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September 21, 2004

Comments

If the Coast Guard estimate of $7.3 billion to secure ports is anywhere close to being accurate the failure to do so is beyond stupid. It is criminal.

This number is about 25% of annual estate tax revenues.

Using commercial jets as bombs was a one-shot weapon.

Seriously, given the lack of preparedness or investment in domestic security other than the airlines why haven't we been attacked again? AQ hasn't been destroyed, OBL hasn't beeen captured or killed yet the administration says we are safer because we haven't been attacked since 9/11 and SH has been deposed.

Why haven't we been attacked again?

Perhaps the question ought to be why haven't AQ attacked the US again? - a subtly different question.

What did OBL think would happen after 9/11? that we would lodge a strong protest with the UN or lob a few cruise missiles his way. Hell no he knew exactly what would happen, as anyone would, he knew we would come after him and he probably thought he could deal with the US the same way he dealt with the Soviets. But the US was smarter than OBL, or so we thought. The US didn't become embroiled in messy occupation or a nasty guerilla war to oust the Taliban and AQ, at least not in Afghanistan. And there's the rub perhaps OBL got exactly what he wanted after all and that's why the US hasn't been attacked again.

Using commercial jets as bombs was a one-shot weapon.

Seriously, given the lack of preparedness or investment in domestic security other than the airlines why haven't we been attacked again? AQ hasn't been destroyed, OBL hasn't beeen captured or killed yet the administration says we are safer because we haven't been attacked since 9/11 and SH has been deposed.

Why haven't we been attacked again?

Perhaps the question ought to be why haven't AQ attacked the US again? - a subtly different question.

What did OBL think would happen after 9/11? that we would lodge a strong protest with the UN or lob a few cruise missiles his way. Hell no he knew exactly what would happen, as anyone would, he knew we would come after him and he probably thought he could deal with the US the same way he dealt with the Soviets. But the US was smarter than OBL, or so we thought. The US didn't become embroiled in messy occupation or a nasty guerilla war to oust the Taliban and AQ, at least not in Afghanistan. And there's the rub perhaps OBL got exactly what he wanted after all and that's why the US hasn't been attacked again.

Using commercial jets as bombs was a one-shot weapon.

Seriously, given the lack of preparedness or investment in domestic security other than the airlines why haven't we been attacked again? AQ hasn't been destroyed, OBL hasn't beeen captured or killed yet the administration says we are safer because we haven't been attacked since 9/11 and SH has been deposed.

Why haven't we been attacked again?

Perhaps the question ought to be why haven't AQ attacked the US again? - a subtly different question.

What did OBL think would happen after 9/11? that we would lodge a strong protest with the UN or lob a few cruise missiles his way. Hell no he knew exactly what would happen, as anyone would, he knew we would come after him and he probably thought he could deal with the US the same way he dealt with the Soviets. But the US was smarter than OBL, or so we thought. The US didn't become embroiled in messy occupation or a nasty guerilla war to oust the Taliban and AQ, at least not in Afghanistan. And there's the rub perhaps OBL got exactly what he wanted after all and that's why the US hasn't been attacked again.

So sorry, I don't know what happened. Problems with the 'net' tonight.

It's worse than that.

Airport security may be the only area to have received any serious attention, but I have my doubts about whether even that is actually very much better. Sometimes people have to take off their shoes, and there's apparently a very long "watch list" full of random names, but last I heard the rate of failed security tests was still quite high. The only real differences seem to be longer lines and the ability of hysterical passengers to ground planes if they find middle eastern writing in a magazine.

Plus, airport security was probably the one area that could have done without much improvement. It was already pretty tight, at least tight enough that the terrorists didn't risk bringing more than box cutters or whatever. I really doubt anyone would have been able to take over a cockpit armed only with box cutters again, even if they did manage to get onboard.

Two questions:

a. Why do you think airline security is much better? How would you measure this? Like Jack, I've heard a lot of stories about tests that show that the security doesn't work, and in fact, keeping sophisticated, well-organized, well-funded bad guys from getting weapons on planes is a *really* hard problem. (Remember that you can get on the plane with no weapon, but with something that ought to trigger the same detectors, anytime you like. Just make sure everything else is in order, and you're at worst just one more false positive, in a sea of thousands and thousands per day.)

b. All those other security areas have costs attached to them, and I think you have to think through the costs vs. the added difficulty of doing the attacks. This means having someone (I sure hope we do this!) working on attacks, and seeing what defenses could stop at least the cheap or obvious ones. Would inspections of all cargo containers stop attempts to smuggle in a bomb? Or would that just make the attackers' job a bit more difficult? And how much added delay would it produce in getting things shipped?

I suspect we're often making really stupid security tradeoffs, just because the tradeoffs *aren't* obvious, and because nobody wants to be crucified as the guy who "ignored the alarm bells" and failed to spend a billion dollars preventing the specific attack that OBL & Co try next.

--John

Two responses:

1. In the Winter of '01/02, I went on a trip with my then 7 year old son. The computer chose him at random for the full search treatment. After much discussion, they let me tag along, just within earshot.

Son: Am I in trouble, did I do something?

Dad: No, they're just trying to keep everyone safe.

Son: Do they think I'm a terrorist?

Dad: No, they're just being sure.

Son: Why aren't they doing you?

Dad: Well, the computer picked you. It doesn't mean anything really thinks you're dangerous.

Son: Isn't think kind of stupid?

2. Why hasn't AQ attacked again? Here's one reason we can rule out: because they're afraid that we might retaliate.

I think about how this reflects on what we often hear about how the failure to respond to the Cole brought 9/11 on, in some way. While it's probably true that AQ thinks our response to the Cole, and the African Embassies was weak, I'm much less than sure that this opinion on the part of AQ had any real impact on the decision to go ahead with the attack on NYC.

On the bright side, this administration has successfully prevented Cat Stevens from entering the US. I may not feel safer but this great nation has struck a blow against insipid pop music.

Now, if we could work on that whole Country/western music threat....

John Kelsey: I suspect airliners are safer now simply because passengers aren't likely to sit back and allow themselves to be flown into a building again. On my post-9/11 flights, I've made sure to pack in my carry-on bag something nonthreatening that could nonetheless be used as a close-quarters weapon (e.g., a baseball in an athletic sock, kind of a homemade mace), and I'm sure I'm not alone in that regard.

I am a commercial pilot and from my perspective the only effective post 9/11 security measure has been the securing of cockpit doors. Everything else had to be done for 'political' CYA reasons and cost (continues to cost) a huge amount of money but if they can't open the door and I don't open the door then problem solved and for a relatively cheap one-time cost.

Jade,

For the record it seems that Cat Stevens may have a relationship with terrorists...

Islam, 51, who changed his name after becoming a Muslim in the late 1970s, last visited Israel in 1988. The government claims that during that trip he delivered tens of thousands of dollars to Hamas, a militant Islamic group, the Maariv daily reported...

Hilzoy,

I'm so flattered I don't know what to say... ; -)

I think you believe that a Kerry administration would be capable of managing these important issues better than the current Bush administration. I can understand you wanting to give Kerry a shot at tackling the problems.

Given the current state of his own campaign and his management of that campaign I find your faith in him impressive.

I concede that it is difficult to assess his career as a senator. One may love to vote YES for one part of bill, but vote NO because you hate another part of it. But still, based on his career as a senator he doesn't really seem to have a track record for getting things done. It appears to me that even he isn't really promoting his accomplishments in the Senate.


http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docID=241

FactCheck.org examined the official, published records of those hearings. And indeed, Kerry is listed as attending only 11 of those hearings.

Kerry's apparent absence from 38 of the hearings actually figures out to an absentee rate of 77.6%.

The Bush ad also says Kerry was absent for every single Intelligence Committee meeting during the year "after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center." That's true. The official records list four public hearings in 1994 -- the year after terrorists set off a truck bomb in the Trade Center's underground garage -- and Kerry is listed as attending none of them.

The ad also says Kerry "proposed slashing America's intelligence budget by 6 billion dollars," but fails to mention that figure was spread over six years.


http://www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docid=134

John Kerry is fond of saying "I led the fight" on a lot of things -- against Arctic drilling, against Bush's Medicare prescription drug legislation, for federal grants for 100,000 new police officers, against Newt Gingrich's attempts to lessen environmental regulations.

But reporters who cover Congress often gave others credit for the leading roles in some of those fights -- with scant mention of Kerry.

And The Associated Press last July found that only eight laws had Kerry as their lead sponsor, five of them "ceremonial," two relating to the fishing industry, and one providing federal grants to support small businesses owned by women.

In the most recent Democratic candidates debate, January 29 in South Carolina, Howard Dean confronted Kerry directly by accusing him of having a poor legislative record on health care:

Dean: Senator Kerry is the front-runner, and I mean him no insult, but in 19 years in the Senate, Senator Kerry sponsored nine -- 11 bills that had anything to do with health care, and not one of them passed.


Given Kerry's history in the Senate I find your faith in him impressive.


The most important issue to me is the WOT. Right or wrong that is the crucial issue for me. So the concerns you raise are valid and I wish we could fix them today!


WRT, my thoughts on the Constitution remember I put it in the following context:

Have we been invaded?
Are we currently under invasion?

If you answer Yes to both these questions, then I think it is necessary to respond decisively to that invasion. For me this all leads to the question, "How are we going to respond? Are we going to respond with a strong offense or defense?"

Ideally we would have both a strong offense and defense. Due to our lack of vision in the past we unfortunately have to begin with a weak defense, while our offense is the best in the world. It is the rare team that has both at the same time.

The Patriot Act may not be the ideal solution, but I do think it was/is an attempt to make up for weak defense with good offense.

It is a true statement to say that the defense hasn't improved enough. As a frequent flyer I have acknowledged many times that our defense is weak. But, as you point out in your detailed analysis that is changing. Not as fast as any of us would like, but it is improving... (much like the economy.)

It is unfortunate that we still have a weak defense, but it will take time to develop. Getting gov't to do anything is a monumental task. I can admit that one can easily argue where we should put our resources and all sides will have valid points.

John Kerry and you seem to agree:

"Today, our national security begins with homeland security."

Bush and myself tend to disagree with that:

First, we are defending the peace by taking the fight to the enemy. We will confront them overseas so we do not have to confront them here at home.

I acknowledge that an emphasis on one doesn't negate the other and that both are important tactics.

So far this administration has played to our strength (Offense) while bringing our defense along slowly. It seems you and Kerry would rather use our resources for strenthening our weaknesses. I'm not sure what signal that would send to our enemies. I do think Bush's preemptive approach does send a clear signal to our enemies around the world. I like that. I confess I am not sure what Kerry would have us do offensively with our military. I'm not convinced he knows either. I think that is where one of Kerry's disconnects with the American voter exists. He may act preemptively, but we just aren't sure. I think the average voter knows what they would do given the situation.

One can debate whether it was wise of the Bush administration to play to our strengths instead of our weaknesses. That decision will define how Bush is remembered in history and if Kerry is not elected it will most likely be for that reason.

I can accept disagreement with Bush's approach, but what is the alternative? Kerry? He has not even effectively managed his own campaign. Credit whoever you want with Bush's success, but you can't accuse him of having a confused management team. You can say all his decisions are wrong, but atleast you know what they are.

Kerry is a poor alternative to Bush.

Many people on the left are having a hard time telling the difference between a compromise and a flip-flop. Bush often gets accussed of being arrogant and uncompromising. When he does compromise he is criticized.

This is a compromise:

"after initially opposing both steps, the Bush administration formed the Department of Homeland Security and federalized airport screening."


I'm acutally not sure what these are:

"In October 2002, Kerry voted for the Iraq war resolution sought by Bush. Kerry voted against an alternative that would have authorized force only if the U.N. Security Council sanctioned it."

Soon after voting for the resolution, Kerry expressed dismay over the march to war. He said he wouldn't "support the president to proceed unilaterally" and consistently criticized administration policy leading up to the invasion.

“I voted to THREATEN the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations.” (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks At Announcement Of Presidential Candidacy, Mount Pleasant, SC, 9/2/03)

What the heck, THREATEN?

“George, I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity, but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the President made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him.” (ABC News, Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate, Columbia, SC, 5/4/03)

December 16, 2003
On December 16, at Drake University in Iowa, Kerry asserted that "those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

August 9:
Speaking in Arizona on Monday, Kerry declared that "even knowing what we now know," he would still have cast his vote in the Senate to authorize the Bush administration to invade Iraq. "I would have voted for the authority," said Kerry. "I believe it was the right authority for the president to have."


"It's the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said

Even if you some how can piece all this together... it's still weak.

The Patriot Act you say:

Kerry Voted For Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was passed nearly unanimously by the Senate 98-1, and 357-66 in the House. (H.R. 3162, CQ Vote #313: Passed 98-1: R 49-0; D 48-1; I 1-0, 10/25/01, Kerry Voted Yea)

“Most of [The Patriot Act] has to do with improving the transfer of information between CIA and FBI, and it has to do with things that really were quite necessary in the wake of what happened on September 11th.” (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks At Town Hall Meeting, Manchester, NH, 8/6/03)

“We are a nation of laws and liberties, not of a knock in the night. So it is time to end the era of John Ashcroft. That starts with replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time. I’ve been a District Attorney and I know that what law enforcement needs are real tools not restrictions on American’s basic rights.” (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks At Iowa State University, Iowa City, IA, 12/1/03)

Support the President?

“Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts … said he will cease his complaints once the shooting starts. ‘It’s what you owe the troops,’ said a statement from Kerry, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. ‘I remember being one of those guys and reading news reports from home. If America is at war, I won’t speak a word without measuring how it’ll sound to the guys doing the fighting when they’re listening to their radios in the desert.’” (Glen Johnson, “Democrats On The Stump Plot Their War Rhetoric,” The Boston Globe, 3/11/03)

“‘What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States,’ Kerry said in a speech at the Peterborough Town Library. Despite pledging two weeks ago to cool his criticism of the administration once war began, Kerry unleashed a barrage of criticism as US troops fought within 25 miles of Baghdad.” (Glen Johnson, “Kerry Says Us Needs Its Own ‘Regime Change,’” The Boston Globe, 4/3/03)

On coalition building:

"This president has done it wrong every step of the way. He promised that he would have a real coalition. He has a fraudulent coalition."

"John Kerry's campaign has warned Australians that the Howard Government's support for the US in Iraq has made them a bigger target for international terrorists.

Diana Kerry, younger sister of the Democrat presidential candidate, told The Weekend Australian that the Bali bombing and the recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta clearly showed the danger to Australians had increased."


On preemption:

"In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straight forward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies"

I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.

Edwards: I would scrap the preemption doctrine. We don't need a preemption doctrine. I never believed we needed a preemption doctrine. The president of the United States can do whatever needs to be done to keep the American people safe.

Kerry: Every president, from the beginning of time, has had a sufficient doctrine of preemption. Throughout the Cold War, the entire first-strike doctrine was based on a doctrine of preemption. But that's very different from the Bush doctrine of preemption. I don't subscribe to the George Bush doctrine as he has described it, which is very different. It's a preemptive war for the purpose of simply removing a dictator.

“I did not buy into preemption … I thought that was wrong,” Kerry told NBC’s Tim Russert last December. Further, his standard stump speech calls the doctrine of preemption the “most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy" in modern history.


Will Americans accept this kind of a president?

"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," - Mar. 16, 2004

"I voted against that $87 billion in Washington yesterday,"

On Judges:

This threat is that of the appointment of a judiciary which is not independent, but narrowly ideological, through the systematic targeting of any judicial nominee who does not meet the rigid requirements of litmus tests imposed …”

"WASHINGTON - Democrat John Kerry said Wednesday he’s open to nominating anti-abortion judges as long as that doesn’t lead to the Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal."

Sounds alot like a litmus test...


On the Wall:

“And I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government’s decision to build a barrier off the green line, cutting deeply into Palestinian areas. We do not need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israel’s security over the long- term, they increase hardships to the Palestinian people, and they make the process
of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder.” (Sen. John Kerry, Remarks Before Arab American Institute National Leadership Conference, Dearborn, MI, 10/17/03)

US Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, described Israel’s construction of a security barrier as a ‘legitimate act of self defense’

And this:

At a Houston “Earth Day” rally, John Kerry told his supporters that he truly dislikes gas-guzzling SUVs because they are poor for the environment.

During a conference call the same day, Kerry was asked whether he owned a Chevrolet Suburban. He replied, “I don’t own an SUV…the family has it. I don’t have it.” Did they give you a ride to the Earth Day rally?

On Unilateralism:

“I believe the Bush Administration's blustering unilateralism is wrong, and even dangerous, for our country. In practice, it has meant alienating our long-time friends and allies, alarming potential foes and spreading anti-Americanism around the world.”

“In dealing with states that are outright criminal, the United States may at times need to take unilateral action to protect its citizens, its interests, its integrity. This need not take as dramatic a form as our invasion of Panama and the arrest of General Manuel Moriega, though it would be unwise in dealing with criminal states to rule out that option a priori. It does mean that we can and should punish countries that willfully refuse to protect our citizens and in effect become state sponsors of criminality, as we are now doing with Myanmar and Nigeria.”

How does that previous statment jibe with his preemption policy? It gets muddled. When being preemptive is Kerry going to err on the side of caution like the Clinton administration or his he going to err on the side of protecting Americans?

From Gulf War I:

‘Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition ... to the early use of military force by the US against Iraq. I share your concerns. On January 11, I voted in favor of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be
given more time to work and against a resolution giving the president the immediate authority to go to war.’ --letter from Senator John Kerry to Wallace Carter of Newton Centre, Massachusetts, dated January 22 [1991]

Thank you very much for contacting me to express your support for the actions of President Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush’s response to the crisis and the policy goals he has established with our military deployment in the Persian Gulf.’ --Senator Kerry to Wallace Carter, January 31 [1991]”


Disagree and hate Bush all you want, but you can't say he hasn't picked a direction.

What direction is John Kerry going take?

Which version of Kerry should get our vote?


Since, I don't think I can answer these questions about Kerry and I really don't think Kerry can answer these questions about himself... I can't vote for John Kerry.


For the record it seems that Cat Stevens may have a relationship with terrorists...

Yusuf Islam denies it.

Press Release 13th September 2001 Press Release

I wish to express my heartfelt horror at the indiscriminate terrorist attacks committed against innocent people of the United States yesterday.

While it is still not clear who carried out the attack, it must be stated that no right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: the Qur'an equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity.

We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives in this unthinkable act of violence as well as all those injured; I hope to reflect the feelings of all Muslims and people around the world whose sympathies go out to the victims at this sorrowful moment.

Yusuf Islam

But, what the heck, Ashcroft has to show he's doing something since he's Oh for 5000 in post-9/11 terror convictions.

I feel much safer knowing I probably won't hear Moon Shadow any time soon.

Yeah, I think the Cat Stevens thing really highlights some of the idiocy here.

Suppose he really is a super dangerous terrorist. We did an awfully good job of keeping him off the airplane then didn't we? The "watch list" is apparently highly dependent on terrorists spelling their names the same way every time, etc. Useless, except maybe to ensure that every other flyer named "Yusuf Islam" gets hassled needlessly. If he'd just bought the ticket as Stephen Georgiou we probably never would have known.

Except it doesn't sound like he is an immediate threat. Just blacklisted because we think he wrote some checks that ended up in terrorist hands. Then why did we need to divert the plane from Dulles to Maine, screwing up the travel plans for every other passenger on the plane? And, since they were travelling together, couldn't whatever dastardly mission he was on could be completed by his daughter (who we let in)?

And if he is some terrorist mastermind, wouldn't we be better off letting him in, and then putting a team of FBI surveillance guys on him? He's not worth the agents? Then why did we need to divert the plane?

(BTW, I agree with postit. Securing cockpit doors was a good idea, and relatively cheap. But AFAICT, the rest is a waste of everyone's time and money. Securing the doors still doesn't prevent someone from, say, killing everyone aboard with a teaspoon's worth of nerve gas hidden in a shaving cream can, but neither does any of the other crap.)

I really don't know enough about baggage screening to say, but I would have thought some of that was helpful. The cockpit doors always seemed to me to be a no-brainer. But in almost every other area of homeland security, the problem is that we've done a lot of useless things; it's that we have barely tried anything at all.

Well, I'm too lazy too look anything up at the moment. It's possible, likely even, that gate security has improved a bit. Transferring jurisidiction from airlines to the feds probably made sense too. But it's basically impossible to prevent 100% of weapons from getting through. Lunatics and TSA security checkers were regularly sneaking guns through before 9/11 and they still are. The only way to totally prevent this would be to ban carry-on baggage. Also carry-on personal items, and carry-on clothing. Then cavity search everyone, and issue paper clothes. And maybe sedate everyone for the duration.

Fortunately, security only really needs to be good enough that sneaking a weapon through is fairly risky and unreliable. Obviously it already was pre-9/11, or the hijackers probably would have brought guns. Instead they brought small knives, etc., that were, at the time, not prohibited. Their real weapon was the fact that passengers and air crew did not think they had reason to resist strongly (previously, hijackings were far more survivable).

Since even today one can make perfectly serviceable weapons from bent up soda cans, metal luggage parts, baseballs in socks, etc., the real reason al Qaida can't pull the same trick again has nothing to do with gate security. It's because (a) passengers would resist this time, and (b) even if they somehow managed to subdue the passengers, they still couldn't get into the (now locked down) cockpit.

Kerry on coalition building:

QUESTION: Prime Minister Allawi told Congress today that democracy was taking hold in Iraq and that the terrorists there were on the defensive. Is he living in the same fantasy land as the president?

KERRY: I think the prime minister is, obviously, contradicting his own statement of a few days ago, where he said the terrorists are pouring into the country. The prime minister and the president are here, obviously, to put their best face on the policy.

Allawi told a joint meeting of Congress that democratic elections will take place in Iraq in January as scheduled, but Kerry said that was unrealistic

SF Chronicle weighs in on Kerry Clear:

For a candidate who has been in elected office nearly a quarter of a century, Kerry has at times shown a remarkable inability to explain the nuances of his position.

Allawi told a joint meeting of Congress that democratic elections will take place in Iraq in January as scheduled, but Kerry said that was unrealistic

Looks like Rumsfeld didn't get the right flavor koolaid:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday raised the possibility that Iraq (news - web sites) could conduct only limited elections in January, excluding places where violence was considered too severe for people to go to polls.

"Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great," Rumsfeld said at a Senate Armed Services Committee (news - web sites) hearing.


"Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," he said.

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