Guests: Walid Phares, Micah Garen, David Heyman, Eric Holdeman, Alistair Jackson, Dave Wedge, Joe Tacopina, Susan Filan
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, the terrorists holding American Jill Carroll hostage set a new deadline.
ABRAMS (voice-over): They say they‘ll kill her in two and a half weeks if their demands aren‘t met. This just a day after Carroll appeared on tape again, asking her supporters to do what it takes to set her free.
And President Bush once said that Brownie did a heck of a job after Hurricane Katrina. But then the Brownie got burned. Today Michael Brown is fighting back on Capitol Hill, saying it‘s baloney that no one knew how serious the damage was after Katrina hit.
Plus, we now know what Neil Entwistle told police investigating the murder of his wife and baby daughter. And another possible motive emerges for the killing, his sex life.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. We‘ve got breaking news to report to you. First up on the docket, in the case of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll who‘s been held in Iraq for over a month. Carroll‘s kidnappers are now saying they will kill her on February the 26th, unless their demands are met. Now it‘s not clear exactly what those demands are or whether they‘re different from the group‘s earlier demands that all female prisoners in Iraq be freed.
They had set an earlier deadline for Carroll‘s execution, which passed. A Kuwaiti television network aired a videotape of Carroll released yesterday and say they have passed on the—quote—“specific demands of her kidnappers to authorities.” The video shows Carroll alive, seemingly well, and speaking English.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thursday, February 6, February 2, 2006. I‘m with the mujahideen. I sent you a letter written by my hand but you wanted more evidence. So we‘re sending you this letter now to prove that I am with the mujahideen. I‘m here. I‘m fine. Please just do whatever they want. Give them whatever they want as quickly as possible. There is very short time. Please do it fast. That‘s all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now is journalist Micah Garen who was kidnapped himself, held hostage in Iraq for nine days in 2004. He wrote a book about his experience called “American Hostage”. He knows Jill Carroll and has been in touch with her family. And MSNBC terrorism analyst Walid Phares. He‘s also the author of “Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America”.
Walid, what do you make of the February 26 deadline? Two and a half weeks seems like quite a distance in the future.
WALID PHARES, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: They want basically to extend what is the most important objective they have, that is to put pressure on the United States and hope that there will be inside the United States a pressure group, her friends, parents, politicians and others who would basically start to question our handling of it. That‘s the most important thing for them.
Now, of course, as you just mentioned, there may be other conditions that were not made available or public different from the original conditions that is to free Iraqi prisoners or female prisoners in Iraq.
ABRAMS: And Walid, do you expect that if the conditions are just to release the women being held in Iraq, I guess it‘s four more now, do you think that that‘s going to happen?
PHARES: I think by the fact that they have not, i.e., the kidnappers, the jihadists presumably did not execute her. (INAUDIBLE) they have mentioned that several times. It means that they found that having a female journalist, American, who is able to articulate and send a message is something important. If they do execute her, hopefully not, God forbid, then they will lose a very important medium. So it‘s now—what we see right now is a brinkmanship policy of the terrorists, saying that they will do, but giving themselves all the latitude and the discretion...
PHARES: ... to harm or not.
ABRAMS: Micah, before I ask you to draw on your own experience, I know you‘ve had an opportunity to speak to her family. What are they saying? How are they doing?
MICAH GAREN, JOURNALIST AND FORMER HOSTAGE IN IRAQ: Yes. Well, in terms of my own experience, I mean this is obviously quite a bit longer than what I experienced. I was kidnapped for 10 days, but you know it‘s a terrifying experience and you don‘t know necessarily what‘s going on. It‘s hard to speculate, of course, in Jill Carroll‘s case, but my assumption is that she probably doesn‘t know what‘s happening on the outside world and all the efforts on her behalf.
And I think her family has shown an enormous amount of strength to endure so far in this situation and they‘ve done it with a great deal of dignity. So my heart really goes out to them.
ABRAMS: Have they said anything to you about what they hope the government does or doesn‘t do?
GAREN: Yes, I can‘t speak about that at all.
ABRAMS: Fair enough. OK. All right. Let me ask you about the making of a tape that you were forced to make. What were the circumstances surrounding the making of the tape that we see you on there?
GAREN: Well, you know the really terrifying thing is this happened five days into my kidnapping. And up until then I thought that as soon as they realized that I was a journalist they were going to let me go and this is what they were telling me. But five days into it out of the blue they just came into the enclosure they were keeping me in and led me off into a room where they made an execution threat video.
