Captain’s Caption Contest #5!

Last week, I mentioned that behind every good man was a good woman — but this week, it looks like John Kerry may have the proverb reversed:

Sharpen your wits, maximize your Internet speed, and put your creative talents to use, and tell us what caption you think belongs with this picture (courtesy of DC from Brainstorming)! This week’s guest judge: Jon from QandO, an excellent libertarian/economics blog that is on my daily-read list. The contest will remain open until Tuesday, March 30, at 6 pm CT, so be sure to enter early and enter often!
BUMP 3/27 — Lots of creative entries so far …
BUMP 3/29 — After a day (mostly) off, I’m putting this back to the top …
CLOSING 3/30 6:10 PM: It’s going to the scorecards — thanks for all your great entries!

QandO Review of 9/11 Commission

My laptop has gone in for repairs, so I’m not able to comment too much on the news this morning — or even receive e-mail, for that matter. While I’m working on that issue, please make sure you take a look at QandO today on the 9/11 Commission and its reports. McQ is all over the data contained in the reports, pointing out the fallacy of Clintonian prioritization of terrorism, especially in regards Osama and the Taliban. He’s done some eye-opening work.
Don’t forget that the Captain’s Caption Contest finishes up at 6 pm CT today, and Jon from QandO will be our guest judge. In the meantime, if you’ve sent me e-mail, I will eventually get it … but it may take a bit, so your patience is very much appreciated!

Did Clarke’s Team Keep the FBI In The Dark?

Dueling statements by members of former counterterrorism “czar” Richard Clarke’s team andthe FBI leave the impression that they didn’t tell the FBI everything that they needed to know about terrorist activities in the US, calling into question Clarke’s contention that the FBI failed to aggressively pursue terrorism:

The nation’s former deputy counterterrorism czar said yesterday that Al Qaeda operatives trained in Afghanistan came through Boston Harbor on liquid natural gas tankers from Algeria and that officials considered Boston a “logistical hub” for the terror network’s activities in New England before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“The LNG tanker was an underground railroad for these guys to come into the country illegally,” he said. “Were a majority just looking to come to the US and start over again? I think that’s a safe bet. What we don’t know is what percentage had other motives.” Cressey’s description of what counterterrorism officials in the White House and intelligence agencies knew about Al Qaeda’s presence in the Boston area clashed with statements made last week by Kenneth Kaiser, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office. Responding to a reference to Boston-based activity by Al Qaeda in Clarke’s new book, “Against All Enemies,” and a radio interview in which the former White House aide criticized the FBI for not passing the information on to local authorities, Kaiser told reporters last week that the FBI had found no evidence that stowaways on the LNG tankers had ties to the terror network.

Kaiser’s comments related to Clarke’s accusation that the FBI knew of terrorists coming in through the LNG port in Boston and did nothing about it. However, that story changed somewhat yesterday when Roger Cressey and an unnamed associate issued these statements:

But Cressey said in an interview yesterday that the White House information came from “other intelligence sources” and that the FBI, which was not focused on terrorism until after the attacks, may not have known the full picture. He added that “there are still gaps in our knowledge of what was going on in Boston,” so any definitive statement by the bureau is suspect.
“The ability of the bureau to have a real good idea of what was going on at those locations — those apartments and elsewhere — was not as good as it could have been,” he said, referring to apartments where suspected Al Qaeda members lived.
Another former national security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed with that analysis. “Our interest in this came from foreign intelligence reporting, not the FBI,” he said. “The FBI was responsible for looking into it, but two and two may not have been put together.

