This week President Bush used his radio address to discuss al-Qaeda and the release of the National Intelligence Estimate on the Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland. After thanking the troops for their service, the president said, â€œThe Director of National Intelligence released a summary of an important document called the National Intelligence Estimate on the Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland. This assessment brings together the analysis of our entire intelligence community and provides policymakers with an up-to-date picture of the threat we face. I know you are hearing a lot about this document. Some of its assessments are encouraging, and others are cause for concern. Most importantly, this document reminds us that America faces “a persistent and evolving” threat from Islamic terrorist groups and cells — especially al Qaeda.â€
Bush once again made the argument that the war in Iraq is part of an offensive against al-Qaeda, and he listed all of the measures that he has taken to make America safer. â€œSince al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11, the United States has taken many steps to keep the American people safe. We’ve gone on the offense, taking the fight to the terrorists around the world. We’ve worked with partners overseas to monitor terrorist movements, disrupt their finances, and bring them to justice. Here at home, we’ve strengthened security at borders and vital infrastructure like power plants and airports and subways. We have given intelligence and law enforcement professionals new tools like the Patriot Act, and we continue to work with Congress to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.â€
The president moved on to talk about what he saw as the positives and negatives in the NIE. â€œThe actions we and our partners around the world have taken have helped disrupt plots and save lives. Here’s how the NIE report put it — quote — “We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al Qaeda to attack the U.S. homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11.” The NIE report also cites some setbacks. One of the most troubling is its assessment that al Qaeda has managed to establish a safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Last September, President Musharraf of Pakistan reached an agreement that gave tribal leaders more responsibility for policing their own areas. Unfortunately, tribal leaders were unwilling and unable to go after al Qaeda or the Taliban.â€
After declaring his support for Musharraf President Bush used the NIE to return to his old scare tactics about another domestic terrorist attack. â€œNearly six years have passed since 9/11. And as time goes by, it can be tempting to think that the threat of another attack on our homeland is behind us. The NIE report makes clear that the threat is not behind us. It states that al Qaeda will continue to — and I quote — “focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the U.S. population.” It goes on to say that al Qaeda will continue to seek chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material to use in these attacks.â€
He concluded this weekâ€™s address by saying, â€œThe men who run al Qaeda are determined, capable, and ruthless. They would be in a far stronger position to attack our people if America’s military, law enforcement, intelligence services, and other elements of our government were not engaged in a worldwide effort to stop them. We will meet the responsibility that history has given us; we will adapt to changing conditions, and we will not let up until our enemies are defeated and our people are secure.â€ It is interesting to see how Â President Bush completely cherry picked through the NIE. He left out the part that said the Iraq war could be making America less safe by providing a training ground for terrorists. He also left out the warning that offensive action against Iran could lead to domestic terror attacks. Â Â
Overall, this was more of the same tired talk about terrorism and 9/11. President Bushâ€™s language has grown much subtler about the connection between the war on terror and the Iraq war, but it is fairly plain to see that he still views the two as connected. His ability to sift through intelligence and pick out only the details that suit his purposes was once again on display today. There was nothing new in this radio address that we havenâ€™t heard hundreds of times before, but at least he didnâ€™t talk about his colonoscopy. This is an administration that ran out of things to say in 2003 and has been repeating itself ever since.
Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com. Â His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics