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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guest: Richard Engel, Chris Hayes, Edward Overton


KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now, from New Orleans, with

the news that the spill of the oil maybe thicker than first thought—

ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you very much for


And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.

I am in New Orleans tonight, on the banks of the Mississippi River,

which flows from here to the Gulf where the story remains the oil spill

gushing uncontrolled into the Gulf of Mexico.  There is a ton of reporting

to do about that tonight, including a firsthand, up close examination of

the oil pouring into the ocean and threatening the coast.  We will get to

the ongoing Deepwater Horizon disaster in just a moment.

But we begin tonight with news from New York, the arrest and impending

arraignment of the alleged Times Square bomber.

At around 4:00 Eastern this afternoon, the U.S. Attorneys Office in

New York City released the charges being brought against Faisal Shahzad, a

30-year-old American citizen living in Connecticut.  Shahzad will be booked

on five counts, including attempting to detonate a weapon of mass

destruction.  The WMD in question being the Rogue Goldberg-esque failed

explosive device he allegedly left smoking in a green SUV parked in Times

Square on Saturday night.

Shahzad‘s booking in federal court will follow last night‘s dramatic

late night arrest as Mr. Shahzad apparently attempted to leave the country. 

As Law enforcement officials were trying to track him down yesterday, Mr. 

Shahzad purchased a last-minute ticket for Emirates Flight 202 from JFK

Airport in New York to Dubai.

Mr. Shahzad arrived at JFK, he parked, he got his boarding pass, he

passed security screening, he boarded the flight.  The door was closed. 

The plane received initial clearance for takeoff.

When, at the last minute, U.S. officials stopped the plane.  They

reopened the cabin door.  They themselves boarded the flight and they took

Mr. Shahzad off that plane with them.


RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER:  By my calculation, from the time Faisal

Shahzad drove into and across Broadway and parked that vehicle to when he

was apprehended last evening at the JFK Airport, it was 53 hours and 20

minutes.  Now, we know that Jack Bauer can do it in 24 minutes.  But in the

real world, 53 is a pretty good number.


MADDOW:  Self-congratulations aside, shortly after police arrested Mr. 

Shahzad last night, he did reportedly admit to driving the jerry-rigged

dysfunctional car bomb into Times Square.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  It is clear that this was a

terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in

our country.  We believe that this suspected terrorist fashioned a bomb

from rudimentary ingredients, placed it in a rusty SUV and drove it into

Times Square with the intent to kill as many innocent tourists and

theatergoers as possible.


MADDOW:  If Mr. Shahzad hadn‘t readily admitted to that, investigators

were prepared to present a trove of physical evidence linking him to the

crime scene.  For example, a key ring left in the ignition of that SUV

which also contained a key to Mr. Shahzad‘s house in Connecticut and to—

as well as to another car that he owned.  Whatever the level of Mr. 

Shahzad‘s intentions or affiliations, his terrorist trade craft seems to

have been strictly low grade.

That said, with his would-be bomb neutralized and towed away and with

Mr. Shahzad himself in custody and reportedly talking to his interrogators,

the livest wire of this investigation remains his links—his links to

broader terrorist organizations and causes.  Within hours of the failed

bombing attempt in Times Square on Saturday night, Tehreek-i-Taliban

Pakistan was already claiming credit for the attack.  They posted this

audiotape on YouTube hailing the, quote, “recent attack in the USA.”  This

attack, they claimed, was meant to avenge the killing of al Qaeda‘s two top

leaders in Iraq last month as well as the recent predator drone strikes on

Pakistan by U.S. forces.

The Pakistani Taliban‘s claim of responsibility was widely dismissed

when it first came out.  But now, it has taken on a whole new significance. 

The charge sheet today says that, quote, “After the arrest, Shahzad

admitted that he had recently received bomb-making training in Waziristan,


Faisal Shahzad‘s connections to Pakistan are fairly extensive. 

Although he is a U.S. citizen, Mr. Shahzad was born in a village outside

Peshawar, Pakistan.  A village called Pabbi.

After becoming a U.S. citizen, last year, Mr. Shahzad traveled to

Karachi and Peshawar for more than a month.  In February of this year, Mr. 

Shahzad returned to the United States from a five-month trip to Pakistan.

And court documents now say that Mr. Shahzad received four telephone

calls from a Pakistani phone number on the day he purchased the SUV that

was ultimately left filled with explosives in Times Square.  Now, none of

those instances of travel to Pakistan or phone calls to or from Pakistan,

of course, are themselves evidence of any kind of wrongdoing, but arrests

in this case are reportedly being made in Pakistan and the race is on now

to try to find and trace any real connections that may exist between Faisal

Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban.

If he did receive bomb-making training in Pakistan or anywhere else,

it appears that training was, thankfully, tremendously inadequate.


