updated 1/16/2006 9:25:12 PM ET 2006-01-17T02:25:12

Guest: Mike Allen

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

As they say in Congress, we have a call for the yeas and nays.  Well, maybe one less Ney to call on now, the speaker pushing Ohio Congressman Bob Ney to give up his committee chairmanship, all part of the panicky cleanup in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal.

The NSA wiretapping scandal.  As the Senate conducts an investigation, the attorney general will testify why he thinks you don‘t need a warrant to make it legal.

The awful images from Florida.  Well, if we treat the homeless as if they were disposable, why wouldn‘t some punk kids try to beat some of them to death for fun?

Online predators again, more men who cannot not walk into videotaped traps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You pose naked on your webcam, so a 13-year-old girl could see it, because you wanted to teach her a lesson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And face  it, you‘ve thought about it.  Angelina Jolie to bear Brad Pitt‘s child.  What does genetics say about pretty parents having a pretty good shot of having a pretty, pretty baby?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I suppose they have a higher chance than the average individual of that, but there aren‘t any guarantees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No, there aren‘t, are there?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

A year ago, he was promising an investigation into voting irregularities and reform.  Tonight, it looks as if his political masters are worried about his personal irregularities and seeking to reform him right out of the congressional leadership.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the axe of the Jack Abramoff corruption investigation falling next onto Republican Bob Ney of Ohio, and being wielded by no less an authority than the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, NBC News and the Associated Press reporting that Mr. Hastert is working behind the scenes to get Congressman Ney to resign as the chairman of the Committee on Administration before he is pushed.

Ney, of course, linked to the Abramoff investigation, identified as “Representative One” in the court papers, Michael Scanlon.  Speaker Hastert trying to avoid having any of the lobbying reform measures that he‘s now seeking to push through Congress pass through the Committee on Administration while Ney is that committee‘s chair.

This would be the second leadership casualty in the wake of the Abramoff plea deal, the first, obviously, majority leader Tom DeLay, the race to replace him getting another new candidate today, Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona jumping in on a reform platform, saying he is the man to clean up the House.

Mr. Shadegg is a long shot.  The favorites are Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Boehner of Ohio, each claiming to have the support of 100 lawmakers.  It will take 116 votes from the Republicans to win.

Meantime, late in the same week that an NSA whistleblower suggests the illicit tapping of the American phones is thousands of times larger and thousands of times less focused than the president claims, suddenly we have FBI sources leaking stories about Middle Easterners trying to buy vast quantities of untraceable, disposable American cell phones Kmarts and Target stores, which, if true, makes the wiretapping look like a good idea, and its leakers look like they‘ve already helped terrorists outsmart the eavesdropping.

Boy, you can‘t buy timing like that.  I mean it, I‘m asking seriously, you can‘t buy timing like that, right?  Reassure me it only looks too convenient to be believed.

On one track tonight, the investigation into the NSA spy program just starting to take shape, the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, announcing that he has agreed to testify at a Senate hearing on the matter that is upcoming, after setting a few ground rules.  He will discuss the president‘s legal authority to order the warrantless eavesdropping.  He will not discuss any operational details, he says, about the program itself.

At least one operational detail about the National Security Agency during the pre-Bush era coming to light last night, the former president, Bill Clinton, saying that all the intelligence gathered during his administration was gathered with the permission of the secret Foreign Intelligence Security Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON:  I think that there has to be some balance here between the rule of law and the constitutional constraints, particularly when you‘re operating in the domestic framework.  In the case of wiretapping, for example, the compromise that the Congress settled on, which I think is a good one, is this Foreign Intelligence Security Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  While on a parallel track, maybe, there is that FBI leak about disposable cell phones, federal officials telling ABC News that they have launched an investigation because of two shopping sprees in the past month.  In one of them, six would-be cell phone shoppers at a Wal-Mart store in Midland, Texas, last month arrested after store employees became suspicious.

The men were said to be of Middle East origin, the police report in the arrest identifying the six individuals as linked to a terror cell, but several independent counterterrorism experts think any terror connection is only in the imagination of those officials.

A lot shaking out politically tonight.  Let‘s call in “TIME” magazine White House correspondent Mike Allen to discuss all of the above.

Good evening, Mike.

MIKE ALLEN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Happy Friday, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And to you.

Let‘s go back to the top and the Bob Ney news.  Why did this become public?  Is Mr. Ney putting up a fight, even though in three weeks, the Republican conference could vote him out as the committee chair anyway?

ALLEN:  Well, Keith, no, I don‘t think he is going to fight.  But I do have to pause to say that here in official Washington, the story that people are really thinking about is the Redskins and the Seahawks tomorrow.  I can tell you just calling around, there‘s a lot more interest in people working politics in the (INAUDIBLE) in Seattle right now than in the earmark reform plans that are coming out this week.

But it was a weird day for this news to emerge that the speaker was going to suggest that the House Administration Committee chairman step down.

And Keith, we got to say what the House Administration Committee does.  Now, you mentioned they would handle lobbying reform, which is true.  But you know what they really do is, Chairman Ney is the person who gives out Blackberries and sofas to congressman.  So he‘s a popular guy around the House.  And he has actually an aide who follows him around and writes down what other people ask him.

And this has been a move that‘s sort of been on a slow cooker.  It‘s been a while.  It‘s been clear for some time that Chairman Ney did have some vulnerability, that he did have some involvement with Mr. Abramoff.

And this is obviously a personal tragedy that‘s going on.  I did an interview with Chairman Ney last year, and asked him about his ties to Tom DeLay, who was in the news then.  And he said to me, I‘m a speaker‘s guy.  So his patron is turning on him, and he won‘t be there long.  Within three weeks, he‘ll be gone.

OLBERMANN:  Barring a big upset, incidentally, everybody in D.C. will be back to talking politics and not football on Monday, but that‘s another story for another kind of network.

Congressman Shadegg throwing his hat into the majority leadership ring.  Not a household name, unless you‘re in the Arizona third at the moment.  What do we know about him, and does he think, perhaps, that the Abramoff mess will turn out to be so big that it might subsume those two front-runners, Messrs. Blunt and Boehner?

ALLEN:  You know, Keith, what Republicans are saying to me is that those two leaders sort of speak of the status quo.  They‘re both very close to K Street lobbying, and, in fact, have bragged about that in the past when there was a different political environment.

And so even among republicans who probably will support one or the other, they‘ve been telling me this week that they‘d like to see someone else, that the good of the party may require some bigger change and some third candidate.

Now, I don‘t know that John Shadegg of Arizona is going to be it, but he certainly has the most reformist credentials of anyone in the race.  A longtime conservative.  His dad actually ran races for Barry Goldwater.  So he sort of has that in his blood.  He was the chairman of the conservative caucus within the House.

And so he could be the sort of outsider candidate.  Everybody‘s going to be talking like a reformer right now.

One other thing that the speaker‘s going to be doing in the next few months is pushing for a very aggressive lobbying reform package.  And “TIME” is going to report in the (INAUDIBLE) issue on newsstands Monday that it‘s so aggressive that Republicans think that it may be challenged in court on free speech grounds.

But they say, Go ahead.  They‘re very interested in getting the public to tell them that they‘re taking this seriously, although it may be belatedly.

One more irony for you, Keith, I know you like those, it was Chairman Ney last year who was talking about lobbying reform, and the speaker was dragging his feet.  So we have a little reversal of roles there.

OLBERMANN:  Not unheard-of in Washington.

Switching to the NSA eavesdropping, Mike, how do the President Clinton‘s comments impact the current administration in the math of 9/11 and the attacks?  He‘s entirely pre-9/11.  Is the Bush administration likely to argue that having to go to the Foreign Intelligence Security Court might have played a role in the failure to prevent the attacks?

ALLEN:  Well, Keith, I love this story.  This was the president talking to the great Terry Moran of ABC “Nightline.”  And it gave me a little preview of what the next few years may be like if we have another President Clinton, and the former President Clinton backseat driving.

Now, as you know, it‘s pretty rare for a former president to criticize the current guy.  And I looked at the president‘s comments.  He didn‘t really here, he just said that he‘d never had done this.

One thing that was interesting that he did say to Terry is that he thinks that the Supreme Court eventually may have to sort out the question of whether a president can order wiretaps without a warrant.

So he certainly showed that he was skeptical about what‘s happened.  And one thing that I learned from President Carter that surprised me is, former presidents don‘t automatically get security briefings.  I think sometimes they can get them if they ask for them.  But perhaps President Clinton‘s not in the loop on this.  If he‘s going to be out making these comments, they might want to bring him into the loop.

OLBERMANN:  The last point, the timing of that FBI  cell phone investigation story, we‘ll never know for sure if that is or is not just an amazing coincidence that it falls right after the whole NSA whistleblower issues comes up.

But as we had pointed out here before, the administration sure gets a lot of these breaks.  Their position is challenged, and then suddenly there is a hazy story about something that seems to, at least tangentially, justify that position.

ALLEN:  Yes, Keith, who would think that a Target Store in Hemmet (ph) would be the salvation from a bad news cycle?  One of those shopping sprees was for 150 phones.  I guess (INAUDIBLE) that is a lot of phones in Hemmet or anywhere else  But it does maybe give flashbacks to the security, the terror threat alert changes.  We haven‘t had one of those in a while.

So, the—you‘re right that sometimes these stories crop up, and it‘s not always clear why.

OLBERMANN:  I have been to Hemmet.  That‘s probably the most interesting thing that‘s...

ALLEN:  Did you go to the Target, or the Wal-Mart?

