Ridge Announces Security Alert
December 3, 2001 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Ridge Announces Security Alert ...again. President Bush's homeland security chief asked Americans to return to a high state of alert Monday, citing threats of more terrorist attacks, possibly around "important religious observations'' this month.
posted by blissbat (39 comments total)
When does the repetition of this warning become counterproductive? It's not like anyone gave us permission to relax after that last warning...how much more alert can everyone get?
posted by blissbat at 3:26 PM on December 3, 2001

Everyone commence your shadow jumping!
posted by Kikkoman at 3:27 PM on December 3, 2001

"The sky is falling! Question me and something will land on your head."
posted by thebigpoop at 3:34 PM on December 3, 2001

Important religious observances in December?

Could he mean:

December 10-17 Hanukkah
December 11 Laylat al-Qadr (begins in evening)
December 14 Jum'at al-Wada
December 16 Eid al-Fitr
December 21 Tohji-taisai (Grand Ceremony of the Winter Solstice)
December 21 Yule
December 26 Death of Prophet Zarathustra
December 31 - Jan. 4 Ghambar Maldyarem

Or maybe he had another one in mind?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:35 PM on December 3, 2001

Bush, et al., are itching to pass their regressive economic stimulus package, and institute that nebulous national energy policy we keep hearing about (not to mention ANWAR drilling, currenty attached to some railroad bill). Scaring the crap out of people goes a long way towards pushing through controversial agendas with little or no opposition, debate, or even awareness that this is happening. Crafty bastards...
posted by mapalm at 3:36 PM on December 3, 2001

Ahh, mr_crash_davis... I do believe you're forgetting a certain December 25. Natalis Solis Invincti - "The Birthday of the Invincible Sun God", celebrated by the ancient Persian Mithras cult.
posted by dlewis at 3:38 PM on December 3, 2001

Isn't that the same Sun God who was born from a virgin womb, and was ascended to heaven 3 days after he died?
posted by cell divide at 3:39 PM on December 3, 2001

"Wolf! wolf!" cried the boy.
posted by joemaller at 3:57 PM on December 3, 2001

mapalm: That's my take on these "alerts". Keep 'em uneasy, keep 'em frightened, keep 'em looking for the security blanket, keep 'em angry at the 'evildoers', keep 'em in support of Dee-Duh & Co.

By the way, who are we at war with now, Eurasia or Eastasia?

Wonder if they're getting ready to dust off Operation Northwoods.
posted by tpoh.org at 3:59 PM on December 3, 2001

Thanks for that link tpoh, do you think the plan included some way of interfering with our means of communicating with congressional representatives? Like contaminating the mail or something?

(I'm speculating, please don't jump down my throat.)
posted by joemaller at 4:08 PM on December 3, 2001

The day of days is December 21, the Winter Solstice.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:16 PM on December 3, 2001

Jesus was probably really born in the spring.....not that any of the merchants at the mall give a flip :-)

but seriously......if I can stay out of Walmart and blame it on Homeland Security then the whole idea was worth it.
posted by bunnyfire at 4:25 PM on December 3, 2001

i got my little red hat on...
posted by clavdivs at 4:30 PM on December 3, 2001

Can't believe you guys for got a weeks worth of Kwanzaa, starting Dec 26.
posted by daver at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2001

So am I winning? Or are the terrorists winning?
I am so confused.
posted by computerface at 4:39 PM on December 3, 2001


Krusty: Well, folks, that's the end of Krusty's nondenominational holiday funfest. I want to thank my guests: Téa Leoni, Beck, The Dixie Chicks, ...
Chicks: Merry Christmas, y'all!
Krusty: And Patrick Ewing as the genie. So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. Now a word from *my* god: our sponsor. [bows]

I still want a Funzo, though.
posted by signal at 5:06 PM on December 3, 2001

I don't mean to be a bastard here, but I just had a comment to make about the content of several of the posts I have read on MeFi for about the past month. I am noticing a trend in which more and more of the posts relating to the Bush administration's handling of the "War on Terrorism" is of the hypercritical, "they're taking our freedom away", "everyone who's got a job that pays more than $100,000 / yr MUST be some kind of evil" variety.