JOHN PISTOLE, FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR:  It does not appear, from our

opinion, to be the most sophisticated device.  There are a number of

opportunities for the device to fail.


MADDOW:  The Justice Department released a diagram today—this

diagram—of the contents of Mr. Shahzad‘s SUV: Several white bags of

fertilizer contained in the gun locker, two five-gallon gasoline canisters,

152 commercially available M-88 fireworks, three propane gas canisters and

two alarm clocks connected to wires.  Apparently, it was the fireworks that

were supposed to serve as a detonating device in this case.

The problem is the propane tanks that were serving as the bomb‘s

supposed main charge, these propane tanks are designed to be fire


One U.S. official is telling “Newsweek” magazine that from what is

known of the bomb‘s construction, thus far, it may have been assembled

based on a cursory reading of newspaper stores about past bombings.

Now, again, it is unclear whether this attempted bombing was directed

by the Pakistani Taliban or by any other terrorist group.  But if it was,

between the amateurish design of the bomb and the fact that the alleged

bomber left the keys to his house in the ignition, this incident will be

taken as a warning of this terrorist group‘s aspirations not of their

ability to execute.

Joining us now live from Islamabad, Pakistan, is NBC‘s chief foreign

correspondent, Richard Engel.

Richard, thank you for getting up so early today to talk to us. 

Appreciate your time.



And I‘ve spoken to people who said that although this was very, very

amateurish, that it should be considered a warning sign.  And there are

links definitely back to this country, back in Pakistan.  And over the last

24 hours or so, Pakistani officials say they have arrested a dozen suspects

in connection to this case.

MADDOW:  Richard, what can you tell us about Mr. Shahzad‘s background? 

What you‘ve been able to find about his links in Pakistan and anything else

we can find out about where he‘s come from and what his influences may have


ENGEL:  Yes.  If you look at the chronology of his life, for at least

of the last several years of his life, it paints a very interesting

picture.  Faisal Shahzad was from a privileged background.

His father was a very senior commander in the Pakistani air force.  He

actually established the Pakistani version of the Blue Angels, you know,

that acrobatic flight group.  He was at one stage head of the Civil

Aviation Authority here.

So, he came from a very prominent military family.  Then Faisal, the

son, travels to the United States, graduates with a B.A. in computer

science from Bridgeport, in Connecticut—Bridgeport University in

Connecticut in 2000, buys a house in Connecticut in 2004, somewhat living

the American dream.  He gets a mortgage for about $214,000.  It‘s a three-

bedroom house with a pool in the back.

So, he‘s doing quite well, gets his MBA in—also in Bridgeport,

information technology in 2005, has the first of his two children in 2006.

Things start to fall apart, however, for him later in his life.  2008,

he starts to have trouble making payments on the mortgage.  By 2009, he‘s

already in foreclosure.  He‘s becoming more and more estranged from his

wife.  At one stage, the wife leaves, why she leaves is exactly unclear.

Then, in 2009, when he‘s losing his house, he‘s having trouble with

his marriage, he quits his job.  He‘s working at this stage as a junior

financial analyst and he comes here to Pakistan.  He arrives in June of

2009 and he leaves in February 2010.  And it‘s this window, these eight

months that law enforcement officials are focusing on right now.

What was he doing in Pakistan while he was here?  Faisal Shahzad has

admitted that he did receive some training in making bombs and that

training took place in Waziristan.  How much training however and who was

organizing it is still a matter of investigation.

MADDOW:  Richard, in terms of us trying to piece together the clues

about how connected he may have been to militant groups, as you mentioned,

he has described—he has said that he received bomb-making training in

Waziristan.  An intelligence official in Pakistan has told “Reuters” today

that he may have received military training in a town called Kohat.  We‘re

also hearing reports that he may have links to a military group called


Do any of those things sound important to you in terms of

understanding what we are dealing with here and how connected he was?

ENGEL:  He was from a very prominent family as I just discussed.  And

he was from an area where there was a lot of militant groups operating.  He

has—his family has a home in Peshawar.  And during his visit, he came to

his visit here to Pakistan, he went to Karachi, which also has a lot of

militant activity, went to Peshawar and then went down to Waziristan.  The

reason there have been suspected links to Jaish-e-Muhammad, which is one of

the many Kashmiri groups, is, one, he‘s an ethnic Kashmiri; and, two, the

person who is now under arrest that he met up with in Karachi was arrested

at a mosque that has links to Jaish-e-Muhammad.


So, the question is: did he have links—did he have associations

with people who are involved in militant groups?  It seems that he

certainly did.  Did they actively recruit him or did he come on his own?

Now, if this was a person living in the States who had quite a good

life, a successful life and then was disaffected and decided to quit his

job and come back here, it is very possible that he came back on his own

and then started to seek out some of these groups, use his family

connections, use the fact that he had a U.S. citizenship, a U.S. passport,

to receive kind of a military training or bomb-making training.  Certainly,

he didn‘t receive the top bomb-making training because of the amateurish

nature of his attack.

