Friday, February 10, 2006

A Conveniently Timed Revelation

President Bush yesterday revealed details about a 2002 plot to crash a hijacked plane into a Los Angeles skyscraper. The President is saying that the foiled plot justifies his warrantless spying on Americans.

Color me cynical, but one has to wonder about the timing of these revelations. The administration has taken a lot of flack in recent weeks for its domestic surveillance program. Even Arlen Specter, a prominent Republican Senator, has questioned its legality. After almost four years, the President has chosen now to trot this out as an example of good intelligence gathering?

What the President is NOT saying, however, is whether intelligence gathered WITHOUT warrants was used to break up Al Qaeda's plans. In other words, did Bush's loose interpretation of the law actually save lives in this case, or was the information gathered through more traditional channels.

Administration officials have also previously said that if the warrantless spying had been in place prior to 2001, then perhaps 9-11 could have been prevented.

Now that one is most certainly NOT true. What COULD have prevented 9-11 is if government officials had been paying to attention to the clues that were popping up around them like bodies in a New Orleans flood.

First of all, a 1999 study prepared by the National Intelligence Council warned that bin Laden operatives could hijack a plane, load it with explosives, and crash it into buildings such as the Pentagon. Yes, the report was prepared during the Clinton presidency, but former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has said that Bush administration officials were aware of it.

Secondly, let us also recall that at a Presidential Daily Briefing on August 6, 2001, a report was presented that bin Laden was "determined to stirike in the U.S." and that buildings in New York were being cased by possible terrorists.

And finally, let us recall that during the months before the 9-11 attacks FBI agents in Minneapolis and Phoenix were trying to warn their superiors about suspicious people at flight schools. That information was gathered not through questionable phone taps but through old fashioned gumshoe work.

So the information was out there, much like a certain late August weather forecast for New Orleans. All the intelligence in the world, whether gathered legally or illegally, is not going to help if the people in charge don't bother to connect the dots.

0 thoughtful ramblings: