updated 11/14/2005 9:11:13 AM ET 2005-11-14T14:11:13

Guests: Dan Bartlett, Debbie Schlussel, Dave Spencer, Michael Grunwald, Cynthia Morrell, James Bernazzani

MONICA CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Right now on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, a criminal investigation in New Orleans.  Did somebody break the law by building shoddy levees that could not withstand Hurricane Katrina?  We will take you to the flood-ravaged region for the very latest. 

Then, on this Veterans Day, the president comes out fighting.  After weeks of criticism, President Bush answers the bashers.  We will take you to the White House for the very latest. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

CROWLEY:  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, everybody.  I‘m Monica Crowley, in today for Joe. 

We will have those stories in just a moment, plus more of our weeklong “Dateline NBC” investigation into sexual predators.  We will talk to a man who was convicted twice.  Now he‘s out there fighting to get the laws changed to stop people like him. 

But first to New Orleans—tonight, there is a criminal investigation there into the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina.  Was it corrupt contractors skimping on construction material?  Did the Army Corps of Engineers cut corners while building the walls that were designed to protect the people of New Orleans? 

Louisiana‘s attorney general is leading one of several investigations, and local reports are that charges and lawsuits are likely. 

Let‘s go right now to New Orleans and bring in Cynthia Morrell.  She is the vice president of the city council—and also Mike Grunwald, who has been covering the story for “The Washington Post.” 

Welcome to you both. 

How you doing, Monica?

Thank you. 

CROWLEY:  Cynthia, let me begin with you, because you are there in New Orleans.  What is this investigation all about? 

CYNTHIA MORRELL, VICE PRESIDENT, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL:  Well, we have—looking at the construction of the levees, we know now that they were not meant to meet the standards that were needed for even a category 3.  And when you look at the failure, you can—when you go up to where the breaches are, you can see the shoddiness of the construction.  And it‘s just eye-opening. 

CROWLEY:  Mike, I know that you have written extensively on how the money that was to intended go to the levees and the construction, and also taking care of those levees, making sure that they could withstand this kind of storm.  You have been writing about how that money was actually spent.  Can you talk to us about how that? 

MICHAEL GRUNWALD, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, sure.

The Army Corps of Engineers spent more money in Louisiana than any other state, including California, which I think has eight times the population.  One of the problems was just that a lot of that money was being spent on navigation projects that had nothing to do with flood protection.  A separate problem is it seems that even where they were spending money on these levees that were supposed to protect the city from a Category 3 storm, the levees were not up to snuff. 

CROWLEY:  Also joining us on the phone right now from New Orleans is FBI Agent James Bernazzani.  And he says that the FBI has been getting a lot of tips about what happened with the levees. 

James, welcome to you.

JAMES BERNAZZANI, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE:  Nice to be here, Monica.

CROWLEY:  What kind of tips are you getting about possible malfeasance here with the levees? 

BERNAZZANI:  Well, we‘re receiving a lot of information from the public.  And it‘s important for the public to report to the FBI regarding all types of fraud, to include potential allegations of fraud as it relates to the levee system.

But you have to understand that the FBI, working very closely with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice‘s Katrina Fraud Task Force, we do not have any preconceived ideas or theories, and we do not go into this assuming a crime has been committed.  This is merely a fact-finding mission, specifically as it relates to potential violations of federal law. 

And if we do surface violations of federal law, we will present those findings to the United States Attorney‘s Office for prosecution. 

CROWLEY:  James, how broad of an investigation is this?  I‘m understanding that the feds are looking into the possibility of corruption in the design of the levees, also in the construction and the maintenance of those flood barriers.  Is all of that true? 

BERNAZZANI:  Yes.

Our focus right now is very broad.  We are looking at it in two major others, government fraud, basically contractual fraud, whereby individuals agreed, by affirmation of a signature, agreed to perform certain functions.  We‘re going back to determine if those functions in fact were performed. 

And the second issue is public corruption.  Now, the FBI has sent a very strong message that, whether you‘re federal, state or local, whether you‘re elected, appointed or hired, any official in public office who misuses his or her position for profit will be aggressively investigated.  And we‘re going to take a look at those public officials who had responsibility to not only the construction of the levee system, which was about 40 years ago, but for the maintenance of the system to insure that it was up to specifications. 

CROWLEY:  Cynthia Morrell, on the question of how the money was spent and perhaps misused, how much of the blame for what happened in New Orleans actually goes to the Orleans Levee Board?  Aren‘t they supposed to oversee how all of this money is being sent? 

