Posts Tagged “anti-terrorism”

'Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.' -H.L. Mencken (PsiCop original graphic)I’ve blogged a few times about the ongoing scam that is anti-terror security in the US. Their actions are frequently extreme and misdirected, and often absurdly out of proportion with the risk being dealt with. The government’s excuses for all of this ridiculousness are legion: “An abundance of caution” is typically cited as being necessary, as well as the need to be vigilant because the terrorists are everywhere.

I concede there are terrorists working to attack Americans … as well as people all over the planet. It would be insane to say there’s absolutely no danger. What I’ve consistently questioned is whether what’s being done, actually diminishes that risk, as well as whether or not the measures that are taken, are worth the small increase in safety they might provide. I’ve long agreed with experts like Bruce Schneier that it’s all just “security theater,” or useless exercises intended to make people feel safer, without actually doing anything to make them safter.

In its review of New York City’s claim of success in contending with the threat of terrorism, ProPublica has examined the city’s record, and found its claims disingenuous (WebCite cached article):

The NYPD is regularly held up as one of the most sophisticated and significant counterterrorism operations in the country. As evidence of the NYPD’s excellence, the department, its allies and the media have repeatedly said the department has thwarted or helped thwart 14 terrorist plots against New York since Sept 11.

In a glowing profile of Commissioner Ray Kelly published in Newsweek last month, for example, journalist Christopher Dickey wrote of the commissioner’s tenure since taking office in 2002: The record “is hard to argue with: at least 14 full-blown terrorist attacks have been prevented or failed on Kelly’s watch.”

The figure has been cited repeatedly in the media, by New York congressmen, and by Kelly himself. The NYPD itself has published the full list, saying terrorists have “attempted to kill New Yorkers in 14 different plots.”…

Is it true?

In a word, no.

A review of the list shows a much more complicated reality — that the 14 figure overstates both the number of serious, developed terrorist plots against New York and exaggerates the NYPD’s role in stopping attacks.

ProPublica goes over this list of NYC anti-terror successes, and points how they’re really failures. I’ll leave the details up to them to explain, but I do urge you to look at them and see it for yourself.

I’m disappointed the mass media have reported on government anti-terror activities as uncritically as they have. It’s not as though the record on a lot of these matters can’t be verified … as ProPublica demonstrated. But it seems the mass media generally aren’t interested in checking it out.

Now, if I were a committed ideologue, I’d chalk this up to some sort of “media bias” (of whichever direction). But I need not appeal to anything that subjective. I think the reason the mass media have refused to examine the government’s anti-terror track record, is because reporters (outside of ProPublica!) are — quite simply — too lazy or too incompetent to bother doing it. This is not the only field they’re uncritical about … for instance, I’ve caught media outlets reporting uncritically on the paranormal. A lack of critical thinking on the part of reporters, is just one of many aspects of modern journalism that’s severely lacking.

Photo credit: PsiCop original, containing the wisdom of H.L. Mencken.

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Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Crusaders war machinery, via Wikimedia CommonsThis issue isn’t really new. Wired magazine has been reporting on this particular issue for quite some time (cached). It seems anti-terror instruction in the US military has been taken over by Neocrusaders who’ve made any number of outrageous claims about Islam as a whole and are trying to inculcate hatred of Muslims generally among the ranks. I blogged about this particular influence within the FBI when Wired reported on it last year. But the influence of the Neocrusade in the military seems to be worse, more pervasive, and more extensive.

Last year the Pentagon began a review of its anti-terror training materials, and the results of that review are starting to emerge. MSNBC elaborates on an Al Jazeera report on aspects that have come to light already (WebCite cached article):

As the Pentagon reviews all military classes following the disclosure of one that advocated “total war” against Muslims, the news website Al-Jazeera reported Saturday that it had received materials from a similar course and that both were put together by the same group, a nonprofit that offers classes and workshops to military and government officials.

Al-Jazeera said [cached] it received course slides from an unnamed military officer who said “this bigoted conspiracy cabal is both disgusting and so deeply un-American.”

The slides leave the impression that Hamas extremists have infiltrated the U.S. government, media and education via U.S. Islamic groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Al-Jazeera said. …

The documents indicated the two courses were prepared by the consulting firm Strategic Engagement Group, Inc., Al-Jazeera said. The website for Strategic Engagement [cached] does include statements similar to those in the materials cited by Al-Jazeera, msnbc.com found.

I decided to nose around in Strategic Engagement’s Web site to see what they offer. The first link I clicked on was this PDF version of a Powerpoint presentation entitled “CAIR Is Hamas” (cached). It didn’t take long for me to discover that these people are spewing factual errors. For instance, slide 3 of the presentation says:

In the 1920’s, after WWI and the Turkish Revolution, Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk” became the leader of the new nation-state Turkey. He dissolved the nearly 700 old Islamic State (Caliphate) known as the “Ottoman Empire,” outlawed the wearing of hijab, the growing of Islamic beards, the call to prayer, replaced Arabic with Latin, did away with Shariah (Islamic Law) and replaced it with secular law, and built an army to protect secular Turkey.

First, while it’s true that Ataturk did establish a new, and secular, government in Turkey, his new state did not encompass all of what had once been the Ottoman Empire. That dismantled state was succeeded, in those other regions, by other less secular states, or they became colonies of western powers and only later became independent states. So it’s factually incorrect to state that “the Ottoman Empire” was succeeded uniformly by the “secular” state of Turkey.

