updated 3/17/2004 10:49:20 AM ET 2004-03-17T15:49:20

Guests: Jodie Nirode, Bill Briggs, Michael Bouchard, Tod Ensign, Andrew Denton

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  A break in the case, but how do you find a man who has single handedly terrorized an entire state?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

Manhunt.  This man, the key suspect in two dozen highway shootings in Ohio.  He‘s armed, dangerous and could strike again. 

Tonight, we‘ll meet a man who narrowly escaped one of the sniper‘s bullets. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He needs to be put away for a while somewhere. 

Taken off the street.

ANNOUNCER:  Plus, a look back at the deadly string of sniper attacks that shook the nation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They will put things in priority. 

ANNOUNCER:  One of the special agents in charge of that manhunt on how to nab a suspect. 

Anti-war soldier.

STAFF SGT. CAMILO MEIJA, NATIONAL GUARD:  We were all lied to when we were told that we were going there for weapons of mass destruction.

ANNOUNCER:  When this National Guardsman returned home from Iraq, he went into hiding for months.  He‘s now turned up but refuses to continue the fight. 

MEIJA:  They have said that there‘s no link between Saddam Hussein and terrorism, and we‘re still there.  So why are we there?

ANNOUNCER:  What happens to him next?

The scoop from down under.  For years, she kept her life as Mrs.

Michael Jackson a private affair, until she sat down with this man. 

LISA MARIE PRESLEY, SINGER:  I mean, I wasn‘t in it for any other reason that than I had fallen in love with someone. 

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight we‘ll meet the Australian talk show host who got Lisa Marie Presley to open up about her marriage to the King of Pop. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you feel about him?  Do you feel sorry for him?

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.  Substituting for Deborah Norville, from Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Dan Abrams.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.

For months, police in Columbus, Ohio, have been looking for a deadly highway sniper who‘s terrorized the state.  Tonight they think they know who he is. 

This is the man police are looking for: 28-year-old Charles McCoy.  Police say he may be armed with a semiautomatic pistol.  The suspect in nearly two dozen shootings around Interstate 270.  Left one woman dead, shattered windshields, dented school buses and drilled into homes and a school.

McCoy lived with his mother, and police say he has a history of mental illness.

They‘re not saying why they believe he‘s the shooter, only that the evidence points to him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF DEPUTY STEVE MARTIN, FRANKLIN COUNTY SHERIFF‘S OFFICE:  Most important thing and reason that we wanted to get this out which we‘ve done throughout this investigation is to notify the public and you guys, the media, and to get this information out as soon as possible. 

That is the key issue for us right now, is to locate this guy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Started back on May 10, when a car that ran out of gas was struck by gunfire. 

The latest shooting took place on February 14 involving an SUV, bringing the total to 23. 

The one person killed, 62-year-old Gail Knisley, on November 25, while in her car. 

Today, McCoy‘s sister pleaded for him to contact his family. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY WALTON, CHARLES MCCOY‘S SISTER:  Mom and I need you to call us.  We will arrange for you to come home.  We love you.  We miss you.  You need to call us.  Thank you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining us tonight from Columbus is “Columbus Dispatch” reporter Jodie Nirode.  She has been on the case since the beginning. 

Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  Before we talk about the investigation, set the scene for us.  What impact have these shootings had in your area?

JODIE NIRODE, REPORTER, “COLUMBUS DISPATCH”:  It‘s had a great impact.  Many motorists changed their daily commutes.  People avoided the area because of the shootings.  So it‘s had a great impact. 

ABRAMS:  You know, the Washington, D.C., sniper attacks terrified the entire region.  You had people not just changing their route but people literally afraid to leave their homes.  Has this had that sort of impact?

NIRODE:  It‘s not been as much of an impact here in Columbus, but it has been significant for a number of people, especially people on the south side.  It really depends on who you talk to. 

ABRAMS:  Why did the authorities—why are the authorities so convinced that this is their guy?

NIRODE:  Well, the thing that made them so convinced were—was the two nine millimeter Berettas that they took from his father. 

The father had confiscated the guns from Charles McCoy sometime in February, we believe.  And those guns were tested on Monday.  One of them proved a ballistic match to the bullet fragments that were found in nine of the shootings thus far. 

ABRAMS:  Did the family contact the authorities and say, “Look, we‘re concerned that our relatives may be the guy you‘re looking for”?

NIRODE:  Yes, one did.  It‘s unclear yet which one of the relatives did.  But one contacted the authorities on Thursday. 

They went looking for McCoy but didn‘t find him and left a note at the father‘s house.  It was Friday when the father got back to them. 

ABRAMS:  So, again, they didn‘t necessarily suspect McCoy, right?  They didn‘t know who was doing it.  And then a family member calls in and said, “Wait a second, I think this might be your guy”?  Why?

NIRODE:  Well, we think part of the reason is his mental illness and his liking for guns.  But what are the factors the family saw before turning him in?  We don‘t know yet. 

