Wednesday, July 5, 2006

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 5

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Juliette Kayyem, Lawrence O'Donnell, John Barrie, Bob Cleveland

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

Not very much bang for the buck. North Korea's missiles fizzle, but the U.N. considers condemning Kim Jong Il's regime. Are they desperate or incompetent, or both?

And how much did calling them part of the axis of evil inspire them to try to live down to that billing?

And 2001, wanted, dead or alive. Now, not so much. The CIA closes down its unit dedicated to finding Osama bin Laden.


Unexpected twist. NSA domestic call monitoring after 9/11, the warrant-free wiretaps, the administration first tried to set them up in February 2001.

And setting up Joe Wilson. The president reportedly admitted to special prosecutor Fitzgerald that he personally told Dick Cheney to personally lead the effort to undermine Wilson's revelations about the phony uranium in Niger story.

Speaking of phony, Coltergeist. If you're going to be wrong, the old saying goes, be wrong at the top of your voice. Emphasis on the "your voice" part. A plagiarism expert says she lifted much of her new book from the Heritage Foundation and an "L.A. Times" writer.

And another edition "Keith Olbermann's America," world's fastest lawn mower, 80 miles an hour-plus on the famed Bonneville salt flats. Well, he certainly did a nice job of moving all the grass there. He'll join us as soon as he finishes all the yards west of the Rockies.

All that and more, now on Countdown.




OLBERMANN: Good evening.

In the wake of the "Godfather" movies, it was the writer Jimmy Breslin who theorized that the average mob family was not filled with masterminds but more resembled, as termed it, the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, new developments that suggest it may be thus with the so-called axis of evil. North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles that not only don't reach Alaska, they don't even leave Korea. And an Osama bin Laden so dangerous, so threatening, that the CIA has shut down its elite unit that was supposed to catch him, say it with me, now, dead or alive.

First, the Korean missile fizzle fisishizzle, the world reacting today to Pyongyang's volley of nuclear weapons, seven in all, amid word that the only long-range missile in the bunch, the Taepodong, the one with the potential to reach the western U.S., failed inside a minute of liftoff, due to what U.S. officials are calling a catastrophic mechanical malfunction.

On the other hand, Kim Jong Il's WMD program already proving indisputably stronger than Saddam Hussein's ever was, North Korea now showing signs it plans to try again, U.S. intelligence officials telling NBC News it appears that nation is making preparations for another Taepodong launch, the missile not yet fueled nor on the launch pad, as of dinnertime Wednesday, but apparently in final assembly, a signal that North Korea is not backing down.

At the Pentagon Wednesday, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld saying that the Taepodong's failure to launch does not change the nature of the missile, across town, at the White House, the president telling reporters that the missile launches served only to make North Korea even more of an outcast.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The North Korean government can join the community of nations and improve its lot by - by acting in concert with those who - with those of us who believe that she shouldn't possess nuclear weapons, and by those of us who believe that there's a positive way forward for the North Korean government and her people. This is a choice they make.


OLBERMANN: Time to call our own Richard Wolffe, also the senior White House correspondent of "Newsweek" magazine.

Thanks again you for your time, sir.


My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN: What are we seeing here? Are these lunatics hellbent on ICBMs, or is this the end of the proverbial self-fulfilling prophecy, you tell a tin-pot dictator like Kim Jong Il that he's in the big leagues, and he's going to try to prove even if he has to launch a big rock with a big slingshot?

WOLFFE: Well, he'd probably behave this way whatever you said about him. You know, this wasn't exactly mission accomplished for him. But sending six Scud missiles, effectively, that's what they were, into the Sea of Japan wasn't terribly impressive.

But he did succeed in what he wanted to do, which was getting people to pay attention to him, and especially annoyed the Japanese, which is effectively what happened here.

But, you know, when you look back at the axis of evil speech, and what happened since then, both Iran and North Korea, there's been an acceleration of their nuclear programs, and although these missiles don't work, by consensus, most analysts look at North Korea and say, as a nuclear power, it's more significant a threat than it was before the war in Iraq.

OLBERMANN: Particularly to North Korea, any indication that these tests will change or have changed the administration's approach to North Korea? Is there still a prospect of talks? What is the end game on this?

WOLFFE: Yes, there's still a prospect of talks, even though those talks haven't proceeded for a long time. The administration's hope isn't really that they'll get sanctions through the U.N. They simply want to get North Korea back to the talking point.

But the administration's policy is pretty sketchy after that. It's mostly a process to get North Korea in these multiparty talks, these six-party talks. Beyond that, there's a vague talk of a package of incentives, security, economic aid, that kind of thing. But that hasn't worked in the past, and there's no reason to think it will work in the future. North Korea has taken these deals and proceeded with nuclear programs anyway.

