updated 8/4/2006 9:56:16 AM ET 2006-08-04T13:56:16

Guests: Michael Wolffe, Gerald Posner, Harvey Levin

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

Rummy upstaged.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND:  Iraq could move toward civil war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  General Abizaid to the Senate Armed Services Committee.  General Pace agrees with him, and Senator Warner suggests that to stay in Iraq, the administration might have to go back to Congress for further authorization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: 

Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  My goodness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  9/11 cover-up.  Clearly, the Pentagon‘s version of what it did that terrible morning was full of lies.  The NORAD tapes have been released.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  United Nine-three, have you got information on that yet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, he‘s down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What—he‘s down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When did he land?  Because we had confirmation—

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He did—he did—he did not land.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... (INAUDIBLE) --  Oh, he‘s down?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The heat wave, and the heat on Al Gore from the goofy YouTube voice-of-the-people kind of video.  Small problem, that voice-of-the-people kind of video was apparently produced by the powerful Washington lobbyist for Exxon.

Mel, day eight.  If he‘s facing three piddling misdemeanors that will never come to trial, what‘s the high-priced lawyer for?  To keep the police video off TV, that‘s what for.

And speaking of TV, Bill O‘s been bad again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR,” FOX NEWS)

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST:  I think we should call these people out...

GERALDO RIVERA:  (INAUDIBLE)...

O‘REILLY:  ... call them by name, then.

RIVERA:  No.

O‘REILLY:  Then don‘t, then don‘t (INAUDIBLE)...

RIVERA:  Because then you give them more publicity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You just gave me more publicity.  And we‘ll give you another edition of Factor Fiction.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

If civil war is not a reality on the ground in Iraq, it has just become a possibility in the minds at the Pentagon.  And the unexpected admission of the fact by two of the most senior American generals, testifying to a Senate committee today, were accompanied by an equally explosive political prospect, that if he wants to keep troops in Iraq, President Bush might have to go back to Congress and get another vote reauthorizing it.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, a landmark day of words, another nightmarish day of death, a bomb strapped to a parked motorcycle killing at least a dozen in one of Baghdad‘s crowded outdoor markets, some 2,800 civilians killed across Iraq in just the last two months, along with more than 100 U.S. troops, the top American commander in the Mideast acknowledging today on Capitol Hill that the violence in Baghdad is as bad as he has ever seen, but he and the chairman joint—the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying that civil war is now possible, though they would not call it probable.

Britain‘s outgoing ambassador in Baghdad just did that, Ambassador William Patey (ph), who left Iraq last week, warning Prime Minister Tony Blair in a confidential memo that did not stay confidential long, that a civil war of long duration is now a more likely outcome in Iraq than is a democracy.

Back on Capitol Hill, Senator John Warner, Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, with a warning of his own, that should a civil war indeed break out, President Bush might need to seek a whole new resolution from Congress authorizing the continued use of U.S. military force in Iraq, the defense secretary appearing before that committee today only reluctantly, making the decision to testify late last night, after facing heavy criticism from Democrats, for essentially telling reporters yesterday he would be too busy to attend, Senator Hillary Clinton making him wish he had stayed at the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  We hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration‘s strategic blunders, and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy.  Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

RUMSFELD:  My goodness.  First, I‘ve tried to make notes.  Are there setbacks?  Yes.  Are there things that people can‘t anticipate?  Yes.  Does the enemy have a brain and continue to make adjustments on the ground, requiring our forces to continue to make adjustments?  You bet.

The cold war lasted 40-plus years, and the struggle against violent extremists who are determined to prevent free people from exercising their rights as free people is going to go on a long time, and it‘s going to be a tough one.  That does not mean that we have to spend the rest of our lives as the United States armed forces in Iraq.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Do you agree, general, that, with the ambassador from Britain to Iraq, that Iraq is sliding toward civil war?

ABIZAID:  I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I‘ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that, if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF:  Both General Abizaid and I have been asked if it was possible that this could lead to civil war, and the answer is, yes, it is possible.  Speaking for myself, I do not believe it is probable.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  It would be tempting to introduce Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine, with Rumsfeldian rhetorical questions.  But this is just a little too serious right now.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As caveat-filled as what General Pace and General Abizaid said, were those pivotal admissions about that term, civil war, today?

WOLFFE:  Well, obviously, they couched them in terms of possibilities, not probabilities, but, yes, to the extent that people are talking about civil war and accepting that this is a very real potential scenario out there, then, yes, it is a pivotal moment.

And just as pivotal as those admissions is the kind of tone that you‘re seeing out of members of Congress, on both sides of Capitol Hill, because people are --   You know, the whole national debate is changing about the war, about the war people signed up to, about what the consequences of failure are now, and whether the administration has any exit strategy whatsoever.  It‘s all changing right now.

OLBERMANN:  A specific in that, the second headline from Senator Warner, is there actually a scenario in which there might be, in essence, a second congressional vote authorizing the Iraq war?

WOLFFE:  You know, they‘re authorizing—they‘re reauthorizing the war every time they vote for military spending for the war.  And, you know, in the past, members of Congress have complained that this has been a black hole, there‘s not enough accounting.

And one of the measures of accountability would be to say, Well, listen, what is the exit strategy?  How are we going to get out of here?  And that‘s not just reflecting, you know, discontent with the administration, but a real concern that so long into this war, there is no clear plan for how this gets solved.

Remember that everyone said the Maliki government, this new national unity government, would be able to crack the problem of security in Baghdad.  That has not happened.  And I think that people in Congress are running tired of the administration running out of excuses.

OLBERMANN:  To that point, Secretary Rumsfeld and the administration not inclined to often admit their mistakes nor cave in under pressure.  What happened that led him to change his mind at 10:30 last night and go and testify after all?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s hard to get into Donald Rumsfeld‘s head, but, you know, there has been a lot of frustration, not just in Congress but also in the White House, that the military folks, especially the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, has not been forceful enough about making their case.

It‘s pretty extraordinary for a secretary of defense not to turn up to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  So I imagine there are—there‘ve been some phone calls made, and maybe from Senator Warner himself.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s detach ourselves from the carnage in Iraq, and view it utterly politically.  We‘ve got a report tonight that after their exchange today, Senator Clinton changed her mind, asked the president to accept Rumsfeld‘s resignation.  What else changed on the domestic political landscape as a result of these hearings today?

WOLFFE:  Well, Senator Clinton, obviously, is keeping an eye on a number of different things, not just about the war but, look, the whole Democratic Party is fixated by the Connecticut primary.  There‘s a poll out today that puts Joe Lieberman‘s challenger in—with a double-digit lead.  And, of course, that‘s all been about the war.

And the Connecticut primary isn‘t changed politics, but is reflect how politics is changing towards the war.  I think you‘re going to see a lot of people in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, wanting to get (INAUDIBLE) into a position where they‘re being more critical and more openly critical about the plan.

OLBERMANN:  What a different world.

Tom DeLay‘s name also staying on the ballot in Texas in November, correct?

WOLFFE:  That‘s correct.  You know, interesting scenario here.  You know, Tom DeLay could yet haunt the Republican Party.  Of course, if he wins, the leadership there is going to look pretty silly.  But, you know, Tom DeLay is a survivor.  I wouldn‘t put it past him to make a comeback.

OLBERMANN:  Good grief.  Elected without his own consent, perhaps.

Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and, of course, of MSNBC.  As always, sir, our great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  On the other front in the Middle East, Israel remaining locked in fierce fighting with Hezbollah, today bringing the heaviest loss of life yet of Israeli civilians, and a threat from the leader of Hezbollah tonight that he might soon bomb Tel Aviv.

Bringing us up to date on all of it is our correspondent Martin Fletcher, along the Israeli border with Lebanon.

Martin?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN FLETCHER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, the Lebanese prime minister today gave new figures of the cost to his country, 900 dead, 1 million displaced, a quarter of the population.  And this comes on Israel‘s bloodiest day.

(voice-over):  They broke rule number one.  After a barrage of Katyushas pounded their town of Akko, Israelis left the bomb shelters to take a look.  But only minutes later, Hezbollah fired a second barrage.  Suddenly, a Katyusha crashed among them.  Five people killed, including a father and daughter, eight others wounded.

This man says, “It was like an atom bomb.”

Three more killed by another Katyusha as more than 180 struck northern Israel today, while in bitter fighting in Lebanon, four Israeli soldiers were killed.

For the troops, now 10,000 strong, have conquered 20 villages, setting up a buffer zone three to four miles deep, the length of the Lebanese border.

(on camera):  The buffer zone the Israelis are clearing out is almost exactly the same as one they left six years ago.  They‘re doing the same thing again.

(voice-over):  Israeli troops abandoned the buffer zone after 18 years, hoping never to return.  Now the battle with Hezbollah is getting worse.

Israel bombed Beirut again today, and Israeli war planes dropped leaflets over south Beirut, warning residents to leave.  Then Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nasrallah went on TV with a warning of his own, that if Israel bombs Beirut, he‘ll bomb Tel Aviv.

Israel‘s response, if Hezbollah attacks Tel Aviv, Israel will bomb Lebanese infrastructure again.  It‘s a war on the ground, and a war of words, with no sign of a cease-fire.

(on camera):  One thing, though, for the first time on TV, the Hezbollah leader did offer to stop firing rockets at Israel, but only if Israel stops attacking from the air, Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Martin Fletcher for us in Haifa, Israel.  Great thanks.

Back here, another scorching day across most of the country, so hot it even has an arch-conservative proclaiming himself a global warming convert.

And speaking of hot air, Bill O. takes the bait again (INAUDIBLE) with Mr. Rivera in the picture, his seconds will call on my seconds.  But my seconds will be out.  I‘m calling my thirds.  I accept the challenge with relish.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  “We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels.  It is getting hotter, and the ice caps are melting, and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air.”

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, number five, fourth story, rather, not Al Gore speaking there but Pat Robertson, after the killer heat wave hit both coasts.  As many as 164 dead in California, at least 22 in the rest of the nation.  Robertson called it “the most convincing evidence I‘ve seen on global warming in a long time.”

Ten months ago, Pat Robertson was decrying the global warming scare from far-left environmentalists.  Today he called himself a global warming convert.  Temperatures in the high 110‘s will do that to you.

Here is our correspondent Tom Costello.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The debate over global warming has been raging for years.  But here‘s what most scientists say is certain, the earth is warming, 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, since 1920.  The ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising.  Ten of the last 12 years were the warmest since 1850.  And the first six months of 2006 were the hottest on record.

So is our current heat wave a symptom of global warming?

JAY GULLEDGE, PEW CLIMATE CHANGE CENTER:  This heat wave, and other extreme events we‘ve seen in recent years, are completely consistent with what we expect to become more common as a result of global warming, even though we can‘t be definitive on any single event.

COSTELLO:  We‘ve had heat waves before.  The worst was in the 1930s, 50 million acres turned to dust.  Nineteen seventy-two, 891 people died in New York over a 14-day stretch.  And in 1995, 733 people died in record heat in Chicago.

But experts say our current heat wave is unique.

DENNIS FELTON, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGIST:  So far, we‘ve had about 80 daily high temperature records broken, and in addition, in the month of July, there were over 50 all-time records for the month of July broken.

COSTELLO (on camera):  But scientists want to see whether this heat wave is part of a pattern of longer, more intense heat waves before declaring it all part of a bigger global warming phenomenon.

(voice-over):  Still, the movement to curb greenhouse gases is gaining traction, with 22 cities worldwide signing on to former president Clinton‘s initiative to cut CO2 emissions.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON:  We have to use less energy and find cleaner sources.

COSTELLO:  The concern, that in the coming decades, 100 degrees may be the new summertime norm.

Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  In some respects, asking whether one particular heat wave stems from global warming is a little like asking whether one individual sneeze was caused by the sick man‘s pneumonia.  A heat wave is just one potential symptom.  South Africa is in the midst of an unusually severe winter right now, Johannesburg getting its first snow in eight years.

The alleged debate over global warming has now even made its way to YouTube, the massively popular Web site that hosts amateur videos.  One got some attention for taking on Al Gore‘s global warming movie.  Look at this.

Cute, right?  Some average Joe taking on the man by posting his funny homemade tape.  Except “The Wall Street Journal” reports this average Joe‘s computer can be found in the Washington offices of DCI Group.  DCI Group, just your average PR and lobbying firm, whose client list includes your average multibillion-dollar multinational oil company, Exxon.  Exxon, which denies there is global warming, also denies any involvement with the video, of course, if it was involved, that would be an inconvenient truth.

This is official.  Elvis Presley‘s teddy bear has now joined the King in the Great Graceland in the Sky, mauled by a security dog in a moment of canine insanity.  Who puts a dog in charge of stuffed bears?

Speaking of sudden madness, Mel Gibson now on damage control, hiring a big-gun attorney, trying to stop police videotapes of his behavior from ever seeing the light of day.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  So on this 138th anniversary of the birth of three-time British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, this advisory about a sexual health center‘s plan to stage what it calls a Masturbate-a-Thon in a London photo studio this Saturday.  If you‘re going, don‘t wear your good shoes.

And if you want to know the name of the professional British wankers, I believe they‘re known as parliament.

On that note, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in there England.  If you think Mel Gibson‘s got it rough this week, Barney the guard dog might beg to differ.  If Barney looks shell-shocked, it‘s because he‘s been crucified in the press there after his rampage at the Wookie Hole Caves, a rare teddy bear museum.  The Doberman was brought in to guard the collection.  Good idea.  He went nuts, tore apart more than 100 bears, including Mabel, the bear once owned by Elvis Presley.  That bear alone was worth $75,000.  Not anymore.

Oddball contacted the museum today and has learned Barney was checked into a veterinarian‘s office for a short rehab and is now resting at an undisclosed location.  Barney‘s also released a statement swearing he‘s not anti-teddyite, he simply lost control of himself because that Elvis bear smelled fried bananas and peanut butter.

Of course, when it comes to the performance of crime-fighting dogs in Britain, the bar is pretty low to begin with.  This CCTV security video we found on the Internet shows a foot chase in progress.  The cop is in yellow, the criminal‘s in black, and it appears the canine unit is just happy to be there.  Get him, boy.  Get him.

Not sure if he‘s new on the job, or just happy to be out of the squad car for once, but the dog is clearly shirking his duties as a sworn officer.  Ah, then again, it could be the criminal‘s dog, actually, and not a canine unit at all, but that wouldn‘t be nearly as funny.  Bad dog.  Bad.  Get him, dammit.

On the subject of bad dogs, Bill O‘Reilly unable to resist another angry rant against a network and one of its anchors, aided and abetted by whatever remains of Geraldo Rivera.

And Madonna jumps on the African orphan bandwagon, pledging to help not one but 1,000 parentless kids there.

These stories ahead.

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

Number three, Xiao Chen Lin of Poplarville (ph), Mississippi, went to the police station for permission to buy a silencer for an assault rifle.  He was refused.  That night, police there say, he returned to the station and tried to blow it up.

Number two, Jacqueline Cossairt of Ossian (ph), Indiana.  It‘s bad enough that the 16-year-old crashed her SUV into a tree there, but there were not any serious injuries, until the tens of thousands of bees in the tree came out fighting.  Ten people, including the driver and her rescuers, went to the hospital with severe stings.

Number one, Teresa Wickline of Lewis (ph) Center, Ohio.  She was the leader of Girl Scout Troop 225 there.  A few months ago, some of the parents were wondering why, after such a hard-driving Girl Scout cookie sales last year, the troop‘s bank account contained only $8.  Ms. Wickline was today arraigned, accused of embezzling the rest of it.  As the prosecutor noted, “Five thousand dollars is a lot of Thin Mints.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One month from tomorrow 9/11 will be five years ago.  Maybe the big picture still startles you, still hurts you, certainly the details can still cut and illustrate most poignantly and most painfully what happened that day. 

In our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, there are more details, 30 hours of audiotapes detailing six hours of real-time from 9/11.  The tapes are from NORAD, the North America Aerospace Defense command, and they contain the voices of personnel at our nation‘s northeast air sector, defense sector, N-E-A-D-S, NEADS Located in Rome, New York.  NEADS mission was to protect a half million square mile of air space on the East Coast.  The tapes are detailed at length in “Vanity Fair” magazine by the man responsible for their release, Michael Bronner, a producer on the film, “United 93.” 

Mr. Broner posits that the tapes bare out the chaos of our nation‘s military response that day and even the Pentagon‘s cover-up of that chaos later while explaining its response to the 9/11 Commission.  In a moment, the analysis of investigative author, Gerald Posner.  We have selected only a fraction of the 30 hours, obviously, to observe tonight.  When you listen, keep in mind, NEADS personnel were expecting an exercise that day.  Major Kevin Nasypany, the facilities commander, was among them. 

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

BOSTON CENTER:  Hi.  Boston Center TMU, we have a problem here.  We

have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to -

we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.      

POWELL:  Is this real-world or exercise?

BOSTON CENTER:  No, this is not an exercise, not a test.

WATSON:  Is he inbound to JFK?

BOSTON CENTER:  We don‘t know.

WATSON:  You don‘t know where he is at all?

BOSTON CENTER:  He‘s being hijacked.  The pilot‘s having a hard time talking to the—I mean, we don‘t know.  We don‘t know where he‘s going.

FOX:  MCC, I don‘t know where I‘m scrambling these guys to.  I need a direction, a destination.

NASYPANY:  OK, I‘m going to give you the Z point.  It‘s just north of New York City.

ROUNTREE:  A plane just hit the World Trade Center.

WATSON: What?  (INAUDIBLE)

ROUNTREE:  Was it a 737?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hit what?

WATSON:  The World Trade Center.

DOOLEY:  Who are you talking to?

ROUNTREE:  They have a second possible hijack.

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  At almost the same moment United 175 slams into the south tower of the World Trade Center, but since the crashed plane cannot yet be identified, there is confusion whether a third hijacked craft is in the air.  That fear would prove prophetic. 

Meanwhile the two scrambled F-15‘s had taken off from Otis Air National Guard base on Cape Cod.  But by the time those fighters were within 100 miles of New York both planes had hit the twin towers.  The pilots could see the smoke.  Major Nasypany begins to discuss the option of shooting down a civilian airliner, though only President Bush has such authority.  After reports of a third hijacked airliner, confusion mounts, but it does produce an appropriate order to scramble more jets. 

