updated 7/11/2005 10:14:43 AM ET 2005-07-11T14:14:43

Guest: Steve Pomerantz, Evan Kohlmann, Michael Chertoff, Charles

Gargano, Wendy Long, Nan Aron, Sean McLaughlin, Sean Baran, Dr. Laurence


NORAH O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST:  Coming up, the death toll rises in London to nearly 50 as police try to reach more bodies still buried in a subway tunnel. 


O'DONNELL (voice-over):  London police say bombs weighing less than 10 pounds each were left on the floor of the subways and the bus.  They were the work of several people but probably not of a suicide bomber.  So who were they? 

And how safe are America's buses and subways?  I ask Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. 

Plus President Bush said he'd wait to choose his pick for the Supreme Court until he got back from Europe.  Well he's back, but could he now have to pick two new justices? 

The program about justice starts right now.  


O'DONNELL:  Hello, everyone.  I'm Norah O'Donnell sitting in for Dan tonight.  Before we go to London for the latest on the terrorist attack, the hot topic tonight in Washington, will Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist retire?  President Bush just returned to Washington after attending the G8 summit.  He's back at the White House after signing a condolence book at the British embassy for the victims of yesterday's attacks. 

If Judge Rehnquist hands in his resignation, an announcement could come as early as tonight, but we just got a word a short time ago that the Supreme Court has closed for the day so we're going to keep you posted on any other developments throughout the show. 

But first, the day after suffering the worst bombing attacks since World War II, London went back to work today as investigators tried to find the terrorists responsible for yesterday's bombings.  Casualty totals in the attacks on three underground subway cars and one double-decker buses are estimated at about 700 including at least four Americans.  More than 50 people were killed, a number that seems certain to rise as police and emergency services crews are still bringing bodies out of one demolished train car 500-yards down an underground tunnel.

We're going to have more on the investigation in a moment, but first let's go to London and NBC News correspondent Janet Shamlian—


JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hello Norah.  As police sifted through the bombing sites here in London, the city went back to work today.  Restaurants, retail stores and many businesses had closed early after the attacks Thursday, but a defiant London was back on the job and open for business.  There were noticeably fewer people using the buses and rail lines here and taxis were harder to hail than usual. 

Near the blast sites, a somber scene, a number of people are still missing, as many as 50 by some estimates and today loved ones posted notes and photos, hoping somehow their friends and family members would turn up alive.  It was somewhat reminiscent of the search made in New York after 9/11. 

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles visited some of the injured in the blast in London hospitals today and they also visited with police and rescue workers, wanting to thank them for their efforts.  With the weekend ahead, it's likely to be a decidedly slower pace over the next few days here.  Police who had previously asked people to stay home today if they didn't have to work are encouraging London residents to return to their schedules on Monday. 

Norah over the weekend recovery crews are hoping to make their way into that rail car that they haven't been able to reach yet.  There is structural damage to the underground tunnel and right now they're in the process of repairing it in order to make it safe to go in—Norah. 

O'DONNELL:  So Janet, do officials think that the death toll will rise, given that I guess they believe 10, 15 people may be inside that subway car? 

SHAMLIAN:  Right.  And that's not an exact number but they know there are people in there and the number at 49 or 50 is just the confirmed dead, the bodies they've taken out already.  So they know there's a rail car in there.  The question is how many people are in there.  Of course, there's as many as 50 people missing.  They don't think that they have that many dead, but the number will go higher than 50 dead total. 

O'DONNELL:  All right.  NBC's Janet Shamlian in London.  Thank you very much.  

Now, the investigation into Thursday's terrorist atrocity is already well underway.  London has more security cameras than any city in the world.  Police are searching through thousands of hours of tapes for clues and at crime scenes, closed off to public view, forensics experts are gathering every bit of evidence they can that might lead to the killers.  But as London Police Chief Ian Blair explained at a news conference today, the investigation has a long way to go with many fundamental questions still to be answered. 


IAN BLAIR, LONDON POLICE CHIEF:  We have made no arrests at this stage.  We have got lots and lots and lots of witnesses.  There is nothing to suggest that there was a suicide bomber involved in this process.  On the other hand, nothing can be ruled out.  We are clear from the timings of these events that no, it could not have been done by one person.  But the question is, are they still at large?  They're either at large in the U.K., at large somewhere else or they're dead and I don't know which ones of those they are. 

