updated 11/1/2005 12:04:36 PM ET 2005-11-01T17:04:36

Guests: Dana Milbank, David Gergen, Philip Giraldi, Heather Pranke

LISA DANIELS, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Sam I am.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m pleased to announce my nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  President Bush‘s third nominee to fill the O‘Connor vacancy comes on Halloween Day.  So is it a trick, or a treat?

The president‘s second term has been no treat—the Libby indictment, calls for Karl Rove‘s job, problems in Iraq, and high fuel costs.  How can the White House get back on track?

Coming to America.  Fire up those funny hats and sexy man-skirts.  Charles and Camilla hit the Colonies.  But will the new bride be a flop compared to Diana?

And on this Halloween, we take time to remember the great Mr. Jass and the one and only I.P.—what‘s-his-name.  No, they‘re not real people, but it‘s causing real controversy this holiday.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

And good evening.  I‘m Lisa Daniels, in tonight for Keith Olbermann.

The phrase “trick or treat” has taken on new significance in our nation‘s capital this Halloween, Republicans embracing the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O‘Connor on the Supreme Court as if it were a shopping bag stuffed with chocolate bars, Democrats left feeling as if their house had just been egged.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN now, after the failed nomination of Harriet Miers, what no one can dispute tonight is that Judge Alito is qualified for the post.  Currently, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals based in Philadelphia, Alito also served as a lawyer for the Justice Department, as well as the top federal prosecutor for New Jersey, one of the largest federal districts in the country, the president feeling confident that this nomination will be better received than the last one was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BUSH:  In the performance of his duties, Judge Alito has gained the respect of his colleagues and attorneys for his brilliance and decency.  He‘s won admirers across the political spectrum.  I‘m confident that the United States Senate will be impressed by Judge Alito‘s distinguished record, his measured judicial temperament, and his tremendous personal integrity.

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE:  The Supreme Court is an institution that I have long held in reverence.  During my 29 years as a public servant, I‘ve had the opportunity to view the Supreme Court from a variety of perspectives—as an attorney in the solicitor general‘s office arguing and briefing cases before the Supreme Court, as a federal prosecutor, and most recently, for the last 15 years, as a judge of the Court of Appeals.

During all of that time, my appreciation of the vital role that the Supreme Court plays in our constitutional system has greatly deepened.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

DANIELS:  Before taking the bench, Samuel Alito argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court as a Justice Department lawyer.  As for how he might rule as a justice on the court, 15 years of judicial decisions are already providing some clues.

NBC chief justice correspondent, Pete Williams, joins us now from the Supreme Court with more on the nominee.

Good evening, Pete.

PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening to you.

The president could have followed the model that he set with Harriet Miers.  He could have chosen another woman to succeed Sandra Day O‘Connor.  Or he could have chosen someone who isn‘t a judge.  But he decided to follow the more traditional approach, choosing a judge with an extensive paper trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS (voice-over):  The president turned to a judge with a long tenure on a federal appeals court.

BUSH:  Good morning.

Judge Alito has served with distinction on that court for 15 years, and now has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.

ALITO:  Federal judges have the duty to interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly, always keeping in mind the limited role that the courts play in our constitutional system.

WILLIAMS:  Judge Alito‘s most controversial legal opinion came in 1991, when he voted to uphold a Pennsylvania law requiring women to notify their husbands before seeking an abortion.  The Supreme Court struck that law down, and abortion rights advocates called for Alito‘s defeat.

KAREN PEARL, PLANNED PARENTHOOD:  He has a demonstrated hostility toward access for women, and to make sure that women have the full range of reproductive health services that they need.

WILLIAMS:  And when asked about it today, his 90-year-old mother said, quote, “Of course he‘s against abortion.”

Civil rights groups also say Alito‘s rulings have made it harder to sue for race and sex discrimination on the job.

If confirmed, Alito would become the court‘s fifth Catholic, and perhaps because he and Justice Scalia are both Italian-American, Catholic, and conservative, he‘s been nicknamed Scalito.  Both were born in Trenton, too.

But Alito‘s rulings also show an independent streak, allowing a woman from Iran to seek asylum in the U.S. based on Iran‘s treatment of women.  And allowing parents to sue a public school for failing to protect their son from merciless bullying.

STUART TAYLOR, COLUMNIST, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  He seems likely to line up to the right of O‘Connor on a number of issues, based on his opinions, but not very far to the right, unless he‘s holding something back in the opinions he‘s been writing as an appeals court judge.

WILLIAMS:  His law clerks also say he has a sense of humor.  They persuaded this Newark coffee shop to offer Judge Alito‘s Bold Justice Blend, which he often drinks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  And he showed that same sense of humor when he was a student at Princeton, writing in his school yearbook when he graduated, “Sam intends to go to law school and eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court,” Lisa.

