Guests: Dick Durbin, Raghida Dergham, Brian Dennis, John DeLeon
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
This does not represent the America I know. In the wake of Abu Ghraib prison, the president tries to calm the Arab world via television.
While nobody calms the American world via television, Secretary Rumsfeld says it proves the system works. Senator Biden says it suggests maybe the secretary should resign.
Disney versus Michael Moore: Attack on the first amendment or just billionaires versus millionaires?
A terror watch: Three bombs in Athens 100 days before the Olympics start, and where would al Qaeda find people to be operatives in American cities? How about in American jails?
And the story pretty much tells itself. He is all right, although I am not hiring him to build my new deck.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. Even by the standards of the Abu Ghraib prison, the latest allegation of abuse of Iraqis by American troops is appalling, and its source makes it all the more damaging.
American soldiers allegedly detained an elderly Iraqi woman, made her crawl around the floor on her hands and knees, placed a saddle on her back, then one of the servicemen road her around while calling her a donkey. The source of the report is the personal human rights envoy to Iraq of President Bush‘s closest ally, Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain.
Our story on the COUNTDOWN tonight: The abuse scandal in Iraq just gets worse and worse, seeming now to render pathetic. The assessment by a conservative radio commentator that, quote, “It‘s no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation at Yale.”
Developments everywhere, today. The military disclosing that over the last 17 months it has conducted a total of 25 criminal investigations involving the deaths of Iraqi and Afghan prisoners. So far, two prisoner deaths: One in Iraq, One in Afghanistan have been declared homicides, 12 more of the investigations pertain to homicide. NBC News has learned today that a third serviceman, a staff sergeant, now faces court-martial.
And as questions increase about just how high up the greasy pole this goes, key White House officials have now agreed to submit to some questioning. Heeding the call to report to the Hill before week‘s end, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Myers, they will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee this Friday. The acting army secretary, army chief of staff, a deputy of Centcom will also be present. So far this week, hearings have been closed. In a moment, we will hear from one of the senators on the Intelligence Committee that conducted just such a hearing today, but Friday‘s will be an open hearing.
Open or otherwise, if Secretary Rumsfeld performance on the talk shows this morning is any indication, the senators may have a tough time getting him to admit much culpability. In an interview with Matt Lauer that bordered on contentious, the secretary somehow managed to use the word “apology” without actually making one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Anyone who sees the photographs does, in fact, apologize to the people who were abused. That is wrong, it shouldn‘t have happened, it‘s un-American, it‘s unacceptable, and we all know that. And that apology is there to any individual who was abused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Rumsfeld also freely admitted that he has yet to finish reading the Army report that has now been widely leaked to the media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: When I‘m asked a question as to whether I have read the entire report, I answer honestly that I have not. It is—it is a mountain of paper and investigative material.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That report, by the way, available on our web site, msnbc.com.
But, by the time Mr. Rumsfeld goes before Armed Services on Friday, a murmur about his future may have grown into a roar. The ranking democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee began to pump up that volume this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), ARMED SERVICES CMTE: If it goes all the way to Rumsfeld, then he should resign. Who is in charge? I mean, look, every single, solitary decision made, almost, since the time of the fall of Saddam Hussein has been mistaken. I mean, so who—who is making these decisions? It‘s not the president of the United States of America. He ultimately makes decisions based on information presented him by top officials in his administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And back to senators in the Senate. The Select Committee on Intelligence already investigated today, and earlier I spoke with one of its minority members, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Senator Durbin, our great thanks for your time this evening.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: Understanding, sir that the committee is holding closed-door hearings, and closed-door means closed-door, what can you tell us about what you‘re asking in there, what you are trying to find out, now?
DURBIN: Based on the published reports and those that are well-known, I can say it‘s clear that this was not an isolated incident. This Iraqi prison scandal involved many different incidents ranging from the most heinous and sickening activity that you can possibly imagine. It is incredible to believe that an American, a soldier, or a private contractor was involved in this kind of conduct, and sadly it reflects so poorly on the hundreds of thousands of men and women in uniform who are really doing such a fine job for us in Iraq.
OLBERMANN: As to the full chain of command here, your colleague Senator Biden, this morning, said that if it goes all the way up to Secretary Rumsfeld, the secretary should resign. Do you concur with that?
DURBIN: I tell you what, when I look at the situation and the serious impact it‘s going to have on the security of the United States, the fact that we have now created recruiting posters for terrorists around the world, I think we have to follow this where the evidence may lead, and we have to find out who failed us. There was a failure in leadership when it came to the military, and we have to establish exactly how far this reaches.
