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Friday July 23, 2004

Clinton W. Taylor has apparently confirmed the gig where the band of 14 Syrians played. These 14 Syrians were the ones who Annie Jacobsen described in "Terror in the Skies". So they were a real band. Big deal. As someone in the blogosphere remarked, if terrorists can learn to fly airplanes, surely they could learn to play instruments. (maybe they just learned the beginnings to songs--ed.) At any rate, they were thoroughly checked out by the authorities, right? Not so fast. There are reports that the 14 Syrians ALL had expired visas:.

WNBC investigative reporter Scott Weinberger on Joe Scarborough's MSNBC show tonight that the 14 Syrians on Northwest Flight 327 ALL had expired visas. He said his sources told him that law enforcement officials xeroxed the men's paperwork without looking at the dates. The visas had expired nearly a month earlier, according to Weinberger.

There's more. There were specific warnings. In fact, the Department of Homeland security had issued a terror alert for six airports that very day. This alert included both ends of flight #327: Detroit and LA:

The Department of Homeland Security has issued an alert that warns customs officers at six of America's busiest airports to watch for travelers of Pakistani descent who show physical signs of preparing for terror attacks against the U.S. The unusually specific internal warning covers customs checkpoints at three East Coast airports -- New York's Kennedy, Newark, and Washington's Dulles, as well as international airports in Detroit, Chicago (O'Hare), and Los Angeles (LAX).

Clinton writes, that as a result of the alert and the odd behavior of 14 middle eastern men on the airplane, authorities should have been more proactive and less reactive:

That means that our air-traffic system was expecting trouble. But rather than land the plane in Las Vegas or Omaha, it was allowed to continue on to Los Angeles without interruption, as if everything were hunky-dory on board. It certainly wasn't. If this had been the real thing, and the musicians had instead been terrorists, nothing was stopping them from taking control of the plane or assembling a bomb in the restroom. Given the information they were working with at the time, almost everyone should have reacted differently than they did.

Yes, I think that we're marginally better off than pre 9/11. We're certainly more aware. But we're still unwilling to take the necessary steps that are required. We still afraid of upsetting the multiculterati (I made up that term yesterday--I'll try not to overuse it--ed.).

Just 10 days after September 11, in fact, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta made it clear that airlines may not discriminate on the basis of race during security checks. In addition, Mrs. Jacobsen reports, "During the 9/11 hearings last April, 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman stated that ' was the policy [before September 11] and I believe remains the policy today to fine airlines if they have more than two young Arab males in secondary questioning because that's discriminatory.' " This isn't a hollow regulation: In the three years following September 11, United Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines settled discrimination cases with the Department of Transportation for a combined $3.5 million. When it comes to keeping a closer eye on men of Middle Eastern descent — who have been almost exclusively responsible for attacks on airliners over the past two decades — the airlines have their hands tied.

Meanwhile, in a possibly related story, read this:

A Dearborn man was in federal court Thursday, accused of lying when he applied for his job as a TSA screener at Detroit Metro Airport. Back in October of 2002, Ahmed allegedly said he had never had his security clearance suspended, when in fact he had. His security clearance and access to classified information was suspended in 2001, while he was in the Air Force serving at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Ahmed is also accused of saying he never left a job under unfavorable conditions, when in fact he was discharged from the Air Force because he allegedly made statements that he supports Osama Bin Laden, that the U.S. deserved the 9/11 attacks, and that U.S. aircraft flying over Iraq should crash.

And we still can't stop them from flooding across out borders:

On or about the early morning hours of June 13, 2004 Border patrol agents from the Willcox station encountered a large group of suspected illegal border crossers, estimated to be around 158, just east of the Sanders Ranch near the foothills of the Chiricauha Mountains. 71 suspected illegal aliens were apprehended; among them were 53 males of middle-eastern descent.

According to a Border Patrol field agent, the men were suspected to be Iranian or possibly Syrian nationals. “One thing’s for sure: these guys didn’t speak Spanish and after we questioned them harder we discovered they spoke poor English with a middle-eastern accent; then we caught them speaking to each other in Arabic…this is ridiculous that we don't take this more seriously, and we’re told not to say a thing to the media, but I have to,” said the agent, who spoke to the Tumbleweed with the promise of anonymity.

