Guests: Muhammad Musri, Michael Eric Dyson, Faiz Shakir, Craig Wattson,
Jonathan Turley, Leonard Mlodinow
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Breaking news. Wayne Sapp, the associate pastor of the Dove Church in Florida says the planned Koran-burning there during Saturday‘s 9/11 commemorations is not, quote, “canceled,” but merely, quote, “suspended”—as the new controversy swirls upward was the extremist pastor laboring under a mistake and impression or even a delusion that he had made some kind of deal, he‘d stop the burning if the Park 51 Islamic center in New York were to be moved.
OLBERMANN (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR TERRY JONES, DOVE WORLD OUTREACH CENTER: If they were willing to move it away from that location, we would consider that a sign from God. We would have—or he has—been in contact with the imam in New York City. He has agreed to move the location.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But from sources in the office of the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, no deal to move Park 51. And the man in the middle, Orlando Imam Muhammad Musri.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IMAM MUHAMMAD MUSRI, ISLAMIC CENTER OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: I have made this morning contact with the office of the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and got the commitment to fly out to New York and meet with him in the company of Pastor Jones to discuss and come to a decision on relocating the mosque.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Our special guest: Imam Muhammad Musri.
Rendition is still unchecked. An appeals court tosses the lawsuit challenging the company that flew its victims. Jonathan Turley joins me.
Stephen Hawking‘s argument: No God is needed to create a universe, just gravity and quantum theory. Our guest, his co-author, Leonard Mlodinow.
And David Letterman and I play deity for a possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: It could be Jed Bush. It would be another Bush. We haven‘t had enough of them.
OLBERMANN: That‘s his campaign slogan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: I‘ll reveal what it is so somebody, you know, call Jeb up and tell him to watch.
All of the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LETTERMAN: You see how that works?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
This just in from our Kerry Sanders in Florida: We‘re a little back to square one, he now quotes Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove Church in that state. “I‘m praying,” he tells Sanders, “to decide what to do next.”
Two days before the ninth anniversary of 9/11, just over 48 hours before the planned burning of Korans by a small Florida church—and our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: The Koran-burning has been suspended.
Originally, the pastor of the church had said it was canceled. The Muslim mediator credited for the breakthrough joins us presently.
The ugly ramification: It is too late to call back no matter what happens next already rippling through Afghanistan. We‘ll have that later in the hour.
But we begin with Pastor Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, who decided months ago to burn Korans, to take a stand, he said recently, against both radical Islam and what he described as American accommodation of it.
Despite a direct appeal by President Obama via ABC News today on that program and despite a personal appeal in a phone call from Defense Secretary Gates today because of the violence it could inspire against U.S. troops, Jones continued to say only God‘s word would sway him. That word apparently came today from our guest or via our guest standing by, Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of central Florida, who says he has arranged a meeting between Jones and Imam Feisal Rauf of the Islamic center planned for two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City.
Jones, this afternoon, described this as a deal to move that Islamic center in New York and said then that not only was he canceling his Koran-burning Saturday, but that no one should burn any Korans. That was what he said then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: We are, of course, now against any other group burning Korans, obviously. We have—we have accomplished our goal. We have accomplished what we feel God wants us to do. We would right now ask no one to burn Korans. We are very, very strong on that—as strong as we were that they should burn Korans. It is not the time to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: When Mr. Jones was told, however, that New York organizers of that Islamic center said they had not agreed to move it, Jones was asked whether he felt tricked and exactly what he was told.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: That the imam would move the mosque from Ground Zero. I was told he cannot move it tomorrow. I said that is fine. But it cannot be in 10 years. Those were exact words that I said. The man said that‘s fine. I said, now, he has agreed to move the mosque away from the Ground Zero area. Yes, he has. That‘s what I was told.
Do I feel tricked? Yes, of course. I don‘t—I don‘t feel tricked. I was lied to. Of course, that‘s why—that‘s why at this time I‘m not prepared to believe that. I‘m not prepared to make that accusation. I want to just wait and see, and I am right now I am believing his word. I find it very hard to believe that he would lie to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That was followed by Jones‘ associate pastor coming out to reporters this evening and suggesting they might return to being just as for burning Korans as they are currently against burning Korans if the New York City Islamic center does not move.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASST. PASTOR WAYNE SAPP, DOVE WORLD OUTREACH CENTER: We have not canceled the burning on Saturday. We‘ve suspended it until we get a confirmation on the information we were given today in a meeting full of different members of the church on what was said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: With us now, as promised, Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida.
