Wednesday, August 31, 2005

More Holes Than a Block of Swiss Cheese...

With the nation's attention focused on Katrina's aftermath, the Able Danger scandal has all but evaporated. I'm guessing that members of the 9-11 Commission and former Clinton Administration officials are breathing a cynical, collective sigh of relief. Last week, just before the hurricane began dominating news cycles, two more members of Able Danger came forward and essentially confirmed the original account of Lt Col Anthony Shaffer. Colonel Shaffer, an intelligence officer assigned to Able Danger, reported that his unit identified Mohammed Atta as an Al Qaida operative more than a year before 9-11, but was barred from sharing that information by Pentagon lawyers.

Of course, the 9-11 Commission's highly-lauded report makes no mention of Able Danger. As Ed Morrissey at the Weekly Standard points out, that report neglects a number of critical points, and has more "holes" than a proverbial block of Swiss cheese. I hate to say it, but we still need another commission to determine what the 9-11 panel knew, and why they chose to ignore and omit pertinent facts.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Waiting for Word...

Like millions of Americans, I've been glued to my TV and computer screen, following the onslaght of hurricane Katrina.

My interest was/is personal. On Saturday afternoon, my oldest daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter evacuated from Diamonhead, Mississippi, a community located along the Pearl River, which separates Mississippi from Louisiana. They arrived at her in-law's house in west central Mississippi about four hours later. It was a wise decision; western Hancock County--including Diamonhead--was ground zero for the storm in Mississippi.

Further north, our son and middle daughter live in northern Mississippi (about 70 miles south of Memphis), and the Former Spook still owns a home there. Our youngest daughter lives in the Ozarks and is unaffected by the storm, as is your humble correspondent, safe and sound on the eastern seaboard. So far, we haven't heard from any of our children today. Phone service and electrical power are out across much of Mississippi, and it may be a month--or longer--before utility services are completely restored. We did receive a call from our son last night, who was riding out the storm at our home. He reported that a early gust of wind leveled a giant oak that sits along the property line between our lot and our neighbor. The tree fell on an old building on our neighbor's property; miraculously, our house was untouched, and the building suffered only minor damage.

The death toll from Katrina now stands at 55 in Mississippi, and it's rising. Many of the dead were killed at a beachfront apartment complex in Biloxi, where residents decided to ride out the storm. The incident seems eerily reminiscent of Hurricane Camille in 1969, which claimed the lives of 250 people along the Mississippi and Louisiana coast. Thirty-eight of those victims were killed in another ocean-front apartment complex, devastated by the storm. One resident from that complex survived by climbing out an upper floor window, and lashing himself to a tree, as Camille's massive storm surge lapped at his feet. The next day, the survivor discovered he was in the tree's upper branches, more than 30 feet off the ground. Similar stories of survival during Katrina will likely emerge during the coming days.

Complete coverage of Katrina's impact on south Mississippi (from the Biloxi Sun Herald) can be found here. Today's front page of the New Orleans Times-Picyaune sums it up well. More coverage from the Big Easy can be found here.

One final note; late yesterday, I received an e-mail from a gentlemen who's father elected to ride out the storm in his home in Diamondhead. He asked me to contact my daughter and son-in-law, and check on his dad when they return to their home. Suddenly, I felt blessed; while the phone lines were down, and I couldn't communicate with my children, I had some assurance that they were safe. Thousands of other families didn't have that assurance, and now they can only wait and pray for the best.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Journalism 101

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I'm a big fan of the work of Michael Yon, the freelance journalist who's produced some of the best--and most vivid coverage--of combat operations in Iraq.

Yon's latest is an instant classic. It details a close-quarters fight in Mosul that resulted in the wounding of two senior members of the 1st Battalion 24th Infantry (Deuce Four), the unit that Yon has followed for almost eight months. One of the soldiers wounded in last week's battle was Lt Col Erik Kurilla, the Battalion Commander. Kurilla is a legend among his soldiers, Iraqi security forces, and the civilian populace in Mosul. When he was shot last week, Kurilla was leading the charge, chasing suspected terrorists down streets and alleyways. Despite a gunshot wound that snapped his femur, Lt Col Kurilla remained in the fight until the suspects were arrested.

In reporting Kurilla's injuries, the Seattle Times compliments Yon's coverage, noting that his dispatches "often describe the details and tactics of the Iraq War not found in mainstream media coverage. " That is an understatement.

But it begs a basic question: why? Yon is covering the Iraq War on his own dime, and relys in part on contributions from readers. Why can't the Seattle Times, New York Times, Washington Post, NBC News, or some other MSM outlet do what Yon has done--follow units over a period of time, and report the nitty gritty of the Iraq conflict?

Confronted with that issue, news editors and executives often talk about the cost, or the need to cover "broader" issues. But there are some unspoken issues at work here, too. First of all, few journalists are willing to emulate Yon's example. In earlier reports, Yon wrote about Army Command Sergeatn Major Jeffrey Mellinger, the senior enlisted soldier in Iraq. CSM Mellinger travels around Iraq by himself in a HUMVEE, and he has invited several journalists to accompany him on his travels. So far, Yon is the only reporter to accept CSM Mellinger's offer.

Secondly, positive stories about soldiers in battle, defeating the enemy, don't fit the MSM agenda, and its relentless criticism of the Iraq War. That's why you won't read or see stories about men like CSM Mellinger or Lt Col Kurilla in the MSM.

When I was a student in News Reporting 101, I was taught to get the story, whatever it took. Today's journalists have learned a different lesson; better to cover a war from your hotel in the green zone, lest you stumble across a story that doesn't suit your agenda.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Other Side of Cindy Sheehan

The MSM media has faithfully depicted Cindy Sheehan as a bereaved mother, angered by the loss of her son in Iraq, and steadfastly maintaining a lonely protest vigil outside President Bush's ranch.

Of course, anyone with an IQ higher than say, that of a member knows that Ms. Sheehan is merely the willing mouthpiece for an organized (and somewhat well-financed) anti-war movement. Afterall, Ms. Sheehan may be the only war protestor with her own, on-site flack from a pricey Washington P.R. firm, known for its work in liberal causes.

There are also indications that Ms. Sheehan is a bit thin-skinned, and doesn't like sharing the media stage with those who oppose her. Consider her recent run-in with Dallas talk show host Darrell Ankarlo. Mr. Ankarlo recently led about 400 KLIF listeners in a counter-protest against Ms. Sheehan, and to voice their support for the Iraq War and President Bush.

