OK, This IS Annoying…

If, like me, you supported Bush – because you felt he was going to do a better job on issues of combating a terrorism – than you probably believe that we face a serious threat.

Infuriatingly, we sometimes get news that suggests that the Administration doesn’t completely share that view.

From the great ‘Counterterrorism Blog‘ (you are reading it, right?) comes this gem of annoyance:

Just when you thought the Department of State could not top last year’s debacle in failing accurately to count the number of international terrorist incidents, it appears that the State Department is going one step better–they reportedly have decided to not issue a report to the public. This move has been prompted by the Department’s discovery that the new methodology used by the recently formed National Counter Terrorism Center has produced statistics that shows an enormous jump in the number of international terrorist attacks. For example, in 2003 there were about 172 significant attacks. The numbers for 2004 have jumped to at least 655.

Now before Professor Cole gets all sweaty and excited at this proof that the war in Iraq is pushing up the level of anti American attacks from Islamist terrorists, note the rest of the paragraph:

For Secretary of State Rice these numbers are a disaster. It is tough to argue we are winning the war on terrorism when the numbers in the official Government report will show the largest number of incidents ever recorded since the State Department started reporting on terrorist incidents. In the Secretary’s defense, however, the sharp jump in numbers has more to do with a change in methodololgy of counting rather that an actual surge in Islamic extremist activity. In fact, if you take time to parse the numbers, the actual scope of terrorism by Islamic extremists in 2004 appeared to decline relative to the attacks during 2003 (except for Iraq). Rather than run from the numbers the State Department and the Intelligence Community should seize the opportunity to really get their hands around the issue and provide Congress and the American people with a clear, apolitical assessment about the reality of the terrorist threat we face.

Hear, hear.

Facing facts where you find them is the first thing I try and get my teams to do. You may win without knowing what’s really going on, but you might also win an Olympic sharpshooting medal blindfolded. Random luck is an interesting thing, but it’s not the basis for good policy.

14 thoughts on “OK, This IS Annoying…”

  1. When in doubt, always go public… that’s the way it _should_ be. I wonder if this was Rice’s decision or Bush’s decision?

  2. the “except for Iraq” disclaimer is particularly telling.

    The reality is that Iraq has become a primary focus of international terrorism, because it provides terrorists with the opportunity to attack the US in a (relatively) favorable environment. Iraq is now functioning as a breeding ground and school for international terrorism, and at some point it is likely to begin “exporting” terrorists as foreign jihadis return home, and Iraqi terrorists take their fight against the US elsewhere.

    The problem with lists like this is that it is far too easy to manipulate the data to reach whatever conclusions you want to reach. The whole bogus “Iraq–al Qaeda connection” is a case study in how people can use irrelevant and unrelated facts to support a predetermined conclusion that has no factual basis.

    Indeed, the whole idea of some vast, centrally controlled “international terrorist network” is chimeral—-and the state department is apparently finally realizing this.

  3. I must take exception to the idea that there is not an international “Jihadist” network. Dan Darling has been an eye opener in this regard. Another way to look at Jihadism is to think of it as a criminal enterprise. Not everyone is a made member but all contribute to keep the enterprise going.

    It is important to remember that there is a Jihadist network because the flip side is that there is a strong nationalist element being exploited by the Jihadists. An analogous situation would be the Tet Offensive where the military men of the Viet Cong many whom were not members of Ho Chi Minh’s communist party were wiped out in combat. The war was subsquently fought by the NVA until April of 75. In Iraq, and I only have access to anecdotal information, the reverse is happening in that the Sunni forces allied with the Jihadists can no longer or are unwilling to help with terror tactics against the general Sunni population and the security forces of Iraq which is gaining Sunni support.

    The sooner there is recognition that there are nationalistic/religious grievances and action is taken to recognize legimate ones and begin action to answer them in other parts of the world it will become clearer that the Jihadists have attached themselves to nationalist movements. As this occurs the support for the Jihadist evaporates and the Jihadists will be the ones left fighting.

  4. AL,

    Good on you for mentioning this. And yes, Counterterrorism Blog is great. Very little qualifiers here either, and the one qualifier you mention, is has truth to it.

  5. I had to read through every issue of this publication from its inception to the present last summer while working for the US Attorney’s Office in DC.

    It’s one of the least complete, most useless government publications I’ve ever seen. It has the information content of a travel brochure combined with the production values of a high-school newspaper. And the methodology was opaque, rendering it kind of pointless: it was obvious from contemporaneous news accounts that some incidents were not included but not at all clear why.

    Which is not to say that a detailed, comprehensive, and clearly-written publication of this type wouldn’t be useful. Just that I don’t think we’re losing much here.

    Furthermore, even if the report isn’t “issued” to the public, the details already appear to be leaking, so it isn’t clear we’re losing anything at all.

