'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 4
Guests: Tami Silicio, David Landry, Joseph Wilson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The captive and the dead: Senator Warner of Virginia says more Iraqi prisoners may have been abused in other jails there.
And this photograph, the woman who took it returns home. She's fired, her husband is fired, they join us tonight.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson joins us tonight. He talks about his book is "The Politics of Truth," about the outing of his CIA agent wife and about how the rational for war in Iraq may in fact trace back to a conversation between a man in Nijar (ph) and "Baghdad Bob," seriously.
Mother's Day is Sunday. Since we're a TV nation, who is the best TV mom? And what the present you shouldn't get her?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's called the world famous manually self-operated butt kicking machine, for your butt kicking enjoyment.
OLBERMANN: When you care enough to kick the very best.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. The responsibility for events there is disputed, the punishment for those responsible is disputed, the best means to assuage the ensuing anger is disputed, event the pronunciation of the place is deputed. But the continuing impact and implications of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad is not disputed.
Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: It hit Capitol Hill, today. It will induce the president of the United States to do interviews on Arab television networks and it overshadowed what would have otherwise been a universal and troubling headline. Namely, the Pentagon announcing that it will maintain troop levels at 135, 000 through the end of 2005. There had been a pledge to scale back the number of troops by the this summer. But that announcement was barely heard over the clamor from the Capitol. Briefly, it was just the democrat senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, calling for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to submit to questioning no later than the end of this week. But after a closed door meeting with Army officials, increasing signs of bipartisan anger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARMED SERVICE COMMITTEE: We need to have a hearing, as soon as possible, with Secretary Rumsfeld testifying and other service secretaries, if necessary, as to how this whole situation evolved, what action is being taken and what further action needs to be taken to prevent a reoccurrence of this terrible situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And while he has yet to make it to the Hill, Mr. Rumsfeld did make it to the briefing room, there today, he declared the abuse of prisoners a betrayal of American trust.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The actions of the soldiers in those photographs are totally unacceptable and un-American. Any who engaged in such action let down their comrades who serve honorably each day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Millions of Arab viewers agree on the unacceptable part, but would disagree with the un-American. Their outrage has prompted at least one resignation among the interim Iraqi leadership, the U.S. appointed humans right's minister, Abdul-Basat al-Turki, stepped down today in protest, calling these abuses, "commonplace."
And while U.S. commanders still describe this as an isolated case, the new head of Iraq's prison system, the former head of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, is already making major sweeping changes. Announcing an end today, to what have now been - until now, been common practices. Discontinuing the use of forced sleep deprivation in interrogation and banning the use of hoods on Iraqi detainees.
Back here, the most inexplicable, though not the most offensive part, is why U.S. service personnel seemed happy to be photographed perpetrating the offenses. Specialist Charles Grainer (ph), show here in pictures provided by his attorney in happier moments, also appears in some of the photographs from Abu Ghraib. He and five other fellow guards are facing charges, conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty towards prisoners, indecent acts. And while the military weighs a courts-martial, Grainer might want to weigh the quality of his legal representation. Here's how his lawyer described the photographs in an interview with Matt Lauer. And remember, the lawyer is supposed to be playing defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUY WOMACK, LAWYER FOR ACCUSED For an Islamic male to photograph him naked with other males, even simulating acts of sodomy, like in the photographs, would be terribly degrading and that would make it more effective as a tool for an interrogator.
MATT LAUER, But, I'm not sure if you're fighting for your - to defend your client or for the prosecution - potential prosecution in this. You're admitting that these were intended to denigrate and humiliate these prisoners. Why isn't that something that should create a court-martial situation?
WOMACK: Well, you could but you court-martial the right person. You don't court-martial the soldier who was following orders.
LAUER: Your client is actually seen in some of the photos and we've seen the faces on the soldiers here, they're pointing, they're smiling. Was he ordered to do that?
WOMACK: Of course.
LAUER: So this was something that - his commanding officer said, "by the way, get in these pictures, smile" and to the female soldier in one of those pictures, "point at the genital area of the Iraqi prisoner?"
WOMACK: Yes, of course.
LAUER: Do you think this is against the Geneva Convention?
