updated 8/6/2004 9:15:35 AM ET 2004-08-06T13:15:35

Guest: David Kaczynski, Lida Rodriguez-Taseff

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

Swift boat veterans for Bush:  The new high and low in the presidential ad campaigns.  They‘re swift boat veterans, all right.  It‘s just that despite the title, none of them were on any of John Kerry‘s swift boats.  Swift condemnation from John McCain and from even the White House.

Case not quite closed:  The reliable citizen witnesses to whom Mark Hacking confessed were his own brothers.  They had to make the decision to tell authorities what he‘d said and what he‘d done.  We‘ll be joined tonight by a man who knows that heartbreak all too well, Ted Kaczynski‘s brother, David. 

Reality of an entirely different kind:  It isn‘t “Fear Factor,” it isn‘t “The Apprentice,” it isn‘t “Joe Millionaire.”  You will not believe what these contestants are playing for.  The hint: The show is on in Los Angeles.  These people are undocumented aliens. 

And to protect and serve—and snooze?  Possibly the one sound you most don‘t want to hear when you call 911. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  There has not been a daisy yet, with its little girl and big mushroom cloud, nor one that uses a picture of Osama bin Laden in an attack on an incumbent‘s senator‘s record, but the ads of campaign 2004 just stepped up to a new level today, or down to one, with the release of an anti-John Kerry commercial that immediately brought the condemnation not merely of the Kerry campaign, but also of Republican Senator John McCain, and even generally and at a distance, the White House. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: Swift Boat Veterans for Bush.  Twelve survivors of Vietnam in quick, surgically incisive sound bites, explaining why John Kerry should not be president in an ad already running in swing sates—swing states, rather, such as Ohio, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.  The implication of the name Swift Boat Veterans for Bush is that the vets somehow served with John Kerry.  The fact is not one of them was on either of his boats.  The meaning of “served with him” is literally, they were in the same war he was. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star.  I know, I was there, I saw what happened. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  His account of what happened and what actually happened are the difference between night and day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Kerry has not been honest. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He lacks the capacity to lead. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  One of the vets who rips Kerry in the spot, George Elliot, praised him 1996, calling Kerry‘s Vietnam swift boat pursuit of the enemy, quote, “An act of courage.”  There is a thirteenth speaker in the 60-second spot, Dr. Lewis Letson (ph), claims, “I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury.”  Kerry‘s campaign pointed out that none of the medical records concerning his injury are signed by a Dr. Letson (ph), and there is no evidence he treated Kerry‘s wound.

Kerry, of course, has not hesitated for a moment to bring his actual crewmates into this campaign as a theatrical element, in as theatrical way as possible.  They stood beside him on deck of the craft that took him to the Democratic Convention last week.  They stood on the stage at the FleetCenter with him.  One of them, Gene Thorsen, says of the ad today, “These assertions are garbage.  These people were not there with John Kerry.”

Another Vietnam vet went further.  He called them “dishonest” and “dishonorable.”  Republican Senator John McCain, who added the ad was additionally distressing to him because it was similar to ones that attacked him during the Republican primary of 2000, and because this ad was created by the same agency that produced McCain‘s own advertising that year.  But he reserved his greatest criticism for the White House:  “I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad,” McCain told reporters, “I can‘t believe the president would pull such a cheap stunt.”

In reply, White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, told reporters, “We have not and we will not question Senator Kerry‘s service in Vietnam...We‘re calling for a cessation to all the unregulated soft money activity.”

For Kerry supporters, that was not, not surprisingly, enough. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM RASSMANN, SAYS KERRY SAVED HIS LIFE IN VIETNAM:  I submitted John for the Silver Star for pulling me out of the water under fire.  That is what happened.  That‘s what the Navy agreed is what happened.  If they felt otherwise, they should have brought this up 35 years ago. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s try to place this on the long, proud list of the results of the marriages of politics and advertising.  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly” joins me now. 

Craig, good evening.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Hello, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, why is this one worse than any other misdirecting, unsubstantiated attack ad that is conveniently not directly traceable to the other candidate‘s campaign? 

CRAWFORD:  Well, as lies go, it‘s just another lie, I suppose.  But that is a pattern we‘ve seen in this campaign, and ironically enough, because of McCain-Feingold, the campaign finance reform McCain himself put his name on, it allowed this unregulated world of independent soft money on ads attacking others. 

OLBERMANN:  I am sensing, and I guess it‘s based in part on Senator McCain‘s reaction, that this one, though, for some reason, hit home harder than usual.  Is it still possible to, despite McCain-Feingold and obviously the holes with which you can drive trucks, or at least TV trucks through, that you can, in fact, make political ads so bad that even politicians will again try to reform this process? 

