Guests: David Boies, Nico Pitney, Cecily Knobler, Courtney Hazlett
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight we‘re in Vegas, where we‘re going to show you undercover surveillance cameras that show a side of Vegas that tourists don‘t see and show you why the house always wins. That story‘s coming up.
But first, the White House under fire tonight not over Iraq as much as newly released government e-mails that critics contend show George W. Bush playing fast and loose and playing politics with America‘s judicial system. Those government e-mails released today highlight a Bush administration plan to fire all 93 federal prosecutors and replace them without the approval of Congress through a loophole in the Patriot Act. That plan led to eight U.S. attorneys being fired, critics contend, because some refused to launch criminal investigations against Democrats.
Today, Mr. Gonzales faced the music.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Like every CEO of a major organization, I am responsible for what happens in the Department of Justice. I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. I accept that responsibility. And my pledge to the American people is to find out what went wrong here, to assess accountability and to make improvements so that the mistakes that occurred in this instance do not occur again in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: And Democrats on Capitol Hill were outraged at the offense and sense a growing scandal that could lead from the AG‘s office to the president of the United States. And there were immediate calls for the attorney general‘s firing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Mr. President, did the attorney general not know that eight U.S. attorneys were to be fired? If he didn‘t know, he shouldn‘t be attorney general.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Clearly, the attorney general does not understand his responsibilities.
REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: After months of denying that the White House had any involvement in the firings of these U.S. attorneys, this new information shows that the process was actually driven by and for members of the president‘s inner circle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: So did the White House play politics with law and order? And are White House critics right to suggest that this latest dust-up proves the White House is playing fast and loose with the law and the truth?
With us now to talk about it, David Boies, former attorney for Al Gore during the 2000 election and author of “Courting Justice.” Also Nico Pitney for the Center for American Progress and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan.
David Boies, it looks like—it just looks like, from seeing these e-mails and looking at the news articles, like the White House was directing the attorney general to fire U.S. attorneys who refused to launch political prosecutions. How troubling is that to you, and is there anything in there that could be illegal?
DAVID BOIES, ATTORNEY FOR AL GORE IN 2000 ELECTION: Well, I don‘t think there‘s anything in there that could be illegal in a criminal sense. I do think it‘s very troubling because one of the things that we pride ourselves on is separating politics from law enforcement. And when it looks like law enforcement has bee influenced by political considerations, that‘s very troubling.
On the other hand, I think we‘ve got to be cautious here, OK? We don‘t know what all the facts are. We‘ve got some very troubling e-mails. We‘ve got some e-mail that raise suspicion. But I don‘t think we ought to go off and jump to too many conclusions.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, what about, David—are you surprised that the reports show it was the president who called the attorney general specifically to push for these political probes?
BOIES: Yes. That conversation...
SCARBOROUGH: That‘s stunning!
BOIES: That conversation last October was just—was a bad idea. It shouldn‘t have happened.
NICO PITNEY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: There‘s more, though, than just that conversation. We‘re talking about Attorney General Gonzales‘s chief of staff potentially lying to Congress by not telling senior Justice Department officials about the role that the White House played in all this. That‘s not just improper, that may, in fact, be illegal. One group said today there ought to be a special prosecutor here. We‘re expecting the Justice Department to say that its own senior officials broke the law. Obviously, that‘s not going to happen, and I think we ought to have someone independent in there to make that case.
BOIES: I think it‘s important to separate out the political issue from the criminal issue. I think there‘s way too much willingness to try to make every political act a criminal act today. And I think that this is a real political problem. I think the administration made some serious political mistakes. I think the attorney general‘s acknowledged that. This was wrong to do, but I think before we start talking about special prosecutors and criminal investigations, we‘ve got to step back.
SCARBOROUGH: But you know, though, Pat Buchanan, I mean, even Republicans are saying that this administration was idiotic to do what they were doing. I mean, you know, you had a lot of mistakes early on in the Clinton administration. It seemed like amateur hour. But my gosh, the Bush administration is seven years in now, and you still have the president making calls telling the attorney general of the United States to look into these U.S. attorneys who aren‘t going after Democrats in political scandals. I mean, it seems like it really is amateur hour here, and it just seems stunning that the president would make that call himself.
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Why is that stunning? Look, Joe, you remember what happened to Bob Dornan back in 1996. They had illegal aliens voting, and it was a real scandal. He lost by 994 votes. And if a bunch of congressmen called up the president and said—and he had a Republican, and he said, Mr. President, you got a U.S. attorney out there. You got transparent fraud going on, and the guy‘s afraid of being called, you know, a nativist for going after illegal aliens voting. Get in a tough prosecutor. And the president calls the attorney and says, Look, is there some problem with a U.S. attorney? These guys are all over me. That is politics. David Boies is right. There is nothing criminal so far...
