updated 2/15/2005 2:37:16 PM ET 2005-02-15T19:37:16

Guest: Bill Crockett,  Richard Wolffe

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

The woman killed as she attacked an expectant mother.  The attacker had a nursery ready.  She also had surgical equipment to deliver a child.  Kentucky still to decide whether to charge the woman she attacked. 

Was any election in Iraq really worth it?  The votes are in.  And so is the party of the both theocratic, Iran-friendly politicians. 

Jose Canseco.  The steroid book is out.  So are the former teammates calling him a liar.  Except for one, who says a steroid user would know who the other steroid users were. 

And hate Valentine‘s Day?  A way to escape the bad date and a support group to escape to. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m quirky alone. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m quirky alone. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) quirky alone. 

OLBERMANN:  All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

The woman carried a sonogram image around with her of twins.  She had a nursery all prepared at home and she told everyone that she was expecting.  But the twins weren‘t hers, nor was the sonogram, and the only thing she appears to have been expecting was to kill another woman and take her baby. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, her name was Katie Smith, and she is dead, because the woman she apparently tried to kill, Sarah Brady, fought back and stabbed her to death with her own knife.  And yet the survivor, Ms. Brady, might yet face criminal charges. 

We‘ll talk to a man who will help decide that in a moment.  First, the additional and terrifying new details about what happened to Sarah Brady of Leutonia (ph), Kentucky.  She is not only alive, but she is also to give birth shortly, maybe imminently. 

Ms. Brady says she stabbed 22-year-old Katie Smith after Smith had lured her to her apartment, claiming to be a woman named Sarah Brody, who had gotten some of Sarah Brady‘s gifts by accident.  Then, Smith attacked her.  Inside Smith‘s apartment police found the nursery and surgical supplies, including an umbilical clamp, hemostats, surgical scissors, rubber gloves and absorbent pads. 

Investigators think that hardware was there in the event Smith had to forcibly deliver a baby. 

The switched gifts ruse that lured Brady into Smith‘s apartment was exactingly executed.  On her first visit there, Brady picked up a package from Smith without incident.  Then, Ms. Smith called her up that night claiming to have another mistakenly delivered package.  And she said it was not until that second trip that Ms. Brady realized something was very wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH BRADY, SURVIVED ATTACK:  She was—sounded very intelligent.  She seemed very friendly.  She—we just talked like, you know, two pregnant women would talk to one another.  And there didn‘t seem to be anything off the wall about her at all.  We had, you know, some lengthy conversations in regards to her family and her living here.  And everything seemed to be fine. 

She had discussed a couple of different things in regards to pregnancy, and she was actually telling me that she was overdue.  So I mean, everything that she said didn‘t seem to be out of the ordinary at all. 

It was when I went in to her apartment the second time Thursday morning, and that‘s when I‘d seen a few materials in her apartment that had given a different name, and I started to get a little leery.  A couple of different things had occurred in regards to some conversation, and I got a little leery at that point, and that‘s when I, you know, was ready to go and had kind of pushed myself to the door, you know, to get myself out of there. 

And when I was leaving the apartment, she pulled the knife out on me.  And that‘s how, you know, the attack occurred.  She came at me with a knife, and I got it out of her hand.  We had a scuffle, and I got to the door—and because she lives in an apartment building, I was able to get out of her apartment, but not actually out of the building and she gotten me back in. 

And we scuffled some more, and then I was able to retrieve the knife from her.  And then I fled the apartment. 

As far as her wanting my child, I mean, that‘s all just what people draw conclusions from as far as her having a nursery and not actually being pregnant. 

I‘ve not been told by the police or anyone else, you know, for a fact that that is what her intention was. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Brady says it was maternal instinct that enabled her to save herself.  While police contend that that evidence points toward self-defense, local authorities are still deciding whether or not to press charges against Sarah Brady, possibly to take the case to a grand jury.  The man who would prosecute Ms. Brady if charges were to be filed is Kenton County‘s commonwealth attorney, Bill Crockett.  Mr. Crockett, thank you for your time tonight. 

BILL CROCKETT, KENTON COUNTY COMMONWEALTH ATTORNEY:  Glad to be here, Keith.  Good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  I‘m sure a lot of viewers would be surprised to hear that there is still a possibility of charges against Ms. Brady.  Is that because of facts not yet publicly known, or is it just standard procedure, or what is it? 

