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Tilting at Windmills

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August 22, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

AIRLINE BOMBING UPDATE....In the latest news on the airline bombing plot, the Observer reports that British security services have asked the FBI to please STFU and stop leaking information that might hurt their investigation. The Observer's take on this is that having already been browbeaten by the Americans into rounding up the bombing suspects before they had all the evidence they wanted, British police are now afraid that the FBI is going to screw things up even further by leaking information that makes both the ongoing investigation and the prosecution more difficult.

And what are the results of that investigation so far? Basically not much. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke assured the media on Monday that the investigation is immense, global, and meticulous, and that "the enormity of the alleged plot will be matched only by our determination to follow every lead and line of enquiry." However, the only real information he released was a report that investigators have found "chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, electrical components, documents and other items," including martyrdom videos.

What this shows, of course, is that these guys really did want to blow up airplanes. What it doesn't show is whether they were anywhere close to having enough training and expertise to justify the massive round of fear-mongering and airport hysteria that the British and American governments so eagerly foisted on us two weeks ago. The British public is pretty skeptical:

72%, including 65% of Labour voters, think government policy has made Britain more of a target for terrorists. Only 1% of voters believe the government's foreign policy has made Britain safer, a devastating finding given that action in Iraq and Afghanistan has been justified in part to defeat Islamist terrorism.

....The findings will shock many at Westminster who had expected Labour to gain ground following John Reid's high-profile handling of the alleged plot against transatlantic airlines. Carried out over the past weekend, following the series of terror arrests, the poll shows voters do not believe the government is giving an honest account of the threat facing Britain.

Only 20% of all voters, and 26% of Labour voters, say they think the government is telling the truth about the threat, while 21% of voters think the government has actively exaggerated the danger. A majority, 51%, say the government is not giving the full truth and may be telling less than it knows.

USA Today reports some recent polling that suggests Americans continue to be more gullible than the Brits on this score. I suppose USA Today's poll may just be an outlier, but if it's true it's a sad commentary on the continuing ability of the Republican Party to scare their way to victory. There's very little evidence that the airline bombers were even remotely capable of pulling off their plot, and likewise little justification for the massive fear-mongering and hysterical anti-liquid regulations hastily put in place for air travelers. The risk of terrorists manufacturing binary explosives in the air could almost certainly have been handled in other, more effective ways, and it's increasingly obvious that the government's scare campaign was far out of proportion to the actual immediate danger. The likelihood that it was hyped more for political reasons than for genuine reasons of air safety continues to grow, and someday, when there's a real emergency, this attitude may come back to haunt us.

Kevin Drum 3:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (198)

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Comments

Maybe Great Britain is the fly-paper.

Posted by: uberman on August 22, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

And what are the results of the investigation so far? Basically not much.

Completely wrong Kevin. A lot has been discovered. Al-Qaeda/Hezbollah type "martyr" videos were found on the laptops of some of the 23 Islamofascists who tried to commit a suicide bomb attack on airliners headed to America.

Link

"'Martyr videos' of the type left by suicide bombers, were reportedly discovered on at least six laptops owned by some of the 23 suspects being questioned in the foiled airline terror plot."

"The BBC, citing an unofficial police source, said that several of the videos had been found as part of the investigation into the alleged plot to bomb as many as 10 jetliners bound for the US."

Posted by: Al on August 22, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Latest from a friend who just came back from Portland: they are confiscating peanut better and jelly sandwiches. Because, and this is not a joke: "there's gel in that jelly."

Posted by: tavella on August 22, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

For what its worth,

The liquid ban lasted about a week in Canada. Once duty free stores began closing shop and laying people off (not even liquids purchased inside the security zone and delivered to the aircraft by store personnel were allowed), the liquid ban was lifted.

Its quite clear that our safety is secondary to a thriving business environment. Whether that's because our saftey is less important than business, or whether we're actually fairly safe as it is, despite our governments' proclamations, I'll leave to the forum.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on August 22, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

the government's scare campaign was far out of proportion to the actual immediate danger

I flew to Brazil on the day that this all went down, and it was a nightmare. The whole mess added 5 hours to an already 20 hour trip. I was staring at every brown guy with a beard in fear (and I'm a Muslim). And when an Asian tourist left his suitcase in the middle of the ticketing booth and walked away, I almost had a heart-attack.

Hydrogen peroxide? Isn't that what dentists sometimes recommend as mouthwash?

Posted by: enozinho on August 22, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

If Al Qada had killed 3,200 Brits, the British might be more "gullible." I would like to know a lot more about the evidence before I make up my mind on this one. How much hydrogen peroxide did they find? Six ounces? A gallon? Was it a dilute solution (can't make a bomb with it) or concentrated (can make a bomb with it)?

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on August 22, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever may be going on in Britain, this remains a real and substantial case. . . as opposed, to, um, our own Seas of David arrests in Miami. Whatever happened to that bunch of morons (not the Seas of David morons, but our own FBI ones)?

Posted by: Prospero on August 22, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, my running shoes have a gel insert. Am I a shoe bomber?

Typical hydrogen peroxide is about 3%. It has to be much more concentrated to make the explosive.

Posted by: Tripp on August 22, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Without passports, Asshat Al, how were they going to get on the flights?

Posted by: Mark on August 22, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Better safe than sorry.

Better safe than Charlie. ;)

Posted by: Gregory on August 22, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

The likelihood that it was hyped more for political reasons than for genuine reasons of air safety continues to grow, and someday, when there's a real emergency, this attitude may come back to haunt us.

Yes, Kevin, but by then, Bush will be back in Crawford, safely retired to write his memoirs, and it won't matter anymore. And - a bonus! - there may be a Democrat in the White House who can take all the blame.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on August 22, 2006 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

How about the gel in the jello brains of Repubs?

Posted by: nut on August 22, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect that most people in britain would still support the Afghan intervention and that it's the iraq farce that they believe is making britain more of a target.

Most people believe that there was a plot but seem unconvinced that it deserved the hysterical scenes at airports, which are pretty much being seen as an attempt by Blair & Reid to play the 'terrorists will kill us all unless do you as we say' card. again.

Posted by: Kenny on August 22, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

The terror plot showed us that we all MUST BE SCARED! Run to King George, only He will protect us, right Al??

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on August 22, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

GOP 06 : we have nothing to offer but fear itself

Posted by: cleek on August 22, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: What it doesn't show is whether they were anywhere close to having enough training and expertise to justify the massive round of fear-mongering and airport hysteria that the British and American governments so eagerly foisted on us two weeks ago.

What's it take to 'justify' raising the threat level and telling us about it -- how many planes you want falling out of the sky?

And if, good Lawd, a terrorist group had succeeded in the day or two after this, you would have been angry about the Bush/Blair administrations not telling us enough.

Typical liberal progressive: move the goal posts, take the football away, then complain about the result.

Posted by: Steve White on August 22, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

More Kevin: There's very little evidence that the airline bombers were even remotely capable of pulling off their plot, and likewise little justification for the massive fear-mongering and hysterical anti-liquid regulations hastily put in place for air travelers.

Again, Kevin, just what does it take for you to decide, gee, this is serious, and we ought to crackdown and make sure no one smuggles something on a plane that can be used to make a bomb?

Because after all, if we do it your way and a terrorist group does manage to pull off another 9/11, you won't blame the Bush people, right?

Posted by: Steve White on August 22, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

In socialist countries the people have access to more information than corporatist countries.

Posted by: Hostile on August 22, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, the liquid ban is yet another cosmetic attempt by the government to make it look like they're 'keeping us safe on planes'. But after all the bipartisan recriminations after 9/11, with Republicans blaming Clinton and Democrats blaming Bush, what did we expect? I preferred just saying you can't stop every terrorist, let's make reasonable changes based on the experience, and worry less about assigning blame than moving on.

But no, despite the fact that every presidential administration since at least FDR shares some blame for 9/11, everyone had to point out their favorite memo and turn it into a partisan issue. Which means that, ever since, politicians feel extra pressure to support idiotic 'solutions', from the annoying (liquid ban), to the unconstitutional (NSA wiretaps). Because if anything like 9/11 happens again, or even gets remotely close, everyone needs to cover their asses. Hence the premature arrests of these guys, the Miami guys...well, pretty much everyone who's been arrested so far, in the U.S. at least.

That's not the whole story, of course. Bush and co. had plenty of other motivations for pushing the Patriot Act and whatnot. But the absurd, bipartisan 'fix the 9/11 blame on the other guys' campaign didn't help.

Posted by: ChiSox Fan in LA on August 22, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Stwve White wrote: What's it take to 'justify' raising the threat level and telling us about it

An actual threat?

how many planes you want falling out of the sky?

Steve, you may have missed the point that these yo-yos' so-called plot would have resulted in a grand total of zero planes falling from the sky.

Your straw man also eludes the point that in his quest for a Big Terrorism Story to distract from the Lieberman defeat (a referendum on Bush as well), BushCo screwed the pooch by leaning on the Brits to jump the gun.

Hmmm...on second thought, it must have been a Cheney op.

And if, good Lawd, a terrorist group had succeeded in the day or two after this, you would have been angry about the Bush/Blair administrations

Of course -- unlike Bush Cultists like you, I for one don't believe Bush should get a free pass for his incompetence, whether it be in August 2006 or September 2001.

Posted by: Gregory on August 22, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas1, you let me know when Churchill runs for office again.

Posted by: cleek on August 22, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Its quite clear that our safety is secondary to a thriving business environment. Whether that's because our saftey is less important than business, or whether we're actually fairly safe as it is, despite our governments' proclamations, I'll leave to the forum. Posted by: Dismayed Liberal

WTF? This has nothing to do with commerce but with common sense.

Unless they were selling gallon jug of the components necessary to fabricate these bombs (which couldn't be assembled in the men's room if you were in there the entire flight any way), I can't see the point of closing duty free stores or even banning gels and chemicals in small quantities as carry-ons. It was just knee-jerk stupidity meant to cause maximum consternation among American voters who are on the verge of turning the Republicans out of office.

Posted by: JeffII on August 22, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I had dinner with a couple of chemist friends last weekend. They said they could get 30% hydrogen peroxide from a chemical supply house, but they didn't know where one could get 70%, which is said to be what one needs to make a bomb. They thought one would have to make it onself.

On the other hand, they had several suggestions for other liquids that could be combined and used to blow a hole in the side of a plane. Fortunately most of them require drying, and others were so unstable the bombers might blow themselves up on the way to the airport.

They make one of them for children's parties. They drip it on a driveway or sidewalk, and when it dries, kids can scuff it with their shoes and make a loud pop and a puff of red smoke (and a red stain on the shoe). They said that one would require a fair amount to blow a hole in a plane.

Posted by: anandine on August 22, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

At least all those latent bombers were "over there"

Thanks no doubt to the Iraqian, over-there excursion.

Bonus

Posted by: Determined to Strike on August 22, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Attention fear monger lovers! Don't miss this exciting 'terrorist cell phone' pillow talk starring Michelle Malkin, Tammy Bruce and Debbie Schlussel! See you there!

Posted by: Todd on August 22, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Because after all, if we do it your way and a terrorist group does manage to pull off another 9/11, you won't blame the Bush people, right?

What do you mean, if we do it Kevin's way? What's Kevin's "way"? You seem to be implying that Kevin suggests doing nothing. A strawman, and not the only one in your posts (Gregory points out the others).

Let me guess, Steve: logic and critical thinking weren't required courses in medical school, huh?

Posted by: Alek Hidell on August 22, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I would guess that the US pressured the British to make the bust when they did so that it would come right before the ruling on NSA wiretaps. Or is that too obvious to be worth stating?

Posted by: Benson on August 22, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone heard this from John Carmack?