And even after they made the video, I didn‘t understand what the threat was, because I couldn‘t understand the Arabic they were speaking. But they wouldn‘t tell me what it was. They wouldn‘t tell me the threat that had been made, so I didn‘t find out about the threat until about 12 hours before it was up.
So you know that whole experience is just—it‘s one of not knowing anything. You‘re just kept in the dark and you can only guess at what‘s happening. And it makes it very traumatic.
ABRAMS: Jill does speak some Arabic, from what I understand. Did they seem to know what you had reported? I mean yes, they capture a journalist and they clearly say to themselves we‘ve got an American journalist. In your case did they then take the next step and try and actually find out what it is you had written, published or said about the conflict?
GAREN: I believe so. You know it‘s difficult to know because we didn‘t get a lot of feedback. I was kidnapped with my translator and we kept talking to them through my translator and he would ask them questions. And so what we‘d hear back—it was very difficult to put together what was really going on, but I do believe that they researched—I mean, certainly, from the few things I heard back from them, you know six days into it they said you have a fiancee, you know one of the guards. So clearly they‘re out there researching you and reading about you. And it‘s just what information they share with you as the hostage is often very little.
ABRAMS: Walid, why do you think they went to the Kuwaitis with the tape and the demands instead of Al-Jazeera?
PHARES: Very interesting question, Dan, because everybody accused (INAUDIBLE) accusing al-Jazeera of being the only one the jihadists or all other organizations send material to including videotapes and audiotapes. They want to diversify. They want to say we are independent. We are not really, you know, the same organization that sends other kinds of videotapes.
And also they want to distance themselves I believe psychologically from previous tapes that showed violence. And at the same time, Kuwait is known to have a media, which is pretty much open and free. They want a segment of credibility. So for all these reasons combined, they must have chosen Kuwaiti press.
ABRAMS: Walid, tell me about the Internet. There‘s been a lot of discussion about the Islamic Web sites and a lot of buzz apparently on the Islamic Web sites debating; it‘s such a gruesome thought, the idea that they‘re debating what should happen to Jill Carroll.
PHARES: You‘re absolutely right, Dan. A month ago—I‘ve surveyed a number of these chat rooms that I visit regularly. There was a lot of debating, lot of actually discussion, and asking each other about one particular dimension, and that is she‘s a woman. And that is a sacred line in the jihadist mindset in terms of executing or not.
There are a lot of those who said well, we don‘t kill women even if they are you know in the enemy—from the enemy camp. Most recently after the events that took place last week I went back on the chat rooms, actually yesterday and this morning, and indeed there were discussions again, probably because of the Kuwaiti release of the video. And now you have more extremist elements telling the organization well, what are you waiting for? Look what they‘ve done to us. They‘re trying to link this to the big (INAUDIBLE).
ABRAMS: Micah, in your case, as it seems in most of these cases, there are certain demands that are made public, whether they‘re real or not is a separate question. But in your case it was the American forces should leave a part of Iraq. Obviously that didn‘t happen. Do you know what it was that ended up leading to your release since the demand wasn‘t met?
GAREN: Well, there was an amazing amount of pressure put on this group. And this group was a Shiite group. So they looked up to the Shiite leadership. In that case, it was (INAUDIBLE) al Sadr and possibly Sistani. So in my case there was an enormous amount of pressure from journalists, from human rights groups really you know calling in their contacts and saying this is, you know I‘m a good person and that I should be released. And in my case, reaching people like Sadr did make a big difference.
ABRAMS: All right. Well Micah Garen it‘s nice to see you looking good and thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program.
GAREN: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Walid, as always, good to see you. Thanks a lot.
PHARES: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the FEMA director President Bush once said did a heck of a job after Katrina; well now Brownie says he was a scapegoat for the government‘s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina. Ex-FEMA Chief Michael Brown comes out swinging on Capitol Hill today.
And Neil Entwistle agrees not to fight extradition, return to the U.S. to face charges he killed and wife and baby daughter. This as we learned what he told police. He says he just found the bodies.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. Brownie did a heck of a job today trying to weave, bob, and jab while being questioned on Capitol Hill. But in the end it seems Brownie got burned. Former FEMA Director, Michael Brown, who President Bush once saluted for doing a heck of a job after Hurricane Katrina, waited until the last minute for his white knight in the form of the White House to step in and claim executive privilege.
