updated 8/24/2004 10:08:33 AM ET 2004-08-24T14:08:33

Guests: David Gergen, Barry Mccaffrey, Glenn Hiller, Marian Schwenn, Al Monday

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be watching tomorrow. 

Bad for the system.  The President says John Kerry served admirably, says the 527 ads should stop.

That ad? 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That means that ad, every other ad. 

OLBERMANN:  It‘s too late for Mr. Glenn Hiller.  He heckled the president at a West Virginia rally, he then got fired from his job.  He will join us tonight. 

Looks like and ordinary grizzly double murder.  Two Christian camp counselors killed in their sleeping bags in California.  In fact, it may be worse.  Last fall, two Christian camp counselors killed in their sleeping bags in Arizona. 

And out to Munich.  Thieves steal a famous scream painting from an Oslo Museum.  If they can‘t find it we have replace screams ready.

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT:  YEAH!

OLBERMANN:  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.   This is Monday, August 23, 71 days until the 2004 presidential election. 

As the chairman of the Wisconsin state Committee of Veterans for Bush, called attacks on John Kerry‘s war service record or anybody elses, “UnAmerican,” the president himself said the so-call swiftboat ads should stop.  But he did not volunteer to stop them unilaterally, only as part of a larger joint condemnation of the whole process.

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, week 3 of the tour de swiftboat begins and it might be unfair to characterize Mr. Bush‘s statement from Crawford, Texas as, stop showing me yours and I‘ll stop showing mine.  But it did have something of the ring of the Claude Raines character in the movie “Casablanca,” announcing in the casino, that he shocked—shocked to discover that there was gambling going on there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH:  I think Senator Kerry served admirably and I—he ought to be

·         he ought to be proud of his record.  I don‘t think we ought to have 527‘s.  I can‘t be more plain about it.  I wish—I hope my opponent joins me in saying, condemning these activities of the 527s.  It‘s—I think they are bad for the system,

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And what will—that will shock the nation, the Kerry campaign did not say, gee, thanks, OK.  Vice presidential nominee, John Edwards, speaking Oshkosh, Wisconsin, reprised his previous themes about the president‘s moments truth. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, (D-SC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  In 1968, John Kerry, faced his moment of truth and at that moment of truth he decided to serve his country and put his life on the line for the United States of America.  Today George Bush faced his moment of truth and he failed.  He failed to condemn the specific attacks on John Kerry‘s military record.  We didn‘t need to hear a politician‘s answer, but unfortunately that‘s what got.  And that‘s the American people got today.  So, this will continue to be an issue and whether President Bush ever faces his real moment of truth and says to the American people, stop these ads. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It had already been a busy day for the Kerry camp.  It had gotten two Swiftboat Veterans for Truth to tell reporters that their statements had been mischaracterized by that organization.  And two others witness to separately tell the story of how Kerry got shrapnel in the left thigh during fire fight in February of 1999, and then wounds in the right arm a month later.  More impressively perhaps, Terry Musser, a Republican state representative, co-chair of Wisconsin Veterans for Bush, told the “Washington Post,” “I think it‘s UnAmerican to be attacking someone‘s service record, period.  The president has an opportunity here to stand up and demand that the attacks be stopped.” 

In lieu of that, you can always throw another commercial on the barbie. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE:  I‘m John Kerry and I approve this message. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  American soldiers are fighting in Iraq, families struggle to afford healthcare, jobs heading overseas.  Instead of solutions, George Bush‘s campaigns supports a front group attacking John Kerry‘s military record.  Attacks called smears, lies.  Senator McCain calls them, “dishonest.”  Bush smeared John McCain four years ago.  Now he is doing it to John Kerry.  George Bush, denounce the smears.  Get back to the issues, America deserves better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So as the souffle here continues to expands, has either side blundered in its strategy and what is next?

For insight and perspective, we go to the East Coast disturber of “Insight and Perspective,” advisor to four presidents, now of Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government, David Gergen. 

Good evening, David.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, I don‘t suppose are national prayers have been have been answered today, and the president‘s statements will deflate the whole thing, but did it change the nature of the debate about this topic.

GERGEN:  Not really.  I think what—I think this topic, if anything is becoming more bitter by the hour, and it‘s likely to carry right over to the Republican National Convention, when I do think the subject will change.  But—I must say from my perspective and all us I suppose have our biases, my sense is that some of the veterans who went were deeply, deeply aggrieved by what John Kerry said after he came back, and by throwing away some of his medals.  And that‘s what is driving a lot of this. 

And frankly, his activities after he got back are a legitimate subject for debate.  But what is not legitimate is to hit below the belt with ads that aren‘t true.  And what Kerry is saying and what many mainstream newspapers are now saying is that the allegations, these ads about had a he did in his service in Vietnam are simply untrue, and they are a smear. 

