Guest: Margaret Carlson, Jose Antonio Vargas , Stephen Cohen, John Dean, Howard Fineman
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking tomorrow?
The shoes begin to drop on the NSA whistleblower story, the agency that spied on ordinary Americans and reporters 24/7. Now, David Kris, who left the Bush Justice Department over warrantless wiretaps in 2003, will lead Obama‘s National Security Division at Justice.
And the chairman of Senate intelligence, Jay Rockefeller, says he has no reason to doubt Russell Tice‘s claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER, (D) SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE:
I‘m quite prepared to believe it. I mean, think they went after anybody they could get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: More reaction from the Tice story tonight from Congressman Steve Cohen of the House Judiciary Committee and from John Dean.
I won: The president‘s blunt maybe too blunt statement to Republicans complaining this morning that the stimulus is too big.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: How you can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives—how does that stimulate the economy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: OK, seriously. A guy whose name is spelled B-O-E-H-N-E-R just said that.
The president can keep his BlackBerry. We can rebuild it, safe and secure and encrypted. Just one catch—his new super BlackBerry is made by the NSA.
Worsts: “I have checked,” “Brains” says, “we have never had a president sworn into office without a Bible.” Other than Teddy Roosevelt, well, Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, well, Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson and John Quincy Adams.
And, I went to another Rod Blagojevich news conference and a gun fight at the O.K. Corral broke out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) ILLINOIS: I like old movies and I like old cowboy movies. And I want to explain how these rules work in a more understandable way. There was an old thing in the old west .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I knew how to quit you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
(on camera): Good evening, from New York.
Longtime intelligence analyst Russell Tice‘s allegations on this newscast, that during the Bush administration, the NSA not only monitored communications of any Americans it wanted, but also collected financial and travel data about them. The charges are beginning to reverberate tonight.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: A man who left the Bush Justice Department over the warrantless wiretapping will now head Obama‘s National Security Division there. Well, the questions echo, what did Congress know and what will Obama do about it?
Last night, Senator Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was asked whether he knew about the NSA having targeted journalists as Mr. Tice revealed here. Senator Rockefeller raised more questions than he answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS”)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST: Under the Bush administration, the NSA spied electronically on journalists. Do you know about that?
ROCKEFELLER: I watched it on your program and I‘m quite prepared to believe it. I mean, I think they went after anybody they could get—including me.
MATTHEWS: OK. They didn‘t eavesdrop on you, did they, Senator?
ROCKEFELLER: No, and they sent me no letters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Was Rockefeller spied on? And if not, what did he mean by “they went after him”? Did he or did he not know about the activity Tice alleges before he saw it on TV? Our request for clarification from the senator‘s office today unanswered.
Three years ago today, General Michael Hayden, who ran the NSA when Mr. Tice was here was asked whether his agency spied on political opponents of the president. Hayden, too, raised more questions than he answered three years ago, if only because as you‘ll see, he didn‘t answer at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you targeting us and people who politically oppose the Bush government, the Bush administration? Not a fishing net, but are you targeting specifically political opponents of the Bush administration? Because as Vice President Gore recently said, “It is much worse than people realize.”
KATIE SHRADER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Good morning, General Hayden.
Katie Shrader with the “Associated Press.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: These aren‘t the guys (ph) you are looking for.
So far, the Obama White House has not answered our questions about this surveillance and whether the president will stop it. But yesterday, David Kris, who served in the Bush Department of Justice and later became a critic of Mr. Bush‘s warrantless wiretapping, questioning its legality, was named by Obama to return to the Justice Department to run the National Security Division there, and presumably, to shape policy on whether violating the Constitution is against the law in this administration.
Joining me tonight to help understand these lingering questions, Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, a member of the judiciary committee who is calling for an investigation of any Bush era law-breaking.
Thank you for your time tonight, Congressman.
REP. STEPHEN COHEN, (D) TENNESSEE: Glad to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What‘s Congress going to do about this?
COHEN: Congress will respond. I‘m on John Conyers‘ committee and I‘m H.R 104 which calls for an establishment of a commission to look into war powers and civil liberties. This is what I think we need to have. It will be a nine-member bipartisan commission to look in to all aspects of what the Bush/Cheney team has done to invade our civil liberties and our rights, and violate our Constitution if that be where it leads.
OLBERMANN: Do you worry about the old definition of a commission as something that‘s created to avoid actually getting people arrested on charges for anything?
