The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/11/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Chris. Thanks very much my
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Something exciting is going on as we speak. The government, you
may have heard, is about to run out of money. Not in some big, esoteric
ideological sense, but literally about to run out of money tonight, at
Government is funded through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. And right now it`s
due to shutdown tonight at midnight, again, if Congress does not gets it
together to pass something to keep the government going.
Now this was supposed to be an easy thing. If you have been reading the
Beltway press about this, this is like, don`t worry about it, they`ll pass
something, they`ve got a plan. It turns out, bad plan.
It`s not at all been an easy thing. And now we are really, really down to
Do we have a live shot right now? What`s going on in there in the House of
Representatives? I know we`ve been dipping in and out of that. Because
what we`re told right now, the House went into recess this afternoon just
after 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time after it became very clear that they didn`t
seem to have the votes to keep the government funded.
They went into recess at 2:07 they`ve now come back into session. We`ve
seen Democrats at the microphone explaining what the problem is from their
perspective. And we`re coming down to the wire in terms of whether or not
something is going to happen within now less than three hours in order to
get this done. We`re told that a vote, another vote trying to get a vote,
But joining us now from the Capitol is Noah Bierman. He`s a congressional
reporter for the “Boston Globe” but he`s been watching this unfold over the
course of the day.
Noah, thanks for being with us.
NOAH BIERMAN, BOSTON GLOBE CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: What`s the status of the status? What`s happening right now in
BIERMAN: Pure chaos. But actually, we`re starting to have some movement
after hours of people waiting around wondering what was going to happen.
They`re going to be at least one vote now on a big spending bill that will
take the government – make it funded or most of the government funded
through the end of September. But there`s question as to whether that will
So if that fails, House leaders have a second bill that will be more
piecemeal bill that will just be for a few months and then they`ll fight
the fight all over again.
MADDOW: In terms of – I guess the unexpected nature of how we got here,
it seems like, most of the press covering this, and certainly most of the
casual press not covering it too tightly, have been – we`re sort of
thinking that this is going to be easier than it was. When they took their
first procedural vote this afternoon, it seems like the fact that zero
Democrats voted for it, they had to whip some Republicans into changing
their votes on it. That seemed too take a lot of people by surprise.
BIERMAN: Yes, there was – it passed – a procedural vote passed by two
votes and they were about five minutes where it was just tied and the vote
count was just frozen and they are apparently twisted a couple of arms and
it passed by two votes. And that was a real sign. After that, you saw
Nancy Pelosi send – make a very passionate speech on the floor. Elizabeth
Warren made a speech in the Senate, where she was actually appealing to the
Republicans to oppose the bill.
And Pelosi also sent an e-mail out to her members to say, hold firm,
Democrats can get a better deal if you hold firm. And that seemed to throw
everything into chaos. The vote that was supposed to come up has been
delayed and delayed and delayed. And just before I came on with you, as we
talk about, they finally decided to bring it up again.
MADDOW: Noah, is it clear at this point if they`re – if they`re going to
vote, as we expect, in the next couple of minutes, is it clear, is anybody,
I guess, confident in their count? Do we know which way the vote is going
BIERMAN: I don`t know which way the vote is going to go. And I think – I
was just down in the basement at a caucus meeting where Democrats were
meeting and the White House sent Denis McDonough to try to persuade them to
vote yes. And members were coming out and saying, they didn`t know how the
vote was going to go. And one member said, anybody who tells you they do
know how to vote was – is going to go, you shouldn`t trust them.
BIERMAN: And I think we`ve learned that from the last few years of the way
the government and Congress has been working that we don`t know how any
vote is going to go.
MADDOW: Noah Bierman, congressional reporter for the “Boston Globe.”
Noah, thank you very much.
BIERMAN: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
And again, what you`re watching here on your screen right now is the House
right now. They`ve been in recess since 2:00 this afternoon. The
government is due to shut down in less than three hours unless they find
something that they can pass. They`ve just come back into session, they`ve
just come back essentially online in the past couple of minutes after being
shutdown all afternoon and all evening until now.
And we`re not exactly sure what they`re going to vote on. We have no
confidence in what the vote total would be. And if the thing that they
vote on fails, I have no idea what`s going to happen next.
Joining us now is somebody who may have a clearer idea of these things,
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
Congresswoman DeLauro, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you very much. Delighted to be
MADDOW: I know that you`re right in the middle of everything because I can
see it happening on our other camera.
MADDOW: What`s happening right now? And what should we expect over the
next couple of hours?
