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'The Abrams Report' for Feb. 8th

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Ahmed Younis, Mort Zuckerman, Raghida Dergham, Jim Walker, Mike Paul, Brett Rivkind, Dr. Henry Lee, Susan Burke

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, President Bush appeals for calm as violent protests rage in much of the Muslim world over political cartoons.


ABRAMS (voice-over):  The president meets with Jordan‘s king and asks for governments to stop the violence.  This as Secretary of State Rice says Iran and Syria are using the cartoons to inflame anger against the West.

And attorneys for the family of missing honeymooner George Smith say the stories from other passengers about what happened the night he disappeared just don‘t add up.  We‘ll talk to them.

Plus, an American citizen under arrest in Iraq.  The former National Guardsman charged for allegedly helping terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. 

The program about justice starts now.  


ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket, the violent protests continue in response to those cartoons printed in a Danish newspaper and elsewhere depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.  Tens of thousands of Muslims have demonstrated in the Middle East, Asia and Africa over the cartoons.  Three more people killed today in protests in Afghanistan, bringing the toll just there to 10 deaths this week.  In Washington President Bush met with Jordan‘s King Abdullah condemning the violent protests and asking world leaders to help stop them.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in the free press.  I call upon the governments around the world to stop the violence, to be respectful and to protect property, protect the lives of innocent diplomats who are serving their countries overseas. 


ABRAMS:  And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blames Syria and Iran for using this to fuel anger and resentment. 


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to enflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes.  And the world ought to call them on it. 


ABRAMS:  Now in France, a satirical weekly paper reprinted the controversial cartoons and published one of its own. 

All right.  “My Take”—maybe I‘m missing the issue here.  I had thought that all this violence stemmed from the fact that it is sacrilegious to depict the prophet Mohammed in any form, any form.  Well did you know the U.S. Supreme Court has a frieze in the great hall depicting Mohammed?  After certain groups objected, the court announced it -- quote—“bears no resemblance to Mohammed”.

OK, but it‘s still a representation of the—quote—“prophet of Islam” and it is called Mohammed.  I would assume the cartoons do not resemble the prophet either.  The question I ask again is this really about religion or an excuse to stir up trouble? 

Joining me now to discuss is national director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council Ahmed Younis, chairman and publisher of “New York Daily News” Mort Zuckerman, and MSNBC analyst and “Al-Hayat” newspaper senior diplomatic correspondent Raghida Dergham.

All right, thanks to all of you for coming on the program.  Mr.  Younis, I mean what about that?  What about the fact that this is certainly not the first time that the prophet Mohammed has been depicted in our own U.S. Supreme Court.  There it is, a frieze called Mohammed of the prophet of Islam. 

AHMED YOUNIS, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL:  Sure.  Well the depiction in the Supreme Court is one based on respect and reverence for the tradition of following the law of the prophet and all of those who are engaged in violence today are clearly breaching the bounds and the role model that the prophet played for all of us and is for many in other parts of the world.

The difference is incitement.  What is in the Supreme Court does not incite Muslims around the world.  It does not attack the very core of their identity.  The discussion of free speech in the West and Muslim tradition is really a concocted one.  This is about the war on terrorism. 

The primary result of what we have seen is that the vast majority of Muslim moderates that are needed and are integral.  At the apex of any counter terrorism effort, any counter extremism engagement and any...


YOUNIS:  ... public diplomacy program that will be successful, those people are now gone and the extremists that have been propped up on television...


YOUNIS:  ... as representing 1.2 billion Muslims in the world they are offending the moderates of the West and the dialogue...

ABRAMS:  All right, fair enough.


ABRAMS:  Fair enough.


ABRAMS:  But let‘s be clear though.  It is the content.  It is not the fact that Mohammed is being depicted in any form as I keep hearing.  It‘s the fact that Mohammed is being depicted in a form that people don‘t like. 

YOUNIS:  For Muslims the prophet is not to be depicted and no other prophet is to be depicted and they are all revered and respected equally, but this is not about stifling free speech.  And if anyone wants to depict the prophet, they can do so, but when this type of insensitive approach to art and to free speech is taken upon an individual, we as the Muslims of the world must engage to ensure that the moderates are speaking for us and that we have some way of getting past where we‘re at today. 

ABRAMS:  Mort Zuckerman, I know that you have a lot of thoughts on this and that you yourself had to engage in that discussion and debate over whether your newspaper and magazine should publish the cartoons as well. 

MORT ZUCKERMAN, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Yes.  I mean I think it is an issue for American journalism.  There is not I think a widespread desire on the part of American journalism to be involved in something that stimulates riots and violence, but of course we believe in the free expression and the freedom of the press and what is at stake here is a reaction to it that just demonstrates how wide the cultural gap is between the Muslim world and the Western world. 

I mean the problem that I have with these reactions is not that it is something that I want to see to diminish in any way the respect for Mohammed, but the Muslim world publishes cartoons and drawings and pictures that are so demeaning of the Christian world and the Jewish world.  There‘s kind of a double standard that applies.  And it makes it difficult for everybody in the West to understand their concerns. 

