Thursday, June 30, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 30

Guest: Evan Kohlmann, Richard Wolffe, John Wold, Tom O'Neil

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Where's bin Laden been hidin'? Check your local friendly sovereign nation. The CIA director says, "We have a pretty good idea where he is, but have to observe international obligations and fair play." Why? Since when?

If they don't execute Saddam Hussein, he might get a job selling Doritos. One of the National Guardsman keeping him put in the pokey says the Butcher of Baghdad has a Dorito habit but no longer likes Cheetos or Fruit Loops.

Hope he's paying cash. Security for 40 million personal computer accounts breached. What to do if yours was one of them. Better bring your Visa card, because the hackers don't accept American Express.

And Tom Cruise doesn't accept getting squirted with water by a fake reporter.


TOM CRUISE: You're a jerk. Yes, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.


OLBERMANN: I got your top gun right here, pal.

All that and more, now on Countdown.


CRUISE: You're a jerk.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from Los Angeles.

To paraphrase the old Voice of Doom that used to precede the late local newscast in 100 different cities, it's 10:00 p.m., do you know where your Osama bin Laden is?

Our fifth story on the Countdown, apparently our government does, or at minimum it has an excellent idea where he is, again. But as America and Americans are getting pounded at home and abroad, fairly or unfairly, for Gitmo, the head of the CIA says we can't go and get bin Laden because of the issues of international sovereignty, international obligation, and fair play.

The man invoking the Marquess of Queensberry rules is Porter Goss, the former congressman, CIA agent, and now head of the agency, telling "TIME' magazine, quote, "I have an excellent idea where he is," unquote. But doing something about it? Apparently that's where the excellent ideas run out, and not for the military reasons that sandbagged the last serious chance of capturing him in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan.

Goss thinks there are some "weak links in the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror." Specifically, quoting the "TIME" interview again, "When you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community."

Well, I've been in Los Angeles since Saturday, and I can say with complete assurance that I didn't see him here.

Joining me now from New York tonight, MSNBC terrorism analyst and founder of, Evan Kohlmann.

Evan, good evening.


OLBERMANN: OK, have we got something here? Or is this just the head of the CIA trying to sound tough because there's this new director of national intelligence kind of crowding him out of the picture?

KOHLMANN: Well, I think he's right. We have an excellent idea where Osama bin Laden is. Unfortunately, we've had that excellent idea now for over two years. He's in a northwest frontier province of Pakistan along the Pakistan-Afghani border, near the area of Wana, where last year you saw major a Pakistani military offensive aimed at capturing senior al Qaeda leaders aimed at driving out remnants of al Qaeda and removing even al Qaeda training camps that have popped up in this area.

Now, even this past week, with the recent arrest in Lodi, California, and the affidavit out there, you saw what Pakistani officials did with any news or any suggestion there were training camps inside of Pakistan still open. I mean, they let loose, they had a fit.

But the fact is, is that these camps do exist, and everyone knows. It's the greatest unreported secret in the world that one of the major headquarters remaining for al Qaeda is inside Pakistan.

OLBERMANN: So why the kid gloves here? I mean, I'm fascinated that the head of the CIA is using terms like "acceptable to the international community" and "international obligation" and "fair play." I mean, the general consensus from all ends of the political spectrum seems to have been, for four years now, that if we could go back before 9/11 and find Osama bin Laden, whoever had the chance should have dropped a bomb on him, even if he was in Toronto or your hometown or my hometown.

KOHLMANN: Hey, listen, you're right. President Bush said it best, "Wanted, dead or alive." But the fact is, is that in Pakistan, we have a situation that's very complex and potentially pretty dangerous.

We have a government that's really the best of a bad lot. Pervez Musharraf has shown himself to be a member of the war on terror and a part of the war on terror, but not necessarily an extremely committed member of that alliance. He's, you know, been responsible for the arrests of various operatives, including most recently Abu Faraj al-Libbi in Pakistan. Certainly Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's arrest ranks up there.

But fact that these man are choosing to operate inside of Pakistan alone should be an indication of something. If you look, the most significant al Qaeda arrests that we've had in the last three years have all been inside Pakistan. And in many cases, we're not even talking about the Pakistani-Afghani border. We're talking about cities in central Pakistan, like Lahore and Karachi.

Look, the problem is, is this. If we go after this too aggressively, if we send in U.S. special forces into Pakistan, we endanger causing an Islamic revolution there, in a country that already is known to have atomic weapons. And that could be even potentially a worse situation than we have now. Imagine a nuclear-armed Pakistan run by a government extremely sympathetic to that of Osama bin Laden. It's a problem.

OLBERMANN: So is that it, though? I mean, there's one quote that we haven't used from this, Goss's first answer to the question about getting bin Laden was - let me read it exactly - "That is a question that goes far deeper than you know." And if you mix that with all this stuff about international obligation, is it limited to the Pakistanis, or is there some additional wild card, like - I'm just making this up - but like, the Saudis know where he is?

KOHLMANN: Well, there's been a lot of suggestion lately about Iran. In fact, someone even wrote a book suggesting that Iran right now is currently harboring Osama bin Laden. I really think that's mostly just speculation, and unfounded speculation.

Everything we have, including intercepts of al Qaeda operatives, including messengers, mules that we've picked up carrying messages from Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders, all of these individuals are being picked up along the Pakistani-Afghani border region, in Waziristan and Baluchistan.

So unless these guys are taking first-class trips from their mules from Iran into Afghanistan, and that's where they're being captured, or the reality simply is that that's where these guys are. This is where the cerebrum of al Qaeda remains. And if we want to take real action against it, if we really want to destroy the network, it's inside of Pakistan, where some of the most valuable answers that we can find still are.

OLBERMANN: And politically, we have to let them, essentially, do it for us.

KOHLMANN: Well, if we want to be careful.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Evan Kohlmann of, MSNBC counterterrorism analyst, great thanks for your insight on this one, sir.

KOHLMANN: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: The big book of Where's Osama not even opened when the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, met with Britain's chief foreign policy adviser only six months after the September 11 attacks. What they discussed instead, regime change in Iraq, and evidently not for the first time, either.

That, just one of the revelations in what has now turned into a series of so-called Downing Street memos.

Eight more documents from 2002 leaked to the Associated Press over the weekend, further suggesting that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were determined to remove Saddam Hussein from power within weeks or at the latest months after 9/11, despite a near-total absence of even incorrect evidence that might have linked him to the attacks on America, and despite concerns within the British government that the Bush administration lacked a clear and compelling military reason to invade, one memo to the British foreign minister from his political director reading, quote, "U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al Qaeda is so far frankly unconvincing. For Iraq, regime change does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam.

Another memo, addressed to Prime Minister Blair himself, showing there were also concerns that little thought was being given to the invasion's aftermath. "A postwar occupation of Iraq," it read, "could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point."

Joining me from Washington, Richard Wolffe, "Newsweek" magazine's senior White House correspondent.

Good evening again, Richard.


Great to be with you again.

OLBERMANN: Well, now that we have read basically everything in the British cabinet's secret files and except the reasons that Prime Minister Blair and his wife had their late-life baby, is this getting any closer to being the supposed smoking gun about President Bush and Iraq that Mr. Bush's critics were claiming when the first of these memos leaked?

WOLFFE: Well, it does depend on what you call a smoking gun. If you remember originally, a smoking gun was supposed to be a mushroom cloud. And we're certainly not at that stage now, where a smoking gun is out there that proves conclusively that, for instance, what we're talking about, President Bush and Tony Blair were lying, that they knew this information, the case for war was wrong.

What these memos really show is that the decision was made to go to war before there was a case. In other words, they were cherry-picking for the argument about war. And what it also shows most critically now is that there was really totally inadequate planning for the postwar period.

You know, put together, you don't have a smoking gun that says either man lied, but what you do have is a real failure of leadership, a failure to ask the right questions, to do adequate planing, and really, a failure to make the case to the general public.

That's why you hear President Bush now making, I think it's the eighth or ninth version of why the country needs to be committed to Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Also, regarding the timeline, the first words, at least, that we've seen in that March 14, 2002, note seems particularly relevant. The British foreign policy adviser, Mr. Manning, writing of his dinner with then-NSA Condoleezza Rice, and it begins, "Condi's enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed." I mean, that implies, doesn't it, that the U.S. was cherry-picking, shopping an invasion of Iraq, not just in March 2002, but if she had undimmed enthusiasm then, it implies she was shopping, cherry-picking appreciably earlier than March of 2002.

WOLFFE: Right, absolutely. What we're seeing here are conversations rise to the surface that were going on before they were committed to paper. And, yes, absolutely the crucial question is, why did they turn away? Why did the Bush administration turn away from al Qaeda and go to Iraq?

And what we have here is a timeline that doesn't match up with their public statements at all. At this period, and through the summer of '02, the public position was, there were no war plans on the desk of the president.

OLBERMANN: You know both of these political systems. I assume that you are convinced, as others are, that the memos are authentic, and the conversations are presumably well documented.


OLBERMANN: But they could not have gotten great distribution even in England. Whoever is leaking them, are they being leaked to undermine Prime Minister Blair in a very material and immediate sense, to force him to move up the day that he's going to quit and his number-two man, the chancellor, Gordon Brown, becomes the prime minister? Is that the motive behind this, do you suppose?

WOLFFE: Well, could be. At Westminster, where all of London politics plays out, is a notoriously secret secretive place, cloak and dagger politics is just part and parcel of it. I think the initial memo was certainly designed to disrupt Tony Blair and interfere with his reelection.

What you're seeing now, I think, we could have multiple leakers here, people who want to make the case for a smoother exit from Iraq for British troops. Some British generals floating the need for British troops to go from Iraq to Afghanistan. I think there are probably multiple players here, everyone looking out for themselves.

Gordon Brown wouldn't have his hands on these materials. But Tony Blair may well do, and some of his officials certainly may be trying to protect themselves.

OLBERMANN: And the move to these latest memos going to the Associated Press, which guarantees it international distribution immediately, particularly to the United States, suggests that there is some intent to make this White House look pretty bad.

WOLFFE: Well, there have been really a lot of tensions all the way through. And some of these memos get to that. But there are tensions on the ground right now, as there have been throughout the whole occupation, about the military tactics, the political future. I'm afraid there are a lot of British officials in the military and political leaders who feel that they have not been treated with adequate respect, and they haven't got the punching power that they deserve as such loyal members of the coalition.

So there could be a lot of disgruntled people out there who want to leak just for that purpose.

OLBERMANN: An extraordinary story. And maybe we haven't seen the last of the documents.

Richard Wolffe, "Newsweek"'s senior White House correspondent, thanks especially for your time tonight, sir.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: From the excuses for getting us into the war, to the dictator it put out of business, and into a hidey-hole and into a courtroom, a profile of Saddam in stir, the man, the myth, the Doritos lover? Crunch all you want. We'll make more.

And we're only 1,233 days away from decision 2008. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware has already unofficially thrown his hat into the ring among the Democratic hopefuls. Watch out for those hair transplants.

From Los Angeles, you are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: "No wire hangers!" So spoke Joan Crawford to her daughter, at least as portrayed by Faye Dunaway in the movie "Mommie Dearest." "No phone, no pool, no pets," thus sang Roger Miller in the '60s crossover hit "King of the Road."

And now, no fruit loops. That, one of the only expressions of anger, defeat, or defiance reported by his guards that they ever heard said by Saddam Hussein.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, we will hear from two of the guards in a moment. They told their story in the newest edition of "GQ" magazine. Five soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard, given a 10-month assignment to guard the former Iraqi dictator, which is what guards do, none of them involved in his interrogation, they got to watch him eat, smoke Cuban cigars, and wash his socks himself.

Hussein, they told the magazine, continued to be under the impression that he is the president of Iraq. As to U.S. presidents, he liked Reagan, Clinton is OK, but he hated both Bush the elder and Bush the current.

But it was the day-to-day, ordinary stuff that made the piece fascinating. A picture, as writer Lisa DePaolo phrased it, of "an oddly endearing crazy man." He loved Cheetos originally, then one day his guards gave him Doritos instead, and, quote, "He never went back." Quote, "He'd eat a family-sized bag of Doritos in 10 minutes."

This stuff about the fruit loops, when offered them for breakfast, he said he wouldn't touch them. He preferred raisin bran crunch. No fruit loops, he would say, no fruit loops!

The author of that article, as well as two of the men who actually guarded Saddam Hussein, guarded from a military point of view, not a basketball point of view, spoke with my colleague Allison Stewart earlier today on MSNBC.

I have to go across the street now to stumble through my appearance on the "Tonight" show with Jay Leno. I can hear Jay calling. So for more on Saddam and to take Countdown the rest of the way, here's Alison Stewart at MSNBC headquarters.

Good evening, Allison.

ALISON STEWART, HOST: And big thanks to you, Keith.

Some of these guys are fresh out of high school, never having left the state of Pennsylvania before, shipping off to Iraq, and receiving one of the most critical assignments any soldier in that country will ever face.

Now, as Keith mentioned, I spoke with two of those Guardsmen, Specialist Shawn O'Shea and Corporal Jonathan "Paco" Reese, as well as "GQ" correspondent Lisa DePaolo.


