updated 12/12/2007 4:45:07 PM ET 2007-12-12T21:45:07

Guests: Arianna Huffington, Cliff May, David Becker, Alia Malek, Robert Crowe, Brian Wice, Ted Poe, Clint van Zandt, Monica Lindstrom, Michelle Suskauer, Scott Griffin

DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the destruction of secret CIA interrogation tapes raising new questions about whether some in this administration broke the law.

In our new series, “Bush League Justice,” the destruction of the Justice Department as we know it raising new questions about upholding the rule of law.

And a young woman alleging she was drugged and gang raped by contractors for Halliburton in Iraq raising new questions about enforcing the law.

But first, rising calls for a special prosecutor to investigate why the CIA destroyed videotapes of top al Qaeda officials being subjected to harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding.

Jose Rodriguez, chief of the National Clandestine Service of the CIA reportedly ordered the destruction to protect the identities of officers conducting the interrogations.  That‘s also the rationale from the CIA director General Michael Hayden.  The problem—the tapes were destroyed as Congress, the 9/11 commission, human rights groups and federal prosecutors were demanding answers between 2003 and 2005.  If that was the reason, it could be obstruction of justice.

Look, I‘m not from Washington, but it is credible that this career CIA manager made the call to destroy these potentially explosive tapes on his own?  I don‘t think that answer can come from this administration investigating itself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN:  To avoid any appearance of trying to prejudice that inquiry, it is appropriate and better for us not to comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Isn‘t there a concern here that going into a defensive crouch might look a little bit .

PERINO:  I don‘t think that we‘re defensive.  I think that we‘re being supportive of the efforts of the DOJ and the CIA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  The Republican co-chairman of the 9/11 commission blasted CIA this weekend.  Quote, “They had told us we had everything they had on the detainees.  You don‘t expect not to be told the truth, but we weren‘t told the truth.”

This administration has repeatedly helped to sideline objective truth, in the buildup to Iraq, to the saber rattling on Iran.  They have protected the art of disinformation.

I‘m not a big fan of special counsels, but I don‘t trust Congress to investigate this one either.  The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller has been all over the map about what he knew about the destruction of the tapes.

Look, maybe there was a need to use particularly tough techniques with a few of the top al Qaeda operatives, but that doesn‘t change the fact that we need to know what happened to these tapes.  And sometimes only a tough lawyer with power can sort out what Washington can‘t or won‘t.

Joining us now, Arianna Huffington, founder of huffingtonpost.com.  And Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  All right.  Arianna, do you think that we need a special counsel?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTON POST:  Absolutely, Dan.  We do need a special counsel, because we cannot trust the attorney general, who during his confirmation hearings could not tell us whether he considered waterboarding torture and you cannot trust the Democrats unfortunately because, as you said, they had been briefed.  Now we hear from Jane Harmon that she actually had it in a letter complaining and asking that the tapes not be destroyed.  Yet the tapes went ahead and were destroyed without Congress being informed.  So the Democrats, too, have been enablers in this.  And that‘s why there has to be an outside special counsel.

ABRAMS:  All right, Cliff, I‘m not a big fan of special counsels.  You don‘t have to tell me why special counsels are a problem.  I know why they are.  But how else do you resolve this?

CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES:  We agree on that, special problems—special counsels are a problem.  So I think you do it two ways.  One Dan, as you know, but some listeners may not.  There is something called the inspector general in the CIA.  There‘s an inspector general in the Justice Department.  Most big agency have them.  The inspector general is independent.  I would say this should start with the inspector general looking and seeing was the CIA doing what it had within its rights to do to protect the identity of interrogators or not.

ABRAMS:  But Cliff, let me just follow up on that one thing and I‘ll let you finish.

MAY:  All right, go ahead.

ABRAMS:  But just in terms on the faith in government.  You can tell me that they‘re independent.  You can tell me that the inspector general does an amazing job of investigating themselves.  But you‘ve got to admit, with this administration‘s history on dealing with the truth, that some people can say, you know what?  I‘m not going to trust them investigating themselves.

MAY:  It‘s a little bit special, I would think, Dan, when you‘re talking about the CIA, which has as its mission to keep secrets and to find out other people‘s secrets.  And let me ask you a question.  If you had these tapes, would you broadcast them here on MSNBC?

ABRAMS:  I haven‘t thought about it.

MAY:  I think you need to.

ABRAMS:  Why?  I don‘t know if I would broadcast them.  What relevance does that have?

MAY:  All these people, not least on MSNBC who were so upset that Valerie Plame‘s identify was exposed and then she‘s in “Vanity Fair”, think what would happen to these guys if you broadcast tapes because you got a hold of them of them doing tough interrogations.