OLBERMANN:  Some of Senator Kerry‘s supporters suggest he has been slow on the uptake in answering that.  And some others that I‘ve spoken to say, he has been lending credibility to the ads by continuing to emphasize them, now to come out with a new one that directly attributes these a ads to President Bush.  Assess the Democratic strategy and what they should do next about this? 

GERGEN:  One thing I hope—he can‘t afford to do, is to now sit back and say enough is enough.  He has to go back out to this.  We saw what happened to Michael Dukakis with the Willie Hurton ad, when he didn‘t answer.  And he just got—it creamed him in the campaign.  So—but was Kerry too slow, well, I think there‘s a case being made that he was too slow. 

But also I think there‘s—he, himself, as I understand it from his people, felt well, the this is not going to go anywhere, because it‘s not true.  And the mainstream press is going to kill it.  Well, of course it did take off on cable news.  And there are a lot of people who do feel bitter about what he said after the war.  It sort of became a big story, and I think at that point he had to deal with it.  Was he slow getting there, yes he was a little slow getting there.  But I think he has now got, tomorrow, to lay out chapter and verse why he thinks the ad is untrue, why it‘s a smear.  And then he‘s got to pivot and say, now let‘s move on. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me put you, finally, back into your presidential advisor role.  Whether—true or false, at least the first swiftboat ad had an impact.  I mean, clearly had an impact, as you said, largely thought the amplification, magnification by cable news. 

Should the president now send a message to those groups that support him, that were responsible for ads like this, to back off?  Or is the correct move here to continue to call for elimination of all 527 ads as he did today, and insist we all get back to the issues and yet have those groups continue to push the latest thread about how series John Kerry‘s wounds really were? 

GERGEN:  I have to say, I think that George Bush is on safe ground calling attention to the $63 million ads that have apparently been spent by outside groups 527s, against him.  Some of which have been scurrilous.  And Kerry‘s denounced one of those Democratic-supported ads, one of the ones that supported his case.  But I think the time has come for the president, in fact, to be tougher about this. 

If the—the—the information we‘re getting from a variety of sources says, the ads said just make a clear that the evidence in the ads doesn‘t hold up.  There‘s no evidence to support what they are saying.  At that point, when you‘ve got ad running on your behalf that is untrue, you need to disassociate, you need to say stop running it. 

John Kerry, did that on the ad that was untrue about Bush, that said his father got him into the guard.  There is no evidences to support that, it was a smear.  And so I think President Bush (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to do this, then move on.  The country wants both candidates to move on and to talk about the future, not about a war 35-years-ago. 

OLBERMANN:  Evidently, it‘s not going to happen quite yet though.

GERGEN:  Not yet. 

OLBERMANN:  David Gergen, of the Kennedy School at Harvard, also of “U.S. News and World Report.”

As always David, you honor us with your presence. 

GERGEN:  Thank you, sir.  It‘s good to be here again.

OLBERMANN:  Always mine.

Waiting on deck behind the swiftboat ads, in the controversy, batting order of course, is this issue of the nature and seriousness of John Kerry‘s Vietnam wounds.  From rhetorical questions in that swiftboat groups book, it was elevated last week to questions about whether the wounds were self-inflicted.  That is you throw a hand grenade and kill 20 enemy and one of the belt buckle hit you in the forehead, that‘s considered a self-inflicted wound or even if they might have been intentionally self-inflicted, which is a court marshal offense. 

And it transformed again yesterday, while in the same interview he called John Kerry a hero, former senator, the seriously injured World War II veteran Bob Dole whose own first wound continuous out to have been self-inflicted questioned whether Kerry‘s wounds weren‘t debilitating enough to have merited three purple hearts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB DOLE ®, FORMER SENATOR:  Here‘s a, you know, good guy, good friend, I respect his record, but three purple hearts, and never bled that I know of.  I mean, they are all superficial wounds, three purple hearts and your out.  I think Senator Kerry needs to talk about his Senate record which is pretty thin, which is pretty thin, and probably why he is talking about his war record which is pretty confused. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The irony of Dole‘s remarks, is that in his own campaign autobiography in 1988, he revealed that the first of his purple hearts was awarded for, what he reported as a self-inflicted wound—not deliberately so.  But it is also reported in the “Los Angeles Times” and in “The Nation” in 1986, somebody in Dole‘s unit, possibly Dole himself, reports vary, lobbed a hand grenade poorly, it hit a tree, it sent a shard of medal into Dole‘s leg. 

