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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Dec. 11

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Howard Fineman, Tim Roemer, Jack Rice, Dana Milbank, Sam Seder

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Waterboardinggates, the finger is pointed directly at the White House by the man who says the interrogation team he led tortured Abu Zubaydah.


UNIDENTIFED MALE:  This isn‘t something that‘s done willy-nilly.  This is a policy decision that was made at the White House with concurrence from the National Security Council and the Justice Department.


OLBERMANN:  Erasing the tortured tapes, reportedly the CIA got the all

clear from its own lawyers to destroy the evidence, but only vague interest

in the topic from the White House counsel‘s office.  Quote, “They never

told us ‘Hell no.‘”

The inquiries begin.  The CIA‘s director, still disquietly wearing his uniform, testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee.  The Senate Majority Leader says he might support a special prosecutor.  The attorney general continues to sound like he used to write platitudes for Hallmark cards for lawyers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The question to the special prosecutor, the most hypothetical of hypotheticals.


OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman on the politics, former 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer on why the commission and all of us need to know the truth about all of this and former CIA agent Jack Rice on the possibly mixed motives behind former CIA agent John Kiriakou coming forward.

The latest Halliburton scandal, the gang rape of one of Halliburton‘s employees in Baghdad by Halliburton firefighters.  She says she drugged her, they caged her in a holding container, they threatened to fire her if she revealed what happened.  And they may get away with it.

Bushed, new developments in old scandals.  Habeas corpus and the EPA lies about air quality after 9/11.

President Clinton heckled on the campaign trail by a robot.

And she will not save the world, she will not even save the drunken elephants, but Paris Hilton has saved an Oompa-Loompa, all that and more on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening, this is Tuesday, December 11, 329 days until the 2008 presidential election.  The same CIA officer who last night confirmed that under his team‘s interrogation, al Qaeda suspect Abu al-Zubaydah was waterboarded, who said he has no doubts that waterboarding is torture.

Today in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN we completed the picture saying the decision to torture was made by the White House.  Despite that, with the president standing by his story that he did not know about the existence or the destruction of the CIA tapes until just a few days ago when he was briefed by Agency Director Michael Hayden.  In his first public statement since the scandal broke the president telling ABC News, quote, “I think you‘ll find a lot more data, facts, will be coming out, that‘s good.  It will be interesting to know what the true facts are.”  As opposed to the false facts, as if Mr. Bush and those closest to him might not already know what those true facts are.

John Kiriakou, the CIA officer now retired, in charge of the team which waterboarded the al Qaeda suspect, Zubaydah, telling NBC News this morning that all torture was done at the direct order of the White House.


JOHN KIRIAKOU, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  This isn‘t something that‘s done willy-nilly.  It‘s not something that an agency officer just wakes up in the morning and decides he‘s going to carry out an enhanced technique on a prisoner.  This was a policy decision made at the White House with the national Security Council and the Justice Department.


OLBERMANN:  And it was not a one-time only directive authorizing torture in some blanket way.  Mr. Kiriakou alleging further that the White House and the NSC had to renew its permission each and every time an individual specific procedure was carried out.


KIRIAKOU:  Before each interrogation but more than that, before each technique was used, for example, if you want to waterboard someone, you have to come in with a cable, with a well-laid out, well thought out reason for wanting to do something like this.


OLBERMANN:  New questions also being raised about the administration‘s claims over when the videotaping itself might have stopped.  CIA Director Hayden, who this afternoon testified to a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee, having claimed to a memo to agency employees last Thursday that the videotaped stopped in 2002, he says, after officials determined that documentary reporting was full and exacting, removing any need for tapes.

But the “New York Times” reporting that a lawyer for Muhammad Bashmila (ph) of Yemen, of former prisoner who was captured by Jordanian intelligence agents in 2003 then turned over to the CIA, then taken to a black sight prison in a country as yet unidentified all according to an investigation, carried out by Amnesty International.  This man revealed yesterday that Mr. Bashmila saw multiple cameras in his interrogation rooms, and again, this would have been after 2002.

At the White House this afternoon, press secretary Perino attempting to claim that all questioning of Abu Zubaydah, the prisoner under the former CIA officer‘s care was perfectly legal.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  All interrogations have been done within the legal framework that was set out after September 11th, and they are measures that have been tough and limited, and they are safe and they‘ve been very effective in helping prevent terrorist attacks on this country, all the program—the entire program has been leaked.


OLBERMANN:  So if Mr. Kiriakou is now confirming that waterboarding was used and you, Ms. Perino, are saying all interrogation carried out was legal, A, it was legal, B is subset of a so B is legal.  Doesn‘t that mean you‘re saying waterboarding is legal?


PERINO:  I‘m not comment commenting on any specific technique, I‘m not commenting on that gentleman‘s characteristics of any possible technique.  I‘ve given you a very general statement about interrogations being legal, limited.

