Three Things the New Terrorism Threat Does Not Prove

Every national security crisis is an opportunity (to push a political agenda).

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JIM HOLLANDER / EPA

A United States flag flies behind a tall fence at the United States Consulate General building in Jerusalem, Israel, 03 Aug. 2013.

The current alert over a suspected al Qaeda terror plot, thought to originate from Yemen, has populated the television airwaves with spokesmen for various political agendas, many of them making arguments that range from tenuous to specious. Here’s a quick crib sheet on some of the most dubious claims you’re likely hearing amid the speculative chatter about what sinister plans al Qaeda may have up its sleeve:

1. The NSA’s entire surveillance program is essential. The New York Times is reporting that the current alert is based on an intercepted electronic communication between Pakistan and Yemen. On Sunday said the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee that intercept was part of the NSA’s overseas activities permitted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But an Associated Press story Monday evening quotes an unnamed intelligence official saying that, in the AP’s words, “the controversial NSA programs that gather data on American phone calls or track Internet communications with suspected terrorists played no part in detecting the initial tip.”

Regardless, it seems clear that the agency’s bulk collection of telephone records for every call made within the United States did not play a role here. Even if the communication was a Section 702 intercept, it’s still might not have required the kind of vast overseas data collection the NSA conducts. For now, defenders of the NSA program should stick to arguing that this alert is a reminder that al Qaeda remains dangerous and that we need to maintain strong defenses, even at some cost to civil liberties.

2. Obama’s “weakness” has emboldened terrorists. Some conservatives have argued that Obama has effectively invited this latest terrorist stirring. Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum says Obama has appeared “timid,” “refused to confront radical Islam” and “won’t even use the word terror.” Santorum allowed that Obama is conducting drone strikes, “but that is not a comprehensive policy against radical Islam.” Former Republican Senator Jim DeMint struck a similar note on Sunday, saying that al Qaeda may be a greater threat than it was before 9/11, in part because Obama has sought to “placate” enemies like Iran and Russia. “The perception of weakness in the administration is encouraging this type of behavior,” DeMint added.

Doubtful. Obama’s foreign policy vision has drawn credible critics and left even some allies frustrated. But chances are slim that al Qaeda really cares whether Obama tried to “reset” relations with Moscow or extend a hand to Tehran. The group’s affiliates in northern Africa and the Middle East are thriving amid the chaos of the Arab Spring, and through a smart understanding that they can be more deadly as semi-autonomous splinter groups now that al Qaeda’s group’s core leadership in Pakistan has been decimated (thanks, by the way, to Obama’s approval of a relentless–and controversial–drone campaign).

3. Obama prematurely declared the war on terror over. After Obama’s broad counter-terrorism address in May, which included modest new restrictions on U.S. drone strikes, conservatives were dismayed: “He has now declared the war on terrorism over,” groused House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton charged that Obama had admitted “defeat” in the fight against al Qaeda.

No, he didn’t. Obama’s speech actually disappointed some liberals actually might like to see Obama declare an end to the terror war–not as a matter of defeatism, but as a step towards policies that rely less on killing and more on capture and prosecution in the criminal justice system.

Instead, Obama warned that the al Qaeda threat “has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11.” As I noted on Friday, he went on to warn of more localized threats,” as he put it, “against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets.” In other words, exactly the kind of threat we facing today.

Perhaps overly inflated expectations with his frequent boasts during last year’s campaign about killing Osama bin Laden and putting al Qaeda “on the run.” But there’s very little sign he’s backed away from the fight against Islamic radicals. (Indeed, the U.S. carried out at least three drone strikes in Yemen late last month.) And why would he? Even if you suspect that Obama, in his gut, doesn’t like killing bad guys overseas, there’s almost nothing a rational president should fear more than presiding over a preventable terrorist attack. It’s silly for his critics to pretend otherwise.

Update: This item has been revised to reflect that the intercepted foreign communication was reportedly electronic and not a “call,” and some related language has been changed. It was further updated to reflect the AP’s subsequent reporting.

