Peggy Noonan and Movie-Plot Terrorist Threats

Peggy Noonan is opposed to the current round of U.S. base closings because, well, basically because she thinks they’ll be useful if the government ever has to declare martial law.

I don’t know anything about military bases, and what should be closed or remain open. What’s interesting to me is that her essay is a perfect example of thinking based on movie-plot threats:

Among the things we may face over the next decade, as we all know, is another terrorist attack on American soil. But let’s imagine the next one has many targets, is brilliantly planned and coordinated. Imagine that there are already 100 serious terror cells in the U.S., two per state. The members of each cell have been coming over, many but not all crossing our borders, for five years. They’re working jobs, living lives, quietly planning.

Imagine they’re planning that on the same day in the not-so-distant future, they will set off nuclear suitcase bombs in six American cities, including Washington, which will take the heaviest hit. Hundreds of thousands may die; millions will be endangered. Lines will go down, and to make it worse the terrorists will at the same time execute the cyberattack of all cyberattacks, causing massive communications failure and confusion. There will be no electricity; switching and generating stations will also have been targeted. There will be no word from Washington; the extent of the national damage will be as unknown as the extent of local damage is clear. Daily living will become very difficult, and for months—food shortages, fuel shortages.

Let’s make it worse. On top of all that, on the day of the suitcase nukings, a half dozen designated cells will rise up and assassinate national, state and local leaders. There will be chaos, disorder, widespread want; law-enforcement personnel, or what remains of them, will be overwhelmed and outmatched.

Impossibly grim? No, just grim. Novelistic? Sure. But if you’d been a novelist on Sept. 10, 2001, and dreamed up a plot in which two huge skyscrapers were leveled, the Pentagon was hit, and the wife of the solicitor general of the United States was desperately phoning him from a commercial jet that had been turned into a missile, you would have been writing something wild and improbable that nonetheless happened a day later.

And all this of course is just one scenario. The madman who runs North Korea could launch a missile attack on the United States tomorrow, etc. There are limitless possibilities for terrible trouble.

This game of “let’s imagine” really does stir up emotions, but it’s not the way to plan national security policy. There’s a movie plot to justify any possible national policy, and another to render that same policy ineffectual.

This of course is pure guessing on my part. I can’t prove it with data.

That’s precisely the problem.

Posted on August 26, 2005 at 11:37 AM59 Comments


Glauber Ribeiro August 26, 2005 11:59 AM

What about monster attacks? Say, Godzilla comes out of San Francisco Bay and at the same time, in a highly coordinated attack, Mothra obliterates New York City?

Llywelyn August 26, 2005 12:06 PM

The words used to describe 9/11 were that we had a “failure of imagination.” Now, logically, anyone’s imagination on what can go remotely wrong is obviously completely valid.

You never know, those freedom-hating terrorists might shoot rockets with metallic particles into space to block our satellites or set off a series of high-temperature explosions to melt the polar ice cap thus raising the level of the sea in an attempt to flood New Orleans! Those terrorists are mighty clever, after all…

Rich August 26, 2005 12:15 PM

She quotes journalist Harrison Salisbury: “Expect the unexpected”

O.k, to be prepared for anything, let’s require two years of para-military training of all persons by age 21. While we’re at it, why don’t we require all persons to carry gas masks at all times. Oh, and we should develop a new type of passenger plane with gun turrets and anti-missile systems. Or better yet, a network of satalites with face recognion software and super-duper cameras. Whenever the satalite sees a terrorist, it blasts him from space with a laser!!!

Savik August 26, 2005 12:21 PM

Why not just be such a bad @ss that nobody would mess with us.

Terrorist levels on of our buildings — we level 5 cities of their country of origin.

Before long the terorists will stop — or somebody at their home country will stop them first.

This way I won’t be accosted and X-rayed by TSA officials at the airport and my tax money can be spent improving bridges so when I drive over them they just might stay up.

