Andy McCarthy – Misinformation and Knowledge of Boston, Ricin

Editor’s Note – Once again, we have Andre C. McCarthy’s most valuable insight. Remember, he of the US Attorney’s Office that handled the 1993 WTC attack and the Blind Imam. Stay tuned”

Misinformation and Anxiety in Boston Terrorism Investigation

By Andrew C. McCarthy – From PJ Media

Misinformation rather than enlightenment has been the order of the day in the investigation of Monday’s terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon. The anxiety stemming from the attack and the stream of inaccurate news about it is further freighted, moreover, by the FBI’s confirmation that two letters addressed to top political officials — President Obama and Senator Richard Wicker (R., MS) — tested positive for ricin, a deadly poison. As noted below, a man identified as Kenneth Curtis of Tupelo, Mississippi, has reportedly been arrested in connection with the mailings

Early this afternoon, massive confusion was generated when mainstream media outlets first reported that an arrest had been made in the bombing case, then retracted that claim. CNN, in particular, kept insisting there had been an arrest even after other press agencies denied it. When all was said and done, though, it appeared that no suspect had even been in police custody, much less been formally charged — and that perhaps no suspect has even been identified yet.

This is a common phenomenon in the high profile investigations that follow terrorist attacks. The investigators actually working the case would rather there were no disclosures made about the status of the investigation. At this point, their work is best done in secret — or, at least, as much secrecy as is possible. Otherwise, any conspirators who may not already have fled will be alerted that it’s time to skip town, destroy evidence, and intimidate witnesses.

These investigative agencies actually work for the public, however, and the public has an extraordinarily high level of interest in the progress of the case. Thus the agencies have official press agents whose job it is to keep the public reasonably informed without compromising investigative leads and tactics — not an easy job.

Then there is the most unruly and damaging dynamic in the equation: the media and its anonymous law-enforcement sources. It seems every media outlet is in a rabid competition to be first, rather than most accurate, with every breaking development. This combines toxically with the fact that sources who hide behind anonymity — precisely because they are not supposed to be running off at the mouth — have widely varying levels of knowledge about the actual goings-on in the case.

Couple this with the fact that most journalists and many agents are not well-versed in the esoterica of the justice system — in which, for example, “arrest” is different from “custody”; a “suspect” is different from a “person of interest”; and “detention” is different from “apprehension” — and you have the roadmap to error-ridden reporting. The problem is not that reporters and sources are intentionally misleading the public.

It is that their information is both less reliable than they think it is and easily given to miscommunication. A potential witness’s voluntary submission to a law-enforcement interview could be mistaken for a suspect’s surrender to police custody. Solid leads on a potential bomber based on video and forensic evidence could be miscommunicated as a solid identification of a suspect. The issuance of an arrest warrant for a person not in custody could be miscommunicated as an actual arrest.

In most circumstances, this would not create torrents of misinformation. Reporters would corroborate new information through multiple, independent sources (rather than dependent sources who may just be echoing the same bad information).

They would refrain from publishing until they were sure. But what is happening in Boston is not normal. It is a frenzy. And even worse than its effect of confusing and angering the public is the help it gives the terrorists. The leak-generated misinformation puts pressure on investigative agencies to correct the record; these public corrections give the terrorists insights into the state of the investigation that they would not otherwise have. It makes them harder to catch. It makes critical evidence harder to obtain.

At this moment, we are in no better position than we were yesterday to provide informed hypotheses about who may have carried out the bombing attack and why. We don’t know what the investigators know, but on our state of information, it would be irresponsible to discount the possibility that this is an instance of jihadist terror. Of course, other ideological motivations cannot be ruled out, either. My point is that it is ludicrous to enforce a politically correct filter in which the most plausible explanation must not be spoken on pain of being cast out as a racist “Islamophobe,” yet every other theory, no matter how half-baked, is given a respectful airing.

We know that jihadists tend to target predominantly non-Muslim civilian populations with mass destruction weapons, as was done in Boston on Monday. In addition, their preferred weapon for the last decade in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the improvised explosive device (IED) — the kind of home-made bomb that is recommended by al Qaeda’s InspiredMagazine and that often employs “pressure cookers” of the sort used in two recent jihadist terror attacks in the U.S.

