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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Aug. 17

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest: Dr. Kirsten Edmiston, Dr. David Forrest, Anthony Shaffer

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Could we have stopped 9/11?  Whether or not the asking of that question has yet peaked, only history will be able to tell us.

But tonight, an Army intelligence officer still on active duty, and thus risking his career by talking, will tell us how he and his team identified Mohammed Atta and three of the other hijackers by name more than a year before the attacks.  And he will insist his group was prevented from informing the FBI by Army lawyers.

Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Operation Able Danger, and Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer.

The nightmare in England.  That suspected suicide bomber was not running from the cops, he was running for his train.

The Gaza evacuations, violence, and an Israeli prime minister who decries, quote, “Jewish terror.”

The terror of BTK.  The sentencing hearing begins for Dennis Rader.

And alien abductions.  The big eyes, the bright saucerlike objects, the probing, and the psychiatrist who thinks he knows what the victims are actually remembering.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

No pivotal event in human history is ever really over, in a sense.  Revised versions of who knew what when still emerge for the Kennedy assassination, for Pearl Harbor, for the crucifixion.

Barring the invention of time travel, we may never know for sure.  And even then, there‘d probably be revisionist history about time travel.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, why shouldn‘t all that be also true about 9/11?  About a secret U.S. military operation called Able Danger that supposedly ID‘d Mohammed Atta in 2000, that has only been ID‘d by the man who was its liaison to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer?  He joins us in a moment.

First, his story, parts which of you have heard previously from Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon, and while in 2000 and 2001, he tried three times to get information about al Qaeda suspects in America into the hands of the FBI, that the meetings kept getting canceled by military lawyers, fearful the Army would be seen as using its resources against civilians who were in this country legally, and that those suspects eventually ended up hijacking planes on 9/11.

According to the commission set up specifically to investigate the attacks, only two of the 19 hijackers, Khalid al-Midar and Nowath al-Hasmi (ph), were on the intelligence radar.  But according to Colonel Shaffer, Able Danger had identified four of them, even had pictures of them, including the ringleader, Mohammed Atta.

Colonel Shaffer said he shared information about this missed opportunity with members of the 9/11 commission when they traveled to Afghanistan in October 2003.  He was there.  But commissioners say they do not recall any mention of Atta in that meeting, and say there was no reference to him in the Able Danger documents handed over to the commission by the Department of Defense.

The Pentagon says its inquiry is ongoing, but, quote, “It‘s too early to comment on findings related to the program identified as Able Danger.”

I‘m joined now by Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer. Colonel Shaffer, good evening.  Thanks for your time.

LT. COL. ANTHONY SHAFFER, U.S. ARMY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER:  Good evening.  Thank you for having me.  I appreciate it.

OLBERMANN:  The remnants of the 9/11 commission pretty much dismissed this information as irrelevant historically.  Congressman Weldon has been, in some quarters, dismissed as a loose cannon, even by a lot of conspiracy theorists and cynics about 9/11.  What corroboration or documentation exists?  What do you have?  What do you know exists, that all this information about Atta and the others really was available as far back as 2000?

SHAFFER:  Well, the data itself we‘re looking for, that‘s one of the issues that clearly the Department of Defense is working to resolve.  I met with Dr. Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and Colonel Schwartz, the director of the Joint Staff, where they assured me, and I‘m working with them to try to find where some of these documents ended up.

The issue of where they might else—where these documents may be, also, we‘re still also trying to figure out where they might have ended up.  We don‘t know at this point in time.

What we do know is, there‘s other folks who have already talked to Congressman Weldon and myself, and those folks were my colleagues, who also worked in Able Danger, who actually handled the documents.  In one case, one of the doctors, one of the scientists who put the technology together which actually resulted in this identification, is also willing at some point to come forward here.

And we‘re working right now to make sure that these people can come out without jeopardizing their careers.

OLBERMANN:  So you are hoping for or expecting additional verification from people who will come forward, who were connected to Operation Able Danger?

SHAFFER:  I am certain that this will be verified.  There‘s just too many people who do know about this, although it was a very tightly held operation.  It was very tightly focused, lot of them—not a lot of people knew about it, but there‘s enough who did know about it and were aware of what the findings were, the critical findings regarding the Atta and the other terrorists, which were what we identified to be as part of the Brooklyn cell.

OLBERMANN:  Without the hindsight of what we knew about Atta and the others and what they did, how important did you and that team think in 2000 that that information was?  How emphatic were you about trying to get to the FBI?

SHAFFER:  I‘m not going to say that we knew by some divine measure that something was about to happen.  The entire government at that point in time really wasn‘t equipped, or in any sort of (INAUDIBLE) to think that something was about to happen.