Davi Ottenheimer August 26, 2005 12:25 PM

Normally I just toss Noonan’s work right into the litter-box for the cats to enjoy, but thanks to your log entry I actually took the time to force myself to read her worthless drivel.

My only comment is that instead of ending her piece with “Think dark”, which fits in more with modern Apple and Nike marketing than journalism, she should have just said “Never forget Red Dawn!”

peterson August 26, 2005 12:38 PM

Spoiler for Fiction Book:

The failure of imagination was in a book published in 1994 by a little known 🙂 author called Tom Clancy. The book even talks about the impact not being the lethal part and that the fuel and fire it. Maybe no one in Washington D.C. reads.

Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor
US Hardcover:
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
August 1994, 766 pp.
Copyright (c) 1994 by Jack Ryan Limited Partnership

Bruce Schneier August 26, 2005 12:42 PM

I don’t like the “failure of imagination” characterization of 9/11. There was either a failure of intelligence, or there was no failure at all and we just got real unlucky. (I have never been able to get past the rhetoric to figure out which.)

RSaunders August 26, 2005 12:49 PM

Does anybody think this scenario would be effective? If so, at doing what?? Of course, it would kill a bunch of folks and cause a lot of confusion. But what’s the long-term objective of doing this? When the UN reopens in Brussels or whatever, the new US ambassador is going to rant about the declaration of war recently passed through Congress. The Japanese earned the use of nuclear weapons against civilians through an attack on US Naval forces without formal notice. What limits would be set on the response to nuclear weapons used against US civilians? I can’t imagine any. It would not be good to resign the US military to the notion that you “fight to the death”, because the historical response has been less than measured. Perhaps more of the Pacific campaign history should be translated into Arabic, or whatever Ms. Noonan reads.

Ralph Hitchens August 26, 2005 12:50 PM

Peterson hit the nail on the head: Clancy’s novel was about the only exception from a collective failure of imagination. The Intelligence Community badly needs some sort of “red team” organization to examine unusual threats from the perspective of “if they wanted to do it, how could it be done?” This might have led to investigation of foreigners at the relatively small number of flight schools where training in large transport-category jets is offered. Such training is prohibitively expensive, and most students are affiliated with airlines or large corporations; those without this sort of affiliation should have been easy to identify. The Phoenix FBI office had the right idea, but too late in the game, alas.

Joe Buck August 26, 2005 12:50 PM

Savik, most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi members of al Qaeda, an organization that wants to overthrow the Saudi government. They would have been quite happy to see a US attack on their country of origin.

Davi Ottenheimer August 26, 2005 12:51 PM


I tried to send a message to Peggy inviting her to respond to your blog entry ( but I just get this canned response:

“We have encountered an unexpected error. The error has been logged and our support staff have been alerted. They are now chasing the developer responsible for the error down the hall with a baseball bat.”

Nice. It’s not hard to imagine how she must really feel about people “crossing our borders” if she advocates beating her employees with a bat.

And once again that makes me wonder why people fail to realize terror-cells can also come from within the military ranks, such as McVeigh’s attack on Oklahoma that was related to his time spent in Fort Riley.

Davi Ottenheimer August 26, 2005 12:57 PM

“I don’t like the “failure of imagination” characterization of 9/11. There was either a failure of intelligence, or there was no failure at all and we just got real unlucky.”

I agree 100%. It’s still not clear whether the President ignored all the relevent evidence or there was insufficient evidence, but either way risk is not the same thing as fear. Imagination should be used to better understand the former, rather than foment the latter.

Andy Kitzke August 26, 2005 1:21 PM

The logistics and components required to carry out an attack such as Peggy described would be so enormous that it would take an incompetent slug to not see the warning signs. I can imagine a lot of things, but I can’t see that happening, it’s just not realistic and it does no good to sit at home worrying about it. That’s exactly what terrorists want you to do.

Ensign Janos August 26, 2005 1:27 PM

Hi Bruce,

Can you expand a bit on your recommendations for what actions we should be taking ( You suggested that we spend the money on intelligence and investigation – are you talking people “on the ground” in the US, in countries where we suspect activities are happening, or attempting penetration of the organizations? And what do you believe is the most important / urgent component of emergency response? Thanks.

carmudgeon August 26, 2005 1:37 PM

Noonan is simply following a trend that seems to be pervasive at present–contolling public opinion and shaping public policy through fear. “You may disagree with me, but if you don’t do as I say the boogey man will get you.” Unfortunately, it distracts us from performing a logical analysis of the situation. Movie-plot threats fit nicely into this trend, so I think we will hear a lot more of them in the future.

Jack Burns August 26, 2005 1:47 PM

If Al Qaeda had the resources in place to make that kind of a large-scale attack, they’d have done it by now. They don’t.
Might they some day? Sure, its a possibility – but its far more likely they wont over-extend themselves living up to Hollywood, and will continue smaller scale attacks targeted at systems disruption. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, a lot of explosive or a lot of people to effectively target the systems we all depend on. The right natural gas-line (just one), the right piece of the electrical grid, and they could shut down essential services for an entire region of the United States. Particularly in the West, with lots of wide-open space containing vital systems (natural gas, power, etc.) and very few people around to be witnesses. A small group could target a key point, make their attack and disappear back into the sagebrush.
Does anyone remember a few years back, in New Mexico when a group of “militia” types killed a few cops, did some robbing and looting, and then took off into the desert up around the Four Corners? Took a multi-jurisdictional police/sheriff’s force in conjunction with the FBI and ATF days to even get a scent of them, and if my memory serves one was never apprehended. With terrorists, that’s all it takes, one to get away, regroup with the network, and start disseminating his newly created method of attack and the lessons learned from that.
They don’t have to nuke us – it’s a waste of their resources to even try. Same for massive cyber-terror. Assassinations are not as effective as systems disruption, people worth assassinating almost always have replacements and it almost always makes things worse on the group that pushed the assassination – it lacks the necessary leverage to be pragmatically attractive.
Sure, they might do any of it given the opportunity, I mean if something golden falls into their lap, why not? But the idea that they can, right now, all at once, but are just waiting for the right time is absurd.
And even if they could, no amount of military could stop them or catch them. The military would only get in the way of first responders, police, and state agencies as they tried to pick up the pieces and provide for displaced people. The military isn’t good at those things, and rightfully so because its not their job. First responders, care providers, disaster response teams, local and state police, and state agencies would be the first on scene, and the ones who would make the most difference in the event of a major catastrophic terror attack. Yes, National Guard too, but how many NG are Medics, Firefighters, Cops, Search and Rescue specialists, and similar in their “every-day” jobs? Tons. That’s the role of the National Guard; they become part of the first response effort, in what is (ideally) not a military operation, and definitely not a hunter/killer roustabout for terrorists.
In the event of communications disruption, those services might be the only ones there for a very long time.
They are the essential tools for response to both small and large-scale terror attacks, and are the areas of our “homeland security” that needs bolstering the most. If any impact is to be had from base closures (and thus removal of some handy tech. Around military bases, such as advanced fire and rescue equipment, earth movers, highly trained and experienced EOD professionals, search dogs, etc.) it will probably, and this is a good thing, lead to increased feeling of need for those technologies and tools at the local level making it easier to loosen up funding for them.

Nicholas Weaver August 26, 2005 1:49 PM

I think there was a failure, that wasn’t just intelligence related, at September 11th: A failure in how hijackers were treated.

Hijack-for-weapon was a known technique in law enforcement and terrorist circles before Sept 11 (the Air France plane). In that case, the hijackers screwed up and allowed the plane to land and refuel, where word got out to the gendarms that this was the goal, the gendarms switched from “play nice” to “storm the plane”.

If the general public realized what had happened, and the aviation industry got indoctrinated with “Hijackers try to crash planes” after the air france incident, Sept 11th probably wouldn’t have worked because the biggest defense against that attack, the “Get THEM!.” response, would have gone into force with the first hijacked plane, not the fourth.

