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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Rep. Patrick Murphy, Richard Engel, Robert Wallace


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Vanilla Ice?


KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  I don‘t know.  It‘s—you know, it‘s been a long, long week.  It‘s what came to me.  Sorry.

MADDOW:  I thought it was some sort of dog whistle to the Vanilla Ice fans among your viewers.  I don‘t know.

OLBERMANN:  No.  He‘s not watching tonight.  I‘m sorry.  I‘m sorry.

MADDOW:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Good night.

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

Could this week be the beginning of the end of the military‘s “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy?  Tonight, Congressman Patrick Murphy is here life with the latest on his proposal to end “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  He‘ll tell us whether he has the votes to get the repeal passed this week.

Also, federal supposed oil regulators in the Gulf of Mexico allowing oil industry officials to write their own inspection reports.

And it‘s “Geek Week.”  “Geek Week” continues.  Yes.

Tonight, things about space that if you anthropomorphize them, they make you feel sad about your own family and make very, very, very, very specific hands-on intersection of magic and spycraft.

All that, plus, NBC‘s Richard Engel here live just back from what he is calling the most dangerous city in the entire world.

That is all to come this hour.

But we begin tonight with an apparent breakthrough that has been a very long time in coming.  In Bill Clinton‘s 1992 presidential campaign, he promised he would repeal the ban on gay people serving in the United States military.  After the new president was elected, months of brutal politics followed in which his opponents turned the gays in the military issue to maximum advantage against him.

President Clinton ultimately signed a piece of legislation that effectively codified the ban on gays in the military under a total misnomer of a new name.  They called it “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  The subsequent 17 years, though, have seen plenty of asking as thousands of service members have been run out of the military despite their desire to stay and serve, thanks to an aggressive witch hunting sexual orienting investigative system within the armed forces.

Since “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is put into effect, it has resulted in more than 14,000 people who are ready and able to serve being fired from our military.  Many of them have been unwilling to go quietly.  Over the last 17 years, Americans have learned the names of people like Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, Army Lieutenant Dan Choi, Air Force Major Mike Almy—all three whose stories you have heard when they have been guests on this very program.

Americans have also learned the names of people like Jenny Kopfstein, a highly decorated U.S. Navy lieutenant, who served multiple deployments in the Pacific after 9/11.  Army Captain Anthony Woods, an Iraq War veteran who received the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal.  Rhonda Davis, a former first class U.S. Navy petty officer.

All of these people have either been kicked out of our military or in the process of being kicked out of our military as a result of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  All of them have been willing to make their cases known publicly, to put a face on the consequences of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

And look what that‘s done.  Look what has happened to public opinion on the issue since “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” went into effect in 1983.  Support for gay people serving openly in America‘s military was about 44 percent back in 1993.  It is up to 75 percent today and holding.

Seventy-five percent of Americans don‘t agree on anything.  Some days, it feels 75 percent of Americans wouldn‘t all agree that the world is round.  But 75 percent of Americans agree that “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is dumb, that gay people should be able to serve openly in the U.S. military.

Seventeen years in this rather different public opinion climate now, a new Democratic president has promised again that gay people will be allowed to serve openly in our military.  And despite all that‘s changed over the past 17 years, again, this Democratic president is facing political opponents who are determined to turn this issue to maximum advantage against him.

The problem now is that when people like Mike Pence, the number three Republican in the House, say that Republicans are all going to vote against a repeal this year because, quote, “The American people don‘t want the American military to be used to advance a liberal political agenda.”  When people like Mike Pence say that as Mike Pence did today, that talking point seems like it might have made sense in 1993, maybe.  But now, the American people, if you ask them, and pollsters often do, the American people sort of do want this to change.

But the fight is an uphill one.  Last night on this program, we told you about a compromise that had apparently been reached to include “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal legislation in a bill expected to be voted on this week.  The compromise essentially allows Congress to vote on repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” now, this week.

But if the repeal passes, it wouldn‘t take effect until after the Pentagon‘s internal study of the issue is complete towards the end of the year.  Repeal would be contingent on that study.  It couldn‘t go into effect until, quote, “The president: transmits to the congressional defense committees a written certification signed by the president, the secretary of defense, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” that repeal would be, quote, “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

This compromise was crafted by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania.  Their ability to get the White House to endorse this strategy is a big step toward getting “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repealed this year.

Another big step came from the Pentagon today, from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.  Until today, Secretary Gates had been adamant Congress should not repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” until after the military finished that review.  That review of how to repeal it.

