updated 11/8/2005 11:14:33 PM ET 2005-11-09T04:14:33

Guests: Richard Shelby, Peter Greenberg, Jeff Lesker, Stacey Honowitz, Geoffrey Fieger, Judy Smith, Bo Dietl, Rick Flores, Cindy Rocha

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  Tonight, the governor of Alabama says he‘s taking action against Aruba.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOB RILEY ®, ALABAMA:  Beth and Jug are here to endorse a travel boycott to Aruba.  And as governor, I am joining them in this effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, we broke the news to you last night.  Now the governor of Alabama, with Beth Twitty by his side, is asking all Americans to avoid traveling to Aruba, to hit them where it hurts, in the pocketbook.

For the latest details, joining us now LIVE AND DIRECT from Birmingham is reporter Karen Lehane with NBC station WVTM. Karen, tell us how this all came down today.

KAREN LEHANE, WVTM:  Well, Rita, you know, this family is 162 days into this.  And I spoke with Beth Twitty last night.  She said this was her trump card, knowing that Governor Bob Riley would help her.  She didn‘t want to have to use it.  She didn‘t think she‘d have to be here.  But here you see the governor and Beth Twitty and also Jug Twitty, Natalee‘s stepfather.  And as Governor Bob Riley put it today, he said, this is the family‘s last card to play to try and get answers about Natalee Holloway‘s disappearance and her whereabouts.

Here‘s what else he had to say today at the state capitol, as Natalee‘s mother and stepfather...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RILEY:  We have no other choice.  We will use whatever moral persuasion we have to encourage all the citizens of Alabama and the United States to help put pressure on the Aruban authorities to finally do what‘s right.  I will be contacting the governors of the other 49 states and urging them to join Alabama in this boycott.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEHANE:  And it was back in July that the House of Representatives here actually passed a resolution for Alabamians to boycott travel to Aruba.  The family really wasn‘t behind it at that point.  They wanted to wait.  They had hope they were going to find their daughter, that they were going to get answers by going through the proper channels.  And Beth said this was what she had been waiting for, just to use Governor Bob Riley and his graciousness to go ahead and come forth and ask for people in the state of Alabama and across the country to put pressure on Aruba and try to get them to either make a difference or they were going to make a difference monetarily on their tourism—Rita.

COSBY:  Karen, what‘s the reaction like there on the ground in Alabama to the boycott?

LEHANE:  We‘ve had e-mails coming into the station.  Most of the people, women are very supportive of this and say this should have been done a long time ago.  It should not have dragged on, this whole investigation, that Natalee should have been found and returned safely or for the parents to have closure.  A lot of the people that we talked to at a local coffee house here were saying that it‘s a great idea.  They feel so for this family.  But they aren‘t sure that this boycott is going to catch on nationwide and if it would make a difference.

COSBY:  Karen, keep us posted.  Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.

So what do government officials hope to gain from calling a boycott?  In an exclusive interview late today, I asked that question to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Senator Shelby, how do you feel about the boycott?

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY ®, ALABAMA:  I think it‘s the thing that we should have been pushing months ago.  I‘m glad that Governor Riley‘s come out today.  I‘m certainly going to support a boycott.

COSBY:  You know, the governor of Alabama talked about calling other governors, basically all 49 other states, saying, Please join on board.  Are you planning on doing the same thing with other senators?

SHELBY:  Well, I would joining (ph).  I think that we, as Americans, ought to send a message to the people of Aruba that we‘re not going to just sit by, ignore what‘s gone on here.  This has been reprehensible conduct, I believe, on the part of the government.  It looks like it‘s cover-up, cover-up, delay, delay, lack of cooperation.  I think it‘s a sad case of investigation.

COSBY:  Are you prepared now to call for a boycott yourself and urge others to do so?

SHELBY:  Absolutely.  Will it work?  I don‘t know.  But I would hope so.  This is the winter season coming up.  That‘s when, you know, thousands and thousands of people from the United States support the Aruban economy.

COSBY:  Well, that‘s the question...

SHELBY:  When we...

COSBY:  You know—you know, when you look at the travel agencies and you look at the statistics, 75 percent of the folks who go there, the tourists, are American.  How is this going to work?

SHELBY:  Well, we don‘t know how it will work.  I think a lot of it will—will depend on whether or not people heed the boycott—in other words, to stay away.  A lot of people say, Oh, goodness, you know, it‘s a beautiful place, we ought to go anyway.  But I think this is the strongest message we could send right now.  A message that would hurt them economically would get their attention.  What we‘re looking for here is justice, honesty in the government, and I don‘t believe it‘s there.

COSBY:  What kind of steps do you think you can do, as a senator, you know, as a powerful and respected senator there on the Hill, to make a difference here?  I mean, are you planning on calling the State Department?  Are you thinking about petitioning travel agencies, calling the airlines?  Is there something else that you can do to have some force behind the boycott?

SHELBY:  Well, I can—I can speak out on the floor of the U.S.  Senate.  That gets the attention of a lot of people.  Secondly, I can certainly speak out on behalf of the family doing what they‘ve tried to do and how hard they‘ve worked to get it done before as a fair and impartial investigation.

COSBY:  What are some of the things you think that you can do?  I suggested some of the things, but are you planning on calling the State Department, airlines, you know, travel agencies?  Are you planning on doing those things?

SHELBY:  Well, I will do those things, but I‘m also aware of the fact that a lot of people wouldn‘t—wouldn‘t worry if they were in the—you know, the travel business.  They just want to sell a deal.  I think now people ought to think.  They have a lot more options in the Caribbean than just Aruba, and this would be a time to exercise them.