OLBERMANN: From their standpoint, obviously, this must have looked like (INAUDIBLE) if, for whoever few people might have gotten a chance to watch this, it must have looked like that stretch of scenes in the movie "The Right Stuff," where American missile after American missile just basically doesn't get off the pad. But in a figurative sense, could these things backfire? Could the failure of the weapon have weakened, internationally, anyway, Kim Jong Il's hand?

WOLFFE: Well, it weakens it in the sense that anyone looking at this will say, Well, he's not a big a threat as people have suggested, especially folks on the West Coast, they can breathe a little easier. But, you know, if you're in Japan, if you're one of the regional neighbors, there are, obviously, causes to be concerned.

Now, what's interesting here is that South Korea, like the Chinese, have reacted to this saying, Please, take it easy, let's not rush to sanctions, we're not that worried about things. Of course, the South Koreans know they don't need a missile to be facing destruction here from the North Koreans. There's so much conventional artillery facing them in Seoul, for instance, that they don't need these missiles to feel under threat.

So, you know, there's a strange psychology in the region, but it weakens Kim Jong Il in the sense that he's obviously not got these great cards up his sleeve.

OLBERMANN: And the Fourth of July launch, there's some indication that that was not merely a coincidence, this was meant to - (INAUDIBLE) - was it meant to hit the American Independence Day, or did it have something to do with the shuttle launch?

WOLFFE: Hard to tell. You know, but clearly they do like the symbolism. We've seen it before. Certain dates around, and posturing around talks that go on internationally. You know, Kim Jong Il, we know, spends a lot of time on the Internet. He is apparently a big movie buff. You know, I'm sure there was some twisted message he wanted to send, more than just that, you know, he has some missiles and they can, some of them, at least, get off the ground.

OLBERMANN: Probably saw "The Right Stuff." Richard Wolffe of "Newsweek" and MSNBC, great thanks for your time, sir.

WOLFFE: Any time.

OLBERMANN: Almost every action undertaken by the Bush administration since the 9/11 attacks said to be in service to the war on terror, two developments surfacing over the holiday weekend that apparently contradict that claim. Osama bin Laden, for example. You may have noticed he's not only still at large, but now, it appears, he's likely to say that way. National Public Radio the first to report this past Monday that the CIA has closed its unit devoted to hunting down the al Qaeda leader and his top lieutenants, the agency explaining it feels it can better deal with terror threats by focusing on regional trends rather than on one specific individual.

So farewell to the unit Alec (ph) Station, which had been established in 1996.

Then there's the administration claim that domestic wiretapping became necessary after 9/11. So why, then, would the National Security Agency first ask the nation's largest telephone company for its calling records a full seven months before the attacks, Bloomberg News reporting that the NSA may have approached AT&T seeking its help in setting up a domestic call-monitoring site in February 2001.

That allegation made in one of the more than 30 lawsuits that have been filed since the spying program became public that accuse the government of violating privacy rights.

Let's call in terrorism expert, MSNBC analyst, Professor Juliette Kayyem.

Juliette, welcome back.


OLBERMANN: Also of note in that Bloomberg report, the NSA supposedly started implementing, they planned to modernize and improve information technology infrastructure in June 2000. Is there a suggestion here that the concept, at least, of domestic spying, or increasing its capability, was something the NSA had on its wish list even before the current president took office, that there's a dovetailing of agendas here that, one already in place, and one brought in by a new administration?

KAYYEM: Yes, that may be the case of this request from the NSA came during the Clinton administration, at least that's what the Bloomberg article suggests, and it looks like it didn't go forward. And that's what lawyers and administration, some political people, are supposed to say to the spies and the intelligence agencies. They are supposed to be a check on them and on their desires. No one should be surprised that the NSA wanted to increase its authority or its wiretapping availability.

But what's more important about the story, of course, is the suggestion that actually someone from the administration, the Bush administration, approached AT&T before September 11 and said, Help us set up a domestic calling service. I don't know the exact term here. Why the NSA was interested in this, no one knows. And it sort of undermines the Bush administration's argument that NSA domestic wiretapping was made absolutely essential because of September 11, and that it was justified because of September 11.

OLBERMANN: Is there anything to your experience, even if it related to our - in retrospect, primordial knowledge of international terror in February 2001, that could have - someone could have visualized this being of use in that time, to what we knew then? I mean, I know I'm engaging in pre-9/11 thinking here, but evidently, so was the Bush administration.

