Guests: Dick Durbin, Jonathan Alter, John Dean
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Who can, who will stop the war? Leaders from both parties ask the attorney general to state what the administration believes about congressional rights to end a war, about deciding for the Decider.
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SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA: I would suggest, suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider.
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: Today we have heard convincing testimony and analysis that Congress has the power to stop a war if it wants to. The president...
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OLBERMANN: Can the president stop global warming? Apparently he can stop talk about global warming. It‘s all coming out now, government scientists saying publicly the White House pressured them not to mention climate change publicly.
The Scooter Libby trial, a note in the defendant‘s hand, evidence that the vice president told him where Joe Wilson‘s wife worked on June 12, 2003, nearly a month before Libby claimed he first learned it. And Judith Miller on the stand, Libby told her about Valerie Plame on June 23, on July 8.
Signing statements plus. Dramatic revelations about the president‘s executive order, each government agency to have an overseer, a political appointee, there to make sure the agency does the what president, not the Congress, wants.
On counterterrorism, Mr. Bush seems to handle that job himself.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stopped (INAUDIBLE) plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast.
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OLBERMANN: The president‘s latest claims about terror we have prevented. Fact-checking reveals the only thing that has been prevented is the dissemination of the truth. A special comment tonight.
All and that more, now on COUNTDOWN.
The looming constitutional battle over who can stop a war seemed to edge closer today. A bipartisan group of senators dashed off a quick note to Attorney General Gonzales. It asked him, in short, to summarize what the current transients in the White House think about Congress‘s right to terminate American involvement in a foreign conflict.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, hope they included a self-addressed, stamped envelope, because the administration suddenly has a lot of plates spinning atop a lot of different sticks, from Iraq to an erupting scandal about global warming, to another about the insertion of political overseers in every agency of government.
As the president escaped Washington to go to Detroit and tout the economy today, Nancy Pelosi returned from her first visit to Iraq in her new role as speaker of the House. Speaker Pelosi indicated that the trip did nothing to change her position about the president‘s plan.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: The escalation instituted by President Bush has been tried before and failed. Although we heard varying judgments about prospects for the success this time, everyone we spoke to said that this was the one last chance. And it might not work.
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OLBERMANN: On the Hill today, even the administration‘s pick to head up U.S. Central Command warned the Senate Armed Services Committee to temper their expectations in Iraq.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Could you envision a democracy emerging in Iraq with this level of violence at the current state?
ADM. WILLIAM FALLON, NOMINEE TO HEAD U.S. CENTCOM: I would have two comments. One, clearly not much in the way of progress is going to occur with the current levels of violence and instability. But I think that we would probably be wise to temper our expectations here, that the likelihood that Iraq is suddenly going to turn into something that looks close to what we enjoy here in this country is going to be a long time coming.
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OLBERMANN: And in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the nominee for deputy secretary of state, himself the former ambassador to Iraq, did not go quite that far, though John Negroponte did acknowledge that violence is increasing, and corruption is a serious problem.
And in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bipartisan leadership sent that letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asking how the administration interprets the right of Congress to end a war.
Senator Russell Feingold, who plans to introduce legislation to cut off funds for more troop deployment, another escalation, chaired a hearing on the same subject, where there was bipartisan agreement on one issue, that the executive is not the only branch of government which matters.
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SPECTER: The president repeatedly makes reference to the fact that he is “the Decider.” I would suggest, suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider.
Mr. President, reconsider, and recognize the shared responsibility with the Congress, and let‘s work it out.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: For those who argue that for the United States Congress to engage in a bipartisan debate about our Constitution, and our policy, is somehow, quote, “emboldening the enemy” or undercutting the troops, they are wrong.
This debate is evidence of what a democracy is all about. The president wants to send 21,000 more soldiers into Iraq. And this morning‘s “Washington Post” tells us they will go into battle without the equipment they need, they will not have the body armor, they will not have the vehicles, they will not have the equipment they need to go into battle.
Now, who is standing behind the troops when it comes to escalating this war in Iraq? Those who question whether this is the right policy in the right place, or those who would send 21,000 more into battle and risk their lives without giving them the rest that they need, the time with their families, the equipment and training that they need to come home safely?
FEINGOLD: Congress has the power to end funding for the president‘s failed Iraq policy and force him to bring our troops home. Nothing, nothing will prevent the troops from receiving the body armor, ammunition, and other resources they need to keep them safe before, during, and after their redeployment.