That would have prevented him from having to disclose any confidential conversations with the White House. It didn‘t happen. So there was private citizen Brown trying to explain to a dubious Senate committee why the government was so slow to respond to Hurricane Katrina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. NORM COLEMAN ®, MINNESOTA: Mr. Brown, the concern that I have is, from your perspective, I‘m hearing balls to the walls, but I‘m looking at e-mails and lack of responsiveness, (INAUDIBLE) on sending an e-mail about situation past critical, this was on Wednesday this time, hotels kicking people out, dying patients. And your response is thanks for the update. Anything I need to do to tweak?
MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: I‘m frankly getting sick and tired of these e-mails being taken out of context, with words like what do I need to tweak, because I need to know, is there something else that I need to tweak. And that doesn‘t include all of the other stuff that‘s going on, Senator. So with all due respect, don‘t draw conclusions from an e-mail.
COLEMAN: Can you show me where either in the e-mails or in the record your very clear directives to go—quote—“balls to the walls” to clean this situation to fix?
BROWN: Absolutely. Absolutely. We learned about the convention center on Wednesday. And when we learned about it on Wednesday night, we immediately started demanding the Army and resources to take care of that. And there are e-mails in the packages that you have where I‘m screaming where is the Army? I need the Army now.
Why hasn‘t it shown up? And because I misspoke about when I learned about the convention center after being up for 24 hours, you want to take that out of context, and Senator, I‘m not going to allow you to do that.
COLEMAN: Your testimony here is that you communicate to the president as to what he understood. I‘m not sure what you understood. I‘m not sure you got it.
BROWN: Well Senator, that‘s very easy for you to say sitting behind that dais and not being there in the middle of that disaster, watching that human suffering and watching those people dying and trying to deal with those structural dysfunctionalities even within the federal government. And I absolutely resent you sitting here saying that I lacked the leadership to do that, because I was down there pushing everything that I could. I‘ve admitted to those mistakes and if you want something else from me, put it on the table and you tell me what you want me to admit to.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, CHAIR., HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE.: DHS
officials tell us that they did not know of the severity of the situation in New Orleans until Tuesday morning. That‘s almost 24 hours after you received the information that I referred to about the severe flooding in New Orleans.
BROWN: First and foremost, I find it a little disingenuous that DHS would claim that they were not getting that information. For them to now claim that we didn‘t have awareness of it I think is just baloney. They should have had awareness of it because they were receiving the same information that we were.
My obligation was to the White House and to make certain that the president understood what was going on and what the situation was, and I did that. On Monday, August 29, at 10:00 I had written Andy Card and told Andy Card that this is the bad one and that housing, transportation and environment were going to be long-term issues and if he wanted any additional details, you know, to be sure and call me or continue to BlackBerry. All I can tell you is that during the day on Monday, they were being told.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have been selected as the designated scapegoat. That‘s what I see. Because I think that we‘re clear on the—on President Bush‘s message to you on Friday after the storm struck on Monday. And while I don‘t have - yes, I do have the precise word. Brownie, you‘re doing a heck of a job.
Now I can‘t imagine the president would trivialize this situation just to be a good guy with you. Somebody must have said to him you were doing things right, and you were doing your best, whether it was good enough or not, keep your chin up and fight back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Well whether Brownie got burned or not, he certainly was fighting back. That‘s for sure.
All right, to discuss the testimony today, figure out who really deserves the heat here, Eric Holdeman, director of the King County Washington Office of Emergency Management. It seems he sort of agrees with Brown and putting FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security is part of the problem at least. And David Heyman, director and senior fellow of the Homeland Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Gentlemen, thanks a lot for coming on the program. All right, Mr. Heyman, look, we‘ve got Brownie, or Michael Brown sitting there in front of the Senate committee saying yes, I made a couple of mistakes here, but to in essence put this all on me is a bunch of baloney. What do you make of that?
DAVID HEYMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well he‘s right about that. It was a systematic failure across the federal government, the state government, and the local government. On every level of government we had failures within the federal government. We saw failure to implement the national response plan, failure to declare national—incident of national significance by the secretary.
ABRAMS: Is he partially to blame, though? I mean he basically seems to be saying look, you know I did everything I could. Yes, I misspoke a couple of times. There‘s some little things I could have or should done differently. But he seems to be saying that he really did things pretty well.
HEYMAN: Well I‘m not sure he‘s saying that. He did say he is partially to blame, and he is. He absolutely is part of the problem, and that‘s why he‘s no longer part of the solution. But it‘s not just him and I think putting the blame just on him fails to include folks from the White House down to the mayor of New Orleans, who all share in the inability to muster a response.
ABRAMS: Mr. Holdeman, what do you make of that?
