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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 26

Read the complete transcript to Wednesday's show

Guest: P.J.  Crowley


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

American terrorists:  The attorney general, the FBI Director, confirming credible intelligence of al-Qaeda attack plans, they name names.  One of the names is an American kid from Orange County, California. 

Al Gore, he come out swinging against the war calling for resignations. 

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  Donald Rumsfeld ought to resign. 

Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feig, Steven Cambone, Condoleezza Rice...

Where was that Al Gore four years ago? 

Where are 50,000 military reservists?  The Guards, so strapped for servicemen, it wants the IRS to help find them and when found, thousands are threatened.  Sign up with the National Guard or you‘ll be going to Iraq with the Army reserve. 

And the quintessential family moment: Dad getting a puppy for the kids.  Dad, aren‘t you supposed to pay for that puppy? 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  Adam Gadahn or Adam Pearlman or, Yahiye Majadeen (PH) Adams, they are among the aliases of one man—a 25-year-old American Caucasian raised in the area that proudly calls itself the most conservative place in the country, Orange County, California.  And he is one of seven suspected operatives identified today.  Apparently a one-time run-of-the-mill American teenager, ex-heavy devotee, now lumped in among the exotic names and the piercing stares of the wanted posters. 

Adam from Garden Grove, suddenly sought by the FBI, quote, “in connection with possible terrorist threats against the United States and presumed to be armed and dangerous.”

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight:  The data about Adam or Adams, and the six other named suspects was about the only solid information at today‘s landmark news conference by FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft.  But the terms, “credible intelligence,” “multiple sources,” and “almost ready to attack,” no matter how vague, were enough to get anybody‘s attention.  Our correspondent, Pete Williams, is as ever, watching those who are watching the terrorists. 


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  From Washington‘s World War II memorial dedication, this weekend, to political conventions this summer, the nation‘s security officials are increasingly on edge, especially since the attorney general today, with recent intelligence, suggesting terrorist cells might already be here. 

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al-Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months. 

WILLIAMS:  Official are especially concerned that al-Qaeda thinks the recent bombing in Spain influenced elections there and might try to attack before the U.S. elections this fall. 

ASHCROFT:  We seek unprecedented levels of cooperation with state and local law enforcement. 

WILLIAMS:  Help, for example, in questioning some 5,000 people who entered the U.S. during the past several months from half a dozen Muslim countries.  Based on recent terror tactics overseas, like a plan to use this truck to break through security barriers in Jordan, local law enforcement will be advised to watch for fortified trucks here.  And officials today asked for public help in finding seven people who are familiar with the U.S., speak English or have been involved in past attacks.  Adam Gadahn, a U.S. citizen, said by the FBI to be a former al-Qaeda translator.  Adnan  el-Shukrijumah, a former Florida resident, whereabouts unknown.  Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S. educated scientist and possible al-Qaeda courier.  Abderraouf Jdey who left a martyrdom letter in Afghanistan, last seen in Canada.  Two suspects from the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailan, and Amer El-Maati suspected of talking about flying a Canadian plane into a U.S. target. 

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR:  I want to know whether you‘ve seen them in your communities or that someone might be hiding them.  Have any idea where they might be?  We need to you come forward, whether it be here or overseas. 

WILLIAMS:  Many of the nation‘s police say they know of no new threats to their cities.  Authorities at the Los Angeles airport are bracing to screen an expected 12 percent jump in passengers this summer.  And in Indianapolis, extra security for this weekend‘s Indy 500. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just to be cognizant of anything unusual, seeing packages or boxes left unattended. 

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Officials stress tonight, there‘s nothing specific in this new intelligence about a time or place for a potential attack.  All the high profile events this summer, they say, add to their concern. 

Pete Williams, NBC News at the FBI.


OLBERMANN:  To analyze what we heard today from Messers Ashcroft and Mueller, I am joined by P.J.  Crowley in the Center for American Progress, formerly a special assistant for National Security to President Clinton.

P.J., welcome back.  Good evening. 


OLBERMANN:  If the terror alert color is not being changed, if there‘s no specificity to any of this, then being this dramatic, the leak to the “Associated Press” last night, the news conference today, it has to have had, presumably, some counterterrorism goal that‘s not obvious on the surface.  What was it?  Was it to say to al-Qaeda, we don‘t necessarily have your plans, but guess what?  We have some of your names?

