Guests: John Brennan, DNC Chair Kaine, Gov. Barbour

By Meet the Press, Meet the Press - October 31, 2010

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MR. DAVID GREGORY:This Sunday, 48 hours to go, the final push to Election Day.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH):Your government is out of control. Do you have to accept it?


REP. BOEHNER:Do you have to take it?


REP. BOEHNER:Hell, no, you don't!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:Now, in this election, the other side is betting on amnesia. They're betting that you forgot who caused this mess in the first place.

MR. GREGORY:With the president's handling of the economy and distrust of government dominating the debate, will voters sweep Democrats from control of Congress? And how will Republicans lead if they return to power? With us exclusively this morning, two men at the center of it all, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine; and the current chair of the Republican Governor's Association and former RNC chair, Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Kaine and Barbour debate what's at stake this Tuesday. Then, the very latest polls, Election Day projections, and political analysis from Tom Brokaw of NBC News, National Journal's Charlie Cook, Time magazine's Mark Halperin, NPR's Michele Norris, and Chuck Todd of NBC News.

Announcer:From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

MR. GREGORY:But first this morning, breaking news over the weekend as authorities in Yemen arrest a young woman there on suspicion of mailing explosives concealed inside cargo packages destined for Chicago-area synagogues, bombs powerful enough, according to U.S. officials, to take down airplanes. The president calling this plot a credible threat as investigators continue to search for more suspects inside Yemen, and officials here are looking closely at the suspected involvement of al-Qaeda's Yemeni branch, AQAP, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Here with us this morning with the very latest, the president's counterterrorism chief deputy, National Security Adviser John Brennan. Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

MR. JOHN BRENNAN:Thank you, David.

MR. GREGORY:What more is known about the plot this morning?

MR. BRENNAN:Well, we're still working very closely with British authorities, Emirati authorities, as well as the Yemenis and other services. We're trying to get a better handle on exactly what might else be out there. That's why we've taken exceptionally prudent measures, in my mind, as far as preventing packages coming into the United States from Yemen. The Yemeni authorities have been very cooperative in this effort, as have other governments and services. So we're still trying to understand better exactly what we might be facing.

MR. GREGORY:Is it your fear that there are additional devices out there, additional bombs out there in the mail somewhere?

MR. BRENNAN:I think we have to presume that there might be, and therefore we have to take these measures. But right now we do not have, you know, indications that there are others that are out there. In fact, FedEx and UPS have stopped all the packages that are coming into the United States that were being mailed from Yemen. So I think we feel as though the appropriate steps have been taken, so we feel good about where we are right now. But we need to continue to do this investigation and get to the bottom of it.

MR. GREGORY:So additional active threats right now, is it, is it anything beyond the prospect of additional packages?

MR. BRENNAN:Well, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been quite vocal in terms of threatening attacks against the United States, against Western interests, against the Yemenis. They are a determined group, they are a dangerous group. We are determined to stop their plans and to thwart their attempts, so we need to keep the pressure on them.

MR. GREGORY:And this is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen that is behind this, in your mind? A reminder, of course, this was the same group that tried to launch the Christmas Day plot as well.

MR. BRENNAN:It certainly bears the hallmarks of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And since these packages originated from Yemen, that is who I'm looking at very closely.

MR. GREGORY:Who is -- who or what was the ultimate target, in your mind?

MR. BRENNAN:Well, the British have come out and Prime Minister Cameron's came out and said that they -- he believes that the intention was to detonate this IED on the plane. But the, the terrorist wouldn't have known where that plane was going to be. It was a viable device, it was self-contained, so it could have been detonated and activated. It was addressed to some locations in Chicago that have been associated with synagogues. So, therefore, what we're trying to do is determine whether or not the target was the aircraft itself or the ultimate destination.

MR. GREGORY:So was it passengers? Did they try to get this on passenger planes? Or were they trying to exploit the cargo system?

MR. BRENNAN:I don't know exactly the extent of their knowledge of how these cargo packages are moved and whether or not they're on cargo aircraft or passenger aircraft. We just know that there was an intention to try to carry out some type of attack with these IEDs that were going to be transshipped on aircraft to the United States.

MR. GREGORY:My understanding is that the bomb maker behind this is sophisticated, somebody that you may think you know. I mean, this was not an amateur hour.

MR. BRENNAN:No, it's a very sophisticated device in terms of how it was constructed, how it was concealed. We know that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has carried out similar types of attempts in the past. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Detroit bomber Christmas Day last year, as well as the attempt against Saudi Prince Mohammedbin Nayef, they bear very similar types of traits and characteristics. The bomb maker in Yemen who is putting these together is a very dangerous individual that we need to find and bring to justice.

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