Guest: Richard Wolffe, Andre Wimer, Tasha Joseph
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS: ... the duties of the office on which I'm about to enter... ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... so help me God.
ROBERTS: ... so help me God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: One down, one to go. As the chief justice is sworn in, is the president about to swear by a Supreme Court nominee who's never even been a judge?
DeLay, day two. The Democrats answer his charges of political prosecution, and his successors' conduct comes into question. Married to a lobbyist? Father of a lobbyist?
Chatsworth, Redlands, Moreno Valley, they are the unlucky winners in this year's California lottery. It is brushfire season again. Those are the towns and cities threatened.
How long was New Orleans threatened by the 17th Street levee?
Exclusive details tonight on what looks like shoddy construction.
And the entry on the Web site tells the story. Originally from Aruba, has lived in Pittsburgh, married to me and another girl, and goes back and forth between Aruba and Pittsburgh. The warnings, for women, by women, about men who cheat. The Web site is called DontDateHimGirl.com.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
The new chief justice, and maybe another associate justice, of the Supreme Court in a moment.
But first, “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller, in jail these last three months for not revealing a source for a story she never wrote about the Valerie Plame-Joe Wilson leak investigation, is free tonight.
Pete Williams broke the story tonight and joins us now from Washington. Pete, good evening. What in the world happened?
PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Keith, she got out of jail at about 4:00 this afternoon, we're told, by a number of sources, including the Alexandria Jail itself, where she's been held for 86 days.
This is a picture of her going to jail with a smile on her face on July 6 after she refused a judge's order to discuss conversations with her source at the request, the request of discuss it, of Patrick Fitzgerald, who is the special prosecutor handling this case, the U.S. attorney in Chicago.
Now, as you say, she never wrote a story here. Nonetheless, the prosecutor said that she had information that could be useful to the grand jury and to his investigations. But she said she could not violate the confidence, the confidence through which she had the discussions with her source.
Now, what we are told late tonight, Keith, is that the source personally called her and gave her assurance that she no longer needed to protect the confidentiality of the source. She and her lawyers went to the judge and got a court order, and that's why she was released from jail.
Undoubtedly, she'll be back at the federal courthouse here in Washington before the judge tomorrow to see where we take it from here, what sort of questions she will answer.
But now, of course, she will have to answer questions. She's, in essence, agreed to, because she says there's no longer, we understand, any confidentiality to protect.
Now, Keith, the big question here is, what's special about now? Why did her source wait 86 days to call her, knowing full well she was in jail?
Now, she had always claimed that she couldn't go by the blanket statements that the White House asked people that were potentially under investigation to sign, saying that they would waive any confidentiality. She had always maintained in the past that those had the air of coercion about them, and that she couldn't honor them.
But there's a lot we don't know here tonight, Keith, like, why now?
What does it mean? All we know is, basically, she's out of jail.
OLBERMANN: And we certainly don't know who the source is, not formally. But I imagine, I infer from what you say, that sometime tomorrow we probably will know who that source is.
WILLIAMS: It is possible. I just don't know. I just—I mean, we've heard a lot of names, but I don't have it confirmed tonight.
OLBERMANN: Does it say anything? You mentioned the timing. Does it address at all the questions of the status of the investigation and whether the prosecutor might be acting, might be wrapping it up without acting, anything whatsoever on that?
WILLIAMS: You know, it's (INAUDIBLE) -- I guess no, is the quick answer to that question. I've asked people that question tonight too, and I've not gotten a satisfactory answer.
OLBERMANN: Anything regarding the buildup to this? Had it been the result of a series of negotiations? Was it as abrupt as it seems to have come out in your reporting on this?
WILLIAMS: That's an excellent question. I don't know the answer to that one either.
WILLIAMS: I've asked the question, but I—but tonight, we are not hearing a lot about this, other than the bare details.
OLBERMANN: I'm happy to be—to share your lack of knowledge on this particular subject.
The drama of Miller going to jail when Cooper did not, the entire question of whether someone who had been seemingly sympathetic to the administration, perhaps going to prison over protecting the—an administration source, the irony of that, all of it being tied together. Any of those mysteries, do you suspect, will be unthreaded for us if we find out who that source is...
WILLIAMS: Well, (INAUDIBLE)...
OLBERMANN: ... if that comes out tomorrow?
WILLIAMS: Yes, I—although I suspect it will be somewhat simpler than that. I doubt that the politics will come into it. But yes, I think it all will be unthreaded, and perhaps as early as tomorrow. And, of course, during her 86 days in jail, she was visited by many luminaries and supporters, journalists, Tom Brokaw from NBC, prominent journalists from “The New York Times,” columnists, all people who supported her cause.