No intelligence service however clever is perfect and all can obtain intelligence about everything.  We are talking about a city with eight million inhabitants, very few people can do this.  We have always known that very few people can do this, but communities fight back. 


O'DONNELL:  Well before the community can fight back, British police will need a lot more hard information.  Evan Kohlmann is an NBC News terrorism analyst and a consultant who's briefed the FBI, National Security Council, and Department of Homeland Security on terrorism issues and Steve Pomerantz is a former FBI assistant director, a national counter terrorism chief. 

Steve, let me ask you first, what kind of tasks do these investigators have in front of them?  How long is it going to take them to make sure they've got every piece of useful evidence that they can get?

STEVE POMERANTZ, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR:  Well they have a formidable task in front of them.  But I have to tell you from experience and working with the British, they're very good at what they do.  They're very good at gathering intelligence and they're very good at solving these incidents and they will—I'm quite confident they will get to the bottom of it. 

As far as time, that's very hard to predict.  These things, it's unfair to attach a timetable to them.  There's lots of different stages they have to go through.  They have a forensic evidence collection stage, which they're going through now and a recovery stage.  And simultaneous with that, I'm sure they have leads and they're sorting through the leads and meticulously approaching each one.  I mean I'm very, very confident that they're going to solve this in some reasonable amount of time. 

O'DONNELL:  Now, today, explosive experts with Scotland Yard said that terrorists used four bombs, each with about 10 pounds of explosives, small enough to have been carried in backpacks and likely to be set off by timing devices.  Does that give us any clue about who might be responsible? 

POMERANTZ:  Well it—yes, it does.  I mean a short answer is it does.  It doesn't limit it to any one particular individual or any one particular group, but it gives you an idea of their level of sophistication, using timing devices, for example, being able to assemble a bomb like that and be able to have it go off when you want it to indicates a certain level of expertise.  So yes, it gives us some leads.  It gives them some leads and I'm sure that will be helpful as they move forward.

O'DONNELL:  At this point they don't think that it's suicide bombers.  That's what the police said today. 

Now Evan let me ask you, there have been two claims of responsibility so far.  One yesterday from a group calling itself The Secret Organization of al Qaeda in Europe and then one posted today on an Islamic Web site by someone using the Web name nontazar6 (ph), who is believed to be associated with al Qaeda in Iraq and that new statement read in part—quote—“This is in response to crusaders from violating the sanctities of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.” 

Does this tell us anything about who may be responsible for this? 

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  Unfortunately, no, it doesn't.  Both these claims are both hoaxes.  Neither one comes from a legitimate source.  The first one that was posted yesterday was immediately dismissed by Islamic radicals and al Qaeda supporters on the Internet who normally would welcome such a communicae , but immediately dismissed it as a hoax.  In fact, what this latest video that's come out today, supposedly from someone calling himself nontazar6 (ph), that's not a source for al Qaeda information.

There is no such authentic source.  I don't know how that got reported, but it's misreported.  The authentic source for information about al Qaeda in Iraq is an individual that goes by the name Abu Masar Araqui (ph).  Anything that doesn't come from him is not considered as legitimate, so it's very easy for someone to go on the Internet and post a claim of responsibility. 

This video that was released today was created using Windows Media Player, Windows Movie Maker, something that by default comes with every Windows equipped computer in the world.  It doesn't show any expertise.  It doesn't how any prior knowledge.  Really what it is, these are sympathizers who are echoing their pleasure at events that have transpired over the last couple of days. 

O'DONNELL:  Understood, but there is one terrorist leader who is in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and he has said that he has wanted to launch terrorist attacks in Europe.  Could this be the result of his work or groups connected with him? 

KOHLMANN:  It could be and there are in indeed links between Zarqawi and the Madrid train cell, for instance.  But what is actually kind of curious about this is if it was designed by Zarqawi, then it was very poorly timed because this attack happened on the same day where Zarqawi's group released a video of the execution, the last will and testament of the Egyptian ambassador in Baghdad who was kidnapped by al Qaeda several days ago. 

In other words, they stole their own thunder.  They ruined their own media event.  If this was planned by them, then the timing wasn't carried out well.  I tend to think that much like Madrid, we're going to see that this cell in London that was responsible for this terrorist act was operating more or less independently with connections perhaps to al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates around the world.

