Guests: Stephen Farrell, Terry Anderson, Mike Battles, Kenn Kurtz, Mark Cuban
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
Captured on tape. Gripping video from the battlefront. The latest casualties of war. Iraqi insurgents turn to kidnapping, and they‘re threatening to burn these civilians to death. No one is safe.
Can coalition forces defeat this kind terrorism? Who‘s really fighting the war?
Iraq. A hot bed of anti-American violence and one of the world‘s most dangerous military zones. And a financial boon for the private sector. Now U.S. security firms are looking for a few good men to help guard the front line. It‘s good pay if you survive the mission.
Mark Cuban. He made billions on the Internet and bought himself a pro-basketball team. Now he wants to give Donald Trump a run for his money. Tonight, you‘ll meet reality TV‘s latest benefactor.
From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: And good evening, everybody.
The pictures are nothing short of terrifying, Iraqi insurgents using a disturbing new strategy in their battle against coalition forces. They‘re kidnapping and holding foreigners hostage and threatening to kill them.
Today insurgents claimed to have seized six more individuals, four Italians and two Americans, on the outskirts of Baghdad.
And here‘s that video that‘s been broadcast on Arab television, grainy pictures of three Japanese hostages, including a woman, all of them kneeling with guns to their heads, as you can see, knives at their throats.
The kidnappers are threatening to burn the three alive unless Japan withdraws its non-combat troops from Iraq. Japan‘s prime minister says he will not do that.
Yesterday the rebels also captured two Palestinians and one Canadian aide worker, along with eight South Korean missionaries. The South Koreans were later released unharmed.
Stephen Farrell knows exactly what it‘s like to be held hostage in Iraq. He was captured by rebels outside of Fallujah four days ago and then released eight terrifying hours later. He joins me now on the telephone from Baghdad.
And Mr. Farrell it‘s nice to be able to speak with you.
STEPHEN FARRELL, REPORTER, “THE TIMES OF LONDON”: Hi. It‘s nice to be able to speak with you.
NORVILLE: How did you get captured by these guys?
FARRELL: I was driving an armored car for the “Times” in from Amman to Baghdad, because our corresponded there, and who shared the workload there with me, said he was beginning to feel so bad that he needed it.
And en route we were diverted off the main road by U.S. coalition forces, and it was on the old main road into Baghdad that a group of bandits, armed men with rocket-propelled grenades just intercepted us in Alari (ph) and opened fire on us with machine guns and unfortunately, hit one of my tires so we couldn‘t flee. We were stranded in the middle of the road. They came in, grabbed us at knife and gunpoint and took us away to one of their houses.
NORVILLE: What were you thinking as the doors opened and the knives and guns came in at you and your companion?
FARRELL: Well, actually, I opened the door and get out, and I always carry Arabic and English business cards and I had an Arabic identity card around my neck and very deliberately so. And we didn‘t wait for them to come to us.
We went straight to them and we said over and over again, in Arabic, “journalist, journalist, journalist, journalist.” And that went on for the next seven or eight hours and talking to them in Arabic and English and eventually managed to say that we were journalists.
NORVILLE: What did they say to you? I know you refer to these roadside bandits as Ali Babas. That‘s kind of the term that‘s used in that part of the world. What did these guys say to you, as you were saying, “We‘re journalists. We‘re journalists”?
FARRELL: Well, the first lot didn‘t care. All they were shrieking was American, Britain. There were two of us in the car. And I really think they were—they were fairly unhinged. They were just so gleeful to have gotten at the enemy that they didn‘t care. They were just the wrong hands to fall into.
Bizarrely, about 20 minutes later as they were driving us to their hideout, they were themselves intercepted by the, if you like, more structured, more formal—if anything can be formal in this part of the world—resistance fighters. Those were the guerrillas, the terrorists, call them what you will.
NORVILLE: So wait a minute; the bandits were apprehended by other bandits?
FARRELL: We got abducted from our abductors. They—The first group of Ali Babas, the bandits grabbed us, and then 20 minutes later a passing black car stopped them and said who are these people and they said “Britani, Britani.”
And this lot said, “Right, OK, we are taking them off of you.” So we got bundled into a second car and taken to a completely different house by a completely different group of people. Far more disciplined.
NORVILLE: Did you think they were going to kill you as you are being handed off from this first group of unhinged bandits to this next group of more organized but certainly still very focused folks, did you think that this is it, they‘re going to kill us? What other possible motive could they have?
FARRELL: Actually, no. It was more a sense of this is—we have more of a chance with these people. They—they are more rational. They‘re clearly more disciplined. They clearly have a chain of command. We had a sense of a leader we were going to, rather than just some hideout where God knows what was going to happen to us.
However, they were still very scary people. And they—but they were calmer; they were more rational. We could talk to them rather than the first group, which was head butting me time and time again and waving a knife in my face and sticking a Kalashnikov in my ear.
So the second group were just saying, “If you‘re journalists, you‘re alive. If you‘re coalition forces you‘re dead.” And it was as simple as that.
NORVILLE: And how did you prove to them that, indeed, you were a reporter for the “Times of London,” that you were journalists doing work?
FARRELL: Well, I mean, nobody ever wants this sort of thing to happen to them, but working in this part of the world you kind of make preparations.
So, like I said, around my neck I always, always, always wear accreditation with my photograph on it in Arabic and English. And I also carry business cards. I must have had 100 on me in my top pocket, and I was spraying them around, in Arabic, saying, “Journalist, journalist, journalist.”
And then as we—then in the second hideout, the leader of the guerrillas, or call them what you will, that we were taken to—it was a real take me to your leader thing.
The leader came in, tall guy, one arm, one hand, and then he sat down and said, basically, “I‘m the boss here. It‘s my decision. Stop talking.”
And my colleague, who was American woman, she spoke much more fluent Arabic than I do, and she was dealing with his underlings until that point, but it‘s kind of a male dominated society and he just dealt with me. And we just spoke for about 20, 25 minutes in English, and I managed to convince him that we were journalists.
NORVILLE: And he ultimately put you in a car and had you driven to Baghdad to safety? How did that happen?
FARRELL: At some point in this ordeal, it just went—it just went into wonderland.
We were—First of all we were abducted. Then we were abducted from our abductors. Then the second group of abductors, they said, we are the resistance. We are the mujahadin. These people who originally seized you were bandits, Ali Baba. And we‘re going to go back to get your stuff off them.
And I just thought, “Yes, right.” And they did.
NORVILLE: You are kidding.
FARRELL: Then they fixed the wheel on our armored car. Then they brought the armored car back. And then they said, “We‘re going to drive you back to Baghdad. We are convinced your journalists, and we‘ve got to escort you back, because it‘s not safe out there.” Yes, right. I figured that out by now.
NORVILLE: And you‘re thinking, this is such a bunch of hokum; they‘re going to kill us?
FARRELL: Pretty much until the very last second. We were increasingly convinced that they were actually genuine. I mean, the bags did start to arrive back in dribs and drags. So they were clearly getting something back from the first bunch of Ali Baba.
And—but the problem was they were also clearly a mixture of Ba‘athists and whatever other groups are represented in the spectrum of their forces. And while some of them were retrieving the bags, others were turning around in a good cop, bad cop sort of way and going, “No, no. You‘re a spy; we know you‘re a spy.” So—and they were just making me go through the story again and again, “Why are you here? What route did you take?”
It didn‘t help initially that they knew we‘d come from Jerusalem. You can‘t hide that.
NORVILLE: No. Not a good thing at all.
FARRELL: That was an issue. In fact it worked in our favor in the end, but that was one of the things that worked in our favor, that we were able to convince them that we‘d been covering Jenin and Nablus and Sheiklasin (ph).
And they were all sort of nodding sagely and saying, “Well, in that case...”
NORVILLE: Then you must be a journalist.
Steve, I‘m going to ask you to hang on the line, because I want to bring into our conversation, while you do wait on the line with us from Baghdad, another man who certainly knows the fear of what you experienced during those hours.
Terry Anderson was held captive for seven years by Hezbollah Shiite
Muslims in Lebanon. That was from 1985 to 1991. At the time he was the
chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press. And he joins us
now from New York
Terry, as you hear this incredible story of Steven Farrell, I‘m sure you have a flash back of your own experience. What thoughts do you have?
TERRY ANDERSON, HELD CAPTIVE IN LEBANON FOR SEVEN YEARS: Well, I‘m very glad he is out. He must have been terribly frightened, and I can understand the sense of surreality of the whole thing. You‘re dealing with people who are not rational and who are very, very scary.
I think—I think he was very lucky.
NORVILLE: What‘s going on? You have said, because since you‘ve been back you‘ve been so active in the committee to protect journalists and have really made that part of your life‘s work since.
You said the kidnapping tactic is one that doesn‘t work. But yet it‘s being tried with frightening frequency now in Iraq.
ANDERSON: Well, I said that, not realizing that we‘d get into another situation like we‘re in now.
You see, this is the only condition in which those things can go on for—for a very long time. There‘s no central authority. There‘s no police force that means anything. It‘s total chaos and these militias, whether they‘re just simple thieves or whether they are actually guerrillas with some sort of paramilitary organization can operate virtually without control. And they do so.
NORVILLE: And yet journalists often feel this sense of invulnerability, as though, “I have my press card, somehow I‘m safe from the very real dangers that exist there.”
ANDERSON: Yes, I‘m just here to watch. I‘m not part of it. Well, I think we all know now that we are part of it. These people do not often make distinctions.
Steve was very lucky in that the group that actually ended up in control of him understood what a journalist even is. I mean, many of these groups don‘t—don‘t have the concept of an independent observer.
So, again, I think he was very lucky.
But this is without doubt the most dangerous place to be a journalist today. It is also the biggest story in the world, the place that—that journalists have to cover.