BUCHANAN: ... but you got a lot of nonsense going on, mishandled, people aren‘t speaking the truth...
PITNEY: ... quite an excuse. This is quite an excuse. The conservative line is that it‘s OK—you know, it may not be illegal, but it‘s basically OK for President Bush to fire or Attorney General Gonzales to fire a prosecutor because he won‘t try—bring charges against a Democrat right before a close election...
BUCHANAN: Let me give you an example. Let me give you an example. Jack Kennedy said, Look, the U.S. attorneys down there are not prosecuting Civil Rights the way they ought to.
PITNEY: But that‘s not the claim!~
BUCHANAN: They‘re (INAUDIBLE) They‘re through. Fire them. OK.
These are political appointees, for heaven‘s sakes! They‘re not Vestal Virgins!
SCARBOROUGH: But Pat, OK, they‘re not Vestal Virgins, they‘re political appointees. But let me read you, Pat, some e-mails from the attorney general‘s office to the White House, and I would think you would even think this is idiotic. This guy—this is the attorney general‘s chief of staff who says, “A limited number of U.S. attorneys can be targeted for removal and replacement.” And now let me show you why they replaced them. He—this was sent, of course, to Harriet Miers, formerly of Supreme Court nomination fame. He‘s bolded those for—those recommended retaining “exhibit loyalty to the president and the attorney general.” But there‘s a strikeout, “recommended removing those who chafed against administration initiatives.”
Is this really what we want from U.S. attorneys...
BUCHANAN: Look, Joe...
SCARBOROUGH: ... that are nothing but...
SCARBOROUGH: ... extensions of the president‘s...
BUCHANAN: Well, look...
SCARBOROUGH: ... political operation?
BUCHANAN: Look, Joe, suppose—let‘s suppose the president of the United States said, My real concern here is narcotics and child pornography, not organized crime. That‘s yesterday. I want to focus on that. We want to get (INAUDIBLE) And you had U.S. attorneys who said, Well, that‘s not my focus. We got so many resources...
PITNEY: We don‘t need to talk about Pat Buchanan‘s hypotheticals because we know the facts here. We know that one of these prosecutors was removed to make room for Karl Rove‘s protege. This isn‘t about immigration...
BUCHANAN: So what?
SCARBOROUGH: David Boies...
SCARBOROUGH: Lets me bring David Boies back in. David, you know, a -
there are a lot of Republicans—and this was—as a Republican, this was my initial reaction, when people said, Hey, we need to do this story, a couple weeks back, I said, This is garbage, it‘s the biggest BS story I‘ve ever heard because Bill Clinton and Janet Reno fired every last U.S. attorney the first day they got into office in 1993. However, you dig a little bit closer, you look at these e-mails, and it becomes more troubling to me. Sort it out for me.
BOIES: There‘s no doubt. Look, this is very troubling. And what‘s troubling about it is not the fact that you‘re replacing U.S. attorneys. That happens all the time. It‘s not even that you‘re replacing U.S. attorneys because you‘ve got a general policy initiative that you want to adopt of further. What it looks like is you‘re replacing U.S. attorneys because they‘re not following administration line on political issues, that they‘re chafing under the political initiatives. Now, that looks bad, and I think it is bad.
BUCHANAN: Well, look...
BOIES: I think that‘s unfortunate.
PITNEY: This is not an issue of “Clinton did it, too.” You pointed out correctly that Clinton removed the U.S. attorneys when he came into office, and so did President Bush back in 2001. The issue is having eight attorneys, seven years into a presidency or six years into a presidency, removed for partisan...
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on one second. It seems, though, Pat Buchanan, there are two different things are going on. If I had decided that pornography and child molestation or whatever you said...
SCARBOROUGH: ... were my two key initiatives as president of the United States, and I had attorney generals that said, I‘m just not going to do it because I don‘t want to face the political hardship that I‘d go through, I could fire them for that.
SCARBOROUGH: But it‘s different if I had two Republican—if I had a Republican senator and a Republican congressman calling me up, saying, Hey, we‘ve got a guy out here in New Mexico that we don‘t like. We‘ve been trying to launch an investigation against him, and the U.S. attorney tells us he‘s not going to launch that investigation...
SCARBOROUGH: If somebody came to me and said, Make that phone call about launching a political probe, I would look at them and say, Do I look like I‘m a ward boss from South Boston?