ABRAMS:  Arianna, I‘ll let you respond, but hang on a second, Cliff.  The notion that we don‘t go out of our way to protect people‘s identities, and you know what, you think we need to broadcast it.  Let‘s pull up number six here.  This is from “ABC World News Tonight.”  The whole justification was that we need to protect the identity of those who were engaging this, the guy goes on ABC tonight.  Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRIAKOU, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  At the time, no.  I think I‘ve changed my mind.  And I think that waterboarding is probably something that we shouldn‘t be in the business of doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now, that‘s not us airing the tape, Cliff.  That‘s him deciding to go on television and say, I was the one involved in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and I think there‘s a problem.

MAY:  Yes, as you probably also know, it was front page in “The Washington Post” on Sunday, Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller in 2002 were briefed on all the interrogation techniques including waterboarding.  And not only did they not have any objections to that, they also were worried that the techniques we were using were going to be tough enough for somebody like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was the architect of 9/11.

And we save lives using it.

ABRAMS:  Arianna—That‘s a fair point.  And the people who say, oh, you know what, it was a different environment in 2002, they‘re right.  It was a different environment.  It is also not the end of the inquiry in terms of whether we‘ve got massive hypocrisy here.

HUFFINGTON:  But you know what, Dan, first of all, just look at what actually happened.  When what turned out to be mentally disturbed al Qaeda number two supposedly was basically dealing with al Qaeda logistics was interrogated and all this harsh torture and waterboarding techniques were used on him, he ended up just giving completely false information, saying that they were planning to attack the Statue of Liberty, one target after another.  And you have all those .

ABRAMS:  I‘m not entirely convinced of that.

HUFFINGTON:  Which turned out to be completely false.  Here‘s the thing, let me just absolutely make two things clear.  Torture is against the American Constitution.  And torture is not effective.  So for both these reasons, there should be a special counsel investigation.  Why this (inaudible)

ABRAMS:  Arianna, I‘ve said that we should define waterboarding as torture, OK?  Then I‘ve also said we need to have a discussion about whether in certain extreme instances we need to torture.  I think that‘s the honest way to have the discussion.  With that said, the AP is reporting today that Zubaydah‘s waterboarding actually led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  It is not that you can say that it simply doesn‘t work.

MAY:  And Dan, I got to tell you that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was probably also waterboarded and we found out about plots against Americans .

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know if I believe that.  I‘ve got to tell you.  I don‘t believe - I‘m not sure I believe that.

MAY:  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had more information than just about anybody.

ABRAMS:  He may have but I‘m not convinced we got it because of waterboarding.

MAY:  I‘m willing to give him an uncomfortable afternoon to save American lives.  But consider this .

HUFFINGTON:  But you don‘t know that you‘re going to save American lives.

MAY:  I‘m going to make a point, Arianna, then you can respond.  At any point Congress can decide that waterboarding is illegal by simply passing a law to make it illegal.  They‘ve had numerous options to do it.  They probably will in the future.  But until they do, it is not.  And again, Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller knew about waterboarding since 2002.  If it‘s a crime, I guess they‘re accessories to the crime.

ABRAMS:  The problem is, Cliff .

HUFFINGTON:  Well, I agree with that.  I think that absolutely Democrats have not in any way excuse.  They are accessories to the crime.  And that‘s why there has to be a special counsel because they cannot be trusted to get to the truth.  And the point is that these tapes were requested for investigations going on including the 9/11 Commission and that was when they were destroyed.  They lied to the 9/11 Commission.

ABRAMS:  I agree.  The 9/11 Commission response to this is they‘re straight out saying you lied to us.  You lied .

MAY:  I heard Governor Kean.  I understand he‘s angry.  But what we‘re talking about, we don‘t know that there was any crime whatsoever.  Let‘s go to the inspector general, then let‘s go to the new Mukasey Justice Department and then we can see if we also need to bring in a special prosecutor.

ABRAMS:  Talk about trying to make the problem go away with time.  But all right.  Arianna Huffington and Cliff May, as always, thanks a lot.

MAY:  Thank you.

HUFFINGTON:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the premier of our series, “Bush League Justice.”  An investigation into how this administration has politicized the usually apolitical Justice Department.  This series will expose abuses you may not have heard about.

And a Houston woman says she was drugged and gang raped in Baghdad by her co-workers at the company Dick Cheney used to run, Halliburton.  The suspects may never be prosecuted now, but she‘s taking them to court.

And later, new details in the case of the American college student being held in a roommate‘s murder.  There is a major split reportedly between suspects Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend.  He‘s now saying she tried to frame him.  We‘ve got exclusive information from a former FBI profiler who has just returned from Italy investigating the case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight we begin our week-long series “Bush League Justice,” an investigation of how the Bush administration has politicized the Justice Department in an effort to expand its own power.  Tonight, the department‘s almost unrecognizable civil rights division.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  When the Civil Rights Division was founded in 1957, the Department of Justice found hundreds of federal lawsuits to end discrimination in schools, voting, jobs and housing.  The division‘s attorneys even personally escorted the first black student at the University of Mississippi between rock-throwing demonstrators and gun-toting authorities.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I George Walker Bush do solemnly swear.