DELAURO: Well, you know, we`ve – we`re coming back into session. The
majority is call into back session. And the presumption is that we`re
going to vote on the – on what they call the Cromnibus. And you know,
that is what will happen. If it goes – it goes down. Then there will be
a vote to extend – there will be is what they call a continuing
resolution, which will extend current spending for about three months, for
about 90 days.
MADDOW: Do you know how you`re going to vote on that first measure you`ll
be ask to vote on which has the –
DELAURO: Yes, I declared early today. I spoke on the Florida House and I
will oppose the legislation and I am the ranking member of the Senior
Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Education and Health
and Human Services. So I worked hard on the bill. And quite frankly, our
problem with the appropriation is the allocation we received in order to
fund education and health care and worker training and all of this is has
been shortchanged over the years.
That being said, that the term very serious problems in this bill and that
is what was added in, you know, at the last minute. One, first of all,
you`re going to see homeland security, the Department of Homeland Security
not funded or not dealt with for about nine weeks. This is really deals
with the national security of this – of this nation. And it`s all because
Republicans don`t like the president`s executive order on immigration. So
they`re holding up full year funding because of immigration.
Secondly, what has been added with regard to the unraveling of a Dodd-Frank
and once again turning people`s lives over to the banks whose transactions,
as you know and I know, Rachel, that the jeopardy that families were put
in. They lost their homes, they lost their jobs, they lost their savings.
And, my God, why would we want to repeat that again.
And then we`re going to see that seniors are going to be shortchanged on
pension benefits. These are people who have earned retirement, worked all
their lives, and we are putting their security in jeopardy, as well.
And I have encouraged my colleagues to vote against this legislation
because I believe that it is – one of the worst egregious pieces, and I
think you will concur with this, is this allows individual contributions in
campaigns of over a two-year cycle, $1.5 million. The country already
believes that the government is being sold to the highest bidder. And the
country is angry about that.
So we are going down a bad road with this piece of legislation. And I will
work hard to try to defeat it in the next hour or the next half hour,
whatever it is.
MADDOW: Congresswoman DeLauro, I know that you have to get back in there,
I just want to ask you briefly.
MADDOW: We know that the Republicans don`t think they can pass this alone.
That they don`t think that there are enough people on their own side who
will vote for this that that will be enough to keep the government funded
with this bill. They`ve been counting on Democratic votes to get this
Do you have any sense if any Democrat are going to vote with this on the
Republicans – vote with the Republicans on this? Do you have any sense of
the Democratic count?
DELAURO: I don`t – I don`t have numbers. And I – and I think that is –
you know, I don`t believe that anyone has numbers at the moment. I believe
overwhelmingly the Democrats will vote against it. There will be Democrats
that vote for it. And I don`t know if that will be enough to make up a
deficiency in what the Republicans view as the shortfall in their vote
count. And I have no idea what their vote count is.
So it is going to be a very exciting time on the floor of the House of
Representatives tonight and I`m sure you`ll be watching.
MADDOW: We will be. And I know you have to race back there right now.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, thanks very much for helping us
understand what`s going on. We really appreciate it tonight.
DELAURO: Thank you. Thanks so much, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: This is – you know, everybody says Washington is always the same
thing over and over again. Cyclically over and over again. In a way, yes.
But in a way, no. I mean, big picture, here we are again. Right?
Incredibly. We`re here again. It`s not even six weeks since we had our
last election and we`re already on the brink of another government shutdown
again. Tonight. Right?
But, on the other hand, the unexpected nature of what happened tonight is
not to be messed with. Like not to be mis-underestimated, to coin a
phrase. I mean, for a country with a national press that is so insolently
focused on Washington, obsessive saturation coverage that we get of every
little intricacy in Washington politics, and so much of the stuff doesn`t
What`s happening tonight in Washington less than three hours away from a
government shutdown, nobody knows if we`re going to have one. What`s
happening tonight is something that the Beltway press totally missed. Our
– you know, our amazing, well-funded, very well-regarded Beltway press had
no idea this was coming. Beltway press has been assuring us for weeks but
there was no chance this would happen.
All right. The leadership in Congress, particularly the Republican
leadership in Congress, said they have a plan that would make sure this
wouldn`t happen. And the Beltway press dutifully wrote that down. They
say they have a plan. So they`re sure it will not happen. Therefore,
we`re sure it will not happen.
But, you know, if you don`t just write down what they say and instead look
around you and report on the political activity you can see, this was not
all that hard to see coming. The first signs of it were on the right.
Once the House Republicans started explaining to reporters exactly what
their brilliant plan was and how they`re going to keep the government
funded and placate their angry Tea Party base and definitely, definitely,
definitely steer very far clear of a government shutdown.
