Monday, June 6, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for June 6

Guest: Charlie Savage, John Dean

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

Getting out of Gitmo. A Democratic senator calls it the greatest propaganda tool for terrorists. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs says the prisoners it holds cannot be released. And Gitmo's bad rap is the media's fault.

Using medical marijuana because your state laws say you can? Not anymore, you aren't. The Supreme Court snuffs out the joints even for joint pain over the objections of its only member currently undergoing treatment for cancer.

There were multiple Deep Throats. At least, that's what a former FBI regional chief says, at least three agents he knows of who fed Mark Felt, knowing Mark Felt would feed Bob Woodward.

And feeding your Jackson jones until the verdict comes in. We've got Jesse showing support, Joe showing panic, Michael showing fatigue, and all of them showing up in Puppet Theater.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

It is the equivalent of the old proverb about the lady and the tiger, adjusted to the age of terror. Is the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba the best defense against the chances, however slim, of another 9/11? Or is it the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting terrorists around the world?

Our fifth story on the Countdown, group terror, group detention, and group news leaking.

The Gitmo debate first. Since the Pentagon's Friday night data dump confirming five incidents of the mishandling of the Koran at Gitmo, the debate has ramped up at both ends of the political spectrum, critics saying all Guantanamo Bay is any more is a lightning rod for Muslim dissension, defenders insisting the media is trying to rob the administration of one of its key defenses against terror.

Critics first.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think we should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners. Those that we have reason to keep, keep, and those we don't, let go. But the bottom line is, I think more Americans are in jeopardy as a consequence of the perception that exists worldwide with its existence than if there were no Gitmo.


OLBERMANN: But today, Pentagon spokesman Brian Whitman said the latest news of Koran abuse, quote, "is not playing at all," unquote, in Muslim nations, has not triggered any violent responses there. And in Malaysia, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff insisted that the inmates at Gitmo were neither regular criminals nor regular soldiers, Air Force General Richard Myers saying, quote, "They have no moral boundaries, and some are very, very dangerous. You wouldn't want to release them under any conditions.

Myers also said that the focus of the criticism, the confirmed incidents of desecration of the Koran at Gitmo, was the media's fault, even though it was the Pentagon that released the details at 10 after 7:00 on a Friday night. Quoting Myers again, "The media should be focusing on the savage attacks by al Qaeda and Taliban fighters rather than a couple of incidents where an overzealous guard or interrogator abused the Koran."

To help us try to figure out where this is going from here, I'm joined by Charlie Savage, Washington correspondent of "The Boston Globe," who has been to Guantanamo Bay on three occasions.

Good evening, Charlie.


Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: I know Secretary Rumsfeld said last week he had not even considered closing Gitmo or relocating any of the inmates. But is there anything to that line of thought that the place has become such a symbol to Muslims that it has outlived its usefulness to the American government?

SAVAGE: Well, there's just no denying that Guantanamo and its image are a club that is used to hit the United States in the face every single day across the world, both among our allies in places like Australia and Britain and on networks like Al Jazeera among (INAUDIBLE) places of the region, regions of the world which are more hostile to us.

There's just no denying that. And the - so the question is, what is the intelligence value that we're still getting out of those 540 guys, many of whom have been there for three years? And what is the value of keeping them locked up there, as opposed to the cost in our image that we're suffering because of Guantanamo?

OLBERMANN: General Myers' comments at Kuala Lampur, is there really still a belief inside the Pentagon that if the American media did not use the words Gitmo or Koran in the next year, that the criticism in the Muslim countries would just sort of go away?

SAVAGE: If there is such a belief, it is delusional. Let me tell you something. Every time I've gone down to Guantanamo, there's been members of the foreign media there along with me, and they just beat me up as a member of the U.S. media because the U.S. media is so soft on Guantanamo, in their view.

If you just Google "Guantanamo" and look at what the foreign media says about it every day, what is said in the United States is incredibly balanced in light compared to that. We say abuse allegations. They say torture. If the United States just dropped the word from its lexicon for the next year, it wouldn't make a whit of difference, because, on the global stage, it's the global media that uses this every day to attack the United States.

OLBERMANN: I think we both know the answer to this next question, and so does anybody who's ever watched a particular episode of "The West Wing." But explain why the Pentagon released the details of the five desecrations at 7:10 on a Friday night last Friday night, and why the subjects of the Koran or Gitmo did not come up in the Scott McClellan White House press gaggle today.

