updated 7/29/2005 12:51:14 PM ET 2005-07-29T16:51:14

Guests: Richard Wolffe, John Dean, David Coltman

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Chris, Maximilian Robespierre did not invent terror, but he was the man who brought it into the mainstream during the French Revolution.

Ironically, today the British have arrested nine more people in connection with the failed terror attacks of a week ago.  Ironically, today the Irish Republican Army says it‘s getting out of the business of terror and violence.

Why is any of this ironic?  Because today is the 211th anniversary of the day that the Terror of the French Revolution sent Maximilian Robespierre to his death on the guillotine.

Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Twenty now in custody in England for the 7/21 attacks.  But were the 7/7 attacks really the work of suicide bombers?

“Discovery” gets its 790,000-mile checkup, scoured for damage as it docks at the space station.

The outing of Valerie Plame.  There was a third man?  One who volunteered her identity to a reporter?

And does the DNA identify Bigfoot?  Was it his hair found in the Yukon?  And if so, is he suffering from Bigfoot-pattern baldness?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

There are nine more people in custody in England tonight, 20 all told, all connected to the failed subway and bus bombings of a week ago today.  But still, only one actually suspected of being one of the bombers.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, unquestioned progress in the investigation, yet continuing fear of another attack.  And a continuing series of questions about the attacks of July 7, and whether or not the presumed suicide bombers really intended to be suicide bombers.

First, the investigation into last Thursday‘s failed attacks.  Police seized nine men in a series of early-morning raids in south London.  Unclear exactly what connection the suspects are said to have to the terror attacks.

As to the only suspected bomber in custody thus far, Yassin Hassan Omar, NBC News has obtained this exclusive video of him a few years ago, complaining about a water leak in his government-subsidized apartment.  This is security video from the same building in which police reportedly found explosive residue, in Omar‘s home, and bomb-making materials in his basement.

“The Times” of London reporting that police interrogation of Omar has been slow, that he‘s claiming headaches and nausea after being TASERed by police during his arrest.  He also says they hit him in the head, and he want a translator, even though he has lived in England since he was 11 years old.

Thousands of miles away in Zambia, another arrest in connection with the attacks, police detaining Haroon Rashid Aswat, who was already accused of trying to set up terror camps in Oregon.  While at one point, he was considered the possible mastermind of the attack, Western intelligence officials now telling NBC News that he appears to have been in Africa directly before and after the 7/7 bombings.  But his cell phone was used in that time in Britain to contact the bombers.

Let‘s call in Charles Shoebridge, MSNBC counterterrorism expert and a veteran of 12 years with London‘s Metropolitan Police.

Great thanks for your time tonight, sir.

CHARLES SHOEBRIDGE, MSNBC COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT:  You‘re very welcome.

OLBERMANN:  The latest round of arrests, do we have any idea who these people were, if they fall into a category of planners or operational people, or were they most likely just like these three women who were arrested yesterday, accused of harboring the suspects?

SHOEBRIDGE:  It would be great if they were in the first category, but I suspect very strongly they‘re not, the nature of most of the arrests that follows on from the arrest of the main suspect, one of the suspects for the actual failed bombings of July the 21st.  We‘ve got people on the periphery of these investigations.  What happens is, of course, that as soon as you get a lead, you go to that address.  Perhaps after a period of surveillance, you will make arrests, house searches, and so on.

That in turn will produce further leads, which means that you get this expanding circle of arrests and search operations.  But almost invariably, the people concerned, in the absence of hard intelligence, will be those who have helped, those who‘ve supported in some way.

But again, those people, after all, they are still facing long jail sentences, and not being dedicated terrorists themselves, it would seem, perhaps will give police information they need.

OLBERMANN:  And the police again today described this as a race against time.  Three of the four bombing suspects are still loose.  Only one of those three has even been identified publicly by name.  Is it right now a race the authorities are winning or losing?

SHOEBRIDGE:  They‘ve made very quick progress, there‘s no doubt about that.  But clearly, the bombers had not expected to survive, at least in two of the cases.  We‘re talking about the 21st of July attempts now. 

Documentation was left behind, which, of course, set police on the trail of  excuse me—going to various addresses and so on.  And again, that documentation being left suggests perhaps it was an attempt at a suicide bombing.

We know from witnesses in this case that at least two of these bombers did indeed attempt to commit suicide.  But certainly now, it‘s more than a week since that failed attempt.  We only have one in custody.  Indeed, there may be four other bombers on the loose, bearing in mind that another bomb was discovered abandoned very close to where one of the bombs actually was attempted to be let off.

So we‘ve got this situation where I think there will be some disappointment amongst police at the extent to which, if these people are indeed still alive, which I suspect they are, that they‘re being harbored by certain members of their communities.

