[The following is an item published yesterday on the Press Pass section of the NBC News website:]
It was reported this week that President Obama plans to name a new FBI director, former Bush administration official James Comey, who will take over at a busy time for the agency, in the midst of counterterrorism investigations including that of the Boston bombings. In 1989, another new FBI director appeared on Meet the Press to face tough questions about a terror attack. William S Sessions was only about a year into his term as Director of the FBI at the time of the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988. American and British officials would later conclude that the explosion was caused by a bomb, the deadliest terrorist attack on American civilians until September 11, 2001. But when Sessions appeared on Meet the Press shortly after the attack, on New Year’s Day of 1989, very little was known about the details or motivations behind the Pan Am disaster. Sessions had said during the week before his appearance that it was still unclear whether the attack was the work of a terrorist group or an individual, and the journalists on the Meet the Press panel were intent on finding out new information. But Sessions frustrated their efforts for almost all of his appearance, and refused to label the bombing a terrorist attack. Early on in the interview, NBC News’ John Dancy jokingly exclaimed, “Well, you’re not very helpful this morning!” – to which Sessions replied, “I’m trying to be, but you ask tough questions.” You can watch the full exchange in the video below, including FBI Director Sessions’ discussion of the importance of caution in labeling a terrorist attack.
[It comes as a relief that the tenure of Robert S Mueller III as FBI Director is finally over.]