Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Domestic terrorism and Boston

Ask yourselves what would happen under the following scenario:

A credible threat of terrorist violence against Republicans at their convention in New York planned by a radical Islamist faction is reported by a widely respected news service. Law-enforcement and Homeland Security officials respond to the threat with an all-out security clampdown.

Would this story, you think, receive major play on the networks nightly newscasts? Fox News and the cable gabfests? How long would it be before Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity blamed liberals for aiding and abetting this threat?

Strangely enough, a scenario very much like this appears to be exactly what has happened with this year at the Democratic Convention in Boston, where Reuters reported last week that there may be attacks on media vehicles at the convention (none of which, we hasten to note, have occurred so far):
"The FBI has received unconfirmed information that a domestic group is planning to disrupt the Democratic National Convention by attacking media vehicles with explosives or incendiary devices," the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Boston field office said in a statement.

The Associated Press reported the same threat.

That's apparently not all. According to the current [Aug. 2, 2004] edition of U.S. News and World Report, the convention itself may be the target of a chemical/bioweapon attack:
We're told that party bigwigs heading to Boston for this week's Democratic National Convention and New York for the GOP gaggle ... are being warned about a potential chemical or biological attack from terrorists. While little is known for certain, security officials reveal that the threat is worse in New York than Boston. 'Who'd want to attack [Sen. John] Kerry?' asked one."

As it happens, I can think of a broad range of right-wing extremists who would plan an attack on John Kerry well before any on George Bush. But maybe that's just me.

Now obviously, it makes a certain amount of sense not to overplay the presence of these threats, because that treads into the realm of needless fearmongering. But there ought to be some kind of serious discussion of them, and the consequences of them, in the press and elsewhere, particularly in the context of our current "war on terror."

On the other hand, I am far from assured that the current "restraint" regarding domestic-terrorist threats in Boston would remain in place were there a similar threat -- from a non-domestic source -- in New York.

I'm wondering: Has anyone heard anyone on any of the cable channels discuss these threats? Have you seen any mention of them in the nightly newscasts? I'm asking partly out of serious hope that someone in fact has brought them up. I've tried to watch as much of the coverage as possible and have seen and heard absolutely nada, nil, zippo. But it's possible I missed something.

However, I did in fact find an account of the kind of stepped-up security that has descended on Boston. Some of this, it should be clear, is the simple product of the Sept. 11 attacks; security officials have been quoted in various news accounts saying that the level of security planned for this convention was unprecedented anyway. The domestic-terrorist threat, however, has almost certainly amplified that.

Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I reported this morning that security was reaching new heights, as it were:
No fewer than 12 Massachusetts state police cruisers were working Interstate 93 where the freeway headed north into downtown Boston. Troopers stepped into the highway, directing delivery trucks to pull over for inspection.

Bill Hamilton, a transplanted Seattleite, was riding the MBTA orange line subway back into town. One of the city's main commuter stops -- North Station -- has been shut down for the convention.

"Wasn't the half of it," said Hamilton. "At the stop before North Station, armed guards boarded the train and started to search everybody's packages, backpacks and suitcases."

But according to Connelly, all this security was because of Osama bin Laden.

Because, of course, if they're white, they aren't terrorists.

[Thanks to John H., Daniel G. and Terry A. for the tips and links.]

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