'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 3
Guest: Larry Johnson, Jeffrey Kaufman
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Give 'em hell, Teresa: The challenger's wife overshadows the challenger once again. Out of bounds or just the perfect putdown to a political heckler?
The age of the information: Homeland Security confirming some of the data behind the latest terror threat is four years old. Some of it may have been updated, possibly by cutting and pasting from an Internet site.
Tigger on trial: The man inside the Disney costume accused of touching a teenaged girl's chest. He insists the costume itself proves he couldn't have done it.
And, this sucks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like a really big hickey on your back.
OLBERMANN: It's all the rage among the glitteratti like Gwyneth Paltrow: Acupunctural cupping. It's also nice if you've always wanted polka dot skin.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. One captured even some of her harshest former critics with her dignity and commitment to principle of her party at a time of crisis and sorrow. The other has captured the spotlight, but apparently at the expense of her husband. One used to be the first lady of the United States, the other would like to be.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Nancy Reagan and Teresa Heinz Kerry leading the political parade tonight, one for another blunt comment, the other for an endorsement. Her spokeswoman, JoAnne Drake, saying late this afternoon that the former first lady is in, quote, "full and complete support of President Bush's candidacy." She has spoken out against the administration's policies on stem cell research, especially in the wake of President Reagan's death in June after his decade-long struggle with Alzheimer's. Her son did his talking at the Democratic Convention. The reelection campaign hoped to get Mrs. Reagan to do hers at the Republican confab four weeks hence. It did not get that, but it did not get silence either because of the president's unchanging stance on stem cells. Quoting Spokeswoman Drake again, "The campaign is certainly about more than one issue."
As to actually campaigning for Mr. Bush, quoting again, "She will certainly want to help, but there are no plans right now."
As to the would-be first lady, hell may hath no fury like a woman scorned, but evidently politics has no scorn greater than at a woman who uses the word "hell" in public. Here we go again. Teresa Heinz Kerry overshadowing the rest of the presidential campaign, to some degree, because she fired back at another pro-George Bush heckler.
Last night, introducing her husband at a rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the would-be first lady put herself into the soundbite hall of fame for the second time in eight days. She was interrupted by a group of Bush supporters armed with bullhorns who began to chant "four more years." Her reply prompted a huge head-swaying laugh from her husband and his later observation that she speaks her mind, and she speaks the truth, and she is pretty quick on her feet, too. They shout "four more years," she shouts...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, JOHN KERRY'S WIFE: They want for more years of hell.
Three more months, three more months! Three more months, three more months! Three more months!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Language in politics is a fluid thing, and if it's a river, apparently it can flow in either direction. Heinz Kerry got more flak for telling a Pittsburgh editorial writer to, quote, "shove it" than did Vice President Cheney for having told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, on the Senate floor, to blank-off. And the use of hell in a campaign is anything but new. During his Whistle Stop tour of the country in 1948, President Harry Truman, who was interrupted by a supporter during one of his own speeches from the back of his train, in Seattle, Washington, this was supposed to have happened. "Give 'em hell, Harry," bellowed the anonymous democrat, referring to the Republicans. "I don't give them hell," the president replied, "I just tell the truth and they think it's hell."
Truman thought to be trailing Republican Thomas Dewey by such a margin that pollsters stopped taking news surveys a month before the election - won.
You are not likely to hear the vice president of the United States come back with either a witty or abusive rejoinder, not unless you're a U.S. senator, despite the simple expediency of a screening process to keep possible Democratic hecklers out of at least one of his events. The newspaper "The Albuquerque Journal" reporting that those seeking admission to a Cheney event over the weekend who did not have established credentials as GOP volunteers or contributors, had to sign a, quote, "endorsement form." The "Washington Post" reports that the form reads, quote, "I, (full name), do herby" - that's the way it was spelled. We believe they meant hereby "do herby endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States."
So it wasn't written by Dan Bartlett or Karl Rove. The document also read that signers, quote, "are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush." A Republican organizer told the paper it had received word that a Democratic operative group was trying to infiltrate the Cheney event.
The vice president's campaign weekend stirred up a different kind of controversy in Arizona. There, it asked at least three news organizations to provide the race of the photographer each was sending to cover Mr. Cheney's visit. The "Arizona Daily Star" says it refused to provide the ethnic data. The "Tucson Citizen" and the local bureau of the Associated Press provided it. No such requests were made of reporters, just the cameramen. A Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman says it is not his organization's policy to ask for a journalist's race; it must have been the Secret Service. The Secret Service says the race question is part of a standard background check, but it is, quote, "not designed to profile individuals."