125 comments
collioure
collioure

Attention Dragon

I think it might be useful to summarize the 2002 briefing by Richard Clarke

1. Contrary to all claims made by the outgoing Clintonistas in 2001, no plan to address Al Qaeda was handed off to the Bush administration.

2. The Clinton administration had left a number of key issues on the table since October 1998.

3. Starting in April the Bush admin assembled a team to review the situation and began to address some of those key issues, such as turning Pakistan to our favor.

4. They changed the former strategy of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course of five years to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of Al Qaeda.

5. Their report reached Bush's desk on Sept 10.

So if the Clinton admin had not sat on Clarke's recommendations for 2 1/2 years, they could have well disabled AQ by the day Bush moved into the Oval Office, but they did NOTHING.

chasdj88
chasdj88

Our President spends a majority of his time making sense by explaining to us, the American people his continued pro-growth, 21st Century plans and goals for the nation and trying as best he can to improve our economy, while the GOPTealiban spends a majority of their time spewing more non-sense (repealing "Obamacare) and  doing all they can to tear down the economy and stifle any growth so this President gets the blame, paving the way for a GOP come back in both chambers of Congress and  to take back the W.H. in 2016.  That's the difference.

roknsteve
roknsteve

And then when a Dem was elected president all the conservatives became "surrender monkeys."  All except for John "Mr.Grumpy" McCain who wanted to attack everybody.

a3hawks4u
a3hawks4u

The GOP spend all their time crying or complaining...THAT is why they are a do nothing Congress....

DarleneRitterGoodfellow
DarleneRitterGoodfellow

Glenn Greenwald is claiming the embassy closings are part of a conspiracy to distract from the NSA and Snowden controversies. I just can't take him seriously anymore. One of my biggest complaints about Bush was ignoring the 8/6/01 PDB (I always remember the date because today is my anniversary), and it would be a legitimate criticism to do so. Clinton was accused of wagging the dog when he bombed that Sudanese aspirin factory, and we know how that turned out. Not saying I agree with everything the President is doing and I would welcome some Congressional oversight as far as domestic spying goes, but when Peter King is defending the President, I think it's safe to say they are rightfully erring on the side of caution. .

Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/05/three-things-the-new-terrorism-threat-does-not-prove/#ixzz2bDAYUgw8

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

It has just become known.

"Muslim brotherhood" intends to complain to Barack Hussein.

http://9tv.co.il/news/2013/08/06/155848.html

U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to meet at the White house with the representatives of the American branch of the Muslim Brothers, to listen to their position on the current situation in Egypt

 all this surprisingly is only at first glance.

If you dig in the history, we can clearly see that from ancient time the brothers were under the care of the authorities and special services of the USA.

 here are just a few links for those, who thinks:

1) Washington’s Secret History with the Muslim Brotherhood
http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/feb/05/washingtons-secret-history-muslim-brotherhood/

2)  In one of its documents in 1991, the Foundation reported that the purpose of the presence in America – "settlement", which is part of Jihad to destroy Western civilization from within
http://www.currenttrends.org/docLib/20090411_Merley.USBROTHERHOOD.pdf

3) Muslim Brotherhood operatives infiltrate Obama Administration 

4)  David Petraeus of ‘ submission ' to Sharia law, claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the ‘ ' federal government' http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Center_for_Security_Policy

 P.S.Decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of February 14, 2003 the "Muslim Brotherhood" is recognized as a terrorist and it is prohibited in the territory of the Russian Federation http://www.religare.ru/print5347.htm

ToddShiba
ToddShiba

Al Queda not on the run like BO said

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

What it does prove is that it is nice to actually have a president who works with the intelligence community, instead of forcing them to justify his predetermined agenda. If GWB had actually paid attention to the CIA warnings pre 9/11 instead of scolding them for distracting him from Saddam Hussein, thousands might still be alive today.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure The first warnings reached Bush's desk in March. Throughout the summer more warning were sent to him, Cheney and Rice but were ignored since they didn't want to be distracted from figuring out how to justify invading Iraq. End result 7,500 dead Americans, trillions in dollars wasted, a stronger Iran and a destabilized Middle East, the shock waves from which we are still seeing in Egypt, Syria and Libya,

collioure
collioure

@chasdj88 

This President does not act to improve the economy.