Much thanks for your time tonight on this extraordinary, sir. We appreciate it sincerely.
MUSRI: Thank you, Keith. Glad to be here.
OLBERMANN: Where does this stand? Do you know? Pastor Jones seem to think the leaders of the New York center agreed to move the location further away from Ground Zero. Is he mistaken about that? What exactly did you tell him?
MUSRI: Prior to going inside to meet with him when I submitted a request to meet with him, I spent an hour in the sun, and during that time, I talked to the media and explained exactly what I came to do. And that‘s exactly what I went inside and did and that is, I told him I arranged for a meeting between me, himself and Imam Abdul Rauf, that the imam in New York has, through his office, agreed to—for us to meet up in New York if he gives up the event on Saturday.
And I told him clearly, I am not in any way connected to the event in New York. I have no control over it. I cannot promise you that it will be moved. But my position is for it to be relocated to a more ideal position, somewhere we can avoid the controversy that‘s going on on that side. I said, I advocate for that prior to this incident here and I‘m willing to go personally to New York to do that.
He clearly understood that there were no cut deals over there in New York. Neither him nor I spoke to the imam in New York and we were under no, you know, fallacy that a deal has been made—a barter deal where he gives up this and the imam in New York will give up that.
OLBERMANN: Well, if he clearly understood that there was no fallacy of a—of a barter deal, as you phrase it, what‘s your reaction to him basically coming out and saying it was a barter deal and that‘s what he was going to New York to do—to arrange how quickly and how far away the Park 51 center was going to be moved?
MUSRI: The main reason that we came out and he agreed to call off the event on Saturday was not centered on what‘s happening in New York or not. It was based on the fact that today is the last day of Ramadan, that tomorrow morning, in a few hours in the Middle East and throughout the world, Muslims will be celebrating Eid, one of the two holiest days. And during, that hundreds of millions of people will be heading to mosques where a message will be delivered by imams, some of whom are radical and may use his event on Saturday to radicalize the use and to turn people against us in the United States.
So, I told him, time is of the essence. If you wait until Friday or Saturday, it will be too little too late any way. You have to make a decision now and so people across the world will hear your message that you canceled this so that tomorrow morning, we would not see riots and see demonstrations in the streets of Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
OLBERMANN: So, Imam Musri, the premise of this as you left that first meeting with Pastor Jones, as you understood it and as you understood him to understand it was, you believe that it would be a good gesture if the New York center were moved further away from Ground Zero. He certainly did. And you were going to join him in New York to talk to Imam Rauf about the prospect of doing that and perhaps to advocate for that, as a—as a gesture of goodwill as the stopping of the burning of the Korans would be.
Is that—is that the way you thought it was when you left that meeting?
MUSRI: Precisely. I repeated that three or four times inside the building. Yes.
OLBERMANN: Then let me—let me ask you one question about that that equates—essentially the burning of the Korans and building of this Islamic community center at New York at some distance from Ground Zero with facilities for other religions to pray and a culinary institute and all the rest, these two things have somehow become equated or perhaps conflated.
Why, in your opinion, as a member of your faith, as a leader of your faith, are these things even remotely connected and why shouldn‘t there be an Islamic center exactly where they have it planned at 51 Park Place in Manhattan?
MUSRI: I did not think they were connected at all. I thought that he connected them clearly when he stepped out in front of the cameras but inside, I told him, those are two separate issues, completely separate. And the issue of burning the Koran is something that will trigger reaction across the Muslim world and it is not congruent with his Christian beliefs.
But the project in New York is something totally different. It is not breaking any law. It is enshrined in the constitutional rights of the Muslim community in New York to do it.
But I told him my personal take on it, that respecting the wishes of large number of Americans who feel the controversy could be avoided by relocating the mosque, I said, I‘m for that position at this point. And I wish to talk to the imam in New York on that. But these two events are not linked at all, in my opinion.
OLBERMANN: I‘ll close where I began in that maelstrom of trying to understand where it stands right now. Do you understand where it all stands right now? Is this church going to go ahead with the latest pledge not to do anything on Saturday? Is that at least going to happen? Is there going to be a meeting? Are you going to New York?
MUSRI: I believe that Pastor Jones would keep his words. That‘s what I urge of him. And otherwise, all that we have done for two days in a row will go to waste.
And it wasn‘t just what I told him, but it was the many Christian leaders who called him and the messages from President Obama, to the secretary of defense, everybody talked to him. It wasn‘t me.