I mean, we have to tell the world what‘s going on here; we have to be the witnesses. We have to write the stories. So we‘ve got to be there, but it‘s extraordinarily dangerous.
NORVILLE: And Steve, because of the two things Terry Anderson both said are true—this is the biggest story going on right now, but it‘s also the most dangerous story to cover—what are your thoughts?
You were just arriving in Iraq when this terrible ordeal occurred to you. Will you stay in this country and continue reporting?
FARRELL: Well, I mean, Terry is absolutely right. And the—about these people being crazy and irrational. That was certainly the first group we ran into.
I was just arriving in Iraq for this time. I spent seven of the last 12 month there. I know it extremely well. I didn‘t for a minute think I was safe. Everybody knows you‘re not safe, that there are things you can do at the margins to increase your odds here and there, and luckily one or two of them seemed to work.
But no, this is the awful dynamic we work under here. And today I was talking with, you know, “The New York Times,” the “Washington Post” correspondents, and we really do feel that it is approaching the point, as it did in Afghanistan two years ago, where you just really—it‘s going to be very, very difficult to operate in any way at all.
NORVILLE: And what are you doing to stay safe now that you are there, sir?
FARRELL: I‘m sorry. Say it again?NORVILLE: What are you doing, Steven, to stay safe?
FARRELL: Well, the problem is the situation changes in 48 hours. I was able to say, “I‘m a journalist,” and that got me out. Forty-eight hours later, the Japanese are kidnapped almost because he was a journalist.
And so the rules of the game are changing by the minute. And what can you do to stay safe is just, well, very, very little.
NORVILLE: And Terry Anderson, what advice would you give to Steven Farrell and your other press colleagues that are over there?
ANDERSON: Well, I won‘t—I won‘t dare to give them advice. They‘re there. I‘m not. They know what‘s going on. They‘re professionals.
I mean, the CPJ tries to help all journalists over there. We try to give them advice. We have a book out on how to report from dangerous places, give them support.
But in the end it is every individual journalist‘s decision. Can I continue to operate here in the face of this kind of danger?
Look, they‘re idealists. They‘re dedicated to doing their job, but they know perfectly well that if they get killed and kidnapped, they‘re not doing their job. They‘re not going to be able to report.
So it‘s a balancing act, and you can hear it in Steve‘s voice. He doesn‘t know what he‘s going to do. He hasn‘t made that decision yet.
NORVILLE: And it‘s an individual decision for each reporter.
Terry Anderson, our thanks to you.
Steven Farrell, stay safe, and we hope to see many, many more interesting stories from you to come.
From covering the war to fighting the war. When we come back, who really is covering the war in Iraq? Some surprising statistics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Coming up...
DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL: You‘re fired.
ANNOUNCER: ... watch out Donald. There‘s another billionaire ready to cash in on reality TV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Cuban‘s on the court.
ANNOUNCER: The always outspoken maverick of basketball, Mark Cuban, is putting his money where his mouth is.
But next, what would motivate any civilian to venture into this madness? Sure it‘s risky business. But there‘s a fortune to be made on the front line.
DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
NORVILLE: Until the horrifying events of Fallujah last week, when four private security guards were murdered and bodies mutilated, few Americans knew that, along with the U.S. military, there are about 20,000 private soldiers in Iraq.
They don‘t work for the American military, although many are veterans, ex Special Forces or former Marines. They work for private security firms, firms with contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They guard everything from supply lines and reconstruction projects to Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq.
And this private army is growing. Their numbers are expected to increase to 30,000 as the American military presence decreases after the June 30 handover.
And as those events in Fallujah demonstrate, private soldiers are facing combat situations just like uniformed troops.
Four Americans who were slaughtered there last week all worked for Blackwater USA. That‘s a private security contractor. Blackwater today is saying that those employees were lured into an ambush by members of the Iraqi Civilian Defense Corps, or people posing as them.
Now a number of lawmakers in Washington are expressing the concern that those private security armies could be contributing to Iraqi resentment of all Americans.
With me this evening is Kenn Kurtz. He is the CEO of the Steele Foundation. That‘s one company that private security forces into Iraq. Also with us tonight, Mike Battles. He‘s the co-founder of Custer-Battles, another firm which handles private security in that country.
Gentlemen, thanks both of you for being with us.
I‘ll ask you both the same question, and I‘ll start with you, Mr.
Battles. How many folks have you got working on security details in Iraq?
MIKE BATTLES, CO-FOUNDER, CUSTER-BATTLES: At any one time it‘s difficult to tell, because there‘s an ebb and a flow. But we have personnel and contractors in the number of 1,200 on the ground. That includes U.S. and other third country nationals, as well as local Iraqis.
NORVILLE: And what kind of things are they doing there?
BATTLES: Well, we‘re guarding Baghdad International Airport. We do everything from the perimeter security to the luggage screening for people flying in and out.
We do personal security details for humanitarian organizations, as well as the contractors involved in the reconstruction effort. And then we guard fixed sites, power lines and power plants and things of that nature.