Filling in for Glenn Beck this morning, Ankarlo recounted Sheehan's reaction when confronted by the counter-protestors. Speaking to her supporters, Sheehan informed them that Ankarlo (who had previously interviewed her on his show) had made unkind remarks about her. At that point, some rather large Sheehan supporters (probably union thugs) began moving toward Ankarlo and his listeners, in an effort to intimidate them. Their efforts failed, and the anti-war gorillas returned to their side of the road. Later, Ms. Sheehan's PR flack told Ankarlo that he was a "f-----g a--h--e."

Mr. Ankarlo, whose son is a Marine (now preparing for a second tour of duty in Iraq), deserves credit for standing up to Cindy, her union buddies, and her PR machine. As Ankarlo notes on his website, the hastily organized counter-protest dwarfed the anti-war crowd. Of course, you never saw that in the MSM. I'm sure that Melanie Morgan's pro-military caravan, now winding its way to Crawford, will receive similar coverage.

The Enemy Within (Again)

America's prisons remain a fertile recruiting ground for Islamofacists. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Counterterrorism blog details the continuing effort to convert hardened criminals into Muslim terrorists.

Without Shame

Every time you think the radical left has reached rock bottom, they pull another stunt and sink to an even lower level of callousness and even depravity.

Consider today's report from Cybercast News Service: anti-war protestors are now demonstrating outside the main entrance to Walter Reed Army Medical Centerin Washington, where many wounded service members from Iraq and Afghanistan receive treatment. Some of the demonstrators carry signs with such slogans as "Enlist and Die for Haliburton," and "Maimed for Lies." There is also a dispaly of flag-draped coffins, representing those killed in the War on Terrorism.

Naturally, the anti-war crowd sees nothing wrong with their choice of protest location. And, they express no concern about the wounded service members (receiving outpatient treatment) who must pass the protestors while entering or leaving the hospital.

The demonstrations have caught the attention of wounded veterans at the hospital. Kevin Pannell, a member of the 1st Calvary Division that lost two legs in Iraq, said it well:

[Pannell] considers the presence of the anti-war protesters in front of the hospital "distasteful." When he was a patient at the hospital, Pannell said he initially tried to ignore the anti-war activists camped out in front of Walter Reed, until witnessing something that enraged him."We went by there one day and I drove by and [the anti-war protesters] had a bunch of flag-draped coffins laid out on the sidewalk. That, I thought, was probably the most distasteful thing I had ever seen. Ever,"

"You know that 95 percent of the guys in the hospital bed lost guys whenever they got hurt and survivors' guilt is the worst thing you can deal with," Pannell said, adding that other veterans recovering from wounds at Walter Reed share his resentment for the anti-war protesters. "We don't like them and we don't like the fact that they can hang their signs and stuff on the fence at Walter Reed," he said. "[The wounded veterans] are there to recuperate. Once they get out in the real world, then they can start seeing that stuff (anti-war protests). I mean Walter Reed is a sheltered environment and it needs to stay that way."

Not surprisingly, the anti-war protestors plan to sustain their vigil outside Walter Reed. Personally, I'm waiting for one of the demonstrators to get into the face of a wounded vet, and get cold-cocked for the effort by one of our heroes. When it happens, I will gladly make the first contribution to that soldier, sailor, airman or marine's legal defense fund.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Killing Saddam (Or, At Least Trying to Kill Him)

Televangelist Pat Robertson is in hot water, for suggesting that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez be assassinated. On Monday's broadcast of the 700 Club, Reverend Robertson said, "if he (Chavez) thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I really think we ought to go ahead and do it." Robertson also observed that bumping off Chavez "would be cheaper than starting another $200 million war. " He accused Chavez of destroying the Venezuelan economy, and using his country as a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.

The Bush Administration quickly--and appropriately--distanced itself from Robertson's remarks. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted that assassination of foreign leaders is "illegal" under U.S. law. He also emphasized that Reverend Robertson is a private citizen expressing his own views, and not those of the Defense Department, or the White House.

A couple of points here. First, no one seems to be disputing Robertson's assessment of Chavez. Indeed, the Venezuelan President has damaged his nation's economy, stripping private property from middle and upper class citizens and giving it to the poor, his largest constituency. He openly supports Colombian terrorist groups like the FARC and ELN and provides support and sanctuary in his country.

Additionally, Chavez is an ardent admirer of Cuba's Fidel Castro, and has allowed thousands of Cubans to live and work in his country. Disturbing intelligence reports suggest that many of the Cubans have ties to Castro's intelligence service. And, if that weren't enough, Chavez appears to be getting chummy with Kim Jong-il and North Korea, raising the possibility that NK missile technology could make its way to Venezuela. Reverend Robertson is correct in describing Chavez as a bad man who represents a growing threat to our security interests in this hemisphere.

Now, on to the question of assassinating Chavez. Would it be legal? Well, Jerry Ford did sign an executive order in the mid-1970s, outlawing assassination of foreign leaders as an "official" tool of U.S. policy. But Ford didn't have the final word on that subject. In the early 1980s, President Reagan signed another executive order, giving the U.S. more latitude in that area.

How much latitude, you ask? Well, enough wiggle room to allow attempts on Saddam's life during both Gulf Wars. During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the Air Force dispatched four B-1 bombers to a Baghdad neighborhood where Saddam was reportedly hiding. The bombers were enroute to another target when U.S. intelligence pinpointed Saddam's location, prompting Allied commanders to re-target the B-1s. Their "revised" mission was simple, but unstated: kill Saddam and members of his entourage.

We mounted a similar effort to get Saddam during the first Gulf War. Before the conflict began, the U.S. mounted a crash program to develop a hardened, penetrating munition, capable of reaching deep underground bunkers. U.S. engineers developed one in barely a month, combining an 8-inch artillery shell with a laser guidance system.

During the latter stages of the war, U.S. intelligence received reports that Saddam was holed up in an underground bunker in the Iraqi countryside, and would remain there for several days. In an effort to target the Iraqi leader, a prototype bunker buster was flown, non-stop from a depot in California to an F-111 base in Saudi Arabia. When the transport aircraft arrived, the munition was quickly off-loaded and mounted on a waiting F-111, its engines running. Technical experts leaned into the cockpit and briefed the F-111 crew on how to employ the weapon. Moments later, the F-111 roared down the runway and lifted off, heading for Saddam's bunker. The weapon worked and the bunker was destroyed but Saddam wasn't home; he had left the facility a short time earlier.