OLBERMANN:  No, it‘s probably the most interesting thing that‘s happened to Hemmet in 50 years.  (INAUDIBLE)...

ALLEN:  You were looking for the sacks there, I know you.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE).  “TIME” White House correspondent Mike Allen, who will, as he mentioned, be writing about the race to replace Tom DeLay, Congressman Shadegg in particular, in next week‘s edition of the magazine.

Great thanks for your time tonight, Mike.

ALLEN:  Have an awesome weekend, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  It was during his first State of the Union address after 9/11 that President Bush labeled Iran as part of an axis of evil.  Nearly four years later, Mr. Bush appears to be headed on a collision course regarding the nuclear threat posed by that nation.

As our White House correspondent David Gregory reports, the twist this time, the U.S. seems to have an ally in this from Old Europe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Chants of “Death to America” at Friday prayers in Tehran.  Hs Iran upped the ante in its showdown with the West, threatening to block international inspectors at its nuclear sites?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States.

GREGORY:  In Washington, the question of whether Iran should face U.N.  sanctions was a major topic during the president‘s first face-to-face meeting with Germany‘s new leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who took a hard line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY:  Dankeschoen...

GREGORY:  Saying, quote, “We will certainly not be intimidated by a country such as Iran.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Iran armed with a nuclear weapon poses a great threat to the security of the world.

GREGORY:  Mr. Bush said today he wouldn‘t prejudge what the Security Council should do, but repeated his desire for a diplomatic solution.

U.S. officials and outside experts warn Iran may be within five years of building a nuclear bomb.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR:  The international community is at a very important moment.  I mean, it‘s a battle with Iran, where Iran has decided to, in a sense, walk away from the chess game that‘s been played for the last couple years, and just go to try to win.

GREGORY:  Germany has been a key player in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, and Chancellor Merkel has emerged as a tough new force on the international stage.  The man she defeated in a tight, protracted election, Gerhard Schroeder, had a tense relationship with the president over Iraq.

But today, Mr. Bush appeared to be courting the new face in what his administration once dismissed as Old Europe.

BUSH:  We share something in common, we both didn‘t exactly landslide our way into office.

GREGORY:  Praising Merkel‘s love of freedom after growing up under communist rule.

BUSH:  She‘s got kind of a spirit to her that is appealing.

GREGORY (on camera):  This new alliance will now be tested, as both countries must carefully consider how hard to push in this growing confrontation with Iran.

David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile—stop me if you‘ve heard this before—U.S.  officials are trying to confirm whether Osama bin Laden‘s chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in an American attack on a compound in northwest Pakistan.  The CIA shot at least 10 Hellfire missiles from an unmanned drone at the town of Damadola (ph) yesterday, believing that Zawahiri was visiting the site.  Villagers say at least 30 people were killed, women and children included.

Right now, U.S. officials say that while there was very good intelligence in recent days that Zawahiri was there, and that they have some optimism that he is among the dead, they may never know.

Also tonight, two or more suspects beating a homeless man in Fort Lauderdale, three such attacks there in three hours.  It‘s an American epidemic you probably haven‘t heard of until just now.

And video of a different kind, after capturing men chatting online trying to set up alleged sexual encounters with underaged kids in New York and D.C., the sting moves to Southern California, with results more horrifying still.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Advocates for them believe that in the past five years alone, at least 150 homeless people have been beaten to death in this country in hate crimes, with at least 250 more injured in similar attacks.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, authorities in Fort Lauderdale are looking for at least two and as many as four young men who they believe attacked three homeless people in a span of just three hours.  One of the victims is dead.  And one of the attacks was caught by surveillance cameras.

Our correspondent is Tom Yamas (ph) from our NBC affiliate in Miami,

WTVJ.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM YAMAS, REPORTER, WTVJ, MIAMI (voice-over):  Fort Lauderdale police released this surveillance video and are passing out these flyers in hopes of catching the thugs who turned this homeless man into a human pinata.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It makes you sick.

YAMAS:  And police think these bat boys might be responsible for the murder of another homeless man, Norris Gaynor (ph), and the beatdown of a third man outside the Church by the Sea.  All three incidents happened Thursday morning in Fort Lauderdale.  And homeless across south Florida are now terrified.

MIKE MARINO, HOMELESS:  I thought it was disgusting.

YAMAS:  Mike Marino will stay overnight at the Homeless Boys Center in Hollywood.  The shelter is housing over 150 people.

MARINO:  I‘m worrying for other people that are out there on the road now, you know.  I feel for their lives, I pray for them, you know.  People like that shouldn‘t be allowed in society if they want to go out and beat up on homeless people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Three people last night got beat up by young men with baseball bats.

YAMAS:  And the attacks happened in a city where the homeless are a top concern.  Six years ago, Fort Lauderdale P.D. formed the Homeless Outreach Team.  Right now, they‘re focused on getting the word out about the recent attacks.

