updated 5/18/2004 9:09:00 AM ET 2004-05-18T13:09:00

Guests:  Timothy Susanin, David Sheldon, Ehud Barak, Ben Mankiewicz, Dan Patrick, Judy Brown, Randy Brown

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, has the administration created a defense for the soldiers accused in the Iraqi prison abuse scandal? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  A new article claims Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved expanded interrogation techniques for Iraqi prisoners, including the use of physical coercion and sexual humiliation.  Will this now become the accused soldier‘s defense, not just our commanders told us to do it but the defense secretary? 

A car bomb kills the head of Iraq‘s Governing Council.  No doubt other Iraqi leaders will be targeted.  How can they possibly protect their leaders?  It‘s a question many in the Middle East address on a regular basis.  We‘ll talk to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak about this angle and the war on terror.

And the parents of one of the Columbine killers speak out for the first time since the massacre, but they offer no apologies for what happened.  Why not? 

The program about justice starts now.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Welcome.  A new article claims Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved expanded interrogation techniques for Iraqi prisoners, including the use of physical coercion and sexual humiliation.  Question—will that now become the defense in the case? 

First court-martial of an American soldier accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners less than 48 hours away and while Specialist Jeremy Sivits may have already cut a deal, other defendants may have a big break.  A story in “The New Yorker” by reporter Seymour Hersh claims Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary Stephen Cambone approved plans to toughen interrogation in Iraqi prisons, using covert teams and techniques approved for the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEYMOUR HERSH, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  The goal was to use a couple of very harsh means.  One, sexual humiliation and other more physical force.  That, I‘m not saying Rumsfeld authorized what we saw in the last few weeks, but he did authorize these guys to come into the prison system and jack it up, get better stuff. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now the Pentagon says Hersh‘s story is—quote—

“outlandish, conspiratorial and filled with error” and insists any abuses had no basis in the sanction program.  But will the officers who preside over these court-martials take in to account the possibility that some of the horrors were approved at the very top, at least tacitly?  How much would it matter if it turns out to be true? 

I‘m joined now by Timothy Susanin, a former Navy JAG prosecutor and by David Sheldon, also a former Navy JAG.  All right, Tim, let me start with you.  How big a deal is this particular report? 

TIMOTHY SUSANIN, FMR. NAVY JAG PROSECUTOR:  I don‘t think it‘s that big a deal, Dan.  To answer your question from the top there, whether these service members going to trial have been given a defense, I think the answer is no.  In a sense, we already knew their defense a week or two ago.  They‘re all saying I was just following orders and what this article might do arguably is fill in the blank there and say, well, it was Donald Rumsfeld who at least impliedly...

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t there...

SUSANIN:  ... gave that order. 

ABRAMS:  But Tim isn‘t there a difference between just saying my commander told me to do this versus this was the policy?  And again, let‘s make it clear, no one is alleging that it was the policy of Donald Rumsfeld to put people in pyramids and do the sort of things we saw in these photographs, but the fact that there was a policy in place, if it‘s true, that allowed, encouraged them to use sort of non-ordinary, out of the ordinary techniques, that seems to me different than just saying my commander told me to do something. 

SUSANIN:  It‘s not different, Dan, and here‘s why.  The issue that this trial—these trials are going to come down to is whether the defendant knew that he or she was doing something wrong.  Each service member is trained from day one that they have to follow lawful orders and they are not to follow unlawful orders, and the key to these cases it seems to me is going to be in that comment that we‘ve seen from Sivits‘ statement that he gave where he says I should have said something. 

He should have reported what he saw to his superiors because clearly he knew what he saw was wrong and whether it was sanctioned by Rumsfeld or Cambone or anyone else down the chain, that‘s going to be a problem at trial for these folks.  Hersh‘s article and the coverage by the media of this investigation, the oversight function on Capitol Hill, that might all cast a wide net and increase the spotlight and the investigation on higher-ups, but it‘s not going to change the fact that a trial, if the jury—if it resonates with the jury that these service members knew they did something wrong, they‘re going to be convicted. 

ABRAMS:  But David Sheldon, that seems to me to beg the question a little bit.  Because if the question is, as we‘ve talk about many times on this program, we know you can‘t obey an unlawful order and not be responsible because that‘s just—you know we‘ve known for years that‘s a very bad way to run a system of military justice and yet if it is coming from the top, and again, just the general theme from the top is we need to soften these guys up, how do you know then if you‘re a 20-year-old out there that it‘s an unlawful order?

DAVID SHELDON, FMR. NAVY JAG:  Well I think that that‘s exactly right and there are clearly orders which are unlawful and there‘s no doubt about them whatsoever, but when Colonel Pappas, General Sanchez, the undersecretary deputy for defense, Mr. Cambone, when the secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld, are all involved in saying and propagating a policy that says set the conditions, put the heat on these prisoners, and it trickles down, who are you going to hold responsible?  Don‘t tell me that this doesn‘t blow a hole in the government‘s case if you can put these people on the stand and connect the dots back. 

