updated 1/18/2006 10:46:48 AM ET 2006-01-18T15:46:48

Guests: James Bamford, Michael Musto, E.J. Dionne

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN  starts right now. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

The first lawsuit filed in the NSA domestic spy scandal.  We‘ll talk to one of the plaintiffs.  And a report that, for all the effort, the eavesdropping has produced almost no useful intelligence. 

The war of words over the spying escalates again.  First it was Gore v. Bush, now it‘s Bush v. Gore and Hillary Clinton v. Bush.  Claiming the administration is among the worst ever and has manhandled Congress. 

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  It has been run like a plantation, and you know what I‘m talking about. 

OLBERMANN:  Guess she‘s not going for the center after all.

In Iraq, unidentified terrorists releasing a terrible tape of the “Christian Science Monitor” reporter Jill Carroll, threatening to kill her within 72 hours. 

The LoJack for your relationship.  Suspect a cheating spouse? Attach the Cheater Tracker to his or her car. 

And the Golden Globes.  Who won?  Huffman?  Hoffman?  Heath? “House”? 

And what did George Clooney say about Jack Abramoff?

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR:  Who would name their child Jack with the last words “off” at the end of your last name. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

CLOONEY:  All right.  I just got bleeped.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening. 

Not in our lifetimes will it be forgotten that the FBI missed several chances before the 9/11 attacks to uncover vital information about the hijackers.  Nor will anyone dispute that the bureau‘s intelligence gathering methods were in desperate need of repair. 

The good news tonight: the FBI has obviously been busy in the four years since the attacks.  The bad news: what its agents have been doing, say former officials of the bureau and the other intelligence services, amounting to little more to busy work. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, two important revelations in the NSA wiretapping scandal.  The first: that two leading civil rights groups have filed their first lawsuits against the administration over its domestic spying policy. 

The second, what might be the real scandal, regarding these wiretaps.  That of the flood of tips that resulted from domestic spying, most were virtually useless.  We begin there. 

“The New York Times” reporting that electronic surveillance by the NSA generated so many tips that the bureau was swamped with new information, forcing agents to drop other work so they could follow the leads.  In the vast majority of cases, the trail stopping at a dead end or with innocent Americans.

One ex-BI official describing it as, quote, “You get 1,000 numbers and not one is turning up anything.”

The report in direct conflict with what the White House has said about the program, that it is both limited and effective, Vice President Cheney claiming it has saved, quote, “thousands of lives.”  The NSA echoing that defense, director Michael Hayden telling “The New York Times,” “I can say unequivocally that we have gotten information through this program that would not otherwise have been available.”

The phrase quality not quantity comes to mind. 

Then there‘s the legal battle over the domestic eavesdropping program.  The ACLU and another group called the Center for Constitutional Rights filing separate lawsuits today on behalf of defense lawyers, journalists and other Americans who aides say may have reason to suspect that they were targeted by the NSA.

An ACLU lawyer telling “The New York Times” in a different article, “We don‘t have any direct evidence, but the plaintiffs have a well-founded belief that they may have been monitored.”

One of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit, no less an authority on the NSA than James Bamford, author of two books on the intelligence agency, called “Body of Secrets” and “The Puzzle Palace” and our past guest here on COUNTDOWN.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 

JAMES BAMFORD, PLAINTIFF IN ACLU SUIT:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What leads you to believe that you might have been monitored by the NSA as part of this program?

BAMFORD:  Well, first of all, the NSA went around the FISA courts.  There‘s no impartial judge to decide who should be listened to and who shouldn‘t, who should be—who‘s a target because there are connections to a terrorist organization and who isn‘t. 

I‘ve written probably more about the National Security Agency than virtually anybody.  And in addition, during that same period of time when NSA was doing this illegal domestic monitoring, I was writing a book that had a great deal to do with the U.S. eavesdropping in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a lot about how the U.S. got involved in the war in Iraq. 

So there were probably words that I used combinations of use r words that I used or people that I talked to or places that I either sent or received e-mails from that came within the vacuum cleaner of—vacuum cleaner approach of eavesdropping from NSA.

OLBERMANN:  In this whole story, there‘s a certain ghostly quality to this.  I mean, you poll Americans about secret domestic spying and the slim majority says, “We‘re OK with it.” 

But of course, the moment you ask them about secret domestic spying, it‘s no longer secret.  In your suit, you have to do the equivalent kind of thing.  How do you prove you were the victim of secret spying?

BAMFORD:  Well, right now, we‘re coming out, saying that we are people that would probably fit in the category of people who were monitored by NSA. 

And I think the court has to take a look at what happened when the FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, was bypassed.  And how many people were eavesdropped on and who were these people?

There has been cases in the past where—this Abdeen Jabara (ph)

case, where Abdeen Jabara (ph) was a lawyer and represented a client that

the government was very interested in, and he was spied on by the NSA.  He

he filed a suit.  The NSA admitted that he was spied on, and the court ordered the NSA to destroy all the tapes of all his conversations. 