CROWLEY:  Well, I do think that we have to take terrorism threat seriously.  There‘s no question about it, when you think about Madrid, when you think about the occupation in Iraq, the horrible photos in Abu Ghraib.  The International Institute of Security Studies in London yesterday, assessed that had al-Qaeda has recovered from Afghanistan and is now capable of attacks around the world.  So, the threat is there.  But, I think rather than counter terrorism, I would look to politics in terms of framing today‘s event as the attorney general said, he could not put time, date, or method to these—to this threat and I sense—you know, Claude Rains coming out of “Casablanca,” “round up the usual suspects.”  Two of the seven are, in fact, people that we‘ve been looking for several years in conjunction with the east Africa bombings.  You had Ashcroft in the lead today.  Tom Ridge, the secretary of Homeland Security, a guy who‘s supposed to be communicating to the American people about threat information was nowhere to be seen.  So this appears to be a case of political inoculation in case something does happen during this election year. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll get to the subject of Secretary Ridge in a moment, because, to your point, there were developments today, regarding him and his television schedule which are relevant to what you‘re talking about, the political angle about this. 

But, clearly if there was some surprise here, it was at least the symbolic impact of an American kid, raise and bred in Orange County, California, being named as one of these suspects.  Did that strike you as the most significant thing in that news conference today or was there something else? 

CROWLEY:  Well, obviously that is compelling with.  And the assessment is correct, with an American who understands us, obviously, has freedom of movement here, then that does offer a serious clue about possible threats.  By the same token—you know—you know,  we don‘t know where they are.  You know, two of these seven come from a list of 22 most wanted terrorists that the FBI posted back in October of 2001.  You know, the one guy that‘s not on anyone‘s list is the one guy that we know is out there attacking Americans as we speak, Mr. Zarqawi in Iraq.  So, notwithstanding, these are people of interest—you know, when you ask the American people to play, “Where‘s Waldo?”  that also represents an intelligence failure because we literally don‘t know where these people are or what they‘re up to. 

OLBERMANN:  Starting when this first broke last night, a lot of the focus has been on, well obviously, the G-8 summit, the World War II memorial dedication, as Pete William pointed out, is this weekend, the conventions, ways of influencing a presidential election, even the campaign stops.  But Dana Priest of the “Washington Post” who covers this stuff pretty well, immediately after the news conference said that the sources that she talks to have again in the context of this news conference today, kept repeating one word that they have been repeating for weeks:  “Athens.”  What about the Olympics?  Is that a more likely goal for al-Qaeda because of the impact it would have, conceivably, on so many different nations? 

CROWLEY:  I think we have to be very concerned about the situation in Athens.  The Greeks have, in fact, beefed up their security from over the last few years.  They‘ve prosecuted indigenous terrorist groups that were residents there in Athens.  But Athens is a city that terrorist networks know very well.  It‘s been a well-known longstanding transit point for terrorist groups.  And even the Greek government admits that the prospects are relatively higher than you might think for that kind of major event, that a terrorist attack is possible.

OLBERMANN:  P.J.  Crowley with the Center for American Progress, as always, many thanks for your time tonight, sir. 

CROWLEY:  Fine, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  And speaking of time, if you are of a suspicious mind, you will have already noticed the timing of today‘s announcement in the context of developments in Iraq and the president‘s declining poll numbers.  That is all speculative.  But, one timing question may be a lot more substantial.  Though he was not at the Mueller/Ashcroft news conference this afternoon, Homeland Security director Tom Ridge had already taken center stage this morning, fielding questions about the new alert on all the major talk shows.  But, during the midday White House news conference, and Bruce—news briefing, rather, one reporter had noted that the secretary had yesterday attempted to get himself booked—unsuccessfully attempted to get himself booked as a guest on those very morning shows.  Whether or not the logical fallacy is in play here, the chronology is unquestionable.  The morning shows turned Mr. Ridge down, Tuesday afternoon.  The leak about the credible threat hit the wires literally, Tuesday evening and the secretary wound up on the morning shows this morning. 

The fifth story continues not in the future but the past -- 9/11.  In interviews with the “New York Times,” members of the federal commission investigating the attacks now say they may not be able to produce a unanimous final report later this summer.  The group shared by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kane has made repeated headlines, questioning witnesses ranging from Dr.  Condoleezza Rice to Rudolph Giuliani to Richard Clarke.  But, one of its charges that it make recommendations about restructuring the counterterrorism agencies, including the FBI and the CIA, may make that goal of a unanimous report founder.  One of the most contentious proposals for the five democrats and five republicans to address:  Whether or not to strip the FBI of domestic terrorist investigations and create yet another intelligence agency based on Britain‘s MI-5.  Various commissioners said were hopeful that their historic summary of intelligence and law enforcement failures before 9/11 would indeed be unanimous. 