BERNAZZANI:  Well, Monica, again...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  Hang on.  Hang on, James.  I want Cynthia to take a crack at this. 

Go ahead, Cynthia.

MORRELL:  The money really came down through the Corps of Engineers, and while the Levee Board worked with them, the design was governed by the Corps of Engineers.  And the contracts were awarded to—through the Corps of Engineers. 

So, again, we had some input, but I think the majority of the problems, if you looked at the levees right after the flood, as I did, have to do with design, have to do with faulty construction—well, I don‘t—the construction was faulty.

And you said—you gave a date.  But bear in mind, the 17th Street Canal and in London Avenue Canal, those projects were completed in 2004, so they don‘t go back too far.  And that‘s right where the breaches happened.

(CROSSTALK)

BERNAZZANI:  The point I‘m trying to make is, we‘re looking at the entire levee system.

And we‘re making no presumptions right now relative to culpability, if in fact there is.  We‘re going to go where the facts take us.  And where the facts think us will dictate what type of action we will take.  And where there is violations of federal law, we will present those findings to the United States Attorneys‘ Office for prosecution. 

CROWLEY:  Mike Grunwald, the conventional wisdom after Katrina and what we saw in New Orleans is that the levees were overtopped, that water in fact spilled over the levees.  And now we know in fact that the water broke through cracks actually in the levees.  So, if that‘s true, then who do you believe is to blame? 

GRUNWALD:  Well, as the councilwoman said, the Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of this system. 

And one reason people were under the impression that the levees had overtopped after Katrina was that the Army Corps of Engineers said so.  They said, this was an overwhelming storm.  There was nothing we could do about it. 

It turned out that, on the east side of town, some of those levees were overtopped.  But, around the lake, those levees were not even close to overtopped.  There was clearly three or four feet of freeboard.  So, that‘s what shows you that there‘s some sort of design and construction problem.  It doesn‘t necessarily say that there‘s some kind of criminal malfeasance, but it does show that the levee system did not do what it was supposed to do. 

CROWLEY:  And, also, Mike, is it true that the levees were not drilled as far down into the ground as they should have been? 

GRUNWALD:  Well, that is something that—I think there are right now eight separate investigations of these levees, four criminal and four kind of forensics, looking at what happened.

But one thing that everybody who‘s talking publicly is saying is that it looks like these sheet pilings should have been a lot deeper than they were supposed to be, and that they weren‘t even as deep as they were supposed to be.  So, there are kind of two separate problems.  They weren‘t designed deep enough and they weren‘t built even as deep as they were designed. 

CROWLEY:  James Bernazzani, let me ask you, if—and I know that this is in the early stages of this investigation, but if in fact it pans out that the Army Corps of Engineers was somehow liable for the criminal negligence here in the design or the construction of these levees, who do you hold accountable in that instance? 

BERNAZZANI:  Again, I‘m not going to speculate right now. 

There‘s a lot of bad intelligence around New Orleans.  And what I don‘t want to contribute to is the cycle of innuendo and rumor.  We need to surface the facts.  And we are not there yet.  But, once we do, again, we will present these findings and we move forward accordingly.

And I would like to make one point that I—the fellow from “The Washington Post” said there‘s four separate criminal investigations.  There are four components that are working this criminal investigation together.  We are working it together in the Katrina Fraud Task Force, which was initiated by the Department of Justice, and we are working Attorney General Foti and District Attorney Eddie Jordan to get to the bottom of this. 

So, from the criminal side of the house, we are working this collectively as a task force. 

CROWLEY:  And we certainly do need to find out the answers as to what happened in New Orleans, so it doesn‘t happen again. 

Cynthia Morrell, Mike Grunwald and James Bernazzani, thank you so much. 

(CROSSTALK)

MORRELL:  Thanks a lot, Monica.

CROWLEY:  You bet.

GRUNWALD:  Thank you. 

CROWLEY:  And take a look at just how much of New Orleans was affected by these critical levee breaches.  The 17th Street Canal, as well as the London Avenue Canal are the ones in question. 

Well, thousands of Katrina survivors are still waiting for help from the federal government.  Thursday, in a sign that their frustration has reached a boiling point, more than a dozen of them sued FEMA, claiming the agency should have moved much faster to get them housing and other basics.

NBC senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has their emotional story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA MYERS, NBC CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For 66 days now, 62-year-old Florence Jackson has been waiting for help from FEMA. 

FLORENCE JACKSON, RESIDENT OF NEW ORLEANS:  I have worked all my life. 

Where is my government?  I‘m so disappointed. 