And among the visitors to her in the Alexandria Jail was Bob Dole, the former senator, presidential candidate, who felt it was improper that she was jailed, and he wrote an op-ed piece saying that it was time that there should be a better and tighter reporter shield law.
So the whole question of Judith Miller, and, to some extent, Matt Cooper, has reenergized the debate about whether that should happen. And there are member of Congress who are interested in pursuing it.
OLBERMANN: Interestingly, Ms. Miller managed to preempt, at least at this hour, the news that we had intended to discuss with you tonight, the new chief justice, the 17th chief justice of the United States and his—it wasn't rapid, it certainly wasn't a surprise, but it did all occur today, his confirmation and his swearing in.
WILLIAMS: It did. And when it happened, there was drama in it, Keith, as it unfolded in the Senate and at the White House.
The (INAUDIBLE) -- swearing-in ceremony at the White House, Keith, the chief justice Roberts standing there with John Paul Stevens. John Roberts, who now becomes the youngest chief justice in about 200 years, sworn in today by John Paul Stevens, the most senior justice, and the oldest member of the court at 85.
The vote was 78 to 22 today, Keith. He got the entire body of Republicans in the Senate and half the Democrats. So it was—that was the only drama coming in today was, how many Democratic votes he would get. And now we know the answer.
Tomorrow, he'll show up at the Supreme Court for the first time as a member of the court. He's been there many times as an advocate before the court and as a clerk. But now, this former clerk will take the center seat, and the court, of course, opens for oral argument on Monday. But he'll be there tomorrow for the first time as a justice.
OLBERMANN: His time, first time as a justice, and perhaps, if “The New York Times,” we circle back to Ms. Miller's newspaper here, if what “The New York Times” reported this morning is correct, could be joined at some point by another—an associate justice who has never been a judge before. What do we know about the prospects of a nominee to replace Justice O'Connor?
WILLIAMS: Well, it'll be a much tougher battle, of course, for the White House this time, because before, you were replacing a conservative with a conservative. Now, you're replacing Sandra Day O'Connor, who's been the moderate vote.
The president has several choices. He could decide to appoint a woman. And if he does, there are several candidates that have been mentioned, many of them federal judges, one of them who is not. That's Harriet Miers, who is the White House counsel now, a long-time Bush confidante.
She did some legal work for him when he was governor, private legal work, and then she became a member of his staff. They'd worked together for many years. She came to the White House when he got elected as what's known as the staff secretary, the person who looks at every piece of paper that heads for the president's desk. And then, briefly, she worked in domestic policy. Now she is the White House counsel, having replaced Alberto Gonzales.
Which leads me to the second category of people, Hispanics. The president may choose a number of federal judges, or Gonzales. The third possibility is members of other minority group. And finally, we're told, don't leave anybody out. Be inclusive when you talk about who might be nominees, including other white males.
OLBERMANN: The president just got scalded, day after day, for at least two weeks, because his former head of FEMA had no prior emergency management experience. Would he really appoint somebody, and go to bat for somebody, and use what political capital he has left in a controversial situation, who has never been a judge to the Supreme Court? Or am I guilty, Pete, of thinking too linear again?
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, there's no question that she—if you're talking about Harriet Miers (INAUDIBLE)...
OLBERMANN: I am, yes.
WILLIAMS: ... there's no question that -- And remember, there'd been some suggestion early on that perhaps the president would choose a U.S. senator who didn't have any judicial experience. But that would be, I think you would agree, a different matter in the Senate.
But Harriet Miers obviously has a lot of legal experience. She's long been a lawyer, first, a woman president of the state bar association in Texas. So she's—she knows legal issues, she's an experienced litigator. This is not be the chief justice position, where court administration experience or experience as a judge would be handier.
I think you're right. I think the bar would be higher for someone who doesn't have judicial experience.
And the other thing is, Karl Rove, we're told, was on Capitol Hill earlier this week telling members of the Senate that the next nominee would be someone who had judicial experience at the court of appeals level. If the president is still thinking in those terms, that would seem to let Harriet Miers out.
And let out another person too, and that is Maureen Mahoney, who is a very experienced litigator here in Washington, argued the University of Michigan affirmative action case, a very bright person, an experienced Supreme Court advocate, a Supreme Court clerk for William Rehnquist, someone who has argued before the court, served in the solicitor general's office with Ken Starr, just as John Roberts did, but, again, no experience as a judge.