OLBERMANN: Does Congress, in your opinion, share any of the leadership blame here? Human rights organizations have been out for months and in some cases for years complaining about violations at Guantanamo Bay, complaining about Afghanistan and Iraq. Should it be asked, not only why the administration had not unearthed this previously, why the military had not unearthed it, but also why Congress had not unearthed it?
DURBIN: As best I can determine, this scandalous activity at the al-Ghraib was not disclosed to members of Congress until it was televised and was published in Seymour Hersh‘s piece in the “New Yorker.” And to think that Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers appeared before the senators last Thursday in closed session in top-secret briefing failed to even mention that this was going to be televised within hours is amazing. We need to do a better job at every level, but certainly the military has to answer to members of Congress as well as to the American people for what‘s occurred.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, sir, tonight your reaction to the president‘s appearance on the Arab language networks today. He called the abuse in Iraq “abhorrent” but again, there was no literal apology on behalf of the country. Did he do enough today?
DURBIN: I‘m sorry the president did not apologize. I think it would have demonstrated a human and a sense of justice which we think is part of the American presidency. You don‘t expect a dictator or a despotic person to apologize for this kind of conduct, but a nation ruled by law, I think an apology would have been in order.
OLBERMANN: Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Again, senator, thanks for your time, tonight.
DURBIN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: About the president‘s interviews, even in the bid to minimize the damage on the proverbial Arab street, the president created a new mini-controversy, today. He granted interviews to the al-Arabia network and to the U.S. government funded al-Hurra, but not to al-Jazeera television. An administration source telling NBC News the U.S. is still “sore at al-Jazeera,” and while it may eventually grant interviews to the most widely watched of the Arabic language news broadcasters, that would not start now and not with the president. In the two interviews he did do, Mr. Bush said that “the people of Iraq must understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know.” He also promised that “justice will be served,” and he called the abuses “abhorrent,” but even as his own commander in the field, General Kimmitt, apologized in so many words, Mr. Bush did not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It‘s very important for people, your listeners, to understand, in our country, that when a issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act, and we act in a way where leaders are willing to discuss it with the media and we act in a way where—you know, our congress asks pointed questions to the leadership. In other words, people want to know the truth. That stands in contrast to dictatorships. A dictator or wouldn‘t be answering questions about this.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And those interviews will be greeted how? We‘re joined now by Raghida Dergham, the senior diplomatic correspondent for the London-based Arab “al-Hayat”.
RAGHIDA DERGHAM, AL-HAYAT NEWSPAPER: Good evening to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: In a lot of corners here, there seems to be a sense of futility to this, that the U.S. could not possibly be more disliked than it already is, than it already was. Is that true? Are gestures like the president‘s useless at this point?
DERGHAM: It‘s as bad as you could imagine. Now we are seen as the primitive America, as a brutal America, and they‘re saying “we‘ve known this all along about you, and now only when administration was forced to admit that there were such atrocities, it finally tried to do the quick fix.” The trouble is there is something that smacks of a cover-up, and I think an interview or two, that‘s not going to correct the problems we have (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
OLBERMANN: Senator Durbin just suggested that those prison photographs are the recruiting posters for terrorists.
OLBERMANN: Has the U.S. now put itself in the position where all that‘s being determined now is not whether or not—whether—if we have inspired new terrorists, but actually how many new terrorists we‘ve just inspired?
DERGHAM: We have no idea how many. The problem is that the violations of humanitarian law are way beyond what have happened—atrocities that has taken place—that have taken place at Abu Ghraib prison. What American forces are doing is something that is viewed, at least in the Arab world, as a similar occupation to that of Israel, that is to say demolition of homes, arbitrary arrests, sort of like raids on homes and putting people out and just putting them in prison without trial. All of these things are really leaving angering people who want revenge. It‘s a cycle of revenge, Keith, and I think unless there is true correction of policies, I think the worst is yet to come.
OLBERMANN: I know this goes against your idea here of long-term solutions instead of quick fixes, and the dangers of quick fixes and relying on them, but is there anything short-term as, perhaps not as a quick fix, but instead as the leading edge of a long-term solution that can be done in or by this country now to at least brunt the affect of the prison abuse?