Congress must not allow the president to continue a war that has already come at such a terrible cost. By redeploying our troops from Iraq, we can begin to refocus on our top national security priority, defeating terrorist networks operating around the globe.
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OLBERMANN: And while most eyes stay focused on Iraq, the Democrats might gain easier ground against the administration on the environment. This morning, the Senate started to look into capping emissions on greenhouse gases, and the House began investigating whether the White House quashed its own scientific evidence of global warming and is still trying to cover up a coverup.
Advocacy groups surveyed more than 300 scientists in seven agencies, and found that nearly half of them were personally pressured to eliminate the words “climate change” or “global warming” from their reports, one former climate change official testifying that the administration even edited “global warming” out of a report to Congress.
A congressman also claimed he was told that the nominee at State, Mr. Negroponte, was warned not to even say those words in conversation, the House Oversight Committee acknowledging that the very fact the Bush administration refused to hand over documents on climate change for today‘s hearing suggests that there is evidence of a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.
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REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: We know that the White House possesses documents that contain evidence of an attempt by senior administration officials to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming, and minimizing the potential dangers.
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OLBERMANN: We‘re joined now by “Newsweek”‘s senior editor, Jonathan Alter.
Jon, great thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN ALTER, SENIOR EDITOR, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Global warming first. And out of deference to the administration, hm-hm, hm-hm first, if, as Mr. Waxman says, Congress knows the White House deliberately set out to mislead the public by quashing the scientific community, what does that mean? What can they do about it?
ALTER: Well, we‘ve known now for a couple of years that the White House policy on global warming was run by oil lobbyists. And there‘s a guy named Phil Cooney (ph) who actually edited out, and this leaked to the press about two years ago, any mention of global warming, softened all of the documents. He came from the American Petroleum Institute before he was head of the Counsel on Environmental Quality inside the White House, and left the White House to go to ExxonMobil.
So this is the guy who was driving this particular train, and perverting administration policy on climate change.
OLBERMANN: About Iraq, this dance about Congress‘s rights to stop a war. Do we know what this is about? What is the—is—there seems to be some sort of ritualistic process before anything substantive happens.
ALTER: Well, right now, what‘s happening is, they want to see what the order of battle is, on what is shaping up as a constitutional struggle. So Arlen Specter today kind of fired a shot across Bush‘s bow, saying, Look, you‘re not the Decider, we‘re the Deciders, plural, Congress has a role in this.
And then he also threw it to them, with the of Democrats, and said, All right, give it your best shot. We know what their arguments are, Keith, for what‘s called a unitary executive, also maybe known as a monarchy, where the president gets to decide everything. They have a series of arguments. Some of them do come out of English common law, that they‘re going to try to make about why they have the only authority in foreign policy.
The problem is, there‘s a lot of arguments against that, and the Congress is feeling its oats for the first time. It‘s reasserting its congressional prerogatives. And it‘s going to fight back and say, Hey, we‘ve got a role in this too.
OLBERMANN: So the letter to the attorney general, asking for a, a, an administration stance on this, could his response be exhibit one, out of a series of one, in some sort of constitutional clash? Is that a, is that a fair possibility, if not a certainty?
ALTER: Yes, I think it is. I mean, I don‘t know if I would call it an exhibit, because I‘m not sure there‘s going to be any, you know, formal process. But we could be heading into, if not a constitutional crisis, definitely a clash between the two branches of government on this most important of authorities, warmaking power.
There‘s a lot of ambiguity about it in, you know, in court decisions, but clearly Congress has some role, and the administration is—seems like bound—it‘s bound to argue that it doesn‘t have any role at all. In fact, when Jim Webb asked Condoleezza Rice recently in congressional testimony whether Congress had a role in deciding whether the United States went to war with Iran, she said, I‘ll get back to you, Senator, and she still hasn‘t.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of getting back to us, the—none of these Senate resolutions about Iraq are going to be voted on till next week. But there was a Republican senator who told NBC News that the White House wants even more Republican-based resolutions, split the voting blocs, just crowd the docket. Is this it (INAUDIBLE), essentially a filibuster preventing a filibuster, to confuse the whole matter of by what is done by Congress about Iraq?
