'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Jan. 11th
Guests: James Bamford, Craig Crawford, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The whistleblower who says NSA domestic spying might have affected millions of Americans, not just the handful whom the president said got calls from al Qaeda. The NSA response, they pulled the man's clearances and had him pump NSA gas and move NSA furniture.
The Alito hearings. OK, I give up. Why is Senator Biden wearing a hat? Will the hat hurt his hairplugs? Why did Mrs. Alito leave, evidently crying? Was it because Senators Kennedy and Specter fought in front of her?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You did get a letter, are you saying?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, now, wait a minute. You don't know what I got. I'm (INAUDIBLE)...
KENNEDY: Of course I do, sir, Senator, since I sent it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Caught on tape, serious surveillance, plus the half-silly, half-terrifying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's weaving. He's all over the road. He can't stay in his lane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course he can't. He's 7 years old.
Also, truthiness, fleeonsay (ph), jump the couch, the new words and expressions of the year.
How about this one, grandjalinaettes (ph), a story my producers are forcing me to cover. The news apparently official now, quote, "Yes, I'm pregnant," unquote. Who gives an...
All that and more, now on Countdown.
Depending on how one reads the evidence, (INAUDIBLE) President Bush could either be in the middle of a second-term comeback, or under fire with his back up against the wall.
Take the National Security Agency spying scandal, on the one hand, an NSA insider now alleging that the number of Americans subjected to eavesdropping by that agency could be in the millions, in a sense. On the other hand, new public opinion polling showing that many Americans seem to be fine with that.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, the good, bad, and ugly, or at least what could turn very ugly.
The president has claimed that under his order, only a limited number of Americans were ever eavesdropped upon without the usual court orders, the ones who received international calls from al Qaeda.
But an NSA whistleblower disputes that, stepping forward to say he believes most Americans who placed an overseas call, or made some other form of international communication post-9/11, were more than likely sucked into a illegal spying vacuum.
The man's name is Russell Tice, fired from the agency after 20 years of public intelligence service last May. He admits to being a source for "The New York Times" reporter who broke the scandal, and says he is ready to tell Congress all he knows about alleged wrongdoing. That would be the ugly part.
Mr. Tice says his conscience is clear. "As far as I'm concerned, as long as I don't anything that's classified, I'm not worried. We need to clean up the intelligence community. We've had abuses, and they need to be addressed."
Joining me now to discuss these latest allegations is James Bamford, an expert on the U.S. intelligence community, the author of groundbreaking books on the NSA called "The Body of Secrets" and "The Puzzle Palace."
Mr. Bamford, good evening. Thanks for your time.
JAMES BAMFORD, AUTHOR: Oh, good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The nuts and bolts of what Mr. Tice is alleging, he says the technology exists to track and sort through every domestic and international phone call that is made, and that the number of Americans who are subject to being sort of sifted through, if not actually eavesdropped upon by the NSA, IS in the millions. Does that sound plausible to you?
BAMFORD: Well, depends on your definition of those terms, basically. The NSA does have the capability, and actually does intercept millions of communications involving Americans every day. The key is how many of those people are actually targeted, how many of those names of those Americans actually go into the computer.
Much of that information, millions of those communications, actually go through the computer without any communication ever being kicked out. It's only when your name or your telephone number or some identifying piece of information is in that computer that you actually become a target.
OLBERMANN: But as that seems to be too broad a figure, perhaps, millions eavesdropped upon, as opposed to millions who might have been in the mix among those who were eavesdropped upon, is it also too narrow to say what the president said, that only those people who got phone calls from al Qaeda were actually eavesdropped upon?
BAMFORD: Exactly. I think that's also too narrow, because the problem is, nobody knows how many, or who was the subject of this, because the court was completely bypassed. There's - the legislation set up this court, where a judge, a federal judge, was going to decide on who got eavesdropped upon.
And yet the NSA turned it around to make a shift supervisor in the NSA make those determinations. So nobody knows how many people or who they were who were eavesdropped on. It can't be a million, because there's not enough people that work for the NSA that could analyze that much information, but it's more than a handful, because, I mean, the reports from the people that spoke to "The New York Times" said between hundreds and thousands of people.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Tice said that he specialized in what he called, or what are called, special-access programs, given a nickname, black-world programs. Is that - that's a sinister sound to that. Is it as sinister as the name would imply?
BAMFORD: Well, almost everything the NSA does, which is the most secret agency in the country, and actually the largest intelligence agency, almost everything it does is considered a black program, which is a program that's basically higher than top secret. And NSA breaks codes, it intercepts communications, and most everything it does is considered a black program or a special-access program.