One law enforcement official said or a former law enforcement official

said, if he received bomb-making training, the person who gave that to him

should be given an “F.”

MADDOW:  NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, live

from Islamabad in Pakistan after a very long night of reporting and travel

Richard, as always, thank you very much for your time tonight.  I really

appreciate it.


ENGEL:  Pleasure.

MADDOW:  OK.  So, there is this thing that happens when you get

arrested in America.  No matter who you are, you get read your Miranda

rights.  Not just in cop shows but in real life, too.  Everybody freak out!

And today, I spoke with an analytical chemist who‘s advising the Coast

Guard on just what it is in that oil gusher that is spreading across the

Gulf of Mexico.  That is ahead as well.

We are live from New Orleans.  Please do stay with us.


MADDOW:  So, it‘s a little hard to keep track of the domestic politics

here in the U.S. about how we treat terrorism suspects.  See, the shoe

bomber guy, he was Jamaican and British.  No uproar on the right over him

being read his Miranda rights.

The underpants bomber on the other hand was Nigerian.  Huge uproar on

the right over him being read his rights.

Najibullah Zazi, the very serious “bomb the subway” suspect, U.S. 

permanent resident of Afghan origin.  No uproar on the right over him being

read his rights.

Now, Faisal Shahzad, American citizen of Pakistani origin in the Times

Square bombing.  In his case, huge uproar on the right over him being read

his rights.

Don‘t get me starting on the Hutaree militia and the people arrested

for planning to assassinate the president.

The selective random outrage over terrorism suspects‘ rights may be

totally incoherent, but that doesn‘t mean it isn‘t heartfelt.  That

ridiculous story—next.



ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  He has been and continues to be

questioned by federal agents.  As a result of those communications, Shahzad

has provided useful information to authorities.


agents and officers from NYPD interviewed Mr. Shahzad last night and early

this morning under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule.  He

was, as the attorney general noted, cooperative and provided valuable

intelligence and evidence.  He was eventually transported to another

location, Mirandized, and continued talking.


MADDOW:  Faisal Shahzad was arrested and questioned immediately and he

talked.  He was Mirandized and he talked.  And he talked and he talked and

talked and talked—reportedly confessing to receiving bomb-making

training in Waziristan in Pakistan, and also to trying to blow up an SUV in

Times Square on Saturday and to having a gun in his car.  Information that

can now be used in a court of law to try to convict Mr. Shahzad on

terrorism charges.

What‘s wrong with this picture?  It‘s too legal.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Don‘t give this guy his Miranda rights

until we find out what it‘s all about.

DON IMUS, RADIO HOST:  I wonder if they‘ve already given him his

Miranda rights.

MCCAIN:  Well, I think, obviously, that would be a serious mistake

until we—at least until we find out as much information we have and

there are ways, legal ways of delaying that.


MADDOW:  What exactly makes reading someone their Miranda rights such

a mistake?  What‘s the disadvantage to American counterterrorism and law

enforcement officials using legal American tactics to arrest and question a

terrorism suspect?  No one can quite put their finger on what the exact

problem is.  It apparently just doesn‘t feel right.

That was made quite clear today when Congressman Peter King of New

York heard about the arrest and, as his habit, sprinted toward the nearest

reporter.  He blurted out this little gem of inchoate, pure

unconstitutional feeling.  Quote, “I hope that Attorney General Eric Holder

did discuss this with the intelligence community.  If they believe they got

enough from him, how much more should they get?  Did they Mirandize him?  I

know he‘s an American citizen, but still.”

He actually said that that‘s in the quote, “but still.”  I know

there‘s a whole Constitution, we‘re America thing, but still, I just hate


Senator Joe Lieberman took that free-floating strategically

incoherent, anti-Constitution feeling even further today, announcing plans

to amend American law to strip you of your citizenship, not if you are

convicted of anything, not if you‘re even suspected of anything, but purely

on the basis of the government deciding you have bad affiliations.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT:  There is an existing law which

hasn‘t been much used.  It says that if an American citizen is shown to be

fighting in a military force that is an enemy of the United States, then

that person is—loses their citizenship and they no longer have the

rights of citizenship.  That‘s an old law that was adopted during a very

different time of conflict.

I think it‘s time for us to look at whether we want to amend that law

to apply it to American citizens who choose to become affiliated with

foreign terrorist organizations, whether they should not also be deprived

automatically of their citizenship and, therefore, be deprived of rights

that come with that citizenship when they are apprehended and charged with

a terrorist act.


MADDOW:  Automatically deprived.