In other words, Clarke’s team wasn’t sharing its information with the FBI, and now they want to blame the FBI for not following up on what Clarke’s team didn’t tell them. It appears that Clinton’s counterterrorism team has gone into full CYA mode since 9/11. Here’s another example:

Describing concerns that the LNG terminal might be a target on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Clarke wrote in his book that “had one of the giant tankers blown up in the harbor, it would have wiped out downtown Boston.”
But Cressey’s initial account contained a misstatement. He said, inaccurately, that the Al Qaeda connection led to a Coast Guard order that LNG tankers from Algeria could no longer dock in Boston Harbor.
Distrigas spokeswoman Julie Vitek said that while the last Algerian tanker docked in January 2002, it was the company that chose to switch its supplier to Trinidad — primarily because that source was closer and the company signed a long-term contract.

The Coast Guard confirms that no government order was ever received barring Algerian LNG tankers from Boston. Clarke and Cressey can’t get their facts straight, which Cressey maintains is due to his shift at the end of 2001 to focus on cyberterrorism for 10 months before leaving for the private sector — a focus that seems to have permeated Clarke’s entire team.
Clarke should answer this question: if the FBI needed to pursue terrorists more aggressively, shouldn’t their team have been sharing their intel with the FBI? Why didn’t that happen?

Brits, Filipinos Score Victories Against Terrorism

Twelve terrorists are in custody in the UK and the Phillipines today as major terrorist operations have been disrupted. In the Phillipines, four Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists were arrested and eighty pounds of explosives confiscated:

The Philippine president, Gloria Arroyo, today said that a terrorist attack on the scale of the Madrid bombings had been averted with the arrest of four Abu Sayyaf members and the seizure of 36kg (80lb) of explosives. The suspects, who allegedly trained with Jemaah Islamiyah, south-east Asia’s al-Qaida-linked terrorist network, had planned to bomb trains and shopping malls in Manila, Ms Arroyo said. …
One of the arrested men, Redendo Cain Dellosa, had claimed responsibility for a February 27 explosion on a passenger ferry in which more than 100 people were killed, Ms Arroyo added, although no official conclusion about the cause of the blast had yet been reached.
Dellosa is said to have trained in explosives with Jemaah Islamiyah militants on the southern island of Mindanao.
A second suspect, Alhamser Manatad Limbong, allegedly planted an October 2002 bomb that killed a US serviceman in the southern city of Zamboanga. He also allegedly executed US hostage Guillermo Sobero in the same year.

At almost the same time, British police seized a half-ton of ammonium nitrate explosives and arrested eight people. Ammonium nitrate was the main component of the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh and the Manchester blast at a UK shopping mall in 1996:

Peter Clarke, Scotland Yard’s deputy assistant commissioner, said detectives carried out 24 raids across London and the Home Counties.
Two men were arrested in Uxbridge, one in Ilford, one in Horley, one in Slough and three in Crawley. All the suspects are believed to be Muslims and British citizens of Pakistani descent. They are now being interviewed by anti-terrorist detectives. … Ammonium nitrate fertiliser was recently used by terrorists in bombings against British targets in Turkey and the bombing of a western residential compound in Saudi Arabia.
It was also used in the Oklahoma bombing in 1995, is believed to have been used by al-Qa’eda in the attack on the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998, and was the major ingredient in the biggest of the bombs used by Islamic terrorists in Bali which killed 202 people in 2002.

The British used a task force of over 700 officers to root out the terrorists in their midst. With the recent developments in Pakistan and diplomatic reversals in Libya and Syria, the comprehensive anti-terror strategy seems to be paying off.

Kerry Continues to Slide: Poll

After a week in which former national security and counterterrorism apparatchik Richard Clarke helped the Democrats beat up on George Bush by claiming he was uninterested in terrorism prior to 9/11, a new poll by CNN/Gallup/USA Today shows that someone’s being hurt by it — but it’s not George Bush:

Among likely voters surveyed, 51 percent said they would choose Bush for president, while 47 percent said they would vote for Kerry, within the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. (Full story)
Three weeks ago, as Kerry was cinching the Democratic nomination with a string of primary victories, he led the president by 8 points in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup among likely voters, 52 percent to 44 percent.