DOOLEY:  Another hijack.  It‘s headed towards Washington.

NASYPANY:  S***! Give me a location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, third aircraft hijacked heading toward Washington.

NASYPANY:  OK, American Airlines is still airborne -- 11, the first guy.  He‘s heading towards Washington.  OK, I think we need to scramble Langley right now.  And I‘m—I‘m going to take the fighters from Otis and try to chase this guy down if I can find him.

MAJOR JAMES ANDERSON:  Are we going to shoot him down if they got passengers on board?  Have they talked about that?

OLBERMANN:  The chaos, the web of mixed communication, the lack of adequate information all continue.  NEADS personnel still can‘t matched hijacked planes with the ones that have crashed.  They believe that many more planes may have been hijacked. 

Here is another excerpt coming 12 minutes after what we now know to be the end of the attack. 

WATSON:  United nine three, have you got information on that yet?

WASHINGTON CENTER:  Yeah, he‘s down.

WATSON:  What—he‘s down?

WASHINGTON CENTER:  Yes.

WATSON:  When did he land?  Because we have confirmation.

WASHINGTON CENTER:  He did—he did—he did not land.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But NEADS personnel had no way of knowing the attack was over.  Fighter pilots would spend hours intercepting hundreds of other aircraft deemed suspicious.

As promised, our great pleasure to turn to Gerald Posner, author of “Why America Slept:  The Failure to Prevent 9/11.”

Thanks again for your time, sir.

GERALD POSNER, AUTHOR:  Absolutely, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  One shocking element coming form the tapes.  A hijacking exercise was planned the same day.  Some personnel also talk about the attack being far worse that any simulation.  Having heard this, do you think these people were even remotely prepared for this kind of event? 

POSNER:  No, not at all.  As a matter of fact, I mean, they clearly weren‘t prepared.  If anything, only for a hijacking, and a hijacking exercise really means they take to the air, they follow a plane five miles behind the plane, itself, if they really are concerned they can fly up near the cockpit to see if the pilot‘s in some type danger, but what they weren‘t prepared for in anyway whatsoever, was a suicide mission like we say in 9/11, that caught them completely flat-footed. 

OLBERMANN:  I suppose that conspiracy theorists will find a virtual treasure trove in the repeated reference in here to shooting down planes, but the “Vanity Fair” story says that the president didn‘t give that authority to do that until after United 93 had gone down in Pennsylvania.  Why then was there so much detailed discussion about it evident on those tapes? 

POSNER:  Well, because at some point, the fighter pilots started to think what are we going to do if these are suicide bombers or hijackers, are taking these planes into public and government buildings?  Are we going to be able to shoot them down?  But I will tell you, I‘ve listened to most of these tapes, many—most of them, and it‘s very, very clear from them, that President Bush doesn‘t even give the shoot down order, as you pointed out in the lead in piece, until 15 minutes after the planes are all down, the attacks are completely over. 

If these tapes prove anything, it is not could complicity, it is not conspiracy, but it is total ineptitude.  Ineptitude between the civilian parts of the government and air traffic control dealing with the military and also an ineptitude, and almost Keystone Cops in the chain of command inside of NORAD, the military unit that‘s supposed to protecting us.  They weren‘t able the do it that day. 

OLBERMANN:  Do they also prove that Pentagon was trying to cover-up vastness of its confusion that day? 

POSNER:  I think that what surprised me in these tapes and is really the most disconcerting in many ways, is that I‘ve listened to the testimony of Pentagon officials before the 9/11 Commission and before Congress and they made it sound as though they were initially confused and then they got it together and by the time Flight 93, the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania was on its way back to Washington, they were aware of it, they had scrambled planes and they were on the way to intercept that flight.  It‘s just not true. 

They found out about Flight 93 after it was already down.  And what these tapes show is that the Pentagon officials decided to spin this, they decided to make it sound better, that we really weren‘t caught with our pants down.  And you know what?  It was silly.  Because eventually evidence like this is going to become public, as it has now, and it makes it look as thought they were either spinning it or part of a cover-up, they weren‘t being straight forward with any of us in the American public. 

OLBERMANN:  Why is this evidence coming out now, and why through auspices of a movie producer and a magazine?  And what does that say about our domestic counter-terror preparations? 

POSNER:  Boy, it certainly doesn‘t say much that good about our domestic terrorist—counter-terrorist, you know, preparation.  Journalists, like myself, applied through Freedom of Information acts all the time asking for information just like this.  So, how does the government go about deciding it is going to release the transcripts of the key tapes that are going to fill in the part of a puzzle of what happened on 9/11.  They give it to a producer who puts it into a national magazine to publish.  That‘s the way the government‘s releasing this information, not to the 9/11 panel, not to historians who are doing the work.  And this is one of the reasons the government continues to get slammed on this.  You know what these tapes show, Keith, that Dick Cheney was informed about Flight 93, one minute before that flight went down, and later told the public that he was sitting down with Bush to figure out if they would shoot it down.  It‘s just not true. 

OLBERMANN:  Gerald Posner, author of “Why America Slept:  The Failure to Prevent 9/11.”  As always, sir, great thanks for joining us. 

POSNER:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  We have breaking news at this hour, in the Middle East conflict to report.  Explosions in Beirut, Lebanon, as perhaps forecast, earlier in the evening from our correspondent Martin Fletcher in Haifa, that there might be runs on Beirut.  For the latest, NBC producer, Mike Mosher is joining us now by telephone from Beirut where it is now early morning. 

Mike, tell us what‘s going on? 

MIKE MOSHER, NBC PRODUCER:  I‘m on a rooftop.  You just should see right now from—in the vicinity of Beirut airport, just south of the city, a number of bombings.  It takes a minute for the audio, the sound of these explosions to reach me.  I‘m about—there you go—about a mile away.  There has been pretty intense air activity in the last 15 minutes.  It seems to be targeting the area near the airport or just south of the airport, the south side of the city.  You can hear planes constantly overhead and they seem to be pretty intent on hitting targets.  It‘s along the coast, along the waterfront on the south side of the city. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there any way to tell if this was the attack on Lebanese infrastructure that we would have heard forecast or at least put on the table by the—by Israel in Martin Fletcher‘s report earlier this evening? 

MOSHER:  It‘s hard to tell.  This area where I‘m looking at right now is in the southern area near the airport.  I‘m not certain exactly what infrastructure is located there.  It‘s right along the coast, right on the seafront.  But it does not appear to be in an area that wasn‘t hit previously. 

OLBERMANN:  Mike Mosher from the NBC news bureau in Beirut as yet another strike hits that city overnight.  Great thanks for your report. 

MOSHER:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the big giant head and his new mustachioed sidekick taking another swipe at you know who.  It will be “Factor Fiction” time. 

And Mel Gibson, day eight.  You know you‘re in trouble when even the star “Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo” is refusing to work with you.  That‘s next this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Bill O‘Reilly insists he wants to call out the cable smear merchants, but not by name because that would give them too much publicity.  Bill‘s elevator doesn‘t go to his top floor anymore, does it?  We‘ll take that free publicity ride, next on another edition of COUNTDOWN”s “Factor Fiction.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN once again from the world of Bill O‘Reilly we have what the nuclear plant engineers call “an event.”  He‘s attacked me and this network again without provocations, without a cohesive line of thought without any justification what—oh, yeah, there was the Malmedy salute thing, but—that‘s right, I did say if Mel Gibson went on Bill-O‘s show at lease Mel could claim he was drunk.  That notwithstanding.  True, true, I did read “Publisher‘s Weekly” review of his new book which described the book “kvetching and paranoia and battle fatigue.”  OK.  It‘s shooting fish in a barrel, but they‘re evil un-American sharks with freakin‘ laser beams on their heads fish. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  So, on the no-fact zone last night, Bill-O went off again somehow meandering from a defense of Mel Gibson into another one of these epic, golly Mr. Science is Mr. O‘Reilly‘s head going to blow off this time, rants?  You know, the drill, we hear what he said, then I translate it into human.  But there‘s a new twist, evidently Bill-O has a new assistant. 

“But there comes a point where the media and individual Americans start to enjoy the suffering of rich and powerful people.”

“I agree.”

“All right?  They wallow in it.  They can‘t get enough of it.  They‘ve got blood all over their mouth, these vampires.  OK?  They‘re in the media, these people.  This is what they live for.  That‘s wrong.  It‘s morally wrong.  It‘s maybe not as bad as what Gibson did, but it‘s approaching that.  Because there comes a point were every human being does stuff wrong.  Everyone.  We all do wrong things.”

“Agreed.”

“And everybody celebrating your suffering is a bad person.”

“I agree with you.” 

Does Geraldo Rivera realize he has now been reduced to being Bill-O‘s sidekick?

I agree, agreed, I agree with you.  We get it.  Bill‘s done something wrong and you agree!

Let us continue.

“What do I give a damn but these cable people that talk about you or me or Mel Gibson?” 

Nothing obviously except when Rivera complained publicly in 1997 that NBC was advertising my old MSNBC show instead of advertising his old CNBC show even more than it already was, or the blog he wrote about me in 2003 after I pointed out he‘d given away our troop positions at the start of the Iraq war. 

“They can‘t even get a rating?” 

I can‘t even get a rating?  You can‘t even get a prime time show!