The attacks on Monday were by IEDs that featured pressure cookers. None of that proves that the Boston Marathon bombing is the work of jihadists, but it does underscore that — absent hard information pointing in a different direction — it is entirely reasonable to suspect that this is the case and to investigate accordingly.

By contrast, we haven’t had much “anti-government” terrorism but when we’ve had it — e.g., the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing — it tends to be targeted at government installations, not civilians. And historically, the radical Left is far more wedded to violent “direct action” than conservative movements like the Tea Party, which has no history of violence.
It should go without saying that we have had terrorists of varying political stripes, and even of no coherent political persuasion. Therefore, no radical ideology that urges violence should be ruled out at this point when, apparently, no perpetrators have been identified. How strange, though, that what experience suggests are the least likely scenarios — conservatives or anti-government extremists striking savagely at their defenseless fellow citizens — are being embraced seriously (even wistfully) by some media pundits, while one must walk on eggshells to describe scenarios whose proving out would surprise no one.

Finally, and eerily reminiscent of the post-9/11 anthrax scare, is the discovery that letters addressed to the president and Senator Wicker (so far) contained a granular substance that has, according to the FBI, “preliminarily tested positive for ricin.” NBC News has just reported that federal agents have arrested a Mississippi man, Kenneth Curtis, in connection with the mailings (which were signed, “I am KC and I approve of this message.”).

At least at this early stage, investigators are said to believe that there is no connection between the mailings and Monday’s bombing in Boston. That certainly sounds like a reasonable conclusion under the circumstances: Putting aside that Curtis is from Mississippi, the letters were postmarked in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 8 — a week before the bombing in Boston; and more testing and investigation are necessary before the feds can confidently conclude that the substance involved is actually ricin and that it was intentionally conveyed by the sender. Until there is certainty that the two incidents are unrelated, though, the lines of communication between the two investigations must remain open.

McCarthy – Hit List and the NY Times praise for Obama

Editor’s Note – “Andy, who put the Blind Sheik behind bars in the first World Trade Center bombing, ” PJM CEO Roger L. Simon writes, “was arguably the most important prosecutor in the War on Terror. He is among the most authoritative writers anywhere on the dangers of Jihad. His distinguished legal career and expertise on national security matters will be invaluable to PJ Media and our readers.”

From “Rule of Law” to Hit List: The Times Lauds Obama at War

by Andrew C. McCarthy – PJ Media

“The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process.” Well, that’s certainly a judicious use of judicious by William Daley. The former White House chief of staff was addressing the inevitability of collateral damage inherent in President Barack Obama’s principal war strategy against al-Qaeda: killing suspected terrorists by firing missiles from unmanned drones that scour faraway skies over Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. This was about halfway through the New York Times‘ rambling 6,300-word testimonial to Obama’s unparalleled splendor as a wartime commander-in-chief.

You see, for all the precision of modern weaponry, it turns out error is simply unavoidable: sometimes the wrong targets get hit and the wrong people get killed by our armed forces and the presidents who command them. Fog of war, and all that. For many years — specifically, from October 2001 through January 19, 2009 — the Times saw this inevitability as grist for scandal. But suddenly, the Gray Lady has evolved, just like its heroically “pragmatic” commander-in-chief. Collateral killings are just the way it goes — and if Obama camouflages what the Left used to insist were civilian casualties by a post facto declaration that everyone killed was a “combatant,” the Times has suddenly decided that, far from crying out for a war crimes investigation, this just proves his lawyerly brilliance.

Obama and Brennan meet

After all, it is the end result of a “judicious process.” That’s judicious, not judicial. Of course, time was when candidate Obama, his campaign surrogates, and the Times would have scoffed at the notion that the executive branch was capable of judiciously prosecuting the battle, determining who was the enemy, and taking action to kill or capture and detain. Sure, from 1787 through 2001, presidents may have been trusted with plenary control over war-fighting. But that was then. Now, according to the Bush-deranged Left, the “rule of law” demanded a judicialprocess. Terrorists don’t wear uniforms — a willful violation of the laws of war that the Left converted into a presumption of innocence. Thus, progressives told us, to hold suspected terrorists, let alone kill them, based on nothing more than a unilateral executive branch determination, no matter how “judicious,” was a shredding of the Constitution and a profound violation of international law.