So the way it was approached was, this is a planning exercise, which we need to look at this as a group that has hit the United States, they have bombed embassies, and we need to look at them as a target which maybe will be planning things against us.

But honestly, most people thought it would be overseas, not in the United States.

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t mean to merge entirely your account with this with the one that Congressman Weldon has been very public about this summer, but perhaps you can clear up two details that are floating around about the supposed 2000 identification that had befuddled and made some of the experts in this field doubtful or dubious.

SHAFFER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  The connection between Atta and this Brooklyn reference, when the only terror cell known to have been connected to Brooklyn, New York, was connected to the millennium bombing plot...

SHAFFER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  ... and then the idea that the Able Danger documents may have contained a photo of Atta, long before there was one of him in the files of the Florida Department of Transportation, which would have been the summer of 2000.  Do you know anything about those two specific points?

SHAFFER:  The points of data that were assembled as part of the research was done by the Land Information Warfare Activity Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.  It was their databases which was the central starting point for this whole exercise, 2.5 terabytes of information.  That came from every single available open source that is out there.  That‘s commercial, that‘s private, that you can buy into.  That‘s everything you can put together, and then—and merged together, and then using the software to pick up data points.

Any terrorist who exists has a profile, essentially.  The original bombers of the World Trade Center had a profile.  If you take those data points and say, These guys are terrorists, this is what they look like, and you compare that to the existing databases, and use smart-search tools, this is what you can do.  You can find a pattern which emerges and say, These guys fit this pattern.  This is similar.

And that‘s when you have to take that information and give to it an analyst for verification and vetting.

That‘s what happened in the case of this information.  It wasn‘t a single one-time event.  It was a series of processing of these databases, which then emerged this data out for to us analyze.  That‘s where the information actually came from.

OLBERMANN:  In the story today in “The New York Times,” that newspaper quoted you as saying that when the meetings between military intelligence and the FBI kept getting canceled four and five years ago—let me read the quote exactly, “I was at the point of near-insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued.”

Apparently you are risking at least some damage to your active career now to pursue this now.  When none of this was included in any of the various reports of the 9/11 commission, why didn‘t you go public then?  And ultimately, if it was critical enough for you to be on the verge of insubordination, why didn‘t you say something about it?  I‘m not trying to blame you for the way things turned out, but why did you not go public with this, say, in the summer of 2000, saying, We have these guys that we‘ve fingered here, and they‘re part of a group you probably never heard of called al Qaeda, but they‘re a danger to us right here, right now?

SHAFFER:  Well, two—first off, I think you believe—I believe you‘re mixing apples and oranges.  The insubordination comment came when we were directed to pull out of Able Danger.  What we were trying to do at the time was use the information in 2000 for some useful purpose.  If we couldn‘t use it, we wanted to pass to the FBI.  So that‘s one critical point.

Second critical point is that next year, when we were—there was an effort to shut it down, we said, We need to maintain this because there‘s useful information, there‘s useful processes here that we need to look at.  That‘s part two.

Now, after 9/11, my colleague, who created the technology, gave Congressman Weldon a copy of that chart that had the al Qaeda information on it.  Congressman Weldon took that and gave it to Stephen Hadley.  My colleague was with the congressman when it happened.  That‘s the other point.

So I believed at that point in time, things were going to start getting fixed.

The next time I had an opportunity to speak about this was when the 9/11 commission actually visited Bagram, Afghanistan, where I volunteered, through my chain of command, with their approval.  And that‘s when I tried once more to tell them about the information.

OLBERMANN:  Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, formerly the liaison between Able Danger and the Defense Intelligence Agency, great thanks for the detail and time—and your time tonight, sir.

SHAFFER:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Word of another case of what is either a pre-9/11 missed warning or a post-9/11 case of retroactive prescience, this one coming from the State Department.  When Osama bin Laden was expelled from Sudan and relocated to Afghanistan in 1996, analysts warned the Clinton administration that his new base would make him even more dangerous.

But that administration decided not to interfere with the move, even though, according to newly declassified documents obtained by “The New York Times,” the State Department believed his that, quote, “His prolonged stay in Afghanistan, where hundreds of Arab mujahadeen receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate, could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum,” Khartoum being the Sudanese capital.

The Bush administration cautioning tonight that its predecessor‘s decision should be viewed in the context of 1996, not with the hindsight provided by 9/11.  Also, when Clinton authorized attacks on bin Laden‘s terror camps in the summer of 1998, many dismissed those attacks as diversions from the domestic politics of the time.

