updated 11/8/2005 12:08:35 PM ET 2005-11-08T17:08:35

Guests: Patrick Lang, Michael Duffy, John Harwood, Philip Giraldi

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

One of the senior terrorist operatives from whom the administration got its pre-Iraq war intel was probably making it up.  So said a Defense Intelligence Agency memo sent to the White House in February 2002.

“TIME” magazine reports the Karl Rove options are now two.  He gets indicted and resigns now, or he doesn‘t get indicted, and resigns later.

A dozen days into the rioting in France, the first fatality, the first curfews.

And talk about bathroom humor.  The man who got stuck to the seat at the Home Depot.  He is not laughing.

And heard about the two NFL cheerleaders making out in the stall?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The blonde was on the floor, like, literally, feet up, laying...

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OLBERMANN:  Well, it just got worse.  One of the cheerleaders gave the cops a fake name, the name of a third NFL cheerleader.  Sis-boom-bah!

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

Coincidences.  The just-indicted chief of staff of the vice president, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.  The just-identified fabricator of some of the president‘s prewar intelligence, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi.

The news that what he told the CIA about a link between Iraq and al Qaeda was pretty much crap comes out on a Sunday.  The news that the Australians have arrested 15 people in Sydney and Melbourne and claim to have interrupted a terrorist plot comes out on a Monday.  Coincidences.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the guy was not only making it up, but by February of 2002, the government knew he was making it up.  Al-Libi was the first al Qaeda big get, arrested in Afghanistan back in November 2001.

Under interrogation, he reportedly told agents that al Qaeda was training in Iraq.  In 2004, he recanted.  He admitted he had made that up.  But far earlier, the Defense Intelligence Agency had already figured out that his information was bogus, two years before his confession.

According to a newly declassified document, the DIA warned that the fact al-Libi didn‘t share any specifics about al Qaeda in Iraq had to have meant one of two things.  Quote, “It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers.  Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.”

That‘s called telling them what you think they want you to hear.  The document goes on to note that Saddam Hussein‘s regime was wary of extremist Islamic groups, and that his government was, quote, “unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.”

The DIA assessment was made available to several agencies, including the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House.

Yet eight months later, in October 2002, the president used al-Libi‘s information to lay out an al Qaeda link in his speech at Cincinnati, and five months after that, February 2003, the information was still being treated as credible, most notably by then-secretary of state Colin Powell, when he made his case for war to the U.N.

We‘ll examine the politics of this with the assistant managing editor of “TIME” magazine, Michael Duffy, in a moment.

First, the spycraft.  Let‘s bring in Colonel Patrick Lang, the head of Middle East intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency during the first Gulf War.

Colonel Lang, thanks for your time tonight.

COL. PATRICK LANG (RET.), U.S. ARMY:  Hello, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  How likely is all this to have been a mistake, a good-faith misinterpretation, even a different viewpoint between different intelligence organizations?

LANG:  Well, I think you know that it‘s not at all unusual that DIA would have taken a skeptical look at this guy and drawn the obvious conclusions from the data and decided that he was bogus.  And this report would have gone to a couple hundred different people by message and hard copy around town and across the world.

The fact that they had a different opinion from CIA in this is not unusual.  Different people can look at material and come to a different conclusion, at least for a while.

But I think it‘s an interesting coincidence that right after this, the Office of Special Plans was set up in the office of secretary of defense to look at the same data, and they came to radically different conclusions.

OLBERMANN:  The two newspaper stories, the ones in “The New York Times” and “The Los Angeles Times,” and Senator Carl Levin, who had released part of that DIA declassified memo, says, or the headlines do, the administration would have gotten a report about al-Libi and his dubiousness.  One headline had it as, the Bush team would have gotten it.

But nowhere does it say specifically who or what offices in the White House.  Who would have read this?  Who would have said, No, no, this is not true, this guy is the real deal, anyway?

LANG:  Well, I was the authorizing authority for issuance of all documents in this area of knowledge in DIA for many years.  And this document would have had a distribution list around town that would have listed 50, 60 different offices in places like the State Department, the White House, the National Security Council, the office of the vice president, all over the Pentagon.

So it went to lots and lots of people.  This is not a really extremely compartmented kind a document.  A lot of people would have gotten it.

OLBERMANN:  What, under those circumstances, has to happen, either deliberately or due to incompetence, or due to turf wars, or due simply to honest disagreement, for the following scenario to play out with this?  The DIA sends a memo out on February of 2002 saying this guy is probably making this up.  And in February 2003, a full year later, the secretary of state is virtually quoting the same man to the U.N. Security Council to justify a war.

LANG:  Yes.  Well, I think what happened there is that after this information got massaged around in various places in Washington, it was found to be interpreted in a different kind of way, one in which was more amenable to the picture of the world that the Bush administration had.  And by the time it got to Secretary Powell, it was presented as a matter of fact.  I think that‘s the way he received this information.

OLBERMANN:  The final point, I guess, here is that there‘s been so much scattershot questioning about the prewar intelligence.  Between this news about al-Libi and what we already knew about the guy called Curveball, who gave all the sour information about biological weapons labs on wheels, to say nothing of Ahmed Chalabi, is it now time to look at the intelligence on which this country went to war, and to stop asking what part of it was wrong, and instead, to start asking, was any of it right?

LANG:  Yes, I think you ought to do that.  You ought to start over from scratch and ask, Was any of this correct?  After the raw information got run through the mill of everybody‘s opinions and preconceptions of things, was any of it right?  And to what extent were policy considerations the driving force?

OLBERMANN:  The former head of Middle East intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Colonel Patrick Lang.  Great thanks for your insight, great thanks for your time tonight.

LANG:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  Now, the political fallout from this latest arrow to the heart of the original arguments for the war, as promised, here‘s Michael Duffy, assistant managing editor of “TIME” magazine.

Michael, good evening.

MICHAEL DUFFY, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The White House response to this has been virtually identical to that of the Republicans in the Senate.  Well, three years ago, you know, the Democrats agreed with us.  Is that—is there not sort of the definition of sophistry included in there?

I mean, if the government has 100 percent of the information, including the memos that say, This was made up, and the government says, No, no, no, the emperor really is wearing clothes, this is good stuff, how is the minority party, which presumably has access to less than 100 percent of the information, supposed to have stood up and said, No, you‘re wrong?

DUFFY:  All right.  Well, the mathematics of the blame game, which is what we‘re in here about the weapons of mass (INAUDIBLE) -- you know, mass disappearance, goes like this.  If everyone was duped, then everyone is equally to blame.  But if only the people who were buying the intelligence were duped, and the people who were selling it knew it was bad, then the blame is a little more targeted.

And I think what you‘re seeing from Democrats now, both in the connection with the Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson trial that‘s coming up probably, and with this latest story about al-Libi, is an attempt, partly by the Democrats, to use what they can in the evidence to say, Look, they didn‘t just mislead us, they knowingly misled us into war.

Because that really shifts the blame about why there were no weapons of mass destruction, and whether we should have gone to war in the first place.  So that‘s a key distinction here, is, who knew that the intelligence was bad?  And did they know?

OLBERMANN:  And how key is the al-Libi story to this?  Because I know when I read it, I thought of that infamous moment from General Wes Moreland‘s time in Lyndon Johnson‘s office, and they‘re totaling up the casualty figures for the North Vietnamese that Wes Moreland has, and somebody points out that if the numbers are all correct, you add them up, and something like 300 percent of the entire population of North Vietnam had been was killed in action.

Did the whole prewar intelligence house of cards just collapse here?

DUFFY:  Well, what‘s interesting, I think, about the al-Libi disclosure in “The New York Times” is that, first, this comes from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which tended to be, I think, a little more, did a little more of the military‘s bidding here than the CIA generally going into war.  So that‘s really interesting.

The second thing is that it was really early.  It was 2002, February 2002, a year before Colin Powell gave his speech that they knew that this information was suspect.  (INAUDIBLE) says may have been misleading, intentionally misleading.

I think the third thing that makes it significant is that it‘s another piece in the puzzle of the administration perhaps looking, just looking right past any yellow signs, any yellow lights, any cautionary notes, and saying, Yes, it‘s true, we‘re going to go with it.

And after a while, you get into what Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, I think today, called, this is a real pattern.  And that‘s where I think the Democrats are trying to push this conversation, and put the Republicans and the White House on the defensive of—don‘t forget, they‘re trying to launch a second phase into the investigation of the prewar intelligence.  They‘re having trouble getting the Republicans to agree to it.  It‘s why they shut down the Senate last week.

This is all a big push here to pin back the ears of the people who planned the war and make them, and hold them to account, either once again or for the first time.

OLBERMANN:  Is that the extent to which it can go politically?  Is it the kind of thing where the majority can still circle the wagons and present a kind of meaningful investigation?  Or is there any momentum that could even get around party lines yet?

DUFFY:  Well, you don‘t see much momentum.  And, of course, they—

you know, the Republicans hold all the cards.  But this kind of evidence is

if there—you know, is there enough of it that really makes it difficult for a committee like the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is supposed to be bipartisan, to keep saying no.  They‘ve given in once.  It wasn‘t a badge effort.  But it looks like the pressure will mount here for them to launch this second phase.

And that‘ll take another, you know, six, eight, nine months.  But I don‘t think you should look for anything, you know, greater or bipartisan than that.

