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Tilting at Windmills

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September 25, 2009

AND THEY DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO USE TORTURE.... A few weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto insisted that President Obama prefers a "see-no-evil approach," has decided not to "worry so much about terrorism."

It was, at the time, an unusually foolish observation, but given the Obama administration's recent success stories on counter-terrorism, Taranto's inane criticism continues to look even worse.

We learned of another success story this morning out of Dallas. (via Blue Girl)

A 19-year-old Jordanian citizen is expected to make an appearance before a federal magistrate in Dallas this morning after authorities accused him of attempting to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested Thursday after he parked a vehicle laden with government-supplied fake explosives in the underground parking garage of Fountain Place, a 60-story tower in the 1400 block of Ross Avenue at North Field Street, authorities said.

The arrest was part of an FBI sting operation that began after an agent monitoring an online extremist Web site discovered Smadi espousing jihad against the U.S. more than six months ago.

As more undercover Arabic-speaking agents engaged him, Smadi, living illegally in the U.S. in the small town of Italy, about 45 miles south of Dallas, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and expressed a desire to kill Americans, authorities said.

In conversations with agents posing as members of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell, Smadi said he came to the U.S. to wage jihad, or holy war. He told agents he wanted to target military recruitment centers, but eventually settled on financial institutions.

Remember, Republicans openly mock those who believe intelligence gathering and law enforcement are the keys to counter-terrorism.

The story out of Dallas coincides with new reports out of Denver on the Najibullah Zazi case: "The accumulating evidence against a Denver airport shuttle driver suggests he may be different, with some investigators calling his case the most serious in years.... If government allegations are to be believed, Mr. Zazi, a legal immigrant from Afghanistan, had carefully prepared for a terrorist attack. He attended a Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, received training in explosives and stored in his laptop computer nine pages of instructions for making bombs from the same kind of chemicals he had bought."

These stories come the same week as the arrest of Michael C. Finton, also known as Talib Islam, who was apprehended "attempting to detonate what he thought was a bomb inside a van outside a federal courthouse in the Illinois capital of Springfield."

And of all this comes on the heels of U.S. forces taking out Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in Somalia, and Baitullah Mehsud, the top leader of the Taliban in Pakistan and a key al Qaeda ally.

To reiterate a point from a couple of weeks ago, if all of these developments had occurred in 2008, I suspect the White House would be releasing photos of Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol chest-bumping each other on the South Lawn.

Steve M. added, "Odd that this is all happening while we supposedly have a president who loves our enemies and hates America.... Isn't it high time we demanded an explanation of this apparent contradiction from those who literally believe Obama is a treasonous America-hater?"

And Adam Serwer tweeted, "Somehow, the government foiled several terrorist plots this week without waterboarding anyone."

Steve Benen 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

"And Adam Serwer tweeted, "Somehow, the government foiled several terrorist plots this week without waterboarding anyone.""

But think of all the additional valuable information they would have found had they waterboarded somebody! They would have found out about the destruction of Seattle by a dirty bomb that should have happened two weeks ago, and the sinking of California into the ocean by the use of trained nuclear-powered dolphins that should have happened yesterday.

/sarcasm

Posted by: gg on September 25, 2009 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Republicans openly mock those who believe intelligence"

Actually that's where you could have ended. It casts a pretty wide net.

Posted by: Saint Zak on September 25, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Law enforcement is the key to counter-terrorism. Hell, Jethro Gibbs and Co. prove that every week on NCIS. They don't need to waterboard. They just let Ziva David kick a bad guy in the nuts once or twice. Works every time. ;)

Posted by: Death Panel Truck on September 25, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

i think the president has decided not to worry about scaring the shit out of the susceptible citizens, and just concentrate on security against terrorism, without, you know the drama and the teevee frenzy... a la Bush Cheney Ashcroft et al...

Posted by: neill on September 25, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's amazing how much work you can get done when you don't have to spend time chasing down imaginary ravings of someone who didn't know anything but had to make things up to get the torturers to stop.

Posted by: biggerbox on September 25, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure all these arrests have nothing to do with the patriot act coming up for renewal.

Posted by: Rick on September 25, 2009 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Every day that goes by, on so many policy fronts and enforcement efforts, this current Adminstration is showing us the members of the last Administration were diaper-wearing tots in the real big world who shit wherever they went. Yeah Michael Bolton and Don Rumsfeld and Karl Rove and The Dick Cheney, I'm talking about you! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 25, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure all these arrests have nothing to do with the patriot act coming up for renewal.

