Just As I Thought

From the “why bother?” file

Homeland Security guy Tom Ridge is now saying that we should brace for a terrorist attack around the election.
But these warnings are always so vague and pointless:

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Thursday that al Qaeda may be moving forward with plans to carry out an large-scale attack on the United States.

Really? They may? Gee, that would be a real departure for al Qaeda, wouldn’t it? Then Bill Frist helpfully added:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, said the intelligence was “very non-specific” and there was “no reason for panic, no reason for paralysis.

They might as well hold a press conference to let us know that there is an increased risk of high temperatures and thunderstorms for “the next several weeks, the next several months.”

There are so many ways to interpret these warnings.
First off, I still find these threat warnings to be suspicious in their timing, seemingly coming when polls dip below a certain threshold or when there is something else in the news the administration wants to draw attention away from. It’s not like they’ve suddenly come across some new plot or something:

Officials say there is no specific intelligence of a planned attack on either of the major political conventions. The four-day Democratic convention kicks off July 26 in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Republican National Convention begins August 30 in New York City.

Officials say Ridge thinks it is time to again raise public awareness.

Second, it seems like more politicizing of terrorism for the benefit of the administration. Of course they’re going to claim that there are attacks planned for just before the election (which, after Madrid, is not out of the realm of possibility). Then when there’s no attack, the Bush campaign can claim — mere days before voting — that they have kept us all safe from the attack that was imminent. Another of those ways they have of taking credit for something that didn’t happen. They might as well say that Bush deserves credit for the fact that a 9.0 earthquake didn’t hit California during his watch.
Third, an official says “This is one of those damned if you do and damned if you don’ts, and our default is ‘do.’ “. Well, if they are erring on the side of “do,” why don’t they raise the alert level officially instead of just trying to scare people? They’re not accomplishing anything with these “unofficial” alerts because they’re not doing anything but talking.
Imagine, if you will, what would happen if there was an attack. Because Ridge did not actually raise the alert, his detractors would most certainly pounce all over the administration for not doing so. If there is no attack, his detractors would complain that he was just scaremongering.
Homeland Security needs to stop treading down the middle of the issue, because there’s no way to win there.

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