updated 8/11/2006 11:54:02 AM ET 2006-08-11T15:54:02

Guests: Bernard Kerik, Charles Slepian, Frances Townsend, Ken Timmerman

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Welcome to the show.   The news today is absolutely chilling.   It could well have been the most spectacular terror attacks since 9/11, a murderous plot involving jumbo jets and targeting thousands of unsuspecting American travelers. 

But unlike the deadly attacks on New York and Washington almost five years ago, this was thwarted, possibly at the very last moment.

British police arrested 24 people overnight in what they believe was a plot to blow up nine airplanes headed for this country.   But they warn they may not have captured all the members of the terror cell.

U.S. intelligence officials say they had planned to stage a dry one within two days.   Now passengers on both sides of the Atlantic are facing a security gauntlet and massive delays.

Joining me with the latest from London, CNBC correspondent Guy Johnson.   He is live from Heathrow Airport.

Guy, what‘s the scene there?  

GUY JOHNSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Tucker, as you say, 24 people currently in custody and five more we understand at this point are wanted by the authorities.  

It‘s been an extremely difficult day in London.   Many aircraft have seen their flights canceled.   We think over 500 flights have been canceled.   And air operations are continuing well into the night tonight to try and make up some of the lost ground.  But it will be days before we are back on track here at Heathrow.  

Clearly as you say a chilling event, but one could argue that potentially one of the most successful days in the war on terror, this plot foiled.

But how did it get to this stage?  And what led the British security forces to make the arrests that they made overnight?   We are likely to learn more details on that over the next few days.  

It has already been indicated to us by the British security forces today that they are at the early stages of the investigation.  But clearly, cooperation between British, American, Pakistani and many other security forces around the world has been extremely close and has led to the arrests that we‘ve seen over the last 24 hours.

But, as I say, an extremely difficult day for London and we are on the critical list here in the U.K.  That is the highest level of security that the British have.  

But disaster potentially averted.  But obviously, it has changed the game significantly—Tucker?

                CARLSON:  Guy, what do we know about these 24 suspects?   How old are

they? Where are they from?   And what do we know about their motives?  Have

they said anything about why they might have been inspired to do something like this? 

JOHNSON:  The motivation for the attack is obviously something we still don‘t know at this point.  But many people are speculating that it has been linked to al Qaeda.  

We understand, from sources, that some members of the group that were arrested overnight and British Home Secretary John Reed telling us earlier on today that he feels that the main protagonists  were with in that group.  Some of that party have visited Pakistan recently and have received funds of late as well.

The motivation is unclear.   The entire group, thus far, we understand have British passports and come from the Muslim community, which is largely made up of Pakistanis.  

We are only a few days away --  sorry, jets continue to take off here from London Heathrow—we are only a few days away obviously from the anniversary of 9/11, and some suggesting that maybe this attack was timed to coincide with that.  

CARLSON:  Guy, give us a scene of the airport at Heathrow, the busiest airport in Europe.  How bad have the lines been?  And what exactly are the new security precautions now in place?  

JOHNSON:  Tucker, there are four terminals here at Heathrow.   One and two tend to be more domestic and short-haul flights.  Now, many of the inbound short-haul flights were canceled earlier on, up until about 3:00 in the afternoon.   That led to heavy, heavy congestion.

Long-haul flights have been taking off and landing throughout the day, though the bulk of the take offs have taken place later on in the day.   The reason for that clearly, obviously, the stringent security measures that have been put in place.  

Many passengers being forced to wait outside the terminals.  Tents being erected to keep them dry.   It has been raining throughout the day here, and then being allowed in.  

And then, once allowed in and, if they were to depart, being subjected to some quite extreme security measures.   Body searches for everybody.   Nobody allowed to take any kind liquids on board the aircraft.   Only absolutely essential travel documents were allowed on board, nothing electronic.

Now, London has spent a number of years obviously under the threat of terrorism.  The IRA, obviously the big threat a number of years back.  And since then the war on terror has been a big factor.   So we‘ve got used to this.

But today security levels have really been taken to a new level here in London.  And unfortunately, it looks like something that the British public and international traveling public may have to get used to for really quite some time.   Not a lot of hand luggage is going to be allowed.   Most things are now going to have to be stored in the hole—Tucker?  

CARLSON:  That‘s a depressing fact.  Guy Johnson at Heathrow Airport, London.

Thanks, Guy.

Well, several of the flights targeted by the terror plotters were apparently headed for New York, the city that was the main target of the 9/11 attacks almost five years ago.

Bernard Kerik was New York‘s police commissioner at that time.   He was on the scene when the World Trade Center collapsed.  He joins us now live from New York.  

