'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Feb. 6th
Guests: Andy Borowitz, Richard Wolffe, John Dean
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
So if the Republican chairman of the Senate committee investigating the wiretaps says the wiretaps were illegal, and the president says he personally authorized the wiretaps, doesn't that mean the president should be impeached?
And if the Senate is investigating, and the attorney general is testifying, why wasn't he sworn in under oath?
The great cartoon crisis, escalation on both sides. Armed clashes with protesters in Afghanistan, more newspapers in Europe reprint the controversial depictions of Muhammad.
The al Qaeda prison break, the mastermind in the bombing of the "Cole" is on the loose. Thank goodness all this increased security has worked so well.
And from Pepsi ads that may have promoted Coke, to the self-censorship of the Rolling Stones...
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MICK JAGGER (singing): (INAUDIBLE)
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OLBERMANN:... to the losing team's last-minute panic. When are they playing the real Super Bowl?
All that and more, now on Countdown.
The hearing began with these words, "We have a particular obligation to examine the NSA in light of its tremendous potential for abuse. Thanks to modern technological developments, it does its job very well. The danger lies in the ability of the NSA to turn its awesome technology against domestic communications."
Sound at all familiar? Those words were actually spoken 30 years ago, that is, when Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho and other lawmakers became the first to lift the veil on the supersecret world of the National Security Agency.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, deja vu all over again. New president, new technology, same danger, perhaps. Today's remake of the cautionary drama beginning with promise, Senate Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, repeating, in milder form, his Sunday talk show conclusions that the present-day spying program is or could be illegal.
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SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), CHAIR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The president does not have a blank check. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed in 1978 and has a forceful and blanket prohibition against any electronic surveillance without a court order.
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OLBERMANN: Blanket prohibitions notwithstanding, Senator Specter making the unilateral decision not to put the witness under oath. The attorney general himself telling the committee he had no objection to being sworn in. Quote, "My answers would be the same whether I was under oath or not," Mr. Specter, though, telling Secretary Gonzales - or, excuse me, Attorney General Gonzales - that it was not necessary, ultimately skipping the step.
No skipping from the AG. Some hints of a tap dance, perhaps. Here's what we learned today. He is that rarest of lawyer who has an aversion to paperwork. And on the Washington-Lincoln-FDR scale of presidential spying, Mr. Gonzalez believes his boss comes out on top.
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ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Presidents throughout our history have authorized the warrantless surveillance of the enemy during wartime. And they have done so in ways far more sweeping than the narrowly targeted terrorist surveillance program authorized by President Bush.
General Washington, for example, instructed his army to intercept letters between British operatives. President Lincoln used the warrantless wiretapping of telegraphed messages during the Civil War. During World War II, President Roosevelt instructed the government to use listening devices to learn the plans of spies in the United States.
It still takes too long, in my judgment, to get FISAs approved. FISA applications are often an inch thick, and it requires a signoff by analysts at NSA, lawyers at NSA, lawyers at the department, and finally me, and then it's got to be approved by the FISA court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
In a moment, the legal merits of the attorney general's arguments with Nixon White House counsel John Dean.
First, more on the political angle of today's Q&A with "Newsweek" White House correspondent Richard Wolf.
Good evening, Richard.
RICHARD WOLFFE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: Good
HOST1: Whether one thinks the president broke the law, or that Congress wrote that law for him and was explicit about it, whichever side anybody happens to be on, would you not expect universal agreement that the attorney general of the United States should be under oath while he's defending it? I mean, obviously, it happens. But how often is a witness not sworn in a situation like this?
WOLFFE: Well, I was ready to be sworn in tonight, of course.
OLBERMANN: Yes, sir.
WOLFFE: But look, there is a huge amount of discretion here in these hearings, and there are two problems going on. One, of course, politics. The Democrats wanted to impugn the trustworthiness of attorney general, and the Republican chairman said no. The other thing is ego. You don't tell a chairman in a Senate committee what to do. They are the masters of the universe, and that was the problem here.
OLBERMANN: The president said in the State of the Union address last week, quoting him here, "Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have, and federal courts have approved the use of that authority." Was today the first time we had heard from the administration that the previous presidents that the president, this president, meant were, in fact, Washington, Lincoln, and FDR?
WOLFFE: Well, people don't tend to make those comparisons too much about themselves or their administration, and of course Gonzalez declined to mention that - or ignored to mention that these presidents had got into a lot of trouble. There was a huge political backlash against their wartime powers, their interpretation of those powers.
And the administration is trying to have it both ways. It's trying to say that this is an extraordinary war, and totally unprecedented, and yet they're also saying, Well, actually, this is totally precedented, and other wars have been fought in the same way. It's hard to have it both ways.
OLBERMANN: It's extraordinary, but it happens all the time.
