Guests: Jonathan Alter, Kent Jones, Bob Hunter
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thanks very much for that.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
Indeed, tonight, we are doing something on the show we‘ve been waiting to do for a very, very long time. After months of us covering C Street, and the secretive religious organization known as The Family that runs C Street, a secretive religious group with ties to many, many well-known politicians, finally, a member of The Family has finally agreed to come on this show to talk about it. His name is Bob Hunter, and here‘s your spoiler alert: the reason he has decided to be here is not because he‘s been all that happy with our reporting on this show. I‘m very, very much looking forward to the opportunity to talk to Bob Hunter. That is the interview coming up in just a moment.
We‘ll also be reporting on the Republican quest to bring back the battle days of the Bush administration‘s anti-terror policies. We‘ll report on the one political movement too crazy for even Glenn Beck.
And we‘ll report an anti-terrorism story that might as well have been written by the Onion. It has a happy ending, sort of.
That‘s all coming up.
But we begin tonight with President Obama delivering a nationally televised soberingly blunt assessment of what went wrong inside the U.S. government leading up to the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The bottom line is this: the U.S. government had sufficient information to have uncovered this plot, and potentially disrupt the Christmas Day attack. But our intelligence community failed to connect those dots. This was not a failure to collect intelligence, it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had.
Now, I will accept that intelligence, by its nature, is imperfect. But it is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged. That‘s not acceptable and I will not tolerate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama being not at all shy, but calling out failure within his own administration, where he saw it.
And late tonight, Admiral Dennis Blair, President Obama‘s director of national intelligence, released a statement essentially accepting blame for what the president criticized and pledging in dramatic language to fix it.
Admiral Blair‘s statement says, “The intelligence community received the president‘s message today, we got it, and we are moving forward to meet the new challenges. The system did not catch Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and prevent him from boarding an airliner and entering the United States. We must be able to stop such attempts.
The intelligence community has made considerable progress in developing collection capabilities and improving collaboration, but we need to strengthen our ability to stop new tactics such as the efforts of individual suicide terrorists.
The threat has evolved and we need to anticipate new kinds of attacks and improve our ability to stay ahead of them and protect America. We can and we must outthink, outwork and defeat the enemy‘s new ideas. The intelligence committee will do that as directed by the president, working closely with our nation‘s entire national security team.”
The statement today from the director of national intelligence. “We got,” he says.
During President Obama‘s speech today, the president announced that some changes would be coming as a result of the failure to detect the Christmas Day attempt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Counterterrorism officials have reviewed and updated our terrorist watch list system, including adding more individuals to the no-fly list. And while our review has found that our watch listing system is not broken, the failure to add Abdulmutallab to the no-fly list shows that this system needs to be strengthened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What proceeded President Obama‘s announcement today was a full week and a half of mostly un-rebutted Republican attacks on the Obama administration‘s approach to the issue of terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JIM DEMINT®, SOUTH CAROLINA: Worldwide terrorist war is something we seem to have lost our focus on.
REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK: This seems to be a little reticent on their part to get into it when it involves the issue of terrorism.
REP. PETER HOEKSTRA ®, MICHIGAN: The Obama administration came in and said we‘re not going to use the word terrorism any more, we‘re going to call it manmade disasters, trying to—you know, I think downplay the threat from terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Lost our focus on terrorism, downplaying it, reticent to address.
The barrage of criticism from the right since the Christmas Day attempt is that President Obama has let things slide, he‘s been soft on terrorism—the implication being, unlike President Bush.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR ®, NORTH CAROLINA: It‘s a 180-degree directional change in our—the way we look at terrorism, the way we react to terrorism, and the way we prosecute terrorism. I‘m hopeful that the president will become forceful, that we will return back to the direction where we‘re prosecuting the war on terror.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We need to return back to the way that President Bush did it. If you want to get even more specific, the drum beat now is that we need to go back to the way that President Bush did counterterrorism specifically as of September 12th, 2001.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TOM RIDGE, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We have a responsibility not only for the Department of Homeland Security, but in all those multiple agencies across the federal government, to be as sensitive to the possibility of a terrorist attack today, tomorrow in the future as we were on September 12th, 2001. We‘re not as sensitive. We don‘t have that sense of urgency. And it‘s about time we recommit ourselves to it.
At the end of the day, we need to get back to a September 12th mindset. We have just to maintain a basic focus—an elementary focus.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: That is the implicit and sometimes explicit charge here, that President Bush somehow did it right, and President Obama is somehow doing it wrong.
It‘s worth noting that whatever we as a country were doing on September 12th and in the weeks after, doesn‘t seem to have worked all that well. It was about three months after September 12th that we got the failed terrorist attack that was essentially exactly like the one that happened this Christmas Day. Three months after 9/11, Richard Reid tried to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner with explosives that had been hidden in his shoes. Whatever we were doing with our 9/12 mentality wasn‘t enough to prevent that.
Our 9/12 mentality also wasn‘t able to prevent the growth and maturation of al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, al Qaeda chapters in Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, strong enough to pull off major terrorist strikes like the raid on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 2004, which left nine dead, the attack on oil company compounds in Al-Khubar in Saudi Arabia that same year that left 22 people dead, and the brutal murder of American engineer Paul Johnson also in Saudi Arabia in 2004.
An article in Sunday‘s “Washington Post” detailed the extent to which United States‘ missteps in Yemen allowed al Qaeda to expand and grow there as well.
This super-focus 9/12 mentality that conservatives now say we need to return also wasn‘t able to capture the perpetrators of 9/11, as we learned incidentally from last week‘s suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers in Khost, Afghanistan. We are still looking for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Jordanian double agent recruited by the CIA was brought in to help U.S. officials find Zawahiri, 8 ½ years after our super focus 9/12 mentality.
The danger in these Bush policies being romanticized and retroactively imbued with some sort of magical efficacy they didn‘t really have is that we may start putting those failed policies in place again.
Today, we heard President Obama announce a new program for screening passengers coming into the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As of yesterday, the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, is requiring enhanced screening for passengers flying into the United States from or flying through nations on our list of state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That program was formally announced by the TSA this week. It calls for extra screening procedures for passengers traveling to the United States from 14 foreign countries.
That type of program, of course, evokes roughly one of the things the Bush administration did starting in 2002 when John Ashcroft announced a new system wherein any male under the age of 25 from this list of countries would have to register with authorities if they were working or visiting or living in the United States. It was called the NSEERS System.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, FMR. BUSH ATTORNEY GENERAL: The NSEERS system is up and running at every port of entry into the United States. We have increased our capacity to intercept terrorists or criminals who attempt to enter the country. Today, I‘m pleased to report that the system is performing extremely well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That system that performed extremely well, produced precisely zero terrorism prosecutions. But it did turn a whole lot of people against the United States for a lifetime. It might make us feel better to have that sort of list, but those countries we just scrolled on the screen, you may have noticed didn‘t include the nations of Jamaica or England. Remember the shoe bomber, Richard Reid? He was a British citizen born to a family of Jamaican immigrants. He was radicalized at a mosque in London.
So, our super focus 9/12 mentality came up with the hugely costly, arguably quite counterproductive system that would not have screened out the next attempted bomber anyway.
By the way, the new Obama administration list from the TSA also doesn‘t include Jamaica and England. Not that it should. Not that there‘s anything special about Jamaica or England, but if we‘re trying to apply even the wisdom of hindsight here, doesn‘t it seem weird to build the same failed system all over again with the same known obvious loopholes?
It‘s one thing to pound your chest and brag on profiling because it makes liberals mad and it makes you feel tough. But how does the fact that it doesn‘t work intrude on your macho, macho feelings about it?
The danger of the Bush administration‘s approach being lauded as this good, tough approach that we wish we went back to is that it will currently increase the political appeal of emulating those failed approaches, being gratuitously unconstitutional in order to look tough is not the same thing as actually keeping us safe. No matter how much Mr. Obama‘s critics may want it to be so.
Joining us now is “Newsweek” columnist and NBC News analyst Jonathan Alter.
Mr. Alter, it is good to see you. Thank you for coming in.
JONATHAN ALTER, NBC NEWS ANALYST: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good to see you.
Do you think Republicans are attempting to resurrect what they seem to be viewing as sort of the glory days of the Bush war on terror?
ALTER: Yes, you‘re absolutely right about that. They‘re romanticizing that, when the policy hasn‘t changed. You know, the root of the Christmas Day bombing was that there weren‘t enough people on the no-fly list. Who shortened the no-fly list? Bush at the end of his time in office.
So, the policies that didn‘t work were not Obama policies, they were Bush policies. There‘s a continuity there between Bush and Obama that gets overlooked.
Look, you don‘t want to compare what President Obama did today to that NSEERS program. Just frisking people more at airports that have not been secured is not the same thing.
MADDOW: Is not the same thing as having them registered in that same way. Right.
MADDOW: But it‘s that choosing of countries of interest that does evoke that Bush policy, it‘s a targeted intervention based on specific countries rather than on individual people.
