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November 15, 2006

Comments

A little Googling turned up this collection of terrorism-related news and reports from December 1999. There are a lot of reports about things that didn't pan out, but mixed in with those are the ones that did, about Al Qaeda generally, about the need for extra attention at customs, and the like. This is what I mean when I refer to things like policy, attitude, and culture - a general interest in dealing with the threat and keeping alert to it. It's exactly what Bush's staff threw out to focus on nation-states.

Penalty. Wilful missing of the point: 15 yards, repeat first down.

I didn't miss the point Slart, I simply felt that the best response was a one-liner.

Well, actually if you were suggesting that Bush, like Clinton, did in fact take some sort of well-intentioned but tragically futile Maginot-line type actions after he took office (and was immediately informed that the Clinton NSC considered funnymentalist terrorism to be the #1 national security threat), then I guess I did miss the point. My bad. In my defense, your comments are tricky to parse sometimes.

The point was, by the way, that Clinton had 3 entire years to ready himself against the nonspecific threat of a terrorist attack. And accomplished little.

See, that's what I thought. It's not exactly an argument I've never heard before. I don't suppose you'd care to break with tradition and offer some concrete scenarios for what else Clinton might have done?

Which had what effect?

At an absolute bare bones minimum it had the highly desirable effect of ensuring that the intel in August of 2001 was hella better than the intel in 1997. Better enough that by 2000 the CIA is at least aware of an Al Qaeda planning meeting in Malaysia before it takes place, even though the significance of that meeting isn't clear until after the Cole bombing. Good enough by 2001 in fact, that the 9/11 attacks are predicted -- in general outline if not in detailed specifics -- over a month prior to their execution.

Other effects are debatable. You are not alone in thinking the additional resources that Clinton brought online between 1998 and 2000 were insufficient, because they did not manage to determine the method or location of the 9/11 attack. Apparently even Clinton thinks that. But that does not excuse the Bush policy of doing, almost literally, nothing at all with those resources once they took control of them. And it does not mean that the measures Clinton took were so ineffectual as to be pointless.

Well, Slarti, it wasn't until after the Bush administration had chosen to actively ignore the threat bin Laden posed that we lost the WTC...

Addendum: I'd be reluctant to assert that the foiling of the Bojinka and Millenium plots weren't dependent to a large degree on sheer luck. Likewise the Embassy bombings (though probably not the Cole IIRC) could likely have been prevented if a few key counterterror folks had been paying closer attention (or if that Nigerian ambassador whose name I can't remember had been taken seriously when she said the Nairobi embassy was totally insecure).

In re the matter of luck however, I would refer you to the old saying that showing up is half the battle. Or else to the Ringworld books, which are equally instructive and a lot more fun ;-)

Radish, I feel quite comfortable saying that the key discoveries in those cases were sheer luck. Where the institution matters is in what happens when that information is passed along.

Well, actually if you were suggesting that Bush, like Clinton, did in fact take some sort of well-intentioned but tragically futile Maginot-line type actions after he took office (and was immediately informed that the Clinton NSC considered funnymentalist terrorism to be the #1 national security threat), then I guess I did miss the point.

No, not suggesting that. But Bush didn't have one of the hijackers crossing the border with a trunkload of nitroglycerin as a warning flag, either.

In my defense, your comments are tricky to parse sometimes.

Yeah, I know. It's part of the struggle that being me is. Sometimes I read my own comments a few hours later and wonder what the hell I was trying to say. It makes reconstructing my analysis at work more of a challenge, but math is supposed to be terse.

Good enough by 2001 in fact, that the 9/11 attacks are predicted -- in general outline if not in detailed specifics -- over a month prior to their execution.

You are so going to have to show me. Nothing I've seen has been at all specific as to date or anything else useful. Hijacking was mentioned, certainly, but as others have noted countless times, hijacking an airplane is a completely different notion from hijacking an airplane and ramming it into a building full of people. One is a hostage situation, the other is a weapon.

And it does not mean that the measures Clinton took were so ineffectual as to be pointless.

Can you tell me what those measures consisted of?

But Bush didn't have one of the hijackers crossing the border with a trunkload of nitroglycerin as a warning flag, either.

I think I need some clarification here. Is it or is it not your view that the absence of explicit indicators about the nature of the 9/11 plot justifies the Bush admin's pre-9/11 counterterrorism policy?