WOMACK: No, no it's not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And even while Iraqi's new legal system awaits a happier distant day, they've already thrown out the ceremonial first lawsuit in all this. Fifty-seven year Hossam Shaltout, says he was beaten repeatedly by U.S. officers in an Iraqi detention camp. Shaltout is a Canadian citizen, he claims the U.S. forces mistook him for one of Saddam Hussein's speech writers. They arrested him, then chained him for long periods in solitary confinement. According to Mr. Shaltout's lawyer, his story is just one of many.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM NELSON, LAWYER FOR FMR. IRAQI PRISONER: There was a systematic plan to engage in this kind of conduct for the purpose of breaking the will of the prisoners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Now what to do to staunch the hearts and minds bleeding on proverbial Arab street. The need for damage control is so evident to the White House that it reveals tonight that President Bush will be doing interviews with several Arab television networks to dicuse - to discuss the abuse of the Arab prisoners. No timing on that yet, but today the White House sent Condoleezza Rice on to the al-Jazeera network. It's not exactly like booking Dick Cheney onto "Fox News."
"We have a democratic system that holds people accountable for their actions," Dr. Rice told the network, based in the nation of Qatar. "The president guarantees that those who did that be held accountable." Dr. Rice also appeared on several Arabic language TV stations. A warm-up act, apparently, for the president.
Meanwhile there is the advice of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, new author, old victim of what the Justice Department is investigating as the possible revenge outing of his wife after he disproved the so-called 16 words in the State of the Union. Wilson spent the three years just before the first Gulf War as the deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Baghdad. Earlier today, Wilson told me that promises of justice will not be enough to repair the damage in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH WILSON, U.S. FMR. DEP. CHEF OF BAGHDAD MISSION: These pictures of the torture, the humiliation of Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib changed the tone of everything we're doing and our relationship with the rest of the world in a most profound and negative way. We have to recognize the travesty that has taken place as a consequence of this. And really, just change things to almost immediately. And that may well include putting these prisons under some international control almost immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Later on COUNTDOWN, my full interview with Ambassador Wilson about his book, about his wife, about his experience. We think it will be interesting to you, given that it was interesting enough to the White House that it sent us three e-mails with questions we should ask him.
Joe Wilson, at length, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
Would, one wishes, somebody in government had been so aggressive about briefing the troops on how to handle the prisoners, or at least, as that interview with the attorney for Charles Grainer suggests, if somebody had sent them a one paragraph synopsis of the Geneva Conventions.
As our correspondent, Andrea Mitchell reports, there are rules in war and they are observed with surprising frequency.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Volunteer prisoners and interrogators in this history channel program called "We Can Make You Talk," simulating what cannot be done when interrogators question prisoners.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shut up.
MITCHELL: International law experts say stripping prisoners, except to remove weapons, is forbidden.
(on camera): Is that torture?
ROBERT GOLDMAN, INTERNATIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: It certainly constitutes cruel and degradable treatment by any standard.
MITCHELL: And it's prohibited?
GOLDMAN: And, that would be prohibited.
MITCHELL (voice-over): Inspired by the abuse of American and allied
prisoners in World War II, international law forbids any kind of physical
violence or threats of violence
ALEXANDRA ARRAGIA, HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERT: The line is drawn where you're talking about severe pain, severe mental anguish, and inhuman and degrading treatment.
MITCHELL: Also not permitted, displaying tape or pictures of prisoners, as the Iraqis did when they captured Army Specialist Shoshanna Johnson and six other soldiers last year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are do you come from?
SPEC. SHOSHANNA JOHNSON, U.S. ARMY: Texas.
MITCHELL: Even insults are outlawed.
Vietnam POW John McCain, tortured by the North Vietnamese:
MCCAIN: Certainly degrading treatment in any way is not acceptable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn around, kneel down.
MITCHELL: So what is permitted?
COL. RICK FRANCONA, NBC ANALYST: You can keep someone awake, you can alter their sleep cycle. You can change the lighting so that they can't keep a sense of time. You can deprive them of a watch or a clock to keep them off balance.
MITCHELL: Former Army interrogator, Mike Ritz who appears in the History Channel documentary, explains how to follow the law and still get results.
MIKE RITZ, FMR. ARMY INTERROGATOR: What we can do is we can yell and we can intimidate and - you know, we can offer incentive and reward for cooperating.
MITCHELL (on camera): What about sending prisoners to other countries that don't observe international law? Experts say the law is murky. But NBC News has learned that some al-Qaeda prisoners have been taken secretly to other countries where the laws are more lax.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: There is perhaps, only one advantage to being a prisoner of war. It means you're still alive. The fifth story in the COUNTDOWN continues with the continuing fallout over what happened what happens when we are viscerally reminded that so many U.S. service personnel are not.
