5/8/04 <link>
Yet another reason why Bush's counter-terrorism policy after 9/11 is egregiously poor 

Mark McDonald reports on Knight-Ridder (bold text is my emphasis):

Heroin producers in Afghanistan, some of the principal financiers of al-Qaida and other terrorists, have never before been so brazen or so wealthy.
With a bumper crop of opium poppies under cultivation, Afghan narco-barons have begun stamping their brand names on the 2.2-pound bags of heroin they smuggle out of Central Asia to buyers in Moscow, Amsterdam, London and New York.
Sacks of high-quality Afghan heroin seized last week in Tajikistan carried the trademarks "Super Power" and "555." Some of the sacks, which were hidden inside foil-lined containers of instant cappuccino mix, even included the addresses of the labs in Afghanistan where the heroin had been refined.
A Western-led campaign against opium-growing and heroin laboratories has been a wholesale failure, and drug-control experts say the number of processing facilities in Afghanistan has exploded over the last year. The trade and huge sums of money involved threaten to undermine vulnerable bordering states such as Tajikistan.
"There's absolutely no threat to the labs inside Afghanistan," said Maj. Avaz Yuldashov of the Tajikistan Drug Control Agency. "Our intelligence shows there are 400 labs making heroin there, and 80 of them are situated right along our border. Some of them even work outside, in the open air."
Some 200,000 acres of opium poppies have been planted in Afghanistan - opium serves as the raw material of heroin - and the country's late-summer harvest will produce three-fourths of the world's heroin. That will mean further billions for growers, smugglers, corrupt officials and Afghan warlords.
It's also likely to mean a windfall of tithes to al-Qaida and its Islamist brethren said to be regrouping in the mountains of Central Asia.
"Drug trafficking from Afghanistan is the main source of support for international terrorism now," Yuldashov said. "That's quite clear."
But in recent congressional testimony about heroin flow out of Afghanistan, Drug Enforcement Administration head Karen Tandy spoke only of "potential links" and "possible relationships" between Afghan traffickers and terrorists. Drug agents in Central Asia say they're baffled by Tandy's hedging.
"The connection is absolutely obvious to us," said Col. Alexander Kondratiyev, a senior Russian officer who has served with border guards in Tajikistan for nearly a decade. "Drugs, weapons, ammunition, terrorism, more drugs, more terrorism - it's a closed circle."
That circle has profound and ominous implications for the U.S.-led fight against international terrorism. Regional diplomats, aid workers and law-enforcement officials fear that the expanding drug trade will destabilize one of the "stans," the five former Soviet republics that gained independence after the U.S.S.R. collapsed

After cooking up fake stories about Saddam's WMDs, his supposed links to Al Qaeda and his being a grave/immediate/imminent threat to the U.S. etc., the Bush administration is trying to weaken the obvious links between the riches from drug production in Afghanistan and terrorism (a link that strongly enabled 9/11 in the first place)! Talk about incompetence and willful blindness. These are the kind of blinders that kept them asleep-at-the-wheel before 9/11. It is clear they have not learnt their lesson AT ALL.

5/7/04 <link> (cross-posted at Compassiongate)
Compassionate Policy - Bush administration and National/Homeland Security before 9/11
This is an analysis of Condi Rice's testimony showing their asleep-at-the-wheel and lying compassionate policy on terrorism and national security before 9/11. Check it out.

Meanwhile, Tim Dunlop at The Road to Surfdom elegantly summarizes how Bush has systematically tried to undermine the 9/11 Commission and ensure that the truth about his administration does not come out in the open.

In short, this is what Bush's relationship with the 9/11 Commission boils down to:

  • He tried to block the formation of the commission
  • Failing, he then appointed a patsy chairman, Henry Kissinger
  • Then he refused to testify
  • And he blocked them from getting key documents
  • Then he agreed to talk with them
  • But not under oath
  • And only for an hour
  • And only with the chair and deputy chair
  • And then he insisted on having Cheney go with him
  • And agreed to a single notetaker
  • Then he refused to grant the commission a time extension
  • Then he tried to stop Rice testifying
  • And he blocked the release of papers from the Clinton era
  • Then tried to stop the August 6, 2001 PDB being released
  • Then he flip-flopped on the extension, Rice testifying, the Clinton papers and the PDB
  • Then he ran ads saying Kerry was a flip-flopper
  • Then he changed his mind about the notetaker
  • And then he decided to have his legal counsel along

And then, funniest all, his spokesman can say this with a straight face:

McClellan said Bush "appreciates the job the commission is doing. He strongly supports the commission's important work."
He said the president "very much looks forward to sitting down with the commission and answering whatever questions they may have."

Well, obviously.

(Article link via Corrente and there is more over there.)

3/19/04 <link>
Condi Rice reveals a little something about why Bush and his team slept through until 9/11
And her fellow chicken-hawks not going to like this interview with NBC's Lisa Myers (interestingly, a Clinton-hater herself).

Extracts shown, with bold colored text being my emphasis...

Lisa Myers:  Okay, you -- you came into office in January of 2001.  You're shown the Predator video.  Having seen the Predator's capabilities, why didn't you push to get the Predator back up into Afghanistan as soon as it was tested in June of 2001?
Dr. Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor:  Well, in fact, we did push very hard on getting the Predator back up.  I think all of us were impressed with the potential of Predator.  The problem was to get an armed Predator, a Predator that could both provide reconnaissance so you could see a target and then shoot at the target.
Because if you could only see the target, it took a good long time to get strike assets into the air.  And by that time the target had moved and so forth.  So, we were all very interested in the armed Predator.
There were tests done on the armed Predator.  It was a developmental system.  The tests were -- not conclusive.  In fact, there were problems with the operational capability of the warhead.  And we wanted to be sure to marry the right ordinance, the right warhead with the Predator.  Because if you've ever used it and, in fact, didn't fire, they would know from then on what it was that you were doing.


Myers:  The President — the President had said he was tired of swatting flies.  Did you ever say, "September isn't soon enough?  The threat is too serious.  We have got to get this back up there."
Well, we did think about how fast we could accelerate the work on the Predator.  But you always have to be careful to make sure that you're going to have something that works And the tests had not been conclusive.
In fact, the tests had — had shown some of the limitations in the warhead.  It was important to get it back up.


Myers:  But can you see how to the American people, here the Predator got us closer to Bin Laden then we've ever been.  Yet it stays parked for many, many months until it's too late.
Rice:  Well, first of all, it's not at all clear that the — the Predator was not a silver bullet.  Let's be very clear about that.  Even if you'd been able to get Predator up, even if you'd — you'd been able to kill Bin Laden, I think the assessment of the — the analytical intelligence was that it probably would not have prevented the attack on September 11th.
That by the time that we got to the summer of 2001, at least 16 of 19 hijackers were already in the United States for the — for the final time.  That's the FBI assessment.  These people -- were ready to carry out the attack.
The --
the problem was that we were, as a country, somewhat blind to what was happening inside the countryBecause we had had a very big wall between domestic intelligence, domestic collection and — information and what the CIA did.  It was only after September 11th that the country came to terms with the fact that the FBI and the CIA needed to be able to coordinate on collection and on sharing of intelligence in a way that would let us know what was going on in the country. 