YOUNIS:  But for the people, Dan, there is no double standard.  We condemned (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when he attacked Iran recently.  We have always condemned the anti-Semitic cartoons, any hint of anti-Semitism because of the collective experience...

ABRAMS:  Right.  All right...


ABRAMS:  Look, you‘re taking the position...


ABRAMS:  Mr. Younis, look, you‘re taking the position of the moderate...

YOUNIS:  No, sir, I am taking the position of the average Muslim in the world. 

ABRAMS:  You can characterize it whatever you want.  You can call it average.  I can call it moderate.  It means the same thing.  The bottom line --  I would hope that the average Muslim is a moderate one.

YOUNIS:  Of course, they are.

ABRAMS:  OK, so the correction really isn‘t necessary.  The bottom line is though there are people still on the streets, thousands of them, who are using this.  And this is a political tool.  It‘s not about the cartoons. 

Raghida Dergham, look, you are someone who sort of walks that line between many of the Muslim nations and the United States.  What is your take? 

RAGHIDA DERGHAM, MSNBC ANALYST:  This is what I think.  I think we in the media, we have the right to provoke.  But in order to provoke, we need to know what are we provoking?  Are we provoking new thinking?  Creative thinking?  Some other way to look at matters?  Or is this a provocation without a purpose?

ABRAMS:  Right.  Let‘s assume it was a bad decision...


ABRAMS:  Let‘s assume it was a bad...


ABRAMS:  ... decision for a minute to do it. 

DERGHAM:  To me—so to me this is—when the European editors decided to republish the photos, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) offensive part of these caricatures is having the turban as a bomb, which is to say you Muslims and your prophet are all terrorists.  That‘s the message.

When the editors, the enlightened editors to decided to republish these caricatures, they should have known that they are calling the public, the masses, those—the uneducated masses go to the streets and do what they are doing.  And I think Mr. Younis is absolutely right.

This is not an engagement between editors from the two sides of the society; this is not that cultural divide.  It is the editors of the West calling on the masses of the Islamic world and that is the wrong...

ABRAMS:  But why is it --  but why isn‘t it happening, as Mort Zuckerman points out, when Jews or Christians are depicted in a demeaning way in certain Arab publications?  Why aren‘t we then seeing the same reaction and why aren‘t we seeing people say well look, you are inciting them in a way where maybe our embassies are going to be burned down and yet it doesn‘t happen. 

DERGHAM:  Yes, but you see here you‘re calling a justification for what is going on in the streets in the Muslim countries.  And I don‘t think—I certainly am not.  I‘m absolutely outraged by this riot.  And I think you are  correct when you said a little earlier that there is a political maneuvering that‘s going on. 

Certainly, when the riots in Syria burned embassies and the ones in Beirut went crazy, there was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) apology (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prime minister, bravo for him... 


DERGHAM:  ... that he apologized to the Danish government.  It‘s very good that the Syrian minister resigned.  But is also, you know it begs the question that if Syria thinks they do not owe an apology...


DERGHAM:  ... then it is absolutely a political implication. 

ABRAMS:  Mort let me ask you about that...


ABRAMS:  We heard the president say today that he thinks that these governments need to do more.

DERGHAM:  Certainly. 

ABRAMS:  Do you agree, Mort?

DERGHAM:  Absolutely...

ZUCKERMAN:  Absolutely...


ZUCKERMAN:  I don‘t think there is any question at all about deliberate manipulation on this issue on behalf of the political objectives of Syria and Iran.  I don‘t think there‘s any question about that.  But if you look at the Egyptian press, which is a government that we consider to be moderate, the anti—western anti-Israel, anti-Semitic nature of what they publish as a matter of course, and I‘ve had this conversation with the Egyptian ambassador.  They do this as a matter of course and...

DERGHAM:  But Mort...

ZUCKERMAN:  ... but it‘s also a political objective. 

YOUNIS:  Mr. Zuckerman...

DERGHAM:  Mort...


DERGHAM:  ... when you say this, Mort, when you bring this up, it‘s—and I hope you don‘t mean that—as if you are justifying...


DERGHAM:  ... depicting the prophet Mohammed as a terrorist. 



DERGHAM:  I hope you don‘t mean to do that, Mort.


ABRAMS:  Let him respond...


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on. 


ABRAMS:  Hang on. 


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on. 


ABRAMS:  Mr. Younis, let him respond. 


ZUCKERMAN:  I think the purpose of this cartoon—there are two cartoons

that I‘m familiar with.  One is the one that you referred to, which is

obviously intended to identify the spade of bombings, of suicide bombings,

with frankly the Muslim extremists, which frankly is not an unrealistic

association.  The other was where somebody had the facemask and was

commenting about the attitude of the Muslim world to women, which is after

all (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the Netherlands did a movie on it, was assassinated



ZUCKERMAN:  ... somebody.  All he was trying to point out was the poor treatment.  He wasn‘t trying to be a demigod.  He is doing what people in the intellectual world and in the creative world do.  They comment on the world about them...

