Guest: Evan Kohlmann, Craig Crawford, Jeff Yannacone
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Our condolences, Chris.
“They killed my cousin, they could kill anyone,” the anguished cry of the relative of a victim not of the terrorist attack in London, but rather a victim of the effort to prevent another one. England coping tonight with two terrible truths, the assumption that the four men who failed to set off bombs last Thursday are still in their country and planning to try again, and the realization that another assumption caused them to mistake a frightened Brazilian electrician for a terrorist and to pump seven bullets into his head.
Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Were the London bombings connected to the attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt? Andrea Mitchell on the scene there.
Another oops in the Karl Rove case. The White House chief of staff knew about the investigation at least 12 hours before the White House itself was warned, Don't shred any documents.
Jane Fonda going cross-country to protest the Iraq war. You'd think that whole Hanoi Jane thing might have discouraged her.
And you'd think this would discourage everybody from doing this.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
Senior British police officers and counterterrorism experts there are saying that while they have now made two more arrests and found a fifth unexploded device, and named two of last week's suspects, they assume those bombers have not left England and will try again.
Of course, last Friday they assumed that an innocent man named Jean Charles de Menezes was a suicide bomber, and they shot him to death on a subway train.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the aftermath of terror in London and in Sharm el-Sheikh, and the tenuous connection between the two attacks that suggest to some that they might be linked.
London first. Police have now publicly identified two of Thursday's would-be bombers and speculate that they might be part of a North African terror cell. Twenty-seven-year-old Muktar Said Ibrahim, possibly of Eritrean origin, who allegedly tried to blow up a bus, and 24-year-old Yasin Hassan Omar, of Somalian origin, who allegedly tried to blow up the subway at Warren Street.
No name yet on the Shepherd's Bush terrorist, nor on the Oval Station subway suspect. But police did release a chilling picture of the latter on the train moments before his backpack failed to detonate, looking like just a normal commuter.
Authorities now claim they are looking for a fifth suspect, saying they found another undetonated backpack discarded in north London. And there is new evidence linking both London terror attacks. The bombers may all gathered at a whitewater rafting resort in Wales barely a month before 7/7. Bombers from both groups visited the resort hours apart from each other on June 4.
Two of the 7/7 bombers were actually photographed enjoying a river ride. Shahzad Tanweer, who blew up the train at Aldgate, seen laughing in the front, and Mohamed Sidique Khan, the Edgware Road bomber and supposed mastermind of the operation, flashing the peace sign behind him.
As to last Friday's shooting, when police chased down the suspect, shot him eight times, seven times in the head, he was a Brazilian electrician who just happened to live on a block in which there was an apartment building under surveillance.
The British government has apologized to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, but his relatives say they are considering a lawsuit, especially after police admitted tonight that they did not chase him directly from the apartment to the subway station, that he had first boarded a bus. And even when he got off without trying to blow the bus up, they were still convinced he was a suicide bomber.
Police say they will not change their new shoot-to-kill policy. They are still raiding homes in the very neighborhood in which de Menezes lived, and the other areas of London. A total of five suspects currently under arrest in connection with the bombings.
And then there is Egypt, or maybe, more correctly, Pakistan, already considered a possible jumping-off or training place for the London bombers. Fingers were pointed again at Islamabad after a series of car bombs devastated the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh early Saturday morning.
In a moment, the perspective of counterterrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann.
First, depending on whose list you believe, the death toll could be 56 or 88.
And as our chief diplomatic correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, reports from Sharm, depending on whose information you believe, Pakistanis are either the prime suspects, or they have nothing at all to do with the bombings.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CHIEF DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
Terrorists rallying against terrorism today in front of the bombed-out Ghazala Gardens hotel along the Peace Road, the same road the terrorists took Saturday morning in green Isuzu trucks loaded with vegetables hiding more than 1,000 pounds of TNT.
Today, Egyptian police released mug shots of five Pakistani men wanted for questioning. And new details about the attack, captured on this tourist's video.
Officials say the first bomber gunned down two guards before driving his truck into the hotel lobby. They are now testing his DNA. Investigators say the second bomber probably meant to target this luxury hotel.
(on camera): But they say when he got to the square, he discovered a checkpoint and a one-way street. So he triggered his bomb before he had planned, and may have even gotten away.
(voice-over): The clock tower on the square stopped at that moment, 1:10 in the morning.
So who's responsible? Was it the work of local terrorists trying to destabilize Egypt's president?
