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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/06/13

Guests: Bill Keating

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for the next hour. All right, Fayetteville, North Carolina. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, downtown, just off Campbell Avenue, Jackie Burden and Michael James, these two people, were walking down the street on December 7th, 1995. And while they were walking down the street, they ran into three U.S. soldiers. They were all members of the 82nd Airborne stationed nearby at Ft. Bragg. The soldiers shot and killed Jackie Burden and Michael James in a totally unprovoked, seemingly utterly random attack. They shot them both in the head with a semiautomatic pistol. Both of them died. Two of the soldiers got life sentences. The third got a reduced sentence for testifying against his buddies. After the soldiers were arrested in that case, it quickly became clear that the murders were not actually random. Jackie Burden and Michael James were shot specifically and only because they were black. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Two white paratroopers at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, tonight are charged with murder in the execution of a black couple in nearby Fayetteville. NBC`s (INAUDIBLE) Jones is in Fayetteville. REPORTER: Grieving relatives of the victims brought flowers to the scene of the crime today as the two white soldiers were denied bond. Police say Privates James Bermeister (ph), the taller of the two, and Malcolm Wright, went drinking Wednesday night and looked for blacks to harass. They are accused of shooting a black couple at close range with a 0.9 millimeter pistol, 36-year-old Michael James and 27-year-old Jackie Burden. Police say they later found a Nazi flag and white supremacist literature along with a book on how to make bombs in a room rented by one of the men. Karen Knox (ph), the sister of slain Michael James, says the killings are all the more painful because the accused men are U.S. soldiers. KAREN KNOX: And in our army, in our own country, we can go off and help everybody else everywhere else, but what about home? REPORTER: Late this afternoon a third soldier was arrested in connection with the killings. Police say Randy Meadows drove the car for the other two men and that there are no other suspects. REPORTER: James Burmeister is accused of hunting down and killing a black couple one winter night in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The prosecution`s first witness in the murder trial, former girlfriend, Kelly Cook Kelley (ph) who showed the same flag Burmeister displayed in his Fort Bragg room. She held up a photo of Burmeister posing with skinhead friends. Kelley testified the form army soldier boasted it was more than just a phase. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: At the trial the prosecution argued that the skinhead soldiers had killed Jackie Burden and Michael James that night in Fayetteville because they wanted to win the right to wear specific racist tattoos that you could only wear apparently if you had killed someone for being black or Jewish or gay. A worldwide investigation initiated by the military because of that Ft. Bragg murder uncovered a series of cells, essentially a network of white supremacists operating inside the U.S. Army, 22 soldiers were discharged for belonging to racist skinhead groups. And just over 3 percent of army personnel who were interviewed for the study admitted they had been asked to join white supremacist groups once they were in the U.S. Army. The results of that investigation were released in 1996. The Ft. Bragg murder happened in 1995. Also serving at Ft. Bragg in 1995 was this man, Wade Michael Page (ph). At the time friends who served with him at Ft. Bragg said he was an avowed white supremacist. One man who served with him at Ft. Bragg recalled that he spoke of the need for securing a homeland for white people. He referred to all nonwhite people as dirt people. Quote, "He criticized me for my attraction to Latina women. He would call me a race traitor. He said I should change my ways because I was a blond haired, blue eyed white guy and shouldn`t be wasting myself on that." And at that time, again, 1995 in Ft. Bragg, Mr. Paige was apparently covered -- according to people who knew him at the time -- he was covered with racist tattoos, including one that made a reference to the 14 words, a phrase used by white supremacist. Here is that tattoo, the specific one reference there. And this is that specific guy. See, it`s a Celtic cross inside a circle. And if you look in the white foreground, there`s a big 14 on it -- 14 stands for the racist skinhead kind of pledge of allegiance, I guess, because it has 14 words. The 14 words are: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." Fourteen words supposedly written in prison by the leader of a group called The Order, which was the conspiratorial violent Nazi group that murdered the liberal radio host Allen Bird (ph) in Denver in 1984. Conspiratorial racist and neo-Nazi groups like numerological codes. So, apparently, the number 18 can be a racist symbol -- 1-8 standing for the first and eighth letters of the alphabet, "A" and "H." So, 18 means Adolf Hitler. Racist group called the Hammer Skins, they apparently used 838 in the same kind of code. Their symbol is crossed hammers. So, 838 stands for "H," "C," "H." Hail the crossed hammers. And then as you saw an earlier tattoo, they are the 14, standing for those 14 words, the future for white children pledge of racist allegiance. The