Now, we all know Bill enjoys it most when I read his words, but this next part we have to show you the original of or you won‘t believe it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, TALK SHOW HOST:  You said we should call these people out.

BILL O‘REILLY, TALK SHOW HOST:  I think we should call these people up. 

RIVERA:  Then call them by name, then.

RIVERA:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

O‘REILLY:  Because then you give them more publicity. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Here kitty, kitty, kitty.  That statement didn‘t even make sense to Rivera.  There have been three million articles about this feud.  There was one this morning.  How much worse could you make it by using my name, Bill-O?  What are they going to do, build a statue of me?  You‘re so confident in your success that you have to keep my name and show a secret from your viewers or all of your viewers will all leave you in one night? 

“Just say that schmuck from MSNBC who‘s doing—call him that.” 

“No. You go after the master.  It‘s like going after the rappers.  You don‘t go after the rappers.  You go after the masters.”

Hold on, now let me get this straight.  Rappers have masters?  Like slaves had masters?  First you defend the Nazis, then you accuse the media of beating up your business partner, Mel Gibson, now you‘re invoking slavery? 

(LAUGHTER)

“But I‘ll tell you this.  And you need to think about it, so does everybody else.  These corporate masters that have allowed our society to degenerate into a society that rejoices when this stuff happen and makes money from it, these are the truly evil people.” 

Now you listen to me, O‘Reilly, if you are going to call Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch truly evil people, I‘m afraid I‘m going to have to ask you to step outside. 

(LAUGHTER)

I think we may need a shower now.  It‘s probably wise to wait until we get through our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment stories, “Keeping Tabs.”  We begin with news from Malawi, Africa where apparently it takes a village to satisfy Madonna.  Well, to satisfy her ego.  Not to be outdone by Brangelina‘s high profile adoption of an Ethiopian child, the “Material Girl” has announced plans to build a care center in the African nation to feed and clothe over 1,000 orphans.  That is kicking it up a notch.  She tells “Time” magazine she‘s pledging to raise $3 million for “Raising Malawi” project adding she‘s met with Bill Clinton about brining low-cost medicine to the area and plans to produce a documentary about the plight of the children, a plight which will now include her. 

The minor league baseball team, the Newark Bears having a special theme night this Friday, Britney Spears‘ baby safety night.  They are encouraging proper car seat use and playing against a team called the Road Warriors.  Perhaps that was the last straw for Miss Spears, according to house husband, Kevin Federline, the couple is now considering its own celebrity magazine.  He says it would be called “The Reel” and would aim to counter the unsubstantiated stories in other tabloids suggesting Britney is a terrible mother or that Kevin Federline is a house husband.  But he says the magazine would also be a chance for all celebrities to get their versions of the truth out without silly questions like “do we think that is really true?”  Well, if it works for the White House with FOX News, what the hell. 

Speaking of slightly shady celebrities, day eight of Mel Gibson, he gets a new lawyer and a slap down from a fellow actor.  And that‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The bronze, New Hampshire‘s state board of medicine today dismissing its disciplinary case against the doctor who told one patient she should shoot herself after brain surgery and another that she was so obese she might only be attractive to black men.  Dr.  Terry Bennett now says he hopes to sue everybody who gave him such grief for that terrific bedside manner.

Our runner up tonight, republican congressman, Jo Bonner of Mobile, Alabama, suggesting to a reporter that we should consider pulling the troops out of Iraq in six months because of the failure of the Iraqi people.  “We may look back and say we gave it our best shot and did everything we could do to make it a success, and at the end of the day we could not make people accept the gift of freedom.”

What would that be called, Congressman?  Cutting and running and blaming? 

Our winner, comedian Rush Limbaugh.  He played a clip of a TV interview with Michigan congressman, John Dingell in which you hear Dingell asked “You‘re not condemning Hezbollah” and Dingell replies, “I happen to be—no.”  Limbaugh then puffs up like a blowfish and rips into Dingell for not condemning Hezbollah, calls him an anti-Semite.  In fact, Limbaugh edited the clip to cut out the rest of Dingell‘s answer.  The whole answer was “I happen to be—no, I happen to be, I happen to be against violence.  Now, I condemn Hezbollah as everybody else does for the violence.”  Nice try, fat-so. 

Comedian Rush Limbaugh, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sitting professional Shiva, as we have been doing for Mel Gibson‘s career, requires two things, it requires a week, and we‘re just shy of that, it also requires Jewish people and in our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, they are starting to show up, and in public. 

Comedian Rob Schneider taking out an ad in today‘s trade paper, “Variety,” identifying himself as a, “one half Jew,” and vowing never to work with “actor/director/producer and anti-Semite,” Mel Gibson.  “Even if Mr. Gibson offered me the lead role in “Passion of the Christ II,” I would have to say, ‘No!‘” Going way out on a limb there, huh right Rob? 

