Andrew Napolitano describes it this way:

The leader of the government regularly sits down with his senior generals and spies and advisers and reviews a list of the people they want him to authorize their agents to kill. They do this every Tuesday morning when the leader is in town. The leader once condemned any practice even close to this, but now relishes the killing because he has convinced himself that it is a sane and sterile way to keep his country safe and himself in power. The leader, who is running for re-election, even invited his campaign manager to join the group that decides whom to kill.

This is not from a work of fiction, and it is not describing a series of events in the Kremlin or Beijing or Pyongyang. It is a fair summary of a 6,000-word investigative report in The New York Times earlier this week about the White House of Barack Obama. Two Times journalists, Jo Becker and Scott Shane, painstakingly and chillingly reported that the former lecturer in constitutional law and liberal senator who railed against torture and Gitmo now weekly reviews a secret kill list, personally decides who should be killed and then dispatches killers all over the world — and some of his killers have killed Americans.

Read the whole thing.

Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorist attacks in Norway are bringing out the idiots. For example, from the (more-or-less) right, there’s Cheradenine Zakalwe at Islam Versus Europe in a post titled “Why the Left Shouldn’t Gloat about Anders Breivik”:

Reading through Anders Behring Breivik’s comments on the document.no website, it’s clear that he was on the verge of giving up on democracy. … That’s what drove him to despair and to an act of apocalyptic violence. He felt there was a conspiracy among the media and political elite to suppress any derogatory information about Muslims or mass immigration. And, of course, he was right. …

He was particularly struck by the Andrew Neather revelations about the Labour government’s conspiracy to flood Britain with immigrants in order to “rub the right’s nose in diversity.” The left rubbed Breivik’s nose in diversity and he rubbed theirs back in blood. Well done Neather. Well done Blair. Well done Rusbridger.

It is the left-wing that is responsible for this outrage, not the right-wing. This act of violence is the consequence of a deranged political elite attempting to demographic re-engineer an entire continent against the wishes of its people; exploiting imperfections in the democratic system so that the people are never allowed a real choice; passing laws to criminalise free speech so that honest discussion is scarcely possible any more; and a media conspiracy (embodied in laws or informal agreements like the NUJ Guidelines on Race Reporting) to systematically suppress information about the negative consequences mass third-world immigration, and particularly the Muslim component of it, is having on Europe.

Personally, I think responsibility for Anders Behring Breivik’s actions begin and end with Anders Behring Breivik. I’m willing to change my mind if the ongoing investigation manages to link his actions to any other organizations. Right now, however, he’s just a lone wacko.

To the idiots on the (more-or-less) left, that makes me part of the conspiracy, as illustrated by Roger Cohen in a New York Times op-ed title “Breivik and His Enablers”:

LONDON — On one level Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian responsible for the biggest massacre by a single gunman in modern times, is just a particularly murderous psychotic loner: the 32-year-old mama’s boy with no contact with his father, obsessed by video games (Dragon Age II) as he preens himself (“There was a relatively hot girl on [sic] the restaurant today checking me out”) and dedicates his time in asexual isolation to the cultivation of hatred and the assembly of a bomb from crushed aspirin and fertilizer.

No doubt, that is how Islamophobic right-wingers in Europe and the United States who share his views but not his methods will seek to portray Breivik.

We’ve seen the movie. When Jared Loughner shot Representative Gabrielle Giffords this year in Tuscon, Arizona — after Sarah Palin placed rifle sights over Giffords’ constituency and Giffords herself predicted that “there are consequences to that” — the right went into overdrive to portray Loughner as a schizophrenic loner whose crazed universe owed nothing to those fanning hatred under the slogan of “Take America Back.” (That non-specific taking-back would of course be from Muslims and the likes of the liberal and Jewish Giffords.)

Look, some people think Islam is a religion with a substantial history of violence and oppression. Others think this is yet another case of panic about immigration. Whatever the case, unless you can find an actual conspiracy — people, organizations, plans, money, that sort of thing — it’s ludicrous to say that either side is responsible in any meaningful way for Breivik’s crimes.

John Farmer Jr., a dean at the Rutgers School of Law and former senior counsel for the 9/11 commission, has a New York Times op-ed promoting the Justice Department’s new Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative, which basically encourages Americans to report each other to the government if they see anything suspicious. Farmer offers the following scary scenario in support of SAR:

A young man walks into a Home Depot and buys a large quantity of acetone. Later, a young man walks into a beauty supply store and buys hydrogen peroxide. Still later, a young man is observed parked outside a nondescript federal building in a rented van, taking photographs.

No crime has been committed. But should any of these activities (acetone and hydrogen peroxide can be components for explosives) be reported to and evaluated by law enforcement officials?

Let’s suppose the answer is “Yes.” What do you think happens next? You pick:

Ending A: The tips are logged and encoded into the SAR database. Minutes later, advanced datamining algorithms scan both incidents and discover a link. The items are flagged for human processing. An analyst determines this is actionable intelligence and forwards it to the FBI counterterrorism coordinator. Within hours, a warrant is issued by a special federal court and the FBI’s SWAT team is kicking down doors. A major terror attack is averted, thanks to alert citizens.

Ending B: The tips are logged and encoded into the SAR database. Fourteen weeks later, a police detective temporarily assigned to his city’s Joint Terrorist Task Force’s Investigations unit spends eight minutes interviewing each person who provided a tip, carefully filling out the proper Homeland Security interview forms. Four weeks after that, a clerk types his answers into another database, and seven weeks later another analyst clicks the “Reviewed” box on his computer. Two months later, then again at the end of the year, a line in an SAR summary report has a number that is larger by one. Nothing else is ever done about either of these tips, and there is no resulting terrorism incident.

I’m pretty sure I know which ending is more realistic…

(Hat tip: Scott Greenfield)

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged my criticism of a Washington Post editorial in favor of the new random bag search policy on the D.C. subways. It was deriding the fine folks at Flex Your Rights for encouraging people to refuse the searches, and I argued the importance of privacy rights.

There’s another issue I didn’t address, which is that subway searches are pointless. Suppose we grant, for purposes of argument that a thorough bag-searching policy would stop terrorists from attacking Americans on the subway.

That would force the terrorists to adapt, perhaps changing their preferred target from subway trains to public buses or Greyhound buses or school buses or church buses or mini vans with families in them. Or maybe instead of attacking vehicles, they’d attack high schools or grade schools or preschools or daycare centers or family restaurants or toy stores or music stores or shoe stores or grocery stores or department stores or shopping malls.

Or hotels.

They could also attack doctors’ offices or banks or post offices or police stations or firehouses or unemployment offices or homeless shelters or gas stations or paint stores or chemical warehouses or power distribution centers or telephone exchanges or water plants or sewage plants or gas pipelines or oil trucks or railroad tank cars or oil tankers or liquid natural gas carriers or ferry boats or cruise ships.

But I guess it’s worth giving up our privacy to secure the subways, huh?

Update: I almost forgot to mention office buildings and business conferences and trade shows and casinos and strip clubs and comedy clubs and porno shops and amusement parks and sports stadiums and music arenas and theatrical stages and night clubs and movie houses and sports bars and restaurants and banquet halls. Also bridges, tunnels, and dams.  And hospitals, retirement homes, funeral parlors, libraries, and construction sites.

The story of yesterday’s marathon meltdown is taking shape. Runners continue to report water shortages along the way, but marathon officials insist there was plenty of water to be had. Friend-of-the-blog John Ruberry ran in the race (and finished it), and he reported no problems getting water. On the other hand, I was in Chinatown briefly in a largely unsuccessful attempt to take pictures, and a spectator told me that she didn’t see as much water available along the course as in previous races.

