updated 9/7/2006 11:35:24 AM ET 2006-09-07T15:35:24

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Richard Ben-Veniste; Michael Musto

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

The president‘s latest speech, the history of Guantanamo Bay, the history of secret CIA detentions of suspected terrorists.  And now, only now, his demand that Congress make it all legal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  As soon as Congress acts to authorize the military commissions I have proposed, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September the 11th, 2001, can face justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  This guy not included.  The Pakistanis say they have not made a deal with local warlords to give Osama bin Laden a safe haven, but they have made a deal with local warlords to keep Pakistani troops out of the place in which bin Laden is believed to be hiding.  Bin Laden, the eternal threat, except we can‘t go after him.  Is this any way to run a war against terror?

How about rewriting its history, making Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger the fall guys, as opposed to, say, the people who were actually in office on 9/11?  The heat is turned up on ABC for its upcoming blame-the-Democrats docudrama.  ABC won‘t even let the leaders they‘re slandering see the show in advance.  9/11 commissioner Richard Ben Veniste joins us.

Roy Horn mauled, Timothy Treadwell killed, Steve Irwin stung to death. 

Is it science, entertainment, madness, or are we enabling public suicide?

And Surigate, the “Vanity Fair” chapter.  What is it, is it a Cabbage Patch doll?  Is it a midget?  Is it a rental?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

This is Wednesday, September 6, 62 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

Yesterday, he was the only thing on the president‘s mind, 17 separate mentions of Osama bin Laden in Mr. Bush‘s Tuesday fear-and-tell show.  But then came news that Pakistan had cut a deal with what are, in essence, bin Laden‘s bodyguards, one that assures that no troops will go in the area in which he is hold up.

Thus in the Wednesday fear-and-tell show, bin Laden was referred to just twice, and only so the president could mention one of his associates and one of his bodyguards.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it is an eternal struggle against the masterminds behind 9/11, requiring the might of the nation.  And today, the president says it also requires the rewriting of American law.  Except one of his chief allies in the so-called war on terror just signed a virtual truce with the mastermind behind 9/11, the government of Pakistan denying that it has given amnesty to Osama bin Laden, even while acknowledging that it has signed a comprehensive truce with the militants in Waziristan, who are believed to be harboring him, a truce that stops all major Pakistani military offensives in the region, the president, surprisingly, choosing not to address that development today, instead revealing what “The Washington Post” reported nine months ago, that the CIA has been indeed been interrogating suspected terrorists in secret prisons, that the interrogations yielded information on other plots, reputedly involving anthrax, planes, bomb attacks, but that the remaining detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are now in military rather than CIA  custody.

He and 13 others were transferred to Guantanamo Bay and will soon be in military tribunal.  The reason, the Supreme Court ruling last June that the Geneva Convention does too apply to people captured in a war on terror, despite this administration‘s efforts to circumvent parts of those conventions.

So now the president is putting the onus on how to define what legally fits under the Geneva Conventions on Congress instead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  First, I am asking Congress to list the specific, recognizable offenses that would be considered crimes under the War Crimes Act, so our personnel can know clearly what is prohibited in the handling of terrorist enemies.

Second, I‘m asking that Congress make explicit that by following the standards of the Detainee Treatment Act, our personnel are fulfilling America‘s obligations under Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions.

Third, I‘m asking that Congress make it clear that captured terrorists cannot use the Geneva Conventions as a basis to sue our personnel in courts, in U.S. courts.  Congress is in session just for a few more weeks, and passing this legislation ought to be the top priority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Joining us now, Richard Wolffe, our own analyst, and also senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

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

Keith, good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  Did not the president rather circuitously admit in there that what his government has been doing with these suspects is almost everything his critics have accused it of doing, and not yet legal, by the way?

WOLFFE:  Oh, you‘re so picky, Keith.  Yes, you and the Supreme Court.  Look, yes, this is an extraordinary moment.  The president is out there making speeches about something that, just a few months ago, in “The Washington Post,” revealed there were these CIA secret prisons.  You know, “The Post” was accused of all sorts of treasonous and treacherous behavior, both privately inside the White House and, of course, publicly, by the broader conservative echo chamber.

So, yes, this is extraordinary.  You know, there are a couple of confusing things, I think, for voters and the general public to digest here.  And most important is that the administration has said for so long that revealing any information, even the presence of these people in custody, would somehow empower terrorists, that it would give them operational knowledge of what we in the United States knew.

All of that seems to have gone out the window today.  And I understand, of course there are serious legal pressures on the administration.  But there are obviously also political ones too.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that‘s all valid, except during an election season.  (INAUDIBLE) putting the (INAUDIBLE), the onus on Congress to resolve the legalities sounds at first like a pretty adroit political maneuver, except did I miss something here?  Does not the president‘s party still control both houses of Congress?

