Guests: Karl Vick, Roger Cressey, Barclay Cambell, Ken Lawson
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The horrible act, so repulsive it has now been condemned by a Middle Eastern terrorist organization: the murder of Nicholas Berg. And why was he alone in Iraq? Are other Americans still there solo? And the claim that his death was revenge for the scandal at Abu Ghraib Prison. Is it valid or just a terrorist‘s excuse?
Another black eye for police in greater Cincinnati. The man they are pummeling here is 66 years old and he says this was all because he had parked in the fire lane at the supermarket. He will join us tonight.
And scoop that poop or we‘ll kill this dog: somebody is shooting pellet guns at the pooches of Scottsdale, Arizona, because he is tired of all this stuff.
All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening. The statement of condemnation at the videotape murder of American Nicholas Berg is precise and outraged: “This horrible act has done very great harm to Islam and Muslim by this group that claims affiliation to the religion of mercy, compassion, and human principles.” The statement is not from the U.S. government, not even from a sympathetic regime in the Middle East. It is from Hezbollah, the terrorist guerrilla group, still blamed by this nation for the 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, now a political party with 12 members in the Lebanese parliament. And even Hezbollah has condemned the butchering of Nicholas Berg.
Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN: That statement goes on to cynically complain of the timing of the act that it overshadowed the abuses of Iraqi prisoner by Americans. Hezbollah has its own agenda and its own hatreds. Its full statement attacked bother the executioners and the Pentagon. Nonetheless, it does speak to the breadth of revulsion, the news of one death amid the carnage of Iraq, revulsion that began at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no justification for the brutal execution of Nicholas Berg. No justification whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Berg‘s remains were flown to the military mortuary at Delaware‘s Dover Air Force Base today, not far from his Pennsylvania home. And down the seaboard, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff making an unexpected conclusion announced about Berg‘s killer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHARIMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: The best we know, and I don‘t know that we know this for sure, but it looks like the perpetrator—the lead perpetrator might have been this fellow Zarqawi, who, while not al-Qaeda, has been al-Qaeda facil—affiliated for—for a long, long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: This fellow Zarqawi being Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, to whom an Islamic website, yesterday, personally attributed the beheading of Nicholas Berg.
And in Mr. Berg‘s town there is outrage upon outrage. An unnamed U.S. official told the “New York Times,” for a story published today, that despite his family‘s claim, Bergs—Berg was never in American custody in Iraq, that his detention was by Iraqi police. The family insisting that Berg‘s safe exit from Iraq was delayed by that detention by two critical weeks, that he very well might still be alive had he not been held in custody by whoever did so hold him. That issue and the sad tasks of arranging a memorial service for him made this day, perhaps, even worse than expected in Westchester, Pennsylvania. Our correspondent Ron Allen continues his reporting from there, now.
Ron, good evening.
RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, too, Keith. We have not been able to speak to the family directly about those charges. There was also a statement today from the FBI saying that, in fact, Berg was offered safe passage out of the country at one point and he was warned repeatedly of the danger of being in Iraq. Again, we were not able to speak to the family about that directly because they‘ve been in seclusion all day. But, they have been adamant in maintaining that even though Berg was in the custody of Iraqi police in Mosul, we believe, they say that ultimately the United States was responsible for all security in the country and the work of the Iraqi police force, as well. We did speak to one of Mr. Berg‘s neighbors, Bruce Hauser, who‘s been, at times, a spokesperson for the family. Here‘s what he had to say about this issue of state passage and whether Berg was in American custody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE HAUSER, BERG FAMILY FRIEND: I truly believe that he was in the U.S. government‘s hands at one time.
ALLEN: And why is that important? Do they think that...
HAUSER: Well, it‘s very important, because, think of yourself in their place, I‘d think the same way. If he was turned over to the American government and they did a background check, found out who he was, what his reasons for being there, shouldn‘t the U.S. government help him get out of the country? The last I heard, Nick was trying to find his own way out of the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: The other big issue here, as you mentioned, Keith, is this question of final arrangements for Mr. Berg. We understand that there will be a memorial service held here in the communalt, probably on Friday some time; the family is being very tight-lipped about that. We have a brief appearance, here today, from Sarah Berg, Nick Berg‘s sister, who came out of the house to make it clear she does not want the media or the general public to infringe on the family‘s private grief during this memorial event, which again, we think is planned for Friday. Here is some of what she had to say earlier this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH BERG, NICK BERG‘S SISTER: We appreciate all the sympathy that we‘ve received, the flowers and phone calls and everything, but we do not want this to be a circus. Out of respect for my family, we ask that if you do not have some connection to our family, that you stay away from the memorial service, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: So, clearly, a very emotional and grief-filled day for the family, here. Again, remaining in seclusion, there have been a number of visitors who‘ve come by bringing flowers, also a number of local officials from the town have stopped by to offer sympathy, support, and condolences. The family, of course, still trying to figure out exactly what happened to their son during the final weeks of his life before his brutal and gruesome death.
Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Ron Allen outside the Berg home at Westchester, Pennsylvania. Many thanks again, Ron.
Nicholas Berg‘s fatal trip to Iraq was not his first, nor did his traveling begin there, Cornell University, where he studied engineering for two and a half years issued a statement of sympathy, today, in which it that noted Berg spent a semester, during his sophomore year, in Uganda.
But, how does anybody wind up—how does anybody wind up on his own in Iraq, not working for, nor benefiting from, the security arrangements of a contractor, but looking for work in that most hostile of environments? It turns out his was anything but a unique instance. Since late July of last year when the Pentagon lifted its restrictions on travel there, dozens of non-Iraqis have gone to that country seeking employment. Solos, some call them, an ad hock community of at least 50 of them drawn from the U.S., Central Europe, even other Arab nations, said to be found in Baghdad, today.
And as the death of Mr. Berg suggests, their risk may be greater even, than any other foreign civilians. Is anyone else at risk at this moment? Correspond Karl Vick of the “Washington Post” is just back from Baghdad.
He joins us now.
Mr. Vick, thanks for your time, tonight.
KARL VICK, “WASHINGTON POST” REPORTER: Sure.
OLBERMANN: We had that one estimate of 50 or perhaps 60, as they were described, solos in Baghdad. That could be the number? Are there more Americans and Westerners in that country right now, freelancing, looking for work?
VICK: It could be the number. It‘s really hard to say, as you say, they‘re solos, they‘re sort of there without portfolio, without an organization, without a group, sort of an infrastructure around them. I mean, the corollary in journalism is freelancers and your—you sort of pitch up and sort of find work when you‘re there and you don‘t have an organization built around you. You‘re probably in contact with the Americans, with the coalition provisional authority, maybe with the military on an ad hoc basis, but it‘s impossible to know.
OLBERMANN: Are they all trying get out now?
VICK: Well, I mean, it would be sensible. It‘s not a very safe
place, it hasn‘t—it hadn‘t been a safe place over the last year and
what‘s worth remembering is that when this happened, the first week of
April or so, everything changed in Iraq. The insurgency had just started,
the streets went from—the streets of Baghdad went from being places you
· a place you could basically work and hang around and talk to Iraqis, to
· you know, a real danger zone where—you know, when I was there that week and suddenly I went from being able to sort of work very freely to every day for four or five days, I was either warned specifically or threatened specificy—you know, “You‘re going to get whacked, what are you doing here?” I mean, don‘t travel to so and so. Be very careful. The translator is warned in Arabic by someone you‘re interviewing. It—and that‘s exactly the time that Mr. Berg got taken. So, you know, it really just turned 180 degrees at that time, just very quickly and the rules changed, literally, in 48 hours.
OLBERMANN: And the independences there, the freelancers, the solos, are they truly in more danger than contractor employees, or does it seem that way? The ex-hostage Thomas Hamill was there for Halliburton, the subsidiary, anyway.
VICK: Right. That—those people with the Halliburton were all taken and those American soldiers were taken, all on one convoy that was hit, moving out to Fallujah that—right about this day, same time he was taken. That was also the time when people who were using back roads trying to get to the Jordanian border after Fallujah, when the road through Fallujah was block off by the Marines, people were using alternate routes and that‘s when a lot of people were getting snatched and some killed. And it -- you know, immediately, I mean within a day everybody knew you can‘t do that, but for the people trying that day, there was a huge amount of traffic.
So, but the question about—yeah. If you‘re a freelancer, if you‘re on your own, most journalists are there with an organization. they have translators, they have drivers, a lot of the major news organizations like the “Washington Post,” the “New York Times,” all the networks have professional security service they‘ve hired, somebody whose expertise they can draw on and you have your own wits about you. Many people who were in Baghdad have been in other war zones, so they at least have some kind of situational awareness and some experience to draw on. Someone—you know, who has come there looking for work, business people, several business people have been victims, not as spectacularly or gruesomely as this, but some Finnish businessmen were killed, a Danish businessman was killed. They‘re either less experienced or they have less infrastructure and expertise to draw on.
VICK: Mr. Berg was obviously one of them.