All those presidents, by the way, were pre-FISA, and part of the reason that there was a FISA was to regulate that kind of behavior, as you've suggested.
Is this it for the hearing, by the way? Is it one day and out?
WOLFFE: I don't think so. Of course, Gonzalez is pretty much done, but I think he'll probably come back. You know, there was talk there of getting Ashcroft in and Jim Comey, his deputy. Remember that these are - these were Justice Department officials, political appointees, who also had problems with this NSA program. The White House has tried to say this is a partisan problem, but when you have people like Ashcroft saying there are question marks as to the legality, we don't think we can sign off on the restarting of this program, it's by no means a partisan problem.
OLBERMANN: Other than starting a minicontroversy by itself by not swearing in the attorney general, is this committee authorized to do anything at the end of this hearing? Or are they just going to issue a warning, or just go home?
WOLFFE: Well, they could do one of a number of things. Of course, any amount of questioning is adding to our public knowledge. We're getting bits of descriptions here and there, and the accounts of the program vary. The attorney general said there was too much paperwork. General Mike Hayden, who started the program, said he was fine to do a bit of typing, that wasn't the reason they didn't go to the court.
So we're going to find out more about the program. They could change the law. But if you're looking for them to rule on legality, I'm afraid we're going to have to wait for the courts.
OLBERMANN: "Newsweek" White House correspondent Richard Wolffe, as always, sir, greatest thanks.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Turning now to the legal merits of the proceedings today, as promised, we're joined for that by Nixon White House counsel John Dean, now a columnist for Findlaw.com, author of "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush."
Good evening, John.
JOHN DEAN, NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Hi, how are you, Keith?
OLBERMANN: The comparisons Mr. Gonzalez made to Washington and to Lincoln and to FDR, they sound very plausible, obviously very eminent. But are they historically valid? I mean, Lincoln had a shooting war and a rebel capital 100 miles from the White House.
DEAN: Well, what's interesting is, the anomaly, to me, is that conservatives for years have really attacked Lincoln, they've attacked FDR for his extensive use of the presidential powers. And now they're turning around and claiming, Oh, those are the powers that we need to use.
So while they are there, and they are a stretch in a modern era, there certainly once were on the no-no list for all conservatives.
OLBERMANN: In particular for you, was there this touch of deja vu we referred to earlier? I mean, was not most of Richard Nixon's presidency predicated on the idea that the nation was in imminent peril from threats foreign and especially domestic?
DEAN: Well, Nixon was most concerned that the fact that the communists were somehow influencing the antiwar movement. And he really thought he had a very legitimate basis to undertake a lot of the wiretapping that he did, including the wiretaps for leaks, that would help him uncover this master plot that he saw going on, and could well have existed.
It never did happen to be there. Lyndon Johnson had told him about it and alerted him to it. And once that bug was in his ear, so to speak, he just didn't - he didn't let go of it.
OLBERMANN: If Congress believes, turning to this current situation, that it did not authorize the president to do these kind of freelance wiretaps, and Senator Specter's remarks suggest it's not entirely a partisan issue, that there's doubt in many quarters on the administration side of things, why not have - or why is Congress not moving towards passing some sort of action that says, By the way, we did not authorize the president to do this, please read and sign?
DEAN: Well, they really could do that. I happened to look, in the last couple of weeks, at the history of the FISA, and went back and saw, there's a good five, six, even seven years of work that went into that. You had the Carter administration approving it, actually, you had the Ford administration working with the Congress to approve it. And they agreed this would be the procedure that presidents would use in the future.
So there was great unanimity between the executive and the legislative branch in doing this.
Now, for this committee to come out and reach a finding that this is the applicable law, and it's being ignored, I don't think is a great leap. The problem is, whether Specter has any other people who would join him, who would join the Democrats, in making such a finding, and then taking it to the Senate for a resolution.
OLBERMANN: (INAUDIBLE) there's two things, obviously, that could be followed up on, if they find that they have been - that there has been unauthorized, truly unauthorized, in any sense of the interpretation, wiretapping. One would be political and punitive in nature.
Let me talk about the other one first. Is there a FISA 2 out there? Is there something in particular that needs to be done to close a gap that the Senate did not think was there?
DEAN: Well, they certainly raised those questions in the hearing today, and a number were searching for answers. Gonzalez obviously didn't come prepared to offer any kind of resolution. And that's been one of the surprising factors all along, Keith. It's one of the reasons we're having these hearings.
Bush is just saying to the Congress, it's an in-your-face situation, I think I have this authority, I'm not going to ask to have the law amended, and I'm going to just go ahead and do it my way.
