updated 6/29/2006 10:35:54 AM ET 2006-06-29T14:35:54

Guests: Katrina Szish, Roger Cressey

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

Manufactured outrage, as Republicans on the Hill threaten an investigation into how much damage “The New York Times” did with its bank-tapping revelations.  The conclusion, it did none.  The secret overseas banking organization openly says it cooperates with foreign investigations, it has a Web site about it, and a magazine.

And the president kept talking about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   We‘re tracking terrorists activity, we‘re freezing terrorist finances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  States of emergency.  All along the East Coast, the rain falls, the floodwaters rise, the thousands evacuate.

Congressman John Murtha gets a retraction, Bill O‘Reilly gets his. 

It‘s fact or fiction night.

And this just in—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SNAKES ON A PLANE”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you guys hear that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  ... the “Snakes on a Plane” movie trailer has been released.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s what I‘m talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know what kind of airline you‘re running here, but you got a reptile problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of reptiles, taking a jaundiced “VIEW.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE VIEW”)

BARBARA WALTERS, HOST:  It is becoming uncomfortable for us to pretend that everything is the same at this table, and therefore, regrettably, Star will no longer be on this program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Or in its show open (ph), or its Web site.  It‘s as if Star Jones never happened.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from New York.

Republicans in the House are drafting a resolution to condemn “The New York Times.”  Republicans in the Senate are insisting on an investigation of “The New York Times.” The villagers are lighting their torches and knotting their ropes, because “The Times” revealed the secret terrorist financing tracking program, bank-tapping.

There‘s one snag.  The secret terrorist financing tracking program may not have been a secret, not if there was a Web site and a magazine devoted to it.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, your tax dollars in action.

On Monday, you will recall, President Bush said it was “disgraceful” that “The Times” and two other media outlets had reported that the administration was monitoring international financial transactions handled by something called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Communications, SWIFT for short, Mr. Bush continuing the drumbeat in St.  Louis last tonight, White House press secretary Tony Snow charging yesterday, quote, “I am absolutely sure they,” “they” being terrorists, “did not know about SWIFT.”

The only problem, SWIFT is about as clandestine a banking organization as Wachovia.  Exhibit A, any terrorist with an Internet connection able to access SWIFT‘s own Web site, no password needed, no secret handshake required.  On the site, SWIFT perfectly willing to let everyone know what it is doing.

Quote, “Cooperating in the global fight against abuse of the financial system for illegal activities.”

Exhibit B, SWIFT, the magazine, called “Dialogue.”  It is the voice of the SWIFT community, it says.

Finally, exhibit C, the most perplexing voice of all, the president himself, who has never made a secret of his desire to secretly track down terrorists by secretly following the secret money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, September 24, 2001)

BUSH:  Today we have launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, April 19, 2004)

BUSH:  See, part of the way to make sure that we catch terrorists is, we chase money trails.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, November 7, 2001)

BUSH:  From the mountains of Afghanistan to the bank accounts of terrorist organizes...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, December 20, 2001)

BUSH:  We‘re running down our money trails, the assets of more than 150 known terrorists, their organizations, and their bankers have been frozen by the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, November 25, 2002)

BUSH:  We‘re tracking terrorist activity, we‘re freezing terrorist finances, we‘re disrupting terrorist plots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, October 10, 2001)

BUSH:  The American people must understand that we‘re making great progress in other fronts, that we‘re halting their money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, March 23, 2004)

BUSH:  We‘ve got a strong network of cooperative governments trying to chase down terrorist money and prevent that money from being spread around to cause harm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, December 4, 2001)

BUSH:  Message is this, those who do business with terror will do no business with the United States or anywhere else the United States can reach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Time now to call in MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey, former official on the National Security Council, who joins us by phone, because of the flooding conditions throughout the Northeast.

Roger, thanks for your time.

Roger, you‘re with us?

ROGER CRESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIAL (on phone): 

Yes, I‘m with you.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Is there any evidence that “The Times” has caused any damage by disclosing the existence of a bank-monitoring program, of which you might be able to say, as seen on SWIFT, the Web site, and SWIFT, the magazine?

CRESSEY:  No, the short answer is, it hasn‘t, because, as you just went through, there‘s been plenty of publicity.  I think the question, though, is where there‘s a difference between it being in the ether and on various Web sites, and being on the front page of the “The New York Times.”

So to the extent that it is publicized that well, it is counterproductive.  But there‘s no state secret being released, that‘s for sure.

OLBERMANN:  The administration has repeatedly called al Qaeda sophisticated, emphasized its cunning as much as its evil.  They rationalized some of the wiretappings of our e-mails by saying the terrorists are extremely savvy about the Internet.  Wouldn‘t a sophisticated, cunning, evil, Internet-using terrorist group know that these tactics were going to be used?  Might they even have a subscription to SWIFT, the magazine?

CRESSEY:  If they do, I‘m sure they‘ve renewed it already.  Look, they‘re not stupid.  They understand that we are trying to monitor not just their communications, but also their money.  And to the extent that they are looking at ways that we do that, they will conclude that SWIFT was one of the mechanisms that we use.

The al Qaeda organization has tried to adapt to the steps we‘ve taken since 9/11 in a variety of ways.  And one of those is, they‘ve looked to move money in ways that go below the international financial radar, the Howallis (ph) system, which is a mindless transaction system that‘s being used.  Criminal gangs are getting involved.

So, you know, while it is counterproductive to publicize it like this, you know, I think the terrorists probably had a good feeling we were going to look after their money already.

OLBERMANN:  And you worked in the White House in the aftermath of 9/11.  Was this at any point conceived as a secret program?

CRESSEY:  Not secret in the traditional sense of classified information.  I mean, it was authorized through the IEPA Act, which is an emergency powers mechanism the president has.  Again, it‘s not something that the White House would want to trumpet to the world in real specific detail.  But as you demonstrated through your montage of clips of the president, he‘s talked about following the money since 9/11.  So again, this is not going to come as a surprise to al Qaeda or any of its affiliates.

OLBERMANN:  Has the program worked?  If so, why haven‘t we heard about the successes from an administration that makes a big deal about its success in this area?

CRESSEY:  Well, I think it has worked.  And the administration did talk about how this program led to information that ultimately led to the capture of Hambali, now, one of the more notorious al Qaeda  terrorists in Southeast Asia.

But the issue, Keith, is always sources and methods.  How much do you talk about the tools and techniques that you‘re using?  Because if you publicize it too much, then that becomes counterproductive as well.

So this is in that gray area where the tool was known to some people in the community, and it was available on the Internet.  But people weren‘t talking about it from the podium of the White House.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey.  As always, sir, great thanks.  And good luck with the travel in the bad weather conditions.

CRESSEY:  Thanks, Keith.  I‘m on the Ark right now.

OLBERMANN:  All right.

For more on the politics of this story, specifically, what the Bush administration might hope to gain in waging a war against the media, we‘re joined now by our chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell.

Thanks for your time, Norah.

NORAH O‘DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Good night to you.

OLBERMANN:  By being out there, speaking about the effort to track terrorist finances from virtually day one of this, has the president not been saying that this program exists, but he also has been saying that it‘s successful?  Didn‘t the—if there was any surprise on this, didn‘t the White House give it away long before “The New York Times” printed what now looks like a rehash?

O‘DONNELL:  Since just the days after 9/11, this administration has been making the case that they needed a multifaceted effort to fight the war on terror, that it was not only going to be military, it was going to be diplomatic, so that it was also going to be financial, that they would use every means possible in order to choke off terrorist funds.

Now, clearly, what the administration is unhappy about, even though the president has repeatedly talked about the successes that they have had in choking off terrorist funds, that they‘re unhappy that “The New York Times” detailed it on the front page of the newspaper.

OLBERMANN:  I noted this on Monday, the articles in “The Times” and “The L.A. Times” and “The Wall Street Journal” hit the Web Thursday of last week, it hit the newsstands last Friday.  It was Monday before the president and the vice president got so hopped up about this.  It was Wednesday before the light bulbs began to flicker on over the heads of the Republicans on the Hill about investigations and condemnations.

Is there any conclusion to draw, other than this is, if not manufactured outrage, at least amplified outrage, that it isn‘t about bank-tapping at all, it‘s simply a blatant attempt to get “The New York Times”?

O‘DONNELL:  I think amplified is right.  I mean, I think that the president and the vice president, I‘m told, were personally offended by this.  And the vice president did speak out about it on Friday first, and then we heard the president on Monday.

But clearly, there has been a decision made, a coordinated attack from the White House, and now duplicated by those up on Capitol Hill, that lambasting “The New York Times” makes good politics, that blasting the media will rally the base in this election year.

And this is not over.  There has been some overhyped rhetoric, certainly, but now we have Congressman J.D.  Hayworth, a Republican on Capitol Hill, saying that the credentials of “New York Times” reporters covering Capitol Hill should be revoked.  Now, lawmakers have no authority over reporters up on Capitol Hill.  And a lot of people get press passes up on Capitol Hill.

We‘re told that this is shameful, et cetera, and now tomorrow, we are going to have on the House of Representatives a debate, because the Republicans are playing to put forward this seven-page resolution condemning the media for leaking classified information.  So you can bet that the House of Representatives is going to spend a full day debating this.

OLBERMANN:  By the way, Mr. Hayworth of Arizona used to be a sportscaster.  And you know what kind of credibility ex-sportscasters have.  But with...

O‘DONNELL:  You would know better than I.