OLBERMANN: Karl Vick of the “Washington Post.” Great thanks for your insight and your time tonight, sir.
OLBERMANN: Now, as to the supposed connection between Mr. Berg‘s
execution and the photographs of American service personnel, abusing and
humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, in the moments before they
killed Nicholas Berg, one the masked men in the video said that they were
avenging the, quote, “satanic degradation of Iraqi prisoners...the dignity
of the Muslim men and women in Abu Ghraib and others is not redeemed except
by blood and souls.”
But, in the Iraq world, it is unclear if anybody warm to that logic.
As mentioned earlier, that Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah, condemned the murder, throwing in swipes at other terrorists and at the Pentagon. And even with two weeks of photos and based on today‘s developments, more of them to come, the Islamic uprisings, sought by al-Qaeda in the Middle East, have yet to be seen.
Here, of course, the question is whether those prison abuse photos, having been seen, really was the motive for the killing of Nicholas Berg or whether it was just an excuse.
Joining us to try to assess that, Roger Cressey, who coordinated counter-terrorism policy as a director on the National Security Council under both the Clinton administration and the current Bush administration.
Roger, good evening. Thanks for your time.
ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Can cause and effect be established here between the prison photos and the death of Mr. Berg?
CRESSEY: Well, there still is a timing issue, but assuming Zarqawi actually was responsible for Mr. Berg‘s death, Zarqawi would kill him regardless of the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. Now, he‘s using Abu Ghraib as a justification and he‘s going to get a lot of mileage out of it throughout the Jihadist network and maybe throughout the Arab world. But, unfortunately, when you‘re dealing with someone like Zarqawi, he was going to commit that murder regardless of any other circumstances.
OLBERMANN: What you make of General Myers‘ assessment today, the quote being that it looks like it could be, at least, Zarqawi who did commit the crime?
CRESSEY: Well, the intelligence community is going to look at a couple things to make that determination. One is the actual videotape, his height, things like that. Then there‘s going to be the audio comparison with the voice on the tape compared to the audiotape purported to have been produced by Zarqawi several week ago where he took credit for the failed attempt inside Jordan.
OLBERMANN: The Hezbollah statement today, condemning the murder, raising the self-defeating nature of this that certainly in this country, and perhaps elsewhere, it muted the outrage over the prison photos. Can we tell, can we get a hint as to what kind of group did this? Whether or not it was somebody as sophisticated as Zarqawi or someone merely pretending to be affiliated with Zarqawi or al-Qaeda, based on the inference that they apparently did not consider the consequence of, essentially, preempting Abu Ghraib?
CRESSEY: Right. Zarqawi‘s network inside Iraq is the single biggest threat to the U.S. and coalition forces and now we know it‘s also the single biggest threat to civilians operating there. But, the Hezbollah statement is interesting, Keith. Hezbollah is a very sophisticated terrorist organization. They have a very strong political arm in Lebanon. What they‘re basically saying is we—the—their brothers, the fellow Jihadists should not be doing anything in Iraq to take attention away from the situation the United States finds itself in right now. What Hezbollah is saying is, in fact is—look, it‘s going our way in Iraq, right now. Don‘t try and confuse the message. You know, in fact, keep your eyes on the prize, which is get as much mileage as you can out of the Abu Ghraib scandal, continue to keep pressure on the coalition, both diplomatic and military, and when we have the transfer of authority at the end of June, then we‘ll have a real opportunity to truly defeat the coalition.
OLBERMANN: That is an extraordinary set of developments that—contained in that statement.
Roger Cressey, formerly of the National Security Council, now with us here on MSNBC.
Thanks again, Roger, for your time tonight.
CRESSEY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN underway again tonight, with the brutal murder of Nick Berg and all the questions and issues arising from it.
Up next, tonight‘s No. 4 story: The Senate seeing still more photographs from Iraq and the woman soldiers depicted in many of them breaks her silence.
And later, more police controversy in the greater Cincinnati area. This time police are shown beating a 66-year-old man who says this all started just because he was illegally parked at a supermarket. He will join us. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: After the break, COUNTDOWN returning with our No. 4 story:
More prison abuse photos, reaction from the Senate and the Congress, and more charges that the dissemination of those photos is making things worse in Iraq and here.
OLBERMANN: As members of the Senate Armed Services Committee exited their private viewing of literally thousands more photographs and other images from American-run prisons in Iraq, republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell may have summed all if it up, “I don‘t know,” he said, “how on earth these people got into our Army.”
