IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for May 19

Guests: Neal Puckett, Guy Womack, James Thompson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Army Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits breaks down in tears and pleads guilty, getting a maximum penalty in the first court-martial in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal. 

What does this mean for the other soldiers involved?  We‘ll talk to their lawyers. 

And was New York City prepared for the September 11 attack?  Former New York Mayor Giuliani testifies before the 9/11 commission. 

Plus, Tim Russert on his new book, “Big Russ and Me,” a fabulous story about a father, a son, and America. 

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews, and this is a special edition of


The first court-martial in the Iraqi prison abuse scandal is over and Specialist Jeremy Sivits has received a maximum sentence, one year in prison, reduction of rank, and a bad conduct discharge. 

NBC‘s Campbell Brown was in the listening room outside the courtroom during trial and joins us now from Baghdad. 

Campbell, are we getting the truth in this trial?

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, you‘re getting one side of the story.  And you have to bear all the other factors in mind.  He made a plea deal with prosecutors and has agreed to testify against the others involved. 

But I think in listening to him, you did get a sense that some of these guys were worse than others in terms of what happened that night.  And he was talking about one night at the prison. 

Sivits was a 24-year-old mechanic.  He was assigned to the prison to work on generators.  He happens to run into Ivan Frederick from his unit, who outranks him.  All the other guys outrank him. 

And they say to him, “Hey, come on down to the prison with us.  We‘ll let you help us escort some detainees.” 

And he walks into this mess where he sees what‘s unfolding there, that they‘re being stripped, they‘re being put into the pyramids, as we‘ve seen in all the pictures. 

He got really emotional today, Chris, when he started talking about one moment where Frederick took one of the detainees and punched him very hard in the chest.  And at one point, the detainee couldn‘t catch his breath. 

And Sivits said that he looked at the detainee and put his fingers like this, right up to his eyes to signal, watch me.  And started trying to breathe with him to help him breathe.  And they actually had to call a medic back to help this guy. 

And at that point, as he was relaying the story, he got very upset and teary eyed and had to stop and regain his composure.

A similar thing when he described Graner, Charles Graner taking a fist to the head of one of the detainees. 

So it wasn‘t just sleep deprivation.  There was some real violence going on. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, apart from that obvious abuse of prisoners, what about the abuse we saw in the pictures?  Have we found out yet through this trial whether those were patterns?  Were they provided the prescribed method of dealing with those prisoners?

Were they told to strip the prisoners?  Were they told to shackle them together in that fashion?

BROWN:  I think we‘re going to find that out as these other court-martials unfold.  That‘s what we‘re already hearing from the other defense attorneys. 

Sivits was involved in this one night.  But he was told, he was asked by the judge today, why do you think this happened?  Why was this happening in Abu Ghraib?

And he said he was told by one of the other soldiers that military police had said to them, “Hey, keep it up.  You‘re doing a good job.  Our interrogations with the detainees are going much better now.” 

Now, the other soldiers involved, their—many of them have hired civilian attorneys.  Their defense will be in great part that that‘s exactly what they were doing, is doing exactly what they were told, that it was coming from higher up, well up the chain of command.  And that‘s going to be the case they try to make. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they trying to say that these guys from West Virginia and western Maryland went out and brought, or brought dog collars with them from home so that they could put them around naked Iraqis?

Isn‘t there a reasonable assumption or a question that ought to be asked, who issued this equipment?  The hoods, the dog collars, all the material, the shackles, all the stuff used in this, what‘s being called abuse, when in fact it could well be official policy?

BROWN:  Well, I think you‘re absolutely right.  And the investigations are underway. 

I think the biggest problem in trying to get an answer to that question is we‘re getting a different answer from every person in the administration that you ask about it. 

Clearly, it is not just these seven soldiers.  Clearly they‘ve had training, whether it‘s just lower level military police or whether it was in fact a policy that came from well up the food chain. 

They‘re in a situation here where it‘s a little—hard to define may be the best way to put it.  Think about it in term of the non-enemy combatants where Bush essentially said, the Geneva Conventions do not to have apply, because we‘re in this war against al Qaeda.  It‘s a war on terrorism. 

Iraq is different, because all of a sudden, you have a real war where Geneva Conventions do apply.  And yet you have these Special Forces all over the world who are trying to handle different levels of insurgents, be it al Qaeda or Iraqi insurgents, different ways. 

The rules are confusing to the people on the ground. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you tell if the prosecution‘s strategy is to try to shut up the other accused, as well, the way they did Jeremy Sivits to get the others to cop pleas so they won‘t ask for witnesses, they won‘t ask for higher up officers to tell the truth?

BROWN:  I think yes.  The prosecution would like to do that, but I don‘t think it‘s going to happen.  Because the defense attorneys for these guys feel like they can make that case, that look, these investigations are ongoing. 

There are a lot of questions that haven‘t been answered, and here are the these seven soldiers who are from western Pennsylvania who are clearly not acting on their own, and why should they have to pay the harshest penalty?  Why should they cut plea deals at this stage of the game when we don‘t know what‘s really happened?

And one of the attorneys for one—for Graner, Charles Graner, said to me, you know, “We don‘t know where this leads.  And I think it‘s—it‘s kind of early.”  He was surprised that Sivits was willing to cut a deal. 