Posted by: Rick on September 25, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

We're eight months in to this administration, imagine eight years. I swoon at the prospect.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on September 25, 2009 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

The White House trumpeting news like this (and taking credit for it) was always a turn off for me during the Bush years, and it would be the same under an Obama. I think it's a slap in the face to the people in the field working to protect us, and at the end of the day it boils down more to good luck than anything. But given that the public leans toward Republican's on national security matters, perhaps borrowing a little p.r. strategy from those republican assholes would be in order.

I'm currently reading Tear Down This Myth (Ronald Reagan)and am struck by the very staged public image campaign the right used. The "Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall moment" when the USSR was already breaking up under its own weight, is a good example of the right's use of staged imagery and pr to capture the "idea" of them being tough. Perhaps the White House could thread the needle and take a little credit or at least get the neocons to shut the fuck up.

Posted by: oh well on September 25, 2009 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the link, Steve!

And Kevo - I think you meant John Bolton. Michael Bolton is the guy that plays the really bad music that the Geneva Conventions prohibit us from using to get suspects to talk. :)

Posted by: Blue Girl on September 25, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Just curious:

What's with the "fake" explosives and the reference to "what he thought was a bomb"?

Are these performance artist terrorists?

Posted by: John Thullen on September 25, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

It is such a screwy idea that a president would be "soft" on terrorism that I see little sense in even responding to the nonsense. I think the idea that these plots were foiled without waterboarding anyone is the most significant point and I do worry that while we seem to do pretty well at wrapping up amateur hour, there may be some professionals out there who sooner or later will manage an attack which will get the torture loving cowards on the right all riled up again

Posted by: terry on September 25, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Oh Blue Girl, I did get my Boltons mixed up. Thanks for the correction! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 25, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hah! Imagine what these sissies could accomplish with a little waterboarding thrown in!! Jack Bauer would have...oh never mind. It hurts too much to try and think that way.

Posted by: booger on September 25, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

What's with the "fake" explosives and the reference to "what he thought was a bomb"?

From the little I've read, the "explosives" were supplied by people working undercover.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 25, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Is it time to get patriotic about the Patriot Act?

"Somehow, the government foiled several terrorist plots this week without waterboarding anyone."

Right. Torture is for losers.
But what about the Patriot Act?

Zazi the 24 year old chemical bomber was obviously having his web searches and phone closely monitored. I am very happy for that. And when he went to NY and was notified by a supposedly trustworthy iman that he was under surveillance, should we praise the Patriot Act that we were able to monitor the iman's phone and email lickety-split?

There is a reason why Obama hasn't abandoned the Patriot Act. He is information about these religious fundamentalists that you and I are not privy too.

So what I want to know: Was success at thwarting this attack dependent on the Patriot Act?


Posted by: koreyel on September 25, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I, for one, think it's high time we took Michael Bolton to task for the terror he has visited upon this Great Nation these many decades.

For shame, mister Bolton!

Posted by: trollhattan on September 25, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

There is a reason why Obama hasn't abandoned the Patriot Act. He is information about these religious fundamentalists that you and I are not privy too.

Presidents had information about suspected terrorists that you and I weren't privy to long before the Patriot Act came along.
Try a different talking point.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 25, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

So what I want to know: Was success at thwarting this attack dependent on the Patriot Act?
My point earlier was, it doesn't matter the Gov will say it was and say they need the power to tap your phone.

Posted by: Rick on September 25, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Being privy to information that you mere mortals do not, I can assure you that all of these plots were uncovered by the usage of enhanced interrogation techniques. Of course, we know that these plots were uncovered by the previous administration and that The Chosen One is once again taking undue credit.

Being of moral superiority and of firm knowledge of American Exceptionalism, I know that we have never tortured anyone. Those barbaric practices are limited to 'other countries'. Here, we have (at least used to have) enlightened leaders who would protect us using proven enhanced interrogation techniques. Waterboarding is hideous when not directed by geniuses like Dick Cheney. Under the guidance of George Bush, simulated killings and proclamations that we were going to kill someone's children were not torture, merely just good humor that you democrats fail to understand.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on September 25, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Just like they've been doing in Europe for a long time . Good solid POLICE work defeats terrorists , not tanks and B52's

Posted by: John R on September 25, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

"...photos of Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol chest-bumping each other on the South Lawn."

