updated 10/19/2005 10:56:16 AM ET 2005-10-19T14:56:16

Guests: Dana Milbank, Charles Grassley, Ed Shultz, Dan Shulman

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

Veep impact.  CIA leak special prosecutor Fitzgerald reportedly has a senior cooperating witness.  And two more reports that Fitzgerald is looking specifically at Vice President Cheney.

What would you do if one of your job applications was made public?  Ask Harriet Miers.  The questionnaire she filled out for the Senate Judiciary Committee is now out.  Asked to describe the most significant legal activities you pursued, she began with, “I have been called to a deathbed to make sure the individual had a valid, enforceable will.”

Today‘s terror questionnaire.  A, is this terrorism, or a false alarm?  B, is this terrorism, or some kind of paint fire?  C, what did they do to the people who leaked this terrorism false alarm to friends and family?

And he hit the ball real hard.  Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals proving yet again it is never over till it‘s over.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

They have got a senior cooperating witness, someone who‘s been questioned in the CIA leak investigation tells “The New York Daily News,” someone who is giving them all that.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, they are special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his team.  That is the evidence of a conspiracy charge directed at the office and staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, and perhaps at the vice president himself.

And if none of that piques your interest, “U.S. News and World Report” went online this afternoon with reports of rumors sweeping through various levels of the government that Mr. Cheney might resign, to be replaced by Secretary of State Rice, the investigation of the investigation zeroing in for the second straight day on the vice president‘s office, “The New York Daily News” reporting that Fitzgerald may be inching closer to what the newspaper is calling a blockbuster conspiracy charge with help from a secret snitch.

The snitch has been tentatively identified by an online Web site as a national security aide on loan to the vice president‘s office from the office of the former undersecretary of state, now the U.N. ambassador, John Bolton.

“The Daily News” also reported at least six current and former staffers for the vice president testifying before that grand jury with Mr.  Cheney himself, according to the paper, questioned, as we know, informally by prosecutors last year, having hired an attorney, a private attorney, says the paper.

As we mentioned, “U.S. News and World Report” bringing us the rumor—rumor, rumor, rumor—that Mr. Cheney might step aside, the president then to elevate to the vice presidency Condoleezza Rice.

Take a moment, if you would, just to imagine those confirmation hearings, one Bush insider telling “U.S. News” the rumor is a highly doubtful scenario, another telling them, Yes, this is not good, others, no doubt, of the opinion that this is actually as good as it gets, at least as a story.

Time now to bring in “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank to weigh in on the impact of the various revelations today, however speculative some of them might be.

Good evening, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘ve confirmed separately there was a Cheney-quits rumor throughout Washington today, not that it was true.  But is there anything to it?  And if not, why on earth would “U.S. News” put it online?

MILBANK:  I can say that I‘ll have to come back on your show and eat my shoe with ketchup and mustard if it turns out to be true.  But I think we should point out that “U.S. News” a week or two ago announced that it was laying off a significant number of people on its political staff.  Now we come out with a rather zany suggestion, and absolutely no evidence that this is true.

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.  So that could either be due to decaying standards, or staffing over there, or a reason to keep more people on.

All right, to the investigation.  As I mentioned, there‘s an online name here too.  The Web site Raw Story says that the person who‘s supposedly been flipped in this equation by Mr. Fitzgerald is John Hannah, not the British actor from various series, Scottish actor, but John Hannah, who is on loan from the office—or what was the office of John Bolton to the vice president‘s office.

And it says that Hannah was told by Patrick Fitzgerald that he was a target of the investigation, and that as a result, Mr. Hannah flipped.  Do we think we there‘s anything to any of that?

MILBANK:  Well, I‘m afraid that I‘m here tonight in a bit of throwing cold water role on this, and I hate to do that to you, Keith, but...

OLBERMANN:  No, no, please.

MILBANK:  The John Hannah rumor has been around for months.  It‘s been circulating among blogs for months.  It popped up again today.  It may be true, but nobody has any confirmation that it‘s true.  Obviously, they‘re getting some cooperation from some people within the administration to have come this far in the investigation.  But we just don‘t know.

OLBERMANN:  Do we think, though, that the idea that has been reported now by four separate news organizations, including yours and including mine, that, to some degree or another, it‘s likely that this is focusing in the president‘s office, and there‘s—and there could very well be someone who has—of some substance in the administration who has, to use that term again, flipped?  Do we think any of that is accurate?

MILBANK:  Oh, certainly, there‘s no question about it.  And as we reported today, there‘s no question that Patrick Fitzgerald is focusing on the vice president.  That doesn‘t mean he‘s not focusing on Karl Rove, who spent four and a half hours before the grand jury last week.

The fact of the matter is, the grand jury didn‘t meet today.  There were no actual developments today.  But what you have, in the absence of that, you have Karl Rove canceling speaking engagements, and you have this real hysteria here in town, in which we try to decide what is actually occurring.  And it‘s—we‘re really difficult to pierce this grand jury secrecy.  But all we can do is read the tea leaves.