But I gave him a face to see a Muslim in front of him and talk to him and direct his frustration and anger towards me rather than to something he never seen and towards a book. So, he feels that, you know, we have a deal, and he is going to give me the time to make the contact with New York and arrange for the meeting and follow through with our planned event to meet with Imam Abdul Rauf and try to reach a deal there.
But I do not believe at this time that Pastor Jones will go back to what he was planning to do on Saturday.
OLBERMANN: Well, hopefully, that is the truth. Imam Muhammad Musri of Islamic Society of Central Florida, great thanks for your time tonight.
MUSRI: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to Michael Eric Dyson, host of his own radio show, professor of sociology at Georgetown and the author of “Can You Hear Me Now?”
Welcome back, Professor.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: Always good to be here, Brother Olbermann.
OLBERMANN: All right. Do you think you know what‘s happened here and happening here? And is the imam‘s faith that we‘re not going to have a Koran-burning on Saturday justified?
DYSON: I think it‘s overreaching here. He‘s a kind and gentle man. He‘s a supremely gifted orator for the profound beliefs that animate the Muslims of this world.
But I think he‘s overreaching here, unfortunately, because I think that the unpredictable and arbitrary terrorism being practiced, the rhetorical terrorism, the bigotry of Pastor Jones has to be called for what it is. This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to engage in the most narcissistic form of manipulation of media and the broader world. A 50-member church commanding international and global awareness precisely because of his recalcitrant and his refusal to acknowledge the basic principles of his faith, which teach him not to hate other people, not to dog other people, not to demonize other people.
Even Jesus says, I have members and sheep of other flocks that you don‘t even know about.
So, we have to at least have enough religious humility to concede the point that even though they may not be Christian, other religious faiths have honorable members who deserve to be heard equally as much as Christians do themselves.
OLBERMANN: To say nothing of standing in the Bible.
How do—broaden this out—how do the politics look to you on this
at the moment? The president spoke indirectly to Jones. That‘s a directly
I meant indirectly via the interview with George Stephanopoulos. But the defense secretary spoke to him directly. He anguished over it internally.
On the other hand, with one or two exceptions, the Republicans here who have spoken out have done so reluctantly and belatedly. John McCain did it today or ambivalently if at all.
Why did our political leaders have such trouble on this one?
DYSON: Well, I think—let‘s be honest here. It‘s very troubling to admit on the far-right, Pastor Jones may express opinions and beliefs of some of the core ideological tenets that are hailed by some of these folk that they don‘t want to necessarily come out and say. So, he becomes both whipping boy and icon at the same time. And so, he‘s useful on both sides of this debate.
On the other hand, I think that Mr. Obama speaking indirectly and Secretary Gates directly suggests that I thought we didn‘t deal with terrorists. I thought we didn‘t negotiate with rhetorical terrorists here. And here‘s a man who‘s commanding such international and global media ink precisely because he refuses to acknowledge the fundamental principles of decency and humanity that any religion ought to teach.
And, look, people said to Martin Luther King, Jr. constantly, look, don‘t build your mosque, no. Don‘t bring your march here. Don‘t come to Birmingham, Alabama. It‘s going to tear the fabric of society. It‘s going to rip the ostensible unity that we have.
So, don‘t come here. You‘re an extremist. And seven clergymen got together in good faith and said, don‘t build your movement here. Don‘t bring it here.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, I must do it now. They said be gradual. He said, we can‘t take the drug of gradualism. We must talk about the fierce urgency of now, and he said, you call me an extremist. I used to be upset by that, but now, I say an extremist for what, an extremist for bigotry or an extremist for love?
And I think that if Pastor Jones were an extremist for love and compassion—that would be a great thing. I‘m afraid that even if the imam decided to move the mosque, that looks like a victory for compassion and sensitivity. In reality, it‘s a concession to the worst form of bigotry and reactionary forces that would indeed have the upper hand again.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, is there still some kernel of good news in this? Because of all the things we don‘t know and we discussed it, and obviously, the imam doesn‘t know and the associate pastor doesn‘t know and the pastor doesn‘t know, the parts of the deal that we seem to believe are intact. Koran burning canceled. Moderate New York Muslims to meet with fundamentalist Florida Christian—is that good news?
DYSON: Well, it‘s good news anytime people sit down together at the table of brotherhood, so to speak, and sisterhood and talk across ideological differences and across the chasm of religious and faith differences. At the same time, Keith, I think it‘s problematic again because it looks as if there‘s a mannequin distinction between us and them. The problem is them over there, the Muslims, and those of us over here, Christians, we‘re right.