EDWARD WALKER, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO EGYPT: They want to see people start to rebel against Mubarak, for street demonstrations to grow.
MITCHELL: The attack is a huge blow to Egypt's lucrative tourist industry.
Today Mubarak fired his top security officials and was quick to blame Pakistanis. Or was it locals inspired by al Qaeda, like these men. on trial this week for bombing the Taba Hilton, another Red Sea resort, just last October? Or was it locals working with al Qaeda's support or direction? Possibly, officials say, triggered by this video last month from Osama bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian.
Whatever investigators discover is of little comfort to the father of the one American victim, Christy Miller, celebrating her 27th birthday Friday with her British boyfriend.
ANTHONY MILLER, FATHER OF BOMBING VICTIM: I told her to have a good time, I loved her, and I would talk to her the next day. And that was the last time I talked with Christy.
MITCHELL: Only one of many innocent victims of another act of terror.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Sharm el-Sheikh.
OLBERMANN: I'd like to call on Evan Kohlmann now, MSNBC terrorism analyst, founder of the Web site GlobalTerrorAlert.com.
Evan, good evening.
EVAN KOHLMANN, FOUNDER, GLOBALTERRORALERT.COM: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Is there anything really linking Sharm el-Sheikh and what happened there to Pakistanis, or via Pakistan? Is there anything really linking the Sharm el-Sheikh attack to the ones in London?
KOHLMANN: Well, so far, the evidence is really circumstantial, and it's far too early to draw any strong conclusions. But certainly if it's true that these Pakistanis that the Egyptians are looking for are indeed the cult that's responsible, that would be an important indication.
Egypt is chock-full of potential terrorist recruits. There's no need to import Pakistanis unless there's a specific reason. And perhaps that reason is the same reason that Pakistanis were used in the London attacks. It's meant a symbol, the same symbol, the same symbolic value that you put a majority of Saudis as 9/11 hijackers. It carries a message with it.
And it shows that the attacks were coordinated. Do we know this for a fact yet? No. But certainly, there are direct parallels to earlier this year, the Taba bombings, which I believe probably are linked to this attack.
And any time you have two major terrorist incidences like this, in London and in Egypt, both happening within weeks of each other, both happening within weeks of the release of a videotape by al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, no less, I think you can't ignore that significance.
OLBERMANN: About London. The images and the names, this fifth backpack, the two arrests, all getting huge attention today. But there's something that jumped out at me. I wondered if it jumped out at you. These containers in which the bomb components were supposed to have been packed, this stuff that looks like Tupperware, the particular brand is made in India. There are only 100 shops in all of England that carry it.
Could the London investigation pivot on a plastic bowl?
KOHLMANN: Yes, it's one of those lucky breaks that may end up nailing whoever built these bombs. You know, sometimes it happens in these investigations where a really stupid mistake is made, not one that's obvious, one that's inadvertent. And here it may have been simply the purchase of a particular plastic container that's sold in only one of 100 outlets in the United Kingdom.
And you would think, anyway, that someone that comes in and buys five or six or seven of these all at once, that would probably stand out in the mind of a shopkeeper. And I think that's what British authorities are hoping for, particularly because they think that these containers are what the bombmaker used to make the bombs with.
And that being said, you know, as much as we'd like to catch the suicide bombers themselves, the only way we're going to stop this campaign of violence for sure is to capture the bombmaker. And thus these containers could lead us directly there.
OLBERMANN: The shooting of the innocent man, Mr. de Menezes, this is obviously a tragedy, it's obviously dangerous. There's no way yet to judge if the police screwed this thing up entirely on their own, how much he might have made some fatal mistake. But if a man you suspect of being a suicide bomber gets on a bus, A, why don't you stop him then? And B, when he gets off the bus, and—doesn't somebody say, the odds of him being a suicide bomber just dropped, since he didn't blow up that bus?
KOHLMANN: Well, I mean, first of all, let's remember here that in hindsight, all of this seems very obvious.
But if you're a British police officer monitoring a building where there are terrorist suspects inside preparing suicide bombs, you have someone coming out that doesn't match the description of any known terrorist, but is wearing a heavy winter padded coat in the middle of summer, and goes directly for mass transit, to use mass transit, does not obey police orders, and starts running, you know, I don't know if this was executed the best way the British police could have, but in that situation, when you have seconds to make life-and-death decisions, potentially putting dozens of people's lives, you know, on risk, I really, I think it's very difficult to question the decision they made here.