This ultimately may be the image of the war in Iraq - 20 flag draped coffins being prepared for their final trip home from Kuwait International Airport. The woman who took this picture and permitted its publication, in the newspaper the "Seattle Times," was almost immediately fired from her job with the Maytag Aircraft Corporation, as was her husband. They join us now.
Tami Silicio and David Landry, and our thanks to both of you tonight.
Ms. Silicio let me start with you. If you had known what an impact that photo would have for the public and on your life and on your husband's life, would you have still taken it? Would you have still let it be published and why or why not?
TAMI SILICIO, FIRED FOR TAKING COFFIN PHOTO: That's a good question.
If I had known of the impact, I would have soul searched it a lot more.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Landry, I've heard that this photograph has been described - and I've heard it described this way, as the greatest honoring possible to the dead of Iraq, I've also heard it described as the greatest anti-war statement since Vietnam. What does - what does it mean to you and is that meaning politically motivated, politically connected?
DAVID LANDRY, FIRED FOR TAKING COFFIN PHOTO: No sir it isn't. The photo was taken as a memorable moment for Tami and for her family as what she has to deal with every day. It is not politically motivated at all.
OLBERMANN: Ms. Silicio, people outside the news business think that if you're in a position to take a photo like that or a videotape in similar circumstances, oh, boy, let the bidding war begin, this will be worth a million bucks. How much did the "Seattle Times" pay you for the use of that photograph?
SILICIO: I did not make any money off the use of that photograph.
OLBERMANN: Tell me why you let it appear in the paper for free.
SILICIO: I was convinced, through that photo editor, that it was a very powerful photo that America should see the photo, and I came to the conclusion that he was right.
OLBERMANN: And did your employer, Maytag Aircraft, did they fire you right away or did you still think you'd still be able to keep your job after this?
SILICIO: I thought that after talking to them that I would be able to keep my job.
OLBERMANN: Were they talking about a suspension or...
SILICIO: Yes, they did. They talked about a suspension at first.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Landry, that I guess begs the question, what do you do now? Is there legal action in the future of this story?
LANDRY: Yes, there is. I'm planning on seeking counsel as soon as I have an opportunity.
SILICIO: But, you don't have an attorney at this point?
LANDRY: No, sir I don't.
OLBERMANN: Well sir, we wish you the best of luck on that.
Tami Silicio and David Landry. That most rare of events, these days, one that transcends politics. Thanks for your time, and more importantly thanks for letting us all see that photo.
LANDRY: Thank you.
SILICIO: Thank you very much.
COUNTDOWN opening tonight in Iraq with the dead and the captured. Straight ahead, our No. 4 story: The bombings in Madrid, highlighting a soft spot in our transportation system here, and now train passengers in this country might have to get used to something call the "Sniffer". We'll explain.
And later the COUNTDOWN to Mother's Day is on. Who's the favorite TV mom in America? And is the winner anything like the mom you may have had? Do you really want answers to those questions? They're coming up.
OLBERMANN: Tonight's No. 4 story next on COUNTDOWN. Your preview:
Your safety while you travel. First-ever concerns for a domestic flight, first-ever screenings for trained passengers - that and our interview with Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: In Washington, D.C. and its suburbs, new security measures have you covered coming and going. Flying in from Los Angeles on United 200, it's the first domestic flight identified as a possible terrorist target.
How about taking the Amtrak out from New Carrollton in Maryland?
You'll be - get to be among the first to get puffed.
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN: Staying longer on the ground when you want to be in the air, being searched with air while you're traveling on the ground. To the airport first, passengers and crew for Unite's flight 200 have gone through extraordinary security checks for the past two weeks this after the Transportation and Security Administration put out a memo warning that an unspecified threat had tagged that flight as a possible terror target. According to the "Washington Times" the extra security includes putting bomb sniffing dogs near the departure gate, adding two painstaking security screenings for the crew, and having agents shadow the pilots as they prepare to fly.
And LAX had another scare on Monday when a faulty transponder on a Singapore Airlines fight send the so-called skyjack message. Am F-16 was scrambled and escort that plane, when swat teams stormed on its landing, only to find out, fortunately, it was all a false alarm.
Now to that first Amtrak stop northbound out of Washington's Union Station. An effort there began today to make rail travel at least a little more secure without adding months to the average rail trip. As Robert Hager reports, the solution involves blowing not smoke, but air - a people sniffer.
ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Passengers boarding Amtrak and commuter trains in new Carrollton, Maryland, had to pass through a different sort of detector, today - an air puffer or sniffer, this one made NBC's parent company, GE. It's because of a belief that terrorists wouldn't be out to hijack a train, you couldn't aim it at a building like a plane. So less need to use airport-like metal detector to look for hijacking weapons, says Homeland Security's Asa Hutchinson.
ASA HUTCHINSON, DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We're not looking for tweezers, we're not looking for or scissors, we're looking for explosiveness material.
HAGER: A bomb, and that's why the new detector.
Here's how it works:
(on camera): You step into the machine and wait and then puffs of air hit you from all over. The theory is if you've been concealing explosives or even handling them the material will be on your clothes, on your skin, those particles are shaken lose by the air and rise into a detector there, which can analyze them instantly. If the light comes on green, it means no explosives, you're clear to go through.
(voice-over): The experiment will last a month to see if it causes delays or passenger complaints. It's not seen for now as an answer for huge stations or subways, but if used here it could be used elsewhere, especially in case of a threat.
Meantime other ideas for the future, for. on route stations too small for their own expensive detectors new passengers might be asked to get on trains only through the last car which would have an onboard air puffer inside to pass through on the way to a seat forward in the train. Some onboard detectors will be tested this summer.
And for big stations, years from now, it might be possible to design long narrow hallways with bomb sniffers that could check crowds of passengers at once as they walk to trains.
After spending $11 billion on airport security, some attention at last for rails.
Robert Hager, NBC News, new Carrollton, Maryland.
OLBERMANN: The fourth story continues back in L.A. You will recall last week's unprecedented public revelation of an uncorroborated threat against any of several malls in the city's western districts. Tonight an arrest in Helena, Montana. Officials say 23-year-old Zameer Mohamed, a Tanzanian who reside in Canada told a Homeland Security official two weeks ago that a Los Angeles shopping mall would be attacked by terrorists on April 29, the same day Zameer is said to have illegally entered this country. The border patrol picked Mohamed up in Montana, where the FBI says he admitted making the false threat as part of some kind of dispute over money.
And the fourth component to the No. 4 story contains another explanation. What about Bob? 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey's unexpected departure from the White House, last week, while President Bush and Vice President Cheney were still about 45 minutes away from completing their secret testimony. At the time Kerrey explained he had to discuss an issue concerning New York's New School of which he is president with New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici. So Kerrey left the White House for the Senate where all did not go as he had planned. Says Mr. Kerrey, "If I had known that there were votes in the Senate at the time and Senator Domenici was not in his office, and I would not be able to see him until later, and I would only get 30 seconds or a minute with him, then yes, I would have stayed at the White House."
Mr. Kerrey also says quote, "If I had this thing to do over again, I wouldn't leave."
COUNTDOWN now past the No. 4 story. Up ahead, the stories that do not make the headlines, but are weird enough, strange enough to deserve a mention. "Oddball" around the country. Wait until you hear about that darn cat.
And later, tired of co-workers not pulling their weight? Or of children who might not be giving it all - their all in school" Perhaps the butt kicking machine is the solution to what ails them.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin the COUNTDOWN and immediately pause it again to bring you the tails of hijinks, derring-do, and tomfoolery that begin the moment I say "Let's Play Oddball."
This is the view from trooper Rick McLennan's patrol car as he makes his way to the latest emergency on the highways of Nevada - a cat loose in traffic. Trooper McLennan maneuvers behind the animal control officers to see if he can help when he suddenly sees them running for cover, and it's a lot more to worry about than a cat on a hot tin route. An SUV slams right into the patrol car, animal control diving across the median for safety. Trooper McLennan dives across the median for safety, the crash sends the patrol car across the median. Luckily none of the officers sheltering themselves there were hit. Oh, and the cat that started it all, not a scratch on it.
And then there's this guy, 36-year-old Juan Infante, trapped in a palm tree in Visalia, California, 50 feet in the air, upside-down. Sudden, unexpected low tide, sir? No. The self-employed landscaper was meant to be trimming that tree when he climbed up below the dead three prons, they collapsed and they pinned him to the tree trunk. It took several firefighters, a cherry picker, and an experienced tree service worker to rip away the deal foliage and bring Mr. Infante back down to earth. He's OK except for the fact that rescue workers could do nothing about the fact that he lives in Visalia, California.
