updated 1/8/2010 11:21:45 AM ET 2010-01-08T16:21:45

Guests: Evan Kohlmann, David Corn, Jeremy Scahill, Jeff Sharlet, Kent Jones

           

RACHEL MADDOW, GUEST:  Good evening, Keith.  I can‘t tell you—I mean, it was flattering enough to be singled-out by the tea party nation as their liberal troll ichiban, numero uno.  It is also flattering to hear you and Richard speculate on my import to the tea party moment.  So, I have to say, this is a very big day for me.  Thank you.

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  You‘re a symbol.

           

MADDOW:  I am—I‘m a snare drum at least.  Thank you.  Appreciate it.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

A big show tonight.  Tonight, President Obama‘s response to the underpants bomber and then the Republicans‘ response to the president.

There is some big, strange new news about Uganda‘s “kill the gays” bill which we‘ve been covering for, I guess, months now.

And THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW for the first time ever will be dabbling in

3D TV.

This hour, we‘ve got a very big show ahead as I say.

But we begin with President Obama‘s much anticipated and ultimately much delayed speech today on the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day.  Mr. Obama was originally scheduled to speak today at 1:00 p.m.  Eastern Time.  Late this morning, that 1:00 p.m. start time was pushed back to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  At 3:00 p.m., when that rolled around, we were told instead to expect the speech an hour and a half later.

And then at 4:34 p.m., finally, President Obama entered the White House state dining room to address the nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It appears that this incident was not the fault of a single individual or organization, but rather a systemic failure across organizations and agencies.  I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer, for ultimately, the buck stops with me.  As president I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people.  And when the system fails, it is my responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Moments after the president was done speaking, his administration‘s official review of what went wrong was released.

Now, much of what‘s in this report we‘ve known for days.  The information was available.  We had it.

But the analysis wasn‘t done.  The dots weren‘t connected.  It was a broad failure of the counterterrorism system.  But the system, itself, is not fundamentally broken.

What the review points to is a series of human errors.  And while this detail is not included in the report specifically, NBC News has learned tonight of a startlingly small human error that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board that U.S.-bound plane on Christmas Day.  A senior State department official is telling NBC News tonight that a simple—very simple misspelling of Abdulmutallab‘s name was the reason no one realized he had a visa to enter the United States, which should have sent alarm bells ringing.

According to this official, one letter was dropped from Mr.  Abdulmutallab‘s name when an employee cross checked his name against a government data base.  This happened back on November 20th.

Had Mr. Abdulmutallab‘s name been entered correctly, officials apparently would have seen that he was classified as a possible terrorist, and then the fact that he also had a visa to enter the United States would have kicked him over into what they call a 3B classification.  A 3B classification would have kept him from boarding the plane.

One letter in his name.  The fact that the failures in this case have been narrowed down to that level of detail gives you some idea of how intense the security reviews have been over the last few days.

In his remarks today, President Obama also vowed to redouble U.S.  efforts to defeat al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans.  Because great and proud nations don‘t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust.  That is exactly what our adversaries want, and so long as I am president, we will never hand them that victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That is exactly what our adversaries want.  And from what we know of our adversaries, that is what they want.

But you want to know what else they want?  They want us to, and I quote, “bleed until bankruptcy.”

You might remember back in 2004, November 1st—November 1st, 2004, al Jazeera released the full transcript of a videotaped message from Osama bin Laden that they had played portions of a few days earlier.  This tape now came out just before, immediately before the 2004 elections in this country.  This is the tape that John Kerry says may have cost him that presidential election.

In that message, from 2004, Osama bin Laden stated very clearly what al Qaeda wanted to do.  He said, quote, “We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.  We, alongside the mujahideen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.”  Talking there, of course, about Afghanistan.

Now, granted this could be what disinformation, this could be what Osama bin Laden wanted us to think his goal was, but this strategic message is even with that caveat, worth considering.

He continued, quote, “All that we have to do is send two mujahideen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda in order to make generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations.”

Osama bin Laden in 2004 said his tactical goal was to distract the United States from pursuing our own interests and force us instead to spend ourselves into oblivion, in a futile effort to try to stop anyone from using terrorist tactics against the U.S.

And bin Laden said at that time that al Qaeda were pretty delighted with the way President Bush had chosen to fight them.  Quote, “It‘s been easy for us to provoke and bait this administration.  The darkness of black gold blurred Bush‘s vision and insight so the Iraq war went ahead, the death toll rose, the American economy bled, and Bush became embroiled in the swamps of Iraq that threatened his future.”  And that‘s Osama bin Laden speaking in 2004.

Part of asymmetric warfare, a small force is taking on a large force, is that the small force always wants to force the big guy to fight on the little guy‘s terms.  Forces large and small, of course, tend to win when they fight on their own terms.