ALTER: It does, but it‘s merited if these countries are not doing enough to fight terrorists, and they‘re not securing their airports.
So, the problem with these things, you can‘t paint with too broad of a brush. You have to look at each new security measure on its own terms.
But you‘re quite right that we should guard against this kind of rush back to the Halcyon days when everything worked so well.
There were some good ideas in the Bush administration. They did foil some plots. We can give them credit for that. And they also overreacted.
And President Obama did start to scale some of that back by—in his first days—by saying we would no longer torture, by promising to close Guantanamo Bay.
The problem, I think, we have now is sort of crystallized by former Vice President Cheney‘s role in this debate. And I think that he has actually gotten replaced where he is emboldening the terrorists. If you have a former vice president who is saying that our current president is weak—by the way, that‘s the first time in American history that‘s ever taken place, that a former president—a former vice president has said the sitting president is not protecting the country. Never happened before, must end.
He must stop doing this, because that does tell potential terrorists out there that perhaps we are weaker since he was the architect of the prior administration‘s policy.
MADDOW: If the current administration.
ALTER: So, this is what we need to be focusing on, is that the Republicans now, Cheney in particular—but a radio blow hard says or congressman blow hard, not important. Former vice president—very, very significant, must be stopped.
MADDOW: Being heard by America‘s enemies by terrorists, you think in a way that is dangerous to the country.
ALTER: Very dangerous.
MADDOW: If the Obama administration shares your view and wants to stop President Cheney from doing that, it‘s not like they have a lot of options, President Cheney doesn‘t seem to be hearing any calls to conscience on this issue.
ALTER: He doesn‘t. But remember, President Obama has said that he believes in talking to our enemies abroad, he ran on that. He should also talk to his enemies at home. And I think that he needs to have a session with the former vice president, perhaps bring in Bob Gates and some others, and tell him that he is not enhancing national security of the United States with his comment.
MADDOW: I can‘t imagine how excited Dick Cheney would be to get that invitation, but maybe it would be the only way to try to make some progress there.
Jonathan Alter, “Newsweek” columnist, NBC News analyst—thanks for coming in. Nice to see you.
ALTER: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: OK. Later, we have an air security story coming up that will both scare you and amuse you. We had to double check to make sure it was not written by The Onion. That is coming up at the end of the show.
But first, we have been reporting about the Washington religious group, a secretive group, called The Family for months. And tonight is a landmark night for this show. A member of The Family will join us for an interview for the first time ever. It is the interview. It is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We‘ve done a lot of reporting on this show about a secretive religious organization in Washington called The Family. And we have waited a very long time for a member of The Family to come on this show. In a moment, Bob Hunter, a former Ford administration and Carter administration official, and one of The Family‘s key conduits to the nation of Uganda, will be joining us live.
We‘re very excited for this interview. I hope you will stay with us.
MADDOW: In November 2006, a beefy friendly prostitute named Mike Jones rocked conservative America back on its heels, when he made public his allegation that he had had a relationship with Ted Haggard, the head of the massive and influential National Association of Evangelicals. Mr. Jones said he had not only been paid by Mr. Haggard to have sex with him, he‘d also been paid by Ted Haggard to buy the pastor crystal meth.
To cover that scandal for my Air America Radio show at the time, I interviewed an investigative journalist named Jeff Sharlet, who the year before had written an incredible article about Ted Haggard and the conservative evangelical movement for “Harper‘s” magazine.
It turns out that a couple years before that, Jeff had published an even more incredible investigative piece on a group called The Family or the Fellowship, a secretive religious organization founded in Washington in the 1930s that was really publicly known for hosting the National Prayer Breakfast, but which secretly had a much greater reach than that. That reporting eventually later became Jeff‘s book, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.” It was published in 2008.
And it made just about no splash at all when it was published—no
offense to Jeff. But after it was published, something started to happen -
actually, a lot started to happen. Senator John Ensign first confessed to an affair with a staffer. That happened last June. And it emerged that Senator Ensign was living at the C Street house, which is operated by The Family. And it emerged that he had received counseling about his affair at C Street.
Then, later that same month, it happened again. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford revealed he also had received counseling for his extramarital affair at the C Street house operated by The Family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: As part of a group called C Street, when I was in Washington. It was, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study—some folks asked of members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important. And I have been working with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: C Street is getting a shoutout in the most compelling press conference of the year.
But in the next month, it happened again. An alienation of affection lawsuit filed by the ex-wife of Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering, alleged that Mr. Pickering‘s actual affair took place at the C Street house.