ALTER: Well, these are the kinds of games that often get played in Congress. The problem is, it‘s harder to confuse everybody when there‘s so much focus on it. Those sorts of games work better in the dead of night, on issues people aren‘t paying as much attention to. I think it‘s going to be hard for Republican members of the Senate to get out and filibuster their colleague, John Warner‘s nonbinding resolution on Iraq.
So the Republicans are in a tough position on this. There‘s a lot of private muttering in the cloakroom by Republican senators, a lot of resentment toward the White House on this issue. I think you will see some kind of nonbinding resolution next week. And after that, we‘ll get on to the question that Senator Obama and others raised today about whether we should cut the purse strings down the road.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek” and MSNBC. As always, sir, great thanks.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president stood before Congress and the nation a week ago tonight and lied about his government‘s successes in breaking up terror plots. Yet again, the nexus of politics and terror, a special comment ahead.
And the nexus of politics and war, and the law, the Scooter Libby trial. Today, the former “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller under oath. Complete analysis of today‘s trial headlines.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Setting aside politicians and government officials, there is one civilian, one ordinary American who is blamed more than any other by critics of the Iraq war for helping to make that war possible.
In our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, today Judith Miller went to court, not as defendant, but as a possible key to the saga known as Plamegate. Before the Iraq war, Ms. Miller was a reporter for “The New York Times,” reporting ominous developments from Iraq, quoting Iraqi defectors who, it turned out, had motives to lie.
After the war began, the vice president‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, told Miller that one of the war‘s most vocal critics, Joe Wilson, was married to a CIA operative. Ms. Miller spent 85 days in jail rather than tell a grand jury about Libby‘s revelation.
That has all changed under oath now. Today, Judith Miller became the sixth witness to testify that Libby knew about Wilson‘s wife, Valerie Plame, before July 10, 2003. That is the date Libby told investigators he learned about Plame from NBC‘s Tim Russert.
It is that discrepancy that forms the heart of the charges, perjury, obstruction, making false statements. Those are the charges for which Mr. Libby is now on trial.
In the courtroom for us again, David Shuster, who joins us once more, as always, with the highlights of this extraordinary event.
David, good evening.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Judith Miller‘s position about Iraq, what she reported, basically irrelevant today. But her testimony about June 23 and July 8 certainly was not, was it?
SHUSTER: No. And in fact, you pointed out that July 10, of course, is the date that all the jurors probably have circled in their notebooks. And what they‘re doing is trying to determine if, in fact, Scooter Libby did have information about Valerie Wilson before then. So there was Judy Miller testifying that not only did she receive information from Libby just a couple of days before July 10, but that she got information from Scooter Libby two and a half weeks earlier from July 10 about Valerie Wilson.
And again, that gets to the idea that Scooter Libby had this information and therefore he deliberately lied when he said to investigators, Oh, I only first learned about Valerie Wilson on July 10.
The other thing about it, Keith, is that Miller‘s testimony relied, she said, on her notes that she took of these conversations, notes that she was writing at the time. She described where the meetings happened, she described the demeanor of Scooter Libby as being agitated and annoyed. In other words, there‘s some credibility to the idea that Miller was writing this stuff down as it was happening.
The other thing, Keith, that was so intriguing today is that Judy Miller‘s testimony provided yet another glimpse at the intense effort by the office of the vice presidency to blame the Central Intelligence Agency for false prewar intelligence. Miller said that Libby acknowledged in her conversation, her first conversation, that was an inquiry by the CIA, based on a question from Vice President Cheney about intelligence, suggesting that Saddam may be seeking uranium from Africa.
And she testified that Libby said that, yes, the CIA followed up by sending somebody to Niger. But Libby was adamant, according to Miller, and emphatic in saying it was the CIA‘s fault for not following up, that Libby was agitated, he was angry that the CIA essentially left the office of the vice president in the dark about Wilson‘s findings, and again, it gets to the idea that if Scooter Libby is so agitated about this issue, it had to have been something that was on his mind.
According to Miller, Scooter Libby said that nobody from the CIA ever came to the White House and said to the president, This is not true, this is not correct. And yet, we do know that in the fall of 2002, the CIA actually stripped out the claim that Iraq was seeking Niger—seeking uranium from Africa in Niger from a speech that the president gave in Cincinnati, Ohio, Keith.
OLBERMANN: And we have to note also that the product placement by Ms.
Miller as she walked in front of those cameras was just extraordinary.
