Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Attack on New York City Thwarted; or Your Constitutional Rights Threatened: Depends on Your Point of View

The bad news is that Najibullah Zazi and others apparently wanted to kill a lot of people in New York City.

The good news is that they probably won't be able to.

The bad news, for some, is the awful fact that the FBI and CIA were involved - and used naughty methods. Like using surveillance techniques that the 'diabolical' Bush administration (forced?) Congress to adopt.

The techniques are covered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, allow agencies like the FBI and CIA to intercept communications between people: under certain conditions; with checks and balances. I think FISA, as written - and later revised and extended - was reasonable. Others apparently see it as a terrible invasion of privacy, the work of Big Brother government, and probably some kind of a plot.

Apparently these 'invasions of privacy' kept a lot of New Yorkers from becoming spackling on the city's subway walls.
"A recently disrupted bombing plot represented one of the most serious security threats to the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday.

" 'I can say the investigation is pretty far along. We have a pretty good handle who was involved and what was intended,' Holder told a news briefing.

" 'This alleged plot was one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country since September 11, 2001.'..."
The article quotes Holder as saying that "scores" could have been killed. The 9/11 attack killed roughly 150 score, or 3,000, so my guess is that this attack's body count, once most of the pieces had been scraped off the walls and sorted out, would have been substantially under that.

Still, many if not most New York City commuters probably won't mind living a bit longer. I could be wrong, but I think that many people prefer breathing to the alternative.

'You See?! It's Some Kinda Conspiracy!

I suppose Mr. Holder's remarks could be taken as being a bit self-serving. It would, by assuming a rather above-average degree of paranoia, be possible to imagine that the FBI and CIA conspired to frame Najibullah Zazi and others, just to get FISA renewed.

No, I don't think so: but by applying some of the world views of some of my fellow-collegians, back in the day, I can imagine it easily enough.
"...Holder said information obtained from Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants helped unravel of the plot.

"He also cited the investigation in urging Congress to extend the three surveillance techniques in the Patriot Act that expire later this year, calling them vital tools in protecting the country. The law first was adopted by Congress during George W. Bush's presidency after the 2001 attacks...."
So, maybe the arrest of Najibullah Zazi, Mohammed Zazi, and Ahmad Afzali were all some kinda plot by the FBI and the CIA.

Or, maybe Mr. Holder thinks that the Watergate scandals happened decades ago, that information technology has changed a bit since then, and that these days quite a few people who want to kill Americans use post-1974 technology: even if Congress doesn't understand it.

I sincerely hope that America's Congress uses the common sense it did, about two years ago. Parts of FISA were up for extension then - and some members of Congress seemed to have a hard time, deciding whether the FBI and CIA - or the Taliban and Al Qaeda - were the greater threat.

Then, they apparently came to the conclusion that people who were sworn to protect them were less of a threat than people who were sworn to kill them.

Smart move.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.