WOLFFE:  Right.  And, of course, moving into the sort of congressional political arena in a campaign season, it is part of the process that Karl Rove and President Bush wants to set up here.  The problem here, as you point out, is that Republicans have control of Congress, they‘ve had all these years to deal with it.  And the other people on the other side of this debate are Republicans like John Warner, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, who are, you know, very hard to paint as being weak on national security.

So this isn‘t the sort of cleancut wedge issue that people thought, you know, the administration would spring on the public in election season.

OLBERMANN:  The speech was billed as a major declassification event.  The White House Press Office was pressing the broadcast networks to carry this speech.  Was there policy in there, or was it just politics?

WOLFFE:  Well, there‘s real policy in the sense that this is a tough debate to resolve.  It‘s not easy, and, of course, that‘s another reason why it‘s difficult to make into a political football, because this is very sort of full of legal jargon, and people can easily get bogged down in the details here.

And there is, again, something significant in him just talking about this stuff.  But, you know, the fact that it was hastily arranged, you know, you have 9/11 families there just a few days before 9/11, does smack of a bit of theater.

OLBERMANN:  Last question to you, Richard.  The Pakistani deal with the warlords who are essentially amount to bin Laden‘s territorial bodyguards, if not his personal ones, now that the government in Pakistan has confirmed there‘s a ceasefire, how long can the president go politically without addressing this rather inconvenient fact?

WOLFFE:  Well, I‘m sure we in the White House press corps will be pushing it to him at the first opportunity.  Remember the first Bush doctrine, that he would treat people who harbor terrorists and terrorists in the same way?  Well, Pakistan is harboring the very same people that the NATO forces are trying to attack on the other side of the Afghan border.  So, no, this is a tough one to avoid.  And we‘ll bring it to him.

OLBERMANN:  Kind of an oopsie.  Good luck with that.

Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and “Newsweek” magazine.  If it‘s me and the Supreme Court, it‘s you and the rest of the White House press corps.

WOLFFE:  Any day.

OLBERMANN:  Great thanks, as always.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s go further on that truce signed between Pakistan and the militants who are allegedly hiding Osama bin Laden, or at least complicit in it.  Part of the agreement stipulates that anyone leaving—living peacefully in Pakistan will not be arrested, both Pakistan and the White House disputing the original story from ABC News, insisting that this does not amount to a free pass for bin Laden, and that they will capture him if he is found.

But nobody is disputing the other larger elements.  Pakistani troops will be staying out of the region where bin Laden is believed to be hiding, and Pakistan will not permit troops from other nations in that region.  In other words, to paraphrase my old friend Dan Patrick, you can‘t catch Osama bin Laden, you can only hope to contain him.

I‘m joined now by MSNBC‘s terrorism analyst, former director on the National Security Council staff, Roger Cressey.

Roger, good evening.

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Am I missing something here, or is this utter madness?

CRESSEY:  Oh, this is a big problem.  I think the diplomatic term for it is, we‘re kind of hosed, because, you know, Pakistan is an ally.  We have to have the Pakistanis on our side.  And you think about some of the guys that the president mentioned today, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Zubayda.  They were all captured inside Pakistan, due to the cooperation we had with the Pakistani government.

Yet on the flip side, we now have what is has become a de facto sanctuary on the Pakistan border of Afghanistan for the Taliban and for elements of al Qaeda to reconstitute and now to become a threat to Afghanistan‘s stability.

OLBERMANN:  Did the president‘s policy on this front, in this particular narrow focus, go out the window with this?  I mean, yesterday‘s speech was all about bin Laden.  Today, it was as if he didn‘t exist.  The president says a loss in Iraq or any kind of pullout of Iraq would embolden terrorists, but is he now saying hands off bin Laden would not embolden terrorists?

CRESSEY:  Well, he kind of miss talking about bin Laden today, which was not a coincidence.  And I think that the issue for the administration now is, how do you go behind the scenes to the Pakistanis and talk to Musharraf and his people, and say, Excuse me, that was not the move we wanted you to make?  How can you get the Pakistanis to reengage the fight on the ground in Waziristan and the northwest frontier?

So, I mean, the president‘s in a very difficult position, because, as Richard said, you know, if you harbor terrorists, then you‘re on the list, as the president had said years ago.  But when that is in a country that is ostensibly an ally of the United States, it puts us in a very, very difficult position.

OLBERMANN:  Did we get caught cold on this, from a counterterror point of view?  Did anybody in the administration see this coming?

CRESSEY:  I think it was a bit of surprise, the actual agreement.  But for observers on the ground, watching how poorly the Pakistani army had been doing in recent months, I think there was no surprise there.  I mean, the Pakistani army did not do that good of a job.  They were inciting the tribal population against them, and probably contributing to some potential destabilization of Musharraf.