COHEN: Well, I don‘t think that‘s the case here. I know John Conyers and myself and other members of the judiciary committee, like Bill Delahunt and Sheila Jackson Lee who were co-sponsors, want to see answers. I think Speaker Pelosi does, too, and I think President Obama does.
And while he voiced concerns, this is January, named for Janus. Janus looks forward but Janus also looks backwards. If you don‘t look back, you don‘t know what might be hitting you on the other side.
OLBERMANN: How do you penetrate the veil of national security? How do ensure that veil is not being also used to hide criminality even in just the maintenance of the veil?
COHEN: It‘s extremely, extremely difficult to do that. But I think what the new administration, we are a lot closer than we were with the old administration. The old administration really put the veil on. And it was more than a veil; it was a blackout to Congress where they would not respond to subpoenas or to requests for information.
The Obama administration will be transparent and forthright. I believe this appointment that you‘ve just told us about that we‘re going to see that there is going be a whole different perspective in NSA and in all areas of government.
OLBERMANN: Surely, Congressman, to some degree the veil has been maintained because nobody pulled hard enough on it in Congress. The leadership of the last two years has not shown a great appetite for pursuing accountability even when it was Congress itself that was flouted or lied to. Why should anybody expect real accountability now, particularly on this issue of wiretapping?
COHEN: Well, I believe that the truth is important. I think Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Conyers are two people that are known for pursuing the truth. And I think that, really, part of the agenda in Congress the past two years with the Democrats knowing Bush was president, the important thing was to being able to have a president we could work with. That was so important.
And, I think, now that we have a president we can work with, we can get some real answers. We can get passed some legislation and we get to the bottom of some of these issues, and not to be—have a veto or somebody stonewall us. So, the election and a new era of people wanting change that was seen in Washington, that‘s seen at the polls in November, I think you are going to see a difference.
OLBERMANN: If Mr. Tice is any indicator, one can reveal the tip of the iceberg without actually violating national security laws or national security needs. So what happens if Senator Rockefeller, just to pick him as a name here, or other congressional leaders knew about this sort of manifold panoply of eavesdropping on virtually anybody—at least the capacity to eavesdrop on virtually anybody, is it likely that you or anybody in Congress would reveal that part of this equation if it exists?
COHEN: Well, I don‘t know what we‘ll find out, but, I think, when the truth comes out, that it needs to be shared with the American public. I think the American public can and will benefit from the truth and can live with it.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee—great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
COHEN: You‘re welcome, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If revelations of a rogue administration—wiretapping Americans, dodging questions about misuse of national security resources to spy on political opponents—raises the specter of another presidential rogue, Richard Nixon, this is no coincidence. As a low level veteran of the Nixon administration, Dick Cheney came away with the moral that Nixon failed to go far enough in claiming, “The state is me,” and said about, therefore (ph) to claim as much power for the executive branch as he possibly could in the Bush administration.
How then to undo the unconstitutional unpatriotic excesses of the clone of Nixon 2.0?
Joining us now with his unique vantage point on that question is the man who served as Nixon‘s White House counsel and more recently, author of “Worse than Watergate” and “Broke n Government”—John Dean.
John, welcome back as always.
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You heard Congressman Cohen just now. We mentioned David Kris returning to DOJ, noted opponent of warrantless wiretapping. Does this tell us anything about whether we are going to have any facts let alone whether or not anybody is going to wind up doing jail time?
DEAN: Well, it certainly tells us we have a professional in charge. David came up through the system, then was appointed to a high-level post. Have problems with the Bush administration, was very outspoken. So, he‘s somebody who obviously is going to let the law proceed where it should and do the right thing. So, I think, we all should be quite comfortable in that appointment and we‘ll see what happens.
OLBERMANN: What about the notion that I raised with Congressman Cohen here that some members of the Congress might have known, at least, to some degree how widespread this was long before our friend Mr. Tice said anything about it the last two nights. How would they possibly, theoretically, have known and how could this affect the investigation, if any as it goes forward?
DEAN: Keith, I would be shocked if they hadn‘t been briefed. This is sort of standard operating procedure by presidents and national security areas. They‘ll say to the intel committee itself would be—as well as some of the leadership could have well been briefed.
Presidents do this, really, to cover their own behind, if you will. And Nixon is a classic example of doing it. So, they‘re also told it‘s national security and they can‘t talk about it. And they wouldn‘t talk about it unless they were released from that classified status.