MYERS:  Since Katrina devastated her New Orleans apartment, Jackson and her disabled son have been on an odyssey through temporary shelters.  She‘s now in an apartment in San Antonio provided by a church group.  Ever since she applied for housing assistance days after the storm, she has called FEMA day and night and is told her application is still pending. 

JACKSON:  And I want somebody to know that I‘m suffering.  And I shouldn‘t have to suffer. 

MYERS:  Jackson is one of 14 Katrina victims who today sued FEMA, hoping to get the agency‘s attention.  Legal scholars say it‘s a tough case to win.  Still, it shows how desperate some victims are. 

ARTHUR WILLIAMS, RESIDENT OF NEW ORLEANS:  I‘m angry, I‘m mad, and I‘m upset, and I have the right to be, because I‘m going to sleep in my car tonight and go to work in the morning. 

MYERS:  Part of the problem, so far, FEMA has cleared only 623 trailers for survivors to live in all of Louisiana, tens of thousands less than needed.  Paul Gonzalez was inspecting trailers for FEMA until last month.  Finally, he quit in disgust, after hundreds of trailers stayed vacant for weeks because FEMA didn‘t complete the paperwork. 

PAUL GONZALEZ, FORMER FEMA CONTRACTOR:  I felt like I was being paid an exorbitant amount of money, and I saw nothing being done. 

MYERS (on camera):  Today, FEMA would not comment on the lawsuit, but says one million households have received financial aid and, eventually, everyone will get what they are due.

However, a former senior FEMA official says she‘s flabbergasted just how far behind this recovery still is. 

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY:  And still to come, there was plenty of money sent to New Orleans for the levees, so where did it all go?  An NBC News investigation you just have to see to believe—and then more of that hidden camera investigation into online predators. 

Plus, we will tell you what one convicted sexual predator says should be done to stop people like him. 

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY:  President Bush makes a speech on terror this Veterans Day.  Next, we will get the very latest on the war effort from the White House communications director.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY:  Welcome back.  I‘m Monica Crowley, in for Joe. 

Well, for years, billions of dollars poured into New Orleans for those faulty levees.

And, once again, here‘s NBC‘s senior investigation correspondent, Lisa Myers. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MYERS (voice-over):  It‘s called the Mardi Gras Fountain, and its unveiling was celebrated this year in typical New Orleans style. 

(MUSIC)

MYERS:  The cost, $2.4 million, paid by the Orleans Levee Board, the state agency whose main job is to protect the levees surrounding New Orleans, the same levees that failed after Katrina hit. 

BILLY NUNGESSER, FORMER LEVEE BOARD PRESIDENT:  They misspent the money, so any dollar they wasted was a dollar that would have went to the levees. 

MYERS:  Billy Nungesser, a former top Republican official, was once president of the Levee Board and says he lost his job because he targeted wasteful spending. 

NUNGESSER:  A cesspool of politics, that‘s all it was.  Provide jobs for people and state senators and you know contracts, giving out contracts. 

MYERS:  In fact, NBC News has uncovered a pattern of what critics call questionable spending practices by the Levee Board, a board which at one point was accused by a state inspector general of a longstanding and continuing disregard of the public interest. 

Beyond the fountain, there‘s $15 million spent on two overpasses that helped gamblers get to Bally‘s riverboat casino.  Critics tried and failed to put some of that money into flood protection, $45 million for private investigators to dig up dirt on this radio host and board critic, then another $45,000 to settle after he sued. 

ROBERT NAMER, LOCAL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  They hired a private eye for nine months to find something to make me look wacko, to make me look crazy or bad. 

MYERS (on camera):  Critics charged for years the board has paid more attention to marinas, gambling and business than to maintaining the levees.  Example, of 11 construction projects now on the board‘s Web site, only two are related to flood control. 

JIM HUEY, LEVEE BOARD PRESIDENT:  I will assure you that you will find that all of our money was appropriately expended. 

MYERS (voice-over):  Levee Board president Jim Huey says money for the levees comes from a different account than money for business activities.  And that part of the board‘s job is providing recreational opportunities. 

And despite the catastrophic flooding, Huey says...

HUEY:  As far as the flood protection system, it is intact.  It is there today.  It worked.  And 239 miles of levees, 152 floodgates, canals throughout this entire city, there were only two areas. 

MYERS:  But those two critical areas were major canals.  And their collapse contributed to hundreds of deaths and widespread destruction.

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY:  It should be noted that, since Lisa Myers filed that report, James Huey, the head of the Levee Board, has since resigned, at the insistence of the governor. 

Well, Americans across the country took time out to honor our veterans who have fought in past wars, as well as those still fighting today. 

At Arlington National Cemetery, Vice President Dick Cheney thanked veterans of all the 20th century wars. 

And President Bush, meanwhile, spoke in Pennsylvania.  There, he thanked the troops and fired back at critics with a strong defense of the Iraq war.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity.  We will not tire or rest until the war on terror is won. 

While it‘s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or—or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. 

These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America‘s will. 

Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY:  Joining me now, Dan Bartlett, counselor to President Bush. 

Welcome to you, Dan.

DAN BARTLETT, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  Thanks, Monica.

CROWLEY:  Well, the president gave quite a barn-burner of a speech today.

And I think that one of the most important points he made was when he took off after his critics, those who have criticized this administration, suggesting that somehow it manipulated the prewar intelligence.  The president said today that the 9/11 Commission, as well as other independent investigators, never found any evidence of that, because it never happened. 

Is this a case that the president should have been making all along? 

BARTLETT:  Well, you could probably make that argument. 

What President Bush, after the election of 2004, has tried to focus on is the issues today and in the future, as the battle we are fighting in Iraq is so critically important to our country‘s security. 

But what is clear is, here is Washington, there are many Democrats who want to re-litigate old grievances, old political showdowns from the campaign.  And what President Bush recognizes is that it‘s important sometimes, when your critics take you on, is to refute them directly and aggressively to make sure that the record is set straight. 

So, we will do both, Monica.  We will continue to talk about the strategy to win in Iraq, why it‘s critically important to the security of our country, how it fits into the central war on—battle in the war on terror. 

But he will also be unafraid to take on some of these criticisms, because it is very important.  In our country, we are strong because we‘re allowed to dissent.  We are allowed to have differences of opinion.  But when it crosses the line and starts telling the American people that their commander in chief misled them or lied to them, that‘s deeply irresponsible, as the president argued today.  And it‘s critically important that we correct the record. 

CROWLEY:  Dan, I noticed today, as well as in the recent past, that the president is really defining the enemy.  He‘s calling the enemy out.  He‘s talking about the true nature of the enemy, calling it Islamofascism or radical Islam.  He‘s really casting it in terms of the battle of ideas. 

How important is it for the commander in chief to do that in this war? 

BARTLETT:  Well, it‘s very important, particularly a war of this nature, one that is not very conventional, in many respects.  In Iraq, there are some conventional aspects to it, but, for the most part, we‘re fighting a hidden enemy, oftentimes hiding in the very clothes of civilians and attacking us and attacking civilians. 

And it‘s critically important that people understand that these are not random acts of violence, but a concerted effort and part of a very hateful ideology.  And what we have argued is, don‘t take the word of President Bush.  Take the word of the enemy themselves.  Bin Laden‘s number, Zawahri, in a communication with Zarqawi, the top al Qaeda lieutenant in Iraq, he made very clear that Iraq stands at the very epicenter of the war on terror, that the stakes are high there, that we do have them on the run. 

But they have very grand designs.  And, if we don‘t take the enemy seriously, it‘s impossible for us to defeat them.  So, that‘s why President Bush is spending so much time talking about the nature of this enemy, why they‘re doing what they‘re doing, and why it‘s critically important that we win. 

CROWLEY:  One of the other important things I think that came out of the speech today, Dan, was that the president spent a good deal of time detailing the progress, not just in Iraq, but also in the broader war on terror. 

He was talking about how we have disrupted a number of plots, particularly against the United States, also how we have captured and killed a lot of top al Qaeda lieutenants, and the political progress being made in Iraq.  So much good news to report in all of this, why aren‘t we hearing more of that? 

BARTLETT:  Well, we do talk about it quite a bit.

I know there‘s a lot of focus on the casualties that happen and the violence that‘s going on in Iraq.  And that‘s legitimate news.  But it is a much more complex picture there.  A more complete picture shows that there is a lot of progress being made in Iraq.  The political progress has been extraordinary.  If you look over the course of the last year, we have had a successful election in January, a successful ratification of a constitution this past month.

And we have another very important milestone in Iraq, politically, on December 15, when the Iraqi people come together to vote for a permanent government.  These are critical steps on the way to a free, democratic Iraq that will be able to protect itself and be a key ally in the war on terror.

So, you will continue to hear the president talk about this progress.  And we believe it‘s important that the American people see the complete picture of what‘s happening in that country. 

CROWLEY:  And, just very quickly, Dan, I have noticed, too, that the president, not just today, but in recent speeches, been singling out Syria and Iran as state sponsors of terror.  Does that indicate a more aggressive stand toward those regimes? 

BARTLETT:  Well, it clearly expresses our concerns.

And we have long held had—have long-held concerns about Iran and Syria, particular when you take Syria for—on the issue of foreign terrorists being able to infiltrate Iraq.  This has been a critical concern of ours.  It is something we have raised directly to the Syrian government.

And then, as the president talked about today, the deeply disturbing developments of yesterday, in which the Syrian president is talked—is trying to intimidate the Lebanese people, that they expelled somebody who came and met here at the White House, these are not the steps of a country that is embracing democracy and transparency and wanting to be a partner in the international community.  And it‘s incredibly important that the international community continue to put pressure on the Syrian government to change its behavior.  And we will continue to do that here from the White House.

CROWLEY:  Dan Bartlett, counselor to President Bush, great to have you.  Thanks. 

BARTLETT:  Thanks, Monica.

CROWLEY:  You bet.

And grown men online trying to meet up with young children. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was concerned she‘s going to be by herself.  So I wanted to stop and talk to her.

CHRIS HANSEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  So, you were just being a good samaritan? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY:  More incredible stories from “Dateline”‘s undercover predator investigation.

Plus, a convicted predator is here to tell us why the laws are too tough. 

And a trip in paradise turns to disaster, divers forced to swim for their lives, choking on saltwater and being stung by jellyfish for days—that incredible story coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY:  The sights and sounds of war—on this Veterans Day, an up-close look at the courage of our troops in Iraq.  That‘s coming.

But first, here‘s the latest news from MSNBC World Headquarters. 

(NEWS BREAK)

CROWLEY:  It‘s like something out of the movie “Open Water.”  A fun day on the ocean turns into a day-long ordeal.  We will tell you how that story turns out.

And then, the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders, well, they fooled around and then got fired.  Could the same thing have happened if they were the players, that is, if they had been men?  We will investigate the double standard. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, everybody—that story in just moments. 

But, first, all week long, we have been showing you parts of “Dateline”‘s investigation into online sexual predators.  What drives these guys to go after underage teens?  We have got a two-time convicted sex offender here to answer that very question. 

But, first, take a look at a little more of “Dateline”‘s undercover sexual predator sting. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANSEN (voice-over):  Men from all over Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., arrived at this house after chatting about sex, thinking they were meeting a 12-, 13-, or 14-year-old who was home alone, nineteen men in three days, from the down and out, to pillars of the community. 

(on camera):  What classes do you teach? 

STEVEN BENNOF, TEACHER:  Special education. 

HANSEN (voice-over):  As the men approached our undercover house, hidden cameras rolled and kept rolling, as I startled them and started asking questions.  Just about every one of them gave me the same story:

(on camera):  So, this is the first time?

BENNOF:  Mm-hmm.

HANSEN:  You know, I hear a lot of that.

BENNOF:  Yeah, well, it‘s true.

DR. JEFFREY BECK:  I‘ve never visited a teenage boy before in my life.

ALADDIN:  First time in my life that this happen.

HANSEN:  First time?

ALADDIN:  Yes, sir.

JOHN KENNELLY:  I‘ve never done this before.

HANSEN (voice-over):  And some came up with more creative excuses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She said she was 13.  That‘s why I was concerned she‘s going to be by herself.  So, I was just going to stop and talk to her for a while.

HANSEN (on camera):  So, you were just being a good samaritan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yeah.

HANSEN:  Because there was a 13-year-old girl...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Be by herself.

HANSEN:  ... home alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  

HANSEN:  Right.

And, so out of the goodness of your heart, you were going to stop by...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, it could have been anybody.

HANSEN:  ... and—and baby-sit her?  Is that the deal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, sort of, I guess.  We can order some pizza and we can watch a movie or something.

HANSEN (voice-over):  This guy, named Yonis, says it‘s all a case of mistaken identity.

YONIS:  It‘s not me, I assure you.

HANSEN (on camera):  So, let me get this straight.  So there‘s another guy whose name is Yonis, right?

YONIS:  I‘m Yonis.

HANSEN:  Who happens to—to look like you and have the same cell phone number as you, and he has the dirty conversation about sex with a 12-year-old girl, but you didn‘t, but you end up showing up here anyway.

YONIS:  No, no, no.  I don‘t know what that person...