Particularly right now of interest is the Moroccan Islamic combatant group, but just because these groups are involved doesn't mean that any orders came from any particular commander.  Just because perhaps the people that supported this act were inspired by Iraq, that doesn't mean that they necessarily have direct connections to Zarqawi and that needs to be kept in mind. 

O'DONNELL:  That's an interesting point, Evan.  Steve, let me ask you, British police have made hundreds of arrests since 9/11, though they've had very few convictions and a number of terror suspects have been released by the court.  Could this been—have been an attack by homegrown terrorists like the train bombings that killed almost 200 people in Madrid last year? 

POMERANTZ:  Oh for sure.  It certainly could have been an attack by homegrown terrorists.  I mean we have—what we've seen over the last decades is the spread of this ideology of radical fundamentalist terrorism.  It's the ideology of jihad and terrorism.  And we now have groups all over the world who are no longer waiting, if they ever were, waiting for specific orders from bin Laden or somebody else to carry out attacks. 

They understand the ideology.  They understand the mission.  They know what to do and when they're capable of carrying out attacks when they have the opportunity and the capability, they'll carry them out.  Many of them have been trained, came out of those al Qaeda training camps, but doesn't have to be a direct link.  These can be homegrown people.  We've seen people here arrested in this country who certainly were infected with ideology.  Yes, this could very well be homegrown individuals loosely affiliated or connected with some group. 

O'DONNELL:  Evan, we have intelligence experts on both sides of the Atlantic who today are saying there was no increase in terrorist chatter before this attack or the one in Madrid.  If our intelligence is not picking up chatter, then how are we going to protect ourselves if this were to happen in the United States or how are we going to pick this stuff up? 

KOHLMANN:  Well there might not have been extra chatter and I would agree with that.  I didn't see any extra chatter either in the days leading up to this.  However, the names of some of the people we're looking into now in connection with this latest attack are much like with Madrid, names that we've we've seen before.

One name that's coming up in particular is the name of Mohammed Jerbusey (ph), a Moroccan who lived in London for a long time, who was directly connected to the Madrid bombers.  Now even after the Madrid attack, even after the Spaniards identified this person as an associate of the Madrid bombers, British authorities continued to allow him to live in London unmolested.  And it was actually so easy to reach him that the “Sunday Mirror” and many other British publications went out and met this guy.

British law—British asylum law is not strong enough right now.  It's allowing terrorists to hide out in the United Kingdom.  If the Brits really want to solve this problem, if they want to try to seal up the loopholes that are allowing people to blow up trains in London, they need to close their asylum laws. 

They need to make sure that if someone issues an inciting video, tells people to go out and be suicide bombers or rob banks in order to wage jihad, those people need to be able to be prosecuted and successfully prosecuted.  Just a few months ago we saw it with the ricin cell that was prosecuted.  It doesn't always work well.  It doesn't always work effectively. 

O'DONNELL:  All right, Evan Kohlmann, stay with us.  Steve Pomerantz, thank you very much.

And coming up, subways and buses are of course a lot harder to secure than airports, but should we be doing more to make them safer?  We talk with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

And President Bush is back at the White House tonight.  Administration talk that Chief Justice William Rehnquist is about to retire.  We're keeping an eye on that story if an announcement will be made today, tomorrow?  We'll see. 

Plus Hurricane Dennis barrels toward Florida.  We'll get a live update on where the category 4 storm is and when it will make landfall. 

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Remember to include your name and where you're writing from.  We'll be right back.



O'DONNELL:  And the U.S. government raised the threat level a notch from code yellow to code orange for America's mass transportation systems after Thursday's bombings in London.  Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff assured Americans that this is a precautionary measure.  Now earlier today I spoke with Secretary Chertoff and I asked him if there is an imminent threat against this country. 

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY:  We haven't any specific credible information about an attack but we obviously observed what happened in London and relying upon our understanding of terrorist tactics.  We wanted to make sure that there was no copycat attack or no follow-on attack here, so we put these additional measured security elevations into place.

O'DONNELL:  But orange level means high risk of attack.  How do you square that with the fact that you say there's no specific information that there will be an attack? 