I suspect the truth, when it emerges, will encompass both views of the race. It will probably turn out that there was plenty of water along the way, but somehow the runners weren’t able to find it when they needed it—too few distribution points, or too many small ones that ran out quickly, or water not being moved to the front lines fast enough—something like that.

Meanwhile, Second City Cop has an analysis of the city emergency response, and he’s calling it a screw-up:

…[W]e certainly hope the comment we read earlier wasn’t true, that CFD pulled every ambulance off the street leaving the neighborhoods uncovered. That would point out a glaring weakness in any sort of terror response. But the fact that numerous outside agencies had to send ambulances to Chicago to help out with a sporting event disaster does not bode well for an Olympic bid…

…Squad cars were being told to pick up stragglers needing medical attention and transport them to the medical tents in Grant Park, making a bad traffic situation still worse and reducing police presence along the race route…

…No alternate frequency made available. Too few dispatchers overwhelmed, bad system in place…

…The chirping of radios with dying batteries was supposed to be unbelievable. The inability to coordinate a response to get runners safely back to Grant Park clogged the streets badly…

This doesn’t sound too good. I’m curious what City Hall has to say about this, but I don’t think we’ll hear from them unless the major media starts asking questions.

Update: In response to Marathon Pundit’s remarks in the comments, I should add that evaluation of the city’s emergency response depends a lot on how much of it was planned. For example, were all the suburban ambulance/EMT units a last-ditch effort to avoid a problem? Or did the city bring in suburban units ahead of time so that outlying city units could remain on call in the neighborhoods they were familiar with?

Also, it’s not clear that anything bad happened due to the city’s response. It’s not clear that a faster emergency response could have saved the runner who died or kept anyone out of the hospital.



Did you ever wonder if your city was really prepared to handle a major terrorist attack? Here in Chicago, which is in the running for the 2016 Olympics, we may have just found out the answer.

No, we didn’t have a terrorist attack. We had the 2007 Chicago Marathon on the hottest day ever in race history.

According to reports, about 35,000 people started the marathon this morning, 10,000 fewer than had signed up, presumably because of the temperature prediction. Another 10,000 would drop out along the way. At 11:30am, as the temperature hit 88 degrees, officials cancelled the race. 4000 runners had already crossed the finish line, and another 20,000 would finish it at a walk.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people neither finished nor quit. One man died, and 312 people had to be taken off the course for medical treatment.

This was, technically speaking, a disaster. Within a space of a few hours, the city’s emergency services system was hit with 300 casualties. That’s roughly equivalent to a building collapse or a large terrorist attack.

How’d we do?

It’s too soon to tell, but according to the police blogs, it was chaos. There wasn’t enough water for all the runners, the city-wide radio channels were overloaded, and some downed runners had to wait because the city ran out of available ambulances.

That could all be sour grapes, but if not…

If this is how the city handles a totally predictable problem, then I think we’re all screwed in a terrorist attack.

I’m not sure what to make of this latest busted terrorist plot in Germany:

BERLIN – Three suspected Islamic terrorists from an al-Qaida-influenced group nursing “profound hatred of U.S. citizens” were arrested on suspicious of plotting imminent, massive bomb attacks on U.S. facilities in Germany, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Sudwestfunk televison, citing unnamed security sources in Berlin, reported that Frankfurt international airport and U.S. Ramstein Air Base were among the targets.

Ramstein is one of the largest U.S. airbases in the world. If the Cold War had turned hot, it would have been attacked by Soviet bombers and missiles. I don’t think a handful of guys with a few hundred pounds of explosives could do much damage.

Then again, the main base is probably surrounded by softer targets, and even just killing a few guards at a checkpoint would probably play as a win for the terrorists in all the places they care about.

Also, with the recent arrests of suspected terrorists in Denmark, there certainly seems to be a lot of terrorist activity going on this close to another 9/11.

Gateway Pundit links to a story in which the Saudi Arabian government is blaming the bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque in Samarra on…wait for it…Jews.