So this is as much about domestic politics and Musharraf‘s own security as a presidential person than anything else.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s apply the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes rule here, eliminate the impossible, and whatever‘s left, however improbable, some of it must be true.  When people look at this, a war on terror, but at the moment, at least, not a war on bin Laden.  Thus, A, he‘s not essential regarding the war on terror?  Or B, somebody, forgive the paranoia here, deliberately wants him not captured out there, offstage, like Goldstein in 1984?  Does one of those things have to be true, or is there a letter C that I‘m missing?

CRESSEY:  Now, you know what my view on conspiracies, Keith, they give the government too much credit.  So I don‘t believe the paranoid one.

You know, I think this is the reality on the ground, which is, bin Laden is in a place where the geography and the population favor him.  Because of bin Laden—because Musharraf‘s political stability is so shaky, he cannot allow U.S. forces to go in overtly.  So we‘re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place here.  So how can we push the Pakistanis to do more on their own?  And more importantly, how can we more on the ground inside Pakistan?  It‘s a real difficult situation right now.

OLBERMANN:  Last question, to the speech today, the president says the CIA interrogations were pivotal in preventing terror attacks.  But intelligence officials are telling NBC News tonight that the CIA wanted out of the prison business, as they put it, because it was hurting their recruiting credibility and their credibility abroad.  Weighing the whole thing, now that all the detainees are out of the CIA‘s custody, was the secret interrogation method more helpful or more hurtful to the overall effort to fight terrorism?

CRESSEY:  I think politically it was hurtful, because of how badly the administration handled it.  But from a policy perspective, you want the CIA to do those interrogations.  And the CIA correctly said, Look, after we get the actionable intelligence, we do not want to be holding the keys to these guys.  We‘ve got to put them through some process.

So if I was in the White House, Keith, I would want the CIA to do those interrogations.  But, frankly, what the president announced today was long overdue.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey.  As always, sir, great thanks for your time and your insight.

CRESSEY:  Pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The politics of the 9/11 blame game.  ABC is set to air a docudrama blaming the Clinton administration for most of the horrors, if not all of them, of September 11, fabricated scenes in a project that critics say is basically a mockumentary.  We‘ll hear from 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben Veniste.

And speaking of mockers, battleground America, Florida style.  If this were not a Senate race, it would have to be a soap opera.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Although the war in Iraq and the nation‘s overall direction are the predominant issues in hundreds of congressional elections around the country, our number four story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, there‘s one race where there‘s an even bigger fulcrum.

Who you calling a fulcrum?

The issue in Florida‘s senatorial race is her.  Last night, Katherine Harris won the Republican nomination to challenge the incumbent Democrat, Senator Bill Nelson.  Harris won approximately half of the vote, and despite her fame, only had to spend six times more per vote than did her unknown competitors.  As Harris‘s own Web site put it today, last night she, quote, “celebrated her landslide victory at campaign headquarters with nearly 100 grassroots supporters.”

Wow.  How‘d you find room for them all?

It‘s that kind of outpouring, the kind that almost equals 100, that has given Ms. Harris a solid double-digit minority in the polls, and endorsements from influential Republicans such as Jesus.  How did she do it?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. KATHERINE HARRIS ®, FLORIDA:  I officially declare my candidacy for the United States Senate.

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  On the very night she announced her Senate campaign, Congresswoman Harris stopped in on the “Hannity and Colmes” program.  While outlining two particular points of her platform, she, in the words of the man who would soon become her ex-campaign manager, “flirted with the host.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY AND COLMES,” FOX NEWS CHANNEL)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST:  You‘re already my adopted congresswoman, Congresswoman Harris.  And...

HARRIS:  And you‘re my favorite adopted constituent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And with that, it was off to the races.

In Florida, campaign events take a different form.  In Florida, you don‘t visit nursing homes, you auction off varmints and eat them.  In Florida, Ms. Harris found her stride, buying this ‘possum for charity, riding her campaign horsie in a tight-fitting blouse, getting down to a shoot-‘em-up, riding a hog, more sexy horse riding, even more sexy horse riding, and, of course, doing your standard photo-op with a cougar.

It wasn‘t all wine and roses.  There were campaign defections, several managers ditching Congresswoman Harris, leaking stories of her troubled campaign, that God had told her she should be senator, that the first thing she‘d do if elected is bring a dog with her to work every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There was a quid pro quo?

HARRIS:  There was no quid pro quo, ever.

OLBERMANN:  There were allegations she was wined, dined, and bribed by a defense contractor.  There were endorsements on her Web site from fellow congressmen who had never endorsed her.  She got the cold shoulder from the Bush really, Governor Jeb saying she couldn‘t win, President George, the man she helped install as our commander in chief, turning his back on her.

Perhaps worst of all, the money began to run out, and without it, it became time to answer the burning question.