The fourth story on COUNTDOWN: More photos and more details about the earlier photos. The new details first. Private Lynndie England facing court-martial for her role at Abu Ghraib Prison granted her first television interview to a Denver, Colorado, station and explained this photo this way:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PFC. LYNNDIE ENGLAND, U.S. ARMY: I was instructed by persons in a higher rank to stand there, hold this leash and look at the camera. They took the picture for PsyOp and that‘s all I knew.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: PsyOp, psychological operations. The first of this week, one of Private England‘s four attorneys laid out that exact explanation, here on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL MCGUIRE, CO-COUNSEL FOR PFC. LYNNDIE ENGLAND: The information that we‘ve received is that these—the cell block that they were assigned to, or associated with, was overrun and taken over by the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and some military operations doing psychological operations, so that they could use these photos and this information to humiliate and degrade other prisoners in an effort to collect information and intelligence as to activities that are going on in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Apart from the question of what the orders were at Abu Ghraib, there remains the question of who was giving them. The “Washington Post” reporting today that Brigadier General-Janice Karpinski told Army investigators, earlier this year, that she resisted a decision by the two highest ranking Army officers in Iraq, Major General Jeffery Miller, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez to transfer control of the prison to military intelligence. Karpinski claims she says she was overruled on that, as well as on her concern about a decision to use deadly force to keep order at the prison. General Miller, formerly ran the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The report quotes Karpinski as saying she thought Miller wanted to Gitmoize Abu Ghraib, and that he told her, quote, “We will do this my way or the hard way.” Miller denies making any such comment.
The comments on and off the record for the senators and congressmen who, today, got to see the 1,800 unpublished photos and videos in Iraq, were emphatic and graphic. Said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, “It looks like someone was trying to put together a porno film.”
A senator speaking off the record said the variety and volume of the images, quote, “...clearly demonstrate more than a handful of soldiers were involved and suggests a level of organization indicative of a system of failure.”
The lawmakers had a three-hour window to review the images, it was more than long enough. “I‘m not going back, said one republican congressman, “it‘s just sick.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: What we saw, it is appalling, it is consistent with the photos that you‘ve seen in the press, to date. They go beyond that in many ways, in terms of the various activities that are depicted, some totally unrelated to the Abu Ghraib Prison or to the prisoners there.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: There are obvious examples, in videos, of inhumane treatment. And in one particular still photo, among troops that are in a hallway where you‘ve seen the clump of people tied together on the floor, we counted seven or eight troops. Now, you can‘t tell me that all of this was going on with seven or eight Army privates. I did not see a rape. I specifically asked about that. I did not see a video of either a rape of a male prisoner or a female prisoner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, has learned some details of the video images, several soldiers beating a prisoner who was hooded, other prisoners being sodomized, and American soldiers posed around a dead Iraqi, half of whose head was missing.
And, NBC News has also learned that the military investigation of the abuse incidents includes allegations that military intelligence officers were involved, and that two private contract interrogators are accused of involvement in the death of one Iraqi prisoner.
As to whether any of the unseen images will be released publicly, after having seen them today, several senators said that now seems unlikely.
Which was already just fine with many. The leaders of both parties have argued that the only route, in the wake of such a military and ethical scandal is stull disclosure. David Gregory reports from the White House that that vote is far from unanimous.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The prison abuse story has not just led the news, it has dominated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, new photographic evidence of Iraqi prisoner abuse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Iraqi prisoners were abused and humiliated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the prisoner photos keep on coming.
GREGORY: Last week according to the Tyndall Report, a media research group, the three network newscast devoted 122 minutes to the story, nearly six times what they spent on the next biggest story.
(on camera): As the debate now rages over whether the White House should order the release of additional, more graphic photos of abuse, some republicans argue enough is enough. The story and outrage, they say, is overblown.
SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA: These detainees have information we need and we need to quit worrying about how they‘re treated and get the information and get these people under our control.
GREGORY (voice-over): During a radio interview yesterday, the vice president suggested releasing more pictures of abused Iraqis could undermine the legal cases against the offenders.
DICK CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I‘d say there are a lot of equities involved here besides just satisfying the desires of the press that want to have more pictures to print.
GREGORY: The debate over how much attention the prison abuse scandal should get is playing on talk radio programs across the country. “The beheading of Nick Berg, that‘s torture,” many said today “and is a far cry from what a number of small soldiers did to Iraqi prisoners.”
NEAL BOORTZ, TALK RADIO HOST, ATLANTA: It reminds Americans of what we are fighting.
GREGORY: In Phoenix this question: Will Berg‘s execution create the outcry in the Arab world that met the prison abuse story?