OLBERMANN:  Well, of course, when you start talking six, eight, nine months, you might as well talk 12 months, and there‘s a set of elections in 2006.  What happens if things go as badly as the day‘s current news would suggest for the Republican Party in the midterms?  Could there be traction of this politically if the Democrats are in charge of one of the houses, or both?

DUFFY:  Well, I think you can see it in the polls, Keith, that people

don‘t like the way the war is going.  They don‘t like the level of

casualties.  And that‘s a lop-sided 2-1 margin.  But by the same token,

(INAUDIBLE), they split, people split equally about whether America should

the U.S. should pull out of Iraq.  There‘s not the kind of, you know, let‘s bolt for the exits here in the polls at all.  It is a steady 50 percent, Let‘s stay and finish the job.

So the Democrats know that this isn‘t a, you know, (INAUDIBLE), you can‘t go too far with this.  But the public, I think, wants to know as much as it can about how we got into it.

OLBERMANN:  Michael Duffy, the assistant managing editor of “TIME” magazine.  Great thanks for your time tonight.

DUFFY:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  And then there are the Australian terror arrests, which, assuming they have nothing to do with this debate here, still fit into their own bizarre timeline.  Last Tuesday, the prime minister there warned of a terror threat, gave no specifics.  Last Thursday, the parliament amended its laws to authorize charges against people in the early stages of planning an attack.

Today, nine were arrested in Melbourne, and six more in Sydney.  “I am satisfied,” said the police commissioner of New South Wales, “that we have disrupted what I would regard as the final stages of a large-scale terrorist attack, or the launch of a large-scale terrorist attack here in Australia.”

Other than to add that 400 police were involved, and that there were raids on 15 homes, and now the late news that police were shot at, shot back, and wounded one of the suspects, the police are giving no details, nor is the prime minister, John Howard.

Also tonight, it doesn‘t seem like much of a choice.  If they indict him, he resigns.  If they don‘t indict him, he still resigns?  Reaction to that report about the man on the left.

And who‘s minding the store in Iraq?  Work so bad by Halliburton that it‘s reportedly actually fueled in small measure the insurgency, so bad that the U.N. says the United States needs to reimburse the Iraqi people.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  It is conventional corporate management wisdom.  You may have even witnessed it yourself.  When the place begins to go to hell in a handbasket, when the comptroller runs off with the money and the office manager, when the B product was sold at the A rate, and the boss pocketed the difference, when people get indicted, that‘s when they launch the ethics refresher course.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, it may be an office on which two different network television series are based, and people may spend millions to try to get control of that office.  But the White House is just an office, nonetheless.  And the boss has put out the memo, the president ordering a mandatory course on ethics for the entire White House staff, his message reading, in part, “The White house counsel‘s office will conduct a series of presentations next week that will provide refresher lectures on general ethics rules, including the rules of governing the protection of classified information.”

This marks the first step by the administration to clean up, if not clean house, after Lewis “Scooter” Libby was indicted in connection with the CIA leak, the president reportedly deciding to mandate the refresher courses the weekend after Libby resigned, and deciding that the project should be headed up by another familiar name in his administration, his former nominee for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, the White House counsel.

Unclear if they are still sending all the memos to Karl Rove, “TIME” magazine portraying a White House deputy chief of staff still in office, but no longer in power.  His “colleagues don‘t know exactly what will happen,” writes Mike Allen, “but they are already laying out the reasons they will give for the departure of the man President George W. Bush dubbed the architect.  A Roveless Bush seemed unthinkable just a few months ago.  But that has changed.”

Allen also writes that it will not require an indictment to get Rove out, that even if CIA leak prosecutor Fitzgerald leaves Rove alone, he is still likely to wait for a chance to minimize the perception that he‘s being hounded out or leaving under a cloud, and then exit stage right.

Allen offered no possible proposed excuses for the departure of an unindicted Rove.

Let me call in John Harwood, the national political editor of “The Wall Street Journal.”

Good evening, John.

JOHN HARWOOD, NATIONAL POLITICAL EDITOR, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: 

Hey, Keith, how are you?

OLBERMANN:  Sentiments like this have been reported in every publication of wider sway than my old fourth-grade class newspaper.  But Mike Allen‘s report in “TIME” seems to be written in absolutes.  Should it be?  I mean, is—could you say that Bush‘s brain is really on life support?

HARWOOD:  I don‘t think I‘d say that, Keith.  You know, Mike Allen‘s a terrific reporter.  But a couple of things.  One, I think Karl Rove still got a substantial amount of power in this White House.  And secondly, there still are a lot of Republicans who do think a Roveless White House is unthinkable.