OFFICER JAMIE COSTAS, FORT LAUDERDALE POLICE:  We‘re handing out flyers in order to get them aware of their surroundings.  They don‘t have the availability like everybody else does for TV and radio to even know about (INAUDIBLE) this senseless incident.

YAMAS:  And according to Sean Cononie, who runs the Hollywood shelter, attacks on the homeless happen all over the country.

SEAN CONONIE, HOMELESS VOICE SHELTER:  In the year 2004 alone, there was 25 sought-out (ph) hate crimes that actually killed homeless people.  And 80 other beatings.  And with the last six years, homeless people have been decapitated, set on fire, pushed in rivers as they slept.  And it‘s really bad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Tom Yamas from our station in Miami, WTVJ.

These attacks coming on the heels of the release of the National Coalition for the Homeless list of the 20 meanest cities.  Sarasota, Florida, is at the top, New York at number 14.  Not on the list, Fort Lauderdale nor Miami.

Miami‘s chief of police, John Timoney, joins us now.

Chief Timoney, thanks again for your time tonight.

CHIEF JOHN TIMONEY, FORT LAUDERDALE POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Keith, good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  If the coalition is right here, 30 homeless a year killed in hate crimes, 50 more injured, if that was 30 American women killed a year in Aruba in hate crimes or 50 husbands on honeymoon cruises injured in hate crimes per year, there‘d be national outrage about this.  Is—why is there not national outrage here?

TIMONEY:  Well, I think this video, that there certainly is.  The

video is shocking.  I saw it for the first time this morning, and it‘s just

it‘s actually disturbing.

But, of course, you have to watch it to appreciate it and understand the viciousness of the actions taken by these kids.

And I guarantee you, police officers in Fort Lauderdale will spare no expense to get these thugs and get them in jail where they belong.  And, you know, there‘ll be no sympathy for these guys.  These guys are going to wind up doing, they‘ll be happy, they‘ll be lucky if they could do life.

OLBERMANN:  Do you think, then, this will be an instance where surveillance cameras can influence not just the investigation of one crime or a series of crimes, perhaps, but the consciousness about the kind of crime?

TIMONEY:  Well, I think you do, and I think you see that increasingly, whether it‘s a case of police brutality or this case here, where literally the most vulnerable people in the world, some poor guy just laying there, sleeping, all of a sudden is attacked for no reason whatsoever.

This isn‘t a fight among two guys, this is a vicious attack, where they killed an individual.  And they should pay, and pay dearly.

OLBERMANN:  To the specifics of this case, obviously it‘s Fort Lauderdale, you‘re Miami, it‘s not your case.  But how do the police go about assessing it?  They have video of one crime, and nothing of the other two.  How do they assess whether or not the crimes are indeed linked?

TIMONEY:  Well, because the crimes are so unusual, and the M.O. was so similar, you have to go under the assumption it‘s the same at least group, if not the same two individuals, at each location.

And so you go in with that premise.  Doesn‘t mean you dismiss the notion that you could have three separate groups at three different locations.  More than likely, though, (INAUDIBLE) the proximity of where it happened, the time of the morning, and the M.O. itself (INAUDIBLE), one would conclude that these are probably related.

OLBERMANN:  The authorities in Fort Lauderdale are urging the homeless population there to stay in shelters until they catch these guys.  But often for the homeless, particularly homeless women, is that not as dangerous, nearly, as being on the streets?

TIMONEY:  You know, Keith, I spent 29 years in New York, and that was the constant refrain.  And I‘ve been in and out of homeless shelters in New York, Philadelphia, and Miami.  And while (INAUDIBLE) the nicest places in the world, they‘re not as dangerous as some people make them out to be.

They‘re not as dangerous, for example, as living in the street.  They‘re not as unhealthy as living on the street.  And so police and homeless officials trying to get these folks into shelters.  But unfortunately, an awful lot of them have their mental issues, they may have substance abuse issues, and they‘re not rational.

OLBERMANN:  Well, perhaps as we saw, some of the Fort Lauderdale officers going around showing what happened, maybe the message gets across, at least in the short term.

The police chief of Miami, Florida, John Timoney, thank you again for your time tonight, sir.  Have a good weekend.

TIMONEY:  Keith, good seeing you.

OLBERMANN:  More fallout also tonight from James Frey‘s fictional nonfiction, the changes being planned for the next printing of his book.  And if his story cannot be believed, how can you believe his advice for addicts who are seeking a way out?

Talking about needing a way out, there is a shark there—there‘s a shark—there‘s a shark --  You better stop that, there is a shark there, fella.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we now pause the COUNTDOWN carousel of serious news to instead ride the rolly-coaster of strange video and weird animals.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Inning in Kuala Lumpur.  For the latest world record attempt by Ashrita Fuhrman (ph), the guy with the Guinness World Record for most Guinness World Records, and the same last name as Detective Mark Fuhrman, this time this Fuhrman was attempting to break his own record for underwater juggling in this Malaysian aquarium.

