'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 28
Guests: Wayne Barrett, Dana Milbank, Michael Ratner, Mike German, Joel McHale
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? St. Rudy of 9/11 has been linked to the family which harbored the mastermind of 9/11. His firm, Giuliani Security and Safety has contracts with the Interior Ministry of Qatar run by Abdullah Bin Khalid Al-Thani accused of helping Khalid Sheik Mohammed escaped the FBI. And Giuliani welcomed to New York three weeks after 9/11 the head of Al-Thani's family, Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar. Himself, the principal founder of the al-Jazeera TV Network, himself host to the Iranian President Ahmadinejad a year ago at an event the security of which was provided by Giuliani's company. Rudy's ties to a terrorist shake with the reporter who broke the extraordinary story, Wayne Barrett of the "Village Voice." The former president stokes the campaign fires in Iowa. He was against the war Iraq from the start and thought it madness that rich people like him did not have to pay taxes for it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FMR UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning, I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Blackwater mercenaries now accused of taking steroids and other, quote, "Judgment-altering substances" by families of their victims in Iraq as they sue in Washington. A nation of spies. Homeland Security training New York City firefighters to look during inspections not for fire code infractions but for terrorists. Be alert for a person who is hostile, uncooperative or expressing hate or discontent with the United States. Maybe they could find out if Britney Spears is really pregnant. Four weeks along and she already had an ultrasound? Truth squadding the latest rumors and the other one that she's been trying on lingerie in public. Oh and Kevin Federline has chosen one of the top young fathers in the country. Possibly, because he has yet to run screaming into the streets saying this crazy woman is trying on lingerie in public. All that and more, now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN (on camera): Good evening. This is Wednesday, November 28th, 342 days until the 2008 presidential election. It is a startling and potentially ruiniest revelation for Rudy Giuliani. Our fifth story on the Countdown: There are countless what ifs about 9/11, hundreds of events, maybe thousands of lives, any one of which if just altered slightly might have preempted the attacks. But this one involves a man identified tonight as a close business associate of Mr. Giuliani's. A man accused of having harbored in, then helped 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed escape from the Gulf nation of Qatar hours before the arrest that would have been affected by an FBI team.
The war on terror candidate looking tonight, a lot more like the ties to terror candidate. Wayne Barrett of the "Village Voice" reporting that Mr. Giuliani's extensive business contracts with the nation of Qatar tie him directly to the man who kept Khalid Sheik Mohammed out of American hands. He is Abdullah Bin Khalid Al-Thani, he was Qatar's Islamic Affairs Minister at the time and its Interior Minister since 2001 when the FBI was hours away from closing in on Khalid Sheik Mohammed in 1996, Al-Thani who was harboring the suspect is widely accused of tipping him off to the FBI agent's imminent arrival as well as giving him 20 blank passports. Former CIA case officer, Robert Bayer says he did so with the blessing and probably the direct orders of this man, the Emir of Qatar.
You may remember, Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani from his trip to New York City during the 9/11 aftermath, offering to make a $3 million donation, most of it to go to the families of the victims. Mayor Giuliani more than glad to take that check and to serve as Emir's personal tour guide during his visit and to be his fellow guest on the Larry King Show on CNN. That, it seems, was only the beginning of their alliance. Years after his mayoralty had ended, Mr. Giuliani was to begin a far more lucrative partisanship with the government of Qatar, specifically with the Interior Ministry run by, you guessed it, the fellow member of Qatar's royal family, Abdullah Al-Thani.
If letting the 9/11 mastermind go were not bad enough for that man, Al-Thani is also said to have hosted Osama Bin Laden on two separate visits to his farm. It is with this terrorist aider and abettor that Mr. Giuliani's security firm, a subsidiary of Giuliani Partners has worked on undisclosed number of contracts, reports the "Village Voice," some of which Giuliani himself and his employees openly have acknowledged. Mr. Giuliani telling a South African newspaper in June 2006, that he, quote, "Recently helped Qatar to transform Doha in advanced of the Asian Games, an Olympic style competition that his firm oversaw for last December. The Emir's special guest at that, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Village Voice" senior editor, Wayne Barrett who reported this joins us now. He is also of course the author of "Grand Illusion: The untold story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11." Wayne, good evening.
WAYNE BARRETT, VILLAGE VOICE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Even if Rudy Giuliani did not know about the central role that Qatar has played as a facilitator of terrorism, if he didn't know that in October of 2001 when he hosted the Emir and was his, you know, tour guide, television pal, was there enough evidence making the case against Qatar by the time the Giuliani Partners started doing business with that country in 2005?
