KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
No hits. It's just the misses that keep on coming. The mobile weapons labs we, quote, “found,” unquote, in Iraq, the ones the administration kept applauding itself for for months after Baghdad fell, not only weren't they mobile weapons labs, but the president knew they weren't mobile labs from the very start. How Nixonian is this? We will ask John Dean.
The Moussaoui trial penalty phase. The wrenching testimony concludes, the playing of the cockpit recording as the victims of flight 93 tried to regain control of the hijacked aircraft.
Uncertainty in England. Prince Harry the soldier, perhaps Prince Harry the soldier in Iraq.
And Paris Hilton did it again, forgot her pants. The “Happy Birthday Hugh Hefner” video.
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PARIS HILTON (singing): Happy birthday, Mr. Hefner.
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OLBERMANN: Is it just me, or has she put on a little weight?
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Good evening from New York.
It is one thing to be the emperor in the story of “The Emperor's New Clothes” before you go to war. It is quite another to be such after war has begun. And as the facts scream at you, “The emperor has no clothes,” to insist that this scream confirms that you are wearing the finest material in the world.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, new reports of honesty-challenged conduct at the White House, not with prewar intel about WMD in Iraq, but with midwar intel about WMD in Iraq.
The purported mobile weapons labs, the ones that Colin Powell cited at the U.N., one of the most vivid arguments supporting U.S. military intervention in Iraq, finally located by allied forces just weeks after Baghdad fell, cited then as proof that there was too WMD in that country.
But “The Washington Post” reports a Pentagon fact-finding mission in the weeks after in the invasion had already concluded that these trailers had absolutely nothing to do with biological weapons. They were instead part of Iraq's vast stealth program to produce weather balloons.
The three-page Pentagon field survey had made it back to Washington on May 27, 2003, yet President Bush was hailing the capture of those trailers just two days later, and again six days after that.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We recently found two mobile biological weapons facilities which were capable of producing biological agents. This is a man who spent decades hiding tools of mass murder. He knew the inspectors were looking for him. You know better than me, he's got a big country in which to hide them. Rona look (ph). We'll reveal the truth.
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OLBERMANN: The members of that Pentagon fact-finding mission unanimously concluding the exact opposite, that the trailers were little more than, quote, “the biggest sand toilets in the world,” a conclusion they reached rapidly, one team member telling “The Post,” quote, “Within the first four hours, it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs,” the report, stamped “Secret,” and reportedly shelved, its findings apparently ignored as senior members of the administration, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Powell, Ms. Rice, Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. Bolton continued to claim the trailers were mobile weapons factories.
The “Washington Post” expose on the report appearing under the byline of investigative reporter Joby Warrick.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
JOBY WARRICK, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: After this Pentagon field report came out, how long administration and the intelligence officials continue to claim that those trailers were weapons factories?
WARRICK: For quite a few months. Late in June, a month after this report came in, Colin Powell was continuing to say that the confidence level was increasing that these things were weapons labs. In September, we have Vice President Dick Cheney saying definitively that these were weapons labs, and they could be made to use—to make either anthrax or smallpox. And well into the next year, George Tenet, the CIA director, was hedging a bit, but saying that it was still very plausible that these were weapons labs, and that, you know, evidence to the contrary had not been established.
OLBERMANN: How were they able to do that? Was this field report, and the subsequent full 100-and-some-odd-page full report simply thrown away? Was it ignored? Is there any evidence as to what happened to it?
WARRICK: Well, we think that it landed with a big thud. It was not anticipated. In fact, the people that went over on this mission, many of them expected that these things would turn out to be weapons labs. But after getting there—and these are experts with years of experience at what you need to do to make a biological weapons facility—they quickly concluded that none of the right stuff was there. And they said, This is just not the right one. And they sent this report back, and it just did seemed to (INAUDIBLE) -- to vanish.
OLBERMANN: When the White House press secretary, Mr. McClellan, was
asked today when the White House became aware of that Pentagon field
report, he said he could not say. He told the press corps he was looking
into the matter. Yet he called your reporting reckless, demanded an
apology from the news media for covering this story, because, he says, the
narrative suggests that President Bush may have known about the report
before making those statements that the trailers were biological weapons
labs. Joby, what's your response to Mr. McClellan's demand for an apology
by the news media?
WARRICK: Well, I think it's a misinterpretation of the story and what we're trying to say. We don't ever say in the piece that President Bush knowingly said that—you know, (INAUDIBLE), knowingly misled the public about these trailers.
