Washington Sketch/National Security and Intelligence

It's a Dana-calypse as Post political theater critic and Washington Sketch writer Dana Milbank (DAY-nuh) and Post investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize collector Dana Priest (DAN-uh) join forces to describe their July 17 discussion. Video by
Dana Milbank, Washington Post Columnist; Dana Priest, Washington Post Investigative Reporter
Thursday, July 17, 2008; 1:00 PM

It's a Dana-calypse as Post political theater critic and Washington Sketch writer Dana Milbank (DAY-nuh) and Post investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize collector Dana Priest (DAN-uh) joined forces to take your questions on Thursday, July 17 at 1 p.m. ET.

The transcript follows.


Dana Milbank: Good afternoon and welcome to this All-Dana Chat. The other Dana and I are here to take your questions about all things Dana-related. This is our first attempt at a Unified Dana chat; in fact, if we were a soccer team we would now be Dana United.

Dana Priest: But we're not a soccer team. We work for the best, most informative newspaper in the country, so we are going to try to maintain some standards here and actually answer some questions! so let it rip!

Dana Milbank: Bring it on.


Ocala, Fla.: Is this like one of those meetings of matter and antimatter in which the resulting explosion will annihilate everything within a ten mile radius? Should Washington be evacuated? Will government function more smoothly as a result?

Dana Priest: I think of it more as a ying and yang kind of thing. I will just do the straight poop (this is DP) and then the Other Dana will spin it into something you will actually memorable, like his column today about President Bush and Baseball. Jeez, it is the national sport, bud. And baseball, you should know, is going to be how we crack the Cuba case, how we seduce the Cuban to embrace democracy. They just need to be challenged to a couple of more ball games (I think they beat us last time at Baltimore's stadium), and they will be dying for more, more and more.


Munich, Germany: By gosh, we've got "Homo Politicus" and the intel whiz. Could this result in a new book, "Homo Intelligus: Strange and Scary Tribes Part II"?

Dana Milbank: I think we can jointly be identified as Homo Androgynous.

Dana Priest: Speak for yourself.


Los Angeles: What country in South America has the best military? I'm thinking it is Argentina, but I think that Chile has the best Air Force.

Dana Milbank: Speaking for myself only, I wouldn't get on any South American airplane.

Dana Priest: I've been on many Latin American planes, and I'm still alive. Best military, yeah, probably Argentina, close next is Chile. Good navy.


Dunnellon, Fla.: Was that giant chipmunk tested for steroids?

Dana Milbank: I will not allow you to refer to my colleague that way. Dana's dental work has come a long way.


Arlington, Va.: How many Pulitzers have you won between the two of you?

Dana Milbank: By my count we have won at least two. Both of them by Dana.


Baltimore: Okay, so this was scheduled for 12:30 and pushed back to 1. Was Dayna or Dahna the late one?

Dana Priest: Whom do you think? Dayna of course!


Washington: So, are you guys sitting together? Are you friends? Is Dana jealous that he does not have a Pulitzer and Dana does?

Dana Milbank: We are sitting together in a virtual sense. In a physical sense, I am in the Rayburn building and my namesake is in her office on 15th Street.

We Danas view our Pulitzers collectively, so I think it is wrong to say that one Dana has Pulitzers and the other Dana does not. We are both considered Emmy winners as well because of Dana Carvey.

Dana Priest: AN UPDATE: Dana, the boyish man, is now sitting in my office across from me. He just asked to see my teeth before, apparently, responding to the question about whether or not I looked like a chipmunk. I'm ignoring him. I notice, however, that the number of serious national security questions is dwindling....can we pick it up a bit. I've got to save face here....


Dana Milbank: Thanks to Carvey, we Danas have also won an MTV Movie Award.



Reading, Pa.: Dana and Dana: This feels historic, and I'm thrilled to submit a question to you both. I have wondered for some time why the suspects held in captivity could not have simply been given sodium pentathol or some other truth serum? I'm sure it is against the Geneva Convention, but so is torture, so that hardly seems like a reason.

Dana Priest: Chemical inducements seem to be beyond even the fuzzy red line that existed after 9-11. There's no mention off them anywhere in all the reporting and the people inside willing to talk about waterboarding and such didn't bring it up either. That said, I would not be surprised to someday learn that drugs had been used on one or two people.

Dana Milbank: Not only should sodium pentathol be legal but I think the House Judiciary committee used it on John Ashcroft today. He told them everything they wanted to hear: That he had been wrong to approve the torture policy, and that he has since seen the light.


