Winning a battle…losing the ?


I am almost three hundred pages into former CIA director’s George Tenet’s At the Center of the Storm. I am reading it because I have this hunch that Mr. Tenet got thrown not only under the Bush bus, but the Washington at large bus. I haven’t yet made a determination on that, but I admired him during the Clinton years and want to hear what he has to say. It hasn’t gotten to the Iraq part, but I’ve gotten through the late nineties, 9/11, and its immediate aftermath. The entire time I’ve been reading I’ve been reawakened to the depth and determination of the terrorist threat. The book has honestly caused me this constant sinking feeling like they, al-Qa’ida, are going to hit us again 9/11 style and it can happen at any time.

Today’s thwarted terror plot on JFK airport only underscores my concern. Details are sketchy right now, but obviously a few folks here in the US, conspiring with people overseas, intended to terrorize the US population with a spectacular attack, kill who knows how many, hurt the economy among other things. It seems that our law enforcement and/or intelligence agencies did their job very well in this case. The problem is, in my view, that our law enforcement and/or intelligence agencies did their job very well in this case. In other words, the terrorist threat remains very real and thus we have to continue to work everyday on undermining this threat and never take our eye off the ball.

My guess is that this will be a back page story by tomorrow. But we know that had the plot succeeded, it would be wall to wall coverage for a week or more. It would be another national crisis. I think we owe it to ourselves to conduct a review in this case just as we would had the plot succeeded. It is just as important to know what works as what doesn’t. It is just as important to understand the pain points in the investigation even though we caught the guys. We should be asking if the LAPD, for instance, could have worked as well protecting LAX as the NYPD did in working with the FBI and other federal agencies. Since it is likely that the DOJ obtained FISA warrants instead of bypassing the process, I’d like to know whether that is working as it should. These guys were doing just the thing — making international phone calls — that the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program was aimed at. I’m not saying we need that again, but it is obvious that we need the capability. Did the Iraq war help, hurt, or play no role in this effort? Let’s put it all up on the whiteboard and see what we can learn.

John F. Kennedy, targeted posthumously in this attack, used to say that success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan. Before we return to the blissful paradise of Lindsay Lohan stories and the like, let’s get these thousand fathers to ask the unthinkable what-ifs.

Categories : Action, Economy, News


  1. The disrupted JFK plot looks like four guys, not terribly bright, grandiose, being thwarted by an attentive intelligence/law enforcement effort.

    This is the War on Terror? It looks more to me like overblown vandals busted by the cops before they could accomplish anything. Had they been able to get the explosives, get to the pipeline, and blow it up there would have been a lot of damage, but it would hardly “bring our country to its knees”. It’s all a moot discussion because DHS officials concede that the JFK plot “was not technically feasible.”

    The Bush administration likes to announce thwarted plots, no matter how ridiculous the plots and the plotters may have been. And some, of course, turn out not to be involved in anything at all.

    I don’t trust the secretive Bush administration to tell me the truth about anything, much less about something like this.

    The War in Iraq has diminished our capability to effectively address honest-to-Mohammed radical Al Qaeda cells.

    The Bushies (along with a complicit media) managed to squander the goodwill of the world after 9/11, creating a strange equivalence that ought not exist between the baddies and the United States.

    Our government’s willingness to publicly turn away from human rights is undermining what is an ideological struggle in which our values monumentally superior to the comparatively poorly funded, outgunned Caliphate whackjobs.

    The struggle is against a small group of ideologues who disdain the value of the individual, who kill indiscriminately to create chaos and their accompanying power vacuums. The struggle is not to quell Sunni and Shiite violence but to defend against the real threat while preserving our values of the Rule of Law, human rights, and religious freedom.

    Living in mortal fear of The Next Attack is a great way to become reactionary, to jettison some basic freedoms for a little perceived security or to rush to war when there was no threat to the United States. In order to defeat the “terrorist” ideology, we must uphold the ideas we hold dearest. Fear is not a virtue, and it can drive even the virtuous to vicious ends.

    I’m just kind of rambling now – hope this is somehow cogent.

  2. writ of summons says:

    Screwy Hoolie! What are you up to now? Let’s see.

    “I don’t trust the secretive Bush administration to tell me the truth about anything, much less about something like this.”

    And yet DHS’s assessment that this was “not technically feasible” is enough to make this “all a moot discussion”. DHS is part of the Bush administration the last time I checked. You belive DHS, but not the FBI? Can you give me a breakdown of which Bush administration agencies you believe and which one’s you don’t? Or would you like to retract your belief in DHS or your disbelief in the entire Bush admin?

