Guests: Rep. Ed Markey, Jim Hanson, J.D. Johannes
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: That‘s “COUNTDOWN” for this, the
36th day since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began. I‘m Keith
Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
And it‘s also day one since the following host declared “Geek Week”
mission accomplished by choppering under the USS Iwo Jima, and announcing
that major combat operations in Barnstable (ph) have ended. Ladies and
gentlemen, here is flight left-tenant, Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, flight left-tenant.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: No, I have never been on a helicopter before I
went out to do that.
OLBERMANN: Oh, surprise!
MADDOW: Well, the problem was that I never do something like that
for the first time with lots of cameras around. All of the pictures that
we got of me on that chopper and me going like this.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Oh, yes.
MADDOW: Yes. It‘s a little terrifying.
OLBERMANN: Yes. I haven‘t been in one since 1985 for that exact
reason. Over here you can see—yes, I can see quite clearly! I‘m glad
you landed safely.
MADDOW: I did indeed. And I had really good time. Thank you,
Keith. Appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
There‘s much to report about B.P.‘s latest and current attempt to
stop the out-of-control disaster a mile under water in the Gulf of Mexico
tonight, including some very late breaking news that we‘ve just had in the
last few moments that I‘ll update you on in just a second.
We‘re also going to be joined tonight by two conservative military
veterans, both very influential military bloggers, and they‘re weighing in
on “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” as that policy fight crescendos in Washington
And “Geek Week” takes the turn for the more awesome as we nerd out
over how sailors and marines on board the ginormous USS Iwo Jima run their
flight deck operations like a very loud, very well-armed, very windy
That is all coming up.
But we begin tonight with the top kill. It started at 1:00 p.m.
local time today, an effort essentially to cram a whole bunch of gunk into
the gushing Deepwater Horizon oil well on the sea floor of the Gulf of
Mexico, in the hope that the well can be clogged shut.
They‘re pumping heavy drilling mud from a ship over to a service
rig. The service rig then pumps this heavy drilling mud in a pipe down to
the sea floor. It then goes through other hoses and pipes in a manifold
that‘s down there on the sea floor. And then it goes into the blowout
preventer. The blowout preventer is sitting on top of the wellhead.
Ideally, they will then be trying to get the mud to flow through the
blowout preventer and down into the well which—remember—has been
gushing oil at a very fast rate. The key is to pump the mud with enough
pressure that it can cram down that oil that‘s gushing out of the well.
But not so much pressure that it busts open any of the pipes or hoses it‘s
going through or that it busts open the blowout preventer, or that it busts
open the drill hole from which the oil is gushing out.
If it works, that hydrostatic head of fluid mud, essentially a
column of liquid, will force the flow of oil down beneath where it is
leaking from and reseal the well. Coming out of the blowout preventer,
coming out of there at that point, if it was working, we would see no
longer oil, just the mud that they‘re pumping down there. If that works,
they can seal the well, they would get in there and put a concrete plug on
it and seal it permanently—if it works.
This is the late breaking news that we‘ve had tonight: the chief
operating officer at B.P., Doug Suttles, has just said tonight that it
appears that it is drilling mud and not oil that is gushing right now from
the ruptured undersea well. They said that six hours into the effort to
halt the spill using this top kill procedure.
The exact quote from Mr. Suttles at a news conference tonight was,
“What you‘ve been observing coming out of the top of that riser is most
likely mud.” He said, “We can‘t fully confirm that because we can‘t sample
it, and the way we know we‘ve been successful is it stops flowing.”
Again, this is hopeful sounding news from B.P.‘s chief operating
officer, not confirmed what he‘s saying they think is happening is that the
top kill essentially is going the way they want it to with drilling mud and
not oil now seen gushing out of the well head on the sea bed.
Joining us now is NBC‘s chief environmental affairs correspondent,
Anne, thanks very much for joining us again tonight. Nice to see
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good
to see you too, Rachel.
MADDOW: What is the status of the top kill right now? I know it
started at about 1:00 p.m. We‘ve heard some hopeful sounding news from
B.P.‘s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, just tonight. What‘s your
understanding of the situation right now?
THOMPSON: Well, I think B.P. is fairly pleased, obviously, pleased
that it is going according to schedule. But B.P. is by no means declaring
victory at this point. The next 24 hours are crucial. They will continue
to pump those thousands of gallons of drilling mud into the well to try and
push back the oil, as you described it.
But then after they complete doing that, then they have to take
pressure readings to see if it is working, because that will help tell them
what is happening down there. And then if they get the readings they‘re
looking for, then they will force cement into the well to seal it.
It is a very high stakes maneuver. It has never been done at 5,000
feet below sea level. They obviously are seeing some hopeful signs tonight
but as I said, no one is saying, “Whew, it‘s over” yet. Not by a long
MADDOW: If the effort fails, is there a risk that it could actually
make the leak worse?