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail428.html#Carmack

So, we know an Aspergery multimillionaire that experiments with liquid fuel could blow up a plane. Whether these meatheads knew enough is another matter.

Posted by: Turkey on August 22, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK
"'Martyr videos' of the type left by suicide bombers, were reportedly discovered on at least six laptops owned by some of the 23 suspects being questioned in the foiled airline terror plot." Posted by: Al on August 22, 2006 at 3:08 PM
There are alot of thirteen to nineteen year olds around with gangster rap music cds. Should we jail them because they are aspiring cop killers as well?

I think that they should have certainly continued to investigate these people and maybe made arrests now but to make it into the big bad wolf when there were no ticket mostly no passports etc. is politicing. See Craig Murry's post about it. Also there is quite a bit on the web about the fact that the plot would not work like this site.

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Better safe than Charlie. ;) Posted by: Gregory

Christ. Better dead than Charlie. (Is there an emoti-com for the middle finger or kicking someone in the balls?)

Posted by: JeffII on August 22, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't seen any evidence that the Republicans are any better than the Democrats at keeping America safe. On the contrary. 9/11 occurred on their watch, and so did the sorry war in Iraq. They should be fired!

Posted by: Obvious on August 22, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, my running shoes have a gel insert. Am I a shoe bomber? Posted by: Tripp

No. Merely a victim of marketing.

Posted by: JeffII on August 22, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

However, the only real information he released was a report that investigators have found "chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide,

check.

electrical components,

check.

documents

check. got lotsa those.

and other items,"

I have tonnes of "other items."

including martyrdom videos.

Well, I haven't made a martyrdom video, but I am planning on videotaping my will? Does that count? Can I be a terrorist too?

Posted by: Disputo on August 22, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Bush will be back in Crawford, safely retired to write his memoirs

The jokes write themselves sometimes.

Posted by: uncle remus on August 22, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

I have tonnes of "other items." Posted by: Disputo

You spelled tons wrong, "you filthy foreigner and your filthy foreign ways."

Posted by: JeffII on August 22, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Steve White:

A rudimentary knowledge of highschool chemistry.

I mean ... can't you see the guy in the lavvie ... he's got the peroxide/acetone mixture in a glass beaker immersed in a champagne bucket with the thermometer, s-l-o-w-l-y adding the sulphuric acid with an eyedropper, keeping an eagle eye on the reaction temperature ...

Reeking noxious fumes start to build ... he gets a little lightheaded and *very* nauseous ...

And then an annoucement from the captain:

"Fasten your seatbelts, folks, we'll be experiencing a little turbulence."

AIYEEEE !!!!! He runs screaming out of the john with half his face melted off.

IOW, Steve -- the idea of mixing up triperoxide triacetate in an airplane loo is entirely farcical.

What's next -- meth labs in phone booths?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 22, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

GOP 06 : we have nothing to offer but fear itself

Brilliant.

Posted by: craigie on August 22, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

The jokes write themselves sometimes.

Well, yeah. I'll be surprised if Bush doesn't sell the Crawford property after he leaves office - it won't be of any political use to him any longer. And as far as him "writing" anything - yeah, that's a joke in itself.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on August 22, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Bush will be back in Crawford, safely retarded to write his memoirs

Fixed it for you.

Posted by: craigie on August 22, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK
I have tonnes of "other items." Posted by: Disputo

You spelled tons wrong, "you filthy foreigner and your filthy foreign ways."
Posted by: JeffII on August 22, 2006 at 4:05 PM

Reminds me of a joke:
HOW LONG MUST THIS GO ON?

Two Arabs boarded a flight out of London, one took a window seat and the other sat next to him in the middle seat.
Just before takeoff, an American sat down in the aisle seat. After takeoff, the American kicked his shoes off, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Arab in the window seat said, I need to get up and get a coke.

Don't get up said the American, I'm in the aisle seat. I'll get it for you.

As soon as he left, one of the Arabs picked up the American's shoe and spat in it.

When he returned with the coke, the other Arab said, That looks good, I'd really like one, too.

Again, the American obligingly went to fetch it. While he was gone the other Arab picked up his other shoe and spat in it. When the American returned, they all sat back and enjoyed the flight.

As the plane was landing, the American slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened.

Why does it have to be this way; he asked them.

How long must this go on?

This fighting between our nations?

This hatred?

This animosity?

This spitting in shoes and peeing in cokes?

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

triperoxide triacetate = triacetone triperoxide

Posted by: rmck1 on August 22, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo: Exactly.

Posted by: jri on August 22, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Few notes on the above.

1) Like the Holocaust rule, let me suggest:
He who invokes 9-11 immediately, and says the administration that let it happen on their watch - are the only people who can protect us - can't be taken seriously.

2) The Brits partly are less gullible because it's not their show. Blair is clearly just going along for the ride - thus their point of view isn't as warped by the "my country, right or wrong" mentality.

3) The British have years of experience with the IRA. They know that not only are terrorists bad - but the government over-reaction, dirty tricks and incompetence can be just as dangerous.

That's also a reminder to the Americans who yell - well they don't know because 9-11 didn't happen to them! BS - every major industrial country has faced a terrorist threat. All have dealt with them, some better than others.

4)Kevin is pointing out a basic fact, over and over again. This plot does not seem to be a credible threat to anyone - so why was it hyped so heavily? When we have so many real threats to face, why is our government so determined to hype unlikely dangers, rather than deal with real threats?

Posted by: Samuel Knight on August 22, 2006 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

When we have so many real threats to face, why is our government so determined to hype unlikely dangers, rather than deal with real threats?

When you answer that question, you'll know what the admin's real agneda is.

(Hint: the answer is the same one which answers the question: Why did GWB let OBL escape at Tora Bora?)

Posted by: Disputo on August 22, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

I would guess that the US pressured the British to make the bust when they did so that it would come right before the ruling on NSA wiretaps. Or is that too obvious to be worth stating?

IMO, it was to distract from Lieberman's primary defeat -- despite the clueless bloviating of the so-called punditocracy, the alarming thing for the Boy King was that the CT primary was a referendum on BushCo ahead of the 2006 Congressional elections.

Posted by: Gregory on August 22, 2006 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Exploding aftershave is the new Willie Horton.

Posted by: ergonaut on August 22, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

(Hint II: Why did we pre-emptively attack Iraq when they were never a serious threat to the US?)

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

IMO, it was to distract from Lieberman's primary defeat -- despite the clueless bloviating of the so-called punditocracy, the alarming thing for the Boy King was that the CT primary was a referendum on BushCo ahead of the 2006 Congressional elections.

That's exactly correct. The night of the Lamont's win, even the local Chicago news media were gleefully spreading the meme that this signaled a shift in the electorate that would lead to GOP defeat in Nov. That talk had to be silenced before it snowballed into reality.

And by the next morning, it was.

Posted by: Disputo on August 22, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Look, I have a couple bottles of hydrogen peroxide (doesn't everyone have a bottle?) from Costco and I don't know how much acetone.

And electronics! Lots of that in my house.

No sulfuric acid, though, that stuff stinks and really doesn't work great. Used to have a liter of it, though; it was really hard to get rid of.

Posted by: Crissa on August 22, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

However, the only real information he released was a report that investigators have found "chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, electrical components, documents and other items," including martyrdom videos.

What this shows, of course, is that these guys really did want to blow up airplanes.

No it doesn't. It shows, of course, that the police are willing to release information that may convince a gullible public that these guys really wanted to blow up airplanes. As noted above, we don't know dillution level of the H-P. Do you know anyone who doesn't have "electrical components"? Or "documents"? Did they posess "martyrdom videos" because they were believers, or because someone emailed them a copy (if indeed they really are "martyrdom videos")?

Maybe they are terrorists, maybe not. Until there is a full and open trial, we won't know either way. And the Bush/Blair administrations have long ago lost any benefit of the doubt.

Posted by: Martin on August 22, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

I understand the view that it was timed to coincide with Lieberman's, uh, "temporary setback" -- the timing was right -- but I think the *nature* of the bust is better suited as "evidence" that the administration *needs* to be able to spy as much as they want. Witness the trumpeting of the US' alleged assistance with the operation, which is mostly to do with the spying. And the timing is just as right if this was about the NSA case. To bolster Lieberman, it would have been more appropriate to trot out the capture of Al Qaeda's current "second in command" in Iraq, I think.

Posted by: Benson on August 22, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Why not the "gel" in many bras then?
Don't worry, you can continue to wear your bras, Charlie.

Posted by: Alf on August 22, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

The comments by rmck1 are right on the money, both from what I've read, and from my own experience working in organic chem and biochem labs.

Yes, you can make a bomb big enough to bring down a passenger jet from the materials described. No, it is not even close to practical for a bomber to get all the necessary materials (including the thermometer, the ice, etc.) on board and mixed together while escaping detection.

Acetone is a major ingredient. A lot of acetone. It's the stinky stuff in nail polish remover and airplane glue. The bomber is at risk of passing out long before he's finished. The whole airplane of passengers will smell what he's up to long before he's finished. If he doesn't manage to set himself on fire before he gets something explosive put together.

One of the many disservices committed by the main stream media in reporting this story is that nobody, and I mean nobody, at the NYT, the WaPo, CNN, the networks has done any research or reporting on the practicality -- or really, the impracticality -- of this scheme. And it is not hard for an enterprising reporter or editor to research this.

Posted by: nemo on August 22, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't it concern anyone that no serious, professional plot has ever been discovered by the US/UK governments?

Anyone who has flown outside of N. America or Europe knows how easy it would be to smuggle dangerous items onboard.

Posted by: enozinho on August 22, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, electrical components, documents and other items," including martyrdom videos.

Well, as others have already pointed out, apart from the videos, most of us have these things in our houses and apartments. Geez, I bought a new bottle of hydrogen peroxide two days ago- does that make me a terrorist?

Re: the martyrdom videos, are these videos made by those arrested? Or were they just downloaded from the internet by fascinated young British Muslims? If some dumb kid downloads a video of a skinhead rally from YouTube, does that make him a skinhead? Does it make him a conspirator in anything that group does?

If there is real evidence of a real plot here, I'm interested. So far it smells like BS and thought police stuff.

Posted by: pdq on August 22, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory
IMO, it was to distract from Lieberman's primary defeat --

Disputo
That's exactly correct.

Be careful not to cut yourselves on Occam's razor.

Posted by: Red State Mike on August 22, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

The risk of terrorists manufacturing binary explosives in the air could almost certainly have been handled in other, more effective ways,

thorough pre-screening of passengers comes to mind: prohibit anyone from boarding who has been a recent visitor to Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, for example.

I flew the day after the scare and flight was as rapid as ever. Everybody packed the liquids and gels in the checked luggage where it all got searched. I don't see a problem with the new regulations.

As for "hype", I think that the governments are responding well within what might be called "reasonable alertness". We wouldn't want to depend entirely on the incompetence of jihadists.

Posted by: republicrat on August 22, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, the 3% hydrogen peroxide you in your medicine cabinet is totally ineffective for making a bomb. Even 30%, which is not easy to obtain, is not effective enough to be sure of success. You really need 70%, which you would probably need to make yourself. Anyplace that would sell 70% undoubtedly requires plenty of ID, which undoubtedly they immediately turn over to the authorities.

But getting the stuff mixed together properly on board the plane while escaping detection? Completely impractical.

Posted by: nemo on August 22, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

So some of these guys had martyrdom videos. They also didn't have tickets and many didn't have passports. In the muslim population in Britain I wonder how many young men have made martyrdom videos without having any real intention of committing a violent act?

Steve White's hysteria is exactly what we don't need as a nation but it is exactly what Bushco needs to turn out their base and try to keep the reins of power.