KAYYEM: Right, right. I mean, for those of us in the administration who worked with FISA beforehand, or who studied this, the Foreign Intelligence Wiretap statute, Surveillance Act, maybe needed some tinkering, but the notion that the NSA could have gone around it seemed sort of far off in terms of anyone's theory of where the NSA should go.

But you have to remember the history. Ford opposed - president - former president Ford opposed the FISA statute. His chief of staff was Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney has long asserted, as he was outside of the administrations, long asserted that FISA undermined the president's authority. And it looks like, when they came into power, regardless of September 11 or not, they were looking at ways around, or to overcome or to sidestep some of these domestic surveillance laws put in place after Nixon to ensure that Americans have their privacy.

So in many ways, I don't know if they - they sort of - 9/11, like the war in Iraq, 9/11 served a goal of this administration in terms of promoting its agenda, whether it was regarding presidential authority, or regarding the fact that they wanted to get Hussein out of power.

OLBERMANN: Certainly does alter the timeline.

But let's turn to talk about people and people in power. Osama bin Laden, does it make sense, from a counterterror point of view, to close, or for the CIA to have closed, it's not like it happened the other day, it was quite awhile ago now -

KAYYEM: Right.

OLBERMANN:... to have closed its dedicated unit about Osama bin Laden?

KAYYEM: It's a different approach, that's for sure. But I don't think it was a very smart one. It's so inconceivable, the theories that would explain it range from, you know, the Bush administration doesn't want to catch Osama bin Laden, to, I think, maybe more credible explanations. One is, clearly, this was under Porter Goss's reign. Porter Goss made a lot of mistakes, including trying to assert his own power over a variety of intelligence units, including the bin Laden unit. So this may have been just a big Porter Goss mistake.

I think the key point here is that however this happened, it could have only happened during an administration that was clearly not focused on the hunt for bin Laden. So whether it was Porter Goss's mistake or Negroponte coming in, whatever the explanation is, the notion that they could think that this was doable, right, that you would - I don't care if bin Laden became Mother Teresa on September 12, he is still responsible for the death of 3,000 people, suggests that their eyes on the bin Laden hunt have long, are sort of everywhere else but the bin Laden hunt, whether it's Iraq or certainly what's going on in Afghanistan with the Taliban.

It defies any, I think, strategic justification, let alone, I mean, just the politics of this, how this could have happened seems to me that the administration might be somewhat embarrassed today.

OLBERMANN: So what has he been for this undetermined period of time since this unit it closed, just a straw dog, so just somebody whose name you can throw out and scare people?

KAYYEM: Right, I think that's right. And I think and someone who shows up every once in a while. And sort of then the administration says, Look, let's be afraid, let's be very afraid. The truth is, is that bin Laden should be captured, and it seems to me and to most people looking at it that it's somewhat inexcusable at this stage that he hasn't been captured, and that we haven't put the resources into it.

OLBERMANN: Well, there's at least this, pick one, I think would be the answer, either he is, or he isn't. Terrorism expert Juliet Kayyem of Harvard, as always, great thanks for your insight.

KAYYEM: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also here, taking the CIA leak investigation to the top. The president purportedly admitting to prosecutors that he instructed the vice president to counter the conclusions of Ambassador Joe Wilson.

And it's one thing to be an amoral fearmonger, but to be an amoral fearmongerer who can't even write her own amoral fear mongering? Ann Coulter, plagiarist?

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Many of the theories of Plamegate have fallen by the wayside over the last two years, but the core has never varied. Somebody in the White House gave somebody a high sign, and the campaign was on to discredit the analysis of Ambassador Joseph Wilson that Saddam Hussein's purported attempt to get uranium from Niger was nonsense. If that meant discrediting Wilson too, so be it. If it meant, inadvertently or otherwise, outing his CIA wife, oops.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, a new report on just who gave that instruction to proceed against Wilson, at least, President George W. Bush. The revelations, which include the president's insistence that he never told anyone to reveal Valerie Plame Wilson's identity or work, comes from the "National Journal" and Murray Waas, citing people familiar with President Bush's interview with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and other federal prosecutors just over two years ago on June 24, 2004.

According to the article, during the interview, the president said "that he had directed Vice President Cheney to personally lead an effort to counter allegations made by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson," that Mr. Cheney should also "disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend the administration but also discredit Wilson."

However, according to the same sources familiar with the president's interview, Mr. Bush reportedly told prosecutors he had "never directed anyone to disclose the identity of then-covert officer Valerie Plame," and was "not aware that Mr. Cheney would direct Libby to leak classified information covertly through the media, instead of through a formal government declassification process."