Well, today, Bob Gates said he accepts this proposed compromise amendment to vote on repeal now, but to hold implementation until after the study of how to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” is completed, which is expected to be done in December.

The plan at this hour, now, is for both the House and the Senate to vote on a repeal amendment later this week, perhaps as early as Thursday.  Today, Congressman Murphy of Pennsylvania, himself an Iraq war veteran, officially introduced the repeal amendment in the House as part of the Defense Authorization Bill.

The magic number you need to pass something through the House is 217.  Patrick Murphy will need to find those 217 if the House is going to vote to end “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

Will any Republicans be part of that 217?  Well, Republican leadership aides confirmed to NBC News today that House Republicans say they will not only vote against the amendment to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” they will vote against the entire Defense Authorization Bill if it contains the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” amendment.  In other words, they will vote to defund the Pentagon if that‘s what it takes to stop gay people from serving openly in the military.  Rather no military at all than one that doesn‘t witch hunt for the gay.

The prospect of repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” has always been an uphill climb.  But for those who would like to see it happen this year, finally, they may take some effort from the fact that the climbing appears to have begun.

Joining us is Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania.  He is an Iraq War veteran.  He introduced his amendment to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” today.

Congressman Murphy, it‘s nice to see you, again.  Thank you for coming back on the show.

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Rachel, it‘s great to be here to kick off “Geek Week.”

MADDOW:  Very good.  You‘re not all that geeky a guy, although I don‘t know if you have any aspirations on that regard.  You can tell me about them in the commercial break if you want.

MURPHY:  That sounds good.

MADDOW:  You‘ve talked to you a number of times on the show.  You‘ve been a leading voice on this issue.  What happens—what happens next here?  What do you think is going to happen this week?

MURPHY:  Well, Rachel, today, I offered my amendment, the Murphy amendment, which would literally dismantled “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”  And it does it by—when we pass it and attach it to the National Defense Authorization Act, it does say the two things that need to happen, as you said.  One, it is very respectful for the Pentagon and the Pentagon study of not if we should repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” but how we‘re going to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

So, it‘s going to repeal it and it‘s going to go into effect after the study and then also after it is certified by the president, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of defense.  All three of which, I like to add, have been in favor of repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

MADDOW:  Now, Secretary Gates had been adamant with Congress that he did not want repeal to move forward until after that study was complete.  He‘s now saying that he supports the Murphy amendment.  He now supports this approach.  But he keeps saying things like, ideally, you guys would still be waiting; ideally, Congress wouldn‘t be doing this right now.  But given that Congress wants to go ahead, I can support this language.

Are you at all concerned about those, sort of, reluctant word choices that you‘re getting from him?

MURPHY:  No.  Because at the end of the day, Secretary Gates knows that this is hurting our national security.  To think that we‘ve kicked out over 13,000 troops, these are men and women who are willing to take a bullet to keep our families safe, to keep our country safe.  So, we all know that now is the time to finally repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

And also, by the way, to make sure we‘re saving taxpayers‘ money.  I mean, for the Republicans, I know they want to talk about saving taxpayer dollars.  This program—this “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy has cost the American taxpayer $1.3 billion.  It‘s wrong and we need to change it.

MADDOW:  Now, Republicans are saying that they‘re so against repealing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” that they are prepared to vote against funding the Pentagon in order to stop repeal from happening.

When you have said that you think you have the votes in the House to pass this amendment to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” are you counting any Republican votes in your vote count?

MURPHY:  Well, we have the votes.  And, you know, I had 192 co-sponsors, some of which were Republicans.  And so, you know, we‘ll see where they are.

But I‘m confident that those Republicans, just like us Democrats, we are all Americans.  And we all take the same oath, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  And that Constitution makes sure that all men and women are treated equally, especially if they want to serve our country in uniform to protect us.  We should stand by them.  We should stand by our Constitution.

MADDOW:  Has the White House been of assistance to you in helping to round up the votes on this?  We‘ve heard some news today about Scott Brown of Massachusetts saying he would vote no, Jim Webb of Virginia saying that he would vote no.  Both of those obviously in the Senate.

But when you have had conversations with the White House about this, have they been of help in terms of trying to whip the vote here?