COSBY:  You know, I talked to the deputy chief of police, Dompig, about this case, and he said some interesting things.  I want to show a little comment.  This was what he had to say about the three boys in the case, Senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEROLD DOMPIG, ARUBAN DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE:  I still believe that these boys have been lying.  They‘re still lying.  And everybody knows that by now.  So there‘s no doubt in my mind that they know something, they are guilty of something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, and Senator, he even went as far as saying, I think they‘re guilty as hell, but I just have to prove it.  When you have that coming from the deputy chief of police—he‘s the acting police chief right now—what surprises you most about this case?  And do you think that this boycott is going to push it forward, make a difference in the investigation?

SHELBY:  We hope the boycott will push it forward because we‘ve tried everything else, and this would be, you know, another weapon in the arsenal, that is, economic hurt.  But I believe there are just so many unanswered questions regarding these three young men, and from the beginning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Our thanks to Senator Shelby.

And we also got a hold of Senator Shelby‘s colleague, also from Alabama, Senator Jeff Sessions.  When asked about the boycott today, Senator Sessions told us, quote, “It‘s probably a good idea.”

So just what impact could the boycott potentially have on the island of Aruba and its tourism?  Could it be devastating, or on the other end, ineffective?  Joining me now is “Today” show travel editor, the very dapper Peter Greenburg, who left a black-tie event graciously to be with us.

Peter, I understand you were just in Aruba last week.  Based on being there, how effective do you think this boycott‘s going to be?

PETER GREENBERG, “TODAY” TRAVEL EDITOR:  I would be amazed if it got any traction whatsoever.  You quoted earlier, Rita, 728,000 tourists in Aruba last year.  Of those, about 530,000 were from America.  So far, those numbers haven‘t really changed.  There‘s not been a significant drop.  I mean, I understand the sentiment behind the boycott, certainly the emotion behind it.  But if you look historically at something like this, it doesn‘t get traction.  It gets about the same amount of traction as “freedom fries.”

COSBY:  You know, I was going to ask you, how often do people actually call for a boycott, and does it ever work?

GREENBERG:  It does work in cases where you have rampant examples of physical or human rights abuses.  You remember Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma.  A lot of people chose not to go there.  There was an economic impact there.  But in a situation like this, where you have a tragic but isolated incident, I think that the numbers speak for themselves, and we haven‘t seen a drop-off in any arrival numbers so far this year.

COSBY:  Peter, hang tight because I want to bring into the conversation and get reaction directly from the island of Aruba, which you left just last week.  On the phone with us is Jeff Lesker, who not only is with the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association, he‘s also a member of the island‘s Strategic Communications Task Force.

You know, Jeff, what‘s the reaction there on the island to the boycott?

JEFF LESKER, ARUBA HOTELS & TOURISM ASSN. CHAIRMAN:  Well, Rita, we are actually shocked and dismayed at what we feel is also a reprehensible, and I might add, irresponsible actions by the political forces in Alabama that are calling for such a thing as ludicrous as a boycott.

COSBY:  Were people surprised, Jeff, that—you know, there‘s been a lot of talk of this.  Were they surprised that it actually happened?

LESKER:  Shocked and dismayed.  As far as we know, economic sanctions are usually withheld for countries that have nuclear proliferation or genocide.

COSBY:  How concerned are you that it‘s going to have an impact?  Are you worried that even some tourists—I mean, a huge portion are Americans.

LESKER:  I‘m American, by the way, and we specialize in the American market, as others have said before me.  The facts are that we are still an incredibly safe destination, from a statistical standpoint, the safest in the Caribbean basin.  We are outside of the hurricane belt, and we have the highest rate of return of any Caribbean island, at 39 percent, when you take out the timeshare.

So we are more concerned about the anti-American sentiment that an irresponsible act of this nature by Americans could possibly create, the backlash, in fact, that we have worked so hard not to prevent, but inasmuch as we have worked 40 years to build up such a tremendous relationship with America, one in which some people refer to as Aruba as the 51st state.

COSBY:  Jeff, hold on because I want to show a comment.  This is from Beth Twitty, who was on my show last week basically saying this was in the works for a while and this is how she feels why it came down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE‘S MOTHER:  They see the handwriting on the wall.  I made it perfectly clear while I was in Aruba for three days that the family wants a new prosecuting attorney, a new lead investigator.  And we spelled it out step by step in the letter of everything that has happened to us in this investigation.  They know that there is not a choice.  So you know, if they choose it, so be it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  So Peter, you just came back from Aruba.  Beth was talking about that with me last week.  Did you sense that things were building, that they were worried?  And what kind of tensions is this going to create, any frustration between Americans there?

GREENBERG:  Well, there‘s certainly concern down there.  In fact, I was meeting with Jeff just a couple of days ago.  The big question is, you know, Why are they calling for a boycott?  Why are they doing this?  And the bottom line is it‘s an emotional response.  I understand it.  They understand it.  But the bottom line here are the numbers.

If you take a look at the total number of people who live on Aruba, the size of that island—Rita, you‘ve been down there, you know this—I mean, we‘re not talking about a high incidence of crime there.  It‘s an island.  The beautiful thing about being on an island is if you do something, there‘s not a whole lot of places to hide.

We have a situation here where they think they know who did it, they‘ve just got to be able to prove it.  I don‘t really know how a boycott is going to solve this problem, when a boycott, in my mind, is never going to get traction.

COSBY:  Yes, and Jeff, finally, too, there was a letter that came out from the Department of Foreign Affairs to Alabama, essentially saying, you know, We don‘t have any control.  You‘ve basically got to go to Holland.  Do you understand why there is frustration by the American public, saying, you know, What, are you washing your hands of it?

LESKER:  I do, indeed.  I want to speak to that, Rita.  Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

COSBY:  (INAUDIBLE) real quick, Jeff.

LESKER:  Sure.  I think it‘s the biggest misunderstanding of all.  Mr.  Rolick (ph), who wrote that letter from Foreign Affairs, uses English as his fourth language.  And what he basically meant to say—and you can check Arubatruth.com, our blog.  But what he meant to say was that there‘s a clear separation, as there is in the States, between the legislative, executive and judicial, that not that we wash our hands, the investigation goes on with full vigor and force.  There is a separation, in which different departments deal with different things.

COSBY:  All right.  Well, we‘re going to be following this, guys. 

Both of you, thank you very much, Jeff and Peter.  We appreciate it.

And of course, everybody at home, we‘ve got a lot more ahead on this big move in the Natalee Holloway case.  Plus, I‘m going to ask a tough question.  Could this actually hurt the search for the truth?  And that‘s not all coming up tonight.  Take a look.

You don‘t want this happening at your home.  Men expecting a sexy rendezvous with a teen they meet on line instead meet an NBC News crew.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Could you explain yourself?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Tonight, more of the shocking videotape, and a new way parents can keep Internet predators from showing up at your door.  And danger on the border.  My exclusive investigation exposed an epidemic of violence and drug smuggling on the U.S.-Mexico border.  I‘ll ask a sheriff, who fears for his own family‘s safety, what‘s being done to stop Americans from being caught in the crossfire.  That‘s ahead on LIVE AND DIRECT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And we‘re talking about a boycott of Aruba, now that the governor of Alabama and Beth Holloway Twitty have called for one today.  But will it have any impact on the search for the truth in the case of Natalee Holloway?  With us right now is sex crimes prosecutor Stacey Honowitz, also criminal defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger and public relations expert Judy Smith.

Let me start with you, Stacey.  Do you think that this is going to work?

STACEY HONOWITZ, SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR:  Well, you know, Rita, whenever you have a high-pressure situation, you put a little pressure on people, sometimes things come to the forefront.  And I think that‘s what Beth Twitty is hoping for.  If there is some pressure, then maybe, maybe we could get some cooperation in the investigation.  So she‘s hoping—and I think that everybody in Alabama and any other state is hoping—that by boycotting Aruba, it‘s going to put some pressure on the government over there to move a little bit quicker and a little bit harder on this investigation.

COSBY:  Geoffrey, could it work, in your assessment?

GEOFFREY FIEGER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I think I missed that Diplomacy 101 class, where it said that if you want something done by another country, you begin to threaten them and you engage in thuggery-like behavior.  That‘s certainly the way to get things done.

COSBY:  But does it work, Geoff?

FIEGER:  No.  Of course—it not only...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  ... you know what?  We‘ve got this glare on us, we‘ve got to do something.

FIEGER:  Well, first of all, how could it work?  They think they know who it is.  What are they going to—is Mr. Shelby and the governor of Alabama suggesting they torture the young men?  This is an independent country.  They have independent laws.  They‘re a member of NATO.  How do they get anything by threatening Aruba?  What do they expect them to do?  They don‘t have a body.  They don‘t have any proof.  This is moronic!  It‘s literally thuggery-like behavior.  What anybody thinks...

HONOWITZ:  Come on, Geoff!  You know—you‘ve heard how this

investigation has been botched.  You‘ve heard about the things that went on

10 days later, trying to get evidence from a house, putting these—bringing these guys in, inconsistent statements and letting them go.

FIEGER:  Well, why don‘t we threaten California...

HONOWITZ:  This investigation needs to be deeper!

FIEGER:  ... for botching the O.J. Simpson case, too?

(LAUGHTER)

HONOWITZ:  Hey, it happens all the time!

FIEGER:  Why don‘t we threaten...

COSBY:  Yes, but...

FIEGER:  Why don‘t we threaten...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Yes, boy, does that open a whole can of worms!

FIEGER:  ... Arnold Schwarzenegger right now...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  You guys, let me...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... for not finding the murderer of O.J. Simpson‘s wife?

COSBY:  Let me bring in Judy Smith.  Judy, from a PR perspective, isn‘t this pretty devastating, regardless?

JUDY SMITH, PUBLIC RELATIONS EXPERT:  Actually, Rita, I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think the boycott would work.  I think what‘s happened is they chose to really try to punish the masses, really, because of government inaction.  They chose the wrong tactic to get their end objective.  If you listen to the comments that the chief made earlier, he basically said, as you commented, that, I believe these guys are lying.  I just need to find the evidence to nail them.  A boycott is not going to help motivate or help anyone find evidence to nail the three guys that they think that did it.

COSBY:  But Judy, is there anything that they can do?  I mean, is this, like, sort of the last straw?

SMITH:  I think it‘s the last straw.  I agree with Geoffrey...

FIEGER:  What about Guantanamo?

SMITH:  Well, I—I think...

FIEGER:  That‘ll be the next thing they ask.  Put them on Guantanamo.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH:  I think the other thing you‘ve got to think about is...

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH:  Yes, I think the other thing you have to think about is there‘s a bigger issue, too.  In the States, you have a kid missing, what, every three minutes.  If this happened, are we going to launch a boycott every time this happens?  The other thing...

HONOWITZ:  But why do you allow—so if it happened before, doesn‘t it mean that you can‘t right a wrong?  I mean, there‘s no doubt about it.

SMITH:  No, no, no.  That‘s—we‘re not saying...

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  ... there‘s kids missing all over the place!

SMITH:  We‘re not saying...

HONOWITZ:  There‘s kids missing all over the place!

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  You guys, let me bring in—let me bring in, if I could, into the conversation someone else I‘m sure who also has a good opinion on this, private investigator and former NYPD detective Bo Dietl.  Bo, from an investigative standpoint, I know that say that, you know, maybe it‘s just smoke and mirrors, but if you‘re an investigator on the street, you‘re covering this case, you know that the heat‘s sort of on the public relations, are you going to work a little differently or no?

BO DIETL, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  I love Geoffrey Fieger, but I have to disagree on this.

HONOWITZ:  Oh, Geoff, you got competition!

