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'Deborah Norville Tonight' for May 12

Read the complete transcript to Wednesday's show

Guests: Bruce Hauser, Roger Cressey, Sam Brownback



DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  The barbaric murder of Nick Berg, an American doing business in Iraq, killed by Islamic militants who say they‘re soldiers of al Qaeda. 

Tonight, we‘ll find out more about who Nick Berg was...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He was like a son to me.


NORVILLE:  ... and why he placed himself in harm‘s way. 

The search for a motive.  Was Nick Berg‘s execution retaliation for what happened in Abu Ghraib, or is al Qaeda using these images as an excuse for murder?

And what about the soldiers pictured in these infamous photos?  Should they shoulder any of blame for a murder of an innocent American?

ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.


NORVILLE:  And good evening. 

As the United States military tries to find Nick Berg‘s killers, his family and friends are trying to come to grips with the barbaric way in which he was killed. 

The 26-year-old businessman was beheaded by his captors in Iraq, who say it was revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers. 

The video of Berg‘s execution was played on a radical Islamic web site with ties to al Qaeda. 

Tonight, Berg who was from West Chester, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, is being remembered as a generous, outgoing funny man who wanted to help people around the world.  His body is back now in the United States. 

Nick Berg owned a small telecommunications company.  He was in Iraq on his own looking for work fixing communications towers.  His body was discovered in Baghdad over the weekend, and his family was informed of his death on Monday. 

But yesterday when they found out from a reporter that his murder was being shown on a web site, they collapsed in tears on their front lawn. 

In an interview with WBUR Radio‘s Robin Young, Nick Berg‘s father blamed the U.S. government for his son‘s death. 


ROBIN YOUNG, WBUR:  What was your son doing in Iraq?

MICHAEL BERG, FATHER OF NICK BERG:  My son was in Iraq to help with the effort to rebuild.  He built and repaired and maintained radio and TV broadcast towers, and he felt that there was a great need for them in Iraq at this time and he wanted to do his part to help in that effort. 

YOUNG:  You‘ve known for a while that something was terribly wrong. 

What happened?

BERG:  We last heard from him on April 9, and prior to April 9, we would hear from him several times a day by e-mail and a couple times a week on the phone.  And then of after April 9, we heard nothing.  So we knew something was wrong a couple days after that.  We feared the worst. 

YOUNG:  And we know that right before he disappeared, he had also been taken into custody.  What happened then?

BERG:  Well, that‘s really why—that‘s really what cost my son his life was the fact that the United States government saw fit to keep him in custody for 13 days without any of his due process or civil rights and release him when they were good and ready. 

YOUNG:  He told you that he was picked up by Iraqi officials at a checkpoint in Mosul around March 24?

BERG:  That‘s correct. 

YOUNG:  And then he was held for how long?

BERG:  He was held for 13 days.  He was released on April 6. 

YOUNG:  And the FBI came and interviewed you on March 31.  Why was he picked up?  What was the concern and why was he held?

BERG:  He was picked up because he was an American civilian.  He was out late at night, although there was no curfew, and a taxicab driver was let go.  They suspected him of not being who his passport said he was.  They suspected him of maybe being, you know, an insurgent or a terrorist. 

YOUNG:  Who suspected him, Iraqi officials or were they U.S.  officials?

BERG:  The FBI.  The FBI.  When the FBI Came to my house, they questioned us at length and it was a very cordial investigation.  In fact, we were very relieved, because it was the first we knew that my son was alive at that time. 

So the FBI shortly after March 31, the FBI of the United States recommended to the FBI of Iraq that they let him go. 

YOUNG:  But that didn‘t happen for awhile and in fact on April 5, you filed a lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia. 

BERG:  That‘s right, we did and we named Donald Rumsfeld as the responsible person.  And I still hold him responsible, because if they had let him go after a more reasonable amount of time or if they had given him access to lawyers, we could have gotten him out of there before the hostilities escalated. 

YOUNG:  Do you really blame Donald Rumsfeld for your son‘s death?  And will you do anything in addition to the lawsuit that you had filed?

BERG:  It goes further than Donald Rumsfeld.  It‘s the whole Patriot Act.  It‘s the whole feeling of this country that rights don‘t matter any more, because there are terrorists about. 

Well, in my opinion terrorists is just another word like communist or witch, and it‘s a witch-hunt.  And this whole administration is just representing something that is not America.  Not the America I grew up in.


NORVILLE:  A radio interview conducted yesterday by Nick Berg‘s father, Michael. 

The United States is denying that Nick Berg was ever in U.S. custody.  A coalition spokesman says Berg was arrested by Iraqi police in Mosul because they suspected he was involved in something, quote, “suspicious activities.”


DAN SENOR, SENIOR ADVISOR TO AMBASSADOR BREMER:  The FBI visited with Mr. Berg on three occasions when he was in Iraqi police detention and determined that he was not involved with any criminal or terrorist activities. 

Mr. Berg was released on April 6, and it is my understanding he was advised to leave the country. 


NORVILLE:  And today the FBI issued a statement, saying that it did interview Nick Berg at the Iraqi police station.  And he said that he entered Iraq through Jordan in order to establish work contacts. 

The FBI also said that it emphasized to Mr. Berg the danger of staying in Iraq and says it encouraged him to accept the coalition authority‘s offer to help get him out of the country, which the FBI says Nick Berg refused. 

The FBI also says that Nick Berg refused the government‘s offer to advise his family and friends of his status. 

Now I‘m joined by Bruce Hauser, who was a long-time neighbor and friend of Nick Berg. 

And sir, we thank you so much for being with us during this difficult time for your neighborhood and you, as well. 


NORVILLE:  It‘s Deborah.  That‘s OK.

The reason that I‘m curious to hear your reaction to the statement I just made, the FBI is clearly taking issue with what Mr. and Mrs. Berg have said, that they made it possible, they say, to offer their good support in getting Nick out of the country.  The Bergs tell a very different story. 

HAUSER:  Well, I‘ve known the Bergs for quite a few years, approximately 23 years, and I know this family very well.  And if the Bergs are giving that story, I‘m standing behind the Bergs. 

They‘re an excellent family, have no reason to lie against the government, and if that‘s the story they‘re telling, I know these people, I believe what they‘re saying. 

NORVILLE:  Does it make sense to you that Nick Berg, after being held for 13 days in an Iraqi detention facility, would refuse government help to get out of the country?  Does that wash?

HAUSER:  Not the Nick Berg I know.  Believe me, if Nick had the opportunity to leave, he would take that opportunity.  Nick loves his parents, loved his siblings, and if Nick had that opportunity, I‘m certain he would take the opportunity to come home to his family. 

NORVILLE:  So you think what the government is saying in this FBI statement is just simply not true?

HAUSER:  Someone has to backpedal, and I find it hard to believe that if the Iraqi police turned Nick over to the American government, that if the American government gave Nick the opportunity to come home, that Nick would turn it down.  Not the Nick Berg I‘ve known for approximately 21 years.  No way.  Not at all. 

NORVILLE:  What has it been like these days leading up to this weekend when Mr. And Mrs. Berg had not had contact with their son since April 9?  I know, you know, you guys talk over the fence a great deal about it. 

HAUSER:  Yes.  I heard from the Berg family that they had lost contact with Nick.  I encouraged them as often as I saw them. 

I told them that “Keep your head up, Nick is coming home.  He‘ll be all right.  We know Nick.  We know Nick, how outgoing he is.  Nick is going to find a way to get back home.  Don‘t let yourselves get down.  Don‘t let your minds wander.  Nick is going to come home.” 

And I felt so terrible on Monday afternoon when Nick‘s mother, Suzi (ph), came to me and told me of his death.  I felt guilty in a sense, because I‘m the one who encouraged them to hold their head up and encouraged them, “but we would be putting our arms around Nick, welcoming him home.” 

So at this point I just want to be a support for the family.  The neighborhood wants to be a support for the family.  This is very devastating to the family, not only the death of Nick, but of course the way he died.  And the family is awfully traumatized. 

This neighborhood met together last night for a candlelight vigil.  We sang songs.  We prayed.  We repeated some Bible verses.  We closed in a prayer in a moment of silence, and we‘re just going to support this family as much as we can.  It‘s a great family. 


HAUSER:  Nick Berg—I‘m sorry.

NORVILLE:  I know how grateful they must be for your support, but I know how awful it must be, too, with this added layer of publicity.  First their son is dead, secondly he died in such a terrible way and then thirdly, it was posted on the Internet in such a public way. 

How are they handling that aspect of it?

HAUSER:  Well, quite naturally, the family doesn‘t even want to see the pictures on the Internet.  And I don‘t blame them. 

Personally, myself, I remember Nick from a child up to adult age, and I want to continue to remember Nick that way.  I do not even the slightest bit want to see what‘s on the Internet.  I feel that if I see that, that‘s going to be engrained in my mind for the rest of my life.  And that‘s not the way I saw Nick nor the Nick Berg that I have known and loved for all these years. 

NORVILLE:  Let‘s talk about the Nick that you did know.  I gather you weren‘t surprised when you heard that he wanted to go to Iraq to try to help get a communications system in place for those people.  This was something he‘d done before in other countries. 

HAUSER:  Exactly.  Nick‘s—he‘s a very good humanitarian.  Nick will help anyone. 

As a child, probably at the age of 9 or 10, Nick wasn‘t like most kids, riding bikes through the neighborhood.  Nick stayed next to his dad, wanting to learn the trade.  Nick was very good with masonry, very good with woodwork and electrical.