This underscores an essential and curious truth here, dating back to Iowa in January and Howard Dean and Democratic candidates more recently. They have been frequently, although not regularly, interrupted by what are, presumably, Republican hecklers who come accompanied with everything from flip-flops to wave or megaphones to shout through, but the reverse has not been the case.
To assess the political significance of this, or at least explain the phenomenon, we're joined by MSNBC analyst and "Congressional Quarterly" contributor, Craig Crawford.
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Hey, Keith. You need a heckler every now and then.
OLBERMANN: Believe me, I have had enough of them.
OLBERMANN: The vice president's people asking for what amounts to a loyalty oath of those who wish to attend his event in New Mexico. Is that considered within the bounds of political campaigning, or is that something new?
CRAWFORD: It's a bit new to me. I haven't seen anything quite like that. And what happened to swing voters? I thought this campaign was supposed to be all about reaching the undecided, and if Cheney's going to limit his audience to only those people who have signed a loyalty oath to him, how's he going to reach those undecided voters?
OLBERMANN: I don't want to seem like a cynic on this, but could the issue of the - of Teresa Heinz's remarks last night in Milwaukee, could they be something of a setup? I mean, one presumes they could also control the ideology of their crowd at least better than they do, but is there a chance that they wouldn't want to? Is there a positive, conceivably, in having John Kerry or his wife or whomever put the heckler down the way a comedian will sometimes get a bigger laugh by out-insulting the drunk than he will from his own standup act?
CRAWFORD: You bet. I mean, plenty of comedians thrive on hecklers, you know, the lines they come up with can be very effective, and for politicians, too. I mean, one of my favorites was "Isn't it sad when cousins marry?" That might be a tough one for a politician to use, but yeah, I think it shows a rare and unscripted moment that is - I've never seen the heckler win, very rarely in a political situation. And Dick Cheney with this loyalty oath, Keith, I'm wondering what happens if you violate the loyalty oath? What's the penalty for that? Maybe you have to go to all of Dick Cheney's speeches then after that.
OLBERMANN: Or you don't want to know what the penalty is. Lord knows what it might be.
The use of the word "hell." We might, as sophisticated, urbane - well, I'm speaking about you - as whatever kind of guys of the world here, we wouldn't really think twice to hear a woman use the word "hell," but this is to dismiss a large part of the country and a large part of the way people are raised that, you know, women don't use terminology like that or terminology like "shove it." Is this - is this going to be any kind of factor in this campaign? Is it that close that what language she uses could actually have an impact on who wins the presidential election?
CRAWFORD: Teresa Heinz Kerry is going to make news. She is outspoken, to say the least, and I do think we are on some risky ground here with the Democrats on this particular woman for first lady. She is very, very different. She is just like Hillary Clinton behind the scenes, but also on the stage she does not play the game, as even Hillary Clinton did in 1992 and 1996, looking adoringly at her husband and mostly staying out of trouble.
So this woman is just - this is who she is, and I don't think she drives away that many voters. I don't know how many she attracts. It may be a wash. She may drive away about as many voters as she attracts, and it's a zero-sum situation.
OLBERMANN: Finally, Craig, let me double back to the lead story tonight, the Nancy Reagan endorsement of George Bush coming out today. I can't imagine that's a surprise, but I assume that the real value is not necessarily the endorsement, but the fact that she did not remain silent, which presumably would have been a catastrophe for Mr. Bush.
CRAWFORD: Well, I think the Republicans were smarting just a bit from Ron Reagan Jr.'s appearance at the Democratic Convention, and implicitly endorsing John Kerry, if not all but doing that. And then following it up with Nancy Reagan just gets the Reagans back into the Republican fold. Of course, the interesting thing will be if she actually goes to the convention and gives a speech and does something very high-profile.
OLBERMANN: If she does, I guess it'll be a surprise, because there is nothing on the books right now.
CRAWFORD: No, there isn't, and I think that's one reason they wanted to get this out right now, to try to deal with some of the backbiting that may go on because of the fact that she isn't on the agenda for - on the roster for the convention.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly." As always, sir, great thanks.
CRAWFORD: All right.
OLBERMANN: As the heckling will no doubt continue, unlike 1948, so too, will the polling. Another one today from "The Washington Post" polling registered voters. It shows Kerry with 50 percent support, 44 percent for Bush, 2 for Nader.
