Sunday, August 14, 2005

Hysteria Watch

The rapid and public disintegration of a once-proud standard bearer of conservatism continues apace. As someone who grew up a fan of National Review and its founder, debacles like the following are painful to watch.

John Podhoretz on Thursday:

I was very skeptical of this Able Danger stuff about Atta, thought it was just sme way Rep. Curt Weldon was trying to sell a book. No longer. This is clearly becoming the biggest story of the summer -- the fact that, as Andy McCarthy alluded to, the "intelligence wall" set up by 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick when she was in the Justice Department did, in fact, cause the linchpin of the 9/11 attacks to evade capture by American law enforcement.

John Podhoretz on Sunday:

From tomorrow's Time Magazine about Rep. Curt Weldon and his Able Danger claims, which arose out of a soon-to-be-published book: "In a particularly dramatic scene in Weldon’s book, Countdown to Terror, the Pennsylvania Republican described personally handing to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, just after Sept. 11, an Able Danger chart produced in 1999 identifying Atta. But Weldon told TIME he’s no longer certain Atta’s name was on that original document. The congressman says he handed Hadley his only copy. Still, last week he referred reporters to a recently reconstructed version of the chart in his office where, among dozens of names and photos of terrorists from around the world, there was a color mug shot of Mohammad Atta, circled in black marker."

If Time's account is accurate, Weldon has done something very, very bad with this whole story -- something either knowingly dishonest, unknowingly crazy, or foolishly naive -- and he should be held accountable for it.
The "biggest story of the summer" went bad faster than a half-eaten fish at a picnic in August, didn't it? Beyond the credibility implosion at National Review, why is this important? Because this is the same stable of literary enablers that helped breathlessly push tales about mobile bioweapons labs, weapons-grade plutonium, and Iraqi links to 9/11. And it's the same group that's currently pushing warmed-over, recycled fare using the same tired playbook for Iran, as we see in this recent piece by Michael Ledeen. The Weldon/Able Danger debacle is only the latest example of why---instead of being read, enjoyed, and relied upon to inform---those who were once the "watchers" must themselves now be constantly watched, particularly as the issue of Iran comes to a head.

And by the way, Congressman Weldon is currently serving his tenth term and is one of the most senior elected officials in the nation. He's Vice Chairman of both the House Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. And he's one of the most vocal hawks currently pushing for military action against Iran. Exactly how is this disaster by Weldon any less serious than what CBS News and Dan Rather got scalded for last year? What happened here? Will those who were so diligent in pursuing Rathergate demand answers about something that may have far more serious implications?

We may already have our answer. Podhoretz on Sunday night:
And an apology is due the 9/11 Commission staff at the very least, I think, because some of us were in effect contending that they were sloppy or dishonest or covering something up. Sounds like they were being professional to me.
How gracious of you, John. An "apology" and let it go at that, eh?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, quite the turnabout in the course of a weekend. "Breathless" is a good word, it appears.

8/14/2005 9:36 PM  
Blogger mjs said...

I am waiting for Rush Limbaugh to explain this one after all of the time he devoted last week.

8/14/2005 10:35 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

The Time story only cast doubt on the Weldon's claims that he had a chart after 9/11 with Atta's name on it. Weldon should be strung up by his balls for exploiting 9/11 and never allowed near national security issues again.

But if the former defense intelligence official and the uniformed military officer referred to in the NY Times are both lying, did they concoct a plan all on their own last year to smear Clinton and the 9/11 commission?

Pretty damned good plan - they hijacked four stories in the NY Times.

8/14/2005 10:46 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Wow this is definitely has larger implications than the Bush memos the only difference is Weldon is a not a house hold name like Rather and the information is not two weeks before an election. That being said it is a much worse fabrication and he should be ran out of office.

8/14/2005 11:37 PM  
Anonymous TuiMel said...

Don't hold your breath, mjs. Bush, Rush and their cohort have a slightly new twist on an old motto: "Always complain; never explain."

8/15/2005 1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to post anonymously, but I don't blog normally. Found this from "craigslist". Do you have any idea how much you scare me, sir? A "business-geek", conservative, under 40 in NYC who writes _against_ the 'Bush machine' and current government policy? It's like finding an apple in a wormnest....

I am sure we disagree greatly on many things, don't get me wrong. But you still frighten me with this evidence that there might be more out there than Bush's babblers who call themselves conservative. What, hope for a better future? And just when I;d got resigned to the bad and stopped feeling any anxiety over it.... (smiles)

8/15/2005 1:42 AM  
Blogger D.Boyer said...

If Podhoretz were really apologizing, shouldn't the words "I'm sorry," or "I apologize for," be written out in some form?

"An apology is due" sounds as though an apology should be owed by someone at some point, just not me, John Podhoretz.

8/15/2005 8:32 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Absolutely brilliant point about Rathergate. You have one of my must-read blogs, btw. Keep up the good work!

8/15/2005 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Quests said...

The President still has a choice he can still redeem himself, he should fire and investigate the PNAC members of his administration.
Improving the intelligence services is one of the most responsible he can still do.