NORVILLE: And Ken Kurtz, what about you? How many people and what kinds of jobs are they doing?
KENN KURTZ, CEO, THE STEELE FOUNDATION: The Steele Foundation has about 150 western contingents on the ground and about 250 Iraqi nationals.
The type of work that the Steele Foundation is involved in is really quite diverse. We cleared the power grid of unexploded ordinances from the north of Iraq down to Baghdad. Those are humanitarian services.
We provide personal security for key government officials and providing personal protection for a lot of construction companies, the different organizations involved that are involved in rebuilding Iraq.
And we‘re also involved in the security services for different types of key infrastructure facilities such as the power plants throughout the country.
NORVILLE: All of those sound like pretty dangerous responsibilities, given the situation right now in Iraq. I‘m assuming that your personnel do carry weapons. Under what circumstances are they authorized to use them, Mr. Battles?
BATTLES: We are there purely in a purely defensive posture. We‘re there to protect the lives of the individuals that are working on the reconstruction or working in support of the coalition mission there.
We—They are authorized to use their weapons only in a defensive manner.
NORVILLE: I know you‘ve been back and forth to Iraq a number of times since the war began. What‘s the situation like? What kind of pressure are your men on the ground feeling there?
BATTLES: Well, certainly the situation today on the ground on Iraq is as bad as it‘s ever been. It‘s ebbed and flowed and followed highs and lows since we‘ve gotten there.
In the beginning it was robbery and looters that we worried about.
The real watershed event was the U.N. bombing.
And then there was the increase in ideological violence against the coalition; in particular a rise in violence against contractors, because many of the malevolent actors see these contractors involved in the reconstruction as the engine for economic growth.
And if they can make us go away they will become more powerful in that void.
NORVILLE: And, Kenn Kurtz, when you look at the situation that‘s going on there, I‘m seeing statistics that say these days 70 percent of the street crime in Iraq are kidnappings.
That‘s obviously something that your people, who are particularly engaged in personal security work have to be mindful of, especially now that we‘ve seen, I think the figure is 13 people who have been kidnapped during the last several days.
KURTZ: It‘s definitely an increasing threat. I think what‘s important to recognize is that—as much of the resistance, as that goes underground the resistance needs funding. The resistance needs to be able to fund their activities.
They can‘t do it through legitimate means, so that translates into an increase in illegitimate criminal activity such as kidnappings.
Six months ago we predicted that this was going to be an increased—an increased threat for contractors working in Iraq.
You know, every day even in the papers throughout the region there‘s numbers such as billions and billions of dollars being spent when at the same time, many Iraqis are still without jobs. So, they see that—the contractors coming in, they say that as an opportunity to fund their causes.
NORVILLE: This is also lucrative work, though, for your firms. I‘m hearing that people are being paid something like $1,000 a day to do the kind of work that they‘re called on to do.
These are attractive contracts that both of your companies of are getting, are they not?
BATTLES: I think that—I think the $1,000 a day is a misnomer. You‘ve got to realize in a place like Iraq, insurance costs are extremely high. Your overhead is very high.
We wouldn‘t be doing it if—if it was costing us money. But it‘s nowhere near as lucrative as people assume it to be.
NORVILLE: And you know, the other criticism that‘s been raised, a people frankly were surprised that private security firms were as actively engaged in some of the activities as firms like yours and Blackwater and others are.
The notion that you are doing jobs that those of us who don‘t have military experience assumed American soldiers and Marines and others were doing was quite surprising. Why is it so necessary, Mr. Kurtz, that your men be on the ground there?
KURTZ: Well, I think it‘s important to recognize that the U.S. military is not going to take responsibility for private contractors in Iraq.
More and more, we see the pullout of the coalition forces just from their day-to-day responsibilities of an occupying force.
What we need right now is stability in Iraq. It ‘ important to recognize that the national security interests of Iraq lie in the Iraqi people. Contractors coming in to rebuild Iraq are bringing that economic growth to employ those Iraqi people. Those contractors need security.
As Mike pointed out, you know, a lot of the numbers are being exaggerated with regard to the type of how lucrative the industry is in Iraq.
NORVILLE: But the numbers in terms of the manpower that you have on the ground, you don‘t argue that‘s being exaggerated, do you?
KURTZ: No, not at all. In fact, I would—it‘s my opinion I think it‘s actually going to increase significantly because the threat.
And, as Mike pointed out, today the threats and the risks in Iraq are probably at the highest levels we‘ve seen since the war started.
BATTLES: If I can—If I can just to that, another reason you want private security firms on the ground, rather than just the U.S. military in addition to the increased off-tempo (ph), is it actually lowers the risk profile for your civilian contractors.
The ideologues that are out there, the kind who do things to American forces and the coalition, their No. 1 target is the military.
So by virtue of having the U.S. military providing security services for these civilian contractors, you actually put the civilian contractors in many times in many situations in a greater position of risk.