CROCKETT:  It is more standard procedure, Keith.  I think what we‘re looking at, society by virtue of 45-seconds news clips here and there and 45 minutes to solve every major crime in “CSI” and other network TV shows, there‘s I guess a perception that you can resolve these things instantly.  In this particular case, we have to follow up on every lead, forensic, factual and other bases, and that‘s what we‘re in the process of doing right now. 

OLBERMANN:  So you have only the survivor here.  Is there anything that suggests that she might not be telling the entire truth? 

CROCKETT:  Everything that Ms. Brady has told the police to this point has been confirmed.  But again, we have to explore it.  Obviously, we‘re not in a position to accept at face value the statement of any person who has been involved in a fatality. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the history of the dead woman, Katie Smith?  I understand that there was what we could probably call severe trauma in her past. 

CROCKETT:  She does have a history of a trauma.  As a child, our office prosecuted in 2001 a case involving sex abuse by her father, Timothy Smith.  A jury in 2001 found him guilty of sodomy in the first degree, involved a case of suppressed memory and repressed memory.  And basically, a trial.  The jury heard facts that dealt with the abuse over a period of time.  And Ms. Smith was—her testimony was key to the trial.  And her father was convicted and received a sentence of 20 years in the Kentucky state penitentiary. 

OLBERMANN:  And Mr. Crockett, you‘ve been in touch with representatives of the Smith family today.  Do they want to see Sarah Brady prosecuted, or they have no opinion? 

CROCKETT:  They basically want us to get to the bottom of what occurred.  Obviously, I think the funeral actually occurred today, and they‘re going through the grieving process.  So right now, we‘re trying to find out what happened.  And it is as meaningful to them to get conclusions as to what occurred, obviously, so they can deal with their continued grief in the future. 

OLBERMANN:  And if they‘re going through the grieving process, and the rest of us looking at this story are going through some sort of an amazement process, what process would you be going through?  Is this something that strikes you on a personal level more than a professional one? 

CROCKETT:  A little bit of both.  You know, I have four children and six beautiful grandchildren.  And obviously, anytime you‘re dealing with the birth of a child, it is a special time.  For someone to be fixated on the birth of a child, and/or to want to have a child, obviously, there‘s other avenues that can be used to secure a child.  You know, adoption, many, many things that are out there.  Rather than the alternative course that may have been chosen here. 

But we want to get to the bottom of it.  We‘ve got a significant amount of facts that need to be poured through, including medical records, and the past two years of what may have gone on in Ms. Smith‘s mind.  And trying to corroborate the story that Ms. Brady has given to us is a base to the case.

OLBERMANN:  Bill Crockett, Kenton County, Kentucky‘s commonwealth attorney, good luck with your efforts and many thanks for your time tonight.  

CROCKETT:  Thank you much and thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Fatherhood is assumed to confer or inspire wisdom.  Then again tonight, there‘s a new story about Mary Kay Letourneau.  We learned today that she will marry Vili Fualaau two months from Wednesday.  They have known each since the sixth grade.  He was a sixth grader; she was the sixth grade teacher.  She went to jail for about seven years, all told, and they have had two children together. 

We know about this newest development because the bridal registry for the April 16th wedding near Seattle is online.  The happy couple has registered at Macy‘s, and seem particularly in need of casual china.  Examples, a set of Villeroy & Boch twist alea crockery.  Although somebody has already gotten them the rice bowl, the pitcher, the egg cup and the pickle plate. 

The Belgique classique broiler from Tools of the Trade for 39.99 is requested, and for you high-end guests, the priciest item of all, a kitchen aid artisan mixer at $250. 

Not listed among the items Ms. Letourneau is looking for, a snowball‘s chance in hell that the marriage will last past 2012, when she will be 50 and he will be 29. 

Amid all of these stomach-churning stories of children and would-be parents, one bright note to balance it all out tonight: They have identified the parents of Baby 81 in Sri Lanka.  If you know this story already, you did not forget it.  If you don‘t, you will not be able to.  Our correspondent is John Irvine of our affiliated British network ITN. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN IRVINE, ITN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Rarely can the DNA tests have been put to better use, for this is a happy ending to an emotive story that symbolized the heartbreak wrought by the tsunami. 

The infant known as Baby 81 had been claimed by nine different couples, and genetic fingerprinting was the only way to differentiate between mom and dad and the impostors.

The little boy was found in the rubble of his village several hours after the waves struck, but his parents could provide no clear proof that he was theirs.  The birth certificate and other paperwork had been washed away.  The baby was the 81st patient admitted to the hospital where he‘s been cared for since the disaster.  It has been an agonizing wait for his parents.  At one stage, the woman now proven to be his mother went to the ward and lifted him, only to have him taken back by the nurses. 