There are problems within Christian fundamentalism, within any fundamentalism that are problematic. So, there—I‘m an ordained Baptist minister. I find quite problematic so many of the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists. We ostensibly, supposedly serve the same God, but at the end of the day, it doesn‘t look like that to me.
So, the problem is not between us and them. It‘s between divisive and bigoted beliefs.
And Howard Thurman, the great preacher, said, a bigot is a person who makes an idol of his commitments. We must not fetishize our particular view of the world. We can‘t worship at the altar of our commitments. We got to worship at the altar of a God who loves everybody.
And my faith teaches me, we should be open to that. So, conversation is great. Conversion to humanity and compassion—even better.
OLBERMANN: Georgetown University professor, Michael Eric Dyson—it‘s always a pressure. Thank you, again.
DYSON: Thank you, sir, for having me.
OLBERMANN: Just the threat of Koran-burning has led to distribution of pamphlets, threatening American service personnel in Afghanistan. We‘ll talk to the father of one of our troops stationed in the exact area in which those threats were made—next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: The reaction to the just prospect of a Koran-burning in Afghanistan bad enough that the secretary of defense contacted the pastor in Florida today. And leaflets threatening American servicemen are distributed in Logar province there. We‘ll talk to the father of a serviceman who is stationed in that province.
And there‘s also more breaking news on this. We‘ll talk to a reporter who has spoken to the wife of the imam in the New York City Park 51 center about what happened today and what may or may not happen tomorrow and Saturday.
Meantime, the president already has a win. Jonathan Turley on the unfortunate ruling that rendition of alleged terrorism suspects is still court approved.
His orchestra played a song by bighead Todd and the monsters as I walked on stage. It got better after that. Highlights ahead.
And it‘s been mischaracterized as he says science has proved there‘s no God. His co-author will explain, no, it‘s just that all you need is gravity and quantum physics.
Could somebody get this to Pastor Jones in a hurry.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Faiz Shakir of “Think Progress” has spoken to the wife of Imam Abdul Rauf in New York, Daisy Khan, about a conversation she has had or had earlier today with Imam Muhammad Musri from Orlando. He joins us now by phone.
Faiz, walk us through this. What did Daisy Khan tell you?
FAIZ SHAKIR, THINK PROGRESS (via telephone): Yes. Hi, Keith. Thanks for having me on.
I‘ll just go off the phone with Daisy and I‘ll just read from my notes if you have a second.
SHAKIR: She said, “We have not agreed to anything other than meeting with the pastor at a future point down the road when cooler heads prevailed.” She also said, “We reject any comparison to what we were prepared to build in New York and what the pastor was ready to destroy in Florida.”
Again, she said that—she emphasized that the meeting was not planned for Saturday but rather at a point in the future when people have had time to reflect on it.
The last point she made was, “We do not want to take away from the solemn day of 9/11.” That‘s why they don‘t want to meet on Saturday. She said, “Our center is not about 9/11. The Koran is not about 9/11. We wish to commemorate 9/11 with prayers for the families of the victims.”
OLBERMANN: Did the imam in Orlando, Faiz, did he call Daisy Khan with an offer basically, or how did this—how did this transpire? Do you know the nature of whatever transaction that was supposedly involved here and how that happened?
SHAKIR: Well, from what we understand, Imam Musri in Orlando called Daisy in a bit of a panic, saying that I‘m here talking to Pastor Jones and I want to give him something to try to negotiate this compromise. And, initially, he said, would you be—asking Daisy—would you be willing to renegotiate the location of the center? And she said, no, of course not.
And then—and so, he said, well, would you agree to meet with them? And she said, sure, we‘ll meet with anybody, but we‘d like to meet with him down the road at some point? And so, she was a bit surprised when Imam Musri and Jones suggested that they were going to come up almost immediately.
OLBERMANN: So, are we getting a picture of this now that Imam Musri said, look, I got you the meeting to discuss moving Park 51 and I personally think it should be moved and that‘s what he said and Pastor Jones heard, oh, we‘ve got a meeting to discuss when it‘s going to be moved?
SHAKIR: Well, forgive me for my cynical take on this, Keith. But I think Pastor Jones was trapped in a box here. He had to—I think he felt like he had to back down after the call from Secretary Gates. The, quote-unquote, “Ground Zero mosque,” was never an issue he was talking about. It was not on his radar.
SHAKIR: And that was not the ostensible reason for burning the Koran.