Well, you know, that's a little bit frightening, because of the slippery-slope argument. And it's also just so contrary to the fact that we have traditionally been a country that follows the rule of law, for a very good reason. The rule of law controls power, and in our system, we just don't give presidents unlimited power, we don't give Congress unlimited power. And it checks and balances. And he doesn't want to play that game, though. So it's a very surprising move he's making.
OLBERMANN: And that, then, turns to the political punishment area. I mean, not to put too fine a point on this, but if the authorization of wiretaps without warrants is indeed illegal, as its critics say it is, has the president committed an impeachable offense?
DEAN: Well, he certainly has. It would be - it's a - first it would be felony, if indeed he had broken the law. But a high crime or just misdemeanor truly is a political crime, if you will.
And the Congress and the House in the first instance would have to make a decision that the politics of this, and his defiance of the law, outweighed his very good intention, which is to try to capture or spot terrorism before it becomes a problem.
And that's going to be a very tough balance, because we have so little knowledge about what's truly going on. They're having it both ways in the sense that they are keeping this under national security, and they are keeping it all classified, so we don't really know what's going on, and that's very difficult to make a judgment on.
OLBERMANN: But there's a second edge to this sword. Senator Kennedy said today that there - the eavesdropping program might actually have weakened national security, because if you go to court with this evidence from tainted surveillance, you may wind up losing your prosecutions of any terrorists or sympathizers or people who got collect calls from al Qaeda. Do you buy that, legally?
DEAN: Well, I don't think, as a - I think the senator is correct that as a practical matter, you couldn't walk in with a warrantless-gathered intelligence and use it in a court of law.
But the way the Bush people have dealt with this is, they would probably declare somebody they found listening through one of their listening operations as an enemy combatant, throw him in the brig, and due process would be pretty irrelevant under the current procedures.
OLBERMANN: John Dean, columnist for Findlaw.com, author of "Worse than Watergate," and veteran of a time when similar things happened. As always, sir, great thanks for your perspective.
DEAN: Deja vu.
DEAN: Nice to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Good to talk to you.
Also tonight, angry protests continuing around the world in response to Danish cartoons about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Some have turned deadly.
And a global alert, sparked by one man. He planned the attack on the U.S. "Cole." Unfortunately, he has now escaped from prison in Yemen along with a dozen other members of al Qaeda.
You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: One analysis from a fairly conservative international think tank was that Osama bin Laden's real motivation for the 9/11 attacks was his hope that the devastation here would inspire Muslims in Arab countries to overthrow secular governments there.
If so, it didn't work. Yet instead, a series of not-very-sophisticated political cartoons seems to have unleashed that Muslim anger in the Middle East and in Europe, the kind that bin Laden could not.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, as the rage continues, so do the reprintings of the cartoons today in Germany.
The limited good news in a moment. First, the roundup of the bad from our correspondent Ned Colt.
NED COLT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight it was the Danish embassy in Tehran, demonstrators throwing rocks and firebombs.
Earlier, four people were killed during demonstrations in Afghanistan.
There were Muslim protests in at least a dozen countries today.
And more harsh rhetoric over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, intended to be humorous, but a provocation to many Muslims.
TASNIM ASLAM, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN: Either they are very insensitive, or they're very ignorant, if they didn't know what kind of reaction it would provoke.
COLT: The U.S., largely untouched by the conflict, took a delicate line today.
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: What we can do is to speak out very clearly in support of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and urge understanding and tolerance - tolerance, not violence.
COLT: In Denmark, which rarely makes world headlines, most can't comprehend why their country is now a lightning rod for such anger, just because a small local paper there first printed the cartoons.
Many say that their government has done enough in explaining why it doesn't censor the press.
METTE PETERSON, DANISH CITIZEN: They showed how our system works, and that's all they can do. They shouldn't go out and begging on their knees, because then we just play by their rules.
COLT: In recent days, the protests have inspired new cartoons suggesting press freedom is under attack, one showing a Danish cartoonist in full armor.
(on camera): Many Muslims believe the issue goes far beyond offensive cartoons, saying it reflects a deep-rooted lack of understanding and respect for Islam.
(voice-over): And enables many to vent over other controversies.
NADIM SHEHADEH, MIDDLE EAST SCHOLAR: Lots of things at the same time, like what - Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine...
COLT: Anger that was simmering now boiling over in much of the Islamic world.
Ned Colt, NBC News.
OLBERMANN: However, in London last Friday, protesters marched past the Danish embassy carrying placards reading, "Butcher those who mock Islam, behead all those who insult Islam," and others that recalled 9/11 and the London subway bombings.
Today a man who appeared in that protest dressed as a suicide bomber issued a public apology, saying he did not support terrorism and was particularly remorseful for any pain he had caused to the families of the victims of last July's attacks.
All this on the first day of jury selection in the penalty phase of the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, the alleged 20th hijacker kicked out of court three separate times.