STEWART: Shawn, let me start with you. The first time you met Saddam Hussein, the first time you what was your first impression?

SPEC. SHAWN O'SHEA, GUARDED SADDAM HUSSEIN: My first impression, I was nervous and I was excited at the same time. And we opened the - he opened the door, and he stepped out of his cell, and he came out, and he just walked out to me shook my hand. It was a real experience. It was one of - I'll never forget that day for the rest of my life.

O'SHEA: Physically, he was medium - regular weight, probably about six feet tall. He had a beard and, like, graying, he was graying hair. Full head of hair, though.

STEWART: Paco, what kind of guidelines were you given in terms of interacting with Saddam Hussein?

CPL. JONATHAN "PACO" REESE, GUARDED SADDAM HUSSEIN: As interacting with him, we were told to strictly keep it on a professional basis, not to initiate conversation with him. And if he talked to us, try to keep it as minimal and as short as possible.

STEWART: But I understand he got a little chatty with you guys, right?


O'SHEA: Yes.

REESE: Yes, if we, if we, if he chatted with us, then I guess it was all right, because we can't help that.

O'SHEA: Yes, he used to write poetry just about every day. Like, when he wrote, really wrote a good one, you know, to him, he'd read them to us. But he tried to translate it into English, but he just - you couldn't understand it. You'd just kind of tell him, Oh, that was really nice, you know, it was a good poem.

STEWART: Lisa, let's bring you into this conversation. As you were reporting this story, what did you learn about Saddam Hussein, from the political to the personal, things that surprised you?

LISA DEPAOLO, "GQ" MAGAZINE: Oh, all of it. I mean, he - I - these young men had a picture of him and a sense of him I've never heard before. And I found that fascinating. I found this image of him through their eyes to be amazing. I mean, he was quirky, he was eccentric, he was very polite to them. And - but he was also, you know, he did some odd things.

STEWART: Let's talk about some of the details, some of the interesting details. I understand, Paco, that Saddam Hussein is somewhat of a clean freak.

REESE: Yes, yes.

REESE: Oh, anything at all possible. You know, he'd shake your hand, then he'd wipe his hand afterwards. But he wouldn't do it in front of you to show common courtesy for the fellow man. And when it came to eating, he wiped his utensils down, his plates, everything.

STEWART: And I also understand, Shawn, he had a penchant for Doritos.

O'SHEA: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) it was - we were told to give him snacks in between meals to keep his weight up. So one day we gave him Cheetos, and he really liked them, but we ran out, so we switched to Doritos, and he just never went back. He just loved Doritos.

REESE: Yes, he'd always tell our other buddy, Jesse, he'd always make a little triangular symbol, and he'd be, like, Dories. He called them Dories. So never went back after that. He likes Cheetos - or Doritos.

STEWART: Shawn, does he understand what's happened in Iraq at this point?

O'SHEA: He has a pretty good idea that we're the, we took over and we're there, and you know, we destroyed a lot of things, but it was, you know, it was for a good (INAUDIBLE). He still has an idea that he thinks he's still the president, thinks he's going to go right back into power after he leaves, so...

STEWART: And I understand you guys couldn't tell anybody about your detail. What that was like, Paco?

REESE: Oh, it was actually a - somewhat really stressful. My stepmom worried about me a lot. And I would tell her, Don't worry about me, you're never going to see me on TV. I can't tell you what I'm doing. But she would still worry, you know, every time a incident happened, she'd be sending me an e-mail, Oh, I heard about this, I heard about that, were you there? I'm, like, No. So it was hard, it was hard.

STEWART: We thank you all for joining us. Corporal Jonathan "Paco" Reese and Specialist Shawn O'Shea of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Big thanks to you. And also to you, Lisa DePaolo of "GQ" magazine...


STEWART:... it's a great read.

O'SHEA: Thanks for having us.

REESE: Thank you.


STEWART: From high-value detainees to some hollering. Veterans of this newshour know that means one thing and one thing only. Oddball dead ahead.

And speaking of hollering, Tom Cruise did a little of his own on the red carpet in London. But he didn't yell at me. Someone from his movie company did that. How I spent my summer vacation. Tom, Katie, and me.


STEWART: I'm Allison Stewart, your humble fill-in host while Keith Olbermann lounges in sunny L.A., just rubbing elbows with the stars on the set of the "Tonight" show with Jay Leno. But I get to do the strange news and wacky video segment. So who really got the better end of this deal? He did.

Let's play Oddball now.

Hoo, doggie. We begin in Spidey North Corners in North Carolina for the 37th Annual National Hollering Contest. He ain't no holaback (ph) girl, but dozens of competitors traveled from as far away as the next town over to stand on stage and screech like a stuck pig for a shot at the title of world champion hollerer.

But in the end, six-time champ Larry Jackson took home the trophy, the only man to win that many since the contest began, when some guy learned it's not a good idea to go commando with a zip fly.

OK, now, this is culture. Basel, Switzerland, it's the international art exhibition known as Art Unlimited. The big attraction this year was this very special bar of soap, which sold for more than $18,000. Its creator says it was made with fat removed from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during liposuction.

I'm going to go ahead and repeat that. Fat liposuctioned out of the prime minister of Italy. Apparently you're not fully clean unless you're Silvio clean. Artist Gianni Motti says he got a connection at the clinic Berlusconi reportedly visited, who gave him a bag of just that stuff, and then he made soap, "Fight Club" style.

Motti has offered to DNA-test the soap to prove it's from the prime minister, but buddy, you know, we're going to take your word for it, and keep that stuff away from me. Just keep on walking.

Elsewhere in Italy, it's been a couple of months on the job and Pope Benedict XVI is knee-deep in his papal duties these days. Sunday morning was the ceremonial blessing of the Ferraris. Forty-five sweet Italian rides were driven to St. Peter's Square for the ceremony, where Pope Benedict, who used to drive a Volkswagen Golf, blessed these slightly cooler cars and their slightly richer owners. Apparently, now that the Ferraris are blessed, their drivers can drive as fast as they want and never wear a seatbelt. But don't you do that. Seatbelts good.

John Bolton might need a special papal Ferrari treatment. That may be the only way he ever makes it to the U.N. Another vote and even less support for the embattled ambassador-designate.

And news that makes you wonder, 40 million personal accounts hacked into. Is your credit card or bank account one of them? We're going to tell you what you need to know.

Now, those stories are ahead, but first here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day. Number three, Penny Needham of Madison, Ohio. People found a lot of strange things in their fast food lately, most of them pretty gross. Needham says she's considering suing the local McDonald's after she broke a tooth on something in her double cheeseburger. It was a keychain with pornographic images on it.

Segue to number two! Adult film star Jenna Jameson - she wasn't actually on that keychain, but she probably sells those things. Today she became the first porn star on the "Forbes" top 100 richest celebrities list. "Forbes" reports she's doing about $30 million a year in revenue, selling videos, sex toys, cosmetics and a clothing line.

And number one, Walter Hicks Petty of Mount Holly, North Carolina. He has been arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods, among other things. Police say neighbors became suspicious when Petty started selling $100,000 worth of chicken parts out of his trailer (INAUDIBLE).


STEWART: OK, don't come crying to us about the lack of bipartisanship in Washington. Republican or Democrat or Whig or Tory, chances are, you may be getting tired of hearing about the battle over whether John Bolton should be the next American ambassador to the United Nations.

Our third on the Countdown - brace yourselves! - the battle ain't

over yet. The Democrats have once again blocked the Senate from holding a

final vote on the Bolton nomination. The technical name for what they've

done is a "no cloture vote." Remember that for Trivial Pursuit. Others

may call it a filibuster. The reason for the second delay, the White House

still has not turned over the documents about Bolton that the Democrats

have been requesting for the past two months

For a time today, the White House tried to work out a compromise by offering to hand over some of the documents in exchange for a confirmation vote, but the Democrats say that's not really a compromise. They want to see all the information before deciding if Bolton is the man for the job.

And at this rate, it may be up to the next president of the United States to fill the post of U.N. ambassador. And if you think it's too early to be talking about the next campaign for president, you haven't been talking to Senator Joe Biden, have you? The Democrat from Delaware has now gone further than anyone else in his party to reveal his White House ambitions. Now, it's not a formal declaration, but man, it comes awfully close! Senator Biden now says he intends to seek the nomination.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I know I'm supposed to be more coy with you. I know I'm supposed to tell you, you know, that I'm not sure or I'm not - but if, in fact, I think that I have a clear shot at winning the nomination by this November or December, then I'm going to seek the nomination.


STEWART: Now, politics getting personal tonight, in the wake of the massive security breach that may have put 40 million credit card numbers into the hands of thieves. After all, politicians can rock the plastic, too. You will no doubt remember Friday's news from the folks at Mastercard that hackers had gotten their hands on 40 million card numbers by tapping into the computer system used by a separate company to process transactions: 14 million are Mastercard, most of them, 22 million, are Visa, the rest Discover and American Express.

Maybe one of the stolen numbers belongs to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. He is now pursuing legislation to prevent identity theft, saying, quote, "It's the Wild West out there, and the handling of electronic data is weighed so heavily to the convenience of the corporate world at the expense of the consumers."

Senator Leahy is not kidding. A key tenet of the Wild West rules are

· are that rules are for sissies. Perhaps it should be no surprise that we have now learned the processing company behind the breach - not following the rules. It wasn't supposed to even have any of that credit card information in the first place, the CEO of Card Systems telling "The New York Times" that his firm was keeping consumer records when it should not have been. The rules established by Mastercard and Visa say that the company should only process the information before getting rid of it immediately. Card Systems says it was holding onto the data for, quote, "research purposes."

Now that hackers have done their part, it's time to do ours. Here to help us figure out who's really at risk here and what should happen next, John Wold, vice president of RelyData, a company that helps victims of identity theft restore their identities. And thanks for joining us, John.

JOHN WOLD, RELYDATA: Thank you. Happy to be here.

STEWART: So if I've heard this report and I read about it on line, should I be on the horn right now, calling the bank that issued my credit card?

WOLD: I would, yes. Call them right away.

WOLD: First, I'd ask them whether or not my account number has been compromised in this group.

WOLD: Well, if it's been compromised, they should know that. If it's not, you have maybe a little time to wait until it is. I would then check my credit reports. I would also make sure that I check all of the statements from those accounts or any credit card account that I have each month when they come.

STEWART: So you should probably be doing this for the next few months, the next four, five, six months, I'm taking.

WOLD: I would go at least six months. Maybe longer.

STEWART: All right. This is an interesting question. I've got to pick up the phone and call this bank. Why aren't they calling me, or why isn't Visa calling me or American Express? Don't they have a responsibility to let us know?

WOLD: Well, that's a good question. I think they want you to call them so that they can check to be sure. I don't think they want to alarm too many people. I think 40 million people is a big enough number, but I believe they just want to make sure that you call them instead of them having to call you.

STEWART: So aside from someone going to K-Mart and running up $900 worth of Pampers on my credit card, is there any other big issue that I should be concerned about in terms of this hacking?

WOLD: Well, in this kind of account takeover, really, what you're worried about is somebody adding charges to your account. And of course, you can go to the creditor and tell them it's not yours and they'll take it off. There could be a charge of $50, but typically not. Other than that, you need to monitor your credit accounts by checking your credit reports regularly.

WOLD: How often...

STEWART: Does this kind of hacking happen? Yes, I'm just curious why we haven't heard about something like this before. Does it happen a lot, and this one is just too massive to ignore?

WOLD: Well, I think we've been hearing. Since the beginning of this year over 14 million names have been compromised under a variety of different scams. This particular scam, where a credit card processor was saving data and made access to those credit card numbers and names, that is a fairly new phenomenon. I'm not sure that it hasn't been going on. But quite frankly, a consumer, to really perpetuate identity theft, is going to need a little more information than just the card number and your name.

STEWART: All right. So we should just all be vigilant and check our statements. John Wold, vice president of RelyData, thank you so much for your time tonight, sir.

WOLD: You're very welcome. Thank you.

STEWART: Coming up, the very latest from Utah on the desperate search to find a kid who disappeared from Boy Scout camp. He's been missing in the woods since Friday. And later: If you weren't among the 400 fans with an invitation to the Michael Jackson thank you party, we'll tell you what you missed.


STEWART: For the second time in less than a year, a kid has gone missing from a Boy Scout camp in the mountains around Salt Lake City, Utah. Now, thousands of volunteers, including the father who lost his son last year, are desperately trying to prevent another tragedy. Our second story on the Countdown, the search for 11-year-old Brennan Hawkins. Our correspondent Michelle Kosinski joins us live from the command post with details on the investigation. Fill us in, Michelle.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: There's still a few hours of daylight left, and searchers plan on using it. You know, yesterday, we saw about 3,000 people searching. Today that number dropped to about 600, but they're making the most of their numbers, as well, using horses, ATVs, a chopper. Tonight, some will use night-vision technology on foot.

Now, interestingly, the sheriff just told us that even though this area is vast, the area they're really targeting is quite small, just this valley. That's because they think it's highly unlikely that 11-year-old Brennan could have scaled the rough terrain surrounding it.