Niceties aside, the point was not just to rebut Ambassador Wilson's allegations, but also to discredit him. And in that regard, Mr. Waas cites one senior government official familiar with the actual discussions between the president and vice president, who says Mr. Bush told Cheney to, quote, "Get it out, or let's get this out." And if the president did say that, it may have been repeated down the line.

In grand jury testimony, Scooter Libby described Mr. Cheney's directive to him, saying that the vice president, quote, "wanted to get all the facts out about what he," namely, Mr. Wilson, "had or had not done. He was very keen on that and said it repeatedly, Let's get everything out."

For more now on what it is that's out, and what all of the stuff that's out means, we'll call on political analyst Lawrence O'Connell, contributor to the blog

Thank you again for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: First, this is a story with a lot of "reportedlys" and anonymous sources and "people familiar with the interview." Do we credit the Murray Waas report, or do we have to take it with a grain of salt?

O'DONNELL: Well, "The National Journal" is a very respectable publication, and Murray Waas has had some very good reporting on this case, Keith. It's all turning on one senior government official. That's one of the sources. And it may be another senior government official in here. There might be two, there might be one. But it's a senior government official who has talked to the president about this, according to the sourcing of the article.

So this sounds like and reads like an authorized leak from the White House to shape the story at this stage about what kind of authority Scooter Libby actually had from the president and from the vice president to be talking about this matter with the reporters.

It is a generally helpful story for Scooter Libby's image in terms of what he was actually doing in talking to reporters. It doesn't help Libby in any way with the perjury charges that he's facing.

OLBERMANN: How does it help anybody in the administration to have a line that starts with the president, goes through the vice president, and moves on to Scooter Libby? Would that not be somewhat troublesome, were it to be aired out at trial of Mr. Libby?

O'DONNELL: Well, if this goes to trial. But if what we have here is groundwork for a pardon after the congressional election, say a Christmas pardon, this story would actually be helpful, because this story would put Libby in a position of having been authorized, and, in effect, ordered, to get out there, making the administration's case about Joe Wilson's claims, and then possibly Libby, the worst he did was trip over that little matter of Joe Wilson's wife, which he didn't quite realize was something he wasn't supposed to say.

It generally puts Libby in a more favorable light. Libby, in this story, is very careful about checking with another lawyer in the White House about, can he really do this? Is it all legal, what he's about to do? And so it's actually a story about how the White House is being actually rather careful about it.

And, you know, there were some very legitimate things that the White House was interested in in Joe Wilson's op-ed piece. One was the implication, for example, Keith, that the vice president ordered this mission, which the vice president, I think at this stage, very clearly didn't. He has notes on Joe Wilson's op-ed piece, asking questions about how this mission was authorized in the first place, and is it the kind of thing we usually do, sending a former ambassador?

I think those notes written by the vice president clearly indicate he didn't know about this mission ahead of time. And that was one of the things they wanted to straighten out in Joe Wilson's account.

OLBERMANN: Let's wrap it up with this, that supposed claim in this interview in - that is reported in this piece, that the president said he never set up Valerie Plame as a target. Is that relevant in this? Is it exculpatory? Is it trivial? Where does it fit into the whole picture?

O'DONNELL: It's - this is a story. If you look at the way the story lines up, the president, the vice president, and Libby, it makes - it treats the president most carefully, and makes it very clear that the president did not have anything to do with Valerie Plame's name emerging, and the vice president is in a little bit more of a gray area, but the vice president's part of this story also insists he had nothing to do with revealing Valerie Plame.

And then you're left with Libby, who doesn't really have much of a role in this story, except to look like the good and faithful servant who is executing the mission the president wants him to execute, which I think the White House would put as clarifying the Joe Wilson story and putting out the truth about that mission as opposed to discrediting him or attacking him in any way. They wanted to put out another intelligence report that was the opposite of Joe Wilson's report.

So the White House doesn't think it was - they would say it wasn't an attack mode that they were in.

OLBERMANN: The political analyst, HuffingtonPost contributor, Lawrence O'Donnell. As always, great thanks for joining us.

O'DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Speaking of exposure, what better way to protest the running of the bulls in Pamplona than removing your clothes and strolling down the street with a strategically placed banner or sign somewhere about your body?

And the one true lawn mower man riding his way into the record books.

He's driving right here to the studio. He'll join us ahead on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Maybe it's that July 4th thing, but boy, is July 5th short of historical stuff. I mean, it was the birthday of the character Benny from "L.A. Law." That's about all I got.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin in Pamplona, Spain, where you can always tell it's almost time for the running of the bulls when the naked PETA protesters show up. All right, well, these people aren't naked, they're brassieres on. Good grief. It's the big annual running of the nudes, about 1,400 naked or semiclothed men and women showed up to march down the famous cobblestones two days before the first bulls run on Friday.