That commission is not investigating another domestic intelligence failure:  How to FBI wound up arresting an Oregon lawyer, a Muslim convert, on suspicion of involvement in 3/11, the Madrid train atrocities.  Today word that the Spanish were wondering about that too, as early as April 21, according to court documents unsealed yesterday, that‘s when the forensic science division of the Spanish National Police told the FBI that it was not sure the bureau had the right man.  Yet, Brandon Mayfield was arrested anyway, 16 days later, and only released last week, only when the FBI finally conclude that his fingerprints did not match those found on a bag of detonators found in Spain.  The court documents indicated that the FBI staffers went for a fingerprint match based on a digital copy of the print found on the bag in Madrid.  That they described that match at 100 percent, and that while in Spain a month ago, last Friday, they did not even bother to look at the original fingerprint.  Mayfield was cleared and released last week. 

How Mr. Mayfield was treated segues back to that queasy feeling in the pit of the collective stomachs.  The one underscored by the cascade of images out of Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.  It‘s a feeling based on a simple question:  Now that we‘ve gone and done with it Mr. Mayfield, what happens when we brand an innocent man a quote, “terror suspect?”  What happens if we brand an entire group of people, quote, “terror suspects?”  The official answer continues to be, well, they might be subject to abuse by individual soldiers gone bad.  And the official answer continues to take hit after hit. 

Tonight our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, with more prisoner abuse photos and for the first time, these don‘t look just like random images.  They seem more like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. 


JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  A series of new photos obtained exclusively by NBC News reveals what sources say is an actual interrogation in progress at Abu Ghraib prison, and the use of aggressive interrogation tactics against prisoners.  The photos show three naked Iraqi prisoners clumped together on the floor.  In one photo, a man identified as a civilian interpreter, sits with his back to the camera.  Another shows a soldier, identified as a military intelligence officer, standing over the prisoners, after apparently throwing an object at them, which in the picture is suspended off the floor.  A third photo shows a soldier with his knee pressing on the neck of one prisoner, while apparently questioning another.  Unlike the abuses seen in previous photos which military officials claim were the unlawful, unsupervised actions of a few, the abuses seen here, appear to be part of the interrogation routine at Abu Ghraib.  The new photos appeared as Congress and the Pentagon are locked in a new battle over access to information.  The Pentagon promised and delivered to Congress a secret report by general an Antonio Taguba.  But both democrats and republicans found some 2,000 page were missing.  The Pentagon spokesman today, characterized the missing documents as insignificant. 

LARRY DIRITA, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN:  In other words, it wasn‘t unique to the investigation.  It was some organic document that‘s available otherwise. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  But, congressional sources say the missing documents include a written report from General Jeffrey Miller which apparently lays out aggressive interrogation tactics for Abu Ghraib, and a report to Secretary Rumsfeld which spells out rules of engagements for interrogations, in formation considered vital to the information into prisoner abuse. 

(on camera):  Tonight the Pentagon sent Congress a letter promising a complete certified copy of the report and calls any omissions an honest mistake.  But, congressional critics say it raises new questions about Pentagon credibility. 

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon. 


OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN opens with the war on terror investigations from the threat here to prisoner abuse in Iraq.  Up next, our No. 4 story:  The volunteer Army that seems to be less volunteer and more fear.  Sign up for the National Guard, control your fate or have the government shift you off to Iraq.  The threats behind the increase of new guard enlistments. 

And later, the first President Bush:  He could not win a second term, today he speaks about whether or not his son will have the same fate. 


OLBERMANN:  No. 4 story on tonight‘s big five is next, your preview: 

Forget “Uncle Sam Wants You,” a new slogan seems to have been “Sign Up or Else.”  The shocking new pitch from the National Guard recruiters and what the Guard did when it found out about it—next.


OLBERMANN:  The cornerstone of the American war on terror is that those warriors are volunteers.  Are they?  Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN tonight from Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, Louisiana, reports that National Guard recruiters have been trying a new tactic.  It is one that could only deviate further from the premise of volunteering if it involved that old term for kidnapping sailors, to “shanghai them.”  The Army Reserve itself confirms thousands of instances of this, insist it is coming down like a ton of bricks on those recruiters who tried it, but the story told by Greg Vandegrift from our affiliate in Minneapolis, KARE, should still be enough to stand your hair on end.


“MARY”:  Yeah, you know, I was raised...