And new evidence that bin Laden‘s protege, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, might now be operationally where bin Laden may have been in 1996, on the verge of expansion.  After having thwarted an al Qaeda plan to attack cruise ships in Turkey, intelligence officials there arrested Lowi Sakra (ph), who‘s been described by U.S. intelligence officials as an external operations chief for Zarqawi.

Apparently the pair have a personal relationship, so Sakra‘s involvement in the planned Attacks in Turkey is now being seen by some analysts as further evidence that Zarqawi is exporting his operations out of Iraq into the greater Middle East and even into Europe.

Speaking of, lastly on this topic, London has been rocked again, not this time by bombs but rather by revelations.  He was an ordinary passenger.  His jacket was denim, not padded.  He had walked leisurely into a subway station.  He had not leapt over the turnstile.  And he was not running to board a train so he could blow it up.  He only began running when he saw his train waiting on the track.

So police wound up shooting him seven times in the head.  The awful truths of July 22 at Stockwell Tube station, from correspondent Ray Stewart of our affiliated British network, ITV.


RAY STEWART, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The catalog of mistakes started here, during a surveillance operation at a block of flats in south London, supposedly containing terror suspects.  One officer was supposed to film suspects if they left the building, but he didn‘t get a picture of Mr.  De Menezes when he came out the front door.  Why?  He was otherwise engaged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (reading):  “As he walked out of my line of vision, I checked the photographs and transmitted that it would be worth somebody else having a look.  I should point out that as I observed, this male exited the block.  I was in the process of relieving myself.  At this time, I was not able to transmit my observations and switch on the video camera at the same time.  There was therefore no video footage of this male.”

STEWART:  If he‘d managed to get a picture of Jean-Charles, other officers may have realized he wasn‘t one of the men they wanted.  Instead, he was followed to Stockwell Tube Station, where further mistakes were made.  Initial police reports suggested he was wearing a suspiciously bulky jacket, that he‘d jumped the ticket barrier and ran onto the train.

We now know none of that is true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (reading):  “CCTV has captured De Menezes entering the station at normal walking pace, collecting a free “Metro” newspaper from a paper rack, and slowly descend on the elevator.  At some point near the bottom, he is seen to run across the concourse and enter the carriage before sitting in an available seat.

“Almost simultaneously, armed officers were provided with positive identification.”

STEWART:  One officer had Mr. De Menezes under control before he was killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (reading):  “I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side.  I then pushed him back onto the seat where he had been previously sitting.  I then heard a gunshot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage.”

STEWART:  Several shots later, Jean-Charles De Menezes was dead.

But why doesn‘t this tally with what the police claimed at the time?

Here‘s what the police commissioner said soon after the shooting.

SIR IAN BLAIR, METROPOLITAN POLICE CHIEF:  As I understand the situation, the man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions.

STEWART:  The reality, we now know, is that no challenges were issued, and no instructions given by officers.  And it‘s now emerging that Sir Ian Blair appealed to the government to let the police investigate the shooting rather than outsiders.  The home secretary gave a very firm no.

Ray Stewart, ITV News.


OLBERMANN:  From terror to horror.  The sentencing hearing begins for the confessed BTK killer.  Stark, terrible testimony from crime-scene detective, “LIVE AND DIRECT,” from Wichita.

And the modern exodus from Gaza.  Despite the turmoil and clashes, the Israeli army actually says the evacuation there appears to be ahead of schedule.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  It is something out of the worst conceivable summer horror movie, in detail that Alfred Hitchcock would have found unbearable, and at which Edgar Allan Poe might have blanched.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN is most horrifying in this simple truth, it is no film, it is all too terribly real.  In a Wichita, Kansas, courtroom today, the sentencing hearing began for Dennis Rader, the confessed BTK killer.

Outside that courtroom in Wichita is the host of MSNBC‘s “LIVE AND DIRECT,” Rita Cosby.  Good evening, Rita.

RITA COSBY, HOST, “LIVE AND DIRECT”:  Good evening, Keith.

It was one of the most emotional and stunning days in court ever seen.  Dennis Rader, who confessed to binding, torturing, and killing 10 people, sat there stoically.  He was sitting in a blue suit, sipping water and occasionally writing down notes as he listened to detectives recounting what he‘d said about himself and his gruesome crimes, which terrorized this community for three decades.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  During this, did you get a feeling as to whether or not Mr. Rader was sorry about what he had done?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And would it be fair to say that Mr. Rader was actually very proud of what he had done?

SNYDER:  Yes.  He commented to me at one point, I‘m sorry, I know this is a human being, but I‘m a monster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did he tell you what Josie was doing as she watched what he was doing to her family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She was, you know, screaming for her mother, and as you can only imagine, and I remember how he kind of callously said, you know, She was over there yelling, you know, Mama, Mama, Mama, something like that.  And...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And during the interview, he actually mimicked a little girl yelling Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.  Is that correct?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that was how he explained to you what little Josie was doing when she was watching her family be murdered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s correct.


