Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cause & Effect

First, the cause:

The prelude to approval of the [FISA upgrade legislation] occurred in January, when the [Bush] Administration agreed to put the [NSA Terrorist Surveillance] program under the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court is charged with guarding against governmental spying abuses. Officials say one judge issued a ruling in January that allowed the Administration to continue the program under the court’s supervision.

A ruling a month or two later — the judge who made it and its exact timing are not clear — restricted the government’s ability to intercept foreign-to-foreign communications passing through telecommunication “switches” on American soil.

The security agency was newly required to seek warrants to monitor at least some of those phone calls and e-mail messages. As a result, the ability to intercept foreign-based communications “kept getting ratcheted down,” said a senior intelligence official who insisted on anonymity because the account involved classified material. “ We were to a point where we were not effectively operating.”

Mr. McConnell, lead negotiator for the Administration in lobbying for the bill, said in an interview that the court’s restrictions had made his job much more difficult.

“It was crazy, because I’m sitting here signing out warrants on known Al Qaeda operatives that are killing Americans, doing foreign communications,” he said. “And the only reason I’m signing that warrant is because it touches the U.S. communications infrastructure. That’s what we fixed.”

Then, the effect:

New York city police increased security throughout Manhattan on Friday and at bridges and tunnels in response to what they called an "unverified radiological threat," but said the city's alert status remained unchanged.

The New York Police Department said in a statement it has increased the deployment of radiological sensors on vehicles, boats and helicopters and had set up vehicle checkpoints in lower Manhattan and at bridges and tunnels.

Police confirmed the increased security was in response to receiving information that a dirty bomb may go off around 34th street in Manhattan on Friday evening.

The Empire State Building, New York City's tallest building, Madison Square Garden and Macy's department store are in the 34th Street neighborhood.

This was in response to the following al Qaeda threat:

The al Qaeda communications accuse the Americans of the grave error of failing to take seriously the videotape released by the American al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gaddahn last week. “They will soon realize their mistake when American cities are hit by quality operations,” said one message.

Another said the attacks would be carried out “by means of trucks loaded with radio-active material against America’s biggest city and financial nerve center.”

A third message mentioned New York, Los Angeles and Miami as targets. It drew the answer:

“The attack, with Allah’s help, will cause an economic meltdown, many dead, and a financial crisis on a scale that compels the United States to pull its military forces out of many parts of the world, including Iraq, for lack of any other way of cutting down costs.”

Obviously Manhatten didn't get "dusted" last night. City and federal officials are down-playing it today, but they must have thought it was more than an empty threat to take such precautionary measures.

Why are they down-playing this? Probably to avoid accusations of "fearmongering" from liberal Democrats, who are only interested in "connecting the dots" after an attack rather than before it, and then only when a Republican is on the White House to take the blame. One way to help determine if a particular 'Net threat like this is bona fide is, of course, to monitor terrorist communications, which the Dems adamantly oppose on "civil liberties" grounds. That would be al Qaeda's "civil liberties," I suppose, as the Donks are ever intent on curtailing our own, as unconstitutional gambits like the "Fairness" Doctrine amply illustrate.

Maybe this threat is real, maybe it's a feint, and perhaps it's just bluster. Or maybe the attack is scheduled for a later date. If the TSP had been in full operation the past eight months, we'd probably have a lot clearer idea one way or the other. As it is, the Bushies have been barred until the last few days from sorting the "chatter" wheat from the "chatter" chaff, and whether it's in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, or someplace else, a lot more American lives may soon be lost as a result. And it'll be the President's fault, of course, for "failing to connect the dots" while bound, gagged, blindfolded, and earmuffed.

For a bunch that has always considered Dubya to be dumber than a Crawford fence post, the Dems sure do expect miracles from the man - when it suits their purposes.