HANSEN (voice-over):  Just about every man who walked into our house said he really wasn‘t planning on having sex with a minor.  But we‘ll never know what would have happened had we had not been here.  Still, none of what we heard surprises Lieutenant Jacoby of the Fairfax County Police Department here in Virginia.  He says he‘s heard it all before.

HANSEN (on camera):  “I‘ve never done this before.”

LIEUTENANT JAKE JACOBY, FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT:  We‘ve heard that one.  That‘s usually probably not true.

HANSEN: “I‘m here to protect them.”

JACOBY:  That‘s probably one of the biggest ones that we get, also.

HANSEN: “I didn‘t think I was actually talking to a minor.

JACOBY:  Again, that‘s something that we‘ve heard quite often from people.

HANSEN:  How often do you suppose we‘re being lied to when we hear those excuses?

JACOBY:  Usually about 100 percent of the time.

HANSEN (voice-over):  So why would a man with so much to lose risk everything to meet a child for sex? 

Dr. David Marcus, a clinical psychologist who treats men with sexual compulsions, says it‘s a powerful addiction.

DR. DAVID MARCUS, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  They don‘t know what‘S driving them.  All they know is, they‘re being driven and they can‘t stop.  And to risk themselves so greatly clearly shows how powerful of a ride that is.

SERGEANT JOE WUNDALER, U.S. ARMY:  Listen, I have had a problem with an Internet addiction, talking with females.

MARCUS:  Most guys don‘t go on the Internet and say, “You know, I‘m going to decide to ruin my life today.”  Most guys go on and say, “I need something to make myself feel better.”  And they‘re not conscious of what they‘re doing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY:  Joining me now is Dave Spencer.  He is a two-time convicted sex offenders who now heads a political action committee called RARE PEARL that fights for sex offender rights. 

Welcome to you, Dave.

DAVE SPENCER, RARE PEARL:  Hi, Monica.

CROWLEY:  Hi.

And, so, first off, let‘s get your reaction to the “Dateline” sex offender bust.  What did you think? 

SPENCER:  I thought it was an excellently produced show.  The one thing that I thought was missing was, where were the cops to arrest these guys?

CROWLEY:  Do you think it was unfair, or did you that, when you took at this, that it was more entrapment? 

SPENCER:  I don‘t believe it was entrapment at all.  These people were already engaged in online activity, which is why they became targets of this investigation.  I don‘t believe it was entrapment at all. 

CROWLEY:  And I wonder, too, the folks in the state have said that there‘s not enough evidence here to prosecute these guys.  What do you see when you take a look at these guys who arrived at a house willing and ready, obviously, to have sex with a minor?  Should these guys go to jail?  Should they be prosecuted?

SPENCER:  They should be prosecuted if there is evidence that show that they are in fact guilty of something.  And I believe there‘s enough evidence.  From watching the show myself, with the mountains of paperwork from the e-mail chats and things like that, I don‘t see where they don‘t have any evidence. 

CROWLEY:  Now, Dave, I also understand, though, that you think a lot of the nation‘s sex offender laws are too excessive, that they‘re too tough.  Why? 

SPENCER:  I wouldn‘t say that they‘re too tough, but they are definitely wrong, because one of the things that your segment proves is that, for one thing about the 2,000-foot law, for example, in Iowa, none of those people had any—if they lived 2,000 feet away from something had nothing to do with this. 

CROWLEY:  What do you say to the many experts, Dave, who say that so many of these sex offenders are repeat offenders—and, in fact, you are a two-term convicted sex offender—and that recidivism rate among sex offenders is so extraordinarily high, that most of the general public would say, throw the book at them. 

SPENCER:  Sex offender recidivism is not very high.  That‘s a popular misconception.

In Iowa, the sex offender rate is around 3 percent, as it is in a number of states.  There are Department of Justice studies that have been done on offenders who were released from prison in 1994.  And the average rate of recidivism on those studies is 3 percent. 

The problem is that not all sex offenders fit in the same box, three percent of the offenders who do re-offend vs. 97 percent who don‘t.  Obviously, there‘s obviously at least one distinction there but two groups.  But there are actually a number of groups.  And different risk assessment, for example, need to be done on rapists and child molesters and even juveniles.

CROWLEY:  All right. 

SPENCER:  So, there are a lot of factors to consider. 

CROWLEY:  Indeed.  Well, we want to thank you so much for joining us today, Dave Spencer.  Thanks.

SPENCER:  Thank you. 

CROWLEY:  And be sure to tune in to MSNBC‘s special report this weekend, “Protecting Our Children Online: First Steps.”  It airs tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. and midnight and then again at 7:00 p.m. and midnight.  And those times are Eastern times.