BARRETT: Keith, he would have had to have been deaf, dumb, and blind not to know it because he then in 2005 had running his security unit, two of the FBI agents who had been pursuing the Qatar relationship. In fact, Ali Sulfan (ph) who was the lead FBI investigator in both the Khobar towers case and the Afghan - no excuse me, in the Cole case, he was the lead investigator and the investigation of the embassy bombings in Africa, he was the lead investigator and Qatar. I have a hard time with the pronunciation of it but a Qatar charitable society that the Emir directed the funding of this - they participated directly in the funding of the bombing in - of the African Embassy. So, if he just looked around and listened to his own staff he would have known. But of course, if he read the newspapers, the "New York Times," the "LA Times," Brian Ross on ABC made major rest revelations about the connections between the Qatar government and the spiriting off Khalid Sheik Mohammed in 1996. The 9/11 Commission made references to it. The State reports, the Department of State reports on the country of Qatar eluded right up to 2004 to its protection of transnational terrorists. So there was just an overwhelming amount of evidence available to Rudy when he made the decision in 2005 to make Qatar one of his company's principal clients.
OLBERMANN: So, what? I'll give you the multiple choice here, you raised A, that he's an idiot for not knowing this, B, the other option that he knew full well about it - the terrorism ties, didn't care because it was millions of dollars or C, whichever it is, doesn't make a difference because this idea of him as a terrorism candidate as St. Rudy of 9/11 is meaningless?
BARRETT: Well, you know, by 2005, the United States had a very complicated relationship with Qatar. It was fully aware of its ties to international terrorism but Qatar was also supplying military bases to the United States. It was then viewed as an important ally. I think the conundrum really for Rudy as a candidate is he parades around America as the black and white candidate, who only - can't see any gray. And so, here you have a relationship where he could see the gray because there was so much gold involved. But otherwise, he's a guy who only sees good guys and bad guys and, clearly, on that scale, the government of Qatar is a bad guy based on its history and its relationships. But he was willing to go past that and, even as you indicated, go to the games in Doha with not only the Iranian president present and honored by the Emir but the Syrian president and the new Hamas president of Palestine who then cut a deal while Rudy was in Doha, the Emir meets with the head of the Hamas government and cuts a deal where he's going to pay for all the teachers, pay the health costs of the Hamas government which the United States was trying to boycott at that very moment. That's in December of 2006. They're there together on the same day in Doha at the Asian Games. Rudy is kind of hiding out. Nobody knows he's there. But he's there.
OLBERMANN: So you've got this. You've got Ahmadinejad, you've got Hamas. His firm has also represented a casino that was looking or partisanship was looking to build this resort in Singapore. It included the family of the controversial Hong Kong billionaire who was connected to Kim Jong-il in North Korea. You've got, Kim Jong-il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas, Roger aisles, is there any dictator here that he won't associate himself with?
BARRETT: Well, wherever there is a dollar to be made, Rudy clearly didn't draw any lines. Now look, many private corporations don't draw these lines. I could not find and I spent a good deal of time looking for it, any other American security company that was providing security advice to the government of Qatar. But, certainly, major other corporations there, usually the oil corporations are there. A lot of American companies do business in Qatar but not any other company that is being headed by a man still paid by this company, headed by a guy who's running for president and running on the strength of this platform of I am the counter terrorism expert, make me president for that.
OLBERMANN: Well, you know, he may be an expert in ways that he really doesn't want the rest of us to know. The term must read is overused but this is one of those stories. Wayne Barrett of the "Village Voice," great work on it and great thanks for your time tonight.
BARRETT: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: All right. More on how this revelation might impact the Giuliani candidacy. Let's turn now to our own Dana Milbank, national political reporter of the "Washington Post." Dana, good evening.
DANA MILBANK, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Well, is this an awful lot in that story and some of it requires sorting through with tough names, but can that be boiled down into something that really impacts Rudy Giuliani either in terms of the Iowa caucuses 36 days from now or later?
MILBANK: Well, it absolutely can. It's not just this story and it's been building for some time now. But here, it can be summarized in a bumper sticker. Rudy where's your client list? He's not releasing it from his business affairs. We don't know whether he's had more wives or sheiks for whom he's been on the payroll. You can be sure that's going to dog him in a large way. Now, we should point out, I don't believe there's any allegation that anything is improper or illegal here. But the fact is this is the central message of his campaign that he's the guy to stand against the terrorists but now you have to add this caveat unless he's got a business relationship.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I mean, if this were a Democrat with these connections, and, again, without the allegation of illegality, but just the connections, is there any doubt that there would be a Republican ad being created right now, right in this minute in some studio somewhere that would show a photo of him and a photo of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and photo of Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-il?