But—But you kind of got the impression listening to Sivits today, that this was a kid who felt like he walked into something.  He should have said no and he didn‘t.  He went along with it, and he felt genuinely sorry for what had happened and was willing to take the punishment. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.  NBC‘s Campbell Brown, who‘s in Baghdad.

General Barry McCaffrey is an NBC News military analyst.  General McCaffrey, the trial today in Baghdad, the conviction through a plea-bargain of Jeremy Sivits, he gets a year.  He gets—what‘s it called?  Misconduct.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Bad conduct discharge. 

MATTHEWS:  What‘s that mean?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, it‘s not quite as bad as a dishonorable discharge, which strips away almost all of his rights and privileges as a former veteran. 

MATTHEWS:  But it is a disgrace. 

MCCAFFREY:  Sure.  It‘s a federal conviction, a year, probably at Fort Leavenworth, and reduced in rank. 

MATTHEWS:  What would this poor guy have gotten—I say poor generically—if he had pled not guilty?  I mean, he gets a year as his easy time?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think the plea undoubtedly was, if you plea bargain guilty, we won‘t put you in front of a general court-martial.  And then the down side of that might have been who knows?  Fifteen years. 

MATTHEWS:  Throw book at him. 


MATTHEWS:  Multiple charges.

MCCAFFREY:  The risk was too great, so he accepted a lesser court. 

And he was guilty.  And he felt very sad about the whole thing, apparently. 

During the trial. 

MATTHEWS:  My mischievous political nose tells me that this is going to be the pattern of these trials. 

That the military has found one guy to break.  He‘s going to testify against the others.  He‘s going to exonerate the higher ups, according to all the press reports and according to his official statement.  He‘s not going to say anybody told him, the military guys in Abu Ghraib to do any of that bad stuff.  Complete exoneration of the higher ups and a complete blame on the lowers. 

Is this a pattern they‘re going to try to follow, do you believe, the military justice system, to go point by point, one to one, squeeze each guy, get them to go down without ever calling witnesses?

MCCAFFREY:  Not a chance.  I don‘t believe it.  I think General Sanchez and the—and the outside investigations—there are six investigations right now. 

There‘s not a chance there won‘t a full transparent analysis of who did what.  And that will include these intelligence operative who probably, in my judgment, at some level were involved in setting the conditions for this misconduct. 

MATTHEWS:  We get the word from all the press coverage that General Jeff Miller comes from Guantanamo.  He‘s sent with a mission, a clear mission.  We want these detainees to give us more information. 

They have to be treated differently, more in a manner that would set them up to be interrogated, whether that‘s breaking their morale or whatever, confusing them.  All the disorientation techniques that you have at your disposal. 

The question, of course, is who would be the instrumental person that you would like to call to trial to tell you what happens here?  How would you find out whether these guys are a bunch of screw-ups that were taking picture for souvenirs or they were, in fact, basically doing something like they were told to do?  Who would you talk to, to find the answer?

MCCAFFREY:  I think the investigations will put under oath, everyone in that military intelligence unit.  Certainly to include the brigade commander.  The colonel in Germany is under investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  The colonel. 

MCCAFFREY:  He‘s going to say exactly what his role is.  Apparently, he‘s very talented, very dedicated guy.  He may well have been involved and had knowledge of misconduct.  But that‘s going to come out under oath in the investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s the gateway man between the policy people at the top, who came in with a mission, and the enlisted guys who have to carry it out? 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, presumably, there‘s a lieutenant colonel battalion commander and a military intelligence company commander. 

And all those people, I‘m sure, as we‘re sitting here, are being questioned.  I‘ll bet they‘ve all got lawyers.  The ones, particularly the ones who may have been involved in misconduct.  And that‘s where we‘re going to have get the truth out. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when you see these pictures like I do, and everybody else, and I‘m a classic civilian.  I wasn‘t in the military. 

If you look at those pictures and you see a very small woman walking around with a dog collar and a leash, on to some naked Iraqi guy, and the newspapers cover up half his body, you get the picture.  It‘s a humiliating thing for this guy. 

Where did—The military doesn‘t issue dog collars, do they?  I mean, how do people get this kind of equipment?  The hoods?  The dog collars?  The leashes?  What kind of equipment is that to have in a prison?

MCCAFFREY:  Chris, this is all unlike the U.S. Army.  This is all nonsense.  We teach these fellows in basic training to not abuse people under their control...

MATTHEWS:  Who gives them this stuff?

MCCAFFREY:  ... whether it‘s refugees or civilians or prisoners of war.  Complete nonsense.  This was criminal misconduct by people who should have known better. 

MATTHEWS:  But who issued this equipment?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, it wasn‘t issued. 

MATTHEWS:  They brought dog collars with them to Iraq?  Did they bring leashes?

MCCAFFREY:  I think these guys were totally out of control.  These were two sociopaths and five or six soldiers who went wrong, probably including some intelligence guys at some level. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Pappas, Colonel Pappas, who‘s the top guy there overlook—overseeing that particular Abu Ghraib prison.  He‘s already come out with a statement according to reports yesterday.  We had him on the program last flight.  That the stripping of these prisoners, the shackling of them, most of the horror pictures you see in those pictures was not only authorized, it was ordered. 