NORVILLE: I understand that. But one of the concerns these congressmen, who‘ve written a letter to Don Rumsfeld, have said is that, in many cases it‘s virtually impossible to distinguish the difference between the private security men, who are outfitted with Kevlar vests and helmets and carrying weapons, and the American military forces.
KURTZ: No, no. This is—that is absolutely not the case. It‘s very clear to differentiate uniformed soldiers from the private security personnel.
I think that what we have to be cognizant about is that, as the military begins to take a softer approach to being an occupying force, I think that‘s where the lines begin to be blurred. So it‘s very important that we maintain that physical difference.
But it‘s important to understand this is Iraq. Prior to the war you didn‘t see a lot of western faces walking around Iraq. I think it‘s very important to understand that, regardless of what they‘re using, we‘ll always be considered a foreigner. We‘re just different. There no way to get around that.
NORVILLE: We‘ll let that be the last word. And we should note that your men are in every bit as much risk. We know about the terrible tragedy that happened last week. And just today the British foreign secretary reported a British citizen who worked private security for an American firm, has been killed in Iraq.
Mike Battles, Kenn Kurtz, we hope all your folks get home safely and soon.
KURTZ: Thank you.
NORVILLE: When we come back General Barry McCaffrey weighs in on soldiers for hire. Stay with us.
NORVILLE: The recent murder and mutilation of four private security guards in Iraq brings to light a little-known reality about how business is being done in war zones around the world.
While U.S. troops battle insurgents, the job of protecting just about everybody else, including U.S. administrator Paul Bremer, is falling to private security companies. Many of those hired are former U.S. troops. Well, now concern that private security companies could contribute to Iraqi resentment, a number of U.S. senators want the Pentagon to set up some rules and guidelines for those companies.
Joining me now to talk about it is MSNBC analyst retired Army General Barry McCaffrey.
So what do these private soldiers actually do in terms of backing up what American military are already there to do?
RET. GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: The overwhelming majority of them are doing logistics tasks, administrative responsibility, or feeding our soldiers, or driving trucks, or administering—restarting the economy, the oil industry.
Some of them are clearly in security responsibilities, guarding fixed sites, recruiting Iraqis and training them to provide these kind of services. Those are probably the ones that are in more controversial area. But the bottom line is, U.S. armed forces is much too small to fill this wide range of responsibilities. It is defaulted in many cases to contractors. A lot of them are doing a terrific job.
NORVILLE: So anyone in Washington who is sitting there thinking, this is a problem, that train left the station. This is the reality.
MCCAFFREY: The first time I ran into it in a major way was in Panama, where we contracted in many case humanitarian operations, feed refugees, safeguard them.
They can do almost everything, except fight now. And many of them do a terrific job and they hire very high talented people in some cases, the high-end firms, and do a very credible job.
NORVILLE: The concern on the part of some of these lawmakers who have written Donald Rumsfeld is that as this letter says, “It would be a dangerous press if the United States allowed the presence of private armies operating outside the control of governmental authority and beholden only to those who pay them.”
That is the question. They don‘t answer to the generals in uniform. They answer to the person who is writing the paycheck. And some people see that as a serious problem.
MCCAFFREY: Well, I think it raises some enormously relevant legal issues, political issues, practical issues. They don‘t have to stay there. They can quit within five minutes and leave if the situation got unacceptable.
I also wonder what happens on 1 July. The day there‘s a sovereign Iraqi government there, what gives them the legal authority to employ a weapon against an Iraqi citizen? What‘s their status of forces agreement?
NORVILLE: And because we don‘t know who the handover is being handed to, there‘s no legal framework to go ahead and codify that it would be permissible for these people to continue working in Iraq.
MCCAFFREY: Well, are they subject to arrest by Iraqi police based on the complaint of an Iraqi citizen? It raises a host of very legitimate questions that deserve to be asked and answered now before we put these people personally at risk.
NORVILLE: This letter to Secretary Rumsfeld also asked that guidelines be put into place. It is astonishing to hear this has been going on since Manuel Noriega was taken out of Panama, and yet there has been no framework put into place by anyone at the Defense Department or anywhere else.
MCCAFFREY: Every department of government in Washington, Deborah, gets into this debate and they can‘t break out of the closed circle.
NORVILLE: Why not?
MCCAFFREY: It is hard to define why they could exist. Who gives a private citizen, an employee, the authority to carry a loaded weapon and shoot somebody in another country? And there are not any great legal answers to that question. Yet, practically, they are very responsible, controlled people so far in general.
NORVILLE: But how do you keep the rogue who is the mercenary, the guy who is in it for the money and the blood, not the service aspect...
MCCAFFREY: Well, there ought to be a very specific contract. There ought to be an international agreement, perhaps between the new Iraqi government on 1 July and the contractors or the coalition authority, the U.S. Embassy. They need to be protected.