I realize that dissent is a healthy part of the democratic process, and that holding the position that Bush sucks is A-OK. But I'm getting a feeling. Tell me if I'm wrong, but since Daddy Bush and Uncle Ridge have taken some concrete steps to protect the USA (especially the Jansport factory and the alternative coffe-shops and clove cigarette factories), the fear-constricted anal sphincters of some on MeFi have relaxed enough since 9/11 so they once again are able to shit where they eat.

Isn't it possible (even a bit?) that guys like Tom Ridge, who is undeniably a wanker for a variety of reasons, is not an evil man but rather someone who ALSO has the best interests of the country and the world in his heart? I don't see how, just because he has issued an alert, he has been lumped in with Chicken Little & Co. Is everything a corporate rich whitey conspiracy? I'm wondering what your (you know who you are) response will be if another attack DOES happen.

Anyway, not to freak out about it. Just putting in my 2 cents.
posted by dr_emory at 5:17 PM on December 3, 2001

No one mind signal, he's suffering from Tourette's.
posted by tenseone at 5:35 PM on December 3, 2001

And don't forget Festivus. Personally, I'm very much looking forward to this year's Airing of Grievances.
posted by spilon at 6:16 PM on December 3, 2001

In reading the posts from members it seems to me that there is now a ho hum attitude that is based on: yes. There may be something bad in the offing. But we are told to go about our daily business. Most go about daily business daily, with or without warnings. This time, we were also told to keep our eyes peeled. Ok.
Sometimes, as Sigmund noted, it is good and healthy to sort of laugh from time to time to get over and around a possible fear, anxiety or annoyance.
posted by Postroad at 6:34 PM on December 3, 2001

Tell me if I'm wrong, but since Daddy Bush and Uncle Ridge have taken some concrete steps to protect the USA (especially the Jansport factory and the alternative coffe-shops and clove cigarette factories), the fear-constricted anal sphincters of some on MeFi have relaxed enough since 9/11 so they once again are able to shit where they eat.

You're wrong. Not about the relaxation part but about the concrete steps taken to protect the USA. There have been so few concrete steps and a truckload of backwards steps.

Lets see. The Air Marshal program. While cops with guns usually do increase safety (gun control arguments aside), Guns can make holes in planes which decreases flight safety. Let us not forget that they are plainclothes air marshals and are thus indistinguishable from hijackers. So hero's might just take out air marshals by mistake.

Border security: While I didn't enjoy the hassle at the border (Toronto to Chicago by VIA/Amtrak) I understood the motivation. What I can't forgive is the incompetence. My name wasn't checked against a database. Nobody's was. Other than rifling through my stuff and making real sure I wasn't looking for work in the U.S. the only thing that changed was that you now have to get off the train for customs and go into a building, presumably so they can get you on video. This is a real service to the news agencies as they will now have some video if there is another attack. Useless for keeping terrorist out unless they have some high-tech real-time face recognition system running.

Damn, I can't come up with any real improvements in security. Does evacuating the capital buildings count? That protected the public for a day or two :-)

I find it interesting that they are willing to state that they have credible non-specific information about potential threats. How can non-specific information be credible to anyone other than a psychic friend subscriber?