And by the time Nick was probably 11 or 12 years he was a sidewalk on the backside of the parents‘ home.  My wife and I were very surprised.

And this kid, you could tell—I told his parents many times, “Nick is going to be somebody.  You don‘t find kids as often as this.”  And the only thing I could wish for America is that everyone could have a kid like Nick Berg. 

NORVILLE:  You know, he cut a wide swath.  He made a big impression on a lot of people there in West Chester.  I just want to share a couple of things that other folks locally have said. 

From his former high school science teacher, he said of Nick, “He was such a brilliant light.  He was a brilliant thinker and a problem solver with a desire to bring those qualities to help and educate others.”

And then Harry Best, who was one of his high school teachers, taught him shop, he said, “He was fascinated by everything: why does this happen?  How does this work?  He‘s one of those rare people that you remain friends with even as an adult.”

I gather that you‘re hearing variations of that from just about everybody in town. 

HAUSER:  Exactly.  The whole neighborhood is asking that question, “Why Nick Berg?  Why someone who was as respectful as Nick is to people in the neighborhood, someone who was always willing to help?  Why did this have to happen to Nick and why to the Berg family?”  A very loving family, gets along with anyone, will do anything for anyone.

And people are asking, “Why Nick?”  He didn‘t deserve of this.  And only thing I could say to everyone out there in America and across the world, I just wish you could have known Nick Berg.  Great kid—I‘m sorry, go ahead. 

NORVILLE:  No go ahead. 

HAUSER:  He‘s a great kid.  He‘s going to be sadly missed.  I just wish that every parent in America would raise their kid to be a Nick Berg. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I know the Berg family is particularly grateful for your kind words, and all of us appreciate your taking your time to be with us during this difficult time. 

Bruce Hauser, thank you so much. 

HAUSER:  Thank you. 

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up, was the execution of an innocent American revenge for the misdeeds at Abu Ghraib prison or an excuse for al Qaeda to kill again?  The real motive behind the brutal murder of Nick Berg when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns. 



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Nicholas Berg was an innocent civilian who was in Iraq to help build a free Iraq.  There is no justification for the brutal execution of Nicholas Berg.  No justification whatsoever. 


NORVILLE:  President Bush today on the brutal murder of Nick Berg. 

Berg traveled to Iraq twice since last December as an independent businessman looking to work, fixing communications antennas in Iraq.  It‘s dangerous enough for the American military that are in Iraq, so how safe are private citizens there?

And was his murder really in retaliation for the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison, as his killers have claimed?  For a look at that, I‘m joined by two of MSNBC‘s terror analysts, Roger Cressey and Steve Emerson.

Gentlemen, first of all, let‘s get into the question of retaliation.  Very clearly in the video statement that was released on the Internet, they said this was tit-for-tat, what you did to the prisoners in Abu Ghraib, we‘re doing to this gentleman here. 

Steve, do you believe it was retaliation?

STEVE EMERSON, MSNBC TERROR ANALYST:  Absolutely not, Deborah.  This -

·         No more retaliation than 9/11 was retaliation for something he is. 

As an example, the fact is that 9/11 and the 1993 bombing in the World Trade Center in New York a decade ago was carried out way before the U.S.  went into Iraq, so that clearly the evidence is that these are types of excuses they use in order to resonate morally with the public.

But in reality, they don‘t need any excuses.  They hate the United States, and the brutality is evidenced by what they did on the videotape in severing his head. 

NORVILLE:  Roger, do you agree with that?

ROGER CRESSEY, MSNBC TERROR ANALYST:  Absolutely.  The thing to keep in mind is that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is one of the leading terrorists in Iraq right now, if not in the world. 

If Zarqawi, in fact, was responsible for this, he was going to kill Mr. Berg anyway.  I mean, there was no need for a tit-for-tat or retaliation or revenge.  What the Abu Ghraib incident has given them, though, is additional propaganda value.  And so they can tie Berg‘s killing to Abu Ghraib for additional response within the Jihadist community. 

NORVILLE:  So we gave them the opportunity to get more bang for the buck, if you will, by killing this man and linking it to the horrible photos that we‘ve seen from the prison?

CRESSEY:  Well, that‘s how Zarqawi, his network and his followers are going to try and play it. 

What‘s going to be interesting to see unfold is how does the international community, and especially the Islamic world, respond to this?  Is there a level of outrage?  What‘s going to be said on the Internet chat rooms, where a lot of the Jihadists now talk? 

Are they supportive of this?  Are they appalled by it?  Or what‘s going to be their reaction?

NORVILLE:  I want to get into the specifics of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in just a bit, but let‘s talk about the reaction from the Arab world. 