It should be noted that Senator Lieberman is a little unclear on his

facts here.  If you are arrested in the United States of America, the

reason you get due process rights, the reason, for example, you get read

your Miranda rights is not because you are a citizen—even foreigners

arrested here get due process and get read their rights—the reason you

get due process if you are arrested in America is because this is America. 


We called Senator Lieberman‘s office today for clarification on his

call to strip Americans of their citizenship without trial and without due

process—as usual, no one in his office would call us back, which makes

me worry that maybe he has decided to declare me not American anymore and

he didn‘t want to make an international call.

Joining us now is Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”


Hi, Mr. Hayes.  Nice to have you on the show.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Ms. Maddow, how are you?

MADDOW:  I am—I‘m good.  I‘m on the banks of the Mississippi, and

so far, only half the bugs in town know I‘m here.  So, I think I‘m ahead of

the game.


HAYES:  Yes.  It‘s nice to have somewhat some co-hosts.

MADDOW:  Yes.  That‘s exactly right.  (INAUDIBLE) me here.

Faisal Shahzad apparently is talking quite readily to his questioners

right now.  And he was given his Miranda rights.  Yet we are having a lot

of outrage on the right he has been Mirandized.  Do you understand the

anti-Miranda argument?  Is there some substance to it?

HAYES:  No.  I mean, there‘s two—there‘s two strains of it.  One is

essentially just bad faith attempts to continue to use this terrorism

cudgel on the president, to try to move the debate as far right as

possible, to try to wound the president, to try to create this narrative

“weak on terrorism.”  So, there‘s just this kind of bad faith, kneejerk way

of attacking the president.

Then there‘s people that are prosecuting a very old ideological grudge

against Miranda.  I mean, when Miranda was handed down in 1966 by the

court, conservatives hated it then.  And they‘ve hated it for decades. 

They don‘t like it.  They probably don‘t want you or I or citizens to have

Miranda, a lot of them.

So, there is this old ideological vendetta that‘s being prosecuted

against Miranda that is at the core of some of this.

MADDOW:  I wonder also if this—we are—we are at a point with

this where there is a—I guess, maybe a fork in the road between sort of

paleo-conservatives on an issue like this, law and order paleo-

conservatives and libertarian conservatives.

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  In that we are seeing people like, most—I think most

notably today, Glenn Beck -- 

HAYES:  Yes.

MADDOW:  -- a host on FOX News Channel, saying actually it‘s important

that these suspects are read their Miranda rights.  We can‘t shred the

Constitution just when it‘s not—just because it‘s inconvenient.  To see

a split between somebody like John McCain and somebody that‘s sort of the

new right, the new libertarian right in the form of Glenn Beck, does that

split map with that old grudge against Miranda rights in the conservative


HAYES:  Yes, I think—I think so.  I mean, there‘s—this is a sort

of interestingly knotted ideological space.  But I do think that one of the

things you‘ve seen is the influence of this kind of libertarian streak,

particularly the campaign of Ron Paul and Ron Paul‘s views, has sort of

suffused the tea party movement and the right, but only the parts of the

arguments that have do with the state‘s use of economic power, a wielding

of economic power.  And all the critiques he makes of American imperialism

abroad and also the national security states wielding a power here at home

had been jettisoned because the neo-conservatives control the kind of

foreign policy apparatus.

The question is whether that can be pried apart.  And I do think there

have been increasing concerns, and just in conservatives that I follow and

read about encroachments of the state in these kind of civil liberties

situations.  And I do there‘s at least a potential for a fissure there.  I

don‘t think it‘s fully developed yet.

MADDOW:  Chris, this new legislation that Senator Lieberman is

proposing to strip citizenship from Americans on the basis of affiliations

with bad people—is this the sort of thing that Joe Lieberman might sort

of like run with relish, not because he wants to pass it, but because he

really enjoys making liberals mad?

HAYES:  Oh, God.  Well, if he does, it speaks truly, poorly of his

character.  I mean, I hope Joe Lieberman wakes up tomorrow and regrets

saying what he did, because what he‘s proposing is a really odious piece of


I mean, first of all, let‘s just say that the adjective affiliated in

that sentence is doing a tremendous amount of work.  That is a very, very

loose criterion to establish for, quote, “stripping someone of their


And second of all, as you noted, citizenship doesn‘t come to play in

Mirandizing.  I mean, this argument, the zombie argument, that Miranda only

applies to citizens refuses to die.  And now, we‘re seeing that they didn‘t

even take that seriously to begin with because now that that comes up here,

they want to get rid of the citizenship.

MADDOW:  Washington editor of “The Nation,” Chris Hayes—identifying

today‘s zombie argument that won‘t die, for which we are very grateful—

thanks, Chris.  Appreciate your time.

HAYES:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, there are still thousands of barrels of oil spewing into

the Gulf of Mexico from the Deep Horizons well tonight.  One critical

question is: what kind of oil is doing the spewing?  Of course, it‘s all

bad when you‘re talking about a spill.  But some of it is less bad and some

of it is more bad.