So, I think that in trying to get out of the box that he was in, he tried to shift and do a little bait-and-switch and shift on to the mosque issue. And so, I think that that‘s a little bit of at least a strategy of Jones trying to say, put the onus back on to Imam Rauf and say, well, this is now his issue, he has to deal with it—when, of course, Pastor Jones was the one that was hijacking the nation with this ridiculous Koran-burning attempt.
OLBERMANN: Faiz Shakir of “Think Progress” recounting his conversation with Daisy Khan, the wife of the imam in New York, recounting her conversation with the Imam, Imam Musri, in Orlando—Faiz, great thanks for being with us on such short notice.
SHAKIR: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
Whether the Florida pastor now goes through with his pledge not to burn Korans or he escalates his original posturing, the mere possibility of that cliche of “Fahrenheit 451” coming to life has already sparked anti-American protests.
In our fourth story: Those demonstrations most notably in Afghanistan and already an attempt by insurgents there to capitalize on it with anti-American pamphlets.
Also, the State Department has now issued a travel alert to Americans traveling abroad.
In Kabul, demonstrations and violence broke out today, hundreds of protesters burned effigies and chanted, “Death to America”—nothing particularly unusual about that, except for the timing. And a cleric at a mosque in Kabul said of the planned Koran- burning, quote, “It‘s an insult to the whole Muslim world. It‘s sending a very distracting message to the U.S. and all Muslims.”
In another protest is planned for Monday if the Florida Koran-burning happens over the weekend.
In another province of Afghanistan, northwest of Kabul, near Bagram Air Base, 500 to 700 protesters attacked a security post, but the Afghan national police reportedly prevented the post from being overtaken.
Meantime, ABC News is reporting that Afghan insurgents are distributing anti-American leaflets to villagers in Logar province. The pamphlet entitled “Shocking News.” And according to an ABC translation, it states, “This time these people have decided once again to insult our religion, our Koran and our holy sites.”
An unnamed military officer telling ABC, quote, “Our assessment is that the insurgents here in Logar province, Afghanistan, are seizing on the opportunity of the Florida Koran-burning story to rally a portion of the ambivalent population in our area to conduct attacks against our forces. The reality on the ground is this: the Koran-burning event has the strong possibility of resulting in the injury or even death of coalition forces and possibly Afghan civilians here in our area of operations as a result.”
As previously stated, the State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert for U.S. citizens due to the possibility of widespread anti-American demonstrations.
Let‘s turn to Craig Wattson, whose son, Private Parker Wattson is now serving as a medic in Afghanistan.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
CRAIG WATTSON, SON SERVING IN AFGHANISTAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We just went through some of the reaction in Afghanistan to the possibility of Korans being burned in Florida. Are you personally concerned about the damage that‘s already been done and what that means for your son?
WATTSON: Yes. To a certain extent, yes. And before we get started I‘d like to say, go Army, 173rd Airborne. Parker, we miss you and hope you‘re doing well.
So, can I have the question again, Keith?
OLBERMANN: So, just—are you concerned about the risk perhaps that has been increased already no matter what happens or doesn‘t happen in Florida over the weekend?
WATTSON: To—like I said, to a certain extent, yes. The reason being is that, you know, my son is over in Afghanistan fighting to defend this country and defend our freedoms and defend the Constitution.
And so, this gentleman in Florida that wants to burn the Constitution
I mean, burn the Koran, you know, that‘s his choice under the First Amendment. So, we‘re kind of conflicted here. We‘re fighting to defend the Constitution, yet people are upset about his right to burn the Constitution. So, kind of conflicted there.
But as a former police officer, I‘ve operated under the concept of reasonableness. And, you know, is this a reasonable thing at this time? No, I don‘t think so.
OLBERMANN: Has your son expressed to you either before this became an issue or since it‘s become an issue, how fragile the sentiment is among Afghans about Americans?
WATTSON: Yes. As a matter of fact, I was able to talk to him yesterday on the phone. And he said the tensions are high in the region already due to provincial elections, and, you know, I explained to him what was going on over here in the United States, and he seemed to think that that would just be, you know, pouring gasoline on an already out of control fire. Again, it‘s tough under the First Amendment. And this is this guy‘s right to do that.
OLBERMANN: One of the possible protests that we mentioned in Afghanistan, scheduled for Monday, would apparently not go forward if the Koran burning does not happen. Is it your hope at this point that it‘s not too late to dispel some of the anger that the controversy has already generated?
