Friday, January 13, 2006

The Laughable Blaming Of The New York Times

The right wing blogs are beside themselves with ill-concealed glee today at a report from ABC News which says that a surge in the purchase of disposable phones may have a terror link. It seems groups of middle-eastern and pakistani men have been bulk buying said phones - which are more difficult to track (but not impossible) and thus preferred by those who don't want to be snooped on for whatever reason as well as those who don't want a full-scale plan for reasons of convenience or affordability.

"Aha!" Cry the wingbats. "This puts the NY Times and James Risen squarely in the frame!"

"it is HIGHLY SUGGESTIVE that the leak alerted the sleeper cells HERE (and perhaps elsewhere), and that they are adapting their SOP's as a result; thus, they are making it tougher for us to prevent an attack." (Reliapundit).

If you ever needed evidence you are a Benedict Arnold this is it. And if we do get attacked because of these adjustments by terrorists - you and the NY Times will have the blood of innocents on your hands. (AJStrata)

Interesting that these purchases occurred just after the NYT's leaking the NSA spying story, isn't it? Nothing like giving our enemies the heads up. (Righwingsparkle)
Of course, uber-wingnut Michelle Malkin (she calls herself "center-right! Honestly!) doesn't have to actually say such a thing - that might cause her to miss out on some media parties - but she can always link to the others who say so without pointing out that they are boneheads.

I will give Malkin her due when she says that we all should be willing to report behaviour we thought was suspicious. I did, on one occasion right after 9/11. I have no idea if anything came of it but I am still glad I did. It may well be the case that, at least in the Texas incident ABC reports, there is some link between these bulk purchases and terrorism:

"Evasive responses provided by the subjects, coupled with actions observed by officers at the onset of the contact prompted the notification of local FBI officials to assist in the investigation," the report said. "Upon the arrival of special agents, and as a result of subsequent interviews, it was discovered that members of the group were linked to suspected terrorist cells stationed within the Metroplex."

Law enforcement officials have not elaborated on the information in the report or specified which terrorist group the individuals were allegedly linked to.
However this is all "alleged" and "suspected" - none of the people involved were arrested on charges related to terrorism.

But to suggest that the New York Times has given terrorists information that means they will, by use of these phones, become harder to track...well, it's laughable. For a start, as PSoTD blog pointed out today, "Law enforcement officials say the phones were used to detonate the bombs terrorists used in the Madrid train attacks in March 2004.So this is already modus operandi for terrorists. They know about disposable phones". So does every common conman and criminal. So do the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The same ABC report says these phones can indeed be traced easily by those intelligence agencies.
"Law enforcement officials can now use what's now called roving wiretaps, which will prevent a terrorist from switching cell phones to get a message out to one of his buddies," Bush said on April 20, 2004.

...The CIA recently used them in a kidnapping in Milan, Italy. Italian authorities were able to track the telephones. But they mostly tracked them to a dead end -- the false identities in which they were purchased.
It's not tracking the phones that's a problem.

Further, other than the one alleged incident in Texas with no terrorism arrests to show for it, it's pretty easy to come up with a reason why people of middle-eastern or Pakistani origin could be bulk-buying these prepaid disposable phones. Capitalism. Could it be possible that a bunch of shopkeepers, anticipating a rush, decided to buy up as much stock as they could? I don't know a lot about some other places but down here in SW Texas a lot of corner stores are owned by...yup, you guessed it. The ABC report says the biggest surge in recent demand for these phones has been in California and Texas - the two states with the highest populations of paranoid white folks from the moonbat and wingnut conpiracy-story camps respectively. Of course there's going to be a surge in demand in those states!

So the notion that the NYTimes is to blame for tipping of terrorists is simply ludicrous. Laughable. Scoffworthy. About the only way they could rescue their credibilities as pundits now would be if each posted a retraction and apology along the lines of "I'm sorry, I was sniffing glue the morning I wrote that..."

Yet it gets worse for these blog-first-think-laters.

Suppose they were 100% right. Then ABC, by tipping off the terrorists that the cops and feds are on to them, are just as guilty of treason as the NY Times...and by spreading the story, so are they!

Update A blogger called Sensible Mom checked the story with the local police in Midland, Texas and was told:
assertions of a connection between a terror cell and the men who attempted to purchase cell phones from a Midland Wal-Mart were invalid.

"There is no known link or demonstrated link or any other kind of link at this point between the people here and any terror cell,"
by Bill Vanderland, agent in charge of Midland's FBI office.

No terrorist link after all. The sound you hear is me, laughing my socks off at these poor idiots.

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