updated 8/3/2004 10:01:52 AM ET 2004-08-03T14:01:52

Guest: John Harris, Lee Miringoff

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

Amazing specificity:  Terror warnings.  Building by building, the validity of the threat, the danger of politicizing the terror alert system, and the reactions inside two of the targets, Prudential and the World Bank.

The polls:  No bounce for Kerry, says the Gallup poll.  He‘s 10 points ahead, says the “Newsweek” poll.  Why your poll and my poll are definitely not the same poll. 

The inevitable in Salt Lake City:  The husband of Mrs. Lori Hacking arrested.  The charge?  Aggravated murder. 

And criticize TV as you will, Lord knows we deserve it.  But this 11-year-old boy survived a shark attack by punching the shark right in the gills.  And where did he learn to do that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was watching TV the day before and I saw that on the Discovery Channel. 

OLBERMANN:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  Now that the color-coded terror threat alert system has been adapted for door-to-door use, now that one zip code can be yellow and the adjoining one orange, this question rises:  What are the criteria now for lowering specific buildings or areas back from orange to yellow?  Don‘t you have to have their would-be attackers under lock and key, confessed or convicted, before you can do that? 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN:  The financial terror alert.  What‘s next?  What do the terror experts say about the validity of the threat?  Are there politics involved?  What was it like inside the Prudential building in Newark or inside the World Bank in Washington today?  And will the real long-term impact of all of this prove to be simply people pulling more cash than usual out of their Citibank ATMs? 

We begin with the threat itself.  But first, since the color-coded public threat system was implemented, it cannot possibly be criticized as being too vague.  Announced yesterday by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge it is at once both alarmingly specific and, in the words of one official, quote, “chilling in its scope.”  Five targets named specifically.  The New York Stock Exchange in lower Manhattan, not far, in fact adjoining, where the World Trade Center once stood; in Midtown, the Citigroup Center, at 59 stories, New York‘s fifth tallest building; across the Hudson River, Prudential, a fixture in the skyline of Newark, New Jersey, home to one of the largest financial service operations in the country.  And in the nation‘s capital:  The International Monetary Fund, as well as the World Bank headquarters. 

But, while the target list is specific, the timetable is not.  Secretary Ridge saying only that an attack could come before the November elections.  And after his news conference, he or his people leaking to several newspaper the fact that the incredibly specific information might be more than three years old.  Why it surfaced now?  Pakistani officials producing a laptop computer containing more than 500 separate images of the buildings, some from Internet sources, others gathered by hand or by foot, by actually casing the buildings here in this country.  In addition, officials say written materials from an entirely different source confirmed the focus on these targets. 

As for whose laptop, the initial reports said it belonged to Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a suspect in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania who was captured last week.  But a senior U.S.  intelligence official is telling NBC News that the laptop was seized from Abu Talhah (ph), also known as Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a 25-year-old computer specialist who was captured also in Pakistan, but on July 13. 

Later we‘ll look in depth at those tentative, fingers-crossed doubts expressed in the some quarters about these warnings.  Could they contain a political component?  The first litmus test of that, what the counter-terrorist pros think of this.  We‘re now joined by one of them.  MSNBC analyst Juliette Kayyem was a member of the National Commission on Terrorism and heads the research program on the topic at the Kennedy School at Harvard. 

Juliette, thanks for your time tonight. 

JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATL. SECURITY AND COUNTER-TERRORISM EXPERT:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Big picture, should we be taking this threat at face value or with some grain of salt? 

KAYYEM:  A little bit of a grain of salt.  Here‘s why:  I think the information is different.  It‘s specific.  Tom Ridge is being more specific about not only what the intelligence says, but in terms of what cities should pay attention.  But what we still don‘t know and what you made clear in the lead up was, when?  And that matters, because we can‘t sustain this level of intensity, this level of fear for a very long time.  It‘s not practical.  It‘s not useful from any counter-terrorism perspective.  So, while I think the intelligence is important and different, we still are no clearer or closer to knowing when, in fact, was this attack planned.

OLBERMANN:  And that takes us back to the question that I posed at the beginning of the program.  If you take certain buildings, certain small parts of cities and you declare they are at orange alert, what are the criteria for bringing them back down to yellow?  Don‘t you have to have essentially averted the threat, arrested those posing it?  Is it almost not impossible now to bringing that color-code back down a notch? 

KAYYEM:  I think it‘s somewhat impossible.  I think if we get intelligence that suggests that our first initial assessment was wrong or we feel a little bit more confident that those places are secure, we might see the threat level go down. 

Trust me, that threat level will not go down for those cities before the election.  It‘s just going to sustain itself for that long, and people in those cities should be prepared for it. 

But there‘s no good—there‘s—all of this is an art, it‘s not a science.  It‘s unclear at what stage we will technically go down on the terror threat level for those two cities.  I think we‘re just going to have to sort of wait it out and see what the intelligence shows, and right now we simply just don‘t know timing. 

And we know in the Africa embassy case, for example, in the 1999 cases, those guys staked out the Africa embassies in Tanzania and Kenya for four years.  So, you know, are we looking at something that was planned in 2008 or that might have been thought of, but the al Qaeda sort of abandoned after September 11, 2001?  That I don‘t think we know yet, and so simply, we‘re just given information that appears to be somewhat old, but really specific, and that‘s what is getting them nervous. 

OLBERMANN:  And the response to this.  I‘d like your reaction to this remark yesterday by the director of the Washington Emergency Management Agency, a kind of guide that she hoped she was providing to what civilians should call the police about. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA CHILDS-PAIR, D.C. EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY:  Making calls to the police department if you see anything suspicious.  If you see suspicious persons around that are strangers with cameras, those kinds of things. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Juliette, strangers with cameras, that describes every tourist in Washington or in New York, for that matter.  Is that kind of statement any use whatsoever?  Did the woman just misspeak or what? 

