Was This Smart?

Major New York Times story this morning about how the capture of a Pakistani “computer geek” led to Sunday’s unusually precise terror threat warnings from Tom Ridge:

The figure, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, was described by a Pakistani intelligence official as a 25-year-old computer engineer, arrested July 13, who had used and helped to operate a secret Qaeda communications system where information was transferred via coded messages.

Is it a good thing that we (or the Pakistanis) have got a guy like this, to say nothing of the invaluable computer and communications records apparently captured with Khan? (KHAAAAAAN! Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Of course it is.

Was it a smart thing for somebody to tell the New York Times about it? That I’m not so sure about. On the one hand, Khan’s compatriots almost certainly know that he’s been captured by now, and may well have given up anything he had knowlege of or access to as a lost cause.

On the other hand, there’s that little voice that says, “There’s no need to brag, guys. Blabbing to the press is how you lost access to Osama’s satellite phones, you know.” We still don’t know what we don’t know, and analysis of the KHAAAAN! information will take a long time to complete. Better to call the reasons for the threat warnings “good intelligence,” and leave it at that.

Of course, there are some collateral benefits from knowing the quality of the new threat intel so precisely. For one, Howard Dean looks like an utter fool today (not that this was a surprise to anybody outside the Bush-is-Hitler fever swamps):

“I am concerned that every time something happens that’s not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism,” Howard Dean, a former rival of Mr. Kerry for the Democratic nomination, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN on Sunday.

“His whole campaign is based on the notion that ‘I can keep you safe, therefore at times of difficulty for America stick with me,’ and then out comes Tom Ridge,” Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor, added, referring to the homeland security secretary. “It’s just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there’s some of both in it.”

Thank God a man so obsessed with his personal bigotries will never be Commander-In-Chief.

You might as well go apply for a job at Ben and Jerry’s, Howard. Kerry won’t be returning your calls after this idiocy. You’ve just condemned yourself to becoming the Pat Buchanan of the Democratic Party. And I have to say, it looks really good on you.


36 Responses to “Was This Smart?”

  1. HoosierDave Says:

    Hey Will,

    With Khan’s capture, that node of communications was lost to the terrorists anyway, so I don’t think it’s similar to the “we have bin Laden’s cell phone number” gaffe. Plus, if we show Khan that we’ve outed him, maybe he can be convinced we’re his only hope; i.e., “They know you’ve told us all of this, you’d better keep it up or we’ll turn you loose and they can take care of you.”

  2. BillB Says:

    I must confess that my initial “gut” reaction was the same as yours. “Geeze guys, shut up about the intel you’ve gathered!”

    Then I realized that the primary goal here is to prevent the terrorist attack. You can accomplish that goal via this newly gathered intelligence inseveral different ways….you can silently boost the security around the named buildings in the hopes of nabbing the bad guys when they make their move, or you can pre-emptively (I love that word) announce that you’ve learned of their targets, which dissuades them from acting on them.

    Now the terrorists have a couple of options…go against the named targets anyway, or call the whole thing off and find new targets. If they choose the former, we’re no worse off than if we kept it secret. If they choose the latter, we win more time to try and find them.

    Anyway, Dean is still a moonbat.

  3. Mike M Says:

    If Khan has been in the can for 2 weeks, there’s a good chance we’ve gotten all the useful intel out of him that was to be had.

    Now the story gets leaked so the terrorists know that we know about their plans, and we’re in place to observe and follow when they start changing their systems and methods.

    At least that’s the way we hope it’s working…

  4. Razor Says:

    Yes, but let’s not forget, if we had this information, and then an attack happened, and THEN we were told that they had this information, the roar would be deafening.

    Now, I don’t know how it helps me or you to know about this plot. Short of moving to Guam, either the authorities can stop an attack or they can’t. My knowledge doesn’t do anything about that – I mean, if I saw four middle-easterners driving up in big Ryder trucks and parking them outside my building, I’m running to security regardless.

    No, revealing these plots is as much about “cya” as it is to stop them.

  5. Kevin Says:

    I agree with several of the previous posts:
    1. If you can’t get an advantage after a few days, you probably never will.
    2. The goal is to prevent an attack, and this can do the job.

    There is another possibility, though. Suppose this geek did not keep records of his communications. That is, of course, very possible. What moron would keep records like that? This could be bluff. By saying that he did, terror cells through out the world may think that they have been compromised and go to their escape plan. If they move, we have a better chance of preventing an attack and a better chance of discovering them.

  6. Cranial Cavity Says:

    Dean Places Himself Firmly in Orbit Around Uranius

    Leave it to Howard Dean to reaffirm how far out into outer space most of the Democratic Party orbits. And the Bush eviiiiiiil conspirators live on,at least in some minds, mostly Democratic.News of the terror threat on Sunday also stirred renewed sugges…

  7. sligobob Says:

    Well, Kerry is not too far from Dean. Kerry is quoted in the New York Post: “One if by land, two if by sea, and the message was right. Come to think of it, they had better intelligence than we do today about what’s going on,” Kerry continued, drawing the loudest applause of the event.