The woman said the little boy‘s name was Abilas (ph) and he had been born on October 19.  Now world knows she was telling the truth. 

Legal technicalities mean that mom and dad will have to wait another day or so before they are reunited with their baby boy.  But it will happen for the doubting is over.  John Irvine, ITV News. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  After all the hype, the leaks, the denials, the book is finally out.  Jose Canseco and juiced.  The reaction ahead.  And something you‘ve probably never seen before, Canseco presteroids. 

Also tonight, Iraq post election.  People there have spoken.  Washington might not be liking what they had to say.  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When he arrived in Major League Baseball in September 1985, he was so unknown that on the occasion of his first home run, a Los Angeles TV sportscaster called him Joe Canosek (ph).  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, a lot of people until a week or two ago did not know him from that Joe Canosek, went out and bought Jose Canseco‘s new book today.  Whether you‘ve just heard of him or you or you can state off whom he hit that first home run 20 years ago, something coming up in a moment that you‘ve probably never seen before.  Jose Canseco before steroids. 

First, the book, “Juiced” largely consisting of Canseco‘s claims that he would not have been a big leaguer without steroids, that his body became a living testing lab for the illegal performance enhancing drug, that he proselytized for steroid use among other big leaguers hit bookstores this morning a week ahead of the planned publication date.  Canseco hit “60 Minutes” last night part of a publicity tour that will bring him to COUNTDOWN on Wednesday.  It was a much hyped interview with Mike Wallace.  Not about the one day he pitched but it largely failed to live up to the hype.  Wallace did most of the talking.  Canseco did go on camera and name the same names right off his head, leaked out prior to publication.  Names like Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Jason Giambi, and Mark McGwire. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mark and I weren‘t really in the sense of buddy buddies.  We were more acquaintances than actually anything else.  But there are certain subjects that we could talk about like obviously steroids.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) inject ourselves.  I think I injected him—I mean, this is a long time ago—once or twice for sure. 

I tried to do everything possible to become the best player in the world.  Do I believe steroids and growth hormone helped me achieve that?  Yes.  Were there a lot of other players doing it that I had to compete against?  Yes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The denials have been as rampant as Canseco says the steroid use was.  He‘s largely been branded a liar, although a few of those who have done so have had to perform some logical gymnastics to do that.  Foremost of them would be Mark McGwire the man who in 1998 broke the then 37-year-old record for most home runs in a season with whom Canseco claims he swapped steroid injections.  McGwire had remained silent until he issued a statement to CBS News through the “60 Minutes” report quoting, “once and for all I did not use steroids nor any illegal substance, the relationship that these allegations portray could not be further from the truth.”

McGwire is hamstrung however by the fact that seven seasons ago the steroid precursor Anderstein Dion (ph) was spotted in his locker in St.  Louis.  And he freely admitted using a supplement so powerful that in Canada and Europe, you can‘t even get it with a prescription.  Tony LeRusso (ph), manager of the Oakland teams for which McGwire and Canseco played also did some careful verbal footwork making sure to insist that he knew McGwire was clean but that Canseco was not.  And especially that he would not have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) steroid use on his team.  Except for Canseco. 

Mark McGwire‘s historic career, he said, did not involve the use of any illegal or unethical performance enhancing substances.  Canseco demonstrated a lack of effort caring about his team and willingness to take personal responsibility.  With A‘s players‘ gains in size and strength were a product of a gym program requiring regular concentrated efforts.

Lastly there‘s Dave Stewart, the former star pitcher on Canseco‘s teams, later a baseball executive.  Always kind of a lone wolf but credited throughout with honesty and perspective. 

“I could never say Josie is a liar.  I don‘t like his work ethic and I don‘t like him as a teammate but one thing I can‘t say about him is he‘s a liar.  If you‘re an admitted steroid user,” Stewart says, “believe you‘d know who uses them.”

And lastly, until we see him on this broadcast to fulfill an earlier promise on Wednesday, four years removed from his last Major League at bat, Jose Canseco is 6‘4 and 255 pounds and presumably still using steroids.  But it was not always thus.  He was once a fringe Minor League player, barely a prospect, and certainly not 255 pounds. 

In 1983, Jose Canseco pre-steroids, was photographed for a set of baseball card depicting the Minor League team in Madison, Wisconsin.  That‘s the same guy.  6‘3, the biography says on the back.  And 185.  So thin as to look almost unhealthy.  Certainly so ordinary in build, it looked like if that hat had weighed an ounce or two more, it might have proved too much for him and caved his head in. 