OLBERMANN:  So your newspaper, and speaking of reading tea leaves, reporting this morning that Fitzgerald might be announcing his conclusions on whether or not there are indictments here as early as tomorrow.  Is that timetable still a possibility?  Is it a likelihood?  Any insight on that?

MILBANK:  It certainly is.  The grand jury‘s been meeting Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  Tomorrow is the next possibility.  We know that it expires on October 28.  So we want to keep an eye on Wednesday, we want to keep an eye on Friday and the following Monday.  And this will keep going on until we get some announcement.

The only thing we know that‘s confirmed is that Patrick Fitzgerald is going to make some sort of announcement in Washington, as opposed to his home base in Chicago.  Presumably he‘s not going to call a big press conference and say, I came up with nothing, folks.

OLBERMANN:  “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank.  Whether it is cold water or the hot flames of rumor, we always greatly appreciate your insights, sir.

MILBANK:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.

What we do not know about the final phase of the CIA leak investigation is rivaled only by what we do not know about Harriet Miers‘ views on just about everything, till now, anyway, this day bringing the clearest indication yet of the Supreme Court nominee‘s thoughts on abortion.  Surprisingly enough, she appears to be against it.  Among a collection of documents filling a dozen boxes submitted by the White House to the Senate Judiciary Committee today is one that has Miers, then a candidate for Dallas City Council, promising in 1989 to, quote, “actively support,” unquote, a constitutional amendment to been abortions in most cases.

That in response to a questionnaire from an anti-abortion group calling itself Texans United for Life.  Again, it‘s 16 years ago.  Ms.  Miers checking yes to the question, “If Congress passes a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit abortion except when it was necessary to prevent the death of the mother, would you actively support its ratification by the Texas legislature?  She checked yes.

On that form, Ms. Miers also indicating that she would oppose the use of public funds for abortion, as well as use her influence as an elected official to, quote, “promote the pro-life cause.”

As we mentioned, the questionnaire submitted today to the 18 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Charles Grassley of Iowa one of 10 Republicans serving on that committee, and Senator Grassley‘s been good enough to join us tonight.

Thank you for your time, sir, and good evening.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Well, I‘m glad to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I know you have said you will not announce your position on the Miers nomination till her confirmation hearings are over, but can we get your initial reaction to learning that she, in this case, at least, here, in 1989, was asked pointedly on this question, and came out against abortion rights in that particular situation?

GRASSLEY:  Yes, but I think it‘s pretty simple.  She was doing that as a candidate for local office.  Candidates who are, in the case of a city council or state legislature or Congress, you‘re going to be—you‘re going to be a candidate, you‘re going to hold office.  You can take almost any position you want to.  You can even taken an unconstitutional position if you want to.  But remember, you‘ve got to be stuck with it if you get elected.

Now, that‘s got nothing to do with her being a justice on the Supreme Court, unless she testifies different, and if she does, then she shouldn‘t be serving on the court.  She‘s got to testify that she‘s going to look at the four corners of the law or the four corners of the Constitution and just make a decision on that case based on the law or the Constitution, and the facts of that particular case.

That‘s what a justice is supposed to do.  They‘re constrained by the law, they‘re constrained by the Constitution.  But when you serve on the city council, you might be constrained by your state constitution or the federal Constitution, but you can still do wild things.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t need to tell you that the extraordinary polarization of the politics of our time has made what used to be a slightly vacuumized situation for Supreme Court nominees nothing like it any more.  It‘s the political real world, obviously.

Do you fear that something like this, in which a statement from 1989 is held up by people who might hold that political belief about abortion as evidence that she‘s in their camp, could then also be used by someone else, or could be used to, other statements at other times could be used by other camps to say, No, she‘s not in that camp, she‘s in this camp?   In other words, a way in which this whole thing gets so muddied up that both sides wind up believing her opinion is equal to theirs, and not to their opposition‘s?

GRASSLEY:  Well, to some extent, that‘s already happened.  It‘s really happened more by people outside of the Senate that‘s going to—they aren‘t going to be voting, like we 100 senators will be voting.  They won‘t be asking the questions of her in the committee meetings, like I‘m going to be and 17 others are going to be asking questions.

And if people just hold their cool, if people will read the record when it‘s all said and done, these questions are all going to be answered.  Now, I‘m not sure that those questions are going to satisfy everybody, but they‘re going to be answered.  And that‘s the record by which this decision should be made, not by some evangelical church leaders that are having a conference phone call, or anything of that nature.  Those don‘t count.  Those are not going to be part of the official record.

OLBERMANN:  So thus, I guess, the question then, Senator, is, do you think that either you or someone on that committee in those hearings, when they begin, is going to come out and bluntly state, if Roe v. Wade comes up again, or something similar to it, in your term as a Supreme Court justice, Ms. Miers, how would you vote on it?  Is that question going to be phrased that bluntly?

GRASSLEY:  Oh, well, it‘s going to—maybe not quite that bluntly, but that question‘s going to be asked.  And the intent is going to be the same as the way you phrased the question, without a doubt.

But, you know, here again, there are going to be abortion issues.  I don‘t know whether overturning Roe v. Wade‘s going to be one of those questions before the court.  But there‘s going to be abortion questions before the court.  And she can‘t prejudice herself on those.  And so she just can‘t answer that direct of a question.

OLBERMANN:  But she should give guidance, to some degree?  Or how should she answer it, do you think?

GRASSLEY:  Well, I think that she needs to say how she‘s going to approach the issue.  What we need to be concerned about is, number one, her competence, number two, her judicial temperament, number three, for me, at least, and most Republicans, is she a judicial activist, or believe in judicial restraint?  And is she going to legislate from the bench or not?  And for me, not legislating from the bench is very important.

These are the things that ought to determine whether she should sit on the Supreme Court.

OLBERMANN:  Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa and the Senate Judiciary Committee, our great thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.

GRASSLEY:  OK, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  More fallout from the rehearsed conversation between the president and some troops in Iraq last week.  Just as his show was about to be picked up on Armed Forces Radio, a liberal host criticized the Pentagon for all this.  Guess what happened to his show being picked up by Armed Forces Radio?

And the leaked terror threat in New York City.  The informants behind a string of e-mails now are minus their security clearances.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Officially, it‘s been American Forces Radio for decades, but the broad-spectrum survey of U.S. radio offered to service personnel throughout the world is still almost universally known as Armed Forces Radio, and officials have pretty much given up trying to change all that.

Not, apparently, when it comes to changing content.  The producers of “The Ed Shultz Show,” a leftward-leaning talk program, say the program was to be carried on Armed Forces Radio starting yesterday.  Then the very morning of the scheduled debut, the deal was called off.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, it was called off just after Shultz had criticized the Pentagon, specifically the teleconference between the president and troops in Iraq last week.  Mr. Schultz noted, as we did here, the priming and coaching by the Pentagon‘s Allison Barber.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLISON BARBER, PENTAGON:  But if he gives us a question that‘s not something that we‘ve scripted, Captain Kennedy, you‘re going to have that mike, and that‘s your chance to impress us all.

Master Sergeant Lombardo, when you‘re talking about the president coming to see you in New York, take a little breath before that, so you can actually be talking directly to him.  You‘ve got a real message there, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A performance that prompted this reaction from Ed Shultz on this radio show last Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, “THE ED SCHULTZ SHOW”:  My focus is on how horrible this Allison Woman was yesterday.  You know, I understand corporations, and how they want to communicate with the public, and they don‘t want to screw this thing up.  I mean, this could affect sales, it could affect how people view us.  It could have a long-term effect.

So I really think that, first of all, maybe they just didn‘t think it was a big deal, and it was OK for the American people to know that this was going to be staged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Ed Shultz joins us now from North Dakota.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

SCHULTZ:  Good to be on with you, Keith.  Thanks a lot.

OLBERMANN:  So who exactly wound up telling you that your show was not going to be on AFN?

SCHULTZ:  Well, you know, that‘s what floored us.  We got a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Allison Barber.  So we were kind of interested in the fact that it went all the way to the top.  She didn‘t turn it over to an underling.  And beyond that, she didn‘t call the syndicators, she didn‘t call the owners, she called the producer, who probably wasn‘t going to challenge her.

And it was quite an interesting wakeup call at 6:00 in the morning.

OLBERMANN:  She had a big week.

The Pentagon has a different version of this, as you know.  Another spokesman told “The Washington Post” that your criticism of Ms. Barber, quote, “has nothing to do with this,” that the chief of the radio division for the Armed Forces Network jumped the gun when he confirmed that the show would be broadcast on AFN starting yesterday.  I‘m gathering you think there‘s a different explanation, though.

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t think there‘s any question about it.  If I was in their position, I‘d blame it on an overzealous employee as well, because that‘s what they‘ve got a habit of doing.

I find it hard to believe that Allison Barber just all of a sudden rolled out of bed on Monday morning and was so concerned about our audience on “The Ed Schultz Show” that they just thought they‘d drop the bomb then.

It just doesn‘t match up.  Their comment about the fact that somebody got out ahead of the story certainly doesn‘t match up with the e-mail that we got of confirmation back on September 29.  And since that day, I have been promoting heavily on the program that we‘re going to start on Armed Forces Radio Network on October 17.

But they just happened to call me the day the show was going to start, and also after I had criticized, like everybody else in the media, this staged conversation with the troops.  It just doesn‘t wash.  It‘s got some people in Washington pretty concerned about how this came down.

