updated 7/13/2005 10:21:20 AM ET 2005-07-13T14:21:20

Guest: Dave Holloway, Robin Holloway, Tito Lacle, Victoriaq Toensing,

Aitan Goelman, Charles Shoebridge

DAN ABRAMS, CNN ANCHOR:  Coming up, breaking news out of London.  Police make an arrest in connection with last week's bombings. 

And the key suspect in the Natalee Holloway disappearance is back in court in Aruba.  His lawyer is trying to get him released.  But does the prosecution have new evidence against him? 

Plus, Karl Rove under fire.  We tackle the question everyone's asking.  Did he actually break the law by speaking to a reporter about a CIA operative?

And Modesto police rush to the former home of Scott and Laci Peterson after a night with red stains is found in the backyard by the home's new owner.  We talk to him and to the police investigating.  The program about justice starts now. 

Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, the investigation into the London terror bombings moving with lightning speed.  Police raids on homes in Northern England.  The reported discovery of explosives in a car, in a resident and an arrests.  They also believe the four men who killed at least 52 people and wounded 700 more in London last week may have been suicide bombers, the first in Western Europe, and they fear other suicide attacks could follow. 

Here's what we know so far.  The raids in the city of Lees and the town of Luton come after police found property belonging to one bombing suspect in the wreckage of the blasted bus.  In Leeds, police arrested a man believed to be a relative of one of the suspects and reportedly found a significant amount of explosive material at an address.  More explosives reportedly found in a car in Luton where the suspects boarded a train to London.  And all four suspects now believed to be British citizens of Pakistani origin and were recorded on closed-circuit TV cameras in the King's Cross subway tube stations less than half an hour before three of the bombs were detonated. 

Peter Clarke of the Scotland Yard's anti-terror division.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER CLARKE, SCOTLAND YARD:  We have since found personal documents bearing the names of three of those four men close to the seats of three of the explosions.  As regard to the man who is reported missing, some of his property was found on the Route 30 bus in {      } Square. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining us now from London, NBC News Terrorism and Security Analyst Charles Shoebridge. 

Charles, thanks for coming back.  We appreciate it.

All right.  So bottom line is, it sounds like they're making real progress here.  Is this based on mistakes made or just good police work?

CHARLES SHOEBRIDGE, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST:  I think it's based on good police work and the fact that the suicide bombers - and I believe they were suicide bombers - have clearly made no effort whatsoever to keep their identity secret.  This is often the case with suicide bombings around the world.  Remember, that this is the first instance we've had of deliberate suicide, so it would appear, in Western Europe.  But certainly in the Middle East and elsewhere it's quite common for people to carry documentation.  After all, they want to boast of the martyrdom. 

They have become shihed (ph).  That's to say the Arabic for martyr.  And they want to boast about that.  If they had intended carrying out further bombings, of course, they would be very foolish indeed to have carried this kind of documentation.

ABRAMS:  The bus sounds like that may have been really a key here because, of course, three of the bombs went off in the tube station and the other one in the bus.  Do you believe that this bus bomb was an accident?

SHOEBRIDGE:  I think it certainly - well, I think it probably wasn't part of the designed plan.  If you look at the other bombings, they were all approximately eight minutes to the west, to the east and to the south of this intersection at King's Cross.  It's the busiest in London.  There is a line running north as well, these are subway lines, but that line was suffering from a disrupted service on that day in any case. 

It therefore maybe indicates that this second - the fourth suspect, who eventually got on the bus was forced upon the evacuation of the stations by the actions of his three colleagues, to actually then boarded a bus.  And from what we know, witnesses actually saw a man delving up to 12 times inside a bag on that bus.  That was the same suspect.  It looks like he deliberately exploded that bomb on a bus because there were no other tubes running at the time. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  All right, let's listen to this.  This is another piece of sound from Peter Clarke from the anti-terror division. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLARKE:  One of the men who had set out from West Yorkshire was reported missing by his family to the central casualty bureau shortly after 10:00 last Thursday, July the 7th.  We have now been able to establish that he was joined on his journey to London by three other men. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So it sounds like the family of one of these guys is helping the authorities. 

SHOEBRIDGE:  Yes, it does.  And that raises a number of questions which haven't quite been answered yet and which, of course, only the family can know.  It's - remember, these devices were exploded around 9:00, a little bit before and after in the morning.  When already, on hour later, apparently the family is phoning up Scotland Yard saying, our relative is missing.  And it sounds almost as through - I mean there's a number of, obviously, scenarios we can speculate about here. 