Because a military panel is not going to say, well, you know, PFC England, she‘s the one who is going to be held responsible if all of her superiors and a field grade officer comes in and says to these low-level enlisted people who are reserves, who have just been activated, are in a very dangerous situation and say hey, set the conditions, put the heat on these people.  And we know that this administration has been doing this and finally the truth is coming out.  So I completely disagree.  I think that this is the beginning of a defense. 

ABRAMS:  All right, let me let Tim respond.

SUSANIN:  Dan, let‘s put aside the fact that General Taguba found that there was no policy and there was no trickle down from above and let‘s also put aside the fact that Mr. Hersh‘s article has two unnamed sources.  Let‘s stick with the people that had given statements in the investigation.  We know for a fact that these incidents were carried out at night, because those that carried them out didn‘t want their immediate supervisors to know they were doing them.  We know that when Sivits was asked about this issue, as to whether his immediate higher-ups knew, the exact quote was hell no, they would have slammed us if they knew what was going on...

(CROSSTALK)

SUSANIN:  ... and the fact that there was even one of these charged service members, I can‘t remember now if it was Frederick or Graner who was seen committing one of these acts by a superior and the superior went nuts. 

(CROSSTALK)

SUSANIN:  It‘s just not accurate to say that this was—there was a policy...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead...

SUSANIN:  ... that was trickling down. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  Go ahead.  David, go ahead.

SHELDON:  Well, I think you have to look at a couple different things.  One, Mr. Sivits—Specialist Sivits is after the fact mea culpa and his exasperation, it comes at a time of convenience, if we may.  The second thing is if they‘re using torture techniques and specifically the picture of the individual who is standing up on a platform and has electrocution devices hooked up to him, that‘s a specific, very, very rare and very—it‘s not well known type of torture and it was sanctioned in this case and that came from not these individuals, these service members...

(CROSSTALK)

SHELDON:  ... who are low-level enlisted.  So I...

ABRAMS:  Mr. Sheldon, let me just be very clear.  So you think that in almost all of these court-martials that the administration is going to get put on trial here? 

SHELDON:  I think that if there‘s a contested case that these are exactly the type of issues and somehow it just doesn‘t connect the dots that this is a rogue-enlisted unit out there of low-level service members who have absolutely no oversight.  There‘s got to be more to the story and it is coming out.  “The Washington Post” reported over the weekend that Undersecretary Cambone had signed a memorandum endorsed by Brigadier General...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SHELDON:  ... Sanchez and Colonel Pappas, all of which supported putting—setting the conditions, putting the heat on these soldiers. 

ABRAMS:  But...

SHELDON:  We know that this administration, there‘s a detainee facility called Hotel California that‘s been alluded to...

(CROSSTALK)

SHELDON:  ... that is somewhere in the United States, that‘s the type...

(CROSSTALK)

SHELDON:  ... or rather somewhere in the world that this administration is...

ABRAMS:  That‘s a different issue.  It is—to me that‘s a very—final word, Tim.  Go ahead.

SUSANIN:  Yes I mean that‘s silly.  The administration has been on the defensive here from the get-go, this article doesn‘t change anything, but what this comes down to is what the service members were aware of when these were undertaken and we‘ll hear testimony about that and the jurors will decide.

ABRAMS:  We shall see.  I—regardless of whether it‘s going to work or not, I am counting—I guarantee you that these guys are going to use this as some sort of defense. 

SUSANIN:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  I think it‘s going to be a very difficult one to win on, but I think that they are going to use it.  Timothy Susanin and David Sheldon, as always, thanks for an interesting conversation.

SUSANIN:  Thanks Dan.

SHELDON:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a car bomb kills the head of Iraq‘s Governing Council.  Is there any hope of stopping these types of attacks?  One man who would know, former commando and Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak.  He joins us. 

Also, high school teachers allowing students to see the gruesome video of Nick Berg‘s execution.  Now the teachers are getting punished sometimes just for telling students where to find the video.  Is that fair? 

And with the 10-year anniversary of the O.J. Simpson case less than a month away, for the first time Nicole Brown Simpson‘s sister Denise talks about what she really thought of lead prosecutor Marcia Clark and it‘s not very nice. 

Your e-mails to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I‘ll respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)  

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the parents of one of the Columbine killers blame the school‘s so-called toxic culture for the shootings.  Some of the victims‘ parents not happy with that new explanation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Today a suicide bomber attacked an area near a U.S.  checkpoint in Baghdad killing Izzedine Salim, the head of the Iraqi Governing Council.  Salim was the second and highest ranking member of the U.S.-appointed council to be assassinated in Iraq.  Last September council member Aquila al-Hashimi died after gunmen in a pickup truck ambushed her car.  Officials say another bomb that exploded near a U.S. military convoy in Baghdad contained the nerve agent Sarin.  With just six weeks until the day the U.S. hands over control of Iraq to an interim government, is there any hope that their leaders can be protected from terrorists?

I‘m joined now by a man who knows a lot about the region.  Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was the youngest Army chief of staff in Israeli history and head of the intelligence branch of the Israeli Army in 1973.  He led a raid on a Palestinian group responsible for murdering Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games.  An expert on security and the region, Ehud Barak joins me now. 

Mr. Prime Minister, thanks very much for coming on the program. 

EHUD BARAK, FMR. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER:  Thank you for having me.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So, is it possible to protect these Iraqi leaders in Iraq from these terrorists? 

BARAK:  You know, today‘s attack is a painful blow since it shows the level of intelligence and operation effectiveness that the insurgents had achieved.  I believe that it‘s going to continue, and basically the real problem with the interim governing body that is going to be established post 30th of June is that it will not have proper security forces to protect them.  It cannot be the Americans since using the Americans or relying upon the Americans will delegitimatize these government—governing body within weeks and the only way that I can see is to establish a process by which within the 60 -- first 60 or 90 days after the establishment of this body still under the auspices of the U.N., the Arab League, representatives of the Americans, a machinery will be established to re-enlist Iraqi former security soldiers or officers into service, in tens of thousands, and only when such a security force is established the torch can be passed to Iraqi sovereign governing body. 

ABRAMS:  Now I‘m just getting this from the “Reuters” news service.  And the new head of Iraq‘s Governing Council whose predecessor was killed by a car bomb on Monday said members of the U.S.-appointed body needed better protection and had been left vulnerable to attack.  We need better protection like more armored cars.  We need better locations to live in so we can commute easily to our work without feeling a risk to our safety.  What is it as a practical matter, though that—is there anything as a practical matter can be done in the next month, for example? 

BARAK:  Yes, there are a lot of technical, practical arrangements that could be devised or planned to slightly increase the security of these people, but it won‘t solve the problem because on 30th of June, a governing body is supposed to be established.  And the Americans won‘t be able to protect him by then without increasing or without inflicting a major damage about—upon the legitimacy of the governing body.  Iraqis will not accept American security forces physically protecting their supposedly sovereign governing body, so the only way is to establish a security force that is Iraqi in nature, because no one on earth right now, not Arab League Army, not Pakistan, not European countries, will not send their own soldiers. 

ABRAMS:  But how do you avoid the inside jobs?  I mean that‘s the big concern is that yes, you get this Iraqi force and yet, you know, it‘s difficult to vet who is on your side and who may still...

BARAK:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... have sympathy to the other side. 

BARAK:  Think of Fallujah as the microcosm (ph) of the issue you are dealing with.  You had three American brigades around the city, along skirmishes for weeks, without being able to enter the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) city and defeat insurgents, then you pass the torch to an Iraqi general, happen to be a Baathist general and within several days you put an end to it.  But when you ask him about where are the insurgents, he told you I couldn‘t find one.  I couldn‘t find no weapons, no insurgents, so somehow when the American forces are out, the problem evaporates, because once it‘s in the hand of the Iraqis and it is not American nominated Iraqis, but Iraqis that were somehow nominated by Brahimi or by any other mechanism (UNINTELLIGIBLE), if they will have Iraqi security forces under their control, at least the responsibility will not be upon you.

And the only way that I can see by now and I should admit, it‘s not a sure way, kind of a foolproof solution, but there are hardly any winning exit strategies remain for the American administration, and the only promising one in my judgment is somehow find a way to create an interim period where the real passing of the torch will not happen formally on the 30th of June, but only after another time will be taken to establish security forces. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BARAK:  Without security forces, the smallest group of people who do not hesitate to kill like Sadr Mehdi Army or some insurgent company...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BARAK:  ... will fill the vacuum and will destroy the governing body within several months. 

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, let me just ask you about this Sarin shell that was found there.  Is that something that should be a surprise—are you surprised when you heard that? 

BARAK:  Not exactly.  I believe that it‘s left over from the first Gulf War and it‘s clearly—there are many of these kind of artillery shells, some are in Iraq, still to be found. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

BARAK:  Unfortunately, Iraq is too full with weapons and explosives that even if you tried to buy them for weeks or months, you will end up with still them still being in the hands of terrorists (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, thank you so much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

BARAK:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, news is often called the first draft of history.  The Internet may be called the sewer of history.  So should teachers who direct students where to find the video of Nicholas Berg‘s execution on the Internet be punished?  Well, it‘s happening. 

And the parents of one of the Columbine shooters speaking out for the first time refusing to take any blame, instead saying it was the toxic culture at the school. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold‘s parents break their silence.  They‘re not offering any apologies.  That has some victims‘ families upset.  First a news update.