They have said very little.  You know, they made the plea today, wanting him to come home, but that‘s really about it. 

ABRAMS:  And the authorities are convinced that all of these are connected, correct?

NIRODE:  That‘s correct.  Only nine have been collected—or connected with ballistics, but they have connected 24 altogether through different means, like geographic, his M.O., things like that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jodie, thanks a lot for taking the time. 

Appreciate it.

NIRODE:  Thank you, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Our next guest was only eight inches away from the shooter‘s bullet.  Bill Briggs has been a trucker since 1989.  He‘s clocked more than a million miles, accident free.

Tonight, he joins us by cell phone from where else, the open road, just outside Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

Bill, thanks for taking the time.  Tell me what happened to you. 

BILL BRIGGS, NEARLY HIT BY FREEWAY SNIPER:  I was coming in off the road from, coming in out of Virginia and I was just about finished up with the run, come off of—I don‘t know, did I lose you?

ABRAMS:  We still got you, Bill, can you hear us?

BRIGGS:  Oh, I‘m sorry.  Anyway, I just came off the run and I was almost to the terminal, and all of a sudden the driver‘s side window exploded in on me and scared the heck out of me. 

And the main thing was to maintain the control of the vehicle, which I was able to do.  And then I went on into the terminal and told the shop foreman the window blew in on me. 

And couldn‘t find anything.  And I walked around to the other side of the truck and opened the passenger door and basically what happened was the weather stripping was stuck to the door and when I gave it a little pull, the bullet fell out in front of me. 

ABRAMS:  So Bill, you see a bullet in your truck and you‘re thinking to yourself, what?  You‘re thinking there‘s somebody out this who‘s trying to get me or are you thinking this is some random shooting?  What were you thinking? 

BRIGGS:  I first...

ABRAMS:  All right, I think we lost Bill there.  But, you know, Bill is not the only guy.  There have been many people who have been shot at, almost been hit.  As we point out, luckily, only one person has died. 

Bill Briggs, thanks a lot.  Sorry about that. 

Now the police say they know who they‘re looking for.  The question, how far tough will it be to find him?

My next guest was one of the lead investigators in 2002 D.C. sniper case.  In the span of three weeks, 10 people were killed, three more wounded, leaving the entire region in a state of terror.

The two shooters, Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, eventually captured at a highway rest stop in Maryland. 

Malvo was sentenced to life in prison.  Muhammad got the death penalty. 

Joining me now is Michael Bouchard.  He was the special agent in charge of the Baltimore field division.  He‘s now the assistant director of field operations for the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Bureau and is working on the investigation in Ohio.  But due to the nature of the case, he can‘t talk specifics.

Mr. Bouchard, thanks for coming on.  Let me ask you generally, in this type of case, once a suspect has been publicly identified, do you think that increases or decreases the likelihood he‘ll still strike again?

MICHAEL BOUCHARD, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF FIELD OPERATIONS, ATF:  Well, Dan, I can‘t speak about this specific case, but in general when we work a case from a task force approach, we will assume that our suspect is watching television, is listening to the media and is listening to everything we say. 

We don‘t try and read into their minds to decide whether or not they‘ll strike again.  We just assume they will.  So we treat it as such. 

ABRAMS:  I spoke to a well-known profiler earlier today who told me that he thinks it‘s unlikely in that type of case that a person will travel far, that the person will generally stay closer to home. 

Again, not asking you specifically about what you think in this case but in this type of case, is it likely that the person stays close to home?

BOUCHARD:  Well, Dan, profilers from my experience work on percentages, and I don‘t put much faith in percentages.  Profilers are certainly a good tool for us to use; however we don‘t rely totally on them. 

Again, it‘s a tool.  We take the input from the profilers and just base all of our investigation on where the evidence will take us. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about the sniper case from Washington, D.C.  How did you eventually catch them, do you think?  What was the key that turned the tables and brought you to Malvo and Muhammad?

BOUCHARD:  The key to solving that case, like it is in most cases, is the public is aware, the public is out there looking.  The public comes up with a tip. 

And that, coupled with all the investigative work, the hard work from all the investigators that worked on the case, comes together at the right time. 

In essence, we catch a break which ultimately leads us to solve most cases. 

ABRAMS:  And that break can be someone seeing the car, someone seeing the person, somebody seeing something that leads you to your guy?

BOUCHARD:  Correct.  That‘s where the media comes into play, and the media place an important roll in helping all of us solve cases. 

And as far as my experience, the sooner law enforcement and the media work together for the same goal, we‘ll be much more successful in solving cases by putting our messages out through the media to help get the public to help us locate our suspect. 

ABRAMS:  Have you ever had a case where once you put out the picture, identify the person, the person just stops and says, “I‘ve been doing this for X amount of time.  Now that I know that I‘m identified and I‘m out there,” they go into a hole and just stay there?

BOUCHARD:  That has happened in the past, and that‘s one of our big fears is do you release a picture?  And I personally would not release a picture until I know I have enough evidence to call that person a suspect. 