Even in sports, right?  University of Alabama would very much like to have the ball as much as possible in Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram‘s hands.  Those would be the terms of the University of Alabama on the football field.  Anybody playing them, say, Texas, wants to fight on their own terms, which tonight at least include keeping Mark Ingram buried under a large pile of linemen at all times.

President Obama clearly wants to fight this asymmetric war against al Qaeda on American terms, not on al Qaeda‘s terms.  But when you listen to what their terms are, forcing American generals to race across the globe, bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy, distracting us from our own interests, and forcing us to address the provocation that they provide—are we still fighting on their terms like we did in the Bush administration that so delighted them, or are we fighting on our own terms now?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

OBAMA:  Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year.

Even before the Christmas attack, we increased investments in homeland security and aviation security.  This includes an additional $1 billion in new systems and technologies that we need to protect our airports.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW:  The president went on today to describe even further technological investments he wants the nation to look into making in terms of our transportation security.

In 2004, Osama bin Laden was delighted with how the fight against America was going, how much military and economic pain America is willing to inflict upon ourselves in response to their relatively cheap provocations.

Five and a half years later, is President Obama still following the al Qaeda plan of how to deal with terrorism?  Are we still fighting on their terms?  Or is there a way to respond on our own terms, in a way that‘s both effective and that prevents them from getting what they want?  And if there is that way to fight them, have we started to find it?

Joining us now is NBC News terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann.

Evan, it‘s good to have you on the show.  Thanks for being here.

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  Thank you very much.

MADDOW:  I know that in your research, you follow online al Qaeda and jihadist discussion forums very closely.  Is it their goal—now in 2010, is it their goal to get us to fight them on their terms?

KOHLMANN:  Yes, I think it‘s called al Qaeda‘s end game.  That‘s the problem, is we keep looking in the short term what they‘re trying to do to us right now, but we‘re not trying to understand how this fits into their larger philosophy.

Just a few days ago, one of the participants on al Qaeda‘s main discussion forum posted something online titled “The CIA Has Dug the Grave of the Americans in Yemen.”  And basically, what it was stating is that aside from the idea that the United States is now going to send troops to Yemen and become embroiled in a conflict there, the other idea is that with a guy who meant nothing to al Qaeda, Abdulmutallab, someone who really is very easily replaceable from their context, they have managed to cause the entire TSA system to go into chaos.  I mean, really chaos.  They have caused us to throw up our hands in a frantic bid to try to stop people from bringing bombs on airplanes, smuggled in their underwear.

And the idea is that we can‘t do that.  We cannot stop every single would-be terrorist from boarding an airplane.  It‘s not going to work like that.

It‘s exactly as President Obama stated.  It is a siege mentality that will not work.  If you want to spend money effectively, you have to look at al Qaeda‘s end game is.  And al Qaeda‘s end game is trying to get the United States entangled in conflicts that we cannot win and spending billions of dollars to secure ourselves against shadowy threats that we can‘t see.

And the reality is, is that one terrorist buried amongst millions of airline passengers is a needle in a haystack.  It is not something that we should expect to find with TSA regulations.  We could hope to find it, but we shouldn‘t expect to find it.

The way we should expect to find terrorists is by sinking money into doing proper intelligence work.  And obviously, not the kind of intelligence work that our agencies have been up to lately.

MADDOW:  Evan, it is—because al Qaeda has been so overt about what you say, its end game, it is easy to identify what it is they want us to do, what American strategic mistakes are in terms of responding to terrorism.  It‘s not easy to identify the exact right things to do.  And, obviously, increasing our intelligence capacity is something that every American wishes for.

But what are the concrete things that we could be doing differently that we‘re not doing?  And why aren‘t we taking steps that would increase our intelligence capacity?

KOHLMANN:  Well, first of all, going into Iraq was probably a bad idea.  However, as a result of the war in Iraq, we have learned a couple lessons about what works and what doesn‘t in terms of driving people away from al Qaeda.

One of the things that really helps is to highlight the fact that al Qaeda is killing Muslim civilians by the hundreds.  Far more Muslim civilians die at the hands of al Qaeda than Americans do.

But that fact seems to have escaped people.  I mean, that‘s not something our State Department is really impressing upon people.  The idea that al Qaeda‘s main enemy are moderate Muslims—you know, those are the people al Qaeda is really going after.

Frankly, we‘ve done a terrible job getting our message out.  We‘ve done a terrible job managing what the purpose of this conflict is.  And as a result, we are perceived in the Muslim world as “Crusaders,” as people who are coming in to occupy Muslim lands, and that‘s why you see young Muslims.

MADDOW:  You know.

KOHLMANN:  . (INAUDIBLE) young Muslims perhaps.  But still they‘re going out and they‘re joining these organizations, even independently.