DERGHAM: I‘m of the view—and I actually have changed my mind. I used to think that the best thing would be for the American forces to stay in Iraq for a while because I was afraid of civil war and eruption of disaster and chaos in the country. Now, with them several and fundamental mistakes that were made by decision makers in this administration, I feel that it‘s better for Iraq and better for the United States to take advantage of the 30th of June date, the date when we‘re supposed to turnover sovereignty to the Iraqis, to say “mission accomplished, let‘s get out.” I‘m afraid that it‘s too late to resurrect the liberation of Iraq, we are already seen as an ugly occupier.
OLBERMANN: Hmm. Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for “al-Hayat”, the London-based Arabic daily, many thanks. Sobering words.
DERGHAM: Many thanks to you.
In an election year, of course, everything is political and domestic.
What are the early impacts of this scandal on the presidential race? Tonight a new poll conducted by NBC News and the “Wall Street Journal” showing a growing unease with the war, but not the president. When asked if removing Saddam Hussein from power had been worth the number of casualties and the financial cost, 47 percent of registered voters said it was not worth it; 42 percent said it was; two months ago almost exactly the opposite was true. Then, 50 percent said the war was worth it; 44 percent said it was not. Fifty percent of respondents said the country was going in the wrong direction yet, the approval rating for the president remaining firm at 47 percent. Disapproval also firm -- 46, the same figure since March.
Just to round out our number, our No. 5 story tonight, the government has considered or is considering a proposal to register women for the draft. The then-acting chief of U.S. Selective Service made the proposal in a moment—in a memo, rather, to senior Pentagon officials in February 2003. Lewis Brodsky‘s suggestions included: Having all American women aged 18 to 34 registered with Selective Service, extend the age of draft registration by men from 18 to 25 to 18 to 34, and asking all those who registered to inform the government about whether or not they had any quote “critical skills.” The Pentagon spokesman says no action has been taken, described all this as merely food for thought for contingency planning. And acting director Brodsky, he has just succeeded by a full-time director, Jack Martin, this past Monday.
COUNTDOWN opening tonight as it has all week, with the still burgeoning prison abuse scandals out of Iraq.
Next, the No. 4 stories: Censorship or just business? The battle of the M&M boys—Michael Moore versus Mickey Mouse.
And, the decency debate: Howard stern‘s supporters trying to take down Oprah Winfrey?
Later, a student taunted by bullies for years chooses finally to fight back. Today he finds out whether or not he will spend five years behind bars. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: Our No. 4 story on the COUNTDOWN, up next. Your preview is: Freedom of speech colliding of freedom of business: From Iraq to the U.S., from the movies to bobblehead dolls.
OLBERMANN: Back with the COUNTDOWN and the fourth story on it, and the fourth story is actually four different stories about the first amendment. Well, kind of about the first amendment.
Disney has refused to let its subsidiary Miramax release Michael Moore‘s documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.” The film not only criticizes the president‘s actions, both before and after the terrorist attacks, but also connects dots between President Bush and prominent Saudi families. According to Moore‘s agent, Disney chief Michael Eisner expressed concern that the film might jeopardize tax breaks for Disney theme parks in Florida, where the president‘s brother serves as governor. The company denies that charge, but refuses to say why it is invoking its right to stop distribution. Moore will present the film at the festival in Cannes, later this month. Whether or not you and I ever see it may be decided by mediation.
Continuing with our fourth story, it‘s not merely Mike versus Mickey, it‘s also Howard versus Oprah. At the behest of the man perennially in the bull‘s-eye of the FCC dartboard, more than 1,600 letters of complaints have been sent to the commission regarding its inaction regarding Oprah Winfrey. On her March 18th show she discussed sexual acts in what amounted to explicit detail. We have read the—you some of them previously, sufficed to say they are unusual salad recipes. Our friends at thesmokinggun.com, meantime, have obtained samples of the supposed complaints.
Quote, “I had just returned with my 3-year-old twins from Bible day camp when I turned on the show. I never would have expected to be confronted with such disgusting rhetoric on a non-cable telecast during the middle of the afternoon. I would expect you to set a stern example.”
And another: “The Oprah show described in graphic detail a sexual term. It was so offensive that my child‘s head literally exploded. Please ban free speech so this never happens again.”
Obvious caveat, here. The validity of these e-mails could not be independently verified. In fact, one is signed by a political action committee, the acronym for which spells one of the seven words you can‘t say on basic cable.
Getting closer to the real purpose of the first amendment in Iraq, officials had described a newspaper there as “a model of journalism for the Middle East.” That was then. Citing censorship and the increasing danger to reporters working for a U.S.-backed publication, dozens of staffers left the “al-Sabah” newspaper, including the editor-in-chief Ismail Zayer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISMAIL ZAYER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF,”AL-SABAH”: We to be independent.