This sounds like an opportunity to me. Al Qaeda operatives have already taken credit for both bombings of the mosque, and many Moslems believe that 9/11—also an Al Qaeda operation—was a Jewish scheme to get the United States to invade a few Islamic countries.

We need to start a propaganda campaign to convince the Arab street that Osama bin Laden is taking orders from his Zionist paymasters!

I mean, it would certainly explain why Al Qaeda is killing so many Muslims…

Want to blow up an airplane with common household chemicals? The Register explained the process a few weeks ago:

Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you’ll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you’ll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.

After a few hours – assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven’t overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities – you’ll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two.

The genius of this scheme is that TATP is relatively easy to detonate. But you must make enough of it to crash the plane, and you must make it with care to assure potency. One needs quality stuff to commit “mass murder on an unimaginable scale,” as Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson put it. While it’s true that a slapdash concoction will explode, it’s unlikely to do more than blow out a few windows. At best, an infidel or two might be killed by the blast, and one or two others by flying debris as the cabin suddenly depressurizes, but that’s about all you’re likely to manage under the most favorable conditions possible.

They have a political axe to grind, but they also make a good case for the chemistry. You can make explosives from common household chemicals, but you probably can’t do it in an airplane toilet.

Back in January, Osama bin Laden offered the United States a truce. Well, not just a truce, but also a threat:

The voice in the tape said heightened security measures in the United States are not the reason there have been no attacks there since the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide hijackings. Instead, the reason is “because there are operations that need preparations, and you will see them,” he said.

That sounded like total BS to me, until I ran across someone’s comment (lost the link) pointing out that if bin Laden threatened us and then nothing happened, he’d lose face among his supporters. That does suggest he really is planning another attack in the United States.

I didn’t give the matter much more thought until about March 10, when some Islamic websites were carrying warnings from Rakan Ben Williams about upcoming attacks by al-Qaida. They’re supposed to be very big.

“there will be no one to analyze and investigate, because the mind and the heart will be unable to comprehend it… This will not be a single operation, but two; one bigger than the other, but we will begin with the big one and postpone the bigger one, in order to see [how] diligent the American people is [in preserving] its life. If it chooses life, [it must] carry out the demands of the Muslims, and if it chooses death, then we are its best perpetrators.”

That sounds big and bad, doesn’t it? It gets worse:

“Let me now inform you why we opted to inform you about the two operations and your inability to stop them before they are carried out. The reason is simple: You cannot uncover or stop them except by letting them be carried out. Furthermore, the best you could do would be to accelerate the day of carrying out the operations. In other words, if we schedule the operation to take place tomorrow, the best you could do is to make it happen today.”

That part really scares me. In order for the operation to be unstoppable, it has to be something like a really big bomb that is already in place and is guarded by al-Qaida members who are ready to set it off at the first sign that our counter-terror forces have found them.

Even that problem is surmountable, however, by surreptitiously evacuating the surrounding area. In order to be really unstoppable, the bomb would have to be so large that an effective evacuation would be hard to organize. It would have to be a nuclear bomb.

Ben Williams goes on:

“O you helpless Americans, especially those living in States far away from Washington, D.C.!” he says. “Your country is comprised of many states that should not have anything to do with Muslims. Take the state of Arizona for example; what does this state have to do with killing Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq? What interest is it of theirs serving, helping, and siding with the Jews and Israel? If some members of your Congress and Senate are being used as Jewish tools manipulated by Israel, why do you bear the consequences? Why do you bring death and destruction to your homes and lives in an apparent sacrifice for a handful of dishonest men and women?”

More bad news, those of us in flyover country are not necessarily safe. This dovetails with the nuclear bomb theory quite nicely: It might be hard to get a nuclear bomb into a major target city like Washington D.C. because of all the security. The police there have been pulling over radioactive cancer patients for months now. But not every city is as well-secured as Washington.

