Guests: Joseph Wilson, Dana Priest, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Another conservative leader asks if Karl Rove should really stay on at the White House.
A past president says pre-Iraq war intelligence was “manipulated, at least.”
And Scooter Libby gets ready for his day in court tomorrow.
Our special guest tonight, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Whatever happened to those Soviet gulags in Eastern Europe? Apparently, our country is using at least one of them as an interrogation center for terror detainees.
As the nation remembers Rosa Parks...
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show your love.
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OLBERMANN: ... young students from Atlanta also remember her, with varying degrees of accuracy.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me have the seat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
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OLBERMANN: And another story my producers are forcing me to do, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, again. Now it‘s not just prenatal, it is also prenuptial.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
If the announcement of the latest Supreme Court nominee and of the belated bird flu plan were designed to redirect today‘s headlines away from the CIA leak investigation and the sudden firestorm over prewar intelligence, the hand, in this case, was not quicker than the eye.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, whether or not the Democrats punked the Senate yesterday, the current administration was still on the defensive again today.
The leader of a past administration said the intelligence was, quote, “manipulated, at least,” and another prominent conservative leader has questioned the continuing viability of Karl Rove in the White House, Republicans still perturbed by yesterday‘s takeover in the Senate that successfully put the administration‘s case for war back in the headlines, back at the center of the CIA leak investigation, White House press secretary Scott McClellan attempting to recover by blaming it on the Clinton administration in an off-camera briefing, saying the Clinton White House came to the very same conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a threat.
Never mind that the previous administration chose not to invade Iraq, that doing little to stop the drumbeat of criticism, the head of the libertarian Cato Institute, William Nescannon (ph), becoming the latest to question whether Karl Rove should keep his job, joining former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, Nescannon saying that Bush is going to have to sacrifice people who have worked with him.
And former president Jimmy Carter unequivocal today in his criticism, saying that at the very least, the Bush White House manipulated the intelligence.
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FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER: I think that the claims that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and the claims that he had massive weapons of mass destruction that would threaten our country were manipulated, at least, to mislead to American people into going to war.
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OLBERMANN: And he didn‘t plan it this way, but certainly, without him, Scooter Libby would not be going to court tomorrow morning, Democrats probably would not have thrown the Senate into secret session yesterday over prewar intelligence, and it could even be argued that the media attention to what this government told us before the war would never have grown, all because of an op-ed piece he wrote for “The New York Times” on July 6, 2003, “What I Didn‘t Find in Africa,” and, of course, the administration‘s response to that piece.
He has since written “The Politics of Truth,” updated now in paperback form, and which today leaped from number 1706 at Amazon.com to number 769.
Joining me now, the former acting ambassador to Iraq under the first President Bush, Joseph Wilson.
Ambassador, thanks again for your time.
JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER AMBASSADOR: Well, thank you, Keith. And thanks for following the story as assiduously as you have been.
OLBERMANN: That‘s, I believe, my job.
Worlds turn on seemingly small things, sir. The Senate went into lockdown, essentially, last night. Mr. Libby pleads tomorrow morning. Do you see yourself as the root of all of these things, or one of the dominoes, or how?
WILSON: Well, I think it‘s sort of an accident of history. I wrote this piece because I believed it was my civic duty to hold my government to account for what it had said and done in the name of the American people. This government, this administration, even before I wrote my piece, it‘s very clear from the indictment, embarked on a campaign to discredit, defame, and otherwise abuse my civil rights and my right to petition my government for a grievance.
Everything that‘s come about as a consequence of that really is more the responsibility of the government than the responsibility of me. I would have been happy, the day after my article appeared, when the White House told “The Washington Post” that the 16 words did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address, I would have been happy to disappear and allow others to take on that particular battle.
OLBERMANN: Of course, that did not happen that way, and we had, as a result, much further down the line, the Fitzgerald investigation, which has resulted in Mr. Libby‘s indictment, but so far, nothing else. That would seem to have elements of both vindication for you and perhaps disappointment. Is it both? Is it one and not the other?
WILSON: Well, I certainly don‘t think of this in terms of vindication, because, after all, the crime that was committed was a crime against the country. So the extent to which indictments have been brought, all Americans should feel somewhat vindicated.
And as far as disappointment goes, it‘s very clear from the indictment that one of the reason why Mr. Fitzgerald has not been able to get to the bottom of this is because he believes that Mr. Libby has obstructed justice.
I find it a sad day for American democracy when indictments are handed up to the offices of senior officials in the White House. At the same time, it‘s also a day when we can reaffirm, I believe, our belief that in a rule of—in a nation that‘s based upon the rule of law, no man is above the law.