SAVAGE: Well, let's see, after a couple weeks of the White House and the Pentagon saying categorically that there was never a specific credible incident of Koran mistreatment of any type at Guantanamo, it turns out their own records show that there were several, and there's some of them quite graphic.

And so when they have to come out and say this, they say - they just happen to have finished the report officially at 7:00 on a Friday. And I'm sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that the network news had already broadcast by then, and that the Saturday newspapers are the - this is the worst-read newspaper of the week. And that by the time people started paying attention again, it was old news.

So today at the White House press gaggle, the subject matter had moved on.

And it is an old trick in Washington. Bad news always comes out late on Friday. And I'm sure it's just icing on the cake that it means that the reporters who've been giving you a hard time on a given subject, their dinner plans are going to be ruined on that.

OLBERMANN: They work late there on Friday night. It's hard work. They work hard. Charlie Savage, Washington correspondent of "The Boston globe," great thanks for your time.

SAVAGE: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: And more on reporting and timing. Last Wednesday, Senator John Kerry told the editorial board of the newspaper in New Bedford, Massachusetts, "The Standard Times," that he was amazed at the lack of American media coverage of the so-called Downing Street memo, the notes from a July 2002 British cabinet meeting that suggested the U.S. was making all the evidence fit a preplanned invasion of Iraq.

Said Kerry, "When I go back to Washington on Monday, I am going to raise the issue. I think the memo is stunning, unbelievably simple and understandable statement of the truth."

By Saturday, that statement and the original New Bedford story had been transformed by a series of foreign and conservative American Web sites into an article that included the line, quote, "Failed presidential candidate Kerry advised that he will begin the presentation of his case for President Bush's impeachment to Congress on Monday."

The senator's office today told us he had never said anything about impeachment, and asked our reporter where he had read that line. The answer was, the Web sites of and Al Jazeera.

The story originated on Al Jazeera. The New Bedford story literally, in 750 words, does not include the words "impeach" or "impeachment." And if this detail is still relevant in these superheated times, the story is not true.

Speaking of great political sagas, the Deep Throat story is not over after all. There was more than one of them. So reports the newspaper "The Albany Times Union," quoting the former head of the FBI office in the New York capital, detailing the scenario we envisioned here last week that Mark Felt was a kind of Deep Throat spokesman for an entire group of FBI agents looking to keep the Watergate investigation alive by keeping the Watergate story alive in the pages of "The Washington Post."

There is one caveat to this report, the man who tells it, Paul Daly, is alive, but his three colleagues whom he identifies as having helped Felt stir the Deep Throat pot, they are all dead. Daly told "The Times Union" that the three men were Robert Kunkel, agent in charge of the bureau's D.C. field office, Charles Bates, then the assistant director of the criminal investigative division, and Richard Long, then head of the FBI white collar crimes section.

Daly says in the '70s, he was the bureau's liaison with the Senate committee investigating the bureau and the CIA. It was then that Long had told him he, Bates, Kunkel, and others would get briefings from their agents in the field, then meet with Felt at the end of each workday, and then funnel to him all they had on Watergate.

Kunkel's son has told that newspaper that Daly is wrong, that his late father, in fact, hated Mark Felt. But if there had been a cabal, its motive would have been what? It was done, Daly said, so that "the investigation into Watergate wouldn't be contained, so that the news media that were recipients of the leaks would create an atmosphere that would allow the investigation to go forward. They wanted to protect the integrity of the FBI."

Last week, Nixon White House counsel John Dean and I pretty much concluded this had to have been the case.

John joins us again from Los Angeles.

Good evening, John.


OLBERMANN: It's a secondhand story. The principals are all dead.

But do you believe it? Do you know those names, Bates, Kunkel, and Long?

DEAN: I'm very familiar with those names. When the reporter who - from the Albany paper called me, I said I can recall Pat Gray telling me the difficulty he was having with Kunkel and Bates, both of whom he suspected of being leakers, and the fact that they had launched several internal investigations trying to determine who the leaker was.

So it's clear they were not quite successful in doing it, since probably the man running the investigation was Mark Felt.

OLBERMANN: Does this idea of Deep Throat-by-committee explain the broadness, the breadth of the source's knowledge, but also, to some degree, could it explain his mistakes?

DEAN: Keith, let me tell you the premise that the Nixon White House was working on, and what they were really trying to cover up. They didn't really care about the bungled burglary at the DNC. What was most concern to the White House were the national security or so-called national security matters that related to the Plumbers' operation. They were later deemed to be not national security, but Nixon thought they were.

