Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Not Free to Lead Parades

The countdown is on for the capture of Osama bin Laden. White House Security Adviser prefaced the hard push toward that end in a July 2007 press briefing:

Q Fran, I think a lot of Americans watching this will have two very simple questions: Where is Osama bin Laden? And why, nearly six years after the President said we would get him, dead or alive, do we not have him? How has he possibly eluded our grasp?

MS. TOWNSEND: Well, there is no question that we have put extraordinary resources against finding him. If I could answer directly, with a pinpoint on a map where he was, he wouldn't be there. So the question is, does he -- it presumes, frankly, that he sits in a single place with an address, a street address and a phone number, so it should be easy for us to go and get him. I wish, Sheryl, that it were that easy. It's not.

You can assume, just based on sort of operational security behavior, that he's moving around, he doesn't make it easy, he doesn't have a lot of contact, and he is in a very remote area that is not easily accessed certainly by Americans, and frankly, by the Pakistanis, themselves.

And so the President has made perfectly clear, we will be relentless. He will be captured or killed. And it is a huge priority for us, for our intelligence and military. And we will continue until we're successful.

Q Can you talk about the extraordinary resources? What kind of resources?

MS. TOWNSEND: Military, intelligence and law enforcement resources.

Q -- operations you can share with us?


Fran, do you know if Osama bin Laden is still on a dialysis machine, is he still ill? What? I mean, could you tell us about that? I mean, because -- it might be laughable, but people are finding it hard, six years this man is sick, moving around from cave to cave, and can't be found -- with a dialysis machine?

MS. TOWNSEND: Have you ever been to the tribal areas? I suspect not.

Q No, I haven't, but I've seen some great pictures from Ken Herman as to the rough terrain over that way. (Laughter.)

MS. TOWNSEND: It's not exactly easy. If it were easy he'd be dead.

Q But it's not easy for him to travel around with medics and machinery if he's sick. I mean, is he -- do you know from your intelligence if he's still sick? What do you know about that?

MS. TOWNSEND: I'm not going to talk about that. Thank you.

In the Fox News documentary "Fighting to the Finish", Fran talked about the intelligence reports President Bush receives on Osama. She called his capture or killing a top priority as Bush winds out his term. Bret Baier wrote:

Former Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend told me that the president has made abundantly clear that he wants Usama Bin Laden killed or captured before he leaves office … and describes, in detail, the president’s daily brief in the Oval Office.

“Once a week he's — he's getting an update on the hunt for Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership,” Townsend, who left her position at the beginning of January, told me. “The president has made perfectly clear that he wants Bin Laden brought to justice before he leaves office.

George W. sandbagged on this top priority in his interview with Bret:

Bush says in the interview he's confident bin Laden ultimately will be found. "He'll be gotten by a president," Bush says.

And to critics who say he hasn't done enough to find bin Laden, Bush is blunt: "They don't know what they're talking about," he says.

The Washington Post recently cited increased Predator missile attacks in the lawless region of Pakistan as a way to "the trees" and get al Qaeda leaders on the move. A Los Angeles Times opinion piece suggested forces were aligning for the capture of Osama. Of course the creative blogosphere has its own insights.

President Bush said of his nemesis, "He's hiding. He's isolated. He's not out there leading any parades." Terrorists on ice, anyone?