MADDOW:  Evan, on—specifically on that issue, I was struck today that the president brought up that exact issue, talking about the fact that al Qaeda offers nothing to the Muslim world and that they have killed so many innocent Muslims.  He brought that up immediately adjacent to a point about how he is directing American security against the threat of lone terrorists, of—he said, to address the unique challenges posed by lone recruits.

What‘s the connection between those two things, the idea of al Qaeda in the Muslim world not being a friend or offering any realistic vision to Muslims and lone terrorist recruits being the threat to us now?

KOHLMANN:  The answer is that most people that are joining terrorist organizations today are not doing so because Osama bin Laden calls them on the telephone and says, “Come join us.”  That‘s not how it works.  These guys are very angry and they‘ve been mobilized by what they see on television and what they see in al Qaeda propaganda.

And despite the fact that they may be one person living in a community where nobody else supports these ideals, as a result of the Internet and social networking forums, these guys go online, they find other people who share these beliefs.  It becomes an echo chamber.  And after a while, you have a group of people that honestly believe that the United States, their primary—the primary goal of the United States, the U.S. military, is to kill Muslims, for no reason.

And we are really not very much to counter that message.

And if you want an answer as the proof to that, look at what happened at the CIA base in Khost in Afghanistan, where seven CIA employees lost their lives because of the fact that we trusted the wrong guy.  Someone who‘s going on the Internet and proclaiming, “I will never give up these beliefs.  I will never surrender these beliefs.  They are in my heart forever.”  He was saying this as of September of 2009.

How come the CIA didn‘t pick up on that?  How come they didn‘t realize what those words meant?  That‘s how you stop terrorism.

MADDOW:  NBC News terrorist analyst Evan Kohlmann—your insight on this is, I have to say, leagues ahead of what‘s going on across the mainstream media tonight, and multiple leagues ahead of the way most politicians are talking about these issues right now.  We‘re really grateful to have you on the show.

KOHLMANN:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thanks, Evan.

KOHLMANN:  Thanks, Rachel.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Right on cue, leading Republicans lined up to hammer President Obama after his address on terrorism today.  But it was a really old hammer seemed to be made out of sort of really chalky playdough.  They‘re working on keeping the country safe in other words from President Obama.

Later on the show, the world goes completely bonkers all at once.  Or is it just me?  You be the judge.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We are at war.  We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,00 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  He does not mean that just as a metaphor.  In the past several days, the part of that war that takes place in Pakistan has gone into overdrive.  In a typical week of this first year of the Obama administration, CIA drones might have hit targets in Pakistan‘s tribal region one time or two times.

But in the eight days since Jordanian double agent blew up himself and seven CIA officers and contractors at a CIA base in Khost, drones have reportedly struck Pakistan five times, five times in a week.  The latest attacks yesterday are said to have killed at least 17 militants.

U.S. counterterrorism officials advise that we shouldn‘t try to link the bombing of the CIA base and the increase in drone strikes necessarily.

That said, “The Washington Post” calls the five hits in a week, quote, “extraordinarily unusual,” and notes that they‘re occurring just across the border from where that CIA bombing took place in Khost.

There are some really newsworthy new developments on the bombing of that CIA base.  We‘ve got more ahead on that with “The Nation‘s” Jeremy Scahill who joins us next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Every one of us, every American, every elected official, can do our part.  Instead of giving in to cynicism and division, let‘s move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that defines us as a people.  For now is not a time for partisanship, it‘s a time for citizenship—a time to come together and work together, with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  It turns out not everyone is onboard with that.  Unless you think coming together in a nonpartisan way as citizens and showing seriousness of purpose about national security means blaming the problem of terrorism on health care reform.  Really?  An actual politician actually did that today, a United States senator, in fact.

Senator Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee put out this statement in response to the president today.  He said, quote, “I worry that the president‘s preoccupation with health care and other domestic issues has distracted him from what should be the fundamental role of our chief executive: keeping our nation and its citizenry safe from harm.”

In other words, hey, is there any way we can use this attempted terrorist attack as an excuse to try to stop health reform?  What, is it too soon?

Today, Republicans from John Cornyn, to Michael Steele, to Pete “The Human Sieve” Hoekstra, to John Boehner, to Michele Bachmann, to Mike Rogers, to even little Todd Tiahrt for crying out loud, all put out statements attacking President Obama on terrorism—within moments of the president‘s remarks.

As I said, John Cornyn‘s statement used terrorism to argue against health reform.

Michael Steele‘s statement said Obama needs to recognize that terrorism is a threat.  Because he doesn‘t?

Pete Hoekstra‘s statement said he wants more intel released about Fort Hood—this coming from the guy who was too busy campaigning for governor in Michigan to actually attend the congressional briefing on Fort Hood.