And from that legal circus to its fashion equivalent, dogs on a runway dressed up as peacocks, wearing hats. That's next.
This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Generally, those born-on-this-day lists are boring as hell. Get a load of today's, Ronald Reagan, Tom Brokaw, Babe Ruth. This, of course, has nothing to do with our nightly trip through the looking glass of news. Then again, what on earth does?
Let's play Oddball.
In Mr. Brokaw's honor, a dog in a peacock outfit. We're in the city of Nakpur (ph) in central India, where the Society for Animal-Human Welfare has forced dogs to wear things they really don't want to wear. (INAUDIBLE) more concerned about the human portion of the animal-human welfare group, looking at doggies dressed up as a doctor, a businessman, and even a Santa doggie. Think you have the mustache in the wrong spot, but thanks for playing.
Scores of onlookers oohed and aahed at the spectacular costumes, while the dogs continued to show suffering in silence. Poochie, you look like you have something to say. Do you? I certainly do. Get me the hell out of this costume!
Pascoe County, Florida, hello. There, it was a bad weekend to be a stripper. Late Friday morning, local police raided six area gentlemen's clubs. They arrested more than two dozen ladies and that guy, who I'm hoping is not a stripper.
The ladies are facing charges that range from illegal alcohol sales to prostitution, and our friends at TheSmokingGun.com have several mug shots of the pinched pole dancers that you can flip through, including this seductive temptress, who, thankfully, ignored her right to remain silent.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, my pants are, like, stuck. Would you (expletive deleted) (INAUDIBLE).
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OLBERMANN: To the law enforcement officers of Pascoe County, Florida, we cannot thank you enough.
No one was arrested doing this, playing football in their lingerie. No, that's not Matt Hasselbeck. The lengths to which people went to get you to not watch the Super Bowl, when it turned out the game itself had provided all the reasons you needed.
And we'll meet the woman who got the new thing, you know, what's-her-face. Sorry. You were thinking it, and worse. You were thinking it!
Those stories ahead, but first, here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day. No, top three newsmakers.
Only been doing this show three years. Why the hell would I know what's next?
Unnamed thieves in Santa Maria, Brazil. There was a watchdog at the factory whose safe containing $10,000 they wanted. So they brought with them a female dog in heat. A-plus for planning, boys.
Number two, Gerald Georgettis of Miami, who was evidently not happy about the new Ford Escape he bought from a dealership there, so he tried to return it by driving it through the window and then into the showroom, and getting out, dousing the vehicle with gasoline, lighting it on fire, and causing a million dollars' worth of damage to the building.
You know, we would have picked it up.
But number one, Kevin Stephan of Buffalo, on a baseball field six years ago when he was 11. He was accidentally struck in the chest by a bat. His heart stopped beating. A Red Cross nurse who happened to be at the game rushed from the stands, gave him CPR, saving his life.
Last week, Kevin, who is now a dishwasher at a local restaurant and a volunteer firefighter, saw a woman customer at his restaurant choking on food. He rushed out and gave her the Heimlich maneuver, saving her life.
The woman's name was Penny Brown. She is a Red Cross nurse - the same Red Cross nurse who saved the life six years ago of Kevin Stephan, who saved her life last week.
OLBERMANN: Were it the plot of a movie or a TV drama, you might find it hard to believe: 23 convicts escaping prison by means of a tunnel, 463 feet long, but it's very real. The prison in Yemen and 13 of the 23 escapees, convicted members of al Qaeda.
And in our No. 3 story on the Countdown tonight, the most prominent among them, the mastermind behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
In Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, 23 inmates escaped from a prison which is central to that country's military intelligence services. Jamal al-Badawi, the man convicted and sentenced to death for plotting the Cole bombing, is now a fugitive. Al-Badawi and 22 others ran at the tunnel from the women's section of the prison into a nearby mosque.
Yemeni security officials announced the prison break on Friday. It likely occurred Thursday night. And yesterday Interpol issued a global security alert, saying the al Qaeda terrorists constituted a, quote, "clear and present danger to all countries."
Seventeen American sailors perished in the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Al-Badawi, one of the terrorists responsible for it. Another fugitive convicted for the bombing of a French oil tanker in 2002.
And a senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells NBC News tonight they are concerned that the escape process alone could have melded the escapees into a virtual al Qaeda cell.
Let me call in terrorism expert and MSNBC analyst Juliette Kayyem.
Thanks for your time tonight, Juliette.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, MSNBC TERRORISM EXPERT: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I thought that all we had done in this country and in effect to this country's reputation internationally, was done to make sure that as many of these people as could be caught stayed caught. Why were they in a jail in Yemen, presumably in a fairly friendly environment, to begin with?
