Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The One Percent Doctrine and NY Subway Attacks: What You Need To Know!

On Sunday I wrote a post on an excerpt from Ron Suskind’s new book, The One Percent Doctrine that talks about the potential 2003 attack on the NY Subway system that was called off by Ayman Zawahiri. And today Richard Clarke, former White House chief of counter-terrorism said there was reason to be skeptical of the reported incident, indicating that even if it was true it was one of hundreds of threats recorded during Clarke’s tenure.

"There's reason to be skeptical," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, who is the former chief of White House counterterrorism. "Just because something is labeled in an intelligence report does not mean every word in it is true." He said the information describing the plot would have been just one of the hundreds of threats that would have been collected in 2003.

Trial of Al Qaeda Operatives from Embassy Bombings

At the same time, my friend and talented writer Soccer Dad sent me a link to a fascinating article from May 2001, reporting on the trial of four defendants in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The article is well worth a read, especially considering its timing.  The basic premise is that, despite locking up these four Al Qaeda operatives, the U.S. had become no safer.

Unfortunately, the trial does almost nothing to enhance the safety of Americans. The Qaeda group, headed by the notorious Osama bin Laden, which perpetrated the outrages in East Africa, will barely notice the loss of four operatives. Indeed, recent information shows that Al-Qaeda is not only planning new attacks on the U.S. but is also expanding its operational range to countries such as Jordan and Israel.

Perhaps the most crucial information from the article is found in what the authors, Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes, see as the value of the trial:

Perhaps the real importance of the New York trial lies not in the guilty verdicts but in the extraordinary information made public through court exhibits and trial proceedings. These have given us a riveting view onto the shadowy world of Al-Qaeda-though you'd never know from following the news media, for this information was barely reported. Tens of thousands of pages from the trial transcript provide a full and revealing picture of Al-Qaeda, showing it to be the most lethal terrorist organization anywhere in the world.

They demonstrate that Al-Qaeda sees the West in general, and the U.S. in particular, as the ultimate enemy of Islam. Inspired by their victory over the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the leaders of Al-Qaeda aspire to a similar victory over America, hoping ultimately to bring Islamist rule here. Toward this end, they engaged in many attacks on American targets from 1993 to 1998. One striking piece of information that came out in the trial was bin Laden's possible connection to the World Trade Center bombing in New York in 1993. A terrorist manual introduced as evidence was just an updated version of an earlier manual found in the possession of the World Trade Center defendants.

The Value of Suskind’s Report

So the question that begs to be answered is: what is the value of Suskind’s report on the potential NY subway bombing?  Because, even if it is only one of hundreds of potential attacks reported, there is some value in this report.

The value is information to U.S. citizens. Any person who has lived in a country that has been plagued by terrorism (I’ve lived in 3: Israel, England, and the U.S.) will tell you that the greatest defense against terrorism is the awareness of its citizens.  If the citizens of a country are aware of the nature of potential attacks, they can be the eyes and ears of law enforcement, and thwart attacks because they are in the locations being attacked.

Defense Against Terrorism

In Israel, all citizens know certain key characteristics of a potential terrorist attack. If a bag is lying unattended on a street or in a store, an Israeli citizen will immediately tell a police officer, who gets the bomb squad.  People acting suspiciously, wearing inappropriate clothes for the season, or standing out are pointed out to officials and addressed.  For this reason, 11 of 12 terrorist attacks in Israel are unsuccessful.

Awareness of the tactics of terrorists was growing in England when I lived there.  Citizens were paying more attention to their surroundings, and we less shy about notifying officials when seeing unusual activity.  As such, more IRA attacks in England were being prevented, and terrorists were being captured, leading to further information on their cells.

If information on Al Qaeda revealed in the 2003 trial had been made more public, would the victims on the four planes from 9/11 been quicker to realize the nature of the attack?  Would they have been more inclined to resist the terrorists, as the passengers of Flight 93 eventually did?  We’ll never know!  But we do know that the more U.S. citizens know about terrorist tactics, the better the chances that an attack can be identified and prevented before it occurs.

What You Need To Know

The potential attack would have included multiple Mubtakkars, or gas distribution devices, placed in strategic locations around the subway.  They would have looked like small machines, obviously homemade, with cans at the top of them, unattended and not professional looking.  In 2003, who would have second guessed these devices? Today, it may be a different story.

Moral of the Story

I don’t believe in sensationalizing terrorist attacks, and I don’t believe in politicizing them to raise fears and promote a particular agenda.  Using stories of these potential attacks to increase funding for government agencies or to abolish civil liberties seems to me abhorrent.  But still, these reports are necessary to raise public awareness, and to let citizens know what to beware of. Because in the end of the day, we, the potential victims, are the best defense against terrorism!

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Posted by Scottage at 7:00 PM / | |