Before the convention, that same polls showed the president leading by 2 percentage points. More intriguing, more fluid, the poll question about which candidate was best able to deal with terrorism. The current results, Bush 48, Kerry 45. Just prior to the convention, Mr. Bush's lead in this question, in mid-July, was 18 points, 55 percent to Kerry's 37; now down to 3.
If you suspect all this means the campaigns are on a collision course, you are saying even more than you know. The incumbent and the challenger will actually be in the same place at the same time for about 50 minutes tomorrow, in Davenport, Iowa, a city of about 100,000 souls. Mr. Kerry has an hour and a half-long economic summit at 10:00 a.m. at the Davenport River Center. At 10:40 a.m., Mr. Bush begins a rally at Le Claire Park, about three blocks away. Please leave your bullhorns at home.
That should be fun for Davenport's police force, which begs another question. He has not sent a bill yet, but the mayor of York, Pennsylvania, would like to see a check from the Bush campaign for $21,057. That's how much he says the president's four-hour visit cost his city. "Newsweek" reporting that several cities have, in fact, sent actual bills to the Bush-Cheney campaign, and at least one Midwestern municipality, Chippewa County, Wisconsin, asked the Kerry crowd to reimburse it more than $5,000 in security costs for a rally there last month. The magazine adds that the cities and counties are out of luck. Campaign finance laws say nothing about the candidates footing such bills. So guess who winds up paying for them - your tax dollars in action.
It could be worse, presumably. You could be living in a place where nobody is running for a particular office, or at least less than the usual quota - like the state of Illinois. Republicans still have not found anybody to go up against Democratic convention keynote speaker Barack Obama. But an out of stater is, quote, "open to the idea" taking up the race from which Jack Ryan had to drop out and from which Mike Ditka begged off. Alan Keyes, former presidential candidate, former radio host, former MSNBC host. He is a Maryland resident, but an Illinois state senator trying to convince him to run says he thinks the chances are 50-50 that Keyes will do so. This advice from his old stomping grounds - just remember, sir, the camera is in the middle.
COUNTDOWN opening tonight with politics. Up next, tonight's No. 4 story: Abu Ghraib is back. And a sworn statement from Lynndie England from January seems to contradict the rest of her statements since.
Later, the mounting case against Mark Hacking: New video that authorities say shreds his credibility. New details of a purported confession.
OLBERMANN: Next up, tonight's No. 4 story: General Tommy Franks on a pre-war victory, the post-war miscalculations, how close he came to stepping down, and his surprising opinion of Osama bin Laden. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Seventeen months ago, we heard an awful lot about the fog of war. Sometimes it proves even sticking one's head out the window can't confirm there was any fog, it can only be seen with hindsight. Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight: Three such postscripts to this country's involvement in Iraq, from a bombshell in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, to a presidential statement that the war was right anyway, to a general's admission that war planners never considered the possibility of an Iraqi insurgence.
First in North Carolina, day one of Private Lynndie England's pre-court-martial hearing at which Army investigator Paul D. Arthur testifies that in January, England told him in a sworn statement that the pictures were taken while they were joking around, having some fun, working the night shift. Since the scandal became public, Private England has insisted that she was ordered to pose in this way by superiors. Those stories would seemingly be contradictory. The pregnant 21-year-old faces 13 counts of having abused detainees and six more counts stemming from sexually explicit photos which the Army has said do not depict Iraqis. The maximum possible sentence, 38 years in prison. This is not the trial per se, not yet. This hearing will determine if there will be a trial.
Only history will provide the final trial for the validity of our involvement in Iraq, but the president has made up his mind, again. Risking accusations that he's only providing more fodder to those who think he was determined to go to war regardless of a reason, Mr. Bush has now brushed aside the faulty pre-war intelligence and the discredited theories linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11. "Knowing what I know today," he said, "we still would have gone in to Iraq."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Knowing what I know today, we still would have gone on into Iraq. We still would have gone to make our country more secure. He had the capability of making weapons. He had terrorist ties. The decision I made was the right decision. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The commander in the field in that action has kept a generally low profile since, especially after his comments to a cigar magazine last year that postulated that another major terrorist attack in this country could lead to the, quote, "shredding of much of the Constitution." General Tommy Franks was, by the way, firmly opposed to that. Now he's written a book, and in promoting it, he says he and the war's other planners, quote, "just didn't know about the Iraqi insurgency."
Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski now, with the man who is describing himself in his memoir's title, "American Soldier."