DIETL:  We‘ve boycotted Cuba.  We‘ve boycotted other countries.  You what to know something?  Like with the cruise ship—not to go off this case, but the cruise ship, with the guy that was killed on the cruise ship.  I mean, this is how you hit them.  You hit them in your pocket.

COSBY:  The guy‘s missing...

(CROSSTALK)

DIETL:  ... with all the blood, all of a sudden, duh, they washed it off.

(CROSSTALK)

DIETL:  And they‘re serving drinks to kids under 16 years of age on cruise ships.  You‘ve got to boycott.  You hit them in the pocket.  All of a sudden, public opinion will go to these people in Aruba, all these jurisprudent people there, and they‘ll decide, Hey, we have another law maybe on the books, or maybe they‘ll bring another law where they can interrogate them a little longer instead of releasing them in 30 days, putting them on 30 days...

COSBY:  So you‘re saying, suddenly, we‘re going to see...

DIETL:  Yes, come on!

COSBY:  ... new tactics...

(CROSSTALK)

DIETL:  Let me tell you something...

COSBY:  ... or not.

DIETL:  We shut the faucet off of financing into Aruba, you‘ll see these fellows, these little Holland clickety-clacketies all of a sudden will start to say, You know what?  We better be a little harder on these suspects because the Americans are not coming back.  I believe it will work.

(CROSSTALK)

DIETL:  I‘m not going to Aruba.  Come on, Geoffrey!

FIEGER:  Come on!  Invade them!

DIETL:  I wouldn‘t let my kids go to Aruba...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... Clint Eastwood movie with Bo Dietl invading Aruba!

(LAUGHTER)

DIETL:  Hey—hey, listen to me, Geoffrey.  I‘ll be honest with you.  An opportunity came up to play golf in Aruba.  I will not go.  I will not spend all my hard-earned money.  I will not go to their gambling...

COSBY:  On principle!  On principle!

DIETL:  Principle!  And Americans should stay away until they tighten up their ship, and they should reinvestigate this properly.  If they have to change some laws, hey, it‘s a little rink-dink country living under the Holland (INAUDIBLE) laws...

COSBY:  Suddenly,, we‘ll see...

DIETL:  Yes.

COSBY:  ... a couple surprises.  Geoffrey...

DIETL:  Change a couple laws!

COSBY:  ... I‘m going to let you respond here.

DIETL:  Geoff?

FIEGER:  Well, listen, come on!  Like I said, there are thousands of people missing in this country.  Do we boycott...

HONOWITZ:  So what?

FIEGER:  ... the states in which they‘re missing?

SMITH:  Absolutely.  I agree.

HONOWITZ:  Why wouldn‘t you?

HONOWITZ:  It‘s utter and complete...

COSBY:  Let me bring in Judy.

FIEGER:  ... nonsense!

COSBY:  Judy, go ahead.  I hear you chiming in.  Go ahead.

SMITH:  Yes.  No, I said absolutely.  If we boycotted in the States every time someone was missing, there would be nothing else to do.  There are several other things that could be done by the family.  I think Geoffrey was mentioning earlier...

HONOWITZ:  They‘ve tried everything, Judy!

SMITH:  ... which is what...

HONOWITZ:  They‘ve tried everything!

FIEGER:  That‘s what milk cartons are for!

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  That‘s what milk cartons are for.

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  So if you are Natalee Holloway‘s family, you know, Dave, all these guys, would you go back to Aruba now?  What do you think they can expect?

DIETL:  No, no, no.  I wouldn‘t go back there.  But I would try to do exactly what they‘re doing.  They‘ve tried for several months to go through the way to go, the way to go legally and all that.  Now they have to try anything.  And they‘re grasping for straws.  And I do appreciate...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  But does it hurt the case now because...

DIETL:  It doesn‘t hurt the...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  ... no relationship with the...

(CROSSTALK)

DIETL:  It doesn‘t hurt any case.  Rita, they screwed up the case from the beginning!  They screwed—the detectives screwed it up from the beginning.  The evidence was 10 days old.  They screwed it up from the beginning!  But...

FIEGER:  Rita, the family‘s been amazingly...

SMITH:  What they need is evidence.

FIEGER:  ... effective...

COSBY:  Go ahead, Geoff.

FIEGER:  The family‘s been amazingly effective in getting public attention in the United States.  They‘ve now got two senators and a governor from Alabama threatening another country.  But will it work?  No!  There‘s no evidence!

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  What‘s wrong with that?

COSBY:  So are you saying that she should just leave it be and say, Look, it‘s never going to be resolved?

FIEGER:  No, no...

DIETL:  Rita, if their gross national product...

FIEGER:  ... but it‘s not going to change anything.

DIETL:  Hey, Geoffrey, if their gross national product turned out to be zippity doo dah, you would see these clickety-clackety wooden shoes people there in Aruba start to functionate a little more (INAUDIBLE)

FIEGER:  I want to see you now in “Song of the South.”

(LAUGHTER)

FIEGER:  I don‘t want to see you in a Clint Eastwood movie, I want to see you with Uncle Remus!

COSBY:  OK, so—they were going to cast Stacey, right?  Stacey, what do you think?

HONOWITZ:  Listen, like I said before, you can say there‘s a million missing kids and we should all boycott.  They‘ve tried everything they could possibly do, the Twittys.  They‘ve asked for help.  They asked to be involved in the investigation.  They asked to have the FBI be brought in.  Finally, they have gotten the attention.  And if these politicos want to get involved and they want to call for a boycott, well, then, I give them credit.  And maybe, maybe, if the heat is on and the pressure is there, as little as they might think the little state of Alabama is not going to make a big deal, maybe these investigators will ask the FBI to assist them and help them because...

FIEGER:  And do what?

HONOWITZ:  ... our people are a lot better than theirs~!

FIEGER:  And do what?  And do what?