OLBERMANN:  But with this much news about how much this supersecret banking operation, SWIFT, publicized its own role in counterterrorism investigations, is there anybody in the administration or the Republican Party contemplating putting the brakes on at some point?  Because even some people in the base they hope to be firing up might be saying, Wait, if this was a secret, why did the people keeping the secret publish a magazine about it?  Could this still wind up being another embarrassment to the White House?

O‘DONNELL:  Well, “The New York Times” has argued just that, that when they broke the story on the secret eavesdropping and wiretapping, that one of the arguments that the White House made to them is, If you publicize this, we‘ll then have to stop this program.  And there‘s no indication that that program has, in fact, stopped, that it is still (INAUDIBLE).  And, in fact, now, the vice president is working out a deal with the Senate in order to have some congressional oversight.

But clearly, there is some deep anger within this administration at “The New York Times.”  I think it‘s not just politics too, Keith, I think that‘s the easy sort of answer.  But I think there‘s also a sense, an anger at the media that stretches and “The New York Times” that stretches throughout this administration, over a whole host of things.

Remember in the beginning, what the president and vice president called one of “The New York Times” reporters big time, remember that famous sort of phrase.  But I think this is also this administration drawing a line in the sand.  And I think that they are sending a message to some extent about what reporters, newspapers know in the future about our efforts to fight terrorism.  And they‘re trying to draw a very sharp line about that, because they don‘t want to see more of it in the newspapers or on the media.  We‘ll see.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE), there‘s a simpler way to do it, give us better news, and we‘ll print it and broadcast it, you don‘t have to make this stuff up.

Anyway, MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell. 

Thanks, Norah.

O‘DONNELL:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Also here, relentless rains along the East Coast, major flooding, and several states of emergency, including the evacuation of the entire area of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

And Bill O‘Reilly evacuates, on the air, again.  Getting out of the way of the facts once more, we falsehood-check Bill O. in another edition of Fact or Fiction.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  New Orleans 2005 notwithstanding, the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is still synonymous with fatal flooding in this country.  In May 1889, the banks of a poorly maintained artificial lake high in the hills above that city gave way after days of relentless rain.  In an instant, at least 2,200 people were killed.

In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, 2,000 miles to the northeast, or 200 miles to the northeast, rather, another Pennsylvania city is threatened now by another potential wall of water, Wilkes-Barre, city population 53,000, area population 200,000.  And after days of relentless rain, its residents may have to flee.

Our correspondent in nearby Reading, Pennsylvania, is Lisa Daniels. 

Lisa?

LISA DANIELS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.

And behind me is the Schuylkill River, which is about 20 feet higher than its normal level.  It began flooding on Sunday, and it‘s really continued ever since.  Now, the good news is, officials believe this is the highest the river will go.  You mentioned Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about 85 miles from where we‘re standing, a very different story there, where there are mandatory evacuations right now in effect.  All of this going on as the Northeast continues to battle water everywhere.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS (voice-over):  The evacuation in Wilkes-Barre is just the latest concern after four days of heavy rain in the Northeast.  In upstate New York, the floodwaters quickly overtook this two-story restaurant, dumping it into the East Canada Creek outside of Utica.

In Maryland, rescue efforts came too late to save three people swept away by the floods.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were got to about five feet of them, but that was just—they couldn‘t hold on anymore.

DANIELS:  And for residents in New Jersey, years of dealing with floods have prepared them for this race against time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Devastating, devastating.  This time they say it‘s supposed to be worse, so we had to take from the first floor up to the second floor.  So it was a lot of furniture and, you know, things that you cherish.

DANIELS:  Overflowing rivers are also the concern in Rockville, Maryland, where officials are keeping a close eye on the Lake Needwood Dam, worried that it will give way.  As water climbs onto bridges, and flows through houses...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can see here that the water is having its way.

DANIELS:  Officials try meeting the water on its own terms, but the mission isn‘t easy.  Governors in three different states try to calm residents while conveying the urgency of what can go wrong.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI ®, NEW YORK:  While the sun is shining, the worst is not behind us.  The rivers will crest higher than they are right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At this point, we‘re doing everything we can for you.

DANIELS:  But in the town of Port Carvon (ph), Pennsylvania, Mayor Chuck Joy (ph) has already seen too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ten-four, thank you.

DANIELS:  Firefighters struggling to keep the water from winning the battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s just unimaginable, it‘s like a bad dream that you want to wake up from.

DANIELS:  So much water everywhere that even those that live in the river need a break.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  And Keith, if this was a normal day in Reading, Pennsylvania, I‘d actually be standing in a parking lot.  Instead, you can see, I don‘t know, there‘s about a foot of water beneath me.  And it actually gets deeper if we go back.

So even this city has a big cleanup ahead of it.

Back to you.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s been an extraordinary spring and early summer.  Lisa Daniels, reporting from Reading, Pennsylvania, great thanks.