I think what is really needed is civilian alert stages:

CIVCON1-5 , with the sacrifice of civil liberties and speedy passage of tax-cuts while ignoring deficits kicks somewhere around level 2
posted by srboisvert at 7:28 PM on December 3, 2001

*dr_emory* look, this is how it is: tom ridge --"director of homeland security"-- is about as important to the protection of america from terrorists as fantasy island's 'tattoo' --jumping up and down on the pier yelling "da plane! da plane!"-- was important to running the island. ["yeth both"]

tom ridge may have "the best interests of the country and the world in his heart" but he's no more directing homeland security than i am. we're told repeatedly by bush's beans to go about our business as usual, and to take our kids to disneyworld, and to fly-fly-fly and buy-buy-buy... yet we can't even tour the white house this holiday season because --what-- is tom ridge not doing his job?

i'm of the mindset that if our government is spending over $589,000 every minute to defend our country -- yet wackos with box cutters somehow managed to bring our country to a standstill sept. 11. -- then appointing a "homeland security czar" to keep america safe is not only a slap in the face of all americans (who also have "the best interests of the country and the world" in their hearts), but an insult to our military.

fuck that *feel-good* don't-look-behind-the-curtains crap. to suggest that some sort of cookoo-bird cabinet post --whose only purpose is to pop out once a month just to tell us more terrorism may be coming our way-- is somehow good for america, and is helping fight terrorism by doing so, is just poppycock.

"tom ridge is out there, late at night while everyone sleeps, keeping america secure" - right. but hey, if another attack does occur, i'm sure it'll be because we need more cabinet posts, and we're just not spending enough money on defense.

so who do you think will be appointed "director of homeland announcements"?

posted by blackholebrain at 8:04 PM on December 3, 2001

crash, and don't forget Christmas.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:07 PM on December 3, 2001

Gee, where will I put the next American flag? On my SUV? I'm staarting to run out of room to display my tacky American taste.
posted by {savg*pncl} at 8:12 PM on December 3, 2001

too late. That is where MY flag is.(courtesy of hubby).
posted by bunnyfire at 8:16 PM on December 3, 2001

The heightened security announcements are increasingly useless. We're at war, and there may be further attacks in the US. We should be on a high state of alert until we're not at war and we're pretty sure there won't be further attacks. Which may be never.

p.s. GW keeps saying this is a war on "Tara." Are we going after Rhett once we take care of Scarlett?
posted by kirkaracha at 8:26 PM on December 3, 2001

I was mainly talking about the action in Afghanistan. That's why I included my disclaimer about Tom Ridge being a wanker. He is basically a professional appeaser at the moment. That's not really what I meant to be the focus of my comment. I was just trying to say that rarely do I hear a positive word spoken in this forum about a group of people which may not be doing the worst job in the world right now.
posted by dr_emory at 8:47 PM on December 3, 2001

Oh, and srboisvert.....I know some of the things that have been done basically are probably useless and a waste of money in concrete terms. But in terms of the effect on the mindset of most Americans, I think they're working just fine.

You already know that the vast majority of Americans statistically are in virtually no danger of being attacked by terrorists. Nor were they before 9/11--but since that day, there has been a palpable decline in people's sense of security. The actions taken by the bushies--like appointing Tom Ridge the director of a cabinet position that is all name--do provide quite a few people with a feeling of security, which I can't really just write off as a bad thing.
posted by dr_emory at 8:53 PM on December 3, 2001

i think dr_emory raises a good question. srboisvert accurately points out that there are plenty of holes in the "homeland security" program, but what do you expect? this time last year, much of the public was in full support of major cuts to defense spending because we 'didn't need it," and any suggestions that there were still credible post-Gulf War threats to the U.S. were dismissed as DoD propaganda. Now people complain that the same agencies whose budgets they wanted to cut 12 months ago "didn't do enough" and aren't doing enough.

the money problem has been resolved, but do you really think that in three months, we would have the capability to catch any malicious force that crosses the border or gets on a plane? you've obviously never worked for or with the goverment before, my friend :) gov't agencies are horribly bureaucratic and guess what? we designed them that way. much of the red tape that makes it damn near impossible to get anything quickly and efficiently was put in place by people that feared government abuse of power and have put so many checks and balances on the system that ordering paper clips for a gov't office is a 20 step process. i'm pleasantly surprised that they got the air marshall plan executed as quickly as they did. And i also think you highly underestimate the effectiveness of some of these security measures. they may not be that effective in the sense that they're likely to catch people with explosives, weapons, etc., but suicide bombers are not commodities
for these terrorist groups. if you were a terrorist had a choice between deploying a precious asset in an area with 20 armed national guardsmen and an area with no armed law enforcement, which would you choose? the deterrent is psychological. the most effective part of the infamous El-Al security procedure is the interview. passengers may not actually be under that much scrutiny but if they feel like they are, they're more likely to crack, and more likely to be caught.