They did what they thought they needed to in order to protect the British population. Right now, London is basically on DefCon One. If you wanted to give this a color, it's red. There is an imminent risk of terrorist attacks occurring again. And the British police have to do what they have to do in order to safeguard the majority.
OLBERMANN: Even in that context, though...
OLBERMANN: ... is there not, but is there not a public relations element to this, in the sense of, in the middle of the apology about the shooting of this man from the commissioner of police, he said, “We have to consider what would have happened if these officers had not shot, and that man had been a suicide bomber and had got on the Tube and the doors closed with the officers having taken the wrong decision.” There—obviously we know what he means by this, but saying it under these conditions, it sounds like sophistry, it sounds like circular logic.
And you could turn around to him and say, just as easily, Or what if Sir Ian Blair might be a terrorist? Shouldn't he be shot at some point?
And my point in this, and—when you're in counterterrorism, isn't the absolute most important part of it the public trust, that you know what you're doing? Should not the police commissioner have said something along the lines of, We could not have gotten this more wrong, and we're not going to say anything else other than we're sorry, until we find out what part of it is our fault?
KOHLMANN: Well, again, keep in mind that the British police right now face a catch-22. They can either be soft and let potential terrorists board buses, and, you know, then get accused of being lax when these people blow themselves up, or be aggressive and go after people in the best way that they can, and then getting blamed afterwards.
At this point, it's a matter of life and death. It's—they're going to save as many people as possible. There is an immediate risk of another terrorist attack. And there—what's more is that there's a thought that some of the potential future suicide bombers are not known. Their identities are not known. It really—it's a gamble. I think the British police are doing the best they can.
We have to trust them, and unfortunately, they're doing the best job they can in a difficult situation.
OLBERMANN: Evan Kohlmann of the Web site GlobalTerrorAlert.com, great thanks.
KOHLMANN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the other end of terror, the response. New York firefighters using, in essence, high-tech video games to become better prepared.
And another angle in the Karl Rove CIA leak investigation. Now it's a phone call between Alberto Gonzales and Andy Card raising eyebrows and raising questions about a 12-hour gap, a 12-hour gap that might really be an 84-hour gap.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It could be a harbinger of the kind of jitteriness and logical disconnection that we saw after 9/11, the kind of thing where a colleague and I nearly caused Yankee Stadium to be evacuated because we saw an unattended bag on the field. And an hour later, my colleague was about to leave his bag in the press room unattended.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, panic city. A tour bus was stopped at gunpoint by police near Times Square in New York yesterday, the passengers ordered off, the men forced to kneel on the sidewalk with their hands bound behind their backs, all because an employee of the tour company had called authorities to say that there were five dark-skinned men with British accents wearing backpacks on board, and that their pockets were stuffed.
They were tourists. The bus, in another flashback, was one of New York's red double-deckers. Remarkably, after the false alarm, some of the passengers got back on another bus to continue their tour. Hopefully, none of them then went to Penn Station, which, about 30 minutes later, was evacuated after an irate customer threw a backpack at an Amtrak ticket agent and claimed it had a bomb in it.
New York? It's a summer festival.
New York seems to be more on the money, as usual, with its preparations for response. Lost in history that 9/11 was also the day of the quickest, largest, safest public evacuation ever. And New York's police and firefighters keep trying to get it better at it.
COUNTDOWN's Monica Novotny got a rare chance to watch them do that in a virtual environment they hope never gets any more real than virtual.
Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening.
New York's fire department has teamed up with a group from Carnegie Mellon University to create a very serious new training program that looks a lot like a video game.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-four engine respond to the 57th Street and Fifth Avenue subway, multiple victim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), 10-4, (INAUDIBLE).
NOVOTNY: Real firefighters battling a terrorist attack in a not-so-real world, playing hard so they can work smarter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's great. Come a long way from Space Invaders, you know?
NOVOTNY: At New York's Fire Academy, where traditional training methods rule, instructors are taking classes to the next level.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) coming out of it.
NOVOTNY: Using the latest video gaming technology to create a powerful computer-based training program called Hazmat Hot Zone, developed by Carnegie Mellon University's Electronic Technology Center.
JESSE SCHELL, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: When they can see it on the screen, and they can interact with it, and when the instructor says, You did this wrong, and you can see that you did it wrong, because you just died, or all these people just died, it really hits home a lot more than the traditional methods of training.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The door is on your left side.
NOVOTNY: Teams of firefighters log in and work together, not knowing what awaits them in this simulated underground emergency. Together they attend to victims, identify hazardous materials, make life-and-death decisions in real time.