ABRAMS:  But since President Bush took office, the administration has turned the division against the very people it was designed to protect.  Instead of pursuing discrimination cases on behalf of African Americans, the Bush Civil Rights Division has focused on supposed reverse discrimination cases against whites and religious discrimination cases against Christians.

A “Boston Globe” investigation found the number of new attorneys with civil rights experience plunged from three-quarters to less than half.  And of those who did have the experience, almost half had only defended employers or fought against affirmative action.

From 2001 to 2006, not one voting discrimination case was brought on behalf of African-Americans.  The focus instead—on voting fraud, which tends to help Republicans and disenfranchise minorities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (on camera):  Joining me now David Becker, a former senior trial attorney in the voting section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.  He‘s now with People for the American Way.  And Alia Malek who was a trial attorney in the education section of the Civil Rights Division and has reported on the subject extensively for salon.com.

Thanks to both of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

David, what some people are going to say is they‘re going to say, look, in a new administration they can do things in a different way.  But this is way beyond that, isn‘t it?

DAVID BECKER, FORMER DOJ ATTORNEY:  Yeah, it is.  Of course, they‘re right.  Every administration has its own priorities.  But here we‘ve got a situation where you get different outcomes based upon whether or not it benefits Democrats or Republicans.  And you also see a reshaping of the entire division based on a changing of the hiring practices which now we‘ve had loyal Bushies come out and admit that they were applying a litmus test to make sure they were getting folks who were politically reliable and not so much people who were experienced litigators or people who had civil rights law experience.

ABRAMS:  That‘s a serious allegation the notion that they‘re trying to sort of stack the deck against Democrats.  How would they be doing it?

BECKER:  Well, for instance, every—in a lot of cases redistrictings have to come into the Justice Department to be approved particularly in Southern states because there‘s a portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires it.  So you see circumstances where redistrictings that benefited Democrats get very, very serious scrutiny.  I was a lead trial attorney on one of those cases in Georgia.  But redistrictings that seem to benefit Republicans like in Mississippi or Texas would have a very hands-off approach even though career lawyers determined in Texas, for instance, unanimously that the redistricting discriminated against Hispanics.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask - I‘m going to throw you some statistics.  This according to the “Washington Post.”  Racial discrimination prosecutions declined by 40 percent under this Civil Rights Division.  No voting discrimination cases brought on behalf of African American voters.  None.  Number of housing cases has fallen from 53 in 2001 to 31 in 2006.  The reason that the Civil Rights Division was started was to protect the rights of African Americans, right?

ALIA MALEK, FORMER DOJ ATTORNEY:  That‘s correct.  That‘s sort of one of the things that‘s been a bit sad to see happen to the civil rights division.  At the same time they‘ve dismantled the division they‘ve sort of eviscerated the meaning of civil rights by taking up cases on behalf of people who arguably have recourse to politicians and to counsel if they were to pursue matters in court.

ABRAMS:  And David, look, it is also about religion.  Let‘s be clear.  Some on the far right have really hijacked the Justice—you can talk about them hijacking the courts all you want, but when you are talking about the actual Justice Department, that‘s kind of amazing.

You look at this statistic from the Rockefeller Institute.  1995 to 2000, they reviewed one case of religion expression of speech and made no investigations.  2001 to 2006, 82 cases reviewed.  And 40 investigations about religion in schools.  I mean, this really tells us that they fundamentally changed what the Civil Rights Division does.  It is no longer there to protect African Americans.  It is to go after reverse discrimination cases and also to try and promote religion in schools and other public places.

BECKER:  You‘re exactly right, Dan.  Every administration has a right to kind of reassess priorities, but here we are on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Division and the Bush administration is filing brief after brief in the Supreme Court and other appellate courts advocating in favor of spending public money on religious activities.  You see during a time span of five years where not a single case was brought on behalf of black voters by the voting section, a case was brought on behalf of white voters alleging that blacks were discriminating against them, and in all places, Mississippi.

MALEK:  In the cases that are being brought under the doctrine of viewpoint (ph) discrimination aren‘t really civil rights cases.  These are cases that are being brought to sort of low are the wall of the separation of church and state.  And that‘s not really what the Civil Rights Division was meant to do and not what the civil rights legislation is there to do.

ABRAMS:  Who is to blame?  I mean, this seems pretty clear to me that this is coming from the top.  I don‘t think you can just say that John Ashcroft is to blame or Alberto Gonzales is to blame.  It seems to me you‘ve got to be blaming the people at the top.