While these efforts appear to contradict President Ford's original executive order, such assumptions are false. Presidents can modify or contravene executive orders as they see fit; as Clinton advisor Paul Begala observed, "stroke of the pen, law of the land, kinda cool." Reagan's clarification of the policy, coupled with later decisions by his successors, gives the Commander-in-Chief the ability to mount assassination operations and the legal foundation to carry them out. For example, the 2003 attempt on Saddam was justified (in part) by his status as Commander-in-Chief of Iraq's military, making him (in the eyes of DOD and White House laywers), a legitimate military target.

The same criteria could be applied to President Chavez. He should consider himself warned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Our Man in Tehran

Sean Penn, apparently between acting jobs, is reporting again for the San Francisco Chronicle, this time from Iran. You may recall that Mr. Penn spent a few days in Iraq back in January, and the Chronicle published his observations in a two-part series, with the reverence typically reserved for a Pulitzer-prize winner.

After reading part one of Penn's latest reportage from Iran, I'd encourage him to continue his acting career. Describing his "article" (and I use that term loosely) as laughably bad would be an act of charity. Consider, for example, this scintillating annecdote, used by Mr. Penn to set the stage for his Iranian oddysey.

"We were sitting in Nayeb restaurant in central Tehran. I’d been holding a piss through the hours of prayer service. So after I ordered my lunch, I excused myself to the men’s room. “Men’s” was written in Farsi above, and “Manly” in English below. I stepped into the water closet, grateful to just have a piss. If I’d had more serious business there, it would’ve been a squat job with no hook for one’s jacket. Now, that would’ve been manly."

Amazingly, that discourse on bodily functions is the highlight of Penn's article. After his trip to the loo, Mr. Penn wades through sophmoric interviews with various Iranian figures. Along the way, they manage to recite most of Tehran's talking points, dropping a few whoppers here and there. For his part, Penn is either unable (or unwilling) to challenge his Iranian hosts. For example:

From the son of former Iranian President Rafsanjani, we learn that the United States made the chemical weapons used against Iranian civilians in 1988. The younger Rafsanjani also opined that there are "only four or five" Iranian dissidents currently in jail, and likened their imprisonment to that of Judith Miller, The New York Times Reporter currently being held on contempt charges, in connection with the Valerie Plame case. Penn notes that Iran's leading dissident, investigative journalist Akbar Ganji, is currently staging a hunger strike in his prison cell, and another leading dissident rejected a request for an interview, fearing a similar fate.

Because of that, Penn begins to "question" the younger Rafsanjani's views on freedom of the press in Iran, suggesting that even a Hollywood dolt can catch on after a while. However, such doubts arise about midway through the article, after Rafsanjani's son paints a glowing picture of life in Iran. "Ordinary" Iranians seem happy as well, but Penn never wonders whether these interviews are legitimate, or simply set-ups from the Iranian information ministry. Afterall, anyone who prints the assertion that the U.S. provided chemical weapons to Iraq (a lie of the first magnitude) will believe almost anything. Indeed, judging from Penn's observations, life is generally good in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it would be a lot better if the U.S. left the peace-loving Iranian leadership alone. Heck, Iran is such a liberal democracy, that Penn actually encountered into a lesbian couple (or a presumed lesbian couple) in Tehran, and procured a bottle of liquor for personal consumption. We can only assume that Mr. Penn was somewhat inebriated when he typed this "article," judging from its (ahem) quality.

Even a left-wing rag like the Chronicle should be castigated for publishing this drivel, apparently with little or no editing. However, in the spirit of fairness, I am willing to end my criticism of the paper, providing they underwrite my expedition to examine human rights issues in Maui.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Senator Hagel's World View

When I joined the Air Force in the early 1980s, I considered myself rather worldly and well-read, in comparison to my fellow recruits. I had recently earned a bachelor's degree, traveled a bit, and had experience as both a broadcast and print journalist.

Despite my "wordliness" I soon discovered there was much to learn about the military and how it worked (or sometimes, didn't). However, I also fell into the trap that often snares you enlisted troops, offering grand discourses on military strategy, tactics, and the management of our unit. While I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut in front of the commander, I'm sure my fellow airmen were bored by my pronouncements. I was one of those guys who figured I could fix the military problems in a matter of days, given the opportunity.

Twenty years later, after earning a commission, and becoming a mid-level officer, my world view changed dramatically. There were few absolutes; the problems we faced seemed infinitely more complex, and the solutions less obvious. Call that reality, maturity, or a little bit of both.

That's why I'm having a hard time figuring out Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel. Senator Hagel served as a combat infantryman in Vietnam, earning two Purple Hearts. His tour of duty appears to have been a life-changing experience; unfortunately, his world view seems to have changed little since his days in combat in Nam.

Consider his recent comments on the War in Iraq, made in a TV interview over the weekend. Appearing on ABC's This Week, Senator Hagel opined that "staying the course" is no longer an option. "By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq, we're not winning," he observed.

Excuse me, Senator, but what about those elections that were held back in January? The terrorists weren't able to derail those. Or the Iraqi constitution, now being finalized by representatives of the three major ethnic and political functions. Sure, there have been a few bumps along the way, but the terrorists have been unable to stop the transition toward democracy. Surely that counts as a victory.

But Mr. Hagel only sees doom and gloom on the horizon. He opined that our military presence has "further destabilized" the Middle East. Huh? Again, I'm not privvy to the background papers and briefings afforded members of the U.S. Senate, but I don't think the Middle East was exactly a hotbed of stability before 9-11. Beyond that, one can also make the argument that our military is a needed counterweight to such "stabilizing" influences as Islamic fundamentalism and Iran's nuclear program.

Hagel believes we are locked into a "bogged down problem, not unsimilar to what we had in Vietnam." And, since Senator Hagel served in Vietnam (and his comments are critical of the Bush Administration) the media are willing to grant him moral legitimacy on the issue. Call it the Cindy Sheehan axiom. A measure of personal involvement in an issue makes you an expert, no questions asked.

For that, Senator Hagel should consider himself lucky, because his views on Iraq are ludicrous at best. The problem in Iraq can best be classified as a security issue, specifically the security challenges faced in the Sunni Triangle. The Iraqi insurgency has virtually no public support, and has not deterred ordinary Iraqis from rebuilding their country and putting it on the road to democracy. More over, the terrorists in Iraq do not control vast stretches of the countryside (as the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong did), nor do they have the backing of a major superpower. Fourteen of Iraq's 18 provinces are secure, the economy is improving, and some insurgents have wondered openly if they are losing the war.