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, come on, Pat, admit that was stupid for the president to do!
BUCHANAN: You may call it stupid. Let me give you an example, Joe...
SCARBOROUGH: What do you call it?
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you. In the...
SCARBOROUGH: What do you call it?
BUCHANAN: Look, I don‘t know that it was. And look, depends on what the senators—look, the senators are foolish in doing this type of thing, and they‘re up on an ethics count.
BUCHANAN: But if there was no—if there was no interference with an ongoing investigation or a trial and these guys said, We don‘t like who you got out there. It‘s a lot of trouble. Mr. President, get rid of this guy and get somebody else in it, I‘d ask Gonzales, you know, the presidents putting—are these senators putting me on? Is this guy any, you know, bad or good? And I‘d look into it, Joe. So would you.
PITNEY: And you...
SCARBOROUGH: David Boies, I don‘t know that I would, as president of the United States...
BOIES: No, I...
SCARBOROUGH: ... make a call because two Republicans called me up from New Mexico and said, Hey, I want you to...
BUCHANAN: It‘s a senator!
SCARBOROUGH: ... go after this...
BOIES: I think it‘s a mistake. It‘s wrong for the president of the United States to call up the attorney general and to say, I want you to look at these people because they‘re not following the administration line politically. That is an interference, a political interference with law enforcement that‘s wrong.
BUCHANAN: All right, David...
BOIES: I don‘t think it‘s a criminal—I don‘t think it‘s a criminal issue.
BUCHANAN: David, suppose the president said, Look, I‘m getting a lot of complaints from these guys. Some are chronic whiners, but So-and-So‘s a pretty solid guy, and he‘s complaining something may be going wrong. Can you look into it and see if there‘s some merit in what these United States senators and congressmen are telling me? That seems a legitimate inquiry.
BOIES: I‘d agree with that if it was a policy initiative, like child pornography or even immigration. But when you‘re talking about are they not being tough enough on going after political opponents...
PITNEY: These are questions...
PITNEY: These were questions that were brought—claimed by the Justice Department last week. They talked about immigration. They claimed that these attorneys weren‘t bringing immigration cases. Then Senator Feinstein pulled up the records and found that these attorneys were being praised by how closely they were following these immigration cases.
BUCHANAN: Well, you got a credibility issue there.
PITNEY: I think these hypotheticals don‘t work, Pat.
BUCHANAN: Well, look, you‘ve got a credibility issue there. Look, I am in favor of a congressional investigation and reasoning (ph). I do believe people haven‘t been leveling or telling the truth.
BUCHANAN: They‘re putting out phony stories.
BUCHANAN: But there are no crimes here...
PITNEY: And Gonzales—and Gonzales goes out today...
BUCHANAN: We cannot criminalize politics!
PITNEY: ... uses the O.J. Simpson line, he‘s going to—he‘s going to try and find the real killer, even though he was involved in this with Harriet Miers from the beginning.
SCARBOROUGH: David Boies...
BOIES: Pat Buchanan has got his finger right on the button, all right? What‘s wrong here is that we‘re getting inconsistent stories. And because we‘re getting inconsistent stories, because they‘re not leveling, it makes our suspicions that much greater. If this had all come out at the beginning, maybe it wouldn‘t have been such a furor. But one of the problems is that we haven‘t been told the truth at the beginning, and that makes everybody more uncomfortable.
SCARBOROUGH: And exactly, and that‘s my point exactly, where, again, when I first heard these stories, I rolled my eyes and said, Of course the appointment of U.S. attorneys are political, they‘ve been political since presidents appointed them.
But David Boies, I want you to look at this “Washington Post” headline that came out today after this latest scandal erupted and tell me whether you agree with it or not. “Among the worst attorney generals ever. Gonzales is seen by many legal historians and scholars as an abysmal failure. There appear to be few legitimate reasons why he deserves to stay in office.” Is that a fair estimation of what our AG‘s been doing, David Boies, over the past few years?
BOIES: I don‘t think it is. I disagree with the attorney general on a great, great many issues, but I think that‘s too extreme. And I think the evidence thus far on this particular series of mistakes is not strong enough to make those kind of assertions.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, and finally, Pat Buchanan, I just want to nail you down here really quickly before we go. You think the White House may have been dumb. Your point is, though, it didn‘t commit any crimes.
BUCHANAN: I have not seen any evidence of crimes. I‘ve seen evidence of a lot of guys saying things and correcting their stories and a lot of people, you know, saying, We did this for high motives, when it may have been political. If they‘d told the truth, just like Scooter Libby, they‘d have no problems.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. I‘ll tell you, it‘s sheer idiocy, as far as I‘m concerned. I agree with Tom Coburn, the senator that said the White House just—they behaved like idiots. I have no idea what Harriet Miers is doing allowing these type of e-mails...