What‘s going on with C Street and The Family? Why do they keep getting mentioned in all of these successive sex scandals involving conservative politicians?
We invited Jeff Sharlet on to the show numerous times to talk about C Street and about The Family, which is this secretive religious organization that operates C Street. We tried to learn and explain more about the leadership and the theology of the group.
We reported that, as far as we could tell, the theology of the group bore little resemblance to the mainstream Christian image maintained by many of the politicians who were associated with The Family. Here, for example, was footage that we played of the longtime leader of The Family, Doug Coe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG COE, LEADER OF “THE FAMILY”: I‘ve seen pictures of the young men in the Red Guard. They would bring in this young man‘s mother. He would take an axe and cut her head off.
They have to put the purposes of the Red Guard ahead of their father, mother, brother, sister and their own life. That was a covenant, a pledge.
That‘s what Jesus said. Jesus said, “You have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself.”
Hitler—that was a demand to be in the Nazi Party. You have to put the Nazi Party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As more became known about C Street and The Family, other news organizations started to talk about them as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Back in Washington, Doug Hampton says he turned to the one place he was sure could help him, a secretive Christian group known as The Fellowship. Ensign was living here, on what‘s known as the C Street house run by The Fellowship, a meeting place and residence for evangelical lawmakers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in February, you contact some people, and I believe they were affiliated with this Christian fellowship organization. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It‘s more about where they live and how these men operate in their life. They‘re great men. They have a good heart. There‘s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you contact them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they‘re close friends. They‘re a part of the men who live at C Street.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Politicians associated with C Street and The Family or The Fellowship include not only John Ensign and Mark Sanford and Chip Pickering, but also Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Mike Enzi, Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator Jim Inhofe, Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Mark Pryor, Congressman Joe Pitts, Congressman Heath Shuler, Congressman Bart Stupak, Congressman Zach Wamp and others.
The impressive reach of The Family, their ties to so many people in power and frankly the continued unraveling of the John Ensign and Mark Sanford and Chip Pickering C Street sex scandals all conspired to keep The Family in the news for months of this past year, and many times on this show.
But it was until we turned our coverage—it was not until we turned our coverage of The Family to the group‘s links to legislation in Uganda that would kill people for being gay, not until we tied The Family to the “kill the gays” bill proposed in Uganda, it was not until then that anyone from The Family agreed to speak to us about the group.
Now, I‘m very pleased to say that has changed. We are joined tonight for the interview by Bob Hunter. Mr. Hunter is a longtime member of The Family. He served as a federal insurance administrator in both the Carter and Ford administrations. He‘s now the director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, though he‘s here in his personal capacity.
Mr. Hunter, I really appreciate you agreeing to be on the show. Thank you so much for being here.
BOB HUNTER, MEMBER OF “THE FAMILY”: Well, you know, I‘m too old to be a fool that rushes in, so I sort of plodded in, I‘m here.
MADDOW: Well, I know part of the reason that you wanted to be on the show is that you have been unhappy with some of our coverage of The Family, the Fellowship. So, let me first just give you a chance to tell me if anything that I‘ve just said was unfair or inaccurate.
HUNTER: Well, you know, I think it‘s fair to say that sex scandals that happen at C Street are bad. I think everyone in The Fellowship agrees with that. It‘s also fair to attack the anti-homosexual bill in Uganda. I helped get Uganda connected to The Fellowship. So, obviously, I‘ve been quietly working behind the scenes and even publicly against it.
So, you know, I think what you said was exactly and I think a lot of what‘s been said historically has been inaccurate and Jeff Sharlet in interviews with me has admitted a lot of it has been inaccurate.
HUNTER: In fact, even he—even has said that the cover of his book is inaccurate. He said to me that the cover is horrible and he disowns it.
For example, it says that The Family is a secret fundamentalism. He says—I said, “Do you mean that we‘re—that we believe the earth is 5,000 years old or something?” He said, “No, I‘m not.” He said, “I hate this cover. I had nothing to do with it.”
Then I said, “Well, it says up here, it‘s the studies of the American rights.” “Well, that‘s just a blurb, that‘s not me. This is a horrible cover.”
So, I see it on your show all the time, but he disowns it.
MADDOW: We‘ll let—we‘ll invite Jeff back on to address any of that.
MADDOW: I don‘t feel like that I can—that I can speak for him.
But let, anyway, I do want to talk to you about.
HUNTER: OK. Well, I gave you.
MADDOW: Uganda, but I—go ahead.