THOMPSON: Oh, absolutely. And that‘s one of the reasons why they
spent so much time doing diagnostic tests in the last 24 hours before they
started doing the top kill procedure. Because there is—you have to get
that pressure exactly right. You have to get it—get that mud going in
fast enough so that it overcomes the oil and pushes it back down, but not
so fast that it blows the casing apart or blows the blowout preventer
I mean, one of the reasons why it‘s taking so long is that B.P. had
to rebuild lines in the blowout preventer so that it could take the mud
through those choke and kill lines and then down into the well. So, it has
been a very complex procedure.
And, yes, there is always a risk that a new hole could blow at any
time. So, they have to keep a very close eye on the pressure as they try
to accomplish this goal.
MADDOW: We‘re also hearing that some of the things they tried or
were going to try before, namely the supposed junk shot, and another
containment dome—these are techniques that they may try again either in
conjunction with this top kill effort, or after the top kill effort if the
top kill effort isn‘t successful? Is that how you understand the planning
that these other things are sort of still there, as plan G and H at this
THOMPSON: Yes, absolutely.
THOMPSON: Oh, I think we‘re beyond that. I‘ve lost the
alphabetical count at this point.
But here‘s the order in which they would go, at least this is my
understanding. The junk shot is—that‘s where they would throw golf
balls and shredded tires and knotted up rope into the blowout preventer to
try to clog it. That is one option.
But the next thing that they‘re going to try is what‘s called the
lower marine riser package. And essentially what they would do is cut off
a piece of the riser at the top of the blowout preventer and put a small
containment dome over that. And again, that would help take oil up to the
surface to a tanker vessel up above, the way I understand it. So, that is
the next thing that‘s up for a try, if this doesn‘t work.
But they are also working on several other things, including taking
another blowout preventer, and a blowout preventer is that 450-ton device
that didn‘t work when the accident happened and putting a new blowout
preventer on top of the old blowout preventer and seeing if they could
somehow stop the leak that way.
So, they‘ve got a couple of other ideas. But again, you know, it‘s
still—the only thing they‘re really sure about is the relief well. And
they are continuing to drill a relief well, even as they try the top kill
technique. The problem with the relief well is, best-case scenario, it
would be completed in early August.
So, you know, they are hoping that some time between now and then,
they can find the magic formula to stop this well from gushing.
MADDOW: NBC‘s chief environmental affairs correspondent, Anne
Thompson—as always, just invaluable expository work here for us. Thank
you so much. Really appreciate it.
THOMPSON: Take care, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the live picture of the leak that you and I can view
online to see if B.P.‘s top kill effort is working, or if any of these
other efforts that they got planned will be working, that image probably
wouldn‘t be up, were it not for Congressman Ed Markey, chairman of the
Select Committee on Energy Independence.
In fact, thanks to him, you can actually see the leak this way, with
multiple camera angles. These images are coming to you via a Mac, a Mac
computer in Congressman Markey‘s office. He was able to get a link
directly from B.P. showing the oil leak from multiple cameras, some
stationary and some moving. And while he‘s not allowed to release the
link, his office is streaming this video live through the House gallery so
everybody can see what‘s going on every minute that passes.
Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts joins us now.
Congressman, thanks very much for your time.
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thanks for having us on.
MADDOW: So, I have to ask your reaction tonight to this news that
we‘re just getting from B.P., Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles making
some hopeful noises about this top kill effort, saying that it appears that
it is drilling mud and not oil, that is—that can you see now coming out
of the ruptured under sea well, that that would be a hopeful sign for this
top kill effort.
Are you able to add anything or do you have any reaction to that
MARKEY: Again, we‘re all hopeful. But they‘re saying that it will
take another day to know whether or not they are successful. There are a
lot of things that can go wrong. But we all have our fingers crossed.
Everyone in America is praying that this is the final 24 hours of this 37,
So I can‘t add anything to it. It‘s in the hands of the engineers.
We know that they never had a plan in place to deal with something like
this. We know they‘re making it up as they go along. Hopefully, this is
the kind of improvised solution that can finally put an end to this
MADDOW: In terms of the relationship between B.P. and the
government, between B.P., frankly, and the nation, as this disaster
continues to unfold, you are the one who initially asked B.P. last week to
show video of the leak to the public. They conceded, but they said they
would take it down during the top kill procedure.
What reason did the company give you for that decision when they
MARKEY: I think right from the very beginning, they felt that it
was B.P.‘s spill, and B.P.‘s cameras, and B.P.‘s ocean. I don‘t think
until very recently they‘ve come to realize that it‘s B.P.‘s spill but it‘s
America‘s ocean. The American people have a right to know what‘s going on,
and we know that millions of people are watching this on an ongoing basis.
