August 04, 2004

The Terror Alerts

I have to say I'm a bit baffled about the whole hullabaloo surrounding whether the latest terror threat alert is based on old information (you know, ancient Roman-era scrolls and such) or information of more recent vintage (particularly given that al-Q operational cycles are counted in years not months).

The pre-Sept. 11 computer files "are corroborated by other intelligence of strong credibility that is of a very, very current nature," one of the officials said, referring to intelligence from detainee interrogations and other documents.

One said the government has "very, very recent information showing a clear terrorist intent related to planning attacks," and said the computer files related to the casings are "part of a larger package of information we gained access to." Taken together, the information makes clear that "this is not information for information's sake," one of the officials said. "The context is attacking."


Intelligence officials would later describe it as the most remarkable "treasure trove" of information about an al Qaeda plot that many of them had ever seen. Officials said the documents showed meticulous and long-running surveillance of the targets, including counts of pedestrian traffic, details about employee routines and discussion about the kinds of explosives that might work best to destroy each building.

President Bush was informed Friday morning aboard Air Force One, during his daily intelligence briefing, an aide said. The CIA, which worked around the clock for the next 72 hours translating and attempting to make sense of the material, told Bush about "emerging information that might require us to take preventive action on certain specific targets," the aide said.

Reasonable lefties are, if reluctantly, accepting that "the bulk of the evidence indicates that U.S. intelligence genuinely thinks something serious is being planned." Meanwhile, the predictable actors, of course, are in a hysterical tizzy about all the political manipulations underway (why not wait for October to pull such stunts, then? Surely no need to use this potent, diversionary Homeland Security Alert ammo to cut into Kerry's mini-bounce--keep the powder dry for when it really counts!)

The NYT complains:

That shifting tone may prove frustrating to the public, providing little guidance for assessing the gravity of threat information whose details remain shrouded in intelligence reports not available to anyone outside the highest ranks of the government.

Heh. Whose "shifting tone"?

Do they mean the Great New York Times Retrenchment on this terror alert story (not to mention the WaPo's too)? Recall, yesterday's theme was that these terror alerts were from a "long time ago in a galaxy far far away..." Today, however, both papers have been
forced to, er, 'update' their stories from yesterday.

Here's the NYT Walk-Back:

Senior government officials said Tuesday that new intelligence pointing to a current threat of a terrorist attack on financial targets in New York and possibly in Washington - not just information about surveillance on specific buildings over the years - was a major factor in the decision over the weekend to raise the terrorism alert level.

The officials said the separate stream of intelligence, which they had not previously disclosed, reached the White House only late last week and was part of a flow that the officials said had prompted them to act urgently in the last few days.

And here's a quote from the WaPo's Walk-Back:

Paul Brown, deputy commissioner for public affairs at the New York Police Department, said Commissioner Ray Kelly learned about the emerging information late Friday. Brown said the details were alarming.

"It doesn't take a genius to know that bin Laden would like to hit Wall Street," Brown said, referring to Osama bin Laden, leader of the al Qaeda network. "Now we go to last Friday. We hear very good reconnaissance, and we put it together with what we know and our past experience, and I'd say that our response was rational from our point of view."

Indeedy (often it takes one of NYC's Finest to cut through the B.S. best).

Oh, in case dim readers didn't get the neo-Rainesian theme of the day hier, loudly and clearly enough, W.43rd had also helpfully editorialized (just to hammer it all in):

But it's unfortunate that it is necessary to fight suspicions of political timing, suspicions the administration has sown by misleading the public on security. The Times reports today that much of the information that led to the heightened alert is actually three or four years old and that authorities had found no concrete evidence that a terror plot was actually under way. This news does nothing to bolster the confidence Americans need that the administration is not using intelligence for political gain.

What's really "unfortunate," alas, is that the NYT hyped a non-story yesterday (some of the intel was new, al-Q operational cycles are counted in years not weeks/months, the info unearthed constituted an unprecedented "treasure trove," of detailed information, and so on--ie. the terror alert, shall we say, was damn well warranted)

Bill Keller might prefer that, henceforth, warnings only be issued when "concrete evidence that a terror plot [is] underway..." exists. Perhaps, as a truck-bomb plunges into the Citi building, Tom Ridge will then be permitted to raise that dastardly color-code warning (that bothers Howard Dean so)--from yellow to orange, or even orange to red--without incurring the scorn of assorted skeptics yammering on about the "politics" of the terror alerts.

