By E&P Staff
Published: February 09, 2006 7:30 PM ET
NEW YORK The claim today by President George W. Bush of a thwarted terrorist attack on Los Angeles was news to nearly everyoneincluding, in large measure, the mayor of that cityand raised a few eyebrows around the White House press room, as suggested by a series of exchanges between Press Secretary Scott McClellan and several reporters at the daily briefing today.
Here are a few excerpts.
Q Can I ask you a question about the timing of the speech today? Why now, given the ongoing discussion that is taking place about tactics in fighting the war on terror, why did the President seek to disclose the details today, specifically?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, for the reasons I just stated. This is a speech that we have been working on for the last few weeks. The President has been having an ongoing discussion with the American people about the war on terrorism. This is the nation's highest priority. It's the President's top priority. It's about protecting the American people. And we're always looking for ways to inform the American people about our efforts and provide them additional information.
(No you are not! Not ever, until you guys are caught "defending us.")
As you know, it takes time to declassify information. And as time goes by, you might be in position to share more information about plots that were disrupted. Remember, back in October, the President talked about, I think it was, 10 or so plots that were disrupted or broken up. And we provided some general information at that time. One of these was the plot that the President talked about today.
But I think it's -- what he was highlighting -- the purpose of the speech was to highlight the strong international cooperation that is going on.
Yeah right. So, in other words, the NSA, spying on Episcopalians or Quakers had zero to do with it, eh Scottie?
Q But is it just a coincidence? You had February 6th circled on the calendar for the hearings, the NSA hearings. Is it just a pure coincidence that this comes out today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're talking about the -- let me mention, the terrorist surveillance program is a vital program, and it's been a very valuable tool. I'm not going to get into discussing any of the tools that may have been used when it comes to disrupting this plot. We provided you some additional information about this plot. But the purpose of this speech is the way I stated it. And I would discourage you from suggesting otherwise
Well, Scottie, we will be just happy to talk about the "tools" we have to deal with dictators and fascist, especially within our own borders; BIG DAMNED HAMMERS.
Q Scott, I wanted to just ask a follow-up about the LA plot. Is there something missing from this story, a practical application, a few facts? Because if you want to commandeer a plane and fly it into a tower, if you used shoe bombs, wouldn't you blow off the cockpit? Or is there something missing from this story?
Funny, we wondered the same thing. We think Junior has a very busy imagination, while he is not paying attention to a damn thing of any import to 99% of the American people.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what you're referring to about missing. I mean, I think we provided you a detailed briefing earlier today about the plot. And Fran Townsend, our Homeland Security Advisor, talked about it. So I'm not sure what you're suggesting it.
Q Think about it, if you're wearing shoe bombs, you either blow off your feet or you blow off the front of the airplane.
MR. McCLELLAN: There was a briefing for you earlier today. I think that's one way to look at it. There are a lot of ways to look at it, and she explained it earlier today, Alexis, so I would refer you very much back to what she said, what she said earlier today.
Who the hell is Fran Thompson, what the hell does she know about explosives and did she used to date Junior, Jeb or Katherine Harris?
Q So he would have -- in talking about how the speech was in preparation for some time, he would have brought this up regardless of the fact that the hearings were today and --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is a speech we've been working on for the last three weeks, Peter, and I would -- as I think indicated to Jim, in response to his question, I would discourage you from thinking it was some other purpose than the way I described it, because the President has been giving speeches over the course of the last several months, and even before that, on the war on terrorism.
And this builds upon those speeches that he's been giving. It's part of our discussion with the American people about what is the number one priority, which is protecting them from attacks and prevailing in the war on terrorism.
Yep, and he has been caught in so many lies we have all lost count, so why would we take anything at face value?
Q Scott, I apologize if I'm still confused, but I wonder if you could tell us a bit more specifically what has changed since October, when we were told that discussing details of this plot was inappropriate, and today? What has actually changed since October in that regard?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I described it to you; I don't know how I can be more clear to you. This is something that we had been talking about with the intelligence community in looking for a good example to highlight for the American people about the type of international cooperation that goes on that helps us disrupt plots. I think that's important for the American people to have a clear understanding of, so they have a clear and better understanding of the threats we face and they have a better understanding of the efforts that are going on around the world to disrupt plots. So that's what this was.
And as time goes by and you continue to look at this and take into account the sensitivity of sources and methods and ongoing counterterrorism efforts, you are able to provide more information.
Q So sources and methods would have been compromised in October, but not today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Peter, we're always looking for ways to provide the American people with more information and that's what I said to you earlier -- maybe you didn't quite hear all that -- but we're always looking to keep the American people informed about the threats we face and provide them better context and better understanding of what we are doing to confront those threats. So that's what this was about, and so that's something we're always looking at.
That is complete an utter BS! Junior and the Dick have hidden everything they can until they get caught at it.
Q But that wasn't actually the question. The question was, would sources and methods have been compromised in October, but wouldn't be today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the intelligence community said that it was okay to talk about the information that we provided you today and the President spoke about. So like I said, there is ongoing efforts that we look at to provide the information to the American people, and this was --
Q It was not okay in October to talk about that level of detail?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't say that. What I said was that they said that it was okay now to talk further about this specific plot.
So, there it is.
It would have been OK last October, but it wasn't needed politically because the NSA whistleblowers had not blown their whistles.
We sort of thought so.
Q Would it have been okay in October, but you chose not to?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know how many times you're going to keep asking the same question.
Q As soon as I get an answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've answered the question.
Q Can you say when you started trying to get it declassified so you could talk about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, when we were talking about doing this speech, we were looking for a specific plot that we could talk about in more detail?
Q So two weeks ago?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the speech has been in the works, as I say, for at least three weeks.
Why the hell does it take two or three weeks to just simply tell the truth?
Q So three weeks ago you decided you wanted to try and declassify this particular --
MR. McCLELLAN: Martha, I can't tell you the specific time. But, again, two things -- one, we're always looking to keep the American people informed and provide them additional information like this. Two, we were looking to give this speech and talk about the international cooperation that's going on and how successful that is and how important that is to confronting the threats we face. So in that context, we were also talking in the intelligence community, is there additional information we can provide. And I think a good starting point was some of the plots that we had talked about last year, in a general sense.