updated 6/15/2005 2:26:52 PM ET 2005-06-15T18:26:52

Guest: Savannah Guthrie, Cheryl Appel, Adam Zagorin, John Dean

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Hey, now, hey, now, don‘t dream it‘s over.  Michael Jackson‘s dad says he‘s planning for the future.  Michael Jackson‘s lawyer says no more sleepovers in his client‘s bed.  A juror says he‘s convinced Jackson has molested in the past.

On the menu at Guantanamo Bay.  The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee shows what detainees eat.  On the menu on Capitol Hill, defenses of Gitmo from the secretary of defense and two key senators.  But they didn‘t bring food.

The nightmare at the adventure park.  The proprietors, the family followed all the rules.  Still, the 4-year-old who rode the ride is dead.  Is there more you have to consider about your child‘s health before putting him on one of these things?

And politics and adult entertainment.  Then it was Deep Throat.  The FBI agent told to fine out who Deep Throat was, was Deep Throat.  Now it‘s Mary Carey at tonight‘s Republican fundraiser, the president‘s dinner.  Hail to the chief.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

They‘re rolling up cables and wires in Santa Maria.  They‘re rolling bandages for the guest bookers from the TV talk shows.  And Michael Jackson is rolling up new records for the weirdest conduct in the shortest period of time since being acquitted on charges of weirdest conduct.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Jackson has issued a statement this evening, a statement that appears on his Web site.  But it appears for literally 1/15 of a second.  And it appears only to those who will sit through what can be best described as a victory video, a video comparing the acquittal to historical events with no less significance than the birth Martin Luther King, Jr., or the release of Nelson Mandela.

Then comes that statement, unreadable to the unaided eye.  “Victory,” it begins, in red capital letters.  “Thank you to my family, friends, and fans for all your love and support.  I will never forget.  I love you all.  Michael.”  And this is a secret of some sort.

Latest report on Jackson himself, he is offline, still at Neverland Ranch, whereas his brothers, Jermaine and Tito, told us exclusively last night, he continues to rest.  There have as yet been no woo-oxs (ph), no ice cream socials, not even a full-on wave.  A more even-keeled reaction regarding Jackson‘s freedom coming from one of the people responsible for having secured it, the lead defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau.


THOMAS MESEREAU, JACKSON DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  He‘s very relieved, and he‘s also very exhausted.  He feels wonderful about his family not having to undergo any more of this.  But it‘s going to be a period of recovery for him, because physically, he deteriorated.  He wasn‘t sleeping, he wasn‘t eating well, and it was a terrible ordeal for him.

Michael is a very kind-hearted, childlike person.  He‘s been too nice to too many people.  He‘s allowed people to come into his life and run freely through his home, and that‘s going to change.


OLBERMANN:  Run.  Mesereau went on to say he believed his team, quote, “clobbered” the prosecution throughout the course of the trial.  That may or may not exactly have been the way the jurors saw it, at least three of them asserting today they believe Jackson has molested boys at Neverland Ranch, just not this one.


RAY HULTMAN, JACKSON JUROR:  This whole trial wasn‘t about what you believe.  It was about determining whether or not Michael Jackson was guilty of the charges in the case.  And we had to look at 10 very specific charges, dealing with very specific items and very specific timelines.

I was disturbed about some of the evidence in the case, as you know.  In my mind, the evidence that came in from ‘93 and ‘94 indicated that Michael Jackson has a pattern of molesting young boys.


OLBERMANN:  So that‘s the jury.  What about the other key person in this case?  And that, of course, I mean Savannah Guthrie of Court TV, who joins us for her very last report from Santa Maria before she sets fire to the place and flees.

Good evening, Savannah.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV:  Well, you got a smile out of me for that one, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Good.  Well, let‘s start with this former defendant.  Why does he have a statement on his Web site that you can‘t read and you can‘t even really freeze in order to read, and it‘s only up there for a 15th second?  Who does that?

GUTHRIE:  I don‘t know, Keith.  I mean, I sat here for four months, and I have no greater insight into the whys of Michael Jackson.  I mean, honestly, I would think he would be out there front and center, wanting to say thank you to his fans, thank you to his defense, thank you to the world for sticking by him through all of this.  And yet he actually was just, you know, plucked away into Neverland.

And, you know, I don‘t know if we‘re going to hear from him again or not.  If I was a betting woman, I‘d say we will hear from him in something other than a very cryptic response on his Web site.

OLBERMANN:  Is it possible that somehow the Mesereau comments to him or and about him may have gotten through to him?  In other words, he says no more kids sleeping over in your bed, Michael.  Is there any reason to believe that somehow Mr. Mesereau will succeed in getting that message across, in a way that perhaps others have not?

