'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 4, 2010
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Guest: Richard Engel, Chris Hayes, Edward Overton
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: And now, from New Orleans, with
the news that the spill of the oil maybe thicker than first thought—
ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you very much for
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
I am in New Orleans tonight, on the banks of the Mississippi River,
which flows from here to the Gulf where the story remains the oil spill
gushing uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico. There is a ton of reporting
to do about that tonight, including a firsthand, up close examination of
the oil pouring into the ocean and threatening the coast. We will get to
the ongoing Deepwater Horizon disaster in just a moment.
But we begin tonight with news from New York, the arrest and impending
arraignment of the alleged Times Square bomber.
At around 4:00 Eastern this afternoon, the U.S. Attorneys Office in
New York City released the charges being brought against Faisal Shahzad, a
30-year-old American citizen living in Connecticut. Shahzad will be booked
on five counts, including attempting to detonate a weapon of mass
destruction. The WMD in question being the Rogue Goldberg-esque failed
explosive device he allegedly left smoking in a green SUV parked in Times
Square on Saturday night.
Shahzad‘s booking in federal court will follow last night‘s dramatic
late night arrest as Mr. Shahzad apparently attempted to leave the country.
As Law enforcement officials were trying to track him down yesterday, Mr.
Shahzad purchased a last-minute ticket for Emirates Flight 202 from JFK
Airport in New York to Dubai.
Mr. Shahzad arrived at JFK, he parked, he got his boarding pass, he
passed security screening, he boarded the flight. The door was closed.
The plane received initial clearance for takeoff.
When, at the last minute, U.S. officials stopped the plane. They
reopened the cabin door. They themselves boarded the flight and they took
Mr. Shahzad off that plane with them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: By my calculation, from the time Faisal
Shahzad drove into and across Broadway and parked that vehicle to when he
was apprehended last evening at the JFK Airport, it was 53 hours and 20
minutes. Now, we know that Jack Bauer can do it in 24 minutes. But in the
real world, 53 is a pretty good number.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Self-congratulations aside, shortly after police arrested Mr.
Shahzad last night, he did reportedly admit to driving the jerry-rigged
dysfunctional car bomb into Times Square.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is clear that this was a
terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in
our country. We believe that this suspected terrorist fashioned a bomb
from rudimentary ingredients, placed it in a rusty SUV and drove it into
Times Square with the intent to kill as many innocent tourists and
theatergoers as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If Mr. Shahzad hadn‘t readily admitted to that, investigators
were prepared to present a trove of physical evidence linking him to the
crime scene. For example, a key ring left in the ignition of that SUV
which also contained a key to Mr. Shahzad‘s house in Connecticut and to—
as well as to another car that he owned. Whatever the level of Mr.
Shahzad‘s intentions or affiliations, his terrorist trade craft seems to
have been strictly low grade.
That said, with his would-be bomb neutralized and towed away and with
Mr. Shahzad himself in custody and reportedly talking to his interrogators,
the livest wire of this investigation remains his links—his links to
broader terrorist organizations and causes. Within hours of the failed
bombing attempt in Times Square on Saturday night, Tehreek-i-Taliban
Pakistan was already claiming credit for the attack. They posted this
audiotape on YouTube hailing the, quote, “recent attack in the USA.” This
attack, they claimed, was meant to avenge the killing of al Qaeda‘s two top
leaders in Iraq last month as well as the recent predator drone strikes on
Pakistan by U.S. forces.
The Pakistani Taliban‘s claim of responsibility was widely dismissed
when it first came out. But now, it has taken on a whole new significance.
The charge sheet today says that, quote, “After the arrest, Shahzad
admitted that he had recently received bomb-making training in Waziristan,
Faisal Shahzad‘s connections to Pakistan are fairly extensive.
Although he is a U.S. citizen, Mr. Shahzad was born in a village outside
Peshawar, Pakistan. A village called Pabbi.
After becoming a U.S. citizen, last year, Mr. Shahzad traveled to
Karachi and Peshawar for more than a month. In February of this year, Mr.
Shahzad returned to the United States from a five-month trip to Pakistan.
And court documents now say that Mr. Shahzad received four telephone
calls from a Pakistani phone number on the day he purchased the SUV that
was ultimately left filled with explosives in Times Square. Now, none of
those instances of travel to Pakistan or phone calls to or from Pakistan,
of course, are themselves evidence of any kind of wrongdoing, but arrests
in this case are reportedly being made in Pakistan and the race is on now
to try to find and trace any real connections that may exist between Faisal
Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban.
