updated 9/28/2006 11:51:28 AM ET 2006-09-28T15:51:28

Guests: Paul F. Tompkins, Paul Kurtz

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

The old switcheroo.  The National Intelligence Estimate the president so reluctantly released, the one that says the war in Iraq increased the terror threat, the one for which he is getting pounded, may not be the latest National Intelligence Estimate.  Representative Harman says there‘s a newer one, and the White House is deliberately keeping it under wraps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JANE HARMAN (D):  I have been told that it‘s essentially complete, and it is stamped “Draft,” so it didn‘t have to be sent up here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Secretary Rice insisted the Bush administration did just as much as the Clinton administration to stop al Qaeda before 9/11.  Our special investigation tonight, the record shows she is wrong.

We‘ll be joined, in his first interview on the subject, by Richard Clarke‘s top deputy, Paul Kurtz.

And a touch of terror here.  How “The New York Post” may have just screwed up a federal investigation into terroristic threats.

In sports...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRELL OWENS, DALLAS COWBOYS:  There was no suicide attempt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  But a Dallas police report says otherwise about Cowboys star Terrell Owens, and he hadn‘t even been interviewed by Nancy Grace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And if you thought flick from a Christmas story (ph) turning to porn was bad, or Judy Winslow from “Family Matters” turning to porn was bad, oh, here go, an X-rated video starring screech (ph).  Please, please, I need to be saved by the bell.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  This is Wednesday, September 27, 41 days until the 2006 midterm elections.

And it will be a race to the finish line for top topic for the Republicans, Iraq or terror, which they want, rather easy to pick after the president declassified some of the National Intelligence Estimate.  He said he did it to stop, quote, “all the politics about somebody saying something about Iraq, somebody trying to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy.”

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, if the idea was to tamp down confusion, the plan has backfired utterly.  Both parties are now using the NIE “Trends in Global Terrorism” to bolster their positions on the war in Iraq, and the crux of both arguments the same, this section, quote, “The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.  Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves to be, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.”

No one seems to be disputing the validity of the view, but while Republicans say it proves that Iraq is the central front on the war against terrorists, Democrats point out it also proves the administration has helped terrorists by giving them a breeding ground in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  The National Intelligence Estimate is a devastating document.  It shows that terrorism has metastasized.  It shows that Iraq, if anything, has made the war on terror worse.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MAJORITY LEADER:  We know that Iraq has become the central front in our war against the terrorists.  We have no choice but to win this battle, and this—and the National Intelligence Estimate that was released makes it clear that winning the effort against the terrorists in Iraq will defuse their ability to recruit more people into their ranks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As if the NIE‘s assessment on Iraq was not bad enough, it is already out of date.  It was given to the administration in April.  There is a more recent assessment of the situation, an NIE that focuses solely on Iraq, but even Congress is not allowed to see that new estimate, because it is allegedly only a draft, and won‘t be ready for release till 2007, a timed date that Democrats find somewhat suspicious, given that it‘s an election year now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARMAN:  I have been told that it‘s essentially complete, and it is stamped “Draft,” so it doesn‘t have to be sent up here.  I don‘t know that for a fact, but now we know it exists, because the director of national intelligence says it exists.  He says it will take time to get it right.  I‘m urging him to move faster...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Representative Harman has written a letter to the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, stressing that he should release the estimate before the elections.  But the White House says the new report is nowhere near ready.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  About a month ago, Director Negroponte informed the committee, said he was, in fact, going to do an exhaustive review on Iraq.  That‘s a month ago.  These reviews take about a year to do.

So the idea that it is in, quote, “draft form,” they‘re just beginning to do the work on it.  And the intelligence committee members, if they don‘t know it, should.  But there is not a waiting Iraq document that reflects a National Intelligence Estimate that‘s sitting around gathering dust waiting till after the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  As the Bush administration continues to try to deflect questions about whether its war in Iraq is encouraging terrorism, it has managed to score a victory in Congress about how it wants to deal with the people it has detained as terrorists, though victory at what cost remains to be seen for all of us, the House voting mainly on party lines, passing the detainee bill today, despite warnings from Democrats that it fails to meet judicial standards, and will likely get struck down in the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.

The bill says it is up to the president to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Convention, an action interpreted by many international legal scholars as being by itself a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill later this week.

In a sense, we are all still detainees in the wake of 9/11, but there is some unrest among the inmates, being asked what steps he took to stop al Qaeda, President Clinton freeing many to ask what steps, if any, his successor took in the most critical time before the plot.

Yesterday, President Bush declined to address Mr. Clinton‘s remarks, saying, “We‘ve already had the look back this and look back that.”  But if we are to look forward with any clarity, it is important to know the facts about where we have been and how we got where we are.