HELEN THOMAS, HEARST NEWSPAPERS:  Again ,was it within the legal framework?


THOMAS:  Everything that .

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  So waterboarding is legal?

PERINO:  I‘m not commenting on any specific techniques.  You can ask me all sorts of different ways and we can go back and forth but I‘m not going to do it.


OLBERMANN:  It would be laughable were it not so tragic.  Exits are here, here and here.

Over at Justice, at the attorney general‘s first encounter with reporters since taking that job, Mr. Mukasey is saying that the fact-gathering was just beginning, he was going to wait to see where it might lead.


MICHAEL MUKASEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I think the Justice Department is capable of doing whatever it appears needs to be done, that is the question of the special prosecutor, the most hypothetical of hypotheticals that isn‘t going to be faced until it has to be.


OLBERMANN:  For now, we‘ll leave the Yoda-like tautologies of the new

attorney general to instead call in our own Howard Fineman, chief political

correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.  Howard, good evening/


OLBERMANN:  Did the scope of the involvement of the White House just widen considerably after John Kiriakou‘s claim that the White House, the NSC, were not involved not just in some distant way but literally you basically had to put the torture on hold and call the office to get each stage of it approved?

FINEMAN:  It sure did.  It seemed like a pretty hands-on operation by the National Security Council, which is part of the White House, and even the Department of Justice, according to the CIA agent, who is on “The Today Show” this morning, it sure does lead right to the White House‘s door which I think is why Dana was out there saying what she was asked to say.

OLBERMANN:  The “New York Times” also reported today that the destruction of the tapes of this had been cleared by lawyers within the CIA, they never got a clear answer apparently from the White House, as the quote was “Nobody told us hell no, you can‘t do that, “it was suggested there would be a paper trail within the agency but is there a chance of heck in getting there, given the nature of the C in CIA might as well stand for clandestine?

FINEMAN:  Well, it is going to be hard but there is certainly going to be a lot of people looking.  I was talking to people on the Hill today who were telling me both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are going to investigate, there‘s the Department of Justice investigation, there‘s even an investigation by the CIA‘s own inspector general now to whom it will also be interesting to see and as Mukasey pointed out there is talk of a special prosecutor.

Keep in mind, Keith, this is all about techniques of interrogation and torture and by the way, if there are other copies of tapes around, the potential propaganda disaster that they pose is almost unimaginable, just a horrible confluence of incompetence and illegality.

OLBERMANN:  Any idea, has anybody in any position of authority in Washington gone to the White House and said, raised that exact point with anyone and said look, if there are tapes and they haven‘t been destroyed, maybe your best bet right now is to put them out yourself so you could at least control some of the damage they will create internationally?

FINEMAN:  Well, we don‘t know what‘s on them.  We don‘t know if waterboarding is on them.  That isn‘t clear.  But if there‘s anything other than the prisoner sleeping in their cells it could be tremendously damaging and the fact that there were court orders, Keith, barring the government from destroying evidence related to the interrogations, that the courts were lied to repeatedly, that the 9/11 Commission that Congressman Roemer was on were lied to, there were just lies in all directions to protect we‘re not quite sure what, yet another example of protecting the unknown that the American people don‘t know anything about.

OLBERMANN:  After his session to the Senate today in the closed door hearing, the CIA director General Hayden and why he‘s still in uniform I have no idea, other than to scare people.

FINEMAN:  It‘s not required, I can tell you that.

OLBERMANN:  He told reporters that taping was not under Director Tenet, destroyed under Director Goss, “before my time” and apart from the nice symmetrical institutional repudiation in that, does that raise the question, is it reasonable to expect that George Tenet and Porter Goss would be called to testify before one of these investigations soon and if not, what kind of investigation will this be?

FINEMAN:  Well, one would think so, but keep in mind, Keith, that some key members of, the so-called Gang of Four in Congress, which back in 2000 and 2002 included now Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were told about a lot of these techniques that were being used.  They didn‘t raise any objections.  The White House of course is stressing that.

So it could be kind of inconvenient for some of the leaders in Congress if the investigative committee, the intelligence committees look into the whole paper trail and the whole chain of who told what to whom.  This is a classic Washington story now of everybody saying we told you then what‘s become controversial now.

OLBERMANN:  Well, everybody can be investigated.  Doesn‘t—there‘s room for bipartisanship in Washington on this one.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman of MSNBC and “Newsweek,” as always, great thanks, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For a different perspective let‘s turn now to former Democratic Congressman Tom Roemer who served on the House Intelligence Committee until 2002 and then on the 9/11 Commission.  Great thanks for your time, tonight, sir.

FINEMAN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is knowing what was on the tapes and knowing who ordered what in the way of torture, is that more than the gotcha that‘s being portrayed in many quarters?  If for some reason everybody involved woke up tomorrow morning with immunity, why do we still need to know what‘s on those tapes?