If he did receive bomb-making training in Pakistan or anywhere else,
it appears that training was, thankfully, tremendously inadequate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PISTOLE, FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: It does not appear, from our
opinion, to be the most sophisticated device. There are a number of
opportunities for the device to fail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Justice Department released a diagram today—this
diagram—of the contents of Mr. Shahzad‘s SUV: Several white bags of
fertilizer contained in the gun locker, two five-gallon gasoline canisters,
152 commercially available M-88 fireworks, three propane gas canisters and
two alarm clocks connected to wires. Apparently, it was the fireworks that
were supposed to serve as a detonating device in this case.
The problem is the propane tanks that were serving as the bomb‘s
supposed main charge, these propane tanks are designed to be fire
One U.S. official is telling “Newsweek” magazine that from what is
known of the bomb‘s construction, thus far, it may have been assembled
based on a cursory reading of newspaper stores about past bombings.
Now, again, it is unclear whether this attempted bombing was directed
by the Pakistani Taliban or by any other terrorist group. But if it was,
between the amateurish design of the bomb and the fact that the alleged
bomber left the keys to his house in the ignition, this incident will be
taken as a warning of this terrorist group‘s aspirations not of their
ability to execute.
Joining us now live from Islamabad, Pakistan, is NBC‘s chief foreign
correspondent, Richard Engel.
Richard, thank you for getting up so early today to talk to us.
Appreciate your time.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It‘s my
And I‘ve spoken to people who said that although this was very, very
amateurish, that it should be considered a warning sign. And there are
links definitely back to this country, back in Pakistan. And over the last
24 hours or so, Pakistani officials say they have arrested a dozen suspects
in connection to this case.
MADDOW: Richard, what can you tell us about Mr. Shahzad‘s background?
What you‘ve been able to find about his links in Pakistan and anything else
we can find out about where he‘s come from and what his influences may have
ENGEL: Yes. If you look at the chronology of his life, for at least
of the last several years of his life, it paints a very interesting
picture. Faisal Shahzad was from a privileged background.
His father was a very senior commander in the Pakistani air force. He
actually established the Pakistani version of the Blue Angels, you know,
that acrobatic flight group. He was at one stage head of the Civil
Aviation Authority here.
So, he came from a very prominent military family. Then Faisal, the
son, travels to the United States, graduates with a B.A. in computer
science from Bridgeport, in Connecticut—Bridgeport University in
Connecticut in 2000, buys a house in Connecticut in 2004, somewhat living
the American dream. He gets a mortgage for about $214,000. It‘s a three-
bedroom house with a pool in the back.
So, he‘s doing quite well, gets his MBA in—also in Bridgeport,
information technology in 2005, has the first of his two children in 2006.
Things start to fall apart, however, for him later in his life. 2008,
he starts to have trouble making payments on the mortgage. By 2009, he‘s
already in foreclosure. He‘s becoming more and more estranged from his
wife. At one stage, the wife leaves, why she leaves is exactly unclear.
Then, in 2009, when he‘s losing his house, he‘s having trouble with
his marriage, he quits his job. He‘s working at this stage as a junior
financial analyst and he comes here to Pakistan. He arrives in June of
2009 and he leaves in February 2010. And it‘s this window, these eight
months that law enforcement officials are focusing on right now.
What was he doing in Pakistan while he was here? Faisal Shahzad has
admitted that he did receive some training in making bombs and that
training took place in Waziristan. How much training however and who was
organizing it is still a matter of investigation.
MADDOW: Richard, in terms of us trying to piece together the clues
about how connected he may have been to militant groups, as you mentioned,
he has described—he has said that he received bomb-making training in
Waziristan. An intelligence official in Pakistan has told “Reuters” today
that he may have received military training in a town called Kohat. We‘re
also hearing reports that he may have links to a military group called
Do any of those things sound important to you in terms of
understanding what we are dealing with here and how connected he was?
ENGEL: He was from a very prominent family as I just discussed. And
he was from an area where there was a lot of militant groups operating. He
has—his family has a home in Peshawar. And during his visit, he came to
his visit here to Pakistan, he went to Karachi, which also has a lot of
militant activity, went to Peshawar and then went down to Waziristan. The
reason there have been suspected links to Jaish-e-Muhammad, which is one of
the many Kashmiri groups, is, one, he‘s an ethnic Kashmiri; and, two, the
person who is now under arrest that he met up with in Karachi was arrested
at a mosque that has links to Jaish-e-Muhammad.
So, the question is: did he have links—did he have associations
with people who are involved in militant groups? It seems that he
certainly did. Did they actively recruit him or did he come on his own?