What we do say is that by the time he spoke, very early on in—after the invasion of Iraq, there was solid evidence, really authoritative reporting about these trailers that showed them not to be weapons labs. It was in the hands of the Pentagon, and yet it didn't seem to raise a red flag. If it was communicated to the White House, or to anyone else in the political realm, there's no evidence of that from their statements.
OLBERMANN: That team that went and looked at those trailers and issued that initial report and then expanded it, were they the only ones who analyzed it? Did anybody go in and—later on and reach a different conclusion, obviously besides the policy makers?
WARRICK: Right. There were several groups that went in and looked at it. Two of them went actually before this team. They were Pentagon people, military experts, without as much expertise as this later group that went. And they all found things that they thought looked like possible weapons equipment, and so they reported those findings back to the CIA. And that's how this first impression came to be.
But later on, what was different about this (INAUDIBLE), this fact-finding team, is that the Pentagon deliberately chose some of the top experts, the guys who really knew what they were talking about, for the very purpose of just finding the truth, what these things really were, and this is what they concluded.
Later on, other experts would go into Iraq, and (INAUDIBLE) the prevailing opinion as time went on was that these things had nothing to do with weapons at all. And, in fact, a year later, the Iraqi Survey Group report to Congress said definitively, No weapons labs, these were made for hydrogen production.
OLBERMANN: “Washington Post” investigative reporter Joby Warrick.
Thank you for your time tonight, thank you for your reporting as well.
WARRICK: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That this is not the first scandal to hit the White House will not come as news to you, so many eyebrows have been raised, so many timelines questioned, that keeping just track of these scandals could become a full-time job, especially when we have now sunk to the level of weather balloons.
It is our job. A quick refresher here, working backwards. In just the last two weeks, the biolabs that weren't. That's today. The Republican New Hampshire phone-jamming scheme tied to the White House. The GOP says it was the RNC, not the White House. The plan for Iran, bombing the heck out of it. Scooter Libby testifying that Vice President Cheney told him that President Bush authorized the leaking of classified information to Judith Miller, that Mr. Bush declassified for just that purpose.
A Homeland Security media spokesman picked up in a sex sting, charged with preying on teenaged girls. Tom DeLay resigning from Congress. Mr. Bush replacing his chief of staff under pressure. And last but certainly not least, the Senate Judiciary Committee holding a hearing on a motion to censure the president.
Also this week, Senator Hillary Clinton invoking a comparison—briefly, anyway—between President Bush's abuse of power and that of President Nixon during Watergate.
Who better to call in to assess that comparison than Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who's also, of course, the author of “Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush.”
John, good evening.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Hello, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Of course, the only thing missing from this equation, this comparison, would have been a press secretary like Ron Ziegler getting up and saying something about how he didn't respect the journalism, the shoddy journalism of “The Washington Post”—Oh, wait, wait, we just, we just had that today to Joby Warrick in today's “Post.” Is that the complete set? Do you feel like you're living 1970 to 1973 all over again?
DEAN: Not quite, but it's approaching that. I think what we're building to is the “inoperative statement,” if you recall, comes late in the scenario. The fact that Scott McClellan is having to defend himself the way he is, is very reminiscent of what Ron Ziegler went through. It's a very tough job. Ziegler was very good at it and then felt very humbled by it when the rug was pulled out from underneath him.
Typically, press secretaries are not put in the full loop, so they are able to go out there and defend themselves and defend a president without really, in a sense, compromising what they believe the truth to be.
OLBERMANN: John, the serious part of the seemingly manufactured outrage, we're assuming something there, when the outrage, the presented outrage today—you know, Who leaked this document? How dare you suggest the president could have known this kind of detail about these tangential trailers? -- is this a little inconsistent with the rationale for war, which was predicated on the idea that the president knew all the details about all these tangential trailers and all these other places where WMD was supposed to be?
DEAN: Well, it's obviously theater. It's a little cynical. It's a position, if they can sell it and change their positions and get away with it, for those who don't really follow those stories closely, they might get away with it. But it is, it's obviously a PR tactic, and it's becoming cumulative now, where they're able to do this with less success.
OLBERMANN: If an opposing party, one in particular, were in control of Congress, as it was during Watergate, would we be looking at hearings or the more for President Bush, or is the idea of impeachment now the surest way for a troubled president to rally sympathy and get his poll numbers a boost?
DEAN: From the Watergate era, we know that Congress, regardless of how they might feel about the president, is very reluctant, even when he's of the opposite party, to nullify an election, if you will, and go to an impeachment proceeding. They're very slow to do that. It took a long time, until Nixon really broke the camel's back by firing the special prosecutor. And then people became frightened at what he might do next.
So I don't think we're there yet. And if there were an opposition Congress at this point, I doubt we would be there yet.
But I must say, Keith, if the—if Republicans lose control of the Congress, either body, either the House or the Senate, in '06, it's going to be a very difficult time for the last two years of this president. And I think this is probably going to be an issue in the campaign, not an impeachment issue, but rather, It's time to get some responsibility on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, where the president really is not just having an extension on Capitol Hill, but somebody who's asking the tough questions.
OLBERMANN: That list of the last couple of weeks' harvest of scandals that I just read, are we missing the forest because of all the trees? And there are a lot of them, that ignoring the policy or action or even the political affiliation of this presidency and this administration, just looking at the framework of operations, the mechanics, the flow charts, has this administration basically cut the necessity for any truth out of the equation of government?
DEAN: Well, it—a pattern has certainly (INAUDIBLE) emerged. When you take the first story you started with, on Joby's report, the fact that this didn't—maybe didn't get to the White House is almost more troubling than the fact, if they did, they ignored it and went on ahead without it. It would show a level of incompetence if the White House wasn't aware of this. It is truly frightening, Keith, that they would go out and make deliberate misstatements because they didn't know it.
If they intentionally did it, obviously then they're trying to sway people into war that the nation might not have otherwise taken had they saw the facts differently.
So there is a pattern that's emerging. And I think we're going to see more of it, unfortunately.
OLBERMANN: Are we seeing—I mean, this reaction to the field report about those trailers full of sand, which is what they were, used in the production of weather balloons—we see this as being guarded or as being reacted to as if some great state secret had been violated by its release or its access that was granted to “The Washington Post.” On the other hand, we're getting seriously secretive material being declassified at whim.
It's kind of like turning the gravity on and off in the universe. It's (INAUDIBLE), (INAUDIBLE), it's an amazing, it's an amazing skill to have, but is it being used skillfully, even in self-defense? In other words, are they getting away with it?
DEAN: Keith, the short answer is, really, transparency is always the safest policy for a president, unless it is such a sensitive national security matter you dare not risk put it out. And they're ignoring that very basic rule.
OLBERMANN: John Dean, White House counsel from 1970 to 1973, author of “Worse Than Watergate,” FindLaw.com commentator and writer. As always, John, thanks for your time.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Where does a wounded Bush presidency go from here? We mean that question metaphorically, of course. But a practical answer, a geographic one, about Iran might come in handy as well tonight.
And in a courtroom, confirmation today, heartbreaking, agonizing confirmation of the heroism aboard flight 93, the cockpit recordings, played at the Moussaoui sentencing phase.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Virtually all our troops are committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and virtually all the mistakes we could have made have been made in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exactly what did Secretary of State Rice mean when she today warned that about Iran, I think it will be time for action, and where does she think we will get the resources and new unspent international political capital, if action really is necessary?
Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN, saber-rattling about Iran.
What happens when the world, when your own country, thinks your sabers are made of aluminum foil, Secretary Rice today saying strong steps will be required from the United Nations Security Council, quoting, “I think it will be time for action,” this in response to yesterday's announcements and today's details from Iran about its successful enrichment of uranium, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying Iran's nuclear program is for power stations only, but many leaders in the international community, including European nations and Russia, saying Iran must retreat from a program which could conceivably produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in one year's time.
For the political aspects on this, let's call in NBC analyst and columnist for “Newsweek” magazine Jonathan Alter, also the author of the upcoming book on FDR entitled, “The Defining Moment.”
Jon, thanks for your time tonight.
JONATHAN ALTER: My pleasure, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Politically or militarily, where does the secretary of state, presumably the president, get the idea that we have anything left with which to influence action about Iran?
ALTER: Well, she has to try. And in this sense, they're trying to rebuild a coalition within the international community. And actually, even Russia is on the same page with the United States now. There are some diplomatic levers that they can use against Iran. And when she's talking about action, she—in this case is talking about diplomatic action, tougher diplomatic action.
They could, for instance, cut off some of the goodies that the Iranian public gets from the West, in terms of cultural exchanges and other kinds of things which they hope will put some pressure on the regime.
OLBERMANN: The criticism of the president on Iraq, and his continued low poll numbers, is often traced back as a tipping point to Hurricane Katrina last September and the followup to that, an event that essentially exposed not questions of politics but questions of competence. If there's a standoff with Iran, even if it boils down entirely to a shouting contest and a diplomacy contest, could that also demonstrate how the president has been diminished, in a sense, in terms of political capital here and in credibility abroad?