Thus tonight, a special investigation.  Mr. Clinton is not in office, Mr. Bush is.  His policies determine how the U.S. fights al Qaeda, so it is important that we understand how he has done so in the past.  Comparing the two presidents is valid, necessary, to illuminate the capacities of the office.  Mr. Clinton said it plainly, he failed to get bin Laden.  Mr. Bush has acknowledged no such failure.

But while it has become conventional wisdom, although debunked by the 9/11 report, that Mr. Clinton dropped an offer from Sudan to hand over bin Laden, it is rare to hear anyone discuss whether similar but real feelers were ever extended to Mr. Bush.  And it is, we suspect, even more rare to see this tape of the Bush White House addressing reports of such feelers in February 2001, after the government knew al Qaeda had attacked the U.S.S.  “Cole.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, February 27, 2001)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Taliban in Afghanistan, they have offered that they are ready to hand over Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia if the United States drops its sanctions, and the—they have a kind of deal that they want to make with the United States.  Do you have any comments (INAUDIBLE)?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS Secretary:  Let me take that and get back to you on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  There is no record of any subsequent discussion on that matter.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, of course, responded to President Clinton by defending the Bush record.  “We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda,” she said.

Our goal in this report is to rise to Mr. Clinton‘s challenge and assess the record of Mr. Bush‘s efforts against al Qaeda in his first eight months in office.

We begin with Rice‘s claim that Clinton left no strategy to fight al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 20, 2001)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Congratulations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  On January 25, 2001, five days after Mr. Bush took office, counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke sent Rice a memo, attaching to it a document entitled “Strategy for Eliminating the Threat of al Qaeda.”  It was, Clarke, wrote, “developed by the last administration to give to you, incorporating diplomatic, economic, military, public diplomacy, and intelligence tools.”

Clarke‘s memo requested a follow-up cabinet-level meeting to address time-sensitive questions about al Qaeda.  But President Bush had downgraded counterterrorism from a cabinet-level job, so Clarke now dealt instead with deputy secretaries.

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM CZAR:  It slowed it down enormously, by months.  First of all, the deputies‘ committee didn‘t meet urgently in January or February.

OLBERMANN:  Why the delay?  Rice later tried to explain.

RICE:  America‘s al Qaeda policy wasn‘t working because our Afghanistan policy wasn‘t working, and our Afghanistan policy wasn‘t working because our Pakistan policy wasn‘t working.  We recognized that America‘s counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies, and to our overall foreign policy.

OLBERMANN:  That, although Clarke‘s January 25 memo specifically warned, “Al Qaeda is not some narrow little terrorist issue that needs to be included in broader regional policy.  By proceeding with separate policy reviews on Central Asia, etc., we would deal inadequately with the need for a comprehensive multiregional policy on al Qaeda.”

Clarke‘s deputies‘ meeting came in April, when, he says, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz insisted the real terrorism threat was not al Qaeda, but Iraq.

By July 16, the deputies had a proposal for dealing with al Qaeda, a proposal, Clarke says, was essentially the same plan he gave Rice five months earlier, and it still had to go to the principals, the cabinet secretaries.

CLARKE:  But the principals‘ calendar was full, and then they went on vacation, many of them, in August, so we couldn‘t meet in August.  And therefore the principals met in September.

OLBERMANN:  Although the principals had already met on other issues, their first meeting on al Qaeda was not until after Labor Day, on September 4, 2001.

But what were Mr. Bush and his top advisers doing during this time?  Mr. Bush was personally briefed about al Qaeda even before the election, in November 2000.  During the transition, President Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, say they told Bush and his team of the urgency of getting al Qaeda.

Three days before President Bush took office, Berger spoke at a passing-the-baton event, which Rice attended.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 17, 2001)

SANDY BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  With (ph) survivors of the U.S.S. “Cole” reinforced the reality that America is in a deadly struggle with a new breed of anti-Western jihadists.  Nothing less than a war, I think, is fair to describe this.

OLBERMANN:  Eight days later, Clarke sent Rice the strategy Clinton had developed for retaliating in the event that al Qaeda was found to have been behind the previous October‘s attack on the U.S.S. “Cole.”  The next day, the FBI conclusively pinned the “Cole” attack on al Qaeda.

Mr. Bush ordered no military strike, no escalation of existing Clinton measures.  Instead, he repeated Clinton‘s previous diplomatic efforts, writing a letter to Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf in February and another on August 4.