Hezbollah, interestingly enough, released a statement today.  And they said, quote, “Hezbollah condemns this horrible act that has been—has done very great harm to Islam and to Muslims by this group that claims affiliation to the religion of mercy, compassion, and humane principles.”

Now, Hezbollah as far as we know has never executed anyone on camera, but certainly you can talk to people who have been imprisoned by them for many years and question about their dedication to mercy. 

But what‘s the significance of that, Steve Emerson, that statement coming from Hezbollah?

EMERSON:  Actually, Hezbollah did execute someone on camera, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Higgins was executed when he was hung in the late 1980‘s.  And there are other videotapes of hostages that they actually killed. 

So in fact, Hezbollah has been involved in killing and executing Americans as well as others.  They actually have a billboard in Southern Lebanon where they actually have the pictures of a severed Israeli head from a soldier whose body they mutilated. 

Hezbollah‘s statement today is thoroughly inauthentic.  The fact is, they condemned it only because it was, quote, “unhelpful” to their larger cause.  They didn‘t admit that Islamic extremists were involved, because they are part of the same movement.

And No. 3, they claim it was done partly to foster the enemies of Islam. 

Look, this is not a conspiracy issue.  This is done by Islamic extremists, they don‘t necessarily represent all Muslims, but Hezbollah is definitely part of the same network and their whole attempts to distance themselves is really part of propaganda, because they know it doesn‘t help their cause. 

NORVILLE:  But it‘s interesting, Roger.  I went on the Internet.  We looked around as best we could, given the language differences. 

I didn‘t see a great deal of outrage on the part of some of the websites from various Middle Eastern newspapers. 

CRESSEY:  Yes.  That‘s the unfortunate reality so far.  And I think what the administration is correct in saying, and what other observers in Washington are correct in saying is that there needs to be a response to this very horrific event by the leaders in the region and by others. 

So that the Arab street, if you will, when they see what the response is by official newspapers, by state organizations, they can understand that, you know, Arab governments do not support this type of activity. 

But Deborah, the Hezbollah statement, I agree with what Steve has said. 

It‘s interesting.  Hezbollah is a very sophisticated organization.  They have a very strong political arm in Lebanon.  What they said is basically, “Look, Zarqawi is doing something to take people‘s attention off of what‘s going on in Abu Ghraib and that, tactically, was a mistake.”

And they‘re trying to encourage everyone to stay focused on where America is suffering right now, politically and public relations wise, and that‘s in Abu Ghraib. 

NORVILLE:  And—and Abu Ghraib is a great opportunity for those who want to use that to work against America, and Hezbollah is articulating that this is a distraction, that if you want the United States out of Iraq, is not a good thing to have going on out there. 

EMERSON:   Well, in fact, Hezbollah has actually issued calls to attack the United States, and Hezbollah has set up operational cells within Iraq to actually carry out operations.  They‘ve been funneling weapons and money through Syria as well as through other countries.

So in fact, the notion that somehow they protest this on moral grounds is very hollow.  And in the end, Deborah, the issue of—you raised about where‘s the outrage. 

Look, after 9/11, and we saw this in the last several months, there was a commission in the United States asking how could this happen?  We show these hearings on television about the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, which deservedly need to be exposed. 

Where is the 9/11 commission in the Arab world?  Where is the commission about Islamic extremism that is propagated through the Internet, through the television stations and the clerics? 

NORVILLE:  Let me ask you both about the man who is believed to be the person, at least claiming responsibility for committing the actual murder of Nick Berg, al-Zarqawi.

He is someone that the United States has linked to a number of deadly situations in Iraq, including the bombing at Karbala.  Is he directly affiliated with Osama bin Laden, or is it part of this more diffuse network that seems to have come into play that is continuing to carry out of the work of al Qaeda, although operating more or less independently?

Roger, want to take that?

CRESSEY:  Sure, I‘ll take that on first.

Zarqawi is someone who came to our attention after the millennium plots in December 1999.  So he has a long history.  Zarqawi had a training camp in Horat in Afghanistan and did have some affiliation with al Qaeda before the invasion of Iraq, but there was as much tension as there was cooperation. 

So I think some of the administration‘s claims of direct links between Zarqawi and al Qaeda as we knew it, frankly, are not true.  That said, he has taken up what Director Tenet has called the global Jihadist movement now, the al Qaeda movement and has become very significant in that movement. 

His network spans from the Middle East into Europe.  He has demonstrated capabilities ranging from independent murders like Nicholas Berg and Lawrence Foley in Jordan all the way up to attempted significant truck and car bomb attacks involving chemicals, which were hoping to kill hundreds if not thousands.  So he really is a serious player. 

NORVILLE:  Do we know if he‘s the actual individual on the tape who murdered Nick Berg?  Has that been confirmed?