If you think otherwise, please provide a few examples before you go back to sleep for another 5 years.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@DarleneRitterGoodfellow I love you liberals with the snob attitudes and the two last names I am surprised you did not hyphenate . and if that is a picture of you, you are not looking well.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Sibir_Russia Seeing as the military in Egypt created an armed regime change and killed unarmed supporters they have every right to complain.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

  I love all the hero's that come out and say that exactly what they would do would be better and more efficient than what a president who has the eyes and ears of reality does. You hero's just should take a step back and pat yourself on your congratulatory backs. Thank You Hero's

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure

Oh, pullleeeeze, we've given you plenty of space to describe what you would have done in response to those non-specific warnings, and you have offered nothing.

Rather clear that to have had a chance to stop 9-11, we needed to have disrupted Al Qaedaq much earlier back in Afghanistan. No doubt whatsoever that Bill Clinton dropped that ball bigtime. If any one President is responsible for 9-11, it's him.

AQ started planning 9-11 in 1998. I doubt we could have stopped it. We needed to experience at least one major hit to understand the level of threat they represented and to reorganize to defend against such.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@mantisdragon91@Sibir_Russia 

The purpose of the «brothers» - «Great Islamic Caliphate»
For a long time, in the USA there is a branch of the Muslim brotherhood, which Russia recognized as a terrorist. And this fact that Obama agreed to meet at the White house with the representatives of the American branch of the Muslim Brothers) once again confirms this. Their goals, they do not hide.
http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/feb/05/washingtons-secret-history-muslim-brotherhood/

In 1991 was created Fund of the Holy Land» as a legal form of the presence of «brethren» in the United States. And what they do in the USA?

In one of its documents in 1991, the Foundation reported that the purpose of the presence in America – "settlement", which is part of Jihad to destroy Western civilization from within
http://www.currenttrends.org/docLib/20090411_Merley.USBROTHERHOOD.pdf

In another document you will find the call of the activists of «Muslim Brothers»:
«the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the US include going to camps to do weapons training (referred to as Special work by the Muslim Brotherhood), as well as engaging in counter-espionage against US government agencies such as the FBI and CIA (referred to as Securing the Group)»
http://www.nefafoundation.org/miscellaneous/HLF/IkhwanAmerica.pdf, р.13

In Washington openly accepting Muslim brotherhood leaders - conductors of the new middle East «democracy».
Not surprisingly, in countries in the Middle East during the "Arab Spring", «transition to democracy», not seen even under a microscope.


collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @ToddShiba

What a stupid remark!

Bush initiated the drone strike program which attacks Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.  Under Bush Al Qaeda was driven out of Afghanistan.  However, the US cannot have troops in Pakistan.  Nevertheless AQ is not safe in Pakistan because of the drone strike program initiated by Bush.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure

I'm not the president Bush was. ?????

After 9-11 AQ had a few other less spectacular successes early on - London, Madrid, Bali. . .but the Bush admin emabrked on a multi-pronged effort to reduce the effectivess of Al Qaeda worldwide.

As examples - Anti-terrorism patrnerships were developed with numerous nations. Intelligence beefed up to intercept and interpret communications in Arabic languages. All kinds of controls were placed on financial transactions.Drone strikes.

As a result when the final knock on ObL's door came, he was holed up in a Pakistani backwater only able to communicate by courier.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure @chasdj88

I didn't realize the US Congress was unicameral.

Have you any other stunning revelations to share with us?