HUNTER: Well, first, I did give you—I did give you the clips that demonstrated what I just said. I also gave you the clips on the fact that he said The Fellowship does not engage in politics, as evidenced by the fact that we attract politicians of all stripes. In fact, the only time that I‘ve ever heard politics discussed is in—regarding this bill in Uganda, and also once when Mother Teresa spoke about abortion at a prayer breakfast. Those are the only times.
MADDOW: Well, let‘s get—I mean, I‘m really interested to talk to you about the Uganda issue in particular, but I do just want to—just some foundational stuff. I think that one of the things that‘s most interesting about The Fellowship, and to people outside the group, maybe most important is the issue of secrecy. I always talk about it as a secretive religious group.
Have you had to get permission to do this interview? Are you here with The Fellowship‘s blessing?
HUNTER: No, I didn‘t. I first went on National Public Radio, because I felt like I was scandalized on National Public Radio by name. And that‘s why I started talking out.
I also spoke out because I am the guy that linked to Uganda. And I know that the people who are involved in The Fellowship here had nothing to do with that, and in fact, were working actively against it from long ago, even before—even before it was introduced, people from The Fellowship spoke against.
MADDOW: OK. On that issue.
HUNTER: So, it‘s.
MADDOW: On that issue, though, about—I mean, in terms of what people understand about The Fellowship and The Family, and whether or not it is misunderstood.
MADDOW: This summer, Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee, he told the “Knoxville News Sentinel” when they asked him about it, because he had been mentioned on this show. He said that he hated that John Ensign was associated with The Family. He said, “I‘m not going to be the guy who goes out and talks.” The paper also said he—said there was a sort of a pact of secrecy of people associated with the group, that he shouldn‘t be talking about it.
He then even complained that I read that quote from the paper on television. The insistence on secrecy has ended being one of the most interesting things about the group. And so, I just have to ask you, if there is a rule? Is there a pact that nobody will talk about it?
HUNTER: No. Well, first of all, there is no membership in The Fellowship. There are 10,000 small groups all over the world that are affiliated loosely. There‘s no control in command or anything like that. There are groups in—throughout the world and all kinds of—in parliaments and with politicians. But also in inner cities and cities, in professions, in journalism, in Washington here, there‘s a group, and so on.
So, all these groups form The Fellowship and they, obviously—even though they‘re linked together, they‘re atomistic and they‘re out there and there‘s no—they—there‘s no one position. Nor does The Fellowship deal with politics in anyway, because we‘re trying to attract people from diverse political perspectives.
MADDOW: But The Family does target powerful people. Elected officials, heads of state, government personnel are targeted for recruitment for being part of The Family. That is part of your ministry, right?
HUNTER: Yes. Well, for example, when I went to Uganda, I was helping a hospital there, Mengo Hospital in Kampala. And I realized the country was falling apart. It was right after Idi Amin. He was the president and he was a terrible man. And I tried to reach out to try to bring people together because I figure the only way the hospital is going to succeed is if the country starts to succeed.
Ultimately, I went there with Andrew Young—who, by the way, Rachel, I told Andrew Young yesterday I‘d be on the show and he would like you to call him. I have the number for you. You can get for me tomorrow. He‘d like to talk to you about it.
MADDOW: OK. Cheers.
HUNTER: And so—and so, he‘d like to make sure you understand it‘s not just a right-wing group. And that he‘s been a long time member.
MADDOW: I don‘t think.
HUNTER: So, and that was him.
MADDOW: Sorry. Go ahead.
HUNTER: And the purpose—and the purpose of reaching out with him to the president and to others was to get people together to start a process toward peace, which actually we ultimately help achieve. And so, that was the—and there has to be secrecy in that, too, because—for example, I was in The Cedars here in Washington, which is sort of our headquarters. And for the Washington, D.C. part of The Fellowship, when the white and black South Africans, during apartheid would come and meet privately.
Now, if that got out—ANC didn‘t know some their guys were meeting, the national party didn‘t know some of their guys were meeting and talking about ways to come together use in the—with using the person of Jesus as their—as their solidifying thing, those kinds of things have to be secret.
But I do agree with you, that The Fellowship is too secret. We don‘t have a Web site. We don‘t have - we have a lot of good ministers, 200 ministers doing good works that nobody knows about. I think that‘s wrong, and there‘s a debate going on among a lot of people about whether and how we should change that.
MADDOW: It‘s that combination of a membership of powerful people, politicians and dramatic secrecy which, I think, has fuelled so much of the interest in The Family. We have to take a quick break right now for commercial, but we‘ll be right back with you in just a moment, Mr. Hunter. Thank you for staying with us. I appreciate it.