They also think they've scoured that area of high probability pretty well, except, he says, for the river, which, being deeper and faster than he thought, he calls a nightmare.


(voice-over): Search-and-rescue teams and 3,000 volunteers continue combing the rugged mountains of northeastern Utah for an 11-year-old who disappeared Friday.

TOBY HAWKINS, FATHER OF MISSING SCOUT: My greatest plea at this time and the way that we can find my boy is for anybody and everybody to come out and help.

KOSINSKI: Brennan Hawkins vanished during a Boy Scout camping trip.

He was last seen taking off some gear near a climbing wall with a friend.

Authorities say Brennan never made it to his campsite only 200 yards away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This reaches the heart of everybody. They see Brennan in their son.

KOSINSKI: On Sunday, searchers hiked through the rough country. Swift-water rescue teams searched the Bear River about 50 yards from where Brennan was last seen.

DAVE BOOTH, SHERIFF'S DEPUTY: You know, his dad's out here looking for his son. I can't think of a worse Father's Day, you know, scenario personally.

KOSINSKI: This is only 15 miles from where another Boy Scout, 12-year-old Garrett Bardsley, disappeared almost a year ago. He was never found. Now, his father helps search for another son in these forbidding but familiar mountains.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It opened a new wound. It's just - it's like a scab that got torn off.


KOSINSKI: It's been frustrating for everybody that there has been no sign of this boy yet. Sheriff says, though, they have no intention of stopping the search, but he did say sometimes they reach a level of exhaustion in cases like this that often comes around the 10-day mark. In the meantime, those searchers will be out in the morning. We know detectives dedicated to this case, just in case a crime has occurred here, are interviewing Scouts and troop leaders from that campsite where Brennan disappeared Friday evening. Alison, back to you.

STEWART: Such a tough story. Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much, with the latest on the search for Brennan Hawkins from Summit County, Utah.

All right, making a sharp hard turn from the serious news into our selection of celebrity news and gossip in "Keeping Tabs." We begin with this weekend's celebration of Michael Jackson's innocence, 400 guests, invitation only, and no pesky press allowed. The exclusive bash was held at the Chumash Indian casino in Santa Ynez, California, where apparently, too, Jackson is a regular performer.

He, mother Katherine and sister Janet all appeared on stage to thank the assorted guests and fans. Among them, one of the 12 people who acquitted the pop star last week. Pauline Coccoz, alias juror number 10, brought her entire family to the bash. Now, if you remember, right after the trial, she criticized the mother of the accuser, asking, quote, "What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen, you know, just really, volunteer your child to sleep with someone," end quote. But no sign of Michael himself Friday. No one has seen the "King of Pop" in public since he walked out of court a free man one week ago today.

Finally, a last reminder - and by last reminder, of course, we mean second to last reminder - to set your Tivo because Keith is going to be on the "Tonight" show tonight. And if you don't have Tivo, you can take a short nap after this so you can stay up for Jay Leno. That's 11:35 Eastern. It's Countdown's Keith Olbermann, comedian Martin Lawrence and the sweet sounds of Sugar Ray - that Mark McGrath is so cute! - plus What'shisname and the "Tonight" show band. Don't miss it! There's going to be a test.

OK, so I'm not on the "Tonight" show, but you know, I spent more than a week jetting around the world with Tom Cruise. I've got to count for something. So there. My summer vacation next, and Tom's red carpet surprise. Stand on by.


STEWART: So I just got back from this whole Tomcat Cruiseapalooza thing. And for those of you who need a translation, that would be the press and premiere jaunt across Asia and Europe with Tom Cruise. And halfway through, he was joined by Katie Holmes. This is all for his upcoming film being, "War of the Worlds." Now, by the end of the week, it was movie schmovie. All anybody wanted to know about was the big wedding engagement at the Eiffel Tower last Friday.

Our number one story on the Countdown: Tomcat Cruiseapalooza. Write it down because this thing is not over yet! Now, if you could letter in movie promotion, Tom Cruise would be captain of the team. However, he might not be so eager to play ball and answer every question after getting hit in the face with water squirted from a fake reporter's fake microphone yesterday at the movie's London premiere. But say what you will about the intensity of this current media blitz, it does nothing to disprove the adage "All publicity is good publicity."


(voice-over): Tom Cruise and fiancee Katie Holmes are in the home stretch of his world cruise to promote his film, while hers became the number one movie in the States. "Batman Begins" opened the same day as his Paris proposal.


TOM CRUISE, "WAR OF THE WORLDS": Yes, I proposed to Kate last night.

STEWART: Their involvement was made public just two months ago. For many, she went from "Katie who?" to Katie Holmes.

KEN BAKER, "US WEEKLY": She was a very low-level celebrity. The second she's with Tom Cruise, she's an A-list star that the world is talking about. It certainly helped the promotion of "Batman."

STEWART: But Cruise's well-honed publicity machine faced an unwelcome surprise.

CRUISE: I'm here giving you an interview and answering your questions, and you do something really nasty.

STEWART: Last night, at the London premier of "War of the Worlds," a television crew from a British comedy show squirted water right in his face.

CRUISE: You're a jerk.

STEWART: Cruise expressed anger but did not lose his temper. Four men were charged with assault. Recently, journalists have questioned Cruise's control - the couch-jumping, the disapproval of Brooke Shields's use of antidepressants, a very public May/December romance. But could this all work in his favor?

BAKER: No matter how much you flaunt your relationship and how much people might think it's weird, they still want to go and see your movie.

STEWART: Consider last week's number one movie, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who have been everywhere in the press as a result of gossip about a romantic relationship.

BAKER: Right now, Hollywood stories are two for two now, using personal lives of their stars to sell their movies.

STEWART: If "War of the Worlds" is a success when it opens next week it may be good news/bad news for celebrities, if personal lives become tied to movie profit.


Fiancee Katie Holmes's "Batman" movie grossed a fairly impressive $71 million in the past five days. By all accounts, Cruise's relatively reserved red-carpet reaction should do nothing to stand in the way of the couple's ever-burgeoning box office appeal. Maybe Bert Reynolds should have read that playbook before the premiere of his movie, "The Longest Yard."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us a little bit about the movie.

"BURT REYNOLDS": You don't know anything about the movie?


"BURT REYNOLDS": Well, then, what the hell are you asking me for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to get your point of view.

"BURT REYNOLDS": Did you see the original?



STEWART: It's all in the wrist. It's all in the wrist. Celebrity smackdowns and red carpet rants the special purview of our next guest, "In Touch Weekly" senior editor Tom O'Neil. Tom, great for you to join us. Thanks so much.

TOM O'NEIL, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": Thank, Alison..

STEWART: All right, let's start with this. How much pressure is there really on the red carpet for an actor or actress?

O'NEIL: Well, they are pressured, of course, to talk to the press, but most of them just run by. What's interesting about Tom Cruise is he doesn't. He likes to stay out there and gladhand everybody, to the annoyance of the people who go to premieres. I remember being at the premiere in New York for "Collateral," for example. We're all in the theater, in our seats for 45 minutes. Tom was still out pumping hands on the red carpet. I don't think he's going to be doing that much more.

STEWART: He spent about two hours in Tokyo. I call it a victory lap.

He just kept going around and around, signing autographs.


STEWART: It was pretty incredible.

O'NEIL: Yes, he really likes the people, and he likes the crowds, but that may be curtailed soon.

STEWART: Let's talk about this last incident a little bit. You know, the "Oprah" situation, jumping up and down on the couch, the interview he gave "Access Hollywood" - a lot of people have said that maybe he's lost control a little bit. But then today, a lot of people I talked to thought that he showed great restraint with that sort of "Punk'd" thing that happened to him with this guy squirting him with the water with the microphone. What do you think?

O'NEIL: I think he showed appropriate, you know, cool at first. He kind of chuckled. And he then started attacking the guy, though, which is what was so bizarre. He starts calling this guy a jerk. He starts saying, Do like to belittle people? No, let's use your "Punk'd" example here, Alison. Had this been Ashton Kutcher punking him, do you think Ashton would have been hauled off by the police? Tom prosecuted these people on assault charges. This is a guy who if you say, Gee, Tom might be gay, lands on you with a - you know, a battery of lawyers with a $100 million lawsuit.

STEWART: I want to talk about with this whole Tomcat thing. One of the most interesting questions came up in Germany by one of the German journalists was not by about whether this is the real deal, because everybody's questioning that, whether this is publicity or not, but whether or not they're exploiting their relationship. What do you think about that idea?

O'NEIL: Well, I think they can't help to, if it's there and if it's new and it's in our face, whether we like it or not, due to Tom. Yes, I think that's a fair accusation.

STEWART: And where's the line? When is it appropriate and what's inappropriate, so far as a celebrity letting his guard down?

O'NEIL: Yes, this is what we're seeing that's crossing a line here. Tom is just going all over the - crossing the line extremely here, making out with Katie, you know, in every inappropriate setting. It's like he wants this too bad. He wants us to care too much. What we're seeing is a superstar in his 40s who desperately wants to matter. I think one of the most interesting things about "War of the Worlds" is that the poster does not have Tom's picture on it. This is the first time in his career that that's happened.

STEWART: And actually, I saw him smooch up on her quite often out on the road. It was kind of - it was interesting. I felt a little uncomfortable one time.

O'NEIL: And that was off camera, wasn't it, when he was doing that...

STEWART: It was, yes.

O'NEIL: See, this is shocking.

STEWART: It's a little bit - it's a little bit odd. But here's the question. He doesn't really need the publicity. His movies make a ton of money. Why would he do this? Quickly, 10 seconds.

O'NEIL: Nicole Kidman. Imagine how he feels. The world cares so much about her and her love life, and we've stopped caring about Tom's. He wants that to change.

STEWART: Tom O'Neill, "In Touch Weekly," we thank you so much.

I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. He's on the "Tonight" show tonight. Did we mention that? Make sure you watch it. Have a good night."


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 29

Guest: Desa Philadelphia, Barry McCaffrey, Richard Wolffe

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The day after the president's speech about Iraq, 17 Americans feared dead, their helicopter feared shot down in Afghanistan.

The math. The president says his military leaders have all the men they need. His critics say his military leaders have all the men we've got.

The movie slump, war of the - whatever. Eighteen straight weeks of declining box office business, one theater chain even offering refunds.

A paternity test for Prince Harry, not now, but when he was born, to make sure the story was true, that he really was the son of Prince Charles.

And it turns out this story really is true. Moonlight Graham, the old doctor from "Field of Dreams" who only got to play in one major league baseball game, it's true. And his game was played 100 years ago today.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

Within 22 hours of the completion of the president's complete-the-mission speech, with its 34 references to terrorism and its conclusion that the war is, quote, "worth it," 17 American service personnel are presumed dead as their helicopter was shot out of the Afghanistan sky.

And the capital and the White House were evacuated again in another false alarm over a plane wandering into restricted airspace.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, first, is it worth it?

In Afghanistan, with recovery crews fighting bad weather looking for the bodies of dead Navy Seals, the Pentagon thinks the chopper was shot down. The Taliban claims it did it.

It was a Chinook MH-47, like this one, part of a four-chopper convoy on a mission to rescue a special ops team calling for reinforcements from the side of an eastern Afghan mountain, 10,000 feet up. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Peter Pace, says the Pentagon is not 100 percent certain but believes the chopper was felled by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The incident took place near Asadabad along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. U.S. military officials telling NBC News tonight that a search and rescue team has now reached the site, and there are no signs of survivors.

The Taliban, the fundamentalist bosses who ruled Afghanistan and safe-harbored Osama bin Laden, claim they shot the chopper down and killed survivors on the ground. They also claim to have videotaped the attack, though the plausibility of that claim seems minimized by the fact that they say that they will release that video later.

Regardless, somebody shot the Chinook down, and the doggedness of resistance in Afghanistan is a mirror image, perhaps a glimpse of the future, of the insurgency in Iraq.

That brings us back to President Bush's speech last night, which TV ratings suggest about a third of his customary audience did not even bother to watch. We will discuss that curious statistic, and get the second-day analysis of the speech, in a moment.

But first, the substance of the president's message, in a nutshell, to stay the course in Iraq, Afghanistan as well, and to do it with no additional manpower, because the president said the military commanders on the ground there say they don't need any additional.

Retired four-star general Barry McCaffrey recently returned from Iraq.

He has been kind enough to join us now.

And good evening to you, sir.


OLBERMANN: Before I ask you what military commanders in Iraq have been telling you about manpower, let me ask about the chopper being shot down in Afghanistan. That's eight months since we more or less declared the Taliban pretty much DOA. Is there any parallel or lesson in here about the strengths of insurgencies in Afghanistan, or, for that matter, in Iraq?

MCCAFFREY: Well, of course, Afghanistan's a case, a very unusual case. The Taliban are clearly trying to influence the upcoming parliamentary elections. We're trying to ensure that we fight them out on the frontier before they get into Kandahar, Kabul, the big cities, Mazir-a-Sharif (ph).

So I think what you're seeing is an attempt by us to continue the development of an operative Afghan state, to extend democracy. That's what the fighting's about.