BUCHANAN: Our nominee!
SCARBOROUGH: ... to come into the White House. Yes, the nominee that Pat Buchanan was for from the very beginning!
David Boies, Nico Pitney and Pat Buchanan, thank you so much.
Appreciate you being here.
And coming up: Terror threat ignored. NBC uncovers a new report charging that the U.S. government is not doing enough to stop terrorists from making a dirty bomb. That shocking NBC investigation coming up.
And later, hidden cameras expose hotel safety. Sometimes all a crook needs is a key to get into your room, and all he need to do is ask the front desk. The results of that undercover investigation coming up.
And then: The eyes in the sky here in Vegas are always watching. We‘ll show you the casino surveillance video that catches cheaters in the act.
SCARBOROUGH: Our government‘s ignoring a huge terror threat. That‘s a charge I a shocking new report obtained by NBC News. The bottom line, terrorists can easily get materials to make so-called “dirty bombs.” And wait until you see where. NBC News senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers is here with an inside report on that stunning study—Lisa.
LISA MYERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, the new report obtained by NBC News concludes that the U.S. government is not doing enough to stop the threat of a dirty bomb. It says significant amounts of radiological dirty bomb material remain unsecured in the former Soviet Union, a tempting target for terrorists.
(voice-over): In the former Soviet republic of Georgia last summer, international inspectors tracked down dangerous radiological material in an abandoned military complex. A new report by U.S. government watchdogs says a parallel effort overseas by the Department of Energy has made only limited progress securing many of the most dangerous sources, waste disposal sites and abandoned generators across Russia, each with enough material for several devastating dirty bombs.
LEONARD SPECTOR, NONPROLIFERATION STUDIES CENTER: I think you would cause significant contamination over, you know, a square mile, many, many city blocks. And if it was the right city blocks—Wall Street or the White House—you know, the impact could be very devastating.
MYERS: This test explosion by U.S. scientists shows how a dirty bomb works. Conventional explosives spread the radioactive material, which can contaminate large areas. The new report says DoE has focused most of its energies in the last three years on securing small sources of radioactive materials abroad, often in medical equipment. Meanwhile, major waste disposal sites sit protected by primitive fences, and more than 700 generators like this found in the republic of Georgia, are vulnerable to terrorists.
CHARLES FERGUSON, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: If we look at just the past six months, we see I think an upsurge in criminal and terrorist activity using radioactive materials.
MYERS: Last year, there were 85 confirmed thefts of loss of nuclear or radioactive materials worldwide, mostly small amounts. Most of those have not been recovered.
SEN. DANIEL AKAKA (D), HAWAII: I am disturbingly concerned about this because it can grow into a huge threat.
MYERS: The Department of Energy points out that it has made progress, having upgraded security at 500 sites in more than 40 countries. Officials also say they are now moving to secure more of those high-risk sites in Russia—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks so much, Lisa. You know, this is shocking to me. We‘ve been warned about this for 15 years, since the Soviet Union collapsed. I remember back in 1998 having a secret hearing of the Armed Services Committee talking about this very topic and being warned back eight years ago that because of nuclear waste and also weapons in the old Soviet Union, the former Soviet Union, that terrorists were doing everything they could do to get those—their hands on that material for use against the United States.
Now here we are, eight years later, and we‘ve got officials talking about this growing threat? This threat‘s been growing for a long time. I guarantee you, if our government doesn‘t do something about it soon, we‘re going to be reporting on a dirty bomb that‘s gone off in Manhattan or LA or Washington, D.C. And by then, the hand-wringing will be too late.
Coming up: Here from Las Vegas, cheating gamblers caught in the act. We‘re going to take you behind closed doors and show you the surveillance video that tracks every move on the casino floor and evens the odds for cheaters.
But first, daytime TV drama—what if it were made into a movie?
Conan‘s casting call is next in “Must See S.C.”
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See S.C.,” video you got to see. First up: Stephen Colbert noticed some important details missing from the new silver dollar, and he wasn‘t afraid to make a few changes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: First, a wag of my fingers at the U.S. Mint. As many as 50,000 of the new George Washington dollar coins were minted and put into circulation without the words “In God we trust” inscribed along the edge. Way to drop the ball, U.S. Mint! Not only should it be there, it should be on the front. Actually, make it the whole front. In fact, God is too vague. Change it to “In Jesus we trust.” And while you‘re at it, the whole back should be Ronald Reagan coming down Mt. Sinai to deliver the 10 Commandments to Jesus!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Oh! Oh, sounds like my constituents.