DAVID LEIBOWITZ, TALK RADIO HOST, PHOENIX: Is there going to be apologize sometime in the near future? Amnesty International going to go ahead, convene a big investigation?
GREGORY: Some democrats and even some republicans argue the prison abuse story has not been overblown precisely because U.S. soldiers are supposed to be above any conduct associated with the enemy.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: The United States is over there saying, “We are better. We are better than anything you see. Don‘t worry; we‘re coming here to make your life better.”
GREGORY: At the heart of the debate, was it the abuse of the Iraqis or enormous attention paid to it that will make the U.S. mission harder?
David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.
OLBERMANN: A “USA Today”/Gallup Poll indicated earlier this week that well over 50 percent of respondents believe the media had behaved with great responsibility towards that story.
And there is broad agreement on one aspect of this story, it is and it has been for a week and a half, irredeemably disturbing, depressing, demoralizing, not a ray of humor, barely a ray of humanity in the whole thing. Thus was one moment of comic relief from the senate hearing so gratefully received, even by the honorable man who was at its center. He is the general who conducted the Army‘s initial investigation into all this. His last name is T-A-G-U-B-A. It is pronounced any number of ways.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Testifying befores today is Major General Antonio Antaguba.
MAJOR GENERAL ANTONIO TAGUBA, U.S. ARMY: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Takuga?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Tabuga.
TAGUBA: No, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having said that, General Takooga.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Tagabu...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I should ask General Snitch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to agree with General Taguba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Taguba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Taguba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Taguba.
TAGUBA: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tagabu...
TAGUBA: No, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am still confused.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe I better ask General Taguba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tagabu, excuse me, and I‘m probably doing—I‘m doing violence to your name, I apologize. Taguba, forgive me.
OLBERMANN: For the record, General Antonio Taguba. And yes, I mispronounced it yesterday.
The fourth story in COUNTDOWN: More photos, more investigation. and one small moment of relief. Up next, the merciful time-out from the day‘s grim headlines. When you hear the location Mexico and hear the term “illegal aliens,” you tend to think politics or immigration policy, instead, keep watching the skies.
And later, a community of pet owners put on notice, clean up after Fido or else your dog‘s business could mean they give him the business.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now with COUNTDOWN.
And it‘s time to go to the tales from the conspiracy theory one-legged men, Fox News is programmed by a lawn gnome-like species from the planet Andromeda kind of pile. Let‘s play “Oddball.”
And it‘s gotten so bad, even E.T. is outsourcing these days, Campeche, Mexico, March 2004, a series of strange lights traveling at an unusual rate of speed is spotted in the skies and videotaped by a Mexican air force pilot on patrol, one light at first, then a gradual increase to 16 flying in formation. But the air force was looking for drug traffickers, so of course they didn‘t try to make contact.
Now, you are probably asking yourself, Mexico has an air force?
Now to the home base of those not of this planet, Times Square in New York City; 15 years now, they have spent cleaning up the smut. And now we are going to have the decency police swoop down on the place yet again. A new billboard advertising watches shows drawings of rabbits in what might be described as happy bunny poses for a line of timepieces called Bunny-Sutra. If you want to be really disturbed, look carefully at their eyes.
Some are in the shape of X‘s, the international kid sign for dead or at least unconscious. That‘s disturbing. A spokesperson for the watch company told “The New York Post” that the ads are—quote—“playful”—quote—“very tongue in cheek.” Oh, they are doing that, too.
And from the land of the strange and home of the freak, one last item. She is not a celebrity, but see will make the Mug Shot Hall of Fame. Just pretend you‘re watching “Animal House,” the part where they are reviewing the slides of the potential fraternity pledges. Margaret Anne Thomas Irving (ph) sent to jail for nearly six years today, this for a nine-month crime spree in which allegedly held up four banks, two Savings & Loans, two restaurants and two Dunkin‘ Donuts, to say nothing of the photographer.
She‘s a 58-year-old grandmother who says she was driven to it by debt. The DA doubted it. When the mortgage is due, he said, it‘s probably not a great idea to act like Uncle Junior Soprano.
COUNTDOWN picking back up with our No. 3 story after the break. And your preview, there are tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers who had nothing to do with the prisoner abuse scandal. What did those photos do to their safety? And later, an off-duty Ohio police officer caught on tape beating an elderly man. Months after this incident, the man is fighting back in court asking for $6 million in damages.
Those stories ahead. First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
No. 3, Tampa Bay Lightning. In one of the dumbest sports promotions ever concocted, the team announced it would offer free beer to people who bought season tickets, free beer during the games. First advertised Saturday, by late afternoon today, the reaction had been so adverse that the Lightning canceled the offer.
