Guests: Craig Crawford, Michael Boyd, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Democratic debate. Hillary Clinton not only appeared to have been victorious, but after a farfetched question about terrorism to another candidate, she also appeared to have doubled as the moderator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We‘re not going to engage in these hypotheticals. I mean, one of the jobs of a president is being very reasoned in approaching these issues. And I don‘t think it‘s useful to be talking in these kind of abstract hypothetical terms. And I think that—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The abstract hypothetical terror plot at JFK. It sounds ominous, until you ask the experts. Blow up part of a jet fuel pipeline, and you still stand zero chance of blowing up the airport.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, well, so would me blowing up the moon with Mentos and a liter of Coca-Cola.
We will truth-squad the plot and update the nexus of politics and terror, the now 13 times officials of this country have revealed so-called terror plots at times that were just coincidentally to their political benefit, no matter how preposterous the actual schemes might have been, including a plot against Fort Dix, where pizza deliverymen were supposed to kill at will at an Army base full of soldiers with guns, all summed up neatly by Republican state party chairman, who has just said, quote, “All we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on 9/11, and the naysayers will come around very quickly for President Bush.”
(INAUDIBLE) behind bars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paris Hilton is going to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And remember the crazy minor league baseball manager from last year? The bar has now been raised.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening from New York.
That Iraq has eclipsed the current presidency, that it will dominate the race for the next one, we all already knew, and we knew it all too well. How much, though, we might not have guessed. Last month was the deadliest month for Americans there in more than two and a half years. June has already seen the daily average escalate.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the U.S. military announcing that 14 Americans have already been killed there in the first three days of June, four of them in a single roadside bombing. And the Democrats had to debate it, Mr. Bush, meanwhile, arriving in Europe tonight for this weekend‘s G-8 summit, and possibly fomenting yet another war in the process, a new cold war with Russia, possibly to obscure the unending nightmare in Iraq, where, if the present rate continues, 140 American service personnel will have died by the first of July, the would-be Democratic field debating last night in New Hampshire, former senator John Edwards attacking his two main rivals for the nomination, current Senators Obama and Clinton, for having not done enough to lead the party during the recent congressional standoff with the White House, such as it was, over funding for the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton and Senator Obama did not say anything about how they were going to vote until they appeared on the floor of the Senate and voted. They were among the last people to vote.
And I think that the importance of this is that if they cast the right vote—and I applaud them for that—but the importance of this is, they‘re asking to be president of the United States. And there is a difference between making clear, speaking to your follower, speaking to the American people, about what you need—believe needs to be done. And I think all of us have a responsibility to lead on these issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That does not mean Senator Clinton did not lead her colleagues last night, specifically against an attempt by the moderator, Wolf Blitzer of CNN, to get the candidates to raise their hands in yes-or-no fashion as to whether or not military force should be used in Darfur.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We‘re not going to engage in these hypotheticals. I mean, one of the jobs of a president is being very reasoned in approaching these issues. And I don‘t think it‘s useful to be talking in these kind of abstract hypothetical terms. And I think that—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Time for to us call on the very reasoned analysis of our own Craig Crawford, contributing editor at “Congressional Quarterly,” as well as author of the new book, “The Politics of Life.”
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: (INAUDIBLE) senator almost was the moderator at that point of the debate.
OLBERMANN: That‘s my first point to you. Is there any doubt in your mind, based on that exchange, that not only did Senator Clinton win that debate last night, but also came across as chairman of the little ad hoc board of candidates?
CRAWFORD: Yes, I, not at all. I, I mean, I, no doubts at all. I mean, she, I, I was, I look for moments in these early debates that tell you something about the instincts of the candidates, for when debates really matter later on. And I hasten to add, winning debates doesn‘t always mean you win elections.
But in that moment and a couple others that were similar, she took control. (INAUDIBLE) thankfully, you mentioned my book. One of the first rules of my book is, Life is a filthy battle for control. And that is what debates are, when candidates step forward and just take command like she did in those situations, I think that is a sign of somebody who‘s got the instincts and the comfort level. She effortlessly did that.
OLBERMANN: The old I-look-presidential stuff. And at the bad news for Senators Obama and Edwards last night would seem to be Senator Clinton. Would the good news for them be that they‘re at least all in there in the top three?