DANIELS:  You know, Pete, a lot of people have mentioned his independent streak.  But today we heard a lot more comparisons to Scalia than to O‘Connor.  Based on what we know so far, Pete, how likely do you think Alito will be the next swing vote that O‘Connor was?

WILLIAMS:  Probably wouldn‘t play that role as much as she did.  There‘s a thinking here that maybe Justice Breyer will emerge as the swing vote.  But it‘s awfully difficult to tell now how he‘ll rule on the Supreme Court.  Sometimes justices surprise the presidents who nominate them.  Certainly not anything he would want the president to think now, but it does happen.

DANIELS:  Pete, when he spoke this morning, Judge Alito made very clear his reverence for the Supreme Court.  That word appeared a lot.  Do you think that was a veiled signal that he will be reverent enough to uphold the court‘s precedence on rulings like Roe v. Wade?

WILLIAMS:  Well, I think what he was talking about is reverence for the institution, this temple of law, this place where they take it seriously.

I think the question is, in the confirmation hearings, will he use the same sort of formula that John Roberts used so effectively in his confirmation hearings by saying that he respected Roe v. Wade as precedent?  And, you know, that the Senate really couldn‘t pin him down on how he would vote on Roe v. wade or a future case questioning abortion restrictions.  He said, I have to take them as I see them.  But that may be a formula that Judge Alito will use too.

But he has a little more baggage there, because he‘s had some decisions on abortion, something John Roberts did not in his short time as a federal judge.

DANIELS:  There is a paper trail.  NBC chief justice correspondent, Pete Williams.  Pete, thanks so much.

WILLIAMS:  OK.

DANIELS:  Even before this morning‘s announcement at the White House, the Republicans were sending out talking points on Judge Alito.  No surprise, they were very pleased with that nomination.

But for the Democrats, it is a very different story.  They wasted little time today before speaking out about the nominee and the president who picked him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  It is a pity that the president thought his position was so weak, he had to bend to a narrow but strident faction of his political base.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Now, it‘s sad that the president felt he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America, instead of choosing a nominee in the mold of Sandra Day O‘Connor.  Who would unify us.

This controversial nominee, who would make the court less diverse and far more conservative, will get very careful scrutiny from the Senate and the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

DANIELS:  Many of the other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, no less concerned, Senator Ted Kennedy also questioning the choice in a statement.  Quote, “Rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing.  This is a nomination based on weakness, not on strength.”

If Alito‘s nomination actually makes it to a hearing (INAUDIBLE) the Senate, one thing we can count on is that that man, “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank, will be there, catching every word.

Good evening to you, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Hi, there, Lisa.

DANIELS:  So let‘s look ahead to these proceedings for a second.  The president‘s conservative base, obviously very happy tonight.  But do you think the Democrats are so outraged that this might be the extraordinary circumstance that the Gang of 14 once referred to when they reserved the right to filibuster on judicial nominees?  What do you think?

MILBANK:  Well, you really get the sense that both parties are really spoiling for a fight here, certainly the bases are.  And you don‘t get the sense that this is another John Roberts, who can command half of the votes of the Democratic caucus.

So the Gang of 14 is, for all intents and purposes, dead.  The Republicans say that ideology is not something that you can—an extraordinary circumstance.  The Democrats say it is.

So this—you could very easily see this leading down the path towards the nuclear option.  You can very easily see this becoming something of a referendum on abortion, which Roberts really wasn‘t, as Pete was pointing out, because he really did not have a paper trail.

DANIELS:  At the early part of the second term, the president used to talk a lot about his political capital.  We heard that phrase a lot.  Judging from the polls, Dana, he seems to have lost a lot, especially when you compare it to just this summer, when he nominated John Roberts.  Is the (INAUDIBLE) fight a fight that this president might actually lose?

MILBANK:  Well, he certainly could lose it.  The odds are always and still remain in his favor.  It‘s not as if he really had the choice.  The Democrats were coming out and suggesting that he have a consensus nominee.  Well, when you start taking advice from the political opposition, you‘ve got some problems.

And he did, really, the only thing he could do, and that is, rally the base.  When you‘re sitting at 39 percent support in the polls, the base is all you have.  He couldn‘t afford to do it any other way this time.  Even if he loses, that was a necessary choice for him to make.

Now, the rough counting now is, he can probably get 52 votes.  So if they can trigger the nuclear option and beat back a filibuster, then he gets through.

DANIELS:  Some Democrats were saying today that the only reason he did it today was to take some of the attention away from Scooter Libby and the indictment and the resignation.  Do you think that‘s just sour grapes?  Or is there really some truth to that?

MILBANK:  Scooter Libby, who‘s he?  So...