So this—to some degree this has been done before, and we‘re looking to do it again. 

OLBERMANN:  While we have you here, let me ask about this other component of the story tonight.  Infighting between all the intelligence agencies was diagnosed as a key component of the failure to prevent 9/11. 

Can the FBI complaint that the NSA was overwhelming, burying it in useless leads, could that be merely somebody leaking out a little infighting?  Or is there more substance to it?

BAMFORD:  Well, you know, “The Times” said they had, I think, a dozen or more sources on this.  And it‘s very unlikely that this is just a turf fight.  This is probably a lot of frustration.  And it goes completely contrary to what the administration is saying and what General Hayden was saying, which is that this was very valuable information. 

What the FBI, who are the recipients of this information, were saying was that most of it, almost all of it was useless.  It was just names of people who are connected to connected to connected to people, but those people themselves had no real intelligence value. 

So instead of going after really important target, the NS—I‘m sorry, the FBI was out on wild goose chases chasing down dead ends, which is what the agents said to the FBI.  Or the agents said to the “New York Times,” rather. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly on that, the president said it—Scott McClellan said it again today, that the only people spied upon were those contacted by Al Qaeda and affiliated organizations. 

If the FBI was chasing down conservatively thousands of tips generated by NSA wiretapping, does that definition of affiliated organizations have to be pretty broad?  I mean, wouldn‘t it have to include things like the Visiting Nurse Association or League of Women Voters or other ridiculous organizations like that?  What could that mean and still be true?

BAMFORD:  Well, it could mean anybody who‘s—who‘s watched some news report about Al Qaeda on television and mentioned it on a telephone call, or done a Google search for something dealing with Al Qaeda on their computer for a school paper.  It could be virtually anything. 

And again, that was why the FISA court was set up, to prevent this kind of wild goose chase or fishing expedition.  And this is what happened when—happens when you secretly violate the law. 

OLBERMANN:  The national security expert James Bamford, now a plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit against the Bush administration over the NSA wiretap program.  Great thanks for joining us again tonight, sir. 

BAMFORD:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN: The White House, meantime, making no secret that it monitored the remarks of former Vice President Al Gore yesterday, the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, claming the Clinton-Gore administration conducted its own warrantless searches.  The “Oh, yes, you did it, too,” defense. 

Although it appears Mr. Gonzales cited a supposedly illegal search from 1993, even though the law that would have made that search illegal was not passed until 1995. 

Mr. Gore, disputing Gonzales‘ remarks as not merely factually wrong but also diversionary, saying in a statement today, “The administration‘s response to my speech illustrates perfectly the need for a special counsel to review the legality of the NSA wiretapping program.  The attorney general is making a political defense of the president without even addressing the substantive legal questions that have so troubled millions of Americans in both political parties.”

Mr. Gore‘s charges dovetailing with those of another prominent occupant of the Clinton White House.  The only question: when Democrats attack, does anybody other than the Democratic Party sustain any losses?  Keeping score for us tonight, our chief White House correspondent, David Gregory. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  They are two of the nation‘s most high profile Democrats, now taking aim at the White House. 

Senator Hillary Clinton told a largely African-American audience in New York yesterday that the administration is one of the worst in U.S.  history.  As for the Republicans in Congress?

CLINTON:  When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I‘m talking about. 

GREGORY:  That, hours after former Vice President Al Gore in Washington accused the president of repeatedly breaking the law by authorizing wiretaps on Americans. 

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. 

GREGORY:  Condemning both attacks at the White House today, the president‘s spokesman singled out Gore. 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  If he‘s going to be the voice of the Democratic Party on national security matters, we welcome it.  We look forward to the discussion. 

GREGORY (on camera):  What‘s clear is that campaigning for next year‘s midterm election is under way, with both sides settling into a political strategy. 

MARSHALL WITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Democrats at this stage want to portray an administration that doesn‘t allow any dissent, that‘s overreaching and that‘s basically incompetent. 

GREGORY (voice-over):  The other theme, say Democratic strategist, corruption.  From wiretapping to tainted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the president and his party no longer play by the rules. 

But questions about domestic spying have allowed Mr. Bush to emphasize what polls show is his greatest strength: fighting the war on terror. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They attacked us before.  They will attack us again if they can.  And we‘re going to do everything we can to stop them. 

GREGORY:  Attack and counterattack.  Washington‘s election year war of words has begun. 

David Gregory, NBC News, the White House. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Much more to be said on what Senator Clinton said.  Her plantation remarks, suggesting she‘s not quite as centrist as her other previous comments previously suggested. 

The plantation remark also turning out to have been a virtual quote of what Newt Gingrich said about Democrats and the Congress a decade back. 

Tonight also, an ultimatum to the U.S.  Terrorists in Iraq threatening to kill American journalist Jill Carroll in three days unless their demands are met. 