Jose Canseco after the drug joins us on COUNTDOWN night after tomorrow.  We will ask him a few questions you will have not heard elsewhere.  Be there, aloha.

Other things you will not see elsewhere.  The daily race between the good guys and the bad guys is back.  Somebody stole a U-Haul. 

And the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro raising eyebrows around the world with his latest move.  Don‘t smoke them even if you do got them.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN now, to get into the serious news, seriously stupid!  Ha ha ha, hmm.  Led play “Oddball.”

We begin in Warrensville Heights, Ohio with the COUNTDOWN car chase of the week.  Police are in people speed pursuit of Mrs. Cayion Glover (ph).  She is not helping a friend move urgently.  That truck has been stolen.  As always, we check the “Oddball” score board for the year, and we see it cops 3, dopes who think they can outrun the cops, zippity-do-dah.  But it‘s still early, don‘t start getting creative. 

What is inside the truck is a mystery, it could be millions in jewels or maybe just the crap from somebody‘s garage, but she is driving like she owes late fees on the thing.  You should note that U-Haul is not a sponsor of this program, and I‘m sure they in no way endorse driving one of their trucks in this particular fashion.  Particularly just about—now.  Smash!

But the chase didn‘t end after she smashed into that pole.  Glover managed to get back on the road with the dented vehicle, long enough smash into a school.  No one was injured there.  Glover will have plenty of time to dream about relocation, as she goes from moving to storage in the big house. 

To Kabul.  Freedom is on the march in Afghanistan.  We can prove it, the countries is getting its own MTV.  It is call Hop, and it will air all the latest in pop music videos from India, Iran and Turkey, as well as stuff from Madonna and other western stars.  It‘s open to mixed news.  The older folks call it a mockery of Islam.  But of course, despite the controversy, near all of Afghans agree, it‘s good to see Martha Quinn working again. 

And to Stuggart, Germany where one entrepreneur has come up with the answer to the age old of problem women have faces, when they found themselves on a date wearing underwear that just is not sexy enough.  How many time has this happened to you in your own home?  If the date is going way better than you underdressed for, visit the slipo-mat in the restroom.  A vending machine dispensing thong underwear for 8 bucks a pop.  Just do the switcheroo right then and later he‘ll think you planned it all along.  And doesn‘t that make you feel better about yourself? 

And suppose you‘re out on a date and you‘re having the exact opposite.  It‘s worst than a root canal.  It‘s a new service to come to your rescue, part of our anti-Valentine‘s Day report. 

And an anti-American government in Iraq? 

Why the budding government there may embrace Iran instead of us. 

Those stories ahead. 

Now here are COUNTDOWN top three news makers of this day. 

Number three, your federally funded missile defense program, Star Wars Jr.  Another test launch today on Kwajalein Island in the Pacific.  And for the second time in two months, the target missile took off as planned, but that star wars interceptor, it just sat there looking stupid.  Never got off the ground.  That will be $85 million.  Thank you!  Come again!

Number two, Scott Borton from Delaware Country, Missouri.  He was called in as a potential juror in a murder trial there.  He did not present himself, largely because not only is he dead.  He also happened to be the victim in the murder trial at which his name was drawn as a juror.  Whoops!

And number one, the former news semi reporter, formerly known as Jeff Gannon, really James Guckert, a blogger has gotten into one of those adult themed Web site registered to the same person who owned Mr. Cannon‘s personal Web site.  And there‘s some photos of Mr. Gannon.  And there are 43 photos of Mr. Gannon, and he‘s not wearing too many clothes.  But he is showing the highest journalistic skills, the stiffest reportorial standard, but unfortunately, rather a lot dangling participles. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was mantra of the Bush administration in the uncertain weeks, even months leading up to the January 30th vote in Iraq: Any election is a good election.  But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, since before the war began two years ago, critics and just the internationally worried had asked three questions, each of which had been largely drowned out by the loud cheering for any election. 

First, what would happen if the elections endorsed politicians who favored not secular government in Iraq but religious government?  Second, what would happen if the elections rewarded politicians who were allied not with the United States, but with, say, Iran?  And third, what would happen if to maintain its credibility with its people and its neighbors, a new Iraqi government would eventually have to take anti-American positions? 

The results of the January 30th election are now in.  No one party is strong enough to turn Iraq into an Iranian-style theocracy, but the top two vote getters, with 70 percent of the votes between them, were the two Iraqi parties most closely aligned with Iran.  We may be facing those first two questions now, and that third one later. 

