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Terror Alerts Manufactured?
By Jon Dougherty
January 4, 2003
FBI Agents Say White House Scripting 'Hysterics' for Political Effect
Intelligence pros say the White House is manufacturing terrorist alerts to keep the issue alive in the minds of voters and to keep President Bush's approval ratings high, Capitol Hill Blue reports.
The Thursday report said that the administration is engaging in "hysterics" in issuing numerous terror alerts that have little to no basis in fact.
"Unfortunately, we haven't made a lot of progress against al-Qaida or the war on terrorism," one FBI agent familiar with terrorism operations told CHB. "We've been spinning our wheels for several weeks now."
Other sources within the bureau and the Central Intelligence Agency said the administration is pressuring intelligence agencies to develop "something, anything" to support an array of non-specific terrorism alerts issued by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.
"Most of the time, we have little to go on, only unconfirmed snippets of information," a second FBI agent, who also was not named in the report, said. "Most alerts are issued without any concrete data to back up the assumptions."
Indeed, the most recent terrorism alerts have been issued absent specific threat information. Each of the accompanying warnings comes without any shift in the nation's new color-coded alert system; the current warning level of yellow, or "elevated," has been in place since late September.
Even recent reports regarding five Arab men who may have slipped into the country via Canada using phony identification could be politically motivated, one expert said.
"We have very, very little to support the notion that these five represent any more of a threat than any of the other thousands of people who enter this nation every day," terrorism expert Ronald Blackstone said. "It's a fishing expedition."
On Wednesday, one of the five, a Pakistani jeweler, Mohammed Asghar, was tracked down in Pakistan by The Associated Press. He told reporters there he'd never been to the U.S., though he said he tried once -- two months ago -- to use false documents to get into Britain to find work.
"I imagine the finger pointing has started at the White House," Blackstone said.
On Thursday, President Bush said of the Asghar case: "We need to follow up on forged passports and people trying to come into our country illegally."
"Don't misunderstand, there is a real terrorist threat to this country," another FBI agent told CHB. But, the agent continued, "every time we go public with one of these phony 'heightened state of alerts,' it just numbs the public against the day when we have another real alert."
Last year, the FBI issued alerts that terrorists may attack stadiums, nuclear power plants, shopping centers, synagogues, apartment houses, subways, and the Liberty Bell, the Brooklyn Bridge and other New York City landmarks, reported Knight-Ridder newspapers. The bureau also advised Americans to be wary of small airplanes, fuel tankers and scuba divers.
CHB reported that FBI and CIA sources said a recent White House memo listing the war on terrorism as a definitive political advantage and fund-raising tool is just one of many documents discussing how to best utilize the terrorist threat.
"Of course the White House is going to exploit the terrorism threat to the fullest political advantage," said Democratic strategist Russ Barksdale. "They would be fools not to. We'd do the same thing."
The White House did not return phone calls from WorldNetDaily seeking comment.
Knight-Ridder Newspapers, meanwhile, reported the FBI has never meant for all its warnings and advisories to be made public.
"Everything is being described as a terror alert, and that's not what this stuff is," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, in a July interview.
But, he added, "if information is becoming public, then we naturally cannot work in a vacuum and pretend like all this information is not becoming public."
"We live in a world of threats; not all of them necessitate a warning," says FBI terrorist warning chief Kevin Giblin, a 27-year veteran of the bureau. He told Knight-Ridder there should be a generally increased level of vigilance, and he looks to the color-coded advisory system -- not the alerts intended for police -- to signal it.
The threat of terrorism may also be helping the White House manage the sagging economy. Officials at home finance giant Freddie Mac said yesterday that the threat of terrorism may have played a role in bringing 30-year mortgage rates down to 5.85 percent, their lowest since an average 5.83 percent in 1965.
"Current issues such as the possibility of military actions abroad, heightened terrorism alerts and an unexpected drop in consumer confidence contributed to the decline in mortgage rates this week," Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist, told Reuters.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
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