Sovereignty have to be changed to the Iraqi people, including the media. But, they don‘t understand that. They think we have to be part of this body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This body being the Iraqi Media Network. L. Paul Bremer hoping to keep the “al-Sabah” in that fold, one that Mr. Zayer contends would be subject to manipulation even after the June 30 transfer of power.
“Later this week,” said Mr. Zayer, he and his displaced reporters will launch their own publication, and it will be independent.
And, part four of the No. 4 story: Can you use the first amendment to protect the sale of a product about a public figure? On Friday Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, filed suit against Ohio Discount Merchandise of Canton, Ohio, for using his image on an bobblehead doll.
Schwarzenegger‘s attorney saying, quote, “We spoke to them, they said,
‘we‘re not going to stop.” I said, “fine, we‘re going to sue you‘.” The
doll makers contending that as Governor Schwarzenegger, he is a political
figure and no longer in control of his image, pointing out they made no
reference in their doll to his movie work. Don‘t hold your breath, boys,
25 years ago we tried to make baseball cards without the player‘s approval on first amendment grounds and got laughed out of court.
Before we leave our No. 4 story, we bring you four other bobbleheads. Our favorites made by the same company now in legal hot water with the governor.
No. 4: Albert Einstein. What better company than a genius? Well, how about the always popular Jesus?
That No. 2...
Huh, huh, huh.
Whatcha, whatcha, whatcha. Lester Holt was not available? Huh?
And No. 1: Anna Nicole Smith, and if anybody ever merited the description “bobblehead,” that‘s her right there.
Lester Holt was not available? Huh?
No. 4 story behind us, now Free speech, it‘s not so free and may have nothing to do with the first amendment. Coming up, from bobblehead to nails in my head. You know you‘ve had a bad day when this is what your x-ray looks like. “Oddball,” obviously, right around the corner.
Later, busting on police busts: One man trying to help motorists avoid a police checkpoint, and in turn he gets arrested. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you with the COUNTDOWN and immediately pause it because you never outgrow your need to know how the whole world is getting incrementally closer to being one long, living “Simpson‘s” episode. Evidence which will be distributed just as soon as I say, “Let‘s play Oddball.”
Remember, you can never get the last nail in yourself, as the old joke goes about those who act a little too martyrish. Well, maybe you can. Meet Mr. Isidro Mejia of Los Angeles. “With injuries like that, he should have been dead,” says a spokesman at Providence Holy Cross Hospital. Mr. Mejia, a builder, was using a nail gun that has both a manual setting and an automatic setting. He slipped, it was on automatic. It took doctors five days to remove the six nails from his brain. They say he‘ll recover fully, although he now may involuntary whistle while he works.
So, stop me if you have heard this one before. A woman goes into a Woolworth‘s and orders 10,656 Mars Bars to go. This was in London, and Woolworth‘s in London is different company, a different concept than Woolworth‘s, here. It‘s the chocolate shop. But, the “Reuters” news service reports an unidentified woman walked in anyway and asked for all the Mars Bars they had -- 10,656 of them, paid for them in cash, about 3,800 bucks. The shop‘s spokesman said she then had the chocolate loaded into her chauffeur-driven limousine. The spokesman added, nobody thought to ask her why she wanted so many. The spokesman added, “Perhaps she has a sweet tooth.” The spokesman is not too bright.
Could have been worse, that woman could have loved stuffed fish instead of chocolate. Police in Saginaw, Michigan, have arrested a 25-year-old woman and charge her with attacking her boyfriend with, quote, “something like a swordfish. After a fairly typical domestic dispute, he bit her, she bit him, it turned ugly. She reached for the fish—a stuffed fish, or in the official police reported, “...a decorative fish. Something like a swordfish.”
No, no, no, it wasn‘t the singing bass reeling off “Rolling on the River,” swordfish.
Perhaps that woman should have simply picked up the phone and called the “Doyen Vent Line” in Portland, Maine. Mr. Phillip Doyen charges callers $1.99 a minute. For that price, he will listen to you complain about anything, while professional counselors complain that he may actually be hurting the mental health of his callers, none seem too concerned about the effect on Doyen of having to listen to some guy complain all day and all night. He says “I‘m in it for the money, if it helps people, great.” During the day he works as a computer repairman and, as such, probably has already listened to so many people venting, that he‘s become immune to it.
