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Fred Kaplan on the Latest Threat
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Liberal Slate commentator Fred Kaplan seems to grudgingly admit that the latest threat warnings were a good idea:

In other words, the safest thing to do—on several levels (personal, political, and professional)—is to take the intelligence seriously.

Once it's taken seriously, should you inform the public? Yes. Security would be beefed up; explanations would be demanded; the intel would be leaked anyway. Besides, if the attack really is about to happen and you scream to the world that you know about it and that you're taking extra measures to prevent it, the attackers might very well be scared off themselves.

He's right, of course. It was the best course of action. But...but...

But there are two other considerations here. Given what the Times' counterterrorism source said about the vast set of blueprints that al-Qaida keeps on the shelf, U.S. intelligence might discover lots of laptops with lots of apparent plans. If the alert goes up to orange or red with each discovery, very soon nobody is going to take these alerts at all seriously—and that includes the local law enforcement agencies tasked with enforcing the alerts on already overstretched budgets.

Well, what's the alternative? I've heard the Left bitching and moaning that the Bush Administration just keeps scaring us with vague information. They finally get specific intelligence, knowledge that Al Qaeda scoped 5 specific buildings over the past 5 years, drew up sketches and specs for possible attacks, and exchanged e-mails about attacking these targets, while updating this information within the past 9 months. And what...they're supposed to ignore it...because people might get desensitized to warnings?

Well, no. Kaplan just thinks that politics should be kept out of it:

During the news conference where he announced the heightened alert, Ridge made the following remark: "We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror."

As far as I can tell, only Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, quoted this line. On one level, the "real" news media might be lauded for ignoring the sentence and thus separating the news from the propaganda. But on another level, by censoring Ridge's spin, aren't they distorting the news?

That's one way of putting it. Another is this:

If the news media didn't report what Ridge said, then most Americans (with the exception of about 40 people who watched the live feed on C-SPAN) didn't even know that Ridge said it.

If a politicized statement in a terrorism alert falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, does anyone give a shit?

That said, Tom Ridge probably shouldn't be praising the President during a terrorist warning. I don't think it's horribly egregious (he is, after all, just saying he thinks his boss is doing a good job), but it's not a great idea.

Still, I think the way the Bush Administration has handled this overall, the continued capture of key Al Qaeda operatives, the dissemination of the information, and the release of the warnings, has all been well-done, while the sniping and cynicism from the Left has mostly been pretty shameful.

Kaplan, at least, gets it right.

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