OLBERMANN: Are you disappointed that Mr. Fitzgerald did not go, or a least has not yet gone, deeper into this, into the entire sales campaign, if you will, for the Iraq war, particularly into the origins of the so-called Italian report that triggered that whole idea that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger?
WILSON: Well, I‘m very comfortable with what Mr. Fitzgerald and the team of Justice lawyers and the FBI have done. And I particularly applaud my fellow citizens who sat on the grand jury for two years, who were taking the time out of their lives to review all the evidence.
The investigation is still open. If Mr. Libby has in fact obstructed justice, that is one of the reason why Mr. Fitzgerald has not been able to get to the bottom of this.
With respect to the debate on whether or not the intelligence was twisted, or whether there are ties to the Italian—or the documents that are—that the Italian newspaper is talking about, I think that‘s probably best left to the Congress. And I would hope that the Congress would look at this.
I must say, it struck me, it has struck me over the past couple years the extent to which Republicans, the Republican majority, has put its loyalty, or their loyalty to the party above their oversight responsibilities.
OLBERMANN: The Italian newspaper, and the Italian report, somebody analogized this, poetically, I thought, to the idea of the bloody glove planted in the O.J. Simpson case. Do you know, from even dating back to your trip to Niger, where that—where those documents came from? Was that—could that have been a forgery by somebody in this country, in this government? Was it necessarily international? Do you have any conclusions or theories?
WILSON: At the time that I was briefed, before I was asked to take this trip, the documents were not in the hands of the U.S. government, to the best of my knowledge. I was briefed that an officer, a U.S. officer, had either seen the documents or had been briefed on their existence. And my briefing was based upon the transcript or his report about the existence of those documents.
And that‘s what precipitated the vice president‘s query that the CIA follow up on this that led to my trip, but also led to two other reports being done at roughly the same time, one by a four-star Marine Corps general for the Defense Department, and a third report being done by our ambassador on the ground in Niger.
All three of us concluded that there was nothing to that particular allegation.
But as to the provenance of those documents, where they came from, I didn‘t know until I read about it in various articles by Mr. Hersh and Dana Priest of “The Washington Post.”
OLBERMANN: Returning to the subject one last time, I guess, about the Fitzgerald investigation, did Mr. Fitzgerald ever contact you about this investigation?
WILSON: I spoke with Mr. Fitzgerald early on in his tenure. I went to meet with him at his request, I just laid out the details of my trip and how it had come about. I spoke to him one other time, coincidentally on the day that Judy Miller was released from jail, though our conversation had nothing to do with her or her release. And those are the only two times that we have spoken.
OLBERMANN: Turning to the campaign against you and your wife that certainly began in 2003, there seems to be, I guess, a broad sense that that campaign ended at some point. And yet you can turn on Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or any other reactionary parrot, and you hear these same talking points about you.
Would you just briefly address these? They say your wife was not a covert officer because she posed in “Vanity Fair” magazine. They say that your report on Niger was debunked at some point. And they say that you claimed that the vice president had sent you on the Niger trip, and when you said that, you were lying when you said that. Would you just address those three points?
WILSON: Sure. Well, first of all, my wife was determined by the Fitzgerald investigation to have been covered by American law covering the protection of classified officers. So I don‘t believe that there‘s any other—anything more to say on that. Mr. Fitzgerald looked into it. He‘s indicted people. He‘s said that she was a classified officer.
With respect to the second question, which was...
OLBERMANN: The debunking of your report from Niger.
WILSON: Oh, again, my report was one of three reports that were done at roughly the same time. They all said that there was nothing to this story. In fact, four months before the State of the Union address, the deputy director of Central Intelligence testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and told—in response to a question from Senator Kyl of Arizona, said that one area where we believe the British have stretched the case beyond where we would stretch it is on this case of uranium sales from Africa to Iraq.
Within four days, Mr. Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence, reflecting the views of the intelligence community, communicated three times with the White House, saying, in effect, We do not want the president to be a witness of fact in this matter, because the evidence is weak, and because we believe that the British have exaggerated the case.
Now, there is a report in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report that one analyst thought that it added nothing or detracted nothing. It certainly did not make the case. When I briefed the ambassador on my way out of Niger, I told her, in really no uncertain terms, that there was nothing to this report. She agreed that was essentially the conclusion she had reached as well.
Again, there were three reports.
Now, with respect to my having said that the vice president had sent me, in Mr. Kristoff‘s original article, which apparently is what provoked the interest of the vice president‘s office, and in my own article in July, we—I made it very clear, and so did Mr. Kristoff in his article, that it was the office of the vice president that had asked the CIA to look into this matter. And that was what led to my trip, the office of the vice president.