TIM ROEMER, 9/11 COMMISSIONER:  Well, as Howard said, Keith, we need, we don‘t know what‘s on those tapes.  What destroying them does is invites the worst kind of suspicions and we need to look into these and Congress needs to do its work in digging into this for three reasons.

One is for accountability.  Right now, the CIA is saying that they destroyed these tapes because it would have provided some information about agents that should be classified, and sources and methods.

If that is true, they should destroy almost everything at Langley. 

That is really not something that we buy.

Two, about credibility, the United States‘ credibility around the world has really suffered in the last five or six years and we don‘t need more damage to our reputation with what could be on these tapes or just simply with destroying them.  And the 9/11 commission wanted to get access to these kinds of documents, information or things dealing with interrogations.

And lastly, Keith, it‘s important for oversight.  Congress needs to exert its authority.  It needs to be the first branch of government.  It needs to do what it is told in the Constitution, and see if this goes to the White House, or goes to the Justice Department, and who knew what and whether green lights or red lights were put out there.

OLBERMANN:  Or goes to either of the intelligence committees as well.  I mean that, point that Howard Fineman just made seems to suggest that this is such an overarching problem.  Do you think that we need not just House or Senate investigations but something along the lines of a special counsel?

ROEMER:  I know Senator Reid today asked for that today or the possibility of that.  I don‘t think that‘s the first step, although I think you got to tell the White House that might be ultimately what happens if they don‘t cooperate and if the intelligence community doesn‘t cooperate.  I think too oftentimes, when we fought for information on the 9/11 Commission, sometimes the White House was reluctant to provide that information, so they have to be tough about this.  They have to exert their authority and going back to something else, the inspector-general at the CIA is also looking into this.

His people have clearances, they have access to information.  They could propose to the Justice Department obstruction charges if they found them.  So you have the Congress, you have an inspector general at the CIA and the possibility of the Justice Department itself, if they determined that these tapes were there, that they fell under one of the requests of the 9/11 Commission, and as an authority or an extension of Congress, created by Congress the 9/11 commission was something that might be an obstruction of justice charge.  We‘ll see.

Keith, the sad part about this really is a 9/11 commissioner and as an American citizen, would you hope that the page was turning to the new CIA, after this National Intelligence Estimate was out there on Iran, that they‘re standing up and telling policy makers something that they may not want to hear.

Instead, we‘re going backwards to the old CIA, this is a grave mistake and it could be a very dark chapter in their history.

OLBERMANN:  And when it comes to extracting information specifically from the White House, could this be another case in which withholding money might be the best and maybe the only option?

ROEMER:  Well, Harry Truman used to say, if you want a friend, get a dog, in Washington.  I‘ve said before that if you want to get respect and power in Washington, have the ability to ask for money, and take money away, and make sure you can hire and fire people.

We may have to get there.  Let‘s not put the cart before the horse, but this White House oftentimes did not cooperate with the 9/11 Commission, Congress, better exert its constitutional authority and get to the bottom of this and we‘ll take each step at a time.

Congress should not outsource its power and authority to a special prosecutor right away, dig for this and let‘s get this job done first, and then we‘ll see if the special prosecutor is need.

OLBERMANN:  Certainly somebody involved in the CIA torture tapes did not cooperate with the 9/11 Commission, we know that for damned sure, former Congressman Tim Roemer, formerly of House Intelligence and the 9/11 Commission, our considerable thanks for your time tonight, sir.

ROEMER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So why would one of the CIA‘s top interrogators suddenly go public and do his hand-wringing mixed emotions pass the smell test?  We‘ll talk to another CIA alum.

And nightmare Halliburton headquarters Baghdad.  This employee claims she was gang raped by other Halliburton workers in Iraq and they may slip through the legal cracks in both that country and this one.  You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  It could be that it‘s just coincidence, a fluke of timing, four days after the CIA admits to having destroyed videotaped evidence of Abu Zubaydah being waterboarded.  An ex CIA officer tells the media how well the waterboarding worked.  Even though he wasn‘t present for the torture, even though he wasn‘t present for the confessions and even though other CIA and FBI operatives have said that the suspect Zubaydah had little information and was mentally unbalanced.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, looking for the truth behind the torture story.  John Kiriakou was part of the team who captured Zubaydah, said he was the first person to talked to him but he said Zubaydah would not talk voluntarily, ask Kiriakou to smother.  They said Kiriakou turned him over to CIA colleagues who were trained in so-called enhanced techniques.

Mr. Kiriakou taking pains to emphasize that while he was not part of the actual waterboarding team, he believed it was necessary at the time though he had conveniently qualms about it afterwards even though as he told Matt Lauer this morning on THE TODAY SHOW, he believes it is torture.


