Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Terror in the eye of the beholder

Paul Krugman decides to tackle the William Krar case:
Noonday in the Shade

It hits most of the right notes, particularly:
Strangely, though, the attorney general didn't call a press conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or the arrest of William Krar, its owner. He didn't even issue a press release. This was, to say the least, out of character. Jose Padilla, the accused "dirty bomber," didn't have any bomb-making material or even a plausible way to acquire such material, yet Mr. Ashcroft put him on front pages around the world. Mr. Krar was caught with an actual chemical bomb, yet Mr. Ashcroft acted as if nothing had happened.

Incidentally, if Mr. Ashcroft's intention was to keep the case low-profile, the media have been highly cooperative. To this day, the Noonday conspiracy has received little national coverage.

Krugman notably wonders if Ashcroft's ideological bias has affected his judgment. There are two components to answering this:

-- The Krar case.Actually, as I've argued previously, I think the problem in this instance is administration-wide. The Bush regime systematically downplays domestic terrorism (anthrax terrorist, anyone?) because the first tenet of its "war on terror" is the contention that terrorism is a state-based problem, thus our continuing preoccupation with military solutions. Ashcroft's mindset regarding domestic terrorism is of a piece with this.

-- The eco-terrorism "threat". While there can be little doubt that eco-terrorists are a serious problem who should not be minimized regarding the threat they present to people's property and work (short view: They are idiots, but so far have not killed anyone, luckily), we're talking about a significantly greater scale of threat when it comes to right-wing extremists, whose lethality has been thoroughly established over the past decade.

Yet a little over a week ago, the news channels were all aflutter with news of the terrorist threat posed by eco-terror sympathizers, whose most threatening subsequent behavior involved bicycling in the nude.

Indeed, as I've noted previously, the FBI's skewed priorities on domestic terrorism are really fully on display when it keeps insisting that eco-terrorists are the most significant terrorist threat Americans face. On this score, Ashcroft's ideological bias could not be more clear.

Krugman too has noticed this, of course:
The discovery of the Texas cyanide bomb should have served as a wake-up call: 9/11 has focused our attention on the threat from Islamic radicals, but murderous right-wing fanatics are still out there. The concerns of the Justice Department, however, appear to lie elsewhere. Two weeks ago a representative of the F.B.I. appealed to an industry group for help in combating what, he told the audience, the F.B.I. regards as the country's leading domestic terrorist threat: ecological and animal rights extremists.

It is also worth noting that this is not the first time that the Krar case has been discussed in the pages of the New York Times. Daniel Levitas had an op-ed piece a few months back as well.

But so far, no reporter or editor has deigned the subject fit for the Times' news pages.

Bill Keller, care to comment?


For anyone needing a handy collection of my posts on the Krar case, here they are chronologically:

The wrong kind of terrorist

Why domestic terrorism matters

Cyanide bombers: an update

Missing the threat

More on Tyler

Marketing terror

Cyanide bombs

Missing the connections

'The American Taliban'

Domestic terror in perspective

Krar's sentence

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