ALTER: Yes, it could, but it could also go—it could also be kind of his escape route from his political problems right now, not that it's going to take him up above 50 percent or do him too much good.
But you could see a case where they talk tough and go to the well that has worked for them in both 2002 and 2004, which is to play the hawk, to play the hard guy, to arouse people's fears rather than their hopes.
Now, you mentioned this book about Franklin Roosevelt. Well, everybody remembers that he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It sometimes seems, with the Bush crowd, that their motto is, The only thing we have to use is fear itself. So I think what you could see coming up on these midterm elections is them trying to use fear to restore their political position.
OLBERMANN: But even in that context, other historical examples, President Reagan rebounded from Iran-contra, and President Clinton rebounded after the impeachment. But Harry Truman did not shake off Korea while troops were still in Korea, and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon certainly didn't shake off Vietnam while troops were there. Are not the president's poll numbers, and, to a large degree, his presidency now, absolutely indivisible from our continuing presence in Iraq?
ALTER: Yes, I think pretty much, which is why there are not a lot of people who expect him to move very much in the polls. And once you're tagged as an incompetent, that's pretty hard to recover from.
I mean, you've got a situation now where, you know, in workplaces across America, if somebody says, He's a real Dick Cheney, what they mean is, a guy who sounds like he has a lot of gravitas in those meetings at your company, and looks the part, but is actually, you know, kind of full of it and can't get the job done when it comes to making a profit.
And so that's where these guys are now. Their credibility for getting the job done has been eroded, I think largely because they surround themselves with these yes-men, the truth doesn't get up the chain of command, as we saw with these trailers. So they—because people feel like if they tell them the truth, they're just going to get their heads bitten off. And as a result, your batting average on decisions goes down, down, down, your competence level goes down, down, down, because you're not making well-informed decisions.
OLBERMANN: The political batting average, though, in that, if the president is down to mid-30s in the polls, the vice president is down to 18, how does the kind of head down, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead stuff that is, I guess, at the heart of what Secretary Rice said, help? I mean, you hear this phrase, galvanize the base. Even the base knows we don't have a second military hidden in reserve if it was needed to follow through on Iran. Who is this message for in terms of American politics?
ALTER: Well, I think, first of all, it is not specifically for the American public. It's to try to put pressure on Iran, because if they can get the Iranians to back down a little bit, and if they're isolated as a pariah state, a lot of people in Iran there don't want that. So if they can get them to back down, then they could then declare a kind of diplomatic victory that they would try to cash in politically at home.
So I think that's their game plan here, see if they can isolate Iran and get them to make some concessions. There's been a lot of talk in the last couple of days that they haven't used enough sticks. So that's what they're trying to do here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It would be a different tack, certainly.
“Newsweek”'s Jonathan Alter, also of NBC News. Great thanks for your time tonight, good to talk to you.
ALTER: Nice to talk to you.
Also tonight, the soul-shattering day at the Moussaoui trial. The jury hears the cockpit tapes of the last minutes of flight 93. Our correspondent Pete Williams was in the court. He heard what those tapes heard or played. He will join us live.
And suddenly an antiwar ethical question has a royal face. Could that man there looking at the camera be serving in Iraq?
Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: On this date in 1932, Herbert Boutros Cowry (ph) was born in New York City. Later, as Tiny Tim, he became a '60s pop icon, playing the ukulele while singing songs like “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” in a kind of falsetto vibrato. And late in his life, he performed at an outdoor celebration after the New York Giants won the 1987 football Super Bowl. Just as he got to the last line, “and tiptoe through the tulips,” some fan with impeccable aim and timing fired a snowball that hit him right in the tulips.
It's in Tiny Tim's memory that I say tonight, let's play Oddball.
We begin in the streets of El Salvador with the annual festival of solemn prayer and painful whipping that is Holy Week, like, Holy week! It has nothing to do with Tiny Tim, unless you think the guy in that suit is that. In the small town of Texas Tipike (ph), men dressed as demons roam the streets with whips, swinging away at anyone in their paths. Each lash from a demon, said to take away one sin committed during the previous year. Lord only knows whether that one guy in the sweater kept doing.
The Catholic tradition moves through the city and eventually ends in the town center, where the demons battle and lose to a guy in a beard dressed in sandals and a long flowing robe. And that man is Chuck Norris, everybody.