CRAWFORD:  It‘s going to be a tough process to reform.  We have this constitutional right, as the Supreme Courts found it, for these groups to do these things.  So the only way to control it, I suppose, is if the beneficiary of an ad comes out and condemns it specifically.  And I‘m sorry, that quote you just read from the Bush campaign, that‘s no such thing. 

OLBERMANN:  Two of those quotes—we want to discontinue all such unregulated soft money activity, I‘m paraphrasing Scott McClellan here—is there in that also in that, not merely just—you know, not very much of a condemnation, kind of a courtesy condemnation, but is that also a—something in political speak, a message to the Kerry campaign that might translate along the lines of, stop those folks over at MoveOn.org and all their ads about the president, or you will see more of these? 

CRAWFORD:  Sure, I mean, this is an explicit message, I would say, to the Kerry camp on that, because the Democrats have gained the most advantage from this loophole earlier in the year when Kerry was have—didn‘t have—hadn‘t raised enough money and the independent groups were attacking Bush.  And that is equivalent to, in a ballgame—you know, where the fans erupt in a brawl and then steal the show.  I mean, here you‘ve got the fans on either side of the campaigns just causing such a stir.  And it‘s not going to stop, we‘re going to see lot of this sort of thing from here to November 2. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank goodness for that, huh?

CRAWFORD:  Yeah.

OLBERMANN:  It wouldn‘t be—maybe sometimes the campaign would get too dull, we wouldn‘t have anything to talk about. 

CRAWFORD:  Yeah, get out your shovel.

OLBERMANN:  Craig Crawford—I have it with me at all times—contributor to “Congressional Quarterly,” analyst for MSNBC.  As ever, sir, appreciate it.

CRAWFORD:  So long. 

OLBERMANN:  On the ground, both candidates continuing today in the battleground Midwest, though not, it is worth mentioning, in the same state, let alone the same city, as was the case yesterday. 

Before heading out for Ohio, the president signed a massive wartime defense bill this morning, $417 billion in all, 25 of those billions in emergency funds for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Of note, when billions are being discussed, in Ohio, the president said the wrong move right now would be to raise taxes. 

In Saint Louis, a new mode of transportation for the Democratic ticket, as Senator Kerry and running mate, Senator Edwards, left their bus behind, boarding the same train used by Harry Truman in his famous 1948 “Whistle Stop Tour.” 

Both campaigns have left Davenport, Iowa, no doubt to the relief of the citizenry.  There were two more bank robberies in the Quad City area this morning, making five since the nearly simultaneous Kerry and Bush events in that city of Davenport yesterday.  But there‘s also a little context.  I don‘t know how many news organizations didn‘t check this out—we didn‘t, my mistake.  In the last two weeks, police in Davenport and the other three Quad Cities report a genuine rash of armed stickups at financial institutions.  At least nine of them.  But since the three yesterday occurred while police were helping with political events, they have inspired a lot of jokes, including on this show, including the one about Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who had unknowingly just described Davenport as, quote, “the safest city on Earth.”  And including one joke from one of the candidates. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Three banks were robbed in Davenport, Iowa, while we were there yesterday.  I just want to assure you that both President Bush and I have very firm alibis. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Kerry‘s wife, meanwhile, alleging that she was robbed in what‘s shaping up to be the cookie conspiracy in the 2004 campaign.  Not since 1992, when Hillary Rodham Clinton refused to bake cookies or serve teas, play your Tammy Wynette here, have baked goods figured so prominently in the battle for the White House.

It seems simple enough.  The oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies of Laura Bush versus the pumpkin spice cookies of Teresa Heinz Kerry.  The readers of “Family Circle” magazine, 21 million, nearly, of them, select the winner. 

But only if it were that simple.  Some bakery back story, here: Mrs.  Kerry originally sent in a recipe called “yummy wonders” that turned out to be not so yummy in the test kitchen.  Something exploded, or we‘re not sure exactly what happened, but the folks at “Family Circle” called her office asking if there had been a mistake.  That‘s when they were sent another recipe, the pumpkin spice stuff.  This apparently without Teresa Heinz Kerry‘s knowledge.  Mrs. Kerry disavowing the dessert last week on NPR, quote, “Somebody in our office gave that recipe out, and in fact, I think somebody really made it on purpose to give a nasty recipe.  I never made pumpkin cookies.  I don‘t like pumpkin spice cookies.”

Nevertheless, “Family Circle” says the contest will proceed.  Mrs. 

Heinz Kerry is doing pretty well in it. 

The ever controversial Teresa Heinz Kerry.  She doesn‘t like pumpkin spice cookies.  What kind of first lady would not like pumpkin spice cookies? 

Let us now toss the cookies to focus instead on the giant bakeoff that is the campaign.  The one for the presidency, not for the recipe championship.  Turns out there‘s a lot more places to visit than there are different speeches to give when you get there. 

