Monday, July 24, 2006

STUMBLING THROUGH THE WAR ON TERROR: News departs from results (as well as reality)

Astute and critical readers of news on national security in the war on terror know the absurdist's sham into which it has degenerated. They know that the national psyche has been unreasonably distorted by one searing day. Perhaps they are even suspicious they are not really more secure, just inundated with news and cant about security. And that when the details on security are revealed and thoroughly discussed, frequently the war on terror and the measures taken in our name, aren't even close to being of the benefit they're cracked up to be.

If you read this blog during the past seven days you know that while government terror experts and the newsmedia are convinced ricin is easy for Islamists to make and that it is seemingly only a matter of time before they poison Americans with it, it's not the entire picture or a particularly accurate one. You know that more Americans than jihadists, a lot more, have been arrested with castor beans and ricin in their sheds, homes and warrens.

You know that the US government made a prototype of an improvised cyanide-producing bomb in 2003, attributed to a jihadist threat that was and is generously described as ill-defined. While the government made the weapon in 2003 and distributed a photograph and explanation of it through the Department of Homeland Security via a .pdf file into cyberspace, no one has yet produced an actual working example of a jihadist-made cyanide-producing bomb that fit this advance billing.

Readers also have learned that in 2006, a jihadist diagram of the exact same weapon was published on the Internet. However, nobody from the U.S. government has seen it logical, reasonable or proper to explain in any public way which came first, our prototype or their diagram.

It is a legitimate question to answer, one that a rational person would think would be good for security. Would it not be good to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, for example, that American national security boffins did not produce a prototype of a weapon that does not yet physically exist in the hands of jihadists and spray its details into cyberspace, where it was subsequently copied by jihadists? It's a rhetorical question.

But, for the most part, such issues are unexamined. Americans and much of the newsmedia seem largely content to let the war on terror run itself, without much scrutiny.

So it comes as something of a happy surprise when someone, anyone, writes a piece that gets at the nasty fine results of our alleged national security procedures.

On July 21, James Bovard wrote in an op-ed on "The 'terrorist' batting average" [carried over from the Politech mailing list:

The federal government has inflated the ``No Fly List" to 200,000 names. But the list has nabbed more members of Congress than it has terrorists. US Senator Edward M. Kennedy and US Representative John Lewis have been inconvenienced by it, and anyone named David Nelson is likely to face a major interrogation each time he flies. Federal officials make it very difficult to correct the list, thus tormenting citizens who are guilty of nothing more than having a name resembling a name suspected sometime by some government official . . .

Federal officials have charged 10 times as many people in terrorist investigations as they convicted on terrorist-related charges. Bush declared a year ago that ``federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted." But only 39 people were convicted on crimes tied to terrorism or national security, a Washington Post analysis found.
Read the entirety of it here.

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