Me, I prefer the NYPD's "rational" approach.

Don't you?

P.S. Look, just because A) one of Bush's major campaign themes is that he will be a better steward re: the global war on terror than Kerry and B) every now and again, the legitimate need arises to issue a terror threat warning does not mean the terror alert system is merely a Roveian mechanism to be employed at key junctures (you know, to swing the masses a couple poll points towards the Fearless War Leader when the numbers are sagging a bit too much for Karl's liking).

Put differently, A + B does not = C (C being the politicization of the terror alert system). Why is that so hard to see? Don't scream to me that it's because "Bush lied!" on the WMD. His own DCI told him the WMD intel was a 'slam dunk.' Just like Ridge is telling him, of late, that a major terrorist operation might be targetting financial targets in Jersey, Manhattan, and D.C.

Again, why is Bush being assailed, almost daily, as a scurrilous purveyor of half-truths and/or Big Lies? Because that's a judicious read on the merits--or because the Democrats are now increasingly playing politics with the terror alert issue?

They should be very careful here (as Kerry, sensing this, has been of late). It's a strategy (most recently floated by Dean on Wolf's Blitzer show) that will back-fire on them in a big way. After all, it reinforces the image that the Democrats don't take national (or homeland) security seriously enough. And, believe me, that's not an image the Dems wanna stoke in this first post 9/11 election.

Posted by Gregory at August 4, 2004 10:05 AM

Your last two graphs say it all.

And it's a Dem shame we've reached this point; but I think that it's merely a reflection of the slanders, slurs, deceit and innuendo that have been slathered on so thickly thus far.

Expect it to get worse. (And yes, it can!).

Posted by: Barry Meislin at August 4, 2004 12:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I do hope that the security authorities, yours and ours, are maintaining some sort of counter-surveillance on key targets. For an enemy to reconnoitre such places he needs must *loiter*, and with digital CCTV and instaneous comparison of images and car number plates, a pattern might be observed. Worth a try, I think.

Posted by: David Duff at August 4, 2004 12:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is all being "overblown" by the Rovists who have taken over the WH. Please! Our fearless leader, JFK, has said so, I believe the words were "the threat of terrorism has been overblown by this administration" It must have been early march, because he said it in the week before the bombing in Spain..... oh....

Posted by: moptop under a false flag at August 4, 2004 12:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm plagiarizing myself again, but while I agree with the protest sign, "When Clinton Lied, Nobody Died" (and I voted for Mr. Clinton twice), I'm not sure the protesters agree with it. If the Saddam Hussein regime didn't have WMD as of December 1998, then what was Desert Fox all about? And didn't people "die" in that bombing campaign?

Posted by: Arjun at August 4, 2004 01:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The major feature of the Left is denial: the Left denies that their policies have always failed everywhere; the Left denies that we are in a real war - he GWOT/WW4; the Left would rather blame the Bush Administration than the Jihado-terrorists.


Denial is easier than confronting hard truths: that socialism is a rational and practical failure; that we are are in a long and difficult World War against an extreme and evil enemy. A war that may take decades to win; a war that may cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of military casualties and millions of civilian casualties - RIGHT HERE IN THE USA!

This is a tough thing to confront; it takes a clear head and courage. It takes confidence in onself and ones values.

The Left does not have enough confidence in their values to confront the Jihado-terrorists.

As a rtesult, the Left - stuck in the throes of massive COGNITIVE DISSONANCE - finds it is easier to IMAGINE that the world will be peaceful and sweet and lite and "normal again" if only we got rid of that "dumb religious fanatic Bush" who had ruined our federal budget by giving tax breaks to his rich buddies [by getting Congress to approve what he ran on: a flat/across the board tax cut], and runined our ecology by failing to sign KYOTO [by doing EXACTLY what Clinton did - just not submitting it to the Senate for ratification]; and our relationships with Europeans.