We noticed yesterday that the president, arriving in Iowa yesterday morning, said his opponents thought the heart and soul of America was to be found in Hollywood, but he thought it was in Davenport.  Then, the president arriving in Mankato, Minnesota, yesterday evening said he thought it was found in Mankato, Minnesota.  This piqued our curiosity. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There seems to be a difference over the heart and soul of America. 

The other folks think you can find it in Hollywood. 

The true heart and soul of America is found right in Canton, Ohio. 

(APPLAUSE)

I think you can find it right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

(APPLAUSE)

I think it‘s found right here in Southern Minnesota. 

(APPLAUSE)

It‘s found in places right here in Marquette, Michigan.

(APPLAUSE)

I think you can find it right here in Davenport, Iowa. 

(APPLAUSE)

I think you can find it right here in Saginaw, Michigan. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, it moves around.  The point must be maddening for those covering Mr. Bush‘s campaign stops, but part of it is well taken.  Hollywood and we are assuming we assume he did not mean Hollywood, Florida, is as through much of our history it has been, on the left, supporting, this year, John Kerry, one group in particular, musicians.  And now as the shopping days until the election are down to double digits, much of the group that raised $180 million for 9/11 victims two weeks after the attacks, has reconstituted itself as an adjunct almost to the Kerry campaign. 

As our correspondent, Chip Reid reports, the group has a boss, The Boss, as a matter of fact. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHIP REID, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  He‘s been singing about social and economic justice for 25 years.  But now, for the first time, rock icon Bruce Springsteen is taking the leap into partisan politics.  In today‘s “New York Times” he writes, “the stakes have risen too high to sit this election out.”  So in early October, Springsteen and dozen of other high-profile musicians including Pearl Jam, REM, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, and “Babyface” Edmonds will hit the road on the “Vote for Change” tour.  The goal: register their fans to vote and raise millions of dollars for liberal groups working to defeat President Bush. 

DAVE MATTHEWS, THE DAVE MATTHEWS BAND:  If we‘re successful in getting that out—getting more people to vote or—and vote with their hearts, then I think there‘s a good chance we can swing this in a favorable direction.

REID:  The tour begins October 1 with simultaneous concerts in six Pennsylvania cities.  Then, over the next week, it will work its way through eight other battleground states, ending in Florida where they will play six cities October 8.

MATTHEW FELLING, MEDIA ANALYST:  I think what this concert does is it taps into a audience that was previously politically inert, that was uninvolved.  But, if you have your old friend Bruce Springsteen, from the ‘70s and from the ‘80s asking for a favor, you‘re going to run to the ballot booth on November 2. 

REID:  But Bush‘s campaign officials say their musical supporters, county stars like Larry Gatlin, are much more in sync with American voters. 

TERRY HOLD, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  The Democrats and the liberals tend to have kind of a deaf ear when it comes to hearing the mainstream of America. 

REID:  And they say the “Vote for Change” tour could backfire on Democrats. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We were raised to have—you know, political conversations around the dinner table. 

REID:  Pointing to the uproar after one of the Dixie Chicks, who will be on this tour, said she was embarrassed to be from the same state as President Bush.

(on camera):  But performers in the “Vote for Change” tour insist it will not be about Bush-bashing, well aware they say, that their fans would much rather hear music than speeches. 

Chip Reid, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  All right, next our No. 4 story: first the threats, now the arrests.  Two leaders of an Albany, New York mosque charged with trying to middle-men it in the sale of one of these.  Among a dozen terror arrests in the last 48 hours.

Then later on COUNTDOWN, when a family member learns and awful truth:

how Mark Hacking‘s brothers must have felt when he confessed to them.  We‘ll ask the brother of the Unibomber, Ted Kaczynski to David Kaczynski, will join us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Four days of terror warnings followed by 48 hours of terror arrests.  Just to tie it up, a claim by a congresswoman that we‘ve thwarted 100 terror attacks since 9/11.  She just happens to be the former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.  A lot going on, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You would have thought that four days of terror warnings would have provided more warning to the alleged terrorists.  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight:  Not exactly.  In a moment, trying to pick the wheat from the chaff of a virtual harvest.  First, the full crop as summarized by our correspondent, Pete Williams. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Federal agents, last night, swarmed a central mosque in Albany, New York, arresting its top cleric and also its founder, both accused of helping a man they thought was a terrorist sell a shoulder-fired missile, like this one. 

The missile was a dud, that man was actually a government informant and he‘s the one who suggested the weapons deal.  Even so, officials today defended entering the mosque.

GOV.  GEORGE PATAKI ®, NEW YORK:  We have to go after terrorists or those who would support terrorism, wherever it takes us. 

WILLIAMS:  In Chicago, a convicted counterfeiter with a grudge was charged with plotting to attack the federal courthouse there with a fertilizer bomb.  He never put one together, but prosecutors say he had the intent.