ERIC HOLDEMAN, KING CTY. WA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: And I would agree that you know complex issues, complex mega disasters don‘t have a single point of failure. And definitely Michael Brown shared some of the blame for this. He has previously admitted that he made some mistakes. For instance, he went down there—he didn‘t have a team of people with him to assist him.
And he didn‘t co-locate with the local regional FEMA office, so they didn‘t have any resources to obtain the (INAUDIBLE) awareness that he needed. But absolutely there has been effort to place sole source and single point a failure on Michael Brown and that‘s inappropriate.
ABRAMS: Here was Michael Brown on the “Today” show. This is on Monday, August the 29th. Remember, this is shortly after the hurricane has hit, days before the disastrous situation became known to the public at large in the day or two after that and here‘s what he said about the planning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: We‘ve planned for this kind of disaster for many years because we‘ve always known about New Orleans and the situation. So we actually did catastrophic disaster planning for this two years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So Mr. Holdeman, what about the fact that at that point he‘s saying look, we basically planned for this and now he‘s saying the system was such a wreck in effect, we could have never dealt with something like this.
HOLDEMAN: Well, I think it‘s a matter of focus. And this is what I‘ve written about previously, is that following 9/11, the federal government created the Department of Homeland Security and they came in with a single mindset that terrorism was a major hazard and in reality the only hazard that they needed to plan for. And they put all their people, resources and time, including money, lots of money, that‘s directed the efforts of the nation towards terrorism. So natural hazards just have not been on the radar screen and we‘ve seen how catastrophic a national hazard event can be. And we can project in the future that we‘re going to continue to have mega disasters like this.
ABRAMS: Mr. Heyman, do you think that Brown is being straight with the Senate at this point?
HEYMAN: Well it‘s unclear...
ABRAMS: Based on the evidence. I mean based on the totality of the evidence, compared with what he is saying, we now have seen all these e-mails that were sent back and forth, et cetera. Looking at the totality of the evidence, do you think that it seems that he‘s being straight?
HEYMAN: He‘s being obviously very earnest. And—but you had a back and forth today. The second panel was the secretary staff and they were basically saying that Michael Brown did not report to his boss when he should have and given the information. And Michael Brown is out there saying look, I reported to the president, my obligation was to the president.
And so you have this back and forth going on. But I do want to comment on what Mr. Holdeman said. I think he‘s right. And it‘s beyond, though, just placing resources in the wrong place. Federal Emergency Management Association—Agency also put together a national response plan under the Department of Homeland Security. This was the first implementation really for all intents and purposes of that new national response plan and clearly it didn‘t work.
And clearly it needs to be fixed. And as an indication of that, the president put in his budget, the secretary‘s Department of Homeland Security budget, an initiative to enhance the national response plan. That‘s one problem. The other problem is that there‘s no situational awareness. You hear everybody complaining about situational awareness and so they are a putting in new teams to be able to go in at four hours‘ notice and be—have...
ABRAMS: You know I think it‘s interesting, Mr. Holdeman, and I think probably accurate, that he said if this had been a breach based on terrorism—meaning if the, you know if the levees and the dams had been blown up, the response would have been completely different.
HOLDEMAN: I agree. If you use the terrorism word, everyone would have been all over it immediately. But I would like to correct—you know the National Response Plan was put together by the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA to a large degree was shut out of the development of that for one reason or another—through a failure, internal politics, what have you.
And the other thing that—the plan—the ink was just barely dry on the plan, had not been exercised whatsoever. And here it was put together primarily looking from a terrorism perspective...
HOLDEMAN: ... and they had to apply it for the first time for a natural disaster.
ABRAMS: It sounds like...
HOLDEMAN: And I think that caused some of the...
ABRAMS: And I think you both agree that maybe Michael Brown‘s been hung out to dry a little unfairly to suggest that he and only he is responsible for everything that happened sounds like.
HOLDEMAN: Well he shared some of that blame...
ABRAMS: Some of the blame, fair enough. But I mean I think that he‘s been sort of put out as the poster child and sort of sold down the river at this point. So anyway—but it was interesting. I was fascinated listening to it today. I couldn‘t turn it off.
Eric Holdeman, David Heyman, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
HEYMAN: Thank you.
HOLDEMAN: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Neil Entwistle back in court, agreeing to come back to the U.S. to face murder charges, accused of killing his wife and daughter. We‘re going to hear from someone who was in court with him in England. New details of his possible motive comes out. Not just financial troubles, but possibly his sex life or lack thereof.
Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike. Today the search is in Mississippi.
Authorities are looking for Robert Barnes. He‘s 59, five-eleven, 135, was convicted of sexual conduct with a minor, has failed to verify his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on where he is, Mississippi Department of Public Safety would like to hear from you, 601-368-1740.