Myers:  But still with the broader issues and to, one, give you a chance to answer some of the things that are out there from the critics, first that there was no sense of urgency in the Bush Administration about terrorism.  In retrospect, is it true, that Russia, China, Iraq, missile defense, were all higher priorities than fighting terrorism?
Rice:  Terrorism was a high priority for this administration
[eRiposte note: Ha ha ha ha! Yeah, right.].  As a matter of fact, yes, we were concerned about weapons of mass destruction and their spread.  We're still concerned about the spread of weapons of mass destruction and, therefore, the need for ballistic missile defense.  Yes, it was important to build relations with Russia and China.
You know Lisa, the first full policy document, signed by the President on a major policy issue was not about Iraq.  It was not about Russia.  It was not about China.  It was a plan to eliminate al-Qaida.
And that plan to eliminate al-Qaeda was going to take three to five years prior to September 11th [eRiposte note: Oops! But what about Bush's moral clarity? That should have allowed you to exterminate Al Qaeda in a day without waiting for years and approvals from other countries!].  Now, we — what we did when we came into office was to keep in place the Clinton Administration policy which had been a policy to try and roll back al-Qaeda.  We continued to pursue that policy.  We thought that we needed a more robust policy.
There were some things that we had to take some time to look at.  How could you — how — how should you think about arming the Northern Alliance against the Taliban when, in fact, the Northern Alliance was in less than 10 percent of the country in Afghanistan.  They weren't going to sweep through Afghanistan prior to September 11th.  But we did -- pursue the Clinton Administration policy and pursue it actively until we could get in place a more comprehensive policy, not to roll back al-Qaida but to eliminate al-Qaeda.
You named in the spring of 2001 that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks on the U.S.S. Cole.  Why didn't you retaliate? [eRiposte note: Wow, she's actually trying to be a journalist, isn't she!]
Rice:  The U.S.S. Cole was a terrible, terrible incident.  And it demonstrated yet again that Osama bin Laden was a threat to the United States.  We really felt that after 1998 when they had bombed the embassies and the response had not been an overwhelming military response that, in fact, it had a tendency to embolden the — the terrorists.
And we were worried, particularly since in the campaign we had said we wouldn't have pinprick strikes using military force. 
We were concerned that we didn't have good military options.  That really all we had were options like using cruise missiles to go after training camps that had long since been abandoned and that it might have just the opposite effect.  It might, in fact, embolden the terrorist not — not frighten them or not think that they were being taken seriously.  Our response to the U.S.S. Cole was to get a strategy in place that could finally eliminate the threat of al-Qaida to the United States. [eRiposte note: Now you've sorely disappointed all the warbloggers tremendously, including your boss who said that the attackers would pay a "serious price".]
Myers:  Now, our sources say that in the spring of 2000 that the camps in Afghanistan were thriving — that you could have hit the camps and killed lots of terrorists.
Rice:  The problem was to hit camps with a few cruise missiles; even if you'd been fortunate to — to get a few people really wasn't going to impress al-Qaida — al-Qaida had to be eliminated. 
What the country had to do was to come to terms with the fact that you needed a major restructuring of American diplomatic policy.  You needed a new set of choices about Pakistan, about Pakistan's role in — prior to 9-11, Pakistan was supporting the Taliban.
That made it very difficult to get at the Taliban and, therefore, to eliminate al-Qaeda. 
[eRiposte note: Whoa - who gave her truth serum?! Pakistan sure deserves that special place in Bush's heart today doesn't it!?] We needed a major look at new military options that would give the President something more than just using cruise missiles against these people.  We really thought that — as my counterterrorist experts said to me, "If you respond when you respond to something like the Cole, respond at a time or place of your choosing, not tit for tat, at a time or place of your choosing."
And the time and place of our choosing was to be a broader, more comprehensive, more robust, tougher strategy to eliminate al-Qaida. 
September 11th intervened.  And then the United States was able, with its allies, to do things that frankly, would have been unthinkable before September 11th like using American ground forces and using bases in central Asia — things that probably were not in the cards before September 11th. [eRiposte note: Oops! But, but I thought it was all Clinton's fault!]
Myers:  Do you think the administration can legitimately be faulted for spending nine months hashing out a policy when the threats are growing by the day?  They — in retrospect, shouldn't you have done something? [eRiposte note: Wow, now she's even trying to get on Bush's "list"!]
Rice:  Lisa, we were in office 230 plus days.  That's how long this administration was in office before September 11th.  Al-Qaida had been a problem for many years, not just for 230 days.  And what we were able to do is first of all continue the Clinton administration policy so that there was no gap in what we were doing to deal with the al-Qaida problem.
We were then able to — really on an accelerated basis over that 230 plus days, to put in place a policy that was more robust, that really did envision a fairly dramatic restructuring of our diplomatic initiatives; that put real funding behind the intelligence — part of this.  We tripled the funding for the intelligence aspects of taking down al-Qaida.  We were able to look more seriously and put in place new people, more people who could work on terrorist financing.
It was 233 days.  And even if we had been able to do it in 190 or 160 days, it was a policy that our counterterrorism people told us was going to — to eliminate al-Qaida over three to five years.  This was not something that was going to stop September 11th.
The Northern Alliance was not going to sweep through Afghanistan, defeat the Taliban and defeat Al-Qaeda in a period of six months.  It simply wasn't going to happen.


September 11th was a terrible event in the history of the United States.  I think that people dealt with al-Qaida as they best knew how, the Clinton administration before us and — and the Bush Administration.  [eRiposte note: Oops!] But the fact of the matter is when we went to war against them, after September 11th, we went to war against them with all of the assets of the United States fully deployed.  And it's still going to take a long time to defeat them.
Myers:  Thank you very much.
Rice:  Thank you very much.

12/28/03 <link>
Focus on foreign terrorists removes the spotlight from dangerous domestic terrorists, who are politically inconvenient to the Bush administration
The outstanding David Neiwert has been keeping the focus on domestic terrorism. He has a must-read post here. I reproduce significant portions here:

If anyone wanted evidence that the "war on terror" is primarily a political marketing campaign -- in which war itself is mostly a device for garnering support -- they need look no farther than the startling non-response to domestic terrorism by the Bush administration. 
This failure is particularly embodied by the Texas cyanide bomb plot -- largely because the refusal by John Ashcroft's Justice Department to give the story significant media play is problematic at best. Considering that Ashcroft leaps to the podium at nearly every turn in announcing the arrests of potential Al Qaeda-oriented terror suspects -- not to mention the readiness of the Department of Homeland Security to raise the "threat" level to Code Orange -- the silence in the Texas case is disturbing.
At the very least, the DoJ owes the public -- for ethical reasons alone -- an open assessment of the threat posed by the potential presence of cyanide bombs in the hands of domestic terrorists on American soil. If William Krar indeed manufactured and distributed more of these bombs, then shouldn't the public be both thoroughly alerted, informed and watchful?
As I've argued consistently, domestic terrorists (especially the "lone wolf" type) pose at least as great a real threat to public safety as their international brethren -- if, for no other reason, than that they fully intend to "piggyback" on attacks like those of Sept. 11. (This is not to mention the facts that they can operate with great impunity, since they are likelier to go undetected, and they are equally motivated and inclined to act violently.) The anthrax terrorist, it should go without saying, was a clear-cut case of this. More to the point, white supremacists' core agenda has revolved directly around terrorism for more than a generation now, precisely because they believe the public must be convinced that democracy is a failure and will not keep them safe. The more chaos, the more terror, the more they believe they can shake up the system enough to seize power. That was, after all, the purpose of the Oklahoma City bombing.
It must be noted that the failure is not particularly one of law enforcement -- though even there, problems exist. But the FBI notably has not backed down, philosophically speaking, in its pursuit of domestic terrorists since Sept. 11, as the Tyler case demonstrated. Once Krar's materiel cache was uncovered, the agency committed the full phalanx of investigators and other resources to the case. And the reality is that, as the Washington Post reported earlier this year, agents themselves thoroughly understand that domestic terrorism needs to be a top priority in any "war on terrorism," and generally have acted accordingly.
What's becoming clearer is that this priority is not shared by top officials in the administration. Since Sept. 11, the FBI and other security agencies have massively shifted their terrorism focus to those components related to Al Qaeda and similar international terror groups. The Tyler case (like others) only was broken because of an accidental stroke of good fortune (namely, a traffic stop). Any philosophical priority given to domestic terrorism has been overwhelmed by the reality of funding and manpower devoted elsewhere.
Indeed, Frederick Clarkson reported in Salon last month that the DoJ took unusual steps to keep the trial of domestic terrorist Clayton Waagner -- who'd tried to "piggyback" himself on the anthrax terrorist by mailing death-threat letters stuffed with white powder to abortion clinics -- a low-profile case. Likewise, there have been multiple other cases of domestic terrorism in the past year that have failed to receive significant attention.
Chip is exactly right, incidentally, about the "fear to offend." In fact, I couldn't begin to count the editors and reporters I've known who fear even running stories about white supremacists because they might offend various people and stir up "bad feelings" in the communities. "Let sleeping dogs lie" is a line I've heard all too often. The sad reality is that the disinclination to report on domestic terrorism has a long history that deepened in the 1990s. 
Moreover, the post-2000 press corps has become slavishly corporate, and the post-9/11 ethos mandates a close adherence to the White House line. If the administration doesn't push the story, it's not worth reporting
As Danny Levitas observes:

Had several Arab Americans with definitive links to known terrorist organizations been found in the President's home state with a sodium cyanide bomb, how long do you think it would have taken Attorney General John Ashcroft to call a national news conference and announce it? I'm not saying that I think anything was done to bury or lower the profile of this story intentionally. But I think it is quite reasonable to assume that had Arab American terrorists been involved (as opposed to white supremacists and militia activists) we would not have heard the end of this, and that would have been way back in April when the WMD and other massive explosives were first discovered.

Also, it is worth considering the nature of the materiel uncovered. Land mine components, suitcase bombs, binary explosives, more than 60 fully functional pipe bombs, and more. This is the biggest stockpile of the most dangerous stuff that I can EVER recall being found in connection with the white-supremacist and neo-Nazi movement. [Ed. note: more on that point here.]

Jensen had the most telling comment on the case:
I think the reason for that, if I were to speculate -- not being in the brain of John Ashcroft -- is that cases like this -- of domestic terrorism, especially when they involve white supremacist and conservative Christian groups, don't have any political value for an administration, especially this particular administration. Therefore, why -- if one were going to be crass and cynical, why Would they highlight this?

On the other hand, foreign terrorism and things connected to Arab, South Asian and Muslim groups, well those have value because they can be used to whip up support for military interventions, which this administration is very keen on.
Think, if you will, about the different kinds of terror at work here. The war against international terror plays out on a global stage, and as it's been waged so far by this administration, in remote and exotic locales. When Bush invokes the "war on terror," it revolves around images of Arab fanatics and desert combat. It's far removed from our daily realities -- except, of course, for the coffins coming home on military transports, images of which are forbidden to the press.
The attacks of Sept. 11 are raised to remind us it can strike here, but the source of the terror is something that seems distant and disattached to us...This is a highly marketable kind of terrorism, in the sense that its potential threat can be invoked at any time to justify an entire panoply of political moves, as well as to impugn the patriotism of your opponents...Domestic terrorism, however, has none of these advantages. Its actors, as we have come to understand, could in fact be the Gulf War vet next door. We all have known or encountered intense ideological believers, kooks if you will, who seem just half-steps removed from William Krar or Tim McVeigh. Mostly we like to ignore them as simple aberrations, unlikely to cause much harm.
Cases like Krar's are stark reminders that this is a dangerous presumption. Domestic terrorists may not have mounted a body count to match Al Qaeda's, but since 1995, the drumbeat of right-wing extremist violence has been regular and substantial -- much more so than anything committed by overseas terrorists.
Making the public aware of the threat from domestic terrorists, especially as part of a real war on terrorism, would require getting the public to confront the reality that the "axis of evil" comprises not merely brown-skinned people with turbans and fanatical gleams but also that surly white guy next door with the pipe-bomb arsenal in his basement.
As Robert Wright has astutely observed:
For the foreseeable future, smaller and smaller groups of intensely motivated people will have the ability to kill larger and larger numbers of people.
The number of intensely aggrieved groups will almost certainly grow in the coming decades of rapid technological, and hence social, change.
The problem with confronting this reality is that it throws into stark relief the ineffectiveness of the Bush Doctrine -- particularly as it has played out in the invasion of Iraq. It makes all too clear that the current conflict is not only a grotesquely ineffective response to the challenge posed by terrorism, it is likely to worsen the problem exponentially. [eRiposte note: See my comments here.]
Moreover, no one is going to be mistaking most domestic terrorists (except, of course, the ELF/ALF contingent) with liberals. If anyone's patriotism is likely to be impugned by association with the right-wing extremists who have consistently been involved in the considerable bulk of domestic American terrorism in the past decade, it would be Republicans.

8/15/03 <link>
Saudi Arabia is all the rage in the context of 9/11. But let's not forget Pakistan.
All the focus on the role of Saudi Arabia is taking attention away from Pakistan, which has been the incubator of major terrorist groups (and still is) and one of the key supporters of the Taliban. Here's what this Times of India report has to say about funding for 9/11 partly originating from Pakistan. I wonder how much of the 9/11 report focuses on this.

...A top FBI counter-terrorism official told the US Senate governmental affairs committee on Thursday that investigators have “traced the origin of the funding of 9/11 back to financial accounts in Pakistan.’’ 
John S Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counter-terrorism division, however, did not specify how those accounts in Pakistan were funded, or the role of Pakistani elements. The Times of India first reported on October 10, 2001 that India told the US that some $100,000 had been wired to the leader of the hijackers, Mahmud Atta, by British-born terrorist Ahmad Saeed Umar Sheikh.
Indian authorities also told the US that the trail led back from Sheikh to the then chief of ISI, Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmad who was subsequently forced to retire by Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf. The FBI had been provided with the details, including Sheikh’s mobile numbers. But Pistole’s testimony is silent on these issues. The FBI has estimated the September 11 attacks cost between $175,000 and $250,000. That money — which paid for flight training, travel and other expenses — flowed to the hijackers through associates in Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
Those associates reported to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who managed much of the planning for the attacks from Pakistan, US officials have said. The Bush Administration is being cagey about declassifying 28 secret pages in a recent report on the 9/11 incident which officials say outline connections between Saudi charities, royal family members and terrorism.
US authorities are silent about the role some Pakistanis may have played in the conspiracy. The role of Sheikh and Lt Gen Ahmad has yet to see the light of the day. Sheikh, wanted for kidnapping and terrorist conspiracy in India, has since been sentenced to death in Pakistan for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

6/26/03 <link>
Bush Administration failed to use Predator drones over Afghanistan prior to 9/11 despite Clinton team prodding
Some snippets...
When President Bush took office in January 2001, the White House was told that Predator drones had recently spotted Osama bin Laden as many as three times and officials were urged to arm the unmanned planes with missiles to kill the al Qaeda leader.
But the administration failed to get drones back into the Afghan skies until after the September 11 attacks later that year, current and former U.S. officials say.
Top administration officials discussed the mission to kill bin Laden as late as one week before the suicide attacks on New York and Washington, but they had not yet resolved a debate over whether the CIA or Pentagon should operate the armed Predators and whether the missiles would be sufficiently lethal, officials told The Associated Press..."

Where's the blame-Clinton crowd? 

When the time comes to accept responsibility, suddenly the importance of getting things all lined up perfectly becomes paramount. Touching.

5/25/03 <link>
The GOP and the Politics of Terror
E. J. Dionne's column in the Washington Post is worth reading. We reproduce it here for your benefit.

Inevitably, The Politics Of Terror
Fear Has Become Part Of Washington's Power Struggle
By E.J. Dionne Jr.
Sunday, May 25, 2003; Page B01

"Mr. President, the only way you are ever going to get this is to make a speech and scare the hell out of the country."

