updated 6/30/2005 8:29:52 AM ET 2005-06-30T12:29:52

Guest: Theodore Simon, Chris Lejuez, Representative Gary Ackerman

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  For the first time Aruba‘s chief prosecutor answers the questions everyone‘s been asking.


ABRAMS (voice-over):  She‘s a woman at the center of the storm, in charge of prosecuting the Natalee Holloway case.  She‘s speaking to us.  The question, is she even convinced that there‘s been a crime? 

Plus, the first major corporate CEO to be found not guilty—trial watchers say the evidence was overwhelming.  So what happened?  Some say it was race and religion. 

And a Georgia manhunt is on for this man, accused of molesting and murdering a 4-year-old girl.  Police say he‘s headed for the border and they need your help. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, she has the answers to the question everyone has been asking about the case of that missing Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway in Aruba.  What evidence do they actually have against the various suspects?  Are they even convinced a crime has been committed? 

Well, only moments ago, Caren Janssen, chief prosecutor in the case sat down with our own Martin Savidge for her first interview.  It‘s another exclusive.  He joins us now with what Janssen revealed—Martin. 

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you, Dan.  There was a lot of information that was revealed.  One of the things we should tell you is that Caren Janssen has been a prosecutor for 12 years.  For a year and a half, she‘s been the chief prosecutor on the island of Aruba. 

The moment you see her, you understand she is a no-nonsense individual.  She had some ground rules and she told us quite clearly, we either follow them or we‘d be out of her office never to return again.  The ground rules were fairly simple.

We got 15 minutes—that was it—and she had a statement to make initially.  After that we could ask questions.  Here was the end result. 


CAREN JANSSEN, CHIEF PROSECUTOR IN ARUBA:  We are basing our investigation on that possibility.  So I can‘t answer your question positively because we have not found any traces of a crime.  We are investigating that possibility. 

SAVIDGE:  And again, you seem to allude to it.  You are working under the belief that she is dead, but you have not received anything to confirm that she is dead.  Is that right? 

JANSSEN:  No.  No, we can‘t confirm that because otherwise, we would have told the family first.  But there are no traces, no facts, no circumstances that we can base the opinion that we are sure that Natalee is not alive anymore. 

SAVIDGE:  And you have not been told anything by the people in custody that...

SAVIDGE:  ... she is dead? 

JANSSEN:  No.  No.  That‘s true.  They didn‘t tell us that. 

SAVIDGE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I guess there was a feeling—there is a feeling...


SAVIDGE:  ... that with the release of Mr. Van Der Sloot, Paul, with the release of Steven Croes, that the investigation has reached an impasse.  I know you‘ve spoken about that...


SAVIDGE:  ... but you seem to imply that actually no, things are moving along very well. 

JANSSEN:  Yes, I don‘t have that feeling that we are in the middle of an impasse or that we are at the end of a tunnel.  I think positively because we have many questions, we have a lot of things we have to search for, and I think we are in a phase—an important phase in the investigation, a crucial phase, perhaps, by getting those technical information so we can make a timeline because it‘s not only the night of Sunday to Monday what is important but also the days after. 

SAVIDGE:  And these communications you speak of...


SAVIDGE:  ... the messaging, the chatting...

SAVIDGE:  ... this is what occurred between the three suspects? 

JANSSEN:  Also and others. 

SAVIDGE:  After Natalee vanished? 

JANSSEN:  Yes.  Yes. 

SAVIDGE:  Have you actually been able to read or do you only understand that they communicated...


SAVIDGE:  Do you know what they were saying?

JANSSEN:  We have much more information than only that.  I can‘t tell you the details about that.  I only can say there‘s telephone, e-mail, chat sessions, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) messages and that‘s the sort of communication that we are investigating now.  And it gives us a clear picture of where they were and how they communicate and what they said to each other. 

SAVIDGE:  One of the criticisms that has come from America is why did it take so long before the three young men, the last man...


SAVIDGE:  ... to be with Natalee...


SAVIDGE:  ... were taken into custody. 

JANSSEN:  Well that‘s an important question.  I‘m glad you asked me that.  Because everyone in my business knows that if you have a crime, and you do an investigation, and you have a certain moment that a person is coming to be a suspect, it‘s the worse thing you can do is run and arrest him because in one hour you don‘t have anything to speak about.  Your—through your subjects what you can discuss, you have to investigate around him, have some information and then when you have a good solid base, you can go talk with somebody as a suspect.

SAVIDGE:  Did you survey them?  Did you follow them?  Did you listen to their conversations?  Clearly you were able to gather information. 

JANSSEN:  Yes.  I can‘t tell you what we did in that time.  But we spent it on building up the investigation, step by step. 

SAVIDGE:  The concern is that perhaps evidence was lost.  That there was time for the suspects to dispose of what could have been evidence. 

JANSSEN:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) That‘s not my opinion.  No. 

SAVIDGE:  OK.  The father—let me see if you understood this correctly.  You mentioned that there was harm done to the investigation from Mr. Van Der Sloot, Paul Van Der Sloot...


SAVIDGE:  ... and you said the family.  Are you referring to the Holloway family when they—could you just clarify what you said...

JANSSEN:  Yes.  OK.  I said that the investigation was—I think you called it...

JANSSEN:  ... harm or obstructed, by the fact that the father of the suspect, the minor, who has always been arrested but released...

SAVIDGE:  What did the father do? 