Dole, also insisted that he apologize to the other Vietnam veterans for his public comments in the ‘70‘s that he had been told of U.S. troops who had committed war atrocities.  Though some of those atrocities that Kerry recounted have long since been horrifyingly confirmed.  But the issue of what John Kerry did in Vietnam was once far less important than the issue of what he said about Vietnam immediately afterwards can be traced by the history of one of the leaders of anti-Kerry swiftboat campaign, John O‘Neill. 

He‘s the co-author of that book, “Unfit to Command” and now a television regular, just as he was 33-years-ago.  More light sheds today on the origins of O‘Neill‘s public battle with Kerry from a White House memo obtained by COUNTDOWN. 

On June 17, 1971, White House special counsel, Charles Colson, wrote chief of staff, H.R. Bob Haldeman, in a memo in which he described bringing O‘Neill and other Vietnam veterans—one other Vietnam veteran to meet with President Richard Nixon. 

Colson, wrote Haldeman, that after meeting Nixon, “O‘Neill went on charging like a tiger, has agreed that he will appear anytime, anywhere that we program him.  And by the way O‘Neill was great at the mayor‘s conference yesterday morning.  He got a standing ovation and out did Kerry by a long shot.”

It is ironic given O‘Neill‘s current stance on Vietnam service by Kerry, that at a new service two weeks before he meet Nixon, O‘Neill had endorsed validity of Kerry‘s service record. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN O‘NEILL, ANTI-KERRY VIETNAM VETERAN:  I don‘t question Mr.

Kerry‘s courage, I question only his judgment and his intellectual honesty. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So this has been going on a long, long time and it certainly seems as if it will not end any time soon. 

Are we playing politics with the most controversial war in American history or is that war being used as a sledge hammer against one particular candidate. 

For his perspective, I‘m joined now by General Barry McCaffrey, himself the recipient of 3 purple hearts for his service in Vietnam. 

General, we‘re always grateful for time, sir.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, (RET.), U.S ARMY:  Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  In your view is this heated review of John Kerry‘s war record appropriate or is out of bound? 

For instance, Senator Dole‘s remarks appropriate? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think David Gergen, as usual, had it entirely right.  It‘s almost to bad he wasn‘t the last word on this.  It seems to me gutter politics is widely used by both parties, but the direct attacks on Senator Kerry‘s war record in Vietnam, I think are outrageous.  The guy in contemporary naval record, volunteered and served two tours.  The navy offshore was part of our 3.5 million Vietnam veterans.  He was wounded in action.  He did get awards for bravery.  And these young sailors who served with him in combat, clearly stood by his record.  So I think that is just outrages.  The same thing happened to President Bush‘s dad, I remember just outrages, and to Senator McCain.  We‘ve to back off this, Kerry‘s record is something he ought to be proud of in combat. 

OLBERMANN:  There is an argument, though, that he brought some of this on himself by emphasizing his war service, by bringing his crewmates up on stage.  We just show the videotape of him on the boat going toward the Democratic National Convention in Boston. 

Does it—all of it, not in a real way, kind of reflect the divisiveness that this country experienced during the Vietnam war.  He was so publicly critical of what were doing there, yet now he has his own service as a means of advertising and promoting his candidacy? 

Is this a—like I say, a microcosm (ph) of what happened to this country 35-years-ago? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, no doubt.  I think, it‘s probably a very appropriate comment.  The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) over there in theater, it‘s still a bitter legacy on the part of many people.  A lot of veterans when they came home were angry.  You know, we took essentially, 54,000 killed in action, 303,000 wounded, there was a lot of anger at senior officers, at McNamara (ph), at President Nixon.  So I think you are seeing a legacy of a very bitter war. 

OLBERMANN:  As the purple hearts themselves, now get lined up in the political gun sights, we are now hearing about that, are we forgetting the larger thing here that you don‘t buy these honors at (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? 

I mean, I understand you encountered this debate firsthand in an airport with a Vietnam vet? 

MCCAFFREY:  I had some goofy lad come up to me, look at my own lapel pin and said you know, people like you need to speak out against this guy Kerry.   And said, you know, come on, if you have a political viewpoint, I‘m nonpartisan, tried to be obtain on these things, at his politics or, you know, his statements when he got home. 

But then turned around and said look, how many purple hearts do you have?  How much combat service did you see? 

I think Senator Kerry‘s performance in combat, he ought to be proud of.  You know, and I think the debate now ought to turn to the current economy, war issues, social security and we ought to probably back off his distinguished record as a young man volunteering in combat. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, General Barry McCaffrey, as always sir, no matter what the topic is, we greatly appreciate your time and your point of view.

MCCAFFREY:  Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  The political headlines continue fast and furious. 

The story of a man expelled from a Bush rally, and then fired from his job as a result, because of his comments, will be our No. 4 story in a little bit.  But first, they saw it in Boston, they‘re already seeing it in New York.  A week until the convention starts, late enough that they are already removing mailboxes from the streets 25 blocks from the convention site, and the city seems to be emptying out. 