So said Sen. Arthur Vandenberg to President Harry Truman in 1947. Vandenberg, a Republican, was giving Truman advice on how to get Congress to vote for aid to help Turkey and Greece in their fight against communist insurgents. But Vandenberg might as well have been laying out rule number one in the Politics of the Cold War. From 1947 until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country was scared as hell about Soviet power and the threat of nuclear war. And these fears dominated political life.

If Vandenberg's words have a familiar ring these days, it's because the new Politics of Terrorism bear remarkable similarities to the old Politics of the Cold War. Fear has once again become a powerful tool and motivator.

Consider President Bush's speech to religious broadcasters last February as he built the case for war against Iraq. "Chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained," he declared. "Secretly, without fingerprints, Saddam Hussein could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists or help them develop their own. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a threat to the United States of America."

Bush scared the hell out of the country, and we followed him to Iraq. Vandenberg might have approved.

The new Politics of Terrorism have immensely strengthened the political standing of George W. Bush. The basic facts are well known. Immediately before 9/11, Bush's approval ratings were falling. In his memoir, "The Right Man," former Bush speechwriter David Frum admitted that he was planning to leave the White House before 9/11 because he did not want to watch as the Bush presidency "unraveled." After 9/11, Bush's approval soared. Frum would argue that this was a tribute to Bush's handling of the attacks. It was also a tribute to the nation's deep desire to unite behind its president. The country, said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster, had declared: "This is America, we hold together in the face of such a tragedy."

For months, criticism of Bush was put on hold as Democrats scrambled to prove how cooperative and patriotic they were. But if it was unpatriotic to criticize Bush in the months after 9/11, when would criticism become patriotic again, especially since the war on terrorism would be a long, twilight struggle? Shrewdly -- if, in the eyes of their opponents, manipulatively -- Republicans became experts at the political version of Whack-a-Mole. Any time Democrats poked up their heads to challenge the president, especially on terrorism, they were beaten down for a lack of patriotism.

Leading Democrats -- particularly Sen. Tom Daschle, Rep. Richard Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry -- all received this treatment. Typical was House Speaker Dennis Hastert's comment about Daschle's criticism of Bush's diplomacy before the Iraq war. Daschle, he said, had "come mighty close" to "giv[ing] comfort to our adversaries." That is Cold War talk -- as is guilt by association, this time with the French.

The Cold War metaphor also applies to intellectuals and activists on the left. Because the terrorism threat is real, as the Soviet threat was, even Bush's staunchest opponents have taken it seriously. Many on the left supported the war in Afghanistan and defended Bush's use of words such as "totalitarian" to define the terrorist enemy. Much of the left also rallied to the American cause at the start of the Cold War .

But the united front against terrorism has been even stronger than the unity mustered back then. In the Cold War years, some on the left -- a minority that shrank as time went on -- still insisted that the Soviet Union was a "progressive" force. There was no way to argue that the Taliban or Osama bin Laden's marriage of medievalism and fascism were in the least bit "progressive." A "Liberals for the Taliban" organization is as improbable as a group called "Conservatives for Permissiveness and Socialism."

Obsession with secrecy is another trait the war on terrorism and the Cold War share. Many of the great controversies of the early Cold War era -- the spying convictions of the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss -- were about the disclosure of secrets to the communist enemy. The new politics of terrorism reinforces the Bush administration's penchant to keep secret as much as possible -- witness Vice President Cheney's refusal to disclose information from his energy task force. For months, the administration postponed a serious inquiry on the intelligence failures preceding 9/11 on the grounds that it might inform terrorists of our weak points.

The new politics of terrorism also revive the issues that have naturally favored Republicans. For three consecutive presidential elections beginning in 1980, foreign policy toughness was a central pillar of Republican strategy, causing defections to the GOP among neoconservative intellectuals and working class New Dealers alike.

The importance of the Cold War to Republicans was underscored by the differences between the last election of the Cold War, in 1988, and the first post-Cold War election in 1992. In both elections, George H.W. Bush was the GOP nominee. In both elections, he won large majorities among voters who listed foreign policy as a primary concern. The big difference? By the time Bush was running for reelection, foreign policy had receded as a central issue for most voters, despite the military victory that Bush had orchestrated in Kuwait. In 1992, most of the country voted on economics and other domestic issues. The Republicans were routed. George Will, the conservative columnist, captured the elder Bush's problem perfectly: "George Bush prepared all his life to conduct the Cold War, only to have it end, leaving him (almost literally) speechless."

This President Bush is not speechless when it comes to the new dynamic created by terrorism, as he showed in the 2002 midterm elections. Bush turned public anxiety into Republican votes by arguing that the then-Democratic Senate was "not interested in the security of the American people."

A national threat serves Bush in another way: When voters look for security, especially from foreign enemies, they look to the executive branch of government. Franklin D. Roosevelt understood this in 1940 as war raged across Europe. His slogan then was, "Don't change horses in midstream." In 1940, the horse was a Democrat; now, the horse is a Republican.

There is one important difference between Roosevelt's approach and Bush's. FDR saw fear as something that could paralyze a nation and prevent action. Bush (like Harry Truman and Vandenberg before him) sees fear as moving the nation to action. Each new terrorist alert reminds the nation of the dangers it faces. Each terrorist action pushes other issues to the background, which in a sluggish economy can only help Bush. A cynic might say that the only thing Republicans have to fear is the end of fear itself. Whatever doubts Americans have about Bush's handling of the economy, polls show they see him as a strong and steadfast leader when it comes to facing down foreign foes.

And since the war on terrorism, like the Cold War, will be long, shadowy and difficult, there is no telling when it will be declared over. The toppling of those Saddam statues was not like the fall of the Berlin Wall. After Saddam, there are many enemies to slay, many terror cells to break up.

An open-ended, low-level campaign serves Bush's political interests far better than a shorter but all-consuming conflict. World War II, for example, demanded the total mobilization of American resources and sacrifices from all sectors of society. The sacrifices in the war on terrorism are asked mostly of members of the military, police and firefighters, and few others. Because this war is a sometime thing, Bush can give patriotic speeches on even days and tax-cutting speeches on odd ones. The fiscal package Congress adopted last week suggests that the war on terrorism can, indeed, coexist with tax cuts without end.

This could help Bush avoid the fate of Winston Churchill. The British prime minister was bounced from office in 1945 -- despite his brilliant leadership -- by an electorate whose wartime sacrifice and solidarity made them ready to embrace the Labor Party's program of social reform. Sorry, Democrats, 2004 doesn't look like 1945.

So when does this stop? One Democratic pollster argues that the mystery for his party is whether there is a "tipping point." If, God forbid, there are more terrorist attacks -- especially if they happen in the United States -- does Bush gain additional strength, or do Americans begin to question his leadership?

For Democrats such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the answer is straightforward: The party should be as tough as Bush, neutralize the foreign policy and terrorism issues, and win on domestic concerns. This certainly worked for the Democrats before. In 1960, John F. Kennedy Jr. was at least as much of a Cold Warrior as Richard M. Nixon was. Kennedy even argued that the Eisenhower administration had let American defenses go soft and allowed a "missile gap" to grow.

Putting aside that the missile gap was largely invented, Democrats are now looking for its equivalent. Rep. David Obey and Sens. John Edwards and Bob Graham have argued that Bush's budget cuts and the fiscal crises in the states and localities are forcing cutbacks in the very resources -- police, firefighters, rescue workers -- that need to be strengthened to fight terror.