MCCAFFREY:  Oh, no.  No, not sexual mistreatment.  Not beating people up.  Not stomping on their fingers. 

MATTHEWS:  There are pictures of these people out there lying on the floor of the cell block, naked, shackled. 

MCCAFFREY:  Chris, we don‘t know yet.  The investigation will have to determine this.  This is not the U.S. Army.  You know, putting people naked.  I‘ve never heard of that in my entire life. 

MATTHEWS:  You don‘t believe that report that said that it was approved by Pappas. 

MCCAFFREY:  I think that‘s true. 

MATTHEWS:  So you think they might have been—he may have been out of line. 

MCCAFFREY:  We‘ll find out there‘s some bad policy floating around.  It probably came out of Major General Miller.  It may well have come right out of Steve Cambone‘s office.  That doesn‘t excuse in any way the misconduct...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s under secretary for intelligence.  So you think it‘s very possible that this—this virus of bad behavior could have gone all the way up and down the line from the civilians down to the top generals?  All the way down to the fellows from western Maryland. 

MCCAFFREY:  I think it‘s possible that the policy out of Secretary Rumsfeld‘s office and Cambone through General Miller created conditions under which this kind of criminal misconduct...

MATTHEWS:  Why hasn‘t the president fired these people?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, presumably, we‘re going to have an investigation. 

People are presumed innocent.  They‘re going to try to get at the truth objectively.  And then...

MATTHEWS:  How long do you think these cases will take?

MCCAFFREY:  I think the original seven may well be wrapped up in a week or two with the investigation... 

MATTHEWS:  With witnesses?

MCCAFFREY:  Sure.  What‘s—what‘s the interview?  I mean, they‘re going to get this pretty quickly. 

The harder question will be, policy.  Who in the Department of Defense knew about it?  How was it transmitted?  And was it violation of the Geneva Convention?

MATTHEWS:  Well, if we use the oath of office to get these guys—these guys are sworn in.  It will be interesting to see if they all tell the truth. 

General Barry McCaffrey, a tough assessment of a bad situation. 

Coming up, the lawyer for general Janis Karpinski, the former commander of the prisons in Iraq.  That lawyer for her is going to be here with his reaction to today‘s court-martial. 

And later, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani testifies before the 9/11 commission. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the attorney for General Janis Karpinski, the former commander of prisons in Iraq, with his reaction to today‘s court-martial.  HARDBALL, back in a minute. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

General Janis Karpinski is commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade who was in charge of running the prisons in Iraq.  She has been formally admonished by the Army for her actions in Iraq. 

I‘m joined right now by her attorney, retired Marine Colonel Neal Puckett. 

Mr. Puckett, let me ask you about your view as an attorney for General Karpinski, who is responsible for the abuses we saw in those pictures the last couple of weeks in Abu Ghraib?

NEAL PUCKETT, ATTORNEY FOR GENERAL JANIS KARPINSKI:  Well, I think it‘s becoming increasingly clear, as the investigation broadens, that the people responsible were the military intelligence chain of command, those giving orders to the military police, who of course, were still under General Karpinski‘s chain of command. 

But I think it‘s the military intelligence interrogation tactics, and whether or not that was a matter of official policy, I think, is yet to be seen. 

MATTHEWS:  Is that why we see things like dog collars in evidence in these pictures?  I don‘t think somebody from Western Maryland brought a dog collar with them over to Iraq. 

I mean, this kind of equipment—hoods, shackles, the method of stripping people—that didn‘t come from below, did it.  It didn‘t come from below General Karpinski; it came from above her, right?

PUCKETT:  Well, I think we‘ve yet to see all the facts. 

MATTHEWS:  M.P.‘s don‘t walk around—M.P.‘s don‘t walk around equipped with dog collars. 

PUCKETT:  No, they don‘t.  And we believe, we firmly believe they got direction from the military intelligence interrogators, who wanted the military police to soften up the detainees before and after the interrogations. 

MATTHEWS:  So who‘s guilty here?  The higher ups, you say, the military intelligence, and yet when this story was first floated to the public, I don‘t know how it got floated exactly.  But the story broke. 

You‘ve got what looked like a bunch of crazy people from the countryside who were using --- this is the way it was being portrayed.  Who were using their authority to abuse it.  And had come one all this high jinx and it was basically these pictures were supposedly souvenirs. 

Now it begins to more and more look like, as we‘ve watched over the weekend, that these procedures like stripping people and shackling them.  All this is coming from M.I.  Is that the way you see it?

PUCKETT:  That is way I see it, Chris.  And you know, nothing that you see is part of military police training.  And there would have been to have been one or two things. 

Either that‘s coming from the M.I. people or some incredibly sadistic and imaginative military police are doing this all on their own.  And I think it‘s the former.

MATTHEWS:  Who told your client to lay down and let the M.I. take over that prison?

PUCKETT:  That was General Sanchez.  General Sanchez transferred command to the prison actually in November to Colonel Pappas. 

But even before that, the colonel and his intelligence command was always in control, at least two months before that, of cell blocks 1a and 1b, where all the interrogations took place and where these photographs were taken. 

MATTHEWS:  Where did we get this argument that there was a military doctrine that you had to fence off M.P. from M.I.?