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As American ground troops stormed across the border into Iraq from the south, 11 divisions of the Iraqi army were dug in hundreds of miles away, waiting for an invasion from the north that never came. A U.S. military officer, acting as a double agent, had sold the Iraqis false invasion plans, and Saddam Hussein took the bait. The secret plan, now revealed by the former top commander of the war, now retired General Tommy Franks.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): We do know that on the day we started the war, those divisions were all still way up north of Baghdad, and that's just where we wanted them to be.
MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): And then finally when Saddam realized his mistake and attempted to move those forces south...
FRANKS: Too late. Too late.
MIKLASZEWSKI (voice-over): In his new autobiography, Franks provides fresh insight into the planning and execution of the war in Iraq, and those elusive weapons of mass destruction. Franks reveals that Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's President Mubarak both warned him Saddam had and would use chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops.
FRANKS: And as it turns out, we got up in there, as you know, and we didn't find the WMD. People asked me about that and I say, "I was wrong."
MIKLASZEWSKI: And what went wrong after the major combat, when American troops became unexpectedly bogged down in a guerrilla war? Franks insists there was a plan to immediately start pumping money and manpower into Iraq, but that the money wasn't there.
FRANKS: What we found is that it's very difficult to raise that sum of money in a timeframe when we needed it.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Franks also led the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda, and in his book, surprisingly, says Osama bin laden is no coward.
FRANKS: We don't have to like him to recognize that he is a worthy adversary.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Franks also reveals that he once became so frustrated with Donald Rumsfeld's second-guessing, he offered to resign in a phone call to the secretary.
FRANKS: I said, "It's obvious to me that you don't have confidence in my ability to do this work. And Mr. Secretary, if that's - if that's the case, then you need to get a new guy."
MIKLASZEWSKI: Rumsfeld stuck with Franks, who now predicts it will take three to five years before Iraqis take control of their country and American troops come home.
But Franks insists the fight was worth it.
FRANKS: I think the decision was a good one, and I rest better knowing that Saddam Hussein and his sons are no longer in the picture.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN past the No. 4 story. Straight ahead, the news from other worlds. I mean that literally. Oddball just around the corner, including an important programming note for the year 2011. Set your VCR, jiggle your TiVo.
And later, Tigger on trial. No joke. How this case is bringing up shades, at least of the poetry, of the O.J. Simpson trial. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: We pause the COUNTDOWN now to bring you up to date on all the strange news from around your town, around your world, around your galaxy. Let's play "Oddball."
So, do you love news from our Solar System but you're a little tired of all the Red Planet hype? Well, we got one word for you - Mercury. Mercury is the new Mars. NASA's Messenger space probe launching this morning without a hitch. Cue. Beginning its five billion mile journey from Cape Canaveral to the planet closest to our sun. When it arrives, it will study Mercury's evolution, search for signs of life, and then attempt to fry eggs on the planet's sidewalks. The trip will take about six and a half years. "Oddball" will be providing exclusive special coverage of Messenger's arrival. Join me along with my colleague Lester Holt, for "Mercury Rising," 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Thursday, February 3, in the year 2011. I look pretty good for that. Be there, aloha, it'll be hot, hot, hot.
And back on this planet, probably, for those who believe television news neutered itself the day it showed a squirrel water skiing, let us redeem ourselves. See? See how far we've come? It's a parrot riding a tricycle. It's the coastal resort of Paphos on the island of Cyprus, where the parrots at this bird park do more than just repeat swear words and soil the "Paphos Daily Gazette." They say these are super intelligent birds that can perform such feats of intellect as roller skating, playing basketball, and riding around on a little scooter. It's clear from this video that it's only a matter of time before they escape the island in their mad quest for world domination. And I for one welcome our new parrot overlords, and remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground cracker mines.
But, first we take a moment to honor the famous explorers Lewis and Clark in their 1804 adventure to find the Northwest Passage. What better to do that than with a 2,000-pound statue made entirely out of butter? (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The giant Atkins-friendly sculpture is a main attraction at this year's Ohio State Fair. For more than half a million are expected to visit over the next week. Unfortunately there's only enough Lewis and Clark for the first 40,000 visitors, so make sure you get there early and bring your own garlic bread.
"Oddball" behind us now. Up next, the age of the information, in the age of information. The terror warnings: Should that aged news color the way the public looks at the new orange alert?
And later, ancient Chinese secret: No, not Calgon. This crazy whatever - it's called cupping. It's turning all - is all the health rage. These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day.
No. 3: Larry Roberts. The Pennsylvania state representative has been hospitalized since July 19 with the hiccups. His office offers this optimistic bulletin, quote, "It's improving. There are longer lapses between them."
