The Politicization Of The Foiled Terrorist Airline Plot

From Ed Morrissey on the political charges and innuendo in light of the foiled airplane terrorist plot:

The discovery of the plot and the arrests of the terrorists should have been a cause for celebration — but instead, people decided to spend the day taking partisan swipes at each other.

Almost no one appeared immune from this impulse. George Bush gave a short and to-the-point statement regarding the necessity of fighting terrorism and managed to avoid partisanship, instead focusing on working together to achieve security. Even before that, though, it seemed like politicos could not wait to use the event to score political points. Joe Lieberman used it to attack Ned Lamont. Harry Reid, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy all leaped at the chance to bash the Bush administration for diverting efforts against terrorism into Iraq — and bear in mind that the UK and US stopped the terrorist attack.

And don’t even get me started on the media, which couldn’t even wait for Heathrow to reopen before trying to figure all the political angles.

Do you want to know what the big story of the day really was? We beat the terrorists — again — and saved lives. Perhaps we could have spent the day reflecting on that and the need for continuing vigilance. The politics could have, and should have, waited for another day.

I agree largely — but not totally — with Morrissey.

Yours truly was stuck in a car driving some 285 miles yesterday. That means I was at the mercy of talk radio and news stations.

I heard conservative show hosts say the foiled plot proves why Democrats should not be allowed anywhere near power or be in charge of our country — that only the GOP cares and is competent enough to protect the United States against terrorism. I heard a local newscaster on an Air America station insert an editorial comment in his newscast actually suggesting (he hinted it in an aside) that the foiled terrorism plot was perhaps fabricated because Joe Lieberman was defeated. I heard another liberal talker suggest it wasn’t a coincidence that this happened when GOP polls are down and right after Lieberman was defeated. I heard the comments by Democrats saying this shows that we’re bogged down in Iraq.

But I do not agree with Ed on President George Bush.

I heard President George Bush sound less like a President and Commander In Chief of a country under a perpetual terrorist threat than a politician running for re-election and suggesting that certain Americans (which party could THEY belong to?) somehow forgot about 911 and who did it.

This is NOT just my view. I discovered THIS STORY that notes:

Weighed down by the unpopular war in Iraq, Bush and his aides have tried to shift the national political debate from that conflict to the broader and more popular global war on terrorism ahead of November 7 congressional elections.

The London conspiracy is “a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation,” the president said on a day trip to Wisconsin.

“It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America,” he said. “We’ve taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously we still aren’t completely safe.”

So exactly who has said or suggested that there is “no threat” to the United States?

The bottom line is that Bush was seemingly playing the same game yesterday as the Democrats and the liberal and conservative talk show hosts but doing it in a more subtle way.

It has gotten to the point in the United States now where partisanship trumps everything. Every development, every event is siezed on for maximum partisan skirmish. The talk radio culture of angry rants, accusatory comments, trying to define political foes as evil and a danger to The Republic seemingly permeates every discussion of every event or issue.

Morrissey is right: this was a cause for celebration — not an event that should be grabbed in a frenzy to use as a political bludgeon. The professional talkers and politicians would do wise to heed his advice as stated in the headline of his post (and if they don’t know what the abbreviation means they should ask any teenager).

Could we have possibly been spared 24 hours before both Republicans and Democrats turned news of this foiled attack into a political football?

Just how blatantly political has the terrorism threat become? Look at this quote from tghe AFP story quoted and linked above:

“Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big,” said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won’t “look as appealing” under the circumstances.

We ALL should be grateful this was foiled. And, yes, all Americans in all parties (or not belonging to one) do remember 911 (even if they can’t tell you the year…). NEITHER party has a monopoly on competence or incompetence when it comes to terrorism — since 911 was a failure of administrations of both parties.

36 Comments

  1. Your take seems to be rather a snotty way to read what Bush had to say.

    Who can disagree with this?

    The London conspiracy is “a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation,” the president said on a day trip to Wisconsin.

    How is this politicizing anything? It’s an accurate statement of the facts, and little else. Had these Islamo-terrorists succeeded, 10 planes and upwards of 4000 people would have lost their lives. These are the stakes we are dealing with. It’s a simple, straightforward calculus there.

    Bush said

    “It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America,”

    to which you comment

    So exactly who has said or suggested that there is “no threat” to the United States?

