Friday, October 14, 2005

I keep trying to figure out whether yesterday's Daily News story about the New York subway terror alert makes it more or less likely that the alert was a Bush deception (as I know all of you believe it was).

The city's rich and well-connected were tipped off to last week's subway terror threat days before average New Yorkers, the Daily News has learned.

At least two E-mails revealing the purported plot were sent to a select crowd of business and arts executives early last week by New Yorkers who claimed to have close connections to Homeland Security and other federal officials, authorities said.

The NYPD confirmed that it learned of the E-mails on Oct. 3 - three days before Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the FBI went public with the threat....

The early warning infuriated several police officials, who noted that Homeland Security officials had challenged the credibility of the threat after the city and FBI warned the public.

"We're briefing the mayor, ratcheting up security, talking about when to go public - and Homeland Security is downplaying the whole thing while their people are telling friends to stay out of the subways," a police source said. "It's pretty bad." ...

Here's what I think: If the Bushies wanted to spread fear, is this how they'd do it? Not through a big, brassy D.C. press conference, but through viral marketing to a select demographic?

If this was a Bush ruse to spread fear via "new media," it didn't work -- word didn't spread very far; the public didn't find out until New York City made the announcement a couple of days later.

One person who didn't spread the word was the unnamed blogger at GOP and the City. He posted a partial text of one of the e-mails, but only when the alert was being made public by the city (note the date at the very top of the post), adding this comment:

Now, put on your tin hats...I got this email forwarded to me on Tuesday (10/4/05) from a coworker. I sent it on to Snopes and some other NYC Bloggers as a potential hoax. Look who's not laughing now.

So a Republican blogger got one of the e-mails two days before the story went public -- and didn't post it.

You know what else makes me doubt White House skulduggery? The fact that Bloomberg and his police commissioner were the focus of all the attention. In a White House operation, wouldn't the point have been to persuade the public that Flight Suit Bush and His Band of Mighty Warriors are all that stands between America and the unthinkable? Why yield the headlines to a not-very-Republican Republican, a guy who just recently made a point of telling NYC voters that he opposed John Roberts? Hell, I don't think Bush would have yielded the stage to a mayor who agreed with him on everything. Bush and obvious Bush surrogates would have made the message clear: "We will keep you safe. We are your daddies."

Also, why New York? If Bush wanted to scare people, why convey the sense that the "real" America wasn't under threat?

I'm sticking with my theory: This really was based on an intelligence report, one that turned out to be unreliable. And the feds couldn't make up their minds what the hell to think when they passed it on to the city.

(Also note this New York Times story, which says that Homeland Security personnel didn't believe the intel because it was too specific. I mention that only because, like the NYPD officials quoted in the story, I don't get it at all. These Homeland Security people are not to be confused with the Homeland Security people who obviously did believe the intel and e-mailed their friends accordingly. Feel safe now?)

A final thought: I wonder if the administration has changed strategies and doesn't want to scare the public anymore -- apart from the subway alert, there's been a lot less of this kind of thing in the second Bush term. Maybe Ashcroft and Ridge liked grandstanding more than Gonzales and Chertoff do. Or maybe the White House is trying to send the message that We're Winning the War on Terror, Dammit, and scaring people undermines the new party line.

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