But none of this matters to Senator Hagel. Anxious to separate himself from other GOP presidential aspirants in 2008, he is eager to criticize the Bush Administration, sounding the alarm well before the first round of primaries and caucuses. Looking at Iraq, he sees only car bombings, body bags, and quagmire. For him, there is no solution but to bring our boys home and hope the Iraqis can somehow get the job done.

It's a remarkably unsophisticated world view for a man who hopes to be commander-in-chief. In that sense, Senator Hagel is still slogging through the rice paddies of Vietnam, beseiged by Viet Cong, and beset by forces beyond his control. Napoleon once observed that "in every corporal's napsack is a marshal's baton." Chuck Hagel clearly covets the marshal's baton, but his mindset remains that of a buck private.

P.S.--Powerline does a nice job debunking Hagel's near-mythical status among the MSM. As John Hinderaker noted:

"What exactly makes Chuck Hagel a "leading Republican senator"? Not seniority; he is a second-termer. Not any official responsibilities; Hagel is not a member of the Senate leadership, nor does he chair a Senate committee. Not legislative accomplishment or influence; Hagel has little noteworthy legislation to his name, and is more often an eccentric voice--e.g., in his call for reinstatement of the draft--than an influence on his fellow Senators. It is hard to escape the conclusion that for the Associated Press, any Republican who attacks the Bush administration and claims that we're losing in Iraq is automatically promoted to "leading Republican senator" status."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Some Things Shouldn't be Available Online

Like the rest of the military, the Air Force has embraced computer technology (and the internet) in a big, big way. A few years back, someone in a blue suit had the bright idea of making personnel functions "virtual," allowing Air Force members to conduct a variety of tasks online, without ever visiting a base personnel office. Military members were assured that their personal information was secure.

Guess again. Just hours ago, the Air Force put out an urgent press release, informing thousands of officers and a few non-commissioned officers that their personal information may have been compromised.

AFPC notifies Airmen of criminal activity exposing personal info

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas - The Air Force is notifying more than 33,000 Airmen that a security breach has occurred in the online Assignment Management System.The notification comes after Air Force Personnel Center officials here alerted Air Force and federal investigators to unusually high activity on a single user's AMS account in June. AMS, an online program used for assignment preferences and career management, contains career information on officers and enlisted members as well as some personal information like birth dates and social security numbers, according to Col. Lee Hall, director of assignments at AFPC. It does not contain personal addresses, phone numbers or specific dependent information.

A malicious user accessed approximately half of the officer force's individual information while only a handful of noncommissioned officers were affected, according to Lt. Col. John Clarke, AFPC's deputy director of Personnel Data Systems. The individual used a legitimate user's login information to access and/or download individuals' personal information.

"We notified Airmen as quickly as we could while still following criminal investigation procedures with the OSI," said Maj. Gen. Tony Przybyslawski, AFPC commander. "Protecting Airmen's personal information is something we take very seriously and we are doing everything we can to catch and prosecute those responsible under the law."We notified the individuals involved outlining what happened and how they can best insulate themselves from this potential risk," the general added. "We've taken steps to increase our system security. We're working with all Air Force agencies to identify vulnerabilities. We must keep our data protected."

In the meantime, officials say officers may login to the virtual Military Personnel Flight at to see if their information was viewed. If it was, they will receive a pop-up banner after login which will provide additional information. The small number of enlisted members who have had their information viewed will be contacted directly.

You'll note that this problem began a couple of months ago, so there's no tellling (or at least, the Air Force isn't saying) how many officers and NCOs may have actually been victimized. But it doesn't take a computer genius to realize that the same computer technology that allowed this information to be harvested, can also be used for mass submissions of loan and credit card applications. We'll probably never know the exact cost of this security breach, but the final tally could be in the millions of dollars. Since most military personnel have solid credit scores (not paying your bills can end your career), the stolen information represents a virtual gold mine for identity theives.

There's a simple--but brutal--lesson to be learned here: some types of military information do not belong on line. For once, I'd advise the personnel system to copy their counterparts in the intel community, and create a secure intranet, exclusive to Air Force personnel offices. The intel world has had such a system for years; it's not perfect, but it reduces the chances that someone could hack in from the outside. Creating a similar system for military personnel functions might create hardships for a few--say, that ROTC instructor who wants to check his personnel file, but lives 400 miles from the nearrest base--but the military is facing a critical choice: would they rather inconvenience a few, or keep facing these types of problems in the future.

One more thing: consider the consequences if military personnel databases fell into the hands of terrorists.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Old Hatreds Never Die...

In a few weeks, Hollywood executives will sit down and try to figure out what went wrong in the Summer of 2005. Summer is when Hollywood makes most of its money at the box office, and the period between mid-May and Labor Day is critical for the studios bottom line.

As you probably know, box office receipts were actually down for much of the summer (when compared to the same period in 2004). And while business has picked up a bit in recent weeks, it seems clear that 2005 will not be the blockbuster summer that Hollywood had hoped for.

Several theories have been offered to explain the decline in box office receipts, including the impact of DVDs and movies on demand, available from most cable TV and satellite providers. Hollywood has also been hurt by the lack of a Shrek-style mega hit that appeals to broad demographic groups, and generates $300-400 million in business.

But let me advance another theory. I believe that a large number of movie-goers are simply fed up with a Hollywood that mocks their values, and has lost any connection to mainstream America, the region they referred to derisively as "Jesusland" after the 2004 election. Hollywood is a place where middle American standards are routinely mocked, and its icons are held in contempt and scorn.

A good example of this recently occurred at a retrospective on the work of director Don Siegel, who specialized in hard-boiled crime dramas, and is best remembered for his films that starred Clint Eastwood. As a part of the retrospective, Siegel's 1964 film The Killers was screened for the Hollywood swells. The Killers is hardly Siegel's best work; today it's best remembered as the last screen appearance of Ronald Reagan (playing against type as a criminal) and his on-screen "slap" of co-star Angie Dickinson.

According to John McCaslin of the Washington Times, when Reagan's name appeared in the opening credits, the audience loudly booed. When Reagan's character was threatened and pushed from a speeding car on screen, the audience erupted in cheers. There was more cheering and applause later in the film, when Reagan's character was shot and killed.