This is what we were worried that the FBI was going to wander into if they just had an open field run at the White House. I went over very early to the Department of Justice, spoke with the head of the criminal division, Henry Peterson, and he agreed that he had no jurisdiction to investigate anything other than that break-in.

It appears that Mr. Felt, however, who was privy to some of these other things, really tried to spread and widen the investigation.

OLBERMANN: So, touching on that, and knowing that it was Mark Felt, the most obvious misdirection about Deep Throat's identity all these years has been that reference to how he was telling Woodward things that supposedly even the FBI did not know. Does that make any sense now, if you've got a room full of FBI guys sitting around, trying to decide what Felt should tell Woodward? I mean, does it imply that maybe they'd already given up trying to disseminate their own information within the FBI?

DEAN: Well, there is some - there is an element of that. But there are also things that we can't figure out. I had an exchange of e-mails with some very knowledgeable people over the weekend and today, where we (INAUDIBLE), we can't figure out how Felt became privy to things like Ehrlichman giving the order to Howard Hunt, one of the burglar organizers, if you will, to leave the country.

And he has that very early, and tells Woodward that very early. Ehrlichman would always deny that. I would be the one who had to later explain that indeed had happened. But how did Felt get this information? We can't - that isn't something the FBI had, even if they were in the White House, if they had somebody there. We just - there are lots of things we're starting to marshal now and figure out, you know, how in the world did he get ahold of this information?

OLBERMANN: Well, we've just increased this, like the layout of the leaves, the veins on a leaf, the possibility that there are three people involved at this at Felt's level who are briefing him, and goodness knows how many people are briefing them. Any one of now nine big players, and maybe 27 small players, might have had somebody at the White House who was tipping them off. Is that the way this is going to wind up in terms of the next investigation?

DEAN: That's possible. Kunkel and Bates are both very high-level. I didn't know Long. I can't imagine Long having any relationship with the White House. Bates and Kunkel are possible. But there also were a lot of agents on this case, and they could have well had prior relationships. They might have had ties with the Secret Service. There was (INAUDIBLE), who was present, of course, at the White House. The CIA was not. And, of course, the CIA and the FBI were at odds on all this.

So Keith, it is getting a little bit more complex. And the story from the Albany paper just gave us a little peek in the tent of where this thing might be headed.

OLBERMANN: And that iconography of Deep Throat, the writing of notes inside Bob Woodward's "New York Times," Daly said that the agent in charge of the D.C. field office would have had people, people he could trust, who could have done that. And the agent in charge of the D.C. field office at that time was this man, Robert Kunkel. So maybe we even have that clarified for us.

DEAN: That's possible. It could have been just a very inconspicuous, low-profile agent who was able to accomplish something like that. He could have been the same guy who was watching the flowerpot. Because certainly the high-level people who have been named don't have the kind of time to go out and see if Woodward has moved a flowerpot. And he moved locations, so they had to change locations while they're checking flowerpots as well.

So these are issues that, again, make it impossible for one person, and we're just getting a hint as to how many or - and who all might have been involved. Given the age of a lot of those who were at the senior level, they have passed, and they're not available. But there are still some younger agents around that we've not heard from.

And I'm also interested to hear from some of the prosecutors in this case, both the initial U.S. attorneys' handling of it, and then the Watergate special prosecutors', to see how they think this affects the case.

OLBERMANN: And the bottom line is good news, the Deep Throat investigation will continue.

John Dean, the author of "Unmasking Deep Throat," whose current column on the Web site enumerates the many mistake of the Deep Throat source.

As always, John, great thanks.

DEAN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, medicinal marijuana, often the last defense for the fatally ill in chronic and desperate pain. And the Supreme Court just ruled against it.

And searches. Aruba's entire government sweeping the island for a missing teenager named Natalee Holloway while the audiotapes of Jennifer Wilbanks' moment of truth are released by the FBI. Oh, boy.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The Bush administration claims it as a victory, in quote, "end of medical marijuana as a political issue." But the three justices who dissented from the decisions were conservatives. Sandra Day O'Connor, Clarence Thomas, and, most significantly, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, himself suffering from thyroid cancer.

Each of them voted to defend state laws that allowed sick patients to smoke homegrown marijuana recommended by doctors.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, as Pete Williams reports, the states and the sufferers are out of luck, even the ones with thyroid cancer.


PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ruling is a big setback for people like Diane Munson of California, who says only marijuana can stop her spasms from a spinal disease.

DIANE MUNSON: It relaxes the entire body.