JANSSEN:  Well, the father has spoken with those three suspects and he said he gave them some legal advice but I think the advices were going further than that.  They spoke about the situation that when there is no body, you don‘t have a case, and that was already in the first day after the disappearance.  And secondly, the father and the mother have asked a friend of Joran, the suspect—the minor suspect, to come to their home to tell them what he has explained to the police.  And that is, well, I can say was an obstruction of the investigation. 

SAVIDGE:  So both the Holloway family and the father in some way has...

JANSSEN:  I‘m not talking about the Holloway family. 



SAVIDGE:  ... that‘s what I want to make sure...

JANSSEN:  No, I‘m not talking about the Holloway family.  I‘m talking about the family of the minor suspect, the suspect who is 17. 

SAVIDGE:  OK.  The father spoke to the three young men prior to them being taken into custody and offered them some sort of legal advice... 


SAVIDGE:  ... including specifically saying if there is no body, how it would impact the investigation. 

JANSSEN:  They talked about that and he confirmed that...

JANSSEN:  ... and they talked about that.

SAVIDGE:  Seems a very damning thing to say...

JANSSEN:  Well, you can take your own conclusion of that, but I can say that the investigation has shown and he confirms that, that is spoken to them.  That was the conversation only a couple of days after the disappearance. 

SAVIDGE:  Do you consider the father a suspect or is it this obstruction or interference that you arrested him for? 

JANSSEN:  No, we did not arrest him for that interference situation.  He was a suspect and the judge made his decision that there were insufficient grounds to make him a suspect. 

SAVIDGE:  And how did you feel when you heard that from the judge? 

JANSSEN:  Well, as always, a disappointment when you are running an investigation and one of your suspects is released, but it‘s not the end of the investigation and we are going, we are going further to solve this case and find the truth. 

SAVIDGE:  Do you think you will solve it? 

JANSSEN:  I hope it.  I can‘t give you guarantees, but we are still determined and working all right. 

SAVIDGE:  The point that the father brought up in the conversation to the boys, if there is no body—and we have been searching all over this island for so long...


SAVIDGE:  ... and searching in the water—what happens if there isn‘t a body?  What happens if she is never found?  Can you pursue this case? 

JANSSEN:  Well we are now in the middle of an investigation.  Everybody is watching, the suspects also.  So it wouldn‘t be wise to say anything about that possibility.  We are focusing on the investigation.  We are getting some information.  We are doing it step by step.  It takes not days, perhaps weeks, but we are concentrating on that. 

SAVIDGE:  But you know Dutch law.  I mean you must know what is required as far as evidence and proof.

JANSSEN:  Well, Dutch law is not so many different about—than the American system.  Maybe when you go to court.  In America, you have a jury trial and in the Dutch law, it is the judge who makes decision if somebody is guilty or not guilty.  But to build up the evidence, I think it‘s not so different as in the states. 

SAVIDGE:  With the evidence you have today, would you feel confident going before a judge? 

JANSSEN:  We have a long way to go.  We have still a long way to go. 

SAVIDGE:  That implies you may not have a lot. 

JANSSEN:  You must give me a chance. 


SAVIDGE:  And a chance is what she says she needs at this particular point.  She said the reason she talked to us was she wanted Americans to see her face, to see her personality, to understand how committed she is to this particular case.  There are 20 investigators from Aruba alone working on it in conjunction with the FBI and top investigators here from the Netherlands.  She says that is the least that is due to the family of Natalee Holloway and to the American public to understand—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Martin, great job getting that interview.  We‘re going to play more of Martin‘s interview coming up in our next block, more information coming from the chief prosecutor.  But let me just summarize because we just heard a lot, a lot more than I would have expected this chief prosecutor would have said.

First of all no confession—none of the suspects, she says, have actually confessed to killing Natalee Holloway, number one.  Number two: 

That the three suspects, and others were e-mailing and texting each other and they now have those e-mails and text messages and they‘ve now obtained those e-mails and text messages.  That‘s number two. 

Number three:  That the father of Joran Van Der Sloot, who was arrested and then released offered the three suspects legal advice and she said, but it was more than that.  She had said to them—that he said to them when there‘s no body you don‘t have a case.  But she also added that he was arrested not just for that, as we knew, but that he was arrested because he was a suspect in this case. 

Criminal defense attorney Ted Simon joins me.  He‘s worked on a number of cases, some of them in Aruba.  Ted...


ABRAMS:  ... this is new information.  This is interesting stuff. 

Just let me get your reaction first up. 

SIMON:  Well, there‘s so much to react to.  It was a wonderful interview.  Some of the things that I hope I got right from what she said and I‘m quoting her, she said there‘s no traces of a crime.  She said there are no facts and no circumstances and they can‘t confirm she‘s dead.  Now, that is pretty startling information in its own right. 

I mean, if that is the case, how do they know that there‘s even been a crime?  Now, she did say some other things and she mentioned about the legal advice and she mentioned there‘s no body and she mentioned that supposedly, he gave advice to the three.  But what is the source of that information?  She didn‘t say she got it from the text messages...

ABRAMS:  No, she said...

SIMON:  ... or the e-mail.

ABRAMS:  ... he confirmed it.  She said he confirmed it, meaning he, the father confirmed that he gave some of this legal advice.  Let me—

Ted, let me do this.  Let me take a quick break.  You‘re going to stick around.