To Banavisas (ph), where another exciting episode of “Extreme Makeover,” Lithuanian prison edition. More than 50 women prisoners of the correctional institution there, with convictions ranging from drug trafficking to murder, put their names in for the opportunity to be made beautiful behind bars. In the end, just three prisoners got the treatment, and here they are. First, let's welcome Meringa (ph), and the new look is Big House chic for today's modern prisoner, stylish enough to turn heads in the mess hall while practical enough to wear while fighting off a shanking in the yard.
Next we have Onote (ph). She's back with the more conservative black dress and heels. It's a look that just screams out, I was framed.
And finally, Gratina (ph). Isn't she something? How could someone so fabulous have killed all those people? With a killer fashion sense, that's how.
Also tonight, speaking of fashion, debs behind bars, perhaps. I love Paris in the springtime. We'll explain this. Like you'll be listening to me then.
Could be worse. Could be Joan Rivers. We will take you along as the first lady of the red carpet goes out on a date set up online. Oh, oh.
Those stories ahead, but first your COUNTDOWN top three (INAUDIBLE) of this day. 55-year-old Italian porn actress and former member of parliament Cicciolina. Now this has nothing to do with Paris Hilton nor Joan Rivers. She says it's time someone did something about Osama Bin Laden and she's just the someone. Cicciolina is offering her own sexual favors to bin laden in exchange for him calling an end to terrorism. Her quote, “My breasts have only ever helped people while Bin Laden has killed thousands of innocent victims.” Thank you for the non-segue.
Number two, Jermiah Ransom, students of the University of Georgia detained there by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who said he was a suspicious individual. Mr. Ransom says all he was doing was minding his own business, walking home from a university event, but it was the annual Wesley Foundation Pirates versus Ninjas party. He was still in full costume.
Number one, Yahaya Wahab, the beautiful downtown Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. He said when his father died in January he disconnected his dad's service with phone company Telecom Malaysia and paid the outstanding bill, $23. He just got another bill the other day and he literally fainted when he saw it. It gives Mr. Wahab 10 days to pay in full the remaining charges -- $218 trillion dollars. I don't have that kind of money, who do you think I am a Halliburton executive?
OLBERMANN: It was and it is and it always will be unspeakable, but does it have anything to do with whether or not a man named Zacarias Moussaoui should be in prison for the rest of his life or die right now. Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, the cockpit recordings from flight 93. The still unbelievable final half-hours of the lives of the victims. The final half hour perhaps of a less perilous time in our country and in our world. The tape played today to the jurors who will decide Moussaoui's fate. The transcript of the tape revealed to the rest of us. Our justice correspondent Pete Williams was in the Moussaoui courtroom today and joins us now from the Washington bureau. Pete good evening?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you Keith. It was extraordinary to hear this tape because until now it's been played only for family members of those who died on flight 93 and federal investigators. But today in court, members of the jury heard it for themselves.
WILLIAMS: The government played the final half-hour of sound recorded inside the Boeing 757 cockpit.
United 93 --
WILLIAMS: 46 minutes into the flight piloted by Captain Jason Dahl, the hijackers break in. At 9:31 Zihad Jarrah now at the control speaks into his microphone—
ZIHAD JARRAH, HIJACKER: Ladies and gentlemen here is the captain, please sit down, keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board so sit.
WILLIAMS: The hijackers then struggled with someone in the cockpit, apparently a woman. Investigators say it was likely a flight attendant, “Don't hurt me, I don't want to die” a voice says. From 9:37 on, she is no longer heard. A hijacker says, “Everything is fine, I finished.” 9:39, Jarrah makes another announcement.
JARRAH: Uh, is the captain, would like you all to remain seated, there is a bomb on board. And are going back to the airport, and to have our demands, please remain quiet.
WILLIAMS: 9:45 a hijacker asks, “Should we let the guys in?” An apparent reference to the other two hijackers aboard. Captain Dahl was apparently still alive because the hijacker says, “Bring the pilot back.” The passenger revolt begins at 9:58 when a hijacker asks, “Is there something, a fight?” The tape captures muffled sounds of a struggle and repeatedly of glass shattering. Investigators believe the passengers were ramming the cockpit door, with one of the plane's beverage carts. The hijackers begin to pray, “Allah is greatest.” In the background passengers yell, “In the cockpit! In the cockpit!”
Hijacker pilot Zihad Jarrah rocks the plane violently back and forth.
It's now 10:00 A.M., “Is that it? Shall we finish it off?” a hijacker asks.