We‘ll be right back. More of my interview with Bob Hunter from The Family, The Fellowship. Stay right with us.
MADDOW: In March of this year, three American anti-gay activists were invited to Africa, to the nation of Uganda, to lead a conference on the evils of homosexuality, the gay agenda and how gay people don‘t really have to be gay if they don‘t want to be.
The organizers of that conference admit to helping draft proposed legislation in that country which was introduced a month after the conference, legislation that would establish the death penalty for being gay. At least one of the Americans who spoke at the anti-gay conference organized by the people who helped write the bill admits to speaking with members of the Ugandan parliament about that legislation while he was there.
Now, I‘m suggesting that Uganda wasn‘t a country with a homophobia before American anti-gay activists went over there to preach about the evils of the gay agenda to destroy the family and to preach about how homosexuality can be cured.
But you know, if you see someone hold a gun to someone‘s head and you hand the guy with the gun some bullets, your culpability can be described as a lot of things, but nuanced is not one of them.
The Family or The Fellowship‘s culpability in the kill-the-gays bill in Uganda might be described as a nuanced, but it really does depend on where you‘re coming from. No one from The Family in the United States is thought to be a supporter of the kill-the-gays bill.
But it was at an event associated with one of The Family‘s national prayer breakfasts in Uganda, where the kill-the-gays bill was reportedly first proposed.
The legislator who proposed it is reportedly an organizer of that national prayer breakfast and a member of The Family, as is the government‘s minister of ethics and integrity, an outspoken proponent of the kill-the-gays bill, a man quoted in the “New York Times” this week by saying, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.” The nation‘s president is also reportedly an associate of The Family.
Joining us once again is Bob Hunter, a member of The Family, who is the only associate of the group to have ever agreed to speak to us about the group. Mr. Hunter has had extensive dealings in Uganda, including organizing that country‘s first national prayer breakfast nearly 20 years ago. Mr. Hunter, thank you again for your time.
HUNTER: Yes. I have to say I only helped in organizing. A fellow named B.K. Curia(ph), a Ugandan, actually organized it.
MADDOW: Is the president of Uganda an associate of The Family?
HUNTER: The president of Uganda is - there‘s no membership, but he is
related to The Family. I‘ve met with him several times, not for a decade,
but I‘ve met with him several times. I know his wife and I‘ve actually
played games on the floor of his office with him. So I -
MADDOW: How about David Bahati, the legislator who‘s introduced the kill-the-gays bill?
HUNTER: I met David Bahati. He came here to a national prayer breakfast and so I met him when he was here. I‘ve never heard of the other guy, the minister of ethics you talk about. I never met him.
MADDOW: He also describes himself as an associate of The Family, which is why I described him that way, James Nsaba Buturo.
HUNTER: Yes. As I said, there are 10,000 groups around the world that are sort of affiliated with The Family. Now, I agree that these guys are involved. But when they came to the group at the national prayer breakfast in October in 2009, when Bahati came and said, “We‘re thinking of introducing a bill,” he got kicked back as Jeff Sharlet has reported from the members of The Family right there well before the bill was introduced, several days before.
MADDOW: Can you see, though, how it‘s hard for anybody to disassociate The Family from this legislation when it has been introduced by and supported by all these people in Uganda who are in The Family?
HUNTER: Well, it‘s not hard for me to blame - I won‘t blame you of
starting the war in Iraq because you‘re in the same profession as Judith
Miller. I mean, that‘s guilt by association. You‘re saying -
MADDOW: No. That would be if I was saying that all Christians are responsible for this because these are Christian legislators, who are people - who are legislators who are responsible.
This guy is an associate of an organization that you are part of. And presumably, that means there‘s some mutual influence, that you at least have access to him. I mean, he was invited to the national prayer breakfast here, right?
HUNTER: Yes, he was, and - but there are 10,000 people that are affiliated with us. And I‘m sure there are some of them that are doing some bad things. We immediately said this was bad and we privately started working against it. We didn‘t want to go too public at first.
You, you know, forced us public - you and others. And that‘s OK. But one of the problems with going public too soon is, in Uganda and in all of Africa, one of the cries goes up of neo-colonialism. And it has a lot of resonance, unfortunately. And so we were trying to kill it quietly. But we don‘t mind being public now.
MADDOW: I know that during the Bush administration in particular, a number of conservative politicians, many associated with The Family, people like Joe Pitts and Sam Brownback, took a really special interest in Ugandan legislation, for example, pushing abstinence as a replacement for condoms in the anti-HIV efforts in that country. Were they more effective at pushing those efforts because of the contacts they had made through The Family?