HARRIS:  Let me just answer the burning question.  I‘m in this race, and I‘m going to win.

OLBERMANN:  With $10 million from her deceased father providing a shot in the arm, the Harris campaign was back on its feet, never looking back.  End of story.  On to the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Recently, you told the “Florida Baptist Witness,” quote, “If you‘re not electing Christians, then, in essence, you are going to legislate sin.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There was also that little separation of church and state comment she made.  She called the concept of it “a lie.”

Not to worry, Ms. Harris still cleaned up in the primaries.  Next up, Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.  And that should be a walk in the park.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The latest poll in your state, out July, shows, however, that it looks like a blowout, that Senator Nelson would crush you 61 to 24.  And is your campaign essentially a fool‘s errand?

HARRIS:  Oh, you know, you can make polls say whatever you want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That‘s right.  In fact, let‘s do that.  Let‘s make that 24, say, 95, and this 61, say, 4, because if Congresswoman Harris has to go back to the private sector, we will never again get to run this picture of her with a cougar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Cougars and ‘possums are one thing.  But when it‘s bears and lions and stingrays, it can end up fatally.  Is television enabling public suicide?

And papal fashions, first the Prada shoes, now the pope‘s got a new hat.  The latest fashions on the catwalk at Vatican City.

Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Morgan Beatty, who anchored a nightly network TV newscast, was born on this date in 1902.  If you somehow do not associate him with the pantheon of Huntley and Brinkley, Cronkite, Jennings, Brokaw, et al., it‘s because he anchored the Dumont Network nightly news starting in 1954, and then Dumont folded in 1955.  Oops.  This anniversary dedication sent out to a Ms. Couric of New York City.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Vatican City, where Pope Benedict held his general audience (INAUDIBLE) for tens of thousands of people today, and the overwhelming reaction in St. Peter‘s Square was, Hey, get a load of that hat, the pontiff surprising the crowd here by ditching the traditional papal hat for a big red wide-brimmed Satturno, called that because some believe it looks kind of like Saturn.

Ooh, a space hat.  Vatican officials say he wore the Satturno because the sun was especially strong today.  But they refused to confirm or deny that when you buy a hat like this, it comes with a free bowl of soup.

Oh, looks good on you, though.

Moscow, where, if you‘re in the Kremlin area this week, and you really need to use the can, you are in great shape.  The 2006 World Toilet Summit is in town.  Hundreds and hundreds of commodes in all possible shapes and sizes, as far as the eye can see.  Ah, Flushing Meadows.

But the World Toilet Summit is about more than just finding a fancy place to do your dirty, dirty business, it is a major global event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) the G8 conferences, and they usually are termed World Summits.  And then we come to the Toilet World Summit, and, yes, you have to put a smile on your face.  But it‘s a serious business.

OLBERMANN:  Heheh, he said business, heheheh.

Critics say ABC just threw the truth about 9/11 into the toilet, that an upcoming docudrama is not just factually flawed, but it‘s a blatant attempt to shift for the nightmare to the Democrats and the Democrats alone.  We‘ll talk to 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben Veniste about the controversy.

And has “Vanity Fair” laid to rest all your burning questions about little SurrySquatch?  Or is that just, as a “Washington Post” column suggested today, York?

Details ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s hot three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, an unnamed Swiss citizen who provided police in Ontario, Canada, with the speeding excuse of the week.  Doing 100 in a 60-mile-an-hour zone, he explained that he was going faster because, unlike in his native country, he stood no chance of colliding with a goat.

Number two, Don Miller of Boone, Iowa.  He is in a struggle with the state department of transportation over his vanity license plate, which reads, quote, “FNADER.”  The plate is on his 1966 Chevrolet Corvair.  It was on the subject of the dangers of the Corvair that Ralph Nader was launched into prominence with his 1965 book, “Unsafe at Any Speed.”

And number one, Mary Kay Gray of Cheshire, Oregon.  She‘s in jail.  Her husband shot her pet chicken.  Police contend that in retaliation, she shot her husband.  The best part of this, though, is the Associated Press account, noting, completely seriously, quote, “Her husband, Stanley Gray, is recovering from a gunshot wound in the shoulder.  The chicken died at the scene.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the fat line between truth and docu-truth.  On Sunday, September 10 and Monday, September 11, the ABC television will air what it calls a docudrama, the “Path to 9/11.”  It is, they say based on a report of the 9/11 Commission.  Meaning perhaps that both the commission report and the movie refer to the date of September 11, 2001, otherwise any similarity appears to be coincidental.  In a moment I‘ll be joined by a 9/11 Commissioner, Richard Ben-Veniste. 

While that commission‘s report parceled out blame to both the current and previous administrations, many who have seen the mini-series written by a prominent conservative, say is skims over Mr. Bush‘s culpability and focuses its scorn more firmly, almost entirely, on Mr. Clinton‘s. 