CHERTOFF:  Again, as I say, one of the things we try to do is learn lessons from the past and we've observed in the past that the terrorists do try to coordinate attacks or follow attacks with a second wave.  So again, as a matter of prudence, given what happened in London and given the fact that we've observed what happened in Madrid a year ago, we wanted to make sure we elevated the security level in a visible way so as to deter or intercept any copycat attack. 

O'DONNELL:  Well let me ask you about those potential for copycat attacks.  Just how vulnerable are America's trains and buses? 

CHERTOFF:  Well of course, we have in place already on a regular everyday basis, a very vigorous set of security measures.  We have detection equipment.  We have police.  We have K-9's.  We have gone around and strengthened vulnerabilities in our stations and along our trains, so that's a pretty substantial baseline of security that we have.  We're obviously always working to look for new technology and to increase our ability to make the system more secure. 


CHERTOFF:  But part of that element of security is our ability, when something like London comes along, to work seamlessly with transit authorities all across the country to raise the level of security as we've done in the last 24 hours. 

O'DONNELL:  Fifteen billion dollars was spent last year to protect America's airlines.  A small fraction of that, 250 million was spent for mass transit.  Critics say that more money needs to be distributed to protect our rail systems.  Senator Hillary Clinton made this comment last night. 


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  But the fact is the president's budget calls for a $50 million-cut in what we appropriated last year.  Last year, although Chuck and I wanted more money and the Senate unanimously passed a bill for $570 million, we got $150 million out of the Congress. 


O'DONNELL:  Secretary Chertoff, is a cut appropriate at a time like this, given what happened in London? 

CHERTOFF:  We really haven't cut the money and I think that kind of dramatically understates the amount of resources that the budget wants to put into rail security and other forms of security.  What we've done is we've put billions of dollars in the budget for urban security grants, hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure protection grants and this is money that's available for rail security as part of a comprehensive security package. 

You also have to remember, Norah, that we've got state and local transit authorities which put money into security, so this is not only a matter of federal resources which are very substantial, but resources with our partners and state and local government as well. 

O'DONNELL:  Finally, investigators say that police say timers, not suicide bombers were involved in these attacks in London.  Do we know that for sure and who do you believe is responsible? 

CHERTOFF:  Well I think, you know, part of the process that the British authorities are undergoing today is analyzing the crime scenes, going back and looking at what evidence they've been able to pick up with respect to yesterday's activities.  When it's all pulled together, I think we're going to have a much better picture of how the attacks were carried out and who was responsible. 

I think it's important not to jump to conclusions quickly.  I know the FBI has sent people over to assist with the forensic analysis and we'll be looking forward to unpacking everything we can about this plot in the hours and days to come.

O'DONNELL:  Secretary Chertoff, leading the Department of Homeland Security and keeping America safe.  Secretary Chertoff, thank you. 

CHERTOFF:  Thank you.

O'DONNELL:  Well the question remains, are we safe from an attack like the one in London?  Joining me now, vice chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Charles Gargano and Steve Pomerantz is back with us.  Steve, glad to see you, but let me start with you, Charles. 

The government raised the threat level at the same time they said our transportation systems are safe.  What's with this mixed message? 

CHARLES GARGANO, PORT AUTHORITY OF NY & NJ VICE CHAIRMAN:  Well it's not a mixed message.  I think we at the Port Authority are in a heightened state of alert and we should be following the events that took place yesterday in London.  All of our facilities, we have some of the largest transportation facilities in the country.  Airports, bridges, tunnels, pat (ph) system, and all of these systems we have enhanced our police surveillance, our police presence at all the facilities, including as the secretary said, K-9 dogs, our units as well as bomb-sniffing dogs. 

All of this has been enhanced and we're spending more money on security.  We received money from the federal government and we're spending Port Authority money as well.  We know how important it is.  But I can assure you that the Port Authority is well aware.  We went through these losses, as you all know, and incidentally our thoughts and prayers go with the families and victims who lost their lives.  The Port Authority knows their losses very well.  We are going to stay on this heightened alert.  It's important for us to do that and it's a prudent thing to do. 

O'DONNELL:  But Charles, if there is no credible threat against the United States, why aren't these things done every day?  Why isn't this the norm, this type of security?

GARGANO:  Well we think we have the norm type of security as you just referred to Norah.  I'm talking about today, we have even increased that height of alertness that we need at the Port Authority and it's a normal thing to do.  You know today, like thousands of people, I took a ride on one of our systems and—like Governor Pataki did and we talked to people.  And people are aware they're going to go on with their lives as normal but they are aware that something happened in London and they're more aware right now than they were yesterday and that's a normal reaction.

O'DONNELL:  Steve, let me ask you to bottom-line this. 


O'DONNELL:  Is a lot of this increased security really more about helping Americans psychologically than perhaps protecting them physically?  Is it possible to guarantee that we could stop one of these attacks? 

POMERANTZ:  Let me take the easy question first.  It is impossible to guarantee anybody's security.  Norah, there's nothing in life that's guaranteed.  There's no guarantee that I won't get hit by a car as I'm crossing the street when I leave my house.  It's not possible.  You can do reasonable things.  You can try to harden targets.  You can try to make it more difficult and most important of all, you can try to get intelligence—gather intelligence so you can you stop these incidents before they reach the point where you have to depend on a guard or a dog or a fence and that's the most important lesson here. 

But the bottom line, no, of course it's not possible to guarantee anybody's security or safety.  We live in a very complex, very vulnerable society and these terrorists want to hit us and they're going to find soft targets.  And as we harden one of our—one component of our critical infrastructure, they will probe for weaknesses in other parts.  So that's the reality of the situation we face.  That doesn't mean we can—we have—we can stop trying.  We can make efforts and to some extent we can make our society safer, but 100 percent, no.

O'DONNELL:  I still think this question remains and Charles, since you are in charge of protecting Americans here in New York and New Jersey, answer the question, the threat level was not raised after the Madrid bombing in 2004 that killed nearly 200 people.  What went on behind the scenes then and what's the difference now? 

GARGANO:  Well, whether the threat level was raised at that time or not, certainly, we at the Port Authority took notice of that and we're certainly aware that these things can happen.  And like I said before, it's prudent for us to do this.  Look Norah, we work very closely with the federal government, all law enforcement, state, city, local and we depend upon, as Mr. Pomerantz said, we depend upon intelligent information that is received by the Port Authority police and in conjunction with that information, we follow with whatever necessary preparedness there should be.  Now I'm sure that even—as I said before, after the Madrid bombing, whether there was a heightened state of alert or not, we were certainly aware of it. 

O'DONNELL:  And do you have enough money to protect the rail systems?  There is of course an argument that's being made by Senator Clinton that I posed to Secretary Chertoff that the president is trying to cut money when it comes to securing trains and metro authority.  Do you need more money? 

GARGANO:  Well we received $87.5 million from the federal government.  In addition to that, the Port Authority has spent $1 billion on security and it's one of our most important areas, of course, that we have to spend money on and we have spent $1 billion. 

O'DONNELL:  And Steve, let me ask you finally, do you think that the fact that the United States and the leaders together that are fighting the war on terror have not caught Osama bin Laden that that could be connected in some way to these attacks in London? 

POMERANTZ:  No, I do not, Norah.  I think it would be certainly a very significant thing to capture Osama bin Laden.  You know as a person with a criminal justice background like me, just for the sake of justice I want to see him tried for what he did.  But the reality is that there are other Osama bin Ladens out there and that's not the key to solving the problem. 

O'DONNELL:  All right.  Charles Gargano and Steve Pomerantz, thanks. 

And coming up, will he or won't he?  Supreme Court chief justice stays mum about whether or not he will step down.  We'll have the latest from former court insiders.


O'DONNELL:  Coming up, the big talk in Washington today is over something that hasn't happened, at least not yet.  Is Chief Justice William Rehnquist about to retire?  First, the headlines. 


O'DONNELL:  And President Bush is back in Washington tonight where there are rumors that after 33 years on the court, Chief Justice William Rehnquist is ready to step down.  Just one week ago, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor submitted her resignation to the White House, setting off a high stakes game of speculation over who Bush might name to replace her.  The White House said it would wait for Bush's return to the U.S. today from the G8 summit in Scotland to make any announcement about O'Connor's successor.

But there may be two vacancies on the high court to fill if Rehnquist redesigns, making Bush the first president since Richard Nixon in 1971 with two simultaneous Supreme Court slots to fill.  Joining me now two court watchers, Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative commentator and former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, and Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of liberal public interests and civil rights groups. 

