis, Tennessee. Thousands are being evacuated from their homes tonight and the river set to crest right there in Memphis this hour. We're tracking the flooding and whether water levels break a 74-year record. They are anxious tonight in Memphis and even more so down river in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Also tonight new details as the president prepares a new push for sweeping immigration reform, it's what President Obama calls long overdue improvements, well his critics see them as re-election campaign pandering.

But we begin tonight with important and explosive fallout from the death of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan forcefully pushed back today against President Obama's demand that it find out who helped Osama bin Laden hide for years in a compound a short walk from Pakistan's largest military academy. Pakistan's prime minister in a speech to parliament today said it was disingenuous for the White House to suggest someone in Pakistan security forces or military protected the al Qaeda leader.


YOUSUF RAZA GILANI, PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: The obvious question that has (INAUDIBLE) everyone is how could Osama bin Laden hide in plain sight in the scenic surroundings of Abbottabad. Let's not rush to judgment. Allegations (INAUDIBLE) of incompetence are absurd.


KING: The prime minister, Yousuf Gilani, also said any U.S. military assets entering Pakistan without permission as those Navy SEALs did a week ago would be met, he said, quote, "with full force". The Obama White House on the one hand is looking to calm tensions with Pakistan, but on the other will not rule out a similar operation down the road if it believes it is worth it.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We completely understand Pakistani concerns. We understand the uniqueness of an operation like this. But we make no apologies for the fact that Osama bin Laden needed to be found and brought to justice and that's what we did.


KING: CNN's Reza Sayah is in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad for us tonight and Reza, when you look at this language from the prime minister to the parliament today, quite defiant. Is this relationship headed for a breakup?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't think it's headed for a breakup. But you can certainly argue based on what you heard from the prime minister, that he tried to turn up the heat, escalate tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan. But I think everyone both sides agrees that both sides still need one another and despite all of these serious crises that these two countries face, they're going to somehow plod and trudge forward.

I think the U.S. needs Pakistan when it comes to the fight against extremism in this region, if it ever wants to hammer out a political solution in Afghanistan, if it ever wants to pull out its troops it needs Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, needs the U.S. to give its weak often unstable government some credibility.

Obviously the U.S. giving Pakistan billions in economic and military aid and perhaps most importantly for the security establishment in Pakistan they need the U.S. to give this country some leverage against its perennial enemy, India. So despite these serious crises, I think there's no indication that this partnership is going to fall apart.

KING: And how much of it -- we understand there's deep anti- American sentiment in Pakistan to begin with and even more so after this pretty bold and daring raid by the United States without telling the Pakistani government. When the prime minister delivers that speech, how much of it is for public consumption? Essentially saying OK, I'm willing to beat the Americans back up a little bit here.

SAYAH: I think the fact that this was an address delivered to parliament meant that it was mostly for domestic consumption. But John, I think even many people here in Pakistan were disappointed with what the prime minister had to say. I think just like people in the Obama administration, in Washington, were eager to hear something from the prime minister.

Some kind of acknowledgement like look there is a problem with the Pakistani government and its security establishment when it comes to the fight against extremism and now we're headed on a -- in a new direction, perhaps embarking at a new policy when it comes to extremism. That didn't happen.

KING: And one thing we did see, Reza that alarms people in Washington and I can assure you it alarms on this point was the publication in some Pakistani media outlets of a name identified in those accounts as the CIA station chief in Pakistan. One U.S. officials saying that if that happened that quote "crosses a red line in intelligence protocol". Explain that. SAYAH: Yes, look, that really underscores how troubled and often adversarial this relationship is between Islamabad and Washington. What happened is that an alleged name of a CIA station chief here in Islamabad was published in a Pakistani newspaper. Obviously if a person like that is outed, he has to be pulled from this country. It's something that's happened before here in Islamabad.

U.S. officials neither deny nor confirm that this has happened. In fact they say there are no plans to pull out the CIA station chief. One intelligence official here in Pakistan flatly denies it. But I think the bigger issue is that these allegations and this finger- pointing and accusations is taking place between two countries that are supposed to be partners, that are supposed to be working together in this fight against extremism. And these are certainly more indications that they are not always the best of partners.

KING: Reza Sayah in Islamabad and a fascinating and important moment in U.S./Pakistan relations. Reza thanks so much.

And let's turn now to a veteran foreign policy voice in the Congress, Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We spoke a bit earlier and I asked the senator about the tough language used by Pakistan's prime minister.