OLBERMANN: To focus, then, on this issue of Iraq and manpower, as the president brought it up last night, before my question, let's listen to one of these quotations from the speech from the president last night.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself, and we can leave.


OLBERMANN: General, how does that jibe with what the commanders have told you? And is it really a question of how quickly Iraqi forces are going to replace American forces who will be, one way or the other, leaving?

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, my own judgment, this fellow we got in command, General John Abizaid, the CentCom commander-in-chief, is about as good as we've ever had. You know, Arabic speaking, Olmstead scholar, Harvard master's degree, a Ranger commander himself.

I think the bottom line is, we don't want more Americans there right now. We want to build the Iraqi security forces. That process looks to me, Keith, as if it's under way, and likely to continue to produce more and more Iraqi-trained and -equipped manpower.

Having said that, U.S. Army and Marine Corps cannot surge any more troops into Iraq, to speak of. We might be able to produce a brigade or two more for the December elections, but we've shot the bolt. Half that force is National Guard or Reserve. The Army and the Marine Corps are stretched beyond their elastic limit.

And so it's a moot question, at best.

OLBERMANN: So that might also explain what some people may have come away from last night, some confusion that some might have had last night, hearing the president first saying, We have enough troops in Iraq, and then, as this clip that we're going to play indicates, on the other hand, saying, in the wake of the huge recruiting shortfall, he was including a - basically a sales pitch.


BUSH: I thank those of you who've reenlisted in an hour when your country needs you. And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our armed forces.


OLBERMANN: So that's not incompatible with what he said earlier, essentially, we have all we need, but we need more. Is that explained by the need to overcome the attrition? In other words, just to keep current numbers of boots on the ground, we have to reverse the recruiting shortfall?

MCCAFFREY: Well, we got a problem. You know, we got a very high reenlistment rate for units in combat. They're very proud of what they're doing. They're very tough soldiers and Marines and sailors, airmen, Coast Guard, over there, no question.

The problem is the recruiting shortfalls are enormous. And I think we need our political leadership, including the president of the United States, to say, Look, we need your boys and girls to come forward and fight for us.

But Keith, it's not to consider a career in the armed forces. We need 19-year-old young men and women to come in and carry a gun in military police battalions and infantry battalions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So I must admit, I would have liked to have seen a much more direct statement that we're asking you, American parents and educators and pediatricians, send your boys and girls to the color. We're in danger. We need somebody to fight for us.

OLBERMANN: One long, long-term question that comes from a great quote in "The New York Times" today. We've heard all the analogies to Vietnam. But there was a soldier quoted in "The Times, "New York Times" this morning who said she feared that Iraq was turning into another Korea, that we'd be stuck in a no-man's-land of keeping, as she put it, good Iraq from bad Iraq, because the tensions will always be there. Is that a plausible outcome to this?

MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, those troops, boy, they sure are astute. You know, they read stuff their moms send them. They're pretty cagey people. That's not a bad outcome. We stayed in Germany for 50 years and created peace and ended the cold war. We went to Korea with a modest force, 50,000 troops, created this giant democratic capitalistic miracle of South Korea.

What's wrong with that? I wouldn't mind seeing us stay in Iraq for 10 years with a modest force and end up with a democratic Iraq and one that doesn't represent a threat to its own people and its neighbors and our national security interests.

OLBERMANN: The retired four-star general Barry McCaffrey. As always, sir, great thanks. And congratulations on the pyrotechnics behind you. Very effective.

MCCAFFREY: Yes, all right, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Last night's speech evoking the inner Yogi Berra in those who could not help thinking it was deja vu all over again, President Bush continually invoking the September 11 attacks. As a strategy, bluntly recalling the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania has proved enormously successful for this White House, and some suggest it got it a second term to begin with, the president returning it to circulation at Fort Bragg.


BUSH: The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001.

After September the 11th, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult. After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people. This nation will not wait to be attacked again.

... followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.

... just as they tried to shake our will on September the 11th, 2001.

The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th.


OLBERMANN: For the second-day recap, I'm joined now by Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.

Richard, good evening.


Great to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: As the 9/11 references attest, very little new per se in last night's address, at least in terms of terminology, with the exception of the Show Us You Care Web site unveiled for the troops. The president is fond of repeating things until he thinks the message has gotten through, if it has not already. Didn't really work, at least yet, on Social Security reform. Is there anything that would suggest it's going to work in terms of shoring up support for Iraq?

WOLFFE: Well, the numbers don't look good, and they haven't looked

good for a long time. Remember, the president's been saying this for some quite a long period. But the numbers have been bad since April, May of last year. And since September, before the president got reelected, the number of people saying the war wasn't worth it far outnumbered the people who said it was worth it.

So that's why he framed it like this. Yes, 9/11, you've got the subliminal message there. It's what this is all come about. But it's a very tough sell for the president right now.

OLBERMANN: Now the question becomes, how many people did get the subliminal message, or any kind of message? I mean, lord help us if we ever start ranking presidents by their TV ratings. But this statistic tonight was so startling that it seemed to move itself from tangential to relevant. His Social Security speech in April, April 28, had a total TV audience of 32.7 million. The one last night, 23 million, which is a 30 percent drop. It's 27 percent fewer than watched the stem cell speech in August 2001. It's less than half the number who watched the "Mission accomplished" speech in May of 2003.

Does it mean - well, what does it mean? Does it mean nobody wants to hear the argument, or everybody is already decided? Can we tell what it means?

WOLFFE: Well, it means he's preaching to the choir. You know, Gallup was out in the field asking people if they saw it, what they thought. And they found that predominantly, the people who watched it were the president's fans.

So, you know, that's a problem, because these are - he's trying to shift public opinion across the nation. And, you know, you can see why the networks are reluctant to take this. It doesn't make for great TV. And the White House flagged this up in advance. They said there would be nothing new.

OLBERMANN: Maybe he could have worked in the missing woman in Aruba story if he want to get a larger audience.

Last question. It's a visceral one, I guess. When you specifically choose a military setting as your backdrop, and the soldiers are at attention as the president enters so they cannot applaud, and they finally applaud only after a White House staffer apparently starts to clap about 20 minutes into the speech, did somebody make poor choices regarding the politics of the thing, the setting of the thing?

WOLFFE: They were trying to be somber. They were trying to be - they were trying to hit the mood of the people. But it's a very tough balancing act for the president. He is trying to say, I understand, everyone's concerned about the war, but there's this optimistic light at the end of the tunnel.

And it's - I think it's probably an impossible line to tread for this president, given that he doesn't like admitting mistakes, and he wants to portray this as a war that is heading for victory. So it's very tough. I think that's why you saw this awkward applause moment.

OLBERMANN: The senior White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe, of "Newsweek" magazine. Richard, thanks again for your time tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Meanwhile, the phrase in Washington late this afternoon might have been, Thanks a lot, again. The Capitol and White House ordered evacuated for the second time in 49 days. Again, just a stray plane in restricted airspace. This was over within a few minutes, even before the White House had been fully evacuated. And nobody seemed in a particular hurry, not in the Senate, where your representatives have moved faster towards free food, and not at the Capitol, where one evacuee could clearly be seen carrying his dry cleaning with him.

Witnesses say a turbo-prop plane could be heard overhead at the Capitol. Authorities say fighter jets escorted that plane and had it on the ground in Virginia within 15 minutes of the start of the incident. The White House says it did go to code red, and, quoting spokesman Scott McClellan, "The president was temporarily relocated," he added, "hurriedly."

But for the second consecutive evacuation, the White House emergency notification system did not sound.

Also tonight, concern about the most popular nonstick cookware. The EPA is doubtless going to touch one off tonight. It's investigating reports suggesting a chemical in Teflon might cause cancer.

And 18 straight weeks of box-office bombs, one theater chain now offering refunds if you hate the movie. To quote the actor Paul Dooley in "Breaking Away," Refund? Refund? Refund?

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Once again, another TV news trip into the bottomless pit of things that could kill you but probably won't.

One part of our fourth story on the Countdown is for certain. After you see Tom Costello's report on the possibility that a chemical in Teflon might increase your chances of getting cancer, your chances of thinking about throwing out your Teflon skillet will go through the roof.


TOM COSTELLO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With five kids, it seems Barbara Andraconus (ph) always has something cooking in a pan. But it's the chemical compound used to make the pan's Teflon coating that has her and an EPA panel concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything that isn't sort of the way nature made it has to have some kind of problem with it for us as humans.

COSTELLO: The compound is PFOA. And trace amounts of it have shown up in blood samples taken from people across the country. When rats and mice were exposed to PFOA in far greater amounts, they developed brain tumors.

Now an EPA advisory panel reports PFOA is a likely carcinogen in humans. Activists have been pushing the EPA to regulate it for years.

RICHARD WILES, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP: Our concern is that this is a very unique chemical. It lasts literally for eternity. And now it has been determined to be a likely human carcinogen. That ranks it up there with DDT, PCBs, dioxin as a very serious hazard. Needs to be banned.

COSTELLO: Teflon, and the products that contain PFOA, are everywhere, from those pots and pans to Gortex jackets, carpet coatings, computer chips, engine fuel lines, even pizza boxes.

(on camera): But the manufacturer, Dupont, says it doesn't know why PFOAs are turning up in human blood samples nationwide. And, it says, there are no PFOAs in Teflon-coated pans, because, it says, they've been destroyed during the manufacturing process. It also says its tests indicate PFOAs are not a threat.

RICHARD RICKARD, PH.D., DUPONT SCIENTIST: Clearly, based on our assessment of the science, we do not believe this poses any cancer risk to the general population.

COSTELLO: There are nonstick coatings that don't contain Teflon, but now the EPA must decide whether PFOAs used in Teflon and other processing should be regulated.

CHARLIE AUER, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: EPA's prepared to act. But we do have to have a pretty complete understanding of the risks, the exposures, et cetera.

COSTELLO: Whether a chemical that's part of everyday life is also a threat.

Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: Before you empty your kitchen cabinets, this caveat. A reminder about the aluminum scare of the early 1990s, when an herbal medicine author almost singlehandedly insisted it led to Alzheimer's and ALS. The author was named Michael A. Weiner, Ph.D. He is today better known today as Michael Savage.

Speaking of cleaning out, that's what happened in this pet store.

Holy purloined puppies, Batman!

And a crime in any workplace, a loud talker in the open (INAUDIBLE). Not her. That's unfair to put that picture up there. To say nothing of the eavesdropper. Now one company says it has the answer. It's basically a gibberish machine. Besides what I'm saying. This is a gibberish machine too. Quit working my side of the street!


OLBERMANN: We pause our Countdown of the day's real news for a brief collection of stories that would never even be news without two magical little words - great video.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Orlando, Florida, where something is amiss at the happiest place on earth. It appears jihadists are kidnapping puppies. Or maybe they're just ordinary puppy thieves who happen to be wearing towels over their heads as disguises.

This doggie-cage cam captured the theft of some of the 12 animals snatched from the Just Puppies store. The thieves apparently took as many of the things as they could carry out in the bag.

What about me? Yoicks.

The store owner says the dogs are worth about $5,000. But without proper papers, they have a street value of next to nothing. Plus, it's nearly impossible to get high by smoking them.

To Alaska. You thought the old opening to the old TV series "Northern Exposure" was some sort of exaggeration, huh? At Anchorage, a security camera caught it. Greatest invention ever, security cameras. This moose loose in the hoose, (INAUDIBLE), walked into the front door of the place, moseyed up to the counter, and asked to visit a patient named Rocky in the substance abuse ward. Hospital staff could be seen frantically running to grab cameras of their own to record the event for posterity.

Checking Oddball traffic, we've got an overturned beer truck in Newton, Massachusetts. Luckily, the driver was uninjured, and all the beer remained inside the - Uh-oh, that's not good.

Officials spent the entire day cleaning up the mess, cleverly bringing in area inmates to help with the job. And it'll be a big time in the Big House tonight.

Finally, things are finally looking up for Red Sox fan Leo Fitzgerald. The New Hampshire guy traveled seven hours to Philadelphia to see the Sox and Phillies on Saturday. Got himself a foul ball in the fourth inning, at that cost. Everyone in the stands around him got something far more foul, a nice gander at his Fruit of the Looms. The Phillies have since named him Fan of the Game, showered him with gifts, and asked him please, never, ever return to our stadium.

Speaking of stinkers, "War of the Worlds" opens today. But "Cinderella Man" gets the headline. In some theaters, if you see this flick, and you don't like it, you can get a full refund. Are things really that bad at the box office?

And remember when movies were movies, like "Field of Dreams"? Great fictional characters like Moonlight Graham? Only he wasn't fictional. In fact, today is the centennial of the Moonlight Graham Game.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Gary Moody of Albany, New Hampshire. Arrested for being a peeping Tom, in an outhouse, looking up. He was hiding beneath the seat. You know, to do this, your timing has to be perfect.

Number two, Rodney Tomsha, Spokane, Washington, arrested at his own wedding because his new Mrs. had gotten a restraining order issued against him earlier this year, and had gotten him arrested on a domestic violence charge 12 days ago. I thought could I change him!