John Boehner‘s statement said the administration has reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality, as evidenced by the Obama administration trying the underpants bomber in civilian court.  Just like the Bush administration did after 9/11.

Michele Bachmann‘s statement said something I‘m sorry to say was incomprehensible about lawyering up.

Mike Rogers‘ statement said the Obama administration isn‘t committed to defeating terrorism.

And little Todd Tiahrt put out a statement saying Janet Napolitano should resign and it was God that stopped the underpants bomber.  No, really.  He said it was God who stopped the underpants bomber.

And I‘m quoting, “Were it not for an act of God, hundreds of lives would have been lost and our nation paralyzed.  The time has come for Secretary Napolitano to immediately resign.”

Did you notice there were no ellipses there?  That‘s just—that‘s the way it went, that statement.  That‘s really what he said.  Janet Napolitano should resign and God gets a medal.

You know, it‘s not like there were a ton of rational responses from the Republican Party that I ignored in order to come up with this little compilation.  This was pretty much the response from the opposition party today, to the president‘s announcement on terrorism.

This is what they‘ve got to offer.  God did it; Obama doesn‘t want to stop terrorism; “When Bush did what Obama is doing I was OK with it”; something inexplicable about lawyering up; and, “Can we stop health reform now?”  That‘s what they‘re offering on terrorism.

The president is back to pretty rhetorical flourishes about not being red states or blue states but being united in serious purpose to face the policy challenges of the United States.  I hope he is not holding his breath.

Joining us now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief of “Mother Jones” magazine, columnist for PoliticsDaily.com and my buddy.

David, it‘s good to see you here.  Thanks for coming in.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE:  Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  What would have happened if Democrats reacted to the “shoe bomber” back in 2001-2002 the way Republicans have reacted to the underpants bomber?

CORN:  I think it‘s fair to say that Dick Cheney would have arranged for secret trials and would have sent them all to Gitmo.

(LAUGHTER)

CORN:  I mean, I remember those days.  I mean, they didn‘t—the Democrats did not respond this way, the way that Republicans have responded for the last two weeks.

MADDOW:  Yes.

CORN:  I mean, no one doubted that George Bush was serious about terrorism.  Maybe they doubted his policies and they became obsessed with Iraq rather than al Qaeda, but, you know, yesterday, Liz Cheney put out a statement.  You remember Liz Cheney, sort of his—seems to be the medium, you know, channeling her father.  You know, I heard her say, it‘s time for the president to make defending the nation his top priority.

Now, how many weeks did President Obama spend on getting Afghanistan strategy organized?  We may not like what he decided, but it seemed to be a pretty much a top priority and in terms of those predator drone attacks hitting Pakistan, he‘s overseeing far more of those than Bush and Cheney did in their last year in office.

So, I mean, you know, they can keep making these rhetorical points because maybe they play on some old prejudices about Democrats being weak on national security, but they have no basis in fact.

MADDOW:  Well, and some of the not “basis in fact” is more pronounced than others.

CORN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Rudolph Giuliani, for example, went on CNN last night and said that the shoe bombing happened before 9/11.  And that explains the difference in approaches.  It‘s a total lie and a weird one.

CORN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Peter King, Jim DeMint and all these guys keep saying that President Obama won‘t use the word “terrorism”—which is also a total lie and a weird one.

CORN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  Is there a cost ultimately to that?  Or does everybody just lie all the time in politics and even the flagrant ones don‘t count for us?

CORN:  You know, people get away with these lies all the time.  I think the cost is to the—you know, to the national discourse overall.  I mean, these are serious issues and they‘re real issues, national security versus civil liberties.  There‘s actually a case to be made about trying people as enemy combatants as oppose to keeping them in civil criminal trials.

I understand these are tough arguments.  But we can‘t have them in a serious fashion and get to the best outcomes if you are throwing in weird lies like this.  It shows that they‘re not really serious.

If they want to engage, there‘s plenty to engage on.  You know, there are questions about, you know, what to do with Guantanamo and so on, that are very hard to wrestle with issues.  But they‘re not serious.

MADDOW:  I have—I have to tell you, David, I—without being snarky, I despair over this.  I despair over this because there are real fights to have over the response to terrorism.  You know, there are real fights to have over health reform.

But what did we do?  We followed the Republicans‘ lead and spent all that time talking about death panels—which is made up.

CORN:  Government takeover.  Yes.

MADDOW:  Yes.  And on climate change.  There are a lot of interesting ways to talk about the right way respond to that, but instead, it‘s climate-gate, it‘s all made up.  Following the Republican framing into nonsense land and we‘ve ended up talking about stuff that is not real instead of talking about policy.

I want to have policy fights.  I don‘t want to be fighting with people who refuse to acknowledge reality.