OLBERMANN: I mentioned that just the NSA responded to Mr. Tice's original whistleblowing actions of two years ago by questioning his credibility, saying that a Pentagon psychologist had concluded he suffered from psychotic paranoia. Obviously some people besides me will recall that defining protesters or whistleblowers as mental cases was a very popular thing to do at the height of, the heyday of the Soviet Union, among other places.
But Tice was at NSA for two years, DIA before that, about 20 years, all told, with the intelligence agencies. This psych evaluation he supposedly failed two years ago, would that have been the first one they would have given him? Or did he just come up short on the last of 20 exams? Or what are - what, what's the ratio like?
BAMFORD: I'm not sure how many exams they give, but they're supposed to give at least a polygraph exam, a lie detector test, every five years. And I would think, along with that, also psychological evaluations. So - and certainly when he entered the agency.
So I'm sure there were many other times that he passed. And in speaking to him myself, he said that he passed one, I think, months earlier than the one that they said he failed.
And I've, in writing on NSA for many years, including the only two books on NSA, many - there have been a number of people that I've spoken to that similar things have happened, and they didn't - at least, to me, seem to be paranoid, or have any mental incapacity.
OLBERMANN: It's an easy-to-digest response from any bureaucracy anywhere. The two books are "Body of Secrets" and "The Puzzle Palace." The author is James Bamford, national security expert. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
BAMFORD: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As we mentioned at the top of the newscast, the public outrage factor about the NSA spying story does not appear to be as high as some might have anticipated. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed by "The Washington Post," for instance, believing that the threat of terrorism still trumps privacy rights in this country.
Americans in the latest Gallup poll largely split over the question of whether or not the Bush administration was right or wrong in wiretapping conversations without a court order.
Of course, the very act of being asked by a pollster if you think it's OK to wiretap conversations eliminates the key complaint from this equation, that none of us who may have been spied on knew we were being spied on.
Regardless, the poll results might be enough for the White House to keep on keeping on when it comes to defending its eavesdrop program. The president doing just that today, in what was billed as a discussion in Louisville, Kentucky. The audience, we were told, allowed to ask Mr. Bush whatever it wanted.
This Countdown time-saving tip. If you prescreen the audience, prescreening the questions becomes an unnecessary extra step.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hear a common expert opinion all the time, that the terrorists are going to attack us. It's not a question of whether, it's a question of when. And, yes, that might happen. But the facts are that since 9/11, we haven't had any. So thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name is Mario Garson (ph).
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hola.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hola, exactly. And my father-in-law, Jesse, came by me to be here, and I'm honored to be here, you know, with you and (INAUDIBLE)...
BUSH: Que su fais (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mexico.
BUSH: (speaking in Spanish)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Monterey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all really struggle with, how do we provide our employees with health insurance that's comprehensive? And we all view you as a very pragmatic problem solver, and we'd like you to take this one on, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can people help on the war on terror?
BUSH: Yes. Well, that's the hardest question I had all day.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: Can't promise that our questions to "Congressional Quarterly"'s Craig Crawford will be any more hostile than those were. We can promise that none of them will be in Spanish.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": And hola to you, sir.
OLBERMANN: Should we see, be surprised here that national security appears to once again be the president's go-to strength, despite this NSA issue. I mean, more Americans now approve of the eavesdropping than approve of the president's job performance.
CRAWFORD: Doesn't surprise me at all, Keith. I did my column "Congressional Quarterly" last week on this. You know, the president has an argument that is always going to win for him, is, we're are, we in a war. There are people out there who want to kill Americans, and so long as people, people see that and believe that, they're going to look to the commander in chief to protect them. And that is the role he's going to play, even when he has to admit mistakes.
Now, Americans forgive error, but they don't forgive weakness, and that's one thing this president has not showed is weakness, and that's the one thing that would take him down, I think, in their eyes.
OLBERMANN: What about this issue of the president's or the administration's, at least, responsibility or response to the Jack Abramoff investigation? I've asked this question a number of times of a number of people, and each time I've been surprised by the answer.
Just because it seems not to touch the president, just because it claims headline space that might otherwise go to the NSA story or the CIA scandal, that doesn't necessarily mean Abramoff is good news for the administration?
CRAWFORD: It shouldn't. We could apply the old captain-of-the-ship doctrine. He is the leader of his party, and his party is certainly caught up in this on Capitol Hill. And that is where it will hurt him, if the Republicans' control of the House and Senate, for example, in the battle for control of Congress in November, turns badly for them, that would hurt the president's agenda.
So it isn't, he's not off the hook. But he's certainly in better shape not having his own aides in the news every day, investigated by grand juries and so on.
OLBERMANN: Craig, the House speaker, Mr. Hastert, has proposed now, in the wake of all this, that Congress should ban all lobbyist-funded trips for lawmakers. That would be an extreme step, it would be a, you know, (INAUDIBLE) talk about people walking the walk, as Mr. Abramoff does in that video that we keep seeing of him, sort of stridently walking.