And number one, Tramesha Fox of Houston. Hello! Chemistry teacher at Aldene (ph) Senior High School there. Police say she offered to give passing grades to of two her failing students, passing grades if they would torch her car for her for the insurance money. Well, that's a kind of chemistry.


OLBERMANN: It is perhaps the most disturbing part of H.G. Wells' novel, "The War of the Worlds." And there's probably good reason that the previous films and radio adaptations have left it out. But Wells pulled no punch. His invading Martians survived by sucking the blood out of living humans.

Our third story on the Countdown, speaking of sucking the blood out of living humans, there's Hollywood. And if there were ever a place where you might root for the Martians over the native humans, it would be in Hollywood.

In that context, there's good news tonight. As the Tom Cruise version of the War of the Worlds opens tonight, Hollywood has just sustained its record breaking 18th consecutive week of declining box office figures. Revenues for the top 12 films were down from the week before, down 16 percent from the parallel weekend for last year.

Whether "War of the Worlds" will break the streak is unclear. Kim, is it, as my mother would say, they must don't make movies like they used to?

Plus, the early reviews all say, politely, that the film is, quote, "dark," unquote. And several note that it does include Wells' ultimate gross outs, that the Martians like to drain their hosts of the very life essence. You know, just like Hollywood.

But what happens there when suddenly there's nothing to suck on anymore? When nobody is buying your remake of something from the '60s? You know, another Batman movie or a "Bewitched" movie or a remake of "The Love Bug," for God's sakes?

Or even, heavens forbid, a new title. "Cinderella Man" has only grossed about $50 million since its release. Sure, it may simply really be "Seabiscuit" on two legs, but hoping to boost the film's box office take, AMC theaters are offering moviegoers a money-back guarantee. You'll get your ticket refund if you hated the film.

AMC started the promotion last week, will continue through Fourth of July weekend. And now one of AMC's competitors, Cinemark, trying a similar stunt this weekend in selected cinemas to see if it will pay off.

Meanwhile, the distributors of "Cinderella Man," Universal Pictures, considering other possibilities for boosting the film's performance this fall, including possibly re-releasing it nationwide.

In the interests of full disclosure, Universal, like MSNBC, are part of our big happy G.E. family.

So the idea of the decade. The recycling something from 1965 shtick seems to have met its expiration date. The "Living Dead" franchise has finally gotten a fork stuck in it. And if you go to see "War of the Worlds," you may be expecting that the Martians drink Tom Cruise, not because they're thirsty but because they're damned tired of him jumping up and down on couches and explaining how nobody but knows anything about psychiatry.

What's going on here? For some informed analysis, I'm joined by Desa Philadelphia, former - the current movie correspondent from "TIME" magazine.

Miss Philadelphia, good evening to you.


OLBERMANN: So what happened to the boffo box office?

PHILADELPHIA: Well, you know, frankly, last year was a good year, because the "Passion of the Christ" happened to that box office.

This year, the studios are kind of having to deal with what's been going on for a couple years now, which is that, you know, a lot more people are renting DVD's and watching movies on their computer screen and enjoying other forms of entertainment.

So last year was a very good year because of "Passion of the Christ."

This year is more demonstrative of where the box office really is.

OLBERMANN: But are they now dying by the same sword by which they have lived? I mean, 30 years ago, before "Jaws," newspapers and TV reports and magazine reports almost never mentioned box office. If you saw something about a movie, it was a review. Was this movie good or was this movie bad?

But now, in all mainstream media, it starts with how much money a picture made. Is it possible that moviegoers have finally awoken to the idea that just because a lot of other people wasted their $10 on a certain film, that does not mean that they should, too?

PHILADELPHIA: Yes. And it's - it's sort of - and that's being helped, too, by the fact that DVD's are so readily available. So it's sort of, you know, if people feel like if they haven't seen the movie, they're not going to be out of the conversation forever. You know, they don't just have that one shot to go to the theater to see the movie.

And also, there's so much information on the Internet these days about the movie, that you kind of - you can read that stuff and feel like you've seen it anyway, at least enough to participate in the dinner conversation about the movie.

And for some people, that's enough. They don't have to spend the $10 or, in some places, $12 to see the film.

OLBERMANN: And just incidentally, about "War of the Worlds" specifically, some critics have said it was - the whole thing was detracted from by the Tucker Carlson promo right in the middle of the movie there.

But seriously, how does the AMC Theaters rebate stuff sit with Hollywood? I mean, if you're asking for your money back because you didn't like the James Jay Braddock biopic, that's Hollywood's money that AMC is giving you back, isn't it? I mean, it's not the money that they got from you for popcorn and soda, right?

PHILADELPHIA: Well, at this point, it's not as much Hollywood money as it was a few weeks ago. But the way that the ticket sales are being divvied up between the studio and the exhibitor works is that every week, the studio get a little less and the exhibitor gets a little more.

So AMC is at the point where they benefit more from having people come in at this point from ticket sales. And also, because they make their big money at the concession stand. And for that, you need to have people walk in to the theater.

So even if a few people ask for their money back, as long as they bought that big popcorn and the giant soda, then AMC has made a profit on them.

OLBERMANN: And if they walk out, they might get something to go.

Desa Philadelphia from "TIME" magazine, great thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Cutting back on movies? How about cutting back on the eavesdropping at the office? Again we hit this poor woman with that picture.

Is the key to turning all the constant babble off, a new contraption called "Babble On"? "Babble On" and "Who's Your Daddy?" No, there's no joke here. Who is your daddy?

Those stories ahead. But now here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.


KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": Also coming up, Dakota Fanning.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": "The War of the Worlds" is expected to be one of the blockbusters of the summer. It stars Tom Cruise and this 11-year-old extremely accomplished actress.

COURIC: She is incredibly poised and so adorable.

LAUER: We're going to talk to her about that. If she calls me glib, I'm walking out.

CRUISE: You're glib.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Veer to the left for the camera. That was too far left, too.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Can they spot the enemy like we could in earlier wars? Even in the V.C., you could sort of spot them at one point, or is it always these IUD's? IUD's. Not IUD's. Different topic. Some of the women know what I mean here. IED's!



OLBERMANN: Not to bore you with mythology from my past, excessively anyway, one story I heard recently pertains to our No. 2 story tonight.

Now years ago at CNN, I used to periodically sit under my office desk, and on site no doubt. But absolutely true. You know why?

Because my office desk abutted the office desks of three other guys. And if I wanted to make a phone call without them knowing about it, or if I didn't want to involuntarily join in the conversation when they made phone calls, I didn't really have any choice.

You may have faced this same problem as recently as today. If so, Countdown's Monica Novotny may have brought you the answer. The other answer, besides sitting under your desk.

Good evening, Monica.


Yes, it's true. There might finally be a way to have a private discussion in a public place like work. Now for those of you who have a big fancy office with a door that closes...

OLBERMANN: I can still hear you through it.

NOVOTNY: This may not mean much. But for the rest of us, if they get this right, it could change our lives.


DANNY HILLIS, CO-FOUNDER, APPLIED MINDS: We've all had the experience of dialing up on a telephone and worrying whether our co-workers are hearing, by listening to our side of the station. And wouldn't it be nice if you could just sort of flip a switch and have some privacy in that conversation?

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Now, you can. Welcome to "Babble On." Plug this in to your voice and your voice becomes babble, your office cubicle transformed.

HILLIS: If you look at those people talking right there...

NOVOTNY (on camera): Right.

HILLIS:... you can see them talking, but you can't really understand what they're saying.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Danny Hillis' research firm, Applied Minds, along with Tsunari Technologies (ph), a subsidiary of office furniture maker Herman Miller, created the device to replace walls and acoustic tiles.

(on camera) So how is it working?

HILLIS: It's actually listening to their voices, and it's chopping up their voices and rearranging them to make a kind of camouflage for their voice.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): Hillis says it also solves that other workplace problem: hearing your co-workers' conversations.

HILLIS: It's a natural human instinct that when you hear a few words, you want to the rest of the words. And so, even though you don't want to be, you're drawn into other people's conversations.

On the other hand, just the sound of them chattering is actually kind of pleasant.

NOVOTNY: For $400, you'll get chatter and lots of it. Just read the script provided as it records your voice.

(on camera) Spiders, beetles, caterpillars, snakes, turtles, moles.

How did you choose this script?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has balanced sentences in it for all your phone all the core sounds that you have.

NOVOTNY: So right now I'm speaking at a normal level, which means that all of the people in the cubicle surrounding me can essentially make out every word I'm saying.

But when I turn on the device...

GRAPHIC: My words are turned into meaningless chatter.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): It seems to work on quiet conversation but we put Babble to the ultimate test, the Countdown newsroom and one co-worker in particular.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tina is a loud talker, God bless her.

_UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)_NOVOTNY (on camera): What did you think of the babble?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was just a mishmash of loud noise and sounds. And I could still hear everything Tina was saying.

NOVOTNY (voice-over): And for Tina?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually found myself trying to talk over the babble.

NOVOTNY: OK. So there are a few bugs to work out. But still, this baby has its benefits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've just had a revelation now that I'm, like, the loudest person ever.

NOVOTNY: I'm sorry it took this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an intervention, not a news story, isn't it?


NOVOTNY: Something like that.

Clearly, there is a little more work to be done on this device. In our office, many found the babble sounds distracting, somewhat annoying.

_But consensus was that the only way to use this is at a low level - easy -_for short periods of time while making a quick quiet private phone call.

Still, it sure beats crawling under your desk.

OLBERMANN: No, I don't so. Because remember that dog that the guy, Sam Berkowitz, David Berkowitz, thought he heard before he went and killed people? That's what the dog sounded like.

Is this even expected to increase the number of people going postal in an office?


OLBERMANN: Not a chance.

NOVOTNY: You wouldn't know. You're locked away in your office.

OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny. Great thanks. And Tina Cohen (ph) will be suing you later.

Long day.

Part of office babble to which you would sometimes definitely want to apply that machine, our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs."

There's clearly some sort of upswing in reports about the late Princess Diana. This one about a paternity test to make sure her red-headed son, Harry, was also the son of Prince Charles and not, say, the son of red-headed Army officer James Hewitt.

It's another snippet from Diana, the last word. Yes, right. Written by Simone Simmons, who identified herself as Diana's energy healer. She's the one who put out the story about Diana and JFK Jr.

Simmons says she had to be the bearer of the royal family's bad tidings to Diana to take the test. She also says Charles' paternity was proved both for Harry and for his older brother, William.

No question any longer about who the New England Patriots' football team Super Bowl ring belongs to. But now we're left wondering, did it become a, quote, "gift" before or after Patriots owner Robert Kraft took it off and showed to it Russian President Vladimir Putin?

This happened in Russia Saturday at Putin's meeting with American business executives. It has been widely reported that Kraft took off the new brand new $15,000 ring commemorating the team's championship this year to let Putin have a look at it more closely, whereupon the president pocketed the thing and the Kremlin announced it was a gift, to the supposed surprise of the Patriots.

But tonight, Kraft, still in Europe, has issued a statement that apparently clarifies everything. Quote, "Upon seeing the ring, President Putin, a great and knowledgeable sports fan, was clearly taken with its uniqueness. At that point, I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin. It touched me to see President Putin's reaction to the ring, and I felt emotionally that it was the right way to conclude an exceptional meeting."

So if you meet Mr. Kraft and you're a great and knowledgeable sports fan and you are clearly taken with the uniqueness of the Super Bowl ring, say it to him, and no doubt, he'll give you one, as well.

That's hard to believe. What about the Moonlight Graham story in the movie "Field of Drams"? Well, disbelieve if you must, but it all happened, and it all happened a century ago today. We will show you the whole thing. That's next.

This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: The scene at the Metrodome in Minnesota today, where an 86-year-old woman and two kids from Chisholm, Minnesota, threw out ceremonial first pitches before the Twins game against the Kansas City Royals.

The team was saluting Doc Graham day. The kids are the recipients of the two Doc Graham memorial scholarships. The woman, you'll meet her presently.

Does that name, Doc Graham, ring a bell? How about Moonlight Graham? Sure, it's been 16 years since the movie came out, but it runs every month on TV. It was on the Women's Entertainment Network the night before last.

Think hard now. Surely you remember Moonlight Graham. "Field of Dreams"? There you go.

It's perhaps the iconic depiction of baseball on film, a magical combination of history, fantasy and innocence, and it's become that largely because of just one of its many characters, that fanciful creation that author W.P. Kinsella called Moonlight Graham.

Graham supposedly played in just one Major League Baseball team, then became the beloved town doctor of the tiny city of Chisholm, Minnesota.

Well, it would have been a fanciful creation, and Moonlight Graham would have been one of fiction's great characters, except for one detail. Our No. 1 story in the Countdown, there really was a Moonlight Graham. He really did become the beloved town doctor of Chisholm, Minnesota. And he really did play in just one Major League Baseball game. And that one game was exactly 100 years ago today.


KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: Are you Moonlight Graham?

BURT LANCASTER, ACTOR: No one's called me Moonlight Graham in 50 years.