Service in Iraq is a loathsome place to be. It is physically dangerous. It‘s uncomfortable. You wouldn‘t get me in Iraq for $1,000 a day. So I have great admiration for these people. And they think they are doing something important. And they are.
NORVILLE: And they are.
NORVILLE: Because there would be no way the American military could
do the job they have to do if they had to guard the
MCCAFFREY: Well, the American military could do the job and better if we had adequate troops trained.
NORVILLE: But we don‘t have the numbers to do that.
MCCAFFREY: That‘s right.
NORVILLE: And the other thing that was astonishing to me in researching this is, there are wars being fought using private security people like this. In Angola, 500 private soldiers were hired to fight off 50,000 insurgents.
NORVILLE: So these people are doing more than just guarding the food shipment.
MCCAFFREY: Well, that is an extension now.
When it comes to the United States, primarily, it is Filipino nationals serving food to soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division with a U.S. KBR contract. They are doing a terrific piece of work and we could not, simply could not continue these deployments without their help.
NORVILLE: General McCaffrey, thanks for shedding more light on this, something we didn‘t know a whole lot about until just the other day.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you.
NORVILLE: Appreciate your time.
When we come back, we are going to switch gears altogether. This man made millions from the Internet. He then went and used the money and bought his own pro basketball team. And now he wants to out-Trump the Donald? The ultimate Dallas Maverick himself, Mark Cuban, is headed to reality TV. He‘ll tell us why next.
NORVILLE: He‘s the NBA‘s most outrageous owner, fined more than $1 million. Now he wants to give away another million on reality TV—next.
NORVILLE: He is outspoken, outrageous and at times out of control and he‘s really rich. He‘s Mark Cuban. He‘s made billions on the Internet and now is the owner of HDNet. That‘s an all high-def TV network. He is also the owner of NBA‘s Dallas Mavericks. And his outspoken antics have cost him more than $1 million dollars in fines from the league.
Well, guess what? He is going to give away another million. Is he well, one wonders? This time, though, it is because he wants to. Mark Cuban is getting his own reality show on ABC. It is called “The Benefactor,” where Cuban will be handing out $1 million of his own money to some lucky stranger.
And Mark Cuban is in the studio with me now.
It is nice to meet you.
MARK CUBAN, HOST, “THE BENEFACTOR”: It nice to finally meet you.
NORVILLE: You are doing this because you can.
CUBAN: Why not?
CUBAN: I‘m the luckiest guy in the world.
NORVILLE: You are.
CUBAN: And I have just gone through all these different things. And this past year has been amazing.
I have had a daughter, which tops everything. I have played basketball against the Harlem Globetrotters. I‘ve been beaten up in a World Wrestling Association match. And when ABC came to me and said, why don‘t we give away $1 million? You get to set the rules. You help us pick the 16 people from the country and we will have some fun with it. I was like...
NORVILLE: What is the catch, though?
CUBAN: The catch is, I get to make the final decision.
NORVILLE: And you can pick for any reason. You don‘t have to be destitute, poor.
Everybody has always dreamed, what would happen if I only had $1 million? What would I do for $1 million? So we held open auditions where you can send in tapes. We went across the country. And we brought in thousands and thousands of people. And we asked them a simple question. What would you do for $1 million?
NORVILLE: What were some of the wackiest answers that you got?
CUBAN: Some had missions from God.
NORVILLE: On a money mission from God.
NORVILLE: “Saturday Night Live.”
CUBAN: Exactly. I was waiting for John Belushi to show up.
Other people, there were charitable causes, but then there were other people that wanted to rent a jet and bring 50 of their best friends and go to Aruba.
NORVILLE: That guy made the cut, didn‘t he?
CUBAN: Yes, he did.
CUBAN: And that‘s what we wanted. We want a lot of different ideas, because everybody has got a dream. And I wanted to be able to take all those different dreams, all those different types of characters, all the different types of people, and we‘re going to stick them in a house, start with 16 of them.
NORVILLE: Oh, wait, so it‘s a little bit of “Big Brother,” too?
CUBAN: A little bit of “The Apprentice,” a little bit of “Big Brother,” a little bit of everything. And we‘re going to—you put 16 people in a house for three weeks, they all know that it is one in 16 chance that in three weeks, one of them is going to walk away. So it goes from all of these altruistic great ideas and all this, I‘m in it for the fun of it, whatever.
NORVILLE: Baloney. I‘m here for the money.
CUBAN: Exactly. And so you put them all in. You have cameras on them. And then I come in.
NORVILLE: Now, you can do anything you want, right? It is your money. You can do anything.
CUBAN: And that is exactly what I‘m going to do. Think Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory, where you don‘t know what the rules are. You are not sure, but you know you are playing a game and you know there‘s a wonderful outcome, but you are not quite sure how to get there.
Now, we have got a lot of things planned out, but I have a lot of
leeway as well
NORVILLE: Obviously, this is a play off the Donald Trump success with “The Apprentice.” You admire what he has done?
CUBAN: Yes, Donald and I are completely different.
Donald is amazing for what he does. He is the ultimate dealmaker.