Blaming Bush, Cheney and "AsKKKhroft" for all our ills is easier than confronting reality: Reagan, Thatcher and Deng Xiao Ping - and Blair - were right; Marx; Chomsky, and Jimmy Carter were wrong. Bush is right, and McGovern, Kerry and Dean are wrong.

In order to become "comrades at arms" with us and against the Jihado-terrorists, the Left needs to go into therapy, or get deprogrammed, or JUST WAKE UP and realize - and then accept - the fact that they have been wrong about just about EVERYTHING, and that Western Civilization and personal liberty are in m ortal danger, and that we need them to stop playing the witting and un-witting fitith column for the enemy and to JOIN US IN THE FIGHT against the Jihado-terrorists and the Islamofascists.

Posted by: dan at August 4, 2004 01:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"That shifting tone may prove frustrating to the public, providing little guidance for assessing the gravity of threat information whose details remain shrouded in intelligence reports not available to anyone outside the highest ranks of the government."

Does it make any sense that the media wants full disclosure on key intelligence on the war on terror? Wouldn't that ruin any possible pre-emption of any attackers? (Not pre-emption of attacks, but rather to track down the terrorists). The last thing I want is this administration, or any administration, releasing key intelligence to the media. Sorry NYT, CNN, some information needs to be kept behind closed doors.

This isn't an example of the Bush administration trying to "cover up" a mistake and hide information. This is an example where valuable information about Al-Q's chain of command may be involved, and I want that fully utilized. I don't want it braodcasted to the terrorists which of them we know are involved or know where they are. That information belongs with the highest ranks of the government.

Posted by: Eric at August 4, 2004 02:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"After all, it reinforces the image that the Democrats don't take national (or homeland) security seriously enough. And, believe me, that's not an image the Dems wanna stoke in this first post 9/11 election."

Too late. The damage has been done.

Between the ravings of Dean and Moore (I know they're not running for office, but they rep a significant portion of Kerry's base) and Kerry's lackluster acceptance speech (combined with his senate record) it just looks like the same old post-Vietnam Democratic party.

Come November, it'll be Bush 52%, Kerry 45%.

Don't forget, you heard it here first!

Posted by: E Jonak at August 4, 2004 02:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"When Clinton Lied, Nobody Died"

Except when he lied about not knowing about a genocide in Rwanda to explain his lack of action. On the other hand, Bush's statements in the long run have saved lives.

Posted by: HH at August 4, 2004 03:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's interesting that you should link to Atrios there as a left wing moonbat who is spinning the terror warning as a Rove-ian plot.

Thing is, since he “outed” himself, we know he’s not some idealistic left wing moonbat. He is in fact a Democrat activist linked to David Brock’s Media Matters, whose mission is spin doctoring, while keeping a safe distance from DNC headquarters. We wouldn't want any blowback hitting Terry Mac now, would we?

Posted by: Al Maviva at August 4, 2004 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let the left have as much rope as they want for their noose, the lynching of the Democratic party will happen soon enough, and at their own hands.

The more they run around and profess to be stupid, the quicker they will be abandon once the election is over.

Say goodnight Gracie -

Posted by: Headzero at August 4, 2004 05:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

E. Jonak:

Sorry ... you are wrong. The correct numbers
will be:

President Bush 56%
Senator Kerry 42%
Other(s) 2%

So there!

Posted by: pragmatist at August 4, 2004 05:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why is it that a heightened terror altert - a stark reminder that we are still at risk - so widely considered to be FAVORABLE to the Bush administration, and something the Bush administration would want to accentuate?

If the Bushies were so interested in lying to get elected, wouldn't they be downplaying very risk that they want us to believe they can handle effectively?

Could such warnings not hurt the administration just as easily as help it?

Just wondering.

Posted by: Randy McGregor at August 4, 2004 05:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You are both wrong.

Bush 60%
Kerry 30%
Nader 10%

Posted by: Jim at August 4, 2004 06:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with much of the sentiments expressed above - first I say Bush 53% Kerry 44% (heh!) - but I watched Dean on Hardball last night defend himself, and I must say that the damage has already been done.
Kerry has obviously not picked up the phone to this point (and McAuliff either I guess) and told him to knock it off.
He has no defense for this nonsense. Esp. in light of today's "walkback" stories when he was repeatedly saying "the information is 3 years old" - lying to use the left's favorite phrase.
Even Matthews wasn't buying it.