CRESSEY:  Well, the intelligence community believes that the voice recording on the tape where Mr. Berg was killed does correspond to the audiotape purported to be produced by Zarqawi a couple of weeks ago.  They‘re not going to say definitively that‘s the case yet, but that‘s where they‘re leaning. 

NORVILLE:  Let me ask you, Steve Emerson, about the safety of Americans and other foreigners who are working independently, as Nicholas Berg was in Iraq.  He was on his own; he was not affiliated with any company, not particularly in the company of bodyguards or anything like that. 

We‘ve had a hard time getting a firm number on just how many individual workers there are in Iraq, but it could be as many as 70,000, 100,000 individuals. 

Do you think they should stay in that country?

EMERSON:  Well, clearly not.  If they‘re not going to be affiliated or protected by the U.S. government or by some type of international force or some type of other governmental entity from another, let‘s say, coalition partner, then they‘re taking their life in their hands, and they really ought not to be there any longer. 

The notion of somehow going out there to sort of strike gold or to make—be an entrepreneur is great if you want to assist Iraqis, but the fact of the matter is that even human rights groups and humanitarian groups are out there alone in Afghanistan.  They‘ve had to pull back because they‘ve been shot and killed in the last two years.

So I think it‘s really prudent for those types of individuals not to go out there at all, unless they have the protective custody of some type of a regime like the United States or other provisional authorities. 

NORVILLE:  Our last guest was a bit skeptical about the FBI‘s insistence that Nick Berg was offered safe passage out of that country after he was released from the detaining facility that he was in in Mosul. 

Do you think that that offer was probably made, knowing what you know about how the government operates there?

EMERSON:  You know, I really don‘t know, Deborah.  You know, it‘s all clouded with a bit of confusion about how whether—long he was in detention, what he was told after he was released, and that‘s a matter of dispute.

And some of that will come out, and I‘m sure in the next few days because the FBI has certainly probably recorded those—those meetings in very detailed notes. 

NORVILLE:  And finally, Roger Cressey, let me ask you.  We know that on April 9, not only was Thomas Hamill kidnapped, but there were also three other civilians who remain missing who were kidnapped as part of that convoy. 

Are they in greater danger now, assuming they are still alive, as a result of the Nick Berg incident and the Abu Ghraib photographs?

CRESSEY:  I think the answer is yes, but most importantly it depends on who‘s holding them. 

If it‘s the type of individuals that were holding Thomas Hamill, then frankly there‘s a better opportunity for them to survive.  If it‘s anybody associated with Zarqawi‘s network, the odds are not good, unfortunately. 

NORVILLE:  All right.  We‘ll let that be the last word. 

Roger Cressey, Steve Emerson, thanks so much for being with us tonight.  We appreciate it. 

CRESSEY:  Thank you, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  When we come back, more pictures of abuse, and now members of Congress are getting a special viewing of them.  Are they worse than the first batch?  And is it something that should be released to the public?  We‘ll get into that next. 

And then later on the attorney for the woman you see in this photo here, holding an Iraqi prisoner on a leash.  He has her side of the story. 


NORVILLE:  Now to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. 

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today told a Senate panel that the techniques used to interrogate the prisoners were approved by Pentagon lawyers.  And he said that forcing detainees into stressful positions and depriving them of sleep is not a violation of international rules.  During his testimony last week, Secretary Rumsfeld said there would be more pictures of abuse. 


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  There are more photographs.  There are videos.  There are a series of investigations under way.  There are criminal prosecutions.  And just without any question, there‘s going to be more coming out.  And there will be surprises. 


NORVILLE:  Today, members of Congress were able to see the new photos and videotapes behind closed doors and many of them left the session saying those pictures are appalling. 

Joining me is now is Senator Sam Brownback, who had an opportunity to view those pictures today as well.

Sir, thank you for being with us.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK ®, KANSAS:  Yes, happy to join you.

NORVILLE:  Thank you. 

Secretary Rumsfeld said some of these pictures would be worse than the first batch.  Did you find that to be the case when you looked at them? 

BROWNBACK:  There are some that are that case.  There‘s a lot of it that‘s basically you‘ve seen, only in different types of settings or pictures.  And there‘s just a whole lot of repeat pictures in it.  It‘s why I really think that the pictures that involve Iraqis, that involve our soldiers, should be released. 

Let the public see it, let the public decide what they think and get it out, because I think they‘re going to get out at some point in time and they should be put out and put out now. 

NORVILLE:  How do these pictures differ from the ones that we‘ve already seen from the first batch that was released? 

BROWNBACK:  A lot of it is very similar to what you‘ve already seen and a lot of it is repeat.  We looked at—I looked at some, I don‘t know, 1,000 to 1,500 pictures today, and it looks like you‘ve basically got about 50 pictures, but there were—somebody took 50 of them and then made a bunch of copies and gave to different people and the military confiscated it.

