Wednesday, July 25, 2007

DANGER! Cheesy Terror Warnings May Be Hazardous To Your Democracy

Herald Net of Everett, Washington has a good piece on the scary monster du jour. It draws on reporting from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times and I've quoted quite a bit but not all of it. You can read the original here:

A day of terror warnings
WASHINGTON - Airport security officers around the nation have been alerted by federal officials to look out for terrorists practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft.
Whoa! Why?
The warning came to light Tuesday just hours after a top U.S. military commander said he believes there are al-Qaida cells in the United States.
Also, President Bush presented his most detailed and lengthy argument that al-Qaida in Iraq was essentially the same organization that attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001.
I always get nervous when I see the lies start to cascade like this. This particular sequence of manure takes me back to last August. Are we gonna see another avalanche of bullshit?
The alert, based on four curious seizures at airports since September, was distributed on July 20 by the Transportation Security Administration to federal air marshals, its own transportation security officers and other law enforcement agencies.

The seizures at airports in San Diego, Milwaukee, Houston and Baltimore included "wires, switches, pipes or tubes, cell phone components and dense clay-like substances," including block cheese, the bulletin said. "The unusual nature and increase in number of these improvised items raise concern."
Did we get that right? Four "curious seizures" since last September amounts to a day of terror warnings? And the increase in this number -- all the way up to four! -- indicates that terrorists may be trying to carry explosive components onto aircraft? Wow! This is better than Michael Chertoff's gut.

You see what's happening here, don't you? People are so heavily propagandized that they'll panic and evacuate an airport and seize a "curious" block of cheese. Then the propagandists count the evacuations and the seizures and pretend these are actual evidence of actual threats, which they then feed into the Homeland inSecurity echo chamber. More curious seizures? Let's have another alert! Thus, more fear, more panics, more "curious" seizures, more alerts, more fear, and so on, in a self-feeding -- ultimately self-devouring! -- cycle.

So watch out for cell phones, wires, tubes or pipes, switches, and blocks of cheese -- but be especially careful with those tubes -- they could be parts of the internet!

Do you think I'm joking?
Security officers were urged to keep an eye out for "ordinary items that look like improvised explosive device components."
Now everybody who ever watched McGyver is in trouble.
"There is no credible, specific threat here," TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said Tuesday. "Don't panic. We do these things all the time."
I know they do these things all the time; that's what so bizarre. There's no credible, specific threat -- so let's make big deal of it! No worries; we do this all the time! Just look for ordinary items and be very afraid!
Earlier Tuesday, Air Force Gen. Victor Renuart, who heads U.S. Northern Command, said the military needs to triple its response teams to counter a growing threat of attack.
Triple? Why only triple? Seriously! Isn't it easier to multiply by ten? Why don't they just move the decimal point and call it the new NORTHCOM budget? Look how much we would save on our budgeting process! And we know none of the money would be wasted, right?

OK, ok, I'll try to be less emotional. Are we talking about evidence here?
"I believe there are cells in the United States, or at least people who aspire to create cells in the United States," Renuart said. "To assume that there are not those cells is naive and so we have to take that threat seriously."
Wow! It's another "I believe"! Welcome to the faith-based approach to counter-terrorism.

But it's not a total loss because there are now multiple questions on the table: let's deal with them one at a time.

Are there terror cells in the United States? We'll look at that question in a moment.

Are there in fact people who aspire to create such cells? Yes indeed! Most of them are working for the FBI, trying to reduce their drug sentences -- or simply looking to make a few bucks. To be fair, others may see themselves as "moderate Muslims" responding to the government's call for help against the "extremists". But they're all out there, looking to put together little terror plots that can then be busted, providing wave after wave of propaganda the government could never get without all these little entrapment schemes.
As for attacks, he added: "Am I concerned that this will happen this summer? I have to be concerned that it could happen any day."
There you go: any day, anywhere, anytime, be very afraid. I have to be concerned, you have to be concerned, we all have to be concerned, it could happen any day, anywhere, anytime, be very afraid...

It's a familiar tune, isn't it? You could almost dance to it!
Other U.S. officials said last week they did not know of al-Qaida cells in the United States.
Of course they don't. If they did know of any terrorist cells getting ready to strike, those terrorists would have been arrested by now. Or at least one would hope so. There's no need in our post-9/11 world to be picky about due process anymore; law "enforcement" can just say "terror suspect" and the rights of the accused "terrorist" vanish. So if the terrorists are getting ready to strike and the authorities choose not to arrest them, it must be because the authorities want them running free.