More troubling is the fact that to do so, the film makers invent not just dialogue, but entire events, repeatedly depicting administration as stopping efforts to get Osama bin Laden. 

One member of the 9/11 Commission, the former co-chair, Tom Kean defends such scenes as “composites” discussing one such scene, Mr. Kean told reporters, “.they chose to portray it this way.  My memory is that it could have happened any number of ways.” 

Kean is a paid consultant for the mini-series, struck an entirely different tone helping ABC promote it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM KEAN, FMR. 9/11 COMMISSION CHAIR:  The writer and I worked together on the project so that he would share the script with me and I could look it over from the point of view of the accuracy of the events that he was portraying and where I thought suggestions needed to be made or changes made, I could do that.  And ABC and the writer in particular, were very, very sensitive to that.  I mean, any time I said that isn‘t the way it happened, or I don‘t think it happened that way they were very—very good to make changes that were necessary. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Reportedly, ABC distributed copies of the movie for screening purposes right-wing commentators, but not, despite their requests, to Clinton administration officials like President Clinton.  ABC says it is not meant to be a documentary and it will air disclaimers to that effect.  But even ABC acknowledges that it has the potential to shape how we see 9/11 and the events that lead up to it. 

And tonight, MediaMatters.org has pinpointed ABC teaching materials that go with the movie that not only repeat the Bush line, that, “The U.S.  government believed that Hussein had been developing weapons of mass destruction,” but also a that, “As part of the ‘War on Terror,‘” President Bush has led the United States into Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Joining me tonight, 9/11 Commission member, Richard Ben-Veniste, who attended a screening of the movie. 

Thank you again for your time, sir.

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FMR. 9/11 COMMISSIONER:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  I‘d like to start by playing one of the scenes from “Path to 9/11” then getting your reaction to it, the cast of characters is Harvey Keitel portraying the FBI agent John O‘Neill who died in the attack;

Stephen Root as the counterterror czar, Richard Clarke; Clark and Donnie Wahlberg as a CIA field agent.  And here they are talking about taking out bin Laden. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So, what‘s the word?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You go back.  Keep up the training, the rehearsals, get them sharp and ready. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not a go? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re worried about political fallout if things go wrong—legalities—you know the drill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do they want to get bin Laden or not? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I got friends in the field, right now, who are in danger. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kirk, we are all in danger.  But the fact is, terrorism‘s perceived in this administration as being a law and order problem, period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If that actual conversation did not happen, sir, does it convey at all the thinking of Mr. Clark or the Clinton administration? 

BEN-VENISTE:  No, I don‘t think so.  The president was the only one, prior to 9/11, to launch any kind of attack against bin Laden and this documentary as “documentary” as it‘s purported to be, is supposed to be based on the 9/11 Commission Report and that‘s why I was critical.  This is a free country, people can be creative, they can could what they wish, but if you say it is based on the 9/11 Commission Report, that it should be accurate.  And that‘s where my criticism begins. 

There are many scenes, including another scene where it appears that Masoued (ph), a tribal leader in Afghanistan, is virtually standing 50 yards away from bin Laden, is prepared is attack him and then he‘s called back because the operation is called off.  That just didn‘t happen.  We never had anybody on the ground that close to bin Laden who identified where bin Laden was.  It was quite clear, as to 9/11 Commission Report states, that Clinton authorized the CIA and the American forces to get bin Laden, captured or killed.  And this mini-series does not depict it accurately. 

OLBERMANN:  Is it fair to say that the inaccuracies in the series are not random or to use a phrase, fair or balanced, that they tend to discredit the Clinton counterterror efforts while not fairly portraying any failures could be attributed to the Bush administration? 

BEN-VENISTE:  Well, you know, I haven‘t seen the whole series.  I‘ve seen the first part and my point is not to suggest that it is unbalanced, because it unfairly portrays efforts of the Clinton administration, but rather that it is inaccurate.  I don‘t know thousand portrays the Bush administration.  And if they are inaccurate in their portrayal of the Bush administration, then they should be criticized for that from the standpoint of the 9/11 Commission‘s report. 

If this is to be an educational film, which is purported to be, because they‘re intended to extend out to schools and portray this as—this material as fact factual, then it should keep to the facts and unfortunately in the material I saw relating to the first part of the program, there are errors, there are mischaracterizations, including the portrayal of president Clinton being distracted by the Monica Lewinsky affair that he took his eye off the ball in connection with his obligations to protect us against terrorism. 

But in fact the commission report comes to the opposite conclusion and that is that the Lewinsky affair did not deter him from launching missile attacks at bin Laden‘s strongholds in Afghanistan and elsewhere.  And yet at the time, Clinton was attacked for wag the dog, for trying to distract away from the Lewinsky affair and so this is very inaccurate and unfair in that regard. 