Until September 11, even when Mr. Bush was asked about the “Cole,” an attack carried out on water by men in a boat, he offered a consistent prescription for keeping America safe, one he reiterated upon taking office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  To protect our own people, our allies and friends, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Democrats, who controlled the Senate, warned that his focus was misplaced.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D):  I‘m also concerned that we may not be putting enough emphasis on countering the most likely threats to our national security and to the security of our forces deployed around the world, those asymmetric threats, like terrorist attacks on the U.S.S. “Cole,” on our barracks and our embassies around the world, on the World Trade Center.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He was not alone.  The executive director of the Hart-Rudmann Commission‘s request to brief Bush and Cheney on the terror threats they had studied was denied.

On February 26, 2001, Paul Bremer said of the administration, quote, “What they will do is stagger along until there‘s a major incident, and then suddenly say, Oh, my God, shouldn‘t we be organized to deal with this?”

According to the 9/11 Commission report, even bin Laden expected Bush to respond militarily to the “Cole” bombing.  Quote, “In February 2001, according to a source, bin Laden wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not, he would launch something bigger.”

The most famous warning came in the August 6 presidential daily briefing, reporting “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”

According to the 9/11 report, “Bush did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the attorney general, or whether Rice had done so.  We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the president and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States.  Tenet does not recall any discussions with the president of the domestic threat during this period.  Domestic agencies did not know what to do, and no one gave them direction.  The borders were not hardened, transportation systems were not fortified, electronic surveillance was not targeted against the domestic threat, state and local law enforcement were not marshaled to augment the FBI‘s efforts.  The public was not warned.”

Explanations after the fact suggested a lack of familiarity with the recent history of terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

RICE:  I don‘t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center.

(Subtitle: 1994, France disrupts plot to fly a jet into Eiffel Tower.)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There wasn‘t any

way then we could have anticipated what was about to happen, of course, in

on 9/11.

(Subtitle:  1995, Philippines uncovers plot to fly planes into Pentagon and World Trade Center.)

(Subtitle:  September 1999, U.S. study: Al Qaeda might  crash planes into Pentagon.)

(Subtitle:  Spring 2001, New York City trial testimony: Bin Laden sending agents to acquire planes.)

BUSH:  These terrorists had burrowed in our country for over two years.  They were well organized.  They were well planned.  They struck in a way that was unimaginable.

(Subtitle:  July 2001, FBI told of Zacarias Moussaoui‘s interest in flying jumbo jets.)

(Subtitle: September 2001, FBI memo: Moussaoui could fly something into the World Trade Center.)

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  On September 10, 2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California requested a meeting with Vice President Cheney to press the case for aggressive counterterrorism measures.  She is told Mr. Cheney will need some time to prepare first, six months.

That same day, the NSA intercepted a communique from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, stating, “Tomorrow is zero hour.”  That communique was only translated into English on September 12.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  It appears now that the operative word in the phrase “We could not have anticipated” was the word “we.”

COUNTDOWN‘s look at what the Bush White House did to take the threat of terrorism seriously on its watch, and what it did not do, from Rice‘s claim this week they were handed no al Qaeda strategy from the Clinton administration, to President Bush‘s reaction to the confirmation that al Qaeda indeed was behind the attack on the U.S.S. “Cole.”

Ahead, analysis of those eight months from one who served as Richard Clarke‘s right-hand man as the transition played out.  Paul Kurtz has never spoken about that time publicly until now.

And a terror threat hitting close to home for us, and how “The New York Post” showed its true colors when it comes to issues of security and human decency.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The administration does not like it when former officials go public about their service, especially when raising questions about national security.

Tonight, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the man who served as the National Security Council‘s director for counterterrorism during the first eight months of the Bush administration, answering directly to Richard Clarke, is speaking publicly for the first time on this newscast about those eight months.  His name is Paul Kurtz.

Mr. Kurtz, we thank you for some of your time tonight.

PAUL KURTZ, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM DIRECTOR:  Thanks for asking me to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with this fundamental issue.  Can the Bush administration point to a single act or operation when claiming that it tried to get bin Laden or al Qaeda and stop them before 9/11?

KURTZ:  Certainly, I think it would be a mistake to leave an impression among the people of America that the Bush administration was sitting on its hands.  Defensive efforts were, if you will, underway, but I think it is fair to say that, at the higher level, at the strategic level, there wasn‘t the level of engagement that you would expect at the most senior levels of the administration on taking down al Qaeda.

Richard Clarke teed up a strategy for the administration to take a look at, and, if you will, we stepped in line behind everybody else that had something that needed to be reviewed by the most senior levels of the administration.

OLBERMANN:  Do you have a way to assess whether our collective readiness and aggressiveness, proactiveness, in this front deteriorated, increased, stayed the same, say, between January 1, 2001, when Clinton was still president, and February 1, 2001 after which—after—with—by which time Mr. Bush had assumed the job?

KURTZ:  I think the way I would characterize it at last as residual momentum coming from the Clinton administration.  In other words, all the programs that President Clinton and his team had put into place, and, of course, I was there at that time as well, remained in place.

What happened, though, is, we had clear indications during the handoff and clear discussions during the handoff to the Bush administration that al Qaeda was a very serious problem, that it could, in fact, come up and bite the administration.

Richard Clarke and his team, we elevated that up, up the line, and they took a look at it.  But as I said, it became more of a bureaucratic issue within the administration, something that needed to be looked at along with several other issues.

OLBERMANN:  Earlier, we heard the tape of Ari Fleischer being asked in a news conference on February 2001 about the reports that the Taliban had sent out feelers about turning bin Laden over.  The White House has not replied to our request to find out what happened with those feelers, even to this day.  Can you shed any light on that for us?

KURTZ:  Well, I think in this case, we have to remember that in this business, there‘s a lot of information that comes in.  It comes in through the press, it comes in through intelligence, it comes in through diplomatic channels.  So there‘s a lot of noise in the system.

And in this case, you had a journalist who asked a question who had heard that there was some willingness on the part of the Taliban to offer up Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda, and, you know, we would hear those kind of reports all the time.  And, in fact, we‘ve—you know, would always try to run those to ground.

And I think you—we all must realize how many reports have we heard that al Qaeda or, excuse me, Osama bin Laden is dead?  None of those have come true.  I think it‘s fair to say that the intelligence community and the foreign diplomatic community, as well as our own diplomatic forces or folks, look into these issues as best they can, and see what they can find out.

OLBERMANN:  You spoke just now about how the bureaucracy came into play here.  May of 2001, Mr. Bush asked Vice President Cheney to prepare a report on preparedness for attacks by unconventional weapons by the first of October.  In late June, the vice president assigned the admiral Charles Abbott to spearhead that effort.  First of September, the vice president hired Colonel John Fenzel (ph) as staff direct.  There was still no staff by that point.  And Admiral Abbott did not receive his White House security pass until September 10, 2001.

Is that an indicator of the bureaucracy and the priority that terrorism had at that time, or is there an unfair inference in there?

KURTZ:  I think that‘s an unfair inference.  You have a lot of people who are, remember, we‘re in the first eight months of the administration, you know, everybody‘s trying to start up.  They‘re bringing in new staff, they‘re trying to get their security clearances in place.

I will say, to this day, we have a problem with getting people cleared in a timely manner.  And I don‘t think you can necessarily accuse the White House or the Bush administration as that being, if you will, their problem or their bureaucracy.  There‘s just a lot of work that needs to be done in order to clear people.

So I—given the—what you‘ve just described about Admiral Abbott, I don‘t think you can say that‘s necessarily a huge problem.

I think the big point here that we need to think about is that when Richard Clarke briefed the incoming administration, he made it clear that this was a very serious problem that needed attention at the highest levels.

And what happened, unfortunately, was that we were asked to stand in line behind everybody else.  And as the record shows, in the 9/11 report, it wasn‘t until September that the comprehensive strategy, if you will, if you want to call it that at this point in time, reached a decision point among the principals in the government.

OLBERMANN:  And when you hear, as you must have heard in that report that we presented before the commercial break, the president speaking in 2001 about this vital ultimate necessity of missile defense, does your blood run cold?  What is your reaction?

KURTZ:  Well, I think it‘s fair to say, we were focusing on the wrong problems.  It‘s clear.  I mean, that much is obvious.  And we don‘t hear as much about missile defense as we used to.  Now, I‘m not saying that missile defense is—should no longer be on the radar screen.  But it‘s clear that terrorism is—got to be counterterrorism, it‘s got to be front and center when we think about the nation‘s security over the next 10 to 15 years.

And we have a long way to go before we‘re actually going to get this threat under control.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Kurtz, the NSC director for counterterrorism from 1999 to 2002.  Thank you for your service, sir, and thank you for your time tonight.

KURTZ:  Thank you for asking me to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the Dallas Cowboys star called T.O., police say he tried to take the ultimate timeout.  He says he never attempted suicide.

And at the same time we get a possible cause of death of the son of Anna Nicole Smith, we get the possible identity of the man who claims to be the father of the new daughter of Anna Nicole Smith.

All that and much more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Uebermodel Cheryl Teagues and rocker Meat Loaf both turned 59 today.  Talk about the importance of getting off to a good start.

Let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin in Cleveland where, is there anything more annoying then you‘re sitting in traffic and some turkey wants to wash your windows?  Must have been a slow news day in the City by the Lake, because the cameras were in full force to cover this wild turkey on the loose.  Of course, a wild turkey is always on the loose.  Don‘t go attacking the media on this show, pal.  If it were not for the TV cameras the headline of this story would have been “wild turkey dead in road.”  Instead it was simply shooed back into the woods, another turkey saved by the liberal media. 