But possibility, and again, this has happened in the past in locations around the world, where perhaps a suicide bomber, would-be bomber, has said his farewell to somebody or even admitted what he's about to do.  This man, we are told, was missing for some days.  But having been missing for some days, that doesn't seem to me anyway, at this stage, to be any reason why his family would have thought, bear in mind he lives in Leeds, which is some 200 miles north of London, why he would have been on that bus or in those chief station explosions.  So although we've made great progress today, four bombers, it would appear are now out of the equation.  But nonetheless, an awful lot of questions still to be answered. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask you real quick about another incident today regarding terrorism.  Three Israeli women killed when a teenage Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a shopping mall in the coastal city of Netanya.  At least 30 people were injured.  Among them, a badly burned six-year-old girl.  Israel's blaming Islamic jihad for the blast.  The group has refused to abide by a cease-fire there.

The question is, do you think that the reason there haven't been almost any suicide bombings in Israel in the past months, six months or so, is because of this cease-fire or the cease-fire in conjunction with the fact that Israel is simply stopping and catching a lot of the people who are getting ready to do this stuff?

SHOEBRIDGE:  I think probably a combination of the both.  We need, even in this country and throughout the word, to take preventive measures.  Such as, in Israel, we've got a - what we are told is a very effective war and fence having been constructed to stop suicide bombers coming in to Israel from what could be occupied territories.  But on the same token, as in the way in Israel - or the Middle East, that a cease-fire has perhaps given hope and removed people's grievances to some degree. 

We also, in this country, need to tackle not just the attacks taking place, but also to stop the recruitment occurring of new suicide bombers and attackers to replace those killed and arrested.  And you know what that means . . .

ABRAMS:  Politics.

SHOEBRIDGE:  We have to take an approach at every level.

ABRAMS:  Yes, politics with an aggressive law enforcement technique.  It seems to be helping a lot in Israel even though there was a bombing today. 

Charles Shoebridge, thanks very much.  Appreciate it. 

SHOEBRIDGE:  You're very welcome.

ABRAMS:  Now to the latest in the investigation, the disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba.  Dutch suspect Joran van der Sloot waits in a prison cell for three appeals judges to decide is he going to walk.  His attorneys were in court today appealing his recent 60 day custody extension. 

Also in court, brothers Satish and Deepak Kalpoe.  Both were arrested on June 9th with van der Sloot on suspicion of the murder and kidnapping of Natalee.  The brothers were released last week but the prosecution is saying, we want them rearrested.  The Kalpoe brothers and van der Sloot were among the last to see Natalee before she disappeared in the early morning hours of May 30th, over seven weeks ago. 

Joining me now with the latest is, once again, Tito Lacle, investigative reporter with the island's “Aruba Today” newspaper. 

All right, Tito, I've got to get one thing out of the way here, all right.  A lot people were reporting - or apparently one place is reporting and then everyone else is interviewing that person about this report that Joran van der Sloot actually confessed to something early on in this investigation and that's what the authorities have on them.  Is your reporting corroborating that?

TITO LACLE, “ARUBA TODAY” REPORTER:  No, we're not.  We're not even touching that part yet unless we speak to the lawyer of Joran van der Sloot.  We'll get to that a little bit later today probably.  Every focus, however, was, as far as my sources tell me, and one of the lawyers being that one, that new information is based on traffic on the Internet of the two Kalpoe brothers and nothing to do with Joran van der Sloot.  That is what we got yesterday and was brought up in court this morning actually. 

ABRAMS:  Well let me play a piece of sound from one of the Kalpoe brother's attorneys because they were there in court.  This was a closed hearing in court today.  And as a result, the only people who were there were the lawyers and the defendant and these other two who they're trying to have rearrested, the Kalpoe brothers, and Joran van der Sloot. 

Do we have that sound?  OK.  All right. 

So Tito, let me ask you about what you know about what happened in this hearing.  Do you have a sense one way or the other as to which way the judges seem to be leaning with regard to, a, releasing Joran and, b, re-arresting the brothers? 

LACLE:  From what I hear from the lawyers that I spoke to this morning, they're all very confident, including the Kalpoe brother lawyers, that they have nothing knew on them.  For meaning, one thing that they will not be re-detained, according to the lawyers.  As far as Joran van der Sloot is concerned, the lawyer still says that his client maintains his innocence.  So for him, as far as we know, it could go either way.  All we have to do is wait until Thursday because the judge today goes back to Curacao (ph) earlier today and talks with the other two judges in Curacao. 

ABRAMS:  All right, here's what Satish Kalpoe's attorney said today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The investigation is moving forward and nothing knew in respect to my client.  It is still - we are the - in the still same position, as to my client.  And I can only speak for my client, you know.  There are developments but not pertaining to my client. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But, Tito, what the prosecutors are arguing is, even the evidence that they had before was enough to keep them in custody and they're saying that the lower court judge made a mistake, right?