YOUNIS:  Let me respond to that...

ABRAMS:  All right, Mr. Younis, go ahead.

YOUNIS:  Yes, Dan, here‘s the problem.  If Mort and I can right now in the name of the tradition of Abraham equally condemn all of this hate mongering then we are moving forward.  The second point is that we are with these types of situations negligently bolstering the Islamic identity of the terrorists, extremists that are trying to attack our nation and trying to attack the West, the same terrorists that have killed many more Muslims than non-Muslims in modern history in their terrorism.  We have got to...

ABRAMS:  So the bottom line then, Mr. Younis, is that there is simply no excuse, correct, for what‘s going on...


ABRAMS:  Simply no excuse.

YOUNIS:  There is no excuse for people in society with power to exert their leverage to ensure that there is civil discourse, but freedom of speech will always stand.  We are talking about...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait...


ABRAMS:  That was roundabout way of answering my question.  Let‘s just—let‘s make it clear—I just want to make it clear what your position is.  There is no excuse for the violence we are seeing, correct? 

YOUNIS:  There is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) unequivocal condemnation always and in this situation for any violence...

ABRAMS:  Right.  OK.

YOUNIS:  ... against anyone in response to the defamation.  The prophet would have—not have done what they are doing...

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.

YOUNIS:  ... and therefore it is un-Islamic and it is...

ABRAMS:  That‘s what I wanted to hear...


ABRAMS:  Raghida, I‘ve got five seconds left. 

DERGHAM:  Yes, I‘ve just got to tell you, we really have to calm down, everybody here, because I think it‘s going to be very dangerous if it gets out of hand.  So even these governments right now...


DERGHAM:  ... very happy that the riots are going so wide, I think they‘re going to somehow...


DERGHAM:  ... stand up—stand back and say, my goodness we went a bit too far.  I think everybody...

ABRAMS:  Well...

DERGHAM:  ... should calm down and I think we should be responsible...


ZUCKERMAN:  I would like to be there when the Iranian government says they went too far...


ZUCKERMAN:  Just call me anytime day or night...


DERGHAM:  Ashura is coming up. 


DERGHAM:  Ashura is coming up, Dan. 


DERGHAM:  This is a celebration for the Shiites.


DERGHAM:  It‘s a very passionate one. 

ABRAMS:  Look, I understand, but...

DERGHAM:  And I think...


ABRAMS:  No, no...


ABRAMS:  I know.  You want to give words of hope, but on this program...

DERGHAM:  No, the point is...

ABRAMS:  ... we do words of reality...


ABRAMS:  Reality is right now...

DERGHAM:  No, it‘s going to be—no, actually I want to give...


DERGHAM:  ... the word of warning. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

DERGHAM:  ... warning because I think it‘s going to be a very bloody Ashura if we‘re not careful...

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.

DERGHAM:  ... and suffer the provocation from all sides. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, see—but see making it all sides to me is a justification...


ABRAMS:  ... by saying everyone this...


ABRAMS:  ... everyone that...

DERGHAM:  No, Dan...


ABRAMS:  That means no accountability to anyone.

DERGHAM:  But see, Dan, that‘s not fair...


ABRAMS:  It is fair...


YOUNIS:  Demystify the clash of civilizations.  Let‘s engage with moderates.


YOUNIS:  Mort Zuckerman, engage with us...

ABRAMS:  All right, he is engaging...


ABRAMS:  That‘s why he‘s on this program.  Ahmed Younis, Mort Zuckerman, and Raghida Dergham, thank you all.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, the family of missing honeymooner George Smith says the stories from the passengers who were with him before he disappeared just don‘t add up.  We talk to the family‘s lawyers next. 

And forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee says I‘m not going to the Bahamas to throw a mannequin off a cruise ship like the one George Smith was on.  Why not?  Says he doesn‘t have the information he needs from Royal Caribbean.  The cruise line says he does.  Dr. Lee joins us.

Plus, remember the American Taliban—well now a former member of the Minnesota National Guard is under arrest in Iraq charged with helping terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. 

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.



DR. HENRY LEE, FORENSIC SCIENTIST:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) experiment, measurement, study.  We did check the cabin, the canopy and the balcony.  I did find something, OK, but I cannot tell you what we found.  We did find something. 


ABRAMS:  Well that wasn‘t enough for renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee.  With the help of a life-like mannequin, Dr. Lee is hopping to learn even more about how missing honeymooner George Smith may have disappeared from “The Brilliance of the Seas” last July 5.  Dr. Lee had to postpone his plans to head to the Bahamas to conduct the tests, throwing a mannequin off the side of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship like the one Smith and his wife Jennifer were on when he was last seen.

Why the delay?  In part he says due to the cruise line‘s failure to provide him with nautical records he needs to ensure the accuracy of the testing.  He was barred from performing his mannequin test when he first boarded.  That was last month.  The cruise line invited him to come back and conduct tests on another ship. 