OLBERMANN: I found—maybe the most fascinating and the simplest part of Mr. Tice‘s story was the idea that to get some of these programs, the component programs passed, the relevant oversight bodies in Congress. If it was a committee that dealt with defense, they‘d meet in private session beforehand and say, “This was all approved by the State Department, “ if it was a committee that dealt with state—they‘d meet in advance and say, “This was already approved in secret by the Defense Department. You can‘t ask questions about this.”
Could the shell game of keeping this secret to some degree from the, at least, rank-and-file in Congress really have been that easy?
DEAN: I‘m afraid it could be. First of all, when you are in this very gray area of national security, members of Congress have nothing to push against, unless the information is given to them, there‘s no way they really can get it. So, I think, this is a classic example of a shell game that‘s been used to deceive the Congress.
OLBERMANN: What happens if the president lets this slide or if Congress does, in fact, do nothing about this or has, as we have discussed before, a toothless commission that may get some answers and throw some dirt very low and even less light. What happens to the country at that point? What happens to our ability to communicate? Should you just do everything verbally from here on in?
DEAN: The fact of it being a very sad state of affairs if that does happen. There is a lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU that‘s presently pending, to really test the constitutionality of the 2008 FISA amendments. If, indeed, they‘ve made a very strong case, and if, indeed, they win that lawsuit, we are going to be back to square one and Congress is going to have to address all these questions. And I think there is a strong probability the ACLU could prevail in that case.
OLBERMANN: All right. Put this in historical context: The NSA and Mr. Tice would not say, it‘s the only thing he was reluctant say whether or not an entire news organization at that time was targeted or the entire media was targeted or just those who were working on national security stories. He wouldn‘t say which of those cases was true. But at minimum, the whole field of reporters were being watched, wiretapped, 24/7.
How does that stack up against not only the worst that Richard Nixon did but the worst that he wanted to do?
DEAN: Well, I‘ve got—I‘m not exactly a Nixon apologist, Keith. But I must say, this puts Nixon way below even little league. He, indeed, had a wiretap on roughly a handful of journalists he was concerned were leaking or receiving leaked information from his national security counsel. So, it‘s really, it would be very stark—the difference between what‘s going on in this administration or the Bush administration and what Nixon did.
OLBERMANN: Hard to believe we would ever hear that said in our life times but there it is.
John Dean, the author of “Broken Government” and “Worse than Watergate”—as always, John, great thanks. Have a great weekend.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: There is another riddle inside a second enigma tonight. A detainee released from Guantanamo Bay is now found to be leading al Qaeda operations in Yemen. The knee-jerk question since the guy went back to his terrorist ways—does that not mean we can never close Gitmo? But perhaps, the real question is—since we never tried him, never found him guilty and the Bush administration set him free: What if he wasn‘t a terrorist in the first place but we turned him into one by sending him to Gitmo?
OLBERMANN: “I won,” a rather inarguable notation about the election and its relevance Republicans whining about the stimulus program. That notation is coming today from no less than the president himself.
Meanwhile, the governor who filled the president‘s old Senate seat holds a news conference that was largely about old cowboy movies. Man, I wish I wasn‘t making that up.
And later, Glenn Beck blasts the president for being the first being sworn in without a Bible, somehow neglecting to mention the three previous presidents who were sworn in without a Bible. Worst Persons in the World—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Two short words that Democratic voters have been longing to hear for eight years. Yet, after the election, many are left wondering whether they would ever hear them at all.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: President Obama today is making clear which party now has the stronger bargaining position, reminding Republican lawmakers about the election, quote, “I won.” President Obama is sitting down at the White House today with Democratic and Republican leaders of both houses of Congress to discuss the economic stimulus package.
Sources familiar with the off-camera portion of the conversation telling Politico that after Republicans laundry-listed their gripes to the president, Mr. Obama took charge of the negotiations with this two word reminder about November, “I won.” At another point, the president is telling GOP lawmakers about the U.S. economy, quote, “This is a grave situation facing the country.”
Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, both are taking their cues from the commander-in-chief, Congresswoman Pelosi is saying that the bill was on track for passage in the House. Senator Reid when asked if he was concerned Republicans could block the bill‘s passage in the Senate answering, “No.”
In his inaugural address on Tuesday, the president signaling it was time for the government to assume a bigger role in fixing the nation‘s economic problems. House Minority Leader Boehner, though, is complaining today that government is not the solution, tax breaks are.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: At the end of the day, the government can‘t solve this problem. The American people have to solve it. The way they can solve it is if we allow them to keep more of the money that they earned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: When the cameras were still in the room, President Obama focusing on what unites both positions and the urgency of the crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I know that it is a heavy lift to do something as substantial as we‘re doing right now. I recognize there are still some differences around the table and between the administration and members of Congress about particular details on the plan. But what, I think, unifies this group is a recognition that we are experiencing an unprecedented, perhaps, economic crisis that has to be dealt with, and dealt with rapidly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Was this a much needed reminder from the president today that bipartisanship no longer means Republicans get everything they want and the Democrats say, “OK”?