Each time we overreact to a threat it costs us. It costs the country billions of dollars for the extra time people spend in line. It costs us billions of dollars for the largely useless TSA people. It costs the airlines billions of dollars in lost ticket revenue when people stop flying because of the hassles. And it probably costs us human life as people die in traffic accidents when they decide to drive instead of fly.

It may seem a foiled plot but for OBL this was a huge success. Once again Americans felt fear. Once again we wasted billions of dollars of our resources. We are like the panicky person who experiences a full adrenalin rush over every little thing. Eventually the body wears out from reacting to stimuli that were not truly dangerous.

Posted by: JohnK on August 22, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin quotes The Guardian:

Only 20% of all voters, and 26% of Labour voters, say they think the government is telling the truth about the threat, while 21% of voters think the government has actively exaggerated the danger. A majority, 51%, say the government is not giving the full truth and may be telling less than it knows.

I'm not sure how you think this finding supports your position. If 51% of British voters believe that "the government is not giving the full truth and may be telling less than it knows," and 80% of voters do not "think the government is telling the truth about the threat," but only 21% of voters "think the government has actively exaggerated the danger," then most British voters who doubt that the government is giving them the full truth believe that it is understating the danger, not overstating it.

Posted by: GOP on August 22, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Re: the martyrdom videos

I saw a martyrdom video once in the mid 90's. A friend brought it back from Chechnya. I think it is safe to say that if you are collecting martyrdom videos, you are probably an extremist.

I think it is fair to congratulate the UK government for uncovering this plot, however doomed to failure it may have been. Even amateur whackos can be dangerous.

Posted by: enozinho on August 22, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

No one is saying we should "count on the incompetence of ...". To make this into an immanent threat that was moments away from blowing dozens of plane from the sky, on the other hand is ridiculous. It is also blatant use of an investigation for political reasons.

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that most Americans have seen one too many "crime caper" (Ocean's Eleven/Inside Man) or espionage type (Mission Impossible) movies and TV shows where these incredibly complicated plans go exactly right and have lost the ability to critically analyze the likelihood of success (or lack thereof) when it comes to these kinds of things. Therefore, we're incredibly susceptible to the most outrageous "what-if" scenarios.

Except of course for the "what-if the government mistakes you for a terrorist supporter based upon some misreading of your phone records and sends you to a camp incommunicado to torture information out of you" scenario. That of course would be outrageous.

Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on August 22, 2006 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

thomas1: Why not the "gel" in many bras then?

One couple was planning to carry the explosives in a milk bottle with their babies. For some Islamist women, having breasts enhanced by explosive gel is probably not beyond the realm of possibility.

As long as we are giving hints to terrorists, why not make a large model of a hamburger out of plastique explosives, a la Claes Oldenborg? Indeed, the plastiques can be molded and painted to look like anything. Hence the extreme, but well tolerated, inspection procedures at El Al.

Posted by: republicrat on August 22, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Alan Vanneman wrote:

"If Al Qada had killed 3,200 Brits, the British might be more 'gullible.'"

I respond:

Man, you are so right! I totally forgot that there's a direct relationship between national gullibility and the number of deaths that a country incurs as the result of a terrorist attack. If I recall my Social Statistics 101, this relationship between victimhood and blind acquiesence to government dictates is linear in nature. I guess that means that the Spaniards are 94% less gullible than us, the Brits are 98% less gullible than us, and those clear-eyed skeptics in the Most Serene Republic of San Marino are 100% less gullible than us! If I weren't so paralyzed by my abject fear of the Islamofascists (TM), I'd hop on a plane to San Marino and become a skeptic again.

Posted by: Everett on August 22, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

The UK government should be congratulated for uncovering this plot. They should also be derided for politicizing this plot.

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Americans continue to be more gullible than the Brits on this score"

Which is why the Bushies pushed the Brits to move sooner than they wanted to. Too bad it didn't work to boost their polls as they hoped.

Still not seeing how any of these people were going to board international flights with their alleged bomb fixins without passports.
.

Posted by: VJ on August 22, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

But getting the stuff mixed together properly on board the plane while escaping detection? Completely impractical.

According to the experts, neither a liquid bomb consisting of two chemicals mixed together on the plane, nor a liquid bomb consisting of a single chemical detonated electronically, is "impractical." In fact, the latter kind of bomb has already been used successfully on a Philippine Airlines plane.

Further details here.

Posted by: GOP on August 22, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

"What this shows, of course, is that these guys really did want to blow up airplanes. "

Does it really? The only remotely concrete detail so far is the presence of Hydrogen Peroxide. Wow. That's only a completely legal substance that a lot of people have because it's a very effective anti-bacterial solution.

We don;t really even know if they were planning anything. We've had several instances recently of people picked up for photographing bridges and landmarks only to be quietly released later when the FBI figured out they were, you know, tourists.

What are the odds these "martyr" vidoes are going to turn out to be cached copies of somebody's favortie youtube videos from Iraq?

Posted by: Tlaloc on August 22, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

That it took so long for the media to find out how impractical bomb-making aboard an airplane is, sais a lot about the general level of education in natural sciences.
When you only read books about chemistry, everithing looks so easy. And then you try to get your first own reaction going and nothing seems to work.
Finally the reaction gets started and everithing is boiling over and you run for the fire extinguisher.
Now imagine this in the loo of an airplane.
From my own practical experience in organic chemistry I'd say: it would at least take a professional chemist to pull of such a plot, but he would know al the obstacles on his way and refuse to try in the firdt place.

Posted by: Jrgen in Germany on August 22, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Still not seeing how any of these people were going to board international flights with their alleged bomb fixins without passports.

Well, obviously they were going to threaten to blow up the plane if they were not allowed to board....

(Just thought I'd say it before one of the wingnut trolls does.)

Posted by: Disputo on August 22, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Not the Americans but the Republican'ts continue to be more gullible than brits.

Posted by: nut on August 22, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

They should also be derided for politicizing this plot.

This is the real problem. The more we show ourselves to be the United States of Paranoia, the less security agents in foreign countries take our safety requirements seriously. The security agents for my AA flight in Sao Paulo were completely lackadaisical because we overreact to every threat, real or imagined.

Posted by: enozinho on August 22, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

The reason Special Branch yelled at the FBI is quite simple: the British legal system(s) work on the principle that jurors must be isolated from news coverage of an investigation in order to prevent them pre-judging the issue. If they hear about the evidence other than in the controlled environment of a court room, they may succumb to prejudice (for example, by taking as fact reports that are based on rumour or hearsay but that sound plausible on a TV news report). Thus, jurors are traditionally isolated from news sources during a trial, and news media that tread too close to a story can be nailed for contempt of court.

The point of this isolation is to ensure that the defendants get a fair trial.

The reports coming out of the FBI have been getting dangerously close to the point at which the prosecution would have to be abandoned.

(By way of illustrating this: if the O. J. Simpson affair had taken place in the UK, then the level of press coverage that took place before and during the trial would have been guaranteed to give rise to a mistrial, and the publicity surrounding it would have ensured that no untainted jury could ever be convened. On the other hand, the TV channels and newspapers would have ended up in court themselves, on contempt charges.)

Posted by: Charlie Stross on August 22, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

None of you should be surprised by how the Bush Administration acts now. This happens every time they announce that they've foiled a "terrorist plot." They hold an impressive news conference where they announce that they've prevented another dastardly attack, which is why they need everyone to give up their rights so that they can continue doing their job even though they apprehended the individual using none of those tactics, and why we should continue to support the war in Iraq, even though it had nothing to do with the announced attack. And then months or years later, we find out nothing close to what the administration actually happened, as in the Padilla case, or half a dozen other cases. I don't mind the British authorities doing their job - I mind the fact that Bush politicizes the issue by linking it to the Iraq War and why we need to give up our civil liberties.

Posted by: Andy on August 22, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

In the latest news on the airline bombing plot, the Observer reports that British security services have asked the FBI to please STFU and stop leaking information that might hurt their investigation.

It's like Rice and the Khan raid all over again. Morons.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on August 22, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Martin"

No it doesn't.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Yeah, that's right. Obviously, they were just horsing around. Ignore the bomb-making equipment. Ignore the martyr videos. Ignore the surveillance evidence.

Instead, let's all bury our heads in the sand and pretend it's all a big government conspiracy to scare people.

Posted by: GOP on August 22, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

In fact, the latter kind of bomb has already been used successfully on a Philippine Airlines plane.

No, wrong explosive. Maybe if your sources weren't all from two weeks ago you'd know that.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on August 22, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Is there an emoti-com for the middle finger

Hey, President Bush!

^ () ^

Posted by: Hostile on August 22, 2006 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

"...let's all bury our heads in the sand and pretend it's all a big government conspiracy to scare people." - GOP

You mean Willie Horton really DID have big plans for our womenfolk?

Posted by: ergonaut on August 22, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Some envision a group of two or three terrorists mixing up explosives in an airplane bathroom

I like the above quote from one of GOP's terrorism experts. Three terrorists mixing up the medicine in an airplane's bathroom?

Apparently GOP's terrorism expert has never flown, much less made a binary liquid bomb.

Posted by: Disputo on August 22, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

GOP:

The Phillipines explosion killed one person and did not bring down the plane. Nor did they mix the nitroglycerin on board. Oh yeah -- high-concentration nitric and hydrochloric acids in an airplane loo, that would be fun. Make sure you bring a ventilation mask and two sets of gloves, one laminated.

Of course, you could always just nitrate your clothing and blow up your nitrocellulose T-shirt, if you really have a hardon for this kind of thing.

nemo:

Isn't acetone closely chemically related to toluene -- the stuff in airplane glue that gets you high? Or do all organic compound vapors in high enough concentration tend to do that? I'm not remotely chemically inclined; I've just been reading about this stuff a lot lately.

And while I appreciate your posts -- you keep using the term "impractical." Kind of, umm, understated, don't you think?

I'd rather go with "batshit insane."

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 22, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Don P posting as "GOP" wrote: "Instead, let's all bury our heads in the sand and pretend it's all a big government conspiracy to scare people."

Run along, now, Don, and lick Bush's boots. He just stepped in some dog shit and he's expecting you to lick it off with your usual simpering, slavish enthusiasm, after which he'll grind his heel into your face a little bit while you whimper with pleasure.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 22, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

toluene is a benzene ring with a methyl group.

acetone is three carbons with an oxygen atom coming off the middle one.

Not related.

Posted by: Dr. Science on August 22, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

the main stream media in reporting this story is that nobody, and I mean nobody, at the NYT, the WaPo, CNN, the networks has done any research or reporting on the practicality -- or really, the impracticality -- of this scheme

Corporatism prevents information from reaching the people.

Posted by: Hostile on August 22, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

"... the latter kind of bomb has already been used successfully on a Philippine Airlines plane."

Let's see. Your first citation only addresses the question of how easy it might be to disguise the ingredients for a bomb, but fails to address the question of how difficult it is to put those ingredients together on board. It then mentions nitroglycerine as something that is small, easy to disguise, and requires no on-board mixing. It doesn't mention that the instability of nitroglycerine makes even the bomber's trip to the airport dangerous for him. It mentions nothing about the Philippines Airlines.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/08/11/nterror411.xml

Your second citation also doesn't mention Philippine Airlines Flight 434, and does not address binary explosives. It does describe nitroglycerin again. It points out that another plot was discovered in the Philippines in 1995 when a fire broke out in a Manila apartment kitchen where the nitroglycerin was being made.

This points up the danger to the bombers of working with nitroglycerin -- the danger of blowing themselves up and setting themselves on fire before they get near their targets.