As soon as they floated the basics of that plan, the right and the
Republican Party got really mad in a way that was really visible. That you
– that you could report on for example.
The Heritage Foundation, which used to be a think tank but is now just a
conservative activist group – the Heritage Foundation did more than
anybody else in politics to bring about the last government shutdown. That
was about a year ago. And when Republicans in Congress this year explained
their plan for not having a government shutdown this time around, the
Heritage Foundation went nuts.
They`ve been saying over and over and over again that the Republican plan
to avoid a shutdown was a blank check for President Obama`s lawless
amnesty. And whether or not that makes any sense, whether or not you agree
with their assessment of that, that was their line. Once the Republicans
announced what they were going to do to avoid the shutdown tonight, that`s
been the line from the Heritage Foundation.
That`s what they`ve been telling their folks. That`s what they`ve been
telling their activist, that`s what they`ve been telling members of
Congress who want good score cards from them.
So that`s been their very, very vocal position. They in fact would be
delighted to have a shutdown and they don`t want to do what Republican
leadership wants to do. They`re not going along with the plan. So that
was one sign.
It was also obvious on talk radio. And again, the Beltway press has been
given us all these assurances about how nobody wants a government shutdown.
Everybody agrees a shutdown would be a terrible idea. On right wing talk
radio ever since the election, they`ve been salivating over the idea of
another government shutdown. They`ve been talking about how shutdowns are
not a bad idea at all.
The Republicans shut down the government last year and then look they went
on to win this election and win big. On talk radio shutdowns are not
something that hurts Republicans at all and they do not want to do what the
Republican leadership said. So that was a sign.
Also there`s the ball thing. We had some fun on this show talking about
the signs in the conservative blog world, that things were not going as
well as the Beltway press said they were going. One of the more prominent
conservative blogs organized the campaign to not just oppose the Republican
leadership plan, not just oppose what John Boehner wanted to do to avoid
the shutdown, but to go even further and instead mount this stunt in which
they asked people to mail balls to John Boehner. Like super balls, racket
balls, any kind of balls. Just send him balls. Balls, balls, balls.
They ran a campaign to get conservative activists to mail balls to House
Speaker John Boehner to symbolize, bluntly, their objections to the John
Boehner plan. This plan that he had to avoid the shutdown and keep the
lights on. And then just last week, more very obvious signs that there was
something going wrong on the right here. The Beltway narrative was that
John Boehner had a plan.
That he figured out how to bring even the crazy super right wingers on the
Republican Party along with him and this plan and everything was going to
be fine. But speaking of crazy right wingers, there was that very chilly
press conference just last week with Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann and
Steve King and Louie Gohmert and all the rest of them all saying that not
only did they not fear a shutdown, not only they did not want to do what
John Boehner wanted them do, they said any member of Congress who went
along with and voted for what John Boehner wanted them to do shouldn`t be
allowed to take the oath of office come January.
So it`s not like the signs haven`t been there. All along, the Beltway has
been saying it`s fine. John Boehner says it`s going to be fine, so it`s
going to be fine. But there were these signs on the right. There were
also signs at John Boehner`s office. Right? We all know the timeline now,
the government is due to run out of money tonight at midnight.
So as we`ve been approaching this deadline, which you can see mile away,
there have been these signs starting like a week ago that maybe this plan
that was going to make it all so easy was starting to become slightly less
of an easy thing.
First, we were told that the bill to avoid a shutdown was definitely going
to be filed first thing Monday morning. Pushing it a little bit given that
the shutdown happens Thursday if it doesn`t pass but still Monday morning,
gives them plenty of time to get it passed in the House and then the Senate
before the government shuts down.
So first they told us it would be Monday morning. Then Monday morning came
and went, then they told us no, no, no, it`s not going to be Monday
morning, it will be late Monday. And then late Monday came and went, and
then they told us no, no, no. It`ll be Tuesday morning. And then Tuesday
morning came and went, still no bill. What`s going on here? Then they
said don`t worry, it will be later in the day on Tuesday.
What`s going on?
Finally, they posted at Tuesday, at almost 9:00 p.m. Remember, government
runs out of money Thursday night. They posted it Tuesday almost 9:00 p.m.
They posted it and everybody sat down to read it. It`s like 1600-page
bill. And as the Beltway press is combing through it, publishing all this
little list about what`s in it and what your new government budget is going
to be like, because this is the plan and it`s definitely going to pass.
Easy Tizzy, everything is all done.