Now, subsequently, in a “MEET THE PRESS” interview, the vice president acknowledged that he was the one who asked the question of the CIA that they look into this matter. The CIA took it upon itself to answer the question to the best of their ability by sending somebody who actually knew a lot about Niger, had worked very closely with the Nigerians for over a decade, had served in Niger, and had served as ambassador to another country in Africa, French-speaking country, that produced uranium.
And by the way, there are those who ask, Was—why did they send somebody who wasn‘t a WMD specialist? The issue on the table was not weapons of mass destruction. Uranium yellowcake is just the ore that comes from crushing the rock. This was a mining question, and it was a question of how the ore gets transported and sold, and how a government that‘s participating in the mining operation, in this case, the Niger government, might make a decision as to whether or not to sell that ore to a foreign government.
OLBERMANN: I see you have heard these talking points previously.
Apart from the commentators and the sort of continuing drumbeat about and you about your wife, there have also been reports of threats against both of you. What can you tell them—tell us about threats?
WILSON: Well, I was asked about that the other night, because somebody had said that he had heard that there were al Qaeda death threats against us, made against us. And what I can say about that is, indeed there have been some threats against us, and we‘ve been working very closely with the appropriate law enforcement agencies here in Washington, and beyond that, I‘m really reluctant to go.
OLBERMANN: I understand.
The damage that has occurred to you and to your wife, one question that keeps being asked of me in this, and obviously you would be the source on this, why have you not sued? Obviously, it‘s probable that you couldn‘t sue the president directly. He‘d be immune in most areas of court. The vice president may be the same.
But could you not sue almost anybody else in the administration for essentially interfering with your wife‘s contract with the CIA? Or in one of these so-called Bevins (ph) actions, because her Fourth Amendment rights have been violated? And is there a statute of limitation ticking of those options for you?
WILSON: Well, we‘re looking at all the options right now. We‘re working with my attorney, Christopher Wolfe (ph). And we‘re waiting, basically they‘re waiting for the outcome of the investigation. We didn‘t want to—did not want to do anything that might impede the investigation. We have time, we have looked at the statue of limitations, and we‘re taking a look, as I say, at all options.
It‘s a fairly easy case in the sense that it‘s now clear that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were giving classified information related to my wife and her employment status at the CIA to members of the press who had no right to have that information. At a minimum, it‘s a violation of national security. They should lose their security clearances. Mr. Libby has already been indicted. I don‘t know what will happen to Mr. Rove.
But we‘re waiting, really, until the investigation‘s over until we decide what we‘re going to do on that.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, and it‘s more along the lines of curious twist, almost comic relief, is this true, you and Karl Rove have attended the same church?
WILSON: Yes, we‘re members of the same congregation. We go to different services. I think Karl was in Aspen, Colorado, not too long ago, and he said that I attend the wacky service. I actually attend the service that is a family service for people with kids. We have 5-year-old twins, and so we go to an earlier service than he does. I‘ve only seen him in church once, probably because I don‘t go as often as my wife does. But we do normally attend different services.
OLBERMANN: It is a small town, Washington. But you‘d never think it would be that small.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, thanks again for being so gracious with your time.
WILSON: Thank you, Keith. Good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: All the best.
Scooter Libby, of course, heads to court for the first time tomorrow.
Will it be the first of many trips, or could there be a deal in the works?
And another major CIA headline tonight. The secret is out. It‘s not just that the agency is running a global prison system to hide and interrogate terror suspects, it‘s that it‘s using old Soviet cold war surplus facilities.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: It is a piece of history so extraordinary that not only has TV never covered it before, neither has radio. It‘s almost certain that not even a still photographer has paid witness to it.
Our number four story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, tomorrow morning at 10:30 Eastern, for the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, a defendant indicted while still an active White House staff member will be arraigned.
Louis “Scooter” Libby not expected to receive any special treatment. He is to enter a federal courthouse in Washington through the public front door. Once in front of Judge Reggie Walton, Libby‘s expected to plead not guilty to all five charges, meaning, in all likelihood, a trial, with Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, and Libby‘s own successors, David Addington and John Hannah, as potential witnesses.
Let‘s bring in “Newsweek”‘s chief political correspondent, Howard Fineman.
Good evening, Howard.
HOWARD FINEMAN, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:
OLBERMANN: All right, he pleads not guilty, and unless it‘s dismissed, there‘s a trial, maybe the vice president that he‘s protected so long is a witness, Karl Rove is a witness. If he tries anything else, like a plea bargain, he‘d presumably have to give up somebody in the administration.
Neither of these seem to be good choices for Mr. Libby, nor for the White House.