PATRICK FITZGERALD, FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  He knows to use the right

fertilizer, and he talked about the wiring.  And our point is, we don‘t

want to find out whether the bomb‘s going to work or not.  We made the

arrest before that step

WILLIAMS:  And U.S. officials tonight, say a man arrested this week during a sweep by British authorities is a major player in the al-Qaeda terror network.  They say Eisa al-Hindi was a top al-Qaeda figure in Europe, relaying operational information from Muhammad Khan, the man arrested with the laptop in Pakistan, to al-Qaeda cells in Western countries.  NBC News has learned that al-Hindi wrote this book about his experience as a Jihad fighter in Kashmir. 

EVAN KOHLMANN, TERRORISM EXPERT:  Al-Hindi seeks more than just to seek small, damaging blows to the United States and the United Kingdom.  He seeks to destroy them, he seeks wipe them out. 

WILLIAMS:  In his book al-Hindi says a live captured Mujahid, or Jihadist, is like a goldmine, but officials say the real goldmine is that computer found in Pakistan, generating dozens of terror leads. 

JAMES COMEY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL:  We got a lot of people who are tired because they‘ve worked so hard and they‘re out there redoubling it. 

WILLIAMS:  Tonight intelligence officials say more arrests will follow in the coming days, as the clues from that laptop in Pakistan open doors around the world. 

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Joining me here in the studio, MSNBC analyst, Juliette Kayyem, a member of the National Terrorism Commission during the Clinton administration, now at Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government. 

Nice to see you. 

JULIETTE KAYYEM, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  This rounds—sounds like the “round up the usual suspects” line from “Casablanca.”  Is this all interconnected in some way or is it coincidental? 

KAYYEM:  I think it‘s coincidental, there‘s a lot of noise going on.  Some of these cases are big deal cases and we should give the Brits and the U.S. government the benefit of the doubt, but some of them were not worthy of the press conferences they got today. 

The two guys up in Albany, that‘s a sort of complicated case and I think the facts are going to be probably laid out a little bit more different as time goes by.  It—unfortunately by having these press conferences it makes everyone think—the American public thinks there‘s a lot of terrorism going on and we‘re stopping a lot of big fish terrorists.  The truth is that these guys in Albany and the guy in Chicago are sort of not even footnotes in the war on terrorism. 

OLBERMANN:  Your answer to that would suggest, I know the answer that‘s coming to the next one, because it‘s the only one you didn‘t mention out of this whole group.  What was important today?  Was it this—the London and this man al-Hindi? 

KAYYEM:  Yeah, al-Hindi is very important.  I mean, what we think is that the Pakistanis, by capturing Muhammad Khan, got information about al-Hindi.  We‘ve known about him before, the British have known about him before.  He‘s still a senior member of al-Qaeda, he‘s an important find. 

So, on Tuesday this happened in Britain, and then you had another roundup in Britain today, on Thursday.  That‘s important, because those two are probably linked and we‘re going to get a lot of information out of those arrests. 

OLBERMANN:  Is the suspicious that al-Hindi was directly tied into that laptop and the surveillance in some way, either as the coordinator of the information or possibly the gatherer of the information? 

KAYYEM:  What we‘re starting to hear he was in fact the gatherer of the information, which means that either we‘re going to find out he was in the United States at some time, whether before 9/11 or not, we don‘t know yet.  And that he was probably still collecting information.  What we do know is that he‘s no longer free because he‘s now with the British authorities. 

OLBERMANN:  A bell rang in a couple of minds I think today, from the 9/11 Commission report that if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had known that Moussaoui had been arrested in Minnesota two weeks before 9/11, he would have been postponed the attacks.  From their point of view, better safe than all arrested.  Could we be seeing an attempt now, by somebody to get somebody else to postpone something by essentially dragnetting the terror community, just calling everybody you can find? 

KAYYEM:  I think that‘s probably what‘s going on, or at least it‘s one good justification for the announcement for the announcements on Sunday.  Because, certainly the information did not suggest that there was an imminent attack. 

I think what the United States government‘s trying to say is we‘re close behind you and that we have to think it is, in terms of a terrorism attack delayed, is a gain.  I mean, that‘s good.  They may try again in three months, or six months, but at least they didn‘t try—you know, tomorrow. 

OLBERMANN:  Juliette Kayyem from the Kennedy School at Harvard.  Many thanks for your time tonight. 

KAYYEM:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Good to see you. 

From new terror to old terror, the anthrax attacks back in the public consciousness today.  Federal agents searching the homes of Dr. Kenneth Berry, in upstate New York and also in New Jersey.  Berry, the founder of an organization that trains medical personnel to respond to biological and chemical biological attacks.  Officials say no public health threat.  The search is merely part of their ongoing investigation.