MURPHY:  The White House has been terrific.  I would say the White House, the military leaders in the Pentagon, and the leaders in both the House and the Senate have been terrific in our fight to finally repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

And I know you mentioned a couple of senators that were against it.  But I like to point out the fact that of my class, the class of 2006 in the Congress, we had the highest ranking military officer ever to serve in a Congress, Admiral Joe Sestak, in favor of repeal.  The highest ranking enlisted man ever to serve in the Congress, Command Sergeant Major Tim Walz, for repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”

These are great true patriot American heroes that stand with me shoulder to shoulder, along with 75 percent of the American public and the troops I served with in Baghdad six years ago, because when we talk about this, we didn‘t care of someone who was gay or straight, we cared if they could handle their M-4 assault rifle, we cared could they kick down a door, could they get the job done so we could all eventually go home.

MADDOW:  Congressman Patrick Murphy, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who introduced the Murphy amendment to repeal “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” earlier today—thank you for your time.  I hope you keep us apprised about how things go over the course of these next two crucial days, Congressman.

MURPHY:  It‘s a key weekend and it‘s going to be a great week.  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Thank you.

So, in addition to being a key week for a potential major advance in American civil rights, “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” it‘s also “Geek Week” here on this show.  And tonight, we have a story of why the CIA thought it needed to find a magician who could train its officers.  And even better we have the story of what that magician taught the CIA—in detail.  That‘s coming up.  Stick around.


MADDOW:  There is some breaking news tonight on the B.P. oil disaster and the government‘s response to it.  NBC News has learned that on Thursday, the day after tomorrow, President Obama will announce tougher safety requirements for offshore oil rigs.  This is according to a senior administration official.  This is a result of 30-day review of offshore drilling procedures that the president announced after the Deepwater Horizon disaster started more than 30 days ago.  Among the administration‘s plans are a stronger inspection regime for rigs.

Now, as the B.P. oil disaster continues unabated in the Gulf, you may recall that because of legislation passed after the Exxon Valdez disaster, oil companies are by law to required pay $75 million in damages in the event of a spill.  Democrats led by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey have been trying to get rid of that liability cap ever since the B.P. oil disaster happened.

The first time they tried to get rid of it, Alaska‘s Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, blocked it.  The second time they tried to get rid of the oil company liability cap, it was Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, who blocked it.

And now, given what we are going through in the Gulf, Democrats have made a third attempt to get rid of the limit on oil company liability in terms of paying for what they spill.  And again, Senator Jim Inhofe has blocked it, explaining that if oil companies have to pay too much of the cost of their own spills then small oil companies, you know, little mom and pop oil companies, won‘t get into the kind of drilling that‘s likely to cause great big expensive oil spills.

Again, this is Senator Inhofe‘s argument for what he‘s doing.  It‘s not the argument against it.  This is why he thinks it‘s a good idea to have limits on how much of the cleanup oil companies have to pay in the event of a spill because he doesn‘t want little companies to have to pay more than they can afford when they spill.  He wants you to pay for it.  You and me, the taxpayers.

If the government is sticking up for the oil industry in such a blatant way seems strange to you, it‘s possible that you haven‘t been paying attention to the relationship between our government and the oil industry in recent years.

The Minerals Management Service at the Department of the Interior was the most famous part of the Department of the Interior even before the current B.P. current oil disaster.  It was famous because of a report from the inspector general during the Bush administration that found a, quote, “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” in the program at Minerals Management Service that dealt with collecting royalties from oil and gas companies.  The report found that MMS employees did drugs together, including the now infamous snorting of crystal meth off a toaster oven.  It also found that nearly a third of the employees in the MMS office in question took gifts from the oil companies they were supposed to be regulating and that some MMS employees were quite literally in bed with the oil companies and some of the time, they weren‘t just sleeping.

President Obama‘s secretary of the interior took office pledging to shut down that specific office that became so infamous.  And after the B.P.  oil disaster started, Ken Salazar further promised that he would split up MMS agency altogether.  Secretary Salazar‘s plan is to turn the Minerals Management Service essentially into three different sub-parts.  The safety and enforcement of offshore drilling will be handled by one bureau.  Another bureau will handle offshore oil drilling leases.

And the snorting meth off a toaster oven royalties division of the MMS would be given over to a third office entirely.  It would be housed in an entirely separate division of the Interior Department from the other two former MMS offices.

Progress, right?  Splitting all this stuff up.  Except there‘s another inspector general‘s report out today also detailing behavior at the department during the Bush era.  It shows that another part of the MMS, not the royalties part, but the actual safety inspections part was also fecklessly corrupt, totally in bed, although this time figuratively, with the oil industry.