GUTHRIE:  Well, perhaps.  I mean, I have to hand it to Tom Mesereau.  He did a very good job of controlling his client, who, in other cases, has seemed very uncontrollable.  On the other hand, Michael Jackson‘s his own guy.  And it‘s not like he hadn‘t been burned by this before.

Let‘s think back to 1993.  He had 20 million reasons not to do this again.  That‘s how much he paid out to the 1993 accuser.  And yet, here we are in 2005 at the end of this trial.

I hope he listens to Tom Mesereau, I hope he listens to the people around him who say, It‘s just not right for a grown man to be sleeping with boys, even if it is totally innocent.  It‘s just not right, and it‘ll get you into a whole heap of trouble.

OLBERMANN:  The jurors who said today, Yes, he was guilty, it just wasn‘t proved in this case, it would have been proved, perhaps, in others, is there reason to believe that Mr. Mesereau would take those words and tattoo them on Michael‘s hands or otherwise, again, get the point across in the way others haven‘t?

GUTHRIE:  Well, I hope so.  I mean, I hope Michael doesn‘t think this was a slam-dunk, you know.  I mean, the fact of the matter is, you know, he was just a few jurors away from conviction.  I mean, these are jurors who come on today and said, you know, We had reasonable doubt, but we kind of think he might be a child molester.  There may be another case that is stronger.

I mean, if Michael Jackson is smart, he will just change his ways, change his life.

It‘s understandable, perhaps, why he chooses to spend his time with children, because adults have let him down.  But there‘s no reason to have those children in his bed.  And I hope for his sake, for everyone‘s sake, that he just learns this lesson and stays away from the kids.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, I asked Dan Abrams about this last night.  He pointed out that when you say you do not want Michael Jackson‘s money, as the accuser‘s mother did, you tend to hurt any chance you might have of a civil action.  On the other hand, it‘s money, it‘s lawyers, they didn‘t win.  Might there still be a civil suit here?

GUTHRIE:  Well, you know, there may be.  And I‘m sure the accuser and his family are angry and hurting and disappointed.  And one way to get back at Michael Jackson is to slap him with a civil suit.

On the other hand, I think the jury has spoken.  I think they‘ve got to get real about their chances here, about their own credibility.  And now we have this whole trial record that Tom Mesereau, five days on the stand with the mother, that any civil lawyer will just trot out.

And not only that, I mean, one thing we did learn from this trial, Michael Jackson has profound financial problems.  I don‘t know, even if they win a civil suit, if there‘s a dime left for any family to get.

OLBERMANN:  Savannah Guthrie of Court TV.  Thanks for tonight, for all the other times that you‘ve been with us.  And just two more words for you.  Go home.

GUTHRIE:  My pleasure, Keith, and I will take that advice.

OLBERMANN:  Good night.

Somebody else survived all that time at Santa Maria, our correspondent Mike Taibbi, who, on this last day of school, was struck by the disconnect.  Fans weeping, screaming, joyous over Jackson‘s acquittal.  Defense attorneys proud, even belligerent and boisterous.  And a defendant, silent, robotic, perhaps in victory, defeated.


MIKE TAIBBI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  He seemed so fragile when it was over, a slender husk of what he once was.

And though his fans were jubilant, imploring him to share their sense of victory, Michael Jackson returned to his fabled ranch and remains silent.  No statement, not a hint in his own words of what he finally understood from his crucible of the past 18 months.

MESEREAU:  Well, I think we clobbered them throughout the trial.

TAIBBI:  Jackson‘s attorney, Tom Mesereau, made no attempt to be gracious to the prosecution team led by district attorney Tom Sneddon, who‘s pursued Jackson for a dozen years.

MESEREAU:  The way they conducted it was very meanspirited, and I think they got what they asked for.

TAIBBI:  But the public and the jury also got a full and unpleasant picture of the one-time king of pop, a celebrity with a drinking problem who collects pornography, who says he‘s innocently shared his bed with dozens of boys on hundreds of nights, but has paid millions in settlements to two earlier accusers.

Even Jackson‘s most loyal cheerleaders feared the effect of that picture on the jury.

BRIAN OXMAN, FORMER JACKSON ATTORNEY:  I was nervous, because it could have gone either way.

TAIBBI:  In the end, the jury disbelieved this accuser, detested the boy‘s mother, and followed the law on reasonable doubt.

PAULINE COCCOZ, JUROR:  We have a closet full of evidence that made us always come back to the same thing.  It was just not enough.

TAIBBI (on camera):  But while his lawyers pitched a shut-out, it wasn‘t, for Jackson, a perfect game.  His image was further damaged, and badly, by those revelations in court.  And for many, Jackson will never be able to claim he was proven innocent.

