How Safe Are Hotels Abroad?

This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," December 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL HEMMER, HOST: Now, last week's attacks come two months after a huge truck bomb tore apart the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan. Hotels, obviously now, are hot targets for terrorists. And FOX News contributor, Dan Senor, advised Iraq's former interim government, is here on that topic tonight.

Good evening to you, Dan.


HEMMER: How do you keep a hotel safe? And that's where people go, foreigners and business folks.

SENOR: Yes, a lot of security officials I've spoken to and with them (ph), I actually worked in the Middle East, explained that if the terrorist cell makes it to the actual hotel, to the actual hard infrastructure, and you have no infiltration into their cell until that moment, it becomes very difficult to stop them there. The reality is, operationally, it's not that hard for bad actors with weapons to get inside a facility like that that has lots of basement and all through.

Video: Watch Bill Hemmer's interview

HEMMER: So, they think it seemed pretty easy. I think you might be on to something. Locally here in New York, they are — well, they're changing their policies anyway. What's happening in New York?

SENOR: Well, the New York City Police Department is actually hosting a conference later this week. They have a counterintelligence and counterterrorism unit — I'm sorry — intelligence unit and counterterrorism unit that are working with hotels and helping them develop better systems for security. But one things that's interesting is the security officials and intelligence officials both with the NYPD and at the national level, argue that unless you go on offense and try to infiltrate these cells long before they execute the attack, and in the case of India as Greg Burke reported, this was six months in the making.


SENOR: There were tens — potentially hundreds of people involved. The Indian intelligence agency should have been on offense, trying to infiltrate these cells, try to gather information, listening for chatter, and sort of throw the operation off course way before they get near the building.

HEMMER: U.S. intelligence had information about an imminent attack there, they gave them that information a month ago. And at least the Taj Mahal Motel, they had set a magnetometer outside.

SENOR: Right.

HEMMER: That has since been taken down. We're now getting reports that some of the gunmen used the door in the back of that hotel to get in. At the Oberoi down the street, they entered on foot.

SENOR: Well, and the other thing that's amazing, it's become increasingly clear that the terrorist cell had more recent, more current blueprints of the actual facilities than the Indian commandos that were responding for the attack. When the Indian commandos showed up with their blueprints of the facility, it was actually dramatically different from what the terrorists were using.

HEMMER: It was just a flat out failure onto intelligence side. The hotels in Amman, Jordan, after just traveling overseas a few weeks ago, you have a magnetometer, often times you're searched, your baggage have gone through a metal detector. It gives you the impression that they're looking out for you.


HEMMER: But you don't know what's happening on the perimeter, you don't securing the side of the hotels, around the backside.

SENOR: Yes. I would argue though that also Jordanian intelligence is well-known in the region and they have a much more sophisticated, much more centralized operation than what the Indians have.

HEMMER: Your specialty is Iraq. Mr. Obama introduced his national security team today in Chicago, and he made the comment of saying that he sticks by his words, that he will get U.S. forces out of Iraq within 16 months. From your perspective tonight, is that going to happen?

SENOR: I do not think it is. The reality is, this national security team that President-elect Obama has chosen is really not much different than the team that would have been in place had McCain been elected.

HEMMER: How so?

SENOR: Jim Jones is closer with McCain than he is with Barack Obama.


SENOR: He could have very easily wound up his national security advisor. McCain probably would have kept Gates and he probably put Joe Lieberman as his secretary of state whose foreign policy views aren't actually different from Hillary Clinton's at all.

HEMMER: So, the people and the principles and the policies would have been the same.

SENOR: And David Petraeus will continue as CentCom commander. Ray Odierno would continue commanding Iraq. I mean, I just think the people he's putting in place, if personnel is policy, right, that you can learn a lot about policy based on the people you put in charge of your policy, I have a hard believing those individuals are going to bless a withdrawal within 16 months.

HEMMER: Here's my thinking of this. I was in Iraq a month ago, as you well know, and we talked about this first and prior. I think a lot of the U.S. military, frankly, is bored. They're sitting on bases and they want to be either home or part of the war. And to them, the war right now is in Afghanistan. You could quietly pull out brigades every month, 4,500, what is it — 3,500 to 4,500 men and women in a brigade.


HEMMER: You could do it quietly without a big announcement to the world.


HEMMER: Do you think a big announcement is important?

SENOR: And I — actually, I think you're right. I think you can do it without a big announcement. The challenge will be the following: Once you get down to numbers between 60,000 and 80,000 troops, you see, I think President-elect Obama can get the numbers down to 60,000 to 80,000 troops. I think at that point, though, there will be a freeze. And I don't think he'll go below that range.

And I think a lot of individuals, particularly on the hard left of the Democratic Party, that rallied around Barack Obama because he said he would get us out of Iraq, are going to say, "Wait a minute, you have started the pullout, you've done it slowly and gradually, that's fine, but now, here we are at the end of your first term and there are still 60,000 to 80,000 troops in Iraq."

HEMMER: The left are ticked about that.

SENOR: I think the responsible thing to do, obviously, to keep that requisite numbers there and I actually — some of the people involved with his policy like Colin Kahl, who was his Iraq policy adviser, had advocated during the campaign. He got a slap on the wrist from the campaign fort this, but he'd advocated something like of 60,000 to 80,000 troops in Iraq.

HEMMER: Which was the number during the campaign we've been told about.

SENOR: . for the next five to 10 years.

HEMMER: Wow, interesting. We're going to pick up that with Lanny Davis, by the way. But how we're now seeing more cracks in the left wing of the party.

HEMMER: Where, frankly, they're ticked off and don't think he's following through.

SENOR: And I think it's an opportunity for Republicans to stick with Obama, stand with him on this issue and keep a spine firm (INAUDIBLE).

HEMMER: Right there, I got to run. All right, thank you, Dan. Good to see you.

SENOR: Thanks, Bill.

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