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View Full Version : Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot


|Zach|
06-15-2007, 12:25 AM
http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2007/06/securitymatters_0614?currentPage=2

The recently publicized terrorist plot to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport, like so many of the terrorist plots over the past few years, is a study in alarmism and incompetence: on the part of the terrorists, our government and the press.

Terrorism is a real threat, and one that needs to be addressed by appropriate means. But allowing ourselves to be terrorized by wannabe terrorists and unrealistic plots -- and worse, allowing our essential freedoms to be lost by using them as an excuse -- is wrong.

The alleged plan, to blow up JFK's fuel tanks and a small segment of the 40-mile petroleum pipeline that supplies the airport, was ridiculous. The fuel tanks are thick-walled, making them hard to damage. The airport tanks are separated from the pipelines by cutoff valves, so even if a fire broke out at the tanks, it would not back up into the pipelines. And the pipeline couldn't blow up in any case, since there's no oxygen to aid combustion. Not that the terrorists ever got to the stage -- or demonstrated that they could get there -- where they actually obtained explosives. Or even a current map of the airport's infrastructure.

But read what Russell Defreitas, the lead terrorist, had to say: "Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow.... They love JFK -- he's like the man. If you hit that, the whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."

If these are the terrorists we're fighting, we've got a pretty incompetent enemy.

You couldn't tell that from the press reports, though. "The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable." Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) added, "It had the potential to be another 9/11."

These people are just as deluded as Defreitas.

The only voice of reason out there seemed to be New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said: "There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life.... You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist."

And he was widely excoriated for it.

This isn't the first time a bunch of incompetent terrorists with an infeasible plot have been painted by the media as poised to do all sorts of damage to America. In May we learned about a six-man plan to stage an attack on Fort Dix by getting in disguised as pizza deliverymen and shooting as many soldiers and Humvees as they could, then retreating without losses to fight again another day. Their plan, such as it was, went awry when they took a videotape of themselves at weapons practice to a store for duplication and transfer to DVD. The store clerk contacted the police, who in turn contacted the FBI. (Thank you to the video store clerk for not overreacting, and to the FBI agent for infiltrating the group.)

The "Miami 7," caught last year for plotting -- among other things -- to blow up the Sears Tower, were another incompetent group: no weapons, no bombs, no expertise, no money and no operational skill. And don't forget Iyman Faris, the Ohio trucker who was convicted in 2003 for the laughable plot to take out the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. At least he eventually decided that the plan was unlikely to succeed.

I don't think these nut jobs, with their movie-plot threats, even deserve the moniker "terrorist." But in this country, while you have to be competent to pull off a terrorist attack, you don't have to be competent to cause terror. All you need to do is start plotting an attack and -- regardless of whether or not you have a viable plan, weapons or even the faintest clue -- the media will aid you in terrorizing the entire population.

The most ridiculous JFK Airport-related story goes to the New York Daily News, with its interview with a waitress who served Defreitas salmon; the front-page headline blared, "Evil Ate at Table Eight."

Following one of these abortive terror misadventures, the administration invariably jumps on the news to trumpet whatever ineffective "security" measure they're trying to push, whether it be national ID cards, wholesale National Security Agency eavesdropping or massive data mining. Never mind that in all these cases, what caught the bad guys was old-fashioned police work -- the kind of thing you'd see in decades-old spy movies.

The administration repeatedly credited the apprehension of Faris to the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping programs, even though it's just not true. The 9/11 terrorists were no different; they succeeded partly because the FBI and CIA didn't follow the leads before the attacks.

Even the London liquid bombers were caught through traditional investigation and intelligence, but this doesn't stop Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff from using them to justify (.pdf) access to airline passenger data.

Of course, even incompetent terrorists can cause damage. This has been repeatedly proven in Israel, and if shoe-bomber Richard Reid had been just a little less stupid and ignited his shoes in the lavatory, he might have taken out an airplane.

So these people should be locked up ... assuming they are actually guilty, that is. Despite the initial press frenzies, the actual details of the cases frequently turn out to be far less damning. Too often it's unclear whether the defendants are actually guilty, or if the police created a crime where none existed before.