There are a lot of Republicans around town, people who are traditionally sympathetic to the White House, some who aren‘t, who want changes.  The question is, what kind of changes could still let President Bush be effective?

And Karl Rove has been such an important part of what this president has done.  I was talking to one Republican strategist today who worked on the Bush campaign in 2004, who said, Look, what would a Bush White House be about if Karl Rove wasn‘t there?  It‘s not that George W. Bush is an empty vessel, that Karl Rove has, you know, tells what to do all time.  But he‘s been very important side by side with George Bush every step of the way.

OLBERMANN:  Whether it has been genuine depression or just a bad mood, all of the leaks out of the White House in the weeks leading up to the Libby indictment, and the ones since, seem to have contained with them some measure of shock or surprise that this is the way things have turned out.

Is that really the way it is there?  Are they genuinely surprised that there would have been a backlash against Iraq, or the Katrina situation, or the CIA leak investigation, or Libby and Rove?

HARWOOD:  Keith, what I think they‘re stunned about is the convergence of all these problems at the same time, and the toll that it‘s taken on the president‘s credibility, his public support, and his agenda, which has really run into a brick wall and isn‘t going anywhere right now.

A year ago, the president said, and believed, when he won reelection, when he had augmented Republican majorities in the House and Senate, that he had capital.  He was going to spend it.  He went out and tried to sell Social Security.  It didn‘t go well at all.  Republicans weren‘t ready to go along.  The Iraq situation has become more problematic than they thought in January, when elections were supposed to begin to turn around public sentiment toward that conflict.  Then you had Katrina, you had the disaster of the Miers nomination.

So they‘ve just taken one blow after the other.  And I think nobody expected the president to be in such difficult straits at this point, where his approval ratings are in the 30s, and he just doesn‘t have the clout in Washington that they had every reason to expect when he swore in to begin a second term in January.

OLBERMANN:  Once again, one of the reasons we‘re making such a big deal out of this article with the sort of absolute terms that Mike Allen used in it, and there was a big picture offered by one of his sources, who he identified as a frustrated conservative, whom he quotes as saying, It‘s like twilight in America,” which is a twist on an old familiar conservative phrase.  Is that correct, or is that overstating the mood inside the White House at the moment, do you think?

HARWOOD:  Well, the mystery, Keith, is, what is the mood exactly of George W. Bush?  I‘ve talked to some associates who say that when he‘s asked about this, he says, I don‘t pay attention to the polls.  I‘m moving ahead with my agenda.  And we‘ve seen from some Republicans over the weekend, Orrin Hatch on one of the shows this weekend was saying, The president just needs to keep plugging away.

Is that the president‘s attitude?  Is he going to keep plugging away, try to, say, bring up tax reform?  Which is—his commission came out with a recommendation last week which pretty much went over like a lead balloon in Washington.

But we don‘t know to what degree he wants to change course.  And until we know the answer to that, we‘re not going to know what‘s going to happen inside this White House.  Lot of talk about a shakeup, housecleaning, new agenda.  But we haven‘t heard from the president.

OLBERMANN:  John Harwood of “The Wall Street Journal.”  As always, John, great thanks for your time tonight.

HARWOOD:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  From political heavyweights to just plain heavyweights.  Just put that anywhere, pal.  Wherever muscle, heavy stuff, and cameras collide, You Are There.

And vacationers were not expecting an extreme cruise when they boarded the “Seabourn Spirit.”  Where exactly on this brochure does it say pirates?

COUNTDOWN continues after this.

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OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news now for a segment full of the day‘s really stupid news.  Well, the other stupid news.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Thailand for special Oddball coverage of the 2005 United Strongman Competition.  Huge muscle-bound men from around the world gathering in Bangkok for a weekend of truck pulling, heavy lifting, and fighting off bird flu.

They all get a shot at the title of Strongest Man in the World.  Among the events, pulling three pickup trucks fully loaded with passengers.  Don‘t have a gas problem there, I guess.  Flipping giant 900-pound truck tires over and carrying 55-gallon drums around that are filled with nuclear waste.

OK, I‘m amplifying.  No nuclear waste.

In the end, the title went to the former Olympian Michael Staroff (ph) of the Ukraine.  Staroff says the secret to his power is, quote, “sweat and determination,” that and the daily dose of ox hormones.

Sacramento, hello.  Here we have the grand opening of Wag, the first five-star hotel for pets.  Just what the world needs.  The owners say, Don‘t call it a kennel.  Nobody‘ll pay $55 a night for a kennel.  And no kennel will give your doggie an eight-by-10 two-bedroom suite with a leather couch and a flat screen TV.