    These are “overblown vandals”? These guys weren’t plotting to smash mailboxes or steal hood ornaments off of cars. They targeted a critical piece of our infrastructure and had every intent to kill wantonly and harm the nation as a whole. They are Islamist extremists. The 60 plus year old leader isn’t experiencing teen age angst and acting out.

    Did I claim that I am virtuous for living in fear? If anything, I tried to suggest that it sucks and that we as a country, whether we should or not, try through whatever means available to ignore the problem. Ignorance is bliss, but it just makes the problem worse. If what you are suggesting is that Iraq was an over-reaction to the threat, I would say that is a valid point. But I would also suggest that over-reaction might have been caused by the under-reaction we had in the nineties and up to 9/11. Things tend to balance themselves out, so let’s stop the next over-reaction by not under-reacting now. I called for a thorough review of the case. I think that’s a reasonable reaction.

    Honestly, my real paranoia kicked in while posting this. The gist of my post was to simply ask questions, not answer them. I asserted that we should be as worried about our successes as our failures in the War on Terror. We should take this event seriously and review it. This can otherwise be described as something as harmless (maybe helpful would be a better term?) as the learning process. I knew I would get blasted right away on here and I did.


  3. uptown ruler says:

    just think much safer we’d be, had we not invaded iraq, and could use that military power to get rid of bin laden.

    i agree that being focused and aware is important, and there are still enemies of america who would like to do us harm.

    however, i would like us to do a thoughtful study about the reasons for the hatred of america, for in that lies the key to thwarting future attempts. prevention versus cure.

    as for this particular moment in the war on terror, i have to say, we have seen “plot” after plot revealed at key times, and almost to the man they have all been bunk. my personal feeling is this one was to.

    that is not to say, there are not sleeper cells, with real motivation, intention, and possibility, laying in wait.

    i still can’t believe we invaded iraq and let bin laden walk. lets study that too..

  4. rip says:

    I prefer to be an American who does not live my life in fear.

    I’m prepared, but not constantly worried about any kind of attack.

    “…… random attacks on people in public places, schools, churches, buses [school and public transit], the target list is limited only by imagination and a desire to deprive a region of its infrastructure.”

    These type of attacks could happen anywhere anytime and were just as likely to have happened before the “war on terror” as they are now. This type of alarmist fearmongering is the absolute proof that the Bush adminstration’s method of de-Americanizing America is working.

    To attempt keep the population scared out of their wits and cowering under their beds is fascism at its finest.

    Don’t be afraid – be a proud American if you haven’t forgotten how….or are scared to.

  5. I didn’t blast you. I just talked about the subject.

    You took something far too personally. I was talking about the climate of fear promoted by the Bushies.

    Look, writ, you don’t have to get so tied up in knots about what I say. Geez. I wasn’t commenting on your virtues or vices, but you’re so jumpy about my comments that maybe I ought to leave it alone with you.

    I just reread the comment again, and I honestly don’t find anything in it “blasting” you. WTF?

    Anyway, back to the climate of fear. The DHS does this sort of thing with these cases:

    2. Plot not in operable stages
    3. Plot really nothing to worry about
    4. Plotters were rather stupid, and our guys knew about the whole thing the whole time.
    5. Rinse, repeat.

    So, in response to who to trust on what, it’s tricky, but I tend to ignore the headlines and get to the quotes with facts in them.

    I say overblown vandals, employing some understatement in the service of mockery. Their plan wouldn’t have worked. It was dumb. I get that they really meant to do us harm, but they were going to fail because they were such eejits. These are the people I’m supposed to live in fear of? Hardly.

  6. Drama Queen says:

    I wish we could put up on a white board all the things that are hurting us in this country. Like, here in North Carolina, the appalling lack of funding for mental health treatment. I think that’s more of a threat to our society than any terrorist. The wage differential between men and women that puts so many single mothers below the poverty level – that’s a huge threat to the future of our country. Our unwillingness to address all kinds of poverty-based problems is a huge threat in so many ways.

    I agree we need to spend a little less time with American Idol and quite a bit more time on assessing our needs and discussing how to meet them. The scare tactics of this administration vis a vis terrorism makes it hard for me to understand whether I’m being warned and informed or manipulated and abused, whether my money is being used to protect me or fill the bank accounts of BushCo’s friends.

  7. Been reading the official complaint on the WaPo site. Glad they caught these guys. With any luck, most of our terror plotters will be no more knowledgeable than these. Just because they had delusions of planning something bigger than 9/11 doesn’t make it so. They expected to blow up “the whole of Kennedy” and explode part of Queens by bombing a couple of fuel tanks and a jet fuel pipeline behind a gas station at the entrance to Kennedy? Please.

    “Individual A opined that the tanks appeared to be made of titanium, and recommended utilizing a chemical that would penetrate the metal.”

    Speaking as someone who’s spent some time designing and climbing around carbon steel tanks and pipelines filled with flammables: Whata buncha maroons.