Now, if this was a person living in the States who had quite a good
life, a successful life and then was disaffected and decided to quit his
job and come back here, it is very possible that he came back on his own
and then started to seek out some of these groups, use his family
connections, use the fact that he had a U.S. citizenship, a U.S. passport,
to receive kind of a military training or bomb-making training. Certainly,
he didn‘t receive the top bomb-making training because of the amateurish
nature of his attack.
One law enforcement official said or a former law enforcement official
said, if he received bomb-making training, the person who gave that to him
should be given an “F.”
MADDOW: NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, live
from Islamabad in Pakistan after a very long night of reporting and travel
Richard, as always, thank you very much for your time tonight. I really
MADDOW: OK. So, there is this thing that happens when you get
arrested in America. No matter who you are, you get read your Miranda
rights. Not just in cop shows but in real life, too. Everybody freak out!
And today, I spoke with an analytical chemist who‘s advising the Coast
Guard on just what it is in that oil gusher that is spreading across the
Gulf of Mexico. That is ahead as well.
We are live from New Orleans. Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: So, it‘s a little hard to keep track of the domestic politics
here in the U.S. about how we treat terrorism suspects. See, the shoe
bomber guy, he was Jamaican and British. No uproar on the right over him
being read his Miranda rights.
The underpants bomber on the other hand was Nigerian. Huge uproar on
the right over him being read his rights.
Najibullah Zazi, the very serious “bomb the subway” suspect, U.S.
permanent resident of Afghan origin. No uproar on the right over him being
read his rights.
Now, Faisal Shahzad, American citizen of Pakistani origin in the Times
Square bombing. In his case, huge uproar on the right over him being read
Don‘t get me starting on the Hutaree militia and the people arrested
for planning to assassinate the president.
The selective random outrage over terrorism suspects‘ rights may be
totally incoherent, but that doesn‘t mean it isn‘t heartfelt. That
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: He has been and continues to be
questioned by federal agents. As a result of those communications, Shahzad
has provided useful information to authorities.
JOHN PISTOLE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE FBI: Joint Terrorist Task Force
agents and officers from NYPD interviewed Mr. Shahzad last night and early
this morning under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule. He
was, as the attorney general noted, cooperative and provided valuable
intelligence and evidence. He was eventually transported to another
location, Mirandized, and continued talking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Faisal Shahzad was arrested and questioned immediately and he
talked. He was Mirandized and he talked. And he talked and he talked and
talked and talked—reportedly confessing to receiving bomb-making
training in Waziristan in Pakistan, and also to trying to blow up an SUV in
Times Square on Saturday and to having a gun in his car. Information that
can now be used in a court of law to try to convict Mr. Shahzad on
What‘s wrong with this picture? It‘s too legal.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: Don‘t give this guy his Miranda rights
until we find out what it‘s all about.
DON IMUS, RADIO HOST: I wonder if they‘ve already given him his
MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, that would be a serious mistake
until we—at least until we find out as much information we have and
there are ways, legal ways of delaying that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: What exactly makes reading someone their Miranda rights such
a mistake? What‘s the disadvantage to American counterterrorism and law
enforcement officials using legal American tactics to arrest and question a
terrorism suspect? No one can quite put their finger on what the exact
problem is. It apparently just doesn‘t feel right.
That was made quite clear today when Congressman Peter King of New
York heard about the arrest and, as his habit, sprinted toward the nearest
reporter. He blurted out this little gem of inchoate, pure
unconstitutional feeling. Quote, “I hope that Attorney General Eric Holder
did discuss this with the intelligence community. If they believe they got
enough from him, how much more should they get? Did they Mirandize him? I
know he‘s an American citizen, but still.”
He actually said that that‘s in the quote, “but still.” I know
there‘s a whole Constitution, we‘re America thing, but still, I just hate
Senator Joe Lieberman took that free-floating strategically
incoherent, anti-Constitution feeling even further today, announcing plans
to amend American law to strip you of your citizenship, not if you are
convicted of anything, not if you‘re even suspected of anything, but purely
on the basis of the government deciding you have bad affiliations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: There is an existing law which
hasn‘t been much used. It says that if an American citizen is shown to be
fighting in a military force that is an enemy of the United States, then
that person is—loses their citizenship and they no longer have the
rights of citizenship. That‘s an old law that was adopted during a very
different time of conflict.
I think it‘s time for us to look at whether we want to amend that law
to apply it to American citizens who choose to become affiliated with
foreign terrorist organizations, whether they should not also be deprived
automatically of their citizenship and, therefore, be deprived of rights
that come with that citizenship when they are apprehended and charged with
a terrorist act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Automatically deprived.