FINEMAN: Well, the Democrats have the numbers. But I think Obama was saying two things. First of all, he is saying that he is willing to listen and talk. You have to look at this in context.
Barack Obama, the president, was perfectly willing to listen to and even provisionally say he would want further discussions on some of the Republican proposals, including some tax proposals from the House Republican leadership. But he was also making clear that while he is willing to listen, the Democrats have the numbers and they don‘t just have them by accident, they have them because the American people spoke in November.
OLBERMANN: Do you think the president is mortified that the “I won” line got out or is he delighted that the “I won” line got out?
FINEMAN: Well, on the scale for mortification to delight, I would say, it‘s a nine close to delight.
FINEMAN: Barack Obama doesn‘t say anything by accident. I have rarely, if ever, seen him do that. He knew this was a room full people who like to yack. Of course, it was going to get out.
And his point was, again, the Democrats won a historic victory in November. They have huge majorities in both the House and the Senate. And again, that‘s not an accident. That‘s an expression of the will of the American people. He might want to amend this statement to say, “Not only I won, but we won” in the case of the Democrats because that‘s really what he was saying.
OLBERMANN: To some degree, is that part of this, too? I mean, was the president taking care of his traumatized fellow Democrats and helping them regrow backbones here. Was it kind of a reminder, “Hey, you know, we did win; we do have the final say,” to a large extent at least?
FINEMAN: Well, he is trying to shake them awake, I suppose you could say. He is also telling them in addition to growing a backbone, to grow some ears, to listen. And it‘s a delicate thing and Obama, I think, so far—it certainly was true in the campaign, it‘s hard to tell so far, the few days into his administration—knows the balance between listening and discussing and deciding.
That‘s the way he operated his campaign. They had big open discussions inside the campaign, sometimes very vehement disagreements. Then he made the call and they moved forward.
He‘s hoping it‘s the same way here. It‘s a little different between a campaign and a Congress as he‘s about to find out. But he‘s trying to show them that they need both backbone and they should be proud of and use to the extent they can the momentum of the victories they won in November.
OLBERMANN: Do the Democrats, in fact, have sufficient backbone to do this alone, if need be? Are the votes there without any Republican cooperation? Can the Dems pass the stimulus without any help?
FINEMAN: Well, Harry Reid was talking big today. I talked to a Senate Democrat today, though, on background who said, “Look, we don‘t know what the Republicans are up to.”
The House is pretty much a done deal because the rules allow the strong Democratic majority there to really run things. There‘s nothing Republicans can do. The Senate, as we all know, is different. The Democrats have a big majority, 58. We see what‘s going to happen in Minnesota.
Would the Republicans dare, in the end, filibuster a giant $800 billion piece of legislation designed to save the economy? It‘s doubtful, but you never know.
And as one Democrat said to me, “Look, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader is playing things very, very close to the vest.” I‘ve been surprised, Keith, how perfunctory and shallow the expressions of bipartisanship have been from the Republicans. Perhaps, they see what‘s coming which may be a steamroller.
OLBERMANN: Perhaps, they need more time for things like Mr.
Boehner bringing in—well, bringing in all the stuff that he brought in. Why did he do that? Do you have any idea why he brought in reproductive rights and things into this?
FINEMAN: That‘s because it sells to his base and I admit, I don‘t know Boehner well enough yet.
OLBERMANN: Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, it would be a different story if there was something in this bill that supported tanning salons—Howard, great thanks. (INAUDIBLE).
FINEMAN: It‘s sunny in Ohio. It‘s sunny in Ohio.
OLBERMANN: In January in Ohio for Mr. Boehner. All right. Have a good weekend, Howard.
FINEMAN: You, too.
OLBERMANN: OK. I was trying to pay full attention to his news conference today. I think the governor of Illinois said his life was like an old movie where new cowboys were helping him bring in low priced drugs in from Canada to give to John McCain. I‘m not sure.
And, sex and the seniors, a Claymation presentation for retirees in Florida about safe sex. I don‘t think this is a good idea, Davey. Next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Still Bushed in a moment, and what if the head in al Qaeda in Yemen was not a terrorist before we sent him to Gitmo?