I visited the man in charge of figuring out what exactly is polluting

the Gulf and threatening the shore.  Together, he and I looked that actual

oil from the spill.  It was a pretty amazing thing to see and an awesome

illustration of applied geekiness in an actual chem lab.

We‘re live in New Orleans.  That story and that story—ahead. 

Please do stay with us.


MADDOW:  This is our second day here in Louisiana covering the

ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf.  Today, we drove to Baton Rouge.  We‘re

here at LSU, of one of the analytical labs that the school of the Coast and

the Environment, because Dr. Edward Overton, who is an emeritus professor

of Environmental Sciences here at LSU has a ton of experience in advising

on oil spills and on the response to oil spills. 

And he is one of the people who has been sent samples of what has

actually spilled in the gulf to assess what that is.  Oil is not just oil

is not just oil.  It matters what exact type of oil that is in terms of

what the overall impact is going to be, what techniques are available to

clean it up and, really, how devastating this is going to be. 

So we‘re here in Dr. Edward Overton‘s lab to learn a little bit

more about what exactly is continuing to flow into the gulf at the rate of

tens of thousands of gallons a day. 

Dr. Overton, thanks very much for your time.  I really appreciate




MADDOW:  I especially don‘t want to take too much time away from what

you are doing because it is so important for the response. 

OVERTON:  That‘s fine. 

MADDOW:  When did you get your first samples of what was actually

spilling into the gulf? 

OVERTON:  Well, we got it about a week ago this Monday.  So we‘ve had

we had a loose sample from the gulf.  And then, we‘ve got some wellhead

oil a couple or three days later than that. 

MADDOW:  And I understand that when you got that first sample, you

were very concerned about what was in that sample, about what that said

about what type of oil that was.  Can you show us that sample?  Can you

tell us what concerned you about it? 

OVERTON:  Well, this is a subset of that sample.  And you can see it

has the consistency of roof tar. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

OVERTON:  And crude coming out of that zone in the gulf, that

production zone, should be much more fluid and as is typical south

Louisiana crude. 

MADDOW:  Do you have an example of what would be typical of south

Louisiana crude just so we can compare it? 

OVERTON:  Yes.  This is a normal oil from the production zones in this



OVERTON:  South Louisiana crude.  Low sulfur, low aromatic type crude,

and again, a very high-quality crude.  And the first samples I saw were

something like this which really started to alarm us that there may be

something unique about what is going on out there. 

MADDOW:  Now, you‘ve received subsequent samples after this though

that aren‘t quite that thick. 

OVERTON:  But not quite as thick as this.  These are some of the

samples that actually came off of skimmers that were cleaning up the oil

spill.  And notice it‘s kind of the ruddy brown color.  Crude oil is

typically black.  This is south Louisiana crude. 

So you can see the difference in the tint.  And this is an oil-

and-water emulsion called a mousse - chocolate mousse, if you will.  And it

is what‘s in most of the oil in gulf right now.  It‘s in this form.  And

it‘s floating around and undergoing environmental change - weathering. 

MADDOW:  Now, is it possible that what is coming out of the seabed

again a mile down is a few different types of material, that we‘ve got some

of this - we‘ve got some of this.  We‘ve got different types of oil that

are coming out there and some of the spill may actually be this very hard

to deal with high asphaltene durable oil? 

OVERTON:  I doubt it.  There is some speculation that that is

occurring.  But of course, this is all coming out of - out of one pipe. 

And you know, way down in the ground, it was kind of mixed together. 

So I doubt it but I really don‘t have a good explanation for that

first sample.  So we are still trying to understand.  We are dealing early

on into a long-term event.  So we are in the first two weeks of probably a

nine-month affair here trying to clean up and affect the spill - understand

the effects of this spill. 

MADDOW:  You say nine months.  Is that because you think it is going

to take nine months to stop that well from leaking? 

OVERTON:  Well, I think it is going to take three to six unless these

cement barriers they are trying work.  And we hope and pray they will, but

to drill a relief well is very difficult to do. 

And so you‘ve got to drill down and intersect the damaged

pipeline and cut it in half and stop it like that.  And you can imagine the

difficulty of doing something like that.  So worse case is they won‘t be

able to use cement structures and we will have a spill of some magnitude

until the well is capped and shut off below the surface. 

And that is not a very pretty picture in terms of the amount of

oil.  Right now, we are so early we don‘t know the ultimate fate.  But that

is why we are getting samples to try to understand what happens. 

Ultimately, some of this stuff will - the environment - it will

evaporate and microbes will eat off a lot of the chemical structure.  And

you will be left with something that‘s tarry like this.  We just don‘t want

most of it to be tarry like this. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  So Dr. Overton, you are part of a scientific support

team essentially for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -


OVERTON:  That‘s right.