OLBERMANN:  Now, I was just going to bring that up, that it‘s not just a question of rehearsals, it‘s a question of whether or not they rehearse these things well.  And one thing of late from this administration, their political stagecraft used to be perfect.  And now everybody they face, they turn into Albert Pujols.  The cancellation of your show from Armed Forces turns out to be of interest to some in Congress, is that right?

SCHULTZ:  There‘s no question about it.  This goes back several years, where they‘ve been trying to get some balance on the radio, because right now, all they do is carry is conservative voices when it comes to talk shows.  And I know that there are a number of people in the Senate that have put my name out there, say, Look, this show‘s growing.  Why can‘t we get at least a little bit of time of “The Ed Schultz Show” on there?

Senator Harkin was out in front of it, along with Senator Stabenow and also Senator Dorgan, and others.

But the fact is, is, they only carry conservative voices.  I am not a dissenting voice.  I am in favor of veterans benefits.  I am in favor of more pay for the military and having the proper equipment and taking care of the veterans and all the medical care.  These are key issues.  And also the recruiting situation that the military is in right now.

So I don‘t like it when I‘m called a dissenting voice.  That‘s not the case at all.  There‘s a lot of Democrats who are serving in Iraq right now, and in Afghanistan, that have got their fannies on the line for this country.  And they ought to have the opportunity to listen to something other than Rush Limbaugh, who‘s toting the company line for the Bush administration.

OLBERMANN:  Key issues, but not as key an issue as is Allison Barber‘s image.

Ed Shultz, the host of “The Ed Schultz Show” on radio, not, for the moment, on American Forces Radio.  Let‘s hope this gets resolved.  Thanks for joining us, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Keith.  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, another Pamplona ripoff, the turkey run.  Turkeys chased by humans.  We think that‘s the order here.  Maybe it‘s the other way around.

And one strike away from the World Series, and this happens.  The man who called this epic home run on ESPN Radio joins us here, as COUNTDOWN continues.

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OLBERMANN:  We‘re back.  And once again, we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s nonanimal-racing news for a segment once called The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports, by some dude who never heard of the Kentucky Derby.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Thailand, one of the great world capitals of odd news, and the big annual water buffalo races of Chanburi (ph), as these sleek gracing animals achieve speeds approaching eight miles an hour.  It‘s actually quite dangerous, but also great fun to gamble on, just two characteristics that make buffalo racing so much more interesting than, say, the Buffalo Sabers.  That‘s a hockey team.

But there are no $1,000 contracts or TV deals for these buffaloes.  When the race is over, it‘s back to back-breaking hard labor in the rice fields, just like the players with the Buffalo Sabers.

Back to the American sporting scene and the 33rd annual Great Gobbler Gallop in Carero (ph), Texas.  It‘s turkey time (INAUDIBLE) (INAUDIBLE) to determine which city is the turkey capital of the world.  Carero, Texas, or Worthington, Minnesota.  The Texas Turkey ran first, kept in line by handlers armed with rafting oars and 10-gallon hats.

Rudy Begonia crossed the finish line in a blazing minute-15.

Then it was the Minnesotans‘ turn.  All came down to a turkey named Paycheck.  And he‘s off to an amazing start, (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), no, he‘s gone feet first into the crowd.  Oh, no, he‘s attacking that woman.  Now he‘s out running, wait, he‘s back in the crowd again.  He‘s going all Ron Artest on that guy.  Oh, the humanity, ladies and gentlemen.  I don‘t need to tell you.  Carero, Texas, will take home the title of Turkey Capital of the World.

As for Paycheck, suspensions, fines, Thanksgiving.  Only the league office knows for sure.

Speaking of only the league office knowing, another unsubstantiated terror threat from overseas surfaces.  Round and round she goes, and where she stops, today—Baltimore, you‘re it.  Analysis ahead from Roger Cressey.

And one of the worst hurricane seasons ever, threatening the U.S.  again.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Michael Adam Skurdahl of Byron, Minnesota, accused of holding up a McDonald‘s in Rochester.  The manager got suspicious when Mr.  Skurdahl arrived wearing a black wig, sunglasses, Scotch tape on his ear, and a mole on his cheek, and he announced he was conducting a corporate audit.  Then he scratched his cheek, and the mole smeared off.  Scotch tape, it was to cover up his ear piercing, see?  (INAUDIBLE).

Number two, Mr. Floate of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  Mr.  Floate is running for mayor.  City of Victoria is opposing his candidacy, claiming he is not a real person, just a fictional character who exists to remind people that the city of Victoria still pumps raw sewage into an outlet of the Pacific Ocean.

Of course, I‘m not a real person, says James Squaraq (ph), who plays Mr. Floate.  Quote, “I‘m a big piece of poop,” unquote.

And speaking of a big piece of poop, number one, Bill O‘Reilly, who tells the New York newspaper “Newsday” that he has to, quote, “spend an enormous amount of money protecting myself against evil,” unquote.

