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August 4, 2004
Timing Of Alert Rather Obvious -- But Not How You Think

The AP's Ron Fournier analyzes reaction to the orange alerts issued this week by the Department of Homeland Security and deconstructs the politics rather adeptly. However, Fournier and many others missed a key issue in the debate over using the so-called "old" material for a fresh alert:

The politics of terrorism has Democrats tied in knots. Each time President Bush raises fears of a possible attack, the political debate shifts from his most troublesome issue to one of his strongest (the war on terrorism) while Democrats fight their impulse to question the president's motives. ...

Campaign officials said Kerry would like to believe that Bush is acting in the nation's interest. Even if he didn't give Bush the benefit of the doubt, there are enormous political risks to Kerry questioning the president's motives, the officials said, because a subsequent terrorist strike would make him look politically craven and shortsighted. Criticizing the commander in chief for putting the nation on alert also wouldn't help Kerry persuade voters that he's tough enough for the job, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

The Democratic strategy is to use the terrorism warnings to raise the ante. Instead of questioning why alert levels have been increased, Kerry and his surrogates have tried to fuel doubts about what Bush has done or failed to do to make the country safer since Sept. 11, 2001.

If Kerry strategists are correct, the tactic both undercuts Bush's political strong suit and burnishes the Democrat's credentials as commander in chief.

It's a good analysis, as far as it goes, and I tend to think that alerts such as that experienced this week don't help Bush at all. It may have the salutary effect of reminding people that we are still at war, but as the Kerry campaign obviously thinks, that sword cuts both ways. No matter the cause, people resent intrusions on their daily routine, and a constant undercurrent of threats may well push people to vote for change, just as an emotional reaction. The only real disadvantage for Kerry is supporters like Howard Dean, who come out and make wild accusations that make the opposition look completely irresponsible.

What almost no analysis has addressed, however, is the context of the alerts with regards to the capture of Naeem Noor Khan, the computer expert and al-Qaeda planner whose data provided the basis for the alert. Khan was captured on July 12 but his arrest was only recently acknowledged. Khan held surveillance for a number of financial targets in the New York area, apparently quite detailed, going back as far as three years ago. What we now know about AQ operations tells us that multi-year planning and careful building of teams is their hallmark, and their plans take at least that long to fully mature.

Now, with Khan's capture announced to the world and the collapse of his communications infrastructure to the field teams involved in any of his plans, one likely result will be that individual cells will act on their last orders and launch attacks in the near future. Their ability to coordinate will likely be severely disrupted, as terrorists cells probably have no direct contact with each other, so that attacks occur randomly and not strategically, as on 9/11.

Otherwise, these cells will be left orphaned in the US, and the danger of leaving (crossing the border) will be almost as great as entering. Without Khan's communication network, the cells will have no other way to communicate back to AQ masters or each other, and the lunatics will be forced to disband quietly and assimilate into the American society they hate with such passion. Their money will quickly dry up and with it their ability to do anything on a large scale.

Faced with these two choices, which one do you suppose the AQ cells in the US that Khan controlled will select? Assimilation and surrender, or following the last plan given to them? And given that the Pakistanis have sundered their communications and with it access to new financing, when do you suppose that decision will be made?

Get the picture? If you do, you're smarter than the Democrats, some Republicans, and almost all of the media.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 4, 2004 8:11 AM

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» Clarity vs. Accuracy: The Washington Post Makes the Wrong Choice from Patterico's Pontifications
The Washington Post will report tomorrow on Page A01 that the Administration faces credibility issues for failing to make it clear that the recent terror alert was (or so the Post claims) largely based on old data: The White House's... [Read More]

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» WHy we should be EXTREMELY pissed (UPDATED!) from Way Off Bass
The good news: We've captured intelligence that could be this war's equivilent of WWII's Enigma machine. The bad news: Thanks to the Dems positioning themselves to question every single proactive move the Bush administration makes during the next... [Read More]

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