Nova Lounge August 26, 2005 1:57 PM

The wonderful thing about the “what if” game is that you can be as complicated and outlandish as you want – it’s entertainment. And that seems to be Peggy’s job. I would never confuse her with a thoughtful security thinker – and she does a disservice to her readers by pretending to be one.

In support of Bruce’s point — the scenario she paints is 100% Hollywood. It assumes that the terrorists are (or need to be) sophisticated and plans need to be complex in order to achieve their goals.

Is you look at the totality of change that has occurred in the US since 2001, the case can be made that the one-time use of several razors and watches by a handful of men have fundamentally altered our political, military, and civil liberties landscape beyond anything the terrorists could have hoped. Most of the changes at great expense of one type or another, and not useful in preventing future attacks.

Rather than a complex spy-novel plot involving suitcase nukes and coordinated assassinations, it’s far more plausible that a lesser number of terrorists armed with off the shelf Wal-Mart shotguns and wristwatches ‘could’ walk into supermarkets around the country at a set time and simply open fire on lines of people.

Same effect. Investment of a few thousand dollars. No cross-border smuggling of fissionable devices, no cat/mouse surveillance of public figures needed. Hard to predict. Just guys with guns in public. That’s it.

Harder to make the emotional case with that scenario — not nearly as dramatic, practically impossible to defend against, and there’s little case to be made in Washington by security vendors looking to sell hardware or software to prevent such a banal threat.

The “what if” game splits into an infinity of threats – which amplifies public fear beyond reason, and leads us to the situation we’re now in…

Abbas Halai August 26, 2005 1:58 PM

That was rather funny. By this theory, Tom Clancy and all other spy novelists should be jailed. Anyone with a a remotely curious creative mind should be under suspicion as well. And of course all other countries with missiles have leaders who are “madmen” but not if you are a member of the G8. Then you are civil. Weird.

deidentified August 26, 2005 2:25 PM

Why is that Americans believe that it will be planes, trains or autos? Yes too focused on Hollywood scripts as usual. They’ll simply switch to ships like oil tankers and a) attempt to blow them up or b) capture one-two-or three and attempt to run them into some other, ship, port, harbour. Think Exxon Valdez. Its already happened. Think of the harm?

DL August 26, 2005 3:25 PM

The comments by Nova Lounge on “guys with guns in public” are right on. Remember the impact the DC-area snipers had? You know your terror campaign is working when everyone is staying home, crouching behind their cars while fueling up, and generally worrying that they could get popped at any moment from any direction. But, like Nova said, who’s going to make money defending against that?

Savik August 26, 2005 3:57 PM

@Joe Buck

It would still work. Because al Qaeda, though it hates the Saud ruling family; does not hate all Saudis. Besides — I would imagine they would want the Saud family to be overthrown so THEY could rule Sudi Arabia. For them to rule Saudi Arabia there would have to BE one left.

Adam August 26, 2005 4:27 PM


I don’t think the problem is that she has no data, the problem is she can admit that and get published.

Me? I’m scared that a giant spaghetti monster is going to eat the earth if we don’t make more pesto.

Ari Heikkinen August 26, 2005 4:28 PM

And then James Bond will once again save the world and no one gets to hear about it.

Adam August 26, 2005 4:29 PM

I meant to add, “and no one will publish me, except your blog. Thank you for offering me a chance to spread this important message. Please pass a law requiring more pesto.”

Jack Burns August 26, 2005 5:49 PM

Nova Said “Harder to make the emotional case with that scenario — not nearly as dramatic, practically impossible to defend against, and there’s little case to be made in Washington by security vendors looking to sell hardware or software to prevent such a banal threat.”
The only possible defense against that is chance luck of having a cop or a citizen with a CHL present when it goes down. “Iffy” at best.
However, state CHL instructors, and places like Thunder Ranch (a private firearms school) are making millions off that, actually. Not billions, like defense contractors, but who cares right?
And there’s a lot of money being put into police, particularly SWAT, and the facilities that train special tactics officers, and those that make their high-end equipment are also raking it in but good.
Everyone has their hand in the cookie jar, a play in the game.