(voice-over):  So Jackson remains holed up in a vast place that will likely never again feel like the innocent fantasy he once conceived.  There‘s still that prosecutor.  Is he done pursuing Jackson?


TAIBBI:  And there‘s a huge segment of the public, and apparently several members of the jury that released him to the rest of his life, who still believe the worst about the man who had been king.

Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Santa Maria, California.


OLBERMANN:  Lastly on this topic, if you were with us last night, you

know that we told you we were airing the final episode of our combination

re-creation and satirization of the trial, Michael Jackson Puppet Theater. 

That was the final episode, the one in which Michael pulls back his mask and reveals that he‘s actually—you know.

That‘s all of them, we said.  Well, we lied.  Something else occurred to me, something else for which no cameras were present, at least not until the release of the upcoming Michael Jackson documentary, “I Told You So.”  Michael goes home to celebrate with friends in the very last, no-kidding-we-really-mean-it-this-time edition of Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now I can relax with all my friends, the ones who understand what I‘ve been through.  P. Diddy, Kobe, Robbie, Snoot, Klaus, Klaus von Bulow, you made it!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Congratulations, Michael.  This party is off the hook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So are we!  Woo-hoo-hoo!

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the family and the theme park followed all the rules.  Yet a 4-year-old boy died after riding a space simulator.  While they try to figure out why, do we need to figure out new rules?  Or just new rules of thumbs for families?

And the extremes in the defense of keeping Gitmo open.  You can‘t release people, 10 of the people we‘ve released wound up fighting against us in Afghanistan.  Well, why did you release them, then?

The other extreme, a congressman trots out plates of food to show us how the detainees have it down there.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  By all accounts, little Doudi Banawamyai and his parents, and the people running the ride, did everything they were supposed to do before letting him get on the Mission Space ride at Disney World.  And then he died.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN.  He was taller than the 44-inch minimum requirement, but Doudi was 4 years old.  And now the question is, are there dangers in such rides that the most responsible parents and the most vigilant park operators do not know about?

This child died Monday after having passed out during the ride, which uses centrifugal force to simulate twice the normal effect of gravity.  It‘s supposed to create the illusion of a rocket launch from earth to Mars.

The initial coroner‘s report is back tonight, an autopsy by the chief medical examiner of Orlando, Florida, showing, quote, “no evidence of trauma,” and saying further testing will be required, and that will require several weeks.

Medically, it is a mystery.  Why there‘s a height requirement of only 44 inches when the Web site for the ride suggests it is only for big kids and teens, another mystery.

During an eight-month span of 2003 and 2004, Mission Space sent six people, age 55 and over, to the hospital.  They complained of chest pain and nausea.  But none of those problems became serious.

Later in 2003, park operators added one element to the ride, motion sickness bags.

The ride reopened today, no changes, no explanations.  So what might have happened?

I‘m joined now by Dr. Cheryl Appel, a pediatrician specializing in preteen and adolescent medical care.

Dr. Appel, thank you for your time.  Good evening to you.


OLBERMANN:  Rides, operating normally, minimum height requirement met, something still went tragically wrong.  Does something suggest itself to you here?

APPEL:  Well, you know, looking back at how rides have operated in the past, and the height requirement, really doesn‘t address anything about the physiology and the development of children.  And this is not something that‘s been studied yet.  No children have gone out into space.  They‘ve never been subjected to the gravitational forces of this kind of a ride.

And as it simulates more and more what goes on in a rocket that goes out into space, we don‘t really know the effects on children.

OLBERMANN:  So should there, in this particular kind of ride, where you‘re simulating space travel, for goodness‘ sakes, should the issue of height not be the (INAUDIBLE) determinant factor, and instead go with things like age or overall health, or what else?

APPEL:  Well, a big part of the problem is, we don‘t know if there‘s any underlying problem with a lot of children.  People, you know, go through life, and they have different kinds of anomalies, things they‘re born with that are wrong that we don‘t often find out about until something happens to them.  It‘s often—you know, it‘s an imperfect person most of the time.

And some of the things that can go wrong, don‘t go wrong until there‘s a situation that can force the issue in some way.

And for children, we just often don‘t know.  you know, there are different kinds of anomalies and things that we won‘t see until an issue like this could come up and bring it up into the ocean.

OLBERMANN:  So given that possibility that there‘s something wrong in the child‘s development or something malformed—a birth defect, a hole in the aorta somewhere, who knows what? -- is there a rule of thumb that you would provide for parents who are thinking of putting kids, especially kids under 5 or 6 years old, on one of these things?