The event is designed to call attention to the horrible cruelty suffered by the animals in this town each year. But actually, it only serves to get the party started. If they really wanted to help, they'd tell the bulls to take down as many of the drunks as they can on their way out, because the only thing that will ever stop the event is human casualties.

To China, where, look, one of them escaped. This bull actually did make a daring getaway from a slaughterhouse in the northern Chinese city of Da Lian (ph). And then he hit the streets in search of a little action. He found it, injured a couple of bystanders, but police forces were able to take him down before the bull was able to enter a china shop and become a living cliche illustrated.

But he'll be all right, folks. It was just a tranquilizer dart. And he woke up a short time later safe and sound, back at the slaughterhouse.


Finally, to Norris, Tennessee, for an annual Fourth of July event that just missed the cut for "Keith Olbermann's America." It's the great Museum of Appalachia Anvil Shoot. Oooh, aaah. Yes, that was an anvil.

It's an old tradition in these parts, the fill the thing with explosive black powder, put another anvil on top, light it and run. They've been doing this for hundreds of years and still they have not hit the Roadrunner even once.

(Beep, beep!)

OLBERMANN: As if her books are not bad enough, a plagiarism expert says Ann Coulter stole parts of the new one from authors not herself. He will join us, no Ann, the plagiarism expert.

The verdict is in on Rush Limbaugh's Viagra in somebody else's name. Keep your chin up, boy. Those stories ahead, now here are Countdown's "Top 3 Newsmakers" of this day.

No. 3, Ken Lay, the infamous Enron chairman. While at his home in Colorado awaiting sentencing on 10 fraud and conspiracy counts, he died. The preliminary autopsy report showed severe coronary disease and evidence of the past heart attack although toxicology - the drug tests are not back yet. It's not a final decision.

No. 2, John Hopwood, a motorist caught speeding in Manchester in England. To mitigate his offense he went back to the area he'd been caught and changed the speed limit to sign one that had a higher number on it. It's clever except evidently it did not dawn on him that if the cameras caught him speeding there, they would also catch him changing the speed limit sign there.

No. 1, unidentified pranksters in Berlin, they tied soccer balls by chains to lampposts, trees, and hand rails, as least six of them and wrote the message, "Can you kick it?" At least two World Cup fans suffered severe bruises to their feet by trying tried and broke their hands or feet by trying because the soccer balls had been filled with concrete. Police say their search for the culprits will begin at the Acme Sporting Goods and Roadrunner Catching Equipment Company.


OLBERMANN: Ann Coulter's latest screech, "Godless," has reached No. 1 on the "New York Times" best seller list for nonfiction. We can debate how much of it is none and how much is fiction. But there's a more pressing issue. How much of it did she write and how much did she steal? Our third on the Countdown, an expert on the subject saysa Coulter is guilty of "textbook plagiarism" and concluded that she's passing off as her own writing the works of people at "L.A. Times," the Heritage Foundation, even Planned Parenthood without giving any of them even a footnote's worth of credit. That expert, John, Barrie, will join us presently. His company took Coulter's book and ran it through a program called iThenticate.

Apparently Coulter is not godless, but she clueless when it comes to ripping off other's writing. In a chapter entitled "The Holiest Sacrament, Abortion" there's a 25 word passage straight out of literature from Planned Parenthood. It had been taken virtually word-for-word, it is factual. Concerns the president of a Mississippi Baptist Convention, but there is no credit given.

In another chapter entitled "The Creation Myth," Coulter manages another long passage, this one 24 word, that is neither hers nor attributed, this time in a passage about the galactic ruler Xenu. She steals from the "San Francisco Chronicle" though she did changed two of the worlds and we have highlighted them in italics, as you see.

But the longest, apparently stolen passage on page five of Coulter's book, 33 words long, from the 1999 article in the "Portland Press," again the four words that were, in fact, changed in Coulter's book, we highlighted in atalics.

And in Coulter's Universal Press columnists for the past 12 months, the iThenticate program found her borrowing from an "L.A. Times" article, and the Heritage Foundation. As promised, the CEO and founder of iParadigmss, creator of a leader - plagiarism recognition system, John Barrie joins us.

Thank you for your time, sir.

JOHN BARRIE, IPARADIGMSS: Hey Keith, how is it going?

OLBERMANN: You have called this textbook plagiarism. Is that because the theft that you located is virtually word-for-word or what's the definition of this?