Let‘s bring in the lawyers.  Brett Rivkind is the attorney for George Smith‘s family.  Mike Paul is a spokesman for Jennifer Hagel Smith.  Jim Walker is Jennifer Smith‘s attorney.

The question and this is the question.  It is why can Henry Lee not do this test that he wants to do on the ship?  And let me read --  we‘ve got this statement just now from Royal Caribbean and it says the following.

Royal Caribbean just received Dr. Lee‘s request through the Smiths‘ attorneys three days ago.  Apparently Dr. Lee was never informed by these attorneys that since last December, the attorneys had the information he is now requesting regarding wind and weather conditions.  Dr. Lee also wanted to know about the speed of the ship in the early morning of July 5. 

We would have immediately provided him and the lawyers with that information had they called us.  In fact the ship was moving at 12 knots.  Maybe in the future these attorneys will be in better communication with Dr. Lee to avoid his failure to know the facts before speaking to the press.

Jim Walker, you want to take that one first?

JIM WALKER, JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH‘S ATTORNEY:  Yes, I‘d be happy to.  Last November we requested certain information from the cruise line.  We‘ve requested blueprints for the cabin, hallways, for the awning, for the canopy.  We need to know the slope.  We need to know the materials used.  We also asked for certain information regarding the vessel operations and we‘ve requested the vessel logs.  Those are official documents, which contain information regarding vessel locations, speed, wind conditions, whether the stabilizers were in use and so forth. 

What we received last month, actually in December, was an accident report and this is Captain Lachtaridis, you know Captain Lachtaridis.  You interviewed him.


WALKER:  His accident report, which contained all types of inaccurate information, that accident report contained some second-hand information regarding the vessel operations, but we don‘t have the official rough logs, weather logs and so forth.  That‘s what we need.  There is additional information, which we‘re seeking too. 


WALKER:  I think...

ABRAMS:  The additional information is one thing, but specifically on this question of Dr. Lee‘s ability to do this mannequin test, it sounds like what he needed—let me ask Mike Paul about this --  it sounds like what he needed to do this was he needed to know how fast the ship was going.  He needed some other information about the weather conditions, et cetera.  And it sounds like the attorneys for Royal Caribbean are saying look, if that‘s what you needed for the mannequin test, we would have given it to you a long time ago if you had called us.

MIKE PAUL, JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH‘S SPOKESMAN:  Well as Jim is saying, one of the things that he has been doing is he‘s been keeping in touch with Royal Caribbean and asking for various pieces of information.  You know what I‘m hearing here is a tone that is certainly not helpful.  You know this is a company that just talked about their record earnings, just talked about buying the largest ship in the world that is going to be worth over a billion and a quarter dollars.  Maybe they are spending too much time popping their champagne about their records and sadly not thinking about someone who could have been murdered on one of their ships this past year instead of just talking about their record earnings...


PAUL:  We want to cooperate. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s stay focused here.  I mean I don‘t want to just sort of let potshots going on at Royal Caribbean.  I mean the bottom line is, the question is why can‘t Dr. Henry Lee do what he views as an important test on that boat and Brett Rivkind, again...

PAUL:  Because he doesn‘t have the information is the answer. 

ABRAMS:  But it sounds like what they are saying is if they had just called us and asked us, we would have provided them with this info.  Mr. Rivkind.

BRETT RIVKIND, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE SMITH‘S FAMILY:  Well as Mr. Walker said, you know, we have requested information from the very beginning and we‘ve received very little cooperation from Royal Caribbean.  They come out after the fact and say if you‘d just asked for this, we would have given it to you, but there has been many times since me and Mr. Walker got involved where we have asked to just give us information. 

In fact, the Smiths held off filing a civil lawsuit and conducting civil discovery for six months and still haven‘t ran to the courthouse and filed a lawsuit because we were hoping that the cruise line would voluntarily cooperate and give us information to avoid the civil lawsuit at this time and we could wait. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about that.

RIVKIND:  They haven‘t been cooperating.  So we had no reason to believe they would just hand over information and Dr. Lee asked for some specific official logbooks and other information that we recently asked.  We didn‘t get on TV and criticize the cruise line for not giving that to us yet.  We recently sent that letter.  We hope and are encouraged to hear that they are going to cooperate with us. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you...

RIVKIND:  And we hope they do. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about the lawsuit.  You mentioned the lawsuit that you held off on filing.  It sounds like you‘re saying you very well may be moving forward with the lawsuit.  Are you going to basically say that Royal Caribbean could have and should have prevented George Smith‘s death or that they messed up the investigation?

RIVKIND:  It‘s going to be both aspects...

ABRAMS:  How could they have prevented his death? 

RIVKIND:  Well under maritime law, you know, most of what we have heard so far and the cruise line themselves is trying to come out and say that intoxication and alcohol had a big part in what occurred here.  And if you look at Royal Caribbean‘s record as far as profits, which is over four or $5 billion, hundreds of millions of dollars have been made selling alcohol onboard the ship. 