guy who had been at Ft. Bragg`s in the murderous Nazi skinhead days in 1995, the guy serving there then with the tattoo of the big 14 in the Celtic cross apparently also had a "W" and a "P" tattooed on the back of his hands. A "P" on one hand, a "W" on the other standing for "white power." He played in racist bands that played white power shows. They played under the Confederate flag. They hung swastika banners behind them when they did shows. By 2011 he had moved to Wisconsin apparently to live with a girlfriend who herself seems to have been part of the same world. You see her on the left with all of these guys. The sign Volksfront, race over all. Mr. Page`s then-girlfriend reportedly worked as a waitress in a strip mall restaurant in the town of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the restaurant where she worked was just about a block away from the Sikh temple of Wisconsin. And in 2012, after an adult lifetime of wallowing in racist, conspiracy theories, and the insane American movement and nutty fringe subculture that nurtures those theories, Wade Michael Page decided to stop just posting online to Nazi message boards about how we all needed to be living the 14 words, he decided to get off line and go get a gun. And a year ago, he went to the Sikh temple of Wisconsin a block away from where his girlfriend worked. And at the Sikh temple of Wisconsin killed six people and wounded others before he killed himself. One of those he wounded was the first responder who he shot 12 times. Lieutenant Brian Murphy got shot 12 times and he lived. When other officers responded to the scene, Lieutenant Murphy refused to let those other officers help him and told them to go help the other people who had been shot. Finally, in May of this year, nine months after the shooting, Lieutenant Brian Murphy said he would have to retire saying I didn`t heal enough for the doctors to deem me eligible enough to go back to work. The president of the congregation was among the six Sikh worshippers who were killed that day. Since then his son has formed a group called Serve 2 Unite with a former skinhead who lived for years in the white power movement and believed in all of the same doctrine and dogma and conspiracy theories as the man who committed that massacre. These two conformed this group together and they go to local schools and they tell the story of the massacre. They tell the story of what happened at the Sikh temple a year ago. They tell the story of the background and beliefs of the man who committed that crime. And then they explain how this man who is telling the story to these school kids also used to have all the same beliefs. He has all of the same background. And then they tell the story about how he changed. The son of the Sikh congregation president who was killed and the defector from the neo-Nazi movement, they have formed this organization together and now have matching tattoos on their hands with, ironically enough, numerological significance, the tattoo say 8.5.12, which is the day, of course, of the Sikh temple massacre which brought them together, through the racist conspiracy theory fringe movement that one of them lived through and then left. Last night, a candlelight vigil marked the end of four days of commemoration in Wisconsin of the Oak Tree Sikh temple mass shooting. Last night, "The Wall Street Journal" printed and the BBC aired some new reporting that puts a big new twist into the story of the Boston marathon bombing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: And we found out that Tamerlan`s interests here at home were not just Islamic. He subscribed to publications about government conspiracies, and gun rights and white supremacy. He also read about mass shootings. Tamerlan was perhaps not so much the true radical jihadist as a deeply troubled young man who latched on to Islam. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is from the BBC last night. It is "The Wall Street Journal" that published its article around the same time that documentary aired last night and it`s "The Journal" that gets more detail on this angle of the story. Check this out. The way "The Journal" tells it, when the Tsarnaev family arrived in Boston in 2003, apparently, the mother in the family was working as a home health aid. And she reportedly asked her eldest son, the older of the two Boston bombing suspects, the one who was killed in a confrontation with police a few nights after the bombing, she asked her son Tamerlan Tsarnaev if he would help her out with her work as a home health aid. "The Journal" reports she specifically asked her son to help out with one older man for whom she was the home health aide. He was a man who had been disabled for 40 years ever since he had been shot in the face during a robbery, as a young man. He worked at the convenient store, there was a robbery. He was shot in the face, that was 40 years, still disabled and she was part of his home health aide -- she was his home health aide. She asked her son to get involved. And the way "The Journal" puts it, quote, "Mr. Larking miraculously survived being shot in the face but people close to the family say his faculties didn`t survived. He was intrigued with far-flung conspiracies, they said. He subscribed to newspapers and journals that doubted the Holocaust and described the attacks of 9/11 and Oklahoma City and the Newtown school as plots by unseen elites and by the U.S. and Israeli governments. In caring for this disabled old man with the racist conspiracy theories, Tamerlan Tsarnaev seems to have found a kindred spirit. They became friends and had animated talks about