Well, you‘ve thrown that money away, pal.  Evil took you over many years ago.

Asked about his future after his contract runs out two years hence, O‘Reilly interrupted the questioner and said the word, “Retirement.”

We won, we won, we won, we won!  Ding-dong, the witch is dead! 

(singing)  Happy, happy, joy, joy, happy, happy, joy, joy!  (INAUDIBLE)...

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OLBERMANN:  Two weeks ago yesterday it was when two employees of the Department of Homeland Security tipped off relatives and friends that there was a time specific threat to the New York City subway system.  The city ratcheted up security without telling anybody. 

Only after the warning had filtered through the Internet on e-mails did Mayor Michael Bloomberg tell the public.  Even then he did so only in an extraordinary coincidence hours after the president‘s speech about the number of terror attacks this administration had foiled.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN the tipsters have been identified now and punished and today we had another localized terror warning predicated on info developed by the federal government.

The Harbor Tunnel in Baltimore serving Interstate 895 was closed for about two hours and one lane each way only was open in the Fort McHenry Tunnel, which serves I-95, this all based on concerns resulting from an ongoing investigation by the FBI and state and local authorities.

Maryland‘s governor said late today the investigation has been underway for two weeks.  The phrase of choice predictably abundance of caution but two government officials told the Associated Press that the closures were based on an uncorroborated threat.  One federal enforcement official said that the threat was phoned into authorities by a person claiming to have information from abroad.

NBC News has learned tonight that the source is an Islamic radical unconnected to al Qaeda or other known terrorist groups detained in the Netherlands.  He gave Dutch authorities the details of the supposed plot.

If this sounds like the process that sparked the New York subway warning, yes kind of, the tipsters who were willing to decide who got warned and who didn‘t in New York have had their security clearances suspended so reports the New York Daily News.

They are William Ross, a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain working for Homeland Security‘s Transportation Safety Administration, TSA, and another high-ranking civilian intelligence officer with the Coast Guard who was not named.

Ross was being questioned for allegedly warning his son of the possible attack.  The son, a theatrical producer, promptly warned all his friends by e-mail.  That other unnamed employee allegedly told a friend to stay out of New York‘s subways from October 7th through October 10th.  That employee was also transferred to another division.

Unfortunately his “friend” had already identified him in the e-mail as the chief of intelligence for the U.S. Coast Guard and its liaison to the Office of Homeland Security.  The Coast Guard says it‘s cooperating with Homeland Security in this investigation.

Let‘s call in MSNBC Terrorism Analyst Roger Cressey, formerly coordinator of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy from the National Security Council staff, good evening Roger.

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right, let‘s follow up on New York first.  They‘ve identified the tipsters.  They‘ve suspended their clearances and the security breach is all resolved forever and the lesson to other who would warn their friends and children is absolute, whatever you do don‘t put it in writing.  If you have to call, OK, just don‘t leave an electronic trail, right?

CRESSEY:  Absolutely.  That‘s why the phone is still working.  Now, look, they‘ve lost their clearances.  The investigation is ongoing and I wouldn‘t be surprised if the contractor is fired.  I mean that‘s just going to be part and parcel of the overall investigation.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  The Baltimore tunnels today let me ask first about the nature of the threat.  What do we know about it?  What do we know about the reaction to it and what officials there did today?

CRESSEY:  It‘s pretty thin (INAUDIBLE) the threat that is.  There are individuals that were being monitored by local authorities.  The FBI became involved in it but the terror threat specifically was uncorroborated, as you reported, was not deemed to be very credible.  In my judgment, the governor‘s office overreacted today.

I think this is a great example where uncorroborated threat reporting is disseminated down to state and local officials.  In this case the state, which does not have a lot of experience in judging what is real and what isn‘t did overreact to it.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s put New York and Baltimore together and the point that you just made and I‘m quoting Carla McIntosh (ph), an FBI spokeswoman in Baltimore and she said, “We received some information a couple of days ago with a threat to a tunnel, nothing specific.” 

I‘m missing something, Roger.  You get information.  There is enough to it that you think you need to do something.  You put more cops on the subways in New York or you shut down the tunnels in New York but you don‘t do that until you have sat on it for a few days.

Or, in the Baltimore case, two weeks and you finally reveal it, anonymous sources are saying there doesn‘t seem to be much to the threat.  Isn‘t what happened in Baltimore today just a repeat of what we saw in New York two weeks ago only faster?

CRESSEY:  No, it‘s a little different because in the case of New York it was very specific and they believed it was imminent; moreover, the source had been credible when he reported about events inside Iraq, not that credible when he talked about the United States but there is a requirement to run down the other threads of reporting that he disseminated.

Now, you know, that said you can have a credible report but if it‘s not corroborated you‘re kind of stuck in this middle ground.  And the case of whether or not they sat on it that is never the case.  What they‘ll do is they‘ll run to ground any other information. 