Finally in the No. 4, the No. 100, that is how many terror attacks the U.S. has thwarted since 9/11 according to the Florida Congresswoman Katharine Harris.  How does she know?  Well, she has access to classified information.  So she told the newspaper the “Sarasota Harold Tribune” as well as a campaign rally, Monday, in Florida. 

Moreover, Representative Harris says that officials recently stopped someone of, quote, “Middle Eastern heritage” from blowing up the power grid at Carmel, Indiana.

She says the mayor of that city clued her in on that one.  That mayor says he has no idea what she‘s talking about.  The congresswoman has spent the week trying to spin the remarks clean, denying that they were based on any classified information.

We will resume with a very much needed break from the very serious news of the day.  “Oddball” is next, as that might suggest. 

And then later, too much reality in a reality television show.  What these undocumented immigrants are competing for boggles the mind.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We pause our friend COUNTDOWN now to give him and us a break from the ceaseless tide of politics and terror stories.  Now the news that stimulates neither intellect nor soul but merely eyes and occasionally a very small part of the nose—let‘s play “Oddball.” 

The Scots had pole throwing, the caber toss, America of the ‘20s had pole sitting, 21st century British have the world pole-climbing championships in New Forest. 

And they‘re off.  The rules are simple, scramble up an 80-foot pole, hit the button on top faster than the other guy does.  Competitors come from as far away as New Zealand to compete for the title of “Best Pole Climbing Guy.”  But, the winner was a 28-year-old half man, half squirrel from northern Wales.  Look at him go! 

The origins of this sport are unclear, though some think it may have actually begun in English football stadiums where fans scramble up light poles to escape rioting soccer hooligans.  Or perhaps it originated in some funny way. 

Time for another one of those homemade flying machine contests.  Of course it is, it‘s Thursday.  It‘s the same thing every time, there might just be one tape for all we know, but for some reason, you never get tired of watching this. 

This week we‘re in Portland, Oregon.  More than 50,000 have gathered with hope in their heart, the hope that they will be on hand to witness history, hope that this will be the day that three guys in a giant paper Mache penguin can slip the surly bonds of earth and top the windswept—

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) go there. 

No. OK, if not them, how about the guys in the big doughnut?  No. No, they can‘t.  Right about here I knew it had gone horribly wrong. 

Finally, we‘ve waited since the 1930‘s.  Our expectations go back to the days of the “Flash Gordon” serials.  Well, not mine personally.  Through the “Jetson‘s” and right through to the film classic “Artificial Intelligence.”  The question we always ask here, where‘s my robot?  Oh, here it is.  I got to be honest.  I was expecting so much more. 

It‘s “ToPsOr” the toy picking up and sorting robot.  Designed by students at the University of Florida to pick up after your children, taking their strewed about play things, returning them to their rightful place. 

A place for everything and everything in its place, what mom said.  What once took a frustrated parent more than 45 minutes, Topsore (ph) can do now in under 16 hours, all that with the added bonus of an oil streak left across the carpet.  Science. 

Please, can I have a robot producer?  Please, can I have a robot producer?  Please? 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Next, back to work and beyond.  A terrible crime is a terrible dilemma.  Your brother tells you he did it.  What do you do?  How that plays into the Mark Hacking story and the bitterly earned expertise on this subject from the man who realized that the Unabomber was his brother.  David Kaczynski joins us live on COUNTDOWN next. 

Then, after that, real TV drama as a judge tenders her resignation live on the local news to end a hostage drama, except two people are not buying into this for a minute, the judge just hostage-taker.

Those stories ahead.  First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, Kevin Barclay and Sharon Wood of London.  Between them, they smoked 50 cigarettes a day.  But, finally, they were driven to a smoke enders clinic by bad health, the bad health of their pet parrot.  If they didn‘t stop smoking, their parrot would expire and go to meet his maker, ring down the curtain and join the choir invisible.  After five weeks, all of them are smoke-free—not yet an ex-parrot.

No. 2, Police Chief Victor Popescu of Constanta County in Rumania.  He is proposing a ban on women over the age of 60 going topless on the beach there, says it scares the tourists.  Yes, Julie Christie comes to your beach, Chief, takes her top off and you‘re going to arrest her?  She‘s 63.  Catherine Deneuve is 61.  Thank you.  Come again. 

And No. 1, Bernard Herdan, head of England‘s passport service.  He has banned people being photographed for their passports from smiling.  See, smiling messes up the new face-measuring security scanners.  Now, looking stoned, challenged, or as if you‘ve just noticed that your car is on fire in the parking lot, those are still OK. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is as old perhaps as our struggle for morality and structure in the world.  It is as old certainly as the Bible.  Then the lord said to Cain, where‘s your brother Abel?  I do not know, he replied.  Am I my brother‘s keeper? 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the awful reality of those words appearing in our public discourse now for the second time in less than a decade.  When Salt Lake City Police said that a reliable citizen witness had reported Mark Hacking‘s confession that he had murdered his wife, Lori, we could have had no idea that there were in fact two such citizen witnesses, nor who they were. 