KAYYEM: Well, because the attack happened before September 11 and the U.S. at that time determined that Yemen was good enough to try and convict these guys. And they were convicted. Most of them got the death penalty.
But we know that they escaped once. So shame on them. And then they escaped this week, so shame on Yemen. Yemen clearly does not have control of its prisons.
And to be honest, this was a military intelligence prison, probably the harshest of the harsh, and just given the number of people that - that got out and the length of the tunnel, Yemen is right to start an investigation into whether there were insiders helping these guys get out.
OLBERMANN: What happens here? Is the Washington counterterror complex now going to say, "Aha, nobody can successfully hold people like this besides us. This is why we need camps. This is why we need control of anybody we want"?
KAYYEM: I think so. I think that the implications of this will be a lot of - as they are now, a lot of the al Qaeda members that are captured will be held by U.S. folks, wherever they are being held. And you will see probably a lot of distrust of various governments and their prison systems.
What's interesting here is that Yemen has actually been quite helpful in the war on terrorism. Remember, just two years ago they let us fly a Predator drone over their country and kill seven al Qaeda members. So they've been very helpful.
But there's clearly elements of the Yemen government, a lot like in Pakistan, there's elements of the Pakistani government who may be sympathetic to these terrorist groups and have helped get out.
And you quote a U.S. government official saying 23 guys makes a cell.
So I would be pretty nervous if I were Yemen or if they go elsewhere.
OLBERMANN: Do we not have anybody involved in Yemen? Is there not - no part of this counterterror apparatus that would be overseeing something like this that might pick up the vibes that something might be escaping? It seems like an awfully complicated operation to be kept entirely quiet from the outside world.
KAYYEM: I think that's right. I mean, it's hard to tell, I mean, the U.S. is in a difficult bind here in a lot of these cases. When you want to work with other countries on the war on terrorism you have to respect their independence. And so there's only so much that we can do to assure that these guys are prosecuted and found guilty and then ultimately either killed or held for their lives.
So, especially with a country like Yemen, which is complicated. It doesn't have control of its own borders. We support its government. So we're sort of in a bind.
When Cole happened we sent about 400 FBI agents to go investigate. That didn't go over well with the Yemen government. And I think since then we've been trying to sort of balance both our need to secure these guys and Yemen's need to say, "Look, we're an independent country."
OLBERMANN: Terrorism expert, MSNBC analyst Juliette Kayyem. Great thanks as always.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And meanwhile the only person - the only person ever charged here for the attacks of September 11 was in court today for jury selection to determine his sentencing.
Zacarias Moussaoui continues to appear to be much better at disrupting courtrooms than at disrupting the life and safety of the United States.
At the trial for us, Pete Williams.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first group of potential jurors that showed up this morning had just begun to hear from the judge when Moussaoui himself, sitting with the defense lawyers, suddenly spoke up.
Quote, "I don't want them to represent me. I'm al Qaeda," he said.
"They are American. They are my enemies."
As federal marshals escorted him out he put his hands on his head to offer no resistance and said, "This trial is a circus."
The judge later told potential jurors to let her know if his outburst would affect their ability to be fair. He made similar statements three more times in front of the other jury pools and was led away each time.
The judge has set aside a month to find an impartial jury, meeting in a courthouse just four miles from where the Pentagon was hit on 9/11. A former prosecutor here says jury selection will be a huge chore.
PETE WHITE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What the court is going to be looking for is jurors who can put their emotional feelings about it aside and decide this case and this sanction based on the law and the evidence that's presented before them now.
WILLIAMS: A 50-page questionnaire potential jurors if they'd ever worked in an airport, trained as a pilot, knew anyone killed on military duty in Iraq and about their own experiences on 9/11.
In a sign the defense lawyers intend to challenge the FBI's performance, they asked that the questionnaire seek opinions of the FBI's handling of the 1993 standoff at Waco, Texas, and the still unsolved anthrax mail attacks.
(on camera) Once selected, the jury begins hearing evidence in early March and must decide whether Zacarias Moussaoui should be sentenced to life in prison or death.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Alexandria, Virginia.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, not 10 weeks after an unprecedented, unbelievable transplant, Isabelle Dinoire and her new face meeting the media.
And the Super Bowl of Super Bowl diversions. Two teams of women yesterday - they have faces if you'd look up a little bit - suiting up in their lingerie. What the world missed while Mick Jagger was more or less singing. That's ahead. This is Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Sounds like part of the plot from that old Tom Berenger/Bob Hoskins flick, "Shattered." The person who woke up with a face that was not her own. Ten weeks after her landmark transplant, she met the media today for the first time, and oddly enough, all she wanted to talk about is how crapola the Super Bowl was.