LACLE:  That is correct.  They reaffirmed that they have - the information is sufficient.  They do not agree with - that's one of the reasons they, of course, appealed.  But what Satish's lawyer, Deepak's lawyer also confirmed today that he have heard nothing - but nothing new that they could use against his client to again re-detain him.

ABRAMS:  Right.

All right, Tito Lacle.  Once again, thanks for coming back on the program.  Appreciate it.

Coming up, we're going to talk to Natalee's father, along with Natalee's stepmother about all the latest developments. 

And the White House breaks its silence defending the president's top adviser.  Did Karl Rove break the law by talking to a reporter about a CIA operative.  We'll talk to one of the lawyers who helped write the law.

Plus, Modesto police investigating a 10 inch knife with red stains on it found at the house where Scott Peterson used to live with Laci.  We're going to talk to the home's new owner and to the authorities investigating that knife.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLETTE CASSIDY:  MSNBC keeps you up to the minute every 15 minutes. 

Good afternoon, everyone.  I'm Colette Cassidy.

We are just learning of a potential problem involving the space shuttle Discovery.  Late this afternoon, a protective cover over the cockpit window fell the length of the shuttle and crashed into the orbiting maneuvering system of the rocket.  Officials say there was no immediately damage to the rocket motor but protective heat tiles were damaged.  NASA, though, says it believes it can fix the tiles without delaying tomorrow's launch, which is set for 3:51 p.m. Eastern Time.  But there weather may also be a problem.  There's a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms at launch time. 

And a new tropical storm is gaining strength in the Atlantic.  Emily is expected to develop into a hurricane and threaten the Caribbean by Thursday and possibly hit the U.S. early next week.

That's your news right now.  Now back to THE ABRAMS REPORT.

ABRAMS:  We're back with more on the pending appeals court decision in the Aruba case of missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway.  The question is, will Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot be released after more than a month in custody?  And will those two brothers, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, be rearrested. 

Joining me now is the Aruban attorney hired by Natalee's family. 

Benvinda De Sousa joins us once again.

Thanks for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it. 

Let me ask you, how closely are the prosecutors keeping in touch with you?  I mean, are they keeping you up-to-date as to exactly what they're going to be arguing, what evidence they have, et cetera?

BENVINDA DE SOUSA, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S FAMILY'S ATTY.:  Well, we have, like I've said before, a close communication with the prosecution.  They keep us informed as much as possible on new evidence and any other arguments that they will be using in the hearings.  But I say as much as possible because, remember, first and foremost, their priority is not to jeopardize the investigation. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Are they feeling confident that Joran van der Sloot is going to be released? Well, before you answer that, let me let you listen to this piece of sound.  This is from his attorney coming out of court earlier today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONIO CARLO, JORAN VAN DER SLOOT'S ATTY.:  We appealed the decision of the judge commissioner of last week.  We (INAUDIBLE) the detention of our client was prolonged to 60 days.  We argued that, you know, there's no legal basis to continue detaining our client. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Do you get the sense that the prosecutors are concerned that Joran van der Sloot might actually be released?

DE SOUSA:  Well, there's always a possibility that that could happen but (ph) concern.  You know, it's a panel of three independent judges who will decide over the evidence presented and they're waiting as much as the defense attorneys - lawyers are waiting to see what the outcome will be. 

ABRAMS:  And what about with regard to the other Kalpoe brothers.  The

prosecutor trying to get them rearrested.  It seems that that's a tough

·         I mean, just as an outsider lawyer and not someone who knows Aruban law the way you do, but as an outsider, I would think that that would be a tough argument to make to an appeals court, a tough one to win.  Am I wrong as a legal matter?

DE SOUSA:  Well, you're not totally wrong, no.  It's a tough call but the prosecution still feels that they have enough in order for these two brothers to be rearrested and that's why they appealed because, to begin with, if they didn't feel they had enough, they would not have appealed. 

ABRAMS:  Here's Deepak Kalpoe's attorney. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUUD OFFRINGA, DEEPAK KALPOE'S ATTY.:  My opinion is that the decision that this court is going to take or will take will be the same position as it was taken on the 4th of July.  I'm pretty confident about that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Pretty confident about the fact that his clients are going to remain free.  Is it fair to say he would know or is this just spin?

DE SOUSA:  Well, you know, on both sides, the prosecution, as well as the defense lawyers, speculate on - based on what they think that the three judges will decide.  But again, it remains in the independent panel of three judges' hands to review all the evidence and review the case and decide whether or not the first judge of instruction was right about his discussion.  It's something that both parties are awaiting.

ABRAMS:  Yes and we'll find out on Thursday. 

Benvinda, thanks again for coming back.  We appreciate it.

DE SOUSA:  You're very welcome.  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Equusearch, a Texas-based team of volunteer searchers invited to Aruba by Natalee's family, has been scouring the island for nearly three weeks.  They've come up with little more than some shoes, clothes, jewelry, apparently all unrelated to Natalee.  Now after announcing that they'd like to leave the island tomorrow, the team today changed their plans and they will remain in Aruba indefinitely continuing the search. 