But moving on to the testimony of David Addington, who, oddly enough, is the current chief of staff to Mr. Cheney, Mr. Libby‘s old job, highest-ranking current administration official to testify so far. Presumably Miller will get the headlines, but Addington brought something for show and tell, did he not?
SHUSTER: Yes, and the show and tell was a handwritten note that was introduced into evidence while Addington testified, and it was a note that Addington said had Scooter Libby‘s handwriting on it. It‘s from June 12, 2003.
And the most relevant portion, of course, in addition to references to a conversation with Vice President Cheney about Joe Wilson, is a notation from Scooter Libby that says, “C.P. His wife works in that division.” Addington testified it meant that Wilson‘s wife worked in C.P. or counterproliferation division at CIA.
And again, this backs up, in Libby‘s own handwriting this time, previous testimony that Scooter Libby learned from Vice President Cheney himself about Valerie Wilson in June of 2003. And again, this is a month before the event where Libby said, where Libby testified that he first learned about Valerie Wilson.
Addington also testified about a direct conversation he had with Scooter Libby once the criminal investigation had began in September 2003. He said that Scooter Libby asked him in reference to the Wilsons, How would somebody know if somebody was undercover at the CIA? And according to Addington, Libby then said, I didn‘t do it.
Again, the point by prosecutors in introducing this testimony was to
try and show that Scooter Libby was perhaps scared after the criminal
investigation began, and therefore that he might have had some motive to
perhaps attempt to try to mislead investigators or somehow tell them not to
tell them something that wasn‘t the truth.
OLBERMANN: To put the two ends of the trial together, nothing happened, but I didn‘t do it.
David Shuster, following the Libby trial again for us. Great thanks, David.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: From prewar prevarications to playing make-believe on the war on terror. Intelligence pros say that part of the president‘s State of the Union address was almost fact-free. A special comment ahead.
And Paul Wolfowitz, holes in the plans he once made for Iraq, but in the news because of holes today in his socks.
That‘s next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Sixty-six years ago today, Vice President Dick Cheney was born at Lincoln, Nebraska. And yes, he‘ll get his birthday present from me a little later on in the show. On that note, we‘ll just take a wild shot.
Let‘s play Oddball.
The vice president‘s birthday gift from his old friend Paul Wolfowitz, this from Adierny (ph) in western Turkey. Mr. Wolfowitz, now president of the World Bank, he was one of the principal architects of the war in Iraq, he was visiting an Ottoman-era mosque over the weekend, and, as everyone must when entering, he removed his shoes.
Now, either no one told the man he was going to have to take his shoes off in front of the bunch of press, or Wolfie needs a better sock budget, because this pair has just about had it. This little piggy went to the Common Market. Reports say Wolfowitz seemed completely unembarrassed about the ordeal. Then again, after Iraq, how could you ever be embarrassed by anything?
And why should he be? He‘s got the best-looking feet in Oddball tonight. Sorry, Mr. Chicken, the truth hurts. Booga (ph), Colombia, hello. It‘s a chicken born with duck feet, or it could be duck with a chicken‘s body, except for the feet. No, probably not. Crowds of villagers are flocking to this local farm just to catch a glimpse of the little fellow. Colombian veterinary experts say the web-footed little bastard is most likely not the result of crossbreeding, just a genetic aberration. Still, they can‘t wait to get him in the cock-fighting ring.
If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, a special comment on the truth and the State of the Union, and never the twain shall meet. The president taking credit for thwarting terror plots that were plots only in one particular sense and meaning of that word.
And another day, another incredible discovery at Stonehenge. No, it was not a terrorist plot from 2000 B.C., it was an elite suburb.
Details ahead, but first, COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Gail Woods (ph), spokesperson for Alaska Electric Light and Power. She has now explained why 10,000 residents of Juneau were without power for 45 minutes on Sunday. One of the company‘s overhead transmission lines was hit by a deer head, a deer head being carried in midair by a bald eagle, a bald eagle that could not quite clear the transmission lines. His head, to say nothing of his deer head, was bigger than his stomach.
Number two, Dan Dyer, chief engineer of Milwaukee television station WDJT. You probably heard about his van. Yes, that van, the one they parked on Big Muskego (ph) Lake, the one that fell through the ice. Mr. Dyer says it‘ll cost the station a quarter million to replace it. The van was parked on the ice so the station could do a live shot on, you got it, ice safety.