It should be noted that Senator Lieberman is a little unclear on his
facts here. If you are arrested in the United States of America, the
reason you get due process rights, the reason, for example, you get read
your Miranda rights is not because you are a citizen—even foreigners
arrested here get due process and get read their rights—the reason you
get due process if you are arrested in America is because this is America.
We called Senator Lieberman‘s office today for clarification on his
call to strip Americans of their citizenship without trial and without due
process—as usual, no one in his office would call us back, which makes
me worry that maybe he has decided to declare me not American anymore and
he didn‘t want to make an international call.
Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”
Hi, Mr. Hayes. Nice to have you on the show.
CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION: Ms. Maddow, how are you?
MADDOW: I am—I‘m good. I‘m on the banks of the Mississippi, and
so far, only half the bugs in town know I‘m here. So, I think I‘m ahead of
HAYES: Yes. It‘s nice to have somewhat some co-hosts.
MADDOW: Yes. That‘s exactly right. (INAUDIBLE) me here.
Faisal Shahzad apparently is talking quite readily to his questioners
right now. And he was given his Miranda rights. Yet we are having a lot
of outrage on the right he has been Mirandized. Do you understand the
anti-Miranda argument? Is there some substance to it?
HAYES: No. I mean, there‘s two—there‘s two strains of it. One is
essentially just bad faith attempts to continue to use this terrorism
cudgel on the president, to try to move the debate as far right as
possible, to try to wound the president, to try to create this narrative
“weak on terrorism.” So, there‘s just this kind of bad faith, kneejerk way
of attacking the president.
Then there‘s people that are prosecuting a very old ideological grudge
against Miranda. I mean, when Miranda was handed down in 1966 by the
court, conservatives hated it then. And they‘ve hated it for decades.
They don‘t like it. They probably don‘t want you or I or citizens to have
Miranda, a lot of them.
So, there is this old ideological vendetta that‘s being prosecuted
against Miranda that is at the core of some of this.
MADDOW: I wonder also if this—we are—we are at a point with
this where there is a—I guess, maybe a fork in the road between sort of
paleo-conservatives on an issue like this, law and order paleo-
conservatives and libertarian conservatives.
MADDOW: In that we are seeing people like, most—I think most
notably today, Glenn Beck --
MADDOW: -- a host on FOX News Channel, saying actually it‘s important
that these suspects are read their Miranda rights. We can‘t shred the
Constitution just when it‘s not—just because it‘s inconvenient. To see
a split between somebody like John McCain and somebody that‘s sort of the
new right, the new libertarian right in the form of Glenn Beck, does that
split map with that old grudge against Miranda rights in the conservative
HAYES: Yes, I think—I think so. I mean, there‘s—this is a sort
of interestingly knotted ideological space. But I do think that one of the
things you‘ve seen is the influence of this kind of libertarian streak,
particularly the campaign of Ron Paul and Ron Paul‘s views, has sort of
suffused the tea party movement and the right, but only the parts of the
arguments that have do with the state‘s use of economic power, a wielding
of economic power. And all the critiques he makes of American imperialism
abroad and also the national security states wielding a power here at home
had been jettisoned because the neo-conservatives control the kind of
foreign policy apparatus.
The question is whether that can be pried apart. And I do think there
have been increasing concerns, and just in conservatives that I follow and
read about encroachments of the state in these kind of civil liberties
situations. And I do there‘s at least a potential for a fissure there. I
don‘t think it‘s fully developed yet.
MADDOW: Chris, this new legislation that Senator Lieberman is
proposing to strip citizenship from Americans on the basis of affiliations
with bad people—is this the sort of thing that Joe Lieberman might sort
of like run with relish, not because he wants to pass it, but because he
really enjoys making liberals mad?
HAYES: Oh, God. Well, if he does, it speaks truly, poorly of his
character. I mean, I hope Joe Lieberman wakes up tomorrow and regrets
saying what he did, because what he‘s proposing is a really odious piece of
I mean, first of all, let‘s just say that the adjective affiliated in
that sentence is doing a tremendous amount of work. That is a very, very
loose criterion to establish for, quote, “stripping someone of their
And second of all, as you noted, citizenship doesn‘t come to play in
Mirandizing. I mean, this argument, the zombie argument, that Miranda only
applies to citizens refuses to die. And now, we‘re seeing that they didn‘t
even take that seriously to begin with because now that that comes up here,
they want to get rid of the citizenship.