    If you take the liberal bloggers at their word, they are more than suggesting that there is no threat, that the threat is not real but rather is being manufactured by BushCo. What’s to argue with about that???

  2. I agree with Joe and he also gives you the link showing you that he is not the only one who saw it this way. Also if you go through the left voices he lists on this site you’ll see liberal bloggers aren’t saying there is no threat. Those who were stupid enough to say this case is manufacturered did NOT say there was no terrorist threat — but suggest, again stupidly, that this was a fabrication in this case. So I don’t think this is a “snotty” post at all. It’s clear you just want a post that says only the Democrats tried to make politics out of this. Can I guess which party you support?

  3. clt,
    You are dead wrong. I am a staunchly liberal Democrat who vehemently opposes Bush’s approach to the War on Terror and the war in Iraq in particular. And I made what I think is the clear Democratic argument about this whole episode, which is: 1) this plot was real and very deadly, 2) we are, as always, at risk, and this plot only one of many in the future, and 3) this plot was defeated with, what I termed, “old-fashioned police work” and not through some misguided dramatic remaking of the Middle East through war. The last point, of course, WAS a political point – and the only pushback I received was that maybe the British were not using “old-fashioned” police work but rather new forms of surveillance that may or may not pass US Constitutional muster. Fine, we can have that debate. But nobody challenged my contention that this incident proves what works in the War on Terror, and what doesn’t. And what works is counterintelligence, infiltration, policing, etc., along with cooperation with other nation’s intelligence agencies (the Pakistani ISI played a HUGE role in disrupting this). What clearly has not worked is a war to transform the Middle East and somehow make terrorism less desirable to those struggling under Arabic tyranny. These were British Muslims, of Pakistani birth or parentage. They may or may not have had direct contact, training and financing from Al Qaeda itself, but this was primarily planned within the UK.

    I raise the political point for two reasons. One, the Republicans think that the mere symbolism of terrorism somehow redounds to their favor, even when the evidence so obviously suggests otherwise. It’s critical for non-Republicans to nip that narrative in the bud. And two, more importantly, this is a point of substantive difference between the parties. As the likes of Charles Krauthammer bleat breathlessly away about appeasement and accommodation, and John Kerry is openly mocked for saying that the War on Terror is primarily a law enforcement and intelligence operation, we as a nation find ourselves in increasing peril because of the missteps of the Bush approach to the War on Terror. I praise Scotland Yard and international investigative work not because I am a Democrat looking for partisan gain. I praise them because they are the ones who will keep us safe and win the War on Terror. The neo-conservative vision of Middle East “transformation” has utterly failed to do that. This isn’t about “appeasement” as many Republicans argue. It’s about winning.

  4. All I can wonder at is where the heck you’re hearing all these “liberal” radio shows! They don’t exist in my part of the country!

    I do agree though, that both sides were too quick to politicize these events. However, you note that you heard some lefty talk show hosts (and certainly some blogs are “guilty” as well) … And the President. Which goes back to my first graf. How much influence does a liberal radio talk show host, let alone a one or two-line comment at TPM for instance, have on the national debate? As opposed to the President? Let’s not forget the Vice President’s remarks, etc. Not to mention a Lieberman attack on Lamont over it!

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see any equivalence there.

  5. The GWOT is an intel, and policing issue now. And not the policing of Iraq by US troops either. As much as I shake my head when Kerry goes off on some new jaunt, he was right when he made the distinction during the ’04 election. To whittle these evil sumbitches (sorry Joe) down the world outside the US is using the very tools Kerry suggested. Terrorism is NOT a country, it is an ideology. An ideology this broad ranging can’t, and will not be contained like this is WW2, and fascism is the problem. Unless we wish to invade North and East Africa, the Mid East, Arabian Pennisula, Persia and South East Asia, and in effect commit genocide. This issue has to be fought with some damn smarts. And we aren’t getting it apparently, nor will we untill this constant need by politicos to use each moment to skewer the truth of the issue for some kind of gain irregardless of reality. They need to tuck in the tough guy ego’s, and get to work diffusing this stuff. But that’s not John Wayne type stuff so they can’t bring themselves to do the really inglorious job, so it’s been ignored because it isn’t electiable type stuff. Don’t they know Bush can’t be re-elected yet?

  6. Joe good post. I agree completely, although what Bush said was more ‘suggestive’ than downright partisan in my opinion.

    Indeed, I heard and read both sides have a go at eachother and it aren’t just talkradio hosts.