JW August 26, 2005 5:55 PM

I agree — Noonan is trying to shock and awe to intimidate.

What shocks me more is the financial sense. The base closures and realignment, per Rumsfeld is supposed to save $48 billion over 20 years. We spend $5 billion a month on the Iraq war.

Frohike August 26, 2005 7:12 PM

The “failure of imagination” was also broadcast as an episode of “The Lone Gunmen” (an X-Files spinoff on Fox) on 2001/03/04, six months before 9/11. Specifically, the plot was that terrorists hijack a plane (electronically, in this case) with the plan to fly it into the World Trade Center. Of course, conspiracy theories abound that Chris Carter or Rupert Murdoch knew of the impending attack…

Ian Mason August 26, 2005 7:43 PM


“Terrorist levels on of our buildings — we level 5 cities of their country of origin.”

One name for you – Timothy McVeigh. Now, which city would you like to start with? Washington? New York?…

Anonymous August 26, 2005 8:13 PM

“What about monster attacks? Say, Godzilla comes out of San Francisco Bay and at the same time, in a highly coordinated attack, Mothra obliterates New York City?

Posted by: Glauber Ribeiro”

We’ll just ask the experts on the matter. I’m sure japan can give us a few pointers on how to deal with that.

Nick August 26, 2005 10:22 PM

Fictional Plots Involving Planes crashing into the U.S. Capitol:

“Storming Heaven” by Dale Brown (even involves Islamic terrorists)

“Debt of Honor” by Tom Clancy

Fictional Plots Involving Decapitation Strategy:

“Sum of All Fears” by Tom Clancy
“Executive Orders” by Tom Clancy

A great line from the movie, ‘The Abyss’:

“Coffee sees Russians because he expects to see Russians. You have to look with better eyes than that.”

The problem with Noonan’s strategy is that martial law generally involves calling out the National Guard. We don’t need to close bases to throw a wrench into that, because we sent the bulk of the Guard over to Iraq.

Chung Leong August 26, 2005 11:05 PM

A very thoughtful article at the Jerusalem Center of for Public Affairs entitled “Failures of Perception and Self-Deception”:

“…in order to integrate and ‘know’ facts, it is necessary for the recipient to accept them as plausible. In the context of the medieval philosophical debate, whether one has to ‘believe in order to know,’ or ‘know in order to believe,’ this case gives some guidance: one must truly believe in order to know.”

Chris Walsh August 26, 2005 11:15 PM

Oh please.

Everyone knows that no matter how terrible the attack, no matter how formidable the odds, no matter how desperate the situation, when our nation, nay, our entire way of life, hangs in the balance, we will be saved by a band of scrappy high-school students calling themselves “Wolverines”.

Michael Ash August 27, 2005 7:28 AM

Not only was such a plot covered in numerous works of fiction, but it was actually attempted by a group of Algerian terrorists on the Eiffel Tower around 1994 as well. French intelligence found out about the plot while the plane was being refuelled (the terrorists had hijacked it while it was still rather far from its target), and stormed the plane.

“Failure of imagination” doesn’t really mean that people failed to imagine totally crazy stuff. It means they failed to imagine things that were not only being imagined by other people, but which were actually being planned and attempted by actual terrorists.

The only thing new or different about 9/11 was the scale.

David Harmon August 27, 2005 7:48 AM

Consider that imagination can “fail” in at least three ways: (1) can’t think of any good ideas, (media) (2) get fixated on one arbitrary idea, (BushCo) (3) unable to “weed out’ implausible ideas (Noonan).

Imagination is important in planning for the future, but you need to combine it with other skills and abilities, not treat it like an oracle.
The classic technique is “brainstorming”. This starts out with everybody throwing out whatever ideas they can think of, but there’s more to it than that!

After you’ve got the pile of ideas, you need to “switch modes” and start weeding them out. Some will be obviously unrealistic, some will have dubious features, some might only come off the table after somebody does the numbers. And some will actually be possible.