CORN:  Michael Steele put out a statement within half an hour of the president‘s speech today.  So, he did not even take an hour to think about what would be the reasonable Republican response.  It was obviously ready to go before-hand.

It shows—you know, listen, these are—these are essential questions for the United States.

MADDOW:  Yes.

CORN:  And, you know, whether it‘s Afghanistan or fighting al Qaeda and others, these are big things.  If you can‘t put an hour‘s worth of brain power into figuring out what you should do and maybe actually you could say once in a while, “Well, I kind of agree with what the president said or disagree with this or agree with that.”  But, you know, without making everything a partisan attack.  I know it‘s his job to be partisan, but if all we do is see things through that prism, we won‘t reach the answers that we need to for the big challenges.

MADDOW:  I am totally OK with partisan attacks.

CORN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I actually—I love partisanship.  I think partisanship helps.  What I don‘t like is when we don‘t agree on the facts at hand.

CORN:  Right.

MADDOW:  And the fact is, you know what?  The shoe bomber was after 9/11.  I‘m sorry.  You can put it on a calendar.  That‘s not a fight.

CORN:  You can‘t do anything about that.  You really—there is no response and what it does is it muddies up the waters and, unfortunately, there is an audience out there that will follow whether Rudy Giuliani and Michael Steele or Tiny Todd Tiahrt?

MADDOW:  Tiny Todd Tiahrt.  Yes.

CORN:  That‘s hard to say.  I admire you for that.

I mean, there are people out there, unfortunately, who follow this and who believe in death panels.  And I think, you know, there is a certain degree of exploitation here.  Because I do think that, you know, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Steele, people in leadership roles, should know better.

MADDOW:  Know better. And we should maybe embarrass them into knowing better in public.  I‘ll keep trying.

CORN:  That‘s your job.

MADDOW:  David, I‘m really happy to see you.  Thank you for coming in. 

Appreciate it.

CORN:  My pleasure.

MADDOW:  David Corn, of course, is the Washington bureau chief of the great “Mother Jones” magazine.

All right.  So some of the unexpected fallout from the CIA base being bombed is that Congress is apparently going to launch an investigation into what Blackwater was doing on that base when the bombing happened since the CIA said they had cut their ties with Blackwater.  This is a sleeper of a story that hasn‘t really broken through yet.  You can read it next week in the papers or you can see it here on this TV show next with Jeremy Scahill.

And later, the brave new world of three-dimensional television brought to you in two dimensions.  Set your mind blower to stun.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  We‘re going to find them and if they‘re hiding, we‘re going to smoke them out.  To smoke them out their caves, to get them running so we can get them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  They didn‘t get them.  More than eight years after 9/11, we got a graphic, shocking reminder that pursuing the top leadership of al-Qaeda is still on America‘s to-do list.  A suicide bomber who was a Jordanian double agent killed himself and seven CIA officers and contractors on a CIA base in Afghanistan on December 30th

That double agent was reportedly only at that base because he claimed to have information about how the United States could finally get Ayman al-Zawahari, al-Qaeda‘s number two, the guy you see in all the tapes, the star of the al-Qaeda AV club. 

We learned last week that among the seven people described as CIA personnel who were killed in that bombing were two contractors employed by Blackwater.  NBC News has reported that those Blackwater contractors were not acting as security guards when they were killed. 

Now, that bit of reporting is raising some eyebrows.  Because last month, a CIA spokesman told reporters, quote, “At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role.” 

If just two weeks later, two Blackwater guys were killed at a CIA base while not acting in a security or support role, it would seem that that CIA statement about what Blackwater is doing for the CIA now was not true. 

Now Jeremy Scahill of “The Nation” is reporting that the chair of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, is launching an investigation into just what the Blackwater employees were doing at that base that day and what else we and Congress don‘t know about what Blackwater is still being paid by the U.S. government to do. 

Joining us now is Jeremy Scahill.  He‘s the author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.”  Jeremy, thanks very much for being here. 

JEREMY SCAHILL, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, “THE NATION”:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  When word first came in of the attack on that CIA base in Khost on December 30th, at 6:44 p.m. that day, you tweeted, “Re: Attack on CIA base in Afghanistan.  Mark my words.  Contractors were killed.”  How did you know? 

SCAHILL:  I heard it from sources that from within the military and intelligence community that told me that there were Blackwater contractors among the dead that day.  They were still confirming that it was Blackwater and not another company. 

So when I tweeted it, that‘s why I didn‘t specify from what company.  But I did know at that point at least U.S. intelligence was of the understanding that Blackwater guys were there that day. 

MADDOW:  What are these contractors doing?  And why are contractors involved in work like this despite CIA assertions to the contrary? 

