ABC's George Stephanopoulos Spins for Obama: 'Set Aside' Last Two Terror Attacks

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Monday lobbied that if one were to "set aside" the Fort Hood terror attack and the botched Christmas bombing, there haven't been successful attacks on America in the last few years.

Stephanopoulos was talking to William Arkin, the co-author of a new Washington Post investigation into the top secret agencies created in the wake of 9/11. The GMA host began by asserting, "I spoke with an administration official early this morning."

Putting a positive spin on Obama's first 18 months, he trumpeted, "And that if you set aside the Fort Hood bombing in Texas and the failed Christmas bomber, there has not been a major attack that's been anything close to successful on American soil."

Arkin dryly responded that it's "always good to set aside the things that are most significant" in order to focus on good news. After the Washington Post journalist mentioned the problems that led up to the Fort Hood slaughter, Stephanopoulos again defended Obama: "That's been conceded by the administration. But, the President came out, ordered a review and they've now have addressed those problems, haven't they?"

The ABC anchor did challenge Arkin on whether or not it's right for the Post to reveal such secret information. However, Stephanopoulos seemed more interested in defending the Obama administration's handling of terrorist incidents.

As for the reference to his "administration official," NewsBusters readers will remember the 2009 revelation that the journalist has daily chats with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

A transcript of the July 19 segment, which aired at 7:12am EDT, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn now to a revealing new national security investigation into the government's efforts to prevent another major terror attack o American soil. The Washington Post begins a three-part investigation today into the national security system set up in response to the 9/11 attacks.

And what they discovered it startling. The series is called Top Secret America and its co-author William Arkin joins us now. And, Bill, thanks for joining us this morning. What I was most struck by in reading your piece in the Washington Post is how vast this apparatus has become, more than 850,000 people working across 1200 government agencies.

1,900 private companies in 10,000 locations. You know, that's a lot for people at home to absorb. So, for everyone trying to get a handling on this, what the single most important thing they need to know about this top secret America?

WILLIAM ARKIN (Washington Post): Well, George, thank you for having me on. I think that the reality for Americans is we've done exactly what America does best. But, now, ten years after 9/11, we ask to ask ourselves whether or not this gigantic system that we've created for counter-terrorism provides us both value in terms of money and also makes us safer.

And one of the things we've learned in the two-year investigation is that the evidence shows that no one is really in a position of confidence to say that we are safer today than we were ten years ago.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you say that. Yet, I spoke with an administration official early this morning who pointed out that, number one, at least half of al Qaeda's top 20 have been taken out since 9/11.

And that if you set aside the Fort Hood bombing in Texas and the failed Christmas bomber there has not been a major attack that's been anything close to successful on American soil.

ARKIN: Well, I think it's always good to set aside the things that are most significant in terms of countering what is that the government would like to put out as the good news.

The evidence shows that, in fact, in the case of Major Hasan in Fort Hood last year, that the vast apparatus of counterintelligence and force protection on the part of the military completely and you utterly failed to detect someone who was right inside the ranks of the U.S. Army. And I think that's a massive failure. So I'm not comforted at all by that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's been conceded by the administration. But, the President came out, ordered a review and they've now have addressed those problems, haven't they?

ARKIN: Well, I'm not sure I could say they've addressed those problems. One of the things that we've learned in this investigation, George, in getting on the record interviews with Secretary Gates, the Secretary of Defense, with Panetta, the head of the CIA, with the top two intelligence officials of the U.S. government. On the record they've all basically conceded this is a system which has grown so fast that no one really has a full handle on it, no one really is fully charge of it.

And they basically agreed with our conclusions that they themselves, even within their agencies are not able to determine all of the redundant work that's being done and whether or not it can be done in better ways.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Although Dennis Blair, who's head of intelligence, was head of intelligence, said that this is not redundancy, it's actually tailored intelligence. But, I want to get to a separate point. You also reveal the existence of several secret sites in places like shopping malls.

And one other problem the administration has with your report is that they say the very existence of this database that you've created is troubling, that it's a road map, could be a road map, to our adversaries that could be very easily altered as well.

ARKIN: Well, George, we've been working on this project for two years. We've been through months now of negotiations with the government. I don't think that there's anything in here that would do harm to U.S. national security. And, frankly, I'm an American as well. And I don't want to do any harm to American national security.

The reality is, that for people to really have an understanding of the system that's been created since 9/11, they need to have the facts. And one of the things that we were able to do in this investigation is both write stories that explain to people this incredibly complex system.

But, also, at the same time, show them so they can somehow be vested in the decision about either going to war or continuing the war or what their government is doing.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org