And again, there‘s that crystal meth.  What is it with the Interior Department and meth?  In this case, quote, “An MMS clerical employee told investigators that she began using cocaine and methamphetamine with an inspector when she started working at the MMS.”

During the inspector‘s interview with investigators, the inspector in question initially denied using meth but ultimately did admit to it, explaining, quote, “He had never possessed or used crystal methamphetamine while at work but admitting that he might have been under the influence of the drug at work after using it the day before.”

While he was grinding his teeth down into cheese.  Yeah, maybe sometimes I would still be under the influence of the night before.  Would that be a problem if I‘m doing safety inspections of oil rigs?

Like their friends at the royalty in kind meth off the toaster oven office, the folks at the MMS district office in Louisiana who were supposed to be working on safety and inspections, they were very accustomed to accepting gifts from the oil industry that they were supposed to be overseeing, gifts including jobs in the oil industry.  In a 2008 email to an employee of the Island Operating Company, an oil and gas production company that he was supposed to be regulating, one MMS inspector wrote this, quote, “I‘m excited about coming back to work with IOC.  Do you think an IOC official would go with $65,000 a year?  And all the trimmings you told me about.”

That inspector later accepted that position that was being discussed in that e-mail.  Once the investigators figured out that that what was going on, they looked up his record as an inspector.  It turns out he continued to inspect that same company even after it became his prospective employer.

Get this—before he started gunning for the $65,000 a year job with all the trimmings with this company, this inspector had found 16 instances of noncompliance and 47 inspections.  OK?  He inspected the company four more times after the job negotiations had begun and guess how many violations he found then?  Guess.  Guess.  Yes.  None.

In an environment in which the cops and robbers are that much in cahoots, you also get stories like this one, detailed in the report.  “A confidential source told investigators that some MMS inspectors have allowed oil and gas production company personnel on the platform to fill out inspection forms.  Oil company personnel completed the inspection forms using pencils, and MMS inspectors would write on top of the pencil in ink and turn in the completed form.”  And that‘s called oversight.

So, the problem is not just with one part of the MMS and the snorting meth off the toaster oven and the shtooping the oil industry lobbyists and employees.  This is a totally different part of the MMS.  And when it‘s more than one part of the organization and more than one office, you can no longer call the first one a rogue office.

Perhaps this is an appropriate time to bring up what happened with President Bush‘s secretary of the interior.  The secretary of the interior when a lot of what I have described is going on.  Her name was Gale Norton.  She was Mr. Bush‘s interior secretary for his entire first term and half of his second term.

Gale Norton resigned in 2006 and immediately went to work for Shell Oil.  The Justice Department made it known last year that they were investigating whether Ms. Norton hooked up her future employer, Shell Oil, with some lucrative federal oil leases right before she took that job with them.  Memo to apple regarding tree, relative distance from.

Who else thinks the Minerals Management Service should just be torn down completely?  Show of hands.  Who else thinks this entire part of the Interior Department should be torn down completely and rebuilt from the bottom-up?  Show hands.

Brown pelican, you want to raise your wing.  I‘m sorry.  You can‘t lift your wing because of all the—because all of the oil?  I‘ll count you anyway.


MADDOW:  Americans for Tax Reform, an influential group on the American right, is famous for its former leader, Grover Norquist, saying he wanted to shrink government down to the size where he could drown it in a bathtub.

The insurgent libertarianism in today‘s Republican Party has brought to the fore some politicians who are so devoted to shrinking government that some are even voicing misgivings about government functions we thought basically everyone agreed on, things like the protection of civil rights.

At the core of the “I hate government” sentiment that‘s very fashionable right now is a sort of nostalgia or maybe fantasy about not having government at all, about free people, free families, untaxed, unconstrained by external authority, living according to their religious beliefs and the motivations provided to them by the free market—which, you know, when you put it that way, it sounds kind of bucolic and awesome, right?

When you see it in action in a country that hasn‘t had a government in about 18 years, it actually looks like this.  This is Somalia.  From which NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, has just recently returned.  Richard has reported from a lot of war zones and earthly hell holes in his time as a correspondent.

Before we talk with him live here in studio about this trip, I‘m going to let him explain in this footage why this particular place right now seems to him to be the single most dangerous city on Earth, for the people who live there and maybe for us here in the U.S., too.



Flying in to Mogadishu isn‘t for the faint of heart.  On the airport runway sits the wreckage of a crashed plane.  It‘s a fitting first impression in Somalia which hasn‘t had a functioning government in 19 years.