FINEMAN: No, they aren‘t. But I, my understanding is that Scooter Libby‘s not only going to obviously plead not guilty, he wants to take this to trial. He‘s going to head into it doing so, because he thinks that he can win at trial.
And I think the alternative of a plea bargain is probably worse, because Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, is going want something for that. And the only thing Scooter Libby would be in the position to give is information about the vice president, what he knew, and when he knew it, the extent to which he was in on conversations about Joe Wilson, who we just heard from, and so forth.
And I think both for his own protection, in his view, and to protect the vice president, Scooter Libby is going to trial.
OLBERMANN: But here‘s Trent Lott, and here‘s now the head of the Cato Institute saying, Maybe Rove should go away, even though he has not been indicted. And here, presumably, unless it‘s dismissed, there is a trial that‘s going to happen. Whether Scooter Libby is acquitted or not, there is all this dirty laundry to be hung out. Is that—is there not somebody in the White House saying, No, that‘s not really a good idea, we have to find an alternative, even if it means some sort of third alternative?
FINEMAN: Yes, I don‘t know what that third alternative would be, but you‘re right to identify possible conflicts, or at least fissures, between the interests of the president and the people around him, and the vice president.
In our story in “Newsweek” this week, we quote some White House aides who are rather dismissive of the vice president‘s role these days. And even if that‘s not true, the fact that they are saying it is interesting politically. And in Karl Rove‘s case, he is indispensable to this president. And I think the president‘s going to keep him around as long as possible, and until, unless and until the moment that he‘s indicted.
But you‘re right. Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney‘s interests are no longer necessarily the president‘s interests. And that‘s an interesting development, to say the least.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of interesting developments, I‘m assuming you‘ve heard or seen this thing in the current issue of “The New Yorker,” where they have digested the novel that Scooter Libby wrote in 1996, “The Apprentice.”
Let me read a quote from this sex-filled book about Japan in 1903. And then I‘ll try to ask you a question that distances both of us from that question.
FINEMAN: I know, your producers made you do it.
OLBERMANN: No, no, not this case. This is all my fault.
“At age 10, the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest.”
Howard, what is wrong with these people? You can‘t write, “At age 10, the madam put the child in the cage.” Nobody can be sure if the child is supposed to be age 10, or if the madam is supposed to be age 10. And who vets these guys in terms of their writing skills before they get jobs in the government?
FINEMAN: That‘s a really good question. I‘ve got to congratulate “The New Yorker,” because I dutifully got a copy of that book...
FINEMAN: ... and I tried to read it, and I just couldn‘t get through the darned thing. But once again, they proved the excellence of the journalism at “The New Yorker.” It was a hilarious review of all right-wing sex novels. It was really very funny.
OLBERMANN: That‘s—it gives you pause when you think of right-wing sex...
FINEMAN: Pause? Pause?
OLBERMANN: ... sex novels.
OLBERMANN: All right, you win this round.
OLBERMANN: “Newsweek”‘s Howard Fineman, thanks for putting up with me yet again.
FINEMAN: OK, OK.
OLBERMANN: From political wrecks to a literal one. How many things can go wrong in one commute? Believe it or not, no one was seriously injured.
Oh, my goodness.
And how much can go wrong in one trip down the aisle? First the early pregnancy, then the fight with the in-laws, and now, Katrina.
All ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: It is important in these times of great political strife that we take a deep breath each evening and make fun of someone other than criminals, politicians, and criminal politicians. But we‘ll get back to them in a moment, don‘t you worry about that.
First, let‘s play Oddball.
And this falls more into the category of scary gratuitous video than the goofy, odd, and stupid thing we‘re used to dealing with here. It‘s from South Guyon-Sang (ph) Province in South Korea. Nobody was hurt, amazingly. But how many things can go wrong at once here?
This truck, part of a convoy of six, suffers brake failure and has to stop halfway through the Dale-Song (ph) Tunnel. The overheated brakes then start a fire, which spreads to the cargo department and fills the tunnel with smoke. Trapped motorists have to abandon their cars. They all have to flee. They all escape.
And lastly, the truck explodes. But don‘t worry, the truck was only hauling missile components.
Thankfully, something like that could never happen here, right?
To Los Angeles, where we now have video of the football coach and jackass wannabe Pete Carroll, and his Halloween prankery that we told you about last night. Carroll and his USC tail back, Lendale White (ph), were in cahoots on the trick, in which White pretended to storm off the field after Coach dressed him down in front of everybody.
Moments later, White appeared on the roof of the four-story building next to the field, yelled, “Forget football!” or something like that, and pretended to commit suicide. Oh, it was a laugh riot. See for yourself.