  7. One side of this story has been completely left undiscussed. In Holland there was talk of terrorists trying to drive the US and UK apart by using planes from UK to attack some US cities (including Los Angeles!).
    In the opinions of some voices on the radio yesterday, this has been done before when terrorists had tried to drive the US and Germany apart (through 9/11 and the Hamburg link).

    With regard to politicization: Bush’ speech was pure campaigning, which seemed to serve the purpose of gaining support for his views rather than anything.

  8. MvdG:

    I agree completely, although what Bush said was more ‘suggestive’ than downright partisan in my opinion.

    This, I think, was one of those instances where he didn’t have to paint a bullseye for the listener to know who the target was.

    The later note in the AFP report is clearer:

    His remarks came a day after the White House orchestrated an exceptionally aggressive campaign to tar opposition Democrats as weak on terrorism, knowing what Democrats didn’t: News of the plot could soon break.

    A Guardian article lays out the time-frame of what Bush knew from Blair and when. While they’d discussed it generally on several occasions,

    [Bush and Blair] discussed it in more detail on Sunday, during a conversation on a secure line in which the prime minister outlined what he knew of the British cell being monitored by the security services… Mr Blair warned the president that it showed there was a specific threat to US airlines and urged total secrecy, warning premature leaks would destroy the monitoring of the group.

    (emphasis mine)

    So they had some lead time to develop a plan to bludgeon the Democrats if they lost their prize boy, knowing the crescendo would be coming for their “orchestrated” campaign..

    The part I’ve emphasized, however, does raise the question of who Bush told, and when, for the whole media plan to be developed? I mean, couldn’t something like that be considered classified information?

    Not to suggest the President and or the GOP might use classified intel to plan attacks on political opponents, just sayin’.

  9. “It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America”

    Joe is dead on re: the Prez’ politicization of the UK terror plot.

    The above statement alone is a typical BushCorpâ„¢ strawman. No-one believes there is NO threat, though many disagree as to how to combat that threat.

    That point aside I have to repectfully disagree with all here decrying the “politicization” of this event.

    Terrorist attacks and plots are nothing if not political.

    And while it may well be argued that by so reponding to such threats we are helping to accomplish terrorist’s goals by playing their game, it is hardly a mystery that a political event engenders a political response.

    As for the politics, I, ashamedly, couldn’t help myself.

  10. Some more details on the plot as reuters reports that some were a few days away from “doing it” and I can guarantee you that that does not refer to having sexual intercourse.

    Also, Dutch press reports about a terror alert for India, which tells me we might have some rough times ahead of us despite yesterday’s work by Scotland Yard.

  11. More about the terror threat in India here.

  12. One side of this story has been completely left undiscussed. In Holland there was talk of terrorists trying to drive the US and UK apart by using planes from UK to attack some US cities (including Los Angeles!).

    Yes, that’s also out there on American blogs now.

  13. eff the spinners…both sides politicized the story…and the bushies did what they always do…worked to instill more fear into the populace

    i dont care if the threat was “imminent” how it has been dealt with is absolutely silly

    now liquids are banned on all flights?

    i can tell you one airline that isnt doint that…and that is el al

    cuz their security measures remain the best in the biz

    and what ever happened to ” we are fighting them over there, so we dont have to fight them here”?

    guess they are here still

    bush hasnt been fighting the war on terrorism…hes been fighting a war with iraq…and a war against his own people

    i am sick to death with the hole thing

    and i am still waiting for evidence that these “terrorists” were indeed close to committing these acts

    oh….btw…whatever happened to those terrorists in florida

  14. Love the CQ suggestion that Bush was somehow above the political fray..he was taking swipes at Democrats and plugging his spying programs. Yes, both parties were guilty–but Bush was NOT above it.

  15. “So exactly who has said or suggested that there is “no threat” to the United States?”

    Michael Moore, an icon of the American liberal left: “There is no terrorist threat.” (Dude, Where’s My Country). Google it.

    If one read the left blogs yesterday…and particularly the comments (see Americablog in particular, also Democratic Underground)…the plot was dismissed as a Bush-Blair conspiracy to “scare the sheep”.

    How can one not read liberal/left blogs and not note the persistant trend to dismiss the threat of Islamic-based terrorism as simply a Rovian plot? Americablog and others were spinning yesterday’s announcement as a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the Netroots victory over Lieberman.