Cats get a two-story condo with a fish tank.  Or, as the cats call it, the minibar.  For $55 a night, you can‘t find a people hotel that will give you all this.  But Wag is for the pet owner who‘s serious about pampering his animal, so nothing is too good for them.  There‘s caviar for the cats, beer for the dogs, and a Webcam to log in to see your animals any time of day.

For the best Webcam viewing, I suggest waiting until Rover has had six or seven doggie beers.

Also tonight, France in crisis.  Darkness falls, and again violence erupts for the 12th straight day, and they‘re finally doing something about it.  More countries issuing warnings to tourists.

And corruption in Iraq.  Are shady financial dealings and slow reconstruction helping fuel support for the insurgency?

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, whoever in the Hong Kong bureau of the Associated Press wrote this lead sentence, “A thief has pinched 70 hairy crabs.”  Hairy crabs are a form of regular crabs.  They‘re a Chinese food delicacy.  And pinched is a synonym for stole.  It‘s used much more often outside the United States.  Pinch my hairy crab.

Number two, Constable Darryn Hayes (ph) of the police department of Wytera (ph), New Zealand.  He‘s looking for a thief too.  Somebody broke into a cafe there and stole 36 dozen eggs, 20 liters of cooking oil, and 72 rolls of toilet paper.  Police consider the suspect very hungry, but very neat.

And number one, our friends in London, England, the newspaper “The Sunday Telegraph” reporting that so much cocaine is now being used in London that it is now showing up in measurable doses in the River Thames.  Kate Moss is in town?

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OLBERMANN:  It is not exactly something to be proud of, but in the wake of Europe‘s revulsion, our sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina, it is instructive that just today, in the hours before the 12th consecutive night of rioting in Paris and its suburbs, the federal government there has finally authorized local curfews. 

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, 1,500 reservists added to 8,000 police and gendarmes were set to try to restore order.  This as apparent copycat car burnings were reported in Belgium and Germany. 

In Paris, our correspondent is Don Teague. 

DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  More riots tonight in France where violence, now in its 12th night, is becoming more dangerous.  Last night, youth gangs in an immigrant housing project near Paris opened fire on police with shotguns.  Two were seriously injured. 

BERNARD FRANIO, ESSONE POLICE CHIEF (through translator):  This is real serious violence.  It‘s not like the previous nights. 

TEAGUE:  Among the rioters, 21-year-old Kareem (ph), the son of Algerian immigrants, who won‘t let us show you his face but says he is angry because there are no jobs in France for people like him and no hope. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (through translator):  There is total misery in our suburbs.  There‘s no support for us.  There‘s nothing for young people. 

TEAGUE:  Nationwide some three dozen police officers were hurt in overnight clashes as rampaging gangs burned 1,400 cars and several buildings. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator):  I‘m serious.  I am ashamed. 

Because they‘re not human anymore.  They‘re savages.  Barbarians. 

TEAGUE:  The French government has faced criticism for its slow response.  But tonight, after an emergency cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin promised to deploy another 1,500 police officers and allow mayors to impose local curfews.  But what‘s really need, critics say, is a change to the French system which refuses in the name of equality to recognize racial and cultural identity or allow affirmative action. 

TED STRANGER, AUTHOR:  So they have no political representation.  They have no identity.  They don‘t exist.  They only exist now because they‘re burning things. 

TEAGUE (on camera):  So far the violence hasn‘t had a noticeable effect in tourism here in Paris, but that could change.  At least half a dozen countries, including Canada and the U.S., are warning their citizens to be cautious in France. 

(voice-over):  Where it is already late at night, burning again. 

Don Teague, NBC News, Paris. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And unrest in Iraq may be pegged to many things, but not in the most paranoid dreams of its critics could the insurgency have been blamed in small part on Halliburton.  A United Nations board says the U.S.  should repay as much as $208 million to the Iraqi government for work performed by Kellogg Brown Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. 

International Advisory and Monitoring Board saying that the contracting work was overpriced, sometime poorly done, paid for, by the way, with Iraqi oil proceeds.  The advisory board‘s findings were based on audits, produced after months of refusal to cooperate from the Pentagon.  At issue, the so-called sole source or no-bid contracts that are the coin of the realm in Iraqi reconstruction. 

But that $208 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $20 billion that has been squandered in Iraq, according to a mind-boggling account by Philip Giraldi of The American Conservative.  According to Mr.  Giraldi, it is that money trail or the missing money trail that is at the center of nearly everything that‘s wrong in Iraq. 

Iraqis caught in the middle of car bombings, spotty public services, no reason to get behind the occupation instead of the insurgency because rampant cronyism and profiteering rule the day.  For example, April 2004, three Black Hawk helicopters delivered $1.5 billion in cash to a courier in the Kurdish region of Iraq.  Destination unknown.  All those bags of money just disappeared.  Joining us now, Philip Giraldi, former CIA officer and now a contributing editor for The American Conservative. 