But in an interview with “The Salt Lake City Tribune,” Scott Hacking confirmed that both he and his brother Lance confronted their brother Mark on July 24, giving him the afternoon to consider their plea for information on the whereabouts of his wife, their sister-in-law.  When they returned later that evening, Hacking told them he had killed her while she slept and had disposed of her body into a dumpster. 

Scott Hacking told the newspaper that he was in despair when he heard that, but—quote—“No brother wants to offer information about his own brother.  We want him back as our brother and this was the only way it is going to happen.”

David Kaczynski knows of the heartbreak of the Hackings.  He assisted the FBI in its investigation and eventually arrest of his brother Ted David Kaczynski in the so-called Unabomber base.  He‘s now the executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty. 

Mr. Kaczynski, thank you very much for joining us tonight

DAVID KACZYNSKI, BROTHER OF TED KACZYNSKI:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  What feelings rose inside you, and what would you expect likely rose inside the Hacking brothers, when you realized what your brother had done and what you would have to do? 

KACZYNSKI:  It was like an unbelievable nightmare, waking up to realize that my brother might have done things that were beyond my imagination, and then dealing with the possibility then that he might commit further crimes.

It was an awful dilemma in the sense that, on one hand, we realized that if we did nothing, he might strike again and hurt other people, on the other hand, if we turned him in he might possibly face the death penalty. 

OLBERMANN:  What would you say in terms of that experience to Scott and Lance Hacking about what they have done already and about what they may still have to do? 

KACZYNSKI:  I was very impressed by something they were quoted as saying today, that they had been looking for the truth and now they are looking for justice and healing.  I think those are wonderful instincts. 

I think it‘s going to carry them a long way.  And I think the way to arrive at healing is through the seeking of truth and compassionate justice. 

OLBERMANN:  Has you found that has been true in your own case, sir? 

KACZYNSKI:  You know, it‘s interesting.

When it was suddenly leaked to the media that I had turned in my own brother, I kind of thought, well, our family name would forever be associated with acts of violence, that I would be the brother of a serial killer, that I would be remembered as an informant to the police on my own brother.  I wasn‘t sure that my life had much value at that point. 

But it hasn‘t been that way.  We received dozens and dozens of letters, hundreds, over the years of people who thanked us for what we have done and who said that they were praying for us, and even people who said that they considered us role models in a troubled world. 

OLBERMANN:  It would seem to me that that sense of self-sacrifice would approach, from the outside, the proportions of nobility and that obviously there is a measure of love that can be identified in these actions, in these filial actions.  But I guess it‘s impossible not to also have those baser emotions, too.  Did you have a sense, do you expect the Hacking brothers had a sense of either betraying or being betrayed because of circumstances? 

KACZYNSKI:  Their love for their brother shines through so clearly in everything they‘ve said, to say that they want their brother back and the only way they can get him back is through dealing with the situation responsibly and through justice.

I think there‘s an element of that faith here.  And that faith is in the goodness of human beings, the decency of human beings.  And I certainly hope that their decency and goodness is answered through thanks from the public and through fair treatment in the criminal justice system. 

OLBERMANN:  Final question, sir.  Do you feel as if you have gotten your brother back? 

KACZYNSKI:  Unfortunately not. 

You know, mom and I write to Ted frequently.  He has never responded.  And, in some sense, because of his mental illness, he‘s really in two prisons.  He‘s in a federal maximum security prison for the rest of his life.  He‘s also in a prison of mental illness.  But I think, on some level, he must understand that we love him and we hope that our messages or our letters get through to him and that on some level he does understand that. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, and, truly, you did all that you could possibly be expected to do, and then well beyond that. 

David Kaczynski, it is an extraordinary situation.  And we thank you greatly for your forthrightness in talking about it with us tonight. 

KACZYNSKI:  My pleasure, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And another extraordinary legal situation in Florida today.  It seemed like a bad episode first a bad ‘70s TV drama.  A gunman takes an attorney hostage, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people from an office building, demanding the resignation of a public official. 

Our correspondent Pat Dawson picks it up from there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We simply don‘t know where they are...

PAT DAWSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For midday viewers in Jacksonville, it was a bizarre development in the midst of a dramatic hostage crisis.  A local judge suddenly appeared on live TV to resign. 

JUDGE SHARON TANNER, DUVAL COUNTY:  I do hereby resign my position as county judge. 

DAWSON:  What viewers didn‘t realize was, the resignation was a hoax, a ploy to meet the demands of an armed gunman who had taken a man hostage in this office building.