No. 2, Tony Watson. Police in his hometown of Barnsley in England threatened him with arrest because his lawn gnomes were naked. Mr. Watson‘s creative response, he has painted swimsuits on his lawn gnomes.
And No. 1, Bandit the raccoon, the pet of Ms. Deborah Klitsch of Palmerton, Pennsylvania. Bandit subsisted on a diet of Fruit Loops, cheese curls and fries. He has died. He was 10 years old and he weighed 75 pounds.
OLBERMANN: Back with COUNTDOWN and the third story on it.
We‘ve heard nearly every kind of reaction to the two lead stories of the day, of the week, the murder of Nicholas Berg and the viewing of new photos and videos of abuse from Iraq. We have heard from everybody from Tom DeLay to Hezbollah. But what about those probably most immediately affected by these developments, U.S. soldiers and their families?
Domestic reaction first. Our support Martin Savidge is at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It‘s championship night at B&B Lanes, only a few miles from the main gate at Fort Bragg.
Just about everyone in the place is either military, ex-military or a military dependent. Hang around a few frames and you quickly learn two things. Everyone is mad about the murder of the American hostage, and nobody is surprised it happened, not given the outrage over the Iraqi prison abuse scandal in the Arab world.
Christina McCullom (ph) is married to a soldier.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s not surprising. I eventually knew it would come to this. They would take it a step further. And so I think it‘s time for us to take it a step further.
SAVIDGE: Joe Conner (ph) has a mother serving in Korea and a father in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something like this happens and you see it on the news and you have family over there, and it‘s disturbing.
SAVIDGE: A few lanes down is Reginald Montgomery (ph). He‘s former military.
(on camera): Does it change your attitude towards the war?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, no. It just makes it more important for to us to do what we‘ve got to do, instead of letting the country fall to the terrorists that‘s over there.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): But behind the snack bar, Mona Jenkins (ph) sees it differently. And what she sees worries her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s like a civil war. And they are going to see if they can outdo us. It didn‘t start out that way, but now it‘s a real war. It‘s a real bad war.
OLBERMANN: Martin Savidge reporting from Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
In Iraq, they already know all too well that it‘s a real war, that any insult or any abuse, its severity real or imagined, can light another match to another powder keg.
Ned Colt is reporting how Baghdad now on how the Berg execution and abuse photos have just added a lot more matches and a lot more powder kegs.
NED COLT, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Staff Sergeant Terence Duffie greets the Red Dogs of Alpha Company as they move out for this morning‘s patrol, weapons loaded. But to win over the Iraqi people, waves and smiles are critical ammunition.
STAFF SGT. TERENCE DUFFIE, U.S. ARMY: Keep it spread out, guys.
COLT: Their patrol today in a Shiite neighborhood if Baghdad, eyes along the roof line, but no trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just come out here and present a friendly face and a strong united front.
COLT: But their mission has been made tougher and overshadowed by the abuses of the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison.
DUFFIE: It reflects on us, even though we are not part of that unit. It reflects on us whole as a whole in the Army. And once again we have to regain the trust of the people. And they have to regain the trust in us.
COLT: Key to that trust:
SPC. LONNIE MCMANNERS, U.S. ARMY: Treat others like as you would like to be treated, you know, just like the golden rule.
COLT: A trusting relationship with the Iraqis is a critical factor in troop morale, a problem among the 130,000 soldiers and Marines here.
(on camera): The Army released a report in March that found that 72 percent of soldiers surveyed said there was poor morale in their units.
(voice-over): But no sign of that today in Alpha Company, still relatively fresh with only five months in Iraq and with a clear understanding why they are here.
STAFF SGT. IAN COOK, U.S. ARMY: We try to maintain professionalism.
We do our job. We know what has to be done.
COLT: That job is easier with some of the comforts of home and, most important, keeping in touch with family back home.
DUFFIE: This is my morale booster right here. I get to talk to my wife every day.
COLT: From Iraq from America via Web cam and e-mail, they are safe after another day and another control.
Ned Colt, NBC News, Baghdad.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN‘s No. 2 story straight ahead, another police beating on tape. Again, it‘s in the greater Cincinnati area. And this time, says its victim, it started over where he was parked. He and his attorney will join us.
And later, Britney Spears getting a critique of her style and her talent, if any, from one of her peers. Apparently, even young, hip stars don‘t find her to be too much of a role model either.
