Assume the Position

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Damage Done, Next the Rowback

Here come the stories, one, two, three.
It's all part of a conspiracy.
They love the gotcha
And they love to raise a stink.
Rushin' with the worst,
And spillin' out the ink.....yea.
Here come the rowbacks, one by one.
They made their point, now the dirty work's done.
You find the story's changin' as you hear it in the news.
But it's too late now, they've cemented most folks views.
It's all part of the media conspiracy.
It's all part of the media scheme.
It's all part of the media conspiracy.
It's all part of the media scheme.
Turn up the spotlights, on one catch,
And let the story flare up like a match.
The spin's so strong, you'll never slow it down.
Follow-up later, it'll never turn around.
It's all part of the media conspiracy.
It's all part of the media scheme.
It's all part of the media conspiracy.
It's all part of the media scheme.

-- with a nod to Bad Company.

Having, yesterday, attacked the credibility of the intelligence behind the current threat alert for the financial sector as "years old" and pushed Howard Dean's assertion the timing was politically motivated, the New York Times and Washington Post now follow-up.

The NYT articles are essentially rowbacks.

The WP tries to stick to yesterday's story. The upshot of these stories is what a reasonable person would expect. Ridge said on Sunday that the intelligence was "based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations," but spoke particularly about the detailed casing information that led to identifing five most likely targets, "the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the District of Columbia; Prudential Financial in Northern New Jersey; and Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York." He did not expound on the other streams of current intel, nor did he explain that the terrorist scouting and data collection activities against those identified buildings seems to have mostly taken place in 2000 and 2001.

August 4, 2004


Signs of a Threat Were 'Probably as Rich as It's Ever Going to Get'


WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 - Senior White House officials said Tuesday that the decision to raise the threat level was made at a meeting convened at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the White House Situation Room. Several of the Bush administration's senior counterterrorism officials, who had scattered for the weekend, had to be plugged in by video teleconference monitors.

To two senior White House officials in the meeting, it appeared to be a clear-cut case. It did not occur to these officials as they debated how to go public with the information that had been streaming in about a heightened terrorist threat, they said, that in the coming days the decision would stir confusion and skepticism because much of the intelligence appeared to be three or more years old.

"I've never seen so much pointing in the same direction," one of the senior officials said, referring to the intelligence that prompted the heightened alert. "You think, this is probably as rich as it's ever going to get. I can tell you, if you don't warn now, I don't know when you would."


A senior White House official said the dating of the intelligence did not matter because it seemed to fit in with other information suggesting that Al Qaeda intended to strike inside the United States as a way of disrupting the November election.

"What matters is that they've done the casing reports and they were done by people whose computers are associated with people who you believe are part of plot lines associated with the pre-election threat," the official said. "Then you say to yourself, Well, my goodness, they've already got the work done. These are people who are talking about making attacks in the pre-election threat. It doesn't matter if the casing reports were done five years before."

Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Newsflash: Hijack Threat Was Three Years Old

I have long thought that if the Bush administration had tried to implement stricter airline security measures before the 9/11 attacks and issued public warnings, the press would have led the public in fighting against and deriding them. Now there is direct evidence to support that idea based upon the current orange alert threat level for the financial sector.

Since May 2002, when it became publicly known that the word "hijack" appeared in the August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief, the Michael Moore crowd has continuously screeched "Bush knew" and moaned "Why wasn't the public warned?" It didn't matter in the least that the threat information was a three-year-old, unsubstantiated report.

The New York Times ran with the headline "Bush Was Warned bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes" and the Washington Post went with "Bush Was Told of Hijacking Dangers."

After that, it didn't matter what Condoleezza Rice said in her May 16, 2002, press briefing:

Now, on August 6th, the President received a presidential daily briefing which was not a warning briefing, but an analytic report. This analytic report, which did not have warning information in it of the kind that said, they are talking about an attack against so forth or so on, it was an analytic report that talked about UBL's methods of operation, talked about what he had done historically, in 1997, in 1998. It mentioned hijacking, but hijacking in the traditional sense, and in a sense, said that the most important and most likely thing was that they would take over an airliner, holding passengers and demand the release of one of their operatives. And the blind sheikh was mentioned by name as -- even though he's not an operative of al Qaeda, but as somebody who might be bargained in this way.

Nor did it matter when the declassified PDB was finally released in May 2004, and everybody could see the "hijack" reference for themselves:

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a - - - - - service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

It didn't matter because the bozo brigade had their minds made up—in no little part thanks to the NYT and WP—Bush knew and the public should have been warned.

Now we come to the current period of heightened terrorist chatter coupled with a specific public alert for the financial sector and we can see how the NYT and WP headline their latest articles.

Here is the New York Times, "Reports That Led to Terror Alert Were Years Old, Officials Say"

Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.

Here is the Washington Post, "Pre-9/11 Acts Led To Alerts"

Most of the al Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said yesterday.

The Bush Administration has done exactly what the screeching class had previoulsy demanded, now watch those same people, such as Howard Dean, use these reports to ramp up their whining that Bush is scaring the public by exaggerating the threat for political reasons.

UPDATE: See Michelle Malkin's take, who says of the NYT story, "The New York Times report is up and there's more spin on it than my daughter's Barbie fishing reel."

Spoons, meanwhile, seems more accepting of the spin.

Okay, what's the deal with this. The New York Times and the Washington Post say that the latest alerts are based on information that's years old.

Michelle Malkin discusses.