Thank you to both of you for joining me.  Let me ask you first, Wendy, Walter Dellinger last night was speaking at the Heritage Foundation and he said that a Rehnquist retirement is a certainty and that President Bush was delaying his selection of a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor because he's waiting for the other shoe to drop and that is this retirement of Rehnquist.  What are you hearing? 

WENDY LONG, JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION NETWORK:  Well nothing is a certainty, Norah, and I think the one thing we've learned is that the only person who really knows is the chief and it's a function of his health and what he's able to do.  And when the rest of the world knows, then we'll find out. 

O'DONNELL:  Do you think it could come in the next several days? 

LONG:  Oh, certainly.  I think we were all thinking that it might come today and it very well could come next week, but maybe not. 

O'DONNELL:  There is what we call a full lid at the White House tonight, which means that we won't be hearing from the president again tonight, which would suggest that there is no announcement that is going to come tonight.  Nan Aron, let me ask you, this is a big deal if there are two retirements on the Supreme Court.  What does it mean if the president is going to get two choices, simultaneously? 

NAN ARON, ALLIANCE FOR JUSTICE:  Well, certainly this gives President Bush the opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court if he chooses, but I would say just replacing Sandra Day O'Connor who has been the swing vote on so many cases is enough action for the time being.  Two slots, two vacancies is just huge.  And obviously, it ups the stakes for the country and the Supreme Court. 

O'DONNELL:  It would be huge, not unprecedented because it did happen for Richard Nixon.  Wendy, let me ask you, twin vacancies could present the president with an intriguing choice.  One, he could appoint two conservatives and radically, perhaps, change the court.  There are a lot of big decisions coming up.  Or it could give him, as some people are speculating, the opportunity to replace Rehnquist with a conservative and then slide in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, which a number of conservative groups aligned with groups like yours say they don't like Gonzales.  Do you think that that could be maybe the win-win situation for President Bush? 

LONG:  Well it's a win-win situation for President Bush any time he has an opportunity to improve the Supreme Court, because as he has identified, the court has engaged in a lot of liberal judicial activism in recent years, and he promised to appoint justices in the mold of Scalia and Thomas who will help to correct some of those errors.  Times when the court doesn't observe things that are plainly in the Constitution and then makes up other things that aren't in the Constitution at all.  So regardless of whether he has one, two, three or nine appointments, I think he's going to do the same thing.  He has the same standard for the type of justice that he'd like to see. 

O'DONNELL:  But Wendy, this is exactly what I was saying, that Walter Dellinger was talking about last night.  That this is what the White House is waiting for.  This is what Dellinger is speculating, of course.  That this is the perfect opportunity.  The president can placate his conservative base by replacing Rehnquist with a conservative and then he can still get Gonzales in there and name the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court. 

LONG:  It's not really about placating anyone, Norah.  It's about his promise that he campaigned on in two elections and what he said he would do and what he wants to do, what he very much believes in.  It's his judicial philosophy of adhering to and being faithful to the Constitution.  And some of the decisions we've seen recently, the Kelo case up in Connecticut where it was decided that it's constitutional for a local government to seize someone's home and give it to private developers. 

Decisions like that I think are just a perfect case in point as to what the problems are at the court.  And I think President Bush is well aware of that, the people who voted for him are well aware of that, and I don't think that's going to change anything. 

O'DONNELL:  Nan, let me ask you, your organization and others is gearing up to fight any potential nominee or a potential nominee or two potential nominees.  Does it make it harder or easier if the president gets two choices and they'll have to move quickly and wrap all that up.  Does it hurt your cause?

ARON:  Actually, we aren't spoiling for a fight at this point.  We're hoping President Bush makes this a win for the country and for the Supreme Court.  We're counting on him to sit down next week, engage in meaningful consultation with the Democrats and emerge from those meetings with a consensus nominee.  And in this case, it could be one or if the chief justice retires, two. 

Two nominees who are moderate, who enjoy broad support from both Democrats and Republicans and who could easily sail through.  That would be the best thing for the country.  You know, what he could do is just tilt to his right but what he should do is realize that he could make some picks that could unify the country which would serve in the best interest of this very wonderful, but diverse nation and also do a wonderful service for the Supreme Court as well.