OLBERMANN:  Regarding the 7/7 bombers, there has been a spate of articles here about those men. and the inconsistencies between their behavior and that of suicide bombers, as we traditionally understand them.  They had round-trip train tickets from Luton to London.  They had paid for seven days of parking for their rental car.  They did not make the typical martyrs‘ tapes.

Is there reason to suppose that there‘s even a chance they may not have known they were to be suicide bombers?  Or maybe that they didn‘t even know they were carrying bombs?

SHOEBRIDGE:  I think that‘s extremely unlikely on both counts.  Having said that, we‘d be foolish at this stage to rule that possibility out, particularly given the circumstantial evidence you‘ve mentioned.

Really, it‘s only going to be upon detailed forensic analysis, which, of course, is ongoing on a 24-hour basis on those crime scenes.  Remember, those are scenes of complete devastation.  Those bombs—all four bombs did explode, causing not just devastation around them and to the people and to the carriages and the bus, but also, of course, to the bomb itself.

Until we know whether indeed—well, what the trigger mechanism was, whether it was self-detonated, as I suspect they were, or whether some timers were involved, we can‘t know.  But as soon as we know whether a timer was there, or whether a self-triggering mechanism was present, we will know for certain one way or another.

It is—there are explanations for why there were return tickets, for example, but, again, it may not be the right explanation.  A return ticket in the U.K. is either the same price, or it can be even cheaper than a single ticket, paradoxically.

Also, remember, a bomb and several other parts or components of bombs were left in this vehicle.  So it might be that the vehicle was intended to be returned to by other people, perhaps to collect that explosive.  So again, that would explain why it was hired for seven days, why the car-park ticket was paid for quite a long way in the future.

OLBERMANN:  All plausible explanations.  But as you say, we will have to wait for the full forensics to understand which of them is the correct one.

The MSNBC analyst and counterterrorism expert Charles Shoebridge, great thanks for staying up late with us tonight, sir.

SHOEBRIDGE:  You‘re very welcome.

OLBERMANN:  And as Britain deals with this new terrorist threat, what was the lead story in the U.K. tonight, there is hope that the country can finally lay an old terrorist threat to rest.

The Irish Republican Army, responsible for 36 years of terror, has officially ended its campaign of violence in what British Prime Minister Tony Blair called a step of unparalleled magnitude.  The IRA ordered all of its soldiers to disarm and pledged to pursue only peaceful means of achieving its objective of a united Ireland hence forth.

The governments of Ireland, Britain, and the U.S. all welcomed the news but warned that the words must be followed up with action, something that has not proved uniformly true in the wake of the cease-fires, retrenchments, and peace accords previously announced or signed by the IRA.

Closer to home, the second major sentencing of a convicted terrorist in this country.  A day after the Millennium Bomber got 22 years, and the judge said the courts were the way to handle terrorism, not war, the self-proclaimed former spiritual adviser to Osama bin Laden got the maximum sentence of 75 years from a judge in New York.

The Yemeni-born Sheikh Mohammad Ali Hassan al-Moayad had been convicted of conspiring to support and supporting Hamas and attempting to support al Qaeda.  Al-Moayad was secretly recorded in a German hotel room during a meeting with two FBI informants as he promised to send more than $2 million to Hamas.  Witnesses also testified he had boasted of funding bin Laden to the tune of $20 million.

As he was led away, Sheik Ali Mohammad said to the judge, Your honor, what have I done?

Seemingly another judicial success in the war on terror—oh, strike that.  That should have read, seemingly another judicial success in the global struggle against violent extremism.  More on the newspeak in a moment.

First, the latest plans to pull out of what President Bush called exactly a month ago today during his prime time address from Fort Bragg, the, quote, “central front in the war on terror,” the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George W. Casey, reasserting his belief that some U.S. troops can start leaving Iraq as early as next spring, if the political process stays on track, his boss deciding to make sure that that—or at least to try to make that that happens personally, the secretary of defense paying a surprise visit to Iraq to warn government leaders face to face that they‘d better start agreeing on a constitution, saying that until that happens, the country will not stabilize, and American soldiers can‘t start leaving.

And while Mr. Rumsfeld took the argument to Iraq, Republican congressmen took it to the Hill, Congressman Wayne Gilchrist of Maryland joining Walter Jones of North Carolina and several Democrats in announcing a new resolution calling on the president to set a timetable to bring U.S.  troops out of Iraq.  Other supporters from Mr. Bush‘s own party, besides those-mentioned gentlemen, James Leach of Iowa and Ron Paul of Texas, Texas from Galveston to Victoria, where they are practicing no longer calling the war on terror.