And number one, the U.S. responds to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. The panel wants lower emissions worldwide. Our experts, according to Britain‘s newspaper “The Guardian,” who‘s seen an advance copy of the U.S. response, the earth should be building giant mirrors, we say, to deflect the sun‘s rays away from a superheating atmosphere, or we should pump reflective dust into the atmosphere, or if the dust might make anybody, say, cough, we should fill the sky with thousands of reflective balloons.
It is balloons!
OLBERMANN: On January 18th of this year, exactly two weeks after the 110th Congress, a Democratic Congress, first convened, President Bush issued Executive Order 13,422. In among the legalese of Executive Order 13,422 is our third story tonight. It is language that constitutes what appears to be not only another presidential attempt to weaken Congress, but also opens the door for potential threats to literally the health and safety of every American.
Here is what is at stake. Each year the people‘s representatives pass laws to protect the people from unfair or dangerous practices of their bosses, big business, special interests and so on. You may have read about this in school. Government agencies then figure out how best to execute those laws, the classic example is regulating corporations to prevent them from doing things like using lead paint or asbestos insulation, or poisoning fish with mercury.
In one fell swoop Executive Order 13,422 may change all of that. Here are Mr. Bush‘s magic words: “each agency head shall designate one of the agency presidential appointees to be it‘s regulatory policy officer,” meaning every new rule at every federal agency will now have to go through a political appointee, chosen solely and unaccountably by the president. This may all seem far too familiar to John Dean, White House counsel under Richard Nixon, and thus veteran of conflict between the executive and legislative branches, more recently, of course, author of “Conservatives Without Conscience.” John, as always, great thanks for your time tonight.
JOHN DEAN, “CONSERVATIVES WITHOUT CONSCIENCE”: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: For purposes of context, as it pertains to assuming unilateral powers, compare this to these signing statements the president has made over the last six years?
DEAN: Well, I guess the biggest difference between a signing statement and an executive order would be a signing statement is what a president intends to do at some later date, or may or may not do. He is just putting everybody on notice. An executive order is exactly what he is doing. It is an order to the rest of the executive branch to follow his direction. So it‘s definite at that point.
OLBERMANN: All right, so extrapolate, if we have something that‘s definite already, if this order is not countermanded in some way, acted against by Congress, what is the worst kind of outrageous or startling thing this president or any president who succeeds him could do and still claim, hey, this is legal. I have this executive order?
DEAN: Well, hypotheticals are tough, but let‘s just say hypothetically a French drug firm comes up with a cure for AIDS and all sexually transmitted diseases, and the Bush administration, who‘s not fond of any sexual transmission of any kind, says no, no, we have to study this. We have to do this, that and the other thing, and puts up all kinds regulatory hurdles until they leave, meanwhile million of Americans die, or are sexually transmitting diseases. That would be a travesty, but that, indeed, is the kind of power that a president has.
OLBERMANN: And in the report in the “New York Times” on this story, that paper quoted a series of pro-business voices supportive of the new measure. Should that reassure us or should that concern us more than we are already concerned?
DEAN: Well, I was actually pleased to see it on the front page of the “New York Times” this morning, rather than the business section, where this sort of thing normally lands. Because, having arrived on the front page, it‘s one, going to alert a lot of people, two, it‘s going to trigger to the Congress the importance of it. They will then be more vigilant. So I think that probably will help to protect the safety of a lot of Americans, because of the play the story has gotten.
OLBERMANN: In the past though, John, any vagueness from Congress about how you meet the goals regarding safety, regarding health, was fleshed out to a great degree by career experts at each of the agencies. Now you have got decisions that will be subject to the just maybe political skewed interpretations of political appointees. We have learned tonight that the House is, in the wake of this, the publicity that you just mentioned, is likely to hold hearings about this in the future, but other than tightening the legislative language to minimize a president‘s wiggle room, does Congress have any recourse about this thing?
DEAN: Well, of course, the strongest recourse the Congress has is to shine the pitiless light of publicity on misbehavior or somehow abusing this regulatory power. So they can do that with oversight authority and they can keep an eye on agencies and what they are doing, and alert Americans if this kind of action is indeed what is going on.
OLBERMANN: And let‘s lastly apply the standard litmus test that we apply to all such seeming changes in the executive branch: would Richard Nixon have tried this or not?
DEAN: He did. No, he actually did not. This has been a steady trend where, in fact, Bush‘s order is amending Clinton‘s order, which is amending Reagan‘s order. So this has really gone back and is likely to be in place for a good while.