PUCKETT:  That—that actually comes from the military police doctrine.  And their doctrine says, in an interment operations, military police are essentially jailers, what you and I understand to be jailers. 


PUCKETT:  They simply are responsible for the care and feeding and handling of the—and security of the detainees and bring them to and from interrogations.  But they‘re not supposed to cross over into the interrogation world. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, who is this character, General Jeff Miller, who was sent over from GTMO, from Guantanamo, with the specific mission of softening up these prisoners before the intelligence guys get their hands on them?

Wasn‘t that a direct effort by the military to use the jailers to soften up prisoners?  In other words to engage in the interrogation process itself?

PUCKETT:  Well, it absolutely was.  And he—he did an inspection of Abu Ghraib, and he recommended that they do it more like Guantanamo Bay.  And they do use military police to assist the military interrogation folks. 

And the provost marshal general of the Army objected to that, and he said, “That‘s not doctrinal.  They‘re not trained to do that.  And that‘s going to require some additional training.” 

General Miller said, “That‘s OK.  We‘ll train them.” 

MATTHEWS:  Here‘s what General Miller said about his discussions with General Karpinski about Abu Ghraib, how it should be run.  Here it is.


SEN. DANIEL AKAKA (D), HAWAII:  Did you tell General Karpinski that you were going to GTMO-ize—GTMO-ize Abu Ghraib?  And my question is, what did you mean by this statement?

MAJ. GEN. GEOFFREY MILLER, U.S. ARMY:  Senator, I did not tell General Karpinski I would GTMO-ize Abu Ghraib.  I don‘t believe I‘ve ever used that term ever. 

When General Karpinski and I were having our dialogues, they were about humane detention, how the detention centers would be run, the requirements for the military police and the leadership to be present to ensure that humane detention is done. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that seems like dissembling to me, Mr. Puckett, by General Miller. 

PUCKETT:  It is.  And I believe General—General Miller has selective recall.  He‘s conveniently forgotten the terms that he used there and the methods that he was recommending.  And he for some reason, he didn‘t bring that up today. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re going to have more with you, Mr. Puckett.  Thank you for joining us.  Stay with us.  The attorney for Janis Karpinski, the general in charge of that prison.

When we return, we‘re going to talk to him.

And find out more about the prison abuse scandal on our web site.  If you want to do that, just go to

You‘re watching it.  We‘re getting into the case here, HARDBALL,



MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Neal Puckett.  He‘s the attorney for General Janis Karpinski, who was in command of the prisons in Iraq. 

Bring us up to date if you can, legally right now, Mr. Puckett.  As an attorney for General Karpinski, how do you read the—the sort of plea bargain that led to that one-year sentencing today for Jeremy Sivits?

PUCKETT:  Well, not as her attorney but as a military criminal defense attorney, it appears as though in the exchange for his cooperation, he got the benefit of the misdemeanor prosecution, although the sentence was the maximum that could be handed out at that court-martial.  And that‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Is that to scare the other accused?

PUCKETT:  No.  I don‘t think it‘s to scare them.  But it‘s to show them that now, he‘s fully free to give testimony in their courts-martial after being given a grant of immunity.  And he has—he has nothing else to be concerned about. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the possibility that, in fact, that he was copping a plea but that was a benefit to the military because then there were no officers called to testify one way or the other whether he gave the orders to abuse the prisoners this way. 

PUCKETT:  Well, I think that‘s what they hope is going to happen in all the rest of them. 

MATTHEWS:  Everybody‘s going to cop. 

PUCKETT:  Well, that‘s what they‘re hoping.  And now that they have a solid witness against them, that‘s becoming increasingly likely that the others could cop to plea-bargains, as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Puckett, I‘m not an attorney, but I figured this out two or three days ago.  That‘s what it looks like.  They‘re going to go right up the chain.  They‘re going to get this one guy to cop a plea and not call any witnesses. 

Then you get somebody else to jump, because he‘s afraid the other guys will—and so it ends up they‘re all going to jump.  And nobody‘s going to call any witnesses.  And the American people will never find out where these orders came from. 

PUCKETT:  Well, that‘s the way the Army would like it to go.  But knowing some of the attorneys, as I do, I don‘t think it will go that way.  I think...

MATTHEWS:  You mean they‘re good enough to fight this?

PUCKETT:  Yes.  They‘re going to fight, and they are going to try to call General Ostris (ph) to testify.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think—do you think there‘s any way the Army will refuse to present those middle level and upper level officers who may have told these prison guards, the M.P.‘s, General Karpinski, your client on down, that we want these prisoners softened up?  We want them stripped, shackled, whatever it takes to loosen them up?

PUCKETT:  The Army may have initially tried to say that that would be irrelevant or there‘s no evidence of that.  But a military judge would ultimately rule on a motion to produce those witnesses.  And we hope that all relevant witnesses would be called to testify. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think your client will be charged with anything, General Karpinski, who was head of that whole prison system?

PUCKETT:  Absolutely not.  There‘s absolutely no evidence that she did

·         did anything wrong or failed to act when she found out that there was something wrong. 

She didn‘t find out until January and then she immediately went down to Abu Ghraib to find out what went on.  And at that point, lower level commanders had been suspended and were told not to talk, because there was an ongoing investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think anything would have been done in this case if we hadn‘t seen the pictures?