Is there, is this all talk, or is this walk here? What about all the other campaign finance abuses, and the efforts to correct them, like McCain-Feingold, that didn't really seem to make much of an impact?
CRAWFORD: Yes, I think reform laws generally are flawed. They don't always meet the hype. But the speaker of the House is making a good move here to try to get back on the good side of the public on this corruption issue, because the Republicans face this battle coming in November.
And if it's a pox on all their houses, and if the public and the polls show the public don't think the Democrats are any more honest than Republicans, but Republicans control, and have the most incumbents out there who would be vulnerable. So they want to get out front with this reform bill.
But I have a feeling that after it's all said and done, it probably won't reform very much, and like McCain-Feingold, which I think actually took us backwards a few steps.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Lastly, about Iraq - and I'm always hesitant to ask this question, because it's always about how, Oh, nobody's talking about Iraq, and, of course, we are among the people who decide what seems to be talked about and what not, or what's not talked about. If it's not in the rundown, we're not talking about it.
But a violent start to the month after the elections, attacks by insurgents that killed more than 200 in the last week, two dozen American troops included. And yet it is seemingly, at least, not being talked about. It's only a week after the president called in the all the former secretaries of state and defense, and only about three weeks since his last big speech about Iraq. What happened to Iraq?
CRAWFORD: I think a couple things. We talked earlier about how the, the, you know, the American people are seeing the president a little bit differently. I think he admitted, he acknowledged some mistakes in a gentle way. And so they do see him as very determined in this war on terror. Ad there's (INAUDIBLE) trying to buy his argument that staying in Iraq is part of that.
Then I think also the debate's just gotten frozen in place, Keith. The opponents to the president's policy spent a lot of time tearing him down and tearing down what he's doing, not so much giving a very comprehensive answer to what they would do if they were in charge right now.
Lots to talk about about what could have been done differently two or three years ago, but right now, the president's almost got the country and his opponents in a straightjacket, because there are not many alternatives to what he's actually doing there now.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Craig Crawford of MSNBC and "Congressional Quarterly," fame and fortune as always, sir. Thank you for your time.
CRAWFORD: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: Day three of the Alito hearings. Talk about drama finally coming in. The nominee's wife crying, senators arguing, and Joe Biden wearing a baseball cap. The day that was on Capitol Hill, your tax dollars in action.
A veritable caught-on-tapepalooza coming your way, including this. Seems like a drunk driver out of control. Out of control, yes. Drunk, not exactly. An explanation ahead.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: In its first split decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court today reinstated the death sentence of a California inmate, the deciding vote from retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, replacing Justice O'Connor. Day three of the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings, full of fireworks, controversy. The only problem, the nominee was a mere spectator for most of it, the senators engaging in open warfare with each other, a day that was enough to send at least one member of the audience, Mrs. Alito, fleeing in tears.
Crying? There's no crying in Senate confirmations.
Justice correspondent Pete Williams, ringside.
PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats on the committee challenged Alito to explain something he wrote in 1985, applying for a promotion as a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department. Listing his credentials, he said he was a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, describing it as a conservative alumni group.
Judge Alito now says he doesn't remember joining it, but says he probably supported its fight to keep an ROTC program on Princeton's campus.
Today, Senator Edward Kennedy asked if Alito agreed with other positions taken by the alumni group, reading from a magazine it published.
KENNEDY: Quote, "People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic."
ALITO: I disagree with all of that. Had I thought that that's what this organization stood for, I would never associate myself with it in any way.
WILLIAMS: Kennedy and the committee chairman, Arlen Specter, then fought over Kennedy's request to subpoena records from a founder of the alumni group.
SPECTER: We actually didn't get a letter, but...
KENNEDY: You did get a letter, are you saying?
SPECTER: Well, now, wait a minute. You don't know what I got. I'm (INAUDIBLE)...
KENNEDY: Of course I do, sir, Senator, since I sent it.
SPECTER: Well, the senator doesn't necessarily know...
KENNEDY: Well, I got it right here.
SPECTER:... what the recipient gets, Senator Kennedy.
KENNEDY: I've got it right here.
SPECTER: You, you, you, you are not in a position to say what I receive.
WILLIAMS: When the smoke cleared, the alumni group's founder said he'd agree to share his records now at the Library of Congress. The squabble briefly left Judge Alito a bystander at his own hearing.
This afternoon, Senator Lindsey Graham said Alito was no bigot, prompting an emotional reaction from Alito's wife, Martha.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I've got reams of quotes from people who have worked with you, African-American judges, glowing quotes about who you are. Judge Alito, I am sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has set - had to sit here and listen to this.
