updated 4/7/2004 12:09:19 PM ET 2004-04-07T16:09:19

Guests:  Dan Murphy, Wesley Clark, Rusty Yates, Aaron Caplan


DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi everyone.  As we speak, there is fierce fighting in Iraq.  Reports are still coming in.  It appears up to a dozen Marines have been killed, possibly 20 wounded at an Iraqi government compound at ar-Ramadi, west of Baghdad.  We‘re going to get live reports including from Baghdad on this ongoing story. 

Also in Iraq the U.S. says it will serve an arrest warrant on radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for last year‘s murder of a moderate cleric.  He‘s been ordering his supporters to attack U.S. troops.  The question—will moving in on him just make the situation worse?  We‘re going to also have stories later in the program. 

But first up to Iraq where U.S. military officials again are saying again as many as 12 Marines have been killed.  Let me read you directly from this Associated Press report in to us in the last few minutes.  Up to a dozen Marines reported killed in new fighting in Iraq.  The Defense Department said Tuesday reports from the field said dozens of Iraqis attacked a Marine position near the governor‘s palace in Ramadi in Anbar Province where anti U.S insurgents are active. 

A senior defense official said on condition of anonymity a significant number of Marines were killed and initial reports indicate it may be up to a dozen.  This appears to be the most significant of fighting since the initial hostilities concluded.  Joining us now on the MSNBC live line from Baghdad is Dan Murphy with the Christian Science Monitor.  Thanks very much for taking the time.  Tell us anything you know about what‘s going on. 

DAN MURPHY, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR (via phone):  I don‘t have a lot of firsthand information about Ramadi, but clearly the reports from the Pentagon are clear that up to 12 Marines have been killed, this is an incredibly significant development.  Obviously Fallujah was the main focus in the Sunni triangle over the past few days after the mutilations and killings of security contractors last week and it seems that Ramadi, a town with very, very similar tribal and religious balance, a Sunni place with a lot of the same sorts of people that live in Fallujah and sort of taken up the cause now and the insurgency and the heat of the insurgency has spread to there which really indicates that yet another fire is opening up for U.S forces inside Iraq. 

ABRAMS:  Dan, let‘s take a step back for a moment and just sort of go through the various fronts.  You talk about the number of fronts.  We talk about Sunni.  You‘re talking about Fallujah and Ramadi, places that were sympathetic to Saddam Hussein and then on the other hand, there are also some problems with some radical Shiites who were the majority there.  Lay that out for us in terms of separating out the various religious supporters, which ones have been problems in which areas and take us through that. 

MURPHY:  Sure.  Keeping it simple, you have the Sunni areas who share the same branch of Islam as the regime of Saddam Hussein and those towns, Ramadi and Fallujah, you have large numbers of people that served in his security forces, served in his intelligence forces and benefited from the regime, so their resistance to the American presence here and the occupation, if you will, makes a certain amount of sense.  They‘re very threatened by the idea of political change in Iraq. 

The Shiite who make up about 60 percent of the country, as I think you said, were oppressed under Saddam, denied political power and literally are the potential big winners here.  But what we‘ve seen in the past few days is this radical and likely fringe cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that—when we say fringe, it doesn‘t mean that he doesn‘t have tens of thousands of supporters—this is a big country after all—has begun to make sort of a power grab of his own, for very, very different reasons and he has supporters throughout this area and south of the country who have next to nothing in common with the Sunni insurgents in the triangle.  So—and that‘s always been the nightmare of U.S. war planners, and for the moment, that nightmare seems to have come to pass. 

ABRAMS:  And Dan, again, U.S. troops had gone into Fallujah in the last day to deal with avenge, the killing of those four civilian contractors, their bodies burned, then publicly dragged.  Troops had moved into Fallujah.  Do you think it‘s possible that what is happening in Ramadi now is connected to U.S. troops going into Fallujah, meaning are they connected enough such that there could be a response in Ramadi to what‘s happening in Fallujah? 

MURPHY:  I think there‘s no question that they‘re connected enough.  Maybe—let‘s say Ramadi is 10 to 15, at most 20 miles less along the Euphrates River from Fallujah and these people belong to the same tribes and tribes in this area is as important if not more important than their religion.  They‘re on the phones together; they know what‘s going on.  That is not to say (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some kind of central command for what is happening, and if you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the right (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or the right (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people will make this go away, but it is to say that these people share the same motivations.  They feel very strongly for one another, and they‘re striking out at the same time.  And it may well be that they feel that perhaps the Marines may—were weakened by their focus on Fallujah so that now is a good time to strike.  But even if one person gave the command from on high. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Dan Murphy, thanks very much for taking the time from Baghdad. 

Again, we are covering an ongoing story, and that is reports of dozens of Iraqis attacking a Marine position near the governor‘s palace in Ramadi.  It‘s reported that up to a dozen Marines have been killed, possibly 20 more injured in what is being described as fierce fighting in that area.  That in addition to certain battles in Fallujah, also as Dan Murphy pointing out, another front, completely separate in a sense, is dealing with the Shiite cleric who has been calling for insurgents to attack Americans.  So a number of issues ongoing in Iraq, but certainly most immediate it this ongoing firefight between U.S. Marines and some Iraqis in Ramadi. 

Bob Kur at the White House joins us now for some reaction there.  Bob, are you getting any sense? 

BOB KUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, we‘ve put out the calls and as you know, the president is on the road.  He was in Arkansas today and he is now at Crawford, Texas at his ranch where he expects to stay the week, and it‘s interesting because, you know, the White House was saying as recently as yesterday, officials here were saying, look, they don‘t want the president to be in a position to have to react to every event that happens in terms of battles in Iraq or every other kind of event, but one could expect that with something like this, the president is not only being briefed, but there could be in the next hours or certainly tomorrow morning a—one of those teleconferences between the president and his national security team, although I‘m only hazarding a guess at this point and that if the situation really deteriorated, again, hazarding a guess, one would think that the president might not want to stay at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, and might come back here, but it‘s probably way too early to be speculating about things such as that. 

From the president‘s own words, we can tell you that yesterday, for example, he was saying that as the June 30 deadline approaches for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis, that he, the president, expected there to be a run up in violence as well.  The president saying yesterday that he thinks that the people who are doing the attacking would use the 6/20 -- the June 30 rather run up as a convenient excuse to make attacks.  The other interesting point is that the president said today or seemed to indicate that whatever is going on in the way of violence in Iraq now is not in his view some broad uprising, some broad rebellion.  He put it this way when he spoke today in Arkansas. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We got tough work there because you see there are terrorists there who would rather kill innocent people than allow for the advance of freedom.  That‘s what you‘re seeing going on.  These people hate freedom.  And we love freedom and that‘s where the clash occurs.  We will pass sovereignty on June 30.  We will stay the course in Iraq.  We‘re not going to be intimidated by thugs or assassins.  We‘re not going to cut and run from the people who long for freedom because you know what, we understand a free Iraq is an historic opportunity to help change the world to be more peaceful.  That‘s what we understand in this country. 


KUR:  So you hear the president calling the perpetrators in Iraq in his view thugs and terrorists and assassins, trying to play down the notion as did the defense secretary today as well, that this is some sort of widespread uprising.  Some comfort the White House could have taken earlier in the day, a new poll that shows that a majority of Americans, 57 percent, still believe it was right for the U.S. to take military action in Iraq.  But now, Dan, the same poll is showing that an increasing number of Americans is questioning the president‘s strategy, the president‘s tactics, and whether the president will have the perseverance to actually see this through and prevail.  That‘s what leads to remarks such as the ones you heard the president make today.

ABRAMS:  All right, Bob Kur, thanks very much for that report. 

We are continuing to get reports here into MSNBC about the fighting, again that is as far as we know, ongoing in Iraq as we speak.  Again as we‘ve told you already, it appears that up to a dozen Marines may have been killed in Ramadi, possibly 20 injured.  You can see that on the map just west of Baghdad.  But there is also reports of fierce fighting going on in Fallujah.  This another Sunni dominated city and why is that important? 

Because it means that they were generally supporters of Saddam Hussein, and there has been according to The Associated Press, Marines pinned down by guerrilla fire in Fallujah, going block to block.  Remember this in reaction to that killing of four civilian contractors in Fallujah.  Their bodies burned and dragged.  There have been more problems in Fallujah in addition to that.  Now we‘re seeing a U.S. military response, but there is fighting ongoing beyond just Fallujah. 

Ken Allard, MSNBC military analyst, joins us now.  Ken, you know the question a lot of people are going to ask is you see a report of dozens of Iraqis attacking a Marine position near the governor‘s palace and up to a dozen Marines killed.  You have to ask the question, how is it that dozens of Iraqis can somehow inflict this much damage on U.S. Marines?

COL. KEN ALLARD, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  And Dan, that is an excellent question, because again, it is not so many months ago that we were hearing from the administration that what we faced in Iraq were the remnants of a regime, the diehards, the odd people who would not accommodate themselves to what we have done there and now what we‘re seeing is a pretty sophisticated military operation going on out there.  Because again what they‘re doing—and I just have to emphasize this to you—is they are taking the war to us.  This is not simply taking a lucky shot at a helicopter.  This is not an IED by the roadside.  This is main force combat taking place.  That is a new one in Iraq.  It is at least as significant as anything we have seen in the last year. 

ABRAMS:  Let me bring in to this conversation General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.  General Clark, thank you for taking the time.  Let me ask you strictly military analysis.  What do U.S. forces have to do now if all these reports we‘re getting in are accurate, that there are battles going on in Fallujah as we speak, battles going on in Ramadi, other smaller battles going on elsewhere in the country, as a military man, is the answer that more troops are needed?  What do we do now? 


Well first of all, we‘ve got to respect the capabilities of the men and women in uniform.  We know how to fight, we know how to win, so our troops will do that.  I do believe that a reinforcement of forces, if that‘s what General Abizaid is considering, is appropriate.  It‘s an appropriate political response and I have for some time been concerned that the troops were spread too thin.  I would have liked to have seen international troops join us.  That‘s not happening.  And I think that it is appropriate to put more U.S. troops in there. 

That having been said though, you‘ve got to understand that what we‘re fundamentally dealing with here is not a military problem.  It is a political problem.  The real problem we face is the Shia population, and the actions of Muqtada al-Sadr are the—it‘s the opening salvo of something that‘s very, very ominous.  What we want the Shia to do is not engage in street brawls, but surface and solve their differences politically.  We can handle the Sunnis.  Yes, Ramadi is bad, Fallujah is bad, and we don‘t want to take any casualties there.  We obviously have.  But we‘ll win those fights.  What we‘ve got to do is have a political strategy that brings the Iraqi people together and that‘s what‘s missing right now. 

ABRAMS:  All right...

CLARK:  We don‘t have a political strategy. 

ABRAMS:  General Clark, I‘m going to ask you, if you don‘t mind, to stand by for a moment.  Colonel Allard, if you could stand by as well.  We want to continue our coverage of this ongoing story and that is of major firefights going on in Iraq as we speak, possibly up to a dozen Marines killed, other battles going on in Fallujah.  We are going to continue our coverage coming up after this break. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, more coverage of this breaking story out of Iraq.  Fierce firefights going on in major cities there.  We‘ll have reports coming up.


ABRAMS:  We‘re continuing our coverage of fierce battles going on in Iraq.  Now it‘s important to separate out the different battles that we know of that have been ongoing for the past few hours or so, and again, we don‘t know exactly what is happening as we speak.  We are waiting for more reports coming out of there, but here‘s what we do know. 

As many as a dozen Marines may have been killed when their position was attacked in the city of Ramadi.  That is a Sunni dominated town.  Why is that important?  It means those are supporters of Saddam Hussein.  Also, major fighting going on in Fallujah.  There U.S. troops surrounded the city going in to arrest any of those responsible for the killing of those four civilian contractors in Fallujah.  Remember, their bodies were dragged, burned, and Fallujah has long been a hotbed of anti-American activity. 

Also, the man you just saw on your screen, a separate sect, Muqtada al-Sadr, remember, he is a Shiite.  They are the majorities.  They were not supporters of Saddam Hussein, but he is a radical cleric and he has ordered some of his supporters to attack U.S. troops.  So now you have U.S. troops fighting on a number of fronts, and MSNBC military analyst Ken Allard, Colonel, that is the very problem, is it not, is the fact that they are now fighting on so many different fronts? 

ALLARD:  Yes.  It used to be that the only thing that those two religious groups agreed on was basically one thing and that was how much they hated the United States.  And we are now seeing them come together in that vein and also to also take action to take up arms, specifically to advance those beliefs.  The thing that is interesting right now, whether you are a cop on the beat or whether you‘re a high school teacher with an unruly class, you simply cannot tolerate this kind of—any threat to your authority.  You have got to win this, and when we find that we are now engaged in firefights, literally at one end of Iraq to the other, this is absolutely the time to realize the fact that we are in a major fight, which we have no choice but to win. 

ABRAMS:  And General Clark, they are not working together though, are they?  I mean this is—these are separate groups fighting U.S. troops.  They may have similar goals, but there‘s no indication that they‘re working together, is there? 

CLARK:  No and these are isolated locations.  Apparently there‘s been some collusion, but the—and they may share a common goal, but this is a very ominous development, not because our troops can‘t handle this problem, but because of what it means to the overall situation in Iraq.  We‘ll win these tactical fights.  We may take some losses, but we have troops, the fire support, the command and control to win these fights.  The problem is, what happens then?  Because we will have made, especially with the Shias, the casualties will become martyrs, and we don‘t want to lose the support of the Shia population.  When we lose that support, the mission is fundamentally different.  At that point, there‘s no more hope of a grateful Iraqi populace thanking the United States and emerging with the democracy.  At that point we‘re into something else. 

ABRAMS:  Bill Arkin, an MSNBC military analyst joins us as well on the live line.  Bill, you‘re hearing both Colonel Allard, you‘re hearing General Clark talk about these latest developments.  Again, we‘re talking about this attack on Marines in Ramadi.  We‘re talking about fierce battles in Fallujah.  We‘re talking about also, those are both Sunni dominated, supporters of Saddam Hussein.  We‘re now also talking about battles with some of the radical Shiites.  What do you make of these latest developments? 

WILLIAM ARKIN, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST (via phone):  Well, first it would be useful, Dan, to lay the land.  Fallujah and Ramadi are sort of long urban areas, clustered along the main highway between Baghdad and Jordan.  Fallujah is about 35 miles to the west of Baghdad, and think of it as sort of the New Jersey turnpike.  It‘s one city after another that the demarcation is not very clear. 

The offensive that we‘ve heard about taking place in Fallujah actually is taking place in Fallujah and Ramadi and that‘s why we‘re hearing about Ramadi for the first time today.  I don‘t think that the initial reports are necessarily that clear and it‘s the middle of the night in Baghdad right now.  And given that what we‘ve understood is that these operations have mostly been oriented towards daylight hours.  My guess would be that whatever Marine Corps unit suffered the casualties is either pinned down in Ramadi or has since withdrawn. 

But the news today from Iraq, Dan, has included reports of ongoing gun battles and attacks on coalition forces in Najaf, in Nasiriyah and Basra in the south.  A Bulgarian military base was attacked in Karbala today and there were reports of death of a Salvadoran and a Ukrainian soldier, so there‘s widespread military action going on and I think that that is what is connecting all of this, which is to say that there are a lot of people in Iraq who are unhappy with the occupation, and they are banding together if for no other reason than to vent their opposition and I think that that is what connects Sunni and Shia and the U.S. offensive at this moment is now being seen as, I think, a magnet, if you will, for all of these various guerrilla and independence to operate against the U.S. and coalition forces. 

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, Colonel Allard, if everything Bill Arkin is saying is true where he describes the landscape of everything that is happening in these various parts of Iraq, is there a way to control it?  I mean the president has talked about going on the offense and how that‘s the key and that‘s exactly what our troops are doing right now, but you know, is this controllable? 

ALLARD:  It is controllable, but I‘ve got to tell you, the next 48 hours are going to be extremely critical because this can get out of hand very quickly, just exactly like a wildfire.  And when you‘re in a situation like this, one of the things you worry about in guerrilla warfare is the so-called crossover effect in which all of these small individual units and activities suddenly begin to take on a wider identity.  That is the thing the U.S. has got to put down very, very quickly, very decisively and then begin to worry later on about picking up the pieces.  Unless it reacts very quickly right now, there are going to be no pieces left to pick up. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  We are going to continue to follow this story.  If there are any developments, we will surely bring them to you in this hour.  To General Clark, Colonel Allard and Bill Arkin, we thank you for your time.