Bernard Kerik, thanks for joining us.  

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK PPOLICE COMMISSIONER:  Thanks, Tucker.  

CARLSON:  How sophisticated do you this attack sounds from what you know?  

KERIK:  I think it was extremely serious.   I think it was close to coming to fruition.   I think it is probably one of the greatest successes we have had, thus far, in the war against terror.  And it‘s a very clear demonstration on how important it is for us to have the intelligence we need to prevent things like this from happening in the future.  

We have cooperation from Pakistan, from the U.K., the United States.  Clearly these are things that could have never happened prior to September 11 of ‘01.

And I think there‘s a great success story to be told in the capture and arrest of these 24 people today and whatever‘s about to come.

CARLSON:  Yes, of course.  And the fact that we haven‘t had another event like 9/11 in five years is itself a success, of course.  

Does it give you pause, though, that there still seem to be a lot of people out there willing to die in order to hurt us?  

KERIK:  You know what?   That is the mind set and the ideology of the people out there, these fundamentalists, the radicals.  

I was explaining to someone the other day.  We were talking about being in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And somebody said, well, they‘re really not the enemy.   Well, when you think about it, 550 suicide bombers strapped dynamite onto themselves in Iraq over the last 12 months to attack our targets and the Iraqis.

It is the enemy.  And these people, as many of them that are out there, these people want to create the demise of our society, of our culture.  That is the enemy.   It‘s the enemy here.  It‘s the enemy abroad.

But we have to fight this fight until we rid it at its root.  And it‘s going to take a while to get there.  

CARLSON:  Yes.  I think, through, for most Americans, the war in Iraq is remote.   Maybe it shouldn‘t be.  But it is.  

But for Britons, people who live in the U.K., it‘s right there.   The people who were arrested apparently all residents, British passport holders.

Do you fear that we could see a similar scenario here with American born, or at least American citizens who are Muslims, decide to attack this country from within?   Is that a concern U.S. official have? 

KERIK:  I think it is a concern to me.  And I think it should be a concern to the authorities.  

This is not the first time.   This is the second or third time now we have seen this situation arise out of sort of home grown terrorism.  And it‘s not far from possible that we could see it here, or in some other country, be it Europe or anywhere else.  

It‘s the mind set and the ideology and the preaching of the people that sort of promote this ideology of hate against Western culture, against the people of the United States, and any country that lives in freedom and a democracy.   So, it is definitely something we should be concerned about.  

CARLSON:  But every time I talk to people from the federal government about this, from the Bush administration, they say, well, you know, it‘s got nothing to do with religion.  And we don‘t want to profile people.  And it makes people uncomfortable when you pay more attention to mosques than you do synagogues.  

They don‘t seem very serious about it to me, at least in public.   Do you think law enforcement officials in this country are willing to call the threat what it is?  From radical Islam.

KERIK:   Well, I think the government officials cannot cower to the reality that there is a profile.   This isn‘t racial profiling.   It‘s not religious profiling.  

There is an actual profile of the people that were going to do in this time, that were on those planes on September 11, that did the bombings in London.  That did the bombings in Madrid.  

There‘s an actual profile that‘s put together by MI-5, the Spanish authorities, the FBI, the CIA.  It is a criminal profile.   We should be looking at that profile and going after the people and monitoring the people that fit that profile.   If we don‘t, we will lose.  

CARLSON:  Yes.  Well, thank you for just speaking the truth rationally.   There‘s nothing bigoted or hateful by what you said.   It‘s true.

My question to you is, someone who spent an awful lot of time around government, do our officials in Washington, the people running America‘s national security apparatus, do they agree with you?   Do they understand what you just said?  

KERIK:  I think some do and maybe some don‘t.   But I think the problem is that sometimes we you cower to the political criticism, we may cower to the press.   I don‘t think we have the ability—we can have the ability today to do that.  

We‘ve got to look at the reality that there are people out there that want to destroy this country.   We have to look at who they are.  And we have to go after them.   Whether they are in mosques, whether they are hiding out in somebody else‘s house, it doesn‘t make any difference.   We have to go after the enemy.  

CARLSON:  And very quickly, Mr. Kerik, have you heard anything at this hour about the possibility that there are other plotters still not apprehended yet?   Twenty-four captured, are there more?  

KERIK:  I think there are some others out there that they will be looking for.

And just keep in mind, this investigation is just starting.  From the interrogation and interview process, I am confident there will be other people out there that they take into custody.  

CARLSON:  Chilling.  From New York, Bernard Kerik, former New York City police commissioner. 

Thanks very much.