i sympathize with your feelings, having been through Logan Airport just last week, and imagined multiple scenarios where terrorists could easily circumvent the [still woefully inadequate] security measures. but i also happen to think bush et al are doing a pretty good job under the circumstances and i think anyone that expects us to be fully protected 3 months from an event like sept 11th has highly unrealistic expectations. regarding the "alerts," - again, what else are they supposed to do? if they said nothing, something horrible happened, and it was "dutifully" revealed by the press later that they had credible evidence that something *might* happen, people would be livid.

i think the alerts and the reasurrances to go about daily life, contradictory, though they may seem, are similar to what you tell people that are in remission from terminal illnesses - enjoy your life; try to live as normally as possible, but always be watchful for signs of recurrence and mindful of the fact that it could happen again so that notice the signs if or when they occur. as a doctor or therapist, you don't want to understress either.
posted by lizs at 9:29 PM on December 3, 2001

Have you all lost your minds?

No, I guess it's my fault. I just wandered into an alternate universe where 3000 people were not killed by terrorists within the extent of the pile of yet-to-be-recycled newspapers in my closet. My mistake.

No, on second thought (or third thought), I'm appalled at the jeering here like this is the next season of Survivor. As dr_emory says, there's hardly a word spoken about people who -- presumably just like us -- are honestly scared out of their wits by the mass murder we've experienced, and the responsibility they have to prevent another. They don't have magic telepaths, they don't have moles, they don't have James Bond. Mostly what they have are the same basic tools that law enforcement's had forever -- tips and surveillance. That's not going to be very effective at cracking a committed ideological organization structured around the guerrilla-terrorist cell. Anything we do find out in advance will probably be by luck alone -- or the beneficent, probably odds-off inaccurate observance of an ordinary citizen.

Now, srboisvert actually offers concrete criticism, but I fear that merely underlines the benefits of representative democracy over the open-ended, jawboning kind. Substantive problems with his criticism: air marshals are armed with "frangible bullets" thought to be less dangerous to the pressurized skin of an airplane. Most marshals are plainclothes for good reasons -- reducing tension among passengers, deflecting the ability of hijackers to plan (even to count) against their defense, and keep the marshal program an effective deterrent domestically where they aren't actually on every flight. As for the US-Canada border, it's taken a while to hammer out a new plan (borders having this weird international thing going on), but as of today, we have one, including more National Guard at the border, more planes, and more coordination of databases and other intelligence. (Frankly, any tightening of this border ought to be a reason to grieve, rather than jeer.)

Evacuating the buildings in the capital, it should be perfectly obvious, enhanced the security and continuity of our democratic government (thank God). We used to have the "odd man out" at the State of the Union be the chief of the DVA: now it's going to be the Veep, and maybe some of the congressional leadership and justices as well.

I hasten to point out that a decapitated government will definitely be putting civil liberties way down on its to-do list.

Now, I don't want to be living in a world where these are real fears. I'd be perfectly happy living my life without worries. But that's only possible, at some level, if there are people in our employ who guarantee that safety and security. And those people have to be paranoid. It's in the job description. Given the recent very serious history we have in this aspect of security, I don't think it's out of line at all to remind us to be vigilant and prepared, just in case. The general warning is probably not the best we can do, but it's the best we can do without a long-term program of risk assessment, intelligence coordination, data mining, and integration of the above by some very smart people.

In some ways, Ridge's job is the worst kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't. Whether or not he's the best and brightest the nation has to offer is irrelevant. I know if we get a shopping mall suicide bomber like in Jerusalem, tomorrow, y'all will be finding ways to whine about what a terrible job he did, especially if he hadn't warned us.

