British and Pakistani officials are steaming because the U.S. apparently outed an Al Qaeda member who had been arrested and was being used as part of an email sting operation to nab other terrorists. The implication is the American officials were anxious to justify to the public the increase in the terror alert level, which had come under attack in the wake of revelations that some of the intelligence it was based on was 3 years old. The problem is not that old information was used--it's now clear that Al Qaeda sometimes spends years planning attacks--but that the government was, as always, not as forthcoming as it could have been in explaining the need for the heightened state of alert. So once again, the administration's credibility came under fire, and it apparently reacted by letting loose too much information, proving there is still an adequate supply of irony in Washington.
Is this an example of the administration using threats of terrorism for political gain? I fear it is something worse--sheer incompetence.
Also on the homeland security front, Slate tells us that Dick Cheney, as secretary of defense in 1992, squelched a plan for the reorganization of the nation's intelligence apparatus that was remarkably similar to the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. I don't have an opinion as to whether the recommendations are good or bad, but as the author suggests, this little bit of history helps us understand why President Bush has only been lukewarm in his support of the commission's recommendations.
For some lunacy closer to home, the city of Pittsburgh is going to give away almost an acre of land in the Hill District to the city Housing Authority, which will then allow a private developer to build and manage town homes for low-income seniors. The authority will own the land; the developer will own the buildings, but will pay no property taxes. Where do I sign up?