CRAWFORD: Yes, I guess that‘s the good news. They‘re still there. The top tier is still the top three. The race didn‘t change after this debate. That‘s not too surprising. But I always say, you know, if the front runner goes in, the front runner comes out the front runner, the front runner won. And neither Obama or Edwards, Obama in particular, Keith, missed so many opportunities to challenge Senator Clinton and some of her claims about her past votes on Iraq, completely passed up those opportunities.
I don‘t know if he‘ll change in the future, but I got to tell you, what ran through my mind as I watched him silent on several points he could have challenged her about, it made me think he‘s got running mate in the back of his mind. And this does happen. Candidates sometimes don‘t take on the front runner, thinking they want to preserve that option later on for being their running mate.
OLBERMANN: As to more of the substance, then, the styles and the impressions of the effects of what we saw, the point from John Edwards about the recent war vote, which we made as it was happening, will that prove to be enough for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama that they voted no on the war funding legislation, that amounted to a blank check for President Bush, given that they didn‘t give any indication of where they were going to go beforehand, that they did not, as Mr. Edwards‘ words, included, lead on the issue, that they didn‘t cast their votes till the thing had been already decided?
CRAWFORD: It‘s going to be enough, so long as the rivals do not press them hard. And although Edwards pressed fairly hard, I thought he was actually kind of subtle about it, in a way (INAUDIBLE), resisting even naming their names. Nobody is going to unsettle this race, and certainly not going to topple Hillary Clinton, if she‘s the front runner, without running against her and challenging her. And, you know, Edwards started to do that.
But I don‘t think it‘s enough. (INAUDIBLE) you know, so many of these other Democrats seem to almost be pretending that she‘s not there. They‘re not going to beat her that way.
OLBERMANN: Craig, to the bigger and more important issue here, the death toll in Iraq now climbing at an alarming rate, even compared to last month. The president had warned at his news conference in the Rose Garden last month, casualties would become high at the end of the summer. The pace of devastation, obviously, has outpaced his predictions to the point where in Washington state, Fort Lewis already did away with individual memorial services for its war dead, because it‘s losing so many. How is this going to play out for the White House politically, if the entire summer continues to be this relentlessly awful from Iraq?
CRAWFORD: Well, you know, if it plays out like it‘s played out from all these years, the president stays on top with this rope-a-dope game that he plays with Congress about getting the funding in short-term bursts, and actually making the case, it almost seems to me, that the tough guys in this debate are the ones who accept the losses of the troops, that the wimps are the ones who whine about losing these troops.
I think that‘s an amazing way to frame the situation. But that‘s how I see the president making his case on this. And I, it‘s phenomenal. I, I, down the road in September, though, if this continues, the whole question is going to be whether the Republican coalition breaks up for the president. And that will change—that‘s what will change things.
OLBERMANN: War is peace.
CRAWFORD: You got it.
OLBERMANN: ... of MSNBC, CQ, and, of course, his new book, “The Politics of Life.” As always, Craig, great thanks.
CRAWFORD: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: And you can add one more top military critic to the growing ranks of those who believe victory is no longer possible in Iraq. It is the retired general Ricardo Sanchez, who, in what was reported to be his first interview since he retired last year, who led the forces there, calling the situation in Iraq bleak, saying the U.S. has been plagued by a crisis of leadership ever since 9/11. The man who commanded U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq now believes the most we can hope for is staving off total defeat with a situation similar to a stalemate, a view that almost seems optimistic after the latest from Baghdad.
And our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski.
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four months into the surge, and the outlook is grim. Military officials confirm that American and Iraqi security forces control only 146 of 457 Baghdad neighborhoods, less than one-third of the city.
First reported in “The New York Times,” that falls far short of the original goal, to get all of Baghdad under control by July.
LOREN THOMPSON, MILITARY ANALYST: There‘s not much evidence this surge is going to make a difference.
MIKLASZEWSKI: One major problem, the Iraqis have not provided the number of reliable security forces as promised.
U.S. military officials also claim that once American troops clear a neighborhood, Iraqi forces are unable or unwilling to hold it.
THOMPSON: The Iraqi security forces not only aren‘t showing up, but a lot of the time, they‘re helping the militias to push a sectarian war.
MIKLASZEWSKI: More troubling, as an additional 18,000 U.S. combat troops take part in the surge, they‘re at greater risk, and being killed in near-record numbers. One hundred twenty-three Americans were killed in May, 17 have died in the first four days of this month alone.