KIRIAKOU:  I think, yes, torture.  I‘m not saying that it wasn‘t necessary at the time and I‘ll let the lawyers decide if it‘s legal or not but at the time I think it was necessary to disrupt terrorist attacks.  I know that there was a high level policy debate on whether or not this was torture and that the Department of Justice and the White House counsel and the National Security Council decided that it was not at the time.  It‘s something that a lot of us at the Agency struggled with as these decisions were being made and implemented.  We wanted to do anything we could to disrupt future terrorist attacks, especially on American soil but at the same time you have to sleep with yourself.


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Kiriakou also insisting in each of his surprisingly large number of interviews, NBC, ABC, CNN, “The Washington Post,” that after 35 seconds of waterboarding, Zubaydah started sharing information that disrupted, quote, “maybe dozens of attacks” though he could not recall where said attacks were supposed to take place or even in which country because he had moved on to a new assignment by then.  I‘m joined now by another former CIA agent, Jack Rice.

Jack, good to talk to you.  Thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  One first question about logic and logistics.  Mr.  Kiriakou had moved on to stateside before the waterboarding actually began, he wasn‘t there for the confessions.  How would he know how effective it had been or hadn‘t been?  Is he overstating how much he would know about the results or would he have been kept in the loop somehow?

RICE:  I think he could have tried to have kept in the loop but does he really know?  The answer is no.  I mean it sounds great.  The real problem in the end, though, Keith is what we‘re really arguing is the same old question we‘ve always been talking about before.  If it‘s effective, is it OK to torture, and in the end if we‘re asking that question and we come up with the wrong answer it says a lot more about us than it does anybody else.

OLBERMANN:  But is it effective?  If he can‘t give you an idea from firsthand knowledge what the stuff that this man confessed to, how do we know that the real issue of torture, you don‘t even have to go to the moral questions first.  You go to the results question first, right, and the results generally are you may get some actual information in there but you have no idea what is information and what is stuff that‘s created to just stop the torture.

RICE:  You‘re absolutely right.  Again, we‘ve seen research, research, research over decades.  And what we find, people will say whatever is necessary.  Again, I could hook you up to jumper cables and you‘ll swear to me that you‘re Justin Timberlake.  You will, because you want it to stop.  If that‘s how we‘re going to decide how we make a determination on the intelligence we get, we‘re in much worse trouble than we think.

OLBERMANN:  Your big picture on his sudden appearance, he said this afternoon in the latest of these interviews that he thought the waterboarding represented a real intelligence success.

Does that necessarily mean he‘s being disingenuous when he describes the mixed emotions that he saw, that he felt, or makes the claim that we‘re better than this, or that we shouldn‘t torture again?  Could all these things be true?

RICE:  I‘m not a conspiracy nut.  I never have been, and I don‘t know this man, but my problem is it comes back to this concept where we‘ll say, it‘s OK to torture, because we got the answer that we wanted.  But see, that in itself tells us the broader question, and the biggest concern of all, is what we want is a particular answer.

If I hook you up to something, if I use water, if I use electricity, if I use all sorts of various techniques, quote unquote, that means I get what I want.  We don‘t want just the things that we want.  We want the truth.  It‘s about the effectiveness of it and that‘s the fundamental question, let alone the moral question.

OLBERMANN:  What‘s the headline then, Jack, from what he said as he‘s come forward?  Is it, A, waterboarding works, B, we needed to do it then but we should never do it again or is he the ultimate thing he‘s saying here, this is what we did and the White House approved it, event by event?

RICE:  I don‘t know what the answer is to that, Keith.  But what I do know is, and this is maybe the broader answer to everything that happens next what, we have found is from the administration, from those at the policy level, they‘ve been saying to the agents, those in the field, be aggressive, think outside of the box, do what you need to do.

The problem is is when things start to get ugly, like right now with the conversation you and I are having, all of the people at the policy level then scurry to the bushes.  What makes it worse now is that all of those operatives, all of those CIA case officers who are in the field are watching this, too, saying you know what, I‘m not going to be the guy who puts my butt on the line either so I‘m going to pull back.  I‘m not going to be the guy who thinks outside of the box.  That‘s what happened prior to 9/11.  We‘re going to face the same problem after we saw Iran-Contra and before 9/11.  It‘s coming again because we don‘t have leadership saying these are the things we do.  Here is the bright line you take and you push right up to that edge.

OLBERMANN:  Right, and we will take the heat with you, if there‘s a problem afterwards, which is clearly no matter what is right and what is wrong here, we know that much.  No administration involved in, getting involved in taking the heat right now.

RICE:  So much for courage, huh?

OLBERMANN:  Indeed.  Jack Rice, thanks, Jack, good night.

RICE:  Good night.

OLBERMANN:  The bad news about the Space Shuttle Atlantis.  You think this is a problem here?  Wait until you see the new, the next one, the space shuttle—oh, you can‘t see it because of the graphic, I‘m sorry.  The joke makes no sense whatsoever, but before that, time for Bushed, a reminder of late developments or lack thereof in the other Bush administration scandals pushed off the front page by the Bush administration scandal du jour.