politics. The older man also gave Tamerlan Tsarnaev his reading material. Quote, "A `Wall Street Journal` reporter recently visited Mr. Tsarnaev`s apartment in Cambridge, Mass, and read a stack of newspapers, mostly borrowed from Mr. Larking that allege nefarious conspiracies." The newspapers in his apartment included this one, "The First Freedom", "equal rights for whites," you see, the Confederate flag there. The current edition of their newspaper advertises on its front page events for Stormfront which is the same Nazi message board where the Sikh temple shooter was posting about living the 14-word neo-Nazi motto. Another one in the newspapers in Tamerlan Tsarnaev`s was apparently something called the Sovereign, the newspaper of the resistance it calls itself. At least in its current incarnation it seems to be a 9/11 truther thing, all about how secretly it`s Israeli lobbyist who is control the U.S. government and it was the U.S. government or maybe it was Israel that really did the Boston bombings. Also something called the American free press which promises to tell you the truth that the establishment media won`t about black mob violence continuing unabated across the nation and how the IRS scandal reveals that there is Jewish control of the White House. Victims speak out. You know, the headline, and I think also in some ways the bottom line of the Boston marathon bombing has been that the reason for the bombing was radical Islam, that the bombers were inspired by the online al Qaeda magazines that committed the bombing for the same cockamamie conspiratorial nonsense we`ve had to become familiar with since bin Laden became a household name since the attack. It does seem clear the al Qaeda brand of conspiratorial nonsense radicalism is part of what drove that act of terrorism in Boston. But if this new reporting from the BBC and "The Wall Street Journal" is correct, that may not have been the only conspiratorial nonsense radicalism that was at work here, which maybe isn`t that weird. Going back to "The Journal" today, terror experts say extremist American literature and extremist Islamic readings may reach vastly different audiences, at least most of the time. But the themes are largely the same. Both suggest wide-ranging plots by the U.S. and Israeli governments that time is running out before an intended apocalypse and that heroes must act before it is too late. I mean, really, pick your poison, right? It`s the protocols of the elders of Zion which Tamerlan Tsarnaev apparently had a nice copy of, to the protocols of Zion or its 9/11 truth or what Anwar al-Awlaki sold to Nidal Malik Hasan, who is now using that argument in his own defense down at Fort Bragg, to try to justify his mass shooting, mass killing of U.S. troops at Fort Bragg. It`s -- Ft. Hood, excuse me. It`s white supremacy and neo-Nazism with the racial holy war on its way like the Sikh temple shooter used to tell his friends in the Army. It`s the Boston bombing was really carried out by the government and 9/11 and Waco and false flags and all the rest, right? Pick your poison. There`s always been an appeal to this necrotizing conspiracy theory radicalism, which almost always butts up against justifying violence -- justifying some sort of cockamamie violent, heroic resistance by the select few who are awake and can see the truth even though everybody else is lulled to sleep, particularly in our country but around the world there has always been an appeal to radical conspiracy theories. But now with fewer trusted sources of information in our culture and with lightning free global dissemination of anything, there is richer terrain now in our country than there ever has been for all of these nefarious conspiracies about government plots to kill and conspire and lie about it and cover up the real truth. This stuff is as ridiculous as it has ever been, but it is as ridiculous as it is dangerous. Because it is more widespread than ever and because it is dangerous our government should take particular care to not play to type, to not feed these trolls exactly what they are looking for. Which is exactly what the FBI is doing right now, and that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In Florida today, the father of Ibrahim Todashev arrived from Russia to try to start figuring out why his son is dead. In May, his son was being interviewed by FBI agents apparently in the presence of other law enforcement officers as well. They were reportedly interviewing him about his past friendship with one of the two Boston bombing suspects and possibly also about an unsolved triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 2011. During that interview with FBI agents, Ibrahim was shot dead inside the condo that he lived in, in Orlando. Contradictory law enforcement leaks said initially that Mr. Todashev was armed with some kind of knife and then that he wasn`t and then they said he was armed with maybe some kind of pole or maybe it was a broom stick or maybe he wasn`t armed with that either or maybe he lunged or tried to throw over a piece of furniture. Well, in any case, he`s dead. And we have no detailed official explanation as to what happened. The most information we`ve got is unofficial and cannot be confirmed by any official sources. In Russia, his family publicly released what they say are photos taken of Mr. Todashev`s body in a morgue in Florida, showing what appeared to be seven bullet holes, six to his torso and one to the back of the head. There is no local investigation of this shooting in Florida. Although Massachusetts state police officers were reportedly present for the shooting in Florida, there`s