But there are some that are clearly rougher.  It‘s all disgusting.  And it‘s all appalling, and it‘s all something we‘re not pleased with in the least.  It‘s just all pretty disgusting. 

NORVILLE:  I understand in addition to the photos similar to the ones that we‘ve seen where men have been stacked up naked and placed in various -- very embarrassing and humiliating positions, that there are also photographs of American service men and women presumably engaged in consensual sex, that there are also photographs of Iraqi women being asked to lift their tops and expose their breasts. 

BROWNBACK:  Well, there are a series of pictures of—it appears as if U.S. military personnel having sexual relations with each other.  And it‘s again—it‘s appalling and it‘s disgusting. 


NORVILLE:  What‘s going on?  What‘s going on in this prison?  What‘s going on in military camps?  If men and women in uniform are engaged in this kind of behavior and taking pictures, I guess, for fun of themselves or of their comrades in arms, how do you make sense of what you‘ve spent many hours looking at today? 

BROWNBACK:  It‘s hard to make any sense of it at all. 

And it‘s really disgusting.  And I came back to my office and talked to my staff and I said, this shows a person themselves having a clear lack of any sort of internal moral compass and that I hope you yourselves and you raise your own children to be ladies and gentlemen, because clearly these are—these are wrong acts.  It does appear to be a limited set of players that are involved in this, but it‘s wrong and it—it casts a shadow on the entire United States, on our military, on the brave men and women that are serving over there, that are risking their lives and losing their lives, a number of them Kansans, trying to create an open society, free society there and security here. 

It really besmirches the whole country. 

NORVILLE:  Do you think it is a limited group of rogue individuals or can you, based on the photographs and the bit of video that you saw today, determine whether this is something that did go higher up the food chain or that higher up the food chain they should have been aware of, and how far would that be? 

BROWNBACK:  You can‘t determine those last two questions at all from what we‘ve seen.  The military to its credit basically, as this information started getting out, they said, OK, let‘s show it to the military Armed Services chairmen.  And then they said, let‘s show it to the rest of the Senate.

And they have put everything out in raw data form.  A lot of them are pictures that you can‘t really tell what this is.  The videos are very small and grainy and you‘re just not sure that—they‘re going to need enhancement to really tell what‘s going on with this.  But just overall it paints a very degrading, discouraging picture of what‘s going on.

But it appears to be at this time a fairly limited set of personnel that are involved. 

Senator, you say that you think that these pictures should just be released to the public and everybody get a chance to see them, but the Senate and Senator Warner specifically has said he doesn‘t think that they should be released, that that should be a decision made by the Pentagon.  Why wouldn‘t Congress, why wouldn‘t the Senate step up and say, we as a body believe American citizens and indeed the world should see this because we do have nothing to hide and we will make sure that our own house is kept clean? 

BROWNBACK:  Well, we may eventually, but this is in possession of the Department of Defense.  There‘s an ongoing litigation, court-martials that are taking place.  And so this is evidence and it‘s in possession of the Department of Defense.

And they really are the ones to be making the call.  And to date, I want to say, they‘ve been providing this information to Congress.  They‘ve been showing.  It‘s just my point of view to the Department of Defense is that they should put those out that just involve the Iraqi personnel and U.S. soldiers.  I think those that involve U.S. soldiers having sex with each other, that to me is another sidebar issue.  It‘s disgusting and it‘s wrong, but I don‘t know that that one needs to be set out in the public.

But here, the Defense Department, I just think it would be best, because until that takes place, people are going to imagine horrific things.


BROWNBACK:  And they need to see it.

And, secondly, these are going to get out anyway.  There‘s a bunch of copies of these apparently.  The military has confiscated some of them, and I think they‘re going to be out anyway and it would be better for them to just go ahead and put them out.  We have nothing to hide.  And light is good for us.  As problematic and tough as this is, it is also a lesson for us to show the rest of the world, particularly the Islamic world, that when you have a problem—and we have a problem—the way to deal with it is light. 

And the way to deal with that then is to follow a litigation procedure and people are held accountable for their actions.  But light is important. 

NORVILLE:  I have to ask you one more question before I let you go.  I know you‘re focusing in the Senate committee they‘re looking at the Abu Ghraib prison photos and the impact of that and the trail that it may or may not have, however long, within the United States military.  Is there another question that needs to be asked about how the military is set up and how rules and regulations are enforced and codes of behavior, if we have got people in uniform, however small they may be, doing things like this?

BROWNBACK:  I think there‘s grave questions that need to be asked.  And that is the key question in my estimation.  You‘ve got a near-term issue here we have got to deal with, but longer term, you have got to stop problems like this from taking place. 

And even more broadly—and I‘ve been a culture critic for some period of time—you have got to question and look at the broad basis of what we glorify sometimes in this culture.  And you‘ve got to start asking some questions about that as well. 