As that`s happening, meanwhile, there are lots more signs that things are
not OK. That this is not going to be easy. And this time, it`s not from
just John Boehner`s office delaying over and over again. And it`s not from
the Republican`s side, from the right plank of the Republican Party. All
of those problems still stand. But now in addition, once they drop the
bill, now there`s all of these problems on the other side, on the
Because when they finally dropped the bill, and the Democrats read what the
Republicans finally filed after all those delays late at night on Tuesday,
by the time the Democrats went back to work on Wednesday morning, they all
had their hair on fire. A lot of them were really mad and, also, as you
heard Rosa DeLauro explain there, really surprised.
I mean, they were expecting a bill they didn`t like. Republicans are in
control, they`re negotiating stuff that Democrats aren`t going to like.
They knew they weren`t going to like it. What they did not know was all
the surprise stuff. Republicans stuck a bunch of stuff into this thing at
the last minute. The Democrats say they had no idea what`s coming. And
it`s really stuff that they substantively do not like. Particularly this
thing about the big banks, right?
And so once they started reading the bill, the Democrats started to bail.
And this is where the two different problems that the Beltway never cared
about on the right and on the left became one big problem that brought us
to tonight where who knows if we`re about to have a government shutdown.
The fight on the right started it, right? The Republicans knew they were
upsetting their whole right plank. All these conservative organizations,
all there conservative leaders and that part of the party, we`re not going
to vote for this plan. The reason they didn`t care very much about that
and they told the Beltway press not to care very much about that. And the
Beltway press dutifully went along with that is because the Republicans
figured they took it for granted that any votes they lost from their own
party, they could more than make up for with Democratic votes.
They just took it for granted that the Democrats would be happy to help
them pass this thing. I mean, they could lose Michele Bachman, sure. They
could lose a dozen Michele Bachmanns. They could lose a hundred Michele
Bachmanns. The Democrats would give them whatever votes they needed. They
took that for granted.
And the way we know they took that for granted is by the fact that they put
a whole bunch of stuff in the bill at the last minute that they knew
Democrats wouldn`t like. But they figured they`d get the Democratic votes
anyway. They were taking the Democrats for granted. They figured no
matter what we do, the Democrats are still going to vote with us. They`ll
still give us whatever we need.
Maybe not. As it turns out. Because there`s Elizabeth Warren on the
Senate floor imploring Democrats to withhold their support for this bill
unless these last-minute provisions get taken out. There`s the same
senator, Elizabeth Warren, doing a press conference with the inestimable
Maxine Waters, who was the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services
And that Financial Services is not incidental to this fight because the
main thing the Democrats are objecting to is this Republican provision
which appears to have been written by city group, which would put the
taxpayers back on the hook to bail out the big banks for all the kinds of
risky things they did during the financial collapse.
Maxine Waters according to “The Hill” gathered more than 20 fellow
Democrats in her office this afternoon to plot strategy on this thing, to
say no. Nancy Pelosi blew her top about this yesterday, continued today.
She said she is not voting for this thing, she is not offering her vote to
help out John Boehner. She said today, quote, “I would not put the name of
my constituents in my district next to this bill.”
She sent a letter to the whole House Democratic caucus saying, she wasn`t
explicitly going to tell them how to vote but she thanked anybody who was
planning on voting no. The “Huffington Post” reported that at a private
meeting with her Whip team this morning, Nancy Pelosi said, if Democrats
stand up on this, the Democratic base will stand with them, quote, “The
public awareness among our base is very high on this.” She cited, quote,
“All of the idealism for the people who support us.”
And, with that, everybody who just wrote down what John Boehner has been
saying all this time and therefore reported that this was going to be a
super easy thing, no drama, all those folks are having an unexpectedly long
day at the office right now.
Don`t eat the cold pizza.
So they took the first vote which again was supposed to be no drama, no
problem. They took it earlier today. Remember the plan was yes, they`d
have a few Republican defections but they`d more than make up for with
Democratic votes. Well, they took the first procedural vote on that in
midday today. You want to know how many Democratic votes they got? Zero.
And then John Boehner started personally working the floor. Lobbying
individual Republicans who`d already voted no, that they needed to change
their votes. Remember Kerry Bentivolio, the reindeer herder guy who
dresses up like Santa? He actually has been voted out of Congress, he lost
his primary but he was one of the Republicans who John Boehner personally
prevailed upon today on the House floor and he walked back to his little
voting machine and changed his vote from no to yes.
The Republicans only won that procedural preliminary vote by two votes.
They had zero Democrats to help them do it. This thing was supposed to be
easy. But it almost died right there. And after that, the House went into
recess at 2:07 p.m. Eastern Time. And they stayed in recess all afternoon
long and all through dinner. And all into the evening and they have just
See the time remaining there? They`re taking a vote. Trying to do it.