MADDOW: Washington editor of “The Nation,” Chris Hayes—identifying
today‘s zombie argument that won‘t die, for which we are very grateful—
thanks, Chris. Appreciate your time.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, there are still thousands of barrels of oil spewing into
the Gulf of Mexico from the Deep Horizons well tonight. One critical
question is: what kind of oil is doing the spewing? Of course, it‘s all
bad when you‘re talking about a spill. But some of it is less bad and some
of it is more bad.
I visited the man in charge of figuring out what exactly is polluting
the Gulf and threatening the shore. Together, he and I looked that actual
oil from the spill. It was a pretty amazing thing to see and an awesome
illustration of applied geekiness in an actual chem lab.
We‘re live in New Orleans. That story and that story—ahead.
Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: This is our second day here in Louisiana covering the
ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf. Today, we drove to Baton Rouge. We‘re
here at LSU, of one of the analytical labs that the school of the Coast and
the Environment, because Dr. Edward Overton, who is an emeritus professor
of Environmental Sciences here at LSU has a ton of experience in advising
on oil spills and on the response to oil spills.
And he is one of the people who has been sent samples of what has
actually spilled in the gulf to assess what that is. Oil is not just oil
is not just oil. It matters what exact type of oil that is in terms of
what the overall impact is going to be, what techniques are available to
clean it up and, really, how devastating this is going to be.
So we‘re here in Dr. Edward Overton‘s lab to learn a little bit
more about what exactly is continuing to flow into the gulf at the rate of
tens of thousands of gallons a day.
Dr. Overton, thanks very much for your time. I really appreciate
DR. EDWARD OVERTON, EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES,
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
MADDOW: I especially don‘t want to take too much time away from what
you are doing because it is so important for the response.
OVERTON: That‘s fine.
MADDOW: When did you get your first samples of what was actually
spilling into the gulf?
OVERTON: Well, we got it about a week ago this Monday. So we‘ve had
we had a loose sample from the gulf. And then, we‘ve got some wellhead
oil a couple or three days later than that.
MADDOW: And I understand that when you got that first sample, you
were very concerned about what was in that sample, about what that said
about what type of oil that was. Can you show us that sample? Can you
tell us what concerned you about it?
OVERTON: Well, this is a subset of that sample. And you can see it
has the consistency of roof tar.
OVERTON: And crude coming out of that zone in the gulf, that
production zone, should be much more fluid and as is typical south
MADDOW: Do you have an example of what would be typical of south
Louisiana crude just so we can compare it?
OVERTON: Yes. This is a normal oil from the production zones in this
OVERTON: South Louisiana crude. Low sulfur, low aromatic type crude,
and again, a very high-quality crude. And the first samples I saw were
something like this which really started to alarm us that there may be
something unique about what is going on out there.
MADDOW: Now, you‘ve received subsequent samples after this though
that aren‘t quite that thick.
OVERTON: But not quite as thick as this. These are some of the
samples that actually came off of skimmers that were cleaning up the oil
spill. And notice it‘s kind of the ruddy brown color. Crude oil is
typically black. This is south Louisiana crude.
So you can see the difference in the tint. And this is an oil-
and-water emulsion called a mousse - chocolate mousse, if you will. And it
is what‘s in most of the oil in gulf right now. It‘s in this form. And
it‘s floating around and undergoing environmental change - weathering.
MADDOW: Now, is it possible that what is coming out of the seabed
again a mile down is a few different types of material, that we‘ve got some
of this - we‘ve got some of this. We‘ve got different types of oil that
are coming out there and some of the spill may actually be this very hard
to deal with high asphaltene durable oil?
OVERTON: I doubt it. There is some speculation that that is
occurring. But of course, this is all coming out of - out of one pipe.
And you know, way down in the ground, it was kind of mixed together.
So I doubt it but I really don‘t have a good explanation for that
first sample. So we are still trying to understand. We are dealing early
on into a long-term event. So we are in the first two weeks of probably a
nine-month affair here trying to clean up and affect the spill - understand
the effects of this spill.
MADDOW: You say nine months. Is that because you think it is going
to take nine months to stop that well from leaking?
OVERTON: Well, I think it is going to take three to six unless these
cement barriers they are trying work. And we hope and pray they will, but
to drill a relief well is very difficult to do.
And so you‘ve got to drill down and intersect the damaged
pipeline and cut it in half and stop it like that. And you can imagine the
difficulty of doing something like that. So worse case is they won‘t be
able to use cement structures and we will have a spill of some magnitude
until the well is capped and shut off below the surface.
And that is not a very pretty picture in terms of the amount of
oil. Right now, we are so early we don‘t know the ultimate fate. But that
is why we are getting samples to try to understand what happens.