KAYYEM:  It‘s not useful on two levels.  First of all, it‘s not useful because everyone in D.C. has a camera and everyone in D.C., especially in August is a visitor, right?  Everyone who lives there is now gone. 

I don‘t know if what she meant, but she couldn‘t say it, was strange looking Arab and Muslim groups of people taking pictures, because of course that‘s a threat.  Even that kind of specific profiling, in the end, doesn‘t work.  We knew that after September 11.  The sort of profiling and questioning that went on after September 11 of certain communities in America did not, looking at it two or three years later, did not provide any useful intelligence whatsoever. 

The truth is that this is—you know, to get the right intelligence either requires us infiltrating terrorist cells, listening in on them when they use cell phones, or, as in this case, hoping the Pakistanis pick up someone important and tell us about it, which is clearly what happened here. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, switch this around for me.  I guess it‘s perhaps a related topic.  You‘re doing a lot of international interviews today.  How is this being perceived overseas? 

KAYYEM:  You know, it‘s interesting.  There‘s a part of this story that‘s not being picked up by the U.S. press at all.  When you are abroad, or you travel in the Middle East, like I do, or in Europe, New York is not only viewed as the financial center, but it‘s, crudely I think, also viewed as a city that is Jewish.  And a lot of foreign press are concerned about the anti-Semitism with attacking New York and the financial districts. 

These Islamic extremists are—clearly hate America, they clearly hate Israel, and they clearly hate people who believe in the Jewish faith.  That is something that the international press is really picking up on in a way that the U.S. press is sort of just viewing this as a financial story, attacking America‘s finance, where I think it resonates quite differently in both the Arab and European media. 

OLBERMANN:  Extraordinary.  No reason to suppose that the two sides of this coin don‘t really understand what‘s going on in each other‘s worlds when you hear something like that. 

Juliette Kayyem of the Kennedy School at Harvard and MSNBC counter-terrorism analyst.  A great thanks, Juliette. 

KAYYEM:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  However much this affects or should affect ordinary citizens in New York, New Jersey, Washington or elsewhere, this much we know for certain tonight.  It affected the employees of Citibank, Prudential, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the firms on Wall Street.  Several organizations instructed their staffers not to talk to the media on this subject, not on the record anyway, but off the record we are getting something of the picture from inside.

At the Citigroup building in New York, employees now report they, along with visitors to the building, had to go through metal detectors.  Four police squad cars were present around the tower.  A company-wide meeting this afternoon addressed the continuity of business, in other words, how to keep the bank going in the event of an attack.  And interestingly, security barriers have been completed around the Citicorp Center, but that project had began two weeks ago. 

One small firm in that center, on Manhattan‘s East Side, says its employees gave the staff the option to work from home today, or its employers, rather gave the staff the option to work from home today, and as many as 50 percent of them did. 

At the Prudential facility in Newark, New Jersey, a corporate spokesperson described, quote, “Additional security and local law enforcement personnel present, along with safety barricades and additional screening procedures.  It remains business as usual for the company‘s operations.” 

But at the World Bank in Washington, with more than 6,000 employees located over a campus full of buildings, we are told that a series of swift and impressive measures in security that were enacted today, metal detectors moved from inside to outside the buildings; vehicles being checked not in the many garages, but at curbside; employees being told not to invite guests over for lunch; even bomb sniffing dogs being swept through the hallways. 

World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, addressed his people in Washington and elsewhere, for one hour this afternoon.  Told them to be alert and to maintain a tighter ship, but he also emphasized that none of the information, at least none of it pertaining to the World Bank, had a date on it.  “There‘s no reason,” an employee paraphrased him as saying, “to think any threat is either imminent or new.  It could be as old as 2001.”  The scene at the World Bank was described as one more of inconvenience than of fear.

And lastly on this subject, sometimes terrorism is not terrorism, it‘s learning a foreign language.  A Japanese businessman trying to perfect his English by reading American newspapers and writing notes to himself every time he came across a word or phrase he did not understand.  Unfortunately the phrase he did not understand yesterday was “suicide bomb,” and unfortunately the place he didn‘t understand it was on board a flight from Chicago to Dayton, Ohio.  Another passenger saw him scribble that phrase, “suicide bomb,” on a piece of paper, alerted a flight attendant.  The plane was immediately diverted back to O‘Hare Airport in Chicago.  After conducting a search of the plane and questioning the unnamed businessman, he was released without having been charged.  Presumably he knows now what the phrase means. 

COUNTDOWN opening tonight with the new and improved, perhaps specific terror threat.  Our No. 4 story:  The politics of terror, if any.  It still risked great political capital to suggest politics might play a role here.  We will take that risk, next. 

Then later, two weeks since he stood before microphones and pleaded for his wife‘s safe return, the Utah man Mark Hacking is now in jail, accused of making that safe return an impossibility.  We‘ll go live to Salt Lake City.  Stand by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Straight ahead, terror warnings and politics.  History tells us presidents have exaggerated threats to the public safety to gain political advantage or simplify complex needs of strategy.  Ask Lyndon Johnson, ask William McKinley.  Do we need to ask George Bush?  Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

convention bounce for John Kerry.>

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

Amazing specificity:  Terror warnings.  Building by building, the validity of the threat, the danger of politicizing the terror alert system, and the reactions inside two of the targets, Prudential and the World Bank.

The polls:  No bounce for Kerry, says the Gallup poll.  He‘s 10 points ahead, says the “Newsweek” poll.  Why your poll and my poll are definitely not the same poll. 

The inevitable in Salt Lake City:  The husband of Mrs. Lori Hacking arrested.  The charge?  Aggravated murder. 

And criticize TV as you will, Lord knows we deserve it.  But this 11-year-old boy survived a shark attack by punching the shark right in the gills.  And where did he learn to do that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was watching TV the day before and I saw that on the Discovery Channel. 