Oh, here's another one:

Federal agents believe a South African woman they have in custody may have ties to terrorists. Farida Goolam Mahomed Ahmed was taken into custody Monday when she tried to board a plane at McAllen Miller International Airport. The Federal Bureau of Investigation would not release any information Thursday, but NEWSCHANNEL 5 obtained court papers filed by an FBI Special Agent assigned to the bureau's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The documents show that Border Patrol Agents stopped Ahmed at the airport while conducting an inspection. When asked for her status in the United States, Ahmed presented a South African passport with no entry or exit stamps and some pages torn away. She was also carrying a bag of wet, muddy clothes with her travel documents.

Investigators found travel itineraries showing that Ahmed flew from South Africa to London, via the United Arab Emirates on July 8. Six days later, Ahmed flew from London to Mexico City. After initially claiming her VISA was left in New York, Ahmed later admitted that she was smuggled into the United States through the Texas border.

Sounds like she was in The Amazing Race and simply got lost.

Neal Boortz is suggesting that the Media are Sheltering Sandy.

Ralph Peters writes that a new intelligence czar may do no good, but at least he would probably do no harm:

Changing chiefs is inadequate. You've got to change the culture of the Indians.

Our intelligence community has thousands of solidly competent staffers — and hundreds of brilliant men and women qualified to play in the intelligence Super Bowl. But managerial caution and careerism guarantees that their genius is always tempered, that our intelligence system remains far less than the sum of its very expensive parts.

Great intelligence work isn't about embracing every lunatic theory. But it is about having the courage to accept that not all innovative thought is lunatic. Top-of-the-game intelligence work requires risk-taking, whether on the analytical end or in the field (where agents forbidden to get their hands dirty will rarely get their hands on anything useful).

We have the talent, if not enough of it. What we lack is a 21st-century vision. And guts. And the common sense to recognize that the world will not conform to our prissy rules. If we are not willing to fight miniature wars in the shadows, we will fight great and painful wars in the light of day. If our thinking is timid, that of our enemies is bold. And if we value bureaucracy above excellence, we will have to endure complaints of "intelligence failure" for many years to come.

A new intelligence czar? Sure. Why not? The bureaucrats won't let him make a difference.

The last minutes of United Flight 93. Never forget.

I think this is satire:

Embattled US President George W. Bush today sought to distance himself from the simmering 'Timingate' scandal that has dominated the national press and broadcast news for the past three days, and threatens to topple his administration.

Perhaps this was the work of a Times editorialist who worships at the altar of Joe Wilson:

The same Congressional leaders who shrugged at the leaking of a C.I.A. agent's identity to punish her husband, a critic of administration policy, demand hearings on Mr. Berger (emphasis added).

I always get a chuckle out of James Lileks:

Kerry took the stage at the end of the rally and praised the performers as the "heart and soul" of America. Yes, that's the crowd that best exemplifies this country: 3,000 rich celebs who don't know what they pay in taxes unless the accountant tells them. Oh, they may never have been to Nebraskasota, or whatever that heartlandy place is called, but they just passed on a script that was set there. It was about a farm or something. The farms are always in trouble, aren't they? Stupid Bush.

Thursday July 22, 2004

As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. Similarly, give a bureaucrat a problem and he'll find a bureacratic solution. What else can explain the main proposal from the 9/11 commission? Their primary directive was to determine where the intelligence failures were that led to 9/11 and to propose solutions. So what's the solution? An intelligence czar. Yup, we clearly don't have enough guys in suits. Seems to me that one more layer of bureaucracy isn't likely to solve our problems. There were some signals of an impending terrorist action prior to 9/11, yet many of them did not even float up to the top desk of the existing heirarchy. Then we added the Department of Homeland Security (yes, another level). Isn't Tommy Ridge the de facto intelligence czar? Wasn't the DoHS ( think multiple Homer Simpsons--doh) supposed to integrate info from the other intelligence agencies? Meanwhile, we allow illegal aliens to flood across our borders and we refuse to profile middle eastern men who may be attempting 9/11 redux for fear of offending the sensibilities of the multiculturati. I'd like to believe that we're doing everything possible to protect ourselves, but I remain unconvinced.