No. 2: Daniel Doyle of Lafayette, Georgia. His pants have exploded. Methamphetamine components in his pockets detonated as he stood there talking to social workers who'd come to see him. They are fine. He is not. He has got third-degree burns on his components.
No. 1: Margie Clark of McAlester, Oklahoma. She owns an 83-year-old orange. On Christmas Eve, 1921, her aunt gave it to her father. He said he would eat it later. Evidently, he did not. It is now a family heirloom and it's hard as a cannonball. That would be the orange on the left. Thank you. Thank you. I'm here all week.
OLBERMANN: A question we asked here last night is now resonating through at least much of the media and at least some of the country. Was the information on which the new zip code-specific terror alert incredibly specific and useful or was it about as topical and fresh as might be the sudden discovery today of the Japanese plans for the bombing of Pearl Harbor?
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the secretary of homeland security admits that what was found in that laptop in Pakistan was three or even four years old and only a very small part of it might have been updated in the last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I don't want anyone to disabuse themselves of the seriousness of this information simply because there's some reports that much of it is dated. It might be two or three years old. This is a resilient organization that does its homework, and we just have to accept that reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A harsh reality if you work in one of the five buildings supposedly under threat, an odd reality considering first lady Laura Bush and both daughters stopped by the Citigroup Center in New York yesterday afternoon.
The tightrope of timing for her, her husband, and Secretary Ridge, the fact that many of the early al Qaeda attacks featured long planning stages, the idea of 9/11 itself first proposed in mid-1996, more than five years before those attacks, training of pilot hijackers beginning in 1999. Four years' lead time went into the simultaneously bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. And planning for the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen got under way in 1998, two years before the attack. Surveillance itself began in 1999.
If you really want to get stressed, try the headline today in the suburban New York City newspaper "Newsday." It read "Source: Attack to be in Early September." I wouldn't go with that headline unless a guy came back from the future and showed me proof. The article itself is a little less definitive, a little less scary, reporting that an al Qaeda operative has told British intelligence that the target date is - quote - "60 days before the American presidential election," the supposed al Qaeda operative described by British intelligence as credible.
The source is supposed to be in British custody and all this was conveyed to the newspaper by a former official at the National Security Council. While the timeline, 60 days before the election, invoked the scheduling of the president's acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in New York, it is, in fact, on Thursday, September 2. Technically speaking, 60 days before the election is Friday, September 3.
So we have two issues of timing to keep us up at night. For a perspective on each, let's turn to MSNBC analyst, former CIA analyst and State Department counterterrorism official Larry Johnson.
Larry, good evening. Thanks for your time.
LARRY JOHNSON, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's knock that "Newsday" story off first. I suppose somebody in al Qaeda could know more or less the exact date of the next supposed attack, but is it likely he would have been caught, kept by the British, and the story would leak out to one newspaper?
JOHNSON: Well, the leaking doesn't surprise me.
But the key thing you said is, he's in custody. If the guy was out running around, not in custody, that's one thing. The problem with these suspects is, when you pick them up and you interrogate them, they are going to tell you a lot of stuff. You still have to go out and verify it. So I'm with you. I'm on the cynical side. I think it's rather convenient to show up at this time.
OLBERMANN: To the age of information that led to this latest terror warning on Sunday. It suggests now only that there was casing of possible targets. If you get old, possibly outdated information like this, is the best advice here to, A, immediately broadcast the fact that you have this material worldwide or, B, keep it quiet and set up something like, I don't know, countersurveillance that could be used as a trap and has some sort of silent emergency preparedness element to it?
JOHNSON: I would go for B, because, look, it has been misrepresented by a lot of the media, fortunately, not on your show, and particularly by Secretary Ridge that this is a threat. These were plans.
And the plans are like a blueprint, but it didn't include purchasing the ground, the money, hiring the contractor, bringing in the workers, or getting the materiel. They didn't specify how they were going to attack it. And, in fact, they even identify whether or not there were vulnerabilities. They cased the joint. But remember the guy out in Ohio who came to New York, cased the Brooklyn Bridge, and went back and said, no, too tough a target?
OLBERMANN: So you would do what with this? I remember in New York - and they never got any publicity - they never explained why it was - they blocked off one street on the West Side of Manhattan right after 9/11 for three months. They had machine guns. They had poles with mirrors on the bottom of them to check underneath cars for car bombs, never said a word. Basically, you would establish, what, long-term stakeouts at those five sites to see if anybody came back?