If there are terrorist cells and the authorities don't know about them, then we're hopeless. With an eighty-eight zillion dollar per year national security budget, a no-holds-barred approach to domestic and international surveillance, and military-police boundary lines getting blurrier all the time, a terrorist cell that was ready to strike would be foolish to sit still. And yet we haven't heard from them. Could this be because they're not there?

On the other hand, are there people, institutions, corporations ... with an interest -- financial or otherwise -- in keeping us terrorized? Of course there are; otherwise I would have nothing to blog about and I could go back to my previous "normal" life, with my wife and my kids -- heck, I could even get some sleep.

If you're wondering how much credibility I assign to Air Force Gen. Victor Renuart, the answer is:

Listen! On a separate but related lie,
Bush sought to rebut his critics' assertion that the Iraqi group was not a threat to American security.

To those who argue that al-Qaida in Iraq is purely an Iraqi phenomenon, Bush said, "That would be news to Osama bin Laden."
I didn't think dead guys watched the news. But I guess you learn something new every day.

Whether or not it's true may be a more difficult question. But look at this:
Citing security details he declassified for his speech,
This little detail shows exactly what Bush thinks of "national security". Would he -- and Cheney, and Rove --- use classified information for political purposes? Don't tell me they wouldn't. They do it all the time. And here is a prime example.

But a word of caution is in order, for Bush/Rove/Cheney would not be above lying even while pretending to divulge national secrets. The cover story -- that the president is revealing "security details he declassified for his speech" -- is useful to the spin-meisters in two ways: First, it can mask a change in the legend, the "official story" behind which all the vital truths are hidden. They can make up a new lie and put it out under the story that "these details have been classified until now", implying (or stating explicitly) that the conventional wisdom -- i.e. the previous "legend", now untenable -- was wrong.

And regardless of whether the new story is a lie or the truth, the very visible presidential leak of classified information reinforces the sheepishness of those who believe the president should steer the ship of state because he knows more than we do -- and he can't afford to tell us what he knows because our nation's security depends on keeping these things secret ... oh wait, then why is he divulging classified information?

It makes no sense ... until you realize that Bush is trading national security for political capital.

And every time you think it can't possibly get more absurd, it does!
Bush said al-Qaida in Iraq was founded not by an Iraqi but long before U.S. forces invaded the country by Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who set up operations with terrorist associates in Iraq. Zarqawi formally joined al-Qaida in 2004 and pledged allegiance to al-Qaida chief bin Laden, Bush said.
Sure, he did. Really. I mean, would George Bush lie to you?
Bush added: "The merger also gave al-Qaida's senior leadership, quote, 'a foothold in Iraq' to extend its geographic presence, to plot external operations and to tout the centrality of the jihad in Iraq to solicit direct monetary support elsewhere."
We've been watching this for years -- I call it "the puppet shuffle". Shakespeare was born too soon: the phrase "full of sound and fury and signifying nothing" was made for this nonsense; too bad it's already "used".
American forces killed al-Zarqawi in 2006; he was replaced, Bush said, by an Egyptian, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who had "deep and long-standing" ties to senior al-Qaida leadership.
Who else has "deep and long-standing" ties to senior al-Q'aeda leadership? C.I.A!! C.I.A!!
At the time, bin Laden dispatched a senior deputy to aid al-Masri, but the aide was captured and has been sent to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
... where he's currently upside-down in a bucket of water, confessing to the assassination of President McKinley!
"The fact that Osama bin Laden risked sending one of his most valued commanders to Iraq shows the importance he places on the success of al-Qaida's Iraqi operations," Bush said.
The idead of a dead man maneuvering all these CIA assets around on the global chessboard is nothing less than astonishing.

If and when his body is ever accidentally discovered, I say rather than going along with George Bush's idea ("screw him in the ass"), we should put him in a museum.

But that's not what you came here to find out.

What's going on here? Clearly this is just another part of a long-running buildup, whose aims include martial law -- in effect if not in name -- at home, and expanded war abroad.

But how? Perhaps if we're sufficiently frightened of the warnings, we'll just fall to our knees and beg for martial law to be declared, and then Cheney can have his war with Iran -- and throw anyone who doesn't like it in prison -- without having to nuke Chicago.

On the other hand, maybe we're smarter than that, and maybe whipping us into line will take something much larger -- like multiple nukes in multiple cities, and possibly another US Army lab-certified biological attack against any domestic "dissident leaders" dumb enough not to fall into line.

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of darkness? I'll bet they've prepared half a dozen different scenarios.

How can we prevent them all? -- that's the question!

For starters, I think we should stop leaving blocks of cheese in the airports.

They count that cheese, my friends -- and it becomes a Weapon of Mass Distraction.