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Sunday, July 11, 2004

Terrorism Alert

Steal the ballot, rob the vote
Dial up Diebold, rock the boat
Tip the pollsters, trick the fools
Move the goalposts, change the rules

Color code anxiety,
Fire up the fear
Mobilize the sleeper cells
Keep the channels clear

Anything to stop the vote
Can’t take the rejection,
The only way to win the day
Just cancel the election.

Martial law and sovereignty
No message could be worse
Freedom and democracy
At high speed in reverse.
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NOISE

American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call "alarming" intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack, NEWSWEEK has learned.

The prospect that Al Qaeda might seek to disrupt the U.S. election was a major factor behind last week's terror warning by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Ridge and other counterterrorism officials concede they have no intel about any specific plots. But the success of March's Madrid railway bombings in influencing the Spanish elections—as well as intercepted "chatter" among Qaeda operatives—has led analysts to conclude "they want to interfere with the elections," says one official.

Michael Isikoff, Election Day Worries, Newsweek, July 11, 2004


Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said today he saw no contradiction in the government's renewed public warning of likely terrorist act and its unwillingness to raise the official alert status.

The country remains on "yellow," the midlevel stage of the five-step terror alert program administered by Ridge's department, set up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed some 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington.

Appearing today on morning network news shows, Ridge denied that the Bush administration was talking publicly of a threat -- without increasing the official alert status -- to insulate itself from criticism in the event an attack happens.

"I would say to those who would criticize this kind of public statement that if you ask the homeland security officials at the state and local level, they get it. They understand," he said on CBS's "The Early Show."

"I think it's very important to keep the public informed," Ridge said.

Ridge defends call not to raise terror alert level, The Houston Chronicle, July 9, 2004


Since September 11th, 2001, we have had intelligence that al-Qaeda intends to launch more attacks against the homeland. Credible reporting now indicates that al-Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process...While we are not raising the color-coded threat level today, we are constantly reviewing threat reporting and strengthening the nation's security. We have permanent protections in place today that did not exist a year ago.

United States Department of Homeland Security, July 8, 2004


Question: And can you give us some indication of how, since the last big serious concern around the holidays, what is the -- compared to that, what is the volume of the kind of information that you're following here? Is it at those kinds of levels?

Secretary Ridge: I will let the analysts comment more specifically. The only thing I can say to you is that we are very comfortable with the credibility of the sources themselves. Obviously, how credible some of the information is something that we continue to try to corroborate. But in terms of the sources we have, they are deemed by everyone involved as credible.

Sir.

Question: Secretary Ridge, one question I have deals with timing. There has been a steady stream of this kind of information coming in since, roughly, March, or so. Why now? Why give all of these briefings at this particular point?

Secretary Ridge: Why? I'm sorry. I didn't --

Question: Why give all of these briefings at this particular point and time?

Secretary Ridge: Well, actually, we started this process several months ago, and I think there was a -- I gave a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters some time ago. I thought that in the post-Madrid environment, it would be very important on a periodic basis to, frankly, just give Americans an update as to where we are and what we are doing, and you can fully anticipate that in the weeks and months ahead, we will ask you to convene again for another update.

Question: Mr. Secretary, are you concerned that the public is going to become complacent? Is that why we keep hearing the same message?

Secretary Ridge: No, I -- one of the advantages I have as Secretary of this Department is the opportunity to travel around the country and to talk to the security and law enforcement professionals, as well as individual citizens. And I can say without a doubt that the level of security is higher and the level of vigilance, really, in my mind, has never abated.

Statement for Secretary Tom Ridge U.S. Department of Homeland Security United States Department of Homeland Security, July 8, 2004


We all remember the momentous occasion when Tom Ridge, after months of apparent inertia, unveiled our new national terrorist alert system, a.k.a “The Color Wheel of Terror.” What a dandy tool that is, eh? While most Americans spent the week before Memorial Day trying to decide whether to look for a picnic area or a bomb shelter, Tom Terrific’s Color wheel remained an un-dramatic, and unhelpful, shade of yellow. “What did that mean?” wondered astute citizens. Were the threats not serious enough to warrant a color change? Were the sources not credible enough? Could it be that the Color Wheel of Terror was – gasp! – broken?

The Color Wheel of Fascism, Fallout Shelter News


It was a code blue day last December in Anne Arundel County in Maryland. And code yellow. And code green, depending on which agency was doing the color-coding.

A code blue alert was issued when the winter storm forced the closure of schools. In hospitals, doctors who got a code blue call rushed to a patient in cardiac arrest.

But Homeland Security officials declared the same day code yellow, citing a significant risk of terrorist attacks. And the crisp air would have made it a code green day for ozone.

Meanwhile, in nearby Middletown, Maryland, code blue means there are no water restrictions - residents have the green light to water their grass.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments tried to clear up some of the confusion after officials there discovered that more and more groups were turning to codes. The council now advises that "air quality" should always be said with the color code to distinguish ozone warnings from the Homeland Security Advisory System and other color-coded advisories.

Color Matters Newsletter, Spring, 2004


With almost the same fanfare as Ashcroft’s satellite announcement from Moscow announcing the capture of alleged “dirty bomb dreamer,” Jose Padilla (as much remembered as Osama bin Someone), the much criticized, color-coded threat level security alert went from Dijon mustard to terracotta orange (depending on the color settings of monitors and televisions). A sudden, dramatic spike in sales of plastic sheeting and duct tape suggested that Americans were taking heed of the advice represented by the threat level alert system -- which although previously had specified shopping as a response – had failed to add such blatant product specification. It’s only a matter of time before color-coded security alerts turn into full-scale branding opportunities. Burnt Orange brought to you courtesy of Dupont.

However, color coding is only the half of it. Be Ready, the new buzz phrase being flaunted by the biggest bureaucracy in the history of government (created to give Tom Ridge a real job and deflect attention from intelligence failures leading up to September 11), offers some practical advice as to how to spot one, never mind protect oneself, in the event of a chemical attack with the launch of a new web site www.ready.gov.

The presence of “many dead fish, birds and small animals” are “cause for suspicion,” but should not induce anyone to rush to conclusions that might be nothing more than the obvious symptoms of the Bush administration’s environmental policy. “If your eyes are watering, your skin is stinging, and you are having trouble breathing, you may have been exposed to a chemical”, or simply driving home from work in Texas. Or perhaps you were inhaling the toxic fumes of a private jet rushing Arianna Huffington to promote electric cars at an anti-SUV rally.

Clinton Fein, Be Ready to Mess with Mesopotamia, Annoy.com, February 20, 2003


 
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