And there are at least 46 of them.  Number three, habeas corpusgate.  The Defense Department ordered the Pentagon‘s chief war crimes prosecutor not to testify on the hearing on Gitmo today.  Colonel Morris Davis had written, “I felt the system had become deeply politicized.”  Apparently that was enough from him.

Number two, air-gate, the Environmental Protection Agency‘s false statement to the public that the air was safe to breathe around Ground Zero after 9/11.  The attorney for then EPA director Christie Todd Whitman telling the court it shouldn‘t let anybody sue her personally because, quote, “then the clear message for the government officials is to say nothing.  If you speak you will potentially be held liable.”  God forbid anybody is accountable for anything anymore.

Number one, NIE-gate.  The president lying about Iran being a nuclear threat after he‘d been told by all 16 intel agencies it was not.

You‘ll be forgiven if you have forgotten about this one, what with all of the other scandals that have emerged since it did nine days ago.


OLBERMANN:  If you‘ve ever been startled by seeing color movies from World War II or even the 1930s, a more startling fact still because, on this date, December 11th, that a colorized movie was first show at Madison Square Garden, December 11th, 1909.  Oddly enough the film was a Steven Segal picture.  On that note, let‘s play “Oddball”. 

We begin at Cape Canaveral and forget all the official NASA mumbo-jumbo about external fuel tanks sensor failure.  Expensive “Oddball” investigation has revealed the real reason why space shuttle “Atlantis” was unable to launch  on Sunday on time: “Houston, we have a giant spider in the fuselage, over.”  When they launched the space shuttle, little Miss Muffet presented a real problem.  However, for the record, I for one would like to welcome our new insect overlords.  I‘d like to remind them that it is a trusted TV personality.  I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in  their funnel and trapdoor webs.

In Tokyo, Japan, for the earth‘s last best hope against the giant intergalactic spiders, meet the metal barista, an Azimo(ph) robot that not only makes coffee but can actually remember who ordered what and so deliver the correct cup of Joe to the correct customer.  Expect to see one of these babies in your cafe near you by 2020.  “Hey, you, how come my bentichai(ph) tastes like metal?  Did you clean yourself in my  drink?”

Barack Obama may bring Oprah Winfrey out into the campaign trail but the Clintons bring out robots.  Not shown.  And the latest nightmare from Iraq: this Halliburton employee sues after she says she was gang-raped two years ago by co-workers.  Co-workers who might be legally untouchable in either country. 

These stories ahead but, first, on COUNTDOWN‘s “Best Persons in the World”. number three, best comedy in the face of adversity: an unnamed firefighter in reading,  Berkshire, England, helped free two men trapped in an elevator.  They kept going from floor to floor but the doors wouldn‘t open.  The men were Elvis impersonators so thus said our comic fireman, “There were two of them so they  weren‘t exactly lonesome  tonight.”

Number two, best diction: Sister Kathy Avery, principal of St. Claire of Montefalco, Catholic School, in Grosspoint Park, Michigan, assembled her fifth through eighth graders to tell them stop cursing so much and proceeded to read them the list of words out loud, which she did not want them to say.  “Holy bleep, Sister Kathy!”

Number one, Michael Schumacher, the retired Formula One auto racing  champion and his family were late for a flight from Coburg, in Bavaria, to his home in Switzerland.  So, when Tuncer Yilmaz‘s cab picked the Schumachers up, he probably should not have been surprised by what happened next.  Schumacher  introduced himself, told the cabbie to sit in the passenger seat, and Schumacher drove to the airport himself.  The family made the flight, but out of habit, Schumacher got out of the cab, sprayed everybody with champagne, and wore a series of 42 different baseball caps with different advertisers‘ names on it while giving interviewers to  astonished passers-by.  


OLBERMANN:  Barbarian invaders are traditionally the ones associated with  rape and pillage.  After no-bid contracts leading to billions of dollars in alleged waste, Halliburton managed something that can be compared to pillaging and now in our third story in COUNTDOWN, its employees have been accused of gang-rape.  Because of a failure to prosecute, all of this comes with the imprimatur of the United States government now in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court, Jamie Lee Jones alleges that on July 28th, 2005, she was drugged, then brutally raped in Iraq by up to seven men, this according to the filing as read by ABC news.  She was then 20 years old, an  employee for KBR which was then a Halliburton subsidiary. 

The incident occurred in the green zone at Halliburton‘s Camp Hope in Baghdad and her  alleged rapists were co-workers, firefighters for Halliburton-KBR.  Ms. Lee allowed her photograph to  be used by the media in pursuit  of justice, since no criminal  charges have ever been brought.  She alleges that after a rape kit was administered, the results were handed over to KBR security officers when they promptly disappeared.  Then, she says, she was held under guard in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water and was warned that if she left for medical  treatment, she would lose her job. 

