The Vanishing Intelligence Trick

When the White House declassified its latest National Intelligence Estimate, it released it into a whirlwind of spin that could have taken out a small mid-western town.

The document itself said of Al Qaeda that:
“Their intent to attack the U.S. is undiminished, and they continue to adapt and improve their capabilities.”

Fran Townsend, the President’s Homeland Security Advisor said:
“We are facing a persistent terrorist enemy led by al Qaeda that remains driven and intent on attacking the homeland.”

And a leaked intelligence analysis proclaims reminiscently that:
“Al Qaeda Better Positioned To Strike The West.”

These statements are all consistent with the strategery of the administration which commonly seeks to pump up the fear ratio when it finds its popularity declining. And its popularity continues to set new lows. At the same time, they must realize that they can’t get away with painting a picture of a revitalized Al Qaeda without the nation wondering what the heck has been going on the past six years. The President doesn’t want to admit that he’s been asleep at the switch so he has to come out and say:

“There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September 11. That’s just simply not the case,”

What you have just seen is the President waving a wand and dismissing everything his own intelligence machine has produced and reducing it to mere perceptions created by faulty coverage. Yet he gets to keep the simmering fear dispensed by the reports he now tosses off. Lucky for him, most of the press corps observing this spectacle are only interested in transcribing it and getting to happy hour in time for the cocktail weenies.

There is at least one correspondent that stayed alert and was not fooled by this stunt. In an exchange with Wolf Blitzer, Michael Ware, CNN’s man in Baghdad, delivered this bit of keen reporting:

“Now in the midst of all of this, despite this material, this evidence, we must be aware of the spin — the smoke and mirrors from the administration, trying to reshape the message on Iraq being specifically about Al Qaeda — America’s lingering, most familiar fear, trying to invoke some Pavlovian response from the American public, to fear them into again supporting the war. That doesn’t quite hold water.”

If that wasn’t enough to send poor Wolf into cardiac arrest, Jack Cafferty added this:

“What if we had spent the last five years with 158,000 soldiers and $500 billion hunting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in the border regions next to Pakistan? I wonder if we’d still be hearing all of this stuff about Al Qaeda.”

What if…