But unless you’ve got King Solomon doing this triage, you’ll need to go through a lengthy discussion period, where people argue the merits and demerits of the various ideas. And that part is what the Bush cabal cannot do, because they think: (1) “the boss is always right”, (2) anyone who says otherwise is disloyal and must be silenced, (3) if anything goes wrong, it was obviously the bad-guy’s fault, because the boss was right. Unless it was those traitors who claimed the boss was wrong….

A saner administration might have piled up those novels and such and used them to start off a brainstorming session. But I can just imagine how the Bush crew would have done it. “That author’s a pinko, and this one’s an eevil-utionist. Toss those books in the fireplace. Oh, this one’s our kind of Christian… he says mad scientists might send genetic zombies to eat Congress. Start rounding up those scientists, boys!”

whistler August 27, 2005 8:47 AM

There may be a day when 100 serious terrorist cells surface, but the comical ones may be the real threat.

John M. Ford August 27, 2005 11:08 AM

“Terrorism would have succeeded if not for you meddling kids!”

Noonan’s just auditioning for Velma. Hitchens and Krauthammer have already nailed down Shaggy and Scooby.

David August 27, 2005 12:14 PM

Considering the tens of thousands of quality attacks terrorists can make in the U.S. and the extremely few that take place, maybe the terrorists are a lot less powerful than Fear of Terrorists Terrorists suggest (the people who are using terrorists to terrorize us with imagined threats that cause us to act and spend now).

It is easy to create bombs in the U.S., and high powered rifles and other weapons are easily acquired here. Yet these are almost never used in any such attacks, and terrorist attacks remain extremely rare. This is not because they cannot bomb something. Perhaps it’s because there are a lot fewer nuts than you’d think. There were lots of Marxist/Communist sympathizers in this country, but very few who ever acted violently to install their silly regimes.

All of the big attacks with big weapons occur by big countries. Most people killed are killed by governments, not terrorists or criminals or gangs or druggies or homosexuals or fundamentalists or Catholic priests or whatever other boogie men imagined.

Even 9/11, as big a hit as they did was extremely low tech. There were no nukes or biological or chemical weapons. They used limited training, trivial “weapons” (box cutters are usually considerd to be simple tools) and a huge gap in basic security: failing to lock the cockpit to prevent passengers from taking control of the plane.

Not to trivialize 9/11 (it was not trivial!), but it resulted in a fairly small number of deaths here, which is amazing considering how many people worked in the three targeted buildings and their neighboring buildings.

Why is it that a group that planned for years to do something rather mundane like hijack an airplane are now endowed with the ability to do all these more sophisticated attacks, yet they don’t even blow up backpack bombs in this country, something that could be done daily here more easily than in Iraq if there were terrorists here to do it?

The suggestion of hitting back much harder than you were hit makes some sense if you can target the terrorists. It makes no sense to attack a city of civilians to retaliate against a few nuts who may live in their region. Should we have bombed Dallas and Houston for David Koresh? What city should we have bombed for McVeigh? Now, if we could target the terrorists themselves (what a novel idea, go after actual terrorists instead of governments and citizens who were not the terrorists!), this would be a good policy in my judgement. In fact, it would likely have worked well for Iraq if removing Saddam were the objective (how many attacks would it have taken before Saddam would have been ousted if we had used our incredible air power to knock out much of his power base and suggested that a coup was the only way to avoid future attacks that would occur monthly until the regime was changed through internal revolution instead of an invading and occuping foreign/Western set of armies?).

Terrorists are far less capable than the media like to portray them. A policy that used open and free trade, gave better communications capabilities to the oppressed folks in those miserable countries, and showed that capitalism and democracy create a more fair and happy world would have done wonders. It is harder to be a tyrant when you can’t control communications and limit real information and news. People tend to want their lives to improve, and they won’t follow fools for long.

