There Is No Cat

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Sunday, August 8, 2004

Incompetence or just politics?

When I make my rounds of the blogs listed at the right, my first stop is usually my brother's blog. He noted a Reuters report about the unmasking of a double agent within al Qaeda and how it was a big security screw up. My brother described it as incompetence. While that's certainly a possibility, my immediate reaction was that it also might have been the result of political calculations by a White House that sees the entire world through the prism of domestic politics. The announcement of the capture of an al Qaeda operative in Pakistan was timed to coincide with John Kerry's speech at the Democratic National Convention, despite his having been captured days earlier. One result of this capture was the announcement by Tom Ridge of a raising of the terror color code alert. There was much speculation that this was an example of the administration "wagging the dog" to boost the President's sagging approval ratings. So the administration was compelled to produce evidence that there was something behind this raising of the alert. So they told the media that there was someone else being held by Pakistan who was another source of current information. The New York Times did some actual reporting and came up with his name, which a "senior Bush administration figure" helpfully confirmed. Unfortunately, this person had been turned by Pakistan and was being run as a double agent, much the way German spies in World War II had been captured by the British and then used to gather intelligence from the Germans and feed them incorrect information. It's classic spycraft. So now al Qaeda knows that this guy has been compromised, destroying his ability to act as a double agent. Oops! Incompetence? Or another example of the Bush administration's ability to shoot U.S. national security in the foot in return for short term domestic political gain?

Noted academic expert on political Islam Juan Cole lays out how it could have happened (found via Change for America):

So one scenario goes like this. Bush gets the reports that Eisa al-Hindi had been casing the financial institutions, and there was an update as recently as January 2004 in the al-Qaeda file. So this could be a live operation. If Bush doesn't announce it, and al-Qaeda did strike the institutions, then the fact that he knew of the plot beforehand would sink him if it came out (and it would) before the election. So he has to announce the plot. But if he announces it, people are going to suspect that he is wagging the dog and trying to shore up his popularity by playing the terrorism card. So he has to be able to give a credible account of how he got the information. So when the press is skeptical and critical, he decides to give up Khan so as to strengthen his case. In this scenario, he or someone in his immediate circle decides that a mere double agent inside al-Qaeda can be sacrificed if it helps Bush get reelected in the short term.

A White House capable of exposing one of its own CIA operatives to try and punish one of their critics may just be capable of doing the same thing again. But, as Cole points out, it also could just be stupidity. Maybe my brother is right.

Either way, these people are unfit to lead. I don't see how anyone can claim that this administration is strong on the war on terror. They may be strong on inducing terror in the American public, but that's about it. In a just world, Bush would have been impeached, convicted, and evicted ages ago.

Posted at 4:34 AM

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Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

Even if it is political and calculated, which I allow it might very well be, it is incompetence in fighting terrorism. I never said it was just stupidity.

Posted by lilbro at 1:53 PM, August 8, 2004 [Link]

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

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