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  News finally surfacing about the missing American journalist in Iraq.  Her captors level ultimatums and issue a literal deadline.  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is simultaneously hopeful and horrifying.  Hopeful in that it gives some evidence that abducted American journalist Jill Carroll is still alive in Iraq.  Horrifying because at the same time it sets a deadline for her death. 

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN the first contact from Ms. Carroll‘s abductors, coming in a short message sent to Al-Jazeera television with an even shorter message attached. 

Our correspondent in Bagnol—in Baghdad, rather, is Preston Mendenhall—Preston. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRESTON MENDENHALL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.           

Well, nobody had heard from Jill Carroll for the 10 days since she was abducted on the streets of Baghdad when she went to interview a Sunni politician who didn‘t show up for that interview. 

Now a group that is calling itself the Revenge Brigades is apparently claiming responsibility for her abduction.  And if it is the Revenge Brigades, it‘s a name that we‘ve seen before.  It may be linked to other acts of violence in Iraq.  But in the murky world of Iraq‘s insurgency, nobody can be sure. 

(voice-over) It was the first news of American reporter Jill Carroll since her kidnapping on January 7.  But the 20-second video delivered to Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera was silent. 

Tonight in a statement, Carroll‘s family made a plea for her life.  “Jill is a friend and sister to many Iraqis and has been dedicated to bringing the truth of the Iraq war to the world.  We appeal for the speedy and safe return of our beloved daughter and sister.”

Twenty-eight-year-old Carroll, seen here speaking at a memorial for another American victim of Iraq‘s violence, is just one of dozens of U.S.  citizens kidnapped in Iraq.  Just weeks after Ronald Shultz, a civilian contractor from Alaska, was believed to have been killed by his abductors, though no body was found. 

(on camera) Now Carroll‘s translator was killed during her abduction, but her driver managed to escape.  And he spread the word that yet another American had been abducted in Iraq. 

Now Carroll is one of dozens of Americans—the estimated number is over 40 -- who have been captured here.  Ten Americans have been killed while in captivity, and the State Department and Carroll‘s employer, “The Christian Science Monitor” newspaper, said again that they will continue to press to win her release. 

Keith, back to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Preston Mendenhall in Baghdad. 

Back here, Senator Clinton drawing fire for having compared the GOP-controlled Congress to a plantation.  Funniest doggone thing, though.  You‘ll never guess who compared the formerly Democratic-controlled Congress to a plantation. 

Nothing quite measures up to bond between a man and his Corvette, even if the Corvette had been missing for 37 years next Sunday.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause our COUNTDOWN of today‘s news that should actually matter to you for a brief segment of news that matters to no one.  Except those who stop and smell the roses.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in Ferndale, Michigan, with the COUNTDOWN car chase of the week, our first of 2006, which means the “Oddball” scoreboard has been reset for the season.  It‘s cops nothing, guys who think they can escape the cops, nothing.  I think this year the dopes have a chance to break the streak.

This guy had outstanding drug warrants, was pulled over for driving with a fake license plate when he decided to make a break for it.  And I think he might just possibly break the streak and put the dopes ahead, one to—well, no.  Probably not now.

Yes, that will happen when you‘re driving with a flat tire or a fake license plate.  So the ‘06 chasing season has begun with our first participant in handcuffs.  And now he‘s going to the place where they make the real license plates, the big house.

In unrelated crime news, this Corvette was finally returned to its owner today, stolen out of a parking garage in New York City 37 years ago this coming Sunday. 

Alan Poster says he never thought he‘d see his ‘68 Vette again.  But the car appears to have been exceptionally maintained over the years, although it doesn‘t have a gas tank.

Custom officials found the car this week just as it was about to be shipped to a guy who‘d bought it in Sweden. 

One New York detective had bet another a steak dinner that he couldn‘t find the rightful owner.  The car had been missing since January 22, 1969.  All that time, no progress.  Suddenly, a free meal is involved, case is solved in four days. 

Finally, a story we file under the heading of pudgy German people dressed entirely inappropriately for the weather conditions.  Not to mention the standards of common decency, sir. 

It‘s the big annual ice swim by a polar bear club that calls itself the Berlin Seals.  I‘d go into more details here, but really, what the difference does it make to either one of us now?

Also tonight, speaking of swimming in deep water, Jack Abramoff‘s contacts inside the White House.  We don‘t know how often he‘s been there, just that the question alone was enough to set off Scott McClellan. 

And Abramoff even got a mention in last night‘s Golden Globes, courtesy of George Clooney.  All the evening‘s highlights and low lights.  Michael Musto joins us. 

That‘s all ahead.  But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmaker of this day.

No. 3, Eminem.  His remarried his wife in a ceremony in Rochester Hills, Michigan, on Saturday, a service dominated by confidentiality agreements.  Guests and party suppliers were sworn to secrecy.  One of them obviously fibbed.