  6. The armed services and DoD had its Vietnam during Vietnam, but they fixed it…the State Department had its Vietnam back in the day, and not to be outdone, is proceeding to have another Vietnam right now…same with the CIA. Disgraceful.

  7. I must take exception to the idea that there is not an international “Jihadist” network.

    I don’t blame you for doing so, because I used the modifiers “vast, centrally controlled” in describing a chimaral “international terrorist network”.

    The ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ in America is far more coherent and centralized than the international Jihadist movement…..

  8. p. –

    “The ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ in America is far more coherent and centralized than the international Jihadist movement…..”

    How do you know?? I think the one fact that is almost certainly true is that we don’t have much hard data on what this movement is like or about – certainly not enough to claim that there is a centrally controlled terror network – but also not enough to conclusively state that there isn’t.

    Welcome to the problem facing intelligence analysis. How to decide how to act without overreacting…

    A.L.

  9. Did that man just ,sort of, call me a terrorist ?

    and “conspiracy” ? dont that require some kind of hidden agenda ?

    Of all the things the left is all in a panic over, everything they are unhappy with us for, (except for the fringe foil hat moonbats) are for things we state openly, and openly argue for.

    As for vast, well, not vast enough, we still have far to go in the war of ideas before I can see any rest coming.

    Miles to go, before we sleep.

  10. bq. Welcome to the problem facing intelligence analysis. How to decide how to act without overreacting…

    And Marc, UNDER-reacting, has problems that are even worse.

    The mad mullas of Iran are mad enough to nuke Tel Aviv as soon as they are ready, but they wont, because they will have already let their Terror clients deliver it in a truck a year earlier.

    Its far easier technically, and affords them needed deniability

    And that, they will do, without hesitation, just as soon as they are able to do it, we will probably see em go off in a few of our own cities at the same time.

    The stakes are too high, to err on the side of under reaction.

  11. How do you know?? I think the one fact that is almost certainly true is that we don’t have much hard data on what this movement is like or about – certainly not enough to claim that there is a centrally controlled terror network – but also not enough to conclusively state that there isn’t.

    puhleez. Intelligence experts have been studying international terrorism for well over a decade, and have found no evidence that suggests there is a centrally controlled terror network. You may as well assume that the sun might not rise in the east tomorrow, because we have no proof that it won’t happen.

    Of all the things the left is all in a panic over, everything they are unhappy with us for, (except for the fringe foil hat moonbats) are for things we state openly, and openly argue for.

    yawn…. the fact that you are willing to spout wingnut talking points based on lies and disinformation is evidence of a “conspiracy”.

    The “right wing conspiracy” is about hiding the motives behind what the right wing does. A perfect example of “conspiratorial” conduct is the whole “there is a crisis in Social Security” crap.

    The FACT is that this “crisis” talk is aimed at changing the Social Security system — but the POLICIES being promoted don’t address the “crisis” that exists, and indeed exacerbate the “crisis” that is cited as making change necessary.

    Now, if there was no “conspiracy”, no one would be talking about “privatization” in the same breath as a “crisis.” If there was no “conspiracy”, the advocates of Social Security would have been upfront about the costs involved in privatization. If there was no “conspiracy”, privatization advocates would not be using different sets of economic expectations (high growth models for projected returns on private investment, low growth models for projected receipts from Social Security payroll taxes) to push their agenda. If there is no “conspiracy”, why do right-wingers criticize the Democrats for not coming up with an “alternative” plan, when Bush and the Republicans have refused to put a detailed plan on the table to which the Democrats could offer an “alternative?”

    The fact that wingnuts are willing to spew right-wing talking points that are based on lies and disinformation are the fruits of the “conspiracy”, not evidence that the “conspiracy” doesn’t exist.

  12. “Iraq is now functioning as a breeding ground and school for international terrorism, and at some point it is likely to begin “exporting” terrorists as foreign jihadis return home, and Iraqi terrorists take their fight against the US elsewhere. ”

    I would suggest a movement that has gotten its ass kicked so thoroughly of late would be reticent about taking the show on the road. The AQ component of the Iraq strategy in particular has worked to a T. AQ has clearly devoted almost all of its resources to the Iraq campaign, has suffered terrible losses, has been demoralized throughout the region, and worst of all has been shown to be toothless to stop America from doing what it wants. And best of all AQ has not been able to attack us here at home, doubtless for all the above reasons. The Iraqi component has nothing to gain and everything to lose by taking their fight out of Iraq. Seemingly a great number of them are currently trying to cut themselves a deal in the new Iraq at the moment. Those still alive anyway.

  13. Wait, a second, the main claim seems to be coming from Larry Johnson, first identified as the former
    State Department official (really CIA) to claim
    TWA 800 was a terrorist act, the one who said in
    June 2001, that terrorism wasn’t a major problem.

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