Our hosts are the 5,000 African peacekeepers here.  Their mission is to prop up the Somali government, so weak it only controls a few square miles of Mogadishu.

Somalia‘s president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, can‘t go much further than his palace gardens.  “What we need to do is build our institutions,” he says, “the basic framework of security and law and order.  That‘s our first priority.” 

(on camera):  Mogadishu today is the most war-torn, dilapidated city I have ever seen.  But what is happening here is far worse than just all of these destroyed buildings.  The majority of the militia men terrorizing the city are under 16 years old, teenagers empowered by the chaos to enter people‘s home, lash women for dressing inappropriately and chop off the limbs of accused thieves. 

(voice-over):  Under a thorn tree, I meet 20-year-old Abdeladi(ph) and Ismael Abdullah(ph), 18.  Both claim they were falsely accused of theft and subjected to Shabab‘s Islamic law. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And then they cut it through -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Their punishment - amputation of the right hand and left foot, their parents forced to watch.  “I tried to call out to my mother and say, ‘Please, somebody save me,‘” he says, but it wasn‘t over.” 

The militants returned 15 days later and sawed off two more inches of Abdi‘s(ph) leg just to make him suffer.  “I have nothing to compare the pain to,” he says.  The fighting and Shabab terror have created one of Africa‘s worst humanitarian disasters. 

Twenty percent of children are malnourished.  Twenty-five percent of families have fled their homes.  And there are only 250 doctors left in all of Somalia.  But the African peacekeepers say they are powerless to stop the Shabab.  The peacekeepers don‘t go to Shabab neighborhoods.  Fighting, they say, isn‘t their mandate. 

MAJOR NASUR KUBET, PEACEKEEPER:  Our mission to Somalia is peacekeeping.  We have not come to go out and engage ourselves in battle. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The U.S. bankrolled the African peacekeepers with $180 million over the past two years and shipped the weak, often unpaid Somali army 94 tons of weapons and ammunition in the last year. 

And American weapons are now in action in Somalia under the cover of darkness. 

(on camera):  At night, we have been hearing the unmistakable sound of American drones circling in the sky over Mogadishu.  They seem to be flying very low and make passes every 10 to 15 minutes. 

(voice-over):  American drones searching because al-Qaeda‘s Somali branch has attracted American citizens.  And for the first time ever, American suicide bombers. 

(on camera):  Seventeen peacekeepers were killed when this headquarters was attacked by a suicide bomber last September.  But what happened here has direct ties to the United States. 

Militants identified the bomber as a Somali-American who had been living in Seattle.  U.S. counterterrorism officials tell NBC News around 50 Americans, most of them of Somali origin, have come here to fight. 

(voice-over):  Some were recruited by this man, a 26-year-old from Alabama named Omar Hammami(ph), who used Internet videos and rap songs to attract fellow Americans.  The foreign connection is a source of pride for a Shabab commander we interviewed. 

“Al-Qaeda members are our Muslim brothers.  We don‘t call them foreigners,” he says.  “They are welcome here.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have the combination of capability and intent on the part of an adversary, capability to strike the United States because they have Americans in country and intent - they‘ve talked about coming after us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As Somalia has become a spring board for al-Qaeda that the U.S. has once again been forced to confront. 


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Richard Engel, NBC‘s chief foreign correspondent.  Richard, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 


MADDOW:  I have this impulse to tell you not to go to places like this, but I realize it is what you do. 

ENGEL:  Thank you very much.  It‘s good to hear the impulse. 

MADDOW:  Do the al-Qaeda-linked groups with a safe haven in Somalia right now - do they have the capacity to project force outside of Somalia?  Could they be an international threat? 

ENGEL:  Yes.  And they have already done that.  They‘ve sent bombers to Yemen.  One of the people who attacked the Danish cartoonist was a Somali who had received training in Somalia.

He left Europe, went to Somalia and back.  And there is a big concern among CIA, FBI and other intelligence - people in the intelligence community that people from the United States could go to Somalia, have gone to Somalia and could return and carry out the attack. 

They‘ve already expressed the desire to attack the United States.  They‘ve attacked regional countries.  They‘ve attacked Europe.  And many people think they will come here. 

MADDOW:  And is the attraction of either Americans or people attracted to this form of terrorism from anywhere in the world is the attraction to go into Somalia, the safe haven that these groups are able to operate so freely that they can really operate at a higher operational level? 