O'DONNELL:  All right.  Well we will be waiting and watching

certainly next week.  Congress is back.  The president is back.  We have

·         he is planning to meet with Senate leaders, both Democrats and Republicans could name a potential replacement next week to replace O'Connor.  We could hear more about Rehnquist's future, so we will be watching.  And Wendy Long, Nan Aron, thank you very much for coming on.

LONG:  Thank you, Norah. 

ARON:  Thank you so much.

O'DONNELL:  Now coming up, the latest from MSNBC Weather Center.  Hurricane Dennis storms towards Florida and the Gulf Coast.  It's already a category 4 and still has time to get stronger before making landfall. 

And your e-mails, send them to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Remember to include your name and where you're writing from.  Dan responds at the end of the show.


O'DONNELL:  Coming up, Hurricane Dennis heads for the Florida Keys and the Gulf Coast.  We're tracking the category 4 storm.  Where will it make landfall?  The forecast next.



O'DONNELL:  Dennis the menace, Hurricane Dennis is making its way toward the Gulf Coast right now, just under 150 miles south, southeast of Key West, Florida where residents there are busy making last minute preparations for the hurricane, boarding up their homes and businesses and heading inland.  Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, has already declared a state of emergency. 

Meanwhile, Dennis' heavy rains and forceful winds have already pounded Haiti, forcing residents from their homes, killing five in its path.  And 10 people are dead in Cuba where Dennis pummeled the island, delivering 145-mile per hour winds and it sent a guard tower flying at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

Joining me now for a look at what we can expect from Hurricane Dennis this weekend, MSNBC's chief meteorologist Sean McLaughlin—


SEAN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC CHIEF METEOROLOGIST:  Hi Norah.  Good to join you here on THE ABRAMS REPORT.  We're kind of been able to catch our breath and kind of take a look at what Dennis means so far according to some of the record books and take a look. 

Hurricane Dennis is the earliest category 4 to develop in the Caribbean since records have been kept in the late 1800's.  It's the strongest hurricane to develop so early in the year.  Remember the peak months of hurricane season, which starts June 1 runs through the end of November, the peak months are August and September when the waters in the Caribbean, in the Gulf of Mexico, in the Atlantic are the warmest. 

Some other tidbits.  Key West International Airport was closed at 5:00 p.m.  Airlines added extra flights to get all the tourists out.  Cudjoe Key Power outages, a lot of downed power poles in that part of the lower Keys.  Like you just said, President Fidel Castro reports about 10 dead in his country.  And 149-mile an hour wind gusts in Cienfuegos, which is that beautiful port city on the south shores of Cuba, very strong damage. 

Let's take a look at what's going on with Dennis right now.  On the infrared satellite, you can see feeder bands all the way up north in through south central and central Florida.  A little bit better look at in the past, still a category 4 hurricane.  Winds, 132 miles an hour.  There's the latest position.  A little bit over 100 miles off the tip of Key West, Florida.

Sustained winds, 132 miles an hour with gusts to 161, moving to the northwest at around 15 to 17 miles an hour.  If it maintains this current course, we can expect it to be past Cuba by later on this evening.  Tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon by about 2:00 p.m., it will well passed Key West, Florida. 

You will experience probably tropical force, if not hurricane force winds, as well as heavy rains.  Some of these winds will be battering the western coastline of Florida.  Now everybody wants to know about landfall.  We're predicting Sunday afternoon to—through Sunday evening, probably after 2:00 p.m. on Sunday and again, from Louisiana, back in through Mississippi, Alabama, over into the panhandle areas of Florida must be concerned now with Hurricane Dennis. 

We'll let you know once the warnings are issued for that part of the country.  Right now the warnings continue for the lower Keys.  There's a good look at the eye.  The clouds are changing color as the sun gets a little bit lower in the sky, but Norah, it continues to be a major hurricane.  We'll be here throughout the weekend keeping you updated right here on MSNBC. 

O'DONNELL:  And Sean, you'll be giving us updates all weekend long, right?


O'DONNELL:  All right.  Thank you very much. 

And coming up, a young American comes face-to-face with yesterday's terror attacks in London.  What he did to help after the break.