Things were going along swimmingly for half an hour or so before Fuhrman learned what makes underwater juggling so difficult, them man-eating sharks.  All right, probably not a man-eater, but it certainly is a juggling disrupter.

After ruining the first attempt, Fuhrman finally quit from exhaustion during the second one.  Wire reports say the shark was actually named Guinness, but I‘m guessing something got lost in the translation from Malaysia to here.  Plus, he looks more like a jabberjaw (ph) anyway.

And now, because there‘s nothing sexier than a bunch of New Jersey strippers gathered around smoking cigarettes, we bring you the great Trenton Smoke-In.  Dozens of Jersey‘s most exotic of the exotic dancers gathering outside the statehouse to protest a new ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, claiming the prohibition will hurt their earning power.

Yes, the smoking ban is not why—is why you‘re not getting tips.  Chanting, We want to smoke, we want to smoke, the stripper is hoping to pressure Governor Dick Codey into not signing the new bill this Sunday.  If that doesn‘t work, they‘ll threaten to give him a lap dance while they smoke.

Finally, here‘s a chicken playing the xylophone.  And he accompanies himself.  If you do it right, you can play the NBC theme.  Should be good stuff.  The chicken is a student at the German Animal Academy in Witvich (ph), a school devoted to teaching barnyard animals and household pets to be virtuoso musicians.  And along the way, the magic of music helps to bring dogs and cats together.

Watch it (INAUDIBLE).

The academy says it has several promising students.  That‘s if you count three as several.  And if you count this as promising.

To use your language, sir, woof.

Speaking of woof, another story my producers are forcing me to cover.  Put those away, the tests were positive.  What do scientists say now about what the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt baby will look like?  What did scientists say, after they stopped laughing because we asked.

Nobody is laughing about the James Frey controversy.  If he made up portions of his book, “A Million Little Pieces” can his recovery from drug addiction be believed?  And if not what happens to the reader who might be trying to follow that recovery?  Those stories ahead.  First, your COUNTDOWN top three newsmakers today.

There is a theme tonight.  Number three, an unidentified deer in Evansville, Indiana.  The young buck came crashing throughout plate-glass window of a local video store.  No doubt he was returning a tape of the “Deer Hunter” because he didn‘t like it.

Number two, two deer in our Kansas City, Kansas, one had just come crashing through a school window into Ms. Weekley‘s (ph) fifth grade class.  She astutely shepherded her kids out into the hallway where they discovered another which had come in through another classroom.  Both deer then left because they didn‘t like school.

And number one rats at the police department in Northport, Florida, no, not snitches, sources, real rats.  Teeth marks in the evidence room telling the story.  Rats have been eating the evidence in some marijuana, cocaine and narcotics cases.  The Northport Cops are moving into new headquarters next month.  Somebody better leave those rats very detailed directions to the new place because the rats are stoned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There will be something new in the next printing of James Frey‘s disputed quote “memoir,” unquote, “A Million Little Pieces.”  An author‘s note.  The latest development in this unexpectedly fascinating and continuing case.  The third story on the COUNTDOWN, long ago and far away, when I was a nationally published book reviewer, I criticized a writer for making 50 factual errors that I noticed just by reading his book.  Things like misidentifying New York‘s Harlem River as the Hudson River.

When next we met, he literally screamed at me for nitpicking.  My argument back was if I knew 50 of his facts were wrong, what about all his other statements that I couldn‘t possibly know about.  Why was I supposed to believe he had gotten anything right?

That one of the latest issues over the embellishments in Frey‘s book.  Another, if he wasn‘t as doped up as criminal, as crazy as he portrayed himself, then his self cure from which so many readers have drawn so much information might also be fraudulent and people in real trouble may try it rather than try more tested methods of recovery and waste their time or even waste their lives.

As to that author‘s note, spokesman for Publishers Doubleday would only say that it would be added in the next printing, not what it would say, although the Associated Press notes that most items are acknowledgements that names and events have been altered by the author, a caveat not included in all the copies printed thus far of the Frey a: autobiography b: memoir, c: novel or d: all of the above.

Well, the debate over the facts continues.  Maybe the more important debate is the impact on addicts or others who have turned to what Frey wrote for help.  Might they instead be getting hurt?

Joining us, Gary Stromberg, author of “The Harder They Fall, Celebrities Tell Their Real Life Stories of Addiction and Recovery.”  Himself a recovering drug addict.  Mr. Stromberg, thanks for your time tonight.