What may have slipped out late in the campaign last year, when the president bluntly stated to Matt Lauer that he didn‘t think you could actually win a war on terror, has now become a full-fledged reversal of terminology.   No war, no victory, no parades, but still a battle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve, I think I‘ve objected to the use of the term war on terrorism before, because, one, if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution.  And it‘s more than terrorism.  I think it‘s violent extremists is the real enemy here, and terror is the method they use.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  The American people have greatly appreciated Poland‘s support in the global struggle against extremists.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  Still, as anybody whose favorite sports team has moved from one city to another knows, you still slip from time to time and say Los Angeles Rams every once in a while.  Mr. Rumsfeld on Monday of this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD:  They‘ve been a great help to Afghanistan, they‘ve been a great help with respect to the global war on terror.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  So if we‘re going to suffer periodic anachronistic W.O.T.  references throughout the time of the GSAVE, there had better be some reasons beyond the change beyond just the introduction of a new catchphrase.

Let‘s talk about that with Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek”‘s senior White House correspondent.

Good evening, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, this renaming stuff.  Why?

WOLFFE:  Well, that‘s a very good question.  We have traveled a long way since the president talked about a crusade against evildoers.  What really—it outlived its usefulness as a phrase.  I mean, it was being strained to its limits with Iraq, which was really a war against a dictator, supposedly with weapons of mass destruction.  And then it‘s moved again, because the president has expanded his vision to the stuff of legacies, about spreading democracy through the Middle East.

And, you know, war on terror doesn‘t really match any of those things.  It—you know, the administration, the president have evolved, have been chastened by Iraq, and they‘re changing their language to reflect that.

OLBERMANN:  Does it also suggest that they have been chastened by those who criticized the administration‘s strategy from 9/11 onwards, that to look at this as a war has impeded the necessary outside-the-box thinking, that it‘s gotten us into a ground war in Iraq instead of into infiltrating terrorist cells in London?

WOLFFE:  Right.  Well, to some extent, it was a gross oversimplification to begin with.  I mean, there was always a lot of background activity which was counterterrorism with intelligence at departments across the world, law enforcement people across the world.  That kind of stuff was obliterated by the language of the war on terror, and it still went on anyway.

The problem was, of course, that if you‘d raised this kind of language last year, you‘d have been shot to pieces.  And actually, John Kerry was.  If—can you imagine if he‘d tried introducing this kind of language?

So, yes, it doesn‘t capture what has been going on.  And it‘s something that, frankly, not just General Myers, but the allies have been saying, the people who are taking part in this antiterrorist activity, they‘ve been saying for years.  They say it alienates the people in those countries, and it alienates people in the community that they‘re trying to recruit.

OLBERMANN:  Richard, I can‘t imagine that the timing of this is utterly coincidental with the timing of the talk about pulling troops out of Iraq, meaning, if you stop calling anything a war on terror, then you can now disengage, even if you have not won yet, even if that winning is—has not been done in Iraq.  Correct?

WOLFFE:  Yes, absolutely.  There‘s not going to be a victory parade in Iraq.  It‘s going to be a messy situation.  (INAUDIBLE) when the American troops leave, hopefully it will be next year.  But there‘s not going to be a clean situation on the ground, even if the troops can come home at that period.

So, yes, it‘s a reflection of that.  And conservatives, frankly, you‘re hearing them say that it‘s time to recognize that this is going to be, to some extent, as the president revealed last year, a kind of ongoing struggle that won‘t have a definite period of victory.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, the idea of bringing troop levels down next year, totally coincidental with the poll numbers?  The Republicans co-sponsoring this news piece of legislation and the midterm elections that are now 15 months away?

WOLFFE:  It must be a coincidence, just as the whole rollout of the war came just before another midterm election.  I‘ll look, the polls suggested that the American people had no appetite for deployments beyond two years.  We‘ve reached the two-year period.  Republican are on the Hill are saying, Enough is enough.  That pressure is building, and the polls are something they read, in spite of what the administration says.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent of “Newsweek” magazine, as ever, sir, great thanks.

WOLFFE:  Any time.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, late word from NASA that falling debris did in fact hit the orbiter‘s wing.  But has the shuttle escaped damage?

And the plot thickens also in the outing of the CIA officer Valerie Plame.  Questions a third administration official who may have leaked the classified information, without a reporter even asking about it.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Any traveler in any vehicle will tell you that stuff falling off at the start of the trip is never good news, and that sometimes you‘ll have to check in at the local filling station to have somebody look your machine over to see if she can still run.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, that‘s basically what “Discovery” did today with the International Space Station, substituting for the proverbial filling station.  And so early this evening, flight operations had to amend what it had said yesterday about the shuttle not getting hit by anything that fell off at lunch.

But the big question to our correspondent Tom Costello, live at Cape Canaveral, did NASA also have to amend what it said about “Discovery” not being damaged?

Good evening, Tom.

TOM COSTELLO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Keith.

And the short answer is, they don‘t really know yet.  They don‘t know for sure that the space shuttle has suffered any significant damage.  They don‘t think so.

