Key figures in the Obama administration met on the current al-Qaeda threat on Saturday while the president conducted an intensive golf fiesta at Andrews Air Force Base.
President Obama set off for the golf course at about 8 a.m., hoping to squeeze in as much play as possible before a scheduled departure to Camp David at 2:30 p.m.
Three all-male teams hit the golf course to mark the day before Obama’s 52nd birthday, including regulars Reggie Love and Marvin Nicholson, White House chef Sam Kass and college friend Wahid Hamid.
“Before departing this morning, the president was updated on a potential threat occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco. He will continue to be updated through the weekend,” a White House official told the press pool as they waited at the golf course food court.
After more than seven hours at play, Obama and some of his golf mates took Marine One from Andrews to Camp David for an overnight birthday party. Those who didn’t take the helicopter met up with the president via a van convoy up to the mountain retreat.
Hamid, Love, Kass and Laurent Delanney, another college friend, won the Obama Open, and thus got to ride in Marine One.
That evening the White House released a readout of administration officials who met Saturday on the elevated terror threat that resulted in a global travel alert and the temporary closure of some embassies in the Middle East.
“Early this week, the President instructed his National Security team to take all appropriate steps to protect the American people in light of a potential threat occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula. Given the nature of the potential threat, throughout the week, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco has held regular meetings with relevant members of the interagency to ensure the U.S. Government is taking those appropriate steps,” the White House said.
Obama left it to National Security Adviser Susan Rice to chair the meeting “to further review the situation and follow-up actions.”
At the meeting were White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President Jeff Prescott, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Robert Mueller, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan, Director of the National Security Agency Keith Alexander, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen and Acting Assistant Attorney General John Carlin.
“The President has received frequent briefings over the last week on all aspects of the potential threat and our preparedness measures,” said the White House. “After today’s Principals meeting, the President was again briefed by Amb. Rice and Ms. Monaco.”
“This looks serious,” former CIA Director Michael Hayden said this morning on Fox News Sunday. “The only thing we are missing, as both of you suggested, is the geography. And therefore, we are taking caution and warning folks between Algeria and Bangladesh. Clearly, this is a serious thing. Also kind of points out that this al-Qaeda danger is not yet over, and at least elements of al-Qaeda aren’t yet totally on the run.”
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said on ABC’s This Week that the terror alert was so broad “because this threat was so specific as to how enormous it was going to be, and also there’s certain dates were given, but it didn’t specify where it’s going to be.”
“And, you know, the assumption is that it’s probably most likely to happen in the Middle East at or about one of the embassies, but there’s no guarantee of that at all. It could basically be in Europe, it could be in the United States, it could be a series of combined attacks. It can be the same concept as the 2006 liquid explosive planned attacks whether there are going to be a series of attacks carried out almost simultaneously. So we’re have to be ready for everything. And that’s what this is about,” King continued.
“And this is a wake-up call. Al-Qaeda is in many ways stronger than it was before 9/11, because it’s mutated and it spread and it can come at us from different directions. And al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is probably the most deadly of all the al-Qaeda affiliates.”
Obama’s week-ahead schedule includes the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday and another speech about strengthening the middle class.