GARY STROMBERG, AUTHOR, “THE HARDER THEY FALL”:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I have a good friend of mine, very bright, kind person who is furious at me for reporting anything negative about this book because she says it has helped her so much in understanding a relative with an addiction problem.  Is she right to complain about this?

STROMBERG:  Well, it is for her to judge but in my estimation, this book is doing more harm than good in that as you correctly pointed out, it seems to be suggesting that self reliance and even defiance are the roads to recovery as opposed to what I know in my 23 years and throughout interviews that I did with the 21 celebrities in my book who seemed to have evolved to some degree of humility and gratitude for what they have discovered.

OLBERMANN:  One point being made a lot is that Mr. Frey has possibly, by portraying fiction as fact, underscored cliche after cliche about addiction and addicts and made recovery or understanding them more difficult, not easier.  Let me run a couple of quotes past you from this superb piece on this from the Slate Website by Seth Mnookin (ph).  “In the book he says Frey reinforces the still dangerously prevalent notion that it is easy to spot a drug addict or alcoholic, they are the ones bleeding from holes in their cheeks or getting beaten down by the police or doing hard time with killers and rapists.”

Do you think Mr. Frey has done this in the book?

STROMBERG:  I don‘t know whether he has done it or not about my personal experience is that it is impossible to tell.  I met an alcoholic once whose bottom was following of miss yacht.  He didn‘t look like the person that is described by Mr. Frey.

OLBERMANN:  Another great point, again, from this article, for those struggling with their own substance abuse issues, “Pieces” sends the message that unless you have reached the depth Frey describes you don‘t have anything to worry about.  You don‘t need to necessarily get treatment or look to others for support.  All you need to do is hold on and he added that Frey has built up a false bogeyman, the American recovery movement‘s supposed reliance on the notion of victimhood.

I guess the point here is this is a cookbook by a guy who may or may not know how to make toast successfully and if you follow this recipe of his, you could start a fire.

STROMBERG:  Alcohol and drug addiction are serious ailments, serious diseases and Mr. Frey seems to suggest in his 20 minutes of recovery that he has the solution and this is something that I don‘t—I respect him don‘t want it play with or fool with and if you are in trouble, seek reliable solutions.  Not somebody who is newly recovered and wants to tell his story.

OLBERMANN:  If there is one element of book that seems to symbolize the controversy is this man‘s claim that he had repeated - and this has nothing to do with addiction but it does in some sense have to do with drugs.  That he had repeated root canals without anesthesia.  I have had about half a dozen root canals in my life and you can poke around a root canal after the nerve has been deadened without too much discomfort but until then, it is like biting down on a machete.

In that sense, the establishment is wrong, you should just tough it out.  Is he being like the kids who did the “Jackass” series on MTV, is he encouraging them to do stunts in which they could get even more hurt than they ordinarily would be?

STROMBERG:  I certainly hope not.  I had talk to a high-ranking official at a major rehab and I asked him about this very issue and they said in no way would they allow a patient to go through what Mr. Frey suggests he went through with the dental treatment he has received.

OLBERMANN:  And that as symbolism for the idea of recovery is also a bad thing, too.

STROMBERG:  Sure is.

OLBERMANN:  The recovered addict and author Gary Stromberg, his book, “The Harder They Fall.  Thanks for your perspective and your time tonight.

STROMBERG:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, “Dateline‘s” hidden cameras roll yet again, this time in a house in Southern California, more men nabbed coming to meet under-aged kids after sexually charged conversations on the Internet.

Another story my producers are forcing me to cover.  Jennifer Aniston‘s people putting to rest the debate over the Brad Pitt baby news.  Yeah, I think that would that will still be a story next week.

Those stories ahead.  First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three soundbites of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CASSIE KRULIK, COUNTDOWN PRODUCER:  . my haircut because I have been stuck in a rut for two years and I would like to have something easy to do because I‘m having a baby and when I go back it work, I would like it to look nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here she is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Cassie Krulik.  And you look great.  Congratulations. 

What‘s his name?

KRULIK:  Thank you.  Boy.  All the way.  He‘s an angel.  Gilligan (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  About 6:30, a deputy made a routine speed stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The driver threw the vehicle into reverse, hope opened his door and attempted to run over the deputy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you hit a cop?

TODD POWELL, ALLEGEDLY TRIED TO RUN OVER DEPUTY:  No, they hit me out there in the field, I‘ll be honest with you, when he ran me down out here and everything.

I‘m a very good driver, even at speeds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Authorities say speeds went up to 85 miles an hour. 

And where does Powell say he was going in such a hurry?

POWELL:  Just looking for London Correctional Institute (ph) to go to a bible study.  Next thing I know they are trying to pull me over.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDETN:  My first impressions of 45 minutes alone in the Oval Office were incredibly positive.  She is smart.  She is plenty capable.  She has got kind of a spirit to her that is appealing.  She loves freedom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The first time “Dateline” NBC set up a video trap for online predators, the images were not just infuriating, they were also unbelievable.  Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, with the cooperation of a group dedicated to capturing the would-be victimizers, another roundup has begun and it, too, beggars description.