Here‘s what happened.  Late this afternoon, early evening, NASA managers announced that, in fact, at a very high altitude, 200,000 feet, they saw two small pieces of foam fall off and hit the orbiter, hit the right wing, in fact, of the orbiter.

Now, the problem with that is that it was traveling at such a high altitude, and the velocity was such, and the speed was such --  Those are the images.  They‘re awfully hard to discern, but NASA knows what they mean.  It was traveling at such a velocity, they don‘t think it damaged the right wing.  The sensors on the right wing, in fact, didn‘t pick up anything at all.

Back out here at the cape, behind me, the vehicle assembly building, and in that building right back there sits the space shuttle “Atlantis.”  It has already made it up attached to its external fuel tank for a September launch.  That launch obviously right now is on hold until they get to the bottom of this falling-debris problem.

In space today, the crew of “Discovery” performed really a magnificent space pirouette.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is Mission Control Houston with the rendezvous and approach for docking continuing...

COSTELLO:  No shuttle had ever done it before, an orbital pitch back flip just 600 feet below the space station, giving the station‘s crew 93 seconds to photograph “Discovery”‘s tiles and panels for any signs of damage.  And this stunning image of “Discovery” nose first.

The initial assessment...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re downloading both cards right now.  I thought the process went real fine.  Neither of us saw anything alarming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  PEOPLES.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  PCO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  PNC.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go.

COSTELLO:  Then, at 7:19 Eastern time...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And you are go for docking.

COSTELLO:  The first shuttle visit in two and a half years to the space station, badly in need of resupply.  But while today‘s mission appeared to be flawless, NASA remains very concerned about the one- to two- foot piece of foam that fell off the external fuel tank on launch, grounding future shuttle missions.

It came from an area NASA had looked at but not redesigned after the “Columbia” disaster.

JOHN SHANNON, FLIGHT OPERATIONS MANAGER:  We were wrong, and we missed something, and we have to go figure out what it was, and go fix it.

COSTELLO:  Also today, this new video, taken from “Discovery” as the external fuel tank fell back to earth, showing something that may have fallen off “Discovery,” perhaps a large piece of ice.

All of the falling debris, a concern.  Crew member Steven Robinson told us in April, debris the size of a marshmallow could be fatal.

STEVEN ROBINSON, SHUTTLE CREW MEMBER:  Yes, it‘s amazing that something so small, that when you speed it up, if it goes fast enough, it has enough momentum to damage what are actually fairly fragile parts of the shuttle.

COSTELLO:  But flight managers insist the debris question is not distracting them from the mission at hand.

PAUL HILL, FLIGHT DIRECTOR:  It‘s all about manned space flight.  It‘s all about taking care of Eileen Collins and her crew.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO:  Let‘s emphasize once again that that small piece of debris that apparently hit the leading wing edge today, or they noticed it today, is not in any way posing a danger to the crew.  That‘s the initial assessment.

Interesting, though, today Russia announced that they were ready to rescue the crew of “Discovery” with three Soyuz spacecraft, should the crew need to be rescued.  Again, they don‘t.  It was both a sincere and gentle offer from Russia, but also a bit of prodding, and a reminder that Russia has been flying in space for the last two and a half years, while the space shuttle fleet has been grounded, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Tom Costello at Cape Canaveral.  Let‘s hope they don‘t discover anything more tomorrow.  Great thanks, Tom.

One other bit of news from outer space, a preview of sorts, a long-range preview.  It is July 28, 2005.  If you‘ll just wait a few more July 28ths, you‘ll be able to see Haley‘s comet, 56 years from today, July 28, 2061.  Be there.  Aloha.

Also tonight, the big bad bucket of Lawrence, Kansas.  The neighbors didn‘t like it, the police came and took it so no one else could see what was in it.  Ah, but we have found out.

And speaking of surprises, is this hair from Bigfoot?  The DNA  cannot lie.  The answer, with a real scientist, revealed tonight, here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Back now.  And we pause the COUNTDOWN to stroll down the gratuitous and ridiculous video aisle.  A word of warning here.  If you‘re the squeamish type, or if you‘re eating dinner, this first story might gross you out, so look away.  On the other hand, if you have a foot fetish, you‘re probably in the right place.

Let‘s play Oddball.

In Lawrence, Kansas, and that over there is Ezekiel Rubottom.  He and his friends are having a hoedown.  Why are they having a hoedown?  Because Ezekiel just got his foot back from the police.

Yes, Ezekiel had his foot amputated a few weeks ago because of a deep bone infection.  Ezekiel liked his foot.  He asked the doctors if he could keep it.  They said, Sure.  So Ezekiel kept the foot on his porch in a bucket of formaldehyde, along with a beer can, a steak knife, and a leek.