JOHN RUTHERFORD, DUVAL COUNTY SHERIFF:  Judge Sharon Tanner had a previous criminal case involving this suspect.  He did demand that the judge go live on TV or there would be consequences. 

DAWSON:  The standoff had started barely an hour earlier, when workers in the building got the order to evacuate quickly.  Hundreds of people, including children from a day care center, hurried to safety, as heavily armed police entered the building. 

The gunman called Jacksonville‘s mayor, saying he had a hostage, a bomb and a bizarre demand, that Judge Tanner resign. 

JOHN PEYTON, MAYOR OF JACKSONVILLE:  I was able to keep the suspect on the line and try to—followed the advice of the sheriff‘s department.

DAWSON:  Shortly after the judge‘s resignation, the hostage was released and the alleged gunman, John Matthew Knight, surrendered. 

JOHN KNIGHT, DEFENDANT:  I had a woman judge discriminate against me. 

DAWSON:  In another strange twist, Tuesday, he sent this home video to local TV stations, claiming the judge had ruined his life. 

Pat Dawson, NBC News, Atlanta. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  But there was one last strange twist to the resignation that wasn‘t.  The suspect, Mr. Knight, says he knew that the judge‘s resignation would not be accepted.  He knew it was a fake, but he still felt it was all worth it to get attention to his case. 

Coming up, immigration into this country seems real enough not to need its own reality TV show.  But now it has got one anyway in Los Angeles.  Then, long may she reign.  The queen of daytime TV will not be stepping down until—well, until after we get to Mercury.  That story ahead.

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don‘t know how many of you noticed it, but television reports that three banks were robbed in Davenport, Iowa, while we were there yesterday.  I just want to assure you that both President Bush and I have very firm alibis. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our enemies are innovative and resourceful.  And so are we.  They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people.  And neither do we. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”)

JAY LENO, HOST:  Happy birthday to Martha Stewart.  63 years old yesterday, Martha Stewart, 63.  And she‘s at that awkward age, too young to retire, too old to try and climb over the prison wall.  What do you do?  You‘re kind of stuck.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A new reality TV show for those looking for a real life in the United States.  You‘re not going to believe the second story on the COUNTDOWN—next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It has been speculated often that so-called reality TV shows would look very, very different if the reason you were eating a bug or swapping a family member or deceiving two dozen dim-witted women about your income was to raise money for a charity or provide a home to a political refugee or advance your chance of achieving immigrant status in this country. 

Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, the last example has come true.  “Gana La Verde” is on the air on a Los Angeles Spanish-language television station, Channel 62.  It premiered a month ago, its contestants challenged to swallow live tequila worms or dive underwater to retrieve coins locked in a chest, or, in one memorable episode, leaping six separate times from a truck doing 60. 

and all this is either less gratuitous than a night on a traditional broadcast TV reality lineup or much more gratuitous.  “Gana La Verde” translates as “Win the Green,” green as in green card.  The winner each week gets one year‘s worth of free legal services from a group of immigration lawyers.  That‘s right.  These people are going on reality TV shows in hopes of getting green cards, not even going on a reality show to get a green card, just to get a lawyer to work for them for free for a year and maybe get them a green card. 

Lida Rodriguez-Taseff has been with us before to discuss Florida‘s troubled voting booths and screens.  As the past president of the Miami chapter of the ACLU and a specialist on immigration issues, this one concerns her greatly. 

Thanks for joining us again.

LIDA RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF, ATTORNEY:  Good afternoon.  Actually ,it‘s evening. 

(CROSSTALK)

OLBERMANN:  It is now, yes.

This concerns me greatly, too.  Let‘s start at the end.  Are the so-called winners actually winning anything?

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF:  They‘re winning nothing here. 

The only winners are the broadcasters, who are making a killing on this TV show, because immigration shows have always made a lot of money on Spanish-language television.  And when you combine them with reality TV, you‘re making a lot of money.  The rules on immigration are pretty simple.  And either you have a chance of getting an immigration green card or you don‘t.  It has nothing to do with whether or not Johnnie Cochran represents you. 

OLBERMANN:  There seems to be some debate also here that the real risk on this reality show, the real true reality, is how much risk the contestants are putting themselves at by identifying themselves as people who do not have green cards.  The station says, immigration would never bother to come after these people.  And a lot of ex-INS people who have been contacted about this show say, think again.

What‘s correct here? 

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF:  Think again is right.

Especially after September 11, there has been a war on immigration in this country.  And, yes, INS officials or, as they call them nowadays, ICE officials, do come after these people and can come after them.  Once they surface, they are identified and we all know who they are. 

So the problem becomes, how is it, once they know who you are, if they decide that they want to come after you, you‘re going to be deported.  You‘re going to lose the opportunity to be with your family.  This is really a problem. 