First, either on this date or yesterday, a century ago, Harriette Arlene Lake was born. As an actress, she took the name Ann Sothern even though she was from North Dakota. She did good work in a slew of “B” pictures and started several early TV series and was remarkably the voice of the first talking car in TV history. Gladys Crabtree, the mother of a character played by Jerry Van Dyke. Gladys had been reincarnated as a 1928 Porter automobile in a series so bizarre that those who approved it for air must have been high as a kite. A series called “My Mother the Car.”
Let‘s play Oddball. Beep, beep.
We begin in Miami Beach at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center where this group of senior citizens is tackling the delicate subject of elderly sex education with Claymation. The instructional film was written and produced and performed by the seniors. The group warns of unprotected sex and STDs.
And now, for your consideration, a Michael-Ann Russell JCC play (ph) presents “Sex and the Seniors.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Well, you know, there is a lecture at the JCC about safe sex. Do you want to go with me? Will they serve refreshments?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): Hi, my name is George. Would you like to dance?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure. Free condoms. Freedom, protect yourself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At my age, she wants me to wear a condom?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: What was he holding in his hand? You should know better than that, clay grandpa.
To the animal kingdom, where for six years, Oddball has been documenting animal and media violence, a few months ago, that infamous moment when then-President Bush‘s dog Barney took a chunk out of a reporter for “Reuters.” A few years ago, it was a mountain lion taking a poke at our own Lester Holt on “The Today Show.” Sadly, this morning, Mr. Holt was attacked again. This time, it was a puppy with a hankering for blood.
LESTER HOLT, “THE TODAY SHOW”: Very calm.
HOLT: It‘s the dog. Oh, he got me. He got me.
OLBERMANN: Dude, worker‘s comp. Mr. Holt was cool as a cucumber, which is more than you can say of the gold standard of animal and media attacks, the leaping lizards guy.
That is why I don‘t have an animal co-host.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Governor Blagojevich of Illinois holds a news conference with questions and his latest arcane reference is old movie westerns. So Mr. President, the NSA is building you a secure Blackberry. Secure for you or secure for them?
first, because they may be gone but their deeds outlive them, the headlines lingering from the previous administration‘s 50 running scandals, still Bushed.
Number three, Wicked Witch of the West-gate. We are beginning to understand the context of the uproarious welcome at State yesterday for new Secretary Clinton. The careerists over there really didn‘t like the old secretary. “Harper‘s” reported that one of them has said she was looking forward to the Glenda party. That was yesterday‘s arrival of Secretary Clinton.
Scott Horton writes that he asked the employee, “if Hillary is Glenda, the good witch of the south from the ‘Wizard of Oz,‘ did that make Condoleezza Rice the Wicked Witch of the West.” The answer he got was “you‘re on to it.”
Another 20-year vet at State said that upon Rice‘s confirmation as secretary the tone of internal department publications had changed. They began to praise and glorify Rice. No prior secretary did anything like this.
Number two, VA-gate. Walter Reed, the billion dollar shortfall, and now the missing 25,000. The Government Accountability Office today releasing an analysis of the Veterans Affairs Administration‘ long-term budget plan, devised under Mr. Bush‘s leadership in 2007 and carrying into 2013. It not only underestimates costs by millions. It also completely miscounts the number of its patients who receive care at nursing homes operated by the VA or by state governments. The budget says there about 6,000 of these vets. In fact, there are about 31,000. They didn‘t budget for 25,000 veterans. That is one way of keeping costs down.
Number one, terrorist-gate. The “New York Times,” of all outfits, reporting that a guy we released from Guantanamo Bay a year ago is now the deputy leader of al Qaeda‘s group in the nation of Yemen. Said Ali Al Shiri (ph) was sent home to Saudi Arabia in 2007. Went through this Saudi rehab program. Supposedly went to work in the family business. But he is now a suspect in the bombing of our embassy in Yemen last September.
The Times wrote that this, quote, has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center, that would be Gitmo, be shut down before within a year.
Conservative politicians have gone nuts, saying this show you can‘t close Gitmo ever and you certainly can‘t release anybody from Gitmo. They were right and they told you so. Bill O‘Reilly tonight led his newscast with this as a warning to President Obama.
All this is based on one really big assumption. In fact, it would see a commentary is bass-awkward. The Bush administration detained this man and claimed he had gone to an urban warfare tactics training camp in Kabul, had been injured in an air raid just after we went into Afghanistan in 2001, had met with extremists in Iran and smuggled some of them into Afghanistan, and had tried to carry out a Fatwa on a writer.