At the same time, sectarian killings in Baghdad are also back on the rise, as Moqtada al-Sadr‘s Mahdi Army has resumed attacks against Sunnis in Baghdad.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), U.S. ARMY: There will be a huge fight in Iraq this summer, and by September, the situation will look worse than it does today.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Why? Experts claim there never have been enough American troops in Iraq. And without still more forces, the surge appeared doomed from the start.
STEPHEN BIDDLE, MILITARY ANALYST: Even with the surge, we don‘t have enough troops to really pacify and secure more than a fraction of Iraq. We don‘t even have enough troops to secure all of Baghdad.
MIKLASZEWSKI (on camera): Military experts have long ago stopped talking about victory in Iraq. Instead, experts claim, the current strategy appears aimed at avoiding all-out defeat.
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.
OLBERMANN: And here in the U.S., what began with the discovery of $90,000 in cash in the freezer of a U.S. congressman today becoming formal charges, a federal grand jury indicting the Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana on 16 counts of having sought bribes for himself and members of his family from 11 American and foreign companies, as well as having paid bribes to a government official in Nigeria to help arrange business deals in West Africa. In all, prosecutors say, Mr. Jefferson took over half a million dollars in bribes and tried to get millions more. He will appear in court this Friday to face the charges.
Law enforcement calls it, quote, “one of the most chilling plots imaginable.” But even if the suspects had the support, the money, and the wherewithal they needed, is it even possible to ignite JFK Airport by igniting the jet fuel pipeline that leads to it?
And the president has renewed his attempts to link our security here with the war in Iraq. Are the arrests in this case, and the equally impractical Fort Dix plan, politically timed, or just politically coincidental? We will revisit the nexus of politics and terror.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: If this week‘s alleged JFK terror plot teaches us anything, it is that fear, like fire, can spread only when it is given plenty of air.
In our fourth story tonight, the fear got plenty of that, even as it turned out that attacking JFK would not have ignited the fuel pipeline system, nor vice-versa, if only due to the lack of air.
In addition to the laws of physics, the pipeline that stretches 40 miles from New Jersey to JFK has the occasional disconnect valve or two. The alleged terrorists apparently hoped to take out JFK, the pipeline, and thousands of people who live above the pipeline. It is not their job to know better.
But when a U.S. attorney said that the results of a successful attack would have been unthinkable, in fact, she and other U.S. officials should have known that thinkable was about all those results were. They were not that doable. Federal officials confirm the alleged terrorists had no experience, no backing, no money, no explosives, and no inside information, unless you count Google Earth.
Plus, of course, whatever the accused ringleader, seen here in surveillance tape just prior to his capture, remembers from his job as a cargo handler 12 years ago.
Let‘s turn to a professional in this field, Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group aviation consulting firm.
Mike, thanks again for your time tonight.
MICHAEL BOYD, AVIATION SECURITY CONSULTANT: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to the dangers not being talked about today, explain why the prospect of terrorists putting a match to a fuel pipeline at JFK does not necessarily produce the a apocalyptic scenario that the U.S. officials describe, both in terms of the pipeline and jet fuel, in specifics.
BOYD: Well, jet fuel is not as volatile as gasoline. Unless you have a lot of air and it‘s atomized, it‘s not going to burn real good. As a matter of fact, it takes a minute or two to get it burning if you put a blowtorch to a pool of it. You know, that‘s why the FAA said you got to be off an airplane in 90 seconds after an accident, because they figure that‘s how long it takes the fuel to get burning.
So this argument that if you light it somewhere on the length of the pipeline, it‘s going to blow up all of Rego Park, that‘s just nuts.
OLBERMANN: So what are the real dangers to the U.S. aviation systems, when we‘re talking about fuel supply, fuel pipelines, terrorist attacks on fuel pipelines?
BOYD: Well, you know, what these people we saw at that press conference yesterday don‘t know, and don‘t pay any attention to, but a pipeline is vulnerable, but it‘s vulnerable to hurting our economy. If you could knock out the fuel supply of five or six airports, you shut down the air transportation system in a couple days. And what would that do to our economy?
They didn‘t even focus on that. They focused as if somehow or other, this would be one giant incendiary event. And what that says is, very clearly, these are not real security people. I mean, the terrorists they caught, supposedly, were not black belts in terrorism. And these guys aren‘t black belts in counterterrorism either.
OLBERMANN: So, all right, let‘s say, if this had somehow come to pass, if they had designed to do or what they designed to do actually came to pass, what would the result have been? Would there have been an interruption to the flow of fuel to JFK? Or would there have been something—what kind of cataclysm would we have had?
BOYD: Well, it depends on where they hit. If they hit the whole fuel farm or one of the major fuel farms that feed JFK, yes, you could have had a major shutdown at John F. Kennedy International. That‘s bad. But, you know, give New Yorkers a real flash here, New York is not the only place in the world. It would have hurt the economy. But it—and it certainly could have shut the airport down. If that happened to a lot of places, it could shut our economy down.
The unfortunate part is, these people at Homeland Security don‘t realize that, and that‘s why we‘re vulnerable, even to these second-rate kind of people like they caught yesterday.
OLBERMANN: So if the danger is to fuel delivery and economy rather than conflagration, but people are talking about conflagration and terror and mass death, what does it tell you the prosecutors knew about this since last year, and still characterized the results the way they did?
BOYD: Well, they‘ve done this. They said they started on this over -
about a year and a half ago. And as of yesterday, that attorney still didn‘t know what that these guys were planning to do would not do what they thought it would do. That says to me is, this was more of a photo-op than really anything that really focuses on protecting our airports.
OLBERMANN: You‘ve been on this since we talked to you first about this in 2003, that we seem to be devoting the right amount of attention to aviation safety, but we have always—we, we‘re always picking the wrong topics to be concerned about?
BOYD: Well, the problem is, our security—Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration is not run by security professionals. It‘s run by political appointees. And political appointees look to cover themselves and to look good rather than to do the job. And that‘s why we‘re no safer than we were on 9/11, because we have the same problems we‘ve always had.
OLBERMANN: The aviation expert Michael Boyd, cutting through as always. Great thanks for joining us again, sir.
BOYD: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: Details of another plot more pipe dream than pipeline emerging just as the White House redoubles efforts to equate the war in Iraq with our security at home. We will update our look at the history of these kinds of dubious coincidences in a revised edition of the nexus of politics and terror.
On a lighter note significantly, minor league manager, major league tantrum.
All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1917, two of the great voices of 20th-century America were born, Cornell-educated newscaster Charles Collingwood, and the late Metropolitan Opera baritone, educated in the school of hard knocks, Robert Merrill, whose rendition of the National Anthem is still played in places like Yankee Stadium three years after his death. Merrill‘s baseball connection will become relevant immediately after I say...
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Chattanooga for another exciting episode of Meet a Minor League Baseball Manager Who Is Unlikely to Get a Job in the Big Leagues. That is Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman, and he‘s a bit out of sorts over a call in the bottom of the third inning against the Chattanooga Lookouts. And look out, because this man has gone crazy.
We‘ve seen tantrums like this before. We‘ve seen out-of-control managers covering home plate with dirt. We‘ve seen guys pull up third base and try to heave it into dead center field. But this may be the first time we‘ve seen a manager so angry that he regresses into some kind of inherited Vietnam flashback at the pitcher‘s mound. Crawling to avoid enemy fire as he approached the umpire‘s bunker, Wellman grabbed an imaginary rosin bag hand grenade, pulled the pin, and, boom!
That‘ll get you tossed out of the game very time. Smoky, this is not ‘Nam, this is baseball. There are rules. (INAUDIBLE) the Braves organization announced Wellman will be suspended three games for the tantrum. On the other hand, advance ticket sales are through the roof. Exit stage left.
The nexus of politics and terror. Why was the JFK airport plot revealed by a U.S. attorney in the middle of a U.S. attorney scandal and by the father of a Fox News reporter? And why, on this Saturday, the coincidences have begun again. We will review that.
And Paris does time. Lock up Paris Hilton.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Since last August, there had been a period of calm. The screaming hair-on-fire pronouncements about terror plots that may have had real plotters but no real conceivable chance of actually happening had ceased. That that period spanned the time between the 2006 midterm elections and the week we reached exactly 18 months until the 2008 presidential election, just a coincidence.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, from the mind bending idea that four guys dressed as pizza delivery men were going to outgun all the soldiers at Fort Dix to the not too thought out plan to blow up JFK airport by lighting a match 40 miles away, here we go again. Time for an update of our segment, the Nexus of Politics and Terror. The instance is now 13 in number when those two worlds have overlapped and we are reminded by our government, with or without justification, that we should always fear fear itself.
We offer two prefaces tonight, one the words of Dennis Milligan, the new state chairman of the Republican party in Arkansas, who says about Iraq, to the newspaper “the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, quote, “At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing. And I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on September 11th, 2001, and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.”