TONY MUSSORIFITE, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We have a saying that it takes 10 years to get 10 years' experience. And we're facing these new threats. We have to get that experience now somehow down to a three to five year. And by being able to do computer-based training, we're able to give them that scenario training repetitively.
NOVOTNY: Instructors create specific scenarios to test their students.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have control over the environment, the hazard, or the product that they're going to be facing, and the victims within that area.
NOVOTNY: The key element in this game, surprise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get an emergency (INAUDIBLE) dog.
NOVOTNY: But firefighters say, the tougher, the better.
LT. ED RYAN, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: It forces you to make a decision. You can read manuals, you can discuss it, but until someone actually puts you (INAUDIBLE) where you have to make a decision, you can't really experience it.
NOVOTNY (on camera): Firefighters take what they've learned on the Hot Zone simulator and test it out here, at a full-scale replica subway station, where they can recreate scenes from the video game in practice drills.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're going to do is, we're going to give you an incident in a subway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Computer training is only a part. Until you practice it, you know, it's not complete training.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten-four, one victim (INAUDIBLE).
NOVOTNY (voice-over): Learning rules for a game they can't afford to lose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never know what's going to happen next, which is the reality of our job.
NOVOTNY: The Hazmat Hot Zone Simulator is currently a prototype. Both the firefighters and the game developers would like to see it become a permanent part of training for all first responders across the country, but they need funding to make that happen. And so far, they don't have that, Keith.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN's Monica Novotny, great thanks.
Out of Virginia tonight, breaking news on what appears to be a horrific accident, no doubt made more horrific by the large number of children who may have been witnesses to it. The Boy Scouts of America telling NBC News tonight that four Scout leaders were killed this afternoon in what is being only described as an electrical accident. That, at Bowling Green, Virginia, during the opening day, late in the afternoon of the organization's annual National Boy Scout Jamboree.
Two more people said to be injured. No details yet on exactly what happened or why.
Also tonight, new questions arising in the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA officer.
And you're looking at much more than just the breaking of eggs. You're looking at the breaking of a world record. Why, we don't know, except to say that to get an Oddball, you have to break a lot of eggs.
Speaking of breaking your eggs, you can break them, you can break anything else you've got. They call it swooping. And we'll talk to the survivors ahead.
OLBERMANN: Pausing the COUNTDOWN now, it's your brief tour of the ridiculous news other shows refuse to use. It's TASERs and toilets and eggs, oh, my.
Let's play Oddball.
It was Paul Newman playing Cool Hand Luke who disproved the claim that no man can eat 50 eggs. In central India, Cool Hand Radhe Shyam Patel has disproven the claim that no man can break 22 eggs with the back of his hand. In front of a stunned, silent media gallery, Mr. Patel folded his digits the wrong way to break 22 eggs in just 30 seconds. The Guinness people were on hand to give Mr. Patel a certificate for the feat, which he originally accomplished in March.
So you ask, what is the sound of one hand breaking an egg?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do it, do it fast, (INAUDIBLE). Do all the eggs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eeeuw.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: After the record-setting performance, Patel again stunned the Indian media by making a delicious quiche Lorraine with his nose.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the bathroom, to Jacksonville, Florida, where Alicia Bailey found a water moccasin in her toilet. We'll let you use your imagination to figure out how she encountered the poisonous snake. We'll just tell you that this bite here sent her to the hospital for three days. The Bailey family is not sure the snake is out of the house, so it is keeping its eyes peeled, with a shotgun in hand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Currently, very uncomfortable in our home.
Toilet-shy, I would say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: She went on to mention that none of this would have happened if only her husband had just put the seat down.
Finally, TASER International, the company that produces the 50,000-volt debilitating weapon that cops use to stop criminals is launching a new campaign to sell them to the public. They are legal in 43 states, and public use could mean a financial windfall for the manufacturer. But some in law enforcement feel that the powerful stun guns could do more harm than good.
Here at COUNTDOWN now, we feel that as long as the guns are keeping certain of our former fill-in hosts off the streets, they can't be all bad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh! (INAUDIBLE), oh! It hurts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Numero Cinquo.
They may know the number than—that feeling as well at the White House. The CIA leak investigation now setting shots (INAUDIBLE) two more key administration figures.
And Jessica Simpson never met the woman who posed as her assistant, but that did not matter to the companies who allegedly sent that woman $12,000 worth of free stuff, because Jessica likes them.
These stories ahead.
First, here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Professor David Allen of the University of Washington. He is the new chairman of the school's Department of Women's Studies. A proud and confusing moment for everybody.