But before he was freed from Gitmo—please remember, he was not freed as part of the panicky flushing of the innocent of the last months of the administration—the Bushies let him go in 2007. Shiri said he had gone to Afghanistan to do relief work and his trip to Iran, that was to buy carpets for his family‘s furniture store in Riyadh. The ultimate question here is not: doesn‘t this prove we can never ever close Gitmo. But rather, if he was really traveling tourists of terrorist and not a guy buying rugs, why did the Bush people let him go? Or why was he never put on trial? Or why did the permanent solution to terrorism the Bushies claimed Gitmo was fail so utterly here.
And, perhaps worst of all, if Shiri was once just a guy trying to get a deal on some carpets, which is suggested by the fact that Bush‘s people let him go, did his detention at Gitmo, in fact, turn him into a terrorist? Did we perhaps create in Said Ali al Shiri his reason for hating us?
OLBERMANN: Despite the fact that it was his words, on tape no less, that landed him in his current predicament, despite the fact that the Illinois State Senate will now get hear some of those words, courtesy of federal prosecutors, and despite the fact that his lead lawyer quit his criminal case, saying, quote, I never require a client to do what I say, but I do require clients to listen to what I say; our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Governor Rod Blagojevich shooting his mouth off this time the old cowboy way.
The day after telling the Associated Press that the day he was arrested was to him, quote, what Pearl Harbor Day was to the United States. Adding then, quote, just like the United States prevailed in that, we‘ll prevail in that.
The governor held another extraordinary press conference about his impeachment by the Senate in Illinois, moving seemlessly from delusion—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: The heart and soul of this has been a struggle of me against the system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: From the delusion there to extortion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: If I am removed from office, there is a whopping huge tax increase coming on the people of Illinois before summer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: From that extortion to supplication.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: Allow me the right to be able to challenge the charges. Allow me the right to be able to call witnesses, like Rahm Emanuel, like Valerie Jarrett, like Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Governor Blagojevich contending that two Illinois Senate rules, rule 15-F and rule 8-B, prevent him from having his constitutional right to a fair trial, a claim he explained thusly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: I like old movies and I like old cowboy movies. I want to explain how these rules work in a more understandable way. There was an old saying in the old west. There was a cowboy who was charged with stealing a horse in town. And some of the other cowboys, especially the guy whose horse was stolen, were very unhappy with that guy. One of the cowboys said, let‘s hang him. The other cowboys, hold on, before we hang him, let‘s first give him a fair trial. Then we‘ll hang him.
Under these rules, I‘m not even getting a fair trial. They are just hanging me. Under that fact pattern I just gave you, if the cowboy who charge was stealing a horse was charged with doing that in town, but, in fact, on the date and time that he apparently stole the horse in town, he was on the ranch with six other cowboys, herding cattle and roping steers, and then he expects that when his day comes to go to court, he can bring those six cowboys to say it wasn‘t him, because he was on the ranch herding cattle; even if he could bring those cowboys in to say that, under these rules, under 8-B, it wouldn‘t matter. The complaint that charged him with stealing the horse would convict him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I‘m joined now by Margaret Carlson, political columnist for Bloomberg News and Washington editor of “The Week” Magazine. Good evening, Margaret.
MARGARET CARLSON, “BLOOMBERG NEWS”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: He is the best at something. I just can‘t figure out what the something is. Do you know?
CARLSON: Well, I‘m glad you played the whole thing, because otherwise people wouldn‘t believe that he has gone from quoting Kipling to maybe Wild Bill Hickock. Instead of saying that he is not going to sell the seat for expletive deleted nothing, he is now one of six cowboys at a ranch who couldn‘t have stolen the horse.
Then it‘s rule 15-F and 8-B. He misreads those two rules. He can call witnesses that the judge deems germane to the process. But he‘s like Sarah Palin being a victim. He is now a victim of lobbyists, lazy lawmakers, anybody who disagrees with him. And by the way, he‘s going to save you money if only—it is back to money. He is going to save you money if you don‘t convict him.
OLBERMANN: He is not going to pay a lot for that muffler. The amazing audacity of the man of the man to stand there and demand that newspapers, particularly the ones in Chicago, but really around the country, should rally to his defense in editorials—it was so convincing on one level, and so preposterous on another, the whole day was. Is it clear that this was a first-rate mind mixed with third-rate ethics?