And lastly, the parking job of the day. Back, back, back, back, -- perfect, right there. This is in Atlanta. It is actually the result of a game of bumper cars. The valet bumped into the BMW that you see hanging precariously, there. They eventually pulled the Beamer back in without significant damage and proving some kind of point, what did the valet hit that Beamer with? An SUV, of course.
The COUNTDOWN picking back up with our No. 3 story after the break. Your preview: The next wave of al-Qaeda terrorists. Might they be coming from American prisons?
Well, later a dramatic scene in the skies over New York: Choppers, reporters covering a shooting. Instead they become the story.
Those stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:
No. 3: Five folks who lived at 151st and Chandler in Omaha, Nebraska.
Police have arrested then on suspicion of running a methamphetamine lab. Their first subtle clue? The 9,600 gallon tank full of ammonia parked in front of the residents.
No. 2: Kiheem Grant of Beaumont, Texas, order to do wear a shock belt because authorities feared he might become violent during his robbery trial. Mr. Grant attacked a witness, the shock belt did not shock him. Police today explained, he had shorted the thing out by inserting a ham sandwich between the battery and the electrode. Thank you, Mr. Science.
And No. 1: Olivia Chanes of Mission Viejo, California, she bought a hotdog at the discount store, Costco, it contained two bullets, one of which she swallowed. Doctors advised her to let that bullet, quote, “exit naturally.” All‘s I‘m going to say is, you‘ve heard one particular phrase about this your entire life, and now it‘s coming true.
OLBERMANN: One hundred days hence, the Summer Olympics begin in Athens, Greece. This morning saw the ceremonial kickoff of the countdown to the Games. It also saw three bombs going off at a police station in the Athens suburb of Kallithea. Olympic officials insist coincidence.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, terror, coincidental or otherwise, in Athens and perhaps developing inside America‘s prisons.
Athens first. An anonymous caller warned a newspaper there 10 minutes before the blast began. Thus, there were no injuries, but police said there clearly could have been. The bombs could have potentially caused casualties and not just damage. No claim of responsibility has yet been made, and the suburban police station is nowhere near any Olympic sites. But, in February, during meetings of the International Olympic Committee in Athens, two government trucks were firebombed and responsibility was claimed by an anti-Olympics group using the names of Greece‘s Olympic mascots.
And just last week, the International Committee had taken out an insurance policy worth $170 million to cover cancellation the Games due to war, natural disaster, or terrorism.
Back here, meantime, we may be brewing an unnatural disaster in our own prisons, homegrown terrorists proselytized into extreme forms of Islam and ripe for recruitment by al Qaeda. According to a classified section of a Justice Department report released today, counterterrorism officials say there are authorized chaplains, volunteers, and prison inmates with possible ties to terrorist groups. Investigators are also concerned that unsupervised inmates with extremist beliefs are leading Muslim prayer meetings on their own.
Prison officials say they are working on the problem, reaching out to the FBI, scrutinizing groups that train prison chaplains. But New York Senator Charles Schumer, who helped push for this report, says he was told in a briefing that volunteers linked to suspects on terrorist watch lists have already recruited supporters inside. The senator also says there was virtually no vetting on who would become a chaplain or a volunteer and there was virtually no supervision. It was an invitation to danger.
Whether that invitation to danger has passed or it remains a threat in the present is a question for our next guest, Steve Emerson, terrorism expert, MSNBC analyst, author of “American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us.”
Steve, good evening.
STEVE EMERSON, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Well, this really is living among us. How serious is this?
EMERSON: This is very serious. In fact, I was reading the report right before I got to the studio here, Keith.
And, frankly, the I.G. report actually only touches the tip of the iceberg. It‘s far more extensive. If you speak to FBI officials in the field in various cities, they will tell you that there are terrorists who are being recruited. There are ideological extremists being recruited and indoctrinated with materials supplied through the prison system. And the problem really is, Keith, that there is nobody watching what the car is doing and it‘s being driven out of control at this point.
Really, there‘s no supervision, no oversight. And, yet, the prison system, the Bureau of Prisons, still maintains that it has done nothing wrong and that it‘s really not something that needs to be far corrected because there isn‘t that much of a problem. We really do have a serious problem here of denial by the Bureau of Prisons, but more importantly, the absence of pressure on the Bureau of Prisons is going to lead to major—potentially to major terrorist recruitment in the future.
OLBERMANN: Even just theoretically, how would you stop this kind of recruitment, given the amounts of things that are not dealt with in the prison system on a daily basis?
EMERSON: Well, let me give you a good example here, because this touches the issue of free speech vs. incitement and actual terrorist recruitment.