KING: Met with full force, his term, full force --


KING: This is a country that has received in the ballpark of $20 billion from the United States. This is a country that has a hit and a miss, a hot and cold record, if you will, when it comes to being a partner in the war on terrorism. Understanding the sensitivity, their sovereignty was violated but is that the language that shows that this relationship is on the way toward a rebuilding or is that language that shows you full force, if any U.S. forces cross over that border again shows you we have a problem?

LUGAR: Well it shows we have a problem in any event and we have had a problem for some time. This is a very, very tough relationship of a country that from time to time feels embarrassed. From time to time feels that we do not appreciate what they are doing. But also has its own objectives and they do not always coincide with ours particularly in Afghanistan where the Pakistanis have on occasion been cooperative, but on many occasions clearly are frustrated over what we're attempted to do and really undermine the possibilities of our having a complete triumph in Afghanistan.

KING: So when the prime minister says absurd, understanding he might need to say that for domestic political consumption, do you believe there is any way that somebody senior whether it's in the military or the ISI, is there any way bin Laden lived in that compound for five years or so without anybody senior in the military, the security services knowing about it? LUGAR: No, I think there were those who did know about it and there is embarrassment among the intelligence, ISI, the military and the civilian government as to who knew and why others were not informed. It's apparent from reports as how word was received by various Pakistani officials that some were indeed surprised.

KING: And so one of the questions now is what now? And the Pakistanis have said after some back and forth and some uncertainty that they would be willing to let the United States question some of the people taken into custody which include some of bin Laden's wives as long as not only the Pakistanis sign off on it but the country of origin. We know for example one of the wives is Yemeni. Is that acceptable?

LUGAR: Well, I'll leave that to our military officials. I presume it is an offer of cooperation, which obviously is very different than the thought of total abuse of force against any further military incursion.

KING: I want you to listen here, the Pakistani -- you heard the prime minister. He said that there would be an investigation in Pakistan. It is being conducted however by somebody who is very close to the military chief of staff, so there is some skepticism in Washington that it will be a full and thorough investigation. And here's evidence of that skepticism. Listen to the White House press secretary Jay Carney on the question of an investigation.


CARNEY: We believe that they will investigate it and we hope it will be a full and complete investigation, but we are also obviously investigating ourselves and this is all part of a cooperative relationship that we need to have and we have had despite our differences in the past and we think we will continue to have going into the future.


KING: If it's such a cooperative relationship, Senator Lugar, do you need two investigations or do we just not trust them?

LUGAR: Well we can benefit from whatever is found out in the joint investigation. But I would point out as others already have that we have carted out of the bin Laden compound what some have estimated a half of a library of all sorts of hard drives, tapes, records and so forth. In other words, the investigation was called for by the Pakistanis to satisfy Pakistani officials and the Pakistani public as to what happened. I think we have a pretty good idea as to what has happened and this is one reason why our military objective was successful.

KING: And so if the Pakistani government comes back in a few months and says no, we had no involvement at all, nobody in the military, nobody in security services knew and the administration comes to the conclusion that somebody did know, then what? LUGAR: Then we just simply continue to have a very difficult relationship. I don't think that there has been any premium on truth telling upon sharing of intelligence all the way through this.

KING: Do you see us just having the same relationship for years and years and years. We trust some of what happens. We don't trust other parts of what happens and we're back and forth or does something need to be done, Senator, to either break and end this relationship or to reset it in a way that would start a foundation of trust?

LUGAR: Well we can always be attempting to set a foundation of trust and that ought to be our objective. Not to break the relationship. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. We are very hopeful that they have security on those nuclear weapons so that there is not fissile material or any other aspect that gets into the hands of al Qaeda or al Shabaab or any other terrorist organization. That's critical. And so we have a good number of objectives in that relationship that go well beyond the difficulties we're having currently over whatever happened to bin Laden.

KING: With a week to reflect, sir, since the death of bin Laden, what is your sense of the state, the strength of al Qaeda today?

LUGAR: I think that al Qaeda still has many cells, many of them perhaps operating fairly independently. It will depend upon what sort of transition there is in the overall leadership, whether Zawahiri come in to power or whether he is acceptable. There are going to be, however, al Qaeda cells in Africa, in Yemen, elsewhere. And they are going to continue to operate in ways that are injurious to us.

KING: Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, Senator thanks for your time.

LUGAR: Thank you very much, sir.

KING: Take care, sir.


KING: Still ahead tonight, the president's new push for immigration reform. Is there finally, finally political will to get something done or is this more about Latino voters and 2012 politics? And next, the secret life of Osama bin Laden inside his Pakistan compound and to the end his hands-on role planning terror.