Be right back.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Neil Entwistle, heading back to the United States. We‘ll get some new details about exactly what he told police investigating the murder of his wife and baby daughter. First the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE FLAHERTY, FAMILY FRIEND AND SPOKESMAN: Neil was a trusted husband and father, and it is incomprehensible how that love and trust betrayed—was betrayed in the ultimate act of violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: New details emerge about what Neil Entwistle told police the day after the bodies of his wife and daughter were discovered. This as he made his second court appearance in London and agreed to voluntarily return to the United States to face murder charges. His attorneys say he‘s trying to avoid causing more stress for his dead wife‘s family and his family.
Twenty-seven-year-old Rachel and 9-month-old Lillian found shot to death in their home on January the 22nd. Prosecutors say it may have been part of a failed murder-suicide plot motivated by financial problems. But according to newly released documents, also by dissatisfaction with his sex life. His attorneys were met outside the courthouse today by a horde of media. So why did he change his mind and decide not to fight extradition?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDITH SEDDON, NEIL ENTWISTLE‘S ATTORNEY: He didn‘t change his mind. (INAUDIBLE)last night and night and to think about it overnight. But at no stage did he change his mind. He‘s always inclined to consent. He believes that he will receive a fair and proper hearing in the USA of these very serious allegations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now on the phone is Alistair Jackson from British station ITV. Alistair was inside the courtroom today. Thanks a lot for coming on the program. So how did he appear inside the courtroom?
ALISTAIR JACKSON, ITV REPORTER (via phone): Well you know Dan, if I had to take one word to describe Neil Entwistle, it would probably be relaxed. Now that might seem strange, but it was almost as if this was a man who finally had had a burden lifted from him today. He was standing in the (INAUDIBLE) magistrate of court in London today dressed in a black T-shirt and wearing gray (INAUDIBLE) trousers.
And he was told by the district judge hearing this case that if he chose not to challenge the extradition proceedings today, then there would be no going back. And he simply looked at the judge and said OK, yes, that‘s fine. And he was then handed a piece of paper to sign, and with that, he was formally entered into the court that he wasn‘t challenging the extradition proceedings. He was told that he would be taken back to America as soon as possible. He was then led out of the court, with him just pausing briefly to smile at his father, Cliff. He was sat towards the back of the courtroom here in London.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you, is there a sense that his parents are 100 percent behind him?
JACKSON: We‘ve not heard anything formally from the Entwistle family. (INAUDIBLE) Nottinghamshire in the Midlands of the U.K. They have, of course, it appears (INAUDIBLE) accommodation and support (INAUDIBLE). We know this evening (INAUDIBLE) secretary here in the U.K., Charles Park (ph), has now sanctioned that extradition to America, as a formal protest.
But it means that Neil Entwistle could be returning to the United States as early as next week. And of course, as we‘ve been hearing, the prosecution arguments are now primarily that he shot dead his wife Rachel and 9-month-old daughter Lillian. But now people here in the U.K. have no doubt—people in Massachusetts are waiting for Neil Entwistle‘s own explanation of what happened coming after three weeks ago. And of course now, we expect that to happen and indeed know that that will happen in a courtroom in Massachusetts.
ABRAMS: And we‘ll talk about that in a little while, because it seems that he said to the police a lot about exactly what he says he was doing. Alistair, thanks a lot for taking the time to come on the program. We appreciate it.
Joining me now, a familiar face on this program these days, “Boston Herald” reporter Dave Wedge, who‘s got new details about the Entwistles‘ financial problems and also new details about another possible motive here.
All right, Dave, thanks for coming back on the program. First let‘s talk about this additional motive, sex?
DAVE WEDGE, “BOSTON HERALD”: Yes. There was some—in an arrest affidavit released today (INAUDIBLE) district court, the details—what Neil Entwistle allegedly told the police and one of those issues that‘s mentioned is that in addition to the mounting debt, there was some evidence that he was dissatisfied with his sex life. Just the extent of that is still yet to be revealed, but it‘s an interesting new detail.
ABRAMS: Prior to January 20, 2006, Neil Entwistle had accumulated debts in tens of thousands of dollars, had been unable to secure employment since his arrival in the United States in the fall of 2005 and had recently expressed dissatisfaction with his sex life.
Now I know that you all have gone through in pretty specific detail his financial problems. It may actually be worse than we had initially thought, right?