The JFK Airport plotters seem to have been egged on by an informant, a twice-convicted drug dealer. An FBI informant almost certainly pushed the Fort Dix plotters to do things they wouldn't have ordinarily done. The Miami gang's Sears Tower plot was suggested by an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the group. And in 2003, it took an elaborate sting operation involving three countries to arrest an arms dealer for selling a surface-to-air missile to an ostensible Muslim extremist. Entrapment is a very real possibility in all of these cases.

The rest of them stink of exaggeration. Jose Padilla was not actually prepared to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States, despite histrionic administration claims to the contrary. Now that the trial is proceeding, the best the government can charge him with is conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim, and it seems unlikely that the charges will stick. An alleged ringleader of the U.K. liquid bombers, Rashid Rauf, had charges of terrorism dropped for lack of evidence (of the 25 arrested, only 16 were charged). And now it seems like the JFK mastermind was more talk than action, too.

Remember the "Lackawanna Six," those terrorists from upstate New York who pleaded guilty in 2003 to "providing support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization"? They entered their plea because they were threatened with being removed from the legal system altogether. We have no idea if they were actually guilty, or of what.

Even under the best of circumstances, these are difficult prosecutions. Arresting people before they've carried out their plans means trying to prove intent, which rapidly slips into the province of thought crime. Regularly the prosecution uses obtuse religious literature in the defendants' homes to prove what they believe, and this can result in courtroom debates on Islamic theology. And then there's the issue of demonstrating a connection between a book on a shelf and an idea in the defendant's head, as if your reading of this article -- or purchasing of my book -- proves that you agree with everything I say. (The Atlantic recently published a fascinating article on this.)

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have all the facts in any of these cases. None of us do. So let's have some healthy skepticism. Skepticism when we read about these terrorist masterminds who were poised to kill thousands of people and do incalculable damage. Skepticism when we're told that their arrest proves that we need to give away our own freedoms and liberties. And skepticism that those arrested are even guilty in the first place.

There is a real threat of terrorism. And while I'm all in favor of the terrorists' continuing incompetence, I know that some will prove more capable. We need real security that doesn't require us to guess the tactic or the target: intelligence and investigation -- the very things that caught all these terrorist wannabes -- and emergency response. But the "war on terror" rhetoric is more politics than rationality. We shouldn't let the politics of fear make us less safe.

- - -

Bruce Schneier is the CTO of BT Counterpane and the author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.

Mr. Kotter
06-15-2007, 02:53 PM
So, if the government mischaracterizes someone who they think is just a "wannabe"....and doesn't do their due diligence in their investigating and questioning and conducting surveillance....and the wannabes end up actually committing a terrorist act, who's fault will it be when....critics....scream:

"We SHOULD have known! We COULD have stopped them! But our corrupt and incompetent administration didn't do their JOB!!! Damn President; I'll bet there was a government conspiracy that ALLOWED this to happen. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if the GOVERNMENT actually is BEHIND the whole thing."

:shrug:


Of course, no one would ever react that way though, right? I mean, that's just ridiculous....right? Forget I even mentioned it....:hmmm:






:spock:



Er...eh....well...wait a minute.... :hmmm:

|Zach|
06-15-2007, 03:05 PM
:shrug:

I thought it was an interesting read...nothing more nothing less. Whats with the drama post?

Mr. Kotter
06-15-2007, 03:12 PM
:shrug:

I thought it was an interesting read...nothing more nothing less. Whats with the drama post?

I wouldn't call it drama; just pointing out....the government, whether it's the current administration....or whether it's Hillary Clinton's administration....is really in a Catch 22-"Damned if they do, damned if they don't"-Can't Win position.

If they "curtail" civil liberties, they are Nazis; if they misjudge or fail in their due diligence to investigate every single claim....they are demonized as incompetent, or worse....as instigating the terrorism themselves.

Talk about putting them between a rock and a hard place....:shake:

That's all. Really. Not drama. Just frustration at our wanting to have it both ways, I think.

dirk digler
06-15-2007, 03:13 PM
Interesting article. I honestly thought it was laughable about the idiots that tried to go into Fort Dix.

I mean how stupid could you be to go to an Army base where everyone and their brother is probably carrying a firearm and start shooting. The whole thing would probably last less than a minute. Those guys weren't terrorists they were idiots.

