Friday, April 14, 2006

Heckuva Job Chertoff!

Not wanting to take his eye off the ball, the Department of Homeland Security - under Michael Chertoff's stewardship - issued a bulletin yesterday warning businesses in the US of a grave and mounting threat: the potential for "terrorist groups" to drain the ink from your fax machine. I wish that was entirely a joke.

The bulletin itself addresses groups it labels "eco-terrorists." But to even use the term "terrorism" in this context is highly misleading and alarmist - to the degree that it dilutes the very meaning of the word. Just take a gander at some of the types of "terrorist" attacks we should be on the look out for from the dreaded eco-terrorist jihad:

- "organizing protests"
- "flyer distribution"
- "inundating computers with e-mails"
- "tying up phone lines to prevent legitimate calls"
- "sending continuous faxes in order to drain the ink supply from company fax machines"

Having experienced the horrors of a real terrorist incident - the 9/11 WTC attacks - from the up-close vantage point afforded by apartment located just a few blocks away, I feel confident in declaring that combating the scourge of rampant flyer distribution, excessive e-mail transmission and organized protests - while safeguarding the fax machine's precious bodily fluids - should not be a priority for the DHS or any other entity tasked with keeping this nation safe from terrorist threats. Actual terrorism is not so trivial, and should not be punted around like a political football.

In truth, some of the "eco-terrorist" groups cited have committed arson, vandalism and other forms of property crimes - with costs totaling millions of dollars in the aggregate. That is a serious law enforcement issue. But to date, their "terrorist" acts haven't led to even one fatality. Setting empty SUV's on fire to protest excessive gas consumption is as foolish as it illegal and, such destructive behavior should be punished. Ditto vandalism at animal testing facilities and other targeted enterprises. But elevating these acts to the status of terrorism, and dedicating valuable and limited DHS resources to these groups, is beyond misguided.

Consider also, the puzzling double standard with which the DHS is treating other domestic threats - seemingly ignoring some that would be more accurately described as "terrorist" groups, at least in terms of lethality:

The real outrage in this is that on the very day some DHS yahoo spent time and government money producing this bulletin, a jury was convicting a white supremacist on five counts of trying to obtain a chemical weapon and stolen explosives. The man's dream: to explode a briefcase "dirty" bomb inside the U.S. Capitol.

Needless to say, I'm told DHS has yet to send out a warning on wackos like him: white supremacists, militias, anti-abortion groups or other violent far-right groups that have actually killed people. It's the vicious left-wing flyer brigades that pose the greatest danger.

The politicization of terrorism threat assessment. Heckuva job Chertoff.

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