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Who Links Here

Tuesday, August 3, 2004
“Old” Information?

By Steven Taylor @ 8:58 am

Pre-9/11 Acts Led To Alerts

Most of the al Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said yesterday.

More than half a dozen government officials interviewed yesterday, who declined to be identified because classified information is involved, said that most, if not all, of the information about the buildings seized by authorities in a raid in Pakistan last week was about three years old, and possibly older.

“There is nothing right now that we’re hearing that is new,” said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. “Why did we go to this level? . . . I still don’t know that.”

I understand the idea that 9/11 itself may have made these plans moot. However, are three-year-old plans really “old” in this context? A major attack takes years to plan. Further, the President and a major party convention are coming to town, not to mention the economic implications of the targets. Surely those qualifiy as good reason to be cautious.

Plus, to refresh our memories, we do reacll the famous Preisdential Daily Briefing, do we not? That document had less specificic information than was used to launch the current round of security, yet the critics at the time said that the information in that memo should have led to President figuring out 9/11 bedfore it happened.

The damned-if-do, damned-if-you-don’t nature of the politics and analysis of this type of situation is growing wearisome. On the one hand, dots are supposed to be connected and imagination is supposed to be deployed, yet: don’t cry wolf!

Further, the WaPo story seems to indidcate that 9/11 did not put an end to these plans:

Much of the information about the targeted buildings is contained on a laptop computer and computer disks recovered during recent raids in Pakistan. A senior intelligence official said the cache also includes about 500 photographs, diagrams and drawings, some of them digital.

Two senior intelligence officials who briefed reporters on Sunday said the material showed al Qaeda operatives had cased the buildings both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I think the indications are that this has been a very longstanding effort on the part of al Qaeda,” one official said Sunday, “that it dates from before 9/11, it continued after 9/11 and based on what it is that we are concerned about, we know about in terms of al Qaeda’s plans and intentions that it probably continues even today.”

My question for Dan Eggen and Dana Priest (the authors of the piece) is: why is there a quote from “a senior law enforcement official” expressing doubts about the alerts in the first three paragraphs of the piece (along with the description of the data as being old), but the quote that notes that the information may have post-9/11 components, along with quotes from officials who think that this may be part of an ongoing plot are all well down the piece?

Update:

  • Kevin Alyward makes a similar point here with some expanded PDB references.

    • Accidental Verbosity linked with Quote of the Day
    • small dead animals linked with Dots? What Dots?

    Click here to go to the main page.

    5 Comments

    1. I agree. Who’s to say what’s too old? Anybody who raises an eyebrow at the media freakout over three-year old data, well, they must be democrats … or at least on the side of the terrorists. Hell, I think we ought to whip the Hawaiians up into a frenzy of fear and obedience since we might have some info left in the hopper on them sneaky Japs planning another surprise attack. Can’t be too careful!

      Churning up fear in ‘04! It’s my new motto!

      Comment by Stephen — Tuesday, August 3, 2004 @ 12:43 pm

    2. One more on the media (non)event of code orange:

      Everyone’s playing a role out of central casting and according to some unwritten script. I don’t quite know what causes this kind of surrealism, but perhaps what is so compelling is the incomprehensible, utterly evil notion of terrorism itself, not to mention the elixir of getting attention in the communications capital of the free world.

      http://www.thejournalnews.com/newsroom/080304/b0103reisman.html

      Comment by Stephen — Tuesday, August 3, 2004 @ 12:48 pm

    3. Stephen,

      Three questions:

      1) What is the expiration date for such data? It would be helpful to know.

      2) Have you ever complained that they didn’t “connect the dots"?

      3) What was your reaction to the PDB released back April?

      Comment by Steven — Tuesday, August 3, 2004 @ 12:53 pm

    4. 1) Helpful? Hell, it’d be helpful to know the data that we are taling about. Did you get a copy of the memo? Do you tune in to NSA radio networks? I mean, if a guy says 2 years ago that he wants to blow up a bank sometime within 2 days, am I still freaking out today? No. Does it matter whether he’s a mailroom employee of al-qaida or the CEO? Yes. Yes it does. It is obvious that neither you nor I have enough info about the “threat” to America, but it’s been clear that the “color coded” threats so far have been lame and manufactured and possibly politically motivated.

      2) If all we have for “dots” is rumor and second-hand innuendo, no. I don’t want those dots connected. And I don’t want turf battles over data and I don’t want some new honcho getting hired (as you mentioned in an earlier post). People are getting scared by these idiotic threats and America is turning into a police state populated by sheep who bumble from fear and anxiety to apathy.

      3) I thought Condi was an idiot and that the PDD should have resulted in somebody getting fired.

      Comment by Stephen — Tuesday, August 3, 2004 @ 2:00 pm

    5. 1) My question is: if you gather intelligence and most of the information gathered is 3-4 years old, is it expired? If plans for an attack on the WTC had been found in July 2001, but the computer files dated to 1997 or 1998, would they have been rightfully thrown away as “old"?

      2) Your claim is baseless. This is far more than rumor-it is based on captured information. You are within your rights ti assume that the info is not worth anything, bt at least argue from the facts.

      And you are being hyperbolic with the police state reference, yes?

      3) There is more actionable data from the captured laptop than from the PDB. Why, therefore, do you consider the current situation to be solely “rumor and second-innuendo” yet someone should have been fired over the PDB?

      Comment by Steven — Tuesday, August 3, 2004 @ 5:17 pm

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