And finally, over the past year, there have been big changes to daytime television. Conan O‘Brien gives us a sneak peek at the possibilities for a real made-for-TV movie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O‘BRIEN, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”: Barbara Walters, the star of “The View,” is going to be played by Owen Wilson. Very excited about that. Ann Curry (ph) will be played by Pee-Wee Herman. “View” co-host Joy Behar will be played—that‘s right, by Alf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I never noticed the resemblance!
And coming up: How easy is it for somebody to break into your hotel room? An NBC hidden camera investigation shows you why you‘re at risk even checking in in Las Vegas. And later: Ever get the feeling you‘re being watched? Well, in Sin City, chances are good you are. See what the eyes in the sky are picking up and how cheaters in Vegas don‘t stand a chance.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, coming up here from Las Vegas, you can‘t escape the eyes in the skies. Hidden cameras catch everything going on inside those casinos, and we‘ve got the behind-the-scenes footage. That story, coming up straight ahead.
But first, Las Vegas is the hotel and casino capital of the world, with more than 130,000 hotel rooms. This city is a jackpot for would-be thieves looking to break into your hotel room and get away with your belongings, or worse. So “Dateline” put these hotels to the test, using hidden cameras to see just how easy it would be for a criminal to break into your hotel room. We got the help of NBC security consultant, Wild Bill Stanton, to see how quickly you can fall prey to a hotel room robbery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people who run the hotels are entrusted with keeping you safe, but how alert are hotel employees to possible criminal behavior? Hotels have gone a long way in recent years to improve security for their guests. So could Bill Stanton gain access to a hotel room that wasn‘t his?
BILL STANTON, NBC SECURITY CONSULTANT: We‘ve all heard these nightmare scenarios where people‘s rooms have been ransacked or worse. So the idea was, can I get into a hotel room? What can I accomplish, without any inside information, if you will?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First stop, the Intercontinental, an upscale hotel in Manhattan where we got a room. We didn‘t want Stanton to break into a real guest‘s room, so “Dateline” booked a room under a different name and challenged Stanton to get in.
A “Dateline” producer actually checked into that room.
STANTON: That‘s right. We didn‘t want to actually break in a room, so we used that room as our target room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But for this exercise, he‘s providing no proof it‘s his room, so no one should give access. Once inside the hotel, Stanton carries his only prop, a bathrobe. He‘ll make his quick costume change in a stairwell.
STANTON: There are no security cameras, so that‘s why I‘m getting into my uniform here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then Stanton asks a maid to let him into the room.
Remember, he provides no proof it‘s his.
STANTON: Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within seconds, she lets Stanton in. The maid was simply believe polite and thought she was helping, but former Secret Service psychologist Marisa Randoza (ph) says it‘s just that kind of kindness that criminals embrace.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They‘re in a dilemma there, trying to weigh back and forth, do I maintain security or do I keep the customer happy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should tell you we‘re not giving away any secrets here. These crimes do happen, and criminals already know these tricks.
Next stop, the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan. This time, Stanton has a new test to see how aware hotel staffers are to possible criminal behavior. Stanton says the first thing a criminal would need is a target, someone they want to rip off. In this case, it‘s a “Dateline” staffer.
STANTON: You‘re following our “Dateline” producer to the desk, and I‘m making note of everything, that she‘s alone, she has an expensive watch. I‘m taking note of the bag, which will come into play later. And what I need is her last name and room number.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how would he get her last name and room number? Hotel staffers are supposed to keep that private. So how alert would they be to someone trying to get that information?
Stanton stands near the check-in desk pretending he‘s talking on his cell phone, as our producer checks in by herself. Stanton is close enough to make the clerk think the two of them are together and also close enough to hear our producer‘s name and room number.
STANTON: I‘m giving her enough space to not freak her out, but yet make him think I‘m with her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What‘s happening?
STANTON: He‘s giving her the key. I‘m listening to the name. I‘m listening to the room number. As he‘s saying it, I‘m writing it down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So now you know where she‘s staying?
STANTON: That‘s right. Now I got my information, I‘m walking away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you don‘t have a key.
STANTON: Not yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stanton waits for his target to leave her room.
Now he knows the room is empty.
STANTON: There she is. Our producer just left, shopping, sightseeing, whatever. Now I‘m making my move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Using the information he overheard, he‘ll now try to get the key.
