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Threat of 'dirty bomb' softened
June 12, 2002 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Threat of 'dirty bomb' softened Attorney General John Ashcroft on Monday overstated the potential threat posed by "dirty bomb" suspect Abdullah Al Muhajir, Bush administration and law enforcement officials said Tuesday. Ashcroft's remarks annoyed the White House and led the administration to soften the government's descriptions of the alleged plot. "I don't think there was actually a plot beyond some fairly loose talk and (Al Muhajir's) coming in here obviously to plan further deeds," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told CBS on Tuesday. So, does this mean he'll actually get treated like an American citizen and get to see a lawyer?
posted by dejah420 (29 comments total)

 
Ha, Ashcroft got SPANKED! Seriously, that whole Art Garfunkel thread from yesterday got me thinking (there's a phrase you won't see again) about some of the logical extensions of this "indefinite detention" policy. We Americans really are creating the Department of Precrime here, aren't we? An American citizen denied due process on the basis of some conversations he's had with known terrorists? Is this only OK because of the Swarthy factor? Is everybody prepared for these secret detentions of people accused of domestic terror? I'd like to see a little more restraint on the part of DOJ; if they had a handle on the situation, they could have watched him a while longer until they had some more concrete evidence, no? They seem to be in panic mode. Hurried post, sorry.
posted by luser at 12:27 PM on June 12, 2002


Here's a transcript of CBS's interview with Paul Wolfowitz from yesterday:
'Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with CBS Early Show'
(via DefenseLINK)

British intelligence also seems to be sceptical. This is from the front page of today's UK Independent:
'British security sources raise doubts over US claims about 'dirty bomber''
posted by Owen Boswarva at 12:51 PM on June 12, 2002


What does it mean that the administration would humiliate Ashcroft like that? This smells like a case of office politics run rampant.
posted by Holden at 1:12 PM on June 12, 2002


this administration has the least coherent media strategy of any presidency i've ever seen.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 1:17 PM on June 12, 2002


That's a curious thing to say, when lots of other people are saying that the Administration goes out of its way to be very media savvy.
posted by crunchland at 1:22 PM on June 12, 2002


We Americans really are creating the Department of Precrime here, aren't we?

Wow! Just like in this summer's action-packed science fiction thriller, Minority Report! Gosh, all this and the illusion of safety, too? But geez, Ashcroft, I didn't get you anything!
posted by UnReality at 1:29 PM on June 12, 2002


if they were savvy, someone at the white house would vet Ashcroft's statements. (this is not the first time his remarks have done them little good). though i'll allow that they *might* be savvy enough to understand that ash makes a good person to draw flak. but given their overall approach and mixed signals their media strategy tends to send, I don't believe they really know how to send a coherent message. (and this ain't some lame lefty mudslinging--i always thought the reagen media strategy was quite good)
posted by zoopraxiscope at 1:37 PM on June 12, 2002


What does it mean that the administration would humiliate Ashcroft like that?

That is definitely the strangest aspect of this story. Couldn't they have found a way (if they wanted to) to 'soften' their own tone about Ashcroft? Maybe it's just heavy-handedness, but it sounds like uncharacteristic blame-laying, and more fodder for the anti-Ashcroft cannons.

On the other hand, it will probably be forgotten by most by tomorrow, anyway.
posted by cell divide at 1:38 PM on June 12, 2002


Anyone else, over the past few months, feel we are in a room with speeches and press releases from 'good cop' and 'bad cop'?
posted by quam at 1:42 PM on June 12, 2002


Has Karen Hughes already left? I wonder if this embarrassment would happen with Hughes on the watch.
posted by Holden at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2002


this administration has the least coherent media strategy of any presidency i've ever seen.

I have to disagree. This is definitely an embarrassing slip up, but for the most part the appointment of Ashcroft is working out great. Next to him, Bush seems almost centrist. Ashcroft, a mediocre politician with an almost non-existent legal mind, was tapped to be Att. General precisely, I think, to be a lightning rod, and he knows this and plays the role dutifully, even when he comes out looking like an ass.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:55 PM on June 12, 2002


And what's with Ari Fleischer admitting the President lied?
posted by crunchland at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2002


it's possible, ty webb, which is why i allowed for the same in my followup. but i still believe that this admin is much worse at sending signals and getting their message out in a coherent manner (i mean, their performance during the anthrax thing was abysmal, though that's likely why we haven't even seen Tommy Thompson anywhere this year)than the previous four administrations were.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2002


We Americans really are creating the Department of Precrime here, aren't we?

