Thursday, February 09, 2006

That darn pre-9/11 mindset, I can't seem to shake it

Maybe it's just me, but looking casually at the New York Times I once again had the feeling of having stepped into an alternate universe, totally unimagined in the U.S. before the 2000 election.

First, on page 1, the headline: "Tough U.S. Steps in Hunger Strike at Camp in Cuba." The article explains: "Guards have begun strapping detainees into 'restraint chairs' to feed them through tubes and prevent them from vomiting." Keep in mind, of course, that many, perhaps most, of the detainees at Guantanamo have no connection to terrorism, and were picked up by chance or mistake because the U.S. troops overseas have been operating in places where they simply don't have the local knowledge to figure out who is who.

Inside the paper, news concerning Attorney General Gonzales' performance at Senate hearings concerning the secret wiretapping. He is asked how could the disclosure have hurt national security. Wouldn't you think al Qaeda terrorists already knew that the U.S. might be trying to monitor their communications?

Well, yes, Gonzales agreed. "But if they're not reminded about it all the time in newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget."

So apparently the harm to national security had nothing to do with disclosing the program itself, but with reminding those zany, forgetful kooks out there that the U.S. is in fact trying to catch them. (Although frankly I wouldn't be too worried, if I were in their shoes - they're being chased by the guys who cornered bin Laden at Tora Bora and did such a great job with the Iraq reconstruction & insurgency, and in New Orleans.)

Gonzales then explained that the program had helped identify "would-be terrorists here in the United States."

For once, the often over-verbose Senator Biden was equal to the occasion.

"Have we arrested those people?" he asked. Gonzales replied evasively. In fact we know there were no arrests - these things are always announced, even when it harms national security, as in the notoriously premature White House leak concerning an arrest in Pakistan in fall 2004.

Finally Biden said: "Well, I hope we arrested them — if you identified them. I mean, it kind of worries me because you all talk about how you identify these people, and I've not heard anything about anybody being arrested."

Okay, so the terrorists the Administration found in the U.S. haven't been arrested yet. But I bet they're on double secret probation or something, at an absolute minimum.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You write: "Keep in mind, of course, that many, perhaps most, of the detainees at Guantanamo have no connection to terrorism, and were picked up by chance or mistake because the U.S. troops overseas have been operating in places where they simply don't have the local knowledge to figure out who is who." Many or most? How do you know this? And even if so, isn't it better to err on the side of caution? Certainly past Presidents have done much worse than this in past wars.

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