And that‘s why I firmly insisted that they: one, give us the link to
all 12 different angles, which is now up, if people want to look at it.
And secondly, that they can‘t shut it down when they‘re going in with this
top kill procedure. The American people have a right to see what is going
on because there are real issues here. Initially B.P. said it was 1,000
barrels per day. Then they altered it to 5,000 barrels per day.
And what I found in a document which I received yesterday is that,
of course, B.P. right from the beginning felt that it could be 1,000 to
14,000 barrels. But they picked 1,000 for that first week because their
liability is tied to how many barrels of oil go into the Gulf. And it‘s
the difference between tens of millions of dollars and billions of dollars,
depending upon the size of this leak.
I think everyone—including scientists across the country—
should have an ability to be able to evaluate what‘s going on right now.
MADDOW: And, Congressman, B.P.‘s argument publicly was that any
resources devoted to figuring out the exact size of the leak, the rate of
leaking oil there was essentially a distraction from—a detraction from
engineering resources devoted to shutting the leak off. They said it
didn‘t really matter how much was spilling because they had to try to stop
To be clear, you think that they had a real financial motivation to
not know how much was leaking, or to minimize the amount leaking, because
that‘s linked to their liability.
MARKEY: Their own analysis, four or five days into the leak was it
was between 1,000 and 14,000, and they picked 5,000 barrels per day. Now,
independent scientists, since last Wednesday when this film went up on my
Web site, have determined it could be 40,000 barrels per day, 50,000
barrels per day—and that‘s ultimately going to be central to how much
B.P. is forced to pay in fines, but also for the cleanup.
And I think that, unfortunately, they got their eye on that
liability issue instead of the livability issue for the people in the Gulf.
MADDOW: Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey, chairman of the Select
Committee on Energy Independence—thank you very much for your time
tonight, sir. And thanks for the opportunity to see those camera angles we
wouldn‘t have without you. Appreciate it.
MARKEY: Thank you. And thanks for your great coverage of this
MADDOW: That‘s very kind. Thanks.
Today, we found something in the NBC News archives that has helped
us a lot with our continued reporting on the B.P. oil disaster in the Gulf
of Mexico. It‘s footage that has not been seen in 30 years. We restored
it from the NBC News archives today. We think it may provide a key insight
into what‘s already happened in the Gulf and what continues to happen
there. That‘s coming up next.
Plus, more “Geek Week” ahead—including me sort of panicking about
being on a helicopter. That‘s coming up.
MADDOW: When we were deciding what we were going to do for “Geek
Week” this week, one of the really specific questions we wanted to get an
answer for is something that required a visit to either an aircraft carrier
or amphibious assault ship. Luckily, for us, the USS Iwo Jima was willing
to let me stop by and ask my really specific “Geek Week” question. It
turns out that question has a really, really specific answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is exactly what I came here today to figure out, and
you just made it all make sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It worked! That‘s coming up tonight for “Geek Week.”
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Today in Alaska, crude oil production was all but stopped
on the North Slope. Oil companies operating there were told to cut their
production by more than 80 percent after thousands of barrels of crude oil
spilled from the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The 800 mile Trans-Alaska oil
line at least for right now is shut down. That spill in Alaska is
happening, of course, in the shadow of a much larger spill in the Gulf of
And, actually, you know what? If it‘s OK with you guys in the
control room, I think we should probably just have me stop doing this now
and let the gravitas white guy anchor do this part. Let do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED TV NEWS ANCHOR: In Alaska, the pipeline has been
repaired. Oil is expected to flow again today. But that crack that
developed Sunday allowed 1,500 barrels of crude oil to escape, 700 barrels
recovered. And in the Gulf of Mexico, oil workers are trying to handle a
much larger oil spill, burning offshore oil well is dumping 30,000 barrels
of crude each day into the Gulf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, yes, that was from 1979, June 13th, 1979. That NBC
News anchor reporting on a pipeline spill in Alaska on the same day that an
oil well was leaking out of control and burning in the Gulf of Mexico.
Thirty-one years ago, in June 1979, an oil well called the Ixtoc
blew out in the Gulf of Mexico. It started spewing thousands of barrels of
crude oil into the Gulf every day. And it‘s not just the disaster itself
that should sound familiar to you, it‘s also the techniques that they were
using at the time to try to contain the spill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED TV NEWS ANCHOR: Airplanes are to be used to drop chemicals
on the oil, but there is a shortage of aviation fuel down there. And the
workers are also putting up a mile-long boom. They‘re putting it into
place, trying to contain the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Chemical dispersants being spread across the Gulf by plane,
mile long booms being set up to contain the oil slick on the surface.
If you close your eyes and you just listen to these news reports
from 1979, you would be forgiven from thinking—for thinking that you had
flipped on the news today.