David August 27, 2005 12:23 PM

One last comment: the movie plot attacks are real, but they are made with American military presense in so many foreign countries. Americans cannot imagine any foreign troops on U.S. soil, yet seem oblivious that others may not like U.S. troops in their countries.

Yet Americans have troops just about everywhere: remote Pacific islands, U.K., Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen…

Some people are living the nightmare scenarios today thanks to the U.S. military presense everywhere.

prk60091 August 27, 2005 4:59 PM

three months of novel writing down the tubes…damn you schneier

On a serious note fear is addictive. The more fear we sense the more we crave. Think about it, we go to movies to be scared, theme parks with roller coasters for the scare, read Clancy/Ludlum novels for the adventure and the possibility that it could happen in real life. Fear is addictive. I am not the first person to make this observation. Our last Presidential campaign was based on fear (“I can protect you from Bin Laden” “I can protect you from the Right”)
We go back to the movies to relive the fear, go back to the parks year after to to relive the fear, we go back to the blogs that promote the most fear, watch fair and balanced cable news because it promotes fear. Fear mongering is big business.
There is nothing here but fear, move along..

Toshiro August 27, 2005 11:31 PM

Not to belabor the point, but it rankles that anyone might have thought there was anything new about the 9/11 tactic. Japanese pilots used the same technique during World War II–the term is “kamikaze”.

Davi Ottenheimer August 28, 2005 3:07 AM

Here is some data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that might help clarify why base closures will have little/no impact on domestic terrorism:

The ADL suggests three things have been the most important lesson from domestic terrorism such as the Oklahoma City bombing:
1) State and local law enforcement play a crucial role in combating, and preventing, domestic terrorism.
2) Communication and cooperation between different law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions is vital.
3) Because prevention of acts of terrorism before they can occur is so crucial, intelligence is key.

Not surprisingly, I do not see “maintain large military bases” as one of their findings. Moreover, here is some real data and suggestions on how the US might deal with anti-US government extremists:

DarkFire August 28, 2005 7:41 AM

That press release from Noonan made me incredulouse. Imaginative planning for innovative attack methodologies is one thing, but this? Pure Tom Clancy as others have mentioned.

To be sure, most of the elements featured in teh release are at least theoretically possible, but issuing a rant based on a lack of understanding is non-sensical at best.

There is something to be said for enforcing a co-ordinated press policy in relation to national defence – it avoids ravings such as this based on nothing more than a totally arbitrary suspicion that is in itself based on what seems to be a severe lack of knowledge.

Never can I remember having read such nonsense from a governmental source…

Stephane August 28, 2005 4:35 PM

Am I stupid or the FBI had some informations long before th 9/11 that never happened to get attention from anyone ? Is there any information about nuclear bombs already inside the US, as there were informations on people learning to flight but not to land ? No. So some politicians should stop their bullshit and begin to take care of the citizens instead. And BE ATTENTIVE when there is a real threat, this time…

Ralph August 28, 2005 7:00 PM

You are, as a nation, in the grip of a kind of madness, the like of which has not been seen since the McCarthy days.

Sadly for you, fear is largely not a rational thing, and often does not respond to rational argument or common sense.

On the one hand it is amusing to watch from the outside, hard not to laugh. On the other hand it is a warning lest we all slip down the same path.

Clive Robinson August 29, 2005 1:24 AM

Before people start talking about “Read Teams” and all the other bits and bobs,

Did people watch the film “Flight of the Condor” where Robert Redford plays a low level CIA person paid to read spy/thriller/war books to find usefull plot lines, evaluate them and write them up?

John M. Ford August 29, 2005 2:27 AM

It’s “Three Days of the Condor.”
James Grady’s novel was called “Six Days…” and has the same setup but a quite different plot. Grady also makes clear (the film muddies it) that the job of that office is to read all kinds of public stuff, some but not much of it fiction, searching for keywords and patterns that might indicate material of interest . . . something like the way Georgi Flerov deduced the American atomic project by observing that material about fission had ceased to appear in the scientific literature.
In Grady’s story, the office does not do any analysis of this information, or put together any plans from it, which makes the initial act (I’ll leave that out, in case you want to read the book) incomprehensible to the main character, until he starts to do a back-analysis on his own.