OLBERMANN: Pete Williams, who, I'm pleased to say, has been our co-host here for the first 11 minutes of COUNTDOWN. I—boy, I'd like to do this every night. Let's, let's...
OLBERMANN: ... recap this—the various stories here, just to give it to you again. Judith Miller, the “New York Times” reporter, out of jail after 86 days for having refused to reveal her source in the Plame-Wilson case, as Pete has broken for us on NBC and MSNBC.
And the bottom line, I guess, Pete, is that, thank goodness, we have...
WILLIAMS: (INAUDIBLE), sorry.
OLBERMANN: ... we have a chief justice to preside over that upcoming Anna Nicole Smith case. So great thanks to Pete Williams.
And we can debate cause and effect on all this, and also on the context of the political climate in which this all occurs. And let's do that with Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek,” who has a probing analysis on the Web right at the moment of the relationship between the president and Tom DeLay.
And if Tom DeLay was the lead story yesterday, Richard, Tom DeLay just got put not just on the back burner, he's not even on the stove anymore, is he?
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
Well, Judy Miller is a big story. And it reminds everybody here that, for all of Tom DeLay's problems, there are other inquiries going on right now that reach even higher than Tom DeLay, if that's possible.
OLBERMANN: “The Philadelphia Inquirer,” on its Web site, is just reporting, as we speak, even more breaking news on this story, that the source, who just let Judith Miller off the hook, is Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Cheney. No explanation as to why it would be 86 days before he would go and let her, as we say, off the hook.
But the—what are the implications, if that report is indeed correct, that it would be the vice president's chief of staff?
WOLFFE: Well, you know, all the speculation has focused around a couple of people for a long time. And Scooter Libby was really one of the principal suspects here in term of where the rumor mill was pointing. And that was for good reason.
You've got to remember what this was all about. It wasn't about journalists and sources, it was about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And what Joe Wilson pointed out was, for the first time, in a serious way, that that case had fallen apart. The people who were most exercised about that at the time was the office of the vice president. And the vice president's chief foreign policy adviser is Scooter Libby. He's also his chief of staff.
So there was naturally a focus on his role. If you think about the NSC, for instance, and Condi Rice's interest, they were most upset because they let 16 false words into the president's State of the Union. There was a whole debate about how that happened.
But Scooter Libby, office of the vice president, were very concerned about the case falling apart. And they felt very exercised about the weapons and what Joe Wilson was saying. So that's why it's kind of looped back here.
OLBERMANN: Is there any greater guidance into this question that Pete Williams and I just batted around, about, why now? Is there something special about this day on the calendar? Is it a big weekend that she had to get out for? Has Scooter Libby been out of the country for a while? Is there some—in this time of—that we live in of political backstory to everything, is there something? Does this Judith Miller story somehow wipe DeLay off the front pages, and that's a motivation for why this would occur now? Do we have any idea as to why this would occur now?
WOLFFE: Well, I think it's really hard to pin a sort of political motive on this, because one of the characteristics about Fitzgerald, the prosecutor here, is that for his Republican affiliation, he's actually been well out of the sort of political dynamics that normally dictate what goes on in Washington. So—and that's been very frustrating for the administration, for anyone who's trying to put pressure on him.
The other frustrating thing about him, from our point of view, is that, unlike Ken Starr, who was referenced by Pete Williams before, this guy doesn't leak. He doesn't tell us about his motives. His office isn't feeding us little snippets of evidence. And so it's very hard to read what's going on.
There's been a lot of talk about how he was wrapping things up, how this seemed to be coming to fruition. Some of that was fueled by Matt Cooper from “TIME” talking. And this is also going to—this is, in many ways, the last piece of the puzzle that we knew was still out there.
OLBERMANN: While we have you here, let's talk about briefly about what we were going to talk about, the role of Tom DeLay and the White House's reaction to it, as you've analyzed on the Web at the “Newsweek” Web site. There certainly—there was an immediate, almost an immediate back-away from this event yesterday by the White House. And there seems to be a silence from Mr. DeLay almost today, and a certain silence from the White House.
Is it possible that Mr. Bush and his administration are seeing the removal of somebody who has become too controversial for them, who has not been the friend that one would just sort of generally assume one Republican, another Republican?
WILLIAMS: Well, it's very interesting, how they have phrased their support for him in the past. They've always talked about him as being an effective leader. And that's because he's delivered for them on many things that he doesn't necessarily believe in, like No Child Left Behind, or prescription drugs for Medicare.