KING: We know Osama bin Laden watched news coverage about himself and decided to darken his beard apparently because he didn't like the way it looked on TV. What else do we now know about his secret life at that compound in Afghanistan and what authorities are learning from all of the videos, documents, computer files those Navy SEALs seized at the bin Laden compound.

CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen is with us. Peter, you know Osama bin Laden perhaps better than almost anybody in the western world. You've sat down with him, interviewed him, studied him for more than a decade, written books about him. In the past few days when we learned some of these new details, what has been most surprising to you?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Let's start with the things that aren't surprising. That he was living in a compound in a sort of urbanized area. That was obvious from all his statements, which you know he was talking about the books he read. He was mentioning (INAUDIBLE) the American author. You know news coverage; clearly he was not in a cave.

Also every time we seen a videotape of him, his clothes have been pressed. Caves don't usually have laundry facilities. You know so it was clear that he was in an urbanized situation. Also he's a family man, unsurprising, he's had, you know got married when he was 17 for the first time. He was with his family, his kids.

But what -- I mean the one thing that of course that is surprising is location, 30 miles from Islamabad. That is something that no one really predicted. I thought that he would be in the tribal areas in a compound semi-urbanized with his family but not so close to the capital.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) we have some of the -- some of the information we've learned in recent days loaded up here and I want to start -- this is essentially a sketch of the compound. You have the grounds out here. You have the main complex in the building here. Here's one of the things -- let's start with this.

We saw this -- the United States government decided to release this videotape of Osama bin Laden. We all have the image of the long beard, the graying beard. If you look at this, it's very different -- is younger the right word? What does that tell you?

BERGEN: Well this is -- when he hit 50 he started dyeing his beard. He's not the first man in history to have personal vanity about this issue going -- you know his beard going gray, so this is what he -- yes, he's not immune to these kinds of things.

KING: They didn't release any of the audio, just the pictures the United States government did.


KING: We know that he watches himself on television. Is that to learn and to study? Is that narcissism?

BERGEN: I mean probably a little bit of both. You know he -- he's been very obsessed by his media image. He told (INAUDIBLE) the leader of the Taliban 90 percent of my battles in the media. He was taking it very seriously. He did an interview with CNN with us in '97. That was the beginning of his sort of television media campaign.

He gave multiple interviews to print journalists. You know he was very careful about his image. I've interviewed al-Zawahiri, correspondent, he'd ask them to do retakes of things that he didn't think were (INAUDIBLE) heroic. So you know a guy who's pretty careful of his image. Not the first person in history, not the last.

KING: We know -- let's take some more looks at the details as we do -- we know for example, just some of his behavior in there, stayed primarily in two rooms in the compound, but he did take daily walks. Not involved in any of the chores though we are told of the facility, handwriting -- used his own handwriting to write down plots that they found including the assessment of maybe some sort of a rail attack in the United States against railways of the United States. What does that tell you?

BERGEN: Well, you know it was the assessment of U.S. intelligence officials that I spoke to that he would be staying in one place. I mean it's common sense. You don't go out. You don't travel. Every time you do he's 6'4". He's one of the most recognizable people in human history.

Even under a burka (ph) you know he still stands out. So the fact that he was doing this is not surprising. And one of the reasons that this compound attracted attention is the very few people in this compound were doing anything normal. So they weren't doing grocery shopping. They weren't going to go to the movies according to -- you know that's what drew intelligence officials to this.

KING: You mentioned that. There were regular deliveries we are learning --

BERGEN: Right.

KING: -- including goats, sheep and Coca-Cola of all things --


KING: -- the great American brand.


BERGEN: -- to Coca-Cola. I think that it might have been a Mecca-Cola (ph), which is like an Islamic based certified non-American product. Bin Laden actually boycotted American goods since the '80s, so --

KING: So you find that implausible?

BERGEN: I think -- I find that implausible. Soft drinks, sure, alcohol, no.

KING: You mentioned at the top and people at home I think would recoil to hear the sentence, so I want you to explain what you meant by it. That he's a family man. This is a man who has murdered thousands including women and children.


KING: We know there were nine children living in the compound. They found some medicine in the compound for upset stomach for children. BERGEN: Yes. He's not the first mass murderer in history. He's got a rich family life. And you know bin Laden got married when he was a teenager. He's had five wives. He's got 20 kids and he likes being around his family and so here we are. We found -- I mean I'm not sure if all of these nine children are his kids. It might have been perhaps some of the kids from other -- of the men in the compound.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) take a walk back over and stand here. One of the things now the prime minister of Pakistan, the Pakistani government saying today that it is fine with the United States interviewing anyone taken into custody from the compound as long as if they are from another country, not Pakistan, their home country signs off.