Now even the president himself may not be hanging out in New York.  “The New York Times,” reporting today, that the current unofficial presidential schedule has Mr. Bush arriving in New York on the afternoon of September 2, giving his convention speech that night and leaving that night to resume campaigning in Pennsylvania.  The city will not even get the benefit of the tax from his hotel room. 

We‘ll be there, I know, big whoop, it‘s a 10 minute commute for me.  Starting next Monday, we‘ll be bring special editions of COUNTDOWN  to the convention, here on MSNBC every afternoon at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 2 p.m.  Pacific, all the days political news, it‘s non political news, and it‘s political non-news live at 5:00.  Be there aloha. 

COUNTDOWN opening with swiftboats Continued.  Up next tonight, No. 4 story, he shouted questions at the president at one of his rallies and was fired as a result.  He will join us next. 

And later, an MSNBC exclusive, the first military investigation into the Abu Ghraib Prison abuse scandal that places blame well above the G.I.‘s seen in the damning photo‘s.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Ahead on COUNTDOWN, heckle the president and lose your job. 

And later a California murder mystery, two camp counselors shot to death, evidently as they sleep.  A frightening echo of a similar double homicide last year in Arizona.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If the issues of the job economy and unemployment are the domestic keys to the presidential election, Mr. President Bush was visited by a bad omen last Tuesday. 

Our No. 4 story in the COUNTDOWN, the politics of dissent.  A graphic designer from West Virginia shouted unfriendly questions at Presidents rally and was escorted out.  That probably did not surprise him.  When his employers escorted him out of his office the next day, that certainly did. 

Glenn Hiller, was granted an invitation to the invitation only Bush campaign rally.  After learning there would not be a question and answer session, he attempted to create one of his own.  During a pause in the president‘s speech Hiller, shouted out questions about Iraq and the state of American jobs.  Now, he knows the last issue firsthand. 

It turns out he had been given the ticket to the event by one of his firms clients.  Upon hearing of Hiller‘s actions, that client called the boss to complain and the boss in turn, felt she had no option but to dismiss him. 

Glenn Hiller, joins us now from his home in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. 

Mr. Hiller, good evening.  Thanks for your time, sir. 

GLENN HILLER, FIRED HECKLER:  Sure. 

OLBERMANN:  Why did you go to Mr. Bush‘s rally and did the people who were running it know that you were not a supporter of the president‘s? 

HILLER:  I went to the rally because, you know, the president was in my backyard.  I have an interest in politics and I wanted to go to the event and see what he had to say.  And I had heard through various news reports that the Bush events are closed, and non-supporters are not allowed in.  And I just wanted to go see for myself. 

OLBERMANN:  Did they know you were a non-supporters? 

HILLER:  The person who got me my ticket and my boss both knew I was not a supporter. 

OLBERMANN:  What happened when you started to tried to get your questions out. 

HILLER:  I—first of all, I said in response, he was talking about weapons of mass destruction and how Saddam didn‘t have the weapons, but had the capabilities to make them, the first think I said was, that‘s not the same thing.  And then, you know, everybody turned around and looked at me.  I just voiced my opposition.  I didn‘t believe in what he was saying. 

OLBERMANN:  And then someone suggested it was a good idea that you leave or were you actually escorted out?  How did it happen?

HILLER:  Well, from that, that was the first thing I had said, then I had some question.  I had written some questions previously that, I wanted to ask him if I had the opportunity to.  And he was talking about the war and I asked some questions, then he moved on the economy and I asked him a question about that.  And then, local campaign officials, I think they said they were, they came over and told me it was time to leave and said that I would be arrested if I didn‘t leave. 

OLBERMANN:  The fact of losing your job—I have read several quotes attributed to you that you find that understandable if not exactly your first choice, is that correct? 

HILLER:  You know, I really don‘t—I don‘t want to cause my employer any harm.  I didn‘t want to in the first place.  What she did wasn‘t—firing me wasn‘t politically motivated on her part.  She was firing me because a client was upset.  I have a bigger beef with—she‘s a good person, runs a good company.  I think she made the wrong decision.  But I have a bigger beef with the atmosphere in general, you know, the whole atmosphere of intolerance to opposing points of view that‘s being generated and supported by the government. 

OLBERMANN:  Then, let‘s take that one to a theoretical step, do think that Senator Kerry should have to answer questions at his rallies from people who are opposed to him? 

HILLER:  I think so, yes.  I think both of them should.  I don‘t want to make this a partisan thing.  I think, I‘ve heard from people that I‘ve talked to since before and since the since the event, that the Kerry events are much different, that he‘s open to questions.  And you know, he does a speech and opens himself up to genuine questions and answers.  And I have heard that the Bush campaign events are closed event.  He only lets in people that agree with him.  Any kind of questions that I see on TV that come from the have from the public have been just softballs, you know thrown to him by supporters. 