Ultimately, some of this stuff will - the environment - it will
evaporate and microbes will eat off a lot of the chemical structure. And
you will be left with something that‘s tarry like this. We just don‘t want
most of it to be tarry like this.
MADDOW: Yes. So Dr. Overton, you are part of a scientific support
team essentially for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -
OVERTON: That‘s right.
MADDOW: They send you these samples of what is spilling in the gulf.
You are analyzing it to figure out exactly what it is. What happens to
your findings? How is your research used in terms of the containment
OVERTON: Well, we do these tests and write up a little summary of our
understanding of what is going on. And we pass it along to the group in
NOAA that‘s providing scientific advice to the coast guard.
MADDOW: Again, this is just - your advice that you‘re giving is not -
you can‘t give me the comprehensive answer in terms of what the coast guard
is receiving from everybody. But in terms of what you are seeing, the
bottom line is, obviously, you‘ve got to keep it off the coast. And you
think this can be dispersed?
OVERTON: Mother Nature is dispersing it. I mean, it is floating
around. Some of it is going get on shore. There is almost no doubt that
depending on the wind and wave conditions.
OVERTON: How much of an impact is still - remains to be seen. The
worst case is pretty bad.
MADDOW: The threat of getting that worst case scenario though is that
is the likelihood of that affected by just the quantity of how much oil
OVERTON: Right. The more you put in there, the better the chances
are that some of it in the circulation patterns of this zone are going to
impact the coastline. So the sooner we can stop the flow, of course, the
better - much better.
The next best thing is keeping it offshore to the extent we can.
And then the last chain of attack is seeing what you can do to keep it as
it gets near shore - deflection booms and things like these. Those are not
particularly effective -
OVERTON: In the wave action. So the best thing we can do is to keep
it offshore to the extent possible.
MADDOW: But the first thing we have to do is cap that well.
OVERTON: That‘s right. Absolutely.
OVERTON: Cap the well.
MADDOW: In terms of the overall timeline under which this is
unfolding, you said that you think you can reasonably expect that it‘s
going to take a month to drill a relief well. That may be the only way to
cap this well. And that, of course, is horrifying. One of things that is
scary about that is it‘s May right now.
MADDOW: Hurricane season starts in June. What is the combination of
a big storm and a big spill mean? Are you worried? Is there reason to
worry about hurricane season on the horizon here?
OVERTON: Well, you always worry about a hurricane season, period.
Everybody down here. But in terms of the spill, of course, you‘ll have to
cease offshore operations. So everything out to shore will have to come
ashore if a storm is looming.
But a hurricane is Mother Nature‘s dispersant. I mean, it is so
much energy in such a short period of time that for a while, right after
the spill, oil will be - will look like it is gone. It hasn‘t gone, of
course. It is just spread out.
But it‘s just an incredible amount of energy in a short period of
time and that disperses the oil. And again, concentrated oil is bad.
Dispersed oil is not good, but better than concentrated oil. So hurricanes
have their good and their bad. It would be nice to have a nice mild
hurricane to disperse a lot of oil but not cause much coastal damage.
MADDOW: You described this recently as having the qualities of a
category five hurricane. Do you think that ultimately, this spill can do
as much damage as a strong (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
OVERTON: It certainly could. Will it? I mean, you know, we are into
possibilities versus probabilities.
OVERTON: And right now, it is hard to predict how bad it is going be.
It could be extremely devastating, but it may not be. A lot depends on
factors we simply can‘t control - weather, the natural dispersal. Again,
it is just starting.
Now, we have only been doing this for two weeks. So we don‘t
know how quick that oil is being removed from the environment, what is
happening to it - all of those issues that we are just starting to try to
MADDOW: Plus capping that well.
OVERTON: Plus capping that well. Capping the well is the first
OVERTON: There is nothing we can do about that. That is BP and the
MADDOW: Yes. Dr. Edward Overton, professor emeritus of environmental
sciences here at LSU. This has been really, really helpful. Thank you so
much for your time.
OVERTON: Thank you.
MADDOW: Now, get back to your work. We need you.
OVERTON: I have to go look at my answering machine.
MADDOW: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it. One reasonable reaction to a
horrifying, out-of-control oil disaster is to consider the possibility that
the way we‘ve been dealing with oil as a nation has some problems - maybe
should be reconsidered. Another possible reaction is to call for more
drilling right now. It takes all kinds and we have both kinds coming up on
the show, next.
MADDOW: Welcome back to New Orleans where you can see the lights of
the Crescent City Bridge over the Mississippi behind me. In Nashville,
Tennessee, today - and this is what it looked like downtown after flood
waters from the Cumberland River started to recede.