ENGEL:  Exactly.  If you look at a lot of the videos that are put out by militant groups in Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden videos, for example, when he used to put them out.  Now, if you notice, pretty much all audio messages.

He seems like - and other messages like this.  They seem like they are in hiding, you know.  They‘re in a room with sort of a dark background or a flag behind them.  In Somalia, they are still out today, doing the old calisthenics, running around, operating as if they have a country because basically, they do have a country. 

So it seems safer.  It seems more appealing.  It seems something that you can actually get in and join the fight and it‘s fairly accessible.  Most of the people who are going are Somalis and Somali-Americans or Somali-Europeans. 

They are still, because of the clan structure in Somalia, tied to the conflict in that country.  And there is almost no accountability.  You can land at Mogadishu airport or you can just get a plane and land anywhere that is flat.  There is no government there, and so it is very hard to track people. 

MADDOW:  What is it like to be on the ground in a failed state?  I mean, what is anarchy like? 

ENGEL:  It is unsettling to put it at the - for me or for them? 

MADDOW:  For you. 

ENGEL:  For me, it was unsettling, because if something happens, there is no one to call.  No one is coming to help.  No police, no fire department.  If you get into a car accident, that‘s it.  There are only a few doctors in the entire country.  No one will come to help you. 

No diplomatic representation.  No reliable government.  If you are in a dangerous area in Pakistan, you can call the military or you can call the U.S. Embassy, even though there can be problem areas and you could get kidnapped or some bad things would happen.  At least someone will start coming to look for you. 

In Somalia there is no one to call.  So as an outsider, that is very unsettling.  If you live there, it is absolutely terrifying.  And half of Mogadishu‘s population is gone now.  They have become refugees. 

A 10th of all the Somali population is living outside of the country because of the recent fighting.  So it is a very, very discomforting feeling to have no support at all. 

MADDOW:  The “New York Times” today front paged a story that Gen.  Petraeus has ordered expanded clandestine U.S. military operations in places including Somalia essentially as counterterrorism mark.  What do we know about - what do you know?  Were you able to report about how much we‘re actually doing there right now? 

ENGEL:  It is happening.  And if you saw in that report -

MADDOW:  The drones - yes. 

ENGEL:  We heard it every single night.  Drones in the sky -

MADDOW:  Armed drones or surveillance drones? 

ENGEL:  Well, I couldn‘t tell. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

ENGEL:  There have been drone air strikes before in Somalia.  And so there have certainly been air strikes against al-Qaeda leaders.  The ones I heard - I don‘t know if they were armed or not. 

But in addition to that, there are a lot of contractors who have gone there, security contractors, many of them funded in peculiar ways, basically being funded by the U.S. who were there as mercenaries, as trainers, as advisers.  That is happening. 

Just today, there was a dispute because a whole bunch of German contractors, security advisers were on.  These are the same type of people who are going to Iraq and Afghanistan in the early days.  They are now heading to Somalia.  I saw a lot of them. 

When I was on the plane going in, I was there, another reporter or two and then a whole bunch of mostly South African people who - tattoos.  They fit the part.  

MADDOW:  Looks like guys with big arms and no insignia. 

ENGEL:  Exactly. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Wow.  It‘s like Afghanistan and Iraq - one of them is the other war.  Then Pakistan is the other, other war. 

ENGEL:  This one is the secret war. 

MADDOW:  This is other, other, other, other secret war. 

ENGEL:  And the people don‘t want to deal with it because of the history of U.S. involvement there. 

MADDOW:  Blackhawk down.  Richard Engel, NBC chief foreign correspondent, it‘s always is a pleasure to see you here and to see you safe.  Thanks for being here.  Good to see you. 

ENGEL:  Thank you.  Thank you.  It‘s really a pleasure.

MADDOW:  So today, if you want to be a spy but you can‘t quite get hired by the CIA, there is another way in.  You can become a government contractor. 

Back during the height of the Cold War, there was another way in through magic.  Yes, magic.  Tonight, in “Geek Week,” magicians and the CIA and some actual demonstrations of what we are talking about.  That is ahead.


MADDOW:  So we are really excited about “Geek Week.”  Can you tell?  But “Geek Week” is not all excitement and fun.  Sometimes, “Geek Week” is about weird things that happen in space that if you anthropomorphize them, they make you feel sad about your family. 

