Saturday, August 12, 2006

AP Misses it; Time Gets it

There's an interesting contrast in today's news with regard to the terrorist chemical explosive plot just broken up. First off, note that the terrorists had just been given the go-ahead to attack. (And people wonder about the timing?) And you should also know that a key to uncovering the plot was a tip from 'a member of the muslim community.' And the attack was apparently scheduled for August 16.

The AP comes off pretty darn silly for its article entitled "Bush staff wanted bomb detect cash moved." It might just be the headline that's the problem, because the article has no coherent point and the headline gives the impression that there is one:

Bush staff wanted bomb-detect cash moved
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer
Fri Aug 11, 7:38 PM ET

While the British terror suspects were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives detection technology.

Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of steps by the Homeland Security Department that has left lawmakers and some of the department's own experts questioning the commitment to create better anti-terror technologies.

First note for Solomon: in a federal budget in excess of $2 trillion, every $6 million shift is 'quiet.' Would Solomon describe a moth in a hurricane as 'quiet,' too?

Homeland Security's research arm, called the Sciences & Technology Directorate, is a "rudderless ship without a clear way to get back on course," Republican and Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee declared recently.

"The committee is extremely disappointed with the manner in which S&T is being managed within the Department of Homeland Security," the panel wrote June 29 in a bipartisan report accompanying the agency's 2007 budget...

"They clearly have been given lots of resources that they haven't been using," Sabo said.

...Lawmakers and recently retired Homeland Security officials say they are concerned the department's research and development effort is bogged down by bureaucracy, lack of strategic planning and failure to use money wisely.

The department failed to spend $200 million in research and development money from past years, forcing lawmakers to rescind the money this summer.

So Republicans and Democrats agree that the agency is a 'rudderless ship,' and are disappointed that it has been unable to spend $200 million provided to it in recent years, and yet the headline is that the Bush administration wanted $6 million shifted away? What about the $200 million unspent?

The rest of the article is similarly pointless. If Solomon and the AP are suggesting that this $6 million is somehow important to the effort to thwart terror plots, they're entirely unable to sustain the point.

Plus, even if this technology is important (which makes some sense), that's not what broke up this terror plot. And the proposed $6 million shift would have made no difference in thwarting the attack.

CNN's story on the plot discusses the methods that broke it up, and makes clear that the threat to efforts to thwart terrorists comes not from $6 million budget shifts, but from the NYT, LAT, and others in the MSM:

Counterterrorism officials used telephone records, e-mails and bank records to connect the suspects and build a detailed picture of the conspiracy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said.

Their spending habits and bank accounts also were traced by a unit that monitors the flow of money to provide evidence of association, the memo said.

Bank records, telephone calls, and money flows huh? Who would have thought that things like that could help you catch terrorists? It boggles the mind that the MSM see no harm in trying to expose every possible detail about how these programs operate.

And credit to Time magazine, which seems to lack the courage of its convictions, but at least suggests the correct response:

The answer, say security experts, highlights the need for a security system based on sophisticated profiling: It may be more important for the security system to be geared towards detecting passengers with intent to do harm rather than relying on detecting the specific means they've chosen. Boston's Logan Airport is currently testing a version of profiling called the SPOT program, but it avoids the ethnic profiling that many security experts say, despite its objectionable political connotations, would have to be the focus of an effective system.

Get ready for the next set of Republican campaign commercials: can you trust Democrats who oppose wiretaps and monitoring of transactions to fight the war on terror?

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