They‘ll monitor people.  They‘ll check with other intelligence sources.  They‘ll share the information up and down state, local, federal authorities to see if a broader and a more complete picture can be developed before you act upon it because the downside to acting immediately upon the information, Keith, unless the threat is imminent is that you then blow any opportunity to learn more about these individuals.

OLBERMANN:  All right, in the context of what they actually did, let me ask the same question again.  How do we get the point across to—even if it‘s just local, not truly counterterrorism officials but just local government officials that in specific situations they can and have created more terror, more anxiety than terrorists themselves have and somebody‘s got to come up with a different system?

CRESSEY:  Here‘s the problem.  The bar has been set so low on threat reporting now that anybody in the chain it would be nuts on their part not to act upon it.  That‘s how they all feel.  The downside is what you just said and everybody says well who is credible here and why do you keep doing this?

Until you get a better process for bringing in better reporting, analyzing and evaluating and giving informed judgments to state and local authorities they‘re always going to overreact because if we‘re in their shoes that‘s what they‘re going to do.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I don‘t know.  We had a rash of bomb threats in my high school one year and it just did—all it did was create more bomb threats.

CRESSEY:  It got you out of the gym though didn‘t it?

OLBERMANN:  Yes, well it wasn‘t my idea, Roger Cressey, MSNBC Counterterrorism Analyst, as always sir great thanks.

CRESSEY:  OK, Keith, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And just to liven this up a little further, an event in New York today that looked to the layman like it might have been terrorism, yet it turned out to be anything but, fire on the 59th Street Bridge, known as the Queensboro to your out-of-towners.

Paint removal went awry in some fashion, heavy black smoke billowing from the area of scaffolding and a tarp on the bridge‘s upper level on the Manhattan side.  The bridge was closed for a couple of hours. 

More than 100 firefighters were dispatched to the scene.  They initially had trouble getting water to the site of the fire under that tarp, something else you can worry about at night.  Eventually the fire was extinguished, no indication about any real damage to the butt ugly 96-year-old span and at no time did anybody sing slow down you move too fast.

Also tonight, Wilma moving too fast, a hurricane, a category two, amid fears that it might grow to a category four where it makes landfall, possibly Florida, possibly this weekend.

And Tom Sizemore, talk about making landfall, has a new movie credit to his name so to speak, an adult BBB with Tom talking about his love for the Hollywood madam; those stories ahead, first your COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bytes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Good afternoon everyone.  Our policy is not to comment on an investigation while it‘s ongoing.  She is extremely well qualified.  The president doesn‘t have a litmus test.  I‘m just not going to comment on an investigation while it‘s ongoing.  The president doesn‘t have a litmus test that she‘s uniquely well qualified.  I‘m not going to comment on the investigation though beyond that.  Thank you.

CORNELL ALLEN:  I still don‘t believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We met Cornell Allen outside the Oklahoma Lottery Commission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well let me give you something then.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In his hand, the Katrina survivor holds a new beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He says he‘s going back to New Orleans and now he‘s got some money to take with him when he goes.

ALLEN:  No, I‘m not going back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re not going back, you going to stay here?

ALLEN:  I‘m staying in Oklahoma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right, he‘s a new Oklahoman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Philips and I will now read random snippets of new copy to show you that if you possess sufficient gravitas what you are saying doesn‘t have to mean anything at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you have ever sat naked on a hotel bedspread, we have got a chilling report you won‘t want to miss.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) and (INAUDIBLE) were dropping mad beats at the house party when tragedy struck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In the interest of full disclosure I should state that this reporter has a similar body piercing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Record rainfall in some areas on both coasts causing evacuations, landslides and potentially catastrophic flooding, plus a near record year for Atlantic hurricanes and it‘s only October.

Our second story on the COUNTDOWN, Wilma, it is official the 21st named storm of the season is now a category two hurricane and picking up speed and strength.  Wilma is expected to grow briefly at least into a category four storm then weaken back to category three as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico by Friday.

Once through the pass it will possibly make a hard right hitting land then on Florida‘s west coast.  Right now meteorologists predicting it will move quickly across the peninsula and back out to the Atlantic by the end of the week.

In Massachusetts, meanwhile, record rainfall and cracks in a 100-year-old dam prompted the evacuation of 2,000 people from the town of Taunton which is 20 miles west of Providence, Rhode Island. 

Authorities are now urging everyone along the Mill River to leave in case the Wittendon Pond Dam breaks completely.  Forty other dams in Massachusetts are also considered unsafe.  The governor has now ordered an emergency inspection of all the high risk dams in the state.

On the other coast, heavy rains caused a landslide in Burbank outside L.A. sending a stream of mud and debris into a residential neighborhood.  This is the same area already charred by wildfires during the summer.  No homes were damaged by the road Country Club Drive was still impassable.