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  ... give you guys all five seconds.  Do you think that this case is going to be resolved?  Let me start with Geoffrey, real quick.

FIEGER:  Not until they find her body.  Never.

COSBY:  Never.  Judy?

SMITH:  I agree with Geoffrey.

COSBY:  Yes, and what if she‘s out in the ocean?  We may never find her body.  Stacey?

HONOWITZ:  I think it‘s difficult.  I think we‘re at a crossroads right now.

COSBY:  And Bo, finally?

DIETL:  Remember Saddam Hussein, Iraq.  We boycotted them...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  All right, guys, thanks very much, all of you.  Terrific panel.  Thanks so much.  And Bo, stick around because these men thought that they were about to have some playtime with a teenager that they met on line.  They got a big shock when they instead met up with NBC News.  Bo is going to show you how to keep Internet predators out of your living room.  And there‘s a lot of fallout from my exclusive investigation on the U.S.-Mexico border.  You will be stunned to hear what kind of protection the good guys need to keep themselves and their families safe from drug lords.  It‘s incredible.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And it‘s close to 9:30 PM on the East Coast.  Do you know where your children are?  If they‘re like most kids nowadays, they‘re probably sitting in front of the computer, and unfortunately, you should be worried.  Tonight, an incredible “DATELINE” NBC investigation of on line predators.  They rented a house in suburban Washington and wired it up with hidden cameras and also computers.  Now, they got help from a group called Perverted Justice.  This group actually posed as teenagers in chat rooms, just waiting to be picked up for sex.  Nineteen men showed up at the house.

And in a moment, we‘re going to talk about what you can do to protect your own kids.  But first, here‘s that stunning undercover “DATELINE” investigation by reporter Chris Hansen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS HANSEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This man letting himself into our house makes his living working with children.  He‘s a special education teacher.  Del (ph) is now posing as a boy the man‘s expecting to meet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just sit on the kitchen counter for a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right.  Oh, OK.

HANSEN:  The teacher, Steven Benoff (ph), believes he‘s been chatting on line about sex with a boy named Brandon, who says he‘s 13.  And how old do you think the teacher is?  He‘s 54 and married.

When I confront him, at first he says he thought Brandon was an adult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He said he was 23.  What‘s the problem?

HANSEN (on camera):  I have the transcript.  That‘s what the problem is.  Brandon said he was 13.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thirteen?

HANSEN:  Thirteen.

(voice-over):  And the teacher knows this because Brandon told him on line he was 13.

(on camera):  You were talking about oral sex, anal sex, and all the different things that you‘d like to do (INAUDIBLE) What are you doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I thought I would come see him.

HANSEN:  Come see him for what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I wanted to meet him.

HANSEN (voice-over):  While online, our 13-year-old decoy asked the teacher to bring condoms.  Did he? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

HANSEN (on-screen):  You did?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

HANSEN:  You have them in your pocket?  What does that say about your intent? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I always have them with me, but... 

HANSEN:  What is a 54-year-old man doing, coming to this home to see a 13-year-old boy? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I obviously made a big mistake. 

HANSEN (voice-over):  What about this guy?  A man in his position is just about the last person you‘d expect to be showing up at our house. 

It‘s 4:00 in the morning in an AOL chat room.  This 54-year-old man, screen named RedVD (ph), messages a 13-year-old boy named Conrad, saying, “I‘m prowling for young men.”

What he goes on to say, and the pictures he sends are so graphic, we had to carefully edit them before putting them on television.  While the two are chatting online, we conduct a background check and are absolutely shocked by what this man does for a living.  And now he‘s in our kitchen after making a date for sex with a boy he thinks is 13. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hello? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi.  Hold on one second.  I‘ve got to change my shirt, OK? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (OFF-MIKE) I‘ve got to ask you, are you still going to meet up for tonight? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ll see. 

(LAUGHTER)

HANSEN (on-screen):  So how can I help you?  What are you doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m not telling you.  This isn‘t good. 

HANSEN:  Not good.  I think that‘s kind of an understatement, isn‘t it?  What do you do for a living? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m a rabbi. 

HANSEN (voice-over):  That‘s right, a rabbi.  The man who sent naked pictures of himself is a man of God.  He‘s a staff member at a Jewish youth educational organization. 

(on-screen):  Now, presumably, you counsel families and children in your position as a rabbi? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  True. 

HANSEN:  What are you doing as a man of God, as a rabbi, in this house trying to meet a 13-year-old boy? 

(voice-over):  Instead of answering, the rabbi asks to know who I am. 

But before I tell him, I want to ask him about those pictures he sent. 

(on-screen):  And you sent pornographic pictures.  That‘s a federal offense right there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, look.  You know I‘m in trouble, and I know I‘m in trouble.  I am not interested in getting any further in trouble. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  Incredible investigation.  Well, that rabbi recently resigned from his position as a Jewish youth education organization counselor. 

And joining me again is former NYPD detective Bo Dietl.  He‘s also created some software to protect your kids online. 

You know, I want to show some video.  This is unbelievable.  Another piece that wasn‘t in this investigation. 

One guy came naked, and he came back twice.  What was this guy thinking?  And how outraged are you when you hear that this guy not just came once, but came back twice?  First he gets caught, shows up again. 

DIETL:  You know, what we just saw on TV right now are actual crimes.  These are felonies being committed.  And I just would like to know if “Dateline” handed this over to law enforcement, because what you just saw this man do, when he felt as though he was being involved with a 13-year-old, sending the naked pictures and all that, they‘re committing felonies.  These are charges that now are national charges and state charges, also. 

COSBY:  It‘s despicable. 

DIETL:  You know what?  When we talk about your children in the room, what‘s happening is that they‘re going onto these web sites, they‘re going to these children‘s chat lines, and also they make believe they‘re a 12-year-old also. 