“All we need is some attacks on American soil,” said the Republican party chairman in Arkansas, Arkansas. in the United States. that Arkansas! The other preamble, we remind you again that coincidences can happen, that the logical fallacy insists that just because event A occurs and then event B occurs, that does not automatically mean that event A caused event B. But neither does it say the opposite.
The Nexus of Politics and Terror updated through today. Please judge for yourself.
OLBERMANN: Number one, May 18th, 2002; the first details of the president‘s daily briefing of August 6th, 2001 are revealed, including its title “Bin laden determined to strike in U.S.” The same day, another memo is discovered revealing the FBI knew of men with links to al Qaeda training at an Arizona flight school. The memo was never acted upon.
Questions about 9/11 intelligence failures are swirling. May 20th, 2002.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The terror warnings from the highest level of the federal government tonight are—
OLBERMANN: Two days later, FBI Director Mueller declares that another terrorist attack is “inevitable.”
The next day, the Department of Homeland Security issues warnings of attacks against railroads nationwide, and against New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
Number two, Thursday, June 6th, 2002.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never really anticipated this kind of impact.
OLBERMANN: Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to alert her superiors to the specialized flight training taken by Zacarias Moussaoui, whose information suggests the government missed the chance to break up the 9/11 plot, testifies before Congress. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Graham says Rowley‘s testimony has inspired similar pre-9/11 whistle blower.
Monday June 10th, four days later.
JOHN ASHCROFT, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot.
OLBERMANN: Speaking from Russia, Attorney General John Ashcroft reveals that an American name Jose Padilla is under arrest, accused of plotting a radiation bomb attack in this country. In fact, Padilla had by this time already been detained for more than one month.
Number three, February 5th, 2003; Secretary of State Powell tells the United Nations Security Council of Iraq‘s concealment of weapon, including his 18 mobile biological weapons laboratories, justifying a U.N. or U.S. first strike. Many in the U.N. are doubtful.
Months later, much of the information proves untrue.
February 7th, 2003; Two days later. As anti-war demonstrations continue to take place around the globe.
TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: Take some time to prepare for an emergency.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security Secretary Ridge cites credible threats by al Qaeda and raises the terror alert level to orange. Three days after that, Fire Administrator David Paulison, who would become the acting head of FEMA after the Hurricane Katrina disaster advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack.
Number four, July 23rd, 2003; the White House admits that the CIA, months before the president‘s State of the Union Address, expressed strong doubts about the claim that Iraq had attempt to buy uranium from Niger. On the 24th, the Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks is issued. It criticizes government at all levels. It reveals an FBI informant had been living with two of the future hijackers.
It concludes that Iraq had no link to al Qaeda. Twenty eight pages of the report are redacted. On the 26th, American troops are accused of beating Iraqi prisoners.
July 29th, 2003, three days later; amid all of the negative headline.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Word of a possible new al Qaeda attack.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security issues warnings of further terrorist attempts to use airplanes for suicide attacks.
Number five, December 17th, 2003; 9/11 Commission co-chair Thomas Kean says the attacks were preventable. The next day, a federal appeals court says the government cannot detain suspected radiation bomber Jose Padilla indefinitely without charges, and the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, Dr. David Kay, who has previously announced he has found no weapons of mass destruction there, announces he will resign his post.
December 21st, 2003, four days later; the Sunday before Christmas.
RIDGE: Today the United States government raised the national threat level.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security again raises the threat level to orange, claiming credible intelligence of further plots to crash airliner into U.S. cities. Subsequently, six international flights into this country are canceled after some passenger names purportedly produced matches on government no fly lists. The French later identified those matched names. One belongs to an insurance salesman from Wales, another to an elderly Chinese woman, a third to a five-year-old boy.
Number six, March 30th, 2004; the new chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, tells Congress we have still not found any WMD in that country. And, after weeks of having refused to appear before the 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice relents and agrees to testify.
On the 31st, four Blackwater USA contractors working in Iraq are murdered. Their mutilated bodies dragged through the streets and left on public display in Fallujah. The role of civilian contractors in Iraq is now widely questioned.
April 2nd, 2004 --
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The FBI has issued a new warning tonight.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Security issues a bulletin warning that terrorists may try to blow up buses and trains using fertilizer and fuel bombs like the one detonate in Oklahoma City, bombs stuffed into satchels or duffel bags.