Thank you for your time tonight, sir. 

PHILIP GIRALDI, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  Before the big picture here, what might have happened to that $1.5 million, for example, and how would you begin to describe the kind of corruption you‘ve investigated there? 

GIRALDI:  Well, the corruption in Iraq seems to be pervasive.  And it began really when the Coalition Provisional Authority that was headed by Paul Bremer took over the country shortly after the—Saddam Hussein was defeated.  Money, as you described, $1.5 million, disappearing in three Black Hawk helicopters, was only one example of the nearly $20 billion of Iraqi money that came from the Oil-for-Food Program and also from frozen Iraqi government assets that were literally disappeared in the course of 15 months. 

OLBERMANN:  It is not just a question of the money, there‘s also what that money was intended to be used for that it did not get to do: rebuilding; improving Iraq‘s infrastructure; water supplies; electricity.  Is any of that happening to an acceptable degree? 

GIRALDI:  Well, it is very much debatable if any of it is happening.  If you think back, after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  There was no insurgency.  And there was no insurgency for a very long time.  The Pentagon basically went into Iraq with no plan for reconstruction.  And if this $20 billion had been used to restore water supplies and restore electricity, it would have made a huge difference in terms of the popular support for the insurgency which increased as the infrastructure continued to deteriorate. 

OLBERMANN:  So apart from that direct—it is be really a direct connection, but that kind of inferential connection, is there anything regarding that money vacuum that also played into the establishment of the insurgency?  Is there a way that any of that money could have wound up in the insurgents‘ hands? 

GIRALDI:  Well, you know, when you have a country that was awash in money, and there are numerous sources that report that there was money literally floating around everywhere and unaccountable, it is almost certain that a lot of this money didn‘t wind up in the hands of the insurgents. 

It is also very clear that a lot of this money, which is—has ostensibly gone towards the reconstruction of an Iraqi national army, has not in fact gone in that direction.  It has gone to support the various militias which represent a centrifugal force in Iraq, which means that there will probably never be an Iraqi national army. 

OLBERMANN:  And in terms of there being an Iraqi national consensus of any kind, the idea that the money has gone disproportionately to the Shia and the Kurds, and that could be priming that country for even worse?  For potential full scale civil war? 

GIRALDI:  Absolutely.  Civil war may be slightly overstating the case.  But certainly, it is money that is being used to create regional armies, if you want to call it that.  And basically if the intention ever was to create a unified Iraqi state, the corruption and the fact that the money is unaccountable and uncontrolled has really tended to create something quite different. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there a way back from this?  Is there something to do to even to begin correcting what‘s happened in terms of this—all this free-flowing and non-traced money? 

GIRALDI:  Well, history does not teach us a very good lesson on this, I‘m afraid.  In situations where corruption gets out of control, as has happened in places like the former Soviet Union and other countries, it is very, very difficult to get it back under control.  And normally, only a strong central government employing draconian measures, like, for example, in the Ukraine earlier this year, the president fired the entire police force because they were so corrupt.  Those are the kinds of steps you have to take.  Those are the measures you have to employ. 

OLBERMANN:  Extraordinary.  Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, a contributing editor, The American Conservative magazine.  It‘s an extraordinary read.  We recommend it to you.  Thank you for sharing some of your time tonight, sir. 

GIRALDI:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, these are not your great-great-great-great-grandfather‘s pirates.  Buccaneers attack a cruise ship.  A quick-thinking captain saves the day. 

And cheerleaders gone wild.  The question is, how wild and why was one of them using a third cheerleader‘s name?  Controversy involving alcohol, the Panthers, and a bar bathroom.  Uh-oh.  Those stories ahead.  But first, here are COUNTDOWN top three sound bites of the day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

:GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Laura and I thrilled to be here with Jerry and Marty.  We celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary in Argentina.  I told her, if she married me, I would celebrate our anniversary in exotic places. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re live on the ITV Newschannel.

DANIEL RADCLIFFE, ACTOR: :  I‘m live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tell the viewers why they should come and see this film. 

RADCLIFFE:  Because it is fantastic.  I fight a dragon and Voldemort and mermaids and stuff, and I get accosted by a dead girl in a bath.  And, yes, it is fantastic. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Five, four, three, two, one!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  One of the things they decided a few weeks ago is that they would not implode Busch Stadium but they would take it down piece by piece with this wrecking ball.  As you can see, it takes little while. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It does, doesn‘t it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To crumble through that concrete. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Frankly, you don‘t hear people talking about pirates that much anymore.  Oh, maybe business pirates, intellectual property pirates, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Pittsburgh Pirates, and actually, not so much the Pittsburgh Pirates, either.  But in our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, if you think original pirates, guys in boats with bad intent, are a cute relic of the 18th Century, avast ye matey.  Tell it to the passenger of The Seabourn Spirit.  There‘s nobody walking a plank or anything but a crew member was injured and as Michael Okwu reports, a lot of passengers have had to rethink this whole cruise thing. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Drama on the high seas.  The Seabourn Spirit, a luxury liner much like this one, was cruising on the Indian Ocean, 100 nautical miles off the Somali coast.  For 300 mostly American passengers, pure bliss, until time stopped. 