And the point about saying he was effective was really also to signal that when he was no longer effective, or where there were question marks about his effectiveness, maybe it was time for him to move on.
And that's the point we've kind of reached here. It's not as if the White House thinks nobody else can do this job. Of course, they were grateful that he did it. But there was no love lost there. And that's what we're seeing now.
OLBERMANN: And it means the ascension of David Dreier, who is a friend of President Bush's, and, of course, to the leadership, at least in a temporary role, Roy Blunt, who turns out is married to a lobbyist and is the father of a lobbyist. So the Democrats will have a field day with that too.
Richard Wolffe, we have to, we have to go. The senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek,” great thanks. And it is, although we have not been able to address it at the length we wanted to today, it's a great analytical piece on the Web site now about Mr. Bush and Mr. DeLay.
Thank you, sir.
WOLFFE: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's recap the breaking news for you. Judith Miller, the “New York Times” reporter who was jailed in a dramatic series of events 86 days ago for refusing to reveal a source about a story she never wrote relating to weapons of mass destruction, perhaps relating in some way to the case of Ambassador Joe Wilson and his outed CIA operative wife, who worked in the area of weapons of mass destruction, Valerie Plame Wilson, who would not give this information to the prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, while “TIME” magazine's Matt Cooper was absolved of his responsibilities to keep his sources secret.
Judith Miller, who went to jail rather than reveal who his—who her source was, for stories she never wrote, is free tonight. MSNBC's and NBC's Pete Williams breaking that story. She was released at about 4:00 this afternoon. And the identity of the source will presumably be officially revealed, certainly, at least, to the court tomorrow, and to the prosecutor, if not publicly.
In the interim, as you're reading on your screens, “Philadelphia Inquirer” Web site is saying that the source for Judith Miller this whole time, who just left her off the reporter source hook after 86 days, was Scooter Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Jr.
The details on this story will continue to reverberate throughout the rest of the week, and we will update you throughout this news hour as developments warrant.
In the interim, from the political fires to the real ones, in Southern California. Hundreds evacuated in an annual but nonetheless terrifying ritual.
And was New Orleans doomed long before Hurricane Katrina even hit? New evidence tonight that experts knew at least one levee would probably not hold, because it wasn't built the right way.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Anyone who has ever lived in Southern California, or had friends or relatives there, knows that in terms of climate and living conditions, the calendar is almost irrelevant, almost. There is one stretch of time in which summer is actually at its peak. Hot winds smack you, humidity appears out of nowhere, the air becomes almost solid at times, and the brush fires begin. That stretch of time begins more or less on October 1.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, as our correspondent George Lewis reports tonight, the always-shocking fire season has arrived, a couple of days early. George?
GEORGE LEWIS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, behind me are some of the 17,000 acres that have burned here on the border between Los Angeles and Ventura County. This fire only 5 percent contained tonight.
(voice-over): Fire crews have been battling since yesterday afternoon to save about 2,000 homes directly in the path of the flames. They're aided by big tanker planes loaded with fire-retardant chemicals and water-dropping helicopters.
BATTALION CHIEF SCOTT SCHUSTER, VENTURA COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: You see them working in concert, so we have a number of tools at our disposal to suppress this.
LEWIS: This is what they're trying to avoid, expensive houses like this one burning to the ground. So far, firefighters have been pretty successful. Thousands of people living near brush-filled canyons were ordered to evacuate, others told to get ready to leave on a moment's notice.
Kevin Sweeney lives here with his wife, two children, and six cats.
KEVIN SWEENEY, LOS ANGELES RESIDENT: If it comes over that ridge and hits this house, we're out of here, because it will go. That means it's coming, and it's fast, and it'll be down the hill.
LEWIS: Galene Knowles (ph) and her family moved in here only three weeks ago.
GALENE KNOWLES, LOS ANGELES RESIDENT: Thank God I didn't unpack too quickly. I didn't even think of it as being in a fire area until now.
LEWIS: The brush in Southern California is thicker than usual because of near-record rainfalls last autumn and winter. Now, with hot, dry winds blowing, weather experts are predicting a nasty fire season.
JOHN MCGINLEY, NOAA FORECASTER: We're thinking that these fires could go on at least through October, and perhaps longer.
LEWIS: So firefighters are bracing for much more of this.
(on camera): There's some good news tonight for the firefighters. The Santa Ana winds are beginning to die down, and the forecast calls for lower temperature as well, a welcome relief for the firefighters, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Indeed, George. George Lewis in the Oak Park section of Agura (ph) Hills, California. Thanks.