GREG VANDEGRIFT, KARE REPORTER, MN:  This Minnesota woman, we‘ll call Mary, couldn‘t believe the words her fianc’e heard three weeks ago from the Minnesota National Guard where he once served. 

“MARY”:  Well, if he did not choose himself to—and sign up again for the

·         for an active National Guard duty, he was told that he would be put in a place, in the unit, by the government that would be a higher priority and more likely to be sent to Iraq. 

VANDEGRIFT:  Choose to leave the ranks of individual ready reserve, IRR, Inactive Status, or to go Iraq.  Sounds farfetched, but it made headlines in the “Chicago Tribune” Sunday.  It reports:  “Army and National Guard recruiting units called thousands of inactive reservists in hopes of persuading them to reenlist in the active reserves or join their local guard units.  If not, they could soon be headed to Iraq.”

VANDEGRIFT:  The calls focused on four areas, including Minneapolis. 

“MARY”:  I think it‘s deceptive, yes. 

LT. COL KEVIN GERDES, MN ARMY NAT‘L. GUARD:  We did not intend, nor do we intend to provide joining the National Guard as an escape route for deployment. 

VANDEGRIFT:  Minnesota Guard recruiting Commander Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Gerdes says recently, inactive guardsmen have been notified by the military to prepare for possible mobilization in Iraq.  But when it comes to National Guard recruiting, Gerdes has no intentions of using scare tactics.  Still, he says informal advice happens. 

GERDES:  Just as if I had a brother right now, in the IRR, I would be calling him and saying, you might want to consider coming back right now, so that at least you can be proactive in determining your future. 

VANDEGRIFT:  After the reenlist for Iraq phone call, “Mary‘s” fianc’e made a decision. 

“MARY”:  Yeah, we decided it was a better idea for him to sign up to the National Guard than wait around and see what happens. 


OLBERMANN:  That‘s Greg Vandegrift reporting from our affiliate in Minneapolis, KARE. 

Two Oregon reservists who also enlisted under threat have been allowed out of the National Guard.  That means the Pentagon is now short by 50,000 and two of them.  The Pentagon says it is looking for 50,000 reservists who are still eligible for to recall active duty, but who have moved without giving a forwarding address.  Now who could help the Pentagon with its quandary?  Well, perhaps the IRS. Congressional approval of a change the tax code, now being sought by Army officials, it would allow the Defense Department to use tax returns to find the current addresses of those missing reservists.  Right now, doing that with the IRS‘s help would be illegal. 

COUNTDOWN now past the No. 4 story, up next the much-needed break from the serious news of the day for a look at the seriously twisted headlines around the world.  Speaking of seriously twisted.  Uh-huh, she and “Oddball” are straight ahead. 

And later, new developments out of Eagle, Colorado, in the Kobe Bryant case.  What could be a new bombshell defense theory, apparently based on results from the state forensics lab—stand by.


OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you with the COUNTDOWN and immediately bring to it a halt to shun the shackles of this earth-bound world of news and instead take a trip to the moon of weirdness on gossamer wings.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

Oh, crap! Gossamer wings, my tookus (ph).  That‘s Akiko Morito (ph) up there and if you were in Hiroshima Japan, you kind of got used to the sight of her, she was up there for about there about 90 feet in the air for about three hours, today.  Finally rescued by a helicopter from those power line.  Yes they had been shut off.  If you‘re wondering how on earth could an experienced paraglider get stuck in power lines, she wasn‘t.  She‘s a student paraglider, and this was her first solo. 

Speaking of rookies, meet “Sunrise Spirit.”  Despite the slightly horsey look, that is a baby bison, five very cute days old.  And you‘ll notice, she is white as a sheet.  The odds against an all-white buffalo, 10 million to one.  The scarceness has not been lost on native-American cultures.  Several tribes insist the birth of a white buffalo means the onset of a period of disaster in the world.  But the plains Lakota say the birth of a female white buffalo heralds a time of enlightenment and healing.  It will bring together all races in peace, balance and harmony.  Um, I‘ll take the second option. 

And from the all-white to the greens, we‘re on the fifth hole at Kabul and this champ is facing a tricky little chip shot from just off the green, making it particularly dicey that green there, it‘s not really green, it‘s oil poured on the sand.  Those little details notwithstanding, golf is back in Afghanistan.  You the man! You the Afghanistan man! And what the Kabul Golf Club lacks in lush fairways and scenic vistas, it more than makes up for with the bombed out buildings and unexploded ordinance.  The membership fee, just 60 bucks a year.  So, those of you having trouble getting on to a course, this is the place to go.  The 60 bucks entitles you to priority tee-times and the privilege of having former members of the Taliban carrying your clubs. 