Our correspondent in Baghdad is Richard Engel. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  One country but three nations.  Today Iraqi Kurds, the once-oppressed minority, now kingmakers.  Their 26 percent of the vote essential to form a new government. 

The Kurds first demand that one of their politicians be the next president.  It‘s a likelihood, though a largely ceremonial job. 

GEOFFREY KEMP, IRAQ EXPERT:  The first time in Iraqi history, the Kurds will be front and prominent in Iraqi politics in Baghdad and not isolated to their communities in the north. 

ENGEL:  Today the Shiite group that won a slim majority met to pray and choose a replacement for interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, while Iraq‘s new constitution is written. 

HUSSEIN AL-SHAHRISTANI, UNITED IRAQI ALLIANCE:  The Iraqi Alliance, being the largest group, would nominate the prime minister.  But it will be a government of national unity. 

ENGEL:  But the Shiites are not as strong as they had hoped, and cannot impose Islamic law on the nation, or a pro-Iranian foreign policy. 

(on camera):  Perhaps the most significant outcome of these elections is that there was no clear winner.  The parties will have to compromise.  Political bargaining, that‘s new to many people here. 

(voice-over):  And as negotiations continue, there are signs the political power of the religious Shiites could be fading. 

Today, Sunni leaders who boycotted elections said they want to help write the constitution, and participate in the next, more final election, set for November. 

ABDEL SATTAR JAWAD, AS-SIYADA NEWSPAPER EDITOR:  It is their opportunity now to have a say in the future of the country. 

ENGEL:  But there are still challenges.  Religious Shiite groups have an organized grassroots base, operating hundreds of charities, many funded by Iran.  And insurgents say they will not stop.  Today, NBC News obtained this undated video.  Insurgents say they‘re waiting for the next government to be selected and will then make attacking it a top priority. 

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  To analyze the impact of the vote, I‘m joined now by Richard Wolffe, now senior White House correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine, for the past two years its diplomatic reporter.  Richard, good evening. 

RICHARD WOLFFE, NEWSWEEK:  Good to be with you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a lot of interpreting to do here, but between the United Iraqi Alliance and its ties to Iran and the Kurdish Alliance and its ties to Iran, did the Iraqis just elect something akin to an Islamic republic or an ally to Iran, or both? 

WOLFFE:  Well, there‘s no question that a new Iraq is going to be Islamic in nature, and it is going to be much more pro-Iranian than it was before.  But the whole question assumes that the administration had a clear idea of what it wanted out of this election, other than for lots of people to vote and for there to be little violence. 

The whole mission in Iraq has been characterized by a lack of long term vision. 

And if Iran, not Iraq, is the most—the biggest threat in the region, then there‘s no way that an Iraqi government is going to be anything other than a help to Iran.  We should have left Saddam Hussein in place if we were going to want to contain Iran. 

OLBERMANN:  Then what is the reaction in the White House right now?  I mean, are they suddenly surprised as if this was all new information to them?  Is somebody slapping themselves on the forehead saying, I could have had a V-8?  What is going on there? 

WOLFFE:  Not really.  You know, for a start, there was this commitment to this very long-term vision, the sort of meta-generational vision of democracy in the region.  So there is a sort of cheering and flag-waving for that.  But the shorter term thing is a sigh of relief that the Shiite party didn‘t in fact get a bigger majority. 

But again, the whole handling of Iraq has been such a sort of crisis management exercise that it‘s sort of lurching from one stage to another.  I think there‘s relief more than anything else. 

OLBERMANN:  But is that last question that I posed at the beginning here now very much in the offing?  Did we spend about $300 billion to oust of Saddam Hussein, to fight an insurgency and set up an Iraqi pseudo-theocracy, pseudo-democracy that will sooner rather than later say, guess what, we‘ve all voted here, and we appreciate the democracy, but we‘re opposed to U.S. policies.  And No. 1 is don‘t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out of Iraq. 

WOLFFE:  That‘s a distinct possibility, maybe a probability.  And most of all, it‘s because of the way the occupation was handled.  As American forces have become deeply unpopular, it of course has a political impact.  So yes, that‘s a real possibility. 

OLBERMANN:  I wonder what the reactions will be like then. 

Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, as always, sir, great thanks for your time. 

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, the American presence in Iraq is more than just about Iraq, as we‘ve just discussed.  It is providing a base of operations for U.S. spy planes trying to gather information about the nuclear program in Iran.  “The Washington Post” reporting that for almost a year now, the U.S. had sent unmanned drones into Iran from Iraq.  These small, pilotless planes are said to be searching for weaknesses in air defense systems, aerial espionage that is standard military procedure in preparing for an air attack, or at least preparing for the possibility of it.  The drones were first spotted by Iranian civilians, the Iranian government filing a protest against the U.S. through the Swiss, because the U.S. and Iran still have no formal diplomatic relations.