Joining me now, Natalee's father and stepmother, Dave and Robin Holloway. 

Thanks again for coming back.  We appreciate it. 

Dave, let me start with you. 

This has got to be a trying time.  I mean there are these closed court proceedings that you cannot attend where they are arguing, discussion whether the only suspect in custody is going to be released.  It's got to be a tough time. 

DAVE HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S FATHER:  It is a very tough time.  And my focus has always been on the search end of it.  And that was some very good news today that Tim Miller and his group decided to extend until at least Sunday. 

ABRAMS:  And what about the legal side of it?  How updated are you kept?  How much do you know or not know?  Are you satisfied with the information that you've been getting?

DAVE HOLLOWAY:  As Benvinda had indicated earlier, the details of the investigation are not released.  And if they are, they're released through Benvinda and then she communicates those - that information to us. 

ABRAMS:  Right. 

All right, Robin, let me ask you about this - the Equusearch team. 

ROBIN HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S STEPMOTHER:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  Third time that they've said they were going to stop and, you know, then they keep going.  Volunteers.  We've got - let me play a little sound from them first and then let me ask you a question. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM MILLER, EQUUSEARCH VOLUNTEER:  We just don't think that we've covered everything that we can cover.  Our divers went back.  We still have two of our divers here.  There's some other areas that we really want to look at a little bit closer. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  These guys are die-hards.  I mean, these guys seem to just be unwilling to give up, huh?

ROBIN HOLLOWAY:  Oh, yes.  That was the best news we could hear today, other than bringing Natalee home, is that they're staying indefinitely.  And apparently they have a lot more places to look that need to be searched in more detail and we're just - we're so glad they're staying.  They know how glad we are.

ABRAMS:  Well, what is it about them that seems to - every time I talk to you all or I talk to Beth, there's a lot of confidence that seems to come when you talk about this team.  What is it about them that makes you feel so confident that they're going to do everything that they can and do it in a confident manner?

ROBIN HOLLOWAY:  They are looking everyone.  They're relentless.  And I'm confident.  If they say Natalee's not on the island, I think they have looked everywhere on the island.  I mean, they're just - they're great guys and just from their hearts they just - they truly, truly want to find Natalee and they're awesome.  Just - we love them . 

ABRAMS:  Dave, how you holding up?

DAVE HOLLOWAY:  Well, OK right now.  But there's days that not so good.  We have the roller coaster rides every now and then and I know this session coming up, the decision Thursday, you know, we may have another roller coaster ride then, depending on the results.  But, you know, I'm a determined person and, you know, I just get up every day and thank God that we still have the strength to carry on and appreciate all the friends and family back home that have supported us.  And without that, we'd have had to pack our bags the first week and I'm just - the deepest my heart just appreciative of every one that's come through for us. 

ABRAMS:   I said this to your ex-wife and I want to just say it to you.  I think that you all, both sides, are doing exactly what parents around America would say that they would do if they were in your position, and that is doing everything they can to find their daughter.  And I salute you.  And I wish you the best of luck.  And we'll keep following it. 

ROBIN HOLLOWAY:  Thank you. 

DAVE HOLLOWAY:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Now to the growing concern in Washington over whether a top White House official may have broken the law.  Back in 2003, the Bush administration said it would fire anyone involved in outing CIA Agent Valerie Plame.  But did that promise include Karl Rove.  Now, we now know Rove did refer to Plame and her CIA affiliation, though he says not by name, that is to “Time” reporter Matthew Cooper.  The question we're going to tackle is, where do you draw the line as to what would make it a crime. 

But first, joining me now is MSNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent Norah O'Donnell with the latest.

Hey, Norah.

NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hey to you.

Well, you know, Karl Rove has been called Bush's brain, the architect.  Well now, with this news that he was involved, at least in some sway in talking about Ambassador Joe Wilson's wide, today Democrats pounced, smelling a second term presidential scandal.  Republicans countered saying, Democrats are just launching a public smear campaign. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONNELL, (voice over):  Nearly two years ago, the president promised to punish anyone in the White House caught leaking classified information. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If the person has violated laws, that person will be taken care of.

O'DONNELL:  But today, the president in the Oval Office refused to answer whether he would fire Karl Rove.  But after that silence from the president, his spokesman quickly made clear Mr.  Bush still trusts Rove. 

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  Any individual who works here at the White House has the president's confidence. 

O'DONNELL:  Still, Democrats today launched a full-blown attack. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY:  I believe very clearly that Karl Rove ought to be fired. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let's bring Rove here, put him under oath and let him tell us what he has to say. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The White House should not aid and abet those within it in exposing CIA agents. 