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up after the break, the execution of Nicholas Berg available for all to see on the Internet.  The question, does that mean high school students should be directed there by their teachers?  It‘s happening and it‘s gotten a number of teachers into some serious hot water.  We‘ll debate.

And O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark getting hammered from a surprising source—the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson.  It‘s all coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

ABRAMS:  We are back.  The gruesome video of the beheading of American Nick Berg in Iraq has been circulating on the Internet.  Now three California teachers have been disciplined for allegedly showing it to their students. 

NBC‘s George Lewis has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This video of Nicholas Berg ends with his violent death.  NBC News won‘t show that part, and neither will other mainstream news outlets.  But now two southern California school districts are investigating allegations that three different teachers let students view the beheading during class. 

(on camera):  The investigations were launched after students and parents complained to school authorities in Orange County California and in the suburbs of San Diego. 

TERRY RYAN, SUPERINTENDENT, GROSSMONT UNION HIGH SCHOOLS:  If these allegations are true, I‘m outraged and I‘m not going to tolerate it nor is our board going to tolerate it. 

LEWIS (voice-over):  Many parents share the outrage. 

PATTY CROSSLEY, PARENT:  Kids are exposed to I feel way too much violence as it is already.  They don‘t need to be seeing something that graphic. 

LEWIS:  But one teacher says there might actually be some value in sharing the video with high schoolers. 

SUSAN EDWARDS, TEACHER:  Under certain circumstances, yes, because that‘s the world we live in and we can‘t hide our heads in the sand. 

KRISTI SARFF, PARENT:  I don‘t buy that at all.  You don‘t need to actually see that to know what‘s going on in the world. 

LEWIS:  School authorities are now warning teachers that showing the beheading video will not be condoned under any circumstances.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  And there‘s more.  Two teachers in Washington State have been placed on paid administrative leave after they were accused of showing the Web cast murder in class.  In Portland, Oregon, three members of a popular morning radio team out of a job after they repeatedly played the audio portion of Berg‘s execution.

But let‘s get back to the issue.  The question—should it be OK for schools to at least direct students to the Web site, even if no one is being told to watch it? 

Dan Patrick is a radio talk show host from station KSEV in Houston and he thinks that showing this video to children is a big problem.  Ben Mankiewicz, co-host of the nationally syndicated show “Young Turks”, also airing on the Syria satellite radio, he joins us as well. 

All right, Ben, let me start with you.  What do you make of this whole controversy? 

BEN MANKIEWICZ, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well I think it‘s a controversy, Dan that we better get used to.  You know when suicide bombings began, we were all outraged by them and though we‘re still outraged by them now, they‘ve obviously happened again and again and I suspect that we are going to see more and more executions and they‘re all going to be available on the Internet.  So while this may be difficult for us to deal with and struggle with how children should be taught this or told about this, I suspect it‘s an issue we‘re going to have to deal with for maybe the rest of time...

ABRAMS:  So do you think that teachers should be punished?  I mean let‘s not take the example, for example, where a teacher actually presents it in the class.  I think that that‘s...

MANKIEWICZ:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... going to be the most severe example, I think most people are going to say no student should be forced to watch it or suddenly...

MANKIEWICZ:  Of course...

ABRAMS:  ... let‘s take the example of a teacher who says here‘s where the Web site is, anyone who wants to watch it, I‘m telling you, you know this is where it is.  Do you think a teacher should be punished for that? 

MANKIEWICZ:  Not if those are the only facts that we hear about.  I mean, yes, obviously forcing them to watch it is one thing, but I mean call me crazy, but I‘m actually going to come out on the side here that I‘m going to put some trust in teachers that they have the best interests of the students at heart...

ABRAMS:  Dan Patrick...

DAN PATRICK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Yes, I will call you crazy, Ben.  You know, during the Clinton years, our children learned about oral sex.  I don‘t think we would have been showing exactly what happened between Monica and Bill and we can teach our children and our older children, these are high school aged students, we can teach them about the horrors of the world without showing it and I don‘t trust all of the teachers.  My wife has been a teacher for almost 20 years, I support public education, but like any other industry, Dan, there is some pretty bad teachers that use very bad judgment and these teachers should not only be disciplined, they should be fired. 

This is unbelievable, Dan.  The psychological impact that this could have on anyone that saw it.  I know adults who saw this...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

PATRICK:   ... that they can‘t sleep at night and for young people to see this, and we also have the whole spectrum of violence...

ABRAMS:  What do you make of the arguments, though, Dan, you know the arguments...

PATRICK:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... out there among some which says it‘s important for Americans in general to see this, because it shows Americans—quote—

“what we‘re up against”.  What do you make of that? 