OLBERMANN: That‘s encouraging. John Dean, White House counsel to President Nixon, author “Worse Than Watergate, Conservatives Without Conscience.” As always, sir, our great thanks, our privilege to have you here.
DEAN: Thank you Keith.
OLBERMANN: From trying to control policy in any way possible to attempting re-write the history of counter-terrorism success, the president making four claims in the State of the Union. Experts say all four just are not true. Special comment ahead.
And who built Stonehenge and why? Did George Bush do this too? First it was thought to be a hospital or rehab facility, that was last month‘s story. The latest hint, an upper class suburb? Details next here on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It has been identified as a religious shrine, a place for human sacrifice. In the days of legend it was supposed to be the product of the magic of Merlin the Wizard. About a month ago a story came out that it was actually a hospital. In our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, now the results of an archaeological dig nearby have suggested yet another explanation, Stonehenge, a kind of Beverly Hills 2,000 B.C. Our correspondent is Lester Holt.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR (voice-over): For centuries, Stonehenge has drawn everybody from scientists to mystics, all trying to gleam the origins and meaning of this nearly 5,000 year circle of stones.
DAVID BATCHELOR, ARCHAEOLOGIST: Something special must have been about this place that we can‘t get to.
HOLT: But now scientists may be closer. Just two miles from Stonehenge a National Geographic team has unearthed the remains of a human settlement from about 2,600 B.C., and what its inhabitants left behind may explain a lot.
MICHAEL PARKER PEARSON, ARCHAEOLOGIST: We‘ve got enormous quantities of trash. They are feasting and eating huge amounts of beef and pork.
HOLT: Archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson led the dig.
PEARSON: It‘s a very substantial village. It‘s the same date as this lot going up, so we think there is a very good case for this being the homes of the builders of Stonehenge.
HOLT (on camera): Dr. Parker Pearson believes Stonehenge is part of a much larger complex of structures, linked by a nearby river, and a prehistoric avenue, perhaps the oldest roadway in Europe.
(voice-over): Carbon dating puts the construction of Stonehenge in south central England at the same time as development in nearby Durington Walls, where the village was found and where a wooden circle once stood. The team has also traced the avenues running to and from a river that form what now appears to be a funeral procession root, leading to Stonehenge.
PEARSON: I think what we are looking at is a procession that would have taken place quite probably at mid-winter.
HOLT: Human remains have previously been found at Stonehenge itself, but no signs of anyone living there.
PEARSON: The emphasis on timber for one, stone for the other, we think has to do with notions of transience in life, permanence in death.
HOLT: And providing another clue to unlock the enduring mystery of Stonehenge.
Lester Holt, NBC News, near Salisbury, England.
OLBERMANN: Thus, similarly may the archaeologists of the year 4007 be stumped by the mystery that would be discovered remains of Paris Hilton. She is our segue into the nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs. And Miss Hilton calls this, quote, the single most egregious and reprehensible invasions of privacy ever committed against an individual. Paris, you said all that? What a girl.
Her sex tape that got out? No, all of her crap that‘s up for sale. Miss Hilton has filed a federal lawsuit against the people behind ParisExposed.com. The website, for a fee of nearly 40 dollars, is giving people with too much free time on their hands virtual access to Hilton‘s storage facility, literally. The hotel heiress failed to pay a 200 dollar storage bill. The storage space and its contents went up for a foreclosure auction. Contents sold for 10 million dollars.
Voila, here is where the Internets comes in. Miss Hilton is asking for compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction to stop the website, which shows subscribers more sex tapes and raunchy photos, diary entries, audio tapes of private conversation, even sensitive medical records? What, she is made out of recycled sneakers?
Speaking of invasions of privacy, Lindsay Lohan reportedly making more enemies in rehab than friends. Last week we told you she was making waves at the Wonderland Rehabilitation Facility because she was allowed to come and go pretty much as she pleased. Now other participants in her AA meetings are also upset with her, so upset, this is according to the British tabloid “The Sun.” Why so upset? Because every time she shows up to a meeting the paparazzi in tow, snapping pictures of everyone, which would make it hard to keep the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings anonymous.
Also tonight it got lost in the shuffle, and the post speech analysis, but the president blustering about terror plots he and his government have interrupted, fails the fact check yet again. Special comment on the danger of awarding yourself medals for things that never happened, next.