Number seven, May 16th, 2004; Secretary of State Powell appears on “Meet the Press.” Moderator Tim Russert closes by asking him about the enormous personal credibility Powell had placed before the U.N. in laying out a case against Saddam Hussein. An aide to Powell interrupts the question, saying the interview is over.
TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: I think that was one of your staff, Mr. secretary. I don‘t think that‘s appropriate.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Emily, get out of the way.
OLBERMANN: Powell finishes his answer, admitting that much of the
information he had been given about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was
POWELL: Inaccurate and wrong, and, in some cases, deliberately misleading.
OLBERMANN: On the 21st, new photos showing mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison are released. On the 24th, Associated Press video from Iraq confirms U.S. forces mistakenly bombed a wedding party, killing more than 40.
Wednesday, May 26th, 2004, two days later.
ASHCROFT: Good afternoon.
OLBERMANN: Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller warned that intelligence from multiple sources—
ASHCROFT: Indicates al Qaeda‘ specific intention to hit the United States hard.
OLBERMANN: And that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack on the United States were complete. The color coded warning system is not raised. The Homeland Security secretary, Tom Ridge, does not attend the announcement.
Number eight, July 6th, 2004; Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry selects Senator John Edwards as his vice-presidential running mate, producing a small bump in the election opinion polls and producing a huge swing in media attention towards the Democratic campaign.
July 8th, 2004, two days later.
RIDGE: Credible reporting now indicates al Qaeda is moving forward with its plan to carry out a large scale attack in the United States.
OLBERMANN: Homeland Secretary Ridge warns of information about al Qaeda attacks during the summer or autumn. Four days after that, the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Deforest B. Soaries Jr., confirms he has written to Ridge about the prospect of postponing the upcoming presidential election in the case the event it is interrupted by terrorist attacks.
Number nine, July 29th, 2004; at their party convention in Boston, the Democrats formally nominate John Kerry as their candidate for president. As in the wake of any convention, the Democrats now dominate the media attention over the subsequent weekend.
August 1st, 2004, Monday morning, three days later.
RIDGE: It is as reliable a source—a group of sources as we‘ve ever seen before.
OLBERMANN: The Department of Homeland Security raises the alert status for financial centers in New York, New Jersey and Washington to orange. The evidence supporting the warning, reconnaissance data left in a home in Iraq; later prove to be roughly four years old and largely out of date.
Number ten, October 6th, 2005, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time; the president addresses the National Endowment for Democracy, once again, emphasizing the importance of the war on terror and insisting his government has broken up at least 10 terrorist plots since 9/11.
At 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, five hour after the president‘s speech has begun, the Associate Press reports that Karl Rove will testify again to the CIA leak Grand Jury and that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has told Rove he cannot guarantee that he will not be indicted.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We‘re awaiting a news conference at the bottom of the hour.
OLBERMANN: At 5:17 p.m. Eastern time, seven hour after the president‘s speech has begun, New York official disclosed a bomb threat to the city‘ subway system based on information supplied by the federal government. The Homeland Security spokesman says the intelligence upon which the disclosure is based is of doubtful credibility.
And later it proves that New York City had known of the threat for at least three days and had increased police presence in the subways long before making the announcement at that particular time. Local New York television station WNBC reports it had the story of the threats days in advance of the announcement, but was asked by high ranking federal officials in New York and Washington to hold off on its story.
Less than four days after having reveal the threat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York says, since the period of the three now seems to be passing, I think over the immediate future, we‘ll slowly be winding down the enhanced security. While news organizations, ranging from the “New York Post” to NBC New quote sources who say there was reason to believe the informant who triggered the warning simply made it up.
A senior U.S. counter terrorism official tells the “New York Times,” quote, there was no there there.
Number 11, a sequence of event in August 2006 best understood now in chronological order. As the month begins, the controversy over domestic surveillance without legal warrants in this country crests. Then on August 9th, the day after the Connecticut Democratic Senatorial Primary, Vice President Cheney says the victory of challenger Ned Lamont over incumbent Joe Lieberman is a positive for the, quote, al Qaeda types, who he says, quote, “clearly betting on the proposition that ultimately they break the will of the American people, in terms of our ability to stay in the fight.”
The next day, British authorities arrest 24 suspects in an alleged imminent plot to blow up U.S. bound aircraft using liquid explosives smuggled on board in sports drink bottles. Domestic air travel is thrown into chaos as carry-on liquids are suddenly banned.