Here's an excellent article on Slate which agrees with you.

"For want of a Federal Department of Precrime, John Ashcroft is seeking ways to stop terrorists who haven't necessarily done anything bad enough to warrant a criminal conviction in civilian courts, but who'd jump at the chance to do worse things if free. Casting about for some legal system adequate to handle the problem, federal authorities have toyed with military tribunals and indefinite detentions of "material witnesses" and have now resorted to unconstitutional military detention. This week's decision to move alleged "dirty" bomber Abdullah al-Muhajir out of the criminal justice system and into military custody shows how desperately the authorities need some new legal mechanism for incapacitating terrorists. It's not enough to hold them pending criminal trials because we don't always have sufficient evidence to convict them. But the Constitution does not permit what Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz announced yesterday to be the government's new primary interest: deterring future attacks and interrogating those with knowledge of such attacks."

The article also links to a chart of how different suspected terrorists are being treated.
posted by homunculus at 2:02 PM on June 12, 2002


Ashcroft, a mediocre politician with an almost non-existent legal mind, was tapped to be Att. General precisely, I think, to be a lightning rod, and he knows this and plays the role dutifully, even when he comes out looking like an ass.

There was a recent article/interview about/with Ashcroft in a recent issue of GQ that basically said as much. Ashcroft draws the obligatory fire from the left, freeing Bush to operation under the radar and get things done. You may not agree with it, but it's working pretty well.
posted by UncleFes at 2:05 PM on June 12, 2002


That's "operate" under the radar :P
posted by UncleFes at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2002


Anyone else, over the past few months, feel we are in a room with speeches and press releases from 'good cop' and 'bad cop'?

Very well put.

Here's an interesting piece on Ashcroft, from Reason.com.
posted by Ty Webb at 2:16 PM on June 12, 2002


And what's with Ari Fleischer admitting the President lied?

Broken link, or is it a cover-up?

X
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:40 PM on June 12, 2002


Ok. Here's one that's still working.
posted by crunchland at 4:00 PM on June 12, 2002


This whole thing is pure beltway politics. Just look at the timing:

May 8: Padilla arrested at O'Hare.

Quietly, a month goes by, until...

June 6: The White House announces that they want to create a new cabinet level agency that literally demotes the FBI's role in counter-terrorism to that of beat-cops funneling their data to analysts at the DOHS.

June 9: Justice recommends to the White House that Padilla be turned over to the DOD as a “military combatant.”

June 10: The AG urgently announces, while on a trip to Moscow, that the FBI arrested Padilla, “Keeping Americans Safe Like No Other Federal Agency Can”™.
posted by dchase at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2002


”™

how you do that?
posted by clavdivs at 4:20 PM on June 12, 2002


”™
how you do that?


& trade ; (spaces removed)
posted by ljromanoff at 5:39 PM on June 12, 2002


I think the announcement came off exactly as they planned it. Ashcroft's statement is what got all the attention; the back-tracking afterward by the administration was a footnote. The net result is that most Americans are left with the impression that a definite plot was thwarted; anyone who says otherwise can be put in the 'against us' category, and the White House gets to blame Ashcroft, who can't get much creepier anyway.
posted by troybob at 5:51 PM on June 12, 2002


drats. foiled a-gain.
posted by clavdivs at 6:47 PM on June 12, 2002


*fl-ush*

Q: What's that?

A: That's the sound of a once-great nation going down the tubes, my friend.

Q: I know we screwed up, but do we get another chance?

A: Not freaking likely.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:34 PM on June 12, 2002


So one of the things I'll do is remind the members of Congress that this [homeland security] is not a political issue, that protecting America is an American issue. It's a duty we all have and that I vow not to play politics with doing what's right.

-G.W. Bush, 6/12/02

Also from the same speech:
But until we rout out every terrorist cell and every terrorist, until attitudes change about freedom in America, we've got to protect our homeland in a new way.

What does that mean? Why should attitudes about freedom change? What an odd speech. He rambles throughout and refers to the president in the third person near the end.
posted by euphorb at 7:57 PM on June 12, 2002


Anyone else, over the past few months, feel we are in a room with speeches and press releases from 'good cop' and 'bad cop'?

i feel like there's a cube being built someplace.
posted by kliuless at 8:17 PM on June 12, 2002


Not freaking likely Lewis Mumford?
posted by clavdivs at 8:06 AM on June 13, 2002


SDB feels that way too! only it's not working :) the FT just calls it 'inconsistent' :)
posted by kliuless at 8:34 AM on June 13, 2002


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