PUCKETT:  Oh, yes.  I think there would have been.  If there had been allegations, I think those would have been investigated by the Army.  It just wouldn‘t have been as sensationalized without the pictures. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think we would have gotten the truth, if it weren‘t for the pictures?

PUCKETT:  Yes, I do.  Investigations are usually pretty fair, and I think we would have eventually gotten to the truth anyway, without the pictures. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re an optimistic man.  Thanks for coming on the show, Neal Puckett.  Great you have to on. 

PUCKETT:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  You know what you‘re talking about.

Up next, Specialist Charles Graner is one of the soldiers facing court-martial in this case.  We‘ll get his side of the story from his lawyer when we return, Guy Womack. 

And later, 9/11 commissioner James Thompson on today‘s hearings, the former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS:  This half-hour on HARDBALL, Jeremy Sivits is found guilty in the first court-martial in the prison abuse scandal.  Did he say enough to convict the other accused soldiers?  The attorney for Charles Graner will be here, and, later, Tim Russert.

But, first, the latest headlines right now.


MATTHEWS:   Welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL, “Court-Martial in Baghdad: Duty or Disgrace?” 

Specialist Charles Graner was in court today in Baghdad.  He entered no plea and a new hearing was set for him on June 21.  Guy Womack is Specialist Graner‘s attorney. 

And, Mr. Womack, thanks once again for joining us.  You‘re up in New York. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this trial.  We were talking other night when you were on here about the possibility of a pattern of prosecution here, whereby they‘re going to get a plea copped out of this guy, Jeremy Sivits, give him a light sentence in exchange for his testimony, thereby scaring the other accused into copping pleas themselves, thereby avoiding having to present any witnesses from the higher-ups. 

How do you see the pattern, as you see it as of now, of the prosecution here? 

GUY WOMACK, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIALIST CHARLES GRANER:  Well, I think they‘re following that pattern as far as the ones that they believe the least culpable.

Certainly for Davis, Frederick, and my client, Specialist Graner, I don‘t think there will be any deals.  We have no intentions of pleading and we will have a trial. 

MATTHEWS:  What kind of witnesses would you like to get your hands on?  I read something in the notes today that there‘s a problem about getting some of the witnesses, the prisoners particularly. 

WOMACK:  Well, there may be a problem for the prisoners themselves.  That‘s the problem the government will have.  I doubt that we would be calling any prisoners.

But we might.  And, if so, hopefully we can get them to come in.  We can get them to come in.  The government will pay them as witnesses.  For the military witnesses, even if they‘re back in the United States, we can compel them to be given orders to Iraq.  The problems would be civilian witnesses who are back in the United States.  You cannot subpoena an American citizen to leave the continental U.S.

MATTHEWS:  So that would leave you stuck.  What would happen to the case then? 

WOMACK:  Well, what we would do then is, we would offer to do a deposition in the United States.  We could subpoena them for that.  And we can get the testimony by an alternative form, probably a videotape. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about this.  There was a great scene in “A Few Good Men,” that film with Tom Cruise, where somebody, Jack Nicholson‘s character said, you can‘t take the truth.  Do you think the American people can take the truth in this case? 

WOMACK:  Of course they can.  And they‘re going to hear the truth. 

And that‘s what our defense is.


MATTHEWS:  Well, who has it right now?  Is it a middle-level military man?  Is it a general?  Who knows, when he looks at those pictures of your client and others involved in that performance there with those pictures, somewhat disgraceful looking pictures—in fact, they are disgraceful.  Who knows whether they reflect the general command, they reflect the general policy of how to treat prisoners, even a bit of a distortion of one, and those who think and know that those pictures represent total, utter, 180 misbehavior?  Who knows that distinction? 

WOMACK:  At a minimum, Colonel Pappas will know that.  He will recognize the work of the intelligence community.  Whether he was aware of it when it was going on, he will recognize it. 

Lieutenant Colonel Jordan and other commissioned officers within that unit will recognize it.  And somewhere along the line, there‘s at least one commissioned office who knows exactly what was being done.  And there are a number senior enlisted and middle-level NCO enlisted intelligence office who were ordering it to be done.  And they will recognize their own handiwork. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, one of the questions you might put to them, I‘m not the attorney, you are, is to ask these commissioned officers, if somebody were to come in Monday morning and say, guess what we did to the prisoners this weekend and basically describe verbally what we see in those pictures, and that commissioned officers said, good work, we got to keep the pressure on these people.


MATTHEWS:  Or that person would say, you guys are all in deep trouble because that‘s the opposite of what you want to do with these prisoners. 

WOMACK:  Yes.  And that was being done. 

There are a number of officers within the intel community and the M.P.  chain of command at Abu Ghraib who heard those reports on a daily basis. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the progress of the trial.  Give us an outlook right now.  Arraignment.  When is the trial? 


June 21, we will litigate all motions that we can file before then. 

Colonel Pohl, the circuit military judge for Europe who is handling this case, is going to be monitoring discovery.  I think that will take at least until July, possibly early August.  I‘ll be ready to go to trial immediately after we get discovery.