    Seriously. That Britain would dusrupt world air traffic at the biggest hub on the planet because the Netroots hero Lamont won a primary!

    I would recommend Joe and other here to go look at the liberal/left blogs and comments yesterday. Those are the people who don’t take the terrorist threat seriously.

  16. Democrats love to talk about how all we need to fend off the terrorist threat is intelligence and enforcement, yet when those very issues come to the forefront in terms of the privacy debate, the Administration is attacked mercilessly. Intelligence is the mantra of the liberals only when it comes to THEIR “staunch approach” to combatting terrorism but in reality it is simply their method of giving lip service to this issue when they declare that they understand just how “serious a threat” terrorism is.

    The flaw in stating that intelligence and police work are all that is necessary to solve the terrorism problem can be equated to the approach of combatting an escalating domestic crime rate with more police officers. While more police will inevitably lower the crime rate in the short term, it will not repair the original condition that caused the domestic population to be lawless in the first place, and ulitimately the lawlessness will return. This technique only suppresses the problem and does not solve it. While suppression of the problem may be necessary as a short term approach, there must also be efforts made toward a long term solution, which means identifying the root conditions of the problem and trying to remedy those conditions if possible.

    Where the liberal agenda falls short is that they offer no long term approach to solving the terrorism issue. To declare that the Administration’s long term approach has failed is nothing less than failure to recognize that it is in fact a LONG term approach. Five years will not and can not correct conditions that were created by decades if not centuries of neglect. These efforts take a great deal of time, commitment, and foresight which is why we have a representative democracy in the first place. A primary function of a powerful government is to make tough decisions and see policy to fruition in a way that small picture, short-term focused individuals can not comprehend.

  17. The irony, to me, is the right tries to make believe we are safer because there hasn’t been another attack on US soil since 9/11, while at the same time trying to show it’s not safer and we need to give up freedoms to be safer.

  18. It is sad that I have to remind people that this country was once almost completed united behind Bush in the GWOT. That unity was squandered by Bush &Co. Their brand of zero-sum politics has poisoned the political dialoge in our country and it is going to take a good long while before it recovers.

    To all those castigating the Dems for their political one-upsmanship, etc. I ask, what would you have the Dems do?

  19. Erik- The country backed Bush in the GWOT when he invaded Afghanistan and went after the Taliban and Al Queda’s organization. But Bush’s efforts in Iraq can only be viewed as a massive failure, and his policy of allowing free and fair elections has resulted in the legitimizing of terror organizations in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon, which has greatly complicated negotiations with those governments. We don’t have 100 years for the Middle East to develop stable democracies that won’t foster more terrorism.

    In my opinion, this idea of a “grand strategy” in the Middle East is Bush’s way of avoiding ultimate responsibility for these policy failures. So far his administration has blamed Clinton for as much as possible (of course the first President Bush is off-limits!) and is avoiding any kind of accountability by claiming this ME strategy is just at the beginning stages.

  20. The left was denying the reality of the terrorist threat from the moment the planes struck the World Trade center. I was living in San Francisco at that time and working in Walnut Creek. On the Muni bus I took home after getting off BART, a couple of obvious leftists wwere arguing about whether or not the CIA did it to strengthen the Bush Administration or whether Israeli Intelligence did it to bring the US into the mid-east war on their side. By the way, these people all voted for Nancy Pelosi who will be Speaker if the democrats win the House elections. And those views are common amongst her constituents.

  21. So Louis Spielman,

    The “Left” consists of two guys on a bus in San Francisco?

  22. Where the liberal agenda falls short is that they offer no long term approach to solving the terrorism issue

    Well…Iraq has certainly turned into a long-term appraoch, but I think you would be hard pressed to prove it is a solution to the problem, as shown by the events of yesterday.

    I wonder if those two guys on the bus in San Francisco, you know the Left, make much anti-terrorism policy for the United States.

  23. (link)Erik Curtis (mail):
    Democrats love to talk about how all we need to fend off the terrorist threat is intelligence and enforcement, yet when those very issues come to the forefront in terms of the privacy debate, the Administration is attacked mercilessly. Intelligence is the mantra of the liberals only when it comes to THEIR “staunch approach” to combatting terrorism but in reality it is simply their method of giving lip service to this issue when they declare that they understand just how “serious a threat” terrorism is.