OLBERMANN:  In light of all this, in light of the buy partisanship, which your commission achieved in this, the name of the co-chair Mr. Kean is stamped on this program.  Is that appropriate in your opinion? 

BEN-VENISTE:  Tom Kean is a great American and he justly deserves the approbation of the American public for the outstanding job that he did in leading the 9/11 Commission. 

His intention, I think, is to provide as much material as often as possible to remind the American public of what needs to be done and that the 9/11 Commission recommendations have not yet been implemented five years after 9/11.  And there are—we can go chapter and verse into that. 

ABC has provided in the opportunity after this program, along with Mr.  Hamilton, to discuss that very issue.  However, having said that, obviously he‘s not infallible and I think these defects in the first part of the show do not accurately portray the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission.

OLBERMANN:  An important consideration.  9/11 Commissioner, Richard Ben-Veniste, many thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BEN-VENISTE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the Steve Irwin story continues.  Are these animal experts playing Russian roulette for the sake of television? 

And Suri as in surigate father? 

The “Vanity Fair” photos are out.  Questions continuing.  Details ahead, but first time now for COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of the day.  Listen closely. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. HARRY REID ®, NEVADA:  Keith Olbermann of NBC observed after the Rumsfeld comments, has fallen.  Keith Olbermann, I quote, “His speech did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence indeed the loyalty of the majority of Americans who oppose the trangent ogapence (SIC).

JAY LENO, TONIGHT SHOW:  Al Qaeda says this tape was made in Pakistan.  But see, I don‘t buy it.  The kid‘s from Orange County.  I think it was made at his parent‘s house.  In fact we enhanced the video.  Listen here.

ADAM YAHIYE GADAHN AL QAEDA CONVERT:  But is the most knowledgeable in history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Adam! What are you doing up there?  Are you picking up your room like I asked? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you haven‘t seen the coolest thing “Homeless” does.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Give me a Budweiser.  Go! Dog, today, I tell you, you have to stay right on them. 

Bring it here.  Thank you.  Good boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I watch in amazement as “Homeless” fetches each beverage Joe asks for, Budweiser, Miller, a bottle of water. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Homeless, go get him a margarita. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Tigers and bears and now stingrays all turning on the people who put them on television.  Has this stuff gone far enough?  Someone finally managing to photograph a very rare and elusive creature indeed, the apparent evidence of the Loch Ness Suri.  Ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There‘s no dressing this up.  Three days after his death there is still a morbid curiosity with the passing of Steve Irwin.  It may extend to the televising of videotape of his last moments.  That‘s not yet clear, but it will not extend to state funeral. 

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, Irwin‘s father has declined on behalf of his son‘s family.  The offer by Australia‘s prime minister.  Bob Erwin said his son was just “an ordinary bloke and he wants to be remembers as and ordinary bloke.”

Though no one would have predicted Irwin‘s demise from a stingray attack he was among a breed of so-called edutainers who pushed shows about animals into risky, into fatal territory.  Our correspondent is John Larson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVE IRWIN, CROCODILE HUNTER:  Oh, see the way when he flattens his neck out...

JOHN LARSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Can you remember the first time you saw him? 

IRWIN:  What he‘s doing is he‘s saying, I‘m venomous.”

LARSON:  He was fun. 

IRWIN:  “I‘m wild and I‘ll bite ya.”

LARSON:  Almost impossible to ignore.  But it wasn‘t just his enthusiasm; it was the nagging fear that one day Steve Irwin might get too close. 

IRWIN:  I do think about my own mortality a heck of a lot because I‘d think hate to think of Bindi grew up without a dad. 

LARSON:  Of course the unpredictability of wild animals is always been entertaining because you never quite know what‘s going to happen. 

LENO:  I said is he harmless—hello!

LARSON:  But then there are the horrible accidents.  Roy Horn‘s tiger malling in Las Vegas.  He survived, but badly injured.  And now Irwin the Crocodile Hunter killed by a stingray stab to the heart. 

(on camera):  The problem, say critic is that danger, not only made Irwin an international celebrity, but it also started a new kind of television.  Before Steve Irwin, there were two wildlife shows in the United States, but after him, almost 30. 

(voice-over):  Shows like “Animal Planet‘s” “They Shoot Crocodiles, Don‘t They?”  exploits close encounters.  Even “National Geographic‘s” Boyd Mattson feels the pull of getting very close. 

BOYD MATTSON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC:  I‘ve made this mistake myself.  I thought, all right this is really good.  But I could get a better shot if I just got a little bit closer.  And it is not always with a wild animal, sometimes it is standing on the edge of a cliff face or the edge of an active volcano. 

LARSON:  But what started with Irwin, critics say, has gotten out of hand. 

DIANE GUERRERO, ANIMAL BEHAVIOR CONSULTANT:  The trends these days is towards edutainment which is education combined with entertainment.  And sometimes ratings get in the way of safety. 