BARRIE: Well that's right, I mean analyze between 50 and 60,000 works every single day from all over the country, from, actually from all over the world and, you know, in a situation like this where you have that much text used without citation or reference to anybody, and pass off as actually Ann Coulter's own words, that's pretty much textbook plagiarism.

OLBERMANN: The book is one thing, but you have found a colt up from August 2005 that had six different passages from an "L.A. Times" article and they were in the same order in Coulter's book. Is that - the thing is textbook plagiarism, is this advanced plagiarism? What is this called?

BARRIE: Right, well the "New York Post" came to us and wanted us to analyze Ann Coulter's book "Godless" and the last 12 months of her syndicated column and we found multiple examples of this sort of thing. It is, I guess I'd agree with you, it is sort of advanced plagiarism. But I got to tell you, after a while we just gave up, we said look, there's enough of it, there you go. You know, we're done reading Ann Coulter's work.

OLBERMANN: We're not - I mean, clarifying here, we're not accusing her of recycling materials from her own columns in the book; this is the work of other writerers?

BARRIE: No, this is not Ann Coulter, this is a work - these are works from third parties that were used without citation, that's right.

OLBERMANN: The column from June 2005, "Facts from the National Endowment for the Arts" but they were taken from a Heritage Foundation report also presented in the same order. Is - would any question of the authenticity of doing this, I mean, people quote other people's work and use long books and passages and columns all the time, under any circumstances has nothing to with a political point of view or the nature of the work, are we talking about somebody who just would not put a footnote in or a credit, is that what this boils down to?

BARRIE: Look, I think the examples you've given today are the same things that would flunk an English 1A student, you know, writing some term paper on the same type of subjects.

OLBERMANN: The sloppiness aside or the failure aside, you also say that you discovered that when Miss Coulter did cite sources in her book, the citations were misleading. Explain what that means.

BARRIE: Well it's interesting because as the "Post" asked us to go through her book and through her articles, it was extremely unclear what the citations were referring to. She had citations, maybe three or four paragraphs later but, you know, the preceding four paragraphs were all quoted from the same source. So, you know, it was that sort of free and loose use of citations that's made it very, very difficult to try to determine whether Ann Coulter was citing that material or whether she was just trying to pass it off as her own, but again, just playing free and loose with the citations.

OLBERMANN: Going through the material in the book or any of the columns, did you see anything in there by her about Jayson Blair, by any chance?

BARRIE: You know what, I've read a little bit about what Ann Coulter had to say about Jayson Blair and from my understanding she pretty much skewered Mr. Blair for what he did back at the "New York Times."

OLBERMANN: Maybe somebody can get him to write an op-ed and return the favor. Plagiarism expert, John Barrie, CEO of the iParadigms Company. Great thanks for joining us.

BARRIE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Liftoff, we have liftoff. We also have falloff again. Bits of foam breaking off the space shuttle as it headed into orbit, now the crew checking to make sure nothing else is busted. Fingers crossed, please.

Speaking of transport, I may not have made it very far trying to race a lawnmower on the streets of Secaucus a few years back, but one man made it up to 80-miles-an-hour on his, and with Lester Holt throwing the flag. That is about eight-miles-an-hour there. That man will join us, 80-mile-an-hour guy. But first here are Countdown's "Top 3 Sound Bites" of this day.


DANA PRIEST, PBS: William Bennett sitting here saying that three reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize were "not worthy of an award but rather worthy of jail."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not a crime to publish classified information. Now, why isn't it a crime? I mean, some people would like to make casino gamble a crime, but it is not a crime. Why isn't it not a crime? Because of the framers of the Constitution.

BUSH: Would you like me to buy you a cup of coffee? Yeah, what would you want in it? The man offered to give me the coffee for free. You can't run your business if you give your coffee away. I understand how commerce works. He offers a product I want, I then pay for the product. I'll handle that, thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) was turning the hot dogs when one of those slipped away, fell onto the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was either eat it or put it on the antenna and went with put it on the antenna.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five years later it's still there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Snowstorms, hailstorms. It's a tough dog.


OLBERMANN: It is in orbit, but is it undamaged? The uncertain future of space shuttle "Discovery." And one man's contribution to land speed records, setting a new bar for the lawnmower. That's ahead. This is Countdown.


OLBERMANN: To the layman, it would seem obvious, after the disastrous, tragic, heart breaking history of the space shuttle and foam. Perhaps there's some way to phase out the foam. Our No. 2 story in the Countdown, the shuttle "Discovery" go into space on the Fourth of July, but not without the now obligatory and ceaselessly nerve-rattling shedding of foam on liftoff. Our correspondent at the Johnson Space Center in Houston is Leanne Gregg.