The open contempt and vulgarity of those gestures is stunning, even by Hollywood standards. Never mind that Mr. Reagan survived an actual gunshot wound 17 years later; served two terms in the White House, set the stage for the fall of communism and became one of our greatest Presidents. Never mind that Mr. Reagan has been dead for more than a year, and retired from public life a decade before, after learning he had Alzheimer's. Never mind that he had a long career in films and worked tirelessly for an industry he loved, including two terms as President of the Screen Actor's Guild.

None of that mattered to the Hollywood swells gathered for the Siegel retrospective. Reagan's appearance in The Killers gave them a chance to express their hatred for a man who became the anthises of the values that Hollywood openly embraces.

And they wonder why their box office is down.

Note: Rush Limbaugh discussed the article at length during a recent broadcast, but there hasn't been a lot of additional coverage of this event, either in talk radio or the blogosphere. Rush wondered openly if "liberals have lost their soul?" If the antics of the Hollywood crowd are any indication, I think we know the answer to that one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Fresh Look at Able Danger

About a week ago, I opined that we would all be better off if the 9-11 Commission didn't examine the Able Danger issue. At the time, I noted that the revelations regarding Able Danger merely confirmed what we already knew: coordination between intelligence agencies was terrible before 9-11, and there was virtually no information exchanged between the intel community and law enforcement.

I still stand by my original assessment, but let me add an important caveat: an inquiry should be made into why the 9-11 Commission failed to follow-up on the Able Danger information it received, and incorporate it into the panel's final report.

We've learned more about the special operations intelligence unit in recent days, thanks to one of its members, Lt Col Anthony Shaffer. A veteran Army intelligence officer, Lt Col Shaffer has decided to risk his career by talking publicly about Able Danger, and efforts to pass information to the FBI in the days before 9-11.

According to Colonel Shaffer, members of Able Danger tried to contact the FBI several times about information they had gleaned about suspected Al Qaida operatives, including Mohammed Atta, ring-leader of the 9-11 hijackings, and three of his associates. Their requests for meetings with the FBI were rejected by Pentagon lawyers, who feared the military would be criticized if leads developed by Able Danger failed to pan out. There were also concerns about a military intelligence agency gathering information on individuals who were in the country legally.

Democratic commission member Richard Ben-Veniste, in his morally superior Watergate mode, believes the Pentagon should tell the commission why they didn't receive all information available on Able Danger.

Wait just a second. Mr. Ben-Veniste needs to ask the commission staff why they didn't bother to follow-up on the intelligence unit and its information. Commission staffers flew to Afghanistan in 2003 to interview Lt Col Shaffer, who provided detailed information on the unit, what it learned before 9-11 and obstacles that prevented that information from reaching law enforcment. He also told the staffers that they had received only about "one twentieth" of the information that Able Danger developed; the complete database, he told CBS' The Early Show, represented about 2.5 terabytes of information. That's terabye with a "T."

But the staff reportedly never discussed Able Danger with their superiors, and there is no mention of the unit in the commission's final report. And that's a matter that begs further inquiry. Tasked with uncovering the truth about our intel failures behind 9-11, the commission deliberately omits a key piece of the puzzle, one that might prove embarassing to certain members (namely Jamie Gorelick, who created that wall between intelligence and law enforcement in the mid-1990s), or prove embarassing to the Clinton Administration.

The breakdown between intel and law enforcement before 9-11 is old news. But potential chicanery by a Presidential commission is another matter, and requires an independent inquiry. The nation would be well-served by asking what the panel knew, what it knew (but didn't report) and who prevented the commission from taking a full and honest look at the intel failures of 9-11.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Covering Iraq

Two years into the Iraq War, The New York Times considers how the press can provide a more "balanced" picture of what's going on inside that country. Seems that more than a few editors have received irate e-mails and phone calls from readers, wondering why Iraq coverage seems so one-sided, and focused on the latest car bombing, or suicide attack.

I'll resist the temptation to answer that one, for at least a moment. Actually, this controvery is hardly new; for the past month or so, Powerline has been documenting the saga of Mark Yost, the Associate Editorial Page Editor of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. In mid-July, Yost wrote a column that has ignited a firestorm in journalistic circles. A navy veteran, Mr. Yost spoke to a number of service members who have recently returned from Iraq, and wondered why their accounts differed so greatly from press coverage of Iraq.

Many of Mr. Yost's fellow journalists openly castigated him for saying such things. One actually said he was "embarassed" to have Yost as a colleague. Others suggested that only the press is capable of "understanding" the situation in Iraq. That might be a stretch, considering the number of embedded journalists has decreased twenty fold since the end of the Iraq War, and some reporters prefer to stay inside the Green Zone. One French newspaper reporter reportedly told her bosses in Paris that she never left her hotel room during her stay in Iraq. So much for the roving eye of an independent press.

But such hysteria is predictable; as a reformed member of the Fourth Estate, I can assure you that journalists are notoriously thin-skilled and smug, a dangerous combination for those entrusted with reporting the news. While quite willing to dish it out, the press has a hard time accepting criticism from anyone, especially another member of the "profession." By MSM standards, Yost's column was treasonous.

But back to our original question: why does the media have a hard time reporting the full story in Iraq? Obviously, there's an agenda at work here. Too many stories about rebuilt schools and stable provinences would undermine the media's over-arching story lne: Iraq is a quagmire; conditions are worse today that they were two years ago, and American soldiers are dying needlessly for a hopeless cause.

In the sense of charity, I will say that there's another problem which affects media coverage--the lack of reporters with prior military experience. Compare the latest AP dispatch from Iraq with the exceptional reporting of blogger Michael Yon, who has been Iraq for almost six months. A former Green Beret, Mr. Yon brings an experienced eye to urban combat, capturing the nuances that evade other reporters. Yon doesn't race from one bombing site to the next; he spends hours on patrol with U.S. soldiers, makes forays into the countryside to talk to Iraqi civilians, providing depth and context you won't find in MSM accounts. And, more amazingly, Yon is doing it on his own dime; he doesn't work for a major media outlet.

For an enterprising editor who wants to improve his paper's Iraq coverage, there is a short-term solution: put Mike Yon on your payroll. But I'm guessing that won't happen. First of all, Mike is an independent sort; I rather doubt he'd sign on with a MSM outlet. Secondly, given the agenda of the MSM in Iraq, there isn't room for more balanced or optimistic reporting. Better stick with the police blotter coverage, and make sure pictures of that next car bombing make tonight's broadcast, or tomorrow morning's bulldog edition.