OLBERMANN:  All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  Now that the color-coded terror threat alert system has been adapted for door-to-door use, now that one zip code can be yellow and the adjoining one orange, this question rises:  What are the criteria now for lowering specific buildings or areas back from orange to yellow?  Don‘t you have to have their would-be attackers under lock and key, confessed or convicted, before you can do that? 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN:  The financial terror alert.  What‘s next?  What do the terror experts say about the validity of the threat?  Are there politics involved?  What was it like inside the Prudential building in Newark or inside the World Bank in Washington today?  And will the real long-term impact of all of this prove to be simply people pulling more cash than usual out of their Citibank ATMs? 

We begin with the threat itself.  But first, since the color-coded public threat system was implemented, it cannot possibly be criticized as being too vague.  Announced yesterday by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge it is at once both alarmingly specific and, in the words of one official, quote, “chilling in its scope.”  Five targets named specifically.  The New York Stock Exchange in lower Manhattan, not far, in fact adjoining, where the World Trade Center once stood; in Midtown, the Citigroup Center, at 59 stories, New York‘s fifth tallest building; across the Hudson River, Prudential, a fixture in the skyline of Newark, New Jersey, home to one of the largest financial service operations in the country.  And in the nation‘s capital:  The International Monetary Fund, as well as the World Bank headquarters. 

But, while the target list is specific, the timetable is not.  Secretary Ridge saying only that an attack could come before the November elections.  And after his news conference, he or his people leaking to several newspaper the fact that the incredibly specific information might be more than three years old.  Why it surfaced now?  Pakistani officials producing a laptop computer containing more than 500 separate images of the buildings, some from Internet sources, others gathered by hand or by foot, by actually casing the buildings here in this country.  In addition, officials say written materials from an entirely different source confirmed the focus on these targets. 

As for whose laptop, the initial reports said it belonged to Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a suspect in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania who was captured last week.  But a senior U.S.  intelligence official is telling NBC News that the laptop was seized from Abu Talhah (ph), also known as Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a 25-year-old computer specialist who was captured also in Pakistan, but on July 13. 

Later we‘ll look in depth at those tentative, fingers-crossed doubts expressed in the some quarters about these warnings.  Could they contain a political component?  The first litmus test of that, what the counter-terrorist pros think of this.  We‘re now joined by one of them.  MSNBC analyst Juliette Kayyem was a member of the National Commission on Terrorism and heads the research program on the topic at the Kennedy School at Harvard. 

Juliette, thanks for your time tonight. 

JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATL. SECURITY AND COUNTER-TERRORISM EXPERT:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Big picture, should we be taking this threat at face value or with some grain of salt? 

KAYYEM:  A little bit of a grain of salt.  Here‘s why:  I think the information is different.  It‘s specific.  Tom Ridge is being more specific about not only what the intelligence says, but in terms of what cities should pay attention.  But what we still don‘t know and what you made clear in the lead up was, when?  And that matters, because we can‘t sustain this level of intensity, this level of fear for a very long time.  It‘s not practical.  It‘s not useful from any counter-terrorism perspective.  So, while I think the intelligence is important and different, we still are no clearer or closer to knowing when, in fact, was this attack planned.

OLBERMANN:  And that takes us back to the question that I posed at the beginning of the program.  If you take certain buildings, certain small parts of cities and you declare they are at orange alert, what are the criteria for bringing them back down to yellow?  Don‘t you have to have essentially averted the threat, arrested those posing it?  Is it almost not impossible now to bringing that color-code back down a notch? 

KAYYEM:  I think it‘s somewhat impossible.  I think if we get intelligence that suggests that our first initial assessment was wrong or we feel a little bit more confident that those places are secure, we might see the threat level go down. 

Trust me, that threat level will not go down for those cities before the election.  It‘s just going to sustain itself for that long, and people in those cities should be prepared for it. 

But there‘s no good—there‘s—all of this is an art, it‘s not a science.  It‘s unclear at what stage we will technically go down on the terror threat level for those two cities.  I think we‘re just going to have to sort of wait it out and see what the intelligence shows, and right now we simply just don‘t know timing. 

And we know in the Africa embassy case, for example, in the 1999 cases, those guys staked out the Africa embassies in Tanzania and Kenya for four years.  So, you know, are we looking at something that was planned in 2008 or that might have been thought of, but the al Qaeda sort of abandoned after September 11, 2001?  That I don‘t think we know yet, and so simply, we‘re just given information that appears to be somewhat old, but really specific, and that‘s what is getting them nervous. 

OLBERMANN:  And the response to this.  I‘d like your reaction to this remark yesterday by the director of the Washington Emergency Management Agency, a kind of guide that she hoped she was providing to what civilians should call the police about. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA CHILDS-PAIR, D.C. EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY:  Making calls to the police department if you see anything suspicious.  If you see suspicious persons around that are strangers with cameras, those kinds of things. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Juliette, strangers with cameras, that describes every tourist in Washington or in New York, for that matter.  Is that kind of statement any use whatsoever?  Did the woman just misspeak or what? 

KAYYEM:  It‘s not useful on two levels.  First of all, it‘s not useful because everyone in D.C. has a camera and everyone in D.C., especially in August is a visitor, right?  Everyone who lives there is now gone. 

I don‘t know if what she meant, but she couldn‘t say it, was strange looking Arab and Muslim groups of people taking pictures, because of course that‘s a threat.  Even that kind of specific profiling, in the end, doesn‘t work.  We knew that after September 11.  The sort of profiling and questioning that went on after September 11 of certain communities in America did not, looking at it two or three years later, did not provide any useful intelligence whatsoever. 

The truth is that this is—you know, to get the right intelligence either requires us infiltrating terrorist cells, listening in on them when they use cell phones, or, as in this case, hoping the Pakistanis pick up someone important and tell us about it, which is clearly what happened here. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, switch this around for me.  I guess it‘s perhaps a related topic.  You‘re doing a lot of international interviews today.  How is this being perceived overseas? 