Now that the president’s name is Obama, though, “judicious” executive unilateralism is more than enough to justify killing — and not only in an emergency: the Times depicts Obama as the don, meeting weekly with his consiglieri to decide who lives and who dies.

Eleven years into post-9/11 combat operations and facing a tough reelection fight, it has conveniently dawned on the Obama Left that when the nation is threatened and takes up arms, the risk of error shifts from the government, which bears it in peacetime law-enforcement operations, to “the enemy.” For the Times — whose epic account of Obama at war begins with a portentous “This was the enemy” – enemy is the term now in vogue for what, heretofore, were known merely as “young Muslim men,” subjected either to indefinite detention without trial or to being slain under ambiguous circumstances in Bush’s “war on terror,” which was really a “war against Islam.” Now that those young Muslim men are being detained or killed by Obama, it is remarkable to discover what a mortal threat to the United States they really are. And it further turns out that, while our intelligence community does the best it can, warfare requires our combat forces to take action without the certainty of meticulously tested courtroom evidence — and that’s suddenly okay, too: When people are plotting to mass-murder Americans, the Times wants you to know that we can’t afford to wait until we have proof that will satisfy a jury; they need to be rubbed out, pronto.

What is most astonishing in the story co-authored by Jo Becker and Scott Shane is its rationalization of the president’s naivete and amateur-hour missteps. In the revisionist history, these are seen as emblematic of the Omniscient One’s duplicity — which the reporters, far from finding offensive, portray as the president’s most praiseworthy attribute. “Bush lied and people died”; Obama lies and … it is his unmatched attorney’s mind at work.

Obama signs Executive Order to close Gitmo after taking the oath of office in 2009

Thus does the Times celebrate what, in the retelling is Obama’s knowing deception — not his ideologically-driven recklessness — in ceremoniously pronouncing, on his second day in office, that Gitmo would be closed and that he would make good on other campaign commitments to turn the clock back — back to Clintonian courtroom counterterrorism, away from Bush-era reliance on the laws of war. Even as the Times and rest of the Left deliriously swooned, we now discover that Obama was furtively inserting “a few subtle loopholes” in his first executive orders, “already putting his lawyerly mind to carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight terrorism as he saw fit.” An outrage? No, the Times sees this as just “the deft insertion of some wiggle words” by “a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters [ACM: the Times, for one] was never carried away by his own rhetoric.” The Paper of Record, which spent years obsessing over 16 words in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address, now builds sleight-of-hand into the president’s job description.

And why not? Why shouldn’t the Times‘s preferred commander-in-chief be afforded the same loose acquaintance with the truth that the paper allows itself? For how else could it publish paragraphs such as this:

The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”

In point of fact, we learn in the course of the article (as if we did not know already) that the drone is not all that precise: It often takes lives and destroys property beyond its narrow targets. Furthermore, because the Obama administration, in its demagoguery against Gitmo and Bush detention policies, has nullified the options of capturing and interrogating jihadists, “our ideals” now apparently include killing people we could have taken alive — and whose intelligence we could have exploited to save American lives. And if those people happen not to be the people we were trying to kill, Obama just counts them as terrorists anyway — as long as they fit the administration’s profile for Muslim terrorists.

But a more overarching point: When Obama excoriated Bush for offering a “false choice between our safety and our ideals,” he was referring to the Bush wartime preference for executive processes over judicial ones. The Times well knows this, because it was leading the Obama cheering section. In what now passes for “our ideals,” however, Obama is not just unilateral judge and jury; he is executioner, as well. Bush was convinced the war model was necessary to protect the nation, but he left the war-fighting to the professionals. Obama, by contrast” is the “liberal law professor” who “insist[s] on approving every new name on an expanding ‘kill list,’ poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre ‘baseball cards’ of an unconventional war.”

