CNN Transcripts on Khan Case
From CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Sunday August 8:
‘ BLITZER: Let’s talk about some of the people who have been picked up, mostly in Pakistan, over the last few weeks. In mid-July, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan. There is some suggestion that by releasing his identity here in the United States, you compromised a Pakistani intelligence sting operation, because he was effectively being used by the Pakistanis to try to find other al Qaeda operatives. Is that true?
RICE: Well, I don’t know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them…
BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.
RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you’re trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you’re dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you’ve dealt with in the past, you’re always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We’ve tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we’ve struck a balance, but it’s indeed a very difficult balance to strike.
BLITZER: Had he been flipped, in the vernacular, was he cooperating with Pakistani intelligence after he was arrested?
RICE: I don’t know the answer to that question, as to whether or not he was cooperating with them. ‘
And then the later exchange with Schumer:
‘ BLITZER: Well, in this particular case, Senator Schumer, there’s been some suggestion that the administration was too open in releasing the name of one of the arrested al Qaeda suspects, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan (ph), because supposedly he was cooperating with the Pakistani government and, by releasing his name, that ended that sting operation…
BLITZER: … if that was, in fact, what was going on.
SCHUMER: I am troubled by that. Obviously you want openness about danger, but not anything that would jeopardize security.
And the Pakistani interior minister, Faisal Hayat, as well as the British home secretary, David Blunkett, have expressed displeasure in fairly severe terms that Khan’s name was released, because they were trying to track down other contacts of his.
And I’ve actually sent a letter today to Frances Townsend, the president’s national security advisor, asking for an explanation here.
You read so much in the newspaper that seems to be contemporaneous with what’s happening, and sometimes you scratch your head and wonder, are we giving away information that might compromise our ability to get the terrorists?
Hayat, the Pakistani interior minister, actually said maybe if Khan’s name hadn’t been released it might have resulted in getting bin Laden himself.
BLITZER: I did speak earlier with Dr. Condolleeza Rice, Senator Allen. She confirmed that on background, not publicly, but off the record, without mentioning any names, they did release the name of this Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, but she didn’t know if, in fact, the Pakistanis had been using him as some sort of sting operation. Are you as concerned as Senator Schumer is that the release of his name potentially could have compromised an ongoing effort to round up additional al Qaeda operatives?
SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Well, from what I can glean from all of this, they actually were able to get a lot of information to get the different addresses, the methods by which they were communicating over the Internet, and undoubtedly was a very productive and useful sting operation. It was positive, it was good. You’re glad to hear we’re infiltrating in that regard…
BLITZER: But if the information comes out too quickly, it could up-end a bigger potential round-up of suspects?
ALLEN: They get into a bind. And Senator Schumer’s remarks were right. People — I always like to know. People want to know, all right, what’s the information? Why are we shutting down this road, or why is there concerns? You always want to know the evidence.
In this situation, in my view, they should have kept their mouth shut and just said, “We have information, trust us,” and I think that would have been good enough for me and, I would hope, for also others who say, gosh, we want to get more openness.