Wednesday, October 12, 2005

NY Terror Tip a Possible Hoax

US Intelligence and Counter Terrorism officials are describing last week's reported threat against the New York City subway system as a possible attempt to curry favor or financial award on the part of the lone informant. (Washington Post: N.Y. Threat May Have Been a Hoax).

Anytime you offer a monetary reward for information, you run the likely risk that people will make false reports in an attempt to claim that reward. In this case, however, the claims - whether false or otherwise - were extremely costly to the city of New York. There is no difference between providing false information on a potential terror threat and actually calling in a phony bomb scare. The latter is illegal and so too should be the former.

A military intelligence officer involved in the case provided some disturbing information yesterday. According to this military officer, "We don't seem to have contact with him at the present time. He appears to be in hiding or on the run."

Let me understand this correctly. Someone provides highly detailed information on a potential terror threat against the US, so detailed that this person obviously would have to have inside contacts with the terror cells, and we no longer know where he is? How do we let someone like that slip away? If his information was fabricated, then he's guilty of making a terror threat against the US. If his information is accurate, then he has a lot more information that we need to squeeze out of him. Either way, there's absolutely no excuse for losing track of him.

We are fighting a war that depends greatly on under cover intelligence sources. To date, I've been less than impressed with the job our intelligence agencies have done in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. There's a tremendous credibility gap that these agencies must overcome in the eyes of the American public. It does not help them overcome that gap when they are made to look like Keystone Cops on the world stage.



Alan Fraser said...

Of one thing you can be sure about terrorist threats: whenever Bush is in political trouble, there will be the 'credible threat of attack' shortly thereafter.

contratimes said...

Dear Kannafoot,

I found my way to the Grape's Vine via your comment posted at absit invidia.

I think you raise a legitimate concern here about the whereabouts and why-fors of this informant. And for the first time since this whole thing in Iraq started, I am feeling sceptical about these alleged threats (in other words, I am feeling a bit like Alan Fraser, who comments above). In fact, the letter released yesterday allegedly written by OBL's Number 2 man strikes me as rife with problems. It, to me, is as untrustworthy (how do I know its veracity?) as the Downing Street Memo.

But I would offer a couple of other explanations about the alleged informant's disappearance. For example, perhaps he is now afraid of the US intelligence services (as he should be, I think). Perhaps he is fearful of assassination, not by US officials, but by members of his own circle. Or perhaps US officials are playing a hiding game merely to protect the source from inquisitive journalists.

None of this is, on my part, an effort to justify the informant, the intelligence services, or the administration. I am merely pointing out other possible explanations.

But really (and this is little more than an admission that I am rather slow), the past few days mark the first time that I've begun to seriously doubt much of what I am being told (through the press and the Prez) about these alarming affairs.

Fight the good fight (and it is a good fight),


PS. I note the World Vision ad on your blog. My late father was a huge supporter of that charity. That must make you a great man, for he surely was. Thanks.

Kannafoot said...

I'm always skeptical about any pieces of intelligence that are released through the media since our intelligence agencies also use the media as a tool. This whole subway threat affair does have a suspicious odor around it on all fronts.

I've always tried to avoid the government conspiracy theories surrounding leaked information, and Alan will be the first to tell you that he and I rarely agree. In this case, however, there is certainly a developing pattern between poll numbers and "credible threats".

You do raise a valid point about the recent letter to al-Zarqawi. That letter had "propaganda" stamped all over it. I don't believe the target of the propaganda is the American people, however. Rather, I think that's targeted at the people in Iraq and the rest of the Arab World to give them a sense that the insurgency is starting to unravel.

As you say, there are other possibilities regarding the informant. He may well have been allowed to slip away since you can then possibly follow him to other cells or sources of additional information. That's all part of the espionage game.

What it's important for all of us to remember is that the media may well be unwitting dupes in the propaganda wars. Not everything that is released by the State Department or the White House is what it appears to be on the surface. Now, that's not a "Bush is lying" claim, it's a realization that the media is a tool to be used in the propaganda arm of the War on Terror. It's our responsibility to view information with open-minded skepticism in an attempt to discern the truth.


Thank you for your kind words regarding World Vision. From all the research I've done, they are a charity that does a tremendous amount of good both at home and abroad, and as such they are one of the few charities I'm willing to publicly support.