No. 2, Niall of the Nine Hostages, a fifth century Irish king.  Geneticists have now calculated that as many as one in 12 Irishmen is descended from this one guy.  And you wonder where cliches come from.  They‘re all like him.

No. 1, Andy Kwok of Chicago.  He took the advice from his giggling fellow Chinese immigrants.  He took the advice from the giggling woman at the DMV.  He changed his name to Andy from the name he was born with in Canton in China, Fuk King Kwok.  F-U-K K-I-N-G K-W-O-K. 

I don‘t get it?  What was wrong with Kwok?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Jack Abramoff, linked to former House majority leader Tom DeLay, Congressman Bob Nay and dozens of other law makers and now even to some staffers in the White House.  The administration acknowledging today that the lobbyist had come into the building at least several times for staff meetings, but declining to elaborate any further on that.  A response that got the media corps kind of riled up. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  We don‘t get into discussing staff-level meetings.  If you have something specific to bring to my attention, I‘ll be glad to try to look into that.  But I‘m not aware of anything specific that you have.

QUESTION:  What got him in the door here?  How did he qualify for meetings here? 

MCCLELLAN:  Again, I checked on this.  What I was asked is to go and check on this, and I did.  And there were only a couple of holiday receptions that he attended, and then a few staff-level meetings on top of that.  And that‘s the way I would describe it.

And now, what I can‘t do is go and say with absolute certainty that he did not have any other visits.  We did a check at your request and what I have learned from that request is exactly what I am telling you.

QUESTION:   Would you qualify it as senior staff that he met with here?

MCCLELLAN:  I‘m just saying staff-level meetings is the way I would describe it.  And if you have anything specific, I‘ll be glad to take a look into it.

QUESTION:   Well, we‘re counting on you for the specific here.

MCCLELLAN:  Well, if there‘s any reason for me to check into it, please bring it to my attention.

QUESTION:   He‘s pled guilty to some serious charges.

MCCLELLAN:  And so are you insinuating something?

QUESTION:   We‘re just trying to find out the facts.

MCCLELLAN:  Well, if you‘ve got something to bring to my attention, do so, and then I‘ll be glad to look into it.

QUESTION:   Scott, that‘s not a fair burden to place on us.  This is a guy who is a tainted lobbyist, and he has connections—we want to know—with whom in the White House.  You shouldn‘t demand that we give you something specific to go check it out.  I mean, this guy is radioactive in Washington.  And he knows guys like Karl Rove.  So did he meet with him or not?

MCCLELLAN:  I know of nothing that.

QUESTION:   Don‘t put it on us to bring something specific.  It‘s a specific question about a specific individual.

QUESTION:   Can you tell us if he met with Karl Rove?

MCCLELLAN:  Because we don‘t discuss staff-level meetings.

QUESTION:   Of course you do, whenever you want to discuss staff-level meetings.  And if Karl Rove, who has ties to Ralph Reed, which he does, we want to know if he has ties to Jack Abramoff, and if they met.

MCCLELLAN:  Well, I can answer that.  I mean.

QUESTION:   Oh, great.  Well, before you said.

MCCLELLAN:  No, I mean, about if he knows—yes, he knows—he knows Mr.  Abramoff.  They are both former heads of the College Republicans.  That‘s how they got to know each other way back, I think it was in the early ‘80s.  And my understanding is that Karl would describe it as more of a casual relationship, than a business relationship.  That‘s what he has said.

But if you‘ve got specific matters that I need to look into, it‘s my point that I think it‘s your obligation to bring that to my attention and I‘ll be glad to take a look into it.

QUESTION:   Well, I don‘t.                                               

MCCLELLAN:  There‘s been no.

QUESTION:   .no, no, but I don‘t think it‘s our obligation to do anything.  If we want to know whether there was pending business that Abramoff represented to members of the staff here at the White House, what do we need.

MCCLELLAN:  There‘s been no suggestion of anything like that out of this White House.

QUESTION:   .some kind of an affidavit to bring you to.

MCCLELLAN:  There‘s been no suggestion of anything like this in this White House.

QUESTION:   I‘m just asking.  I‘m not suggesting.

MCCLELLAN:  No, you‘re insinuating.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a danger of getting your message out too quickly of course, insinuation or not.  You might not have time to check whether or not you happen to live in a glass house.  Case in point, Senator Hillary Clinton, not only concluding that the Bush administration will eventually be ranked as on of the worst in American history, but also speaking at a Martin Luther King Day policy forum in Harlem yesterday, the junior senator from New York likened republican control in Congress to slavery. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation.  And you know what I‘m talking about. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Reaction from the GOP was swift, maybe too swift.  New York Congressman Peter King said, “It was always wrong to play the race card for political gain by using a loaded word like plantation.it is particularly wrong to do son on Martin Luther King Day.”  

Speaker of the House Hastert said, “I‘ve never run a plantation before.  I‘m not even sure what kind of association she‘s trying to make.  If she‘s trying to be racists, I think that‘s unfortunate.”