WATSON: Yeah. You know, I hope like I mentioned earlier, our family
we‘ve always acted out of reasonableness. And I would hope that people can come to a reasonable terms on this matter. You know, whether you‘re liberal, whether you‘re conservative, you need to be reasonable. And I just hope that that‘s the way people go towards.
OLBERMANN: Craig Watson, father of Army Medic Private Parker Watson, great thanks for your time and the best to you and obviously to your son.
WATSON: Thank you, sir.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.
Rendition lives. First a brief sanity break. Something like a sanity break, David Letterman and me.
OLBERMANN: why the dismissal of a lawsuit against an air carrier means rendition can continue. Jonathan Turley ahead. First the sanity report. Speaking of a head, a big head, let‘s play oddball.
We begin at the Ed Sullivan Theater for the really big show. Fun with Jan Brewer. Juliana Margolis is the main guest. Great band called the Black Angels blew the proverbial lid off the joint. In between, two old guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”: Beautiful. What was that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big Head Todd and the Monsters.
LETTERMAN: Thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: Here we go.
LETTERMAN: That‘s not nice.
OLBERMANN: Size eight. My mother, to the day she died, complained about it.
LETTERMAN: You‘re a good looking man, my friend. Don‘t worry about anything.
OLBERMANN: The imam who is involved in the mosque came back from his tour on behalf—at the request of the United States government, to build hearts and minds and try to improve our relationships around the world—and said, you know, by the way this wasn‘t mentioned a lot in the coverage of this thing, but we‘re also going to have separate prayer centers inside the facility for Christians, Jews, Unitarians. I think he mentioned everything but the First Church of the Gooey Death and atheists.
I‘m not sure they should have a prayer center for atheists as well. We‘re going to have a prayer center for atheists. Just complete the whole thing. There‘s also going to be—there‘s a culinary institute in this place. So we‘re going to have terror chefs obviously being trained. I know a few terrorist chefs.
LETTERMAN: They are working at the CBS commissary.
OLBERMANN: Thank you for bringing them over from NBC.
LETTERMAN: The Sarah Palin—
OLBERMANN: how much do you want her to run? How much?
LETTERMAN: It would be great for us, speaking selfishly.
OLBERMANN: Are you thinking the same thing I am?
LETTERMAN: I think that she‘s not going to run is what I‘m concerned about. Who is it going to be? Mitt Romney?
OLBERMANN: It‘s not cost effective for her.
LETTERMAN: Will it be Mitt Romney or somebody?
OLBERMANN: Could be. Could be Pawlenty. Could be Jeb Bush. Could be another Bush. We haven‘t had enough of them. It may be different this time.
That‘s his campaign slogan.
LETTERMAN: It may be different.
OLBERMANN: It may be different this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, where last night your Oakland A‘s defeated the last place Seattle Mariners four to three. The best play of the game came not on the field but in the stands. Coco Crisp, one of the best names in baseball, lines one over the wall. Let‘s watch the replay of the effort by the fan, the only one in the stands. Full extension.
The ball rolls away and down into the camera pit. The guy nearly did too. That would stop most fans, but not him. Got to get that nine dollar baseball, buddy. The human fly. He didn‘t secure it. And it rolls back down. Cameraman eventually gets him the ball. And there was much rejoicing. He definitely gets an Oakland A for effort.
Remember when the word rendition was usually reserved for the National Anthem? And Jose Feliciano‘s rendition of the National Anthem. Jonathan Turley now on a court ruling that keeps rendition, the bad kind, going, next.
OLBERMANN: Former Gitmo prisoner Binyam Mohamed and four others say they were kidnapped and tortured by the CIA. They fought to sue the company that helped the agency with logistics. The government invoked state secrets privileges. The case got thrown out by a federal appeals court.
Our third story, the Bush administration‘s extraordinary rendition program goes unchecked yet again. Jonathan Turley will join us. The six to five ruling coming from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding the government‘s decision to invoke the State Secrets Doctrine. The majority determining the plaintiffs cannot sue a Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., for the assistance it provided to the CIA.
The men claiming that the company provided flight planning and logistical support services to government officials. The men were apprehended, transported to secret interrogation sites abroad, where they claim they were beaten, starved, subjected to humiliation, degradation and physical and psychological torture by U.S. officials.
As “Mother Jones” magazine reports, the government is not disputing many of the key facts of the case, including the torture of Mr. Mohamed. A spokesman at Justice telling the “Los Angeles Times” “the attorney general adopted a new policy last year to ensure the State Secrets privilege is only used in cases where it is essential to protect national security. And we are pleased that the court recognized that the policy was used appropriately in this case.”
