Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Terror Alert Timing Questionable

On Sunday, Tom Ridge announced that the Department of Homeland Security has specific information indicating that al Qaeda is planning to target specific buildings in the financial sector: the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, D.C., Stock Exchange building in Wall Street and the Citigroup in New York City and Prudential Financial in Newark, N.J. Terror alerts were consequently raised for those sectors.

On Monday, in an interview with CNN, Howard Dean questioned the timing of the terror alert, coming, as it did, so quickly on the heels of the Democratic Convention in which Democrats were being protrayed as strong and unified in the media. Dean expressed concern at the President's using the "terrorism trump card" any time he needed to in order to divert attention.

While I have no love or trust for the administration, this seemed to me to be unneccesarily cynical, for the administration has in fact gotten a lot of criticism for playing fast and loose with the terror alerts, especially when nothing has ended up happening. And it seems to me that, with all the criticism they receive for raising the threat level and for the color coded threat chart, the fact is that if something were to happen and they didn't warn us, we would be outraged and hold them accountable.

So it was interesting to see that both The New York Times and The Washington Post are reporting today that the alert on Sunday was based on information from 2000 and 2001, albeit only acquired in a Pakistan raid last month. Tom Ridge of course defends his decision here.

It doesn't take a cynic to question not only the timing of Ridge's announcement, but also why they witheld the fact that this information is years old when they raised the threat level. This administration continues to play on our fears for political purposes.

As Paul Krugman notes in his latest column:

A terrorism alert is already blotting out memories of last week...there is now a long history of alerts with remarkably convenient political timing, and Tom Ridge politicized the announcement by using the occasion to praise "the president's leadership in the war against terror..."


Post a Comment

<< Home