KAYYEM:  You know, it‘s interesting.  There‘s a part of this story that‘s not being picked up by the U.S. press at all.  When you are abroad, or you travel in the Middle East, like I do, or in Europe, New York is not only viewed as the financial center, but it‘s, crudely I think, also viewed as a city that is Jewish.  And a lot of foreign press are concerned about the anti-Semitism with attacking New York and the financial districts. 

These Islamic extremists are—clearly hate America, they clearly hate Israel, and they clearly hate people who believe in the Jewish faith.  That is something that the international press is really picking up on in a way that the U.S. press is sort of just viewing this as a financial story, attacking America‘s finance, where I think it resonates quite differently in both the Arab and European media. 

OLBERMANN:  Extraordinary.  No reason to suppose that the two sides of this coin don‘t really understand what‘s going on in each other‘s worlds when you hear something like that. 

Juliette Kayyem of the Kennedy School at Harvard and MSNBC counter-terrorism analyst.  A great thanks, Juliette. 

KAYYEM:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  However much this affects or should affect ordinary citizens in New York, New Jersey, Washington or elsewhere, this much we know for certain tonight.  It affected the employees of Citibank, Prudential, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the firms on Wall Street.  Several organizations instructed their staffers not to talk to the media on this subject, not on the record anyway, but off the record we are getting something of the picture from inside.

At the Citigroup building in New York, employees now report they, along with visitors to the building, had to go through metal detectors.  Four police squad cars were present around the tower.  A company-wide meeting this afternoon addressed the continuity of business, in other words, how to keep the bank going in the event of an attack.  And interestingly, security barriers have been completed around the Citicorp Center, but that project had began two weeks ago. 

One small firm in that center, on Manhattan‘s East Side, says its employees gave the staff the option to work from home today, or its employers, rather gave the staff the option to work from home today, and as many as 50 percent of them did. 

At the Prudential facility in Newark, New Jersey, a corporate spokesperson described, quote, “Additional security and local law enforcement personnel present, along with safety barricades and additional screening procedures.  It remains business as usual for the company‘s operations.” 

But at the World Bank in Washington, with more than 6,000 employees located over a campus full of buildings, we are told that a series of swift and impressive measures in security that were enacted today, metal detectors moved from inside to outside the buildings; vehicles being checked not in the many garages, but at curbside; employees being told not to invite guests over for lunch; even bomb sniffing dogs being swept through the hallways. 

World Bank president, James Wolfensohn, addressed his people in Washington and elsewhere, for one hour this afternoon.  Told them to be alert and to maintain a tighter ship, but he also emphasized that none of the information, at least none of it pertaining to the World Bank, had a date on it.  “There‘s no reason,” an employee paraphrased him as saying, “to think any threat is either imminent or new.  It could be as old as 2001.”  The scene at the World Bank was described as one more of inconvenience than of fear.

And lastly on this subject, sometimes terrorism is not terrorism, it‘s learning a foreign language.  A Japanese businessman trying to perfect his English by reading American newspapers and writing notes to himself every time he came across a word or phrase he did not understand.  Unfortunately the phrase he did not understand yesterday was “suicide bomb,” and unfortunately the place he didn‘t understand it was on board a flight from Chicago to Dayton, Ohio.  Another passenger saw him scribble that phrase, “suicide bomb,” on a piece of paper, alerted a flight attendant.  The plane was immediately diverted back to O‘Hare Airport in Chicago.  After conducting a search of the plane and questioning the unnamed businessman, he was released without having been charged.  Presumably he knows now what the phrase means. 

COUNTDOWN opening tonight with the new and improved, perhaps specific terror threat.  Our No. 4 story:  The politics of terror, if any.  It still risked great political capital to suggest politics might play a role here.  We will take that risk, next. 

Then later, two weeks since he stood before microphones and pleaded for his wife‘s safe return, the Utah man Mark Hacking is now in jail, accused of making that safe return an impossibility.  We‘ll go live to Salt Lake City.  Stand by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Straight ahead, terror warnings and politics.  History tells us presidents have exaggerated threats to the public safety to gain political advantage or simplify complex needs of strategy.  Ask Lyndon Johnson, ask William McKinley.  Do we need to ask George Bush?  Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Since 9/11, it has been a dangerous thing, even career jeopardizing, to question warnings about perspective terror attacks.  As late as yesterday, democratic Senator Joe Lieberman questioned the sanity of anybody who would think that any politician would ever exaggerate a threat to national security just for political gain.  But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, given this nation‘s history, shouldn‘t we be required to at least ask that question? 

From the anti-catholic know-nothing party of the 1850‘s to the Palmer raids of the 1920‘s, from Joe McCarthy to Lyndon Johnson‘s manipulation of the Gulf of Tonkin.  Our politics have been filled with politician who‘ve created a kind of evil twin to FDR‘s famous phrase, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  All of that seems particularly relevant when the secretary of Homeland Security changes the threat level three days after his boss‘s challenger accepts the nomination of the rival party.  And in so doing, throws in a live plug for the incumbent. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president‘s leadership in the war against terror.  The reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence in military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  With Secretary Ridge‘s news conference already scheduled, but not yet convened, the issue of timing was raised by former Vermont governor and presidential candidate, Howard Dean, yesterday.  Even if Joe Lieberman would later call Dean‘s comments to CNN, “outrageous.” 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN, FMR. GOVERNOR OF VERMONT:  I am concerned that every time something happens that‘s not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism.  His whole campaign is based on the notion that “I can keep you safe.  therefore, and if times are difficult—a difficulty for America, stick with me,” and then outcomes Tom Ridge.  It is just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there‘s some of both in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Tomorrow‘s “Washington Post” will look at the possible, or the perceived, intertwining of terror alerts and politics.  National political correspondent, John Harris, has co-written piece and he joins us now.

Mr. Harris, good evening.

JOHN HARRIS, “WASHINGTON POST”:  Hi.

OLBERMANN:  The terror professionals seem to think this one passes the smell test, but is there a fundamental problem evident here, that the opportunity for abuse is extraordinary in this area?  That if somebody, whoever the president might be, whenever he might be president, really wanted to exploit a fact of terrorism for political gain, there are no checks and balances, there almost seems to be no way to have checks and balances, no way to stop this. 