We certainly don‘t want to label someone a suspect when in fact they‘re not.  So we‘re very careful about releasing a person‘s identity or their picture in any of these cases. 

ABRAMS:  Is there any lesson from the Washington sniper case that you are abiding by here?  Something—a mistake that was made, something that the authorities are doing differently here than they did in the Washington, D.C., case?

BOUCHARD:  Well, I think what we all learned from the Washington, D.C., sniper case, the Beltway Sniper case, as we call it, is law enforcement needs to work together, put their differences aside.  Every agency needs to put their best foot forward, do what they do best.

Let the state and local agencies run their cases, because they‘re the best at doing these.  The federal authorities, we need to just augment their resources, do what we do best and work towards the common cause. 

ABRAMS:  Confident you‘re going to catch this guy?

BOUCHARD:  Without a doubt.  No doubt in my mind. 

ABRAMS:  Michael Bouchard, thanks a lot.  Good luck to you. 

BOUCHARD:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Authorities also released a description of McCoy‘s car.  It is a 1999 dark green Geo Metro with a black hood and an Ohio license plate CGV7387. 

If you see the car or McCoy, either call 911 or the Franklin County sheriff‘s office, 614-462-464.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up, the war in Iraq one year later. 

Tonight, renewed questions about how to deal with suspected terrorists.  How far should the U.S. government be allowed to go to make sure this doesn‘t happen here again?

But next, this National Guardsman served his country in Iraq.  Now he‘s fighting not to go back. 

MEIJA:  I don‘t have a purpose, I don‘t have a reason to be there. 

ANNOUNCER:  What should happen to a soldier who turns against the war, when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  After five months on the lam, a Florida National Guardsman has surrounded.  He abandoned his unit after returning from Iraq while on leave in the U.S. 

Sergeant Camilo Mejia gave himself up to military officials in a Massachusetts Air Force base on Monday.  Today he returned to his Florida guard unit. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEJIA:  I‘m prepared to go to prison because I have a clear conscience.  I know that I‘m following my conscience, and I have that in my heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Staff Sergeant Mejia is now claiming conscientious objector status.  He says he‘s become disillusioned during his five months in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEJIA:  I didn‘t see any reconstruction.  I saw that people were being killed. 

I saw that the reasons that we were presented to the world for going to war turned out to be all unfounded, you know, like the weapons of mass destruction.

Why I was there, I don‘t have a purpose.  I don‘t have a reason to be there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Desertion is rare, according to the Army.  Out of a force of one million, 2,731 soldiers deserted last year, which is down from 4,013 desertions in 2002 and 4,598 in 2001.

Still, the punishment can be heavy.  Desertion during war time can be punishable by death.  Only one American, Private Eddie Slovik, has been executed for desertion since the Civil War.  And since Mejia came back, desertion probably won‘t be charged here.

Mejia is scheduled to appear at Fort Stewart, Georgia, tomorrow, where he will meet with the military‘s legal services team. 

Joining me now is Tod Ensign, the director of Citizen Soldier, a soldier‘s rights advocacy group.  He spoke to Sergeant Mejia and is organizing his defense. 

Thanks very much for coming on.

TOD ENSIGN, DIRECTOR, CITIZEN SOLDIER:  Good to be here.

ABRAMS:  First of all, do you think he‘s going to get charged with desertion?

ENSIGN:  No, I don‘t.  But it‘s a possibility. 

Desertion has to—requires the element of intent to remain permanently away.  Someone surrenders, you still of course, could show maybe at one time there was such intent, but it‘s—it would be difficult to show it.  They might try, because it‘s a much more serious offense. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s my problem with this case.  Is that he‘s claiming he‘s a conscientious objector.  And let me put up on the screen exactly how it‘s defined.

“A firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, because of religious training and belief.”

Sounds like this guy doesn‘t like this—doesn‘t like the war with Iraq.  He‘s become disillusioned.  And now he‘s generally claiming, “You know what?  I don‘t like war on the whole.”

ENSIGN:  Well, that—I see how someone might reach reach that conclusion. 

My own discussions with him convinced me that he is a sincere conscientious objector. 

ABRAMS:  Meaning he opposes all war, any war?

ENSIGN:  He‘s reached a point through this war to oppose all war. 

One of the points he made in Boston was that he thinks this war is basically for economic gain or oil.

ABRAMS:  But who cares what he thinks?  Honestly.  About this war? 

I mean, there‘s a debate out there.  And I‘m not taking a position one way or the other about the war itself.  But who cares if he supports this war?  Is that his choice to make?

ENSIGN:  Well, yes, in a way it is.  After World War II, as you‘re well aware, we adopted certain international legal standards. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

ENSIGN:  The Nuremburg tribunals, the Geneva Conventions and the U.N.  charter.  And these are standards that require people to conform to an international set of rules about conduct in war. 

As you recall...