This story also provides enough history to show us that both the airlines and British and American security should have been worrying about this problem over a decade ago, instead of reacting hysterically only a few weeks ago.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/attack/280901_liquid11.html

Your final citation also doesn't mention the Philippines Airlines flight. It isn't always clear when they are talking about nitroglycerin and when they are talking about binary explosives. They point out that in principle you can smuggle in and mix binary explosives, which is not in dispute. They don't address the difficulty of mixing the binary explosives on board. When an expert in the article talks about ease of use, he seems to always be referring to nitroglycerin.

But that same article says that using nitroglycerin is a lot less practical for a bomber than in the past: "Nitroglycerin and similar explosives have become much harder to slip by airport security today than they were a decade ago because of "sniffer" machines that can detect trace amounts of explosives residue on luggage and passengers."

And they point out that carrying nitroglycerin is very dangerous to the bomber himself before he reaches his target: "That isn't something a person in a sane state would want to carry around because it's so unstable."

http://www.courierpress.com/news/2006/aug/11/liquid-bomb-called-easy/

Finally, if you look up Philippine Airlines Flight 434 on wikipedia, you find that Ramzi Yousef successfully used nitroglycerin to set off a bomb in that flight. But notice that his "success" did not bring down the plane. It killed only one passenger, and injured ten.

The Philippine Airlines Flight 434 explosion illustrates nothing about the practicality of using binary explosives.

That explosion also took place in 1994, when airline security was very lax compared with now. And probably Philippine airline security was even more lax than American and European security at the time.

A Ramzi Yousef wannabe would have a much harder time getting past security with nitroglycerin now. And Ramzi Yousef himself was lucky that he didn't blow himself up in his own kitchen or on his way to the airport.

None of your citations seriously address the practical aspects of putting together binary explosives. They just reiterate the undisputed point that in principle it is possible.

Posted by: nemo on August 22, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

GOP cites himself??!

Oh the pain.

No one disputes that somebody could use nitroglycerine or plastique or some sticks of dynamite or even a bloody large supply of flash paper and flash cotton used for magic tricks to blow a hole in a plane. Sheesh. Give me a gallon of gasoline and a plane fuselage and maybe I could create an explosive mixture too.

The problem is in getting these items on the plane.

Why did you know that common kitchen matches that strike anywhere can be used to create something like a bomb? Yes really!

C'mon, this is kids stuff and that is why you can't carry a box of kitchen matches onto a plane.

Posted by: Tripp on August 22, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

GOP, I was wondering if you would be willing to apply the same "1%/Can't be too careful principle" to the Global Warming threat?

Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on August 22, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

It may well be politically motivated, but I suspect it's more of the cover your ass on the off chance it happens variety (remember that uncomfortable Condi testimony in Congress) rather than the boost up the polls for November kind.

Posted by: RM on August 22, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Question, can one still carry a cigarette lighter on a plane. Could one not simply fill a bunch of water bottles with gasoline, cap them to disguise their true nature and then simply start a rather large fire on board an airplane if you wanted to potentially bring a plane down (or at least kill a hell of alot of people on the plane)? I would think that with sufficient individuals involved (meaning lots of gasoline bottles) this would be more effective than the complex binary explosive scheme we have uncovered?

Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on August 22, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

I remember 8th grade chemistry in '69, sneaking charcoal and sulphur and saltpeter to try to make gunpowder. Aww, man, those were the days.

Nowadays it is all different. Why you can't even carry hard boiled eggs on a plane because the sulphur in the yolk could be used to make dynamite.

Boo yah!

Posted by: Tripp on August 22, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

USA Today reports some recent polling that suggests Americans continue to be more gullible than the Brits on this score. I suppose USA Today's poll may just be an outlier, but if it's true it's a sad commentary on the continuing ability of the Republican Party to scare their way to victory.


The alternative, and more likely, interpretation is that the American public is neither "gullible" nor "scared" but rather that it is being told precisely what they want to hear.

They want a "War on Terror" and will believe that which is necessary to justify it. They want a bogeyman to fight.

And why shouldn't they. This war has been jolly good fun and cost free for them so far. A spectator sport.

Posted by: Thinker on August 22, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Isn't acetone closely chemically related to toluene -- the stuff in airplane glue that gets you high? Or do all organic compound vapors in high enough concentration tend to do that?"

You're probably right about toluene being the main solvent in airplane glue rather than acetone. You can use acetone from nail polish remover as a solvent to clean up airplane glue, as well as superglue.

Toluene is the main constituent of cleaners like PineSol. As Dr. Science noted above, toluene is a 6-carbon benzene ring with an CH3 methyl group sticking off one side. Acetone is a short 3-carbon straight chain compound with C=O double bond on the central carbon.

Acetone has a stronger stink than toluene, which is another factor that made me think it might be in airplane glue. But it's probably toluene.

A lot of different organic compound vapors, both rings and straight chains, get you high. Never having tried it myself, I suspect that the ring compounds, such as toluene, or the benzene in gasoline, may give better quality high. If you can talk about "quality" under such degraded conditions.

Being locked in a small space such as airplane lavatory with an open container of acetone for 20 or 30 minutes will definitely make you high, then make you puke, then make you pass out.

Posted by: nemo on August 22, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Al Qaeda: orchestrates attacks to strike terror into Americans.

RNC/Bushco: orchestrates "news" to strike terror into Americans.

When we get scared out of our wits, both groups are delighted.

Posted by: ergonaut on August 22, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

coming soon to an airliner near you:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5274924.stm

Posted by: republicrat on August 22, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

tripp: The problem is in getting these items on the plane.

Not if scrutiny is lax, as is apparently recommended by those who think the current regs are too strict.

Posted by: republicrat on August 22, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

toluene will melt your brain.

since acetone is naturally produced in the body (ketosis), my guess is that the body has a way to handle moderate amounts without toxic effect.

Posted by: Dr. Science on August 22, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Jorgen in Germany: Finally the reaction gets started and everithing is boiling over and you run for the fire extinguisher.
Now imagine this in the loo of an airplane.

Also imagine that it is being done with the intention of committing suicide. Possibly just a big hole in the door or floor, but if tried many times then probably at least one airliner down out of every 10 attempts.

Posted by: republicrat on August 22, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it.

I used to read lots of liberals opine that the Bush administration wasn't doing enough to protect us from the Jihadist threat. They weren't screening 100% of luggage, port traffic, etc. They weren't guarding our infrastructure with sufficient vigor, yada yada yada.

Is this no longer the received wisdom of the lefty blogosphere? Is Osama Bin Laden really just a secret creation of Karl Rove?

I thought it was right-wingers who were into conspiracy theories. How times change.

Posted by: Smarty on August 22, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat,

Imagine if that driver coming towards you has a suicidal urge and crosses over the center line! My GOD! Never drive again!

BOOOOOO!

You big effing pussy.

Posted by: Tripp on August 22, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

They want a bogeyman to fight.

Thinker nails it!

(You're enjoying this, aren't you, Republicrat?)

Posted by: Foundation of Mud on August 22, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Smarty:

Don't be such a dummy, Smarty :)

Checking cargo containers would be much more worthwhile than banning toothpaste and peanut butter and JELLY ! sandwitches because they might contain some explosive goo.

It's not the the left is against homeland security.

It's that we're against insanely overreactive and ineffectual "homeland security" which looks from both sides of the Atlantic like it was deliberated hyped to get Bush and his faithful poodle out of a very deep political hole.

Just wait until those jihadis discover the TNT suppository and Plastique tampon, huh ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 22, 2006 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

...yada yada yada.

Smarty, what liberals (if you like) have been saying is that the current Republicans are making lots of noise and causing much disruption without actually taking any concrete measures to improve security. Their record at obtaining convictions of alleged terrorist plotters is also rather abysmal.

Stating that you need need secret, unexamined surveillance powers while simultaneously trumpeting anything that even remotely smells like terrorism all over the media is a little contradictory, don't you think?

Do you really believe that this current administration is serious about stopping terror?

Posted by: exasperanto on August 22, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

Benson: "I would guess that the US pressured the British to make the bust when they did so that it would come right before the ruling on NSA wiretaps. Or is that too obvious to be worth stating?"

I'm with Benson on this one--Bushco wanted to raise the spectre of another 9/11 before the NSA wiretaps ruling came down. What was it that Bush said a couple of days later, "Those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live. I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree,"

That kind of statement needs the contextual drama of undetectable, readily available explosives on airplanes. What a world, what a world!

Speaking of GWB, he flew to Minnesota today to support a local political operative...his visit raised over half a million dollars for her campaign. It also messed up the airport and traffic throughout the metro area. Tell me, why are American taxpayers expected to pick up the tab for this kind of thing?

Posted by: PTate in MN on August 22, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Nemo,

Sorry to bother all, Pine-sol does not contain toluene, it is basically pine oil and tall oil with Iso propanol and other solvents, toluene is rather more toxic than 'Mom' would want to use around the kiddies.

Posted by: POD on August 22, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

The guardian is saying the FBI is being told to STFU. In the mean time the Brits are talking way more than they ever do. The reason they usually remain tight lipped are outlined above. This makes me wonder, do they consider the damage that is going to be done by not running a PR campaign more immanent than the damage that will be done when all these people get a mistrial?

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

There's very little evidence that the airline bombers were even remotely capable of pulling off their plot,

Hey, not being remotely capable didn't stop the Republicans invading Iraq....

Posted by: Stefan on August 22, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Touche Stephan.

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Oh my God. Folks, I beg you: please, please, please, vote for people who think like you do in Democratic primaries. Please.

Posted by: karl on August 22, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't acetone closely chemically related to toluene -- the stuff in airplane glue that gets you high?

Yep. Very high, in fact. Up to 35,000 feet. Apparently these terrorists were planning on using these chemicals to unglue airplanes in mid-flight.

Fiends.

Posted by: obscure on August 22, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Yep. Very high, in fact. Up to 35,000 feet. Apparently these terrorists were planning on using these chemicals to unglue airplanes in mid-flight.

LOL. I am quite embarrassed that I did not see that softball.

Posted by: Disputo on August 22, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

Were you this outraged when Clinton traveled to political events?

Hey, it's Charlie-the-Jackass! Hi there, Charlie-the-Jackass.

How is life in Jackass Land?

Posted by: Alfred E. Newman on August 22, 2006 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

One thing that struck me coming from the Brit investigators was that some 4,000 computers were recovered from the suspects. I turned to my wife and said, "Man, they sure did believe in back-up"

How on earth did they ever utilize 4,000 effing computers?!?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on August 22, 2006 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Wolf! Wolf!

Posted by: Bush-obeying American intelligence community on August 22, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

How on earth did they ever utilize 4,000 effing computers?!?

They were looking for aliens?

Posted by: Disputo on August 22, 2006 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: qq on August 22, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

karl at 8:09,

people who think like we do (since your using the old broad brush) are now the majority, so, yeah, what you say sounds reasonable.

Glad your onboard.

Posted by: Foundation of Mud on August 22, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Kev... how does "likelihood" grow? How does it "continue to grow"? Wouldn't it be a constant? Isn't it like, you know, a probability measure? Like .5. Does it increase? Can it? Can it decrease? If it decreased to zero--it seems to have done so--does that mean the likelihood of your being a politically deranged whackjob increase to 1? I think it would. If it can, you know.

Posted by: David on August 22, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

A follow-up suggestion: When would be a good time to do these busts or to announce them? I mean, can we get on your schedule--tell the FBI, Brit intel, Scotland Yard, the admin, whoever--what spots are open when there's nothing to distract from, so that these announcements or actions can be taken free and clear of any other news that you morons can say they are intended to distract from.

