Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pres. Bush announced today that his administration's surveillance methods stopped an Al Qaeda plot to hijack a plane and crash it into the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles. Wouldn't you think, though, that if Bush's warrantless eavesdropping really had prevented a major terrorist attack on the second largest metropolitan area in the United States, the White House would have informed that city's mayor before making a public speech giving the details of the hijacking plans and how they were foiled?

Here is part of the report at MSNBC:

Seeking to justify his tactics in the war on terrorism, President Bush on Thursday disclosed new details of an alleged al-Qaida plot to hijack a plane and fly it into the tallest high-rise on the West Coast in 2002.

The plot, aimed at a Los Angeles office building, had been known for some time, but Bush said that it "was derailed in early 2002 when a Southeast Asian nation arrested a key al-Qaida operative."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Thursday he was blindsided by Bush’s announcement and described communication with the White House as "nonexistent."

"I'm amazed that the president would make this [announcement] on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor told The Associated Press. "I don’t expect a call from the president -- but somebody."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Los Angeles officials were told about the president’s remarks a day before his speech.

"And the word I heard was that there was great appreciation for the notification that we provided," he said during a briefing.

A spokesman for the state Office of Homeland Security confirmed that the agency’s chief personally contacted a deputy mayor Wednesday to share the president's planned comments.

"We were assured that that information would go to the mayor," spokesman Chris Bertelli said.

Villaraigosa later confirmed that City Hall was called Wednesday by state officials in Sacramento. But that information was only general, city officials said, giving no hint that the announcement would contain extensive new details on the hijacking plot that targeted the nation's second-largest city. That message never reached the mayor.

"I would have expected a direct call from the White House," Villaraigosa said at a news conference.

In addition, the mayor said, he had twice pushed for meetings with Bush on visits to Washington to discuss security risks in the city. Those requests were made "to no avail," Villaraigosa said.

Maybe because Bush has no interest in discussing security risks in Los Angeles, since that has nothing to do with trying to justify his illegal warrantless wiretapping of Americans.

And while I'm on the subject of that illegal warrantless wiretapping program, John Aravosis linked today to a bombshell article in the Washington Times reporting that, contrary to the Bush administration's assertions, the NSA spy program is targeting phone calls and e-mails where both parties are American, and inside the United States. The article also states that, although Al Qaeda agents do operate within the United States, the spy program has not caught even one of them -- and, in fact, has been a miserable failure in the war against Al Qaeda.

The Bush administration's surveillance policy has failed to make a dent in the war against al Qaeda.

U.S. law enforcement sources said that more than four years of surveillance by the National Security Agency has failed to capture any high-level al Qaeda operative in the United States. They said al Qaeda insurgents have long stopped using the phones and even computers to relay messages. Instead, they employ couriers.

"They have been way ahead of us in communications security," a law enforcement source said. "At most, we have caught some riff-raff. But the heavies remain free and we believe some of them are in the United States."
The law enforcement sources said the intelligence community has identified several al Qaeda agents believed to be in the United States. But the sources said the agents have not been found because of insufficient intelligence and even poor analysis.

The assertions by the law enforcement sources dispute President Bush's claim that the government surveillance program has significantly helped in the fight against terrorism. The president said the program, which goes beyond the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, limits eavesdropping to international phone calls.

The sources provided guidelines to how the administration has employed the surveillance program. They said the National Security Agency in cooperation with the FBI was allowed to monitor the telephone calls and e-mails of any American believed to be in contact with a person abroad suspected of being linked to al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

At that point, the sources said, all of the communications of that American would be monitored, including calls made to others in the United States. The regulations under the administration's surveillance program do not require any court order.

Everyone knows, of course, that the Washington Times is very biased in favor of the Bush administration -- they're the FOX News of the print world. So when they publish an article as critical and damaging to Bush's major pet program as this one is, it has to be taken seriously.

Hat tips to The Left Coaster, Prairie Weather, and AMERICAblog.

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