To the Internets where you know there is 88 shopping days until Christmas and while everyone is chasing around that crazy new Elmo, it‘s the new Barbie doll set that caught our attention. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  You potty trained Tanner, Barbie. 

Barbie doll and her dog Tanner set with everything for potty training.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You got to be blankin‘ me.  That‘s realistic.  What little girl wouldn‘t be thrilled with a toy dog who could mess her carpet?  Just about 15 bucks for the Barbie with Tanner dog set, 25 if you upgrade to Barbie dog has ringworm edition. 

Finally to the Netherlands for another exciting episode for “What the hell is this guy talking about?” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you leave it laying on one side forever, it‘s got one side is going to be flat and one side is going to be, well, sort of kind of roundish, so you need to turn to get a nicer shape . 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If you guessed he was talking about his sister, you‘re wrong.  He‘s a cheesemaker and that‘s the world‘s biggest cheese.  Blessed or are the cheesemakers.  It‘s 1,300 pounds, make with 1,500 gallons of milk.  They say it tastes so bad it will never be sold.  What is so special about the cheesemakers?

Well, obviously it‘s not meant to be taken literally.  It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

Also tonight, here, why the “New York Post” did more damage than it knew stumbling and reporting a terrorist threat that we were asked to keep quiet.  And the headline says it all.  “Screech, Sex Tape.”  Screech?  Nancy Grace?  Details ahead, but first time now for COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day. 

No. 3, Shawn Cliff of (INAUDIBLE) in England, after drunk driving conditions, he had to—or convictions rather, he had to wear an electronic tag on his ankle, but one night he wanted to go boozing so he simply cut the thing off and turned it into a collar for his dog, “Freddie.” 

No. 2, Richard Snowden of Hornell, New York.  He‘s selling his 75-year-old old mansion in buffalo, but it‘s package deal—your cost, $7 and a half million.  But you not only get the mansion, you also get the strip joints he owns in Buffalo, Rochester, and Tampa. 

And No. 1, Daniel Steinbach of Rogersville, Tennessee.  He was looking for a ride Saturday night, flagged down a passing police cruiser, asked by the officer where he needed to go, Steinbach said “A house on the hill.”  Asked which house on the hill, Steinbach repeated “A house on the hill.”  The officer then asked him if he was taking my medication and Steinbach said, “Just some pot.”  House on the hill?  You want to buy Mr.  Snowden‘s mansion and the strip clubs?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As the current administration is so fond of pointing out we now live in a post-9/11 world.  We‘ve already shown that in this news hour.  What that means in political terms, no in our third story in the COUNTDOWN, what it means in practical terms. 

In a nutshell it signifies that, to quote the Homeland Security Department, “If you see something, say something.”  Even at Scooter Libby‘s scheduled hearing in the CIA leak investigation this morning.  Thanks to a strange suitcase found on a construction site at the U.S. District Court House, within minutes the court was evacuated, police cordoned off the area, sniffer dogs started to inspect the perimeter, the fire department arrived and traffic was shut down.  Eventually an officer dressed in full bomb protection gear carried out the offending suitcase.  Turns out it was not a bomb, it was a bag of soiled clothes, but the key part of the equation, of course, is that you don‘t know that beforehand. 

Speaking of emergency units and government responses and guys in big safety suits, the Rupert Murdock-owned newspaper, the “New York Post,” may have just impeded an FBI investigation into terroristic threats.  I know this because I was a recipient. 

The bureau asked us not to report any of the details, so that the person or persons responsible would not know any of the threats had been received by any of the targets and we, of course, complied.  I still cannot confirm many of the specifics, again in order to make the jobs of the FBI and the New York Police Department a little easier, but I find it necessary to respond to the genuinely shocking tone with which Murdock‘s paper reported the event and the string of factual errors they made either through negligence or premeditated disregard for the truth. 

“Powder Puff Spooks Keith” reads the headline.  The article then gives the exact details of the event which we were asked not to divulge.  “The caustic commentator panicked and frantically called 911.”

There was no panic and if that needs to be independently verified, I‘m happy to authorize release that 911 call recording.  In fact, from my own sense of the thing, I was confident there was no danger.  My first inclination was to wait until the start of the next work day to notify the authorities, but the remote possibility that any delay might have endangered others led me reverse my decision.

“An NYPD HazMat unit rushed to.” then the paper helpfully reveals the location the event, “.but preliminary tests indicated the substance was harmless soap powder.  However, that wasn‘t enough to satisfy Olbermann, who insisted on a checkup.”