SIMON:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to have more of Martin‘s interview with the chief prosecutor investigating this case.  As Ted said, some startling information coming out of that.

And later in the program, did this CEO become the first high-profile not guilty verdict because he found God. 

And authorities in Georgia on a manhunt for a suspect they say kidnapped, molested, killed a 4-year-old girl believed to be headed to Mexico.  If he makes it, could be that he won‘t be sent back to the U.S. if he‘s facing the death penalty.

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.



ABRAMS:  We‘re back with more of the exclusive interview with the top prosecutor in Aruba certainly making news.  She‘s in charge of the Natalee Holloway investigation, the missing Alabama teen.  Prosecutor Caren Janssen sat down with Martin Savidge.  Martin is back with us—Martin. 

SAVIDGE:  Yes, one of the things that we talked about in this interview was you know the charges.  And as you know the law, the setup here is a little bit different than it is in the United States.  You are charged under suspicion or suspicion of a crime and they didn‘t want to talk specifically in the first week of the investigation as to what the charges were that they were contemplating.  There was a reason for that and that‘s what Caren Janssen is talking about right now here. 


JANSSEN:  The prosecution did not express the charges, the public during the first week of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, more out of respect also for the family.  We did not want to speak about murder and homicide because we did not want to hurt the feelings of that family unnecessarily and because in the early stage, they only want to find their girl alive. 

At this stage of the investigation, we cannot exclude that something terrible maybe happened to Natalee.  We are determined to find the truth, to find Natalee and in case somebody harmed her to find those who are responsible.  The investigation has been hampered by the fact that the father had been instructing the three suspects with elementary aspects and the parents together, has been interviewing friends of their son about what he told to the police.


SAVIDGE:  One of the other things that the prosecutor wanted to express and expressed very clearly was that we started talking about the frustration of the Holloway family, they‘ve been very vocal, especially in the past couple of days about how they feel this investigation is not going in a positive direction.  And Caren Janssen said that she understood that frustration, that she could sympathize with their anger and she knew where it was coming from and that said quite frankly if the shoe were on the other foot, if she was in that predicament, she would feel the same frustrations.

But she has also met with them and again, one of the reasons she

granted this interview was to express not just to the Holloway family, but

to the American public that she personally is doing everything she can to -

·         one—find Natalee Holloway, find those who are responsible and understand exactly what happened—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Martin Savidge, once again thank you very much for that exclusive interview out of Aruba.

Back with us is criminal defense attorney Ted Simon.  He‘s worked on a lot of cases, internationality, some of them in Aruba.  And also joining me from there is Chris Lejuez, attorney for one of the former security guards who were arrested early on in this investigation.  Gentleman, thanks for joining us. 

All right.  Ted, let me just finish up with what we were talking about before the break.  So the bottom line is the authorities have e-mails, they have text messages between at least the three suspects, it appears, but it sounds to me like what they got on dad isn‘t much.  I mean I think what they have on dad in the United States would be referred to as legal advice. 

SIMON:  I agree with you.  It sounds very, very thin.  And don‘t forget, as we‘ve discussed before, just to be held down there all you need is that minimum threshold of reasonable suspicion.  So whatever they have, they don‘t have that because he was released.  So whatever they have developed from text messaging, potential inconsistent statements between people and even this purported legal advice was not enough to get passed reasonable suspicion. 

And even in Aruba they have a standard of beyond a reasonable doubt to convict.  So right now, it seems extremely thin.  And I wonder and I wonder this.  There was a report yesterday that the D.J. Croes claimed that Deepak Kalpoe had said that this group of the father and the other boys manufactured a story.  But who could ever believe him in that he didn‘t even know these people, but more importantly and—excuse me.  That‘s the security guard who claimed that.  Let me clarify. 

But more importantly, the security guard also said that when he spoke to Deepak Kalpoe that these three were expecting Natalee to show back up when asked why would they manufacture a story.  So it‘s extremely confusing that even the security guard who claims that Deepak told him a manufactured story, part of the manufactured story was that there was—that she was still alive. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Lejuez, have you been able to hear this interview with the prosecutor? 

CHRIS LEJUEZ, ABRAHAM JONES‘ ATTORNEY:  Most of it.  Not all of it though.

ABRAMS:  What do you make of this?  Let me ask you as a legal matter in Aruba.  It sounds like what the prosecutor is saying is, because the father spoke to the three suspects a couple days after Natalee disappeared, gave them advice, said to them where there‘s no body, there‘s no case and then they say that he and his wife interviewed the friend of their son to find out what their son had said to police.  Is any of that illegal in Aruba? 

LEJUEZ:  It‘s not illegal, sir, but I would rather not comment regarding the ongoing investigation.  There is one thing I will say something about.  There is the fact that I heard the prosecutor say that she has no proof yet that a crime has been committed.  This is something that I‘ve been saying all along right from the start. 

We don‘t know yet if there has been a crime—if a crime has been committed.  What we do have are suspicions that possibly a crime has been committed and based on these suspicions these people are being held apparently, sir.

ABRAMS:  But does it sound to you—again and I‘m not asking about what you know about the case.  I‘m asking you sort of just as someone who knows Aruban law.  Are you allowed, as a lawyer in Aruba—I mean, here you‘re allowed to say to someone hey look, if there‘s no body, there‘s no crime, to give that advice.  You‘re allowed to go and ask people questions about what someone said to the police, et cetera.  It sounds like what the prosecutor is saying is that‘s an obstruction of justice. 