Wednesday July 21, 2004

Blankley on Berger:

As close friends of mine have, in the past, been unfairly slandered (and had their golden careers truncated) by fraudulent Washington scandals, I honestly express no opinion about the Berger Affair. He may well, as he claims, be guilty of nothing worse than sloppiness. All people who care about this matter should await the complete unfolding of the facts before reaching judgment -- but you should be aware that while truth may be a byproduct of the scandal process, it is not the objective of either side in this nasty Washington blood sport.

Read more on the Bergermeister Meisterberger here and here and here and here and here.

Also, lots of good comments over at Instapundit.

Jonah Goldberg writes of The Imperial Middle:

November 2 promises to be another in a long line of elections decided by those Americans who are the least engaged, least interested in, and least informed about politics. And even if that's an overstatement, the media will work very, very hard to convince the public and the politicians that "moderates," "swing-voters," "independents" and "undecideds" are the heart and soul of American politics.

That's why I'm never bothered by all the negative reports of "voter turnout". It's always reported as if it's a terrible thing that must be remedied by more "get-out-the-vote" drives. I say, if people aren't motivated enough to register and vote then they're probably not motivated enough to know the issues. Just voting so you can say you did doesn't doesn't benefit society. If you're not informed enough to form an opinion on the issues, don't bother.

I've not seen this reported elsewhere, so at this point I'm a bit skeptical:

The official sources at the ministry of interior and the national security advisor department have refrained commenting on the news of seizing three missiles of nuclear heads in the course of arresting Khudir al- Dori the former leader at the dissolved Baath party.Notably, Iraqi political sources on anonymity affirmed that the detaining of al- Dori by the Iraqi security departments resulted in the seize of three nuclear heads missiles .The sources indicated that Khudir al- Dori occupied top party and security posts during ex-regime. Al-Dori death announced after the collapse of the regime and counterfeiting death certificate issued for him. He was arrested in the site situated between Oja and Al-Dor .The sources were quoted as saying that these nuclear missiles were found in tunnel underground at six meters length were covered carefully to mislead sensitive scientific apparatuses detecting for these weapons.

Of course, if it does turn out to be true, the Democrats will most assuredly be primarily concerned with the timing. And there's also this.

The NYT has a story on the Annie Jacobsen Incident and the author, Joe Sharkey, is clearly unimpressed as he quotes Federal Air Marshall Service spokesman, Dave Adams:

Mr. Adams said he spoke by phone to Ms. Jacobsen for 90 minutes on Friday night. "This is an individual's perceptions," he said of her account of the flight. "Obviously, since 9/11, everybody's antennas have risen, and people are very concerned when they see something like this." He said that onboard air marshals did not intervene because the men weren't "interfering with the flight crew." Even so, he said, he had no doubt that "most of the stuff did happen" as Ms. Jacobsen described it.

Most of the stuff did happen, such as: ignoring the "fasten seat belt'' signs; congregating near the galleys in pairs or threesomes and just as the plane was on final approach, suddenly, seven of the men stood up in unison. Some walked toward the back lavatories and some toward the front. Two stood by the aircraft door. Yeah, I suppose this would raise some suspicions. But they were clearly not an individual's perceptions as Mr. Adams says. The Times article states that when Mr. Jacobsen notified the flight attendants of their concerns the flight attendant said: the crew were already aware of the odd behavior, including the fact that parcels like the McDonald's bag were carried into the lavatories and that the pilots were aware of it, and that there were people on board who are 'higher up than you or me' that were watching them. Also, as they arrived at the gate and were deplaning, waiting at the door were officers from the Federal Air Marshal Service, the F.B.I., the T.S.A. and the Los Angeles Police Department. So this was clearly more than one individual's perception.