Late this afternoon, TMZ.com which broke the story, it is working overtime to make sure it stays broken, posted video shot by the show “Extra” in 2002 showing just how close Mel Gibson has been with local law enforce and foreshadowing things to come.  Here‘s some highlights. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR:  I was late coming here today, I think I almost got a ticket. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Gibson is not only a very, very accomplished actor and a man who America and the world combined, respect, admire and love. 

GIBSON:  All my friends are cops, that‘s weird.  I don‘t understand why. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That video shot by “Extra,” shared with us, as usual, by TMZ.com.   Harvey Levin, TMZ‘s managing editor, joins us again from L.A. 

Harvey, good evening. 

HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM:  Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t often get the chance it say this, let‘s start with Rob Schneider. 

(LAUGHTER)

It may not be obvious at first, but Schneider was at least half kidding, what‘s your reaction though to the half that is not kidding? 

LEVIN:  You know what?  It is brewing in Los Angeles right now.  I

mean, there‘s really a great divide here, and there are some people who are

they‘re really beginning to express outrage over this and just saying this is was just wrong and it‘s disingenuous to say that he‘s suddenly going to change.  And there are other people who think the media has been awful to Mel Gibson. 

I think it was interesting, Keith, last night on Jay Leno, Dr.  Phil was on and was basically saying, you know, how do you condemn a guy for one comment that he made drunk on Pacific Coast Highway at 2:00 in the morning?  So, there‘s really this kind of schism in this town. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, one comment.

LEVIN:  Three.

OLBERMANN:  Yeah—it felt like a year‘s worth of programming would be worth the one comment there.  Exactly.  This 2002 video that you found of Gibson and local law enforcement, does it tell us anything, are there implications for the case? 

LEVIN:  Well, you know, listen, there is a tight relationship between Sheriff Baca and Mel Gibson.  And one of the things Gibson also said is this interview is that cops used to come over to his house every couple of weeks and they‘d sit down and have a cup of coffee, talk about whether things were good in the neighborhood and then they would leave.  But, you know, I got to tell you, the cops and celebrities in Malibu have something of a relationship in some cases and, you know, I‘ve been talking to some people about that over the last couple of days and, you know, I think it‘s a reality. 

OLBERMANN:  Gibson has, we learned today, retained the lawyer Blair Burke, doubtless drawing on her experience in such landmark cases as People versus Lohan, People versus Witherspoon, People versus Pee-Wee Herman, what are we reading into that? 

LEVIN:  OK, to be fair to them, in some cases she respected them when they were the victims, but she is a great lawyer.  She is a great lawyer and she‘s also really good at kind of inside dealing where she can strike plea bargains.  This case is going to plea bargain so fast, Keith, it‘s not going to be funny.  Because what they‘re going to try and do is plea bargain it so the videotape never goes into evidence and then they‘re going to try to keep it from the public.  So my guess is within a week, Mel Gibson‘s going to cop a plea. 

OLBERMANN:  And the last lesson here would be, apparently, that the Pacific Coast highway, where the stars go when they want to do a location shoot in the direction of their own careers, the Nick Nolte famous mug shot followed him being spotted there by agents.  Is it the scenery there?  Is that stretch of road haunted?  What? 

LEVIN:  Well, you know, you know the area, you‘ve lived here.  I mean Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu in some ways is a one-horse town and you basically have to go on Pacific Coast Highway to get anywhere.  And it‘s also a really dangerous stretch and it‘s heavily patrolled and people get pulled over there all the time because there have been lots of accident, fatal accidents there, and stars have had their share of run-ins with the sheriffs. 

OLBERMANN:  Harvey Levin, managing editor of the entertainment news website, TMZ.com, continued great work and great thanks for joining us tonight. 

LEVIN:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And before we leave you tonight, a brief update on the breaking news story out of Lebanon, in the early morning hours, about 3:20 a.m. Local Time, Israeli warplanes bombing a coastal neighborhood, in the southern part of that city, it is described as a Hezbollah stronghold.  They have been wrong about those things before.  The strikes come in spectacular fashion at the end of a day in which Israel suffered its heaviest civilian casualties.  More than 180 Katyusha rockets striking northern Israel, today.  The leader of Hezbollah warning it might soon strike Tel Aviv. 

Stay tuned to MSNBC for updates throughout the evening as further details become available as we near 9:00 Eastern, and 4:00 in Beirut.  It seems as if these bombing runs have quieted down, we‘ll see what happens throughout the rest of the night there and here. 

That is COUNTDOWN, for this the 1,190th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, goodnight 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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