    Kerry has the opportunity, whenever he wants it, to be briefed on security matters. It’s this kind of cynical, don’t be a sucker talk that makes people doubt that we are at war and that we are directly threatened.

    This morning on NPR I heard Larry Johnson, former Deputy Director at State for Counter Terrorism (1989-1993), say that the administration loses credibility every time they make one of these announcements or raise the threat level “and then nothing happens.” So, unless and until people start dying after an announcement is made, it must have been a sham. Gotta love those “experts.”

  8. BradDad Says:

    But for the Nut Left accusing the Bush Administration of lying all the time, there’d have been no need to discuss any of the intel which led to the threat level being increased.

    Now it’s necessary to (a) make sure it’s taken seriously; and (b) defend against the political charges which are undoubtedly coming.

    It’s sickening that the political environment is that poisonous – it’s also sickening that the parties responsible aren’t called on it.

  9. bkw Says:

    BTW, it’s best as KHAAAN! — with 3 A’s.


  10. jeff Says:

    Lay off poor Howard Dean. Like Macy Gray, he had a moment, and since then he can’t get arrested. When I have my moment, I intend to appreciate it.

  11. rkb Says:

    Lieberman on TV last night:

    “Anyone who’s the least bit fair and isn’t out of his mind realizes this announcement wasn’t made for political advantage.”

    Heh. Go Joe!

  12. Jim R Says:

    Some more tidbits from the Dems in
    NY Times Article today:

    *Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry. “You have to spend as much time as humanly possible worrying about the things you can control. We don’t sit around all day talking about what color the terror alert is.”

    *”Senator Charles Schumer of New York said in an interview that the focus on continuing threats, three years after Sept. 11, was evidence that Mr. Bush was highly vulnerable on this issue. Mr. Schumer said “I think this is one of the sleeper issues of this campaign. It’s one where Kerry can show strength and at the same time show that this administration hasn’t really thought through the war on terror.”

    * Mr. Kerry said Sunday that he did not anticipate sending more American troops to Iraq and hoped to bring “significant numbers” home during his first term. Mr. Kerry said, “I would consider it an unsuccessful policy if I hadn’t brought significant numbers of troops back within the first term. And I will do that.”

    Times URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/02/politics/campaign/02campaign.html?th

    When the Dems line up a firing squad, they create a circle.

  13. Robert Says:

    That Larry Johnson is an idiot. We do not know exactly what cards Al Qaeda is hold, so we are either going to overuse the terror alerts or underuse them. Which one do you want it to be?

  14. Joan of Argghh! Says:

    If George Bush had as much power as the Dems are ready to ascribe to him, why, he’d rule the world! No! The UNIVERSE! Sheesh.

    The “tell” on Dean’s and the Dem’s poker face is that they accusing the Pubbies of doing whatever despicable thing that the Dems would do as a matter of course.

  15. Jrice Says:

    I didn’t think revealing the cell-phone-as-a-source story was a mistake. Nor do I think it is a mistake to reveal the information about computer programmers working for terrorism. It’s useful in wartime to keep your enemy uncertain and target his assets — the cell phone and now the internet use. The U.S. targets those. It’s our so-called allies whose turn it is to take some initiative.

    Cell phones were used in the Madrid bombing in both the planning and execution. You can’t say the U.S. didn’t warn European telecommunication companies of the risk they took in ignoring the terrorist tools.

    As for Dean, I am a conspiracy nut. I happen to think the Democrat campaign is a political termite tent, drawing in all the little bugs like Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Hollywood money, and the beyond-the-fringe anti-war, anti-everything Left in the hope of eradicating them from the Democrat Party. Maybe I am just an optimist on that.

  16. Peter Says:

    The capture of KHAAAN! was over two weeks ago. When an important operative drops out of communication the automatic assumption is that he’s been bagged (or become a turncoat).
    There is no way a prisoner will not spill everything to captors willing to use drugs and torture as the Pakis almost certainly are.
    We’ve lost nothing by telling.

  17. Veeshir Says:

    I’ll make you one bet Steve, Kerry won’t drop Dean. What Dean said is almost sane compared to other stuff that people have said with no backlash.
    Michael Moore in the President’s Box? Al fricking Sharpton as a speaker? Kerry even thanked Sharpton in his speech. The list goes on and on.

    Heck, that was almost sane when comparing it to what Dean normally says about Bush.

  18. InTheBullpen.com Says:

    Al Sadr Surrounded

    According to reports coming out of Iraq, cleric Muqtada Al Sadr has been surrounded by United States forces being backed by Iraqi forces. There is currently a shoot-out between U.S. forces and Al Sadr

  19. InTheBullpen.com Says:

    CIA has Broken Al Qaeda Code

    This raised multiple questions. Assuming this source is correct and they did capture a computer engineer with access to the information to break the Al Qaeda code, why would the CIA openly talk about this? This is intelligence that is better left to th…

  20. Outside The Beltway Says:

    Beltway Traffic Jam

    The Monday linkfest:

    Julian Sanchez finds it ironic that Kuwait is banning Fahrenheit 911, which claims Saudi is “undemocratic.”
    Dean Esmay answers Spoons and Michelle Malkin.
    Courtney Knapp pledges to quit posting about ice cream for a while…

  21. tibor Says:

    Sligobob, Larry Johnson was the @sshat who wrote an op-ed piece in early 2001 (I think) saying how the al Qaeda threat was exaggerated.