Falls Church, Va.: Dana Milbank (DAY-nuh) and Dana Priest (DAN-uh) -- really? I get Milbank's pronunciation, but Priest's? Huh. I thought you'd both be DAY-nuh. Anyway, congrats on the Pulitzer. I loved that series of coverage.

Dana Milbank: Thanks for the kind words about our Pulitzer, Falls Church.

You're quite right about the pronunciations. Early Danas, notably Dana Andrews, were usually male and had the long vowel. For young people, such as Ms. Priest and also my friend Dana Bash, they tend to be female and have flat, uh, vowel sounds.

Dana Priest: I've pushed my parent repeatedly for an answer on this and all they would say is: "We liked it better than DAYna." The good thing about being at The Post is that I get credit for all the great columns that the Other Dana writes.


Washington: Ma'ams, Sen. Obama's and Sen. McCain's positions seem closer than ever on Iraq. The differences seem to be between a two-year withdrawal plan and a four-year withdrawal plan, though U.S. planning could be rendered moot by Iraqi government demands for a withdrawal. What, then, is the point of all the talk of "differences" on Iraq -- a war for which the most kinetic aspects are essentially over, as all major insurgent groups have been dealt severe blows and there has not been any sign of the civil war-type violence that typified 2006? Will Iraq end up being a major election issue? And if it is not, whom does that benefit?

Dana Priest: This is the real Dana: Well, Obama started out more radical and, as we have seen, is moving to the center. My bet would be that McCain drops his surge idea--too difficult to pull off right now--and both candidate will end up with positions that are even more similar. Iraq will become less and less of a major election issue as this happens (except the left will disown Obama as they have begun to do. But they have no where else to go (exception Nader, like I said) so it won't matter.

Dana Milbank: Who you calling "Ma'ams"?


Alexandria, Va.: Hi, and thanks for taking my question. Can you cite any instance in modern history in which nondialogue and isolation of a hostile nation works in favor of the U.S., both tactically and strategically?

Dana Priest: Libya, until the right moment. Didn't work tactically, but it did in the long run. Now the question is, could we have avoided all that by trying to work with them all those years. Historians will also argue about North Korea. Maybe it was the isolation that drove them to point they are at now, opening up a bit, showing us a bit of nuclear ankle.

Dana Milbank: What she said.


Peaks Island, Maine: From Glenn Kessler's report in today's Washington Post: "Iran last week sent its own mixed signals, test-firing long-range missiles in the Persian Gulf while appearing conciliatory on possible negotiations." What did this test-firing mean other than that an attack by Israel and/or the U.S. on Iran's nuclear enterprise would bring about a war whose costs would not be worth whatever might be achieved in impeding its nuclear program? Iran and U.S. Signaling Chance of Deal (Post, July 17)

Dana Milbank: Sorry, the Glenns' chat is tomorrow.

Dana Priest: In my opinion, the Iranians did that for their domestic audience, perhaps as a way to show they are strong before entering into talks with the evil one, the US, (which might signal weakness to the more hardline crowd).


Palo Alto, Calif.: Pizza and beer, or Champagne and caviar? What say (each of) you?

Dana Priest: Speaking for myself (DAYna) I like a good hamburger and red wine.

Dana Milbank: Easy for Priest(ess) to say. She can afford the calories. I cannot.

I like all of the above-mentioned foods but have put myself on a modified South Beach diet. I am not having sugary and fatty things unless I am really, really hungry.


Philadelphia: What is the correct pronunciation of the name "Dana"?

Dana Milbank: "BROW-klee."

Dana Priest: What he is referring to our newly named executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, who comes on board Sept. 8.

Dana Milbank: Apparently a lot of people think it's funny that our new executive editor's surname sounds like the vegetable broccoli.

I wish to say for the record that I find this absolutely radicchio. I have been peppered with this nonsense endlessly, and I carrot allow this to leek out any further. Lettuce squash this silliness and never allow it to sprout again.


Baltimore: Dayna -- I am shocked and saddened that you failed to get an interview with the little girl who ran away from the president and the giant chipmunk. She could be a new star in the making!

Dana Milbank: I think she's still running.


Reston, Va.: At what point does energy become a national security issue, rather than just an economic one?

Dana Priest: At this point. Actually, it has been since the first oil crisis in 1979. But this fact is often masked. Some of you think this unseemingly. Too crude to measure national security in economic terms. But think about it. What would happen to the US way of life and its stability if oil flows were suddenly interrupted? A nation's security is not just connected to its military situation. It never has been.


San Francisco: Did the domestic Iranian audience get the story about the Photoshopped missiles, though?

Dana Priest: No way.


San Francisco: Does your book, "Homo Politicus," ever get shelved in the, um, incorrect section of the bookstore, alongside the New York Fire Department calendars?