DANIELS:  I don‘t know.  You tell me.  I‘m sure you‘re writing about it every day.

MILBANK:  You know, the only surprise, I thought, was that they didn‘t try to wheel it out maybe at the same time Pat Fitzgerald was having his press conference on Friday.  Look, they‘ve been through this now.  This is the third time through this.  They knew who they were going to come out and select.  They didn‘t have to go back to the books and check all of these things.

This, in politics, is what they call a page-turn.  The president desperately needed to change the subject.  And nobody could fault them for doing it.  It‘s a perfectly legitimate way to do it.

I would point out that at Scott McClellan‘s briefing today, six of the first nine questioners were on Scooter and not Alito.

DANIELS:  Well, it was actually an interesting White House briefing there.  It just seems strange to me that the White House was bragging about the fact that Harriet Miers doesn‘t have the judicial credentials that many Supreme Court nominees have.  Then they sort of do this 180, and now they‘re bragging about the fact that Alito is so well qualified.

MILBANK:  I love the versatility of the arguments on all sides.

DANIELS:  Yes.

MILBANK:  But yes, now we‘re saying exactly what we need is a male who is Ivy League educated, has been on the bench for 15 years.  So, so much for that.  Everybody can switch sides and take the other side‘s talking points, and we‘ll march from there.

DANIELS:  “The Washington Post”‘s Dana Milbank.  We‘ll look for your article tomorrow.  A pleasure talking to you, Dana.  Thanks so much.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Lisa.

DANIELS:  Today‘s big announcement was definitely a distraction from the big elephant in the Oval Office.  Can the president salvage the rest of his term with the same people that helped push his White House in crisis?

And what about those big-picture questions triggered by the CIA leak investigation?  Forged documents, a break-in at an embassy, and a scheme to gain influence, troubling allegations about the buildup to war from a former CIA agent.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  When he made his next choice for the Supreme Court today, President Bush had the ultimate opportunity to shift the attention away from the CIA leak investigation.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the reality of the White House indictment is sinking in.

The vice president‘s now-former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Thursday.  Libby will be arraigned on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements.

The vice president named Libby‘s replacements today.  They are two inside staffers.  David Addington, the vice president‘s legal counsel, will be his new chief of staff.  And John Hannah will serve as the vice president‘s national security adviser.  Libby had filled both positions.

But some Democrats are calling for the replacement of another major White House adviser.  His name, Karl Rove, Senate minority leader Harry Reid saying that the president should keep his word and fire anybody involved with leaking the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.

And just as ominous for the White House, public perception.  A majority of Americans believe that Libby‘s indictment is part of the broader ethical problem in the Bush administration, that is according to a recent poll.  And in another survey, 55 percent now view Mr. Bush‘s presidency as a failure.

And the line between legalities and ethics may not be one the Bush administration wants to rest on.  Democrats have also been calling on the president to apologize for his administration‘s role in outing Valerie Plame, instead of expressing relief that so far only one official was indicted.

Let‘s call on David Gergen, editor at large for “U.S. News and World Report,” and former adviser to four presidents.

Good evening, David.  Always good to see you.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER:  Good evening, Lisa.  Thank you.

DANIELS:  So let‘s start with what I just said.  Do you think that anytime soon, David, we may see this president apologizing for his administration‘s role in outing Valerie Plame?

I‘m laughing.  I can‘t even get the sentence out.  Do you think it‘s -

do you think we might see that soon?

GERGEN:  I don‘t think so, Lisa.  I, you know, it‘s going to be like Groundhog Day.  You can keep on looking around, looking around, but you don‘t ever see it, you know, it‘s, it --  No.  I don‘t, I—as much as I think that he should take a page out of the Ronald Reagan playbook after Iran-Contra and come to the country for what Michael Deaver would call a national conversation, and to explain what‘s going on, to take the responsibility for it, and to open up his White House and bring in fresh blood, that‘s clearly not the course he has chosen to go.

He‘s, A, we‘ve been hearing over the weekend, he‘s not going to bring in fresh blood.  B, it‘s quite clear that he is not intending to apologize at all.  And C, he moved very swiftly to throw down the gauntlet today with the choice of Mr. Alito for the Supreme Court.

DANIELS:  OK, play with me for a second.  What if Karl Rove does somehow get indicted on something?  Do you think that once the architect, as he‘s fondly called, is indicted—if he‘s indicted, we‘re just playing the if-game right now—that President Bush might change his course of action?

GERGEN:  Oh, I think in that case, he would shake up his team.  He would have to, because Karl Rove is so central to everything.  And, I mean, you know, some people say it would take three people to replace Karl Rove.

And, you know, we‘ve seen here in the last few weeks, with some of the bumbles the White House made, including the Harriet Miers nomination, you know, when Karl Rove is distracted, this White House, you know, has a really hard time being as effective.

So I think he would have to bring in other people.

But let me just stress, Lisa, we, at this moment, know there‘s an investigation that‘s continuing.  I don‘t think we know which way it‘s going to go.  There was some journalist sentiment this weekend saying they thought he was in the clear now.  I think we really don‘t know whether he‘s in the clear or not.  It‘s going to be totally up to the prosecutor, Mr.  Rove, and Mr. Rove‘s lawyers, and the grand jury.

DANIELS:  Now, it is possible that Vice President Cheney could be a witness in Scooter Libby‘s trial.  Even Cheney‘s new chief of staff, David Addington, was reportedly consulted by Libby about Joe Wilson and his wife.  And so he even could be drawn into questions of what Libby knew and when he knew it.

GERGEN:  Sure.

DANIELS:  In your opinion, David, is the vice president now a liability for President Bush?

GERGEN:  I don‘t—I think that—no, I don‘t—I think that basically, you can‘t separate out the vice president and the president that way.  I think they are, they go up and down together.  And that is, they‘re both very popular on the right.  The president has renewed his popularity today with the Alito nomination.  And Dick Cheney‘s always been popular on the right.  They‘re both unpopular on the left.

And there are a lot of people in between who, you know, who are—have gone more negative on the administration against both the president and the vice president.

So I think they‘re actually joined at the hip in many ways, because Dick Cheney has been the single most influential vice president in our history.  And, you know, so I think that he is seen as sort of integrated with George W. Bush, not as a separate player.

DANIELS:  You know, when you look at second-term crises in the White House, and you know there are so many of them, do you think the president can get...

GERGEN:  (INAUDIBLE).

DANIELS:  ... by without firing somebody or apologizing?  None of it?

GERGEN:  Well, listen, I would have preferred a different course.  I would have preferred the Reagan course after Iran-Contra, as I say, you know, go to the country, take the—you know, take some blame, introspection.  Don‘t get down in the bunker.  Don‘t go into denial.

And they‘ve decided to go a very different way.  They‘re going to fight, and they‘re going to fight by revitalizing their conservative base and trying to get there that way.  I think it‘s going to—they‘ll probably get some victories along the way.  But we‘re going to have a lot of tribal warfare in Washington, which can get a lot worse if there‘s a filibuster on this Supreme Court nomination.  We don‘t, do not yet know if the Democrats plan to go that far.

But that would bring really, it would bring tribal warfare for the rest of the Bush presidency.

DANIELS:  Well, we‘re going to have to wait on that one.  David Gergen, adviser to four presidents and editor at large of “U.S. News and World Report,” David, thanks for your time tonight.  Always good to see you.

GERGEN:  Good to see you again.

DANIELS:  All right, from the serious to the silly, two traditions collide, Halloween and the bowling alley.  That can only mean Oddball is next.

And something residents in one town are hoping will not become a tradition, fake tombstones that some parents say are not fit for children to read.  Just take a look at them.  The owner basically says, Hey, get a life.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  I‘m Lisa Daniels, filling in for Keith Olbermann tonight.

And as usual, we pause our COUNTDOWN now for a special Halloween edition of our world-famous stupid-news segment.

Let‘s play Oddball.

All right, we‘re going to begin in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a traditional Halloween sporting event, bowling with pumpkins.  It‘s the fifth annual Great Pumpkin Bowl for fun and charity.  Dozens turned out for the opportunity, yes, to smash a bunch of pumpkins without having to steal them from their neighbor‘s porch.  It‘s good clean fun for everyone, except, I guess, the guy who gets to clean the pumpkin goo out of the bowling-pin gears.  Yuck.

To beautiful downtown Burbank, California, for the 12th annual Halloween Howl competition.  It‘s a costume contest for pugs, and, yes, their owners.  And it‘s clear the little guys just love to dress up.  Sleep away, we‘re waiting to hear who won.  But Dog Vader was certainly the crowd favorite, until, of course, he shook off the helmet and revealed his hideous real head.

Finally, to Kedge (ph), Washington, for the longest motorcycle jump ever.  No, it has nothing to do with Halloween, but the guys on the staff thought it was really cool.  Twenty-five-year-old Brian Case, who is known to his friends as B-1, obviously broke the record for the longest jump, launching himself the length of a football field—that 310 feet—and landing safely on the other side.  Yes!  He is B-1.  But a cool guy.

President Bush was the one who said those infamous 16 words in the State of the Union.  But how did the claim ever make it to the speech?  An intriguing tale of spies, break-ins, and forgeries that is coming your way.