And there you go, there is today‘s segue from real news to the celebrity and entertainment update, Keeping Tabs, from Burbank‘s Country Club Drive to the ex-boyfriend of the Hollywood madam.

Tom Sizemore, who first dated then battered Heidi Fleiss is interviewed about her on the new DVD says, “She captured my imagination.  She comported herself with great dignity and earned $20 million in the sex business by the age of 27.  Come on.  That girl has talent.”

So does Sizemore.  He was in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” but he might better have appeared in some pornographic doppelganger of it called perhaps “Saving Ryan‘s Privates.”  The DVD is 70 minutes of video of Sizemore having sex with multiple partners and talking about a night of passion with Paris Hilton, not appearing in your picture.

Sizemore also explains that he has a deadly combination of physical and emotional disturbances.  He‘s, a) a sex addict; and, b) suffers from (INAUDIBLE) which causes involuntary prolonged arousal and enables the sufferer to have sex for unusually long period of time, like for instance the Ice Age.  Yeah, like who doesn‘t have that (INAUDIBLE) thing?  Wait size more—oh, size more, never mind.

Here‘s something else too obvious for words.  FOX has bought a pilot for a new show from actor/producer Ashton Kutcher called 30-year-old grandpa.  That would be the Ashton Kutcher who was two years old the first time his wife, Demi Moore, got hitched.  The show would star a man who marries an older woman and becomes, and gee maybe this is where they got the name, a 30-year-old grandpa.

Baseball, the league championship series still providing plenty of drama for grandpas and others, a homer for the ages keeping the Cardinals‘ World Series hopes alive.  We‘ll talk to the man who called the shot during the game broadcast last night.

But first the COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for coveted title of Worst Person in the World, the bronze goes to either Penn State Women‘s basketball coach Renee Portland (ph) or her former player Jennifer Harris.  Only the courts will decide which.

The coach berated the player last week saying she had a poor attitude and work ethic.  The player says none of that‘s true.  It‘s just the coach avenging herself against her. 

The player says the coach harassed her assuming she was gay and when the player complained the coach made the remarks about the work ethic.  Punch line, player Harris says by the way she‘s not gay but her lawyer is from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.  I‘m completely confused.

Also nominated an unnamed convict in Romania convicted on murder charges.  He has filed a suit for contract violation against God.  He says his baptism was a contract to keep him out of the hands of the devil and obviously God did not fulfill his end of the bargain.

But the winner, Don McNulty (ph), the founder of Bio Cleaning Services of America, now advertising his services on a billboard on I-70 in St.  Louis and that billboard features in big letters the words homicide, suicide and death cleaning. 

Mr. McNulty explains in the St. Louis Post Dispatch that most property owners do not realize until it‘s too late that they are responsible for cleaning up a bloody, gory death so he will do it for you.  Don‘t forget, for your next violent crime, think Don McNulty, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  All things considered, all the famous homeruns in baseball history from Bucky Dent to Curt Gibson, from Bobby Thompson to Bill Mazeroski, there had really been only one other like it, a homerun hit by Dave Henderson in the 1986 American League Championship series when the Boston Red Sox were down to their last strike of their season.

Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN the name is Albert Pujols, and for absolute last minute save your skin sports heroics he‘s your man.  The St. Louis Cardinal were literally one strike away from elimination, trailing the Houston Astros three games to one trailing in last night‘s fifth game, 4-2 with two out, nobody on and a count of 1-2 on the short stop David Eckstein (ph) facing the best relief pitcher in the National League Brad Lidge (ph). 

Lidge gets Eckstein out and the Astros are going to their first World Series in their 43-year history but Lidge did not get Eckstein out.  He singled to keep the game alive and then Lidge walked Jim Edmonds (ph) but he got a quick strike on Puholz and it looked like the Cards were dead having scored just 11 runs in five games.  Oops, it‘s deep and I don‘t think it‘s playable.

Puholz almost hit it out of an indoor stadium, a three-run homer that turned Houston‘s 4-2 trip to the World Series into a 5-4 victory that forces a sixth game between the Cardinals and the Astros tomorrow night in St. Louis.

To talk about it with me a pleasure to be joined by the man who called the homerun on radio, a baseball announcer so gifted that you should be turning down your TV to listen to him and his partner Dave Campbell, Dan Shulman of ESPN radio.  (INAUDIBLE) I also work for ESPN radio and Dan is a friend of mine of longstanding.  Anyway, thanks for coming on friend. 

DAN SHULMAN, ESPN RADIO:  Thank you, Keith, good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  A day later and everybody‘s gotten on and off the planes from Houston to St. Louis but do you think the impact of the homerun has really registered yet?

SHULMAN:  Well, I think for the Astros they are fine.  I mean they‘re a pretty resilient bunch and they started 15-30 and they‘re used to all kinds of wild games and one run wins and one run losses.  I think they‘re going to be OK.