For example, regard this tiny, tiny little planet.  It‘s a tiny little planet that is being eaten by its mother.  The planet is Wasp 12-B, some 600 light years away from us.  It is so close to its parent star, to its mom, that it takes 26 hours to orbit around that star. 

We, earth, take 365 days to orbit around our sun, little Wasp 12-B takes 26 hours.  Wasp 12-B has a surface temperature that is about 2,800 Fahrenheit.  That is hotter than anything this side of the Milky Way. 

Little wasp 12-B doesn‘t have much longer to live, maybe only 10 million more years before its mother eats it.  It‘s very Medea.  Then, there is NASA‘s Phoenix Mars Lander which descended upon the red planet exactly two years ago.  We sent it there.  It made it.  It landed. 

The Lander found water, found ice, found soil chemistry with, quote, “significant implications for life.”  But five months into the mission, Phoenix stopped being heard from.  We never heard from it again despite hundreds of our attempts to make contact. 

Now, we have learned what happened.  NASA just released this rather disturbing picture, contrasting Phoenix in 2008 to Phoenix now.  Now, apparently what these little dots mean is that it has severe ice damage because it was never meant to withstand a severe Martian winter. 

NASA scientists gave the Lander a eulogy though through Twitter, “Sleep well @MarsPhoenix.  One chapter ends but more waits to be written with the science you returned.” 

So we‘ve got mom eating child, orphan abandoned and finally, a dignified sendoff.  After 25 years, 32 missions and close to 120 million miles of space travel, the shuttle, Atlantis, is gearing up for its final landing tomorrow at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Seems like just yesterday, Atlantis arrived.  There is nothing inherently sad about any of these things in space unless you anthropomorphize things in space and space craft, which, of course, is humanly unavoidable if you have even the tiniest little bit of inner geek.  More “Geek Week” ahead.


MADDOW:  According to an administration official, President Obama will send as many as 1,200 National Guard troops to the southern border with Mexico and he‘ll ask Congress for $500 million for border security. 

Not to be outdone on matters easily exploited for political gain, Republicans reacted to this news today with indignation.  More than quadrupling the number of guard troops on the border - clearly, it is not enough. 

Sen. John McCain announced today that he would introduce an amendment to send 6,000 troops to the border.  Senate Republicans offered an amendment to an emergency war spending bill to spend not $500 million extra dollars on the border, but $2 billion extra dollars on the border. 

In a statement today, Arizona‘s governor, Jan Brewer, essentially took credit for the whole thing.  She said, quote, “My signing of Senate Bill 1070 has clearly ignited the talk of action in Washington.”  Ignited a talk?  “I‘m pleased that President Obama has now apparently agreed that our nation must secure the border.” 

One word of advice to the National Guard troops who will be stationed in Arizona, don‘t forget to have your ID on you at all times. 


MADDOW:  “Geek Week” - behold.  This is a silver dollar.  A magician named John Mulholland made one of these into something other than a cool silver dollar.  In this specific case, he used a silver dollar from 1921., one of the dollars we minted that time that had the word “peace” printed right under the eagle on the back of the coin. 

Mr. Mulholland hollowed the coin out.  He left the edges intact and then he sort of jiggered it so that if you pressed hard on the word “peace,” the coin would pop open, revealing a secret compartment inside the coin. 

Mr. Mulholland, the magician, charged the CIA $15 in machine fees when he turned his secret compartment coin over to the agency.  The year was 1953.

John Mulholland has now earned himself a place in “Geek Week,” because we now know that he essentially was an on-call staff magician for the CIA.  Petite CIA officers‘ magicians tricks for deception and disguise and sleight of hand. 

Mr. Mulholland was a relatively well-known magician at that time.  He had a keen interest in exposing people he thought were spiritualist con artists who used magician‘s tricks to take advantage of people. 

In the early 1950s, in the midst of a very hot Cold War, the CIA approached Mr. Mulholland and asked if he could pass on some magician secrets to the field officers of the agency. 

Mr. Mulholland produced a manual called “Some Operational Applications of the Art of Deception,” a how-to book, essentially, of trickery and misdirection.  In the early 1970s, the CIA destroyed most of the records of the very controversial larger program of which Mulholland‘s work was a part. 

It was a notorious program that, if you have any conspiracy theorist friends, you‘ve probably heard of.  It was a program called MK Ultra.  Mulholland‘s magic manual for spies was part of the MK Ultra program.  It was believed to have been destroyed with all the other MK Ultra records in the ‘70s. 

But abracadabra, a copy survived and it was recently published in a book called “The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception.”

