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Frame the Debate
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
  I'll have more on the State Dept.'s reissued terrorism trends report later. For now, I have some questions for the government officials, who, according to Knight Ridder's Warren Strobel:
blamed the errors (in the original report issued on April 29) on a series of bureaucratic mistakes that involved a new agency, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to improve coordination of terrorist data.

[...]

The report released in April showed no major terrorist attacks last year after Nov. 11, omitting such incidents as a series of four bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, that killed 61 people and wounded 855.

Black (Cofer Black, State Dept. counterterrorism coordinator) and John Brennan, the director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, said that error and others were due to faulty data that the center supplied to the CIA and the State Department, which didn't catch the mistakes.

Brennan cited an "exceptionally antiquated" database, which he said didn't properly compile data, as well as turnover in the unit's personnel and contractors. The database isn't used to monitor the current terrorist threat, he noted.

"There was insufficient review and quality control throughout this entire ... process," he said. "Anyone who might assert that the numbers were intentionally skewed is mistaken."


TTIC opened in May, 2003, with a mission to "serve as a hub for terrorist threat-related information collected domestically or abroad." It was called crucial to homeland security.

There are two possibilities: Either the administration used the new agency to issue a politicized report meant only to give it a PR boost, or else the agency is a complete bust, wholly failing to complete its mission and endangering security from terrorist threats here and abroad.

If the former: How does a new agency formed in large part to coordinate terrorist data manage to acquire an "exceptionally antiquated" database? The database used to compile previous reports was more than adequate. What was the TTIC using?

All of the assertions of a bum database and personnel turnover are absurd because the data compilation process is extremely straighforward: A terrorist act occurs. TTIC determines whether it fits the reporting criteria and, if so, the information is entered into the database by a human being: Date of attack; location; nature of attack; who was responsible; how many killed; how many injured. Yes there's more than that, but that is the crux, and that is the information reflected in the State Dept. report in question. The database may be nothing more than an Excel spreadsheet, which can produce the kinds of charts presented in the report.

I would like to know this: If the database was so poor, how could the agency produce corrected figures only a few weeks after acknowledging errors in the original report?

Or it could be the latter. And if we take the administration at its word -- that the TTIC simply failed to perform a crucial stated objected -- why should we continue to fund it? Why shouldn't we go back to the data collection and reporting system we were using for the 17 previous years of the report's life, with apparent success? Why don't we fire the incompetent leaders who compromised our security by their inability to set up a reliable system to track terrorist activity, especially when a successful model existed already?

My postulation is TTIC is nothing more than a political tool operated at taxpayer expense. When the administration found it couldn't so easily manipulate the data under the old system, it launched TTIC.


 
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Thursday, June 17, 2004
  Diplomats say Bush begone But Neil Cavuto doesn't agree. In questioning Ambassador William Harrap, one of the authors of the anti-Bush statement, Cavuto asked (transcript not available; quotes are approximate): "But sir, aren't we safer with Saddam gone?" Then, picking up a second key administration talking point, he asked, "But we haven't been attacked on our soil since 9/11. Don't you give the administration credit for that?" Let's see, the 1993 WTC bombing was the first time in our nation's history we were so attacked; 9/11/2001 was the second. I can hear Bush now. "We've been attacked by terrorists on our home soil only twice in this nation's history. Once on my predecessor's eight-year watch, and once in three years on my watch. It's obvious to me we're safer now." 
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Sunday, June 13, 2004
  Tim Russert can't even ask the right questions. When Russert asked Colin Powell just now on Meet the Press whether the State Dept.'s 2003 report on global terrorism trends was politicized, Powell lied through his teeth: "It was a data collection and reporting error," Powell answered.

The report was deceitful, not sloppy. Russert should have asked whose decision it was to game the report, and specifically what role the White House played in the deception. After all, the White House's pawprints were all over the report, claiming for example that the ousting of Saddam removed a state sponsor of terrorism, and Iraq has become the central front in the war on terrorism. Russert might also have asked why the perpetrators of the fraud should not be indicted, given that the report must comply with Title 22 Section 2656f(a) of the US Code.
The report required under subsection (a) of this section shall cover the events of the calendar year preceding the year in which the report is submitted. (emphasis mine)
One of the report's failings is it stops counting attacks after Nov. 11, 2003, omitting, for example, the synogogue bombings in Turkey on Nov. 15. This is a clear violation of the Code. But all Russert could ask was whether the report was politicized, not why those responsible shouldn't be indicted for breaking the law.

The falsified report was an illegal, clumsily transparent effort to cover up Bushco's ineffectiveness against the self-declared, self-named war on terror: Anyone paying attention knew terrorist attacks hadn't abated by any standard. Anyone paying attention would ask why nobody is being held accountable. 
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Saturday, June 12, 2004
  Symptoms of a chronically dysfunctional media have been on 24/7 display in coverage of Reagan's death. This astute post by Atrios is just one example of the SCLM's (so-called liberal media) near absolute inability to inform the public.

Update: Reading comments to Atrios' post, it occurred to me that the leftern blogospheroids were wasting their energy opining on Roberts, NPR, et. al. Which led me to posting my comment:
Villifying individuals in the press corps may be cathartic, but let's not lose sight of the systemic problem: The SCLM is chronically unable deliver news, information or analysis that America needs to function properly. Among the ways to fix the problem is through better education of young and future journalists; patronage and promotion of truly critical media (such as the blogosphere and "alternative" pubs); and organized responses to the lazy, uninformed and biased barrage of what passes for reportage.

My small contributions: 1) I now refer to posts by Atrios, Kos, and others as legit sources in my letters to editors, and 2) I have begun a series of meetings/conversations with journalism professors at our local university J-schools to share concerns and listen to and provide feedback on their curricula.
 
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Wednesday, June 09, 2004
  You read it here first. The day the State Dept. issued its 2003 report on global terrorism trends, I went on record to denounce it as mere Bush administration propganda. I cautioned those who rely on the annual report for business or policymaking decisions to look for guidance elsewhere. My cautions are now borne out. 
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Thursday, June 03, 2004
  Huge. Missouri is now Kerry's to lose, as the GOP fails to place the anti-gay marriage amendment on the November ballot. Despite an 11th-hour passage of the measure in the Mo. House -- followed by a closing chorus of hail jesuses -- Speaker Catherine Hanaway and fellow Republican Matt Blunt were thwarted in their ploy to turn out the evangelical voter draw in the crucial general election Both George W. Bush and Blunt, in his gubernortial bid, stood to benefit from the expected additional votes from the religious right, which is the Republicans' largest base. Instead, the state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Holden had the constitutional authority to order the bill added to the ballot in the August primary.

This swing state just dodged a GOP bullet. Majorly.
 
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"If you have been framed, the only response is to reframe. But you can't do it in a sound bite unless an appropriate progressive language has been built up in advance. Conservatives have worked for decades and spent billions on their think tanks to establish their frames."--George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley

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