RICHARD FULLER, BARMAN, SEABOURN SPIRIT:  We were informed by the captain that we were under attack by pirates. 

OKWU:  Armed with grenade launchers and machine guns, the pirates launched attacks from 25-foot speedboats. 

FULLER:  A few seconds later we heard a big bang.  And that was one of the grenades that they fired into one of the suites on deck number six. 

MIKE ROGERS, PASSENGER, SEABOURN SPIRIT:   They had asked him to stop. 

They wanted to come on board.  So he just accelerated. 

OKWU:  From the captain, evasive action, swerving to try to sink one of the ships and then releasing a loud sonic blaster to keep the pirates at bay.  One crew member was injured by flying debris but no one else was hurt. 

It was the 23rd pirate attack off Somalia‘s coast this year.  Maritime experts say the water are among the world‘s most dangerous. 

SIMON CALDER, TRAVEL EDITOR, THE INDEPENDENT:  The cruise industry has certainly been fearing an incident like this. 

OKWU:  With so much focus on the new age of terrorism, an old-fashioned fear: pirates. 

Michael Okwu, NBC News, London. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And then there are land-based pirates trying to steal our hearts and our money movie one $8.50 ticket at a time.  It‘s our nightly round-up of celebrity and showbiz news, “Keeping Tabs.” And it begins with the clash of the titans, maybe more like crash.  Arnold Schwarzenegger versus Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.  The two Democrats tried to get in to an invitation only Schwarzenegger event in San Diego over the weekend, the weekend before tomorrow‘s special ballot propositions are voted on in California. 

Wait a minute.  They have one of these special elections every year.  Exactly why do we still consider them special anymore?  Anyway, Beatty and Bening, trailing the governor in a bus they call “The Truth Squad,” were denied access to the Schwarzenegger speech.  There was a lot of nastiness, name-calling, and then they all started to argue about which was worse, “Ishtar” or “Kindergarten Cop.” 

It could be worse, one of them could be starring in the Terrell Owens story.  In a span of about 96 hours, the Philadelphia Eagles receiver accused his team of ignoring his accomplishments when they would have celebrated a teammate if the teammate had accomplished them.  Offered an apology in a 17-second long news conference.  Said the Eagles would be better off with Brett Favre of Green Bay as their quarterback instead of their own guy, Donovan McNabb.  Offered to fight any of his teammate and actually traded punches with one of them.  Was suspended for four games by his bosses and today was told that he will not play for Philadelphia again this season at least, even after the suspension is over.  Well, he can always fall back on his acting career.  You remember that, right? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRELL OWENS, FOOTBALL PLAYER:  Oh, hell, the team is going to have to win this one without me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And the rest of this season, too.  And if the apple doesn‘t fall far from the tree, neither apparently does the rosebud.  With his father still serving an indefinite ban from baseball for gambling, Pete Rose Jr. today pleaded guilty to distributing a drug linked to both steroids and date rape.  GBL, gamma butyrolactone is sold to athletes, not over-the-counter, as a muscle builder and performance enhancer.  When it is taken orally, it converts to GHB, gamma hydroxybutyrate, the so-called date rape drug. 

Rose Jr., whose entire big league career consisted of 11 games and two hits for the 1997 Reds said he was using the drug as a sleep aid.  But he admitted to selling it to about half of his teammates with the Chattanooga minor league club in 2001.  He turned himself into authorities in Nashville today under a deal.  He could face up to 27 months in prison and a fine of $1 million. 

Also tonight, the show goes right to the toilet.  Again.  Well, there are toilet headlines from Superglue pranks to cheerleaders showing a little too much spirit. 

That‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s list of three nominees for coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.”  At the bronze level, Bruce Rhines (ph) and Dawn Westlake (ph), who are seeking to trademark and sell a new wine complete with a logo that looks half like Christ and half like Michael Jackson.  A little hat there.  You might see it.  It‘s a wine they call Jesus Juice. 

Runners up, the Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Company of China, which managed to sell 49 acres of property to 34 customers in China before the authorities came and took them away.  The 49 acres going for about $37 apiece were on the moon.  The customers were told that the company represented the lunar embassy in China. 