O'DONNELL:  Taking up Rove's defense, Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman, who today said in a statement “once again so many Democrat leaders are taking their political queues from the far left Moveon wing of the party.  The bottom line is Karl Rove was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise.”

Plame, seen here posing for a photograph, is married to Ambassador Joseph Wilson.  He claims the White House blew his wife's secret cover in retribution for his raising doubts about the president's case for war the Iraq.  Though Rove spoke to “Time” magazine's Matt Cooper about Plame, Rove's lawyer says he never violated the law.  And legal experts agree, it may be tough to prove Rove did anything wrong. 

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  He'd have to know the individual, mention her by name, and know that she was a covert agent and know that the CIA affirmatively was trying to protect her.  According to his attorney, Mr. Rove did not have that knowledge. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'DONNELL:  Well, Ambassador Joseph Wilson disagrees.  Today I spoke with him.  They are his first public comments since this revelation about Rove's involvement.  Ambassador Wilson telling MSNBC “I have said all along that Rove was intimately involved in the smear campaign launched after the Novak article appeared.  Now to find out he talked to Matt Cooper before then only compounds the outrage at the abuse of power.”

Wilson today, to me, called officials in the White House cowards, he said, for failing to own up to the involvement of Karl Rove.  This is Ambassador Wilson's point of view.  And he said, this is a case that is not just about leaking the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative, but also, he said, a coverup involving a web of lies surrounding the Iraq War. 

Dan.

ABRAMS:  Norah, hey, thanks for filling in for me the other day on Friday.  You did a great job. 

O'DONNELL:  Thank you.  It was my pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, did Karl Rove break the law?  We're going to talk to one of the people who drafted the negotiated the law in question.

And later, the new owners of Scott and Laci Peterson's home finds a knife with red stains on it in the back yard.  The police are investigating and we're going to talk to the homeowner and the Modesto police coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the debate over the legality of Karl Rove's actions.

And a knife with red stains on it found at the home of Laci and Scott Peterson.  The new owner of the house found it.  He and the Modesto police are going to join us first the headlines.

CASSIDY:  MSNBC keeps you up to the minute every 15 minutes. 

Good evening, everyone.  I'm Colette Cassidy.

And we are following a late-developing problem with the shuttle Discovery.  A protective windshield cover fell loose, crashes into the orbiting maneuvering system of the rocket.  There is no immediate damage to the rocket but protective heat tiles outside the unit were damaged.  NASA officials say they should be able to fix the problem in time for tomorrow scheduled launch at 3:51 p.m. Eastern Time.

And President Bush met today with the bipartisan group of four senators to discuss a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.  Minority Leader Harry Reid said the president didn't give us any names.  The president says he isn't going to rush his decision on a nominee. 

And convicted sex offender Joseph Duncan was formerly charged with first degree murder and first degree kidnapping in the mid May attacks that left three people dead and two children missing from a rural Idaho home.  All six crimes can carry the death penalty in that state.

Now back to THE ABRAMS REPORT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president.  They wouldn't be working here at the White House if they didn't have the president's confidence. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The president standing behind Karl Rove today.  It's now known that Rove says he referred to CIA Agent Valerie Plame, though not by name, to a “Time” magazine reporter.  What's still unclear at this point is, did he break the law.

Joining me now to discuss it, former Federal Prosecutor Victoria Toensing, who was in charge of drafting the law in question about protecting the identities of intelligence officials.  And who, we should say, is also a friend of reporter Robert Novaks.  And former Federal Prosecutor Aitan Goelman.

All right.  So, Victoria, your thinking, based on what we know, that it's unlikely that Rove violated any law, right?

VICTORIA TOENSING, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, I can't even see how he possibility could have violated the law.  Look, there are a number of elements the prosecutor has to prove.  We made it that way because when we wrote the law, we were trying to stop the Philip Ages (ph) of this world who was a renegade CIA officer who had published names of CIA personnel throughout Europe for assassination.  We were not trying to stop a typical article like Novak wrote or like Judith Miller was thinking about writing, or that Matt Cooper was writing.  So it was very important to us to make high thresholds. 

The journalists can hardly ever be accused of violating the law.  But even the person who provides the information has to have a very high threshold in order to get indicted.  Number one, the government must be taking affirmative measures to protect the identity.  The person must know that the government is doing that and then intentionally give over the information.  And there's more elements besides that but that's just an overview, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right, let me - let's read it.  “Whoever having authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent intentionally, discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identified such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agents intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

TOENSING:  And one more important thing, then there's the definition of covert agent.  You know how that goes in legislation.  We'll put everybody to sleep if we read the statute.  But basically the agent, in order to be covert, has to have had an overseas assignment, either at the time of the disclosure or within five years.  And I'm just delighted to hear that Joe Wilson's talking because I think the press ought to call him and ask him when was her last assignment.   It's a very important element. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, well, she can answer that question for herself.  I mean, he doesn't have - you know.  I mean, you know. 