Nobody knows what the vote count is going to be. And the government
shutdown is going to happen at midnight tonight if nobody gets to a
majority or if they don`t come up with some sort of funding bill that they
can pass. And everybody thought this was going to be no problem.
Everybody thought this was going to be no problem.
But you know what it is, it`s freaking chaos. To the point where the White
House today got all these cabinet secretaries, the vice president, the
president himself on the phone calling their own party, calling House
Democrats, trying to persuade the House Democrats to go along with this
John Boehner plan, because they, too, apparently thought this was going to
be fine. House Democrats and the White House are usually on the same page.
But not today. Not on this.
Everybody took these Democratic votes to bail out John Boehner for granted.
Everybody took this for granted. Except for the people who the votes had
to come from. Who, right now, they basically taken the silverware drawer
out of the wall, lifted it up over their heads and started shaking it and
dancing around barefoot. You could have seen this coming, had you been
looking. Almost nobody was looking but now nobody knows what`s going to
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So this was about the Friday night news stuff we`re
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we have the usual price, the cocktail shaker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mini cocktail shakers. But you have been
consistently offering the players a little extra piece of junk from around
the office so I thought, let`s see what we`ve got and we have –
MADDOW: Have we run out of junk that we need to, like, get selective about
what we`re sending now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I mean – yes. So we`ve got those rocket balls
that we did the other year you joggled, you have it.
MADDOW: I have it here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or we can make it this cheese head we`ve had sitting
MADDOW: I`m not ready to give out the cheese head yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. No cheese.
MADDOW: Not the cheese head.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I grabbed the staple puller off my desk. Right.
I think it`s –
MADDOW: Keep that. Keep that and some of these.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So as the battle to avoid an imminent government shutdown rages on
inside the Capitol tonight right now, this was the scene outside the
Capitol today, where – look at this. Congressional staffers,
predominantly African-American congressional staffers, as well as some
members of Congress, staged a walkout from the U.S. Capitol today.
See them holding their hands up? A walkout in protest of the deaths of
Eric Garner and Michael Brown in the decision to not charge the police
officers who killed either those men. Protests over those killings have
been a day after day news story across the country for weeks now as you
know. But this was a very dramatic thing to see at the U.S. Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BARRY BLACK, SENATE CHAPLAIN: Today, as people throughout the nation
protest for justice in our land, forgive us when we have failed to lift our
voices for those who couldn`t speak or breathe for themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senate Chaplain Barry Black leading a prayer at this dramatic
walkout today of congressional staffers and some members of Congress
protesting police killings.
Lots more ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: In a limited number of cases, agency officers
used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized were abhorrent
and rightly should be repudiated by all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As far as we know, that was the first time that has ever happened
in the United States of America, when the CIA director gave a public
televised press conference, including taking questions from the press
corps. We`ve been scouring the archives all day and asking the reporters
who know these things.
But as far as we can tell, we think this is the first time a CIA director
has every done that on any subject. Director John Brennan speaking today
publicly, and taking questions publicly, in a televised press conference,
about the torture report. We will have more on that ahead.
And to the points you don`t see much of, this happens sometimes in
Congress, but not very often. This is a hearing in the United States
Senate. You see that big black drape there? They`re interviewing a
witness at this moment in the hearing, but you cannot see that witness
because the witness is hidden behind that screen next to the black drape.
At the time of this hearing in 2009, that witness could not reveal his face
to the public. He was a special agent with the FBI. His name is Ali
Soufan. And Ali Soufan is the guy who uncovered the first solid link
between 9/11 and al Qaeda.
And he accomplished that because he was a highly skilled, highly
experienced interrogator for the FBI. That was his job – getting
information out of people whom we desperately need to talk.
A few months after 9/11, Ali Soufan got sent to interrogate this guy, Abu
Zubaydah. Abu Zubaydah was the first high-value member of al Qaeda that
the United States captured after 9/11. U.S. troops captured him in a gun
fight and he was shot multiple times.
And so, when Abu Zubaydah came in to U.S. custody, physically, he was in
terrible shape. Ali Soufan`s account of this has been redacted by the CIA,
but he describes the guy waking up in the hospital. Quote, “As soon as Abu
Zubaydah opened his eyes and it was clear he was lucid, someone gave him a
stern lecture. `Don`t you try to make a scene? You just play along.`”
And then, they started asking him questions. And Zubaydah, America`s first
big get in the war against al Qaeda that, he talked to his interrogators.