Let me ask you about these penalties that are being doled out.  The guy who copped a plea, Jeremy Sivits, today, who was convicted today in a plea bargain, only got a year.  What did that message say to you, that they gave him a year?  I shouldn‘t say only.  That‘s a lot of time. 

WOMACK:  It‘s a lot of time.

MATTHEWS:  They gave a year to a guy that had played ball with them.  Is that a way of saying to the other accused, you think he got it bad, wait until you guys‘ turn come?

WOMACK:  It would be that.

It would also be a way of telling other accused who may want to plead guilty that the government is going to hammer them if they can.  They promised Sivits some leniency when he pled guilty and threw himself on their sword.  Then the prosecutor got up and argued that he get the maximum that a court-martial could give.  And the judge awarded that sentence. 

MATTHEWS:  But why? 

WOMACK:  Because I think that they want to possibly scare other people.  I think they want a statistic to say, we got a year in prison for someone.  It is no joke, that anyone can convict the guilty.  It takes a great prosecutor to convict the innocent.

Sivits, from everything I can tell, was not guilty of a crime. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you about your client.  You said you‘ve never lost a case where you had an innocent client. 

Charles Graner has been accused, apparently, of punching a detainee in the head, maybe knocked them out.  That‘s what Sivits has said.  What do you make of that?  I don‘t even know if that is what happens in prisons, in these kinds of prisons anyway.  But what do you make of that claim?  Did he do it?  Did Charles Graner actually punch a guy in the face? 

WOMACK:  I don‘t think he did that.

And if the only witness they have is Sivits, then we‘re looking pretty, because good we know Sivits has lied in his written sworn statements to CID, where he said that there was no military intelligence involvement.  We have photographic proof that‘s a lie.

He said that his chain of command was completely unaware of this.  We know that‘s a lie.  There‘s ample evidence of that.  So Sivits is an insignificant witness. 

MATTHEWS:  Why did Sivits exonerate the higher-ups, if we know based upon the reports yesterday that in fact, General—or Colonel Pappas, the head of the M.I. overseeing that prison, has said that he told the military police, the reservists, like Charles Graner, your client, to strip these guys, shackle them.

They‘re acting like—he‘s acting like—Sivits is acting like there‘s absolutely no connection between the behavior of him and his comrades and the higher-ups‘ desire for what they wanted them to do in the first place. 


And what Sivits was doing is trying to mollify his chain of command.  He was hoping that he could blame other people and if he said nice things about his chain of command and the military intelligence command that ran Abu Ghraib, that they would go easy on him.  They would give him a break.  And they gave him a year in prison. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, is your client, Charles Graner, a good guy? 

WOMACK:  He‘s a very good guy. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, that‘s a strong statement. 

Thank you very much, Guy Womack.

WOMACK:  You‘re welcome. 

MATTHEWS:  Attorney for Charles Graner, one of the accused in this case.

Coming up, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani  testifies before the 9/11 Commission that the city of New York did everything possible in the days before the attacks.  We‘ll talk with Commission James Thompson of the 9/11 Commission. 

And later, Tim Russert is going to be here.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, Rudy Giuliani tells the 9/11 Commission that the city of New York did everything possible in the days before the attacks.  Commissioner James Thompson will be here.  And, later, Tim Russert.

HARDBALL back in a minute.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  We‘ve got Tim Russert coming up later. 

But, first former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani testified before the 9/11 Commission today and said that the city‘s security and emergency plans would not have changed even if he had been informed, even if he had been informed about President Bush‘s August 6, 2001, intelligence briefing. 


RUDOLPH GIULIANI ®, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK:  If that information had been given to us or more warnings had been given in the summer of 2001, I can‘t honestly tell you we would have done anything differently.  We were doing at the time all that we could think of that was consistent with the city being able to move and to protect the city. 


MATTHEWS:  Former Illinois Governor James Thompson is a 9/11 Commissioner. 

Governor, thanks for joining us tonight. 

What is your reaction to that sort of blanket statement that even if the president‘s memo had fallen into the hands of the mayor of New York, it wouldn‘t have helped? 

JAMES THOMPSON, 9/11 COMMISSIONER:  I think he is right. 

If you go back and read the August 6 PDB, there‘s nothing in there that would have led a reasonable person to suspect that, on September 11, these airliners would have been hijacked and aimed at the World Trade Center powers and at the Pentagon.  Most of the information in that PDB was from 1997 and 1998.  There was no reference to the use of planes as missiles. 

And when you take into account, Chris, the fact that there are more than 30,000 flights a day in the United States, and not knowing any time or any airport or any planes that would be involved, it would be impossible to tell from the August 6 PDB that September 11 was going to happen. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what about putting the three dots together, the fact that bin Laden‘s al Qaeda says it wants to strike again, it wants to strike inside the United States, the fact that we had the ‘93 attempt on the World Trade tower eight years before, the fact that there where people, suspicious Arab people apparently, they‘re described as such, wandering around the south part of New York, Manhattan, taking pictures in that general vicinity.  Could you have connected those three dots? 

THOMPSON:  I don‘t think so. 

I think the connection between those three dots would have been an awfully long and awfully tenuous connection.  I don‘t think that‘s enough.  Look, if everybody had told everybody else in the United States, if everybody in the FBI had told everybody in the CIA every little scrap they know, maybe, some slight chance you could have tumbled to the plot.  But that‘s so tenuous and so problematic that I don‘t think you can come to that conclusion, at least on the evidence I‘ve heard so far. 