WEDGE: Well, the picture from England is tough to nail down. We‘re only being told that it was tens of thousands of dollars that he owed to creditors in London. His wife had a pretty decent size debt here, although not that unusual for an American her age. Somewhere in the $30,000 range between credit cards and student loans and they had the car and then the rent of the house, but it‘s pretty clear that they had some sizable debt.
That coupled with this new wrinkle that perhaps there were some sexual problems in the family, then the evidence of him creating these pornography sites and the Internet scams, it just paints an overall picture of a man who was really feeling a lot of pressure from a lot of different areas in his life.
ABRAMS: All right, Dave, I‘m going to ask you to stay with us, because what I want to do...
ABRAMS: ... is I want to take a break here, but I want to talk about what may be the most important issue and that is the details. We‘ve got them. I mean statement after statement about what Entwistle told police after they found his wife and daughter dead in the family home.
And secret secrets are no fun. Secret secrets hurt someone. Yes, yes, yes. I say sometimes we owe those tattletales a big thank you. I respond to the CIA director‘s “New York Times” op-ed piece. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
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ABRAMS: Coming up, we now know what Neil Entwistle told police about how and when he says he found his wife and daughter dead, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA COAKLEY, MIDDLESEX D.A.: Our sense is that he both owed money and may have seen himself in a situation where he‘s not going to be able to generate income for this new house, which was a lease, and a new baby obviously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: District Attorney Martha Coakley on this program last night, telling us what she thinks is the motive behind the murders of a young mother and their 9-month-old baby in Massachusetts. Now prosecutors now saying the husband, Neil Entwistle, responsible. And now for the first time we‘re learning what he told police after Rachel and Lillian‘s bodies were found.
Let me read you one of the quotes from court documents. Entwistle told police that on January 20, 2006, at approximately 9:00 a.m., he‘d left his home to do an errand. He said his wife and daughter were in bed when he left. He said he returned at approximately 11:00 a.m. and found his wife and daughter dead from gunshot wounds. He said he did not call for emergency assistant, but instead covered them up and got a knife to kill himself, but could not go through with it.
Let‘s go to my legal panel. Joining me now, two friends of the program, former prosecutor, MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan and the famous criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina joins us as well.
All right, Joe, what do you make of that defense? He‘s going to have to stick with that story.
JOE TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well he‘s going to have to stick with it, Dan, if the statement holds up. Don‘t forget, I mean this was a statement allegedly taken telephonically, not in person, certainly not a signed statement. So there are a lot of problems with getting that statement admissible into court.
Look, there‘s two sorts of courts. There‘s the court of public opinion and the court of law. So before we wrap that statement around his defense attorney‘s neck, let‘s see if it meets muster.
TACOPINA: If it does met muster...
ABRAMS: Yes, let‘s assume it does...
TACOPINA: Yes, well assume it does for a second. You know while that sounds—is sensible as taking a plane to London, England with a one-way ticket and not returning for your dead baby‘s funeral, let alone your wife, you know they still have to prove this case. And the question with that statement is going to be well maybe I wouldn‘t have reacted that way, or you would or anyone with a, you know a normal brain, maybe he just reacted to the shock that way.
You‘ll have an expert, I guarantee you, who will come into court and testify that the shock of him seeing his dead baby and dead wife caused irrational behavior on his part. They‘re going to have prove this case. It can‘t be just that because...
ABRAMS: But that‘s not—and let‘s be clear, Joe, that wouldn‘t be insanity. That would be explaining why he said things later.
TACOPINA: It will explain his conduct after the fact, which quite frankly I think the prosecution will argue is consciousness of guilt. His fleeing, his one-way ticket, his not returning, those statements that don‘t sound right.
ABRAMS: All right.
TACOPINA: The fact that he was at his father-in-law‘s house, where they claim they‘re going to have a gun that forensically links up...
ABRAMS: Yes. Well Susan...
TACOPINA: ... to the...
ABRAMS: Susan, here‘s the bigger problem. Let me read some more from the court documents, then I want you to comment on it.
He said he left the home in the family car and drove to his in-laws‘ home to get a gun from his father-in-law so he could kill himself. He said he couldn‘t get into the home, so he drove to Logan Airport because he wanted to go to his parents in England. Police discovered the keys to his in-laws‘ home locked inside the Entwistle car at the airport.
A forensic examination of a 22-caliber revolver belonging to Entwistle‘s father-in-law revealed that DNA matching Entwistle‘s was found on the grip of the firearm and DNA matching Rachel Entwistle was found on the muzzle end of the firearm. The car was located by police in a parking garage at Logan Airport. It was locked and unoccupied with the keys inside.