Dana Milbank: Apparently my friend Jeffrey Rosen has a similar problem with his fine legal treatise, "The Unwanted Gaze."

I'd be happy for it to be placed in any section, as long as it sells. And did I mention the paperback is coming out in two weeks?

Of course, this sort of confusion never happens to the other Dana, author of the critically acclaimed super best seller "The Mission." In fact,

Dana Milbank: In fact, doesn't it bother everybody about how perfect the other Dana is?

She's smart, skinny, pretty, wins Pulitzers, and her books sell.

As Jan Brady used to say: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!


Austin, Texas: Maybe you two should name this chat "Sketchy Intelligence"?

Dana Priest: Bingo! You win the door prize.


Washington: "Showing us a bit of nuclear ankle"? Can you top that one, Dayna?

Dana Milbank: So I get no credit for exposing her flat vowels?


Turkey: Seriously, what's the story with Sibel Edmonds and Turkish spying? It seems solid, but nobody's talking.

Dana Milbank: Huh?


San Francisco: We know there's a Milbank, S.D. Is there a town named Priest anywhere in America, and have you reported from there, Ms. Dana?

Dana Priest: I haven't found it yet. Still looking. Any tips out there?


Bremerton, Wash.: Will both of you see "The X-Files" movie to cheer on ... (wait for it) ... Dana Scully?

Dana Milbank: According to the Internets, Gillian Anderson, playing Dana Scully, has won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and two SAG Awards. We get credit for those, too.


That's Pat? Or Dana?: You, Mr. Milbank, may aspire toward androgyny, but I have seen Ms. Priest on TV and she is anything but. Bite your tongue. Or your fingers.

Dana Priest: Let's change the


Vienna, Va.: Greetings to both Danas! Question: What is the proper pronunciation of "Dana-calypse"? Is it DAN-acalypse or DAYN-acalypse? In the interest of online chat harmony, I am hoping that both will be acceptable. Will this be the first of many collaborations? Also, how often do your paths cross in terms of uncovering information and sources that one Dana may find to be beneficial to the work of the other Dana? Thanks.

Dana Milbank: Not following on the Danacalypse, but I'll divulge a bit about our working relationship.

I've given Dana occasional tips about potential stories that I hear from my sources. Abuses at Walter Reed and the use of special renditions and black-site prisons are two that come to mind.

In return, Dana helps me whenever I need a joke about flatulence.

Dana Priest: This is NOT going in the right direction.... help...


Washington: Is there a light and festive side to a war crimes trial for John Yoo or David Addington? And why did I just hear a knock at my door?

Dana Milbank: Happily there is a light and festive side to everything. For example, at House Judiciary, they were just talking about Abu Zubaida, but Lamar Smith, the ranking minority member, kept referring to him a zoo-bee-doo, sounding much like Scooby-Doo or Whoop-de-do.


Enjoyed the chat too much to ask stupid questions: Please do this again!

Dana Milbank: Brings to mind the name of the rock band of the late Tony Snow, may he rest in peace: Beats Workin'.


Priest Lake, Idaho: Beautiful spot.

Dana Milbank: Oh, great. Now you're going to tell me Priest Lake, Idaho, is prettier than Milbank, S.D.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!


Richard Henry Dana Fan Club: Do reporters gravitate to or adopt the mannerisms of their subjects? Military reporters acting all jock-y, Supreme Court types adopting a little eruditional attitude, DAY-na covers the clownish and wacky, DAN-a hangs out with the more sober intel analysts and Pentagon planners...

Dana Priest: Yes, I think they do, speaking for myself. I spent three years covering the CIA and I'm still whispering....

Dana Milbank: Absolutely. I covered the Bush White House for four years and now I never tell the truth.


Denver: Hi Danas. Could you give me your takes on the Obama world tour?

Dana Milbank: My main take is one of jealousy. I have asked my editors to send me on the trip but apparently we're too broke. Only Dan Balz gets to go. It's not too late for you to send an email to Bill Hamilton,, with the subject line: Send Dana to Europe. Maybe both Danas will get to go.

Dana Priest: No thank you! Media circus. I've tried hard in my years here to stay away from those. That said, this is obviously an important trip. I'm dying to know what the troops think about him. The military is traditionally more conservation and I would expect most will vote for McCain, but it will be interesting to note whether there is at least more openness towards him than, say, Clinton. My bet would be yes.


Washington: Serious security question: What happens with the Israeli government and the electorate if the recently released Lebanese prisoner is a recidivist? How is Netanyahu playing the "live bad guy for two dead good guys" issue? Does he say "we need to do anything to get our boys back" or "they get their guys back in the same condition we get ours"?