But one of the speaker‘s predecessors, Newt Gingrich, would presumably know exactly what kind of an association Senator Clinton was trying to make.  He said almost—something almost identical to Dan Balz or the “Washington Post” in 1994 about a Congress then run by democrats.

“I clearly fascinate them.I‘m much more in tense, much more persistence, much more willing to take risks to get it done.  Since they think it is their job to run the plantation, it shocks them that I‘m actually willing to lead the slave rebellion.”

Joining me now, E.J.  Dionne, senior fellow at Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and “Washington Post” columnists. 

Hello E.J. 

E.J. DIONNE, JR.  “WASHINGTON POST” COLUMNIST:  How are you, Keith?  I think you should bring David Gregory back, I love to watch that grilling.  He was doing a very good job. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘re thinking of doing a pay-per-view thing. 

About Senator Clinton first.  Was there a rush to be holier-than-thou by Congressman King and Speaker Hastert, here?  I mean, not only is there mirror image Gingrich quote from ‘94, but go to your favorite neighborhood internet search engine and type in “plantation” and you‘ll find any number of republican Web sites that are devoted to quote to “freeing blacks from the democratic plantation.”  This area of political verbiage, this one anyway, this is pretty much a tie, isn‘t it? 

DIONNE:  Oh, it‘s at best a tie for the republicans.  Look, you‘re absolutely right, “plantation” has been used over and over again.  Who got really upset about this today, there was a big thing on the right wing blogs.  The right wing blogs would attack Hillary Clinton if she went to work in a homeless shelter for two weeks.  And what does—who does this help her with?  It helps her with a democratic base that doesn‘t like the fact that she hasn‘t really gone after the Iraq war to their liking.  Going after the House republicans is something they like very much, so no votes on the right wing blogs, which she wouldn‘t get and some vote on the democratic side.  And yes, the republicans should have done their search engine—gone to their search engines before they attacked Hillary. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, I was going to ask, if the Clinton lead had not been buried here, is it not really the story that after a year in which she seemed to be trying to go—or at least be perceived as being centrist that really she shot a couple of lightning bolts of the of her left arm yesterday?  Is she re-repositioning herself?

DIONNE:  Well no, I think something happened on January 1.  It became an election year. 

OLBERMANN:  Ah. 

DIONNE:  And so I think the democrats do intend—you know, here are the words “corruption” and “cronyism” over and over again and you may even hear the word “plantation” again.  It‘s about the election. 

OLBERMANN:  And to that point, the timing.  Al Gore comes out virtually out of the woodwork yesterday.  Senator Clinton relocates her—in her liberal.  John Kerry did an interview from Israel today endorsing both of their comments yesterday.  We‘ve had a CIA leak indictment in the NSA leak story, countless other classic political opportunities in the last couple of months.  Is it just a coincidence that all of these folks are speaking now?  Is it indeed a plan?  Did a bell ring or is it just, you know, old timers day at democratic park. 

DIONNE:  Well, I think for political junkies we just saw how wonderful it would be to have a Hillary Clinton-Al Gore democratic primary in 2008.  But, I think the democrats have been tough on Bush at least since Katrina.  I think it took them some time to adjust to where they were going to stand on this warrantless spine.  But I think Al Gore has become a very interesting character.  He says, up front and clearly, what a lot of democrats in the rank and file think, but some of the politicians aren‘t willing to say and if you look on the blogs today, Al Gore has been beatified for that speech.  And I think he did himself, if he does have any interest, a lot of good in the democratic base.

OLBERMANN:  On the Abramoff situation lastly, E.J., I mentioned here last week that ethics reform always returns about as frequently as the planet Neptune orbits the sun and here we are again.  The race to see who is going to be the first to reform, is there anything—is there going to be any reform or is there just going to be talk about reform on both sides? 

DIONNE:  I‘ll tell you what I thought of today.  I thought of John McCain beats George Bush in the New Hampshire primary, running as a reformer.  Bush then sends his campaign back to the script doctors and a few days later he‘s running as a reformer with results.  Then what you‘re seeing now is that the republicans want to trade in the party of Jack Abramoff for the party of George Bailey in “It‘s a Wonderful Life.”  And I think that‘s the only thing they can do and they‘re going to try to do it.  But I think it‘s going to be hard, first of all, you‘re going to run that picture of Jack Abramoff in that black hat over and over again and there are going to be—there are going to be more indictments.  They know they‘ve got a big problem and they‘re doing everything they can to try to dig out from it. 

OLBERMANN:  Mr.  Abramoff did not have an image consultant before he got the black hat, I‘m thinking. 

DIONNE:  It‘s kind of cool, though, the black hat.  It looks like the godfather who used to be one of his heroes. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah.  I think the godfather has a reason to sue.  E.J.  Dionne of the “Washington Post” and the Brookings Institution, always a pleasure and never enough time.  Thank you for yours time tonight, sir. 

DIONNE:  Thanks a lot.  Take care.