The results of part of the preliminary tests referred to did not come back for nearly six hours.  The other results did not come back for about 14.  I made no insistence on any checkup.  The officer in charge of the 18 or so police officers who responded asked that I follow their protocol:  A decontamination shower at the scene, the bagging and sealing of the clothes that I was wearing at the time of the incident, and my transportation to the emergency room. 

I mean, not to overdo this, but they had to melt my keys and destroy my wallet. 

“He asked to be taken to.” and forgive me again for not mentioning the specific hospital, “.where doctors looked him over and sent him home.” 

In fact, I was there 10 hours before they permitted me to leave even after several forceful requests by me and my employers to the New York Department of Health that I should be released. 

Incidentally, I apologized if those were too forceful.  Apologize for the requests, not the commentaries that obviously inspired the event that I‘m talking about and the “Post‘s” mocking of police and FBI efforts and its endorsement of the terroristic threats from the radical right.  We will not be intimidated here. 

“Whether they gave him a lollypop on the way out isn‘t known. 

Olbermann had no comment.” 

What they gave me out was not a lollipop but a prescription for Cipro, the antibiotic used in the even of exposure to Anthax.  And one of the reasons I offered no comment is obvious, the authorities asked me not to.  Also a “New York Post” reporter attempted to again access to me by falsely identifying herself as I friend of mine. 

And most relevantly, the “Post” never called NBC NEWS or MSNBC seeking any comment.  They would have been told that the FBI had requested we try to keep this quiet.  But of course, even if the story had been accurate in the paper, printing it all would have been no less outrageous nor incendiary. 

It‘s almost mellow dramatic to ask why the “New York Post” would choose the side of domestic terrorism rather than choose the side of the FBI, but it‘s remarkable that this was printed by any newspaper, even in the current political climate, even in the wake of editorial stance here, even with Rupert Murdock‘s radical agenda, which has stirred up some rage in his readers and viewers. 

A month ago, when a reporter Steve Santani of Murdock‘s FOX NEWS was kidnapped in Gaza, along with his cameraman, that network reached out to the others, this one included.  They relayed that the authorities there had urged everyone to keep reporting of the kidnapping low-key and to a minimum because it believed the kidnappers did not know they had gotten a hold of someone recognizable.  We and most other major news organizations immediately and thoroughly cooperated with Murdock‘s request. 

Now in a return case, Murdock‘s newspaper did not even make the single phone call that could have told it the potential damage it would be doing.  So next time a FOX or a “New York Post” employee is in distress or the government is investigating something endanger them and Murdock‘s people ask us to hold a story, of course we will. 

On this end, anyway, we are still human beings and Americans and we would never have any problem choosing whether to support the terrorists or the FBI. 

Also tonight, Terrell Owens‘ trip to the hospital, he says he had an allergic reaction to mixing pills.  The police say he says he tried to commit suicide. 

In the midst of Anna Nicole Smith‘s grief over the death of her son, a third man has now come forward to claim he‘s the father of her new daughter.  There‘s late word today on the cause of death of her son.  Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Unexpected, unusual, celebrity headlines.  Terrell Owens trying to kill himself.  New details about the cause of the death of Anna Nicole Smith‘s son.  And prepare for the Screech sex tape—the kid from “Saved by the Bell.”  All of that ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There is the cliched good news and bad news about one of the best and easily the most controversial football players of the day.  Our No. 2 story in the COUNTDOWN, the bad news, a Dallas Police report that Terrell Owens tried to take own life last night.  The good news, T.O.‘s playing status for Sunday‘s game has been upgraded to probable from suicidal. 

Our correspondent is Jay Gray.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAY GRAY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  One way or another, Terrell Owens has always managed to find the spotlight, and not always on the field.  But the controversial wide receiver said the attention today is all a big misunderstanding. 

TERRELL OWENS, DALLAS COWBOYS:  There was no suicide attempt. 

GRAY:  Released from the Bailer Medical Center, late Wednesday morning, Owens went to the Cowboys practice facility to talk with teammates and try to clear the air. 

OWENS:  You know, I don‘t think I would be here if I—had I taken 35 pills.

GRAY:  It‘s a much different story than the one initially told by Dallas Police and paramedics who were called to Owens‘ downtown loft apartment just after 8:00 Tuesday night.  And incident report indicates Owens tried to commit suicide by taking a “unknown large quantity of prescription pain medication.”  But by Wednesday morning, Dallas Police citing medical and privacy laws would only say:

LT.  RICK WATSON, DALLAS POLICE DEPT.:  This is not a criminal offense.  This is a medical type of situation and the incident that occurred.

GRAY:  There still do seem to be a lot of unanswered questions about exactly what happened with T.O. 