PATRICK:  Well Dan, here‘s the key.  That—I think we should have a debate about that.  If we‘re going to show it, then we show it to every high school student.  If MSNBC wants to show it, then let all the networks show it because I might agree that America needs to see the brutality of the fanatics that practice this extreme...

ABRAMS:  So then why are you ready to fire the teachers? 

PATRICK:  Well because Dan, it‘s one thing to have a debate what we should do as a nation and what direction we should go in, but you can‘t be a lone ranger in the classroom.  You can‘t walk in one day because if we allow a teacher to just write up on the board this Web site to see this, what stops another teacher from walking in tomorrow again showing, you know, oral sex or showing, you know, someone making love to a cat?  I mean where do we...

ABRAMS:  Ben, do you think that‘s a fair comparison?

MANKIEWICZ:  No, it‘s a preposterous comparison...

PATRICK:  No, it‘s not...

MANKIEWICZ:  Nobody thinks that we should be showing kids videos of someone making love to a cat.  I love how you got Bill Clinton involved in this issue out of nowhere seemingly.  I think we should maybe rely on the facts here.  I know that‘s probably difficult for some people.  I don‘t think they wrote it on the blackboard as far as I know and told all students to go there.  These were students who were interested in it. 

And as I said at the beginning, they obviously can go home and look at it.  And I would like it if instead of going home and looking at it and then e-mailing it to their friends and saying, hey, dude, look, cool, I don‘t even know if kids today are stilling say cool or dude for that matter, but I would like a teacher there who can maybe do some instructing and get them to talk about what they‘ve seen and involve students in something that is obviously difficult.  I wouldn‘t watch it myself, so I‘m sympathetic...

ABRAMS:  I can tell you I have watched it and you know, it is as—I think Dan characterized it fairly.  I mean—Dan Patrick—this is a very difficult video to watch for an adult. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  It is the sort of video that will stick with you.  I‘m sorry. 

Go ahead Dan.

PATRICK:  No, I‘m sorry Dan.  Let me make a more serious point.  Would we allow a teacher to come in and show a woman being raped?  I mean we could make this same argument.  You know forget the Clinton comparison, but there are brutal things that happen in everyday life and if we as a society are going to show it in the classrooms, before we do it, we better have a serious discussion with the schools and the parents.  I think at the end of the day, we will decide, we can teach our children the horrors of life without exposing them to the horrors of life. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Ben, what about the issue of the nation as a whole?  I mean do you think that the media—do you criticize the media, Ben, for not showing this videotape?

MANKIEWICZ:  No, I don‘t criticize the media for not showing it.  It‘s difficult.  As far as I know the only person to show it was Sean Hannity...

ABRAMS:  Just the audio...

MANKIEWICZ:  ... announcement ahead of time—the audio, exactly right—on his radio show.  So no, I mean we debated it on our radio show, “The Young Turks” and in fact, we played about eight seconds of the audio and I and my co-host, Cenk Uygur, insisted that we couldn‘t do any more than that.  But...

ABRAMS:  What did most of your listeners think?  I‘m sorry.  I apologize.  What did most of your listeners think?

MANKIEWICZ:  You know, most listeners who hadn‘t heard it at that point were obviously disturbed.  I mean all I saw was the stuff like you saw in George Lewis‘s piece or on the other networks that stopped short of the actual beheading and that‘s disturbing enough.  I‘m not going to disagree with anybody that it‘s incredibly disturbing and the listeners who heard it, the small portion that we play, it‘s chilling...

ABRAMS:  Dan, the final question for you, and I should have asked you a follow-up on Ben‘s point before, and that is a number of people on my staff who have children have said that their kids were passing this thing around the day after it happened and it was out there and you know, Ben makes the point, look, at least have a teacher supervisor who knows who‘s looking at it, can deal with it if there are ramifications, you know, is that—is there any validity to that? 

PATRICK:  Dan, there are lots of things that are being passed out around there amongst the children or kids or adults that we don‘t want to see in a classroom.  And in terms of the media and I think Hannity was wrong in airing that audio, what the media should be talking about is that this is the type of brutality that these people practice.  In other words, we don‘t need to horrify America by showing this, but we...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But it has more of an impact...

PATRICK:  ... we need to tell Americans that since the days of Muhammad this has been happening.  They cut off the heads of people.  I haven‘t heard anyone in the media telling the story of the Islam faith and this is a part of this faith. 

(CROSSTALK)

PATRICK:  That‘s what we need...

(CROSSTALK)

PATRICK:  ... that‘s what we need, not all Muslims, but look...

MANKIEWICZ:  Let me tell you something. 

PATRICK:  ... brutality and cutting off heads is part of their history.

MANKIEWICZ:  It‘s also been happening since the days of...

ABRAMS:  All right.

MANKIEWICZ:  It‘s also been happening since the days of Jesus and I would like...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.

MANKIEWICZ:  ... that my co-host...

PATRICK:  Please...