Finally, a COUNTDOWN lesson for all you kids, if you're going to do something that will get you into trouble, at least have a decency to thin of a new excuse for it. Case in point, two eighth graders in suburban Chicago who brought brownies to class, not these brownies, but brownies like them, they had a sprinkling of laxative in them. Both the kids have been suspended, but not before giving one of the lamest reasons ever for their actions. Apparently they say, they got the idea from TV. Listen, laxative for brains. A kid did this in the eighth grade when I was in the eighth grade. I went home and told my folks about it, they said it happened to them in the eight grade. And trust me, when they were in the eighth grade, eighth graders didn't have TV.
COUNTDOWN about to pick up with our No. 3 story, your preview:
Ambassador Joseph Wilson versus the Bush White House. The latest salvo in leak-gate. Why did they leak and who did the leaking? A conversation with Joe Wilson is up next.
And later, first it was the kiss, then it was Vegas, now Britney Spears says "hello, embarrassment, my old friend."
Those stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day:
No. 3: Robert Jordan, he sued the police force of New London, Connecticut, it flunked him because on the police intelligence test, he scored too high. His I.Q. came in at 125, the city thinks that people that smart could become easily board by being a policeman in New London. Mr. Jordan has now lost the suit and if you've ever been in Connecticut, suddenly you know this explains everything.
No. 2: The dumb criminal of the week, a man who robbed a Frankfort sandwich shop has been I.D.'ed by German police because while he was ripping the place off, he took a bite out of one of their meatballs, thus leaving his saliva and his DNA on it.
And No. 1: Dr. Keith Siverton, of Ketchum, Idaho, he was on duty when a man named Ben King fell down a flight of stairs, severely injuring his head, as the pressure on Mr. King's brain built up, and weather made a medevac trip impossible, Dr. Keith improvised. He relived the cranial pressure by using his basement power drill on Mr. King's head. Mr. King is almost fully recovered. Moral, always trust Dr. Keith.
OLBERMANN: Read just 24 pages into Ambassador Joseph Wilson's new book "The Politics of Truth" and you'll understand why a lot of people did a spit-take. When during the State of the Union a year ago, President Bush repeated as fact a story that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy 500 tons, a million pounds, of yellow cake uranium under the table from the African nation of Niger. It would have been like trying to buy a million elephants and marched the secretly down the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago at high noon.
Our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, Joe Wilson. His story is well-known by now and for the second time in less than 10 months he has told it himself. After months of having prodded the White House to come clean on one of its key weapons claims, the ambassador took his story to "The New York Times" last July. His article, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," set off a chain reaction. First it unraveled the cornerstone of the President's contention that Iraq was an immediate threat to the U.S., namely that it was seeking nuclear weapons.
Then, in return, somebody unraveled Wilson's wife's secret identity as a CIA Operative. The timeline began with the President's now infamous sixteen words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT (video tape): The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In his book, Wilson suggests that those 16 words were an end result of a game of telephone that began at a meeting of the Organization of African Unity in 1999 at which an Iraqi official has an off-the-record conversation with one of Wilson's sources from Niger. The Iraqi official? The infamous Minister of Mis-Information, Muhammad Said al-Sahaf. Better remembered here as Comical Ali or Baghdad Bob. It would be far less comical when Wilson's own wife would be revealed as a deeply undercover CIA agent in a column by Robert Novak. That revelation is being investigated now as a possible crime by a special prosecutor. Wilson and many others see that disclosure as revenge against him for in essence making Condoleezza Rice say this about the faulty intelligence about Iraq's interest in Niger's uranium.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the Agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: We're joined now by Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Thank you for your time, sir.
JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO GABON: Keith, nice to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Of all the fascinating and frightening details in this book perhaps the most fascinating, the most frightening is this. All this started, the nuclear capability assumption about Niger, the State of the Union claim, the outing of our wife, the Department of Justice investigation, all this essentially owes to a conversation someone in Niger had with Muhammad al-Sahaf, with Baghdad Bob, is that possible?
WILSON: That is certainly one of the - the one little bit of intelligence that might still be out there that people may have been referring to. I think that the genesis for my trip of course are these documents that later turned out to be forgeries. Now, by the time I got back, there were two other reports saying there's nothing to this allegation, in addition to which the Vice President said on an interview with Tim Russert last summer, he admits that he had asked the question of the CIA briefer and that two days later the CIA briefer came back and said there was nothing to it. There was lots of information in the hands of the senior levels of the U.S. government before the President made his State of the Union address that had it been heeded, those 16 words should never have been in the State of Union address.