That does it for “Oddball.”  COUNTDOWN picks back up with the No. 3 story after the break, your preview:  Al Gore laying it on the line to the Bush administration in no uncertain terms.  Mr. Gore says, heads should roll—at least six of them. 

And they call it puppy love, but most customers at the shop pay for their pooch.  A crime and punishment later on COUNTDOWN.

Those stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:

And there is a theme, see if you can catch it. 

No. 3:  Richard Nixon, newly released transcripts of tape-recordings from his presidency tell I am him being too inebriated to talk to Britain‘s prime minister.  Five days into the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Edward Heath calls the White house, asks to speak to the president, Henry Kissinger asks an assistant, “Can we tell them ‘no?‘ When I talked to the president, he was loaded.”   Nixon era tapes, the gift that keeps on giving. 

No. 2:  Judge Monty L. Doggett of New Orleans.  Louisiana Supreme Court has banned him from the bench for at least five years for repeated drunkenness, so bad that he often had to be carried out of the courtroom by state deputies. 

And to complete the theme, No. 1:  Australian member of Parliament, David Tullner, who has denied accusations that he was drunk on board a flight and spent the entire trip slapping the heads of his parliamentary colleagues.  Mr. Tullner explained he only had two beers and one glass of Baileys.  Thus his claim, he wasn‘t drunk, he was just Australian. 


OLBERMANN:  If one image lingers from the 2000 presidential campaign, it is that of Vice President Al Gore gradually putting to sleep every undecided voter in the country, never seeming to have conviction, nor enthusiasm behind his well-structured rhetoric.  Well, you can erase that picture from your mind. 

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the politics of the past today reared up and took a big bite out of the butt of the politics of the president.  From George W. Bush‘s sponsor in a secret Yale society, to the president‘s father, to Mr. Gore, the theme for today was yesterday. 

First, the Southern firebrand that Al Gore has suddenly become.  His speech at New York University sponsored by the liberal interest group began calmly enough, references to good vs. evil and the human soul, strong, but contained criticism of the president. 


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility.  Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.  He promised to restore honor and integrity to the White House.  Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest president since Richard M. Nixon. 


OLBERMANN:  But within half-an-hour of that commencement, Mr. Gore‘s address had taken on the volume and the tenor of a preacher at a revival meeting. 


GORE:  Donald Rumsfeld ought to resign immediately as the chief architect of this plan.  Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, the intelligence chief, Stephen Cambone, all ought to resign immediately.  Our nation is at risk every single day Rumsfeld remain as secretary of defense!


GORE:  We need someone with good judgment and common sense!


GORE:  Condoleezza Rice ought to resign immediately?  She has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy.  This is a disaster for our country.  And they are responsible, along with the president and vice president.  We may have to wait to get rid of Bush and Cheney, but we ought to call on our Republican friends to join us in getting the rest of that team out right now. 



OLBERMANN:  In the heat of the moment, he also asked Laura Bush to resign. 

Having symbolically mopped up the floor by calling for six resignations, CIA Director George Tenet was the other one, Mr. Gore himself had to mop up.  He now begins his preparations for his title bout against top middleweight contender Oscar de la Hoya. 

More criminal about wartime conduct in the pages of today‘s “New York Times” today, not a surprise, conservatives will note, but the target sure is, “The Times” spending 14 paragraphs eviscerating itself.  That metaphorical glare you see coming off the newsroom after Jayson Blair‘s departure is the result of what the editors call—quote—“the bright light of hindsight.”

Looking back, the editors say they wish they, like the Bush administration, had not taken so much of what Ahmad Chalabi had to say at face value, especially about Saddam Hussein‘s supposed weapons of mass destruction.  Chalabi was one of the paper‘s primary sources for its coverage of WMD.

Quote: “We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been.  Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged or failed to emerge.

And another clarification to tell you of, this from the Kerry campaign.  Remember last week when we told you Senator Kerry was considering not accepting the Democratic nomination at the nominating convention in July?  Well, you can scratch that somewhat unlikely event.  Kerry will leave Boston as the Democratic nominee after all.  Why, you ask, would the senator then be giving the president a five-week advantage when it comes to spending privately raised campaign cash? 

Kerry‘s people say he will not be able to catch the Bush war chest juggernaut anyway.  There‘s something to be said for knowing when the financial battle is lost and moving on. 