WILLIAMS: The questioning resumes tomorrow, but it's looking more likely that Samuel Alito will be on the Supreme Court in time to join the justices when the winter break ends in late February.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: What if the confirmation proceedings were a race instead of a barrage of questions and crying and arguments about what the mailman brought in (INAUDIBLE)? If so, it might look a lot like the Japanese event known as the search for the luckiest man. Whoops.
And Michael Jackson, who is not that, facing more accusations of child molestation, but those charges only scratching the surface of what his new accuser is accusing. When you think Jackson's life can't get any weirder, you just will not believe this.
OLBERMANN: Got to throw some news away. Hold on a second.
We're back, and we once again pause our Countdown of the day's real news and political issues and hats for a brief segment of weird news and gratuitous video.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in Kobe, Japan, for the big annual Nishi Nomaya (ph) Shrine run. Two thousand men take part, dashing through the stone-paved corridors at top speed for their one shot at glory, a 200-year-old tradition that says the winner of the race will have good luck for the rest of the year.
Today's winner was young Ryoto Kume (ph), who led the race wire to wire. He's a former baseball player who apparently still likes to wear the uniform around town. Good luck, pal. It appears you'll need it.
The 1,999 runners-up are apparently SOL.
South and east to Hong Kong for the most rockin' birthday party ever. It was held in the city streets to celebrate all of Hong Kong's 700 centarians. Not the mythical creature with the torso of a man and the body of a horse, we're talking about 100-year-olds. Hundreds of elderly residents showing up for the party to honor those healthy and lucky enough to have lived that long, and they made almost all of them sit outside.
Only a handful of centarians were actually able to make it, but, hey, more cake for them.
Finally, to Montreal, where this incident actually happened Monday at the practice session of the Canadiens hockey team, but it's still odd today. A man dressed in hockey gear managed to get into the building and out onto the ice, gaining control of the puck and taking a shot against the Canadiens' goalie, Jose Teodor (ph). All part of hockey's bid to win back its fans after canceling the season last year.
The fantasy player was subdued and taken off the ice by security. Then he explained he was a recreational player who wanted to prove he could play with the big boys and put the biscuit in the basket. But the great the practice-crasher got the puck. Goalie Teodor actually rushed over to make the save.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kind of have the pole (ph) check him to make sure he have to keep his head up, and then afterward when he came back, I, you know, I could have, I thought of just getting on the net and not playing into his game, but then I said, you know, it's - he had the balls to go on the ice, so I'm going to, you know, let him have a free shot on (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: A great game of hockey, you know?
A much more violent crime caught on a series of those caught on tape tonight. An armed robber attacking and robbing a cashier before a well-timed phone call from the cashier's husband scared him away.
And Brangelina. Rumors appear to be true, they are indeed breeding.
Another story my producers are forcing me to cover, ahead.
But first, now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Levi's president Robert Hanson, introducing the first iPod-compatible jeans. They have a joystick remote control built into the watch pocket. Is that an iPod joystick, or are you just glad to see...
Number two, Daniel Peter Clark of Anchorage, Alaska, tried to rob a hotel disguised as a Smurf, as you see. He fled and washed the blue makeup off his face - just his face. Police arrested him because he looked like what you're seeing right there. Moral, always wash behind your ears.
Number one, Phoenix, municipal court Judge Dennis Freeman. He's apparently solved this whole contentious Roe v. Wade thing, ruling against a woman motorist who had been charged with illegally driving solo in a car-pool lane.
She said she was not driving solo because she was pregnant, and her fetus constituted the second person required by the carpool lane. Well, the judge has ruled against her. So a fetus is not a person in terms of the diamond or carpool lane. Judge Freeman, thanks for clearing all that up.
OLBERMANN: To some it might seem in whole or in part gratuitous, but often there is no better way of showing just how horrifying everyday violence can be than showing it as it unfolds on surveillance video. Our third story on the Countdown tonight, crime caught on tape and tape and tape, from illegal and runaway drivers, one of them 7 years old, to gun-toting robbers.
We began at a check-cashing business in Orem, Utah, and the most terrifying three minutes of a young mother's life. The report is from Sam Penrod of our NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, KSL.
LT. DOUG EDWARDS, OREM DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: He just vaults over that. He smacks her head. She hits her head on the counter there.
SAM PENROD, REPORTER, KSL-TV (voice-over): This store video shows a robbery in progress. The robber walks in and immediately attacks the clerk. For the next three minutes, the man holds the woman by force, first getting into the safe, then attempts to tie her up.
EDWARDS: He's going to try to use duct tape that he's brought with him to put across her eyes, and she's not going to have any of that.
PENROD: In fact, the woman tries reasoning with the robber, asking him to leave.