We are going to take a break and when we come back, we are going to turn to some other stories in the news including that verdict in a case of that woman who hit her children on the head with a stone, killing them.  She was found not guilty by reason of insanity.  Well, the husband of Andrea Yates, remember, she too killed all of her children but she was found guilty, serving life in prison.  His reaction to this latest verdict coming up.


ANNOUNCER:  This is THE ABRAMS REPORT.  Here again is Dan Abrams.

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Two verdicts in two Texas cases are leaving a lot of people to ask what should happen to a delusional mother who kills her children?  Two women, both call 911, both say they heard voices telling them to do it, both clearly admit to killing the kids.  The outcomes radically different.  First, Deanna Laney. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I told him, I said baby just lay down right here and turn your head this way.  And he did and I just picked up the rock that was laying right beside him and I started hitting him on the head with that rock.  Lukey had passed out the first time, the first hit.  Joshua didn‘t.  I had to hold his hands down with my knees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We, the jury, unanimously and by a preponderance of the evidence find the defendant, Deanna Laney, not guilty by reason of insanity. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  So that was the jury‘s verdict Saturday for Deanna Laney, but then there was Andrea Yates who admitted in 2001 to drowning her five children. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What were you trying to accomplish then when you did take your children‘s lives?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Their innocent years, God would take them up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They would be in their innocent years and God would take them up (UNINTELLIGIBLE).



ABRAMS:  But Yates was convicted and is serving a life sentence.  And there are two differences.  In Laney‘s case, all the psychiatrists agreed that she didn‘t understand that what she was doing was wrong.  In Yates‘ case, there was a divide, and in the Yates case, prosecutors had sought the death penalty and so you had what‘s called a death qualified jury, all jurors who had said I could impose the death penalty, generally that‘s considered a tougher jury on defendants. 

One person who says there is no difference between these two cases is Andrea Yates‘ husband, Rusty Yates, who joins me from Houston, Texas.  Rusty, thanks for coming back on the program.  Appreciate it.

RUSTY YATES, WIFE DROWNED CHILDREN:  Thanks, Dan.  Glad to be here.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So what did you think when you first heard about this verdict in the Laney case where she‘s found not guilty by reason of insanity? 

YATES:  I was very happy to hear the verdict.  You know, I kind of resent the fact, you know just having lived through the you know trial in our case that they even took her case to trial.  You know, all the psychiatrists found that she was insane and there‘s a real cost to the family for bringing these cases to trial, you know, financial cost and emotional pain and then, you know, of course the tremendous pain, you know, to say to Ms. Laney for having to see the crime scene photos, you know, just in excruciating detail and I feel for the family for that reason, but I‘m very happy for them that the result was as it is. 

ABRAMS:  But is it frustrating for you to see a case that I am certain you believe is similar to your wife‘s case and yet in this case, she‘s found not guilty by reason of insanity.  She could be released if she‘s—quote—“cured” and yet in your wife‘s case, guilty, life in prison. 

YATES:  I don‘t really—I‘m not really so frustrated by it as I am -

·         you know, I kind of look at it, you know, in some ways I wish we were second I guess.  I mean I think that Andrea‘s case you know really raised public awareness of mental illness.  I think our steadfast support of Andrea through this has helped people understand that, you know, women do become ill in this way and can do horrible things and they really don‘t deserve to be punished because of that. 


ABRAMS:  And you are still appealing, are you not, Andrea‘s verdict? 

Are you going to incorporate this into the appeal now? 

YATES:  I—you know, my understanding is—I mean I don‘t think we can incorporate it directly because it‘s not part of the record you know from her trial, so...


YATES:  ... but I do think that it could increase, you know, awareness and possibly public support for Andrea and then put, you know, maybe some pressure on the appellate court to rule in her favor.  So in that respect, I think it‘s good. 

ABRAMS:  How is Andrea doing?

YATES:  You know, the past couple of months she‘s been doing a little bit better.  Overall though, she‘s still very heavily medicated and hasn‘t had very much time, you know, where she has been stable.  I mean, if I look back over the past few years, I‘d say two months, two or three months is about as long of any stretch of time that she‘s been stable. 

ABRAMS:  And I‘ve asked you this before, but is there—what level or what sense do you get as to what she understands about what she did? 