We know one of the wives, for example, is Yemeni. Assume that process goes forward. Would there be valuable intelligence to be gleaned from a wife of Osama bin Laden? Would they know anything about what is most valuable to U.S. officials?

BERGEN: I think they would have some atmospherics that would be pretty valuable but they wouldn't for instance know which men were meeting with bin Laden because they wouldn't be you know in the same room as men that aren't related to and you know bin Laden certainly wouldn't be confiding in them details of what he was planning to do in terms of attacks. You know they would know something about the domestic scene, something about when did we arrive in this compound, where were we living before, things that would be interesting but not really valuable intelligence in terms of attacks.

KING: Does his appearance in the videos that the government released, is there anything that you'd look at that gives you any hint of what he was trying to do?

BERGEN: Well I mean I think the one of him watching the TV is like you know occasionally U.S. government does something that's totally spectacular in terms of what, you know, public diplomacy. (INAUDIBLE) you know remember the image of Saddam Hussein when they were checking him for head lice. That undercut Saddam's heroic image completely. This thing -- this picture of bin Laden watching, you know, TV on his La-Z-Boy with equipment, you know, that, that I think is a pretty iconic image of the kind that he did not want out there.

KING: So released on purpose you think --

BERGEN: I mean yes, totally and because we were expecting that there will be heroic, you know, post humus tape from bin Laden coming at some point from al Qaeda, which will not be the guy on the La-Z- Boy. It will be, you know, the usual kind of bin Laden propaganda.

KING: And U.S. officials talk of enough information to fill half a library.

BERGEN: Yes, which is just amazing --

(CROSSTALK) BERGEN: I mean this is one of the great things that President Obama did. I mean, if you drop an F-16 on the place, well that material wouldn't be there. It's not -- the death of bin Laden is important, but even more important is this, you know, this is the mother load of all information about al Qaeda. It's 10 years of accumulated, maybe even longer, stuff that really will lay out where was he getting his money from to the extent that he had it. What plots were in the pipeline? Who is he communicating with? Did he have any support from anybody inside the Pakistani establishment, you know the Saudi establishment, all the questions we've asked over the years may to some degree be answered.

KING: And are you convinced that he was foolish enough -- this is a guy who is a horrible mass murderer, brilliant in a horrible way sometimes, foolish enough to keep all those records?

BERGEN: Yes. I mean well clearly -- I mean the treasure-trove speaks for itself. I mean --

KING: But that specific, here's where the money is coming from. Here perhaps is where al-Zawahiri lives.

BERGEN: Yes, all those things. I mean the same thing happened when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational commander of 9/11, when he was arrested there were computers. There were cell phones, all the stuff that was exploited, but it was nothing to the degree that we're finding here.

KING: What's your biggest question right now?

BERGEN: Well, the biggest question I think for any American is to what extent was Pakistani support network and was there any official involvement. I don't see any evidence of that right now, but clearly that's the big question.

KING: When you hear Senator Lugar very respected voice on foreign affairs on the Republican side, Senator Kerry on the Democratic side, when you hear so many people in the Obama administration say they cannot see any way that somebody senior in the military, the government or the Pakistani intelligence services didn't know.

BERGEN: You know incompetence is a very good explanation of almost all human activity, and so rather than conspiracy, and so until we have evidence, I don't want to take a position.

KING: Peter Bergen, appreciate your insights. Thanks for coming in.

BERGEN: Thanks.

KING: Ahead, Arizona's governor and President Obama, well they're both making new pushes on immigration law. We'll explain. They are very, very different ideas.

And next, the Mississippi is cresting in Memphis and threatening dozens of communities in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. We head live to the flood zone and we'll hear from Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour who is offering this warning to some residents.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are telling them be prepared. You will not have very much time -- if the levee fails you will not have very much time to get out.



KING: Look at those live pictures right there. That's the Mississippi River, Memphis, Tennessee, tonight a slow motion disaster washing right there through Memphis, the worst flooding along the Mississippi River since the 1930s. The water has been rising for days and the mayor of Memphis says it's hard keeping people on alert describing it as quote, "warning fatigue". Down river the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana face the same problem.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: It's very important people understand as the water levels rise, the currents can be very, very dangerous. So we strongly, strongly encourage our residents follow your guidance from your local law enforcement officials.