BTW I don't care who appointed Bernanke.  He is not an impartial player.  He has his own nest to feather.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@collioure@mantisdragon91@chasdj88 

On November 4 2008 Barack Obama  victory in presidential race November 4, 2008 United States national debt was  10,566,146,196,490.58 $  Now the national debt of the USA consist of 16,89 trillion.

http://usdebtclock.org/

 Today in 2017, the national debt of the USA will make about 21,2 trillion dollars. Debt Clock "Time Mashine" - http://usdebtclock.org/

"37 Statistics Which Show How Four Years Of Obama Have Wrecked The U.S. Economy"

http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/37-statistics-which-show-how-four-years-of-obama-have-wrecked-the-u-s-economy

"During Obama's first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined" 

 

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure @chasdj88 

1. I prefer not to play partisan games,

2. TLast time I looked there was no GOP Congress. 

3. The House has passed a number of measures to improve the economy which have not been acted upon in the Senate.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure @chasdj88

I don't think you understand.

This President does not act to improve the economy.  if you have examples of actions he has taken to improve the economy, please enumerate them.

The economy is better, but it remains sluggish.  There are millions still unemployed.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@mantisdragon91 @collioure @ToddShiba hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah... I bet he was smoking the 100 dollar bills with all the other evil men that made fortunes from the consipiracy to blow up the World Trade Centers with No Jewish people in it

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure @ToddShiba 

That was the decision of Gen Tommy Franks.  We did catch up with ObL eventually, didn't we?  And in the meantime AQ became less and less effective due to the many actions of the Bush and Obama administrations.

When will you understand ???

Results matter !!!!!

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure 

You keep trying to change the subject away from terrrorism.

The 800 soldiers lost over a period of some 7 years in Afghanistan were not wasted like the 1500 under Obama.  They were initially in response to 9-11 and later to keep Al Qaeda from returning.  We still do not know why Obama reopened and escalated the smoldering war there.

As for the Arab Spring which Bush did help to set in motion in at least a small way, its objective was and still is to eliminate the causes of terrorism in the Muslim world.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 7500 dead Americans, Trillions of dollars wasted, a stronger Iran and a destabilized Middle East. And yet here you are trying to absolve GWB of all accountability. Poor, sad clown.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure 

Please run home to Mommy now.

Clarke's briefing to several reporters showed what a sham his later claims as well as the Clinton claims about the handoff were.

If you want to play what-if, start with executing Clarke's recommendations in early 1999.  Al Qaeda might then have been decimated by 2001.

Instead they had three years to put 9-11 together.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 7500 dead and Trillions wasted. The facts of the failure hidden from the US voters until after the 2004 election. And yet according to you this is all Clinton's fault. What a sad clown you are.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure

So, Clarke saw it (admittedly undefined) coming.  He saw it coming a couple of years earlier too, but the Clinton WH had other priorites.

From Meet the Press

“The detailed plan was to level every bin Laden training camp and compound in Afghanistan as well as key Taliban buildings in Kabul and Kandahar. ‘Let’s blow them up,’ Clarke said.Around the table Clarke only heard objections – not a mandate for action.”

Sec of State Madeleine Albright was also against counterstrike – but for diplomatic reasons (Israel/PLO), but the Intifada of late 2000 had not yet begun).

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure

I know you'd like to change the subject, but Mr Clarke's own words (read them carefully) support everything I have said above about the run-up to 9-11. 

Now go take a powder, please.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 Now where in the article is there any dispute of the fact that Bush ignored the CIA warnings coming in all summer and then desperately looked for ways to blame the attacks on Saddam after they occurred. 7,500 dead Americans and Trillions wasted and yet here you are pretending the idiot did something worthwhile.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 Partisan links based on fact. Yet again do you have anything to back up your claims. If not run along, like the good little lemming that you are.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure 

You love all your partisan links, but you do not have an answer for what Bush should have done pre 9-11 and you can't get away from the negligence of terrorism by the Clinton WH for at least 2 1/2 years.  The American people got that even if you didn't and they blamed Clinton at the polls in 2002.