BILL PARCELLS, DALLAS COWBOYS COUCH:  You know, I got to get a little clearer picture of what it is. 

GRAY:  Even his team has said it‘s not sure about the star receiver‘s status at this point. 

PARCELLS:  It‘s apparently an unfortunate set of circumstances and I‘d rather be clear on what they are before I comment the future. 

GRAY:  One of the biggest questions left to be answered is when or even if the all-pro wide receiver should ever play again. 

Jay Gray, NBC NEWS, Irving (ph). 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Incidentally, that cowboys couch, Bill Parcells midday news conference, at it he was asked 34 questions in total, 33 of them were about Owens.  It is to the asker of the 34th we will hear him last to whom we offer a salute for keeping things in perspective. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Knowing T.O.  like you do, would it surprise you if he actually tried to commit suicide? 

QUESTION:  Have you had a chance to talk to him at? 

QUESTION:  What‘s your understanding of his condition? 

QUESTION:  When he was sick, after he had the surgery, did they change his medicine? 

QUESTION:  What‘s Terry Glenn‘s status with his.

PARCELLS:  What‘s what?

QUESTION:  What is Terry Glenn‘s status with his injury? 

PARCELLS:  Oh, he‘s doing fine. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What about Terry Glenn?  On to our round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, and perhaps the first firm understanding of what caused the death of Anna Nicole Smith‘s son.  Twenty-year-old Daniel Smith died from a lethal combination of drugs according to Dr. Cyril Wecht, the pathologist hired by Ms. Smith to perform a second autopsy.  Dr.  Wecht has told “People” magazine that the toxicology report identified methadone, Zoloft and Lexapro.  He says that caused cardiac dysrhythmia.  No word on why Mr. Smith would have been on methadone.  Zoloft and Lexapro are prescription drugs commonly used for depression. 

Daniel Smith died in his mother‘s hospital room in the Bahamas on September 10.  He was visiting her three days after the birth of her daughter.  The man claiming to be the child‘s father has identified himself, Howard K. Stern, Miss Smith‘s long-time attorney and frequent spokesman.  Mr. Stern told Larry King, “I am very excited.  I wish it was under different circumstances.”  He says they have named their daughter Danny Lynne Hope (ph). 

And if there were any notion that the video footage of Steve Irwin‘s death would be made public, that apparently has been put to rest.  The wife of the man known as the “Crocodile Hunter” has reportedly said that those final moments will never be shown on television.  Terry Irwin saying even she has not seen the video and questions the purpose of broadcasting it.  Her husband was killed when a stingray barb pierced his chest.  He was filming a TV show on the Great Barrier Reef at the time of the accident. 

We‘ve survived the sex tapes of Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, and the headlines, at lease, surrounding one involving Colin Farrell, but Screech?  Screech from “Saved by the Bell” Screech?  Oh, it‘ll be less Elizabeth Berkeley next?  Wait, it was? 

That‘s ahead but first time for COUNTDOWN latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

You have to buy this.  I‘ve got Cipro bills to pay. 

Our nominees, the Bronze to Peter Roskam, Republican congressional candidate of the Illinois sixth, says his Democratic opponent wants to cut and run from Iraq.  She‘s Tammy Duckworth, former National Guard pilot in Iraq and she can‘t run, since she lost both of her legs there.  Nice touch, Pete.

The Silver tonight to Michael Savage.  Says an average prostitute, let‘s say in a city, probably, they‘re more reliable and more honest than most U.S. senators wearing a dress. 

Prostitutes, cross dressers, well, Mike, we‘ll defer to you, you‘re the expert here. 

But our winner, Roger Ailes the Ming the Merciless, of FOX News and congrats, incidentally Roger, on having achieved the perfectly circular shape.  He says today that President Clinton‘s reaction to Chris Wallace the other day was “An assault on all journalists.”  No, Roger, what he said was an admonishment, somebody sending terroristic threats to me and others is an assault to all journalists. 

Roger Ailes, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, it‘s XXX D list.  A “celebrity” apparently still hard up for cash now starring in his very own sex tape.  Dustin Diamond, better known as Screech from the old Saturday morning sitcom “Saved by the Bell.”  You may also recall him as a guy hocking t-shirts a couple of months ago trying to save us house from forcloser. 

Now it‘s foreplay instead.  A 40-minute video featuring Screech with two girls, according the to the “New York Daily News” which describes it as a kinky three-way.  All right.  Including a literally unmentionable act, something about a Mr. Sanchez.  Numero cinco.  And even the man hired to pimp this video is shocked.  David Hans Schmidt told the “New York Daily News” that he has acquired the rights to the tape.  He also has brokered other celebrity porn, but he says “Just when you think you‘ve seen everything in this business, mankind has raised the bar another notch—or lowered it.”  They do that too? 