LEJUEZ:  I can tell you this sir, I heard (UNINTELLIGIBLE) last night on TV, on the Dutch television, where he mentioned that he did speak to the boys and he explained to them the criminal procedure in Aruba.  That‘s the word he used.  He explained to them the procedure. 

ABRAMS:  And based on what you‘ve heard the prosecutor say, does it sound to you like that‘s all he did? 

LEJUEZ:  I believe that the prosecutor is a serious person, would have reasons to state what she has stated.  I cannot confirm it though. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  What about your client?  What about the fact—your client and his friend, are they still possibly going to be called as witnesses? 

LEJUEZ:  The case against—they have been released but that doesn‘t mean that the case against them has been dropped as yet, so it‘s possible that they would want to hear them again either as witnesses or a suspect.  Until the case is dropped, they‘re really in the clear in this case, sir.

ABRAMS:  Ted, it sounds to me like as a legal matter what Paul Van Der Sloot did, at least what we know he did—and again, if they have more evidence on him with regard to suspicion of murder, that‘s something entirely different.  But based on what the prosecutor said he did, it is, I think frustrating probably to the prosecutors.  It is probably very frustrating to the family because it sounds like what he‘s doing is trying to help his son deal with a very, very dicey situation, but it also sounds to me like he was basically doing what criminal defense lawyers in this country do all the time, which drives a lot of people crazy, but it doesn‘t sound out of the ordinary. 

SIMON:  Yes.  You know Dan, I‘m glad you clarified that in particular with your other guests in that apparently Mr. Van Der Sloot said that he gave advice as far as criminal procedure, which seems very neutral and not even specific to the case at hand.  So whatever may have been told to him, either by his son or others, it doesn‘t even seem like it reached to the point of any of them saying they did something wrong. 

ABRAMS:  And what‘s interesting, Ted is he waived his right not to testify against his son.  Meaning, that he has a right in Aruba to say I don‘t want to testify against my son and as a result can‘t be called.  He waived that right, which seems to indicate that he at least is going to claim he doesn‘t have anything to say that‘s going to incriminate his son. 

SIMON:  I totally agree with you.  I mean he has the right to be free from self-incrimination like we have here.  He‘s waived that.  He‘s not invoked that and he second—he invoked—he waived the right to the parent-child privilege when he wouldn‘t have to speak to that.  So my gut tells me and I agree with you, that he doesn‘t know anything that‘s worthy, that would in any way, adversely impact on his son or the others...


SIMON:  ... and that doesn‘t necessarily mean his son or the others did or didn‘t do something.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Lejuez, what do you think of our analysis on this?LEJUEZ:  I‘m sorry; did you speak to me sir?

ABRAMS:  Yes, I was asking you what you thought of the analysis that we have just been going through about the father‘s role? 

LEJUEZ:  It‘s quite accurate.  In Aruba you do have the right not to testify against your son or your father or mother or your grandchildren or your spouse.  He waived that right apparently.  It doesn‘t mean that you have the right to lie though.  Once you waive the right, you have to tell the truth.  And according to his own interview, he has been telling them about the procedures in Aruba.  There‘s nothing wrong with that.  Any father would do that.  But I don‘t know if he has given them more specifics regarding the case itself.  According to Mrs. Janssen, apparently he did...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

LEJUEZ:  I can‘t confirm that.

ABRAMS:  All right, here‘s the sound again just so we‘re clear on exactly what she said.


JANSSEN:  The father has spoken with those three suspects and he said he gave them some legal advice, but I think the advices was going further than that.  They spoke about the situation that when there is no body, you don‘t have a case and that was already in the first day after the disappearance.  And secondly, the father and the mother have asked a friend of Joran, the suspect, the minor suspect, to come to their home to tell them what he has explained to the police.  That is, well, I can say, was an obstruction of the investigation. 


ABRAMS:  Chris and Ted, thanks a lot. 

ABRAMS:  Be right back.


ABRAMS:  We‘ve got breaking news to report to you.  The U.S. Capitol has been evacuated.  NBC‘s congressional correspondent Chip Reid joins us on the phone.

Chip, what do you know? 

CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone):  Well this is a repeat of what we had a number of weeks ago.  Remember when that small plane strayed into the air space around Washington.  We don‘t know that that‘s what it is right now, but of course that is always the first suspicion.

But the Senate was actually just in the middle of a vote.  All the senators or virtually all of them were on the floor of the Senate when suddenly, there was an announcement that the Capitol police were going to make an announcement and suddenly at that moment, the alarm went off and all the senators immediately started filing off the floor and they‘re evacuating the entire Capitol right now, just exactly a repeat of what we saw last time. 

But I will tell you, people are more calm this time than they were last time and the last time, they were more calm than they had been the time before that.  Each time this happens people are a little more calm because after a while it‘s a little like the boy who cried wolf I think.  I see now a number of people smiling as they‘re leaving the building because...

ABRAMS:  Chip, sorry to interrupt you, but we‘re just getting this in that the Secret Service says it was related to a plane but that now it is all clear. 

REID:  That‘s a quick one...


REID:  My guess is it‘ll probably be a half an hour before they clear us here because they always dot all the I‘s and cross all the T‘s before they let us back in.  But that certainly is good news.  But I‘ll tell you, a lot of people are taking this not nearly with the kind of stress and anxiety that they had the first one, many months ago and not as much worry as there was a few weeks ago.