29A August 29, 2005 9:33 AM

Savik wrote: “Why not just be such a bad @ss that nobody would mess with us.

Terrorist levels on of our buildings — we level 5 cities of their country of origin.”

Brilliant. How about we demolish New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and ugh … Detroit! All for the crimes of Tim McVeigh.

Sounds good no?

Probitas August 29, 2005 12:59 PM

@ Ralph

It is just that sort of argument that will, sadly, go over the heads of all of the people who are so whipped into a frenzy about making sure “this never happens again”. Thank you for the succinct, stunningly accurate summary of the goals, and apparent success, of terrorism in the US.

Fred F. August 29, 2005 1:06 PM

So how about this one. The terrorists take control of a couple of ICBMs throught their evil powers and shoot them at the US.

What is our goverment doing about that? I agree Iraq was a good ‘first’ step, it is time to invade North Korea and move from there to China and Russia. Maybe even stabilize India and Pakistan next. Move on to Israel and I say France and the UK should not be too far behind.

Davi Ottenheimer August 29, 2005 1:56 PM

“The terrorists take control of a couple of ICBMs throught their evil powers and shoot them at the US.”

How ironic you should bring that up. Noonan was a speechwriter for President Reagan who was a big proponent of the “Star Wars” anti-missle system.

Don’t know if she wrote this speech for him, but it does make you think, eh?

“What if free people could live secure in the knowledge … that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil…?”

Dirk R August 30, 2005 6:44 AM

Why should they nuke 10 cities, when you can spread fear in a whole state with one sniper, a few letters containing baking powder, or a bit of C4 in a shoe? The bad guys don’t want to take over the US. They just want to spread fear. And they are doing a good job. Moreover, we’re helping them by spreading these movie-plots! 24 started with the anouncement by Jack Bauer that the Muslim comunity is against terror…and then continius with making the spectator paranoia. I’m a big fan of 24, but the timing is really bad, and one needs the intelligence to place it in the right perspective.

Rex September 5, 2005 7:15 PM

Oh Peggy….

Your inane comments on 9/1/2005, “Hurricane Katrina: The good, the bad, the let’s-shoot-them-now”, reveal your TRUE hair color. Maybe if you stopped using so much peroxide, you could think more clearly!

You’re a loser. No one cares, anymore (perhaps they never did), about YOUR opinon. Go shoe shopping with Condi, and spare us your trivial, NeoConistic BULLSHIT!


PS- Also tried, as many have stated above, to reply directly to your site, but it doesn’t seem to work. How con-veeen-ient!

Davi Ottenheimer September 5, 2005 10:29 PM

@ Rex

Thanks for the tip. It looks like Noonan’s repositioned herself from advocating fear of those “crossing our borders” towards fear of “young people”:

“I wonder if the cruel and stupid young people who are doing the looting know the power they have to damage their country.”

Great. We now have two Noonan-ish reasons to keep large US bases open:
1) fight against the people crossing our borders (terrorists)
2) fight young people (looters)

And neither of those seem to have a logical connection to the financial dilemma of our large bases. For example, I do not see an argument that the Big Red One facilities would factor favorably into a domestic anti-terror or civil-conflict scenario.

Thane of Towson August 15, 2007 10:34 PM

Maybe Osama reads Tom Clancy. How secure are those old Soviet nuclear subs? The Soviets were not high tech with military equipment. Just look at the AK-47. So simple even a cave man can use it. How difficult is it to navigate an old Soviet nuclear sub? We must protect ourselves from an unfriendly Red October off our shores. Are self-destruct failsafes installed in nuclear subs? Can you really trust the commander and crew with that much destructive power? Does anyone remember Burt Lancaster’s movie “Twilights Last Gleaming”? If we don’t have a Three Days of the Condor reading unit, we need one now.

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