“No, not yet” says the other. “When they all come, we finish it off.”
Outside the door passengers yell, “In the cockpit! If we don't we'll die! Roll it!” And the sounds of a struggle grow louder. By 10:01 the hijackers seemed determined to crash the plane, “Is that it? Shall we pull it down?” “Yes,” comes the answer, “Put it in and pull it down.”
10:02 the plane rolls onto its side, turns upside down and goes into a steep dive. The hijackers recite, “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!” nine times in all. At seven seconds past 10:03, the recording abruptly ends.
WILLIAMS: It's not possible to tell just from listening to this tape whether the hijackers actually met the passengers, whether the passengers actually made it into the cockpit. Families who have listened to the tape say they think the tape shows that that is what happened. Federal investigators say it's inconclusive Keith.
OLBERMANN: Pete, to the Moussaoui end of this in a moment, but first for the rest of us. That tape is not going to decide that point that you just raised, but is it going to confirm whether or not the passengers got into the cockpit, that their actions to fight back were the reasons that the plane crashed in Pennsylvania rather than hitting a target in Washington? Is that clear now?
WILLIAMS: Oh, crystal clear, absolutely. Not only, it's very interesting because there's a confrontation at the first part when they deal with the flight attendant and then for many, many minutes, nothing really happens. The hijackers are settling into their routine. You hear one of them say, “Set the course.” And they talk about a green button. And according to some pilots who were in court today to hear this, they say that's the button you set the course with.
There's other data to indicate that they had set a course that would have taken them right into Washington, D.C. Then at the end suddenly you hear these unmistakable sounds, this remarkable crashing and yelling of the passengers assaulting the cockpit door. So there's just no question that the hijackers intended to crash this plane somewhere in Washington and were forced to change their plans.
OLBERMANN: It may be the most obvious of questions but the reason that the actually hijacking tape, the first part of it and other parts of it were not made available to the public was entirely at the request of the families, is that right?
WILLIAMS: Yes, the judge said that the tape would be released publicly unless family members of 93 of the folks who died on flight 93 objected and the judge said three of them did. Their names are under seal, but for that reason the tape wasn't released.
OLBERMANN: So much of the transcript from that tape is listed as unintelligible, we heard a little of this in your remarkable report there, you heard the whole thing in court today. Were there other lingering questions about exactly what happened on the flight that were cleared up, were there any questions that were made less clear?
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, the 9/11 commission report didn't deal much with this question of the person in the cockpit. And I also thought it was very interesting that the hijackers at one point say, “Go bring the pilot back in.” Suggesting that he was still alive at 9:45. But that's another piece of new information. But what really comes out, what you can't get from reading the transcripts which are on MSNBC.com, and you know I'm sure will be in many newspapers tomorrow, you don't get the sounds, you don't get the crashing. It's so surprising to hear this cockpit voice recorder, suddenly the sound of breaking dishes, of breaking glass, apparently this beverage cart being rammed into the door. The passengers yelling and the pitch of the hijackers' voices going up as they become more and more alarmed that the passengers are about to come inside. It was the last thing they expected.
You hear the hijackers say well, “Shall we go get the guys?” They sort of were settling in, it's over, let's go get the other hijackers and we can kick back. And it's very routine, there are many minutes that pass where nothing happens and then suddenly this last few minutes of energy as the passengers attack.
OLBERMANN: As I said, Moussaoui almost an afterthought in this equation here, did he react at all to the playing of the tape?
WILLIAMS: He sat there as he has through much of this trial, with a kind of bored look on his face. Somewhat interested in the playing of the tape, but for the most part he didn't react much, no. He sat—heaven knows what he was thinking.
OLBERMANN: Last thing, the implication of let's get them, bringing the other hijackers in. Is there an implication there that there were one or more hijackers who did not get into the cockpit and may have been confronted by the passengers out in the cabin?
WILLIAMS: Yes. And the reason we know that is that there were something like 37 separate telephone calls made off of flight 93 in the interval between the time the passengers realized there's a hijacking and the time when the attack on the passengers attempt to storm the cockpit. During that time, people were making cell phone calls and using the pane's phone system to call and they said that there was -- there were some of the hijackers up front, but there was at least one in the back holding the passengers at bay.
OLBERMANN: Evidently he did not succeed in that.
OLBERMANN: At least we have that to hold onto.