OLBERMANN:  Final question—go ahead.

HILLER:  I definitely think both of them should be—I definitely think both side should open up their campaign events to opposing points of view. 

OLBERMANN:  Glenn Hiller, we‘re out of time, thank you for yours tonight and best wishes on the job hunt as well.  Thank you sir.

HILLER:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN, now past our No. 4 story.  Up next a diversion from the pie fight that id decision 2004, to instead show you a water balloon fight that would define “Oddball” for the night. 

And later, the scream.  The scream, it‘s missing.  We‘ll talk to a reformed international art thief about why the steal would be much easier than trying to resell it. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Even when we pause the COUNTDOWN and put politics and swiftboats and fire fights aside for the night, what to we get; water and fights. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We begin in Arlington Texas with the world‘s largest water balloon fight held in the parking lot of Martins High School.  Five hundred and nine combatants, 1,500 water balloons.  Release, rotation, splash.  They are awaiting the official nod from the Guinness records people, that they believe they smashed the previous record set by 16 kids a birthday.  No one injured, unless you count this girl, a lesson in the tactics of the water balloon battle there.  Right there, always protect the facial zonal area, even when on offense.  Right there.  There she is one more time.  Boom!  Turn your sets off there. 

The Associated Press had an alarming report over the weekend, that the northeast U.S., is in fact, facing a severe lobster shortage.  Another water story.  Some fisheries blame global warming for the mystery threat, which has lobsters numbers dwindling at a record rate.  The article went on to say the only area not affected, the state of Maine.  So, when in Maine, waste them if you got them. 

It‘s the annual World Lobster Eating Championships in Kennebunkport, for the seafood lover in you—and your neighborhood.  Various contests were held.  Prizes awarded for eating speed, for shear volume.  The overall champ, Sonya Thomas (ph) of Alexandra, Virginia, who wolfed down 38 lobsters in 12 minutes.  She won the claw trophy and $500 bucks, which would not be enough money to cover the cost her lobster meal.

None of this would have mattered say the folks at MIT, if an asteroid, they observed on the 31 of March had been just a few miles closer to earth.  Space watchers there say the 20 to 30 foot rock, came within about 45 hundred miles of our house.  In space terms, that just barely missed us.  They have named it F.U. 162. 

Had it hit, scientists say F.U. 162 would have caused an explosion the size of a atomic bomb in the upper atmosphere.  Although, they insist F.U.  162 might not have been actually hurtful to life on the planet.  It still what another scientist calls, a hell of a surprise.  There were only few hours warning, yet no public announcement was made at the time.  Gee, thanks and a F.U. 162 right back at you. 

“Oddball‘s,” behind us. 

Now up next, tonight‘s No. 3 story, the bizarre murder mystery in California.  Two camp counselors are found shot to death in their sleeping bags.  A similar slaying in Arizona last fall has police suspecting a connection. 

And later, after a dramatic last-second delay last week, Amber Frey actually gets to hear Mark Geragos say, no questions. 

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

No. 3, Alice Cooper, the 56-year-old rock star who goes to NBA games with John McCain and has proclaimed his support for President Bush, told the Canadian press that he is disgusted by Bruce Springsteen and other anti-Bush musicians, calls it treason against rock ‘n‘ roll—quote—“If you are listening to a rock star in order to get your voting information on who to vote for, you are a bigger moron than they are.  Why are we rock stars?  Because we‘re morons.”  Thank you for that clear and compelling political insight.

No. 2, the unidentified wanna-be carjacker still on the loose in Columbia, South Carolina.  Probably chose the wrong car.  In addition to a female driver, her dog was in the car, too.  It was a rottweiler doberman pinscher mix named Diablo.  Police say Diablo broke off four teeth and the carjacker‘s arm before he fled. 

And, No. 1, scientists at the Salk Institute in California, they have discovered that by increasing the activity of a single gene, they can take an ordinary mouth and make it stronger, more muscular, faster, able to run twice as far and not get tired.  That‘s right.  They have invented Mighty Mouse. 

You know, we‘ve got this asteroid FD-162 (ph) we need you to work on, brother.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It can be argued that crime, surely most violent crime, can be described as senseless.  But if the term ever was applied especially to one case, it did at first blush to the investigators or Sonoma County, California, and the two young murder victims they found at the shoreline.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the seemingly senseless may be amplified.  This kind of crime may be connected to or at least echo another one last fall.  The bodies of 26-year-old Jason Allen and a 22-year-old Lindsay Cutshall were found near Jenner, California, east of Sacramento, last Wednesday.  Both had been shot in the head at close range, each still in their sleeping bag, no valuables taken.  That should be west of Sacramento. 