STANTON: I need your help. We just checked in about 15, 20 minutes ago, Fox from 3932. My wife just took off. She gave me the key for the hotel we stayed at last night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clerk responds appropriately.
STANTON: No, she has everything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don‘t have photo I.D. or anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then she agrees to let the security people handle the situation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can send up—you have your stuff in the room?
STANTON: Yes, yes, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can send up security on...
STANTON: Oh, beautiful. Excellent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is your game over, because security is on its way?
STANTON: This is where the game really just begun. This is where the bag comes into play.
Security, you‘re a lifesaver. I am sweltering outside. How are you?
I appreciate it. Doing well, doing well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Security does the right thing, asks for his I.D.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I see your photo I.D.?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But remember that bag Stanton noticed our producer was carrying?
STANTON: All I have is my—I have a Western bag in here. Oh, there it is. What? She took everything, so this is my bag. Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re welcome.
STANTON: Thanks a lot. Have a good day, sir. Oh, thank you, thank you. I shopped around for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He asked you for the I.D. That was the right thing to do.
STANTON: That‘s right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then what happened?
STANTON: He didn‘t stand his ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What should they have done?
STANTON: All they had to ask was, what‘s her home address? They could have presented more obstacles to me. You know, I was counting on their good manners. I would rather you be rude than ripped off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So is it really that easy to get into a hotel room that isn‘t yours?
STANTON: Security, you‘re a lifesaver.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided to hit the hotel rooms in Las Vegas, businesses that use the most extensive and sophisticated security systems anywhere in America. Would Stanton‘s techniques work here?
First, the 5,000-room MGM Grand. Again, Stanton follows our producer and again learns what room she‘s in. Armed with that information, Stanton returns to the counter.
STANTON: My girlfriend and I, we just checked in (INAUDIBLE) she gave me the wrong key. She has everything. My bag‘s up there, but she has everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I‘m actually going to have to call security to meet you up there.
STANTON: Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My pleasure. I apologize.
STANTON: Oh, you really came through. No, I‘m getting in. That‘s what counts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And once again, security unlocks the room.
STANTON: There should be a black, leather bag, and a Samsonite bag.
Right there in the corner. It says “Decardi.” (ph) Sorry about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take it easy.
STANTON: Have a good day, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here at the Hooters Hotel and Casino in Vegas, same thing.
STANTON: Thanks a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this say more about what a good conman you can be or how bad security is at some of these hotels?
STANTON: A combination of both.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this hotel, the Rio, would Stanton‘s luck hold out? He rolled the dice one more time. He makes his plea to the clerk.
STANTON: I just made a big faux pas. I just put my girlfriend in the cab, she left with everything. She gave me the key to go to the room, wrong key.
Well, my bag is in there, can you send me up with security? I mean, my bag‘s there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is your name on here at all?
STANTON: Even if my bag‘s in there? It‘s about discretion, my friend.
Yes, you don‘t have to give me a key. I just want to go to sleep. So
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And for the first time in this experiment, Stanton finds someone who won‘t take the bait.
STANTON: All right. No, no problem. Good job. You‘re doing your job. Appreciate it. Have a good day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you surprised by what happens at this hotel?
STANTON: Yes. He listened to the voice that everyone else turned away from.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, if you‘re not safe at a Hooters Hotel, where are you safe?
Anyway, “Dateline” contacted the hotels whose security Bill Stanton was able to breach. New York‘s Intercontinental Hotel and Hilton Hotel staff say their staff violated security policies and the incidences are being investigated. Hooters Las Vegas says it sincerely regrets any lapse in security. And the MGM Grand in Las Vegas wouldn‘t comment, because NBC didn‘t provide a copy of its undercover video in advance. The hotel says it does regularly review its safety and security procedures.
Now, make sure you catch “Dateline” tomorrow night on NBC. But coming up here next, cheating gamblers caught in the act. We‘re going to show you some of the hidden camera surveillance video that casinos here are using to bust the most clever crooks in Vegas.
And later in “Hollyweird,” just when you think it‘s over, they pull you back in. Oh, my God, the Trump and Rosie feud heats up once again. You‘ll see the new nastiness in “Hollyweird.”
SCARBOROUGH: A Las Vegas landmark reduced to rumble in just a matter of seconds. That was the Stardust Hotel. It stood on the strip for almost 50 years, demolished to make room for, surprise, a bigger, multibillion-dollar hotel and casino.
Now, here in Las Vegas, those casinos aren‘t only popular with gamblers but also with criminals, very sophisticated criminals. But the casinos are fighting back with security cameras that track every move on the casino floor. And MSNBC‘s cameras caught some of those cheaters in action.