Finally, when one guard loaned her his cell phone, she called her father, who called his local congressman, Republican Ted Poe of Texas.  Poe‘s office contacted State Department which sent agents from the U. S.  embassy in Baghdad to rescue Ms. Jones.  The Justice Department never  brought charges but Congressman Poe says the federal government does have jurisdiction over this case and that the perpetrators should be prosecuted.  She had some severe injuries, he said.  I think that‘s the proof that really bad things happened to her.  House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers and Congressman Poe have today sent a letter to the Attorney-General, Mr. Mukasey asking if the Justice Department has or will  investigate and asking about the status of such an investigation into the alleged rape and the forced detainment in the KBR company  and Halliburton denies Ms. Lee‘s claims. 

Joining us now, the host of “Seder on Sunday” on Air America Radio Sam

Seder.  Good to see you in person, Sam


OLBERMANN:  How did this story sit there for two years without anybody  knowing about it?

SEDER:  That‘s the question.  I mean, I guess, she was waiting for the State  Department or for the Department of Justice to actually start to investigate and, apparently, that hasn‘t happened.  And you know, I guess now that  we have democratic Chair of the Judiciary Committee Ted Poe, who is a republican from  Texas, as you said, has finally found someone who is willing to  pressure the Department of Justice to do some investigation here. 

OLBERMANN:  So the other thing in this, now this is a fairly standard  answer, we saw it to some degree in the Blackwater story from Baghdad from September, the company says the government—the U. S. government—told them not to investigate.  They were taking over,  they‘d investigate from there on in  when this happened two years plus ago and then nobody winds up investigating  elsewhere, becomes “Alphonse and Gaston”: you do it, no, I‘ll do it, no, you go first, no, I‘ll go first, and then you thereby bury this as a  criminal issue, correct?

SEDER:  I guess everybody was very polite about it and there‘s a  lot of deference involved in this but, the fact of the matter is that there is some ambiguity  with jurisdiction because of  this Rule Number 17 that Paul Bremer put in there.  But, as far as I can tell, there is—the Department of Justice does have jurisdiction and should be digging into this, regardless of what KBR says. 

OLBERMANN:  And, the bigger picture here is this—underscores this huge  accountability issue—you put mercenaries in a very nice limbo, where it‘s not clear if there‘s any government authority in Iraq to begin with, let alone what little there is,  whether or not they have any jurisdiction over them and then there‘s the question of remoteness: what American government can prosecute Americans in Iraq for crimes committed in Iraq.  It is a complete jumbled mess.  Could it merely be an accident to have gotten this jumbled or is it intentional?

SEDER:  No, I think it‘s intentional and, in fact, Keith, this mirrors the entire occupation and invasion, in some respects.  I mean, you have this many mercenaries  and contractors over there so that the American public isn‘t aware and informed as to what is  happening in their name and, in  fact, that‘s the story of the entire occupation and invasion of Iraq: complete lack of informed consent from the American public. 

OLBERMANN:  Does the sad reality of this come into play that the victims in the Blackwater massacre in Baghdad were Iraqis—men, women, and children? This is a then 20-year-old army wife from Houston who has let her photograph be distributed and, you know, is an absolute American in this situation, is this story going to resonate with people the way, sadly, the Blackwater thing did not?

SEDER:  I mean, I think so, and I don‘t think it‘s—I think part of it is, it‘s very easy to dismiss what happens to Iraqis.  We‘ve been sort of, we have  objectified that in such a way, but part of it is also that she‘s been very courageous about this and she‘s been willing to put her picture out there and she‘s set up a foundation so this doesn‘t happen again and she‘s willing to file charges against them or, at least, in a civil proceeding. 

OLBERMANN:  When you hear these stories and we had it with Blackwater,  and we had a dozen of them at Halliburton and more than that, perhaps, with Blackwater, do you worry about the nature of these  companies, and what they‘ll do  when our involvement in Iraq is  over, where they‘ll put these people—they may be roaming the streets here, claiming the same independence from our laws?

SEDER:  Well, they were in New Orleans, after Katrina hit, and that is the question.  I mean, when you start to make war and this type of work, that  profitable, they don‘t just go  away.  They‘re going to need something  to do and I think, yes, that‘s a big concern.  We saw them prowling the streets in New Orleans, after Katrina and so, you know, who knows what  we‘re going to see from these  people in the future?

OLBERMANN:  A nightmarish future in addition to a nightmarish present... Sam Seder of “Seder on Sunday” on Air America Radio, thank you for coming in, sir.

SEDER:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Mild heart attacks should be back at work next month, no  problem for 100, Alex.