The Al Haramain Foundation out of Oregon, which has been part of the larger Al Haramain organization out of Saudi Arabia, some of its affiliates have been closed down, linked to terrorist groups, it has distributed more than 20,000 Korans in the last several years, maintains an extensive database of prisoners in the United States.
In the Koranic version that they distributed is a 30-page addendum calling for jihad against the infidels and against the West. The fact is this was in English. It wasn‘t in Arabic. The prison system willingly allowed this to be disseminated here. Clearly, somebody should just be reading the material that‘s being pumped into the system before it‘s allowed to be uncritically and widely disseminated. That‘s just first thing they should do.
The second thing they should do is literally check the credentials of the Muslim chaplains because they‘re being vetted by radical groups instead of being actually investigated first for their degree of moderation. There‘s no effort at all to ascertain what their true views are on radical Islamic terrorism.
OLBERMANN: It seems almost, as you describe it here, like a human parallel to the methods that were used regarding 9/11. You could never get enough material into this country to blow up the World Trade Center, so you use what you find in the country, the unguarded jets. You could never get enough terrorists into this country, so you use what you find in the country, the most disaffected people here.
But unlike the planes and the airline system, you can‘t just cut off total access. You can‘t just say, OK, no more Muslims in prison.
EMERSON: You‘re right. You can‘t say that, and, yet, the problem is, as the report noted, the population, as in France—in France, they say that half the prison population is Muslim. And there is real radicalization of terrorist groups and exhortations to commit violence. In the United States, we‘re proceeding along the same path.
And the reality is that there‘s a political correctness, Keith, that prevents us from putting on the constraints that are really our self-interests and are still democratic. They‘re not anti-democratic here. There‘s no suicide pact that‘s, you know, enshrined in the Constitution, as they say. Here, clearly, they‘re proselytizing among potential willing terrorist converts, that is religious converts, who would commit acts of terrorism once they get out.
This is a powder keg that‘s going to explode one of these days. And we‘re going to end up having a commission like we had on 9/11 again.
OLBERMANN: Terrorism expert, MSNBC analyst Steve Emerson, as always, sir, thank you for your insights.
EMERSON: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Good night.
That wraps up the third story on the COUNTDOWN, terrorists in the field and still in the recruitment stage.
Up next, a bullied boy fights back. They arrest him. The No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN straight ahead.
Then, later, life imitating art, as a bear wanders into unfamiliar territory.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN top three sounds bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”)
CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST: Do you feel that, looking like me in any way, do you feel like it helped you on “American Idol”?
O‘BRIEN: Because you are a good singer. You‘re a very good singer.
JOHN STEVENS, SINGER: Thank you.
O‘BRIEN: And you deserve praise in your own right for that, but do you think in any way you were riding what‘s called the Conan wave? Yes.
O‘BRIEN: No, you don‘t feel you were?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH (through translator): Sit down.
Welcome to the Casa Blanca.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator):
I am listening to my cassettes during my free time on the campaign. But I wish I had more free time.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OLBERMANN: If you have always taught your kids to fight back if they get bullied in school, our second story will give you chills. And it is next on COUNTDOWN.
Stand by, please.
OLBERMANN: If you have ever seen the cult movie classic “A Christmas Story,” you know about little Ralphie. In one of the many interwoven plots assembled from the novellas of the late humorist Jean Shepherd, Ralphie is the daily victim of two bullies, Scut Farkus and Grover Dill.
One day, Ralphie explodes. He knocks down the bully Farkus with one punch and is immediately astride in bloodying his nose and swearing a blew streak. Little Ralphie is a hero. Sure, it‘s just the movies, but when exactly the same thing happened to me in 1967, and the bully‘s name was Ralph, my version of it had the added excitement of my mother driving up just at the moment I started to swear. I was hailed as a hero, too.
In our second story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, though, real life today in Jonesboro, Georgia, is apparently a little different than all that.
As Don Teague reports, little Ralphie strikes back against Scut Farkus and nearly goes to jail.
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirteen-year-old Daryl Gray says his last two years at Pointe South Middle School have been filled with fear. He was frequently targeted by bullies who he says beat him, called him gay, and in one instance urinated on his shoes.
DARYL GRAY, 13 YEARS OLD: I was kind of shocked, scared.
TEAGUE: His mother says she repeatedly asked the school for help.
JEANETTE GRAY, MOTHER OF DARYL: I complained over and over again.
TEAGUE: But the bullying continued.