HARRIS:  Well, John Kerry wouldn‘t be the first challenger who has to cope with the fact that an incumbent president can control news, can in some degree, control events in a way that an outsider cannot, that includes the flow of information.  Really, the check on this would be if it came to be perceived that information was being manipulated in a highly politicized way, there would presumably be a backlash on that, but yeah, as you point out, that hasn‘t really been a, sort of a, mainstream charge with these latest warnings. 

OLBERMANN:  I would be divulging a source and I wouldn‘t do it, but I

·         but I can tell that you people at one of the targeted institutions in this report today, have told me that they and their bosses and a lot of the people where they work are assuming that there was a threat of some kind that related to their own building, but that it was exaggerated by the Bush administration, either intentionally or through a lack of understanding or because the favored reason that everybody is covering their own butts on the off chance there might really be an attack.  Is there a way to measure?  Did you attempt to find out how much similar thinking is going on in this country, but is being unexpressed in political circles because of the backlash potentiality? 

HARRIS:  Well, what Howard Dean said, I don‘t think was an outlandish thing for a lot of Democrats to be thinking and in fact, saying privately, it was considered an impolitic thing for him to say in public.  Of course, the message of the Kerry campaign is that he takes terrorism seriously, if anything more seriously than President Bush, and the implication of what Dean is saying was—look, we don‘t need to get too—we don‘t need to hyperventilate or take things this—too seriously, this might be politics behind it. 

You know, again, I think it takes—would take a fair amount of reporting and with sources—you know, really deep in the permanent national security apparatus to illuminate this question.  We‘re not going to—you know, hear it from the political types on either side, but—you know, if it come, if it later come out this was being manipulated; I think there‘d be a heavy penalty.  But, so far we haven‘t seen that evidence, so I‘m not prepared to sort of take that line of speculation, not just yet. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sure though, that you‘re familiar with this “New Republic” story that—the magazine from the left point of view that reported early in July that the White House had pressured Pakistani security forces to make arrests, that before the election and certainly to coincide with the Democratic convention, and sure enough, Pakistani forces nailed Ahmed Ghailani the day of John Kerry‘s speech.  As I asked one of the magazine‘s editors on Friday, what are the circumstances under which that could have been a coincidence?  Did that, even if it was a coincidence, feed into this, if you will, sub-conspiracy theory? 

HARRIS:  Right.  Well, I mean, there‘s certainly—you know, avenues of reporting that sort of bears some work by people who have the sources and the expertise in this.  You know, again, the politics of this, for now, I think there does tend to be a, sort of a, common instinct in both parties to give the administration the benefit of the doubt, even if they secretly are harboring different views. 

OLBERMANN:  Or, as in Governor Dean‘s case, not so secretly. 

HARRIS:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  John Harris writing in tomorrow‘s “Washington Post” on the political subtext, in any, to terror warnings.  Thanks for sharing some of it with us, sir. 

HARRIS:  Yeah.  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Still ahead of us tonight, another much-needed break from the serious.  Get your motor running, “Oddball” is next. 

And later, live from New York it‘s—Bill Clinton?  His potential to join the ranks of the great Alec Baldwin, Paul Simon, even Al Sharpton, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN now, and the news of great weight and pith, to bring you that other kind of news that has no weight and only a word that sounds somewhat like the other word I just used.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

It‘s Monday, thus it must be time for the strange British racing event of the week in the annual 12 hours of Pulborough lawnmower races underway.  Thirty-five teams in an overnight race of over 285 miles, all riding modified weapons of grass destruction.  Souped-up lawnmowers with the blades removed and the lights put on them.  Each crew had pit crew and a three driver rotation to complete this household chore-turned sporting event.  The winners were from Cupid Stunt Racing.  You might favor the Mass (ph), Lamons (ph), or a Formula One style of lawnmower, but frankly, those of us who are the true connoisseurs of the racing thrill that only the lawnmower can provide, stick exclusively to the dragster or funny car one-on-one battles on the streets of our great American cities, like this video at the annual Grand Prix de Secaucus. 

Moving now to Mostar, Bosnia and the 93 foot tall Stari Most Bridge.  Commissioned by the on the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Great in 1557, it was destroyed during Bosnian War in the 1990s.  Finally it reopened last week.  Locals are celebrating by jumping off of it.  Release, rotation, splash.  Seventy-five jumpers, some of them international cliff drivers, lined up and took the plung.  Morons!  They were judged on technical form, creativity, and whether or not they live.  Actually, no one was injured unless you count the guy who thought this was a belly-flop contest.  Thank you.  Thank you, I‘m here all week.

And finally, what everybody needs—his own home catapult.  We love stories about physics students who have too much time on their hands.  These guys are from Salem, Oregon, and their extra credit project was a 1,200 pound medieval style catapult, to be precise, a Trebuchet.  Originally designed to break down castle walls, now working just fine as a device to throw water bombs hundreds of feet through a suburban neighborhood.  The kids got their extra credit possibly because they answered the question pondered since the days of the dark ages:  Can a Trebuchet be used to achieve man‘s dream of flight?  Just ask the dummy.  No, no, it can‘t. 

“Oddball” on the record books now.  Up next, the aftermath of the democratic convention:  John Kerry gets a bounce or he doesn‘t.  It depends on which poll you look at.  We will look at them and at their methodology. 

And the case of Mrs. Lori Hacking takes its seemingly inevitable turn:

The husband is arrested.  Her family‘s reaction to today‘s news coming up. 

These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:

No. 3:  Smarty Jones.  He is retiring at age 3 to go to stud.  The American dream, in other words.  Who the heck is Smarty Jones?  He‘s the horse the news media hyped to you in June after he won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and then blew the lead at the Belmont Stakes. 