And whose fault was the shootings at the Colorado church facilities on Sunday?  The shooters?  His reaction to getting kicked  out of the church‘s missionary  program?  No, the overarching  con man, Tony Perkins, says it is  the fault of—you won‘t believe who he blames.  That will be in tonight‘s “Worst Persons”—next on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Alex Trebek hospitalized but okay.  Paris Hilton saves an  oompa-loompa and nothing can  save tonight‘s contestants in  “Worst Persons”, including, Sean Hannity, Isaiah Thomas, and the head of the Family Research Council.  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  The exchange probably sounds like this: “911 -- what‘s your emergency?”

“Ah, there‘s a downed oompa-loompa.  But, wait, it looks like Paris Hilton is trying to save it.” 

The not bizarre image we read of in number two story tonight in “Keeping Tabs”.  Ms. Hilton is out partying in a nightclub in Miami over the  weekend.  When the revelers stormed the stage not to see her but to get closer to the band.  Performers in oompa-loompa outfits were caught up in the crush.  One oompa-loompa suffered a bad cut to his leg.  Down goes oompa!  Hilton, in a rare stroke of humanity, attended to said limp loompa.  And the compassion factor did drop considerably when you find out that Ms.  Hilton knew the guy in the oompa outfit, identified as Robin Sherwood.  She reassured him until the  ambulance arrived by feeding him a steady diet of cigarettes and breath mints. 

A health scare for one of America‘s most popular game show hosts, Alex Trebek, has suffered a heart attack.  The long-time host of  “JEOPARDY!” said to be resting comfortably at a hospital in Los Angeles area.  A spokesman said the heart attack was a mild one and that Mr. Trebek should  be out of the hospital in a day  or so and is expected to be back on the job in January, when the new episodes of “JEOPARDY!” are  scheduled to begin taping.

The senator from Illinois has Oprah Winfrey, the senator from New York has her husband, the ex-president, being heckled by a professor dressed up in a robot suit. 

Ahead, it‘s time for COUNTDOWN‘s “Worst Persons in the World”.  Come on, let‘s toast to Isaiah Thomas, coach of basketball‘s New York Knicks.  Back in the team again, did what it does best last night, lose.  Thomas blamed Knicks‘ fans, one  of them who has had season tickets for more than 40 years told reporters that Thomas had told her and others, quote: “it‘s the fans‘ fault because they don‘t have a good sixth man”—the basketball term  for the positive influence fans can have.  Firstly, among their players the Knicks don‘t even have a good third man.  Number two, Thomas is the team‘s coach, general manager, and president.  He‘s been such a disaster in  each of the three jobs that it  has become clear they keep him  because he lowers the corporate head count by two. 

Our runner-up, Sean Hannity of “Mixed Noise”, misquoting Congressman Jack Murtha, said the surge of work militarily had failed politically and that immediate withdrawals are still an immediate necessity.  Hannity said, quote, “Democrat‘s loudest critic has gone to the other side.”   Is it just too much work to bother to read all 40 words Murtha said last month?  Does it make your little brain hurt that much if you don‘t stop after the first four and go lie down or are you just transparently  dishonest?  

Tonight‘s winner, Tony Perkins  of the Family Research Council, responding to the two shooting nightmares in Colorado Sunday by e-mailing this to his group, quote, “it is hard not to draw a line between the hostility that is being fomented in our culture from some in the secular media toward Christians and Evangelicals, in particular, and the acts of violence that took place in Colorado Sunday, but I will say no more for now other than that our friends at New Life Church and YWAM are in our thoughts and prayers.” 

You hypocritical holier-than-thou opportunistic fraud.  You say it‘s the wrong time to say anything more than prayers to the victims‘ families while you‘re trying to make political hay out of the victims‘ bodies.  Oh, the psychopath of the shooting  did so because of “hostility fomented in the secular media”, had nothing to do with him getting out of the church‘s missionary program, and the hostility you think is directed towards Christians?  No, sir, it‘s directed toward sub-human snake  oil salesmen like you, Tony Perkins of the so-called Family Research Council, today‘s “Worst Person in the World”.  


OLBERMANN:  Voters in these days certainly are sometimes accused  of seeming robotic and there have been questions from the start about how Senator Hillary Clinton would deal with her larger-than-life former President, husband, Bill Clinton.  But in our number one story on COUNTDOWN, who could have imagined that the two issues would have ever converged, a robotic protester, better that than  a robotic campaigner?  A University of Iowa professor dressed as a robot heckling the former president at a campaign stop in Iowa City yesterday.  The robot protester was upset about something President Clinton had said in 1992 about  Sister Souljah—if only that were the worst of the Clintons‘ worries.  A close associate of the former president tells Bloomberg News that Mr. Clinton is, quote, “bouncing off the walls” at the ineptitude of his wife‘s campaign.  Senator Clinton‘s poll numbers had been shrinking in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina to  the point where none of those three key states are solidly in  her corner at this point.  Arguably, it‘s a toss-up between her and either Obama or former Senator John Edwards in the early contest and, yet, nationally, Senator Clinton still leads 40 percent to Senator Barack Obama‘s 30 percent in one recent poll,  44 percent to Obama‘s 27 in the other.  Even though Oprah Winfrey has stirred up the campaign trail a  “New York Times” poll finds that 1 percent of respondents said they  might be swayed by Ms. Winfrey‘s involvement while 44 percent said they were more likely to vote for Senator Clinton because of her husband‘s role.  For a not entirely serious discussion of all this, let‘s turn to the national political reporter of “The Washington Post”, MSNBC Political Analyst Dana Milbank.  Dana, good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s star with the robot.  Is this the inevitable offshoot of the “You Tube” debates?  Can the citizen no longer just ask a question of the candidate, he has got to get dressed up like the snowman, you can‘t heckle a former president about Sister Souljah, you got to dress up as a robot to do so?