no Massachusetts investigation of the shooting either. The only investigation of this shooting, the only review being done at all of FBI agents having killed this guy while interviewing him, the only review of any kind is being done by the FBI itself. The shooting review process at the FBI -- well, the last 150 FBI shootings that it reviewed were all determined to be justified shootings. All 150 of the last 150 they looked at. Case closed. That`s it. The list of those calling for someone other than the FBI to have a look at this or at least for the FBI to explain something, anything, publicly about what happened here, it started with advocacy groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations and the ACLU in Florida and the ACLU in Massachusetts. It then moved on to the editorial pages of the patriot ledger newspaper in Massachusetts and to "The Boston Globe" and to "The Boston Herald" and, frankly, "The Boston Globe" and "The Boston Herald" never agree on anything especially on the editorial page but they agree that the FBI has to say something about this. We have covered this story a lot. Honestly, because it is inconceivable to me that the FBI is just treating this it like it`s over and there`s no need for any official public notice at all. They`re just going to keep leaking out implausible but always self-exculpatory things to the press and expect us all to be satisfied. We have covered this story a lot because of that. Each time we have asked the FBI to comment officially or to come on the show and at least talk about why they can`t comment officially. Every time they say no. Nicely but they say no. They said no nicely again today. But they also now have to answer to this young man`s father who has arrived today from Russia. And they have to answer to everybody else who wants some kind of public information about this bizarre and key fatal development in both the Boston bombing investigation and that Massachusetts murder, which they have anonymously leaked should be pinned on that man they killed. Case closed. Joining us now is Congressman Bill Keating of Massachusetts. He`s a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. Congressman Keating has been calling for FBI Director James Comey to release of information on the investigation and on law enforcement activity surrounding the Boston marathon case. Congressman Keating, thanks very much for your time tonight. REP. BILL KEATING (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Hi, Rachel. MADDOW: So, you wrote this letter to the new FBI Director James Comey, asking for more information about the marathon bombing investigation. Why did you write that letter? KEATING: I wrote the letter because it`s important, whether it`s Homeland Security or other congressional committees that we go forward. We`re not looking back at the past to assess blame or to look at playing politics at all. We`re looking at that as information, facts that we can move forward so that we can make changes. There has to be changes in the information sharing. There have to be changes in the guidelines that are used and there has to be more transparency when that`s possible as well. And I think that that`s important not just to see what happened in the Boston bombing. What`s important is to make sure we`re doing everything as a country to make us more secure going forward. MADDOW: As a member of Congress, as somebody with the background that you have as a former prosecutor, being on the Homeland Security Committee, do you get access to more information from the FBI than we`re getting publicly about this? Are they doing closed door classified briefings with members of Congress to explain more than those of us in the public don`t have access to? KEATING: Well, we`ve had three hearings wit homeland security committee. Two public hearings and one classified and each one of those we asked the FBI to come forward and testify. Even in the classified closed from the public hearing and they refused. MADDOW: Wow. I know that you recently traveled to Russia and took meetings with the FSB among other Russian officials to talk about their side of this case and their side of this investigation. I teased you about it on this show because Steven Seagal was involved in setting that up. And I think anything having to do with Steven Seagal deserves teasing. That said, I`m still interested in whether you learned anything on that trip that sheds light on this investigation. KEATING: Well, I certainly learned a great deal. I learned that with the sharing of a March 4th, 2011 letter, that, indeed, there was very specific information given to the FBI and the CIA saying that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was going to go -- wanted to go back to Russia, that he wanted to join with insurgents there, which he did, that he interestingly enough with today`s "Wall Street Journal" story, detailed in that letter was the fact that he tried to join the insurgency in Palestine, tried to join the insurgency in Palestine but he couldn`t master the language. So this might shed light on some of the other information that broke today yet I learned more traveling 5,000 miles than I learned going ten blocks from Pennsylvania Avenue from the FBI. I learned more from the Russians than I did from our own FBI. MADDOW: Particularly because of stories like that and angles like that, obviously the main interest here is whether or not the FBI and the Justice Department more broadly were effectively doing their jobs. I do think, though, that this dovetails into a larger question about whether or not there is accountability for law enforcement actions and I