A much-needed break from the serious news of the day, proprietors of a coffee shop in Washington state obviously watch our Oddball segment.  I mean, where else do you think they get an idea like this?

And we still don‘t know where they got the idea for a movie called “Snakes on a Plane,” but the title is so bad, it‘s good.  How has its first theatrical trailer sunk in?

Snakes on a COUNTDOWN, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Actor John Cusack is now 40, born June 28, 1966.  I mention this to, A, make him and the rest of us feel old, and, B, so I can mention he‘s a regular viewer of COUNTDOWN, and we thank him for his support.  And I also mention his viewing habits because of something fishy we‘ve detected in our lead piece of goofy video in this newshour.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Seattle, Washington, with a special Oddball investigative report.  It seems we‘ve caught another big corporation exploiting people in the third world just to sell a few extra overpriced coffees.  All right, maybe it‘s just one location of Starbuck‘s that has installed a fender-blender in their store.  They say it‘s a new, unique way for customers to get a little exercise while they blend their own frappuccino half (ph) tall venty (ph) fat-free whatever.

Don‘t palm this off as your idea, buddy.  We were there, that‘s right, in Guatemala, back in 2005, when this bike blender contraption was invented, because we just knew some big corporation would want to steal this great idea.  Great idea.

Look at her go.  I believe we gave the machine some kind of award for best innovation, likely to change the future of expensive coffee drinks.  Or maybe we just laughed at the ladies from another country.  I can‘t recall which.

Speaking of amazing innovations, check out these new solar boats.  It‘s Nieuwenworden (ph) in the Netherlands, and this is the first-ever solar boat race held in cloudy weather.  Look at them go.  Twenty-seven teams powering 130 miles up the Bly (ph) River in overcast and rainy conditions, reaching speeds almost as fast as if they rowed things, cells (ph).

We‘re all for the whole alternative energy sources things, but, folks, get a sail or something.

Finally to Moscow, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has given us a new reason to run this old video.  It‘s the tape of the fake Silvio Berlusconi giving a special hello to an unsuspecting traffic cop.  Right there.  Well, we won‘t promise to retire the video just yet, but it has been topped.  Oh, not really.

But at least we know this is the real president of Russia here, stopping to meet with little kids outside the Kremlin.  Seemed to take a particular liking to this fellow, and he gives him his own hello.  Well, that‘s something the kid‘s going to remember the rest of his life, the day the president of Russia kissed me on my tummy-tum-tum.  That‘s correct.  No amount of therapy is ever going to erase that memory.  Ughhh.

If that doesn‘t turn your stomach a bit, you can always rely on Bill O.  He‘s at it again, playing horseshoes with the facts, not only not getting any ringers, but, in fact, hitting himself square in the loofah.  Fact or Fiction is next.

And from fiction to friction, not even the best Hollywood writers could have dreamt how Star Jones would crash and burn in her exit from “THE VIEW.”  Baba goes ballistic.

Details ahead.

But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, the rabid right-wing spin group the Media Research Center, which studied our Worst Persons in the World segment for the last year and discovered that of approximately 600 nominees, only 174 of them were conservative.  That means roughly 71 percent of the worst are not conservative.

I‘d like to thank the MRC for confirming my point that the segment is apolitical.

Number two, the unnamed French gambler who made a 426-mile round trip from Paris to London just to place a bet on the World Cup.  The bookmakers William Hill say that the man was outside their main office, hopping up and down waiting for them to open.  He rushed in, put 10,000 Euros on Brazil to win the whole thing, then rushed out again to catch his return train back to Paris.

The bookies say they did not have the heart to tell the man he could have placed that bet over the phone or on the Internet.

And number one, Laura Chick, city controller of Los Angeles, California, is one of many officials criticizing an upcoming charity event in town, in which a restaurant chain will be raising money for L.A. animal services.  Chick says even if it does raise a lot of money for spaying and neutering pets, it‘s a step backwards for the city to host the Hooters for Neuters Bikini Contest next month.  Wait a minute, they‘re going to step backwards too?  All right!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The attempt to swiftboat the Pennsylvania congressman and honored Vietnam vet, Jack Murtha has not only failed, but the boat was swamped and the malefactors washed overboard. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, a Florida newspaper admits now it misquoted Murtha‘s comments, which had allegedly included his belief that the U.S. was the greatest threat to the international peace. The newspaper has now admitted its reporter or somebody screwed up and screwed up badly. Murtha was merely quoting an international poll that said many people in many other countries felt that way. The paper has corrected its Killian Memos level mistake. The conservative propagandists who then slammed Murtha, like Bill O‘Reilly correcting? Don‘t hold your breath.

Murtha spoke Saturday in the Miami area and the next day‘s editions of the South Florida “Sun Sentinel” newspaper contained an article with this eye-popping sentence:  “American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran, U.S. Rep. John Murtha, said to a crowd of more than 200 in North Miami, Saturday afternoon.”