WILLIAMS: Angel Raich of Oakland says in her case, it relieves pain and complications from an inoperable brain tumor. She says it's so essential that she has no choice but to keep on using it despite today's ruling.

ANGEL RAICH, MEDICAL MARIJUANA USER: I have a wasting syndrome, and I just can't simply hold onto my weight. And cannabis makes me hungry. Without it, I can't even swallow the food.

WILLIAMS: Both women use marijuana under a California law that applies to seriously ill patients acting with a doctor's approval. Because their plants were homegrown, just for them, they claimed they were beyond the reach of federal drug laws.

But today, voting six to three, the Supreme Court said even homegrown plants could wind up in the interstate drug market, justifying federal regulation. And it's too hard, the court said, for drug agents to tell the difference between marijuana grown locally and elsewhere.

Nine other states have medical marijuana laws similar to California's. Today's decision does not strike any of them down, but it upholds the power of federal drug agents to destroy marijuana plans grown under those laws, and to arrest the users for possession.

The federal drug czar, John Walters, praised today's ruling, saying marijuana is no more medicine than crack or heroin. He says this may discourage a broader effort to legalize it.

JOHN WALTERS: Hopefully, this will stop that campaign in its tracks and force people to face the issue that marijuana's dangerous. That'll save lives.

WILLIAMS: Officials in New York state say today's ruling may doom a medical marijuana bill in the legislature there. Similar efforts in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Ohio also appear in trouble tonight.

(on camera): As for actually making arrests, federal law enforcement officials say tonight their main interest is dealers, not individual users, especially now that they've made their point that federal drug law reigns supreme, Keith.


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

No amount of medication, legal or otherwise, can cure a man from this ailment, the desire to grab the missus and run. We'll find out where they went.

Have you ever heard of Tommy John surgery, the rebuilding of the elbow of injured baseball pitchers? How about Tommy John surgery when the pitcher is 13 years old?

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: We're back, and we pause the actual news and information portion of the program now for a brief segment dedicated, or predicated, rather, on the idea that it's funny because people in other countries who talk differently are doing it.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin with the steroid-addled sport of German wife-carrying. The track is muddy, the field is crowded, and they're off. Happy rains at the venue. George Marienbut (ph) in Germany. It's a 270-yard course with obstacles, and George can carry Marianne (ph) in any manner he sees fit. The preferred position, though, has the wife's legs over the shoulders as she faces the husband's rear end. Not sure which spouse prefers that position, nor do I want to venture a guess.

He finished in the time of under three years.

To Moscow, where amusement park rides really have a long way to go. Whee. The world's strongman competition, gigantic guys performing (INAUDIBLE) strength (INAUDIBLE) for the title of world's strongest man. No steroids in this sport. No, none whatsoever. They simply inject themselves with the whole unprocessed scientist.

This year's winner, a Lithuanian man, seen here pulling this giant bus with a rope. Now, this might seem impressive to you, but the people on the bus, see, they were actually all skinny.

Finally to South Africa. Scientists there have finally figured out a way to bring a waiting world that which it has always needed, cheetah racing. Until now, cheetah races were very short, because the cats were let out of the cage, and then they attack and eat the guy with the starter's pistol.

But now they have a new mechanical rabbit which runs along the ground on a set course, which the cheetah chases at speeds of up to 70 miles an hour. A great sport for gambling, this one, but get your bets in quickly before the cheetah figures it out. If the rabbit runs the same route every time, that's when the cheetah goes back to just eating the guy with the starting pistol.

Which drew a bigger crowd, the cheetah races or the Michael Jackson jury deliberations? Ah, well, we're not doing Cheetah Race Puppet Theater, are we?

And the tapes you've been waiting for, the exact moment that the runaway bride 'fessed up to the FBI, about the exact moment when she went snap before the wedding.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Professor Bradley Slosberg. He teaches anatomy and physiology at Polk Community College in Winter Haven, Florida. None of the students saw anything wrong with his class sign-in sheet, which asked for their names and Social Security numbers. Slosberg now under arrest for identity theft, identity theft of his own students' identities. And not just so he could read the roll and then himself answer to every name, Here.

Number two, Ethan Bernardi. A policeman in North Charleston, South Carolina, as he drove along yesterday, much to his surprise, he saw his own family car coming in the opposite direction. So he pulled it over. It had been stolen.

And number one, Princess Diana's liver. Francoise Gaillard (ph) of Aspira de la Duie (ph) in France, says she has it. She has Princess Di's liver. Got it in a transplant operation in Paris on September 2, 1997. How does she know it's Diana's liver? Because, says Ms. Gaillard, when she woke from her transplant, she was suddenly and for the first time able to speak English.