MILBANK: And you mix them together and they become Bernie Kerik.
OLBERMANN: That's right.
MILBANK: Well, certainly that would be the case. But I would not be surprised if Democrats or other Republicans are working on this very thing right now. It's irresistible. You're with us or with the terrorists or now you are with Giuliani is the third possibility.
OLBERMANN: As if these were not enough, there is the other story that, much more simple to understand that as mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani billed obscure agencies within the city government tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses which turned out to be expenses for trips he took to the Hampton's when he was beginning his extramarital affair with the woman who is now his third wife. Is there a sense of Mr. Giuliani going from crisis to crisis here? How much more can a campaign take?
MILBANK: Well, give him a little credit for sense of humor. He was shacking up with his then girlfriend in the Hampton's and he billed the security to the New York City loft board. Some of the other security expenses were billed to the agency that helps indigent defendants and the disabled. So, the story actually has potential legs there as well. Again, this goes to a central message of Rudy's campaign. He likes to talk about his competence in governing and Ben Smith with the "Politico," formerly of "The Daily News," dug this up with the freedom of information request. You just wonder how many other things are out there.
OLBERMANN: No, if he started taking people from Qatar out to the Hampton's on the city's dime I think that's about a wrap there. But we can't let you go without asking about this other '08 campaign news. Fact-checking by the (inaudible) today on President Clinton's assertion yesterday in Iowa that he was against the Iraq war since the very beginning. The advisors saying it would have been inappropriate for him to have said that until now. But he had said several times since the war began he would not have attacked Iraq in the manner that his successor did, June of 2004 quote was, "I would not have done it until after Hans Blix finished the job." Referring to weapons inspections before the war began. He seemed to be trying to roll the thing back in Iowa today. Is it a one day headline? Did he create a mess for his wife the senator and candidate? Where did we stand on this?
MILBANK: He did because it sounds very Clintonian, in terms of reinventing the past and depending on what the definition of against it was. Certainly, had he spoken out at the time he could have had an extraordinary amount of influence. And this is the problem, there's a lot of Democrats who could have changed things, didn't at the time.
OLBERMANN: Rudy, where's your client list? I hope you trademark that.
MILBANK: It's all yours, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Get out of it. No, go now. I mean don't even wait for the car to take you home. Dana Milbank of MSNBC and the "Washington Post." Great thanks, Dana.
MILBANK: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And this programming note tomorrow night here on Countdown, former Senator John Edwards will be my guest. He will join us live from the campaign trail in Iowa. John Edwards, tomorrow night live on Countdown.
Tonight, two extraordinary charges by the survivors of the Blackwater massacre, killing people as part of the company's business model and a quarter of its people in Baghdad are on steroids or similar substances. And a page out of Fahrenheit 451 - firefighters sent into American homes with instructions from the government to look for people expressing discontent with the country. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The claim that killing people is part of the Blackwater marketing strategy and that at least a quarter of the company's mercenaries in Baghdad are taking steroids or other judgment-altering drugs. The president of the group representing survivors of the Blackwater massacre in a lawsuit joins me next. And ahead in Worst Persons, sure, the former Bush cabinet member says, you can test waterboarding on me. Just guarantee me I'll survive it. Ahead, here on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It's as if the Blackwater story had collided with Barry Bonds, a new filing in the civil lawsuit over this summer's Blackwater massacre in Baghdad contained startling new claims about the shooting and the controversial company itself. Our fourth story tonight: Blackwater being sued by two surviving victims and families of five of the 17 fatalities, including a doctor shot dead as she cradled her dying son. Both the U.S. military and FBI reportedly having no reason for Blackwater shooters to have opened fire. The new filing makes the astonishing claim that at least one out of four Blackwater gunmen deployed in Baghdad were taking steroids or other drugs that could alter judgments that Blackwater knew this and failed to stop it. The filing also claims that the Blackwater massacre occurred after the Blackwater guards had already dropped off a State Department official they were protecting, that they disobeyed orders to remain with that official in a secure area and even that one Blackwater employee tried to stop the shooting, he was ignored. Blackwater declining to address most of the suits specifics except to say that drug use violates company policy. Most horrifically the suit promises to prove quote, "That Blackwater views its willingness to kill innocent people as a strategic advantage setting Blackwater apart and above security companies."