ABRAMS:  That‘s for the government, though. 

ENSIGN:  No, no, no. 

ABRAMS:  And the government—Wait.  He doesn‘t—he doesn‘t have the authority to make decisions about whether the Nuremburg and other international norms are being adhered to. 

ENSIGN:  That‘s not quite what I‘m saying.  I‘m saying that at Nuremburg, people as low as colonels were charged.  And they said, “I was following orders.”

ABRAMS:  Fair enough. 

ENSIGN:  “Here are my orders.  That‘s what I did.” 

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  But there is a disciplinary way to go about doing this.  Meaning he can complain.  He can say here;s what is happening.  Here ‘s the problem with what I was told to do.

And there is a process in place that investigates, and they then can follow through on that process. 

That‘s not what he is doing here.  Instead, he just ran away.  And now he‘s coming back and sort of going very public with his anti-war statements. 

ENSIGN:  Well, it‘s—I think you‘re minimizing the difficulty that would be presented by doing such, as you say, using the system. 

For example, in Iraq, he saw several instances where he thought grossly excessive violence was used against civilians. 

ABRAMS:  Did he report it?

ENSIGN:  No.  It was in his unit.

ABRAMS:  So why didn‘t he report it?

ENSIGN:  I‘m just—I‘m suggesting that it‘s difficult in a war zone to do that sort of thing.  And at the time, there were probably a lot of things are going on.  I‘m just speculating.  Probably a lot of things going on in his mind, and these things were cascading in on him.

He—One thing he realized was that the war was not as it had been presented to him and to the other men, too.  He wasn‘t the only one that thought this.

And so the people, for example, didn‘t greet us warmly.  The people seemed to not like us at all.  Most people.

ABRAMS:  Imagine, if the soldiers‘ response to that and they say, “You know what?  We weren‘t greeted the way we had hoped.  And as a result we‘re all going to say you know what?  We‘re not fighting any more.” 

That would be chaos, right?

ENSIGN:  Well, it might be chaos. 

In his case—let‘s keep it to his case a minute.

ABRAMS:  OK. 

ENSIGN:  He was there.  He did his five months.  He was a squad leader. 

One of the guys in Florida, Oliver Perez, has said publicly he supports Camilo as a good leader and that he will come to his court martial and testify.  He‘s a guy in his unit, an enlisted guy.  So Camilo was respected by the men in his unit, the enlisted, at least. 

The point is that he did five months.  He comes home.  He‘s back in the relative luxury and freedom of Florida, and he‘s saying how can I—

I‘m speaking for him—how can I return to that charnel house?  How can I do that?

And he and his—and I had no discussions with him—he said, I can‘t do it.  I‘m not going to do it. 

Now, it‘s true, there are men that stayed the whole year who probably felt exactly as he did, but they didn‘t have that opportunity. 

ABRAMS:  The problem is, he‘s allowed to come back to the U.S., right, to renew his permanent resident card? 

ENSIGN:  Straighten out a problem he had, with complication.

ABRAMS:  Because he‘s not a U.S. citizen?

ENSIGN:  He‘s not a U.S. citizen.  You‘re only supposed to serve eight years without citizenship. 

ABRAMS:  So he‘s allowed to come back to the U.S. to straight out these issues.

ENSIGN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  And you‘re not defending him going AWOL, are you?

ENSIGN:  Well, I can‘t defend him going AWOL in the sense that I can‘t suborn it or encourage that. 

ABRAMS:  In retrospect, though.  I mean, he shouldn‘t have done that.

ENSIGN:  Well, I respect his right to take his action he took.

ABRAMS:  Really?  To not do it the way it‘s supposed to be done?  Instead, just run out and say—why not—why not say at that time, “I want conscientious objector status now”?  As opposed to running. 

It feels like he wants publicity.  That‘s what it feels like.  It feels like this is a big sort of anti-war statement and done publicly, as opposed to a true conscientious objector. 

ENSIGN:  Well, he is a conscientious objector, in my opinion.  And I think eventually the process will show him to be that.  I don‘t think there‘s much doubt about it, actually.

But you‘re right.  I just think you‘re minimizing—you‘re right about not using the system or not redressing the wrongs as he saw them. 

But I think you‘re really minimizing the difficulty that—in a war zone people are armed.  Remember that guy last year, he threw a grenade into some other people‘s tent he didn‘t like.  It‘s dangerous to start...

ABRAMS:  You‘re not justifying that?

ENSIGN:  Certainly not.  I‘m saying it‘s dangerous to be a dissenter in an atmosphere with a lot of armed people.

ABRAMS:  Five months back in the U.S., AWOL, he wasn‘t in a war zone. 

ENSIGN:  No, but you‘re suggesting he should have stayed or maybe gone back and then registered his complaint.

ABRAMS:  When he‘s here in October.  He gets an opportunity to come back.  He wants to complain, he could complain. 

But I appreciate you coming on and we shall see because this is a very interesting and I think important issue. 

