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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Mystery article is from the New Yorker

Katy sent me this article yesterday, as posted at primetimecrime.com. I didn't know anything about the website, didn't recognize who Lawrence Wright was in that context, but found the piece absolutely fascinating. This morning I see at LGF that it's the cover story for this week's New Yorker! That's a relief; now we can all send it to our liberal friends and they might actually read it.

Absolutely every U.S. citizen should read this. It makes the information we get from newspapers seem like stick-figure drawings.

Here is just one little snippet from THE TERROR WEB, by Lawrence Wright, in the New Yorker August 2, 2004 issue:

On a splendid April day in Paris, I went to lunch with Gilles Kepel, the Arabist scholar, and Jean-Louis Bruguière, the doughty French counter-terrorism judge. Despite the beautiful weather, the men were in a gloomy frame of mind. “I am seriously concerned about the future,” Bruguière said, as we sat at a corner table under an arbor of lilacs that shed blossoms onto his jacket. His armor-plated Peugeot was parked on the street and his bodyguards were discreetly arrayed in the restaurant. “I began work on this in 1991, against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria. These groups were well known and each had an understandable structure. The majority were sponsored by states—Syria, Libya, Iraq. Now we have to face a new and largely unknown organization, with a loose system and hidden connections, so it is not easy to understand its internal functioning. It appears to be composed of cells and networks that are scattered all over the world and changing shape constantly.”

Bruguière pointed to the Istanbul bombings in November, 2003, and the March 11th bombings in Madrid as being the opening salvos in a new attack on Europe. “They have struck in the east and in the south,” he said. “I think the next stop will be in the north.”

“London or Paris,” Kepel suggested.

“The principal target is London,” Bruguière declared.

Chechnya is playing a larger and more disturbing role in the worldwide jihad, Bruguière said. At present, Al Qaeda and its affiliates operate on a rather low-tech level, but in Chechnya many recruits are being trained to exploit the technical advantages of developed countries. “Some of these groups have the capacity for hijacking satellites,” he told me. Capturing signals beamed from space, terrorists could devastate the communications industry, shut down power grids, and paralyze the ability of developed countries to defend themselves.

“In 2001, all the Islamist actors in Madrid were identified,” Bruguière said. His own investigations had led him to the Spanish capital that June. He quickly informed the Spanish police that Jamal Zougam, the owner of the phone shop, was a major contact for jihad recruits in Europe and Morocco. But Zougam was not apprehended. French and Spanish authorities have a long history of disagreement over the handling of terrorism, with the Spanish accusing the French of giving sanctuary to ETA terrorists. Bruguière said that when he arrived in Madrid he found that “the Islamic threat was underassessed.” The Spanish police had made him wait a year before allowing him to interview Zougam. After Bruguière went back to Paris, the Spanish police put Zougam under surveillance and searched his apartment, finding jihadi tapes and videos. The authorities briefly renewed their interest in him after the 2003 Casablanca bombings, but once again there was insufficient evidence to arrest him.

I asked Bruguière if he thought that the Madrid attacks represented an evolution in Al Qaeda’s operational ability, or suggested that the organization had lost control. He said that Al Qaeda was now little more than “a brand, a trademark,” but he admitted that he had been surprised. “It was a good example of the capacity and the will of these groups to adopt a political agenda. The defeat of the late government and the agreement of the new government to withdraw troops—it was a terrorist success, the first time we have had such a result.”

Later, Kepel and I discussed the reason that Europe was under attack. “The future of Islam is in Europe,” he said. “It has a huge Muslim population. Either we train our Muslims to become modern global citizens, who live in a democratic, pluralistic society, or, on the contrary, the Islamists win, and take over those Muslim European constituencies. Then we’re in serious trouble.”

This article is especially timely, with Democrats complaining that the "new" terror alert is based on "old" information. One such comment was made by a Clinton-era national security official, and is published in today's Washington Post:

. . . Ivo H. Daalder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was a National Security Council official under President Bill Clinton, said it "would have been useful for Mr. Ridge to have explained that information they were acting on was largely old."

"I don't doubt that this information was found -- I don't think they made it up," Daalder said. "But there is a real question of: Are we finding the kind of information that ought to worry and concern us as much as it has at the moment?"

This seems like such highly politicized BS, given that Wright has told us:
One of the most sobering pieces of information to come out of the investigation of the March 11th [2004] bombings is that the planning for the attacks may have begun nearly a year before 9/11 [2001].

I wish the Democrats were more careful, more serious (less willing to use specifics of the terror war to gain political advantage for themselves) and above all, that the electorate were more well informed and could seriously challenge the candidates on their positions. File that under "Dream On."