The JFK incident was disturbing and I don't know how you could dismiss that threat.

Mr. Kotter
06-15-2007, 03:18 PM
:shrug:

I thought it was an interesting read...nothing more nothing less. Whats with the drama post?
If you mean, the quote I included....do you recall the "Loose Change" and other "conspiracy" threads here about 9/11?

:shrug:
....I mean how stupid could you be to go to an Army base where everyone and their brother is probably carrying a firearm and start shooting...Unless things have CHANGED since I was in the service, soldiers DO NOT carry weapons.....unless they are on a firing range, or involved in training exercises. So only guards and MPs would have weapons on them....

Anyone know for sure? :shrug:

dirk digler
06-15-2007, 03:50 PM
Unless things have CHANGED since I was in the service, soldiers DO NOT carry weapons.....unless they are on a firing range, or involved in training exercises. So only guards and MPs would have weapons on them....

Anyone know for sure? :shrug:

Yeah i forgot about that. That is probably true but the first shot fired would bring a hell storm that I doubt they could last for very long

Cochise
06-15-2007, 03:53 PM
It's easy to predict what will happen when a plot is stopped.

Some will say there was no chance of success in the first place, that the plan was flawed and wouldn't have worked. Some say that the terrorists were only caught because they were incompetent, and not because of any beneficial government action. Or some will say like they did with Fort Dix, that because it wasn't going to kill hundreds or thousands of people, it was a small-time operation, and not really worthy of our attention (and that the plot was bungled, anyway).

What it all adds up to is trying to create the idea, as Michael Moore says, that there is no real threat of terrorism. It's just trying to make the lead change hands on that issue. Very predictable.

DaneMcCloud
06-15-2007, 03:57 PM
I think it was an interesting perspective but other than actually coercing these so-called terrorist to enact a plan, I think the government seems to be doing a fine job of sniffing out these groups.

Radar Chief
06-15-2007, 04:04 PM
Interesting article. I honestly thought it was laughable about the idiots that tried to go into Fort Dix.

I mean how stupid could you be to go to an Army base where everyone and their brother is probably carrying a firearm and start shooting. The whole thing would probably last less than a minute. Those guys weren't terrorists they were idiots.

The JFK incident was disturbing and I don't know how you could dismiss that threat.

The only people walking around a military base with loaded weapons are the MP’s. Even at Ft. Brag, home of 82nd AB, soldiers aren’t walking around post armed. And then it’d take a good 30 minutes before armors could’ve distributed weapons then they’d still have to get ammo, which is kept in a different location.
Those Ft. Dix dumbasses could’ve cause a lot of damage, killed a lot of soldiers, but they’d have never made it out alive if that was actually their plan.

Radar Chief
06-15-2007, 04:08 PM
Yeah i forgot about that. That is probably true but the first shot fired would bring a hell storm that I doubt they could last for very long

Sorry, I hadn’t read Kotter’s post before responding.
I doubt they’d have been able to walk around for a couple hours like the VT shooter, but they still could’ve caused a lot of damage before anything more than a typical police response could’ve been organized.

dirk digler
06-15-2007, 04:23 PM
Sorry, I hadn’t read Kotter’s post before responding.
I doubt they’d have been able to walk around for a couple hours like the VT shooter, but they still could’ve caused a lot of damage before anything more than a typical police response could’ve been organized.

I don't know how much damage they could have done but they could have probably killed a few which 1 is too many.

My question regarding your previous post would be doesn't military bases have personnel armed and ready to go in such scenarios like this? I can't imagine having to wait 30 minutes you would think they would have a team ready to go besides the guards at the gate and the MP's.

Radar Chief
06-15-2007, 04:28 PM
I don't know how much damage they could have done but they could have probably killed a few which 1 is too many.

My question regarding your previous post would be doesn't military bases have personnel armed and ready to go in such scenarios like this? I can't imagine having to wait 30 minutes you would think they would have a team ready to go besides the guards at the gate and the MP's.