EDWARDS:... saying, "Just leave. People are going to come. Please don't hurt me. I have children at home." You know, I'm sure, in her mind, she didn't know whether or not she was going to survive this.
PENROD: The victim's husband just happens to call the business at the same time, and the robber tries ripping the phone out of the wall, only knocking it off the hook so the husband can hear everything.
EDWARDS: He can hear his wife in the background saying, "Take the money. Just leave. Just leave." And he immediately calls 911.
911 DISPATCHER: 911 emergency.
CY HIRSCHE, HUSBAND OF ROBBERY VICTIM: I need to report an emergency at 590 North State Street in Orem.
911 DISPATCHER: OK, are you calling from the business?
C. HIRSCHE: No, I'm not. I just called my wife there and she knocked the phone off the hook while the guys were robbing her.
PENROD: And as the robber finally leaves, so does the victim.
911 DISPATCHER: 911 emergency.
ANGIE HIRSCHE, ROBBERY VICTIM: Yes, hi, I work at a place called Cash Valley. Our address is (INAUDIBLE) North State Street in Orem. I've just been robbed by a man.
PENROD: Police say that man was 28-year-old Junior Fea, who the victim recognized as a customer in the store just days before and gave his information to police, who were waiting for him to come home.
EDWARDS: They recovered all of the money that was taken, and they recovered the items that he had purchased to do the robbery, which included a fake gun.
OLBERMANN: That's KSL's Sam Penrod reporting. That couple, Angie and Cy Hirsche, actually own the Cash Valley check store that was robbed. They now say that, given what happened, they will definitely be installing a glass barrier between the customer and the cashier position. On the "Today" show this morning, they shared their experience and their reactions to the danger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
A. HIRSCHE: I knew everyone has a mom, everyone loves mom. So I told him I was a mom and I have children that needed me. I thought maybe that would have some bearing on him emotionally and he might be a little bit nicer to me.
C. HIRSCHE: I typically, whenever she does work, I try to call and make sure she is OK and got in OK, just typically for this exact reason. Then the phone picks up immediately, and I just hear my wife on the other line going, "I won't move a muscle. I won't move a muscle. Please don't hurt me. I won't move a muscle."
And I'm not sure if she picked up the phone or what happened, so I immediately started screaming as loud as I can, you know, "Get out of here! What's going on? What's going on?"
And then I pick up the - hang up and call 911 as quick as possible to try to get them over there, which actually I think really helped Angie in the situation. I mean, she did everything so well and so right, that I really am just happy that I could do something, because, as a husband that wants to protect their family, it's the worst feeling in the world to know that there's nothing you can do, and that this large person is hurting my poor, little, beautiful wife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The gun that Junior Fea threatened Angie Hirsche with was a fake, as it proved.
The gun that is a still unidentified robber used to rob the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in Vegas Tuesday morning was anything but. Security cameras there caught that thief demanding money from a female clerk in the casino's cashier cage at about 6:30 a.m. local time. After robbing her, he ran out of the building, firing at security guards who chased him through the casino parking lot. He shot one of the men in the leg. Then he dropped his ill-gotten gains and fled the scene.
It's not a robbery, but a terrible crash caught on tape in Wasco, California. This is northwest of Bakersfield. An out-of-control car smashing into 30-year-old Araceli Gallardo and her two children, 4-year-old Alicia and 12-year-old Claudia. Amazingly, none of their injuries were life-threatening. The woman behind the wheel, 79-year-old Guadalupe Lopez, initially fled the scene on foot and later turned herself in. Ms. Lopez, an unlicensed driver, now facing felony charges of hit and run.
Lastly, there is what, by contrast, represents the comic relief tonight, only because it turned out OK. He faces charges of driving without a license and reckless endangerment, and he's 7 years old. The date with juvenile court coming after he stole his parent's pickup truck and led police on a harrowing nighttime chase through town, all of which was caught on dash-cam video. Darian Trotter of our NBC affiliate WSMV reports from Shelbyville, Tennessee.
JOSH LAVARETTE, SHELBYVILLE POLICE: This could have been very, very serious.
DARIAN TROTTER, REPORTER, WSMV-TV (voice-over): When Shelbyville police first started their pursuit, they thought they were after a drunk driver out of control.
LAVARETTE: He is weaving. He's all over the road. He can't stay in his lane.
TROTTER: Watch as he makes a left on Highway 82, off the road, and nearly into a telephone pole.
LAVARETTE: It could have been very serious.
TROTTER (on-screen): The chase with a driver who would not stop quickly gained momentum, causing a scene for neighbors, as more patrolmen joined in.
SUSAN DANIEL, WITNESS: There were, like, probably five city cars and then three county cars and the state troopers.
TROTTER (voice-over): Things got even more dangerous when the pickup almost slammed into a car waiting at a red light. Officers would later learn the driver was a second-grader, barely standing four feet tall.