MATTHEWS:  My favorite question is to ask if it could happen again.  Based upon the testimony today, do you have a sense there would have been a  -- if the same thing happened, two airplanes hit the two hours, similar building, the Empire State Building, to the Chrysler Building, whatever, would New York be better prepared today than it was then? 

THOMPSON:  New York is better prepared today.  It could happen again. 

My guess is that al Qaeda is smart and entrepreneurial, as President Clinton warned us, and that they won‘t do the same thing twice.  They may strike at another city in the United States.  They may strike at four or five cities across the United States in a different form at the same time.  But there‘s no doubt that technologically and in terms of contingency planning and in terms of command-and-control functions, New York is a much safer place today after the actions of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Mayor Bloomberg than it was on September 11, 2001. 

MATTHEWS:  If I‘m in a skyscraper tomorrow in New York City and a plane hits below me, will I be able to call 911 and the operator will say, get out of the building or try like hell because you‘re finished if you don‘t? 

THOMPSON:  Well, first of all, I think as the witnesses at two-day hearing demonstrated, most people today, if they understand that the building has been attacked, they‘re going to get out no matter what anybody says about contingency plans or evacuation plans. 

MATTHEWS:  But, you know—but, Governor, you‘ve campaigned for office.  You know every time you stop at a Holiday Inn, they say, stay in the building, stay in the room.  Put a wet towel under your door and stay in the room.  Is that still in effect, that stuff? 


THOMPSON:  I don‘t think that‘s good advice anymore, frankly, unless they can absolutely guarantee you, unless it is a particular kind of fire that is a small fire confined to one portion of a building and the fireman can put it out. 


THOMPSON:  There was no way to put out the fire on September 11.  And so, if they should have done anything, they should have evacuated both towers immediately. 

MATTHEWS:  All right, well, anyway, Mayor Giuliani said today that he knew that the first plane crash was not an accident because the weather was good that day.  Let‘s listen up. 


GIULIANI:  As I walked out into the street and as I walked out into the street, Denny and I looked up in the sky.   And what we saw was a beautiful clear day, about as clear as we had had in a long time, and came to the immediate conclusion that it could not have been an accident.  


MATTHEWS:  I guess the skies weren‘t clear down in Texas that day, because when the president heard about it, he said, that‘s one bad pilot.  He was in Florida then.  Do you think that Giuliani just is a really good mayor?  Let me just ask you a blunt question.  Does he really have the right instincts to be a leader and that‘s what helped New York that day and the weeks that came? 


THOMPSON:  Yes.  I think he does have the right instinct.  He is a trained lawyer.  He was a trained law enforcement person from the U.S.  attorney‘ office.  He‘s got guts.  He‘s smart.  He‘s vocal.  And that‘s what it takes these days to be the mayor in a large urban area. 

Hey, look, a lot of people in the country, when the first plane hit, people who weren‘t in New York thought it was an accident.  I thought so when I heard that news.  When I walked out to my car to go to work, the news of the second plane hit.  But there was nothing reasonable or unreasonable about people assuming that it was an accident. 

MATTHEWS:  There, we disagree.  I don‘t imagine an airplane accidentally crossing the Hudson River.  But, anyway, thank you.  Thank you once again, Mr. Chairman.

THOMPSON:  All right, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  A member of the 9/11 Commission. 

Up next, MSNBC‘s Tim Russert will be here to talk about his new book.  And what a book it is.  It‘s fabulous.  It is about America.  It is about a father, his son growing up in this country, “Big Russ and Me.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

ANNOUNCER:  Follow all the action in the battle for the White House.  Sign up for our free daily e-mail.  Just log on to our Web site,


MATTHEWS:  Cold weather. 

Tim Russert, NBC Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “Meet the Press,” may live in Washington, D.C., but his heart still belongs to his town of Buffalo, New York, where his father brought him up right.  Tim‘s new book, “Big Russ and Me,” is a fabulous story of father and, let‘s face it, America.

Tim, congratulations.


MATTHEWS:  You know what you have?  You have that Thomas Wolf ability to locate the unforgettable detail, the little detail that tells everything about growing up.  And I find it very familiar. 

But let‘s talk about your dad, big Russ.  You‘re little Russ.  He‘s big Russ.  World War II generation, it‘s a story.  We‘re coming up on D-Day.  It‘s a great story.  Your dad was involved in an air crash that you didn‘t even know about in World War II.  Can you tell us about it, because there‘s something there, I think?


He left school in 10th grade, went off in the Army Air Force.  And he came home.  He was in the hospital six months, came home and worked 30 years as a garbage man, truck driver.  He would go swimming in the lake, and I would see the scars on his back.  And I‘d say, dad, where do those scars come from?  And he‘d go back under the water, never say anything.  I said, mom, how come dad has all those scars on his back?  Oh, he was in an accident in the war.  That was it.

Finally, in high school, Chris, I said, dad, you‘ve got to talk to me about this.  I‘m really interested.  What happened in World War II?  He brought me down to the basement and pulled out a manila envelope.  It had a yellowed piece of paper cut out from a British paper, October 27, 1944, about an air crash, five guys dead, 14 injured.  And this plane...