Meanwhile, members of our military read press reports from Iraq, compare it with their own experiences, and come to the conclusion that the media can't be trusted. The title of Mark Yost's column said it best: "And We Wonder Why They Hate Us."

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Other Side of the Story

If you've sipped the Kool-aid and believe the Cindy Sheehans of this world, then you probably believe that George W. Bush is an ignorant, callous, unfeeling warmonger, who cheerfully sends U.S. soldiers to their death in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Newsweek (yes, Newsweek) finally weighs in with the rest of the story. Mr. Bush, they discovered, has routinely met with the families of military members who have died in the War on Terrorism. Most of these meetings are unpublicized; there is apparently no effort to screen out those members who oppose the war, or want to rail against the President over the loss of a family member.

While the magazine deserves some credit for its potrait of a compassionate and caring Commander-in-Chief, a couple of points are in order. First of all, Mr. Bush's meetings with the families of war dead are hardly a state secret--why did Newsweek wait until now to run the story, after Cindy Sheehan was given too much time (and media access) to make false accusations against the President. Secondly, why did the magazine ingnore some of the more salient points of the Sheehan story, namely the fact that Casey Sheehan volunteered for the mission that resulted in his death, and he was a 24-year-old career soldier-0n his second enlistment--when he was killed in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan has recently insinuated that her son was somehow "tricked" into joining the Army, and promised a rear echelon job as a chaplain's assistant.

Personally, I'd like to read more about Casey Sheehan and less about his mother. From what we've been told, Casey Sheehan was a genuine hero; as an Army vehicle mechanic, he could have stayed in the motor pool (and relative safety). Instead, he volunteered for a mission to rescue fellow soliders, despite being told that he didn't have to go. We can all take pride in the valor and heroism of Casey Sheehan, just as we are collectively revulsed by the actions of his mother.

Cindy Sheehan, "Shadow" Secretary of State

One of the more charming aspects of Britian's parlimentary system is the existence of so-called "shadow" cabinet members. For every member of Tony Blair's cabinet, there are counterparts in the opposition parties, who would hold that same post if their party every gains a majority, or becomes part of a ruling coalition. Shadow cabinet

Here in the states, we don't have shadow cabinet members. But that doesn't stop members of the "loyal opposition" from offering advice on various issues, including national security and international affairs. The latest to join the fray is Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother-turned-left-wing nutjob, currently camped out near President Bush's Texas ranch. Ms. Sheehan is, among other things, demanding a meeting with the President (never mind that she's already had one), the impeachment of Mr. Bush, and indictment of the President and his cabinet for war crimes. Oh, and just for good measure, Ms. Sheehan is vowing not to pay her 2004 income taxes, until the President "gives back her son," who died in Iraq in April of last year.

Not satisfied with that busy agenda, Ms. Sheehan found time over the weekend for a series of musings on foreign affairs, all duly transcribed by a sympathetic MSM. According to Ms. Sheehan, terrorist attacks against the west would end if the U.S. would simply vacate Iraq, and Israel withdraws from Palestine.

Alert the Nobel Peace Prize Committee! From the confines of her pup tent in Crawford, Ms. Sheehan has discovered the solution for peace in the Middle East--something that has eluded leaders, diplomats and generals for generations. Of course! We can stop terrorism once and for all just by getting out of Iraq and Palestine. Why didn't we think of that before?

At the joyful prospect of bursting her myopic bubble, one must point out the absolute idiocy and fallacy of Ms. Sheehan's plan. First of all, the U.S. wasn't occupying a single yard of Iraqi territory on 9-11, or when terrorists struck the World Trade Center in 1993, blew up the Air Force barracks in Dhaharn, Saudi Arabia in 1996, or attacked our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. We were under attack long before we invaded Iraq, in part to eliminate an evil regime that sponsored terrorism.

Wait a minute, I thought the 9-11 commission said there weren't any ties between Al Qaida and Saddam. True, there were no direct links between Baghdad and the 9-11 attacks, but there were plenty of contacts in the late 1990s, and Czech intelligence officials have never disavowed their claim that an Iraqi intel officer met with a 9-11 hijacker in Prague before the attacks.

On the Palestine issue, Ms. Sheehan ignores Israel's offer during the Wye River talks in 1999, when Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat an exceedingly generous peace offer--far beyond anything the Palestinians had asked for, both in terms of territory and autonomy. Arafat's response was to unleash the Intifada, that bloody wave of terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Palestinians and Israelis. And, lest we forget, Saddam helped sponsor that terror campaign, writing $25,000 checks to the families of suicide bombers. Call it a coincidence, but far fewer Palestinians have been willing to blow themselves up since Saddam was deposed, and the subsidies stopped.

Needless to say, the Sheehan/Lunatic Left Plan for a Lasting Middle East Peace has no basis in logic, let alone reality. But that won't deter her from making more pronouncements, or stop the MSM from treating her words as models of insight and analysis. Sadly, Ms. Sheehan's moment of fame will last a little bit longer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Political Correctness Strikes (Again)

A few months ago, we reported on the troubles surrounding Brigadier General Johnny Weida, Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy. General Weida ran afoul of the PC movement because he "tolerated" an environment within the cadet corps that supposedly favored Evangelical Christians. He further infuriated the PC police for a remark he made to cadets, stating that a military officer's first responsiblity "was to his god." Note the choice of words; while General Weida is a born-again Christian, he never said military officers should worship only the Christian God; his reference was to the supreme deity of any religious faith. It strikes me as sound advice for future military officers, who may someday lead men (and women) into battle.

More recently, Weida's name appeared on a list of Air Force officers nominated for promotion to Major General (two-star rank). However, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which must approve promotion lists, has failed to approve General Weida's promotion, along with two other Air Force brigadier generals. Sources indicate that Weida's name was removed from the promotion list because of faith-related issues at the academy, and yet another inquiry into the school's "religious atmosphere." It is unclear why the other officers were struck from the promotion list.

Disturbingly, a pair of officers with more serious career issues were approved for promotion by the Senate. Brigadier Generals Larry New and Mark Shackelford are on track to receive their second star, despite being fired from key posts earlier in their careers. As you'll recall, then-Colonel New was fired as an Operations Group Commander at Nellis AFB, NV in the late 1990s, after a flawed training and deployment program resulted in an overworked rescue squadron. The unit's problems culminated in a mid-air collision between two HH-60 helicopters that killed 12 crew members. Shackelford was also fired as a Colonel (when he ran the the F/A-22 Raptor fighter program), after auditors billions of dollars in cost overruns.