MILBANK:  Keith, you can‘t fool me.  That is Dennis Kucinich in that robot costume.  This is the only way he‘s going to get some airtime for his presidential campaign. 

You know, we‘ve seen a lot of this on the campaign trail.  There‘s the occasional chicken.  We‘ve seen a Bill Clinton, in fact, has seen a penguin before.  Romney has seen a dolphin—it‘s a whole menagerie out there.  I guess, it‘s the only way, if you‘re naughty, you‘re going to get noticed in the crowd.

OLBERMANN:  Well, Mike Revel has seen various animals—oh, no, no, that‘s something else altogether, I‘m sorry.  May I ask a serious question?  Did the guy come to that event dressed up like that?  Did he sneak the stuff in?  And, either way, what does that say about security at an event involving a former president?

MILBANK:  Well, the truth is that robots are not yet on any terrorists watch list and the only weapon he had was confetti which—and a bicycle helmet.  There wasn‘t anything necessarily nefarious about him.  And, the Secret Service has been inclined to just hecklers heckle for the most part of the campaign.  Just try to keep these guys out.

OLBERMANN:  Serving as confetti is actually, as I understand it, cards for some—for a website demanding these apologies for Sister Souljah...

MILBANK:  Well, that‘s more dangerous...

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  It is not as if the only heckling on the campaign has been done by professors dressed up like band members from Divo.  First, we have the story about the senator being upset with her husband because of his statement about having opposed Iraq from the beginning which we charge that issue as it related to her.  Now, it‘s the Bloomberg report that he is mad at her strategists because she‘s coughed up fall points.  Is there anything to this and what would he be complaining about? 

MILBANK:  Yes, it almost sounds like he‘s starting to triangulate against his wife.  Now, is going to say, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman?”

OLBERMANN:  Uh-oh...

MILBANK:  It could be a matter of time.  He doesn‘t have a whole lot to complain about—there‘s a natural tightening that‘s going to occur at this point when the voters start tuning in.  And so, the extent that she‘s had a problem is because of that Iran and the very bad timing for her of this NIE coming out when she was just about to go on the attack.  So, it‘s unclear to me what Bill Clinton‘s beef is there.

OLBERMANN:  To some degree, is this true: do we in the media manufacture crises in politics?  Are we exaggerating things into crises for the hell of it?  I mean, are we doing this with Senator Clinton?  Here, Obama rolls out Oprah and everybody goes, “Ooh, Oprah!”   And nobody says, “What the hell is Oprah doing telling people how to vote?”  This polling suggests she might increase Obama‘s base by eight percentage points and in one poll, nationally, Clinton still leads him 44-27.  No offense on this but is this like your paper noting that John Edwards‘ haircuts keep being brought up in the campaign?  And then, in all four articles on him in the “Post” today, your own included, each of you guys brought up his haircut?

MILBANK:  Well, first, I‘m a little skeptical of that—if you poll on the same subject found 60 percent of people thought that she would be beneficiary...

OLBERMANN:  Sorry—somewhere between one and 60...

MILBANK:  OK, well, 30 would be significant.  But, I think, to the larger point—and I am guilty of the haircut slander there—I think we often go for shorthand.  But what we do in our business, in the shorthand way, is sort of have a phoniness meter out there and the $400-dollar haircut speaks of that the same way Romney, having the illegal immigrants twice returned to work in his home even as he‘s complaining about illegal immigrants.  If you remember, Sgt. Shriver three decades ago going into the steel workers‘ barn in Pittsburgh and ordering a corbaccia(ph).  That‘s all I remember about his campaign.

OLBERMANN:  In 15 seconds, what is he saying about Sen. Clinton should only take Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off?  What is he trying to do to her? 

MILBANK:  I don‘t know.  He wants her to work a good bit harder.  He wants her to build up that firewall in New Hampshire while he tries to keep the runners from running away with it in Iowa.

OLBERMANN:  Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC.  Great thanks, Dana.

MILBANK:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, 1,686th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq.  From New York, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.



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