    And liquid (un-aerosoled) jet fuel ain’t that explosive, by the way. It will burn nicely, though.

    Economic disruption, yes. Nice fireworks display, yes. Mass casualties, no.

  8. rip says:

    If it ain’t the commies, it will be the Muslims if it’s not the Muslims it will be someone else. Before then it was the Blacks, before then the Indians… you could even throw in those murderous hippies in the 60’s.

    The so-called conservatives (neocons) and self-appointed alarmists of our country are not happy unless they are scared of someone. Some people are just born to live in fear and desire to be in the company of others who quiver the same way.

    Bushco has realized this and is capitalizing on it.

    Fear is good business, it makes people lots of money.

    That is what they thrive on. That is how they want the rest of us to live.

    I’m not going to live my life in fear… no true American does.

    If anyone was truly concerned, instead of just trying to scare little old ladies our borders would be protected.

  9. “A few people are going to bring down the World Trade Center with box cutters?”

    Good point.

  10. rip says:

    “A few people are going to bring down the World Trade Center with box cutters?”

    Did the box cutters fly the planes into the towers?

    So now we have banned box cutters and fingernail files on flights

    Did that really make us any safer?

  11. Drama Queen says:

    You’re so right, Rip. We aren’t any safer.

    writ writes about being

    reawakened to the depth and determination of the terrorist threat

    I feel reawakened to the threat of harm that comes from invading another country based on “faulty” intelligence. I feel threatened by the destruction of our civil rights in the name of “protection” from people who supposedly hate us for those very freedoms. I feel threatened by the bankrupting of our social services safety net and many in our middle class to the benefit of military spending and/or the takeover of this country by the military-industrial-petroleum-pharmaceutical multinational corporations.

    Let’s discuss the threats to this country and not limit it to those we label “terrorist.”

  12. writ of summons says:

    Rip, I was hypothosizing on what the reaction MIGHT have been to a news story that we had arrested a bunch of wanna-be high-jackers pre-9/11. What would that have looked like? I think it would have seemed ludicrous that four planes could be hijacked at the same time and result in the destruction of the World Trade Center and the White House with nothing more than people with box cutters.

    Obviously the planes laden with jet fuel did the destruction. But the terrorist took control of those planes with weapons that were allowed on flights at the time.

    Are we safer in the skies? Yes, we are. Banning box cutters was only one element of a strategy that includes the TSA and fortified cockpit doors etc.

    Drama Queen, I’m not trying to ignore concerns on social justice. My comments on the reawakening to the terrorist threat in my post are based on where I am in Geoerge Tenet’s book. If you read it, I think you would have the same vicseral reaction I’m having. I am eager to get to the Iraq part. I don’t know what I am going to think. I know intelligence was at the very least misused if not mistaken altogether. I would say that if we can’t protect ourselves, or that we launch misguided wars, then we can’t focus on the social issues you speak of.

  13. Drama Queen says:

    writ: I’d love to hear your follow-up after you finish the book. I think having these discussions are healthy.

    What’s sick about the Iraq war is that is diverted the much-needed discussions of terrorism in general, and Al Qaeda, 9/11, and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other potentially colluding countries as well as the blatant the failings of our defense system.

    Plus, since I haven’t read the book, it’s easy for me to play the bleeding liberal heart!

  14. rip says:

    “Right now, they perceive our internal debates as weakness, not strength. This forces us to adopt a more forward posture than we would otherwise occupy.”

    The right and ability to debate this situation is the core of the strength of our country. Debate is more feared by our administration than any terrorist faction. When frightened people say we should not debate – The terrorists have already won.

    The entire “Cold War” was fought and ended with nuclear weapons that were never used….but the threat, possession and knowledge of their power kept the world safe.

    There is no need for the “greatest army in the history of the world” to have to resort to the nuclear option in the current situation. If we can’t go in a whip a third world country’s ass using conventional methods there is something terribly wrong that all the nukes in the world won’t solve.

    We entered this war with one hand purposely tied behind our backs and the reason for that was profit, plain and simple.

  15. From Kos:

    “1. The attackers had no ties to Iraq. Nor the Middle East. Nor Al Qaida.

    2. It was homegrown terrorism. (Of course, the perpetrators were brown, so this merits a lot more hand-wringing than white domestic terrorists, especially the ones bombing abortion clinics.)

    3. No illegal wiretaps or torture were necessary to crack the case.
    It was thwarted by good ol’ police work — an informant inside the cell, working with a joint FBI/NYPD task force.

    4. Whatever happened to “fighting them over there, so we don’t have to fight them over here”?

    5. War in Iraq and elsewhere isn’t ending terrorism. In fact, it’s fueling it.”