ABRAMS:  Chip, why don‘t you remind us about the rules with regard to planes and the Washington D.C. area in particular, the Capitol. 

REID:  Well, they‘re very strict about it.  That if a plane does cross into the airspace and it stretches quite a ways out, then it is—they automatically go into this mode where the Capitol, the White House, and other facilities are evacuated and they calculate the amount of time it would take a plane to hit and they tell people to get out that quickly. 

I do not hear those shouts this time, but the last time a few weeks ago as I was leaving the building they screamed at us “you have less than 60 seconds.  Get out of the territory.  And yes, hold on, I‘ve got the cameraman here right now. 

REID:  You hearing anything in there? 


REID:  OK.  It‘s looking like the Capitol is now evacuated.  Pretty much everyone is out.  There are Capitol police just absolutely everyone and this was extremely orderly, but again, I tell you, there may be some danger in people getting complacent about...


REID:  ... these things happening over and over again. 

ABRAMS:  Chip, how does it work for the senators and the congressman?  Did basically, the same rules, the same doorways, et cetera apply to them and everyone else who‘s in the building?

REID:  Yes.  Yes, I came out the door with Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy was right ahead of me.  There‘s one senator in a wheelchair, Senator Jeffords, and they were wheeling him down the hall to an elevator.  But everybody just out the same doors.  Now a lot of the—some of the senators have special limousines and cars that sit right up by the Capitol, and they were hustled into those and driven away very quickly.  But most of them are just walking right with us right in the crowd. 

ABRAMS:  And I should say that this just coming in to us that senior U.S. intelligence officials apparently were unaware of any intelligence report that would engender an alert.  Quote—“No bells and whistles here.  NORAD officials checking into reports that the Capitol is evacuated.  They have no information on threats to D.C. airspace.”

Chip, would these other organizations necessarily know?  I mean who makes that decision, the Capitol police, as to evacuation?

REID:  That‘s a darn good question because my understanding was that it was all centralized.  You know but the Capitol police probably would have the authority to do it on their own if they felt it was only the Capitol that was in danger of something at that moment.  But you would think that if it were a plane with a—that had crossed the threshold that triggers this kind of response, that it would be all of the buildings, so I‘m sure there‘s going to be a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking after this if in fact some facilities were evacuated and others were not.  Because if it is a plane, you would certainly think that it would be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) response all across the board. 

ABRAMS:  And Chip, again, for those not that familiar with the Washington D.C. area, why don‘t you explain how the Capitol police work as distinct from other police departments in that area. 

REID:  Yes, there are so many different police departments.  There‘s of course the D.C. police and there is the Capitol police and down at the White House you have the Secret Service and there are many different police organizations and they all have to coordinate.  But up here, it almost is as though you have your own small town police force. 

They are very highly trained.  They‘re obviously very good at these evacuation procedures now, because it does happen very smoothly now.  But they are an entity unto themselves but I‘ll tell you, there has been a lot of discussion recently about the importance of coordinating the activities of all these different police agencies and certainly, it‘s important you would think that if one police agency is evacuating their facility, the others would be evacuating theirs and I, for one, will be very curious to see if it really...

ABRAMS:  All right, here‘s what we know, Chip.  We just got in some more information.  The police evacuated the Capitol and the White House Wednesday evening even after a plane ventured into restricted airspace.  Apparently, the aircraft can be heard overhead in an area customarily closed to aircraft.  We‘re told that the plane was 33 miles northeast of Reagan Airport.  Fighters and helicopters were launched.  Again Chip, explain to us, 33 miles northeast of Reagan Airport.  How far away is that and how far into restricted airspace is that, if you know? 

REID:  Well you know I‘m not sure to tell you the truth.  Thirty-three miles sounds like an awful lot.  It sounds like a plane that was simply off course.  Now take one thing into account here.  The plane a few weeks ago or a number of weeks ago that strayed into airspace was a very small, very slow plane.  It would have taken it a long time to get down here and they did not pull the trigger until it was a good deal closer than 33 miles.  This may have been a much faster moving plane...

ABRAMS:  I can tell you...

REID:  ... which would require faster action.

ABRAMS:  I can tell you how fast it was going.  It was going at 250 knots at 16,000 feet up.  We‘re told that interceptors were launched a few minutes ago.  Fighters and customs and border patrol helicopters as well, but I‘m going to have to get an aviation expert to tell me how 250 knots at 16,000 feet compares to the other speed at which that other plane was going.  I assume, Chip, you don‘t know either, do you?

REID:  I cannot tell you precisely.  I can tell you that it‘s significantly faster than that other plane was going. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Again, this—continuing our special coverage of a small plane, violating the restricted zone in Washington D.C.  Fighter planes and custom Black Hawks were launched at 6:18 p.m. tonight.  The plane made its way out of the restricted area.  The Capitol and the White House were evacuated briefly, but our own Chip Reid who is out there with them saying that the Capitol is still evacuated as far as you know, right Chip?

REID:  That‘s right.  I do see some people heading back towards the building but the vast bulk of people are over in one area and they‘re being told to stay there by the Capitol police. 

ABRAMS:  But most importantly, there was no mayhem.  There was no chaos.  As you said, it was very orderly.

REID:  Almost too orderly.  I have to tell you, people were almost strolling out of there.  I think people are taking this in stride now, which as I said, is kind of a danger in itself.