MALEK:  Definitely.  This is the constituency that put this administration in power who is benefiting from this litigation.

ABRAMS:  Let me play a piece of sound.  This is from John Tanner, who is chief of the voting rights section from 2005 and to the present.  He was trying to explain why maybe the real people to be concerned about when it comes to voting are elderly whites.  Here‘s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN TANNER, DOJ CHIEF OF VOTING RIGHTS:  The minorities don‘t become elderly.  The way white people do.  They die first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, you know, he apologized for that statement, David.  But that‘s a pretty amazing statement coming from the head of the voting rights division for civil rights.

BECKER:  And it was one of those classic apologies, where I‘m sorry if you took it the wrong way kind of apologies.  I mean, it is a circumstance where in this Justice Department people who are both ideologically and politically reliable but also people who are not most deserving of promotion get into this position of this sort.

This represents the kind of shoddy analysis.  I mean, he‘s completely wrong about this.  And the result we get is not only a partisan motivated law enforcement protocol but also it‘s just bad law.  And we‘re going to get more of it.  And you know, I was hoping that Attorney General Mukasey and the new nominee to head up the civil rights division would move it in a different direction but just today we saw .

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got very little time.  But of the 45 attorneys hired 2003-2006, 11 hired from the Federalist Society.  Six listed Christian organizations on their resume.  Two hired who volunteered for the Bush/Cheney campaigns.  Seven lawyers were members of the Republican National Lawyers Association.

Again, some people are going to say, that‘s their right to do it.  But this has not been the way any other Republican has ever treated the Civil Rights Division.

MALEK:  That‘s right.  That‘s absolutely correct.  More frighteningly, there‘s nothing to stop the next administration whether it be Democratic or Republican from doing the same thing.

ABRAMS:  All right.  This is a real problem.  I‘ve got all these statistics here that we haven‘t even been able to get to.  But all right.  Thank you to David Becker and Alia Malek.  Appreciate it.  We‘re going to continue with this series tomorrow.

Coming up, a Houston woman said she was drugged and gang raped by her Halliburton KBR co-workers in Baghdad.  She says the company and the U.S.  government are covering up the incident.  Now her alleged assailants may avoid any prosecution.

Plus coming up in “Beat the Press,” Fox Business Channel gets down and dirty.  Instead of talking about stock, they are taking stock of the genital reconstruction industry.  Yes, I learned that sometimes it‘s just cosmetic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.  First up, over on the Fox Business Network, the show we love to hate, “Happy Hour,” where quote, “main street meets Wall Street,” I really want to know what this next conversation from Friday had to do with the folks on main street or even Wall Street.  Here‘s part of their interview with a plastic surgeon from the TV series “Dr. 90210.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REBECCA GOMEZ, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK:  What is the craziest procedure that you‘ve had on your show so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  On the show, probably a man who had a buried or hidden penis.

GOMEZ:  Where was it hiding?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was hiding in his pubic sac.  In his scrotal sac.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A fascinating and important detail.  But ace reporter Rebecca Gomez wasn‘t going to let him get away with that explanation.  She went on to expose the hidden truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOMEZ:  There was one hidden or you had to create one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, he had it, but it was just hiding away.  It was just begging to come out.  But until he came to see me, no one knew how to get it out.

GOMEZ:  Genital reconstruction.  Is this like the latest fad in plastic surgery or is this something serious?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, women are getting a lot of genital plastics now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Just when you thought the conversation couldn‘t get any more disgusting and absurd, it continued.  Now, if you are faint of heart, or under 35 or my mom, please press the mute button as Dr. Alter (ph) explains on the Fox Business Network why women get this surgery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A lot of women have enlarged labia or inner lips of their vagina, and it causes them irritation when they wear tight clothes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh!  Stop it!  It got worse.  We stopped it before the—oh!  So you ask, how does this detailed discussion of abnormal anatomy relate to business news?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOMEZ:  You never knew that plastic surgery would be similar to stock picking, huh?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Huh?  Business news or news about the business?  Next up, Fox‘s John Gibson and I go way back, so I have to come to his defense when the his colleague doesn‘t respect John to know when his show, which Gibson is now cohosting with Heather Nauert, is even on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  Heather is on at 6:00 with that Gibson guy.

HEATHER NAUERT, FOX NEWS HOST:  5:00.

O‘REILLY:  5:00.  I‘m sorry.  It just blurs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Poor John.  He got a cost host.  The time of the show didn‘t change.  He‘s important.  We love Gibson.

Finally, regular “Beat the Press” viewers know I‘m a fan of Shep Smith over at Fox but I fear some of his candor will get him in trouble with the higher-ups over there.  He and Courtney Friel were talking about the kid from Iceland who was able to call the private line of President Bush when this less than startling revelation slipped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  White House press people are saying it was me or you.  We have President Bush‘s number in our Blackberries.