Ms. Gaillard, let us know how the brain transplant goes.


OLBERMANN: To her family, the disappearance of Natalee Holloway is, of course, everything, but that feeling may be duplicated throughout the entire island nation of Aruba. There, tourism, especially U.S. tourism, is everything, and having an 18-year-old American tourist from Alabama vanish from among 100 high school classmates and dozens of adults is a business nightmare. And thus in Aruba, it is also a societal nightmare.

Our third story on the Countdown begins with the extraordinary measures to find Natalee Holloway. Our correspondent, Martin Savage, join us from Palm Beach in Aruba. Martin, good evening.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith. The search for Natalee Holloway has become almost a national obsession here in Aruba. Today it was unprecedented. Never before have so many people come together to look for just one person. It was estimated about 700 people. Those are people who left their hotels, left their jobs, left their homes to go out in search of the Alabama teen. The search was actually going to be a lot larger, but then organizers decided to scale it back after they realized that searching the entire island all at once was a bit, well, unfeasible. So they decided to just limit to it a certain area - people going through underbrush, people going through abandoned buildings, people going street to street. Unfortunately, they did not find anything.

Tomorrow, the search is going to be beefed up even more. Special divers with the FBI are coming in. And then on top of that tomorrow, the two suspects that were arrested on Sunday, they're expected to go before a judge, that judge to make a determination whether or not there is enough evidence to continue holding the two suspects.

And finally, there is the family. Natalee's family is still here. They're still taking part in the searches. And here's how a family spokesperson wrapped up, basically, what their feelings are, especially now after this arrest.


CARLA CACCAVALE, HOLLOWAY FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: Any news they get is good news because it means the authorities are working to find out what happened and bring this to closure and bring Natalee back. And that's their goal. They really have their eye on the ball to bring her home safe and sound. And so any news, any development, any breaks, it helps them.


SAVIDGE: Tomorrow, there is more talk of perhaps another very large search, and authorities are also saying that there is the possibility of more arrests - Keith.

OLBERMANN: Martin, bring us up to date, for those who were not paying attention to this story over the weekend. Those two arrests - what are the suspects suspected of?

SAVIDGE: Well, that's very confusing, actually. The authorities here have not been really clear on the specific charges, only to say that they have been charged with crimes related to the disappearance of the young girl. That's almost an exact quote. Other than that, we don't know how they are directly linked to the disappearance. And then on top of that, there are three other people that are described as persons of interest. These are three young men who were last seen in the company of Natalee -


OLBERMANN: Martin Savidge, from Palm Beach, Aruba, this evening.

Many thanks, Martin.

Again, it seems that the events in Santa Maria, California, can almost serve as comic relief to otherwise life-and-death crime news. It is your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 567 of the Michael Jackson investigations.

Jurors completing their first full day of deliberations today, sending superior court judge Rodney Melville a question a little more than an hour into the question. No word on what was asked nor how it was answered. But the real excitement today came from outside the courtroom, reporters calling events, quote, "bizarre" and "weird." This just in.

Not Jackson, but his father, Joe, causing the stir as he arrived in court demanding to see his son. Michael Jackson was, in fact, at Neverland. Michael and Pop are very close. Of course, there was another option. Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital. Michael Jackson spent about five hours there yesterday for his recurring back problems, the Reverend Jesse Jackson saying the entertainer is in, quote,"excruciating pain." This is the defendant's second trip to the hospital this week, fourth over the 13 weeks of the trial.

At least he has his millions of fans to console him. Or not. The Jackson family hiring three charter buses with 50 seats each to shuttle reporters from Los Angeles - or supporters, rather - from LA to the courthouse. Six people showed up for the three buses.

So to sum up, Joe Jackson and Randy Jackson in court. Michael Jackson at Neverland. Jesse Jackson, where's the satellite truck? Dan Abrams, not himself a Jackson but the host of MSNBC's "THE ABRAMS REPORT," is awaiting the verdict in Santa Maria. Good evening, Dan.


OLBERMANN: Let's start legally. Any idea what the jury actually asked the judge?

ABRAMS: We assume it was something procedural. This happens pretty often at the beginning of a deliberation process. The jurors will ask a question, a somewhat technical, legal question, effectively, about how to begin the deliberation process.