So, are the feds saying that they have reason to belive an attack on those sites is planned anytime soon? Or did they just find a bunch of old terrorist intel indicating that they'd like to attack those sites someday. If the latter, that doesn't necessarily mean that they were wrong to make the information public, but it sure makes me question the tenor of the alerts. Especially given that many Democrats are going to accuse any terror alert of being politically motivated, I'd like to think that we'd be a little more precise about our warnings.

Of course, it's possible that we do have new information indicating that an attack is in the offing. If so, the feds should make that clear, too (without disclosing the nature of the information, if necessary).

The heightened chatter during "The Summer of Threat" in 2001 was concentrated around the G-8 Summit at the end of July in Genoa, Italy. In fact, the period when the threat chatter dropped off after the summit is headed "The Calm Before the Storm" in the 9/11 Commission Report. The hijack info in the August PDB was "a bunch of old terrorist intel indicating that they'd like to" hijack airliners to try and get their folks out of prison.

Currently, the general indications seem to be that threat chatter has steadily picked up as the election season has progressed. The example of Madrid gave a powerful boost to the terrorists and wannabes, and it's got to be difficult to separate actual terrorist communications from the wishful thinking of the wannabes. For months, the Homeland Security folks have been saying al Qaeda still wants to carry out attacks in the US and has been talking of the effect attacks would have on the elections. So, they end up with a combination of increased chatter coupled with some newly captured old, but specific target information. After all the screeching from the "Bush knew" crowd about the President doing nothing based on the mere mention of a three-year-old hijacking threat in the August 6, 2001, PDB, what else would you expect them to do now? Wait until after Wall Street gets attacked, then have the existence of this detailed target information come out and try to explain that they didn't increase security or warn the public because it was old information?

[Added] From Secretary Ridge's press conference (emphasis added):

Question: Mr. Secretary, would you say it's fair to say that what has been uncovered here is a specific plot?

Secretary Ridge: I think it's fair to say that we have more specific information about potential targets that I think you can conclude maybe the subject of a particular plot. Again, what is extraordinary about these particular sites is the considerable detail and quality of information regarding those sites.

So again, we have no specific information that says an attack is eminent, but given the specificity and the quality of information around these sites, obviously one would conclude, if you were considering a potential attack, these might be among the targets.

Homeland Security is definitely caught in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't conundrum. They apparently don't feel they can sit on this kind of infomation long enough to try and sort it out and present the full picture in case there's an attack or even an attempt while they're still doing their analysis.

[And another thought.] Suppose DHS had been more circumspect. Ridge said, "We have talked with the executive leadership of the companies that own these businesses and operate these buildings – the people who know these facilities best. We have told them that, at this time, there is no information that indicates a specific time for these attacks beyond the period leading up to our national elections." Those discussions certainly wouldn't have remained confidential for long. Imagine the NYT and WP when that leaked:

Administration Secretly Warned Businesses

The executives of several major financial businesses were given confidential terrorist threat warning information by Bush administration officials, according to reliable sources.

That would be quickly followed by the Moore-ons and Deaniacs with their standard refrain: See, the Bushies only care about their fat-cat business buddies.

Sunday, August 01, 2004
Kerry's Adventures in Fantasyland

Over on Classical Values, Eric compares some themes in Kerry's acceptance speech with Michael Moore's earlier statements. You could be forgiven if you mistakenly suspect Michael Moore has a parttime gig as a Kerry speechwriter:

In last night's speech, John Kerry failed to take my advice that he distance himself from Michael Moore. Perhaps he thinks that Dale Earnhardt's support of Moore means that Moore's message plays well in middle America. In any event Kerry seems to be following Moore's advice.

Noel of the Sharp Knife has a two-parter fisking Kerry's speech:

I ask you to judge me by my record: Trust me when I tell you: you DO NOT want me to judge you by your record.

As a young prosecutor, I fought for victim's rights and made prosecuting violence against women a priority. When I came to the Senate... Whoa there, Skippy; what happened to the medal-throwing phase of your career? You must remember; testifying dishonestly against your fellow servicemen? Holding private negotiations during wartime with the Viet Cong while still a reserve officer...and in Paris? Any of this ringing a bell?


I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Fight like hell for four months...and then join the other side?


And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: "You're all war criminals. Surrender Now!"

And at Hoystory, Matthew points out Kerry's wishful thinking about his powers of persuasion:

Well, it hasn't been getting much notice, but the Germans are maintaining that they won't get involved in Iraq no matter who is in the White House.

Karsten Voigt, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's U.S. policy coordinator, yesterday said Berlin's policy of staying out of Iraq would remain in place even if Democrat John Kerry beat George W. Bush in the U.S. presidential election in November. "The German government has made it clear that the German military will not be deployed in Iraq – and that remains valid regardless of the outcome of the U.S. election," Voigt told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

The same can likely be said of France, even if they won't be as forthright about it before the election as the Germans are.

They Called It 'Puppy Love'

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry (news - web sites) (L) looks over at running mate John Edwards (news - web sites) during an interview at a campaign stop in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, July 31, 2004. Kerry and Edwards set off from Boston on Friday bound on two-week, 21-state marathon that will take them 3,500-miles (5,600 km) by road, rail and boat. REUTERS/Jim Young US ELECTION

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…

No, before anyone asks, it wasn't photoshopped. It's a Reuters photo by Jim Young carried on Yahoo, here (as long as it remains available). I ran across it because I was looking for the photo of Kerry in the Wendy's with the marines. I thought the versions of that photo I was seeing on blogs might have been photoshopped—Kerry's index finger pointing at the marine just looked too long to be real—but it was another Jim Young photo carried on Yahoo, here (again, as long as it lasts).

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.