Yes, for the three or four guys who knew about the joke, they had a great laugh. The rest of the team is still shaking like those little plastic men in the game Electric Football.
Also tonight, remember the arrest of the least-terrifying-looking terrorist of all time? Where did we stash Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Well, it turns out, we learned today, in a remodeled Soviet gulag in Eastern Europe.
And a symbolic giant of American history remembered in a funeral of historic proportions, saying goodbye to Rosa Parks.
Those stories ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Theo Epstein, the now-former general manager of baseball‘s Boston Red Sox, who confirmed today that he avoided reporters camped outside Fenway Park Halloween night by leaving the stadium dressed as a gorilla. Sounds like something out of a Scooter Libby novel.
Number two, Evangelina Sanchez-Gonzalez of Fort Worth, Texas. She has been arrested and charged with 2,900 class C felony counts, 2,900. Police claim she is a serial toll-booth runner, saved herself $1,800 by not paying the tolls, now faces fines of $76,000. Oops.
And number one, the fine folks at Macarthur Airport on Long Island, New York, who had to shut down the air traffic control tower there yesterday and had to go to the tarmac and land planes manually using battery powered back-up devices to communicate with the pilots. What happened? The union wouldn‘t let its member in the tower because overnight a raccoon had gotten in through a broken window and relieved itself on one of the air traffic controllers‘ head sets.
Macarthur Airport is 30 miles east of where Roosevelt Field used to be. Roosevelt Field, from which Charles Lindbergh took off to cross the Atlantic in a shoe box with wings. I don‘t remember him refusing to go because there was raccoon dung everywhere!
OLBERMANN: That we had terrorist suspects stashed around the globe was no secret. The media had gone so far as to identify that one of the airplanes used spirit those detainees to as many as three continents was the property of a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox and had also been used to take the team manager Terry Francona to his son‘s high school graduation.
In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, never before had the concept of secret CIA prisons around the world been so vividly or tangibly portrayed as was done this morning by Dana Priest of The Washington Post. She join us next.
First, from the State Department, Andrea Mitchell reports that among the detainees was the most villainous suspect we have ever captured; and among the secret prisons, an old Soviet gulag.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
March 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of 9/11, is captured in Pakistan. The CIA whisks him away on this Gulfstream 5 jet, destination, a former Soviet prison in Eastern Europe now run by the CIA.
NBC News decided not to reveal the location of this so-called black site because of government concerns that terrorists might retaliate. But as first reported in The Washington Post, and confirmed by NBC News, the CIA has been interrogating scores of al Qaeda suspects in two European countries at this base near Kabul, and even at one point, in Thailand, all with little oversight.
John McCain, who survived Vietnam‘s prisons, wants to make sure the U.S. obeys treaties against torture.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I think the American public should know about what we‘re doing in fighting the war on terror and if we are in violation of our own treaties.
MITCHELL (on camera): The fear, that if the U.S. tortures suspected terrorists, American prisoners, including soldiers, diplomats, even civilians, could suffer the same treatment.
JEFFREY SMITH, FMR. CIA GENERAL COUNSEL: I think it is a terrible mistake for the United States to say that we need to go beyond what international law permit, with respect to the interrogation of prisoners.
MITCHELL (voice-over): In fact, government prosecutors are investigating the deaths of at least four CIA prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, including this man. Today the national security adviser spoke for the president.
STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: He‘s been very clear that the United States will not torture, the United States will conduct its activities in compliance with law and international obligations.
MITCHELL: But the vice president and his new chief of staff, David Addington, have been fighting to exempt the CIA from Senator McCain‘s proposal to ban cruel and inhumane treatment of enemy combatants; arguing the U.S. needs every possible advantage in the war on terror.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: As promised, I‘m joined now by Dana Priest, the national intelligence reporter for The Washington Post who broke the details on the black sites story today.
Good evening, Dana.
DANA PRIEST, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:
Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is the headline, as I suggested, a little earlier, as much the symbolism here as the facts? I mean, it‘s the day that the military confirmed that a senior al Qaeda leader escaped from the middle of Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan in July, and it turns out that our country has repurposed what amounts to a Soviet gulag?
PRIEST: Well, you know, it is nowhere near a Soviet gulag in its scale. But symbolically, I think it is, as Senator McCain pointed out in Andrea‘s piece just now, something that is contrary to what the United States views as itself and how it treats people, according to the international conventions that its public officials have signed.
And that‘s why there continues to be controversy about this secret facility. There continue to be people on the Intelligence Oversight Committee who have all the kind of clearances they need to read classified information, who are still demanding that the CIA give them information, because they don‘t know very much about the secret facility.