SCAHILL:  I just got off the phone before we went on the air with Rep.  Jan Schakowsky and she has already started her investigation.  It sounds like she‘s making some headway though she can‘t really talk about the headway she is making because it‘s classified and she is on the Intelligence Committee.  But She is going after this issue right now. 

            Look, let‘s remember that this wasn‘t just some CIA outpost in

Canada or something.  We‘re talking about a CIA outpost that was

responsible for hunting the highest of the high value targets.  And to have

two Blackwater personnel there and I can also report tonight that I

understand there was a third Blackwater operative that was there who was

injured in the blast. 

To have three Blackwater operatives there when this golden goose, as he was portrayed, of an asset came in there, shows just how close Blackwater remains to the epicenter of some of the most sensitive intelligence operations. 

Now, Rep. Schakowsky raises the issue, even if they were just providing security there, don‘t we have other people besides Blackwater, besides Eric Prince‘s men?  We have the most powerful military in the world. 

Why do we need to rely on these people with indictments coming down, arrests for murder happening today for killing civilians in Afghanistan?  Why do they keep using these guys even if it‘s just security? 

But the fact that they were killed there shows just how close Blackwater remains to the epicenter of sensitive operations.  

MADDOW:  For all of the problems about Blackwater doing such intrinsic governmental functions and also acting lawlessly, all of the things you‘ve documented in your book and your reporting over the years and that we‘ve reported, doesn‘t it seem like things got qualitatively worse for Blackwater once their founder Eric Prince went on the record in a magazine and said, “Hey, I‘m CIA asset and here are a bunch of black ops I‘ve been involved in?” 

Didn‘t that sort of indict the whole company in terms of its ability to be involved in super secret activities? 

SCAHILL:  Right.  And let‘s remember, Eric Prince claims that after 9/11, he set up a secret training camp at his house in Virginia where he trained these hit squads that went in dark into countries, meaning they didn‘t even notify the CIA station chief in those countries. 

One of the operations that Prince‘s men are believed to have participated in was an assassination plot against a German citizen in Hamburg, Germany and that they went in there dark and were hunting this guy down.  And apparently, actual government officials called off the pulling of the trigger on that. 

The German government - German prosecutors now have launched an investigation into that.  So not only is Eric Prince causing problems for his company but he‘s also now creating a situation where the U.S.  government is going to have to answer to the German government what the heck Blackwater was doing running a round Hamburg, Germany trying to bump off, one of their citizens, no less.  

MADDOW:  Jeremy Scahill of “The Nation,” author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” I‘m glad to hear you‘re still in contact with Congresswoman Schakowsky on this.  We‘ll try to get her on the show as soon as she feels like she is able to talk about this investigation.  

SCAHILL:  I think that Eric Prince should take Brit Hume‘s advice and seek Christianity in this moment of crisis. 

MADDOW:  I couldn‘t possibly comment. 

SCAHILL:  He‘s a Christian crusader already.  That‘s fine.  He‘s got it covered.  

MADDOW:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.  OK, for all you astrologers out there, the planet Mercury has been in retrograde since December 26th.  And if you believe that sort of thing, it‘s important you may thereby have insight into why everything seems to be going bonkers right now. 

When, we went to put together Ms. Info for tonight‘s show, I swear there were so many weird stories one right after the other that I started to become a believer.  Turns out, I am an Aries. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Still ahead, if you think HD TV is neat, Kent Jones will be along with something even cooler, he claims.  Stay tuned to hold Kent accountable. 

But first, a few holy mackerel stories in today‘s news.  And by holy mackerel, I mean, what is going on?  Perhaps people are always doing inexplicable, insane things in public that sort of make it into the news and we‘re only now just paying attention.  Or this whole Mercury and retrograde thing is for real. 

Consider the evidence.  Last night, a guy on a flight from Miami intended for Detroit was physically removed from the plane before takeoff because he threatened to, quote, “kill all the Jews.” 

The man was charged with threats against a public servant, disorderly conduct and resisting an officer.  He was also Tasered twice.  Authorities say he never posed any actual security threat.  The FBI say they are leaving the case to local law enforcement.  Weird enough, right? 

Well, then, there was the Portland, Oregon to Hawaii flight which had to be escorted back to Portland by two F-15 fighter jets from the north American Aerospace Defense Command.  The reason that happened is because a passenger allegedly, quote, “handed a flight attendant a disturbing note and refused to let go of his carry-on bag.” 

He has since been released from custody and there is no known terrorism link in that case either.  Then, there‘s the announcement that on January 3rd a TSA agent at LAX was arrested because, once off duty, he was acting strangely and kept saying, “I am god.  I‘m in charge.”  The police apparently disagreed. 