And Charles and Camilla will be visiting the president this week.  Not exactly the best time for house guests, you could say, but when really is a good time after you‘re trying to follow Diana?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, Emily the Cat from Appleton, Wisconsin.  Four weeks ago, she escaped from her house there and disappeared without a trace.  The family searched the neighborhood and local animal shelters.  But after a month, they did begin to lose hope, until this week, when Emily turned up safe and sound 4,000 miles away in France, near the German border.  She‘ll be coming home in a week or two.  Maybe—well, it‘s a really long story.  And we‘ll explain another time.

Number two, there is good news and bad news for Miss Christina Goodenow of White City, Oregon.  The good news is, she won a million bucks in the Oregon state lottery this week.  The bad news is, the law says you can‘t collect that money if you bought the lottery ticket with a credit card you stole from your dead mother-in-law.  You just can‘t do it.  It‘s very specific about that.  So instead, she‘ll be charged with numerous counts of thefts, forgery, and, of course, possession of meth.

Number one, Will Johnson of Savannah, Georgia, who‘s been arrested for disorderly conduct after some drunken behavior at a Halloween celebration last night.  Police say he was running around in the street yelling at cars while dressed up in a blue leotard, orange wig, and face makeup to look like one of the characters from the 1980s cartoon show, “Thunder Cats.”  Thanks to our friends at the Web site SmokingGun.com, he will be directly into our Mug Shot Hall of Fame.

Congratulations, (INAUDIBLE).  Way to go.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  And welcome back to COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Lisa Daniels in tonight for Keith Olbermann.  Our third story tonight, two different reports on faulty forged and falsified intelligence leading us into war.  One from the ramp-up to the current war raging right now in Iraq, and one from the war that some compare the current conflict to: Vietnam. 

A new chapter in that difficult page in American history coming into better focus today, how we got into the Vietnam War in the first place.  It was believed that in August of 1964, U.S. warships were attacked twice in the Gulf of Tonkin.  President Lyndon Johnson used evidence of the second attack to get a resolution through Congress to open up the door to war in Vietnam. 

But historians have long since concluded that the second attack never actually happened.  It was faulty intelligence.  Is this sounding familiar?  A bad translation that led to the notion we‘d been attacked. 

And now according to The New York Times, there‘s evidence the National Security Agency deliberately falsified information to cover up the original mistake.  Quote: “The NSA historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times, and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence.” 

And it appears the intelligence community might still be keeping those missteps of the past under wraps today.  An unnamed intelligence official telling The Times that NSA historians pushed for Mr. Hanyok‘s work to be released to the public over three years ago. 

But by 2003, that idea was nixed in part out of fears that it would draw comparisons to the intelligence that led to the war with Iraq.  Now the NSA disputes that, saying instead that the report has been delayed until all relevant materials can be declassified. 

So now to the current conflict and a new theory about the claim now simply known as those infamous 16 words in the president‘s State of the Union Address.  A new explanation for how those forged Nigerien documents, which link Saddam Hussein and uranium, made it past the intelligence community to become the centerpiece for the build-up to war. 

Now the answer might lie with this man, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.  This according to an article in The American Conservative magazine.  After the attacks of 9/11, Berlusconi was allegedly eager to make friends with the Bush administration.  He put pressure on his own intelligence people to provide evidence that would help in the broader war on terror. 

The Italians floated information linking Iraq, Nigeria (sic), and nuclear weapons.  But when the British government, the CIA, and the State Department reviewed the Italian claims, they were rejected.  After another go at circulating the information, Joe Wilson was sent to look into the claims and Berlusconi‘s people finally put the forged Nigerien documents into public circulation. 

Italian investigators have already concluded that the documents were produced in Italy on the diplomatic front.  The fake papers were funneled into the American intelligence community through the Office of Special Plans.  That‘s an alternative intelligence-gathering agency under the jurisdiction of then-Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith. 

On the public front, the documents were given to an Italian TV program owned by Berlusconi.  That was in September of 2002.  A month later, the fake documents were at the U.S. embassy and from there, they made it to the vice president‘s office and the National Security Council, circumventing the safeguards built into the intelligence community.  And eventually made its way to the president‘s State of the Union Address that we all know took place in January of 2003. 

So I am joined now by the author of that article, The American Conservative, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi. 

Many thanks for joining us tonight.  We appreciate it.  Your article is so detailed, I‘m going to start off with a hard one.  Can you sort of give us an abridged version of how the forged documents made it all the way into the president‘s speech without anybody throwing them out?  Just boil it down for us. 

PHILIP GIRALDI, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  Well, basically, what happened was that the normal procedures whereby intelligence that comes into the United States government is checked over before it goes to the policymakers, this procedure was called vetting, was circumvented.  And it was essentially circumvented as you described it by the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, which had been set up basically to circumvent that it felt was not answering the needs of the policymakers. 