The Ixtoc rig erupted in the middle of the night in 1979 in June, as
it was drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The drilling was being done
by a company called Sedco. It later became known as Transocean—the
operator of the rig that blew up this year in the Gulf of Mexico.
The reason the Ixtoc explosion turned into a massive uncontrolled
leak 30 years ago is because the well‘s blowout preventer malfunctioned.
Does it sound familiar? The blowout preventer failed to stop the Ixtoc
leak and what followed was an environmental disaster the likes of which the
country had never seen before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIE MONROE, NBC NEWS: Floating barriers are still stretched
across the waterway near South Padre Island to keep approaching oil from
spoiling this popular sports fishing area, which is also vital to shrimp
fishing and endangered wildlife. Oil skimming vessels are also being put
into service to catch any patches of oil which may get through.
About five miles offshore, another team of private oil containment
workers is prepared to intercept drifting oil before it gets to land. The
Coast Guard has already said it will be impossible to get it all, and
they‘re particularly concerned about oil moving under water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Plumes of oil moving under water. Oil containment teams,
skimming vessels—again, these are not badly colorized reports from the
B.P. oil disaster in the Gulf right now. This is reporting from deja vu
land, from essentially the same disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but in
1979. The only thing missing back then was worries that the loop current
would carry the oil out of the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the coast of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED TV NEWS ANCHOR: There is now a distinct possibility that oil
spilling from that runaway Mexican well could spread as far as the Gulf
Coast of Florida. That, from an official of the EPA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Ixtoc disaster in 1979 in the Gulf of Mexico went on
for weeks. Then weeks turned into months. The reason it went on for so
long is because even though oil companies were allowed to drill offshore
like that, it turns out they didn‘t know how to stop a leak when disaster
struck. Nothing they tried worked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED TV NEWS ANCHOR: In the Gulf of Mexico, rain and heavy seas
are hampering efforts to cap a Mexican oil well. It has been spilling
since June 3rd, the worst spill in history. Workers are trying to put a
giant cone over the well. Despite inclement weather, they may try again
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Trying to put a giant cone over the well. In 2010, this
giant cone strategy is what we were sort of euphemistically calling the top
hat. I wonder if they had a euphemistic name for it back in 1979.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Officials are calling it “Operation
Sombrero.” Workers have been trying since the weekend to put a 300-ton
steel cone over the moth of the runaway well. Officials say, once in
place, the cone will collect up to 90 percent of the crude oil which has
been gushing from the well for more than 3 ½ months, from 10,000 to
30,000 barrels a day, have floated from the Bay of Campeche and the Gulf of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As with B.P.‘s top hat, the Ixtoc spill‘s “Operation
Sombrero” ultimately failed to stop the leak. But they had other ideas
back then that were sure to solve the problem. Ideas like shooting metal
spheres into the well to cut the flow of oil. You have might call that
today a junk shot.
They also tried pumping cement and salt water into the leaking well
to try to jam it up. You might call that a top kill maneuver.
Neither of those things worked. For months and months and months
and months and months, the Ixtoc well continued to leak uncontrollably
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Two relief wells are still being
drilled to relieve pressure on the blown-out well so it eventually can be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Relief wells. Nine agonizingly long months after the Ixtoc
well exploded, a pair of relief wells finally allowed the engineers to cap
the leaking well. That was 31 years ago. I am 37 years old, and this
happened when I was 6. Those hair cuts are back in fashion.
And the stuff that did not work back then is the same stuff that
hasn‘t worked now. Same busted blowout preventer, same ineffective berm,
same underwater plumes, same toxic dispersants, same failed containment
domes, same junk shot, same top kill—it‘s all the same technology. The
Ixtoc well, which couldn‘t be plugged for nine months, was in roughly 200
feet of water. Now, in 2010, we‘re using the same exact techniques to try
to plug a well that is leaking in 5,000 feet of water.
Now, look. Maybe this top kill maneuver will work. We obviously
hope and pray that it does. Praying does seem wiser than hoping at this
That said, as we reported earlier this hour, B.P. executive Doug
Suttles says tonight that it looks like it‘s drilling mud and not oil, that
is what‘s now coming out of the ruptured well, but they can‘t tell for
The thing that‘s been essentially guaranteed to work in the past is
a relief well and that‘s still months away from being complete. The oil
companies keep talking about how technologically advanced they are—but
what they‘ve gotten technologically advanced at is drilling deeper. They
haven‘t gotten any more advanced on how to deal with the risks attached to
that. They haven‘t made technological advances in the last 30 year when‘s
it comes to stopping a leak like this when it happens. All they‘ve gotten
better at is making the risks worse, by putting these leaks further out of
Oh, hey, congratulations, now the thing you can‘t stop is a full
mile under water.