KERIK:  Tucker, thank you.

CARLSON:  Still to come, the conventional wisdom is that al Qaeda is behind the latest terror plot.  But could the conventional wisdom be wrong?   Of course it could.  

There are rumblings, too, that Iran might have been involved.  But is that nation planning an even big attack on this country in coming days?

That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL STEPHENSON, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, LONDON POLICE DEPARTMENT:  We cannot stress too highly the severity that this plot represented.  Put simpler, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Mass murder on an unimaginable scale.   Sounds like al Qaeda.   Is Osama bin Laden the mastermind behind it?   And if not, who else has the resources to put together a plan of this kind?  

Here to answer those questions, NBC‘s terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann.  

Evan, welcome.  You saw today, FBI Director Mueller said this plot had all the earmarks of al Qaeda.   Why would he say that? 

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERROR ANALYST:  Well, there are a number of factors about this that we already know that seem to smack of al Qaeda.  

First of all, obviously, multiple simultaneous targets, something that al Qaeda, among other groups, particularly enjoys doing.   The targeting of airliners, something that al Qaeda has repeatedly gone back to even after 9/11.   The use of multiple operatives divided into two different cells.  One part of the cell for facilitation, one part of the cell for execution.

That is a degree of specialization within the actual terrorist cell that you very rarely see outside of organized terror groups.

And of course, look, the liquid bombs being used here.   Liquid bombs is not something you can teach yourself to build over the Internet.   It is not something you can read out of a manual.  

You need to be taught this by an instructor.  And it is something that requires training camps. 

And I think that draws attention back to something that is interesting, which is that al Qaeda apparently has reopened training camps inside of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

We had hints at to that with regards to the 7-7 bombers in London, who apparently did train at those camps and met Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy head of al Qaeda at those camps.

And now, it would appear that others are going to Pakistan to train at those camps to learn how to build advanced explosives, to meet with leaders and perhaps to receive orders to carry out terrorist plots.  

CARLSON:  Well, prior to 9/1, there were, of course, a lot of terror training camps in Afghanistan, some in Pakistan.  And Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, was fully aware of their existence, and may even have helped support those camps.

Do we think the Pakistani government now is wholly on our side, or are parts of it still on the side of al Qaeda?   I mean, where is the Pakistani government on all this now? 

KOHLMANN:  There are a lot of questions about that right now, especially on the other side of the border in Afghanistan.  

Afghan officials and U.S. military officials in Afghanistan have been putting a tremendous amount of public pressure on Pakistan.  Because in  their estimation—and I believe they are correct—much of the problem with the Taliban, the  resurgence of the Taliban right now in Afghanistan, can be directly traced back to what‘s going on inside  of Pakistan, with radical religious parties.

There‘s a major election coming up in Pakistan.  The president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is trying to curry favor with those conservative religious parties. 

And in doing so, he may be taking a bit of a soft hand toward some of the Jihadists movements, like Loshgoritiba (ph), for instance, that has been tied to the blast that took place in Mumbai just a few weeks ago, and which continues to operate in the open inside of Pakistan under the name Jumatudowa (ph).  

Everyone knows that‘s Loshgoritiba (ph), including the government of Pakistan.   But because of political sensitivities, they are unwilling to take action.  You know.  

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  That is a syndrome that has been going on in that country literally for decades, where the leadership coddles these nutcase groups.  And then pays the price for it—the rest of the world pays the price for it.  

Do you think -- 24 people arrested—do you think there are many more people involved in this plot?   I mean, are there indications that many more are going to be arrested?  

KOHLMANN:  Well, there‘s talk of as many as 50 people.   And I think, if you look at some of the latest jihad cases that have been coming up in the United Kingdom, it seemed to fit into a pattern where there are subsequent arrests in these cases in the days coming.

I think it‘s fair to say that the Brits take their time with these cases.  They try to drain them and squeeze them of as much intelligence value as humanly possible without putting human lives at risk.

So in this case, I think given the fact that they thought a dry one was imminent, there was enough concern to move against these individuals.   Perhaps there are others that they are waiting to see what kind of phone calls they make now, who they are reaching to, who they‘re meeting with in person, trying to get a better idea of how this terrorist plot might tie back into al Qaeda proper.  

And this has been done before, I might had.   For instance, after the ‘98  East African embassy bombings, members of the cell, who were left behind ended up making phone calls which, you know, we didn‘t realize at the time, but were leading us directly to  some of the 9/11 hijackers.

So this kind of information can be very useful.  And so we have to give the Brits some time to try to absorb what they can before they make the full series of arrests.  

CARLSON:  All right.  Evan Kohlmann.