LAVARETTE: He was so short that he had to sit up close to the steering wheel. And whenever he would break, as you see in the video, he would pick himself up with his left foot and stomp on the brake with his right.
DANIEL: It just blew my mind, because we actually watched him put on his turn signal and turn, and could see when he went past that he had his seat belt on.
TROTTER: This 7-year-old was on the fast track to trouble and this was no video game, rather the real deal. According to police, he narrowly avoided five head-on collisions before parking his parents' pickup back at their home.
DANIEL: When we had come to found out he was a child, I was really shocked.
LAVARETTE: Well, he said the reason why he took the vehicle was because he wanted to get his license.
OLBERMANN: Glad to see somebody besides me noticed he put on the turn signal. WSMV's Darian Trotter reporting there.
So far as we know, there is no specific word to describe a second-grade driver, but there are terms for everything from a flabby belly to a tight male friendship. The 2005 New Word List, next.
And here's a new twist on some old words. Michael Jackson once again accused of child molestation, but newly accused of forcing his victim to undergo plastic surgery.
Those stories ahead. First, here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: One, two, three!
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": What else is going on? Oh, here's some good news. Doctors say Ariel Sharon is responding to treatment and can now move his hand. And the first thing he did when he moved his hand was give Pat Robertson the finger, so I thought that was fabulous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jim Goedert is a serious collector. He collects wire, seriously.
JIM GOEDERT, BARBED WIRE COLLECTOR: It would be the largest real-life collection that's not in a museum today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jim is different. A friend got him started collecting in the late-'70s. Since then, his collection has earned him a spot in the Barbed Wire Hall of Fame.
There are certain obvious hazards to a barbed wire collection. As Jim knows all to well, if you're not careful, you will get the point.
GOEDERT: Actually, just about 15 minutes ago, I cut my hand getting a roll of wire out to show you guys.
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OLBERMANN: Whether you have a spotless reputation or you've seen better days or you've been eaten out of house and home, whether you are impartial, cold-blooded, jaded, laughable, or fashionable, you would have been none of these things 430 years ago, because those words did not even exist until William Shakespeare made them up.
Our second story on the Countdown, where is he when we need him now? The new words that some would add to the dictionaries of our time are, at best, so-so puns like "Brownout," defined now as the poor handling of an emergency.
Countdown's senior lexicographical correspondent Monica Novotny joins us now with some of the better ones on the list that she kept for herself.
Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Keith. Good evening.
Members of the 116-year-old American Dialect Society bring us their words of the year each January. As for this year's picks, people we talked to had never heard of most of them, not even this year's winner. And I don't think I'm giving away too much here when I tell it is truthiness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not have a word that describes something like truth but not quite truth, right?
NOVOTNY: No lie. Truthiness is the American Dialect Society's word of the year for 2005. Coined over at "The Colbert Report"...
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Truthiness.
NOVOTNY:... but the concept created right here at Countdown.
OLBERMANN:... the high doyen of household hints will still be available for your viewing pleasure on her syndicated daytime show, "Martha," and, of course, her new insider stock tips program on CNBC. Yes, I made that last part up. I just made that last part up. OK, I just made that last part up.
NOVOTNY: Also on their list, some words we've all heard, "Katrina, heck of a job."
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.
NOVOTNY: And even more we haven't, like flee-ancee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, no, I'm not familiar with that one, either.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, sorry.
NOVOTNY: The muffin top.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When a girl, like, wears too tight jeans that and she kind of overflows a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great. Not something I want to see.
NOVOTNY: And the whale tail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it have anything to do with Moby Dick or...
NOVOTNY (on-screen): Have you ever heard of that word or...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never heard of that before.
NOVOTNY: Have you seen it happen?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, many times.
NOVOTNY: But the phrase everyone does seem to know, "jump the couch."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, OK, Oprah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the Oprah thing, yes, OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's definitely - he's going down in history for that.
NOVOTNY: And maybe for this one, too: Cruisazy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tom Cruise and Kevin Scorsese?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martin Scorsese?
NOVOTNY: Not exactly. Think this guy again.
TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's crazy. Let's leave it at that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely. I'm going to use that one.
NOVOTNY: Now, as ridiculous as the list may sound today, in their 15 years of voting, the society has chosen a few that might sounds familiar. Red states and blue states, last year's winners. Metrosexual, chad, Y2K, politically correct, and, from way back in 1995, the World Wide Web.
OLBERMANN: Which I guess is the term that replaced information superhighway, the original clunky one.
NOVOTNY: That's right. You want to guess a couple?
OLBERMANN: Now, have you got a couple - yes, I think we have time for a couple.
NOVOTNY: Pope squatting.
OLBERMANN: Pope squatting?