So it was kind of a circular process whereby the fabricated information was introduced into the system from the bottom, up to the top, without being checked out along the way. 

DANIELS:  Now, you make a very important allegation, a big allegation in your article that the Niger documents might have been forged in collusion with the Pentagon‘s Office of Special Plans which you in your article say would explain why the administration went after Ambassador Joe Wilson.  What evidence do you have supporting that? 

GIRALDI:  Well, there‘s not a whole lot of solid evidence.  But the fact is that if you consider people at the top level of the administration going after somebody who ostensibly was just a critic, it doesn‘t really make sense unless there was a much bigger agenda that was being hidden.  And that‘s what I‘m suggesting. 

And it is also true that the Italian who actually passed the documents that wound up in Washington, a guy named Rocco Martino, he later said to The Financial Times in London that he was engaged in what was a much bigger scheme that was a disinformation operation being carried out by the Italian government and also the American government. 

DANIELS:  But maybe it isn‘t bigger.  Perhaps your critics would say, it is actually simple.  I mean, are you sure that this isn‘t just one huge conspiracy theory that your article is sort of perpetuating? 

GIRALDI:  I don‘t think so.  There‘s certainly considerable evidence that this was going on, that the intelligence was circumventing the system to create a case for war against Iraq which otherwise might not have been made. 

And also, the whole question comes down to, was this bad intelligence? 

I think everybody would agree that there was a lot of bad intelligence.  Was it done through stupidity or through maliciousness?  And this is really the question.  Were people conscious that they were providing false and misleading intelligence or was it just a process that was something that was handled very clumsily? 

DANIELS:  Let me ask you this, Philip, do you think it is possible, feasible that the administration actually believed on some level that the documents were real? 

GIRALDI:  No.  I don‘t think so.  Because these documents went through several steps before they wound up at the administration and analysts at both CIA and NASA and the State Department pronounced them to be dubious. 

The thing to bear in mind here is that unless accountability is established in this case, this kind of thing could happen again. 

DANIELS:  You know, we all remember when the former CIA Director George Tenet accepted responsibility for the uranium reference getting into the president‘s State of the Union Address.  But from your research from your article, it almost appears that the CIA had very little to do with getting that faulty intelligence into the country, let alone into the speech. 

GIRALDI:  They were in fact completely out of the loop.  That‘s a correct assessment, yes. 

DANIELS:  And why do you say that? 

GIRALDI:  Well, because the documents were not seen by people at CIA until very late in the process, after they were already in the hands of the policymakers at the National Security Council and in the vice president‘s office. 

DANIELS:  OK.  So it‘s been nearly three years since it took for this truth, if it is the truth, to come out about the Niger documents.  Why did it take so long? 

GIRALDI:  Well, I think there‘s a considerable reluctance on the part of both the media and the politicians to deal with issues that come out of Iraq.  Essentially, the media did not fulfill its own responsibilities to be skeptical in the beginning.  And the Democratic Party got on board of the Iraq war very quickly for its own reasons. 

And as a result, I think that people in all areas are embarrassed now and are unwilling to confront the quite bad reality of what is Iraq. 

DANIELS:  Philip Giraldi, a contributing editor with The American Conservative magazine, also a former CIA agent.  Thanks for your time.  I‘m curious to see what the reaction will be to the article. 

GIRALDI:  Thank you very much. 

DANIELS:  Coming to America.  Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall get ready to jump across the pond.  Can Camilla even begin to live up to the Diana hysteria? 

And “you‘re fired,” the Donald-Martha face-off, which business giant saw (INAUDIBLE) firing the other?  Those stories ahead. 

But first here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of the day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”:  Welcome back to “HARDBALL.” Howard Dean is chairman of the Democratic National Committee. 

Thank you, sir, for coming in. 

HOWARD DEAN, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE:  I‘ll tell what you the number one issue.  The number one issues for me that I worry a lot about is first of all we have a very.

I think with the lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can‘t play hide the salami or whatever it is called.  So you‘ve got to go out there.

So we do not think that Judge Alito is a great nominee. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Favre.  And now—whoa!  What happened here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s the Burger King guy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What is going on?  There‘s a fan on the field.  He took the snap.  This is incredible!

BRETT FAVRE, QUARTERBACK, GREEN BAY PACKERS:  Yes.  I was surprised. 

I wasn‘t scared of him, believe me. 

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For the kids, Halloween is the best.  The candy, the pumpkins, the chance to, boo!  And it‘s not bad either for those who say.

(COW MOOING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Holy cow!  In a field of cow pies, pumpkin pie is a Halloween hallelujah for the cattle. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s cool!  That‘s the coolest thing I‘ve seen! 

