The attack on Los Angeles, again

Bush trots out a scary story to defend his warrantless spying program. We've heard this one before.


Tim Grieve
February 9, 2006 9:38PM (UTC)

Last October, with the public weary and wary of the war in Iraq, the White House tried to turn things around by talking up the threat of al-Qaida and telling Americans about planned attacks it claims to have disrupted. Today, with the public divided on warrantless spying and more and more Republicans speaking out against it, the White House is trying to turn things around -- by talking up the threat of al-Qaida and telling Americans about planned attacks it claims to have disrupted.

The big news then: Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, once planned to fly a jetliner into the the tallest building in Los Angeles. The big news now: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, once planned to fly a jetliner into the tallest building in Los Angeles.

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You can stop us if you've heard this one before, but you can't stop the Bush administration. "The terrorists are weakened and fractured, yet they're still lethal," the president said in a speech at the National Guard Memorial Building this morning. "We cannot let the fact that America hasn't been attacked in four and a half years since September the 11th lull us into the illusion that the threats to our nation have disappeared. They have not."

As Hillary Clinton said Wednesday, the Bush team has won on fear before and is determined to win on fear again. "Two weeks ago, Karl Rove ... was telling the National Republican Committee, 'Here's your game plan, folks, here's how you're gonna win -- we're gonna win by getting everybody scared again,'" Clinton said. The message from Team Bush is clear: "All we've got is fear, and we are going to keep playing the fear card."

To be fair, scary stories about al-Qaida are at least a little more relevant in a debate about warrantless spying than in a debate about Iraq. But only a little. The constitutionality of spying on American citizens in violation of an act of Congress doesnt depend on the size of the threat it's designed to address. And then there's this: According to the Associated Press, the White House "would not say" whether the warrantless spying program had anything to do with thwarting the plot to attack Los Angeles.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Al-qaida Espionage George W. Bush War Room

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