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What Would Graham Allison Say?

Reported by Melanie - December 29, 2004

I would love to be able to talk to Graham Allison, a man who was a guest today (December 29, 2004) on Your World w/Neil Cavuto.

Allison, the author of Nuclear Terrorism, The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, was interviewed by substitute host, Stuart Varney. I have a feeling Allison was under the impression that the interview would be different than it turned out to be.

After introducing Allison, Varney asked: "Sir, I know that your book dealt with how to prevent nuclear terrorism, but for a moment I'd just like to concentrate on its likelihood. Counterterrorism experts tell us that a nuclear attack in America is unlikely in the immediate future. Would you agree with that?"

Allison responded: "Unfortunately, I would not agree with this. In my book, where I try to analyze the likelihood of such an attack, I conclude that it is more likely than not in the decade ahead. That there's at least a 51% likelihood that we suffer a nuclear attack, if we just keep doing what we're doing today."

Responding to Varney's questions, Allison spoke about whether or not a terrorist would buy a ready-made bomb, where a terrorist might buy or steal enriched uranium, where loose uranium has been found, and the people Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda might contact for help in building a bomb.

In conclusion, Varney said: "So, to sum it up, you think it is likely that we will be attacked on our soil with a nuclear weapon within a decade?"

Allison: "If. If we just keep doing what the US government is doing today, and what the Russian government and others.... The main message of my book is that this is a preventable catastrophe. That is, an alternative agenda of feasible, affordable actions we could be taking, some of which we're not taking."

COMMENT: First of all, counterterrorism experts do not "tell us that a nuclear attack in American is unlikely in the immediate future." Gary Hart was a guest during Fox's next segment. I've heard him say that the fear of a nuclear event occurring here is one of his biggest concerns. However, by asking the question as he did, Varney opened the door for Allison to talk about how worried he is about such an occurrence, letting Allison do Fox's fear-mongering for them. Just think how different the interview would have been had Varney said something like: "You are worried about a nuclear attack here in the US, but you have ideas on how we might prevent one. What are they?"

Second, Varney said he knew Allison's book was about preventing nuclear terrorism but "for a moment" he wanted to talk about the possibility of a nuclear attack in this country. However, Varney never returned to the subject of prevention, Allison's "main message." Guess he really didn't want to hear about that.

What a foxy idea. Invite an author on for the purpose of talking about the one aspect of his book which fits your agenda, in this case, fear-mongering. At the beginning of the interview, tell the author that you want to talk about the one item which fits your agenda "for a moment," but then use up the whole segment on it. (Fox would prefer that its audience not hear about the things Bush might be doing wrong. But why pass up the upportunity to mine the author for his ability to add to that sense of danger which keeps the US electorate cleaving to Bush?)

I would love to know if Fox's booker told Allison they wanted him to come on to "talk about your book," or to "talk about the likelihood of a nuclear attack occurring in the United States and where a terrorist might find the means to make it happen." I'll bet it was to "talk about your book" which, as we can see, didn't exactly happen.

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