But in fact, it's just a fill-in-the-blank game with you whacks. "What? Bush announced [anything]? Terrorists were busted? You know it's just their attempt to distract from [your latest moron magnet news peg---a primary defeat of one Dem by another, the economy, the extra 1434 jobless claims in California, the decline in the stock market, the quagmire in Iraq, whatever the f].

And you think you're so clever, having figured it out, too! Wow! "I figured out what they are REALLY doing!"

You're deranged.

Posted by: David on August 22, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

So what is your point? That there are dangerous things in this world? No shit. One of the most dangerous is people who hate others in a kind of blanket fashion. Like the terrorist, but they are not alone are they. The point that you miss is that the fact that they turned this into a big political PR campaign, means that the people involved have a better chance of getting off on a technicality. If they are so dangerous wouldn't it be better to keep your mouth shut and pursue these people in a quiet and deliberate manner. Do you think that this Nitro issue is new? The it seems clear to me that Blair and Bush don't really care how safe you are. They care how they can use this instability to their best advantage. Cause guess what they and their families are going to be safe. I dont know this for sure, I cant prove it but if it quacks like a duck...

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Just crawl under your bed and pull a pillow over your head, you'll be fine.

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

So you also think that this risk did not exist on August 15th but now it does? Or do you believe that the people in security don't have the resources that you do? Resources like google.

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas1: "Were you this outraged when Clinton traveled to political events"

Two wrongs don't make a right. But it is true that I was only dimly aware of Clinton's fundraising activities. Partly that was because the economy was humming along, and I never doubted Clinton's competence.

According to this report, Bush has taken this sort of political perk to the extreme. "With his staff intent on using all the levers of his office to help Republican candidates, Bush has bested even Clinton's fundraising pace at the same point in his first term. Bush has taken 28 out-of-town political trips in his first 16 months in office, compared with the 20 that federal records show for Clinton in the corresponding period."

The article is old, but the trend has been consistent. Between his endless fundraising/campaigning and his vacations, I wonder when Bush has time to run the country.

Posted by: PTate in MN on August 22, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

The point is that they are not using this to make us safer. They are using it to score political points. This investigation could have made us a lot safer. Instead they have limited its usefulness by making political hay.

Posted by: bushburner on August 22, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

Foundation of Mud: (You're enjoying this, aren't you, Republicrat?)

Yes. did you follow the link to the pepper spray that was used in a jailbreak?

When I stand in line I think of ways to smuggle explosives and other munitions on board. I have not mentioned any out loud, except the Claes Oldenborg hamburger mentioned above. I did think of toiletries long ago. It's very little inconvenience to have toiletries banned from the carryon luggage. the story of the couple who were planning to smuggle stuff onboard in the baby's milk bottle was unsettling.

Posted by: republicrat on August 23, 2006 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

"A lot has been discovered. Al-Qaeda/Hezbollah type "martyr" videos were found on the laptops of some of the 23 Islamofascists who tried to commit a suicide bomb attack on airliners headed to America."

Wow, what a convincing argument! Just like your VHS copy of 'Triumph of the Will' proves you are planning to hold massive night rallies. Just one question: when you're writing your attempted diatribes, does 'Jeff Gannon' help you with the big words?

Posted by: Kenji on August 23, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

When I stand in line I think of ways to smuggle explosives and other munitions on board.

I've always suspected that most Republicans' minds work this way.

Posted by: Disputo on August 23, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

bushburner wrote:

"The guardian is saying the FBI is being told to STFU. In the mean time the Brits are talking way more than they ever do. The reason they usually remain tight lipped are outlined above. This makes me wonder, do they consider the damage that is going to be done by not running a PR campaign more immanent than the damage that will be done when all these people get a mistrial?"
__________________

This does bring up one small problem with the law and order only approach to jihadism. Of necessity, law enforcement is going to play it safe when it comes to potentially dangerous plots. That gives the defendents plenty of opportunity to come up with plausible stories, some of which might resonate with juries. That's just the way things go and no complaint, but it will mean that some of them will be free to try again. You can't watch everybody all the time.

The same thing goes for our detainees in Guantanamo. Afghanistan is not the sort of place where one can expect strong chains of evidence. Combat reports aren't likely to give much detail about how someone was captured or what he was doing. For that matter, it isn't necessarily a crime to shoot at, even kill, an American soldier on the battlefield.

Even when we pull out of Iraq, we're still going to have plenty of hard cases on our hands and we'll get more in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Treating them all as criminal suspects and giving them trials could conceivably result in a pretty tiresome catch and release program. While many of them will be killed the second or third time they encounter our forces, there is always the chance they'll get lucky and kill some of ours.

Posted by: Trashhauler on August 23, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

A liberal calling for the end to leaks from government agencies? What will the NYT use if anonymous government sources don't leak sensitive, secret information to be printed on the first page even though it will make Americans less safe?

And for what will liberal bloggers call him BusHitler if they don't know about secret government programs designed to detect those who wish us harm?

These are all questions that keep me awake at night.

Posted by: Birkel on August 23, 2006 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

The issue is not that those involved will come up with plausible stories. The issue is that because of British law (as I understand it) they won't have to. The British law enforcement community talking to the press means the plotters will be way more likely to get set free. In the mean time the police talking does nothing to keep us safer. What it does do is give them a chance to turn public opinion to their side. If they were right they would not need to do this. At least not unless they are less interested in public safety and more interested in political efficacy.

Posted by: bushburner on August 23, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

BTW: These are not leaks. What is happening here is propaganda.

Posted by: bushburner on August 23, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Trashhauler: "Treating them all as criminal suspects and giving them trials could conceivably result in a pretty tiresome catch and release program."

And what alternative would you suggest??? Something not as 'tiresome,' I presume.

Did anyone read about the recently released Guantanamo detainees who were judged innocent in military tribunals. They were Chinese Uighers
and China didn't want them back. They petitioned to be allowed entry to the US but were denied, after having spent two+ years at Guantanamo. So the US flew them to Albania where they are currently living in a refugee camp. Still, they say it's a lot better than Gitmo.

Posted by: nepeta on August 23, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Oh Christ, here this idiot goes again, pouring so much nonsense into one post that it'll take me twenty minutes to clear it up....

This does bring up one small problem with the law and order only approach to jihadism. Of necessity, law enforcement is going to play it safe when it comes to potentially dangerous plots.

There's no "of necessity" about it. Why on earth would law enforcement "play it safe" when it comes to potentially dangerous plots? If anything their tendency is to overkill.

That gives the defendents plenty of opportunity to come up with plausible stories, some of which might resonate with juries.

That's just bafflegab. Sure that's true, but it's also true of every single crime, from Mafia murders to garden variety burglaries. Of course everybody can lie -- but it's the "might" that's the key word above, these tales "might" resonate with juries -- but more likely, they will not. Most judges and juries aren't as gullible as Republican voters.

The same thing goes for our detainees in Guantanamo. Afghanistan is not the sort of place where one can expect strong chains of evidence. Combat reports aren't likely to give much detail about how someone was captured or what he was doing. For that matter, it isn't necessarily a crime to shoot at, even kill, an American soldier on the battlefield.

Then why the fuck are these people being charged as if they have committed a crime? If you're admitting that you have no proof of a crime against them, then what have they been detained for?

Even when we pull out of Iraq, we're still going to have plenty of hard cases on our hands and we'll get more in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Thanks to Bush's monumental fuck-up, yes.

Treating them all as criminal suspects and giving them trials could conceivably result in a pretty tiresome catch and release program.

*sigh* OK then, to use a common Republican complaint what's your plan? Can't be considered serious if you don't have a plan, you know. Can't kill 'em, can't catch 'em -- so what's your bright idea? Let's hear it.

While many of them will be killed the second or third time they encounter our forces, there is always the chance they'll get lucky and kill some of ours.

Welcome to life. It's not fair. Enjoy the ride.

The wingnut americanus is fairly obsessed with this bizarre belief that, contrary to all historical evidence in other terrorism plagued societies such as Britain, France, Spain and Israel, terrorists somehow have some magical power that prevents them from being convicted at trial.

Of course, if they were really concerned about terrorism and had given it any thought they'd realize that the first best line of defense is not punishment, but prevention -- good actionable intelligence, obtained through surveillance, penetration of networks, informers, turncoats, etc. Hard work, unfortunately, and not as sexy as blowing shit up, but it's what works.


Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Treating them all as criminal suspects and giving them trials could conceivably result in a pretty tiresome catch and release program. While many of them will be killed the second or third time they encounter our forces, there is always the chance they'll get lucky and kill some of ours.

How is this different than any domestic criminal suspect? The same logic applies equally to murderers, or gang members, or Mafiosi, or rapists or pedophiles -- after all, there's always the chance they'll get lucky and succeed at their crime. Got any alternative to the oh so tiresome catch and release program of the constitutionally-mandated American justice system?

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

republicrat: When I stand in line I think of ways to smuggle explosives and other munitions on board.

This explains so much.

Between the bizarre "I'm secretly a terrorist!" and "I could have been a Marine if I'd wanted to!" delusions(see, e.g. Bill "I've been in combat" O'Reilly), is there anyone on the right who isn't harboring some lurid overcompensatory Jonah Goldbergian fantasy life?

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

But Stefan ... *tsk* *tsk* ... you knooooww very well we can't afford to wait until the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud.

The are *terrorists*, Stefan. TEWWOOoooOOoOoOOOOoWWISTS ! You don't know *what* kind of diabolical, unmaginably destructive thing they could come up with, whether it's blowtorching down the Brooklyn Bridge or sticking blasting explosives up their rectums or learning how to make Ben Wa balls out of C4.

They're *not like us*, Stefan. Who knows WHAT THEY MIGHT DO. Truly diabolical evil needs to be pre-empted, not ... *tried by a jury of their peers* as if these Mooslum-creatures *had* such thing as peers among solid American citizens.

You need to kill them. Eradicate them. Like cockroaches. There really is no other way.

It's not like we're dealing with normal human beings here. This is your classical Oriental Menace.

So there you are.

[General Kitchener mode / OFF]

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 23, 2006 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what the "terrorists" are guilty of, except maybe failing college chemistry.

Come to think of it, I would just love to know the chem scores for some of the Winger posters here. I think I could probably guess.

Here is a hint Wingers...Just because they "stay the course" and have faith in Allah doesn't mean they can create a bomb from household chemicals on a plane.

But, I encourage any of you that would like to give it a try in your kitchen (or bathroom) to go right ahead.

Yes, please feel free to show us how easy it is... :-)

Posted by: MLuther on August 23, 2006 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

Bob,

Whatever happens we have got
WMD, and they have not.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

You don't know *what* kind of diabolical, unmaginably destructive thing they could come up with, whether it's blowtorching down the Brooklyn Bridge

Every night after work, when I'm taking a car or cab home over the Brooklyn Bridge, I look out the window at the crew of swarthy foreign masked men working feverishly away with their blowtorches and think is this it? Is this the end? Is this gonna be the night they succeed in bringing it all down?....

or sticking blasting explosives up their rectums or learning how to make Ben Wa balls out of C4.

Huh. That reminds me I owe my ex-girlfriend a call....

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan:

And when it's used the world will see
the depth of our humanity

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 23, 2006 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan:

Late 70s marquee on the York Motel on Rt. 3 just before the Lincoln Tunnel:

"Start your New Year off with a bang!"

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on August 23, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

Europe used to be the most violent place on Earth. It took the terrible experiences of hundreds of small and large wars, culminating in two world wars, to teach the formerly bellicose Europeans that war has no lasting victories but plenty of victims. Now the slow-to-learn U.S., which apparently hasnt had enough wars on its soil to know how awful and counteproductive war is, calls everyone who knows better, weenies.

Thats life. Americans arent evil. They are simply behind the rest of the world in this respect. People gotta learn.