Oooooh!! I think someone should Photoshop some for us anyways. I'd like to see that.

Instead they'll grumble through an edition of Foxnews Sunday like Statler & Waldorf.

Posted by: Alleen on September 25, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I will try not to be too cynical, but several of the government cases against supposed "terrorists", in Florida or Michigan for example, have turned about to be pretty weak, embarassingly so for a country that prides itself on "justice." (See the British documentary, "The Power of Nightmares.") None of these investigations and prosecutions, during neither the Bush nor Obama years, are a part of some elite level government conspiracy to create propaganda for the administration's policies. Rather, they are the work of local and federal professionals under enormous pressure to apprehend "terrorists" and "keep us safe." There is always some basis in fact for the allegations, but our justice system being what it is, this basis gets exxagerated in the interests of "national security", and the individuals involved often simply don't inspire much sympathy. And then the predictable happens, whoever is in charge claims that "this is a victory the war on terror", or whatever they are calling it these days, and that their policies are keeping us safe. In the past, it has turned out that the perpetrators were rarely more critical of American policies or more radical than Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein, but they were Muslim and that additional fact was sufficient to comdemn them. Certainly, there are terrorists in the world, but in America there are probably more of the home grown kind than the Arab Muslim variety. The Arab Muslim variety is simply a lot less trouble to prosecute, and it creates the illusion that we are winning the war. Meanwhile, America's intrusive military presence throughout the world, our substantial support of corrupt authoritarian regime throughout the Muslim world, our outrageous and bypocritical support of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and slaughter in Gaza, are the most signifigant factors in any analysis of "why they hate us." A simple application of the golden rule would go a long way toward "keeping us safe" and winning the "war on terror."

Posted by: Jason on September 25, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Calling Sen. Franken, looks like someone needs to be read the Fourth Amendment again:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I see no reason, including these most recent arrests, why we can't protect the country and abide by the Constitution as we managed to do for well over 200 years before today.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 25, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The FBI had better be out there egging on right-wing peckerwoods too. It would be funny as hell to see them all outside the courthouse where they got busted for dynamiting fish or whatever, pushing down the old-fashioned plunger, harder and harder, like Boris Badenov with a more ludicrous accent, but nothing happens.

Posted by: moe-rons on September 25, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Class dismissed

Presidents had information about suspected terrorists that you and I weren't privy to long before the Patriot Act came along.
Try a different talking point.

Presidents that didn't have the Patriot Act also didn't live in a world in which 9-11 occurred.

Try a different talking point.

Posted by: koreyel on September 25, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Is anyone else concerned that someone like this was in the country illegally? It does not say whether or not he came across the border, but not being far from it makes me wonder. I have been saying for the past few years that we cannot be truly safe if these people can come here undetected across the border. Why haven't we addressed this?!!!!!

Posted by: Bob on September 25, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Now all we need is for Dick and Liz Cheney to go on Fucksnews and all the Sunday talk shows and tell us how aprehending these people with actual admisable evidence is endangering the lives of Americans and emboldening Al Quaeda.

Posted by: Trollkiller on September 25, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, koreyel, the lame old "9/11 changed everything" talking point. What, you trolling for Dick and Liz Cheney now, moron?

Hint: Terrorist plots were foiled before 9/11 and without the Patriot Act.

One more strike and you're out.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on September 25, 2009 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

"And of all this comes on the heels of U.S. forces taking out Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in Somalia, and Baitullah Mehsud, the top leader of the Taliban in Pakistan and a key al Qaeda ally."

So sayeth the NYT and its government sources. Good thing they haven't stovepiped any propaganda to us before, and that the NYT independently confirms these military claims.

Posted by: flubber on September 25, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

"government forgot to waterboard"

Oh man, I knew they forgot something. Now we've got to let them go and catch them again and do the waterboarding before announcing they have confessed to the crimes we assigned to them.

Would it have been weird if the building in Dallas didn't have the offices of a partnership which included Rudy Giuliani !!!!!!

BTW, the guy in Texas had a friend in California whom the FBI also arrested.

It makes me wonder how many more of those guys are still out there plotting some nasty explosions.

Posted by: MarkH on September 25, 2009 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Did you see the connection between Finton and Khalid Yasin?

http://www.icsr.info/blog/A-busy-time-in-CT

Posted by: Bif on September 26, 2009 at 4:00 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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