In an interesting coincidence, on the same day that the Bush Administration was embarrassed by exposure of a program to mine international bank transaction data last month, the Administration announced that a terrorist plot in Miami to attack the Sears Tower in Chicago was caught early, and seven arrested before they got the materials for the attack. The news ran both stories hard – you could hear it on radio the whole day.
Today the Administration stopped another “terrorist network” plot in the planning stages, this one overseas, that was planning to attack New York and New Jersey transportation systems, and they have arrested three suspects. [Editor Update - Talking Points Memo quotes the Washington Post as suggesting this plot may not have been as big as has been advertised by officials.]
In today’s events, as in the earlier Miami law enforcement action, we are told that no materials for destruction were bought (and in this most recent case no money sent) and there is no immanent threat. We are given reason to fear while being reassured. It is the same schizophrenic mindset we were asked to adopt when, fresh after the September 11th attacks, President Bush told us in a national address to Congress – be aware of terrorism – but makes sure to go shopping and take vacations.* It wasn’t much of a sacrifice compared to that of the thousands who died in the Twin Towers.
With another administration perhaps I would not sense the start of a pattern.** But in an Administration where politics trumps governance, old evidence is conveniently timed and treated as new and political market timing – not evidence and planning – dictates war, you’ll forgive me if I wonder. Could it be that this story is timed to help knock out stories and concerns about nuclear weapons in North Korea or Israel’s incursion in Gaza? Regardless of outside events, could it be the Bush Administration’s attempt to establish a reputation of competent anti-terrorism and maintain a level of fear to bolster shaky Republican electoral prospects in 2006?
I hope I’m proved wrong – Americans have been through enough in the Bush years – but you’ll forgive the lack of trust earned through experience watching the Bush Administration.
* While ‘go shopping’ is a summary of the meaning, the actual quote from the September 20, 2001 address to Congress is “I ask for your patience with the delays and inconveniences that may accompany tighter security and for your patience in what will be a long struggle. I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity; they did not touch its source.”
The “vacations” reference comes from a Bush speech at O’Hare where he said, “And one of the great goals of this nation’s war is to restore public confidence in the airline industry. It’s to tell the traveling public: Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”
** I wrote the bulk of this before seeing Josh Marshall’s ‘skeptical but waiting’ take. I don’t deny that some of these revealed plots may be the genuine thing – but with the Bush Administration one has to separate not only the real from the imagined, but the secret from the publicized. When what may be the most secret White House Administration ever divulges terrorist plots – you need to ask why.