The couple engaged to be married in September reportedly told co-workers at the summer camp where they both worked that they were going to visit friends for the weekend.  They had apparently literally been turned away at the inn, told when they asked for a cabin at a lodge in the town that they were no vacancies.  So they were camping out.

Investigators have ruled out robbery, sexual assault and murder-suicide as motives. 

Marian Schwenn has been covering this story for the newspaper “The Mountain Democrat” in Sacramento.  She joins us now.

Thanks for your time this evening.

MARIAN SCHWENN, “THE MOUNTAIN DEMOCRAT”:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Investigators have ruled a lot out here.  What do they have left?  Where is the investigation?  Are there suspects?

SCHWENN:  What they do have left, the innkeeper who did not have room for them apparently on Monday evening, a press conference just ended in Sonoma County just moments ago, actually, and police have pretty much notified us that they are not sure that this was the same couple.  The man who entered that place was apparently wearing a goatee.

We have a lot of photographs of Jason Allen wearing a goatee, but at the time, he did not, so that is still a question.  We do have—one report came across the scanner just before I left saying that they do have two suspects.  They have a description.  They have not released those names to us, but right now they are tracking that down and they say these two gentlemen may be armed. 

OLBERMANN:  Do they have any idea why this happened?  This case and this previous case from Arizona, young couple shot in their sleeping bags, no signs of struggle—nothing seems to have been taken.  Do they have an idea of what happened or if not what, then why? 

SCHWENN:  At this point, no, they don‘t.

The Arizona case and the Sonoma County case are very similar.  There are a few differences as well.  But both couples appear to have been shot in their sleep while camping out under the stars, so to speak.  And right now, there is no motive.  You are correct.  Nothing was taken and no sexual assault. 

OLBERMANN:  The murdered woman‘s father said, we want to get a completely insane, cold-blooded killer off the beaches and off the streets, that probably as strong terminology as anybody could use.  Is that the only working theory at this point, that these are some sort of random actions? 

SCHWENN:  So far, it is the only working theory.  I‘m sure that the sheriff‘s department probably has a little bit more than I do, but they are not releasing it at this point. 

Like I say, just before I left today, they did release a car description and said that they had two people that they would like to question. 

OLBERMANN:  Are they convinced yet whether or not this is just an extraordinary coincidence regarding Arizona or do they think there is a connection? 

SCHWENN:  I think that they are looking into a connection.  I don‘t think they are convinced one way or the other at this point. 

OLBERMANN:  Marian Schwenn, reporter with “The Mountain Democrat” newspaper, thanks for your time tonight.  We appreciate it. 

SCHWENN:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  One hundred miles to the south, what a writer called the awfulness of the thing has already settled in on the residents, certainly the jurors at Redwood City, California.  That‘s where the trial of Scott Peterson resumed today, without any mention of what the potential development might have been that caused last week‘s sudden postponement just before the scheduled cross-examination of Amber Frey. 

The day began with the other most anticipated witness, an official from AT&T Wireless, who told the courthouse, cell phone towers were used to track Peterson‘s movements.  Then there was Ms. Frey herself, who joined in the shock of the week, when defense attorney Mark Geragos rose to begin his questions and said, no questions, Your Honor.  He paused for a moment and then added, just kidding. 

Few of Geragos‘ queries seemed pointed enough to justify the just kidding.  He asked about her first conversation with Peterson and about the calls she tape recorded at the request of the Modesto Police.

And to complete the third story with the third tabloid story, a not-so-funny thing has happened on the way to the supposed pleading out of the Kobe Bryant case.  The deadline for a deal reportedly expired Friday and the same sources who insisted it was going away now say the trial will start September 7, that decision apparently hinging on the decision by the alleged victim as to whether or not she would agree to take the stand. 

She evidently told prosecutors that she will.  Earlier reports, including some on this news hour and this network, indicated that a tentative deal had been struck for Bryant to plead guilty to a lesser charge and make a cash settlement of the proposed civil version of the same case.

Moving from crime at home to criminal facts—or acts, rather—abroad, American journalist Micah Garen is free, but he is not home free.  Details in the No. 2 story next.  Then, later, the moving parts of Michael Jackson.  And we mean literally, parts of his body moving, ones that are not supposed to move. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Still ahead here on COUNTDOWN, exclusive breaking details on the investigation into the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.  And just how high up is the culpability for the scandal?

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you missed it over the weekend, the American journalist Micah Garen is safe, released after nine days in the hands of kidnappers in Iraq who had threatened to behead him.