Same, perhaps, for number two, Cynthia Papageorge of Boston. Jury selection in her lawsuit beginning today. She says she was fired for being pregnant, being pregnant while she worked at the Mother's Work Maternity Clothing Store.
And number one, continuing the theme, Jay Peterson, of Frisco, Colorado, arrested Sunday morning for having led police on an 83-mile, two-state chase, getting his Audi up to 130 miles an hour on the highway. No drugs, no alcohol, the car wasn't stolen, he has no rap sheet. Police say Mr. Peterson explained he was late for church.
Get me to the church on time!
OLBERMANN: In the same summer in which Deep Throat has been identified, that remodeled phrase from Watergate keeps reappearing: What did the—fill in the blank—know and when did he know it?
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN: The Karl Rove CIA leak story mutates again, this time with the current attorney general involved, Alberto Gonzales, admitting that nearly two years ago, he sat on the knowledge that the Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation into the leak for half a day before officially instructing the White House staff about the inquiry and reminding them to not do nasty things like, oh, say, shred documents relevant to the case, Gonzales, who was White House counsel at that time, saying over the weekend that when he was first informed about the investigation by the Justice Department, he did indeed wait overnight, about 12 hours, before he informed the other folks in the West Wing.
Well, he did tell one person, White House chief of staff, Andrew Card. He did not say why he called Mr. Card almost immediately, one Democratic lawmaker not alone in wondering who, in turn, may have been on the chief of staff's late night call list.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: The real question now is, Who did the chief of staff speak to? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call Karl Rove? Did the chief of staff pick up the phone and call anybody else? Ordinarily, you would think that immediately sending out an e-mail to every member of the staff and say—you know, you don't have to call them. Every one of those staff members carries around a Blackberry—and send an e-mail saying, Boom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Boom, indeed. And there is another potentially explosive question to ponder tonight. What if that gap between when the counsel's office first knew that the investigation was at least imminent and when White House staff members were told not to destroy any documents was more than just 12 hours?
The timeline we have now: Monday evening, September 29, 2003, about 8:00 o'clock, Mr. Gonzales gets the official word from Justice. Literally minutes later, say, 8:05, he told Mr. Card. Tuesday morning, September 30, 2003, about 8:00 AM, he told everybody else.
But September 29 was probably not the first time he'd heard about the investigation, the story first reported on Friday night, September 26, by Alex Johnson and Andrea Mitchell on msnbc.com, nearly 72 hours earlier, making the gap until staffers were told 84 hours. Alex and Andrea wrote at that time the CIA had asked the Justice Department to “investigate allegations that the White House broke federal laws by revealing the identity of one of its undercover employees in retaliation against the woman's husband, a former ambassador who publicly criticized President Bush's since-discredited claim that Iraq had sought weapons-grade uranium from Africa, NBC News has learned.”
I'm joined now by our own chief counsel, Craig Crawford of “Congressional Quarterly” and MSNBC. Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Hi, there. I wonder how long it takes to word-search your e-mail when you've got to check for something?
OLBERMANN: This gap here of 12 to 84 hours, maybe three days, four days worth—is there a splatter pattern here? I mean, it makes Gonzales look bad. It makes Card look bad. You don't necessarily have to be as cynical as Joe Biden to assume that these great political operatives, Card and Rove, promptly spoke to each other that night, do you?
CRAWFORD: Not at all. And of course, there was a lot of buzz at the time about—the CIA launched—you know, initiated this inquiry and prompted what has turned into the investigation and the grand jury probe. So it was all about town that this was going on. So anybody who was worried about e-mails that they had written in the past on this topic had a lot of time to word-search it and delete it, if they wanted to.
But we also know there's a lot of evidence that did get through. So if they were getting rid of documents or shredding documents, whatever, a lot of it did get through, at least from what has been leaked from the grand jury investigation about e-mails between Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, for example.
OLBERMANN: Whether you buy into this as important or you dismiss it as mere politics, wherever you stand on the political spectrum, is it not time for everybody to admit that this has become the baseball bat that will not break, and that at the end of this, unless Patrick Fitzgerald has somehow been able to indict Howard Dean, that the Democrats are going to keep using this baseball bat and keep hitting the president and the administration over the head for literally months to come?
CRAWFORD: Well, of course, if somebody's hitting themselves over the head with a baseball bat, do you really need to swing one of your own, in the Democrats' case? This case is becoming a political liability for the president down the road, and his party, the Republican Party, because we're not that far away from the campaign for control of Congress next year. And if Karl Rove becomes something of a poster child for the Democrats to talk about excess and abuse at the White House and accuse the White House of lack of credibility and everything else, this would be a liability for Republicans in that campaign.