I also agree with the ? Randy posed above. Who says continued terror alerts help Bush? Oh, those on the left, so that makes it so.
Its an extension of the looney, "Bush manufactured a War to win re-eleection" mantra.
As if the invasion, that they go so far to criticize, has gone off without a hitch.

Posted by: acebb at August 4, 2004 06:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A kick-ass post, Mr. Djerejian. These Bush-haters are poisoning everything. And since the only thing that unifies them IS that hatred ---and certainly not their belief in John Kerry--- I hope it is just a matter of time before Middle America gets tired of their paranoiac, hate-filled gibberish and flushes them.

Posted by: Toby Petzold at August 4, 2004 06:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well said, great column.

My personal pick: Bush 55%, Kerry 43%, Assorted Miscreants 2%.

But the "You Read It Here First" Award must go to Professor Ray Fair (Economics, Yale), who predicted 58.2% for Bush back in 2002. His update, however, is much less optimistic: 57.48% for President Bush, as of July 31.

Professor Fair's formula, based on economic factors, is accurate to within 1.6% for all elections in the past 80 years.

Posted by: DJDrummond at August 4, 2004 06:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is what I don't get.

The planning for the September 11, 2001 attacks started as far back as 1996. In 1998 the plotters were in a house together working on things. They took flight lessons 18 months before the attack, some even earlier.

Do you think would be screaming "Three Year Old Information" if we put the WTC on alert on September 10, 2001? The information could have been nearly FIVE years old at that time.

I don't get the complaints.

Posted by: Bob Smith at August 4, 2004 07:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have a "Modest Proposal" (to rip off a better man than I). Why doesn't President Bush ask for a set of dates or a set of guidelines for dates from Sen. Kerry as to when it would be okay to issue warnings? I suspect pretty rapidly we'd discover there are no good "political" date for such in Kerry's opinion. 9/10 mindset, anyone?

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at August 4, 2004 07:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Back to the original topic, as a New Yorker whose lived in the same mid-town apartment since well before 9/11 I don't pay any attention to these "warnings" anymore. The government (democrats and republicans) have cried wolf way too many times for them to be taken seriously at this point. In fact, the repeated "warnings" and the massive hiring of pseudo security personnel has done little more than trivialize what is a real threat. Yeah, that $6 an hour "guard" accepting anything as an id is going to make a real difference! Sort of like, close half of the bridges to trucks but let those same trucks in using the other bridges--this makes a lot of sense!

All of the hoopla is a political dog-and-pony show so that the politicians, of every stripe, can say that they're "doing something" in order to avoid "blame" later. I would actually like to see a reasonably honest politician come out and admit that living in a free society entails some risk. And, while risk can be minimized to some extent it can't be eliminated. Then use the resources currently expended on pseudo security in some way that actually preserves the rights and liberties generations of Americans have fought and died for rather than in ways that incrementally work to eliminate them.

Posted by: Mark at August 4, 2004 07:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You are right on the money. I am just wondering what the reaction of most clear thinking Americans will be toward the Dumocrats and the MSM when we have thousands more dead civilians in the streets and these folks were too busy minimizing Bush to help the government get us ready for the next attacks (and there WILL be next attacks). I have a feeling the reaction toward the DEMS and the MSM will last for decades.


Posted by: Jim Rose at August 4, 2004 07:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Democrats are naturally suspicious of the use of terror threats as a Republican political ploy. The same John Kerry who informs Larry King he is too busy to attend security briefings is unlikely to be able to tell the difference between a real al-Qaida threat and a Rove special ops.

Posted by: john at August 4, 2004 08:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink prints stuff like this:

Remember the days when the Washington Post was the enemy of the Republican administration in the White House? Those days are gone. Today, the neoconservative voice of the Post's editorial page is one of President Bush's most valuable allies. It's possible, of course, to find more hawkish voices than that of the Post, but none have the same wide circulation or impact -- and none have the Post's liberal reputation.


Am I missing something here?