Those stories ahead here on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It's one of the cliches of recent fiction and even of recent fact: a criminal gets a total facelift in order to look like the cop chasing him. A woman has so much plastic surgery done she not only no longer looks like herself; she still barely looks human.
But in our No. 2 story on the Countdown, what happens if the recipient of the, quote, "new face," unquote, is not a volunteer but a victim? A woman mauled by her own dog and in desperate need of a facial transplant.
It's the world's first. And today marked the first time she came forward to identify herself and tell her story.
Our chief medical correspondent is Robert Bazell.
ROBERT BAZELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an amazing sight. Isabelle Dinoire, the world's first recipient of a face transplant, appeared self-assured today as she met reporters at the French hospital where she had the surgery 10 weeks ago.
Once horribly disfigured, she said she now looks forward to a normal life. She said she now had feeling in her nose, lips and mouth, which have been replaced, along with her cheeks and chin.
The donor was a brain-dead woman whose skin color clearly matched Dinoire's. Dinoire's condition astonished even those in the U.S. who had said the French surgeons were too quick to perform the experimental procedure.
DR. ARTHUR CAPLAN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: She has done incredibly well. It's a surprise that the surgery has gone smoothly, that her healing process has been very impressive.
BAZELL (on camera): How difficult is it taking a piece of skin off?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's pretty difficult.
BAZELL (voice-over): Dr. Maria Shimione (ph) of the Cleveland Clinic was not surprised by the good outcome. She is planning the first such operation in this country. She says she is only considering potential patients with extreme facial damage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're hiding. They're wearing masks when the family members are coming to visit them. So they do not have a normal life.
BAZELL: To reclaim her life, doctors say, Dinoire should try to quit her heavy smoking, which could complicate her recovery and must take the medications to prevent rejection of her new face.
Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: To our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news now, "Keeping Tabs."
Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow reaching the end of their tour. The cyclist and the singer have split just five months after having announced their engagement. According to a joint statement, quote, "After much thought and consideration we have made a very tough decision to split up. We both have a deep love and respect for each other."
The seven-time Tour De France champion met Crow in 2003, and according to her, Armstrong inspired her last album, "Wildflower." But she complained last November that the press is more interested in celebrity couples breaking up than in them staying together, creating a, quote, "insidious energy."
That, or she found out what he's really like.
Also tonight, one of the giants of television news, one of the originals at NBC News, is gone. Reuven Frank has died. Twice president of NBC News, the resume of his innovations and positions beggars description.
He was the executive producer of the original "Huntley-Brinkley Report," even came off with their famous signoff, "Good night, David. Good night, Chet."
He produced the landmark coverage of the political conventions, the space shots of the 1960's. He dreamed up "NBC News Overnight" in the 1980's, still probably the best daily newscast in American TV history.
And when many said it should have been Roger Mudd or Tom Schneider or any other host of high profile candidates, he chose in 1983 as the new anchor of "NBC Nightly News" Tom Brokaw.
Reuven Frank, 35 years at NBC News, eight of them as president, has died from complications of pneumonia. He was 85 years old.
Also tonight, your Super Bowl experience in review. You watched, your mistake. We will count the disasters, and we will show you what you missed on the other channels.
But first, the Countdown's list for of today's candidates for the worst person in the world.
The bronze tonight goes to Duncan Robinson of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. You will remember that is where three rare Chinese vases were destroyed two weeks ago when a patron of the arts fell down a staircase and crashed right into them.
Mr. Robinson has written to the vase breaker, who has identified himself as Nick Flynn, asking him not to visit the museum again in the future, thank you. Even though, as Mr. Flynn points out, the vases were not tied down nor protected in any way. Quote, "They were just left lying on the windowsill."
Tonight's runner-up, Brook Lords (ph), spokeswoman from Melbourne Airport in Australia. She says the facility is still looking into legal action in the case of Stephen McKenzie-McHarg, fined $66 last summer for having spent slightly more than 30 seconds in a pickup lane loading the six suitcases of his wife and his daughter. Mr. McKenzie McHarg has only one arm.
But the winner is Big Outdoors and the Hustler club. They've got a billboard in North Bergen, New Jersey, featuring a giant photo of a blond exotic dancer. Well, it happens, it's America, 2006. But this billboard happens to have overlooked the playground at McKinley Elementary School. Oops.
Big Outdoors and the Hustler Club. Today's "Worst Persons in the World."
OLBERMANN: We have been spoiled of late. The Super Bowls have largely been super. But prior to 2000, I used to warn potential consumers that the term "Super Bowl" was largely a brand name.
Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, still rarely have we hit the trifecta. The game largely stunk. The commercials largely were stupid. The halftime show, well, Mick and Keith, why not next time just get a roll of stamps and mail it in? Those later two social aspects in a moment with Andy Borowitz.