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps even despite what we‘ve talked about, there is still one more disturbing part of this.  The production manager of this show is an immigrant who moved here from Uruguay a year ago.  The host is an immigrant from Mexico.

It seems you can pick any century you want, any country you want, any group of immigrants you want.  There will always be somebody who should be looking out for them, but is in fact looking to exploit them.  Why is this?  How could it translate to a television show?

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF:  You know, having people perform like circus animals for the opportunity to get a lawyer who isn‘t necessarily going to get them an immigration card is—it‘s ultimate exploitation. 

And the fact that this is Hispanics or immigrants exploiting and preying upon immigrants is really, really crazy.  One of the most interesting things about this is, there are lots of ways to get a green card.  Most of them are very difficult.  If you‘re a famous performer or an artist, maybe you can get a green card.

But the most normal way people do it is either by marrying an American citizen or by getting your employer to sponsor you or by playing the diversity lottery.  If you don‘t have any one of those, it doesn‘t matter how good your lawyer is.  It doesn‘t matter who you are represented by.

You could even eat an elephant and if the INS says no green card, it‘s no green card, even if you ate a ton of worms.  So the exploitation factor I think is one of the most interesting parts of it.  And the fact that it‘s immigrants exploiting immigrants make it even more troubling. 

OLBERMANN:  I think my great-great-grandfathers went through it as they came through New York from Germany and Poland and Russia.  So it‘s timeless, unfortunately.

Civil liberties and immigration attorney Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, many thanks again.

RODRIGUEZ-TASEFF:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  We segue quickly out to bring you the round up of today‘s celebrity and gossip news, the stuff we call “Keeping Tabs.” 

And Oprah Winfrey will not be caught napping until the year 2011.  The syndicators of her TV show announcing today she has signed a contract extension good through the TV season of 2010-‘11.  That will bring the show through its 25th anniversary and mean the ABC stations that carry it and Viacom, which co-produces it, will continue to be the beneficiaries of its annual profit generation of somewhere around $300 million per.

Thus will Ms. Winfrey be ineligible for an entertainment post coming up much sooner than 2001.  A British historical group is looking to hire the nation‘s first official court jester since the year 1649.  In an ad placed in “The Times of London,” the group English Heritage asks for applicants who are both mirthful and prepared to work summer weekends. 

Well, hell, anybody knows those two things are mutually exclusive.  Must have own outfit with bells, the ad continues—bladder on stick provided if required.  England has not a court jester since its revolution overthrew King Charles I 355 years ago.  The chief revolutionary, the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, was, of course, a noted cut-up and he handled all the jokes himself.

We have one celebrity suggestion, though, Simon Cowell, especially when this “American Idol” crap finally gives up the ghost. 

Coming up, if you‘re too tired to remember the number for the 911, you‘re probably too tired to be working as an operator at 911. 

Stay tuned for this call.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Short of an answering machine, hi, you‘ve reached 911, we can‘t come to the phone tonight, please leave a message after the beep, short of that or maybe hysterical laughter or the operator saying, good, you deserved it, it‘s probably the worst thing you could hear if you called 911.

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, snoring.  A woman calls 911 in Anne Arundel County in Maryland.  The operator falls asleep on her. 

There‘s more to the story.  Here it is courtesy correspondent Noel Tucker of our NBC station in Baltimore, WBAL.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICIA BERG, MARYLAND RESIDENT:  I was woken up.  It sounded like...

NOEL TUCKER, WBAL REPORTER (voice-over):  That sound got Patricia out of bed and on the phone.  At 2:40 in the morning last Thursday, she dialed 911.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OPERATOR:  Anne Arundel County 911.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BERG:  I was woken up.  The only place I can think of is my sliding glass door.  And I woke up to check it out.  I didn‘t see anything. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERG:  Then it went quiet. 

TUCKER:  At first, she thought he might have been typing notes.  But then she heard it. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

(SNORING)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERG:  And then I started hearing this faint snore.  And then the snore started getting louder.  And I‘m sitting there going, oh, this can‘t be happening to me.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

(SNORING)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TUCKER:  The operator snored for almost two minutes before Patricia got his attention. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BERG:  Hello?

OPERATOR:  Yes. 

BERG:  I was just wondering if you are still there.

OPERATOR:  Yes.  What‘s the problem?

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We certainly are upset and embarrassed by it. 

TUCKER:  Police say the operator who fell asleep has been a county dispatcher since 1993, with no problems.  They say they are still trying to decide if he should be suspended or even fired. 

BERG:  I wouldn‘t want it to happen to anybody else, because if it was really something, like an elderly person or something and somebody ended up getting seriously hurt or end up dying from something like this, who‘s going to take on responsibility for it?

Noel Tucker, NBC News, Baltimore.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

END   

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