But wait.  That‘s not all.  There‘s more.  Over the last couple of days there have also been world-gone-mad incidents involving the protection of the Obama administration.  On Saturday, a man posing as a Secret Service agent was able to get past security at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

He was not stopped until he reached the offices of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The man was known to agency officials.  In fact, there were photographs of him at the department along with the explicit instruction to, “See this guy?  Don‘t let him in.” 

Because last year, he had made calls to HHS demanding to speak to the secretary or someone in charge.  The man was arrested on Tuesday.  He is being charged with impersonating a Secret Service agent. 

But at least he had al his clothes on when he was arrested, unlike a man arrested by Secret Service agents yesterday, a naked man jogging in January near the White House, promptly arrested. 

A spokesman for the Secret Service said, quote, “He wasn‘t yelling or protesting, just going for a jog.  He was apprehended, naked though he was.”  “Naked though he was” was actually in the quote from the Secret Service. 

And finally, the maddest of today‘s mad, mad, mad mad, mad stories was apparently scripted by the great Nora Ephron.  Do you remember how all of Newark airport was recently locked down Sunday due to a security breach? 

A man snuck past security, causing the whole place to screech to a halt for six hours.  Flights canceled and delayed and just generally mucked up.  Well, it turns out that the man who blew past security seemingly unaware that his actions could shut down the entire airport and terrify thousands and cost millions? 

He was just trying to get a goodbye kiss, really.  Not joking. 

Take a look.  This is the airport, the airport security tape from Newark.  Here he is, walking right past security all in the name of getting one last smooch. 

Yes.  Never in my wildest news dreams did I think I would be reporting on national security while retelling the basic plot line from “Love, Actually.”  Mercury retrograde.  I believe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Are your ready for television in 3D?  We‘re going to do the end of this show in 3D, in 2D, in a minute, I swear. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  OK.  So big news.  The kill-the-gays bill in Uganda might now just be the imprison-the-gays-for-life bill.  Today, the president of Uganda, a member of the secretive religious group known as The Family that‘s famous for operating the C Street house in Washington, announced he is not in favor of the execution part of what‘s become known as his country‘s kill-the-gays bill. 

Of course, the bill also calls for life imprisonment for gay people and he is not denouncing that part of it.  The president‘s ethics minister is also reportedly a member of The Family, though a man named Bob Hunter from The Family earlier this week all but denied that on our show. 

The Ugandan ethics minister says he is OK with taking it out of the kill-the-gays bill because after all they can just cure the gays instead, telling the AP today quote, “The death penalty is likely to be removed.  The president doesn‘t believe in killing gays.  I also don‘t believe in it.  I think gays can be counseled and they stop the bad habit.” 

The idea that gay people can be cured is a relatively recent import to Uganda.  A conference on the subject was convened by the people who helped write the bill last spring.  That conference featured anti-gay quacktivists from the United States who testified people could be cured of the gay.

They also testified about how evil the gays are.  Jim Burroway at the “Box Turtle Bulletin Online” posted video week gathered by his organization and the ex-gay watch. 

They posted this video of one of these American activists, a man named Scott Lively, speaking in Uganda at that conference earlier this year so we can learn all the kinds of things anti-gay American activists have been preaching abroad. 

The man you‘re about to see admits to having met with legislators in Uganda to discuss what became the kill the - imprison-the-gays-for-life bill. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)  

SCOTT LIVELY, AMERICAN ANTI-GAY ACTIVIST:  These are men with very little restraint.  They have very little sense of mercy.  No nurturing aspect to them.  These are men - well, these were the Nazis.  These are men who don‘t have anything (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 

They are so far from normalcy that they‘re killers - serial killers, mass murderers.  They‘re sociopaths, right?  There‘s no mercy at all.  There‘s no nurturing.  There‘s no caring about anybody else.  This is the kind of person that it takes to run a gas chamber, right?  Or to do a mass murder, like - the Rwandan stuff probably involve these guys. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Blaming gays for the Rwandan genocide.  Not long after that American activist told Ugandan leaders that about gay people and not long after he told them all that, the erstwhile kill-the-gays-bill was born.  That man is named Scott Lively.  He‘s not associated with the family. 

But the reason anti-gay activists and evangelicals like Scott Lively have such huge access to power in Uganda is in part because of the deep involvement there by The Family which has, for years, cultivated ties between American religious conservatives and Ugandan politicians. 

Joining us now is Jeff Sharlet, contributing editor to “Harper‘s Magazine” and author of the book “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.”  Jeff, thank you so much for coming on the show again. 

JEFF SHARLET, AUTHOR, “THE FAMILY”:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  You‘ve learn something new about Sen. Jim Inhofe, about his trip to Uganda in 2004.  Could you tell us what that is?  