LARSON:  Look no further than “Grizzly Man,” the award-winning documentary which tracked bear lover Timothy Treadwell into the wilds of Alaska. 

TIMOTHY TREADWELL, “GRIZZLY MAN”:  Oh hi friend, hi.

LARSON:  The danger, obvious.  But it was the terrifying, you knew it was going to happen ending in which both Treadwell and his assistant were killed by a bear that drove audiences to see “Grizzly Man.” 

IRWIN:  Tell you what, I caught a couple of crocs, they‘re little bit too naughty. 

LARSON:  Fans of Irwin hope he‘ll be remembered as the passionate conservationist that he was and not some daredevil dying to please his audience. 

John Larson, NBC NEWS, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  On to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”

And it would come as surprise to no one, the numbers of the first installment of the CBS Evening News” with Katie Couric were huge.  The newscast drew about 13-½ million viewers, the largest audience for that program in more that eight years, nearly double audience for the “CBS Evening News” with Bob Schieffer in his last week as the interim anchor.  This according to preliminary estimates from Nielson Media Research.  The CBS broadcast beat the usual rating leaders, our own Brian Williams, by nearly six million viewer, as well as ABC‘s “World News” with Charles Gibson.  The real numbers to watch, however, will be about six months, perhaps six days from now. 

And to the break-up of a relationship that never was.  If we are to believe Jessica Simpson, she has reportedly said she was never dating John Mayor, they‘re just friends.  How then could he have dumped her? 

But “Us Weekly” magazine says Mayor did too give Simpson the old heave-ho and after just a week, a source close to mayor say “the thing between Jessica and John was a two that her camp spun into an 11.  John thinks it‘s a desperate attempt to stay in the spotlight.”  Two?  Eleven?  Huh? 

The singers were first rumored to be dating last week when they both developed cases of laryngitis.  Love is a many splendid (ph) thing.  Ask Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. 

Surely that shock of black hair proves that this really must be Surisquatch

or somebody who‘s 11-year-olds.  Michael Must joins me to evaluate the

photographic evidence.  That‘s ahead, but first time COUNTDOWN‘s latest

list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World”—now in book form and

available without a prescription,

The Bronze Bill-O.  He swallowed the bait again last night, concluded (ph) that the identification of Richard Armitage and Armitage, Bill, not Armitaaage, means there was nothing wrong with the outing of Valerie Plame and he wants the American media to say it‘s sorry because Karl Rove was not indicted.  OK, OK, Bill, fine.  We‘re sorry Karl Rove wasn‘t indicted. 

Now listen, I can‘t play with you right now, Bill, I got bigger fish to fry. 

And buy a copy of the book on your way out, huh?

The runner-up, James Gardner of Upper St.  Claire, Pennsylvania.  He‘s the proud new father of a baby daughter, not that he was there for it or anything.  Mrs. Gardner and her neighbors delivered Alexis Rae Gardner near the Green Tree exit of Parkway West outside Pittsburgh.  Mr. Gardner was still at Damon‘s Grill in Collier, PA watching a Pittsburgh Steelers pre-season game on TV. 

But our winner, Karl Rove, attacked by the conservative publication “Insight” which quotes a senior GOP source which claims “The White House funneled millions of dollars through major Republican Party” contributors to Senator Joseph Lieberman‘s primary campaign.”  Quotes the same source as saying “Lieberman took the money, but said he would not play ball.”  Which means either Lieberman is a genius or he‘s dishonoring the great tradition of political corruption in this country.

Deputy White House chief of staff, Karl Rove, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To sum it up the search for Suri Cruise sure seemed more convoluted, maybe even more crooked than the search for WMD in Iraq.  Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, 104 days after her birth, about 201,600 breathless minutes and only after I actually spent $4.50 for this, we have the first photos from Surigate from the October issue of “Vanity Fair” magazine.  Four and a half bucks and I‘m still not sure what I‘ve got here. 

All I know is this.  This much hair on a kid suggests one word to me, Fabio!

But the images were not leaked to internets nor when they showcased on “Entertainment Tonight,” nor “Access Hollywood” nor even TMZ.com.  No, they came out first, Katie meet Suri, Suri, Katie. 

The photos were seen on the “CBS Evening News” with the new host, day one.  And if that does not put to rest sill rumors about the very existence of  Surisqautch then what on earth would.  Or if the silly rumors about the very existence of Katie Couric? 

Let‘s bring back “Village Voice” columnist, COUNTDOWN‘s unofficial senior Suri skeptic correspondent, Michael Musto. 

Michael, good evening. 

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hello Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, a 22-page photo spread in “Vanity Fair.”  What is it, is it PhotoShopped, is it the result of a coast-to-coast search for a baby that looked like them, is it actually shot at Madame Tussaud‘s?  What is it?