J. GRAY: It was very hard because when my child hurts, I hurt.
TEAGUE: Until March, when Daryl says another boy hit him in math class.
D. GRAY: He punched me right here in my head.
TEAGUE: Daryl punched back, but he was holding a pencil which seriously injured the other boy‘s face. Daryl was charged and convicted of aggravated battery. He was in court today facing a possible five-year prison sentence.
J. GRAY: It should have never gotten that far.
TEAGUE (on camera): All students know about bullying. Many have experienced it. One study says at least one out of 10 students have been abused by a bully. Some say at least one out of three have been victims.
(voice-over): Georgia and 16 other states have passed anti-bullying laws in recent years. Still, Nan Stein, who studies student violence says, school administrators should stop the violence by taking action.
NAN STEIN, STUDIES STUDENT VIOLENCE: It is not unto the children to think about ways of how am I going it circumvent the torment I might get today?
TEAGUE: Daryl Gray‘s school says it deals with bullying as quickly as possible, but maintains a zero-tolerance policy against violence, even self-defense.
LINDA TANNER, CLAYTON COUNTY SCHOOLS: Students cannot fight back.
There are other means that you can use.
TEAGUE: As for Daryl, the judge sentenced him to probation and counseling instead of jail.
D. GRAY: I‘m still getting bullied.
TEAGUE: And he says still afraid to go back to school.
Don Teague, NBC News, Atlanta.
OLBERMANN: From life not imitating the movies to those stories in which people in the movies imitate having real lives. It is our segment “Keeping Tabs.”
And it starts with a most unusual sale of film rights. Sony Pictures is willing to make a movie out of the book “Moneyball.” “Moneyball” is the story of how a baseball team general manager assembles his lineup in the face of the financial inequities that hamstring the lesser franchises, like Oakland. Oh, get Schwarzenegger for it. No truth to rumors that the “Moneyball” movie will be part of a series of action thrillers based on such other best-selling books as “The Imus Ranch” and “The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology.”
We told you Monday of the recovery of the jaded Argentine soccer star Maradona and how he credited fans of his former team, Boca Juniors, with pulling him back after he had entered what he called the tunnel of death. Calling all Boca fans. Maradona is back in the hospital now a week after he had discharged himself—or the fans had done it for him. Previously suffering from heart and lung trouble, this trip, the hospital said, is a checkup because of something he ate that he should not have.
As he left the hospital last Friday, he told reporters he had been hankering for a big slab of fine Argentine beef.
And being that COUNTDOWN is the newscast of record for bears who live too close to people, we bring you this from Agoura Hills outside L.A. It is a California black bear appearing for the second time in a week in the neighborhood. Shot with tranquilizers by the bear patrol, moved away as part of the bear relocation program. So how does this come to be “Keeping Tabs”? What makes it celebrity news, that bear wandering around a swimming pool? Obviously, he has been watching “The Sopranos.”
And if you have ever wanted to be in television news, this might make you think twice. No one was critically injured here, but NBC‘s New York station had its helicopter up over a shooting scene in Brooklyn when this happened. The chopper with three on board suddenly went down, crashed against one building, fell, as you saw, on to another, and crumpled in a heap.
And to add competitive insult to genuine injury and fear, it was all caught on the rival ABC station‘s chopper camera. WNBC‘s traffic reporter, Andrew Torres, staggers out of the crashed helicopter almost immediately after impact. The pilot and co-pilot were later rescued. One of the injured is already at home resting there. The others are still hospitalized and in stable condition.
Tonight‘s top story, he held up a sign warning motorists about a police checkpoint and landed himself in jail. His story is next.
First, here are COUNTDOWN top two photos of this day.
OLBERMANN: In many parts of this country, it‘s already happened. The easiest way to get someone angry is to threaten his right to—no, not to bear arms—his right to drive the way he likes.
The No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, what happens when lawmakers try to control that perceived right or to punish those who try to outwit the law enforcers? First, in Northern California, in the capital, Tallahassee, there, State Senator Steve Geller has introduced a bill which would fine me-first drivers $80 for their troubles. What is a me-first driver? Well, the guy who drivers on the shoulder, then swerves back in, in front of a long line of traffic or those who tailgate or those who weave in and out of lanes, not the ones with road rage, the ones who are the carriers of road wage. All told, 13 states are considering adding some kind of me-first laws to their traffic codes.
Might want to perfect the laws you‘ve got already. A Florida group called Brothers of the Same Mind heard about a scheduled police road checkpoint in Miami. They had heard about it because the city held a news conference and sent out press releases. Its members, including Brian Dennis, went near the scene to warn motorists about the checkpoint. They were a little surprised to see that the police themselves had posted a sign about the checkpoint about a block away from it.