ENSIGN:  Good.  Thanks a lot. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the government says it needs the Patriot Act to hunt down terrorists in this country.  So why is there still so much debate over its provisions?  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  When it comes to the Bush administration‘s achievements there are a few hot button issues.  You know, the sort of topic that gets friends screaming at each other at the dinner table?

Most of them are the reaction to 9/11.  One is the war with Iraq.  Another is the Patriot Act, a 342-page bill that passed a month and a half after 9/11.  It wasn‘t even close.  In the Senate, a vote of 98 to one.  In the House, 357 to 66.  The president signed it into law the next day. 

It greatly expanded the power of the government to keep watch over and even detain citizens and non-citizens alike in the name of national security. 

The Patriot Act allows federal agents to use what are called roving wire taps on a suspect.  Rather than just being able to tap a specific phone, they can move with the person. 

It lets law enforcement search without immediately notifying the suspect, what‘s commonly called “sneak and peak” search warrants. 

And in certain circumstances, allows federal prosecutors to eavesdrop on conversations between a federal prison and his or her attorney. 

And generally, just makes it easier to get access to certain private documents.

With me tonight to debate, civil rights attorney Randy Hamud.  He represented three San Diego college students who knew the 9/11 hijackers.  He‘s also the attorney for the mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker.

And Jan Ting, professor of law at Temple University in Philadelphia and former assistant commissioner with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

All right.  Randy, without getting too technical on me, what is your biggest beef with the Patriot Act?

RANDY HAMUD, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY:  My biggest beef is basically is broken down to the law between criminal investigations and foreign intelligence investigations.  And in doing so, it‘s destroyed the fabric of the Fourth Amendment‘s requirement for probable cause before search warrants can be issued. 

ABRAMS:  But wasn‘t that the very problem before 9/11, was that there was too thick a wall, in essence, between criminal investigations and foreign intelligence and, as a result, 9/11 arguably might have been avoided if there were less of a wall? 

HAMUD:  Not at all.  I think the problem before 9/11 was more like a Keystones Cops situation, with the intelligence people not talking to the enforcement people, relative to information that could be shared.

I think the 9/11 Commission has established that by now.  But the problem is the Constitution is very much unwavering on the probable cause requirements.  And I think what, ironically, the Patriot Act will end up doing is jeopardizing prosecutions that they want to bring because they have got this tainted evidence that they are trying to introduce that they gathered through foreign intelligence activities, supposedly blessed by the Patriot Act provisions that violent the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. 

ABRAMS:  Jan Ting?

TING:  I think don‘t there ever was a wall between the gathering of intelligence on a national security investigation and a criminal prosecution. 

I think there was a misperception prior to the Patriot Act.  And I think the Patriot Act clarified that, at least we have subsequently had an opinion from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Appeals Court which corrected us and told us, you know what?  There never was a problem.  The Patriot Act did clear up that particular problem, but there never was. 

In reality, what the Patriot Act does—and it does many different things—because the act itself is hundred of pages long, 99 percent of which is completely uncontroversial.  But basically what it does, it extends into national security investigations procedures that are already allowed in criminal investigations, like the roving wiretap, like the so-called delayed notification searches, sometimes called sneak and peek. 

There are a lot of procedures that are allowed in criminal investigation.  Frankly, there was a lot of uncertainty on the part of attorneys as to whether they could do those things in national security investigations where there was not probable cause of a particular crime being committed.  And I think the Patriot Act really answers a lot of those questions.  It says what can and what can‘t be done. 

People need to remember that, before 1978 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, there was a theory of inherent power out there, that the government could do anything in the area of national security and to protect the country. 

(CROSSTALK)

TING:  And it was Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act began to put some procedures in place that says here is what the government has to do. 

ABRAMS:  Randy, quickly, I don‘t want to get too technical with the

Foreign Intelligence

(CROSSTALK)  

HAMUD:  I understand.

ABRAMS:  Quickly.

HAMUD:  What it has done is, it‘s made the criminal process loosey-goosey.  It has made it a function of the secret court with secret warrants issued in total secrecy.

And it has opened up the Patriot Act to being the best choice and the best weapon of prosecutors relative to garden-variety criminal investigations, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  That‘s a bad thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  OK, look, in a pre-9/11 world, I think that a lot of people would be supporting you and say, you know what?  You are right.  The Fourth Amendment has got to be a key priority for us. 

If there is another terror attack on American soil, Randy, do you not agree with me that there are going to be even more restrictions?  And I think the Patriot Act is going to seem like nothing compared to the restrictions in the future.  It seems to me, the people who oppose the Patriot Act should for now say, you know what?  We‘ll accept that, fine.  That‘s a limited incursion on our rights, but, please, we have got to be ready for something more happening and we can‘t go crazy at that point. 

HAMUD:  Well, that‘s a good point that you raise, because, remember, the Congress was so worried about it that several of its sections self-destruct.  And now the administration wants to make them permanent. 

And I think you are right.  The immediacy is no longer pressing.  Let those sections sunset or self-destruct and let‘s get back to the criminal processes as we well know them and can well enforce them. 

ABRAMS:  But, as you know, that‘s not what I was saying. 

But, anyway, let‘s play—because you talk about the Patriot Act due to expire, the roving wiretaps, sneak and peek, secretly obtaining library records, medical files.  A couple of weeks ago, the president asked Congress to review those provisions.  Here is what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Key provisions of Patriot Act are set to expire next year.  The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule.  You and others in law enforcement need this vital legislation to protect your citizens.  We cannot afford to let down our guard.  Congress must renew the Patriot Act. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jan, do you agree with me that, if there is another terrorist attack on American soil, there is going to be some super Patriot Act that is going to be proposed in Congress which is going to restrict rights even more than we‘re already seeing? 

TING:  Probably. 

I also think that, if this wasn‘t an election year, we wouldn‘t be hearing as much about the Patriot Act as we are. 

ABRAMS:  Why?

TING:  It‘s a political issue that people are raising in order to attack the president.  And I think it‘s a mistake.  I think it‘s unfair. 

(CROSSTALK)

TING:  Because the Patriot Act, as you said, passed by overwhelming partisan majorities in both houses of Congress.

ABRAMS:  And that‘s the point.  That‘s the point I was going to make.

TING:  And it‘s important to note that Democrats were in control of the Senate at the time the Patriot Act was enacted.

(CROSSTALK)

TING:  John Kerry made important statements in support of the Patriot Act.

ABRAMS:  Jan, that‘s the point I‘m going to make, which is, politically, the Patriot Act is very popular.  To suggest that somehow President Bush is going to be attacked by a group of people who Randall Hamud—and, look, I understand there are a lot of very serious people out there who oppose major portions of the Patriot Act. 

The point is that the majority of Americans support it.  So you are not really saying that they are going to somehow gain political points by attacking President Bush on this.

(CROSSTALK)

TING:  Including John Kerry.  I haven‘t heard John Kerry attack the Patriot Act. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  So what are you talking about, about political gain? 

TING:  He thinks John Ashcroft is misinterpreting the Patriot Act, another example of the fact that lawyers can‘t agree on anything. 

Lawyers don‘t know what can be done and what can‘t be done.  But John Kerry was an important supporter of the Patriot Act.  Senator Patrick Leahy was the head of the Judiciary Committee at the time.  And I think, if people go to Senator Leahy‘s site, Web site, they can see his summary of the Patriot Act.  And he is very proud of the Patriot Act and the roll that he played and the Senate played in the enactment of that legislation. 

(CROSSTALK)

TING:  And it shows on his Web site.

HAMUD:  Just recall, the Patriot Act was never publicly vetted at the time it was passed in a knee-jerk response to 9/11. 

And it has self-destructing, sunset provisions that were required before the Congress would even adopt it under those circumstances.

(CROSSTALK) 

ABRAMS:  Why do so many Americans support the Patriot Act? 

HAMUD:  Because Americans are very quick to give away other people‘s liberties when they think their own aren‘t challenged.  And they‘re giving away the liberties of the Arab and Muslim people who have been rounded up in this country as victims of the Patriot Act and other excesses of the administration.  And they don‘t understand that the chickens are going to come home and roost right on their rights if they don‘t stop this right now. 

ABRAMS:  But where in the Patriot Act does it specifically refer to Arab and Muslims? 

HAMUD:  It refers to Arab and Muslims because we have been sharing and we have been bearing the burden of the Patriot Act and its emphasis on foreign terrorist investigations.

But it also has a provision in it that defines domestic terrorism so broadly that any American who wants to become a political activist and engage in any acts of civil disobedience, such as in the civil rights movements of the ‘60s, could be deemed to be a domestic terrorist these days and be facing 11 years in prison.  This is not what America is all about. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  See, Jan, I agree with you there is a political issue here. 

The political issue is John Ashcroft and the way it has been enforced. 

And certain people would say that it is that they have simply gone too far in terms of monitoring, as Randy Hamud points out, certain political dissenters, etcetera. 

TING:  I don‘t think that is true at all. 

I don‘t think the administration has done a very good job of defending the Patriot Act.  And maybe John Ashcroft has been in the hospital, but I think the administration needs to do a better job of explaining what there was before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was enacted in 1978.  There was no restrains on the what the government could do in national security investigations.

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

TING:  Now, through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act, we now have procedures in place.  The government can only do certain things by notifying a federal judge.  The government has to maintain records, so that Congress can oversee what‘s done under the Patriot Act.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes, but that‘s not all.  Look, that‘s a little bit misleading, Jan.

(CROSSTALK)

TING:  Those are important checks and balances.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  It is.  It is.  But it‘s a little misleading to suggest that that‘s what the Patriot Act is. 

(CROSSTALK)

TING:  But Congress played a very active role in enacting the Patriot Act, including those sunset provisions.  Congress was deeply involved.

