Monday, August 02, 2004

Wait Till They Pull Out the Two-Year-Old Info. That Stuff Is Really Scary 

Via Zemblan patriot J.D.: Just when you've almost convinced yourself that the latest bout of frenzied hand-waving from Homeland Security salesman Tom Ridge might actually be motivated by the possibility of imminent terrorist attack, as opposed to, say, a slight dip in the President's poll numbers . . . .
Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terror plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way.

But the officials continued to regard the information as significant and troubling because the reconnaissance already conducted has provided Al Qaeda with the knowledge necessary to carry out attacks against the sites in Manhattan, Washington and Newark. They said Al Qaeda had often struck years after its operatives began surveillance of an intended target . . . .

"You could say that the bulk of this information is old, but we know that Al Qaeda collects, collects, collects until they're comfortable,'' said one senior government official. "Only then do they carry out an operation. And there are signs that some of this may have been updated or may be more recent.''

Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said on Monday in an interview on PBS that surveillance reports, apparently collected by Qaeda operatives had been "gathered in 2000 and 2001.'' But she added that information may have been updated as recently as January.

The comments of government officials on Monday seemed softer in tone than the warning issued the day before. On Sunday, officials were circumspect in discussing when the surveillance of the financial institutions had occurred, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge cited the quantity of intelligence from "multiple reporting streams'' that he said was "alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information'' . . . .

"What we've uncovered is a collection operation as opposed to the launching of an attack," a senior American official said.

The concern about the possibility of an attack was apparent on Monday. Armed guards were positioned at the five targets listed by Mr. Ridge: the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup buildings in Manhattan, the headquarters of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington and Prudential Financial in Newark. The buildings were subjected to their highest level of security since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, with barricades, rapid-response teams and bomb-sniffing dogs providing rings of protection.

With intelligence reports specifying a possible truck bombing, police stopped and searched vehicles in the Wall Street area, while vans and trucks were banned from bridges and tunnels entering lower Manhattan.
In fact, those terrorists are such slow and methodical collectors of data that, if they do stage a second attack on American soil during Bush's term, you can bet they'll be working from info they gathered right under the nose of that goddam Clinton.

UPDATE: More, from the Washington Post:
More than half a dozen government officials interviewed yesterday, who declined to be identified because classified information is involved, said that most, if not all, of the information about the buildings seized by authorities in a raid in Pakistan last week was about three years old, and possibly older.

"There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new," said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. "Why did we go to this level? . . . I still don't know that."

One piece of information on one building, which intelligence officials would not name, appears to have been updated in a computer file as late as January 2004, according to a senior intelligence official. But officials could not say yesterday whether that piece of data was the result of active surveillance by al Qaeda or came instead from information about the buildings that is publicly available.

Several officials also said that much of the information compiled by terrorist operatives about the buildings in Washington, New York and Newark was obtained through the Internet or other "open sources" available to the general public, including some floor plans.
The encouraging news here is that so many government officials were sufficiently appalled by Ridge's latest stunt that they were willing to rat the administration out, despite the obvious risk to their careers.

And just by the by -- how many millions do you suppose Manhattan businesses lost because delivery vans and trucks were barred from the bridges and tunnels on a Monday morning? Ahhhrr, fuck 'em -- they vote Democratic anyway.

UPDATE II: Hail Judy, Full of Shit! Atrios has a hilarious post on CNN's Judy Woodruff, who spent most of her half hour today berating Howard Dean for having the temerity to suggest that the latest terror alert might have been politically motivated.

UPDATE III: Quote of the day, from the inimitable Billmon:
I'm just glad Kerry didn't get a bigger bounce in the polls from the convention, or the White House would have taken us to Defcon 1 by now.

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