COSBY:  Hmm.  And detectives also showed some crime scene photos, you can see some there, which showed how Rader often strangled his victims with rope and also panty hose as they begged for their lives.

Family members who lost loved ones were overwhelmed to hear the horrible details, but were cautioned by the prosecutor beforehand that the torture and suffering that Rader caused must be known, so the judge, who could rule on his sentencing as early as tomorrow, could determine that this man, who is not eligible for the death penalty because it wasn‘t reinstated here in Kansas until 1995 after his crimes, but he is eligible for life in prison, and that is what the prosecutors are seeking, that he will not have the option for parole.

And Keith, just about 45 minutes from now, we‘re going to have our show live from here.  We‘re going to talk to some of those family members who have to recount that day.  And they‘re also going to tell us what they will say tomorrow, because tomorrow it is their day in court.  They‘ll be able to confront Dennis Rader, and he will also have a chance to say something to them.  We‘re told he‘s going to apologize to the family, although nothing he can say will make up for what he did to them.

Go ahead.

OLBERMANN:  Rita Cosby at Wichita, Kansas, this evening, thanks.

It is a huge and searing story.  And as she mentioned, Rita will have it in depth immediately following COUNTDOWN.  Rita Cosby, “LIVE AND DIRECT” from Wichita, at the top of the hour.

A much-needed relief from that kind of criminal justice to the other kind.  We resume the daily dance between the good guys and the bad guys on the streets of the United States of America.

And the race to avert lung cancer, or to diagnose it early enough.  Lung CAT scans could be a key component for finding tumors.  But there‘s a catch.   We will explain it ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, just in time for the high-flying hard drive, an action-packed weird news portion of the program.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Haven‘t had one of these in a while.  California, the COUNTDOWN car chase of the week.  What we‘ve got here is a hot pursuit of a stolen vehicle at dangerously high speeds through the streets of downtown Hollywood.  Checking the Oddball scoreboard for the year, we can see speed gets you nowhere, ‘cause it‘s cops 47, guys who think they can escape the cops, nada.

And when they drive like this, it‘s only a matter of time till they join the sorry saps on the losing end of that equation, if they don‘t kill themselves or someone else first.  Those are stop signs, loser.  They mean stop.

No.  I told you.  Now, stay out of the road.  Don‘t get out of the car now.  Don‘t get out—don‘t --  See, I think they‘re going to wing you with you the door of the police --  He‘s all right, unfortunately.  No one injured in the spectacular crash, except the moron behind the wheel.  And there‘ll be plenty of time for his minor injuries to heal up nicely, where he‘s going, the Big House.

To New Zealand.  A.J. Hackett, looking to break into the record books by leaping off the top of the 765-foot Macau Tower, the 10th-tallest tower in the world.  Thousands of spectators gathered to see Hackett perform this amazing feat.  They were all probably as disappointed as we were when we realized his record will actually be for, quote, “world‘s highest commercial decelerator descent.”  Huh?  He‘s got wires?

Oh, well, that‘s still kinda cool, I guess.  I don‘t know that we necessarily needed to send a camera crew to New Zealand for it.

Finally, it‘s a rare treat that we‘re given the opportunity to witness a Norwegian military commander reviewing the troops.  This was the scene from Scotland today as the honorary colonel-in-chief Niles Olaf walked the line of the elite Norwegian Royal Guard.  A very ceremonious affair, as stoic soldiers standing at attention in their dress blues, the medals glinting in the afternoon sun.

The colonel seems to be wearing a tuxedo, some --  Not a very tall man, is he?  Wait.  Is that a penguin?

Shh, don‘t ask, don‘t tell.

Also tonight, mixed reports on the Israeli evacuations of settlements in Gaza.  More face-off between settlers and soldiers.  But the army says everything is actually ahead of schedule.

And the battle to survive in Baghdad, the aftermath of a sequenced triple bombing.  And the daily struggle to beat the heat without any electricity, or at least without any reliable electricity.

More on those stories ahead.

First, now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, our friends over at “Playgirl.”  What‘s sexy in a a man?  they asked their women readers.  Forty-seven percent said chest hair, 42 percent said love handles were kind of sexy.

No, they didn‘t.  Love handles staged a campaign and stuffed the ballot box --  Oh, no, that was me.

Number two, Bobby Bragan, an argumentative major league baseball manager from 1957 through 1966.  He managed the minor league Fort Worth Cats last night, thus giving him claim to be the oldest manager in b history, at 87 years, nine months, and 17 days.  And he got ejected in the game in the third inning by the umpires in the—for arguing.