That‘s all they‘ve gotten better at that and making themselves the
most profitable industry the universe has ever seen, and I am not
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONROE: Officials say the oil could reach all the way to Florida,
as it continues to threaten the U.S. coast for months.
Willie Monroe, NBC News, South Padre Island, Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tomorrow is probably the big day on “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.”
Senators Ben Nelson and Susan Collins and Robert Byrd now reportedly saying
they‘ll vote for an amendment to repeal the policy after Pentagon review.
That means the amendment will probably pass. It would take 60 votes
to strip that amendment out later, so for opponents of the policy, the
prospects, at least on the Senate side, seem pretty good.
On the House side, Iraq war veteran Congressman Patrick Murphy told us
last night that he has the votes to pass the same amendment. No one
actually knows for sure if he does have those votes but he says he‘s got
The vote in the House could be tomorrow as well. The “Don‘t Ask,
Don‘t Tell” policy has been in place for 17 years. More than 14,000
Americans serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have had their
careers ended because of the policy.
The president says he wants it repealed. The Secretary of Defense and
the chairman of the joint-chiefs-of-staff say they agree that it should be
repealed. And the Pentagon is currently engaged in a study of how to
Let me repeat that. They‘re studying how to repeal “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t
Tell.” There‘s been some confusion about that, so let‘s be very clear
about this. On March 2nd of this year, the Defense Secretary issued a memo
directing this review. The review has a name.
It is called the Comprehensive Review on the Implementation of a
Repeal of Section 654 of Title 10 of the United States Code. In other
words, they are reviewing repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell.” They‘re not
reviewing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell,” the policy itself.
They are reviewing the repeal of it. They are reviewing how they can
mitigate any potential adverse impact of repealing the policy. They are
reviewing whether repealing the policy should result in any other changes
for training or standards of conduct.
They‘re reviewing whether the repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” should
cause other policies and regulations to change as well. That‘s the review
the Pentagon is engaged in right now.
It‘s not whether to repeal the policy. It‘s how to repeal the policy.
What‘s likely to be voted on tomorrow is an amendment that would make the
actual legislative repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” contingent on the
completion of that Pentagon review.
Contingent on the president and the brass considering that Pentagon
review, and contingent on the president and Defense Secretary and Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs all signing off then that repeal is a good idea. That
repeal would be consistent with the standards of military readiness,
effective—excuse me, military readiness, military effectiveness, unit
cohesion and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.
This is why everybody‘s talking about this as a compromise. It says
repeal starts only as early as December, if that Pentagon review and the
chairman and the secretary and the president say it can happen.
Tomorrow‘s probably the big day for the vote on that compromise. But
even if it‘s not done tomorrow, a group of influential military bloggers
has made a splash recently because they wrote a joint statement saying they
thought repeal of “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” is now inevitable.
It said, in part, quote, “Today it appears to us”—excuse me again,
“Today it appears inevitable to us that the ‘Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell‘ policy
and law restricting open homosexual behavior, those displaying open
homosexual behavior from serving will be changed. And yet very little will
actually change. Homosexuals have always served in the U.S. military and
there have been no real problems caused by that.”
Statement continues, “The U.S. Military is professional and ready to
adapt to the repeal of ‘don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell‘ without compromising its
mission. Echoing Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen, we welcome
open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.”
Now, that would be one thing coming from a pinko hippy like me. It‘s
another thing coming from these guys.
Joining us now are two of the military bloggers who signed that
letter, Jim Hanson, retired Army Special Operations Weapons Sergeant who
writes for the military blog, “BlackFive.net.” And J.D. Johannes, a former
Marine who served on the staff of Republican Senator Sam Brownback and who
is the campaign manager for Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline. J.D. is a
combat correspondent and documentary filmmaker. He writes at his blog,
“OutsideTheWire.com.” Gentlemen, thank you both very much for joining us
SGT. JIM HANSON (RET.), ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS WEAPONS, UNITED STATES
ARMY: Thanks, Rachel.
J.D. JOHANNES, COMBAT CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Mr. Hanson, let me start with you. What was the impetus for
trying to put together a statement on this issue at all? Why did you think
it was important to get on the record in a collective way like this?
HANSON: Well, I first wrote about repealing “Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” tell
five years ago. And personally I thought it was kind of ridiculous to say
gay people can serve, but you just can‘t act gay.
I thought that was a ridiculous thing to do. So when it came, as we
said, to be more or less inevitable that it was going to happen, what we
wanted was Congress and the White House to go ahead and listen to the
military services as to how to immaterial implement a new policy.
It‘s not going to be a simple thing. You know, you can go ahead and
write a new rule that says it‘s changed. Go ahead and do it and the
military will salute and move out sharply.
But will they then be as combat effective and as you mentioned, it
will affect unit cohesion, et cetera. So we wanted them to go ahead and
listen to the services and go ahead and talk to the troops so that they
felt invested in this change and like they‘d been consulted.