Not to worry about this seeming contradiction, though. The doctrinaire secularists at the Times want to assure you that The One even transcends what up until five minutes ago was the essential “wall of separation” between church and state. You see, our current commander-in-chief, that erudite protege of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a sharp departure from the Bible-thumping rube who last held the job. Obama is “a student writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas,” who is determined “to apply the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.”

What Obama, or, for that matter, the Times, actually grasps about Christian just war theory is unclear. (If you actually want to know what it is, a few words from George Weigel are a better expenditure of your time than a few thousand words from folks who find virtue in not being “carried away by [their] own rhetoric.”) But we do learn that Obama-style “just war theory” bears a striking resemblance to Obama-style “pragmatism” — which somehow always manages to get to the result Obama finds politically expedient.

So we discover that Obama applies a strict moral imperative in his judicious application of just war drone-killing … except when he doesn’t. The target must be an imminent threat to the United States … except when he isn’t. There must be a “‘near certainty’ of no innocents being killed” … except when there isn’t. The Times concedes, for example, that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud “did not meet the Obama administration’s criteria for targeted killing”: he was not a threat to the United States and, when located by the CIA, he was surrounded by innocents — staying with his wife at his in-laws home. But, hey, “Pakistani officials wanted him dead.” Obama rationalized that the drone program was necessary and the “drone program rested on [the Pakistanis’] tacit approval.” And, yes, killing Mehsud with a missile would necessarily entail killing those in his company, but them’s the breaks. The don gave the order.

Drone Strike with multiple missiles

And on it goes, at times sadly hilariously. The Times, for example, notes that “the president’s resolve” was “stiffened” by a “series of plots” that included “the killling of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex. by an Army psychiatristwho had embraced radical Islam.” The Times does not note that, with this one passing reference tying Major Nidal Hassan’s jihadist rampage to Islamic supremacist ideology, the Gray Lady has surpassed the Pentagon in explaining what happened at Fort Hood. Applying the Obama-imposed conscious avoidance mandate, the armed forces did not refer to Islam or jihad in its 75-page report on the massacre, which the administration prefers to frame as a case of “workplace violence.”

In the main, though, the Times report is a study in the Left’s self-absorption. When modern progressives are out of power, warfare is unnecessary — a simplistic, “might makes right” resort to force when the Left’s brand of nuanced diplomacy would have done the trick. Reasonable suspicion is never enough: no one is to be assumed an enemy of the United States absent proof beyond a reasonable doubt that will stand up in court; and if a Republican president resists the “transparency” of judicial review, or resorts to measures like military detention or immigration-law deportation in order to protect its intelligence secrets from exposure, it is chipping away at the very foundations of constitutional governance, such that the Republican administration should be understood as more of a threat to America than the terrorists. Only when the Left is in power does war become necessary, as well as excruciatingly complex and difficult. Only then must we learn to be understanding when irresponsible political rhetoric crashes into hostile reality, and when moral lines in the sand are constantly crossed and haphazardly redrawn … only to be crossed yet again.

This would all be easier to swallow if the evolution came with an apology. But it is packaged in the same smarm as original antiwar, anti-Bush indictment: the more events reveal Obama’s predispositions to be half-baked, inept and unrealistic, the more you are supposed to admire his savvy pragmatism in not merely abandoning them but pretending he never really held them in the first place — while the courtiers applaud.

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Andrew C. McCarthy, is a former federal prosecutor and New York Times bestselling author of The Grand Jihad andWillful Blindness; he’s also a regular contributor at National Review and The New Criterion.

“Andy, who put the Blind Sheik behind bars in the first World Trade Center bombing, ” PJM CEO Roger L. Simon writes, “was arguably the most important prosecutor in the War on Terror. He is among the most authoritative writers anywhere on the dangers of Jihad. His distinguished legal career and expertise on national security matters will be invaluable to PJ Media and our readers.”

Outside of his legal and writing careers, Andy has been coaching little league baseball for the last few years. He’s been a hockey fan for more than 40 years, and he and his family watch sports all year round: mainly Mets, Jets, Knicks and Devils.