LEANNE GREGG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During their first full day in space, "Discovery's" crew used a robotic arm to look for damage to the shuttle. Images from lasers and digital cameras attached to the arm will help mission managers see if debris from yesterday's launch struck the shuttle.

TONY CECCACCI, SHUTTLE FLIGHT DIRECTOR: I think it's going to take them about eight or 10 hours to get a really look at the first part of the survey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And liftoff of the space shuttle "Discovery".

GREGG: Pictures taken during liftoff show pieces of foam falling off the external fuel tank, but NASA officials said the launch debris likely caused no significant damage.

WAYNE HALE, SHUTTLE PROGRAM MANAGER: We saw nothing that gives us any kind of concern about the health of the crew or the vehicle.

GREGG: Debris is blamed for the "Columbia" disaster three years ago after foam from the external fuel tank slammed into the shuttle's wing during launch. The damage caused the orbiter to break apart while re-entering the earth's atmosphere. All seven astronauts on board were killed.

Since then NASA has spent more $1 billion to redesign the fuel tank and upgrade safety. It could be several days before the space agency knows decisively whether any launch debris damaged "Discovery."

(on camera): A priority of this mission is testing shuttle inspection and repair techniques. The astronauts will arrive at the International Space Station Thursday to deliver badly need supplies. Leanne Gregg, NBC News, Johnson Space Center, Houston.


OLBERMANN: From the space shuttle to the pocket rocket, as we transition to the celebrity and entertainment stories of "Keeping Tabs." And comedian Rush Limbaugh is off the hook for the whole Viagra mishap. The Florida state attorney's office saying it will not file charges over the incident which the radio host got hold up at customs with 29 days of the blue pills out of a 30-day supply described in the name of his doctor. The matter will be handled over to the Miami Dade County officials to investigate the misdabling, but Mr. Limbaugh says he's learned his lesson, announcing on his comedy program that he's not flying anywhere overseas until his probationary period is over. "It's just too easy" he said, "to be framed by customs officials."

And you've heard by now that in a bid to engender world peace, Mr. Limbaugh will be donating those 29 Viagra pills to the North Korea missile program.

Meanwhile a story from the New York social scene tying together so many celebrity names it appears that it lacks only Kevin Bacon for a complete set. The story reported by the gossip page of the "New York Post" but witnessed firsthand by MSNBC's own general manager, Dan Abrams.

Seems Kathy Hilton, that's she, mother of Paris Hilton, was at the big Claudia Cohen party in the Hamptons over the holiday where she nearly fell all over herself to give the warmest best wishes to the recently - put at liberty, Star Jones. Afterwards she turned to the man sitting with Ms. Jones and said, "And it's great to see you, Al." However the woman - or the man sitting next to her was not Al Reynolds, husband of Star Jones, it was Bryant Gumbel. Mrs. Hilton later said maybe it's time she gets her eyes checked. Mr. Gumbel is said to be inconsolable.

Bryant, it could be worse. You could be living on the street eating from garbage cans and viewing squirrels as gourmet dinners, like Vivi the whippet. That's what authorities believe has become of the celebrated West Minuter Kennel Club Show Dog after she was reportedly spotted once again this week in Queens, New York five months after having escaped from a crate at New York's JFK Airport after the dog's show. The latest citing leads Vivi's owners and trainers to believe the dog is living the life of a stray. They vow to keep up the search as the famous - as to the famous dog psychic who had visions of Vivi on a boat to France wearing a funny hat of some sort. The psychic has apologized. She was not seeing Vivi, she says she was seeing Bryant Gumbel.

Time for another edition of "Keith Olbermann's America" and fastest mower in the West. Fastest mower in the world. The pilot of the lightning fast machine will join us, that's ahead. But first, time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for "Worst Person in the World."

The Bronze to Benny the Bull. Barry Anderson is his real name, the second Chicago Bulls basketball mascot to have been arrested in the last two years. Anderson is alleged to have taken a swing in full costume at an off-duty police officer during the Fourth of July Taste of Chicago celebration. The previous Bulls mascot was caught selling pot at the Cabrini Green projects.

The runner-up, reporter Virginia Wheeler of the London tabloid the "Sun" reporting that David Hasselhoff was ejected from the Wimbledon tennis tournament for being "steamy drunk." Quoted him as saying, "You should let me in, do you know who I am? I'm the Hoff." Great story, lots of yucks. Statement from Wimbledon officials, Hasselhoff was not ejected, nobody there saw him drunk. He apparently had mistaken the media center for the entrance to court 13 and was being redirected to the correct entrance. Close, "Sun."