The worlds of high art and Oddball collide. The quick brown fox jumps over the big Van Gogh.
COUNTDOWN continues next.
OLBERMANN: A quick update on a story that we will be continuing to follow for you throughout the hour. As NBC and MSNBC's Pete Williams reported exclusively, the “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller is out of jail after 86 days, having refused to disclose to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald the identity of a source to whom she spoke in 2003 about the Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson case.
The Associated Press has now confirmed that Miller will, in fact, be talking, speaking before the grand jury investigation into the case tomorrow morning. The “Philadelphia Inquirer” Web site says that her source was the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby. We'll update this story more fully later on in COUNTDOWN.
And in the interim, we'll once again pause the day's important stories to waste a few minutes looking at strange people and weird animals from all around the world with absolutely no news value whatsoever, also known as our international news block.
Let's play Oddball.
Beginning in—beginning in London, where the lives of foxes are much improved since they banned the practice of hunting them. Here, we see a little fellow enjoying some of Great Britain's finest works of art at the National Portrait Gallery.
Just a year ago, he would have been running for his life, with bloodthirsty hounds on his trail and crowds of festooned British men on horses aiming to put a bullet in his back. Ah, progress. The fox was actually less loose in the gallery by a Belgian artist named Francis Alys, who says he wants to demonstrate the omnipresence of surveillance cameras there.
Security cameras in a museum? Who knew? The fox roamed the art museum for hours. An, din various spots around the building, he left little masterpieces of his own, if you know what I mean.
And then we're here now in Nagpur, India, where young Devender Harn
(ph) says he is making the best of a rare birth defect. He was born with
25 fingers and toes. That would be above average. Is that right? Let me
· wait. Let me count. Yes. That's right, six fingers on each hand, six toes on each foot, seven on the other foot.
But Devender is not letting those extra digits slow him down. To the contrary, he says he can type faster and work harder than anybody else in his class. He says the other kids joke that God has given Devender an unfair advantage over his friends. And if they think he has got an unfair advantage with 12 fingers now, just wait until he starts dating.
Even if FEMA had been lucky enough to have little Devender on its payroll, it could not have gotten all the aid to the right places fast enough in the Gulf Coast. Five days after Hurricane Rita, some Texas cities still outraged at the slow response or the no response. We will talk to the city manager of one of these places.
And we all know about the breach in the 17th Street levee in New Orleans. What we will discover tonight, the possible breach of faith in the construction of the 17th Street levee in New Orleans.
These stories ahead, and the recap of the Judith Miller story.
But now here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, the fans of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. This afternoon, the club closed down its home season with a 2-0 victory over Cincinnati. Their dome stadium seats 42,400 fans; 27,008 fans attended today. So what? The tickets were free. And there were still 15,000 empty seats. What do we have to do for you people?
Number two, Curtis Salisbury of St. Louis. He is apparently the first defendant to plead guilty under the new laws enacted to stop people from taking camcorders into theaters and making copies of first-run movies. Mr. Salisbury could face a fine of a quarter-million dollars and up to three years in jail. The movie he pirated, “Bewitched.” Yes, that's worst three years in jail.
And, number one, the starstruck operators of the New York night spot Spirit. To their shock and delight, late Friday night, who walks into the place but Mick Jagger. They gave him his own bodyguard. They gave him free drinks. They let him use the bathroom for 10 minutes, the ladies bathroom. Mick then said he had to go. He was exhausted. He had only just flown into New York after his concert Friday night earlier that same night in Columbus, Ohio.
One small problem. The Rolling Stones concert in Columbus, Ohio, that was Saturday night, not Friday night. It hadn't happened yet. So, to the operators of Spirit and especially to those three young ladies who went into the ladies' room with him, that was not Mick Jagger. Sorry.
OLBERMANN: After Hurricane Katrina, the criticism of FEMA was universal, but almost bipolar. Management failed. The workers on the ground were heroes.
After Hurricane Rita, the criticism of FEMA has been almost nonexistent. Management, chastened, was ready and the workers on the ground were again heroes.
Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, the first part of that, maybe not, the agency criticized on the ground and in its management in Port Arthur and in Beaumont and in Houston. FEMA closed its disaster relief center in Houston about 1:00 p.m. yesterday, citing an unexpectedly large crowd and because some of the thousands of people in line were fainting in the triple-digit heat.