OLBERMANN: It not just a question of - obviously, a question - a question of a question. But this idea that they have spent a full day on this, in addition to the time that they must have spent getting started on Friday. Are there any implications to be drawn by this, or is it just the fact that they took a full day to deliberate?

ABRAMS: Yes. This is just day one. I think that's all you can take from it. But remember, Keith, we're talking about a very short day of deliberation. I mean, I cover a lot of cases where they start at 8:30 and they deliberate until 5:30 or 6:00, particularly when you have a sequestered jury. Here they're going from 8:30 to 2:30. I mean, they've got juror banker hours at the Jackson case, even though we're in the middle of the deliberation process. So even when they go three days, in most courtrooms, that would be two days of deliberations. So the fact that they've gone now, effectively, a day-and-a-half really doesn't mean much.

OLBERMANN: Well, we know, though, it's quality, not quantity. And this is a serious jury. They've asked a question. But merely on their way in and out, are they not exposed to a enough of the hoo-hah around the courtroom - Joe Jackson running around looking for his son? Are they not exposed enough to be - to be touched by some of this, do you suppose?

ABRAMS: Well, you know, the question I've had is, Can they hear the Jack supporters out in front of the courthouse yelling and screaming? I've got to believe that they can. I remember during the Scott Peterson case, speaking to the jurors afterwards, and they told us that they could hear the occasional times when there would be people out in front of the courthouse yelling or screaming. So while the jurors are instructed not to read anything about the case, they're instructed not to watch anything about the case, I think you're right to presume that they cannot be completely immune from the atmosphere surrounding the case.

OLBERMANN: And we knew very early on that they knew about Michael Jackson's health issues, perhaps not specifics, but in broad terms. What do we know about these new hospital trips? What has he got? Has he got the vapors? What's wrong?

ABRAMS: They say that again, it's his back. You know, look, it's pretty clear that this is related to the stress of this case. He went to the hospital during jury selection. He went to the hospital when the accuser testified. Then 10 days later, then for the closing arguments, and now for jury deliberation. I mean, it seems at every high point in the case, Jackson heads to the hospital.

Now, if you don't look at it from the most cynical point of view, what really may be happening is that the stress of the most important and nerve-wracking points in this case are getting to him. And you know, Jesse Jackson says that it's severe back pain. That's certainly could be a result of the stress.

OLBERMANN: Dan Abrams, who hosts a special hour-long edition of "THE ABRAMS REPORT" from Santa Maria following Countdown at the top of the hour. We will watch you then. Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS: All right, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Often, when we seek to capsulize the day's events at the Jackson trial, those more circus-like elements are hidden among the mundanity and the legalese. Or there are days like this one at "Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre."


"MICHAEL JACKSON": Oh, good. The buses we chartered to bring my many millions of fans are here.

"REV. JESSE JACKSON": I support Michael Jackson. I feel he deserves our action. Why, he is evidently in traction.

"JOE JACKSON": Where's my son? I want to see my son? I need him to sign for 8-by-10s while there's still time.

"MICHAEL JACKSON": That's it? Three buses? Sixty seats on each bus?

Six people show up? I'm going back to the hospital. Medic! Medic!

There's something wrong with my - woo-hoo!


OLBERMANN: Speaking of medics, hundreds of baseball pitchers getting a second chance, thanks to reconstructive elbow surgery. Not big leaguers, not adults, these guys, teenagers. And the premise is, he got too far into his latest film role of a boxer. Yes, like Russell Crowe needs an excuse to get arrested for assault somewhere. These stories ahead, but now first a special edition of Countdown's sound bites of this day.


TIM RUSSERT, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": Chairman of the national Republican Party Ken Mehlman is here. Welcome.

What's the problem?

KEN MEHLMAN, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I would respectfully disagree with that.

I would just respectfully disagree with Senator Danforth's characterization.

I would respectfully disagree with their statement on that.

I would - I would respectfully disagree with their numbers.

Well, I would respectfully disagree with Mr. Posen.

RUSSERT: There seems to be some disagreement as to what exactly was decided with this agreement.

MEHLMAN: I would respectfully disagree with that finding.

RUSSERT: We're going to take a quick break.

MEHLMAN: Well, again, I would respectfully disagree.

I would also, though, disagree, as I said a minute ago...

We can disagree about politics without calling each other liars and losers.

I agree with that.

Tim, I would agree with his mom.


OLBERMANN: Once upon a time, every kid in America knew that if you tried to make a baseball curve as you threw it before your 13th birthday, the odds were pretty good that your arm was going to fall off. We've lost a lot of anecdotal, hyperbolic knowledge like that, and in this particular case, we've replaced it with something called Little League elbow.