OLBERMANN (voice-over): Here, in Chisholm, Minnesota, 70 miles from the Canadian border, here they never called him Moonlight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No. They stay away from that. You would call him Doc Graham and Dr. Graham in accordance to the status in our society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never saw any other doctor except Dr. Graham.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he was very, very active in our community, so I haven't lost my remembrance of him, and our community hasn't lost remembrance of him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he loved that town. He loved the town, but it was a two-way street. Because the adults just absolutely adored him.

W.P. KINSELLA, AUTHOR, "SHOELESS JOE": The year I was trying to make the story into a novel, my father-in-law give me a baseball encyclopedia for Christmas, and I was leafing through it. And I came across the name. And it was the name, of course. He was listed as Moonlight Graham. And I thought, "What a wonderful name. This is better than anything I could invent."

OLBERMANN: This movie story really is true. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, a .323 hitter with Manchester of the New England League in 1904 was purchased by the National League champion New York Giants, and he joined them on May 23, 1905.

And for reasons lost to history, he didn't play a game until June 29. That day, with the Giants leading 10-0 in the eighth inning, manager John McGraw finally put him in in right field. Nobody hit the ball near him.

With two out in the top of the ninth inning, Moonlight Graham was on deck. He would have been the next hitter, his first time up in the big leagues. But Claude Elliott flied out to end the inning. Graham never got his chance.

The Giants sold him to Scranton 16 days later.

He never got his chance in baseball. Vida Ponicfar (ph) founded the newspaper "The Chisholm Free Press and Tribune".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was reading a journal and in there was just a small ad, which said Rude Hospital (ph) in Chisholm, Minnesota, needs a doctor.

Got on the train, came straight to Chisholm, and knocked on the door. And when the nurse came to open the door, he said to her, "I'm your doctor." And he was hired on the spot.

OLBERMANN: Stayed in that spot, too, the emigre from the south whose kid brother, incidentally, would become a U.S. senator from North Carolina.

Dr. Graham stayed in Chisholm right up until his death 54 years later in 1965.

Now you may feel like you've met Vida Ponicfar (ph) before.


OLBERMANN: She, too, is in Field of Drams. The actress Ann Seymour reads the obituary of Doc Graham that Vida wrote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were times when children could not afford eyeglasses or milk or clothing. Yet, no child was ever denied these essentials...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:... because in the background, there was a benevolent understanding Doctor Graham. Without a word...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:... without any fanfare or publicity, the glasses or the milk or the ticket to the ballgame found their way into the child's pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Found their way into the child's pocket.

OLBERMANN: Bob McDonald was one of the other children. He's been Chisholm High School's basketball coach for half a century, only its third since 1921. Doc Graham's baseball life, his love of sports was important, but it was nothing compared to how important his life was as the town doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the big item you see. In baseball, you kind of help yourself and you entertain. Athletics are like that. You entertain people. But he comforted people.

KINSELLA: I think that was one of his assets. I mean, what I was afraid of, was that this was going to be a guy who sat in the American Legion bar and bragged about playing in the major leagues for 40 years. And I'm sure that line that I gave him "would have been a tragedy if I'd only been a doctor for five minutes." I like that. Pretty well summed things up.

COSTNER: Fifty years ago, for five minutes you came - you came this close. I mean, it would kill some men to get that close to their dream and not touch it. They'd consider it a tragedy.

LANCASTER: Son, if I'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy.

OLBERMANN: In the movie of course, Doc Graham, returned to his youth, doesn't have to pass up anything. He gets to bat against a major league pitcher, and he saves a little girl's life.

Just a dream, right? Not entirely.

There's one more piece to this story, and it is a long way from Chisholm, Minnesota. That single game in which Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham appeared was played at a stadium called Washington Park in Brooklyn, New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're just a few yards from where Moonlight Graham played the outfield for the New York Giants in 1905.

OLBERMANN: It strains credulity, but there it is, a century later, part of the Con Edison's electric company's substation, that outfield wall in Washington Park in Brooklyn, the one against which Moonlight Graham would have to measure his entire baseball career, still stands. It is the oldest ballpark remnant in America.

And you can almost see Moonlight Graham in his one moment in the big leagues, still captured in a kind of waking dream.

LANCASTER: And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?


OLBERMANN: When the author, Bill Kinsella, went to Chisholm to research the story of Moonlight Graham, Vida Ponicfar (ph) loaned him that picture of Graham as a ball player with the New York Giants. He says he went out and got a copy made of it immediately. And to this day, 30 years later, Kinsella still carries that photo around with him, magic enough perhaps.

That's COUNTDOWN. Thanks for joining us. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Transcript missing. No trace.

Monday, June 27, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 27

Guest: Clint Van Zandt

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Like the nightmare which you can't stop remembering. In a Kansas courtroom, the public, matter-of-fact, remorseless confessions of the BTK killer.

The news crawl. Looks like nothing to you and me, but an amazing admission from the former head of Homeland Security. His office canceled dozens of Christmastime flights into this country based on what they thought were secret messages in a news crawl.

Secret trysts between Princess Diana and JFK Jr.? It is the Ewww story of the day.

And this is the greatest monkey ever. As part of a shameless corporate-wide promotion of the new King Kong flick, which one is the gorilla your dreams?

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

Perhaps it shouldn't surprise us. Perhaps it shouldn't appall us.

Perhaps it shouldn't attract us in some deep and dark way that is almost impossible to resist.

Yet in our number five story on the Countdown tonight, it has done all that. The 40-minute public televised confession of the so-called BTK killer, Dennis Rader, the ultimate nightmare, the serial murderer next door, who, when finally caught, is concerned only with being as detailed as possible about what he called his "projects."

Rader waiving his right to trial, confessing to 10 murders. There was no plea deal. Sentencing will be August 17.

Rader's account was precise, seemingly proud, but ultimately oblivious, oblivious to the fact that his "projects" had been human beings whose lives he ended with his bare hands.

As we suggested, maybe this should not surprise nor shock us. Ted Bundy confessed in matter-of-fact, proud tones to his murders. Jeffrey Dahmer was equally blase.

History is stained by such men and such admissions. It was Alfred Hitchcock, of all people, who got it right. True terror, he said, is not the demonic murderer, but the even-tempered murderer, the one who tells you that he's terribly sorry, but this is just something he has to do. And then he shoots you.

Dennis Rader's public recitation today lasted 40 minutes. We will now show you a little more than 1/10 of it. We warn you that in many instances, it is graphic, and in all instances, it is terrifyingly even tempered.


DENNIS RADER: First of all, Mr. Otero was strangled, or a bag put over his head and strangled. Then I thought he was going down. And I went over and strangled Mrs. Otero. And I thought she was down. Then I strangled Josephine, and she was down. And then I went over to Junior and put the bag on his head.

After that, Mrs. Otero woke back up, and, you know, she was pretty upset. What's going on? So I came back, and at that point in time, strangled her for the death strangle at that time.

What I call them, projects. There were different people in the town that I followed, watched. Captain Bright was one of the next targets, I guess.

She and Kevin Bright came in. I wasn't expecting him to be there. I stabbed her, I think (INAUDIBLE) either stabbed two or three times, either here or here. Maybe two back here and one here, or maybe just two times.

At that point in time, well, it was a total mess, because I didn't have control on it. She was bleeding. She went down. I think I just went back to check on Kevin, or, at that basically same time, I heard him escape. It could be one of the two. But all of a sudden, the front door of the house was open, and he was gone.

If I had brought my stuff and used my stuff, Kevin would probably be dead today. I'm not bragging on that. It is just a matter of fact.

She was completely random. There was actually someone across from Dylan's (ph) was potential target. And it was called Project Green, I think. Anyway, we went back to the - her bedroom, and I proceeded to tie the kids up. And they started crying and got real upset. So I said, No, this is not going to work.

So we moved them to the bathroom. She helped me. And then I tied the door shut. We put some toys and blankets and odds and ends in there for the kids, to make them as comfortable as I could. Tied the - we tied one of the bathroom doors shut so they couldn't open it. Then we shoved - she went back and helped me shove the bed up against the other bathroom door.

And then I proceeded to tie her up. She got sick and threw up. Got her a glass of water, comforted her a little bit, and then I went ahead and tied her up, and then put a bag over her head and strangled her.

I confronted her. I told her there I was a - that I had a problems, sexual problems, that I would have to tie her up and have sex with her. She was a little upset. We talked for a while. She smoked a cigarette. While we smoked a cigarette, I went through her purse, identifying some stuff.

And she finally said, Well, let's get this over with, so I can go call the police. And I said OK.

I handcuffed her, had her lay on the bed. And then I tied her feet, and then I - I was also undressed to a certain degree. And then I got on top of her, and then I reached over, took - either her feet were tied or not tied. But anyway, I took - I think I had a belt. I took the belt and then strangled her.

She came in with a male visitor. They were there for maybe an hour or so. And he left. And I waited until wee hours of the morning. And then proceeded to sneak into her bedroom and flipped the lights on (INAUDIBLE), I think the bathroom lights, I just - I didn't want to flip her lights on. And she screamed.

And I jumped on the bed and strangled her manually. She was already dead, so I took pictures of her in different forms of bondage. And that's probably what got me in trouble was the bondage thing.

Vicki Wegerle was another potential victim. I went through those different phases. Walked in on her, as I would call it, and decided that I would try that day. I used a ruse as a telephone repairman to get into her house.

I went over and found out where the telephone was, simulated that I was checking the telephone. I had a make-believe instrument. And after she was looking away, I drew a pistol at her and asked her if she'd go back to the bedroom with me.

Finally got the hand on her and got a nylon sock and started strangling her.

I handcuffed her and kind of talked to her, told her that I would like to get some food, get her keys to her car, and kind of rest assured, you know, (INAUDIBLE), talked with her a little bit to calm her down a little bit. And then eventually, I checked, I think she was still handcuffed. I went back and checked out where the car was. Simulated getting some food, odds and ends in the house, sort of like I was leaving.

Then I went back and removed her handcuffs, and then tied her up, and then eventually strangled her.


OLBERMANN: Dennis Rader, strangler, former president of the church council at Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita.

To try to help us understand what we just saw there, I'm joined by former FBI profiler and now MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt.

Good evening, Clint.


OLBERMANN: This performance by Rader today, this must have been as much a part of his ritual as the murders themselves, was it not?

VAN ZANDT: Well, I think it was. You know, Keith, I've never seen anybody on TV before that I wanted to reach right through that television and grab him and put them out of their misery. But see, I would be doing it out of anger. Rader did it because he liked to do it. That's the difference.

And today, as you suggest, what we saw on television, this was the top of the mountain for him. This was the chance to strut his stuff. This was the chance to tell us all how smart, how wise, how dedicated, how really good he was to be able to keep this up for 31 years.

OLBERMANN: Then let him do this? Why give him the 40 minutes to speak his piece? And sort of part B of that question, should it have been on television?

VAN ZANDT: Well, number one, I would have had this guy in an orange jumpsuit, handcuffed, shackled, ball and chain, his mouth taped up if I had to. Not to let him - Keith, he comes in dressed like you and I. He's got a suit, a tie, a white shirt. He is a professor, he's telling us - he's telling us - educating us about this.

Now, the reality is, in a situation like this, even though someone enters a plea, the judge has to be convinced that the person actually did what he is confessing to.

So did this to have take place? Yes. Did the family have to sit there and hear this monster go over what did to their loved ones? I don't think so. Should it be something that we, like when we go to the zoo and we want to smell the breath of the lion, in this case, we want to get up to the tube and see what's the difference between Rader and ourselves?

We want to know why there are two-legged monsters and there are not.

I don't know this is a lesson that we all need to learn.

OLBERMANN: The DA's office insists, and insisted again on this network not an hour ago, that there was no plea deal. But if he were to go to trial, quite clear from that, that an insanity plea would have been a realistic possibility, because he is not of this earth, as you hear him talk.

Could this have been a de facto plea deal? Listen, plead guilty, and we will let you go into the detail that you want to during the plea colloquy, as they call it, just as we saw today, a kind of quid pro quo?

VAN ZANDT: Well, I'm really surprised that he - were this a deal, that he bought into this. I mean, as much as he describes his sexual fantasy, this psychosexual aspect to his crimes, I would think this guy would have loved to sit in a courtroom, hear the victims' family members cry, hear the police officers tell how they couldn't find this guy for 31 years.

I'm really surprised that he gave up, that he gave up that opportunity. But, Keith, the crimes that he confessed to, none of them were during the period of time that Kansas had the death penalty. So should he have done other murders, he's keeping them to himself.

OLBERMANN: One more piece of this performance that we wanted to play and then get your reaction. Here's the tape first.


RADER: If you've read much about serial killers, they go through what they call the different phases. That's one of the phases they go through, is, (INAUDIBLE) as a (INAUDIBLE) stage. You're (INAUDIBLE), basically you're looking for a victim at that time. And that - you could be trolling for months or years. But once you lock in on a certain person, you begin to stalk him. And that might be several of them. But you really home in on that person. They basically come the - that's the victim. Or at least that's what you want it to be.


OLBERMANN: That's the Hitchcock thing that I was describing earlier.