One other small note. I noticed that the Times story didn't provide a link to the original article by Annie Jacobsen, however they did provide links to the company profiles of Northwest Airlines, McDonalds and JetBlue. As a reader, I know which are more important to me. How 'bout you?

Brent Bozell on Fox and Outfoxed.

When Fox News debuted in 1996, liberals couldn't contain their laughter at what they considered a sophomoric challenge to the dominant media. Then, Fox became a pest, the proverbial gnat that wouldn't go away. Ultimately -- almost overnight -- Fox overtook its cable competitors and became king of the hill. Fox became a menace on the media landscape that should have been aborted before birth, a blatantly biased and bullying blight on America.

That's the sour theme behind "Outfoxed," a new Michael Mooresque documentary funded and circulated by the radical lefties at and the so-called Center for American Progress. A summary of its thesis comes very near the film's end when John Nichols of The Nation proclaims that Fox must be stopped because it "limits" and "narrows political discourse."

Michelle Malkin is right, until we decide to control our borders we really aren't serious about curbing terrorism:

According to New Ipswich police chief Garrett Chamberlain, the feds told his department that they didn't have the resources to take the admitted illegal aliens into custody. Besides, since they were "only" garden-variety illegal aliens and not "previously deported" aliens or violent criminals, there was no reason to hold them. "You gotta be kidding me!" Chamberlain told me in an interview this week. "These people admitted they paid smugglers, admitted they were here illegally, and nobody wants to take them in?" Chamberlain noted that the 10 individuals supplied false birth date information ("one guy said he was 31 and was born in 1963") and gave obviously false names. "We called immigration five times before releasing, and they had no interest in them whatsoever."

As for the federal government's priority of only enforcing the law against "previously deported" aliens, Chamberlain wonders -- at a time when millions of illegal aliens are living, working, studying, voting and lobbying for their "rights" -- how anybody ever gets deported anymore. Chamberlain is furious and decided to go public with the incident, despite a politically correct code of silence among police chiefs about open-borders chaos. "We're asked by our government every day to increase our awareness and try to apprehend" law-breakers, Chamberlain mused, "and then they tell me to kick 'em loose? It's frustrating."

This is one area where the Bush administration is clearly unserious about the War on Terror. Look at recent events in Iraq. One of the first thing that the Iraqi interim government did was to try to secure their borders. They understand where many of their terrorists are coming from. Too bad we don't. Also read this from the Washington Times.

Tuesday July 20, 2004

One incident, two stories. This first one from Arutz Sheva titled, Fighting in the North:

A "grave incident" is being reported in the north, around noon today: Hizbullah attacked an IDF post in Zar'it, along Israel's Lebanese border, with shells and gunfire. The common disclaimer that "no one was hurt" is not being reported. The IAF responded almost immediately with a helicopter and artillery strike, destroying a Hizbullah position in southern Lebanon. This afternoon, terrorists in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets towards the western Negev. The rockets fell without causing damage or harm in open fields.

The second is the same incident reported by the AP titled, Israeli warplanes attack Palestinian base south of Beirut :

Israeli warplanes fired at least four missiles Tuesday at a Palestinian base south of Beirut, an official of the radical Palestinian group said. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command said. The attack targeted a base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in the hills of Naameh, about five miles south of Beirut. It was the second such Israeli airstrike against the area just over a month. There were no report of casualties.

Mark Steyn on the crisis in Darfur and the complete, total and utter fecklessness of the U.N.:

The point is that today's humanitarians are too busy for Sudan. Ask Barbra Streisand and she'd say, "Sudan Hussein? Bush lied!!!" As for Kipling, if he were around today, he'd be tied up with the big Not In Our Name march with fellow versifiers Harold Pinter and Andrew Motion. Or possibly he'd be preening with Ashley Judd and Rupert Everett and other experts at the big world Aids conference in Bangkok, and getting his photo taken next to an effigy of George W Bush smeared with blood. America spends more money combating Aids than the rest of the world combined, but why let some petty number-crunching spoil your fun?