RUSSERT:  Yes.  And the plane engulfed in flames.  And he was ejected from the plane.  He was on fire.  And this kid named Billy Suchocki, his best friend in the war, saw him stumbling back to the burning aircraft.  And Billy and two British railroad guys jumped on him, rolled him out and suffocated the flames.  And then he was in hospital for six months.  It‘s unbelievable.

MATTHEWS:  And he never mentioned it? 

RUSSERT:  Never mentioned it, didn‘t want to talk about it.

And I said, man, airplane crash, six months in the hospital, that had to be tough.  He said, it was a lot tougher for the guys who died.


RUSSERT:  He put his head down and walked away. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s the attitude, that, I didn‘t have it as bad as the other guys.

Do you a lot of this—well, let me tell you, there‘s a great line in here in your book.  It said, “I find it hard to believe the crash didn‘t affect him or change him in some way.”  Now, there‘s a pregnant statement.

RUSSERT:  Yes, very much.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think it did?  It make him quieter? 

RUSSERT:  I do. 

He‘s the most optimistic man I met.  His glad is two-thirds full.  But I was told by Billy that he was really fun loving, cheerful.  And after the crash, it did bring a certain sense of, man, I really tempted fate here. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think a lot of that was—because I knew some of that myself—the guys who grew up during World War II were all teenagers in the Depression.  And that‘s something we anyway forget.  The bottom end of their life, the early end, was tougher in many ways.  There wasn‘t food.  And sometimes, the family had to scrimp.  There was certainly a bad attitude around the house, this is rough.  And then they go into the war, yanked out of their life.  Do you think that sort of closed them down? 

RUSSERT:  A little bit. 

And I think it‘s important to remember how young these guys were.  I have a son who is 18 ½ years old.  That‘s how hold my dad was when he went off to World War II. 


RUSSERT:  Involved in a plane crash.  It‘s just mind-numbing.

But I do.  I think when you‘re born in the early ‘20s, you survive the Depression, you go fight World War II, you‘ve really learned very early on that this is a tough, difficult life and there‘s no need or use in complaining about it. 

MATTHEWS:  One difference you talk about in the book, and I think it takes a crack at our generation, it‘s the stoicism and the toughness and the take it, the nose to the grindstone, which my dad personifies, I‘ve got to tell you.  I‘ve seen a little thing over his desk that says, nose to the grindstone.  So he‘s all about that, work, duty, taking of the family.

The difference is, and I‘ll take a shot here, our generation was more critical, more complaining, and that‘s bad, but we were also a protester generation, people willing to speak out and say, no, this is wrong.  Is that something that was missing from that generation, the willingness to say, no way?

RUSSERT:  Yes, sure.  Sure.  And the fact is that women and minorities were treated much differently than all that.  We look back with rose-colored glasses.  But the fact is, our fathers in that generation, with the Depression, with World War II and then building the middle class, didn‘t have time for much else. 

MATTHEWS:  They had enough for three squares a day, paying for the family, right.  But the idea of a—here‘s one thought I thought was great.  You said, the older you get, the smarter your father seems to get.  Boy, is that true.

RUSSERT:  I used to roll my eyes when my dad would say something about, you got to be careful and watch that car and learn different routes, and, if you don‘t want to work, then don‘t take the job, and all these little things.

MATTHEWS:  Baby it.  You ever hear that one about the car?  Baby it.

RUSSERT:  Be careful.  Be nice to it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, be nice to the car.

RUSSERT:  But then you suddenly have your own son and you realize, my God, he‘s right.  He‘s right every step of the way. 


RUSSERT:  And then you‘re trying to take the values and the lessons that you learned from your dad and instill them in your son in 2004.  And you realize, they are different.  Times are different.  They have a life of privilege, a life of access the we never dreamt of.

And my biggest challenge as a father is, how do I teach my son he‘s always, always loved but never, never entitled?


RUSSERT:  Because the sense of entitlement is so apparent in so many young kids today.  

MATTHEWS:  I know.  You said, we should have conversations with our kids today that we never had with our parents. 

RUSSERT:  I can talk to my son about almost anything.  And I‘m amazed that he‘s willing to talk to me about almost anything.  To this day, I cannot talk to my father about a whole variety of things. 

MATTHEWS:  How about 90 percent?


RUSSERT:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  What is that I never sang for my father?  What is that about? 

RUSSERT:  I think because they were always working and they were distant.  My father was not affectionate to us.  And now I watch my dad with my son.  It‘s amazing.  He smothers him. 


RUSSERT:  And it‘s as if he‘s finally 80 years old, he‘s retired from his jobs, and now it‘s OK to let go. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you ever feel like saying, what about me? 


RUSSERT:  Oh, Jackie Gleason.  What about me, big guy?


MATTHEWS:  We‘ll be back tomorrow with Tim Russert.  We‘re going to do the whole show practically with Tim Russert tomorrow, some great stories.  And I‘ll get politics out of him while we‘re at it, some reporting.  The book is called, “Big Russ and Me.”  It‘s booming right now out there for a good reason.  I read every word of it right through, a hell of a book.  And I don‘t do that very often.

We‘ll be right back with more of Tim Russert tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern on HARDBALL. 

Right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith.


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.