Some kind of reactionary force, like SWAT? :hmmm: A possibility. I wasn’t that closely associated with MP’s so I couldn’t tell you positively.
Typically though, the threat level is pretty low here in the States. Well, at least it was, I’d assume the Ft. Dix discovery had every post commander dusting off reaction plans.

dirk digler
06-15-2007, 04:37 PM
Some kind of reactionary force, like SWAT? :hmmm: A possibility. I wasn’t that closely associated with MP’s so I couldn’t tell you positively.
Typically though, the threat level is pretty low here in the States. Well, at least it was, I’d assume the Ft. Dix discovery had every post commander dusting off reaction plans.

Yeah something like that.

I found this article about Fort Dix security so I have to rescind my statement a little bit. These guys do have some sort of brain though IMHO you have to be pretty freaking stupid to go into an Army base with guns blazin.

Fort Dix has heavily guarded checkpoints with serpentine courses leading to guardhouses, gates and metal pop-up strips to stop the traffic.

The post has an X-ray machine that can penetrate trucks, and it checks the military credentials of the top commanders and police officials.

But it allows pizza delivery drivers with temporary vehicle passes to enter after basic local background checks — at least for now.

"I think it's obvious that we must revisit base access procedures," Rep. James Saxton, R-N.J., said Wednesday, noting that he was issued a plastic ID card to enter the House of Representatives. "I am currently examining legislation and provisions regarding this matter and may introduce legislation in the near future."


Security at Fort Dix came under scrutiny this week after six men were arrested and accused of hatching a terrorist plot to kill soldiers at the post. One of the suspects delivered pizzas so that he could scout the base for a possible attack and shared a map of the installation with co-conspirators, federal authorities said.

|Zach|
06-15-2007, 04:42 PM
What it all adds up to is trying to create the idea, as Michael Moore says, that there is no real threat of terrorism.
You took that from this article?

Hilarious.

Mr. Kotter
06-15-2007, 04:56 PM
You took that from this article?

Hilarious.
You gotta admit....between Moore and John Edwards ("The WOT is just a bumper sticker")....and the lack of denouncing such BS from many folks here and in society at large, adds up to the notion that....somehow this "threat of terrorism" isn't serious.

And yet, many of those same folks will be the exact same ones who either subscribe to the 9/11 conspiracy theories....or will be the first in line to castigate and denigrate the "lack of response" by the government which could have "prevented" some future terrorist incident.

That's what many of us find ironic, and pathetically sad.

Pitt Gorilla
06-15-2007, 09:59 PM
And yet, many of those same folks will be the exact same ones who either subscribe to the 9/11 conspiracy theories....or will be the first in line to castigate and denigrate the "lack of response" by the government which could have "prevented" some future terrorist incident.

That's what many of us find ironic, and pathetically sad.Do you have any proof of that or are you just making up sh!t?

Mr. Kotter
06-15-2007, 10:04 PM
Do you have any proof of that or are you just making up sh!t?
I'm old enough, and been around enough...that I've seen it, and feel VERY comfortable in predicting it. Not necessarily from more moderate and restrained types like you---but certainly from many of your ideological soul-mates on this board.

go bowe
06-16-2007, 07:35 PM
:shrug:

I thought it was an interesting read...nothing more nothing less. Whats with the drama post?holy shit!!

i thought chiefsplanet was built on drama...

and wth is wrong with drama?

it's better than poop threads...

way better... :p :p :p



say zach, i'm curious why you turned in your mod card...

too much horseshit to deal with or too much drama?

Duck Dog
06-18-2007, 08:40 AM
No doubt some of the plots were unrealistic but doubters like this author will change their tune when Chuckie Cheeses start exploding.

Cochise
06-18-2007, 09:40 AM
Do you have any proof of that or are you just making up sh!t?


http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/22_believe_bush_knew_about_9_11_attacks_in_advance

Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.

Republicans reject that view and, by a 7-to-1 margin, say the President did not know in advance about the attacks. Among those not affiliated with either major party, 18% believe the President knew and 57% take the opposite view.

'Hamas' Jenkins
06-18-2007, 03:37 PM
The problem here isn't terrorism, it's drumming up charges and using terrorism as an excuse for the continued reduction of civil liberties.

The point of the article wasn't that terrorism doesn't exist or isn't a threat, it's that many of these "terrorist threats" are overblown in order to increase support for an increasingly enigmatic War on Terror.