...The Americans could probably make a difference in Sudan, too. The USAF could target and bomb the Janjaweed as effectively as they did the Taliban. But then John Mann and Harold Pinter and Rupert Everett would get their knickers in a twist, and everyone from John Kerry to Polly Toynbee would complain that it's "illegitimate" unless it's authorised by the UN. The problem is, by the time you've gone through the UN, everyone's dead.

The UN system is broken beyond repair. In May, even as its proxies were getting stuck into their ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan was elected to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Commission. This isn't an aberration: Zimbabwe is also a member. The very structure of the organisation, under which countries vote in regional blocs, encourages such affronts to decency. The Sudanese representative, by the way, immediately professed himself concerned by human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

...In W. F. Deedes's account yesterday, I was struck by this line: "Aid agencies have found it difficult to get visas." That sentence encapsulates everything that is wrong with the transnational approach. The UN confers on its most dysfunctional members a surreal, post-modern sovereignty: a state that claims it can't do anything about groups committing genocide across huge tracts of its territory nevertheless expects the world to respect its immigration paperwork as inviolable.

I find this very interesting.

Daniel Pipes outlines the Palestinian descent into chaos and has four observations:

The most thoughtful, well written and sober article I've yet read regarding the Joe Wilson flameout. It outlines his falsehoods matter-of-factly:

Number one: The winner of last year's Award for Truth Telling from the Nation magazine foundation, didn't tell the truth when he wrote that his wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, "had nothing to do with" his selection for the Niger mission. Mr. Wilson is now pretending there is some kind of important distinction between whether she "recommended" or "proposed" him for the trip...

...Number two: Joe Wilson didn't tell the truth about how he supposedly came to realize that it was "highly doubtful" there was anything to the story he'd been sent to Niger to investigate. He told everyone that he'd recognized as obvious forgeries the documents purporting to show an Iraq-Niger uranium deal. But the forged documents to which he referred didn't reach U.S. intelligence until eight months after his trip. Mr. Wilson has said that he "misspoke"--multiple times, apparently--on this issue.

Number three: Joe Wilson was also not telling the truth when he said that his final report to the CIA had "debunked" the Niger story. The Senate Intelligence report--again, the bipartisan portion of it--says Mr. Wilson's debrief was interpreted as providing "some confirmation of foreign government service reporting" that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger. That's because Niger's former Prime Minister had told Mr. Wilson he interpreted a 1999 visit from an Iraqi trade delegation as showing an interest in uranium.

Part II of Annie Jacobsen's Terror in the Skies. If you missed Part I, look here.

John Podhoretz on the 9/11 commission as they are set to release their big report:

The administration has no reason to take the recommendations seriously, because the commission's members did such an astonishing job discrediting themselves last spring. The supposedly bipartisan commission unexpectedly became a partisan tool, a sledgehammer to be used for the destruction of the Bush administration...

...Had the commission been better behaved, its report would have been considered unimpeachable. The president would have felt compelled to adopt its recommendations. That would have been true even though the central proposal is preposterous beyond belief.

Tod Lindberg has some advice for the Democrats:

...And yes, you are entirely within your rights to hate George W. Bush. No one will take that from you. Yes, Republicans hated Bill Clinton, and many still do. Yes, they also hate Hillary. If, on principle, you want to hate the Republican president just as much as Republicans hated the last Democratic president, no one will stop you.

But Americans in general do not hate George W. Bush. Moreover, they are not going to hate Mr. Bush. You might just win this election (don't count on it, though, because you might not). But if so, it will not be because Americans have suddenly wised up and realized they should hate Mr. Bush.

On the contrary. Most Americans like Mr. Bush and respect him for the way he has handled some very difficult challenges. My guess is that you would do better against him starting from that premise rather than starting from the premise that Mr. Bush is a thoroughly and irredeemably odious figure who could only be admired by a) people as odious as he and b) people who have been duped into a state of false consciousness by Mr. Bush's odious lies.

Don't get me wrong: You can run whatever kind of campaign you want, including one that drips contempt for everything having to do with the president of the United States. You can even demand of the American people, "Where's the outrage?" You have that right. I'm just saying that I have seen that sort of approach before, and I don't think it works very well.