Thanks a lot, Evan.

KOHLMANN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Still to come, a nightmare for air travelers.  But will heightened security and canceled flights make anyone safer?  Good question.

And could the terror plot have an up side for the White House, a rise in popularity for the president?  That story, too, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY:  We recognize these measures are going to be inconvenient.  But they are proportionate to the very real threat to the lives of innocent people that was posed by this plot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff earlier today.

The terror plot was thwarted just in time to save thousands of unsuspecting passengers apparently.  But will it hit the aviation industry with a crushing blow.

Joining me now, Charles Slepian.  He‘s the CEO of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center and an aviation expert.

Charles Slepian, welcome.

CHARLES SLEPIAN, CEO, FORESEEABLE RISK ANALYSIS CENTER:  Hi, Tucker, good to be with you again.

CARLSON:  Why now.  I mean, I‘m not at all convinced—I may be wrong

that keeping people from bringing toothpaste and shampoo on board is going to keep our air travel safe.

What do you think?

SLEPIAN:  I‘m not convinced either, to tell you the truth.

We have had this same experience, as you know, about a decade ago. 

There was an attempt, at that time, to take over airplanes, to use liquid explosives, to cause a mass attack on the United States.

You know, terrorism groups will come and go.  But it appears that our aviation vulnerabilities seems to stick with us.  And we just need to clear it up.

This won‘t go away by breaking up the terrorist group.  The only way it‘s going to be successful is to ensure that our airlines, commercial aviation, in general, our airports cease to be as vulnerable to attack at they remain today.

CARLSON:  It seems like the people responsible for protecting our airports and our air travel are hopelessly reactionary.  We‘re always responding to yesterday‘s threat, fighting last week‘s war, never looking ahead. 

I don‘t know it that‘s a fair characterization or not, but I travel a lot.  And that‘s certainly my impression.  Is it accurate?

SLEPIAN:  Well, on a policy level, that is true.  They seem to react to the latest threat.

The problem is they don‘t see it through.  They come up with a program to take some corrective steps and then they forget about instituting those remedial actions and go on to something else.

And the bottom is that the traveling public pays the price because.

CARLSON:  Well.

SLEPIAN:  Because we can‘t keep bombs out of airports, we ask the public to leave their baggage at home, not to travel with their computers, to leave the baby formula in the refrigerator somewhere.

CARLSON:  But it‘s so stupid because it‘s a very, very, very small percentage of the population that‘s even remotely likely to do something like this on an airplane.

You‘re talking about targeting a small group of people with profiling, right?  I mean, let‘s be totally honest.  These are radical Muslims who are threatening us.  They‘re not radical Presbyterians.  So why not spend our time and resources looking for people who are far more likely then the rest of the population to commit acts like this.  Why can‘t we do that?

SLEPIAN:  We need to take note of the fact that the Transportation Security Administration has announced that, starting this summer, in 60 airports across the United States, they are going to engage in behavioral profiling.

So if they are doing it, good for them.  I don‘t know if they have commenced yet.

I also say for TSA is that they have refocused their attention on explosives, and gone away from the notion of trying to shake you down for your little penknife in your pocket.  Those are all good things.

Implementation is very, very slow.  And the public will pay that price in terms of, well, long lines, for two and a half or three hours perhaps.  The inconvenience of not being able to take your laptop on board a place, and at the same time, we suffer from a very high rate of lost and stolen baggage.

So that which you can‘t carry, you‘ll be asked check.  And you‘re going to have to think twice about checking the $2,500 to $3,000 laptop computer before you board.

CARLSON:  But also—wait.  Wait a second.  It seems to me, in the aftermath of a crisis like this, we turn all decision making over to the people with guns, the professional security people, without thinking through the question of air travel in a broader way.

Without air travel, without convenient inexpensive air travel, our country falls apart.  I mean, let‘s be honest.  This is a big country.  Cheap air travel keeps it lubricated and working.  The economy really will tank without it.

Does anybody think it through?  Or do we just let the security people make all the decisions?

SLEPIAN:  Well, I think the terrorists are thinking it through.  And they know they‘re hitting us where it hurts the most and that‘s in our financial communities.

The inability to continue to do business, the destruction it does to tourism, particularly in the height of the summer and, on a governmental level, I‘m afraid they don‘t think it through.

So on the corporate level, we must think it through.  And we must take the steps necessary to plug those vulnerabilities and airports and not have the same thing repeat itself.

This is a repeat of the 1995 Bojinka incident in the Philippines.  We should have learned.  It was 11 years ago. This sounds like 9/11 all over again.

