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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Friedman's Imagination

Tom Friedman keeps getting worse and worse. Today he tells us he hasn't been reading anything about the 9/11 commission and goes on to make statements that are verifiably untrue about it. To take just one example:

We could have had perfect intelligence on all the key pieces of 9/11, but the fact is we lacked--for the very best of reasons--people with evil enough imaginations to put those pieces together and realize that 19 young men were going to hijack four airplanes for suicide attacks against our national symbols and kill as many innocent civilians as they could, for no stated reason at all.

Too bad the freaking Times foreign affairs columnist couldn't have paid attention to anything Richard Clarke has been saying for the last week, for example on Meet the Press this morning:

MR. RUSSERT: Was there any briefing at that time or around that time which suggested that al-Qaeda may hijack an airplane to be used in a terrorist attack?

MR. CLARKE: Apparently, the president got a briefing when he was on vacation in Texas. Apparently, the CIA gave him a paper that listed all of the things al-Qaeda could do. It didn't focus on a hijacking. But apparently, it listed a hijacking as among the things that al-Qaeda could do, even though al-Qaeda had never done it before. But long before that August 6 briefing at the ranch in Texas, we had brought in the FAA, which under the presidential directive was in charge of airline security, and told them increase security in the United States on airlines at airports, not because we had the intelligence that this was about to happen, but because it was a prudential thing to do, knowing that some unknown attack was coming.

MR. RUSSERT: Dr. Rice has said that no one could have predicted the use of an airline hijacking for this kind of attack.

MR. CLARKE: Well, actually we did, beginning in 1996. As I describe in the book, at the Atlanta Olympics, the counterterrorism team from Washington, which I chaired, came down three months before the Atlanta Olympics and checked out the security. And we asked, "What happens if someone hijacks a jet and flies it into the stadium?" and no one had a plan for that. And so we quickly cobbled together a plan for that using helicopters, no-fly zones, snipers, air-defense radars. We did that again for five or six events over the course of the next five years. And I tried to get the authority, and I tried to get the money to make it a permanent capability to protect the Congress and the White House. But I wasn't able to do that.

The rest of the Friedman column is just as bad too. If I were a Times columnist, I think I would actually follow the news rather than make things up.