Let's bring in Michael Ratner, president of the group representing Iraqis in this lawsuit, the Center for Constitutional Rights. Thank you for your time tonight, Mr. Ratner.
MICHAEL RATNER, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Thank you for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's start with some clarity about that claim in the lawsuit. Are you alleging that Blackwater willingly, knowingly has its employees kill innocent people as a cost benefit way to preserve its reputation for keeping its clients safe?
RATNER: What we say in the lawsuit is there is a culture essentially of impunity of allowing excessive use of force, allowing reckless use of force that encourages Blackwater employees to kill innocent people. They do that by not investigating instances where there're people killed, by covering up killings, and by allowing shooters, that's what they call their security people, an interesting term, they call them shooters, so think about that allowing those people to go into the field drugged up. That's what we say here, that there is a - this company basically encourages the reckless use of force.
OLBERMANN: All right. Let's turn right to that other headline then, that 25 percent drugged up figure seems very specific. Does that estimate originate with Blackwater itself and what's the significance of the drug charges in relation to this suit?
RATNER: Well, the information we got was that Blackwater knowingly sends shooters into the field either on steroids or other mind-altering drugs. As you know, steroids caused severe, severe aggression in people and that certainly may be one explanation for the number of killings that goes on with Blackwater. The 25 percent figure, we believe that in discovery, which we will ultimately get, that we will be able to show that 25 percent of the Blackwater shooters that go into the field are drugged up in some way or another.
OLBERMANN: This suit specifically names the founder of this company, Eric Prince, as a defendant. Why going after him personally and not merely in his function as the operative guy of this company?
RATNER: Well, Eric Prince owned the entire company personally. He owns this whole business. He owns all 20 or 30 fronts for the company. He owns the whole thing. So, he's the guy who essentially can change things. Is the one who has condoned it, essentially. He's the one that should be liable for what Blackwater has done.
OLBERMANN: Your suit alleges that the co-founder of the company left because he had these problems with Mr. Prince and how he, Mr. Prince, was running Blackwater. What exactly is he telling you?
RATNER: Well, I really am not at liberty than to say more than what is in the lawsuit but that he did have problems with Eric Prince and he left for that reason, which is what the lawsuit says.
OLBERMANN: All right. Under the Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, the State Department took statements from the Blackwater shooters at the scene and promised them that the statements would not be used against them. They are trying to figure out how that happened and what can be done to undo it. Can you use those statements and what has your experience been regarding the parallel inquiries going on from the State Department, from the FBI and anything else we might not know about?
RATNER: Well, first of all we can use those statements in civil cases if we can get them and I think we'll be able to. It's not a criminal case, the civil case for damages. What's shocking to me is that the State Department which hired Blackwater to do this security then gives them immunity and essentially it looks like a massive cover up between the State Department and Blackwater, it makes no sense. In fact, the State Department apparently didn't even have the authority to give immunity to people. So, it's a real shocker. The other investigations, of course, the FBI has done an investigation here, in which it basically said that there was an unprovoked incident in which innocent civilians were killed. They didn't have any weapons and they were essentially murdered by Blackwater. There is an FBI investigation. The Iraqi government has done an investigation similarly which finds the same thing. Of course, the problem here in the end is that these private contractors like Blackwater cannot be held accountable in Iraq by the Iraqis. They were given immunity by the United States. There's difficulties with prosecutions otherwise. And so, they're basically feel that they have these weapons, whether assault weapons, glocks, whatever they have and they can use them with impunity. Until you have a system established that they can actually be held accountable, you have a problem. And of course, the whole problem with private contractors, it's mid evil to me, Keith, running around the countryside. It just mid evil.
OLBERMANN: Right. And the is mercenaries. Michael Ratner, who's the president for the Center for Constitutional Rights which is representing the Iraqis in these lawsuits after these terrible events in Baghdad. Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
RATNER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And Blackwater may in fact be just the tip of a global iceberg. An new expos' revealing how Bush and other world leaders are using war and natural disaster to impose sweeping economic policies that help the rich get richer while the people of Iraq or New Orleans or elsewhere remain in shock. Naomi Klein, the author of the "Shock Doctrine," tomorrow night here on Countdown.