“The operations are ready to go, we are just waiting for orders from the commander in chief, Osama bin Laden (may Allah preserve him),” it says. “He will decide whether to strike or to hold. We swear by Allah that there are so many tricks and tactical maneuvers that will make your heads spin, by the grace of Allah. You will be brought to your knees, but not until you lose more loved ones and experience significant destruction.”

Now that sounds a little off-key to me. I’m starting not to believe this guy. I’m not talking about the use of idioms like “make your heads spin.” Ben Williams was born in England and converted to Islam later. He might well talk like that.

No, the odd part is that the plan is in place and they’re waiting to see if Osama wants to execute it. That doesn’t sound right. People who’ve looked into the timing of terror campaigns have found that terrorists don’t usually wait for just the right moment to launch their operations. They strike as soon as they can.

This almost sounds like someone laying the groundwork for a retreat.

It continues: “Now is the time to wake up and dust off this state of complacency and ineffectiveness to save yourselves and your loved ones from catastrophes sure to come your way. Remove war mongers from positions of power and throw them in prisons, where they belong. Rid yourselves of ‘the Jewish pests’ that brought nothing to you but adversity and loss of lives and wealth. They have deceived you for many years, it is time now you turn the table on them and make an example out of them. Rid yourselves of media crafters who deliberately kept you in the dark for so long and made a mockery of you before the rest of the world.”

The statement calls for a boycott of NBC and CBS because of their Jewish owners. It calls on Americans to watch al-Jazeera and to visit Islamic websites “to get educated.”

“Visit Mujahideen web sites to get to know who they are,” it suggests. “You will see for yourselves that they are not what your media outlets made you believe they are. If you cannot do that, the least you could do is to watch Al-Jazeera Channel; there you might get 20 percent or less of the truth about the war zones. Resent the corrupted politicians in Washington, D.C. and demand justice, if they do not give in to your demands, you must declare autonomy so you may live in peace and security.”

Okay, now this is just sounding goofy. Boycott Jewish-owned television stations? Watch al-Jazeera and visit Islamic websites? This is what we’re supposed to do to avoid devastation? There’s something strange going on here.

Maybe this is some kind of bluff from someone who has nothing to do with al-Qaida. That would explain the big-attack-then-bigger-attack nature of the operation: Someday, perhaps, al-Qaida will attack in the U.S. again. If and when that happens, Rakan ben Williams can post another message saying “See, there’s our big attack, now here’s what you have to do to avoid the even bigger attack…”

Actually, now that I think about it, the whole thing was a little less scary than I first thought. People who are planning an actual attack don’t usually threaten the victims ahead of time. They just attack. The people who make threats usually do so because they are unable to conduct actual attacks.

That’s enough to calm me down.


The level of “chatter” by al Qaeda operatives is currently as high or higher than in the months prior to 9-11, and the question in many parts of the U.S. and European intelligence communities is not if al Qaeda will strike again, but when. Much of the thinking centers on the near-term. This is also reflected in current corporate security alerts being circulated among elite business establishments.

There are several factors that point to al Qaeda at least having a plan for an imminent attack. The first is the January appearance of Osama bin Laden himself after months of silence. The second is the repeated warnings and boasts from bin Laden, Zawahiri and on al Qaeda web sites of impending action.

Several analysts I have spoken with believe the leadership of the historic al Qaeda would not raise expectations of an attack, especially at a time of intense competition with Zarqawi’s operation for the mantle of carrying out international jihad, without something important afoot. The risk of losing credibility is too high….

One corporate risk analysis group reported something else of interest: A March 10 posting on al-Hesbah website, known for posting al Qaeda messages, carried a message from the Global Islamic Media Front. The message gives a final warning to the United States before carrying out what it said would be two devastating attacks. The second attack would not be launched until after Washington had time to respond to the first one, the message said.

While this is clearly propaganda, it is within the Islamic jihad tradition to give an enemy a chance to repent and convert before carrying out an attack, as the Prophet Mohammed did. Bin Laden did this before 9-11 as well, when few were paying attention.