Posted by: James of DC on August 23, 2006 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

Stephan wrote:

"Oh Christ, here this idiot goes again, pouring so much nonsense into one post that it'll take me twenty minutes to clear it up...."
__________

Stephan, your hostility is unwarranted, the same for your bad manners. I don't believe I've insulted you or answered any of your posts with anything less than respect.

Taking your counterpoints in turn:

1. Law enforcement playing it safe. As in springing the trap early so as to ensure the failure of any dangerous plot. More than any mafioso, we can let such things go to the last minute in the hope of getting the goods on every last player.

2. Plausible defense stories. I meant this in the sense of evidence sometimes being thin precisely because we'll tend to break up conspiracies before having ironclad cases against each and every player. I note that the practically the only thing you did not quote of my post was this: "That's just the way things go and no complaint...."

3. The lack of charges against Guantanamo detainees. As you state the question: "If you're admitting that you have no proof of a crime against them, then what have they been detained for?"

It's in the nature of the war we are fighting in both Afghanistan and Iraq that many men are captured in circumstances which clearly indicate that they have participated in hostile acts, but there is little or no physical evidence to prove it. In civilian clothes, a sniper who ditches his weapon simply becomes another prisoner to escort to a detainee facility. It's impossible in a hot combat environment to put out police tape and scour the area for spent rounds and such. Even if caught red-handed, there is seldom any way to prove which prisoner performed which act of mayhem. Our soldiers aren't forensic specialists - their job is to kill hostiles and deliver prisoners to detention. We have thousands of detainees in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The two primary reason to take prisoners on the battlefield is to gather intelligence and to make sure they no longer kill you. I do not know the protocols for choosing whom get sent to Guantanamo (perhaps they are suspected of having usually important intelligence or have proved themselves especially or continually dangerous in detention), but the presence or lack of evidence admissible in a criminal court is almost certainly not a factor. That's probably why the Pentagon has resisted treating them as criminal cases. Do you begin to see the difficulty?

The problem is the same in both countries, so it's not due to a Bush mistake (assuming you think our Afghanistan campaign is justified.) For most detainees, a criminal trial makes as much sense as if we had criminally prosecuted every German or Japanese soldier we captured in WWII. And yet, our detainees are demonstrably not POWs, since they in no way conform to the Geneva Convention definition of legal combatant.

In wartime, we'd normally keep captured combatants in custody without trial until the cessation of hostilities. Requiring that detainees be charged and tried or released places the military in a difficult position, one neither they nor our criminal justice system is equipped to handle.

Your anger doesn't change that situation. Nor do I have a solution for it. But normal police of infiltration and arrest won't work either, because such techniques require the cooperation of whatever government exists. In the Hindu Kush, you either go into a fight with as much firepower as you can muster or you won't come out.

4. "Life is not fair." So I've noticed.

Posted by: Trashhauler on August 23, 2006 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

James of DC wrote:

"Europe used to be the most violent place on Earth. It took the terrible experiences of hundreds of small and large wars, culminating in two world wars, to teach the formerly bellicose Europeans that war has no lasting victories but plenty of victims."
_____________

Was it Europeans learning from their experience in many wars or the existence of a Cold War-inspired Pax Americana that gave them a chance at peace? Our NATO allies seem very eager to keep us deployed in their backyards, even without an immediate enemy.

Posted by: Trashhauler on August 23, 2006 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

You liberal pansies are no match for me.
By October we will have Americans so frightened they will be calling our terrorist tip line
(800 DEMS WIN U DIE) and turning in their friends, neighbors and children for owning Peroxide and IPods.

Posted by: Karl on August 23, 2006 at 4:08 AM | PERMALINK

Between the bizarre "I'm secretly a terrorist!" and "I could have been a Marine if I'd wanted to!" delusions(see, e.g. Bill "I've been in combat" O'Reilly), is there anyone on the right who isn't harboring some lurid overcompensatory Jonah Goldbergian fantasy life?

Stefan, truly one of the bright lights here.

Posted by: obscure on August 23, 2006 at 7:20 AM | PERMALINK

Kenji: Wow, what a convincing argument! Just like your VHS copy of 'Triumph of the Will' proves you are planning to hold massive night rallies.

This made me laugh really, really hard. Thanks.

obscure: Stefan, truly one of the bright lights here.

Indeed. Makes sifting through/scrolling past the dim bulbs worth it.

Posted by: shortstop on August 23, 2006 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Thats life. Americans arent evil. They are simply behind the rest of the world in this respect. People gotta learn.


James you are the master of stupidity. You sugggest Americans haven't learned from war because we haven't suffered enough as our Europeam betters have. You have to be liberal. You have to be fairly young and your family has obviously avoided military service of any type. Just because you haven't suffered from war doesn't mean other braver American families haven't suffered greatly. You are a dunce.

Keep an eye on our betters over there. It was an education watching how they've been able to perfect diplomacy when they had 200,000 heavily armed American troops separating them from the rest of the world. All of those troops are gone. They better hope they perfected diplomacy. It's their only chance. They can't fght.

Posted by: rdw on August 23, 2006 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly we need to wait until they've brought down the planes before acting -- posthumous trials are sufficient in your book, aen't they, Kevin?

Posted by: Observer on August 23, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Calling all great liberal minds. I have a question. It quite obvious librals have dedicated the entire Bush Presidency toward attacking the efficiency of his leadership. That's certainly fair. Politics ain't beanbag. And it's been non-stop. As you proven (at least in your minds) this is an incredibly corrupt and inefficient government across ALL sectors and at all levels. Govt simply can't do anything right.

Doesn't that create a problem for Big Govt libs in the long term? I know you think you are being surgical here by attacking GWBs govt but isn't that too cute by half? Granted your core is on-board 1,000% but they are always on board. You need the middle. The independents and the vast majority not paying especially close attention.

Are you sure the message to them isn't, "Government is Incompetent"?

Think about it. There's been a great deal written the last 6 years about govt incompetency designed to erode confidence in the governments ability to do things efficiently. Obviously that message hasn't hurt GWB even a little bit. He increased his vote totals by 22%.

What has been accompished by the non-stop criticism of all government agencies? More confidence in Government agencies? That's not possible is it? The vast majority only half-listening are getting a steady dose of blistering criticism of government productivity. Ouch! That can't be good.

Are you sure you're not shooting yourselves in BOTH feet?

I think we can be absolutely certain when GWB leaves office we can be rock-solid certain confidence in govt will be significant lower than in 2000. Thanks!


Posted by: rdw on August 23, 2006 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Stephan wrote:

You really should learn how to spell my name.

Stephan, your hostility is unwarranted, the same for your bad manners. I don't believe I've insulted you or answered any of your posts with anything less than respect.

That's true, but I'm well past the point at which I'm willing to indulge nonsense. If you something stupid, I'm going to call it stupid.

I do not know the protocols for choosing whom get sent to Guantanamo (perhaps they are suspected of having usually important intelligence or have proved themselves especially or continually dangerous in detention),

Or they've been sold to us by some local group seeking a big reward. There were no "protocols" for choosing who got sent to Guantanamo -- it was a mess, the vast majority of the prisoners were not captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, and many have turned out to be completely innocent. Here's how Michael Scheuer, who once headed the CIA's bin Laden unit, put it:

The largest single group at Guantanamo Bay today consists of men caught in indiscriminate sweeps for Arabs in Pakistan. Once arrested, these men passed through several captors before being given to the U.S. military. Some of the men say they were arrested after asking for help getting to their embassies; a few say the Pakistanis asked them for bribes to avoid being turned over to America.

...."The one thing we were never clear of was where they came from," [Michael] Scheuer said of the Guantanamo detainees. "DOD picked them up somewhere." When National Journal told Scheuer that the largest group came from Pakistani custody, he chuckled. "Then they were probably people the Pakistanis thought were dangerous to Pakistan," he said. "We absolutely got the wrong people."

And here from the article "Empty Evidence" by Corine Hegland in The National Journal, published Feb. 3, 2006, is an account of one Guantanamo prisoner named Mohammed al-Tumani:

Tumani's enterprising representative looked at the classified evidence against the Syrian youth and found that just one man the aforementioned accuser had placed Tumani at the terrorist training camp. And he had placed Tumani there three months before the teenager had even entered Afghanistan. The curious U.S. officer pulled the classified file of the accuser, saw that he had accused 60 men, and, suddenly skeptical, pulled the files of every detainee the accuser had placed at the one training camp. None of the men had been in Afghanistan at the time the accuser said he saw them at the camp. The tribunal declared Tumani an enemy combatant anyway.

Hegland concluded:

But National Journal's detailed review of government files on 132 prisoners who have asked the courts for help, and a thorough reading of heavily censored transcripts from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals conducted in Guantanamo for 314 prisoners, didn't turn up very many of them. Most of the "enemy combatants" held at Guantanamo -- for four years now -- are simply not the worst of the worst of the terrorist world.

Many of them are not accused of hostilities against the United States or its allies. Most, when captured, were innocent of any terrorist activity, were Taliban foot soldiers at worst, and were often far less than that. And some, perhaps many, are guilty only of being foreigners in Afghanistan or Pakistan at the wrong time. And much of the evidence -- even the classified evidence -- gathered by the Defense Department against these men is flimsy, second-, third-, fourth- or 12th-hand. It's based largely on admissions by the detainees themselves or on coerced, or worse, interrogations of their fellow inmates, some of whom have been proved to be liars.


Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

"but if it's true it's a sad commentary on the continuing ability of the Republican Party to scare their way to victory."

It's a sad commentary on how stupid Americans have become.

Posted by: Mazurka on August 23, 2006 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The problem is the same in both countries, so it's not due to a Bush mistake (assuming you think our Afghanistan campaign is justified.) For most detainees, a criminal trial makes as much sense as if we had criminally prosecuted every German or Japanese soldier we captured in WWII. And yet, our detainees are demonstrably not POWs, since they in no way conform to the Geneva Convention definition of legal combatant.

*sigh* Let me lay this out for you, since thirty plus years of military experience seem to have left you oddly ignorant of the laws of war:

First, there is no Geneva Convention definition of "legal combatant" -- the term "illegal combatant" was made up out of whole cloth by the Bush regime. It has no meaning or definition under international law.

Second, even if prisoners do not qualify as POWs, they are still entitled to Geneva Convention protections under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

All detainees must fall somewhere within the protections of the Third Conventions (which protects POWs) and the Fourth; according to the authoritative Commentary to the Geneva Conventions of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): "Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law."

Under international humanitarian law, fighters captured during an international armed conflict are presumed to be POWs until proved otherwise. Specified categories of combatants who "have fallen into the power of the enemy" are entitled to POW status. These categories include members of the armed forces of a party to the conflict, members of militia forces forming part of those armed forces, [such as the Taliban] and inhabitants of a non-occupied territory who take up arms openly to resist the invading forces. [again, the Taliban].

Captured combatants who are not entitled to POW status, meanwhile, are still protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention. However, Article 5 of Third Geneva provides that "Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy" belong to any of the categories for POWs then "such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal" -- that is, we must treat them as POWs until "a competent tribunal" proves otherwise, which has not been the case.

The Bush regime treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, therefore, is in conflict with U.S. position is inconsistent with the Geneva Conventions on three main grounds:

(i) the U.S. may not classify as a group all detainees from the Afghan conflict as not being entitled to POW status; such a determination has to be made on an individual basis by a competent tribunal.

(ii) there is a presumption that a captured combatant is a POW unless proven otherwise.

(iii) Not only POWs are protected by the Geneva Conventions -- all persons captured during an international armed conflict haev some level of protection under Geneva.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Are you sure the message to them isn't, "Government is Incompetent"?