No. 2:  Sherelle Purnell, of Salisbury, Maryland.  She stole $4.52 worth of gas and was ordered to stand outside the gas station wearing a sandwich board that read “I was caught stealing gas.”  As a passerby noted, what is this the middle ages?  Well, we just had a Trebuchet, what the hell?

And No. 1:  Charles Ball of Boston, son of the creator of the yellow smiley face, says his design for a smiley face license plate will, quote, “Eliminate road rage for all time.”  That‘s right sir, under-promise, over-deliver.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If there is to be a convention bounce for John Kerry, it has yet to begin undulating. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, politics tonight, from the polls, to the administration embracing the concept of a national intelligence director, to the results of outsourcing your airline reservation agent. 

Those polls first, 50 percent of those proclaimed likely to vote surveyed by “USA Today” and Gallup favoring President Bush, 47 percent Senator Kerry, the polling conducted Friday and Saturday, after Kerry‘s acceptance speech. 

But “Newsweek”‘s poll tells a very different story, with the senator in the lead at 52 percent to Bush‘s 44 among registered voters, this one conducted Wednesday and Thursday.  And those who were polled just on Thursday give Kerry a 10-point lead.  The CBS News results are similar to “Newsweek”‘s, Kerry a six-point margin among registered voters, 49-43.

One thing to take note of here is that the “USA Today” pollsters, the ones who found Bush slightly ahead, took the soundings of—quote—

“likely voters,” while “Newsweek,” which found Kerry up by 7 to 10 percent, focused on a larger group, registered voters. 

As our next guest will tell you, the determination of whether someone is likely to vote in this election is where science yields a bit to art.  Each polling organization has its own formulae and asks different questions to determine whether the person makes the grade on their likely-to-vote yardstick. 

Polls are used so often and so pervasively now that we may have stopped thinking about them as mathematical extrapolations and approximations of public opinion.

To help explain them and why two of them should have produced such disparate results, I‘m joined by Lee Miringoff of the Institute of Public Opinion at Marist College.

And good evening to you, sir.

LEE MIRINGOFF, INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC OPINION:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, Gallup, 50-47 Bush, likely voters, “Newsweek,” 52-44 Kerry, registered voters, and closer to 50-40 among those who were asked after Kerry‘s speech.  Why not just a variation, but such a variation? 

MIRINGOFF:  Well, I think you hit the nail right on the head.  And what you‘re talking about is apples and oranges. 

If you look at the Gallup poll among registered voters, Kerry is up by 3.  The difference is within the so-called error margin.  So we‘re not really talking about a huge difference.  We‘re talking about polls that are pretty much saying the same—singing the same song.  The notes are a little different.  But, overall, the pattern is the same.  It is close and there wasn‘t much of a bounce. 

OLBERMANN:  But this term likely voters is beginning to ring as a discordant note, to continue the analogy slightly. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  This Washington insider publication “The Hill” noted today that 34 percent of those who voted for president in California in 2000 had not voted in the 1996 presidential election.  And likely voters usually means, did you vote last time?  Did you vote the time before that? 

Is that model still valid?  It seems to be based on people who voted before.  But that also to me would seem to mean it‘s assuming a static electorate that does not lose old voters, nor gain new ones. 

MIRINGOFF:  Presumably, the models are going to try to take into account the intensity that voters are feeling in any given election. 

But, as you correctly identified in the introduction, each organization has its own style artistically of measuring likely voters.  And then, of course, you‘re talking about likely voters now for an election that‘s still almost 100 days away.  And some people may come into the voting universe.  Some people might drop out. 

And so I think you‘re correct in identifying this is where the art takes over from the scientific statistical basis of polls.  And no one has a copyright on how to identify a likely voter this far out or, for that matter, close to an election.  That is the subtlety, the nuance of polling and one that explains why, to a large degree, not only do we have the differences in these numbers, but also why we might see some numbers different between organizations closer to election. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, do polls conflict, confuse, whatever the failing term might be, because the polling models are poorly designed or because the respondents don‘t necessarily answer honestly or correctly?

MIRINGOFF:  No, no, no.

OLBERMANN:  Or because the media has jumbled all these different kinds

of polls into one concept, the poll

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  ... of the public?

MIRINGOFF:  Yes, I think that‘s it.  And I think it is very important for the consumer of polls and the public and the media and us pollster types to try to differentiate, provide the context, provide the meaning. 

There‘s a lot of interest in this, all these polls.  It shows movement under the hood for Kerry.  What were once anti-Bush supporters—anti-Bush as the primary motivation for people to support Kerry, as a result of the convention, now we‘re seeing a more pro-Kerry vote.  That‘s in all these polls.  And I think we‘ll have to see whether the so-called little bounce, the blip, continues or not. 

OLBERMANN:  Maybe you guys could do like color-coding, orange, yellow. 

No, somebody else has already tried that. 

MIRINGOFF:  That‘s a different thing.

OLBERMANN:  Lee Miringoff, the man in charge of the well respected polling at Marist College, great thanks for your time tonight. 

MIRINGOFF:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  For a modern world in which polling and research seems to be done about everything, ironically enough, that which Washington has moved its collective butt fastest about in years required very little polling at all. 

What started as a sprint to enact the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission has become a marathon.  From Congress‘ abridgements of its own vacations to the president‘s decisions today, over the reservations of Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and acting Director of Central Intelligence McLaughlin, to support, as the commission suggested, a sub-Cabinet position called national intelligence director. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The national intelligence director will assume the broader responsibility of leading the intelligence community across our government.  I want and every president must have the best, unbiased, unvarnished assessment of America‘s intelligence professionals. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  That endorsement, Congress‘ swift, if not yet productive hearings, and candidate Kerry‘s promise to enact the whole slate of commission reforms.  Not in living memory has a commission‘s work got such an enthusiastic and such a rapid welcome. 

But, as Andrea Mitchell reports tonight, not everyone in politics thinks that everything in that report is a good idea. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 

The 9/11 Commission has achieved iconic status in Washington.  Supporters say its chief recommendations would force the nation‘s 15 separate intelligence agencies to share information and reduce infighting between agencies that causes costly mistakes, like missing a possible chance to kill Osama bin Laden in the fall of 2000, when the CIA believes it spotted him in Afghanistan. 

