John Ashcroft Briefs the Press on the Terrorist Threat


Q: Mr. Ashcroft, your department has issued a statement saying that a terrorist attack could occur at any moment—

A: That’s right.

Q: —but you won’t say what it is.

A: That’s right.

Q: Can you characterize the source of your information?

A: I cannot—I cannot get into the source of the information, for obvious, I think, reasons.

Q: Does it rhyme with “Hal Dayda”?

A: Pardon?

Q: Well, I mean, that isn’t a real person’s name, of course. I’m just saying, does it rhyme with that.

A: Oh, I see. (Whispers with FBI director Robert Mueller.) Yes, I think that’s a fair characterization.

Q: What about the terrorist threat itself?

A: I wish we could say more. We can’t.

Q: Does it involve something blowing up?

A: Of course, I can’t say.

Q: Oh, come on. If nothing blows up, how bad can it be?

A: Now you’re trying to trick me into saying something I shouldn’t …

Q: Let me make it easier for you. Is this attack likely to cause a loud sound? Something like, “Kablooie”?

A: Well, attacks aren’t very often silent. So, yes.

Q: Will there be smoke?

A: Ah, well, sure, probably.

Q: Will the smoke be in the shape of any particular kind of food?

A: Pardon?

Q: I was thinking of a mushroom.

A: You know I can’t answer that!

Q: Is the threat animal, vegetable, or mineral?

A: Well, now you’re just being silly …

Q: Is it bigger than a breadbox?

A: Pardon?

Q: The bomb. Is it bigger than a breadbox?

A: I didn’t say it was a bomb!

Q: The generator of noise and smoke, then. Will it be bigger than a breadbox?

A: The smoke? Will the smoke be bigger than a breadbox? Of course.

Q: No, I mean the thing that makes the smoke.

A: How the heck should I know?

Q: Well, you’re the one saying we’re under threat of imminent attack!

A: We are.

Q: Attack from what?

A: Look, we’re under threat of attack—

Q: I got that—

A: And I’m just saying—

Q: Yes?

A: I’m just saying that if you happen to die along with a great many other people within the next 48 hours, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Q: But—

A: Because I did.

Q: And therefore—

A: And therefore citizens should take steps to avoid being the victim of a terrorist attack.

Q: Such as?

A: In a free society, that’s a matter of individual choice.

Thank you.

(The foregoing has been a free translation of this  Justice Department transcript.)