JOHNSON: The first thing you want to do is compare their surveillance report with an actual - go in and do your own threat assessment to find out if there are in fact vulnerabilities, look at how you can close those vulnerabilities.
Then you put in place countersurveillance methods, both human beings, and there are a lot of technical devices that could be used as well, and you trap them, because, Keith, this is like playing poker where the other guy is now showing us their cards. We know what their play is. We can stop that.
OLBERMANN: As it has become apparent that the info is part - at least part predated 9/11, the defense of releasing it has been, yes, it's old, but al Qaeda studies targets for years before striking. That has been accepted almost without question. But I thought the Bali attack two years ago showed no signs of a long research plan, as if things had changed in al Qaeda.
JOHNSON: Well, you're right on that.
And here is the other thing that's so lame about that spin, because that's exactly what it is. The fact is, prior to 9/11, al Qaeda existed relatively unmolested in Afghanistan. They had training camps, access to money, free travel in and out of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia. They were able to move people around the world relatively unmolested.
Here, what we've got, the reason we have this information is we have captured at least six operatives over the last two or three weeks, is my understanding, with more being wrapped up today. So they are in custody. We have their records. You're taking apart the organization. I don't understand why the Bush administration keeps stepping on its own good news. Instead of focusing upon the positive, that they are taking these things down, they are scaring people to death.
OLBERMANN: Larry Johnson, formerly of CIA and State, now of MSNBC, as always, sir, thank you for your perspective.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There were, of course, hints that the last attack was coming, little leaks of information, in some cases, dismissed as implausible.
The memo from the FBI agent in Phoenix comes to mind, the one that told headquarters that Osama bin Laden might be sending operatives to U.S. flight schools. Against that backdrop, a new claim from an agent who quit after 16 years because he says the FBI is still refusing to connect the dots. Mike German adds he wanted to go undercover to infiltrate a group of Americans suspected of providing support for an overseas terror group.
The bureau not only refused him, he says. He tells "The New York
Times" it also falsified documents to discredit his sources. Says German -
· quote - "What is so frustrating for me is that what I hear the FBI saying every day on TV when I get home about how it's remaking itself to fight terrorism is not the reality of what I saw every day in the field."
Against the backdrop of the latest security warning, the Statue of Liberty reopened today, at least partially. Huddled masses yearning to sightsee, they made their way to New York Harbor this morning for the reopening ceremony, the landmark essentially off-limits since the attacks on September 11. Now Lady Liberty is back in business, sort of.
It used to be you could make the 22-story, 350-step climb up to the statue's crown, should you desire. But now tourists looking for an aerobic challenge are met with a glass ceiling at about toe height. Aaron Brown served as the master of ceremonies of the reopening event. No word on when they will be reopening him.
No. 3 complete. Coming up, a cartoon character charged with a violation of space and trust with an extraordinarily fascinating defense, the latest on the trial of Tigger next.
Then later, why Fidel Castro might have cost "Fahrenheit 9/11" an Oscar. I will need a diagram of that story. All that ahead.
First, here are COUNTDOWN's top three sound bites of this day.
TERESA HEINZ KERRY, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN KERRY: Three more months, three more months, three more months!
BOB DOLE (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, I don't know. I know Teresa. She was - her late husband, John Heinz, was a good friend of mine. She is a very outspoken woman. And I don't think they would be able to - there is not a muzzle big enough out there, I don't think.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's called our plan for America. This even has a few pictures in the middle of it.
Those are for Bush? No.
rMDNM_CHARLIE DELEO, MAINTAINS FLAME ON STATUE OF LIBERTY: It's my job to not only make sure that the light bulbs are burning properly and change them when they are burned out, but it's to keep the golden flame clean from the seagulls. I have stood on top of the golden flame in 30-mile-an-hour winds. No, I love it. You just got to get used to the constant rocking. But piece of cake.
OLBERMANN: Opposite ends of the spectrum that is our legal system next, the case against Mark Hacking and the case against the man who played the Tigger character at Disney World.
OLBERMANN: To the outsider, it may have looked like police in Salt Lake City might have been dragging their feet on arresting the husband of the missing woman, Mrs. Lori Hacking. Tonight, it might be fairer to say they moved as quickly as they could, considering how much evidence against him had fallen into their laps.
Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, the run of our legal system from the gruesome to perhaps the ridiculous.
The gruesome first. The figure shown by this convenience store video buying cigarettes at 1:00 in the morning is Mark Hacking. He told police he was asleep at that hour. After repeatedly checking his hands and glancing at his watch, he drives off in his wife's vehicle, which was later found near the park where he told police she went jogging. The video was taken about 10 hours before Mark Hacking reported her missing.
Also today, the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department revealed that while in a psychiatric hospital, Hacking told a - quote - "reliable citizen witness" - unquote - "that he killed his wife as she slept, then disposed of her body in a trash bin." They also matched blood samples taken from the bedroom to traces found in Lori Harking's car.
Mark Hacking is in jail under suicide watch, awaiting formal charges.
That is the gruesome.
Then there is another legal case tonight, possibly ridiculous, possibly perverted and possibly turning on the actual Tigger costume worn by an employee at Disney World. The costume is key because of the defense argument, which boils down to, if the Tigger doesn't fit, you must acquit;
36-year-old Michael Chartrand is accused of groping the breast of a 13-year-old girl in the Disney World's Magic kingdom while the two posed for a classic snapshot.
The 13-year-old testified she didn't know what to do or say when the costumed character touched her breast. Defense attorney Jeffrey Kaufman today cross-examined the girl's stepfather, who testified that he didn't see any groping. He was the one who took the photograph of the two. And he was never interviewed by detectives.
Kaufman also says his client not only wouldn't have intentionally groped the girl. He also couldn't have. He today had another man who portrays Tigger at the same theme park show off the paws of the costume. He testified, those hands are too thick to permit the wearer to know what he is touching. Chartrand turned down a plea deal from prosecutors that would have offered him probation and a ban from theme parks.
He is instead going to continue with the trial and thus continue to face the prospect of up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Mr. Chartrand's attorney, Jeffrey Kaufman, joining us now.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
JEFFREY KAUFMAN JR., ATTORNEY FOR CHARTRAND: Good night, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This business with the jury wearing or handling the Tigger costume, I know that you want the jury members to actually try out the paws for themselves . Will that happen and do you think that would be decisive?
KAUFMAN: Oh, that's definitely going to happen. The jury is going to get the opportunity to put on the whole costume. It's not as simple as a man standing on a street grabbing somebody.
This is his job to sit there, sign autographs, and hug people. And they can't possibly know what it's like unless they put the costume on.
OLBERMANN: Is there some contradiction between his being able to sign autographs and not being able to feel where his hands are?
KAUFMAN: Basically, to sign an autograph, you have to just be able to hold a pencil. It doesn't mean you have to really feel it. You know you're holding onto something. And it seems like a solid object.
But the fact is this. In this case, the picture speaks for itself.
Both the mother and the daughter are smiling profusely in the picture. This is a completely ridiculous reaction to two people who have just been groped.
OLBERMANN: Your client, Mr. Chartrand, was offered a deal, probation, no jail time, this psychosexual evaluation, and a ban from theme parks, but the key element in that, no jail time, and he's turned it down. Now if he's convicted, he could face jail time, possibly years. Will the jury find out about that stand or gamble? Do you expect it will be impressed by it? It seems like something of a chance being taken here.
KAUFMAN: The sad thing is, is that they won't hear it. But the other fact is that Mr. Chartrand wants his life back. And he wants it back with proof that he didn't do it. And he's willing to risk the 51 months to 15 years to prove his innocence.
OLBERMANN: Tell me about two things in the trial itself. It obviously would seem, if you're not on trial for that, as you suggest, to the outsider, that a case that involves one of the guys who plays Tigger at Disney world would be - would lend a certain odd tone to a courtroom.
What is the mood inside? Is there any recognition that you're dealing with people who walk around in the giant costumes or is it an all-business kind of case?
KAUFMAN: Well, you have to understand, when I take the head out of the bag and you see the Tigger head, automatically, there is this feeling like something ridiculous is happening.
The fact is, is, supposedly, Tigger touched somebody. And it's ridiculous on its face. So you - there is a seriousness because you're dealing with a 13-year-old who claims to do things, but you're also dealing with a family whose intention is to sue Disney from the beginning. So it's our theory and contention that this is all about the money.
OLBERMANN: One final side issue to this case. You and the defendant might be the most closely matched attorney and client I have ever heard of. You have also performed as Tigger at Disney World?
KAUFMAN: Yes. It is very interesting. That's why I decided to take the case pro bono.
The fact is this, that people in costume meet thousands of people a day. And to say - to go back and ask a guy if he remembers a family from five weeks ago is ridiculous. Also, he would never have been able to afford the defense that he needed. And the facts is this. Because I have been in the costume and because I have worked for Disney, it makes it easy to figure out the mistakes and the lies and the, basically, misrepresentations.