YATES:  I think she‘s—you know, unfortunately, she‘s not receiving really the full, you know, care that she could receive if she were in a hospital, so you know the degree of counseling, the level of counseling that she gets is not very, very—it‘s not really sufficient at all, and you know, the psychiatric treatment that she gets has been kind of spotty.  I mean she‘s on her fourth counselor and the third or fourth psychiatrist since she‘s been in prison, and they only meet once a week in a group session, so you know there‘s a tremendous amount of trauma there that she hasn‘t been able to work through. 

I think also just in terms of working through her memories and understanding, you know, the role her illness played in her actions, she‘s beginning to understand those things, but it‘s a very, very—it‘s just extremely difficult situation for her.  I mean where she is, losing her freedom, not having, you know, the direct support of her family and friends, and what I mean by that is you know, we‘re only allowed two hours to visit with her a week and I alternate with her family, so she really doesn‘t get very much direct support from those that love her and you know and she needs all those things to really fully recover.  So you know I‘m encouraged that she‘s relatively stable right now, but overall, you know, it‘s going to take a long time and with the level of support she‘s getting, I don‘t know that she‘ll ever fully recover. 

ABRAMS:  Are you still married? 

YATES:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  I mean do you expect to keep it that way?  Is there—how do you deal with this as going forward? 

YATES:  It‘s been very difficult you know for me.  Andrea and I have talked about that some and you know, what I‘ve, you know reassured her of from the beginning you know is that I‘ll always support her.  You know no matter where we go in our marriage, you know, I will always support her. 

ABRAMS:  Rusty Yates, thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

YATES:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  A new lawsuit claims the government‘s so-called no-fly list you know keeps certain people off planes.  They say it‘s unconstitutional.  But I want to know what sort of profiling would the ACLU actually approve of.

Don‘t forget your take on the show, e-mails abramsreport@msNBC.com.  Please include your name and where you are writing from.  I read them at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Question—could airline security be unconstitutional?  The American Civil Liberties Union says, well, sometimes, yes.  Today the ACLU filed a challenge to the Transportation Security Administration or TSA‘s—quote—“no-fly list” saying it violates the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.  TSA says the no-fly list targets people who should not be allowed to get on airplanes because they pose a threat to security.  The ACLU says the list includes innocent people whose names are the same as the high-risk passengers and once they‘re on the list, the ACLU says there‘s no way to get off. 

NBC‘s Michael Williams (ph) has the story. 


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (voice-over):  The ACLU says too many passengers if line for flights feel they are being singled out for unfair scrutiny.  David Fathi, who also happens to be an ACLU lawyer, is one of those passengers. 

DAVID FATHI, LAWSUIT PLAINTIFF:  I am not a hijacker.  I am not a terrorist.  And the government has no reason to put my name on a list of suspected terrorists. 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Fathi is one of seven plaintiffs in this case. 

Their jobs range from the military to the ministry.  All are U.S. citizens.  All say they‘re tired of repeated humiliating delays at airports, tired of being stonewalled in efforts to clear their names.  Attorney David Nelson spoke up in St. Louis. 

DAVID NELSON, LAWSUIT PLAINTIFF:  It seems to me that if the government can make me a suspect it ought to let me demonstrate that I am not guilty. 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  The ACLU is demanding the Transportation Safety Administration fix the flaws in its screening system and says the lawsuit is the last resort to make the TSA pay attention.  The TSA today admitted to flaws and says over the next few years, it is working to put a new screening system in place. 

MARK HATFIELD, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMIN.:  We‘re progressing as rapidly as possible, understanding that there is a foundation of preservation of privacy and preservation of civil liberties and freedoms that is inherent in building this new system. 

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Claims and counterclaims the ACLU hopes will soon land in court. 

Michael Williams (ph), NBC News, Washington. 


ABRAMS:  Joined now to debate this, Aaron Caplan from the ACLU who filed a suit in Seattle, Washington and MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan, who opposes those suing. 

All right, Mr. Caplan, let me start with you.  There are flaws in the system.  They recognize that.  They say that they are going to deal with those and let me actually very quickly read a statement from the TSA. 

We expect to dramatically reduce the number of these customer service problems in the next generation prescreening system.  It seems to me, though, that the ACLU will oppose anything that involves the profiling of passengers.  Am I right? 