Joining us now is Robert Wallace, retired CIA officer and author of “The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception.”  Mr. Wallace, thank you very much for joining us. 

ROBERT WALLACE, RETIRED CIA OFFICER:  Rachel, thank you for inviting me. 

MADDOW:  Why was the CIA interested in what a magician could teach CIA officers? 

WALLACE:  The CIA at that time, as you have properly said, at the height of the Cold War, was very interested in expanding its capability to conduct clandestine operations, covert activities, all around the world.  And one of the areas that it thought that probably some covert tricks, as well as some covert communications capabilities could be developed was from the magic community. 

John Mulholland, being the leader of the community at the time, was a logical person to seek assistance from. 

MADDOW:  Mr. Wallace, we enlisted a magician, a sleight-of-hand expert, today to demonstrate some of the things that are described in the manual.  I would love for you to watch this. 

John Born is an international champion of close-up magic.  He‘s an expert in the art of misdirection.  For this demonstration, he‘s going to conceal a poison pill in a matchbook and then slip that pill into our producer, Rebecca Dryden‘s drink.  Watch this quickly. 




DRYDEN:  Great.  Help yourself.  And let me get that for you. 


MADDOW:  Clink.  Misdirection.  Is there any evidence that CIA officers ever used tricks like that in the manual?  Would you ever really want to put a pill in somebody‘s drink? 

WALLACE:  Well, in terms of specific use, I‘m not a ware of that, except from the standpoint that these techniques, that is, techniques of misdirection, techniques of concealment, techniques of fooling the audience, if you will, and in our case, that audience that we want to fool are the counterintelligence officers of opposition services. 

So we want the capability of our officers to do whatever clandestine act they might be engaged in without being noticed by that opposition. 

MADDOW:  One other trick from the manual that we acted out today with John Born‘s help - it involves a pencil rigged to conceal a small amount of powder.  John Born will use, again, miss direction, to put that powder into Rebecca‘s drink.  Here it is. 


BORN:  All right.  Great, thanks for your time, and actually, now, I‘ve got to make it to Main and Mulberry.  Do you know where that‘s at? 

DRYDEN:  Yes, yes. 

BORN:  What‘s the best way to make it across town here? 

DRYDEN:  You‘re going to want to take Cherry St. right here. 

BORN:  Perfect.  Cherry? 

DRYDEN:  Yes. 

BORN:  OK.  And when I get to Cherry, do I want to take a right or a left?  

DRYDEN:  You‘ll want to take a left on cherry and it‘s two blocks down. 

BORN:  OK.  That‘s perfect.  Thank you very much. 


MADDOW:  This one obviously involves a bit of technology in that you have to have the pencil geared out like that.  Is there - in James Bond movies, there‘s always the guy that figures all the gadgets and everything for the officer, for these sorts of missions.  Was that a big part of what the CIA was doing at that time? 

WALLACE:  Well, that‘s exactly right, Rachel.  The Office of Technical

Service at the CIA, which was formed in 1951, is the queue of the Central

Intelligence Agency.  And that office develops all of the types of gadgets

that one would need to conduct espionage, just like Q did for James Bond -

MADDOW:  How did you find -

WALLACE:  Except ours tend to be a little more silent. 

MADDOW:  Yes, and less attached to Aston Martins.  How did you find this manual after it‘d been missing for so long? 

WALLACE:  That was one of those, for a historian like myself - one of those eureka moments, perhaps like a prospector finding a diamond or gold unexpectedly.  I was going through a whole series, a whole list of documents, titles of documents. 

And suddenly, I saw the name Mulholland with 120 pages.  That was all that I needed to say, “Boy, I think maybe this is a find.”  Called up the document and, in fact, it was not only his manual, the text of his manual, but also included all of the illustrations, which we have included in the book. 

MADDOW:  Robert Wallace, retired CIA officer, co-author of “The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception,” thank you very much, sir.  It‘s been a real pleasure to learn this stuff and be able to talk to you about it.  Thank you. 

WALLACE:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  I want to say thanks, also, as well, to John Born, expert in the art of misdirection.  You can learn more about him on our Web site at “”  We‘ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  So “Geek Week” continues.  Today, I helicoptered over to the USS Iwo Jima, trying to find out the answer to one question.  How do they coordinate their max hectic flight deck with no one getting fish-o-maticked by a helicopter rotor?

Military systems analysis geek.  The answer tomorrow night only here, only on “Geek Week.”  “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.



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