Trying to shock people and to getting him back his stuff or going to the big house. The judge sets the date for O.J. Simpson. And, is that a pigeon on a rope or did your kite just come to life? Next on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1967, Vickie Lynn Hogan was born in Houston, Texas. Only the most devoted of her fans will recognize her by that name. Vickie Smith perhaps, Vickie Lynn Marshal, few more Anna Nicole Smith most likely. She would have just today turned 40. On that note, let's play Oddball.
We begin in Salinas, California in a new way to get rid of unwanted guest when a falcon took residents in the rafters of a local gym last week. The owners were at a loss how to get it out until a bird expert showed them the way. He tied a pigeon to the piece of string and shove the unsuspecting prey into the gym and when the falcon tried to catch the pigeon he yanked the spring and voila, exit one falcon stage right. Pigeon closely followed by falcon flew out the front door. Happy ending. Both birds escaped unscathed. Local Salinas muscle men are once again to pump iron poop free. They hope to sell the story to Hollywood, the falcon and the pigeon.
To the Internet and this video of unknown origin, I'm not sure whether it's real, fake or freak, in English, we do know that if you were and any of your friends think it would be neat to recreate this trick. Make sure to tie the truck down before attaching the helium of balloons. While, this is the rift on the end of the Hall movie, "Brain Candy."
Finally to Cambodia and an update on a story we first brought you years ago. This is Caun Saman (ph) and his 20-foot python. Saman spends all day with his reptilian friend, teaching him tricks and riding his back. Amazingly enough, Saman has now reached the tender, you might eve say juicy age, if you were a python, of seven without being devoured by the python. he may just be waiting until the kid fattens up sufficiently.
Ray Bradbury ought to be suing homeland security for copyright infringement. Training American fire fighters to look for people expressing hate or discontent with the United States. Fire fighters.
And we're looking for the truth about Britney Spears. Is she, A, pregnant, and B, trying on lingerie in the main show room at the Hustler store? These stories ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three best persons in the world.
Number three, best moose, one of the ones ambling through Anchorage, Alaska last night, having apparently eaten fermented crab apples off a tree and not surprisingly gotten drunk in the process, and then while nibbling on another tree festooned for the holidays, getting the Christmas lights snagged in his antlers and walking off with them. Picture it, a drunken moose with flashing lights on his head. They are calling him Buzz-winkle.
Number two, best rage against the machine, Clifford E. Clark of Knoxville, accused of pulling over at the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Interstate 640 there, taking out his hunting rifle and firing at least three rounds into the camera on top of the traffic light. Police are utterly befuddled. That camera has led to nearly 7,000 traffic tickets in two years, but not one of them was issued to Mr. Clark.
Number one, best marketing plan, the Tourist Bureau of Scotland. It has replaced the old slogan placed on signs at its airports. They used to read "Scotland, the best small country in the world." After six months of brain storming and a quarter million dollars of test marketing, they found a new catch phrase to put on the signs. The new one is, quote, "Welcome to Scotland." Going out on a limb there, huh?
OLBERMANN: In Ray Bradbury's perpetually disturbing vision of a future America, firemen are sent into people's home to hunt down illegal materials, namely books, to destroy them, to set them on fire. Hence his choice of the name of his novel, "Fahrenheit 451," the temperature at which paper will burn. Our third story on the Countdown, 54 years after that book about anti-intellectualism was published, a disturbing parallel initiated by the Bush administration, not in some future America, but right now here today.
Actual firemen being trained to seek out illegal materials to be on the lookout for people who express either hate or even just discontent with the United States, and to report back to the government about them as possible terrorists suspects. And because firemen and other emergency workers usually do not need a warrant to enter someone's home, they can go places that law enforcement can't, and not just during a fire; but, say, during fire code inspections.
Nearly a year ago, Homeland Security gave secret clearance to nine New York City fire chiefs, sharing intelligence with them in return for information on suspicious materials and behavior. If the information-sharing program works in New York, the department says it will extend it to other major metropolitan areas, unless we stop them.
I'm joined by Mike German, former FBI agent who is now National Security Policy counsel to the ACLU. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
MIKE GERMAN, ACLU: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, everybody should be alerting law enforcement if they see something suspicious, or possibly related to terrorism. Fire fighters are not excluded from that. But especially given their right to go into a building not just for fires, but to evaluate fire safety, this program seems to be turning them essentially into legally protected domestic spies, does it not.
GERMAN: That's exactly what it is doing. And that's the entire intent of this program, is to turn fire fighters and emergency medical personnel into intelligence gatherers.
