The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

TERROR ALERT UPDATE: HUH?

The NY Times has sources saying that fresh intelligence was part of the cause of this week's orange alert.
Senior government officials said Tuesday that new intelligence pointing to a current threat of a terrorist attack on financial targets in New York and possibly in Washington - not just information about surveillance on specific buildings over the years - was a major factor in the decision over the weekend to raise the terrorism alert level.

The officials said the separate stream of intelligence, which they had not previously disclosed, reached the White House only late last week and was part of a flow that the officials said had prompted them to act urgently in the last few days.

The officials disclosed the information a day after the Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that much of the surveillance activity cited last weekend by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to justify the latest, specific warnings had been at least three years old. At the same time, the White House offered a vigorous defense of its decision to heighten the alert in Manhattan, Newark and Washington, with officials saying there was still good reason for alarm.
Why didn't they previously disclose this? Nobody's identifying themselves so far, so where's the downside? As of now, the timeline is:

Day 1 - We have urgent, specific, new information about possible impending attacks in New York, New Jersey and Washington! Orange alert now!

Day 2 - Okay, okay, it looks like the reports upon which we based the urgent alert were three or four years old. But we still felt they warranted a public alert, and we are not, repeat, not politicizing these alerts!

Day 3 - Oh, by the way, we also have spankin'-new intel, fresh off the burner, that contributed to the rationale for the alert. We've had it since thursday, but we've kept it from you up until this point, when some anonymous "senior government sources" leaked it.

Huh?

As I said yesterday -- and quite level-headedly, I might add, hehe -- this stinks.

Maybe, if the intent here was to bait people into questioning the timing of this alert, there was a strategy at play here. But that would be, you know, politicizing the alert and all, and we can't have that, so they're damned either way.

The excuse they give?
A senior White House official who mentioned the new stream of intelligence in an interview refused to say anything more about its source or content. The official said it had not been publicly disclosed out of concern that such a step could compromise intelligence and law enforcement operations in the United States and around the world. Officials would not describe those operations but said they were meant to disrupt a possible plot.
Hmm, maybe this senior administration official should hang out with that other senior administration official who talks to that Bob Novak guy. Yeesh. And besides, I don't quite see how disclosing the new info now, as opposed to sunday, wouldn't mess with ongoing intel and enforcement operations.

Complicating the matter is that two other anonymous officials involved in the investigation say they didn't see evidence of an impending attack, according to USA Today.

Let's keep an eye on all this in the coming days. (links via Slate's Today's Papers feature)

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