Conservative web spinner Matt Drudge put a link to the paper on his website. Presto, queue the flurry of right-wing outrage. FOX News chimed in with Bill-O using it as an example of why “Murtha has lost all are perspective.” And he, of course, is an expert on that. The “Wall Street Journal” opined on the story. Former speaker Newt Gingrich even said he hoped Congress would censure the congressman. Only problem, Murtha never said that.

After a rival‘s newspaper‘s reporter issued a statement saying Murtha was merely quoting polling, the “Sun Sentinel” has now issued a correction of its story. Quoting it:  “An article in Sunday‘s edition misinterpreted a comment from U.S. Rep. John Murtha at a town hall meeting in North Miami on Saturday. In his speech, Murtha said U.S. creditability was suffering because of continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, and the perception that the U.S. is an occupying force. Murtha was citing a recent poll, buy the Pew Global Attitudes Project, that indicates a greater percentage of people in 10 of 14 foreign countries consider the U.S. in Iraq a greater danger to world peace than any threat posed by Iran or North Korea.”

The “Wall Street Journal” has put a clarification link on its article slamming Murtha. To his credit Brit Hume of FOX News read the correction on the air. Bill hasn‘t changed anything in his article that still sites the same misquote. Mr. O‘Reilly presumably stuck his fingers in his ears, or stuck something in them and went woo-woo-woo, I can‘t hear you, woo-woo-woo.

OLBERMANN:  And as to O‘Reilly, as his lying about Murtha suggests, there has been the usual baying at the moon, the facts that prove far more difficult for him to understand than the fables and the suggestion we should us Saddam Hussein‘s tactics to pacify post-Saddam Iraq. But otherwise it‘s been very quiet over in that other plane of non-existence known as O‘Reilly land. That has now changed and you know what that means.  Hey, kids, what time is it?

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STEWIE GRIFFIN, “FAMILY GUY,” BABY:  COUNTDOWN presents “Factor Fiction,: wherein we catch Bill O‘Reilly lying again. Oh wait, Bill, hold still. Allow me to soil myself on you. Victory is mine!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Bill-O came off the tracks again Tuesday night in a rant split evenly between the two avenging angels who haunt his dreams, Air America Radio and MSNBC. (INAUDIBLE) as they said in French class:

“If you‘ve  read any of my books,” Which one, the soft core porn novel that was reviewed on Amazon as real load in the pants or the advice book for kids that came out just as the Andrea Mackris scandal broke?

“If you‘ve  read any of my books, you know I believe in karma. Do bad

things, you‘ll get your eventually.‘

Now you know why I‘m here, Bill. You‘ve done bad things.

“Do good things, you‘ll be rewarded. Recently, two bad guys got theirs.”

Here Bill went off into some story about management changes at Air America, a radio network he called d-sastrous, which I hear was the birth name of D. Snider from Twisted Sister. He eventually meandered towards the point.

“We believe there is major chaos at that far left concern.”

As an aside, Bill, who‘s this “we” you always talk about? You and Ann Coulter? You and your multiple personalities? You and your loofa?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  So, major chaos at MSNBC where Rick Kaplan has left.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bill made another funny. See. by overemphasizing the word “left,” he is sending a subtle signal to the dim bulbs in his audience that former MSNBC president Rick Kaplan might have had personal political beliefs that tended towards liberal or left. Bill invented the term.

“.where Rick Kaplan has left after pretty much destroying that place.”

Bill, boy. Bill-O! Hey! Over here. Back in reality-based reality. The latest ratings have come out. From a year ago to right now, MSNBC‘s ratings are up 12 percent overall, 13 percent among viewers 25 to 54, and at the hour you and I are on head to head, we‘re up 37 percent and you‘re down 20 percent and—I know, I‘m sorry, too many numbers in there. You were assured there would be no math.

“Closing in on its 10th anniversary, MSNBC‘s ratings are lower than they were six years ago which might be ridiculous.”

You just sort of got lost in that last sentence, huh, Bill?

Listen Slappy, FOX‘s ratings are lower than they were five years ago.  Bill-O, 267,000 of your viewers have vanished since last June. Call FOX security, they‘re missing! All 11 of FOX‘s regular shows ratings are down, four of them are down by 15 percent or more. If John Gibson loses any more audience, he won‘t even need a microphone. And your boss, Jabba the Hut, he‘s taking out ads threatening to fire his own employees. Your ratings whoppin‘ stick is now smaller than your—falafel.

Bill, seriously, it‘s slipping away from you. You don‘t know what to do. You can‘t even lie well anymore. Seriously, I understand, it‘s called panic. Like what happened to you in Scranton and Hartford and Boston with that thing with the egg on Zippy the sportscaster‘s face. And at ABC, when Rick Kaplan got you fired. It‘s terrifying. You begin to see the audience dying of and the creases deepening in your forehead and the loofas drying up. You make mistakes, you trust the wrong people, you blame Al Franken, you yell at somebody, you yell at everybody. It feels like the ladder is teetering, you‘re tired, you‘re depressed, you‘re anxious, you‘re balding.  Let me give you three words of advice, Bill-O:  Keep it up!

