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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Old news. Does it matter?

So the big terror threat for the NYC and DC areas turns out to be based on information that is three to four years old. Also, much of the information was available through "open-source" Internet sites.


The question is: why did we go to a heightened state of alert based on old information?


Well, as some have pointed out, the age of gathered information doesn't mean it is irrelevant. Terrorists plotted the 9/11 attacks for over two years. The bombing of the US embassy in Tanzania was planned out years in advance. And the USS Cole attack wasn't the first time Al-Qaeda tried that maneuver. The original boat sank. So "dated" doesn't translate automatically into "worthless."


The problem is that the Bush Administration failed to mention how old the information was. Tom Ridge made the announcement like this info was fresh and stunning to learn, and stressed the urgency of acting on it. But, as one senior law enforcement official said, "There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new." So why the hype?


Then you have President Bush saying "there's an enemy which hates what we stand for. It's serious business..." Well, duh. We know that. Regardless of whether the alert is orange or yellow, we all know Al Qaeda hates our guts.


But when you start issuing alerts based on old info without mentioning that fact, you start to chip away at how seriously the American Public will take these alerts. And that is a problem.


And there is one more problem: The Bush Administration has basically asked the Pakistanis to sit on captured terrorists and announce it at politically expedient times. Then you have Ridge making this statement about the old info:


But we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror, the reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan.

Put the two together and what do you get? An Administration that appears to be using terrorists and their threats as political chits to cash in at key times. Which, if true, is offensive in a way few things are.


I originally found the last quote and link at The Brad Blog, which is in the Blogs of Note list. Brad and I come at many issues from opposite sides of the political spectrum. But we are in sync on this: playing politics with our national security is wrong. No ifs, ands or buts.


This isn't a case of a president running on his record. Rather, it's is beginning to look like a calculated program of scaring the American public into voting for him this November. If you have a different take on this, leave a comment. I'd love to read it.


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