First the football, and you're watching the last time Seattle's Seahawks managed to execute on offense without looking like a bunch of terrified 12-year-old school girls.
This seeming first quarter touchdown from Matt Hasselbeck to Darrell Jackson was called back, because Jackson shoved the defender the absolute minimum amount required to draw a penalty. Seattle eventually settling for Josh Brown's 27-yard field goal, way downtown, bang.
There were not even any real controversies or especially bad referees' decisions. The closest thing was when Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stumbled into the end zone. Look at the front edge of the ball, your left, relative to where that white goal line is. It just breaks the proverbial plain. They gave him the touchdown. Pittsburgh led 7-3.
All week, the Seattle newspapers have been full of whispered question about whether quarterback Hasselbeck, was up to winning a Super Bowl. Evidently not. In the last minute before half halftime, looked like he was awaiting the results of a fan opinion poll before doing anything. They wound up doing nothing except missing a 54-yard field goal attempt.
And if you were hoping the Rolling Stones would provide the energy and execution that the game lacked, you can't get no - no - what's that last word, Keith?
Mick Jagger sounded like John Madden singing. ABC censored two key words by simply shutting off his mic. They should have left it off.
Pittsburgh would win because of two classic big plays. The first, Willie Parker's Super Bowl record 75-yard touchdown run; 14-3 Pittsburgh at that point. A lead the Steelers merely gave back.
Driving for a clenching score, Roethlisberger intercepted by Kelly Herndon and another record, a 76-yard return that led to Seattle's only touchdown.
At game's end, though, the Seahawks would repeat the mass chaos, what do we do? What do we do? What do we do? Confusion that marked a minute before the break. But not before they got nailed by the inevitable Pittsburgh trick play, the gadget in which wide receiver Antoine Randel El, who was a quarterback in college, wound up putting the clincher in the hands of game MVP Heinz Ward. Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10.
And trust me, my read of those highlights was much more entertaining than the game itself.
Still trying to find out whom we call about getting those 3 ½ hours of our lives back. In the interim, to assist me in the cultural complaining, I'm joined by author and humorist, Andy Borowitz.
Good evening, Andy.
ANDY BOROWITZ, AUTHOR/HUMORIST: Good evening. It's great to be joining you in the whining tonight.
OLBERMANN: Yes, sir. It's not like that was a - the game was a dud but the event was great. Everything was a dud. What bored you the most?
BOROWITZ: I would have to say the relentless promos for something called "Grey's Anatomy," which I guess is a TV show. And they kept on saying, "The two words you never want to hear in a hospital are code black." By the end of the evening, the two words I didn't want to hear again were "Grey's Anatomy." What was that?
OLBERMANN: And apparently it's a good show. And they knocked the reputation of the show down by all those promos.
BOROWITZ: Yes. I will never watch it.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you about the collaboration of the Rolling Stones at halftime. They collaborated. A, they sucked. B, they've been doing this for 43 years. They've made $745 billion. How much more money do they need that they would go along with censoring the word "come" out of "Start Me Up" and the word "cocks" out of "Rough Justice"? How much more money do they need?
BOROWITZ: Well, you know, a lot of rock bands, they start out by swearing that they'll never sell out. And then there's always that disappointing moment when they do. Not true of the Rolling Stones: 40 years ago they were selling out. And they have never stopped. There's a certain purity to that, I think.
OLBERMANN: About the commercials, once again, as we do - we have to do this annually. We'll skip the fact that we've all been so brainwashed that we looked at the commercials as if they were entertainment and not efforts to separate us from our wallets. To my mind, there were a couple of mediocre ones but the rest were dreadful. What did you think?
BOROWITZ: I thought the worst one was that Burger King one with brook burke, the girl from "Wild On." I mean, it says something about a commercial when it's really aspiring to be an Old Navy ad and it failed. I don't know. That was weak to me.
OLBERMANN: Is that who it was?
BOROWITZ: That's the "Wild On" girl, which still remains her best work I think.
OLBERMANN: Well, after this commercial, I mean, there's no new entry in the list.
OLBERMANN: Here - this might be - tell me if you think you agree with me. This is the quintessence of the Super Bowl experience from yesterday.
On the radio this afternoon with my partner Dan Patrick, I said the Diet Pepsi commercials, the ones with Jay Mohr, were the worst.
And he said, "Yes, but didn't you like it when Jackie Chan crushed the stunt double can of Coke?"
And I said, "My God, Dan, the thing you're remembering from in a Pepsi commercial is a can of Coke."
BOROWITZ: Heads will roll. That's not good. I'll tell you. You know, another one I didn't think was good for selling the product was the one where the bear was going after the bottle of beer or the can of beer. Because I don't want to buy a beverage that will attract bears. I'm just not into that.