Our number two story on the Countdown, as our correspondent, Kerry Sanders, reports, the advice may have been anecdotal and hyperbolic, but it was pretty damn good. Little League elbow, big league surgery.


KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the most famous scar in baseball.

TOMMY JOHN, FORMER BASEBALL PITCHER: It starts here and goes all the way to there.

SANDERS: Tommy John pitched in the big leagues for 26 seasons. But these days, he's best known for the surgery named after him.

JOHN: I won 288 games, 700 starts, 46 shutouts. A lot of them think that I was the doctor that did the surgery.

SANDERS: The strain of pitching causes a tear in the elbow ligament. In the surgery, doctors remove a tendon from another part of the body and replace the damaged ligament. When John was operated on 31 years ago, it was revolutionary. Today, the surgery is commonplace among adult players in the majors. But in the last five years, there's been a huge change-up. Now many patients are under the age of 17.


SANDERS: Orthopedic surgeon James Andrews pioneered the surgery.

Each year now, 40 to 50 of his patients are teenagers. Why?

ANDREWS: They're throwing harder and harder at younger ages.

SANDERS (on camera): And who's forcing that change?

ANDREWS: Well, it's the competitive nature and the importance of sports to everybody in the United States. Parents are pushing them.

SANDERS: Pushing them to throw harder and pressuring them to master even more complicated pitches.

(voice-over): Sliders, curveballs, breaking balls, advanced pitches which put unnatural strains on young, undeveloped arms.

(on camera): Do you have a rule of thumb for children who are throwing?

ANDREWS: You basically should not throw a braking ball, any type of braking ball, including a slider, until you shave.


SANDERS (voice-over): But tell that to Dr. Andrews's next patient, 16-year-old Zack Tinker (ph).


SANDERS: Since 10, he's been praised for his results. The root of Zack's problem? His (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was getting encouraged because I was so young and nobody'd seen it and I could throw strikes with it.

SANDERS: The solution? Little League coach Jerry Bezuna (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A kid that's 11 or 12 years old, I'll try to maybe limit that to maybe 50 pitches in two or three innings.

SANDERS: And that original patient?

JOHN: Let the kids be kids.

SANDERS: Kids playing ball, rather than (INAUDIBLE). Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Birmingham, Alabama.


OLBERMANN: And from little leaguers' pitching arms to grown-ups pitching fits, our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." The lesson in our first story? If your movie about being a pro boxer opens only in fourth place in the box office rankings, try a weapon other than a punch. Try throwing a telephone.

Russell Crowe arrested for allegedly aiming one at the concierge at a New York hotel where he was staying this weekend, hitting the man in the face, causing a laceration, Crowe arrested and arraigned today in Manhattan criminal court, released on his own recognizance. Crowe's publicist, in a statement, said, quote, "After asking the front desk several times to replace a faulty phone in his room and getting only attitude from the clerk on duty, Crowe brought the phone down in an effort to address the situation in person. Words were exchanged, and Crowe wound up throwing the phone against the wall," end quote.

But America's hotel employees were on their knees. He brought them to their feet by allegedly throwing telephones at them. "Cinderella Man" premiering at a concierge desk near you. This film has not been rated.

From head to toe, from New Zealander to Brit, Prince Harry of England given a special exemption from wearing regulation boots at the British army academy at Sandhurst. He's got blisters on his feet! Senior officers of his company permitting him to wear trainers - that would be sneakers - for a few days. The laced boots are known as the curse of Sandhurst, but Harry had a particularly nasty case. And he may be king some day, so the officers are not taking any chances with him remembering who caused his blisters.

And just when you though the dumb celebrity baby name contest had been locked up by Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter, Apple, here comes the daughter of Penn and Teller's Penn Jillette. Her name? Moxie Crimefighter Jillette. "We chose her middle name," Jillette said, "because when she's pulled over for speeding, she can say, But officer, we're on the same side. My middle name is crimefighter." Penn's partner, Teller, said nothing, only this time, it was an editorial comment on the quality of the joke.

Also on the subject of all things embarrassing, the FBI releases a doozy, the taped confessions of Jennifer Wilbanks. What happens when all those manicures and al those pedicures make you want to head for the hills?


OLBERMANN: At one point in his bid to keep his White House tapes private, Richard Nixon's attorneys observed that their release might lead to them some day being played aloud at cocktail parties, subjecting the president and others to public scorn.

