There’s a lot of complaining about this latest terror attack information that prompted a code orange terror threat for New York, Washington, D.C. and Northern New Jersey. The biggest gripe about this information is that the information is three years old.
The people who are complaining the loudest — at least from what I can tell — just so happen to be Kerry supporters who are trying to claim that because the information is so old, and because its release happened to coincide with the “dark” period after the Democratic National Convention and that of their Republican counterparts, it can only be a political ploy.
Perhaps it is.
But I avoided the “rebellous years” completely because of a pesky habit of considering consequences of actions.
The planning for the 9/11 attacks began in 1996. This means that it took five years of careful planning, eyeing of our security strengths and weaknesses, and the effective exploitation of those weaknesses to pull the attacks off.
The documents recently discovered in Pakistan seem to date as far back as 2001, though investigators still haven’t pinpointed dates for much of the material since the terrorists didn’t date every piece of potential evidence. (How annoying of them…those terrorists should really be more organized!)
But if 9/11 was any indication, it took them five years to actually bring their plot to fruition. If these newly-discovered documents are from 2001, all things being equal, terrorists could be able to execute these plans as late as 2006. Who’s to say that if they were able to organize themselves well enough to pull off such a dramatic and intricate plan in five years, that they haven’t improved their capabilities in the three years since that day?
Do the documents mention any specific time frame for the attacks? Apparently not, at least not in what’s been uncovered so far. Is it possible that they could be planned for this year because of a presidential election? Sure. It’s as possible they aren’t planned for this year, either. They may want to wait until 2005, when the election is over…when we’ve adjusted to either the thought of another four years of someone few people like or have adjusted to the thought of four years of someone new that few people like.
Just when the political action is over, when we’ve gone months without any problems, when our sense of security and confidence is high, then they strike. If we make it to 2006 without another terror attack, how much more dramatic would an attack be then?
It’s all speculation, but then again, that’s about all we have to work with at the moment, anyway, right? File this piece of data away in your “Life is Unfair” file: terrorists don’t go for advance publicity.
So here’s a hypothetical question for you, kids:
Intelligence officers locate undated documents that seem to spell out details of a terror attack planned for specific parts of the country. Some details suggest specific possible targets. You’re in charge. What do you do?
Do you tell anyone? Do you report your findings? Or do you sit on the information quietly while you wait for labs to attempt to date the material? Do you wait for more details to emerge? Do you keep your mouth shut until you are able to identify the flight numbers terrorists will take (if another hijacking is involved) or license plate numbers of rental vans they will use (if an Oklahoma City-style bombing is the method of choice)?
You’re going to be damned no matter what decision you make; you should know that before you answer!
If you release the information immediately, thinking that because you don’t know exactly when the attack might be planned, it’s better to be safe than sorry, you’ll be accused of trying to scare people into voting for you.
If you decide to hold off on releasing any of it until you are able to confirm the date, you’ll be questioned about how long you knew the threat was there. Your opponents will demand an explanation of why you didn’t let anyone know immediately, pointing out that if a terror attack had occurred in the interim, those victims’ blood will be on your hands.
If you decide not to release anything until you are certain the attack is credible, your opponents take great pains to incorporate false logic: they will insist that the lack of further attacks can only mean that terrorists have given up on their plans and the fact that you’ve been quiet about new threats can only mean that you’re ignoring the threat altogether or aren’t taking the threat seriously.
Playing the “what if” card, if it’s not clear, is only an acceptable strategy for your opponents: “What if” is only valid if you delay the information’s release. If you try to ask, “What if, by releasing this information, we might have thwarted a plan?” you’ll be laughed under the table and accused of preying on fear for votes.
No matter how you choose to answer, you have to admit one thing: it wouldn’t be an enviable position in which to find yourself to find yourself.
So what do you do? Do you release the information or not? Either way, you’re taking a chance.