OLBERMANN: Even before this particular program from Homeland Security started, the fire fighters were being asked to be alert for materials that look suspicious or people who expressed, as we said, hatred of or discontent with the United States. But now that they are being told specific intelligence and then being asked to report back to the government on what they see, does that put them in an untenably political position? Have we just politicized fire fighting in this country.
GERMAN: Not just a political position, a legal position. There is actually still a Fourth Amendment. I know it's bruised now, post 9/11. There is still a Fourth Amendment. What makes a fire fighter search reasonable is that it's done to prevent a fire. If now fire fighters are going in with this secondary purpose, that end run around the Fourth Amendment won't work. It's likely that they will find themselves in legal trouble, particularly the emergency medical personnel, because there are some very severe medical privacy laws in the country, and they could find themselves in legal jeopardy.
OLBERMANN: You could see where that could fall into all sorts of things that are in both categories. If they trip over a meth lab somewhere, suddenly they're agents of the government. It may not be an innocent find anymore. You have just ruined the prosecution of something that me be destroying an entire city. Apart from those things, is what disturbs you and the ACLU the same thing that just jumped off the page for me on this, that one phrase, look for people who are expressing hatred of or discontent with the United States? Discontent?
GERMAN: Absolutely. And any time you look at these stories, they always focus on certain reading materials, terrorist propaganda they might call it, or flight manuals or things like that. They're focused on literature. Again, there is a First Amendment in operation, too. So, we are concerned that that is where the fire fighters are turning their attention.
Fire fighting is a tough job. We want them putting all their attention on doing their job. They shouldn't be burdened with doing the dirty work for the Department of Homeland Security.
OLBERMANN: We have already got "1984" in play in in so much of the government. We don't need pages taken from "Fahrenheit 451" either. Last point here, is there one further element to this that maybe hasn't been explored? You have very few government employees going into homes or businesses without warrants or at least without records. Is there not a risk that if the government wanted to, for some reason, plant evidence of terrorism or of anything else on anybody, fire fighters who are doubling as junior spies would be perfect for the job?
GERMAN: Well, certainly anybody who is not a professional law enforcement officer being engaged in what is law enforcement activity raises the risk of improper activity. And this idea of reporting suspicious activity, which is so ill-defined, it could encompass anything, really plays to peoples' prejudices and gives them the opportunity to do damage to someone based on some prejudice, rather than based on real evidence.
OLBERMANN: We saw them with ACLU materials while watching Countdown .
OLBERMANN: Mike German, formerly of the FBI, now national security policy counsel to the ACLU. Great thanks for your time.
GERMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of entering our homes without warning, here is "Dancing With the Stars." And speaking of entering our homes without warning, there is former Attorney General John Ashcroft volunteering to be water boarded as long as he has one special assurance, in the Worst Person segment around the corner here on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Keeping Tabs on the world of celebrity and entertainment, number two tonight, beginning with a brief bit of book keeping. We are not, despite appearances, in our usual studio tonight. That is not a window on to Rockefeller Plaza. It's just a camera feed. It's just too noisy down there. Try Washington now if you want to, Brian. This way we can see the tree lighting, without having to listen to Celine Dion.
Meanwhile in our nation's capital, "Dancing With the Stars" is over and a grateful nation rejoices, a disappointment for fans of Marie Osmond, a big night tonight for Washington fans of auto racing. Beginning with Monday's off beat dance routine, perhaps in the spirit of the holidays, Osmond playing the limp limbed, wind up living doll routine with partner Jonathan Roberts (ph), who also says he underwent a root canal on the same day.
First a root canal, then he has to go through this. Judges overwhelmed, not. Then, last night, Ms. Osmond was eliminated from the finale, the show giving her an emotional send off, recalling her performance the night her father died. Osmond will be going on the national tour of "Dancing With the Stars." Please hide in your garages. Other celebrities will include Wayne Newton on that.
As for the season's big winners, Spice Girl Melanie Brown and partner Maxine Schmirkofsky (ph) were the runners up. The coveted disco ball winner going to two time winner Julianne Hough (ph) and race car driver Julio Castroneves (ph), who thanked his team, thanked his family and thanked his fans. The rest of us are just thankful the damn thing is over.
Fortunately, we just got the start date for the next big TV reality series, dancing with the truth, starring O.J. Simpson, April 7th. The date set today by a Las Vegas judge for the next Simpson trial, a trial his attorneys are saying could last two months. Maybe that's why Simpson seemed to be making himself at home in the courtroom today, after hearing charges of kidnapping and robbing two memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in their hotel room in September.