ABRAMS:  I see.  OK.

RIVKIND:  And under maritime law, anybody selling that amount of alcohol and making that kind of money has a duty to the passengers, its patrons, to protect them, to look after their safety.  And that...

ABRAMS:  All right...

RIVKIND:  ... in addition to the lack of security onboard the cruise ship. 

ABRAMS:  I got it.  I just wanted to know what the basic grounds were going to be and we‘ll I‘m sure be able to discuss that in the future.  All right, we‘ve got Dr. Lee now. 


ABRAMS:  So now we‘re having a big—a little dispute here between the lawyers about who knew what, when, and when the information was requested.  Royal Caribbean is now saying that the ship was moving at 12 knots.  And they seem willing to provide you the information that you‘re going to need to perform your mannequin test.  What else do you need?  They‘re going to tell you how fast it was going.  It sounds like they‘re going to give you the weather conditions, et cetera.  Are you going to then be ready and able to perform your test. 

LEE:  You‘re right.  You know, first of all, I want to thank them.  They really extend a lot of courtesy.  And of course the reason this week is not possible, I have two major reason why is my commitment.  I start today at 4:00 this morning.  I haven‘t stopped yet. 

So a lot of a pre-committed case, conference, major crime, investigation, also attend Governor (UNINTELLIGIBLE) state-to-state union, address, so, so many things already scheduled.  The second thing, I lack of enough information, now if Royal Caribbean were willing to provide this information, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) someday, I‘m sure we‘re going to do that as soon as possible. 

ABRAMS:  So what would you do?  You would actually—you would then know the information.  You‘d know how fast the ship was going.  You would know what the temperature was outside, et cetera.

LEE:  The wind velocity, yes.

ABRAMS:  The velocity, et cetera, and then what would you do? 

LEE:  Well basically, this investigation can be divided in four parts.  One

the first part is find out what did happen, the fact-finding.  That‘s basically what I committed to do...

ABRAMS:  Right.

LEE:  ... is to find out that night what did happen.  Second part is whether or not have a criminal investigation, that‘s FBI investigation.  That‘s separate from our fact-finding investigation.  The third part, of course, whether or not have a civil litigation.  That (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not involve us. 

We are doing fact-finding, provide the facts.  Whatever information we can find we‘ll provide to both sides.  The last one, I think the most important thing is how to prevent a future tragedy.  My responsibility just look at the first part to provide the family some answers.  Nothing more. 

ABRAMS:  Mike Paul, real quick, before we take a break.  We‘ll come back in a minute...

PAUL:  Yes, sir.

ABRAMS:  ... but why is it that Henry Lee is always speaking so nicely about Royal Caribbean, always saying that they are helping out, et cetera, and when we listen to you and the legal team it often sounds like Royal Caribbean couldn‘t be less helpful? 

PAUL:  Well let me explain.  Number one, I don‘t think it was a potshot that I just had that comment to Royal Caribbean.  They said that we didn‘t have information and that‘s a lie.  I think anyone would respect Dr. Lee.  Dr. Lee is an amazing man.  He‘s extremely intelligent.  He‘s very good at what he does...

ABRAMS:  But they don‘t respect you guys? 

PAUL:  We love that‘s he on our team.  Well I think at times they think that we are the adversary.  Here‘s the last point that I want to make before we go to commercial.  The president of the cruise line wanted to have a working relationship.  He said on television, he said through letters, he said through e-mails that he wants to have an excellent working relationship.  The way to have an excellent working relationship is to work with all the members of our team...

ABRAMS:  All right.

PAUL:  ... especially Dr. Lee right now who‘s at the lead in this investigation. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

PAUL:  We just want that to happen.

ABRAMS:  Everyone is going to stick around because we‘re going to shift gears in a minute.  George Smith‘s family now saying the stories from other passengers about what happened the night he disappeared just don‘t add up. 

And an American citizen under arrest in Iraq, charged with helping one of America‘s worst enemies, the so-called leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.  His lawyer is going to join us.  What is his defense? 



ABRAMS:  Now to details about what could have been the last moments of honeymooner George Smith‘s life.  Remember the crucial time period is 4:00 to 4:30 a.m.  Attorneys for two of the men last seen with Smith who appeared from—disappeared from his honeymoon cruise in July are saying they have proof their clients were not involved in Smith‘s disappearance.  What‘s the proof? 

All right, Albert Dayan, attorney for Rusty Kofman, says—quote—“Time-stamped photographs, which indicate that my client was in another room at approximately 4:00 a.m.  They had ordered a ton of room service.  We actually provided the FBI with photographs of that room service.  The food service had arrived at approximately 4:20 that morning and there is a time stamp there.” 

And why did they take pictures of the room service they ordered?  Some have suggested it could have been to create an alibi.  Josh Askin, another one of the last people to see Smith, also has an attorney who says—quote—

“It was such an incredible amount of food.  They wanted to capture it for a memento.”