Dana Priest: This could easily backfire. And it's not all that popular in Israel for exactly that reason. My sense is the reason this really happened was to a straight exchange, but a gesture to open up something more ... stay tuned.

Dana Milbank: Mmm-hmmm.


Seattle: Re: Milbank, S.D. -- not only is there a Priest Point located a few Miles north of here, but there's a town named Dana in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and California. There once was a Dana, Mass., but it got drowned in a reservoir.

Dana Priest: Nice. I'm there....


Pronunciation Land: Danas (or is it Danae?), are those Prizes for Outstanding Journalism pronounced PULL-it-zers or PEW-lit-zers?

Dana Milbank: BROW-klee.


Washington: Dana -- how was your colonoscopy?

Dana Milbank: My chat partner suggests that we move on.

(But you should see the photos!)


Brookline, Mass.: Ok I'll try for something serious. What reactions do you both have to Jane Mayer's new book, "The Dark Side"? Do you think that the inflated interpretation of executive power claimed by the Bush/Cheney administration will become permanent, or be reversed/reduced by Congress/the courts/the next president?

Dana Priest: I'm reading it now and then I'm going to host a discussion with Jane at Politics and Prose on Connecticut next week, Thursday, 7 p.m. The grand notion of executive power has already started to deflate. That began with the Democrats regained Congress.


Dana Milbank: Also please note that Jane Mayer is married to my boss, Bill Hamilton. So we definitely recommend you buy the book. You might mention that you've already purchased a copy when you send the email to Hamilton urging him to send me on the Obama trip.


Anonymous: I would like to hear both of your impressions of Sarkozy. He seems to be taking big steps towards making France a player in the Mideast.

Dana Priest: As a reporter, he's fantastic! Creating news, breaking stereotypes about the French, and even maybe pulling off something real in the Middle East.


Chattanooga, Tenn.: Do they award Pulitzers for chats? Maybe after today they consider it...

Dana Milbank: Priest wins Pulitzers for everything. When she complains about the cafeteria food she gets a Pulitzer for criticism.


Fairfax, Va.: So who's going to write the script for the inevitably buddy cop movie, "Dana and Dana"?

Dana Milbank: Dana Scully.


Toronto: The Canadian government fought the publication of the video of Omar Khadr's interrogation in court, on the grounds that it would damage Canada's ability to continue to receive classified information from the U.S. Do you think the publication of the video really damaged U.S. national security? Do you think the U.S. would start withholding classified info from Canada because of the publication?

Dana Priest: No and yes. No to the first because the gist of the story is now known, including the US involvement. Yes to the second because US intel would see it as a precedent and probably be hesitant to give over anything else like that ever again. Or at least that is probably what they are telling Canada.

Dana Milbank: Zoo-bee-doo.


Pittsburgh: Don't forget Dana ("DON-nah") Wynter.

Dana Milbank: She also won a Golden Globe for the Danas. And her name at birth was "Dagmar" -- just like both of us.


Sewickley, Pa.: Which Dana gets to decide on which questions to take? Are you taking turns?

Dana Priest: We both have the questions up on separate computers and can grab whichever one we want. That is probably why there are more humorous ones than not. He's quicker.


Passing Judgment: Why were we willing to unseat unsavory dictator Saddam Hussein without U.N. approval, but are not willing to impose even modest sanctions on the horrific Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe without U.N. backing? Would Cheney be rattling his sabers if Zimbabwe had oil reserves?

Dana Priest: If Zimbabwe had oil, this would be an entirely different matter. Look at Nigeria. We are there now, at least Special Forces are/were, helping to shore up oil pipelines and train Nigerian troops. There is no threat to national security from Zimbabwe. It's a humanitarian issue and the US leadership seems in no mood for that right now, especially because there are no troops to back it up with action.

Dana Milbank: I won't touch this question for all the oil in Zimbabwe.


Bethesda, Md.: Please do more of these! I love both your chats, really, but together the balance is perfect. Like chocolate and peanut butter. How about one a month? And maybe you could occasionally switch places when scheduled to appear on "Countdown" and "Real Time," just for variety.

Dana Milbank: Another couple of chats like this and we will be indistinguishable. My namesake has already changed into an orange hunting vest. And I'm going to a map to figure out where Zimbabwe is.

Dana Priest: The orange vest is for my trip to the cafeteria.

Dana Milbank: Thanks for chatting, and be sure to tune in for our next collaboration: Best Fart Jokes Heard in Black Site Prisons.

Dana Priest: Yikes. Get me out of here...


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