OLBERMANN: Something that has bear repellent in it perhaps.
BOROWITZ: Yes, exactly.
OLBERMANN: But if you're trying to sell Pepsi and the last thing you really see there is a can of Coke, you're right, firings.
The entire Super Bowl experience, it's been going on now for 40 years. It's - it's hyped beyond any reasonable dimension. Is there a hope of eliminating this in our lifetimes?
BOROWITZ: There's no hope. And an adjunct to that is there's no hope of eliminating the Rolling Stones experience. They are also going to continue. Although I think that that whole lips and tongue logo ought to now have a tongue depressor as well. I think that would be in keeping with them.
OLBERMANN: Or a little - a little old age spittle coming out of the corner there, indicating kind of a drooling quality.
BOROWITZ: Absolutely. I mean, since the Janet Jackson thing, the acts are getting older and older. Last year it was Paul McCartney, and this year it's Rolling Stones. Next year it's going to be Buddy Holly. They're just going to throw up a hologram.
OLBERMANN: This shot - that shot of Mick Jagger where he's got the skin sort of hanging there, I thought it was a wardrobe malfunction. Then I realized, no, it's just skin at that age. Horrible.
BOROWITZ: Yes. His look was too old for Christina Aguilera.
OLBERMANN: Andy Borowitz, humorist and author and also tonight Super Bowl expert. Great thanks, Andy.
BOROWITZ: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: Not everybody was watching. In fact, a lower percentage of everybody than last year. The game had an overnight rating of 42.1, down three percent from 2005.
So where was everybody else? We asked Countdown's senior "what did I on Sunday" correspondent Monica Novotny to chronicle all the Super Bowl ripoffs out there.
Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening.
Now of course, there are plenty of alternatives to the Super Bowl, most of which, of course, no one ever sees. But programmers try desperately each year to get you to turn the channel for at least 12 minutes during halftime to see their own sports spectacles.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): You can't always get what you want. If you watched last night's Super Bowl half-time show hoping for the excitement of Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction, all you got was this too short t-shirt and a five-second delay, just long enough for two words to be censored.
And the traditional networks have thrown in the towel when it comes to competing with the most watched annual music event.
JOHN HIGGINS, "BROADCASTING & CABLE": Basically what every other network does is duck. They just - they don't put up good programming. They don't want to waste the money.
NOVOTNY: There are halftime options. You could have joined the several million viewers expected to pay $19.95 for the third annual Lingerie Bowl, billed as the ultimate catfight among scantily clad women, featuring William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Jenny McCarthy and Cindy Margolis. C cups, C-list, see viewers change the channel.
Because in the wide world of cable counter programming, these beauties play ball for free. On Animal Planet's second annual Puppy Bowl, where even the dogs may be chauvinist pigs, objectifying innocent kittens on their halftime show.
Over on ESPN, it's figure skaters. While the E! entertainment channel shows off celebrity bodies.
On Hallmark it's a half pint marathon.
Still lots of options with little substance may leave viewers wondering, what would Jesus watch?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The same decision that changed each of these men's lives is a decision you can make today.
NOVOTNY: SportsSpectrum.com has the answer, selling a spiritual halftime alternative, a $75 DVD featuring Christian players offering testimonies that viewers play during halftime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's good to have that reassurance of faith and knowing that God is always with you.
NOVOTNY: So whether it's Cindy, spaniels, skaters, the Spirit or the Stones...
MICK JAGGER, MUSICIAN: Here's to the town of Super Bowl one (ph).
NOVOTNY: How do all of these options play in the real game of ratings?
HIGGINS: Terribly. Everybody is watching the Super Bowl.
NOVOTNY: Now Rolling Stones fans know this isn't the first time the group has been censored. Earlier in their career, they performed live on the "Ed Sullivan" show and were prohibited from singing the line "Let's spend the night together." Instead, Mr. Sullivan wanted them to sing "Let's spend some time together," which they did on January 15, 1967, the same day, coincidentally, as the first Super Bowl.
OLBERMANN: As Andy Borowitz pointed out, the first time they all sold out.
Notice all those Christian players, by the way, none of them were at the game? They were all at home watching their DVD's.
NOVOTNY: Well, yes. Apparently, yes.
OLBERMANN: And you watched?
NOVOTNY: Not the DVD.
OLBERMANN: But you watched the game?
NOVOTNY: But I watched the game.
OLBERMANN: Me, too. And took notes. Countdown's Monica Novotny, great thanks.
OLBERMANN: That is Countdown for this, the 1,012th day since the declaration of "mission accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, "LIVE & DIRECT."
Good evening, Rita.
RITA COSBY, HOST, "LIVE AND DIRECT": Good evening, Keith. And good evening, everybody.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END