NOVOTNY: Yes. Easy.
OLBERMANN: Waiting outside in Vatican City when the pope's not feeling well?
NOVOTNY: Registering a domain name before the new pope chooses it.
OLBERMANN: Oh, excellent.
NOVOTNY: OK. And the other one is...
OLBERMANN: This reminds me. We used to do this, didn't we?
NOVOTNY: Something like this. Whizzinator?
OLBERMANN: Oh, I know what a whizzinator is. That is a device used to avoid on a drug test, that creates artificial urine...
NOVOTNY: Well, to cheat on the - that's right.
OLBERMANN:... to cheat on a drug test. Yes, it creates artificial urine. That's not tough; that's a sports term.
NOVOTNY: A prosthetic.
OLBERMANN: Right. That's a sports term. It's like the second most popular sports term, yes.
NOVOTNY: Well, these days, it is.
OLBERMANN: Countdown's Monica Novotny, as I always say, she's just Cruisazy.
NOVOTNY: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Well, one of the words Monica had the good breeding not to tell you about: crotch fruit.
It's not as bad as it sounds. It just means, you know, kids. And the potentially far worse meaning that you and I both thought of provides our segue into tonight's roundup of celebrity entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And the latest in the legal battle over the x-rated Colin Farrell tape.
A Web site, DirtyColin.com, has been shut down after violating court orders that prevented the release of the 15-minute video. The tape depicting the actor with his then-girlfriend, "Playboy" playmate Nicole Narain, engaging in various acts, none of them Shakespeare.
Farrell sued Narain last year, accusing her of trying to sell the explicit video and arguing the two had had an agreement that it would never be made public. An L.A. court issued an order baring - barring, in English - its sale or display.
Here is some surprising news. Michael Jackson is being sued in a civil case, due to be heard in a Southern California courtroom next month. A 20-year-old man has accused the pop star of child molestation and of stealing song ideas, music and lyrics, and of forcing him to submit to unnecessary cosmetic surgery. Man, you've got everything in this complain except a "Puppet Theater" reference!
"I have got photos of my client with these red lips, just like you see on Mr. Jackson, a big, old cleft on his chin, which he didn't have previously," says the plaintiff's attorney, Michael Mattern. The accuser originally filed the suit just a month after Jackson's acquittal on child molestation charges in June. Santa Barbara County authorities had reportedly interviewed him before deciding his case would not stand up in court.
Speaking of celebrity scandal, it's official. That is a little Brad bump you see on Angelina Jolie, which means only two things to us: another story my producers are forcing me to cover and the opportunity to bring back Michael Musto. That's ahead.
First, time for Countdown's list of today's three nominees for "Worst Person in the World."
The bronze - come on, Bill, you can do better than bronze - as part of his latest debate with reality, the big giant head has gone on his radio program to protest Unicef spokesman Harry Belafonte, and he has done so by saying, quote, "If Joseph Stalin was still alive, he'd be the Unicef spokesman."
Bill, are you remembering to wear that helmet when you go outside, so that, when you finally fall over, you don't break anything? I'm concerned, Bill.
Tonight's runner-up, Pat Robertson. He's trying to soften the impact of his remarks last week that equated the stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with biblical vengeance against those who tried to divide God's land.
Is he doing this out of remorse? Not exactly. He's trying to mollify the Israeli Tourist Ministry, with whom he and a bunch of evangelicals had been negotiating to build a bible theme park in Galilee. Israelis said they would not deal with him after the line about Sharon.
So Pat may be getting these mystical visions, but he apparently can still see where the money is.
But tonight's winner, Idaho State Senate President Robert Geddes. Seeing the prison population overcrowding problem in Idaho, he has now asked, quote, "Why does every inmate need his or her own bed?" He is suggesting they sleep in the jails in shifts.
Apart from the problem noted by the state's corrections director that this would mean doubling the population of each prison - hmm, putting prisoners two to a bed? Evidently Senator Geddes has never seen the HBO series "Oz."
Idaho State Senate President Robert Geddes, today's worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: And here we go again, another story my producers are forcing me to cover. Ever felt that little something in the pit of your stomach?
Our number one story tonight, apparently, we know now officially what that little something is in the pit of Angelina Jolie's stomach. It's a little Pitt.
"People" magazine, the first to confirm the rumors that have been fueling tabloid sales for months, Jolie apparently telling a charity worker in the Dominican Republic, quote, "Yes, I'm pregnant," unquote. Now representatives of both stars have conceded the news is true. Like we needed that.
Jolie is already the mother to two adopted children, son, Maddox, four, daughter, Zahara, one. The news of her first biological child coming on the heels of a legal filing which will make Pitt their adoptive father.