Here‘s an easy segue, from a snake on TV to a “Snakes on a Plane.” The first official trailer is out for the internet (INAUDIBLE), you‘ll see it here. How about snakes on “The View?” Star Jones absent from her old show this morning. She gets a very public slapdown as Baba Wawa goes whip spit.  Those stories ahead when COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Snakes on a plane, all the rage on the internet will be the rage in the theaters, the must-see trailer is out, we‘ve got it and the must-see rage from “The View” with nails sharpened, Barbara Walter explains why Star Jones was kicked to the curb. That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Here is breaking news out of the Middle East, more fallout from the showdown between Israel and Palestinian militants over a kidnapped soldier. Israeli forces announcing that early Thursday morning, their time, they have arrested the deputy prime minister of the Hamas for. That announcement coming almost simultaneously with word from Palestinian militants now say they have executed the 18-year-old Israeli settler who‘s been abducted in the West Bank. Both sides bracing for a military battle after having invaded Gaza in the south overnight with a show of force.  Israel, according to Palestinian witnesses, has invaded northern Gaza.

On the Palestinian side fighters have been laying minds and building sand barriers hoping to draw Israeli troops down the narrow alleys of refugee camps.

Stay tuned to MSNBC for further details.

Meanwhile, a high concept movie is one whose premise can be stated in a single sentence. Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, when you can get to the essence of a film with just one phrase, well then you‘ve “Snakes on a Plane.” And whoever came up with pithy, unpoetic little title must be thinking to themselves geniuses by now. It may be laughable, but the internets‘ took over and created the kind of buzz that Hollywood can only dream of, usually, and now there is the movie trailer. COUNTDOWN‘s senior cinematic terpatology (ph) correspondent, Monica Novotny joins me from headquarters with the long-awaited moment—Monica.

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, one critic called this the most appeared film of the decade. Hard to believe. “Wired” magazine has already named it the best worst film of the year. And this week, New Line Cinema is premiering a new trailer featuring snakes, a plane, and a star, Samuel L. Jackson. So now finally you can judge for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  At 30,000 feet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you guys hear that?

ANNOUNCER:  Snakes aren‘t the deadliest thing on this plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do as I say, and you live.

ANNOUNCER:  Samuel L. Jackson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s may my job to handle life-and-death situation and I‘m good at it.

ANNOUNCER:  “Snakes on a Plane.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One, two, three!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s what I‘m talking about.

ANNOUNCER:  This film is not rated. Starts August 18.

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  In seven weeks, the snakes take flight. Good news for the film‘s cult-like internet fan base, now in the thousands thanks to a few clips released online a months ago, and that name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve had it with snakes.

BRIAN FINGLESTEIN, SNAKESONABLOG.COM:  Based on the purely on the title, I‘ve never seen anything like this.

NOVOTNY:  That‘s because much of the film‘s buzz began here, at SnakesonaBlog.com, written by a Georgetown university law student, (ph).

FINGLESTEIN:  You know exactly what you‘re going to get when you go to see this movie. It‘s going to have snakes, they‘re going to be on a plane.  There‘s probably going to be some biting.

The 26-year-old site currently getting some 5,000 hits a day.  Inspiring readers to send in their own posters, mock trailers, even their own renditions of what auditions for the film could have been like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You want to kill those snakes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There are snakes on the plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know what kind of airline you‘re running here, but you got a reptile problem.

NOVOTNY:  New Line, the studio releasing the film, hoping to turn the Internet excitement into box office bucks, shooting additional scenes to get the film to an “R” rating, which the hopes of bringing in a larger audience, even releasing a paperback version in book stores.   But critics expect “Snakes” to slide quickly from the box office to your cable box.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I doubt very highly whether or not people are all that excited about the movie. I think they see this as kind of a joke and see it as sort of a joke on Hollywood, too, as sort of a how low can they go?  What will they think of next?

NOVOTNY:  Not much lower than snakes. So bad, they‘re good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One, two, three!  That‘s what I‘m talking about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  New Line has made an effort to include there online fans.  They held a contest in which musicians could submit a song to be included in the film.  The winners were recently chosen, and during the reshoots they added a line in for Samuel L. Jackson, based on an overwhelming number of request from those fans.  Now I can‘t say that line and keep my job, so I‘ll leave it to your imagination.  Keith?

OLBERMANN:  So it‘s a movie about “Snakes on a Plane”, I‘m gathering.

NOVOTNY:  I think so.  Yes, something about snakes and then there‘s definitely a plane.

