WOODWARD: It's a cold shower. To imagine the high of being elected on that Tuesday and they come in two days later and say, by the way, here's -- here are the secrets, and one of the secrets is Pakistan. We're attacking with -- in a top secret, covert operation the safe havens in Pakistan, but Pakistan is living a lie. And this is a theme throughout the whole Obama presidency --
SAWYER: Is this presidency…
WOODWARD: -- how do you get control of Pakistan.
SAWYER: --- really ready to go in? Should there be a terrorist who comes to this united -- to the United States, trained in Pakistan, ready to go in and take out 150 sites as you report here, 150 training sites?
WOODWARD: What we have -- and this is -- this is sensitive, to say the least, that -- you know, what do we do when Jones and Panetta go to see the Pakistanis? You've got all this -- this cascade of threats. Even the terrorist group LET that did Mumbai -- remember Mumbai? Held a giant city hostage for 60 hours. That group is trying to attack in the United States.
They list for the Pakistanis our intelligence. And General Jones says to President Zardari, look, if there is a terrorist attack in the United States that is postmarked Pakistan, where somebody was trained or got assistance in Pakistan, the president would not have a choice. And he said there's political reality in Pakistan...
SAWYER: And this is new? This is a new Obama administration protocol? They will do this?
WOODWARD: Well, they have the plan. It's up to the president. But if it happens, what General Jones tells the Pakistanis is -- there's political reality in Pakistan. There's political reality in the United States. Something like this happened, and the president would not have a choice.
And it's a retribution plan, as it is called technically, to attack -- we would have to respond, just like after 9/11 we responded in Afghanistan.
SAWYER: At one point later on, the president is told there are 20 Al Qaida converts from -- with American passports, Canadian passports, European passports trying to get into the United States at that moment. No way -- no way to have their -- no way to get their names and no way to trace them if they want to come in, because...
WOODWARD: And then it turns out it's 100 being trained. And so it's -- the more you live in this world, as the president must, it -- it's a drumbeat. They're coming. They're -- they're planning. They're plotting. They've -- they're communicating.
SAWYER: And what is his reaction to that when he gets these briefings?
WOODWARD: Well, if you want to play what he told me, I'll -- I mean, I was -- I jumped in my chair a little bit when he told me, when he literally said, "We can absorb a terrorist attack."
SAWYER: And we will play that at the moment. A couple of things though – COOPEX? They had a kind of -- well, a kind of test run...
WOODWARD: Exercise, yes.
SAWYER: ... an exercise, a test run, of a terrorist attack on Indianapolis and then one on Los Angeles, and the result was...
WOODWARD: What happened, they have an exercise because the president, as he told me, is worried about terrorists getting a nuclear weapon and setting it off in an American city. So last spring they had an exercise called a Continuity of Operations Exercise to see how we might respond.