HUNTER: I don‘t think so. There were others including me who applauded Museveni for his earlier ABC program. And so I think he was hearing it from both sides.
MADDOW: Nobody is saying that, and I don‘t want to leave the impression that The Family in the United States has been pushing the kill-the-gays legislation. But it would seem that because of The Family‘s reach in Uganda, extensive reach there, a lot of it because of the work that you have done, that The Family may be in a unique position to stop it.
It‘s been heartening and a big change of pace to hear - a big change in tone to hear you come out publicly and say The Family is against it and you‘re working against it. I wonder if you think that you will be able to stop this legislation.
HUNTER: I‘m encouraged more by what the Assistant Secretary of State said about what Museveni told him than anything else, because the Assistant Secretary of State, Johnny Carson, was a U.S. ambassador to Uganda and he wouldn‘t make a mistake like that. He would understand Museveni because he knows him well.
And so I‘m very encouraged. Plus, there‘s some things happening privately on the ground that make me a little bit more encouraged. I know the bill will be radically altered at least and hopefully withdrawn.
MADDOW: Bob Hunter is now the director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. He‘s a long time member of The Family. And he‘s the brave person associated with this organization who‘s willing to talk publicly about the work of the group. Thanks very much for joining us tonight. I hope you feel like it was a fair discussion and you were able to get your side heard.
HUNT: I think you were very fair, and I appreciate the opportunity.
Happy New Year.
MADDOW: Happy New Year, too. Thanks, Mr. Hunter. All right. There is a conspiratorial right-wing political movement in America that is too crazy for Fox News‘ Glenn Beck. And now, Glenn Beck and the crazy right-wing movement that he doesn‘t associate with are fighting. Pass the popcorn. That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: Glenn Beck‘s conspiracy theatrics are cable news legend - legend. And yet, there‘s one group of conspiracy theoreticians too far off the kook-end for Mr. Beck. And they are screaming mad at him. A review coming up. As we try to figure out where the right is going, this portends a very interesting turn.
First, though, the truly scary story whose every emerging detail turns out to be more sobering than the last is the story of last week‘s suicide bombing at a U.S. base in Afghanistan. And the full picture of what happened there is still coming into focus.
On December 30th, we reported that the eight Americans killed at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province were all CIA agents. But then, we learned that in fact seven CIA employees were killed along with one Jordanian intelligence officer.
Then we were told that the attacker was, quote, “wearing a suicide vest under an Afghan national army uniform,” which would have been a nausea-inducing development considering that we‘re in the process of sending in an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan in part to help train that Afghan national police and army.
NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel then reported that the bomber was not a man in an Afghan national army uniform. In fact, he was a Jordanian double agent, a man who had been invited to the base, a man who had been recruited by the Jordanian intelligence agency to infiltrate al-Qaeda at the highest levels in order to provide intelligence on the terrorist organization.
This evening, NBC News has confirmed that at least two of the CIA personnel who were killed in that suicide bomb attack were employed by Blackwater. They have been identified as Dane Paresi and Jerry Wise.
But this time, we do not know what their exact responsibilities were. But sources are telling NBC that they were not mere security guards at the base. They were among those initially identified as CIA officers killed in that attack.
We will keep you posted as this story continues to undoubtedly evolve. But there‘s one more thing to keep in mind here. The Jordanian double agent responsible for this attack was reportedly a physician who had been recruited specifically to provide information leading to the killing or capture of Osama Bin Laden‘s right hand man, Ayman al-Zawahari.
In other words, this has proved to be a window into how the Obama administration and the CIA are actively, personally targeting the top leadership of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahari and presumably other key figures in al-Qaeda.
And it appears tonight that defense contractors are intimately involved in that effort. This is not the last you will hear of this. Mark my words. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: There is an airport security story tonight that tops them all, tops the entire Newark airport singing, “Hey Jude.” It involves Slovakia, plastic explosives and a poor guy who just wanted to go home to Ireland. It tops them all, I‘m telling you now. Really.
MADDOW: “WorldNetDaily,” the paramount purveyors of the birther conspiracy which offers its readers the chance to contribute to “where‘s the birth certificate” billboards and join a petition campaign for a hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Hussein Obama, which offers its readers chances to buy “where‘s the birth certificate” yard signs and bumper stickers that say, “Where‘s the birth certificate” and what they call the, quote, “must-wear clothing item for 2010! ‘Where‘s the birth certificate‘ t-shirt.”