am mystified by the fact that there`s apparently no recourse whatsoever to have anybody look into this FBI shooting in Orlando or any other FBI shooting other than the FBI itself. I feel like it absolutely feeds the conspiratorial fears of people who worry that there`s no accountability in American law enforcement and that people can essentially disappear here if somebody wants them to. KEATING: I wouldn`t say -- I wouldn`t say in law enforcement generally speaking, because I was a district attorney, as you know, in Massachusetts. And when there were shootings by law enforcement in other cities, if there was a shooting, for instance, in Boston, they would move that over to my office independently to investigate that. So I would say the norm, frankly, is to have another independent law enforcement agency investigate that. MADDOW: Why isn`t that true in the FBI? KEATING: I don`t know but I think that`s a good question. MADDOW: Could Congress insist that that be changed? KEATING: I think that Congress should be a player in this. There are reports out that there are some I.G. investigations into the Boston bombing and how that was handled. There was also reports out that the FBI had conducted their own internal investigation of the Boston bombing circumstances and what preceded. And to my knowledge, and I had an official source tell me there was indeed no internal investigation by the FBI into the Boston bombing. Congress has a role here. It`s an independent branch of government. It`s not part of the administration. And Congress will be the body that moves forward changing the laws and evidently, there`s some laws that have been suggested to be changed, some guidelines that should be changed, while providing the resources. And it`s also the conduit to the public. The last analysis law enforcement or no law enforcement, people that worked for the government are answerable to that government. And that means l enforcement as well. And in my experience, coming from a law enforcement family, being a district attorney myself, dealing with state police and local police, we shared that information. And other than trying to do anything that would compromise an ongoing trial, and there`s so much information that we need right now that won`t compromise any trials, that information should be forthcoming and it should be forthcoming not only in terms of accountability. More importantly, it should be forthcoming because we don`t have lot of time to spend making changes and guidelines, making sure that the policies are right. Clearly even admittedly by the FBI there have been lapses. Those things have to be corrected. And they`re saying, well, we made the corrections and not telling us what the lapses were in detail. And what corrections they`ve made. That`s not just unfair to the people that lost their lives and the victims that lost their lives, the four individuals in the bombing, or the over 200 people that were injured, that`s not fair to all of us who are in jeopardy. And we all know that the odds are very strong that there will be a repetition of this type of terrorist attack going forward. And these are lessons learned. And what happened in this instance was a March report that was read to me by the Russians saying that he was going to try to get back to Russia and nine months later he did. Saying he might want to meet with insurgents, he met with an insurgent that was there. He came back and we still didn`t red flag this because of the procedure, because they had the initial information, had an interview and in June of that year, about three months later, they closed the case. And when that case was closed, they never went back to it. Not when he went there, not when he came back, not when he tried to get his citizenship. There are loopholes in the system, lapses in the system that need to be corrected and in a good, healthy airing to the public that will do nothing but help our safety going forward. MADDOW: Congressman Bill Keating, Democrat of Massachusetts, member of the House Homeland Security Committee, former prosecutor -- thank you for your time tonight, sir. We appreciate it. KEATING: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There`s genuinely good news regarding our 43rd president, George W. Bush is in good health and good condition tonight following heart surgery, angioplasty, the insertion of a stint into his heart to alleviate a dangerous blockage there. The former president`s prognosis is reportedly good. He, of course, is it famously fit and physically active. We, of course, wish Mr. Bush a full and speedy recovery. We wish all the best to his family. As we got that news today about that health development for him, coincidentally one particular part of the legacy of the Bush presidency loomed very large over today`s news. And that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you look at President Obama`s schedule any day of the week or month or year, this is usually the first thing you see on that schedule. The president and vice president received the presidential daily briefing. The first thing in the morning, it happens day after day after day after day -- it`s very consistent. This is pretty much how every day starts for the president of the United States and usually the vice president, too -- the presidential daily briefing, the PDB. It`s the daily document that contains all the things the intelligence community thinks the president needs to know for that specific day. The PDB or some version of it has been around for more than 50 years. For most of those five decades it was delivered to the president by the head of the CIA and then ultimately to the