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  What we look to the new office as is a means of really removing some of the impediments that we‘ve seen have prevented more rapid action in the past. 

MITCHELL:  But in the rush to endorse the popular recommendations, some warnings.  Would it weaken the CIA by creating a brain drain, as experts flee to the new agency?  And how long would it take for a new agency to get up to speed? 

JACK DEVINE, FORMER CIA COVERT OPERATIVE:  How do you get set up? 

It‘s the logistical obstacle of offices, communication links,

relationships.  And I think this is a formidable task. 

MITCHELL:  Other experts worry it would create more logjams, not eliminate them. 

PAUL LIGHT, GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY EXPERT:  What we often do is just add a new layer of bureaucracy that makes it even more difficult in the future to hold anyone accountable. 

MITCHELL:  Even more troubling to some, the 9/11 Commission says, lead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, like the CIA‘s special forces in Afghanistan, should shift to the Defense Department.  But some worry that would permit a return to rogue operations like Iran-Contra in the mid-‘80s. 

That‘s because, unlike the CIA, the Pentagon does not need permission from the president or Congress for covert operations.  The White House says that will not be a problem. 

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  We think that the president has put forward the right kind of solution to meet the terrorist threats as we know them. 

MITCHELL:  Finally, should major changes be made so quickly? 

ROBERT GATES, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  It is very dangerous to try and legislate or make dramatic changes in our intelligence structure in the middle of a political campaign. 

MITCHELL (on camera):  The concern for many intelligence experts is that the 9/11 Commission has become so popular, politically correct, even, that politicians oppose its recommendations at their own peril. 

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  One other political note tonight.  It is not as heavy an issue as terror, nor as key as the implementation of the 9/11 Commission findings, nor as confusing as the polls.  Well, maybe it is as confusing as the polls, outsourcing job and the real-life consequences to that, finding your call to your bank or airline is being handled by someone in Calcutta. 

It is not just a question of the impact on our economy.  There is a customer service element here, too.  “The Saint Petersburg Times” reporting that somebody is considering taking advantage of that.  Delta Airlines which—much of whose call center are handled by 1,000 contracted workers in India, is reportedly considering offering callers an option to talk to an American, possibly for a small additional fee, when they call in.

Delta says it still employs more than 5,000 of its own reservations agents and did not fire anybody when it made its deal in India.  It also says it is a long way from deciding whether or not to offer that option or make that charge.

Thus wraps up our third story tonight, polls, politics, people behind them. 

Up next, all the signs pointed to one awful conclusion about the disappearance of Lori Hacking.  And now police have confirmed those suspicions with an arrest.  And later on COUNTDOWN, how TV helped an 11-year-old boy beat the odds against a bull shark.  Ever wanted to just punch one in the nose?  There you go.

But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZUHO “FLYNN” LIU, THE AUSTRALIAN WILLIAM HUNG (singing):  Don‘t want to be a boy, you want to be a man, you want to stay alive, better do what you can.  So beat it.  Just beat it.

JIM WILSON, CAUGHT PIRANHA:  This is the real deal here, you know?  You‘ve got to do a little catfishing to come up with something that‘s not supposed to be in that water.  I‘ve caught a lot bigger fish than this, but this is the most unique one I ever caught, probably ever will. 

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  May all who board her be forever bless and may all who encounter her upon the seas remember, don‘t mess with Texas. 

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Coming up, the awful conclusion by those investigating the disappearance of the Utah woman Lori Hacking and a late statement from her family—details next here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It has now seemingly become a ritual.  A bereaved loved one stands in front of cameras and pleads for his wife‘s or her children‘s safe return.  Yet, within week or months, that very same person becomes a mug shot, the reason, police say, the loved one disappeared in the first place. 

Our No. 2 story tonight, for Mark Hacking, the interval was exactly two weeks.  He was arrested today, charged with aggravated murder.  Her mother prepared a statement earlier this evening, read by a family spokesman. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT DUNAWAY, FAMILY SPOKESPERSON:  “My family and I are profoundly anguished to lose Lori, our precious daughter and sister.  Our lives will never be the same and we will grieve for her and miss her until the day we die.  But when that day finally arrives, we know with absolute certainty that she will be there with open arms to greet us and our reunion as a family will be glorious.  Until then, we know where she is and who watches over her.  To the wonderful Hacking family, who has shared this double tragedy with us, may heavenly father strengthen you in the difficult days ahead.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For the rest of this awful day, our correspondent Martin Savidge join us now from Salt Lake City. 

Martin, good evening. 

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you, Keith. 

A lot of people saw this coming, certainly here in Salt Lake City and across the nation.  Still, when it happened, with the arrest of 28-year-old Mark Hacking this morning, it only compounded the tragedy that many people had felt in this community.  He has been charged with a single count of aggravated murder. 

Authorities say that they knew for a long time now that Mark Hacking knew a lot more than he was telling and that they had gathered a great deal of evidence.  But what had precipitated the arrest was that he was about to walk free from a psychiatric hospital where he had been since the day after his wife disappeared.  Police just couldn‘t take that with the evidence that they had.  And so they moved and they made the arrest. 

They say they know why he committed the murder.  At least, they believe they know why.  They did not go public with the motive.  And they say that they have as yet not found any remains of Lori Hacking.  They do believe that she is in a landfill on the outskirts of town.  And that does not sit well with investigators. 

Here is the police chief right now.  And that is Rick Dinse talking about it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

RICK DINSE, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE CHIEF:  The thought that her last resting place is a landfill is not a pleasant thought.  And the thought that she may have to stay there is something else that we don‘t like to think about. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE:  Mark Hacking currently is under a suicide watch—Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Martin, you mentioned the evidence.  They mentioned the evidence.  Obviously, it does not include a body.  Is the rest of the evidence enough if they never recover her remains? 

