Sunday, August 08, 2004

Condy, on Wolfie Sunday:

BLITZER: Last Sunday, a week ago exactly, when Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, announced the higher threat levels in parts of New York, New Jersey, here in Washington, he failed to mention that most of the information is three or four years old, and that caused a lot of angst the next day. Was that a mistake?

RICE: Well, I don't think that it really occurred to us to mention it, and I'll tell you why. Al Qaeda does meticulous planning over many years. We know that the material that they used to case the East Africa bombing, which was done in 1998, had been generated probably five years before, and we have just found the information, of course.

And so, the key was to tell people who were responsible for security in buildings that have been cased that they had been cased... It seemed just irresponsible not to tell people that their buildings had been cased.

This is ludicrous on so many levels, I almost don't know where to begin. How about this: if our intelligence service hasn't yet figured out that just about every logical target in NYC and DC has already been cased, then we're in bigger trouble than anyone could possibly dream. Getting hard info on how al Qaeda cases a builing, what they look for -- this is useful information. Finding out that they did case a building? This is something we should already be assuming is true, and planning for as though it were true.

Second, merely finding out that a building was cased means no more than that. It doesn't mean the building is an immediate target, no matter when the information was updated.

Think about it as though this were a business investiging markets -- if you stumble across a 'scouting report' for Topeka, does that automatically mean that business is going into Topeka? Of course not; it just means they took a look.

Third, and most obviously, Tom Ridge did not simply say, "Hey, we know they cased your buildings." The warning from a week ago was more vague, and more inflammatory, than that.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the people who have been picked up, mostly in Pakistan, over the last few weeks. In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. There is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation, because he was effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda operatives. Is that true?

RICE: Well, I don't know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them...

BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.

RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you're trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you're dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you've dealt with in the past, you're always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We've tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we've struck a balance, but it's indeed a very difficult balance to strike.

BLITZER: Had he been flipped, in the vernacular, was he cooperating with Pakistani intelligence after he was arrested?

RICE: I don't know the answer to that question, as to whether or not he was cooperating with them.

There you have it, straight from the horse's ass' mouth. Khan was disclosed on background, in Washington, when the president's NSA herself had no clue who or what he was.

Call it reason #xxxxx why Bush's whole crew should be in prison.

BLITZER: All right. Here is a comment that Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, the former Democratic presidential candidate, said on this program exactly one week ago, referring to the heightened terror alerts. Listen to this.


HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism. His whole campaign is based on the notion that "I can keep you safe, therefore when the times are difficult -- difficulty for America, stick with me," and then out comes Tom Ridge.

It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it.


RICE: I'm sorry that Governor Dean, of course, wasn't privy to the kind of information that we were looking at. I can't imagine that he wouldn't have warned the New York Stock Exchange or warned the World Bank that their buildings have been cased, that people were pointing out things that needed to be done in terms of security.

I can't believe that he wouldn't have talked to the police commissioner in New York, who was on our conference call. I can't believe that he wouldn't have told the mayor of New York that there were named threats against the city of New York. I don't know what he's talking about.

Obviously you don't, Condy, because that wasn't at all what Dean was referring to. Willful ignorance really doesn't suit Rice, does it?

Oh yeah, one more thing...

But of course, Wolf, the problem in trying to protect and defend is that the terrorists only have to be right once, and we have to be right 100 percent of the time.

Condy, you're not even close to being right 100% of the time. So obviously something in that equation doesn't compute -- if it did, we'd all be dead.

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