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  And you know, a three hour wait at the airport, is its own form of terror, in my view.

SLEPIAN:  Absolutely.

CARLSON:  Mr. Slepian, thanks for joining us.

SLEPIAN:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  Still to come, air travel will certainly be a nightmare for the foreseeable future and that‘s too bad.  What you need to know to reach your destination eventually.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come the latest terror plot has been thwarted but are we really any safer?  And could Iran be involved?  We‘ll get that in just a minute but right now here‘s a look at your headlines.

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11.  We have taken a lot of measures to protect the American people.  But obviously we‘re still not completely safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was President Bush earlier today answering the question, are we safer now than we were before 9/11?  Joining us now to talk about it from the White House Frances Townsend, who is assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.  Ms. Townsend, thanks a lot for coming on.

FRANCES TOWNSEND, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR:  Hi, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Are we safer?  It feels more dangerous in this country.  If we are, how are we safer than we were before 9/11?

TOWNSEND:  We have taken a lot of measures particularly regarding airline security, using the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Agency that is responsible for that.  We now have a program that is curb the cockpit.  We have done many things, we have hardened cockpit doors, we screen luggage, we screen individuals, we do explosive detection screening but, Tucker, as we go forward our enemies, the bad guys that want to do harm to Americans watch what we are doing and they try to adapt their techniques.  And this is a good example.  They have tried to adapt the techniques to get past screening so they can get component pieces to an explosive device on a plane and then assemble it and blow a plane up, actually multiple planes.

They are determined in their hatred and desire to kill us and we have to be equally determined to stay ahead of them.  People will suffer an inconvenience at the airport.  But as Secretary Chertoff has said it is temporary.  What we have got to do is adapt our screening procedures so they can‘t get past us.

CARLSON:  If we have known for more than 10 years that terrorists have at least thought about bringing down planes with liquid explosives put together onboard, why haven‘t until today we had measures designed to keep liquids off airplanes?

TOWNSEND:  There‘s a little bit of an assumption in that question and let me just go back for a minute.  I think what you are referring to is the Bojinka plot to bring down planes over the Pacific.  You are assuming that the devices are identical and the way they were going to get them on the planes and secrete those devices before they exploded them is the same and it is not.  And that‘s my point, really.

What the terrorists do is they look at what our screening procedures are and try to adapt it.  I hope you can appreciate I can‘t go through with you all the details.  We don‘t want to tell the terrorists what away know about what they were planning and how we are going to adapt our screening measures but they are adapting and we are staying ahead of them.

CARLSON:  This question we were talking about a minute ago it is obviously great news that 24 suspects were caught but it seems to me bad news that 24 westernized Muslims would be willing to die in order to hurt Americans.  Are we in the United States government thinking deeply about why these people are willing to kill themselves to hurt us and what are we doing about that?

TOWNSEND:  Absolutely.  We have been reaching out and we have allies around the Muslim world, around the world.  But we work with our allies like Saudi Arabia, like Pakistan, to understand how we can do a better job at denying them the pool of people they seem to be recruiting from.

I was listening to your earlier dialogue and I will say to you, I don‘t think that you can target a particular population.  We know from what we have learned in intelligence channels that as soon as we focus on a particular population of people that we believe are going to be used as suicide bombers they will shift.  They may go from young Arab men to people of Southeast Asian descent.  So you can‘t - the minute you .

CARLSON:  Wait a second.  With all due respect, Ms. Townsend, and I definitely have respect for you, we know they are all observant Muslims.  There‘s one population that is constant.  Sure, they may be different colors, different ethnicities, but they share a religion.  So, once we know that why not focus on people we know are observant Muslims?

TOWNSEND:  But how do you know that, Tucker .

CARLSON:  Well, you don‘t know but ones you know observant Methodists or Presbyterians or Orthodox Jews probably aren‘t going to be members of al Qaeda so you can ignore them and save a lot of time.

TOWNSEND:  That‘s right but I guess my question is to you how would people feel when they come up to screening we were asking what is your religious belief, are you Catholic, are you Jewish, are you Muslim?

CARLSON:  Right.

TOWNSEND:  We find that offensive.

CARLSON:  It offensive.  On the other hand, so is waiting in line for three hours or destroying the American economy.  At some point there are tradeoffs.  We keep talking about we are all going to be inconvenienced.  Why exactly is that?  Why aren‘t we smarter about it since we now that only a very small percentage of the population is likely to do anything like this?