OLBERMANN: The simple version of what happened after that to you and your wife is that you eventually wrote a piece in the "New York Times" contradicting not just the administrations claim, but also what amounted to a cover-up of the erroneousness of that claim and then they came after you and your wife.
But in the book, you write that actually this began months before you wrote the article for the "Times." What can you confirm of the claim you make in the book that predated what you did?
WILSON: My understanding from a number of different people who have come to speak to me as I have been at the intersection of the information highway on this is that shortly after I appeared on CNN commenting that I thought the U.S. government knew more about this Niger business than the State Department spokesman was letting on. There was a meeting in the suite of offices of the Vice President chaired perhaps by the Vice President but more likely by Mr. Libby at which it was decided to do a quote "workup" on me. In other words run an intelligence operation on me to find out everything that they could about me and my family. That would explain how, within two days of my article appearing in the "New York Times" Mr. Novak would have the name of my wife and her employment.
OLBERMANN: Why do you think they went after you? Because you were the first person who said on the record that the Niger Uranium claim was false and that the administration knew it was false but used it as a cornerstone in the rationale for war?
WILSON: I have tried to think my way through this. The only logical conclusion I could come up with was that it was an effort to intimidate others from coming forward. Because, after all, I had already said my piece. I had said everything I had to say on the subject. The government within 24 hours had accepted what I had said. Now since that time, "The Washington Post" has reported that it was an act of pure spite and revenge. Which is not, by the way, a rational act to be undertaken normally by senior civil servants who are responsible for the stewardship of our national security.
OLBERMANN: You do know that they are still going after you, right? We promoted the fact that you would be on this show tonight. Today we received three separate copies of the same e-mail with talking points from the White House, one asking a contact here "Can you please get this to the Olbermann people. Wilson is on the Olbermann show." Misspelled my name, by the way, but that's neither here nor there. Another one asks one of our producers "I understand you have Mr. Wilson on. Can you please call me on this?"
Are you surprised by that?
WILSON: No, I'm not surprised at all. I tell you this administration has tried to manage and direct the news from the very beginning. As I point out in the book, they have made the lives of journalists very unpleasant. One journalist said he was afraid to go to print because he might end up in Guantanamo, which I take to be a metaphor for being cut out. Another journalist said I've got kids in a private school and a mortgage to pay. So I'm not surprised at all.
OLBERMANN: The White House has other venues to write questions than this program and we'll let them do that, but there are six points on this list. Five are pretty nuanced and they basically say "no this isn't true" but one of them I think is actually pretty important, on page 444, you pointed out that the White House spokesman Scott McClellan denied Karl Rove was involved in the leaking of your wife's identity, but he would not be as direct in denying the possibility that your other two candidates, Scooter Libby and Eliot Abrams might have done this. The White House talking points, number 4 on this list quotes Mr. McClellan last October, asked about Rove, Libby and Abrams as saying, "at a time like this there are a lot of rumors and innuendo. There are unsubstantiated accusations that are made and that's exactly what happened in the case of these three individuals."
Does that not count as a denial, not just on Rove but also on Libby and Abrams?
WILSON: Well, it's not how I interpreted it It's how others who have taken a look at that and others of Mr. McClelland's statements that have interpreted that as being a non-denial denial. In other words rather than saying they categorically had nothing to do with the leaking of my wife's name to the press, what Mr. McClellan has gone out and said that well, they did not leak any classified information. Without actually saying nobody was involved in leaking my wife's name. it would be really simple to get to the bottom of this. There are not 100 senior government officials who would have been involved in this. It would be just a few. And the President really should just assert his authority and insist that somebody step forward.
OLBERMANN: A quote from page 420 of the book:
"to this day the person who leaked her name evidently remains in a position where he enjoys the trust of President Bush."
Do you think that may be the most disturbing fact from your point of view of all this at this point, anyway?
WILSON: Well, we have always tried to see this in the larger perspective, as a crime against the national security of the country. President George H. W. Bush called people who leaked CIA operatives names to the press the most insidious of traders. That is what we are dealing with. And that person, or those people who are responsible for this operation are still in government.
OLBERMANN: Give me an idea and obviously we don't have all the time in the world to do it and you do it in your book. But give me an idea how secret your wife's secret life in the CIA really was.
WILSON: Well, as any of my friends around Washington will tell you, nobody knew what she did. In fact there were very, very few people outside her immediate family and myself who knew that she had an undercover status at the time that she was - before she was exposed.
OLBERMANN: And that's essentially all over now?