And the problem we saw was Sen. Levin and some other folks seemed
poised to go ahead and do what they‘re doing right now, which is make a
political move and implement this before the military‘s done their study
and let the troops feel, you know, that they hadn‘t been consulted.
MADDOW: But the reason—
HANSON: So we‘re asking them to go ahead and let the troops have their
MADDOW: The reason this is a compromise, though, is it wouldn‘t be
implemented before the study is completed. It would be implemented
contingent on the study being complete and the study concluding that it‘s a
So it is a compromise and that‘s the thing that‘s changed since—I
guess since you put out the statement, actually, that they‘ve decided that
they would vote but it would all be contingent on the study, right?
HANSON: Yes. And I think that‘s a good thing. If they‘re willing go
ahead and wait and let the troops have their voice, that the services be
consulted and then have a plan, I think as you mentioned, the military is
ready and as we thought, they‘re ready to do this.
I think—honestly, I think from the troops perspective, it‘s a
“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Care.” You know, if someone could pull their weight in a
combat unit, that‘s a heck of a lot more important than who they‘re
I mean, you know, gay people are everywhere. I‘ve heard they even
have their own cable TV news shows these days. You know, it‘s not a
surprising thing. I think the troops at the lower levels are ready. We
just wanted to make sure that the policy is implemented in a way that
doesn‘t affect us while we are in a shooting war.
MADDOW: Mr. Johannes, I know in addition to your time in the military and
your time as a journalist, you‘ve been active in conservative electoral
politics. Do you feel like conservative opinion on this issue is diverse,
that it‘s less uniform on this issue than it was, say, back in ‘93 when we
first got this policy?
JOHANNES: It is much more diverse than it was back in the early ‘90s. And
you‘re exactly right when you‘re using the word “policy.” What you see
within the conservative side of things is that military readiness is the
And being in two active wars and with the threat environment not going
to be changing for years to come, we need to have a structure where we can
bring in as many people who are as qualified to serve. And eliminating
“Don‘t Ask, Don‘t Tell” opens up another pool of potential recruits,
officers, and enlisted people who are already serving and allowing them to
serve honorably and effectively combat now and into the future.
MADDOW: J.D., you have spent time with frontline troops in recent years.
I‘ve seen some of your footage shot in places like Baghdad. You noted in
the letter that you signed on that there already are gay troops serving—
MADDOW: There always have been. If repeal passes, how do you think the
lives of people who are gay, who are already in the military—how do you
think their lives will change?
JOHANNES: Honestly, from the ones that I‘ve known in my service and in my
travels covering the wars recently, I don‘t think there‘s going to be a lot
of big changes. I don‘t think you‘re going to see a big flood of young men
and women coming out and declaring their openness of their sexuality.
I think they‘re going to continue to serve with distinction. And when
you‘re deployed overseas, there‘s a little quirk in the rules called
General Order Number One. Sexual relations are not allowed under General
Order Number One.
So you‘re not going to have any changes in actual behavior overseas in
the combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. What you will find is a lot of
young men and women, a lot of officers, a lot of NCOs who are serving with
distinction, doing great work over there, are going to have one less burden
lifted off their shoulders.
One less thing to worry about—oh, no, what if I get caught when I‘m
home on leave? What if we rotate back state side and get caught? That‘s
going to be removed and they‘re going to be able to focus on the task at
MADDOW: Jim Hanson, who I think of as Uncle Jimbo because I‘m a regular
reader of “BlackFive.net,” and J.D. Johannes, thank you both for being here
today. I know—I‘m sure we have a million disagreements on a million
military and other issues, but I think your insight on this has been both
really interesting and has really stirred up some really interesting
discussion on this subject. Thank you both for joining us tonight. Really
JOHANNES: Great to be here, Rachel.
HANSON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot. Thank you. OK. “Geek Week,” still to come.
Tonight, starring a 40,500-ton amphibious assault ship and brightly-colored
T-shirts. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: The headlines out of Jamaica this week almost defy belief. At
least 49 people, including three police officers and 46 civilians, have
reportedly been killed in a huge militarized outbreak of urban warfare in
Jamaica‘s capital city of Kingston.
What‘s going on is that the government and the police have decided to
try to arrest an alleged drug lord named Christopher Coke. He‘s nicknamed
“Dudus.” Mr. Coke faces extradition to the United States on drug charges
and gun charges.
His army supporters have essentially barricaded the Tivoli Gardens
section of Kingston to protect Mr. Coke from being arrested. His gunmen
have torched five police stations. They reportedly went on a looting and
Police are now conducting door-to-door searches for Mr. Coke. They
said they have arrested more than 500 people. Flights in and out of
Kingston have been disrupted. The State Department has issued a travel
alert warning Americans not to travel to the city.