NORVILLE:  Well, Senator, you‘re in a good position to ask some of those questions.  We thank you for being with us tonight to articulate some of them. 

Senator Brownback, thank you very much.

BROWNBACK:  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  And we‘ll be right back. 


NORVILLE:  The brutal murder of Nick Berg.  When we come back, will the people responsible ever be caught?  A look at how the investigation may go forward in a moment.


NORVILLE:  Back now to the brutal execution of American businessman Nick Berg.  How should the United States go after his killers?  And can they catch him? 

Joining me again is MSNBC terror analyst Steve Emerson. 

Steve, when this death was first reported, it brought back awful memories of the Danny Pearl execution in Pakistan.  Will the American government go about trying to catch the perpetrators of this killing in the same way that they did with Danny Pearl? 

EMERSON:  I think, at a minimum, Deborah, they‘re definitely going to try to reconstitute the same approach, because that‘s essentially the way the Department of Justice, the FBI rule and behave in situations like this.

They will create an environment to collect evidence from the crime scene.  In this case, it‘s very, very unknown where the actual crime scene was.  They‘ll examine the body.  They‘ll look for forensic clues.  They‘ll look at the tapes.  They will try to establish a whole framework between the FBI, CIA, special forces, and other agencies to collect intelligence with the Iraqi local representatives.

Then, I would think—and I cannot you for sure since I have no inside information—that a special team would go out and try to hunt down the actual killers, as has been done in situations like in Afghanistan or by the Israelis against Palestinian terrorists.  Obviously, taking them alive would be preferable, but if they can‘t take them alive, they have got to do something. 

NORVILLE:  Well, let me take you back a step.  You talked about getting cooperation with local Iraqi intelligence.  How much more difficult is that given the complications of these pictures from Abu Ghraib prison? 

EMERSON:  Well, look, the fact of the matter is, there are Iraqi officials who have been cooperating, who are working directly with the United States.  Unfortunately, there are many other Iraqis who have been recruited or have enlisted who have turned out to be double agents, who—sort of their loyalties have shifted back. 

Clearly, this is not a situation where you can really depend upon any organized Iraqi force, Deborah.  And that‘s really a tragedy of what has happened in Iraq.  On the other hand, the United States has full jurisdiction here.  Remember, until July 30, there‘s full sovereignty, so the U.S. can basically do what it pleases.  Once that sovereignty is transitioned over to Iraq at the end of June, then the question becomes, can the U.S. act sort of independently?

It certainly couldn‘t act independently in Pakistan, which is one of the reasons why full justice was never delivered to the killers of Daniel Pearl. 

NORVILLE:  But what you‘re saying is, if they don‘t move quickly, and they have got just a limited amount of time until the handover on June 30, it‘s going to be that much more difficult for the investigation to go, with the kind of pace and with the kind of reckless abandon if you will that the FBI and CIA and special-ops would want to use? 

EMERSON:  Absolutely. 

Considering all the impediments today, with security issues and with shifting loyalties and the fact that there‘s really such total chaos, it‘s really very difficult now.  To the extent that now you have another layer of bureaucratic approval required by the new, you know, governing authority of Iraqis, it‘s going to be that much more difficult for independent players such as the FBI and CIA to do what they need to do. 

Of course, in the end, the reality is they have to move quickly because the people that killed Nicholas Berg are probably going to try to leave Baghdad or leave Iraq or basically, you know, reestablish new hideouts.  And so therefore it‘s imperative that the government make every effort possible to identify where this killing took place and who the perpetrators are. 

I don‘t think it‘s going to be that difficult. 

NORVILLE:  But it could be anywhere.  Come on.  It could be anywhere.  Thomas Hamill ended up in Tikrit, and yet he was kidnapped just outside of Baghdad. 

EMERSON:  You‘re 100 percent right, Deborah. 

And, look, we don‘t know where it was made.  Maybe they‘ll be able to get some forensic clues as to how and where it was put onto the Internet that may provide some type of identification.  But you‘re right, it could have been done even outside of Baghdad.  We really don‘t know—outside of Iraq, for that matter.  You‘re right. 

Again, shaking the trees.  It‘s really getting Iraqi people on the inside to say, volunteer.  The way they found Saddam Hussein is going to be the same way they‘re going to have to find these killers, which is leaning on people, boxing them in, putting leverage them, arresting them, demanding cooperation, obviously, to the point where they don‘t abuse them, but certainly put as much leverage as they can. 

NORVILLE:  Well, the man they suspect of being behind the killing already has a $10 million bounty on his head. 

We‘ll take a break.  When we come back, how successful the U.S. might be in trying to find him. 

More with Steve Emerson after this. 


NORVILLE:  Abu al-Zarqawi is the terrorist leader allegedly claiming responsibility for the execution of Nick Berg. 