OLBERMANN: And whether or not you like his politics, the president's loyalty to people who have worked well for him is admirable. It certainly is impressive and unusual in politics. But relative to Karl Rove, could it also be genuinely self-destructive? I mean, at some point. does somebody say to the president, Look, we have congressional elections next year. They are vitally important. You have to cut your losses here.
CRAWFORD: As loyal as he is, there have been instances. Before the mid-term elections in 2002 when the economy was such a problem, not long after those elections, as the president prepared for his own reelection, he got rid of the secretary of treasury and his chief economic adviser to show that he was taking charge of the economic problems. So there's a little bit of history that the president will do that, but there's nothing like the loyalty he would owe to Karl Rove, for certain.
But at some point, I would imagine some of the Republican leaders may go to him and say, Look, Karl Rove is brilliant and we need his strategy, but he's better off doing that privately, out of the public service, out of the White House, and quietly somewhere at a private foundation and not out in the public, where he's a whipping boy for the media and Democrats.
OLBERMANN: Yes, context and accusation are not comparable, I don't think, but you know, Richard Nixon loved Ehrlichman and Haldeman and got rid of them both on the same day. Lastly, a question of the defense in this. Am I reading something into it, or have the administration and the media sympathetic to it been kind of foundering here? I mean, my old colleague, John Gibson, said it again over the weekend—and I love John. I think he is a great guy. But I actually—I heard him say that this was really all about the fact that it was Joe Wilson's wife who sent Joe Wilson to Africa. And I'm thinking, John, that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard! Joe Wilson's wife was in charge of the CIA in 2002? I did not know that!
CRAWFORD: And you know, this politics of distraction—whenever you're attacked and you don't want to meet the merit of what's being charged, then change the subject. Attack somebody else. And this is what's happened with Joe Wilson. This effort to discredit him is what got them in trouble in the first place, and here they are doing it again.
But you know, if you spot the critics of Joe Wilson everything they want to say about him and his wife, it doesn't change the fact that the CIA basically launched an investigation of the White House for leaking an undercover agent's identity. None of that changes, no matter what you say about Joe Wilson.
OLBERMANN: Craig Crawford of “Congressional Quarterly” and MSNBC, as always, Greg, thanks greatly.
CRAWFORD: Good to see you.
OLBERMANN: From probes of politicians to scams of publicity-hungry lingerie manufacturers. If you've gotten a call from Jessica Simpson's people saying she loves your product and you should send some over, you may have been punk'd. Interns do the darnedest things. And Jane Fonda, a lightning rod for criticism during the Vietnam war, is now preparing to embark on a bus tour to protest the Iraq war, and it's a bus fueled by vegetable oil. Oh, boy.
OLBERMANN: It's time for me to confess. When I was an intern in the newsroom at Channel 5 in New York 27 quick summers ago, a reporter named Marvin Scott came back from a story with a case of gourmet chocolate chip cookies. I was offered and I accepted one of the bags of cookies.
Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN: I am guilty. But even in 1978, I knew I was doing that internship wrong. I was getting one college credit for me. The kid next to me on the assignment desk from Penn State was getting 14.
Today, more evidence that I was an idiotic piker compared to the opportunism of which a 23-year-old public relations firm intern is accused. She allegedly got $12,000 worth of stuff by simply telling people Jessica Simpson wanted it. Courtney Handel, public relations intern with basketball's New Jersey Nets, was arrested late last week at her home, faces jail time but will probably get probation, this after investigators discovered she had been impersonating Simpson's assistant in order to get companies to send her free stuff—lots of it. She got cosmetics, lingerie, clothing, accessories, all sent to her home address, simply by claiming she would be passing it on to the singer.
The 23-year-old Handel opened an e-mail account in the name of Ms. Simpson's personal assistant, CaCee Cobb, and proceeded to send letters to various companies staying how much the entertainer loved their products. They, in turn, helpfully shipped samples to her.
Joining us now, the lead investigator on the case, Detective Sergeant Jeff Yannacone of the East Rutherford, New Jersey, Police Department. Detective Sergeant, thanks for your time. Good evening.
DET. SGT. JEFF YANNACONE, EAST RUTHERFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: We've heard a couple of these scams involving celebrity names lately. How did you guys get involve in this one? Did some company get suspicious?