The majority reluctantly concluding that the national security interests trump, quote, “even the most compelling necessity to protect the fundamental principles of liberty and justice.”
While five judges dissented, calling the decision premature and the government‘s imprisonment and torture a “gross and notorious act of despotism.”
The Bush administration invoked the state secrets privilege when the suit was first filed in 2007. The case was later reviewed by Attorney General Holder, who endorsed the Bush administration decision. The ACLU arguing the case for the plaintiffs. Attorney Ben Wizner (ph) noting that if the decision is allowed to stand, “the U.S. will have closed its courtroom doors to torture victims.” Adding, “to date, not a single victim of the Bush administration torture programs has had a day in court.”
Joining us now, constitutional law expert, law professor at George Washington University, Jonathan Turley. Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You were the counsel on what has been generally cited as the leading state secrets case, Casa Frost Area 51 (ph). Now that this Ninth Circuit, known as a liberal circuit, ruled on this, what are the odds that the Supreme Court hears this and/or overturns it?
TURLEY: Well, the court has been avoiding this issue for years. They avoided it in the Area 51 case that I had. The problem is that the entire privilege is based on a case called the United States versus Reynolds from 1953. That case was built on a demonstrable lie that at the time, various families that were suing over a B-52 crash in Georgia said that the government was simply lying and hiding evidence by claiming national security.
Well, in the year 2000, those documents were, in fact, unsealed and declassified; and the families were right. The government did lie, that they did use national security for purely tactical reasons. But the privilege continued.
So you had a privilege that was actually born in abuse and continues that form of abuse. And so what the Supreme Court will do is hard to say because they have avoided this issue for decades. They created what has become a corrosive and corrupting influence within our legal system.
OLBERMANN: More than that, though, is this not kind of a magic elixir for the executive branch; a president just files whatever he wants to file under state secrets and that‘s the end of it?
TURLEY: Well, it is. In fact, this is more than a pass given to
administrations. This is a virtual invitation by these judges. This isn‘t
you know, national security is a lot like gas in a closed space. If you expand the space, the gas expands to fill it. What they‘re saying here is that basically you have victims in plain view, but they are invisible to our legal system. It makes a mockery of our legal system, but it invites abuse.
In this case, when Attorney General Holder saying oh, we have made these careful efforts to make sure this isn‘t being overused, all the country cited in this claim of privilege, they have actually released documents. These countries have actually acknowledged their role. The United States invoked privilege to shield this administration and past administration from embarrassment, from the admission that they are concealing a torture program.
OLBERMANN: How would we know if this statement was true? “We‘re pleased that the court recognized that the policy was used appropriately in this case,” meaning state secrets policy. How would we ever know that?
TURLEY: That‘s the problem, is that they‘ve created a system that defies judicial review. You had five of these judges that heard this evidence in closed session, and decided this was a mockery, that it was actually despotism to make these arguments.
What these cases often amount to is an act of collusion by courts. They tend to be very impressed by the secret sessions. But if you look at the record, it‘s ridiculous, because the rendition program, the torture programs are so public that some of the parties like Hayden, Cheney are out there talking about it.
But when victims try to get simple judicial review, the court just says oh, no, we couldn‘t possibly give you relief or review because that would disclose national security secrets. You know, if torture is a national security secret, it should be disclosed.
OLBERMANN: Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley. Jon, it‘s always a pleasure. Thanks for your time tonight.
TURLEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What if we use rendition to take pastor Terry Jones somewhere where he had to listen to Dr. Stephen Hawking convince him that‘s all irrelevant because science can prove no God is necessary to create a universe. The Hawking argument ahead.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, how the Koch brothers are back at it, taking to a whole new level of Astroturf, with their so-called jobs rallies.
OLBERMANN: After the death of Pope John Paul II, world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking revealed instructions he had once been given by the Pontiff during a cosmology conference at the Vatican. According to Hawking, the pope said “it‘s OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not inquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God.”
Stephen Hawking and his fellow physicist Leonard Mlodinow are doing what Galileo did hundreds of years before them and ignoring the Pope‘s advice. Our number one story, the co-authors write in their new book that God was not necessary for the creation of our universe. Mr. Mlodinow joins me presently.
“Grand Design” asks the fundamental questions why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Hawking and Mlodinow assert that when asking who or what created the universe, the answer God only serves to kick the can down the road because there is the other one, which is who or what created God.