But the winners, the human resources command of your United States Army. When it came time to get somebody, anybody, to be go to Iraq, the Defense Department notified former Captain Jim Dillinger of Mount Orab, Ohio. They told him he was one of 5,600 members of the Individual Ready Reserve who hadn't read the fine print and had to head out. He thought he had been told his military obligation had ended in April 1999. It was not until he got back, after a year destroying road-side bombs in Iraq that he discovered somebody made a "mistake" and altered his obligation ending date from April 1999 to July 2010. He was given an immediate discharge and an apology.

Army Human Resources Command, today's "Worst Persons in the World."


OLBERMANN: In our No. 1 story, it's the second installment of the segment that's fast becoming a Countdown fan favorite.

Our year long journey down the dirt roads to and concrete ribbons that span our great country for longer than a year, if we can milk the premise. Another edition of "Keith Olbermann's America."

Last week we begin at the Oklahoma Auto Shoot where the cans and Nissan Sentras stand only a snowball's chance against firepower that would make terrorists blanch. This time we're heading, oh, out to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where the air is tangy and barren salty ground is perfect for testing racing cars in pursuit of the various land speed records. But there's no mistaking why Bob Cleveland showed up there on the Fourth of July, he wanted his own record. The World Lawnmower Land Speed Record.

Plopped on top of the converted blade trimmer, Bob Cleveland's goal for the day, a stunning 100-miles-an-hour riding a lawn mower. For a few hours and several dangerous runs, he abandoned the record-setting attempt, ending the day falling short of the elusive century mark. But as Mr. Cleveland knows, he does not need "Keith Olbermann's America" to tell him and miss, you are still among the stars. Hardly a total loss, his best time, 81-miles-an-hour, which set the World Lawnmower Land Speed Record, in part, we believe, because there had not been a previous World Lawnmower Land Speed Record. We're now joined by the man himself, the World Lawnmower Land Speed Record holder, Bob Cleveland.

Great thanks for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: All right, we'll start with the simple one. Why?

CLEVELAND: Well, back when I was young, I used to cut the grass and every time I cut the grass I'd tried to go a little bit quicker each time and I can remember when I was about 12 years old that I said if they had a mowing competition, I'd probably win it. But then I started to working at a lawnmower company back in' 76 and we had a fast mower, so we started playing with it. I worked in the test department and we ended up going like, around 75-mile-an-hour back then. So, we've been going fast for a lawnmower for long time. And of course, everybody's dream, anybody that's got a car, motorcycle, truck or anything, they really want to come out to the Bonneville Salt Flats to see how fast it'll go.

OLBERMANN: I'm assuming, though, that if you're actually - actually were mowing lawns at 70-80-miles-an-hour, you wouldn't get very much done in the way of the mowing. The grass cutting is no longer a part of the equation for you?

CLEVELAND: Well, you know, everybody asked me, can you actually cut grass going that fast, and of course, I say no, I don't cut grass, I just go fast. Or, I tell them that, well, when I get through the grass is gone.

OLBERMANN: You certainly cleaned off the salt flats if there was anything left there. But now watching this footage, the first thing that goes through anybody's mind looking at that footage, the pilot of this craft could easily injury himself. What protections were you taking, how tight were you holding on to that steering wheel?

CLEVELAND: Well, I tell you what, there's some grip marks on this steering wheel. I got some sore fingers from gripping so tight, but I've been going fast for a long time and I was a little nervous when I came out because it's a new surface that wasn't familiar with and I didn't really know what to expect. I had some guys tell me that I wouldn't have any problem, but until I got on it and shot down once or twice, I was pretty nervous and I did have a grip on here, even though I do have the protective gear, I got the whole suit and I got a helmet, so I got the protective gear and then of course everybody wants to know, well, you got a seatbelt on that thing and I say, no, if anything happens, I'm jumping.

OLBERMANN: So - now, do you go for 100 again? Are you still - is that still the goal here?

CLEVELAND: Well, it's definitely a goal because I told my boss that I could do it and I come out here, I believe I probably could do it at home on the pave pavement with - with - but, you can go 100-mile-an-hour. I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it someday.

OLBERMANN: All right, well go as fast as you can as we talk you off. That's pretty fast. Hey Bob, you got all of our equipment. We need the earpiece. Bob? OK. Bob? That's it. And the mike cord's probably gone now. That's Bob Cleveland going off into the night at the Bonneville Salt Flats in pursuit of the dream. He's almost at the Pacific Ocean. Bob Cleveland, now officially the fastest man on a mower. Great thanks for joining us, wherever you are now.

That's Countdown for this the 1,161st day since the declaring of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with "Scarborough Country."

Joe, good evening.