TOWNSEND:  Well, the—But what we hope to accomplish here is the inconvenience is a temporary one.  It is awful, you go—I have two small children and the notion of going through the airport and waiting on a long line with two small children and having to give up my carry-on is an inconvenience and it‘s a tremendous burden on me.  Do I resent that?  That‘s right, I‘m not angry with the government and I‘m not angry with the screeners.  I‘m angry with the bad guys who put us in the position to have to make us go through that.

CARLSON:  So am I.  So am I.  But also simply because they are bad guys trying to hurt us doesn‘t give us the right to be dumb and I think anybody who flies a lot and I do knows we‘re really dumb sometimes in the precautions or lack of them that we take.  We are reactionary.  Banning cigarette lighters but not matches but Richard Reid used matches, not cigarette lighters.  At some point you want to have confidence in the government but the government needs to gives better reasons sometimes to have confidence in it.

TOWNSEND:  That‘s right.  But I think what you‘ve seen over time is we have gotten smarter.  I heard again in your earlier interview we moved away from things like taking away your pen knife and said we are going to look for the things that we really believe are most likely to do us harm.  We have said this is a temporary inconvenience and Secretary Chertoff is committed to the American people that we will look for ways to train our screeners, to be able to screen for this so it won‘t be a permanent ban on liquids.  I agree, we have to get smarter and we are committed to doing that.

CARLSON:  Since you know a ton of secrets I can‘t resist asking this question even though you might not be able to answer.  Is it true that one of these men arrested is an Iranian?

TOWNSEND:  You know, I will—I can honestly say to you, Tucker, I don‘t know.  I have not heard that and I don‘t know. that  My understanding frankly is that these are British citizens of Pakistani descent and I‘m not aware there‘s an Iranian who is in custody.

CARLSON:  All right, Frances Townsend from the White House.  Thanks very much for going on.  I appreciate it.

TOWNSEND:  Thanks Tucker.

CARLSON:  This terror plot is certain to disrupt air travel in the U.S. for a while at least.  For one thing, you can‘t carry liquids on planes anymore.  Drinks, shampoos, creams, toothpaste, hair gel, those are all banned now from carryon luggage.  Baby formula and some medication will be allow but it will be checked.

So just how much will this massive terror plot affect the way you travel?  Let‘s ask Peter Greenberg, he is the travel editor for THE TODAY SHOW.  He is the author of the book, “The Travel Detective.”  And he joins us from Minneapolis.  Peter, welcome.  How bad is this going to be for the average person?

PETER GREENBERG, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  In the short term it will be a major inconvenience, today being the worst of those days, both in the United Kingdom and here and there were lot of things on the list that were not on your list of even cologne and perfume and we can go on and on and on.  The problem is we d a good job of adapting when we have to and we will adapt to this.  We are going to learn to love plastic bags and Zip-Loc bags and we are going to learn to not put that in our carry on bags and luckily at least they don‘t have the same ban in the United Kingdom which is banning all carryon bags at this moment.  No electronic devices, no laptop computers, no wireless devices and for business travel that is almost suicidal so we are luckier than the folks who are trying to fly to London right now.

CARLSON:  You suggested sending bags ahead to your destination.  Is there a cheap, fast way to do that?

GREENBERG:  You know what?  Laws of supply and demand.  And necessity being the mother of invention, there are 17 different services that will do that for you.  I personally haven‘t checked a bag in over eight years.  I believe there are two kind of airline bags, carryon and lost.  I believe in that.

CARLSON:  I agree.

GREENBERG:  So I save 2 ½ hours of my life prior to today not checking bags.  When I finish this program I‘m going to the airport in Minneapolis to fly back to New York to do THE TODAY SHOW tomorrow.  I‘m about as close to being naked by the time I get to that plane as I can get.  I just have one briefcase, nothing in it and my boarding pass.  But your last guest talked in common sense.  And if she didn‘t I will.

I‘m going to probably be taken up for secondary screening because I made my reservation at the last minute, I‘m on a one way ticket and I have no checked bags.  My first name might as well be Ahmed.  And that‘s not good profiling .

CARLSON:  But your name isn‘t Ahmed.  It‘s Peter Greenberg.  You are the travel editor of THE TODAY SHOW.  The idea that you would be taken out for secondary screening is insane.  It just shows how serious we are about actually fighting terrorism.  Come on, if you are taken out for secondary screening we are not going to win this war against terror.  I‘m sorry.

GREENBERG:  And I get taken out all the time.

CARLSON:  That is crazy.

GREENBERG:  The bottom line is what - here is something else that is crazy.  Frances Townsend talked about screening luggage.  What about screen being the cargo carried in the belly of my commercial flight tonight?  They are not doing that.  That to me is a security loophole you could drive a humvee through.  That‘s no common sense at all.