Ultimately it's a matter of opinion what sort of action the leader of the free world should take when informed that a terrorist attack is likely, but the intel isn't explicit. But really, how does the fact that the millennium plot had already been foiled (with a lucky break, no less!) justify any sort of "stand down" afterwards? That would require the assumption that no additional plots were under way. Which flies in the face of the fact that numerous plots had been uncovered over the previous years, and yet others had succeeded.

You are so going to have to show me.

How about if I help you find it instead. Here's a timeline that seems to show most of the relevant events. More details available via google. Enough, hopeully, to convince you that the intel was better in 2001 than in 1997.

I think the rest of your paragraph is sort of self-refuting in two ways. (or is it just self-rebutting? ;-) First, we're dealing with people whose established MO is suicide bombs, we have been warned about possible hijackings, and we have a perp already in custody who says in so many words that plane=bomb is one of the options under consideration. Also, if you're aiming for prevention it doesn't much matter whether the plane will be used as a weapon, or as a container for hostages, or simply as a vehicle.

Can you tell me what those measures consisted of?

You mean besides paying attention, creating a joint FBI/CIA task force, indicting Bin Laden, putting him on the most-wanted list, bombing the nerve gas plant aspirin factory, ordering the original arming of the predator drones and the submarine standbys, alerting the FAA, or any of the other things a person could look up if only they had some sort of super-1337 intel tool at their disposal? Granted, it was all pointless in hindsight.

I could of course email you the classified files that I keep (carefully compartmentalized of course) stuffed into my socks, but I like you, and I wouldn't want to have to kill you afterwards... Richard Clarke and Don Kerrick might be more forthcoming.

I think I need some clarification here. Is it or is it not your view that the absence of explicit indicators about the nature of the 9/11 plot justifies the Bush admin's pre-9/11 counterterrorism policy?

If I were trying to justify Bush's CT policies, this would be a good and relevant question. As I'm not: not so much.

Ultimately it's a matter of opinion what sort of action the leader of the free world should take when informed that a terrorist attack is likely, but the intel isn't explicit. But really, how does the fact that the millennium plot had already been foiled (with a lucky break, no less!) justify any sort of "stand down" afterwards? That would require the assumption that no additional plots were under way. Which flies in the face of the fact that numerous plots had been uncovered over the previous years, and yet others had succeeded.

It'd be very helpful if you'd tell me what point you're trying to make or rebut, here. Plots having been uncovered doesn't equate to increased watchfulness.

How about if I help you find it instead. Here's a timeline that seems to show most of the relevant events.

Which ones, specifically, warned of the 9/11 attacks before they occurred?.

First, we're dealing with people whose established MO is suicide bombs

And of course that MO extrapolates linearly to strapping on a passenger airliner and ramming it into a large building?

and we have a perp already in custody who says in so many words that plane=bomb is one of the options under consideration

One of your links says: Two years ago, federal prosecutors turned down a cooperation offer from a terrorist who claimed he was part of a well-financed 1995 plot to crash an airplane into the CIA headquarters. Was there a heads-up from the Clinton administration that such a thing was under consideration?

Oh, different plot:

It's not clear whether Murad's claims of a plan to fly a jet into the CIA buildings have any ties to the Sept. 11 attack on America. Murad gave investigators information that both resembles and bears no resemblance to the Sept. 11 attack.

His plan to blow up jetliners collapsed when bomb-making chemicals that he and his co-conspirator, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, were mixing caught on fire inside a Manila apartment.

Murad was captured in January 1994 in Manila, where he told Philippine interrogators about a plot he called "bojinka," or "big sound." In that scheme, he, Yousef and at least 10 others planned to get off the planes at stops along the planes' routes. The bombs would be detonated by timers in sequence over the Pacific, and none of the terrorists would be killed.

One of these things is not like the other. Kind of an anti-suicide bomb.

You mean besides paying attention

Which supposes much, on both sides of the argument.

Granted, it was all pointless in hindsight.

Possibly not pointless, rather close to ineffectual in my judgement. Ineffectual in that Clinton didn't do much that showed he recognized bin Laden as a serious threat.

Slarti: If I were trying to justify Bush's CT policies, this would be a good and relevant question. As I'm not: not so much.

Of course not. It's so much cheaper and simpler to attack Clinton than to defend Bush.

If I were attacking Clinton, that would be a reasonable criticism.

If I were trying to justify Bush's CT policies, this would be a good and relevant question. As I'm not: not so much.

Well then what are you trying to do exactly?

It'd be very helpful if you'd tell me what point you're trying to make or rebut, here. Plots having been uncovered doesn't equate to increased watchfulness.