Graham says that the war on Iraq undermined the war on terrorism by shifting attention away from al Qaeda, and he reiterated this point after the recent attacks in Saudi Arabia. Kerry floated his own get-tougher message in a letter last week urging Bush to subject Saudi Arabia to the money-laundering provisions of the Patriot Act. Kerry also tried to enlist public support for a new patriotism that insists on both rights and responsibilities. Being responsible, the Massachusetts senator said, included being tough on corporate greed and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Will any of this work? David Winston, a Republican pollster, argues that Democrats are in a box. In 2002, he says, they failed to speak strongly and clearly about terrorism. But if they now attack Bush's handling of terrorism, they risk looking "partisan," a charge from which Bush, so far, seems immune. In Winston's analysis, the new politics of terror may mean that Democrats are damned if they do, and damned if they don't.

Salvation could come if a worsening economy reduced terrorism's political salience. If Iraq becomes a nasty quagmire, Bush will be held responsible. Already last week, Democratic senators and even some Republicans blasted the administration for lacking a plan to deal with postwar Iraq. Democrats who were divided on the war itself are largely united on the need to internationalize the rebuilding effort. People may even ask where Iraq's weapons went. Politics were not static during the Cold War and will not become static now.

But let there be no doubt: Terrorism has transformed American politics and has given Bush advantages he never anticipated. And he has shown that he'll make good use of every single one of them.

2/16/03 <link>
A survey of President Bush's appointees/nominees to agencies related to National Security
Available here

2/15/03 <link> (UPDATED 2/17/03)
Dubious security alert and duct-tape craze
The major security alert last week looks fishy now. As Newsday reports (via Thinking it Through) (bold text is our emphasis):
"...The Bush administration dramatically shifted its terrorism message on Friday, downplaying the likelihood of an attack even though it did not lower the official terrorist threat level. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said a terrorist attack is "unlikely,” a week after Attorney General John Ashcroft said there was an "increased likelihood” of an attack on the United States. Ridge also said that intelligence about a possible attack "more often than not is very vague.” Ashcroft had said "specific intelligence” that was "corroborated by multiple intelligence sources” led he and Ridge to raised the threat status to its second-highest level. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) reinforced the administration's message, saying on the Senate floor that the risk of a terrorist attack with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons is "tiny.”...In a news conference, Ridge clarified the Homeland Security Department's suggestion on Monday that citizens buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal windows in case of an attack with biological, chemical or radioactive weapons. "I want to make something very, very clear at this point. We do not want individuals or families to start sealing their doors or windows,” Ridge said. He noted that the department had only recommended that people have those items as part of an emergency supply kit to be used "in the unlikely but possible event something could occur in your community.”...Meanwhile, a senior administration official confirmed an ABC News report that some information that prompted the terrorist-threat upgrade was probably fabricated. ABC News reported that terrorist suspects questioned by the government had failed a lie-detector test..."

That ABC News Report may be found here (bold text our emphasis)
"...The officials said that a claim made by a captured al Qaeda member that Washington, New York or Florida would be hit by a "dirty bomb" sometime this week had proven to be a product of his imagination. The informant described a detailed plan that an al Qaeda cell operating in either Virginia or Detroit had developed a way to slip past airport scanners with dirty bombs encased in shoes, suitcases, or laptops, sources told ABCNEWS. The informant reportedly cited specific targets of government buildings and Christian or clerical centers. "This piece of that puzzle turns out to be fabricated and therefore the reason for a lot of the alarm, particularly in Washington this week, has been dissipated after they found out that this information was not true," said Vince Cannistraro, former CIA counter-terrorism chief and ABCNEWS consultant. It was only after the threat level was elevated to orange — meaning high — last week, that the informant was subjected to a polygraph test by the FBI, officials told ABCNEWS. "This person did not pass," said Cannistraro..."

Capitol Hill Blue has a more disturbing note:
After a week of warning Americans to get ready for an imminent terrorist attack, a chagrined Bush administration now admits a key source of information for that attack was fabricated by a captured al Qaida operative.
"We've wondering just how much egg we have on our face," says one unhappy White House source. "Right now, the worst thing that could occur for the administration's credibility is that nothing happens this weekend. I know that sounds terrible but we've got a lot riding on this."...CIA officials urged delaying elevating the threat level until the story could be checked through other sources but the administration decided to go ahead and alert the public.
Only after the threat was elevated did the FBI administer a lie detector test to the operative and the test showed he was lying repeatedly about the dirty bombs and threats.
"He did not pass," said Vince Callistrano, former terrorism chief for the CIA..."

MWO points out that per the Chicago Tribune, Tom Ridge said that the duct tape directive had been previous tested on a "focus group" (!)
"...Amid growing public hysteria spawned by White House warnings about imminent terrorist attacks, and advice on how to endure such attacks -- buy duct tape! -- Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has defended the warnings on the grounds that they have been pre-tested with focus groups. 
Incredible. Ridge and the White House tried out the duct-tape stuff on a FOCUS GROUP!
And this is supposed to be a government?  Making its judgments about the war on terrorism and national security on the basis of focus groups?!
This from the Administration of George W. Bush who, lying through his teeth, told the American people in 2000 that he doesn't rely on polling and focus groups?..."

Eric Boehlert in Salon focuses on criticisms that the media fanned hysteria without adding a critical check to White House propaganda

2/14/03 <link> (UPDATED 2/18/03)
U.S. no better prepared today than it was before 9/11 to withstand major terrorist attack
Here are some sad facts, for which the Bush administration largely owns responsibility (note that bold text and color is our emphasis). The way things are going gives us little confidence that this administration is really focusing on shoring up our security sufficiently to avoid further terrorist attacks, not to mention that the bluster on Iraq only risks inciting more terrorist violence without addressing the real problem of Al Qaeda.

1. As stated before, funding for 9/11 investigation panel has been abysmal - so we still don't know all the reasons why 9/11 happened. P.L.A.
has a great post showing the farcical nature of the $3 million provided by the Bush administration for the 9/11 investigative panel.

"...Like Jane, we did not know how much investigations cost and therefore had no basis on which to judge whether $3 million was sufficient. We decided to find out the cost of other investigations in order to have a basis for comparison. One place we looked for such information was in the costs of Independent Counsel Investigations. Because we did not wish to start a partisan brawl, we ignored the costs of Whitewater and Iran/Contra investigations. This is what we found:
It cost the government $1.5 million to investigate whether or not Michael Deaver had engaged in improper lobbying.
The investigation into HUD scandals under Samuel Pierce cost $28 million.
The investigation into whether or not Bush I officials improperly looked at Bill Clinton’s passport records cost $2.8 million.
The failed investigation into whether Mike Espy took illegal gifts cost $17 million.
The investigation into whether or not Henry Cisneros’s statement to the FBI in which he acknowledged paying money to a former mistress misstated the amount of money he paid cost $7.3 million.
We also looked into the investigation of other terrorist acts. With regard to the Oklahoma City bombing, the FBI spent in excess of $60 million in its investigation. The defense spent $2 million on investigators. The government funded the total defense in an amount in excess of $13 million up through sentencing.
The investigation of Eric Rudolph, the alleged Olympic and abortion clinic bomber has cost over $20 million.
Other investigative costs:
One source suggests that the cost of the investigation into the crash of TWA flight 800 was about $35 million.
The cost of recovery and investigation into the Challenger disaster was at least $43 million.
The budget for John Danforth’s investigation into the Waco matter was $11 million.
Each of those investigations had particular facts and circumstances that required different costs. None of them are a perfect analogy for a 9/11 investigation. The Independent Counsel investigations were pointed at criminal prosecutions. The TWA and Challenger investigations had the costs of recovering debris from the bottom of the ocean. The Eric Rudolph investigation had the cost of searching a large area of heavily wooded, mountainous terrain. John Danforth’s investigation into Waco is perhaps the most similar to the proposed 9/11 investigation. Danforth’s investigation was limited to interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents. That is likely to also be true of a 9/11 investigation. The purpose of the Danforth investigation was to determine the appropriateness of governmental actions. The same is likely to be true of a 9/11 investigation. We think that an investigation of 9/11 would be substantially more expensive than the investigation of Waco. The witnesses are spread all over the globe. There are many more governmental decisions to investigate. The number of witnesses and documents is likely to be far greater. We do not recall anyone suggesting that the Danforth investigation was overly zealous or overly expensive. It is difficult to see how 9/11 could be adequately investigated for $3 million if it took almost four times that amount to investigate Waco.
Now that we have a frame of reference for the costs of investigations, do you think that $3 million is an adequate budget for a September 11 investigation? We do not.

In the comment section Andy X reports that he has calculated the cost in present day dollars of each of the investigations listed above:

For all investigations, I took the annual average CPI value for the first year of each investigation and turned them into December 2002 dollars (in millions).
1986 Deaver 2.6
1990 Pierce 38.9
1992 Passport 3.7
1994 Espy 21.3
1995 Cisneros 8.7
1995 OKC 86.7
1996 Eric Rudolph 23.1
1996 Flight 800 40.4
1986 Challenger 71.0
2000 Waco 11.6

Apparently, the administration thinks that the 9/11 investigation will be of a complexity to fall somewhere between the determination of whether Michael Deaver improperly lobbied and whether the Bush I administration looked at Clinton's passport file."

2. NYTimes-Funding for emergency response divisions like police and firefighting units has been well below what was promised:
"..."The bottom line for us is that we are no better off than we were on Sept. 11, that we're not ready for a terrorist strike," said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. of New Haven, where only about 10 percent of the city's 380 firefighters have received the protective equipment and specialized training needed to deal with a chemical or biological attack...
Senior Bush administration officials, including Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, acknowledged that the situation for local governments had become grave. "They still haven't seen dime one," Mr. Ridge said after being sworn in last month, referring to the federal aid the state and local governments were promised. "They're frustrated, they're disappointed, they aren't happy," he said, adding that local leaders around the country had "`every reason" to be angry with Washington...they conceded that the aid had come nowhere near the levels the administration promised in January 2002, when it announced the $3.5 billion package for "first responders" — state and local police, firefighters and emergency medical teams. "We find ourselves in a moment of history where we, as leaders, have to respond," President Bush said then. "We've got to remember first responders. The first minutes or hours after an attack are the most hopeful minutes for saving lives."...Harold Schaitberger, the president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, a union representing 250,000 firefighters and emergency-response workers, said firefighters across the country had felt abandoned by the federal government. "I find it ironic that my members are being asked this week to respond to a heightened threat to terrorism, and yet we haven't received a meaningful dollar in the last 16 months of promises," Mr. Schaitberger said..."People have a sense that they are being protected, that they are more secure," he said. "But this government has yet to provide our domestic defenders with the equipment and training they need to fight the war on terrorism on the home front."..."

3. NYTimes - Democrats attack Bush on counterterrorism budget
Democrats said the 2003 budget plan approved by Congressional negotiators this week provided the government with only a fraction of the money needed for domestic defense programs in such dangerous times. They said the president's budget proposal for next year would leave police and fire departments around the country dangerously unprepared. The White House has insisted that its 2004 budget request, which calls for a $41.3 billion budget for domestic security programs, a 10 percent increase, reflected a strong commitment to defend the country from terrorist attacks. That assertion was harshly challenged today by Democrats, who said the public was willing to spend billions of dollars more than was proposed by Republicans....Almost in unison, the Democratic presidential contenders said today that Mr. Bush had not done enough to protect the nation from harm, and several suggested that White House recommendations that Americans husband duct tape to protect themselves from a chemical attack was emblematic of its bumbling response. They drew a contrast between what they called Mr. Bush's stingy approach to domestic security and his new push for large tax cuts, all at a time when he is trying to rally a clearly ambivalent American public behind a war in Iraq...Senator Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat who has been outspoken on the issue, said in an interview that the administration was involved in a "shell game," adding that "it's unthinkable to raise the national threat alert and decrease the funding for homeland security."..."

4. MSNBC: Big gaps in national security
"...THE CORE of the new Cabinet-level department’s capability to predict and prepare for potential terrorist attacks on U.S. soil will be its Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection division, scheduled to begin operations March 1. The bulk of that division will come from an existing FBI unit known as the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), which will be transferring 307 positions to the new department. But NIPC has suffered crippling defections and reassignments as FBI employees who work for it have scrambled to find other positions to maintain their career tracks within the FBI, MSNBC.com has learned.
The law creating Homeland Security does not mandate that FBI agents working for NIPC voluntarily give up their jobs in the bureau. NIPC is responsible for the Key Asset Initiative, a program staffed by 216 field agents that identifies potential physical and cyber threats to “key assets” among the nation’s most vital infrastructure, such as banks, nuclear power plants, oil pipelines, ports and reservoirs, and develops protection plans for them. But come March 1, the Key Asset Initiative will essentially grind to halt — not one of the 216 agents in the program is transferring to the Department of Homeland Security...

5. Martin O'Malley in WP: Taxing Homeland Security
"...If you're inclined to support the president on taking military action against Iraq but your gut is uneasy about this war, take heart: Your gut is right. The uneasiness you feel is not about our strength abroad -- the might of the U.S. military, once unleashed, will no doubt oust Saddam Hussein and vanquish the Iraqi army. Unfortunately, that palpable apprehension is based on the vague but nagging sense of a dangerous, undeniable truth: Most of America's population centers, and most of its economic infrastructure, are nearly as vulnerable to attack now as they were on Sept. 11, 2001..."

6. Time: The State of our Defense
"..."All we can do," Vice President Dick Cheney told a gathering of top Administration officials to discuss bioterrorism, "is ask ourselves, Have we done everything we can to prevent an attack? I want to be able to look all of you in the eye and (have you) tell me that we have done all that we can."
So have we? While the Administration demonstrated again last week its determination to remind Americans of the dangers of terrorism, it has done far less to prepare the country for actually defending against it. While the White House's suggestion that Americans defend themselves against chemical or biological attacks with duct tape and plastic sheeting was dismissed by many for its naivete, it laid bare a sobering truth: the U.S. still doesn't have a credible and comprehensive system in place to cope with such attacks. "We're not building the means to respond well," says Stephen Flynn, a homeland-security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "And when we have that next terrorist incident, there will be hell to pay, because the American people will be in disbelief about how little has been done."
Though President Bush pledged last January to send $3.5 billion to the state and local authorities who will bear the burden of responding to a terrorism emergency, the money was appropriated by Congress only last week. Interviews with dozens of homeland-security officials, from New York City to Long Beach, Calif., reveal that while local authorities around the country are more aware of the potential for terrorist strikes, they lack the resources to upgrade defenses against them. Hospitals say they can't train enough employees to effectively spot and treat victims of biological attacks; fire departments can't afford to buy the haz-mat suits needed to guard against deadly germs; sheriffs say they still learn about terrorist threats from cnn. The bottom line is that in many respects, the homeland is no more secure than it was on Sept. 10, 2001. "The biggest thing we've done," says William Harper, head of homeland security for the state of Arkansas, "is to avoid feeling comfortable."..."