A story as hot as this one can only be handled with the deft touch of Michael Musto, "Village Voice" columnist and local neighborhood icon.
Michael, good evening.
MICHAEL MUSTO, "THE VILLAGE VOICE" COLUMNIST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let me just read that one sentence again. "Jolie apparently telling a charity worker in the Dominican Republic, quote, 'Yes, I'm pregnant.'" Neither of us, barring really unforeseen circumstances, will ever get to experience the joy of giving birth.
MUSTO: Speak for yourself.
OLBERMANN: Well, all right. I'm guessing that, if we were able to do this, neither of us would choose as the first person to officially confirm this to...
MUSTO: I'm with crotch fruit as we speak.
OLBERMANN: You tell a charity worker in the Dominican Republic first?
MUSTO: Absolutely. That's who I tell everything to, anytime there's a development in my life. Just last week, I ran down to the Dominican Republic and said, "Guess what? Eighty percent of my Golden Globe nomination predictions were accurate!" And they were like, "Wha?" But then they phoned it into People.com. It was great.
OLBERMANN: And you, no doubt, were able to find a diminutive Dominican Republican. The child reportedly due this summer. We've seen these pictures. Do you think by summer they mean summer here, June, July, August, or summer in New Zealand as in next week to six weeks from now?
MUSTO: Well, Angelina is not all that bright. And she spends a lot of Februarys in Dominica or Hollywood, where it's always hot. She assumes that is the summer. She only has those occasional trips for unisex - or Unicef.
MUSTO: There is a rumor that she had sex with a beach ball and it got stuck. But I think, no, she really is with crotch fruit. And she's going to be showing at the Golden Globes - oh, they weren't nominated for "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"? She'll be showing at the Golden Raspberries. And she's going to get two trophies, the one onstage and the one she's popping out.
OLBERMANN: Yes, she already got a trophy. When last you were on this program, we asked about the tabloid magazine throw-down between "US Weekly" and "Life and Style Weekly," with "US Weekly" saying Jolie was not pregnant and "Life and Style" saying that she was, too, and not only that, but she'd already called Jennifer Aniston to tell her about this pregnancy. Now that the first part of the story is confirmed, do they beat a path to Ms. Aniston's door for the tearful reaction? Or does somebody have the good graciousness here to leave her the hell alone?
MUSTO: They'll both be banging her door down. But I think Jen should only allow "US Weekly" in, because they get everything wrong. They'll see her pulling her hair out, pushing Vince Vaughn out the window, and they'll report that everything's fine, she's at peace with the situation, she's not burning effigies of Angelina at all, and rumor has it it's a big hit.
OLBERMANN: Will two unbearably pretty people, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, necessarily produce a pretty baby or could they still get, you know, I don't want to name names here, but could they get, like, you know, a Winston Churchill?
MUSTO: Well, my parents were supermodels, and that worked out.
But, no, I do think this kid is going to be cuter than Winston Churchill. I mean, between the cheekbones, and the big, pouty lips, and the forehead, oh, my god, you're going to have to avert your eyes from this thing. They're going to have to need, you know - it's so angular, they're going to need, like, prongs to get it out of Angelina, though I hear she's actually going to hover over a runway when she's giving birth. Not an airport runway, but a fashion runway. Just plop it out so it could start sashaying and working its way to be "America's Next Top Model."
OLBERMANN: And just batting its eyes.
OLBERMANN: Having adopted, having procreated, do you think they will now get around to finally admitting in public that the two of them are dating?
MUSTO: Absolutely not. And it is weird that they've confirmed the baby but not the relationship. What was this, an immaculate conception? They should name the baby Jesus, though I always thought of Angelina more as a Mary Magdalene-type than a Mary-type.
But I don't believe publicists anyway. And when they confirm something, I don't think it's true. I actually don't think she's with crotch fruit. I think they're throwing you off the scent, that she's just fat and hit the brownies, or maybe that beach ball thing I mentioned earlier.
OLBERMANN: So you really think she's not pregnant?
MUSTO: Well, if she is, it's with the brother. You know, the brother is the real father.
MUSTO: And she's not even from a trailer, but this kid's going to be not only her child, but her niece or nephew. And little Zahara, who's learned from Mama that you date your brother, is going to date the kid. And if it's a girl, she'll learn from Mama that you date the girls. I'm going to go to the Dominican Republic and tell them about that.
OLBERMANN: Yes. You'd better ask somebody down there, or we're going to have that Faye Dunaway scene again from "Chinatown."
The incomparable Michael Musto with the "Village Voice," who makes bearable these stories my producers force me to cover. Thank you, sir.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, LIVE & DIRECT. Good evening, Rita.
RITA COSBY, HOST: Good evening, Keith. And good evening, everybody.
Tonight, a bombshell in the case of missing honeymooner George Smith.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END