position that was created to be above the head of the CIA which is the director of national intelligence. The PDB is a big deal as these things go. It is also classified. You are not the president unless you are watching, Mr. President, in which case, this doesn`t apply to you. Aside from that, you are not the president and neither am I, and so neither of us gets to see the presidential daily briefing. It is not made public. It is not one of those things that gets parse and put on TV and debated and made famous except for one of them. President George W. Bush was the very first president to declassify a presidential daily briefing. He declassified it and released it in the spring of 2004 to the commission that was investigating the 9/11 attacks. The briefing that was declassified was the one delivered to President Bush while he was on vacation at his ranch in Texas five weeks before 9/11 happened. The title of that specific presidential briefing, why it is so famous, why it made headlines not just then but for years, was -- actually I`ll just let Condoleezza Rice explain it. Here she is testifying before the 9/11 Commission as national security adviser in April 1994. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD BEN-VEHISTE, MEMBER OF 9/11 COMMISSION: I want to ask you some questions about the August 6th, 2001 PDB. You acknowledged that Richard Clarke told you that al Qaeda cells were in the United States. Did you tell the president at any time prior to August 6th of the existence of al Qaeda cells in the United States? CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: First, let me just make certain -- BEN-VEHISTE: If you could just answer that question because I only have a very limited time. RICE: I understand, commissioner, but it`s important that I also address -- (APPLAUSE) RICE: It`s also important, commissioner, that I address the other issues that you have raised. So I will do it quickly but if you`ll just give me a moment. BEN-VEHISTE: My only question to you is whether you told the president. RICE: I don`t remember the al Qaeda cells as being something that we told we needed to do something about. BEN-VEHISTE: Isn`t it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB warned against possible attacks in this country and I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB. RICE: I believe the title was "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States". Now the -- BEN VEHISTE: Thank you. RICE: The PDB -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." That warning was not buried in some footnote somewhere in a binder full of women or something, that was the title of the first and usually the most important document that the president looks at every day. That was the title. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICE: I believe the title was "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States". (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is kind of an eternal thing, right? I mean, 100 years from now when the Google glass, YouTube, Amazon, Taco Bell news channel, or whatever conglomerate is still around 100 years from now, when the future news conglomerate, right, retells the story of 9/11, they will be using that sound bite. I believe the title was "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States", but anyway -- That presidential daily briefing was delivered to President George W. Bush 12 years ago today. Now, today in 2013, on that anniversary, we are again trying to decide just how to react to what we are told is a new threat from al Qaeda, one of such specificity and such a worrying nature that at dawn today U.S. personnel in Yemen were flown out of the country basically with no warning. Just pack your bags and go, everybody. A hundred State Department employees were carried out of Yemen on a C- 17 cargo plane like this one. They were told to leave immediately. They were told there was an extremely high threat of a terrorist attack. Some essential staff apparently stayed behind but for security reasons the state department is not saying who or how many. Also in Yemen today, more missile strikes, U.S. missile strikes against suspected militants in the country and the government put out a list of what it says are its 25 most wanted terrorists. So on the same day the United States whisks state department personnel out of the country due to a threat from al Qaeda and kill some alleged al Qaeda guys in Yemen with missiles and the Yemeni government goes so far as to name their top 25 most wanted names. Meanwhile, a total of 19 American embassies and consulates around the world remain closed tonight because of the threatened al Qaeda attack that was apparently intercepted somehow last week and was of such an alarming character it caused this unprecedented outbreak of global diplomatic precaution. We are not just living in a post-9/11 world. We are also living in a post-bin laden determined to attack inside the United States world. We`re told that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been the most effective branch of al Qaeda for years now. It makes sense the administration would take threats from them very seriously. That said, it also seems like American consular activities in Yemen are probably always under some degree of threat. When had is it ever safe to be an American government employee in the country of Yemen these days? How unusual is it to have a piece of intelligence create this invisible and drastic reaction from the United States. And how differently do we handle threats like these now compared to how we used to handle them? Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent and the host of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS." Andrea, thank you for being here. ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: You bet. MADDOW: What do we know about the specific threat that triggered this mass evacuation of American embassy personnel in Yemen? Is it different from the threat that sparked all the embassy closings last week? MITCHELL: It isn`t. It`s really the same threat stream. They just believe that they could not properly protect the officials in Yemen. It was clear that this was the intercepted communication which we have reported for the last 48 hours. We were sitting on that information for a while as were other news media, including "The New York Times." The fact that it was a communication from al-Zawahiri in al Qaeda central in Pakistan, to Wuhayshi in Yemen, which is considered the most seriously threatening operational branch of al Qaeda, the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And it was that interception, a large threat against western interests believed to be not only the United States but the Brits, the French and others have evacuated. The Brits evacuated everyone from their embassy in Yemen. And they believe that they were fortifying those embassies, those posts, consulates, that could be well-defended, Baghdad and Kabul, reopened. But that these others not only in the Muslim world but others, the 19 that remain closed, could not be properly defended. I think, Rachel, this is not just post-9/11. This is post-Benghazi. That`s partly what this is all about. MADDOW: Who makes the decision to do something as dramatic as what happened in Yemen today? Putting in that C-17, taking out almost everybody from the country, is that the president`s call or is that the secretary of state`s call? Who does that? MITCHELL: It is a combination. It is the National Security Council. Susan Rice has a lot to do with this. She is now sitting at the head of the table in of these meetings whether they are on the phone or, you know, literally in the White House as they were on Saturday night. It`s people like Patrick Kennedy at the State Department who is largely blamed for Benghazi, was called on the carpet. But he was also in charge of embassy security when the embassies in Africa were bombed, were killed, we lost more than 200 people, 4,000 were injured in Tanzania and Kenya. That was 15 years ago this week on Thursday. That is the terrible anniversary of those embassy bombings. That was one of the first main al Qaeda hits following on the USS Cole, that was believe up to the run-up to 9/11. So we`re seeing a pattern here, and they began to believe that they had to do something. They believe that it is focused on Yemen. They believe it is in that area but what they`ve closed really are posts that stretch for 4,800 miles from Tripoli all the way to Mauritius. MADDOW: Andrea, I want to pivot a little bit because I know we both had word the president made some news night in a wide-ranging discussion on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" of all people. What do we know of what the president said? I haven`t seen any of the clips yet. MITCHELL: I`ve seen the quotations. The relevant quotations are he said that this is a significant threat. He was asked about surveillance, about Edward Snowden. He demurred from commenting on the legality of what Snowden had done, saying he`s only seen what he said on the Internet. But he expressed some caution about the surveillance suggesting that he doesn`t seem that comfortable about it. And from the quotation, he wants to reduce the number of contractors and he said that he will go to the G-20 as we know in St. Petersburg but did not say that he is going to have that private meeting with Putin in Moscow following or right before the G-20. I`ve been told that, in fact, they`re not going to have him go as long as Snowden is still being given asylum in Russia. So he said lot -- he talked about Hillary Clinton, saying she`s got a post-administration, post- White house administration glow. He was asked by Jay Leno whether she was measuring the curtains in the Oval Office and he said she didn`t need to. She`d been there before. She knows about the curtains in the Oval Office. And he was asked with his bromance with John McCain. He said it`s like a romantic comedy where at first, you don`t get along and something about you get to know each other better. It was a wide-ranging interview, talked about health care, about the economy. A lot on Jay Leno tonight. MADDOW: I was just going to say, imagine if he ever had to go on the Andrea Mitchell show. MITCHELL: That would be great. MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent, I would like it to happen, please. Andrea, of course, host of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS," which is 1:00 week days here on MSNBC. Andrea, as always, thank you for your time tonight. Appreciate it. MITCHELL: Thank you. MADDOW: We`ll be right back and I`m hoping that we can get you one of the clips from President Obama on "The Tonight Show" coming up and Jay Leno is going to be on with Lawrence O`Donnell on the show right after this one right here. So, you have to stay tuned. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We got it! We got it. As we just talked about with Andrea Mitchell, President Obama just wrapped a wide-ranging "Tonight Show" interview, which touched on everything from his gray hair, to NSA surveillance, to Russia to the economy, to Trayvon Martin, to him kind of falling in love with John McCain all over again, to his relationship Hillary Clinton. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY LENO, THE TONIGHT SHOW: You and Hillary had lunch last week. Who invited who to lunch? I`m curious. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I invited her. LENO: OK. OBAMA: And we had a great time. She had that post-administration glow. LENO: Yes. OBAMA: You know, when folks leave the White House. Two weeks later, they look great. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The whole "Tonight Show" interview can be seen on your local NBC station after the local news tonight. But before that, you can see Jay Leno himself live right here on MSNBC on "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." That is happening right here right after this show. So, stay tuned. (COMMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Once upon a time, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota ran for president and there was a moment around the time when this kind of offensive "Newsweek" cover came out that the country briefly pondered the prospect that she might actually have a shot at it. Because two years ago this month, Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll. Now, given the fact that her competition was one of the weakest presidential primary fields ever in American history, it sort of seemed like winning the straw poll might mean she was going to be a contender, for about a minute. The expectation that the straw poll win might propel her to win the Iowa caucuses and that would propel her to do well in the primaries overall was cut short in Iowa when something strange happened in her campaign right before the Iowa caucuses. It was kind of a shock at the time. But it was unexplained. It was clear something weird was going on, but not exactly what. Now, today, for the first time, we actually have clarity on what happened. Less than a week before Iowa caucuses, Michele Bachmann`s presidential campaign was basically derailed when its co-chairman in Iowa quit her campaign abruptly and endorsed Ron Paul instead. It was this Republican state senator in Iowa, a man named Kent Sorenson, who defected from the Bachman campaign a week before the caulk caucuses and decided ton endorse Ron Paul. At the time, the Bachman campaign made allegations in the press that the reason this guy defected at this crucial time was money. Michele Bachmann herself was telling reporters, "Kent Sorenson personally told me he was offered a large sum of money to go work for the Ron Paul campaign." Lots of stuff happens in presidential campaigns that seems sort of goofy in retrospect. But that allegation, even at the time, was serious, because a state senator taking money from a presidential campaign would not only be a violation of ethics rules that could lead to that senator getting expelled from the Senate, that would also possibly be a violation of federal campaign finance laws on the part of the Ron Paul campaign. Well, today that allegation from Michele Bachmann returned to the headlines. Today a Web site called "The Iowa Republican" published what they say are e-mail exchanges between the Ron Paul campaign and representatives of that state senator. The e-mail exchanges essentially outline how much money the state senator needed in order to leave the Bachmann campaign and join Ron Paul instead. One of the documents posted today says, "K.S., Kent Sorenson, needs to match his current salary of $8,000 month. This has been promised to him, even after Bachmann drops out of the race for the majority of 2012. As a result, he would need to be on payroll into the fall of 2012." So, in addition to asking for 8,000 bucks a month, though, representatives for Mr. Sorenson also say they have established a PAC that would immediate an immediate donation from the Ron Paul campaign in the amount of 100 G`s. This Web site posted a number of alleged exchanges between Ron Paul campaign officials and officials of this state senator that took place in the weeks and months leading up to the Republican state senator very publicly switching sides, dropping Michele Bachmann and endorsing Ron Paul instead. Kent Sorenson, the man at the center of this, claims the e-mails and documents published today have all been fabricated. The FBI has apparently also been investigating alleged payments to him from the Bachmann campaign that are said to have taken place before he defected. This development could also spell trouble, though, for someone beyond that Iowa state senator and the end of Michele Bachmann`s political career. Could spell trouble for somebody who`s at the center of what is probably the most important congressional race in the country right now, because the guy who was allegedly involved in negotiating that behind-the-scenes payoff deal on behalf of Ron Paul, the guy whose name is all over these e-mails, is Ron Paul`s presidential campaign chairman at the time, Jesse Benton, who`s no longer with Ron Paul. He`s now the campaign manager for Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top Republican in the Senate, the guy whose name is all over these e-mails is running McConnell`s re-election campaign in Kentucky. Jesse Benton didn`t respond to the allegations that were made in the "Iowa Republican" today. We also reached out for comment and haven`t heard back. We`ve also contacted the McConnell Senate office to see if the senator is aware of these allegations. No word from them yet either. This is an old scandal that sort of out of nowhere today got a big new life. Stick a pin in this one. It`s not done. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" and his guest, Jay Leno. Stay with us. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END