TOENSING:  Well, then she's talking.  He's talking to the press, she's not.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but, you know, if she can talk, she should be able to talk for herself. 

Hey, Tom, what do you make of this?  I mean Victoria is basically saying, look, the law, as its written, indicates there's basically no way Karl Rove could be violating the law. 

AITAN GOELMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  The law is written to require a high standard, Dan.  But I don't believe it's that high.  I mean, one of the things that Karl Rove's lawyer has been saying is that his client didn't name Valerie Plame.  And I know that Karl Rove kind of used the same verbage last year when he said he didn't name anyone.  That's not what the statute requires.  It requires any information that identifies someone. 

You know, it can't be the situation that you can do an end (ph) runaround the statute by saying, you know, well her name rhymes with blame and, you know, she's blond and she's married to this guy and allow a reporter to - or anybody to identify that person. 

TOENSING:  Yes, but you're missing the key elements.  I mean, you're just talking one element that you . . . 

GOELMAN:  I'm talking the element that Karl Rove's been talking. 

TOENSING:  You know, as you well know, as a former federal prosecutor, there's about eight element that have to be proven for this crime.  I know, I wrote them. 

GOELMAN:  You may be right, there may not - they may not be able to show those elements but I don't know how you know that at this time from the Karl Rove e-mail.  I mean, clearly she's somebody who is - you know, you say well she's not - who knows whether she's had an assignment - a foreign assignment within five years.  I don't know.  But I do know that, you know, the CIA told Robert Novak that if he published this, it could create problems when she went abroad again. 

TOENSING:  No they didn't.  No.  That's not what they said.

GOELMAN:  That's from your article. 

TOENSING:  No, no.  No.  My article didn't say it that way.  My op-ed piece says that they told Novak, well, she's not going to have another assignment, so . . .

GOELMAN:  That it could create problems for her if she goes abroad again. 

TOENSING:  Anyone who's dealt in Washington with the agencies, as many people around here have for, you know, a good, long time.  Any good reporter knows that when the agency doesn't want you to report something, they threaten you with prosecution or they get the number one or number two person to call you.  Bob Novak has been on the record as saying, if they'd done that, I would not have published it.  I've been there.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but that's a - that's a defensive Robert Novak.  I mean that's - and, look, and I've had - I have a lot of problems with how Novak is handling this.  I've said it many times.  But that's just a defensive . . .

TOENSING:  No, it's not, it's an element.  You have to understand that. 

It's the affirmative measures of hiding her identity.

ABRAMS:  No, no.  No, no.  It's not an element that whether the CIA . .

.

TOENSING:  Yes, it is.

ABRAMS:  Would call someone and tell them not to publish it.

TOENSING:  Sure it is.

ABRAMS:  That's not - what element of the crime involves the CIA calling the reporter and warning them ahead of time?

TOENSING:  Because the CIA has to take affirmative measures to hide her identity.  And if when told that it's going to be published and they shrug . . .

ABRAMS:  But it doesn't have to be - but it doesn't have to be that. 

The affirmative measures can be anything, Victoria.  They . . .

TOENSING:  No, they can't, Dan.  Come on, I know what it's like.  I had

. . .

GOELMAN:  That law can't only apply to Jason Voin (ph).

TOENSING:  I was chief counsel over the intelligence committee. 

ABRAMS:  I don't care.  That's irrelevant.  But you're still misstating the law. 

TOENSING:  Yes, but I - no, I'm not. 

ABRAMS:  I mean it's - of course you are.

TOENSING:  No, I'm not. 

ABRAMS:  You're suggesting to me that the only way that the Robert Novak could get this information . . .

TOENSING:  I didn't say it's the only way. 

ABRAMS:  You just said - you said that if the CIA didn't call him and warn him ahead of time, that's an element of the crime.

TOENSING:  I said that's indicia, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Ah.

TOENSING:  Of not taking - no, I say that's a factor.  I could go on but I bet you, you won't let me go on for all the things that they did, all the things that they did that allowed her identity to be revealed.  Including - yes, I mean, she donated to Al Gore in her, you know, in her own name.

ABRAMS:  Aitan, a quick response.

GOELMAN:  Yes.  I just - you know, Victoria brought up a good point, that someone should ask Valarie Plame or Joseph Wilson when her last foreign assignment is.  And that would be an interesting answer to have.  I'd also be interesting in know, you know, when Karl Rove went before the grand jury, if he had immunity and if he, you know, refused to testify with that immunity, which is something that you could only do if you had a well grounded fear of criminal prosecution.

TOENSING:  I would be he doesn't have immunity.

