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Week in Review: London Bombings, G8, Supreme Court


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Mayor KEN LIVINGSTONE (London): In this city, 300 languages are spoken and the people who speak them live side by side in harmony. This city typifies what I believe is the future of the human race, a future in which we grow together and we share and we learn from each other. And then we had the tragedy of this attack, as I said in Singapore, an attack that sought not the powerful and the famous but just indiscriminately slaughtered Londoners irrespective of race, culture, religion or age.

SIMON: London's Mayor Ken Livingstone speaking at a news conference in London on Friday, two days after the national Olympic Committee meeting in Singapore had awarded the 2012 Olympic Games to London and just 24 hours after four coordinated explosions aboard subways and a bus shook the center of London and killed scores of people. NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Hello, Dan.

DAN SCHORR reporting:

Hi, Scott.

SIMON: Do we have any new information as we sit here now about who is responsible for these attacks?

SCHORR: Oh, it's very early. There are some suggestion that maybe because the Madrid railway station also had bomb blasts that this was connected in some way with that. Some British authorities are leaving open the possibility that the terrorist organization included British subjects of Islamic origin, but this investigation clearly has a long way to go.

SIMON: Emergency teams in London have been in one way or another preparing for this for several years, some would say for 30 years, and by all accounts, they acquitted themselves very, very well on Thursday.

SCHORR: That's right, without any yellow or orange alerts, without any of the kind of buildup that goes into an American rehearsal. The health organizations, the first-response people had been practicing for a very long time. It is not really as though they thought they were immune to an attack like this. And so it was really quite impressive to see all the people who came in quickly, the ambulances. They borrowed ambulances from other counties that came very quickly without any paperwork. It was a truly impressive performance.

SIMON: Now the group that's claimed responsibility on a Web site for the attacks calls itself the Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe also warned that Italy and Denmark could face attack. It's obviously difficult to know whether to credit just these accounts, claims that appear on a Web site, but it does raise the question: Is Europe particularly vulnerable to coordination among terrorist cells?

SCHORR: Well, I guess you can say all free countries are vulnerable to start with, and Europe has had a lot of experience with terrorism going back to, oh, the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany or going back to the Basques in Spain, the assassination of Italian prime minister. It isn't, though, that they don't know terrorism in Europe, but this triggered apparently by the presence of the British along with the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan--have triggered what looks like a new wave of violence, targeting countries that supported President Bush. And then, of course, Scott, you know that Italy, which is one of the alliances, is now going to pull their troops out of Iraq, as Spain has done before. It should be noted that Tony Blair, the British prime minister, has paid a heavy price for his stalwart backing of his friend George Bush.

SIMON: Prime Minister Blair was presiding over the G8 conference in Gleneagles when the attacks occurred. He helicoptered to London, helicoptered back to Scotland. We might have been talking about the agenda at the G8 a good deal more that these attacks had not occurred. It certainly affected our reporting of the week. How did it affect the agenda?

SCHORR: Well, first of all, it took some time out to declare solidarity with Britain, but then after that, it went through substantially the way the agenda had been. It was two main headings, you might say, poverty in Africa and global warming. On Africa, they agreed to spend another $25 billion more than in the past and called for other countries to make contributions for what Blair called `a scar on the conscience of the world.'

Global warming--some rather muddy language. The United States is still not signing any Kyoto treaties. The Bush administration still is not going for setting any standards or targets and so on. President Chirac of France nonetheless claimed great victory because the United States now recognizes that human activity contributes significantly to global warming. Big victory.

SIMON: Let me move to the US Supreme Court. After last week's surprise retirement announcement by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, President Bush said he would name a replacement without delay. Do you see anything in the tealeaves yet?

SCHORR: Well, the president has given no clear indication. He did talk back sharply to conservative groups who are opposing Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general, and the president said that `He's a friend of mine, and when a friend gets attacked, I don't like it.' That's something short of a nomination, and we don't know about a nomination. There are rumors flying all over town that Chief Justice Rehnquist is planning to retire today, tomorrow, next week sometime, but these remain rumors.

SIMON: And how much can you put together now about--I almost refer to it as behind-the-scenes mobilization by both Republican and Democratic activists, but certainly a lot of it is not behind the scenes at all, interest groups who are expressing themselves about the president's announcement?

SCHORR: Yeah. Well, the far right believes that Attorney General Gonzales is not the proper person to be chosen for the job because he's soft on questions of abortion and same-sex marriage. That's why the president says he doesn't like him as being referred to that way, but I don't know whether that means that the president will brave all these groups and go ahead and nominate him anyway.

SIMON: There's the prospect that the president would have two appointments more or less at the same time. Does that change political calculations?

SCHORR: Very much so. It's possible that you might even have three confirmations going on if Chief Justice Rehnquist resigns and is replaced, say, by somebody else who's presently on the court, an Antonin Scalia. That would mean that there would be three jobs to be confirmed.

SIMON: And let me ask you finally, Dan, Judith Miller, reporter for The New York Times, is in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, this week. The special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who's investigating the source of the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity, has been trying to obtain the notes of two reporters, Matthew Cooper as well as Judith Miller. Mr. Cooper says that he was released from his obligation to protect his source by his source. Judith Miller apparently didn't receive such a phone call and is in prison. What do you make of this situation?

SCHORR: Well, it's long and complex and let me make what I can of it in just a few seconds that remain. It started as an investigation of who in the White House leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, who is an undercover CIA officer. A couple of years later, it looks as though Judy Miller has to go to jail. Whoever lea--done the leaking, nothing has happened to that person yet, and Bob Novak, who was the one who really broke the story, seems to be home free. I think what has happened is that what started as an investigation in the White House is being turned into an attack on the press.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Yeah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr passed away on Friday, July 23, 2010. See an obituary, photo gallery and an archive of Schorr's commentaries for NPR.