AARON CAPLAN, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION:  Well it depends on what you mean by profiling, but certainly in general profiling is bad law enforcement. 

ABRAMS:  Why? 


ABRAMS:  I mean why is it bad to target particular people who pose a greater threat than other people, for example, people who come from certain countries and just give them a bit more scrutiny for example? 

CAPLAN:  Well, there isn‘t any reason to believe that people who come from particular countries are more likely to be hijackers. 

ABRAMS:  Of course there is. 

CAPLAN:  If there‘s a particular person who you think is a problem, absolutely the government can keep track of that person.  I certainly hope if there‘s probable cause to convict them of a crime that they be arrested and prosecuted. 

ABRAMS:  But that‘s not what we‘re talking about. 

CAPLAN:  But here we—well it should be what we‘re talking about...

ABRAMS:  No...

CAPLAN:  ... what we have here is a list of people who have not been -

·         there‘s no reason to suspect that they are dangerous because they‘ve been let on the planes time after time.  Once we know that someone has been cleared to get on an airplane because they‘re not a danger, then they should be taken off the list. 


ABRAMS:  Yes, see Pat, my probable problem is that I don‘t think the ACLU is willing to do anything when it comes to prevention.  That‘s my concern.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST:  Well this is my problem as well.  You know I think Lincoln said they have a right to criticize who have a heart to help.  Now there‘s no constitutional right to fly on an aircraft and there‘s no civil right as long as you‘re not discriminating against people based on race or religion, something like that.  This watch list has been made up because a number of these folks probably have lost passports or they have the same names as individuals who belong on a watch list because they might blow up an aircraft and the government has got to much watch people like that much more closely. 

Now I agree with Mr. Caplan, if there‘s this army sergeant who is a lady who has been stopped 30 times and she‘s a loyal citizen, the TSA ought to find a way to get her name off that list very rapidly and we can work with the ACLU to do it.  What bothers me about the ACLU is they want to basically get out of all kinds of profiling when quite frankly, if you‘re a guy from Saudi Arabia and you‘re 22 years old and you‘re a man and you‘re a big husky guy, you‘re more likely to be a problem than an 80-year-old lady with her granddaughter and it makes common sense to profile in that case. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Caplan.

CAPLAN:  Well it does not make common sense to profile every 22-year-old man from Saudi Arabia.  There are way more of any demographic group than the people who are the real problem that you‘re looking at.  I was glad to hear Mr. Buchanan agree that when you have people like our clients who have been cleared and they need to fly and they keep running into the same problems over and over again, these are the people that we‘re representing in this lawsuit. 

ABRAMS:  But see every time...

CAPLAN:  Hassling...

ABRAMS:  ... every time that the government tries to do anything to enhance law enforcement, which will involve, I think almost undeniably the curtailing of certain rights, the ACLU says no, don‘t do it, and this—and that‘s my problem.  Look, I think you guys have a valid gripe here with regard to the way that this has been executed and I think that the TSA seems to agree in many ways.  The problem is that every time the ACLU says this is bad law enforcement, this is bad law enforcement, the only good law enforcement according to the ACLU is when you‘ve got the guy, you know his name, and you‘re ready—you‘ve got probable cause and you‘re ready to go after him. 

BUCHANAN:  Dan, let me get in on this.  I think you‘ve got a point in this sense.  Look, originally they profiled people from—there‘s 57 Muslim countries and 22 Arab countries.  They profiled people from those countries that have known—have a known history as state sponsors of terror.  That is simple common sense.  But again, the ACLU will not work with folks and just say look, that‘s reasonable and this is not, let‘s get the most reasonable standard we can, interfere as little as possible with legitimate citizens, but protect folks flying on airlines. 

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to give Mr. Caplan the final word here. 

CAPLAN:  Well, I certainly think that there is—it‘s important to have safe airplanes.  We all want safe airplanes.  Having a list that includes thousands of innocent people with no way for them to get off it is not helping anyone‘s safety and that‘s what we‘re trying to fix with this action. 

ABRAMS:  Pat Buchanan and Aaron Caplan, thanks very much...

BUCHANAN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... for coming on the program. 