8/15/2005 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how they will handle this is to issue an orange alert and have everyone buy duct tape.

fear is a powerful motivator and after 9/11 this administration spent a large amount of time into pumping the country into fear-frenzy..

Oddly nobody has noticed or commented, that I can find, the fact that every place that was attacked or threatened on 9/11 didn't vote for bush... But grandma in Nebraska is fearful that al quada is going to attack her?

What a world we live in..

8/15/2005 6:02 PM  
Blogger Mister Hand said...

After reading through a number of your posts, I cannot agree that you are conservative. Just as I bristle sometimes at being called a liberal.

You're sensible.

Great blog. Thanks for your work. I'm trying to point as many people as possible to it.

8/15/2005 6:12 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

Another comment - Eric Umansky, on his blog, refers to a Brian Lehrer show on WNYC from Friday. He quotes NY Times reporter, Philip Shenon, as saying “I understand from others at the Pentagon that one of the problems here is that Able Danger came up with names not just of Atta and three others, it came up with a tremendous number of names of very decent American citizens.”

Aren't you at all curious about the data bases Able Danger was using? Supposedly, the sources were INS records, other government records and unclassfied information.

One, what were the criteria to identify an Al Qaeda member? Obviously, it wasn't just German visa holders who had visited Pakistan but what other data would include the names of the hijackers besides INS records?

Two, the INS was sharing records with the Pentagon. What other agencies? Just how close was the Pentagon to spying on US citizens in 2000? Maybe that's why the Pentagon lawyers wouldn't allow the information to be given to the FBI. Fat chance the Pentagon will own up to it now. Personally, I'm not crazy nuts for the idea that the Pentagon spies on US citizens now.

Podhoretz was kind of quick to dismiss the entire story. Once you get past that headcase, Weldon, you still have a NY Times reporter saying that other Pentagon officials confirmed that Able Danger included four hijackers on some list.

I remain darned curious about Able Danger.

8/16/2005 12:03 AM  
Anonymous exclab said...

So Rather went down in flames and Curt Weldon will go on to greater glory. He still has his job and the only direction for him is up. How did it happen? The democrats, liberals, those who are not believers, the media, the other, the weak - whatever - are utterly cowed by the putative moral authority of this administration. Somehow the whole country, right or left, somehow believes that people who believe in God are some how righter than everyone else. Dan Rather had a venal agenda. Curt Weldon made an honest mistake. Abstract morality lives in heaven. The practical morality of earth is fungible and seduced by guile. Proving once again that if someone tells you that politics has something to do with reality or the general good, they are selling you something. It is a fabulous terrifying dream.

God Bless Plunkett of Tamminy Hall.
If you haven't read him, do. If you think he is funny or wrong, you just don't get it.

8/16/2005 12:04 AM  
Blogger 277fia said...

Hang on a minute here. Read the latest NY Times Able Danger story.
A Colonel Shaffer came out of the closet and has a lot to say, none of which implicates Clinton.

Seems that the Pentagon lawyers held up meetings between the Able Danger team and the FBI because they "they feared controversy if Able Danger was portrayed as a military operation that had violated the privacy of civilians who were legally in the United States."

"I was at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued," Colonel Shaffer said of his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the F.B.I. in 2000 and early 2001."

8/16/2005 10:59 PM  
Anonymous PenDragon said...

Unfortunately for the author of this post, military officials are coming forward with evidence that Atta's name was reported to the Clinton Administration, and US Attorney Mary Jo White wrote 2 separate letters complaining that Clinton Administration policies were hampering law enforcement efforts.

Wake up and smell the coffee!

8/17/2005 8:01 PM  
Blogger Tayefeth said...

Why is it that some people are utterly incapable of understanding that "the Bush administration is fucking things up" does not mean "the Clinton administration was perfect"?

8/18/2005 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Mark-NC said...

tayefeth, you're talking about people who think:

Bush was "heroic and showed great leadership" in reading My Pet Goat for seven minutes and then running to Kansas.

Bush ignoring the memo "Bin Laden determined to strike" doesn't matter.

Cheney being in charge of the White House group that assesses terrorism but held no meetings for 9 months doesn't matter.

Bush, Cheney, Rice, and co. summarily ignoring the message from Clinton, his staff, and even members of his own team that Al Qaeda was an imminent threat are irrevelent.

For me, even if all of the Able Danger stuff was indeed true (apparently it only meets the Limbaugh standard - 2% true is good enough to smear Clinton!), it is still an extreme stretch to say that 9/11 would have been stopped. Atta was one of hundreds or thousands of names - any one of these could have proven to be a bad guy. We have the same today. Somewhere there is a name on someone's list that may someday do something bad.

As for Bush, he could stick his head in a bucket and the Republican side would call it great leadership!!

8/21/2005 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Ben Regenspan said...

Podhoretz' separate apology, for having blamed completely irrelevant decisions made by Jamie Gorelick while in the Justice Department for the failure to capture Atta, is also pretty hilarious.

8/21/2005 5:57 PM  
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