The logic of the Senate panel is difficult to fathom. If Weida's performance was not worthy of promotion, how can the committee justify the advancement of Generals Shackelford and New? Supposed religious intolerance in a training environment is one thing, but billions in cost overrruns and the preventable loss of aircraft and personnel is quite another. By that standard, any Air Force officer or NCO denied promotion for sundry offenses deserves another chance.

There is a possibility that General Weida's name will be added to the promotion list later, after the latest inquiry is completed. But don't bet on it. General Weida has become a lightning rod for the PC police, and they won't rest until his military career is over, and the last vestige of religious expression is banished from the Academy. And sadly, members of the Senate seem quite willing to support their witch hunt.

For the record: I do not know General Weida, nor did serve under him during my military career.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Echoes of 9-11

Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon has revealed some news that is clearly disturbing--but not surprising. According to Mr. Weldon, a classified U.S. military intelligence unit, known as "Able Danger" linked 9-11 ring leader Mohammed Atta (and three other hijackers) to Al Qaida back in 1999, and recommended that their information be passed to the FBI, for the purpose of arresting them. However, government lawyers objected to that proposal, noting that Atta and the others were in the country legally, and expressing concern that "U.S. persons" might wind up in the dragnet, in violation of intelligence oversight laws.

Of course, we all know the consequences of the resulting inaction. It's another, tragic example of the lack of cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement prior to 9-11. Unfortunately, the 9-11 Commission plan to use the Weldon revelation as an excuse to get back into business, for the purpose of evaluating the Congressman's claim.

This is a bad idea for a couple of reasons. First of all, despite the "new" information by Mr. Weldon, his report merely reaffirms cooperation problems before 9-11 that have been well-publicized and investigated at length by the Presidential commission. Secondly, the highly-politicized 9-11 panel has shown great reluctance to explore some of the root causes of our 9-11 intelligence security and intelligence failures, including the so-called Torricelli Amendment (which prevented intelligence agencies from using sources with a questionable past) and the infamous Gorelick Memo, authored by panel member (and former Assistant Attorney General Jamie Gorelick), which created a legal wall between the counter-intelligence and law enforcement communities.

In short, a resurrection of the 9-11 panel will simply re-identify a problem that existed before 9-11, with little regard for some of its root causes. Additionally, reactivating the panel will give its most partisan Democratic members a chance to use new "hearings" to launch attacks against the Bush Administration.

However, I'm betting that the panel may (ultimately) decide not to pursue the manner. Afterall, Able Danger's association of Atta and his men with Al Qaida occurred in 1999, when Bill Clinton was still in office. The failure to pass this information to law enforcement occurred on his watch, almost three years before the attacks and two years before George W. Bush took office. With Hillary's eyes set on 2008 and Bill anxious to protect his "legacy," I'd guess the Clintons have already passed operating instructions to their friends on the panel: leave the Weldon report alone, and avoid a wider inquiry into the mistakes and political decisions that actually set the stage for 9-11.

A Mother's Tears

I never met my uncle Walter. He died more than a decade before I was born, during the invasion of Peleliu during World War II. My grandparents learned of their youngest son's death in a short, cryptic telegram from the War Department, informing them that he had been killed in combat. Later, they received a letter from one of Walter's fellow Marines who informed them that he had died instantly, after being blown apart by a Japanese mortar shell.

To this day, I'm not really sure how my grandparents or my mother (Walter's younger sister) dealt with his death. In World War II, grief was something expressed in private. There were no support groups, visits by military notification teams, or private meetings with senior government officials. From what I could tell (as a young child), my grandparents and Walter's surviving siblings grieved over his loss, then tried to get on with life, as best they could. Until her death, my grandmother continued to fly a small, gold star flag in her living room window, signifying the family's sacrifice during World War II.

Contrast the behavior of my grandparents--and other World War II families--with the actions of Cindy Sheehan, the newest poster girl for the anti-war crowd. Ms. Sheehan's son, Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq in April 2004. Ms. Sheehan is currently staging a protest outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, vowing to remain there until the Commander-in-Chief agrees to meet with her and the families of other soldiers killed in Iraq.

In recent press interviews, Ms. Sheehan has accused President Bush of "killing her son." But, thanks to Matt Drudge, we know that Ms. Sheehan has changed her tune over the past year. Drudge unearthed a report in a Vacaville, CA newspaper from last year, describing a meeting between Bush and the families of dead soldiers at Fort Lewis, Washington, a session that Ms. Sheehan was invited to and willingly participated in. Ms. Sheehan told the California paper that the President was supportive and compassionate during that meeting; more recently, she has described the President's conduct as cavalier and callous.

What changed? Has Ms. Sheehan's grief morphed into righteous anger? Perhaps, but I believe there's another explanation for her dramatic change-of-heart. Quite simply, I believe Ms. Sheehan has filled the sudden emptiness in her life with the siren call of celebrity. Suddenly, she's being beseiged with requests for interviews, and seeing her name and picture in the newspaper. It can be heady stuff. Consider the example of Marc Klass, the California father whose young daughter, Polly, was brutally murdured more than 10 years ago. That ordeal elevated Mr. Klass to celebrity status, and he's alwasy on TV whenever there's a high-profile kidnapping or murder case involving a child. I might be reading him wrong, but Mr. Klass strikes me as someone in love with the sound of his own voice. I see a similar quality in Ms. Sheehan, who appears willing to trade on personal tragedy in pursuit of the public spotlight.

I have no doubt that the grief Ms. Sheehan feels is genuine. As the father of four children, I can only imagine the shock and horror that accompanies the death of a son or daughter. But I also know that there are more productive ways to deal with a combat death than staging a media event outside the President's ranch. Ms. Sheehan might consider working with the families of other dead service members, or raising money for the surviving sons and daughters of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But such work takes time, effort and (besides) it attracts little publicity.

There is also a personal danger in Ms. Sheehan's approach. In some respects, she reminds me of Norma Jean McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion case. As Ms. McCorvey noted years later, she was essentially "used" by abortion advocates, seeking to overturn Texas' anti-abortion law. After the Supreme Court decision, Ms. McCorvey was dumped by her feminist supporters, leaving her alone to cope with the consequences of the ruling, and her personal decision to have an abortion.