His neighbors caught wind of this, called the cops.  The cops took his foot to the police station.  Mr. Rubottom called the police station and made his case to get his foot back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EZEKIEL RUBOTTOM, REQUESTED FOOT BACK FROM POLICE:  It‘s a part of me.  It‘s been with me for 21 years.  I still wanted it.  So I called up the cops and I said, You have my foot.  I want it back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And how many policemen have heard that familiar statement?

Ezekiel then showed the cops where the foot used to be, and they gave it back.  That‘s when the hoedown—that‘s hoedown and not toedown—started, and that‘s the story of how Ezekiel got his foot back.

To Tuscon, Arizona, where we meet one of COUNTDOWN‘s Real Men of Genius.  Today we salute you, Mr. Flip-the-Bud-Lite-truck-on-the-highway.  Sure, you could have safely delivered those tasty Bud Lites to the thirsty patrons of the Grand Canyon State, but that would have been too easy.

No, you decided to take a little nap and let the beer do the driving. 

Only you forgot one thing.  Beer can‘t drive.

Maybe and you the passenger in your cab walked away unharmed, but you caused a ton of traffic, and the 30,000 innocent brewskis paid the ultimate price.

But we know like the phoenix, you‘ll rise from the suds to drive another truck filled with more Bud Lite, because, after all, you‘re one of COUNTDOWN‘s Real Men of Genius.

We can flip the truck over on its side.

From Real Men of Genius to men under real suspicion.  Never mind Karl Rove, is a third White House staffer believed to have talked to a reporter about Valerie Plame.

And another manhunt in the Philadelphia area, this time for a missing pregnant woman.  The manhunt began 10 days after she was seen last.  Why?

These stories ahead.

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

Number three, Ayattu Nure of Iwa Abassa (ph) in Nigeria.  He has 11 wives, 77 children, 40 of them attend the same school.  Yet he wants to tell you today, quote, “polygamy is no fun.”

Number two, Curtis Holmes, attorney in Pocatello, Idaho.  Well, he was an attorney when he started his opening statement to the jury.  Then judge had to declare a mistrial because he learned Holmes had had his license suspended for offering to handle a woman client‘s divorce if she‘d pose nude in photographs for him.

Number one, Dan McKay of North Dakota, winner of the 24th annual Bulwer-Lytton Award for terrible writing.  Edward Bulwer-Lytton was the guy whose 1830 novel began, “It was a dark and stormy night.”  What won McKay the world‘s worst honors this year?  His entry compared fondling a woman‘s breasts to repairing carburetors.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A third administration figure has now been injected into the CIA leak/Karl Rove investigation.  A reporter‘s source who was neither Rove nor Vice President Cheney‘s chief of staff Scooter Libby, and a reporter‘s source whose reporter makes it clear in no uncertain terms the source volunteered the information that Ambassador Joe Wilson‘s wife worked for the CIA analyzing weapons of mass destruction.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, to borrow the title of the old Carol Reed/Joseph Cotton/Orson Welles masterpiece, “The Third Man.”  The source remains unidentified, but the reporter is this man, Walter Pincus, who covers the intelligence beat for “The Washington Post.”  Pincus has written a piece on the use of anonymous sources for a scholarly publication, “Nieman Reports” of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard.

In it, he recalls that two days before the column by Robert Novak outing Valerie Plame, quote, “On July 12, 2003, an administration official who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former ambassador Joseph Wilson‘s CIA-sponsored February, 2002, trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction.”

Pincus also wrote that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wanted him to name the source.  Pincus refused.  And then Pincus discovered that his source had named himself.  Pincus says Fitzgerald finally put him on oath last September, never asked him to identify his source, only about the nature of their conversation.

So where do we get idea that Pincus‘s source was neither Rove nor Libby?  “The New York Times.”  Its story today reads, “A review of Mr.  Pincus‘s own accounts and those of other people with detailed knowledge of the case strongly suggests that his source was neither Rove nor Libby and was, in fact, a third administration official whose identity has not yet been publicly disclosed.”

The Walter Pincus story is just the latest tentacle springing out from what may—some have already called the neverending story.  Paying close attention to that story, both for a series of columns on the Findlaw Web site and because, perhaps, of his own sense of deja vu, is John Dean, the White House counsel to Richard Nixon and author of the book “Worse Than Watergate.”

Good evening, John.

JOHN DEAN, NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What‘s the significance of the third man here?  Is it his or her identity?  Is it the willingness to volunteer information to Pincus?  Or is it something else?

DEAN:  Well, it‘s hard to really know for certain, since we‘re not privy to the investigation.  What I found interesting is that, apparently, Fitzpatrick is not—Fitzgerald is not interested in the information of exactly the identity of the person, which suggests this person isn‘t a target, isn‘t a corroborating witness.  So the exact role of this person is not clear.

We do know from “The Washington Post” many, many, many months ago, that they said some six people had been involved on behalf of the administration in trying to spread this story, so I assume this is one of the six.  But this is story, Keith, is one that we just learn a little more about, about one sixteenth of an inch at a time and long between those movements.