Those already present, who were in a parking lot of a vacant supermarket, were allowed to stay. And relief workers handed out bottled water and snacks. More than 2,500 heads of households eventually registered for services yesterday, victims of Hurricane Rita and/or Hurricane Katrina. The center reopened this morning.
But officials from two other Texas cities now say FEMA's response has been inadequate. Port Arthur received 121 small generators on Tuesday, nearly four days after Rita had made landfall and several days after complaints from its mayor.
But for the smallest of rural areas in southeast Texas, the situation has been worse. Some officials say they saw relief convoys passing them by on the way to other localities. According to a city councilman from Silsbee, Texas, population 8,000, “They don't even know we're on the map.”
And that brings us to our next guest, the city manager of Nederland, Texas, Andre Wimer.
Mr. Wimer, good evening. Thank you for your time tonight.
ANDRE WIMER, CITY MANAGER, NEDERLAND, TEXAS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: What is happening there? What don't you have? And why don't you have it?
WIMER: Well, I wish we knew why we didn't have it.
You know, basically, everything that we have requested through FEMA—and we made our initial requests through the state on Saturday, about three hours after we had returned, our employees had returned to the community. We came back into town about 9:00 a.m. immediately following the hurricane, did an initial assessment and made our requests for generators, fuel supply, chain saws, things like that. And, basically, everything that we have acquired was acquired through alternate means.
OLBERMANN: The FEMA answer to you and to the leaders and officials of other cities of your size and in the region would probably be something like, well, we have got literally thousands of communities to get to. Somebody is going to have to be last and next to last in this list. Why is that answer not good enough?
WIMER: Well, I understand the logistics involved. This is a widespread situation. I can certainly appreciate that.
But, from our perspective, we followed the process that we have been instructed to follow, that being to make the request through the state. The state forwards it to FEMA. And then either we should get the equipment supplies or we shouldn't.
Part of the problem is, is that we never get a response back. We don't know what the status of our requests are. If there's something that FEMA can't supply, then simply tell us that and we will find another way to get it, which is what we have done. And, of course, FEMA has indicated to us that they never received the requests that we had made to the state. So, I'm not sure exactly where the process has failed.
OLBERMANN: Of course, your community is about 18,000. But we're hearing similar complaints from Port Arthur, which is 57,000 people, from Beaumont, which is 114,000 people. It's the 202nd largest city in the country. Is there something in terms of priorities that is askew here, where all of what FEMA does and even, I guess, returning phone calls, is going to the big cities that people nationally would recognize the names of, and the rest of you guys are basically on your own, both in terms of support and even in terms of knowing if that support is coming or not coming?
WIMER: Well, I don't know that that is necessarily the case. But they do have a number of people on the ground here in this area. We have been working with them directly.
We have a liaison assigned to the FEMA representative at the county emergency operations center. And I would suggest to you that the complaints that we have are similar to that of Beaumont, Port Arthur, and our neighboring cities of Port Neches and Groves. So, it is countywide. It's not something that I think is necessarily attributable to the fact that we're a smaller community.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, after Katrina hit, we heard these horror stories about FEMA, the complaints from city officials in Louisiana and Alabama and Mississippi. Listening to them at that time, did you think that the complaints might be somewhat exaggerated, and would you think they are now?
WIMER: I don't think they were exaggerated.
And, you know, again, it is a logistics effort. And I understand that. But, certainly, you would think that there would be a process that is able to quicker deliver the goods and materials that the cities request. Were it not for the efforts of our dedicated employees, our fire, police, our public works, we would not be at the stage we are in recovery at this point.
OLBERMANN: Congratulations on doing that.
Andre Wimer, the city manager for Nederland, Texas, great thanks for your time tonight and all the best, sir.
WIMER: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: We suggested two weeks ago that the flooding of New Orleans was not literally a natural disaster. Direct damage to homes and people from the hurricane, certainly, that was natural.
But the flooding happened because the levees failed. And they were as manmade and unnatural as a crashed airliner. Tonight, more evidence that at least one of those levees, the infamous breached wall on 17th Street, was not merely inadequately conceived. It was also improperly constructed.
Exclusive details from senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers.
LISA MYERS, NBC CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This thin gray line of concrete flood walls was supposed to protect New Orleans. But when Katrina hit, portions of the walls came tumbling down, flooding the city.
IVOR VAN HEERDEN, LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY HURRICANE CENTER: This is fairly typical of some of the failures we have seen.
MYERS: Professor Ivor Van Heerden, an expert on hurricanes and levees, has examined the wreckage.
VAN HEERDEN: These walls underwent catastrophic structural failure.
MYERS: But why?