MUSTO:  I don‘t know but whatever it is, you can‘t bring liquids or a book on a plane, but you can snuggle with at Tolstoy length homage to the most disbelieved personality since Santa Claus.  I don‘t get it.  But look, it‘s better than last month‘s “Vanity Fair” cover which was, you know, crack-addict Kate Moss dressed like Detrick but looking like death. 

OLBERMANN:  So, you still think not real or are you wavering? 

MUSTO:  What is real?  You know, to me this is Hollywood realism.  It‘s magical mysticism.  It‘s as real as the rainbow in my refrigerator or the smile I‘m pretty sure I saw on the rat that I accidentally stepped on yesterday. 

OLBERMANN:  Do they have a baby or just a photo prop?  That‘s what I‘m asking you. 

MUSTO:  They have something.  I don‘t know what it is.  It‘s a real something, I‘ve just not determined yet, what that something is. 

OLBERMANN:  One thing that seems to be determined, the baby is quote, unquote, adorable, but she was only 3-1/2 months old when the photos were taken at the end of July, and she has one heck of a head of hair.  Is this good genes is it or hair club for babies or, you want to speculate? 

MUSTO:  It must be genes because Tom‘s hair looks a little synthetic to me too, so why shouldn‘t Suri‘s.  Actually I hear this is actually his “Interview with the Vampire” wig that they tightened a little bit and fit it onto her.  It‘s her beard, though, that I find troublesome, not to mention Tom‘s. 

OLBERMANN:  One classic quote in here from Katie Holmes, is over one of the photos—not this one—there‘s another one, “I think she has Tom‘s eyes.” 

Everybody who sees this magazine said the same thing, that the most authentic part, in terms of resemblance is the baby appears to resemble Katie Holmes especially in the eyes.  Now, she thinks it‘s—there‘s another disconnect here.  What‘s going on with the eyes? 

MUSTO:  I disagree with anybody.  I think baby has Katie‘s nose and mouth, but the eyes, call me crazy, look Asian.  I mean, maybe Katie visited the set of “Last Samurai” to see Tom, something rubbed off.  There‘s no resemblance here to Tom at all except the kid has already saved three lives and when the mama was going through postpartum, the kid said “suffer bitch.” 

OLBERMANN:  And the comparisons between the baby and Bjork, do you buy that? 

MUSTO:  Well, the baby looks fabulous in that swan dress.  They made it out of her hair. 

OLBERMANN:  Lord knows somebody should. 

There‘s another classic quote in here.  Miss Holmes has talked about the craziness of the where is Suri controversy and adding “we weren‘t trying to hide anything.”  And the magazine says they were not—they didn‘t pay the family anything for this.  If they weren‘t hiding anything, what was the delay about?  It was 140 days. 

MUSTO:  I think they were waiting for Tom to get fired from his $100 million a year job so they could say, look, let‘s go through the free magazine offer because we‘re kooky-crazy, we‘re on a self-destructive kamikaze mission ever since he jumped up and down on that couch.  Besides, he was waiting for a magazine he thought was suitable.  He likes the word “vanity” in the title.  He doesn‘t like the word “people.” 

OLBERMANN:  What of that great headline there, on the cover of “Vanity Fair?”  “Yes, Suri, she‘s our baby.”  How long do you think they worked on that one? 

MUSTO:  I think they thought well, Tom‘s never lied to us before, except for, you know, am I through being good.  The baby looks so old there‘s Botox in her bottle.  But hey, kids grow faster nowadays, and yeah, Suri spells backwards is I-rus, but nobody goes for that backwards anymore, if so, Shiloh would be hot little hussy or something So they said let‘s go with it. 

OLBERMANN:  So, the upshot of this is Suri Cruise has 22 pages in “Vanity Fair” and Shiloh Pitt, who you just mentioned, had 10 pages in “People” magazine.  Suri crews wins? 

MUSTO:  Absolutely not because the Pitts a big, you know, bunch of money.  Whether they gave it to charity or pocketed it, who knows, but they got dough, Tom got bubkis (ph), so Suri‘s stuck with that cheap-looking wig.  And on a separate topic, Maddox, to me, looks Asian, too.  Discuss.

OLBERMANN:  I thing, there‘s a reason for that, but we‘ll get into that when there‘s more time.

MUSTO:  OK.  I guess Tom‘s the father too. 

OLBERMANN:  OK, the one and only, Michael Musto.  As always, sir, great thanks. 

MUSTO:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN, for this the 1,222nd 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, will be resplendent tonight in several different hair colors.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY HOST:  Several different, Keith, and they‘re going to want to stick around.   Thank you so much.  And Keith, as you know I am the conscience of America.

OLBERMANN:  Ah.

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s a little hint about who I‘m playing tonight.

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

END   

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