OLBERMANN: Late last November, a 350-pound man from Cincinnati with a heart condition and a postmortem test for angel dust and cocaine died just hours after he had been beaten by police using batons. The police were cleared.
Our second story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, now the area has another police beating controversy about 10, 15 miles away in Woodlawn, Ohio. It began last September in the parking lot of a Kroger Supermarket in that city; 66-year-old Barclay Campbell says he was parked the fire lane waiting for his wife. He claims that off-duty politics officer George Wells (ph), dressed in civilian clothes, told him to move. An argument ensued.
Campbell says Wells tried to grab his keys, so he pulled away to a different part of the lot. However, Officer Wells had called for backup. At least three police cruisers arrived. Campbell says he was Maced, kicked 18 times in the legs and groin and thrown in the back of a cruiser. Police filed charges, including menacing, resisting arrest. They were thrown out of court.
Mr. Campbell is in turn suing the Woodlawn Police Department, the officers he says attacked him and the Kroger store for a total of $6 million in damages, that suit filed this afternoon. It alleged among other charges malicious prosecution, false arrest, conspiracy to violate civil rights, and assault and battery.
When we spoke with Woodlawn‘s acting village manager, Walter Obermeyer (ph), he said he had not seen the suit, nor any alleged accusations and did not have much else to say.
Joining us now, Barclay Campbell and his attorney, Ken Lawson.
Gentlemen, thank you much for your time.
Mr. Campbell, let me start with you. When this all started, when that man came up to you and told you were parked in the wrong place, did you have any idea he was a policeman?
BARCLAY CAMPBELL, PLAINTIFF: I would have assumed he was.
However, he kept grabbing at my arm. And I don‘t know why he had something metal in there or whatever. And he was very, very rude in the way he asked me to move. And so I turned around and asked him. I said, by what authority are you? And, of course, he didn‘t answer me.
And rather than me get involved with him again and park in the Kroger parking lot, I went down to a little park next door to Kroger‘s. I rode around the front of the park. And I come back out to a stop sign. I stopped. And before I knew what could ever happen, five, six, seven, eight cops pulled up.
OLBERMANN: When those officers showed up, do you remember what you thought was happening to you when this crowd of cops shows up?
CAMPBELL: No. I thought, in my own mind, I thought, what in the world is going on here? The only thing I could think is maybe they think they‘ve got the wrong guy. Maybe I was—it so happened that I have a car that I have a Florida plate on. And the reason I do is because I‘ve got property in Florida.
And whether that had anything to do with it or not, I had no idea.
But I thought, they must have got the wrong guy here.
Mr. Lawson, you made an observation about that audio on that dash cam video that we‘ve been seeing recorded from inside the police car, that the officers are talking to that off-duty officer who started all this, telling him to clock in. What does all that mean, in your opinion?
KEN LAWSON, ATTORNEY FOR CAMPBELL: Well, the officer that began this whole scenario was working off-duty detail.
He had on shorts and a shirt, but he had not yet arrived into Kroger‘s and clocked in yet. He was just getting to work when he comes across Barclay. And that fiasco starts. So after they had Maced him and you see the beating on the tape, they placed Barclay in the back of the cruiser. And you can hear the officers still talking because their mikes are on.
And one officer says, had you clocked into work yet? And the guy says, no.
And he says, well, go back up to Kroger‘s—and I‘m paraphrasing here
· and make sure that they backdate your time card so it shows that you were on duty at the time you came into contact with Barclay. To answer your question, that is important for two reasons.
One, it goes to show that he had no authority at that point to do anything to Barclay because he was not clocked in, was not on duty, was secondly working an off-duty detail. Even if he was on duty, he can‘t enforce traffic laws. He has no authority to do what he was trying to do.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Campbell, we are almost out of time here, but let me ask you, what happened to you physically after this and how are you now?
CAMPBELL: Well, my legs, I thought, were broke. And I asked them to take me to the hospital, which they did. They X-rayed my legs. And the doctor came back and he says, well, fortunately, your legs are not broke. But he says, you‘ve got contusions on the side. They were sticking out three-quarters of an inch on either side.
And I am an avid jogger. And I am to the point now, I don‘t know if it‘s nerve damage or what in my legs. I‘ve got an appointment with the doctor now. But I have trouble. If I sit very long in the chair or whatever, I get up and my wife says, hey, you‘re walking funny. And I said, well—so they hurt pretty bad at times.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Barclay Campbell, Mr. Kenneth Lawson, his attorney, we thank you both for your time tonight. And I‘m not supposed to root on these things, but good luck to both of you.
