NBC "TODAY" INTERVIEW WITH:
SENATOR MARK DAYTON (D-MN)
TIME: 7:16 A.M. EDT
DATE: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2004
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. -------------------------
KATIE COURIC: Senator Mark Dayton, good morning to you, sir.
SEN. DAYTON: Good morning.
MS. COURIC: I know the intelligence briefing you received, as 1/8NBC reporter 3/8 Pete Williams just mentioned, described the worst-case scenario. It was available to all members of the Senate and House.
Since you're the only one who made a decision to close your office, do you have any reservations about doing so? Do you feel that you might have overreacted?
SEN. DAYTON: I don't believe so. I can't speak for other senators, but it was not a worst-case scenario; it was a prediction. It was what one officer of the Senate said was the most declarative statement he'd seen in the intelligence community in over 30 years of Secret Service and law enforcement. So, to my mind, to leave Washington, as we did this week, adjourn, and leave our staffs exposed and unawares was irresponsible.
MS. COURIC: But according to the Washington Post, an unnamed government official said the briefing included an alarming al Qaeda scenario but said, "This scenario was way over the top," and he characterized it as "fire and brimstone raining down from the sky and the continental U.S. up in smoke."
SEN. DAYTON: No, that's not the report that I read. The September 15th top-secret intelligence report was not that at all. It was a prediction. It was an assessment. It was certainly chilling, but it was not raining fire and brimstone.
MS. COURIC: Washington's mayor, as we heard, Anthony Williams, asked what frequency you were on. New York Representative Peter King called your actions an abdication of responsibility and leadership. And DC's delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, said you unnecessarily panicked people.
What is your reaction to these critical comments?
SEN. DAYTON: Well, I wish they would declassify the report, or at least as much of it as they could, and people could read it and make their own conclusions. Reality is not a pleasant subject often at times. And I would not myself hesitate to be in the greater Washington area. I myself will be in Washington and on Capitol Hill when we're in business.
But it's irresponsible to me to be thousands or hundreds of miles away from Washington, as some members of Congress are, and making bravo statements. We're out of session. We left the earliest in the four years that I've been in the Senate, and we left our staffs behind. And I'm not going to leave my staff exposed to risks that I'm not there to assume.
MS. COURIC: But Senator Dayton, since you are in recess, why do you think a terror attack would be planned on Capitol Hill if most people aren't even there?
SEN. DAYTON: Well, Katie, I didn't make the assessment. I read it. It was an intelligence report from the counterterrorism center. And I wish I could reveal its contents and people could make their own assessments. I'm not allowed by law to do that. But I read it. I read the ancillary reports. I considered it very carefully, and I considered the fact that my staff are young, most of them in their early 20s, sons and daughters of Minnesotans, and I wouldn't leave my sons there. So that was the acid test for me.
MS. COURIC: And what was their reaction to your decision?
SEN. DAYTON: They were surprised, but I believe that they're relieved not to be exposed to a
risk that I consider unacceptable. And that's a decision that I have to make for them.
MS. COURIC: And finally, could the intelligence community tell you anything that would prompt you to reopen your office?
SEN. DAYTON: Sure, if they wanted to make an unqualified retraction of the assessment they made in that report.
MS. COURIC: All right, Senator Mark Dayton. Senator Dayton, thanks so much for talking with us this morning.
SEN. DAYTON: Thank you.