(on camera): NBC News has obtained what may be a key clue hidden in these long forgotten legal documents. They reveal that, when this flood wall on the 17th Street canal was built a decade ago, there were major construction problems, problems brought to the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
(voice-over): This document shows that the contractor, Pittman Construction, told the Corps of Engineers that the soil and the foundation for the walls were not of sufficient strength, rigidity and stability to build on.
VAN HEERDEN: That is incredibly damning evidence, I mean, really incredibly damning.
MYERS: Here's how the wall was built. There already was an earthen levee made of soil. Embedded in that was a thin metal wall called sheet piling. The contractor then poured concrete on top of all that to form the flood wall.
But the 1998 documents filed as part of a legal dispute over costs indicate the contractor complained about weakness of the soil and the lack of structural integrity of the existing sheet pile around which the concrete was poured.
We showed our findings to engineering experts.
JOE SUHAYDA, LSU ENGINEERING PROFESSOR: That type of issue about the strength of the soils, of course, bears directly on the performance of a flood wall.
ROBERT G. BEA, U.C. BERKELEY CIVIL ENGINEER: I think it is very significant. It begins to explain some things that I couldn't explain based on the information that I have had.
MYERS: The construction company said, as a result of these problems, the walls were shifting and out of tolerance, meaning they did not meet some design specifics. Nevertheless, the Army Corps of Engineers accepted the work.
VAN HEERDEN: It seems to me that somebody in authority should really have questioned whether these walls were safe.
MYERS: A judge blamed the contractor for the construction errors and turned down Pittman's request for more funds. The company is now out of business.
The Army Corps of Engineers tells NBC News that these documents and the issues raised will be part of its investigation into what went wrong.
Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: From the breach in New Orleans to the breach of trust? A question of infidelity and technology. Ladies, has your guy already been branded a cheater online? We will meet the founder of DontDateHimGirl.com.
And we will see if Judith Miller is out of jail yet. We know she is.
We don't know if she's dating.
This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: “The New York Times” now reporting that Judith Miller's source in the case of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson was indeed the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Libby.
Continuing to following this story, and we have others ahead, still, in this hour of COUNTDOWN. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: It is a literal fact that I have been dating since 1974, 1974. It is thus a literal fact there are some infants in this country whose grandfathers were born in 1974. Thus, when the subject is dating, I am, by bitter experience, an expert.
Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN—our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, rather—if I tell you there's new dating territory being explored, I know what I'm talking about, online dish about men who allegedly cheat. The Web site is called DontDateHimGirl.com. Launched in July, it's getting upwards of 2,500 hits, 40 new submissions a day from women. They post pictures and profiles of men who they claimed have strayed. Others want to see if their current flames might be among those strayers.
The searchable database includes winners like Shawn Davidson, age 20, from Fort Lauderdale. The anonymous poster wrote of him—quote—“He has slept with my sister, with my cousin, best friend and many, many more.”
But you doubtless thought you, and you alone, could change him.
This gentleman's name is, again to Latoya from Wisconsin, Isaac Hayes. See, there's your problem right there, miss. Isaac Hayes was a musician in the '70s. She writes, “He used to be an exotic dancer, Paris Blaze.” He also goes by names such as Josias West, and Depriest.”
And, finally, Jelle Dooper, I guess is the name, from Pittsburgh, originally from Aruba. Hello.
Tasha Joseph created the site. And she joins us now.
Thanks for your time tonight.
TASHA JOSEPH, CREATOR, DONTDATEHIMGIRL.COM: Hi. How are you?
OLBERMANN: What's—what's the—I'm almost afraid to ask. What's the inspiration here? This sounds like it comes from, to use that phrase again, bitter personal experience.
JOSEPH: No. Actually, I have been pretty lucky in relationships.
But the Web site started out of a conversation that I had with some girlfriends of mine. And we were talking about guys. And, of course, actually, the conversation turned to cheating. And we thought, wouldn't it be great if there was a way that you could find out if a guy was a cheater and it could be done online and it could be free to women? And from that conversation, DontDateHimGirl.com was born.
OLBERMANN: Are you worried, with all these postings—and we are showing the photographs here, too, so I guess, if you're worried, we need to be worried, too—about the accuracy, the legality? I mean, it's very possible that some woman is smearing an innocent man here for any one of 14,000 reasons.
JOSEPH: Well, you know, we do have a terms-of-use policy on our site.
OLBERMANN: Do the men have recourse? Is there some way back for any of—for Isaac Hayes out there?