Mr. Schmidt is reportedly trying to sell the tape to Larry Flint.  One copy at a time, please.  Meanwhile, Screech‘s manager takes it all in stride, claiming his client has found success as a stand-up comic. 

In this tape?  Stand.

He says, “I haven‘t seen the tape.  I‘ve head rumors.  Dustin has been trying to escape the Screech typecast.  So this may help me get more bookings.”

Joining me now is a comedian Paul F. Tompkins, contributor to VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever.”

Paul, good evening to you. 

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN:  Good evening to you, Keith.  Thanks for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  So, even Screech‘s manager thinks this might be a good career move? 

TOMPKINS:  Well, the answer is in your question.  He‘s Screech‘s manager.  There‘s not a ton of options.  And Branson is still a decade away for Screech, I think.  By the way, I‘d like to take the “New York Daily News” to task for referring to this tape as containing a “kinky” three-way.  I think a three-way is already kinky; you don‘t have to modify it that way. 

What has happened to America journalism? 

OLBERMANN:  We are having a lot of problems with it here at New York today, just on that note and others, Paul. 

But let‘s go in to this a bit deeper.  Four years ago, Mr. Screech, Mr. Diamond, was on the FOX network Celebrity Boxing two, and defeated a guy who played Horshack on “Welcome Back Kotter,” Ron Palillo, so I—is this a step up from that or a step down?  I can‘t tell. 

TOMPKINS:  It is a step up.  And this is good news for Dustin, who was under the impression he was going to have to work you way up through the rest of the “Sweat Hogs.”  So that‘s kind a relief.  But if recent rumors about the actor who played Barbarino are to be believed, perhaps there could be a cameo in the sex tape sequel. 

OLBERMANN:  Whoa hey, he now Mr. Kotter.  Let me try to exercise a little decency here.  I‘m not asking you to go in to the details and I‘m not presuming you‘ve seen the video itself, but is there some sort of descending scale at work here?  I mean, A-list celebrities can videotape themselves and a particular position—the public wants to see that, if you‘re a D-lister you have to get extraordinarily raunchy to pique any interest? 

TOMPKINS:  That is the rule.  I mean, “Saved by the Bell” wasn‘t even in prime-time, it was Saturday afternoon, you know, so, it takes a little extra.  You got to go the extra distance.  And let me tell you, if you‘re a Screech, holding a three-way together is not easy.  You know, like, this girl‘s starting to sober, but that girl‘s passed out.  You know?  Oh, no, she‘s starting to remember where she is and how she got here.  You know, that sort of thing.  Mario L¢pez does not have these kind of problems.

OLBERMANN:  Right and.

TOMPKINS:  Incidentally, the two girls in the tape, they also had to have their keys melted. 

OLBERMANN:  I would imagine.  Unfortunately, this is not unique among ex-child stars.  The guy who played “Flick” in the classic movie “A Christmas Story” went into porn.  “Flick” into porn.  Who couldn‘t have seen that one coming?  One of the girls from “Family Matters,” another one from “In the House” and now Screech, is this an epidemic and if so, is there an antibiotic for it? 

TOMPKINS:  It‘s no epidemic, Keith.  What these kids have in common is they are born performers.  They love to be in front of the camera.  You know, they‘d go into legitimate if they could, but you‘re not allowed to have sex there and they don‘t want to move Amsterdam. 

OLBERMANN:  So, this one quote her about how—from the manager again, that he‘s found success as a stand-up comic.  When you heard that did you think immediately, as I did, that they were referring to the tape?  A stand-up comic in the tape?  Is that—we‘re seeing a performance that‘s kind of funny as well as being stand-up? 

TOMPKINS:  Well, it‘s entirely possible.  Not having seen the tape, of course. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, of course.

TOMPKINS:  But early reviews say that Dustin Diamond captures some of the dry wit of an early Ron Jeremy. 

OLBERMANN:  I never—I go to say, I never knew Ron Jeremy was early.  Anyway, that‘s another story for another time.  Let people figure out what I meant.  Comedian Paul F. Tompkins.  Great thanks for your time, sir. 

TOMPKINS:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That is COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,243rd day since the declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.   Goodnight and indeed good luck.  

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  And I understand, Joe, you have a little more on the Screech sex tape?  Think you can get through it?

(LAUGHTER)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY:  I don‘t think I can.

That was unbelievable. 

I‘ll have to have my keys melted.

OLBERMANN:  DO I need to stick around or what?

SCARBOROUGH:  Yeah you may have to help me out.  That dry wit of... 

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

END   

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