Nearly 20 years ago, Christopher Coke‘s father died mysteriously while
he was also facing extradition to the U.S. At that time, the leader of the
labor party in Jamaica led the funeral procession for the elder Mr. Coke.
Now, it‘s 18 year‘s later, Coke‘s son is also facing extradition to
the U.S. The current leader of the labor party in Jamaica is the country‘s
prime minister. The prime minister actually represents as a member of
parliament, the Tivoli Gardens section of Kingston, where Mr. Coke‘s armed
followers are waging war right now when the U.S. first requested that
Christopher Coke be extradited.
Last August, the prime minister refused—he refused for months. He
only recently relented and directed his security forces to go arrest Mr.
Coke. Now, this massive fighting has been the result. Again, the urban
fighting in Kingston is now into its fourth day. Almost 50 people killed
so far. More than 500 arrests. We will keep apprised as we learn more.
MADDOW: When George W. Bush sat as a passenger in a fighter jet that did a
tail-hook landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003, it
was probably the defining photo op of his presidency, maybe the defining
photo op of the decade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: In the battle of Iraq, the
United States and our allies have prevailed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The banner behind the president declaring “mission accomplished,”
despite the fact we were just six weeks into the Iraq war, a war which even
six years after the “mission accomplished” speech was still very well
If you leave aside the whole “mission accomplished” thing for a
second, there‘s one really striking element of the visual from this photo
op that I‘ve always wanted to have explained.
What‘s with the colored shirts? Doesn‘t really look like a normal
uniform. What is that all about? And that is a question for which there
is an answer, a totally fascinating answer.
We flew out to the amphibious assault ship, the USS Iwo Jima yesterday
to get that answer, and I didn‘t wear this. But I understand the desire
to. That story coming right up. Mission accomplished.
MADDOW: If you live in New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Ft. Lauderdale
or Seattle or if you have ever seen “Sex and the City,” you might already
be a fan of Fleet Week. Fleet Week is when the Navy pulls into port and
shows off some of its ships to the public.
They let the public board and tour the ships and learn what they do.
And we civilians, in return, welcome service members from the Navy and the
Marines and the Coast Guard to explore our cities.
Also, we sometimes buy them drinks and we sometimes hit on them. At
least, that‘s how it works on “Sex and the City,” I hear. Anyway, here in
New York, I can definitely say that Fleet Week is something New Yorkers
look forward to every year.
And Fleet Week in New York started today. For “Geek Week” we decided
to take advantage of the presence of all these big naval vessels to ask a
nagging systems-analysis geek question.
What kind of big brain choreography and systems planning does it take
to get aircraft to safely take off, land, refuel and sometimes get serious
weapons reloaded, unloaded and checked on the very confined space of a
In deafening conditions, while moving on the sea with jet thrust, a
rotor wash that can flatten you with all sorts of soft, squishy humans in
very close proximity to these big moving metal spinning rotor blades and
Systems-wise, how do they make that work? So yesterday, as the
amphibious assault ship, the USS Iwo Jima was making its way to New York
City for Fleet Week, I got on board a Sea Hawk helicopter to find out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera): I have never been on a helicopter before. I definitely have
never been on a giant, awesome military helicopter like this before. We
are taking off. I am very excited. We are going to check out how Iwo Jima
coordinates all of the (INAUDIBLE) that they coordinate onboard their
landing deck without anybody hitting each other.
Woohoo. So the USS Iwo Jima is an amphibious assault ship. There are
both sailors and marines onboard. When it‘s fully staffed, there‘s about
3,000 people onboard this ship. Essentially, a smaller scale aircraft
carrier. You don‘t have the giant catapult system that you‘ve seen like on
“Top Gun” with the full-scale aircraft carrier.
Essentially, the aircraft that use a ship like this as a home base are
mostly helicopters. They call them helos(ph) onboard here. And in some
cases, aircraft that require a short runway for take-off and landing,
things like carriers.
So we‘re on a small-scale aircraft carrier. They‘ve got a huge flight
deck. What we‘re on right now is the hangar deck. And essentially, what
we are interested in here for “Geek Week” is how they avoid total disaster
in doing the normal thing that they do every day.
You think about it. You‘ve got jet wash. You‘ve got rotor wash.
You‘ve got an incredible number of aircraft all taking off and landing,
refueling in a wartime or exercises context actually dealing with ordnance,
actually dealing with weapons going on and off those aircraft and being
All of this stuff happening on a single deck with no room for error
and a lot of soft, squishy humans right in the middle of all of these very
fast spinning rotor blades. How do they do the choreography, the systems
planning here, so they get done what they need to get done and nobody gets
In part, it is color coding. I‘m not kidding. Can I ask you what the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yellow means I‘m an aircraft director, which
(INAUDIBLE) into all aircraft landing, launching and recovery, all aircraft
aboard the USS Iwo Jima.