And number one, Avis Pilcher, Fort Smith, Arkansas, who was a good Samaritan and then some.  Awakened by screams in her home in the middle of the night, 78-year-old Avis helped 29-year-old Joseph McQuaid stop the blood spurting from his wrist.  She called police, she got him help, even though he had, A, cut his wrists while breaking into her car outside, and B, gotten into her home to ask for her help by kicking in her front door.


OLBERMANN:  It has proved to be like most every other thing in the world.  Both better and worse than expected.  Our third story in the “Countdown,” the turmoil of the Middle East and its impact here.  We begin with day two of Israel‘s evacuation of its settlement along the Gaza Strip.  Evacuations that provoked violence that was condemned by Israel‘s prime minister as quote, “Jewish terror.”  These are also evacuations that the Israeli military says are ahead of schedule and going fairly well.  Our correspondent on the scene is Martin Fletcher. 


MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Jacob and his children believe God commanded them to live here. 

Now they‘re being forced into exile. 

Where will you go now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We don‘t know.  We have no house now. 

FLETCHER:  Today 14,000 Israeli troops cleared out six Jewish settlements in Gaza. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Unfortunately, it looks like my country is getting smaller and smaller. 

FLETCHER:  So some extreme settlers are fighting back.  In the West Bank, a settler shot and killed four Arabs.  Why? To stop the disengagement from Gaza, he said. 

This West Bank settler set herself on fire in protest.  She‘s in critical condition. 

And a protester threw an egg at a government minister. 

In the synagogue, of the remaining settlements, the faithful called on the Lord for a miracle.  While outside, youngsters taunted and cursed the troops.  For most of the day, they stood and took it.  Getting attacked physically was too much for them. 

FLETCHER(on camera):  It seems that now this is a moment of truth.  This is the special police SWAT team and apparently they‘re going to move in. 

FLETCHER (voice-over):  Just one minute later—

Don‘t touch me, she screams! I‘m a woman.  Let me stay.  Their anguish is shared by many soldiers who agree with the settlers, but say they‘re just following orders. 

Here, a soldier comforts a sobbing settler.  Then the soldier cries, too.  And collapses.  Now the settler comforts the soldier.  They‘re old school friends.  A nation torn. 

In a nearby settlement, residents leave peacefully, but in pain. 

And there‘s no comforting this old Rabbi who carries the Holy Torah to begin a new life, somewhere.  Martin Fletcher, NBC News, Neveh Dekalim, Gaza.


OLBERMANN:  And in the third August since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, life no less unsettling there.  The people of Iraq still struggling for survival.  Just getting through the day alive is a victory, never mind the hardship of basic necessities that have become rare luxuries. 

This day in Iraq beginning with a chilling series of attacks that killed at least 43 and wounded scores more.  No less than synchronized murder. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)           

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Bomb number one hitting this Baghdad bus station packed with waiting passengers during the morning rush.  Just as rescuers were carrying the wounded to what they thought was safety, a second car bomb went off.  Only minutes later, a third explosion outside the nearby hospital to which the injured were being transported. 

The deadliest attack in weeks and one of the most savage yet even by the standards of pre- or post-war Iraq. 


OLBERMANN:  It is time to fess up that we in the media have often down played stories of the American rebuilding of the infrastructure of Iraq.  Not for the reasons many critics of the media assume, but because to be accurate and fair, every time we would report on a school opening somewhere, we would have to report that two years and five months after our troops got there, electricity—the mother‘s milk of stability—is still an off and on proposition in the nation‘s largest city.  The overpowering issue of power as reported by our correspondent in Baghdad, Mike Boettcher. 


MIKE BOETTCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Power is everything in Baghdad.  Electrical, not political, that is.  With everything else that makes daily life a daily challenge here.  Bombs, trigger-happy security forces, and sporadic running water.  Power is by far issue number one. 

In the central market where the dull roar of commerce pierces the hot, heavy air, the busiest man around is the generator mechanic.  Two years after the U.S. began its occupation of Iraq, reliable sufficient electrical power is nonexistent for hours a day for most in Baghdad. 

U.S. efforts to build new generating plants and prevent insurgent attacks on the power grid have so far failed.  The problem dominates every aspect of life.  This man, like his neighbor, was forced to buy a small generator, only big enough to run a couple of fans.  It stopped running again and he has been waiting hours to get it fix. 

My day is like any other Iraqi citizen‘s day, he says.  It starts bad and gets worse. 

Just as it does for this policeman, who after spending hours in 130-degree heat, trying to unsnarl Baghdad‘s unruly traffic, finds no respite at the end of the day. 