Next thing is, they scan a picture of a 12-year-old to your young son, 12 years old, and say, “My son‘s name is Johnny.  This is Johnny.  Meet me at McDonald‘s in the mall.”  And all of a sudden, they‘ll go meet Johnny. 

This man will show up and say, “I‘m Johnny‘s dad.  Are you going to home?  We‘re going to watch some video games.”  Next thing, that kid is violated. 

They threaten the kid.  The kid says—the kid‘s told, if you do anything, we‘re going to kill your family, and this is what goes on. 

Parents have to realize one thing:  When they have children under 16 years of age—I‘ll use 16 as the logical age—under 16 years of age, you, as a reasonable, responsible parent, should monitor your kid on the Internet. 

COSBY:  You know what‘s incredible, though?  I want to read you a number.  Law enforcement officials estimate 50,000 predators online at any given time, 50,000.  How do you control that?  It‘s out of control.

DIETL:  You know, Rita, years ago they used to go where the kids were hanging out by the schoolyard, by the bus, “Psst, psst, hey, kid, come over here.”  Now they just go online. 

COSBY:  Well, now it‘s made it so much more difficult, don‘t you think?  I mean, it‘s very tough. 

DIETL:  But you know what they do?  They look for the insecurities of a child.  They look for the child being mad at their parents.  They get in arguments with their parents, and they relate to that.  And then they befriend them. 

And the next thing that happens is they meet them, they violate the child.  The child thinks they did something wrong.  They don‘t want to tell their parents. 

You, as a parent, have to be responsible.  You have to look on your child‘s computer to see what your child‘s doing. 

I‘m not talking about young boys looking at “Playboy” pictures.  That‘s youth.  That‘s growing up.  I‘m talking about people trying to take over your children, people that are asking to meet your children to do sexual activity.  And there are things out there. 

COSBY:  How sick are these guys, too?  You know, as we look at it, one of the things was a rabbi.  Your jaw dropped, I saw, when you saw...

(CROSSTALK)  

DIETL:  One was a cop, too, I believe.

COSBY:  And one of them was another teacher at a school.  What is up with these guys?  I mean, how sick are they?  And the recidivism rate of these guys is, unfortunately, incredible. 

DIETL:  You know what?  When you‘re a child molester, everyone says, “Send them to jail.”  They come right out of jail. 

When we‘re looking for children who have disappeared and were murdered by some rapist, it‘s the same ones over, and over, and over again.  They can‘t learn.  Maybe we should talk about castration with these psychopaths. 

COSBY:  It‘s incredible.  And, of course, these guys have not been convicted.  And I am told that the information is being passed on to law enforcement through this group, Perverted Justice.

One of the things you have is something neat.  This is for families. 

DIETL:  You know, this computer copy developed about 10 years ago.  I asked the company that was involved with, NetWolves, we have to develop something. 

So we developed this computer cop.  It‘s a CD-ROM, very easy.  You pop it into the computer.  You go right to the hard drive, even though it was deleted.  You can see the chat room.  You can see what your child is saying to somebody. 

COSBY:  Are you snooping?  Are you being heavy-handed as a parent? 

DIETL:  Do you think, if you‘re snooping, if you‘re monitoring your child and being a responsible parent, that‘s snooping? 

That, to me, is not snooping.  That‘s being a responsible parent.  What the problem is, too many people have liberal minds saying, “Oh, privacy, privacy.”  What happens when your child‘s violated and becomes a victim?  What happened to the privacy at that point? 

COSBY:  What do you say to kids out there watching tonight, too? 

DIETL:  What I say to children out there watching is, “Don‘t you think, when you‘re talking to somebody online, that that person who is who you think it is.  It could be someone that‘s trying to take you over.”

COSBY:  You‘ve got kids yourself. 

DIETL:  I have...

COSBY:  In fact, I remember the famous thing, when you put your daughter—your daughter went online to show you how easy it is to get drugs. 

(CROSSTALK)

DIETL:  I had my 8-year-old son buy a controlled substance, drugs, online.  They came back as beauty supplies on my American Express.  He put his height at 4‘7”, his weight 70 pounds, and they sent him dangerous drugs. 

COSBY:  How frightening is that? 

DIETL:  Frightening?  I testified before the United States Congress and the United States Senate subcommittees how ridiculous this is.  And the DEA sits back and they‘re not doing what they should be doing.

This is very important for parents.  You‘re sitting at home tonight, you‘re watching this.  You could buy software.  You could buy software to monitor your children.  Do it as a responsible parent.  Your child‘s life depends on what you‘re doing with them. 

COSBY:  Great idea.  And I hope everybody watching at home does that and also watches their kids. 

DIETL:  You can get it.  You can go on Investigations, plural, dot-com, and you‘ll find it. 

COSBY:  All right, Bo.  Thank you very much. 

DIETL:  Thank you, Rita.

COSBY:  It‘s always good to have you on here, my friend.  We appreciate it. 

And still ahead, everybody, I‘m going to tell you who just got fired from the hit TV series, “Desperate Housewives.”

And also, some fallout from an exclusive investigation of violent drug smuggling on the U.S.-Mexico border.  One of the real heroes is coming up.  It‘s a sheriff who‘s battling the violence in the face of danger to himself and his family.  He‘s going to join me next.

And what about people living next to the violent frontier?  Are they worried that they, too, could be murdered or kidnapped by drug lords?  They‘re coming up, too.  That‘s ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Tonight, we follow up on our LIVE & DIRECT investigation, “Crisis at America‘s Borders,” where many Americans have been murdered and kidnapped on the U.S.-Mexican border by dangerous drug terrorists. 

I recently went down there to check out the situation for myself.  I toured some of the most dangerous areas at night with heavily armed authorities.  My first stop at the warzone was with Texas Sheriff Ziggy Gonzalez (ph) of Zapata County. 

We discovered a broken-down fence, which was supposed to keep illegal immigrants and drug smugglers out, but it was far from working. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  What is this? 