    NYC is taking this very seriously. On my way in to work this morning I was pleased to see a Blackhawk fly up the Hudson River to just north of the George Washington Bridge, turn around and then head back down the River. Later, when I got off the West Side Highway, an unmarked (non-Chevy Caprice) police car immediately pulled over a 22-ft. Penske rental truck. It could have been because the West Side Highway is for non-commercial vehicles only, but I doubt it.

  22. spongeworthy Says:

    As soon as this guy was bagged his AQ buddies knew all about it. The Paki ISI is rife with scumbags and it’s a wonder he wasn’t tipped to his imminent capture.

  23. DANEgerus Says:

    MujahiDEAN is reduced to political suicide bombing…

  24. McGehee Says:

    The Paki ISI is rife with scumbags and it’s a wonder he wasn’t tipped to his imminent capture.

    If I hadn’t just read The Art of War with its discussion of “doomed spies” — your own people to whom you feed false information to fool them into misleading the enemy when captured — my tinfoil hat would not be going off right now. Yeesh.

  25. J_Crater Says:

    Didn’t Al Sharpton claim, just a few weeks for 9/11, that “America has no real enemies” ?

  26. Mycin Says:

    Maybe I’ve read too much Clancy, but here’s a thought I had.

    What if this is just misdirection? What if they got little of use from Khan and this intel actually came from some other source? Putting out a statement that it came from Khan would accomplish two things. 1) It would serve to protect the “real” source of the intel, and 2) it could be used to scare Khan into cooperating on other matters. Since he’s been fingered as a “traitor” to the cause, his only hope would be to cooperate in exchange for protection.

    I know this would be giving a lot more credit to our “intelligence” community than they’ve earned, recently. But, I can dream, can’t I?


  27. Captain Kirk Says:

    “I’m laughing at that superior intellect.”

  28. MartiniPundit Says:

    Howard Dean Who?

    Will Collier has some advice for Howard Dean:

    You might as well go apply for a job at Ben and Jerry's, Howard. Kerry won't be returning your calls after this idiocy. You've just condemned yourself to becoming the Pat Buchanan of the Dem…

  29. Floyd McWilliams Says:

    Cell phones were used in the Madrid bombing in both the planning and execution. You can’t say the U.S. didn’t warn European telecommunication companies of the risk they took in ignoring the terrorist tools.

    Um … the European telcos were supposed to do what, exactly? Confiscate all cell phones? Listen in on all phone calls?

  30. The Moderate Voice Says:

    The Terrorist Security Alert Dilemma UPDATED MONDAY NIGHT

    The heightened security alert (gotten from information contained in the computer from an Al Qaeda figure captured in Pakistan) due to terrorist plans to target financial institutions underlines the nation’s and political system’s ticklish dilemmas on t…

  31. jrice Says:

    It isn’t like you have to monitor *every* call made. The U.S. isn’t alone in having software to filter for specific words or flag chatter. It’s not exactly a state secret that cell phones are the preferred method of detonation. Couple that with a cell phone owned by a guy named Jamal or Mohammed. When Jamal or Mohammed sells cell phones, is already on a list supplied by his native country, and you are given warnings that he is dangerous, it’s time to act.

    European intelligence and security agencies have worked since 9/11 under the assumption that they would not be targeted and have regularly ignored the warnings of Moroccan authorities. Before 9/11 they saw the problem as national; only afterward Madrid did they move to coordinate intelligence. They still believe the problem is someone elses.

    France has undoubtedly one of the most aggressive intelligence services in the world. Even in the 1960s it was said that something like half the phones in France were tapped, and that was before computers. The French and Germans have capacities that rival the U.S. in intelligence gathering, although the U.S. doesn’t have regional phone tapping offices as do the French.

  32. maha Says:

    Strangely, you left out the part about the “intelligence” Bush used to frighten everyone was at least three years old.

  33. McGehee Says:

    “Much” of it was old — but not all of it. And perhaps Maha has forgotten that 9/11 was being planned for FIVE years.

    Which is more than three.

  34. David R Beatty Says:

    Maha, you are an idiot. I went to your blog and here’s a quote that speaks volumes:

    Bush’s only asset was his faux cowboy act, but that kept the election close enough to steal.

    He did not steal the 2000 election. Get over it.

    You have not only drunk the Kool Aid, but you are producing more.

  35. jed Says:

    I now have a mental image of Osama Bin Laden sitting in a cave someplace, a wild look in his eyes, spewing Melville quotations in the general direction of Dubya.

  36. David March Says:

    Perhaps the fabled lengthy wait for the telephone installeurs we have heard so much lamented was simply the result of all the set-up involved in wiring the government wiretaps in advance of the on-turning of service…

    Hmmmmm. Come to think of it, the last several new residential phone installations I’ve ordered have taken far longer than they used to.

    I’m going to start raising carrier pigeons.


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