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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Frances Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, signaled today that the Bush administration would consider direct assaults on al-Qaeda hideouts in Pakistan.
Townsend was asked on "Fox News Sunday" why the United States isn't sending Special Forces, attack drones and anything else it can to wipe out al-Qaeda. She replied, "Just because we don't speak about things publicly doesn't mean we're not doing many of the things you're talking about."
She added, "Job number one is to protect the American people, and there are no options that are off the table."
A National Intelligence Estimate released Tuesday reported that al-Qaeda has grown stronger, in part because it has established "a safe haven" in northwest Pakistan, in the Federally Administered Tribal Area that is beyond the national government's control.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Kurshid Kasuri warned on CNN's "Late Edition" against the White House bypassing the Pakistani military in any operation.
"If you have superiority in technical intelligence, please share that with us," he said. "And then you talk of going after targets -- you will lose the war, the battle for hearts and minds. It is much better to rely on Pakistan['s] army. Pakistan['s] army can do the job much better, and the result will be that there will be far, far less collateral damage."
Kasuri added, "People in Pakistan get very upset when, despite all the sacrifices that Pakistan has been making, you know, you have the sort of questions that are sometimes asked by the American media" about whether Islamabad is doing enough to fight terrorists.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), appearing on Fox, called into question whether Pakistan has the ability to defeat al-Qaeda. But he added that the United States had to be careful in acting on its own. "If it is clear that we're going into their national territory, we run the risk of undermining a regime that has been one of our allies in this struggle," Bayh cautioned.
Appearing later on CNN, Townsend said the United States has provided intelligence to Pakistan. "We work quite closely with them," she said. "While I understand [Kasuri's] anger, we should also be clear that we believe Pakistan has been a very good ally in the war on terrorism."
But she added, "No question that we will use any instrument at our disposal to deal with the problem of Osama bin Laden and [bin Laden deputy Ayman al-]Zawahiri and al-Qaeda."
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf decided to strike a "political solution" with tribal leaders to kick al-Qaeda out of the region, national intelligence director Mike McConnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Instead, "the people who live in these federally administrated tribal areas ... made a safe haven for training and recruiting."
McConnell said that Pakistan's help has been central to U.S. efforts to capture and kill al-Qaeda's leaders, but he believes bin Laden is living in the country.

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) backed the administration's stance. "I don't think we should take anything off the table. Wherever we find these evil people, we should go get them," he said.
But he renewed his complaint that the White House's focus on Iraq has diverted attention from real terrorist threats to the United States, such as those inside Pakistan. "The fact of the matter is that the invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of the country, has created an area for al-Qaeda that didn't exist before the invasion," he said.
Director of intelligence
McConnell also said that there is no evidence of al-Qaeda sleeper cells within the United States, yet intelligence authorities have identified people raising money for and sympathetic to the cause of Islamic extremism. He added that he worries there are sleeper cells in the United States and that "there are some elements under" court-approved surveillance.
The intelligence director said "the most serious threat" to the United States is that terrorists will get through a greatly strengthened defense wall. "Their intent is to effect an attack with mass casualties. A second attempt would be political or infrastructure targets, to even include economic targets that would have a lasting impact," McConnell said.
While terrorists have not achieved a nuclear capability, McConnell said, they are focusing on explosives that could release biological, chemical or radiological weapons.
Asked about so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" - measures for getting information out of detainees that many worry amount to torture - McConnell said the United States does not practice torture and that fewer than 100 people have been subjected to enhanced interrogations. President Bush gave the CIA permission last week to resume such interrogation techniques, albeit under tighter guidelines. McConnell said the procedures do not involve lasting injury.
A censure resolution
Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.), one of the chamber's most liberal Democrats, announced on NBC that he would introduce resolutions to censure President Bush for the conduct of the Iraq war and for the administration's warrantless surveillance program and interrogation techniques, which Feingold called "torture."
"Usually when presidents are repudiated in elections they say, 'Well, maybe I ought to reassess,' " Feingold said. "Instead he did just the opposite."
"I think we need to do something serious in terms of accountability," Feingold said. He said the censure resolutions, which do not carry any legal weight, would chastise the administration for getting the United States into war in Iraq, its failure to "adequately" prepare the military, continued "misleading statements" about the war, and its "outrageous attack on the rule of law."
Feingold said censure resolutions might also be introduced regarding Vice President Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
"We need to have on the historical record some kind of indication that what has happened here was ... disastrous," he said.
Feingold introduced a censure resolution last March that attacked the warrantless surveillance program, which he then called an "illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil." It picked up only three co-sponsors and never advanced past the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the Republican leader, ridiculed Feingold's proposal, which comes on the heels of an all-night session last week led by Reid to force a change in Iraq policy. "The kind of stunt," he said on CNN, "... gives you a sense why this Congress has a 14 percent approval rating. We think it's the lowest in the history of polling. All they do is have Iraq votes and investigations."
Reid, meanwhile, was not ready to back Feingold's measure."I'm sure Russ Feingold will try to find a way to offer that amendment," Reid said. "The Republicans won't let us vote on it. They'll block it. ... The president already has the mark of the American people that he's the worst president we've ever had, and I don't think we need a censure resolution in the Senate to prove that."
By Zachary Goldfarb July 22, 2007; 2:07 PM ET

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