ABRAMS:  We are continuing our live coverage of an evacuation only moments ago, of the White House and the U.S. Capitol.  Oh, all right, so that‘s not true that it was the White House.  OK.  All right. 

This is the videotape from the U.S. Senate just as this happened.  In the meantime as you watch this, we‘re going to assess whether the White House was also evacuated.  The Associated Press had reported that the Capitol and White House were evacuated but Megan, are you telling me that it‘s not the White House? 

All right.  So it was the Capitol and the White House, according to The Associated Press, evacuated after a plane ventured into restricted airspace.  You saw that was the video from the Senate floor.  Chip pointing out that they were in the middle of a vote when this happened. 

Chip, what were they voting on? 

REID:  They were voting on an amendment having to do with veteran funding.  There was a series of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) role call votes and actually, the Veterans Administration really discovered they were well over $1 billion short for this year and next year to deal with veterans coming back from the war and it‘s been quite a political to-do with Democrats claiming that they‘ve been saying this all along and Republicans are very much on the political defensive.

And finally, the Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate had come to an agreement on this, they had just finished the key vote for adding this money for veterans coming back from the war and then they were voting on another less important matter and it was as that vote was coming to an end that they suddenly got this announcement, it sounded like it was over a loud speaker system on the Senate floor when they got this announcement, and they all stopped for a moment.

You see all of the senators—I was watching it on a TV monitor from my little booth, which is just off the Senate floor.  You could see them all freeze for a moment and then they all immediately, at the exact same moment, started moving towards the door.  And it was really just that visual, rather than hearing anything that made us realize it was time to get the heck out. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s recap what we know.  Within the past half an hour a small plane apparently violated the restricted zone around Washington D.C.  Fighter planes, custom Black Hawks were launched at 6:18 p.m.  The plane then quickly made its way out of the restricted are, but the Capitol was evacuated.  There are conflicting reports as to whether the White House was evacuated as well. 

We‘re going to have to just wait and see as to whether that actually happened.  But it does now seem that there is an all clear, that the problem has been addressed.  That the plane is no longer in that restricted air space.  And Chip Reid, it is made quite clear to anyone who is a pilot in that area, going into this restricted airspace is a big deal and a big no-no. 

REID:  It is.  It is astounding that some people still haven‘t gotten that message.  I could understand it, perhaps to some degree, that a pilot in a small town outside of Washington maybe hasn‘t gotten the precise message, but if this is a larger aircraft, as I suspect it is, it really is astounding that somebody still doesn‘t understand the rules around Washington. 

You know, after that last incident a number of weeks ago, there was a lot of talk about the need for additional and instant education for pilots.  And I‘m sure there‘s going to be a lot more talk about that after this one. 

ABRAMS:  We‘re told that the plane was 33 miles northeast of Reagan Airport heading southwest at 250 knots, 16,000 feet up into the air, but something about that.  The fact, of course, that it was within the restricted airspace was of such great concern that the Capitol, at the very least, was evacuated immediately right in the middle of a vote on the Senate floor. 

Chip Reid saying that the senators and the congressmen evacuating that building, just like everyone else, does, simply going to the nearest exit, as quickly as he or she can, to get out of that building.  I think we‘re going to be joined by a U.S. congressman in a minute who was just in the building and just evacuated. 

Do we have him yet?  OK.  All right.  We don‘t have him yet.  So Chip, the—all right he‘s good.  Representative Gary Ackerman joins us now, Democrat from New York.  Representative Ackerman thanks for coming on.  We appreciate it.  So what do you know? 

REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK (via phone):  Well we don‘t know too much.  There was a vote called, there were five votes scheduled.  We were halfway through the first vote and all of a sudden, there was yelling in back in the chamber of the House and a lot of us just thought it was some kind of demonstration or somebody yelling.  It turned out to be Capitol police yelling run, run.  Clear the chamber.

So people started making for the doors as quick as they could and they were yelling run, get as far away south.  Go south.  Get as far as way as fast as you can.  And we‘ve done that.  I‘m about three or four blocks from the Capitol right now with Congressman Marion Berry who happened to have his car outside.  We just jumped in and drove straight south.

A lot of crowded blocks of people, of staff, of members of Congress standing around.  We can see the top of the Capitol Dome from where we are over the trees and we‘re just hoping it‘s one of those false alarms or a miscall or a mistake or something rather than something more serious...

ABRAMS:  And we are told that in fact, it is all cleared now.  That after fighter planes and custom Black Hawks were launched, that the plane made its way out of the restricted area.  We‘re told that the Capitol evacuation is—the Capitol will now be open again in the very near future.  But let me ask you about what you heard from the back of the room.  You said that the Capitol police were there yelling run, run.  Is that the...

ACKERMAN:  They were yelling clear the chamber.  Clear the chamber.  Sometimes they only have seconds they figure to get everybody out of the building and we‘re in a building with a big target on top, you know the Capitol Dome with the Statue of Freedom and you know that‘s usually the anticipated target around here because that‘s the highest profile, do the most damage because you have, you know, all the members of Congress there. 

That if this occurred while a vote was going on because everyone is concentrating in the one big hall.  But it was clear within two seconds what they were saying and everybody knew there was—it was a perceived problem and everybody proceeded very, very calmly, although as quickly as they could to get out the door at the same time and down the Capitol steps. 