Over the course of that interrogation, he told Ali Soufan and his partner
detailed information about the inner workings of al Qaeda. He revealed
that the al Qaeda supervisor for the 9/11 operation was Khalid Sheikh
Before then, the United States knew about this guy, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
but they did not know he was al Qaeda. Once they learned that, our country
learned, basically, who done it, right, which terrorist group attacked us.
That FBI interrogation was successful. It produced real information that
the U.S. needed and was able to act on.
But then something changed. Abu Zubaydah was being interrogated by Ali
Soufan and his FBI partner. And then, the CIA sent in some new guys. They
sent in some contractors to start a whole different kind of questioning
with Abu Zubaydah.
And these contractors were not doing things in the usual way. They
stripped Abu Zubaydah naked. They blasted loud music into his cell. They
eventually went onto waterboard him dozens of times.
These contractors were part of a new CIA torture program. They were sent
to torture this al Qaeda prisoner, even though he`d already been talking
without torturing him.
Frequently, people make the case that the rationale for torturing people is
supposed to be that there`s no time to waste, that a time bomb is ticking
But those CIA contractors who came in and took over from Ali Soufan and his
partner, they seemed to have plenty of time for this guy. The first stage
of their torture was that they put him in solitary confinement with zero
human contact for 47 days before they ever asked him a single question.
After 47 days of zero human contact, they went straight into 17 days of
torture, including waterboarding him more than 80 times.
And instead of talking, which he had been doing constructively before the
torture begun, instead of continuing to reveal what he knew about al Qaeda,
well, the elite FBI interrogators, special agent Ali Soufan, whose work to
that point had been successful and productive, Ali Soufan described what
happened next in that Senate testimony in 2009 from behind that screen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI SOUFAN, ELITE FBI INTERROGATOR: When we interrogated him, using
intelligent interrogation methods, within the first hour, we gained
important actionable intelligence.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: You say on the instructions of
the contractor, harsh technique were introduced which did not produce
results as Zubaydah shutdown and stopped talking, correct?
SOUFAN: Correct, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Since then, FBI agent Ali Soufan has been able to become more
public. He`s written a terrific book about his experiences and about al
Qaeda, and he has been a guest on this show.
That appears to be Alaska Senator Mark Begich, which would be a very
unusual disguise for Ali Soufan. Where did that come from? We haven`t
talked about Mark Begich at all? That`s like from the back of the archives
Anyway, Ali Soufan has written a book. He has been a guest on the show.
He can now tell his story, or at least the parts that are not classified,
about his non-torture interrogation works. And it worked. And then the
CIA stepped in with torture and then the progress stopped.
But there is still a mystery at the heart of this story. We still do not
know why the CIA came up with this idea? Why did the CIA decide to start a
torture program? They didn`t have an existing torture program. And it
wasn`t that they had the people in custody and the normal methods of
interrogating them weren`t working.
Abu Zubaydah was the first high value target that we had and the normal
methods were working with him. But even despite that, somewhere, away from
that lived experience, an abstract policy decision was made back at
headquarters to proactively come up with a plan to start torturing people
even though there was no real world impetus for doing it among the people
we had captured.
Why? And who made that decision? We still don`t know that. But, again,
why did that happen?
Ali Soufan joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: If there is
some unknowable value to these techniques, to waterboarding, near
drownings, slamming people against the wall, hanging them in stress
positions, confining them in small boxes or coffins, threatening them with
drills, waving guns around their head as they are blindfolded, what or
which of these techniques could be used, if as the director of central
intelligence, you and another president, or this president, were faced with
an imminent threat? Could there be another covert finding and rulings and
advice from the attorney general that would lead you and your successors to
say we should do this because there could be some value to prevent an
attack on America?
BRENNAN: As far as what happens, if in the future, there is some type of
challenge that we face here, the army field manual is the established basis
to use for interrogations.
We, CIA, are not in the detention program. We are not contemplating at all
getting back into the detention program, using any of those EITs. So, I
defer to the policymakers, in the future times, when there is going to be
the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe, if we face some
type of crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “I defer to the policymakers.” Meaning, if they want do this
again, they know our number. We know how to do this stuff.
Joining us now is Ali Soufan. He`s a former FBI special agent. He took
part in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. He`s the author of “The Black
Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al Qaeda”.
Ali, thank you for being here. It`s nice to see you.
SOUFAN: Thank you, Rachel. Nice to see you.
MADDOW: I have to just ask you as somebody who was the initial
interrogator of the first high value target after 9/11, first high value al
Qaeda target, your story and that prisoner are a big part of just what was
presented out by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Did they get it right
from your perspective? And how did you feel bringing that report?
