Friday, July 3, 2015

New Threat Warning, Same As the Old Threat Warning

It's a holiday weekend, and that means the bureaucrats of Homeland Security are at it again, issuing another vague but dire terrorism threat warning:

WASHINGTON, July 3 (UPI) -- Parades, fireworks and barbecues are annual July 4 traditions. So are reports of terrorist threats. And that makes Americans less likely to take them seriously even though this year's situation is new, experts say.

-- snip --

This week, the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and National Counterterrorism Center issued a joint intelligence bulletin to law enforcement across the U.S. warning of threats from extremists tied to Independence Day.

"They can't not put out a warning, even if they have no indication of increased threat," said former FBI senior official Christopher Voss. "If an attack occurs, they would have no defense for not putting out a warning."

Voss, Clarke [an associate political scientist who researches counterterrorism and the Middle East at RAND Corporation] and other homeland security experts said these raised alerts could be less about safeguarding the public than making certain that the government is on the record about the seriousness of the threat should something happen.

"What's the alternative? Not take these things seriously then have something happen? If it ends up being overblown, I'll take that 10 times out of 10 over the alternative," said Clarke.

Thank You, noted Homeland Security Experts Voss and Clarke, for adding a moment of honesty amidst the panic-mongering of this latest baseless threat warning.

Indeed, what is the alternative to DHS, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the FBI all covering their collective asses by issuing vague warnings about non-specific threats? I guess the only alternative would be to say nothing when they have nothing to say. And then where would they be?

I could make some snarky remarks at this point about how nothing ever changes with these cynical threat warnings, but instead I'll just re-run what I said on the subject way back in 2008:

The FBI and Homeland Security have issued another of their vague terrorism warnings ("analytical notes") to local law enforcement agencies. See the Washington Post article Feds Warn About Possible Terrorist Plot Targeting NYC. As usual, they have no specific threat information and, consequently, no security countermeasures to recommend. They just want to drop their warning and let you make of it what you will.

Here are some quotes from the story:

We have no specific details to confirm that this plot has developed beyond aspirational planning, but we are issuing this warning out of concern that such an attack could possibly be conducted during the forthcoming holiday season," states the warning, which is dated Tuesday.

While federal agencies regularly issue all sorts of advisory warnings, the language of this one is particularly blunt.

Intelligence and homeland security officials are working with local authorities to try to corroborate the information "and will continue to investigate every possible lead," the memo says.

Knocke, the DHS spokesman, said the warning was issued "out of an abundance of caution going into this holiday season."

No changes are being made to the nation's threat level, or for transit systems at this time.

Here are news reports of two previous warnings, from November, 2007, and October, 2008.

The warnings always follow the same script. Timing is critical, since you want the threat to sound like it is imminent, but under no circumstances do you want it to be specific or linked to a certain date, like, 'next Monday,' otherwise people will start keeping track of how often these warnings are duds. The latest warning covers "the forthcoming holiday season," which is a nicely broad time frame. By the time the holiday season is over, we'll have new things to worry about and will have forgotten that something or other was supposed to have happened in New York.

I think of these FBI / DHS warnings as the Hallmark cards of the security industry, since they are sent out before all anniversaries and major occasions, religious holidays, national day celebrations, Presidential inaugurations, summit conferences, and so on. And that leads me to try my hand at some Hallmark-ish doggerel.

Roses are red, violets are blue,
here's a new analytical note for you.
You might be attacked this holiday season
or maybe not, who can tell? (there's no reason)

Our warnings we can't substantiate,
and against them there's no way to mitigate.
But take it from us and start to panic,
one day you'll go down just like the Titanic

We've been wrong in the past, but that's OK,
al Qaeda will strike again one of these days.
Maybe not now but someday, and soon,
we'll be right if we keep predicting your doom

Read us and worry, you never can tell,
it will do you no good, but then, what the hell?
It keeps us employed and no one minds,
So believe all our notes and our portents and signs!

I think that bit of bad poetry still holds up! BTW, nothing happened after that old threat warning, just as nothing will happen after this new threat warning. That's a bold statement, I know, given that anything can happen in this crazy world. But I do not live my life in a constant state of fear, and I hope you won't, either.

Notice how that "analytical note" of a threat warning from November 2008 could be substituted word for word for today's July Fourth warning. That kind of language - no specific details ... an attack could possibly be conducted ... while federal agencies regularly issue all sorts of advisory warnings, the language of this one is particularly blunt ... the warning was issued out of an abundance of caution going into this holiday season - is meaningless and therefore endlessly repeatable for occasions of every sort.

Have a Happy Independence Day weekend, my fellow Americans. I'll see you all on Monday.


Anonymous said...

Happy 4th to you too TSB! Viva La Revolucion!

And Happy Barbecue to you James!! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Had to read it again to realize you were
the writer of the doggerel. Hey James! The kid's
got talent!! You could put that to music!. gwb

TSB said...

GWB: Why, thank you. It's a low art form - Hemingway said that writing on a public bathroom wall is the step up from writing parodies - but I enjoy It, and I was pleased with that effort.

Anonymous said...

TSB: And Juan Cole chimes in (in harmony) but with a broader view:

and a hat tip to the original modern pro-constitution politician: Ron Paul. gwb

James said...

A latter day Robert Frost.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Whew!! That was a close one but it looks like we were spared that terrorist attack this time. Now we can turn to the vexing problems of same sex marriage, polygamy and Kaitlan Jenner! The deal here is: If you see something, DON'T SAY or do ANYTHING!! gwb PS: On a sad note, while purchasing several Papa John's pizzas the other day I noticed they were dismantling and hauling away Mr. Bill's coffee stand. (Did I mention West Coast Warming?)

TSB said...

GWB: Exactly. We were spared THIS time. But what new heights of threats and hyperbole are waiting for us next week? Regarding Mr. Bill, I'm always sorry to see a coffee shop or stand close. Maybe he could try carrying hash brownies and pairing them with iced espresso?v

Anonymous said...

That's it TSB! They kept asking me... do you want that Iced or Hot? Stupid me, I always said hot and my wife would say Iced! And I always said NO to the hashed browns. OMG! I brought that place down by myself! Another tragedy that will haunt me for eternity! gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: I am following closely the Greek referendum and the early results show a landslide for NO! ABC News' George Hillariopolus tells us 'The Market' was expecting
a YES. I am hoping for a NO vote so we can see Obama blame it on Putin because he bought some flags, banners and placards for the Greeks. (It might be time to sell stocks!) gwb

Official Greferendum Results Show "No" Avalanche: Singular Logic Projects "Oxi" Victory
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/05/2015 - 13:15

TSB said...

GWB: Monday, when DHS says it's safe to come out of my bunker, I'm going to get interested in pricing small Greek islands.

Anonymous said...

TSB: That is a wise choice! I just heard on the 10pm news that 14 were killed and 41 injured this weekend in Chicago. Isn't that about equal to the terrorist attack last week in North Africa? And speaking of Hillary she is taking press questions now and evidently her favorite ice cream is......wait for it....'most all of them'!

Keep your head down til Hillary or John Kerry gives the all clear! gwb
PS: I'm planning on joining your blog if I can ever figure out what my google friend
password and user name is. Now that I have 7 friends on Facebook I figure what the hell?