"Tony Snow: ‘I Don’t Know’ If Bin Laden Is The Leader Of Al Qaeda"
On Sunday, it will have been 2,000 days since the 9/11 terror attacks — 2,000 days that Osama bin Laden has spent on the loose, living in freedom.
Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked about new U.S. intelligence showing that bin Laden is in Pakistan actively re-establishing al Qaeda training camps.
At first Snow claimed that this was “an intelligence matter that I’m not going to be able to go into,” despite the fact that the new National Intelligence Director had testified about this topic the day before. He then suggested that bin Laden may now be “marginalized.” A reporter responded, “Isn’t he the leader of al Qaeda?” Snow answered, “Well, I don’t know. It’s a real question about who assumes operational command.” Watch it:
Last month, Vice President Cheney referenced the #3 leader of al Qaeda “underneath Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri.” In December, Snow himself referred to al Qaeda as “the bin Laden organization.” Moreover, President Bush, Tony Snow, and other White House officials frequently quote bin Laden as proof that al Qaeda considers Iraq “the central battlefield in the war on terror.”
Only when the Bush administration is asked to face the truth about the threat that bin Laden poses do they pretend he might be a bit player. Otherwise, they’re happy to use his propaganda to justify their failing policies.
Q Tony, yesterday the President’s new Director of National Intelligence testified on Capitol Hill for the first time, and said, U.S. intelligence believes that Osama bin Laden and his number two are alive in Pakistan and reestablishing training camps. If you really have bin Laden on the run, how is he reestablishing training camps?
MR. SNOW: Well, that’s a question — that’s an intelligence matter that I’m not going to be able to go into.
Q But how can you continually say the leadership is on the run and –
MR. SNOW: Well, you take a look also at statements that have been made by generals in recent days — General Schoomaker the other day had a comment that I was asked about, which is he thought bin Laden had been marginalized. The question is whether al Qaeda — I think the bin Laden question may be separable from the al Qaeda question. It’s clear that al Qaeda is trying to gain strength –
Q But isn’t he the leader of al Qaeda?
MR. SNOW: Well, I don’t know. It’s a real question about who assumes operational command. One of the things we’ve found is that the command structure has been degraded significantly and that remains the case. But in terms of trying to characterize precisely how the command structure looks or how it operates, it would be inappropriate to comment from the podium.