ACKERMAN:  The police with their automatic weapons were unfortunately, these days all around surrounding the Capitol came and they were staying there as they were, you know, encouraging everybody to run as fast as they could in a southerly direction.  The streets here are still very, very crowded for a couple of blocks away from the Capitol.  Our BlackBerries gave us a message that it was an Aircon (ph) red alert, then it went to a yellow alert, went from red to orange to yellow.  But they‘re asking that -the last thing we got on our...

ABRAMS:  All right.

ACKERMAN:  ... BlackBerries was not to enter the Capitol quite as yet. You probably have the advantage over us...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

ACKERMAN:  ... because we‘re out in the middle of the street.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Let me—well let me inform you and my viewers at the same time that we‘re now told the plane is on the ground in Winchester. 

ACKERMAN:  Winchester, OK.

ABRAMS:  We are also—where is Winchester, Representative Ackerman?

ACKERMAN:  I have no idea. 


ACKERMAN:  Where‘s Winchester?  Anybody know? 

ABRAMS:  Chip Reid, do you know where Winchester is?

REID:  ... a little bit north of Washington. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Great.  We are also told that the White House was not, I repeat, was not evacuated.  It appears it was just the Capitol.  Representative Ackerman, what does that tell you?  I mean if there is a plane that is in restricted airspace over Washington D.C. without other intelligence, why would just the Capitol be evacuated and not the White House? 

ACKERMAN:  I have no idea.  If I were running things, I would evacuate the White House, the Capitol, the Pentagon, and all the government office buildings.  It wasn‘t just the Capitol building, by the way.  The Senate office buildings and the House office buildings were, you know, the daily grunt work is done and all of our staff that we treasure so much (UNINTELLIGIBLE) working very hard.  They were all evacuated as well. 

But you know, if you‘re talking about shooting down a plane over Washington D.C., which is a concentrated area, first, you don‘t know where it‘s going to land and second, you don‘t really know for sure what the target is.  One would think that all of the high-profile buildings would be cleared. 

ABRAMS:  And Chip Reid, congressional correspondent, there—as you pointed out, there was supposed to be a unified system, right, where this decision would be made sort of for one, for all. 

REID:  Well that is my understanding and that was certainly what logic would dictate with a plane 33 miles away.  If you do suspect foul motive—evil motive, you certainly don‘t know where it‘s going, you would think they would have a uniform system.  So either this was a violation of that system or it‘s a system with some inconsistencies and we‘ll have to see because, of course, these things are always investigated extensively afterwards. 

ABRAMS:  Chip, we‘re watching live pictures of what looks like people walking back into the building.

REID:  Yes, that‘s what everybody‘s doing right now.  I just—I‘ll tell you, it‘s almost like a senatorial parade here.  There were about 30 senators who just walked by me, none of them seeming too stressed out about all this.  I think probably grateful that it is—at least it‘s a system that works very quickly and efficiently now. 

Because remember, the first time this happened way back when, I can‘t even tell you exactly when that was, many, many months ago, it was utter chaos and the evacuation itself was a very dangerous thing.  People could have gotten hurt.  This was not.  This was very orderly, almost too orderly because there wasn‘t a sense of real urgency in getting out and—at least in my little area where I was. 

ABRAMS:  What about where you were, Representative Ackerman?  It sounds like where you were there was a sense of urgency, correct?

ACKERMAN:  There was a sense of urgency.  That was the tone of the I‘d say demands of the Capitol police to get us out as quickly as we could.  They said clear the building and run.  Nobody was running through the doors in the building.  That was very orderly.  People aren‘t more complacent I think, but understand the need for acting appropriately.

Indeed, we‘re now within a block and a half of the Capitol and everybody on this side, which is the House side or the south side of the Capitol is walking back towards the Capitol and going into the office buildings.  I‘ll know shortly whether we‘re going back in and they can reschedule the vote or what we‘re going to do as far as business and letting us into the Capitol building itself, which I presume they‘re going to if they‘re opening the rest of the building.

ABRAMS:  Representative Ackerman, is there a procedure in place that basically says, if a plane enters restricted space in Washington D.C., Capitol is de facto evacuated? 

ACKERMAN:  If there is, nobody‘s been told about it on—even on our level.  We have in case, since 9/11, we have emergency cars with emergency numbers and it tells us in that in case of an emergency, we‘re to go to a specified building, which I will not repeat on the air...

ABRAMS:  Right.

ACKERMAN:  ... so that at least, you know, they know where a bulk of the members of Congress can be found.  That, to my knowledge, has not been superseded at any time, even since the first and now the second evacuation.  But let me say this.  As you walk down those long steps that you see in front of the Capitol, and you hear the rumblings of those U.S. you know Black Hawks or whatever we have up there, the F-16s or F-18s scrambling, it‘s a pretty loud roar and it is a frightening thing, but despite that people were coming out of the building.  This is, you know, 400 members of the House of Representatives... on our side of the building, in a very, very orderly, but quick fashion. 

ABRAMS:  Let me bring my viewers up to date on what‘s been happening.  About a half an hour ago, just over a half an hour ago, a plane entered restricted airspace over Washington D.C.  Fighter planes, custom Black Hawks were launched at 6:18.  The Capitol was evacuated.  The plane made its way out of the restricted area.  It is on the ground in Winchester, Virginia.  We‘re now told the plane was on its way from Delaware to Ohio, according to customs and border protection officials, but as Chip Reid pointed out earlier, any pilot who is flying in that area is supposed to know you can‘t fly in that area. 