But the winners, the operators of the AMC Empire 25 theater on 42nd Street in New York City.  A crowd of kids in the audience Saturday night were waiting to see the premier of the movie “Chicken Little.” Instead, the projectionist showed “Andrea,” a Spanish film that opens with a boy committing suicide.  Mistakes happen but these folks, say the parents of the traumatized kids, let the wrong film run for five minutes before switching to the real “Chicken Little.” The guy at the projector and those who hired him at AMC Empire 25 theater in Times Square, today‘s the “Worst Persons in the World”!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  As a society, face it, we have a love-hate relationship with the public bathroom.  Sometimes there‘s no place we‘d rather be.  Sometimes the bathroom could even factor into our most powerful fantasies, well, yours anyway.  But sometimes their cage-like designs can morph easily into our worst nightmares.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN is actually two stories. 

The first about a number two gone bad and another which might also have involved another number, but if it did, I can‘t tell you what number that number is on basic cable. 

First Bob Doherty (ph).  We told you about that last week in “Newsmakers.” He got punked two years ago at the Home Depot in Louisville, sat down in one of their bathrooms not knowing the seat had been covered in glue.  The premise may bring a smile to your lips, but trust Bob here, it has an entirely different impact on your cheeks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I  just went on—I had gone ahead to, you know, continue on with business.  And so after a fashion I had noticed that I tried to lift my legs up that I was actually stuck. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  So there‘s your compensation, you get stuck on the stall

but you get to go on the “Today Show.”  Mr. Doherty is suing Home Depot not

because he got glued, but because they left him there.  He yelled for help,

he says, but the head clerk thought it was a prank.  And he was stuck there

literally stuck there for 15 minutes. 

Fifteen minutes, hey?  That happens to be just how long the victim claims that the two Carolina Panthers football cheerleaders were in a bathroom stall at a Tampa nightclub late Saturday night. 

Wait, two cheerleaders and a victim?  We‘re not still entirely sure what happened at Banana Joe‘s.  We have the victim, Melissa Holden.  And then we have these two women here.  She says she and other women patrons were waiting to use the one-stall ladies room for 15 minutes when finally out popped those two Panthers cheerleaders who had been in there together for 15 minutes.  The other ladies were not happy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA HOLDEN, BAR FIGHT VICTIM:  I didn‘t say a word to her.  I guess there was a woman behind me in line somewhere, I didn‘t even turn to look, I just stood there, confronted her and said, what the heck took you guys so long?  Not in those exact words, obviously.  And she reared back and hit me.  I didn‘t know what they were doing.  But the other witnesses told the police that they were having oral sex in the bathroom.  I didn‘t know what they were doing but the other witnesses told the police that they were having oral sex in the bathroom. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The only thing I heard was when she kind of sat back and like kind of slumped against the stall while the other girl was saying, hang on, because literally within a minute to two minutes of walking in the bathroom, women were screaming at these other two girls in the stall.  So within a minute or two, people in line got hostile, I guess you could you say.  These two, the girl—the blond was on the floor like literally feet up, laying like you could see she was in no shape.  She was sick.  And other than that, I mean, I didn‘t really hear any noise.  I did, you know, read some articles and I was like, no way.  They weren‘t in the bathroom long enough to have had any type of activity as I read.  And I did not hear any noise that would sound like they were doing anything like that. 

The blond is the one who hit the girl, but then again, you know, we don‘t think she actually said, I‘m going to hit you.  She kind of went. 

(GESTURES)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And fell. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  You didn‘t think that‘s where she was going with that story, did you?  Shame on you.  The two cheerleaders were arrested.  The one who did not take a swing at anybody, Angela Keathley, was charged with disorderly conduct.  A police spokeswoman said Keathley had gotten riled after her co-cheerleader was arrested. 

And that‘s the second half of the story, the first cheerleader gave her name as Kristen Owen and provided ID.  Kristen Owen is a Panthers cheerleader, but she was not in Tampa over the weekend.  She was at a wedding back home.  This cheerleader, it turns out, is named Renee Thomas. 

How she got Owens‘ ID or why she would pretend to be her own co-worker, nobody knows yet.  We do know that now, besides the original charge of battery, Ms. Thomas has also been charged by the police in Tampa with having given a false name.  Why do we assume that Ms. Thomas and Ms.  Keathley were having sex in the bathroom stall?  We only have the word of the victim, the one with the black eye, she says she heard them moaning. 

We heard the other witness say, well, moaning might have been because of illness.  Well, of course, thinking back to Bob Doherty at the Home Depot in Louisville, maybe they were moaning because they were stuck to the seat?  Hadn‘t thought of that one, had you? 

That‘s COUNTDOWN, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  That had special added implications tonight.  Good night and good luck.  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   

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