Thursday, August 10, 2006

Red Alert!

Cal Thomas issues the alert that the Taliban wing has captured Democratic Party! The White House is prepared to invade any country to recapture the Democratic Party from the extremists who, if Cal Thomas is to be believed, hate small puppies. How
Oh, and apparently some people were planning to smuggle parts of a bomb onto a British plane. As a result, you can no longer carry liquids onto aircraft. Hurrah! That water bottle you bring to prevent dehydration? Banned. The bottle of wine you bought in Europe? Not coming back with you. The remote control for your car? Verboten. But, of course, medicine, baby formula, laptops, cell phones, and PDAs are still allowed, so someone could still sneak a bomb through.

This type of attack was attempted once before, so these new precautions were either considered and rejected before (presumably as not useful) or the counter-terrorist thinkers never considered this type of attack, even after it had been attempted. I'm voting for the first option, and have to say that security theatre may be worse than no security at all. It ties up security personnel on nonsense, leaves holes that terrorists can drive trucks (or at least bottles of explosives) through, and makes everyone else's life worse.

This incident also exposes the petty triviality of the attempt to link the White House/Lieberman position on Iraq to any sort of defense against terrorism. As Ivo Daalder points out,

At the core of the administrations’ war on terror are two strategies, neither of which appear to be particularly relevant in this particular case. One is the notion that we can best win the war on the offense — that should “fight them over there so we don’t need to fight them over here.” That’s what the Iraq War, and Bush’s support for Israel’s fight against Hizbollah, are all about. …

What appears to have cracked this case is not a war strategy or military offensive, but good intelligence, skilled detective work, and months of careful surveillance — the kind of traditional law enforcement strategies and defensive measures that Bush and his administration have always shunned.

This apparent success also undermines the second core element of the administration’s war on terror — the notion that effective counter-terrorism action requires ignoring established procedures and the rule of law. As the Brits have shown, there is no need to subvert the law, or civic liberties, to conduct effective counter-terrorism operations. And when the UK government found that some laws (e.g., on the duration of detention) might interfere with effective investigations and actions, it has sought to change the law through established parliamentary procedures rather than to ignore it as Bush has been wont to do.
So long as our soldiers are dying in Iraq, and our intelligence focus is on protecting them there, our analysts aren't watching the networks for evidence of these sorts of attacks at home. This is very much a zero-sum game, since senior Arab linguists keep getting fired or quitting under pressure. There's only so much data to analyze, and so much time and so many people to analyze it.

Pulling our National Guard back home to patrol our airports, to search cargo containers, and letting the NSA, CIA, FBI, DIA and other groups get back to finding the terrorist cells that might try to infiltrate this country, or that already have, would make us all safer. The people of Connecticut know it, and I hope we have a Congress that can recognize this simple truth after the next election.