The CIA, on the other hand, says, we can‘t disclose this. We can‘t even acknowledge that it exists because to do that would cause political embarrassment, it would probably disrupt the program, it might cut off some of our other cooperation on counterterrorism in other countries.
OLBERMANN: But it may not ultimately be the CIA‘s decision because—and you can connect the dots for us, if you will. These kinds of prisons would be illegal here so they‘re set up in foreign countries. But they might also be illegal in the host nations. Is the only thing keeping the prisons going, the secrecy, or the oversight in the other sense of the term, of those host nations?
PRIEST: No, that‘s it. The secrecy—you‘re absolutely right. These are considered a covert action under U.S. law. And they are overseas because they would be illegal here, because we do give suspects certain rights. And the countries that are in Eastern Europe and are democracies and follow a rule of law similar to ours, these sites would be considered illegal there.
Under U.S. law, we can‘t put them here. But the CIA can put foreigners abroad and treat them in the way that they are doing it. So technically, it is OK under U.S. law to do this. But it would not be OK under the foreign country laws where these places exist. And it can only be therefore maintained in this cloud of secrecy that has surrounded it now for four years.
OLBERMANN: And your piece today suggested that apart from the debate that we‘ve suggested about the ethics and the practicality of this, that there‘s even debate among the current CIA officers about how much longer the black sites would be sustainable. And you quoted one intelligence official as saying, “it is just a horrible burden.” Is that a burden in the ethical sense? The financial sense? The manpower sense?
PRIEST: You know, Keith, I think really that expresses the feeling that it is a burden in so many ways, and that there is not a serious end game being considered. I think the agency, many people within there think that they are going to be left holding the bag when this becomes, and if it becomes some kind of a scandal.
They have said to me that they have a small number of people and their mission is not to be jailers, it to conduct espionage. That takes away from this.
OLBERMANN: Dana Priest, the national intelligence reporter, who did the fine work in The Washington Post this morning, great thanks for your staying late and joining us tonight.
PRIEST: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, Rosa Parks was small in height but her impact on American history was perhaps larger than life. And it was that impact that led to an electrifying farewell in Detroit today.
And at the other he be of the spectrum, the royals are coming. The royals are—apparently they‘re here already.
OLBERMANN: That the funeral service for Rosa Parks was poignant yet happy should have been no surprise, that a kindergarten class remembering Rosa Parks was also poignant yet happy might be something you wouldn‘t expect. Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, the kids in a moment, first, in our you-are-there approach, some of the most vibrant moments from the nearly day-long funeral at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.
BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I first met Rosa Parks, I was reminded of what Abraham Lincoln said when he was introduced to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of “Uncle Tom‘s Cabin.” He said, so this is the little lady who started the great war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her spirit was a spirit of defiance against an unjust law and an unjust social order.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her greatness lay in doing what everybody could do but doesn‘t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rosa Parks has inspired many people and will inspire many more. She has taught me that don‘t take no stuff from nobody.
REV. AL SHARPTON: The fact of the matter is, Rosa Parks was not only the mother of the mighty civil rights movement, she was the mother of this nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I had 10,000 times just to thank you. If I were Chinese, I would say (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), if I were Danish I would (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), if I were Italian I would say (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), if I were Nigerian I would say (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), if I were Zulu I would say (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE, if I was Hutu I would say (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE), if I were deaf I would say (SIGN LANGUAGE), but since I am who I am, and I got what I got and I feel what I feel, I‘ll just say thank you!
REV. JESSE JACKSON: (INAUDIBLE) and say, a Southern black woman, Montgomery, Alabama, and one day she even working for (INAUDIBLE), and she was so tired, and her feets was hurting, and the knees had the rheumatism, and she didn‘t get up no more. She said, that ain‘t true. My feet wasn‘t hurting, I was violated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got a jail cell. You got a gun. I got dignity. And so bring it on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her legacy is secure. Her work unfinished.
OLBERMANN: From Montgomery, where Rosa Parks made her stand, to a kindergarten class in Atlanta, is a distance of about 160 miles to say nothing of half a century. But her legacy travels that distance in a split second.
Our correspondent is Donna Lowry of our Atlanta affiliate, WXIA.
DONNA LOWRY, WXIA REPORTER (voice-over): As was with any actors, they get in character. In this case, 1955 Montgomery, Alabama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, this lady won‘t get up. OK. I need you to give it some more energy.
LOWRY: Teacher Tyree Thornton (ph) directs these kindergartners through their scenes. They‘ve read the Rosa Parks story in their class at Randolph Elementary, now it is time for action.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black people were not allowed to sit in the front seat of buses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me have the seat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then one day, a lady named Rosa Parks had enough.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m tired and my feet hurt. Why do you treat black people like this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She won‘t get out of her seat.
LOWRY: The teacher decided on the skit after Rosa Parks died, and most of the children didn‘t know about her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think one child raced his hand and said, Rosa Parks was Martin Luther King‘s friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll just have to call the police on you.
LOWRY: It is not easy getting 5- and 6-year-olds to focus. But then again, this is sometimes happens to veteran actors, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn‘t you get up—why didn‘t you get up when I told you to?
LOWRY: Through the stops and starts, the jail visit and fingerprinting, Dr. King‘s declaration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are gathered here today because of an injustice.
LOWRY: And the actual boycott and picketing, these pint-sized actors come to their own conclusions on why they should remember Ms. Parks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we love her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can sit wherever you want to since Rosa Parks helped us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m going to have to take to you jail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mrs. Rosa Parks was a hero!
LOWRY: They now know.
OLBERMANN: Donna Lowry of WXIA in Atlanta reporting there.
As hard as possible of U-turns into our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.” And it‘s a week shy of 20 years since Prince Charles and Princess Diana dined at the White House and The New York Times headlined it: “The British Have Landed & Washington Is Taken.”
Tonight it is Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla visiting the president in a rare formal White House dinner. The obligatory toast is now out of the way. The word is the duchess of Cornwall will not be hitting the dance floor with John Travolta, thanks goodness for small favors.
A big shake-up in the cable news world. Aaron Brown is out at CNN and Anderson Cooper, a lot of Anderson Cooper is in. The two-headed version of the network‘s “NEWSNIGHT” program with both of them anchoring it proved unwieldy. Offered another time slot, Brown declined according to CNN sources, whereupon the network put out a memo today saying: “We have made some programming decisions which will impact our prime time schedule as well as our colleague Aaron Brown. Aaron will be leaving CNN and is very much looking forward to some well-deserved time off with his family.”
Cooper, who used to be Brown‘s back-up, will move from anchoring the 7:00 to 8:00 hour, to being on from 10:00 to midnight. That may get old in a hurry. Wolf Blitzer will be on at 7:00. We get it. You own a lot of TVs. We get it. Paula Zahn stays at 8:00. Larry King at 9:00. Hello.
I worked as a correspondent on Aaron‘s program for about a year and I will always remember his words of advice to me after my first appearance. Don‘t get too used to sitting in my chair, Keith, I‘ll be back in New York tomorrow. “NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN” was four years old.
Meanwhile, one of the great hidden secrets of sports has finally reached the American media. It was learned today that two years ago, the Asian edition of TIME magazine reported on the extensive video pornography collection belonging to Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees. In anointing the impeccable left fielder known as “Godzilla” as one of its 29 Asian heroes, TIME Asia noted, quote: “His only eccentricity, if it can be called that, is his extensive private library of adult videos. His refreshing ability to laugh self-deprecatingly about his porno collection, reporters say, is one reason why fans and even non-fans have taken to him so much,” unquote. Now it can be told, Godzilla Matsui reportedly brings at least one suitcase full of his stash with him on road trips. Just a reminder to staff at the hotels where the Yankees stay, when it says “do not disturb” on his door knob, for God sakes, do not disturb!
Also tonight, the TomKat nuptials, well, the prenuptials as in the prenup agreement. The story my producers are forcing me to do again, ahead.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World. The bronze winner, Elaine Chao, you U.S. secretary have labor. The department made a deal with Wal-Mart in the event it wants to inspect a Wal-Mart for child labor violation, it has to give the company 15 days notice.
The runners up, Iyad Abu El Hawa, the owner of Comfort & Caring Home Health in Houston. Under arrest now after giving flu shots to 14 senior citizens. The shots turn out to contain zero percent vaccine and 100 percent distilled water. The company is also alleged to have given the shots to 1,000 employees at an Exxon Mobil company fair.
But your winner, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Speaking of the flu, you‘ve heard of Tamiflu, the supposed best defense if the bird flu breaks out. In the president‘s new $7 billion bird flu plan, up to $1 billion could be spent buying Tamiflu. That‘s driven the stock price of Gilead Sciences, which makes Tamiflu, from $35 a share to $47 a share. Who used to be the chairman of Gilead Sciences? Who, though he has recused himself from decisions involving it, still own between $5 million and $25 million worth of the company, who else but Donald Rumsfeld. Today‘s “Worst Person in the World”!
OLBERMANN: Here we go again. The producers of this newscast do not wield undeniable fiat, no one knows that better than they do. But whenever the names Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes comes over the transom, some clause somewhere gets invoked. And here we go, at the top of the COUNTDOWN, another one of those stories my producers have forced me to do.