I know, I know, responding to Wooten's delusions is a mug's game, but talk about too cute by half!

No, Wooten, the message is Bush is incompetent, and in a more meta sense, Are you sure the message to them isn't, "Republican government is Incompetent". And sadly for you, those messages are resonating with an increasing number of voters.

It's like P.J. O'Rourke said way back in the '80s: Republicans claim government doesn't work, then get elected and prove it.

Posted by: Gregory on August 23, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Bush taking a vacation would involve not really thinking very much about what's really going on, right?

So how do we tell when he's on vacation?

Posted by: ergonaut on August 23, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Media Blog at NR:

even though the British have charged 11 suspects with serious crimes, bloggers like Kevin Drum are still writing things like this:

... what are the results of that investigation so far? Basically not much. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke assured the media on Monday that the investigation is immense, global, and meticulous, and that "the enormity of the alleged plot will be matched only by our determination to follow every lead and line of enquiry." However, the only real information he released was a report that investigators have found "chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, electrical components, documents and other items," including martyrdom videos.

What this shows, of course, is that these guys really did want to blow up airplanes. What it doesn't show is whether they were anywhere close to having enough training and expertise to justify the massive round of fear-mongering and airport hysteria that the British and American governments so eagerly foisted on us two weeks ago.

Easy for Drum to say. He's not the one in charge of keeping airliners from being blown out of the sky by fanatical Muslims. And can you imagine if he was! Bomb-making components and martyrdom videos are not enough to justify breaking up the plot and cracking down on security at airports. The guys on 9/11 had box-cutters. Period.

Last week NBC News reported that the U.S. pressed the British to break up the plot a little earlier than the British wanted. According to NBC, "Analysts say that in recent years, American security officials have become edgier than the British in such cases because of missed opportunities leading up to 9/11."

But of course, according to Drum, it couldn't be as simple as a heightened concerned over terrorism, because...

The risk of terrorists manufacturing binary explosives in the air could almost certainly have been handled in other, more effective ways, and it's increasingly obvious that the government's scare campaign was far out of proportion to the actual immediate danger. The likelihood that it was hyped more for political reasons than for genuine reasons of air safety continues to grow, and someday, when there's a real emergency, this attitude may come back to haunt us.

... everything is a conspiracy! I hate to quote myself, but all this leads to a point I've made before, which is:

... The media, led by its allies on the left, try at every turn to paint this White House and its occupant as conspiratorial and corrupt using flimsy, incomplete or just plain fabricated evidence.

Thus, an administration effort to rebut a deceptive critic becomes a conspiracy to thuggishly "out" his CIA wife. The presentation of flawed intelligence becomes a conspiracy to "lie" us into war. And even the underestimation of national receipts becomes a conspiracy to "low-ball" revenue estimates "to set up good news a few months later."

This latest conspiracy is just more of the same, only crazier. So much crazier.

There is one way, however, in which it is correct. I have no doubt that "political reasons" drove the Bush administration to urge the British to bust up the plot early. It would be very bad for the Bush administration, politically, if the fanatical Muslims who are desperate to kill us succeeded in doing just that on the scale these plotters envisioned.

Posted by: sunbeltjerry on August 23, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Thomas1: And, as for "vacations" no modern-day President, Democrat or Republican, takes so much a one day off from work -- Bush can't take a "vacation" even in Crawford, you should know that.

P.S. Lou - I believe you and I have a different definition of "vacation" - no modern day POTUS takes "vacation" as 99% of Americans understand that word. Next?

Posted by: Cheney on June 12, 2005 at 3:13 PM

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that. BTW: does your definition of "vacation" include AWAY FROM WORK? No modern-day POTUS has a single day away from work anymore.

Posted by: Charlie on October 21, 2004 at 12:19 PM

And you liberals sure do have a hard time with simple English words like "vacation" (i.e. "away from work" which I am on and therefore not billing ANY clients right now - and which modern-day POTUS rarely get a day "away from work"). Oh well.

Posted by: Charlie on October 19, 2004 at 1:00 PM

Back to "vacation" - I already said I wasn't going to call it a "lie" yet - there's no modern POTUS who takes, what Joe Sixpack would consider, a vacation AWAY FROM WORK. Ever since FDR, being President is MORE than just some full-time 9-5 job.

Posted by: Charlie on April 9, 2004 at 2:57 PM

For the last time - what part of WORKING VACATION don't you understand?!?!

Posted by: Charlie on December 14, 2005 at 11:48 AM

O.K. Lou - which day in August 2001 do you contend the POTUS started said "vacation"? Then I will post what I can to show you he was not on vacation.

Posted by: Cheney on June 12, 2005 at 6:49 PM

Also, "40% of his time on vacation" is a bit misleading when you consider the guy has not had even ONE WEEK of "vacation" AWAY FROM WORK since the campaign. Oh well.

Posted by: Charlie on April 12, 2004 at 2:03 PM

I am glad though that Kevin's definition of "vacation" is like most of the rest of us: AWAY FROM WORK - too bad GWB has rarely had such a long vacation since January 20, 2001 - his hair is getting grey awfully fast too.

Posted by: Charlie on August 22, 2004 at 1:18 AM

P.S. Ben - I actually think Keiser had a good point of how your side is defining "vacation" as any time away from the WH.

Posted by: Charlie on April 14, 2004 at 12:52 PM

Posted by: The Charlie Hall of Fame on August 23, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Easy for Drum to say. He's not the one in charge of keeping airliners from being blown out of the sky by fanatical Muslims. And can you imagine if he was!

Yes, thank God that someone like Bush is in charge of preventing multiple airliners from being hijacke....oh. Wait. Never mind.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, thank God that someone like Bush is in charge of preventing multiple airliners from being hijacke....oh. Wait. Never mind.

This must be an example of the kind of incisive political analysis that so impresses obscure and shortstop.

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

First, there is no Geneva Convention definition of "legal combatant" -- the term "illegal combatant" was made up out of whole cloth by the Bush regime. It has no meaning or definition under international law.

The Geneva Conventions define "combatants" as "members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict, members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command, are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population, carry their arms openly, and obey the laws of war."

Since the Geneva Conventions are international law, this statement defines "legal combatant" under that law. It is hard to see how most of the detainees at Guantanamo qualify as combatants under this legal definition.

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Second, even if prisoners do not qualify as POWs, they are still entitled to Geneva Convention protections under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

The Geneva Conventions define "civilian" as "any person who does not belong to any of the following categories: members of the armed forces, militias or volunteer corps, organized resistance movements, and residents of an occupied territory who spontaneously take up arms."

Therefore, any Guantanamo detainee who is a member of the armed forces, or a militia, or a volunteer corps, or an organized resistance movement, or who was a resident of an occupied territory who spontaneously took up arms, is not a civilian as defined by the Geneva Conventions, and therefore does not qualify for civilian protections.

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Under international humanitarian law...

What "international humanitarian law?"

Captured combatants who are not entitled to POW status, meanwhile, are still protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention. ...

As I explained in a previous post, most of the Guantanamo detainees do not qualify as "combatants" as defined by the Geneva Conventions, and therefore do not qualify for the protections reserved for combatants.

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Braaaaaaak!

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Braak! Braaaaaaaaak!

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Bweeeeeeee! Bweeeeeeeeeeeee!

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Therefore, any Guantanamo detainee who is a member of the armed forces, or a militia, or a volunteer corps, or an organized resistance movement, or who was a resident of an occupied territory who spontaneously took up arms, is not a civilian as defined by the Geneva Conventions, and therefore does not qualify for civilian protections.

Incorrect. The list above is illustrative but not exhaustive of the list of civilians persons enjoying protection under Geneva.

Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

Art. 5 Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.

In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with security of State or Occupying Power as case may be.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Moreover, Article 4 defines a "Protected person" as

Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

The Guantanamo detainees, therefore, fall squarely under this definition and are thus entitled to Geneva protections.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan concludes:

The Guantanamo detainees, therefore, fall squarely under this definition and are thus entitled to Geneva protections.

And, I might add, SCOTUS is in agreement with this.

Why does GOP hate USAmerica?

Posted by: Disputo on August 23, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

The swine sniffs at the pearls which Stefan casts before him. The swine grows agitated and snorts in frustration. The pearls are not garbage and so they are indigestable. The swine tramples them under his feet and turns again to rend Stefan. The swine trundles off to the mudwallow where Fox News spills out for him another brimming bucket of slop.

Posted by: ergonaut on August 23, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

As I explained in a previous post, most of the Guantanamo detainees do not qualify as "combatants" as defined by the Geneva Conventions, and therefore do not qualify for the protections reserved for combatants.

Nonsense. The Geneva Conventions also cover resistance fighters and partisans. Resistance fighters who have fufilled certain conditions will be regarded as POWs under the Third Convention.

If, however, resistance fighters who have been captured by the enemy don't fit these conditions, they must still be protected persons within the meaning of the Fourth Convention. That doesn't mean they can't be punished for any criminal acts, but any trial has to take place in accordance with the provisions of Article 64 and subsequent Articles.

Again, the authoritative ICRC Commentary provides
Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, or again, a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law.

Yeah, but the US is not the enemy; we're the good guys. Therefore this certainly does not apply to us....

(Just trying to guess what GOP comes up with next.)

Posted by: Disputo on August 23, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

The list above is illustrative but not exhaustive of the list of civilians persons enjoying protection under Geneva.

False. The quoted statement is the Geneva Conventions' definition of "civilian."

Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: ...

I have no idea what you think the text you quote has to do with civilian status or the rights of civilians. It doesn't even mention the word "civilian."

The first and second paragraphs describe limitations on rights and privileges under the Conventions ("shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges," "such person shall ... be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.")

And the third paragraph states that certain persons shall be "treated with humanity" (whatever that means; it's not described), shall not be deprived of "the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention" (it doesn't state what those prescribed rights are), and have the "full rights and privileges of a protected person" (again, it doesn't define "protected person" or describe what rights such persons have).

This has nothing to do with the question of whether the Guantanamo detainees are, or have the rights of, "combatants." It has nothing to do with the question of whether the Guantanamo detainees are, or have the rights of, "civilians." As I said, most of the Guantanamo detainees do not qualify as either "combatants" or "civilians" as those terms are defined in the Geneva Conventions.

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Therefore, any Guantanamo detainee who is a member of the armed forces, or a militia, or a volunteer corps, or an organized resistance movement, or who was a resident of an occupied territory who spontaneously took up arms, is not a civilian as defined by the Geneva Conventions, and therefore does not qualify for civilian protections.

Nonsense. The above is not the Geneva Convention definition of a "civilian," but is a bastardizd Wikipedia version of who can qualify as a POW. Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention provides:

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) That of carrying arms openly; (d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.

etc.

Those persons, therefore, would then be POWs, and would qualify for more extensive protections accorded to POWs. If we're holding anyone at Guantanamo who belongs to one of the above categories and we're not treating him as a POW then we're in violation of the Third Convention.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

False. The quoted statement is the Geneva Conventions' definition of "civilian."

No, it's the Article 4, Third Convention definition of "prisoner of war." See here:

www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

The Guantanamo detainees, therefore, fall squarely under this definition and are thus entitled to Geneva protections.

No, if the Guantanamo detainees qualify only as "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions, they are entitled only to the protections granted to that category. They are not entitled to any additional protections reserved for the cetagories "civilians" or "combatants."

What are the rights and privileges granted to the category "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions?

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

And the third paragraph states that certain persons shall be "treated with humanity" (whatever that means; it's not described),

I realize that's a hard concept for the GOP to grasp.

shall not be deprived of "the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention" (it doesn't state what those prescribed rights are), and have the "full rights and privileges of a protected person" (again, it doesn't define "protected person" or describe what rights such persons have).