SIGIFREDO GONZALEZ, TEXAS SHERIFF:  This here is an area that is used by human and drug smugglers.  This is a foot path here, which has been used so much by human and drug smugglers bringing their loads across, as you can see, it‘s used so much, you can actually see (INAUDIBLE) where they filled their water bottles.  Look at that.  That‘s from Mexico.  That‘s not a U.S.  brand. 

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  So they‘re literally walking from where, down here, and coming in? 

GONZALEZ:  They‘re walking from here, human smugglers, again, or drug smugglers.  There‘s supposed to be a fence here.  And the fence is really actually all torn down already.  There‘s some wires down here.  There‘s one strand left of a fence (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How long has this fence been broken?  Does it get replaced? 

GONZALEZ:  No, it never gets replaced anymore.  It doesn‘t even get replaced anymore.  What for?  It‘s going to be tore again.  Not even 24 hours later, it will be down again. 

COSBY (voice-over):  As we sneak through the brush, we quickly learn the dangers these men face every night. 

GONZALEZ:  The reason we‘re going a little bit faster is that somebody could be behind us. 

COSBY:  We‘re now told to wear bullet-proof vests, because deadly traffickers could hiding anywhere and aren‘t afraid to shoot anything that gets in their way, especially law enforcement. 

(on-screen):  You‘re always armed? 

GONZALEZ:  Oh, yes.  When you come in here, you‘ve got to be armed.  You have to be armed.  It‘s just a matter of coming over here and meeting 10, 15 guys, bringing 3,000 pounds of marijuana across the river.  They‘re going to be armed. 

COSBY:  What are you carrying? 

GONZALEZ:  This is an AR-15. 

COSBY:  Is this even a match for what you‘re up against? 

GONZALEZ:  No, this is not a fully automatic weapon.  And they have fully automatic weapons.  We‘d like to carry a fully automatic weapon, but the department doesn‘t always have enough funds. 

COSBY (voice-over):  Sadly, police say, they‘re overwhelmed, easily outmanned and outgunned.  Narco-terrorists are loaded with cash, drug money which enables them to buy the most sophisticated weapons, shoulder-fired missiles and even GPS devices which they use to track down cops. 

At this point in our dangerous journey, we‘re told to turn off our camera lights and use only the night vision that we at MSNBC brought along.  The sheriff fears we could become the next targets. 

(on-screen):  You were told, basically, what you guys have is child‘s play. 

GONZALEZ:  Oh, yes. 

COSBY:  How so? 

GONZALEZ:  Well, I mean, when you‘re dealing with people with automatic weapons, grenade launchers, all types of equipment that can locate us and override night vision, we don‘t have any of those things. 

COSBY:  Now, 2:00 in the morning.  And at this hour, it‘s easy to see why this border is so porous.  Where those lights are right over my shoulder is Mexico.  It‘s less than half a mile away. 

It‘s believed that, in any given week, about 20,000 people enter the United States through Mexico illegally; more than half of those are not Mexicans.  They originally come from other countries.  And those are the ones that law enforcement fear the most. 

GONZALEZ:  And you walk in here blind.  One time I was in a place like this, just doing this stuff with a flashlight—I was going like this—and then I heard somebody running.  Of course, I hit the ground.  And I hit the ground, grabbed my pistol, and just waited to see what‘s coming. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  That was Sheriff Ziggy Gonzalez (ph) of Zapata County with me in the middle of the night.  And just today, 16 counties along the treacherous U.S.-Mexico border decided that they will split a $6 million state grant as part of a border protection package ordered by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The new money will pay for more equipment and more deputies on patrol.  But is that just a drop in the bucket when the problem and the area is just so massive? 

Joining me now is a man who‘s right there on the front line in the war on terror and drugs in Laredo, Texas, Webb County Sheriff Rick Flores. 

Sheriff, I will tell you, it was such an honor spending time with you and your guys down there.  You know, when you look at this money that‘s coming, desperately needed money, and the problem is so severe, will it really have a big impact?  Isn‘t it just a drop in the bucket? 

SHERIFF RICK FLORES, LAREDO, TEXAS:  It‘s a drop in the bucket.  But it‘s going to be very helpful for the 16 sheriffs who probably never expected to receive this money from the governor.  And we appreciate the governor allocating some money. 

COSBY:  You‘re right.  Anything will help. 

You know, some of the things—I was astounded when you and I talked firsthand down there.  Tell everybody—and I think, you know, the average American—I covered the border quite a bit.  But going down there gave me a whole different feel. 

The sense that you have to go through and the things you have to go through for your own family, for your own kids.  Tell us about some of the protection that you have just for your kids to go to school. 

R. FLORES:  Well, first of all, you know, being law enforcement, number one, is a big task.  You have to be concerned about your safety. 

And second of all, when you‘re a law enforcement officer, the chief law enforcement officer of Webb County, which is the sixth largest county in the state of Texas, and one of the hottest spots of narco and human smuggling, of course you get concerned because we‘re interrupting their business. 

And the sheriff, and the police chief, and other law enforcement officers who participate on a daily basis in combating this type of crime, of course they run the risk.  And so do their families. 

My kids, we take extra precautions to secure their safety.  I pray every day that nothing happens to them and that we‘re not a target.  But, you know, this is the nature of the beast.  This is what we do for a living. 

We‘re here to protect our communities and, more importantly, our border.  Right now, I want to thank the author of the bill that is being proposed, Operation Linebacker, Congressman John Culberson, who is the initiator of this bill, and, of course, his co-authors who are supporting this bill. 

You know, this is a bill that is very much needed.  It‘s going to help the Texas-Mexican border beep up more security. 

COSBY:  And, boy, do you guys need it.  I‘ll tell you, you guys are the real heroes out there. 

