Thursday, May 20, 2004

From the White House, a nightmare scenario


White House officials say they've got a 'working premise' about terrorism and the presidential election: It's going to happen. 'We assume,' says a top administration official, 'an attack will happen leading up to the election.' And, he added, 'it will happen here.' There are two worst-case scenarios, the official says. The first posits an attack on Washington, possibly the Capitol, which was believed to be the target of the 9/11 jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. Theory 2: smaller but more frequent attacks in Washington and other major cities leading up to the election. To prepare, the administration has been holding secret antiterrorism drills to make sure top officials know what to do. 'There was a sense,' says one official involved in the drills, 'of mass confusion on 9/11. Now we have a sense of order.' Unclear is the political impact, though most Bushies think the nation would rally around the president. 'I can tell you one thing,' adds the official sternly, 'we won't be like Spain,' which tossed its government days after the Madrid train bombings.


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