SHEP SMITH, FOX NEWS HOST:  Exactly.  We are his network, after all, so we have to have his number.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A joke, sort of.  We need your help beating the press.  If you see anything right, wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site, abrams.msnbc.com and leave a tip in the box.  Please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next, a Houston woman said she was drugged and gang raped by her Halliburton KBR co-workers in Baghdad.  And that the company and the U.S.  government are covering up the incident.  Her alleged assailants may avoid any prosecution.

And patrons at the restaurant where former teacher Debra LaFave worked before being busted for violating parole want her back so badly they started a petition.  The boy she molested not on the list as far as we can tell.  We‘ll talk to her former boss coming up in “Winners & Losers.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A stunning allegation of a gang rape involving Halliburton KBR employees and a potential cover-up in Iraq.  Jamie Lee Jones, seen here in photos in her web site devoted to this case, alleges that she was drugged and viciously raped by coworkers while living in Baghdad‘s Green Zone. 

Jones says she went to an army doctor who determined she showed signs of vaginal and anal rape, but then according to Jones, it just got worse.  She says she was held in a shipping container for almost 24 hours without food or water under armed guard. 

She says was finally able to call her father back in the U.S. for help.  Her congressman then reached out to the U.S. State Department which sent officials from the U.S. Embassy to rescue her. 

Now, over two years later, Jones is still looking for answers.  It‘s unclear whether any government agency is even investigating.  Jones claims no criminal charges have been filed and Jones may have few options other than bringing a civil suit, which she‘s done. 

We should note that in most cases of alleged rape, we don‘t name the victim.  But in this case, Jones‘ attorney directed us to her web site and allowed us to use these photos. 

Here to talk about this is Robert Crowe who has covered the story for the “Houston Chronicle.”  Brian Wice, an attorney in Texas, and Congressman Ted Poe joins us on the phone.  He is the one who helped Jones get help from the State Department in 2005. 

All right, Congressman Poe, let me start with you.  What happened when the father called you? 

REP. TED POE (R-TX), HELPED JONES GET HELP FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT

IN 2005 (on the phone):  He called us.  He was distressed, concerned about his 22-year-old daughter, and told the story, as you have just related it, Dan.  And that basically she could not get any help to get out of Iraq and her safety was in jeopardy. 

So, we immediately went to work, contacted the State Department, told them to basically get on this issue and within 48 hours, they had rescued the victim from her situation, got her to London, and finally got her back home.  

ABRAMS:  When you say rescued her, it does sound like a pretty sort of unbelievable operation - the State Department going in to rescue a young woman whose allegedly been raped by Halliburton employees? 

POE:  Well, that‘s the way I see the whole situation.  She, you know, was convincing that she could not - she didn‘t have any help, couldn‘t get out of that environment.  Her safety was obviously in jeopardy.  She was concerned about it. 

And she was only able to contact her dad because she borrowed a phone from somebody that lent her a cell phone and called him and he called us.  And that‘s when we got moving on it.  And I think it was a rescue from that situation that - terrible situation she was in.  

ABRAMS:  Have you gotten any answers from the State Department or Justice Department about any kind of investigation? 

POE:  No.  We have asked soon after this event occurred, to find out what became of the six or seven perpetrators, who they were, and what the investigation was.  And we haven‘t received any response at all.  And that‘s unfortunate.  We - you know, the individuals, the six or seven individuals need to be held personally accountable for their conduct.  

ABRAMS:  And this is so brutal.  This is from her own web site, where she‘s talking about the incident.  She says, “I awoke the next morning in the barracks to find any naked body battered and bruised.  I was bleeding from between my legs.  My breast implants were severely disfigured.”

She goes on to number three to say, “After getting to the clinic and having a rape kit performed, and pictures taken of my bruising, I was locked in a container with no food, no way to call my parents and was placed under armed guard by Halliburton.”  Robert Crowe, what is Halliburton saying about this? 

ROBERT CROWE, CORRESPONDENT, THE “HOUSTON CHRONICLE”:  Halliburton says that it is wrongfully named in the lawsuit because Halliburton/KBR split earlier this year.  

ABRAMS:  Well, that sounds like a legal - sort of technical legal defense, correct? 

CROWE:  Yes, yes.  Well, that‘s been the response from Halliburton.  KBR‘s response, you know, was that all allegations of sexual assault - you know, sexual harassment - are taken seriously and are not tolerated.  That‘s been their official response.  

ABRAMS:  And you‘ve done some digging and you found that there have been some other allegations? 