APPEL:  Well, the big thing to know is that a lot of things that go wrong with children, we often don‘t know.  They don‘t go detected.  You know, an exam on a normal child, or what we consider a normal child, is not going to necessarily show a kind of problem that may come out in a situation like this.

And so, unfortunately, you have a situation like this.  And problems that can be wrong with the anatomy in the neck or in the brain itself, or possibly in the heart, which is where most likely a problem like this is going to be discovered, is often not discovered in childhood, and may never be discovered in their lifetime, unless they‘re put under some kind of duress or situation like this that will bring out the problem and make it a tragic occurrence.

OLBERMANN:  So you tell parents what?  Don‘t do it?  Wait until they‘re older?

APPEL:  It‘s hard to say.  You know, as a parent and as a pediatrician, part of, you know, figuring out what‘s OK and what‘s not OK is a—you know, using your own judgment.  And one of the things about this ride, particularly, that there‘s a lot of warning about nausea and vomiting and other problems that have occurred in older people, people should know about this, about a ride, and say to themselves, Well, this is one of those things that maybe we should just hold off till the children are older.

OLBERMANN:  Dr. Cheryl Appel, pediatrician, thanks for your perspective, thanks for joining us tonight.

APPEL:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, (INAUDIBLE) in golf, in sky diving, not so much.  Diver hits tree on fairway.  That‘ll happen.

And it looked really bad, a sightseeing chopper crashing into New York City‘s East River, eight aboard, eight survived, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  We take a moment each evening at this particular time to keep you updated on the news that the corporate lapdogs of the mainstream media simply ignore, because if it wasn‘t for us renegades, you might never find out the truth about who holds the world records for all sorts of various egg dishes.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Belorajinski (ph) in Russia, where finally, finally, people going for the world‘s largest omelet record have actually made a giant-sized omelet.  Usually they do that really long, thin omelet on a 50-foot table crap.  This—this is more like it.  This is like the one on “The Flintstones” looked.

It took dozens of (INAUDIBLE) of chefs, possibly some chiefs as well, plus 11,000 eggs to make this.  Local chickens will not be able to walk for months.

But they set the record, weighing more than a half-ton when finished. 

And you should have seen the toast.

To Sarasota, Florida, where you can‘t make a big old omelet without breaking a few legs.

You are correct, sir.  Ooh, that man was injured, but he‘s going to be OK, we promise.  It‘s veteran skydiver Jim Madison, who meant to land smoothly on the fairway of the golf course to start the charity tournament.  He misjudged.  Fore!  I don‘t mean that in a golf sense.  I mean my foreleg is broken.  Actually, Madison broke his thigh bone when he landed.  But the good news is, he‘s in good condition.  The bad news is, he broke his other leg when he bumped into a planter at the hospital.

I made that part up.

Finally on Oddball tonight, a new and much more serious feature we like to call Weird Stuff We Found on the Internets.  We hope you learn from it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This dachshund, Rusty, suffers from narcolepsy, a condition that causes him to suddenly fall asleep when he‘s trying to do other things.

Little is known about the cause of narcolepsy, except that it can be inherited.  It affects humans and animals alike.


OLBERMANN:  Rusty‘s a narcoleptic dog, everybody.  Let‘s hear it for Rusty.  Yeah, Rusty, the narcoleptic dog.  Rusty, all right --  Rusty!  I gather his name was not based on the color of his fur.

This will make Rusty sit up and take notice, gourmet meals served every day on an Caribbean island in the sun.  Sounds like paradise, except that it‘s political PR for Gitmo.

And speaking of political PR, how about a porn star planning to meet the president tonight, and vice-versa?

These stories ahead.

But first, now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

We have a theme, theme warning.  The theme is jobs.

Number three, our own Chris Matthews.  “The New York Daily News” reporting Chris has signed a seven-figure deal to write two books.  Our sources indicate Chris will not be using any periods.  No periods.

Number two, Les Krantz and CareerJournal.com combining to evaluate the 10 best and 10 worst jobs in the country, all factors, from pay to stress to longevity.  Among the worst, garbage collector and cowboy.  Cowboy?

Number one, Saeed Akbar of Glasgow, Scotland, who proves that the worst job may not be any of those.  It‘s not a cowboy, it‘s being an interpreter.  Mr. Akbar advertised an open position in his firm for a translator.  A female candidate arrived.  And as Mr. Akbar interviewed her, he was naked.

Fortunately, it lost something in the translation.  Ha, ha, ha.


OLBERMANN:  It was the Gitmo version of deja vu for anyone who ever owned an American history high school textbook.  Two senior senators, the vice president of the United States, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, secretary of defense, all come out swinging after “Time” magazine detailed the interrogation log of one detainee at that camp.