OLBERMANN:  Does the solidity of the fact that there‘s a third source if “The Post” is right and there‘s six, that‘s still somewhat nebulous.  But here we have two named ones and potentially a third one.  Would that explain why Judith Miller of “The New York Times” is in jail, or is the speculation Arianna Huffington posted today correct, and, in fact, Judith Miller was the original source about Plame to the administration figures?

DEAN:  Yes, that story about Judith Miller‘s role has been buzzing around for quite a while, and this could have some influence on that.  I‘m not inclined to speculate excessively on these things.  We do know that a lot of people think that it may be Miller herself who tipped off people, and it may be that Fitzgerald is trying to press her to find out where she got the information from, and there could be a tie-in there.  So again, we‘re pretty much in the area of speculation.  But what is the—to me, the interesting point is how little we do know, how close this prosecutor is holding his information.

OLBERMANN:  But you were one of the first people to posit, as a lot have since, that this prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald‘s, case in the investigation would probably not turn out to be about this very fine point of law, the deliberate outing of an undercover agent, that the threshold for that is extraordinarily high, and that if there are indictments, they will probably wind up being for perjury, for withholding information.  Are you any clearer in your own mind on where you think he is going?

DEAN:  Well, our principal source for information on this story has been not the witnesses themselves who‘ve been appearing before the grand jury, who are free to talk, but their attorneys.  And it‘s not unusual for attorneys in situations like this to share information amongst themselves so they can better protect and defend their clients.  And there is a little buzz going on amongst these attorneys, and this is what is trickling out into the press and how we know the progress we do know.

One of the indications that has developed of late is, indeed, that there is more of an indication that the witnesses are being asked about questions that would suggest a perjury investigation or an obstruction of justice investigation.  So that is a turn in the case.

OLBERMANN:  I referenced your Findlaw columns at the beginning of the introduction here.  You‘ve actually found and put in one of them a fairly recent legal precedent that might also give us something of a roadmap as to where the Rove case could go?

DEAN:  Well, this is the Randel case that came out of Atlanta, where a young Ph.D. analyst had the book thrown at him.  He‘s a classic whistleblower.  And they threatened him with 500 years in jail if he didn‘t plead.  He pled and did time, for not classified information, for just sensitive information.  And when you throw the book at a very small fish, I‘m not quite sure how you can let a big fish off the hook.

And I think that‘s the most troubling aspect of the precedent.  It may or may not affect the actual law that was involved, but it‘s the attitude towards prosecution that the Justice Department has shown with others who have leaked improperly information.  And they‘re going to have to explain that away or pursue a similar course of prosecution.

OLBERMANN:  There may still be a few books to throw in this one.  And one other thing about one of your columns.  This is from June of 2004.  And you mention the arrival on the stage of a player who, even to this date, is probably unknown to a lot of people in this case.  People may not have heard this name, James E. Sharp.  Who is he, and why do we care?

DEAN:  Well, Jim Sharp—it‘s very interesting.  He‘s been around Washington a long time.  When I first hear the name, he was a young former assistant U.S. attorney whose most notable prosecution had been to successfully prosecute Maryland Senator Brewster for bribery.  But where I also ran into him is he defended Jeb Magruder in the Watergate affair.  So as I say, he‘s been around a long time, has a very good reputation.

And the significance of it, however, is the fact he is now—one of his clients is no less than the president of the United States, George Bush.  And so why did Bush hire an outside attorney?  Well, it‘s quite obvious to me that he‘s got information he dare not tell a government attorney because there‘s no attorney-client privilege.  And it suggests that he knows more than we are being told publicly he knows, otherwise, he wouldn‘t have needed to bring in an outside attorney.

OLBERMANN:  What percentage of presidents wind up hiring their own criminal defense attorneys?  Do you have any idea?

DEAN:  I think it will become the norm in the future, after what Mr.  Starr did to the attorney-client privilege.  If a lawyer—excuse me—if a president feels he has any problem, he‘s going to go to an outside attorney, rather than work with an in-house attorney, because that person could theoretically, as Hillary Clinton learned, have to reveal any notes, conversations, and what have you.  So no longer is a government attorney available.

So we have one precedent right now, which is George Bush, followed by Dick Cheney, who also hired his own private attorney.  And that is the new standing precedent, if you will.

OLBERMANN:  Lots of deja vu to go around.  John Dean, the White House counsel to Richard Nixon, columnist on Findlaw.com, author of “Worse Than Watergate,” as always, John, my great thanks.