It's the guy saying, Gee, I'm sorry I had to do this, but I had to do it.

And he's not making any excuses for it.

VAN ZANDT: This is somebody who studies serial killers. He knows the Bundys and the Dahmers of this world. He's read about them, he knows the mistakes they've made, he copies their activities, he copies their movements.

But now, Keith, he's lecturing the judge. He's lecturing the jury. And Keith, he is revictimizing these family members one more time as he struts around like a visiting professor telling a class of sophomores what the real definition of serial killer is.

I mean, this guy is the poster boy for psychopaths, and he makes somebody like Dr. Lecter in "Silence of the Lamb" look like a candy salesman.

OLBERMANN: Clint Van Zandt, the former FBI profiler, MSNBC analyst. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances for - but thanks for joining us, Clint.

VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the Supreme Court splits on the 10 Commandments. But the head fellow there is not splitting, not yet, anyway.

And an extraordinary exclusive tonight, the reasons behind the terror alerts of Christmas 2003. Tom Ridge telling Lisa Myers that the CIA Thought the Al Jazeera network was sending out secret messages in the news crawl on the bottom of the screen.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Like the awful commercials with David Spade in them, today's featured word out of the Supreme Court was no, no review for the two reporters facing jail time as part of the Robert Novak-Joe Wilson investigation, no 10 Commandments inside courthouses, and, most intriguingly for the rumor-mongerers who had spent the weekend believing otherwise, no retirements by ailing chief justices.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, there is no better reporter covering the court than Pete Williams.


PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With emotions running high nationwide over public depictions of the 10 Commandments,...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... and crying out for your mercy...

WILLIAMS:... the court said today that whether such displays violate the Constitution's ban on endorsing religion depends on when and why they were put up in the first place.

The court struck down framed displays of the commandments in two Kentucky courthouses, finding the purpose there was clearly religious. A former Kentucky county judge said he was stunned.

JIMMIE GREENE, FORMER KENTUCKY STATE COURT JUDGE: I cried. My heart was broken, because it means so much to me.

WILLIAMS: But the court, ruling five to four, noted that at a ceremony posting the commandments, a county official brought his pastor to talk about God. And an official resolution calling for their display referred to, quote, "Jesus Christ, the Prince of Ethics."

But in a stinging dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia accused the court of ignoring the country's religious heritage, obvious in statements like the presidential oath...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... so help me God.



WILLIAMS:... and in political speeches.




WILLIAMS: But by another five-to-four ruling, the court approved a granite 10 Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas state capitol. In casting deciding the deciding vote, Justice Steven Breyer said the state intended it to send a moral message, reflecting historical ideals. And he said the monument stood for 40 years without sparking a court challenge until now, suggesting that few found it to be a government endorsement of religion.

Both sides in the debate agreed today's rulings likely saved thousands of other granite monuments like the one in Texas, placed years ago in public parks nationwide. But civil liberties groups say more recent postings could be in trouble.

BARRY LYNN, OPPOSED COMMANDMENTS DISPLAYS: New placements of the 10 Commandments, placements of the 10 Commandments where they will have a clear promotional effect on young children, those are forbidden by today's decisions.

WILLIAMS: And advocates of government display say today's ruling may invite more lawsuits.

JAY SEKULOW, FAVORED COMMANDMENTS DISPLAY: These cases are so close that the facts of the individual display are going to make all the difference in the world here.

WILLIAMS (on camera): In fact, the court today declined to come up with what both sides wanted, a simple test for telling when the 10 Commandments are a neutral history lesson, and when they're a government endorsement of religion.

Now, one other point about the Supreme Court today. Of course, there was a great deal of interest in whether anyone would announce a retirement today, especially Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who's been fighting thyroid cancer. Not a peep about that.

In fact, the chief justice actually managed a little joke in the courtroom today when he was announcing his side in the Texas case. He went through all the concurrences and all the dissents and then stopped and said, "I didn't realize we had that many justices on our court," which broke up the courtroom.

So not a mention of it.

Now, the court will do one other thing tomorrow, and that's issue a list of other cases that it may take to hear next fall, so there is one additional shoe to drop here, in essence. The justices don't come back, but it's possible, if a written statement is going to come out from any - on any resignations or retirements, we could hear that tomorrow, Keith.


OLBERMANN: Pete Williams at the Supreme Court. Great thanks.

From the courts to the crime fighters, 21st century-style. It's the safe robot.

And Princess Diana has been gone nearly eight years. But that's no stopping for her former energy healer from starting a new rumor that she had an affair with John F. Kennedy Jr. How about the rumor that Diana employed an energy healer?

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Part of how Countdown is revolutionizing the evening news comes in our delivery of the so-called kicker stories. These boring old newscasts take one funny story, play it at the end of the show. We, I say we, play it in the middle of the show. I know, it's genius.

Let's play Oddball.

Tokyo, hello. It is the leader in this world when it comes to wicked cool robots. This is Guard Robo D-1, programmed for crime fighting, home security, and fire extinguishing. Guard Robo D-1 shown here demonstrating what he would do if he happened on a game of Jenga which had suddenly caught fire.

His built-in smoke detector alerts the authorities, his camera guy - or camera eyes send them live video, and Guard Robo also sprays the small fire continuously until not only does the fire go out, but his need to go to the little robot's room is relieved.

Tipperary, Ireland, bringing us the failed attempt of the Guinness Book of World Records for most bees on a guy's body. Hey, they chose me. That's 59-year-old Phillip McCabe under there. He was going for a half-million bees. You know how much a half-million bees weigh? About 100 pounds. And before he reached that many, the load became too much for McCabe, and he bailed out, getting stung multiple times as he jumped off that platform.

Why on earth we weren't provided with that video, that's an issue we'll be taking up with Mr. McCabe presently.

One of the greatest scenes in the history of cheating in baseball occurred on the mound at Anaheim Stadium in California, August 1987. Minnesota pitcher Joe Nikro (ph) accused of stuffing the ball with a hidden nail file and, as he was approached by the umpires, he unsuccessfully tried to ditch the thing, which they then found on the ground.

Now, in Seoul, South Korea, Bears star pitcher Park Yung Wong (ph) was similarly caught on tape. What was that that fell out of his hat twice during the game? Cabbage, a frozen cabbage leaf that he was using to keep cool.

Now, cabbage is part of the most traditional Korean foods, kim chee. Though American players used to wear cabbage and lettuce leaves under their caps in the 19th and 20th centuries, Korean league officials quickly sprang into action, saying the cabbage patch kid was breaking the rules about uniforms.

They banned cabbage from the playing field. Also corned beef, just for good measure.

Also tonight, that big terror alert from Christmas 2003 turns out to have been a big mistake. An NBC News investigation into what the CIA was really seeing in the news crawl on Al Jazeera.

And Secretary Rumsfeld in full explanation mode. Yesterday they were meetings with Iraqi insurgents. Today they are not so much meetings and maybe not really insurgents.

Those stories ahead.

First, now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Williams Jones of Bismarck, North Dakota, tried to break into a motel there. Got stuck in the window. So instead of being charged with breaking and entering, Mr. Jones faces an accusation of simply breaking.

Number two, Matt Thornton, pitcher of the Seattle Mariners. On the road in San Diego, in the ballpark there, he discovered that the team bullpen did not have a bathroom. So he hopped over the fence, went into the stands, and got in line with the fans to use the public bathroom. Thornton is, of course, a relief pitcher.

And number one, Arthur Richardson of North Platte, Nebraska. He plunked a friend - or punked a friend, rather, by slipping the friend's car key into his mouth and pretending to swallow it. Then he accidentally really did swallow it. The friend needed the car key, and there was no getting it out of Arthur. So he took the x-rays of Arthur's insides to a locksmith. The locksmith managed to recreate the key, and the friend got his car started.

As to the original key, the friend says Arthur can keep it.


OLBERMANN: Just as polls suggest, the American public has been reluctantly but steadily backing slowly, slowly away from the war in Iraq. The president will take to the airwaves tomorrow night to try to galvanize flagging support, probably wondering why in the hell his secretary of defense chose yesterday to suggest the insurgency there could last another 12 years.

Our third story on the Countdown, to reprise an old phrase from the 60s, the credibility gap.

But we begin not in Iraq, but in another place about which more and more Americans are having their doubts: the Department of Homeland Security. We often bill the work of our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers as exclusive reporting.

In this case, that is especially true. But tonight, it is also startling reporting. The first chief of homeland security admitting to Lisa that the most tangible, specific warning yet issued by that department was based on lousy information.



Christmas 2003: the federal government raises the terror-alert level.

OLBERMANN: A credible terror threat involving al Qaeda and overseas flights.

MYERS: Almost 30 flights canceled. For weeks, America is on edge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me pretty nervous.


MYERS (on camera): But senior U.S. officials now tell NBC News that the key piece of information which triggered the holiday alert was a bizarre CIA analysis which turned out to be wrong. CIA analysts mistakenly thought they'd found secret al Qaeda messages embedded here, in the crawl of the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera.

(voice-over): U.S. officials tell NBC News CIA experts thought they'd found numbers hidden in the crawl signaling upcoming attacks, dates and flights numbers, geographic coordinates for targets, including the White House, Seattle's Space Needle, even the tiny town of Tappahannock, Virginia.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge was briefed.

(on camera): Did that strike you as a little bit bizarre?

TOM RIDGE, FMR. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Bizarre, unique, unorthodox, unprecedented. Again, speaking for myself - you know, I - I got to admit to wondering whether or not it was credible.

MYERS (voice-over): Intelligence sources say even some CIA officials didn't buy it. But Ridge argues that the hidden messages could not be discounted, given other intelligence chatter and a recent attack in Saudi Arabia.

The alleged threats were found through speg (ph) analysis, using sophisticated software to analyze images for hidden messages. This expert says such analysis is valuable, but not always reliable.

NASIR MEMON, COMPUTER EXPERT: It's not something I would bet the farm on, because there is a significant chance that it could be wrong.

MYERS: Ridge admits that the CIA analysis did turn out to be wrong; there were no hidden messages.

(on camera): In retrospect, was this a mistake?


MYERS: But by raising the alert level, you frightened a lot of people.

RIDGE: No, we informed a lot of people, and we acted according to - based on our best - best information and best conclusions on the information we had at the time.

MYERS (voice-over): The CIA would not confirm or deny this report, but says it's the agency's job to run all plausible theories to the ground, especially when American lives could be at risk.

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: The other headlines there were courtesy a secretary still on the job. Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon briefing, easily reminiscent of a scene out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, today looked more like pro-wrestling.

"There's too much yelling," said the secretary.

"I'm not yelling," yelled a reporter in reply.

"Too much yelling and not enough hands," Rumsfeld yelled in response.

"I wouldn't yell," yelled the reporter.

His two admissions yesterday are still startling Washington, perhaps the country too. The first of them, a confirmation that representatives of our military have sat down to talk with groups identified in a news report from London as participating in the insurgency. "The Times of London," saying among the groups represented, one that murdered an Italian journalist, another that claimed responsibility for the Christmastime bombing of the mess hall at the American military base in Mosul.

If talking to those people was not surprise enough, Mr. Rumsfeld had a second shocker: he thinks the expiration date on the insurgency could be as late as the year 2017.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There are meetings going on all the time between people in Iraq and other people in Iraq, attempting to get them to be supportive of the government, which is obviously the logical thing one does in a political process.


RUMSFELD: No, and certainly not with people like Zarqawi. I mean, that's just someone's imagination running wild.

I honestly believe that this insurgency is going to be defeated by the Iraqi people and not by coalition countries and not by the United States. Insurgencies can last periods of years, as we know from history. And countries can do just fine. They can continue and have elections and go about their business and their economies can grow and there can be a low-level insurgency.

It is hard, I understand, to connect all of the pieces. But the reality is, we're an awful lot better off fighting against the extremists and the terrorists in other parts of the world than having to do it here at home. And I don't doubt for a minute but that the American remember September 11 well, and that they understand that what's taking place is a global struggle against people who are determined to - to destroy our way of life.


OLBERMANN: The public baton now passing to Mr. Rumsfeld's boss, President Bush, who will be making a direct appeal to the nation tomorrow night. As we mentioned, the commander in chief planning to give a nationally televised speech in primetime from North Carolina's Fort Bragg.

That address at the heart of the administration's attempt to shore up plummeting support for the war effort. The latest polls - a handful of them - now showing a majority of Americans believing the war in Iraq is a mistake. Lowest level of support since the conflict began.

To analyze the last few days of Iraq news and preview the next day of it, a pleasure as always to be joined by Andrea Mitchell, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent.

Good evening, Andrea.


OLBERMANN: Before the specifics, the timing of this - could the White House have been pleased that Mr. Rumsfeld confirmed the meetings with whomever they were, or suggested how long the insurgency might last? Or had this bar fight with the media, when Mr. Bush is speaking tomorrow?

MITCHELL: Well, in fact, Donald Rumsfeld hit all the right talking points for the White House, for what the president is going to say.