SHARLET:  Well, Sen. Inhofe described his travels to Uganda, his adoption of the nation as a kind of informal process that took place through The Family.  Just this week, I obtained a budget for The Family‘s work in Africa identifying Jim Inhofe as the designated point man selected to work with 11 African leaders, most of them presidents, including the president of Uganda, Museveni, president of Rwanda, Kagame and to work with them to help set their nations on a sort of a Jesus footing on every level from economy to morals and everything. 

There‘s a budget.  There‘s money.  There‘s support staff.  It‘s a very formal effort that he‘s undertaking. 

MADDOW:  He‘s traveling there as a United States senator but with all of this monetary and other support from The Family. 

SHARLET:  Exactly.  And the interesting thing about Sen. Inhofe is that he - and within the Evangelical circles, conservative Evangelical circles, even boasted of this, you know, as we discussed before on the show, saying, “I used my status as a U.S. senator to open doors over there.” 

As one Family man, Bob Hunter, who was on the show the other day

he explained to me that those senators who are traveling with The Family

I had made the mistake of saying Mr. Hunter travels at the behest of the U.S. government. 

He corrected me.  He says, “No, senators travel at the behest of me.  I use them as bait.  I use them as tools to reach those in power and then we can go about trying to get them on this Jesus footing.” 

MADDOW:  So it‘s not that The Family is at the beck and call the U.S.  government but the U.S. government is at the beck and call of The Family?  Absolutely, right? 

SHARLET:  I stand corrected. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Wow.  Let me clarify something that Bob Hunter brought up.  I asked him about the ethics minister in Uganda, Buturo, and he‘s quoted as saying, you know, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights,” and a lot of the most abhorrent quotes around this kill-the-gays bill. 

When I asked Hunter about him, he said there‘s lots of people who have some sort of affiliation with The Family.  But he essentially denied he had any idea who Buturo was or he was a member of The Family.  What can you tell me about that? 

SHARLET:  Well, he said literally, quote, “I don‘t know the guy,” which puzzled me, because Mr. Hunter several times made reference to a transcript of a conversation we had.  We both have the transcript in which we discussed Buturo.  He explained to me that Buturo had inherited his position in The Family. 

The position of ethics minister was created for The Family.  The cabinet level position in the Ugandan government was created for The Family, his predecessor.  He tried to distance himself and say, “Well, we didn‘t choose Buturo.  He kind of inherited that position.” 

But of course, there he is.  And he‘s in fact traveled overseas representing Uganda at Family events elsewhere around the world. 

MADDOW:  I also - Jeff, as long as you‘re here - I know you‘re going to write something up that we‘re going to post to our Web site to clarify and refute some of the specific claims made against you by Bob Hunter. 

But let me just ask you briefly.  He said that you admitted to him that you have - you have done inaccurate reporting about the family, that you denounce your own reporting in your own book to him.  Let me ask you to respond.  

SHARLET:  I‘m just puzzled because we had a conversation.  We both taped it.  We both have the tape.  We both have the transcript.  I didn‘t denounce my book.  I didn‘t denounce my reporting.  You know, it was just a complete reversal, a topsy-turvy characterization of our conversation and of the political role of the family. 

MADDOW:  OK.  Well, I look forward to you posting that on the Web site.  We will announce on the air when you‘ve done that.  And I feel like I‘m in the middle of this big fight right now, but it‘s fascinating.  So thank you for letting me be here.  Appreciate it. 

SHARLET:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Jeff Sharlet, of course, is a contributing editor to “Harper‘s Magazine.”  He‘s author of “The Family,” which you should read if you have not done so already. 

All right.  Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith on the refreshing nature of a president who takes responsibility. 

Next, on this show, we‘ll take you into another dimension.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  So the big consumer electronics show, the one where all the profit-driven techies show off new George Jetson gear is in full swing right now in Las Vegas after an embarrassing 20 minutes right before last night‘s keynote speech when the power went out. 

But now it‘s in full swing.  And the big story this year is three-dimensional TV - 3D TV.  Both ESPN and Discovery have announced plans for three-dimensional TV programs.  But as these pictures illustrate, the problem with showing you how awesome 3d TV is that we‘re 2D TV.  We‘re a whole dimension short. 

And the whole shooting it through 3D glasses thing, as you can tell, just doesn‘t capture the experience.  So if TV is turning to 3D, what would that mean for this show? 

(MUSIC)

Thanks for tuning in.  We‘ve got a big show tonight - “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” now in 3D.  What do you think, guys? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whoa!  Oh! 

MADDOW:  Now, here‘s our extra dimensional correspondent, Kent Jones. 

Kent? 

KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Thanks, Rachel.  I think this really opens up the show.  What do you think?  I like it. 

MADDOW:  I think people really want this on a news program.  I really think this is what‘s going to work for us.  You know, CNN holograms, take this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dude.  

MADDOW:  This has been a very two-dimensional show.  Thank you, Kent.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now, if I have just been fired.

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

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