We suffer from the heat all day long on the street, he says, and when we get back home, we find the same thing.  There is no electricity.  Without electricity to power the fans, this kitchen is an oven.  A testament to the heat.  Her candles, well, wilted.  Using the only reliable way of cooling down, she and her husband explained that it doesn‘t get any better after sunset when the temperatures are still above 90 degrees.  We don‘t sleep on the roof because it is too dangerous.  Too many stray bullets, she explains.  Then there are the choppers.  They are too noisy.  I‘m using pills to sleep. 

No wonder tempers flare.  No sleep at night, no rest during the day, there are lines to stand in.  A government employee waited three hours to buy gas for his car.  The former tyrant is gone, he said, referring to Saddam Hussein, but it is replaced by another, inefficient one. 

In a cranky and sweltering Baghdad, it looks like only an early winter can end the summer of discontent. 


OLBERMANN:  Just today, the International Monetary Fund has reported that Iraqi motorists enjoy some of the world‘s cheapest gasoline, as little as a nickel a gallon.  Of course as Mike Boettcher just reported from Baghdad, a fat lot of good that will do you when you have to wait three hours for it. 

More than 7,000 miles away, the shock waves of that conflict continuing to reverberate all the way from Crawford, Texas. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Just one day after her campsite on public ground was vandalized, hundreds of crosses honoring those killed in Iraq mowed down by a man with a grudge and a pickup truck.  Cindy Sheehan has accepted an offer to move to private land.  The offer, made by a Crawford Army veteran, named Fred Mattlage, who says he sympathizes with Sheehan.  Quote, “I don‘t think this is a war we need to be in.”  Mattlage‘s one-acre lot also brings Sheehan that much closer to the President.  Camp Casey now only a mile from the Bush grounds.  Sheehan joined for a time today by FBI whistle blower, Colleen Rowley, who is now democratic candidate for Congress in Minnesota. 



OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Also, tonight the continuing battle against lung cancer.  Are lung scans the key to detection?  The debate over that.  Plus our latest tips from our viewers to help you quit smoking. 



OLBERMANN (voice-over):  And a visit from beyond.  Aliens nabbing earthlings.  Ever wonder why all the stories of alien abduction sound kind of the same?

It is tough enough to get smokers to go for lung cancer screenings.  The disturbing secondary truth that x-rays don‘t catch all cancers has led to additional testing that finds more tumors more quickly.  But it also finds more false positives.  Our number two story on the “Countdown,” our continuing series, “I Quit.”  Our effort to help you and me wriggle out from under tobacco‘s oppressive thumb.  Some off-beat quitting tips submitted by viewers, in a moment.  First, Brian Moore‘s report on spiral CT lung scans. 


PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR:  I have learned in the last couple of days that I have lung cancer. 

BRIAN MOORE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After news broke that lung cancer took the life of ABC Anchorman Peter Jennings and threatened the life of Dana Reeve, the widow of actor Christopher Reeve, millions of Americans began questioning their own health.  And they began asking whether this relatively new diagnostic tool might be a life saver.  Spiral CT scans can detect lung tumors as small as a pea. 

DR. KIRSTEN EDMISTON, CANCER SPECIALIST:  And it‘s a technology that no one denies is more sensitive than chest X-ray.

MOORE:  Cancer specialists like Dr. Kirsten Edmiston say the scans can pick up small abnormalities that may or may not be life threatening.  The cancer specialists recommend that spiral CT‘s be reserved only for patients with high-risk backgrounds and not for routine screenings. 

EDMISTON:  Lung cancer screening by spiral CT isn‘t there yet.  It may be there.  And we hope that it will help.  But it is not there yet. 

MOORE:  Some doctors fear routine testing and the inevitable false positives will lead to a huge increase in biopsies and other procedures that are painful, expensive, and often unnecessary.  Some people say they‘re willing to pay for peace of mind. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Having two young kids, I would probably want to take advantage of the technology. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is better to know.  The sooner you know, the sooner you can do something.  It is better to catch it early. 

MOORE:  Doctors say this may well be the cancer-fighting tool of tomorrow, but one that for now has significant questions.  Brian Moore, NBC News, Washington. 


OLBERMANN:  The CT scan and the lung X-ray might or might not be of any use if you‘re not going to quit smoking anyway.  Let‘s resume our series of suggestions as to how to quit.  This time tapping into some of your experiences.

Erin Hayes (ph) writes us that she‘s tried everything.  For 15 years, tried cold turkey and the patch and cutting down slowly.  Planned quit dates as long as a few months away and the gum and carrying a list of reasons with her in case she felt herself being sucked back in.  She buried her cigarettes in her backyard, permitted herself to smoke only one per pack, giving the others away to the homeless, in fact. 