GOELMAN:  Well, that would be an interesting - I would sure interested in hearing his response. 

TOENSING:  When you represent politicians around here, you learn real fast that they don't want to ask for immunity or take the 5th amendment. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Victoria, it seems like you did a pretty good job of doing exactly what you wanted with the way this law was created and that is to make sure that it applies to the people that you said it applied. 

TOENSING:  Protect the press.  We wanted to protect the press.

ABRAMS:  We'll see.  Yes, we'll see if Karl Rove ends up in trouble on this one. 

Aitan, Victoria, thanks. 

GOELMAN:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  We've got breaking news out of Cape Canaveral.  A possible delay in tomorrow's much anticipated space shuttle launch.  Tom Costello is there with the latest.

Tom, what's going on?

TOM COSTELLO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Dan, good evening.

You'll excuse the NASA helicopter that is just now once again departing her from Cape Canaveral.  But here's what's happening.  About 5:00 Eastern Time we are told that somehow a protective covering that is on the number seven window of the cockpit, somehow that fell all the way down the length of the shuttle and it struck right here, the orbiting maneuvering system.  The concern here, it struck a tile there and they believe that tile is damaged.  In fact, they believe it's a black tile.  Those tiles are able to protect the shuttle up to 2,500 degrees on re-entry. 

Now remember that they've all along been concerned about the tiles on the bottom of the shuttle and whether we might see any damage of falling debris on the backside or the belly of the shuttle as it takes off.  But also concerned about the leading wing edge and whether debris on the external fuel tank might hit the leading wing edge causing a hole, like what happened in Columbia, causing another fatal wound or an accident in the making.  That, at this point, is still a concern.

They've done all they can to engineer all of those issues out but their immediate concern is this damage caused to a tile right here.  Nobody was working on the shuttle at the time.  They don't know how that protective cover fell down.  You can see, we've got a little bit of wind right now. You might assume it's even windier way up at the top here of the shuttle as it sits on the launch pad. 

The bottom line, they're working right now very hard to replace that tile.  They think they can do it in about an hour.  They're going to give us an update in about 20 minutes on their progress.  They think that they can still launch tomorrow. 

However, if there are any issues whatsoever about the safety of this tile area, how well it's bonding to aluminum, they could delay this launch, a launch that they have worked on for two-and-a-half years, and a launch that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said about two hours ago he would never launch this spacecraft if there were ever any issues about astronaut safety.  He says that the shuttle program and the safety of the shuttle program is written in blood, the blood of those who have died already in this program and he is not about to risk unnecessarily astronaut lives.  We should know more later in the evening.

Back to you. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, you've got to believe that they're going to be safe - rather safe than sorry when it comes to this one.

Tom Costello, thanks a lot.

COSTELLO:  You bet.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the new owners of Scott and Laci Peterson's home find a knife with red stains in the back yard.  We'll talk to the Modesto police about that up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CASSIDY:  MSNBC keeps you up to the minute every 15 minutes. 

Good evening, everyone.  I'm Colette Cassidy.

We have the latest for you on a potential problem with the space shuttle Discovery.  A protective cover fell off the windshield and damaged thermal tiles near the tail.  However, NASA says it can fix the tiles in time for tomorrow's scheduled launch at 3:51 p.m. Eastern Time. 

First Lady Laura Bush visited a poor township near Capetown, South Africa, where she talked about the battle against Aids in Africa.  She's on a visit to South Africa, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

And a huge oil drilling platform under construction in the Gulf of Mexico is tilting after Hurricane Dennis swept through the area.  BP, which owns the platform, says it will attempt to ride (ph) it.  It is scheduled to begin producing oil sometime later this year. 

Now back to THE ABRAMS REPORT.

ABRAMS:   Just when you thought the case was over against Scott Peterson.  We have just learned in the past few hours that a knife has been discovered in the backyard of the Petersons home by the new owner of Laci and Scott's home.  It had the authorities scrambling to the scene. New tests have been conducted.  A 10 inch knife reportedly found in an outside cabinet near the swimming pool of the home where they lived and where a jury believed he killed her and their unborn child, Connor, back in December of 2002. 

Officer Rick Applegate is the public information officer for the Modesto Police Department and he joins us now.

All right, thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

So what to make of this.  You headed over to the scene and you're doing tests now?

OFFICER RICK APPLEGATE, MODESTO POLICE DEPARTMENT:   Yes, Thursday we got a call that the homeowner had found a knife somewhere in the backyard of the house.  Either the homeowner or somebody working for him.  We went over, found the knife.  It had been taken from where they said they found it, put it up on the sink area that you were showing on the picture there off to the left of the pool. 