And he was in sync with the State Department today. The State Department also confirmed the meetings. They say these are not negotiations with terrorists; they're not meeting with the foreign fighters. They are meeting with people who are against the Iraqi regime, the Iraqi government, to try to bring them into the process. And these are not only Sunnis, but others who have also been objectionists.

So they believe that that is an appropriate thing of - obviously they didn't announce it and couldn't have been thrilled that the London Times printed it. But they did not run away from that story.

The other point is that Rumsfeld and the officials at the White House today - Scott McClellan - kept bring up 9/11. They believe that the other numbers in the polls that you cited are - that are so worrying to them - is that it's an even split as to whether Americans believe the president is doing a good in the war on terror. This is the lowest ranking - the lowest favorability that he's had on that account since 9/11.

And that is of great concern, because, as you recall, this was their main theme during the campaign, the re-election campaign, that this was the president to trust in battling those terrorists. And they need to link that, and to remind people of what they believe a larger war is, that Iraq is only part of a larger war.

Now, whether or not they've ever proved a connection between the 9/11 perpetrators and Iraq and Saddam Hussein is irrelevant, really, because they are portraying Iraq as part of the war on terror.

OLBERMANN: And continuing on that theme, looking to the president's speech tomorrow night. Last week, Karl Rove divided the post-9/11 country into people who supported the administration and people who had some sympathy, however small, for the terrorists.

Today, Mr. Rumsfeld invoked 9/11 three different times.

Is there any reason to assume that Mr. Bush will not go heavily into 9/11 tomorrow night?

MITCHELL: No, I think, in fact, he will.

Look, the Karl Rove speech was deliberate. It was planed; he was not ad-libbing. He was playing to his base. It was a red-meat speech.

But it was a scripted speech; he was reading from his text. That is the plan right now: they want to energize the base, they want to speak above our heads, over the heads of the Washington journalists. The speech is not being given in the Oval Office or the East Room. He's not having a press conference to do this.

He's going to Fort Bragg. He will have a great reception there, and he will try to demonstrate that the morale is - is not being affected by all of the criticism and by the declining polls. And they are going to try to shore up those polls, because he thinks that he needs that base. They are concerned about the declining polls and declining support for the war.

OLBERMANN: One number in those polls, particularly the Gallup one last week, was the statistic that suggested that 40 percent of us believe.

MITCHELL: Exactly.

OLBERMANN: .that Iraq now has striking similarities to the U.S. experience in Vietnam.

How much trouble is that one statistic for the White House, and what does the president do about it tomorrow night?

MITCHELL: Well, that is worrying, and that's why he's going to go to a very supportive, favorable location tomorrow, Fort Bragg. He'll be surrounded by the troops. And he will speak, as I say, over our heads, directly to the American people, hoping for a biog primetime audience.

And the president is very effective in that kind of setting. And he's going to make a broader argument about Iraq, and about what has been achieved. He's going to be very specific: 8 and a half million people voted; they've made progress, he will claim, towards a constitution. He will gloss over the problems they've had in these three and a half months since the voting in - at the end of January, which has been worrisome to them.

And he will emphasize the positive, that they are moving towards a democracy, flawed as it may be.

And notice also what Rumsfeld was doing today: he was lowering the bar for success, redefining success. They don't have to conquer the insurgents for us to begin having an exit strategy. They can have what he called a low-level insurgency for as long as a dozen years.

OLBERMANN: Big speech tomorrow night.


OLBERMANN: NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

Great thanks for staying late with us, Andrea.

MITCHELL: You bet. My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, we've all seen the global impact of Rev. Billy Graham. What about the biker preacher, who was another man cut from and of the same cloth?

And tongues wagging from London to New York: JFK Jr. and Princess Diana? Well, why not Marilyn Monroe and Edgar Allen Poe?

That's next. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: You know the one man and probably know the estimate, that he preached to 220 million over the years; that he has seen the central casting view of the evangelist, and that after nearly seven decades at the pulpit, this may have been his farewell.

You probably do not know the other man though. He preached to only hundreds, looked anything but an evangelist, and with shocking quickness, his farewell came upon him earlier this month.

Our No. 2 story on the Countdown: Billy Graham and Marvin Dean.

After three addresses to a total of about 230,000 over the weekend in the stifling heat of Flushing Meadow, New York, near Shea Stadium, near where the World's Fair was 40 years ago, the 86-year-old Graham said that would be his last crusade in the U.S., perhaps his last anywhere, ever.

But tonight, let's focus on a very different preacher, a man as comfortable behind a pulpit as he was atop a Harley. And the friends of Rev. Marvin Dean have bid him goodbye. He died nine days ago at the age of 51 from complications after heart surgery.

But before he passed away, he was well on his way towards making his mission a reality: creating a spiritual environment for his fellow motorcyclists.

Our correspondent is Carl Quintanilla.


CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Jonesboro, Georgia, there's a new sound: the rumble of Harley Davidson, every Friday night driven by the pony-tailed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for coming by.

QUINTANILLIA: .and the tattooed, who show up here to pray.


QUINTANILLA: They call it Bikers the Church, but little of it resembles modern-day churchgoing: the collection basket is a motorcycle helmet, the band echoes Lynyrd Skynyrd. And the dress code - well, as they say, these are my church clothes.

REV. MARVIN DEAN, THE BIKER'S CHURCH: There's some churches that

would just - you wouldn't know what to do with us. I mean, you know, like

· there's bikers.

QUINTANILLA: Pastor Marvin Dean is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He rides a Harley Ultra Classic (ph), and who saw a need for a new kind of ministry.

DEAN: Do you want to turn to Luke, Chapter 8?

QUINTANILLA: One whose sermons are aimed at those wrestling with demons, alcoholism, drug use.

DEAN: There's a difference of what you want and what you need.

QUINTANILLA: Drawing in those leery of organized religion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming to a church, not being looked down upon, and walking out feeling great - you know, it's wonderful.

QUINTANILLA (on camera): There are tens of thousands of registered bikers in the Atlanta area, many of whom Dean says would never set foot in a traditional church. And yet, that's exactly who's making this type of renegade ministry possible.


QUINTANILLA (voice-over): The First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, a so-called mega church, sponsors the biker service and says other churches hungry for growth might do the same.

REV, DEAN HAUN, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF JONESBORO: It could certainly be a model - you know, we want to reach everybody and tell everybody about God's love.

QUINTANILLA: Even those whose lifestyle may not fit with America's image of the faithful.

DEAN: We love freedom.

QUINTANILLA: Freedom of the road, and now freedom to worship on their own terms.

Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, Jonesboro, Georgia.


OLBERMANN: And now, in the wake of Pastor Dean's death, his friends say they will continue to meet every Friday night to keep his crusade alive.

Even their greatest critics will admit that evangelists at least occasionally show honor and purpose. Not so celebrity biographers.

Another reminder of that, leading our nightly roundup of entertainment and gossip news, "Keeping Tabs."

The nice thing about writing about famous dead people is that they're dead. So if you want to pair them off and claim they had romantic relationships, what's going to stop you? Your conscience?


OLBERMANN: A new book about the late Princess Diana insisting she had a one-night stand with the late John F. Kennedy Jr. in New York in 1995. This according to Simone Simmons, who claims to have been Diana's - quote - "energy healer." Up next, a book on the affair of Cleopatra and William Shakespeare.

The Diana-JFK Jr. liaison was laughed at. Unfortunately, it was laughed at by her former butler, Paul Burrell, whose own book asserted that Diana had warned him the royal family would try to kill her in a car and make it look like an accident.

Back here, not many American entertainers created ventriloquists' dummies whose named are still remembered 50 years later, and created unforgettable voices for animated characters, and created an artificial heart. Paul Winchell did all that. The entertainer and inventor died Friday at his Southern California home.

He started on radio as a teenage recovering from a stammer and polio in the 30s. As a TV ventriloquist, he was on almost constantly from the late 40s to the late 60s, creating and voicing the likes of Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smith.

Then, in 1968, came the chance to the voice of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. Winchell kept doing that voice, along with hundreds of others, until 1999.

Less well known of Paul Winchell: he held 30 patents. He invented a flameless cigarette lighter, an early version of a disposable razor, and in 1963, an artificial heart later used in their research by Dr. Robert Jarvik and those who created the first artificial heart that would be implanted in a human in 1982.

Paul Winchell, of many voices and of many talents, was 82 years old.

From Winnie the Pooh to modern movie magic, we are just minutes away from the world-premiere of the "King Kong" trailer. And more to the point, coming up even sooner than that, Countdown suggests the greatest American monkey.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Fame is fleeting. That's the man who won an online poll just two years ago this month when he was voted the greatest America. Last night when the Discovery Channel and our bud Matt Lauer finished off their list of the greatest Americans, the individual was not only no longer No. 1, he wasn't even in Top 5.

Our No. 1 story tonight, various numbers 1, all of a self-promotional.

First, the newest greatest American. At No. 5, signer of the Declaration of the Independence, inventor of the bifocal, Benjamin Franklin.

Next, the first military commander, first president, George Washington.

Third, the civil rights leader whose "I Have a Dream" speech, perhaps the most recognized and influential oratory of modern times, Dr. King.

Runner up, Abraham Lincoln. Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address, Civil War - yes, but evidently treated with that familiar phrase of his day and ours - "What have you done for us lately?"

Because voted No. 1 was Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States, whose 64 percent end-of-presidency-public-opinion-approval rate was just 1 point behind that of Bill Clinton. Also, lover of jellybeans, original choice to star in the movie of "Casablanca," and the headliner in the film "Bedtime for Bonzo."

More on Bonzo in a moment.

But first, as I mentioned, the 2003 online poll by the BBC gave a different Top 5. Mr. T was fifth, Jefferson fourth, Dr King was third, Lincoln was still 2nd and the landslide winner was, Homer Simpson. Historians will be debating that one forever: Homer versus the Gipper. Or, if you prefer, Professor Peter Boyd, Reagan's character in "Bedtime for Bonzo."

Never ones to fail to launch on to other people's promotional stunts, we are tonight bridging a gap between the greatest American stuff, the world premiere of the trailer for the new "King Kong" movie. We are bringing you the greatest American monkey, as voted by you. Actually, as voted by us. And when we say monkey, we're including any apes, chimps or other animals that look like monkeys including cartoon monkeys to say nothing of people dressed up as monkeys.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): Countdown presents "The Greatest American Monkeys."


OLBERMANN: No. 10, Bonzo. As a Hollywood leading man, Bonzo wasn't exactly Brando. In fact, he wasn't even a man. A girl chimp named Peggy played Bonzo in the Reagan film and also the far less famous sequel, "Bonzo Goes to College." But any monkey that gets top billing over the No. 1 greatest American human of all time gets on the Top 10 list easily and spanks many of the other monkeys.

No. 9, Jay Fred Muggs, the first co-host of NBC's "TODAY" show. As Dave Garaway's lovable sidekick in the 1950s, Muggs was a TV revolutionary. He spanned 50 years of copycats. That's the copycat on the left, incidentally.

No. 8.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!

OLBERMANN: Many of us have dressed up as monkeys, but nobody's ever given a more chilling vision of where that could all lead than Roddy McDowell and Morris Evans as Cornelius and Dr. Zaius in "Planet of the Apes." Honorable mention goes to the producers of "Trading Places," who put a man in a monkey suit in a cage with another man in a monkey in "Ladder One" (ph) as opposed to being actually a (ph) a real monkey.


OLBERMANN: That's filmmaking.

No. 7, Albert Six, a monkey who actually did something for his country, as the first American of any species to fly into space and return to Earth alive in 1951. Of course, he died two hours after his round trip. But he returned alive.

No. 6, among animated monkeys, the field is diverse, though as much as we love Magilla Gorilla, Mr. Bananas and the great Curious George, in the end we could use only one of them, and we went with Grape Ape. Why? Because he's got a funny name.

No. 5, the smoking chimp from that South African zoo. Yes, smoking is bad for you; he's a poor role model; he's not even an American. But you've got to admit, he has a whole James Dean thing going on. You're tearing me apart!

No. 4, the best damn fighting orangutan of all the great 1970s movies monkeys, Clyde from "Every Which Way But Loose." And he did all his own stunts.

No. 3, Mickey Dolenz, from the TV series "The Monkees" with two e's. Look, he may not have had Davey Jones' cute, nor the rugged good looks of Michael Naismith in that cap, but he had what the rest of the film didn't:

a car to get back and forth from the gigs.

No. 2, Donkey Kong. He's big, he's bad, he stole Mario's girlfriend, now he's hucking barrels like it's going out of style. No, Pauline! Born in 1981, still living in some pizza shops that were too cheap to upgrade, Donkey Kong, a great American monkey.

But No. 1, there's a reason they called him king: because he was one big monkey. He burst onto the scene in 1938, a true superstar from the word go. He dated all the hottest actresses, got invited to all the cool parties. He lives hard, he died young, and he left a good-looking corpse. More or less.

In the pantheon of great American monkey, is befit to wear the crown of king. It's King Kong, the greatest American monkey.


OLBERMANN: So why all this? Because we're just seconds away from the worldwide premiere of the trailer for Universal's new version of the movie "King Kong." There is, Mr. Beale, only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational, dominion of dollars.

That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.

Stay tuned for a monkey.