Mr. Dennis was more surprised still when, after he held up his own sign warning of the checkpoint, police arrested him.
We‘re joined now by Brian Dennis and his attorney, John DeLeon, who is the vice president of the Miami chapter of the ACLU.
And, gentlemen, good evening.
Mr. Dennis, let me start with you.
If the police had a news conference and they had a sign and all you had was a sign and you didn‘t have a news conference, what did you get arrested for?
BRIAN DENNIS, PRESIDENT, BROTHERS OF THE SAME MIND: I guess basically exercising my First Amendment right.
Mr. DeLeon, there‘s a city of Miami police checkpoint in the same area where the other police force in the area, the Miami-Dade police force, is running a narcotics investigation, as I understand the timing of this whole thing. And the Miami-Dade officers decided that Mr. Dennis had blown their cover somehow? Didn‘t the two police departments combine to blow Miami-Dade‘s cover by not coordinating which one of them was going to hold a news conference that day?
JOHN DELEON, ATTORNEY FOR DENNIS: Keith, absolutely.
This is almost like a case of the Keystone Cops, but with real consequences, that Brian ended up getting arrested for doing what precisely he just talked about, which was exercising his First Amendment right of letting people in the community know that there was a checkpoint ahead. I mean, the problem should not have been with Brian. It should have been with the City of Miami Police Department, if in fact they did have a problem.
The reality is, in every community, every night, there are undercover
operations—we all know that—in every major metropolitan area. And
simply by putting up a sign and indicating that the police are in the area
would subject anybody to arbitrary arrest. And that‘s what happened here
with Brian Dennis, who is the president of one of the great activist groups
here in Miami, Brothers of the Same Mind.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Dennis, so we are clear, that organization‘s members, your members are for the most part ex-convicts and your goal is to help other ex-convicts. And do you think that you might have been targeted because of your past?
DENNIS: Well, maybe so, but our mission is to stop the revolving door of criminals who come in and out, to prevent young brothers and sisters, regardless of what their race is, from going into jail.
We‘re the first group in the state of Florida that has $100,000 loan program for convicted ex-felons that will be coming out of jail or out on the street, not incarcerated, to start their own business. And they are going to be able to let licensed with us, so we‘re for the measure of prevention and we‘re also basically trying to stop the revolving door, so that‘s our goal.
And our goal is not to be able to stop the police from doing their job. We were not there warning anybody. We just did what the media couldn‘t do for the police. And that was get them the coverage and get it out in the community as a press release stated to let everyone know that they was going to have a checkpoint and that to come out and support their efforts.
OLBERMANN: Mr. DeLeon, how is this going to resolve itself, what is the next step here?
DELEON: Listen, the state attorney‘s office should immediately drop the charges. The law in Florida is very clear.
Citizens out there who warn individuals that there are police officers in the area can‘t be convicted or should not even be charged with this sort of crime. What we had here was an overzealous Miami-Dade County Police Department targeting Brian Dennis because he was out there with a group of people, but he was away from his group holding up a sign saying that there was a police checkpoint of another operation involving the Miami Police Department.
He did nothing wrong. All he did was letting the people in his community know, you know, there‘s a checkpoint out there. The police want to let the people know that there is a checkpoint out there by calling the media. You know what? I‘m a citizen and I‘m going to go out there and I‘m going to let people know along with the other members of my group, Brothers of the Same Mind. And we‘re not going to do it exactly like the police want us to do it or like the way they want the police—or, rather, the media to do it, you know with the embedded media that we have nowadays.
They said, we‘re going to do it the way we think it should be done. They went ahead and did it and they paid—unfortunately, Brian paid a heavy price for it, which was losing his liberty. And that‘s exactly what we‘re talking about.
OLBERMANN: John DeLeon, forgive me. We‘re out of time. John DeLeon is the vice president of the Miami chapter of the ACLU. Brian Dennis, who is in this situation, we thank you both for your time. Good night.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you‘ll be talking about tomorrow.
No. 5, abuse and accountability, the latest element from Iraq, the accusation that servicemen ordered an elderly Iraqi woman to crawl around a prison, they put a saddle on her, somebody rode atop her and called her a donkey. The No. 4 story, the questions of free speech and whether Michael Moore was being held back from releasing his documentary.
Unfortunately, there‘s been a mistiming in the show. We are going to have to wrap it up.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
Good night and good luck.
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