But in our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, Garen says he is not leaving Iraq, at least not yet.  Tonight, U.S. Embassy officials say he appears to be in good health and is at an undisclosed location being questioned by military officials and the FBI.  Garen was freed yesterday after numerous appeals by family and friends.  The Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who urged Garen‘s release, said he was urged to do so and moved to do so by a phone call by Garen‘s sister. 

Now Garen says he wants to stay in Iraq.  When abducted, he was filming a documentary on the looting of archaeological sties there and he wants to finish it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICAH GAREN, AMERICAN JOURNALIST:  This experience hasn‘t swayed me to want to leave at all.  My plans were to continue on this project. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It has not been invoked in the Garen case, but several earlier kidnappings and murders of Westerners in Iraq had been provoked, said the perpetrators anyway, by the abuse of Iraqis by American jailers at Abu Ghraib prison. 

And in this country, some of the sudden swing of public opinion against the war, was attributed to revulsion at the images and stories.  But unsettled still, were these the unplanned acts of American G.I.s gone off the deep end in a violent world far from home or were they parts of the interrogation process authorized by, even ordered by high-ranking officers? 

From the military hearings into Abu Ghraib in Mannheim, Germany, our correspondent, Fred Francis, has startling details of a Pentagon report designed to answer that vital question. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRED FRANCIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The actual abuses at Abu Ghraib may have been the work of a few G.I.s, but excerpts of a report obtained exclusively by NBC News found failures of leadership from the prison to the Pentagon and said many must share some of the blame. 

The report was commissioned by the Pentagon and authored by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger.  It specifically says Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, head of the M.P.s of the prison, who called herself a scapegoat who got little or no support from higher-ups, already relieved of her command, and Colonel Thomas Pappas of Military Intelligence at the prison, who has refused comment, both knew or ought to have known what was going on. 

The report also issues a scathing rebuke of the leadership at senior officer levels, including Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, then in charge in Iraq, for not responding to key flaws in prison manpower and policy. 

(on camera):  The investigative report does not stop there.  It throws blame at the Pentagon from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the secretary of defense, saying they all share some burden of responsibility for not sending Guard reinforcements at a time of a growing insurgency. 

(voice-over):  Defense lawyers for the accused M.P.s say they are not surprised by any of this. 

GUY WOMACK, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIALIST CHARLES GRANER:  Now it would be laughable for someone to conclude that these seven M.P.s acted with no direction from above. 

FRANCIS:  The report does not say that, but it does show flaws in training and staffing at Abu Ghraib.  Defense attorneys argued at a pretrial hearing in Germany today that this report and others will prove that what happened at Abu Ghraib was known long before that night in November when these horrid pictures were taken. 

Fred Francis, NBC News, Mannheim, Germany.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And, lastly, on the terror topic, unless the way to Osama bin Laden is through his stomach, the latest development in the search for the al Qaeda leader will seem more laughable than laudable. 

Pakistan intelligence has captured bin Laden‘s personal cook.  “The Pakistan Times” says Mohamad Akram was picked up on Wednesday.  Its sources say he was with bin Laden for six years, but had spent the last two studying at a seminary in Islamabad.  OK, big boy, we have got your chef. 

From the ridiculous to the equally ridiculous.  It‘s our nightly segue into the world of celebrity news that we call “Keeping Tabs.”  And, yes, it‘s your entertainment dollars in action, day 280 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  And in developments that could be right out of the Woody Allen movie “Sleeper,” a London tabloid is reporting that Jackson‘s various plastic surgeries have so corrupted the integrity of his face that his nose nearly fell off. 

Professor Verner Mong (ph) said he was brought from Germany to California to save the proboscis and did so by transplanting some cartilage from Jackson‘s ear.  You may remember Woody Allen and Diane Keaton trying to clone the leader of a futuristic world from all that remained of him, his nose.  Anyway, says Professor Mong, “The nose of Michael Jackson is now fine.”

Well, you got to start somewhere, which is what his friends presumably keep telling Rodney King.  The unfortunate Los Angeles motorist whose videotaped beating by police later sparked the 1992 riots in that city is trying to make yet another new start as a rapper.  He tells the syndicated series “Celebrity Justice” that he got the idea from his drug rehab counselor and that he plans to become rapping Rodney. 

We would never be ones to discourage a man from getting a new lease on life, but Mr. King does need to remember here that there can only ever be one rapping Rodney. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) 

RODNEY DANGERFIELD, ACTOR:  My car broke down.  I called AAA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES (singing):  No respect.  No respect.

DANGERFIELD:  They left the car and towed me away. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES (singing):  No respect.  No respect.

(END AUDIO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  I would scream right now, if they hasn‘t stolen my scream. 

The famous painting?  No, that is not Macaulay Culkin in it.  A former art thief tells us what happens now.  We look into where they will go if a new “Scream” has to replace the one that was stolen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I scream, you scream, we all scream for Edvard Munch‘s “Scream.” 

