Tim Russert is NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and host of Meet the Press.  He regularly offers MSNBC.com’s readers his insight and analysis into questions about politics past, present and future.

MSNBC:  There’s word today the mastermind of the London bombings may have been arrested in Egypt, but the individuals believed to have done the actual bombing were native-born Britons – British-born suicide bombers.  How much more realistic does that make the scenario possible in the United States?

Tim Russert:  I talked to Michael Chertoff, the Secretary of Homeland Security and asked him these questions:

“Do you believe there are al Qaida sleeper cells in the United States?”

His answer – “Yes.”

“Do you expect there will be another terrorist attack on the United States.”

His answer – “Yes.”

It’s not a matter of if, but when.  We all know it and everyone I talk to on either side of the aisle, thinks the same.

And the difficulty is, if it’s home-grown, how do you stop it?  It’s going to take people who live in a community who are suspicious about their neighbor or their fellow churchgoer or their fellow mosquegoer.

It’s going to be a real test - I think particularly for Islam because it seems most of these bombers are subscribing to that religion - a test of loyalty to ones faith or ones country and a recognition of their faith being hijacked by people.  Killing others is not a tenet of the Islamic faith.

But, it’s the real deal.  There’s no doubt in my mind.  I have every expectation that we’re going to learn more and more about the ties between some of the bombers in London and ties here in the United States.  Lisa Myers, with NBC News has been reporting on that in the past few days.  And it’s going to continue to grow.  Al Qaida is a worldwide network.

MSNBC:  Secretary Chertoff is saying the best approach for our internal security apparatus is to concentrate on the airliners, for instance, where you have a shot at preventing bigger disasters – bigger than 52 people dying in a bombing.

Russert:  It’s painful to read those kind of comments.  What if it’s your 52?  But what he is suggesting is, “I can’t put a cop on every subway car.  What I have to do is avoid the huge catastrophic attack.”

He believes that’s what al Qaida will do in the United States.  Unlike Europe, it’s much harder here in the United States to be homegrown and to blend in.

MSNBC:  Switching topics now to the story surrounding revealing the identity of a CIA operative - presidential advisor Karl Rove has now reportedly told a grand jury he learned the identity of a CIA officer from columnist Bob Novak.  Rove apparently then informally discussed the information with Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper days before the story broke in 2003.

It seems this is getting more confusing each day and it’s still not clear whether any laws were broken or not.

Russert:  No.  That’s why the investigation continues and we’re trying to put together all the various versions we’re hearing now played out in the media.

There’s been a lot of emphasis over the last few days about a secret State Department memo that may have had some information that may have been alluded to or circulated – again, that’s in the public media.

My sense is that this fall, the prosecutor will either issue a report or take some form of legal action. But between now and then its going to be a big guessing game.

MSNBC: Where does this leave Robert Novak?

Russert:  Bob Novak has not told anyone whether he’s testified before the grand jury or not. Now, with this disclosure in the papers from people speaking on behalf of Mr. Rove, allegedly Rove learned the identity from Mr. Novak, it then begs the question, “Well, where did Mr. Novak learn the identity?”

But, again, this is all speculation.  We have not heard from Mr. Rove or Mr. Novak on this issue in a public way.  Its simply been leaks to the papers about what may or may not have said before the grand jury.

MSNBC:  If it turns out Valerie Plame was not a covert operative outside of the United States at the time all this happened, does Rove still have a problem with revealing her identity?

Russert:  If he revealed her identity, yes, because she was undercover.  She was under “official” cover, so she would fall under that statute.

But it’s a very difficult and complicated statue to prosecute anyone under.

There are a lot of unanswered questions.

You know this investigation has been going on almost as long as Watergate – almost two years.  I guess by this fall we’ll have some answers, but we sure don’t have them now.

MSNBC:  New York Times reporter Judith Miller is still sitting in jail, refusing to reveal her source.  It was presumed, for a while that her source had given her the okay to talk, but do we even know that’s taken place? 

Russert:  We don’t know who her source is.  If you go back and trace the whole history of Matt Cooper, of Time Magazine, his lawyer saw a quote from Karl Rove’s lawyer in the Wall Street Journal the day Mr. Cooper was going to jail.  And based on that, they used that as a way to broker an understanding where Cooper would testify.

We don’t know what Judith Miller’s situation is – whether or not it’s a source she’s protecting or information that she has.  We just simply don’t know.

MSNBC:  Will you be discussing the CIA name leak on Meet the Press,this Sunday?

Russert:  We’re going to discuss the CIA leak issue and try to do it in a very thoughtful and serious way.

The Democrats have staked out their ground.  Representing them will be John Podesta, the former chief of staff of President Bill Clinton – who’s had experience with crisis management in that administration.  He’ll discuss it with Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican Party, who’s been Karl Rove’s foremost defender.  Podesta versus Mehlman should be quite interesting on Meet the Press.

Then, we’ll discuss the whole idea of leaks – what is their value in our free society – with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  They’ll discuss Deep Throat and their new book “the Secret Man.”


Discussion comments