CROWE:  Yes.  I cover crime and courts for the “Houston Chronicle.”  You know, I heard about this lawsuit that was filed in Federal District Court in Beaumont.  And, you know, as soon as I looked it up on the pacer system, you know, I thought to look for other lawsuits. 

And I discovered about three other lawsuits, one other one involving allegations of rape.  A Florida woman alleges she was raped by a drunk KBR contractor who stole a key to get in her room.  So yes, there are other cases.  

ABRAMS:  Brian Wice, let‘s talk law here.  Apparently there‘s a legal loophole with contractors serving in Iraq that could protect them from any prosecution? 

BRIAN WICE, ATTORNEY IN TEXAS:  Well, certainly that‘s what they want to you believe.  But I think loopholes are in the eye of the beholder, Dan.  Title 18 of the United States Code Section 7 - and forget the legalese - expressly creates jurisdiction if a crime is committed against American nationals on the high seas, on ships, on aircraft or in federal enclaves. 

So to the extent these hooligans haven‘t been prosecuted tells me not because there‘s jurisdiction that‘s lacking but because the Department of Defense, or the Department of State, or Career Bureaucrats in the DOJ don‘t want this case to see the inside the United States courtroom.  

ABRAMS:  Rep. Poe, what about that? 

POE:  Well, I agree with Brian that there is jurisdiction - that the United States government has jurisdiction of this case.  As a former judge, I agree with him totally.  The federal government needs to pursue it. 

And no American citizen in this situation that is a victim of this brutal crime - The perpetrators should not be - I mean, they should be held accountable and the federal government has the obligation to pursue this further.  The young lady has been rescued.  Now, let‘s find the guys that did it and hold them accountable.  

ABRAMS:  Robert, any sense of why this hasn‘t gotten more attention from the State Department, Justice Department, whoever it may be? 

CROWE:  I really have no idea.  I know there are other cases out there that have not been reported.  And lawsuits have not been filed by these women.  I‘ve heard from at least two other women who said they were raped and described similar situations as the Houston woman that you described earlier. 

You know, part of the problem is that these women are bound by their employment agreement with Halliburton/KBR that stipulates that if you have some sort of claim against the company, you cannot file a lawsuit.  You must settle that through third party mediator, called binding arbitration. 

Many women who have settled through binding arbitration, they can‘t talk to the media.  If they do, you know, Halliburton/KBR can sue them.  That‘s what I‘m hearing from other women.  They‘re afraid to talk.  

ABRAMS:  Well, I‘ve got to tell you.  If these allegations are true about this happening in Iraq, it is not just I think Halliburton‘s duty, it is not just the duty of her lawyers, it is the duty of the U.S. Government to try and get some answers.  And Congressman Poe, I know that you‘re going to be spearheading that effort.  Thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  

POE:  Thank you.  

ABRAMS:  Robert Crowe and Brian Wice, thank you.

CROWE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, the secret prison diary could spell disaster for the American college student still being held in connection with her roommate‘s murder after her boyfriend accuses her of framing him.  We have exclusive new details from Clint Van Zandt who just returned from Italy, investigating the case.  

And later, former teacher, Debra Lafave, is getting a little help from patrons at the restaurant where she worked.  Until the pedophile teacher was busted on a violation last week, they‘ve collected hundreds of signatures to get her back.  We‘ll talk to her former boss.  Coming up in “Winners and Losers.”

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Did you know the minimum sentence in Italy for murder is 21 years?  Coming up, more bad news for the college student being held in Italy for the murder of her roommate.  Her boyfriend and fellow suspect seems to be turning against her.  Clint Van Zandt is just back from Italy investigating the case and he‘s with us.   

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  There seems to be more bad news tonight for University of Washington junior Amanda Knox suspected of being involved in her roommate‘s sexual assault and murder in Italy.  There may now be a major split between Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, also held in connection with the murder and sexual assault of Meredith Kercher. 

Last week, Amanda‘s prison diary was turned over to police.  In it, she suggested that Raffaele was the murderer or could have been and that he framed her, quote, “This could have happened.  Raffaele went to Meredith‘s house and killed her and then having come back home, pressed my fingerprints ... I was asleep ... onto the knife.”  

Well, now, her Italian boyfriend is firing back in a leaked 40-page prison diary.  He claims that, quote, “Amanda may have stitched me up by taking the knife and giving it to the son of a (blank) who killed Meredith.  When I saw the knife on TV, my heart jumped into my throat.” 

Here now is former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt who has literally just returned from Italy where he was investigating the case.  Defense attorney Michelle Suskauer and former prosecutor Monica Lindstrom.  All right, Clint, what did you find out? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT:  Well, Dan, there‘s a lot going on.  This is Europe‘s

probably the most high profile homicide case that‘s going on in Europe. 

Realize that you‘ve got an American involved in the case, her Italian boyfriend.  There were two female roommates there.  You‘ve got the victim from the U.K.  So there‘s a lot of international interest in this. 