They did so in a way that made the place sound kind of like an austere Club Med, and in so doing, they invoked reactions that when the Pennsylvania coal miners went on strike in 1902, trying to get their schedule cut from 10 hours a day and six days a week, the president of the Reading Railroad dismissed their requests by explaining, These men don‘t suffer.  Why, hell, half of them don‘t even speak English.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN: Gitmo.  It‘s a nice place to visit, and you don‘t have a choice as to whether or not you live there.  A show-and-tell about the dinner menu in a moment.  First today, the secretary of defense becoming just the latest in a series of defenders of Gitmo to suggest that releasing detainees is a bad idea because some of those previously released have come back to haunt us on the battlefield.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY:  Regrettably, we now know that some of those detainees that were released from Guantanamo have again taken up arms against the United States and our allies and are again—were again attempting to kill innocent men, women and children.  But as long as there remains a need to keep terrorists from striking again, a facility will continue to be needed.


OLBERMANN:  The vice president noted that yesterday, saying that of 200 or so released by the U.S. from the detention camp, at least 10 have gone back into the fight.  Mr. Cheney said he had a list of six such names.  He read the story of two of them, and then, suddenly, the number was up to a dozen.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I would say in light of the fact that some 10 or 12 of them have gotten back into the fight on the other side, we have not been overly harsh in the judgments that were made, and that if you were to release those 520 that are currently held at Guantanamo, that have been deemed to be enemy combatants, we‘re putting a lot of bad guys back on the street to do exactly what they started to do in the first place.


OLBERMANN:  Sort of slipping by there, the unintentional raising of the to question of whether or not anybody at Gitmo really knows who is safe to release and who isn‘t.

Today, Senator John McCain and Majority Leader Bill Frist acknowledged the facility had instigated a PR issue for U.S., but Frist insisted, quote, “to cut and run because of image problems is the wrong, wrong thing to do,” especially considering it turns out that there‘s an all-you-can-eat buffet there.  Representative Duncan Hunter of California—and yes, he brought enough for everybody.  That‘s glazed chicken and lemon-baked fish.  That, he says, is what we are feeding the Gitmo detainees.  He said people—anybody who wants to close the place, including Republican senators, are buying into a, quote, “myth” that there is abuse.  There‘s no abuse.  There‘s just lemon fish.


REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  The guy who wanted to drive that plane into the building at the World Trade Center is going to dine tomorrow on lemon fish with two types of vegetables, two types of fruit.  And then he will be afforded his taxpayer-funded Quran, taxpayer-funded prayer beads and oil so he can pray, presumably to kill more Americans.


OLBERMANN:  Lemon fish!  Hunter also says that there are arrows throughout the compound pointing the way to Mecca, and the Muslim call to prayers is given five times a day.  “They‘ve,” quoting him again, “never been treated better, never been more comfortable in their lives.”

All of this came after “Time” reported the log of detention and interrogation of detainee 63, Mohammed al Qahtani, suspected by many of being, as the congressman suggested there, the possible 20th hijacker, a title assigned to more than one man, obviously.  It told of how he was often questioned 20 hours per day, had water dripped slowly on his head, had his personal space invaded, if you will, by a female interrogator, and was forced to listen to the music of Christina Aguilera.

We do not know the ratio of Aguilera music relative to the amount of lemon fish.

Adam Zagorin is “Time‘s” Washington correspondent.  He co-wrote the story.  And he joins us now.  Mr. Zagorin, good evening.  Thank you for your time.

ADAM ZAGORIN, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Glad to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  I‘ll get to the Christina Aguilera thing separately.  But in defending Gitmo, the vice president, the secretary of defense, some legislators, answered, in essence, your article by saying, We‘ve let 200 people go, 10 or 12 of them wound up fighting against the U.S. in Afghanistan.  Thus, we have to be very careful about releasing anybody.

Did that process—who get released, who doesn‘t, what the criteria are—did any of that come up in your reporting?

ZAGORIN:  Well, it‘s—it doesn‘t get into that in the log because the log simply describes the interrogation.  I would note, though, that if the interrogation methods were very effective, then presumably, those who should not be released would not be released.  So it suggests that the interrogation methods perhaps are not so effective.

There‘s also the argument that no one should be released who recommits a crime or goes to war again against the United States, and that‘s certainly true.  The same argument would apply that no one should be released from U.S. prisons, and the recidivism rate in U.S. prisons is also quite high, probably a good deal higher than the rate from or Guantanamo.

OLBERMANN:  Reading specifically the story about the interrogation of number 63, or 063, was there anything in that interrogation log that you reported on that clearly violated the Geneva conventions or even the stated U.S. policy?