Crap. Not good. Not good.

But then there’s this:

It is a scenario reminiscent of the Trojan Horse. Iraq’s Interior Minister Bayan Jabr revealed that Iraqi internal security had broken up a plot to place 421 al Qaeda fighters as guards controlling access to Baghdad’s International or “Green” Zone. Once in position, the terrorists planned to storm the U.S. and British embassies, take hostages, and wreak havoc.

The Viet Cong used the same idea in Vietnam when they launched the Tet Offensive. The American military cleaned them out pretty quickly, but not before a lot of people were killed, and the American people and politicians lost some of their stomach for continuing the war. Maybe al-Qaida was hoping the same thing would happen again.

If they had pulled it off, that would have been really bad. Maybe that’s what all the chatter and threats were about.

I’m beginning to understand why the Chinese thought that living in interesting times was a curse.

…they’re debating whether to allow scissors on planes.

Bob Hesselbein, the [Air Line Pilots Association]’s national security committee chairman, said pilots think it’s more important to focus on passengers’ intent rather than what they’re carrying.

“A Swiss army knife in the briefcase of a frequent flyer we know very well is a tool,” Hesselbein said. “A ballpoint pen in the hands of a terrorist is a weapon.”

Compare this statement from partisan hack Ed Markey (D-Mass) who just sees an opportunity to bash the opposition:

“The Bush administration proposal is just asking the next Mohamed Atta to move from box cutters to scissors as the weapon that’s used in the passenger cabin of planes,” Markey said.

Then there’s this amazing bit of bad logic:

The Association of Flight Attendants supports Markey’s initiative. So does the Southwest Airlines flight attendants’ union, Transport Workers Local 556.

“I have not spoken to a flight attendant at any airline that isn’t outraged by this,” said Thom McDaniel, the local’s president.

McDaniel said the premise for the policy change is ludicrous. “They want to focus more on explosives, but they’re not even mentioning that the biggest threat to commercial aviation right now is still the fact that most cargo is not screened.”

Huh? Is he really implying that the solution to poor air cargo screening is to take scissors away from passengers?

It’s true that several flight attendants were stabbed by terrorists on 9/11, but that has nothing to do with airplane security. The 9/11 terrorists stabbed the flight attendants as part of a plan to take over the planes. But that wouldn’t work anymore because cockpit doors and bulkheads have been upgraded to turn the cockpits into strongholds that will last long enough for the pilots to land the planes. Meanwhile, the terrorists would be facing attacks from a hoard of passengers stiffened by air marshals with guns.

Sure, relaxing the prohibition against sharp objects would allow the terrorists to stab a few flight attendents. But that’s all they could do. The terrorists know this too. And if all they want to do is stab a few people, they don’t need to get on an airplane to do it.

Eric’s Grumbles Before the Grave has this really good criticism of the Transportation Security Agency’s handling of air travel security.

A few choice excerpts:

As far as I can tell, from the outside looking in, the TSA has not done the basics needed for a truly effective security program. Rather than identifying threat and vulnerability pairs, determining risks, and level of risk, they have rushed from one politically visible issue to another.

The US Government actually has a world class security framework and methodology established by the National Institute of Standards & Technology’s Computer Security Division. Even more to the point, the military has been providing physical security quite successfully for a long time now. Either the DoD or NIST security framework would provide the foundation, in procedures, standards and policies, needed to build an effective security framework.

TSA is, in essence, a huge waste of time and money. Airplane security was all but assured, from a hijacking perspective, once security doors were installed on airplane cockpits. From an explosives perspective is entirely a different story.

One of the things that makes clear the issues with the TSA, and Homeland Security more generally, is that there are no well known security experts who have worked with, or for, them. Both the well known, and less well known, security experts have very little respect for TSA[…]I know a lot of really competent security folks who have no desire to work for TSA or Homeland Security.

Read the whole thing..