OLBERMANN:  From ethics to D.C.  to ethics in your personal relationships.  Suspect your spouse is cheating?  Why bother to hire an expensive detective when you can rent a tracking device.  You will not believe this. 

Michael Jackson‘s possible new career, reviving stagnant architectural structures in Bahrain.  Oh boy.

Those stories ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of the day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re both incredible (ph)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You‘re probably wondering what the prime minister‘s sharing with me.  First of all, welcome.  He is the—we‘re talking mountain biking—a huge advocate of, and a follower of the bike scene around the world.  He‘s an avid mountain biker and one of these days he and I are going to ride.  He‘s going to give me a lesson on how to ride a mountain bike. 

BARRY BARSAMIAN, TV MEMORABILIA COLLECTOR:  People have come in here and they‘ve said “Oh, my god, this is your museum.  This is your legacy.”  (INAUDIBLE) they‘re like Oh, wow.  This is a replica of the “I Dream of Genie” bottle.  It‘s made from a Jim Bean lacquer bottle.  This was a 1950‘s handbag that belonged to Lucille Ball.  There is inside a toothpick and that toothpick undoubtedly has Lucille Ball‘s DNA on it.

GEENA DAVIS, ACTRESS:  You know, as I was coming in, I felt a little tug at my skirt and I looked and it was a little girl, maybe eight or 10 and in her first party dress and she said, you know, because of you I want to be president someday.  And I just—well, that didn‘t actually happen, but—but it could have. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Beginning to doubt your significant other‘s story that he or she had to stay on the office because mom stopped by with sick friend and the car broke down and that isn‘t lipstick on the collar it was Contadina tomato paste?  The new solution that eliminates the human equation from the oldest human invasion.  On the trail of your cheating heart next on COUNTDOWN. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Since the first date, which by the way I think I was on—since the first guy tried to talk the first girl back to his cave to see his etchings, suspicious husband, wife, boyfriends and girlfriends have seemingly tried everything to verify their fears of infidelity:  Trailing them, spying on them, asking psychics about them, videotaping them, setting up decoys for them, checking for lipstick stains on their various surfaces.  But on our No.  2 story in the COUNTDOWN something new in the pursuit of the cheating heart.  Think of it as low morals meeting high tech.  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny joins me now with the salacious details.  Good evening.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening.  We recently spoke with a woman whose husband was cheating on her.  Now, she asked that we not reveal her identity, but we can tell you how she used technology to confirm her suspicions because this woman wanted proof.  Even though when it comes to adultery, the proof hurts. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

“JEN”:  I got tired of the foolishness.  I knew that if this was not going to resolve itself, that I need more help. 

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  When you need to know what you would rather not.  After more than 20 years of marriage, for this woman, we‘ll call her Jen, it was time to know the truth.  Was her husband cheating? 

“JEN”:  His patterns after work had changed. 

NOVOTNY:  The solution?  Private investigators are popular, but can be pricey and take time.  So Jen cut out a middleman after a friend told her about a high-tech tracker that attaches to her husband‘s car and monitors his every move. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Good morning, Tracker for you.

NOVOTNY:  The Tracker, a global positioning device sold on-line by Dorris Osenny (ph) to clients like Jen who have that gut feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Most of them feel like they‘re being driven crazy.  They‘re not sure what‘s going on.  But they know something is going on. 

NOVOTNY:  Rent it for $400 a month, own it for $700. 

(on camera):  It comes in this convenient carrying case, right? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  With heavy duty magnets. 

NOVOTNY:  OK, and then what do you do with this? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You can take it and you can put it anywhere there‘s metal on the vehicle.  And this is an ideal spot, something right over here because they never check it and they can‘t see it. 

NOVOTNY:  You‘re so devious.  So, once the Tracker is installed in the car, which we‘ve done this car, the spouse at home can start tracking online immediately.  And the information is updated in real time every three minutes. 

OK.  So, now let‘s se where we went. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Stared at 3:19 and this is where he started on Jeffrey and you went down to Carroll. 

NOVOTNY (v-o):  Her customers, 60 percent female, find her on the web, through ads in local newspapers, and during commercial breaks on women‘s cable TV channel Lifetime. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you really want to know where he is? 

NOVOTNY (on camera):  If you had to pick the most unusual client?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  An older woman who called who was 88 years old and she said I‘m really not going to do much with this information, but I know my husband, who‘s 85, has two girlfriends.

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  And sometimes the truth doesn‘t hurt. 

(on camera):  You said people usually have a gut instinct, is it always bad news? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would say in five percent of the cases, someone finds out that there was nothing going on, so that... 

NOVOTNY:  Five percent? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So that‘s good—yea, I mean, that‘s hopeful. 

NOVOTNY:  That‘s not that great. 

(voice-over):  As for Jen, she confronted her husband with the information. 

“JEN”:  He did admit that he was having an affair. 

