Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

No credible threat a big story

So it made a little news splash last night, and it's hard to tell if it's "ooga-booga" stuff or something more serious, but news accounts report a vague threat of a radiological attack by al-Qaeda, possibly in New York City.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne called the measures "strictly precautionary." He said an Israeli Web site reported that online posts were made following a video released Sunday featuring an American member of al-Qaida threatening foreign diplomats and embassies across the Islamic world.

"We are closely monitoring the situation," said Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke. "There continues to be no credible information telling us that there's a threat to the homeland at this time."

The FBI also said there was no credible threat.
The Israeli web site is DEBKAfile, which ran an "exclusive" that said in part:
DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources and monitors say there is no way of gauging for sure how serious these threats are, how real, or whether they are part of a war of nerves to give the Gaddahn tape extra mileage. But it is important to note that the exchange of messages took place over al Qaeda’s internal Internet sites and that they contained the threat of radioactive terror and specific American cities for the first time after a long silence on these subjects.

In addition, a growing number of clips has been disseminated of late over al Qaeda sites instructing the faithful how to design remote-controlled gliders, pack them with explosives and launch them against predetermined targets.
Debka seems to be a fairly serious entity, so I'm not trying to claim they aren't trustworthy, but this is all so vague that nobody can really determine much of anything. We've known for a long time that al-Qaeda or other radical Islamic terrorists want to do us great harm.

It's fine to operate out of an abundance of caution, but it's worth noting that even if Debka is totally above board, they seem to have strong ties to Israeli government and intelligence officials, who may have their own agendas.

Unfortunately, no ordinary citizen can really judge specific threats like this. Frankly, it still seems certain that terrorists will try to attack us, but I'm still at a loss to understand how unlimited executive power helps us stop that. Under the old FISA law, the administration had plenty of leeway to wiretap people they suspect are terrorists, including filing such requests after the fact. It just seems odd that we get a news report about some vague threat, without any really new information, so soon after the new FISA law was passed.

There's also the ironic fact that if al-Qaeda gets these kinds of headlines for posting what amounts, at this point, to trash talk on the web, they don't even have to attack us to have scored a hit.

So in the final analysis, we could also use something else as an indicator of the likelihood of an attack. Like sharks, which are getting closer.

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