Second, the Ottoman Empire was not really a “Caliphate.” While some of its rulers did use that title, sporadically, even when they did, it was not universally recognized across Islam. Moreover, that they did so, doesn’t really mean a lot: Ottoman rulers sometimes arrogated other titles, such as “Roman Emperor,” and that’s also difficult to take very seriously. The title that best applies to the Ottoman rulers was “sultan,” not “caliph,” making the Ottoman Empire a “sultanate” rather than a “caliphate.”

Third, Ataturk did not “replace Arabic with Latin.” Within Ataturk’s new state of Turkey, the dominant language had been Turkish, not Arabic, and it remains so. While Turkish had long been written mostly using the Arabic alphabet, it was less than ideal; Ataturk did encourage the use of a Latin-based alphabet instead. But it is simply not true that Turkey went from speaking Arabic to speaking Latin.

I hardly need to investigate these Neocrusading wingnuts any further, given their loose command of basic history. Listen, I get it. Really I do. I get that the United States has been attacked by Islamic terrorists who feel compelled to kill others — and themselves — out of a violent religiofascistic impulse. I also get that there are immature, violent Muslims who are prone to explode in insane fury at the slightest provocation. I concede there are still some dangerously fanatical Muslims out there who think their religion orders them to maim and kill. That’s very much in evidence, and only a fool would say otherwise. What concerns me are these two basic premises of the Neocrusade:

  1. Islamofascist terrorists are not the “fringe” of Islam, they are its heart; which means that all Muslims, not just some, are murderous fanatics.
  2. Only Islam has any murderous impulses; other religions, particularly Christianity, do not.

The former premise is just not true, as witnessed by the fact that there are plenty of “moderate,” non-terrorist Muslims around the world, who at this moment are fighting the terrorist element of their religion. And other religions, including Christianity, most certainly also have their own terrorizing, murderous extremists. Eradicating Islam completely — which is the Neocrusade’s ultimate goal — cannot and will never end terrorism. To assume so is not only irrational, it’s delusional. The cold fact is that nearly any religion, anywhere, is capable of inciting violence and even terrorism in its followers. None is immune to it. The sooner we understand this, the better off we’ll all be.

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Privacy, health, fears over airport X-rayA couple weeks ago I blogged about the laughable fraud of “anti-terror security” which is inflicted on non-terrorist Americans every day, a post that was triggered by an asinine overreaction to something in my home state of Connecticut (cached article). Scams such as this depend on Americans’ inability to think critically. If we actually paid attention to what our leaders are saying, and took the time to really think about it, the fraudulent nature of TSA’s “security theater” would be obvious, and it would never be tolerated. However, Americans are easy to swindle and easily swayed by stupid platitudes and empty promises. So the scam continues.

I bring this up again because of TSA’s new, stricter and more invasive airport-security measures that have been implemented recently, and I’m gratified to see something of a backlash emerge against it.

In an op-ed which appeared in USA Today, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano ostensibly addressed the pushback (WebCite cached article). In the process she revealed the fraud for what it is, when she opened it with this paragraph:

Nearly a year after a thwarted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airliner last Christmas Day, the recent attempt by terrorists to conceal and ship explosive devices aboard aircraft bound for the United States reminds us that al-Qaeda and those inspired by its ideology are determined to strike our global aviation system and are constantly adapting their tactics for doing so.

Here is where Napolitano’s lie is most evident: The event to which she alludes took place on December 25, 2009. That was nearly 11 months ago. If these new measures were truly intended to prevent that kind of attack, putting new measures in 11 months later is a lot like closing the barn door after the horses have gone loose. That the TSA — and the DHS to which it belongs — took 11 months to implement something to prevent it, demonstrates absolutely that there was no urgency behind it.

In other words, the 12/25/2009 attempted bombing literally cannot have been the real impetus behind this. It just can’t. So the secretary is lying when she suggests this is the case.

Napolitano goes on to lie again about what the TSA is doing:

Rigorous privacy safeguards are also in place to protect the traveling public. All images generated by imaging technology are viewed in a walled-off location not visible to the public. The officer assisting the passenger never sees the image, and the officer viewing the image never interacts with the passenger. The imaging technology that we use cannot store, export, print or transmit images.

Now, why do I say this is a lie? Because as CNET reported in August, officials and contractors have already been caught storing images of passengers which they were not supposed to have stored (cached article):

William Bordley, an associate general counsel with the Marshals Service, acknowledged in the letter that “approximately 35,314 images…have been stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine” used in the Orlando, Fla. federal courthouse. In addition, Bordley wrote, a Millivision machine was tested in the Washington, D.C. federal courthouse but it was sent back to the manufacturer, which now apparently possesses the image database.

Napolitano claims storage of these images is somehow “impossible,” but fails to admit that it has already, demonstrably, happened.

Napolitano compounds her lies in her closing paragraph:

Each and every one of the security measures we implement serves an important goal: providing safe and efficient air travel for the millions of people who rely on our aviation system every day.

If this were true, these measures would have been implemented back on December 26, 2009 … not now, close to 11 months later.

In this single op-ed, the secretary exposes the scam of “airport security” for what it is. I’m sure she didn’t intend this to be an exposé … she very likely assumes Americans will simply buy into her lies … but that’s precisely what she penned: a big lie.

Photo credit: publik16.

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