Thursday, August 05, 2004

More on the Terror Alerts

Via BeckyG at The American Street, a nice NYT editorial on the terror alerts.

As I point out in comments at TAS--and I've said most of this here before--it seems to me that the most recent alert was handled correctly in the main. There seem to be two main objections to this claim. First, that old information was characterized as new information, and, second, that the alert was issued so soon after the Democratic convention.

Neither of these points is weightless, but neither is terribly strong. In response to the first point, we should note that it isn't clear whether the information should be called old or new. It's old to al Q and new to us. I'd have called it new information given that we just got it. If scientists discover 10 million year old pollen that sheds light on global warming it seems that we'd naturally say that we'd discovered new evidence about global warming, even though the evidence itself was ancient. (I'm worried about that analogy, but I don't think it has to work for the point to hold.) Add to this that al Qaeda plans its attacks years in advance, and the case for dismissing the evidence as old seems to evaporate. ( I prejudicing the case by throwing in 'dismissing' there? Does the fact that they plan so far ahead affect whether the information should be characterized as old? Not sure.)

Second, given that we'd just acquired the info, and given that releasing it is apparently thought to be the right thing to do by (even non-partisan) experts, there's a plausible case to be made for releasing it at that time. They waited three weeks, but that seems to me like a reasonable amount of time to take to process the info, think about, determine whether there are any actions that need to be taken while the information is still secret, etc. Furthermore. the alternatives seem to be either releasing it just before the convention or during the convention. Again, the decision seems to be defensible.

So I'm inclined to think that there's little in the way that this particular terrorism alert was handled to raise much suspicion. That's not to say that I'm not suspicious. But I'm suspicious of almost everything this administration does anymore given its stunningly bad record. There was good reason to believe that this adminstration was politicizing terrorism--and virtually everything else--before this alert was issued. It's their past actions that alarm me, not this most recent one.

Of course there was the fact that Ridge included a shameless Bush campaign advertisement (about the value of "the President's leadership") in his announcement. Well, there's just no excuse for that part, is there?


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