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, it is a painting so famous that there are little blow-up dolls depicting it.  Every generation since Munch painted his four different versions of the screaming woman in the 1890s has thought it was about the pressures of their own particular era.  No word if the guards at the Oslo Munch Museum let out the appropriate noise when two men in black ski masks pointed a handgun at one of them and ripped the painting from the museum wall. 

Also taking his second famous work, an image nearly as haunting and almost as famed, a work entitled “Madonna.”  Some tourists in the area moved more swiftly than did the guards.  They snapped these shots of the actual getaway. 

In a moment, we‘ll have a few COUNTDOWN suggestions as to how the museum can replace “The Scream” if it is never recovered.  First, the case seems to have two significant facets to it, the armed robbery element, obviously, and the fact that it reeks of Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes story about a fictional theft of “The Mona Lisa.”  With the hell is somebody going to do with a picture that well known? 

Al Monday may know.  He‘s a former art thief himself, now a legitimate fine art dealer, also serving as a private consultant working to recover stolen art.

Mr. Monday, good evening. 

AL MONDAY, FORMER ART THIEF:  Good evening.  How are you?

OLBERMANN:  Even if there are four different version of “The Scream,” the thieves can‘t be planning to sell the thing, can they?  Does this have to be a ransom deal? 

MONDAY:  Well, let me ask you, if you were going to ransom it, would you like to pick up the ransom?  And that‘s a bit of a problem.  Right at the moment, it looks to me a little bit more right now that it could have been an ordered theft, as your Arthur Conan Doyle situation suggests, because attempting to ransom the painting, certainly not to sell it to someone, that is going to be very, very difficult. 

Unless you have Larocca Disimone (ph) or Al Monday handle it, now, that‘s a different situation.  But we‘d return it, not sell it illegally.  But, essentially, getting a ransom, that kind of thing, very difficult.  Probably more so at this time, it appears that it more than likely was an ordered situation because of the two paintings by the same artists, very famous.  It appears that it would be that. 

If we don‘t get a ransom situation, I would say probably within the next three, four, five days, more than likely that‘s where it went, underground to a private guy. 

OLBERMANN:  I was just going to say that, as in the story about the Sherlock Holmes story about “The Mona Lisa,” it requires a collector who is willing to do this and to pay the money involved in it and then also to keep the thing in a vault somewhere underground, where only he gets to look at it.  Do people like that really exist? 

MONDAY:  They do exist.  They certainly absolutely do exist.  In my career, I have met a few.  To say that that it is something which is extremely prevalent, no, it is not, because most people who collect art, it‘s about ego. 

And most people, with their ego, would love to show whatever it is that they purchase.  And if that is the case, you are not going to show it too often before you wind up in the hands of the gendarmes. 

So, you know, that is—it does happen on occasion.  There are a few people, but it‘s not something that is really prevalent throughout the world.

OLBERMANN:  Talk to me about the other thing that didn‘t seem to be prevalent here, the violence.  If it‘s your painting or your life, I‘m assuming the guards are almost always going to say, it‘s the painting.  Could this be the start of a kind of new grim era in art thievery, where they are essentially packing so much heat that they could overcome cops, let alone guards? 

MONDAY:  Well, first of all, unfortunately, I am the one who patented that methodology of obtaining art from museums. 

OLBERMANN:  Uh-oh. 

MONDAY:  And that was back in 1972.  And I should get some kind of a residual fee from some of these thieves who are utilizing my M.O. 

But, in any case, here in this country, you are more apt to see that because we‘re more of the gunsel type of thing.  In Europe, people don‘t generally use guns that often for either defending or committing crimes.  But this certainly would not be very difficult to orchestrate, especially right now. 

OLBERMANN:  Al Monday, former art thief now working to recover stolen art, we thank you for your time and your insight. 

MONDAY:  Well, thank you very much for having me. 

OLBERMANN:  While authorities work to recover “The Scream,” the crack staff here spent the day thinking of nothing else than the worse-scenario.  What happens to those unlucky tourists who go though the Munch Museum in Oslo and have to leave screamless? 

We have a few suggestions, if you will, replacement screams.  You might want to lower the volume on the TV, though. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That kind of thing.

(SCREAMING)

HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  South Dakota!

(SCREAMING)

DEAN:  And Washington!

(SCREAMING)

DEAN:  And Michigan! 

(SCREAMING)

DEAN:  Yes!

(SCREAMING)

OLBERMANN:  No!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, as they say, let‘s get it over with.  We‘re not going to go hang it in a museum somewhere. 

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

Good night and—no, I‘m not going to scream.  Sorry.  Good luck. 

END   

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,