As you know, no matter who wins this November, this much will be true.  The next leader of the free world has a few skeletons in his closet, because of the allegiance Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry both share to the university called Yale and the secret society called Skull and Bones.  Tonight, the man who thought Bush would make a good Bonesman said he does not think he would make a good second-term president. 

According to the new book “Ambush,” David Richards, who tapped Bush for the society in 1967, now says—quote—“I think he has trashed the economy, and I think he has conducted foreign policy badly, and I think he is a bad president.”  Mr. Richards, just remember, the Yale class of ‘68‘s 40th reunion is a mere four short years away. 

Of course, President Bush is not the first president named Bush, not even the first President Bush from Yale.  As with so many things in W.‘s life, would-be Texas oil man, war in the Gulf among them, his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, blazed the trail before him, even the one to New Haven; 41, the father, sat down with MATT LAUER to talk 43, the son, and that potential legacy of there being two presidents named Bush who served just two terms between them. 


MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  Since his son was elected the 43rd president, this former president has been guarded about commenting on current events out of concern that his remarks will be used against his son.  And while he plans to take an active role in the current campaign, he refuses to entertain any thoughts of history repeating itself. 

(on camera):  You said to me one time, I don‘t know what happened.  It was terrible.  I was at 90 percent approval rating.  A couple years later, I was voted out of office. 

How difficult would it be for to you watch if your son doesn‘t win the second time? 

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t want to talk about that kind of issue about him.  I mean, I‘m not going to even consider it.

LAUER:  Do you worry about it? 

G. BUSH:  No.  I‘m confident he‘ll win, very confident. 

And you know what?  The American elections are decided on the economy. 

And my problem was, the economy was good, but I couldn‘t get people to understand that.  This economy is strong.  And my guess, it‘s going to be stronger in the fall.  But, even without that, I think the country is looking for a strong leader.  It has got one.  And they‘re going to want him to serve more. 

LAUER (voice-over):  If you talk to him about recent controversies like the Iraqi prisoner abuse, it‘s easy to see he still has strong opinions that lie just beneath the surface.  But he has become practiced at keeping them there. 

(on camera):  As a former military man and a former CIA guy and a former vice president and president of the United States, can you just give me emotionally how you felt when you saw those pictures of that prisoner abuse in Iraq? 

G. BUSH:  I felt like every other American.  Everyone that I know was just deeply offended and hurt just as the president was and just as everybody, not just in our family, but across the country.  And I felt even more offended when I saw a head held up where the guy had sawed it off. 

If I thought I had some new answer, I would speak in confidence to George, but I don‘t need to get in there and complicate the life of the president.  Who needs that?  He needs my support. 

LAUER (voice-over):  He has first-hand knowledge of how complicated things can get, enduring some intense criticism during his own presidency.  But he and Barbara Bush say it‘s tougher to take when the criticism is directed at their son. 

G. BUSH:  I mean, it‘s pretty hurtful.  I mean, when you see all of these books.  It‘s all anti-Bush.  It‘s all anti-my family.  It just burns you up.  But I don‘t feel inclined to respond nor does Barbara. 

LAUER (on camera):  Two of the books that came out seem to make it the case that when your son took office, he was obsessed with Iraq; that one of the first things he decided on what he was going to do away with Saddam Hussein.  And it made it sound as if it was unfinished family business. 

How did you feel when you read that? 

G. BUSH:  That‘s a bunch of bull. 

LAUER:  So you don‘t think your son was obsessed with Saddam Hussein or Iraq...

G. BUSH:  No. 

LAUER:  ... taking office? 

G. BUSH:  And wanted him to get even for the father and stuff for that guy trying to kill Barbara and me in 1993?  No. 


G. BUSH:  No, it‘s not true. 

B.  BUSH:  He did it because it was the right and proper thing to do. 

LAUER (voice-over):  Both of the Bushes say that instead of politics they prefer now to focus on family, unless, of course, you‘re talking about the next generation of politicians. 

(on camera):  The grandchildren now, if they came to you and they said, Grandpa—I don‘t know if they call you grandpa...

G. BUSH:  Gampy. 

LAUER:  Gampy? 

G. BUSH:  Yes. 

LAUER:  Gampy, I‘m thinking about going into politics. 

G. BUSH:  I‘d say, Great.  You ought to do it and do it for the right reasons, that you want to help people.  Because unlike a lot of people, I still believe politics is a noble calling.


OLBERMANN:  Matt Lauer speaking with the 41st president, which wraps up the third story tonight, everything old political is new again.

Up next, in our No. 2, breaking developments in the Kobe Bryant case, forensics that cast into doubt the accuser‘s version of her love life in the days before or perhaps after the alleged rape. 