ZAGORIN:  Well, there‘s no question that the log, should the Pentagon release it in its entirety, will fuel the debate over that very question.  I would think that it‘s not clear in the log whether physical torture is taking place.  There are suggestions of extreme discomfort, medical distress certainly, during various points in the interrogation.  Whether that‘s torture or not, it‘s impossible for me to tell, anyway, from the log.

There is one thing, though.  The Geneva convention does forbid outrage

·         any outrage against personal dignity.  That is the—of the detainee. 

That is actually language from the convention.  We did consult a constitutional and legal expert, who expressed the opinion that some of the activities in the log crossed that particular line.

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately, who is 63?  We heard him described as the possible 20th hijacker.  We know the name al Qahtani.  Did they claim to get any special intelligence from him, any product of this interrogation?

ZAGORIN:  Well, did he describe to them, for example, meetings with bin Laden, meetings with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 plot, meetings with another gentleman in the United Arab Emirates who was the chief financier of the 9/11 plot, allegedly.  And also, various operational details about al Qaeda, and also some training that the detainee received at a very specialized high-level al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan before the United States overran it.  And Osama bin Laden had lived at various times at that camp.

OLBERMANN:  The “Time” magazine Washington correspondent, Adam Zagorin, co-author of the eye-opening piece in the current edition of the magazine this week.  Our great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ZAGORIN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The latest debate over Gitmo overshadowing, to some degree, the latest debate over the Downing Street memo.  Memos.  There is no longer just one.  “The Sunday Times of London” unveiled another leaked document which told members of Tony Blair‘s inner circle that they would need to come up with a legal excuse for the war in Iraq.  The secret briefing paper titled, “Iraq conditions for Military Action,” was dated July, 2002, confirming that the British prime minister had already agreed by then to back military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power during a summit at the president‘s ranch in Crawford, Texas, three months earlier.  That would be April.

The goal as of that July, finding a way to make regime change legal.  The memo‘s suggestions are how that might be accomplished, reading like a summary of how events actually unfolded, the document saying that the only way the allies could justify military action would be to place Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a U.N. ultimatum ordering him to cooperate with weapons inspectors.

Quote, “It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject.”

Also tonight, this is good news.  An aviation disaster averted in Florida, thanks to a quick-thinking pilot and some quick-ducking residents.  And the FBI agent charged with finding out the true identity of Deep Throat?  New documents say it was—Deep Throat himself.  Oops!

Those stories ahead, but now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day, including a blatant plug for the reuniting of the tag team partners coming to a radio near you Friday, August 5.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At the Enza (ph) Market, just a couple of miles away, Robert Mullen (ph) had just finished stacking bottles of salsa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I turned around.  I heard all this crashing.  And I looked back.  I looked—Oh, no.  It was all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How many bottles did you lose here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would say an easy dozen on this particular shelf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Workers had toiled diligently and delicately for nearly an hour, as scores of faithful looked on, carefully trying to remove the window that had become sacred to so many, when suddenly, the “Jesus Window,” as it has come to be known, had broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of the faces of ESPN‘s Mount Rushmore—he‘s coming back.  My former tag team partner, Keith Olbermann, coming up in August every Friday, KO is set to join me on “The Dan Patrick Show.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What have you been up to in the last six or seven years?

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t know—I never really told you this.  I didn‘t leave ESPN.  I had just accrued a lot of vacation time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (SINGING)  Hey, now, hey, now, don‘t dream (INAUDIBLE)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.  OK.  I‘m home now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right.  That‘s it.



OLBERMANN:  In short, they both looked like unmitigated disasters: a plane crashing into a Fort Lauderdale neighborhood, a sight-seeing helicopter crashing into the East River near Wall Street in New York City.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN: 11 people aboard the two airships, 11 survivors, at least two heroes.

The chopper went into the East River shortly after having taken off from the Wall Street heliport in lower Manhattan, but both the pilot and the seven passengers were quickly rescued because police harbor units were already nearby conducting a drill.  By the time they got to the scene, four passengers were on top of the chopper, the other three were in the water, and all but one of those rescued able to walk after the accident, six in stable condition, one in critical but stable condition.  Cause of the accident not clear, though an FAA spokesman said the helicopter made a, quote, “hard landing.”

As for that plane in Fort Lauderdale, the landing was no doubt hard but no less miraculous.  What the pilots managed to do with a World War II-era cargo plane could almost stand as a survival guide for how to crash successfully—messy but smart, and apparently executed brilliantly.  Our correspondent in Fort Lauderdale is Mark Potter.


MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In many ways, it was the miracle on 56th Street.  A vintage DC3 cargo plane crash lands and explodes in a neighborhood in northeast Fort Lauderdale, but no one is killed or seriously hurt, and all the houses are intact.  The plane just misses postal carrier Angie Hampton.

ANGIE HAMPTON, POSTAL WORKER:  The plane was already over my head.  So all I felt the heat and the pressure from the plane.

POTTER:  The aircraft was bound for the Bahamas, but shortly after take-off, an engine caught fire.  The veteran pilot steered the disabled plane between office buildings, trees, houses and cars.

CHARLES RIGGS, PILOT:  We were going for the biggest, widest spot that we could aim for.  And we saw a tree, and that was (INAUDIBLE) to hit, as well..

POTTER:  Right before impact, a medical secretary heard an awful noise outside her office.

LESLIE BLACK, MEDICAL SECRETARY:  And I said, Dr. Shook (ph), what is that?  And he says, Oh, a plane just went right past my window.

POTTER:  After landing the plane in the middle of 56th Street, the two pilots and a passenger escaped before the plane exploded, suffering only minor injuries.  Officials say it easily could have been much worse.  Mark Potter, NBC News, Fort Lauderdale.


OLBERMANN:  Symbolically speaking, only something that adept is going to save the good pub of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.  They lead off our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” Cruise again denying that the coupling is just a publicity stunt.  “I have to laugh,” the actor said while promoting “War of the Worlds.”  “Something magnificent has happened to me, and I‘m so happy, I can‘t restrain myself.”

Holmes, for her part, says she‘s taking up Scientology.  Also said she grew up wanting to marry Tom Cruise, kept a poster of him on her wall.  Yes, well, I grew up wanting to drive a subway train in New York, but later, I decided to let the adult version of me make the final call on that.

Paris Hilton may be retiring, not before she spreads her pop culture jam on everything in sight, though.  The hotel heiress and pro celebrity says she plans to retire from the public eye in two years so she can start a family with her fiancee, Paris Latsis.  They can all name the kids Paris.  She tells “Newsweek” magazine she doesn‘t enjoy going out anymore.  And “I can‘t believe I used to love doing this.  It‘s such a pain.  I‘m just, like, these people are such losers.”  This she tells us from her role as pro grand marshal of the West Hollywood gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, renters, co-op owners and deadbeat roommates pride parade.

Moving to another blonde, Mary Carey all dressed up and ready to meet the president—no, I‘m not kidding—while there are actually more new developments tonight in the Watergate Deep Throat saga.  Steady.  Steady now!  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Thirty-three years ago, as Watergate unfolded, American politics met pornography.  It was daring enough then, a “Washington Post” editor in the macho, pre-politically correct days of newsrooms with so many cigarettes stubbed into the tiled floors, it looked like a pattern, nicknamed Bob Woodward‘s secret source Deep Throat after the salacious movie of the summer.

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN: We‘ve come a long way, baby. 

Today, when politics meets porn, it‘s not in a nickname but in the flesh.  Meet the flesh, Mary Carey, a so-called adult actress who was among dozens who ran for governor of California two years ago, is at the President‘s Dinner tonight, the Republican Party fund-raising event featuring the president of the United States.  Yes, the current one!


MARY CAREY, ADULT ACTRESS:  I‘m very excited.  I‘m really looking forward to it.  And I can‘t wait to see President Bush.  I love President Bush.

I‘d just like to tell him he‘s doing a great job and keep up the good work.  (INAUDIBLE) support my run for lieutenant governor.  Thank you!


OLBERMANN:  A spokesman for the co-hosts of the dinner, the National Republican Congressional Committee, said of the porn star and her boss, who are going tonight, “Their money was donated to the NRCC.  The NRCC‘s job is to elect Republicans.  We‘ll take that money and use it to elect more Republicans.”

Must be a part of that whole moral values thing.

In an irony of timing, there is a new twist in the story of the original Deep Throat and it may be the weirdest one yet.  It turns out the point man in the FBI‘s attempt to figure out who Deep Throat was, was Deep Throat, the magazine “The Nation” citing FBI files, originally confidential, which it has obtained, writes that none other than Mark Felt was, quote, “at heated moments during the scandal in charge finding the source of Woodward and Bernstein‘s Watergate scoops.”

If you‘ve been off the planet for the last three weeks, the source of Woodward and Bernstein‘s Watergate scoops has been found.  It was Mark Felt.  By September 11, 1972, the memos indicate, Felt was writing memos suggesting who Throat might have been to assistant FBI director Charles Bates.  He suggested it might be the county prosecutor in Miami.

On this story, of course, we are blessed to have a primary source, as historians call them, Richard Nixon‘s White House counsel, more recently author of “Unmasking Deep Throat,” John Dean.  Good evening, John.