What's more you can't come to grips with the utter failure of the incompetent community organizer's pantywaist foreign policy or the many Bush policies he has followed onto.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 If they were executing his plan why did he state point blank that they did nothing and ignored his recommendations? Just once provide a link to back any of your claims.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure 

BTW I'm sorry Mr Clarke got ignored so much

First by the Clinton White House for 2 1/2 years.

Seems he wasn't in the Bush inner circle, but they were executing his plan.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 Clear only to  a brain dead apologist like you. I have provided multiple links showing what happened. You provided hot air and lies. No wonder you supported an idiot like Bush.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure@mantisdragon91

Clarke said that, a day after the attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pushed for a retaliatory strike on Iraq, though the evidence pointed to al Qaeda, because "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq."

And he said Bush asked him to look for links between al Qaeda and Iraq the day after the attacks.

"Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this," Clarke said.

When Clarke told Bush that U.S. intelligence had nothing connecting Iraq with al Qaeda, he said the president responded in a "very intimidating" manner: "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection."

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure@mantisdragon91 

"Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism," Richard Clarke told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview Sunday night. "He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We'll never know."

Clarke said he asked for a Cabinet-level meeting in January 2001, shortly after the president took office, to discuss the threat al Qaeda posed to the United States. "That urgent memo wasn't acted on," Clarke told CBS. Instead, he said, administration officials were focused on issues such as missile defense and Iraq.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

They aren't? 3000 dead in 9/11, 4500 dead in Iraq and Trillions in debt. But hey whatever lies make you sleep better at night.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure 

His foreign policy decisions might be haunting you.  They are not haunting the USA.  In fact the incompetent community organizer has followed on to many of them and got burned a few times when he didin't.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure And as for what was there to hide you tell us? Why did they delay the release of the 9/11 commission report until after the 2004 election? Why were many of the CIA memos held back even longer?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 I see so you responded to my post saying that it is nice to have a president that unlike the last guy actually pays attention to what the CIA tells him, but don't want to discuss Bush. How typical and asinine.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure

What was there to hide? No one knew what kind of attack to expect?

With your Michael Moron opinions on 9-11 you continue to present yourself as a partisan wacko.

The Bush administration continued to implement Clarke's plan to rub out Al Qaeda. Unfortunately because of the late start (2001 instead of 1998-98) .Al Qaeda was able to strike the first blow.

In any case it would be nice if you stopped crying, "Bush! Bush! Bush!," like a little boy and addressed the lack of success the incompetent community organizer's foreign policy has achieved, the latest disappointment being Putin and Russia. That is the subject of this blog.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 Bush was in office for over 8 months before the attack happened he was warned in excess of 30 times. He and his staff knew they screwed up. Why else do you think they hid the CIA documents and the reports from the 9/11 commission until after the 2004 election?

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure

Actually the first warnings came several years before that. A fellow named Richard Clarke developed a plan to rub out Al Qaeda, a plan that accumulated dust at the Clinton White House. The Bush administration had begun to tick off the points in that plan.

The way I look at matters 9-11 occurred in the 8+ months of transition between administrations, the time before the first Bush budget came into play and therefore on Clinton's watch.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 Do you care about the fact that they took no action?  The first warning came almost 6 months before the attacks. And yet nothing was done. How about a fact that they claimed Saddam was behind it?

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure 

I don't care how many warnings the Bush administration received.  The USA simply was not prepared for this kind of attack in 2001.

Blame it on Saddam?  I think not.  The USA attacked Afghanistan in short order and Al Qaeda was driven over the mountains into Pakistan.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure @mantisdragon91 So?

GWB and his staff was warned 33 times and did nothing. And then when the attack did happen, all he could think about was how can I blame this on Saddam.

collioure
collioure

@mantisdragon91 @collioure 

So?

The USA was unprepared for this kind of terrorist attack in numerous ways.  Reorganization of our security services followed so they could work in more coordinated ways.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@collioure@mantisdragon91Actually only partisan clowns stick their head in the sand and deny the  facts before their eyes.

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.