And later on COUNTDOWN, caught on candid crooked camera.  Say cheese, Mr. Thief.  That‘s ahoy.

But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 


RODNEY TAYLOR:  They love the taste of these things.  They think it is like a Chicken McNugget to us.  So we tell the owners of these pets, you have to think like that.  So if you see cicadas out, make sure your animals is not eating them. 

PAUL MCCARTNEY, MUSICIAN:  Well, you know, you try and work it in, really.  We just—we make allowances, you know, when it is time for the baby to eat or sleep or something, naps and feeding.

ALEX TREBEK, MODERATOR:  You are the 2004 National Geographic Bee champion. 


Amazed.  I never expected it. 



OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s No. 2 story up next.  On the eve of another hearing in the Kobe Bryant case, potential new evidence that could call into question the story the accuser told police.  Live coverage from Eagle, Colorado, next here on COUNTDOWN.

Stand by.


OLBERMANN:  Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight may in fact be too much information and too much detail for you, especially if there are kids watching with you.  You may want them to leave.  You may want to leave. 

It concerns the Kobe Bryant case and what has the potential to be a blockbuster development.  In short, sources tell our correspondent Michelle Hofland in Colorado that the defense may now be able to use the forensics of that case to argue that Bryant‘s alleged victim had sex with another man immediately before or immediately after she claims to have been attacked by Bryant.  The grisly details are exactly that, grisly and detailed.  But they need to be heard in the context that the accuser told detectives she had not had sex with anyone for the three days prior to the alleged assault. 

Michelle Hofland joins us now from Eagle, Colorado, with the rest of this story. 

Michelle, good evening. 


NBC News has learned that Kobe Bryant‘s attorneys plan to argue that lab results from the Colorado crime lab prove that his accuser had sex with someone other than Kobe Bryant shortly before she arrived at the hospital for a rape exam.  Months ago, the defense revealed that the same crime lab found dried semen and sperm, but not Kobe‘s, on the alleged victim‘s underwear that she wore to the hospital. 

The accusers‘ attorney say there‘s a simple explanation, that she mistakenly put on dirty underwear.  But now our sources close to the case confirmed that fresh DNA was also found on her body, fresh semen and sperm.  Our legal experts tell us that this could prove two things, No. 1, that she perhaps lied to detectives about when she last had consensual sex, and, two, and that if she had sex after leaving Kobe Bryant‘s hotel room, but before she arrived at the hospital, that this is not typical behavior of a rape victim. 

There is a gag order in this case.  The district attorney spokesperson says that she cannot comment.  Kobe Bryant‘s attorney, Hal Haddon, gave NBC News gave this response—quote—“We are not allowed to discuss crime lab test results and it is inappropriate to do so.”

Kobe Bryant will be back here at the Eagle County courthouse first thing tomorrow for yet another pretrial hearing.  And, Keith, our sources tell us that it is at that time that the defense could drop this big bombshell. 

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s Michelle Hofland in Eagle, Colorado, with the late break on the Bryant case—many thanks, Michelle.

And we segue now out of that story into the roundup of the gossip and the publicity release, the intersection of news and schmooze we call “Keeping Tabs.”

And tonight, a 21-year-old fish is dead.  Sorry, I seemed to have read that incorrectly.  It is the band Phish, P-H, Phish, and its members.  They have announced they are breaking up after 21 years.  Trey Anastasio, the lead singer and guitarist, announcing the two decades have been enough, Phish has run its course.  The last shows with the so-called jam band will be August 14 and 15 in Vermont. 

In light of the band‘s reputation for pro-marijuana positions, Anastasio gets quote-of-the-week honors when he suggests the band wanted to call it quits—quote—“while it is still on a high note.” 

And it may an landmark for free speech or just well produced crap.  But, either way, you‘ll have to admit Michael Moore‘s film “Fahrenheit 911,” is one of the most shining examples ever of self-promotion.  This just.  Miramax chiefs Harvey and Bob Weinstein have proposed buying the film back from Disney and distributing it themselves, so the Reuters News Service has reported.  This is the record-breaking 27th consecutive day that the same transaction has been reported to be imminent. 

Over the weekend, the flick became the first documentary in half a century to win the top honor at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d‘Or.  What they‘re going now for a door at the Palm, I have no idea. 

Tonight‘s top story, the crime blotter, including the great puppy napping case of 2004 up next. 

First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day. 


OLBERMANN:  Since at least the time of the Boston Tea Party, we Americans have had a truly intertwined love-hate relationship with lawbreakers. 