CARLSON:  Aren‘t the companies, U.S. Mail, FedEx -presumably—I‘m not sure actually if FedEx is carried in the belly of commercial flights .

GREENBERG:  No, they are not.

CARLSON:  Right.  But as far as I understand it is the U.S. Mail is one of the great suppliers of cargo for the bottom of planes.  Do they do their own checking?

GREENBERG:  I don‘t know the answer to that but people forget the airlines got their start in business by mail contracts with the United States Post Office.  There will be mail on my plane and cargo from independent shippers and my question is who is inspecting that?

CARLSON:  How long before people can go to Europe, say, without worrying about just terrible snafus at Heathrow or DeGaulle?

GREENBERG:  I think the cycle problem will be about four to five days because remember, when a plane can‘t make the cycle meaning it goes from London to New York, to Chicago, to New York, back to London, it exponentially decreases your opportunity to get on that plane for a number of days.  There‘s a complete ripple effect so most are telling you 48 to 72 hours.  I‘m telling you probably four days.  Some of the airlines like British Airways are allowing people to rebook their flights with no penalty fees or cancellation fees up until December 1 so that ought to tell you about the ripple effect.

CARLSON:  All right.  Peter Greenberg.  Travel editor of THE TODAY SHOW.  Thanks a lot, Peter.

GREENBERG:  You‘ve got it.

CARLSON:  Iran‘s president taunts George W. Bush in an interview with Mike Wallace but terrorism experts say taunts could be the least of our worries on August 22.  What is the significance of that date?  We will tell you.

And something nearly as frightening as an Iranian terror plot, Nancy Grace armed with a shotgun.  Why is she pulling weapons out on the set?  Find out when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s time to “Beat the Press.”  CNN used all its abundant resources around the world to cover the British terror plot.  The network even enlisted its personal finance editor to give out antiterrorism tips.  All hands on deck.  If you think that is strange wait until you hear her advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR:  When are out and about keep your guard up, keep your eyes and ears open.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s right.  If you see anything suspicious at all let the authorities know.  Never touch anything that looks questionable and here is a big point that I never heard until today.  Don‘t use your cell phone within 50 feet of a suspicious object.  You could unexpectedly detonate something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That is from the personal finance editor telling you—excuse me.  Don‘t use your cell phone within 50 feet of a suspicious object whatever that is.  As if, A, you could convince Americans to turn off their cell phones, not going to happen, and B, you can define what a suspicious object is.  That amazing.  What is what happens when the personal finance people go into antiterrorism.

Well Nancy Grace is scary enough when not armed but last night she put the fear of God into viewers when she grabbed a 12 gauge shotgun from a guest and began waving it all over the set.  Nancy used the deadly prop to demonstrate how a woman may have killed her husband.  Here she is Nancy Grace, armed an dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, CNN HEADLINE NEWS HOST:  One gun kills just as easily as another.  The reason this 12 gauge gun will be important in evidence is because to work it Mary Winkler had to go through so much to kill her husband.  She is about my height, 5‘2”, to pull back, load, and aim and pull.  That takes quite a bit of effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Notice the terror on the face of the man behind her.  I have to be honest.  We bring up Nancy Grace almost every day on this show and I‘m starting to like her.  I find her sort of compelling but here is the point, Nancy Grace fails the absolute power test.  Here it is, if Nancy Grace had absolute power, if she could do whatever she want.  If she were omnipotent, how many people with die?  Many.

On Fox News last night Bill O‘Reilly announced the results of a Gallup Poll that measured the popularity of leading television personalities.  He dedicated part of the segment to his own numbers, even invited a panel on his show to help him bask in his own popularity.  Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  In the “Factor Follow-up” segment, tonight evaluating TV newspeople and celebrities, a new Gallup Poll ranks us on an favorable and unfavorable basis.  Diane Sawyer is highest favorable rating, 80 percent.  Shockingly, Dan Rather is number two, 70 percent of Americans like the Danster.

Katie Couric, 60 percent like her.  Brian Williams 40 percent like him.  That O‘Reilly guy is liked by 45 percent, 35 percent don‘t like me, 12 percent never heard of me and nine percent don‘t care.

By the way that 45 percent approval beat Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in another Gallup poll.

And you made one mistake in your analysis.  You called me a polarizing figure.  You left out a word, a cute polarizing figure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Unbelievable.  Unbelievable.  The chutzpah that guy has, doing an entire segment on his own popularity.  Amazing.  And yet any poll that suggests that Bill O‘Reilly is more popular than Brad Pitt is by definition ludicrous.  Maybe he is more popular than Brad Pitt in some rural county in Utah but come on, wake up buddy.  Those numbers lie.