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, a pregnant woman in Philadelphia vanishes without a trace more than a week ago.  Now a reward and fund have been started and police are pulling out the stops to try to solve the mystery.  Now.  And how could Paris Hilton be a mystery to anyone?  Well, it seem her future mother-in-law had no clue about Paris‘s home video.  Her message to her son?  Lose her!  That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Police spent the day canvassing a neighborhood and park in the western part of their city, bringing in about 100 cadets from the local police academy, searching for a woman who disappeared.  Natalee Holloway?  No.

Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN: This woman is named LaToyia Figueroa, and she is not blond and the scene of her disappearance is not the exotic world of Aruba but rather the blue-collar streets of Philadelphia.  Which may explain why the manhunt and the media coverage has only just begun, even though 24-year-old Ms. Figueroa disappeared 10 days ago. Our correspondent, Michelle Franzen, is in Philadelphia tonight.  Michelle, good evening.

MICHELLE FRANZEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, good evening to you, Keith.  That is right.  LaToyia Figueroa has been missing since July 18 from this West Philadelphia neighborhood.  All day today, police officers have been scouring this 230-acre park, Cobbs Creek Park.  This is a park near by the neighborhood where LaToyia Figueroa was last seen.

Police have very little to go on even 10 days into this investigation.  They say that they had conducted a few searches early on, but this is their most extensive search to date.

What we do know about LaToyia Figueroa is that she is 24 years old.  She is five months pregnant.  And police say she was last seen on July 18, and that was walking from her boyfriend‘s house nearby shortly before she disappeared or was told that she—or was recorded that she had disappeared.  Now, police also say that there has been no cell phone activity and no bank transactions since she has disappeared.  However, they do not have any suspects at this point, and they do not have any leads to why she may have disappeared.

Family members, though, have been pushing police to step up their search.  They have also been handing out flyers and asking the community for help.  Ms. Figueroa disappeared, again, July 18.  Now, the search here in the park has been going on all day.  One hundred cadets from the police academy helped out dozens of other officers.  So far, though, they have not found any more clues to lead them to any reason why LaToyia Figueroa may have disappeared—Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Michelle, are officials saying anything about this public criticism that this is too little, too late?  Any explanation as to why they waited a week or more before starting this kind of search?

FRANZEN:  Police had said that they had done initial searches in the neighborhood where she had disappeared.  They had interviewed her boyfriend.  However, they had no reason to believe that she had even gone in the park.  But since it was near by the neighborhood, police said it was time to search this park as full as they could.

OLBERMANN:  Michelle Franzen in West Philadelphia.  Great.  Thanks.

From the tragically disappeared to people many of us would like to see at least symbolically disappear, the sharp turn into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”

Could there actually be somebody on earth who had not heard about Paris Hilton‘s sex tape?  Yes.  Unfortunately for her, it appears it‘s her future mother-in-law, “Star” magazine claiming that the mother of her fiance, Paris Latsis, told her boy, Get rid of her now, after learning from a Greek magazine with the suspicious title “Very Sorry” about the X-rated romp with her ex, the one you can literally buy at a corner newsstand in Marrakesh these days.

If “The Star‘s” source is correct, this widow at least (ph) saw Paris Hilton‘s other problem, that her engagement ring is too heavy.  An upcoming issue of “Us Weekly” says that Hilton has been complaining her finger hurts from the weight of her 24-carat ring-o-la.  But Latsis, heir to a Greek shipping fortune, was nice enough to buy her another diamond-less Cartier wedding band for everyday wear.  Hopefully, considering what Mom said, he kept the receipts.

Meanwhile, the celebrity story that will not go away, the death of Princess Diana of England, another new story about the car in which she died.  It has been shipped from Paris to London for forensic examination.  Experts say they will use computer technology to reenact the crash.  Britain‘s official inquest into the accident was adjourned to allow the police investigation, which is now under way.  Evidently, they are looking for a final verdict on how and why she died that they can release just around the time Haley‘s comet comes back 56 years from today.

Another great mystery of this world: Bigfoot, myth, reality, guy in a suit, balding reality?  Science steps in to try to answer the question for once and for all.  The answer ahead.  Well, maybe.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World,” the bronze going to the people at Massport, the highway authority in Massachusetts.  They had replaced six suicide prevention hotline signs that had been mysteriously moved earlier this month from a Boston bridge.  One problem: The new signs for the suicide hotline have the wrong phone number.

Also nominated, the Reverend Jim Grove of York, Pennsylvania.  Everybody is entitled to an opinion about abortion, but Reverend Grove‘s opinion may lead to the cancellation of York‘s traditional Halloween parade.  The city says it cannot run the legal risk of authorizing Grove‘s anti-abortion Halloween float.  The title should be enough to explain why.  It is called Dr. Butcher‘s Chop Shop of Choice Cuts.