The authors believe the origin of universe can be explained scientifically. Quoting, “as recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing. Why the universe exists, why we exist, it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
The book does not explicitly rule out the existence of God. Still,
religious leaders are getting bent out of shape. England‘s archbishop of
Canterbury Rowan Williams, Chief Rabbi Lord Sachs have issued rebuttals to
the book. Then there‘s Baroness Susan Greenfield, a British scientist and
member of the House of Lords, who told the BBC, quote, “they”—scientists
“can make whatever comments they like, but when they assume rather in a Taliban-like way that they have all the answers, then I do feel uncomfortable.”
Joining me now Cal Tech physicist and “Grand Design” co-author with Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
LEONARD MLODINOW, CO-AUTHOR, “GRAND DESIGN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The baroness has half apologized for the comparison to the Taliban. I don‘t know if she read the book. But neither of you are claiming to know everything, are you?
MLODINOW: Well if she half apologized, I guess I should half thank her for the apology.
No, of course we‘re not claiming to know everything. The book is about as you said, two main questions: where did the universe come from and why are the laws of nature what they are? We give scientific answers to those questions. And from those answers, we conclude that God isn‘t necessary for either of those.
That‘s all we say. We don‘t pretend to prove that there‘s no God. We don‘t give any mathematical proof that there‘s no God. We don‘t say you shouldn‘t believe in God, that it‘s bad to believe in God. We don‘t even say that God didn‘t create the universe. We just say that God is not necessary as an answer to those questions.
If I might add, I think some of the histrionics around this, such as those comments that you quoted, are counter-productive and poison the whole discussion.
OLBERMANN: As they always do when they come from religious leaders, whether it‘s about a movie or a book of science or about Galileo‘s work. But often it winds up with the work getting greater distribution than it would have had otherwise.
Let me play God‘s advocate, to twist the old phrase. The laws of gravity and quantum theory are the cause of spontaneous creation of the universe. That is that the ultra-simplified version of the book. Could not a God or a force of some sort have created the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
MLODINOW: Well, Keith, people have always looked around and asked themselves big questions. And sometimes it seems to them—it seems to all of us that the answers to those big questions could only be the work of some deity.
For instance, people look at the human being and say this is such a magnificent creature; it could only be the work of God. Darwin showed that wasn‘t true, that science can explain that. We talked about two other issues. creation of the universe and why the laws of nature are what they are. It‘s a natural instinct to have that that could only be the work of God. But we show that science can answer those questions too.
Now when we give those answers, of course, science is based on laws. Physics is based on—we‘re saying the laws of physics explain that. You could say, where do those laws come from? Is that God? Of course you can define God to be that way. Whatever our answer is, you can say but why, and say that that‘s God.
If people feel that they want to do that, that‘s fine. That‘s consistent with what we say.
OLBERMANN: How is the progress of cosmology going? Is there a chance that we will ever know without doubt that it‘s correct or incorrect?
MLODINOW: Physics isn‘t like mathematics. So you don‘t prove things beyond doubt using logical reasoning and the laws of mathematics. Physics is an observational science. When you have a theory, what you do is you gather evidence to either confirm the theory or disprove the theory. In the case of Stephen‘s theories, the best place to look for that evidence is what‘s called the cosmic microwave background radiation. And there are satellites—once was just recently launched—that are analyzing that, the cosmic microwave background, which is really the afterglow of the Big Bang. And that has encoded in it how the universe began.
So from these sorts of observations, we hope to find evidence supporting the theory or refuting a theory. And science goes on. And that‘s the march of science. And it‘s only after many observations that we have confidence in our theories. But we don‘t claim to have the absolute answers in the way that religion does.
OLBERMANN: Last thing, 30 seconds if you have -- 30 seconds if you can summarize it. The process of working with Stephen Hawking is like what?
MLODINOW: Well, it was a lot of fun. He‘s obviously a brilliant man. He‘s a very stubborn man. He told me that his stubbornness is both his greatest and his worst quality. I think in a scientist, it‘s a great quality. And someone with his disability, it‘s a great quality.
He has a great sense of humor. So it was a lot of fun. It was intense. We talk four years to work on the book. It was a great experience.
OLBERMANN: Congratulations on it. Physicist and with Stephen Hawking co-author of the “Grand Design,” Leonard Mlodinow. Thank you again.
That‘s September 9th. It is the 2,688th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,277th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 143rd day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.
I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Gravity works. Now to discuss something strange about the Koch brothers‘ Rally for Jobs website, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
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