MADDOW: But how do you communicate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Visual hand signals. Hand signals.
MADDOW: OK. Can you show me one and explain what it means?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma‘am. I have command. I have control.
MADDOW: What does white mean on the flight deck?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White means strictly medical or safety. In my case, I
wear a red cross which stands for medical because I‘m the only person on
the flight deck stand by in case anything happens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bring them forward. Coming in.
MADDOW: Sir, you‘re wearing a brown shirt. When I see you on the flight
deck in a brown shirt, what does that signify? What does that mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We deal with everything from servicing engines to
checking all of our service things, from engines, TGB, IDB (ph), main gear
box, anything that turns or requires any movement in the aircraft, I have
MADDOW: AM3 -- what does that mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aviation structural mechanic.
MADDOW: Aviation structural mechanic. I have a feeling that means you fix
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it comes in, it‘s on the hover.
MADDOW: What does purple mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, purple is aviation fuels. We work on gasoline,
basically and we fuel the aircrafts that is on the flight deck. We fuel
MADDOW: I was feeling really smart and I felt like purple was the one
thing I figured out from watching choppers land on and off the deck. I
thought, oh, those guys fuel the aircraft. I had no idea you also fuel the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Land. (INAUDIBLE) landed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s in the hold position.
MADDOW: What does red mean?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, red with a black stripe is ordnance.
MADDOW: And ordnance to people in the civilian world means—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The missiles and ammunition.
MADDOW: Stuff that blows up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MADDOW: Now, I see you are wearing a red vest and a red shirt but you
don‘t have a stripe there on the front.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MADDOW: What does that mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m in an aviation (INAUDIBLE). And I‘m a crash and
salvage. So I‘m an aircraft firefighter.
MADDOW: Is there any tension between the fact that the red people with the
stripes are to blow things up and the red people without the stripes are to
stop things from blowing up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
MADDOW: You don‘t get along?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There (INAUDIBLE) boosters. Boosters in. Chop and
MADDOW: Those guys in the blue shirts—when they come in and they chock
the wheels and tie them down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Ma‘am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) chock and chain.
MADDOW: And that is the signal for you to get in there and get to work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And then, the signal to take them out is—
take chocks out and take chains off.
MADDOW: All right. Chains off as if they are on your arms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Take them off.
MADDOW: That‘s deep. We are trying to understand in laymen‘s terms how
the flight deck doesn‘t look like a fish-o-matic. How are you able to put
all those soft humans running around with a lot of important job to do with
all of those machines and rotor blades and keep everybody safe? What kind
sort of systems planning goes into figuring out how to keep everybody doing
their jobs and are out of trouble?
CMDR. FRANK DOWD, AIR BOSS, USS IWO JIMA: Well, the first thing you do is
you minimize the number of people you have on the deck. So no one
extraneous is up there. We identify who is doing what by our color-coded
Different functions have a different colored jersey. And that helps
us separate who‘s who on the flight deck. I know that the yellow shirts—
they are directing an aircraft. They‘re either landing it because that is
their function or they‘re moving it with a tow tractor.
I‘ve got blue shirts who handle all the chalking and chaining. Once
an aircraft lands, they run out and they install chocks and they chain it
down to keep it safe. And I‘ve got red shirts who are our crash-and-
If an aircraft were to crash, they are the instant firefighting
response. They have got firefighting trucks up there. And they come in
and execute a rescue in a fire. I‘ve got white jerseys. They‘re all my—
safety, quality assurance.
Brown and green jerseys are from the squadron. And they will go in
and maintain and fix the aircraft. Purple jerseys, we call them grapes.
They refuel all the aircraft.
So just by looking, you can tell who is doing what out there. Now, if
somebody doesn‘t have one of those jerseys on, they are probably not
supposed to be there and it is pretty easy to separate now.
MADDOW: That is exactly what I came here today to figure out and you just
made it all make sense.
DOWD: Very good.
MADDOW: That‘s the very—smallest accomplishment in your big day. But I
thank you for that and for your time, sir. Thank you very much.
DOWD: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: I really appreciate it.
USS IWO JIMA CREW: Happy Geek Week.
MADDOW: “Geek Week” is far from over. We have a couple of most excellent
“Geek Week” features planned for tomorrow‘s show. We even decided to fold
Kent Jones into the geek activities by sending him to Johnson City,
Tennessee in search of—I‘ll let him show you, actually.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel. “Geek Week” continues. I‘m
here at East Tennessee State University. And tomorrow, I‘m going to
introduce you to this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There is also more behind-the-scenes footage of our trip to the
USS Iwo Jima that‘s posted right now at “MaddowBlog.MSNBC.com.” It
includes an explanation of what makes the Iwo Jima an amphibious ship.
That‘s very neat.
That does it for us tonight. “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts
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