MANKIEWICZ:  Wait a minute.  My co-host...

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘ve got to...

MANKIEWICZ:  ... my co-host is a Muslim American...

(CROSSTALK)

MANKIEWICZ:  ... and I would put him up as...

ABRAMS:  We‘re not going to have a religious...

(CROSSTALK)

MANKIEWICZ:  I don‘t think we should. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I agree.  Look, I understand what you‘re saying. 

I mean but I don‘t want to get in to the whole religious...

PATRICK:  Well it‘s not.  In other words, we should explain...

ABRAMS:  Well...

PATRICK:  ... to our children this is not an isolated situation.

ABRAMS:  Well, I understand...

MANKIEWICZ:  Yes it is.

ABRAMS:  ... to sort of suggest that it‘s somehow related to the Islam faith as a whole...

PATRICK:  Not to the Islam—no...

ABRAMS:  That‘s what you said.  You said it‘s been historically...

PATRICK:  Dan—well Dan, let me finish.  I was interrupted.  The point I was making...

(CROSSTALK)

PATRICK:   The point I was making, Dan, is there are some people that have practiced this...

ABRAMS:  All right.

PATRICK:  ... in the Islam faith for almost 1,000 years...

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right.  All right.  That‘s exactly what I thought you said...

(CROSSTALK)

PATRICK:  Is that not correct?  Am I not correct?

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, it‘s not a question of hiding the fact, Dan.  The question is whether that is, as you point out, a necessary fact to discuss because it suggests that the faith as a whole is the problem as opposed to...

PATRICK:  No, it‘s not...

ABRAMS:  Yes it does.  It does...

PATRICK:  ... the faith as a whole...

ABRAMS:  All right...

PATRICK:  Look, I respect those people...

ABRAMS:  I got it.  Dan, I got it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry.  I wanted to focus on this topic. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I appreciate it.  You guys are great. 

PATRICK:  Well you asked a question.

ABRAMS:  I did.  I‘m not blaming you.  I take the heat.  My bad.

PATRICK:  Thanks Dan.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right. 

MANKIEWICZ:  Thanks Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, Dylan Klebold‘s parents say they don‘t need anyone‘s forgiveness for their son‘s Columbine High School murder spree.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Five years after the massacre at Columbine High School, there‘s still a lot of unanswered questions.  One of them, what do the parents of the killers have to say?  On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives, but theirs parents haven‘t publicly spoken about the incident and their depositions from civil lawsuits filed by families of the victims have been sealed. 

But now Klebold‘s parents, Tom and Susan Klebold, finally breaking their silence to David Brooks of “The New York Times”.  His mother Susan saying, I haven‘t done anything for which I need forgiveness.  Rather than taking any responsibility for the shooting, she blames the—quote—

“toxic culture” of the school, which she says worshipped athletes and tolerated bullying.  Earlier today Brooks described his conversation with the Klebolds. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BROOKS, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  They see it as—interestingly, they see it as a suicide primarily.  They know their kid killed people.  They know the horror that he brought to other families, but as they talk about it, they see it as someone who was in pain and who committed suicide in this horrible way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The Klebolds liken the day of the shootings to a natural disaster calling it a—quote—“hurricane and a rain of fire.”  The remarks not sitting well with some of the victims‘ parents.

Randy and Judy Brown were friends of the Klebolds before the shootings and their son Brooks Brown.  Brooks was friends with both Eric and Dylan.  The day of the shootings Eric even warned Brooks to go home. 

Thank you both for coming back on the program.  Appreciate it.  So... 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  ... Judy, are you surprised by Susan Klebold‘s comments? 

JUDY BROWN, FORMER FRIEND OF THE KLEBOLDS:  I‘m surprised and very disgusted by her comments.  I am ashamed to have said that I was her friend.  These comments are very unacceptable.  I‘m just shocked.  I am shocked at the coldness and the lack of compassion. 

ABRAMS:  Randy, let me read you another quote from what apparently the Klebolds said, Susan Klebold said to “The New York Times”.  Dylan did not do this because of the way he was raised.  He did it in contradiction to the way he was raised.  And basically what she seems to be saying is you know don‘t blame us. 

RANDY BROWN, FORMER FRIEND OF THE KLEBOLDS:  It‘s an awful safe interview to do to talk to David Brooks, a reporter for “The New York Times”, who doesn‘t know any of the facts about Columbine or any of the history and he can‘t ask them relevant questions.  I would hope that this is the first step for the Klebolds and the Harrises, that they would come out and tell publicly everything that they know about their children, that they would tell the truth, that they would tell their attorneys that after five years, enough is enough, it‘s time to quit hiding.  It‘s time to quit keeping lies.  It‘s time to tell the truth so that experts like Ralph Larkin (ph) and James Gabarino (ph) and Gavin De Becker and all the other experts that want to know these things can learn from these. 