MADDOW:  They send you these samples of what is spilling in the gulf. 

You are analyzing it to figure out exactly what it is.  What happens to

your findings?  How is your research used in terms of the containment

cleanup effort? 

OVERTON:  Well, we do these tests and write up a little summary of our

understanding of what is going on.  And we pass it along to the group in

NOAA that‘s providing scientific advice to the coast guard. 

MADDOW:  Again, this is just - your advice that you‘re giving is not -

you can‘t give me the comprehensive answer in terms of what the coast guard

is receiving from everybody.   But in terms of what you are seeing, the

bottom line is, obviously, you‘ve got to keep it off the coast.  And you

think this can be dispersed? 

OVERTON:  Mother Nature is dispersing it.  I mean, it is floating

around.  Some of it is going get on shore.  There is almost no doubt that

depending on the wind and wave conditions. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

OVERTON:  How much of an impact is still - remains to be seen.  The

worst case is pretty bad. 

MADDOW:  The threat of getting that worst case scenario though is that

is the likelihood of that affected by just the quantity of how much oil

is spilled? 

OVERTON:  Right.  The more you put in there, the better the chances

are that some of it in the circulation patterns of this zone are going to

impact the coastline.  So the sooner we can stop the flow, of course, the

better - much better. 

The next best thing is keeping it offshore to the extent we can. 

And then the last chain of attack is seeing what you can do to keep it as

it gets near shore - deflection booms and things like these.  Those are not

particularly effective -

MADDOW:  Yes. 

OVERTON:  In the wave action.  So the best thing we can do is to keep

it offshore to the extent possible. 

MADDOW:  But the first thing we have to do is cap that well. 

OVERTON:  That‘s right.  Absolutely. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

OVERTON:  Cap the well. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the overall timeline under which this is

unfolding, you said that you think you can reasonably expect that it‘s

going to take a month to drill a relief well.  That may be the only way to

cap this well.  And that, of course, is horrifying.  One of things that is

scary about that is it‘s May right now. 

OVERTON:  Right.

MADDOW:  Hurricane season starts in June.  What is the combination of

a big storm and a big spill mean?  Are you worried?  Is there reason to

worry about hurricane season on the horizon here? 

OVERTON:  Well, you always worry about a hurricane season, period. 

Everybody down here.  But in terms of the spill, of course, you‘ll have to

cease offshore operations.  So everything out to shore will have to come

ashore if a storm is looming. 

But a hurricane is Mother Nature‘s dispersant.  I mean, it is so

much energy in such a short period of time that for a while, right after

the spill, oil will be - will look like it is gone.  It hasn‘t gone, of

course.  It is just spread out. 

But it‘s just an incredible amount of energy in a short period of

time and that disperses the oil.  And again, concentrated oil is bad. 

Dispersed oil is not good, but better than concentrated oil.  So hurricanes

have their good and their bad.  It would be nice to have a nice mild

hurricane to disperse a lot of oil but not cause much coastal damage. 

MADDOW:  You described this recently as having the qualities of a

category five hurricane.  Do you think that ultimately, this spill can do

as much damage as a strong (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? 

OVERTON:  It certainly could.  Will it?  I mean, you know, we are into

possibilities versus probabilities. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

OVERTON:  And right now, it is hard to predict how bad it is going be. 

It could be extremely devastating, but it may not be.  A lot depends on

factors we simply can‘t control - weather, the natural dispersal.  Again,

it is just starting. 

Now, we have only been doing this for two weeks.  So we don‘t

know how quick that oil is being removed from the environment, what is

happening to it - all of those issues that we are just starting to try to

figure out. 

MADDOW:  Plus capping that well. 

OVERTON:  Plus capping that well.  Capping the well is the first


MADDOW:  Yes. 

OVERTON:  There is nothing we can do about that.  That is BP and the


MADDOW:  Yes.  Dr. Edward Overton, professor emeritus of environmental

sciences here at LSU.  This has been really, really helpful.  Thank you so

much for your time. 

OVERTON:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Now, get back to your work.  We need you. 

OVERTON:  I have to go look at my answering machine. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, sir.  Appreciate it.  One reasonable reaction to a

horrifying, out-of-control oil disaster is to consider the possibility that

the way we‘ve been dealing with oil as a nation has some problems - maybe

should be reconsidered.  Another possible reaction is to call for more

drilling right now.  It takes all kinds and we have both kinds coming up on

the show, next.


MADDOW:  Welcome back to New Orleans where you can see the lights of

the Crescent City Bridge over the Mississippi behind me.  In Nashville,

Tennessee, today - and this is what it looked like downtown after flood

waters from the Cumberland River started to recede. 