On August 14th, British intelligence reveals it did not think the plot was imminent. Only the U.S. did. And our authorities pressed to make the arrests. Eleven of the 24 suspect are later released. And in the months to come, the carry-on liquids ban is repeatedly relaxed.
Number 12, May 7th, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas leveled by a tornado and the state‘ governor notes, more in sorrow than in anger, that the redeployment of so much of the Kansas National Guard and its equipment to Iraq might now cripple the soldiers‘ ability to respond if another disaster hits Kansas.
GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: What we‘re really missing is equipment. And that is putting a strain on recoveries like this one.
OLBERMANN: The next day, the authorities announce arrests in a far-fetched plan to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey. The so-called terrorists planned to gain access to the base by posing as pizza delivery men. It is not a suicide mission. They state clearly, they intend to kill personnel and then retreat to safety, even though they were going to attack a closed compound, full of trained soldiers with weapons.
And though the plan is branded sophisticated, its perpetrators are not sophisticated enough to have not handed over the videotape of themselves training with weapons to a Circuit City store in order to be transferred to DVD. The Fort Dix plot not only erases from most news coverage the issue of disaster readiness in Kansas, but it also obscures the next day‘ story that in anticipation of his testimony to a House panel, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has submitted opening remarks that match, virtually word for word, the remarks he had given the previous month to a Senate committee.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Recognizing my limit involvement in the process, a mistake I freely acknowledge—
a mistake that I freely acknowledge, I have soberly questioned my prior decisions.
OLBERMANN: And number 13, June, 2007, the JFK plot to blow up the jet fuel pipeline feeding John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, thus causing the entire airport to be consumed in an horrific conflagration. One of the men arrested has, as past employee access, to the sprawling complex, but little knowledge of the reality of the pipeline system.
The manager of that system tells the “New York Times” that the pipeline is not some kind of fuse. Shut off valves throughout would have easily contain any damage, just as a leak in a tunnel in any city would not flood everything in that city below ground. The so called plot happens to be revealed the day before the second Democratic presidential debate.
And as the scandal continues to unfold over the firings of U.S. attorneys, and their replacements by political hacks, the so called plot is announced by the Bush appointed U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, New York, and by the police chief of New York City, the father of a correspondent for Fox News Channel.
OLBERMANN: In all fairness, we could probably construct a similar timeline of terror events and their relationship to the haircuts of popular politicians. But if merely a reasonable case can be made that any of these juxtapositions of events are more than just coincidences, if that case can be made on this, the very day that a military judge at Guantanamo Bay dismissed all terror charges that have kept Salim Hamdan jailed there for five years, it underscores the need for questions to be asked and asked continually in this country, questions about what is prudence and what is just fear mongering?
Bill O‘Reilly arm wrestling himself for worst person honors tonight. Will it be TV Bill-O or radio Bill-O as top loofah? And Paris Hilton goes to jail and the MTV Movie Awards. Which will cause her to suffer more. Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: There has been a night in Paris and Paris when it sizzles, but now there‘s a night when Paris sizzles in the big house. Paris Hilton in jail in a moment.
First, our number two on the COUNTDOWN, today‘s list of finalists for Worst Person in the World. The bronze, Gilberto Contu (ph), the truck driver from Texas who took his big rig through the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey to New York City, his 13.5 foot high truck through a tunnel only 13 feet high. He sheered off decorative tiles from the tunnel roof, to say nothing of the truck‘s roof. But the punchline here is authorities saw him coming, knew he would not make it, tried to flag him down, even had officers screaming at him through a loudspeaker. Isn‘t that a scene in the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” you‘re going the wrong way.
The silver, hot and cold running Bill-O tonight. He has explained to the radio sheep that those who oppose immigration reform, quote, hate America and they hate it because it is run by white Christian men. Let me repeat that, America is run primarily by white Christian men. Well Bill, thanks for finally identifying yourself as an advocate of gender and religious domination.
And our winner Bill-O on TV, slamming the idiot who traveled anyway, despite drug resistant tuberculosis, Andrew Speaker, calling him one of his, quote, secular progressives, and adding, traditional values people put others on par with themselves. That‘s the Judeo-Christian tenet, love your neighbor as yourself. Secular progressives put themselves above all others. That philosophy says me first, then I‘ll worry about you.
First Bill, the guy went to the Naval Academy. He is a volunteer at a spinal injury clinic. His dad was president of their church. You are wrong again, Bill.
Second, secular progressive; the phrase is not catching on. Bill, it‘s just not working. You need a new slogan.