NOVOTNY:  Now she‘s filing for divorce.  When I asked if there was anything she didn‘t like about her experience with the Tracker? 

“JEN”:  Just that I had to do it. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  Now the technology does have its limitations.  This tracker can pinpoint a location to within 50 feet, but if you‘re looking for very specific information, for example, the name of someone who lives in an apartment building, you‘ll probably have to do some work on your own or hire someone to do it for you.  And you can find out more about the tracker on our Web site at countdown.msnbc.com.  What are you snickering at? 

OLBERMANN:  Because if you buy it you can always then hit him over the head with it, right? 

NOVOTNY:  Or run him over with the car.

OLBERMANN:  And from the other point of view, the moral here is, always walk or take public transportation to your affair. 

NOVOTNY:  There‘s going to be one that‘s key chain size and you won‘t be able to get away with it either.  Nice try, though. 

OLBERMANN:  What if I walk? 

NOVOTNY:  It‘s going to be in your briefcase. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘ll notice it.  I‘ll notice it.

NOVOTNY:  You won‘t notice it. 

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny.  Great thanks. 

NOVOTNY:  Thanks.

OLBERMANN:  In other words, as Michael Jackson is saying, be careful of who you love.  And what an easy transition that makes in our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” 

Mr. Jackson may have found his dream job in Bahrain (INAUDIBLE) in negotiations, we understand, to become a consultant to a company that plans to create theme parks and music academies in the Middle East.  According to a press release, AAJ Holdings, saying in a stagnant “Stagnant architectural structures need content in the form of entertainment to revive them and that‘s where Michael Jackson will play an integral role.”  Boy, that‘s poetry. 

Jackson does go into these stagnant architectural structural we might suggest AAJ Holdings puts him on a time clock.  He‘s still not done with that Hurricane Katrina relief song, though news reports out of Bahrain claim he‘s finalizing it. 

Terry O‘Neill of Pittsburgh has quite a song to sing, he‘s a 50-year-old fan of the football Steelers.  When their star Jerome Bettis fumbled on Sunday, nearly giving away Pittsburgh‘s hard-fought playoff win over Indianapolis, Mr. O‘Neill had a heart attack.  Literally.  At a bar where two firefighters saved his life.  Mr. O‘Neill is OK.  He said he got upset, not at the possible loss, but at the possibility that this would be the last play of the career of his hero, Bettis.  O‘Neill will get a pacemaker.  Today he got a surprise on the radio with my partner Dan Patrick, a joint interview with Jerome Bettis.  Who promised Mr. O‘Neill he will not fumble again.  Thank you. 

Maybe they can make that into a movie.  Next year it will win all the Golden Globe awards.  As to last night‘s ceremonies, Michael Musto joins me next.  That is next, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of (INAUDIBLE) nominees for “Worst Person in the World.” 

The bronze, Michael Acosta, a Chicago police commander who handled $9,000 worth of contributions to a ceremony to honor heroic officers in that city and today admitted he kept $4,000 of that. 

The silver, Dr. Mojian Hazari (ph) of London, England.  You heard George Carlin‘s joke about how statistically there has to be a worst doctor in the world.  This is it.  She‘s a dentist, her boyfriend is not.  That didn‘t stop her from letting him fill in for her on at least 600 patients.  According to London police, he drilled cavities and put in fillings without anesthetic and without knowing what the hell he was doing. 

But the winner, Ken Jautz, the president of CNN Headline News.  Today he hired talk show host Glen Beck to put his own primetime show on TV.  Jautz called Beck “cordial,” added that his show was “conversational, not confrontational.”  I guess that‘s why last September, Beck said of all the Hurricane Katrina survivors in New Orleans, “The only ones we‘re seeing on television are the scum bags.  It is exactly like the 9/11 victim families.  There are about 10 of them that are spoiling it for everybody.”  That‘s cordial?  Compared to who?  Bill O‘Reilly?  Nancy Grace?  Michael Salvage?  Ken Jautz of CNN “Headline News”—today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Very little in the entertain industry survives the slightest scrutiny or the smallest application of logic.  But stop and think about this for a moment.  How did the Golden Globes, still presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, become the harbinger of who will get which American academy awards?  Our No.  1 story on the COUNTDOWN: 

Blame it on Sinatra. 

As recounted in “USA Today” this week early in 1957 the chairman of the board and Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin wandered in and in a slightly inebriated condition stormed the stage and began to hand out these obscure Foreign Press Association awards themselves.  Presto, prestige, baby. 

A few real surprises last night, Ang Lee‘s “Brokeback Mountain” heavily favored from the outset.  A movie about two cowboys who share more than just horses, winning best director, screenplay, song, and movie drama.  In the non-competing category musical or comedy the big winner of the Johnny Cash biopic, “Walk the Line,” best actor, Joaquin Phoenix, best actress Reese Witherspoon, also best movie.  Best supporting actor George Clooney in “Syriana” he also immediately earned a 2007 nomination for snarkiest remark of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR:  I want to thank Jack Abramoff, you know, just because.  I—first one up, get this thing rolling.  I don‘t know why.  Who would name their kid Jack with the last words “off” at the end of your last name?  No wonder that guy‘s screwed up.  All right, I just got bleeped. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of which, there are the awards they gave out for television.  We calculated the interest ratio in them and so—there you go.  That out of the way, let‘s welcome the columnist of the “Village Voice” Michael Musto. 