Early in the insurgency in Iraq, analogies were made to the deadliness and frequency of terrorism in Beirut in the 1980s.  That city had been living in relative peace until the end of Lebanon‘s civil—or since the end of Lebanon‘s civil war in 1990.  But peace all but shattered today by a car bombing, raising fears of a new cycle of violence.

The blast killing the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, and at least nine others.  The apparent assassination could put parliamentary elections on hold.  The vote now scheduled for April or May, thought to be crucial in determining how much control neighboring Syria would continue to have over the Lebanese government.  Hariri, both moderate and powerful, left office last year after a dispute with Syria. 

Senior U.S. intelligence officials telling NBC News that Syria or Syrian surrogates are at the top of the list of suspects.  U.S. diplomats in Washington and Damascus now planning to ask the Syrians what they know about the attack.  If the U.S. builds a case against Syria, it could lead to confrontation and might signal a possible new front in the war on terror. 

And what did career U.S. intelligence officials tell the incoming Bush administration about al Qaeda in 2001?  To hear the president, Secretary of State Rice and others tell it, the answer was not much.  But a memo newly declassified shows the president‘s first counter-terrorism director, a Clinton appointee and holdover Richard Clarke sounding the alarm less than a week after Mr. Bush took office.  In the memo dated January 25, 2001, and sent to the then new National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Clarke requests an immediate meeting at the highest level.  “We urgently need such a principals level review on the al Qida network.”  That was how it was spelled.  The word “urgently” underlined and italicized.  He added, “we would make a major error if we underestimated the challenge al Qida poses.” 

Clarke‘s requested meeting did take place eventually, on September 4th, 2001, one week before the attacks.  Attached to Clarke‘s memo was a proposal 13 pages long, outlining possible actions to fight al Qaeda.  Its title, “Strategy for Eliminating the Threat From the Jihadist Networks of al Qida.”  Its focus was the al Qaeda threat outside U.S. borders. 

But Dr. Rice, now secretary of state, testified last year before the 9/11 Commission that she never received any specific warnings of an attack and that no plan for addressing that terrorist network was ever turned over to the administration. 

The White House reiterating that position after the release of this memo.  Press secretary Scott McClellan saying there were some ideas put forward, but they did not constitute a plan. 

U.S. intelligence also did not see this coming.  Castro, cracking down on something in Cuba, catching the cigar capital of the world off guard and low on Nicorette gum.

And the Cupid backlash, from censored love ads to singles embracing their solitude.  It‘s the anti-Valentine‘s Day report. 

All ahead, but first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top 3 soundbites of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I knew then you were the person I wanted to spend my life with.  Joy, will you marry me?  She said no? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it is fantastic.  I think it transforms the landscape. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is very, very colorful and very lively.  As a piece of art, I think it is really wonderful. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It looks like shower curtains to me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the authority vested in me by the state of Minnesota it is with of pleasure I pronounce you husband and wife.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  I love you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I love you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We don‘t do very much well in Cuba.  Admittedly turning 1951 Ford trucks into boats for the journey to Florida is a singular creative achievement but it is one conceived by people desperate to get out of Cuba.  If Cuba has anything, it‘s a reputation for cigars.  That reputation may or may not be deserved.  A lot of the smoking cognizant say the best tobacco plants and experts got out of Cuba long before Batista and the mafia did. 

But in our number two story in the COUNTDOWN the reputation is still intact.  At least it was until Cuba passed new laws barring smoking indoors and in public places.  Say what?  Our man in Havana is Kerry Sanders. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Few in Cuba saw it coming.  On this Caribbean island synonymous with cigar, smoking indoors and in public places is now against the law. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I love a cigar.  The best. 

SANDERS:  Born and raised in Havana, Giulio Garcia Tejado (ph) like so many here smokes two to three cigars a day.  So addicted to nicotine, he also smokes cigarettes and a pipe. 

SANDERS:  You understand the intention of this law though, right? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Great sense.  Because for example, if you don‘t smoke, you don‘t to have suffer the consequences of my smoking. 

SANDERS:  Cigar production is a $200 million a year business in Cuba.  So associated with this country, the best cigars in the world are simply called Cubans.  The irony of a smoking ban in this of all countries is not lost on tourists who come from around the world to watch as they‘re handrolled. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Obviously Cuba is famous much for the cigar.  So if you can‘t smoke, I think it would be a shame.  It would be a shame.