O'DONNELL:  It was just another day yesterday morning for one New Jersey college student spending time in London and a British doctor on his way to work.  But when terror struck there in London at the subways and the bus, suddenly everything changed for Sean Baran and Dr. Laurence Buckman.  They both sprung into action, rushed to the aid of countless victims just after the bombs went off.  Sean was on a bus heading toward the Edgware Road station.  He immediately introduced himself to emergency workers as an EMT ready to help. 

He joins me now in the studio and also with us by the phone from London is Dr. Laurence Buckman who treated victims on the scene.  Sean, let me start with you.  You were on the bus heading to this station.  Was the scene chaotic? 

SEAN BARAN, HELPED EMERGENCY WORKERS IN LONDON:  No, actually it wasn't chaotic.  The British emergency services were extremely decisive.  They managed their resources extremely well.  They were able to set up their instant command post in the Hilton hotel very quickly.  And as the resources were coming in, they got them to the correct places.  They began triaging the patients, getting the people who needed to go to the hospital first to the hospital as quickly as possibly. 

O'DONNELL:  You're in college, but you're an EMT.  What kind of injuries were you treating? 

BARAN:  We were treating everything from smoke inhalation, which was pretty much prevalent among everybody there, to lacerations to the face, burns, and a particular type of injury where—when glass explodes and it is very hot.  The shards will enter into the skin and it makes kind of a splattering of small burns and that was probably the most prevalent types of injuries. 

O'DONNELL:  Dr. Buckman, I understand that you were on the tube when the explosion happened but you were miles from the actual blast.  Did you know immediately what had happened and what did you do next? 


I had no idea that there had been an explosion.  We were told to get off the tube and it was miles from where I was trying to get to.  In fact, I was trying to get to the British Medical Association building in Tavistock Square, which is where the bus bomb blew up.  But of course, it hadn't happened quite yet.  So I got off the tube, got in a taxi, and during the time I was in the taxi, the bus bomb blew up outside the place I was trying to get to. 

O'DONNELL:  And Sean, let me ask you, how many people did you end up treating? 

BARAN:  There was about 60 people in the Hilton hotel. 


BARAN:  Yes.  It was a large number of people. 

O'DONNELL:  Range of injuries? 

BARAN:  The range of injuries was relatively constant.  The people who were transferred to the Hilton hotel were walking wounded.  Pretty much anyone who could walk out of the tube station walked over to the Hilton hotel.  The people with the much more severe injuries and the fatalities were treated directly in the tube station and were transferred straight from the station to the hospitals via ambulance, so they were much more minor compared to the ones...

O'DONNELL:  Now Sean, you are a trained EMT, but you are young. 

You're in college.  Was this a troubling experience for you? 

BARAN:  It was on a much larger scale than anything I've ever dealt with before, but the injuries were nothing that I haven't seen in the past.  The fact that it was a terrorist attack definitely was traumatizing for a lot of the people involved.  However, I believe that the training I've received just like the training of all the other people who were involved really just kind of kicked in and took over.  So we weren't really thinking about—weren't reflecting very much on how horrible the attack was while we were there.  We were just trying to solve the problem. 

O'DONNELL:  Dr. Buckman, have you seen anything even remotely like this before in your career? 

BUCKMAN:  Never.  The individual cases were just the sort of thing you'd see in an emergency room, so there were no big surprises.  It's just I've never seen so many people all in one go and so many of them so badly injured.  And I think that was the surprise, was just how many people there were. 

O'DONNELL:  Dr. Buckman, you are in London.  How are you doing today?  What's the scene like and would you take the tube again? 

BUCKMAN:  Yes, I'll certainly be taking the tube when I next need to.  There's no other way of traveling.  I think most Londoners are fairly stoic about it.  We all knew this was coming.  We all suspected it would be on the tube.  No one is that surprised.  I don't think anyone was expecting a bus bomb, however.  I think Londoners are fairly well prepared for this kind of thing.  Everybody knows to look for packages.  Obviously, you never know when it's going to happen and the tube system is wide open to potential terrorism. 

O'DONNELL:  All right.  Dr. Laurence Buckman and Sean Baran, thank you very much for joining us.  And we will be right back.


O'DONNELL:  And that does it for us tonight.  Dan will be back here on Monday.  I will be in Washington. 

And coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Chris talks with Watergate reporter Bob Woodward on his new book.  Have a great weekend and good night.



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