ABRAMS:  What...

R. BROWN:  These parents need to go public.

ABRAMS:  Randy, what do you want them to say?  I mean what is it you want to hear out of their mouths?

R. BROWN:  I don‘t want to blame them.  I don‘t want to hate them.  And I don‘t, but they need to come out.  Their children murdered innocent children in a school.  They need to share with these experts and with parents everywhere everything that they know so that we can stop this from happening again.  But they also need to apologize to these families, something that they have never really done. 

ABRAMS:  Let me read again, Judy, this—again from the article in “The New York Times”.  Tom Klebold just said he was hopeless.  We didn‘t realize it until after the end.  Susan Klebold, I think he suffered horribly before he died.  For not seeing that, I will never forgive myself. 

Has your son given you any insight into, you know, his relationship with his parents?  Based on your knowing Susan Klebold, do you know what kind of mother she was, how active she was in her son‘s life, et cetera? 

J. BROWN:  I do know a lot of things, Tom or—sorry, Dan.  This is so upsetting.  I have to tell you, I don‘t believe that they intentionally raised a murderer, but certainly parents are a piece of the puzzle and Tom Klebold is saying I hope an authoritative person will do a study and give us answers.  Well Tom needs to understand that people want answers too and he has the answers to what happened in that family. 

You have to know that the Klebolds are active in having their depositions in court destroyed and they want all of Dylan‘s writings destroyed and his journals destroyed.  They are not willing to share information and I think that‘s real disturbing because a lot of people deserve answers.  The families that lost children, those kids suffered that day, and I am shocked that Sue doesn‘t feel that she owes any apology to these families.  I don‘t understand it. 

ABRAMS:  And you and Susan—Sue were good friends, right, before this happened? 

J. BROWN:  We were good friends before and I will tell you though we had had a falling out because I believed that she should speak with the parents of the kids that were murdered.  We tried to arrange that because they said we don‘t need to go to court, we just want answers and they were willing to do it outside the court system.  These are not angry, out of control parents.  They just want answers and the Klebolds refused to do it.  They refused to sit with them.  They refused to do it. 

ABRAMS:  And as a result of that, your friendship ended?

J. BROWN:  That‘s right. 

ABRAMS:  Randy, do you think that you‘re ever going to hear an “I‘m sorry” from either the Harris or Klebold family? 

R. BROWN:  Actually, I should say that it isn‘t as important that they say I‘m sorry as that they come out and tell everything that they know and reveal everything that they know, the writings, the videotapes, the things that they are keeping secret... 

ABRAMS:  That‘s a good distinction...

R. BROWN:  ... so that people can learn from this.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  No, I appreciate that.  It‘s a good distinction.  Randy and Judy Brown, thank you once again for joining me.  Appreciate it.

R. BROWN:  Thank you Dan.

J. BROWN:  Dan, thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Next month marks the 10-year anniversary of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, a crime that put O.J. Simpson on trial.  He was acquitted in the criminal trial, found responsible in a civil trial.  In an interview this weekend, Nicole Brown Simpson‘s sister, Denise Brown, in a surprising comment came out blasting lead prosecutor Marcia Clark.

NBC‘s Mark Mullen has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  O.J...

MARK MULLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Denise Brown no longer feels compelled to hold back.  With a gag order now expired, Brown is lashing out at the prosecutors who tried her former brother-in-law, O.J.  Simpson.  Brown says that she and her family were shocked at the insensitivity from then assistant D.A. Marcia Clark, recalling their very first meeting in Clark‘s office. 

DENISE BROWN, NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON‘S SISTER:  I‘m standing there in the doorway and I see this poster and on it there were pictures about this big.  The one picture I was staring at was the picture of my sister‘s throat cut and I was like, oh my God.  I don‘t need to see my sister lying if a pool of blood. 

MULLEN:  Brown insists that her beef with Clark is not sour grapes or O.J.‘s acquittal, but rather how Clark conducted herself during and after the trial.  Even Clark‘s book deal comes under fire. 

BROWN:  She gets $4.2 million to write a book and tell people how strange we are.  That we are the strangest family that she‘s ever met, that Nicole never had a chance to get out of her abusive relationship. 

MULLEN:  Denise Brown says she is now focused on protecting other women through the educational foundation named for Nicole. 

BROWN:  I‘ve had hundreds of thousands of e-mails, I think, over the years of your sister‘s murder saved my life and that makes it rewarding.  That to me is God, you know, great, we were able to save one life.  Nicole did not die in vain.  She saved somebody‘s life. 