Airport records revealed that the car entered the garage at approximately 10:49. Airline records show that he purchased a one-way ticket to London at approximately 5:00 a.m. and flew out of Logan at approximately 8:15 without any luggage.
I mean, even if you accept the fact that he says oh I wanted to kill myself, I was so distraught, this and that, he‘s got a big problem with the fact that those keys to the family‘s home are in his car and he says he couldn‘t get into the house.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean he‘s definitely caught in a statement that is an untruth to say the least. And that‘s going to box him in, in addition to that very damning forensic evidence. Because it‘s got his DNA on the handle of the gun and Rachel Entwistle‘s DNA on the muzzle of the gun, which means it‘s a very close contact, point blank shooting. That‘s going to mitigate against some kind of an insanity or an extreme emotional disturbance defense that he may try to cook up, basically saying you know he snapped and he lost his mind.
That‘s pretty calculating on his part. I think the other thing, making that statement that I wasn‘t home when it happened, I came in two hours later is also good for the prosecution because he‘s just blown any possible alibi defense like I was in New York or I was in Miami or anything he could cook up, other than yes, I was basically in my own home when it happened.
ABRAMS: All right, Joe, let me ask you...
FILAN: It hurt himself.
ABRAMS: Joe, as a high-profile lawyer, you‘re a high-profile lawyer. Let‘s assume you‘re Neil Entwistle‘s lawyer now, and you know the facts, as we know them. Would you want him out there in some way to speak out, make comments, say anything?
TACOPINA: You know, I generally—as a matter of course, Dan, you don‘t want your client doing a Scott Peterson. I mean aside from the circumstances in the Peterson case, the second most damning facts in that case were his own mouth, his words, those contrived tears on those interviews that he did.
It never seems to work out. That being said, if you sit as a defense attorney and you make an evaluation that your client may be telling you the truth, which happens once in a while, Dan, and...
ABRAMS: That must be fun when that happens.
ABRAMS: Wait a second...
ABRAMS: ... this guy‘s actually telling me the truth!
TACOPINA: I hate when that happens.
TACOPINA: I hate when that happens.
TACOPINA: But if you really believe that and you‘ve done some base investigation, and you don‘t believe he‘s going to go out there and contradict himself, you know I have no problem with turning—look, in the court of public opinion, this guy‘s already been convicted. It‘s just a matter of what the sentence will be.
He‘s not even been tried yet. We don‘t know what kind of evidence they have...
ABRAMS: But we know a lot of it, Joe...
ABRAMS: We know a lot of it...
ABRAMS: ... and it looks real bad.
TACOPINA: It does look real bad, Dan, but you know we know a lot of it from just talking about it. Martha Coakley to her credit, I wish all D.A.s were like her. I mean couldn‘t say enough times he‘s still innocent, he‘s presumed innocent. And I think that‘s more than just, you know, her just saying the words that make it sound politically correct. He is presumed innocent. We have to see if this forensic stuff...
TACOPINA: ... is going to hold up in court.
ABRAMS: I got to tell you, Susan, I think that they had their eye on this guy from day one. I think they were just waiting for those forensic results to come back and say (INAUDIBLE).
FILAN: They took their time. They got their ducks lined up in a row. They didn‘t rush this case. Really, really good investigative work and really good prosecutorial restraint...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good investigative work...
FILAN: ... in this case.
TACOPINA: They missed the bodies three days—what good investigative work? I mean they did a search of the house in two consecutive days or two times at least...
FILAN: Joe, you know what I‘m talking about.
TACOPINA: Well no...
FILAN: You know that I‘m talking about...
TACOPINA: ... that‘s not good investigative work...
FILAN: ... after the bodies are found.
FILAN: You know that I‘m talking about investigating this...
FILAN: ... case up to getting an arrest...
TACOPINA: ... a good defense lawyer...
FILAN: ... for probably cause.
TACOPINA: ... a good defense lawyer—if those statements...
TACOPINA: ... don‘t come into court, a good defense lawyer is going to make hay with that...
FILAN: But look, Entwistle‘s own...
TACOPINA: ... because we don‘t even know...
FILAN: ... statements now are going to tell us when he...
FILAN: ... committed this crime allegedly.
ABRAMS: ... Joe makes a fair point that that‘s going to come up in this case. They‘re going to say oh you know these Keystone cops couldn‘t even find the bodies and this and that. But look, this guy‘s in a lot of trouble.
Susan Filan and Joe Tacopina...
FILAN: If that‘s all he‘s got, oh well.
ABRAMS: ... Dave Wedge, thanks a lot for sticking around. I appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Coming up...
