On Monday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann made known his latest conspiracy theory that the Bush administration times the release of news on terror threats for political benefit. As he interviewed Newsweek's Richard Wolffe, Olbermann asked about the recent report from ABC News that al-Qaeda in Iraq had planned on sending terrorists to attack the United States, wondering if it was politically timed before the State of the Union since the administration has a history of "releasing information on what has usually been lame terror threats during or near times of political crisis." Olbermann: "Given the administration habit, it's almost a record of releasing information on what has usually been lame terror threats during or near times of political crisis, is it too cynical to think that the timing of these stories today might be suspicious on the eve of the State of the Union Address with the President going out there virtually naked tomorrow night?" (Transcript follows)
Not only did Olbermann fail to find agreement from Wolffe, but he later asked a similar question during an interview with former counterrorism advisor Richard Clarke, wondering if the recent report is "a series of scare leaflets as we've seen previously." Clarke dissented: "This is a real deal."
Below are transcripts of relevant portions from the January 22 Countdown:
Keith Olbermann, at 8:08 p.m.: "And tonight we have this report from ABC News that Iraqi insurgents had drawn up a plan of some sort to attack the U.S. using student visas in much the way the 9/11 hijackers did to sneak into the country. There has been a new Zawahiri tape in which he taunts the President's plan to send over more troops. He says send in the entire Army. Given the administration habit, it's almost a record of releasing information on what has usually been lame terror threats during or near times of political crisis, is it too cynical to think that the timing of these stories today might be suspicious on the eve of the State of the Union Address with the President going out there virtually naked tomorrow night?"
Olbermann, at 8:35 p.m.: "Do you think that the story that we're hearing today about these plans that were supposedly interrupted from al-Qaeda in Iraq to actually send people in through student visas into this country, not unlike the way many of the 9/11 hijackers originally got into the country, is there substance to this? Or is this a series of scare leaflets, as we've seen previously?"
Richard Clarke, Former Counterterrorism Advisor: "No, Pierre Thomas at ABC broke this story, and I've talked to Pierre. This is a real deal. The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency was going to talk about this in open testimony before the Congress, but the Congress cut him off and said, 'No, we don't want to hear your testimony. Just submit it for the record.' Well, in it, for the record, is this story that al-Qaeda in Iraq was going to take the war here, which ultimately they will, they were going to do it by sending about 20 people in under the cover of student visas, and they were going to stage a terrorist attack here. The information is that this is not an operational plan. It was something that they were thinking about doing, but they will eventually do it. The Iraqis will have their revenge by attacking the United States here at home. The fact that we're fighting them over there doesn't prevent them from coming here."