7. E. J. Dionne in the WP: GOP leader Tom DeLay attacks unions, including those of firefighters and police!
...House Republican majority leader known as "the Hammer" decided it was impolitic to stand behind an outrageous letter he signed attacking the American trade union movement as unpatriotic...DeLay didn't quite apologize. One of his aides said over the weekend that DeLay never saw the fundraising diatribe on which his name appeared and "doesn't believe the words that were ascribed to him."..."It is truly sickening that, at a time when we desperately need everyone in America to pull together," said the disavowed letter, "the big labor bosses are willing to harm freedom-loving workers, the war effort and the economy to acquire more power." Unionized firefighters and police officers were America's heroes after 9/11. But the letter attacked "high-paid union lobbyists" for "convincing Sens. Ted Kennedy and Hillary Rodham Clinton to try ramming through legislation to force the nation's firefighters and policemen to accept union bosses as their exclusive workplace spokesmen." This didn't sit well with Harold A. Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. "How dare you question the patriotism of the nation's firefighters and their elected union leaders," he wrote DeLay, "all of whom have crawled down a burning hallway, faced uncontrolled flames and risked their lives countless time for the citizens of our great nation." Now, DeLay's decision to disentangle himself from the letter is lovely. But if he's serious, the Hammer has a lot more disavowing to do. After all, DeLay and his party spent the 2002 election campaign suggesting that standing up for the rights of unionized public employees was indeed contrary to the national security interests of the United States. Remember the debate over the bill creating the Department of Homeland Security? President Bush insisted that it contain provisions curtailing the rights of unionized public employees whose jobs would fall within the new department. Senate Democrats, joined by Republican Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, resisted...."

2/8/03 <link> (UPDATED 2/19/03)
White Supremacist terrorists/supporters
Thanks to Atrios for reporting on this. In the following we provide some snippets and background from Atrios' slew of past articles (bold text is our emphasis).
Atrios Link 1
As reported by ABC News, "...A former National Guard officer and his ex-wife pleaded innocent to charges they attempted to sell illegally obtained national security secrets that the FBI said are worth millions of dollars....
The stolen documents related to U.S. chemical, nuclear and biological capabilities still have not been recovered, said FBI agent Lee McEuen. "They are worth, on the black market, millions of dollars, and would be of huge interest to militias and terrorist organizations," he testified. "Based on that, I believe they are a huge danger to the United States...The indictment said Deborah Davila lied to federal agents when she said she did not recognize the name of Kirk Lyons, an attorney who has represented leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and the anti-tax Posse Comitatus at trials, and had never met him..."
As reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "...Rafael Davila, 51, a former major and intelligence specialist with the Washington National Guard. He stands accused of taking perhaps hundreds of documents, including at least one on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and she of sending those documents out. The ultimate recipients, federal agents fear, were radical, anti-government groups within the United States. The documents, which filled a dozen or more boxes, remain missing...The idea of white supremacist and other right-wing groups studying these top-secret papers worries law enforcement. "They (the militia) are definitely still out there," said one federal criminal justice source. "They cannot be discounted as a potential threat as far as committing a terrorist act. The biggest concern is that you get a Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph."...And even though Deborah Davila first went to the FBI more than three years ago, her cooperation so quickly evaporated that she is now charged with lying to the FBI about knowing Kirk Lyons, a North Carolina lawyer whose client list reads like a Who's Who of Nazis, Klansmen and militia members. The feds say they know she sent Lyons what they believe were classified documents. Lyons denies it...."
Atrios Link 2: "...Kirk Lyons is also a major power in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the League of the South..."

We'll come back to this topic and the League of the South and Sons of Confederate Veterans in the near future. 

Atrios Link 3: "...A Ku Klux Klan leader charged with firearms violations told an undercover informant that he had converted his car into a suicide bomb, authorities said yesterday. David Hull, 40, of Amwell, Washington County, was arrested last week by federal agents who said he built pipe bombs and had attempted to obtain hand grenades for an abortion clinic bombing. Hull is self-declared Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a faction that grew out of the defunct Invisible Empire Klan. Hull also has connections with various members of both factions of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations...."

2/7/03 <link>
Taliban/Al Qaeda on the rebound in Afghanistan/Pakistan while we focus on Iraq 
This WP article sums up what is happening inside Pakistan, while this NY Times piece highlights the regrouping of Taliban/Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan and the bordering areas near Pakistan.  

1/24/03 <link>
Funding problem for 9/11 commission is not the only one - Bush-appointed chief of commission had indirect links to Al Qaeda.
Fortune magazine reports: "...
In December, President Bush named Thomas Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, chairman of an independent commission examining the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But FORTUNE has learned that Kean appears to have a bizarre link to the very terror network he's investigating--al Qaeda. 
Here's how the dots connect: Kean is a director of petroleum giant Amerada Hess, which in 1998 formed a joint venture--known as Delta Hess--with Delta Oil, a Saudi Arabian company, to develop oil fields in Azerbaijan. One of Delta's backers is Khalid bin Mahfouz, a shadowy Saudi patriarch married to one of Osama bin Laden's sisters. Mahfouz, who is suspected of funding charities linked to al Qaeda, is even named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by families of Sept. 11 victims. True, Hess is hardly the only company to cross paths with Mahfouz: He has shown up in dealings with, among others, ultra-secretive investment firm Carlyle Group and BCCI, the lender toppled by fraud in 1992.
Kean, who was unavailable for comment, may not have been aware of the Mahfouz connection. But Hess spokesman Carl Tursi did reveal another interesting coincidence: Three weeks before Kean's appointment, Hess severed its ties with Delta.

1/22/03 <link>
Funding problem for 9/11 commission
Folks, if you really want to know why 9/11 happened, you are going to have to wait until a Democratic administration is elected into power. 
Atrios has the right note on this (we quote):
$70 million to investigate the activities of Clinton's p***s.
$3 million to investigate the attacks on September 11.

1/12/03 <link>
Germans were tracking many 9/11 suicide-bomber terrorists for a year before 9/11
Another example of how information was present but not put to much use beforehand.

Brutal Liberian dictator who harbored Al Qaeda terrorists months after 9/11 continues to survive
Guess who's buddy this fella is? Pat Robertson.

1/11/03 <link>
Many held at Guantanamo Bay have no link to terrorism
Los Angeles Times reporting that they are held because no one wants to be accused later of having freed the "21st hijacker".
"...The United States is holding dozens of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who have no meaningful connection to Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and were sent to the maximum-security facility over the objections of intelligence officers in Afghanistan who had recommended them for release, according to military sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

At least 59 detainees -- nearly 10% of the prison population at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- were deemed to be of no intelligence value after repeated interrogations in Afghanistan. All were placed on "recommended for repatriation" lists well before they were transferred to Guantanamo Bay, a facility intended to hold the most hardened terrorists and Taliban suspects...

1/7/03 <link>
Guess who's coming to...er, sit in the 9/11 "Independent Commission"?

Trent Lott gets two gifts - (1) Thanks to Mr. Bush, he will chair the Senate Rules Committee (hey what's so bad about a racist on one of the more important Senate committees! Stop with the liberal outrage!) and (2) His nominee - John Lehman - gets to be on the 9/11 committee! Who's Lehman you ask? Well...
"...Lehman was Navy secretary from 1981 to 1987 and presided over Ronald Reagan's buildup to a 600-ship Navy. But Lehman also presided over one of the worst cover-ups in the Navy's entire 227-year history. Long before the Roman Catholic Church pedophile scandal, the U.S. Navy experienced one of its own. It involved at least one U.S. Naval Academy graduate, P-3 Orion naval pilots with access to nuclear weapons (the P-3 Orion is an anti-submarine warfare aircraft), personnel with top-secret clearances, and officers in leadership positions of trust akin to those of clergymen. The Navy's pedophilia scandal broke in the quiet and serene Oregon coastal town of Coos Bay on Sept. 11, 1982, when the commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Facility, a classified submarine tracking station, was arrested by local police for involvement in child pornography and lascivious acts with minors, including sodomy. The arrest followed a 2-month-long investigation involving the FBI and the Naval Investigative Service. At a general courts-martial held later that year, the commanding officer, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and P-3 Orion pilot having both Critical Nuclear Weapons Design Information and top-secret communications security clearances was found guilty of 16 counts of sodomy and lewd conduct. Immediately after the Coos Bay arrest, Lehman's Navy Department bureaucracy went into cover-up mode. Reporters from the local NBC television affiliate in Coos Bay were barred from both the naval base and the dependents' housing area...."