    The flaw in stating that intelligence and police work are all that is necessary to solve the terrorism problem can be equated to the approach of combatting an escalating domestic crime rate with more police officers. While more police will inevitably lower the crime rate in the short term, it will not repair the original condition that caused the domestic population to be lawless in the first place, and ulitimately the lawlessness will return. This technique only suppresses the problem and does not solve it. While suppression of the problem may be necessary as a short term approach, there must also be efforts made toward a long term solution, which means identifying the root conditions of the problem and trying to remedy those conditions if possible.

    Where the liberal agenda falls short is that they offer no long term approach to solving the terrorism issue. To declare that the Administration’s long term approach has failed is nothing less than failure to recognize that it is in fact a LONG term approach. Five years will not and can not correct conditions that were created by decades if not centuries of neglect. These efforts take a great deal of time, commitment, and foresight which is why we have a representative democracy in the first place. A primary function of a powerful government is to make tough decisions and see policy to fruition in a way that small picture, short-term focused individuals can not comprehend.

    Excellent points!
    I’m in agreement but I do have doubts about the current administration’s policies. Will the “democratization” of the Middle East really succeed in the long term? I’m skeptical. Yet, I have no idea what the alternative is. And, I certainly have not heard any dems or others from the left offering any long term solutions. Any takers? Are there those from center left who really do conceptualize our current situation as a global war with real threats from idealogues who have no desire to coexist with us? If so, do you believe it is possible to win their hearts and minds by toning down the war rhetoric? Would a change in US policy at this point really be embraced by Islamists, Palestinians, etc? My belief is that it would not, and that this would be seen as a sign of weakness which would quickly be exploited. It is on that basis that I reluctantly support the ideas of “benign imperialism” that are currently being enacted.

  24. To say that the Left doesn’t believe there is “no terrorist threat� is a fallacy, considering some on the Left, believe 911 was all a conspiracy of the Bush Administration.

    To say that Bush isn’t using this event for political gain is pure inanity. All politicians, Right and Left, are opportunists who will use any event for their gain. If you believe that your politicians speak with sincerity, then I have some beach front property to sell you in Florida.

  25. I’d like to point people to the following Duluth News Tribune story from Cox News Service. Specifically the first three paragraphs:

    When Vice President Cheney went out of his way on Wednesday to blast Democrats as weak on terrorism, he knew something that few Americans knew: Another stark reminder of the dangers of terrorism was about to hit the headlines.

    The White House confirmed Thursday that senior administration officials have been aware since at least last weekend that British authorities were moving toward arrests in an alleged plot to bomb international flights.

    Some of these top officials worked in concert with the Republican National Committee to blast Democrats after Tuesday’s primary defeat of Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a supporter of President Bush’s Iraqi war strategy.

    Bush II and the Repugnicans in charge of the GOP will stoop to any depth required to regain power. It would have been bad enough to swipe at the Democratic Party AFTER the events were disclosed, but using foreknowledge of threats to enable your political operatives to get a jump on your opponents is downright unethical (and yes, I’d be saying the same thing if a Demenocrat was in power instead of a Repugnican).

  26. “Would a change in US policy at this point really be embraced by Islamists, Palestinians, etc? My belief is that it would not, and that this would be seen as a sign of weakness which would quickly be exploited. It is on that basis that I reluctantly support the ideas of “benign imperialism” that are currently being enacted.”

    Well, you just brought up a possible “long-term” solution that would address the root cause, and then summarily dismissed it. Sure, some would interpret policy change as “weakness.” But I bet most would treat it as respect. We aren’t talking about appeasing jihadists here. We’re talking about the vast, vast majority of the Arab and Muslim world that sits on the fence in this great crisis, and wants to feel like they aren’t pushovers. You can never appease the terrorists and you shouldn’t try. But you must work to isolate the terrorists from their society.

    The change required is cultural. One option to change that was to invade and occupy one of the old lions of Arab nationalism and use it as a beachhead for reform in the region. That has clearly backfired, resulting in civil war in Iraq and increasing radicalism elsewhere. We’ve had enough time to see how the politics of this has played out. If we had pacified Iraq and they had a functioning, stable liberal democracy, then we could say: watch the region reform over the next few years. But that won’t happen with Iraq in the state it’s in. It was a failure. Let’s admit that and move on.