Reports of a contentious negotiation over a prenuptial agreement personally involving Katie Holmes‘ attorney father. Msnbc.com Jeannette Walls quoting in the tabloid, The Star: Mr. Holmes‘ prenup hardball is the reason his pregnant daughter and her intended have yet to walk down the aisle.” A source close to the talks reporting Mr. Holmes is holding out for a clause that would award his actress daughter a lump sum payment in the millions should her marriage to Cruise end prior to the five-year mark, or as they say in sports gambling, the over-under is five years, five years over-under, place your bets. Joined now by the columnist of the Village Voice and our expert on the subject, Michael Musto.
Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, VILLAGE VOICE: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I thought this was done. Wasn‘t the rumor that when Cruise was interviewing potential new brides and the agreement was five years, $5 million, what happened to the going rate?
MUSTO: Yes, I thought she already got the $5 million, maybe this an extra one and she has certainly earned it. If anyone has deserved it, it‘s Katie. She should get a cherry on top for the whole shebang. I mean, but then again, Keith, this whole story was from the national Star so it‘s probably as made up as this whole marriage is. It‘s total cuckoo land, it‘s fantasy land.
OLBERMANN: Katie‘s dad—and I speak of her, of course, as if I know her, or as she knows me, Katie‘s dad, Martin Holmes, is the man who not long ago supposedly told Tom Cruise he was quote, “no good,” but he‘s good enough to negotiate the terms of a prenup and a potential future settlement? He‘s OK for that?
MUSTO: Sure. Martin wants to nail Tom to the cross. Tom is good enough if this is going to benefit Katie. The father is one of those crazy cynics who doesn‘t somehow believe in this union, Keith. And he also knows that Nicole somehow got a bunch of cash. But she didn‘t get half of everything. She only came out with some money and an Academy Award. He wants to make sure Katie gets this extra $5 million so she‘ll look beautiful on her way to the golden raspberries next time.
OLBERMANN: But let‘s say he‘s wrong and that Katie and Tom—again, as if I know either one of them, are really in love and this is not a publicity stunt, and, you know, by the way, Scooter Libby has an evil twin who did all of that stuff, but if this is the case isn‘t dad kind of throwing cold water on the wedding or is that the point?
MUSTO: That is the point. He seems to be contradicting all the hooey that this is amazing and it‘s wonderful. Why do you need insurance against something that‘s obviously so perfect as they keep telling us over and over again? This is obviously a joke, this wedding. And this contract sounds like something William Morris brokered to cover some kind of pay-or-play TV deal where you know you‘re going to get fired and you want some ca-ching as you get your butt kicked out the door.
OLBERMANN: I had one of those too.
MUSTO: So did Aaron Brown.
OLBERMANN: Yes, exactly. You‘re damn right about that too. Two stories in one. Quote of the day on this from the divorce attorney Raoul Felder, it plays right into what we were just talking about: “Given Tom‘s history, if they don‘t are have a prenup, forget a lawyer, they need psychiatrists.” Now isn‘t Raoul being glib here, Michael? He‘s glib, glib, glib, glib, glib, glib.
MUSTO: You‘re giving him a lot of credit, but let‘s say he is being funny. And I think actually the rest of that quote was that Tom should take prescriptions, he should marry Brooke Shields, he should join the Kaballah, he should have a float in the gay pride parade, this Raoul is such a kidder, let me tell you. These are just jokes.
OLBERMANN: And the fun part of all this that supposedly at a Scientology charity dinner, the two of them sang the Bob Seger song that he sang in Risky Business, “Old Time Rock ‘n‘ Roll.” How much would you pay for a video of that?
MUSTO: In real cash or monopoly money?
OLBERMANN: Either way.
MUSTO: Probably zero, especially if he‘s doing it in those undies which are probably very soiled from all the public shame he‘s been going through. And he doesn‘t really fit them anymore.
OLBERMANN: Well, first time she would have seen them, right?
MUSTO: I didn‘t say that, Keith!
OLBERMANN: I‘m sorry.
MUSTO: I believe in this.
OLBERMANN: Let me just apologize—no you don‘t! You just said you didn‘t believe any of it.
MUSTO: I didn‘t mean it.
OLBERMANN: I‘m on my own, is what you‘re telling me. I went off the edge of the cliff like the roadrunner.
MUSTO: Look, it‘s a beautiful thing. And I wish the kids the best.
OLBERMANN: Oh, you just sold out entirely. Michael Musto of the Village Voice, as always, great, thanks for making a story my producers have forced me to do a little bit more bearable.
MUSTO: I hope they keep forcing you to do it. I love being your TomKat expert.
OLBERMANN: You got it.
That‘s COUNTDOWN, I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose, good night and good luck.
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