KING: Governor Jindal there even though the Mississippi is not expected to crest in his state, Louisiana, until next week. In Memphis, well that could be tonight, could be this hour. CNN's David Mattingly is there right now. And David, it is amazing watching you standing there. Levees appear sound so far, right?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, they've got this huge levee system in place all up and down the Mississippi that was really inspired by those great floods of the 1920s and '30s. But they've never really been tested like this. I mean here in Memphis they haven't seen this much water in generations. The water here just to give you an idea of how much they are dealing with, the Mississippi at this point is typically about a half mile across.

But look at this. It looks more like an inland sea right now. We're looking at three miles of water instead of a half mile of water. So the amount of water here is just mind-boggling. The last time I really saw floods like this was after Hurricane Katrina, but this disaster is vast by comparison. Here in Memphis they have their protection. They have their levees. And so far they're doing pretty well at keeping the city dry.

But this water is so great that the tributaries that typically drain into the Mississippi, their water can't go anywhere, so it's backing up and creating pockets of flooding all around the city. People unfortunate enough to be living in those low lying areas around those tributaries they are the ones who are being forced out of their homes, not the people who are living behind the levees here at the waterfront.

So, so far the levee system that they have in place is working. But this water is only beginning to be a problem. It has moved up. It has crested here in Memphis. But this is going to take weeks to drain out. So who knows what effect it's going to have as wear and tear on those levees over those weeks -- it could be some time in June, John, before this water gets back into the banks where it belongs.

And as you're looking at all of this, remember, it's all got to go to the south. Everything that's hit here in Tennessee and Arkansas is now on its way to Mississippi and then to Louisiana where we're going to see historic high water marks set all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

KING: David Mattingly live in Memphis tonight -- it is a remarkable picture. David, we'll keep in touch as this plays out. And you see David deep in the water there. Let's take a closer look at some of the other areas that could be impacted. You heard David talk about the waters will head south from there -- Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia. Let's just take a look -- where's all this water coming from, 31 states. Water from 31 states ultimately, even from way up here in the mountain west from 31 states water ultimately makes its way in to the Mississippi River drainage basin. That is why when you have this problem it can be so profound because there is so much water coming into the Mississippi flood basin right now.

So, now, what is at risk here? Let's bring up this area as well. If you look at the most at risk areas, Greenville, Mississippi, Vicksburg, Mississippi, Fort Gibson, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Let me show you something stunning here. This is a little before and after in satellite image. This is Fulton, Tennessee. You see this "before" image? This is mostly land. You can tell looking at it. You see some of the river beds over here, river bed over here.

But watch this as you come through. Wow! Water just coming in over that. That's one image. Let me close that one down.

We'll bring up another one for you here. This is Dyer, Tennessee. Again, if you look here, you see -- come back over here just a little bit. You see the land here. You see that's dry farmland, right? Do you see that?

Now, watch this as this plays out. Just buried in a wave of water, in a wave of water.

So, that's Tennessee up there.

As you watch the map play out, we're watching cresting in Memphis tonight. We're watching it flow down the states that are on alert, Mississippi next, and then Louisiana. Let's check in with one of the governors having to deal with this flooding problem, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

And, Governor, you have 14 disaster declarations, 14 counties along the river. What is your biggest fear tonight?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, of course, the integrity of the levee system is the critical thing. We're going to have levels of the Mississippi River higher than 1927, the great flood of 1927. And, of course, what happened in that year was that the main Mississippi River levee broke above Greenville at Mound, and it flooded a gigantic part of the state.

The levees, of course, are so much better today and the work on them is so superior. But, of course, the big issue is the integrity of the levee system. We're not as worried about the Mississippi River levees themselves as some of the levees on the tributaries. And so, we have to keep a close eye on that.

KING: And so, where are you now, in terms of -- let's start with evacuations?

BARBOUR: There have been some mandatory evacuations in some particular communities because of flooding that has already happened. We are also urging people to voluntarily take care of their property and evacuate in places that we know in a few days they will not be able to get out.

KING: And is there anything you can do in those few days to where you might have some questions about the integrity or just the size and the capacity of the levees? Is there anything you can do to try to strengthen them or is it too late for that?

BARBOUR: Well, the Yazoo backwater levee that is maintained by the Corps of Engineers above Vicksburg, we anticipated that it will be topped. That is that the water on the riverside will be higher than the levee. So, the Corps has been working now for several days to strengthen that levee so that when water goes over it, it doesn't cause the levee to fail, that it doesn't get breached or have a crevice in it that could lead to, you know, a total -- a total break in the levee.

KING: What's your sense of what you're about to look at in terms of power outages and other challenges like that?

BARBOUR: Well, there's going to be some. There's going to be some in areas that are subject to floodwaters at 107 elevation -- 107 feet above sea level. Some of that will be done intentionally just for safety purposes. People in these areas are going to have to evacuate as I say. They still got a few days but not many more days before we'll have mandatory evacuation.