While that’s technically within the outer reaches of the margin of error, it is the first time that Bush has polled over 50% since John Kerry won the March 2nd Super Tuesday; in fact, looking at the breakdown of the poll, it’s been almost three months since Bush did this well — and that was when the presumptive Democratic nominee was Howard Dean, who always matched up poorly against Bush. Kerry has lost 16 points against Bush since February 16th, when he led in a head-to-head poll 55-43. As Hugh Hewitt notes, that’s 16 points in 40 days, an absolute free-fall during a period when the Democratic nominee should be sucking up all the political oxygen, not just sucking in general.
When you dissect the numbers even further, the news looks more grim for Kerry. Among likely voters, Kerry’s firm support has dropped from 45% to 40% since March 7th, with an identical 7% leaning Kerry. Bush’s firm support has gone up from 38% to 44%, with 7% leaning his way, up from 6%. Not only has Bush firmed up his base, he’s attracting more independents. Why?
CNN’s analysis figures that the Bush campaign’s depiction of Kerry as a tax-and-spend liberal — a quite accurate depiction — has outweighed the damage that Clarke’s book and 9/11 Commission appearance has done. CNN doesn’t mention the damage Kerry’s done to his own campaign, including the now-famous dodge, “I voted for the $87 billion — before I voted against it.” John Kerry’s unfavorable numbers went up 10 points in the last 40 day. Bush’s approval rating rose to 53%, up four points and the highest since mid-January.
Here’s the key statistic in the polling, and why the Clarke broadside has missed its target — in fact, why it hit Kerry instead. Near the bottom of USA Today’s breakdown of the numbers is this question: If a situation arose that required the president to make a decision about sending U.S. troops to war, who would you trust more to make that decision: John Kerry, or George W. Bush?
Kerry Bush
Mar 26-28 41 52
Jan 29-Feb 1 50 45
That’s sixteen points, same as the shift over the last 40 days. All Clarke and the 9/11 Commission has done is to remind people how clueless US policy on terrorism had been for a decade prior to 9/11, despite provocation after provocation. It’s also reminded people that Bush, unlike his predecessor’s team (which includes Clarke), responded forcefully when attacked and has actually made a dent in terrorism. Also — and this is another critical point — the Democrats that noisily climbed aboard the Clarke bandwagon wound up endorsing pre-emption, especially Bob Kerrey, who wondered aloud why we didn’t attack Afghanistan after the embassy bombings in Africa in 1998 or the USS Cole in 2000. Pre-emption had been Bush’s policy alone, and now the Democrats have endorsed it, making themselves look silly and opportunistic after spending months denouncing it.
Instead of being wounded by the debate over the past week, Bush has been lifted as the electorate has been reminded that a war is still on — and the Democrats have no strategy to fight it. They change positions to match the prevailing wind, and in that strategy John Kerry is the perfect standardbearer for the party.

Al-Qaeda Intelligence Chief Dead?

Pakistan’s recent military offensive may have been more successful than first thought — according to radio intercepts, their intelligence chief, a mysterious man known only as Abdullah, may have been killed:

The radio transmissions disclosed that a man named Abdullah had been killed and that the death caused a great deal of distress among the al-Qaida forces, a Pakistani intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
“He was a very important person for al-Qaida,” the official said. He added that interrogations of suspected al-Qaida members led the Pakistanis to believe that Abdullah was the group’s top intelligence official.

US intelligence officials confirmed that an Abdullah was indeed considered to be the top intelligence official, but they are careful to remain noncommittal on whether the Abdullah reportedly killed is the same man. If so, the death combined with the dispersal of what remained of the AQ brigade that the Pakistanis attacked would be a major defeat for al-Qaeda, accounting for the consternation that the Pakistanis reported on the radio chatter.
They didn’t get Zawahiri, but this may be almost as good.

