« Life is so hard! | Home | Carrying hand sanitizer at all times suddenly seems reasonable »

December 22, 2003


Threat Level Orange: Be Mindful of Credibility Gaps

I didn't think it was possible, but yesterday's elevation of the national threat level to Orange has made me even more cynical about the politicization of homeland security. Tom Ridge attributed the change to increased "chatter," but admits there are no "specific" threats, just "credible" ones. Changing to Orange just before Christmas seems to be calculated to implant a lasting impression on Americans that the War On Terror continues and we can't feel safe even as we travel to and enjoy our holiday dinners. Thanks to GWB, we'll commingle all the stress of the holidays with the fear of terrorism, but be thankful GWB is watching over us all, keeping track of who is naughty, just like Santa. After all, how can we accuse the color codes and warnings of being meaningless if they happen right before Christmas? It's as if they are given their weight not by the intelligence data, but by their context on the calendar. Ridge said in his press conference that all the chatter indicates that terrorists continue to try to penetrate our security, and are thinking about using airplanes to do so. This is news? This is worth trying to scare everyone again just before the holidays? Again, we are advised to heed what is rapidly becoming the most overused and meaningless phrase in English: "Be vigilant." Be vigilant for what? Airplanes ten seconds from hitting a high rise? People who aren't white where everyone should be? Increasingly, the threat warnings seem like politicized efforts by the administration to cover their ass. It seems intuitively obvious that terrorists hoping to have an emotional impact would attack on Christmas, so the gov't figures they may as well bring this to our attention, just so we can't accuse them of dropping the ball. When terrorists motivated by the war in Iraq kill some Americans here, the administration can wash its hands, abrogate responsibility, and say, "We told you so!"

Although NYC says it's been operating at Orange level since the system was introduced, it seems clear this is not true. Before this morning, when was the last time you saw machine-gun-wielding National Guardsmen in the subways? That's right -- it was shortly after the last Orange level was retracted. I'm assuming they'll be back in the next couple days, if they're not there already. Bridge and tunnel inspections, I'm sure, will also ramp up. I'm not saying there's necessarily anything wrong with this, but I think NYC should stop claiming that the federal warning level is ignored in the city. It isn't.

But maybe it should be. Has anyone stopped to wonder what the nature of the domestic threat is? If you look at even the administration's best cases, they are shoddy. We detained thousands of Middle Eastern men in America after 9/11 and exactly none of them turned out to have connections to terrorism. The Lackawanna "cell" turned out to be a bunch of clueless guys getting in over their heads, and even the cases against Moussaoui and Hamdi seem not strong enough to hold up in a regular court. So that leaves Jose Padilla. Out of 285,000,000 Americans, the only domestic terrorist the US seems to really know about is a Puerto Rican guy who converted to Islam from Catholicism after serving a stint for gang activity as a juvenile. This leads me to make the following assertion. Call me crazy, but here is how many Al-Qaeda terrorists I think are in the continental United States right now: Zero.

Probably zero, but I'd say almost definitely fewer than about 6. Now, I'll have to eat my words and feel bad and be humiliated if there is an attack on us over the holidays, but that's not what matters. What matters is that the overwhelming majority of Americans -- probably around 99.99% -- are being compelled by GWB to live their lives in fear, when in fact they are in no danger from terrorism whatsoever, and for political purposes, the administration refuses to allow its citizens to admit that.

But like I say, I could be wrong.

categories: Politics, War and Security
posted by adm at 12:39 PM | #


Well said.

Posted by: S. Pratt at January 23, 2004 10:35 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)