And he is proud of it and he will tell you about it. I‘m the entrepreneur. Donald will tell you that, hey, I‘m getting paid more than anybody else for my TV show.
NORVILLE: Donald is always the “est,” the highest, the best, the whatever est.
CUBAN: Yes, exactly. I‘m the one—I have got enough money. I‘m not making a nickel off this show, not a penny.
NORVILLE: I don‘t believe that for a second.
CUBAN: Honest to God truth. The money is either going to the contestants and every penny that—my agent went in there and he said, OK, he wants as much as Trump. And so they figured out how much it was. And I said, look, whatever we don‘t give to the contestants, I am going to give to charity. I don‘t need the money.
NORVILLE: And you know what? It‘s really neat. I went on the Mavericks‘ Web site tonight before you came in and I found this click to the Patriots Foundation.
CUBAN: Fallen Patriot Fund.
NORVILLE: The Fallen Patriot Fund, which is something you started
with our foundation‘s money to help the families of the guys who have come
back wounded or dead from Iraq
CUBAN: Right. Or not come back.
Yes, the Fallen Patriot Fund, it is FallenPatriotFund.org. And we are all blessed. We are living from the sacrifices of others.
CUBAN: For me to be able to just talk about this and do all these things, I‘m not stupid enough to think that, hey, I‘m something special. It is because other people are doing special things.
But those people are not always coming home or they are coming home incapacitated. So the Fallen Patriot Fund is there to help families. We had a family—there‘s been untold numbers, but we had a family, the wife got pregnant right before he left. He didn‘t come back. Twins were born. There are just so many stories.
NORVILLE: Oh, man. We‘ll put a link on the Web site, so people can access it from our thing.
CUBAN: Well, I appreciate that.
NORVILLE: I was blown away—and I don‘t think this is really true.
Did you pay for part of your college by doing a scam chain letter?
CUBAN: You don‘t have to preface it with scam, but, yes, I did.
NORVILLE: You truly did?
CUBAN: I truly did, my junior year in college, yes. That was one of
NORVILLE: And it paid for school?
CUBAN: It paid for one semester my junior year, yes.
NORVILLE: That‘s amazing. You were either going to turn into an amazing entrepreneur or you were going to be in San Quentin.
CUBAN: There are a lot of friends who told me said the same thing. I just was always looking for an edge.
NORVILLE: People look at entrepreneurs like you and wonder how the wheels work in your head. You started Broadcast.com simply because you had left Indiana, you went down to Texas and you wanted to watch the Hoosiers play. Most of us would just say, well, I will have to read it in the sports pages and be content. You figured out a way to stream video and put it on the Internet.
CUBAN: Yes, well, I‘m a geek at heart.
And to me, I love looking at things that people say can‘t be done or shouldn‘t be done or won‘t be done. And then I take that as a challenge. To me, business is the ultimate sport. Basketball is 48 minutes and you compete and then you take the rest. You do what you do.
CUBAN: Business is 24 by seven by 365. It‘s the ultimate sport.
That what gets my juices...
NORVILLE: And you see this whole high-def thing with your new TV network as the same deal.
CUBAN: Yes, we got into HDNet in June, about June of 2001. And everybody was saying, high definition television, it is not going to happen. The big companies, they are ignoring it, or whatever.
I looked at it and I said, well, if they are all ignoring it and everybody is saying it is not going to happen, I better take a look at it and see if it‘s going to happen. And now it is taking off.
NORVILLE: And you‘ve got some fine shows on that. One of them I really thought was kind of cool was “World Extreme Cage Fights.” This is quality program, baby.
CUBAN: You don‘t want to talk about us having the only high-def news reporters in Iraq right now, right?
NORVILLE: Do you really?
CUBAN: Yes, we do.
NORVILLE: Oh, that‘s cool.
CUBAN: We have the only high-def cameras. A lot of situations that are going to now, you talk about having, being the foundation for future reports and documentaries. We are the only one catching the high definition. And news in high definition is a completely different experience.
We are going to take a break. Back with more Mark Cuban. Going to talk some B-ball in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Cuban‘s on the floor. Took a lot of exception to that. Oh, that‘s a fine right there. And I didn‘t see any player, no player for Dallas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: They are bigger than he is. We are back with Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks.
You are more of a maverick than anybody out on the field.
CUBAN: I‘m just myself. And maybe I get a little bit crazy sometimes, but I‘m having fun.
NORVILLE: I don‘t understand.
You have paid probably more in fines than any owner in NBA history, but you‘ve had a bit of a lull. It‘s been, what, since St. Patrick‘s Day that you have been fined.
CUBAN: Yes, I don‘t know what‘s happened.
NORVILLE: Why don‘t you just sit there and keep quiet?
CUBAN: It‘s not about quiet or noisy or whatever.
But it‘s like anything else. When you have a business and you see something wrong, then my first inclination as an entrepreneur is to fix it. And so I have the option of just shutting up and accepting it or changing it. And I‘m not the one just to say, oh, you know what? It‘s messed up. Forget about it. Just let it go.