Our number one story on the Countdown: If he only knew. In the three decades since, the releasing of tapes recorded on the taxpayers' dime and the sagas of disappearances, from ghastly 911 phone calls to surveillance video that helps the public spot child abductors, this has become not just its own industry, but almost its own world. But it's not all danger and rescue. A lot of it in the cable/satellite/Internet version is the tapes being played aloud at cocktail parties, subjecting others to public scorn.

Ask Jennifer Wilbanks or Brandy Star (ph). Wilbanks first. Last month, she was in mid-spiel to the FBI, telling them about how she'd been abducted and assaulted, and they didn't believe her. Since then, we've seen her under the afghan in the negotiations to pay for the cops' overtime, at the courthouse making her plea deal. But one final humiliation awaited her, the FBI releasing the tape of that spiel.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jenn, I've been doing this job for a long time. Jennifer, I think something happened, and you said, I just can't do this on Saturday.

JENNIFER WILBANKS, RUNAWAY BRIDE: It's not that I have skeletons that anybody's going to find out about. It's just that I just cracked under all this pressure, and I just - I mean, I couldn't do it all, I couldn't, and have the perfect wedding that everybody thought that I was supposed to have.

Tuesday, I was - I was going to be off Thursday and Friday this week before the wedding. Rehearsal was on Friday. I talked to my boss at the office on Monday, asked if I could be off Tuesday instead of Thursday. And I was, like, you know, because there's just a lot of things I need to get done. You know, I hadn't had my final fitting for the dress, blah, blah, blah, just things I didn't want to wait until Thursday to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you took the day off...

WILBANKS: At that point, I still...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You took the day off on Tuesday?

WILBANKS: Yes, because we had to - we were meeting with the - and

we did - we went and met with the DJ, John and I did. I mean, everything

· I had all this stuff, you know, that I just - that we were doing. And I was trying to get everything done. And then, as I was trying to get everything done, I realized there were all these little things that I - you know...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can never take care of all the details.

WILBANKS: I was, like, Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh, you know? And then I was, like, I only have Friday off, you know? I was, like, Gosh, what am I going to do? Friday's the only day I've got to - that's the rehearsal dinner, and I've got to get my pedicure and manicure done. I've got to pack for this honeymoon, and I don't even know where I'm going.

I was going to get some gifts for some people that were doing things, you know, in the wedding, program attendants and stuff. And I was, like, There is no absolute way I'm going to get all this done. There's no way. I have one more day.


OLBERMANN: Was there a breaking point? Maybe it was when Wilbanks went to buy those gifts for the attendants and organizers on the Tuesday night before she exited stage right. She was disappointed by the selection at the store, and she knew she couldn't buy them gifts after the wedding because, she admitted, she is, quote, "so anal." That apparently was the last crisis she faced before fleeing for New Mexico and Vegas.

People do tend to flip out not over the most traumatic thing but simply the last one. And if you don't think somebody can just suddenly stand up in the middle of their life and scream, "Taxi!" consider the saga of Brandy Star. Talk about stories you'll be talking about tomorrow. This one isn't on "Today," "Good Morning America" and/or "The Early Show," they must be in repeats.

Brandy Star was a 20-year-old sophomore at Texas A&M University who disappeared in October of 1998. She was gone without a trace. Her clothes were all in her closet at school. So was the brand-new computer she'd gotten. Authorities and police combed Texas looking for her. They even showed Star's photo to a serial murderer hours before his execution last year, hoping he'd confess to having abducted her. In about four months, seven years having passed by that point, her mother and stepfather were going to have their daughter declared legally dead. Then over the weekend, Ann Star Dickenson talked to her daughter, Brandy, on the phone.


ANN DICKENSON, MISSING DAUGHTER FOUND: That was the first thing I told her, that I love her. And she said, Mama, I love you, and I'm so sorry. She did not realize that we'd been hunting for her as hard as we had.


OLBERMANN: The mother-and-child reunion may happen in a few weeks. What happened? Not long after the parents were talking about having her declared dead, somebody tipped a missing persons hotline in Austin, Texas, that Brandy Star was anything but dead. She was shortly thereafter spotted in a Sam's Club department store in Florence, Kentucky - not shopping, she worked there. She already had stock options and a 401K retirement plan. She'd been there five years.

So why did she vanish nearly seven years ago and never call home and never let her parents and friends and classmates think she was alive and not dead? Because she had gotten into an argument with her mother over her grades at A&M, and the parents stopped paying her credit card bills. And thus, exit stage right.

That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.