Mark Mullen, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, my “Closing Argument”—why 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, it may be time to stop trying to malign judges by calling them—quote—“activists” since that decision may have been the most activist in our history.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, “Your Rebuttal” on the 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 12-year-old girl and got probation...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education can still provide us with valuable lesson 50 years later.  On this anniversary, scholars and policymakers will discuss and debate whether the court‘s decision to eliminate segregation in schools has lived up to its potential, whether the change have been sweeping enough, et cetera.  But apart from the practical impact, it was also a major development in the way the justices evaluated cases.  There‘s no question that this unanimous opinion was that of an activist court.  A court willing to look beyond just what Congress, state law, or even its own precedent mandated. 

A court that ruled quite simply that in the field of public education, the doctrine of separate but equal has no place.  That black children in segregated schools were being—quote—“deprived under equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.”  Almost all of the even the most conservative of legal thinkers now look back at that opinion favorably.  So today it kind of makes me cringe when I hear some refer to activist judges as if it is the ultimate insult.  A suggestion that they‘ve been derelict in their duties. 

Without activist judges, some states might still have segregated schools or still make it illegal for interracial couples to marry.  And reading through some of the Brown justices‘ notes, it is clear, they had the same sort of reservations as justices today about overstepping their authority.  One was concerned that Congress had not passed a law desegregating schools.  Another wrote that states should be left to work out the problem for themselves.  Two others were troubled about overturning long time precedent, which accepted the idea that schools could be separate but equal. 

But in the end, they all agreed that the segregation of schools was simply unfair and must be ended.  Now I don‘t mean to suggest that judges should feel free to regularly inject their personal views of policy into what‘s supposed to be legal analysis.  In fact, my regular views know I‘ve criticized judges for doing just that.  But 50 years after one of the most activist and enlightened opinions in our history, it‘s important to remember that when it comes to fundamental rights, sometime only a—quote -- “activist court” will make the tough and brave decisions that politicians can‘t or won‘t. 

All right, I‘ve had my say.  Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Friday we told you about Jerome and Judith O‘Callaghan, a couple who chose American Airlines for their flight to Rome because the airlines commercial promised more legroom.  Now they‘re suing for a minimum of $30,000 because they say the airline failed to provide seating and conformity where they advertised more legroom in coach than any other airline. 

I said they‘re going to have a really tough time with this lawsuit.  But I couldn‘t be too hard on them.  They were a nice elderly couple.  They seemed so nice. 

From Hauula, Hawaii, Bill McManus.  “If they are in such bad shape that they suffered so much agony, maybe they should have vacationed somewhere closer like Waukegan.  What, they couldn‘t get up and stretch?  I‘m sick and tired of seeing these frivolous lawsuits.”

Sue Kennedy from Chicago.  “Those are the scary, annoying old people you hope aren‘t ever with you on a nine-hour flight to anywhere.  My 76-year-old dad is the kind of traveler who would turn to them and go oh shut up already.”

But Elizabeth Burke in Washington, D.C. has some sympathy.  “I recently flew from D.C. to Nairobi, Kenya.  I have never been so uncomfortable in my life.  I‘d like to see airline executives fly to Nairobi in coach, sitting in a middle seat and see how they like it.  Bravo to the couple who brought the lawsuit against the airline.”

And this is one I don‘t get.  Sandy Abramowitz, a big fan of the show, Naples, Florida says, “I‘m interested about the people suing American.  Even though you think it‘s frivolous and ridiculous, I agree, but I have had serious problems with Delta.  I would like the name of these people‘s attorney or if you know where I can find out what attorneys handle this type of litigation.  I would appreciate any direction from you.”

So, wait Sandy, you agree it is frivolous and yet you want the name of the lawyer?  Come on.

Also on Friday, Mark Vansandt, a 20-year-old man, pled guilty to having sex with a 12-year-old girl.  His punishment?  Ten days probation.  I spoke with Mr. Vansandt‘s attorney.  His defense of the light sentence that the 12-year-old has provocative pictures of herself on a Web site where she describes herself being 16 years old.  I didn‘t buy it.  Many of you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Traci in Lakeland, Florida writes, “The defense attorney‘s defense was almost as sick as the crime.  Blaming it on the girl and the way she presents herself.  And he readily admitted on the show that the man knew she was underage, whether he thought 12 or 16 years old.  Unbelievable.”

Liz DeMello from Rhode Island.  “I agree with you that the law is the law and that the offender deserves whatever the maximum sentence is because he knew what was doing wrong.  However, have you seen any 12-year-old girls lately?  I live near a middle school and most of these girls look amazingly enough like 18-year-olds.”

Maybe Liz, but he never claimed he didn‘t know she was 12 and that‘s it. 

Finally, from Texas City, Texas, Milton Spencer.  “Dan, what did you eat for breakfast?  I can personally name a half dozen kids that have had sex with men in their twenties.” 

Really?  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) With 12-year-olds, Milton?  I hope you‘re reporting them. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  We go through them.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Chris talks with “The New Yorker‘s” Seymour Hersh on his Iraqi prisoner abuse report.

Thanks for watching.  I‘ll see you tomorrow.

END  

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