That “WorldNetDaily” is outraged, outraged, I‘m telling you. They‘re claiming they have been mocked by a man who, quote, “caricatured those who question the sitting president‘s eligibility with straw-man arguments.” They say this man mocking them portrays birthers as conspiracy nuts.
Imagine. Who could be the target of such wing-nut fury from the right? Is it Jon Stewart? My friend Keith Olbermann. An even more mannish version of me? No. How about Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck? Earning the ire of the birthers? Kent, have I just read a mistake in the teleprompter machine?
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: You have not. I‘m nodding because it‘s true. Mr. Glenn Beck, the one and only. Take a look.
GLENN BECK, HOST, “GLENN BECK”: I‘m sorry. I just love my country. I almost forgot, he‘s also closing Gitmo and letting the terrorists onto the streets. People all around the - all around the country today have been called insane, lunatics, extremists, but we are not insane or extremists or anything like that.
JONES (voice-over): If there‘s a woo-buck buck buck club, one would assume Beck has an honored seat at the head table right next to these guys. Surely, there‘s is a peas-in-a-pod relationship, brothers-in-arms against the Kenyan menace.
Oh, no. Birthers are furious, furious that Beck isn‘t sufficiently mouth-foamy about the absolutely crucial Obama birth certificate issue.
BECK: There are other things that you should concentrate on. Who cares about the birth certificate thing? He‘s appointing communists.
JONES: So how are miffed birthers handling this? With Operation Flood It, with inundated Beck with irate calls and E-mails. Quote, “Fox has the guts to throw jabs at Obama for four years but they do not have the guts to deliver the knockout punch, Obama‘s ineligibility. We have to change that.”
Now, despite the onslaught of Operation Flood It, Beck remains unimpressed.
BECK: Today there is a concerted effort on all radio stations to get birthers on the air. I have to tell you, are you working for the Barack Obama administration? I mean, that‘s the dumbest thing I‘ve ever heard.
JONES: Ouch. You can imagine how the birthers must feel. Rejected by your hero. Et tu, Glenn, et tu. As for Beck who today accuses liberals of orchestrating Operation Flood It, he‘s not taking the birther off-ramp into crazy town.
What was it Groucho used to say? He wouldn‘t want to belong to any club that would have someone like him as a member?
MADDOW: I love the flaming liberals, “You‘re on Obama‘s side.”
MADDOW: No, you‘re on Obama‘s side.
JONES: No, you are.
MADDOW: It is poetry. Thank you very much, Kent. I appreciate it. OK. Coming up on “COUNTDOWN,” Brit Hume doubles down on his “Tiger Woods needs to convert to Christianity” play all the while in the process of trying to pull back from it. Keith‘s guest is the Reverend Welton Gaddy.
Next on this show, why the government of Slovakia is putting bombs in airline passengers‘ luggage. Real bombs, unwitting passengers, actual government. I‘m not kidding. It‘s next. It‘s an incredible story. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tonight‘s “Cocktail Moment” is our first ever about Slovakia
Slovakia, where officials wanted to see if they could slip explosives past the gate at two Slovakian airports.
The way they decided to test that was by planting real explosives in real passengers‘ luggage without telling the passengers. Really. Slovakian officials put three ounce batches of the plastic explosive, RDX, into the bags of eight unsuspecting travelers on Saturday.
Not Play-Doh in the shape of the plastic explosive RDX but actual plastic explosive RDX. And the security folks at the Bratislava airport were pretty, pretty good. They caught seven of the eight loaded suitcases. In almost any measurable endeavor seven out of eight is really good.
This is not just any measurable endeavor, however. And the eighth planted explosive in some unsuspecting traveler‘s luggage flew home with the very unsuspecting traveler, home to Dublin, Ireland. Saints be praised.
The poor guy, a 49-year-old Slovakian electrician working in Ireland, unpacked his bags but he did not notice the explosive hidden inside. Meanwhile, back in Slovakia, officials on Monday realized they had left a chunk of RDX explosives floating around Ireland someplace.
They alerted Irish authorities and today, the Irish army bomb squad showed up at this poor dude‘s apartment. Irish officials say they had been told he could be a terrorist. They arrested him. They held him for a few hours before letting him go.
For the record, the Slovakian government is expressing profound regret for the whole mess and the Irish Army say the explosives posed no threat because it wasn‘t connected to any kind of detonator which either makes you feel better or it doesn‘t.
Also, it proves there are worse ways to do airport security than bowing to more enthusiastically pat down everybody from Cuba. That does it for us tonight. We‘ll see you again tomorrow night. Until then, 87.5 plus 13.5 equals 101. And “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now. Have a good night.
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