Yes, it does define them. Article 4 defines a "Protected person" as

Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

The rights such persons have are all the rights enumerated within the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

What are the rights and privileges granted to the category "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions?

All the rights and privileges enumerated under the Fourth Convention, including, but not limited to:

Art. 27 Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.

Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault.

Without prejudice to the provisions relating to their state of health, age and sex, all protected persons shall be treated with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, religion or political opinion.

...

Article 31 No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.

Article 32 The High Contracting Parties specifically agree that each of them is prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.

Article 33 No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.


Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

As I said, most of the Guantanamo detainees do not qualify as either "combatants" or "civilians" as those terms are defined in the Geneva Conventions.

There is no definition of "civilians" as you seem to think there is in the Fourth Convention. Article 3 of the Fourth does, however, say that it applies to

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause,

The Guantanamo detainees fall under this clause as they are taking no active part in the hostilities due to detention. Persons falling in the above category

shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

and shall not furthermore be subject to

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.


Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

No, if the Guantanamo detainees qualify only as "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions, they are entitled only to the protections granted to that category. They are not entitled to any additional protections reserved for the cetagories "civilians" or "combatants."

That's a misreading. Protected persons can be either civilians or former combatants now out of combat due to illness, capture, etc. There are no special "civilian" protections in the Fourth Convention that don't apply to protected persons -- if either a civilian or combatant is captured by the enemy, he is automatically a protected person:

Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

Well that *clearly* precludes the GWB admin.

Posted by: Disputo on August 23, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

The Geneva Conventions define "combatants" as "members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict, members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command, are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population, carry their arms openly, and obey the laws of war." Since the Geneva Conventions are international law, this statement defines "legal combatant" under that law. It is hard to see how most of the detainees at Guantanamo qualify as combatants under this legal definition.

No, that's not a definition of "combatants" (nor is it, as you also claimed, a definition of "civilians") -- it's a definition of who is entitled to prisoner of war status under Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention.

The clause reads:

Article 4

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) That of carrying arms openly; (d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.

I frankly have no idea where you got the notion that the above language you cited was a definition of "combatant" -- but if you disagree, please provide me with the cite (specifiying the Article and subclause) of the Convention.

(Note: the above language does appear in the First Geneva Convention -- but it is there among a larger definition of whom the Convention's protections on the treatment of the wounded applies to ( "Art. 13. The present Convention shall apply to the wounded and sick belonging to the following categories:" ), not as a definition of "combatant."


Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Time for another red alert!

A Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Mumbai, India, turned back shortly after takeoff today and returned to Schiphol airport under fighter-jet escort.

After the plane landed, Dutch authorities took 12 passengers into custody. But it was not immediately clear why the passengers were being held, and no charges were immediately filed.

Northwest said in a statement that a couple of passengers on the plane, Flight 42, aroused suspicion after displaying behavior of concern.

That behavior included using cell phones, attempting to pass cell phones to other passengers, and unfastening safety belts while belt use was still required, according to news agencies, which cited a report by a United States official.

Twenty minutes into the flight, when the plane was over Germany, the pilot requested permission to return to Amsterdam and asked for a military escort. The Royal Netherlands Air Force sent two F-16 fighter jets to meet the plane.

The pilot did so after United States air marshals on the flight became concerned enough over the passengers behavior to identify themselves and take control of the situation

Cell phones! The evil brown skin terra-ists were using cell phones!

Woohoo! This is going to be a fun ride for the next couple months!

(Btw, WTF are US Marshalls doing on a flight from Holland to India?)

Posted by: Disputo on August 23, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

No, it's the Article 4, Third Convention definition of "prisoner of war."

No, as I said, it's the Geneva Convention definition of "civilian."

"A civilian is any person who does not belong to one of the categories of persons referred to in Article 4 A (1), (2), (3) and (6) of the Third Convention and in Article 43 of this Protocol."

See here: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/93.htm

As I also said, under this definition, most of the Guantanamo detainees do not qualify as "civilians."

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

I realize that's a hard concept for the GOP to grasp.

It's not a "concept," it's a phrase in the Geneva Conventions, a legal document. What does it mean, exactly? Justify your answer with citations to the relevant legal descriptions or definitions. If there is no legal definition or description, then you have no basis for claiming that the Bush Administration has violated this provision of the law.

Yes, it does define them.

No, "it" (the text you quoted) does not define "protected person."

Article 4 defines a "Protected person" as Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

That definition contains no description of the rights of protected persons.

The rights such persons have are all the rights enumerated within the Fourth Geneva Convention.

No, the Fourth Geneva Convention describes the rights of civilians. The Guantanamo detainees are not civilians as defined in the Geneva Conventions, because they are either members of the armed forces, members of militias or volunteer corps, members of organized resistance movements, or residents of an occupied territory who spontaneously take up arms.

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

No, the Fourth Geneva Convention describes the rights of civilians.

No, it defines the rights of "protected persons," whether civilian or military:

Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause,

All persons in the hands of the enemy -- which would include Guantanamo detainees -- are protected by the Fourth Convention. If not civilians, then they are POWs, and due the higher level protections afforded that status.

The Guantanamo detainees are not civilians as defined in the Geneva Conventions,

No, they are "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

because they are either members of the armed forces, members of militias or volunteer corps, members of organized resistance movements, or residents of an occupied territory who spontaneously take up arms.

In which case they would qualify as POWs, and we would have to classify and treat them as POWs. Since we're not doing so, that's an admission that we're in violation of Geneva.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

That definition contains no description of the rights of protected persons.

Yes, it does. That defintion:

Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.

includes the language "under the Convention," i.e the Fourth Convention. Protected persons are therefore due all the protections of the Fourth Convention. Part III of the Convention, "Status and Treatment of Protected Persons," then lays out in greater detail the nature of those protections.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

There is no definition of "civilians" as you seem to think there is in the Fourth Convention.

I don't "seem to think" any such thing. The Geneva Conventions define "civilian" in the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1).

Article 3 of the Fourth does, however, say that it applies to 1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause,

Assuming "it" in your first sentence is supposed to mean "the Fourth Geneva Convention," or "Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention," no, Article 3 of the Fourth does not say that. Read it again, more carefully this time.

... all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples ...

What does "all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples" mean? Define "civilized peoples." Which "peoples" are included in this phrase, and which are excluded? What "judicial guarantees" are "recognized as indispensable" by these "peoples?" Justify your answer with citations to the relevant legal documents or case law.

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

"A civilian is any person who does not belong to one of the categories of persons referred to in Article 4 A (1), (2), (3) and (6) of the Third Convention and in Article 43 of this Protocol." See here: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/93.htm
As I also said, under this definition, most of the Guantanamo detainees do not qualify as "civilians."

If they do not qualify as "civilians" by virtue of being one of the category of persons referred to in Article 4(A) ("Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:") then they would be a prisoner of war under Article 4.

If a prisoner of war, then they are entitled to a far higher level of protection than we are affording them in Guantanamo. So if, by your own admission above, the Guantanamo prisoners are not "civilians," then they must be POWs, and we are in violation of the law by not treating them as such.

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

That's a misreading.

No it isn't. Your posts are a "misreading."

Protected persons can be either civilians or former combatants now out of combat due to illness, capture, etc.

Yes, a civilian or former combatant can be a protected person, but the categories are not the same thing. That's why they have different names. Protected persons are not granted rights reserved for combatants or civilians, unless they are also members of those categories.

There are no special "civilian" protections in the Fourth Convention that don't apply to protected persons

Yes there are. All protections granted to civilians in the Fourth Convention that are not also granted to protected persons are "protections in the Fourth Convention that don't apply to protected persons."


Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Assuming "it" in your first sentence is supposed to mean "the Fourth Geneva Convention," or "Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention," no, Article 3 of the Fourth does not say that.

Certainly it does:

Article 3
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.....

Posted by: Stefan on August 23, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

No, that's not a definition of "combatants"

Yes it is.

(nor is it, as you also claimed, a definition of "civilians")

I didn't say it was a definition of "civilians." I said it was a definition of "combatants."

-- it's a definition of who is entitled to prisoner of war status under Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention.

No, it's a definition of combatants.

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1):
Article 44.-Combatants and prisoners of war
1. Any combatant, as defined in Article 43, who falls into the power of an adverse Party shall be a prisoner of war.

Since the Guantanamo detainees do not qualify for Prisoner of War status under the provisions of the Third Geneva Convention, they are not combatants, as defined by the Geneva Conventions.


Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

Certainly it does:

No it doesn't. It doesn't contain any statement whatsoever about what "it" applies to. It contains various vague statements regarding the treatment of "persons taking no active part in the hostilities."

I'm not sure what you think this has to do with the questions in dispute, anyway. Those questions relate to the legal status and rights of the Guantanamo detainees under the Geneva Conventions. As I have explained, those detainees do not qualify as either "civilians" or "combatants" as those terms are defined by the Geneva Conventions, and therefore do not qualify for the rights and protections reserved for civilians and combatants under that law.

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

If they do not qualify as "civilians" by virtue of being one of the category of persons referred to in Article 4(A) ("Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:") then they would be a prisoner of war under Article 4.

Nonsense. There is absolutely nothing in the Geneva Conventions that defines "civilians" and "prisoners of war" in such a way. A person may obviously be neither a civilian, because he engaged in combat, nor qualified for prisoner of war status, because he concealed his arms, or because he did not conduct his operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war, or because he did not wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, or for any of the other reasons those engaged in fighting would be denied POW status under the Conventions.


Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what protections ridiculous trolls have under the GC?

Posted by: Disputo on August 23, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what protections ignorant morons have under the GC?

Posted by: GOP on August 23, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

GOP:

Nonsense. There is absolutely nothing in the Geneva Conventions that defines "civilians" and "prisoners of war" in such a way. A person may obviously be neither a civilian, because he engaged in combat, nor qualified for prisoner of war status, because he concealed his arms, or because he did not conduct his operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war, or because he did not wear a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, or for any of the other reasons those engaged in fighting would be denied POW status under the Conventions.

As Stefan has repeatedly and correctly pointed out, this is absolutely 100% wrong!

Your misapprehension appears to be the idea that civilian=innocent. As Stefan has repeatedly pointed out, POWs are actually entitled to more protections than civilians. In particular, soldiers can't be tried as criminals for many of the actions they might take as soldiers.

By contrast, someone not entitled to official combatant status who carries out attacks against a beligerant and is subsequently capture may be tried as a criminal. But under the Fourth Geneva convention they are still entitled to humane treatment, trials under established rules and procedures prior to any sentence and other protections.

By repeatedly trying to twist the provisions of the Geneva Convention to claim a category of people that are not entitled to any of its protections...

By ignoring the part of Article 4 that defines a "Protected person" as, "Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."...

By ignoring the statements reposted here from members of our own government, military and intelligence services that there is little or no evidence that most of the Guantanamo detainees committed any hostile acts against the U.S...

And by finally descending to insults...

I would say that GOP has one again demonstrated that he is, to use his own words, the ignorant moron. Not to mention, a particularly odious troll.

Posted by: tanj on August 24, 2006 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

"tanj" (who are you?),

As Stefan has repeatedly and correctly pointed out, this is absolutely 100% wrong!

No, it's absolutely 100% right. Stefan is absolutely 100% wrong.

Your misapprehension appears to be the idea that civilian=innocent.

I never said anything remotely to the effect that "civilian=innocent." What I have clearly and repeatedly said is that under the definitions of the Geneva Conventions the Guantanamo detainees do not qualify as either "civilians" or combatants eligible for POW status. They may or may not qualify as "protected persons," but they do not qualify for the rights and protections that are reserved for civilians or POWs.

Posted by: GOP on August 24, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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