    So what is the alternative, beyond intelligence and police work (nearly all of which liberals support – nobody has shown FISA to be a real hamstring to surveillance. FISA would have nabbed these terrorists too.) One is a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. A wall is a good idea. Shutting down the settlements is another. Resolving Shaba Farms and Golan Heights is another. Some sort of reparations in lieu of “right of return” is another. Supporting the growth of a non-oil economy in the Gulf is another. Closing Gitmo is another. Establishing NGOs that promote liberal democracy in the Arab and Muslim world is another. There are lots of things we can do to soften our image and promote peaceful change in the region. It will take time. But the current transformative process is going the wrong way.

  27. Elrod (mail):
    Well, you just brought up a possible “long-term” solution that would address the root cause, and then summarily dismissed it.

    I dismissed it in part because I believe it is doomed to failure every bit as much as you believe the current strategies have failed. And, because I wanted you and others to discuss it because I would love for someone to convince me that I’m wrong.

    Your points are well taken but I believe that nearly every one of your suggestions would backfire. Why do I believe this? Because I think you underestimate the real motivations of our enemies and are naive to the powerful propaganda by which they manipulate the people on their streets. Remember the masses who celebrated on 9/11? Yes, they don’t want to be marginalized and don’t want to feel that they are pushovers, but they have been successfully indoctrinated into a philosophy of jihad that is not going to be resolved by resolving geographic disputes in Palestine, IMO. That is not to overgeneralize…there ARE, of course, Muslim moderates and I heartily endorse any policies to bring them into the fold.

  28. FISA would have nabbed these terrorists too.

    You know this for a fact?

    If it is true, it is only apparently because ISI tipped off the British intelligence service. I don’t claim to know how Pakistan conducts its intelligence but somehow I doubt they are constrained by concerns about civil liberties.

  29. Apparently, the British authorities received a tip about this plot from the Muslim community. CNN has included it in a story about the plot. (I’m sorry, but try as I might, I cannot figure out how to put in the link. It’s at CNN.com, under the Europe section.)

    Would the plot been averted without the tip? The article does not say if the person was Muslim, but did come from the British Muslim community.

  30. http://news.independent.co.uk/.....218434.ece

    The operation began with MI5 officers watching a group of people in London with suspected sympathies for the aims of al-Qa’ida. The targets were among a group of about 1,000 terror suspects that the expanded Security Service had under investigation. At first, it appears to have been fairly routine, but gradually the alarm bells started to ring.

    The group had links throughout the country – east London, High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, and Birmingham – as well as abroad. They were said to be taking a disturbing interest in aircraft and homemade explosives, and how to smuggle the latter through airport security.

    The handful of suspects grew to more than 20 – aged between 17 and 35 – and the surveillance operation began sucking in ever more MI5 agents and bugging teams. Whitehall sources say most of the suspects are of Pakistani descent and include women. But a few of the alleged plotters are also of north African descent. One suspect was a white British man in his 20s living in High Wycombe, who converted to Islam about six months ago. Sources said most of those arrested were in their late teens or early 20s.

    In December, the Metro-politan Police’s anti-terror branch was alerted. The targets were followed, their meetings and conversations recorded, their backgrounds investigated, and their bank accounts scrutinised.

    MI6 became involved and contacted a dozen counter-intelligence agencies in the United States, Pakistan, north African countries and Germany, for information and checks on the suspects.

    Information from phone taps and bugging devices began to build a picture of a well-organised and motivated group, who were inspired by the idea of a global jihad and sympathetic towards the aims of al-Qa’ida. Clear links with Pakistan and north Africa were established, including several visits to Pakistany, but the intelligence failed to uncover a “Mr Big” from al-Qa’ida pulling the strings. It initially seems that, as with the July 7 suicide bombers, who killed 52 people in London last year, the plotters were a mixture of young people radicalised while living in Britain and influenced by travelling abroad.

    Emphasis added is mine…
    My point is that multinational intelligence agencies were involved in this. It did start off with a tip by people in the community and that is how British law enforcement began observing some of the individuals…but the evidence that led to the details of the plans and that will be used to convict did not come from informants within the community. It came from surveillance, and since much of that was done in Pakistan, I think it is terribly naive to think that the civil liberties of the individuals was protected.

    And besides, even if the argument is made that this particular plan was foiled without going outside parameters of FISA, I for one do not feel secure in trusting that we can just rely on tips from insiders. Now, I think it is perfectly reasonable to debate the details of NSA surveillance techniques but to assume that it is unnecessary to reevaluate FISA due to current wartime status is taking more risk than I am willing to take with our national security.