UN Shifts Blame on Baghdad Bombing in August

The UN finally released its official report on the August bombing of the Baghdad UN headquarters, and Kofi Annan has cashiered the chief security specialist and reprimanded two others:

The UN secretary general has asked for security coordinator Tun Myat to quit after a scathing report on last year’s bomb attack on the UN’s HQ in Baghdad. But Kofi Annan refused an offer to resign from his deputy Louise Frechette, his spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters at the United Nations. …
The report suggests that UN officials failed to ask searching questions before deciding to return UN staff to Baghdad, under heavy international pressure. The report was particularly critical of two UN officials in Baghdad, accusing them of “a dereliction of duty” and “a lethargy that is bordering on gross negligence” for failing to shield the office windows with blast-resistant film.

The report also blamed the deceased special envoy Sergio Viera de Mello for not considering the notion that the UN office could come under attack. However, it apparently doesn’t mention that the US believed it would be attacked and offered US forces for security, an offer that the UN sniffed at, claiming it would undermine their neutrality. The BBC also doesn’t mention that the UN used former Saddam regime security forces — the same ones that used to spy on the UN — as its security detail right up to the bombing.
While it’s possible the UN report covers these unbelievably naive and foolish errors, those decisions were likely made higher up than the Baghdad mission. If the report doesn’t take senior UN management to task (read: Annan), then this is worse than a whitewash.

Pickering, Revisited

60 Minutes reviewed the recess appointment of Charles Pickering, the Mississippi federal judge that ran into the partisan buzzsaw of the Senate Democrats, and strangely enough came up with a much different picture of Pickering than that painted by Daschle, Kennedy, and Company. Needless to say, this has disappointed the Commissar at the Politburo Diktat, who counted on CBS to stick to the party line:

Comrades, get out hatchets. Hack away at Ms. Gambrell. Give her the full “Justice Thomas, Colin Powell, Condi Rice” job. Maybe she is Pickering’s lover, da? Maybe she is lesbian. … No, need 21st Century slur … Maybe she “accused someone else of being lesbian.” Is more up-to-date smear, da? Perhaps she opposes gay marriage. Comrades, if you find nothing, do not worry. Follow Comrade Schumer’s example: Just make it up.

Be sure to read the Commissar’s revealing look at the interview with Deborah Gambrell, a black lawyer who supports Pickering’s nomination and denies the Democrats’ smear of Pickering as a racist. While you’re there, catch up on all of the Party line at the Diktat.

WSJ: Kerry/Phoenix Project Connection Being Ignored

John Fund writes an excellent column in today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed site,, where he notices a double standard between the coverage of the public-service records of Bush and Kerry, and how the national news media speak volumes in their silence on the Phoenix Project:

Reporters spent days hounding White House spokesmen for records on the subject. In the end, it became clear that Mr. Bush chose to serve stateside during the war, was lax in attending guard duty during his last year, and had to feverishly make it up before he was honorably discharged. It’s clear President Bush doesn’t want to talk about his service, but reporters pressed for answers anyway.
It’s time they do the same for Mr. Kerry, who has laid down his actions in the Vietnam era as a marker for his character and, according to the Boston Globe, has refused to release his military records. Instead, Jack Kelly, a respected military columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, believes many journalists are “more interested in defeating President Bush than in providing readers with potentially important information which reflects poorly on Sen. John Kerry.”

Fund then reviews the details of Thomas Lipscomb’s story from the New York Daily Sun, laying out a case for journalistic neglect on behalf of the media. If you haven’t yet caught up to the story, Fund’s comprehensive review will bring you up to date, except for the complete lack of coverage from the media, which Fund may have anticipated would have been corrected by the time his column went to print. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I wrote a response to Fund’s column — I haven’t written to OpinionJournal since I started blogging — congratulating him for finally taking this story national:

It’s a national embarassment that the national news media hasn’t at least acknowledged these charges in some measure. The Los Angeles Times last week put together a long story on Kerry’s FBI files, and spun the story into martyrdom for Kerry without ever mentioning Camil’s Phoenix Project or Kerry’s involvement in the debate, by now verified by several independent witnesses. The story was picked up by many newspapers off the wire, and several more (the Washington Post and New York Times prominent among them) wrote their own articles based on it, all ignoring the context of the Kansas City meeting. Only CNN mentioned it, and then only as a sort of “bull session” proposal that no one took seriously. I wrote to the reader reps of the Post, the NY Times, and the LA Times, and have yet to receive a response from any of them after a week.
After blogging about this issue for two weeks and interviewing Thomas Lipscomb on the radio in the Twin Cities, I share his frustration and his suspicions about the silence of the national media. I congratulate the Wall Street Journal for taking this story national and hope that it results in some real journalism from those who, so far, have seemed a lot more interesting in spin than reporting.

Make sure you read Fund’s article and submit your own responses. If you need background material, here are the links from my blog:
Lipscomb’s initial story
Lipscomb’s follow-up on the Kerry campaign pressuring a witness
Captain’s Quarters’ posts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
I’ve also covered this at Oh, That Liberal Media and Blogs for Bush.

How To Win Friends and Influence People

Imagine that a group of people would like to win your support for their cause, or at least try to convince you to listen to their side of an issue. Do you think that this is the most effective way to make the case?

Several hundred people stormed the small yard of President Bush’s chief political strategist, Karl Rove, yesterday afternoon, pounding on his windows, shoving signs at others and challenging Rove to talk to them about a bill that deals with educational opportunities for immigrants. Protesters poured out of one school bus after another, piercing an otherwise quiet, peaceful Sunday in Rove’s Palisades neighborhood in Northwest, chanting, “Karl, Karl, come on out! See what the DREAM Act is all about!” …
The protest was organized by National People’s Action, a coalition of neighborhood advocacy groups based in Chicago.
Leaders said they want Bush to advocate for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a bill that would permit immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years to apply for legal resident status once they graduate from high school. The measure would eliminate provisions of current federal law that discourage states from providing in-state tuition to undocumented student immigrants.
Immigrant activists say that 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high school each year and that many students can afford college only at the reduced, in-state rates given to legal residents.

People have a right to gather and protest in any public space, including sidewalks in non-gated residential areas (gated areas are private property, including the roads and sidewalks), but they do not have the right to trespass on private property or to disturb the peace. Whatever one thinks of Karl Rove, storming his house is illegal, and even putting that aside, it’s a stupid way to make your case.
Rove called the police, after the protestors terrified two children who were hiding inside the house (one Rove’s, the other a neighbor), which got a typically stupid and ironic response from the crowd:

Shortly thereafter, sirens shot through the neighborhood and Secret Service agents and D.C. police joined the crowd on the lawn. Rove opened his door long enough to talk to an officer, and the crowd serenaded them with a stanza of “America the Beautiful.”

I suppose that the crowd had never heard about property rights, one of the keystones of America, nor of Congress, where these debates are best held. Rove agreed to meet with two of the protestors as long as the rest got back on their buses and left his neighborhood, which they did. It wasn’t a long conversation:

Rove opened his garage door and allowed Palacios and Inez Killingsworth to enter. The meeting lasted two minutes and ended with Rove closing the garage door on Palacios while she was still talking. … Palacios, trembling and in tears herself, said, “He is very offended because we dared to come here. We dared to come here because he dared to ignore us. I’m sorry we disturbed his children, but our children are disturbed every day. He also said, ‘Don’t ever dare to come back,’ ” Palacios said. “We will, if he continues to ignore us.”

If it were my house, the next time they showed up on my property banging on my windows and doors, they’d be talking with a double-barrelled shotgun as I demonstrated my Second Amendment rights. As far as their pet cause goes, if I were Karl Rove I’d be focusing all my energies on killing it just to make a point. However, sticking federal dollars into the pockets of illegal immigrants so that they don’t feel so “discouraged” from attending college is ludicrous enough that it won’t likely survive in Congress anyway.