I think the folks here in St. Louis are still walking on air right now.  I mean as you said, Brad Lidge is the best closer in the National League and even though Albert Puholz, the best hitter in the game, got to the plate, I don‘t think anybody in St. Louis really truly believed when they got down to two outs in the inning and nobody on before Eckstein started it, I don‘t think a lot of folks still had faith that St. Louis was going to win that game.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe the second most remarkable thing apart from the homerun itself was the silence after he hit it.  I mean in Boston in 1978 when Bucky Dent of the Yankees hit his homerun against the Red Sox, I was sitting in the seats there and there was this sustained groan at Fenway Park for at least 30 seconds.  Was there any groaning last night in Houston, any sound at all?

SHULMAN:  There was no groan.  I did the Bartman game for lack of a better term at Wrigley Field a couple of years ago and there was a collective gasp when that happened in Chicago.

This, Keith, was like somebody hit a mute button in the stadium.  It was the loudest stadium I‘d ever been in, in my life.  They‘re waving their towels.  The state of Texas is ready for a party.  The party was on and the second the ball left his bat, because it got out in a hurry, all the entire stadium went completely silent and it was so eerie that for a split second as I‘m yelling and screaming and calling the homerun, I‘m beginning to doubt myself.

What is going on here?  There was just a weird feel in the stadium because everybody got so quiet at exactly the same time and it took me a split second to feel secure.  Yes, I am seeing the ball go out and I am seeing him run the bases and this truly did happen.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  There‘s not been some sort of blackout episode that‘s only happening to you.

SHULMAN:  Exactly, it‘s a broadcaster‘s worst nightmare.

OLBERMANN:  I know the feeling.  It happens to me out here every night.  But now we can bring up the Dent homerun or the Curt Gibson homerun in the 1988 World Series or any of the other epic homers but, as I suggested, there‘s probably only one real comparison to this and it‘s game five of the 1986 playoffs in the American League between the Angels and the Red Sox and the Angels had a 5-4 lead with two men out in the ninth, a man on for Boston and Dave Henderson of Boston down to his team‘s final strike of the season.  Pick up that story from there.

SHULMAN:  Well, Dave Henderson hits the homerun, a two run shot off Donny Moore (ph).  They take the lead and then the Angels, what people forget is the Angels actually got a run back in the bottom of the ninth and tied the game before losing it in eleven and it was still 3-2 for the Angels, just like it‘s 3-2 for the Astros right now.

Then the Angels went back to Fenway Park and played terribly, got blown out in game six, got blown out in game seven.  I don‘t see that happening.  I‘m not smart enough to tell you who is going to win but I think these are two very evenly matched teams.

Again, Houston is a very resilient club, as mentally tough as any team in baseball and when you‘ve got Roy Oswalt (ph) going in game six and then if you need him Roger Clemens going into game seven, as talented as the Cardinals are, you‘ve still got to like the Astros‘ chances just because they‘re up three games to two, as opposed to being down three games to two.

OLBERMANN:  All right but so many teams that have been hit like the Angels were in that game 15 years ago or longer now, 19 years ago...

SHULMAN:  Right.

OLBERMANN: ...don‘t recover from it.  They can‘t get back to the idea that it‘s—you know we have two games and we only need one win.  What makes this team different do you think?

SHULMAN:  Well, I think one thing, as I mentioned they started 15 and 30.  They feel they‘ve been playing playoff baseball for four and a half months.  They know if they lose two or three in a row at any point in the season they‘re done.  They‘ve had to play great baseball and tough baseball and resilient baseball all season long.

And another thing and maybe I‘m reading too much into this, Keith, but Brad Lidge, the pitcher, only in his third year in the majors when he gave up the homerun he sat there at his locker and he answered every single question that every single reporter had and then he came back out on the field in a tee shirt and shorts with his elbow wrapped and did every local television crew that was standing on the first base line.

He‘s not afraid and I don‘t think he‘s going to be afraid to take the ball, if he‘s in a ninth inning situation tomorrow night.  This is a tough team and a talented team.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, the beauty of the thing you‘d never see this in any other sport where the margin was that great and the time left was so little.

SHULMAN:  The best against the best where a strikeout would end it, a homerun would change it forever and the best part about it to me was David Eckstein getting it started.  The ultimate over achiever, although I don‘t know if we should really call him that anymore.

He‘s a great major league ball player.  He was down to the final strike and he got a base hit through the left side.  Edmonds took a walk, an all-star pitcher against probably the best hitter on the planet right now with everything riding in the balance and an entire stadium going nuts.  I‘ll never forget being there.

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s the way baseball should sell itself games like that.  Dan Shulman, who with the impeccable Dave Campbell will give the very unanticipated game six call in the National League Championship series tomorrow night on ESPN radio.  Thanks, Dan.  Give Sue my regards and we‘ll be listening.

SHULMAN:  Will do, thanks Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Goodnight and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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