And as you‘ve just suggested, these two lovers, who the day after this brutal homicide, were overheard buying sexy women‘s underwear and saying they‘re going to go have a great relationship that afternoon, realized the body of the victim wasn‘t cold yet.  The suspect had not been identified.  And they were talking about having sex instead of about finding out who killed their roommate. 

Now they‘ve started to flip on each other, Dan.  These diaries, both Amanda and her Italian 23-year-old boyfriend evidently created these diaries.  It seems, you know, it‘s like what‘s your best case scenario to defend yourself?  Now they‘re both floating out a he said, she said. 

ABRAMS:  You know, I‘m going to read from the diary in a minute.  But Monica, it‘s almost he speculated, she speculated.  I mean, they‘re both sort of speculating, it seems, in their diaries.  He could have framed me.  She could have framed me.  

MONICA LINDSTROM, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well, that‘s exactly what we expect them to do.  We expect them to flip on each other because they‘re both suspects and they‘re both in trouble right now.  Just like we talked about last week with Amanda, now we have him creating his own defenses.  He‘s literally taken a page out of her book - out of her diary and saying, “No, wait a minute.  She could have done this to me, she could have done this.”

This sounds like they both have been watching too many movies because the scenarios and the speculations that they‘re creating and putting forth just seems absolutely ridiculous.  And so, it will be interesting to see which one of them fires back next.  But this could end up - go ahead.  

ABRAMS:  No.  I want to read from Raffaele Sollecito‘s diary.  “Thinking about the following day, I remember Amanda saying over and over, that if she hadn‘t been with me that night, she‘d be dead.  Reconstructing the events, I think she was with me, but I can‘t quite remember if she left me for a few minutes early on that evening.”  But Clint, that wouldn‘t be that significant, right? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  No, it wouldn‘t be at all.  Their defense seems to be this cloud of drugs, that the two of them were doing drugs all day long.  And realize, Dan, there are other players in this.  There is also Rudy Guede, this former basketball player who alleged that he had consensual sex with the victim that night, and then panicked when he ran into one of the killers, a male who spoke with an Italian accent.  He fought with him.  He was stabbed with a knife.  Then this assailant - possibly two assailants, run away. 

Rudy goes back into Amanda‘s bedroom.  Now, realize this poor

women, Dan, she had a knife stuck through and through her neck, an eight

inch knife.  It was a horribly grisly crime.  And Amanda allegedly turns to

Rudy and whispers to like Orson Welles in “Citizen Kane,” “A.F.” and then

she dies.  I mean, like he will ask (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -

ABRAMS:  You mean Meredith.

VAN ZANDT:  This is - they are taking this out of dime novels and you know, 30, 40-year-old books as opposed to out of reality.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  We should say you meant Meredith in that case.  She‘s the victim.

VAN ZANDT:  I‘m sorry, Meredith.  Excuse me.  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Michelle, you think that this statement that I just read from Raffaele, may actually implicate him? 

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Raffaele wanted these diaries to be leaked.  It wasn‘t leaked by accident.  He wants this to be a made-for-TV movie.  And he‘s obviously pointing the finger away from everyone but himself.  And if Knox was brilliant, she would just be turning on him immediately instead of really backpedaling and protecting him in at least one or two of her statements.  So that was the mistake she made.  And the first one through the door, either it‘s going to be Rudy or Amanda really needs to implicate who is personally responsible.  

ABRAMS:  Clint, you just returned from there.  What is the number one theory that the Italian investigators are acting on or believing right now? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, they‘re floating out a theory that I really can‘t subscribe to right away, Dan.  They‘re suggesting that this was some type of bizarre sex game that all four were involved in - Rudy, Amanda, Raffaele and Meredith. 

Dan, I saw pictures of Meredith.  I saw the crime scene.  I saw the clothes.  I mean, this woman was horribly violated.  You know, the killer - it looks like initially placing the knife under her throat, under her chin to make her a compliant victim.  Her clothes were torn off and thrown on.  And then the knife was just plunged into her neck.  It went from side to side. 

Dan, that‘s not a game that this woman played in.  That was a terrible homicide.  So, the cops have got to keep working on this.  A murder took place, and these three people were there, but who had the knife in their hand is the challenge.  

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Clint Van Zandt, welcome back. 

Michelle Suskauer and Monica Lindstrom, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  

Up next, in “Winners and Losers,” former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young being criticized after bashing Bill Clinton.  Australians survive an explosion at a fireworks factory.  And patrons at the restaurant where Debra Lafave worked start a “Free Debra” petition so she can get her job back. 