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, great, thanks. And snakes not the only ones hopping a plane in the near future.  There‘s also Michael Jackson.  That‘s a segue and an apt one it is, into our roundup of celebrity and news keeping tabs. Jackson reportedly moving to Europe, all part of the pop star‘s effort to relaunch his career. Spokeswoman Raymone Bain saying, quote, “He‘s decided with all the projects he‘s going to be involved with and all the people he‘s beginning to work with in the industry, it‘s easier.”  This will of course require Jackson to leave that nexus of the record industry activity, Bahrain, where‘s been living for the next year. Jackson plans a comeback world tour and wants to release a new album in 2007, right after he finishes that Hurricane Katrina tribute song.

There is evident good news about the nation‘s top baseball reporter, Peter Gammons of ESPN.  In a statement released by his wife Gloria, the Hall of Fame writer and sportscaster is described as being in good condition at Boston hospital, resting comfortably after surgical repair of a brain aneurysm. The details are a little more harrowing, but more encouraging still.  Peter Gammons apparently sensed something was wrong as he drove near his home in Cape Cod on Tuesday morning.  He pulled off the road, called his family by cell phone, described his symptoms and suggested they call for help.  An EMS team apparently found him unconscious or nearly so and he was medivacced to Boston. The aneurysm was apparently caught, clamped off in medical terminology before it ruptured. By Tuesday night, it was suggested to Gloria Gammons that she try to talk to her husband in the hospital. She told him the Boston Red Sox had beaten the New York Mets by a score of 9-4 and he squeezed her hand tightly. Peter Gammons will be in intensive care for at least 10 days, but there is cautious optimism for his recovery.

Also here, Jones‘in for Star.  The departure of one of the hosts of “The View” turns into an on-air verbal brawl. That‘s head, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for worst person in the world.

The bronze to radio host Glenn Beck.  Here‘s his version of the anti- “New York Times” hysteria. Quote, “Can you imagine the ‘New York Times‘ coming out and saying, ‘Hey, the ovens aren‘t so bad back in World War II.  Can you imagine that?” he continued.  “ I don‘t know.   Sure there are some Jews in there, but I bet they might make some good pizzas in there, too.  The ‘New York Times is just—I don‘t get it, I don‘t understand it.” Un quote.  Mr. Beck, do you understand this?  Resign your job and leave this country.

Our runner up, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah who now says there was nothing in the Senate it could be doing that was more important than banning flag burning. “I was asked this afternoon by a large body of media, is the most important thing the Senate could be doing at this time?  I can tell you, you‘re darn right it is.”  Senator, heard anything about this war we have going, or the terror thing?

But the winner, Brent Bozell, Red Beard, again, from the rapid right spin machine the Media Research Council.  He has targeted this show now for his latest NRC action alert.  You know, sending us impotent e-mails that make everybody here laugh. Our inbox now has literally dozens of them demanding that we  quote, “tell the truth about the WMD that were found in Iraq.”  OK, we‘ll do it again. There weren‘t any. Rick Santorum tried to pretend there were.  And if you believed him, you may actually be a sheep.  Thanks for writing.  Brent Bozell of the Media Research Council, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The nature of our cosmos that stars do not live forever.  Most tend to die out slowly, cooling down until they barely shine any longer.  But some of them collapse into holes of a sort, sucking everything around them into oblivion.  And some just simply explode. The No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, Star Jones goes all nova on our behinds. Her departure from the talk show “The View” had been planned for months. Behind the scenes, everyone was waiting for her to make the announcement on Thursday.  Instead to the visible shock of her co-hosts, she interrupted a planned segment on air conditioning on Tuesday morning to break the news then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STAR JONES REYNOLDS, FORMER CO-HOST, THE VIEW:  Excuse me one minute, you guys.  I apologize for interrupting you. Somebody has been on my heart for a little bit and after much prayer and counsel, I feel like this is the right time to tell you that the show is moving in another direction for the tenth season and I will not be returning as co-host next year.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, THE VIEW:  Oh, shocking.  It‘s shocking to me.

REYNOLDS:  I‘m going to hold your hands right now, because as you might imagine this is a hard thing to do, OK?

BEHAR:  This is hard, sure.

WALTERS:  We have heard rumors, we have read rumors.  This is a surprise that this would come about this way, we did not expect it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What did you say? Barbara Walters regained her aplomb and delivered a minute-long tribute extolling Star Jones‘ humor and intelligence, saying that she helped make “The View” a success and it was a joy to have her on the show for nine years.  She later asked how long Jones would stay on the program.  When Jones answered until July, Walters said, “I hope you‘ll stay with us as long as you like.”