YANNACONE: Yes, a company in New York got suspicious and contacted Sony in New York, who put one in their investigators on it. They looked into it and thought it was suspicious that she was requesting the items be sent to East Rutherford, New Jersey. And they, in turn, contacted us to assist them in the investigation.
OLBERMANN: And you went over to her house, and I gather that it was quite a crowd when you got over to her house.
YANNACONE: When we got there with the Sony investigator, he was going to pose as a delivery man, but UPS was just pulling up as we pulled up, and he was getting ready to unload about 10 packages to this address in the name of CaCee Cobb, which was what we were looking to find out. And UPS delivered the packages, and she then signed her name as CaCee Cobb for the packages.
OLBERMANN: Boy. I gather she also—on top of everything else here that doesn't seem too bright, she didn't initially believe this was against the law or even a very serious matter?
YANNACONE: She just wasn't sure, you know, how serious it was. She said, I planned on returning the items, is what she initially told us, until we informed her how—you know, the seriousness of her actions, misrepresenting herself as someone else to obtain a benefit.
OLBERMANN: Two reality checks here. Did all the other companies just assume that she was Jessica Simpson's assistant? I mean, did anybody check?
YANNACONE: Some of the companies actually called her because she gave her cell phone number. She put in the e-mails that her—the company e-mail was down, the computers were down, and gave her own e-mail. And she said—gave her cell phone number, and they actually called and spoke to her. And she had a good line on the phone because she knew Jessica Simpson's entire schedule as far as where she would be, when she would be out of the country and where she would be touring. So she had a good line for them when they called to confirm.
OLBERMANN: So then that brings up the other half of the reality check. She was that well prepared, but she gave them her home address to send the stuff to, rather than a mailbox somewhere?
YANNACONE: That's correct. She gave her home address in East Rutherford to have the items shipped to.
OLBERMANN: And what happens next? It's been described that she's probably not facing jail time?
YANNACONE: Well, basically, she has no criminal history. She's had no run-in with the law in New Jersey. And she basically could be facing two to five years of jail time, but because it's her first offense, essentially, she might not actually get any jail time out of it. Could be probation or fines.
OLBERMANN: What happens to the stuff?
YANNACONE: We've contacted all the companies that sent the merchandise, and we're making arrangements to have them—have UPS or FedEx come to our headquarters, pick up the items and return to sender.
OLBERMANN: They'll get their used lingerie back. Detective Sergeant Jeff Yannacone of East Rutherford, New Jersey's police department, Great. Thanks for coming in, sir.
YANNACONE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Why didn't I think of any of that?
An easy segue tonight into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And oh, for the days when celebrities merely went to the capitals of countries with which we were at war instead of hosting reality shows or doing infomercials for zit cream. Good old Jane Fonda, back at the anti-war barricades anew. The actress says she plans to take a cross-country bus tour to call for an end of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The bus will, she explains, run on vegetable oil. Oh, boy.
Promoting her autobiography in Santa Fe, Fonda said that war veterans have encouraged her to break her silence on Iraq. Quote, “I've decided I'm coming out.” Ms. Fonda has not publicly protested a war since Vietnam. A Vietnam veteran, though, did spit chewing tobacco in her face during a book signing in April of this year. But her announcement that she plans to join the current anti-war movement was met by that New Mexico crowd with cheers.
And another tour planned by another entertainer, this one Ricky Martin. His cause, fighting Arab stereotypes. Speaking to teenagers from 16 different mainly Arab countries at a youth conference in Jordan, Martin vowed to become their advocate, to, quote, “defend you and try to get rid of any stereotypes.” He says he has been the victim of stereotypes himself. The 15 to 16-year-old children were concerned about being seen as terrorists by the West.
Martin, who will be going on another tour on behalf of the U.N., may be able to sneak the message in between live performances of “Shake Your Bon-Bon” and “She Bangs.”
Where is William Hung when you need him?
And while we have previously expressed concern here over the breeding habits of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, one thing is no longer in doubt. As a dad, Federline stinks. Kevin Federline forgot his own son's birthday, Kaleb, one of Federline's two children with his previous girlfriend, Char Jackson, the actress. The kid did not receive a visit nor a present, not even a phone call from dear old dad, that according to a spokesperson for Mom, Ms. Jackson.
Ms. Jackson has previously accused Federline of not paying child support. Good news for Mr. Federline for later, when he and Ms. Spears inevitably separate, she's carrying a pair of Federline children right now, Twins. So if he can remember just one of their birthdays, he will double the number of kids he doesn't disappoint.