Actually you seem to have gotten the point just fine: I believe that plots having been uncovered should lead to increased watchfulness.

Which ones, specifically, warned of the 9/11 attacks before they occurred?.

I was thinking specifically of the August 6 PDB, which, if I may quote myself, "predicted [the 9/11 attacks] in general outline if not in detailed specifics over a month prior to their execution." In any event I think pretty much everybody agrees that the intel was still crappy in 2001. I was trying to demonstrate that it was better in 2001 than in 1997, in answer to the question of what Clinton accomplished.

And of course that MO extrapolates linearly to strapping on a passenger airliner and ramming it into a large building?

Yes. Especially since the logic was already known to have been applied to boats. Sir! Ask me a hard one, sir!

Was there a heads-up from the Clinton administration that such a thing was under consideration?

If you're asking whether the Clintonistas explicitly told the Bushies that somebody was for sure planning to fly an airplane into a building (as opposed to merely notifying them that it was a possibility) then no -- the Clintonistas didn't know that themselves. Otherwise yes, because the possibility was alreadty on the table. The bojinka plot was known to FBI, CIA, and NSC people. Pretty much everybody with a CT brief would have been at least acquainted with it by the time W took office.

Please note that the "bears no resemblance" which you bolded refers to dissimilarity between the goals of the two plots, rather than a dissimilarity in means. Careful examination will even reveal the phrase "both resembles and" immediately prior to that.

Kind of an anti-suicide bomb.
You mean a homicide bomb? (Could Fox have come up with a stupider, more defective alternative phrase?)

Addendum:

Clinton didn't do much that showed he recognized bin Laden as a serious threat.

Yes, well, heaven knows it's no big deal to create a joint task force or put the leader of an organization on the most-wanted list. I say he should have rounded up every Muslim on the East coast and sent them all to Gitmo. But that's with benefit of hindsight of course.

Well then what are you trying to do exactly?

It's a binary world: I must either attack Bush or Clinton, but for God's sake I absolutely can never engage in anything resembling objective assessment. And of course it's impossible for me not to have an agenda, outside of discussion for its own sake.

>Especially since the logic was already known to have been applied to boats.
>

Oh, and don't forget about trucks. It's obvious that someone blowing a hole in the side of an American warship leads quickly and inevitably to terrorists training themselves as pilots, hijacking commercial airliners, and flying them into buildings full of civilians.

Obvious, I say. I bet even you predicted it, back in 2001.

The bojinka plot was known to FBI, CIA, and NSC people.

And it was just about as unlike 9/11 as it's possible to get, without tossing out the airplanes and terrorists part. Hey, we knew about terrorists and airplanes on 9/12, and still, someone managed to sneak a bomb onboard. Probably we just weren't up on our toes quite enough.

rather than a dissimilarity in means

Well, then you might want to read it again. Means: bombs smuggled aboard aircrafts. Goals: blowing up the airplanes. Non-goals: using the airplanes as guided missiles to attack large buildings full of people.

Yes, well, heaven knows it's no big deal to create a joint task force or put the leader of an organization on the most-wanted list.

Oh, I won't deny that bin Laden was a topic of discussion. Yes, there were likely many, many viewgraphs made up about him. Probably we missed him by that much.

Slarti: but for God's sake I absolutely can never engage in anything resembling objective assessment

Well, you never seem to do so, no.

Well, then you might want to read it again.

Or maybe we should all broaden our reading list.

Funny that Anarch is citing an indirect link to the same Juan Cole story that I eviscerated a few years back.

Link?

you'll notice a funny thing: the Millenium Plot wasn't foiled by any activity initiated by Clinton, it was foiled by an ordinary customs inspector doing the same job she'd be doing with or without any measures initiated by Clinton.

That in turn misses the point. You're quite right that the particular LAX plot was foiled due, as you said, to an ordinary customs inspector doing an ordinary job. What you're missing -- and I can't tell if this is deliberate or not -- is the subsequent measures taken by Clinton. It's those reactions which, to me, indicate the Clinton Administration's seriousness on counter-terrorism; yes, they didn't stop the initial attack through any foresight, but they sure as hell tried to make sure that subsequent attacks wouldn't get through either. They were obviously not completely successful but, I reiterate, at least they made a genuine attempt; the same cannot be said of the Bush Adminstration.

Obvious, I say. I bet even you predicted it, back in 2001.