CAPLAN:  Thank you very much.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, my “Closing Argument”.  Why the judge in the Tyco case should immediately unseal the court records about why there was a mistrial in this case.  The prosecutors are saying no, no, don‘t do it.  Why?  It will cost the taxpayers $12 million down the drain.  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why the judge in the Tyco case should immediately unseal court records that explain why he granted a mistrial.  After six months and over 12 million taxpayer dollars, the judge ruled that a letter and phone call to a juror believed to be the holdout for acquittal mandated that he grant a mistrial as the defense had requested.  All that Justice Michael Obus would say is that it was a result of—quote—“outside influences”. 

We don‘t know what was said, whether the jury indicated she was afraid, whether she believed it would impact her ability to deliberate fairly.  It may have just been an overreaction by the judge, a bad call, but we won‘t know until the records are unsealed.  The case is over.  Many of the jurors have spoken at length and publicly about their deliberations, but even they weren‘t told exactly what happened. 

Six months of their lives essentially wasted.  Almost 12 days of deliberation with no results and now the court won‘t even let them understand why they had to stop deliberating only minutes before they say they were ready to render verdicts.  If there was some extremely personal moment with the juror in the judge‘s chambers then take it out, redact it.  We have a right to know what happened to our $12 million. 

Now prosecutors who may be a bit shamed by the jurors‘ public critiques of their performance are asking to keep the record sealed claiming that there is an ongoing criminal investigation into the potential criminal contact with the juror.  And that unsealing the records could—quote—“undermine the integrity of the investigation.”  But how?

They never explained how the investigation will be affected if the information is disclosed.  Furthermore, this investigation is secondary to the massive trial that just concluded.  A trial of great public importance about the theft of $600 million.  We deserve to know why the legal system failed. 

Coming up, your letters.  Some of you found it hard to believe that the lawyer for that Wisconsin co-ed hasn‘t spoke to her about whether she was abducted.  And Deanna Laney found not guilty by reason of insanity.  Some of you think there are differences between her case and that of Andrea Yates.  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, your letters on the acquittal, not guilty of the mother who admitted to killing her children with a stone.  Plus, one year ago that my colleague David Bloom passed away.  I‘ll talk about that...


ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say.  Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night the attorney for Wisconsin co-ed Audrey Seiler was on the program.  Remember?  She claimed she was abducted last week.  Police now saying it never happened.  I asked attorney Randy Hopper if Audrey still claims she was abducted.  His answer?  He hasn‘t spoken to her about it yet.  I found that a little hard to believe so did many of you including Pamela Bates from Texas. 

“Are we honestly expected to believe that during those conversations Hopper has had with his client he just never got around to asking her if she had really been kidnapped?  I‘m sorry, did they have something else more pressing to discuss?”

Also last night, Deanna Laney, the Texas mother who killed her children with stones, found not guilty by reason of insanity.  While Andrea Yates, another Texas mother, also killed her children, also claimed some outside force made her do it, found guilty and now serving life in prison.  We were talking about whether the case was really that much different from Yates‘ case, such that one goes to a mental institution until she‘s cured while the other is in prison for life.

From Albuquerque, New Mexico, Lisa Gianardi.  “I would appreciate it

if someone could explain how a woman with no psychiatric history is insane

·         she‘s talking about Laney - and a woman who had numerous hospitalizations, medications, and had to have both families baby-sit her is sitting in jail for life.”

Diana Mayes, “How come nobody considers the fact that in their delusional state these two women may know that what they did is wrong in the eyes of the law, but they may view it as right in the eyes of God.”

And Delores Martinez from Durham, North Carolina.  “You have two mothers who carried these children close to their hearts and birthed them into this world only to become tired of that responsibility and chose to slaughter them.”

Finally, today is April the 6th.  One year ago, I remember arriving for a 5:00 a.m. war time anchor shift and being informed that my colleague and friend David Bloom had died in Iraq.  I almost couldn‘t make it on the air that day.  David was one of the few people in my generation in this business who I looked up to, who I turned to for guidance.  He provided it willingly.  David, you remain in our thoughts.  He used to call everyone buddy.  Buddy, we miss you. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Chris talks with General Wayne Downing and “The Washington Post” Dana Priest about the latest major developments in Iraq. 

Thanks for watching and I will see you tomorrow. 


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc.  (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.


Discussion comments