Crazier still, she once tried to substitute beer for tobacco.  Any time the craving hit, she had a brew instead.  That failed within 12 hours, she writes.  I was very drunk.  But the oddest, maybe the grossest idea has worked for her for a year.  To quit with the patch, third time with the patch, and a promise to eat three butts.  I saved an ashtray full of butts.  If I was going to smoke a cigarette, I would have to eat three butts from the ashtray first.  Then I could smoke one cigarette.  The night before my quit date, I smoked so much I actually threw up.  After that night, I never ate a single butt and haven‘t smoked since.  It has been a year and I have no cravings for cigarettes at all. 

You may have to resort to something like that.  Something that completely changes your perception of tobacco from friend and comfort to the worst thing in the world. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  There was that other suggestion we mentioned earlier in the series, get a big mason jar full of water and put a pack of cigarettes in it and watch the beautiful clear H2O slowly become poisoned by what is inside the pack.  And remember then that that‘s what‘s happening to you. 


OLBERMANN:  Gross! You bet.  Useful? Maybe.  Remember, there is a reason that when you are house-breaking your dog, you rub his nose in it. 

As always, we want your story.  How did you quit?  Was there a trick or gimmick that worked for you?  How do you stay clean?  Please e-mail it to us.  You can read other suggestions and experiences along with these reports on our “I Quit” Web site at 

Oddly enough a perfect segue tonight to the opening round-up of our entertainment news, Keeping Tabs.  That image of “Deep Throat” chain smoking as he slowly spilled the guts of Watergate to Bob Woodward and 33 years later, after “Throat” was identified as Mark Felt, Woodward‘s book about it is selling like cold cakes. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  The “New York Times” reporting that the sales of Woodward‘s, “The Secret Man,” have been quote, “underwhelming.”  They quote a book store operator in Washington who said he ordered 400 copies and has sold less than 70 copies.  Another in Iowa who ordered 50 and sold four.  Nationally, just 61,000 copies in its first five weeks, according to Neilson BookScan. 

By contrast, Woodward‘s book on the administration‘s preparations for Iraq, “Plan of Attack,” sold 183,000 copies in just its first week. 


OLBERMANN:  Still, it is doing better than Sly magazine.  The publication focused on Sylvester Stallone has reportedly been knocked out. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  The Web site of Women‘s Wear Daily reporting work has been halted on what would have been only the fourth issue of the fitness magazine for the 40 and over crowd.  Ad sales reportedly did not meet expectations.  No indication that this was caused by the fact there is a Sly magazine.  Or Sly, which is a magazine that in essence stars Sylvester Stallone.  There is also a Sly magazine which is a magazine that caters to women who like to buy shoes. 


OLBERMANN:  And lastly, James Doherty has died.  You may not recall his name, but you have probably heard of his first wife, Norma Jeane Doherty, maiden name Baker.  Professional name, Marilyn Monroe.


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  He  married the then 16-year-old daughter of a neighbor in southern California in 1942.  Within weeks, he went into the Merchant Marines and within two years, she began to supplement her work at a war production plant by modeling.  They were divorced in 1946.  He later became a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.  He was on the force when Marilyn Monroe died there in 1962.  He wrote a book about their brief marriage in 1974.  1997 -- rather. 

He died Monday of complications of leukemia, he was 84 years old. 



OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Also tonight, close encounters of the probing kind.  The experiments, the big eyes, inside the stories of alien abduction.  Is there really a simple explanation for this phenomenon?  That‘s ahead. 



OLBERMANN (voice-over):  First, time for Countdown‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the title of worst person in the world.   Nominated at the bronze level.   In coastal Scotland, police report that some of them while away the late summer afternoons by going to the cliffs and throwing rocks at the people who live and drive below.  A policeman warned them, playing near cliffs is dangerous, boys.   Why did you tell them, sir?

Also, the fine folks at Austin Community College in Texas.  Carl Basham (ph) said he was denied the state residence discount for tuition.   He has to pay $2,600 a semester instead of $500 because they say he spent too much time living out of state.   Well it‘s true, Carl has been away, serving he says, two tours in Iraq.  



OLBERMANN (voice-over):  But the winner, it‘s the irrepressible Rush Limbaugh.   On the radio, he said quote, “Cindy Sheehan is just Bill Burkett.   Her story is nothing more than forged documents.   There‘s nothing about it that‘s real.”  

I guess she made up that dead son in Iraq business!  He also referred to her supporters as dope-smoking FM types.  I guess the painkillers wipe out your memory along with your ethics.   Rush Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world!