CAMPBELL: Well, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
LAWSON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: There is no easy segue out of tonight‘s No. 2 story to the segment we devote to celebrities and gossip and trash talk and all that, so we‘ll just make the leap and say, now for “Keeping Tabs.”
Good news from the home front. Though our esteemed on-air leader, Mr. Brokaw, will be giving up the “Nightly News” anchor chair, which is, incidentally, made entirely out of gold—I don‘t know if you know that—he is not going to be leaving NBC News. The network today announcing Tom has signed a contract extension through the year 2014 -- 2014! That is some extension, Tom.
After Brian Williams takes over “Nightly News‘ in on 2 December, Tom will anchor and produce documentaries for NBC News and other NBC organizations. And best of all, he will be part of the regular coverage of major news events as an analyst.
Rare that the secretary of state gets into “Keeping Tabs,” but here he is, Colin Powell in the British newspaper “The Guardian” today after he applied for a Scottish coat of arms. He is Scots on his mother‘s side. And his father was born in Jamaica, meaning he was a subject, the father, of the British crown. And thus the family is eligible for what amounts to a family insignia. Oh, and Secretary Powell is an honorary British knight.
The paper reports he has asked for an eagle and a lion on his coat of arms.
Finally, nothing sells tabloids like teenage pop stars getting all catty. And no one gets catty like Avril Lavigne. Lavigne, who has been dubbed the anti-Britney Spears, took the opportunity of a BBC interview to take a slap at her anti-namesake—quote—“Britney dresses like a showgirl and dances like a ho,” she says. “Would you walk around the street in a ‘bleeping‘ bra?” Well, I wouldn‘t say “bleeping,” Miss. “I wouldn‘t be caught dead looking like that,” she adds.
And a spokesman for Ms. Spears was quoted as asking, “Who is Avril Lavigne?” Oh, very nice. I sound like Bill O‘Reilly now.
Tonight‘s No. 1 story is up next, a whole new reason to clean up after your dog on the street. If you don‘t, you might never get to clean up after your dog again because someone may shoot him with a pellet gun. Huh?
OLBERMANN: Only the lucky among us have never had it on the soles of our shoes or cursed under our breath as it squished underfoot. But very few of us have ever written letters threatening to kill the issuers of canine waste.
Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight might hit you if you own a dog as completely offensive and worthy of an indictment. If you do not own a dog, you may trot out the old saw, I don‘t condone this, but I do understand it.
We‘re in Scottsdale, Arizona, where a vigilante has trained a pellet gun on at least one dog who is, in his evident estimation, befouling the neighborhood.
Our reporter is Rich Dubek from the NBC station in Phoenix, KPNX.
And, yes, thanks for asking, he does have the scoop.
LAURA MIDDLETON, DOG SHOT: “To all dog owners, I am sorry to say, effective immediately, your dog will be shot on the spot if you do not pick up his dog (EXPLETIVE DELETED).”
RICH DUBEK, KPNX REPORTER (voice-over): Laura Middleton says this note was left on every car in her complex. The warning came last Wednesday. She says her dog, Bomber, was shot on Friday.
MIDDLETON: “I am sick of looking at dog (EXPLETIVE DELETED) all over this property. It‘s simple. Your dog will live if you pick up, die if you don‘t,” signed, “The Sniper.”
DUBEK: Bomber is doing much better now. Laura says the vet told her the injury was caused by a pellet gun or a small .22. Since Bomber is always with her in the common areas, she believes her dog was shot on her enclosed back patio.
MIDDLETON: I leave this door open, you know, cracked to about here, so that he can go in and out to go to the bathroom.
DUBEK: Laura‘s neighbor also received a note, but whoever wrote it did not make any threats.
YASMINE SHERIFF, DOG OWNER: Just said, please refrain your dog from barking and pooping all over the place.
DUBEK: Both women say they have no idea who would do this.
SHERIFF: That‘s terrifying. That is absolutely scary. This is a neighborhood full of dogs. Everybody here has a dog.
OLBERMANN: Rich Dubek reporting from Scottsdale, Arizona. Hopefully, there‘s some people there, too.
If you think that city has gone to the proverbial dogs, here‘s one more thing you need to know about tonight‘s No. 1 story. If there‘s another place where the doggie police are even more vigilant, it may be Hoboken, New Jersey. There‘s a proposal in that city to force dog owners to register their canine‘s DNA with the city, because, with a dog‘s DNA, you can presumably identify any piece of dog doo-doo on the street, which closes us tonight which this other reminder that somebody does have a worse job than you do.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. Thanks for being part of it. I‘m Keith Olbermann.
Good night and, after that, good luck.
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