Our big nuclear power plant is -- will have flooding nearby, which may affect the external electricity that they get to operate but they have internal systems to replace that. KING: You say you don't assume any problem with the nuclear plant, but the owner did express some concern as you know, that there'd be flooding to cut off access roads, so he'd essentially be on his own given what happened in Japan and like people look twice and three times at these questions now.

What are you doing to make sure and triple check that they've got internally enough backup power?

BARBOUR: Well, of course, we asked them. They're in touch with Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is their regulator. They're in touch with the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

As you said, there will be roads in the area of the nuclear power plant at Grand Gulf that will be closed and because of flooding. And so, there will be, I think, 16 families in that county that are going to have to be evacuated, but should not affect -- should not affect the operation of the plant. But as you say, this is something where there is double and triple redundancy to make sure. And that's the way it ought to be.

KING: You just had tornadoes. Now, you got the flooding, and people keep hearing from their government, you know, do this and do that. Are you worried that people at some point just get dulled in senses if you won't stop listening?

BARBOUR: Well, that's always the danger. That was a real problem before Katrina, John, when we had two big hurricane threats in the year before Katrina and people had boarded up, evacuated and nothing happened. So, we really had to push hard to get evacuations during Katrina. Right at the very end, we were successful and that's why we didn't have nearly the loss of life that might have been.

In this case, you have some complicating issues that lead to warning fatigue and for disaster fatigue, and that is that there will be one area of the Mississippi delta where the water level will be 107 feet above sea level because it has an unprotected zone. Just near there, the water level will only be 95. So, one of our challenges is to make sure people who understand where they live where the water is going to be 107, or whether the water is going to be 12 feet lower.

However, we have to make sure that those people who live in the area where water should only go to 95 understand there is a small chance of a levee failure, and that if the backwater levee were to fail, we don't expect it to, but we're telling them: be prepared. You won't have very much time. If the levee fails, you will not have very much time to get out because the water will rise in hours and not days, and a 12-foot rise in a couple of days time means that you need to get out as soon as you finds out and you have to have a plan in your mind. Here's what I'm going to do if the levee fails.

We don't expect it, but you know down here, our motto is: pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.

KING: Haley Barbour is the governor of Mississippi -- Governor, we wish you the best over the challenging next few days. BARBOUR: Thank you, John.

KING: Take care, sir.

It is one of the most polarizing issues in American politics: immigration. The president heads to Texas tomorrow to give a big speech saying it's time now for Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform. Any chance of that before the 2012 elections? That's ahead.


KING: Welcome back.

If you're just joining us, here's the latest news you need to know right now:

During an important speech in New York, it's still going on, as a matter of fact, the House Speaker John Boehner has laid down his conditions for raising the U.S. debt ceiling.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Without significant spending cuts and changes in the way we spend the American people's money, there will be no increase in the debt limit. And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in the debt limit that the president has given. We're not talking about billions here. We should be talking about cuts in trillions if we're serious about addressing America's fiscal problems.


KING: A top Syrian official tells "The New York Times" that President Bashar al-Assad's government now believes it has gained the upper hand over pro-democracy protesters. Today, two human rights organizations told CNN that Syrian security forces are using soccer stadiums -- soccer stadiums -- in at least two cities as makeshift prisons.

Check out the two versions of the same picture. Officials at a Hasidic Jewish newspaper in New York today apologized for editing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and another woman who works at the National Security Council out of the White House photo taken during the Osama bin Laden raid -- explaining it was done because there are laws of modesty don't allow them to publish pictures of women.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells CNN the Obama administration, in his view, is giving out too much information about the Osama bin Laden raid.


DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: It seems to me that if I were in the Pentagon, I'd be concerned about the White House talking so much about the intelligence take. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That entire interview CNN's "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." That's 9:00 Eastern, right here.

When we come back, the president heads to Texas. He'll call on Congress to pas comprehensive immigration reform. It hasn't happened. Congress doesn't want to do that for a long time. Is this about a policy discussion or about the politics of 2012?


KING: In El Paso, Texas, along the border, the president of the United States will deliver a speech tomorrow, calling on Congress finally, in his view, pass comprehensive immigration reform. This is an issue George Bush has failed. President Obama has yet to submit a comprehensive proposal to the Congress.

Many are saying this is not a policy discussion. This is about 2012 and the president's hope of getting more Latino votes.

Let's look at some of this as you look this down. It is an explosion in terms of the population. In 1980, just shy of 15 million Latinos in the United States. You look at the growth up here. 2010, more than 50 million Latinos -- obviously, an important part of the population and part of the voting populous as well.