A confident-looking Simpson pleading not guilty to all charges, adding to the maid-for-TV element of the trial, the judge Jacque Glass (ph) was a former Las Vegas radio and TV reporter who specialized in crime stories.
All of us here hope you got to see our interview last night with Norman Lloyd, the actor, director, producer celebrating his 75th year in entertainment, and being celebrated in the new documentary "Who is Norman Lloyd." Here is a postscript you might enjoy. After we finished the news cast last night, he and I started talking about baseball. Norman mentioned the first game he ever saw in person, how it was a World Series game, game one of the 1926 World Series. He was 12 at the time.
After he rattled off the starting lineups for both teams, featuring eight future hall of famers, including Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Roger Hornsby, he told me a baseball story I had never heard before. A marvelous thing happened, Norman began, Babe Ruth slid into second base and ripped the seat of his pants. Norman observed that nearly any player in that predicament would skulk off the field for the necessary repairs or a new pair of pants. Not Ruth. He waited for the Yankee trainer to come out to second base, and, in front of 62,000 fans, sew up the rip.
In the interim, Norman said, Babe Ruth tipped his cap and waved to the crowd. I never heard that story in my life. Sure enough, a little research, it happened in the bottom of the third inning of game one of the 1926 World Series. Just 81 World Series ago. Nice memory, Norman.
A brief shameless plug, the Special Comments book is now in presale online. Amazon.com reporting tonight that on its sales list it is the number 10 most frequently purchased book on U.S. politics, fourth most popular book in the journalism category, third best selling book on the US executive branch. We are dumb founded and grateful here. It doesn't come out for a month yet. Thank you.
Britney Spears, bare foot and pregnant. Not bare foot. How about lacking underwear and pregnant. That's next. But time for Countdown's Worst Persons in the World.
The bronze to E.D. Hill of Fox Noise, waving that flag a little too automatically, telling viewers that they could spread holiday cheer to a wounded vet by simply addressing a letter to, quote, a recovering American soldier, unquote, care of Walter Reed Hospital in D.C. No, that was an email hoax. Walter Reed cannot accept mail without a patient's name. Fox Noise didn't even call Walter Reed to check. It had to apologize for the gaff.
Our runners up, the Republican party of Virginia. The state has open primaries; any registered voter can vote in either presidential primary. The Democrats look ahead to the twin primaries on February 12th and say, that's the law; we will live with it. The Republicans have another idea, loyalty oaths. You want to vote in the Republican primary, you have to sign a written oath that you are going to vote for the Republican candidate in the election next November. Not that that can be legally enforced and not that that makes the GOP look desperate or anything.
But our winner, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who after the Gonzales beside the bed shakedown story had begun to look a lot less crazy than he had while he was in office. That all changed back last night. He gave an address on freedom and security at the University of Colorado, defending Gitmo, the Patriot Act, water boarding. He took questions, including the obvious one. Are you willing to test whether water boarding is torture by being water boarded yourself?
"The things that I can survive, if it were necessary to do them to me, I would do." See, Mr. Ashcroft, that's the problem; as Daniel Levine of that very same Justice Department concluded when he let himself be water boarded, you don't feel like you are going to survive. And if the guy doing it to you does it wrong, you can very easily not survive. This, sir, has all the validity of saying that you would be willing to do cocaine on the assurance that it would not cause a spontaneous heart attack.
Also, anybody else besides me worried about that first part of his answer? He is asked about torture done in our name and Ashcroft says the things that I can survive. What? You knew about things your people did that you couldn't survive? Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: The logical fallacy insists that just because event A preceded event B, it does not mean event A caused event B. Nevertheless, two Britney Spears stories tonight. At least one of them is half baked. She was caught trying on lingerie in public and she is pregnant. Again, not necessarily a sequence of events. But what the heck. Our number one story on the Countdown, you did it again.
But, first, to the "In Touch Weekly" report that Ms. Spears emailed friends on the 14th of this month that she was four weeks pregnant and that she was sure the father was J.R. Rodeham (ph), the music producer she has been seeing on an irregular basis since she separated from Kevin Federline. What's more, "In Touch" claims that Mr. Rodeham says it's true. Quoting him, it's true, unquote. "In Touch" also reports that Ms. Spears emailed a copy of the ultrasound image to her inner circle two days later.