See how that works?
Maybe Mr. Federline would like to do everybody a favor and try this. We'll introduce to you what they call swooping—“they” being those who survive it.
That's ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.” Kind of a grim edition tonight. One of the permanent residents is back, Bill O'Reilly, caught lying on air again, told his audience that our sister network, CNBC, would not provide him with a statement about an interview Donny Deutsch conducted on the air there, but CNBC had already issued the statement. O'Reilly just didn't like it, so he pretended it didn't happen.
You know, just like the rest of the stuff on his show.
Then there's Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London. You know, it is one thing when plainclothes police chase and kill an innocent man on his way to work because they think he's a suicide bomber. But did Livingstone really have to say, quote, “This tragedy has added another victim to the toll of deaths for which the terrorists bear responsibility”?
You don't think the cops bear some of the responsibility, pal?
But the winner for this same event, the news media. And I am putting my picture up there because I did this, too. When the police in London said Friday that they'd killed that poor man because he had strong connections to the failed bomb attempts on Thursday, we all just assumed that they knew what they were doing. They didn't. And neither did we. We all just bought their story.
Well, that won't happen again. Not here.
OLBERMANN: Going back to Roman times—you know, gladiators or people fighting wild animals—our collective rationalization about sports has pretty much been predicated on this: If we watchers have our lives risked because of the activity, the people supporting that activity should be jailed, sued, run out of town and have their heads epoxyed to the floor. But if the competitors have their lives risked because of the activity, woo-hoo! Pull up a chair and spend part of your Monday evening with us! You know, like auto racing.
Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN: Well, this makes auto racing look no more dangerous than pricing cars in a showroom. And by comparison, it makes Russian roulette seem like a house game. It's called swooping. As our correspondent, Peter Alexander, reports from Lake Elsinor in California, it's kind of like suicide without the certainty.
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Swooping is a sport where the goal simply is to stay alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mind is just so focused at saving my own life, building up as much speed as I can, barreling myself towards the earth, but recovering the canopy just inches above the ground. If you had a cannon loaded on the back of a truck, flying down the freeway, and then you shot yourself out of that...
ALEXANDER: That would be like swooping, a radical form of skydiving, plunging vertically 70 miles an hour kamikaze-style, then a split-second maneuver, dodging death, avoiding brutal impact by swooping horizontally over water. Jonathan Tagle (ph) and his buddies are among the first generation of swoopers. Their sport, invented by a handful of daredevils only nine years ago, will soon be considered for the Olympics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right on, bro!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm breathing heavy right now, shaking a little bit. Yes, it's full-on, fast, high-speed, adrenaline pumping. Oh, it's a rush, man!
ALEXANDER: Swooping is not your father's sky-diving. These bad boys fly much smaller, rectangular, high-tech parachutes that scream from the sky. Swooping has literally taken off at centers like Skydive Elsinor in California.
(on camera): Another big difference, these guys jump at only 5,000 feet, not the usual 13,000 feet. Swoopers call it a “hop and pop,” quickly deploying their chutes. Here it's less about the dive, more about the landing.
(voice-over): The wild world of swooping is dominated by guys in their 20s and 30s, seeking this thrill at any cost.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within the skydiving industry, the main cause of death is low turns close to the ground, and that's exactly what we're doing.
ALEXANDER: Every year, swoopers crash, wipe out, get hurt, even die.
(on camera): Is it worth the risk?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, as you can tell! Definitely, it is worth the risk.
ALEXANDER: Are you guys crazy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not crazy. We may be a little on the edge, slightly disturbed?
ALEXANDER (voice-over): Well, a little too crazy for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to tear it up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no doubt we are.
ALEXANDER: But my new swooping crew wouldn't let me off the hook completely. They wanted me to feel 120 mile-an-hour wind on my face. On this much safer tandem jump, my first-ever dive, I experienced a tiny taste of the swoopers' rush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yo!
ALEXANDER (on camera): Oh, my gosh!
(voice-over): Now I get it. For swoopers, the radical dives, those outrageous landings, don't defy death, they celebrate life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to push. You've got to push the boundaries. You've got to see where that edge is. And I think that's when you feel alive.
ALEXANDER: Peter Alexander, NBC News, Lake Elsinor, California.
OLBERMANN: Yes, feel alive—for the time being. It's morons on TV.
And they want to, by the way, get it into the Olympics.
That's COUNTDOWN. I'm Keith Olbermann. Especially in that context, keep your knees loose. Good night, and good luck.
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