Steve Emerson, our MSNBC terror analyst, continues our conversation. 

They‘ve had a $10,000 bounty on this man‘s head for a very long time, Steve.  Why would they be any more successful at trying to catch this guy now? 

EMERSON:  Deborah, you ask a great question. 

The fact is that bin Laden has not been caught.  And Zawahiri has not been caught, the No. 2.  And Zarqawi has not been caught, even though he has been much more active in the last 2 ½ years then either bin Laden or Zawahiri.  So the question is, why haven‘t they caught him?

He‘s been giving interviews.  He‘s been delegating and assigning attacks left and right in Jordan, in Baghdad, elsewhere.  So the question is, why?  Again, probably the absence of intelligence.  And, unfortunately, it‘s easier said than done.  But, in the end here, the U.S. does not have good human intelligence, something that, unfortunately, had led to the 9/11 attacks being perpetrated successfully. 

And, again, we‘re seeing now the absence of good human intelligence has led al-Zarqawi to be able to act with impunity. 

NORVILLE:  Give us a sense of what kind the personnel that the American military has on the ground in Iraq beyond the soldiers that are there, but on the investigative side, FBI, or CIA or some of the special-ops guys that are within the military unit. 

EMERSON:  Well, first of all, you have got a whole slew—you‘ve got FBI agents on the ground that are actually collecting intelligence, that are interrogating people, that are building cases.  And you have got Department of Justice prosecutors actually on the ground helping to make those cases. 

NORVILLE:  Are they good?

EMERSON:  Well, look, no doubt, they‘re good.  The question is, in the end, you‘re only as good as the intelligence that you can acquire. 

And in that case, you can‘t really expect an FBI agent who is suddenly transported from the Midwest to suddenly cultivate his own recruiting sources.  That really takes years.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

EMERSON:  It depends on the ability of the special forces and the U.S.  military.  And, remember, the U.S. military‘s first objective is force protection.  So they‘re not really cultivating as much as they probably could be or should be, given the limited manpower, the long-term informants that they need to have to collect and basically yield the intelligence, how to get inside these very small terrorist groups. 

They‘re really trying to stop those mortars from coming in, the attacks on the convoys, the terrorist cells that are acting sort of independently.  Zarqawi probably does not elevate itself, unfortunately, to the same priority that the U.S. military would attach to say, Muqtada al-Sadr.

NORVILLE:  How did they ultimately get Saddam Hussein?  What was the lucky break that the investigators had that led them to the spider hole in December? 

EMERSON:  Well, I think it was a combination of two things.  One is, they used a very good link analysis software called “Analyst‘s Notebook.”  That‘s not a secret.  They plugged in a lot of data. 

They interviewed.  They arrested, detained, incarcerated and interrogated many of his henchmen, his relatives.  And they slowly, basically, shut down any other possible quadrant.  It forced them into that one area there.  And they had some good human intelligence.  In the end, it was a lucky break that converged together to allow them to make the identification. 

There were FBI agents, by the way, on the ground in Baghdad when Saddam was brought in.  So there was an opportunity actually to debrief him, even though he wasn‘t very cooperative. 

NORVILLE:  If al-Zarqawi were caught, how beneficial would it be to the overall situation as far as security in Iraq, because he has been known to be linked to an effort to try to create a civil war between the Sunni and the Shiite Muslim populations? 

EMERSON:  Well, the same type of question about bin Laden and the overall war on terrorism and whether in fact his capture would yield any beneficial result. 

Yes, it would definitely I think have a very positive effect.  It would, one, show the projection of U.S. power, the success of U.S.  intelligence.  It would provide some type of defeat morally to these groups, take away their spirit. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

EMERSON:  But in the end, it‘s probably proliferated now beyond just Zarqawi.  He probably got has his own junior Zarqawis in place. 

But clearly, he is a guy that is really the bin Laden protege that has assumed the mantle and basically was doing everything bin Laden was doing until 9/11. 

NORVILLE:  All right, Steve Emerson, it‘s always interesting to hear your thoughts on things like this.  We appreciate you being with us tonight.  Thanks a lot.

EMERSON:  You bet.

NORVILLE:  We‘ll take a break.  We‘ll be right back after this.


NORVILLE:  That‘s our program for tonight.  Thanks for watching.  I‘m Deborah Norville.

Coming up tomorrow night, fast food.  What would happen if you ate nothing but McDonald‘s three meals a day for a month?  One documentary filmmaker did just that, put it on tape.  And tomorrow, he‘ll be here to share the results.  Are you surprised to hear more pounds and higher cholesterol?  Tomorrow, he‘ll be with us.  The movie is called “Super Size Me.”  And for the first time on camera, a response from McDonald‘s.

That‘s it for tonight.  See you tomorrow.


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