OLBERMANN:  There‘s a great old Ray Milland, Charles Laughton film called “The Big Clock.”  Laughton is a publisher.  He murders his mistress.  Milland is his investigative reporter.  So Laughton frames Milland, and then he makes Milland investigate the murder.  So every step towards solving the crime that Milland takes, he incriminates himself, and he absolves the guy who actually did it, who is Laughton.

Mark Felt as Deep Throat evidently tried this?

DEAN:  It‘s a very nice move.  Very nice.  It shows one thing, Keith.  Don‘t mess with a very wily bureaucrat.  We were aware, of course, that the FBI was investigating itself because the White House was putting pressure on Gray to do just that.  What we didn‘t know is that the titular head of these investigations, or the man actually running them, was Mark Felt, who was, as you know, a long suspect by the White House as a leaker.

OLBERMANN:  If you had known that was the case, might somebody have—might a flag have gone up?  Might Mark Felt have been stopped in his tracks?

DEAN:  I don‘t think there‘s any question there would have been a flag up.  In fact, I looked at some of the tapes that—where this discussion of Felt and his leaking had come up, and there‘s a lot of confusion in the White House.  It was very clear to me now, in hindsight, where we were getting the information.  A lot of it was coming from Henry Peterson, who was the head of the criminal division and had once been a—sort of a young agent in the bureau with Felt, knew Felt and did not like Felt.  And he was keeping us informed about Felt‘s activity and was very concerned about the impact it might have on his investigation.

The other thing that Felt was doing that troubled Peterson—and this

isn‘t inconsistent with his role as Deep Throat—was he was investigating

areas that Peterson wasn‘t even sure the FBI had authority to investigate -

·         for example, the area of so-called campaign dirty tricks.  This was something they just stumbled into during the investigation and decided to -

·         the criminal division didn‘t think they should take a look at it because they had never done such a thing, particularly during a campaign year.  But Felt was sort of pushing this.  And this was part of the tension that was going on between the White House, the FBI and the Justice Department.

OLBERMANN:  You‘re in the story in “The Nation.”  It says that when the acting FBI director, Pat Gray, quote, “was out of town, White House counsel John Dean would call Felt and demand that he stop the leaks.”  Is that true?  Because apparently, from what these deductions are, it led to Felt writing another memo that ordered an investigation of the leaks not to “The Washington Post” but to “The Washington Times.”

DEAN:  Well, I don‘t specifically recall ever instructing—I recall talking to Felt, yes.  I haven‘t gone through my phone logs to see what kind of exchanges we had.  I don‘t recall ever meeting the man, but I do recall conversations with him.  In fact, he is the one who told me, for example, as White House counsel, that indeed, there were so-called national security newsmen wiretaps that J. Edgar Hoover wasn‘t even privy to fully.  And it was not quite clear who did implement those, but I suspect Mark Felt did.

When I asked him if a story that was coming out in “Time” magazine was true or false, he said, Do you really want to know the answer to that?  I said, I think I should know the answer.  He said, Well, it is true.  And he told me where to go find out that information.  So he knew a lot of things that a lot of people—and I suspect, because of his role really doing what Hoover was supposed to be doing.

OLBERMANN:  Well, also, if he‘s the suspect and the cop, he‘s going to know everything on this.  But there‘s another familiar name popped up in the story, a Felt memo to Deputy Director Bates.  And he was supposed to be one of the FBI men who fed Felt information, knowing that Felt would feed it to Woodward.  So are we now getting a bigger picture about Deep Throat than even “Vanity Fair” portrayed, that there was a system to leak stuff to Woodward and a system for the leakers to cover their own tracks, and a system to get them to buy themselves more time to keep leaking?

DEAN:  I don‘t think it was all that planned.  I think it was more ad hoc.  I don‘t—you know, we don‘t—we can‘t confirm whether or not Bates is, of course, a source because he‘s passed away, as with Kunkel.  But apparently, the source that did report knowledge of this is a very reliable person with no motive to do anything other than tell the truth, at this point, at this late date.

You know, it‘s ironic, Keith.  If, for example, Nixon had appointed Felt the director of the FBI, one wonders what might happen to history, how different it might be today.

OLBERMANN:  He might still be president.  Well, no, that‘s another series of speculations altogether.


OLBERMANN:  The former White House counsel John Dean.  And John, I‘m thinking somebody should be writing the big book of Watergate, and I don‘t mean Felt or Woodward.  That‘s—I‘m just dropping a little bug in your ear there.

DEAN:  OK.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  As always, sir, great.  Thanks for your time tonight.

DEAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  The Watergate story is getting better and better, and it‘s 2005.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night, and good luck.


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