OLBERMANN: Standing up for the Tiggers of this world, Jeremy (sic)
Kaufman, the attorney for Michael Chartrand in the so-called Tigger case.
Thank you kindly for joining us tonight, sir.
KAUFMAN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: From Tigger on trial to another world of make-believe, news of the rich, famous, and notorious, constituting our nightly celebrity news roundup, "Keeping Tabs."
And in short, Fidel Castro may have just cost Michael Moore an Oscar. As we told you earlier, Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11" was broadcast on Cuban state-run TV last week, no doubt further raising the blood pressure of Moore's many critics. But Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rules disqualify any documentary that's shown on TV or the Internet within nine months of its release in theaters from Academy Award consideration.
But if Moore can prove he did not authorize the Cuban telecast, that rule will be waived. And, regardless, it can still be nominated as - sit down, conservatives - best picture.
Another whopper of a mistake from the newspaper that told you exclusively that John Kerry had selected Dick Gephardt as his vice presidential running mate. This one, if anything, though, is worse. "The New York Post" reporting that Sylvester Stallone visited a Los Angeles restaurant called Mr. Chou (ph) and said hello to - quote - "NBC head Bob Wright and his wife, who were seated with Brandon and Lily Tartikoff. Brandon Tartikoff was the beloved head of programming at NBC and later chief of Paramount Studios.
He had died of Hodgkin's Disease in 1997. "The New York Post" today wrote simply of its unconscionable mistake - quote - "We regret the error." And for once, we do, too. If only Brandon Tartikoff could come back to us that easily.
And lastly in "Tabs," sad news from baseball. Bob Murphy, for their first 42 seasons, the play-by-play voice of the New York Mets, for half-a-century a Major League Baseball announcer, profiled here on COUNTDOWN upon his retirement last fall, has died in Florida after a battle with lung cancer. The man who promised a happy recap after each Mets' victory was 79 years old.
OLBERMANN: It was Steve Martin on "Saturday Night Live" in the persona of Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber, who, after one of the failures of his medical operations, declares, "Perhaps I've been wrong to blindly follow the medical traditions and superstitions of the past centuries. Maybe we barbers should test those assumptions analytically through experimentation and a scientific method. Perhaps this scientific method should be extended to other fields of learning. Perhaps I could lead the way to a new age, an age of rebirth, of renaissance. Naah."
Our No. 1 story tonight, naah indeed. Medieval medicine is alive and well, courtesy in part Gwyneth Paltrow, who turned up at the premiere of the movie "Anchorman" with these big round welts on her back. A vacuuming tragedy of some sort? A very passionate but very misdirected lover? No, a 1700-year-old treatment called cupping.
Our correspondent explaining this from suburban Miami is Diana Gonzalez.
LISSA NIRENBERG, CUPPING SPECIALIST: Heat is used to introduce into the glass cup in order to create the suction.
DIANA GONZALEZ, REPORTER (voice-over): In an alternative medicine practice in Coral Gables, Lissa Nirenberg demonstrates how glass cups are used to relieve muscle pain.
NIRENBERG: Either energy or blood is stuck in that area, causing the discomfort. The cup is put on, causing suction in the area to pull out whatever is stuck in there, bring it to the surface, so fresh energy or blood can flow to the area and heal it.
GONZALEZ: It's called cupping.
PATTY FLYNN, CUPPING PATIENT: It feels like a really big hickey on your back. It just feels like when the vacuum cleaner is stuck to your skin. That's exactly what it feels like.
GONZALEZ: The cups can stay in place for about 10 minutes, or, with the help of a little oil, they can slide a cup around to treat a larger area. Lissa says bruising is a telltale sign of what's causing the problem.
NIRENBERG: Well, the cups are moving whatever is stuck in that area.
It doesn't matter what it is. If it's stuck energy, you'll have no bruise.
If it's stuck blood, bringing blood to the surface would cause the bruise.
GONZALEZ: It sounds and looks a little weird, but Patty claims cupping relieves her back pain and gives her more energy.
FLYNN: Usually, within an hour, two hours of leaving here, it does feel better. So you can definitely tell the difference.
OLBERMANN: So the next time you think your humors are out of balance or you feel a bit plaguey, before you reach for that leech, do like Gwyneth Paltrow and other Hollywood stars do. Go see a cuppist, cupster, licensed cupping professional.
That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann.
Good night and good luck.