Dean Baker: is there anything he doesn’t know?
Here’s email Baker sent out on August 10, 2006, talking about the UK Airline Bomber Plot:
So, do you think the British airplane plot is the response to Lieberman’s defeat? It certainly is conveniently timed, and we know that we are dealing with people who would have no qualms whatsoever about pulling a stunt like this. Having it down in Britain also is helpful to bush, since it removes his crew from the direct line of fire, while still providing the same benefits in terms of hyping terrorist paranoia. Needless to say, lapdog Tony would gladly do as told, if the orders were given.
I was skeptical of this perspective at the time. Yet it was almost exactly correct. Here’s Ron Suskind yesterday on Fresh Air describing what happened:
NPR: I want to talk just a little about this fascinating episode you describe in the summer of 2006, when President Bush is very anxious about some intelligence briefings that he is getting from the British. What are they telling him?
SUSKIND: In late July of 2006, the British are moving forward on a mission they’ve been–an investigation they’ve been at for a year at that point, where they’ve got a group of “plotters,” so-called, in the London area that they’ve been tracking…Bush gets this briefing at the end of July of 2006, and he’s very agitated. When Blair comes at the end of the month, they talk about it and he says, “Look, I want this thing, this trap snapped shut immediately.” Blair’s like, “Well, look, be patient here. What we do in Britain”–Blair describes, and this is something well known to Bush–“is we try to be more patient so they move a bit forward. These guys are not going to breathe without us knowing it. We’ve got them all mapped out so that we can get actual hard evidence, and then prosecute them in public courts of law and get real prosecutions and long prison terms”…
Well, Bush doesn’t get the answer he wants, which is “snap the trap shut.” And the reason he wants that is because he’s getting all sorts of pressure from Republicans in Congress that his ratings are down. These are the worst ratings for a sitting president at this point in his second term, and they’re just wild-eyed about the coming midterm elections. Well, Bush expresses his dissatisfaction to Cheney as to the Blair meeting, and Cheney moves forward.
NPR: So you got the British saying, “Let’s carefully build our case. Let’s get more intelligence.” Bush wants an arrest and a political win. What does he do?
SUSKIND: Absolutely. What happens is that then, oh, a few days later, the CIA operations chief–which is really a senior guy. He’s up there in the one, two, three spots at CIA, guy named Jose Rodriguez ends up slipping quietly into Islamabad, Pakistan, and he meets secretly with the ISI, which is the Pakistani intelligence service. And suddenly a guy in Pakistan named Rashid Rauf, who’s kind of the contact of the British plotters in Pakistan, gets arrested. This, of course, as anyone could expect, triggers a reaction in London, a lot of scurrying. And the Brits have to run through the night wild-eyed and basically round up 25 or 30 people. It’s quite a frenzy. The British are livid about this. They talk to the Americans. The Americans kind of shrug, “Who knows? You know, ISI picked up Rashid Rauf.”
NPR: So the British did not even get a heads-up from the United States that this arrest was going to happen?
SUSKIND: Did not get a heads-up. In fact, the whole point was to mislead the British…The British did not know about it, frankly, until I reported it in the book…
What’s interesting is that the White House already had its media plan already laid out before all of this occurred so that the president and vice president immediately–even, in Cheney’s case, before the arrest, the day before–started to capitalize on the war on terror rhetoric and political harvest, which of course they used for weeks to come, right into the fall, about, “The worst plot since 9/11, that has been foiled, and this is why you want us in power.”