Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hyman Spins and Misses

Let’s tally up the falsehoods in Mark Hyman’s commentary that cites the recently foiled terrorist plot in Britain as evidence of how well Bush administration policies are working and how out of touch everyone is who objects, or even comments, about them.

Hyman says the National Security Agency tapped phone calls that helped “uncover” the plot. In fact, the plot was discovered when an informant came to British authorities with a tip. The U.S. wasn’t brought into the investigation until relatively late.

Hyman says the New York Times and “like-minded liberals . . . were against listening into terrorist phone calls.” Balderdash. What many people objected to (not just the Times and liberals) was allowing the federal government to eavesdrop on anyone they wanted without any just cause or warrant. That has nothing to do with listening in on suspected terrorists. Given that this investigation went on for months, there was ample time to collect warrants. The warrantless wiretapping that raised the hackles of Americans had nothing whatsoever to do with foiling this plot.

Hyman also says the same people (the Times and liberals) were against following the money trail to terrorists. Again, this is a nonsensical statement that depends on the presumed ignorance of the audience to make a point. Presumably, Hyman is referring to the piece in the Times that discussed the government’s use of financial tracking to thwart terrorists. Hyman ignores the fact that the same government program was described on the same day by several other papers, including the conservative Wall Street Journal. He also fails to mention that the story was a report, not an editorial condemning the practice.

According to Hyman,”[i]f the New York Times had its way, the world would be glued to their TV sets, right now, mourning the loss of thousands of lives in a terrorist attack bigger than 9/11.”
This statement is both factually bankrupt and despicable.

But Hyman might be onto something when he suggests we look to this most recent foiled attack as an example of what works and what doesn’t work in fighting terrorism. It’s unwise to extrapolate too much from a single case, but with that caveat, let’s think about what this incident shows us about how to combat terrorism:

1) terrorism is most successfully thwarted when treated as a criminal act, not a military one

2) human intelligence, not military hardware, is the preeminent weapon when combating terrorism

3) surveillance works best when targeted at specific individuals or groups under suspicion, not as a means of trolling for new leads

4) since the best sources of tips will be members of the Muslim community, creating good will toward Muslims both at home and abroad is critical

5) the weapons of choice for terrorist groups are low-tech items, not WMDs

6) the most dangerous terrorist cells operate on their own, without direct state sponsorship

7) assuming the suspected ties between the British plotters and al-Qaeda prove to exist, it is further proof that al-Qaeda, not Saddam Hussein, has always been the more serious threat

8) it was a huge mistake to abandon Afghanistan and let Osama bin Laden get away in order to invade Iraq

9) the continuing war in Iraq is doing nothing to make us safer from terror

All of these conclusions run counter to the party line of the Bush administration and the nattering neocon nabobs who give them full-throated support.

I would say that if Bush and Hyman have their way, we are more likely to end up mourning the needless deaths of thousands of people, but that ignores a couple of facts that are obvious as we continue to see the news coming in from Iraq.

They already have, and we already are.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 5.45


At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


After reading about Hyman's latest nonsense, my head hurts!

Do you think the apologists for such low-watt, divisive, commentary will ever come around to the notion that such discourse, while perhaps energizing a certain type of individuals, does great harm to the public space?

Why does Hyman hate America?



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