NORVILLE: Has it changed, because you got the big megafine, $500,000 for—what did you say to the ref?
CUBAN: There was the gentleman who was the head of the officiating.
I didn‘t say it to the ref. I said that the head of officials for the NBA couldn‘t manage a Dairy Queen. And they fined me $500,000. And I learned how to make Blizzards.
NORVILLE: Because you then went to a D.Q....
CUBAN: Yes, and worked there the whole day and had a great time.
NORVILLE: And worked.
CUBAN: But the follow-up is, he is no longer head of officials.
NORVILLE: So it pointed out...
CUBAN: The problem.
NORVILLE: What you perceived as a problem and the other owners agreed
that was a man who maybe needed
CUBAN: It wasn‘t so much that the other owners agreed, that the commissioner‘s office agreed. And that‘s more important.
CUBAN: The unfortunate reality of the NBA and most professional sports is, there‘s not a whole lot of meetings. It‘s not like a regular company where everybody communicates back and forth and you discuss all the big issues that you face. It‘s easier to communicate through the media.
And if I get a fine here or a fine there, the one thing I know for certain is that every single owner and everybody in every organization on every team is going to read what happened.
NORVILLE: And so there‘s a method to the madness?
NORVILLE: There‘s an objective and this is not just flying off the handle.
CUBAN: Everything that I have gotten fined over has resulted in a change in the NBA.
NORVILLE: And one big change for Dallas is, you guys are headed to the playoffs.
CUBAN: Well, it‘s not so much of a change anymore.
CUBAN: Yes. We went 10 years without going to the playoffs, but this now this is our fourth year in a row. So, yes, we‘re going to the playoffs.
NORVILLE: Is this the year you‘re going to go all the way? Give us the prediction.
CUBAN: I hope so.
NORVILLE: I know you‘re supposed to hope so, but critique the competition.
CUBAN: You know what? You know what? I never make any predictions, but in particular this year has been crazy, because the NBA, the Western Conference is a little bit stronger than the Eastern Conference.
NORVILLE: And you guys are, what, fifth place?
CUBAN: Right now, we‘re fifth place, tied for fifth place.
But in the Western Conference, every team, the Lakers, the T-Wolves, the Mavs, the Spurs, has gone up and down. So everybody thought the Lakers were unbeatable until the last two games that they lost. Everybody thought the Kings were unbeatable. It‘s a crazy business. That‘s why we love it.
NORVILLE: It‘s a crazy business and it‘s a crazy guy running the team.
Mark Cuban, I hope you will come back and visit more off.
CUBAN: If I‘m invited, I will.
NORVILLE: You are invited. The invitation is standing.
CUBAN: Thanks, Deborah.
NORVILLE: When we come back, feedback. We heard from a lot of you about the Condi Rice program we did last night. We are going to share with you what we had to say in a moment.
NORVILLE: Finally, a closing thought prompted by some of you.
If you were watching last night, we dedicated the entire hour to a recap of Condoleezza Rice‘s testimony before the 9/11 Commission. Now, some of you e-mailed me and said thanks for sharing big chunks of her testimony because you had missed it since you were at work. Others of you commented on the Jersey girls, those widows whose search for answers and the questions they had according to commission chair Tom Kean led to the creation of the fact-finding panel.
Many of you think their zeal for answers has politicized the process.
Pat wrote me that the hearings were a spectacle and that we shouldn‘t wash our dirty laundry in public. And some of you took my questioning of guests about the information presented at the hearing as bias on my part. You‘re right. I am biased, but probably not the way you think. I‘m partial toward finding out the truth, toward finding out what wasn‘t structured, to use Dr. Rice‘s word, so that folks in government could talk to one another.
It amazes me that people in the FBI could not e-mail each other the way some of you have e-mailed me. And as for which administration bears the brunt, the commission will probably find enough to make people from both the Clinton and Bush administrations hang their heads. But that‘s not the point. The point is, can the problems be fixed so that wives can be assured their husbands will come home from work and kids will know the bad guys can‘t blow up another building?
Earlier tonight, we heard from two reporters who had frighteningly close calls in their professional pursuit of the truth. We should all thank whoever it is we thank that we live in a country where the truth still matters.
I love to hear from you, so send me your ideas and comments to me at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.
And that is our program for this evening.
Be sure to tune in Monday, because it is the ramp-up to the finale of “The Apprentice.” And as things heat up, I am going to be joined by the two folks at Donald Trump‘s left and right, Carolyn Kepcher and George Ross. We will ask them what they think of the contestants who have been fired—all that and lots more coming up on Monday.
And coming up next, the ultimate in adventure. It‘s the premiere of “ULTIMATE EXPLORER FRIDAY,” hosted by MSNBC‘s Lisa Ling. Joe Scarborough will be back on Monday night.
That‘s it for now. Have a great weekend. We‘ll see you next week.
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