WEDGE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: ... loose lips I say don‘t always sink ships or spies. But CIA Director Porter Goss says they do. He has an op-ed piece. I take him on in my “Closing Argument”, up next.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike. We wrap up our search in Mississippi today.
Authorities are looking for Thomas Cowart, 62, five-eight, 145, convicted of exploiting children, hasn‘t registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact Mississippi Department of Public Safety, 601-368-1740.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—CIA Director Porter Goss‘ op-ed piece in today‘s “New York Times” basically an indictment of anyone who provides any classified information to the press. On its face, it‘s tough to dispute. Information is generally classified for a reason and there‘s a great deal of sensitive material that should never be released to anyone. Those who do so should be prosecuted.
But what Director Goss fails to appreciate is that throughout history we‘ve learned that some information is classified not because an enemy will use it, not because it‘s in the national interest, but sometimes because it‘s just embarrassing to the government, or politically motivated or it shows incompetence or even government wrongdoing.
From former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to the Vietnam War to Watergate, government officials have misused their power to protect themselves or other illicit activities. Director Goss says—quote—
“Those who choose to bypass the law and go straight to the press are not noble, honorable or patriotic, nor are they whistleblowers.” So we would have been better off if we had never learned about criminal activity in the White House under President Nixon of the misleading comments made by a number of presidents of both parties about the Vietnam War.
Goss asks why these whistleblowers don‘t just complain within their own agencies or petition Congress instead. (INAUDIBLE) if it was only that simple. In many cases, these people have complained, repeatedly, like FBI Translator Sibel Edmonds who was fired after exposing incompetence, corruption and even a possible spy in the FBI Language Division. She like others often only go to the press as a last resort.
And wouldn‘t we all have been better off if Minnesota FBI Special Agent Colleen Rowley had gone to the press in August of 2001 after her office was rebuffed in its effort to get a search warrant for Zacarias Moussaoui‘s home or belongings. A warrant that would have likely exposed how he and others were planning to fly planes into American buildings. Now this op-ed piece was almost certainly spurred in part by the disclosure of the NSA spying program, but suggesting that terrorists change their behavior because they‘ve learned that the government isn‘t checking in with a secret court before wiretapping them is absurd.
These terrorists have long spoken in code because they‘ve known their calls are being monitored. It‘s important to have a national debate on how best to thwart terrorists. Not to disclose secrets, but debate whether the FISA law was violated. The other problem, selective leaks. Yesterday the president announced details of an al Qaeda plot to attack Los Angeles in 2002 and yet unnamed security officials who had worked on the case told “The Washington Post” and others that the plot was never close to being executed.
So they should be prosecuted while the administration is saluted even if their account is true? And what about the information that led up to the war with Iraq? Even when it wasn‘t accurate the president and other administration officials chose to disclose previously classified details to the public. Other administration officials like Richard Clarke, who was the head of counterterrorism unit, dispute those accounts, so people like him are unpatriotic for what they say is clearing the record?
Do we really want all of our information coming from government press releases? Look, generally classified information should be just that, classified. But there are times when it‘s in all of our best interests to know.
Coming up, yesterday I took on the Islamic leader who spread the word about those cartoons. His answers didn‘t really sit well with you. Your e-mails are coming up.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Yesterday we had the first live TV interview with the Muslim leader who brought those cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad printed in a Danish paper and some that were never even printed to Muslim leaders in the Middle East. Violent protests in much of the Muslim world have resulted in part from his actions.
He said he condemned the violence. I asked if he‘d also condemn the cartoons in the Arab world that mock Jews.
Joan Brubaker writes from Front Royal, Virginia, “The imam on your show tonight could not bring himself to condemn any form of attacks against Jews. Thank you for asking the hard questions of your guests.”
From St. Paul, Minnesota, Ashmina B. writes, “Just as we resist the imposition of extremists on democratic values from entering our free world, we cannot impose our views of free speech into theirs. We cannot make an insulting joke about what they value the most in their society and then go about trying to justify it by using a line of argument that‘s rational only to us.”
Of course, we can Ashmina. Not everything is two-sided. I guess that means we can‘t demand they recognize the rights of women or other basic human rights either.”
Humberto Ruiz, “I found your interview with the imam incredibly frustrating. You went into the interview with an agenda, a point you wanted to prove.”
Mrs. R. Davidson from Peabody, Massachusetts, “Your persistent questioning was both tactful and useful, especially your asking him about the distasteful cartoons of Jews, even though I didn‘t really understand his circuitous response.”
That does it for us tonight. That‘s the e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend. See you next week.
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