At least 29 people died in Tennessee, in Mississippi and Kentucky
when torrential rains this weekend swelled the Cumberland River to more
than 12 feet above flood stage. Now, as the water starts to drain away,
rescue officials say they fear they will find even more bodies.
This is not going to be an easy recovery for Nashville. About 50
of the city schools were damaged by floodwaters. This is the field you‘re
seeing where the Tennessee Titans play. That‘s water that you are seeing
there. The Grand Ole, Opryland Hotel, the Country Music Hall of Fame,
National Symphony Center also took on significant water.
The National Symphony‘s $2.5 million pipe organ was severely
damaged, as was the city‘s only remaining water treatment plant in part
because of back-breaking work by prisoners, prisoners who piled up a wall
of sandbags less than a foot taller than the crest of the flood waters.
Still though, that is the only one they‘ve got. Nashville is
down to that one saved water treatment plant now causing officials to have
to ask residents of this flooded city to conserve water.
As Keith noted on “COUNTDOWN” last night, you can donate $10 to
the Red Cross to help support the rescue and recovery efforts from this
massive, massive flooding simply by sending a text message. Just text the
word “redcross” to 90999. Again, it‘s to donate $10 and you just text the
word “redcross” to the number 90999. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: We‘re live from the banks of the Mississippi in New Orleans,
Louisiana tonight. We will be back in New York tomorrow but only long
enough for me to hit up my boss and ask him if we can all move here. We‘ll
be right back.
MADDOW: Louisiana‘s Democratic U.S. senator, the one you don‘t
associate with the hooker scandal, responded to the huge BP oil spill just
off the coast here in New Orleans, with a call for the country to recommit,
to double-down and hold steady to oil drilling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA): Our country needs this oil. I mean, there
is no question about that. We have to produce this oil at home unless we
want to be completely reliant. We‘ve got investigate, fine, clean up and
then do the research necessary so this will never happen again. And we
must continue to go forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We have to continue to go forward just as we‘ve always done,
just as we‘ve done for decades over and over and over again with each
successive oil spill, explosion and fire. Prices paid in lives and lands
and in economies.
And yet, at the same time, every president in the modern era has
paid some amount of lip service to our country‘s dependency on oil and
other fossil fuels. On January 29th, 1969, before I was born, six miles
off the California coast, there was a blowout at the Union Oil Company
Oil and natural gas gushed into the ocean for 11 and a half days.
200,000 gallons of crude covered 800 square miles killing thousands of sea
birds. Thirty-five miles of California coastline were caked in tar.
The next year, Earth Day was born out of the stomach-churning
images from the Santa Barbara oil disaster. Never again would we take our
environment for granted. Never again would we abuse it and put it all at
such risk, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We can no longer
afford to consider air and water common property, free to be abused by
anyone without regard to the consequences.
Instead, we should begin now to treat them as scarce resources,
which we are no more free to contaminate than we are free to throw garbage
into our neighbor‘s yard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Being an oil-based nation wasn‘t just a problem for what it
was doing for our land and our seas. It was also a huge national security
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALD FORD, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: A massive program must
be initiated to increase energy supply, to cut demand and provide new
stand-by emergency programs to achieve the independence we want by 1985.
Increasing energy supplies is not enough. We must take additional steps to
cut long-term consumption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was in 1975. Then December 15th, 1976 came, near
Buzzard‘s Bay in Massachusetts. The Argo Merchant broke apart southeast of
Nantucket Island. It dumped 7.7 million gallons of fuel oil. Bad timing
during the country‘s worst energy crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES EARL CARTER, JR., FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: The energy
crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Our resources were not limitless. We could no longer afford
to treat them as such.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We will ensure that
our people and our economy are never again held hostage by the whim of any
country or cartel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At this point, I have to wait for the giant riverboat to go
by. They want to be on TV, too. OK. I won‘t move to New Orleans. One
more? No, that‘s it.
President after president insisted we would not be held hostage.
We would be energy independent. Then on March 24th, 1989, the king of all
oil disasters, at least so far, the Exxon Valdez colliding with an
underwater reef. More than 11 million gallons of oil released into the
Prince William Sound in Alaska.
Fish, birds, otters, seals - all devastated. 1,300 miles of
coastline covered in oil. It was a national manmade disaster and a
national embarrassment prompting President George H.W. Bush to say, quote,
“We know now that protecting the environment is a global issue. The
nations of the worlds must make common cause in defense of our environment.
And I promise you this, this nation, the United States of America will take
the lead internationally.”