At least 29 people died in Tennessee, in Mississippi and Kentucky

when torrential rains this weekend swelled the Cumberland River to more

than 12 feet above flood stage.  Now, as the water starts to drain away,

rescue officials say they fear they will find even more bodies. 

This is not going to be an easy recovery for Nashville.  About 50

of the city schools were damaged by floodwaters.  This is the field you‘re

seeing where the Tennessee Titans play.  That‘s water that you are seeing

there.  The Grand Ole, Opryland Hotel, the Country Music Hall of Fame,

National Symphony Center also took on significant water. 

The National Symphony‘s $2.5 million pipe organ was severely

damaged, as was the city‘s only remaining water treatment plant in part

because of back-breaking work by prisoners, prisoners who piled up a wall

of sandbags less than a foot taller than the crest of the flood waters. 

Still though, that is the only one they‘ve got.  Nashville is

down to that one saved water treatment plant now causing officials to have

to ask residents of this flooded city to conserve water. 

As Keith noted on “COUNTDOWN” last night, you can donate $10 to

the Red Cross to help support the rescue and recovery efforts from this

massive, massive flooding simply by sending a text message.  Just text the

word “redcross” to 90999.  Again, it‘s to donate $10 and you just text the

word “redcross” to the number 90999.  We‘ll be right back.



MADDOW:  We‘re live from the banks of the Mississippi in New Orleans,

Louisiana tonight.  We will be back in New York tomorrow but only long

enough for me to hit up my boss and ask him if we can all move here.  We‘ll

be right back. 


MADDOW:  Louisiana‘s Democratic U.S. senator, the one you don‘t

associate with the hooker scandal, responded to the huge BP oil spill just

off the coast here in New Orleans, with a call for the country to recommit,

to double-down and hold steady to oil drilling.


SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA):  Our country needs this oil.  I mean, there

is no question about that.  We have to produce this oil at home unless we

want to be completely reliant.  We‘ve got investigate, fine, clean up and

then do the research necessary so this will never happen again.  And we

must continue to go forward. 


MADDOW:  We have to continue to go forward just as we‘ve always done,

just as we‘ve done for decades over and over and over again with each

successive oil spill, explosion and fire.  Prices paid in lives and lands

and in economies. 

And yet, at the same time, every president in the modern era has

paid some amount of lip service to our country‘s dependency on oil and

other fossil fuels.  On January 29th, 1969, before I was born, six miles

off the California coast, there was a blowout at the Union Oil Company

drilling platform. 

Oil and natural gas gushed into the ocean for 11 and a half days. 

200,000 gallons of crude covered 800 square miles killing thousands of sea

birds.  Thirty-five miles of California coastline were caked in tar. 

The next year, Earth Day was born out of the stomach-churning

images from the Santa Barbara oil disaster.  Never again would we take our

environment for granted.  Never again would we abuse it and put it all at

such risk, right? 



afford to consider air and water common property, free to be abused by

anyone without regard to the consequences. 

Instead, we should begin now to treat them as scarce resources,

which we are no more free to contaminate than we are free to throw garbage

into our neighbor‘s yard. 


MADDOW:  Being an oil-based nation wasn‘t just a problem for what it

was doing for our land and our seas.  It was also a huge national security




be initiated to increase energy supply, to cut demand and provide new

stand-by emergency programs to achieve the independence we want by 1985. 

Increasing energy supplies is not enough.  We must take additional steps to

cut long-term consumption. 


MADDOW:  That was in 1975.  Then December 15th, 1976 came, near

Buzzard‘s Bay in Massachusetts.  The Argo Merchant broke apart southeast of

Nantucket Island.  It dumped 7.7 million gallons of fuel oil.  Bad timing

during the country‘s worst energy crisis. 



crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly. 

We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking



MADDOW:  Our resources were not limitless.  We could no longer afford

to treat them as such. 



our people and our economy are never again held hostage by the whim of any

country or cartel. 


MADDOW:  At this point, I have to wait for the giant riverboat to go

by.  They want to be on TV, too.  OK.  I won‘t move to New Orleans.  One

more?  No, that‘s it. 

President after president insisted we would not be held hostage. 

We would be energy independent.  Then on March 24th, 1989, the king of all

oil disasters, at least so far, the Exxon Valdez colliding with an

underwater reef.  More than 11 million gallons of oil released into the

Prince William Sound in Alaska.

Fish, birds, otters, seals - all devastated.  1,300 miles of

coastline covered in oil.  It was a national manmade disaster and a

national embarrassment prompting President George H.W. Bush to say, quote,

“We know now that protecting the environment is a global issue.  The

nations of the worlds must make common cause in defense of our environment. 

And I promise you this, this nation, the United States of America will take

the lead internationally.” 

On June 8th, 1990, an explosion and fire on the Mega Borg

released over five million gallons of oil off the coast of Galveston,


On August 10th, 1993, three ships collide near Tampa, Florida. 