The first investigations in the New York and DC areas has netted about the 20 suspects a piece.  The latest trap in Southern California has totally dwarfed that figure.  Fifty one different men showed up at the “Dateline” undercover house.  And this time it wasn‘t just reporter Chris Hansen waiting for them.  The local police were there, too.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS HANSEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Just this week, dateline was back in action for a third investigation into online predators.  This time in Southern California.  And as you will see, some men are simply though the getting the message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hello?  Come on in.

HANSEN:  Meet 40-year-old Daniel Polito, who is hoping to meet a 13 year old girl home alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I got finish brushing my teeth, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He sent her pictures over the Internet of his genitals and asked if she would give him oral sex.  He is in for a big surprise when I walk in.  Like so many others, he says he wasn‘t really here for sex.  He tells me he was here to teach the girl a lesson about the dangers of talking to strangers online.

HANSEN (on camera):  You posed naked on your Web cam, so a 13-year-old girl could see it because you wanted to teach her a lesson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, you could say.

HANSEN:  So this is like a tough love thing.

(voice-over):  Daniel Polito may really be the one who needs to learn a lesson.  You won‘t believe what he admits to me.

(on camera):  Did you ever watch “Dateline NBC”?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

HANSEN:  Have you ever seen our story on computer predators?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

HANSEN:  This is one of them.  Now if there is anything else you would like to say for yourself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s it.

HANSEN:  Then obviously you are free to leave.

(video clip):  Unlike our previous hidden camera operations where after leaving the house, some men were able to make a run for it, this time, things will be different.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re not calling me to tell me like, no .

HANSEN:  For our new investigation, Perverted Justice, the watch dog group that regularly catches online predators set up a plan with the Riverside County sheriff‘s department.

Frag, a Perverted Justice volunteer who is inside the house alerts detectives when a potential predator is on the way.  Once the man leaves the house, he can run, but he can‘t hide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sheriff‘s department, come out to the street.  Turn around.

HANSEN:  And Daniel Polito is just one in another parade of potential predators.  Dozen of men show up.  Some who have already been convicted of sex crimes with minors.

(on camera):  So you are on probation for having sex with a boy, how old?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fifteen.

HANSEN:  Fifteen.  And now you are in this house to meet a 13-year-old boy.

(voice-over):  While our first two investigations saw almost 20 men show up each time, as you will soon see, those numbers were dwarfed by what we found in our latest investigation in Southern California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  The rest of Chris Hansen‘s exclusive investigation for “Dateline” tonight at 9:00 Eastern, 8:00 Central on NBC.

A tough segue into our nightly roundup of entertainment and celebrity news tonight, “Keeping Tabs,” watch out ladies, Hassle the Hoff is back on the market.  Former “Knight Rider” and TV lifeguard David Hasselhoff announcing through his publicist that he has filed for divorce from actress Pamela Bach.  His wife of 16 years, parents of two teenager daughters say they have arrived at an amicable settlement.  Details on custody and property issues have not been disclosed, leading to rampant speculation, though, on just who gets the car and spokesman.

And the feel-good story of the night.  Finally someone has stepped forward to help poor Terrell Owens.  The former Philadelphia Eagles star who mouth got him drummed out of town and perhaps out of football.  Now Mr. Owens can finally tell his side of the story.  But you‘d better pay attention, he has only got 30 seconds.

Telecom company Boost Mobile will feature Owens in a one-time only unscripted commercial that is going to air tomorrow‘s NFL playoff game on CBS.  Yet let‘s stept gingerly around that neighborhood, Kanye West.  The company is hyping the spot as a chance for Terrell to show the story of how he yapped himself out of a job once and for all and of course the to pump their new Website, whereyouat.net, as in that is where Terrell is at, where you at?  I‘m at English class.

Soon for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, perhaps, Lamaze class.  Soon for me, another story my producers are forcing me to cover.  What will the baby look like?  That‘s ahead.  First time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”  The bronze goes to Karen Durante (ph), a postal carrier in Lyons, Colorado, if you live there and you ordered some of those movies by mail, DVDs, you‘ve probably been wondering why you didn‘t get them?  Police charge that Ms. Durante, the mail person stole a few, 1,256 of them.

Tonight‘s runner up, Houston district fire chief Jack Williams and the civil service regulations he upheld which resulted in firefighter Beta Kent (ph) having to take a promotion exam at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, just 12 hours after she gave birth to her baby daughter.

But the winner is Brent Bozell (ph), his Cybercast News Service is apparently trying to start another one of those swift boat vet hatchet jobs.  This time against the Vietnam vet Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania.  Just as Murtha is predicting that the vast majority of U.S.  troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year.  The quote, “CNS News,” unquote, story is a rehash of 25 years of unproven allegations that Murtha, who volunteered to go to Vietnam and won two Purple Hearts there, didn‘t deserve them.