Smith camp now saying the story just doesn‘t add up.  And back with me are many people from that camp.  Brett Rivkind, attorney for George Smith‘s family, and Mike Paul, spokesperson for Jennifer Hagel Smith, Jim Walker, Jennifer Smith‘s attorney, and we should note that calls to Josh Askin‘s attorney, Keith Greer, went unanswered and Rusty Kofman‘s attorney declined an invitation to be on the program. 

All right.  Mr. Walker, they seem to be saying hey, everyone is pointing the fingers at us.  We‘ve got this proof, these time stamps on the pictures, which show we couldn‘t have been involved. 

WALKER:  It doesn‘t make any sense.  Listen, let‘s start at 4:05.  There‘s a noise complaint by Clete Hyman.  The four men are in the cabin at 4:05.  The noise continued, so we‘re going into 4:05, 4:10, so forth.  George and Jennifer‘s cabin is on deck nine.  Mr. Kofman and the Rosenberg (ph) men are down on deck three. 

This is a huge ship.  It‘s almost as tall as the Empire State Building.  It would take five or 10 minutes to get from deck nine down to deck three.  Now if you ran down there as fast as you could and immediately ordered room service and ordered all these pizzas and hamburgers and so forth, and the cooks cleaned it—or cooked it as quick as they could, and then ran back as fast as they could to their cabin, the food couldn‘t be there by 4:20.  It‘s just not—it‘s not a reasonable suggestion.  And then why are they taking a photograph of all this food right at the time George Smith disappeared? 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean you heard what they say.  They say oh, you know, so much food they wanted to sort of...

WALKER:  Well you‘re going to take a photograph of the buffet and...


WALKER:  ... it‘s my grandmother.  She‘s going to show it to the bingo club.  That‘s one thing, 4:30 in the morning photographing food...

ABRAMS:  All right, Mike Paul, I‘m going to put a graphic representation of the ship‘s layout and why don‘t you explain to us why you say that this whole story doesn‘t quite make sense. 


ABRAMS:  We‘ve got it up there.  Go ahead. 

PAUL:  Well as Jim was just saying, that you know starting from the Hagel-Smith cabin and then working their way down through to the third floor, you know the one thing that we are willing to say is that we believe that the boys, their room is on the third floor at the bow area of the boat.  As Jim was just lining up, it just doesn‘t make sense, the amount of time that it would take.

And not only, as Jim was just pointing out, does the food need to be cooked, but then someone has to take that tray and get it to that room, as well.  That also takes a significant amount of time.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Rivkind, there‘s an issue about how many people were seen leaving the room.  Clete Hyman, the witness says, that he saw three people leaving the room and yet, the lawyers, et cetera, seem to be saying that four people were escorting George Smith to his room, et cetera.  Here‘s what an attorney for one of the men says as to maybe how this could be explained. 

You have to be mindful of the fact that the hallway is about 36 to 42 inches wide.  You put two guys shoulder to shoulder and a third one in the middle.  You can‘t see if there‘s a fourth individual there. 

What do you make of that? 

RIVKIND:  Well I think you got to look at it again and say that along with the other information to us is very suspicious.  You know as Jim pointed out about the room service and taking photographs exactly at the time—you put the timeline on there—their stamp from their private cameras—that can be manipulated, as you know—is about the exact time that Clete Hyman hears that thud. 

Now Clete Hyman says he saw only three guys.  We were on the ship, Mr.  Walker and I, and if you stick your head out of the cabin door next door and look into the hallway, you can tell whether there are three large gentlemen or four.  We don‘t buy that either. 

So if you take that inconsistency between Clete Hyman, the passenger in the next cabin, as well as—on the other side of George Smith‘s cabin, you know there was also a complaint during that 4:00 to 4:30 range of them hearing the room being trashed and then you take their story, which is basically we brought a very heavily intoxicated George Smith to the cabin...


RIVKIND:  ... so heavily intoxicated that we just laid him on the bed and took his shoes off, it just doesn‘t add up. 

ABRAMS:  Final—Dr. Lee, are you involved in trying to piece together all of these little pieces of information, as well? 

LEE:  Yes, we try to do that.  And I‘ll be working with Paul‘s attorney and Paul and try to get the information.  Of course, we are still waiting to get information from Turkey police and what they collect and what they found, FBI, what did they find, so everything, pieces together before we can have a clear picture.

ABRAMS:  All right.

PAUL:  Hey Dan, one last...

ABRAMS:  I got 10 seconds. 

PAUL:  Can you just—Jennifer had a message that she wanted to make sure I shared with you, which is is the Web site. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

PAUL:  One of the reasons why we still have a little edge.  It‘s been seven months.  She needs some answers. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Brett Rivkind, Mike Paul, Jim Walker, Dr. Henry Lee, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 



ABRAMS:  Coming up, an American former National Guardsman arrested in Iraq accused of helping terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi plan attacks.  What‘s his defense?  His lawyer joins us next. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, an American guardsman under arrest in Iraq accused of helping the most wanted man there, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, target Westerners.  His lawyer joins us next.