I‘ve never seen a cow eating pumpkins! 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  Well, tomorrow is going to be a big day.  You could even call it historic.  Charles and Camilla are coming.  Yes, I‘ll pause while you mark your calendars.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the official visit of the future king and queen of England. 

It has been two decades since Prince Charles was last here with Princess Diana.  Her memory still very vivid in the minds of many.  But as our correspondent Michelle Kosinski reports, first the tiara, now the colonies.  It is all part of the reinvention of Camilla. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Camilla, now duchess of Cornwall, is ready to test the waters on this side of the Atlantic.  Prince Charles‘ second wife may not radiate Diana‘s superstar quality which kept America riveted, but observers say Americans are fascinated by the Charles and Camilla love story, three decades in the running. 

J.D. HEYMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, PEOPLE MAGAZINE:  People are interested in Camilla because she was the wicked witch in the fairy tale in terms of the way she was betrayed.  But she‘s an interesting woman.  She never sought fame herself.  She‘s been very loyal to Charles.  And anyone who has ever met her said she is a woman of good humor.  She‘s very gracious.  She‘s unpretentious. 

KOSINSKI:  Cameras will no doubt follow Charles and Camilla across this country.  But on “60 MINUTES” Sunday, Charles refused to discuss the relationship, saying he actually prefers to be out of the spotlight. 

CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES:  These official visits are quite difficult.  They‘re difficult to escape and go to places.  It would be nice to do it privately.  But I‘ll have to wait for another occasion. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But do you ever get to do anything privately? 

CHARLES:  Yes.  But it is not so easy. 

KOSINSKI:  Their first stop, New York City, including the World Trade Center site and the United Nations.  In Washington, D.C., lunch and dinner at the White House, followed by a weekend in San Francisco. 

(on camera):  Camilla, whom Princess Diana called “the rottweiler,” has been much maligned in both the British and American press.  But the tide may be turning.  Just last week she appeared in some official sparkle, a tiara borrowed from the queen.  And the Brits ate it up. 

(voice-over):  The tough British press is even starting to call her “chic.” The palace hopes she will win over hearts in America. 

DICKY ARBITER, QUEEN‘S FORMER PRESS SECRETARY:  And you considered her

in the media in this country, in the United Kingdom, that it is Diana territory.  And she is probably going to go a long way to woo the Americans.  But she is a mature woman.  She is capable of doing that. 

KOSINSKI:  A new era for the House of Windsor.  Camilla out of the shadows.  And you can bet America will be watching when she does, says, and of course, what she wears. 

Michelle Kosinski, NBC News, New York. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  An easy segue then to our nightly round-up to celebrity and entertainment news, we‘re “Keeping Tabs,” starting with the prince and princess of “you‘re fired,” Donald Trump and Martha Stewart. 

Well, it turns out Stewart thought her version of “The Apprentice” would replace Trump‘s edition.  At least that was the original idea, she tells Fortune magazine.  Now there was even talk of “The Donald appearing on her first show so she could say directly to his face, “you‘re fired.”  But that plan did not quite work out. 

The big orange head decided to do a fourth edition of his “Apprentice,” and his ratings have been better than Stewart‘s.  One possible reason for that?  “The Donald” is not afraid to fire people.  In fact, he canned four “Apprentice” candidates in one breath in last weeks‘ Boardroom.  But Martha goes for the much more mild “goodbye now.” She is obvious lay pastel lover all way. 

And on a much more somber note—a much more important note.  Rosa Parks was mourned today.  She was the first woman ever to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.  She is known as the essential catalyst to the civil rights movement and she has been praised for her courage and for her lifelong commitment to the cause.  But in tribute today, it became ever more apparent what can be moved by one soul?  What can be changed with one voice when the world is ready to hear it. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It has made such a difference for those of us who followed over the last 50 years. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She means a lot to me because without her, we probably would be still sitting in the back of the bus. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She was a lady who had courage and she had humility and she made a difference in the world. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So we are here not because Rosa Parks died, but because she lived. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I remember my father telling me about this colored woman who had refused to give up her seat.  And in my child‘s mind, I thought, she must be really big. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For her, breaking Alabama law was obeying the Constitution.  It was defending justice.  She was tired, all right.  She was tired of mistreatment. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you, Rosa.  Thank you for not moving.  And in so doing, moved all of us.  Thank you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The light that shone in the Capitol last night cast its beams all across this country and all across the world. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In our group we had a speaker once who spoke to our group.  And what he said, I can witness.  He said that a woman sat down and the world turned around. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  Well, it‘s been an observance held for over 2000 years marking the end of summer, celebrating the harvest and acknowledging the souls of those who have passed on before us.  Then, of course, there‘s the fun-sized snickers bars.  Don‘t forget about them.  I‘ve been eating a lot of them.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, Halloween officially marked tonight in the streets of suburbia by little boys and girls in costumes going door-to-door shamelessly, taking part in what amounts to a massive candy grab. 