How would you like to help us beat the press?  Give us a call, tell us what you see and the number, 1-877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 877-287-5876.  Operators standing by.

August 22 is a significant date on the Islamic calendar and a day United States terrorism officials are watching very closely.  Is Iran preparing to unleash Armageddon in less than two weeks this, some are taking that possibility seriously.  We will discuss it when we come right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  The foiled terror plot in England comes at a time when the world is already on edge about the possibility of a cataclysmic attack on the U.S. and Israel by Iran.  August 22 is a significant date on the Islamic calendar.  It‘s also a date terror experts have nervously circled as the date the Iranian government may launch a global jihad.

Should we be worried?  Ken Timmerman is an author of a book “Countdown to Crisis, the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran.”  He is also contributor to newsmax.com.  He joins us now from Nice in the south of France.  Ken Timmerman, welcome.  Do you think the Bush administration is taking seriously the possibility that Iran will launch some sort of attack against us later this month, August 22?

KEN TIMMERMAN, “COUNTDOWN TO CRISIS”:  Well, I think the Bush administration is very concerned that the Iranians may have a clandestine nuclear program, and that is the big problem.

I was in Israel earlier in June looking at this problem with Israeli officials, and they went back to newsmax.com follow the war there.  The Israelis had made their calculation, their timetable of Iran‘s nuclear weapons effort based solely on what they have declared the IAEA.  They say it will take Iran another three years.  I have always contended and I think there are people in the Bush administration as well who believe that Iran has a clandestine program and we just don‘t know when they will have nuclear weapons capability.  They could have it by August 22.

CARLSON:  Yes.  On the other hand, there are many countries who have nuclear weapons, including terrifyingly, France, who really we‘re not worried that they‘re going to use them.  But the difference with Iran is we think Iran may be fundamentally unreasonable and that they may lash out against the United States or Israel or both for religious reasons.  Do you think the Iranian regime is unreasonable?

TIMMERMAN:  Absolutely.  And the problem with Iran is not nuclear weapons per se.  You mentioned France.  France is a democratic state.  It‘s a republic.  There is a form of government, a control over nuclear weapons.  Iran is a theocracy and its leaders believe that they take their cue from god.  President Ahmadinejad has said his goal is to bring about the destruction of Israel and to destroy America.

He believes that by setting of a worldwide jihad that—and a worldwide nuclear cataclysm that he can bring about the end of the world and Muslims will be free, Muslims will be safe.  This is an ideology that we need to be taking very, very seriously.

CARLSON:  Is there any evidence that Iran had any role in the plot uncovered today in Great Britain?

TIMMERMAN:  The first thing I noticed when I learned about this plot was the similarity to a 1986 plot in France involving Hezbollah.  Hezbollah operatives led by a guy named Fouad al-Isali (ph) had tried to bring in liquid explosives to launch terrorist attacks.  The French caught them.  They caught the explosives.  They were being brought in, in all things, Arak bottles, those are bottles of pastis kind of liquor, an anise type of liquor.  But yes, this is something that has Hezbollah‘s fingerprints all over it.

CARLSON:  Is there still—I mean I know for years there‘s been tension between Iran, heavily Shiite, mostly Shiite and Persian and the Sunni Arab states.  Do you think that Islamic—Sunni Islamic radicals are sympathetic with Iran, are willing to overlook their theological differences to make common cause with Iran against the U.S.?

TIMMERMAN:  Well, here‘s what I can tell you.  And I reveal this in my book, “Countdown to Crisis, the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran,” as of 1993, the Iranian regime started its liaison and its work with al Qaeda.  They sent their top terrorist Imad Nuhmiyeh (ph), by the way, the Israelis believe that he is now in south Lebanon coordinating attacks against Israel.  They sent him to Sudan to meet with Osama bin Laden.  And we know this because the bodyguard of Osama bin Laden has in fact become state‘s evidence in the United States in several court cases.

So we have material evidence of the Iranian involvement starting in 1993.  We also have evidence of Iran helping al Qaeda all through the 1990s, training al Qaeda terrorists in Lebanon and taking them into Iran.  And, again, the experts of Islam we are supposed to listen to, that the CIA listens to, said this can never happen, because the Iranians and the Shias and the al Qaeda people are Wahhibi Sunnis.

If it gets down to killing Jews and killing Americans, guess what? 

They get along very well.

CARLSON:  I believe that.  Ken Timmerman from the south of France. 

Thanks a lot, Ken.

And thank you for watching.  Up next, HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS. 

We‘ll see you tomorrow.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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