FWIW, it was sufficiently obvious that I had predicted it back in the late 1980s. [And Tom Clancy has a book from a similar timeframe, though I haven't read it.] Not the specific agents, of course, but the basic idea? Hellishly easy if you just think about it.

And waitaminnit:

Ineffectual in that Clinton didn't do much that showed he recognized bin Laden as a serious threat.

What? Are you kidding me? How on earth do you derive that conclusion?

And of course that MO extrapolates linearly to strapping on a passenger airliner and ramming it into a large building?

Yes. Especially since the logic was already known to have been applied to boats. Sir! Ask me a hard one, sir!

And planes!

In fact, seems to me (in hindsight) that the failure of this particular endeavor may have alerted other Islamist groups with similar goals that simply sneaking on wearing uniforms and taking over on the ground wasn't going to work; that you had to get on legitimately, take over in-flight, then be able to fly the planes yourself.

I'm genuinely interested in what Sebastian, OCSteve, Charles, von, Slarti (and any other conservatives lurking in the background who plan on voting Republican in '08) think about these comments from John McCain...

He didn't say anything that would keep me from voting for him, mattt. I thought he had a pretty good take on things.

A general comment on Condi. As I saw from the 9/11 Commission report, she didn't lie in testimony and the Bush administration obviously reacted too little, too late to the PDB in question and other bits of intelligence. But at the same time, the PDB didn't have specific information on time, place, methods, etc., and they didn't have advance intelligence that terrorists would use jetliners as weapons of mass destruction. To foist responsibility onto Condi for this, absent others, is highly diluted gruel. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations are responsible for not doing enough in going after al Qaeda and preventing the 9/11 and other terrorist attacks. To lay it on Condi, without mentioning a long string of others for their inaction, is both irresponsible and nonsensical.

"To lay it on Condi, without mentioning a long string of others for their inaction, is both irresponsible and nonsensical."

Tenet says he came to her, right? If I understand her job description, she was a singular point of failure in the response. Surely others bear blame, but how can it be unfair to criticize her if one does not claim it was _all_ her fault? I'm sure we'll get around to others on your string.

He didn't say anything that would keep me from voting for him, mattt. I thought he had a pretty good take on things.

Thanks for responding Charles. Didn't intend to imply McCain's comments were worthy of condemnation (nor kudos).

Regarding post by katherine Nov. 15 2006.

Let us not forget Lawrence Ray is the one who came forward Dec. 2004 with the truth about Bernard Kerik. No one else did before or after. An investigation by Department of Investigation N.Y.C. resulted in Kerik being charged,arrested and pleading guilty to two criminal misdameanors , which smells of backdoor dealing. However it confirmed Ray was accurate about Kerik to say the least. If one takes a closer look at Ray, you find there were approx. two sentences in the March 2000 indictment, yes he plead guilty, possibly due to the fact he did not have an attorney and the judge was making the trial go forward that day picking a jury. Hopefully ssomeone will ask Ray directly. When you look closer, the attorney that Kerik was calling everyday is Jack Arsenault who represented Linda George who was/is a long time girlfriend of Kerik, lived in the townhouse owned by Kerik which is the townhouse a judge issued a bench warrant for kerik (while Kerik was Police Commisioner of NYC) over, and the same Linda George who was arrested in mid/late 90's for operating an illegal casino/prostitution scheme owned by the mob in Passaic County New Jersey. The Passaic County Prosecutors office started an investigation, including wiretaps of NJ Politicians taking thousands of dollars in bribes, which supposedly was stopped and sealed by a New Jersey Judge. Linda George I understand was at the time and is today an Attorney in New Jersey. She was represented by Kerik's close friend Jack Arsenault in Chatam N.J.
It has been said in litigation against NYC,,, Kerik is known for saying he will "Hunt Down those who are Disloyal".

I keep looking for the missing part of this whole story and hope someone is doing just that. I have been trying to follow, the best I can, what has happened to Lawrence Ray after exposing Kerik for what he is, a criminal with ties to the mob.
It looks like Ray's life after exposing kerik, became a nightmare which more than spells corruption, in his divorce/custody which started October 2004. It appears that Ray was arrested many times, his home broken into by Police without a search warrant and people are saying Ray says it is corruption. I believe that we would all learn more of the truth if someone would try to ask Lawrence Ray.

What Lawrence Ray did December 2004, I believe was a great justice to everyone and he and his family may or may not be paying a price for it. I simply hope someone is asking him directly, because it looks clearly like a cover up once again.

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