SOUFAN: You know, reading that report made me really angry and it opened
old wounds. But I think everything they had in that report matches a
hundred percent what I witnessed when I saw.
I know they didn`t talk to any of us. They didn`t talk to people in the
FBI or CIA who were involved in the program. But I think they did what we
do sometimes if government. They say if it`s not on paper, they went and
look at millions of documents. And they really compiled the largest report
in investigative in Senate history, 6,500 pages, 38 footnotes, based on
millions of cables and communications that they were able to read and they
My experience, from what I was involved in, the part I was involved in, is
a hundred percent accurate.
MADDOW: Wow. Well, the key – the few things that are key about your
experience in terms of what we`re learning about this as a country, and one
of them is that you were able to get quality intelligence that was
actionable for the United States and that was, in fact, key to us being
able to use say al Qaeda did it, without using any sort of torturous
The other thing that we have learned is that despite that, some sort of
decision was made the somewhere that torture techniques should be used
despite the fact that this prisoner has been talking to you.
MADDOW: How did you experience that – to the extent that you can explain,
how did you experience that in real-time? Did you know why the CIA was
doing this? Or in fact that the CIA was going to do it until it happened?
SOUFAN: Actually, nobody knew. Even the agency people who were there
didn`t know. I mean, a lot of people from the agency who were with us,
they were shocked about this. And as I testified in my statement to the
Senate in `09, it`s the only statement still under oath of anybody who was
involved in the program, some of the people from the CIA even left before
As you see –
MADDOW: Once the enhanced interrogation techniques, once the torture
started, they left?
SOUFAN: Exactly. Once they started seeing all the things happening, they
disagree with it. And this is actually even before enhanced interrogation
techniques, because enhanced interrogation techniques didn`t start until
the summer. But they were different interpretation of what they called
standards interrogation techniques, and what`s the level of the standard
Just like the stuff that I described to the Senate, like the nudity or the
music or sleep deprivation at the time to 24 hours only or –
MADDOW: And you hadn`t been doing that in terms of an FBI interrogator.
SOUFAN: No, absolutely.
MADDOW: So, when the CIA contractors arrived, they started that stuff
SOUFAN: They started that and people from the CIA who were there were
shocked. I mean, that program, to be honest with you, my experience, and
this is what I testified about, it`s not a CIA program. It`s a few people
in the CIA with some outside contractors that they brought to run the most
sensitive program in U.S. history basically after 9/11. So, they came over
and decided to out source the most important thing we have – getting
information from detainees.
Abu Zubaydah was not the only terrorist, nor the first terrorist that we
arrested. We had investigated people who are involved in the East Africa
embassy bombing. We were able to get confessions from them. We were able
to disrupt the plots. We were able to interrogate people who were involved
in the USS Cole and get confessions and identify other people.
We almost stopped 9/11 based on our interrogations and our investigations.
However, as we know, there was a Chinese wall between the intelligence and
criminals so the information was not passed to the FBI on a timely basis to
stop the investigation.
This is not me who`s saying that. This is a 9/11 Commission who said that.
And this is the CIA`s own I.G. report who said that.
And so, we know how to interrogate people. What shocks me in the report is
to see that there were some people in Washington at the time. They were
convinced that no one should be involved but them. It`s an institutional
thing. It`s their piece of cake in the fight against terrorism, and
especially if the fight and in the interrogations of al Qaeda.
They were actually having meetings with PowerPoint about how to wall off
the FBI and military, because the FBI and the military have people who know
how to interrogate, have people who know who to get the intelligence.
So, basically, you have a program where 80 percent – more than 80 percent
of the people who were involved in it were outside contractors, were not
agency people. The people who were from the agency who were involved in it
were probably about like a few dozens.
MADDOW: When they showed up and they started with the nudity and the
shackling and the first stuff that they did that really departed from what
you had been doing as a trained FBI interrogator, did you recognize those
techniques that they were doing as something that was an option? I mean,
when you trained to become a quality interrogator –
SOUFAN: Absolutely not.
MADDOW: Those things were available to you but you decided not to do.
SOUFAN: Even before EIT, some of the stuff that they were proposing it, if
we see it in the United States and any police station or even the FBI
office, people go to jail for it. And we`re not talking about the EITs at
the time. So, when EITs happen, some of the cables have came out from the
black sites, you know, when they were doing waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah,
there`s one cable that said people – you know, there were tears.
MADDOW: Right. Some of the CIA staff were in tears.
SOUFAN: And I know these guys. These guys – those tears were not tears
because there is any sympathy to a terrorist. Those tears were very
similar to when you choked two days ago when you were talking about this.
Those cheers are the real tears of patriotism.