... oh, wow, what lizs said (slipping in ahead of me). Every time I despair that Metafilter used to be a haven of smart, thoughtful people, I'm reminded that in many ways it still is...
posted by dhartung at 9:34 PM on December 3, 2001

skallas: Americans travel, from all states.
posted by raysmj at 11:05 PM on December 3, 2001

Some good points, dhartung. However, I don't see the benefit in repeated high states of alert. Mainly, it seems as though no one knows what to expect, so they're issuing warnings just to cover their asses.

I submit that these repeated high states of alert effectively reduce readiness. This is supported by military studies and can be accepted as entropy at work. If we want to stay alert, we have to A) improve the signal to noise ratio (which means no unnecessary activity by armed personnel) and B) rest.

As joemaller pointed out above, this is rapidly turning into the story of the boy who cried wolf. The director of homeland security, ashcroft, etc. keep telling us something will happen. We tense up. We relax. The conditioning cycle works its magic -- Will we be ready if something does happen?

Perhaps we should all start taking Provigil.
posted by Kikkoman at 11:35 PM on December 3, 2001

The reason for the latest warning, according to ABCNews.com, is that there is a credible threat that bin Laden may have, or is close to developing, a small nuke bomb.

From the article: Fear that bin Laden's al Qaeda network might be close to developing a "dirty bomb" was a factor in the United States' decision on Monday to issue a new warning of possible attacks, the newspaper reported.

"U.S. intelligence agencies have recently concluded that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network may have made greater strides than previously thought toward obtaining plans or materials to make a crude radiological weapon that would use conventional explosives to spread radioactivity over a wide area, according to U.S. and foreign sources," the Post said.

The newspaper said the alert was raised from interrogation of captured al Qaeda members and evidence gathered in the last month at al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan by CIA officers and U.S. special forces.

Of course, this begs the question: What can we, as average citizens, do about this threat? I mean, besides patting down all suspecious looking people with a radioactive measuring device.
posted by Rastafari at 12:11 AM on December 4, 2001

I mean, besides patting down all suspecious looking people with a radioactive measuring device.

Please don't. I actually have a geiger counter, and would rather not be patted down, thank you very much.

If bin Laden has a small nuke, what can the US citizen do?

I think Ridge's heart is in the right place, but he needs to think more carefully before he announces that people need to be wary of X or Y... Because when there is a real danger that Z might happen, people will ignore the warnings because X and Y didn't happen...
posted by drezdn at 1:35 AM on December 4, 2001

That Geiger counter idea is one of the only good security ideas I have heard. How about Geiger counter scans for all inbound transportation?

That would probably be cheaper than a missile shield and more practical and effective too.
posted by srboisvert at 8:12 AM on December 4, 2001

Rasta: Ridge (for what it's worth) just denied that.
posted by adampsyche at 8:24 AM on December 4, 2001

"Now, I don't want to be living in a world where these are real fears. I'd be perfectly happy living my life without worries. But that's only possible, at some level, if there are people in our employ who guarantee that safety and security." sounds like you want a service agreement from Sears. "That's not going to be very effective at cracking a committed ideological organization structured around the guerrilla-terrorist cell" tell that to the Israelis. What other methods are there but to beat in doors and herd suspects into detention. It is effective sir, as we have NO baseline for the number of cells in the u.s., one can assume(one without info) that the methods are effective by the fact that no other terrorists attacks have occurred other then this anthrax insanity. The warnings are impotent.
posted by clavdivs at 8:43 AM on December 4, 2001

that krusty bit made my day signal...Patrick Ewing as the genie..lol
posted by clavdivs at 8:45 AM on December 4, 2001

December 12: The 27th day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, is the day on which the Koran was completed and given to the Prophet Muhammad. It is a particularly auspicious day when those who die could expect to receive extended forgiveness.
(The Times via Buzzflash)
posted by ferris at 7:44 AM on December 5, 2001

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