ABRAMS:  No question.

TING:  The Democrats were deeply involved, to their credit. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I got you. 

HAMUD:  We need to keep our eye on the Constitution.  That‘s what we need to keep our eye on.

ABRAMS:  All right, we will.  We will. 

HAMUD:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  Randy Hamud, Jan Ting, thanks a lot. 

HAMUD:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up next, they said it wouldn‘t last.  They were right.  Now Lisa Marie Presley could leave a lasting impression on the Michael Jackson case.  The Santa Barbara authorities now want to talk to her after her interview in Australia.  You‘ll hear it and we‘ll talk to the man who asked the questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  You may have heard, many Europeans didn‘t like Americans last year.  We just had to ask, do they dislike the U.S. more or less this year?

That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We just had to ask tonight, since Friday marks one year since the U.S. went to war in Iraq, have anti-American feelings subsided at all? 

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of eight foreign countries.  Unfavorable views of the U.S. have actually gone up since the end of the war last May.  In France, 62 percent have a negative opinion of America, 59 percent in Germany, 34 percent in Great Britain, all up since May.  The only exception, Russia, where the negative view of the U.S. has dropped to 44 percent, from 55.  The Europeans draw a clear distinction between the U.S. the nation and the American people.  An overwhelming number of Great Britons have a favorable opinion of Americans, 73 percent, followed by Germany, Russia and France, where a slim majority still like Americans, 53 percent.

But all those numbers have dropped in the past two years.  And support for the U.S.-led war on terrors has weakened since the end of the war in Iraq, except in Russia, where 73 percent of the Russian people are behind it, compared to 51 percent at the end of the war in May.  Support for the war on terror in France and Germany has decreased since May.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There has been no healing of the wounds between Europe and America.  The American image, if anything, is lower than it was at the end of the war. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  One more note on the poll.  Only one country apparently thought the world would be safer if another country were as powerful as the U.S., that one nation, France.  Even the predominately Muslim countries surveyed thought that a U.S. rival would make the world more dangerous. 

ANNOUNCER:  Up next, her life in Neverland with Michael Jackson was a closely guarded secret, until Lisa Marie Presley met this man. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ENOUGH ROPE WITH ANDREW DENTON”)

LISA MARIE PRESLEY, FORMER WIFE OF MICHAEL JACKSON:  What were you saying? 

(LAUGHTER)

ANDREW DENTON, HOST:  I‘ll just read back my question. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  The Australian TV talk show host tells how he got Lisa Marie to open up about life with Michael—when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back. 

NBC News has confirmed that Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon has sent a letter to Michael Jackson‘s attorneys inviting Jackson to testify before a grand jury.  Today, a source close to Jackson‘s defense steam confirmed they had received the letter and said that Jackson will accept the kind offer. 

But that grand jury will soon be hearing from other witnesses.  And among those under oath could be Jackson‘s former loved one, ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley.  In an executive interview with Australian television, Lisa Marie made a few comments that are making a lot of people ask, what did she see and what does she know? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ENOUGH ROPE WITH ANDREW DENTON”)

DENTON:  Now, as a strong woman—and you clearly are—was it difficult to be in a relationship where, to some extent, you felt powerless? 

PRESLEY:  It was.  That‘s why I left.  I mean, powerless in a lot of ways, in terms of realizing I was part of a machine and seeing things going on that I couldn‘t do anything about.  And don‘t ask me what sort of things, because I am not going to answer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  She spoke on “Enough Rope With Andrew Denton,” Australia‘s highest rated interview program. 

And joining us live from the land down under, where it is midday on Wednesday, is the program‘s host and executive producer, Andrew Denton.

Good day, Mr. Denton, and thank you coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

DENTON:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Let me start by asking you, how did you go about getting this interview that so many were trying to get? 

DENTON:  Well, being the leading talk show, interview show in Australia, Lisa Marie‘s people felt it was a good opportunity for her to publicize her tour and we were only too happy to talk with her. 

ABRAMS:  Any ground rules from her people or from her as to what you can and can‘t ask?  She is very sensitive about talking about her dad, Elvis, and Michael Jackson. 

DENTON:  No, they didn‘t lay down any ground rules.  We were well aware of her sensitivities, having seen other interviews she had done.  But I guess it was all implied that these were areas she would be not thrilled about going into. 

But our approach to interviews is to do them in a way that we hope the guests will enjoy them and in that way feel free to open up and talk. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s play a clip from your interview when you asked her about her feelings towards Michael Jackson. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ENOUGH ROPE WITH ANDREW DENTON”)

DENTON:  Do you feel sorry for him.  Do you feel for him, still? 

PRESLEY:  You know, I‘ll tell you—I can‘t—it‘s really bizarre. 

I feel nothing.  It‘s just—I watch just like anyone else when anything is going on, and I have the same reaction, and wow or holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED) or whatever. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Is sounds like what she is saying is that she is almost an outsider watching Michael Jackson, and even when it comes to their marriage, that she looks at it almost as an outsider.  Is that the impression you got? 