But come Wednesday morning, it was a different story. Just three hosts walked out onto the set and it was up to the show‘s founder, a decidedly upset Ms. Walters to explain how Star Jones had gone poof.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTERS:  We didn‘t expect her to make the statement yesterday. She gave us no warning and we were taken by surprise. But the truth is that Star has known for months that ABC did not want to renew her contract and that she would not be asked back in the fall. The network made this decision based on a variety of reasons that I won‘t go into now. But we were never going to say this. We wanted to protect Star. And so we told her that she could say whatever she wanted about why she was leaving and that we would back her up. We worked closely with her representatives and we gave her time to look for another job and we hoped then that she would announce it here on the program and leave with dignity.

But Star made another choice. And since her announcement yesterday, she has made further announcements that surprised us. So it is becoming uncomfortable for us to pretend that everything is the same at this table.  And therefore regrettably, Star will no longer be on this program except for some shows that have been prerecorded.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s really, really regrettable.  Those other surprises Ms. Walters mentioned, merely an interview with “People” magazine in which Ms. Jones said she felt like she‘d been fired, an interview that was posted on the Web before she was even off the air Tuesday. Then after Walters told the “Associated Press” that she felt betrayed and Jones‘ surprise announcement, Jones told a radio interviewer that in fact it was she who was betrayed, quoting here, “Barbara didn‘t have my back.”

To assess this cosmic fallout, I am joined by “US Weekly‘s” contributing editor Katrina Szish. Thanks for being with us.

KATRINA SZISH, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, US WEEKLY:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Why do I smell a rat here?  This went nuclear awfully fast, didn‘t it.  I mean, was there a tipping point?  There are snakes on this plane moment somewhere?

SZISH:  It was something like that.  I think all of the rumors that were circulating, it was building and building.  It was, who was going to make the final move?  Who was going to have the power in the end? I think Star tried to trump Barbara. Barbara ultimately today trumped Star and it was just kind of a meeting of all sorts of powers and like you said, they went poof.

OLBERMANN:  Was it the last straw here, that interview with “People” magazine?  I mean obviously she gave that interview before she signed off the air Tuesday.

SZISH:  I think it was a combination of that interview specifically and also the fact that they had planned that she would make that announcement on Thursday. The fact that she interrupted a segment, took everybody by surprise, specifically the founder and one of the co-founders and co-executive producers of the show, Barbara Walters.  That she also Barbara by surprise on live T.V.  That‘s got to earn you kind of a bumpy ride.

OLBERMANN:  And the segment was on air conditioning, which is very important too.

SZISH:  It‘s very - it‘s crucial.

OLBERMANN:  Is the lesson here, don‘t mess with Baba Wawa?

SZISH:  Well, you know, I think you can‘t say that.  I think you have to play ball with the professional ball players and Barbara is one of the most professional ball players there is. You don‘t want to mess with her.  But not in a bad way. If you promise something, you want to be professional.  You want to follow-through on that he promise. I think Star didn‘t do it. The fact that Barbara is such a public face, that everybody knows her, this is something that played out in front of the cameras, as opposed to something that played out behind the cameras and that‘s why we‘re hearing so much about it.

OLBERMANN:  But ABC also seemed to be a little flat-footed on this.  There was no time wasted in scrubbing references to Star Jones from “The View.”  She was not in the opening credits, not on the Web site anymore. It may have been surprised, but not unprepared for this?

SZISH:  Well as we know and as everybody has said, everybody knew that her contract - everyone behind the scenes knew that her contract was not going to be renewed. And once you mess with the big machine, the big machines certainly has no problem sort of wiping you kind of out off its slate, wiping you from memory, and it kinds of reminds me of someone who has a job, all of the sudden they get fired and it‘s as if they never work there. And I think big companies, specifically in this case big networks, work that way.

OLBERMANN:  There is one conspiracy theory on this, that we‘ve seen these extended good-byes this year, Katie Couric on the “Today Show,” Charlie Gibson on “Good Morning America,” highlight tapes, emotional farewell speeches.  Given some of Star Jones‘s history on “The View,” things like getting hit by a football in the face and her dramatic weight loss, which she never really explained, is it possible that she went this way because she just didn‘t want to be remembered with a highlight tape that showed her that way?

SZISH:  I think that‘s very unlikely. Everybody‘s vain - Star has certainly been described as very vain, but I think that she would rather see a highlight tape of herself as opposed to not. But this was really her final statement of saying, “You cannot renew my contract, but I am going to choose how I leave the show. I am going to take the power here.”  It wasn‘t about seeing herself in unflattering clips.

OLBERMANN:  And in 15 seconds, what did Rosie O‘Donnell have to do with this if anything?

SZISH:  Rosie and Star clearly are not the friends.  But I think this was a Star issue, very separate from the Rosie issue.  I think luckily they did not overlap.

OLBERMANN: Katrina Szish of “US Weekly.”  Great, thanks for your time and thanks for not getting damaged by the exploding Star Jones.

SZISH:  It was hard.

OLBERMANN:  It was, for all of us.  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,154th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night, and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  Joe, good evening.

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

END   

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