On June 8th, 1990, an explosion and fire on the Mega Borg
released over five million gallons of oil off the coast of Galveston,
On August 10th, 1993, three ships collide near Tampa, Florida.
336,000 gallons of oil spill into Tampa Bay. November 28th, 2000, an oil
tanker loses power and runs aground near Port Sulphur, Louisiana which we
drove through yesterday. 500,000 gallons of oil pour into the lower
All of that oil moving around the country with never-ending
opportunities for huge oopses. Then March 23rd, 2005, one of the deadliest
oil disasters in history. A massive, earth-shaking, window-shattering
explosion at a BP oil refinery in Texas City kills 15 people.
The government determined BP was so egregiously negligent. It
levied the largest fine ever, $21.3 million against that company. Four
years later, that record was broken when officials fined BP another $87
million for failing to correct hundreds of safety violations at the very
same Texas City refinery, four years after they killed 15 of their own
workers at that same plant.
Clearly, it was time for bold political action, right? Time to
trot out that same tired line they always trot out before nothing changes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Keeping America
competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious
problem. America is addicted to oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The deepwater horizon drilling rig off the Louisiana coast
here was feeding that addiction until an explosion two weeks ago killed 11
workers. As we speak, oil continues to flow unabated into the Gulf of
Mexico with no end in sight.
But this time, we‘ll get it right, right? We‘ll learn the
lessons from four decades of spills and crashes and explosions and fires.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: As president of the United
States, I‘m going to spare no effort to respond to this crisis for as long
as it continues. And we will spare no resource to clean up whatever damage
And while there will be time to fully investigate what happened
on that rig and hold responsible parties accountable, our focus now is on a
fully-coordinated, relentless response effort to stop the leak and prevent
more damage to the gulf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We‘ll clean it up and everything will go back to normal,
normal presumably being the completely reliable effect of drilling and
spilling. House Minority Leader John Boehner told “Roll Call” today,
quote, “This tragedy should remind us that America needs a real
comprehensive energy plan like Republicans‘ ‘all-of-the-above‘ strategy.”
The Republican all-of-the-above strategy is a relic of the summer
of 2008, when gas prices so high filling up your tank could make you woozy.
The plan boils down to essentially drill, baby, drill in places including
Alaska‘s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge which is very, very, very far
Here, in Louisiana, for all the criticism of a slow government
response, failed attempts to stop the massive oil leaks, rescue crews were
able to reach the disaster site almost immediately.
This is the gulf. Accidents and disasters happen. Human beings
mess up. They mess up a lot. Technology messes up. If you mess up in the
Arctic, where are the resources to clean up after yourselves? Where are
your crews and your booms and your boats and your scientists and your
Think about it. Where would you rather have a heart attack?
Would you rather have a heart attack in New York City near the hospitals
and doctors and the medicine? Or would you rather have a heart attack on
You obviously don‘t want to have a heart attack anywhere. But
the Republican energy plan is a heart attack on the moon plan. It is a
plan that ignores decades of oil disasters. But we have to continue to
just go forward, right? Right, Sen. Landrieu? Just like we always do,
just keeping plugging along, right?
MADDOW: So yes, the oil is gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico.
But according to a conservation group called the Gulf of Mexico Foundation,
quote, “The sky is not falling.”
Today‘s “New York Times” front-paging the Gulf of Mexico
Foundation‘s position, which “The Times” described as “guardedly optimistic
about the big spill. The sky is not falling.”
That should calm the nerves of a lot of those Chicken Little-
types out there all worried about non-capped, unbridled underwater oil
gusher 50 miles offshore. I mean, it‘s the Gulf of Mexico we‘re talking
about, and this is the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, and they say it‘s sort of
Who is the Gulf of Mexico Foundation again? Ah, the
investigative folks at “ProPublica” report that quote, “At least half the
19 members of the group‘s board of directors have direct ties to the
offshore drilling industry. One of them is currently an executive at
Transocean, the company that owns the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded
“Seven other board members are currently employed at oil
companies or at companies that provide products and services primarily to
the offshore oil and gas industry. Those includes Shell, Conoco Phillips,
LLOG Exploration Company, Devon Energy, Anadarko Petroleum Company, and
So fear not - according to representatives of the petroleum
business cloaked in a name that sounds environmentally protective, this
catastrophe isn‘t actually so catastrophic after all.
And don‘t forget, before Astroturf meant fake grassroots ginned
up by lobbyists, it meant flooring, flooring made of plastic. I have just
one word for you - plastics. Did you know that plastics are a petroleum
That does it for us tonight here in New Orleans. We will see you
again tomorrow night back in New York City. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith
Olbermann starts right now.
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