And third, Billy, me first, then I‘ll worry about you. During the Andrea Mackris stuff, wasn‘t that in your heart relative to Mrs. Bill-O? Let he who is without sin cast the first loofah you secular progressive, you. Bill O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Within a matter of hours Paris Hilton went from red carpet to orange jail outfit. It‘s as if her own nexus of politics and terror alert level had been down graded. Risk of injury from her is reduced, but by no means erased. Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, it‘s Paris in the pokey day one.
Ms. Hilton checked into the Century Regional Detention facility at Lynnwood, California at about 11:30 local prevailing time last night. An hour earlier, she had turned herself into the men‘s central jail, apparently to avoid the paparazzi camped out at the women‘s facility. Yes, that‘s why she went to the men‘s jail. Yes.
Hilton was booked and a sheriff‘s spokesman says, quote, she was focused. She was cooperative. She was also two days early, but after having gone to the MTV Movie previously the same day perhaps she realized jail was preferable to hazing by host Sarah Silverman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SILVERMAN, COMEDIAN: Paris Hilton is going to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And that was the least of it. Twenty two day from now, on Tuesday, June 26th, Paris Hilton will be free. But before that time “Village Voice” columnist Michael Musto gets to assess her incarceration. Michael, good evening.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE: Hi Keith.
OLBERMANN: They weren‘t kidding about this orange outfit. Supposedly a short sleeved jump suit. We have more details. She went through the customer medical screening. Although, I‘m sure that if there is anything that involves seeing if something grows in a petri dish, we may need some more days for results there. She was issued, after check in, her first meal, cereal, bread and juice. So what of all of this would have been the toughest part for her?
MUSTO: I think the anal search, because they found the dog, the blackberry and Nicole Richie. Also eating anything is difficult for Paris. And this is the first time she‘s had orange juice without Absolut. And usually when she has Special K, it‘s through her nose. This was very traumatic.
OLBERMANN: The first time she has had orange juice without Absolut. The always there, ubiquitous TMZ.com website reported that for now she is going to occupy her two person cell alone. The officials at the prison had previously determined a cell mate for her, but they‘ve changed the plans. Why a change? What are the prospects of getting her a new roomy in time to, I don‘t know, make a series out of it.
MUST: Well, I think the original woman, who was found in the biggest casting call since “Gone With the Wind,” just booked herself an appointment with Kevorkian at the same jail. Now they are looking for a new predatory lesbian. Meanwhile, Paris is thrilled to have this one bedroom to herself. She hasn‘t noticed that it‘s a toilet bowl, not a Jacuzzi. She‘s a slow learner.
OLBERMANN: She has coopted—there‘s no question about this—the mug shot degradations. She has done a Tom Delay. The thing looks more like a publicity photo. Officials at the detention facility reportedly forbade employees there from taking any pictures of her, and she gets to keep her extensions, because they were so tightly wound, which is a phrase used often about her. So she‘s in the clear then? We won‘t get to see any images of Ms. Hilton in the really simple life?
MUSTO: Well, there is one theory that she actually got arrested on purpose so she could be photographed one more time. But yes, there aren‘t going to be any more images of her for 23 days. This is unreal. Paris Hilton ceases to exist without photo sessions. It‘s like Heather Mills with legs. The jig is up. Send your letters to Keith Olbermann.
OLBERMANN: The sentence is for parole violation and reckless driving. She drove twice with a suspended license. She has a statement release and she says, quote, in the future I plan on taking more of an active role in the decisions I make. One assumes that might be good news for motorist, but what are the other possible consequences of Paris Hilton taking a more active role.
MUSTO: I guess driving backwards on the wrong side of the road. Oh, she already does that? Whatever her will decrees her to do. I am personally relieved that though we cannot find Bin Laden, we can‘t really get Phil Spector, we did get Paris Hilton. We are safe, America.
OLBERMANN: And she is going to write a book about this. Do we have any ideas about what it might be, or the title even?
MUSTO: Yes, she is going to write a book without ever having read one. Actually, she already did that, which was the best 99 cents I ever spent. But for the next one I would say, I don‘t know, 21 Grams, or the Bird Brain of Alcatraz, or that Slut Shank Redemption. There are any number of possibilities.
OLBERMANN: I never knew orange juice came without Absolut. The one and only Michael Musto.
MUSTO: I could go on.
OLBERMANN: Many thanks Michael. That is COUNTDOWN for this 1,496th days since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. From New York, I am Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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