JOHN SEIGENTHALER, NBC NEWS HOST (voice-over): While blackjack and craps are still popular, today‘s Vegas games are primarily electronic. More than 80 percent of the $12 billion bet in Las Vegas every month is bet on slot machines.
There are more than 200,000 slot machines operating in the state of Nevada alone. And crooks who come to Vegas to steal want a piece of that action. They barely resemble the penny amusement gum dispensers they were born as; today‘s slots are really computers. But if you‘re planning on cheating one of these computers, you really have to know what you‘re doing. Slot cheats are part thief, part hacker.
MIKE JOSEPH, CASINO SECURITY CONSULTANT: What happens today is the cheats will buy new machines as they come off the assembly line, take it to their garbage, disassemble it, and look for every possible weakness they can find it, and then they‘re turn it around and use it against the casino.
SEIGENTHALER: When the slot machine is operating properly, when a player wins, a light inside triggers the internal coin dispenser, releasing the correct number of coins to the winner. Though they‘re complicated machines, a relatively simple-looking device can cheat them effectively.
Some of the newest slot machines have been fooled using a homemade tool like this, a light optic stick. While it looks like a primitive flashlight, it‘s worth about $10,000 on the street. Here, a cheat uses the device.
He cups his hands over the coin slot to conceal it, but a cheat can use this light stick to clean out all the coins in under a minute. When the cheat jams this light stick at just the right angle, it fools the machine into thinking a jackpot was won. The coins keep falling out and into the hands of the cheat, who is simultaneously caught on tape.
JOSEPH: If they see somebody with their hand up around the coin chute or somebody playing with the coin acceptor, the validator where the dollar bills go in, surveillance is going to stay right on them, you know, until they find out why.
SEIGENTHALER: Another scam surveillance looks for is called the straw dog. Watch as the guy sticks a straw into the coin slot of a dollar slot machine. With the straw in the way, he‘s about to run the dollar slot machine using just quarters.
If they get tired of cheating the machines, casino crooks in Vegas can always steal from the player next to them.
JOSEPH: The bucket thieves, what they‘re do is they‘ll come in, they‘ll pick on people that are heavyset, they‘ll throw coins at their legs. When a person sees the coin on the floor, they‘ll reach over, pick the coin. And while they‘re picking up the coin, the bucket thieves grabs the bucket and runs out the door.
SEIGENTHALER: Keep your eye on the guy in the black t-shirt. Not content with taking just one bucket of coins, this thief is looking for a second score. But apparently he hasn‘t counted on putting on a show for the folks up in the surveillance room. His mark fails to notice the first coins he tosses near him to distract him, so the man in the black t-shirt picks them up and tries again.
This time, the mark thinks he‘s found some free money on the floor. He bends down to pick up the coins, and the thief reaches over him and grabs the bucket.
JOSEPH: Well, you‘re always looking for that person that‘s just kind of wandering through the casino, always looking around, OK? And basically most people, when they walk into a casino, they know exactly where they‘re headed, and that‘s where they go.
SEIGENTHALER: It‘s clear where this guy in the striped shirt wants to go. Watch him throw coins in between the row of slot machines toward the player on the left side. He tries it again. As the player bends down to pick up the quarter, the thief comes around and walks away with the bucket. Another successful distract-and-grab.
Of course, there‘s a lot of cash in Las Vegas, and purses are a favorite target. This thief reaches in behind a woman and takes off with her purse.
Another tip-off to casino surveillance is looking around.
JOSEPH: They have a knack of doing what we call rubber-necking, which is looking around to see who‘s watching them, instead of paying attention to what‘s going on in the game, they‘re more concerned with who‘s paying attention to them, because they know they‘re up to no good.
SEIGENTHALER: This thief waits for the moment, grabs the hand bag. But this purse-snatcher‘s luck runs out. As a casino security guard tries to block his escape route, he‘s leveled with a flying kick in the chest. He grabs one leg, holding on as the thief drags him around the corner and tries to shake him off.
The battle escalates when he clubs the security guard with a nearby stool. The thief breaks free and escapes, and the purse is left behind on the floor. As help arrives for the security guard, the surveillance room keeps recording the action, but this time the thief got away.
SCARBOROUGH: Wow. That‘s the view from the Eye in the Sky here in Vegas. But what about the other all-seeing entity, Oprah? Why some parents of students in her Africa school are upset at the daytime diva. The details of that story, coming up next in “Hollyweird.”