As our No. 1 story tonight suggests, we appear to be no closer to untangling all that than we were this 1773, Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Lizzie Borden, that ‘92-year-old bank robber guy, Red Rountree.  You name them and they are just about as famous as they are infamous, like the pro athletes who have been convicted of crimes.

We are so messed up about how we feel about them that a minor league baseball team was actually going to hold sports criminals night next Tuesday.  Anybody wearing the jersey of an athlete/convict or bearing his sports trading card was to be admitted tree to the River City Rascals game in O‘Fallon, Missouri, on the 2nd of next month.  There were also supposed to prizes on sports criminals night.  Today, the promotion was scheduled. 

“Our intent,” said a team spokesman, “wasn‘t to honor or celebrate any criminal acts.  It was actually an attempt to identify how the media has changed in recent years as a result of these incidents”—unquote. 

You know, I don‘t know if I believe you or not, pal, but that is pretty good on short notice. 

Continuing with love, hate and crime, our prisons burst, yet, unlike the principals of “Les Miserables,” if a man can prove to us that he needs that loaf of bread or his family will starve, we tend to look the other way.  We even applied.  And if property owners are particularly successful or inventive in fending off said thief, we go over the top and give him a standing ovation or an over-the-top news report. 

Here is correspondent Hank Tester of affiliate in Miami, WTVJ, with this echelon of the No. 1 story. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was scared by I have two children in here.  And every time that I go outside or inside, I have to close the door.  He knows what he was looking for.

HANK TESTER, WTVJ REPORTER (voice-over):  You are watching a thief in action, rare video, a crime being committed in a backyard.  Look at this guy crawling into the back of a boat, like a reptile. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s when I lost a lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) And I ended up installing the camera. 

TESTER:  That was after a $2,500 loss.  Edgar Camacho (ph) went to the videotape. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have been talking to my neighbors, some of them. 

It is incredible how many had a similar story. 

TESTER:  Thirty-three robberies in the neighborhood in recent months. 

Six times, somebody prowled Camacho‘s backyard and took something. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And he is creeping around.  It‘s almost like a textbook criminal.  When you look at it, Mr. Camacho‘s has done the best that he could do to protect his property. 

TESTER (on camera):  The beauty of all this, check it out, you get a good look at the bad guy. 

(voice-over):  And does home surveillance work?  You bet.  In 2002, this guy caught on videotape identified by Miami cops busted, crime spree over with.  So take a good look at this guy.  He has stolen a lot of fishing rods, GPS systems, Marine radios.  Edgar Camacho not taking it sitting down.

(on camera):  Has it stopped or is the guy still out there? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He is still out there.  I have him on video.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now we are going to find him and we are going to arrest him for it. 


OLBERMANN:  Hank Tester of WTVJ in Miami on the trail of Mr. This Guy.

But, ultimately, whether we praise the average American criminal, pillory him or mock him, the one thief who is not going to get any sympathy is the puppy bandit.  This is the surveillance camera at a shop in Miami actually called Cute Puppies Pet Store.  The guy in the basketball jersey reaches into a cage and shoplifts a miniature Doberman pinscher.  No relation.

The guy in the basketball jersey, who was possibly warming up for that now canceled sports criminals night in Missouri, puts the dog into a woman‘s bag and they exit stage left.  The preliminary investigation suggests that couple there is married and moreover that they brought their kids with them to the heist.  Unlike the bags of money that bank robbers walk away with, shoplifted puppies are not wrapped in dye packs that later explode and stain the thief with brilliant color.  They just kind of do that naturally.

Let‘s recap the five COUNTDOWN stories, the ones we think you‘ll be talking about tomorrow.

No. 5, the new terror threat, the government, as predicted last night, asking for our help in finding seven suspected terrorists, one of them a 25-year-old guy from Orange County, California, amid worries that al Qaeda is here in the states and planning a big summer attack.  Four, some National Guard recruiters telling old members that they had better reenlist now before the government sticks them in the Army Reserve in Iraq. 

Three, politics, Al Gore today calling for the resignations of at least six members of the Bush administration, including Rumsfeld, Tenet and Rice.  Two, a Kobe Bryant bombshell, NBC News learning the defense plans to use results from a state forensics lab to call into question the accuser‘s account of her sexual activity around the time of her encounter with Bryant.  And No. 1 tonight, the great puppy caper caught on tape, a father teaching kids about the responsibility of having a pet, minus the responsibility of paying for it. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann. 

Good night and good luck. 


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