  31. C Stanley,
    I don’t see how your analysis shows FISA to be too restrictive or not. All FISA governs is the US government’s requirement to get warrants to conduct wiretaps. That’s it. The point is to make sure people who do wiretaps have reasonable reasons for doing so. If the story is to be believed, British intelligence had damn good reason to believe that many people needed to be wiretapped. The FISA court undoubtedly would have come to the same conclusion – they approved 99.99% of all wiretap requests. As for the ISI, FISA doesn’t address how other countries do their intel work.

    As for transformation in the Middle East, you keep substituting jihadists for the masses. Sure, the jihadists use propaganda. It’s a guerrilla war. We should be using propaganda too. But the best thing we can do is council moderation.

    Richard Haass, a former Bush Administration official, wrote an excellent column highlighting what we need to do to promote moderation. This is a long war indeed. But we need to reassess at this point and recharge in a different direction. Isolate the fanatics. Deal with the major substantive grievance of the masses. And promote moderation. It’s our only choice.

  32. C Stanley,
    In this fascinating exchange between Andrew Sullivan and one of his readers, we see some of the same points under discussion that you and I have been bantering back and forth. The context for Sullivan’s letter and response was an earlier comment he made stating that Democrats haven’t really put up an effective remedy for the root causes of terrorism. Personally, I think both the letter-writer and Sullivan make excellent points.

  33. Elrd,
    Yes, interesting exchange between Sullivan and the reader and the response sums up my feelings exactly.

    You state that I have substituted the Jihadists for the masses. It is no accident that I have done so. Not that I believe there is an equivalacy but I do think the propaganda has taken hold enough that the masses DO believe in jihad. I simply don’t think there are any options for us to now strengthen the moderates who oppose them. Think Germany in the 30′s. Maybe during the early part of that decade, had the rest of the world been paying attention, Hitler could have been weakened. By 1939 though, dissidents had effectively been silenced through fear of death or imprisonment. The masses did not really have a clue of Hitler’s murderous and maniacal plans but they did support his rise to power and quest for glory and defeat of their percieved enemies.

    I think the difference between your view and mine is that you think it is the early 30′s and I think it is mid 1939 and too late for us to win the propaganda war.

  34. Elrod (sorry for previous post misspelling your name- sticky “O” key on my laptop)

    My FISA point is that I see hypocrisy in using intelligence gathered by foreign entities without concern for civil liberties while we wring our hands about how our government operates.

    And my larger point is that one case doesn’t prove that all threats could be handled within the FISA constraints. In this particular case a neighbor tipped off the police so that the govt could begin investigating and gathering probable cause. Do you think we can always assume that an observant neighbor will come forward? Do you not think that the terrorists are taking note of the activities that triggered suspicion, and that they might next time have their operatives take more care (perhaps living in more remote locations or being more careful about delivery trucks parking in the driveway?)

    These are the concerns that lead me to accept a wartime status that might require more surveillance to pick up random threats that might otherwise go undetected. I’m glad that the civil liberties questions are raised because I don’t want to give our govt. free reign either and I generally do think that having courts sanction the surveillance requests is a good idea but I think it is also necessary to determine whether the bureaucracy might hamper our security and to what degree we should consider making exceptions.

  35. Good point- denisedh- If we antagonize the Muslim world will they continue to cooperate by bringing forward this kind of information? That tip averted an event that would have provided a sequel to 9/11 in scope. Is there no credit to be given to them for helping us avoid this catastrophe?

    Also, Muslim intelligence provided the tip that led our forces to Zarqawi, so I do think Elrod’s suggestions for softening our image would work. In fact, I think it is our only chance.

    PING:
    TITLE: Sky Terror in UK: 3
    BLOG NAME: Pajamas Media
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    PING:
    TITLE: Playing Big
    BLOG NAME: The Heretik

    No coincidence on the timing, none at all: “”Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big,” said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won&#8217…

    PING:
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    BLOG NAME: Inactivist

    This is disturbing on several levels. Live Science reports that the U.S. Lags World in Grasp of Genetics and Acceptance of Evolution

    PING:
    TITLE: Exploiting events for political gain
    BLOG NAME: The Glittering Eye
    The blogosphere is all atwitter today with charges and countercharges about exploiting the foiling of a terrorist plot for political purposes.  All the cool kids are doing it so I thought I’d join in too.
    As best as I can tell the argument is ab…

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