Posted by: Sandy P at August 4, 2004 08:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Righteous post, Greg.

Posted by: John at August 4, 2004 10:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I too agree with Randy. I raised the issue with a liberal friend of mine. He was a rather sane sober individual at one time, but I think the stress of work, war and fatherhood has pushed him off into left-wing black helicopter terriroty.

Posted by: Anthony at August 4, 2004 10:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Dems are helping at least one sector of the economy:

The demand for tinfoil hats is driving the commodities market.

Posted by: Mick McMick at August 4, 2004 10:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The incoherent left, desperate enough to jettison Dean for JFK on the altar of electability, will seize on any issue in hope of re-inflating the balloon already making a Sssssss sound.

Posted by: Jerry at August 4, 2004 10:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Sandy P - I agree with Salon's assessment but to me that lends more credence to the WaPo editorial page - their perspective has changed because history has changed (something The Nation and the radical left has so far been unable to do and why I enjoy my daily dose of David Horowitz at Randy above has it right on. Why couldn't a terrorist alert represent a liability for the adminstration rather than a plus? The same question arises re an attack to "sway the election". What is that supposed to mean? Al Quaeda themselves have announced that they'd rather see Bush reelected because he's so polarizing and helps jihadist recruiting- or is this just a mind game to deceive the voter? Something to ponder. In any case, Ridge did not have to use his announcement to make a plug re Bush's handling of the WOT (this strikes me as legitimate criticism) but Bush has every right to state that while he may well be in the middle of an election year he's still the G**damned president of the United States and has a sworn duty to protect our safety!

Posted by: caroline at August 4, 2004 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Today the image occurred to me of "Democrat as insanely jealous husband." His wife went to two extra conferences with the kid's male teacher...looks suspicious. "She says she wants to go out with the girls for a retirement party, but why'd she wear good underwear, then?" "She's not home on time...where could she be?" It all looks very suspicious. And when twenty suspicions have been answered reasonably...well, twenty suspicions, that's an awful lot, isn't it? Wouldn't a man be entitled to be upset if his wife had given him twenty reasons to be suspicious?

And what we find when we dig into such marriages we find that it's the husband who's having affairs. Is he cynically manipulating to distract attention from himself? Has he projected his own movie onto her screen as a rationalization? It doesn't matter.

What matters is that such husbands have progressively less contact with reality, causing them to be angry and abusive. Exactly what we see from a frightening percentage of Democrats.

And the "good" Democrats who don't make the accusations but also don't take any action to stop the nutcase? They're the abuser's family of origin in this little drama, quick to point out the faults of the victimized wife.

This pathology is not merely annoying and illogical. It is becoming frightening. Few of those peaceful Democrats are going to engage in violence themselves, but they will shrug and excuse it in others, as if to say "well, what do you expect?"

Isn't that the rationalization they already use for urban violence, the Palestinian Authority, and the Earth Liberation Front?

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at August 4, 2004 11:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Assistant Village Idiot - interesting pychoanalytic analysis of the current democratic pathology. Projection is certainly a possibility but could Displacement be closer to the mark? The Dems (and more specifically the liberal left) are unconsciously displacing their fears (and hence anger) onto the Bush adminstration (the bugaboo military-industrial complex) rather then dealing with the real threat of jihad? I know I'm on shaky Intro Psych grounds here........

Posted by: Caroline at August 5, 2004 01:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does al Qaeda want one candidate or another to win in the U.S. Presidential election?

I have no idea.

I keep hearing that al Qaeda definitely wants Mr. Bush to win, due to its fear of Mr. Kerry's persuasive skills, but I believe that the famous statement came from a bunch of radical Islamist losers in Britain rather than from al Qaeda itself.

Then the "liberalism is terrorism" right-wing crazies make the countervailing argument that al Qaeda definitely wants Mr. Kerry to win because Mr. Kerry would be more amenable to al Qaeda's concerns.

Well, with all due respect to Mr. Kerry, his persuasive skills aren't all that phenomenal -- if they were, wouldn't this lifelong Democrat be firmly in his corner by now?

And with all due respect to the right-wing crazies, al Qaeda started killing large numbers of Americans and planning for the 9/11 attacks during the Clinton Administration, so al Qaeda hates all Americans -- even liberal Democrats! There are no peace proposals hidden in Quetta closets.