OLBERMANN:  The various stories of alien abduction are so uniform that they‘re either true or they‘re all symptoms of some reasonably common phenomenon we haven‘t yet put our fingers on.  Our number one story on the Countdown tonight.

A letter to the editor printed by the “New York Times” yesterday may have hit the nail on the head.  Its author joins us in a moment.  First, the story.  


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  The extraterrestrials are invariably tall with big heads.  Their eyes are large.   And often the only feature you can see, the only one that‘s even distinguishable on their heads are those big eyes.   The aliens are often green from head to toe or all one color.  The aliens are conducting some medical or anthropological experiments.  They strap their human guinea pigs down to a table some of sort, often by invisible means.  

Despite the element of danger that that would suggest, the abducted victim somehow knows that the aliens mean them no harm.   Somehow they manage to diminish both the human‘s degree of consciousness and the pain that the subject should be feeling considering that he or she is invariably being probed.


OLBERMANN:  That is the old joke from Dave Foley and the Kids in the Hall goes 10 percent of the humans appear to like it. 

The stories of alien abduction vary slightly from alleged victim to alleged victim.  Almost always one or more of those elements is included.  Is there a simple explanation?  Dr. David Forrest has a theory. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  He‘s not only a psychiatrist and a professor at Columbia University, but he‘s also been a technical consultant for three of the recent “Star Trek” TV series.  Dr. Forrest, thanks for your time.  Good evening.

DR. DAVID FORREST:  Thank you for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  So, altered consciousness, you‘re surrounded by green or one-colored figures with big eyes.  It‘s a high-tech environment.  They mean well, they are probing or experimenting.   The part and parcel of the whole alien abduction thing.  What is it that you think these people are really remembering?

FORREST:  Well I think the similarities between the reports of the alien abduction experience and the experience of medical, surgical procedures are too numerous to ignore.   We have, of course, the altered state of consciousness which corresponds to anesthesia.   There‘s the mysterious green figures, which could be the surgeons in their green scrubs.   Their eyes are more prominent because you can only see their eyes above their surgical masks.   You‘re in a high-tech room with a round bright saucer-like object above you which could be the operating room light.  And, of course, your body‘s boundaries are being breached and probed. 

There‘s also frequently pain and in many cases the pain is being relieved by the alien figures.  There‘s a sense of loss of control and even a physical restraint is very common.  And then there‘s the inevitable humiliation, the nakedness of being exposed, being spread eagled in the sense of shame and humiliation.  Being probed and so forth.   Then there‘s also a great deal of changes in the heartbeat rhythm and the blood pressure.   These things are common to both situations.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  So people are in essence remembering either some operation that they‘ve had or possibly even one that they‘ve dreamt about or seen? Is that what you think that these things might be?

FORREST:  I think it‘s worth investigating for two practical reasons.   One is if we are causing this experience in a small, but vulnerable proportion of the population which still might number in the millions, it‘s important to know about it.  And furthermore, such people should not be ashamed and should bring it forth when they face medical or dental anesthesia and tell their doctors or anesthesiologists about it because once mental set in going into a procedure affects its outcome.

OLBERMANN:  The one thing here I guess if someone who believes in this would come back at and you say ah-ha!  Green figures, the surgeons in their green scrubs, surely the imagery of the little green men from mars pre-dates green as the primary color that surgeons wear in the O.R., doesn‘t it?

FORREST:  Surgeons don‘t always wear green.   We have blue at our hospital.   Sometimes the figures are gray.   But the little people in Ireland for example, the leprechauns are green.   I don‘t know whether green has any huge priority here.  The essential feature I think is the uniformity of their presentation.  They seem to be fairly identical and not identifiable one from one another.

OLBERMANN:  And the explanation about the eyes I think is spot on, but we should explain your letter to the “New York Times” to the weekly science section.  This was not just out of the blue, right?  There was a book on this subject reviewed in there that had offered another theory of this, correct?

FORREST (on camera):  Yes.  It did prompt my response and my review of the literature.   The book was written by Susan Clancy.   My booksellers tell me that it will be coming out just before Halloween.  

FORREST (voice-over):  And like the predecessor book by John McEnhard (ph), it started with the word, “abduction.”  Susan spoke about the preoccupation with paranormal and extraterrestrial life, history of having been hypnotized and sleep paralysis as the features that identify the syndrome. 

FORREST (on camera):  But I just think the medical situation has so many other indications that that‘s what we have to do.

OLBERMANN:  It could be all the above, but it‘s probably more likely to be that than people from other planets that like to probe humans.  Dr.  David Forrest of Columbia University, and the letters from the “New York Times” science section, thanks for your time tonight, sir.

FORREST:  You are most welcome.


OLBERMANN:  That‘s Countdown, I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose, good night and good luck. 



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