In massaging those charges, Bozell‘s writers used the following words. 

“Allege, alleging, apparently, appears, indicated, may and reportedly.” 

Brent Bozell of CNS News, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If one subject our nation thought about more and said out loud less than any other, it‘s got to be this “Boy, I hope when they have children, they resemble her and not him” or the other way around.

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, another one my producers are forcing me to cover, what the baby will look like.  In some cases it can be a real crapshoot.  Time has equalized things and the young lady in question is now a budding beauty when Alexa Ray Joel, the daughter of Billie Joel and Christie Brinkley was an infant, she did not look like mom, if you know what I mean.

So scientifically, what kind of looks will be produced by the mating of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt?  First, the breaking news on the subject.  Jolie did not have a conversation with a tearful Jennifer Aniston about the impending birth of Baby Pitt.  This according to Aniston‘s publicist.  All the reports about phone calls between Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie are all made up lies, said publicist said.

Now to our guest, the face part of the newscast, just keep telling yourself this is science, this is science.  It‘s calling COUNTDOWN‘s senior genetic forecasting correspondent Monica Novotny for the kind of report usually reserved for the PBS series “Nova.”

Good evening, Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Keith, good evening.  Tonight, we go in-depth asking at all important question in the game of reproductive roulette.  Are celebrity babies most likely to receive the genetics gene pool jackpot?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST:  Angelina Jolie is pregnant.  Yeah.  Jolie‘s doctor said it was the first time he‘s ever seen lips on an ultrasound.

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  Just months away from birthing their first biological offspring even we want to know, what will Brad and Angelina‘s baby look like.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to name names here, but could they get like Winston Churchill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, my parents were supermodels and that worked out.

NOVOTNY:  But will it work out for the sexiest parents alive?  Handbag.com predicts this.  But over at the “Today Show.”

MATT LAUER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  This is going to be one good-looking child. 

Do we have it?

NOVOTNY:  Not great but even the doctors say pretty isn‘t predictable.

DR. MARILYN JONES, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF MEDICAL GENETICS:  When you look at something in terms of seeing two attractive parents and saying they‘re going to have an attractive baby, I suppose they have a higher chance than the average individual of that but there aren‘t any guarantees.

NOVOTNY:  Over at “Late Night with Conan O‘Brien,” they think what‘s guaranteed isn‘t good.  Already guessing what the offspring off other beautiful people would look like.

O‘BRIEN:  Lindsey Lohan and Jared Leto are dating.  What would happen if they had a child?  What would it look like?  Let‘s find out right now and oh.

Eva Longoria and San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker.  Probably good-looking child.  Let‘s see what would happen if they had one.

Martha Stewart and Burt Reynolds.

NOVOTNY:  But there is good news for Brad and Angelina.  No matter what a celebrity baby looks like, magazines guarantee supermodel status and even funny looking babies like our own little KO, turn OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Sort of.

NOVOTNY (on camera):  Now, there‘s one small bit of scientific evidence suggesting the baby may look more like Mr. Pitt.  That is, if you believe a 1995 study in which researchers argue that babies by the time they‘re one-year-old tend to resemble their fathers more than their mothers.  Now the rationale behind this, the researchers say is evolutionary, because while the mom knows without a doubt the baby is hers the father does not.  So it better look like daddy.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m a dead ringer for my father.  You‘re a dead ringer for your mother.

NOVOTNY:  I guess.  Some people say that.

OLBERMANN:  Many thanks.  Off to your next assignment.

NOVOTNY:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  One other note about this though.  You may have seen it just now in our previous coverage of the story, it may have been so obvious to you it made you howl in anger.  It may have registered subliminally that it has appears only in your dreams.  This, the images of what has been billed as the couple‘s first public appearance together.  The dedication of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville last November 19th.

We‘ve been showing it a lot.  Because, simply put, these are the only pictures of them together that we have.  It‘s this or puppets so it becomes file tape for the cynical inside of the news industry wall paper, without it, life on earth itself would be impossible.

Join us Monday for a segment in which we salute this invaluable resource, explain to you why you keep seeing Jack Abramoff walk like that why every time gas prices go up, you see the same woman in California filling up her tank, it‘s COUNTDOWN‘s file footage hall of fame, 8:00 p.m. and midnight Eastern.  5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Pacific.  Be there Aloha.

That is COUNTDOWN.  Keep yours knees loose.  Reminder to join us again at midnight Eastern, 11:00 p.m. Central, 9:00 Pacific for the late edition of COUNTDOWN.  Until then, it‘s Crimetime in Primetime.  “Lockup, Return to Rikers Island” is next.  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.

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 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.

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,