12/22/02 <link>
Whistleblower Coleen Rowley among Time's Persons of the Year
Enron and Worldcom whistleblowers included - showing that Time sometimes does pick relevant people for Person of the Year. One would think that Mr. Bush would agree, given his commitment to the War on Terror, but "surprise surprise". More on the "surprise" here.

12/13/02 <link>
Kissinger resigns from 9/11 commission chairmanship
As expected, he wished to avoid having to reveal Kissinger Associates' client list.

Al Qaeda training in Pakistan

12/2/02 <link>
Kenya terror attack and aftermath
Newsweek takes a look at how "soft" targets could be the future of terrorism. On the one hand these bombings will create more worldwide revulsion for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups - which should help in gradually wiping out these mass criminals. But at the same time, it is distressing that not much effort is being made to address some of the root causes of terrorism to prevent future generations from taking up the suicide bomber's lifestyle. This coupled with the Israel-Palestine situation and the potential of a war with Iraq will continue to unnecessarily inflame more of the masses. We have a choice of acting strongly but benevolently - see here for how we can do that. It is unclear though if that is going to happen anytime soon.

More evidence of Saudi financing for 9/11 terrorists
The Newsweek expose was followed by other reports from CNN, New York Times and MSNBC. The latest one from Newsweek examines the link between charity and terror in more detail.

11/30/02 <link>
9/11 Commission to be headed by Kissinger
Hmmm. Not too many people are thrilled by this prospect. Christopher Hitchens who has been trashing the left of late, pipes in with his outrage. In the meantime, the Houston Chronicle also reports that, "...Bush called on members to report back more quickly than 18 months, saying the nation needed to know quickly how it can avoid terror attacks in the future [Our note: Let's not forget who trashed the idea of a commission for > 1 year]...Bush did not set as a primary goal for Kissinger to uncover mistakes or lapses of the government that could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead, he said the panel should try to help the administration learn the tactics and motives of the enemy....

11/18/02 <link>
Afghanistan President losing U.S. Special Forces protection - will get "private security"
The New Republic has broken this story and has a thorough review of the (fairly shady) background of the private firm DynCorp. This is disturbing. We are very concerned for Mr. Karzai's safety and we can only imagine how difficult someone in his seat will be feeling now (read the article to understand why we feel that way). It is hard to understand how not securing Afghanistan and its President with the full backing of the U.S. military cannot be the first priority there. 

11/15/02 <link>
White House finally agrees to support independent 9/11 commission
Let the work of unraveling all the hows and whys of 9/11 begin. 
In the meantime, Jonathan Alter (of Newsweek/MSNBC) asks if Homeland Security is really that important for this administration (based on its deeds, not words).

10/31/02 <link>
More on how Pakistani cities are Al Qaeda havens
So much for our "ally" in the war on terrorism

10/21/02 <link>
Indonesian Muslim clerics speak out against Islamic terrorists
The two largest Muslim organizations in Indonesia (apparently representing around a third of Indonesia's Muslim population) rally around calls for strict laws against terrorists. This is a very positive development that President Bush and others in the U.S. must welcome and use to build more bridges to the Muslim community.

10/15/02 <link>
Post 9/11 job nowhere near done
Ghastly wanton murder of hundreds in Bali, Indonesia only goes to show how much more work is left. As the blog-site P.L.A. (Politics, Law and Autism) sarcastically notes, the ultra-right-wing nutcase Michael Kelly's previous claims to the contrary (purely to attack Al Gore), now stand unceremoniously disproven. 
More seriously though, the fact remains that Al Qaeda and its active supporters roam the earth and they need to be eradicated. At the same time, we need to find the best way to reach out to the passive ~ 1+ billion Muslims across the world without making them take to arms - over what is in reality a good cause (of removing a murderous dictator Saddam Hussein). Timing and methods are everything - and unilateralism should not be the default approach.

10/10/02 <link>
White House and House GOP lukewarm on Independent Commission to investigate 9/11
We spoke too soon. Tens of millions of dollars and many years of effort was considered worth it by the GOP - for Whitewater and investigations on an ex-President's sex life - but the investigation of several thousand people's deaths in the largest mainland attack on the United States is not worth it?  

10/3/02 <link>
More attacks coming??
Various news sources are reporting that John Walker Lindh and other Al Qaeda prisoners apparently talked about 2 attacks much more severe than 9/11 that may happen within the U.S. All we can say is this - if that happens, certain parts of the Middle-East may end up being exterminated by the U.S. and with some justification. It's one thing to push for reason and evidence before moving on Saddam, and another thing altogether to demand any of that against the known supporters of Al Qaeda (especially Pakistan and Saudi Arabia). Enough is enough.

10/1/02 <link>
Homeland Security Bill stalemate continues
President Bush, for the longest time after 9/11, was against a comprehensive Homeland Security department proposed by Democrats. Finally he bowed to pressure at a time when more and more bad news kept getting leaked about how the FBI, CIA etc. goofed up pre-9/11. Now he blames Democrats for holding up the Bill THEY have been asking for, because the Bill does not allow him to fire the agency's union workers at will, among other things. Mr. Bush supports the House version of the Bill as stated in this White House Policy bulletin. Why is this fact important? Well, the House version does not really support whistleblower protections and exempts the agency from the Freedom of Information Act - as reported in these articles from the conservative Washington Times: 1, 2How would the Homeland Security agency be worth its salt in this case, as the events before and after 9/11 have shown? (Not to mention that the true heroes on 9/11 - the firefighters who died - belong to unions.)

9/24/02  <link>
FBI agent, pre-9/11, tried to highlight possibility of planes being used to crash into the WTC

Support builds for Independent Commission on 9/11

Congress finally passes a resolution asking for an independent commission to investigate 9/11, after the Bush administration relented. However, we are not yet over the hump. This is part of the Homeland Security Bill, which the Senate has modified to ensure that the Government cannot fire civil servants at whim (we understand they can be fired for not doing their jobs as it stands today, although it is difficult to do that without too much bureaucratic hassles), i.e., the Senate version lacks the (highly euphemistic) "flexibility" that President Bush is seeking, without which he has said he will veto the Bill. We don't support incompetence but our view is that if Mr. Bush was really interested in "flexibility" he could first set an example by firing the top brass in the Justice Department, FBI and CIA who let 9/11 happen. (The Enron Secretary, er, Army Secretary, Mr. White also continues to enjoy the benefits of a top Pentagon job even today). 

9/18/02 <link>
Use of airplanes as missiles? The Government apparently knew more about this than they let on, according to the Washington Post.

Republicans and Democrats talk of unsatisfactory WH cooperation with Congressional 9/11 committee

9/17/02 <link>
An appeal for US Muslims to reach out and educate non-Muslims

This is an interesting article given the Muslim community in the U.S. must be living with nervousness and/or fear post 9/11

9/11/02  <link>
Multifarious commentary on why "Them" vs. "U.S.", among other things
Francis Fukuyama, Paul Berman (old article)

9-11 comments from all over the world 
New York Times, Washington Post

Mr. Friedman keeps going! 
This is another op-ed worth reading, even though there is not much new here other than the creativity of his expression. 

And, Maureen continues to sparkle!

9/10/02 <link>
Al Qaeda, as it stands today - a USA Today review

9/8/02 <link>
House Republicans for loose nukes?

Of late, an adrift and aimless foreign policy
Robert Kaiser's opines on how this administration has wasted the enormous goodwill of the world post 9/11 and made America drift needlessly into approaches inconsistent with its values.

9/7/02 <link>
Featuring Robert Wright's essays on the "A Real War on Terrorism"

9/4/02 <link>
Mr. Friedman's 9/11 Lesson Plan
This op-ed is highly recommended reading.