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, book the high-roller suite, because it‘s time for “Hollyweird.” First up, Rosie and Trump. Yes, that‘s right, the TV titans at it again. Is the feud back on? Here now to talk about it, “OK” magazine senior reporter Courtney Hazlett. And from VH-1‘s “Best Week Ever,” Cecily Knobler. I think she‘s marrying prince sometime in the coming few weeks.
Courtney Hazlett, what‘s going on here? Can‘t these people just get along?
COURTNEY HAZLETT, “OK” MAGAZINE: No, actually, they cannot just get along. I think it‘s nice to know that, of all the things that are changing in this world, one thing holds true, and that is Rosie and Donald will always be at each other‘s throat.
SCARBOROUGH: And what caused the latest little tiff between the two?
HAZLETT: Well, you know what? It‘s the same old song again here, and Rosie has done her usual by retaliating on her blog, which is kind of a dubious place to fight back, because it‘s super passive-aggressive. And her free-verse poetry leaves a little bit to be desired. But I just think, at this point, the American public actually might be right to just turn the other way, and just say, OK, you two duke it out, we‘ve had enough.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, let‘s look at this blog here. I understand it‘s a doozy. Put it up. It says, “The dump truck is at it again. So hurtful to know he doesn‘t find me attractive, as it‘s long been my goal for so long to give a balding billionaire”—well, we‘ll just leave that as it is, to excite a billionaire.
Cecily, really, is this the type of woman that Barbara Walters wants to sit next to every day?
CECILY KNOBLER, VH-1‘S “BEST WEEK EVER”: That‘s a really good question, actually. But to be fair, Rosie doesn‘t say who the balding billionaire is. Maybe it is Barbara Walters, I don‘t know.
SCARBOROUGH: It could be. It could be. But, I mean, this fight continues. At some point, won‘t Barbara step in and say, hey, you know what? This may be hurting my cred as a journalist?
KNOBLER: You would think so, I mean, the fact that she uses the b-word. Why not just say stiffy, while you‘re at it, right?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, exactly. I just don‘t understand it.
And another thing I don‘t understand is, with all the bad schools in America, why does Oprah have to go to South Africa to start a new school. But she says her school in South Africa is safe and nurturing, but some students‘ parents claim it‘s way too strict.
Courtney, sounds like she‘s a tough headmaster out there.
HAZLETT: It sounds like she‘s a tough headmaster, but, hey, no one ever said that boarding school was supposed to be fun. And, quite honestly, Oprah is already saying, listen, I‘m going to give you guys a free high school education. She‘s also offering to pay all these girls to go to college. So if the game you got to play is, OK, no snacks, no junk food, and I can only use my cell phone on weekends, I don‘t think that‘s such a bad deal.
SCARBOROUGH: Cecily, is that all it is? I mean, she‘s not whipping them or anything like that?
KNOBLER: I don‘t know. I don‘t know about the junk food thing, though. I would think if anyone understands the importance of junk food, it would be Oprah Winfrey. It would kind of be like if Lindsay Lohan had a school and she didn‘t allow the girls to do cocaine, you know what I mean?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. You know, she could save others, but she can‘t save herself.
Hey, let‘s talk about Jessica Simpson. She plans to put out a book of photography. And I guess Courtney, it‘s a good thing that Ansel Adams is dead, because he‘d be up for some real competition here, right?
HAZLETT: Can you imagine the heat he‘d be feeling right now? You know, quite honestly, Jessica Simpson‘s albums haven‘t been doing too well, so if this is something that she can kind of hang a shingle now and say, “I‘m a photographer,” and she‘s good at it, then I kind of hand it to her.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, hand it to her why?
HAZLETT: Because at least she‘s giving it a try. She‘s not just languishing in her, you know, kind of mediocre movies and albums that aren‘t doing that well. I mean, let‘s call a spade a spade.
SCARBOROUGH: Let‘s call is—and, Cecily, you know, she doesn‘t have to worry about keeping her dress up while she‘s taking photos, right?
HAZLETT: That‘s right. It can do whatever it needs to do.
SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. Hey, Courtney, thank you very much. Cecily, as always, thank you. Greatly appreciate it.
That‘s all the time we have tonight from Las Vegas. Thank you so much for being with us. We‘ll see back here tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
As we leave Sin City far behind for a special edition of “SCARBOROUGH REPORTS: IN GOD WE TRUST,” a look at the big business of the Bible, and how Jesus not only saves, but he sells. From the hugely popular “Left Behind” book series, to Christian Rock, to “The Passion of the Christ,” the successful merger of pop culture and the pulpit. That‘s tomorrow on “SCARBOROUGH REPORTS: IN GOD WE TRUST.”
But coming up next in the Doc Block, “The Pride of Pampa.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.