A former politician being blasted after making a joke; a blast that left a fireworks factory up in smoke; or an explosion of Lafave fans that don‘t want her to be broke.  Which will be tonight‘s big winner or loser?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 10th day of December, 2007.  Our first loser - former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.  The now embarrassed ex-ambassador being blasted tonight after saying this about Bill Clinton. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW YOUNG, FORMER ATLANTA MAYOR:  Bill is every bit as black as Barack.  He‘s probably gone with more black women than Barack. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The remorseful mayor later apologized but he should know better than to joke about the former president wooing black women.  

Our first winner, Oprah Winfrey, who actually seems to be wooing black women for Clinton‘s rival, Barack Obama.  The daytime diva packed 30,000 including many African-American women into a South Carolina football stadium Sunday, setting the record for a South Carolina campaign event. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”:  Is he the one?  I believe he is the one.  Barack Obama!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  She brought in nearly 70,000 during a pair of appearances in Iowa, but the only thing Oprah was giving away this time was her endorsement. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WINFREY:  You get a car, you get a car, you get a car!  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Our second winner, residents of Wallerawang, Australia who survived a horrifying and spectacular accident.  A local fireworks factory went up in flames.  A container inside the factory exploded, lighting up the sky.  But only the warehouse was destroyed, averting what could have been a major crisis down under.  

Our second loser?  White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who apparently didn‘t know about the crisis averted with Cuba in the ‘60s.  The press secretary seemed puzzled when a reporter referenced the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

She later said, “I was panicked a bit because I really don‘t know about the Cuban Missile Crisis,” and offered up this gem, quote, “It had to do with Cuba and missiles, I‘m pretty sure.”  She then said she consulted her husband saying wasn‘t that like the Bay of Pigs thing? 

But the big loser of the day?  An Ohio cop canned for using his Taser on a pregnant woman.  Officer Michael Wilmer overwhelmed the enraged and expectant mother during a struggle inside the police station, grabbing her by the coat and tasing her to the ground.  The pregnant mom stunned, after showing up at the station to turn over custody of her child. 

The big winner of the day?  Stunning sex offender Debra Lafave, recently taken into custody again for chatting with a child.  The fetching former teacher, who had sex with her 14-year-old student, now seeing a groundswell of support.  Lafave was forced to quit her job as a waitress last week for violating her parole after chatting with a 17-year-old girl about non-work-related issues. 

But now, the patrons are fighting for her freedom, soliciting signatures for a “Free Debra Lafave” petition they plan to pass on to the Florida Attorney General. 

Here now Debra Lafave‘s former boss, Scott Griffin.  He‘s the manager of the Danny Boy‘s restaurant where she worked.  Thanks for coming back.  We appreciate it.  All right, so are you responsible for this petition on a day-to-day basis? 

SCOTT GRIFFIN, MANAGER OF THE DANNY BOY‘S RESTAURANT WHERE LAFAVE

WORKED:  We are in charge now.  We did not start the petition.  One of the customers actually started it on her own.  

ABRAMS:  How many people signed it? 

GRIFFIN:  We‘ve got over 300 signatures now.  

ABRAMS:  Now, who are these people?  Are these, you know, people who think, “Oh, she‘s hot.  I want to see her back at the restaurant.”  Are they people who enjoyed having her around?  Who are these people who are signing? 

GRIFFIN:  All of her regular customers who enjoy having her work there. 

ABRAMS:  Regular customers?  I mean , she had 300 regular customers? 

GRIFFIN:  We‘re a local place.  Same people come in every day.  So yes, pretty much.  

ABRAMS:  Let me read from the petition.  “Drug traffickers get less problems than Debra‘s had,” one customer said.  “I think it‘s pure harassment.  This is nothing more than a witch hunt.”  Someone else said, “Debra Lafave‘s probation officer has let his job go to his head.”

All right, you‘ve been watching this program.  Scott, you know that I‘ve been saying I think it‘s ridiculous, the notion that she might go back to jail for this infraction of chitchatting with a fellow employee who is 17.  Is that woman still working there, the 17-year-old? 

GRIFFIN:  She‘s still employed, yes.  

ABRAMS:  And what does she think? 

GRIFFIN:  She feels the same way we all do, that she should still be working there.  

ABRAMS:  So the bottom - I mean, she wasn‘t sort of indoctrinating the 17-year-old.  They were chatting about boys and life, et cetera, right?  She‘s not allowed to talk about boys.  

GRIFFIN:  Exactly.  It was just regular conversation going on that we have every day.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Scott Griffin, thanks a lot for coming back. 

Appreciate it.  

GRIFFIN:  Thank you.  

ABRAMS:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Remember, come back tomorrow.  We‘re going to have another installment of our new series “Bush League Justice,” tomorrow.  Now, the president is using signing statements to try to circumvent the law.  Stay tuned for the premiere of “LOCKUP, EXTENDED STAY.”  See you tomorrow.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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