CARLSON: He has no emotional IQ, whatever his other IQ is. And the better—one of the better tapes is the one in which he and his wife are using quite course language to say to fire the editorial writers at the “Chicago Sun Times” and “Chicago Tribune,” because they had been writing things against him. He is now calling upon them to save him from impeachment. It makes no sense.
This couldn‘t—I know why his lawyer left. The guy is not helping himself. You know that old saying, if you represent yourself, you have a fool for a client. He may be proving this true.
OLBERMANN: Great at on the spot analysis, not so great on consistency. The other senators of the day, here, Governor Paterson of New York officially picked Kirsten Gillibrand to replace Hillary Clinton today, apparently for free. So the Caroline Kennedy drama is over. Why did he pick a pro-gun conservative Democrat from Saratoga Springs, New York?
CARLSON: What he has done the last couple of days makes no sense. If you talk to the people who were close to the governor, Caroline Kennedy—he decided upon Caroline Kennedy. Now, for whatever reason, she decided against it. His people then decided to trash her gratuitously.
This person gets him a primary for that Senate seat. She will get a primary. Congresswoman McCarthy has already announced that, because she has 100 percent rating from the NRA. Nobody has won statewide who is on the Dairy, Poultry and Livestock Committee. You cannot do it. And Paterson is going to get himself a primary from Andrew Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo wanted the job. He completely dissed Andrew Cuomo. She once worked for Andrew Cuomo. She is no Andrew Cuomo.
Whether he would have been good in the job we don‘t need to get into. But this pick is not something that‘s in Paterson‘s interest. And the way he dragged it out and dragged Caroline Kennedy through the press and other -- and putting out rumors now about her—if it weren‘t for Blagojevich, Paterson would look like the worst governor in America today.
OLBERMANN: Again, he also has Eliot Spitzer as—everybody‘s on the rebound from Eliot. Margaret Carlson from Bloomberg News and “The Week” Magazine, as always, have a great weekend. Great thanks.
CARLSON: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Can you hear me now? The president gets a secure Blackberry, well an NSA Blackberry. Dick Morris says you can‘t trust Tim Geithner because Geithner didn‘t pay 30 grand of his taxes right away. Dick Morris should know. Dick Morris didn‘t pay three million of his taxes right away. Worst persons ahead.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest, Congressman Pete Defazio, suggests the stimulus plan might be more to Republicans liking than they are letting on.
OLBERMANN: The good news, the president has had a secure Blackberry built for him. The bad news, it has been built for him by the NSA. That‘s next, but first time for COUNTDOWN‘s number two story, tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Glenn Beck, off to a flying start over there at Fixed News. Fulminating that during their second shot at the oath of office, Chief Justice Roberts and President Obama did not use a bible. “I have checked. We have never had a president sworn into office without a bible.”
The official government archives show Teddy Roosevelt did not use a bible when he was sworn in 1901. Lyndon Johnson may have used a prayer book and not a bible when he was sworn in 1963. And for an example from less dire circumstances, John Quincy Adams said he was sworn in with his hand not on a bible, but on a Constitutional law book. “I have checked. We have never had a president sworn into office without a bible.” You checked? Who did you ask? Roger Ailes?
Runner‘s up, the “Wall Street Journal” editorial board, reduced by the president‘s anti-torture policies to wishful thinking. “The un-fine print of Mr. Obama‘s order is that he has allowed room for what might be called a Jack Bauer exception,” it write. “The special task force may well grant the CIA more legal freedom to squeeze information out of terrorists when it could keep the country safe.”
Again, yes, Obama declared at the State Department “I can say without
exception or equivocation that the United States will not torture.” A
senior official told the “LA Times,” “this is not a secret annex that
allows us to bring the enhanced interrogation techniques back. It‘s not”
Keep writing that it is, “Wall Street Journal.” Better to lie to your reader than disappoint them.
But our winner, Dick Morris of Fox Noise, asks “how could you trust” Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner after Geithner‘s failure to pay 34,000 dollars in taxes until recently. “God bless him, but he shouldn‘t be running the IRS,” Morris added.
In 2003, a tax lean for 1.5 million dollars was filed by the IRS against Dick Morris. As of November 1st, 2007, the sixth biggest tax delinquent in the entire state of Connecticut, according to its revenue department, was Dick Morris, 443,000 dollars. Mr. Morris says he went through rough times, fell into arrears, cut a deal, and has already paid back three million of the taxes he owes. And good for him.
A guy in the hole for more than three million has a lot of nerve going on television or even going out loud and asking, how could you trust a guy who is in the hole for just 34 grand? But that‘s Dick. Dick Morris of Fixed News, today‘s worst person in the world!