More on the Alex S. Jones article about bloggers at the conventions.

Monday July 19, 2004

Some bloggers have been invited to the political conventions this summer and some are displeased. Why does Alex S. Jones hate us?

However, bloggers, with few exceptions, don't add reporting to the personal views they post online, and they see journalism as bound by norms and standards that they reject. That encourages these common attributes of the blogosphere: vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar.

Joe Gandleman has one possible answer: resentment:

In every profession there is a certain amount of dues paying. As someone who worked in the news media as a freelance, a fulltime contributor overseas, and on the staffs of two chain-owned newspapers, I can attest that there are certain hoops the journalistic establishment expects those who will be blessed with a forum to comment must jump through.

Bloggers will be covering the conventions WITHOUT jumping through the hoops. Without the editors (for better or for worse). Without being under the corporate pecking order which may entail advancing through layers of political gamesmanship. Without having gone through the organizational advancement required to be given a prominent forum to comment on big issues. And with freedom -- and an instant audience not provided for by a big corporation. So there's lots of RESENTMENT on the part of some because bloggers (perceived as nobodies without journalistic status) are doing it, not through the normal channels...and they will HAVE AN AUDIENCE.

Unlike Alex S. Jones, most bloggers don't constantly fret about how they are perceived. Mostly, I believe, is because most bloggers write to please themselves. They, for the most part are not reporters, but editorialists. They do not, however, have exclusivity on vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments and erroneous assertions. These attributes can be found in the major media on a daily basis. Also, bloggers generally don't have financial interests at stake (since the lion's share of us are not paid) and, therefore, no audience that they must satisfy. Alex S. Jones writes:

Is wanting public approval pandering or is public approval something worth trying to win? What did the public see in us after 9/11 that is worth struggling to preserve? Were we simply more human and accessible, less confrontational and negative? Can we do our job well and still be human and accessible -- and not so confrontational and negative? Is being overtly American in our reporting wrong? What does it mean to be an American journalist, as opposed to being a journalist without a national perspective, such as at the BBC? Where is the line between flag waving and simply reacting as an American?

All this constant self-evaluation and introspection, while sometimes beneficial (in moderation) can lead to preposterous results as Alex S. Jones demonstrates:

But they had not done any coverage whatsoever--in retrospect, this seems so strange-- of what you might think of in the aftermath of 9/11 of as "why do they hate us?" Coverage of [the motives behind] terrorism, which we all recognized existed, which we all recognized to be a threat, which was [in] evidence already in New York and in countries around the world where embassies and other terrible bombings took place. We recognized [terrorism] as a serious problem, a problem to us as a nation, but even then, even in that context, we had simply ignored the question of a complex motivational issue about how we were viewed from abroad.

If someone wants to kill you, do you really need to stop and ask yourself Why? So if Alex S. Jones dislikes bloggers, I say bully! He must feel somehow threatened.

Chrenkoff is about spreading the good news from Iraq:

And yet, there is good news coming out of Iraq, as this compilation of all the positive developments that you might have otherwise missed clearly demonstrates. I started looking out for good news from Iraq over two months ago, having gotten fed up with the unrelenting barrage of negative news coverage, which focused almost exclusively on violence, failure and dashed hopes. The good news is much underreported and not always easy to find, but clearly it's out there, and taken together with the usual Iraq coverage, it paints a much more balanced and, dare I say it, nuanced picture of a country, which is still waking up from a three decades' long nightmare and trying against many odds to become normal.

And also this:

In many ways, it now falls to the political blogs to do the work one would expect from the mainstream media - to provide a fair and balanced picture of situation in Iraq. It's the blogs that dig up the information, disseminate it, and bring to everyone's attention the more outrageous examples of media bias or carelessness with facts. As John Leo wrote recently, "[w]hat's new about the press is that so many people who follow it with a critical eye now have an outlet to howl about inaccuracy and partisanship. The big media used to be able to shrug off critics like this. Now they can't." Amen.

Here's a link to some cool tornado pictures.