But first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World. And tonight the bronze to Dick Morris. The Fox noise channel may have decided it had corrected its crappy reporting on the phony story about Senator Obama and an Islamic training school, and its crappy reporting on the phony story that Senator Clinton‘s people had spread the other phony story. Nobody gave Dick the memo. He went on last night and said he believes somebody close to the Clinton war room indeed planted the made up story about Obama. Dick Morris, the same guy who let the hooker listen in on his phone call to the president, well that‘s credibility there.
Runner-up, Bill O‘Reilly, still riding this argument that the kidnapped kid in the Missouri, Shawn Hornbeck, was having fun during his four year ordeal, noting the kidnapper had surgery at one point, recuperated in his parents‘ home, and that left the boy alone in the apartment. And Bill adding his little show is planning a report on a abducted children who fought off their kidnappers or escaped. Keep blaming that victim, Bill. Much better than admitting you‘ve taken the kidnapper‘s side on this one.
And our winner? Oh, it‘s a two-for, Bill-O offering you this splendid deal, buy a copy of his book, “I‘m Squinting While Wearing a Wind Breaker” -- no, I‘m sorry, it‘s called “Culture Wart”—I will get it somewhere. You buy a copy of the book from him, and he will send a free copy to a U.S. soldier somewhere. So you‘ve got copies to give away to the soldiers, but you only do that if I give you at least 26 bucks first? That‘s generosity. You know Bill, I can buy two copies from Amazon for 25 bucks. And I can send the second copy to a soldier, along with a dollar. Bill, you‘re taking a dollar out of the hands of everyone of our troops. Why do you hate the troops, Bill? Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment on presidents and terrorism, and on the seemingly trivial fact that West Yorkshire in England has a new chief police constable. Upon his appointment Sir Norman Bettison (ph) made one of the strangest comments of the year: the threat of terrorism, he says, is lurking out there like Jaws II. Sir Norman did not exactly mine the richest ore for his analogy of warning. A critic once said of that flopping sequel to the classic film, you are going to need a better screen play.
But this obscure British police official has reminded us that terrorism is still being sold to the public in that country and in this as if it were a thrilling horror movie and we were the naughty teenagers about to be its victims. And it underscores the fact that President bush took this tack exactly a week ago tonight in his terror related passage in the State of the Union, a passage that was almost lost amid all of the talk about Iraq and health care and bipartisanship and the fellow who saved the stranger from oncoming subway train in New York City.
But a passages, ludicrous and deceitful, frightening in its hollow conviction, frightening in that the president who spoke it tried for Jaws, but got Jaws II. I am indebted to David Swanson, press secretary for Dennis Kucinich‘s 2004 campaign, who has blogged about the dubious 96 words in Mr. Bush‘s address this year, and who has concluded that of the four counter-terror claims the president made, he went 0 for four.
We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented, Mr. Bush noted, but here is some of what we do know: we stopped an al-Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. This would, of course, sir, be the purported plot to knock down the 73 story building in Los Angeles, the one once known as the Library Tower, the one you personally revealed so breathlessly a year ago next month.
It was embarrassing enough that you mistakenly referred to this structure as the Liberty Tower. But within hours, it was also revealed that authorities in Los Angeles had had no idea you were going to make any of the details, whether serious or fanciful, public. Who terrorized southern California that day, Mr. Bush? A year ago next month, the “L.A. Times” quoted a source, identified only by the labyrinthine description, a U.S. official familiar with the operational aspects of the war on terrorism, who insisted that the purported Library Tower plot was one of many al-Qaeda operations that had not gotten very far past the conceptual stage.
The former staff director of counter-terrorism for the National Security Council, now NBC and MSNBC counter-terrorism analysts Roger Cressey, puts it all a little more bluntly. In our conversation he classified the Library Tower story into a category he called “the what ifs,” as in the old “Saturday Night Live sketches that tested the range of comic absurdity. What if Superman had worked for the Nazis? What if Spartacus‘ had a piper cub during the battle against the Romans in 70 B.C?
More ominously, the “L.A. Times” source who debunked the Library Tower plot story said that those who could correctly measure the flimsiness of the scheme, quote, feared political retaliation for providing a different characterization of the plan than that of the president. But Mr. Bush, you are the decider and you decided that the Library story should be scored as one for you.
And you continued with a second dubious claim of counter-terror success, we broke up a south east Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States, you said. Well, sir, you‘ve apparently stumped the intelligence community completely with this one. In his article, Mr. Swanson suggests that in the last week there has been no reporting, even hinting, at what exactly you were talking about. He hypothesizes that either you were claiming credit for a ring broken up in 1995 or that this was just the Library Tower story, quote, by another name.
Another CIA source suggests to NBC News that since the south east Asian cell dreamed of a series of attacks on the same day, you declared the Library Tower one threat thwarted and all of their other ideas a second threat for thwarted. Our colleague, Mr Cressey, sums it up, this south east Asian cell was indeed the tail of the Library Towers simply repeated, repeated Mr. Bush, in consecutive sentences of the State of the Union, in your constitutionally mandated status report on the condition and safety of our nation. You showed us the same baby twice and claimed it was twins. And then you said that was two for you.
Your third claim, sir, read thusly, we uncovered an al-Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. Again, the professionals in counter-intelligence were startled to hear about this one. Last fall, two “Washington Post” articles cited sources in the FBI and other governmental agencies who said that hopes by foreign terrorists to use anthrax in this country were fanciful at best and farcical at worst. And every effort to link the 2001 anthrax attacks, the mailings in this country, to foreign sources has always struck out. The entire investigation is barely still alive at this point.
Mr Cressey goes a little further, anything that might even resemble an al-Qaeda cell developing anthrax, he says, was in the, quote, dreaming stages. Mr. Cressey used as a parallel those pathetic arrests outside Miami last year, in which a few men wound up getting charged as terrorists, because they could not tell the difference between an al-Qaeda operative and an FBI informant. Their, quote, ring leader, unquote, seemed to be much more interested in getting his terrorist masters to buy him a new car than in actually terrorizing anybody.
That is three for you, Mr. Bush. And just last August, you concluded, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean. In a series of dramatic raids then, 23 men were arrested. It turned out, sir, a few of them actually had gone on the Internets to check out some flight schedules. It turned out, sir, only a few of them actually had the passports needed to even get on the planes. The plot to which President Bush referred was a plot without bombs. It was a plot without any indication that the essence of the operation, the in-flight mixing of the volatile chemicals, carried on board in sports drink bottles, was even doable by amateurs or professional chemists.
It was a plot even without sufficient probable cause. One-third of the 24 people arrested that day, exactly 90 days before the American midterm elections, have since been released by the British. The British had been watching those men for a year. Before the week was out, their first statement that the plot was ready to go in days had been rendered inoperative. British officials told NBC News the lack of passports and plans told us that they had wanted to keep the suspects under surveillance for at least another week. Even an American official confirmed to NBC‘s investigative unit that there was disagreement over the timing.
The British then went further. Sources inside their government told the English newspaper “The Guardian” that the raids had occurred only because the Pakistanis had arrested a man named Rashid Raouf. That Raouf had only been arrested by Pakistan because we had threatened to do it for them, that the British had acted only because our government was willing, to quote that newspaper “The Guardian” again, to ride rough shod over the plans of British intelligence.
Oh and by the way, Mr. Bush, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan reduced the charges against Mr. Raouf to possession of bomb making materials and being there without the proper documents. Still sir, evidently that‘s close enough. Score four for you. Your totally black and white conclusions in the State of the Union were based on one gray area and on three pallets on which the experts can‘t even see smudge, let alone gray. It would all be laughable, Mr. Bush, were you not the president of the United States. It would all be political hyperbole, Mr. Bush, if you have not, on this kind of intelligence, taken us to war, now sought to escalate that war and are threatening new war in Iran and maybe elsewhere.
What you gave us a week ago tonight, sir, was not intelligence, but rather a walk-through of how speculation and innuendo, guesswork and paranoia, day dreaming and fear mongering, combine in your mind and the minds of those in your government into proof of your daring do and your success against the terrorists, the ones that didn‘t have Anthrax, the ones who didn‘t have plane tickets or passports, the ones who didn‘t have any clue, let alone any plots. But they go now into our history books as the four terror schemes you‘ve interrupted since 9/11. They go into the collective consciousness as firm evidence of your diligence, of the necessity of you ham handed treatment of our liberties, of the unavoidability of the 3,075 Americans dead in Iraq.
Congratulations sir, you are the hero of Jaws II. You have kept the piper cub out of the hands of Spartacus. Good night and good luck.
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