SANDERS:  Cuba‘s president Fidel Castro who led his country‘s revolution in 1959, and has been on the world stage since, was so often seen with a Stogie, it helped raise the cigar‘s status.  On the advice of his doctors, Castro quit smoking cigars like these in the mid 1980s.  He later joked about giving away boxes of cigars, saying the best thing to do is give them to your enemy. 

Dr. Everto Flatos (ph) is an oncologist. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In my hospital, for instance, the National Cancer Institute, 50 percent of physicians smoke. 

SANDERS:  Cigars are even used for religious purposes.  Those who practice Santeria believe the smoke carries messages from the living to those in the spirit world.  There are exceptions to the new rules which makes 60-year-old Alfredo Perez Ricco (ph) smile.  He has been smoking since he was 14 years old.  And here, inside this factory, the new laws do not apply. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m lucky.  I can smoke without bothering anybody. 

SANDERS:  Communist Cuba, where the freedom to light up wherever you want has now gone up in smoke.  Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Havana. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  So the phrase what have you been smoking is less relevant in Cuba these days but it will always have a home in our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, as will the troubled actor Tom Sizemore.  The syndicated series “Celebrity Justice” says Sizemore has been arrested on parole violation after police claim they found the “Saving Private Ryan” performer trying to fake a court-mandated drug test.  How do you fake a drug test, Jose Canseco?  Well, you have a vial of somebody else‘s urine strapped to your leg and you disperse it into the sample jar via a prosthetic penis.  Thank you, everybody.  Good night.  Drive home safely.  So long.

A little insight tonight as to why we care about the Tom Sizemores of this world.  Courtesy neuroscientists studying Rhesus monkeys at Duke University.  Each monkey group has its dominant males, its leaders and of course each monkey group has its attractive young females.  But each monkey loves cherry juice.  Yet the researchers found that the monkeys were willing to give up the cherry juice just to look at a picture of either the dominant leader males or of the young attractive females.  And thus in our Simian (ph) ancestors do we find the natural instinct to form fan clubs and wonder about Tom Sizemore. 

Do monkeys also have a natural instinct to abhor Valentine‘s Day?  If you‘re one shy of a twosome tonight meet the group that says, no problem.  You‘re better off.  And we‘ll explain why being alone means you never have to say is that a butcher‘s knife in your handbag or are you just glad to see me . 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to jump to any conclusions, but if you‘re watching us live on the East coast, odds are pretty good you didn‘t have any good Valentine Day plans.  Or perhaps worst, that at 8:52 Eastern, they‘re already over. 

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the rest of the media might not want to acknowledge you, might still inundate you with messages to buy flowers and candy at this late hour.  My still question you rather than sympathies or empathies.  Not here, the COUNTDOWN team, the attached and unattached alike agree, Valentine‘s Day stinks!

We have five fits of evidence of that tonight.  We hope you laugh your head off.  We begin in Milwaukee with Judy (ph) and Rory Gillespie (ph) .  No, they do not share a truly limited physical condition, just a friend who is a lousy photographer.  For 28 years, Rory has sent his wife a secret Valentine‘s Day greeting in one of Wisconsin‘s newspapers.  This year‘s was to read, “Boopsi, we may have our heads in the clouds and our feets in the dirt, but I‘ll keep buying you houses and cars just to lift up your skirt,” signed Crusher.

The “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” refused to run that ad.  Mind you, Gillespie are married, have been since 1977.  They apparently make Doonesbury references, that‘s how old they are.  But the newspaper found the lift up your skirt part too racy for a couple married over 28 years!  So, Crusher agreed to turn it down.  Now it just reads “Just see you in a skirt.”

Boopsie and Crusher, never needed this, but just in case you had place dating tonight, and something bad happens, an Australian phone company has provided you with a parachute.  If the date is a disaster tonight or any other night for that matter, and you subscribe to Australian‘s Virgin Mobile, all you have to do is surreptitiously punch in three digits on your cell.  And minute later, an actually company employee will call you back and walk you through your excuse for ending the date.  No more making it up yourself.  Sorry, I‘ve to go, my grandmother is on fire.

From laughing at married guys no longer allowed to state in public that he lifts up his wife‘s skirt to finding emergency exits for really bad dates, one more encouraging sign if you‘re alone tonight.  Those administering CPR may soon, no longer be getting any either.  Two physicians at the University of Arizona, writing in the journal of the “American Medical Association” says current CPR emergency treatment includes one component that‘ is a “dangerous waste of time.  Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Fast forceful chest compression, they say, produce a survival rate among heart attack victims of 80 percent, lip locking, 13 percent. 