Well, it‘s like something out of a horror movie, but this is real life, scuba divers forced to fight for their lives for days without a boat, simply swimming in the ocean—their story coming up. 

And the scandal everybody is talking about, but are these cheerleaders victims of a double standard?  Why not everybody thinks so.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY:  A tragic outcome for a group travelling in paradise; 28-year-old Abigail Brinkman was scuba diving was off the coast of Belize, but then tragedy struck.  Most of the people in her 12-person dive group survived, but she did not. 

NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla has that story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The Caribbean coast of Belize is a diver‘s paradise.                  It certainly was for Abby Brinkman, a medical student from Indiana volunteering at a clinic deep in the jungles of Belize when tragedy struck.

ROGER BRINKMAN, FATHER OF ABIGAIL BRINKMAN:  All I can say is there were a series of mishaps, none of which should have happened.

QUINTANILLA:  Her parents say, at 28, Abby was an experienced diver who took a scuba trip last month with several other Americans at this local tour operator.

The boat left the dock and dropped off a group of snorkelers at the South Silk Caye, then moved on with Abby and three other divers into open water.

That‘s when the engine broke down, and everyone on board realized the boat had no working radio and no flares.

John Bain was on board and saw the anchor snap completely off.

JOHN BAIN, DIVER:  At that point, I looked up and noticed that we drifted.  We were continuing to drift and we were at least a mile or two from the key at that point. 

QUINTANILLA:  With the shoreline disappearing, John, Abby and the other two divers decided to put on their scuba gear and swim for it.  But the waves were too rough, and the current separated all of the divers.

Bain ended up drifting 50 miles from shore, over three days and two nights, choking on saltwater and getting stung by jellyfish.

BAIN:  It was right about that time, the sunset of the third night, when, yes, I was having some real thoughts about, will I make it through this third night?

QUINTANILLA (on camera):  Even worse, the scuba vest, like this one, that is intended to keep him afloat, had leaks in it, he says, not the first time that tour operator had been cited for passing out faulty equipment.

(voice-over):  Belize authorities have since shut down the dive shop and imposed a lifelong ban on its owner, who couldn‘t be reached for comment.  But that has come too late to save Abby.  Her body was recovered on the same day that John and the other two divers were rescued.

JAN BRINKMAN, MOTHER OF ABIGAIL BRINKMAN:  The world has lost a really good pediatrician who loved children more than anything in the world. 

QUINTANILLA:  The Brinkmans have started a memorial in her memory to provide funding for the medical clinic in Belize to help young women start medical careers of their own and to remind divers of the dangers when you‘re on the water and far from home. 

Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY:  Very sad story, indeed. 

Well, switching gears now, coming up next, two NFL cheerleaders thrown off the team because of an incident off the field, are they getting a raw deal?  Wait until you see our showdown before you decide. 

Plus, this: a close-up look at the courage of our troops in Iraq, one you won‘t soon forget. 

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY:  The firing of these two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders has some crying foul.  Is there a double standard in the NFL? 

Well, why have these cheerleaders been kicked off the team, when players who are arrested are not?  In 2004, Carolina Panther Todd Sauerbrun pled guilty of DUI.  Chris Terry was arrested for domestic violence in 2002.  And Muhsin Muhammad was arrest in 2002 for possession of marijuana and a weapon.  All three of them managed to stay on the team. 

Joining me now is sports attorney Debbie Schlussel. 

Great to see you, Debbie.

DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL, ATTORNEY:  Thanks, Monica.

CROWLEY:  All right, so, these two cheerleaders get fired.  They kicked off of the team for an alleged sex romp in the bathroom of a restaurant.  Do you think that‘s an appropriate punishment? 

SCHLUSSEL:  Definitely. 

First of all, it wasn‘t just the sex romp.  It was that one of the cheerleaders punched somebody out.  She used a fake I.D.  She was there underage.  And these are cheerleaders.  I mean, they are expendable.  They are marketed like porn stars.  And there‘s another one to replace them when they are gotten rid of. 

The fact is that the NFL does fire people for a lot less.  Look at Terrell Owens, who was fired because he criticized his team for not recognizing his 100th touchdown.  I think it is absurd that people are calling this a double standard.  I think it shows how low the feminist movement has sunk that they have these two prostitute-esque cheerleaders as their latest cause celebre. 

CROWLEY:  Well, Deb, you mentioned Terrell Owens.  And that pretty much is the exception to the rule. 