But the winner?  That would be Channoah Green.  Police say she got mad at her 4-year-old son because he would not sit down in the car, so she pulled over and made him get out—on the side of the highway near Falls Church, Virginia, at 10:00 o‘clock at night.  When he tried to get back into the car, she drove off, hitting him with the car and driving 90 miles away.  The boy is OK, just scrapes.  A neighbor says of the, quote, unquote, “mother,” “That‘s out of character.  She‘s really crazy about the boy.”

Well, neighbor, sounds like you‘re half right.  Channoah Green, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There is an old and deep saying from the Himalayas, translated roughly from the Sherpa—and of course, I‘m speaking in the vernacular Sherpa here—as, There is Yeti in the back of everyone‘s mind, only the blessed are not haunted by it.

Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN; Yeti, Sasquatch, Bigfoot, guy in a bad gorilla suit, call him what you will, he haunts us.  Annually, it seems.  We have had another “maybe it‘s Bigfoot” day, a tantalizing hair sample recovered from the Yukon from a bush that witnesses swear they saw Bigfoot brush against.  The DNA tests on the hair are in.  The scientist who performed them will join us in a moment to tell us whether or not Bigfoot is going bald.

But first, a reminder about the neverending hunt for Bigfoot, or Notorious F.O.O.T. as he‘s known to his friends.  That film you saw just there?  It‘s only 16 months since that film was debunked once and for all when a retired Pepsi bottler joined us on COUNTDOWN and admitted he posed as Bigfoot for a filmmaker named Roger Patterson in 1967.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Heironimus, let me begin with you here.  Why, after almost 40 years of keeping this a secret, have you decided to come clean now about you portraying Bigfoot in this thing?

BOB HEIRONIMUS, PRETENDED TO BE BIGFOOT FOR VIDEO:  Well, after 35 years of watching this on television numerous, numerous, numerous times, I think it‘s time that people knew the truth.  I was the man in the Bigfoot suit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Bob Heironimus, not Bigfoot.  So what about this newest Bigfoot sighting and reputed evidence left in the Yukon?  Well, the hair doesn‘t mean much to and you me, but experts like David Coltman, wildlife geneticist from the biology department at the University of Alberta in Canada, this and a little science could tell the whole story.  Dr. Coltman joins us now from Edmonton.

Thank you for your time, sir.

DR. DAVID COLTMAN, WILDLIFE GENETICIST:  Hi, there.

OLBERMANN:  We don‘t have a drum roll, so just tell us.  Is Bigfoot wandering around the Yukon, and is he shedding?

COLTMAN:  Well, we don‘t know if Bigfoot is wandering around the Yukon, but we do know that this hair sample genetically resembles a bison with 100 percent certainty.

OLBERMANN:  So it‘s not a Bigfoot, it‘s a buffalo, basically.

COLTMAN:  The hair sample comes from a bison, does not come from a Bigfoot.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So do witnesses who said that, earlier this month, they saw a large human-like furry creature breaking off tree branches, leaving footprints, leaving the hair on a bush—could a bison have done all that and left the hair?

COLTMAN:  Well, we don‘t believe so.  This hair sample that we analyzed had very little amplifiable DNA in it.  In other words, we think it has been around for a long time, or maybe it‘s come from a hide or a trophy mount or something else.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, boy.  Now, you‘re a scientist, and not to prejudge you, but it does imply that you have to be at least serious a lot of the time.  Were you nonetheless disappointed that this did not turn out to be Bigfoot‘s hair?

COLTMAN:  I think everybody was a little bit disappointed.  There was collective a sigh when we announced the results.  But you know, we took this—we took this seriously, and we did this objectively and professionally.

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a great theory about these apparitions—Bigfoot and the other giant monsters—that these are not guys in suits, they‘re not creatures, they‘re not frauds, they‘re some sort of collective memories of the kinds of beasts who used to chase our ancestors around the caves, that somehow, we are remembering, as a species, the fear of being chased by a mastodon.  Do you buy that?  Is that plausible?

COLTMAN:  I‘m not—I don‘t know if it works for me.  But certainly, the myths of the man in the woods or the green man, these kind of mythologies, go back a long, long way in human history.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve chimed in on Bigfoot.  You‘ve taken it, as you said, seriously.  Is there something next for you?  Do you work on Dracula or the Invisible Man or werewolves or something?

(LAUGHTER)

COLTMAN:  I don‘t think so.  I did have somebody contact me with a piece of fur that they believe came from a wolf-like an animal that walks on hind legs, maybe a werewolf.  I think I‘ll let that one go, though.

OLBERMANN:  No doubt it was a werewolf who was chasing Bigfoot through the caves, being followed by mastodons.  From Edmonton, Dr. David Coltman from the University of Alberta biological sciences department.  The tuft of hair from Teslin in the Yukon is not Bigfoot, and neither is he.  Dr.  Coltman, thank you kindly for your time tonight.

COLTMAN:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  As Bigfoot would say, keep your knees loose.  Good night, and good luck.

Watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann each weeknight at 8 p.m. ET

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