There's kind of an outdoor sink, barbecue area.  Now he pointed under the sink said, you know, that this is where it was found.  And it is about an 8 to 10-inch steak type of knife.  Like an outdoor barbecue type of knife.  Detective Rogan (ph), who was the lead investigator on the case, he went out.  He took the knife.  He took it back to the police department and we're going to send up to the crime lab to be tested. 

I've heard a lot of speculation about red stains that people will think are blood and stuff like that on the knife.  However, Detective Rogan tell me that there were a few dark stains on the knife but it looks like the knife's been outside or under some dirt for quite some time and that there are no obvious signs that that is blood or tissue or hair or anything else on that knife. 

ABRAMS:   So, Officer Applegate, I've got to ask you, is it possible that you guys missed this in the search of the home?

APPLEGATE:   Well, I don't think we missed this in the search of the home.  I think what is possible is that we may have seen the knife at the original time, just like we looked at every other knife in the kitchen, and didn't see any obvious signs that they had ben used in a crime, didn't see any blood tissue or anything on them.  And it's possible that we'd seen that knife, in that area, at that time and just left it there because we didn't feel it was relevant.  You know the police department has never theorized that Laci was killed - that Laci or Connor were killed with a knife. 

ABRAMS:   Right.  And, you know, that's the other point is that there probably would have been blood all over the scene even if someone had cleaned it, if it had been (ph).  We've been showing video that was taken by the police department of the home of Laci and Scott and I assume you guys are going to go back and look at that video and see what you can see on that tape, right?

APPLEGATE:   Yes.  You know, over they past couple of years, especially since the house has been up for sale, a lot of different furniture, including outdoor furniture and appliances, you know, may have been moved and it's possible that this knife could have been under one of those or somewhere else that was just out of sight until the move has occurred and until the new homeowner has moved in.  But we are going to look at some video footage that we took during the search warrant early on in the investigation and see if any of it covers that. 

ABRAMS:   It's a little hard to believe.  I mean, Scott Peterson was living in that house for months after the murder before he was arrested.  And so the notion that somehow he just threw a murder weapon into a cabinet outside the house and never touched it again is a little bit far-fetched. 

APPLEGATE:   Yes.  You know, we don't feel that that's the case here.  At this time, we don't feel that this knife was involved in the murder of Laci or Connor.  The police department and the D.A.'s office is 100 percent comfortable with the fact that Scott Peterson is sitting on death row for the murder of Laci and Connor.  And we are, you know, a hundred percent sure that the right person is sitting in prison for this murder. 

ABRAMS:   All right, Officer Applegate, thanks very much.  Appreciate it.

APPLEGATE:   Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, political groups in the nation's capital speculating about, battling over who President Bush will nominate to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.  But could the answer lie with the president's wife?  The first lady is talking about the type of justice she'd like to see and it may have some die-hard Bush supporters a little nervous today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My closing argument.  An unexpect, but very connected voice, weighed in today on who President Bush should consider to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS, (voice over):  For all the million of dollars that interest groups are spending to impact the president's Supreme Court choice, it turns out that money might be better spent keeping one person close to or far away from the president.  She's indicated she support Rowe v.  Wade, is opposed to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and she's also got an opinion about who should be appointed to the high court. 

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY:  I would really like for him to name another woman. 

ABRAMS:  That's right.  The president's wife, Laura Bush, seem to want an appointment similar to Justice O'Connor.  Good news for moderate Democrats, bad news for hard core conservatives. And well, just news to the president. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I can't wait to hear her advice in person when she gets back. 

ABRAMS:  President Bush has always suggested that she wears the pants in that relationship. 

GEORGE BUSH:  Perhaps the most important reason of all to put me back in is so that Laura's the first lady for four more years. 

I hear it all the time.  Why didn't you send Laura and you stay at home?

ABRAMS:  It had seemed Laura Bush had little interest in weighing in on the president's policy decisions.  During the 2000 campaign, she told “The New York Times” that “just to put in my two cents to put in my two cents, I don't think it's really necessary.”  And before the 2004 election. 

LAURA BUSH:  You know I actually think marriages are a lot more successful when the spouse isn't trying to give the other one a lot of advice.  I know I don't want a whole lot of advice from him. 

ABRAMS:  But marriages evolve over time.  And, after all, she's a second term first lady now.  Less constrained by concerns over the political impact of her statements. 

JAY LENO:  When was the last time you and your husband had a disagreement on an issue?

LAURA BUSH:  Jay, what happens in the White House, stays in the White House. 

GEORGE BUSH:  I'm a lucky man to have Laura as a wife.  Some people are wondering how lucky she is to have me as a husband. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  And now some interest groups will be wondering how that affects their luck as well.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  That does it for us tonight.  MSNBC is going to have live coverage of a press conference related to some problem with the shuttle.  The question is going to be, are they going to launch on time?

Up next, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews and that live press conference. 

See you tomorrow.

END

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