ABRAMS:  We are back.  He‘s an American citizen, a former Minnesota National Guardsman, married with six kids, could he have played a role in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi‘s terrorist network, al Qaeda in Iraq?  Served as a terror leader‘s personal emissary to insurgent groups.  Is it possible he even used his English skills to make contact with foreigners as part of a kidnapping plot?

U.S. military arrested Shawqi Omar in Baghdad in October 2004.  Major General John Gardener (ph), who‘s the deputy commanding general for detainee operations, has written a formal declaration saying Omar has multiple ties to the Zarqawi network. 

That there is testimonial evidence of numerous meetings with Zarqawi.  That Omar was captured in a raid targeting Zarqawi associates, that he harbored an Iraqi insurgent and four Jordanian foreign fighters, conducted surveillance of potential kidnap victims and had several weapons and bomb-making materials in his home. 

The military tribunal reviewed his case, declared him an enemy combatant, now plans to turn him over to an Iraqi court for trial.  Omar‘s lawyers have at least temporarily blocked the transfer to Iraqi custody.  They say he might be tortured.  They want him either released or sent before an American court.  U.S. appeals court is considering those claims now. 

Susan Burke is an attorney for Shawqi Omar and she joins us now.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

All right, before we talk about the jurisdictional issues, let me ask you about the underlying facts.  I mean do you take any position right now on all of these awful allegations against him? 

SUSAN BURKE, ATTORNEY FOR SHAWQI OMAR:  Oh no, of course not.  At this point it would be professionally irresponsible to do so.  This is a man who has been held incommunicado despite his repeated requests for a lawyer.  He was not given access to a lawyer. 

ABRAMS:  So you have not been able to talk to him. 

BURKE:  And so we have not been able to talk to him.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BURKE:  We have not been able to investigate the government allegations.  And what is important to note is that the declaration that includes all these inflammatory allegations was filed in response to our motion.  This is a gentleman that the United States government preferred just to quietly hand over without any attention to his plight, but we went to court to block that...

ABRAMS:  Right.

BURKE:  ... because we had a good faith belief that in fact this gentleman will be tortured if he‘s turned over to the Iraqi authorities. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  And you mention the detailed statement.  It says four Jordanians stated that Mr. Omar directed and participated in selection and surveillance of potential kidnap victims.  All five insurgents admit Mr.  Omar made comments about his fluency in English, which allowed him to visit Baghdad hotels in order to entice foreigners to return to his home for the purpose of kidnap and ransom.

Have you been able to speak with any of those four Jordanians? 

BURKE:  At this point, we received the declaration just days ago and we have not been able to test the veracity of those statements.  We do know, however, that there are other portions of the declaration that simply don‘t hold up. 

For example, General Gardner (ph) stated this gentleman was not in U.S.  custody and control, yet we have documents from the State Department, which we‘ve provided to the court that say he is indeed in fact U.S. custody and control.  So clearly there‘s a lot of facts here.  They‘re going to have to be investigated.  But the most important thing is for Mr. Shawqi Omar, who‘s a United States citizen, not to be turned over and put at risk of being tortured by the Iraqi authorities. 

ABRAMS:  And what evidence do you have that he would be tortured?  I mean are you just saying because the Iraqi authorities do that? 

BURKE:  Well I mean I think the most compelling evidence is interestingly enough from the gentleman who was the—who signed the affidavit, General Gardner (ph).  He himself just months ago said the United States was not going to be turning any prisoners over to the Iraqis because they torture people. 

ABRAMS:  Well...

BURKE:  In addition to that evidence, we also have a declaration from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch with firsthand accounts...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but they‘re also complaining about the U.S. treatment of people as well, so...

BURKE:  Well...

ABRAMS:  I mean you know, yes.

BURKE:  Those complaints are also very valid...

ABRAMS:  Well, whether they are valid or not, my point is to say oh, they are going to turn him over to the Iraqis, the same people who are complaining about the Iraqis are complaining about the U.S.

BURKE:  Well...

ABRAMS:  Let me read you this quote from the - from their position as to the jurisdictional question.

Mr. Omar is not in the custody of the United States.  Rather, he was arrested by multi-national Iraq forces and while U.S. armed forces participate in custody over Mr. Omar, they do so as part of the multi national force and not the United States.

I mean he is arrested in Iraq. 

BURKE:  Well the reality of his custody is that he‘s under the control of the United States military.  So I‘m sure you know being a lawyer yourself that the real issue here is whether or not the U.S. military has custody over him and could they deliver him to the United States court.  Now, the United States government, even in their own papers, has not tried to go so far as to say that they are not able to do that. 

The reality is they control his whereabouts.  They control his clypeus (ph), his body.  They have moved him from Camp Boca (ph) to Abu Ghraib, to Camp Cropa (ph), back to Abu Ghraib, so this gentleman, an American citizen, is in the custody and control of American forces...

ABRAMS:  All right.

BURKE:  ... and he can be brought to the United States as were the other United States citizens who were charged with similar things. 