MADDOW: Ali Soufan, former FBI special agent, whose book, “The Black
Banners”, despite reactions from the CIA, is still one of the best sources
that we`ve got on this subject and more.
Ali, thank you very much.
SOUFAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good to have you here.
SOUFAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Breaking news, we are just doing the math, but it passed.
Avoiding what could have been a government shutdown in less than three
hours had Congress been unable to pass a spending bill by midnight tonight,
House Republicans added a bunch of policy riders to the spending bill to
keep the lights on and prevent a government shutdown. House Democrats
including Nancy Pelosi announced that they were not going to support this
The House shut down at 2:00 this afternoon when they thought they couldn`t
get this thing passed. They reopened and started voting on the bill. They
came back into session shortly after 9:00 p.m. tonight.
Speaker John Boehner working the floor, trying to persuade both Democrats
and Republicans to vote for the bill. The White House, including cabinet
secretaries and Vice President Biden and President Obama whipping this
vote, trying to get Democrats to vote for this tonight.
And just a few minutes ago, the bill has now officially passed the House,
219-206. I`m still getting confirmation on this.
Tell me – control room, tell me if I`m wrong. As far as I can tell with
the count, 57 yes votes from Democrats, and 67 no votes from Republicans.
Is that right?
So, 57 Democrats had to cross over in order to save John Boehner`s bacon,
and after threatening all day long that they would not, they did.
The House will now vote on another bill that would just – that only serves
the purpose of giving the Senate a couple more days to get this done.
Senate, they need another couple days to get their own vote on the spending
bill, provided that happens, which is no reason to think it won`t. That
would mean as of now, government shutdown averted by 2 1/2 hours. Woo-hoo!
MADDOW: When conditions warrant, one of the things we do on this show is
called “and now here`s a thing.” Behold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: And now, here`s the thing.
MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt interviewed Texas Governor Rick Perry about his plans to
run for president again.
She asked blunt questions. He had blunt answers.
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Are you smart enough to be president of
the United States?
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I think the standpoint of life`s experiences,
running for the presidency is not an I.Q. test.
SUBTITLE: “Running for the president`s not an I.Q. test.”
And that is a thing that happened.
MADDOW: And that is a thing that happened. I didn`t make it up.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: For the past couple of years now, the great state of California
has been enduring the worst drought in a zillion years, kind of literally,
the most severe drought in 1,200 years. Not that anybody is counting.
Just this year alone, California has had the least rainfall since we
started keeping rainfall records in California. The state is not just dry,
it is freaking parched. Rivers and lakes have all but vanished. The
state`s sources of drinking water, major reservoirs are way below capacity.
Lots of farmland has had to go fallow. Some parts of the state, people no
longer have running waters in their home, because the water table dropped
so much, they today rely on water being trucked in.
Everybody in the state has been directed to strictly conserve water. State
and city ordinances have upped the fines for people found wasting water.
And it`s been like this for a long while now. This has been a very severe
drought and a very long one.
Well, finally, this week, they are getting a bit of relief in the Golden
State. But I`m not sure this is the kind of relief anyone wanted.
This was San Francisco`s Embarcadero this morning where the city meets the
San Francisco Bay. Water already crashing over the sea wall there, enough
to close streets and knock out power, even four hours before high tide.
That was just the beginning. Rain pounded the Bay Area all day. Hurricane
force winds, flash flooding led to blackouts in more than 200,000 homes
today. Heavy downpours stalled the morning commute in a major way.
The big highway that connects San Francisco and San Jose, both of them at
times are pretty much shut down due to severe flooding. Public
transportation suspended in much of the city. Flooding got so bad on city
streets that, as you can see here, people were practically swimming around.
On a few streets, the sewer system was overflowing, to the point of blowing
off manhole covers.
Bay Area school districts canceled school today in preparation for what was
anticipated to be this very big storm. Lots of residents were off work for
the day, too. That said, this is California and so anything can be an
excuse to get your kayak out.
It also being California, some people cars oddly ended up being
unexpectedly made for this kind of weather.
They`re saying this is a once in a decade storm, although once in a
whatever time period weather formats right now no longer seem do hold true
anymore. They`re saying it`s the effect of an atmospheric river. They
call these sorts of storms the “Pineapple Express”, because they say this
very wet air is coming from basically the vicinity of Hawaii.
While this thing is absolutely dousing much of northern and central
California today, eight inches on San Francisco today, the state still
needs another 10 or 20 inches of rain this year to get out of this record
drought. Let`s hoping it doesn`t all come in one day.
That does it very much for us tonight. Thanks for being with us. We`ll
see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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