OLBERMANN: Pete Williams on what was a very difficult day for everybody in that courtroom, no doubt nearly as hard for many of us just hearing or reading those transcripts. Pete, thanks greatly for your reporting and for staying late with us. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the latest lieutenant, Prince Harry, now an officer and now say his superior is a realistic candidate for assignment in Iraq or Afghanistan. And—you see Paris, I see France. Seems this gal lost everything but her underpants. Hugh Hefner turns 80. Paris Hilton sends him this. You never heard of sending a Hallmark card? That and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Royal headlines. Prince Harry to Iraq or Afghanistan as lieutenant and royal pains in the butt. Questions about the parenting skills of Britney Spears apparently answered. Questions about the getting oneself dressed skills of Paris Hilton, she serenades Hugh Hefner in her skewbies. That's next, this is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It is one of the most telling and least answered of all the criticisms of all wars. You don't see the leaders sending their sons into battle. Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, the chances are still remote but events may provide an expected rejoinder to that criticism. It is, says his commanding general, eminently possible that the third in line to the British throne could be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan within a year. Suddenly others besides the family of Prince Harry are wondering if this is such a good idea. Our report tonight is from Romilly Weeks of our affiliated British network ITV.
ROMILLY WEEKS, ITV NEWS: The queen hasn't actually been to the (INAUDIBLE) parade for 15 years, but she didn't miss Harry's big moment, singling him out in the lineup for some grandmotherly attention. It's the culmination of 44 weeks hard training. He went in Harry the lad, his family hoping he'll emerge as Harry the leader. It's what comes next for him and his fellow officer cadets could be very testing indeed.
Army life has clearly suited Harry rather well, he's said to have mocked in, got along well with everyone, and he survived (INAUDIBLE) notoriously grueling regime. But training is one thing, it's what happens when he's on active service that's causing the MOD some headaches. And there's every indication that he could end up in Iraq or Afghanistan.
MAJOR SEBASTIAN ROBERTS, BRITISH ARMY: Like any part of a very operational army, the (INAUDIBLE) regiment will find itself on operations. There's a squadron going to Afghanistan shortly.
WEEKS: Harry in action. This video was taken on (INAUDIBLE) Cyprus. He said he wants to be sent exactly where his men are. There is a president of course - his Uncle Andrew also a second son, went to war as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands.
Alex preserved in Iraq in the regiment Harry's joining.
ALEX PREECE, FORMER HOUSEHOLD CAVALRY OFFICER: To serve in Iraq is hard, hard enough any way. I'd like to think that he would do his duty if it called for him to go to Iraq, which is most likely and Afghanistan, being in the regiment. It's definitely a place (INAUDIBLE).
WEEKS: The queen told all the cadets today her prayers would go with them wherever they went. Her grandsons have chosen a well trodden royal path but not necessarily an easy one.
But before Harry worries about that, second Lieutenant of Wales has a party to go to. Romilly Weeks, ITV News, (INAUDIBLE).
OLBERMANN: Young celebrities who may or may not know what they're getting into or what's getting into them. That's our segue into our nightly roundup of entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And all of a sudden Marilyn Monroe's infamous happy birthday serenade to President Kennedy seems innocent. At least she was wearing a dress. Paris Hilton as you will see presently, seemed to have all the wardrobe malfunctions the world knows all at the same time.
This in a videotaped crooning of that familiar song on the occasion of the 80th birthday of the world's foremost dirty old man, Hugh Hefner. What follows probably did not impact him since there was only Ms. Hilton and not twins or triplets, nor significant stockpiles of silicon. Nor by the way, fans.
PARIS HILTON: Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday Mr. Hefner, happy birthday to you. I love you, Hef, you're amazing. You're 80 but you act like you're 20, you look like you're 40, you're hot, love you. Happy birthday.
OLBERMANN: 80, his age, her IQ. Also tonight, a glimpse into Paris Hilton's future. She has to beg for a date online and when she gets it a reporter and two camera crews come with her. That's ahead. But first, time for COUNTDOWN's list of today's three nominees for the worst person in the world. The bronze tonight, two event climbers, at the Davinci Academy in Ogden, Utah, they sent out 500 invitations to the charter school's annual benefit dinner, advertising a special guest appearance from John Stewart of the “Daily Show.” Turns out there was a slight bit of confusion there, they'd actually booked Mr. John A. Stewart, former motivational speaker and part-time pro wrestler from Chicago.
Tonight's runners up. Sarah and Chris Ebberson of Green Valley, Missouri. They sent out a letter to neighbors announcing the birth of sextuplets asking for donations to help raise their six new kids. Problem, Mrs. Ebberson wasn't even pregnant. It was a scam. She and hubby have been arrested and are facing fraud charges.