OLBERMANN: As if clinging to Excalibur, President Obama will be allowed to keep his cherished Blackberry, making him the first president to be equipped with that device. Call it Blackberry One, in our story number one. Despite that, the tech savvy Obama administration is shocked to have found a White House that feels medieval.
But the president won the fight to keep his Blackberry. Security officials authorized a new souped up version of the new smart phone, loaded with special encryption software to keep hackers out. Sounds to techies like the Sectera Edge (ph), a version of the Blackberry favored by the intelligence community and certified by the NSA. The exact model is not known. And White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the communication on Mr. Obama‘s Blackberry would be limited to, quote, senior staffers and some personal friends, not to mention anybody from the NSA who might be looking or listening.
Meantime, White House staffers have quickly discovered the constraints of their new offices, old computer software and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts. Also, no instant messaging and no Facebook. Obama spokesman Bill Burton saying, quote, it is kind of like going from an XBox to an Atari. I didn‘t know Bill was old enough to remember Atari.
Let‘s bring in “Washington Post” national political reporter Jose Antonio Vargas. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: The blackberry, security concerns about hacking it, somebody using it as a honing device. Apparently, this has been overcome. Is this now essentially a technologically armored Blackberry?
VARGAS: People have been calling it Obama-Berry or the Barack-Berry. It is more like a Bat-Berry. It‘s like something Bruce Wayne and Alfred the butler would make up. The fact that this is the super encrypted package that only a few people can access. It is straight out of Batman.
OLBERMANN: Until he loses it.
VARGAS: Until he drops it. Exactly.
OLBERMANN: Then his body guy, Love, has to find it somewhere in the back of a seat. Between the previous stories about the NSA eavesdropping on calls and e-mails and the Russell Tice accusations that basically the agency eavesdropped, maybe still is eavesdropping on everybody‘s calls an emails. Why is an NSA approved Blackberry considered secure? Can it be secure from the NSA?
VARGAS: That‘s a really good point. In this day and age, even in this digital life that we have, nothing is really secure. If it is out there on the airwaves. I think what we know about President Obama is he is kind of a geek. I don‘t mean that in a pejorative way. This is a guy who i-Chats with his kids. He is basically addicted to the Blackberry.
I think he knows what he cannot do or should not do on the Blackberry.
OLBERMANN: The rest of his staff, however, getting into the White House and finding the computer infrastructure essentially being two cans and a piece of string in between. It sounds like they are going through a form of withdraw.
VARGAS: Burton calls it the XBox/Atari. I think it is more a culture shock. If you think about it, the Obama campaign was like, you know, the Silicone Valley created start-up. Washington, D.C., official Washington is basically stuck in an Encyclopedia Britannica era. And the rest of the country is in Wikipedia age. I think it is kind of a culture shock for them. They are still trying to adapt to it, basically.
OLBERMANN: Given all the political controversy that went on in the last couple of years about personal e-mail accounts being used rather than government ones, by the administration, by Governor Palin in Alaska and by countless other politicians, how could that have been a surprise, that there wasn‘t this personal e-mail access or IMing from the White House?
VARGAS: Again, it is a culture shock. This is just kind of the rules and regulation and the Records Act they must abide to. Even right now, they don‘t have WhiteHouse.gov e-mails. They are still e-mailing from their Gmail accounts. I think that‘s interesting.
OLBERMANN: How do you think this is going to end up? Are they going to come in and introduce ethernet or some wireless capability?
OLBERMANN: Something secure? What are they going to do?
VARGAS: Basically right now—I actually talked with a couple of people there just a few hours ago. I think what‘s happening is everybody is still adapting and signing on to the network. Remember, the White House is an institution. You just had a Barack Obama start up basically land in institutional White House. They have to basically abide by the new rules.
OLBERMANN: I have one of those rare Macintosh portables --
VARGAS: Apple II.
OLBERMANN: No, between the standard old Mac, the original one, the black and white screen, and the lap top. The thing had what looked like a small suitcase. And apparently they only sold 100 of them or so. I was one of the suckers who bought one. If they want to ease into this, I can contribute that. I‘m willing to give that up.
VARGAS: Maybe they‘ll take you up on it.
OLBERMANN: That or the Smithsonian wants to put it in the ancient mechanics area. Jose Antonio Vargas of the “Washington Post,” national political reporter of that paper, great thanks. Have a good weekend.
VARGAS: Thank you for having me. You too.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN for this the 2,085th day since the previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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