Now, where are they in America when it comes to voting? Watch this as we pull across. Darker the state, the higher the Latino population. Texas and Arizona, for example, more than 25 percent. The darker the state the higher the population. Your state might be there. You might know if it's a presidential battleground or not.

One more quick thing to look at. That is Latino turnout. The top and the bottom line, midterm elections -- 2006, about 77 million white Americans dropped to 74 million in 2010. The white population in midterm elections is declining. Latino, 5.6 million, increased by a million from 2006 to 2010.

The green is presidential politics. We expect the presidential number to cross more than 10 million Latinos in 2012.

Now, the president can't do anything policy-wise on comprehensive immigration reform without support in Congress, where the issue has been, well, a political quick sand.

Let's look for some solid and, if possible, common ground with California Republican Congressman Bryan Bilbray and Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez.

Congressman Gutierrez, let me start with you. As a Democrat who has criticized this president from your home state, saying, "Mr. President, do more" -- has he assured you what he will outline in El Paso tomorrow is what you want?

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: It's my expectation that tomorrow, he will reiterate his policy of enforcement and border security. He will call again upon the Republican Party to come and make a serious effort to solve our broken immigration system. And at the same time, tell us how it is he's going to use the administrative powers that he has, the discretionary powers that he has, to help certain groups of immigrants, American citizen families that are integrated into immigrant community and how we can use those powers to alleviate our broken immigration system.

KING: Congressman Bilbray, and let's start in the last part there. If the president starts to use his executive authority to help people who are being sent home with family members here, do you have a problem with that?

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: No, we have a problem with anybody that wants to announce that we're going to reward people for being illegally in this country. And we want to get off of this amnesty kick and get over to where we really got common ground, and that's issues like the president has expanding E-verify. He should make it mandatory for businesses to E-verify if they want a business deduction. That's common ground we can all agree on, is that we should eliminate the tax deduction for employers who hire illegals.

That's the one place we can gain some credibility with the American people. I think that's a one place Washington misses the bet and the president is going to lose this opportunity if he doesn't understand that creating a feeling of credibility actually proven to the American people we can be trusted is the first step that we have to do before we start asking them to trust us to do a whole lot of other issues, especially when you are talking about creating special status and protection for those who are illegally in the country.

KING: Let me start -- let me stay with Congressman Bilbray for a minute, Congressman Gutierrez. Patience please.

In the sense that I understand your point, Congressman Bilbray, and you've been consistent on those points. There are some Republicans, Senator McCain, for example, who say I will talk to you about, you know, granting legal status for those who are here illegally, Mr. President, but only after you prove yourself on border security.

I want you to ask you, Congressman Bilbray, to grade the president -- because many in the administration ask what more do they have to do? They have -- the number of border patrol today has more than doubled the size it was in 2004. They've doubled the personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces, a quarter of ICE personnel are now in the region. That's the most ever. Congressman Gutierrez has been highly critical of this Democratic president for the rate of deportations and kicking people out of the United States.

Has the president improved border security since he took office?

BILBRAY: No, because the border -- look, I've grown up on the border. I rescued illegals when they were drowning, recovered their bodies. I've seen them slaughtered on our highways. The president has got to understand the border is a symptom of the problem. Not until he requires every employer to E-verify, to make sure no American is encouraging illegal immigration by hiring illegals. Not until the government --


KING: I get your point. I get your point there. But on the numbers, one the numbers -- on the numbers in the enforcement, the security, the police preference, the National Guard, is he doing a better job than George W. Bush?

BILBRAY: No. I think he is continuing the job that George Bush did, and that is let's play the game at the border, but let's not talk about the real source of the problem, and that's illegal employers. If we all, Democrats and Republicans, focused on the source, the illegal employers, that's the one place we should be able to all agree on that we shouldn't allow anybody to make a buck and be able to exploit the illegals by hiring them. And once we eliminate that, we won't have to be sending our resources to the border, because there won't be people wanting to come here illegally because there will be no jobs for 'em here when we get here.

So, let's focus on the employers. If Democrats and Republicans can't do that, we don't have the right to ask the American people to trust us with any other program.

KING: Congressman Gutierrez, I want to give you a chance to come in. And as you do, sir, when you listen to that, when you listen to that, do you see any possibility the Republicans will control the House at least through the 2012 presidential election -- is there any chance that a bill that meets the other things the president wants to do, the things you want to do, any chance of it coming to the floor of the House between now and that presidential election in 2012. And if the answer is no, why go through this at all?