DENTON:  Very much so. 

She made the point that, when she married him, she was in love with him.  And who can ever explain the ways of the human heart?  But I think what she found was a man quite different to his public image, a man who was very manipulative, who was almost like a giant corporation and she had access to most areas of that corporation, but not all.  And she made the telling point that now she looks at him like the rest of world and thinks, what is going on there? 

ABRAMS:  You talk about access to a corporation.  She talked about that in your interview as well.

Let‘s play a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “ENOUGH ROPE WITH ANDREW DENTON”)

DENTON:  But I got the sense that you had become a part of Michael Jackson Inc., that you had an access-most-areas ticket, but that you didn‘t have access to the boardroom, necessarily.  Would that be a fair way to describe the relationship? 

PRESLEY:  I didn‘t want access.  I wasn‘t in it for any other reason than I had fallen in love with someone.  So it wasn‘t like I was trying to find access to something. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Did you ever want to ask her, wasn‘t this marriage just weird?  Wasn‘t there something just odd about you and Michael Jackson together? 

DENTON:  I think that was implicit in the way she replied and her discomfort with it. 

And I have real sympathy for her in many ways.  It was a marriage like so many marriage which just wasn‘t right.  Who would have thought that a marriage with Michael Jackson wouldn‘t work out?

(LAUGHTER)

DENTON:  It‘s difficult for her.

And you know what really struck me talking to her?  It was a difficult interview, but she wasn‘t a difficult person.  I really liked her.  I thought she was a very genuine person trapped in an extremely bizarre existence.  And it seems—she said during the interview, look, I have seen your show.  I know people are very honest on it.  It‘s hard for me to do that, because whatever I say will be taken and used in the states.

And I thought, sure, sure.  But that is exactly what has happened.  And I think it‘s really, really difficult for her to lead a normal existence, because whether she says something or whether she says nothing, people will interpret that. 

ABRAMS:  Did your interview generate as much publicity in Australia as it did here in the United States? 

DENTON:  No, not as much.  It had a very strong response. 

But it‘s interesting, because we have a very deep interest in Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley in Australia, but it‘s something the Australian news cycle.  Because this has now become a story in America, people in Australia are starting to pay more attention to it.  I‘m not quite sure why that is.  I think it dates back to the moon landing. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Did you hear that, as a result of your interview, now the Santa Barbara authorities want to talk to Lisa Marie? 

DENTON:  Yes.

And I can only imagine, if I was her, that she would be tearing her hair out and rolling her eyes.  She makes it pretty clear that that was a long time ago and she doesn‘t really have a fresh take on anything.  But I guess the law will find its way.

I think it‘s very tough for her.  She has put out this album, which is a legitimate piece of music, but it will never be judged as that.  It will be judged either as Elvis‘ daughter or Michael Jackson‘s former wife.  And you can say, poor little rich girl, but I think everybody has a right to their own existence and to be legitimate in her own right.  And I‘m not sure she will ever get that. 

ABRAMS:  If you could ask Michael Jackson, if you got one question to ask Jackson, what would you ask him? 

DENTON:  I think I would go back to the deposition from Jordy Chandler.  And I would take him through that.  The deposition, of course, that was the court case settled out of court. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

DENTON:  I would take him through his behavior there.  It was a disturbing deposition and it certainly made think differently about Mr.  Jackson. 

ABRAMS:  Good answer.  I put you on the spot there.  That‘s good.  You are a good TV show host.  I don‘t get to see your show, but putting you on the spot like that, asking you one question—I hate it when people ask me those sorts of questions. 

(LAUGHTER)

DENTON:  Oh, Dan, you know, I‘m not just a moderately ugly head for television. 

(LAUGHTER)

DENTON:  I don‘t want to oversell it, but “Enough Rope” is in fact the most sensational television show ever made.  And it reaches an audience of billions.  They just haven‘t realized it yet. 

ABRAMS:  Very good.  Well, congratulations on getting the interview and thanks for taking the time.

DENTON:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  When we come back, for better or for worse, spring break is back.  Things could look a little different this year.  A look ahead to a daylong MSNBC event, the tides of March.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tomorrow, we‘re going to hit the road for spring break.  High school and college students across the nation head to several hot spots.  Tomorrow night, this program is looking at Cancun, a virtual free-for-all. 

Can underage students expect to find all the alcohol they can drink?  There is a drinking age, but how enforceable is it?  We‘ll also meet one father who has made it a mission not to rest until this Mexico city is not a place where kids can go to party anymore. 

And on my program, what happens if you turn up on a “Girls Gone Wild” video?  What are your rights?  That‘s tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. 

You can send in your ideas and comments to NORVILLE@MSNBC.com

Thanks for watching.  I‘m Dan Abrams.  Deborah Norville is back tomorrow.  And I‘ll be back tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough and SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

END   

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