We do offer guys a chance to rebut whatever was put on the site about them. They do have a chance to write into us and tell us their side of the story. And that will go over there with their profile that's on the site.
OLBERMANN: As you read some of these things, like the one about Isaac Hayes, do you—have you—do you say, my God, how could you have not seen this loser coming?
JOSEPH: I try not to judge. I try not to judge.
OLBERMANN: All right. So, then, the obvious question here becomes, how soon before we get a DontDateHerDude.com?
JOSEPH: Well, everybody has been asking me about it. And I'm definitely not going to start a site like that myself. But I'm sure that there's a guy out there that probably will.
OLBERMANN: Conclude for me. What does it say about the dating scene that your site isn't just necessary, but flourishing?
JOSEPH: Well, you know, it's really treacherous, the world of relationships, particularly for women. So, I think the site is just one more way that women can navigate those treacherous waters.
OLBERMANN: Tasha Joseph, the mastermind behind DontDateHimGirl.com.
I think I say that pretty well for a guy.
JOSEPH: You do. You do.
OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly.
Thanks for your time. And good luck with your next—next relationship.
JOSEPH: Thank you. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Our segue tonight into the disturbing and self-indulging world of celebrity and entertainment news, an easy one.
And a rolling stone may gather no moss, but Kate Moss is trying to gather how to stop getting stoned. While she's reportedly in rehab here at the Meadows Clinic in Wickenburg, Arizona, the images that cost her two of her modeling contracts will shortly be broadcast in the United Kingdom, next Monday. Britain's notorious Sky Television, yes, owned by Rupert Murdoch, destroyer of worlds, will show the documentary “Kate Moss: Fashion Victim?” which purports to show the model snorting cocaine.
Grainy still images from that video printed in the British tabloid “The Mirror” were what started the whole Moss roll downhill in the first place.
So, the latest on two Kate Mosses in waiting, a source telling MSNBC.com's Jeannette Walls that the new season of the FOX Paris Hilton-Nicole Richie train wreck will have an added extra life-destroying twist. The casting call is out for married husbands and fathers who will hit on either or both of them.
In the show, the two dim bulbs will try to be surrogate mothers in what are termed strange households. FOX executives have reportedly told producers, the friskier the dad, the better. They're looking for dads who are likely to play for Paris or Nicole. While I join you in your appallment, just remember, the odds are only about 2-1 against one or both of us knowing somebody who will watch this show.
Ahead, more on the real-life drama playing out inside the beltway right now. “The New York Times” reporter Judith Miller is out of jail tonight and will be appearing before a grand jury in the Wilson-Plame CIA leak case tomorrow. We will recap the hour of breaking news next.
OLBERMANN: And our number one story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, let's recap the dramatic events from Washington, broken for us tonight by Pete Williams of MSNBC and NBC News.
Judith Miller, “The New York Times” reporter jailed 86 days ago for refusing to disclose a source for a story she never wrote, was released from a facility in Alexandria, Virginia, at about 4:00 Eastern time this afternoon. Miller has been released from her pledge to keep her source confidential by that source directly.
On its Web site tonight, “The New York Times” identifies Miller's source as Lewis Scooter Libby, chief political adviser and chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. NBC News has not independently confirmed Libby's identity. But since Miller is the source of who the source is, that is a fairly reliable report.
Additionally tonight, “The Philadelphia Inquirer” Web site reports that Miller's release followed a phone conversation between the two individuals in which Libby reiterated to Miller what he says he told her a year ago, that she was free to talk to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the grand jury in question.
And talk to that grand jury, she will, NBC News reporting Miller will appear before the grand jury investigating the leaking of the CIA identity of the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson tomorrow morning. In a statement on that “Times” Web site, Miller says the meeting is for the purpose of making arrangements for her to testify, her being Miller.
The identification of Plame's covert CIA duties was widely believed to have been political retribution for her husband's criticism of the Bush administration's claims before the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy nuclear material for weapons of mass destruction from the African nation of Niger, a claim that Joseph Wilson debunked.
Why Mr. Libby and Ms. Miller conversed today or what their conversation means for any actual indictments in the prosecutor's case or its further status is as yet unreported.
To confirm now what we do know, “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller is free tonight after 86 days in jail. And she'll appear before the Plame-Wilson CIA leak grand jury tomorrow morning, the end, perhaps only the middle, of an extraordinary story that began 86 days and more ago.
And that's COUNTDOWN. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees lose.
Good night and good luck.
Our coverage continues now on MSNBC with “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT.”
Good evening, Rita.
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