Problem with that, of course, is the great unlikelihood that she would have an ultrasound at just four weeks. So enter the denials. A friend of Ms. Spears told "People Magazine," quote it's just B.S., big lie. And Miss Lufdie (ph) sent a text message to Ryan Seacrest, which he read on his radio show. saying that the story is, quote, completely fake.
Well, how about this one? "US Weekly" reporting that Ms. Spears recently showed up at the X rated Hustler Store in West Hollywood, California and tried on a pair of skivvies right in front of the other customers, this after she was told she could not take the underwear into a changing or dressing room, which really sounds like a story that should have come from "OK! Magazine."
At this point, let's turn to the host of the pop cultural show of record, E Network's "The Soup," Joel McHale. Joel, good evening.
JOEL MCHALE, "THE SOUP": Great to be here for this important news, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Yes, so this has all been cleared up by a text message to your buddy Seacrest? Did you get a text message?
MCHALE: Keith, I just want some eye contact from Ryan, anything.
Touch the hem of his garment. He is the lord. He rules E.
OLBERMANN: It was a short text message. Is she or is she not pregnant?
MCHALE: Well, we're not sure yet. What they're going to do is give her some Gas X, and if that doesn't work, then she is in a family way.
OLBERMANN: This small detail about the ultrasound; doctors normally perform ultrasound at the first time about eight weeks into a pregnancy, not four weeks. Of course, Tom Cruise had once reportedly bought an ultrasound machine. He could have helped her out. But somehow I'm thinking that's unlikely. Do you have any further explanation on the ultrasound part of this story, Joel?
MCHALE: Yes, there is no way she had ultrasound, because as soon as they put that jelly on her stomach, she would have scooped that up with two slices of wonder bread and some Skippy peanut butter.
OLBERMANN: We are going out to dinner. "In Touch Weekly" went so far as to say she seemed convinced in her email that having another baby would turn her life around. OK, that would do it for her, or would it just turn her car around?
MCHALE: Keith, her car has not been turned by her in a long time. She is too busy text messaging. But, as you said, she said her life would be turned around by having a baby. You are right. It would be an entire 360.
OLBERMANN: And the skid marks would be seen up and down the boulevard.
MCHALE: Yes, right back where she started.
OLBERMANN: The Spears friend who did the text - I won't mention the name. I am going to interrupt you. I have to light the Christmas Tree. Stand by, Joel. OK, three, two, one. Got it. OK. All right, back to Joel McHale and the Britney Spears story.
OLBERMANN: I signed a big contract. I have to do extra stuff around here now. Back to the text message. We won't say again who got it. But in it, it says J.R. doesn't even know what's up. Is that the typical explanation for men who may or may not have impregnated Ms. Spears, not to know what's up?
MCHALE: Yes, most men who impregnate her do not know what's up. They get picked up outside of a Home Depot, get told they are going to be doing some light window caulking, and then they get knocked unconscious for a short time.
OLBERMANN: Window caulking.
MCHALE: Poor guys.
OLBERMANN: This less shocking or unfamiliar part of the Spears story, with "US Weekly" reporting that she was informed by these employees at the Hustler Store that the store policy was you couldn't try on underwear in a fitting room. So she said, well, to hell with it. I'm going to do it here right in front of everybody?
OLBERMANN: Just say something so I don't have to keep talking about it.
MCHALE: Look, you need to change your life or end it if you are being reprimanded by employees of the Hustler Store.
OLBERMANN: Part two of that one, she also has reportedly stolen a wig off a mannequin on the way out. Should not the employees have done a better job of explaining the store rules to her?
MCHALE: Oh, yes. But, once again, it's the Hustler Store, so usually there are no rules. She found a way to break them and call attention to herself.
OLBERMANN: Could it be, Joel, that this has just been garbled. Might that not have been a wig that she stole but a mercan (ph).
OLBERMANN: First of all, congrats on saying mercan on your show.
Second, most wigs can also be mercans. It depends on the cut.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, Kevin Federline; "Detail Magazine" named him in the 50 most powerful men under the age of 45, designated at number seven for being a food father. Tee off on that one.
MCHALE: Yes, it is so powerful when a father takes responsibility for his children with only the help of the untold millions of dollars from the crazy and dead women who birth them. Wait, Britney is still alive, sorry.
OLBERMANN: You would have to go back to one show a week if that was the case. Joel McHale host of "The Soup" on E, brand new and appointment viewing on Friday. Great thanks, Joel. Good to talk to you.
MCHALE: Thanks man.
OLBERMANN: That's Countdown for this the 1,673rd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END