There‘s one more story of reassurance, it involves a butcher‘s knife.  We‘ll save it for the moment, and first tell you that there‘s a support group out there, that not only fights off the Valentine‘s Day assault, but will not even recognize today as Valentine‘s Day. 

COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, who is an old married lady, and thus passed all this hormonal nonsense, joins us now you with their story.  Good evening, Monica. 

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.  There are differing stories as to the origin of Valentine‘s Day.  St. Valentine was either an ancient Roman priest, a Christian martyr, an imprisoned man who sent a letter signed “From your Valentine” or all three.  What we do know for sure, thanks to his holiday, some people really love St. Valentines, just others aren‘t that into him. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think that there‘s so much in our society that makes people feel alone, alone in a bad way.  Isolated like there‘s something wrong with them.  And quirkyalone is that rare idea that comes along, and actually puts a positive spin on being single. 

NOVOTNY:  On the day couples spend on celebrating themselves, is there something wrong with you if you find yourself home alone.

Turns out not everyone fears singledom. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m quirkyalone. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m quirkyalone. 

NOVOTNY:  Not opposed to relationships, but happy to be on their own.  The quirkyalone are international online community of adults, at that marrying age, choosing to stay single.  So, are they like mom said, to picky? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I‘m, definitely not too picky. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re not willing to compromise. 

NOVOTNY:  A grassroots movement started by 32-year-old Sasha Kagan, in 1998 on New Year‘s Eve, when she looked around and saw she wasn‘t the only one without a midnight kiss. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I had this moment of epiphany, of wow, something about my experience is not so unique. 

NOVOTNY:  A manifesto followed, published in a bi-monthly literary magazine. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I got literally thousands of e-mails and letters from people who saying, oh my God, this is me.

NOVOTNY:  Spawning a Web site with a quiz, a book and now an annual celebration. 

(on camera):  There may be a reason why so many left their hearts in San Francisco, it is the birth place of the quirkyalone movement.  At home to it‘s flagship February 14th celebration, just don‘t call it Valentine‘s Day. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The national Quirkyalone Day is more about acknowledging that, you are your own person whether or not you‘re in a relationship. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There‘s a whole industry out there designed to make us feel bad, because you have to buy the diamond ring you can‘t afford or the roses that just seem cliche any way or the chocolates.  Why bother? 

NOVOTNY:  So at this singular sensation they mingle, play games, award their icons...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And the winner is Angelina Jolie. 

NOVOTNY:  And their an enemies. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, we‘ve always called Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks characters in romantic comedies to be the enemies of quirkyalone‘s everywhere. 

NOVOTNY:  So, if you‘re spending tonight alone, keep this in mind. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re everything you need in your life.  And just take pleasure in yourselves. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  There are no age limits when it comes to being a quirkyalone.  Miss Kagan, says she gets e-mails from people in their 50‘s and 60‘s asking to participate.  Now, if you missed it today, there‘ll be Quirkyalone Convention this has summer where single people can socialize without the pressure of having to find a significant other.  And if you want to find out if you‘re a quirkyalone, you can link to their online quiz on our Web site, that‘s countdown.msnbc.com. 

OLBERMANN:  What if they pair off, do they get thrown out.

NOVOTNY:  There actually is apparently a couple that paired off in San Francisco.  Then they‘re called quirkytogethers, unless they get really annoying, then they call them perkytogether. 

OLBERMANN:  They sound like they could be annoying and self righteous under those conditions.

NOVOTNY:  Perky at least.

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny and the quirkyalones.  Great, thanks. 

NOVOTNY:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Last point on this defense against Valentines day, you may have already heard the story of the passenger who got through screening at Newark Airport with a butcher knife in her handbag.  Katrina Bell (ph) of Greensboro, North Carolina had already cleared the X-ray machine and was waiting to board a flight out of Newark, when she reached into her purse and discovered she was still carrying a knife with a seven inch blade. 

The Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman says it was in a cluttered hand bag, thus difficult to detect.  What on earth does this have do with Valentine‘s Day?  Mrs Bell, explained she had forgot to remove if it from her handbag after taking it with her last Thursday night on a blind date.  And if that image doesn‘t make you happy to be home watching TV on Valentine‘s Day night, I don‘t know what could. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thank you for being part of it if you need further

re-enforcement on this point, the Mary Kay Letourneau story is next.  I‘m

Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, 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 Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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