But tonight's winner, execs at the Wolverine Meat Packing Company in Detroit, Michigan. They say they warned 15 Mexican immigrant women that if they skipped work to go to an immigration rally, they would be fired. The women say they got no such warning, either way, the workers weren't fired. Wait a minute, the Wolverine Meat Packing Company? You guys actually able to make money selling Wolverine meat? The Wolverine Meat Packing Company, Wolverine Meat, today's worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: If the theory of parallel universes is correct, somewhere else in the vastness of eternity, Joan Rivers did not quit her job as permanent guest host of Johnny Carson's “Tonight Show” in the 80's to start her own rival talk show on the brand new Fox Network. That's when Johnny retired in that universe she took over. And if in that parallel universe she ever found herself 72 years old and unable to get a date, she could simply buy anybody she wanted. But in our number one story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, that is there and this is here, Joan Rivers trying to get a date online. Not only cyber dating, but having to do it with two camera crews and our pal Brian Baltezar tagging along.
BRIAN BALTEZAR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Joan Rivers knows her way around a red carpet.
JOAN RIVERS: -- always is one of the best dressed men in the world.
BALTEZAR: But finding the right man?
RIVERS: Why is it so hard to meet a great man in this world?
BALTEZAR: Is another story.
RIVERS: Where do you go to meet somebody, you can't run after an ambulance. You know, just age, you're too old.
BALTEZAR: Instead of that, Rivers ventured into uncharted territory.
RIVERS: I was feeling very silly and very sad one day. I said what the hell, let's go on it.
BALTEZAR: It was the internet dating site, match.com. Before long, she and her assistant were building a profile.
RIVERS: I wanted to put down, I am 22, gorgeous, big breasts and a pathological liar. We calmed it down a little bit.
BALTEZAR: This was kind of a lark for you, but was it even as a lark, was it a little bit difficult to put yourself out there?
RIVERS: Oh very difficult to put myself out there, but I figure at this age, I'll forget.
BALTEZAR: With the click of a mouse, Joan Rivers only slightly disguised under black sunglasses and an internet nickname, was officially on the market.
RIVERS: I just thought, “Let's see who is out there. It's got to be somebody.”
BALTEZAR: Joan is not alone.
DAWN VANEK, MATCH.COM: Single 50 and older are actually the fastest growing segment in online dating, they're the fastest growing population.
OLBERMANN: 72 year old celebrity fashion cop, comedian Joan Rivers on the market.
BALTEZAR: Before long, word got out and Rivers became the unexpected ambassador for older Americans getting out and dating.
By you putting yourself out there, you're saying to women, put yourself out there.
RIVERS: It's very tough. So I say, oh just do it.
BALTEZAR: Now it's Joan's turn. We called in some other match.com singles and brought them to a nearby restaurant.
No pressure, Joan.
RIVERS: No pressure.
BALTEZAR: But we're bringing in five guys and you have about 15 minutes to meet them all.
Our impromptu speed dating session gave her about three minutes with each man.
MAN #1: I'm in the construction business.
MAN #2: I've been a journalist for 25 years.
MAN #3: -- vice president.
MAN #4: -- a telephone company.
MAN #5: I work for my father. He is looking for a job.
BALTEZAR: Not a lot of time, but enough to get acquainted.
RIVERS: What did your ad say exactly?
MAN: Well it said that I have loved you since I was a kid.
RIVERS: Yeah, that broke my heart, go ahead.
MAN: Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?
MAN: The last check that I write I want it to bounce.
MAN: I saw one of the gentlemen had a big rose and I'm here to tell you size is not everything.
BALTEZAR: By sheer coincidence, one was a former classmate. He even found this film of them walking together as children.
RIVERS: Where do we know each other, what grade?
MAN: Us middle aged people don't reveal ages.
BALTEZAR: By the end of her speed dating challenge, she was inspired.
Five guys, all of them very nice.
RIVERS: All lovely.
BALTEZAR: And while this love story is to be continued.
RIVERS: Are you single?
BALTEZAR: When it comes to her love life, Joan is not taking things sitting down, except to check her e-mail.
RIVERS: He ain't going to come to your door unless the FedEx guy is single and hot. Do it. Just get out there and have a cup of coffee.
BALTEZAR: Brian Baltezar, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: And on this Passover night, who is having dinner with Joan tonight from all those men that she met during the filming of that report? Brian Baltezar, and no, it's not a date. That's COUNTDOWN for this the 1,077th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
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