WILSON: Well, it changes her career for sure. She's not traveled overseas since, and even if she does travel overseas in the future, it would be problematic I think. She certainly cannot go and do the things that she did before. And more to point, anything that she was doing in the past 15, 20 years is presumably suspect. You can be sure that even if only 150 people read the Novak article, 149 of them were the Washington heads of foreign intelligence services and they were running her name through their databanks immediately. And to go back to the White House's talking points to you. I think it's important to remember here, what we're talking about is somebody who put a lie in the State of Union address in the first instance. That's what provoked me to do my civic duty and call my government and tell the truth. And then two, who decided they were going to leak the name of a national security asset to the press. I was not involved in either the lie in the State of Union address or obviously the leak of my wife's name.
OLBERMANN: There is a tremendous and topical irony to the leaking of your wife's name. The suggestion is, and it's mentioned in your book in a couple of places is that this may have been a violation of the PATRIOT Act. That it may have been - could be define as an instance of domestic terrorism.
WILSON: That's right. That was Professor Sam Dash who was an ethics adviser to Ken Starr and a former Watergate prosecutor who made that analysis in a piece that he wrote last fall which I thought was a rather trenchant analysis.
OLBERMANN: The political vetting that we need to do in all circumstances, it's been made clear you're campaigning for John Kerry now. You've contributed to his campaign. Why has it not been made clear that you contributed to George Bush's campaign in 2000?
WILSON: Well, when Mr. Gillespie decided that he was going to trot that out against me, or when Mr. Novak did, they decided they would selectively use information that bolstered the attack they wanted to make on me rather than essentially tell the whole truth. They neglected both that contribution, they neglected contributions I've made in the past to Congressman Ed Royce from Orange County, California, for example.
OLBERMANN: Have you ever thought of asking Mr. Bush for your money back?
WILSON: Well, actually I just really asked them to quit putting me down as an addressee for fund raising letters which I was getting one every two or three weeks for a long time.
OLBERMANN: Well, if they don't ask, they can't get a yes, that's for sure. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the author of "Politics of Truth, Inside the Lies that Went to War and Betrayed my Wife's CIA Identity." Great thanks for your time, sir.
WILSON: Thanks Keith, it's good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: And to read an excerpt of "The Politics of Truth," go to COUNTDOWN at msnbc.com. It's a good read. There's actually a lot more to it than just the Niger story and the story of his wife. While you're at our site we encourage you to sign up for the COUNTDOWN newsletter, also a good read. The concludes the third story in our COUNTDOWN. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his new book up.
Up next number two. She was always the Fonz's favorite, but is she yours. The votes are in for the best TV mom of all time next. Then later, how to make permanent mistakes with your host Miss Britney Spears. But first, here are COUNTDOWN's top three soundbites.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE COURIC, NBC HOST: You've been working on a couple movies, right. You're still working on "Meet the Fockers," right?
ROBERT DENIRO, ACTOR: Meet the Fockers. Yes.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Thanks for coming. Nothing better than have a good pancake for breakfast. Except I didn't get mine.
THOMAS HAMILL, HALLIBURTON CONTRACTOR: I'm very glad to be back on an American installation. I'm looking forward to returning to America. I am looking forward to reuniting with my wife in the morning and thank you so very much and God bless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The ancient Greeks celebrated Rhea, the mother of the gods. The British began honoring Mothering Sunday during the 17th century. Here, 90 years ago, after motherly pestering, in the best sense of that term, from Anna Jarvis, President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. The perfect marriage, Mother's day and our ersatz mom, television.
The survey financed by the artificial sweetener, Splenda, yes, a Mother's Day survey brought to you by an artificial sweetener, ranks the top eight TV moms. We're going to pare it down to the big three. Third with 14 percent of the vote, the matriarch of the clan Simpson, Marge. Thank goodness her voice, Julie Kavner ended her part of the group holdout yesterday.
The runner up with 15 percent, Marion Cunningham from "Happy Days." You would expect better props for someone who allowed Fonzie to live above her garage all that time.
And with 30 percent of the vote, a landslide victory, America's favorite TV mom, Claire Huxtable from the "Cosby Show." Payment indeed. For having suffered those sweaters all those years.