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m thinking Clooney may have rehearsed that line, just a guess there. 

MUSTO:  He rehearsed it even longer than he did “Syriana,” the movie won for.  And I‘m glad he rejected what I hear was the second choice, he was going to make a joke about Ben Dover.  Get it?  Bend over?  Funny stuff.

OLBERMANN:  Never heard before.  Anything else work wit-wise last night? 

MUSTO:  Well, Dennis Quaid made the immortal remark saying that “Brokeman Mountain” rhymed with chick flick and that was followed by crickets from the audience.  I thought these drunken vulgar wannabes can‘t have been offended by that.  No, it turned out they just didn‘t get it.  They were going slick flick, quick flick, they were still working on the Jack Abramoff thing. 

OLBERMANN:  The Rat Pack would have gotten that. 

MUSTO:  Yeah.  Except for Joey Bishop. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, as to the awards themselves, I have a vague sense of them here, just work with me here, I might be wrong.  “Brokeback Mountain,” four awards, Felicity Hoffman won for her film role as a male to female transsexual, Phillip Seymour Hoffman won for portraying Truman Capote.  Is there a theme?  What am I thinking of?

MUSTO:  Well, it was gayer an Ikea on Super Bowl Sunday.  OK?  You know, crouching cowboy, hidden penis basically won all the major awards.  It was so gay that Rachel Weisz styled herself to looked like Frank-N-Furter from the “Rocky Horror Show.”  Did you notice that?  Can we have a split screen?  Oh no?  OK, anyway, and the show even emphasized the horror of the straight world by giving awards to Sandra Oh and Mary-Louise Parker, but they had been dumped by horrible straight men.  Mary-Louise while she was giving birth.  No wonder she wants to make out with Elizabeth Perkins as she said on the Golden Globes. 

OLBERMANN:  The telecast, Ryan Seacrest and Isaac Mizrahi replacing Star Jones and Kathy Griffin on the red carpet for the eNetwork.  Not a big Star Jones fan and clearly I am not now and never have been the demographic for Ryan Seacrest, whatever that is, so my conclusion here is Kathy Griffin was their Walter Cronkite, wasn‘t she?  They will regret letting her go. 

MUSTO:  She is starting to look better, isn‘t she?  At least they stuck with two women on the red carpet, Ryan and Isaac and—but no, bring back, you know, bring back the bad jokes and the ass kissing and payola for pay less (ph), it‘s starting to look good.  You know, Star and Kathy were the squid and the whale, weren‘t they?  Isaac and Ryan were—they‘re more like the lion and the witch looking for the wardrobe. 

OLBERMANN:  As to wardrobe, I swear, in the newsroom last night I heard somebody saying—I wasn‘t looking at the TV and somebody said, “Oh, look, she‘s falling out of her dress” and without looking at the monitor, I thought Mariah Carey must be back. 

MUSTO:  I thought it was Philip Seymour Hoffman, but yeah, you know what?  She almost poked my eyes out and I was sitting at home.  She basically had Grace Kelly‘s exquisite styling as put on a moose.  And there were so many others that night. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, but her in particular, does she not look like she‘s been run over and those are the tire tracks?  She was run over naked? 

MUSTO:  Yes, and I believe Tommy Mottola and was driving and Lizzie Grubman was in the backseat. 

OLBERMANN:  Anybody else of note fashion-wise? 

MUSTO:  Drew Barrymore was also sporting pendulous boobs, and they weren‘t Golden Globes, they were green and I was flashing back to some bowling alleys of my youth.  It was horrifying.  And Gwyneth Paltrow basically wore eight of my least favorite outfits all at once.  And that was an achievement.  She should have won something for that.  Certainly not for “Proof.” 

OLBERMANN:  And we have like 10 seconds for one segue from the Golden Globes to the Oscar forecast. 

MUSTO:  Reese Witherspoon will win again and Ryan Philippe, unfortunately, will be the (INAUDIBLE) she will tell him to buzz Abramoff.  Get it?  Buzz Abramoff?

OLBERMANN:  Buzz Abramoff.

MUSTO:  I hear crickets. 

OLBERMANN:  George Clooney should have used that line.  The one and only Michael Musto, himself.  Former member of the Rack Pack, as always sir, great thanks for your time. 

MUSTO:  And former TV personality.  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Somebody else.  Our MSNBC coverage continues with Rita Cosby “Live and Direct.”  That‘s COUNTDOWN I‘m Keith Olbermann, keep your knees loose, goodnight 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

,