Listening to a radio interview between Ms. Sheehan and Tony Snow, I heard a woman who had been coached in the talking points of the anti-war movement. But when the questions got tougher, Ms. Sheehan became flustered and eventually hung up, suggesting someone who's being manipulated by others in her movement. It doesn't take a spin doctor to realize that Sheehan may well become the Norma Jean McCorvey of the anti-war movement; Once the Iraq War ends--or they simply find a more coherent spokesman, Ms. Sheehan will find herself on the ash heap of celebrity, alone to mourn the loss of a son, and her brief media career. No one deserves to lose a son or daughter in combat, but I'll be glad to see Cindy Sheehan disappear from the public eye.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peter Jennings, RIP

Lung cancer claimed the life of ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings last night. He was only 67; I say that because Mr. Jennings always looked much younger than his age, beginning with his first stint in the ABC anchor chair in the 1960s. He was only 26, but appeared to have stumbled into the newsroom on the way home from his high school prom.

ABC didn't have much of a news division, nor many viewers back in those days. The network was desperately trying to attract a younger audience, and Jennings was part of that plan. It didn't work; competing against the entrenched Walter Cronkite on CBS and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC, Jennings had few viewers. After being banished from the anchor chair in 1966, he spent the next 15 years as a foreign correspondent, in Vietnam, the Middle East and London. In between, there was a brief stint in Washington, where he spent an uncomfortable year as newsreader for AM America, the predecessor to Good Morning America.

Jennings returned to the anchor chair in 1978, part of Roone Arledge's multiple anchor format for World News Tonight. Five years later, after the sudden death of lead anchor Frank Reynolds, Jennings became the sole anchor of the broadcast. Jennings enjoyed greater success the second time around; Arledge had spent freely to build ABC's news division and his broadcast enjoyed much stronger lead-in ratings, because many of the network's affiliates carried the Oprah Winfrey Show, attracting large numbers of female viewers who stuck around for the Jennings broadcast. World News Tonight reached #1 in the ratings by the mid-1980s and didn't surrender that lead for almost seven years, when it was finally overtaken by Tom Brokaw and NBC.

Along the way, Jennings established himself as a smooth, polished presence in the anchor chair. As someone who once labored in the salt mines of broadcasting, I could only marvel at his on-air skills. A friend who worked at ABC said Jennings could literally slide into the seat seconds before the broadcast began, glance at the teleprompter, and read the intro as though he'd been practicing all afternoon. He was at his best during ABC's marathon, global coverage of the 2000 Millenium Celebration, and again on 9-11. While some of his competitors faltered--CBS sent Russ Mitchell to spell Dan Rather just a few hours into their broadcast--Jennings was calm, measured and professional well into the evening. He won a well-deserved Peabody award for that performance.

But Jennings had his warts as well. There were three, well-publicized divorces along the way, and the anchorman was a womanizer of legendary repute. He reportedly met his third wife, writer and TV producer Kati Marton, by offering to adjust the kilt she wore to work in ABC's London bureau. When Ms. Marton later left him for another man, some women at ABC described it as just deserts.

As a journalist, Jennings was fond of bragging about establishing the first American TV bureau in the Middle East in the early 1970s, but failed to mention that many of his cronies were Palestinians and his coverage shamelessly favored their cause. One of Jenning's live-in girlfriends from that period was Hanan Ashrawi, best known as Yasser Arafat's mouthpiece during peace talks with Israel. Not surprisingly, his coverage of other issues tilted left as well, although (unlike Rather and Brokaw) he acknowledged the liberal bias of broadcast news, and opined that TV needed more conservative voices. He championed George Will's brief stint as a commentator on World News Tonight, and later, supported the work of John Stossel, despite his conservative views.

Jennings will be remembered as a talented journalist and broadcaster and the last of a vanishing breed: a network anchor in an era when most of us relied on the MSM for our news. We should mourn the death of Peter Jennings, but be thankful that we won't rely on his successor to inform and shape our world view.

Catching Up...

It's been a busy few days; finished moving in (well amost finished) moving into my new house on the East Coast, before departing for a business trip out west. A number of items have caught my eye in recent days, and I'll try to catch up on them before heading home....

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Modus Operandi

We're learning more about last month's deadly terrorist bombings in London, thanks to the New York Police Department. The NYPD--smartly--dispatched a team of detectives to England shortly aftet the attacks to monitor the investigation and absord lessons learned by their British counterparts.

With the Brits' permission, the NYPD held a press conference yesterday, outlining the relative ease with which the terrorists manufactured their deadly weapons, and transported them to attack locations. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly notes that the tactics used in London could be easily adapted to other locations.

The British investigation also underscores the potential role of the public in observing and reporting suspicious activity. For example, some of the homicide bombers from Leeds lived in a flop house--equipped with commercial-grade refrigerators to keep bomb materials at the proper temperature. It's likely that the terrorists obtained these refrigerators from an appliance dealer--but no one thought to question a purchase by individuals with no apparent need for high-end equipment. Likewise, residents of the Leeds neighborhood observed the refrigerators being delivered to the flop house, but no one considered that unusual or suspicious.

It's almost a cliche, but the public remains one of our best weapons in the War on Terror. No one knows your neighborhood or workplace as well as you do. Yet, virtually every terrorist attack has been preceded by signs or indicators that were ignored by residents and/or local authorities. As we learned in Britain, even something as innocuous as a refrigerator delivery may be an indicator of a pending terrorist attack. In the days after 9-11, the American public was reminded constantly: if you see something unusual or out of the ordinary, call the police. Now, as the enemy resorts to new tactics and weapons, it's time for us to be even more vigilant--and make that call.

Meanwhile, our friends at the ACLU are suing NYC over those recently-implemented searches of subway riders. When a homicide bomber detonates himself on a train or bus, or inside a shopping mall or big-box retailer, be sure and send a thank you note to the ACLU

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Suspicious Activity Update

Last week, I posted a link to that battlestaff directive from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, regarding suspicious activity recently observed near that facility. I'm now told that the FBI has determined that the report lacks credibility. However, the Air Force is still investigating, and there have been similar reports from Davis-Monthan AFB, near Tucson, Arizona.

Davis-Monthan (or D-M as it's known in AF circles) is home to A-10 attack aircraft and EC-130H COMPASS CALL airborne jammers. It's also relatively close to our (relatively) unguarded southern border. There have been past concerns about a possible attack against a military installation in the southwestern U.S., so reports of suspicious activity near D-M (and other bases) can't be arbitrarily dismissed.