But this being a Monday means the actual partying began over the weekend, the yearly celebration in Madison, Wisconsin, saw more than 2,000 attendees and the riots: 447 people arrested Friday and Saturday nights combined, mostly college kids.  That‘s down from last year‘s 455.  Officials reporting that most of the arrests were alcohol-related. 

Shocking, no doubt, to you.  But it seems the city‘s mayor has had enough.  The weekend‘s incidents caused him to question whether or not the celebration will be held next year. 

Then there are there are the tombstones in Centerville, Minnesota.  People there are so offended that several had to be removed.  However, will I.P. Freely‘s family, say that fast, know where to find him?  The grave markers actually serving as the Halloween decorations for Heather Pranke‘s front lawn, they include names like Ben Dover and Eileen Dover.  Say it fast.  And, well, a host of other names that you can see and say aloud to yourself when you have some private time.  Many of Ms. Pranke‘s neighbors did and they complained to the city as a result.  She replaced some of the signs but neighbors still aren‘t very happy, saying that none of the declarations are appropriate for young kids.  Heather Frankie joins me now from her home in Centerville. 

And, Ms. Pranke, thanks again for your time tonight.  We appreciate it. 

HEATHER PRANKE, NEIGHBORS OFFENDED BY HALLOWEEN DECOR:  Thanks for having me. 

DANIELS:  Talk to me, what‘s going on?  Tell me about this dispute. 

PRANKE:  Well, basically there are just some people that are offended by our signs.  We think they‘re funny.  We were not here to hurt anyone‘s feelings or offend anybody.  They‘re just supposed to be funny and, you know, sometimes people take life a little bit too seriously.  You need to stop and laugh about it. 

DANIELS:  Do you feel like people there just don‘t have a sense of humor? 

PRANKE:  No, actually, we‘ve had a lot of people that have supported us quite a bit.  In fact, there‘s only a handful of people that are not supporting us, but most of the people are in favor, telling us to keep them up, don‘t take them down and we‘ll see you again next year. 

DANIELS:  I mean, you‘re not even smiling during this segment.  I mean, it‘s a little funny.  This is not a serious—we‘re not talking about Karl Rove here. 

(LAUGHTER)

DANIELS:  How did you come up with the signs‘ names? 

PRANKE:  Well, I had some of my girlfriends come over.  And we spent the night making signs.  And a lot of them came from “The Simpsons” or other nationally-known television shows. 

DANIELS:  So the people who are complaining to you, who are they, what are they saying? 

PRANKE:  Well, they‘re basically just neighbors.  I don‘t know any of them.  There‘s one that lives two houses down from me but they‘re basically just saying that they‘re inappropriate and my feeling is that if you think they‘re inappropriate for your 8-year-old, maybe you shouldn‘t tell them what they mean.  Because to an 8-year-old all they are are names. 

DANIELS:  But what if the 8year-old.

(CROSSTALK)

PRANKE:  . as a name.

DANIELS:  What if the 8-year-old is like trying to pronounce it.  You know how the little kids do that and they start to say it?

PRANKE:  Yes, well, I guess—I don‘t know, I haven‘t heard an 8-year-old trying to say it.  So it might be kind funny. 

DANIELS:  Well, you have kids yourself.  What do they think about all of this? 

PRANKE:  Well, my 9-year-old, who would probably say the most, because I have a 4-year-old son too, but she‘s a little irritated, but for the most part, she thinks it‘s pretty funny. 

DANIELS:  OK.  But what about when some parents say this isn‘t funny.  I mean, this is bordering on offensive.  Have you faced them, you know, face to face and told them what your reaction is? 

PRANKE:  I have not talked to any of my neighbors or the people that are upset face-to-face.  I did talk to the lady who called and complained.  And she called me on Monday night and basically told me what she thought. 

But other than be that, I—you know, it‘s really just—it‘s to be fun.  I‘m a little upset that some people are kind of taking the spirit out of my holiday.  My birthday is in October, so I have fun with it.  And I don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with what we‘re doing. 

DANIELS:  All right, well, happy birthday.  Happy Halloween.  I‘m sure some people on this show think it‘s very funny.  Heather Pranke.

PRANKE:  Well, we‘ve had a lot of support.  Thank you. 

DANIELS:  All right.  Of Centerville, Minnesota, Heather, thanks so much.  I will say that‘s one creative yard.

PRANKE:  Thank you.

DANIELS:  That‘s going to do it for this Monday edition of COUNTDOWN. 

I‘m Lisa Daniels in for Keith Olbermann.  Thanks so much for watching. 

I‘ve been waiting for this, so let me do it.  There I go. 

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.

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

END   

transcript

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