I just went through—through three guys in the NFL who were charged with and convicted of all sorts of things, from domestic violence to weapons possession.  They stayed on the team.  A couple of weeks ago, the Minnesota Vikings, so many of those players were caught up in an alleged big sexcapade themselves.  And, yet, they are all still playing on Sundays and Monday nights.  It seems like the guys on the NFL, they can get away with everything in the book.  And the women get, well, nailed, so to speak. 

SCHLUSSEL:  Well, wait a second, Monica.  You said the guys in the NFL.  There are only guys in the NFL.

These are cheerleaders.  They‘re the janitors.  These NFL players, they‘re the CEOs.  And to compare what cheerleaders do to the main event, which is football, is a little bit absurd.  You‘re not going to fire an excellent CEO because of a minor incident.  And you‘re not going to keep on a janitor who commits sex in a bathroom stall, punches somebody out and has a fake I.D. 

The fact is that they‘re just—it‘s comparing apples and oranges. 

And to compare the two is really ridiculous. 

CROWLEY:  Yes, but you know what, Debbie?  Bad behavior is bad behavior.

SCHLUSSEL:  I agree.

CROWLEY:  I agree these cheerleaders should have been canned, but you know what?  These NFL players who are convicted of a lot worse should also be. 

SCHLUSSEL:  Well, I agree.  And I have been a critic of a lot of these NFL players and throughout pro sports.  And they should be disciplined. 

But to compare them to these expendable porn-star-like cheerleaders is really a little bit absurd. 

CROWLEY:  All right, we got to leave it there.

Debbie Schlussel, great to see you.  Thanks. 

SCHLUSSEL:  Thank you. 

CROWLEY:  And, on this Veterans Day, an intense look at the war in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kill all those.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY:  The fight for Fallujah, video that captures the courage of our fighting men and women. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY:  On this Veterans Day, a look back at one of the biggest battles in Iraq from a point of view you have never seen—that‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY:  Now for a special Veterans Day SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY champion. 

A year ago this week, the U.S. Marines took Fallujah.  They fought door-to-door, the enemy unseen.  And an NBC crew was there. 

Cameraman Kevin Burke (ph) and producer Robert Marshall (ph) have put together this incredible look at the battle for Fallujah.  And we warn you, this is war, so, some of the images may be disturbing. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Anything east of us is hostile.  We got fire and RPGs coming from anything east.  Over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bravo.  Bravo.  Raider six receiving close impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Suicide bombers is a huge threat today, so we will keep them away from the vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Who is shooting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Please, get some damn cover. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where‘s the medevac?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you see it, just engage it.

(GUNFIRE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Try and stay out of the roadways as much as possible (INAUDIBLE) threat.  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kill it. 

(GUNFIRE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re right above.  Sheet metal.

Kill all those.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s go.

(GUNFIRE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s go.  Get the other end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go.  Hurry up!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Cease fire!  Cease fire!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  These insurgents and foreign fighters out here, they think they can take it to the American people.  But, when we bring the fight to them, they don‘t have a chance. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That was awesome.  We get to blow some (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up, and I get paid for it.  If that don‘t motivate you, check your pulse. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go.  Go.  Go.  Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get down!

(CROSSTALK) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Snipers (INAUDIBLE) this way. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  From that way?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s rounds coming from this way, too.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re shooting from the west...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s snipers shooting this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  East or west? 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We got a few shut doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let them know we are in here!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We got a sniper on the north side of the roof.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We got to clean out (INAUDIBLE)

(GUNFIRE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Throwing two up there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Send it.

(EXPLOSIONS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Split up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is he up here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t want to be here.  These Marines don‘t want to be here.  The fact of the matter is, is that we have to be here to keep them from coming up on our soil.  And, if we keep them here and we fight them here, then so be it. 

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whoa!

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ready.  One, two three.

(GUNFIRE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go.  Go.  Go.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Enemy approaching the alley we rolled in on, 100 meters south from my position, with RPGs.  They‘re coming from the west. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, there‘s two of them.  His heading is bobbing up.  And here we go.  Look at the palm tree.  Look left at the palm tree, down there in that alley, same guy.  There‘s another right there, Shep (ph).  (INAUDIBLE) Look at the palm tree right in front of us.  Look left.  He‘s walking slowly. 

(GUNFIRE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think you just got the top of his head. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, he‘s done.  Let‘s find something else. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)       

CROWLEY:  We want to thank everyone who has served our country.  You are all champions. 

I‘m Monica Crowley, in for Joe—“HARDBALL” coming up next. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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