ABRAMS:  We shall see.  This is being battled in the federal courts right now.  Susan Burke, thank you so much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

BURKE:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, what you don‘t see behind the scenes of THE ABRAMS REPORT every night before the show.  I treat myself to some sort of candy or cookie.  Usually I feel guilty, not today.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

And later, we asked last night if the American media should print controversial cartoons that appear to be offending some Muslims.  Many of you writing in. 


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—that new comprehensive report that suggests low fat diets do not, I repeat, do not reduce the risk of getting cancer or heart disease.  What?  So all those years of eating no meat, less butter, those bland baked potato chips instead of tasty fried ones, even buying those low fat Oreo cookies, that was all for nothing?  I could have been eating pizza and McDonald‘s fries? 

It was an eight-year long study funded by the National Institute of Health, nearly 49,000 women 50 to 79.  Turns out the women who ate whatever they wanted had the same rates of cancer, heart attack, and stroke as those who observed a low fat diet.  And they say that colon cancer and heart disease results apply to men also. 

A doctor at the American Cancer Society called it the Rolls Royce of studies.  It cost $415 million, published in today‘s “Journal of the American Medical Association”.  Sure, there are critics out there who say the low fat diet failed to differentiate between good fats and bad fats, you know, like Olive oil versus value meals.  Others said the women in the study weren‘t as strict as they should have been with their diets. 

Whatever, I feel kind of duped, like I‘ve missed out on some of the guilty pleasures in life while caught up in some passing low fat fad.  Think of all those luscious cupcakes and ice cream I could have savored.  What‘s next?  I‘ll learn I could have spent less time exercising and more time catching TV Land reruns or that I just embarrassed myself for nothing, hiding under the beach umbrella to avoid getting fried. 

Or worse for me that wed wine actually isn‘t good for my heart.  I know they still say this study doesn‘t change the need to eat well.  It‘s just a study on fats and food, but just in case, so I never look back on my life with regret, today I celebrate. 

Coming up, got a ton of e-mails about the protests in much of the Muslim world about those Danish cartoons. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. 

More violent protests throughout the Muslim world over those cartoons.  Almost no media outlets here in the U.S. showing what‘s causing all the stir.  We asked is that the right call.  Plenty of e-mails on this one.

Liz Jurkowski, an American living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia writes, “The simple truth is that the Muslim faith absolutely forbids any representation of the prophet or any of his relatives.  I was proud of the way the U.S.  media was handling this news story until “The Philadelphia Inquirer” published the cartoons.  Now again the fundamentalists, terrorists, and devout Muslims have yet another reason to hate the USA.”

Oh, come on, Liz.  We can‘t and shouldn‘t live our lives constantly fearing how some fanatics will respond to choices made in this country.  And let‘s be real.  The decision of a handful of papers to publish the cartoons is not going to fuel any more anger in the Arab world towards the United States than is already there. 

Matt Pfeil in Belleville, Illinois, “If I implied that I would react radically towards pictures shown of hot dogs, would you not show pictures of hot dogs, even if the top story was regarding hot dogs?  Seems to me like the radical wing of Islam has found a way to restrict our free speech.  Wouldn‘t that mean they‘re winning?”

Maureen from Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, “I was personally offended at the Rolling Stone cover of Kanye West, depicted as Jesus Christ, but I promise I didn‘t blow up anything.”

Elaine O‘Neill in Hollister, Missouri, “Do you honestly think that if a Muslim paper printed an offensive cartoon about Jesus or King David that Christians or Jews would go around burning the embassies of Islamic countries?  Of course not.  I‘m truly fed up with them and the way we go out of our way not to offend them.”

Ahmad Refky in Chicago, Illinois, “As a Muslim born and raised in Egypt and now live in the United States for the past five years, I frankly found the cartoon stupid, not offensive.  I did find some of them funny though.”

And in my “Closing Argument” last night I sort of defended some celebrities under fire including Britney Spears.  First I said she was not just stupid for driving away from paparazzi with her 4-month-old son in her lap, but that she broke the law and that I expect she‘ll pay a fine.  But I also said it‘s an overreaction for so many people to question is she fit to be a parent at all for a mistake like that. 

Lucy Chambers in San Francisco, “If driving while holding your baby in your lap is not an example of poor parenting skills, then what is?”

Yes, it was a bad move.  But you want to send the kid to foster care for that. 

Paula Ward, “Should Britney Spears be humiliated?  Absolutely.  Is it appropriate?  Absolutely.  Maybe it will save her son‘s life.”

Joanne Grailich writes, “I may be dating myself, but I grew up in the ‘50‘s and ‘60‘s and back then there were no such thing as car seats.  We survived and endured a great deal of hardship and turmoil in our history.  My advice to her critics is to lighten up.”

Your e-mails abramsreport—one word --  We go through them at the end of the show. 

That does it for us.  I think I‘m going to go back and have some more of that chocolate bar from earlier. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching. 

I‘ll see you back here tomorrow.


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