SAVIDGE:  The chief of police says it is.  He feels quite confident the case can go forward and that it can stick. 

However, the number of cases in the state of Utah that have carried forward without a body are pretty slim.  In fact, you could count them on less than three fingers.  So it remains to be seen.  They believe they will find that body.  They say, even if they have to remove 3,000 tons of rubbish that‘s out there, they‘re ready and willing to do that, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Martin Savidge in Salt Lake City at the denouement to the awful Lori Hacking story—Martin, many thanks. 

As always, and not always comfortably, we hang the sudden left from the grim reality of news into the ridiculous reality of entertainment news.  We call it “Keeping Tabs.” 

And this fall, you might hear a cast member call it, “Live from New York, it is ‘Saturday Night‘ with your host Bill Clinton.”  TV Guide Online is reporting that the comedy institution has offered the former president a shot at hosting the show and is expecting an answer from him this week.  Our cousins over at “SNL” will not confirm it, nor will they deny it. 

Clinton is guesting on “Late Night With David Letterman” tomorrow. 

But a “Saturday Night Live” appearance would mark the first presidential or presidential candidate hit on a full-fledged comedy series since Richard Nixon on “Laugh-In” in 1968 or maybe Nixon on those David Frost interview specials in 1977. 

And nearly four years ago, he was accused of firing a broken bat at his rival Mike Piazza in the middle of a World Series game.  Tonight, Roger Clemens is accused of firing sunflower seeds at the umpire in a youth baseball game.  Clemens‘ 10-year-old son Kacy was playing for his hometown team of Katy, Texas, against a team from Bakersfield, when the umpire made a call against Kacy and Katy at second base. 

Clemens, who used to pitch for the New York Yankees, but is now with the Houston Astros, was attending the game as a fan.  He came out on to the field and spat sunflower seeds at the umpire‘s leg.  He was asked to leave the stadium and he did.  And he didn‘t throw anything at anybody. 

And another sports story.  If you‘re wondering why my cousin Mike Tyson was flattened Saturday in the fourth round by a British boxer named Danny Williams, here is your answer.  Pigeons.  Mike has gone to the birds.  MSNBC.com‘s Jeannette Walls reporting that, before the fight, visitors to Tyson‘s hotel room in Louisville were stunned to find it filled with pigeons. 

Tyson in the center of the group feeding eight to 10 pigeons, supposedly, he just opened the windows and rMDNM_started to let them in.  A spokesperson would not confirm the story, but said—quote—“He does love pigeons.  He raises them and treats them like humans.”  Bites their heads off? 

Speaking of pigeons, we may have a new one, actor Nicolas Cage, now 40 years old and just married for the third time to Alice Kim, described by the Associated Press as a—quote—“20-year-old former sushi waitress.”  Former sushi waitress.  Quite a life you‘ve led already, young lady. 

Cage‘s second marriage, to Lisa Marie Presley, finally ended in divorce two months ago.  He had previously been married to the actress Patricia Arquette.  Of the new Mrs. Kim-Cage, the report adds, “The couple met five months ago when she served him in a Los Angeles restaurant.”  Uh-huh.  That was before she became a former sushi waitress. 

Coming up, another tiger, another escape, but how this big cat and one not-so-big kid may have been saved by television—that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Unless you‘re Jacques Cousteau, you probably have had your fill of escapes and/or attacks by tigers and sharks—not that sharks escape very often, but you know what I mean.

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, though, the distinct prospects that an escaped tiger was not killed and a shark victim not more seriously injured because of the wonder that is television.  Apollo, the white Bengal tiger star of the new Cole Bros. Circus, performing this past weekend in Queens in New York City, before the Saturday performance, while he was being transferred from his cage, 450-pound kitty really transferred. 

Look, a kitty.  He took off through crowds of picnickers, made it on to a highway.  In 20 minutes of freedom, he managed to cause two traffic accidents.  Police, though, managed to lured him back into his cage with raw meat.  For his narrow escape from death, he has to thank perhaps the dearly departed Bobo, the pet of former Tarzan portrayer Steve Sipek, shot, murdered, said Sipek, loudly on TV in a story that continues to play out in the Florida media and was doubtless a cautionary tale for New York‘s finest tiger hunters. 

No one injured, unless you count wherever that red meat came from. 

In case you‘re ever given a choice, stay inside the cage while the sharks are outside the cage.  Remember what we told you here on COUNTDOWN and the story of the morons from Italy who got married a phalanx of 14 different sharks was resolved when they got married inside the cage.

You may laugh about information like that, but Aaron Perez is not laughing.  The 11-year-old and his father were fishing along the Texas Gulf Coast when a school of fish encircled the boy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAS PEREZ, SON ATTACKED BY SHARK:  Aaron told me, dad, all the trout were all around me.  I can practically grab them with my hand.  And it wasn‘t five seconds later when Aaron hooked one up, a trout, and he turned around to tell me and when he did that, that shark was right there and the dogfight was on. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And by dogfight, he means 60-pound Aaron took on what is believed to be a 200-pounder.  Young Aaron, besting the shark, punched it repeatedly in the gills.  He nearly lost his right hand in the process.  It was surgically reattached.  And, according to his doctor, Aaron is exceeding expectations in his recovery. 

The punchline, he was on “The Today Show” this morning explaining how he learned the blow-to-the-gill technique that saved his life. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AARON PEREZ, ATTACKED BY SHARK:  I was watching TV the day before and I saw that on the Discovery Channel. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Television, it saves lives and is now available without a prescription. 

Before we go, one late update to the financial terror alert story, our Pete Williams reporting from Washington within the hour that, having analyzed the rest of the intelligence on which it based its warning yesterday, Homeland Security has no plans to add any other buildings to the list of potential targets.  So that which has been much discussed in the last 24 hours, might the material in that Pakistani laptop point to other targets, that has been answered.  And the answer, at least for now, is no. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann. 

Good night and good luck. 

END   

Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, 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.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,