336,000 gallons of oil spill into Tampa Bay.  November 28th, 2000, an oil

tanker loses power and runs aground near Port Sulphur, Louisiana which we

drove through yesterday.  500,000 gallons of oil pour into the lower


All of that oil moving around the country with never-ending

opportunities for huge oopses.  Then March 23rd, 2005, one of the deadliest

oil disasters in history.  A massive, earth-shaking, window-shattering

explosion at a BP oil refinery in Texas City kills 15 people. 

The government determined BP was so egregiously negligent.  It

levied the largest fine ever, $21.3 million against that company.  Four

years later, that record was broken when officials fined BP another $87

million for failing to correct hundreds of safety violations at the very

same Texas City refinery, four years after they killed 15 of their own

workers at that same plant. 

Clearly, it was time for bold political action, right?  Time to

trot out that same tired line they always trot out before nothing changes. 



competitive requires affordable energy.  And here we have a serious

problem.  America is addicted to oil.


MADDOW:  The deepwater horizon drilling rig off the Louisiana coast

here was feeding that addiction until an explosion two weeks ago killed 11

workers.  As we speak, oil continues to flow unabated into the Gulf of

Mexico with no end in sight. 

But this time, we‘ll get it right, right?  We‘ll learn the

lessons from four decades of spills and crashes and explosions and fires. 



States, I‘m going to spare no effort to respond to this crisis for as long

as it continues.  And we will spare no resource to clean up whatever damage

it‘s caused. 

And while there will be time to fully investigate what happened

on that rig and hold responsible parties accountable, our focus now is on a

fully-coordinated, relentless response effort to stop the leak and prevent

more damage to the gulf. 


MADDOW:  We‘ll clean it up and everything will go back to normal,

normal presumably being the completely reliable effect of drilling and

spilling.  House Minority Leader John Boehner told “Roll Call” today,

quote, “This tragedy should remind us that America needs a real

comprehensive energy plan like Republicans‘ ‘all-of-the-above‘ strategy.” 

The Republican all-of-the-above strategy is a relic of the summer

of 2008, when gas prices so high filling up your tank could make you woozy. 

The plan boils down to essentially drill, baby, drill in places including

Alaska‘s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge which is very, very, very far


Here, in Louisiana, for all the criticism of a slow government

response, failed attempts to stop the massive oil leaks, rescue crews were

able to reach the disaster site almost immediately. 

This is the gulf.  Accidents and disasters happen.  Human beings

mess up.  They mess up a lot.  Technology messes up.  If you mess up in the

Arctic, where are the resources to clean up after yourselves?  Where are

your crews and your booms and your boats and your scientists and your


Think about it.  Where would you rather have a heart attack? 

Would you rather have a heart attack in New York City near the hospitals

and doctors and the medicine?  Or would you rather have a heart attack on

the moon? 

You obviously don‘t want to have a heart attack anywhere.  But

the Republican energy plan is a heart attack on the moon plan.  It is a

plan that ignores decades of oil disasters.  But we have to continue to

just go forward, right?  Right, Sen. Landrieu?  Just like we always do,

just keeping plugging along, right?


MADDOW:  So yes, the oil is gushing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico. 

But according to a conservation group called the Gulf of Mexico Foundation,

quote, “The sky is not falling.” 

Today‘s “New York Times” front-paging the Gulf of Mexico

Foundation‘s position, which “The Times” described as “guardedly optimistic

about the big spill.  The sky is not falling.” 

That should calm the nerves of a lot of those Chicken Little-

types out there all worried about non-capped, unbridled underwater oil

gusher 50 miles offshore.  I mean, it‘s the Gulf of Mexico we‘re talking

about, and this is the Gulf of Mexico Foundation, and they say it‘s sort of


Who is the Gulf of Mexico Foundation again?  Ah, the

investigative folks at “ProPublica” report that quote, “At least half the

19 members of the group‘s board of directors have direct ties to the

offshore drilling industry.  One of them is currently an executive at

Transocean, the company that owns the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded

last month.” 

“Seven other board members are currently employed at oil

companies or at companies that provide products and services primarily to

the offshore oil and gas industry.  Those includes Shell, Conoco Phillips,

LLOG Exploration Company, Devon Energy, Anadarko Petroleum Company, and

Oceaneering International.” 

So fear not - according to representatives of the petroleum

business cloaked in a name that sounds environmentally protective, this

catastrophe isn‘t actually so catastrophic after all. 

And don‘t forget, before Astroturf meant fake grassroots ginned

up by lobbyists, it meant flooring, flooring made of plastic.  I have just

one word for you - plastics.  Did you know that plastics are a petroleum


That does it for us tonight here in New Orleans.  We will see you

again tomorrow night back in New York City.  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith

Olbermann starts right now. 




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