Posted by: Arjun at August 5, 2004 02:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sadly, the early stories in the Times and WaPo are what I have come to expect from the media -- take an aggressive stance before you have checked the facts, leaven your opinion with a healthy dose of left-wing preconceptions, and get it in print quickly, before the competition can "scoop" you. The media get it wrong with regularity, because they have a "ready, fire, aim" approach to reporting and because reporters usually don't do their homework. I'm glad the Times and WaPo have corrected themselves, but I doubt it will cause them to evaluate their modus operandi in an attempt to be more accurate in the future.

Posted by: Ben at August 5, 2004 02:14 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pencil it in!
There will be terror alerts during the election season, and during the election. Just thought i'd let you all in on a secret, this way you can all pencil it in to your daily minders and plan around it. Thus, questioning the timing of these alerts will be unnecessary, they are not surprises. Ok? Sheesh!

Posted by: Hector Sanchez at August 5, 2004 02:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Kerry has to have Dean do the dirty work to keep the far-left base motivated enough to show up at the polls.

The media and far-left complaints about the notice are further evidence that they don’t understand a patient enemy who’s willing to work patiently, plan thoroughly, and take the time needed to achieve spectacular results.

To caroline who asks us to ponder al Qaeda‘s announced preference to see Bush reelected “because he's so polarizing and helps jihadist recruiting- or is this just a mind game to deceive the voter?”

Recruiting is a long-term activity that seeks to get the interested to commit, to sign on the dotted line. It’s necessarily preceded by some sign of preference on the part of the potential recruit, usually prompted by family values, education, peer outlook, etc. The recruiter then employs persuasion, cajoling, intimidation or whatever else works to get the commitment. Whether it’s the US Marines or al Qaeda or the Earth Liberation Front, there’s a process that occurs over time that can lead to commitment – there’s a foundation that has to be laid.

The West’s weakness is that for forty years radical Islamicists have been building and running an education system and set of cultural beliefs based on an irrational ideology. With covert state support as well as funding from illicit activities, radical entrepreneurs have emerged to direct asymmetric warfare against the West. While any and all attacks against the mighty US are important to most of these radicals, they’ve been patiently laying pipe in Europe for a takeover by 2050 – just look at immigration from the Middle East and North Africa. That these immigrants face abysmal economic conditions only eases the task of recruiters. The recruits are there and will come. Timing is the only issue – will they come next week or next year?

The genius of the Bush / Rumsfeld approach is that the US is aggressively employing asymmetric warfare against the threat. Special forces are in Asia, Africa, and throughout the Pacific operating against radical Islamic cells and networks. The naval interdiction efforts in the Pacific do not target solely North Korea, but also radical Islamicists engaged in piracy and plunder. We do things like sending our Gray Fox capability to Somalia to develop the precise locations of newly arriving al Qaeda, then call in Jordanian special forces to kill them.

In a way it’s good that nobody talks or writes about this, but what the American public needs to know (and may intuitively sense) is that Bush and Republicans of his ilk are not afraid to commit, to pull the trigger. The BS that some in the military would throw out every time someone in the Clinton administration pressed for a military response doesn’t work with Hawks. There were really two issues – the traditional military (non-special-forces) would use the “military judgment” gambit to argue for a large footprint, while the administration would demand a low-risk solution. The result would be a plan impossible to implement – think of Gulf War I and the months of preparation it took to get forces in place.
Contrast that with the response in Afghanistan – less than four weeks after 9/11 we had forces on the ground and in the air inflicting damage, seizing land, and killing bad guys face-to-face. That’s Rumsfeld and his ability – pressure, overbearing personality, aggressiveness – to find folks who can do the job that needs to be done.

The point is that forcing al Qaeda and affiliated groups to get recruits into action ASAP is good – we can kill or capture them now and not have to wait a few years for them when we’ve dropped our guard.

Posted by: The Kid at August 5, 2004 02:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It troubles me that Bush will likely beat Kerry with the Conventional Wisdom then being that it happened because Kerry is unlikeable, and his wife is unpresentable. I want Bush to beat Kerry because the broad middle figures out that Kerry's campaign has been disgraceful, bordering on treasonous.