GUTIERREZ: Well, sadly, I believe that there really isn't an opportunity legislatively to bring relief and to fix our broken immigration system. We just heard Mr. Bilbray who very eloquently and passionately says this is what we've got to work on and this and this alone. They never look at it from a comprehensive point of view where we can fix all the different elements that really impact our immigration system.

KING: Congressman Gutierrez, how about -- you say they won't take comprehensive. President Bush went through this when we had a Republican president, he couldn't get the Congress to take comprehensive. What's wrong with incremental immigration reform where -- let me play devil's advocate again. Let's say, you know, Congressman Gutierrez, the president said, here, here's your E-verify expansion. Now, you need to give me credit for what I've done at the border. Now I want you to support me on this deportation, I want you to support me at the DREAM Act.

Why not go one step at a time? GUTIERREZ: John, I'm going to tell you why. Because it doesn't work, because there's never balance. John, you know as well as I do, that just last September, we approved $600 million more for the border. We sent 1,200 additional National Guardsmen.

We do have E-verify. For every corporation that has a federal contract. And that's not an edict of the Congress, that was done because the president wished it so. We're sending no match letters to millions of employers saying the Social security doesn't match the name.

We are doing a lot. We have secure communities. I just want you to understand -- the fingerprints of everyone arrested was in 12 different municipalities when George Bush left. It's over 1,100.

This president has done a lot in terms of enforcement, enforcement, enforcement. And what do we get from the other side? Absolutely nothing, because they want to use the issue to exploit it politically.

KING: Congressman Bilbray, if the president were to say to you, OK, I don't want to do, this, but I'm going to give you an expanded E- verify, but you've got to give me something. To Congressman Gutierrez's point, where are you willing to compromise if the president compromises?

BILBRAY: I would be willing to sit down and talk to him. But where we go the next stage? You got to remember, though, we have already -- the American people have already seen an amnesty before and a promise of enforcement. We have to show --


GUTIERREZ: But that's not what we're talking about. I am ready, John, to sit down with my friend from San Diego and sit down and tell him you can have your E-verify for everyone. How do we -- do we get you at the table so that we can move forward? I think not.

The problem here is

BILBRAY: John --

GUTIERREZ: The problem here is they want enforcement. And, John, we give them plenty.


BILBRAY: You don't want enforcement in the employers.

GUTIERREZ: I listed six different enforcement measures that we take, and they will not sit down at the table, even for DREAM kids, young men and women who are right here at this country at a young age. We can't get them to do that and we're deporting 400,000 people a year.

(CROSSTALK) KING: Let me let Congressman Bilbray respond.

BILBRAY: The American people have heard these -- the American people have heard these promises before. That if you allow us to do this for this population, we promise to get tough on the real problem, the employers. We promise we'll get around to it.

No. The American people know better than that. They say we want to see you do the heavy lifting.

GUTIERREZ: Then let's do it.

BILBRAY: Crack down on the employers.

GUTIERREZ: Let's do it.

BILBRAY: And that's what I'm saying to you. Let's do it.

GUTIERREZ: Then let's do it. I'm ready to do it.


BILBRAY: After that we can sit and talk about that.

GUTIERREZ: But tell me what you're ready to do.


BILBRAY: Requiring that every business that wants to deduct --

GUTIERREZ: It doesn't solve the problem and you know it.

KING: We're obviously not going to solve the problem tonight. The president is reviving this debate. And as you can all se right here, it's a feisty debate.

Gentlemen, we'll have you back. We'll continue the conversation in the weeks ahead to see if we can, get some speeches to policy conversation.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you so much.

KING: Congressman Gutierrez and Congressman Bilbray, thank you so much, gentlemen.

BILBRAY: Thank you, John.

KING: In a moment, something about gas prices I'm almost afraid to show you.


KING: Before we go tonight, I'm almost afraid to show you this. But maybe you noticed at the pump this weekend, we have shown you the track of gas prices up. Look at that, actually came down just a little bit -- $3.97 was the national average, the high. We're down a little bit right now to $3.91. A little bit came down over the weekend.

Let's see if that continues down. We hope it continues down. I'm a little skeptical, but we'll keep an eye on it for you.

One programming note before we say goodnight: tomorrow, we're going to head down start at Memphis, Tennessee, take a bird's-eye view of the flood damage there. And then move on to Mississippi.

This is Tunica, Mississippi. These pictures came to CNN over the weekend. You can see the water now. We know in the past 24 to 48 hours it has continued to rise. This is one of the areas they are very worried about. We'll be live in the flood zone tomorrow night. We hope you'll join us then.

"IN THE ARENA" starts right now.