Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On the side of caution?

Eddie Compass, who was superintendent of the New Orleans police during Hurricane Katrina admits that he repeated unconfirmed reports of out-of-control crime, which turned out not to be true. The reports significantly hampered rescue efforts. Here's what struck me, though:
There was really no way for me to check definitively. So instead I erred on the side of caution. I didn't want people to think we were trying to cover anything up. So I repeated these things without being substantiated, and it caused a lot of problems.
Excuse me, how was the error on the side of caution? It seems to me like erring on the side of recklessness! If you're not sure whether a report is true, what good is done by repeating it? What harm would be done by keeping it quiet until it can be confirmed?

But then, I'm thinking of it from the perspective of minimising harm to the city's people, caught in the aftermath and desperately waiting for help. I suppose that's rather naïve. Compass's concern was that he not be accused afterwards of covering anything up; in other words, he was being cautious for his own political future, while reckless with the safety of the city. And apparently he's so unconscious of the distinction that he actually makes this point in his defense!

(H/T: The Anchoress by way of Instapundit)

Friday, August 18, 2006

That Wily Atta

Here's something I learned a few days ago. In discussing Said Bahaji's possible involvement in the recent airline bombing plot, Captain Ed recounts his involvement in the 11-Sep-2001 plot, including this:
While Atta traveled to Afghanistan for training, Bahaji maintained a false front in Germany, covering their absence in order to throw off suspicion.
Now this got me thinking.

Cast your mind back to Atta's alleged Prague visit. The 11-Sep-2001 commission blithely dismissed it, on the bases of two pieces of evidence, one negative and one positive: 1) nobody flying under that name left the USA or entered it on the dates in question, and Atta had never been known to fly under a false name before; 2) his mobile phone was used while he was supposedly away. Now the flaw in this argument is obvious, and it was lampooned from the day the report was released. He'd never been known to fly under a different name, as far as these remarkably uncurious commissioners knew, and he might well have left his phone behind (especially if it wasn't a WorldPhone), and someone else may have used it.

Now follow the logic. Thecommissioners seem to have believed that Atta was something of a creature of habit, and that they could look to his known history to know what he was or wasn't likely to do when out of sight. He wasn't known to have flown under other names, so we can assume he didn't do it that day. But now I learn that he had a history of having someone lay a cover for him while he took a trip that he didn't want anyone to know about. And that the commissioners knew this.
Given that history, how could they have given any weight to the fact that his phone was used in America while he's alleged to have been in Prague? Wouldn't that be absolutely consistent with his MO? As for his not having flown under false names, if his Afghan trip was supposed to be so secret that he had Bahaji covering for him, are we really to believe that he used his own passport?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Terminological Inexactitude

Once again the controversial NSA interception case is in the news, and all the bloggers are discussing it. Opinions differ widely on whether the program is legal, or even constitutional, but one thing is clear: the communications that are being intercepted are international, not domestic. There is no "NSA domestic surveillance program", or at least if there is one it hasn't yet come to light, and isn't at issue in this case. Most of the commentary at Volokh calls it the "NSA Eavesdropping Program", Instapundit calls it the "NSA communications intercept case", and the AP calls it a "President Bush's warrantless surveillance program"; even the NYT calls it "Warrantless Wiretapping" and "the Bush administration’s eavesdropping program". Whatever their opinion of it, they are calling it what it is.

Which is why I'm disappointed at Orin Kerr for repeatedly referring to it as a "domestic surveillance program". Ironically, he doesn't think much of the opinion that calls it illegal, so one would expect him to be more careful in defining what it is.

UPDATE: Dr Kerr defends his usage. According to him, while the calls were international, the surveillance itself was domestic, because physically it took place in the USA. I don't see how it matters where the wiretapping equipment was located; I can't believe that's what the fuss is about, or that many of the program's critics would change their mind if it was proven that the taps were outside the USA. But read the exchange and decide for yourself. I'm just honoured that he took notice of my comment...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Green Helmet Guy

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Credit where it's due

Over the years, and especially over the past week, many of us have come to expect little from the MSM but lies, disloyalty , and treason. Too often it has seemed that MSM journalists as a class were typefied by Mike Wallace, whose see reporting as a "higher duty" that comes before any obligations as either citizens or human beings.
When Brent Scrowcroft, the then-future National Security Adviser, argued that "you're Americans first, and you're journalists second," Wallace was mystified by the concept.
But we mustn't stereotype, and I was delighted to learn that among the ranks of the much-reviled MSM there remain some decent people, who not only put civic duty above disinterested "journalism", but actually use their professional skills to dig into a story, do their bit for the War on Islamic Terrorism, and put the government to shame at the same time.

Daniel Pipes reports that an NBC team helped expose a HizbAllah fundraising operation in the USA, and shut it down.

Maurice Iskandar, head of the Corporate Banking Division of the Lebanese-French Bank, informed NBC News on July 18 that the bank had closed the Hizbullah account. "Following the information in your e-mail, our Compliance Unit has closed the said account." NBC News then went to the Lebanese-French Bank's American partners, Citibank and the Bank of New York, and informed them of the situation. Both banks said they took the appropriate steps.
No doubt Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings are shocked. These guys are definitely not in the running for Pulitzers.

UPDATE: More honesty from NBC.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Give that man a Pulitzer

It seems to me that if anyone deserves a Pulitzer it's Charles Johnson, who exposed Rather 2 years ago, and now has done the same to Adnan Hajj and Reuters.

By the way, I've seen too many bloggers referring to this affair as Reutergate; if we must use that style of nomenclature, why not Reuterquiddick?

Speaking of staged and faked photos, remember that ambulance with the bulls-eye shot, allegedly by an Israeli missile? Read this.

As for the now infamous wedding photo shoot at Qana, if you haven't had the time to follow up all the links and discussion for the past two weeks, here's what must surely be the final word, all in one page.

PS: Let's not kid ourselves that the rot is confined to one photographer, or one news agency, or even one region.