You know, I had the mayor of Laredo on not too long ago, and I want to show a comment, basically painting a rosy picture that things are great.  And I want to get you to respond, Sheriff.  Here‘s what she had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETTY FLORES, MAYOR OF LAREDO, TEXAS:  I‘m a border city.  There is no violence—additional violence or additional murder in my city.  It is across...

COSBY:  Mayor, I‘ve got to interrupt you.  Mayor, I‘ve got to interrupt you, because I met with all the sheriffs and all the deputies down there, and they definitely beg to differ.  And these guys are right on the front lines.  They say it‘s out of control...

B. FLORES:  I‘m on the front lines, and I‘ve been there for a long time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, Sheriff, it‘s a certainly different picture than I got from you and your men there.  What do you make of the mayor‘s remarks there? 

R. FLORES:  Rita, the mayor plays a different role than law enforcement.  And I would really hate to respond to that. 

All I can tell you is that we‘re law enforcement.  We‘re here to protect and serve.  You have to read between the lines. 

There‘s been two travel advisories that the State Department has issued for people not to travel into Nuevo Laredo.  There‘s been great concern from congressmen and other legislative leaders who have come to the border and are concerned about what‘s happening in the spillover. 

Now, we‘ve had a number of murders that have happened in Laredo.  And they reflect or they somehow connect to what‘s going on across the border.  So, you know, to say that the violence isn‘t spilling over, it‘s not so, you know?  We have to be realistic and take a realistic approach about that. 

COSBY:  You bet.  Well, I can tell you and your men are doing a great job out there. 

R. FLORES:  Thank you.

COSBY:  And, unfortunately, outmanned and outgunned.  And we‘re going to do whatever we can to help you, Sheriff.  Thank you. 

R. FLORES:  Well, I appreciate you.  I appreciate the story that MSNBC has aired.  I think this is a wakeup call for the nation. 

I just want the nation to know that we are the back door into the United States and that we need to provide more security to the border area, especially the Texas-Mexican border.  And hopefully, this ought to open the eyes of a lot of Congresspeople and pay more attention that we need to secure our borders. 

COSBY:  Absolutely.  I hope so, too.  Thank you, Sheriff.  And keep up the great work that you guys are doing right there.  We appreciate all the hard work you‘re doing. 

And coming up, everybody, what about the people living right next door to the border?  How worried are they that the violence is spilling into their neighborhood? 

And we‘re also going to tell you what cast member just got fired from the hit TV show, “Desperate Housewives,” and why it‘s becoming a new drama on Wisteria Lane.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. FLORES:  All of these folks somehow are directly or indirectly tied to this war on drugs. 

COSBY:  How so? 

B. FLORES:  The war that you are watching there...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  But, Mayor, I‘ve got to interrupt you, because you made some comment earlier on another show where you said that they were drug-related kidnappings.  Are you suggesting that these folks were involved in drugs? 

B. FLORES:  Yes, ma‘am, I am.  All these folks were not innocent victims.  And that‘s what you have to understand and tell the rest of the country, because it is also very irresponsible to be saying that there is violence or murder on the border. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, that was just part of my controversial interview last week with Laredo Texas Mayor Flores, talking about some of the victims who go missing on the U.S.-Mexican border.  Again, as you heard her saying, they‘re not innocent victims. 

I‘m joined now on the phone by Laredo resident Cindy Rocha, who watched my full interview with the mayor, along with some other families. 

Cindy, what‘s your reaction to the mayor? 

CINDY ROCHA, LAREDO RESIDENT:  I‘m very disappointed, because I don‘t understand why she doesn‘t face the facts and admit that there is a problem here in Laredo.  And I don‘t see why she‘s going around the bushes and saying that the kidnap victims were drug-related, when she should be finding a way to look for them and bringing them back home. 

COSBY:  What do you think, Cindy, is her motivation?  You know, I asked the sheriff—and of course he didn‘t want to say, he has to work with this woman—but he said she has other interests.  Other people have basically said she cares about tourism. 

ROCHA:  She‘s more focused on the economy.  She blames the economy drop on us, on the families of the kidnap victims, which I think is very wrong, because she has to realize she‘s doing something that—I mean, she is misrepresenting Laredo.  She should be supporting us.

COSBY:  But what do other families say?  Because I know you watched this with other families, Cindy.  Were they just as shocked and dismayed as you were? 

ROCHA:  They weren‘t really shocked, because she has come out on national television saying this, I mean.  And it‘s just her way of just not admitting, and she really needs to pick up the newspaper daily and see the facts. 

I mean, there‘s kidnappings and murders here in Laredo.  Not as much as Nuevo Laredo.  Yesterday, there were 150 murders in Nuevo Laredo.  We have 44 kidnapped victims from Laredo missing in Nuevo Laredo.  And still nobody can tell us where they are or what they‘re going to do to bring them back home. 

COSBY:  And really quick, do you think it‘s time for a new mayor? 

I‘ve heard some people suggest that. 

ROCHA:  Definitely, yes.  Definitely, yes.  We need somebody to really represent us and keep our city a safe place.  And if there‘s a problem, we need somebody to be there up front for us, all of us. 

COSBY:  All right, Cindy Rocha, thank you very much.  We appreciate you being here and, again, watching with other families that interview that I did, that pretty explosive interview that we did, with the mayor.  Thank you very much.  

And we‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Tonight, there is a new mystery on Wisteria Lane.  Why did one of the characters of the hit TV show “Desperate Housewives” get fired?  Well, you may have only seen him briefly, but you know the character, Caleb.  He‘s the mysterious man chained up in the basement of the new neighbors on Wisteria Lane. 

His real name is Page Kennedy.  And according to the show publicist, he was let go because of improper conduct after a thorough investigation.  They said that it was not involving another cast member.

And that does it for me on LIVE & DIRECT.  Joe Scarborough starts right now.

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

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

Watch Rita Cosby Live & Direct each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,