Turning from TV to tabloid in the part of COUNTDOWN we like to call "Keeping Tabs." First up, the gal who appears in this segment so often that her image is probably burned into your TV screens. Britney Spears. Now featuring a fetching neck tattoo just below the hairline. The newly inked motif is meant to mean new year or new era in Hebrew but sources tell London's "Daily Mirror" that the letters are actually inscribed backwards, they just mean absolutely nothing. This is not the first time Britney has made a booboo on her own body. Last year she found out that her Japanese symbol meaning "mysterious" actually translates as "strange." Britney next time, lick on tattoos. temporary, like that marriage.
And on the subject of strange Bob Dylan is certainly acting it. Once the barometer of anti-establishment hipness, the songster is now offering himself up as a judge on "American Idol?" According to "Entertainment Weekly," his people have already reached out to the show producers to see about getting Dylan a guest spot next season. "American Idol?" How does it feel to be on your own with no direction home?
Tonight's top story is next. There is a good explanation for why these people are giggling. We will show it to you.
OLBERMANN: To the top at the COUNTDOWN tonight and the number one story on it. Golly gosh, science is wonderful, isn't it? Invented to satisfy the needs and sometimes inventing the needs themselves and then inventing the satisfaction. You may recall the convenience of Coolio, the robotic refrigerator, bringing drinks on his own, or his unintentional counterpart, the Neo Rest Toilet. What could top that? It's Brian Holmes from our affiliate KTVB in Boise, Idaho with a story of the machine the world has awaited. The machine that gives a fighting chance to the proverbial one legged man in a butt-kicking contest.
BRIAN HOLMES, KTVB REPORTER (voice-over): The engineers at Leavitt & Associates in Nampa have developed some pretty important projects.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did all the structure work and support and access.
HOLMES: The Idaho center might be their most visible but their most valuable just might be...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: your latest project.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's it. It's called the world famous manually self-operated butt-kicking machine for-your butt-kicking enjoyment.
HOLMES: Yes, it took some top-notch engineering to reach to the bottom of the blueprint barrel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The finished product exceeded even the customer's expectations.
HOLMES: That's because owner Reese Leavitt is a master motivator.
REESE LEAVITT, ENGINEER: It came out of a brainstorming meeting that we had when we were talking about employee productivity.
HOLMES: So the employees got their gluteus maximuses going.
So this is what engineers do, huh?
LEAVITT: Well, we don't always get to do projects as exciting and fun as this project.
HOLMES: They even came up with an operating manual that breaks down the backside bootings. Sit firmly on your fanny. Fasten the seat belt.
Safety first in the butt-kicking machine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
HOLMES: Apply the appropriate pressure...
LEAVITT:... and continue until you have achieved your purpose
HOLMES: That purpose.
LEAVITT: For your butt-kicking enjoyment.
HOLMES:... left a little to be desired thanks to the size 9 ½ Chuck Taylor hitting your hind quarters.
LEAVITT: That by the way is the most expensive part on the machine.
HOLMES: The shoe?
LEAVITT: The shoe cost us about $40 at the Foot Locker.
HOLMES: The total cost of the machine is about $250. But becoming the butt of jokes or the posterior of pranks, priceless.
LEAVITT: We think we're simple-minded engineers and we think there's a simple solution to every problem and we always seek to find that solution.
HOLMES: And to think, everybody was just using their own foot. But you came up with this.
OLBERMANN: Speechless. Brian Holmes from KTVB in Boise. One more thing you need to go know about our number one story. Mr. Leavitt may have mixed results if he goes to try to market this device. The U.S. patent number is 6,293,874 issues to a Mr. Joe Armstrong of Tennessee three years ago. Patent heading: "User operated amusement apparatus for kicking the user's buttocks." Apparently having the name Armstrong when the subject is kicking. Let's recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you'll be talking about tomorrow. Number five investigating the abuse in Iraq. A bipartisan crime on Capitol Hill for accountability while Condoleezza Rice goes on the al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya networks to try to redeem America's image in the Arab world and now, tonight word that President Bush will appear on those networks.
Four, a new tool to fight terror. A people sniffer blowing air on each train passenger analyzing the particles for explosives in service in Maryland.
Three "The Politics of Truth, Ambassador Joe Wilson, sharing with us the buildup, the fallout from the leaking of his wife's covert CIA status. Apparently the whole myth of uranium from Niger that precipitated the war of words started in a conversation between someone from Niger and Iraq's own Baghdad Bob.
Number two. Claire Huxtable beating out Mrs. Cunningham from "Happy Days" and Marge Simpson to win the title of "Favorite TV Mom."
And number one. For the lazy and the frustrated, the butt-kicking machine. And, believe it or not, you can make one at home. That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
I know how to do this. That's science.