This tape is just into us of the scene around the Capitol in the moments that it was evacuated about a half an hour ago.  You see some people running, some people walking.  This is unedited, I should say, because literally we just got it in and we are putting it on the air.  But Chip Reid, why don‘t you describe for us, since you‘re one of those people who was walking out, what it was like as everyone was evacuating at that moment? 

REID:  Well, I think the first response of us, as we saw the Senate floor suddenly evacuated and we heard the announcement down there from the Capitol...

REID:  I tell you the first response—the first thing anybody said was one of the journalists standing near me said I hate this, and that is kind of the reaction.  You know her initial assumption was that it was a false alarm but we had to go through this drill anyway.  But then in the back of your mind, somebody—something tells you, what if this isn‘t a false alarm and that is what gets everybody moving. 

But again, at least where I was, maybe it‘s the journalistic (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who are a little bit jaded about all this, but it wasn‘t much in the way of running or even brisk walking.  They were moving in the direction out the building. 


REID:  There was not anything approaching a sense of panic really and if anybody was panicked, they were hiding it pretty well because we‘ve been through this now for a third time. 

REID:  Go ahead.

ABRAMS:  There‘s Chip Reid right now.  We see a shot of Chip on his cell phone, probably talking to us a few minutes ago.  Representative Ackerman, you said the words that were used were run, run.  Is that exactly what was said by the Capitol police...

ACKERMAN:  That‘s after we got out the front door of the building.  People were yelling run as quick as you can.  Run south.  Because you know in this kind of situation, you have hundreds of people pouring out of the building and nobody knows what happened or what is happening.  You‘re not sure which way to go.  So the fact that they gave us a direction of—indicated that there is some plan in place.  I don‘t know if they were telling people on the Senate side, which is the north side of the Capitol that they should move north.  I don‘t know that. 

But we are at the block right between the office buildings right now at Independence Avenue.  I am—the block right in front of the U.S.  Capitol, there are people walking back in.  We have police barricades on a permanent basis, the slipups that are built into the ground now to stop anybody from charging into any of the buildings within the Capitol compound, within the grid as they call it, are being lowered to allow members to walk through and back into the Capitol. 

I would say probably 70 percent of the crowd has filled up completely, three blocks long from the Capitol south has mostly dissipated now.  There are still a lot of people milling around.  There are tourists who are outside of the building, some of whom are just standing there looking up at the Capitol Dome like with great relief that this wasn‘t the real thing, but you still have to wonder when a plane is 30, 40 miles away, that‘s only a matter of a couple of minutes at the speeds that planes travel how little time there is to get so many people as far as away as you can...

ABRAMS:  All right...

ACKERMAN:  ... and to do that without anybody being tripped or trampled is a miracle in and of itself. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to ask you about that in a minute, Representative Ackerman, if you don‘t mind just holding on for one moment.  I just want to read a statement from the U.S. Capitol police.  This just in to us.

Quote—“The Capitol complex was evacuated due to an unidentified aircraft entering into protected airspace around the U.S. Capitol building.  Fighter aircraft were deployed to intercept the aircraft and the intruder was eventually diverted.  White House and the Capitol complex were evacuated.  The congressional buildings are now being prepared for reentry.  I believe the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate went into a brief recess.” 

That‘s for certain.  That‘s the end of the statement from Officer Michael Kilo (ph) from the U.S. Capitol police and we‘re of course hearing from Representative Ackerman that of course they went into a recess as they left the building. 

Representative Ackerman, we have the luxury of hindsight now and that this was effectively a test case, as it turns out.  It sounds like you‘re pleased with the way things went. 

ACKERMAN:  Well the very fact that we‘ve driven back into the Capitol and we can go back to work and vote on matters of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) important to the American people and do our jobs is certainly a relief.  And the fact that this came off as well as it did even though it was not planned or intended I think is a good thing.  Very often they announce in advance that there will be a drill evacuating the Capitol or sounding the sirens.  They continuously do that through the workweek through the night wherever we are in the country.

We get our BlackBerry messages together and we know what‘s happening and we know when it‘s planned.  But when somebody comes into the room and bursts right into the House chamber where people are debating a bill or voting on a bill, you can imagine the kind of tension that sets off.  But I‘m pleased that people were able to get out of the building, people who were assisting people who had a difficult time walking or doing the steps.  I have a bad knee and someone came over to give me a hand.  It all went off very, very smoothly...

ACKERMAN:  ... that‘s something that was totally unexpected...

ABRAMS:  ... great to hear.

ACKERMAN:  ... and that everybody at least during the past half hour or so believed to be the real thing...

ABRAMS:  I‘ve just to clarify one thing because we keep getting conflicting reports about whether the White House was evacuated or not.  Scott McClellan, the White House spokesperson says—quote—“The alert system did not go off at the White House.”  He said that the Capitol runs on a separate system.  Some senior staff were only beginning to move as the alert level was temporarily changed to orange and then back to yellow and apparently, even Scott McClellan did not move himself, but it does seem that they were in the beginning processes of moving people out of the White House and I think that‘s why the confusion. 

Again, to recap, an alert and evacuation at the U.S. Capitol, some sense of concern, I think it‘s fair to say at the White House after a plane entered restricted airspace in Washington D.C.  It is now all clear. 

Chris Matthews continues our coverage with “HARDBALL”.  I‘ll be back tomorrow night.



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