It's one thing to stick your finger to the wind when deciding how to vote on welfare reform or even racial preferences. It's quite another to vote for a war, then stick your finger to the wind and decide to do everything you can to stab your country in the back and hurt its soldiers' morale in a war that can only be lost if our side gives up first.

No surprise, of course -- this was also Kerry's M.O. at the start of his public career.

(I am reasonably confident that Bush will beat Kerry -- I'd say 3 to 2 odds, if not 2 to 1, with a most likely % breakdown of 51/46.)

Posted by: AKDave at August 5, 2004 03:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Okay, how's this for conspiracy theory:

As many have mooted, Kerry needs to come out strong on defense and the War on Terror.

What if Dean will be his "Sistah Souljah" Judas-goat?

Dean's been throwing around innuendo regarding how the Administration is exploiting the War on Terror, etc., etc. What if Kerry is setting Dean up so that he can then wallop Dean publicly, thereby assuming, w/ the help of the NYT and the WaPo, the mantle of "responsible Democrat."

"See? There are crazies in the Democratic Party, but I'm not one of them. Sober as a judge Kerry, that's me, and I won't pander to the likes of Howard Dean. Vote for me!"

Posted by: Dean at August 5, 2004 03:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

WRT: the Al-Queda time cycle. I wonder if this isn't the right lens to view most of the info we have from Iraq re: Hussein's nuke/chem/bio programs? It's an old topic, I realize, but we've been used to thinking of the whole world as acting just as quickly and impulsively as we think our government does. What if Kay's discoveries indicate just part of a time-lagged plan? It's possible that the entire military structure of the ME operate on a similar sense of time as Al-Queda et al.

Posted by: jonjonz at August 5, 2004 04:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

FOr everyone of these posts on the believeability of the terror threats (or lack there of) one theme keeps boncing in my mind ... I wonder how many Spaniards every heard and/or believed Michael Moore's rantings (about 6 months prior) that there is no terrorist threat.
Assuming that there is "chatter" that a new threat is "imminent" the most likely places for that attack would be places al Qaeda has reconned. And along comes this data of sites al Qaeda has reconned .. connect the dots please. Notice that the threat levels were raised for these sites, but NYT acts like they have stationed police in your grandmother's basement.
Perhaps the best solution is to stake out the NYT and generate a full recon of the site, then pass it along to al Qaeda. I bet this will change their tune.

Posted by: J_Crater at August 5, 2004 04:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Concerning the terror alert system. What use is it? Why wouldn't a terror organization use it in their planning, waiting until the color moves to a cooler place in the spectrum before striking their presumably more relaxed and less prepared targets? (What justification is there, ever, for security agencies to relax their vigilance when that is what they are being paid for? "Oh, it's only a yellow day. What a relief.") While it is understandable for security agencies to have their own (hopefully much more specific) systems for disseminating knowledge of potentially imminent threats, does it really aid you and I to know that Ridge's color fot he day is an "orange" instead of a "yellow", etc.? How are we supposed to use that information? (Besides becoming more fearful, of course.)

Posted by: James at August 5, 2004 10:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

While the color system may seem merely informational to the public, any upgrade means devoting greater resources (and spending more money) during the heightened period.

More cops are put on duty, usually through paying overtime to the existing force. For the military more aircraft are kept at the ready, some reserves are called up, some units are moved closer to potential targets. Classified resources are mobilized – guys and gals with special sensors move around to detect signatures. Intelligence services may grant addition overtime, localized collectors are deployed, and on and on.

Politicians have mixed emotions about heightened periods - state and local governments get stuck with a huge bill. But no politician can afford to complain too loudly for the simple reason that an attack may occur.

My advice during these times is to keep an eye peeled, make sure you have meeting places arranged in advance with family members should an emergency occur, remember that cell phone systems will be the first to crash, and carry on as you normally would. Any Boy Scout will tell you to be prepared.

Posted by: The Kid at August 6, 2004 12:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just as an incidental, i notice again the claim that Tenet said it was a slam-dunk. Has there been any independent corroboration of that? Who told it to Woodward?

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